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?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rest Time

We have just finished a week of vacation Bible school. As I write, I am surrounded by boxes of decorations and teaching supplies: bed sheets, shoe organizers, space rugs, cast iron pots with lids, the list goes on.... It seems with any task, there is preparation, execution, and resolution: i.e. collect the stuff, use the stuff, put away the stuff.

Jesus' life may not have been surrounded by stuff (in fact, when he sent out the disciples, they were told to take only a staff--imagine teaching VBS with only a staff (for some of us, that might be a blessing!)), but His life was more full of people and needs than any of our lives. In Mark chapter 6, Jesus sent out His disciples to preach (v. 12), and their return was met with news of John the Baptist's death. It was a heavy load. They were tired physically and spiritually, and now they were no doubt frightened and discouraged. "And He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'" (v. 31).

Jesus, of all people, recognized the need for seclusion and rest. He understood the demands his disciples had been shouldering. He knew the press of the people, the pain of John's death, and the prostration of weariness. There was nothing self-indulgent or wrong in separating themselves from the people and their ever-present needs. It was necessary and appropriate for the disciples to get away. It was a gift.

Two things strike me. The first is that it was a command couched in an invitation. He wanted to provide for the disciples and He knew their need. Was it any less important to obey Christ in rest than in work? To obey Christ is to do what He says, regardless of the task. Rest is a task. When He invites (or commands) me to rest, I have a choice--to rest or not to rest, to obey or to disobey--knowing there is always blessing in obedience.

The second thing, then, is the disciples' response. Unlike many of us, they didn't ignore Christ or argue with Him. They readily obeyed. How often, when we hear Christ's faint voice calling us from the busyness of life, do we argue with Him and justify pressing on? Could it be that we are striving to finish the work that He would have us leave behind? Could it be that we are more concerned with our own reputation than with His? Or could it be that we no longer hear Him because we failed to heed long ago and have hearts that are hardened past the point of sensitivity? Perhaps there is too much busyness to listen--or we choose the busyness because we are afraid of the thoughts that plague rest and how God will use the rest itself to transform us.

Rest when He calls. Trust His voice. The needs remain. They are not yours to meet--they belong to the Father. The demands may not lessen, but obedience to rest is the same as obedience to work. It has the same value. It is the same Lord, the same Master, who calls us to both.