A Treasure Beyond Measure 2

magic-wand(Originally published July 9, 2013)

Submitting myself to the Lord, giving over control to Him has always been a constant struggle for me.  A few years ago, I came across an intriguing way of looking at this in the book “The Steward Leader, ” by R. Scott Rodin.

Explained Rodin, the kingdom of God has come in the work of Christ that should in turn be evidenced in the lives of believers. Ideally, believers wholeheartedly agree that all creation belongs to God.  When our lives reflect this, “the world around us is given a glimpse of the fact that all things are indeed in subjection to Christ.” (pg 51)

But we have this struggle, this tension. Despite our desire to be totally and solely committed to Jesus Christ and to give everything to him, we hold back parts of our lives from God.  As we do, we build a second kingdom.

He shared about a message he offered in which he used a wooden box to hide what he claimed to be a treasure beyond all imaginable value.  He said, “in that box was the one item that kings and presidents go to war over, that wealthy and powerful people spend their entire lives pursuing, and that every person in church that morning would give everything they owned to possess, if even for just a moment.”

He turned his back to the congregation, opened the box and revealed the highly coveted item–a magician’s wand.

“But this was no ordinary wand.  This one magical device had the power to give to its bearer complete control over any and every area of his/her life.  With it a person could control health and finances, manipulate the stock market, change the outcome of sporting events and determine the weather.  The bearer could alter the behavior of others, smite his or her enemies, even the score for all the injustices in life and make things right where he or she has been wronged.  The one who used the wand could get a better job, improve the behavior of his or her spouse and kids, buy a bigger house and take a vacation anywhere in the world,” Rodin explained.

“The wand represented the control we so long to have over our life.  It is the desire for power, for the ability to shape things so they come out our way, to be the lord of our lives and the people and things that comprise it.  We believe that if we just has more control, our life would be better, we could make things come out the way we want and guide our own destiny,” he added.

Do you see where he is going with this idea of second-kingdom building?

“It is less about our stuff than about our hearts, but it is about our stuff as well.  It is the struggle between God’s kingdom and a counterfeit earthly kingdom we want to label as “ours.”  It is ultimately about lordship.” (pg 53)

Think about that for a moment – a magic wand that could do anything you could imagine.  I had no problem coming up with things I would use the wand for to cause life to happen my way.

But here’s what Jesus challenges we do instead of waving a wand – to pray and hand over our desire for control to God.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7, NLT)

Notice how Jesus’ challenge does something to the desires relinquished to God?  Instead of worrying about desires, they become a form of prayer.  Instead of desires burdening us, we are thankful for them.  Instead of satisfying desires, we receive a peace that exceeds anything we can understand that will also guard our hearts and minds.

Sounds pretty awesome even if the formula seems odd, right? God’s answer is to trust him to not only make the math work but to be with us in the midst of it.

“…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5: 3-4)

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No shortcuts

No-ShortcutDuring vacation, I resolved to carry some of that relaxed, vacation-induced mode into our “life as usual”  back home.  But the frenetic pace was waiting and I didn’t seem to miss a beat jumping right back into it.

Despite good intentions, I so often fail to carry through on even the easiest actions to move forward. As my slippage occurs to me, anxiety creeps in and with it a foothold for “you know who” to get between me and the Lord.

Having good company in frustration and brokenness shouldn’t be comforting but St. Paul’s transparency regarding his own deficiencies offers some context and direction.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, ESV)

A few sentences later, Paul answers his own “Why?” question with, no surprise, “Jesus Christ.”

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 24-25a, ESV).

Jesus Christ is the answer.  Ever heard that one before?

Several years later, Paul’s letter to the Philippians reflects a man whose experiences and especially his trials shapes how he learned to live “through Jesus Christ.” Suggests Paul, the disposition of such a person might look something like this:

1)  A gentle demeanor

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV-2011)

Gentle, reserved, cautious to criticize.  Paul notes that such a person is given to rejoicing in the Lord.  Imagine that?

2)  Calm in the midst of tribulation

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV-2011)

If the remedy for anxiety is prayer, makes sense that having an anxious state indicates insufficient prayer grounding. Also notice the “with thankfulness” qualifier Paul adds.

