Ultimately, the one thing I wish to say to everybody is, “be willing to give up everything you hold dear for the sake of Christ.” And, discern those things of God through the following: “Goodness, Rightness, and Beauty.” God is Good and everything I do should be “good.” Everything I do should be “right” or righteous and “seeking first the kingdom of God.” So, things may seem good and be right, but not for a certain time. An action must have both goodness and righteousness at the time it is to be accomplished. And then on top of that, God is beautiful and all of us should proliferate His beauty. One thing I like to say is that, “Truth is elegant.” When I’m attempting to understand God’s truths, I shouldn’t have to make up complicated conjectures to account of fringe-cases. I’ve always been in awe of God when I begin to understand His truths. I fully expect that all of His truths will cause be to wonder in awe at the beauty of the simplicity. For if I could grasp His truths and explain every fringecase, I would be in a place where I don’t need God. I know that my God loves me too much to let me do that to myself (run in overconfidence and live without needing Him for everything in my life).
I spent like 3-hours today listening to a Presbyterian theologian on a topic about worship. It was quite intriguing as he went into explanation about church history, liturgy, and worship/praise. The coolest thing was the fact that he contrasted Catholicism with contemporary Evangelism. What I liked was the fact that he stated that Catholicism stuck to the roots of striving to have the congregation experience the magnificent and presence of God whereas the contemporary Evangelical church generally focuses on the comfort of its members. More explicitly stated: the Catholic Church has a focus on God and the Evangelical focuses on man’s comforts. However, I don’t think that these distinctions are so easily discerned or evaluated. So, it was cool to contemplate the fact that Evangelicals (myself included) may have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater to some degree.” But, there are so many ways to interpret the Word of God and I do see as God manifesting Himself through the same words different to each of us simply because He isn’t somebody/something that can be understood completely or fully-known. So, there’s a tip of the iceberg on some theology of worship – so much more to be contemplated.
What if our death and subsequent resurrection in our new bodies is actually the reuniting (the marriage) of Christ with His bride (us). Right now, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. So, What if it’s even bigger!? What if it is this amazing reunion of God with Himself – Jesus with the Holy Spirit? Is this why the earth groans for the Lord’s return? Is this the Holy Spirit’s heart aches resonating through us?
How often do I (we) pray, “God strip me of everything that keeps me from you?” What if that means he will put you into financial ruin? What if that means he will take away your job/intellect/school? What if that means he will leave you physically disfigured? What if that means you would lose your family/friends? What if that was (whatever else you think you can’t live without or have change in your life)? Would you still pray?
So, there are some stories in the Bible that seem very telling of identity in Christ. For instance, the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-30, Luke 18:18-23) [which I am thrilled to continually reinterpret in wonderful new ways]. What is it really about? We have a guy say that he has kept the commandments of the Jewish law asking how he can have eternal life and then Jesus says, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Does this make much sense? Not really. I mean, why should he have to give up his riches? Riches aren’t bad or evil. There is nothing wrong with money and power in his youth.
So, if that’s not it, then it’s got to be something else. And as I see it, it’s very clear that Jesus simply asks for the man’s full identity to be rooted in Him alone. It wasn’t commandments/obedience that were keeping him from eternal life, but it was his security he derived from his status, power, riches, and expected longevity.
This is why I love the gospel. It’s always about give up everything; lay it down; forget yourself, your money, your past, your future. Jesus goes on to say only a few verses later “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Basically, I see Jesus saying that we have to give up things of great value – even things that seem like very good and beneficial things – to fully devote ourselves to him. (But when? How? What does that look like?)
I wonder about the “rich young ruler” some more. Why didn’t Jesus tell him to throw a big event where Jesus could preach? Or why didn’t Jesus say that he should have the man use the money to build a trust and support the church movement? Or a bunch of other good things that could advance the gospel? And, I believe it’s because this man’s security (identity) was wrapped up in his riches. But, I take it a step further to his achievements. He had achieved an abundance of money and power at a young age and to give them up was unreasonable [Jesus is generally pretty unreasonable, but somehow the nonsensical lifestyle is always full of adventure, abundance, and joy]. Maybe using them to enhance the kingdom would be reasonable, but I bet the man would just find security in doing what looked good and advanced the reach of the gospel message. Rather, Jesus cared about His character more than how many Bibles the rich man could distribute (yet another thing derive security/pride).
I see character as what is most important to God throughout the Bible – not achievement of God-type things. I wonder why Moses wandered for 40 years, why Jacob had to wait 21 years for Rebecca, why Abraham was told to slaughter his only son (whom the promise was to come through), why Joseph was in jail for 7 years, etc. God could have just given them their goal immediately, but he didn’t. Why is that?
