Saturday, March 6, 2010

My and Mine

I read a wonderful prayer this morning out of A.W Tozer's book "The Pursuit of God". In a culture that whispers sweet little lies in our ear about how "the world is ours", I couldn't help but post it to give us some perspective. In my own life, I recognize that a life following Christ calls for a total abandonment of our "self" and absolute trust in Him (thanks Jesus and translated by Oswald Chambers). At the same time, I continue (wrongly) to see the "dying to self" that Jesus calls me to as an act to do or a law to follow in order to be right with Him/God. I sometimes fall into the trap that creating in my own power a life of charity or a life of poverty is what God needs from me in order to truly know Him. Fortunately to you and me, my own best thinking isn't close to God's eternal perspective.

The "death to self" that Jesus speaks of, or that "harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom" thing that we aim to keep away from are matters of our heart. They are not matters of God's grace to us and in fact are misread to the point that we see them as something to "check off" of our list of things to do to get right with God. Thankfully, Jesus is speaking of being transformed from seeing gifts on Earth as ours as opposed to on loan from Him. The kind of transformation of the heart that only comes through God and time spent with Him.

So what is it that Jesus wants us to actually die to? It's the things we still hold onto in this world, the things that cause fear and discouragement if we are to lose them. They are the things we call "my" or "mine". Wives, children, jobs, "callings", health, wealth, toys, etc. Those two words, "my" and "mine" always speak of personal possession and when they are used by a person, God's question to them will always be, "What is occupying your heart that keeps me from having full reign over your life?". It's a question that is scary to the carnal(natural) Christian, but to the follower of Christ, the one who is filled with the Spirit, it is a realization that God wants us to experience the freedom in Christ we read about but rarely see in person.

Just last night as I laid in bed with my fourteen month old daughter who has been dealing with a fever between 100 degrees and 105.5 degrees over the past two days my mind began wandering. Sure I had been to the Doctor's office earlier in the day and was assured that this is normal and that it's viral, but as I randomly checked her temperature though the night and watched it vary from 99 degrees to 105.5 degrees I got scared. At the point that I became so tired that I couldn't keep myself up I began praying for her (again). Before I could enter into the prayer, God stopped me, asked me to let Him have her back, reminded me she was His and not mine and told me that I'm a better helper to Him when I get some sleep. My response was a recognition that I still have some "my's" and "mine's" in my life that need to be relinquished to obtain freedom in Christ and while I hate to see my little girl not feeling well, I'm thankful to have a God that can be trusted in all circumstances.

If you are having marital issues remember that your wife or husband is His and not yours. If you are having job/money issues remember you are His and not your own. If you are unwilling to live off of "savings" because you feel like that is your little "security" in case things really get bad, guess what? Your "savings" is His too (guilty of this one). Your life is His, nothing is your own and recognizing that is the beginning of freedom.

By the way, that little thing about making my life one of charity and poverty. I've come to realize that while minimizing and only using what is needed is beneficial, it is NOT mandatory to the heart that is fully occupied by God. As a matter of fact, many men and women of God throughout Scripture have attained wealth. The reason that it was allowed to them (and not me) was because their hearts were not controlled by these "things". It's not a matter of if the "things" that are useful in our life are bad because they're expensive. It's instead a matter of them getting in the way of God as He reigns over our entire heart. When God is reining over your entire heart, the "things" you want and desire seem to change on their own.


Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart
fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them
without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide
from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling,
but I come. Please root from my heart all those
things which I have cherished so long and which
have become a very part of my living self, so that
Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.
Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious.
Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to
shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it,
and there shall be no night there.
In Jesus' name.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Painting By Numbers

I get the oppurtunity to hang out with a lot of guys. Whether it's to listen about their life, speak truth into it, watch sports or any other reason, I'm truly grateful to get this oppurtunity to share being alive with them. It really is a time of personal growth and reflection and also teaches me a lot of new things about intimacy with Jesus that I can't get from one on one time with my wife. Over the past week, I've had a fun little discussion with one of these guys about the idea of creativity. It wasn't the normal discussion about creativity involving topics like how we know God is creative, or a question about the importance of meeting Him as a Creator in Scripture. We didn't discuss how our own creativity is another "thing" that makes it clear we are made in God's image or what we can do in terms of disciplines to get our creative minds running. Even the idea that we live in a culture in which, quite honestly, creative people are vitually worshipped didn't become a topic either.

