Archive for November, 2006

Nov 30 2006

Ask, Seek, Knock

Published by under Life

“My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to
understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as silver
and search for it as hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the
LORD
and find the knowledge of God.”
(Proverbs 2:1-5)

“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives;
he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
(Matthew 7:7-8)

 

I’ve been searching the Word over the last couple days. I’m beginning to answer the three questions that I’ve come up with so far. These questions are being asked because I DESIRE to be part of God’s purpose on this earth, but don’t know HOW. Yesterday I began to reason that our obedience to God’s commands comes not by a forcing of the will but by a winning of our hearts. When we see Him, we are delighted to obey Him because we see His ways as better! We make fun of guys who, because a woman so captures him, will do whatever she wants. We say he’s whipped. When we see God as our all-satisfying One, we too have a desire to obey all He wants. This isn’t being whipped; it’s worship. The process looks like this…

 

See Jesus –> Love Him –> Obey His commands

 

So our two questions from this follow:

  1. How can we see Jesus more clearly? (Because when we do, it inspires obedience to His commands)
  2. What HAS He commanded that we must obey?

You’ll remember there was a third question:

 

  1. What are God’s purposes for humanity?

 

Today, I want to focus on why the answer to question 3 is important. It’s a matter of compare and contrast (which was a favorite phrase of mine in 7th grade social studies). We all live our lives. We decide to do this or that thing. If an objective observer evaluated our lives, they could extrapolate generalities about what we value by the way we spend our time. For instance, if I was a phys. ed. teacher, watched sports on TV when I was at home, and read 2 hours of sports articles every day, it could be reasonably inferred that I like sports. That example is silly, but it makes the point. If we evaluate the way we spend our days, what would it say about what is most important to us?

 

A Day In The Life

When I was working, here is what a typical day would look like for me:

6:00am Wake

7:30am Work

5:00pm Home

5:30pm Run

7:00pm Dinner

7:30pm Read articles on internet

9:00pm Work from home

1:00am Bed

I did that 5 days a week. And then I’d veg out on the weekend, watching TV and working some more (I worked anywhere between 50-80 hours a week). Now, I understand that there are specifics that can take place at work (e.g. interacting with co-workers, producing high-quality work, etc). Overall, though, most of us don’t actively consider those things. They just kind of happen.

As you can tell, the point I’m making is that most of our lives are lived pretty aimlessly. We don’t have a real purpose. Make money so we can survive and try to have some fun. That is the overarching ethos of our generation. If we happen to do some good along the way, great, but it is not uppermost in most of our minds.

 

His Life In a Day

We’re in a position to compare OUR priorities with those of God in order to find out how our lives stack up. What is in God’s heart (this is a list which needs to grow as we see more in Scripture)…

  1. Loose the chains of injustice
  2. Set the oppressed free
  3. Sharing food with the hungry
  4. Giving water to the thirsty
  5. Provide the poor wanderer with shelter
  6. Clothing the naked
  7. Not turning away from our own flesh and blood
  8. Not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance through Christ
  9. Rescuing orphans
  10. Rescuing widows

This is just a sampling. How was I doing at accomplishing the Lord’s purposes? Not so hot! This “life dissonance” is significant because He wants us to do His work which is why He commands us to live a certain way. But we ignore most of His commands because we don’t think we’re living the wrong way. And then we have the nerve to ask, “What’s this world coming to?” It wouldn’t be so bad if we Christians didn’t live such marginal lives! No, we’ve found a different path and we like it. It has some biblical remnants, so we reason it’s ok. Nevermind that we’re not even close to living productive kingdom lives. Everyone else around us is living the same way, so we must be cool. The Christian has been called to live another life! Fitting in really isn’t God’s way. In the Old Testament, God’s people, the Israelites, were judged time and time again for living life like everyone else around them (i.e. ignoring God’s commands). There IS a need for this discussion to happen among us, friends. Our lives are not even close fulfilling God’s purposes.

 

Peter nails it spot on when he tells us of the new lives we have.

 

Christ-followers, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light…Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:9,11-12).

