Thursday, January 27, 2011

Backhanded Bravery

A dare is a dangerous thing, I think we have all had friends that talked big but when it came time to back it up, they were either nowhere to be found or came up with some wild excuse to why they couldn’t back it up.  Maybe our friend wasn’t exactly like that, but they would say things like,
 “And then I told that guy to back off and shut up.”
You may retaliate with a, “You really said that to him?”
 “No, but he knew I was irritated.”

It sure does sound brave; somehow we comfort ourselves in this idea that we are who we are not.  The truth is that we are just as much the coward we always feared we were.  Somehow this idea makes us feel better than we actually are, and therefore lets us off the hook, and keeps us in this dungeon of cowardice and when it comes to our walk with God this mindset fuels our lack of faith, trust, & reliance on God.  When we allow ourselves to think in this manner, we also tend to get in this high and mighty mode because we never slipped up and never would like that person did, even though we have never faced the trials they have.

I have always found myself to be a guy who often said the right thing, but when faced with the consequences or results wondered to myself if I really had the guts to go through with it.  I have sat down and thought through the questions that arise in matters of faith, trusting God, relying on Him and Him alone for my answers in the tough matters.  I speak a really good game, I mean it, I can tell you of the one time that I trusted God and He came through.  What I may not tell you is that that situation was one of a very few times I had the guts to go through with what God was leading me in.

It is a sad condition…one that I hope, and believe that I am getting healing from.

This backhanded bravery is a sabotage to our faith.  It goes against the historical figures we see in the Bible that have become the great legends of faith.  Many call the chapter of Hebrews chapter eleven the “Hall of Faith” and the members that line the pages of that chapter have truly amazing stories.  The difference between those people and me, to this point, is that no matter how afraid or timid they were, when God called them they didn’t have a mere backhand bravery embolden them and then wane when the time came to stand.  They had a true bravery that was emboldened by the Spirit of God because they accepted the revelation that God gave them about His plan for them and those around them.  

I read recently in the book of John chapter eleven, probably the second most criticized disciple (after Judas) is a normal guy named Thomas (Doubting Thomas) and he is a part of this situation where Christ is going to head back into a part of the country that hates Him, to the point of wanting to kill Him.  Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to this area to see His friend Lazarus (great account to read on your own, by the way) and He wants them all to go.  Thomas’ response struck me, “Let us all go, that we may die with Him.”  When I first saw it, I saw the bravery, an “I will go and die with Christ!” type of "hurrah" that rally’s the troops.  Then I remembered, Thomas was like me, he wanted to feel the holes in Christ’s hands or He wouldn’t believe.

This seems more like a backhanded bravery.

Many of us know the story of Peter, actually a couple of times Peter showed his backhanded bravery.  Though, Peter gets my admiration for trying, at least in the case of stepping out of the boat to walk on the water.  Then he sank, but why?  Because He took his eyes off the source, and isn’t that when we lose our true bravery, when we see it by our own standards, ability, and rationale?  Peter also denied Christ when Christ was being tried, three times, even though he told Christ he would never deny Him.  Peter was cured of His backhanded bravery and given a great bravery that served him well as he faced many trials including martyrdom. 

We see throughout the Scripture that this has been an epidemic for thousands of years.  There are those in the “Hall of Faith” and those who were more of the different sort of “Hall.”  The point is that we see the extreme differences in the success of those who had true, God given bravery and those who had a backhand bravery.  It is vitally important that we look to ourselves and search out our hearts (and I mean it, take a look at yourself) and see if we are full of the bravery we see that lines the pages in Hebrews eleven, or do we look a lot like our backhanded brave friend who talked a big game but never seemed to back it up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Celebrity Deity

A question I have been asking myself recently is, “what is it that I am dying to see from God?”  I ask this because it points me to a deeper question, is what I am dying to see of God, something that is God or something I have made up about God.  I have seen numerous people longing to meet, date, and marry some celebrity because they are so attractive.  The thought process behind this is basically that the celebrity is so attractive that if you met and fell in love with them, all would be perfect with the world.  The truth is that celebrity is human, and as we see so often in Hollywood, all is not perfect in the world.  In fact, not much seems right with the world at all if that is your logic.

Is God some celebrity to us? 

Do we fantasize about Him, who He really is, what He “can do for us?” 

Do we believe the truth, and not just in word, but do our actions depict the truth that we say we believe?

