I had a friend once who thought he knew how to live. "Life is for the now! Have all the fun you can. I get what I want when I want it, long as I'm not hurting anybody!"
"Sure I'm a Christian," he said. "I believe all that stuff just like you do, but I don't go overboard with it. It doesn't have to affect my everyday life."
We had endless discussions about what it meant to live for Christ. He would smirk, shake his head, and say he couldn't see that he needed to change. "Convince me," he'd say. "Convince me that what you've got is better than what I've got."
I never did convince him. He was so entrenched in self-worship, he had no adoration left for anyone else. A relationship with God through Christ is a mystery, not easily comprehended at first glance. God could have made it simpler, a connect-the-dots path to spiritual wholeness. But instead He shrouds his truth, gives hints and whispers, and remains ever-elusive except to those who seek him with their whole hearts.
We are incapable of convincing adamant unbelievers of the joy of knowing God on an intimate level. Our words fall like dead leaves on pavement and are quickly caught up in the whirlwind of the world's enticements.
Most people are a little like Susie was a few years ago. Our family decided to take a vacation to Disney World. We planned to do it all: five parks, the ocean--seven full days of non-stop fun.
When Susie realized she would have her ninth birthday while we were gone, she decided she didn't want to go. "I'll miss my birthday party! I can't have my regular party with friends over. I don't wanna go."
The other kids were ready to strangle her and we tried in vain to describe the fun that would be far superior to any birthday party she could arrange. She had never experienced anything like what we were telling her, and therefore refused to believe that there was anything greater than her experience.
But when we walked through those gates and she saw Cinderella's castle, her whole face lit up. "Oh-h, now I see!" she laughed, and we have laughed about it ever since.
People entrenched in this world's offerings are just like Susie was. They think the non-stop quest for fun and entertainment is all there is and when we try to describe the richness and joy of fellowship with our Creator, they give us a blank look. "But I'll miss my birthday party!"
Sadly, there are many people who profess to know Christ who are stuck in the same mindset. "I'm willing to go this far with God, but no farther. He might want me to give up something I like if I let him take over totally. I'll give him this corner of my heart, but I'm keeping the rest: my habits, my attitudes, my future, my relationships. I need to control that to make sure I'm happy."
What about you? What are you clinging to that is robbing you of something far better? Are you forfeiting Disney World in favor of Pin-the-tail-on-the-Donkey?
Family vacation 2010 is in the history books.
Another mini-vacation this year. With 5 of us running in different directions, anything longer requires the scheduling skills of an air traffic controller. THANKFULLY this one was much better than last year! Click here if you dare!
Ran down to Six Flags Over Texas and did a lot of walking, a lot of sweating, a lot of waiting in line, a little bit of "why did we do this?" but all-in-all it was fine. Susie's leg couldn't take it and we had to rent her a wheelchair (which I coveted passionately the rest of the day.)
One thing struck me as we passed nameless human faces by the truckload: there are a lot of people in the world. I mean, A LOT! How is it possible that God loves each one of us personally?
Crowds are just crowds to me. I don't see people. I see bodies, colors, hairstyles, arms and legs to be avoided. Just masses. I don't think of each one as unique and precious, valuable to God. When I'm part of a crowd, I just see a crowd.
But God doesn't.
He sees the crying five-year-old and His heart hurts. He sees the multi-pierced teenager with his pants sagging on the ground and knows the heartache that started it all. He walks beside the Chinese family with the bewildered expressions and the old man who looks lost. He knows in a heartbeat which of those thousands are His children and which ones still need to find Him.
When Jesus gazed out over the crowds that followed him, He didn't see crowds. He was filled with compassion for them and he worked past weariness healing crippled legs, twisted arms, and broken hearts.
I'm glad God sees us as individuals, not as part of a crowd. Maybe I should try a little harder to do the same.
I've been completely captivated lately by the writings of Watchman Nee in The Spiritual Man. Nee Shu-Tsu became a Christian in mainland China in 1920 at the age of seventeen and began writing in the same year. In 1952 he was imprisoned for his faith; he remained in prison until his death in 1972.
Here are some of his outstanding quotes:
“You who are Moses on the hill, please do not forget Joshua in the plain.” P 9
“If all day long we analyze ourselves, dissecting our thoughts and feelings, it will hinder us from losing ourselves in Christ…Introspection and self-consciousness are harmful to spiritual life.”p10
It is the soul that chooses to sin. The soul decides whether the body will be controlled by the flesh or the spirit.