 

The lives we’re living are marginal. They’re like everyone else’s. I wonder how many will glorify God on the last day because of the good deeds we’ve done before them. To me, it’s little wonder the church is so irrelevant today. What should we expect when we treat God’s purposes with such indifference? To even attempt justifying our “busy” lives smacks of dishonesty and, maybe, wickedness. I’m not condemning everyone. Some people live admirable, beautiful lives. I’m not and never really have been one of those people. My boy Dylan said it, “How many times can a man turn his head / And pretend he doesn’t see? / The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” The Spirit moves even now. I’m more convinced right now than ever that Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians applies to us: “Examine yourselves…test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). There is treasure to be had! Ask, seek, knock. He will help us along the way!

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Nov 30 2006

Do Over – Answers Still Needed

Published by under Theology Reloaded

Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply!” James said, “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Today has been a good day of thought that has revealed this one major theme: knowledge itself counts for virtually nothing in the Kingdom of God. There are so many of us today who look for the neat little tidbit we can share with other people. Our motivation is almost always shallow and vain – pride. We want others to view us as intelligent. We spend our time hunting knowledge and degrees and jobs with titles so we can build our name/fame/reputation. Solomon cuts to the issue when he says, “What then do I gain by being wise…like the fool, the wise man too must die!” (Ecclesiastes 2:15-16).

Thank You
To those who commented on yesterday’s blog: Todd, Ryan, Alex, and Dave – thank you! Your comments and the thoughts they formed in me are the basis of this entry. I took 3 full pages of typed notes based on what you guys said. There is honestly no way I would have advanced this far in my thought today were it not for your comments. If you have time and desire, please keep walking, thinking, and writing with me. You can even tell other thoughtful people about the blog.

Back At One
After my glowing praise of you, I have to say: we’re right back at square one. In honesty, I don’t feel any of us answered my questions from yesterday: 1) What are God’s purposes? and 2) What does He demand of us? Don’t get me wrong, speaking about the gospel, the Greatest Commandments, and God’s glory are definitely correct answers but they still left me in an abstract world of knowledge without any idea how I should actually live my life. I made this disjointed model based on your replies. If you think it’s wrong, challenge it and say where you disagree.

The Road to Obedience
1. His Glory. I think we all agree that God’s primary purpose is His glory (greatness) being seen. Though it is somewhat speculative, the idea that creation is the OVERFLOW of God’s exceeding joy in Himself is a fantastic idea. He thought, “Some other being has to experience Me.” I suppose that’s neither here nor there, though. God is concerned with His glory. He manifests this in many ways, but three that come to mind: His creation (power), His provision (goodness), His Son (love, grace, mercy, how much He values His Name).

2. Humans seeing, knowing, and enjoying Him. To see Him in these three ways (and others I didn’t mention) create awe in us. It’s impossible NOT to have awe if we have seen Him. And the more we see His likeness, the more joy we can expect. Christ, being God Himself, should be our Ultimate Joy if we have seen Him.

3. Seeing and Enjoying Compel Us To Offer Our Lives. There is no law or duty we feel bound to. There is no coercion or doing things against our will. We desire to offer our lives to Him.

Now, most of our responses to the questions I asked yesterday hung out in these first three areas – they were meta-level, macro-theological answers. Which is fantastic! Having that base shows our faith to be coherent! But one thing is missing.

4. Offering Our Lives Literally Means Living in Obedience. At another place in my notes, I wrote this process: 1) God exists. 2) See/know/love/enjoy/glorify God. 3) Obey God. Biblically, I think the satisfaction in God precedes obedience of God. But we still need to know WHAT He is commanding. The Greatest Commandment is fantastic, but what does it mean? HOW do we love God? What actions do we take? Jesus puts it best Himself, “If you love me, you will obey what I command…whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (John 14:15,22). What has he commanded…a, b, c, d, x, y, z???

