Friday, July 30, 2010

Silly Sinner

Have you ever encountered something inside yourself that is absolutely hell-bent against God? I've found that place inside me and it gives me the heeby jeebies (sp?)!

Why do I find this unhappy place over and over and over again? Why do I habitually think my way is better than God's? I could simply say that I'm human and I have flaws. But that is a totally pagan way of looking at sin. These aren't flaws or imperfections in my character but my sin is an out-and-out personal statement of my hatred for God and his loving commands.

Wow, now not many Christians would admit to hating God. But I guess that at bottom, I often do. The sin that I still entertain is adamantly opposed to God and to partake of it is to hate all that is good.

I can write about this with some confidence, because, guess what, I've just sinned, and the attitudes that spurred me on in my rebellion are still fresh on my mind. This has all been written about a ton, so I know that I'm not adding anything new, but I'm simply trying to wrestle with something I believe a lot of Christians wrestle with. That is - the way we view our sin.

Alongside a host of other people, I've given in to the idea that sin is just a flaw or imperfection in my character, not an infatic statement that I want my way and God and his ways can hit the highway. But for me my sin is a lot more than a flaw! For example, the sin I just commited was premeditated, thought about, analyzed with my own personal cost/benefit analysis, and then cooly calculated and executed (and it wasn't even murder!).

What does this say about me? Well it forsure says that I'm a sinner in need of a very merciful God. It says that I'm in a place of desperate dependance on God for continual acts of saving mercy. And it says that having been saved from the ultimate consequences of my sin on the cross, I still desperately need that cross.

A lot of people don't like to call themselves "sinners." And in light of our new sinless state before God and Jesus' substitutionary work on the cross, I can see this perspective. As Christians we're not really characterized by our sin anymore. And to characterize ourselves only as sinners minimalizes the reality of what Jesus achieved on the cross. When we turn back to sin, we're turning back to a defeated foe, something that's already dead to us and something that we are dead to.

That's part of the beauty of the Gospel. The fact that we even struggle now with sin is a sign that we are under a new king, with new loyalties, and alive to something totally different. The fact that the we keep turning around and stabbing our new king would make you think that his enlisting us to be in his army was kind of a comical idea.

But that just shows more of the beauty and humor of the good news that makes up the Gospel. For the good news is that God doesn't love us in spite of our sin, he loves us, and takes our sin upon himself. He did it all at once on the Cross. Our sins are paid for. And now we serve a loving and faithful God, who is able to fight his own battles. Which is a good thing, for with foot soldiers like me, God has to watch his back.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Life, Death, and Caffeine

Here I sit in another coffee shop, on another hot, hot day, having called or emailed 25 people. My personal goal for each day is to call/email about 15 times. So I'm pumped I reached 25 today but also wearied by the effort. But with as much effort as I'm putting into this support raising stuff, I'm beginning to think about how much effort God puts into us.

I don't know, God often seems so distant to me. Sometimes I think he's just an idea, an abstract construction, or simply not there. But I'm learning more and more that if I'll just stop and listen, God is everywhere and involved in everything. He's the one giving me the strength to keep going, he's the one walking beside me and showing me all the wonders of a life. He's teaching me that life is found in sacrifice. I don't think I live all that sacrificially, in fact I'm almost always looking for ways to ease my burden, to escape obedience, and shirk responsibility. But I'm learning that the key to life is found in dying to self.

This is nothing new. Jesus said it. Apostles said it. Church fathers said it. And people today say it. I guess it's easy to say but much harder to pull off. It takes something supernatural, something outside of ourselves to pull off and something deeper and richer than our common day experience to draw us the type of death that enables freedom. I long for this. I long to live and breath through the life of Christ.

Oftentimes, I just feel I can't, so I simply don't. Rarely in these times do I ask. I believe if you ask for the strength to die to selfishness and live for/with others and for/with Christ you will. It's undeniable that God answers these sorts of prayers. It's also undeniable that life must come from death if God's involved. All we have to do is look at the Cross. There God pulled off the impossible.

