Smile or Cry

Leading up to Christmas I had the privilege of going to my daughters’ Christmas presentation at their school. Kara and Melanie both got on stage and were proud to display the Christmas craft they had made. Each year all the children sing on stage together. It is funny to watch the different personalities on a stage during such a performance. Some kids seem obsessed with the motions and forget to sing the words, while others stand frozen but get every word right. Then there are those that sing loud and make big motions and those that sing quiet and make small motions. And then there are others that just stand there in great fear of the moment, while there is always at least one that is simply doing their own thing on stage but in a big way for everyone to see.

My two girls have extremely different personalities. Melanie is quiet and reserved while Kara is, well let’s just say, not quiet and reserved. They are both great joys to my heart and soul. That day I was sitting in the crowd trying to watch two girls standing in two different parts of the stage sing, when God showed me something interesting about my fatherhood that taught me something about his Fatherhood.

As I sat there I would move my eyes and head back and forth between the two of them so they would both know that I was watching them and was proud of them. What I quickly realized was that many times by the time I looked back to the one I had not been watching, they were looking for me to watch them. I would catch their eye and without fail each and every time they would smile. Kara a great big smile followed by louder singing and bigger motions. Melanie with a smaller more steady smile. Her singing and motions would not change so much as her gaze would. Kara would look back at the teacher and jump back into the performance. Melanie on the other hand might get a little distracted from the song because she would keep her eyes on mine.

Honestly, it was neat experience. I pray that my two girls never struggle with feeling valued and important. I want them to know that I am their biggest fan, that I love them, and that I am proud of them.

The thing that really hit me was that the simple gift of my gaze added to their enjoyment. They both enjoyed performing and singing more because they knew I was watching them. Truth is I had no part whatsoever in their performance. I simply was present. I was there and they knew it.

This experience caused me to think about my relationship with my Heavenly Father for a moment. I thought about the fact that he never has to lose his attention on one child to enjoy the other. God is always present. He never misses a performance (like I have had to do because of other responsibilities in my life.) He is always watching.

Then I thought, if I caught the eye of my Lord Jesus Christ right now would it cause me to smile? Would I jump back into what I was already doing with greater joy and enthusiasm?

Or would I cry?

Peter caught the eye of Jesus one night in a courtyard while standing around the fire with powerless people who had asked him a difficult question. He had just denied any relationship to Christ three times. Scripture says that Jesus looked back at him, the rooster crowed, and that Peter ran outside and wept bitterly. He had failed his Savior.

Yet, not many days later, Peter had an interesting conversation with Jesus Christ in which he was restored to a right relationship with him. I think that day Peter wanted to cry again, as his Lord asked him three times, “do you love me?”

Yet there was also a day in which Jesus had asked his disciples who he was and Peter was the first to speak that he was the Christ and Jesus told him that upon that truth he would build his Church.

There were days in Peter’s life that the gaze of the Lord made him smile. Those days he felt more empowered and emboldened to be who he was supposed to be and do what God desired him to do.

So the question I have for you is this, if you caught the Lord’s eye in your life right now would it make you smile or cry? Not would it make him smile or cry, would it make you smile or cry? Would you be proud to be his child or ashamed to be seen by the Father in what you are doing?

I challenge you to live 2010 with that thought as a challenge.

Live the smile. Enjoy the presence of the Father. And give your very best for his pleasure. For He is a loving Father that is ever-watching.

Sweat the Details

A person with my personality does two things with details – obsess over them or pay no attention to them at all. This is typically the result of how important one considers a particular detail. My overall opinion is that if the big picture is good than it is all good.

Truth is some people get lost in the details. Some people get so consumed with how they want something done that it never really gets done. On the other side some of us can allow little things, that in the end don’t really matter slip by, and they can have a negative impact on someone.

This Sunday I preached a B- to C sermon. (We have to grade each other’s sermons in seminary so we actually learn how to grade sermons and unfortunately it is a skill we never lose.) The content in the sermon was good. The problem was that the content consumed more time than normal. It was hard to finish. So, I spent less time working on the “peripherals” – the illustrations, etc.

Well, I used a story that tied to an Old Testament law and then I said and applied the Old Testament law incorrectly. It is not a “big” deal but I was wrong. I am actually embarrassed by it because I know it better than that. The problem was that I had just not spent enough time thinking that part of the sermon through.

After the sermon a young man came by and corrected me on my use of the Old Testament law. (I have to admit I wanted to reply with a wise-crack, but I refrained.) My first thought was, I just preached this whole message that has good truth in it and that is what this young man is thinking about as he leaves. Later I thought about it some more and realized, it did matter.

That detail mattered. If one person was distracted from hearing truth because I said something untrue, it is not that person’s fault for being distracted by that. It is mine. I can’t let it consume me and worry about a mistake, but I know better than to get something incorrect from the Bible in a sermon.

The reality is that we have to sweat some details. The little things often do matter. They are not things we should obsess over. We should not get ulcers over the details, but often it is the way we handle the details that make the biggest impact.

He who is faithful with LITTLE will be given much.

Relax and take in a deep…thought

Everyone once in a while I will have something hit me that is deeper than the norm. Today in my personal Scripture reading a deep thought struck that I decided I ought to share. In my reading plan I read from the Old Testament and New Testament every day. (For those of you not sure what those are, the OT was written and is about times before Christ and the NT is written starting with the time of Christ and the early church. Reading from some of both is a great way to stay well-rounded in understanding the depth of what all God has done in the world through Jesus Christ.)

Today I read Ezekial 44-46 and 46:9 really jumped out at me. “‘When the people of the land come before the LORD at the appointed feasts, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which he entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate.”

My question was, “why?” It is obviously not about north or south because you must simply leave through a different gate than you enter in. Here is why I believe God commanded that. At each of these occasions sacrifices would be offered and people would experience the power of forgiveness through obedience to the commands of God. God desired them to leave through a different gate so that they would go out different than they came in.

Then I read 1 John 2:1-6 from the New Testament. It says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

This is a powerful imagery and truth about what Jesus Christ had done for us. He is the “atoning sacrifice.” This sacrifice is the one that is a substitute for the condition of our lives and our own sinfulness. He has atoned for that wrong by actually becoming the perfect sacrifice for the cost of our sin. This in itself is the most amazing act of love in history. Then it says that because of our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord we should live in obedience. Our obedience does not cause us to be right with Christ we are obedient because we are right with Christ.

We walk out a different gate. We come to Christ and we are changed. Life is lived differently because we are different.

The deep thought was the combination of these two passages in this truth…

Old Testament worshippers walked into the presence of God with their sacrifice and their sin and they walked away without their sacrifice or their sin.

New Testament worshippers come before the presence of Christ with their sin but without a sacrifice and they walk away without their sin but with
the sacrifice.

(I challenge you to “chew” on that thought for a little while.)

The truth is that Jesus is the sacrifice and when we accept him as our Savior and Lord our sin is no longer ours – it is his. “He died for sin ONCE for all.” We bring him nothing but our sin. He, himself, offers the sacrifice of Himself, yet through his resurrection he is our living Lord. So we come to him with nothing but our sin and we leave with him.

It is Christ himself…his presence…and his power…and his provision for our sin that leaves with us.

John 10:7 wraps the thought up for his when Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate…”

Have you entered? And have you exited different?