Friday, December 30, 2005
Yesterday we found out that the work on the roof was going to cost around 15-20k. You can imagine that we decided to walk. A little disappointing, but we would much rather learn this now than after we had bought it. We're not sure what we're going to be doing now. We know that we are moving at the end of January. We'll probably try to rent a place for 6 months.
The Oswald readings have been such a good thing for me. I'm really not worried. I see God's hand in all of this. It's obviously frustrating, but I know that I can trust Him.
Deserter or Disciple?
“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:66).
When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ.
I continue to be amazed at how timely each of these devotions is. So far, everything about this move has been hard. We’ve wondered if that meant that we were doing the wrong thing. Wouldn’t things be easy if we were truly following God? I realize that we were never promised an easy life. We are promised that abundant life is available, but, again, abundance doesn’t mean that things are easy. These kinds of views cause us to be disobedient, and often cause us to “sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord”. We actually cause things to become more difficult this way, and this is a difficulty that Jesus never had.
Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them—that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you—things on which Jesus placed no value. He was against these things as being the root of everything foreign to Himself—“… for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching.
I confess that we’ve asked questions such as these more than a few times. It’s so tempting to compare ourselves with others, or to compare the way God works with others to the way God works with us.
Our tendency is to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we had when God revealed His will to us. But if a New Testament standard is revealed to us by the light of God, and we don’t try to measure up, or even feel inclined to do so, then we begin to backslide. It means your conscience does not respond to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter.
It’s also very tempting to compare the way that God has worked with us in the past to the way He is working with us today. Because God is “handling” us in a different fashion, we fail to recognize His standard, and thus we “don’t try to measure up.” Thus we backslide.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
“… unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man …” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule—God must rule in us.
To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.
Last night we were all talking about the balance between hanging out with people and being intentional at the same time. Conversion that took place long ago will not help me with this. I must be continuously converted every day of my life. That is the only way that my natural self will yield to the Spirit. Trying harder will not work. It’s only through training. It takes work and discipline, yet it also comes through rest and submission (which, ironically, is often the hardest type of work).
December 24, 2005
The Hidden Life
“… your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
The Spirit of God testifies to and confirms the simple, but almighty, security of the life that “is hidden with Christ in God.” Paul continually brought this out in his New Testament letters. We talk as if living a sanctified life were the most uncertain and insecure thing we could do. Yet it is the most secure thing possible, because it has Almighty God in and behind it. The most dangerous and unsure thing is to try to live without God. For one who is born again, it is easier to live in a right-standing relationship with God than it is to go wrong, provided we heed God’s warnings and “walk in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7).
This goes against so much of the way that I live, yet…if this is true, then it changes everything. I often feel like finding God’s will is like finding the set of keys that I lost a few months ago. I searched everywhere (I’m still hoping I find them when we move). Yet this says that it’s easy to get it right than it is to get it wrong. I started thinking about that and realized that it made a lot of sense. I started thinking about John 10:29 (My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand). If we are truly servants, and He is the Master, then perhaps things work a little more to His will than I often think. The more I started thinking about this, the more I started believing, and then the bigger my view of God became. This is worship.
When we think of being delivered from sin, being “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), and “walk[ing] in the light,” we picture the peak of a great mountain. We see it as very high and wonderful, but we say, “Oh, I could never live up there!” However, when we do get there through God’s grace, we find it is not a mountain peak at all, but a plateau with plenty of room to live and to grow. “You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip” (Ps. 18:36).
Worry is sin. Most people would say it’s impossible not to worry. It’s a part of life. It’s normal. However, we’re called to a different kind of life. Perhaps we don’t have to worry. I can totally relate to believing that this kind of life is like the very top peak of a mountain. Oh, to be there…but that’s probably never going to happen. But maybe it’s more like a “plateau with plenty of room to live and to grow.” That’s good news.
When you really see Jesus, I defy you to doubt Him. If you see Him when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled …” (Jn. 14:27), I defy you to worry. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. Every time you are in personal contact with Jesus, His words are real to you. “My peace I give to you …” (Jn. 14:27)—a peace which brings an unconstrained confidence and covers you completely, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. “… your life is hidden with Christ in God,” and the peace of Jesus Christ that cannot be disturbed has been imparted to you.
I defy you to worry. What a strong statement. It is virtually impossible to doubt when He is there. What an even stronger statement. I’m reminded once again that the Kingdom of God really is an “upside-down” Kingdom. The world doesn’t understand this type of peace, yet Jesus offers it to His followers. He offers it, yet He doesn’t force us to accept it. We have the choice of whether to live life as the world offers, or to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” that Jesus offers (Matthew 11:29, The Message).
