Saturday, February 27, 2010

Myth & Life

Its hard to imagine Jesus walking among us. The other night, I witnessed a gaggle of drunken partiers, scruffy foul mouthed men & bitter old women spewing piss & gall... How in the world did Jesus endure us? If I was God, I would have said "To heck with redemption!" & finished every last soul off for good. But I'm not God (lucky for you) & He is not a man (lucky for me & you both). That's why He sent His Son Jesus to live among us, in the same flesh we walk in, on the same ground we tread. He was born the same way we were & saw the same rhythms of nature we see. He felt hunger & thirst like us, He laughed like us. He got angry like we do & grieved like us too. He was tempted as we are tempted & yet He remained perfect as we so often fail to do. All so He could be tortured by a handful of idiots & die for the sins of a worldful. All so we could be with Him in Heaven, if only we believe & confess Him as Lord of our lives. How in the world did He do it?

Honestly, Jesus feels like a mythical creature right out of a storybook sometimes. When I try to wrap my head around His actual presence here on this earth, not to mention His death & resurrection, I'm at a loss. I want to know what He was like- what His eyes said when you looked at Him... I want to know what He smelled like, what His voice sounded like... I want to know what made Him smile or laugh outright. What pissed Him off? What made His heart break? The gospels definitely give us a glimpse of these things, but the guy spent 33 years on this earth (according to scholars). Wasn't anyone besides the gospel writers taking notes? Passing on stories? Who was this Jesus? And how can I know Him like the disciples did? How do I get Jesus out of the myth & into my heart? How do I convert the moral of His story into the format of my life? I've been living unto Christ the myth... I know because the myth doesn't change me or give me life. Its simply there as a statement: "This is Jesus, this is what He did". Christ, the Living still eludes me.... Christ, the Breath of Life seems to have breezed by me... Christ, the man... Christ, the Son of God, He's lost on me... waiting for me to find Him in the crowd like the image of a magic eye poster. Open my eyes so I can see...

Good News

When I deliberately sin against God, the first thing to settle in is sadness. I'm sad that I wasn't strong enough to deny myself, sad that I disrespected God, sad that our relationship has suddenly ground to a halt. Or has it? A heavy, lonely feeling pushes its way into my personal space & tells me I can't talk to God, I can't long for Him & I shouldn't bother trying. Afterall, He won't have anything to do with me & my selfish, sinful heart. I should be ashamed of myself. And I am.

Sometimes during the day, I catch myself praying, singing, wanting to relate to God like normal & an angry feeling suddenly entangles me, gets in my face & says, No way, sister, you & God aren't talking. Even if you repent, you know you don't mean it- you're just doing it so you can be at peace with your own sorry self. You really don't give a rip about God. And maybe that's true.

The bible says to settle an argument quickly with your accuser or else you could be taken to the judge, thrown into jail & doomed to stay until the last penny is paid... Who is my accuser? Is it God? No. Is it the devil? It could be... but given that the heart is deceitful above all things, I would venture to say the accuser is actually me most of the time. There's an argument within me, between what I feel & what I know. I know that if God loved me even before I knew Him- even when I was -gasp- a "sinner", and if nothing can separate me from His love now that I'm called by His name, there's no reason to hide myself away. Yet I feel that I have no recourse BUT to hide myself away, & no amount of repentance or penance could take away my shame. I'm sure God has "had it up to here" with me & my last infraction just broke the camel's back.

What happens if I don't settle this with my accuser? I'll be taken captive by the injustice of these false accusations. I'll be sentenced to a life striving for God's approval, trying to pay a debt I'll forever owe. If I settle with my accuser however, I let the Word defend me. And this is what the Word tells me: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death". "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord". "Repent and believe the good news!" What's the good news? I don't have to go to "prison" & pound out license plates to win God's approval. I don't have to pay the insurmountable debt I owe. Jesus paid it for me. I owe nothing & nothing can separate me from His love. And yes, that's good news. Dang, I make repentance so much harder than its meant to be...

Romans 8:39, Matthew 5:25, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Acts 3:19 Mark 1:15

Urban Cloister

I wonder how the vast accessibility of the bible & worship music for private use has contributed to isolation? Has it enriched our Christian lives or merely provided a ways of escape- given us a sort of urban cloister mentality?

