Yes! I knew it!
Sometimes silence is golden. In a world riddled with marketing messages that assault our brains at every turn, silence is rare. It’s precious. It’s fleeting, and it should be sought after for reflection – to slow down the pace of life and reflect. Think. Pray.
Silence is also terrifying.
In the silence, there’s only you. Your thoughts. Your heart. You are confronted with the terrible reality of yourself and you find there the wealth of insecurities, double motives, and shallowness. It’s in the silence that you play the “what-if” games about your future. Your family. Your friends. With no sound to dull your internal monologue it’s only you and the reality of the real.
Sometimes, in those moments of overwhelming silence, you simply don’t know what to pray. Or at least I don’t. I don’t know the right way to ask or what to ask for. I am overwhelmed by the daily onslaught of responsibilities as an employee, a husband, a father, and a minister. I open my mouth to break the rigid quiet and nothing comes out. I don’t have the words. Not this time.
So what do you do when you don’t know what to pray? What do you do when there looks to be no way out of a given situation? What do you do when the loneliness or the pain or the stress is too much? What do you do when you feel like you can’t pour out your heart to God because it’s so full that it feels empty?
It’s at moments like these, I think, when the discipline of Scripture memory comes to our aid. It’s for precisely times like this that we’ve hidden the word of God in our hearts. It’s on these occasions, when we don’t have the words, that we use the words God has already given to us.
You look deeply inside yourself and you find all the things that terrify you – the sin. The insecurities. The doubt. The fear. The anxiety. And then, huddled away in a corner, you find the flickering ember of the word of God. And that’s where you go. That’s where you draw from. And you begin, not with your words, but with His.
“When I am afraid I will trust in God. In God, whose word I praise, in God alone I will trust…” (Psalm 56:3).
“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple-hearted…” (Psalm 115:6).
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my Salvation…” (Psalm 62:5-6).
Over and over the words come, and you let them come. It’s at these times, when you don’t know what to say, that you trust in the word of the Lord which gives voice to your deepest longings. And the fear of the silence is overcome with faith.
Posted by MK | Filed under Bible Study
“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
The dictionary definition is the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. So important is freedom that it, in concept, is what Christ has set us free for:
Why are we free? For freedom.
But, like anything else, our concept of freedom has been corrupted. Just as our bodies deteriorate and die off as a result of the fall, so everything else in the universe has been altered. Changed. Flipped. So much so that when we think of freedom, we think of an absence of restraint.
In that mindset, freedom is being able to do anything in the world that we want to. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll included. But that definition falls apart a bit when we start asking the real question of ourselves:
What do our actions reveal that we really feel constrained to do? What is truly enslaving us?
This is where the rubber meets the road because a thousand times a day I do things that, if I’m honest, I do because I am constrained to do them. And I’m not talking about paying taxes or going to work here. It’s other things that in my heart of hearts I must do. Things like taking up for my rights in a given situation. Things like making sure my opinion is heard. Things like giving voice to my anger. Even things like eating what I want to eat when I want to eat. These are really the things that constrain me if I’m honest. And it’s the things like these that the gospel frees me from.
In the case of the Galatians above, they were free from the legalist mindset that told them they needed to perform certain bodily operations in order to earn the acceptance of God. From these things they were free because Jesus has done everything necessary for that acceptance. And there is freedom in that. Freedom from performance. Freedom from earned love. Freedom from constant justification of approval. And that freedom trickles down into all other areas of life.
When I am tired and feel that I must have time for myself, I am free to give a bit more.
When I think the finances won’t go any further, I am free to trust and be generous.
When I think I am being mistreated, I am free to eat that mistreatment for the sake of another.
When I think I am under appreciated, I am free to continue to give my all regardless of who sees.
When someone has truly wronged me, I am free to fully forgive them.
When I am tempted to hide my true self from others, I am free to bear my all.
And when all of the above fails… When I willingly enslave myself again to my anger or self-justification or impatience or vengeance… When I choose to live on the basis of my merit and rights rather than in the freedom of full acceptance in Jesus… I am free to look to the morning when God’s mercies will be new. Again.
7 years later and it’s still funny:
Posted by MK | Filed under Theology
It’s never this cut and dry, but it seems that if you wanted to, you might divide down any single decision you make into components.
A decision begins in the mind where the logic of one choice over another is processed. But then the choice moves from the mind into the affections. At this point, you’re not only looking at what you should do, but what you want to do. What you feel or don’t feel. Then the choice moves into the realm of the will where finally a choice is executed, one way or another.
