Breaking Through

Thoughts (and pardon the lack of clear organization):
1. God is a gentleman. I say this with no irony. He allows us dignity, and I don't really understand that. He wakes me morning by morning (I couldn't very well open my eyes without His enabling, obvsly.), but there are days when I ask Him to wake me when He wants me, and He does so, gently. It's a better awakening than on other days--no real struggle, only immediate wakefulness. Body and mind don't always come out of sleep exactly together, but I awake with a sense of profound peace. What amazes me is that He has always waited for me to ask Him, and left me to sleep on days when I did not. He is not forceful; He is gentle. He waits for the invitation. This is one of many demonstrations of His meekness.

2. God is a suitor. There are times I really don't get why He does what He does. Okay, I never get why He does what He does, but there are times when things are particularly boggling. Christmas was one of those times. I had been given certain expectations of what Christmas presents I might be receiving from certain relatives, and when the time came to receive said presents, I found something entirely different in my hands--a jewelry set worth nearly $3k, with a mondo ring made of white gold, diamonds, and three carats of--i think it's called--citrine. Now I know that there are those who would immediately fall to the floor in a heap of gratitude at such a present, but I just looked at it in shock as said relative explained what it all was. I cried all the way home. To be perfectly honest, I had hoped for cash, as it would take off some of the weight of the year's coming expenses, and I couldn't see any good whatsoever in some pieces of metal and stone. I probably sound like a bit of a brat here, but given my expectations (which I should stop having altogether, I think) and my penchant for the practical over the pretty, the sight of what I saw as wasted money was a blow to the solar plexus.
But here's what happened when I got home. I have been working on something bloggable for quite a while now, and I had a bit on Ephesians that I wanted to get out (that's a bit later), so I was rolling around in my journal, and my entry for that morning included Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), "Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" My response: "Wow, was Hebrews 13:5 ever a word for me--wish I had remembered it earlier. Went to ____'s house today, and he gave me a very unexpected gift. Was hoping for and expecting some money or a laptop. It was a highly unwelcome gift, because it seemed to meet no need. Not so. It was meeting a Hebrews 13:5 need, and I love it." God was seeking me out, preparing me to trust Him, and providing a physical reminder of His ever-presence (and His faithfulness as a provider), and to boot He gave me some very pretty jewels to wear. He seeks me when I am too blind to see Him, too concentrated on this world to hear Him call, "Come away with Me." What a suitor.

3. The Bible is a really emotional book. Seriously, we Americans are tremendously uncomfortable with emotion, but the Bible so definitely comes from a hot culture. The sheer amount of emotion that people expressed in Acts is pretty incredible, and I love how Paul and the churches loved each other: Acts 21:1 "After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea..." The elders from Ephesus travel to visit Paul as he heads toward Jerusalem, and they realize they will never see his face again on this side of life, so they spend time together, crying and praying and encouraging each other, and they have to tear themselves away to leave. Acts 21:13 "When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'" What beautiful words. They wept, and Paul's heart broke. These were people who really loved each other and expressed it. And Paul himself was a really emotional guy. So many of the guys I see at school seem to adhere really strongly to an intellectual approach to everything, to the neglect of emotion, and I'm pretty sure that's wrong. Your brain can only take you so far when people are hurting around you.

4. One of my approaches to Bible study, especially in the epistles, is to turn things around and look at them from the opposite angle (it's not deconstruction, but it borrows a bit of the concept). Ephesians 4, thusly: (1-3) I am commanded to live a life worthy of my calling, the characteristics of which are complete humility and gentleness, patience, bearing with other people on the basis of love, and making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. The anti-characteristics: any pride; abuse of any power, whether of words, authority, physical strength, psychological manipulation, etc.; impatience; not dealing with people on the basis of love; not keeping the unity of the Spirit by actually fomenting discord (and this could be through words), or not keeping the unity of the Spirit by being lax and passive where unity is concerned.
(4-6) The foundation of this life: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. We as believers have so much in common. Think of it: who else can possibly claim all of this? I don't know of any other grouping of people that can lay claim to so many areas of deep commonality. This ought to tie us together.
(11ff) Apostles , prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers have the responsibility to serve, to build the body up in unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, and to become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Side note: the day we went over this in NT, one of the guys asked if this was simultaneous or a sequence; the main result of the ensuing discussion was that I put on my inner iTunes and listened to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" for the next twenty-five minutes. As I see it, none of that really deserves debate since 1. we can all read Greek, and each of us ought to be able to figure that out to his individual satisfaction, and 2. beginning to do any part of this will keep us too busy for debate and will also produce the other things anyway.) The basis of our unity is the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. This is the means by which we join the body and by which the body stays together, as Tozer said:
Someone may fear that we are magnifying private religion out of all proportion, that the 'us' of the New Testament is being displaced by a selfish 'I.' Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they would possibly be were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and a higher life (The Pursuit of God 90).
(4:29) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. This doesn't seem to say that unwholesome talk won't be there, but rather that we can't let it out when it occurs to us. Words do so much. In Africa, if you tell someone he's likely to die within a certain period of time, it's pretty much a guarantee that he will waste away and die. Words have power. They can destroy, or they can truly build, and our words ought to build.
Things that grieve the Spirit: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, every form of malice. What we ought to have--the opposite of the above: kindness, compassion, and forgiveness on the basis of Christ.
(5:1) "Begin therefore to mime God, like beloved children." Children imitate their parents. They take on their attitudes toward others, their assumptions, everything. We are to imitate God as His deeply loved kids.
(5:10) "And find out what pleases the Lord" (NIV)--literally, "testing (as if by fire) what is truly pleasing to the Lord." In my family this has a particular relevance, on at least two levels. One: four years ago we had our physical lives tested by fire, and very little of what we had came out of the fire unscathed. One or two pieces of furniture survived, but they are very much a picture of the person who builds with wood, hay, and straw in I Cor. 3, and comes through the flames but still reeks of smoke. One begins to see, at least temporarily, how little a hold things ought to have. Two: Steven and I are total firebabies. He's worse than me--singed all his hair off multiple times growing up, burned up a 50 kg bag of mealie meal when he was about four--but he and I have joined in multiple fire experiments together. We have learned that we can soak a tennis ball in rubbing alcohol, set it alight, and play with it with no ill effects. We've learned that firestarting liquids make excellent "ink" on concrete, and that under the right conditions, flames can be invisible but very much physically present. And why do we do this? Some, like Steven's teacher who sent him for talks with the school guidance counselor after he wrote about some of his fire-related experiences as a child, assume a certain amount of crazy. The mere fact is that we just like to burn things. It's fun to see what will make it through a flame and how. I think we should approach the testing of the things that please God in this way. We ought to enjoy looking for what pleases the Father, I think. There ought to be something of fun about it, rather than the stereotypical Baptist drudgery of do-nots. We should try things and just see if they please Him, and participate in the grand experiment--to get out there and actually put things in the fire to begin with, to see what comes out on the other side. He made us to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever; it stands to reason that it ought to be enjoyable. Also, God has made it possible for us to know what makes Him smile--it's sort of scandalous that the Almighty should be so open. We ought to take advantage of that. We'd be really ungrateful not to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

His grace is scandalous. I love you just heaps. -arp