Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Robin Hood always gets the best of the sheriff.

I've been watching my fiance struggle with finding a job and believing God will provide. There's almost nothing I can do beyond supporting him in prayer and filling in with good food, a positive attitude, and a safe space to be angry or sad or just tired.
There seem to be a lot of closed doors that are pointing him to something neither of us expected. And after a convicting sermon on Sunday (you gave your life to Jesus; how can you justify taking it back and going in your own direction?), we're wondering if the way God is taking us isn't down this difficult and different road.
Today Oswald (God love him!) had some timely insights on hanging in there:

Tenacity is more than endurance, it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire. Tenacity is more than hanging on, which may be but the weakness of being too afraid to fall off. Tenacity is the supreme effort of a man refusing to believe that his hero is going to be conquered. The greatest fear a man has is not that he will be damned, but that Jesus Christ will be worsted, that the things He stood for - love and justice and forgiveness and kindness among men - will not win out in the end; the things He stands for look like will-o'-the-wisps. Then comes the call to spiritual tenacity, not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately on the certainty that God is not going to be worsted.
If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified. There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of that will not be fulfilled. One of the greatest strains in life is the strain of waiting for God. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience."
Remain spiritually tenacious.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Voices from the past are often clearer in the present.

This is the same idea as "Hindsight is 20/20." Oswald has hit the mark again.

He quotes Luke, when the disciples are standing around on the third day wondering where on heaven and earth Jesus has got to and why He hasn't shown up like He said He would. Two of them are walking to Emmaus and discussing recent events. A mysterious traveler joins them, asks what they're talking about, and they say, "We were hoping it was Jesus who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Then some women told us His body wasn't in the tomb anymore, and we're all amazed. He said He would rise again. But we haven't seen Him and are beginning to wonder if it was all true." The men didn't realize they were talking to Jesus Himself. They were dejected and feeling the eyes of the known world watching their belief in their Savior crumble.

Oswald says, "Every fact that the disciples stated was right; but the inferences they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that savours of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If depression and oppression visit me, I am to blame; God is not, nor is anyone else." Really, you should just read the whole thing and come back to this blog...otherwise I'm going to end up copying and pasting the whole article: My Utmost for His Highest, February 7.

What I mean in the blog title by "voices from the past" is this: (and do pardon my writing today - it's Monday, and I'm struggling) Last year (almost exactly a year ago), I was dejected and physically sick over a decision I knew I had to make. And my friends - every last one of my friends - were telling me to do the same thing (the opposite of what I wanted to do). I was asking God (literally - crazy prayers) for a billboard with what I should do. Through it all, I missed the point that I was chasing the answers to my prayers, instead of the God Who answers prayer. If I had cleared my mind of what I wanted to hear and listened to the voices around me, I would have found that they were advising me to do what our Father wanted for me.

It's a slow journey, isn't it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Re-Viewing Our Lives, Part 2

I can't stop with that thought. Continued reading Guzik's commentary (on the more direct translation), and came across this bit. I'm being shaken today.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
a. Do not be conformed to this world warns us that the "world system" - the popular culture and manner of thinking that is in rebellion against God - will try to conform us to its ungodly pattern, and that process must be resisted.
b. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind: This is the opposite of being conformed to this world. The battle ground between conforming to the world and being transformed is within the mind of the believer.Christians must think differently.
i. "I don't want to be conformed to this world. I want to be transformed. How do I do it?" By the renewing of your mind. The problem with many Christians is they live based on feeling, or they are only concerned about doing.
ii. The life based on feeling says, "How do I feel today? How do I feel about my job? How do I feel about my wife? How do I feel about worship? How do I feel about the preacher?" This life by feeling will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind.
iii. The life based on doing says, "Don't give me your theology. Just tell me what to do. Give me the four points for this and the seven keys for that." This life of doing will never know the transforming power of God, because it ignores the renewing of the mind.
iv. God is never against feeling and doing. He is a God of powerful and passionate feeling, and He commands us to be doers. Yet feelings and doing are completely insufficient foundations for the Christian life. The first questions cannot be "How do I feel?" or "What do I do?" Rather, it must be "What is true here? What does God's Word say?"
c. Transformed: This is the ancient Greek word metamorphoo - describing a metamorphosis. The same word is used to describe Jesus in His transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3). This is a glorious transformation!
i. The only other place Paul uses this word for transformed is in 2 Corinthians 3:18: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. For Paul, this transformation and renewing of our minds takes place as we behold the face of God, spending time in His glory.

