Friday, July 10, 2009

'Put out into the deep water...'

Q: What did one snowman say to the other snowman?
A: (sniff sniff sniff) "I smell...carrots?"

(Maybe that joke just caught me at the right time, but I love it. Probably works better in cold weather. See the snowman's nose is a carrot, and ... never mind.)
My big sis asked me what I was reading. I thought I'd start writing 'reviews,' for lack of a better term, so some of you who don't have as much time to read can catch up here, at least a little.

One of the books is "Jesus" by Chuck Swindoll from his "Great Lives" series. I'd read "David" and was about to jump into some "Job" or "Esther" or "Paul" -- you know, some of the usual suspects -- but figured I'd better go straight to the top. If you're well-versed in the Bible you can probably actually skip this book; it's a re-telling of what you already know. But if you do read it, it's hardly a waste of time since Swindoll expounds, as he does here, and gets you to thinking...The rest of the post is his words, a part I read earlier this week...It was a reminder that most of my problems -- most of anyone's problems -- are a result of not following the obvious will of God, not responding in obedience and gratitude in even the most simple things to the presence that is right beside us all the time. It's the age-old problem of self-addiction: each of us wants to be his or her own Master, if not in all things, at least in some things. It's entirely human, a chink in the human armor; it comes automatically with being born into a fallen world. Peter, Andrew and John were all in the same boat, literally. So was Martin Luther. We have lots of company.

Swindoll's writing is clear and easy to understand, not fancy, which is good for me.

(From "Jesus" by Chuck Swindoll)

The call to fulfill one's purpose doesn't come from within; existentialists and self-help gurus are wrong about that. I learned years ago that following a call -- fulfilling one's purpose -- isn't that complicated and it isn't as mysterious as it sounds. It begins with a realization that God has created each person with a unique design and a special purpose. The ancient Hebrew poet-king put it this way:

For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother's womb....

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.

Psalm 139: 13-16

Unfortunately, sin and selfishness make fulfilling that purpose impossible. Sin creates a barrier between our divine design and our ordained path, creating a tension that can be excruciating. Life becomes meaningless; a drab, colorless, paintless existence in which even pleasure and success bring no satisfaction...But that gnawing hunger for meaning can also create the opprotuntiy and means for God to heal our sin-sick souls and put us on the right path.

Os Guinness, in his fine book "The Call," tells this moving story about Martin Luther:

Painfully climbing up the steps of the medieval cathedral tower in the dark, he reached for the stair rope to steady himself and was amazed to hear a bell ring out above him -- he had inadvertently pulled on the bell rope and woken up the whole countryside.

Far from a man with a comprehensive vision of reform and a well-calculated plan for carrying it out, Luther struggled painfully for salvation before God and was surprised to set off the cataclysmic 18th-century movement that we now call simply the Reformation.

Luther struggled for salvation because none of his piety, none of his good deeds, none of the penance he paid or the rituals he followed would satisfy his longing to be justified before God. That hunger led him to discover FROM HIS READING OF SCRIPTURE that a right relationship with God cannot be earned or deserved because we can never work enough or become good enough to earn His favor. Only God, who gave us a design and a purpose, can ease the tension between them by removing the problem of sin.

(Sin is always the problem; humility, repentance and grace is always the answer.)

As Peter, Andrew and John labored all night in vain to fill their nets with fish, they came to realize that life apart from their calling would always come up empty. They had left on a journey to dig out their calling "from under the rubble of ignorance and confusion" and discovered they could never turn back. But neither could they assess the tension between design and purpose by merely switching careers or chasing religious knowledge or fighting for the right cause. There, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the men lived in a gray twilgiht of limbo.

Fortunately, Jesus didn't leave them -- or any of us -- without hope or direction. Where we fail, Jesus has succeeded. The only one who was able to recognize and follow His purpose from the beginning was Jesus........We can find and fulfill our purpose by resounding the clear, simple call of Jesus Christ: "Follow Me." He is the doorwary to fulfilling our destiny, where our divine design and God-ordained purpose live in perfect harmony.

The disciples' unprecendented haul of fish that day didn't prompt them to invite Jesus to becomae a senior partner. They understood the principle Jesus was teaching: with Me, you can do all things; without Me, everything you touch will come to nothing. When they were ready to accept this truth, they had eyes to see and ears to hear the call of God to pursue their purpose. Peter, Andrew, John and his brother James immediately dropped their nets, left everything behind, and responded to the call of Jesus. (Luke 5: 3-7)...