Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

"Let love be genuine... bless those who persecute you... Live in harmony with one another... Never be wise in your own sight..." -Paul (just being mean)

I thought it'd be fun to do a thought inventory for Philip today (then I woke up this morning). If I begin with the not so precise moment I rub sleep from my aching eyeballs, look around and try to make sense of where I am, what I'm lying on and whose body this is I find myself in, my thinking goes somewhat like this: "Where are you? In your room. Who are you? An older version of yourself. What are you supposed to do today? Ohhhhh crap!!!"

Typically I mutter "crap" or some similar version to myself as a host of worries, fears and anxieties rush at me like a very, very mad herd of rhinos. This drives me to God. I have no where else to go. To hop out of bed is to be trampled into a little red pulp.

But once I'm up and about, I feel a little bit better and begin to think about how I can make this the best possible day for me that I've ever had. My thinking on any given moment in an average day goes something like this: "Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me... Hum di dum... Something else? No... Me, me, me!!!"

That's why the Gospel is so interminably frustrating for the human being. It tells us that life isn't about us, our personal satisfaction and having the perfect me day (the audacity!). I like me days. And frankly, I don't like the gospel a lot of the time. It sort of distracts me from my purpose: Me.

Me is a small world, in a small galaxy, that's ever shrinking and not expanding, whatever you smarty pants scientists believe. Planet me is in very real trouble of implosion. That is precisely why the Gospel is good news, though it can feel very, very bad.

To extend my metaphor, there's another universe, of which me has always been a part, that revolves around someone else - God. His expanding universe encompasses me, wrests me from my small insular selfishness and basically just flat out rescues me from my collapsing world.

"Me-ness" put God on the cross. "Other-ness" is the new thought of my redeemed mind. I guess that's one more reason that the Gospel is our only hope.

If we'd all only pay attention to the timeless epic that is Star Wars, we'd take the posture towards God that Princess Leia does in her desperate plea for help, "Help us Obi-Wan you are our only hope." Then maybe God would spare our home planet from being blown up by the Death-Star. Then maybe we wouldn't have to be slow roasted by Ewoks to learn humility. Or maybe we wouldn't have to fly around in the "fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy" listening to a Wookie moaning in our ear. Then again, maybe not.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Can't Touch This"

"I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in a man who walks to direct his steps."

Set in the middle of Jeremiah's depiction of a Israel's pursuit of false religiousity and idolatry, these words ring out with timeless truth. Israel as a nation had been duped into the belief that they could direct their steps. The same goes for me.

Somehow I think that I have God-like qualities; that I know my destination, purpose, direction and hurdles. But if I take a second to stop and think (sometimes a good idea) I'm hit with the futility of my thinking. I can't discern the beginning or the end of "my way."

This is a scary and dissorienting truth to find in scripture. Why? Because I'm struck by the reality of my own lack of control and power. Some things are not for me, including the direction of my steps.

Now I'm not saying that I'm not responsible for the directions I take. But I am saying that their is one who knows my circumstances, steps and their destination.

This is becoming less scary these days as I'm finding out more about the One who knows my direction. God forgives. According to his character is necessary for him to do so. Just look at the next verse in Jeremiah: "Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing."

What does Jeremiah mean by "justice?" Does he mean that he has right standing on his own or that it's necessary for God to simply have mercy. I don't think so. But let's leap to the new testament and take a look at John's statement "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Here we have portrayed for us a justice that requires our forgiveness. In Jeremiah's time it was found in God's covenant and sacrificial law which pointed the way to Jesus himself being our sacrifice.

Why must God forgive? Because for him not to would be unjust! For him not to forgive the repenter would be for him to forsake his covenant, his promise, and his own body that was torn in two for us!

I find this to be a great comfort these days when I think about my own inability to control and have power over my circumstances. God in his Justice is my friend, my record is clean, and my life is in his hands.

With this truth I can open the death-grip I have over my own direction and rest in the "God who loves me and gave himself up for me." As the great theologian MC Hammer once, "My justice, you can't touch this."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Give me, give me! I need, I need!

Something is not right. Deep inside I can feel it. There's something deep within me that cries for more, more than I've been striving for: my desires, my comforts, my pleasures, my hopes, my dreams. A voice deep within me cries for Christ.

I wonder if this will pass. If I'll wake up tomorrow and begin again chasing after the wind. If I will staunch the wound of my bleeding heart with my mass of temporary pleasures. No, not this time I determine, this time I want Christ. Do I?

I feel like a stubborn child, stomping his feet and screaming, "I'm tired of this, give me, give me!" Or like Bill Murray in the movie "What About Bob?" saying (in one of my favorite movie moments of all time) "Dr. Leo Marvin, give me, give me, I need, I need!!!" (If you haven't seen this movie, you must.)

