Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Kind Of Man Is This?

So I've ruined my life by agreeing to a January Gospel Challenge with a friend of mine to read through The Gospels in the New Testament.  We began in the book of Matthew, and in typical fashion, I started out assuming that I had read the book in its entirety before.

But I was wrong.

By the 5th chapter I was quickly beginning to realize that I had not read the book in bulk, which probably means I've just been jumping in and out of it like double dutch.  But in doing that, I have been missing out on struggling with the tension of Jesus and His wide range of emotions.  I'll explain.

As I was reading ALL the red lettering, naturally I'm a little bit more alert because "Shut up, the Son of God is talking."  But the more I read the more I felt myself responding as if I was on the first day of school and the teacher was going over the syllabus and I'm thinking to myself, "This semester is about to be awful."  That feeling of discomfort when you're seeing what's expected of you for the semester, and you sit there thinking about how I'll have no social life or fun or how dreary my life is going to be because I'll have to spend weekends studying while my friends are living these exciting lives.  It almost feels that way in the Book of Matthew when Jesus is dishing out teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven and how we should treat each other.  But I made the mistake and kept reading, wanting to be self disciplined since I had made a commitment, I stuck at it and the more I read the more I found myself asking the question....

What kind of man is this?

This guy doesn't sound like the man that is preached about in the average American church.  Because as I was reading, I was nervous for my life!  He didn't seem like this blonde haired beanie baby holding, coffee sipping man that was begging for me to choose Him.  How I was reading it, to follow Jesus you have one option, to die.  And that was either die to yourself, or die by yourself.  There wasn't any discussion of whether to be Pentecostal or Baptist, Reformed or Dispensationalist, black church or white church, it was simply repent or suffer.  Nothing else.  No other options.  No sweetened message that made us laugh and cry, it was Jesus Himself, speaking with the authority of God pronouncing death to the wicked, but promising redemption to the wicked that would choose to believe in Him.  

And it completely ruined my life.

Interesting how the word of God can do that.  Because I was seriously asking the question, "What kind of man is this?  Like, what kind of man have I chosen to follow?" I don't think I can be the same Claude anymore.  And surely that's what He intended.  Because the Claude that came to Him with weeping eyes that salvation day signed on the dotted line, but He didn't count the cost.  And I've been like Peter, wanting to be fully devoted to our King, but when the pressure gets tough would deny Him by our consistent inconsistencies.  And many of us know how Peter's life ended up later.  Jesus restored Him.  Or its probably even safe to say Peter never failed Him, because He knows we're going to screw up.

What contrasting behavior.  I mean here's a man that is speaking with authority, serious about the sins of the world.  Serious about how we treat other people.  Serious about how we live our lives.  Serious about falling short of His standard and measuring the consequences.  It was like reading about a drill sergeant turned soccer dad, one minute He's sternly speaking to His children, commanding repentance and obedience, and then He's concerned about whether we've had dinner yet. It was remarkable to deal with the tension.  How He rebuked sin but invited the sinner into relationship with Him.  What are we to do with that?

I think we struggle, just like with everything else.  A consistent thing I'm seeing in churches is a very irregular balancing of the tension between the character of our Lord.  We seem to have a hard time with balancing the wrath and the love of God, so typically preachers lean more heavily towards one of the other sides.  Grace churches doesn't want to scare people into salvation, so they focus a lot of the love of God.  And the wrath churches doesn't want to give people the impression that there's a license to sin because of how sufficient God's grace is.  But guess what?

The tension is necessary for appropriate worship.

The Good News is not good if it doesn't invade bad spaces.  That's where the kindness of the Lord is experienced.  Not that He's a gentleman and jealous for us like a stalker boyfriend, but His kindness is that He should kill us because of our sin, but He doesn't because of His love.  That tension of undeserving grace is necessary for appropriate worship.  Because the wrath helps you understand how undeserving we are of the relationship.  And I've experienced many wonderful times of worship when I've found myself grievious of my own actions and thoughts, and the truth of His covenant with me brings me to proper worship.  So underserving.  What kind of love is this?

What kind of man is this?  That offers us such an unexplainable love?  Justly judges the sinner, but lovingly redeems the sinner.  Embrace the tension. And remember, to follow Jesus you only have one option....

To die.              

Either die to yourself, or die by yourself.

Thank you Book of Matthew.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Wedding Day Faith

I'm becoming more and more convinced that our good Lord has landed me in this season to teach me this very simple truth, "Son, I am all you need".

Now getting to that has not been an easy journey, as a matter of fact, it has been dreary and painful.  I've heard, Jesus is enough, preached many times.  As a matter of fact, I've even preached it!   But what I have quickly learned is that, many times you don't know whether your faith is real or not until its tested.  Hence the title of the blog, Wedding Day Faith.

