Ten Tidbits from Maranatha

My recent vacation was rejuvenating on many levels from quiet walks on the beach, to lazy afternoons, to majestic sunsets like the one pictured above. Of course the biggest takeaway is the teaching itself. After coming home, I love to follow up and review the biblical truth that was shared. The first week I spent at Maranatha, five years ago, I sent out a summary to a few close friends and family. I think it was something like ten pages long. I know, kind of embarrassing. So I won’t give you ten pages, but I will share ten highlights. The parenthetical indicates who shared the tidbit.

  1. God cares more about “them” than you think He does. (David Rudd, Calvary Church, Fruitport, Michigan). This was a lesson taken from Jonah who was too self-absorbed and too judgmental to see that God actually loved and cared about the people of Nineveh. We all encounter some “thems” in life — try picturing the most hateful, mean-spirited person you know, or maybe just the most irritating — a major lesson from Jonah is that God loves them just as much as He loves you and me.
  2. Relationally-driven people are stubbornly committed to building lasting and loving relationships. (Bill Rudd, Calvary Church, Fruitport, Michigan). When was the last time this stubborn commitment was manifested in your life? As for me, oh my. I need to be a lot more stubborn.
  3. Sin spoils relationship. (Bill Rudd, Calvary Church, Fruitport, Michigan). This is true in the horizontal relationships that we have on this earth, and it is true of the vertical relationship we have with our Heavenly Father. There are many reasons we need to take sin seriously, but this is one we don’t often consider. Healthy relationships and sin just don’t go together. As an aside, here are three ideas for recognizing sin in your own life: (1) Pray and ask God to show you where you are out of His good, pleasing and perfect will; (2) Read through the Ten Commandments; and (3) Review the seven deadly sins (There were seven Spur posts last year about them starting here).
  4. Truth-oriented people constantly adjust their lives to align with the teaching of the Bible. (Bill Rudd, Calvary Church, Fruitport, Michigan). This is an endeavor we will not complete on this earth, but one we best be working at everyday. C.S. Lewis said something like each person is always becoming more like heaven or more like hell. One thing is certain, we are never stagnant in our journey. We are making progress all the time, positive or negative.
  5. Good things often multiply at the expense of best things. (Bill Rudd, Calvary Church, Fruitport, Michigan). This statement is a heartbreaker for me, because I worry that some of the good things in my life are pushing out best things. I need to pray that God will help me discern what’s truly best each day. (James 1:5).
  6. In the storms of life, focus not on the storm but on Jesus, and remember that the Lord is bigger than our biggest storm. (David Gudgel, Bethany Bible Church, Phoenix, Arizona). One of my favorite hymns is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” because I love the melody and because that is the answer. We try to make things so complicated, but no matter how insurmountable, painful, or dire your struggle, the most important thing to do is to turn your eyes on Jesus.
  7. Many of us do not take the great commission seriously. In heaven, Jesus may even ask, “what part of ‘go’ did you not understand?” (Doug Van Bronkhorst Interserve International). Convicting, because sometimes we want to define “going” as going to some foreign mission field. But that’s pretty self-serving because we all go somewhere everyday.
  8. Preach the gospel to yourself everyday. (Colin Smith, The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois). I don’t know who first said this, but it’s brilliant advice. Our spiritual amnesia is truly chronic. We have to feed ourselves a steady diet of truth, otherwise the lies of this world creep in.
  9. Ultimately what will happen is the exact opposite of what Satan intended. He aimed to detract from God’s glory, but what happened will result in God’s greater glorification. God knew what he was doing. (Colin Smith, The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois). So glad that this isn’t Plan B, that my God wasn’t caught off guard. Plus this reminds me of Lewis who said, “For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity.”
  10. The greatest sorrow that you can do to God is to disbelieve His love for you. (paraphrase of Puritan John Owen) (Colin Smith, The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois). Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t it heartbreaking? May we not disbelieve His love this week!

Who We Need Most

My last post was about what we need most, so this week it seems natural to talk about who we need most. Obviously, each person needs a family that loves them. In my experience, as a parent of three boys, and as a child myself, the father role is exceedingly important. I could read to my boys, take them to the park, buy them new toys, feed them their favorite foods, and play games with them all day long, but none of this compares to five minutes of football with Daddy. Although it should be noted that Saturday’s football fun resulted in a single stitch for Nate’s chin, and guess who got to take him to the ER? And when my dad was alive his approval was of great importance to me. I wanted to make him proud in way that did not and does not apply to my mom. Maybe that just indicates the security I have of her undying love, I don’t know for sure. I just know there is something special about daddies and all the statistics about the fatherless are heartbreaking.

So family is important, but we need friends too–people who are going to love us, and encourage us and hold us accountable. It’s great to have friends who are at your same stage of life; you can exchange familiar stories and knowing smiles. But it’s also fun to have friends from other generations. Caitlin (my twenty-two-year-old niece) and I have now had dinner twice with women who span five decades. We call it the multi-generational girls night out, or miggno. It is a total blast–plus the wisdom shared by those who have lived life is invaluable. Every woman would be blessed by a regular miggno, although I am extremely partial to the members of ours.
But friends and family are not who we need most in this life. In fact, if you expect mere mortals to meet your deepest needs you will always be disappointed. Always. Is the divorce rate not proof? How about all the fractured families and friendships? The best friend in the world is still imperfect. The best spouse in the world is still going to say things to hurt your feelings. The best parent in the world is still going to fall short in some way. There is only one person who lived a perfect life, and there is only one person who loves you perfectly. Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician from the seventeenth century, recognized the silly charade we play of trying to fill the longings in our hearts with earthly substitutes. Pascal said we have a God-shaped hole in our heart that only God can fill.
The Holy, Perfect God of the Universe loves you. Through the redemptive work that Jesus Christ did on the cross, you can experience relationship with Him. You can have that God-shaped hole in your heart filled to overflowing. You can rid yourself of that nagging feeling that something in this life is missing. Because if you don’t know Jesus, something is missing! You are missing the Person you need most. The Person who knows you and loves you best!
As we contemplate this week, the suffering of Jesus, the betrayal by those closest to Him, and the atonement He offered for our sins, I pray that we come to appreciate His sacrifice more than ever. And I pray that if there is anyone who reads this that doesn’t know Jesus in a real and personal way, that they will put their trust in Him. He loves you. He loves you perfectly. And He is who we all need most.