Insubstantial Selves

No Place for Truth
David Wells

Is not the self movement evidence of our collective unhappiness and insecurity?  It is only the hungry, after all, who are always thinking of food; those who are not deprived occupy themselves with other thoughts.  It is only the unhappy who are constantly preoccupied with happiness, only those crippled by a sense of their own insubstantial self who expend their lives in its pursuit.

A Ragamuffin Prayer

The Ragamuffin Gospel
Brennan Manning

Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before You and try to bribe You with our preposterous portfolios.  Suddenly we have come to our senses.  We are sorry and ask You to forgive us.  Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate Your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on Your mercy no matter what we may do.  Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in Your love.  Amen.

Not Interested

Sometimes when my wife and I are talking, my son will interrupt, saying, “Dad, Dad, Dad…Stop…talking…just…play!”  In these moments, he’s only interested in playing and because we are neither playing nor talking about playing, he is not interested.

Part of our struggle to listen to God is that He is not always talking about what we are interested in.

Throughout the Gospels, the Pharisees ask Jesus many questions about the law.  They assumed the law was the path to God’s favor and blessing.  They hate the humiliation and suffering Israel has endured in exile.  Their concerns are urgent, but all Jesus wants to talk about is Himself.

We too have urgent concerns.  Where will I live?  Who will I marry?  When will these kids stop being crazy?  It can seem as if God never answers our questions or speaks to our needs.  But God does speak to our needs, because Scripture is always speaking about the Son of God, the one who we really need.  Scripture speaks, not of the details of the future or the secret to a pain-free life, but of the truth that is essential to know in every circumstance – Jesus reigns as the sovereign Lord, and He is good.

[28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

– Romans 8:28

The Word Does Something

[1] The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. [2] And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. [3] And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” [4] Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD…

[7] So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. [8] And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. [9] Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” [10] So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 

– Ezekiel 37:1-4, 7-10

The Spirit of the Lord sends Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones.  God asks Ezekiel if the bones can live.  Unsure of what to say, Ezekiel gives the only safe answer – “O Lord GOD, you know.”  God then commands Ezekiel to prophesy and he does.  At this time, Ezekiel does not believe in himself or his words, but he believes in the God who tells him to open up his mouth and speak.  As Ezekiel obeys, he finds that through the Word of the Lord, God raises the dead.

The Word of God is not simply information.  It is also power.  The Word does something.  We understand that even human words can create.  For example, when a bride and groom say, “I do,” they are not just communicating information.  Something actually happens.  A marriage that did not exist before comes into being.  Their lives are now tangibly and permanently different than they were.

In a similar way, the Word of God does something.  By His Word, God creates the world, makes everlasting promises, conveys actual blessing, reveals Jesus Christ, and raises the dead.  The Word tangibly transforms.

In light of this, the question becomes, “do I want to be transformed?”  If I do, I will sit at Jesus’s feet and listen.

No Place for Sacrifice

No Place for Truth
David Wells

Interpersonal relationships inevitable involve conflicts of interest that can be resolved only by compromise and sacrifice.  Self-fulfillers place a premium on such relationships, and yet their guiding concern for self-fulfillment, their devotion to self-interest, would seem almost to guarantee that they will not be successful in maintaining them.

Are We Still Listening?

[1] At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. [2] But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” [3] He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: [4] how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? [5] Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?

– Matthew 12:1-5

As Jesus walks with His disciples, the Pharisees are suddenly and deeply offended.  Jesus’s disciples are breaking the Sabbath.  Sabbath-keeping is the fourth commandment.  Exodus 20 is clear.

[8] “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [9] Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, [10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work…

In the Old Testament, breaking Sabbath was punishable by death.  So to avoid breaking Sabbath, the Pharisees had many rules.  There were rules about how far you could walk, how many letters you could write, and so on and so forth.  Eventually, they began to think that they had a complete set of rules regarding the Sabbath.  They had figured out Sabbath-keeping.

But then in v. 3-5, Jesus bursts their bubble.  Jesus is speaking to Bible scholars who had most of the Old Testament memorized, and He is playing them when He asks, “Have you not read?”

See, the Pharisees felt that they had figured out faith, that they had even figured out God.  They were arrogant and so they stopped listening.  We too can imagine that we have many things figured out.

We have relationships figured out.  We have parenting figured out.  We have finances figured out.  We have our list of needs figured out.   We have the future figured out.  And when we believe this, not even God can tell us we are wrong.

When was the last time God told us that we are wrong about something very important?  Are we still listening?

Slaves to Freedom

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave
Ed Welch

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.

 – Proverbs 25:28

Human beings resist boundaries.  Ever since sin entered the world, we have considered boundaries to be violations of our personal freedoms – curses rather than blessings.  Scripture, however, reveals that it is our lack of personal boundaries that enslaves us.