Friday, April 29, 2011

Do You Have To Let It Linger?

Several years ago, a young quarterback entered into the NFL draft.  He was invited to and attended the draft because he was expected to be one of the first few picks in the draft.  The first pick was called, it wasn’t him, and the next pick came, still not his name.  The young man sat in anguish as he saw many of his peers being called, while team after team rolled by.  Most of the teams that the experts believed needed a quarterback had passed.  With every passing pick, more and more money was lost from his future paycheck.  Finally, at pick number 24, he heard his name.  The team that called his name didn’t need a quarterback though because they had a legend filling that spot.  The young quarterback was excited to be picked but had to wonder if he would ever get to play.  

Time went on, he had to wait for four seasons, but his time finally came.  

Many of you may know that I am talking about Aaron Rodgers of the Champion Green Bay Packers. 
We all have those times in our life, for most of us, “those times” are much worse than waiting anxiously to play football at the professional level.  They are times of grief, times of waiting, times of confusion, times of chaos.
I have to admit, life right now is great for me.  There are a lot of things going well for me, and yet, I am struggling.  On the surface everything seems wonderful, yet I find myself in kind of a wilderness spiritually.  I know it has nothing to do with God moving away from me, nothing to do with me becoming evil, but a lot more of me realizing that I am in an “in between” stage.  

Woe is me.

Really, I have been in numerous in between stages throughout my life.  I don’t enjoy them, but I am just now beginning to realize to be content in the waiting.  That isn’t to say I am not preparing, I am not waiting anxiously, but rather that I am trying to be open and teachable during this time.

I don’t do this well…

…but I am getting better. 

I am struggling with listening, slowing down, being wise with my time, resting without being lazy, and things of that nature.  Honestly, in this in between time, I am finding out a whole lot about who I am.  I can honestly say this is the first in between time that I feel like I am being productive while I wait.  

That is a sad statement.  

I have found that in the in between times I have usually found myself drifting into mediocrity with my faith.  I have found that the things I had such great faith in, matter that God has spoken to me about, became distant while my faith faded.  I gave up on what God had spoken to me about.  This is easy to do.  Lack of patience gives way to fear, fear gives way to frustration, frustration gives way to lethargy, lethargy gives way to depression, depression settles in mediocrity.  God is not sought as he once was when we are fresh off our spiritual victory.  Now, He is distant…and not sought after.

I have found that these times are when I am shaped for the next battle.  It is the training to prepare me to become prepared for the next challenge.  I can take this time to sit back and become a spiritual glutton, meaning I take in spiritual “food” but I do nothing with it, or I can seek God with the understanding that the battle is coming and I want to be ready for whatever it may be.  I can grow, become stronger, wiser, more in tune with His Spirit, bask in the undeserved love that He pours out or I can fret over matters that I cannot control anyway.  

Some of our in betweens are much harder than others.  Some in betweens are recovering from the death of someone close to us, some is a very real bout with depression, and some are just God making us wait because He wants us to learn something before He opens the door to that very victory we are seeking.  In between times can be tough. 

For me, sometimes the in between is tougher than the battles, but maybe the in between is my battle.
Just something I have been thinking about recently.  

I pray, for all of us who may be in the in between times right now, that we would seek God and have a teachable heart to learn the lessons he wants us to learn.  We would lay our lives before Him ready to be transparent, approaching with a humble heart, knowing that we are speaking to the almighty God.  He loves us with an unconditional love, as His child, and wants us to be prepared for whatever life will throw at us.  He has given us His Spirit, to guide and direct us, may we listen and rely on what He is telling us.  May our trust grow so we may be better prepared for the calling He has placed on our lives and stand ready for the time He has chosen to use us to glorify His name.

Aaron Rodgers waited, it was out of his control, 23 other teams passed him over in the draft.  If you look over the list of players picked before him, none has had the impact that he has had.  If any of those teams had picked Rodgers earlier, it may not have turned out the same way for him.  Now, looking back, Rodgers is thankful that things turned out the way they did.  I can do the same, I can look back and thank God that He is who He is and has my best interest at heart. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Assume...

I have had numerous conversations in which I try not to push my agenda.  I even try to be sensitive to the thought that I may be pushing an agenda unsuspectingly, incoherently, or unintentionally.  It isn’t just with matters of faith, but I have noticed that there is a tender spot in topics of faith.  If the topic of politics comes up, it is assumed that I am a die-hard Republican because of my religious views.  This is untrue.  An assumption was made based on what some would call evidence, and then a deduction based on man’s logic. 
This is where we get our famous quote about making assumptions.

I often have assumptions made about me, some true, some not.  Some assumptions make me look better than I am, I like those assumptions, and in fact…maybe I don’t correct people on those assumptions.  Some are assumptions that make me look worse than I actually am, I don’t like those assumptions, I am usually quick to squelch those if I can.  

I do this because I am human. 

Assumptions can be tricky.

