Friday, July 27, 2012

The irony of the expectant

It's sadly ironic how entitled we are as people, especially as believers. Whether we would admit it or not, we believe we are entitled--entitled to a good life, to health, maybe a spouse, a home, wholeness, happiness. And the sadder side of this entitlement is that we think we can do something to get these things, or we have done something to deserve them. When truly, nothing could be further from the Gospel truth: we deserve nothing and can do nothing to garner favor or a good life, and have done nothing to deserve them should we be blessed enough to have them. Where then do we get off thinking number one that we deserve a life of goodness and number two where did we ever imagine that it had anything to do with our own efforts or stellar qualities that would qualify us for such blessedness?

I'm sure much of it has to do with our rewards-based society where everything is founded on performance: do this, get that. It's how we're programmed to process and proceed through life. But, it's an unfortunate paradigm that has carried over into our Christian-thinking. It has become subtly laced into our theology, permeating our thoughts and thus influencing our actions. It's the idea that "serve and obey God and He will bless me." As I said, it's subtle and not altogether incorrect; however, egregiously wrong when it comes to how we relate to our Father. It's very much like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. The elder brother didn't truly love the Father, but wanted the Father's "things"--ironically just like his wayward younger brother; however, the elder brother tried to gain these blessings by doing what was right. It's a heart issue. He didn't want to please his father because he loved his father, he wanted to please his father so his father would bless him. How often do we treat the relationship with our Father the same way?

"God, I will serve you, if you bless me with ________." As I said earlier, whether or not we would admit that this is the true posture of our hearts, I'm afraid that all too often it is. I can sadly admit this for myself. All too frequently I know my wretched heart wants God's blessings more than I simply desire my Father for Himself. And if I'm honest I'm not entirely sure how to break--or rather be broken--of this gross mentality. I think it all comes down to Grace--all of it does.

Grace that reveals our need for God. Grace that causes us to realize we not only don't deserve salvation, but we deserve nothing else besides (i.e. health happiness). And Grace that ultimately frees us from ourselves and our own depravity, thus allowing for freedom (again by Grace) that we might walk humbly before our God.

Paul was right: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." In other words, we have zero grounds for these notions of entitlement. We got nothing. And the moment we do is the moment the cross ceases to have significance.

Now, for the Grace to fully comprehend and be changed by this life-altering truth.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all."

-Emily Dickinson

The desert place

I can remember in former days when my burdens were light enough that I could unload them on a confidant, take a nap, or have a good cry and they were out, gone, sufficiently processed. No longer. It would seem that with age not only comes more responsibility, but bigger and heavier burdens. Is this revelation part of spiritual growth? Or simply an inevitable part of growing older and finding life is simply harder than you thought? Perhaps both.

Either way, there are growing pains, and I'll be straight--I wish I could skip it--this whole growing up thing, both actually and spiritually. But, I can't, and I know I truly don't wish to. Everyone must grow up, I just wish it didn't have to be so hard. Yet, I know there is no growth without opposition. No refinement without trial.

James, the author of the epistle affirms this when he writes, "Count it pure joy my brothers when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (1:1-4) There's a purpose behind all of it--our growth and ultimate completeness in Christ.

It's learning to trust Him in the trial that's hardest. Knowing and trusting that there is purpose in the pain. Scripture says God disciplines those He loves, just like a father disciplines his children, so our heavenly Father disciplines us. And if I'm a child of the King I know I must go through the desert.

I don't like the desert. I wish there was a different way, but it's His way. His way is through the wilderness. He takes us into the desert to minister to us: to strip us of all comforts, of all things that keep us from Him alone, to refine, to test our hearts, to produce steadfastness. The desert is unfortunately necessary. And sometimes the desert lasts a long time, but we must remember James' words: "Count it pure joy my brothers whenever you meet various trials..."

Inasmuch as I might ponder going back to when my burdens were lighter, or my trials were fewer, or when deserts were gardens--I would never go back to knowing my Lord less. As the Psalmist said, "Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, my salvation and my God."

I shall praise Him in the desert place.