Wednesday, September 1, 2010

All for God's Glory

It is amazing how the longer you go not blogging the harder it gets. I feel the weight of writing about everything so I don't even start but not today.

Life has been interesting the last few weeks. I wish I could say it has been great, but that is not the best term.

The other Monday I got to sit with a friend and catch up a bit. As we talked he asked me to explain the Gospel. As I stumbled through an explanation he patiently listened.

After I had a chance to finish my long winded and unfocused description he asked a simple question.

"Have you ever noticed how the Gospel insults our pride as Americans but never our selfishness?"

I didn't quite follow at first. As I replayed the Gospel I just told and the one we so often hear I heard "you," "me," "us," etc. My entire description of the Gospel was about what God had done for me and had planned for me. The focus of the Gospel is God. His glory, his power, his love. The idea that Jesus came and died to be the way to reunite us with Himself is all about God, not about me. The focus is God's plan for the world not his plan for me. Or his promise to care for me.

This idea of me was all through my view of the Gospel.

A seed of an idea slowly grew in my mind. It came up in discussions with the men's group I attend and homegroup later that week. I heard it in music.
"I want my life to show, that I am thinking beyond myself." ~ A line from a song in new Newsboy's Album (Born Again)

THAT ENTIRE LINE IS ABOUT ME!!!! Almost every other word!

I have also been unable to remove my focus from John 15 as of late. The dozens of times I have read it in the past and last few weeks would lead me to think I had a good handle on it. Then I saw this...
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
~ John 15:7-8

Even when He grants us the desires of our hearts the focus is on His glory!

This understanding is something I am just starting to grapple with, but oddly it has been encouraging to me. God does care about my life and what I am feeling and doing. But more importantly He is worthy of praise. His plan is beyond my comprehension, beyond a need for me.

But He has invited us to be part of that. And promised to care for us.

My problems seem a bit insignificant now.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thank You Mere Christianity Journal

So for Christmas (either this last one or the one before) my parents got my brothers and I a hard copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and a companion journal.

I graciously accepted but since I have a copy of Mere Christianity and I usually find these guided journals worthless I was not that interested.

As many of you know my relationship with God has been difficult lately. Not that He is not still good, but through recent circumstances I have let my life fall apart in some ways.

My confidence is still returning, my excitement for life is coming back and my relationship with God is improving (I feel closer to Him and my mindset is increasing on Him), but I still feel less than I was just over a year ago.

So since I do not have regular accountability or discipleship I finally decided to crack open this journal thing and reread Mere Christianity.

Maybe the guiding will be an adequate replacement for discipleship at least to start me back on the path to closeness with God.

It has been interesting, not nearly as useless as I originally thought.

Yesterday I came across a question that hit something I am not sure I have ever quite accepted about God.

The chapter was on faith, the discussion question?

If you feel loved and secure in a relationship, do you try and earn the other person's love? Or do you do loving things for that person simply because you know you are loved? How does this translate into a relationship with God?
At first this was an easy question. No I do not try to earn the love of someone that I feel loves me in a secure relationship. That seems dumb, like going back to your employer after you have cashed you check and trying to earn the money in your hand.

IT IS YOURS!!!

In business you start earning the next check. In a relationship you love the other person. My understanding of what a marriage can be and what I think several of my closer friendships are is a focus on the other person.

You do not have to ensure you are loved or treated a certain way... the other person ensures that. You just love the other person.

Nothing new here, it is a great ideal to have in mind.

Wait, what was that third question?

How does this translate into a relationship with God?

Oh, wait...

I know God loves me and has accepted me as his child through Jesus.

What relationship is more secure than that?

But I keep feeling like I have to re-earn his love when I fail, or do the right thing to keep it.

So I keep coming to God asking for his love, asking him if I still have it.

That must get old. I mean imagine if a friend, significant other, or family member kept asking if their choices maintained your love. Or how they could re-earn your love when they did something stupid.

Where is the trust and love for you in a relationship like that?

I think it is lacking.

Is that really what I have been doing to God this whole time?

Can this life really be as simple as trusting and loving Him because he loves me?

If this seems obvious to you, then awesome. If not, consider if you were doing what I was doing.