Then, this same God not only wants to develop our character, but he also tests us. Why does he test us? I wonder. I mean, God knows everything, it’s not like God needs to find out something about us (Does God wonder, “I wonder how he’ll handle this?”). So, maybe the only reason for a test is so that we can see our true character plainly. For when Abraham passed the test to kill his son Isaac, it was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:9). But, God knew Abraham’s heart beforehand and what he would do. But, I bet Abraham doubted himself – if he would actually follow through and fully trust God. But, after he put his faith and God and saw that God was faithful, how much more confidence does Abraham have in God and himself?
So, Jesus tested Philip with the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-15) – He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do (John 6:6). Again, why? So that Philip would see his own lack of faith. Then we look at Jesus tempted. I wonder about this at times, for these would have been very tough tests that Satan put before him. For, Satan basically told Jesus that he could save the whole world from Satan’s domination if Jesus would only worship Satan. Wow, that is exactly Jesus’ goal – to save the world. There is a small nuance difference, but both routes achieve Jesus’ goal to save the world. It’s just what is “good and right” as I see it. There is the “good and right” way to achieve the goal and the seemingly straightforward and immediate way. Jesus focused on the eternal perspective and knew that immediate gratification (no matter how tempting) is not the way of righteousness (aka God).
Where do I find my identity? How do I handle seeing the results of the character tests God places before me (both success and failure)? Am I willing to give up everything to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousnesses (what is good and right)? Do I trust him over these things I’d love to find security (money, job, intellect, physical abilities, charisma, health, youth, status, etc.)?
There is the awful predicament that I am consistently plagued – questions about the future. What do I do next? How do I handle this impending situation? What is God’s will? What is best? What is good and right? How will I know? What’s the deal – oh frustration.
James 4 – 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Isaiah 55:9 – As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Interpretation: We are incapable of determining God’s thoughts through human reasoning; therefore, we are dependent on divine revelation.
These verses tell me that I can’t plan for tomorrow and that I can’t even imagine that I can come up with what my tomorrow should even look like. How depressing. What am I supposed to do? How do I deal with topics like:
- Retirement savings
- Emergency savings
- Decision to go back to school or not
- Moving or getting a new job
- Changing my longer-term commitments: girl, friends, family, organization, activities, leadership
When I read through the Bible I get even more confused. There are some really rich people in there and some really poor. There are people that gave up everything to follow a calling (but how can we be sure something is that “calling”?) and people that did great things in their positions (jobs). There are people who are well-learned and those with no education.
I guess I get frustrated at God’s creativity. For, I’d love to just be able to figure things out easy on my own. I’d like be able to apply analysis and logic to situations in my life and figure out what to do. But it’s not that simple, simply because God doesn’t want us bloat with pride by using the abilities he has given us to avoid Him. So, it’s cool in the end that I must go back to Him. I must not have pre-conceptions of where my future is going that I’m unwilling to release. I must constantly check-myself.
How do I check myself? Well, I generally ask myself these questions when coming on a decision. Of course, I’m not so objective or perfect that I always allow myself to admit the full truth, but it’s definitely a start.
- Am I rationalizing/justifying my actions? (Are there excuses or self-assurance with sensical reasons?)
- Am I scared to do it and it is in alignment with God’s truths (probably should take the risk)?
- Do I have peace that after (and usually before) that I’ve acted righteously and in complete and utter humble submission to God?
- Is this good and right?
Does this resonate?
Over the past several weeks, myself and the guys at the God Lab have spent time repeatedly discussing girls and dating. It’s been quite a focus ever since spring arrived and so did the desire to enjoy the beautify of the world along with our own beauty. This desire for a girlfriend has been very consuming and along with this comes many questions, differences, struggles, and confusion. But, through this difficult and containing difficulty, God has been good and patient. Continue reading Do I really believe God’s way is better?
I had an opportunity to speak at a bible study at Mt. Pisgah United Methedost Church in Richmond, Va today. My friend Phil, his girlfriend, Christine, and I were asked to share stories of how we have been involved in God loving others. I share a couple brief interactions I have had with some people in need. My goal was to call those in attendance to action; it was to encourage tangible results. I left the church frustrated because many people came to me and told me how much they enjoy my story or me sharing. One woman told me about how she could relate to my faith story because she went through the same thing.
Yet, what is the purpose of good stories? What is the purpose of attending a church? What is the purpose of studying the Bible, etc? If this time does not bring about action and change, what good is it? I don’t know.
I haven’t had many interactions with the older generation (60+), but from my little interaction, I have found complacency and a desire to hear good things and blessings. Maybe a mentality sets in that after so many years one has sacrificed and served enough. I hope that mindset never comes into my life. Why live when life is about comfort, ease, blessing, fond memories, etc? How meaningless, meaning (at least thus far for me) comes from giving of myself (out of God’s abundant blessing on me) to/for others. I hope my whole life embodies this if I live so long.