Messy lives and The Phantom of the Opera

1“Turn to me and have mercy on me, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all. Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins…may integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you”. Psalm 25:16-21

A few weeks back, I woke up with a bad cold and an even worse mood. I don’t like having a cold. It makes me feel lethargic and saps my initiative. Since I wasn’t feeling too good, I laid around, clicked on Netflix, and watched one of my favorite musicals …”The Phantom of the Opera.” This operetta is deep, tragic and full of real life. Have you ever noticed how the movies or plays with tragic or unhappy endings are usually the ones we remember the most? In my mind, I went through a whole laundry list of shows and movies just prove my point. I noted, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Gladiator”, “The Patriot”, “Star Wars”, and “Braveheart” (just to name a few). In every one of those movies, it is the same story of the reality and struggle of human existence. There is something about those types of artistic expressions that simply feel right.

Have you ever wondered why? It is because that is the way life is…not everything and every human story has a happy ending. Unfortunately, the opposite is so much of what current culture wants you and me to believe. If you have the right system or principles, laws, or technology, you can move progressively to something that is near perfect. Television and movies give us the impression that any and all human dilemmas or issues are only 30 to 90 minutes from the happy ending they were meant to have. For many people, they have bought into the lie that happy endings are what every human being is entitled to. Improvement, happiness, material blessings, easy living, and progress are things God owes us. Unfortunately, if you think about it, that is the reason why much of modern culture is failing us…it is just NOT real. What is real is unpredictability…struggle and pain…brokenness and desperation…sometimes joy and sometimes weariness. As I think back to the “Phantom” movie, I’ve often contemplated, “yep, that’s what more of us need…to see stories that don’t end up where all the characters are fixed, rich, happy, healthy, stable, famous and fulfilled. We don’t need the discouragement.

Complete and total victory is NOT something that is guaranteed this side of the eternal Kingdom. What is predictable? Jesus. As we journey through this life, Jesus is the only ONE whom we can surely bank on. He and His Kingdom provide the only hope that can transform the shattered dreams and broken lives that accompany most of what we call living. If someone is promising complete fulfillment and peace; ideal marriages and children; if someone is saying “just do the following and you’ll have the abundant life that Jesus promised” as if the Word of God was some sort of secret key to giving US all we ever wanted in this life; if those things are happening to you, run the other way! Life isn’t that simple…life isn’t that predictable…life isn’t that mechanistic. If it was, I think Jesus wouldn’t have wasted his time on earth hanging out with people whose lives were complete messes. He would have come to earth when He could have gone on TV and radio and pushed a simple product that gave a quick and painless way to experience all the life that we’ve ever wanted to experience. Wouldn’t you think that God loves us enough to give us a formula if one existed? Think about that for a while!

Going Deeper:

1. What do you think about this devotional? Are you sometimes discouraged that your life isn’t turning out exactly as you had planned?

2. What do you think that Jesus would have to say to you today? Where does He bring you hope? How do you find encouragement and strength in the Lord?

Further Reading: Psalm 23, Psalm 118, Isaiah 40:27-31, John 16:33

 

Scot’s Post is worth passing on to you…

2Scot McKnight is not only an immensely important Biblical scholar and author but also an astute commentator on all things from the American “churchworld.”  Maybe you have heard some things of late about what is occurring within the Southern Baptist Convention in regards to leadership abuse as well as issues revolving around women in leadership.  If you have not, it may merit some attention on your part.  These are the issues that are coming to “every” Christian denomination that aggressively maintains misogynistic and sexist leadership practices.  Not only were they wrong in the past but they have shown themselves to be especially mistaken and out of touch with what the Spirit of God is up to in the 21st century in regards to these issues.

Scot posted today some comments from “uber Bible teacher” Beth Moore.  Her comments on Twitter of late have not only been outstanding but also prophetic.  Note please, if you choose to read her posts, that she is NOT ditching her history and her allegiances…rather she is attempting courageously to call out practices and theology that have promoted patriarchy and been that which has discouraged and sidelined a good percentage of the “priesthood of all believers” for centuries within her denomination while still maintaining an “insider” commitment.  For that, I’m thankful.  It is too easy to walk away from that which has been a rich part of one’s history as a follower of Jesus.  No one denomination, movement, or mega-church platform has all the “right” praxis for issues of faith.  One of the reasons that it is acceptable to have a multiplicity of divergent Christian “tribes” (if you will) is for each of us to see blind spots in our practice and theology.  For ANY denomination to display the arrogance of “rightness” is an affront to what most of us attempt to embrace in terms of the beauty of the diversity of the Body of Christ.  Even so, words need to be loudly proclaimed in terms of this issue that Beth addresses.  IF there is ANY GOOD THING that is to come out of the current struggles that individual churches, leaders, and denominations are facing in terms of issues having to do with abuse (i.e. #metoo and #churchmetoo) it may be that FINALLY eyes will be open and patriarchal and antiquated perspectives and practices in ministry leadership will fall into the annals of history.  It is time for every person who calls upon the name of the Lord to understand, embrace, and live in the calling that Jesus has so graciously given.  That calling…that anointing…is not exclusive to the male gender.  Maybe the truth that “in Christ, there is no…male nor female…we are all ONE in Jesus” finally lead the entire Church into the fullness of experiencing the “priesthood of ALL believers.”

Here is the link to Beth’s comments on Scot’s blog – worth your attention!

The Parable of the Life-Giving Station

The Parable ON YouTube

“The Parable Of The Lifesaving Station”

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was once
a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut, and
there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant
watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went
out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station so that it
became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in
the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station
and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its
work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little
lifesaving station grew.

Some of the new members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that
the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a
more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of
those saved from the sea.

They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture
in an enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular
gathering place for its members, and they redecorated it beautifully
and furnished it as a sort of club.

Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on
lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work.

The mission of lifesaving was still given lip-service but most were
too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the
lifesaving activities personally.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the
hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet and half-drowned
people.

They were dirty and sick, some had skin of a different color, some
spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was
considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a
shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could
be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most
of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as
being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal pattern of the club.

But some members insisted that lifesaving was their primary purpose
and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station.
But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to
save the life of all various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in
those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the
coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes
that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet
another lifesaving station was founded.

If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive
clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those
waters, but now most of the people drown!

Comments from Robin for your reflection and prayer:

Are you a part of a club? OR a Life-saving station? Jesus looked at one of the people he loved who dared to walk on the water but quickly sank and SAVED him! Jesus is always looking for those who are struggling, living lives that would be best described as “shipwrecked.” That’s why Jesus calls those of us who follow and love him to join him in doing the Father’s work…that being, saving those who are in any risk of drowning. Let’s not lose our focus as Jesus followers. Yes, it is nice to be involved in a great faith community that has nice facilities and is blessed in more ways than we can count. Even so, our task as fellow Jesus followers should never be confused with anything that even “smells” of club membership. Jesus came to seek and save…guess what? That is our mission too! Who is Jesus calling YOU to touch with his love? Is there a shipwreck occurring in or around your circle of friends or influence that Jesus is calling YOU to attend to? That’s my prayer for you this week!