Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grab The Life Preserver

It’s starting to get "nice and hot" here in East Texas and the only thing to do is head to the lake.  We did so last weekend and had the time of our life.  In a move that would have sent more prudent parents into cardiac arrest we actually put Maggie on the tube as her Grandfather (Papa) pulled us behind the boat on Lake Palestine.

Our precocious two-and-a-half year old shouted over and over, "this is awesome! I love it Daddy!"  The muscles in my face were throbbing; I couldn't have had a bigger smile.  That is until we hit an unexpected bump as I was trying to reposition and both of us flew off the tube and into the middle of the lake.

Megan told me later that she couldn't believe the way Maggie skipped across the water.  I came up and began swimming as hard as I ever have to get to my little girl.  I could see her struggling to catch her breath and grasp what had just happened.  She was absolutely terrified.
Forcing a smile to let her know everything was OK I repeatedly kissed her as I thanked God for life jackets and questioned the original wisdom of putting her out on the tube!

Yesterday I was reflecting on the past days events and it occurred to me I would never have swam in any direction but towards my struggling child in the midst of her suffering.  I could never have turned away from her.  Yet that is exactly what our heavenly Father did in turning away from Jesus as His Son gasped for air and gave up His life in complete obedience to His Father’s will.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.
 – Matthew 27:45

The Father had left Christ alone to suffer that we might never be without Him in the midst of our suffering.  In isolation like no one has ever known Jesus, who was one with God, must have experienced a total existential fracture on Golgotha.

No longer was He full of the total peace He'd so perfectly displayed throughout the duration of His ministry; it’s possible that Jesus was without even the peace that His obedience would eventually produce God's desired end.  No longer does Jesus call on the intimacy of His “Father” as He does throughout the Gospel but instead refers to Him as “My God”….

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, cring,  "Eli,Eli lema sabacthani?",  that is,  "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
 - Matthew 27:46

In Jewish tradition when a sin-atonement was laid upon the alter, the sacrifice actually became the sin itself.   The sin was transferred from the people and  to the sin offering.  Indeed this is what took place upon the cross of Calvary.  

 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2nd Cor. 5:21

As Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden because of his sin, Jesus (The New Adam, the first born among many brethren (Rom 8:29), was rejected by God as he hung upon the cross for our sin.  This was the ultimate sacrifice: to be rejected by a piece of Himself, to become fragmented for our sake that we might be made whole in Him.

But just before giving up his human life, Jesus uttered the three grandest, most impactful words anyone will ever hear saying, “it is finished”.   This declaration brings light to the darkest corner of the world, hope to the hopeless and imputes righteousness to every sinner.

Though watching Maggie struggle in the water last weekend (for all of seven seconds!) was truly awful, it was, in reality, minor in comparison to watching her struggle with her sin nature as we will surely continue to see her do for years to come. 

So as she grows we pray that she and her sister will indeed grasp the knowledge of Christ’s work on their behalf and be transformed by His Spirit.   For He is our only true life preserver and, having conquered death, He is life itself.


This Week and Next:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM -
Kings Cross Chapter 6 @ 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Saturday May 28th - The Magills w/ The In-Laws and Outlaws @ 
Chandler Cityfest 4pm-7pm

* Tyler Men's Gathering - off for Memorial Day!

* The Magills head to Camp Pine Cove at Crier Creek in Colombia, TX


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rental Car Love Of The World

We go on living in the world and using the things of the world - but we can build no future with them, for the Cross has shattered all our hope with them.
- Watchman Nee, Love Not The World

It's funny how temptation starts.   Yesterday we took our family car to the shop to have some paint and body work done after a minor accident with an ATV/Mule a few weeks back :).   The insurance company provided us a rental car for 4 of 5 days while our car is the shop.   So in the meantime the car you see below is ours....but not really.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that though we can pretend (as we tell Maggie) it's ours, it's not.   It drives so smooth, it's a beautiful color and you don't even need a key - You just press a button and it starts!   Our garage seems to sparkle like a show room floor with this car sitting in it!

Over the next few days the temptation to "get acquainted" with this rental car will be great so I'm trying to resist even driving it;  I don't want to pour gas on the fire.  Our car is perfectly fine, in fact, it meets our needs exceedingly well - Megan and I have thanked God for it on numerous occasions.

Yet like a mirage it sits calling me to enjoy it, believe that I need it and buy into the idea that having it will quench a thirst I heretofore was unaware I even had. 

Indeed there is an ever-present temptation to buy into all that the world offers.   Christ knows that our only hope of not being overcome by our love of the world is loving Him more (1st John 4:4).  One of Jesus' many conversations provides insight as to how easily we can deceive ourselves and how grace alone can make sense of our confused hearts. 

