Thursday, September 14, 2006

Isaac and Rebekah--Love and Marriage

Genesis 24:62-67
"Now Isaac had come from going to Beer-lahai-roi; for he was living in the Negev. Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming. Rebekah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from the camel. She said to the servant, 'Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?' And the servant said, 'He is my master.' Then she took her veil and covered herself. The servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

This is the telling of when Isaac and Rebekah first met. Around 3,500 years ago, in a time and place where marriages were arranged, a story of love is shared, in spite of our idea today that any kind of arranged marriage keeps people from experiencing "true love."

Here in Genesis what is revealed is the power of God and His desire for love in a marriage relationship. The writing and imagery is very romantic, as the picture painted is of Isaac in a field meditating or strolling with his head down, waiting, thinking about what God has in store for him. He may have been contemplating of his future bride. As the account shares, while he was pacing around the field, his eyes lifted up to see camels in the distance...

Rebekah was of pure blood, a virgin untouched by men. Her life changed one day when she routinely went to get some water for her and her family. Upon arrival, a man was waiting there by the spring; this man proceeded to ask for a drink of water (since she had containers). Graciously, she provided not only for him, but also gave water to his camels as well. The man then asked her if he could stay in her household, testing Rebekah's generosity. Without hesitation on her part, she responded kindly and allowed him to join her and her family. Little did she know this all began with another man and his trust in God...

Abraham had sent his servant on a mission back to his homeland. Not wanting his son, Isaac, to marry a foreign woman, Abraham was trusting in God's promise which was made to him decades earlier: "To your descendants I will give this land." Abraham believedthat God was going to provide the proper wife for Isaac according to His promise. Here, through Abraham's faith, is where the romance began...

With Isaac's eyes lifted up, looking intently in her direction, Rebekah was approaching on her camel. As she lifted her face, her eyes connected with his for the first time. She dismounted curiously while Isaac approached them and though she did not know who he was, she inquired because there was something special about the moment. When the man told her that it was Isaac, his master, she prepared herself for what seemed to have been confirmed at first sight. She prepared herself for marriage.

After hearing how faithful God was in providing her, Isaac took Rebekah to be his bride. It all began with God's original promise. Then, because of one man's trust in God, a servant's obedience to his master, and a woman's graceful submission, God honored all of them and the marriage. At the end of the passage we as readers are given a glimpse of just how God rewards:

"and he loved her..."

A marriage will result in "true love" if arranged--by God.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Deeper Look--Part 2

I am exposed and naked, completely vulnerable before all creation. Everything I thought I was--a facade, a game, an act. Security gone, I am left to confront all that was once hidden from me. Too afraid to approach, I sense Something drawing near; I feel as though I am walking closer, compelled by a Force other than myself. Closer to what? Where am I going? With nothing around me, all comforts gone, I continue to move forward. Or is Something moving toward me?

In an open plain, the clouds begin to form, lightning striking from every direction and the thunder growing louder, more intense, almost shaking the ground underneath my feet. The quaking causes me to look nervously around for a stampede of wild animals. Nothing. I shift my eyes upward, toward the sky above when the first drop falls dirctly in the middle of my forehead. It trickles down my cheek, following the same path that many tears of pain and sadness once flowed. Another, then another, then another. As the droplets hit my skin, I take notice of what they are. Not water, not rain like I know. The substance is think, dark in color. Red. Blood. At first, fear grips me, blood pouring from the sky onto every part of my body. But as I am covered, from head, down to my chest, then my stomach, then my feet, a feeling of freedom rushes over me, unlike anything I have known before. What I once lost--comfort, shelter, security--none compare to what I have found...or what found me.

Joy floods over me and I begin to dance. Covered in this blood, exposed and naked, I feel clean and deeply refreshed. Truly for the first time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Deeper Look--Part 1

If I am truly honest with myself and before God, what would I say to the following questions:

How selfish am I?
How arrogant am I?
How boastful am I?
How self centered am I?

