Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Creation: Faith Expressing Itself Through Love

Friday was difficult.  I made some poor choices and found myself feeling guilty, ashamed, and childish.  As I talked to God about it I found myself asking, "What are you doing Lord?  I've tried everything to fix myself.  I've tried changing my environment; I've tried changing my thoughts; I've tried changing my habits; but I just keep finding myself making stupid choices.  What does it mean that you've created me anew, because let me tell you, I sure don't feel like I am.  And how do I live as this new creation?  What does it look like?"
When Paul says in Romans 7 that he does what he does not want to do he ends with "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  But what about when we're stuck in the wretchedness of the flesh and deliverance seems nowhere to be found?  What do we do?  How do we walk?  What does it mean, in that moment, that we are a new creature?  These are the questions I was asking God.  And I came right out and said, "I've come to the end of myself.  I just don't know how to continue walking this walk.  It seems like everything I try fails."  And I left it at that in His hands.
And the funny thing is, if there's one thing I've learned about God over my life it is that when you honestly ask a question He answers.  And so the topic of our sermon this morning was new creation.  And as we looked at Galatians 6:15 which reads (in the 1984 NIV) "The only thing that counts is new creation" my eye was drawn back to chapter 5 verse 6 which says "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

Now these verses are not referencing each other and I don't think we can take it as a direct comparison statement in which Paul is specifically stating that new creation and faith expressing itself through love are equivalents, but at the same time, as I looked these verses over, I felt that in a very real sense we can understand and describe the new creation in this way.  What does it mean that we have been created anew?  It means that we have faith in God, we have faith that He is redeeming us, we have faith that he has and is delivering us from this body of death, even when it doesn't look like it.  And because of this faith, we are able to live out of love, we are able to leave guilt and shame behind and instead operate out of the grace and beauty that we have received in Christ.

And I sat there amazed at how quickly and concisely God chose to answer my direct question to Him.  We serve a great God who "is delivering" us.  Trust Him.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Intimacy with God

I woke up around 4:30 this morning and rolled around restlessly in bed until 5.  Dana warned me multiple times that if I kept moving about I was going to "get the boot".  I finally got up and ate something; I never really had dinner last night so my stomach felt hollow.  Then I headed back to bed.  As I lay there I thought, "Why are you laying here trying to sleep when you know you're going to wake up in two hours more tired and you've been looking for time to pray?  Maybe this is God's way of giving you time with Him."
So, I lay there and fought with myself for a few minutes and finally told myself I was being ridiculous and got up.  Its funny how, when we haven't been regularly taking it, time alone with God can seem like such a chore.  Honestly, it seems like most days anymore I forget how much I need God and how sweet He is.  Father, how I need you!  How I love you!  How I want you!  You are sweeter than any other thing, more present than the world around, but so often my eyes are squeezed so tightly shut that you seem a million miles away.
So, I got up and took a walk.  Prayer is a funny thing, I find it has a lot more to do with creating space to be alone with God than with saying or doing anything specific.  I just enjoyed the beautiful morning with God.  After my walk I watered my garden and then made some coffee and sat out on our "porch" in a light rain.  When it wasn't raining I read "A Praying Life" by Paul Miller, and when it started raining enough to wet the page I would lay the book down and take it as God's cue to just enjoy Him.  So I sat for an hour moving between reading and "praying" and was reminded how important these times are.
So, here's some little nuggets from Paul Miller about prayer which stood out even more to me given the context of the morning.

"Besides asking and believing like a child, learning to pray involves learning to play again.  How do little children play?  If you ask a parent how long a one-year-old stays on task, they'll just smile.  But if you must know, it varies anywhere from three seconds to three minutes.  It isn't long, nor is it particularly organized.  How can that teach us to pray?  Think for a minute.  How do we structure our adult conversations?  We don't.  Especially when talking with old friends, the conversation bounces from subject to subject.  It has a fun, meandering, play-like quality.  Why would our prayer time be any different?  After all, God is a person."

"Jesus is, without question, the most dependent human being who ever lived...When Jesus tells us to believe, he isn't asking us to work up some spiritual energy.  He is telling us to realize that, like him, we don't have the resources to do life.  When you know that you (like Jesus) can't do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense.  But it goes even deeper than that.  Jesus defines himself only in relationship with his heavenly Father.  Adam and Eve began their quest for self-identity after the Fall.  Only after they acted independently of God did they have a sense of a separate self.  Because Jesus has no separate sense of self, he has no identity crisis, no angst.  Consequently, he doesn't try to "find himself."  He knows himself only in relationship with his Father.  He can't conceive of himself outside that relationship...That's why contemplating the terror of the cross at Gethsemane was such agony for Jesus.  He had never experienced a moment when he wasn't in communion with his Father.  Jesus' anguish is our normal."

May you take time today to be alone with your Father.  Ask Him for things, tell Him things, just be silent with Him.  And may you find the intimacy that we all crave and desire deep within our souls.  May you find rest, peace, hope, and joy.  And overall, may you experience the love of God washing over your heart, soul, and mind, cleansing you of sin and filling you with His presence.