Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fidgety Loneliness

My wife is gone for the night visiting a friend up north. So, after playing with the kids and doing a few things around the house (in case you're reading this, Katie, I did do the laundry!) I thought that I'd go to bed. Well, I made it to bed, alright...but not to sleep.

Isn't it weird how we get so used to being close to someone that we cannot function properly when they're not there? It's like when you dive deep into the water and you don't realize how uncomfortable not being able to breathe is until your lungs start to burn and you start to stretch for the surface of the water, aching for that ecstatic moment when you break through the surface and inhale all the heavens into your lungs. Missing someone is like that.

When Katie is gone I get fidgety. I wriggle and itch and hear myself breathing (I'm not sure how she puts up with me, by the way. I just realized that I'm very annoying at night). I talk to myself and no matter how long I lay there, I simply cannot sleep. So, here I am at 2:09am, fidgeting.

What shocks me is really how often that I take her presence for granted. She's simply there, being a great wife and mother, a beautiful daughter of God, but I come to expect that and not really appreciate her and her beauty in my life. I guess that's a good thing about being away for a night. Reality. Just like breathing, we don't realize how sweet air is until we cannot have it.

Maybe this is part of what the Lord said through Jeremiah when He told us that the heart is so deceitful and desperately wicked. We are so prone to take beauty and blessings for granted, until the Lord takes them all away. Then we realize how truly gracious that He is. He does the same thing with sin. He gave us over to sin so that we would see and feel the emptiness and return to Him. In a sense, He gives us what we are wanting, knowing that it will not fulfill this deep God-shaped hole within us. Even His judgments are from a gracious heart. I so don't deserve His kindness. So, I look for the discipline of the Lord until the sweet sweet breath of His glorious grace fills my heart again and I realize how truly beautiful He is and again delight in Him.

I so don't deserve my Katie's kindness, either, but I rejoice in her love. And, I cannot wait for my love to return, to delight in her again, for her presence to fill my evenings with life...and sleep.

To the Glory of God

Monday, October 8, 2007

Prone to Presume

I’ve been thinking this past few months of my own attitude towards the kindness of God, particularly how I am so prone to take it for granted. I have grown up in a world where it’s in vogue to be the victim, where blame is always cast upon the “other” person (I mean, we all know that the world’s problems are entirely the fault of the previous generation and we have all the answers if only the world would listen to us!).

I have grown up with an attitude of entitlement and presumption. Presumption, there’s the word. I presume to do better than others, think more clearly than others, be better than others. All of this is an incredible stroke of pride and self-centeredness, really the root of most of my sin and the destruction of many of my relationships.

The amazing thing about sin is that it deceives us into thinking that it is right and good. So, we transfer this presumption onto the ultimate Good, God Himself and His glorious gospel of grace in Jesus Christ. We presume that we are good enough, that we deserve God’s grace, if not in conscious thought, than in our subconscious emotive person. It shows in how we treat God (especially when He tells us “no!”) and how we treat others (with jealousy, bitterness, and unforgiveness.) To this end, our presumption is revealed by our desire to be recognized and honored for our performance, and our unspoken (and possibly unrealized) expectation that God doesn’t take our self-righteousness too seriously. I mean, since He forgives us we can sin as much as we want, right?

PRESUME – The word itself comes from the Latin prae, meaning “before” and sumere, meaning “to take.” It is the act of seizing or occupying without right.

Like I wrote above, in my own life I struggle with presumption. It is so easy, because of God’s love, to begin to take His kindness for granted. I find that it is easy to function as if my sin does not really matter because God has forgiven me in Christ, so I treat sin lightly and in a nonchalant manner. This is the slippery slope of pride and it begins with a very low view of God’s holiness.

In the early church (very early!) there was also a couple who acted in presumption upon God’s kindness. Let me set the stage. In Acts 2 the gospel was preached in the power of the Holy Spirit and many people were saved to follow Jesus. As the early church started we find that Luke describes this community in this manner:

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” ~Acts 2:42-45

Here we see the early believers selling their possessions and giving to those who had need. We move on to Acts 4:34-37 and we see as specific man named Joseph and nicknamed Barnabas (son of encouragement) selling his land and giving his proceeds to the apostles. This man Joseph must have been a very likeable person, possibly popular. After all, he was given a nickname by the apostles and was so known by his deeds of encouragement.

