August 31, 2009

right here waiting

I would like to say that coffee is a catalyst for writing. Maybe it's that I feel ├╝ber trendy if I sit in my apartment drinking coffee and tapping away on my MacBook, or maybe it's just the caffeine that makes me focus.

Regardless, I would like to say that there's a thing or two I've learned about Jesus, and I would like to talk about one of them.

See, one of the funny things about Him is that while He was on earth, He didn't act how people thought a Messiah would, the way a King of Kings would. He didn't spend all of his time befriending the religious leaders, the rich, the beautiful, or the prominent in society.

He actually spent a lot of time with the religious leaders criticizing Him for who He did spend time with.

He befriended tax collectors, fishermen and "sinners," (Matthew 9:10) he healed and forgave an adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), the physically, emotionally and spiritually sick, the old, the young, a thief (Luke 23:40-43), the outcasts, the destitute, the marginalized and overlooked people in society.

So why should I be content or think that I'm doing good if I spend all of my time in Brier Creek or stay in my comfortable christian bubble? Jesus didn't instruct His disciples to form a posse, move into a frat house and spend every waking moment together. He had them split up, spread out and reach people (Acts 1:7-8, Acts 8:1).

Jesus calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Matthew 19:21; Mark 2:14, Luke 14:25-27) . . . and I'm pretty sure that doesn't mean to stay in our comfortable lifestyles, routines or complacency.

And yes, it is my default to stay in my comfortable life . . . how easily satisfied we are to live the dream broadcasted by society . . . work hard and make enough money to get by, settle down with a spouse, have a few kids and a dog and a white picket fence . . .

Somehow, I think that God wants more for us. Why are we content to live without passion? I want to live radically. I don't want the ins and outs of complacent religious activity. No, I want a life transformed, revitalized, re-vamped and turned upside-down by the call of Jesus.

How easy is it for us to only befriend those who look like us, talk like us, and run in our same social circles? How often to we notice the marginalized? And if we notice them, do we actually make an effort to talk to them? Or are we too comfortable and safe in our bubble to take that step? Aren't we limiting God's work in our lives when we do this?

Jesus calls us to leave everything behind, to not be lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16) . . . He also says that He has come to give life to the full (John 10:10) - and I think that can mean not boring, too comfortable, or stagnant.

Maybe this means living among the marginalized. Maybe this means moving across the country or the world to be part of a church plant. Maybe this means investing time meeting the needs of those hurting in our community. Maybe this means figuring out what our passions are, and putting them into action versus just talking about dreams or waiting for "one day" to actually do something.

I want my eyes to be opened to the broken, the hurting, those I've overlooked. I want to reach those who are searching, who have misconceptions about God, who would never set foot inside a church. I want my life to point to something greater than myself, and I don't want to live according to my own comfort or desires.

August 29, 2009

breaking the legs of sheep

Man versus himself
Man versus machine
Man versus the world
Mankind versus me

The struggles go on
The wisdom I lack
The burdens keep piling
Up on my back

So hard to breathe
To take the next step
The mountain is high
I wade in the depths

Yearning for grace
And hoping for peace
Dear God, increase!

"Every New Day" - Five Iron Frenzy

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
-Proverbs 29:25

Sometimes . . . or perhaps 95% of the time, I wish I wasn't human.

I wish that I didn't struggle with the same things over and over. Well, I guess I wish I didn't struggle or wrestle with sin, period. But . . . then I'd be dead. And I'm not dead yet.

The fear of man . . . a funny thing, isn't it? God has brought me a long way in this struggle . . . from being painfully shy in high school and part of college, to fighting for acceptance of my peers once I moved to a new area . . . and feeling depressed when I felt rejected. We are always looking for something outside of ourselves to give us validation, worth, and identity, aren't we? My biggest struggle was trying to get this from my peers. Well, somewhere along the way I got hit upside the head and God showed me that the only acceptance I truly need is from Him . . . and the only validation and fulfillment can come from a relationship with Christ.