What would it be like if we lived in the days where the bible was read from a book in our homes with family or friends? What if the only music we had, we had to make ourselves, sing ourselves, or in the company of other believers? What would it be like to go further still into the past when the Word was unwritten, except on scrolls kept in sacred, public places? What if we had to go to synagogues or churches to hear the Word spoken?

For the sake of time, it seems we've grown content to condense our faith into bite size bits- manageable pieces we can access anywhere. We do it in church with our allotment of 20 minutes for songs, 20 for fellowship & 20 for a message. We do it in the car when we fill our commute with worship songs or prayer or bible teaching... We buy the Christian merchandise, we scrawl scripture onto index cards & stick them everywhere in an attempt to memorize them. It seems we're forever trying to fit God into our schedules. Noble indeed. But I wonder what it would be like to have a truly unbound faith, released from the confines of our isolated urban cloisters, released from our bite size devotions (even, perhaps, from the confines of this world's expectations)?

Black Light

I suppose I'm one of the few "christians" who cringes at the thought of the faith life being marketed as a "party!" or an "exciting adventure!"... Yes, I've heard that following Christ is a rush, a high, or the most outrageous thing one can do with their life... But you know, that doesn't exactly get me to my feet with both hands in the air. I don't know that I'll ever be the kind of christian who salivates at the thought of living faith's untold adventures. I don't know if I'll ever be the kind who shouts & means it, who dances & feels it deep in my gut... who practically explodes with the life of the risen Christ in me. Its not that I don't want these things for myself... the idea just scares the bejeebers out of me. Am I dead to me & alive to Christ? Clearly, no. And fear proves that. Its that a bad thing? I don't think so. That fear has become something of a black light that exposes things otherwise unseen. It reveals those unfortified places in me that render the structure of my faith unsound... But fear has also become something of an excuse for me & to live under the power of fear is bondage. I've been a captive audience for far too long & I'm handing over my black light, slowly... one finger at a time.

Holodeck

Its funny, but as I go through various studies & such, I find I don't feel closer to God, but further from Him! Its not the fault of the studies or the leaders. This is precisely what's meant to happen. The Word is a sword, dividing. Its meant to expose me, to lop something off, to dig something out. I have to "fess up" to some real obstacles that have been hindering my pursuit of Christ. I'm up against a wall here...

I suppose Christianity for me has been like a "holodeck" of sorts (not a Star Trek fan, but the example suits my purpose)... Everything I say or do is based on the program in the computer, but nothing is real. My obstacles are the four walls that encompass my self-generated faith life... I bump in to them from time to time when the program glitches. So I live in two worlds- the glitchy, "holodeck" of my "Christianity" & the emptiness of its arena... I don't remember programing battle sequences in... and I don't recall having a cache of weaponry to draw from, yet here's this guy wielding a sword & taking aim at me. He lunges, thrusting the sword just past me, into the wall. He's too close for comfort & it freaks me out a little. The program sparks & fizzles as He strikes again... Its God with His Sword, come to set me free from the perpetual looping of the program. He's come to give me a way out of my self generated faith life...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Misplaced

I misplaced "A Call To Die"... haven't touched it for a week. Its all very well & good actually, because I've been sick & haven't had the wherewithall to focus on much of anything except getting better. However, I'll have to face the consequences of lost momentum, lost time & the added burden to catch up.

Getting sick is a physical stop sign of sorts. The body needs time to fight & heal. So while its true there's momentum to be re-gained, time to be made (and yes, burdens to bear), even stop signs are part of the journey...

I found the book under some papers today. I had been cleaning & put everything off to the side in a pile. It lives there still, just as I left it a week ago. I got to thinking, when & how have I also "misplaced" my own call to to die to myself? And when I take up the call once again, don't I also face the consequence of lost momentum & time? Don't I feel the added burden to catch up, measure up, ante up?

