Monday, April 06, 2020

Keeping Your Wits When Others Are Insane- Day 15

We enter into Holy Week- I start this morning by listening to the album,"Known by the Scars" by Michael Card

The marks of death that God chose never to erase
The wounds of loves eternal war
When the kingdom comes with its perfected sons
He will be known by the scars

For a time He sought to tell the world 
He was the Way

That God the father had a human heart

With His own holy hands He sought
To touch and heal their scars
But they chose to tear those gentle hands apart

We climb to Zion, but this is the week Jesus crawled a cruel hill bearing a cross.

Here is our next to last Psalm of Ascent:


Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity! 

It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes! 

It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore.

Our last reading delved into thoughts of keeping passion is spite of routine.

I think it is important to see this Psalm in light of this context as well. We are deep into a journey and the end is near. What keeps us fresh and energetic?

I think NEWNESS imagery is as important in this Psalm as the call for UNITY. We see both of these in this short but important song and we need both of these to climb well!

The image of oil running from the head of Aaron has multiple applications. This was the annointing oil that set apart the priests for their ministry. Imagine the newness and excitement of the occasion commemorating the start of such an endeavor- smiles and energy, hope and anticipation of what lay ahead!

The oil softened and, as the sun beamed down, warmed the recipient. Having oil was symbolic of grand provision, using it was a mark of great celebration!

The same metaphor applies to the 'dew of Hermon'. On this high mountain peak, the dew was pervasive and fresh. I imagine again, sun beams, shining through the wispy smoke of dew clouds. It is a fresh new day! Everything is alive and the anticipation of what lay ahead is electric!

So what could kindle and refresh us in such a way that we have the excitement and energy of newness so late in the journey?

It is the youthful energy that comes from RICH RELATIONSHIPS!

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!"

I just finished my 29th year as a high school football coach and I already yearn for the beginning of year 30. What has sustained my passion to continue to draw it up and dig in yet again? It is the people I get to labor with.

The last few years I have coached a fishing team and I am back working with quarterbacks in football. The older I get, the more I enjoy the relationships more than the strategy.

There is no better time on a team than right after a big win. Big smiles and loud laughter. Smiles and high fives, hugs and fist pumps. But it is also built upon the experience of hurts and losses. We suffer together and we need one another to muster the courage to get up and try again.

Is it easy to 'dwell together in unity'? And the obvious answer is NO! Our default mode as humans is to dwell by ourselves and we divide more easily than join together. We splinter and become frayed more readily than we mend and stand as one.

This is the largest challenge right now as we shelter in place for many weeks. That is why I am looking forward to my zoom conference with quarterbacks this evening.

I wanted to list some key components about what it takes to find a healthy unity among men:

DEEP GOSPEL AWARENESS AND APPLICATION: It took the gospel going deep into my heart before I found a heart to love and forgive others. It starts with a true understanding of my depravity. If I hold a high view of myself, it is easy to count shortcomings of others against them.

But the gospel constantly represents three important realities: (1) my desperate sin, (2) God's gracious gift, and (3) the recognition that since God has forgiven me, I should forgive others.

BEARING WITH: I had a call from a coach years ago who was working with our younger grades. I listened for about 20 minutes as he listed all the things that frustrated him about a coach he was working with. It was an impressive list! These two were not alike and it was a textbook definition of what politely I would call a 'personality clash'!

The hardest part of the call was that there was no easy solution. It was too critical in the timing of a season to slash and re-arrange who coached where. These two were going to have to be together. Was there any way to reach the 'dwell in unity' threshold?

The only hope was that both of these men knew the Lord.

So I asked this coach to meet with me and we set out a plan of action:

Step 1- Scripture and Prayer. I asked this coach to spend one week meditating on Colossians 3:1–17, especially, the 13th verse.

[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

[5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [11] Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

I also asked that he pray for this other coach and his family everyday.

Step 2- I asked this coach to list good qualities of this other coach. It wasn't easy, but he eventually found a nice list: organized, humble, good temperament.

Step 3- This next step was important, and hard. The two needed to have a conversation. I felt like it was important for me to NOT be in that conversation to begin with. But did tell this coach that he needed to use me as a peacemaker IF the initial conversation went poorly.

I suggested he open up the conversation this way: "We are going to be working together in stressful situations, so I feel like we need to talk about strategies to help us be as unified as we can be. So let us talk about our strengths and weaknesses and imagine what the chemistry of that dynamic may look like".

I got a call the next week and the meeting was a huge success. The biggest key was that this coach was willing to roll up his sleeves and make an effort. I praised him for that and the two had a nice season together. They were not going to be 'best buds' but they could be unified. Unity is not unanimity.

PULL IN THE QUILLS: I was once told that porcupines can sleep together because they pull in their quills. Part of dwelling together in unity is a conscious decision to not be offensive. We don't have to push those buttons that create dissension.

ALL I CAN CONTROL IS ME: Often, our desire to dwell together in unity is a contingency plan. I will get along if he.........________.  No- it does not work that way. We have to decide that we will do right REGARDLESS if the other person notices or tries. I think a key to this is to see this as service to the Lord. HE SEES! Give yourself to acts of unity and don't give up, even if it doesn't seem to be working.

THE IMPOSSIBLE FORGIVE: Two stories that will forever have impact on my life deal with P.O.W.s in WWII who endured brutal treatment by the Japanese. Both Ernest Gordon and Louis Zamperini drew upon their Christian faith and found forgiveness toward their torturers.

I was told that the father of Jim Elliot went to the jungles of Equador to forgive the Indians who had murdered his son.

And yet, as I write this, I still find myself fighting to forgive others who have wronged me. It is hard to pray for them. It is easy to harbor angry thoughts.

But it is so important to do right in this case. Forgiveness ultimately protects my heart from the destruction that bitterness can cause.

My willingness to forgive is fruit that I have rightly embraced the truth of the gospel. To fight forgiveness means that I don't appreciate what Jesus did for me. That is why Jesus so clearly states in Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

The beauty of this Psalm is that if we make these virtues a habit and a trend- we will find a youthful vigor in life as we draw energy from the community of believers who dwell together in unity.

Jesus suffered much for us to have this opportunity.... we must climb, and we can't do it alone! It is time to make peace with your co-climbers in the Lord!

Lord, give us a renewed effort to find such harmony!

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