Posted in Devotional Thoughts on October 29, 2010 |
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Not being as busy for a season this past spring and summer was very spiritually fruitful for me. God taught me things I could have learned in no other way. There is something about waiting, something about inactivity and reflection, that can teach us things we cannot learn when we are constantly bouncing from one responsibility to the next. These days, though, I am finding that being busier again is also very fruitful. Learning to live with incompleteness teaches me to walk by faith. There are so many things these days I don’t have time to do: people to spend time with, books and blogs to read, things on my desk to get uncluttered, details to check off my to do list. I am learning to view this as an opportunity, not a problem, because God has not called me to do more than can be done in the time that I have. If I can’t work hard and then leave the results to God, that shows I am ultimately trusting in myself, not Him.
Especially in my sermon preparation, I am learning that over-preparation can be a form of self-trust. The feeling that I need to have every word exactly planned out and every thought exactly filled often shows up because I don’t trust that God’s power is what really matters, and because I am not looking to him in the moment of preaching. God is helping me to work hard on my preaching without trusting in my hard work. Right before I stand up to preach or teach, in that moment of poignance and nervousness, I am learning to repent more deeply, to surrender more fully, to give myself away to God again. In my incompleteness, He has more room to show up with His power.
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Posted in Devotional Thoughts on October 21, 2010 |
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Last night at our Wednesday night gathering I illustrated a point by reading Bob Kauflin’s testimony on pp. 22-25 of his helpful book Worship Matters. Its a story I have been reflecting on for several days, and I keep seeing my sin and the gospel through it. If you haven’t read it, those 3 pages alone are worth the price of the book. Bob helps me examine my own heart for where I am battling the glory of God by seeking my own glory instead. Its one thing to say, “I am trusting in Jesus for my salvation and I want God to receive all the glory for my life.” But indwelling sin is no small thing which mere words and and neat mental concepts can defeat. It is another thing to look daily to Jesus for all things in the same posture of needy faith and die to all thoughts of self-concern and anything that detracts from the glory of God in my life. If I honestly ask, “do I care more about how I am viewed, or how God is viewed?” before every meeting, every conversation, every event I am able to see various ways in which the roots of pride and idolatry have not been dug up from my heart. Trusting in Jesus is a lifelong battle that begins afresh every day. God’s mercies are new every morning: therefore so is my need to receive them by faith every morning.
I am struck by how Bob states that his battle against the glory of God was largely going on beneath his conscious awareness. He did not wake up in the morning and say, “I will live for my own glory today.” But this battle surfaced in discouragement, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, etc. That makes me ask, “where is anxiety or discouragement in my life the fruit of living for my own glory? Where am I losing because I am fighting against God Himself? What will it look like for me to find the sweet repentance of total submission and surrender to God in a deeper way?”
As I reflect on this, a prayer that is emerging from my heart is, “Lord, show me where I am seeking my own glory rather than yours. Illumine the parts of my heart that have not fully given up the battle against your glory. Let me die more to myself today and fully live for your glory. Let me die to my own righteousness and fully be awake to trusting in Jesus for righteousness and all things.”
What I am seeing is that the same posture of faith in which we empty ourselves of our own contributions and trust completely in Jesus for salvation – that same posture of faith is the key to following Christ each day. Each moment of genuine sanctification mirrors that initial moment of justification: total surrender to and trust in Christ. In order to be initially saved, I must bow before the cross. And in order to live one moment as a Christian, I must bow before the cross. Jesus + nothing is the formula for salvation, for ministry, for my marriage, for everything. That way He gets all the glory.
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Had a great morning with students yesterday doing cleaning and trimming work at a nearby park, then playing Octaball (which is an amazing game we play, sort of like dodgeball but in a giant Octagon), then eating lunch at In-n-Out. Now I am sitting in my office reflecting on our meeting this morning. I have the best students and co-workers in the world. The Lord has given me a great love and affection for them. There is nothing I would rather be doing and nowhere else I would rather be than here where God has called us. We continue to love Sierra Madre – Esther made the comment yesterday that it feels like Northern California in some ways – the mountains, the trees, the frequently overcast days. Its such a peaceful, beautiful little place in the world.
Something I’m learning this week is how I need the gospel for emotional buoyancy during ministry. My mood can sometimes be more determined because of how meetings and programs are going than because of Christ and his unending, always satisfying love. When ministry goes well, I feel great. When it goes poorly or even just okay, I feel unsettled and sometimes discouraged. But one day this week it just hit me that this is totally justification by works – looking to my performance to feel okay about life and about myself. To the extent that the gospel becomes the central boast in my life, I have an emotional center that does not bob about with circumstances. I am liberated from constantly measuring how I am performing to simply work hard and then rest in the promises and provision of God, as I do for my salvation.
I am grateful that my ministry is ultimately not up to how I perform, but to Jesus’ power, call, wisdom, and love. Only when I realize that my labors aren’t the answer can I labor as I ought. Only when Jesus is more important to me than ministry can I do ministry as I ought – with the freedom and abandonment of the One who is my example as well as my Savior.
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Posted in Devotional Thoughts on October 9, 2010 |
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Things going great here in Sierra Madre. The first week has been a blur. I’ve met lots of wonderful people and gotten pretty immersed in what my life will be like here. We feel so welcomed here and its obvious to us that God has brought us here. We love our church, and this is the perfect place for us to be in ministry for the next season of life.
I’ve learned so much in just the short time I’ve been here. Ministry is challenging, and I find I’m constantly compelled to come to the end of myself and look to Jesus for supernatural strength and power. One thing I am learning is that strength is found in remembering that its not about me. When I feel weak and overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me, I am learning to search my heart for the idol of self-concern. As I surrender afresh to God’s purposes and desires, I find a strength sufficient for the task to which He has called me. Its sort of like a wave (though I haven’t been to the ocean yet since arriving!!). To truly harness the energy of a wave, you have to surrender to where it is going. You can’t be in control anymore. So also with ministry: the power is there in deeper surrender to God’s purposes, and what He is already doing.
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