Heartbreaking implications

A friend of mine posted on facebook: “Our President is new…the Great Commission is not. As our President begins his new work, it’s time for Christians to get back to their work.”

Here was my original response. The only part I left in the comment is the part in bold below but I’m posting my full thought below.

I fear for many of our American Christian brothers and sisters, the “work” they think they’re supposed to be doing is furthering political agendas, garnished with Jesus-talk to give the facade of spirituality. I came of age in the 80s and the early days of the religious right and was an enthusiastic partaker for many years. In this election the mask was finally taken off. Principles that they swore were unshakable (and that they used to bludgeon past Presidents) suddenly were discarded. So I really appreciate the sentiment, Mark. But I don’t believe it anymore. Lord, we need a generation of Kingdom-minded, not Nationalistic, Christians who will have their focus on God’s kingdom and not on political idolatry.

The Republican party is not now and never has been the answer. I repent for ever thinking it was.

Implied in your post is a heartbreaking truth – so many devoted so much time in service of a political idol while the great commission calling on their life languished,and the witness of the American church suffered greatly. Unpopular opinion, I know.

Not knowing

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

I don’t know what to do. I’m coming out of my skin right now because so much of me wants to do something, anything. Oddly, most of what I want to do would be a distraction from the decision/problem/heartache/fear we’re looking at. Because about that, there’s not a lot I can do other than offer advice and love and push down, down, down the fear that I feel.

I want to create. I want to dig in. I want to make a difference, to play music, to construct something. I want to push back on the strange feeling of being twenty five in my head and fifty three in my body. I want to do ministry, and to give ministry away, all at the same time.

I passionately want everyone in my family to flourish and thrive. I’m pushing back on the feeling of the unknown, of ticking through every second of twenty seven years of parenting looking, searching, scouring for the reason that not everyone is. It has to be my fault. It’s always the father. But I don’t know the root cause. Maybe I’m blind to it because blindness to obvious things is the root cause.

I know that the future is all we have. I know, I know, usually we say “all we have is the present” but that lasts an infinitesimal slice of time and inexorably leads to the immediate future of the next tenth of a second and all the daisy-chained ticks afterwards. The present doesn’t stand alone – it’s the tail that wags the future’s dog. Choose Carefully.

I am stuck in the not knowing. I’m fighting against fear and the background noise of despair and learning patience in my old, tired, weary soul because while I believe the promise, with all my heart, that all things will one day become as they were intended to be, I know that we are often compelled to wait years or lifetimes for that one day. I’m tired.

I’m writing this because I have to. I’m writing it publicly (not that this will be read, but because it can be read) rather than in a closed journal, because I need to risk.

Lord Jesus I need you. I need my distracted mind calmed. I need to know if it’s OK to just go to bed and pull the covers over my head and rest tonight or do I need to take action? The future has a million different paths. I know the fork we’re standing before only looks dire because of the events of this summer and the awful scourge of this sickness that I hate with the fire of a million suns that has attacked my family. Was I not supposed to protect my family? But how can I fight against an attacker that I can’t see, who always, always sneaks up on me by surprise?

Do I know I would choose the right path?

I don’t know. I’m covered, buried in Not Knowing.

What would have been a simple decision in May now doesn’t look so simple. I don’t know. And it ultimately – if my words are to be believed and I’m to stand true to them – isn’t my decision. And maybe both paths have their merits and ultimately this will be no big deal. If I described the situation to you, you probably would think so. But that’s not how it feels. Perhaps being held over the edge of the cliff so recently has me afraid of heights of any kind.

But listen: God is sovereign.

Lord, this is what you meant when you said we needed to have faith. Faith isn’t believing the Bible to be true, though that’s a good foundational starting point. Faith is believing, leaping, trusting, falling, burrowing into the YOU that your true word speaks of.

It is resting in the not knowing,

knowing that you know.

Teams

I’m thankful for the 2016 Presidential election. It exposed a lot of illusions I had been believing about the political party I once aligned with, and has helped me at least begin becoming more Kingdom of God focused versus focused on the kingdoms our politicians promise.

It has been an incredibly clarifying year. I find myself outside of Team Red/Team Blue for the first time in my adult life.

I’m incredibly concerned about what happens next. But I’m also incredibly glad I have pushed away (or at least am pushing away) from putting my trust in “chariots and horses”. What was I thinking?

Talks

Lord grant wisdom.

Be the bringer of light,  the path-builder,  the One who brings clarity.

Ease our fears.  Bring perspective.  Heal wounded minds. May we be filled with the energy only you supply.

I love you, Lord. Imperfectly, hesitantly. But where would I go without you? You have the words of life.

We’ve been saved from great tragedy and loss. But we bear the cuts and bruises from our terrifying fall and look to you for healing and more wisdom and light as we look along the path and recognize some of the same dark places we’ve been to before.

Lord have mercy,  Christ have mercy.

Amen.

Twitter

I’ve had a twitter account for years, but didn’t really start getting into Twitter until a couple of years ago.

Recently, twitter has become toxic to me. Tonight I took a small step – I unfollowed a number of people (none of who are friends and/or someone who is following me). It cleaned things up quite a bit.

In a coincidental move, when I was done I noticed my followers exactly matched the number of people I am following.

I need to go way further on detoxing. But this is a start.

God’s art

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me. – Galatians 1:18-24 ESV

In my college days, shortly after I came to faith, I entered a very strange period of some days – I can’t remember how many – when the heavens went bronze and God’s voice went silent. I didn’t know what was going on and I was bewildered and alarmed, journeying through a dark night of the soul and a faith-crisis that I just hadn’t seen coming. I recall walking to the computer lab one night and stopping in the middle of the parking lot to jump up and down in frustration, pounding out my helplessness into the pavement.

