Friday, March 30, 2012

The Depth of the Riches


Sometimes it's shocking to realize how much of our thinking and how deeply our hearts are influenced by the world around us. I'm sure I am clueless to much of the shaping and molding that goes on each day, even in my own life, even if I'm trying to be thoughtful and prayerful along the way. The voices in this world are loud and easy to believe, especially if I'm not listening for the voice of the One who spoke this world into existence.

Jady and I talk frequently about how to battle this. How do we develop a heart that values what God does, and that hates what He hates, and that rejoices in truth... and not just the latest Apple product or line of fashion or new restaurant? How do we fight against a culture that has penetrated our thinking, and media that seems to know us a little too well, and the prevailing mindset of a generation who views even religion as a means to please themselves? 

I have much to learn about how to answer those questions, but I believe one of the answers (and perhaps the only answer we need) is this: that God's Word will transform us. Learning His will and hiding His words in our heart will begin to change us (Rom. 12:2, Psalm 119:11). And this will require a lot more than an obligatory daily devotion, chapter-a-day reading plan,and  calendar with inspirational verses. These things can be helpful aids, but they can never replace really digging deep into learning His words. Our goal is not simply to know about God but to know God. And what a beautiful thing that is!

I've heard people talk about Bible study as if it were about hard cold facts isolated from each other and from their own life. And yet, isn't reality built on facts? Don't we need these fundamental truths as building blocks to even stand high enough to see what God has revealed? I'm afraid we write off entire books and passages of God's word because they don't appear relevant... but are we in the place of God to say what's important to our understanding of His plans and purposes? And of course Bible study is much more than facts. It's described as a treasure chest of rich wisdom and knowledge, a well of life-giving water to be soaked up, and a living book that strikes as a sword through to the place where soul and spirit meet, exposing man's every thought and motive. 

There is real effort and commitment needed in studying, to say the least. Would we expect to learn Calculus by skimming a few pages of a textbook here and there? There's no faucet to simply turn on... But there is a hidden well, full of refreshment and sustenance, to those who are thirsty and willing to seek. Ask, and you will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you (Matt. 7:7).

With a humble heart and willing mind, eager to know what God has revealed, regardless of its mere entertainment value, trusting that whatever God has spoken is well worth our time in understanding... countless saints have found the sweetest truths and most essential building blocks of faith in every chapter of the Bible.

May our knowledge of God not be limited to verses that make us feel good. May our knowledge of God include the verses that make us fall onto our knees before our King--just like Isaiah and Ezekiel and the leper who sees Jesus did. And may our daily prayer be that of Psalm 119:18: Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
(Romans 11:33)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Life Lessons

There is nothing too surprising about me showing up to worship God on any given Sunday. Sure, I've made the choice to be there. I may have overcome some shade of laziness or complacency, but I have every reason in the world to be there: my parents and siblings are also Christians, and I've been singing the books of the New Testament song since I was 3. I've been putting "the sticker on my attendance chart" for as long as I can remember. I've grown up with a very comfortable life (my own bedroom! central A/C! trees to climb!), living in a prosperous nation with religious freedom and the resources of technology. I've had a Bible-based college education and a Godly husband working by my side. I have absolutely no excuse to be anything less than what God calls me to be.

But then I meet people who have everything going against them, who by all odds should not have made it this far: people who have hard lives and small apartments and messy relationships and are victims of all sorts of injustices; people who have grown up with no spiritually mature role models and who have never had a father or brother figure (or any kind of man) in their lives; who have developed years of bad habits and been emotionally drug through the muddiest of fields; who have witnessed violent crimes and harassment and abuse...

And yet here they are sitting next to me in church, their very presence a victory. Here they are sitting at my kitchen table, their lives a testimony to the God of all grace. Here they are praying with me over a cup of coffee, their experiences shaming and humbling me for complaining about lesser things.

When the odds are all stacked against them, and yet year after year, here they are... and here they stay... I realize I should not doubt the power of God to transform lives. I've seen it far too personally to question. To Him belong the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty (1 Chron. 29:11).

When we serve a victorious Savior, who has conquered death and sin, let us not be surprised when we see our brothers and sisters rise up as victors, too. Let us rejoice in their victories, raising up their hands in battle and praying for them fervently--praying to the One who walks on water and whose name is God Almighty.

Our world can be such a dark, miserable, breeding ground for sin and its consequences. And far too many souls are placed right in the middle of this wickedness. Jesus said that "In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). And because Jesus has overcome this world, He gives us hope of doing the same. No life is so far from goodness that He cannot save; no heart so broken that He cannot restore. "The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers... such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
(1 Cor. 15:57)