Instead we talked about my blog. Seems kind of weird right? He told me that he checks in on it to read whatever insight or questions I may be raising about the "status quo" in the Christian life. He told me that he does that because he felt like the idea of creative writing and thinking is what is lacking, especially in Christian culture. He went on to say that he thinks I'm creative which was a compliment I have not heard many times in my life, especially as somebody who is thought of as being analytical on the verge of critical. Ironically, when he asked why I've stopped writing, I responded with a reason that had to do with what I felt is a lack of creativity. I said that it seems like I'm posting about the same things as many other people who are much more prominent than me (in the world's eyes, clearly not God's) and in fact felt a bit like an idiot for doing so because their stuff seems so much more original than mine.

That quick discussion is what fueled today's blog. He went on to tell me that he liked what I had to say because even though other people may also be saying it, the way I write it seems like I don't want to copy anybody else (that got me worried). Instead he said that he feels as though my writing comes from my heart, not fearing anybody but God in what I say and that he likes the idea of being stretched to consider if he ACTUALLY believes, what he says he believes.

That type of creative critical thinking is what brought the idea of "painting by numbers" to my mind. When I was a kid I wasn't a great artist, but I was really good at coloring. Staying between the lines was an easy thing for me and when I found out about the paint by color kits I realized that was the perfect place for me to show off my artistic (but clearly non-creative) abilities. I was tired of other kids getting attention for how great they could draw or paint and this was a place I could shine. All I had to do was be the best at using the colors that were picked out for me, on a picture I cared nothing about. When I was done, I may have painted a beautiful bird that made me look artistic even though it lacked inspiration and creativity. I was willing to settle because it made life easier and me look good.

Does that story sound familiar to anybody? Are you living a life that you call creative but is actually just a life that is more "paint by number"? Are you doing all the right "Christiany" things without ever thinking about them? Are you going through the motions by attending religious services, small groups, prayer meetings, retreats, or seminars just to realize that you are there to take and not to give? Do you serve because you were told it's a specific day to serve, but not because you have a heart for service? I could go on and on but it is my belief that we are living in a Christian era of copycats. It's easier that way. We copy culture, we copy poets, we copy preachers, we copy marketing ideas, we copy business strategies for "church" growth, we copy movies and give them Christian names in order to attract "non-believers", and even worse (or better if it's that guy on American Idol doing a NEW version of "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul) we are the kings of "cover songs".

I don't know what it's going to take for Christians, followers of Jesus, to get a mind of their own. I'm not saying that we should be wasting our time trying to make things "untrue" that are eternally true. I'm not saying we shouldn't believe that God is the Alpha and Omega or that maybe Jesus was only a man. What I'm saying is that we need to be willing to let God speak to us clearly instead of us trying to please those around us by how good of a "Christian" we are. I'm saying to get out of the box of doing all the right "Christiany" things without ever getting intimate with Jesus. Im' saying that teachers of the word need to remember that it isn't persuasive speech that does the saving but in fact it's the Holy Spirit and the enabline of the heart by God. When it comes to creativity clearly Van Gogh used things that existed in order to show the world the way he saw it. I can guarantee you that he had seen the nighttime and stars before he painted "starry starry night". I'm just saying that God has given us a mind to use for both analysis and creativity. He has given us a mind to challenge ourselves. I can remember Jesus saying to the Pharisees in the book of John how they looked and looked through the Scriptures in order to find eternal life when instead the freedom of eternal life was just found in following Him. Following Jesus looks different from person to person but there remains one constant when we're truly following him and that is the fact that we can't copy another person's way of doing it.

God wants to inspire you. He does it through His Spirit as you follow Jesus. Allow your heart to be transformed into the person God created you to be instead of who you try and create yourself to be based on what you think is cool or "in". When we create ourselves to be something we're not, we're not being creative at all, in fact we're creating ourselves in the image of something that already exists. Don't settle for painting by color, God isn't worried about you impressing others, He just wants you to have the freedom to glorify Him with the gifts He has already given you instead of trying to borrow the gifts of others to impress Him or them. He loves you, now let Him live in you and work through you in a way that could only be labeled creative.