The dividing is necessary because spirit and soul have become one. P 51
To be forsaken by God is the consequence of sin. P 60
To be penitent, to feel sorry for sins, to shed tears, to even make decisions does not bring salvation…Regeneration comes when the Holy Sprit now rules man’s spirit, giving it the power to rule over the soul and body. The spirit, soul, and body are restored to God’s original intention in every born again person. P 63
God recognizes the impossibility of the flesh to be changed, improved or bettered. P 73
Man’s flesh remains as corrupt in those born again as in the unregenerate. The flesh in a saint is as evil as the flesh in a sinner. P 76
Liberation from sin is an accomplished fact; denial of self is a daily experience. P 79
The purpose of God is never to reform the flesh, but to destroy it. P 81
Then a pink streak shot from the throng onto the stage and made straight for the hero. In a single leap, she was in his arms and he swung her effortlessly onto his shoulders. The crowd went wild again as the proud father held his laughing daughter high for all to see.
Then, as though they’d planned it, the Master of Ceremonies lifted the medallion high as the athlete bent low and the medal went around the neck of the five-year-old.
Her father straightened and she towered above the crowd, beaming with pride, accepting the applause as her due. She was a winner! High in the arms of her accomplished father, she enjoyed his praise right along with him. She'd done nothing to earn such adoration; yet, her loving father allowed her to enjoy it right along with him.
I've been reading in the O.T. and one thing jumps out at me. As Israel went through king after king--some good, some dreadful--they all had one thing in common. Besides the rare exception, every king who took the throne made the same mistake. Some of them were God-fearing, idol-stomping, sacrificing good guys. But even they, the Bible is careful to remind us, refused to tear down the "high places."
We aren't given much information about what these high places consisted of, but they were revered as altars to the gods. They were dedicated holy places. You would think that along with crashing up the statues and tearing down the idol temples, those kings would have gone ahead and torn down the high places to get it all over with at once. But they didn't. And it always came back to bite them.
It's obvious how this applies to us. Don't we have high places? Those areas of our lives where we think no one notices. That little dab of sin--whether in thought, habit, relationship, or activity--that we cherish, holding on to it while we tell ourselves we're sold out to the Lord.
"It's such a little thing," we think. "I'm doing everything else right. God wouldn't demand that too."
But he does. And the reason becomes painfully clear as you continue reading through the succession of kings and rulers of Israel and Judah. Quite often, the Scripture tells us that the next king--the son of the former--"Did not follow in the ways of his father, but did what was evil in the sight of the Lord."
I always wondered about that. If the king was such a God-fearing good guy, why was his son a jerk? He'd grown up knowing he would someday be king. He'd trotted along after Dad, watching how it was done. So if Dad was following God's ways and doing things right, why didn't the son naturally follow in his footsteps?
Could it be because of the high places?
By refusing to renounce all evil, all bad habits, everything displeasing to God, we are in fact telling the world that we are the ones in charge. God is a good idea, our lives state. But not the final authority.
What high places are still lingering in your life? What is it that you believe belongs only to you? You've instructed God to keep his hands off. This is yours.
Don't be shocked when it is that very thing that brings about your downfall--or that of your child.
You never know who is watching you worship at your high place. You never know the power those indulgences may have in your destruction. Is it really worth it?
That phrase is repeated more than a dozen times throughout the Bible. We read right over it, sing it glibly in choruses, but have you ever stopped to wonder what it means?
If you've been singing songs and hymns all your life, does that mean that they are used up? Should everyone be a songwriter? Is a 300-year-old hymn less valuable to the Lord because it's not a new song?
I pondered that phrase this morning and asked the Lord what it meant.
I thought of the prolific songwriters who bless us frequently with their new songs, their skill with lyrics, their twist of a phrase that lends new meaning to age-old thoughts. They have no trouble singing new songs, but what about the rest of us?
Just as His mercies are "new every morning," so is our relationship with God. As we learn to love Him more, gain understanding of His ways, experience highs and lows, and develop a deeper trust and faith, old things take on new meaning. Scripture verses you've read a hundred times suddenly leap off the page and right into your soul. Worship music seems written just for you. Lines of song slip through your ears and take root in your heart as you sing them back to God.
Depending on your particular struggle at the moment, different songs reflect your heart as you offer the "sacrifice of praise." God takes pleasure in our songs. He loves music, loves for us to sing to him when it comes from deep inside. Rambling through nine verses of a hymn while simultaneously criticizing the pianist and wondering what's for lunch is not music to God's ears. He wants a new song.
So what are you singing these days? Are you offering lip service and calling it music? Does your attempt at praise and worship feel like it's stuck in the past?
If your heart hasn't crept toward God in a long time, then you're not singing a new song. It's not God's favorite kind of music, so you might as well save your breath. He's told us clearly the kind of music he likes. He wants to hear new songs, the ones ripped from your soul and offered to him. Whether penned by Isaac Watts or Hillsong, a new song is one that has captured the passions of your heart in lyrical form and made them acceptable to God.
Forget the tired mantras that describe someone else's journey.
Offer to to God a new song!