I think our culture is extremely interesting when it comes to marriage.  And, I'm saying that with alarming sarcasm.  It amazes me that young girls have dreamed about their wedding day before they are even in training bras.  I'm a guy, so I don't understand the fascination of the wedding dress, with it's flowing train and silk tulle veils, that brings women to tears.  I don't understand the shows, "Say Yes to That Dress", when women speak of finding the perfect dress as if it's a first love by saying things like, "You'll just know".  But even as I watched the show with my mom, these passionate soon-to-be brides are exhibiting many red flags of how awful of a wife they are about to be.  They're selfish, arrogant, self-centered, rude, and all I can think about is the fact that her behavior is acceptable because it's "her day".

Well of course it's "her" day.  She's the one that designed the martial covenant, so she's the star of what marriage is representing. Right?  (Again, alarming sarcasm) 

And I don't even know how we got here, but it's pretty bad.  Many young girls are so aggressive about being married, seemingly, (meaning I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt now), more concerned about the glory of the wedding day than the glory of the marriage.  And I've been to a few weddings, the thing is about 32 minutes.  Any longer and the young ring bearer is disrupting the service because he's hungry and wants his Cheerios.  So there seems to be no concern of what we're really getting ourselves into. There is no accurate description of the seriousness of the covenant, yes we do the vows thing but that's part of the ceremony, not me actually saying vows to anybody.  And it shows that we have no idea what we're saying, because divorce rates are rising as if no promises were made at all on the wedding day.  Our culture is getting so good at justifying themselves out of a commitment, and with a straight face say that we still love the person.  So it doesn't surprise me that we'd do it with God.

Salvation, I'm sure we all can agree, is like the wedding day.  The glory is all about us, the bride of Christ, being united with our bridegroom.  We cry and weep and hands are raised in worship because we are so in love with Jesus for choosing us to be with Him. And we walk down the aisle and we pray with somebody and we start the vows.  "Lord, I promise that I am going to do my best to live for you.  I love you so much.  I give my all to you."

Now those are great words of commitment.  And if you actually think about it, the same words are used when a person gets married and still over 50% end in a divorce.  Which means that it's getting a lot easier to say the words without considering the cost.

So what is wedding day faith?  I'm going to say that within in our faith, its the fascination with the moment or the event, not the glory of the relationship. I'll help you recognize it in yourself.  Ever been extremely pumped for a youth conference?  They've announced the great lineup at the Motion or Passion Conference or whatever youth conference you've been to, and you anticipate God is going to move mightily because these celebrity preachers are preaching or leading us in worship, and you mark your calendars and promote and get excited.  Leading up until that conference, your level of commitment to God is extremely high because you know that when that day get here, it's going to be phenomenal.  And the conference happens, and you're having crazy revelations and beautiful moments with our Creator, and you journal and tag that weekend as one you'll never forget.  But then, you get back to your regular ordinary life, and within a week you're back dry.  The daily grind of dealing with our imperfections next to a perfect God is exhausting.  Our fire runs out, and we're back to our inconsistent disappointing self, only because we put so much emphasis on the moment, and not the relationship that we were agreeing to.    

What happens when life hits you with a curve ball and you're looking at God as if He has betrayed you?  "God, you saw that coming.  What happened?"  What happens to our devotion for God in our dry spells?  When we've gotten out of a fulfilling rhythm?  All we do now is wake up, get the kids ready for school, I go to work, you to go work, come home eat dinner, in bed by 9, tomorrow we do it again.  What happens when our love takes a hit?  It doesn't look like the wedding day anymore.  Life has began to rumble with it.

I think our culture is too obsessed with the "celebrity", and Jesus is just another celebrity.  We love Him when He's going to be in our driving range, (Sunday mornings, youth conferences, etc) but we don't really pursue after Him any other day.  I remember the first time I cringed when I listened to how we advertise for our Christian conferences, as if God is a little more magical when the numbers are big, and the conference is big, and the speakers are well known, and we flock to them wanting to experience Jesus but we've been ignoring Him all week.  Was He not there with me in my room the night before the conference?  Before all the people showed up and the emotional build of the environment has me in tears, was His presence not overbearing in my car heading to work?  If not, where was He?

Wedding Day Faith.  Love is strong on that day, filled with promise and wonder.  Nobody thinks they'll ever divorce on the wedding day.  But it happens.  It happens because we don't understand the cost of love.  Our faith wavers because we don't understand the cost of following Jesus.

Know the marriage you're involved in.  Understand the bridegroom you've been united with.  The same husband on the wedding day is the same one standing there when we're hurting.  Fight through with love, hold on to the promise of eternal hope in Jesus.  Get through this.  You are able because He's able.  Maybe we should respond more to the glory of our bridegroom than the wedding day events.  The same God rocking your world at the conferences is sitting with you right now as you read this.

Say Hi to Him.  He's inviting you in.  Even with all your imperfections, He's inviting you in.

Let Him kiss His bride.