8.24.2014- Seen and Unseen
"From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” (NIV) Psalm 50:2
All the time- in the Bible, in worship songs, in conversation (hopefully)- we talk about the beauty of God. And this may seem a little dumb, but I’ve always wondered why we discuss that when He has not made Himself visible to us.
It also suggests that we are imposing upon the Lord of Lords, the Creator of the Universe, the God Almighty our lowly human standards of beauty… that aren’t even the same worldwide.
But the more I think about it, the more wonderful I think this description is.
For one thing, I feel that the more you get to know someone’s personality, the more beautiful their outward appearance becomes to your eyes. You learn to look past their facial features to the expression they convey, and those expressions in turn make their features more meaningful and captivating.
The more we learn to know and love God, the more beautiful He will be to us when we finally do see His face.
For another thing, the Bible tells us:
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NIV) 1 Samuel 16:7
And if we call God beautiful, we must be referring to His personality because we don’t knowwhat He looks like. We call Him beautiful because of His heart, and He tells us that this consideration is the truly important one.
When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers. That means we are not only in the world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable. In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes.
And the more we allow our accomplishments- the results of our actions- to become the criteria of our self-esteem, the more we are going to walk on our mental and spiritual toes, never sure if we will be able to live up to the expectations which we created by our last successes.— Out of Solitude, Henri J.M. Nouwen
The more I get to know God, the more I see my own sin. Constantly. Everywhere. In everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I see His hand more and more, and with His wisdom revealing the ugliness of my heart, I can only be increasingly grateful that He is working for the good of those who love Him.
But when it comes to admitting to my sins, that’s a whole different story.
Until I really stopped to think about it, confessing and repenting didn’t make much sense to me. It seemed like an antiquated, pointless tradition. I mean, God already knows what’s in my heart, right? Why do I have to tell him about my sins if He already knows?
But I’ve recently discovered there is value in vocalizing my sins. As Paul Miller writes in his book, A Praying Life:
"When I hear my own voice admitting that I’ve done something wrong, I’m surprised by how concrete the sin feels. I’ve even thought, ‘Oh, I guess that really was wrong.’"
He’s right. Saying it aloud does make it feel more real. It makes me feel a greater sense of responsibility for my actions or thoughts- not necessarily shame (though there is some of that) or guilt, but humbling myself before the perfect Father.
I’m always asking God to help me be better, to change me, but that doesn’t mean that I get to stand in my own way and hope that those impulses and desires go away on their own. I believe God cando that, but I don’t believe He always operates that way.
Just like with anything else, practice makes you better. When He gives me opportunities to be less selfish, recalling my verbal pleas for His help encourages me to turn to Him. Even if I fall into the same patterns, telling God aloud ensures that I’m not ignoring my sins.
It may not work for everyone, but what works for you is between you and the Lord. The more I get to know Him, the more He will mold my heart to be like His.
7.2.2014- Like a Child
I volunteered at my church’s VBS last week, shepherding a group of ~10 3-year-olds around from station to station (craft to snack to games, etc.). Looking at them, it really struck me what Jesus meant when He told us to have a childlike faith.
For one thing, I often feel like a toddler in my faith. I try to walk with the Lord but I fall down all the time. My attention span isn’t great and I’m easily distracted. I’m not very good at listening when He tells me to do something, especially not the first time. I fear and despair when I feel like He’s left me. I emulate the actions and learn constantly from those more mature in their faith.
But kids are also really awesome at being themselves. They don’t know how “normal” people act, so they act the only way they know how. They come to you as they are, whether it be messy, petulant, selfish, enthusiastic, or whatever they’re feeling.
They see the world with new eyes, full of wonder and joy at the things we take for granted, and when they see their parents after only two hours of being apart, they run to them with open arms. They never doubt their parents’ love for them.
I wish I could love the Lord like that!
5.10.2014- King of Kings, Delegator of Delegators…
It’s no secret that God works through other people.
He used Moses to free the slaves. He used Paul and Peter to build his church. He used Jonah to notify Nineveh of its impending doom. He spoke through prophets- and lots of them. He asked Solomon to build his temple.
It’s not like He couldn’t have achieved those things (and way more easily) through His own power. Here’s my take on it:
- His ultimate mission isn’t just to achieve the task but to grow our faith along the way.
- While doing it Himself would be quite a display of His power, His power is made perfect in our weakness. By completing his tasks despite our inadequacies, He can show off His perfection.
- He gave us free will. Making us do His will isn’t the same thing as asking.
The Bible highlights key figures who did big, important things but I don’t feel like that’s the path for myself, and I feel certain that it’s not the path that God has called everyone to. But I do think that God calls everyone to act.
God isn’t satisfied with the state of our world. He doesn’t condone or approve of poverty, hunger, crime, global warming, or other obstacles our world faces. But He doesn’t do nothing about it.
He creates people with passions and talents to meet the world’s needs. He wants us to go. He wants us to act. He delegates, and what would our world look like if everyone acted to make it a better place?
5.9.2014- Return to the King
“‘Even now,’ declares the Lord,
'return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.’
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.”
Joel 2:12-13 (NIV)
This semester, I’ve felt disconnected from the Lord. I have struggled to find the words to pray, I have been apathetic toward spending time in the word, and I have been afraid to face the Lord because I am embarrassed of how I’ve acted.
I feel like I’ve let Him down and the longer that continues, the less inclined I am to draw close to Him again.
Then the other night, I decided to have quiet time. I flipped open the Bible and my eyes fell on this passage from Joel.
God was making Himself clear: even now, even after all this disappointment, He pursues me and wants a relationship with me. He doesn’t want pretty words, a worshipful song, or hands raised in worship; He wants my heart.
And how grateful I am to have the assurance that He will forgive my sins! Joel and co. didn’t have that kind of confidence. We know that Jesus has covered our sins- even the sins of turning our hearts away from God in seasons of apathy.