Sunday, January 8

What Are We Missing?

Just before Christmas, Claire and I ran into Walmart for some last minute groceries. It was early morning, and the crowds were low. I wasn't prepared for our trip. But, going home to make a list would mean facing a much more crowded store. I couldn't bear the thought. So, we meandered through Walmart as quickly as we could and were so happy to reach the checkout to see no lines anywhere.

Even with no wait, though, our cashier was not happy at all! Halfway through our transaction, another employee got in line behind us and attempted a conversation with our grumpy checker. She asked a question that she may still regret asking to today,

Are you ready for Christmas?

To this simple question, the cashier rolled her eyes and answered with a tone of complete disgust,

No! I don't do this Santa stuff. We do JESUS at my house. We focus on the REAL meaning of Christmas. I ain't studying keeping up with everybody else. If my kids grow up and want to do all that crazy Santa stuff, fine. But, I am not!

I was completely shocked! She was missing the joy of Christmas and in a big way. I shuddered (literally) when she spoke the name of Jesus with hate in her tone. I did send Claire ahead while I whispered to her that I do celebrate the REAL meaning of Christmas. But, we also do Santa at our house. I simply asked her to keep in mind that it would be awful for a child to hear the truth of Santa's non-existence from a grumpy Walmart employee. As I walked away, I really, really wished I'd told her she might SMILE as she reflects on Jesus at Christmas time.

Since that moment, though, my true feelings towards that encounter are of complete sadness. Maybe she was just having a bad morning. But, she represents so many of us as we attempt to share Jesus with the world. We just miss the point!

I was reading in John 5 this morning, and it is a chapter FULL of humanity missing the point. The first part of the chapter tells the story of the man at Bethesda who spent much of his life sitting by a pool of water. Every once in a while, the water would stir. When that happened, the first one in would be healed of sickness/disease. This man couldn't walk, so he never made it into the pool first. One day, though, Jesus stepped onto the scene. He healed the man with only words and asked him to take up his mat and walk away. Hallelujah (right?)! He passed some Pharisees, though, that harassed him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath.

They missed the point!

The remainder of John 5 is red lettered. Jesus was talking to those Jews that were blinded by themselves and needed spiritual vision. He was explaining His relationship to the Father, but they'd already made up their minds. They were seeking to kill Jesus (verse 18). They called their way good. They felt they were protecting people from falsehood and deceit. They saw Jesus only through the lenses of their ignorance and unbelief. Then Jesus said something profound,

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.
John 5:39
That's a little scary to me. The Pharisees looked to something good (Scriptures) so heavily that they missed their Savior! The Scriptures were meant to point the way to Jesus; but, because they refused to take off the lenses through which they viewed all of life, they missed out on their redemption and rescue. Jesus healed a man from a lifetime of of paralysis on the spot. He stood up and walked, and they focused on the mat. 

Yesterday, I saw a blog posted on Facebook about worship becoming more about entertainment than praise. The post was directed at Passion 2017 and Carrie Underwood being brought in to sing. It was "judgey" and negative and a little preachy. As I read it, I could picture the author was wearing the same face as my Walmart cashier. I could hear disgust in the tone. And, I was sad. 

She missed the point!

Over 50,000 college students filled conference seats and heard the name of Jesus (probably through smiling lips) proclaimed for three days. Lives were changed in those three days! Students were called to ministry! Others determined to follow hard after Jesus from that day forward. Some were there for the entertainment, sure. But, I believe the Spirit even moved in the hearts of some who showed up for all the wrong reasons. He's a big God, and He can do that!

I serve a God that parts seas, raises the dead, heals the sick, and rescues the fallen. He will call people to Himself however He chooses. He's more creative than I am. He owns everything on this Earth and knows the hearts of every person that inhabits it. When Jesus walked here, many Jews missed Him. They missed out, because He did things differently than they expected. I'm afraid it's happening again. 

