I want to be like ?

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthinas 11:1 NIV)

 

Baseball was king, when I was a kid.  At least in my neighborhood.  Until I was 10 we lived in a suburb just North of Dayton, Ohio.  While not in Cincinnati. it was deep in what was then known as Big Red Machine Country.   It was the days of Rose, Bench, Perez and Morgan.  It was a time when going to the play offs drew a yawn because that’s what we always did, and they expected to go to the World Series.  Not just go, but win.    Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye.

All of that is to say when the kids in  my neighborhood got together to play, we played baseball more than anything else. Bu tiwasn’t enough to simply play baseball. You had to be your favorite player.  And who got to be who was a game of survival of the fittest.  So the Alpha kids were always Pete, Johnny, Tony and Little Joe or Davy Concepcion.  I was usually Bill Plummer. (older Reds fans will get that joke)

But every now and then I got to move up in the ranks, especially if the bigger kids couldn’t play. Once in a while, I got to be Tony Perez, or Joe Morgan.  And it wasn’t enough to say that’s who you were.  You emulated everything about them. If you were Joe Morgan you had to do that weird elbow flap thing he did when he was at bat.  You would adopt Johnny bench’s stance, or how he crouched.  Only the kid who was Pete Rose could slide head first, or bet the trifecta at the dog track.

We mimicked our heroes because we wanted to be like them.  Of course, we were simply doing what every kid has done when they play. You act like your hero.  Anyone remember the “I want to be like Mike”  ads from the nineties? If you played basketball you wanted to be like Michael Jordan. You wore your Air Jordans, if you could afford them, wore your Bulls Jersey and tried to dunk with your tongue hanging out.

Who should you be like? Last week there was a trend in social media be like “insert name here”  The idea was you put your name in, the app scanned your profile and put together a little post that went something like this;  This is Bill. Bill doesn’t take pictures of every meal he eats and post them. Bill knows people don’t care.   Be like Bill.   And it came with a little stick figure.

After having about a hundred of these go across my feed I posted this

This is Jesus
Jesus died for your sins and rose again that you might have an abundant life
Jesus.loved everyone and asked us to feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, clothe the naked, care for the least.

Be like Jesus

 
  I thought it a nice pastoral thing to do. Of course we all want to be like Jesus. Don’t we?  Lately I’ve wondered how true the reality of this is. In theory I want to be like Jesus and be more Christlike. But am I willing to imitate Him? Live like Him?  In order to really be like Jesus it means more than just being loving, as nice as that is.
   It means being willing to take up my cross.  It means to die to an old way of life that far too often has a strong grip on me. It means putting myself in a place of suffering so that other’s might experience healing. It means having the courage to overturn the money changers tables. Having a faith that believes the storms will calm if I call to them. It means believing that Jesus can bring new life to dead hearts. Yes there is no doubt being like Jesus means life and weddings at Cana, laughter with my closest friends and “really making a difference in the world.” But it also means nails, a crown of thorns and a cross.
   But as hard as it may sound, in the end, I do want to be like Jesus. Do you? His life is the one you were born to live. It is His spirit that moves within you. Have the courage to be like Jesus.  Amen
In Christ,
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><
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An Awesome God?

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14 NIV)

“Our God is an Awesome God, He reigns from heaven above. With wisdom, power and love, our God is an awesome God.”   This chorus, from the song “Awesome God” by Rich Mullins,. is probably one of the most recognizable of contemporary choruses.  For many it is the first contemporary piece they remember singing  in church.  It was a staple of every youth retreat. And you always had that one girl who insisted on doing the sign language to the song.  It was an amazing youth group phenomena. Evryone of them had at least one young girl who would sign every chorus you would sing.

While I haven’t done extensive research on it, I’m fairly sure this song also began the slow, inexorable shift in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)  from being about us and our problems to worship music.  While CCM did eventually become the Christianized version of easy listening (my apologies to Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith) it wasn’t always that way.  It began as a very gritty real music that morphed into something else. At some point the church began to see a need to have more God-centric focus in music and the “worship music” of today was born.  I’m not saying one is better than the other. To me both are needed. But whatever one’s preference you have to admit there is a big difference between

 

and

I love them both. But wherever you sit, it was this little chorus, “Awesome God” from Rich Mullins that began to form the bridge.  It’s easy to see why. It’s catchy, easliy singable. And it tells us that God is well, just Awesome. He’s good, nice, Awseome.  Who wouldn’t want to sing about Him?

What I hadn’t thought about, until this last week, was how ready we are to drop the song and only sing the chorus. I read an article about the author, Rich Mullins, this past week that made the point that we treated him much like the song. We wanted to grab the nice, easy to understand pieces of him and not look at the difficult, complicated places of his life. Oh how easily we trade the parts of someone we want to idolize and not look at the humanity of our heroes.

