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Monday, January 24, 2011

GIVE ME TEN MINUTES AND I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT


“We got the lab reports back this morning. I’m sorry Bob, they don’t look very good.  There’s been no reduction in tumor size or density, and based on your response to the interleukin therapy, I can’t recommend further treatment.  We’re losing ground Bob.  The tumor is growing.  And I think you have to face things as they are.  Of course we’ll continue to monitor everything.  You could still have three or four months, I think you should aim for that.  Four months? You have a spring to look forward to.   They symptoms won’t be too bad.  We have drugs to manage the pain.  What if I want to do the treatment again?   What if I elect to do it, are you going to stop me?  Are you going to get a court order to stop me?  I can’t believe you are asking this!  The interleukin nearly killed you!  It was touch and go for six hours.  And it didn’t work.  Come on.  I’m still in the game here man, you know.  Come on. One more.  There has to be a lot of other therapies, a lot of other treatments, right?  Bob don’t make it any more painful than it has to be.  You don’t have a lot of time left. Don’t waste it in futile searches.”     from the movie My Life

END OF THE SNIPE HUNT

M
y early experience with love, or what I thought was love, made me doubt happily ever after.  It made me wonder if something was wrong with me, or, if something was wrong with God.  I didn’t know what love was, so trying to find it was like going snipe hunting.

     Snipe hunting is a joke played on the inexperienced camper.  The rookie camper is told there are birds roosting on the ground in the field at night that can be easily caught with a paper sack.  When others are asked what the birds look like the answer is always, “You’ll know one when you see one.”   The rookies are then handed a paper sack and allowed to waste an hour or so running meaningless around the field in the dark because, of course, the birds don’t exist.  A lot of us are snipe hunting in life, searching for something that we have no idea what it looks like or even if it really exists.  But the snipe hunt has ended with the Chicken Whisperer.

       Somewhere within our heart, buried deep beneath the deception, is a repressed eternal instinct inclined to the voice of our real Father.  We have suffered the horrible injury of sin and now have spiritual amnesia.  We are walking around dazed, confused, trying to remember who we are and where we came from.  We have heard of a great fellowship that existed in ancient days, of a love that was deep, pure, and beautiful and at times we have allowed our heart to dream, but all we have ever found is fool’s gold… until we stumble upon the treasure of the Cross and discover the impossible: we are not an ugly duckling after all, we are the children of God, and not only does our Father still loves us but He has been planning for our return.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”    Ephesians 2:4-9

     And there at the Cross the Spirit of God restores our identity and offers the very things we have been searching for in the sub consciousness of our heart.  The ring is placed on our finger, a feast is prepared, and fellowship is restored as we are given true purpose for our lives, as we learn that we have been saved for a divine purpose, for work that is sacred.  Empowered by the love of the Father, we are equipped for the divine task set before us and ironically it is this task that will fully transform our hearts, that will teach us how to love.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  1 John 4:7-10

      If God is love then I would say it impossible to love someone without God.  This would imply there are several imitation versions of love out there, meaning that a lot of what we have called love, or thought of as love, was probably not really love at all.  We have taken the name of the Lord in vain and we have taken the name of love in vain as well.  How can we love if we are not connected to God who is love?   If we are going to love, we need God. And this is why: God’s love, when fully received through faith in Christ, quenches our thirst for affirmation and converts the once needy heart into a giving heart.  A giving heart is necessary for real love.  And again, the sacred work of loving others transforms us back into the image of our Father.

“…but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”…John 4:14

      He “whispered” these words to a woman who was thirsty, a woman whose heart had been wounded by five different husbands, a woman who still believed her thirst would be quenched by a man, and lucky for her she finally met the man she was looking for: Jesus.  And although we do not have a full record of what He told her, we know this: He quenched her thirst and she indeed became a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  The needy heart became a giving heart.   Within just a few hours she brought several more people to Jesus who also put their faith in him.  She became a spring of living water.  She went from looking for love to giving love…and she was fulfilled.

