Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marking Points That We Make

It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

-Ursula LeGuin

Personal change is important, because it is innate to being a follower of Jesus. Naturally, we are continually being renewed, growing and emerging and becoming more. With this, our journey of faith has marking points. Being a Christian is a progression. We have many examples of this in Christian literature, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan as the classic, and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis in the last century. And yet, the walk of faith is never one in which the person “arrives”--that they have it all figured out. We will let the eastern religions keep that monopoly! The walk of faith is like an long road trip, going from one town to the next and every now and then stopping alongside the road perhaps to change the tire that has blown or getting off at the next exit to have some good coffee and a piece of pie at a diner just off the beaten path. Discovery, in the in end, is at the heart of the Christian faith.

Throughout the Bible, God is attempting to pound this idea that it's all about a relationship with him that matters the most. The Israelites of the Old Testament had such a hard time with this one, because they wanted so much to make it about religion—following a set of rules was so much easier than being in a relationship with their Creator. Very few characters we read about in the Old Testament got it right. Most, which we read about, insisted on obeying all the rules versus moving into a friendship with God. If we were to think about that list of who got it right, it is a relatively short one. A few would be: Abraham, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Josiah, annd Elijah. When we read their stories, we learn about the ramifications and possibilities of having a relationship with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus makes the same challenge. He says that the basis of everything is relationship, a relationship with him. Let’s listen to Jesus’ all-important words, “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The Message restates it even more directly: “Separated, you can't produce a thing.” Now that’s saying it like it is! Meditate on that one for a minute. Are we really going to believe such a statement? No one—not your Aunt Bev, not the nice guy down the street who shovels your sidewalk every winter, not even your own mom, the nicest lady in the world—can do anything good without Jesus. What he means in that statement, is simply this—everything has to be about him, otherwise it means nothing. As C.S. Lewis wrote so eloquently in Mere Christianity, in making such statements like this, Jesus was either an ego maniac, mentally ill or God Himself! Everything will come up short without Jesus. Every part of our lives must be subject to him: the inner strength of our marriage; the skills and talents we use on the job; our ability in the classroom or on the basketball court; how well we can think or feel; our financial security; our gifts of hospitality or giving; our ability to be a father or mother, son or daughter. Jesus is the center and how centered our lives are to his, will determine how well we do in everything. Everything about our lives starts with him. It’s not that we don’t have importance as well in this on-going relationship; but the whole of our lives and how we live them starts with the One who made us. Let me say that one more time: the whole of our lives and how we live them starts with the One who made us.

This is the starting point and the ending point. Our life, all of it, is in relationship to the One who created us (Colossians 1:16). The closer we are to him, the better we are. I see this continually with my own life and in the lives of others. The better a relationship with God a person has, the more “effectiveness” they have in their own lives. Depression is easier to conquer; marriages re-connect sooner; a father and a teenage son begin to have fun again; sometimes, you can even hit the golf ball straight. Things begin to happen that you never expected to happen. Life begins to fall in place. Inevitably, if we want to have the life we want, if we want to be the person we are supposed to be, it will tie back to our connection with Jesus. In essence, only the person who has God at the center of his life can have the good life. Again, the closer you are to him, the better you will be.

To end, Muhammed Ali said it well: “The man who views the world at fifty the same way he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” The person who commits his life to God and his ways will go through many changes of not only mind, but heart and soul as well. Relationships will change. Interests will change. Thinking will change. Life, itself, will change. If we allow it, the whole of life will just be an on-going metamorphosis into something more, something different and better. In the process of the journey, we are inevitably changed. Literally, one year-five years-twenty years later, you’ll become an entirely different person, a better person, more sound and connected to something extraordinary.

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