Unpredictable

For most of my growing up years, I planned on being a meteorologist when I grew up. Living on the Gulf Coast, many of our summer days were spent plotting the courses of whatever storms were out at sea on the free hurricane map that came out every year in the local newspaper. A few came close, and I remember that we “hunkered down” for one that passed nearby. Still, these didn’t scare me away from the study of weather, but stirred my interest in it. Even today, I enjoy keeping tabs on what’s going on in the world and understanding what I can about the science and art of weather planning and forecasting.

Because there is one thing about the weather: it’s always changing. And it rarely changes exactly the way we are told by meteorologists to expect. Now, they’ve gotten pretty good at forecasting sunny or rainy days. And they are really good at knowing pretty much what tomorrow will look like. Some of the major weather events of recent memory have been predicted nearly a week in advance. But just as often as these successes are the things that they get wrong: like the rainy day that was forecasted that turned into a late season snow and sleet storm.

This season of joblessness has been just as unpredictable for me. Now, I’m not longer actually jobless: I’m holding down a part time job that will keep my resume active but won’t pay many bills. What has surprised me has been the changes in my attitude from day to day.

One day, the world is mine to be conquered, full of hope and possibility. It is ready for all of my dreams, which seem tantalizingly attainable. Fatherhood is wonderful. I enjoy the pleasant conversations with my wife. Gardens are planted, with expectations of the bounty they will bring. God is close and working and fully reliable and trustworthy.

Fast forward five minutes, give or take four.

Then, the world is terrible and horrible. There are no rooms for dreams. All seems lost. There are no ways out of our situation. God is distant, too busy with all of my happy friends who are successful in their careers and life goals. Every one I see – 99.9999% of them total strangers – have purpose and plans and intentions that they are accomplishing. Me? Life has no joy. Bitterness, anger, and fear are my constant companions.

Then something happens, and I’m back in the happy-world-is-mine-to-conquer phase. And so the oscillation continues with intensity and speed. And with it goes my faith, and one time fully relying on God, at another knowing at the deepest part of me that it is all up to me.

And so I scream with the helpless father of Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

And, you know what? Despite all of my biblical studies training, seminary, worship leading, and preaching? Something I didn’t predict: even in my doubts and lack of faith, God remains faithful. And for that, I am grateful. He continues to guide me, even when I feel that He is absent. He continues to work for my good (Jeremiah 29:11), even when it seems that my life has nothing going for it. And on the darkest, bleakest days, when everything seems lost, you’ll turn a corner. And there God will be, doing something astoundingly amazing.

Go ahead. Try to abandon God. You will find that, unpredictably, God has no interest in abandoning you.

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Identity

Galatians 2:20 says, in part, “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Surrounded by exultant crowds, Jesus rode on the back of a royal animal up into Jerusalem, warning the Pharisees along the way that if He were to try to silence the crowds, the rocks themselves would cry out. I was supposed to be preaching my last of five series of sermons from Hebrews on Christology. The title was to be “Jesus Is … Savior.”

The crowds didn’t know what Jesus was coming to do. The Pharisees didn’t know it. The disciples who surrounded Him didn’t know it. But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. And it was not riding to a coronation. Not the kind the crowds were expecting, anyway. He would get a crown, but it wasn’t going to be made of metal. Even Pope Francis did not choose the kind of crown Jesus was to get in just five more days.

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We Are the Bride of Christ

Text: Ephesians 5:22-33

As we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the saints at Ephesus, we have seen how Paul is determined to help the saints there and everywhere to gain a full grasp on what it means to be a saint. Just before this passage, Paul has been talking about the new way believers are to live based on what they had been learning about God. They were to put away their former life and choose instead to imitate God in the way they conduct their lives.

This portion of God’s Word we are examining today is one that is all too often unused, misused, or abused. Certain portions of Christianity really love to take a large stand on verses 22-24, others would rather have them excised from the Bible. Those who are staunch supporters of verses 22-24 often go on to ignore the following verses,25-31. And they are often completely neglectful of the immediately preceding verse, number 21. That verse sets the course for the rest of Ephesians 5 and the first third of Ephesians 6.

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We Are Imitators

Text: Ephesians 5:1-17

The best actors on stage and screen accomplish something remarkable. Those actors so portray a character that those of us in the audience no longer separate the character from the actor. Such actors manage to inhabit their character thoroughly. Their mannerisms, facial expressions, speech affect, and the movement of their eyes all come out of the nature of the character in the story that is being told.

Some actors work very diligently to accomplish this task. They spend weeks or months – sometimes even years – researching the character. They may live in the same city, take temporary work in the same trade, eat the same kinds of food, and so on so that they might fully understand and comprehend what makes the character think and tick. The most convincing actors make us forget that there is any acting going on. They make us believe that the actor is himself or herself the character, the persona that they are taking on. We forget that there is someone else under the facade of makeup and costume who will take off the personality they are wearing and once again become their former self when the cameras are turned off or the stage lights are finally dimmed.

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