Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Pain and The Pump....

Just in time, I found you just in time
Before you came my time was running low
I was lost, the losing dice were tossed
My bridges all were crossed, no where to go

Now you're here, now I know just where I'm going
No more doubt or fears I've found my way
For love came just in time, you found me just in time
And changed my lonely life that lucky day
     - Just in Time, Songwriters: Betty Comden,  Adolph Green, and Jule Styne
Recently a friend described the harrowing experience of running out of gas as friends and neighbors drove by stopping to ask what was the matter.

I'm no different.  Like many people I find myself avoiding the gas station these days.  "Ohhhh, we can make it there and back," I tell Megan.  "Look! the gas light hasn't even come on yet!" I plead while casually motoring by the gas station secretly hoping to actually make it "there and back".

Last Sunday morning the gas light was on and just as I accelerated past the filling station I began to feel the jitters of an engine that could not push the wheels any longer without "the juice".   I had literally pulled into the gas station on fumes.  Imagining "what could have been", I thanked God for the presence of mind to recognize how empty I really was causing me to pull in and fill up.

I got back into the car and turned the key.  The engine swallowed the gas and began to purr again as Dean Martin crooned on the radio "you found me just in time, love came just in time".  Just then it became apparent what I would be writing about this week.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
- Psalm 51:16-17

This is the beauty of The Gospel of Jesus Christ - this is the good news.   When we are completely out of steam - when the needle is on empty, we are finally in the place to receive His amazing grace.  There is nothing we can bring to God but our brokenness.  The only thing our creator is interested in is our acknowledgement that we can't get it done, that we need Him to do the work for us.

My dear friend, Tommy, is suffering with the knowledge that cancer is literally alive and well in his body.  These days Tommy lives with a continual reminder of his mortality; Simply put, he is helpless.   This certain type of cancer did not respond to chemotherapy.  He cannot will his body to return to health - it is literally beyond his influence.  He can only wait to see what God will do through it.   But in the midst of the waiting, God is awakening Him to the bits of his life that He can never lose - the love of his wife, his children, his friends and his Creator.   In this way Tommy is not so much "battling" or fighting "cancer" he is surrendering to God.

Completely unlike Tommy is Walter White from Breaking Bad (in my opinion maybe the best show on television since Friday Night Lights), a high school chemistry teacher who when faced with the knowledge of his terminal cancer begins to grab for control in disastrously horrifying (and gruesomely entertaining) ways.   Like a drowning man, the more he struggles for control the quicker he sinks bringing down those around him who would seek to rescue him.

The sad reality of Walter's suffering extends to all of humanity; no one is exempt (no not one!).   God understands the human condition.  He knows how we suffer with our self-absorption and self-justification and yet, by His grace, He has made a way for us.  The futility of our reaching for control leaves us trying to "possess" our lives like Steinbeck's Lenny from Of Mice and Men who, unaware of his strength, kills a puppy by continually petting it.    Our problem is not that we don't think enough of ourselves as many in my generation (The Self-Esteem Generation) were raised to believe.  In fact, quite the opposite, we never stop thinking of ourselves.   To this (as with all things) Jesus provides the answer....

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
- Matthew 10:39

Letting go of (read: losing) our lives is made possible by our God of grace who essentially gently takes the gun out of our cold dead hands, talking (read: loving) us off the ledge saying to us "you can't do it, but I already have and it's all OK now because I love you"....

Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; 
 I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name
 He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 
With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. - Psalm 91:15

You only come to Christ out of gas.... totally empty.   New Testament theologian, Paul Zahl, speaks of God's love as always and only "one way love".   There is no "meeting in the middle"; there is no "you take one step, He'll take two".  We bring nothing to the throne but exhausted efforts and empty hands. As we, drawn by His Spirit, approach God, he sees not our efforts and our hands, but the crowning achievement that is the Cross of Calvary and the nail-pierced hands of His Son, the only servant with whom God has ever been well pleased (Matt 12:18).

"Taking Jesus as my personal savior" has always sounded a little like it was my choice to posses a path towards salvation and having chosen Jesus, He is now mine.  It's always sounded to me like "I have Jesus in my back pocket".  How easy it is to make Christianity a means to our ends.  But the bible has made clear...

The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God
- Psalm 98:2-4

His salvation - His righteousness - His Love - His faithfulness.  Thank God then that we are no longer responsible for any of it.  By God's Grace, Jesus holds it all, and consequently, us, in His hands.


 This Week

* Wednesday AM Book Study - The Explicit Gospel, Chapter 1 - tomorrow at 7am - 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Thursday -  KE Cellars on Broadway - Tyler, TX - 6-9pm

* Saturday - SCRUBS Medical Missions Fundraiser - Rose City Flying Clays - The Magills play 3-5:30pm

Next Week

* Monday Men's Lunch - Grace in Practice - Chapter 2 p. 100-110 -  Dakota's Steakhouse 12pm