3)  Drawing from lessons learned while also managing to uncover legitimate “silver linings” in even the worst situations.  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV-2011)

Even if troubles seem to continue with no end in sight, peacefulness is evidence of God’s presence.  Put another way, if you wonder if God is near in times of trouble, look for peaceful believers in the vicinity.

4)  Steady as life’s storms rage

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11b-13, NIV-2011)

Here Paul sites his own experiences as platforms for learning how to be content through strength given by God in various circumstances he encountered.

Learned over time – Through trials – No shortcuts.

Paul knew from the onset he would suffer much for the Lord’s name (see Acts 9:16) so we can all be assured that trials will come our way as well.  When they do, God intends we bring those trials to him – and keep doing so.

When we do, God’s “transcending peace” guards our hearts and minds while the “God of peace” is with us.  Sounds renewing, doesn’t it?

 

 

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Pouring ourselves into life, work…

Image source: see notes

Image source: see notes

I must develop a different way to depict my various separations from work.  Trying to explain the nuances of each situation sounds more like excuses.

What I would like to say, “I was pouring myself into the job when I was unexpectedly separated from it due to someone else’s decision, not mine.”

Although true from my standpoint, the work world doesn’t see people pouring into their work as what work is really about.   Rather, work is about productivity, results, outcomes and longevity.

Separations are particularly problematic especially unexpected ones.  “Wise” workers are supposed to see those coming.  (I actually suspected a few of them but was helpless to head them off.)

Standing in stark contrast is Paul’s depiction of how to approach the “work” of living in Christ. Note how the New Living Translation (NLT) actually uses the word “results” in Paul’s instruction.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2: 12-13, NLT)

Ever thought about obeying God as a RESULT?. Furthermore, the desire to obey “with deep reverence and fear” is due not to our effort but to God working in us, giving us the desire and the power to obey accordingly.

Paul then follows with a few ideas about how we work at life in this manner – “ without complaining and arguing… (living) clean, innocent lives … (as) bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people… (and holding) firmly to the word…” (see Philippians 2: 14-16, NLT).

Lest you think that working this way assures producing the kinds of results that will give us standing in (say) our American workplaces, hold on for what Paul says next on this.

“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.”  (Philippians 2: 17)

Wait a minute, I could lose my life while I am faithfully pouring myself out like a liquid offering? Furthermore, if I do lose my life, Paul not only wants me to rejoice in that but share my joy with others?

Not a typo.  Shockingly, loss of life and surely loss of job is indeed possible.  With the Lord, the pouring is the result, as well as how we pour ourselves out – with no other result in mind except obedience to God.

Besides me and others you know who have suffered employment termination, does anyone else come to mind whose work was unexpectedly lost as they were pouring themselves out?*

Oswald Chambers wrote, “We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.” Rather, “What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.” (My Utmost for His Highest for July 28)

For believers, the pouring is the outcome vs. any benefit, status, increase, profit or visual bobble associated with the pouring that is all the work world looks at or cares about.

I don’t expect people who don’t follow Christ to “work out” life God’s way but Christians too often default to the world’s lingo and approach as well.  Fellow Christians, when does our default change from using “typical” success measures in conversations about our work, investments, diet, fitness, family, etc. when God’s “results” are THAT we simply pour ourselves into our work, giving, parenting, day-to-day duties, etc. “ without complaining and arguing… (living) clean, innocent lives… (as) bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people… (and holding) firmly to the word…?”

As one who has repeatedly experienced “pouring interruptions,” I’m very grateful for Christians who believe it me and who get it.  You refresh me.

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Image source: http://www.hipsterscripture.com/post/42350590431/are-you-ready-to-be-poured-out-as-an-offering

*Pouring interrupted – How about Jesus, Paul and all the apostles except John, every martyr, many (Catholic) saints and people we think died “too young?”

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We be gone (Us being obedient)

Pseudo camping with KOA*

Pseudo camping with KOA

As you read this, I’m away on “holiday” with my best friend, companion, wife, lover.  We planned this a while ago but reconsidered when a recent “life glitch” occurred.  Should we, could we indulge ourselves with this little luxury?

We gave that about two minutes before deciding that our latest development gave us more reason for a holiday, not less. So here was are, not only away but very intentionally without as much of our day-to-day baggage as we could responsibly leave behind.

