Wednesday, October 21, 2009
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (New International Version)
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Courage, or the need for it presumes fear. What then are we afraid of? And what is the effect of fear?
For me, i have a deep seated fear of failure. I flunked a lot in High School, and flunked out of my 1st 2 years of college. There are also a host of other failures all that seem to bundle together and whisper "you are failing" in your ministry, family, personal life, etc. Most of the time i can keep these "demons" at bay; but if you add enough exhaustion and pressure to the mix they are quickly at my throat.
When this happens i slip into paralysis and survival mode. I go through the motions, watch tv, and allow a slow and deadly creep of depression to wash over me. I start to believe i am a failure and no longer have the energy or motivation to try and fight again. Hope and joy look like a mirage and it is here that i find myself check-mated by fear.
in my story, there is where Christ steps unto the stage of my life over and over again to rescue me. When i am a little black sheep curled up in a fetal position of fear i am usually a long way from Christ. I never mean for this to happen, i just get too busy, too overwhelmed, and i even view pressure as coming from Him. Pressure to be moral, a good example, etc. Then, time slips through my hands and Bible study fades, prayer becomes perfunctory, worship stale, and in general i neglect my relationship with God to the point of apathy and avoidance. But HE doesn't! He waits patiently for me to run out of gas, for the pressure to become too much, for the emptiness to become overwhelming, and for the loneliness of my soul to finally provoke my awakening. And then finally I call out for rescue.
And then the good shepherd comes. I may being laying in the frozen rain, trapped in some thornbush but i can see his lantern as he slowly comes towards me. Sometimes i want to hide, but mostly i feel hope and expectation. I practice my apology [as the prodigal son did] but when His intimacy gets close i start to hear his voice and remember how foolish this is. And when i see his broad and loving smile-and he lifts me up with his warm hands and carries me on his strong back-i just cry and cry and cry. His presence alone brings back those three things listed in the scripture above. His presence brings encouragement and the light of his love, his perfect love, casts off the darkness of fear. And hope returns, good hope-not my hopes for success and meaning-but his hopes for love, compassion, grace, mercy, and renewal. And when He is close I again start to feel strong. Not 'my' strength, but his strength being renewed in me.
And this is where i find myself today. After about 8 weeks of woundedness. The news of my mothers cancer had just overwhelmed me in the midst of so many other pressures. For 8 weeks i slowly dissolved inside and fell into paralysis, fear, stagnation, and depression. Not that i couldn't function but i wasn't functioning in His strength, His encouragement, and His hope. But today i can feel Him carrying me again. I feel His presence healing and awakening me. His strength is pouring into me as our relationship has become "real" again and not just theoretical.
But this relationship is always 2 sided. And i must stay with Him. I must stay dependant upon Him. And I must guard my busyness and make time for Him and take my pressures and pains to Him.
May you too....be rescued....be renewed...be strengthened...be given good hope...and be encouraged. By the One who gives these good gifts to His children and friends. And who rescues us...over...and...over again
Monday, October 5, 2009
Every Christian finds themselves on the threshold of deep passion from time to time. This passions is a seed of transformation that the Holy Spirit has often planted with a desire for change. We sense fully that something is very wrong, or something should really be made right; and at this place there are some deep choices that must be made or all will be lost.
pardon this adjust to scripture: from Matt 13
When anyone feels deep passionate conviction about the kingdom, Church, or Christ and does not integrate it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. It is trampled down because it is just a concept, mere idealism, wishful and noble thoughts. It must grow by becoming real in the person, then it can't be trampled on the path. In fact the path will have to work around this person because the idea has become so real, so big, and is producing so much fruit that it is unavoidable and unalterable. These are the intellectuals.
The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. This is the idealist who wants his passion without the pain of crucifying their flesh. They want a great marriage, or to worship deeply, or authentic community, or serving the poor...but don't want and are not willing to pay the price to actually do something about it. They talk big about it for a while, but it fades as their hypocrisy slowly drains adrenaline and they finally accept defeat from their lack of disciplines, sustainable actions. These are the emotionalists.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. These people hear the word, understand its implications and feel its need to be acted upon. But they are master craftsmen of excuses. They have rationalizations and excuses for everything they do and don't do. They are perpetual martyrs, whiners, complainers, and act defeated and doomed about everything. For them Christianity is a hope that can never actually be embraced. These are the compromisers.
The one who received the seed and showed it to everyone but never planted it in the ground and watered and pruned it is the braggart. These are the prophetic idealists who tell everyone what they should be doing but never do anything themselves. They accuse the Church but never transform the church by their example. The blow trumpets, write blogs, have passionate debates, and in general annoy people with things others should do but they don't do. These are the idealists.
the problem you see is two things. 1 the kind of soil you have [attitude, actions, etc] and 2 the kind of discipline you employ.
frankly it is easy to be idealistic, because it costs you nothing. It is fun to be prophetic, critical, and cynical in smug and self righteous and condescending ways. But to actually be an example and to allow that example to transform others is hard and patient work. It takes character and consistency. and who wants that?
thus we end up with two insufferable people:
1. the person who does nothing [for a variety of reasons] but annoys people with what THEY should be doing [even though they themselves don't]
2. the person who does something and slips into self-righteous, unbalanced, abrasive, condemning, legalistic, accusatory, and prideful wickedness [in the midst of doing something good]
what we need instead is a transition that looks like this:
a. feel conviction
b. look up what God's word says
c. pray about how God wants you to implement this in your life
d. implement it secretly
e. grow character and wisdom in this through consistency
f. invite others to join you
g. help them...others...the church...and the kingdom be transformed by your example
h. kill any self-righteousness, condemnation, or pride that as a weed grows alongside this good seed
i. maintain a humble, servant spirit
j. repeat with the next conviction and learn to balance these convictions with the whole of your life being ever more conformed to the image of Christ.
remember...the problem is never OUT THERE [in accusing others] it is always IN HERE [and in what you should be doing]
THUS the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
do you want godly fruit to come from your passions...then look at this backwards
fruit will show up in big ways
but first it shows up in small ways
it's in you 1st, before it can be planted in others
it needs to actually be produced before fruit or anything else is possible
you must understand it and its implications
so wherever and whoever you are as a christian
PUT up, or shut UP [and candidly when you do PUT up...shut up anyways and be a servant example of Christlikeness]
nobody follows a critic, and critics never create revolutions, and critics live in crowds but die alone.
prophets can gather a crowd, but if you don't do anything it won't last long.
to know and not to do is to not know.
seeds don't win ribbons at the fair, fruit does.
talk is cheap, but actions are expensive
leaders earn the right to be heard through actions not rhetoric.
most transformation happens through example and encouragement...not theory and condemnation
that you want to see OUT THERE, must happen IN HERE 1st. we must BE the change we wish to see in the church.