Monthly Archives: March 2012

Longer Than We Want

We hosted a St. Patrick’s Day party at our house recently.  It turned out to be a great night and everyone had a blast, but it started out a little slow.  Mostly family showed up first and we all just sort of stood around.  Then I had to run out for another bag of ice to get the coolers properly filled.  Meanwhile one guest had to drop out at the last minute.  Right about then I was questioning whether the party was such a great idea.

Sometimes, when God calls us to start doing something, things don’t always fire up right away either.  We jump into His new mission for us with gusto at first, ready to change the world.  Within a short time, a funny thing usually happens. Namely, not much.  The world seems to go on more or less as it did before we embarked on our high and mighty divinely inspired calling.  Contrary to what we expected, we don’t find ourselves at the forefront of some great movement of the Spirit.  The sound of the crickets chirping seems to be the loudest voice we hear.  At that point, the easy thing to do is to give up, thinking it must all have been a big mistake.  But that’s the biggest mistake.

Rarely, at least in my walk with the Lord, does He move at a pace that we humans would call “quick.”  To embark on a new adventure with God is to commit to a turtle-slow, steady, often times patience-testing process.  Results are invisible, imperceptible, and we often start to think, impossible.  Why would God work with us in this way?  To torture us?  Hardly.  He loves us more than we can ever possibly know.  The truth is, God isn’t messing with us when He gives us a calling and nothing seems to happen after we answer it.  The truth is, unlike us, who are concerned with results, God is concerned with effort.  Obedience is what He’s looking for.  He is ready and willing to open the floodgates of results, but only after He’s sure that we’re really in for the long haul.  The only way we can show Him that we are is to press on, even as nothing seems to happen.

If we press on in faith, believing that God will eventually bless our efforts, we can be assured that He will.  That doesn’t guarantee us that we’ll always know when, or how.  The most agonizing truth of it all is that the impact of our calling may not even be realized in our lifetime.  Or if it is, it may only be somewhere so far removed from our scope of life as to render it unrecognizable as the fruits of our labor for Christ.  As long as we continue to obey and press on, we need not worry about whether we see any tangible results.  When we labor for Jesus, we labor not in vain.  The joy of our work well done won’t elude us forever, but we might not find it until Kingdom Come.  While that’s longer than we want, if that’s what it takes to build our faith into what the Lord wants it to be, it’s never longer than we need.

Advertisements

Judge Not…Including Yourself

A while back the Lord impressed on me a need to have a more gentle spirit.  I sense that I’ve come a long way from the hot-headedness of my younger days.  Most of the time now my more tempramental outbursts are reserved for household projects.  I realize that the transformation is all the Holy Spirit’s work within me, however this morning I found myself contemplating how, lately, it seems I have had a gentler spirit.  In that thought was just enough self-congratulation that I should have known I was in trouble.  When we try to judge our own spiritual success, we lose sight of the Lord.  Once that happens we’re bound to fall flat on our face.

Fast forward twenty minutes or so, to me sitting drinking my morning coffee, unprepared for my fun-loving daughter to suddenly decide to climb up into my lap.  There went my coffee, all over her back, my front, and the chair.  Thankfully it wasn’t hot, but I was.  While stopping short of outright yelling, the way I voiced my displeasure could never be categorized as having a gentle spirit.  In that moment, I was a failure.  After the shirts had been changed and the coffee sopped up, I realized the irony of the circumstances.  Moments after mentally patting myself on the back for my spiritual growth, I failed in the very thing I had felt so good about.

It’s okay to recognize God’s work in our lives.  I know He has been giving me a gentler spirit.  But when it comes to spiritual growth, only God can truly judge how far we’ve really come.  It’s not up to us to gauge how we’re doing in the areas of our lives where God wants to transform us.  We can reflect back on our day and note times where maybe we reacted how He would want us to, where we might not have previously.  Proper reflection is helpful in showing us the dark corners that still need His light as we seek to “kill our old man.”  After that, though, our immediate reaction needs to be to thank the Lord, and ask for Him to continue working in us.  Any sense that we had a hand in it just sets us up for failure like my spilled coffee incident.

