Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Spirit

A very distinguished Christmas cookie
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. For some reason, the brightly colored lights, mountains of snow, warm hot cocoa and endless run of Christmas specials on cable TV brings a certain level of joy to my heart. I've always loved Christmas. Really, I've always loved everything about Christmas (except for Christmas cookies which I still don't get... they don't really taste all that good, they don't have coffee in them, and the frosting tastes like chalk). But this year it's been kind of difficult to "get in the mood".

Earlier this week a group of us sat and prayed at my church, repenting for our materialism and addiction to our own comfort. We begged God to let his kingdom come in our lives, in our city, in our world no matter what it cost us. We asked him to teach us to pray like Jesus prayed.

I guess more than anything, I'm conflicted about how much stuff I have. I haven't had to ask God for my daily bread since undergrad because I've always had so much. Even now, when people ask me "what I want for Christmas" I just see this image in the back of my mind of everyone around the world who has so little. Do I really need a "better" pair of shoes when kids in South Africa are playing soccer barefoot? Do I really need the latest Apple product when 80% of the world is living on less than a dollar a day? And that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

To quote David Platt, being a follower of Christ costs something but it also costs something not to follow him. As we hold on to the money and talents God has lent us, others are starving and hungry, dying and in desperate need of the crumbs we through away. 

Ironically, I love giving gifts probably more than the average person. And while I am hoping to become radically different in terms of the way I spend my time, money, and resources, I'm not advocating for the end of gift-giving. But if we're really going to grab hold of the Christmas Spirit, the gifts we give should be of eternal merit. If we're truly want to be like Him, we have to give like he gave.

And with all that being said, I do hope that you have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In the Face of Desolation

I don’t like telling people what to do unless I’m quoting/paraphrasing the Bible. I don’t like the responsibility. In my mind, if you take my advice I’m then somehow implicated in the resulting actions. I also believe that if someone wants to leave, you let them leave. Present truth plainly but don't try to persuade. In the end, I firmly believe that people will do what they want to do most... hopefully it's to glorify God.

My church has been going through a transition these paste months and I’ve pretty much kept my opinions to myself. Today, I wanted to be a little more transparent. Pardon my emo trip.

Lately my church has been going through a tough time. Quite a few people have left. Some are on the fence, trying to decide if which way they’ll go. I’ve heard pretty much every side of the argument and am convinced that God alone knows the truth. I’ve been unable to sleep for the past few weeks as I’ve struggled to deal with disappointment after disappointment. Sometimes it felt as if people were trying to find reasons to leave, drop their responsibilities, and search for greener pastures. I took it personal and shouldn't have. It was probably selfish on my part.

For what it’s worth, here are some of the reasons why I’m staying: 
  • The Bible Doesn’t Say to Leave- I searched the scriptures. I feel that God has given us the Bible to instruct us how to navigate the waters of this life. In the New Testament you find a ton of churches that Paul is instructing. None of them are perfect. In fact, in many the leaders are teaching heresy. But Paul/Peter/John never tell the members to leave the church. They always tell them to rebuke, correct, train, and fix the body even if that means calling out the leadership. Paul submitted to Christian Pharisees in order to show them that God’s plan involved all people (Acts 15). Christ went to teach at the synagogue.
  • Counting the Cost- This might sound a little pretentious, se la vie. I thought of the souls that hung in the balance. I thought of friends who attended the church. I thought of new believers and struggling believers that attended the church. Was I willing to abandon them? Was it every man for himself? Or was their soul worth my discomfort? I feel that question is a rhetorical one.
  • I can’t leave something broken- this is a pretty big deal for me. For whatever reason, I just can’t leave a place broken. I don’t think it pleases God. I heard a pastor preach on working at his church. He said that each day his wife would drop him off and they would sit in the car crying and praying.  He didn’t want to be at the church. It was arduous work and the church was jacked up. They would pray until their tears turned to praise but he refused to leave the church because he knew that’s where God wanted him.
Division is ugly. What’s more is that it’s not of God. Unity is so precious and it’s something that God values (Jesus prayed for it). If somethings precious you fight for it. You fight for it with bloody knuckles, calloused hands, and a sweat soaked brow. If the church is precious to God... I could go on and on about this… one day I might but I don’t think now is the appropriate time. I don’t knock people for leaving. More times than not I’m sad to see them go. It’s just the logic that always kills me…

A city in need of healing
I guess ultimately it comes down to how God has interacted with man over the course of redemptive history. We have always failed him. We have always fallen short of his expectation and standard. But yet and still, he has endured our sin and pursued us. He never left us and went to find a new body. He never abandoned Israel and searched for a “better” people. No, he endured with them. He pursued them. He loved them violently as demonstrated in the cross. He sent prophet after prophet to persuade them towards righteousness. He sent pillars of fire, clouds of smoke, invading armies, sickness, famine, bread from heaven, deliverance, and exile in order to break their hearts and draw them back to him. Eventually, he even sent his Son, borne of a woman, whom we crucified on a tree. But he never left them… I guess I feel convicted to demonstrate this heart to God’s body.

I guess, in the depths of my soul I know that Christ died for the church. He died for Bethel… that means she’s redeemable. He loved her violently and died on the cross, becoming the very thing his Father abhorred, for the sake of her election. That’s not really something I can walk away from.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sure Thing in Christ

Ahhh… Life has been hectic and my bloggability has evaporated. Tiz the season to be jolly and eat insane amounts of Christmas cookies while watching Elf on repeat (is there really any other Christmas movie worth watching…?). 

Church and school have given me a never-ending “To-Do List”. Monday, I read so much that my right eye was throbbing. Yet and still, I think this is a beautiful struggle. I love my school. My job lets me spend all my time seeking the lost and discipling the saint… is there any greater treasure?

I don’t have a lot to say this time. Sorry if you were expecting something deep :-/

I know we all have lofty aspirations and goals. In about 3 weeks we’ll all pledge to do a bunch of things (lose 10 lbs, complete p90x, stop drinking coffee, keep our houses clean) and then find in a few months that are convictions failed. It used to really depress me. I could never really reach the standard that I was setting. My abs and arms still don’t look like the Rock’s. I can’t imagine what my mornings would be like without coffee.

Christ defines our success.  There is so much peace in that. There are some things we can work on. Perhaps even a few that we should work on. But our identity is held securely in Christ and not in some random checklist of things that we should or shouldn’t be doing. It’s only by his grace that we can change and he already looks at us and smiles.

Don’t get me wrong, examine your heart and ask for the grace to kill sin. But, at the same point in time, Christ gave us the sure gift of eternal life. He loves us despite the presence of coffee stains on our pearly whites and the love handles on our hips. Somewhere, there’s rest in that.