Monday, August 31, 2009

Coffee Shop Thoughts...

[Live and Uncut]

By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit.”

Romans 7-8

That I might understand the tragedy of sin, the commandment was given to expose it, and my own sin put me to death. This is the master of my flesh, waging war against the righteous desires of my spirit and binding me up in depravity. There was no victory to be found in my being: it is rotten through and through.

My death could only be redeemed by the death of another. Christ took death upon Himself; He became my very sins and crucified them with His body. Now I am dead! I am the shell in which His Spirit dwells. I am the righteousness of Christ. This is my new master. I am one of those “who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” My mind and heart are set on the activity surrounding the throne of God. I desire what I find to be the desires of His heart.

Once, it was impossible for me to be found pleasing to God. When I died to the nature that bound me and took up the likeness of Christ, I was made alive to Him again. By Him I eliminate the activities of the flesh, and so I am found to be the beloved child of God.

No longer am I enslaved to sin and fear; I call to Him, “Daddy!” He says to me, “Dear one, I call you My own; you are among the chosen heirs to My kingdom . Persevere through the struggle of this world, and you will share in My glory.”

This is the internal war in which I wage battle. I groan, I ache for His return, for His right to be enacted on all the wrong of this age. I wake every morning longing for what I have never seen, and I fall asleep every night in tears, desperate for His appearing. When my words run dry, His Spirit inside me cries out, communicating on my behalf in my wordlessness.

Though I am broken and sorrowful, none can accuse me. No charge can be made against me, for He has ordained that I would be made like Him, chosen, made right, and endowed with His glory. And though I shoulder His cross every day—though I cry His tears and groan with His grief—I am secure in His love, and I can never be removed from Him. I wait and I ache, but I am not shaken. I am His.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Do you ever feel like God's better friends with someone else than He is with you?

I know that sounds sort of surface and a little silly, but I think it's an easy impression to get. I think it's one I carried a lot this year. I finally decided to be honest about it with Jesus. So I told him, "Jesus, I feel like You're a lot better friends with this person than you are with me. And I've spent a lot of time trying to get to know You."

And I think Jesus was up in Heaven chuckling at me, to be honest, because He handed down a very simple explanation that slightly exploded my cranium.

Here's the thing: if you and I are friends, I may or may not realize it unless you very blatantly say, "We are friends." I don't know why it is, but that is one of the very simple things I miss all the time. (I miss a lot of simple things. For example, I forget than I can turn right on red. Often. I can store a plethora of ridiculously complicated information and a myriad of philosophies, but the common sense incidentals sometimes go right over my head. It keeps me humble, I suppose.)

Anyway, I cannot even remember how many times someone has told me, "I consider you one of my very good friends," and I've silently said to myself, "Oh. Really?" It's not that I'm utterly surprised by someone I consider a complete stranger. It's just that I tend to live every moment for itself, and before I know it, I look back to find I've spent a lot of time with such-and-such a person and--voilà! We're brilliant friends, and I never really took note of it.

(Another aside: words containing special characters bother me. They require me to visit Wikipedia to copy and paste the letter with the correct accent, thus transforming a spontaneous word like "voilà" into a process.)

I digress. This pattern of unrecognized friendship is already prevalent and acknowledge in my social understanding. What Jesus had to say was this: "You're the same way with Me. We spend a lot of time together. We're friends! It just didn't click."

I love that.

I'd say more, but I have a Friend I want to spend some time with now.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends...
John 15:15

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Great Pursuit

I used to write a blog called "The Great Pursuit." It was a phrase I coined for my relationship with God, a reflection on the incomparable worth of a life spent in encounter with God. I went back and reread some of my old posts. At the end of the very first, I wrote:

"When nothing pollutes our devotion to God, and when none of our devotion is shared between God and 'something else,' we truly have a pure devotion to Christ. This is what I'm after. This is what I'm seeking to live, no matter the cost. To be, at my core, devoted to Christ. And to be truly devoted to Him, undeterred by anything or anyone else. That's the life worth living."

As I read these words, and the others I wrote so long ago, I feel a quiet grief in my spirit at something I have lost. It's far too easy to chide myself about living in the past--"on yesterday's manna," as it were--but the fact is that such ideas can became a convenient veil before something that has died inside. After an incredible sermon by Pastor Rick Bezet this morning at NLC, I was broken and challenged to be completely honest about my spiritual condition. God already knows where I am anyway, true? (Of course true.)

I think one of my greatest anxieties about entering a season of "staying in the tent"--outside of the financial concern--has been that I see how frail my devotion has become, and I'm frankly unsure that I can pursue God as He has asked me to this fall. I'm completely aware that God doesn't ask anything of me that He cannot work through me to accomplish, but when the fears of my heart surface, those are the words they speak. "What if you fail?"

I've begun reading through the Psalms, starting with 150 and working backward (I usually start at 1 and trail off at some point, so I know the beginning far better than I do the end). I've heard Ps. 150:6--"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord"--innumerable times, but something about it struck me anew, and a tiny paraphrase of the chapter came out:
God shows up, great and strong, beautiful in the place where His glory dwells.
Grab whatever you can find! Make some noise! Celebrate the majestic Almighty One!
As long as you draw breath, you are here to praise Him.
That's what your life is: breathing out, breathing in, giving Him praise.

I look at this old Desperation poster I once covered in verses that were burning in my heart, and I ache to be alive to the Word again. I crave this existence: breathe in, breathe out, praise. Clear away everything else and desire nothing else--just Jesus. Christ as my reward. Christ as my destination, my journey, and my companion.

There are things inside that must come alive again. The passion may be dim, but I set myself on this: I will not be satisfied in allowing it to fade. All I want is Christ in me, the hope of glory. Nothing else.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Tent

I'm bound for Colorado again tomorrow morning, and with the returning comes the true beginning of my adventure this fall. After months of prayer and conversation, it's time to embrace the beautifully unknown months ahead.

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Exodus 33:11

I first read this verse years ago, when I was a sophomore or junior in high school. The idea of what one translation refers to as "staying in the tent" intrigued me, but I didn't have any idea how to embrace it tangibly. I tucked the verse away into a corner of my mind.

I never really came back to it until this summer, when I began to think about where to apply for a job through the fall. Then, through subtle nudging and whispers, God asked me to return to this idea. He presented me with a crazy thought: What if you stayed in the tent? Don't take a job. Spend the time you would be working getting to know Me.

It's been quite a road wrestling emotionally and mentally with the idea. To enter a wild unknown with no sure provision, holding only my faith that God is true to His promise to supply for His children, is a daunting and frankly frightening notion. As the time is upon me now to make a final decision, I find myself again returning in prayer, asking God to reaffirm to me what I am to do.

But a revelation finally came as to why this is so vital. I could so easily postpone this endeavor, say I want to put it off until I am more financially prepared for such a season. But knowing how life pushes forward, very rarely making any allowances for its sojourners to return to an old opportunity, I recognize that it would be very unlikely I would ever approach this undertaking again. I see how easily I could walk away from this and never return, and I see too that I might loosen my grip on my pursuit of God if I do not contend for it now.

I finally saw this idea in a new light. Yes, it's scary to have no money and need to eat. It's scary to have no money and need to put gas in my car. It's scary to have no money for a million different reasons, but if you wrap them all up and hold up the combined fearfulness of all these different elements, it pales in comparison to the terrifying thought of surrendering intimacy with God. To live without pursuit, without relationship, is far more frightening than to live without money.

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Matt. 6:25-33 (The Message)