Thursday, April 21, 2011

Desires too strong or too weak for Joy?

I constantly find my thoughts drifting above my everyday situations; only to daydream or concoct awesome scenarios of victory and adventure and bask in them. Not a few times have I been doing homework only to find myself daydreaming about how awesome it would be to die a martyr for the greatest cause on earth: our risen Lord, or to fight a battle and head up the army on the hills of some far away countryside-- being covered in blood yet still victorious, or to live in the far off woods by myself, wrestling animals and killing them to survive and make a home for myself. Guys can really get lost in this stuff, I'm not kidding!

But this begs an even deeper question of Human nature. I don't know what kind of things girls dream about, but I would be a fool to think they didn't dream. Why do humans dream about stuff like this? Is it because we're just hopeless romantics (and no, romantic isn't just a quality which pertains to lovers!) at heart? And if so, why are we hopeless romantics?

It seems that much of literature, daydreaming, love stories, and human yearnings contain a reflection of the way we humans really want to live: with adventure, unabashed love, fearlessness, courage, and hope; with drama that matters and has ultimate meaning, with deep purpose and with grandeur and excellency. It doesn't matter how much of a stick in the mud you are, you know you've yearned for something deeper, truer, and more satisfying at least once in your life. Yet we deny it. We pass it off as "being emotional" or "silly", or too much thinking with our "heads in the clouds". But that doesn't get rid of the longing.

If these things are how we truly want to live, why don't we live this way? I mean, it is rare (but not impossible) to see someone really living that "epic" of a life. Who among us is fearless and courageous to no end? And how many of us are willing to go to all the effort to make life like that? Again, I ask: why, if we deeply yearn for a life like this, do we not live this way? Is it not worth it?
You tell me! When you look back on your life, what do you feel like when you chose not to live the way you yearn to live when you think to yourself late at night? You feel dirty, and guilty: like you've let everything else happen to you instead of you happening to everything-- like you've failed to lay hold of that which your heart longs to have, if only it had the strength. Why this feeling? Why won't it leave us alone?

Humans want to truly live. We want life. We don't want mediocrity. We want victory.

And yet, we seem to fall short of it so often.

How much is true life really worth? Should we even pay attention to our longings? Why not just ignore them and go about life with an air of practicality and purposeless purpose until our souls-become-utility-machines become weary of their dry and dusty journeys and putter out? Are we prepared to go about life in this way? Try as you might, but soon your air of practicality will become a stench, and your heart will become so dusty that it drys up and crumbles. And do you know the horrifying thing? You will be so consumed in your self-deceit that you won't realize it.

Is having true life worth what it will cost you? Is taking precious time out of your day to listen to the person with a hurting heart worth knowing that someone was loved and relieved afterwards? Is risking, or even giving up your own life and security, to fight oppressive English Nobles who take your people's wives and rape them, and who kill your children and subject your people to slavery, worth the eventual end of freedom for your people and safety for your women and relief for your men? (catch brave-heart reference??!) Is the truth worth the cost it will have on your life?

Is comfort worth as much as victory over poverty for those who live near you?

What is worth more? Time to yourself or relief for those who are suffering? More money to buy trifles for yourself or food for kids who are dying?

How you answer these questions will determine how much true life is really worth to you.
The problem for humans is that true life comes at a cost. But the product won outshines any cost in an exponential way. True life is a heart fully alive. Our hearts only survive when they thrive on life. The truth is what our souls need. But the truth will wreak healing havoc on our souls.

In essence, the only way you can truly come alive is at a cost. You have to die to your fleshly desires, which bring you death anyway, and come alive to that which is true and good, faithful and lovely.

To give up on true life is to sell yourself short and settle for less. I may refuse to follow Christ in a call to go to the mission field and in turn receive my comfort, my usual schedule, and everything I'm used to, when I could have sacrificed these trivial things and received life, joy, hope, fellowship, victory, salvation, and more of the life-giving savior of all.

Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"

Jesus was clear: those who will come and be healed by my heart and have life, come, but it will cost you. But whatever cost you must pay, the rewards will outshine the sun. Can you see how He isn't just talking about matters of heaven and hell in the future, but in the present life?

Break free from your hell of enslavement to things which bring you complacency and death and latch onto the giver of life; experience heaven now.

"I am the way and the truth and the life." -- John 14:6

"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." -- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, April 16, 2011

from lost to found

If you haven't found yourself in Christ, you don't know what you're missing. No, there isn't any greater joy. I've been just about everywhere else, and there is no greater joy.

You can build your heart on excuses, trivial distractions, and shallow pleasures, but you have no idea how much you're missing. It's not as if God is trying to take your joy away. He wants to give you an eternal joy that satisfies you deeply forever.

Jesus is the all-satisfying, joy-giving, Love-filled, heart-healing, sovereign center of everything in existence.

John 1:3 says that "through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."

Colossians puts it even more clearly:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Who is more worthy of our hearts-- much more, who is more worthy of our trust?

You decide.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

God changes us

In the midst of all the confusion, distractions, false beliefs, and drama of our lives, when we're told to "act in accordance with God's character", or "be good", or "be righteous", our immediate reaction is to begin working on ourselves, or to begin trying to change ourselves from the outside in. It seems intuitive, right? Very American. Our self-sufficient attitude begins to take over and we start to get ambitious about how many changes we can bring about in ourselves.. and if it doesn't work, we try harder, and if that doesn't work, we find something else other than acting good to find our significance in.

