Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Insurgent Calls

"We make a blunder when we fix on the particular location for our service and say, 'God called me there.' When God shifts the location, the battle comes. Will I remain consistent to what I have said I am going to do, or be true to the insurgent call of God, and let Him locate me where He likes?"
- Oswald Chambers, So I Send You

The insurgent call of God. That mutinous knowledge of what is right and its wide disparity from what the heart holds dear.

It is the moments of cost that most determine our faith, not the moments of ease. God has every right to our greatest affection - he knows he is saving us by saving us, yes, even sometimes from the things we love. By incurring cost, God ensures faithfulness and strength..."Count it all joy, my brothers..." The question, the hold-your-breath moment, the crux: do I believe that God is worth it? And will I act on that? How we answer that question says more about our faith than nearly anything else.

There was a time in Jesus' ministry when people were offering their lives to his service - and Jesus seemed to do anything to turn them away! To people who outwardly seemed ready to give Jesus everything, Jesus followed with statements to the effect of, You will be homeless if you follow me...leave the burial of your own father and follow me or don't follow me at all...(Matthew 8:18-20). Why? Why would Jesus make his service so hard? What happened to an easy yoke? 

Commitment. Somehow, one way or another, we have to lose our lives to find them (Matthew 10:39). It seems to me that God tests the integrity of our hearts in this. He is always there, saying, Whom do you love? And whom do you trust? It is a severe mercy, but such a mercy nonetheless. God shatters our idols, the things that ultimately kill us no matter how much we love them, by asking our abandonment of them. We can choose...we can choose our idols to the waning of our joy, our hope, the luster of our eyes, for an empty comfort that flees with the sunset. In essence, we can choose ourselves - whether that is in a career, a place, a person, an opportunity - it will be different depending on what our heart frames as ultimate. Or, we can choose Christ, seemingly to the loss of these "perfect" things, and unearth real joy, the dawn of a heart truly alive, hope, purpose, direction. It is the paradox of faith. 

Because, the irony is that God is saving us in these moments. And it's not that he wants to take things away, it's that he wants to fix our hearts, our stubborn hearts that are determined to love almost anything more than the salvation of our souls. It is why Paul writes, "I have lost all things for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus..." (Philippians 3:8). 

And would you know it? God gives back, too. Because it's not about the things, it's about our hearts. After turning away a rich and influential young man by saying his wealth was standing between him and the gospel (his heart loved his wealth more than Christ), the following conversation happened:

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who 'have it all' to enter God's kingdom?" The disciples couldn't believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: "You can't imagine how difficult. I'd say it's easier for a camel to go through the needle's eye than for the rich to get into God's kingdom."
That set the disciples back on their heels. "Then who has any chance at all?" they asked. 
Jesus was blunt: "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it."
Peter tried another angle: "We left everything and followed you."
Jesus said, "Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land - whatever - because of me and the Message will lose out. They'll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land - but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life!..."
(Mark 10:26-29, The Message)


Pray today for what you hold dear to the detriment of your relationship with God. Do you believe that He will never fail us? Do you believe that He is really working all things to your good, even in the loss of seemingly dear things? (Romans 8:28 - which Paul wrote from a Roman prison.) Do you believe that He is worth it? These are hard questions. They are the kind of thing you wrestle with, fight with, cry over. If they go down easy, maybe they didn't hit home.

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*It should be noted that "insurgent" is a word of high sensitivity in our culture today, and not without good reason. I should point out that Chambers wrote this long before the word carried such weight, and I believe he meant it to mean rebellious, mutinous, the age old battle of the flesh against the Spirit. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Just a Piece of His Grace from Psalm 73

Surely in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence...
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God...
I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my  heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.

(Excerpts from Psalm 73)



God, help us to see you aright. Help us to lay down our deepest, most strongheld passions and accept your common grace. Allow us to fix our eyes on your name, and strain our ears for your voice. Lord...I know that I have been in desperate need of grace, hope, and love, and have sought it far from the folds of your embrace. I, even I, am immunocompromised toward all this thing called life. When it comes to the flesh, my muscles of discipline, compassion, and maturity are weak. I have no protection but your name, and that grace so sweet which you give.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Heart Cry

The time is not yet ripe.

But grace is.

After journeying through a valley of hard-heartedness, of finding in myself the chief of sinners and the most unworthy of Christians...Christ proves himself graceful once again.

I feel it's important to share some of what I've learned: God loves you, but He does not love you because of what you do. Rephrased: God does not love you less because of what you've done. Rephrased again: God does not love you more because of what you've done.

Finis.

The Gospel: Christ died because we needed him to, not because we were righteous. How we can forget that beautiful truth! Sometimes when we are given great things, we begin to carry ourselves as if we've earned them, as if we're the big cheese, as if...as if we weren't in reality utterly lost without the saving grace of Christ. We forget that God loves us out of His character, not out of ours. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

I've been on a journey of learning from people who, months ago, I would have considered my students. I'm on a journey of recognizing my complete dependence on Jesus, and in that being opened up to supreme joy. It does not rest on me. The heart is deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9)...mine too.

This isn't poetic or beautiful. This my heart cry, a cry of joy, of recognition, of the weight of sin but the balancing and surpassing weight of glory.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Music Break: The Oh Hello's

Mmmm. Mornings.

I've scarcely written as I journey on through life. It would be a lie to say that I have sagely continued to blossom into faith and maturity, or to say that I've gracefully stepped forward into greater things. But God is somehow graceful even when we cast a spiteful eye skywards and grasp tight our foolishness. He's working with me yet, and I'll let the matter incubate in my heart before sharing too much.

But anyway, I love music. I love finding new music, which is why I have sometimes shared songs with you. I would describe my primary style as bluegrass, folk, indie, rock-influenced. With a good dance piece thrown in from time to time of course. ;) I'll listen to many different styles, but some of my favorite bands in this category include The Civil Wars, Of Monsters and Men, Jose Gonzales, The Lumineers, Imagine Dragons, Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, and any number of singles from countless other artists.

The following are a couple of songs from a new favorite band of mine, the Oh Hello's. (I wish I could share all of them!) They sing a kind of a new bluegrass and explore themes of rebellion, grace, humanity, and forgiveness. Their album is a story beautifully told, I highly recommend checking it out.