Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Relentless Pursuit

(12/04/03 journal entry)

It is impossible to have clean hands and pure hearts unless we are actively involved in seeking the face of God. The only way to worship is to worship every day - if we become slack or hit-and-miss with our pursuit of God, we become soiled by the dirt of everyday living and it becomes difficult to enter into the presence of God. The natural pull of depravity draws us away from God and his holiness into the mud of "normal" life. The Christian life that seeks God has to fight to do so. I want to have the character of the company of God's people that seek him - not that of those who just know him. There is so much more and I want it.

Psalm 24:3-6

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fill My Vision

(12/04/03 journal entry)

I have allowed my vision - the vision of my heart - to be filled with many things other than God. In a way, I've allowed my focus to shift off of God; or maybe I've not zoomed in on him as I should. As he's taken up less of my vision, other things have crept into the margins. Peripheral things don't like to stay in the peripheral - they fight to gain my attention. So, this morning I've done a lot of confessing and putting down my idols.

My prayer is for God to completely fill my vision. That's worship - when our hearts zoom in so closely on God that everything else is pushed out of the picture. As I write, I'm looking out of the window watching the sun rise over the beautiful Rocky mountains. Vanessa and I will leave in a few minutes to see the Grand Canyon. These things are so huge and so wonderful that my eyes can't really see all the majesty they really possess. My Father, the great Creator that designed both the sunrise and the Grand Canyon, is so much more majestic than what he has created. Lord Jesus, fill my vision until everything else is pushed out of the picture.

Daily Grind Faith

(10/27/03 journal entry)

The nature of healthy Christianity is very simple. It is not glamorous, flashy or trendy. What brings depth and growth? Prayer. Bible study. Time with God. Day-to-day ministry. Visiting the sick. Witnessing to the lost. None of this is revolutionary, but when it happens in the life of a believer, the result is a spiritual revolution. The kingdom of God is SO upside-down! The last is first and the meek inherit the earth!

I desire a simple relationship with God that is real and that is characterized by the fruit and power of the Holy Spirit. I want a daily-grind faith that produces results.

The Cross

(10/15/03 journal entry)

Nothing holds the power that is contained in the cross. Nothing compares to the change it causes, the freedom it brings, or all that it reveals about God. He has chosen to hinge all of history and our understanding of Deity on this one thing: Christ and him crucified. So many spiritual chasings draw our attention but only one thing brings true change.

Paul was fixated on the cross. When I went to the Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference in Jacksonville a few years ago, I was struck by the centrality of the cross in the messages delivered by these great pastors. I need the cross to be central in my own life. I need the dying to self that it encourages, the grace that it provides and the freedom from sin that it promises.

There is something deep and hidden in the cross that is incredibly appealing - always more to be revealed. Lord, show me the cross anew today.

The Impotency of Man, the Potency of Prayer

(05/28/03 journal entry)

There is a place where you understand with incredible clarity your own inability to achieve anything of eternal significance without the imposing guidance of the Holy Spirit. Maybe it comes through God's teaching in the area of pride and humility. Maybe it comes from trying over and over again to make spiritual things happen without the power of the Holy Spirit and watching those attempts flop again and again. Regardless of where it comes from, it is a sobering mindset to possess, understanding that any attempt of my own to cause a movement of the Spirit in someone else will just end up fumbled and will turn incredibly ugly; knowing that the most valuable, powerful and effective thing I can do for someone else is to constantly bring them to God in prayer. The act that seems the most boring and impotent is the very thing that causes the most change in the spiritual realm.

The Sweet Leaning

(02/01/03 journal entry)

The right relationship between myself and Jesus requires that I rest in his sufficiency. It's not a requirement in the sense of duty - it's a requirement that comes from my own deficiency; if I don't lean on Jesus, there's no other way.

The right relationship that places me leaning on him for my life, my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification, my redemption, my everything is a love relationship of the sweetest and most intimate kind. Apart from this "leaning," my Christian life becomes dry drudgery, completely devoid of any real life. The joy and grace of the experience of walking with God starts and continues to the end with "trusting him alone."

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

A Deficiency of Grace and Joy

(01/28/03 journal entry)

My Christian walk has been a very serious journey since its first days, but I'm afraid somewhere along the way I've either convinced myself or allowed the devil to convince me that to take Jesus seriously means that I have to strive for perfection.

Striving for perfection has done a great job of robbing my life of two very important Christian prizes - grace and joy. I don't give myself any slack - how can God? Surely he holds me to a higher standard that I hold for myself. Constant striving for perfection coupled with a deficiency of grace has made my life worrisome; my burdens are not light because I won't let them be and the weight of them kills my joy.

Lord Jesus, allow me to listen to your Spirit - stop striving for perfection and start striving for you. Not striving to make myself who you are because that is impossible; simply striving to know you, to love you, to be with you. Let my Christian walk stop being focused on the Christian and start being focused on Christ.

A Person, Not a Cause

(01/24/03 journal entry)

I am praying to experience the dynamic Christian life that I know is available. I want to live the adventure of faith, I want to become inseparable from Jesus. I want the power of his Spirit moving daily in my life. I want to experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. I want to live with power to be a witness. I want to know Jesus in the most personal, intimate way. I want to be proactive and aggressive in my pursuit after Jesus. I want to pray for hours early in the morning and for hours late into the night. I want to live a life that is constantly sowing the Word of God because I am always talking about him. I want Jesus to be the consuming thought in my mind, the driving force in my life.

