Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fighting the Perspective Battle


Since I posted last, I have seen God work more powerfully than I ever have before. In just a little over a month, He has provided for all of my needs this coming year! He truly is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides.

Ironically, now that the real pressure is off and I'm somewhat secure for the next year, I am struggling to keep a proper perspective and view on life. It's like the old saying "there are no athiests in foxholes." When I was out of my comfort zone and relying on God day after day, it was relatively easy to maintain a relationship with Him through prayer and Scripture reading and meditation. I needed it! But now, even after witnessing such a display of God's power of provision, I often feel like I no longer need to be in a  close relationship with Him.

This is made worse by my frequent self-focus. For various reasons, I have had a lot of time recently where I didn't have the mental juice or the energy to apply myself to study or planning, and so I just vegged and did whatever I felt like doing. Entertainment is fine in moderation, but when consumed in larger amounts it fuels a harmful self-focus: what can I do to have fun and relax in the short term? This has been my problem in the past week or two, and even though it feels good at the time, it has left me feeling unfulfilled and empty. We were designed by God to live in community, facing outward not inward, and we were designed for long-term happiness in His kingdom, at the cost of some short-term pleasures. Only when we are living in community with God and others, and when we are thinking, planning, learning, and living in light of that future glory will we be satisfied.

For me in the next few weeks, this probably means pulling back to none or almost no media usage, spending more time reading the Bible and other books that I have been meaning to read, and spending more time with my friends and family instead of entertaining myself. It will be difficult, but the results will be worth it!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

American Music's Idol

I was listening to an eclectic music mix in the car today, and I guess I was in a philosophical frame of mind, because I suddenly found myself thinking about the focus and worldview of different types of music. It's a fascinating thing to think about while driving!

The focus of most modern music is ourselves or other people. Think about a typical love song. The lyrics usually talk about how amazing the main character's love interest is, and then transition to talking about how sad they are because they can't be together, something has negatively affected their relationship, etc. Other lyrics speak of how the main character "needs" his or her love interest, how they'll "only be happy when we're together," and so on. This kind of attitude and worldview tends to cause listeners to focus on other people for fulfillment and happiness in life. This does not make love songs evil. I believe that these kind of emotions and desires have been given to us by God, and that there are legitimate situations for these kinds of things. However, the fact that there are so many love songs and ballads being written every day is evidence that our culture has made relationships and "love" into an idol. We have set these things up as the ultimate fulfillment, instead of God. I enjoy listening to some of these types of songs, but if I listen to too many "lonely" or "unfulfilled" love songs I start to get lonely and think that maybe I need some kind of romantic relationship to make me truly happy. It's amazing how much music can affect your mind and worldview, even temporarily.

Writing songs that focus on people is not bad in and of itself. It only becomes a problem when we put people and relationships above God.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Fishbowl Means Freedom

Our pastor used one of my favorite illustrations last Sunday. He was talking about how boundaries and laws set us free, and used a goldfish to explain that seeming contradiction. Suppose you have a goldfish in a fishbowl, and one day you decide that you want to liberate the goldfish from its water and glass prison and free it to experience the real world all around it. You scoop it out of the fishbowl and put it on the kitchen table. You may have "freed" the fish in your mind, but you actually just killed it! This is because the goldfish can only survive and thrive when it is within boundaries that allow it to function the way it was designed: pulling water in through its gills to gather oxygen for its body and using its fins to move around in the water. For the goldfish, total freedom from all restrictions means death.

The same is true of us. When we ignore God's restrictions and boundaries for our lives, we engage in destructive behaviors that often lead to physical death and even more often, spiritual death. Only when we operate within the confines of God's rule will we be able to function as He designed us. God's rules for Godly living set us free to be all that He made us to be.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Victory is Certain if We Don't Surrender!

