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  • THE UNEXPECTED UPSIDE OF WAITING (PT 2)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    As mentioned in my previous post, waiting can be tough, but it can also have an unexpected upside to it.  Here are a few other things I have begun to notice in this season of waiting:

    Waiting creates an opportunity for us to get brutally honest with God.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s OK to tell God how it is or how you feel.  But in our honesty, it’s important to know that grumbling behind his back is not the best idea.  Just as in other relationships, the healthy way of dealing with conflict is directly to the person, not talking trash about someone to other people.

    Waiting also unearths what’s going on under the façade of success.  When pillars of health, wealth, family, and social networks are shaken or erode quickly, we suddenly are left with the inner monologue.  There is a clarity that emerges, affording us the opportunity to see what drives us, for better or for worse.  This monologue can tell you that you are worthless or you are loved.  I hope you discover the latter— that you are loved in Jesus.

    Waiting helps to prioritize our lives and offers the space to contemplate what matters.  It’s gut check time—what is important in your life?  Take time to wrestle with this profound, fundamental question.

    Waiting nudges us into the direction of recalling what God has done for us in the past.  As the ancient people of Israel did long ago, they frequently reminded themselves of what God did for them through festivals and altars.  Waiting in the middle of the uncertainty can lead us to remember how God lead us in the darkness in the past, and it might remind us that he very well could be at work in our lives today.

    Yet, with the upside of waiting, there also is a downside.  As the Book of Proverbs states so simply, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Waiting can give us a heavy heart.

    In all of this, please understand that waiting is not passive, it’s a call to action and a new way of being.  Waiting is a heavy burden borne alone and can create hurt, especially when our expectations are off.  For example, if we expect God to give us “the one” to marry, yet we sit alone in our house all day, then we will more than likely be hurt down the road without “the one” (which doesn’t exist, but that’s another topic for another day).  If we expect God to give us a job when we are unemployed and are not actively seeking new opportunities, then we will likely end up crushed because we thought that God was like Santa and drops unexpected opportunities with little effort on our part.

    Friends, the only thing that comes freely to us is grace and God’s salvation.  For other things, I think he wants us to just do something already.  Wait on him, get angry at him, talk to him, listen for him, but for God’s sake, get moving.  As Mordecai told Esther, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Who knows, maybe God wants you to wait for him and get going.  Who knows, perhaps he will guide your steps and lead you as you walk ahead.  As St Augustine once said, “Love God and do as you please.”

     

  • IT’S TIME TO START ON THE DREAM

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    Let me just admit before we begin that I’m a big Jon Acuff fan  (for those of you who said, “Jon who?” check out his website).  And just in case you haven’t been a reader of Acuff’s blogs, they’re pretty great.

    He has two blogs on his site.  The first is centered around pursuing your dreams today with hustle.  His second one contains some hilarious satire of American Christianity.  His site, Stuff Christians Like, has some classics like the Jesus Juke and the guide to your metrosexual worship pastor.

    Fortunately for me, I have had the unique privilege to get a glimpse of Jon Acuff’s newest book Start.  This is a book about pursuing your dreams and moving towards what really drives you- that passion and talent that makes you feel alive.  I’m very excited to start reading this book and let me tell you why.

    I’ve heard Acuff deliver a line about the “I’m, but” generation.  

    Have you ever heard that phrase?  

    It’s where people say, “I’m a ______, but I really want to be _______.”  How discouraging is that?  Perhaps you’ve said it or heard it being said.

    For me, I don’t want to be caught in that trap.  I don’t want to hit age 100 and think how I really wanted to author several books.  I don’t want to hit the end of my life and look back to see nothing.  For me, I’m a writer, so I’m going to pursue that dream today, not tomorrow or next month.

    I’ve heard it said that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.

    But do you know when’s the next best time to plant a tree?  Today.

    My encouragement to you is start on your dream today.  Please, don’t wait.  A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.  Whether it is training for a marathon, starting piano lessons, writing a novel, or starting your business, do it today.

    Start by Jon Acuff

    So if you want to “Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters” (as the front cover will suggest), then I recommend you go over and preorder the book at Amazon.  You’ll get a some free stuff too!  So start down the path of awesome, I know you can do great things with some hustle.  Let’s live better stories starting today.