So I went back and listened to the song. If you can stand one more song. please listen to this

You can see why we grasp the chorus rather than the song. The song is difficult. There are a lot of complicated sentences that you have to sing through fairly quickly.  But I think that was Rich’s point. God Himself is complicated, not easily grasped, impossible to contain. He is a God who has “thunder in His footsteps and lightening in His Fists” (My favorite line).  He is God who holds both mercy and judgment in His hands.

He is still an Awesome God, but the deftionif far from the chorus. When we only hold to the chorus we have a cool, awesome Jesus.  Awesome like one of our friends. I have plenty of friends who are awesome. I love them.  But they don’t compel me.  if I am not with them every moment, I’m OK. I miss them, but I’m not influenced and compelled by them.

But the song reveals the Awesome God who stands over everything. A God who drops us to our knees. A God who cannot be ignored, who rules over all things. A God who insists the “fear of the Lord” we read about in the first Psalm.  He is the God above all Gods, and He’s the God we need. In Short, He is awesome

The awesome God of the chorus is friendly, nice and comfortable and ultimately toothless.  A  God who evokes awe from us is  God who defeats the fears and problems that whisper to us in the night. He is a God who tells us all things will be right in the end. You have a God who is awesome. He is greater than anything you face. Greater than your sin, your guilt, your grief. He is greater than your past, your present and your future. In short, Awesome.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

DO I Mean It?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3-5-6)

Many years ago, my two older children came in to tell us that our youngest daughter was stuck in a tree.  I walked out assuming that  she would be in the front yard six or feet up in a tree made for climbing.

You can imagine my shock, horror, and dismay to find her 20 feet  up in a pine tree in our back yard.  She had discovered that climbing up is fairly easy to do. Getting back down when you can’t see is quite another.

She was scared, but I doubt her fear was anything close to mine. I couldn’t climb to get her because the tree would not have supported my weight that far up.  All I could see was her tumbling out of that tree to the ground.  The only thing we could do is to talk her out of the tree and guide her feet from limb to limb until she was safe.

Her posistion made me think of my own times when I got stuck climbing up something.  Its easy to go up because you are only concentrating on what is in front of you. Then when you realize how high you are, getting down is something else all together.

When I was very smalI, I would climb this  very tall ladder my father had. In retrospect, it was probably a five foot ladder. But it seemed high to me. I would climb up and then have trouble getting down.  One of my parents would come behind me and say jump. I would jump into his arms from that dizzying three or four feet up.

But years later I got stuck on the roof of a neighbor’s house. Never mind how, we’ll save that for another day.  And no matter how much my family  urged me to jump to them so they could catch me, I couldn’t do it.

It wasn’t that they lost their ability or strength to catch me. The issue was one of trust.  Not that they had become any less trustworthy. The issues were mine. I had become old enough to play the “what if” game. what if they miss? What if I jump too far? What if they don’t catch me?  I began to contemplate the consequences. All of  those questions had caused me to develop a layer of an inability to trust.

But if you had asked me the day before if I trusted my parents, I would have answered, “Of course.  They are my parents. They’ve always meant good for me, never let me down.” And I would have been sincere about it.  But when I actually had to trust, all those words were merely lip service.

Recentley our church, as did many United Methodist churches, read in worship together the Wesley Covenant. This covenant is one many UM churches use to begin the year. Its a way to make a covenant with the Lord to begin the year.  It goes like this:

 

It’s a beautiful covenant. But I caught myself yesterday asking if I really meant it, or was I just giving lip service? At the heart of the covenant is the issue of trust.  Do I trust God so much that I am willing to totally abandon my life to Him? It’s easy to say that in a safe church sanctuary. But can I say it at the hospital if one of my children is sick or injured? Can I say it if there arise enemies to my ministry and things don’t go well? Can I say this when disappointments in life arise, as they surely will? It’s one thing to say I completley trust God  when I am on the ground. Can I do it when life puts me 25 feet up in the pine tree?

Like with my being on the roof, if I look deep in my heart I discover the problems of trust are not in the ability, or in the voice, of my Heavenly Father. They come from within me. After all, God has always been faithful. Always caught me. His voice has always guided me even when He  asked me to step where I cannot see.

Living out this covenant is a bit like how my daughter got out of that tree. First she had to trust me. Secondly she had to do what I told her to do even if she couldn’t see it or it didn’t make sense. And bit by bit, step by step she made it safely into our arms.

This year I want this covenant to be more than lip service. I want to live my life with this type of abandonment. I want to learn to listen better, step where He asks and land safely in his arms.  Will you be willing this year to pray this pray and learn to trust deeper?

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><