I call this pseudo-camping.  The pseudo part regards our KOA “camping cabin” dwelling that I liken to a log tent along with real beds, two plugs, an outside water spigot and a covered porch with a two-person swing.

While far from backpacking in the wilderness, it’s still a significant departure from our busy, loud, connected, suburban life and many of the distractions associated with our life and stuff.  Nothing fancy but comfortable, a little vacation, a holiday, a Sabbath.  Just us two.

These getaways satisfy a mutual love we have for being outdoors in nature, a favorite setting for hiking, reading, sightseeing, such “spiritual” activities as devotions, journaling, and thinking and, my personal favorite, standing still staring and absorbing a setting like water, woods, a mountain…

Holiday favorite - watching something like this

Vacation favorite – absorbing something like this

Resting our brains, reconnecting with ourselves and each other, opening to Who’s in charge of this great adventure called life…

I am reminded of a particularly busy moment in Jesus’ ministry when so many people were coming and going that he and his disciples did not even have a chance to eat.  “‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” Jesus urged his disciples.”So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)

As active as Jesus’ ministry was, his story was marked with many notable instances of getting away to quiet places to rest and pray. ( See Luke 5:16)

Leading by example, he invites us to not only do the same but to unburden ourselves to

him.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30, NASB)

Mark this and let it be noted for the record – us being obedient!


* KOA is “Kampgrounds Of America”

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Truth test?

Image: see notes

Image: see notes

Heard a truth test the other day that I’d like to try on you.

“If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”

Jen Hatmaker said that during a Focus on the Family interview about her 2015 book “For the Love – Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.”  Hatmaker is a mom of five, pastor’s wife, speaker and author.

My wife Cindy read “For the Love…” along with our church’s women’s ministry earlier this year.  She shared excerpts with me during her reading. I would typify Hatmaker’s views as straightforward, even blunt, views of the gospel with a harried mom humorist twist – poignant, thoughtful and funny.

She explained that she grew up with this “American God” context who “deeply favored me and mine, certainly our country, very concerned about my advantages, safety, comfort, security… “

Then some changes in her life presented opportunities to travel and “everything got weird” she says in the book.  She discovered the rest of the world – different Christian traditions, different people, poverty…  “Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating…Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context…(and) that is problematic.”

So she devised her Haitian mom biblical benchmark to use for hard questions about what she will or will not ascribe to God – the shoulds, should nots, will and will nots –

“If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”

For example, she wrote, “If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians … everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor..“Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere,” she reasons.

This benchmark “sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket… (and) lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think (especially when) my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream…. Because of the Haitian single mom, maybe I should speak less for God.”

Try plugging “prosperity” into a Bible app like http://www.openbible.info/topics/.  My search turned up over 100 verses in the ESV, including “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 19)

Considering this or any such verse alongside Hatmaker’s “Haitian single mom” benchmark shifts the focus from me to God, doesn’t it?  Riches that flow from “glory in Christ Jesus” need no additional qualifiers, criteria or conditions to be met.  Nor can I or anyone help the promise along in order for it to be true.  Freed from any such constraints opens us to recognize and receive God’s promises however He chooses to deliver them to me/us.

Does this remind you how Jesus answered the Pharisee’s question about the most important commandment?

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)

When all contexts start with God, all our questions are answered and needs met in the best possible way for everyone across the board – as true for the single Christian mom in Haiti as the married Christian man in Michigan.

“They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” (Proverbs 36:8, ESV)

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I drew Hatmaker quotes from her Focus on the Family interview on July 19, 2016: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast/letting-go-of-perfection-and-accepting-gods-grace-pt2 (part 1 was July 18) and her book, “For the Love – Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.”

Image source: http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TruthMeter21.jpg

 

 

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Be still and know

My "be still" view - clutter in foreground and two tall pines in back center

My “be still” view – clutter in foreground and two tall pines in back center

“Be still and know” are the opening words of Psalm 46:10.  Such a serene beginning for how the verse ends: “that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I added the bold to highlight EXALTED, exclamation point!

