I need the Lord. Desperately. Subtly, I feel I’ve gone in a “just me and Jesus” direction. I may be on the verge of coming out of that, but it remains to be seen at this point. One of the ways the Lord makes himself known is through his Bride, the Church. The Holy Spirit ministers to his Bride through his Bride. Through fellowship. Relationships with other believers is more important and life-giving that I’ve given a credit for this year. I feel it’s easy to say bitterness has rot my posture toward the church.
Face-to-face time. This has been front and center at my attention over the past couple weeks. Not that I focus on it, really, but that it keeps popping up in conversations, podcasts, blog posts, sermons, etc. Relationships cannot grow, they cannot thrive without face-to-face time. This can be derailed in lots of ways. How much face to screen time takes away from face-to-face time? How many conversations that could knit two people closer together are lost for the sake of eavesdropping into someone else’s online drama or someone else’s white washed social media? Or just shopping and consuming? I don’t want to come to a place where I reject technology, but rather I want to start asking the question, “How can I harness this technology to where it enhances face-to-face time instead of creating a void in the relationship?” This will likely be a balance I will never achieve, but I must never cease to aim for it.
Time. I’m a finite creature. My capacity is only so high before things I engage in begin to suffer and I make halfhearted investments in others. Time is a limited resource, and one I will never get back. When it’s wasted, I feel the seeds of bitterness beginning to root.
When I say yes to something, I say no to something. This is where God, the church, relationships, face-to-face time, and stewardship all come together. What will I say yes to? Bitterness? Laziness? Anger? Prayer? Relationships? The Lord? My wife? My children? If I say yes to staring at my phone or some other screen beyond appropriateness, I say no to play and story time with the kids, board games, deep conversations, honest and open and lighthearted and laugh-filled and scary and fearful conversations? Just some examples. I have several behaviors that I need to change.
Who will I invest in? Who will have access to me? I realize that may sound cold, but I have to be realistic about my capacity.
My wife and kids will have the greatest access to me. This is going to mean they do not get crowded out by others, who will have lesser degrees of access. This has to start at home and branch out from there. Texting, email, social media, etc. Those screen time conversations that can enhance face-to-face time need to take a backseat to my own family. However this has to be the expectation set with the relationships I’m in.
I need the Lord.
My fellowship of believers.
Fellowship of believers. Those relationships in the church by whom the Holy Spirit minister’s and the father reveals himself. Few are long-term friends, and there are several who are in what I’ve been calling an “ember” stage of friendship. I feel what it looks like, as far as setting expectations, is to tell those closest and ember and beyond relationships my struggle to spend time with the Lord and face-to-face. To explain to them the enhance/void dynamic of technology, and that means I may be spotty in response to them because I’m trying to invest in my family. They will have higher access that most, but not above my wife and the kids. I must be pursuing the Lord above all. I guess this blog post will serve that purpose to those who will slog through it to this point. There may be times my excess ability is extremely limited because my phone may not even be with me. It may be *gasp* in another room of the house or in a drawer somewhere.
Rest is not something I can say I’ve had much of lately, physically or mentally or spiritually. As crazy as it sounds, it sometimes seems like the Lord calls me in the night. “Seek me. I am your rest.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 ESV
|Daffodils by Mark Houser. Used with permission.|
|My wife Jenny hiking down PinchIn|
|Daffodil Flats, at nowhere near full bloom|
This road of being a Christian is a rocky one, full of mountain highs, valley lows, hidden pits, stinking bogs, and open fields. Where I’m at right now is kinda like where I was 10 years ago right after God interrupted my life, but different. Then, I hardly knew God beyond His saying, “Trust me.” I didn’t know what that would mean then. Now, I still don’t really know what that will mean in the days ahead, but I do know God a whole lot more. I know that God is good, and I know AND feel that God loves me. I may not know what the next step will be, but I know the Lord. Beyond that, there is a little bit of clarity for me in what’s going on because certain themes have just been present.
One of the resources I found helpful, outside of the Bible, is a book I read a few years ago called Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, by John Piper. It’s available as a free download if you wish to read it for yourself. My plan is to reread it again this year, as the theme of being satisfied in Jesus is at the forefront of where God has me right now. The Digital Age sings in their song Captured, “I’ve never felt more found than when I’m lost in You.” That is where I’m at, and it is a place of wonder and marveling. They also cover a song called Fall Afresh, which is what I’m desiring my prayers to look like: “Spirit of the living God, come fall afresh on me. Come wake me from my sleep. Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow.” Yes… that is simultaneously where I am and where I am not yet, but desire.
Glory to God Alone.