Maybe it is just me, but I continually find myself with answers (when I am really honest with myself) that I need to reevaluate.  What am I dying to see of God?  I want to see Him, for who He is, the truth of who He is and if that blows my mind and shakes the core of all that I know…so be it.  I want to understand the true Him deeper than any other person, and I am serious when I say that.  I am not trying to outdo anyone; I just want to experience God in the greatest way possible, and whatever that looks like.  I don’t want to fantasize who God is because that is unnecessary.  How can we make more of God?  We seem to want to glam Him up somehow when it is completely unnecessary, just get to know Him honestly and what we will find will be greater than any fantasy we can conjure up.

Does God promise us earthly wealth?  No, but that is just temporary anyway.

Does God promise us health?  No, again, as hard as that is to grasp in our finiteness, that is temporary.

Is God a genie that answers our wishes?  No, and to think so is demeaning of God and fantasizing Him into a weaker form than He is.

What am I dying to see of God?  I want to see Him.  I don’t even know how to word what I want to see of God, I just want Him.  Like a child can’t necessarily explain the comfort they feel from a mothers nurturing when they need consoled or a father’s strong arm picking them up when they fall and scrape their knee…that is how I feel.

I just want my Father. 

That is all I want.  I don’t want anything else, nothing more (as if there were more) nothing less (what often happens if we try to make Him more).  When He doesn’t meet my prayer request as I think it should have been, I want to know (and the only reason I ever doubt that is because of my shortcoming) that the reason is because He knows better.   I can’t put it all into words, but that is the closest I think I can get to explain what it is that I am dying for from God.  I just want Him, to feel His presence (that I know is there even when I don’t feel it), I just want to hear more from Him, experience Him more, know Him more, spend more time with Him…and by Him, I mean the true Him and not the conjured up fantasy of Him. 

Christ battled this same thing throughout His time here.  Many expected one thing of the Messiah, but He was more than their fantasies, and did much greater things than what the people of that time could imagine.  We fall into the same trap they do, but just like them, we don't see it that way.  May we all live to know Him more, and hunger for more of Him in our lives.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spiritual Fermentation

I, by nature, am not a patient person.  I have mentioned this before in various avenues.  If I get motivated, I work quickly to get things done.  Different things motivate me at different times, some things make me procrastinate.  I want to be the car in the front when I am driving, even when it isn’t necessary, I want to get everything done so I can relax.  If someone is acting foolishly, by nature I want to tell them what I think initially instead of acting in compassion.  When I get this way, I realize that I am not sure if I can live up to my own standards at times.
I am also impatient when I feel God has called me to do something and yet, I feel like I am just sitting around and nothing is getting accomplished.  I plead, whine, moan, complain, and act like a child throwing a spiritual hissy fit at times. 
Did I ever mention how thankful I am for God’s patience with His complaint prone children?
I was talking with God yesterday, and out of nowhere I thought about wine.  Maybe it was because I realized I was whining, I don’t know, but the shift of thought happened in my mind.  What makes wine wine?  It is basically grape juice unless, you give it time.  Sure, there are some other steps in the process, but basically, it is when the grape juice begins to break down and ferment.  As this process goes on wine goes from being grape juice, to something not so very enjoyable, to wine, and if waited on even longer you may possibly have a very good wine. 
I pray and plead with God, I want to do something special, I want to accomplish a lot of things to glorify Him.  I am sickened at the thought of sex trafficking and want to do something to save those who are trapped in it.  I am appalled at the thought of a billion people in this world live without drinking water; I want to be a catalyst to see that changed.  I lose sleep over the thought of people living in trash dumps in South America, I want to give them the hope that I have been given through Christ.  AIDS in Africa, starvation worldwide, the list could go on and on, I want to be used to do something about it…but what? 
I sit back and ask God to plug me in, and He does, but it isn’t always how I want it to be and it certainly isn’t up to my speed.  I know God will use me in these matters, but maybe I am just grape juice.  Maybe I need some time to let His Spirit ferment me into something beautiful and more usable.  Maybe I am in the process between where things are breaking down in me and someday I will be the wine that He wants me to be, that He is in the process of turning me into.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time."
A friend of mine posted this as their status on facebook, it comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, and they posted it yesterday as well.  Maybe it isn’t just me He is fermenting, maybe there is a movement.  God isn’t in the business of making junk wine either, when He makes wine it is the best, but am I open to Him doing that in me?  Am I willing to let go of myself and let Him do the work or am I so self absorbed that I want to rush this delicate process and lessen what He wants to do through me?  Maybe this spiritual fermentation is something more of us should be searching for instead of trying to work this process ourselves. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trust & Assumptions

When I was a teenager I was fairly involved in church, not that I understood anything about God, but I had a desire to be a part of the student leadership.  One Sunday I was sitting in Sunday school listening to the youth leader, I was writing something down and trying my best to take notes (something I am not known for, I am a horrible note taker).  In the midst of that I missed the reference and asked the guy next to me.  In the exchange, he had his Bible resting on his leg and it slipped off and fell to the floor.  I was immediately told by another youth leader that I need to move my chair over by the adults and sit by them since I was such a disruption.  Mind you, if I remember correctly, I was a junior in high school.