Stillness seems out of place alongside exaltation which is anything but still.  Would not exaltation surge more fully from a stronger beginning, something like, “Legions of armies roar as one voice to proclaim that God is exalted among nations and in the earth!” … ?

Yet there it is, ostensibly a direct thought-dump from God to the psalmist.  “Be still and know…”

God’s exaltation is in no way dependent on the nations or the earth, both created by Him. Perhaps the “Be still and know” part is more a courtesy to offer us a chance to pause in order to fully appreciate the awesome specter of our loving God?

Those statements at the end of the verse are, after all, imperatives. God WILL be exalted among nations.  God WILL be exalted in the the earth.

Reminds me of what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians about Jesus:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 9-10, ESV; Also see Romans 14:11)

Pretty hard to kneel when barrelling along at full speed ahead.  Likewise, God’s exaltation is a spectator sport that requires pausing, becoming still enough to observe, absorb, appreciate God’s awesomeness and majesty.

I have a “Be still and know” ritual each morning and a certain place set aside for it – near a window looking into our yard that backs up to our neighbors’ yards that borders a roadway that runs parallel to a nearby highway.

Even writing that feels cluttery and noisy.   All of our yards feature plants, trees and bushes but the din from the nearby road and highway is pretty pronounced during the morning and evening rush hours.

As I glanced into our yard this morning, a couple of tall pine trees in my neighbor’s yard caught my eye.  Tall, full pine trees that would so wonderfully border a farm field or meadow or fit unnoticed into densely treed woods or a forest seems out of place here in our cluttery neighborhood.  These two tall pines tower over other pines nearby that have been topped due to overhead wires or trimmed or hemmed in to accommodate our various structures and paved-over surfaces.

Like I long to be truly still this morning to draw near to God and be soothed from recent disappointments, I wonder if these tall pines also long to be released from the density that we humans force them into?   But alas, we must live the life we have.

Today these trees and me, unnoticed by everyone rushing mindlessly by, sort of have each other.  Noticing them has helped me find and hold for the stillness to settle until God’s exaltation becomes front and center.

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Unfriended! (but loved?)

turkey-facebook

Photo source: http://www.triathlonmami.com/the-meaning-behind-a-facebook-unfriend/

Recently, a Christian brother noted that the Facebook posts of some Christians he knows seem “unbecoming of the family of God.”  His concern prompted discussion about whether it’s O.K. for a Christian’s social media persona to be different from who he/she really is.

Also recently, a longtime friend emailed me to let me know he unfriended me on Facebook.  Questioning my motives about and handling of a particular matter mutual to us, he ended with, “In any case, Glenn….I love you and nothing will ever change that….we just won’t be friends on Facebook.”

As if his love declaration smoothed over unfriending me. So I’m worthy of love but not of Facebook friendship?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines love as “an intense affection for another person based on familial or personal ties” and a friend as “a person who you like and enjoy being with.”

Notice the emotional and rational qualifiers in both definitions – intense affection, based on, familial, personal, like, and enjoy.  We love and like others who satisfy conditions we set and who reciprocate the feelings we hold for them.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Not with God.  God’s brand of love does NOT make perfect sense.

The apostle John wrote in his first letter, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16, ESV)

Along that line, author Miles McPherson* suggests that “To love somebody is to be committed to helping them obey God.”

How is loving somebody and obeying God related?  Matthew’s gospel records Jesus saying this about love:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-47, also see verses 35-42, ESV)

Where does Jesus get off claiming that loving like this is how God’s family loves and that this kind of love is perfect love? Unless of course Jesus really is God and, by association, also love.

(Note also the two phrases in the passage that I bolded.  Love like this touches others but, more importantly, draws us closer to God.)

Jesus makes clear that the conditional and reciprocal brand of love that makes perfect sense among people is NOT the love that God is, NOT how God loves and NOT how people in God’s family are to love. God’s love (1) does not resist or retaliate against evil treatment, (2) embraces enemies, (3) prays for persecutors and (4) lavishes blessing on evil and good alike.

Do the Christians you know love like this?  I wish I could say I loved like this but often I don’t.

While conditional, human love makes perfect sense, God’s love is nonsensical, unnatural, counter-intuitive, irrational, Topsy-turvy, and upside down.

Before framing a response that allows an opening for God to work, consider the brand of love in play.

