Monday, August 5, 2013

This is it?

           I recently went on a family vacation to Savannah, Georgia and while it was a truly great time with some great people there was a moment that bears mentioning. It wasn't out of the ordinary, as a matter of fact if you were listening to the conversation you wouldn't have probably given it a second thought. But this moment like many others continues to remind me that the extraordinary often pierces through what we might classify as the ordinary. 

          The moment I'm talking about happened as we were arriving to our rental home for the weekend. We had seen pictures on the internet and thought that we would be staying in this super nice home that would suit 8 comfortably. When we arrived though we found something different than what we were expecting, for one we had to park our cars in a pretty sketchy ally and found that the house really only creatively comfortably housed 8 (The wonders of air mattresses).  In this moment where our expectations were met face to face with the reality of our situation someone followed by a chorus of followers asked "Is this really it? This isn't what I was expecting."

          I'm sure my family and I aren't the only ones to have this experience, I mean it could happen on a blind date (Tall, dark and handsome my butt), or a class (You want how many pages on that paper). Those moments of feeling deceived by a friend on the attractiveness of a peer or feeling over burdened by a professor can leave us feeling betrayed or drained.

            While I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of those times, what I want to focus on is when those "Really??? This is it??" moments creep into our relationship with God. Those time where we find ourselves in a situation that may be incredibly painful, fear stricken or immersed with doubt and our temptation is to look at God and say " Really, Is this it?" One such man that found himself in that situation is John The Baptist.

             In Matthew 11 John the Baptist finds himself in prison and while there sends a messenger to Jesus asking him " Are you the Coming One or do we look for another?" (Matt. 11:2) This question might seem outlandish or strange coming from John the Baptist but we have to realize that he found himself very much in a situation like this. The Jews had expected a political savior so in their mind when the Messiah came he would deliver them from under the thumb of the Romans. You see this at several points when the crowd would want to make Jesus king only for Him to retreat. 

            So John the Baptist found himself in an extremely difficult situation being in jail and not having his expectations of how God would work through His chosen Messiah met. How often do we find ourselves in this position, broken over our current situation and asking God why He isn't working the way we thought He would... even subtly finding ourselves asking "Is this really it? Are You really the One?"

            Christ answers his question not with judgement but rather with a beautiful reminder:

Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor."

          He responds to John's question by reminding him of how exactly He is at work in the present situation. He tells them of the healing He is bringing to those who are broken and lost. He shows John the Baptist that their expectation of a political agenda is so far inferior to His work of restoration. 

         I think when I humbly look at my life the moments where I most commonly want to ask "Is this it God? Are you really the One?" come when I'm more focused on my agenda rather than His will. I can just imagine Christ calling out to me saying "Dustin I pursued you when you were unlovely and rebellious, I delivered You, I have purchased you, I am redeeming you, I have presented you as blameless before my Father and am even now working in you to make that a present reality."

          So my encouragement for myself and all of us is when we find ourselves in those situations where we want to cry out in confusion and frustration is to remind ourselves of two things.

 1.) Remember that Christ cares more about redeeming that which is broken than He does keeping us comfortable.

 2.) When tempted to ask what are You doing God, we must remind ourselves of all that He has already done for us in the Gospel through Jesus.  

           The reason these can bring us comfort in those hard times is because the answer to John's question "Are you the Coming One, the One we have been waiting on, The One we can find rest and hope in?" is a resounding restoringly emphatic YES

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Hidden Danger

     For my entire life I have enjoyed a television classic that has capture many hearts over the years. It inspired some to wear ascotts, made jinkies an acceptable phrase, showed us that minivans can be cool if they have a sweet name, and properly illustrated that dog is man's best friend. For those of you who were entertainment depraved as children or just really poor at picking up subtle hints, the show i'm describing is of course Scooby-Doo.

      The basis of the show was this gang of meddling kids with their very lovable dog would encounter and subsequently solve mysteries such as who was haunting the old museum. In every episode though, there would come a point in which we as the audience could see the villain lurking nearby ready to pounce even though the mystery gang had no clue. As bucktoothed, Velcro shoe wearing, bowl cut sporting kids most of us wanted to scream "watch out!!!". Much to our frustration they didn't listen to us.... primarily because they couldn't hear us and inevitably they would run face to face with bad men themselves.

     A similar experience can happen for all of us in life whether we be in ministry, working a 9-5, even for those who find themselves in the career purgatory known as college; we can be walking along doing life thinking everything is great not knowing there is a hidden monster lurking in the background of our lives waiting to snatch us. Hopefully this post can be a SHOUT that for once the ones it was meant for will hear and follow.

     This hidden monster in our lives is often just "doing". Some of you are probably like "Wait, what?", please allow me to explain... In everything from Nike commercials telling us to "just do it" to the corporate ladder which promises us if we work hard enough we will climb up the ladder the underflow theme of the american dream is that in everything we must DO! So our lives often become centered around these questions "What do I need to do?" "What are you doing?" or even " What should I be doing?". 

    Eager Reader- "But Dustin you still haven't told us why this is dangerous"
    Dustin- "Ah but here it comes"

     The true danger of this comes when in all the hustle and bustle of doing we forget who we really are. As a wise mentor of mine told me once "Dustin we aren't human doings we are human beings". Therefore we have to remember to take time to simply be with God. As I have experienced it is very easy to slip into the mold of the mindset that we are so busy "doing for God" whether it be ministry, attempting to be a light in the workplace, or studying for the work He has called us to, that we forget that God has not called us to do for Him but rather to live alongside Him.

