Friday, June 25, 2010

Adversity

Do I want to be a worshipper? Do I want to love God wholeheartedly? Do I want to be a true disciple & follow Christ? Yes, this is my prayer, but my life often doesn't reflect such desires.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Romans 7:21-23 NLT

Adversity will be my teacher... It will teach me how to worship God. It will teach me how to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, body & strength. Adversity will teach me what it means to be a true disciple & to follow hard after Christ at all costs. It will teach me who He is & who I'm not. Adversity is the staff in the hand of the Good Shepherd. He uses it to correct me & keep me close. So often I rage against it. Yet all the while, it could be that adversity is the very answer to my prayer.

“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the Lord. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. ...You will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, He will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:1,18-21 NLT

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Creativity

Today I decided to clean my house after a semi momentous weekend of creativity... For you creative types out there, perhaps you know this process. You can be found hunched over your computer keyboard, musical instrument (or other prospect) for hours, rising only to fill your coffee cup, eat or relieve yourself. You're concentrating & you'll do whatever it takes to foster the environment for creativity to breathe. Time seems to melt away- hours pass with barely a blink. You've lost yourself again & it feels good because you're doing what you love.

I made myself get in the car & wander on Saturday, just to clear my head. Sunday was church in the morning, Bible study at night. These provided much needed distractions. When I get into this "mode", its sometimes difficult to break free until the project is finished. I'm bound to its whim, but I'm doing what I love. I try & tell myself that makes it ok, but it doesn't. I felt convicted- while being creative isn't a sin in itself, sometimes it edges God out & becomes my master. It was a struggle to put the guitar back on its stand & open my Bible instead. It was difficult to make myself shower & get dressed, get in the car & wander when all I could think about was how to finish the project...

Creativity is high maintainence. While I love it when it shows up, I don't think I would be able to sustain a daily relationship with it. It takes so much time & energy! It demands my complete attention, all my emotions & thought processes... It demands my past & present, even my hopes for the future. It challenges me to do something new each time... to say something more, to be something different. Creativity is ever evolving & requires me to change with it. But if I had to encounter this every single day of my life, I would probably crumble under all the pressure...

Creativity is a gift. Yet as with any gift God gives, its important to remember the gift can be abused- the love of it, the pursuit of what it can give can cause us to forget the Giver, the true Master of our souls... distraction sometimes wakes us up, helps us remember, helps us break free.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Harry

Harry lost his job today. We all felt it in the air, wondering what the final verdict would be. He'd been with the company 20 + years. He's an older guy- early 50's, scruffy & eccentric. He favored dirty jokes, conversations about politics & more often than not, conversations about nothing at all. Sometimes I think the man just liked to hear himself talk. Or maybe he was lonely. He talked to EVERYONE. Personal space was a foreign concept to Harry, as was personal hygiene. He wandered & chatted more than he worked & he routinely ticked mgnt off. Hes been this way for years. Why can him now? Because now, we're on the cusp of streamlining the business. We're growing & moving to a new building this summer. The folks who don't contribute to the workflow are being weeded out. He had been a fixture in the workplace all these years... with a "personality" that will definitely be missed. One gal was angry at the news- she argued that he had been with the company all that time & this is how they treated him... Another gal was ecstatic & the majority shared her joy.

Of course you must know there's a spiritual application coming here! When we stand before God, some people are going to be like Harry- maybe they put in their time as a Christian, & maybe they (& those around them) will think its enough to save them, but its not. Maybe they showed up everyday & did the bare minimum to get by, but that was about it. Maybe they hindered others from doing their job as well. As the scripture says, "You reap what you sow". Years of service are chaff if our heart isn't right. And how do we know if our heart is right or not? We'll not only do the work, but we'll strive to do it better. We'll grow & change & weed out the things that hinder us. Do the work & God will see to the rest.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Smallest One

John 11:35 is perhaps the most beloved verse among students of scripture memorization. Why? Its the smallest one. "Jesus wept" is all it says.

This verse rests in the middle of the well known story about Lazarus & his two sisters, Mary & Martha. It starts off in Chapter 11, verse 1. We discover straightaway that Lazarus was ill, he lived in Bethany & he had two sisters. We also know Jesus must've had more than a passing friendship with these people because his sisters sent word to Jesus saying "The one You love is sick" (11:3). Again in 11:5, we're told plainly that Jesus loved Martha & her sister & Lazarus. However, Jesus' response to the news was strange. He didn't pick up & leave right away- instead, He stayed right where He was. I have to wonder, was it hard for Him at all, knowing His dear friend was sick? Or did He have peace because He knew Lazarus would rise from the dead at His command? He seemed to imply whatever transpired had already been planned for God's glory (11:4).

We don't know how long it took for Jesus to get to Bethany, but Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days already. Imagine how his sisters reacted when they saw Jesus- perhaps they bore the burden of inconsolable despiar- if only Jesus had come sooner! Martha said this very thing to Jesus in 11:25- "If You had been here, my brother would not have died." But she also said "I know that EVEN NOW God will give You whatever You ask". She had to have some faith to be able to say that.

Mary came along a short time later, falling at Jesus' feet & repeating the lament of Martha, "If you had been here..." She was weeping & a crowd of mourners had followed her. Its at this point we see Jesus breaking down. He weeps too when they show Him where Lazarus was laid. Why would Jesus weep if He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead? Why would He weep if He knew this miracle would bring God glory? Jesus wept because He saw the pain of Mary, of the people nearby. This man Lazarus was His friend. And these were the people who knew Lazarus & loved him too. Yes, Jesus was going to perform a miracle. Yes, God would be glorified. Yes, people would become disciples because of this & yes, Lazarus would come out of that tomb & live a full life. But it seems Jesus was trying to tell us that the moment mattered- the pain of loss, the pain of watching people suffer was just as important to Him as the eternal things that were about to take place.

I guess I was just struck with the thought that I don't have to be stoic & try to negate my "pain"- I don't have to try & sugar coat my trials with spirituality... Jesus has the timing all worked out. He cares & wants to see where I've laid my "Lazarus". He wants me to know He's with me, He knows what I'm experiencing & He feels for me, with me... But He also wants to wipe away my tears, roll away the stone & say- "Lazarus! Come out!"