As I prepare to present my favorite message in the whole world, Christ our Life, I sit in a flat in Warsaw, Poland trying to keep my concentration on editing the “Simply LIFE” material I have worked on the past few years, so I can share it in the time that has been set up for me by a hard working Polish pastor. My recurring fear in these situations is that somehow my presentation will not do justice to the radical message that Christ came not just to give us life but to be our life.
The fact that I am here again is pretty bizarre. Although we served for two years as missionaries in Budapest, Hungary and I’ve made numerous return trips to central Europe to follow up with ministries here, I always struggle with what to say, how much to say and will they understand how totally amazing is this grace and truth covenant that Christ has inaugurated to include us.
This is the message that reoriented my life around Christ (from ministry) and that gives substance to that ministry I asked Father to allow me to pursue. As many times as I have shared this same message in as many venues and to thousands over 30 years, I still stumble over this concern – will anyone be able to understand me and have their relationship with Christ transformed the way mine was?
That is the sincere desire that awakens me some nights and occupies my mind even now as I try to refine away anything “American” or “Alabaman” that might contaminate the unveiled mystery that is Christ in us, us in Him and is our hope of experienced glory. I do not want to miss this chance to speak the message well. It was well presented to me and it changed my life.
Lord, allow me to do the same for others…you deserve the awe and the praise that it might evoke…as my gift to you.
Since last Friday I have had the pleasure of staying on the Adriatic coast of northern Croatia. That alone has been a wonderful treat. This afternoon’s walk along the coastal road was sunny and beautiful and quite warm, a first for the week. The crowds are gone from this popular summer venue, but the vistas are undiminished in their timeless beauty.
I am here for a small gathering of Christians, most of them from the former Communist block of central and eastern Europe – Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. There are four westerners in the group – a German living in Romania, two Californians living in Spain and me.
I was struck again this morning with how unlikely this sort of gathering is. 25 years ago it would have most likely been impossible. They were the bad guys, the black hats in the “cold war,” the political chess match between NATO and the former Soviet Union. Thank God, most of that is history. And here we are now with the freedom to travel and gather as believers in a place that used to be another part of that block of bad guys, Yugoslavia.
Today we all meet as more than friends. We are family, brothers and sisters in Christ, joined to celebrate the grace of God, to pray for a different peace and to engage in a different but far more significant conflict. As everyman’s story is special, theirs are no less so as they relay the audacious love that Father had for them to reach them in the darkest of times in their lives and gift them with His grace of life in Christ Jesus. This has been the best treat for me: to celebrate the anniversary of my 40th second-birth day (as well as my 68th birthday!) with this branch of my eternal family.
Tomorrow I’ll board a plane in Zagreb and fly to Warsaw, Poland, another one of those formerly black hat places. There I’ll regather with my daughter and my Polish son-in-law and my Polish-American grand daughters and continue our mission to call Poles to come and be transformed by the powerful grace of God.
God is good!
“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5.5
I think it would be hard to find a clearer statement about God than that above. It’s stated in one way or another at least five times in the Bible. I wonder if that means it might be important?
I think so. Do you really want God to oppose you, to resist you? This is actually a military term that communicates that God Himself takes the fight to those who are proud. Someone has suggested that the image here is that of God putting on His boxing gloves and stepping into the ring to take on all comers. Do we really think we want to go 15 rounds with God?
Pride, you see, gets God riled up. Arrogant self-sufficiency, self-promotion, or foolish independence is in direct opposition to God’s design for us. As a good friend and mentor of mine has said, pride is the mother of all obstacles to the experience of God’s grace. The proud proclaim to God that they do not need Him and He often agrees with their proclamation.
Humility, however, is a God magnet because God loves to show Himself to those who know they need Him. God created us to work in league with Him and it is His grace flowing to and through the humble that magnifies and multiplies the impact of each submitted life. As a ray of light passes through the prism and bursts forth in all the colors of the spectrum, so the grace of God works with humility to manifest the beauty of the character of God in the life of the humble. This is what we see and love in Jesus.
Fight with God or flow with God? The result a simple attitude can have on our lives is truly amazing!