Monday, April 19, 2010

One in Christ, not in me

All weekend, I felt in a state of conflict with other Christians. First it was in a specific relationship, then it was a more general disagreement with something going on at my church. Last night when I realized how close together the conflicts were, I wondered what God was trying to teach me. I looked up verses about discernment, thinking that theme might speak to the situations, but I still wasn't sure what point God was trying to drive into me. I left it to think and pray about till today.

This morning as I contemplated the conflicts from the last two days, the theme of humility came to mind. First, whenever I am in conflict, I have to deny my pride, and second, I think the main thing that upset me recently was feeling a lack of humility in others. I looked up verses on humility and found Philippians 2:2-5. I'll start with verse 2. Paul says:

Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

I feel defeated by the very first command here. The whole reason I get into a conflict is because I can't agree with the other person! Sometimes you disagree with someone and neither person is going to convince the other. And to clarify, I'm not talking about doctrine or Biblical truths. I'm talking about personal disagreements, the kind that involve my opinions and preferences.

How do I still love that person and work together with one mind and purpose if I know I disagree with her? This is what I think God is telling me: The point is to agree wholeheartedly about Christ, not to get everyone to agree with everything I think -- every little opinion I have. Being one in mind can't possibly mean that I cling to my own feelings and preferences, and you cling to yours, and we butt heads to trying to convince each other. How would even two people be of one mind, let alone the whole church? The only way is to be of one mind and purpose with Christ, and that is what unifies us with one another.

I think that's basically what Paul is saying in verses 3-5 (NLT):

Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

If I want people to agree with me, I'll always be in some conflict. But if I focus on agreeing with Christ, and in conflict I point others to His mind and purpose instead of arguing my own, maybe things will work out very differently. I don't need to look out for myself -- I can relinquish that burden and consider others, knowing that Christ considers me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How much more will He clothe me?

The move is less than two months away, and it has been getting more and more difficult to trust God with providing a job for me, and taking care of us and all the details when we get to Denver. I know He has a plan, but the fact that I haven't been able to find a job yet makes me feel like I'm failing, and He won't be able to work out His plan because I'm not doing my part. If I'm not worrying about our future and getting a job, then I'm not putting in my due diligence, right? If people think I'm not stressed, then they will think that I'm lazy or irresponsible, right?

I've been praying about this specifically for a few days and looking for God's answer in His Word, and He has been answering me slowly, which I'm starting to feel is how He usually does. Last night in Psalms I read,

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and He turned to me and heard my cry.
... Many will see what He has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
... O Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
Psalm 40:1-5

I can't say that I felt comforted, but I went to bed with the peace that sometimes I just need to wait on God. This morning He spoke to me further about trusting Him with the move and not worrying about job, money or relationships. My devotional pointed me to Matthew 6. Jesus describes how God cares for the birds and beautifully clothes the flowers, which are far less valuable than me. He says, "If God so clothes the grass of the field ... shall He not much more clothe you?" (Matt 6:30).

Then Jesus says not to worry about what I will eat or wear -- basically, my survival. My needs.

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:32-33

Why should I let worries dominate my thoughts when God already knows (and cares about) everything I need? Why not experience the joy of His kingdom, knowing He will take care of me? In My Utmost, Chambers asks, "How much time have we taken up worrying God with questions when we should have been absolutely free to concentrate on His work?" (Jan. 26). How much more will I be free to know Him and do for Him if I don't fill my thoughts and my time with worrying?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cleansed by the King

God allowed Isaiah into his presence in Isaiah 6. God was sitting on a high throne, wearing a robe that filled the temple. He was surrounded by mighty seraphs (fiery beings or angels), who flew around the temple calling out God's holiness. And they did not call him Father or Friend -- they called him Lord Almighty. Their voices shook the temple and their was smoke everywhere. (God's presence is associated with a cloud of smoke throughout Exodus and in Mark 9.)

In response to God's holiness and glory, Isaiah is overwhelmed with guilt for his own sin. He says, "Woe to me! I am ruined, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5).

The presence of God was not a happy, sparkly, comforting experience for Isaiah. He did not meet a jolly, Santa Claus-like grandfather in the sky. He met the glorious, powerful, wholly perfect King of everything, and his immediate response was to recognize his gross unworthiness. But, God did not chastise Isaiah for his sin or send him away because of his unworthiness. Isaiah confessed that he had filthy lips, or in the NIV, unclean lips, so God sent an angel to him to cleanse him.

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.
Isaiah 6:6-7

At first I thought, wow, it was that easy? In the presence of the King of Heaven, Isaiah's guilt could just disappear? But it didn't just disappear. It had to be burned away. Touching a hot coal to your lips would not be a pleasant experience. It would not feel good. God never promises that being cleansed of my guily will be easy, or even that it won't be excruciating. But, the amazing thing is, He is the holy King, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, and He is willing and desires to remove my guilt so that I can dwell in His temple.

After Isaiah's sins are forgiven, he isn't sent on his way. That's not the end of the story. Cleansing is not God's whole plan for us; it is just what's necessary to get to the important part. Isaiah then heard the Lord asking, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?" and Isaiah said, "Here am I. Send me." God humbled Isaiah and cleansed him so he would be ready for the mission God had for him. In Isaiah's case, the mission was to take a hard message to hardened people.

I feel like over the last two weeks God has been humbling me and cleansing me, and in just the last few days I have felt His presence more and more to the point that I no longer get that embarrassed, am I talking to the ceiling right now? feeling. Feeling that I am truly, really in the presence of the King and of my Savior -- my quiet time -- is not a chore on my list anymore, it's something I love and crave. But He did not call me to Him to humble me, cleanse me and allow me in His presence only. He is preparing me for a mission. He is asking, who will go out for us? Whom shall I send? And it's time for me to say, here I am. Send me.

I don't know where He wants to send me yet, but if the King loves me enough to make me guiltless before Him through Jesus, then I will go wherever He asks me to go!