On cue enters our presumptive couple, Ananias and Sapphira. After seeing Joseph’s gift dropped at the apostles’ feet, they figured that they would be an encouragement, too. Now, that doesn’t sound bad, does it? Is it wrong to follow other people’s examples to be an encouragement? Well, no, but what we see from A&P is not a desire to encourage others, but rather a desire to be noticed for encouraging others. Notice what Peter asks Ananias in 5:3, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”

Herein lies the sin: they presumed that it was not that bad to lie to God. Not only was not that bad, but Peter claims that Satan has filled Ananias’ heart. This is in direct contrast to the filling of the Holy Spirit that Peter received before preaching in Acts 4:8 and the filling of the HS of the church in 4:31. I don’t believe that this recorded contrast is a coincidence. There is a deliberate contrast of “fillings” being revealed here.

You see, Satan wants us to seek our own glory, to try to build our own reputation and kingdom, rather than the glory of God and His Kingdom. Ananias was performing an outwardly righteous act to be seen as righteous by men. He was trying to build his own reputation and his own glory. But, God saw his heart and knew his deception. How serious is presuming upon God’s grace? How severe is the holiness of God! Ananias and Sapphira’s presumption cost them their lives. This is not a common belief in the church, but God took their lives because of their presumptive attitude toward HIM. God’s holiness and glory are His alone!

How are our attitudes toward impressing others with our own righteousness? Are we performing good works so that others will see that we have it together? Are we hiding our failures so that others will not see our weaknesses (just another way of wanting others to see our presumed righteousness)? I’m afraid that I find myself falling into this trap again and again. Is there hope for presuming people like me? Absolutely! Learn to hate your egocentricity and the presumption that so easily ensnares you. Learn, by the Holy Spirit and through repentance and faith in Jesus’ power to change you, to reveal your weaknesses to others and to perform good works to build His glory and His kingdom.

An old pastor once said, “You either risk or rust.” In other words, are we willing to risk failure, being seen as failures, to build God’s Kingdom and His glory to the world? The truth is: if we are not risking our reputations, our glory, our lives for the sake of Jesus Christ, then we are rusting into the hardness of self-righteousness and self-centeredness where every joint must be broken free by the painful blows of the Master Metalsmith.

Let us not presume on the kindness of God, but rather be always grateful for His absolute grace towards us in Jesus. He has saved us and blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him! Count on it, but do not presume upon it. Be grateful in joy and we will resist, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the oxidizing presence of self-righteousness and self-glory to the praise of His glorious grace in Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria (To the Glory of God Alone)

First Attempt at Blogging

I hate death. I know that this sounds quite trite, but I really hate death. It's not supposed to be this way. I know all of the theological imports of the necessity, and even the merciful aspect, of death. But, I still hate it.

Death is never comfortable, never quite right. Even when there is hope, there is also grief and loss, even though it's temporary, it's still loss. And it's of the most personal kind of loss: relational. I guess in this aspect, there are many around me walking dead. Broken relationships, a precursor to death. The kind of temporary, yet man-made infinitude of separation.

I hate all its forms.

I will praise the Lord, Jesus Christ, who unites and reconciles under His glorious grace! He who defeated and defeats death, in all its forms. He is the one who equalizes us all, enemy and friend, at the cross. There we find that we are all equally screwed-up in our sin and our self-deception, unable to fix ourselves, save ourselves, comfort ourselves, but where we simply see that we have disowned the One Truth, God Himself.

Thank God for God!! He who stoops down to fix us, reconcile us, save us, make us right, simply by His gracious heart and powerful act of redemption when He offered up Jesus in our place. What kind of God is this? He hates death, too? And in another strange paradox, He defeats death with death. He reconciles us by the death of His Son! I will speak good of Jesus!

I still hate death. But I will not wallow in this hatred, but rather I will speak of the One who has defeated death in all its forms. Jesus, the One who is bringing all things together under His Kingship. The One who defeated death by laying down His own life in all His glory and rising up from the ashes never to die again, to rule over all that is created, bringing life from death. O worship Him, my soul. Let us not again take Him for granted and wallow in the dread, but let us build up His reputation as the Life-Giving King over all.