Can one "misplace" their call to die? Well, yes, I think so. I've done it many times. I've set it aside because I'm tired, occupied otherwise or even physically sick. But misplacement isn't the issue so much as what I do when I realize its missing. Perhaps I should stop for a moment & regroup... Stop signs are part of this journey as well. And when it comes time to move on, I need to remember the yoke is easy & the burden is light. There is no catching up, measuring up, anteing up. Each day has its own beginning. Each day, Jesus calls me to die. He promises resurrection that I may be born again to new life... every single day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because I Am A Christian

Because I am a Christian... What do I do or think or say that sets me apart? What do I deny myself that I might otherwise allow? What am I missing out on? What do I gain because I'm a Christian? What's the point? What's the big deal? Should I hide away, blend in or stand out? Does God really need cheerleaders? Does He want slaves & soldiers instead? And if I'm adopted into His family, what does He need with another kid? What does that even mean? If I'm a Christian, who am I? Where am I going & how am I getting there? What can I bring with me? And what will I have to leave behind?

Because I am a Christian... what difference does it make?

Seeds or Breadcrumbs?

What are we leaving behind on the trail of life? Sow seeds instead of crumbs & the ones who follow will find fruit in your wake. Sow crumbs & they'll never know you were there...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ACTD: Day 15 Suffering

What are some of the reasons we suffer for following Christ?

I suffer for following Christ b/c I choose chastity. I suffer for following Christ b/c I choose a clear mind. I suffer for following Christ b/c I choose to occupy my time with other things instead of being consumed with the search for the perfect mate or the best things in life. These may not seem monumental, but sometimes they truly seem like suffering to me. Chastity is practically an archaic concept anymore... And who doesn't want to relax with friends & forget about the pressures of life? Who isn't consumed with the drive for a mate or really cool toys? These are things the world deems normal. If you're chaste, dry or otherwise occupied, something's gotta be wrong with you... but as a Christian, its part of the suffering. Its part of my suffering anyway. And I guess it seems petty & selfish to think that actually qualifies as suffering, when you compare it to the people being tortured & killed for their faith. But this is what I have to work with... for now.

So, practically speaking, I got to thinking what other ways a Christian might suffer... For holding back in wisdom, for extending a hand in kindness, for handing over what we have, for addressing God with respect, for being faithful, for the things we don't say, for speaking of our lack of faith in this world, for depending on Christ & relinquishing our lives to Him... How do we suffer for following Christ in this world of ours? I've been called names, had my pride hurt; some have even gotten mad at me... And while it may not qualify as hard core suffering, again, its what I have to work with... for now.

ACTD: Day 14 Poison

The crux of this entry is poison, our drive for it & the effects it has on us. I think of nicotine & how those addicted to cigarettes crave it every second of every day. They're slowly poisoning themselves & can expect lung cancer or emphysema or a myriad of other diseases to crop up over the years. There are people addicted to alcohol in copious amounts, who slowly poison their organs, not to mention the well being of their families. There are folks addicted to drugs & sex, poisoning their minds, their bodies, their lives & those around them.

Desperate people do desperate things. But why are we so desperate? What is it we're really after? I can think of a few things- we want peace within. We want escape from our responsibilities in life. We want to stop hurting inside. We want to feel good once in a while. Nicotine might calm, alcohol might provide that escape, drugs & sex might dull the pain or take us to new heights. But each is a counterfeit for the real peace, freedom & joy we're after. Each is a slow acting poison, gradually destroying us from the inside out. Its easier to run to the quick fixes. They're predictable, dependable. They deliver & we generally don't have to work very hard to get them. But the curse of the quick fix is one needs more to sustain the effect- more cigarettes, more booze, more drugs, more sex... until the poison kicks in.

If you're a Christian & you can say "That's not me!" Well good for you. But think about what kind of things you run to for a quick fix... What kinds of things do you do or say or listen to for peace of mind, for escape, to stop the pain, to feel happy? What's your substitute for God? What's your poison?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

ACTD: Day 13 Grace

Q: Cheap grace or costly grace. Which is honestly more attractive?

Cheap grace! Beyond a shadow of a doubt! I don't have to do a thing. Cheap grace has a one time charge with no interest & a lifetime of benefits. Payments are taken care of... no late fees to worry about. I'm a card carrying member of the "Kingdom", with diplomatic immunity in this life & the one to come. I'm covered! I can live my life as I choose, untouched by rules & obligations. Yee haw.