      In Luke 10:41- 42 Jesus himself addresses this tension "But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

   The very real risk that comes from this monster is that it is often hidden in the hearts of very well meaning Christians in the form of diligence or dedication to serving the Lord. Don't get me wrong those things are extremely vital, but at the very core of the Gospel is that God calls us first to Himself then from Him we go out. Too often we get so caught up going out, and "living on mission" that we forget God desires for us to come back to Him and rest in Him (Matthew 11:28).

    This is NOT an invitation for laziness or apathy so for those couch surfers reading this remember that after Jesus summoned the disciples to Himself He would then send them out. My friend this is not an either or lifestyle but rather a both and (Matt Orth if you're reading this I know you would smile). We must both be with God while also serving Him. The danger that lurks is that too often we focus on the latter while neglecting the first.

      Eager Reader -"So Dustin what do we do about it? 
      Dustin- "I'm so glad you asked"

     In a world where the christian often looks to the new (new workout plan. new diet, new david platt book, new passion conference..... Etc) the answer actually originates from an extremely old concept: "The sabbath". The sabbath was created by God for man as a time for man to rest while intentionally spending a day focusing their attention to being with God. If God created it... there was probably a good reason for it and I believe among many others it provides antidote to the self induced poison of doing doing doing.

    I'm not saying that everyone should take a day off and do nothing but pray while serving the other 6 days. Rather I'm saying quite the opposite, I'm saying that we should be serving everyday while setting time aside to first and foremost intentionally abiding with God. 

   Exodus 33:14 "And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest."

   Let's not get caught by the lurking monster of "doing without being" but rather let us be as the old Tomlin song goes "a generation that seeks, seeks your face O God of Jacob."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Greatest Lie We Believe: Present Presence?

"Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!"

      This quote comes from the book Screwtape Letters by the famous author C.S. Lewis(for those unfamiliar with the book it is a series of fictional letters written from one elder demon to a younger demon instructing him on how to attack a certain young christian's faith). This quote comes from the very first letter in the book and teaches us something very profound about the warfare of the enemy in his attack of humans. He doesn't teach us evil, but rather slurs and blurs the truth so that we will live crippled lives.

       We know that this is true by what we read in Genesis 3 and the way Satan tempts Eve by getting her to doubt and ultimately disregard the truth of God and by getting her to follow the lie she falls in sin, missing the life God would have for her and Adam

      One of the greatest tragedies in the church today I believe is that our brains have for so long believed and taught some of the Enemies lies that we are missing the lives God would have for us and we don't even know it. The next few posts will address some of the lies that I have observed or believed myself. First addressing them, then exposing them to the truth so that as the Bible says "the truth shall set you free".

       One of these such lies is not necessarily taught explicitly but is definitely implied in our church jargon is the idea of God being present with us that is commonly held in the church today. 

        Allow me to explain. How often have we said after a really emotional time of worship that God is definitely among us. Or that we just want to be feel as if we are BURNING with a fire for the Lord. That in those mountain top experiences of life we feel as if God is so close.

        Did you notice the common denominator in those phrases? Every phrase had to do with the idea of our feelings being connected to the presence of God. Which when our emotions are high makes perfect sense.

         But what about when we sing songs and there isn't a "fire" in our chests? or What about when we are in the valleys and our emotions seem to be running dry? The question that comes to many a young believer then is commonly: "Where is God? He used to be so near but now I feel alone.

         This my friends is one of the greatest lies we believe: That God's presence is tied to our emotion. 

          So when we feel the ooey-gooeys in worship He is near, but when we are in a desert time of life He has left us. This theology is so very dangerous because it leads to two really crippling results.

1) This idea of emotion=presence can lead to us pursuing an emotional high rather than pursuing God. We often will pray for hours and sing songs not so that we are communing with God but so that we can feel that "Fire" in our chest once again. God has called us to Himself, and sometimes we are rewarded with emotional elation because of that. The difference we must recognize is that elation is merely an occasional benefit of the pursuit, not the object of pursuit.

2.)When we don't "feel" God it can send us into a spiral wondering what we did wrong to get to this spot. The truth is that we so often believe that life's experiences are determined by our actions. So when the "fire" is put out or feels weak, a lot of times we start to wonder and question what we did wrong to get ourselves there. This is very different from what the Bible teaches us about hard times. As a matter of fact the Bible in several areas tells us to rejoice in times of suffering(James 1, Romans 5). The truth is that in those tough times God is often molding us to a better image of His Son, so that we can be more faithful lights in the mountaintops. So ultimately we remember that God has a purpose and is in control therefore all we need to do is trust Him.

      But possibly the most destructive part of this whole lie of emotion=presence is that we forget arguably one of the most important and comforting promises from God in the entire Bible. 

         Hebrews 13:5 "... I will never leave you or forsake you" 

       God will never abandon us and He never leaves. His presence is constant in spite of our changing emotions. So the greatest challenge but pleasure of the believer is to learn to pursue God regardless of emotion, because regardless of emotion He is present with him ready to be pursued.

         So may we walk in the truth of God instead of believing the lies of the enemy, so that we can enjoy the loving life-giving relationship with God that He intended for us.