Sunday, November 23, 2008



The theme of being out of control continues! Fear appears when your future is out of control. Anger shows up when your present is out of control. And, guilt gnaws away at your gut when your past is out of control. All three of these render you paralyzed, damaged and ineffective. There is a fourth kind of paralysis-shame. Shame is the residue of having been seized by fear, anger and guilt. It manifests itself in a similar way to a low-grade infection-even a low-level depression. Shame is a tainting of your personness-a blight that leaves you feeling inadequate or feeling not good enough. With shame it's not that your past, present or future are out of control, but you are out of control; like a small boat being tossed about in a storm or a ping-pong ball that is driven by the wind and once in awhile experiences a hard hit.

There is a rule of survival in the harsh Australian Outback. If your vehicle breaks down in a remote area, stay with your vehicle. This is contrary to how you might initially want to react. I mean, you have no alarm system or phone whereby you can call for help. You are stopped in a very remote place where it might take several days before another human being happens to drive by. Many don't follow this survival rule and attempt to walk to a place where they might find help. Eventually, they are reported missing, a search locates their vehicle, but no one is there. The Coroner's investigation later confirms that vehicles are more easily located than walkers, there was more water in the vehicle than walkers can carry, and the extra exertion demanded of walking hastened the dehydration and sunstroke that led to death. They died because they tried to save themselves. This survival rule is so counter-intuitive that it's just too difficult to sit still and wait to be found-to trust that someone is on his way to rescue them.

This introduces a most foundational principle that defines most of our lives most of the time. This principle simply stated is: God is God and I am not! The tendency is for man to play God to some extent. "God, I can handle this one. I'll call you if I need anything." The most deceptive thought of all is that somehow we can live our lives without God and His empowerment. It's a self-centered belief that we can and must solve our problems, make our way out of our predicaments and save ourselves. It's the pride of believing that somehow we are in control, when just the opposite it true. Our past, present, and future are out of control with the result that we are personally out of control.

Jesus lived this way. He confessed: "By myself I can do nothing," (John 5:30). This principle of survival is not just a rule for the Outback; it's a principle for life. There is a story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Who is the winner here? The one who is full of himself (the Pharisee) and believes he can somehow perform well enough to save himself is the loser. Jesus says of the tax collector: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

The world says love yourself-save yourself, Jesus says deny yourself-lose yourself. Now, here is where the great exchange occurs! Jesus says: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25). He also says: "What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?" The great exchange here is: you try to save your life and you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Jesus you will save it.

Remember the little boy in the midst of the hungry thousands. For the boy to offer the crowds his lunch would be a noble but futile gesture. So rather than give the first hundred people half a crumb each, he gave his lunch to Jesus. Making Jesus the central focus transformed the situation. Then, not only the boy, but thousands were being fed with something that moments before was totally inadequate by itself.

The secret is to hand everything over to Jesus and then wait for him to move. Give yourself to Jesus and he will give himself to you. Lose yourself in him and you will find yourself in Him-no longer restricted to human possibilities.

Just as the boy could not expect to be fed after giving away his lunch, so people cannot expect to thrive emotionally if they give away their self-esteem-unless they give it to Jesus. Then a miracle takes place.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?

Maybe the ultimate expression of the mystery of the great exchange between Jesus and you is: You get God and He gets you! Such a deal!