I have been hearing this Latin phrase soli Deo gloria, and it struck me. The Lord, Yahweh, I AM, Maker of Heavens and Earth, is where the buck stops when it comes to glory. He is big. He is mighty. He is what it’s all about. Do the mountains and seas and skies and valleys have any glory? Only that which is given to them by the Father.
We seek glory and majesty. We have to have mountains. We have to love near the water. We want the sunrises and sunsets. We have to have sex (where we behold the glory of another AND seek our own). We have to present ourselves in ways that lift ourselves up. We have to have a promotion. We cannot bear shame, scorn, or the truth that we fall short in any area. We are not God, nor or any of the things we put in his place (read: idolatry). God alone is able to withstand and bear the weight of glory. Every thing that we try to make God that is not God will crumble under the weight of trying to be God. Try fulfilling all of the characteristics of God to your spouse and see how long it takes for you to realize you are not.
James 1:16-17 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
As I love the outdoors, which is much of what I cover here, this is something weighty to consider. When I stand on the cliffs of the Linville Gorge and behold sights that take my breath away, it is not enough to merely be in awe of the scene. If the glory of Linville is an end in itself, it falls short. The infinite God of the universe has carved this rugged and majestic gorge out by simply stating it “Be.” Our amazing daily paintings of sunrises and sunsets in the sky are simply because God said “Be.” If we behold the glory of creation, we are doing it and God wrong if we do not finish our sentence with soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.
God is glorious. God is also holy. This means that he cannot bear the presence of sin, like when you and I have failed to ascribe glory to him when it was due, and gave that glory to something else. THIS means that we have said to ourselves and God that he is not worth all glory, and belittled the name of the One who has formed the cosmos. Matt Chandler says in his book The Explicit Gospel, “you cannot be sinful and get near God. It doesn’t work. God’s holiness will incinerate you.”
So what is the problem? Jeremiah 2:12-13 tell us. “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Glory to God alone… So we are in trouble when we assign glory to men, women, children, money, mountains, oceans, beaches, valleys, fame, fortune, reputation, relaxation, security, houses, cars, alcohol, smoking, knowledge, science, celebrities, politicians, the government, policies, causes, sex, relationships, Buddha, Maher Baba, Mohammed, the Virgin Mary, being a good person, methodology, parenting, vaccinations, immunizations, schedules, homeschooling, our good works, the environment, the wolves, the whales, dogs, cats, events, work, play, recreation, respect, health, wealth, prosperity, our business, freedom, traditions, preferences, fear of what other people think, writing a blog, or a host of other replacements mankind is constantly inventing. We have forsaken God, and sought our hope and glory and pleasure in anything but him. So now what, that we have all offended our Creator? Romans 2 tells us that if we continue on in this manner and presume on God’s kindness to save us because “that’s what God does”, we are storing up wrath for ourselves. Who’s wrath? The wrath of the one we have offended. Brothers and sisters, we are ALL in deep dookie here.
But there is hope! It is revealed to us in Romans 5:6-8 that, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This means that the chasm between God and man, created by man’s offense, has been bridged because Jesus Christ the Son of God, fully God and fully man, has paid the penalty that was ours to pay.
You have heard people say repent, and I will say it again, shouting it the loudest at myself because I have repeatedly offended the Creator of the Universe. Repent means to turn away, turn around, a reversal. It looks like saying, “God over all! I have given glory to things that do not deserve it, and ascribed glory to things to which glory was not due. All glory belongs to you alone! I am guilty. The Bible tells me that you sent your son to die on a cross, bear my wrath, take the penalty I deserved, and rose from the dead for my life. Father make this true for me. Forgive me for trampling all over your great and glorious name, and help me to live this out by your power alone, not mine, so all glory will continue to be given to you alone. In Jesus name, amen.”
So now here is the kicker. Lets retrace briefly: you are a sinner who has robbed God of his glory, which God will regain either by pouring his wrath out on you or out on Jesus. You trusted in Jesus! Now, instead of bearing guilt over your cosmic treason, you now rejoice in your cosmic adoption into the family of God! We learn in Galatians 4:4-7 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
Further yet, we can lay claim to verses like Psalm 16:11 because we are no longer enemies of God and can approach him with confidence as his children: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There is rightly no more fear of God for those who have trusted in Jesus. Now instead of the glory of God being the weight of the case against us as sinners, the glory of God is our pleasure, and this pleasure is not one that is fleeting. It is not but for a moment like standing on a mountain top, and then fades as we long to once again stand and behold a behold a reflection of glory. The pleasure of the glory of The Lord is ever satisfying. Drink.
John Piper restates the Westminster Confession and says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.” May that be true of all of us, and if it is, it is to the glory of God alone.
(All Scripture quoted is from the ESV, English Standard Version)