I am convinced more and more that the key to the abandoned, fulfilled, dynamic Christian life lies in devotion to the person of Jesus. Oswald Chambers says, "It is not enough to give mental assent to the fact that God has redeemed the world, nor even to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did a reality in my life. I must have the foundation of a personal relationship with him... there would be nothing [in Paul's life] without a personal relationship. Paul was devoted to a Person, not a cause."

It is imperative that I live in devotion to the person of Jesus, not just a cause. It is imperative that I keep calling my youth to devotion to the person of Jesus, not just his cause.

The Walk of True Faith

(01/21/03 journal entry)

We tend to begin the walk of faith with lots of excitement, intimacy and expectation. God leads us through all kinds of amazing things - often very hard things - and we follow with zeal and pledge dedication with our mouths and hearts because the sensation of his amazing work is so fresh, not realizing the path we are choosing to follow.

After the hard days have passed and God allows us to settle for a time in a place he has promised us, a place of blessing, the sensation of blessing is more overwhelming than the remembered sensation of God's hand and we quickly begin to start carving new idols in our lives. It is then that the zeal that we called faith is shown to be what it is - a reaction to a sensation, when true faith is actually a commitment to believe in the absence of sensation.

Lord Jesus, it is true that we become like the things we worship. May we become steadfast and faithful by worshiping you instead of worthless by focusing our lives on worthless things.

Jeremiah 2:2,5

Guiding Nudges

(12/15/02 journal entry)

It is a tricky thing to determine where God is leading when. I am beginning to think that God directs us in our thoughts and prayers toward certain people or activities, gives us an inspired nudge by the Holy Spirit and in many ways leaves us to choose to believe what he has said and act on it accordingly. He may remind us of what he has said - he usually lets these guiding thoughts pass our minds several times and this repetition is a sign that he is in it. But in the middle of daily life it's easy to let his nudging get shifted beneath a "to-do" list and we forget in what areas he has pointed. It would be good for us to keep a running list of God's guiding nudges to refer to often so we can stay on track.

Intimacy & Influence

(11/30/02 journal entry)

The will of God for the life of any believer is summed up in two words - intimacy and influence. Jesus said the primary call of God in our lives is the one to personal intimacy with him. God passionately seeks us and invites us to experience him deeply. The secondary call is that to influence other people for the Kingdom of Christ. Though we need to be deliberate in our attempts to influence others, our focus should always be first on loving the Lord our God with everything we are - then loving our neighbor as ourselves will come naturally.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fighting Immobile Faith

I'm teaching on Matthew 8 & 9 this week and next and have had my attention caught by a singular subterranian theme in these chapters. This coming Sunday night I will be speaking to the teenagers on spiritual paralysis and the need to walk with God and grow. As I re-read chapter 8 today in preparation for Bible study tonight, I am struck by the sickness of the centurion's servant - the officer says he "is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly." This led me to think about how spiritual paralysis causes us to suffer and become sick. It reminded me of the analogy of fresh and stagnant water. We are not only called to walk close to God but also to walk out our faith in the world. If our Christianity is immobile and practiced only within the confines of the church or the subculture of faith, we will become like the Dead Sea, devoid of life because of a lack of outlet for what we contain. Worse yet, we may become like a stagnant pond, its contents a breeding ground for disease and parasites.

Finally, as I read verses 18-22, I realized that Jesus addressed two different priorities that could, if not properly arranged, immobilize a believer... stability and family. If faced with an opportunity to follow Jesus radically, people will often be thwarted by the fear of 1) sacrificing perceived stability or 2) the opinions of or duty to family.

When the scribe boldly offered, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go," Jesus quickly made clear that the cost of following him is the death of worldly stability. "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Most people come to a place in life where stability is a major priority; a home of your own, a steady job, a sense of assurance that things are in order. A lack of stability can cause fear or insecurity to develop in children as they mature and can take a significant toll on relationships (specifically a marriage). Jesus is not belittling stability - he is challenged the place in which we find it. Does my stability lie in my circumstances? My house that can be destroyed in hours by a catastrophe? A job that takes years to develop but can be deemed dispensable in one board meeting? Jesus is not claiming that stability is bad, he's pulling back the veil to help us see reality - what we call stability is essentially building our sanity on a foundation of sand, putting our hopes in a house of cards. Jesus calls for an eternal perspective and sobriety. Do not be fooled by the appearance of temporal stability; instead, choose to build your hopes on the foundation that will not shift or crack, the Son of Man.

When one of his disciples offered to follow him after he had buried his dad, he most likely wasn't asking to return to a deceased father in a casket, waiting for the graveside rites. Instead, he was asking permission to follow Jesus after his father had grown old and died and he was free of his obligation as a son. Jesus' response is offensive to almost any reader: "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." Family is very important and we are called by God to honor our parents. However, our allegiance to Jesus as the King of Heaven cannot be supplanted by any other affinity, even that of our own families. Are families bad? Does Jesus expect us to cut ties with our siblings and parents? No. However, he is challenging our priorities. Will we allow the opinions of our families to keep us from radically following Jesus? Will I let my duty to my family mutate into an unhealthy codependance that knocks Jesus out of the throne in my life? It cannot be so in the life of one who wants to follow Jesus.

I'm seeing that God is very concerned with healing our spiritual paralysis. He wants us to walk with him and grow, to walk our faith in the world and influence others, and to have our priorities in the right places so we can be free to follow well. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

Holton, Reese & Zoe

Holton at 9 months