A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone.  You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"- Luke 18:18-20
The man sought Jesus' answer to the only question that really matters.  Jesus' response struck down the young man's justification by works (i.e. doing) worldview when He said, "why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone".   He then goes on to list the laws that must be kept.

But the man missed the first part of the answer Jesus gave mistakenly believing he'd kept the law "since he was a boy" and His response to Jesus' following command reveals the true nature of his heart.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.
- Luke 18 22-23

In this world the equation is simple: Money = Power.   The man had considered his identity in this world more valuable than his standing in the next.   He loved wealth more than God.   In so doing he had broken the first commandment (Do not have any other gods before me. - Ex. 20:3) and what's worse, he was completely self-deceived; He was unaware that he was worshiping at the alter of self in striving to maintain his wealth and power.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - 1st John 2:15
But the man's idolatry was not lost on Jesus who offered the first pill in a prescription for health: Repentance (i.e. letting go of his old life, his old love, his old worldview).
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 
- Matt. 16:26
The emptiness that letting go of his power would have brought the young ruler could have only been supplanted by Christ's power in the man's heart and Jesus knew it.

There was no space for Christ as long as the man's heart was full of the love of money (power).   Christ had essentially asked for a room in 'the inn of the man's heart" but was rejected once again.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
- Luke 9:58

So he made his decision and it was a poor one.  The rich young ruler's bondage continued and thus, he walked away a sad slave and not a glad man freed by God's grace.    

This town ain't big enough for the both of us and it's not   me that's going to leave.  
- Sparks, 1974 

Letting Christ's richness fill our hearts is the only choice that pays eternal dividends and draws us into a life free of the love of money and power that twists hearts and relationships spreading only and always destruction.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
- Hel­en H. Lem­mel

This is why, though we have already been captured by His finished work on the cross, we seek Christ, that in so doing He will loose the world's grip on our hearts that are so often prone to roam.   


This Week and Next:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 5
    2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills - Saturday May 21st - 7:30pm-11pm - The Freeman's Backyard Concert Series in South Tyler.   Shoot me an email if you're interested (mpmagill@gmail.com)

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 12pm Monday @ Dakota's - Kings Cross Chapter 6
    5377 S. Broadway (back room on the left)

* Saturday May 28th - The Magills w/ The In-Laws and Outlaws @ Chandler Cityfest 4pm-7pm


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dreaming of The Super Bowl

World English Dictionary
Self-Justification - n - the act or instance of justifying or providing excuses for one's behavior


I've been resting better lately and dreaming a lot.  I know that God has dealt with my sin, but my dream last night revealed to me that God isn't through with my flesh yet.

The dream seemed to begin in an open field but as it materialized it appeared to be more like an abandoned junkyard with a dusty, dirt-covered open space in the middle.   I had a football in my hand when a conversation with five young men began.  

They told me to hike the ball shouting, "let's play".  I was confused and had only one question for them.  

"In all my days I have never seen a Super Bowl played in a junk yard.  I'm the quarterback and this is The Super Bowl right?"  

The other boys seemed puzzled.  "I'll play," I said, "but this seems very strange.  Where are the cameras?"

I instantly woke up.   A half smile on my face and rolled over in bed.   Every dream's hero is the dreamer, but it's clear that though I'm not an athlete (and can hardly throw a football spiral),  I'm hardwired to seek the center of attention.  To be justified through applause, adulation or merely capturing someone's attention.

I've got confidence, God is gonna see me through.
No matter what the case may be I know He's gonna fix it for me
- Andrae Crouch & The Disciples, I've Got Confidence
Confidence is a good thing when placed in Him who gives us every good gift and drives the circumstances in our life to bring about His desired ends.    Yet I grew up using confidence in self as a defense mechanism to mask deep insecurities and confusion about my true purpose in life.    This was pride masking fear.....
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. - Prov. 16:18

My "self-confidence" kept me from hearing the rebuke of others, hearing the voice of reason and ultimately, hearing the voice of God.  This led to foolish living.   But unbeknownst to me God was always in control....
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. - Phil. 1:6

I'm now certain of this: confidence in self leads to the futility of self-justification.  How does the man who is full of self-confidence deal with failure?  He must ignore it, make excuses or blame others;  it's just too painfully embarassing to turn back.  So the self-justification intensifies.