However... costly grace yields more. I have to discipline myself to make an investment in costly grace. How do I do that? And why would I want to when cheap grace is so easy, so accessible, so free? When I begin to grab hold of where this grace came from & how much it cost Christ, I begin to realize I don't deserve a drop of it. I start to understand that costly grace is a gift, not a birthright. Costly grace would not be owed to me even if I willingly gave my all for it. Yet costly grace demands my all, and gives me all things through Christ. "Taking the money & running" would only prove me a fool. Cheap grace is a scam, a ripoff that'll end up costing my life in the end anyway. God can't be mocked. I'll reap what I sow. And cheap grace won't yield the life that Christ paid for. So why not invest in quality grace? Costly grace. Whatever it costs me here can't possibly compare to what it cost Christ & what it'll be worth in the age to come... How do I invest in costly grace? Isn't it a free gift? Sure... but by laying down my life for it (as Christ laid His life down for me), by denying myself at all turns (as Christ denied Himself for me), by becoming a living offering of thanksgiving to God (just as Christ became the Living Sacrifice to make grace possible), I'm choosing to invest in that gift. And I will reap what I sow. The quality of grace God offers never changes. But its what we do with it- how we invest & sow it that will either change us or cheapen our relationship to Christ.

ACTD: Day 12 Laundry Day & Ginger Ale

Q: What might happen to someone who focuses only on getting rid of their sin without shifting their attention to the love & strength of God?

Well, practically, it'd result in unnecessary vulnerability. If I only focused on taking off my dirty clothes & neglected to replace them with clean ones, I would be exposed & embarrassed (should I decide to step out my front door). In the same way, if I don't shift my attention to the love & strength of God after removing a practice of sin, I am left vulnerable spiritually. I have no defense, no protection. It might take a while, but the exposure would eventually result in my spiritual death. I could put the dirty clothes of sin back on- at least it'd be something- but then what's the point?

I can also apply the question to the example of sickness. If I am sick with sin & manage to vomit it out, I need to replenish my strength. Do I engage in more sin? No. That's what made me sick in the first place. No, I take it easy. I drink clear liquids, I eat saltines for sustenance. Its a discipline. I might not feel like drinking or eating, but if I don't replenish, dehydration (& in extreme cases even starvation) sets in & death comes following after...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Glossing Over

I was reading my Bible in the car the other day & thought it sounded vaguely familiar. Turns out I had read the same 2 chapters earlier that morning in another version at home. I felt lame, realizing I had essentially glossed over the morning reading for whatever reason. It reminds me of the scripture in James 1:22-25 that talks about listening to the Word & not doing what it says... Its like looking in a mirror & forgetting what you look like. No wonder the "power of the Word" falls flat. If I can't even remember what I read, I can't do what it says.

James says "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does". Huh. How often I gloss over the Word, speed reading through familiar stories & verses, able to recall generalities in my mind, but not so much the deeper application that can actually change me. I'll pat myself on the back for cracking open my Bible, but it seems to take more time than I've been willing to offer to really let that Word sink in & grab hold...

To get an idea what that word "intently" actually means, I went digging for some synonyms... "The man who looks attentively, closely, fixedly, hard, keenly, searchingly, sharply, steadily, watchfully, adamantly, constantly, decisively, doggedly, obstinately, perseveringly, persistently, purposefully, resolutely, staunchly, steadfastly, strictly, stubbornly, tenaciously, through thick and thin, unchangeably, unwaveringly, into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it— he will be blessed in what he does".

That sounds like a lot more work than 15 minutes worth of reading in the morning. But if I listen to this particular scripture & actually do what it says, something's gotta give. Change will occur. Application is the line in the sand, dividing the religion of Christianity from a living relationship with Christ... am I brave enough to cross over?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ACTD: DAY 11 Bought

Q: What does it mean to be a slave of sin?

Sin is a ruthless master. It doesn't really care what I want, let alone what God wants. Sin demands I serve at its beck & call 24/7. As a slave, I'm obligated to its every whim. I'm subject to abuse & manipulation. It steals everything I've gained... I have no alibi, no representation. I have no way to defend myself. Sin is a liar, downplaying consequence. It twists God's Word. It says I can do whatever I want, that it'll be our secret. It pretends to be my friend, my lover, but betrays me at every turn. It stands in the way of all that is good, of all that God has for me. Sin litters my path with obstacles so I can't walk. I'm dependent on it to support me, to lead me. And it only leads me to death... Still, Sin has been my caretaker & despite all, I can't help but love it...

Q: How does realizing I have been bought change my perspective on God, myself, activities & desires?