People were never designed to tell you who you are, to complete you, or give you worth.

While I know this, I still find myself struggling. Why do I want so badly to be liked? I've been hanging out with people long enough to realize that not everyone is going to like me, I'm not going to like everyone, and there are plenty of personality differences to go around.

Yet, when I want to be friends with someone and it's not reciprocated, I feel upset. When I get more excited to see someone than they are to see me, I tend to feel stupid.

Why is this? Is this just a reminder of my sin and my pridefulness?

Solomon knew what he was talking about (well of course he did . . . he was Solomon) when he talked about the fear of man being a snare.

Perhaps this is just a reminder to me that I am still very much in need of a savior. I am broken and sinful. Just like the Israelites and Hosea, I keep chasing after idols or other lovers in efforts to find fulfillment and satisfaction . . . all the while the only one who truly loves me continues to pursue me and be faithful when I am not.

A lot of the time, we find ourselves in a wilderness . . . worn out and wounded after chasing these things. It is in this place that we can most clearly see God - when the things of this world have left us broken and empty. Sometimes it's only then that we can truly see how faithful and steadfast He is . . . and how He is the only one who can redeem us, give us identity and life.

Sort of tying into this is an exerpt from Don Miller's Searching For God Knows What:

"Imagine how much a man's life would be changed if he trusted that he was loved by God? He could interact with the poor and not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could be wise and giving with his money because money no longer represented points, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return. It would be quite beautiful, really."

August 17, 2009

keepin' your love lockdown . . .

In my quest to know God better, I become very aware of how much I do not fully understand or know about Him . . . and the incredible amount of wisdom I lack.

The good news is, I discover how much more wonderful He is than I previously believed. My assumptions or preconceived notions of Him are much less loving and compassionate than He truly is.

One of the concepts that I struggle with the most is grace. I've talked about it, probably blogged about it, sung about it, read about it . . . and yet, it's on the top of the list of things my stubborn heart won't accept on a deeper level.

I am afraid that if I go out and do something stupid, that God's love for me will change . . . that He'll withdraw from me, withhold blessings, punish me and change His plan for my life.

This proves to me how I still do not understand God's true character and how I base my view of Him on the way humans tend to behave or treat each other.

The good news is that the Bible is a continual story of God's love for humanity (which is a love that I will never fully grasp or comprehend - see Ephesians 3:17-19) and He reveals Himself and teaches us of His true character in His word. God's love is not like our love. Our love is conditional and fluctuating. His is steadfast and unconditional. (Psalm 103:8, Isaiah 54:10, Romans 8:35-39)

When we come to salvation, Christ doesn't hand us a golden ticket, pat us on the head and say "congratulations," while shoving us into the storm of life without so much as a life jacket.

He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8) . . . He says that He is the sheperd and we are the sheep, that no one can snatch us out of His hand, and He gathers us and carries us (Isaiah 40:11, John 10:27-30).

He is the author and perfecter of our faith and promises to complete the work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).

He rejoices over us when we come to Him, and uses the parable of the lost sheep and the prodigal son to illustrate this. He gave His life for us when we were dead in our transgressions and running from Him. (Luke 15, Ephesians 2:4-9)

God even calls us His beloved children (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1-3).

Furthermore, just think about the characteristics of a relationship (a healthy relationship, that is). You don't just slap the person five and say "see ya!" after you've met them. You continue on with them - you spend time investing in them, you work through problems, you grow closer over the years.

If we are in relationship with Christ, how much greater is that then of human relations? If we can say that we are in a relationship with him, just the word "relationship" should tell us that He's not going to leave our side or forget us - and He promises to never let us go.

He doesn't force Himself upon us - He asks that we love Him with everything we've got (Matthew 22:37-39). He allows us the choice between Him and the world. If we seek Him and draw near to Him, He will reveal Himself to us - which is greater than any of the other blessings that come from His hand (James 4:8, Proverbs 2:4-8, Matthew 7:7-8).

