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!

The Pillow Principle

A few weeks ago a babysitter put my children to bed while my husband and I enjoyed a picnic dinner and concert at Wolf Trap. A DC summer is incomplete without at least one visit to this amazing venue (check it out at www.wolf-trap.org). But when I got in bed, The Black Crowes still ringing in my ear, my most beloved pillow appeared to be missing. It is important to know that this pillow has been a part of my life for more than thirty years. Originally a fluffy down pillow, it is now flat as a pancake and easily folded into my suitcase wherever I go. I’ve wondered whether any pillow, save one of the airlines’ sorry little numbers, has ever logged more miles than mine. It has been to Europe twice, Canada, and Mexico. It has cruised to the Bahamas, once in 1985 and again twenty-one years later. And that’s only its international travels. Goodness, I sure hope this post doesn’t prompt the CDC to confiscate it, because although I admit it is a little peculiar, maybe even a teeny bit unsanitary, I love this pillow.

So I drifted off to sleep longing for the malleable coolness of my beloved, contemplating doing a full search, but fearing that little ones would wake from the ruckus. In the back of my mind I think I already knew that little Will had taken it. In the morning he received a full interrogation.
I should have asked about the babysitter, how the night went, if the baby cried, but I couldn’t help myself. When little Will appeared at the bottom of the steps my first words were, “Did you take my pillow?”
He grinned from ear to ear, quite satisfied that the coup had been successful.
“Please don’t take it, again,” I warned.
“Well, I love it too,” he said with his palms up and out in indignation. “Why can’t I have one? Can I get one for my birthday?”
Poor thing he doesn’t understand it can’t be bought. Only thirty years of reckless devotion and fanatical use could reproduce it. It is one of a kind.
But it means the world to me that he loves it. I find it oddly affirming and bonding–this shared love for my pillow, especially since he and I are the only ones that seem to recognize its beauty.
Last week I had the immense privilege to vacation at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference on Lake Michigan. (www.vacationwithpurpose.org) I saw seven magnificent sunsets in seven days, each painted with different shades of pink and purple and blue. I also heard the president of Cornerstone University, Joe Stowell speak (www.getmorestrength.org), and he made a very simple, yet profound statement. He said that we care about what people we love care about. Stowell didn’t say so, but really it’s the Pillow Principle. It is rejuvenating and edifying when people you love are enthusiastic about something dear to your heart, even when that thing is a nasty old pillow. And the converse is also true: the absence of enthusiasm can be deflating, especially when your loved one is never or rarely jazzed about the things that get you jazzed.
So what’s the lesson? Should I expect my husband to all of a sudden love my pillow? No, of course not, we don’t need to feign enthusiasm, but we can be cognizant of how meaningful it is to share genuine enthusiasm. My husband is already looking forward to football season. He greatly appreciates my shared interest, my willingness to park beside him on the couch and cheer on the Philadelphia Eagles. Would I watch the Eagles if it weren’t for Will? Probably not, but I love him and I care about what he cares about.
But the Pillow Principle is actually a lot more than just sports and idiosyncratic fixations, it’s biblical. In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” Peter assures Jesus that he does, and each time Jesus follows Peter’s assurance with a command to feed and take care of His sheep. It is somewhat of a cryptic exchange, especially given the unique history between Jesus and Peter, but Joe Stowell helped me see that what Jesus is really saying to Peter is, “if you love me, you’ll take care of my sheep.” Who are His sheep? People.
So just like Peter, there is an implicit command in loving Jesus. If we truly love Jesus, we will care about what he cares about. And Jesus cares about people! All people. Do you?
Let me just say that when I pose this question to myself, my heart cringes. I know it’s a work of the Spirt, but somebody spur me on!