I was humiliated.  The assumption was made that I, a prankster, knocked the Bible off my friends lap because it would be funny.  Even though it wasn’t true, the assumption was made, what I said was not trusted and I was guilty before I was even tried.  After the class was over, the adults vacated the students out of the room and sat me in the middle of the room and berated me about how I would never be a leader, and that they were foolish to ever think I could develop into a leader.  This lasted about ten to fifteen minutes.  

I left and did not return.

It is amazing what misperceptions come out when there is an assumption from one side that they know the whole situation and do not trust the other side may be innocent of the assumption that is being made of them.  I still have a lot of assumptions about me, some are good and some are bad.  None of them hurt worse than the situations when you spend time and love on people and then out of nowhere you say something that isn’t to their liking and all of a sudden, they assume you have lost your mind and the trust that you had worked so hard to build for years become fractured.  

When we make assumptions that someone doesn’t have our best interest in mind, that they aren’t being serious enough, that they don’t seek council for their decisions, that they aren’t smart enough, and the list can go on, we see the breakdown of trust.  How far does any relationship go without trust?  How far can any business relationship even go without trust?  How can any boss delegate important tasks to someone that they don’t trust?  Sure there are people that aren’t trustworthy, I get that, but I think sometimes there is a lot of assumption in there, and sometimes we assume the worst because someone doesn’t handle a matter as we would, so therefore they are wrong.  

Do you see a breakdown in a system when wrong assumption and lack of trust creep in?

I have been rather broad to this point, but can you imagine what happens if this creeps into a church?  The separation and divisiveness that comes in causes much destruction, and really, doesn’t this look a lot more like the opposite of what a church should look?  It is a very frustrating situation to have wrong assumptions being made about you, to have people believe that you do not have their best interest in mind, and they either openly or quietly don’t trust you even though you are laying down your life to minister to them.  It is a terrible hurt to be a part of a body that doesn’t trust you because you aren’t doing things the way they believe you should, even though god is leading you that direction.

Can you see a breakdown when wrong assumptions are made and distrust abounds?

I began to ask myself what this would look like if it infiltrated our personal relationship with God.  This came up as I have been reading John because I have seen how Christ (I dare you to find someone more trustworthy) was absolutely not trusted and why?  He was distrusted and assumed of because people made so many wrong assumptions about Him.  Reading John has calmed my heart and helped me in my dealings with some of my friends that seem to randomly come to a point that they believe I don’t have their best interest in mind.  I find myself reading in John and almost feeling a compassion for Christ’s situation.  He cannot put what He is telling them any clearer, He cannot make more sense, and He could not be more right, but the majority walks away from Him because they assume He is lying and is therefore not trustworthy.

So, my point today is, be careful who you do not trust.  Be careful what assumptions you make.  Be careful of the repercussions of the decisions you make on what you believe.  If you take inventory of the people that you distrust and make assumptions of, are those assumptions founded or is it more of a preference matter?  As I stated before, there are people who are not trustworthy, I get that, but are there trustworthy people that we, as the Jewish people of Christ’s time, have not trusted.  Think of the breakdown that occurred in those Jewish people walk with God as they walked away from Christ because of what they assumed.  

Besides…you know what they say happens when you assume. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Egotistical Me


It is an easy pit to fall into.

In fact, it is a trap I fall into without even realizing it often.

I love to feel like I have a deeper understanding, I love to think I am somehow accomplishing more, I love to think I figured it out.

So what if I did?

Is it somehow something that I did on my own ability?

Every bit of understanding I can somehow accumulate, every revelation, every firing of a synapses is outside of my control.  How can I take credit for something outside of my control?

I was sitting back earlier today after having a pretty productive day yesterday and thinking that I had a day where I could sit back and have a pretty easy day.  I felt so comfortable, I felt like I had done a good job, and I was a pretty darn good person.  I stopped and thought about it, and it humbled me.

Who am I to think I have the right?

What a horrible trap, what a terrible misconception, what a destructive deception.  Imagine someone having no control, no capacity to understand, no capability, and no function of themselves to do anything and they have no desire to change that and they are arrogant about how great they are.