Shoot, if He gave us life for us before we even were born, shouldn't that be enough assurance that He wants to be with us, no matter what the price? Won't the truth of the cross permeate our hearts and minds? This should cause us to rest, knowing that Christ isn't going anywhere.

And life experience tells us, too. I know that in the peak or rebellion, Christ was pursuing me and calling me home. He ultimately rescued me and then blessed me more than I could have asked for. (so, I saw that He did not turn away from me, nor did He withhold any blessings or change His plan for me!) That should tell me of His grace and unconditional love. Yet, how easy is it for us to forget these things? We get too caught up in the day to day grind and our present struggles.

It's humbling when we realize that we really don't have it all together. There is so much that we don't know, understand or accept. But there is a joy in that - we have so far to go, but how much will we gain from getting to know Him more! We should never be satisfied with our present knowledge of Him and the Gospel. God does not call us to be stagnant or complacent.

If I knew everything, I'd be dead. God created us, He knows that we're human and lacking - we are not even called to rely on our own understanding. He wants to be with us, He wants to teach us, guide us, bless us, lead us . . . and He wants us to seek Him daily, die to ourselves, love Him and love others. We can rest knowing that this is a lifelong process - and our Father will lead us each step of the way in patience, love and grace.

If mercy falls upon the broken and the poor,
Dear Father, I will see you, there on distant shores.

And off of the blocks, I was headstrong and proud,
at the front of the line for the card-carrying, highbrowed.
With both eyes fastened tight, yet unscarred from the fight.
Running at full tilt, my sword pulled from its hilt.
It's funny how these things can slip away, our frail deeds,
the last will wave good-bye.
It's funny how the hope will bleed away,
the citadels we build and fortify. Good-Bye.

Night came and I broke my stride,
I swallowed hard, but never cried.
When grace was easy to forget,
I'd denounce the hypocrites,
casting first stones, killing my own.
You would unscale my blind eyes,
and I stood battered, but more wise,
fighting to accelerate,
shaking free from crippling weight.
With resilience unsurpassed,
I clawed my way to You at last.
And on my knees, I wept at Your feet,
I finally believed that You still loved me.

Healing hands of God
have mercy on our unclean souls once again.
Jesus Christ, Light of the World,
burning bright within our hearts forever.
Freedom means love without condition,
without beginning or an end.

Here's my heart, let it be forever Yours,
only You can make every new day seem so new.
"On Distant Shores" - Five Iron Frenzy

August 10, 2009

What is love? (baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me no mo' . . .)

I love my days off.

I love getting up early, cooking breakfast, savoring my coffee while reading and journaling. I love playing Pandora (and inevitably buying new music from itunes) for hours as I mosey around my apartment in my pajamas or gym clothes. I wish I could just stay home all day, drink coffee and write. I think it would be fun to write a book.

I love the abundance of time to myself as a single person. I love to use this time to get to know the Lord better.

I was driving around the other week and thought - "God, it's so easy when it's just you and me. I'm the only sloppy one, I'm the only retarded one in this relationship."

Because you know relationships with other people are messy - unless you never get past the superficial (and what good is that?)

We think everyone is nice and perfect until we really get to know each other.

But you know what? God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27) . . . which means that He made us relational, since He is relational. God loves relationships and community. He does His work via these relationships. God created relationships. He commands us to love each other as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

But what the heck does that mean? What is love? I don't know about you, but after 24 years, I sure know how to put my needs above others, and I know how to serve myself. It's natural for us to "look out for number one." Shoot, everything in our culture screams for us to put ourselves first and to depend on ourselves.

Well, I'm pretty darn sure I'll always struggle with how to love others and have healthy relationships, but Paul gives us a little insight on what Jesus was talking about when He told us to love people:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
[Philippians 2:1-8]

And on a lighter note, life is better when it's shared. Especially when it prevents you from eating an entire pan of blueberry cobbler in one night.
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