As someone somewhere has written, the Christian life is about impossibilities becoming possible. I believe this! There's no way I can die to myself unless my friend Jesus is involved in the process, motivating, empowering, encouraging, and cheering me on. I'm reminded of the story of Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when his greed has turned him into a dragon, and Aslan tears layer after layer of flesh off of Eustace until he's finally free.

For me that's the catch. If I want to be transformed into God's image, I've got to at some point say Lord I'm yours, have your way with me. I need the Spirit to do this, for the prospect is a painful one - one of destruction of all the lies that hold me together. But if I'm willing God is able to do it. If I submit myself to the care of my true lover, I'll find myself once again myself.

This is where I find the theme of Christianity being the true humanism (J I Packer). It really is. It's not until we let the death that has ruled our lives die (sounds weird doesn't it) that we begin to live.

Jesus said in John 10, "The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have life in the full." Jesus knew our dynamic, he knew that I was heald captive to death, to a destroyer and deceiver, one who had me believing I was alive when I was really dead. I still do, and I still need Jesus to interupt, intervene and rescue me from my walking nightmare.

I believe Jesus is doing this with me as I contemplate a life of service and seek to be available to serve my wife children and the community as best as I can. I just wrote that last sentence full of skepticism, for my efforts are so paltry, but my God is big. And in the bigness of my God and in the strength of his hand I can rest.

It's still hot outside, and as I'm sure you can tell I'm motoring on with a caffeine buzz. I love these times, after a hard days work, getting the chance to reflect on the God who never gives in, never goes down, never gets rattled, never gets scared, never gets lost, never loses heart, and never, ever, ever gives up on you and me. It helps me to accept the shortcomings of my day and my efforts, and reminds me to shift my focus from me to God, the only place we can really see anything anyway.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hot Summer Afternoons and Chimps

This afternoon I'm sitting in a quaint coffee shop in Chattanooga's "Bluff View Art District." Sounds pretty schwank eh? Well it is. I'm waiting to meet a friend to talk about Student Venture. I enjoy meeting and sharing with folks what I'm up to, but if you're like me mid-afternoon can be one of your least productive times.

There is something about mid-afternoons in the summer that just make me want to check out for a few hours, turn the old brain off and snooze until the cooler hours descend. Siestas are something that I think our culture needs to adopt. What would the US look like if we all pulled out pillows and just nodded off into dreamland from 1-3PM? Would we have less drugs, violence and cell-phone talkers? Possibly.

I don't know, maybe I'm lethargic by nature. Maybe in the dawn of my creation, God was wondering whether to make me a slug or to make me a human. Perhaps I have a little of the slug in me, a slice of their nature that sings in the sweet Simon and Garfunkle duet, "Slow down you move to fast, you've got to make the moment last. Just a-skipping along the cobble stones, do and do-do feeling groovy."

Wow, lyrics sound funny when you write them out. It's like without the music, they sound like they were written by monkeys! Well maybe not monkeys, but if monkeys wrote, surely they'd write lyrics like these.

And while I'm on to the subject of monkeys, I think they're always napping. Have you heard that pound-for-pound they are 4 times as strong as humans (I need to google-check this)? But whenever I see monkeys (which is all the time of course) they are napping. They've totally bought into this nap thing, paw over fist.

On hot afternoons like this I covet the life of a monkey, even if it means flinging the occasional poop and sitting in a hot cage. At least they get to nap whenever they feel like it. The chimps are especially good at this, it must be a source of pride. I've seen them down at Chattanooga Zoo, just sitting in the shade and nodding off. They seem so content. Just happy to be. Maybe the fact that people "oh" and "ah" over them has gone to their little chimp brains. Or maybe they're mystics, deeply contemplating the intricacies of the universe, meditating and sleeping in perfect trust and peace. Sounds good doesn't it?

Well, I better get back to doing something "productive."