When the curtain is pulled back on our inevitable failures or natural weaknesses we are exposed.   How often do people take deeper cover under the false shade of pride hiding from what is the truth about themselves?   We can never justify ourselves with our hard work, success or relational domination of others.  But consider some of the ways people try and, in so doing, create a living hell for themselves and those around them.  (examples not necessary - watch the evening news or take a look at your family!)

Paul explained to the Philippians that of all Jews he had the most to be self-confident about.....

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. - Phil. 3:5-6

Paul was all in.  A chief persecutor of the early church he actually gave consent to the stoning of Steven (Acts 7:58).  He'd gone so far in his effort to justify himself through keeping the law that to turn back would have been naturally impossible if not for the grace of Christ Jesus made plain to Paul.   
God's grace in Jesus revealed that all Paul's efforts were, by comparison, garbage.   Now he could rest in Christ (read: relationship) and stop the "work for God" (read: religion) that was ironically keeping his heart so hard.  Finding both forgiveness and mercy Paul's identity was completely changed....
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  - Phil. 3:7-9 

Turning from (repenting of) my propensity to justify myself through my work (ministry, song-writing, performing etc.) is a daily discipline.  Old habits die hard.  But die they must and in turning from them I continually find Him who waits patiently for me and continues to shower me with the grace that makes it easier and easier to turn to Him again and again.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 
- Gal. 2:20

This Week and Next:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 4
    2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills - Friday May 13th - The Moore's Store, Ben Wheeler, TX - 7pm-10pm

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 12pm Monday @ Dakota's - Kings Cross Chapter 5
    5377 S. Broadway (back room on the left)


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

T-Ball and The Law

Our condition is so desperate that it is not enough for God to forgive us.  He had to unzip us and get inside us or we would not be able to do what He has called us to do. 
- Paul David Tripp, Instruments in The Redeemer's Hands

"It's a nightmare!  I can't wait for the season to end",  my friend, a former NCAA baseball player and father of three, told me recently while relating his deep frustration with coaching his 4-year-old son's t-ball team.

"They're just not ready.  A 4-year-old cannot compute and play under all the rules in the game of baseball.   They must run only one way, in one direction, to one base and those fielding the ball have to throw only one direction in order to out the runner remembering to touch the bag after catching the ball.  It's too much!"

He went on to describe the kids' apathy that eventually comes from suffering so many rules when they just want to "play ball".  He told me that all those playing the field resort to day dreaming, using their mitts as masks or just picking their noses.

"Soccer", he says, "now there's a game a 4-year-old can understand - just kick the ball towards a goal. The only thing to remember is which goal is yours. Endless fun and no stress. I'm coaching soccer from now on!"

And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:3

It's not hard to imagine the inner confusion and chaos that so many rules bring to young minds just trying to have fun.   The Law has the same stifling effect on the minds of believers just trying to live in Him - even though God has called us His children (John 1:12-13).  The Law's undeniably wonderful primary use is to drive us to God's forgiveness made manifest in the cross of Christ.  

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. 
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
- Rom. 5:20

So often, however, we chooses to live under the weight of a burden of shame and guilt that we are unable to bear. The Law reminds me of a highway trooper's glasses wherein one can see his own reflection and consequently is brought face to face with the guilty party - himself.

Jesus has come and fulfilled the law that we might be set free from the devastating effects it can have on our hearts and minds.   Paul wrote to the Romans that for those who are in Christ "there is now no condemnation" (Rom. 8:1).

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father. - Rom:8:1 

Becoming like children, entering the kingdom of heaven not on our merit but on Christ's.  This is what frees us to joyfully play and express His redeeming, bondage-breaking power.  Those who are "heavy laden and burdened" (read: anyone who has truly felt the impact of God's Law)  need the rest that Christ alone offers (Matt 11:28).

The knowledge of the love we have been shown by God frees us from the weight of unmeetable expectation (Law) and allows us to respond to Him in true love and with the true love that has been so graciously shown to us (Grace).

We love because he first loved us. - 1st John 4:19

Grace experienced creates in us an eagerness to serve, love and pass on that which has been given to us - Grace, Peace and Truth.   Transformed by His grace, we can joyfully and confidently say, "put me in coach.  I'm ready to play!"

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time
- 1st Peter 1:3-5


This Week and Next:

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 7am Wednesday AM - Kings Cross Chapter 3
    2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* The Magills - Mayor's Annual Prayer Breakfast - 7am - Thursday Morning
   Harvey Convention Center

* Tyler Men's Gathering - 12pm Monday @ Dakota's - Kings Cross Chapter 4
    5377 S. Broadway (back room on the left)

* Friday May 13th - The Magills at The Moore's Store, Ben Wheeler, TX - 7pm showtime