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*Miles McPherson from his book “I Don’t Want Your Sex For Now”

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My best references

08 Ltr from CLF staff

Letter from former colleagues, 2008

What started out as God throwing me a lifeline 19 months is now another career casualty in a line of other such casualties stretching back nearly eight long years.  Yes, you read that right, my latest job just ended due to, I was told, “budgetary reasons” along with the promise of sterling recommendations and help to find something new.

Regarding the promise offers, we’ll see.  Meanwhile, I really am grateful to God for that lifeline and I hope I made the most of it by being salt and light while there (see (Matthew 5:13-16) .

In departing, I pray of left well and with a little more of something for them to run on then when I arrived in January 2015.

Now to shoring up my resume and, in particular, my references.  See, my resume is a bit holey.  That’s right, holey, as in full of holes.  I have to keep track of work history for completing job applications and that history is looking kind of bumpy right now.

After 30 years with one organization through 2008, my subsequent work history covers 14 positions in 12 different companies spanning six years separated by seven gaps of unemployment totaling 2 years.  See what I mean by holey?

While I have a count somewhere of resumes filed and interviews had, I can say unequivocally that people who know who I am have lead to all the best opportunities and actual positions landed. Being known has been the key.  Being known covers a lot of holes and in several cases, has rendered any further paperwork unnecessary.

Being known also helps in the worst of times when doubts creep up and threaten to take over. I do not have a tally of the number of times someone called at just the right time to let me know I matter.

During a few of those dimmer moments, a tribute organized for me by former colleagues of the organization that first dismissed me has helped me keep my footing.  At a picnic they organized in my honor, they presented me with a box filled with their letters and cards and a few photos from our times working together.  They also registered a star in my honor “Nostrum Amicus GRT” (”Our Friend” in Latin) and planted 30 trees in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, one for each of my thirty years of service at the organization.

Just after I was informed about this latest dismissal, I retrieved that box again, read their letters and was once again moved to tears by the cover letter to explain the tribute and the meanings of the various elements of it, including:

“When times are uncertain, it can be easy to doubt yourself.  Sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded of the kind of person you really are… to be reminded of just how special you are to all of us.”

For any of those former-CLF people who may read this post someday, let me say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for doing that for me.  Your wonderful box is doing its work for me – giving me hope when I feel hopeless.

The world’s best resume pales in comparison to people who know us speaking on our behalf – to witness about us and be a reference for us. This is why I value personally-written commendations on my LinkedIn profile (https://www.linkedin.com/in/glenntrevisan). Their words, said their own way, say so much more than anything I can say about myself.

As much as I cherish people’s witness for me, God’s witness is best of all.   That’s right, if all you’ve ever heard about witnessing is by people about God, know that witnessing was first done by God about us – his people – me and you!

“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9, ESV)

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Romans 8:16, ESV)

“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:8)

While God helps me in my search for work including causing good people to cross my path, that he witness about me is ultimately what matters most of all.

I’m so glad by best reference is God is/as my witness.

“Oh LORD, who am I that you are mindful of me and that you care so much for me?” (Psalm 8:4, personalized)

 

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Repost: The Word Before Dawning – “Pray”

Pre-dawn at home

Pre-dawn at home

(Initially posted on February 11, 2014)

“Pray.”

That word came to me one morning as I was lying in bed, just before waking. I was thinking about my self-centeredness that often leads to sin, so debilitating.  Even so, despite all my resolve and resolutions to rebuke, reform and transform, I so easily slide into this mode like a glove that fits so comfortably, too comfortably.

The Apostle Paul’s remark about himself came to mind, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” (1 Timothy 1:15). Although I hesitate to align myself with one of the most renowned Christians ever, I share this with him.

“Pray.”

I am reading a book about prayer* that offers perspectives that are new to me – to pray like a child and be childlike with God. And about cynicism – what that is and how deeply ingrained it is in our Western mindset. Cynicism squashes our relationship with God and our prayer lives. I am dismayed by how severely infected with it that I am.

“Pray.”

I am a strong-willed child. God has seen fit to give me one of those as well, a son. He trusts himself too much too but as far as I can tell he hasn’t come to the point of conviction yet. So I keep praying for him and wonder if his road will also be long and difficult. His daddy cannot smooth his way but his “Daddy” can. Well, probably not smooth.

