Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Repenting in ashes......

The world seems strangely transparent today in light of the obvious. My life appears very small to me in these hours and I look my own arrogance and lack of understanding in the face.

In revisiting the events of 9-11 and mulling a bit on the disturbing covert actions of Iran and their meshugana president Ahmadinejad alone and with Russia, I feel out of body at the moment. And as I begin to feel that sense of dread knowing that there will indeed be an end to all things I fix my eyes on God who holds all things together by the word of His power. I am aware that these things have already been spoken of in scripture in particular in the book of Ezekiel. I remind myself that the LORD does not reveal these events to frighten those who are His but to graciously give us awareness so that we can be about His business.

Joel Rosenberg's blog is pertinent:


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guest Post by Wren: Thoughts on "Will the visible overcome the invisible?"

Excellent questions! A few years ago I was riveted by II Peter 1:5-11. In verse 5, the Apostle commands us to "make EVERY effort" to add to our faith, to add to our goodness, to add to our knowledge, to add to our self-control, to add to our perseverance, to add to our godliness, to add to our brotherly kindness, and to add to our love; and then he tells us why this command is so crucial: "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Pe 1:8) Here is the very point you were making. Many of us profess faith in Christ, but often our lives are "ineffective and unproductive." The reason, according to this passage, is that we are not making any effort (or enough effort) to add anything to our faith, to our goodness, to our knowledge, to our self-control, to our perseverance, to our godliness, to our brotherly kindness, or to our love. Or perhaps we're content to add to our knowledge (it is so easy to close the door and study), but we're avoiding adding anything to our brotherly kindness or to our self-control.

The next verse is stunning: "But if anyone does not have them [these qualities in increasing measure], he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sin." Phew. Not simply lazy. Not simply idle. The messenger of Christ calls us "nearsighted and blind" when we fail (or refuse) to add to our walk. He says we have forgotten what Christ has done for us. That is a heavy conclusion.

But he does not stop there! Verse 10 has a promise that is too good to believe (but Scripture is true, so we can (and must) believe it!): "For if you do these things, you will NEVER FALL..." Never fall? Never?

No wonder the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to RUN with perseverance the race set before us (He 12:1)! We learn from this passage in II Peter that the very running of the race produces fruitfulness and protects us from falling. No wonder David writes joyfully, "I RUN in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." (Psalm 119:32)


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Will the visible overcome the invisible?

Why do some Christians seem to be able to more fully express the life of Christ than others? Why is it that folks who have called themselves by the name of Christ for most of their lives produce so little fruit? Why do some who haven't known Him for long seem to ooze Christ from their pores? I have long wondered about this strange observance. I know that there are probably many reasons why a believer does not seem to grow and I certainly do not intend to over simplify the complexity of human beings.

We are by nature autonomous or at least like to think we are. We don't like anyone telling us what to do or how to do it and we certainly think we can figure life out on our own. I have already learned myself of the danger of living out of my feelings. Indeed we do not perceive reality as it really is but we perceive our perception of reality. That perception is colored and tinted by many, many factors. This is why the scripture speaks so plainly about renewing the mind with the truth. We do not know who we are without the truth. Without truth we are completely under the power of feelings, and perceptions that usually come out of our family origins.

A friend reminded me of Proverbs 27:17: "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." She stated that a big problem is that many of us are rubbing up against plastic, not iron. We do not have other people who are challenging us in all areas of our lives and spurring us on in the pursuit of God. We have superficial relationships that center around common interests or mutual arm's length interaction.

At the moment I am reading Kenneth Boa's book "That I May Know God." He states that we must live life with consistent discipline and exposure to the word within the context of the fellowship of like-minded believers. Without these "the visible will overcome the invisible." This is a profound statement.

In our time we live under the tyranny of the urgent, or at least what we deem urgent, and we are impatient. If we live in this way the temporal will slowly overcome the eternal in our lives. There are so many things determined to have our attention each day. Some of these things are good and some are not so good. Work, accumulation and entertainment have taken the place of seeking God and His people. Though my own life is rather simple in comparison to the lives of others who are raising children or have more responsibilities, I still have to fight to discipline myself to turn and face the Lord daily instead of chasing after whatever shiny thing happens to catch my attention each day. Some days it is easier than other days and some days I fail. But I find an emptiness and dissatisfaction in my life when I have spent my days focused solely on the temporal and have failed to connect with other believers and get the word of God into my heart and mind.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

God of Life or god of comfort?

While doing a petsit job I picked up the home owner's copy of "My Utmost for His Highest" that was on an end table. I haven't used that particular devotional in many years.
I opened to the entry for March 12th and began to read.

March 12, 2007
Total Surrender
Peter began to say to Him, ’See, we have left all and followed You’ —Mark 10:28

Our Lord replies to this statement of Peter by saying that this surrender is "for My sake and the gospel’s" (10:29). It was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. For example, "I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy." Being delivered from sin and being made holy are the result of being right with God, but surrender resulting from this kind of thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, "No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ’This is what God has done for me.’ " Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.
Where does Jesus Christ figure in when we have a concern about our natural relationships? Most of us will desert Him with this excuse—"Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me and I have my own interests. I just can’t go any further"
. "Then," Jesus says, "you ’cannot be My disciple’ "
True surrender will always go beyond natural devotion. If we will only give up, God will surrender Himself to embrace all those around us and will meet their needs, which were created by our surrender. Beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God. Most of us have only a vision of what this really means, but have never truly experienced it.