I Didn’t Know It Would Be Like This
You hear pastors tell people that the Christian life isn’t a ball of candy. It’s tough and not pleasant. Maybe from 1, 2, 3, and 4 above we can see why they think this. Most people know God exists (#1) and then they see Jesus at some point and accept Him (#2). Then it stops. They don’t get to know Him much more so they don’t see how beautiful He is which means they have little joy toward Him and His ways (#3). But they go to church and may even read the bible. They see various things they OUGHT to be doing (tithing, small groups, men’s group) which are all based on biblical principles. With all this religion, you’ve got people trying to do #4. They’re obeying, but in a twisted way. They feel like they’re being coerced into it. They think, “Well, this is what a Christian is supposed to do. I guess I’ll do it even though I don’t really like it.” So our sinful natures are barely touched by the Holy Spirit (however that actually works) so we desire to be evil but feel like we should do otherwise. The result is a bitter taste. We take no delight in obeying God. It is burdensome and annoying and unpleasant. Some people think this is how religion is supposed to be so they weight themselves down with as much as possible, trying to obey to the n-th degree (the Pharisees liked this approach a lot and Jesus assured them they did not know God one bit even though they were incredibly religious). I don’t think any of this detached obedience (i.e. detached from joy in Christ) means anything. It is meaningless. Jesus’ disdain for the Pharisees is proof.

Unblinded
In order not to fall into this mess, we need to see Jesus. Which has led me to a THIRD question. How do we see Jesus more clearly? Paul says, “God…made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4). God makes it happen. But do WE need to do anything to put ourselves into a position of receipt? Remember from above, it seems like once we see Him as He is, we are compelled to follow and obey out of our joy. (Just as a sidenote: this would render this lyric incorrect: “There is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”) If it is true that seeing leads to joy leads to obedience, then it makes sense why Paul could be so joyful in so many crappy situations. He didn’t give a rip about most anything because He constantly saw Jesus. That helped him to reJOYce in his trials (he saw Christ more clearly through them) and also to continue in his obedience.

New Clothes
One random comment. Paul says we are to take off the old and put on the new. How, exactly, are we supposed to do that?

Second At-Bat
The Pharisees were knowledgeable dudes. They undoubtedly knew massive amounts of the Old Testament. Yet they emphasized certain parts over others. Jesus rebukes them for this in Matthew 23. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the former without neglecting the latter” (v.23). They knew much but practiced little. We can be like that also, emphasizing one part of Scriptures for a period of time and then moving on to another pet idea. Again, Jesus spoke and said disciples should be taught to obey EVERYTHING He had commanded (Matthew 28:20)
1) What must we do to see Jesus more clearly? (Because to see Him –> joy –> joyful obedience)
2) What are God’s purposes on this planet? (What does His kingdom look like on earth?)
3) What has Jesus commanded?

Apologies
I’m sorry this is so disjointed. Even with three hours of thinking and writing, this entry is a mess. Hopefully, there are seeds here that will organize into more succinct, understandable ideas. I suppose it’s all a process! Peace for now…Talk to you all later…andy

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Nov 29 2006

This Is Just The Way I Am

Published by under Me

It’s funny the things you think about when you’re going to the bathroom. Tonight, I thought about two of my traits that people always seem to comment on: my goofiness and my intensity. It’s incredible to me that, somehow, both of these traits exist in me in abundance, as they seem to be opposites. I tell weird stories, say weird sayings, do weird things, make weird noises, sing weird songs. There are a lot of Scrooges out there that don’t like this about me. I get more eye-rolling and sighing than a child exacerbating their parents. But guess what? I’m not going to change. This is just the way I am. And it’s not hurting anybody. Just because it may not appeal to someone’s sensibilities doesn’t mean I’m going to change. It means they need an attitude adjustment.

My second trait that annoys some people is on the opposite end of the spectrum – my intensity. When I get involved with certain activities or projects, I am almost psycho-intense. This, too, seems to frustrate people – how serious I am. I hear sayings like, “Andy, live and let live”, “You worry too much”, “I bet you don’t enjoy life very much”, “Let life happen”, and other drivel (I don’t feel like hiding my disdain for these sayings). Here’s the deal: if someone wants to live an average life like everyone else, that’s cool. But that’s not me. To get free from the mediocrity I perceive in my life, I struggle to find another way to live. Isn’t struggle a necessary part of growth? Yes! This is just the way I am.

It’s been observed that the outcasts of society are those who don’t conform to the average. I miss the mark in both directions (goofiness and intensity), so it shouldn’t surprise me that people want me to fall in line. But I’m not going to. They might think I’m miserable, but I’m not. Besides, there are millions of people in our country living the average life who ARE miserable. That ain’t my style. So no one needs to worry about me! I’m choosing to live my life this way, not passively living every single day of life, like many. And besides, I’ve tried living the average life. It’s nothing special. No, this is just the way I am. My intensity has made me who I am today and will pay rich dividends in the future.