“Pray”

God’s voice and word. Not only do I recognize his voice but who else would speak such a word to me? “… like a child” I now want to add, mindful now of this book.  As I begin to do so, my heart flutters feebly and the only words that come to me are, “Daddy! Daddy, help! There’s a monster under my bed. Please come to my room and save me from it.”

“Pray.”

I am way, way down the road by now. W-a-y, w-a-y  d-o-w-n!  I should have turned aside down one of those many, many forks that all were put there by God to give me alternatives other than sin. I’ve ventured down a few of them but usually very tentatively.

“Pray.”

I smile… more like a smirk I guess. I am recalling the company that has kept me along the trail – God.  He is always near even in the darkest and worst of my places. It’s really startling to turn around and see him there sometimes, where I would certainly be deeply ashamed to openly bring him. However, there he was – stern sometimes but also light, fresh, compassion, gently waving that “get out of jail” card.

“Pray”

This time I didn’t just ponder God’s invitation, or even pause. I just did it. I prayed. The peace flooded into my being was that peace of God that is impossible to explain or even describe to unbelievers (Philippians 4:7)…  As that came, I realized that I really cannot escape sinfulness on my own. I require outright rescue. That’s always been God’s message and Jesus’ too. A decent child would have realized that long ago.

“Daddy, daddy, help! There is this monster in here.”

 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child with is my soul within me.

 (Psalm 131: 1-2, NIV-84)

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Notes:

* From “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller.  http://www.seejesus.net/

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Switch to music

radio-dial_00273392On a radio show offering advice about money management, a caller asked the host why he so often warns about inevitable recession while the economy is robust.

“Because if all I ever offered was good news, you listeners would switch to music,” he replied.

Thus reminded that a primary purpose for advertising and talk radio is to elevate listener discontent for the “solutions” and products being promoted, I decided to skip a step and switch right to music.

The lyrics to Matt Maher’s worship song “Your Grace is Enough” came to mind.

“You wrestle with the sinner’s restless heart. You lead us by still waters into mercy…You use the weak to lead the strong…(When) Your grace is enough, heaven reaches out to us.”

Still waters as a remedy for restlessness.  Hit pause and switch to music.

Rublevs Christ

Christ as Savior by Andrei Rublev, 1410

In her 2002 memoir book, “Girl Meets God,” author Lauren Winner recounts a day when she was feeling generally upset.  Picking up a favorite icon card adorned with Rublev’s Christ, she recounts her thoughts.

“You are supposed to be enough,” she tells the icon…”Even if I never again …. feel happy for one more minute, that you came to earth is supposed to be enough.”

She writes how she glared at the icon for a while before an assurance rose in her that Christ really was enough.  Then in the next moment she added, “But I really hope (that realization) doesn’t have to sustain me.”

I bolded Winner’s But to draw your attention to the premise that our troubles begin with our Buts.  While both Winner and I are Christians, we suffer discontent because we harbor Buts – desiring something other than Christ.  Instead of switching to music, we keep listening to all the reasons we should be discontented.

The country’s radio hosts are ranting this week about recent violence in Orlando, Florida where  50 people were murdered in two incidents.  A popular outcry has been,  “Make love, not hate.”

“What kind of love?” I want to ask.

“…to love somebody is to be committed to helping them obey God,”  offered Miles McPherson in his book, “I don’t want your sex for now.”  Love’s opposite is lust, not hate.

“Lust desires to please self at the expense of others because lust wants to get. On the other hand, love desires to please others at the expense of self.  Love wants to give.”

As much as I appreciate McPherson contrasting love with lust, his guidance about being committed to helping someone obey God is particularly potent.  Whereas the lust and love quotient invites debate about what is best or most pleasing for self or others, obedience keeps God at the center. We have to start with knowing what obedience to God looks like.

“…godliness with contentment is great gain.”  (1 Timothy 6:6, NIV)

How about starting with what is meant by godliness?


Image source: http://www.wikiart.org/en/andrei-rublev/christ-as-saviour

Book sources:

“Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner

“I don’t want your sex for now” by Miles McPherson

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