Ouch. I have recently learned that I am a perfectionist. Though initially shocked at this assertion by my counselor, I am beginning to see evidences of it everywhere in my life. The place I did not recognize it prior is in my relationship with the Lord. I often lament and cry out to God to change me, to help me overcome my sinfulness, to make me more useful. I realized upon that reading that I was asking God to make me perfect. If I am perfect then I won't have to be embarassed, or be uncomfortable, I won't have to risk anything. Now, I know in and of themselves these requests may very well be good but I also know everything I do is peppered with the flesh, that my own heart is deceitful (maybe God can fix that, too...) and that I am naturally always looking to be in control somewhere in my life so that I can FEEL BETTER. My prayers have more to do with this motivation than becoming more like Christ. I am aware that He understands this fully and in His mercy continues to answer, yet this entry uncovered a drive in me that has little to do with the glory of God and a lot to do with my desire to fix myself and again, to FEEL BETTER. I see another area in my life where I seek out the god of comfort instead of the God of life. Again.......ouch.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Four Living Beings

Each time I happen across Ezekiel chapter one, as I did a few days ago, I instantly receive perspective. The passage has no obvious promises or specific theological revelation, yet when I take this glimpse into God's realm I become overwhelmed by this awesome and holy expression of creativity. I am stopped in my tracks and captivated by that which I have no ability to comprehend. Every word is replete with meaning and purpose, yet I do not understand. I can only read the words again and again with the resounding echo of "Holy, Holy....." in my ears.
Who is his God?! How have I diminished Him in my heart and mind? Can I even begin to comprehend Him AT ALL? How often I try to squeeze him into my little boxes stored neatly away to open as needed. How little I worship Him because I am too busy asking Him to meet my requests.

".....a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. Within it there were figures resembling four living beings.......each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. "

Read the chapter and then read it again. Then consider who or what you might have made God in you own mind.....

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Deer in the headlights

I am always so disappointed to see how slowly I change and grow. It is a product of growing up in the west where product is what it is all about. It is also a manafestation of the sinful desire to be in control. I seem to struggle with the same issues again and again. That recurrence makes me anxious and I begin to search myself for the why and why not over an issue. The scrutiny only uncovers more issues which in turn breeds more anxiety or more likely for my temperment, depression. Then I begin to freeze. Almost like a deer paralyzed by headlights I cannot get my eyes off of my problems. I become completely self focused, miserable and totally fruitless.

This is what the scripture speaks of when we set our minds on the flesh and the mind set on the flesh is death. The flesh is all about the self whether it in its relationship to others, ourselves or to God. I happen to have a judging sort of flesh so I list to myself all sorts of standards I need to meet, hence the aforementioned self examination. I am so convincing I even tell myself, "The Lord could make better use of me if I didn't have this issue." A good motivation, yes? It leads to death.

The word says implicitly that God will complete what He began in each of us and that He predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ. I am convinced that what I do hinders that process because of my desire to control, be instantly gratified and feel better about myself, which is basically pretending to BE God.

Again and again we are called to do exactly the opposite of our nature: to surrender, to offer ourselves up, to relenquish control. It is a great paradox as most of God's principles are. It is not a place of "letting go and letting God" (I hate the phrase because it is a lie), but it is a place of becoming a child looking into the eyes of the Father waiting expectantly for what He wants to create in each of our lives. We are His workmanship.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Guest Post From watermirror00

I'm finding that in an artistic journey with God, the enemy is all too often ourselves. We paralyze ourselves with fear and doubt, first when it comes to our work and second when it comes to success, instead of celebrating these precious gifts He's given to us to use for His kingdom. Even beyond that, do we celebrate who we are as children of God, let alone with our abilities or identities?

I studied Jeremiah 29:11 amongst other passages and there's the familiar verse of Him with plans to prosper and not to harm us, but the key here is how pro-active we are. After it says He promises to give us a hope and a future, he THEN says, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, delcares the Lord, and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
I have found that I have often had to put aside my ambitions or even what is natural to me to hear what God has in store...how our everyday lifestyles crowd out His still small voice. God speaks to all of us through His Word about aligning our priorities back into His, and sometimes it's unpleasant and convicting. But through it all I find that the Lord really does take such great pleasure in us...He delights in us as His people and only wants us to reach our full potential.
I am in it right now too. Even with resources in place to further success, I have been frustrated at the lack of results or where I want to go, how burdensome it has become to drum up the promotion and leave time to write, most of all feel like I'm making a difference to Him. But I still have faith that He's going to bring His will to pass, it is up to me to obey and listen...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Walking on water

I have been wrestling with my artisitic call over the last month walking away from the easel and living in a strange yet familiar place.

Over my quiet time last week an image of Peter standing out on the water flashed across my mind as if the Lord said to me,
"You are like Peter. You begin to look all around you hoping in your footing instead of relying on me, become overwhelmed by fear and run towards the boat. This is your pattern."
That boat is the symbol of apathy for me and the water is God's call on my life. This call can create in me all manner of fear because it is unreliable and unstalbe. It is an ocean, though calm and clear when I am in the place of faith, that can quickly turn into a tumultuous sea of doubt that uncovers my deep seated desire for control. It also reveals the cracks in my faith.

I have been in the boat for several weeks. Although it is a safe place, it lies to me whispering to that somehow this is better just like Mrs Victor in "Empire of the Sun." Captured British residents journey from one internment camp to another across China and come to a dumping field covered in opulent furniture. In her weakened state Mrs Victor is convinced that staying there among things remnicent of her life before the Japanese invasion is better than moving on to a place where there is food and shelter. The fear of what could happen or what has happened is too great though it means preserving her life. She dies there on her beautiful velvet chair. I am on the chair but unlike Mrs Victor I KNOW the chair means death (no pun intended.)

I have now turned to face Jesus again. I can see Him out there in it where He lives. IN IT. Now I must contend with His words. He does not say, "Tracey, would you like to step on on the water?" or "Hey, why don't you think about coming out of the boat?" No, no, He says, "Come." My choice now is to decide whether or not to obey. God help me.