Friday, May 31, 2013

They fought like warrior-poets, and won their freedom. ~ Braveheart

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Impossible Mustard Seed

I was listening to a podcast today from Mosaic about Faith.  The guy was talking about praying impossible prayers.  About not being afraid to ask God for things and expect a response.  Not out of an economy of if I do this, you do that God.  But out of the promise that people with faith like mustard seeds move pieces of the world. 

This is a mustard seed:

And this is a mustard tree:

He made a point that from a seed comes a tree and it doesn't happen overnight but it starts with the seed.  Big things come from small.  Mountains start moving via tremors underneath.  Journeys start with steps.  

I've heard that story a lot around church, but today it struck a cord with me.  I'm praying for my impossible thing.   And I want to take my little seed and plant it and see if things change because God grows it.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

When I Move You Move, or The Notes from the Obedience Talk

Who hasn't been at a point in life where it's just long and hard? The failure has happened. The mistake keeps reoccurring. The problem is overwhelming and maybe even undeserved. It's just ourselves and the blackness of night. Have you ever felt that struggle? In the dark. In the night. In the middle of the hardest thing you've faced?
God is really into sports.  Seriously.  Really.  Scripture compares faith to endurance running and athletic training a lot.  In this story, Jacob is about to meet with his brother whom he's tricked out of his inheritance.  Kind of a stressful moment, right?  So he sends all of his family ahead to camp for the night and goes to try to find a moment of peaceful meditation with the Lord.  And this is what happens:
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak."Genesis 32:24.

The common Christian viewpoint is that He comes to comfort and to give us rest and peace. And He does. And then sometimes God initiates the struggle. Sometimes that tap on the shoulder in the night is an invitation to wrestle. Kind of an oxymoron. The Prince of Peace shakes our shoulder in our darkest times and says "hey, push back against me." Here's the crazy part, God finds my struggle to be beautiful. In the strength of His love for us. In the passion and fury of His pursuit. In the dirt and the grit and the sweat of His wrestle with my wayward heart.
So the obvious question is, why the struggle?  What's the point of the struggle itself?  God, why can't you just give me an immediate victory? 

Scripture compares life as a Christian to 2 things:  A baby growing up, and a race.  Think like, ultra marathon.  When we accept Christ we are new creations, but we are like brand new straight out o' the birthing room, everybody feed me cuz I can't feed myself, new new new Christians.  When marathon runners start a race we start fresh and happy.  Loads of energy.  

It's in the midpoints and the journey of the marathon that the hard stuff sets in.  The cramps and the hills and the dehydration and the sprains.  Why run the race?  To finish well and to gain the prize.  Hebrews says this:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1 

And Timothy says this:
Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Tim 4:7,8

So how do babies grow, and how do marathon runners train?  They do.  They act.  Babies learn.  Take in knowledge and put it into practice.  They learn to talk, they learn to walk.  Athletes train their bodies.  They reach a goal.  And set another.  They eat well.  They work out.  They discipline their bodies. 

In 1 Cor Paul says again:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  1 Cor 9:24,25

Are you guys tracking with me?  Are you understanding the idea of maturing in Christ as a believer?  So I want to bring it down to a practical level.  How?  What does training look like?  It's actually very simple guys.  Obedience.  When you make Jesus Lord of your life, you make him Lord.  As you obey God and you find him trustworthy, it gets easier and easier to move from obedience in small things to big ones.  And it's also a little bit about building good habits through discipline.  We've heard a lot of stories over the past few months.  Each of the stories includes a woman who chose Christ in spite of what her heart was telling her to do. 

Obedience is not a checklist of rules that has a guilt button built into it for failure.  Obedience to God as a Christ follower flows out of 2 things:  Trusting that God has our best in mind always, and responding to Him out of love.
Commitment to Christ is where the rubber meets the road.  Where the reality of life punches you full in the face and you have to decide what the heck you are going to do with it.  Realities like death.  Depression.  Addictions.  Infidelity.  The simple fact that life is not fair.  It doesn't have a reset button.  Like Eminem says, it's no nintendo game.  Of course I have had long, agonizing periods of anger and sorrow.   I still feel it in my gut when well meaning people ask me if I have children, or tell me that they are sure it will be soon.  So.  My choices are obedience and relationship with God.  Or disobedience and chasing after family and love in a way that I would define as good.   
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. 1 John 5:3-4

It's circular reasoning.  Because God loves us and has our best in mind, he commands us to live a certain way, and changes us, giving us power to obey him.  Because we love God and trust his commandments, we obey him.  And this circle of behavior is the training that matures us.  One of my favorite verses is in Psalms

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5,7

So let's go back to that 1 John verse.  John says, obey God.  Because you know why, you are going to overcome the world. 
Overcoming is kind of the point, isn't it? Struggling with God to be beaten into the dust by a divine hand is not the way the story ends. And it is not the character of God to desire us to be beaten and failed individuals. That gives me hope. In the end my frailties and struggles will be overcome. The story has a happy ending. That in the end, we may not walk out of a situation unscathed, but we will walk out. As overcomers. As conquerors. As the winners.  Jacob's story has a happy ending too.  He wrestles all night with God, and at some point he realizes who has got him in a headlock, and he grabs on for dear life and says, bless me! And this is what God says:
"Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."Genesis 32.28.
Jacob means Deceiver, Israel means Wrestles with God, and also Prince of God depending on how you pronounce the word in Hebrew.  Do you see the point of the struggle, ladies?  Do you see the changed man?  God at his heart is a creator.  He takes something broken and makes something beautiful out of it.  He takes us, and changes us.  Our part is to yield to him in obedience. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  ~Philippians 3:8

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