Archive for June, 2011

28
Jun
11

go team

In his book “The Me I Want To Be”, Pastor John Ortberg makes a very intuitive observation: “Challenges undertaken for the greater good bind us to people. The pursuit of comfort, however, leads to isolation – and isolation is terminal.”

The church has been aware of this truth ever since our early days and has taken determined steps to counteract the culture that influences us toward self-centered behaviors and attitudes. Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” 1 Corinthians 16:15 “They have devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” All these passages are reminders of our responsibility as maturing members of the Body of Christ to put the good of the community above our own. The problem, of course, is this is completely counter-cultural. As the group Mercy Me reminds us in one of their lyrics, “How can I further your Kingdom when I’m so wrapped up in mine?” (In The Blink Of An Eye)

It is absolutely amazing that we have such a natural bent toward destructive behavior. We know we should eat better, but we can’t resist overindulging. We know we should exercise, but we’re just too tired. We know we should practice spiritual disciplines, but we don’t have time. We know we should engage more fully in the community of faith so we can grow in our faith, develop a support and accountability network to keep us on track in our spiritual development and exercise our spiritual gifts by serving others, but, quite frankly, we’ve got other things to do. Besides that, people waste our time and resources, don’t always do what we want, and, quite honestly, annoy us.

However, Paul reminds us we are to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

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21
Jun
11

overcoming spiritual confusion

Have you ever been tempted to think that because you were confused or feeling overwhelmed you weren’t as spiritual as you should be? That seems to be the theology of a lot of people. They would have you believe that they have it all together and that if you would just have a little more faith you could too.

I have been tempted to give into that kind of thinking at times, but then I would open my Bible and read things like, “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9, The Message) In case you’re unfamiliar, the Apostle Paul wrote those words. So I figure, in my less than stellar moments, I’m in good company!

When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or faced with overwhelming obstacles what should we do? Paul gives us his strategy for trying times in the verses that follow 8 and 9:

1. “We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe.” (13) We must learn to speak out of faith not our fear. It is so important that we expose ourselves to the Word on a regular basis because it is the Word that produces faith in us (Romans 10:17).

2. “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” (16) Fear paralyzes us. We must draw strength from the grace God is pouring into our lives and press on.

3. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (18) We must keep our eyes focused on spiritual truth. That can be difficult at times because, as Paul tells us, our vision is limited by the fleshly nature (I Corinthians 13:12) therefore, we must continually re-focus through the lens of God’s Word asking the Holy Spirit to clear up the blurriness we deal with.

14
Jun
11

trust

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” sounds easy enough, doesn’t it, until… the job doesn’t work out, the doctor gives you an unfavorable report or someone close to you makes a decision that you don’t understand.

That’s where the second part of Proverbs 3:5 comes into play: “…and lean not on your own understanding.” That’s difficult for us because we want so desperately to be in control. We want God to run all his plans by us and explain them to us so that we can give him our approval. Trusting God is easy when we have complete understanding and everything is working according to the plan – that is, our plan. It’s when we can’t figure out what God is doing that things get dicey for us. When our plan is interrupted our response ranges from mildly confused at the least, aggravation and anger at the mid-level, and full-blown hysteria if we exercise no faith at all. One of the reasons for this is we have come to view God as just one of many resources at our disposal to be leveraged in our pursuit of what we want or think is best. God will never allow himself to be managed that way, but we keep trying anyway. We try to argue with God. We enlist the help of our friends to pray with us. We even try to use Scripture by lifting it out of context making it say what we want it to say. We do everything except what Proverbs tells us next: “In all your ways submit to him… Do not be wise in your own eyes” (vv.6,7).

That’s the tough part, isn’t it? Our pride absolutely refuses to allow us to admit we don’t know it all and so submission becomes impossible. Have you ever wondered why Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”? It’s not because God enjoys our pain and misery. It’s because that’s what it takes for most of us to come to the place of complete abandonment to his ways so that we can walk in the fullness of his blessing for our lives.

07
Jun
11

transitions

Lately I’ve noticed some subtle, yet profound, changes in my life. Perhaps the most noticeable is my concern that “Christ is formed in (me)”. (Galatians 4:19) The desire for this character change in my life is not as altruistic as I would desire it to be. I have to admit it is simply the result of constant exposure to the word of God that produces the realization that change is absolutely necessary if I am going to continue to enjoy the peace and joy that my soul craves.

I notice this desire for change expressing itself more and more in my prayer life. Of late, whenever I am praying about some difficult situation or trying circumstance from which I desperately want relief, I find the focus shifting from “Help Lord!” to “Father, I want you to use this situation to produce spiritual and emotional wholeness and maturity in my life.” It is not always easy to pray that way. In fact, sometimes it is downright terrifying. On other occasions it is just very uncomfortable because it is not what the flesh wants to do so it must be dragged along, kicking and screaming the whole way.

Perhaps the Apostle Paul best summed up what I sense God trying to do in my life in Philippians 3:8,9,15. “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” NIV I’m not there yet. I still try to cling to the trophies of the past and my plans for the future. I am still tempted to view every event or circumstance in light of my comfort. It is still tempting to try and dictate to God what the minimum standard of blessing will be that he must produce in my life to keep me from acting like a spoiled brat and running off to pout in the corner.

All of this is juxtaposed against my growing desire to be like Jesus. As John prayed, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come”, (Rev 22:20) I add, “come into my life and be formed in me today.”

01
Jun
11

flourish

What is it that you want more than anything else in life? Is it money? Friends? Prestige? A nice house?

In reality, these things, and things like them, are just diversions offered to us by the enemy of our soul to keep us preoccupied so that we will never discover the thing that will bring us true happiness and contentment. What might that be you ask?

Author and Pastor John Ortberg asked himself that question in his book “The Me I Want To Be”. His answer? “I began to realize that what I really want isn’t any particular outcome on any particular project. Those are all just means to an end. What I really want is to be fully alive inside. What I really want is the inner freedom to live in love and joy.” And then he adds: “Life is not about any particular achievement or experience. The most important task of your life is not what you do, but who you become.”

The confusion comes when we lose sight of God’s plan and purpose for us which is, as I have come to see it, that we flourish.

Think about it. Adam and Eve were given responsibility for the Garden to watch over it and tend it. In the New Testament we are told things like our knowledge of God (i.e., our relationship with him) increases and becomes more enjoyable when we are “bearing fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10).

God’s plan is for us to thrive; not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well. As Pastor Ortberg reminds us, “Your flourishing self pours blessings into your relationships… To be spiritually alive means to receive power from God to have a positive impact on your world… The Spirit never just flows in us; he always flows through us so that others might flourish as well.”