Tuesday, April 29, 2014

a busy mind

In his book, The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis makes many... and I do mean MANY great points that allow us to give thought to the ways of how demons think, move, act, etc... and he does so with a comic reprieve that allows us to come to a place of understanding the absolute impossibility of anything of Satan overcoming the bride of Christ. If you have never read the book, go... like right now, go... give it a read

At one point in the book we read in a letter from Screwtape, to his nephew Wormword a great look into the truth of our Christian experience...

 “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

Have you ever found that your worst days, your deepest struggles, or your moments of strongest doubt often occur during moments of inner silence? Maybe I'm strange, but I have a fairly constant inner monologue... and I have found it to be true in my life that as long as I keep my thoughts running, and keep my mind alert to my surroundings, that sin seems to be less likely to creep into the corners of my life. Even more so when I am most in-tune with the inner voice, and tending to it with study of the scripture, listening to sermons, investing in my relationship with Christ. As that relationship grows, my monologue revolves more around the things of God, and my focus is more on seeking His glory in all that I do. It is the moments when I try to shut down or ignore my mind... the moments when I try to quiet things too much, those are the times when I find myself suddenly coasting along the soft, gradual slope of sinful thought. My sinful nature must be held in check, and that requires actively placing into my consciousness, the things of God. When these thoughts are removed from active thought, I default to my simpler nature, and thus the words of Screwtape are proved to be true. It is not the work of Satan to fill our minds with sin... but to block out thoughts of glory. Our great enemy knows that is the path of least resistance.

If the Word of God is living and active, then shouldn't we keep it so in our minds? Don't spend so much time trying to quiet your mind... rather tend to your thoughts, weed out the garden of your mind, nourish the seeds of God's glory. It is much easier to see a snake in the grass when the garden is well tended than when the weeds are high.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I sometimes fear that I am running out of words. Which is unsettling in the scope of how many words I say in a given day... I feel that fear most when I sit down to write. I have written a large part of a couple different posts this evening, just to erase them because I just didn't have the words. 

Words are powerful, and in the hands of different people, their power can be wielded in greatly influential ways. I often get caught up in thinking that my words are just wasteful, being stolen from a voice that could make real change or impact in this world. I fear the reality that I am simply a thief in the night, seeking to prevent the true conveyor of meaningful thought from laying down the true intent of the words I use. Among my greatest fears is to be discovered as a fraud. Not because I am one, but because I fear I am ignorant to being one. I often fret over the words I have used up in my lifetime that were used for little more than manipulation and destruction of those around me. 

I count the times in my life, and the many people in my life that I have hurt with words, and I am grateful for the forgiveness of so many of them. I am immensely more grateful for a God who called me out, who brought me to Him, and who has gifted me with this love of words. I know that He has entrusted the power of words to me, and He has words for me  to put together. I am praying that I would continue to seek being better at treating this gift properly, and that more of my words would be for the purpose of edification, teaching, and out of love. I feel confident that, though my words on this earth are numbered, that when I do finally run out of words, that what is left behind will be a clear message not of pain, manipulation, and deceit, but words of grace, love, and redemption.

Monday, April 14, 2014

humble confidence

Having been confronted lately (many times) with the thoughts of living a life in the power of the Spirit, under the authority of God's sovereign grace, and doing all things for the glory of God, and the contrasting life of living in the strength of the flesh, trying to earn the favor and blessing of God, and seeking to allow God to share in my own glory... one verse keeps coming to mind... "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may received mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16

I remember spending a fair amount of time over the last year, wrestling with this particular verse. How the heck am I supposed to feel as though I can confidently approach the throne of God? I am, by nature, a very confident person (nearly to a fault), and I like to believe I carry myself with that confidence in my life, but to approach God in this same way? How does that mesh with the idea of being humble? Aren't I supposed to make myself humble in order to receive grace? But then, Hebrews tells me that I receive  grace when I confidently approach God. This rambling series of questions continues for awhile.

I don't know that I have fully reconciled the issue in my own heart, but I do know that the Bible does not contradict itself, and I know that God is not a God of confusion... so there must be a way in which confidently approaching the throne of grace can be seen as a humble task. So, how do we walk with humble confidence?

It must be done, and can ONLY be hoped to be done, by walking in the Spirit. Living a life that is in step with the Gospel of grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. I cannot begin to hope to approach the throne of God with confidence if I spin my wheels trying to earn His favor by performing works of the flesh. If I approach every task before me believing that I must complete them in a certain way, on a certain time line, and with a certain amount of determination, otherwise God will be disappointed in me, upset with me, or deem me unworthy, then how can I ever feel as though I have done enough, or done it well enough, to confidently approach God? At best, I can then approach God with an armload of my own accomplishments, and hold them up, boldly confident saying, "Look at what I have done for you!" In my experience, trying to impress God with your own righteousness does not end with the receiving of mercy, or the finding of grace. So, if trying harder, to work more fervently does grant me plenty of confidence, it still fails in granting me the humility needed to approach the throne of grace.
Instead, I must simply cling to the promises of God. If I am able to begin by humbly admitting that there is nothing within me that will grant me the righteousness necessary to approach God, and that I am fully dependent on the sovereign grace of God, and the redemptive blood of Christ for my salvation, that my hope is placed in nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness, then I can know that the dirty rags of my own, hard-earned righteousness are removed, and the spotless garments of Christ's righteousness is placed around me. Clothed in the royal dress of my God and my Savior, and clinging on to nothing else, I am then filled with a confidence of knowing that I did nothing of myself to earn this right standing, and the confidence of knowing that I must do nothing else to earn God's favor in my life. It is THAT confidence, which is found by first humbling oneself to the need of an all-sufficient Savior, and is rooted in His finished redeeming work, that allows me to then approach the throne of grace, to find not only that grace which surpasses all understanding, and the mercy that is so desperately needed, but also the power through which to walk along in this life by faith.

