Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: December 2019

The J-Curve

I would like to introduce you to the J-curve. I read about this concept in a review of new book by Paul Miller, entitled “The J-curve,” with the subtitle “dying and rising with Jesus in everyday life.” I have not read the book as of now, but I sure like the thesis Miller presents. “It’s simple, it’s brilliant: The Christian life is shaped like a capital J.  You descend on the left and rise on the right.” 

Miller writes, “If rising is embedded in dying, then not running from the customized dying that God permits in our lives is essential for resurrection.”  Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, trying to find my way as a follower of Jesus, I was struggling with how I might be able to live a Christian lifestyle, after living for myself, during my first eighteen years.    

I remember being fully committed.  I was all in for Jesus. So the issue was not my desire to follow Jesus.  The problem was my old nature, what Richard Foster calls “habitual patterns of sin.”  I was new believer, who had a lot to overcome.  I remember reading a small book entitled “The Calvary Way.”  The author talked about being broken before the Lord.  I was convicted as I read.

For the first time in understanding my new life in Christ, I realized that it would be a matter of death to my old self.  So the idea of “dying to self” and then “being raised with Christ” has remained an important foundation to my spirituality.  “You see” writes the author Roy Hession, “the only life that pleases God and that can be victorious, is His life…..we can never be filled with His life, unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”

Some have called it “the crucified life.”  Being asked to die is not something we men are naturally willing to embrace.  But that is exactly what the J-curve entails.  Remember men, Jesus calls us to come to him and die to ourselves.  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambitions shoulder your cross and follow me.  If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matt. 16:24-26)

Like I said, being asked to die and give your life to another is not easy.  But this is the way of  Jesus.  Like me, you will have your ups and downs with dying and being raised up.  I appreciate Miller’s illustration of  “the trapdoor.”  

We are not able to control the dying and the rising.  Miller says of himself, “I’ve had some long times when I was sure I was at the bottom.  I could begin to see some hope coming, and then there was a trapdoor, and I went down again.  Sometimes I’ve gone through a series of trapdoors and I keep thinking I’ve bottomed out.”

Take it from me, you are going to go through trapdoors when you least expect them.  You will know when you have fallen into one of them.  It is a dark, lonely space, void of peace, with little hope on the horizon.  Don’t fight it.  Surrender and die to your “selfish ambitions” and cry out to Jesus for mercy.  Remember to keep looking up and out as you cry for help.  He will hear you and rescue you.   

   

At The Table

This is another blog about the ministry of Zach Williams at Harding prison.  As I watch the video of Zach singing “At the Table,” it was moving to watch men in prayer and worship.  I couldn’t help but wonder how these hardened inmates were processing the invitation to come to the table.  The implication was that Jesus welcomes each one of them just the way they are. 

I was drawn to the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, in Luke 19:1-ff.  Being a short man and a disliked as a tax collector, Zacchaeus had a rather low view of himself when it came to being in the presence of Jesus.  He climbed up into a tree to just get a longing glimpse of Jesus as he passed by.

To his surprise, Jesus stops, look up at poor Zacchaeus and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down.  Today is my day to be a guest in your home.”  We read, “Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him” (Luke 19:5-6 MSG). 

The locals could not grasp this kind of openness displayed by Jesus.  “Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, ‘What business does he have  getting cozy with this crook?'” (Luke 19:7 MSG).  Remember a performance orientated culture will never begin to comprehend the generosity and compassion of the love of God.

Zacchaeus is overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus.  It made him what to  change his ways.  Jesus tells us, “Today is salvation day in this home!  Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham!  For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost” (Luke 19:9-10 MSG).  Zacchaeus was not Jewish, yet Jesus welcomed him as a son of Abraham.  His whole identity as a man was changed in that moment.

You might feel like Zacchaeus as you read this post.  Jesus is inviting you to the table.  Here is the words to the refrain of Zack’s song: “So bring it all to the table/There’s nothing He ain’t seen before/For all your fear, all your sorrow and your sadness/There’s a Savior and He calls/Bring it all to the table.”

I remember a table I used to sit at, way back when I was a young pastor in Babbit, Minn.  It was at the home of Woody Uppman.  Often on my day off, I would just go and hang out with Woody.  He was a retired miner who accepted me just as I was.  I felt like I could share my real self with Woody.  I was able to go back to my work as a parish pastor, better prepared, because Woody made me feel like I could do the job. There was always room at Woody’s table for a insecure, arrogant young man like myself.

Maybe you don’t have a older father figure, with whom you can just share your heart.  But just remember Jesus invites you to the table.  Come as you are, not as you think you should be.  

My advice is simple;  it comes from years of trying to impress Jesus.  Be real and honest not only  with your thoughts but your emotions and desires as well.  He already know them all.  Just tell it to Jesus. Then learn to be still and silent so you can hear him give you the words of affirmation.  You are his beloved, simply because he loves you for who you are and not what you do.  

Remember!  This could be for you today!  There is room at the table for you.  Jesus is waiting for you to come home.  

 

 

 

 

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