Tuesday, August 27, 2013

being patient

I made a comment the other day on Twitter, but I think the thought deserves more space than the 140 characters I am limited to in that space... so...

I am entrenched in a particularly trying season in my life right now, and I am convinced that nearly every aspect of my life has been put together by God to help me better learn and understand my need for patience. Everything from my current work situation, having to go back to night shift, trying to find advancement opportunities, and other similar situations... to non-professional obligations such as being called to serve on our pastor search team, serving in our AWANA ministry, etc... to education frustrations, just trying to get my BSN finished so I can get started on my Master's work.

I am not a person who was required, in my younger years, to undergo much stress. I was blessed mightily in that regard through my childhood. As I entered adulthood, my lack of stress became much more about my tendency to shy away from particularly difficult situations, and detach from problems as I saw them coming. But over the last couple of years, I have become much more aware of my role as a husband, father, and man, I have found my further need to launch headlong into these situations. This has lead to a trial by fire in which I have been forced to, on the fly, gain experience and understanding in how to manage stress, and be more patient. I am not by nature a patient person, though I have been blessed by an easy-going personality in many areas of life. This easy-going-ness falters mightily, however, in the areas of my life that I am most passionate about (my family, my church, my career). As my patience has worn thinner and thinner, my stress has risen. I have recently found myself being angry at God for not doing things in a timely manner... not keeping everyone else on my schedule, aligned with my desires, and accomplishing whats best for me! Until one day last week, I was getting ready to lay down, and was praying over many of my frustrations with the seeming standstill in so many areas of my life, and I felt strongly the revelation of God in this simple, deep conviction...

My lack of patience with God's timing is directly rooted in my lack of trust in His sovereignty.


Was I really not trusting that God was in control? Had I forgotten that when I entered into this relationship, that it was contingent on my understanding that Christ is not just my Savior, but He is also my Lord? God has called me to be set apart, and opened my heart to understanding His word because He has a sovereign plan and purpose for my life. He has things set in place along my path that serve as opportunities to glorify Him in all I do, just as we are all called to do. If I am too rushed and hurried to achieve my own ends, I am going to run past so many of these opportunities. I may not fully understand why so many things in my life seem to be stuck, or slowly progressing, but I can know that from where I am to the next point my path is planned out for the glory of God. I can trust that the One who created everything can handle whatever is in my path. I need to become better at waiting, better at patience. I need to be satisfied to serve God where I am, in the ways He has placed in front of me, and trust that He will bring new opportunities in my path as He sees fit.

If I am willing to place my trust in the sovereign grace of God, then I will find that my worry of His timing won't be so significant.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Abundant Life

Been doing a lot of learning, via Bible study, listening to sermons, small group discussions, etc regarding the abundant life that Jesus promises His followers... here are some thoughts:

I am fairly convinced that the abundant life is multifaceted as a diamond, and one of these facets is regarding the fact that there is much of the abundant life that isn't really about me at all... the abundant life Jesus is promising is a life lived to the full. It is not about material gain or anything that I can amass in this world. The abundant life is defined by the eternal life that we are promised when we choose to answer the call of our True Shepherd and take up our cross, denying ourselves daily, and follow Jesus. Jesus tells us that the eternal life He promises is found in the full knowledge of God, and the belief in the One He sent. In other words, the abundant life is a life that is lived in the fullness of the glory of God. When we choose to surrender ourselves to the work of Christ in us and through us, then we get to gather glimpses of the full glory, and the eternal Kingdom. The abundant life exists for the same reason that we all exist, for the glory and enjoyment of God. Its not about us, its about God, and His infinite glory.

We get brought in through another facet... The more we grow in our knowledge and belief, the deeper we get into the understanding of God, the more of these glimpses we will find. Living in the fully glory of our Father and His Son is the abundant life. It is a life that breeds full contentment and joy in way that cannot be attained by the means of this earth. It is a craving that grows within each of us that we will try to satisfy or quiet by the methods of the world... we will try to gain deeper understanding of life, truth, science, anything... or we will tempt the craving on with success, money, material wealth, food, sex, whatever... and yet we will lack lasting joy, peace and contentment until we surrender to the abundant life.

Another note, I don't think there is a limit to the abundant life. We try to quantify things, try to make it a manageable size, so we can study, examine, and understand. We do it with God all the time, and we do it with the abundant life. I've done it in this post, stating that it is the fullness of the glory of God. I put a limit on it... sure the limit is God's fullness, but ultimately God is limitless. We are reminded in other verses of scripture that God is capable of accomplishing all that we ask, and abundantly more than we can fathom. The abundant life of God is a joy, peace, and contentment that reaches to unfathomable depths. It is unshakeable, unbreakable, unending, limitless... just like God Himself... and why? Because the abundant life is the fullness of God's glory!

