Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Beautiful and Intelligent Wife

I don't know if I have mentioned it before, but I do know that I couldn't mention it enough. Aside from having been given the spiritual gift of being able to put up with me, my wife has other supernatural powers. Those of you who know us may know that we are struggling to keep afloat. Working a number of odd jobs to try to make a living and hoping (eventually) to break into full time vocational ministry. This process has been one of endless challenge and difficulty. So it has been incredible for us! This process of breaking, fighting, failure and rejection has been very difficult and has conformed us to Christ's image more than any other phase.
We have, at some level, hung our hopes on the possibility of serving at a church in Ft. Collins and flirted with the opportunity to try to plant a church in Prague. Quite a handful of things to consider and pray for. The Lord has brought us to the point where we feel like something HAS to happen soon or we will be in a heap of trouble that we wouldn't want. This has caused me to look even more despairingly at the small remaining possibilities and hope and pray that one of them may come through. While reason would say not to put all of our eggs in a basket that is by no means a sure thing, it is difficult for me not to.
In a conversation a week ago April had a breakthrough. She realized that it is no good hanging our hopes upon the possibility of this job or that, as if there was a pot of gold at the end of one of those rainbows that we are waiting for. The reality is the Christ is our hope and The Father has already given Him! Why do we need to go hoping on the chance occurrence of this or that when the reality is that our hope is in Heaven with Christ and the things promised to us here is tribulation and difficulty. Furthermore, we are promised that difficulty keeps us more and more pointed towards our real hope and home, and it ensures we will not become too wedded t this earthly prison that we are currently attached to.
It has been said by people much smarter than myself, but it bares repeating. I just need to look at Jesus today. Trust the Lord for the future. Not because "it will surely get better" and not because "there are better days ahead" there is no such promise I've found in Scripture (regarding our earthly walk - there are better days ahead once we are done with this planet and Home with the Lord) but because no matter what happens He will still be with us. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, so I know that I will have the comfort that I need, not the necessarily the situation that I want. Reminds me of the well known verse:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. ~Lemmel

That's good news. Right focus is everything. I was listening to the Screwtape Letters again and was once again struck by the enemies tactics at getting our eyes of Christ and off the present moment in favor of worrying our heads about things that have nothing to do with what we should be about at the present moment.

I have a smart wife. Thankful.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is that the way Daddy wants it?

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ:
Ephesians 4:15

Today I was honored to get into a deep (albeit unoriginal and boring) theological debate with a brother. I am tempted here, of course, to reveal the topic of the debate and turn my brother in the Lord into a perfect "straw man" which I can set up and knock down easily to show that I was right then, I am right now, and here are all of the people who agree with me. But what good would that do? I am convinced that until Jesus comes back we will (as his Body here on earth) have disagreements about His word. I have had this specific debate hundreds of times with many different people and as would be expected we trod the old path realizing that our core disagreements and assumptions would not be reconciled in the space of 15 minutes, if ever. The "I said, he said" part is immaterial to the purposes of this article. The main thing that had me perplexed was that as the discussion continued and my brother in the Lord (who is at least 15 years my senior) got increasingly agitated, and frustrated to find that his "ex cathedra" arguments were not given any weight he became angry, raised his voice, and began to use crude insults.
Of course it would be a logical fallacy for me to claim that because he was losing the argument and became emotional that I have more reason to believe his argument false and his intentions bad, but the question that faces me is this: How must our Father in Heaven feel when He sees us willing to slash each other to the ground and nearly go to blows over something that we can only get the most basic understanding of from His word? It must be comical on one hand to see two little specks of earth filled with the divine breath arguing about something way out of their depth and ability. Almost like two bugs arguing passionately over whether humans have different color eyes or not (when they themselves can't even see in color). I don't know if bugs see color or not, but it makes a better analogy if they don't. We argue and only achieve displaying our own silliness to ourselves (if we are honest enough to see it).
On the other hand it must be all the more tragic for the Father who wants us to be united in sharing Christs love with one another. What a plague it is to have to be right all the time! These realizations in my life made the discussion somewhat unemotional for me. However, I was struck by angry and sad this fellow became as his paper mache arguments that he had repeated over and over to himself (and now to me) fell apart before him as crumbling messes of presupposition and pomp. I was disturbed by his insults and angry words, and especially disturbed by the fact that I often am reduced to the same emotional state when fighting for something that I want to be right about. He felt that he was defending the truth, but he could not speak it in love. I think the best thing to do, when we find that we are no longer speaking the truth IN LOVE is to stop speaking. (Exegetical note - "speaking the truth in love" here is a tough one to translate because in Greek "truth" has a verb form. Literally the verse would be "truthing in love" meaning more than our words but how every aspect of our lives is conducted. Cool stuff.) I pray for my brother in the Lord. He is hurting a great many feelings and then wonders why he is isolated and why he can't find any fellowship at out church. His "backpack" full of anger, hurt, resentment, bitterness, pride and so forth keep him from experiencing and enjoying the love of the saints, and presumably the love of God as well. Certainly a keen reminder to me when I feel like I am not experiencing those things. What blessing am I missing because of a full "backpack"?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Feelings Trap