You'll have to forgive my melo-drama. I get this way often. I see the gap that represents the life I now live and the life that I believe I could have in Christ. But I'm beginning to suspect that there's someone else closing the gap. There is someone else building a bridge to me.

That's one of the amazing things about knowing Jesus Christ. He never gives up, he never quits, he never gets tired, or fed up. He always pursues, he always rescues, he loves and loves and continues to love, in spite of our hatred and indifference. In him and in him alone we find "steadfast love."

So as much as I feel helpless, hopeless and frustrated by my stubborn refusal to embrace what is already mine in relationship, "forfeiting grace," there's another party at work: Jesus. As much as I think I'm that child crying out for him, he's the shepherd recklessly endagering himself to get to me.

Who can't love this Lord? I can't on my own. As I've said before, I often find my actions betraying that I'm a god-hater. There really is that much of a gap! But he's finding me. He's taking this crying child and wrapping him in bonds of familial love. He gently, patiently holds me in his muscular arms of rescue. He sings over me and rocks me to the rythm of grace and a new reality and a new way of life, life with him, life secure and life eternal!

Do you see this? Do you believe in a this kind of a savior? On the cross he purchased not only our freedom but our eternity with him now. He both lives within us and pursues us. His strong arm doesn't let go though we beat against his grip. He allows hardship to draw us close. He brings joy to broken hearts. And he will not give up, he will never give up until we one day embrace him fully as his children and become what we already are, His.

Can we reject him? Of course. Can we run from him. Yes, I do all the time. But can we out-run God once he's begun his pursuit? I have my doubts. Thank God for doubts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts from another "Crazy Horse"

"Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle. Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD." -Jeremiah

As I write this morning, I'm recovering from a serious Starbuck's overdose. "Hyper" could be one word that describes me. "Manic" another. Unfortunately recovery means sliding down the other side of the mountain that was my caffeine high. Yup, even as I type I'm starting to feel the fatigue and misery seeping in behind my eyeballs.

But what has me writing today, I think (I have a host of subconsious sinful propensities), is that I've been learning a lot about my life recently. I chose the passage above because I thought it was funny and really reveals the way I am. If only I could be a stork, turtledove, swallow or crane.

I'm not. I'm more like the horse charging into battle. The implication is that I'm charging into the wrong battle. If I'm not running towards "sin," I'm running towards performance. Rarely am I running towards a person. People are teaching me that. Real flesh and blood people.

I've become part of a group of believers who meet regularly to talk, and here's the difficult part (although talking is hard for us guys), talk honestly. And honestly, I'm finding out I know little about a personal relationship with God. Very little.

Now I don't want to overstate this. It's not that I've never experienced intimacy with God, I have a lot. But in regards to my typical daily experience of him, am I relating to him in a way that recognizes who he really is: my creator AND my friend?

I often sort of think of him as a dissappointed friend. Sadly wagging his head as I stumble through life. But people are showing me different. Real flesh and blood people.

Why am cryptically repeating "real flesh and blood people." Well, I'm realizing that in my interactions with these guys, I'm getting to know my Father and Lord all over again. It's not anything profound, but that's just like God isn't it. We're simply sharing about our lives and reminding eachother of God's love, grace, and holiness. We're simply taking time to be Jesus to one another as he chooses to use us. I guess it is sort of a profound thing. Profoundly simple.

I'm a heady Christian, not a hearty Christian. God is using my friends to show me this. I like God in my head. I'm comfortable with him up there. My heart is all fleshy and sensitive. And my heart often tells me I should be about the things my head is calculating. Sometimes I wish I could shut up my heart (he's sort of annoying).

But my friends are helping me befriend my heart, which is teaching me, through difficult lessons, that my life is defined by my closeness to my Father, not by my effectiveness or productivity. I'm becoming less the horse and more the turtledove you might say. Or I hope.

I thought I'd also share with you another verse that popped out in my reading. I thought it came from the same chapter in Jeremiah, but it didn't as two pages stuck together and I missed a whole chapter. (Reveals a little about how closely I read doesn't it.)

But here's the passage: ". . . let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, and that I am the LORD who practises steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth."

Did you hear that? Not "boast in his good Christian walk." Not boast in his "openness with sin." Not "boast in his neat writing abilities." Let him boast in me.

Like I've said, people are showing me God again and it's getting hard not to boast in him. It's also getting hard not to relax, as Larry Crabb says over and over again in his book The Pressure's Off, "the pressure's off." God simply wants me to draw close to him. He'll take care of the rest. Why and how? Because he's God, and, that's right, he's God.

Flesh and blood people are teaching me this as they are drawing close to me. We're not alone in this walk, and we never were.