It is a humble confidence found only by living in the Spirit, and not by works... remembering that it is by grace we have been saved through faith, that it is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I find myself to be in a familiar, if not a likable, place... a place of feeling stunted, slowed, exhausted

Its a place that I spend time in when I find my time has been invested in activities that don't fuel me, edify me, hone me. Some of these activities are necessities in life, things like work or school. But then, even most of those types of things are only draining because I have shut them into a closet that prevents me from engaging with them in a way that glorifies God. I find that when I approach these mundane activities with the attitude of worship, seeking to walk according to Scripture, and doing all things to the glory of God, that my life is lived much more in step with the beat of Christ that pulses within my veins.

A pulse is a funny thing. At work, a pulse is everything. No matter the situation, when things start to go wrong with a patient, the ultimate question starts with "Do they have a pulse?" As long as the answer to that question is yes... then, ultimately, everything is ok. Not ok in the sense that everything is fine, and no further intervention is needed, but ok in the sense that me and my friends aren't about to go full-blown code blue on you. The evidence still points to a problem, you are still heading into a bad way, but your weak, thready, inconsistent pulse means I have time for interventions. Maybe you need fluid, maybe you need drugs, maybe I just need to wake you up, but chances are, if I can identify the root cause of your current downward trend, I can fix your pulse... as long as it is still there. Stalling in any of these actions, or if those actions are ineffective, your pulse will almost certainly disappear. If that happens, can my friends and I get it back? Sometimes... ultimately its a coin flip, you lose your pulse (surrounded by those who are qualified and able to help) and its a 50/50 shot, and that intervention is a violent, torturous process that leaves a person permanently scarred... alive, but changed.

The same is true in our Spiritual life, our walk with Christ and the relationship He has called us into is pulsing through the veins of our soul. The strength of that pulse is maintained best when we are mindful of its state on a regular basis. Even when things seem fine, when life seems to be coasting, and the waters are calm, we might be easily missing the subtle changes of the pulse. My dad is often full of great quips on life, and one that always stuck with me was that "you can only coast downhill"... and I would have to say that here lately, I have been coasting. It has been happening long enough that the symptoms of an altered pulse have started to show up. I missed some of the earliest warnings, the subtle hints, and have arrived at the place described earlier... stunted, exhausted. My pulse is weak. I can rest in the comfort of the promise that the presence of this pulse is enough to know that it will never be lost, it will never stop... but it can get too weak to allow me to function. So, with these findings in my assessment, what interventions need to be taken?

The first thing I try with my patients is waking them up... this is an effective technique to get a small bump in vitals. Usually enough for temporary help. The problem is, it has to be done over and over again, and if the root cause is not found, eventually it will take more than a wake-up to help. These wake-ups are usually nudges found during a sermon, through music, or encouragement from someone. I've been getting these, and they have been working, but their effectiveness is waning.

When the wake-up nudge starts to lessen in efficiency, deeper intervention starts to be required... fluids, medications intended to increase cardiac output, medications to correct chemical imbalance, the spectrum starts minor and quickly deepens into more powerful intervention. For our spiritual pulse, we start with taking in the Living Water, ingesting the Word, spending time investing in our relationship. These are the maintenance tactics, and when the pulse is weakened, it can be a need of increasing the flow. At times, it may be an intensifying in the spiritual disciplines. Changing the routine, the things that have become mundane, refocusing on the importance of seeking the glory in all things. These interventions are generally very effective in strengthening the pulse.

If a pulse continues to weaken through these interventions, there will come a time when an impassioned, fervent attempt must be made by those who are watching over your pulse. These deeply powerful interventions can be very effective in restoring a pulse. They hurt, the scars fade, but never leave, but they are necessary. We hope that we never allow ourselves to coast into this place, ignoring the weakening of our pulse along the way... or we want to believe that we would never find the allure of our own glory so strong as to pull us into this point... but many of us will find ourselves here at some point. For those of us who have been through this level of intervention, we cling to that shred of pulse that was found, and we remain watchful of the early warning signs... we don't ever want to be back here. For those whose pulse cannot be found, we must concede that its likely that the pulse of the Gospel was never present in those veins, and let them go, hoping that life may soon break through the fortress of death.

Myself, having been through the deepest levels of intervention in my past, I am disdainful of these small blips of irregularity in my pulse lately. I am even more upset that the wake-up nudges have started to become less effective. I am hopeful that a preemptive assault will shift focus back into the right path, and place me back in-step with a strong pulse.