I believe that I really do not come close to truly experiencing the gospel in a transformational way, at least not to the point that I can recognize it and give praise to God for it. I know that the Spirit has grown me and is sanctifying me daily, so I wonder if it is just my lofty expectations that hinder my sight. I do also trust that sin in my life keeps me from knowing better the true knowledge of God. My pride stands before me, running out into the world to attack all that does not see things the way I do. He keeps me from asking questions of sincere inquiry because he wants to make sure I don't look stupid or ignorant (although this what happens when I don't ask questions). My arrogance tells me that I have little to learn and what I do know is far greater than anyone else my own age. He recounts all of my "life experience" and declares that I have learned enough. My self-inflated ego sells me as someone who can get the ladies, is an amazing leader with limitless vision, and one of the most devout Christians there ever was. He pawns a false verison of me off, deceiving the world in hopes that I will be bought by all.

But if I am honest with myself and before God, I will acknowledge that I am a slave to those traits, a slave to those characters who want to be my masters. Three of the hundreds of possible thousands of players in my life, these all shield and shelter me from the awesome, fearless, immense, magnificent, glorious power of God, which when unleashed in the lives of His children destroys all that which "protects" us from Him.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bring in the Noise?

"Flee from the world, be silent, and pray always."
The key to salvation for 5th century Desert Monks

In Philippians, Paul writes that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (2:12), knowing that it is under the power of God in which we are able to do it (2:13). The truth here remains: We are to work out our salvation. As Christians, devotees to the Anointed One, our lives do not come to a culmination on that day when Christ entered hearts. Instead, it is the beginning of life, the beginning of salvation. We are saved; we are born again; we are being brought up on milk first; we are now children of God.

Yet we must still grow for the walk has just begun. This is the working out of our salvation. So when the Desert Fathers asked the Lord, "What must we do for salvation?" The response was to flee from this world, be silent, and to pray always. Solitude. Silence. Prayer.

This is the anti-movement of Christian life today. We are so busy with activities and groups and "ministry" that we rarely have time for God, just good one-on-one time with God. If there is no solitude there can be no silence. Maybe that is why we do not seek solitude--we are afraid of the silence.

To me, silence seems to be the toughest to achieve in a world where words are always spoken, horns constantly beeping, music continually playing, and commercials are annoyingly blarring. The noise is not only heard, but seen, making our eyes dart at the latest fashion, the newest technology, the fanciest color schemes--seeking to gain and keep our attention, if only for a brief moment.

Christianity seems to take this position. Churches have schedules for their services with smooth transitions, leaving no room for neither "awkward" silences nor reflective silence. From the welcome, to the music (called worship), to the video, back to the music, to the giving (where music is playing), to the preaching, to the goodbye (where music will play)--all are done smoothly and with enough noise to keep our short attention spans from wandering off to something other than our tiny gathering.

If it isn't the church service, it is the weekly schedule of work, appointments, bible studies, ministry opportunities that consistently draw us into the noise. All good things on their own and with the right perspective, but what has been enstilled in the American mentality, thus the Christian worldview that derives from it, is, "If you are not busy with something, you are not doing anything significant with your life." We are taught that if we don't burry ourselves within the noise, we will not be contributing to society.

This is our culture, American and Christian. We have become so accoustomed to the noise that if, for a brief moment complete silence surrounds us, we instantly grow uncomfortable, shifty even. We manage to fill the "void" with the noise of our minds: "What do I have to do today?" "There are so many bills I have to pay." "I wonder if we'll talk, and if we do, what do I say?" Words, songs, worries, concerns, joys, the future, the past--even writing--anything to keep silence from haunting us.

The problem is silence reminds us too much of death. No voices, no people, no responsibilities lead us to feel no importance, no significance, no meaning and if we don't feel any of these we would find it hard to live. Might as well be dead, right? Both silence and death bring us into areas where we are fully uncomfortable because the essence of each is completely unknown to us. Yet as Christians we should know better. For as death to ourselves takes us to eternal life with Christ, should not silence in the world take us to a deeper communion with God?

In both there is nothing of importance or significance or meaning--except for God Himself.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A While

It has been quite some time since I last wrote in here. I am not exactly sure why either. We lost Internet so the freedom to write in here was lost for a while. And there is a point where one gets to when there is so much to write and share that nothing gets written or shared at all. I will briefly go into what has gone over the past month or so.