    What’s your dream? Have you started?

  • WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    There is never a good time to start something.

    What I have learned these past few months is that there will always be something else to do, something that might be easier than the task at hand.  Excuses will always arise  I encountered this again when I read Jesus telling people to quit putting things off.   Luke wrote,

    As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

    I have told myself from time to time that I would follow Jesus in certain aspects of my life, or try to do something new.  Yet, excuses would pop up in my mind.  Excuses like, let me get one more hour of sleep.  Let me finish this one more program.  Sure I’ll pray, but let me clean the kitchen first.  I know I need to serve in this capacity, but I just want a Saturday off.  I have told myself on many occasions that I am just not ready to do something God has told me to do.

    My encouragement and challenge is this.  Don’t wait for an ideal opportunity, don’t wait for the perfect time.  That time will never come.  That time will never arrive, because there is never a good time to start something. There is never a good time to write a book, start exercising, have a child, start judo, or to follow Christ.  No more excuses, now is the time to do something extraordinary.

    What excuses are you trying to escape from?

  • REMBRANDT AND THE CROSS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Lent

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    Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
    All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

    Isaiah 53:4-6

    “Raising the Cross” Rembrandt

    For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,

    so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    II Corinthians 5:21

    “The Descent from the Cross” Rembrandt

    By means for our first [parents] (Adam and Eve), we were all brought into bondage, by being made subject to death.  So at last, by means of the New Man, all who from the beginning were His disciples, having cleansed and washed from things pertaining to death, can come to the life of God.

    -Irenaeus of Lyons

    “The Entombment of Christ” by Rembrandt

    Jesus was nailed to a rugged piece of wood, naked.  He was beaten, had his beard torn off and was deserted by his followers.  Jesus was placed as a common criminal, a person on the side of the road strategically placed to show the strength of Rome.  The same person who created the world and fashioned the cosmos was now held to a tree.  He was looked upon as a subject of scorn, an object of derision.  He was placed there for the world.  And quite frankly, I was a cause of His pain.

    God, the source of beauty, was destroyed and disfigured beyond all recognition for the sake of humanity.

    So, come to Jesus, come to the cross where new life is found.  Now is the day of salvation. [1]

  • VANITY!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk

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    The writer of Ecclesiastes deduced that the entire world was nothing but filled with vanity.  Sadly, when we are not in Christ, life is indeed full of vanity.  Life is meaningless when we attempt to do it our own, making plans and enjoying the fruit of our labor when our days are numbered.  For those who are in Christ, we can rest with remarkable assurance that our lives are not meaningless.  We live in the light of God’s beautiful face, and He works through our actions.  If there is no transcendent God, then all we do is wander in this land before we are placed in the grave.

    Living life with the perspective of Coram Deo (Before the face of God) in mind allows to walk with ease.  The transcendent (and immanent!) God provides a context of meaning for each one of us, if we place ourselves within His ongoing story of redemption.  A Tabletalk devotional once wrote that “life lived with reference to Him—under heaven—is never an exercise in futility.”  Life lived in Christ is a non-negotiable.

    Those who are in Christ are called to live in the reality of knowing that they are “under heaven.”  This reality ought to stiffen the spine of the Christian, prompting them to become more serious about not only learning the will of the Father but then also performing that will.  According to God’s abundant grace, we do not have to grow fearful of missing the mark.  We do not have to fear being wrathfully tossed aside when we fail, instead we can rest assured that God embraces us when we fall.  His Spirit is there to help us to walk and be conformed into the image of Christ.  We must not take this grace for granted, instead we must live our lives in devoted service to our King.

  • ENEMY AT THE GATES

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Bible Talk, Growth

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    The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’

    (Gen 4:6-7 ESV)

    As I have begun my quest to read through the Bible, I was struck by this passage.  It came right after Cain and Abel presented their sacrifices to God and He favored Abel’s over Cain.  However, when God saw the dejected spirit of Cain He offered Him a chance of stepping off of his dangerous path.  He told Cain to do well like Abel (offering even when it is difficult) and receive acceptance.  Cain simply did not like this advice.

