Life. Abundantly.

Boldly equipping followers of Christ.

Month: April, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things…

I like pretty things. I collect pretty things. Amongst others, I have a large collection of hairbands. I own a pair of Marni shoes that have only been worn a couple of times as I consider them more art than functional footwear. I also collect napkin rings, which I realize is slightly unusual. And I have a Karen Millen leather coat from my Mom that is undoubtedly one of my favourite possessions ever.

Your list is probably quite different. Maybe you cherish a carefully curated record collection, or an antique piece of furniture. Or maybe you collect sunglasses, or own a beautiful set of golf clubs. Whatever your own list of personal treasures is I know you have prized possessions. We all do.

Throughout history there have been numerous theological and philosophical ideologies purporting that we should not care about earthly belongings. Indeed this ideology of possessions being evil is often closely associated with spirituality. Certainly the whole relationship of self to possessions is a prominent and inevitable part of life. Regardless of how much cognitive energy you’ve put into appraising your own relationship with your possessions, the fact is that you will have been influenced and indoctrinated to some extent into one stance or another.

So what relationship should we have with our possessions? Are we right to care about them? Indeed, should we even have “stuff”?

This subject has been particularly prevalent in my mind in the last few months as I moved four times in just one year. More than once while packing up moving boxes for the enth time the idea of just getting rid of everything I own and living out of a suitcase has seemed eminently appealing. But then I remember that this “stuff” represents so much of God’s provision, and things that God has called me to steward over, as originated in Genesis 2:15. And I know that much of this “stuff” represents part of my story.

I’ve noticed that I tend to oscillate between this sporadic desire to just throw away the responsibilities that come with stewardship, with this intense desire to hoard my belongings with an avarice that would put Scrooge to shame. At those times I can’t help but think that I don’t so much have my possessions so much as they have me.

During my latest move I was pondering this dichotomy that I seem to be torn between, either extreme being to my detriment. I observed the lack of joy I had in this area. And then I felt God point something out. He said: “One day you’re going to loose all of this stuff anyway. So why not already accept when you receive these gifts that they’re just yours to enjoy for a season?” For me this was a paradigm shift in the whole way I viewed my belongings. I suddenly went from seeing my belongings as items that I “possessed” to items that are merely in my hands for a season.

Since I’ve been following God’s advice on this matter I’ve found that my enjoyment of my possessions has greatly increased. Now that I’ve accepted the reality that I won’t have these items forever I’m so much more aware of the importance of fully enjoying them and giving thanks for them today. And I don’t have so much of a crushing sense of having to fight against reality by trying to cling onto these things. Since admitting that there will come a day when my possessions will pass into other hands I feel I have been set free into the relationship with them that I was designed for. For the first time in my life I understand what it means to be a steward, not an owner.

They say that health and healing comes from moving further into reality. So if you haven’t done it yet I encourage you to move into reality in the area of possessions. Be set free of strife and enjoy the blessings of today by accepting what will inevitably happen one day!

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The Advocate

One aspect of Jesus’ character has been a revelation to me recently. I’m very aware that when one speaks about a specific aspect of Jesus character it can be easily taken out of context and then presented as the only aspect of who He is. This makes sharing a balanced message in just one short article somewhat of a challenge, so please understand that for the sake of brevity I can’t possibly go into every nuance of how the characteristic I want to speak of today plays out against the rest of who He is. (I can’t help but think of the scene in Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby prays “Dear little baby Jesus in the manger…dear 8lb 6oz baby Jesus…dear tiny God…use your little baby Jesus powers…” and his wife retorts, “Ricky, I don’t know why you keep referring to Jesus as a baby! He was a grown man, you know. He had a beard, for crying out loud!” To which Ricky Bobby responds, “I like the baby Jesus best! When you say the prayer you can pray to teenage Jesus or grown up Jesus or whichever Jesus you like best.”)

The aspect of Jesus’ character I want to discuss is that of His compassion, and how this reality fits into our grid of understanding of who He is.

I feel that this aspect of Jesus’ character is one that a lot of us are particularly blind to. This is usually because of the judgemental and condemning examples of Fatherhood that almost all of us have experienced to some degree or another.

Typically when we think about how God knows everything about us our reaction is to cringe. It’s not unusual to instantly have a “best hits” reel of every dodgy and perverted thing we’ve ever done in our lives run through our mind. Not surprisingly, the result of this is that the thought of our every moment and thought being witnessed by God is not particularly reassuring.

The experience of feeling judged is one I think we can all relate to. For most of us memories of feeling judged bring up a certain amount of anger and pain. I personally find that the worst part of others being judgemental towards me is their lack of empathy. I find that they just don’t seek to understand why I might be doing something, or even recognize that there might be legitimate reasons behind my actions. In my experience judgmental people presume that their limited perception of what they’re witnessing is the entire story, which, they seemingly reason, would put them in a reasonable position to act as judge. I personally find this infuriatingly unfair as there is almost always a considerable back story or explanation that is not being taken into account. These reasons are often buried deep in my heart in places of great vulnerability and pain, exactly the kind of place I don’t want to open up to someone who is exhibiting a judgemental attitude!

However this matter of “knowing” someone’s backstory is the very reason that Jesus is the single most compassionate being in the universe. He knows everything about us, every last detail, which means that He knows ALL the reasons for our junk and our struggles. He knows ALL the extenuating circumstances and ALL the mitigating reasons that have culminated in our acting in a certain way. He has witnessed every single harsh word ever said to us, every emotional wound inflicted upon us, and every damaging relationship we’ve ever walked through. He knows our desperation, our fears and our hurts. He knows every tear we’ve shed and every moment of pain we’ve ever known. So he knows in detail what is justifiable about our behaviour, even better than we do ourselves. And that makes Him our very best advocate.

This doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t hate sin, that our sin is excused, or that our sin doesn’t matter. Scripture is very clear that all sin is detestable to God, and that He knows all that is wicked about our ways. However, I’d like to contend that alongside that He has a deeper level of empathy and compassion for us than any other person we know. I firmly believe that when we meet Him in person and look into His eyes we will see such compassion and such empathy that we will be aware of how totally, completely, overwhelmingly and utterly He loves and accepts us. We will feel entirely “known” by Him, in a way that many people only ever get a glimpse of through fulfilling romantic connection. This being truly known and loved is the most wonderful experience we could ever have.

So we need not fear rejection from Him. When Jesus says that He knows us He is saying that we are truly in a place of deep empathy and understanding.

And Jesus not only knows of our personal pain, but He also knows what it is like to feel pain. He experienced on earth all the things we experience, including hunger, rejection, abandonment, isolation, discomfort, neglect, ridicule, contempt, and physical pain. He is truly able to say to us “I know what you’re going through”!

This is why we read in 1 John 2:1 that “if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One”. We have the most perfect advocate pleading our case out of the very deepest empathy imaginable.

I hope that one day you get to look into Jesus eyes for yourself and witness the incredible depth of His empathy and love for you. When we come to Him, we find true acceptance. He knows, He cares, and He understands.

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