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Archive for September, 2012

I, Me, My, You

God is not a third-person abstraction, though we often treat him that way.

We are often inclined to talk about God as if He is not personal; as if there is no genuine one-to-one relationship. And perhaps for many, there is no such personal relationship – God is best kept in some box, only to be dragged out in time of desperation and appealed to as some mystical caster of spells for my benefit in desperate times.

Ugh. Can you imagine children treating their parents this way?

Reading through Psalms 40, 41, and 42 the last few mornings, I was struck afresh by the cornucopia of first- and second-person references. Here is an extremely abbreviated sample:

  • I waited patiently for the Lord…He inclined to me and heard my cry
  • Many, O Lord, are the wonders which You have done, and your thoughts toward us
  • There is none to compare with You
  • My ears you have opened
  • I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart
  • Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; make haste, O Lord, to help me
  • As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You”
  • As for me, You uphold me in Your integrity, and You set me in Your presence forever
  • As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God
  • My soul thirsts for God
  • Why are you in despair, O my soul…hope in God, for I shall again praise Him

I, me, my, You. That is the proper language of a soul engaged with the living and personal God.

Whatever anyone may think about the God of the Bible, and the faith of those who follow Him, there is no such thing as a far-off, third-person, unapproachable deity in the entirety of the Scriptures. Unless, of course, you choose to build that wall.

From Genesis to Revelation, I see an open door…and those who seek, find.

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Election Anxiety

Every four years, like clockwork, my internal stress level increases dramatically for maybe 4-6 months.

Election season.

I actually take politics seriously, because for all of the stupidity and messiness of it, there are major issues at stake that impact both the present and future. It’s certainly true that politicians of both stripes don’t live up to their principles, but principles do matter.

Hence the anxiety. I worry about leadership. I worry about finances. I worry about consequences. I just worry!

Then I read this morning about a man named Simeon. Residents of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago had plenty to worry about – Roman occupiers, divided religious/secular leadership, political and social turmoil – we’re really not so unique here in 21st century America.

Simeon, however, while undoubtedly quite aware of what went on around him, had his mind also operating on another, higher, level. He is described, in the Gospel of Luke, (2:25-32), as being righteous and devout – “the Holy Spirit was upon him…it was revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit…he came in the Spirit into the temple…”

Simeon managed to live with a 2-track mind. His nearness to God and faith in His purposes gave Simeon a steadiness of mind I truly envy. He was waiting for a Messianic King, not simply wrapped up in the machinations of earthly thrones.

I am constantly trying to suppress (not always successfully) a longing to swing verbal swords in the political battlefield. To fight for the here-and-now. But while that is not wrong in and of itself, what I really need far more is a deeper work of the Holy Spirit. To live with my hope and longings fixed on a higher plane. Emperors and kings and presidents and senators will all pass away. Lord, grant me grace to follow a much greater King!

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Blessed Confusion

“Hail, blessed woman! The Lord is with you.”

Huh??

Mary was just minding her own business. A virgin, engaged to Joseph, she very likely did not view herself as a potential world-changer. As a uniquely and highly favored person in the sight of the Lord. As one who would know a “God with us” in a way that, body and soul, no-one else ever could.

Via an unanticipated without-Joseph pregnancy, she would bear a Son whose impact on the following generations would be unfathomable. One whose kingdom would have no end.

“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

While the angel gives her an answer, it’s the summary statement, the exclamation point at the end, that resonates through the ages even to us today, in all of our confusing difficulties: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Whatever perplexities we’re facing, if God is with us, we’re richly blessed. If the Lord has favored us with his nearness, and chosen us for His service, we are wealthy beyond measure, even if poor in this world’s goods.

And He calls us to mind-boggling things. Forsaking treasured sins. Giving up self-direction. Turning our backs on the allure of the world. Holiness. Singleness of heart. Things impossible for mere men.

But possible with God. Only possible with God.

Some people deny the existence, or presence, or activity of God. When you see a follower of Jesus with a submissive and trusting heart, a former slave to selfishness and sin who now (even just in part) walks a different path out of worship and love, you are seeing a divine work. You are seeing the life of God implanted in a chosen one. You are seeing Emmanuel – God with us.

For those who will not see God, there are always alternative explanations to be manufactured. Denial is the daily lot of the unbeliever. Unbroken natural process is the dogma that defines what is possible.

For those who believe but know the confusions (and even tragedies <–I never knew this backstory until this morning) that swirl about in our fallen world, there will always be unresolved questions (esp. the ones starting in “Why….?). But there is one exclamation point that is simply self-evident regarding the one God who has created heaven and earth and all that is in them.

The Unlimited One doesn’t feel the handcuffs of “the impossible.” As King, He does whatever He chooses. Even if it involves sovereignly blessing His chosen servants, and bypassing the laws by which He set up His universe.

Confusing at times? Yes. But a blessed confusion.

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Recently on Steve’s Free blog: Pardon, but Your Worldview is Showing | Fish Out of Water

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