     In our own search to quench the passions of our heart, we too climb in bed with some very strange characters.  I personally have climbed in bed with material possessions, money, pornography, job status, popularity, etc.   We have all had several husbands.  And we have all walked away empty.  We have all walked away thirsty.   And honestly at times I’m not even sure if I really knew what I was looking for in those things.  I just knew I was thirsty.   And why, after those things almost killed me, did I continue to go back?  Why did I “waste my time with repeated futile searches“ when I knew they didn’t work the first time?  Following the world’s formula for thirst quenching is like drinking salt water: it will kill you.  But luckily for me I also ran into Jesus, and over the years I have been learning more and more about how to drink exclusively from this well of the Father.   And through the experience of fellowship with God in ministry I am learning what love is.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

        Love is humble.  Love is gentle.  Love is hopeful.  Love extends grace.  Love overlooks faults.  Love moves first. Love persists with kindness.  Love endures with hope. Love waits with patience. Love seeks. Love forgives.  Love befriends.  Love saves.  Love redeems.  Love “whispers.”

     And much like a child who follows his father around wants to imitate his father, I have learned that my heart longs not only to be loved but to love others.   And because God is love, what better way to learn how to love than to experience God?  And it is this new purpose in my life that delivers me from the futility of chasing snipe and fool’s gold creating fellowship with God.  If I want to learn how to play basketball, I hang out with Lebron James.  If I want to learn how to act, I hang out with Tom Hanks.  If I want to learn how to love I hang out with God.  And even my ability to be trained by God’s love, my ability to be transformed in my thinking and values, began with the act of God loving me in Jesus on the cross.  This act of love is the foundation of my trust in God, the root of my affection for my Father.  “We love Him because He first loved us.” The cross is not a fifteen minute story stuck in the Bible.  The cross is the story.  All the other stories in the bible lead to Calvary, they lead to God loving us in Jesus.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

     I like the way God asks us to love but shows us how to do it first.  And he shows us in a very marvelous way: through the Cross.  And you may ask, “Why does God not pay for our sin himself, why does he not sacrifice himself instead of his own Son?”  Because He loves his Son more than himself.  Jesus was the greatest sacrifice God could make and therefore the greatest demonstration of His love.   The Cross is the only true way to be loved or to love someone else.  If you love someone you will bring them to the Cross.  Someone loved me and brought me to the Cross, and it saved my life.  (crying).

     The cross is what connects us to the Father and cures our tendency to go on futile searches.  What happened through Jesus and the Cross is so important and so critical to renewing our hearts that we cannot get to the Father unless we go through Jesus. The more connected to Christ and the Cross we become, the more our hearts are transformed by this act of love.   The only way to God the Father is through Christ the Son.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “  … Jesus

      Jesus was saying unless we understand God’s love displayed through the Cross, we will never be reformed and learn to trust the Father.  There is a lie making progress even inside of mainstream Christian circles that says there are many paths to God but the truth is there can only be many paths to Christ and the cross.   The only thing that can reconcile us to God is the blood of Jesus.  The only thing that can save us from our futile searches is the reality of the Cross.

      Looking back at my own life I see a pattern of ebb and flow in my relationship with God and not surprisingly in my deep, meaningful relationships with people.  I see a pattern of foolishly sipping from the wrong cup.  I have had a habit of broken fellowship for too long.  It makes no sense to cook a meal you are not going to eat just like it makes no sense to do Christian things but not follow Jesus completely.  So many things in life that require a lot of effort offer no real satisfaction until they are complete, but once they are complete they even redefine the effort as components of something valuable.  Left unfinished the components are wasted pieces of our time but completed the components are the means to a majestic ending.

      So will we be changed by the Cross?  Will we continue to live the lie or live the truth?  Will we finally surrender to God’s will for our life or a dangerous mix of our will and a sprinkle of religion?  One is a recipe for disaster and the other is a recipe for fulfillment. 

     In the original story of the Ugly Duckling written in 1844 a duckling endures tremendous taunting and torture because of it’s odd appearance.  The duckling, in search of acceptance, travels to many places looking for safety and love to only suffer rejection and more torture.  Eventually, with his spirit crushed, he makes a crucial decision to approach the most majestic birds of all because he believes dying at there hand would be better than the alternative of anything else.  But to his surprise, it is here he is freed from his suffering.  And so it is for us at the Cross.  We are not crushed.  We are embraced.  And in our ear the words “You are mine” are whispered and the healing begins.

 From the Ugly Duckling
By: Hans Christian Andersen

“I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.

“Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan.

To be born in a duck's nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan's egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.

Into the garden presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake into the water.

“See,” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.”

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water, and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all; he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him.

Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

And I weep with you beneath the Cross my friend.  But not for long, because bread and cake await, bread and cake await.

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