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Nov 28 2006

Toward a New Life

Published by under Life

I read something incredibly instructive tonight.

Many of us struggle with how to spend our day. We wake up in the morning and are faced with endless possibilities of what to do. Weekends are even worse. Watch TV or a movie? Play basketball or go running? Hang with this group of friends or that group of friends? Go to this bar or that bar? Read this book or that book? The issue is always the same: how should we spend our time?Incredibly, for many Christians, myself included, God and others rarely factor into our decisions. Of course we may feel drawn to a mission trip here or there. Perhaps we’ll donate money to a cause or two. But in our day-to-day living, God and others (more specifically, the good of God and the good of others) are usually absent in our decision-making process. We’re incredibly self-centered when we make decisions. What will make ME happy? We might struggle with what events to pencil into our calendars, but the truth is that many of us never ask if these events are actually worthy of the time God has given us. Is a day full of college football really why God created me? Of course, we dream up all kinds of reasons to justify our behavior, but I’m beginning to think these justifications may hold very little weight with God.

Obedience Ignored
When I decide what to do, I filter it through a minimum-requirements filter. Is the event so grossly immoral that I would be breaking a command of God’s? If no, then I generally go to the event. Biblically, I say, “There is freedom in Christ. I can do whatever I want that is not immoral. This will be fine with God.” I pretend like I can do whatever I want and ask God to bless it. There’s a problem with this, however. It ignores a massive portion of Scripture with commands that are given to us (e.g. that we should feed the hungry or take care of the orphans). Commands demand obedience. Jesus said those who believed in Him should be taught to obey everything He commanded (Matthew 28:20). Just a question…do we think He was joking? Because when I look at my life, not only am I unsure that I obey everything He commanded, I’m unsure I even KNOW all He commanded. So how am I supposed to obey Jesus if I don’t even know all He said?

Question One
If I currently make decisions without considering what Jesus commanded, then not only do I need to stop doing that, but I need to know what He commanded. So what DID Jesus command? Curiously, I was reminded earlier tonight that John Piper just wrote a new book called “What Jesus Demands of the World.” I purchased the book (arriving in 2-3 days) and have a copy of it in e-Book that I’ve started reading. My answer to this question should begin filling in over the next couple days.

Roadmap to God’s Purposes Being Fulfilled
Because there is really no other possibility, it has been observed that God accomplishes His will on earth through every day people like you and me. In order that His purposes on this earth might be fulfilled, He commanded certain things and for very specific purposes. First, His commands are in accord with His character (i.e. He tells us to be like Him). Second, in being like Him, we will have success in this world to accomplish His ends.

Question Two
But what exactly ARE God’s ends? What are His purposes on this earth? What are the top priorities for God? This question is a part of the first because we’re trying to understand WHY God has commanded certain things. For the Christian, these answers are found in the bible. But it’s not enough to know where they’re located. We have to know specifics for when we do, we will have not only specific commands to obey (answer to question one) but we will have general principles by which we can make decisions that are not directly covered by the specific commands.

The Goal
I tell you the truth, it is these coming weeks that I believe will radically change the purpose of my life. If you agree with my line of argument above (I understand you may not) and will help me answer these questions over the coming days, I believe some of the aimlessness of our lives will disappear. Though not all our questions may get answered, I think clarity will begin to form where only clouds hung previously.

The Two Fogs
People talk about the “fog of war” and how it causes soldiers to do things they wouldn’t have done in a more calm situation. I wonder if the “fog of life” hasn’t blinded us to the greater purposes of God and to the obedience of all Christ commanded of us. Please join me in answering these two questions. I’m not exactly sure how to facilitate this right now, but for the time being, please just leave comments in the blog (if you’re the first, click the “No Comments” link at the very top of this blog entry) or feel free to write me an email (blog at sine9 dot com). Please just help me. I want the Lord’s purpose accomplished on this earth and I want to be more a part of it than I am now. That means changing my life. I just don’t know exactly what to change TO right now. Less fog. More light. Much love…andy

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