Monday, September 28, 2009
Technically, it was not a daylight revelation at eight in the morning, but regardless, God dropped a revelation as clear as crystal into my mind the moment I woke up this morning.
I've been wrestling with this whole missions concept for months, and it's all been coming to a head the last few weeks. I'd never considered overseas missions at all until this past spring, when God asked me to respond to an altar call for people who were to work overseas. It was news to me.
Even since then--and even since falling in love with Berlin in May--I've known that I'm not necessarily called to vocational missions work. Though I am serious about the idea of going to Europe at some point, I do not foresee traditional missions life in my future. If I were to go to Europe, it would almost certainly be to work in discipleship or leadership development at a local church. I would just see it as moving to another place to serve at a church. I can move to Oregon to work at a church. I can move to Sweden to work at a church. There are certainly linguistic and cultural differences, but at the foundations, the options seem parallel.
Add to this the fact that there are still certain American cities and regions weighing on my heart, and you come up with a lot of questions. In the meantime, I do not wish to abandon the thought of ministering overseas, so I continue to respond to altar calls. A fair amount of people come to the logical conclusion that I want to be a vocational missionary. I haven't felt compelled to correct them all--after all, in the end, it is my calling and not theirs.
This brings us to my awakening this morning. I've been wondering to God, "How does this work? I want to work with discipleship in ______. I want to work with youth in _______. And for this season, I want to stay where I am and minister where I am already serving. These are three completely separate regions, not to mention the less specific burdens I'm carrying. How do I know where I'm called?"
As clear as any revelation I have ever before received, He told me this morning, "'Where?' is the wrong question. I never called you to a place. I never called you to a city or a country. I called you to a generation."
Oh yes. I remember.
That makes perfect sense.
And it's beautiful. Thank You.
They are mobile like the wind, They belong to the nations. They need no passport. People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.
['The Vision,' Pete Greig]
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I hopped onto the BBC website this morning to see what the world is up to and came across this article.
Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, was forced to publish the guidance after a long-running legal fight by Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer from Bradford.In July, Law Lords ruled she had the right to know under what circumstances her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her travel abroad to die.
I can't imagine the agony of Heaven at a woman so eager to end her life.
It is easy to delve into the politics of assisted suicide, but the fact is that the argument between sanctity of life and one's purported right to his own life is a messy one and one that is often too personal to be had objectively. I am not going to presume to defend one view or another. What I am wondering is, How heartbreaking must our hopelessness be to the Father?
How little revelation people must possess of God's unfailing, ravishing love to have so little hope for life. How muffled the message of grace and the call to discipleship must be that the ears of those who need to hear it most are deaf to it. How blind to the light of Christ the world is; without vision, the people are perishing. Death has so pervaded their souls that it is coming out from their inner man to destroy their very selves.
And I wonder if perhaps we as the Church are inclined to take the wrong action in response to such a culture of death. While we lobby in hearings and petition against the passing of laws--unquestionably with good intentions--are we failing to communicate the hope that might compel the individual to choose life for himself? It is undoubtedly valuable for us to fight for the principles we believe in, but are we so busy screeching over the principle that we neglect the person? Is our vocal opposition a convenient alternative to personal action?
I do not think for a second that any government ruling or law that allows for the destruction of precious life pleases God. But then again, I don't see Jesus overthrowing Rome to pass a law against adultery. I see Him stepping between the unfaithful woman and the self-righteous mob, empowering the one who is so lost with the grace and purpose to "go and sin no more."
Perhaps our responsibility is first to bring vision. Perhaps we are to walk alongside Jesus to the castaways and the uncertain and echo His call to "follow Me." Perhaps our primary concern is to be taking to the streets, walking into hospital rooms, and sitting down in shelters to speak weak words to frail people, desperate to see their hearts come alive. Perhaps I should be more concerned with carrying Christ than condemning sinners. No one without hope needs to be reminded of their hopelessness. They need to be given something for which they can hope.
But these are all thoughts and questions I ask of my own life. Where do I speak much and do little? Where do I hide (often self-righteously) behind principle and avoid the act of loving my neighbor? Where is the one whose behavior I easily condemn but whose heart I am reluctant to heal? God forgive me.
Monday, September 14, 2009
When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob."
He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."
Then Jacob asked him and said, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And he blessed him there.
So Jacob named the place d]">Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved."
Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.
In the womb he grasped his brother's heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there-
the LORD God Almighty,
the LORD is his name of renown!
I try to picture Jacob on this night. Restless, anxious over the necessary encounter with his estranged brother the next day, he rises in the middle of the night to send his family across the river. He sends all he has with them. He lingers, alone. Helpless, hopeless. Praying to God for favour to be granted.
Then, as if the inescapable adversary of the next day was not enough, the divine itself makes an appearance on the scene. There was no blessing for Jacob as there was for his ancestor Abraham. There was no burning revelation as there would one day be for Moses. Jacob is crying out for peace, and God comes down to struggle against him.
He is a desperate man. He fights, he strives, he clings. Even when crippled by Heaven, he refuses to relinquish his hold apart from the blessing of God.
And he steps into the dawn of the new day broken, limping, blessed--having seen the face of God.
It's nighttime. Everything is across the river, and I am standing before an open sky, desperate, waiting. God has come. We are struggling against one another.
It's incredible how clearly I can see the love in His eyes as I strive. I am at once wrestling against Him and with Him. I see that as He struggles against me, He is not fighting me but rather everything that is not me inside of me. He fights the supplanter of my birth to reveal the favoured friend of my maturity.