I really don't think this concept has sunk in yet. Realizing I am purchased by God means I am launched into a whole new world... Sin is no longer my master? I've lived my whole life programmed to the whim of sin! What now? Its disorienting. Because I belong to God, I have to learn a new way of life, a new way of thinking. Everything I do, I suddenly do in God's name. I become His representative. I am now at His beck & call, 24/7. Everything I desire comes under His watchful eye, and even the secret things reflect on Him... He holds me to a standard. There is no abuse & manipulation, but I'm subject to consequence & discipline, designed to help me learn how to give Him my best. I find I'm compelled to live my life as a "thank you" to Him. And when my old master comes around to try & steal me away, God is my Defender. He rescues me from sin. He is my Light, He is my Helper. He leads me on straight paths & takes care of me. He loved me first... and my fledgling prayer is to love Him first as well...

ACTD: Day 10 *@#!

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 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... Philippians 3:7-8

Rubbish. Apparently the original meaning for that word is excrement. Crap. *@#!. You get the idea. One of the questions for today asks "How would your life be different if you genuinely believed the things the world values are "rubbish" & knowing Christ is the most valuable thing in the world?"

When I think of excrement, I don't want to see it, touch it, smell it. I don't want to experience it, period. When I do, its disgusting & I want to get away from it. If what the world values is as good as crap, and if I genuinely believed that, I think I wouldn't feel the need to compare myself, what I have or what I don't... I wouldn't feel the need to act a certain way, talk a certain way. Even though I'm generally quiet with simple tastes, I still struggle with the world's unspoken requirements to measure up. I think if I believed that what the world values is on the same level as excrement, I wouldn't give it a second thought. It simply wouldn't matter anymore. It would be downright disgusting to me. If I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ is the most valuable thing in the world, I just might give all I had to follow Him. I just might consider it a loss for His sake... Anything to be clean. Anything to be away from that *@#!. And I wish I could say I'm there now, but I'm not.

Lord, open my eyes to see... send forth Your Light & Your Truth, let them guide me... (Psalm 43:3)

ACTD: Day 9 Treasure

Q: What are some of the ways you can tell what a person values?

What do they talk about? What do they spend their time doing? How do they spend their money? What kind of people do they hang out with? When you walk into their house, what stands out? Do they say one thing but convey another?

I think my treasure has been in the vestiges of my wounded self... my past has always been so... present. For me, discovering Jesus as a treasure is like wiping away condensation from a window... and I'm able to see beyond myself a little more. I know there's something worthwhile on the other side of the glass... I feel that longing to break through to the other side. But I'm a little nervous about the idea, cuz its gonna hurt.

I know that when Christ becomes my treasure, my outlook on success, pleasure & approval will change. He will become the focal point- not me, not my past, not the wrongs done to me or the rights never done for me. He will be the reason I live, He will be the means by which I live. He will be my very great reward... but only when He becomes my treasure. And that hasn't quite happened yet. My current "treasure" still holds some appeal & I'm content to remain on this side of the glass. But Christ has caught my eye... or perhaps its the other way around?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

ACTD: Day 8 Castles & Captives

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

What does it mean to take our thoughts captive to Christ? I've always thought it should be easy to take a thought captive... I mean, it sounds relatively easy... You know, all you have to do is identify the thought, "arrest" it & submit it to the authority of Jesus. But an enemy doesn't just walk up to your door & say "Here I am!" And an enemy, once arrested, probably wouldn't just throw up his hands & say "Ok, you win, I'll do whatever you say." No, he would be shifty & most likely fight.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, Paul knew this & reminds us that yes, it is a fight... that weapons will come into play (Which frankly, for some reason, completely does NOT fit with my original vision of taking a thought captive. Probably why the process has never seemed to work incredibly well for me).

Paul seems to imply that we don't only go after the thought, we go after the whole kit & caboodle. We follow it back to its lair & wage full on war. We demolish strongholds, arguments & pretentions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God and we MAKE them obedient to Christ. That means I not only go into battle, I have to capture the stronghold & somehow make my new found P.O.W. thoughts submit to Christ. How can I do all that? Well, I have this sword. And not just any sword, but the Sword of (you guessed it) the Spirit. The Word. The Bible. Jesus gives us an idea of how to use it in Matthew 4 when He was being tempted by the devil. Paul tells us about the sword in Hebrews 4:12 & in Ephesians 6:10-18, he reminds us to put on our armour so we can be ready for battle. Truth, righteousness, readiness. Salvation, faith & the Word are what we have to protect us. Do we know how to use all this stuff effectively? Apparently I've been running into battles half cocked & willy nilly...

