Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Whose Kingdom is It Anyway?

One of the great things about living in Florida is being able to go to the beach 3 days before Christmas. That is how this year found me, skimboarding on the ocean waves lapping up onto the shore well until past twilight. If you live in the North, (or anywhere else above South Florida) you might be jealous to hear that even the onset of night didn't make it too cold to continue enjoying the water and sand. (No hate mail, please.)

As it got later and the lifeguards had finished their shift and closed up shop, I drew near to the pier. (They don't allow skimboarders in guarded areas. Some garbage about safety or something like that. Psh.) As I was enjoying riding the waves and such, I noticed a teenager running about in a wetsuit. At one point, I fell off my board and the water had carried it a distance from me. The young man in the black wetsuit ran up, grabbed my board, played with it in the water for half a minute, and then handed it back to me, laughing all the while.

Sound strange? Yes, it was, but the boy had some kind of developmental deficiency. I can't speak into the details of the situation, but having studied many developmental disorders in nursing school, I knew he had some kind of dementia or autism perhaps. I stayed around that area close to the pier, continuing to try to get some good waves in before heading home, but I couldn't keep my eyes off the boy who ran about the shoreline, splashed in the water, and threw small pebbles back into the ocean, even grabbing a jellyfish that had washed up on shore. No shame. No fear. No regret.

I wanted to be like him.

As I watched, I realized that this boy didn't give a flip about what other people were thinking about him. As someone who is so wrapped up in my performance, I wanted to stop caring about what people thought about whether or not I excelled. I began to long to do the things that I do for the God's glory instead of my own. I wanted to enjoy throwing pebbles without wanting to show my neighbor how far they went. I wanted to splash in the water with no fear of how silly I looked doing it. I wanted to run along the shoreline without worrying about my form. I wanted to grab jellyfish without thinking that others would look at me like an idiot.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10)
Casting Crowns has a song that says, "How can I further your Kingdom when I'm so wrapped up in mine?" A life of making the almighty "me" the end goal of my efforts is a life wasted. And as much as it is easy to sit here and write that I want to change, I stand to make this post as much about my conviction as it is for yours. When our lives become about God and others, people notice, are blown away, and do not understand. It's only logical: no one understands miracles, and a lack of selfishness is probably one of the most miraculous things out there.

That is what I want.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Walking Mud

One of the original bands that got me into music was Switchfoot. We were on our way home from church and my brother had bought a CD called, "The Beautiful Letdown." I didn't know that what I was listening to would go double platinum. I don't know that a fact like that would have even mattered to me. All I knew was that I soon memorized almost every single track on that album (I checked Spotify and saw a track I'd never heard. Musta been an easter egg).

A few years later, I got one of my own CD's from a band called Relient K. The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek became my ear-candy for the next few months and music soon became one of my passions. In the beginning, my brother introduced me to new bands and genres, but I soon started finding music of my own in that process, but I always maintained Relient K as one of my beacons of great music. Sure, a lot of people fell out of favor with them after Five Score and Seven Years Ago, but I found one of their least-popular albums, Forget and Not Slow Down (a post-Five-Score release), to be one of my favorites, containing some deep spiritual truths that required digging past the surface for their discovery.

Alas, things got weird when they released two karaoke albums. After all that waiting for them to release new material, all I got was covers. Ick. So when I heard they were releasing a new album, Collapsible Lung, I was stoked. Fresh music! I soon found, however, that the lyrics contained in those songs were some of the most secular, spiritually void words in Relient K history.


The last track, however, holds some words of intense thought. In this, the title track of the album, lead singer Matt Thiessen gives insight to his own walk with God.
/I’m feelin' backwards when I’m trying the most/
/And I hope haven’t heard the last words from the Holy Ghost/
/Cause I think that I’m supposed to be/
/Well on my way by now/
I've spent a lot of time thinking "that I'm supposed to be well on my way." I stumble and fall and feel the shame of sin and think, "God's probably getting pretty tired of me." If someone treated me like I treated God, I'm pretty sure I would have distanced myself from that person.

It's easy to have a pity party. You don't have to muster the energy to celebrate. You don't have to invite anyone. You don't even have to buy a cake. Just think about all of your failures, wallow in them like a pig in the mud, and get a woe-is-me sign.

Yeah, you screwed up. I screwed up. But I'm pretty sure that the truth of this whole Jesus thing is that He's no longer our Judge, but our Father. And not only is He our Father, but He's the best kind there is, which means He's patient. I once heard the analogy that, when a child is learning to walk, you don't get angry at the child when he falls after two steps, but rejoice in the fact that he was able to take two steps!
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103)
God rejoices in the steps because the fact that a mound of dirt is learning to walk is a pretty big deal. I think the truth of the matter is that we'll never be where we're supposed to be. And that's ok. If we're moving forward, even by the babiest of baby steps, He rejoices in the propulsion. He won't leave you where you are, and He'll push you to walk faster, but He concurrently recognizes our weakness.

Does that mean it's ok to be lazy or to sit in our sin? If that's what you're thinking, you've missed the entire point.

Masterpieces aren't composed in a day.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Two Approaches to Sin

If you've ever known... well... anyone, you know one thing: sin sucks. You may not verbalize it in this way. You may not even cognitively process the fact that sin sucks, but, oh, you have felt this truth. Whether it was your own sin or another's, you have experienced what it means to be damaged and bruised by the decision to rebel against God's natural order.

There are usually two responses to sin: either you do not realize it's gravity, or you dwell upon it entirely too much.

Let's tackle the first situation.

God abhors sin. If you don't know what "abhor" means, it's loathing. If you don't know what "loathing" is, it's hatred. God cannot be near sin. He is thoroughly and totally disgusted with the ways we choose to disobey His direct Word. And because of the way that sin impacts our daily lives, He grieves over the fact that we make deliberate choices to throw our life down the pooper. Sin is the opposition to all God has intended for us, and it breaks His heart when we make it our escape. Realizing the nature of sin from God's perspective is a crucial part of the Christian life.

However, there is another temptation. As Christians, after we've sinned, we can often tend to forget about grace. We tie ourselves to the woe-is-me pole and refuse to leave. I'm not sure if we do this because we think that there is some sort of righteousness in beating ourselves up over sin or because we are just so stricken with the agony of our wrongdoing, but either way, we forget what it means that God has covered all those things in His blood. I get that there is a time to grieve over the fact that you've screwed up. Sin sucks, after all. However, don't let your sin be greater than your God.

Repent, move forward, and fill your mind with the good things God has done for you.
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. (Psalm 143)
Don't just look at all the ways you've failed. Begin to look at all the ways that God has pushed you in the right direction. Remember the moments in your life where God has done great things. Along with your repentance, there must be rejoicing.

God is writing your story. Don't forget to read the highlights.