That night I bumped into Karl, a friend who I had not seen for some time. He was a heavy drug user the last time I had seen him but now he was a believer in the Lord and full of joy. I remember talking with him for what seemed like hours; I don’t really remember what we said but I remember walking out of the computer lab and out of my faith-crisis into the light of belief. God glorified himself through my friend Karl that night.

I don’t think we can over-estimate how much the Lord loves the art of redemption, how much he loves turning lives upside down – or better said right side up – and causing both the believing and unbelieving worlds to gape in wonder. Of course, often his redemption of our lives appears, at least on the surface, routine. The person I was before Christ claimed me wasn’t – on the surface – that much different than the person I was afterwards, even though inside everything got turned on its head. Not everyone saw it at first but he re-arranged my hopes and dreams, busted out the walls, and had me dancing on the ceiling. I was a little bit of the bull in a china shop once things got going, but to the outside observer I had just “cleaned up my act” a bit. In reality I had begun to stop “acting” at all, as slowly but surely Christ began to turn me into the person I really was in him, and to manifest himself in me – a progression still underway to this day.

But sometimes God takes the one we would least expect, the sinner of a thousand dark days with blood on his hands and hatred exploding in his heart, and God conquers, conquers, conquers through the absolute might of the blood of Jesus and the power of the resurrection from the dead. He embraces such a one in the almighty love of our suffering savior and not only claims him as his own but also entrusts him with a world-altering mission. This is what God did for and through Paul, and just the rumor of that amazing, artful, ironic, almost hilarious conversion caused God’s glory to be lifted even higher, and it still does.

I love that about our Lord.

Who’s approval?

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 ESV

Oh boy.

Confession: I have been a people-pleaser my whole life. I really have to work hard in keeping my focus straight, because my natural inclination is to work hard to win the approval of those around me.

God has been dealing with me in this for a long time. One reason this battle is so tough is because pleasing others isn’t always wrong, and so it’s sometimes hard to discern my own motives. Paul is not saying here that we are to actively seek to displease people. It really comes down to what we are seeking. If we are seeking God’s approval, God’s kingdom, and God’s glory and that happens to result in our actions blessing others, that’s fantastic.

But seeking the approval of others first and foremost is deadly, for many reasons. For example, it kills courage. People-pleasing is a form of cowardice, because it is based on the fear of rejection. I know that fear very well.

One reason Christ is so admirable, so excellent, is because he didn’t seek to please people. He went to the cross out of obedience to his Father and as a result of really displeasing the wrong people. My Lord, Jesus was brave.

May I become more like him. Lord, make me your servant, not the servant of my fear of what others think. Amen.

Pure in heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8 ESV

We were discussing this verse, along with the other Beatitudes, last night in College lifegroup. One of the people in our group mentioned that this verse is hard – that he struggles with being pure in heart.

It dawned on me that I’m not  exactly sure what “pure in heart” means. I realized that I haven’t thought about it much, to my discredit. Then a definition of pure in heart presented itself to me; here it is:

“You’ll know that you’re pure in heart when you would be comfortable with other people being able to hear the innermost thoughts of your heart.”

I realized right then that I have so far to go. I think all sorts of horrible things. I entertain bitterness, envy, anger, selfish dreams, and all manner of other bad things in my heart and it would horrify me if other people could hear my thoughts.

I’m not kidding – this scares me. I need heart surgery.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14 ESV

“It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Hard run

My expected ten mile run this morning turned into just over five miles, partly walked. One of the strange things about running is how much better a run might be if started at 7:00am versus at 10:30am. I haven’t been able to explain it but both Andrew and I were pretty wiped out after just a couple miles (me more so than him, I expect).

I don’t think it’s wise to over-spiritualize everything, but I think this is the way life in Christ and the race we run in Christ sometimes goes. Some days our run is joyful, free, easy. Other days all we can feel is the pain in our legs, the wind in our face (it was windy today), and the numbness in our feet (I definitely need some new shoes). I was really feeling my weight (I need to lose weight, desperately). After a while the run slows to a walk.

I have been running hard this past year and a half, inflamed with the calling I feel toward college ministry and joyful at the progress God has made happen there. I’ve been running hard at work as well, loving my job (not something I could have said back in 2012), even when it’s stressful or I haven’t performed as well as I feel I can – I’ve been pushing hard. Today was just one of those days, though. We had so much fun last night with the grands and that continued into this morning.

Then I went running.

We cut the run short after we’d only covered half the planned distance. It was a nasty, hard run. I then came home and did some catch-up work (a status report, some code repository work, etc). Then I basically spent the rest of the day in my pajamas watching Alias reruns with Jill. I feel like I have been taking more breaks recently; I missed out on a Lord of the Rings viewing tonight with our College/Young Singles pastor and a number of our people. I didn’t do my Bible reading. In short, I’ve been a bum today. I wrote recently that I know those days are needed, but I also know that we can’t spend our whole lives sitting on a couch.

Tomorrow is a new day. Church will happen and prayers for our Lone Star college will happen with two brothers that I pray with every Sunday. I’ll come home and rest some more, and then attend a College/Young Singles Super bowl party. Then comes Monday and I’m back at it.

I pray this week I will run better, not just physically but spiritually as well. I pray the shoes of the gospel of peace that I put on will fit well and put wings on my heels. I pray the spiritual food I feed myself with will promote muscle, not fat. I pray I will laugh at the wind in my face and rejoice when it’s at my back. That I won’t be numb, but will feel deeply the love and passion of our Lord.

Please pray for me as well, whoever is reading this, as I prepare a subject and discussion for Bible study Tuesday night at Lone Star college. What a privilege that is.

Lord, please prepare me to do your work.