Here's an interesting article on ThinkQwest about how castles were attacked in the middle ages... Look for spiritual parallels! The ememy's game plan looks very familiar...
http://library.thinkquest.org/10949/fief/hisiege.html

Giving

My church is going through a DVD series by Andy Stanley called "Five Things God Uses To Grow Your Faith". This week we're up to personal disciplines & the ones he happens to hone in on are giving & prayer.

I'm fine with the prayer thing. Its already a well worn habit. But I have to admit, I'm still kind of stingy with my money. I grew up on the poor end & I've learned the value of working hard, paying my bills & setting something aside for a rainy day. I'm a single gal on my own & I'm determined not to repeat the same mistakes my parents made. However, I'm well aware that giving is something God calls me to do.

So today I was debating how much 10% (the traditional tithing amount) was. 10% for me translates to 4 tanks of gas or 3 "stock up on all your staples" kinds of trips to the grocery store. It covers 2 credit card payments or a visit to the doctor & a prescription... When I think of 10%, I instantly think of the loss & what I'll have to do to cover that gap.

Our pastor reminded us today that God doesn't need our money. Money isn't even the issue- its our faith at stake, not our finances. Today as I debated 10%, I felt very angry with myself- why couldn't I just let go & write the stupid check? I was afraid. How would the money be spent? And would I have a big enough cushion to fall back on at the end of the month or in case of emergency? So God offered me a scripture, 1 John 4:18. Its the one that talks about there being no fear in love & how perfect love drives out fear... I think He's saying that taking a step toward trusting Him (by tithing) is a step toward perfecting my love for Him. And the more I trust Him, the more that fear is driven out... And the more that fear is driven out, the more my love is perfected for Him... and on & on.

Friday, February 5, 2010

ACTD: Day 7 Know the Language

Question: Can a person walk with God & not know God's Word? Why or why not? My answer is no. We know God's word as a book full of history, personal stories literal (& not so literal)... We know it as a book of moral standards, laws & religious beliefs. But John 1:14 says that "the Word became flesh & made His dwelling among us... " This Word, John says, is Jesus. Can a person walk with God & not know Jesus? Jesus is the only reason we can even approach God. He is the Mediator, the Way & Means to God... He is God's own Language of Love sent to us in flesh.

Its said the best way to learn a new language is by immersion, walking among the people, doing everyday things. You learn by trial & error, but you learn. So it seems with God's Word. If we claim to walk with God & don't know His Language, how can we communicate? How can we begin to understand what He's saying to us? Sitting in a church or a Sunday school can only teach us about the Word- but It is alive & learned most effectively by doing- by living it out through our everyday lives... Its a Language we must learn little by little, like when we learned to communicate as children... God means for us to know It & live by It so we can know Him & walk with Him. If we know Jesus, we know the Father...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

ACTD: Day 6 Zeal

My last post on maps was inspired by an acronym David Nasser used: "M.A.P", which stands for Mystery, Adventure & Passion. "The Spirit's work is a MYSTERY, our walk then becomes an ADVENTURE & seeing Him at work deepens our PASSION for Jesus."

In this chapter, Nasser touches on zeal & how sometimes it can get us into trouble. Rather than listen to the Holy Spirit, we often want to chisel out "codes of don'ts" to live by. If we do well, we get puffed up with pride, start criticizing other people & assert our "superior spirituality", to our detriment... Me? Guilty as charged.

Like the scene in John 4 ( the woman at the well), perhaps Jesus has been waiting for us to come by... Maybe He wants to share a drink with us, but we're too busy wondering what He's doing talking to some skanky Samaritan woman. He's seen us walking by... thirsty as all get out. Maybe He's wondering why we don't come over & join the conversation...

Does my zeal keep me from Christ's Living Water? Is my faith one of rules or relationship? Am I experiencing mystery, adventure & passion for Jesus? Are you?

