Monday, August 29, 2011

I Am...The Way

One of my most vivid, and worrisome, memories occurred several years ago as I was driving to one of my very first speaking events.  To start with, I don’t think the enemy was particularly happy about me embarking on a new season of ministry. So, using one of his familiar tactics, figured if he could frighten me enough, I might just turn around, give up, and forget the whole idea.  I’d been on the mountain roads of Colorado that late November afternoon only about 20 minutes, when it began to snow.  Within another ten minutes, I experienced a thorough white-out.  The snow was sticking to the roads, and I couldn’t see where the side lines were, not to mention the center line.  The wind was blowing, and as the flakes whirled into my windshield, I found it a particularly daunting task to stay focused.  Add to this, the fact that the vehicle I was driving wasn’t exactly equipped for four-wheel driving, or icy roads.  Yes, I was frightened.  Mostly frightened because I had no idea where I was, where I was really going (I’d never been to this location before), or how far I had to go.  My way was obscured and unknown.  The total length of the trip should have only taken me about 2 hours.  However, as the sun descended in the sky, and the temperatures along with it, I had to stop about every 10 minutes, flick my windshield wipers and brush off my headlights from the ice build-up.  At times, I could make out car tracks from a recent vehicle that had gone ahead of me, but for the most part, I was on my own to make my way to the lodge where this women’s retreat was being held.  A 2-hour trip ended up taking me 4 hours.  Fortunately, I’d left in plenty of time, and walked in just in time to step up and speak.  Not so easy, for someone who was just beginning to venture out of her comfort zone in this arena! (By the way, it was a great retreat, and God did some amazing things!)

So, I can relate to Thomas, when he said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  (This following Jesus’ advance-notice that he was going to depart and prepare a place for them...).  Jesus answered, “I am the way...”  What a gift! 

I don’t know any of us who like uncertainty.  We all struggle with making decisions (little and big).  All of us want someone to show us the way: the what, the where, the why, the when, the how, yes, even the who...  Like you, I wish I knew God’s will for my future.  The Lord gave us a great reassurance with these words, literally translated, “I am the road on which you should travel.”  He, Himself, will lead us (Psalm 23).  He, Himself, will make our paths straight (Hebrew translation can also be: good, right, level, pleasing in Proverbs 3:5-6).  He will do it for His name’s sake (Ps 23:3). 

So, there should not be an aura of fear in uncertainty, but rather a hopeful spirit of adventure.  For the one who knows you best, and loves you most, does indeed have a plan for your life  (Jeremiah 29:11).  As you drive through life’s snow storms, one inch of road at time, stopping to flick your windshield wipers, wipe off your headlights, re-gather your focus, fix your eyes on Him, He is sure to bring you to a spacious place (Ps. 18:19). 

As for God, His way is perfect...It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
Ps 18:30, 32,33

He is THE WAY (A)  +  I am DESTINED (B)  =  Therefore, I look to the future without hesitancy, knowing my WAY has a grand adventure waiting for me up ahead (C).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Am...The Truth

More and more I realize that I consider a “new year” to begin with the start of school, not on January 1.  Since kindergarten, I suppose, that has been ingrained in me (and that was further back than I care to count).  So, another new year has begun.  I, for one, am thankful to be back into a routine.  I seem to thrive under a schedule. 

This new school year, where I am blessed to give in ministry during between- speaking-engagements, holds a lot of “firsts.”  It’s our first year under a new name:  Arizona Christian University.  First year with new school colors, a new brand, a new mascot.  We even have a new mission statement:  transforming culture with truth.

What a great mission in which to be called for the Kingdom.  If we are believers in Christ Jesus, this is for all of us.  I guess two questions follow:  1) Exactly what does this mean? 2) How does this happen?  Interestingly, this fits with the “I Am” statements of Jesus.  Bear with me.

I am unable to transform anything on my own.  Likewise, you are unable to transform anything by yourself.  I realize today’s culture is in need of a heap of changing, but if the above is true, how’s that going to happen? 

This is why I’ve always loved 2 Cor. 5:17, that declares where change actually comes from --- true change occurs when I am “in Him” (Jesus).  Real salvation results in transformation.  Not only that, but Jesus declared this:  I am the way, the TRUTH (emphasis mine), and the life. (John 14:6)

Jesus Christ is the original transformer.  That’s His job.  When I abide in Him, and He abides in me, I can’t help but be changed.  As I am being changed, the lost world around me sees a difference, and they desire what I have, too.  When they inquire about the “why,” I get the opportunity to share the good news of my Transformer.  If they buy in, their life is changed, as well.  So, culture is transformed as the Truth transforms individual lives (yes, one life at a time)!

So, after last week’s “thought,” I don't want to neglect to look at the A + B = C equation, answering the “so what” question. 

He is THE TRUTH (A)  +  I am BEING TRANSFORMED (B) =  An opportunity to live out my calling as a transformer of my culture with TRUTH.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Am...So What?

One of the benefits of blogging is that the writer of said blog gets to set the parameters.  As the writer, I am free to stop and start wherever & whenever I want.  I am free to be late (as I have been the last two weeks).  As well, I am free to change my mind.  There is quite a bit of power in this flexibility.  I like that aspect of blogging.  So, here’s the deal.  We are about half way through the “I Am’s” of Jesus.  As I’ve gone back and read the past posts, I’ve asked myself the question, “So what?”  I don’t mean it to be disrespectful of Jesus; I simply want this to be practical. 

Now, I realize in the introduction to this so-called series, I mentioned the why and wherefore of the journey upon which I was about to embark.  I hope I conveyed the message that knowing our Lord was equivalent to trusting Him.  In other words, knowing Him increased my trust capacity.  I also mentioned that it was quite proportionate to my capacity to love Him.  Knowing = trusting; and trusting = loving.  Simple formula of a = b.

