Are You Willing to Go Beyond Fear?

cars on an assembly line
Photo credit: <a href="">John Lloyd</a>

Galatians 3:1-5

You stupid Galatians! Who’s bewitched you? You are witnesses to the public crucifixion of Jesus. So you tell me now, did you get God’s idea by following rules, or by making a commitment to what you’d heard? Are you such idiots that you start with God’s idea but then end up trying to do it on your own? Doesn’t all your experience teach you anything? Apparently not! What does your experience tell you – that God’s work and amazing things happen when you’re following rules, or when you’re true to your commitment?

Paul isn’t going to get any points for making nice here. Calling people stupid idiots is not the way to win friends and influence people.

After you strip away Paul’s scathing tirade, though, the question he’s asking really is worth thinking about. Do amazing things happen when you’re following rules, or do they happen when you’re true to your commitment?

I’d venture to guess that it’s some of both. Sometimes, when you’re starting out with something, you need a few rules. You learn how things work. You find your bearings. Once you know the rules, when you’ve put in the time and become a virtuoso at your art, then, maybe, you can leave the rulebook behind – sometimes.

But, what Paul is furious about is that the Galatians have the capacity to be virtuosos. They have the experience – or Paul thinks they do – to make life following Jesus artful. But in spite of their ability, they’re playing it safe. They’re allowing their fear to rule them, rather than living into the freedom that is theirs for the taking.

So, what about you? Are you fearfully following rules, or are you living into the best of your potential? Is your life an assembly line product, or is at an art?

Your Second Chance

lighthouse on rocks
Photo credit: <a href="">Paul Bica</a>

Ephesians 2:1-10

All your evil and wrong that you did, all the going along with the crowd, all your going whichever way the wind blows, all your disregard for what is right – it had killed you. Living lives doing whatever we pleased, we were, like everyone else, in a rat race we couldn’t win.

But God is merciful. Because God loved us so much, in spite of everything we’d done to screw ourselves up, gave us a second chance to live. You’ve been undeservedly rescued. Along with Jesus, God has given you a higher calling – indeed a heavenly calling – so even future generations will look back and see proof of God’s goodness by the difference Jesus made in our lives. Make no mistake: you didn’t deserve this second chance. You didn’t make this happen, so don’t brag about it. It’s God’s gift to you. All of us are created by God, just as Jesus was, to do something good. That’s what God intends our way of life to be.

You’ve got one shot, but if you’ve ever realized that you had a second chance you didn’t deserve, then you know what this passage is about.

Some folks realize they’ve been given a second chance after recovery from a catastrophic illness. For others, it might be a new career, an unexpected opportunity for reconciliation with family or a loved one. You know who you are.

What you may not realize, though, is that every opportunity is a second chance. You may have a “dead end” job, but that dead end job is your platform to do something great. Even if you’re flipping burgers right now. It’s not about the burgers. It’s about your attitude. You can just flip burgers, or you can make showing up for life your art. You can just wait tables, or you can make service an art. You can just answer the phone, or you can connect people. You get the idea. You may be at “rock bottom,” but Jesus liked to say that rock is a pretty solid platform to build on.

If you read the last paragraph and said, “Yes, but ____ (insert the reason it doesn’t apply to you here),” you missed it.

You Get One Shot

Bo Bolster
Photo Credit: Don Shuler

Isaiah 40:6-8

People are like grass,
They’re as flimsy as wildflowers.
The stalks dry up and the flowers wilt
When the wind of God blows on them.
Surely, people are grass.
The stalks dry up and the flowers wilt,
But what God says is permanent.

We got news yesterday afternoon of the sudden (unexpected) death of an old friend. Aneurism. Fine one day, gone the next.

He was living proof that you don’t have to be rich or famous to make a difference. You just have to show up. Every day. And make coffee.

You get one shot at showing up, standing up, speaking up. You get one chance to be encouraging, inspiring, loving, and gracious.

Take it.

Don’t Wait for What You Already Have

girl looking out window
Photo credit: <a href="">JFXie</a>

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Sing it out, Daughter Zion!
Shout it out, Israel!
Rejoice and let your heart thrill, Jerusalem!
God has commuted your sentence
And repelled your enemy.
God, Isreal’s king, is among you,
You need not fear further harm.

That day, it’ll be said to Jerusalem:
Don’t be afraid, Zion,
Don’t give up.
God, your God, is among you,
As a victorious warrior.
God will sing you into joy,
And with love calm you.
God will sing with joy for you,
Let the party begin!

I will clear away the disaster,
So you won’t be embarrassed by it.
Then you’ll see how I’ll deal with your oppressors.
I’ll heal the lame,
Gather in the outcast,
Change their shame to fame,
So they’ll be looked up to all over the world.

Then I’ll bring you home,
And gather you in,
And make you famous
And people will applaud you

All over the world.
You’ll see,
You’ll get everything back.

Says God.

These last few verses of Zephaniah’s scroll come as an appendix, penned in exile after all the doomsday predictions of the earlier 3½ chapters came true and swept the ancient Judean kingdom (such as it was, already in shambles) away.

It had been a time of unmitigated disaster. The people blamed God. The prophets, claiming to speak for God, blamed the people. Bad times.

From exile, after things had hit rock bottom, finally there is a glimmer of recognition of what once was. It’s no longer about blame. Now, it’s just about getting back home. From the far-away distance of exile, the partisan wrangling finally comes to an end with the shared nostalgia for the glory days of the past.

Its a shame that so often, then and now, it has to come to losing something in order to appreciate it. Why is it that until the moment of loss, it’s so common to take the good for granted as something to fight over? Wouldn’t it be better to use it as a platform for making the future even better?

Today is a day of unprecedented opportunity. If you’re reading this, you have more resources at your disposal, at the press of a keyboard than most of the people in the world right now, and more than any generation has had since the beginning of time. And yet, the conditions we have to use it are fragile.

Don’t wait until it all comes crashing down to wish then for what you have right now.

Carpe diem.