Monday, September 28, 2009

A Heart of Stone

There was weeping. I could hear the broken, stifled sobs; the high pitched hiccuping sound that mewed from the back of the sanctuary in waves. As I sat quietly during the communion service, head bowed in prayer, my heart tightened and air froze in my lungs. More than Scripture, this humble response to Jesus' beating, crucifixion, and death restrained me. I found myself asking how many times I had heard the same verses, even read the same verses aloud, and remained unmoved. And now, here was one so torn, so distressed, so in love with the Savior that her sobs could not be contained.

In the book, Revolution in World Missions, David Mains describes a recent working of the Holy Spirit in India this way, "It would hardly have been different...had Jesus Himself been bodily among us. The spirit of worship filled the hall. The singing was electrifying. The power of the Holy Spirit came upon the audience. Men actually groaned aloud. I have read of such conviction in early American history during times like the two Great Awakenings, but I had never anticipated experiencing it firsthand."

It was John Owen who wrote, "Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us. Look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying: bring him in that condition into the heart by faith; apply his blood so shed to thy corruptions; do this daily....A mind filled with the love of Christ crucified...will be changed into its image and likeness, by the effectual mortification of sin...." (A Quest for Godliness, J.I. Packer, p. 200-201).

As I look on my sin, my weakness, my failure, I come exposed, realizing how seldom I am broken at the foot at the cross. "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me;" "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Luke 10:23, Matthew 11:30).

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Passionate God, A Passionless People

In place of the usual tete-a-tete, I've decided to simply cut and paste from my daily Bible reading--not to be "spiritual," but because of its lasting value.

Friday, September 18, 2009 Deut. 28:49-68
Verse 15, 63:
But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statues with which I charge you today….It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it.

In my life today: God is a God of passion. When He blesses us, He does so grandly—but only as it meets His primary desire to transform us. When He curses us, He does so perfectly—and there is no room for questioning His design or plan. He does what He does completely. In writing this, I realize that I have come to appreciate the capricious nature of man. I count on it—often believing that in the inconsistency of others, I will get a break. I will not be held totally accountable for my actions because there is “wiggle room.” There is no “wiggle room” with God. Either we are saved by His grace or we are not. To be the recipient of God’s grace is to be free from condemnation and wrath; to be ever and always under His watchful, protecting, discipling Hand. To be apart from His grace is eternal death, separation, wrath, torture.

Why do we refuse to see the world through spiritual eyes? God has given us all we need for life and godliness, but we don’t want to look. We squeeze our eyes shut and try to stumble ahead—waiting for Him to whack us one direction or the other, failing to acknowledge the many who are perishing. To see God….to know Him more fully…to understand the brevity and immediacy of this earthly existence…. To live with His eyes, today. Even for a moment…would change my life…and perhaps the life of another…forever.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spiritual Sunscreen

It's been a cool summer. Too cool, in fact, for our kids' pool to heat up adequately. Too cool for sunburns. But we're not complaining. The sun's been out and it's been more comfortable outside than most summers, so we've enjoyed it. Now that everyone is back at school, we've set the sunscreen aside until next year.

In the book, Changed into His Image, Jim Berg likens God's Word to the sun's exposure. The more we expose ourselves to the Word of God, the more evident it becomes to others--and ourselves. If we are not seeing the change in our lives that we know God is working, we need more exposure, more "time in the sun." I like the analogy and think it can be carried even to the "tan lines" of our lives--those areas we choose not to expose to God's light.

But the thing I've been thinking about lately is the spiritual sunscreen that keeps me from absorbing the light of God's Word. Spiritual sunscreen diminishes the effect of God's Word in my life. Spiritual sunscreen produces the same appearance in my life as that of unbelievers--who have little or no exposure to God and His Word at all. I am not saying that God is ineffective in His work, ways, or Word. What I am saying is that we often fail to see how we inhibit God's working in our lives. And spiritual sunscreen is? Pride.

When I protect myself from the conviction of God's Word with slippery justification or anchored excuses or wimpy admissions, I cover myself--even while experiencing open exposure--and minimize God's intended effect. It is only when I come to God bare, uncovered, unsheltered, and vulnerable that His Word will sear me, even as Isaiah's lips were burned with the live coal. As I yield to His Word and the working of His Spirit, He will make Himself evident in my life. When God reveals His glory in my life, the expected result is humility and repentance--this is the outcome of exposure the the Light. This is the evidence of a God tan.

In exposing ourselves to the Word of God--in our personal lives, families' lives, and as a local church Body--may we take the time to strip off the sunscreen and allow the light of God to minister to our hearts and souls in an intimate, quiet, searing way. May others see beautifully coppered lives that reflect the glory of our God and Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, and by His Spirit. It will be evident in brokenness, humility, servitude, and repentance. It's time to put away the sunscreen. How's your tan?