    The picture of sin crouching at the door is particularly vivid to me.  While Abel offered a more acceptable gift and received faith (Heb 11:4), Cain was about to receive punishment for where his mind was leading him.  He did not stop and consider that the valley he was descending on was deadly.

    Cain did not comprehend that sin desired his very life.  He did realize that it wanted to master him.  While we are all enslaved to our passions, it is important to root ourselves in Christ where the passions are altered.  James reminds us that we are lured away, enticed by our own desires and ultimately give birth to the very death of us.  That is why we are told about the necessity to take every thought into captivity and bring it to God.  He must fundamentally change our way of seeing and being.

    Take heed, for sin’s desire is to enslave and destroy us.

  • NO, NOW!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    Urgency.

    It seems to me that the Christian faith is based upon a sense of urgency.  We are not promised tomorrow, we are requested to choose life now. The day of salvation is here.  It seems like a constant message of the Bible is: do it today.

    I find myself making lists of spiritual tasks and ideas that I should get to one day.  I ought to go on a spiritual retreat, read through the Gospel of John in one sitting, pray about a Reformation in American Christianity and write more blogs.  The funny thing about this is that the list can get rather lengthy and by the time I feel energetic I look over the list and forget what that idea was all about.  My period of lucidity was stale and the trail lies cold.  No wonder God wants us to decide quickly, we easily forget what we have been told!

    There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce (the plot of the story can be found here) where a man was confronted by an angel to remove a hideous growth (a red lizard) on his shoulder.  The man kept making excuses to not remove the lizard, even though he knew that the lizard was hindering him.  The angel repeatedly asked the man if he could kill the lizard.  The man kept making excuse after excuse while the angel constantly brought a sense of urgency to the conversation.  Finally the man gave permission to remove the lizard where both the man and hindrance was painfully transformed into things of beauty.

    I think this captures the sense of urgency that Jesus constantly presented.  We have to make a choice now, choose life and complete surrender at the feet of the Lord of all.  Do it now, for tomorrow rarely brings a better situation.

  • MOUNTAIN-TOP EXPERIENCES

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth

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    “Laziness is always seen in cravings for the high hour; we talk about working up to a time on the mount.  We have to learn to live in the grey day according to what we saw on the mount.”

    -Oswald Chambers

    I was speaking to a friend a week ago about mountain-top experiences.  We talked about the mentality within so many Evangelicals that desired spiritual growth of epic proportions.  This growth is not sustained growth, but it comes from having the space that a summer camp provides to focus 100% upon Jesus.  The trouble with camp is that those experiences often do not translate into momentum in the hallways of school, work or family life.  A mountain-top experience fades into a gray valley and we forget everything that happened on the crest of the hill.

    We crave those moments of lucidity and clarity, basking in the moment; however, we live most of our lives away from the mountain.  Growing up in an Evangelical church, summer camp was a staple of the youth group experience.  We were often counseled to bring the mountain-top experience of spiritual fervor with us down to the coast.  Granted there were warnings that this experience could not be taken with you from time-to-time, but, as I can attest, it was not heeded.  The thing that Chambers discussed was that there needed to be different seasons in the lives of individuals.  Seasons that abound from plentiful to barren, feast to famine.  These seasons bring different opportunities and yield different rewards.  Ultimately we must walk according to the faith of Christ in every context.

    Growth comes through work and diligence.  Discipline (along with a sizable dose of the Holy Spirit) ultimately drives a person to sustained growth.  The Holy Spirit’s empowerment is what brings about sanctification within the Christian.  For Paul, as stated in Ephesians 4, reaching the “measure of the full stature of Christ” is to depend entirely upon God.  That is also what the psalmist writes in Psalm 1, inviting the reader/singer to delight in the law (or instruction) of God.  We ought to delight in the law of God instead of our best moments on a mountain-top.  Chambers would write in regards to this saying,

    If you make a god of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life and never comeback until you do the duty nearest, and have learned not to make a fetish of your rare moments.

    There is an ultimate dependence upon the works of God, trusting in Him entirely.  That is how the mountain-top experience is translated into everyday life, a perpetual yielding to the presence of God in the days of calm.  While we certainly cannot live in a heightened state of exhilaration, we can delight in the instruction of God and yield ourselves through the power of the Spirit.  We can live with power, even in normal life.