Featured Post

Book of the Month: Schola Caritatis: Learning the Rhythms of God's Amazing Love

  Starting a new feature for the next several months called Book of the Month.  I will present one of my books and tell you a little of the ...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

earnestly i seek you

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

                                             ~Psalm 63:1

What does it look like to seek God earnestly?  The dictionary tells us that the definition of the word earnestly is "serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous."  Wow, that's a pretty weighty definition; particularly when we are applying it to our seeking of God.  When I seek God do I have serious intention, or is it just casual, haphazard, and random?  Am I serious in purpose, or am I aimless and adrift?  Am I serious in effort, or am I lackadaisical, tepid, and lazy?  My guess is that if I indeed want to find Him in my seeking, it will depend a good bit on the earnestness of my seeking.  At least that's what Jeremiah would tell us: "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)

The Hebrew word for earnestly is shachar which means to seek diligently, or early.  This word gives the definite impression that the thing that is being sought in this manner is the first thing, the most important thing, or, as Jesus said, the one thing.  When we seek something in this way, all other things take a back seat.

So, back to the original question: What does it look like to seek God earnestly?  Or, more specifically, what does it look like for me to seek God earnestly?  And if I am not seeking him earnestly right now, what is the word I would use for how I am seeking him?  And is that enough?  Enough for me?  Enough for him?  What am I seeking earnestly (if not God)?  And what does that tell me? 

I think this whole Psalm (63), and this whole earnestly thing hinges on what David says in verse 3: "Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you."  Do we really believe that?  Do we really believe that God's love is the best thing?  Until we truly believe that, we simply will not seek him earnestly.  In fact, we will earnestly seek whatever that thing is that we think is better than life.  Jesus said it so well when he said, "For where your treasure is, your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21)

So that leaves us to ask ourselves: What will it take for us to make the leap from seeking him casually, or comfortably, or even regularly, to seeking him earnestly?  And are we willing to make that leap.  If we aren't, then Lord help us.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

a simple question

What do you want me to do for you?  (Mark 10:36, 51)

It seems like a simple enough question.  Yet when asked in two different contexts (both in the 10th chapter of Mark) it gets two very different responses, thus revealing its brilliance.  For, at its heart, it is a diagnostic question; one that gets right down to what we truly believe.  It is a question that bypasses all of our defenses and facades and cuts right to the heart of the matter.  What is it that we truly believe with give us the life and the meaning we most deeply long for?

For James and John it was honor.  They wanted to sit at Jesus' right and left in his glory.  They wanted the spots reserved for the most important people, which shouldn't really surprise us since they, along with all the other disciples, were constantly arguing about which one of them was the greatest.  Position, evidently, was really important to them.

Bartimaeus is a different story altogether.  He realized that he was at the bottom of the ladder, so he simply begged for mercy.  And when asked the same insightful question that Jesus asked James and John, he simply replied, "Lord, I want to see."  What an incredible request.  If only James and John could've been wise enough to ask for the same.  The problem is that they thought they could see already.

I think Mark put these two stories side by side so that we couldn't help but see the contrast.  I think he put them side by side so that we couldn't help but ask ourselves. "Who am I more like?  What would my answer to that question be?"

Friday, May 9, 2014

all that i have

All that I have is yours and all you have is mine. (John 17:10)

My child, my delight, the joy of my heart, I wish you knew yourself the way I know you.  I wish you saw yourself the way that I see you.  And I wish that, deep down in your heart, you knew the truth that all I have is yours and all you have is mine.  Knowing this one truth, at your very core, would change everything about you.  For then you would know that all of my love is yours, all of my affection is yours, and all of my delight is yours.  You have completely captured my heart.  And not only that, but you also have all of my righteousness, all of my holiness, and all of my purity.  Everything I have belongs to you.

And all that you have is mine.  Your joys are mine and your wounds are mine, your strengths are mine and your weaknesses are mine, your gifts are mine and your inadequacies are mine; so are your insecurities, your anxieties, your fears, your struggles, your burdens, yes, and even your sin--all mine.  Come to me, my child, with all that you are, and let me give you all that I am in return.  Be mine.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

get busy living or get busy dying

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:38-44)

The cave is dark and cold, filled with death and decay.  After all, it's been four days since the dead man was placed inside.  There's no more hope; that's it!  Death has had the final word.  If only Jesus would've shown up sooner...but now what could he possibly do?

