Friday, April 12, 2013

Oh, For a Closer Walk with God

I came across this hymn today in planning for next Sunday's service, and the words struck home in my heart.

Oh, for a closer walk with God, a calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road that leads me to the Lamb! 
Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view of Jesus and his word? 
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed, how sweet their memory still.
But they have left an aching void the world can never fill. 
Return, O holy Dove, return, sweet Messenger of rest.
I hate the sins that made thee mourn, and drove thee from my breast. 
The dearest idol I have known, whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne, and worship only thee. 
So shall my walk be close to God, calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road that leads me to the Lamb.

We all have moments when we feel distant from God.  Sometimes it seems God has moved far away, and sometimes it seems we have.  When we feel that way, when we feel empty, alone, or with less of God than we've had, this needs to be our prayer, "Help me tear [my idols] from your throne, and worship only you."  There are always things that we make more important than God, but these moments of emptiness, these times when we are confronted with the coldness of the world and the darkness we live in apart from the Spirit of God, these are opportunities to fall more in love with God, not less.  These are times when we learn faithfulness and joy, not because of our circumstances but because of truth.

The truth is that God loves us.  The truth is that God has made a way for us to live in communion with Him.  The truth is that God has brought peace for us and our world.  The truth is that, no matter how we feel, we ought to live lives of peace and love once we know these things.  And the truth is that, if we continue walking and living in accordance with God's word and will and continue to seek Him in all that we do, we will find Him, we will see Him, and we will know Him.

Oh, for a closer walk with God.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Where Do You Go To Pray?

I posted this to facebook back in December on a Sunday morning.  I thought it was worth reposting here.
Went to Walmart this morning around 6 before coming to church and I had the thought "Now THIS is America's temple." What would it look like if we would "Every day meet together in the temple courts, devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Many of us go to Walmart multiple times each week anyways, why not coordinate our trips and take 15-20 minutes to pray together, share what God's teaching us through His Word, and simply be in fellowship. Perhaps we aren't seeing God "add those to our number who are being saved" because we are hiding in our churches rather than meeting in the temple courts.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Resurrection: Do You Believe This?

I came across this video today and it seemed an appropriate response to my recent post on life after death as well as my current spiritual condition.  I'm realizing more and more that I've been living in a state of hopelessness.  As I'm faced with the reality of brokenness: within myself, within the church [Christ's body], and within our world; I've come to a point of despair.  I wonder if there's any hope, any meaning, any purpose.  Why read, learn, and grow?  Why follow and love?  Why get out of bed? Why care?

But there are faint glimmers.  There are breakthroughs.  There are those moments when I am down on my face wondering if God even hears, if He even cares, that I hear the still small voice, that I feel His touch, that I remember, turn back to Him once again, and believe.

The other night as we were getting ready for bed I was overwhelmed with a desire for God.  I lay in bed unable to fall asleep as my heart burned within me, and finally I realized that I needed to get up and make space in my life for Him, for intimate one-on-one time.  There's been less and less of that.  So I got out of bed at an already late hour and started reading in John 13, which is when Jesus washes the disciples feet, and I read right up through His arrest in John 18.  I honestly forget what night it was, but it must have been Maundy Thursday because I did not continue reading through the crucifixion as it was not yet Good Friday.

I was struck by this section of John 14 as it seemed to speak right to my current deliberations, and now this video brings it to mind.  "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them."

What a promise!  What a hope!  This is why we do not despair: because he lives, we also will live; because we are in him, we love him; because we love him, he loves us and shows himself to us.  I want to see the Lord.  I want to see Jesus.  I want Jesus to show himself to me.  And he promises that he will.

I do not despair.  There is hope.  Jesus has been raised!  Do you believe this?

Disclaimer:  I wish that I didn't have to say this, but I feel that I must.  Rob Bell and his theology are controversial.  I have written previously on this topic, and while I don't agree with everything that Rob has to say I can still appreciate his work and find that on this day this is what I needed to hear.  Set aside the points of disagreement and this is without a doubt the gospel message: this world is broken, dark, and despairing, but that's not the end of the story.  What a message!  What a hope!  God help us believe it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Want to be an Enabler

Who wants to be labeled an enabler?  This term carries extremely negative connotations: those close to an alcoholic who not only allow negative behaviors but unknowingly encourage them; the parents of a 27 year old who is fully capable of working and supporting himself but is instead living in their basement playing video games all day; a parent who actually rewards their child's temper tantrum by buying that candy bar in the supermarket aisle.

For most of us, this is what it means to be an enabler.  And who wants to be known as someone who enables negative behavior?  Why would we want to encourage someone in a direction only to have them go off the deep-end, passing into the abyss of failure, addiction, or even insanity, while we stand by allowing them to continue in their negative patterns?

So whenever we see someone stepping out in a way that seems unsustainable or slightly inappropriate, we are quick to discourage what we consider dangerous.  If a guy in high school wants to start an outreach to unwed mothers we fear inappropriate relationships and recommend that he find a less ambitious way to reach out in the community.  If a 21 year old is passionate about art and wants to pursue further education in that field we warn them about the difficulties there and discourage them from taking that step.  If a 30 year old father is considering leaving behind career and stability in order to pursue schooling and full-time ministry we suggest that they wait til their children graduate from high school and their finances are more secure.  If a 12 year old imagines the possibilities of starting a business by buying and selling used electronics among their friends we discourage them because of the inherent relational and legal problems.

Danger is discouraged, risk is avoided, and passion is extinguished.  And then we wonder why our culture is complacent and coddled.  We wonder why no one stands up for what they believe.  We wonder why we've raised a generation without an entrepreneurial, inventive, or leading spirit.

Recently I remembered an idea I had in my teens that is still a passion in my heart.  It was shot down by someone in authority who probably doesn't even remember or think anything of it.  Now I find myself in a position of authority but not pursuing what I believed to be God given desires and goals.  Why is it that now that I have the ability to call the shots and turn the ship I continue to head in directions that I questioned 5-7 years ago?  Because I hear those voices in my head, I hear the voices of discouragement, doubt, and fear.

So I've decided something: I don't want that to be my voice in someone else's head 5-7 years from now.  All passion has inherent danger.  If you encourage people to listen to God's voice and follow they may try to sacrifice their son on an altar (Genesis 22).  They may marry a woman who is carrying someone else's child (Matthew 1) or worse yet they might marry a whore (Hosea 1).  They may lay on their left side for 390 days without moving only to turn over to their right side for another 40 days (Ezekiel 4).

I want to be a voice of reason.  I want to be discerning.  I want to be wise.  But at the end of the day, if someone comes to me with an idea, I don't want them to leave having heard, "You couldn't possibly do that", rather, I hope that they leave hearing, "That sounds dangerous, that sounds difficult, but if you really believe that's what God is calling you to then let me walk along beside you."

I want to be an enabler.