Pre-conceived notions can taint assumptions as well.  If I have a pre-conceived notion that people cannot be trusted, I may make the assumption that you are a shady person and I wouldn’t let you borrow my car, for example.

I have some of my “Not trying to push an agenda” conversations with some friends and hear comments out of the blue like, “Well you are assuming there is a God.”  Are you assuming there isn’t one?  We both are assuming.  Aren’t we?

People make assumptions based on what their logic tells them about the situation.  Assumptions based on human logic often make the old adage ring true, for you and me.  Assumptions based on past physical experience can even be contaminated.  So I began to wonder and thing, are assumptions based on Spiritual experience actually faith?  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things assumed?  Would that be accurate?

I can honestly say, I am still feeling my through this, but I began to think about this.  

Is assuming, in the spiritual sense, based on unseen evidence?  A spiritual logic if you will?  And if we know that the flesh wars against the spirit and vice versa, was does that mean about spiritual assumptions, God led of course through His Spirit?  

I often have read, and refer to, Hebrews 11 and the accounts that are listed there.  They make no human sense.   Human logic is lost on those matters.  Many human assumptions were made in those accounts and they were all wrong.  However, of those heroes and heroines mentioned in that chapter, they made assumptions too, sometimes begrudgingly, but they did.  The difference is that their assumptions were that God would be faithful to carry out what He told them to do.  They believed His grace would carry them through to where He had called them.  They made an assumption based on spiritual logic, led by God. 
Assuming in the flesh, the adage rings true…assuming in the Spirit, the adage is false.

Do I assume there is a God?  You bet.  I see the evidence of His existence all around me.  If I base my ideas that there is a God, and what I know of Him on my human logic the concept of there being a God is too big.  The truth of what he has done, will do, and is continually doing is more than my finite mind can wrap around.  However, if I assume what I read in His Word, hear from his Spirit, and learn about God is true beyond what I can understand fully…that is faith.  

By the world’s standards, “you and me”, we might not look so well.  However, the important matter is how we look to God.  Let’s assume He is bigger than we can imagine and does things far greater than we can explain.  Let’s assume He has everything under control.  Let’s assume He is who He says He is, and not try to limit Him down to what we understand because we are afraid if we can’t understand Him…we can’t explain Him.  Who wants to serve a God they can fully understand?  Our God is too great for that limitation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adam the Adolescent

I have been reading a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church, a book that is much better than the name initially dictates, at least in my opinion.  I was given the book to read by a friend and decided to start in on it.  The book immediately started hitting some harmonizing chords with many of my thoughts.  Of course, this drew me in further, and then, as most evaluating books, there was a quiz to see where you stand.  

That was revealing.

When I tallied my score and then checked the paragraph long evaluation of my score I was in disbelief.  The description that was before me was…me.  It described me, my strengths, my weakness, my struggles, just about everything.  While I didn’t like the title of my description, I couldn’t deny it.

“Emotional Adolescent” 

I go into quizzes and evaluations with such high hopes and still come out the adolescent.  I was hoping to come out the ‘Emotional Superman” (That wasn’t an option for the results BTW).  I knew there were some emotional holes and things that I struggle with, but an adolescent?  Those who know me know that I do struggle with being mature on a consistent basis, but for the most part I am mature at the proper times.  This is what has led me on my recent time of self reflection.  

Through this digging I have had to admit to things that have hurt me from my past that I had buried and counted it “done” on my checklist of life.  I have had to look at different areas of my life and find the characteristics that are “adolescent” and explore why I am that way.  I don’t like some of what I have found. 
I have more pride in my life than I like to admit…or own up to.

This isn’t to say I lose who I am, my sense of humor, my wit (which I know you were all worried about), my personality.  I just make sure that I don’t continue to make an excuse for the things that should be rectified in my life.  I have already seen change, not by my ability.  To be honest, the only way to see the matters that need changed in our lives (especially when you have buried them as deep as I have) is to pray that God would reveal the places where change is needed.  It is an interesting experience when He begins that work in you.

It may happen when you are driving behind what you believe to be the biggest moron in the world.  

It may happen when you see a muddy footprint on your freshly mopped kitchen floor.

It may happen when you make an ill thought through comment.

It may happen when you buy something frivolous.

It may happen when, you don’t forget to do something you know you should do, you just don’t do it.

It may happen in an extended stare at something you shouldn’t be staring at.

That isn’t to say you can never slip up, never buy something that you enjoy, or don’t take a rest instead of mowing the lawn.  For me it was the realization of how often I don’t do what I am supposed to do and I explain it away.  I don’t allow the Spirit of God to lead me.  I default into my Veruca Salt mentality where I want what I want and “I want it now.”  

So, if I am posing a challenge or at least trying to provoke you to think, I suppose my question to pose is, what is hiding in your heart?  What have you deemed “dead” or checked off your checklist but maybe isn’t fully healed?  If your heart and emotions were a physical ailment like a broken arm, would you only let God heal it part of the way and tell Him that is was good enough?  Or would you want Him to heal it all the way?  Maybe you have been in an abusive relationship previously, maybe someone broke your heart, maybe it was your parents, maybe it was a spouse, it may have been none of those things, but God wants to bring healing to your heart.  

