Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Where have you lost hope today? Where in your life do you feel despondent, unresponsive, unable to see the hand of the Lord working? I think if we’re all brutally honest, not a day goes by without some area or another of our lives being affected by temporary hopelessness. You might say, wow, that’s a strong word to put on it: hopelessness. But really, that’s what is happening, even if it is just a momentary thing. It’s not just other people that struggle with hopelessness, people without Christ, but more often than not it’s we, the believers in Christ, who struggle the most with hopelessness.
Throughout the storylines of the Old Testament Israel repeatedly loses hope in God. Reading the Exodus narrative and Jeremiah or Isaiah show Israel on this roller-coaster-like faith journey. One minute they are up, doing the will of God, following and obeying His commands. Then they turn aside and turn inward to themselves (see: Aaron and the golden calf, ex. 32). They lose hope. It’s not the nations outside of Israel that have lost hope, because they have never had it in the first place. And it’s the same with us today. It’s not the unbelievers who struggle the most with hopelessness, because they have never tasted true hope found in Jesus Christ. We are the ones who have met the all-powerful Living God and have let our lives remain the same.
In my last post I mentioned how we can let our sinfulness become the controlling narrative of our lives. How when we focus so much on ourselves, it leads to us filtering our lives through ourselves and not through the lens of God and His promises to us. I think this is especially problematic for those of us who are more introspective in nature. Even good, healthy introspection, examining one’s heart, can turn into unhealthy self-centeredness if it is not done with God’s grand narrative as the backdrop.
When we take away the promises of God and have no framework of His amazing faithfulness, we are left with only ourselves, and that’s enough to make anyone hopeless. It’s the controlling narrative of God’s faithfulness, though, that has guided the Church ever since Jesus came and declared the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Think of those lengthy Psalms (104 & 105, for instance) which retell the story of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Think of Isaiah 40, where God, through Isaiah, reminds the people of Israel that he has never left them, that He does not grow weary, and that He is their everlasting God.
Remembering the faithfulness of God gives us hope for every aspect of our lives. By meditating and dwelling on His faithfulness, our fluctuating levels of self-confidence turn into complete God-confidence. We do not live in the power of ourselves, but in the power of God, so how much confidence we feel in ourselves doesn’t matter anymore. God-confidence chooses to remember the faithfulness and the promises of God, giving us hope and boldness in the name of Jesus Christ. God-confidence was a central ingredient of the Church in Acts. It ceases to matter if one person has more ability than another or if one person seems to continually make the same mistakes. God-confidence washes away our self-centered attitudes about our lives and puts the focus back on God’s redemptive work through Jesus Christ, which turns our despondency and hopelessness into life-changing and life-giving hope.
What does this entail, though? How is this kind of God-confidence something that can become the controlling narrative of our lives? There’s no quick solution here. It comes down to absorbing oneself in the Word of God, His eternal promises and plan of redemption. It comes down to choosing to worship and pray, even when we don’t feel like it, knowing that God is not interested in our ideas of efficiency. He just wants us. All of us. Here we are, much like Moses felt right after God told him he would be the one to go to Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites. But it’s God’s response that matters, and it is a response that has resonated throughout the Scriptures to bring hope and promise to lives that otherwise are broken and despondent:
“But Moses said to God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He (God) said, “But I will be with you.” (Ex. 3:11-12)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Usually I leave class thinking about something the prof brought up, and the past few days it's all run together, centered around this question: Do I live like I really believe in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Well of course I got out of bed. But why was it so hard in the first place? Usually it's not a big deal, but today was just one of those days. Maybe it's the fact that I had a hard time falling asleep last night. It's usually not very hard for me to fall asleep, especially after long days at school and at the library studying. But last night my body and mind couldn't get on the same page, and as a result my mind raced right on by as my body called out for sleep.
I was thinking about something that is very simple to say, but is so nuanced once you start thinking about it and going deeper. I was thinking about this question: what does my life say? What is the message that my life is speaking? Is it a unified message, or is a discordant cacophony of mixed messages?
I want my life to speak of Jesus Christ. In all my life, every aspect, I want to point to Christ. It seems so simple, and in a way, it really is: look to Christ, continually, submitting to Him and obeying Him each moment of the day. But therein lies the difficulty. My selfishness wages war against this lifestyle of submission and obedience, and more often than not wins out. It's in the little things, the seemingly small and meaningless decisions of the day that the battle is won or lost. What I choose to think about when no one is around. What my heart holds dear and longs for.
Being a good person on the outside is not the goal. It's too demanding, and there is no fulfillment, because fulfilling the self with more self is like pouring water into a bottomless jar. I was not designed for moralism divorced from Christ. I was designed for Christ, for direct intimacy with Him, which produces the fruit that other people see.
So it comes back to the small, daily decisions, which no one but God sees. These are the crucibles where I grow, where I learn the way of faith through obedience and submission to Christ. I may not understand why it is so difficult, volitionally, to choose against seemingly innocuous things, but in my heart I know what the Lord requires of me.
It's not that playing the xbox is wrong, or watching television, or surfing through my favorite websites, even. It's not that these things in and of themselves are wrong, it is the wisdom of knowing what place they have in my day. The battle is not so much against the things I know are wrong, clearly wrong, but it's against the things that really are not bad in and of themselves, but which push me towards mediocrity, laziness, and complacency.
I need rest. I need time to relax and just hang loose. But wisdom is knowing when I need to drop those things and sit a while with Christ, resting before Him and letting Him breathe His Word and Spirit into me afresh. Daily submission and obedience to Him, even when I don't feel like it, and even when I don't even think I need it.
So what is my life saying? Well, I'll try to follow the advice of Jesus himself: "seek first the kingdom of God". And, as Keith Green liked to say, "he'll take care of the rest".