The last update was from the near beginning of Summer Project. Well that is over...haha. It was an amazing times with a lot of growth and inside jokes. If I get (or take) the time I will have to try and share some of those jokes, especially the story behind the wonderful "drink of industry" known as Sqwincher. I had a great time with the students, especially my three guys. I really think God used the relationships in that group to teach us about His love and grace. The Project really left me with a desire to grow more compassionate toward both Christians and those who do not know Christ. I am daily reminded about God's grace on my life, how I am a sinner, once was dead, but because of His great mercy and love with which He loved me, I was saved and brought into this relationship with Him. I am a child of His kingdom through the blood of Christ and live eternally with Him. And this is all by His immense grace! How crazy is that??? The Bible says that in Christ "we have received redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us" (Ephesians 1:7).
I must be drawn to compassion if I am ever to be effective in ministry. This is my prayer.

And now, after the Project experience, I am traveling. It has been some great times with friends, family, and partners in this ministry. I have had the time to reflect on the Project and think more about what ministry will look like at UF. I am getting excited. I hope that those of you who read this will keep praying (or begin praying) for hearts to change and grow at that school. It isn't about getting them involved in Campus Crusade; it is about them coming into God's kingdom and experiencing true love. Pray that God will use us in this, His ministry.

I hope to share more of my travels in the future.

By His Grace.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Brief Update From Pass Christian...

Hey Everyone!!!

I don't get to shower much…
We live in the library...without air conditioning.
The summer heat is progressively getting worse…and we are roofing…

But MAN am I enjoying every minute of what God has me doing in Pass Christian, Mississippi !!!

I am going to admit, the days are long and the labor is tiring. I believe I knew that coming into this. What I didn't know about Summer Project was the intensity of it all. From the day I arrived two weeks ago I have been working. The 14 of us staff folk spent the first week preparing for all the students to arrive. We showed up to a library full of books and rooms that could not comfortably sleep the 43 students who were coming soon after us. But we tore down and we built up. We were able to construct 18 bunk beds in two days, build shelves for the rooms, take out all the books and the pallets that were holding them, and put together little quadrants of couches and chairs with decorations in order to make this whole place feel like home. And this was only the beginning.

The students arrived last Sunday and the intensity picked up. We now had people we were responsible for. The pressure of giving them a summer they would never forget began to become a reality. It is one that I am excited to try and provide. In the week they have been here we have sent them on a GPS scavenger hunt around town, worked with them doing construction, served in God's Katrina Kitchen (the place we eat at everyday that serves food to the entire community), prepared for the Vacation Bible School that we are going to have for kids in Pass Christian, and most importantly we have begun their spiritual development by getting to the heart of the Gospel, challenging them with the reality of Christ and seeking their growth as His disciples.

I have a small group of three young men that I lead—Brian, Jeff, and TJ. They are from different areas of the country, coming in with different personalities and perspectives. We have formally met two times as we have begun to study 1 John, a book that hits home the foundations of the Christian faith and the essence of true love. This is the first time I have ever really had the responsibility of "officially" helping people grow in their faith, and I feel absolutely inadequate and unprepared. Though I am on staff with Crusade, I know God has much to teach me in my life. But in these days, in my inadequacy, I am left with nothing but an utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for guidance and truth. God is the one who teaches; He is the one who touches hearts. I am simply His vessel. In these six weeks I have a very unique opportunity to impact Brian, Jeff, and TJ in a small way that will help them for a lifetime of ministry, whether it be full-time like me or in the workplace. For that I am thankful and very excited to be a part of their lives.

With all the words I have typed, none of them and none more can describe all that is happening here—in the community, in the students' lives, and in my heart. I ask for your prayers of strength and perseverance for us all. Please pray that we have compassion on this community and love with the heart of Christ. Pray for our growth and maturity in Christ as we seek to further develop a perspective that is eternal.

I am going to end this with a few verses from Scripture that have spoken volumes to me during these weeks. I hope they touch you in some way too:

For as high as the heaves are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children, To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them. (Psalm 103:11-17)

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though or outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, bt at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Reflection on Psalm 95

Invited to come.
The people of God can come.
Joy in the Lord is sought after.
This is my desire.

In a time when I feel as though I lack much of the joy we know in Christ, this Psalm comes in providential timing. Sing for joy to the Lord! My faith is one that should lead to sheer joy--singing, shouting--to the Rock of my salvation. The joy I have, the deep joy that I know, is in Christ. It is Christ.

In His love,
His life--
I have been saved.