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. (Col. 3:1-3, The Message).
I should next take the opportunity to mention that we almost didn’t get here. We got 10 miles outside of Petaluma when we came upon some flooding. Mandy and I decided that we would go through it first since we were in the SUV. We got through it just fine. Jason and Barb were about to follow when a lady advised them to go a different way. She said that there was a spot ahead a few miles where the flooding was much worse. They turned around and headed back to 101. I had never gone through flooding, and thought it was pretty fun. We didn’t know that there was another spot ahead. When we got there I was still on a bit of an adrenaline high and was ready to take it. I got halfway through and noticed that I could just barely see the rails that are normally very easy to see. I got a little nervous at this point. Thankfully we got through it. Soon we got on Hwy 1.
The first time traffic stopped it was because of a mudslide. Fortunately a tractor was cleaning it up and we didn’t have to wait long. The second time traffic stopped it was because of the cows. About thirty cows decided to head to Gualala with us – and they also decided to use Hwy. 1!
We thought the trip would take us about three hours, but it turned out to be more like five or six. Jason and Barb ended up coming through Hwy 1 a half hour or so after us, and by then there were more mudslides. They had to take a detour. Thankfully we all made it.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled …” (John 14:27).
This morning Mandy and I read from My Utmost for His Highest, the devotional classic by Oswald Chambers.
Whenever we experience something difficult in our personal life, we are tempted to blame God. But we are the ones in the wrong, not God. Blaming God is evidence that we are refusing to let go of some disobedience somewhere in our lives. But as soon as we let go, everything becomes as clear as daylight to us. As long as we try to serve two masters, ourselves and God, there will be difficulties combined with doubt and confusion. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on God. Once we get to that point, there is nothing easier than living the life of a saint. We encounter difficulties when we try to usurp the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own purposes.
God’s mark of approval, whenever you obey Him, is peace. He sends an immeasurable, deep peace; not a natural peace, “as the world gives,” but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming. If you are acting on your own impulse, or out of a sense of the heroic, to be seen by others, the peace of Jesus will not exhibit itself. This shows no unity with God or confidence in Him. The spirit of simplicity, clarity, and unity is born through the Holy Spirit, not through your decisions. God counters our self-willed decisions with an appeal for simplicity and unity.
Whenever peace does not come, wait until it does, or seek to find out why it is not coming.
Chambers says that there are two possible reasons why a person might lack peace. The first is that he or she is in disobedience. He describes this as acting on one's own impulse or trying to impress people. The second reason why a person might lack peace is that he or she has not given everything over to God. Chambers describes this as complete reliance on God. It may be that a person is obeying God in most things, but just hasn't completely trusted him in everything. For Mandy and I, we often do not have trouble trusting God in the big things. It's the small things that get us in trouble. We see God move in amazing ways, then we have trouble trusting him to finish what he has begun. When this is happening, life as a saint becomes very cloudy, confusing, and frustrating - a far cry from a life of being simply carried along.
My questions arise whenever I cease to obey. When I do obey God, problems come, not between me and God, but as a means to keep my mind examining with amazement the revealed truth of God. But any problem that comes between God and myself is the result of disobedience. Any problem that comes while I obey God (and there will be many), increases my overjoyed delight, because I know that my Father knows and cares, and I can watch and anticipate how He will unravel my problems.
There is a big difference between the problems that come due to disobedience and the ones that come due to obedience. We will always have problems, trials, etc. However, problems between God and I that are due to my disobedience lead to frustration and often bitterness. Suffering that comes as I am obeying God leads to perseverance, which leads to character, which leads to hope (Romans 5:3).
Monday, December 05, 2005
I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in little things is what so astonishes me, for I never have felt it this way before. I need something, and turn round to find it waiting for me. I must work, to be sure, but there is God working along with me. God takes care of all the rest. My part is to live this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to his will, to make this hour gloriously rich. This seems to be all I need think about.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Kay told Christianity Today seeing that article was "an appointment with God … he intended to grab my attention." The news photos were so graphic that she covered her eyes and peeked through just enough to read the words. There was a quote box in the middle of the article that read: "12 million children orphaned in Africa due to AIDS."
"It was as if I fell off the donkey on the Damascus road because I had no clue. I didn't know one single orphan." For days afterward, she was haunted by that fact: 12 million orphans.
Unable to block it from her mind, Kay began to get mad at God, praying, "Leave me alone. Even if it is true, what can I do about it? I'm a white, suburban soccer mom. There is nothing I can do." But that did no good.
After weeks, then months of anguish, she realized she faced a fateful choice. She could either pretend she did not know about the HIV/AIDS pandemic or she could become personally involved.