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5

I am more than a bit perplexed about the whole emotions debacle. It may seem overly simplistic but the reality is that emotions usually don't seem to be helpful. God gave us emotions, and undoubtedly for a reason, yet they seem to be the thing that keep us from steadily gazing at Jesus more often than not. I'm not sure how to reconcile this. I suppose it's back to basics. Fact, faith and feelings. Facts are the engine, faith is the car, and feelings are the caboose. It seems like the message that my generation (and those after me) have received is a message that the feelings are an instrument to judge truth, fact or reality. Thus, statements such as "I just don't feel like that's true" are actually seriously considered in certain discussions. Using our feelings to evaluate truth is like using a plastic ruler to determine the temperature of the sun. I suppose you could figure out that the sun is hot enough to melt the ruler, but that wouldn't be much information towards finding out how many degrees the sun is. That's not what feelings are for.
Thus, when David confronts his depression he quickly goes back to the place where he can put his faith in the facts and let that dictate his actions, not allowing the emotional highs and lows run the show. There are things that I notice that can always affect my feelings making them extremely unreliable: enough sleep, enough food, enough rest, enough quiet time, offhanded comments, the entertainment I take in, the situations of my loved ones, my general health at the moment, and a hoard of other things that make me think that my feelings are nearly useless if I want to use them to determine my perception of reality (much as my laptop would be useless for driving in nails). But when I look at Jesus my emotions fall into line. I am thankful again, I am full again. I see the emotions that are uplifting and true. Through this view (Facts, Faith leading the act) emotions suddenly snap into line and become valuable, wonderful and profitable. Not to say that they are always happy and cheerful at this point, but the sorrow that is felt does not overcome, and the compassion felt is not hopeless and the joy felt is not the fleeting "sugar high" feeling of the moments of happy emotional states brought about by pleasant earthly circumstances. Things are more real on this level. And I am calm again.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Be Still

Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

How many problems are solved as I obey this simple command. Verses like John 3:16, Romans 5:8 and others so clearly capture the truth of our faith. Verses that point us towards Christ. Yet this verse always draws at me. I first encountered it in High School choir in a beautiful arrangement wherein the words were repeated in a wonderful, high choral fashion. That song still rings in my head (Thank you Ms. Sorenson!) and reminds me that He is in control.
I had a few opportunities to be still today. A quiet walk, a quiet sit while the children were napping. In the stillness and surrender I remembered how very small I am, how very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It seems odd to think that an ant would worry about his place in the world, nothing the ant could do will bring the world crashing down around us (If ants do have this power unbeknown to us, let us hope they continue to use their self control wisely and continue diligently about their work!). And given the revelation of my own sub-microscopic size in view of things I should only be more and more amazed that God saw fit to care for me. Sees fit to guide me, because the important things is was and always will be: Him and the fact that He is God. It was a nice day, as a result, not being so consumed with my own burden of importance and resting in the freedom of letting Him be the important one.