One of the application questions asks: Is it easier to follow rules or follow Christ? My answer hands down is rules b/c they're often black & white. There's no need for questions & I don't need to know the person who wrote them. But if I follow Christ, I absolutely need to get to know Him in relationship. That takes time. Its not cut & dry, which leaves room for doubt, mistakes & any number of variables one doesn't have with rules. Rules feel safe. Christ does not.
Nevertheless, I choose Christ...

Directionally Challenged


Nova totivs terrarvm
orbis geographica ac
hydrographica tabvla

"A new complete map
of the geography of the earth and oceans"
Henricus Hondius (1597 - 1651)

As human beings have been able to take to the sky & space, maps have evolved in grand detail. We've been able to cover more ground & develop new technology. Our understanding of the world has changed dramatically. The cartographers of old didn't have the tools we have to create accurate renderings. When one recalls that they were earthbound & had only the sun, moon & stars, or things like sextons & handbreaths to work with, its amazing to see what they accomplished.

I've always had a natural inclination toward maps. I guess they give me a sense of hope. Look at how the maps of antiquity have changed over time: coastlines have become more defined, names of cities, rivers & countries have new & improved identities thanks to whim, war or disaster... Even ideas about the earth's shape & place in the cosmos has changed.

An old map in particular challenges me to strain beyond how someone saw the world centuries ago... how someone saw me 20 years ago... An old map challenges me to grab hold of the present in preparation for the change to come.

Monday, February 1, 2010

ACTD: Day 5 Disobedience

Its time for another paragraph.
Today’s topic: When I choose to disobey, I break God’s heart.

I don't believe disobedience by "mistake" is quite the same as making a deliberate, premeditated choice to sin. Sometimes gossip can be a kicker for me at work- I'll find myself caught up in some conversation & without thinking, I'll throw another log on the fire... Sometimes I get angry & the encyclopedia of profanity spills out of me... In no time at all, the Holy Spirit is right there to convict me & I repent. Sometimes. But when I choose not to align myself to God’s will for my life- whether it be in word or deed, big things or small, when I choose to make an excuse to save my hide, what does that say? Am I conveying love & respect? Not at all. I’m essentially saying I know better, His way isn’t good enough for me & I’ll trust my own instinct before I give Him the time of day, thank you very much. Somehow I forget this is God- the One Whom I claim to be pursuing an intimate relationship with. I gloss over the fact that this is God, the One I claim to long for... the One I'm "committed & submitted" to (ok, lame, & I don't actually say that, but you get the idea). When I deliberately make excuses & choose to disobey, I'm essentially spitting in His face, kicking Him in the shins, giving Him the finger & turning my back to show Him the full moon. Of course it breaks His heart. And it breaks mine too, albeit after the fact. But thank You God, that you know me better than I know myself, that you are patient & wise & above all, forgiving. Please don't let me take Your grace for granted...

ACTD: Day 4 Eternity

Application Question:
Does the thought of a “video” of your life at the judgement seat of Christ make you feel excited or anxious?

This concept of a “video” reminds me of an old black & white Chick tract called “This Was Your Life”... There’s a guy being led around heaven by an angel & at one point, he’s standing naked in front of a giant movie screen watching all the horrible things of his life play out... He watches & the world watches with him.
I have to admit I’ve always wanted to scoff at the idea of God having a giant jumbotron in heaven... But by whatever medium He chooses to employ, the idea makes me feel very anxious... makes me want to cringe. I can’t change my past or the decisions I’ve made or have failed to make. But this one thing I can do: from this moment on, when I lay down my pen & take up my cross, its no longer I, but God who writes, directs & produces... I wonder if the “movie” will be anything like the book? Afterall, Psalm 139:16 says that all the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be...


Application Question:
Do the rewards for following Christ seem fair?

Truly, I have no workable concept of eternity... I can safely say I don’t care about living in a mansion or getting a crown or walking on streets made of gold. I don’t even think I care about living forever. But yes, I suppose these rewards seem more than fair. The greatest reward for me would be presence. To be able to reside in the presence of God without fear or shame, to be able to find comfort in His strength & kindness seems enough of a reward. Just let me up onto His knee & let me hear His heart with my own ear. Let me feel His hands on my face, see His eyes with my own eyes... Let me hear & understand, let me see & finally believe... But until that day, Lord, help my unbelief!