Ask yourself honestly.. have your efforts to change yourself ever worked? Ever experienced the guilty pangs of really wanting to be able to act a certain way, trying as hard as you can, and then failing repeatedly? I remember so painfully the feelings of shame and guilt I experienced as I tried to become a better person and yet consistently failed, earlier in life. The emotional resolve was great in the beginning, but eventually my heart would always grow weak and I'd fall back into everything I once did. In fact, the very sad thing was that when I did feel like I had created a lasting change in myself, it was almost as if I started sinning somewhere else. The time I finally stopped being addicted to lust, I start to get addicted to pride in the fact that I was free from lust. But what did that accomplish? It's almost as if we're a leaky dam: if you plug up one hole that water is leaking out of, the pressure is so great that another hole will break open and start pushing water out. Then you plug up that hole and and suddenly another breaks open and the one you formerly patched up breaks loose again.. and you feel hopeless. This also seems to be the condition of every other person I've met. Our own efforts just don't seem to have any power to accomplish anything. So are we doomed to forcing ourselves to act in a certain way--with no way out of our inability to be good people? I submit no. The Bible shows us that there is a glorious hope for us who are tired of laboring in vain for righteousness.

Let me run through some information first:

"For as he thinks within himself, so he is." Proverbs 23:7a NASB

This is a verse which actually proposes a great psychology model for humans. As we think, so we are. For how could it be any other way?

The things we believe in our heart determine the way we think in our heart, and the way we think in our heart determines the way we will act.

Now, does the way we act have any bearing on the way we think? No. It is correlated with the way we think, but it doesn't have any causal effect on it. Imagine the school girl who really has no closeness with God or love for people. Just because she acts very properly and lovingly around people doesn't mean she has any love for them in her heart! You've all met these kinds of people. The ones who act lovingly but really have no love in their hearts for people-- or the people who act humble only to feed their pride even more (knowing that other people see them acting humble). Does a person who acts like they don't lust really not lust? Is a person whose actions are humble really humble? Not necessarily. As it turns out, one can never really know what exactly the heart is believing and thinking upon an observation of a person's behavior. After all-- if someone told me they would give me a million dollars to act like I didn't prize material possessions for a week, I would really get into acting like it, wouldn't I?

However, if a person thinks humbly in his heart, his actions are humble. Or if a person deeply loves their future spouse and wants to save her heart for marriage, she will act accordingly. If I really love God, then I will read the Bible out of intense desire for communion, not just as an external action. If the truth of the resurrection and payment for my sins really rests in my heart and my thoughts, then I will act with patience and forgiveness, not grit my teeth and squint my eyes when I forgive-- forgiveness will come as naturally to me as breathing does.

Three truths we have to deal with

So we have these two truths: Thinking like Christ certainly will result in acting like Christ, BUT acting like Christ does not at all entail thinking like Christ.

The third truth that would be important to note is this: since our beliefs govern our actions, our actions can never truly change until our heart does. If you're just getting rid of sin in one area of your life simply so you can sin somewhere else in your life, your heart is not really changing. Trading "ugly" sins for prideful sins is just about the same as a man being offered a thousand young virgin toddlers in heaven so that he'll stop molesting his daughter in the current life.

This is where the great dilemma comes in. We can now see that trying to change our actions is like trying to make a rotten apple tree produce healthy apples by taping healthy apples onto it's branches! You may notice that this does not consist of the tree actually producing good fruit, but by us tacking things onto it which do not naturally come from it. But what the Bible proposes is a way of actually dealing with the problem: changing the root.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

If what really matters to God is our heart, where can we hide? We're hopelessly sick! We're perverted; thinking perverted, prideful, selfish, complacent, hateful, and God hating on the inside. So how on earth can we change our actions if we can't change our heart?

This is where the true Gospel differs radically from the Gospel that America loves to entertain: When Jesus came to save us, he didn't just come to save us from hell. He came to SAVE us from our own desperate slavery to sin! He came to set us free from our selfish and hateful thoughts and to give us the power to truly love other people, to be burdened for goodness and righteousness, humility, and honoring God. And the most amazing part about it at all is that our heavenly reward consists of just that: Having the righteousness of God alive in our hearts every day.

The agent that brings about this change is the Holy Spirit. Do you have him in your heart? Ask for him to enter you and to change your heart. The Holy Spirit does not just change your actions; he changes your beliefs and your thinking. One day you'll be thinking about how unfair it was for you to have to do chores, and after the Holy Spirit changes you, you'll be thinking how amazing it is that you are even alive.

How does this change happen?

In Romans Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit, challenging believers to "be transformed by the (E)renewing of your mind".

"And do not (C)be conformed to (D)this world, but be transformed by the (E)renewing of your mind, so that you may (F)prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

"But if the Spirit of Him who (A)raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, (B)He who raised (C)Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [a]through His Spirit who dwells in you."

Can you see that this is a supernatural thing? Can you see that it has nothing to do with YOU working?

It works by you asking God for help. And that's all you've got to do. Read the Bible, think about the truth of Jesus, and pray. Pray and experience change of heart and consequently change of actions. And you will begin to be satisfied deeply in God's love.

Stop Working-- Start resting!

28"(AM)Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

29"Take My yoke upon you and (AN)learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and (AO)YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

30"For (AP)My yoke is easy and My burden is light."