It’s our human nature to judge ourselves.  We constantly self-evaluate against whatever standards we set.  As Christians, the standard is always Christ.  But we need to realize two things:  First, only God should judge us.   Judging ourselves takes our eyes off of Jesus, and once we do that, we’re bound to fail.  It’s God working in us that brings about our spiritual growth.  Only He truly knows how far we’ve come.  We can sense the change, and be excited about His work in us, but measuring our growth is His place, not ours.

That brings us to the second reality:  we’re never going to measure up.  At least not until we are home in His Kingdom.  As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, there will be plenty of victories to be sure.  But there will still always be defeats.  I categorized my own reaction to the spilled coffee as a failure, and maybe it was.  But the truth is, if that hadn’t happened, something else would have at some point.  We’re only human, and we will never be perfect.  By leaving it to God to judge, we don’t have to worry so much about it.   Our failures are left at the foot of the cross.

Jesus yoke is easy and his burden is light.  Let’s not make it harder and heavier by trying to judge on our own how well we’re doing at following Him.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit be the judge.

Rapture?… Feeling Lucky, Punk?

Let me start off by saying up front I’m not an end-times prophecy expert.  I’ve read the Left Behind series and found it to be quite exciting and enjoyable.  Jerry Jenkins is a great storyteller, and Tim LaHaye has obviously spent years studying Bible prophecies as they relate to Christ’s return and the events that Revelation describes.  I have read Revelation several times but when it comes to other passages relating to the end times, I don’t always even know I’m reading one when I am.  So I’m no expert.

I do believe in the rapture, for the simple reason that the Bible says we know not the day nor the hour of Jesus’ return.  If His second coming is only slated for after the Tribulation, and we believe Revelation’s timeline, then we can at least ballpark the day.  At some point the Antichrist is going to come on the scene.  While he may not be recognizable right away, sooner or later it’s going to be pretty obvious who he is.  And once the events described in Revelation begin to occur, it’s pretty easy to start a countdown clock to Jesus return.  So I believe that, whether it happens like Left Behind or not, we faithful believers can look forward to our Lord returning to bring us home to his Kingdom before the rise of the Antichrist.

It sure would be nice to escape any intense suffering like the events John foretells in Revelation.  However, after reading the Psalms, I got to thinking about the parallels between the end times and God’s deliverance of His chosen people Israel from slavery in Egypt.  For example, the ten plagues, and the so-called “bowl judgements” have some similarities, water to blood, darkness, and so forth.  Once Moses led them out of Egypt, the Lord made sure they never suffered at Pharaoh’s hand again.  But before that, they suffered quite a bit.  There was no rapture then.  No miraculous rescue lifting them out of Egypt before their enslavement.

While Israel remain God’s true chosen people, as Christians, we are God’s chosen people by “adoption” through Jesus death and resurrection.  We share in Israel’s inheritance.  But if we are to share in Israel’s inheritance, should we not also expect to share in their suffering?  What makes us so special that we should expect a get out of tribulation free card?  Maybe Jesus suffering on the cross and the miracle of our salvation means that we won’t have to endure Revelation in all its fury.  I hope that’s true.  It would be nice to dodge the Great Tribulation bullet.

But while I look forward to the rapture, if I indeed live long enough, I don’t think we can take for granted that believers aren’t in for a bumpy ride, even if we are to be spared the worst of Revelation.  Anti-Christian sentiment and society’s moral decline have us heading in that direction.  The Bible is full of stories about fiery trials of faith.  Since we know God never changes, we know He still allows His faithful to be tested today.  As Jesus return gets closer, I would expect that testing to only get tougher.

So however Revelation unfolds, we need to at least consider the possibility that we believers, pre-rapture, will still be tried like never before.  While we can look forward to a clean getaway when our Lord does return, like the kid staring down the barrel of Dirty Harry’s magnum, we need to be prepared for the possibility that there’s still one left in the chamber.