The Earth is the Lord's and all that it contains, The world and those who dwell in it.
Psalm 24:1
It's all His! He reserves the right to use the things of this world however He pleases to call His people to Himself. To compartmentalize times, events, people, things, etc. and say they are worldly and entertaining and can't be used to point the lost to Christ is to join forces with the Jews in John 5. That's equivalent to choosing to see the mat on the Sabbath rather than the miracle of Jesus' healing the sick. My God is smarter than I am. He's definitely more creative. And, He can do whatever He pleases. 

Besides, when Jesus ascended into heaven, He left the Holy Spirit that is living and active in every, single, believer (John 16:7). He is our Helper. If we'll look to Him to read scripture, make sense of difficulty, and deal with others, I believe we'll pray more and rant less. 

See, even at our best, we are a bunch of ragamuffins! We won't fully get it this side of Heaven. With the help of the Holy Spirit, though, we have the opportunity to see glimpses of Jesus in all things. He's here! He hasn't left us or forsaken us. He's our teacher. When we get it wrong, He can even use our mistakes to guide us back to His truth. When others get it wrong, He can and will do the same for them. 

All I know for sure is that My God reigns and rules whether I see it or not! I just don't want to miss it!

For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. 
Psalm 135: 5-6

Sunday, January 1

Reflections for 2017

Happy New Year!

Like most of you, I've spent much of the past few days thinking over 2016. Actually, I reflect over the current year's events for most of December. Typically, I look for themes. I like to sum up the year with a word or a phrase. For the past five years, that's been hard to do. They've been full of all kinds of adventures.... most of which I wouldn't have asked for. But, all have served positive purposes.

So, I'm ending 2016 with the same thought I've had in summing up the past years, THIS has been the best year yet!

Even to me, though, that sounds a little absurd. Our last five years have been filled with trauma, change, questions, heartache, disappointment, stress, and much uncertainty. Yet, God has used it all to point us to Himself. He's allowed us (for 5 straight years!) to reach the end of ourselves so that we could find out He has no ending.

Our family received year passes to Busch Gardens in Tampa for Christmas this year, and we've been using them a lot! I absolutely love roller coasters. The boys are old enough that they'll try just about anything. But, Claire is still uncertain. We've been pushing her to get on the larger ones, because we can tell she wants so badly to ride. She's just scared. Her fear grows the longer we stand in a line; so, I've been saying the same things to her over and over....

You know you won't fall out!

The coaster is designed to hold you in! 

You'll only make it worse to stress over the whole ride!

Since you know you won't fall, you can relax and enjoy the ups and downs, curves and hills, plunges and speeds. 

It's all fun and pure enjoyment when you rest into the bars and straps that will keep you safe.

Suddenly, in one of our last visits, I realized that this understanding is why we've enjoyed the past five years so intensely. Yes, they've been tough and uncertain. But, they've ushered us into a deeper walk with Him. God has used all of our crazy events to demonstrate His power, so we get to rest in Him even in the roller coaster life.

Until 2011, we were riding the kiddie rides of life, because that felt safe! My version of safe was boring. God's version of safe is exciting! I'm not suggesting a lifestyle of throwing caution to the wind. I am talking about living life full of His Spirit and following wherever He leads. Trusting God and knowing that Jesus Christ is with us every step of the way can make even the wildest of rides enjoyable, exciting, and fun!

So, it's 2017! What will this year hold? The Rogers are ending a year that began with such joyful anticipation. God placed a desire for ministry in our hearts, opened a door, and moved us quickly. We coasted for a little while and treasured the peaceful feeling we received. God was faithful in leading us, and we trusted He'd led us right where He wanted us. Then came the plunge. Disappointment and discouragement loomed until our situation simply had to change. So, we end this year with even more questions and a lot of uncertainty.

But, we are enjoying this ride! Every single day, God is demonstrating His faithfulness to us. He's showing us that we are indeed exactly where He wants us. The next steps of His plan will be revealed, and I believe we will stand in awe AGAIN at His great care for us. 

Until then, we will not fear! I'm sure this year will be full of more ups and downs, twists and turns, and high speed plunges. It's called LIFE. But, we choose to rest in His arms.

That's an exciting place!

It's a hopeful place!

And, it's the safest place!

The eternal God is a dwelling place (refuge), and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33:27