Now here’s the thing – there is, more times than not, a breakdown in these segments. It’s a point when these things come into conflict with each other. For example, you might know in your mind what the godly choice in a given situation is going to be. It’s clear and straight forward, but your affections have something to say about that. While you might logically know that you should not be angry or that you should apologize, you don’t FEEL like making that choice. You instead feel like exacting revenge. Or giving that person a piece of your mind. Or keeping that money. Or whatever. There is suddenly a conflict when it comes to your will.
That’s not to say it always happens like that. In fact, most of the time when you make a sinful choice, there is afterward sorrow in regard to that choice. That shows that though you might have desired to do the sinful thing, there was at least part of you that wanted to do the right thing. And as time goes on and the Lord applies the good work of the potter to the clay, your desires and affections conform more and more to what your mind might tell you is the right thing.
In fact, you might say that one of the signs of growing in Jesus is the often and further alignment of these areas – the mind, affections, will, and choices. You are, in other words, becoming more whole than ever before.
And yet you know as well as I do in the meantime where the struggle comes. It’s the conflict in one of these areas. You know the right thing to do but you don’t want to do it. Or you know the right thing, you want to do it, but you can’t screw up the courage to do so. There is a malfunction of conflict in the process. You become misaligned at some point. So what do you do then?
Well, I suppose you could simply let the process play out, and then repent. When you do, you give thanks for the gospel that makes up for what you lack and is the continued transforming power in terms of your thinking, your emotions, and your will. But perhaps there is yet one element that hasn’t made an appearance yet. It’s the one thing that makes all the difference in the misaligned person. And it’s the one thing that we need until we are indeed perfectly aligned and whole people.
You know the right thing but you don’t want to do the right thing. Instead of bending to emotions, you exercise faith. You choose to believe what you know to be true despite what your emotions tell you. And by faith, you choose rightly in the face of the emotions. Or you know what to do and you really want to do it, but instead of bending to fear or timidity, you exercise faith in the great God who is backing you, and you choose to move forward rather than back.
Faith is what accounts for the misalignment. By faith we act even when we are not whole. And we do so over and over again until someday when we won’t need faith any more. Sight will replace the faith we cling to. And then we know. And then we feel. And then we act. Fully whole.
I knew Daniel Day-Lewis was an incredible actor. But this takes it to another level…
Posted by MK | Filed under Theology
Imagine with me, if you will, that one time each week which is perennially difficult for you. Perhaps it’s that regularly occurring meeting at work. Maybe it’s the 45 minutes after school. Perhaps it’s the witching hour that parents of young children know about when it’s too early for the kids to go to bed but too late to start any new activity. It’s that one time when you know – KNOW – that your patience will be tested. Your resolve will be challenged. And more times than not, you find yourself saying or doing something that you wish you hadn’t in retrospect.
For me, that time happens between between 10:45 and 11:15 am every Sunday morning.
Because we worship at the 8 am service, we all go to Bible study from 9:30 to 10:45. But then there is that 30 minutes. This is the time when I pick up the three kids and take them out the back door of church. It’s also the time that has become the unofficial congregating time of families on the front lawn of the building. A slew of kids of most all ages run around the acre or so of ground, hide behind bushes, play tag or some other game, while parents chat it up on the sidewalk by the door.
It’s also the time for me when in addition to all the above, one of the kids starts crying because they’re tired or skinned their knee. It’s when the requests start coming in for McDonald’s and playdates. And it’s when, at least on one occasion, I’ve caught the 3 year old, um, “watering” the trees at the corner of the church property.
For my good (and much godlier) wife, it’s a great time of connection and freedom. For me, it’s a weekly test of patience and challenge to my need for control. And for those latter reasons, this is also a time when I think my heart is both hard and fertile ground for the work of the Spirit.
The question for me, I think, is how ready I am to accept the work of the Spirit during this time.
I’m wondering how that time of the week might look different. Maybe it could look different for you, too. Maybe that sense of dread or apprehension you feel about that particular block of time might be seen with new eyes. Maybe we could together begin to see it, because of its difficulty for us personally, for what it is: a great opportunity for God to work in us the character of Jesus.
What if instead of dreading that moment, we began to thank God for such a regular opportunity for patience to be developed?
What if, during those times of stretching, we began to look consciously for opportunities to display the attitude of Jesus?
And what if, when it was over, instead of repenting over our missed opportunities and badly spent words, we took a moment to thank God for such a chance to embrace His work in our hearts?
I think it can be like that. But to do it, I’ve got to see those occurrences differently. I’ve got to become conscious of the Spirit’s work. I’ve got to, in short, pray for a sense of greater awareness of sanctification.
That would be an interesting experiment, wouldn’t it? I’m sure my wife would appreciate it…