(from StudyLight.org, Guzik's commentary on Romans 12)

I like what he says next: out of this transformation of our insides comes external proof of those changes, both proof on our behalf (that God is moving in our lives) and proof on our Father's behalf (that He is a good and perfect Father).

And the whole rest of his commentary is brilliant. I'll let you read it for yourself, but it was certainly eye-opening: spiritual gifts, living with other believers, living with unbelievers. Very practical.

Re-Viewing Our Lives

"J.B. Phillips has an outstanding and memorable translation of Romans 12:1-2:
"With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give Him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to Him and acceptable by Him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the Plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity."
(from StudyLight.org, David Guzik's commentary on Romans 12)

The last sentence brought me up short - in twenty-something years of exposure to Scripture and Christian values, I never heard anyone express the "be transformed by the renewing of your mind" bit this way. I'm not sure what it is about this version that is so distinct for me - something about this seems more human and understandable than the original: "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will."

Perhaps it is that Phillips' translation speaks of faith, not doubt. In the original, the verse encourages us to assuage our doubt by testing (and approving) God's will - testing to see that it is good, pleasing and perfect. But Phillips' interpretation is "prove in practice." Do believing and see. For most of us, faith grows out of experience: as we see God's will unfold and follow it, as we receive affirmation and blessing then we believe and that belief takes us further in the next trial. And Phillips seems to suggest that we should walk, step by step, and see God's plan, see the good unfold. It is based in a willingness to submit and follow, versus the doubt-based "test and approve."

Of course, this is just one girl's unscholarly and rather feeling interpretation, but I have good reason to believe that I'm on to something (I am human, after all - I doubt more than I believe, I walk unwillingly and griping, and I am constantly surprised by how good God's plan is for my life). And I was encouraged last night to re-view the events in my life - hearing God's words, hearing His voice and guidance, is the highest privilege. So in that mindset, maybe this is less a call to restriction and removal and doubt, and instead is a call to greater faith and a willingness to follow wherever my Father leads me. I know I'm hanging onto His hand for dear life and tripping to keep up.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

As the rope frays, we get rather frantic.

The inimitable Joshua Rogers has done it again. (Go read "Dear Jesus, I am a Loser," then come back here for my follow-up remarks.)

No, really. Do it.

And if you want to read some of his other posts, you should. It's ok, I'll wait. (But please come back!)

So. Prayer is a frequent topic here, because (as I've said before) I suck at it. And I was just wondering about this idea of telling God every last dirty detail of how I really feel when I read Josh's blog.

The sad part of my story is that it generally takes weeks of the tidy, righteous prayers before I get to the end of my rope and start saying things like, "God! I can't do this anymore! I can hardly stand x, y, and z!" And then the truth comes out.

It's a messy situation. I've been hanging on to my dirty old rope for dear life, watching the point where it's rubbing begin to splinter, repeating my pretty, rote prayers. As the rope frays, I get more frantic and more honest. This is where the Father's wanted from me to be from the beginning - total surrender to Him.

By that point, I'm hoping for a miracle - I need fast-acting relief. I need the Claritin solution. But even God knows that drugs are never the answer: He wants me to learn something from this desperate situation, and He knows that if He gives me my miracle, I'll just repeat the whole scene next week.

So He waits. And He comforts me, but He tells me to wait on His timing.

Here's what I'm supposed to learn (and am only just now getting): If in the very beginning I will be open and honest and ugly in my prayers, the solution will come, the dangling will be less frightening, and my faith will be strengthened. Instead of waiting till I've reached my breaking point, I need to immediately pray with a loose tongue and an exposed heart. (I can feel my Father smiling and nodding: Well, that took a while, but she got it, guys!)

We're silly, fragile little creatures, aren't we? But oh, how He loves us!