I think God has a better life for us. I know he does.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prejudice in My Life

Last weekend I went to the funeral of my girlfriend's grandmother in Pennsylvania. Not really a fun trip, but I was glad I could go to support her.

On the trip I saw a driver that was driving a bit erratically, as I got closer I saw that they had a West Virginia sticker on the back.

"Oh, that explains it" I thought.

Then the funeral was a Catholic funeral. As far as I can remember this was my first time in a Catholic church less than 200 years old, it was odd.

I thought the litergy was cool, the rest of the church could use more. Then they started saying something about Mary after the Lord's prayer. Then the priest kept talking about her and the saints. The 20 ft tall crucified Jesus did not help either.

You may think these two thoughts are not without merit. There are many documented cases of WVU fans being jerks and the school does have that reputation in parts.

My feelings on being in the Catholic church are not all that odd either. Many of the doctrines are borderline heretical from a Protestant/ Anabaptist view.

But I know that these feelings were not in the realm of past facts. I felt like I was judging those that held to the Catholic church as foolish. I know that I was not just assuming... I KNEW the driver was a jerk because of the WVU sticker.

I do not like that at all.

It gets easy for me to focus on an old sin that has been mostly conquered and feel like I am done growing. Or look at my recent distance from God and think that is the only issue I have.

I am still a broken person that God is doing is work in, and only by his grace is doing his work through.

In these times of revelation it is hard to remember that God sees us as a completed work, as pure and justified in Christ.

I need to remember that.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4 NIV)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rereading Genesis

In my last post I mentioned how friend said my story reminded him of the curse that came from the fall.

I was reading Genesis again, it felt like it might apply after that discussion.

Genesis 3: 8

God was walking through the garden looking for them but out of shame they hid. That hits really hard.

The last few months I have had a hard time feeling or hearing God. I have heard him in the past, but not recently.

A tear actually came to my eye when I read this. I feel so distant from Him at times, yet even having his presence walk with them in the garden they still felt he was holding out on them.

We still thought we knew better.

It is so easy to try to blame not feeling God for having difficulty listening and following Him.

The issue is much deeper than that it seems.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Work

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and
ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'

"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."
Genesis 3: 17-19

I was recounting my feelings and thoughts from when I was still working to a friend. His response:

"I have never heard anyone so clearly articulate the effects of the curse in their own experience before."

So I went back and read some Genesis.

I believe three factors were at work with my last work experience.

1. Lack of perspective on work
2. Lack of alignment between who I am and my occupation
3. An increasingly negative work environment

I found myself returning to old patterns.

Isolation.
Disdain for myself.
Feeling hopeless. Worthless.

I woke up every day and did my job. But whether I worked hard or slacked off at the end of the day I felt like I had wasted my day.

Like I have spent all day in bed or in front of the TV. That lethargic feeling accompanied by regret.

So I forgot how to rest. When I was at work I tried to work. When at home I tried to do things that would make my day feel like something was accomplished.

Over time I just wanted to go to bed after work and do nothing.

Physically I was growing weaker from a lack of exercise or work.. but I was never physically tired. Mentally I was worn down, tired... but felt no accomplishment.

Unsure how to explain my situation and ashamed that I was not moving forward and that I had no vision, no goal I began to isolate myself. People important to me became those to avoid. I just didn't know how to answer the questions...

"How is work?"

"What do you do?"

"What are you up to?"

Each would be answered, but inside I felt like I did nothing. That I had no purpose. And I didn't even get the benefit of sleeping in or watching TV all day. I was doing work that could be done by a script.

I felt like my legacy was becoming the guy who lived alone, hating life, doing things a computer should do.

That is why I left.

I am ok with individual tasks being toil. But with nothing to work towards, not impact being made from the work (besides reducing the IT budget for a few months), I see no point.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Trusting God?

Ironically I was tasked lately with planning for Home-group on the topic of work. I say ironically because I am unemployed.

I wanted to lead on a section of Ecclesiastes. I liked the idea of talking about seasons. How there is a time for everything, and at times the time to not do something. I am usually not a fan of this concept in the moment. I want to be in control, I want everything to just be awesome. When I look back on the other hand I am glad for seasons. For times of learning specific things.

