Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Things

I was talking with a friend tonight, and it stirred up two emotions that prompted me to check this blog. She's studying abroad in South America and was talking about blogging to capture it all. It reminded me so much of my experiences at Summit Semester, which resembles a semester abroad more and more when I think about it. She also talked about how exciting my life is right now, with the changes that have happened recently. A lot of days, I'm just living, and it's easy to forget how exciting these changes actually are. But seriously:

In the past two months, I've returned from an awesome mission trip to Romania, finished college, visited S2 friends, toured a seminary, read the Harry Potter books, watched friends/mentors transition to new stages of life, started working part-time at the church, purchased potential play-off tickets for the Rangers, and begun investing in a small group.

Obviously, some of those things are more significant than others, but they all make me very happy.

I came back from Romania excited for the future, but it was founded out of trusting God and being encouraged by what He was doing in other people. But since then, He has thrown open doors, almost before I could ask, and definitely beyond what I could ask or imagine. While I still find myself having to fight getting ahead of God, it has been very encouraging. In the midst of all this, I have to remind myself to trust and wait. I have to remind myself that God is good. And I think that's the main reason I write blogs like this, to look back at standing stones and remember.

Zakar - remember and live, because God is faithful.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waiting On God

EDIT: This is a couple weeks old, but still worth posting, I think.

I find that I can grasp a better perspective when I'm flying at 30,000 feet. The matters that are so pressing on the ground are mere specks, and I wonder what the whole universe must look like when God looks down. Sometimes I need to be reminded He's got the whole world in His hands.

Anyways, while flying home yesterday, I was journaling. I won't bore you with most of it, but something really stuck out to me.

See, for the past several years, when well-meaning people have asked some version of that dreaded question - what do you want to be when you grow up? - I've sketched the broad goal of my life as I know it and usually finish with something like, "I'm waiting on God to see what's next." And I've had multiple, unrelated people say almost the exact same thing: "Well, waiting on God is very good place to be in."

I smile and nod, because I know it's true, but the impatient part of me wants to mutter, "Oh yeah? It'd really be nice to know what's going on..."

But I think I've realized why I've never gotten it before. Here's what I wrote last night.

For far too long, I've been waiting on God to do something - to reveal His plan, or at least the next step, to open up a door, to direct friendships and relationships, or just to speak. But if I'm waiting on anything other than God Himself, I will never be satisfied, for nothing else can satisfy. But if my desire is God Himself, nothing else matters - where I am, who I'm with, what I'm doing. I'm not waiting for the next big event or a list of instructions or for the right people to show up. I'm listening for God Himself and what He wants me to do in this moment. I'm walking in step with the Spirit, covered in the dust of the Rabbi. Indeed, waiting on God is a good place, a good state to be in. Waiting on God to do something I think He should do is a miserable state to be in, for it, by nature, cannot satisfy. Only God Himself can do that.

Psalm 62

5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Discipine and Delight

Delight must be pursued through the process of discipline.

Or in other words, discipline facilitates delight. Discipline helps me create a well-ordered heart so I can love Jesus well. And I think that's what's really central to this whole idea. Discipline continually prepares my heart for worship.

My life can look really good on the outside, and my heart can be a mess. I can be disciplined - going through the motions, checking off Bible reading and church attendance, and my heart can be dead. Or there are times when I can be super excited about God, but experiencing no real growth because the excitement is emotional and ungrounded. Real, sustainable growth requires both discipline and delight.

About five months ago, I put down a tile floor in our house. It's the self-stick tile, so it wasn't that complicated, but I was proud of tackling my first major home improvement project on my own. Recently, some of the tiles in the bathroom have been pushing up, and we've noticed a little water on the floor after showering. Though I caulked and everything was theoretically sealed, water would seep through some of the tiles. Over the past month, we've taken extra care to avoid dripping water and cleaning it up. The water stopped seeping through and everything seemed okay.

Today I went to glue down the tiles that hadn't stuck well, and realized the whole bathroom area floor was soaked. Mold was growing, and none of the tiles were usable. From the outside, it still looked fine. There were a few flaws, a few tiles that appeared to need minor damage control, and a small problem that needed extra care, but nothing indicated a huge problem. And yet it's the inside that counts. I don't know how we hadn't smelled it yet, but once the water and mold was fully revealed, there was no denying the issue. Minor touchups were no longer on the table. Full force replacement was now necessary.

My heart can be the same way. My life can look pretty good on the outside, but once you get past the minor exterior damage, nothing short of full restoration can satisfy.