When Jesus tells His disciples that He will give them life, and give it more abundantly, or to the full... it is a promise that a life lived for the glory of Christ is not a life without fruit. We are promised that, as followers of Christ, that we will experience the fullness of God's glory. We have the ability to, now, live under the authority of Christ, as an agent of subversion, to live radically bent against the rebellion of this world. We are no longer citizens of a fallen world, but we have been adopted into the family of an eternal father. We are no longer identified by who we are, but alone by who Christ is within us. And when we walk ahead boldly confident into the face of the world, into the fallen disgrace of humanity, we do so under the authority of God's glory. The abundant life is also a promise of freedom. Freedom from the chains... freedom to declare that we were once slave to our master of sin, but we choose now to be a slave of the one true Christ... to be, as Paul and others declared, a bondservant of Christ. An abundant life is a life spent in the service of Christ, doing the work of the ministry that Jesus calls each of us to.

The abundant life promises me that I am a vine of the branch of Jesus, and that if I will abide in Him, He will make His home in me, and through me He will bear much fruit. The abundant life is a promise of a life with purpose. The purpose to live for the glory of God alone, by the name of Christ alone, knowing that you were bought by the blood of Jesus. Knowing that you were saved by grace through faith... but that you were saved to good works because faith without works is dead. So many books have been written to help mankind find his purpose in this life, to answer the question of "why am I here?" The answer is simple, the chief end of man is the glory of God. That is your purpose, that is why you are here... to glorify God, to reflect His glory, and enjoy His love.

If you say that that makes no sense to you, thats fine, it doesn't need to right now. We are also promised that so many of the words of Jesus will be seen as foolish by those whose eyes God has not opened. If you wish you could experience the abundant life, to feel the peace and contentment that was promised by Jesus, but it just sounds like a bunch of nonsense... take comfort in knowing that your desire to understand is the first step. Pray for God to open your eyes and your mind, seek Him, seek those who have found Him, let us help you to understand... If you feel like you managed to find peace, joy, or contentment without having need of God... you need to know that there is even deeper, more lasting, and perfectly better versions available.

Anyway, just some of the thoughts I have had lately...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I know the Bible!

"God helps me, I will not be afraid. Hebrews 13:6"

If you have spent much time around my daughter in the past month or so, chances are, you have heard this verse... it was her memory verse from VBS this year... and she nailed it

Her memorization of this little (great) passage of scripture has lead to a renewed awareness of something for me though. A week or so ago, my wife and I were reading to the kids from our family devotional. At the top of each page, there is a theme verse for the day's lesson. My wife was reading it and thought that it seemed like a good, short verse, and a chance to challenge the little lady with a new verse. As we tried to teach her this new verse, she stated, "No, I already know my verse! God helps me, I will not be afraid. Hebrews 13:6"... we tried to tell her that there are more than just the one verse in the Bible, but she didn't want to hear it... she has her verse, and shes good with it.

Its one thing for a 3 year old to have trouble with this concept, but at what point, as adult (supposedly more mature) Christians, did we hit the wall and decide we knew enough of God's word to no longer have to search it for more? Its sad how little time we spend with God. Its even sadder when we refuse to deepen our understanding of God's word, because we already know the Bible. When asked, most people in church will say that they don't spend enough time in the Word. They admit they should be reading it more often... some will even go so far as to say that they should meditate on it more frequently, reaching beyond just reading it, but actually studying it... so, why don't we do it?

I say a large amount of things through the day, many times I say them because its what you are supposed to say... but why put up the front of saying that I know I need to spend more time with God, when I know I won't actually do it? Do I, or you, actually believe that God is pleased because we simply acknowledge our need for more of Him? Why not start today, take just 5 minutes, seek the face of God.

The way that this was best described to me was to close your eyes, and picture the throne of God... picture the seat in the front row, with your name on it... have a seat, and just sit there. Don't speak, don't do anything, just bathe in the glory of God... 5 minutes... then, go get in His word, read a verse, a chapter, a page, the whole thing if you'd like! But do it.

There is more in there than any of us have ever considered, and the moment that we feel like we are good, that we have learned our Bible, thats when we start to become stagnant... that moment when we utter the words, "I know the Bible!" we are just asking for something to test that knowledge... our pride will be used for our humiliation. Hopefully that would lead us back into the Word, but wouldn't it be better to just stay there instead?