As I tried to prepare this discussion I kept being drawn to Matthew 25. This is the three part parable about what the kingdom of God is like: the 10 virgins awaiting the bridegroom, the master who goes on a long journey (parable of the talents), and the goats and sheep.

The middle section is commonly called the parable of the talents and is about a master who is leaving on a long journey. It is long enough that he must leave his servants in charge of his affairs, I imagine that if it was shorter he could afford to wait or just let things be. He entrusts five talents to one servant, two to the next and one to the last. He leave and on his return calls the servants to account for themselves. We see that the first two took their money and were each able to engage in trade to double their money, the master is overjoyed and invites the servants to celebrate with him; he also promises to give them more responsibility and money. The last, entrusted with only one talent, was afraid of the master so he buried the money and returned the same amount to the master. This is seen as an insult by the master, the servant is stripped of the one talent and kicked out of the house.

I did a little math. According to the footnotes in my Bible a talent is worth about 20 years wages for a laborer. For an estimation I assumed that a laborer would be someone who only makes minimum wage, works a normal 40 hour work week but does not get vacation (works 52 weeks a year). That gave me about $300,000 per talent. So reworded:

The master is leaving on a long journey. He entrusts on servant with $1.5M, one with $600k and one with $300k; each according to his ability. He then leaves.

This is the place I want to focus. I feel like this is where I am. I am not sure if I am the servant with the ability to be entrusted with $1.5M or $300k, but I am one of them. God has entrusted me with something and I want to hand it back to him with more in the end.

If I am honest with myself I am most like the servant who buried the money at the moment. I am terrified. I am scared of making a mistake.

What if I am 4th servant, the one not in the story that lost all his money?

Or worse, what if I succeed?

Both are scary thoughts. I want to just hand my one talent back the God and say "It is too hard, I am scared."

"You overestimate my ability."

But I do want to do something. I want to be a light, to serve others and be a part of bringing the kingdom into people's lives.

It is just so easy to let the fear of both success and failure to rule me.

The story just says that in the end the servants had double their money. It doesn't discuss how many times the lost money or had to start over in a new trading method or location.

They were rewarded because the master knew what they were capable of handling, gave that to them and they responded.

When I put it that way it feels much more manageable!

So at the end of the day, do I trust God to know me well enough to give me the right resources and opportunities?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Piece of Wood

My people inquire of a piece of wood,
and their walking staff gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray,
and they have left their God to play the whore.
Hosea 4:12 ESV
Last week I randomly turned to Hosea, and since we are studying that on Sunday morning at nlcf, I decided to read it next.

As I was reading I could not get past this verse. More specifically I could not get past "My people inquire of a piece of wood." I could be wrong, but in that line I sense frustration and pain.

God's people who have the privilege and right granted through Jesus to approach his throne to worship and petition him have turned to a piece of wood. Not even a man or a beast, but a piece of word.

None of those would be ok, but comparing the Lord of the universe or ANY king for that matter to a piece of wood seems laughably idiotic. The God who has given his people great promises to support and love them and performed many signs is being ignored...

FOR A PIECE OF WOOD!!!

How often do we do that in our lives? I know that has been a struggle of mine lately. Not that I have put any one thing over God, but... well maybe I have. I have been putting convenience and ease before him.

It is so much easier to throw myself into school or work or even into depression that it is to take bold steps to follow him.

I do not want to stop here. Along with this I have been thinking about the many things we as people do that to a lesser degree look like comparing God to a piece of wood.

- The guy plays a video game rather than making/ seeing his friends.
- The guy that looks at explicit websites when his wife is in the other room.
- The girl that watches romance movies alone rather than building her relationship.
- The freshman who gets drunk every weekend because they hate their life rather than doing something to change it.

Then there is me who found it easier to embrace self doubt and fear for trust and faith.

These are all replacing something amazing for something that is easier and ultimately does not meet the need we are trying to fill with it.

Right now self-doubt is my piece of wood that I go to when I should be going to God. I am safe there, I can't screw up and I can't fail. But that is not my goal, that is my fear. Much like Israel in this book, I have felt famine and pain while clinging to this idol. Only recently have I started to hear God again.

So, what is your piece of wood?

And now the non-awkward question: How have you put aside your pieces of wood in the past?