However, here’s another formula for you (in fact, you might remember this from math).  A + B = C.  I love it when the Christian life can be simplified to a math formula.  Let me explain! 

Everyday I meet with young women who struggle with their identity.  This wrestling manifests itself in a variety of ways – and it is not always healthy (spiritually, physically, emotionally, etc).  As I stopped to ask the “So what?” question, it dawned on me that these “I Am’s” are part of the answer to the identity crisis of a majority of us.  Here’s why.  If I know WHO HE IS (A) then I know WHO I AM (B).  Add these thoughts together and we get one who is COURAGEOUSLY walking this life in Christ. WHO HE IS + WHO I AM = COURAGE. 

HE IS:  The Messiah/Savior/Deliverer          +         I Am:  Free  =                     
Therefore, I live as if I’m free.

HE IS:  Gentle & Humble in Heart        +        I Am: At Rest  =
Therefore, I live in restful submission.

HE IS:  YHWH                  I Am:  Secure  =
Therefore, I don’t have to be a slave to my insecurities.

HE IS:  With Me Always      +      I Am:  Able    =                      
Therefore, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and do not live as a slave to my fear.

HE IS:  The Bread of Life      +      I am:  Complete, Full, Satisfied  =
Therefore, I do not look anyplace else to have my needs met.

HE IS:  A Servant         +        I am:  A Servant  =
Therefore, I extend grace even to those who might treat me harshly, break my heart, or threaten to betray me.

So what?  That’s what!  It's as simple and as important as A + B = C             

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Am...the Bread of Life

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 6:35

My favorite smell:  fresh bread baking in an oven.  Fact!  That smell itself is a gift; but then cut that fresh bread and slather it with butter (or divinity, as we call it in the Forrest household), and, yes, it is divine.  I could write a whole page extolling the virtues of this very healthy, complete food, when made with the right kind of whole grains.  However, that is not my purpose.

When I think of bread and Jesus, my mind wanders to his first great temptation as his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness are coming to a close.  Jesus was hungry.  Satan came to tempt him.  Don’t you know when he pointed at the stones and invited Jesus to turn them to bread, the temptation came complete with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting across Jesus’ nose?   Satan attempted a brilliant power play – “Come on, Jesus, this is no big deal.  We both know you can do this with a snap of the fingers.”

However, it was a big deal for Jesus.  The temptation wasn’t just about the “lusts of the flesh” – the desire for food.  This temptation was all about following God’s will.  Later, Jesus was overheard saying, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.”  The wilderness wasn’t just about temptation.  The wilderness was also for preparation.  Preparation for the fulfillment of God’s will.  By saying “no” to bread-making, Jesus was saying “yes” to bread-being.  Without no-saying, there could be no cross.  Without no-saying, Jesus couldn’t be my source of sustenance.  By turning down turning stones to bread, Jesus chose to love me.  His hunger needs were secondary to my hunger needs.  His “no” on that day allowed him to say “yes” to me on another day.  On November 22, 1970, I ate the bread of life, and I am still full.  I am still sustained.  I am more than satisfied in Jesus. 

But, one other thought has crossed my mind.  Jesus’ “no” affected my future.  Whose hunger am I thinking of ahead of my own?  How might some of my “yeses” possibly affect the tomorrow of someone else?  It’s just a thought...

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Am...A Servant!

For who is greater, one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who reclines at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.
Luke 22:27

Really?  A servant is the greater one?  All of Scripture nods its head in affirmation.  Vividly.  Maybe, yes, even excitedly.  Jesus spoke a jaw-dropping paradigm when he said, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first (when it comes to the Kingdom-way).”  Then, to show the full extent of his love, to model his methods, he grabbed a basin of water, and began washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:1). 

Really?  In this group were men, he knew, who were about to betray him, turn their backs on him, reject him, break their promises to him, speak out against him, and, even instigate setting the wheels in motion to kill him.  Again, I see heaven nodding, even applauding. 

Really?  Doesn’t this fly in the face of anything “boundary” related?  Our world is so big on boundaries…setting up protective space (keeping the bad out).  Yet, as I look heavenward through the lens of Scripture, Jesus actions show me the TRUTH.  Serving = Loving.  Loving always has the best interest of the other at heart.  Sometimes that “best interest” means placing ourselves in the most vulnerable of positions (what’s more vulnerable than bent over someone’s feet?).  To the extent I serve you, reveals the extent I love you.  Nothing speaks a louder message than example. 

This doesn’t eliminate the words of tough love.  When he came to Peter, Jesus reminded him that just because he washed their feet, didn’t mean they were entirely “clean.”  Yet, wash their feet he did, speaking truth gently (but firmly).  Oh, how he loved!  Oh, how he loves, even still!

But, me, Lord?  Serve, like this?  And, he says, “You call me, Teacher and Lord; and you are right…If I then, the Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet (vv.13-14).”  Paul learned that lesson well, “Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil.2:5).”  We can’t muster up the same kind of love…but we can make up our minds, intentionally, to imitate our Lord and Teacher; and, when we do, somehow the Spirit of Jesus in us, takes over, and matches our muster-up to the action of kneeling-low.  How can I even get that mindset, Lord?  Ah…Paul explains.  “Who being in the very nature God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself…”  I let go of me, my rights, my wants, my desires, my position.  I die.  Daily.  Completely.  To everything.  Dead woman walking.  Dead woman serving.  Dead woman loving.

I read further.  There’s a promise attached to dying-loving-serving:  Now that you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (John 13:16).”  Grab a basin; you are in for a heap of blessin’!