Discipline is a process that allows good maintenance. It makes me aware of the issues that need to be addressed in my heart before they come spilling out and damaging everything I'm involved in. This isn't to say by practicing the disciplines I fix myself, but rather, I am intentionally and regularly presenting and surrendering myself to God, expecting Him to be at work in me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Duty, Delight, and Discipline

"Often, discipline has to jump start desire."

The Christian life shouldn't revolve around duty, things we have to do to check off a list or get God's approval. Indeed, as Piper and Lewis have noted, we should find true joy and delight in knowing God. "In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him," writes Lewis, commenting on the catechism. Piper tweaks the catechism itself: "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever."

In my original post, I was contemplating the statement "If I learn to love, then I will obey" and how my focus needs to be first on loving Jesus before a checklist of things I should do. And that's still true. But this is where discipline comes in.

Discipline allows my heart to keep my focus on loving Jesus, because I am prone to wander. Loving Jesus doesn't just happen most of the time, at least not if I want to love Him well. Loving Jesus means being intentional about studying the Word and making time to listen to His voice and surrendering myself and taking up my cross each new day.

Discipline isn't an added burden to the relationship of Christianity. It's an essential part of what allows that relationship to exist in the first place. Friendships just don't happen. They have to be intentionally cultivated. There may be seasons of closeness and joy, and seasons of separation, but throughout it all, there has to be some intentional interaction for the relationship to continue.

Discipline isn't easy, but it should become a delight and not a duty. If I want to delight in playing a sport, I have to be disciplined about how I exercise and eat and practice the game. The discipline allows the sport to be delightful, but delight must be pursued through the process of discipline.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Duty and Delight

"When I surrender everything to Him and focus on just loving Jesus, my checklist isn't so important, and sanctification takes care of itself."

This is a concept I've wrestled with a lot the past three years, as I've sat under Jeff, the current youth pastor at church. His life verse is Philippians 2 - "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." His emphasis is that our work is to surrender and do nothing - not try to fix our selves or become better Christians - and let God do what He will in us. He says that as American Christians, we really struggle with works based salvation, regardless of what we profess to believe. And I can't deny that American culture certainly elevates independence and Lone Rangers and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.

I disagree mildly about how Jeff applies this though. He once told the youth group not to read their Bibles until they wanted to. His point is extremely valid, especially for kids who have grown up in the church with a checklist of dos and don'ts. And I think it's a great exercise, for a set period of time. Because when it comes down to it, human hearts are prone to wander and to desire things that shouldn't be desired. Far too often, as Lewis explains, our experiences with joy leaves us chasing more stuff instead of pointing us to the only source of Joy.

I want to delight in God and in communion with Him through serious study of His Word. But sometimes, the delight just isn't there. And while I agree that resorting to duty isn't the point of Christianity, there has to be a balance. I'm coming to discover that often, discipline has to jump start desire.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Love and Obey

For some reason, the Bible songs I learned as a little kid have been randomly skirting through my head. I guess after 10+ years of lying dormant in the dark recesses of my mind, they wanted to be remembered. Particularly, a Donut Man song has made me ponder recently.

Picking up my socks, hanging up my clothes, helping with the dishes, doing what I'm told. It's just another way of saying "Lord I love you."

You teach me in your word, to love is to obey. And if I learn to love, then I will obey. It's just another way of saying "Lord I love you."

To love and obey, it's the only way, even if it's not the easiest thing to do.

Wow. I'm a little impressed with my memory. Didn't know until just now I could whip out the whole song. It's just this one line that has kept me thinking

And if I learn to love, then I will obey.

I feel like sometimes in the midst of all the things I do, I forget that at the end of the day, my only duty and delight is to love Jesus. When I surrender everything to Him and focus on just loving Jesus, my checklist isn't so important, and sanctification takes care of itself. For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.

Chesterton has this great line about if you have a fixed heart, then you have a free hand.

It all comes back to the heart. Orthokardia.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Take Heart"

Take heart
His love leads us through the night
Hold on to hope
Take courage again

All our troubles
All our tears
God our hope
He has overcome

All our failures
All our fear
God our love
He has overcome

All our heartache
All our pain
God our healer
He has overcome

All our burdens
All our shame
God our freedom
He has overcome

All our troubles and
All our tears
God our hope
He has overcome

All our failures and
All our fear
God our love
He has overcome

God our justice
God our grace
God our freedom
He has overcome

God our refuge
God our strength
God is with us
He has overcome

"Take Heart" from Hillsong United's Aftermath. It's been on repeat today.