Burning Love

“Old habits are hard to break, and no one is easily weaned from his own opinions; but if you rely on your own reasoning and ability rather than on the virtue of submission to Jesus Christ, you will but seldom and slowly attain wisdom. For God wills that we become perfectly obedient to himself, and that we transcend mere reason on the wings of burning love for him.”
–Thomas a Kempis

A Different Kind of King

Last Sunday we studied John 12 and saw Jesus presented as a “different kind of King.” The Jesus-style of King is not one where power is used to bully people. Now it’s very easy to say, “Oh yeah, I know Jesus is different” and yet never allow the Jesus-style to permeate our thinking and determine our actions.

Why? Because we love to throw our power around. That’s true of very powerful people. That’s true of people who have very little power. Whatever power we have –lots or little – we are quick to throw it around. We will use whatever power we have to affect changes we want, to influence decisions we want, or to let people know what we think.

  • I’ll show them what I think of that!
  • He doesn’t know who he’s messing with!
  • Do they think I’m just going to take this?
  • They’ll never mess with me again!
  • We’ll see how they like this!

We bully. We pressure. We protest. We push. We use whatever power or leverage we have to make our point and get our way. We do it in our homes. We do it at work. We do in church settings. We have done it so much that it is just a part of who we are and how we live. And we have done it so much we are good at it. And all the while we push, we claim to follow Jesus. We say Jesus is our King. We confess Jesus as Lord. We wear the name Christian. We gather at the church of Christ.

Maybe it’s time for us (I know it’s time for me) to get real about what kind of King we are following, and ask if it is really the Jesus-style King.

  • Is submission a foreign concept to our lives?
  • Are we willing to be wronged?
  • Can we accept an insult without retaliating?
  • Will we try to get even when we are slighted?

Do we keep our “power” in check when we could use it to influence?

Or maybe I should put it another way. Do our lifestyles match a Jesus who gave himself up, even when it meant going to the cross? Because you see, if I followed a different King, a different Lord — then all my griping, murmuring, complaining, retaliating, protecting, bucking, and bullying might be justified. But not with the Jesus of the Bible. Not so with the Jesus of Christianity. Not ever with the Jesus who we say is the head of the church. This self-focused, consumed-with-self, me-first lifestyle does not match a Jesus-style King who went to the cross. Jesus gave up Himself. Yes, Jesus is a different kind of King. And our lives should be more “full of Jesus” and less “full of ourselves.”

May God have mercy on us. And may God help us get over ourselves.

Learning to Yield

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere” (James 3:17).

A couple of years ago Lourene and I had the opportunity to visit a mega church in Southern California. When the assembly was over we spent some time looking around the campus before heading to one of our favorite restaurants, The Claim Jumper. As we supposed, many in the huge crowd at the mega church had the same meal plan.

By the time we arrived at The Claim Jumper (if you are ever near a Claim Jumper location, check it out), the hostess told us the wait would be over an hour. That was no problem, we knew it would be worth the wait. People were standing everywhere while waiting to be seated at a table. Many of them, like us, had just been in a worship gathering that was centered on being like Jesus.

For a while Lourene and I were in our own world of conversation, processing what we had experienced at the mega church. It was an interesting assembly, so very different from what we were accustomed. The assembly featured two songs, one brief prayer, and a 57 minute sermon (yes, I admit, I timed it). They even experienced a technical glitch with their state of the art projection system. After we shared our initial thoughts on the assembly, we then turned to discussing what those initial thoughts revealed about our hearts. The conversation was deep, the minutes were ticking.

When we finally paused the conversation long enough for me to glance at my watch, we realized we had been waiting for one hour and 10 minutes. It seemed there were still a number of parties who arrived before us who were yet to be seated. We had a while longer to wait, but we didn’t care. It was then that I became aware of a family next to us. They, too, had been at the mega church and had arrived just before us. They, too, had a while longer to wait. They cared.

To say they had grown impatient with the wait would be an understatement. They were beyond impatient, they were becoming angry. Members of the party took turns going to the hostess stand to ask, “How much longer?” They rolled their eyes at the young teenager who assured them it wouldn’t be much longer. They sighed. They grumbled. They pressured the hostess. And then a woman in the party said something I remember to this day: “I’m about to lose my church mood!”

When I heard those words, I confess, I laughed out loud. My church mood. What’s a church mood? Is this what church is about – a mood? And what good is a church mood if it can vanish while waiting in line at a restaurant where you know you are going to have a delicious meal prepared for you and served to you? Can we ever expect our Christianity to survive a season of persecution if we can’t even endure a wait at Claim Jumper?

Well it wasn’t long until Lourene and I were seated and the conversation turned to the woman and her church mood. But I have to tell you, we didn’t spend our time bashing her. Lourene and I spent most of our time discussing how I had recognized myself in that woman. I think that’s why I laughed out loud. I wasn’t laughing at her as much as I was laughing at me. How can I sometimes be so impatient? Why do I sometimes fail to practice what I have preached?

The discussion turned to real life changes that I (and to a lesser extent, Lourene, too) need to make regarding patience. As we enjoyed a delightful meal (have I told you how good Claim Jumper is?) we remembered the passage in James 3 about heavenly wisdom. One line seemed especially meaningful – “willing to yield to others.”

How do we become more patient? Training. Exercise. You have to practice doing things to develop patience. Perhaps the best way to begin the training is to choose situations in which you are going to yield to others. Exercise one may be yielding to other drivers by allowing cars to merge in front of you when in a parking lot or on the road. Exercise two could be yielding to shoppers when they are racing to beat you to the check out line. Perhaps we could even allow someone who looks hurried to cut in front of us. Exercise three might be yielding to others in conversation, allowing them plenty of time to say what they want to say before offering a response. Exercise four probably needs to be some act of yielding in a restaurant line, whether letting someone go ahead of you or consciously maintaining your composure when the seating time (or the food) is delayed.

We need the exercise, after all, we don’t want to lose our church mood, do we?