Yet, it is something mankind seems to fall into so easily.  Think about it, how much would this have an effect on our trust, reliance, faith, desperation, dependence, and overall understanding of God?  Isn’t that what we see?  Pride is tied into so many other sins, it is the source that fuels all that separates us and leads us into deeper drifting from the God that is jealous for our time.

What has made you think that another person is arrogant?  Is it how they treat you?  Do they make you feel small and/or less than your worth?  How do they do that?  Is it because they don’t give you the time of day?  Because of that do we believe they feel they are better than us?

Do they not listen to you?  Do they not care how you feel?  Do their actions confirm that they don’t care about you?  Who are they to not care?  Do they not know how much you help them?  Maybe they wouldn’t be the person they are or hold the position they have or wouldn’t be able to do the things that they are able to do without you.

Think about that person and how they make you feel because of their arrogance.

I woke up today thinking about this, and I don’t know about you, but I wonder if I am that arrogant person toward God.  If I am, how very sick that is.  Let my pride fall down.  Search your own heart, how are we doing?  What would this do to the church worldwide if Christianity was infected with this?  How would it impact the poor, those who are in spiritual or physical bondage, those who do not know Christ, and those who are oppressed if the church was hindered with this matter?


Ezra 10:1-3

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Cure of Confession

Have you ever been cornered and had nowhere else to go, you had to give an answer, and really, you couldn’t even lie about it?  I remember when I was in junior high, for some reason I had a bad habit of hiding my progress reports and report cards.  My grades were not great, and I really had no reason, but when my mother found out it was time for some answers.  The reports needed signed and brought back in, so there was no hiding it.  I don’t know what I was thinking, and I don’t even remember the conversation exactly.  What I do remember is, there was no more lying, hiding, or running.  I was caught, it was time to be honest (finally) and take my punishment.
I am going off of what I was talking about yesterday, deflecting, and wanting to talk a little bit about a problem deflecting can have on a very important aspect of our spiritual walk, that being transparency and confession.  The two go hand in hand and I will probably mention confession a lot more than transparency because you can’t have transparency without confession, unless you are perfect.  The Scripture has a lot to say about confession; in fact confession has a lot to do with forgiveness of sins (I John 1:9 for example).  So what happens when, instead of confessing, we do the dance of deflection?  Do we really confess, or do we excuse ourselves from fault?
Do we understand what that means?  What does that do to this process of forgiveness?  How do you half confess?  Is that even possible? 
I don’t think we understand the power of confession or we may not mess with it, especially when it is between us and God.  Think about this…
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So what if we don’t?  Am I trying to be legalistic here?  Actually quite the contrary, let me explain, is it worse to break the rule and hide it and point at someone else to deflect your sin and therefore never understand the freedom of this forgiveness?  You may live in guilt, fear, always trying to make up for our hidden sin.  Or do we quickly confess it to God, not hiding it, knowing He will forgive us and love us and we operate in freedom of knowing that He has forgiven us and cleansed us?  This doesn’t give us freedom to do whatever we want, but it does give us freedom in Christ to operate in the love that He offers us as He wants us to.
Have you ever known someone to be hiding a transgression of some sort, they fear and wallow in their hopes of never being caught?  What happens when they are caught?  Don’t they (not always but very often) feel relieved to deal with the punishment rather than the continuance of the hiding?  Confess really is the road to healing.  It is tearing down the manmade veil that the enemy has lied to us about to make us believe that the veil is the best way, when it is ripped down we have that freedom to operate in the presence of God and in full sensitivity to His Spirit and His leading.  What a joy.
I read a Scripture last night as I was doing a bit of random searching, I would like to share it.  I don’t often share Scripture, for numerous reasons, but this one really hit me.
 Ezra 10:1-3
“1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.”
I won’t get into the whole historical background of this, suffice to say that Israel had sinned and while they hadn’t necessarily hidden it, they did deflect and try to justify what they had done.  When I read this, I have to tell you, I long for this.  I hope my life is a life so full of deep confession and prayer that one day it will lead others to do the same.  I pray that my life will be so sensitive to His Spirit and His leading that when others see it, it leads them to cast away the mess of this life to engage the life He has given them. 
Confession is us telling God that there is nothing that I believe is too powerful for You to overcome in the relationship You have provided for me.  Confession is us laying down the fear of condemnation from a hateful God and embracing the true loving, graceful, and just God.  Confession is an open air between God and man, accepting the hope that he has offered for us.  Confession is a continual precaution to maintain our lifeline of communication between us and God.