It seems as if this would be a terrible condition in which to find oneself. But it's not. Better to be wrestling and beholding Him than to be sleeping by the river, motionless and empty.
Let's go at it.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Admittedly, the beginning of a semester feels a little like a junior high dance. There's a lot of shuffling around by the wall, waiting for someone to ask us to dance. But that's where we begin--awkward but willing. Eventually, we warm up to the microphone, discover our vocal chords, and begin to be wrecked by Jesus.
The last few days, I have been consumed with the idea of hunger. It was destroying me a bit during prayer meeting last night, and I got to the point where I had to confess, "God, You are never anything less than constant in Your pursuit of me. I am the one who is halfhearted. I am the one who is inattentive. I am the one who is stingy with my affections. I am the one who isn't looking for You."
There have been several times in the last few weeks when I have been completely overwhelmed with an unsettling heaviness in my spirit. It is so profound that I have several times left whatever group of people I've found myself with and withdrawn to an empty room or coffee shop, aching. I can hardly explain it...this is a bit from a journal entry during one of those occurrences:
It's as if I've connected with some unnerving heartbreak--some terrible grieving of Your Spirit...There is no way to articulate this brewing storm in my soul. All my spirit can give are the moans of a dying man. Every word I speak seems foul if it is not of You. Every second I do not gaze on You, encounter You, or express what I know of You causes a disturbance deep inside...
How does one breathe under the weight of this Ache?
As crushing as this burden can become, I want to embrace it. I want to take up a real cross, one that causes splinters and chafes my shoulders, not the pretty, polished cross I seem to have so readily adopted. I want to want the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.
I am so easily placated. My spirit is starving, and I numb myself against the pain because it is easier than seeking out the food I so desperately need. I see my inner man, and it is emaciated: sunken eyes, ribs showing, paper-thin skin. And I tell myself, "You're rich. You're full. You're satisfied." All the while, I am "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
I want to feel the grief of God at my distance from Him. I want to hear His groaning at my lack of intimacy with Him. It will break me and ruin me, and I want it. I want to feel the hunger pangs. I want to be crippled by my need for Him.
Daddy, make me hunger. Make me incapable of functioning without You. I don't want these morsels I've been using to satisfy myself. Hunger is painful, but You are the reward. How can I deny You?
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
If I never walk on water, if I never see the miracles
If I never hear Your voice so loud
Just knowing that You love me is enough to keep me here
Just hearing those words is enough is enough to satisfy
You do, You do, You satisfy
I couldn't leave even if I tried
I must have You, I must have You
"Let Me Love You More," Misty Edwards
Friday, September 4, 2009
God's been rearranging my understanding of pursuit lately. It's been subtle and in small increments, but I feel a shift in my spirit. Something is starting to realign that was disconnected before.
I can't recall how many times I've heard it said that "our life with God is a marathon, not a sprint," but I think it has been one of those statements I say "yeah" to out of habit--not unlike the automatic extension of my leg when the doctor hits my knee with his small triangular red hammer. I still get into achiever mode with God and try to perform every day. (Thanks, Daniel Webb, for helping me understand why I do this. Signature Themes explain so much.)
That's not to say I don't still wake up every morning to "aim for perfection" or "walk in a manner worthy of your calling." Rather, I think I'm gaining an awareness that I need to let the deep, inner things of reality in God be fleshed out without being concerned about external performance. I may be wired to start every day at zero, but God is telling a long, beautiful narrative. It's woven seamlessly and flows perfectly from day to night and back to day again. It's less a faucet I turn on in the morning and shut off in the evening, and more a thundering waterfall cascading endlessly onto my head.
I want to really understand God as a storyteller and an artist. A wise man I've known once told me the rather well-known story about Michelangelo. Reportedly, when asked how he made his statue of David, the sculptor is to have said, "It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn't look like David."
I see God that way. He labors so faithfully, chipping away at the block of marble day after day, knowing David is inside, patiently working to see him emerge. I come to him rough and unformed, and He sets right to removing every piece that is not me. To Him, I am at once a discovery and being discovered.
I have to laugh at how absurd it must be, then, for the block of marble to be proclaiming every morning, "I'm going to be a statue today!" No, silly. You're a masterpiece in the making. Let the making happen. Instead of striving to force the art out of yourself, strive to be completely submitted to the craftsman. That's your task.
I want to settle into the pages, embrace the part He's written for me, and live well from cover to cover. No page-jumping or chapter-hopping. Every character with purpose. Every word an encounter. True to every comma, pausing at every period, right in step with the rhythm of the prose.
I'm not a statement. I'm a story.
As I wait for You, maybe I'm made more faithful
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The thing that is most necessary in the development of authentic pursuit is that a man actually be looking for God now. To attempt to satisfy the longing after God with recognition of Him in the past or an awareness of Him in the future leaves the soul withering under the reality of this moment. The seeker smiles weakly at professions of the God who has been and the God who is to come, but he cracks beneath the weight of his need for a God who is.
The man whose heart is alive embraces God in both the past and the future, all the while asking, "Ever-Present One, where are You today?" Each day, he seeks a discovery of Christ in the aspect of every hour. His is the spirit quickened to be familiar with his God.
I’m sailing on a ship that’s bound for life
I wrestle with the wind against the tide
I leave it all behind to reach for more
I’m sailing on to where the water’s running sweet and bright
The sun is rising in the eastern sky
I leave it all behind to reach for more
I’m sailing on to Your golden shore
- Sailing on a Ship, Phil Wickham