Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Empty bleachers...full of spectators.

Last night I was sitting at dinner with some friends. We had been eating and talking for quite a while, when the restaurant manager came over to our table. He was pouring more water for us and then he asked us, "So what's the topic of the night?" He wanted to know what we had been talking about and we were all caught a little off guard and stared at him for a few seconds. I finally answered him, "divorce and re-marriage." We all chuckled a little because it's not exactly a light, fun, table conversation. He replied, "Oh ok. I was just wondering, because I saw you all pray before you ate and then I walked by a few times and over heard parts of your conversation. My eavesdropping can probably get me into trouble sometimes, but I was just curious as to what you were talking about."

He watched us pray and then he listened to our conversation and watched the way we interacted.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the recruiting process for college soccer began. I felt a lot of pressure because it seemed as though every game and every tournament carried extreme weight in determining whether or not I would play soccer in college. Because it did and, as someone once said to me, "someone is always watching." What she meant was that I couldn't slack in any game I played, even if it seemed 'meaningless,' there was probably some coach from some college watching. The way I performed (whether good or bad) in that particular game could change the course of my life. Now, I know that's going to the extreme. The point is that my performance was constantly being watched and critiqued and evaluated to see if I met the standards, to see if I really could step up to the next level, to see if I really was the player they saw on paper. What they saw in a forty-minute half of a soccer game was their glimpse into the type of player I was. I had forty minutes (if that) to show what I had been training for, for the previous twelve years.

Jesus said that people will know us by the way we love one another (John 13: 34, 35). Paul, likening us to an aroma, says that God spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Himself through us (2 Corinthians 2:14). Paul also says, in Colossians 1:27, that God has chosen to make His mystery known through Christ, who is in us, and we are the hope of His glory.

Someone is always watching. During the college recruiting process, it's more evident. In life, it's not always so. The man at the restaurant saw us pray. That's it. We hadn't said a word to him but he made a note of it, assuming we were Christians, and then he watched the way we acted. What if we had been arguing with each other and making rude comments to our waitress? What type of message would that be communicating?

I'm not saying that we have to be perfect. We will fail in loving each other well. That's the whole point: we aren't good enough, but Christ is. We confess and apologize for the ways that we fall short. And then we keep on loving.

We are the hope because Christ is in us. That has huge implications when you think about how God wants to use you to draw other people into His Kingdom. During my soccer games, I had less than 40 minutes to show them what type of player I was. Sometimes we may get only a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few days to interact with someone. Sometimes, we won't even get to use words, they will be watching from a distance.

Someone is always watching. What do they see?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Static Guard.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Holiness flows from the conviction that God is our highest good and our greatest joy, so that we seek to get rid of everything and anything in the way. We must HATE our sin. Sin does not want to be small. Sin wants to be big and it will not give up without a fight. Sin will deceive and convince us that it's "not that bad," while it rips apart our lives. 

This verse refers to "weights." These weights aren't necessarily sins, but they are things that are drawing you further away from, rather than closer to, the God that wants to free you from them. It's like trying to run a marathon with a weight vest on. Have you ever worn a weight vest? The race won't be impossible, but it's going to be a heck of a lot harder. Jesus is not a weight vest...he is Gatorade. The perfect mix of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes to keep you hydrated for the entire race.

The verse also refers to "sin which clings so closely." Have you ever had static cling? Your shorts/shirt are literally stuck to your body. The more you try to peel it off, the more it sticks in other places. So can't function normally because it's such a distraction. That's how sin is. It literally sticks to you. It will not stay small. It will suffocate the Spirit within you and it will eventually kill you. 

Unfortunately, sin is a "static" that comes back daily and it must be dealt with daily. Jesus is the Static Guard to our sin. do we "fight" our sin? By "looking to Jesus," or, in a different version: "let us fix our eyes on Jesus." Mmmmm, I love this word picture. Eye on the prize. This isn't about US. It's about JESUS. He cares about our hearts and our hurts and our struggles...BUT, it's only by seeing beyond these and to the Truth that all of these things are about HIS glory, that we can find freedom from them. He saves me from myself. If I'm fixing my eyes on Him, I can't fix my eyes on me. So, not only do I begin to hate my sin (because I see his beauty) and I begin to "lay aside the weights/sins," but He also sees ME. He sees into my hurts and struggles (he knows them better than I do) and he brings truth and freedom from them. The more I look at him, the more I understand the gospel and the more it changes my life. 

As we gaze upon our glorious Savior, we trade in weight vests for Gatorade, and our static-filled clothes begin to loosen. Then we can run the race freely. And we can say, as Eric Liddell, in the movie Chariots of Fire says, "When I run, I feel [God's] pleasure."