Ever feel that way?  Ever feel like all hope is lost; like life and health and change are not possible because of the gravitational pull of the deadness inside?  Martha would have us believe that it is just too late.  "Don't open up that tomb, it's going to stink.  It is far too messy to be redeemed."  I'm so glad that Jesus didn't (and still doesn't) share her sentiments.  In fact, Jesus specializes in messy.  That's because Jesus knows that for something (or someone) to be resurrected it has to truly die first.  Why do you think he waited four days before he arrived at the tomb?  Why do you think he said to Martha, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"  You see, Jesus is bigger than death--be it the death of someone we love, the death of a relationship we hold near and dear, the death of a dream, or the death that lives within us on a regular basis.  That death would have you believe that this is it.  That's all there is.  There's no way out of this pain and darkness and depression.  You are stuck.  You are trapped.  Life can never be the same again.  But Jesus knows better.  Maybe that's why he weeps.  Maybe he is heartbroken that somewhere, deep inside, we don't truly believe that he can redeem this, whatever this may be.  Maybe he is weeping over the fact that we do not really believe that he can, or will, bring life out of our unimaginable pain and brokenness.  Maybe his tears come from the fact that our circumstances have made us doubt the goodness of his heart.  And maybe his sadness is, somehow, related to our stuckness.  Who knows?

Luckily the story doesn't end there.  In fact, Jesus then calls out, "Take away the stone."  And some unknown, unseen (to us) group of people spring into action.  People that are filled with the hope that this is not, indeed, the end.  People that are filled with the faith to know that even though things look unredeemable, Jesus is able to breathe life into even the most dismal and hopeless and painful of circumstances.  People that care so deeply for the one inside the tomb that they are standing by, willing and ready to do whatever it takes to help make that redemption possible.  "He can't get out himself," they think, "so why don't we help roll the stone away and just see what Jesus will do."  Truth be told, there can never be enough stone-rollers in the world.  In fact, what if that's what our churches were full of?  Oh what a different world it would be!  Stone-rollers don't care about the stink.  They don't care about the mess.  They don't care about what anyone thinks.  They are beyond all of that, because at some point in time someone had the courage and the grace to roll their stone away, so that they might walk out of the grave into the light of new life.  And because of that, if there's ever a time when someone needs a stone rolled away (rather than to be avoided or judged or given up on) they want to be the first in line.  I've had the privilege of seeing some stone-rollers do their thing in the last couple of days, and let me tell you, it is remarkable.  Being a stone-roller is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

After the stone is rolled away, Jesus turns his eyes, and his heart, to his Father...the giver of all life.  He knows the Father's heart like no one else.  He knows the goodness.  He knows the faithfulness.  He knows the love.  And he knows that those standing around, particularly the family of this dead man, are doubting all of that at the moment.  Maybe, somehow, they think that it was God's hand that caused all of this pain.  But Jesus knows better.  He knows the heart of the Father that groans for and with his creation (Romans 8:26) in their most broken hours--and so he prays.  He prays that they may believe; believe that he is the God of life even in the face of death, believe that they can trust his heart even when they can't see his hand, believe that he was sent from the Father's side to redeem the unredeemable.

So Jesus calls out the dead man's name and tells him to come out.  Notice he doesn't just say Come alive, or Be healed, but Come out.  Because a significant part of the new life that Jesus calls us to is leaving the tomb behind.  He raises us from the dead, breathes new life into our soul, and then calls each of us to Come out.  In fact, coming to life again yet choosing to remain in the tomb is not an option, yet so many people live like it is.  So many people, claiming to belong to Jesus, claiming to have been raised from the dead, are still sitting in the darkness of the tomb of shame or guilt or anger or bitterness or unforgiveness or self pity.  They are still living a life that is anything but alive.  We must take that step out of the tomb.  Then, and only then, can the body of Christ (maybe even the same ones who rolled away the stone) come along side us and help us take off the grave clothes so we can be totally alive and totally free. 

So really, after he calls our name and brings us back to life again, it is up to us (with the help of His Spirit of course) to obey his voice and take that step (however small it might be at first) out of the tomb and into the warmth of his light and love.  In the words of Andy Dufresne, "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, get busy living, or get busy dying." (The Shawshank Redemption)