Joy is in the Lord and the salvation He brings. How can I not feel the joy and sing? Once dead, once having nothing to offer, my God saved me and brought me to life. Called to come before His presence with thanksgiving, shouting joyfully to Him with psalms, I pray to feel the joy of being in His light. The warmth, the brightness--they are overwhelming as we approach Him. My joy is derived from being in Him; all of the living me depends on the Great Source of all life.

How often do I stop to ponder how great the Lord our God is? The call to worship, the call for joy lead me to the call to revel in His majesty. The intimate Father, the Rock of my salvation, is also the King above all other gods. When I look at the trees do I remember they are His? As I gaze out into the waters of the ocean do I recall that He formed them? When I climb a mountain do I reflect on the One who created the ground on which I tread? And in all that I may marvel at, do I then worship Him who has not only done these, but has also breathed life into His people? What a Wonderful Maker! My call is to worship, to bow and to kneel. What a joy this is!

The reason. The call for singing, the call for joy, the call for shouting, the call for worship, the call to come--all for the reason. He is our God. We are the sheep of His pasture. Since the beginning of our existence it has always been this way and will never change. God is God. We are not. We are man. And as much as we try to achieve god-like status, I see a world delving further into the truth and reality that we are far from being near to Him in quality. We can never be God and although we may not know that, He certainly does. But we are called not to be God, reather we are called to live in God. We are His children and our hope lies in being consumed by Him in all areas of life such that our identity is lost and only He remains. When my Father looks at me I desire for Him only to see His reflection, a son who has been made in His very likeness through the death of His One True Son and the life brought by the power of His Holy Spirit. This is pure joy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Father of the fatherless...

I just finished reading "To Own a Dragon" by Donald Miller. A book of reflection, Miller recalls what it was like to grow up without a father, the impact it had on his life, and how God is the Father of the fatherless. Of couse this hit home with me in a variety of ways considering I too grew up without a dad. But I was talking with a buddy of mine the other day and I confessed that the concept of parents or even a parent is foreign to me. As much as I may be able to get a glimpse of those who grew up in a home with a mom or a dad or were blessed with both, I will never be able to understand that world from a son's perspective. The impact of growing up without a father is greater than I have allowed myself to realize and I am sure that in many ways I have yet to address of the issues associated with it. I have always thought about how I was different than others, how my growing up without a mom and dad affected me, but I never thought about digging deep down to see if I was living unhealthily.

Miller used statistics that don't apply to me even though they are the majority. I always did well in school; I was liked by my peers (for the most part); I was actively involved in groups, organizations, and leadership; and now I am developing a better sense of self-responsibility. I do know, however, that there are underlying thoughts and behaviors and motives that reveal insecurities and a lack of confidence, both of which D Mil attributes to not having the affirmation of a father. I do not believe in my leadership abilities, in the gifts God has given me. I work hard and I play hard--when there is no pressure of the success of others weighing on my shoulders. Here is an example:

I was playing basketball yesterday and started off strong, confident. I made a running jumpshot, then I went on to split two defenders and get an assist. In those brief moments I shifted from just another white boy on the court to being called Steve Nash, last year's MVP of the NBA. The team began to depend on me to create, break down the defense, score and dish, think and win. And though I continued to play decently, I could sense the change inside, as if a voice began to creen in, saying, "Do you think you can really lead?" I got an outlet pass and was driving for a layup only to worry more about my defender than my goal--the basket. My head had distracted me and I missed. We ended up losing the game, 11-9, and I walked away wondering how.

I am growing to learn--through examples like this one and with the help of this book--that I have yet to discover the truths of who I am as a child of my true Father. I have never had an earthly father and that is okay. I wake up in the morning, live my days, and I rest at night; rarely does the reality of never having a dad affect me consciously. I have never really had a mom either, except for my Auntie who is more like an older sister. Again, that is okay. It has to be okay. If it wasn't, I could never be a functioning member of this society or more importantly of the body of Christ because I would be too busy pitying myself. So where does that leave me?

I am in the process of discovering the answer, seeing who I am as a man--a man of God. How blessed I am to have the only Father I will ever need and my prayer is that I will grow to see Him more in that light! I have learned that to the degree I see God as my Father that is how well I will see myself as a child who is loved, a son who is adored, and a man who is cherished.