I was reading an article by Douglas Wilson in Credenda/Agenda magazine today, and this passage really stood out to me:

The war [between good and evil] can only be won or lost, and the only possible activities are fighting or surrendering. Given that there is only victory or defeat, we take comfort in the fact that a promise (given at the same time the antithesis was declared) said that seed of the serpent would have its head crushed, and the seed of the woman would triumph.
"The only possible activities are fighting or surrendering." This is a very encouraging idea! The idea expressed here, and borne out in Scripture, is that we can only be defeated by Satan if we surrender to him. We can and will lose battles, but as long as we confess, repent, and keeping fighting, we will NEVER lose the war! Praise God, for His mercies are new every morning!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Great Commission

The Great Commission, Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations, is one of the pillars of Christianity and Christian evangelism. When I think of the Great Commission, I think of initiative evangelism, knocking on doors and sharing the Gospel, handing out tracts in public places, and taking mission trips to foreign countries to share God's love. When I think about these types of activities, I feel uncomfortable because I haven't really engaged in many of those activities, and don't really want to most of the time. I often feel less spiritual because I do not have a constant urge to go out on the street and start winning souls.
This past week, God has been working to remind me that the above examples are not the only ways to fulfill the Great Commission. Those activities are important and I believe that we should all be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15), but not everyone has the gifts and abilities for successful full-time initiative evangelism and missionary work in the traditional sense. One of the things that I love about the Church is that everyone in the Church is given different spiritual and physical gifts. They are all to work together to make the Great Commission a reality. Together we will go and make disciples, with the help of the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sound Speech

In keeping with the resolution in my previous post, I have spent a bit of time over the past few weeks studying my life and looking for ways to put God first. One area that has been interesting me for some time, and that I have been studying on and off, is speech.

We all know that speech is very important. After all, God could have simply thought the universe into existence, but He chose to speak it into existence. He also uses words and speech to speak to us personally through His Word. We are to use our speech to communicate the Gospel to other people. Speech is a gift from God, and as Christians, we should put God first in how, what, when, and why we speak.

In order to have Biblically good speech, we must address our hearts. Speech is the display of the heart: "How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34, ESV). If we want God to be first in our speech, we must make Him first in our hearts. Therefore, we must be careful what we put into our hearts and minds. Phillipians 4:8 gives us some characteristics of such things: "Whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." The phrase "think about" (also translated as "consider") comes from the Greek meaning "to reason, deliberate, ponder, consider." This gives the sense of long periods of thought about a particular thing, and the concentration of the mind on it. These are the things that come to mind when we are alone with nothing else to think about. Unfortunately, in my life, the first thing that comes to mind in such circumstances is rarely God or the things of God. I need to work to put more of His thoughts into my heart and mind! Only then will my speech conform to His standards.

You might ask, "what does 'sound speech' (Titus 2:8) look like?" The Bible does not give us a checklist of things to include or avoid in our speech, but it does give us principles to follow and examples of good and bad speech. As I study through what the Scriptures say about this important subject, I will post verse studies and other thoughts that pertain to sound speech. Till then, God bless you all in your endeavors!

Please comment with your thoughts on this post and/or subject. I would like to hear them!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Number One

When God really wants to teach us something or remind us of something, He often uses many different experiences in our lives to emphasize it. This has definitely been the case for me during the past few weeks.

The pastor at our church has been preaching a short series through the Lord's Prayer, petition by petition. In his sermon on the first petition, "hallowed be thy name," he introduced a key point for the series: we try to fill God's place with other things that we hallow and praise, but whatever we praise will control us. Only when we put God first will He control our lives and make us complete. The second petition, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven," has a similar focus. The primary point of his sermon on this petition was active and passive obedience and submission to God's will. Whatever we submit to will control us, and so we need to submit to God to have a thriving Christian life.

In my personal reading time I have been going through books ranging from Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn to Emotional Purity by Heather Arnel Paulsen, and I have been struck by how all of these authors emphasize contentment with God's will and a close relationship with Him as the foundation or even the solution to so many problems that we experience in this life. When God is our number one, our all in all, our first priority, we no longer feel compelled to seek satisfaction, identity, and fulfillment in wealth, power, or relationships. God may graciously give us those things in His good timing, but even when we receive them, we will treat them as gifts rather than the Giver if our hearts are God's first. Our pastor preaches a similar message in many of his sermons.

I sometimes read Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest as a devotional. It teaches that we must be filled with God and with the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish His purposes in our lives.


Maybe God wants me to concentrate more on my relationship with Him and make Him my number one priority in my life? Maybe He wants me to focus on being filled with the Spirit to be His agent on this earth?

It has been challenging to see His standard for Christian living and to see how far I am from that standard. Over the next few weeks I am going to attempt to analyze my life from His perspective and see what needs to be changed or removed. I definitely can't do this on my own, so I would appreciate prayers for the Holy Spirit's help.