It is amazing to see how many ways a person can be hurt, but even more amazing is that no matter how you are hurt God can bring healing.  You may find in this search that you may even need to seek professional counseling, sometimes it is necessary in this process, but there can be healing.  For me, I just know that some of my actions that I display have a deeper root to my emotions.  I want to be free in every way so that I can be available for God’s use.  I don’t want my past hurts to linger, hurt me, or hinder my availability to what God has for me.  Sure, God could still use me with my hurts (and I believe He has) but it is a great exercise in trust to let Him reveal them, I admit they hurt, confess that, and let Him do the work on me.  

Through Him revealing the roots, He reveals His glory to me in a greater way by healing me.  

I hope that today will be the beginning of a healing process for some of you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Over-Spiritual Omelets

I enjoy breakfast.

It is my favorite meal of the day, although I have to qualify what I consider breakfast.  Most days I will start off with a bagel, while that is breakfast, it isn’t what I mean when I say, “I love breakfast.”  When I say, “I love breakfast.”  I mean, enjoy a good omelet, toast, meat of some sort, coffee, potatoes, and the works.  I enjoy the food, but when you have a breakfast like that, it breeds wonderful conversations.  Not that a bagel can’t do that for you, but for me to enjoy good food and conversation, man that is an unspeakable joy.  It is almost…spiritual.

At one of my recent breakfast discussion I was discussing, ironically, the concept of something being too spiritualized.  The topic came up in random life discussion and had been presented to him as he was making some judgment calls on decisions.  I had some thoughts and we had some encouraging banter about the matter.  I believe there is a lot of conversation to be had about this topic.

Where does the line exist between spiritual matters and matters that do not have any place for spiritual guidance?  Can we over-spiritualize…anything?  Think about it.

I am not talking about theology from taco’s, however, do I thank God for providing a taco?  Do I eat too many taco’s?  If I eat too many taco’s is that gluttony?  What about my breakfast?  Maybe I should have bagels more often because my breakfasts, if enjoyed too often, can be a liability to my waistline.  Is my self control or lack thereof, reflecting a spiritual matter?  Can what I eat have a spiritual impact?

That is just one example, where does it stop?  

There certainly are perversions to spiritual matters, and that can lead to a tainted form of over spirituality.  Giving up everything to serve a false god is a great form of perverted spirituality.  I dare say, a perverted for of the true God could also lead us down a dangerous path of over-spiritualizing something.
Or is that even over-spiritualizing?  

I mean, over-spiritualizing something that is false does itself have serious spiritual influence, doesn’t it?

This is confusing.

Because I know it is so important for to weigh in on this, note the sarcasm, I have to say it is pretty difficult to over-spiritualize anything.  It may be easy to over-spiritualize if misdirected, however, if we are over-spiritualizing things in truth it may guide us away from being misdirected in the first place.  Rob Bell’s video “Everything is Spiritual” still sends my mind whirling when I think of his vivid and well explained hypothesis of how everything comes back to God.  

We are so one dimensional in our view of who God is, we believe God is this or that because it makes rational sense.  Certainly God is not in my omelet, how could He be?  That would be over-spiritualizing the matter.  However, God is in the conversation that I am having over this omelet that is fueling my body to go about the work of my day.  If I have two omelets that would not be advantageous for my body and would be a sign that I am over indulging in something I should not be and the result would be damaging to my body (especially over a continued amount of time) and would be evidence that there may be something I am lacking in self control, which would be a sign of a spiritual issue.  The conversation I have over these blessed omelet’s is uplifting and gives me opportunity to grow, think, flex, and operate in a way that makes me write blogs for others to read.

I would also like to point out, that bagels can have similar spiritual blessings.  

 The point is this, how can we read Hebrews 11 and see the amazing acts that happen to everyone in that chapter and say that anything is over spiritualized?  How we eat, how we rest, how we don’t rest, how we speak, how we carry our self, how we react, how we blame, how we make decisions, how we create, how we drive, how we…are… is spiritual.  So how well do we do this?  Are we trying to limit God to just certain areas when He deserves more?

Just some thoughts to ponder…

Tomorrow I am going to have a bagel. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to you all, I pray that you had a wonderful celebration in your worship of Him today. 

"What a wonderful victory we all may partake in. 
What a victory was bestowed upon us, though so undeserved. 
What a weight so freely, for us, He resigned.
His resurrection institutes our victory, our life, our freedom which He has reserved.
The life He has created access to, for us all to be received.
Will we accept?  Will we ponder, reflect, and remember His sacrifice?
Will we rejoice in, celebrate, and live in victory that we have believed?
Will we live a life that tells that tells others that His sacrifice did not suffice?
May we celebrate His resurrection and life with a life that would reflect
A life worthy of His name, one that brings honor in place of our shame.
I pray there would be no room for others to suspect,
That we live for anything less than the wonder of His name."