Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Prayer For Panting

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
-Psalm 42:1-2

Two things I am convicted by as of late. The first is that the God I believe in is the living God. Admittedly this is sadly easy to forget when learning a dead language and when reading a bunch of dead guys' books. Easy still more when in constant conversation about concepts and ideas that truly are lifeless apart from the Person of God. Thanks be to Him that His Word is living and active (Heb. 4:12), which so beautifully leads me to repent and remember that my God is not dead--never was, never will be. He is the living God and God of the living (Lk 20:38).

Secondly I am convicted about my longing for God, my desperation for Him. I pray to be like the deer whose very life depends on the water. I pray to be like the author, who seemed to understand his immense need for God. I see how God is not like stagnant, murky waters, but is like fresh, flowing waters. He is not a God that I should just settle for and hope that I might live; He is the God Who is deeply desirable in Whom I know I do live! I pray for eternal panting of the neediest kind.

I understand that some of these words may make no sense to some people who read this. The categories I use may seem confusing. "Why even long for God at all like this?" you might ask. Well trust me, there are times, many times, where I ask the same question. Sometimes it just doesn't mean much. Sometimes they are just words on a piece of paper. But reality hurts wonderfully when I am smacked in the face with the power of Jesus Christ.

I am reminded of something many people call the gospel--the truth that this God actually entered into the world He created, the world that had turned away from Him, and He walked completely innocently among us all. He taught, he preached, he healed, he loved, he challenged, he rebuked. He called people out; he got angry at stubborn, arrogant people; he ate with the fringe shadows of culture. Eventually he gave himself over to the people who hated him. He allowed himself to be mocked, abused, beaten, laughed at, only to then be nailed to a cross and be put to death gruesomely.

Yet in that he conquered our rebellion, our hatred, our selfishness--my numbness and deadness--and rose from the dead to prove once and for all that he truly is God, the living God. His words resound today as he said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11:25-26). He is calling everyone now to turn to him, to turn from death to life because we can only have life in him who lives forever.

I hope I have made myself more clear. Life is at stake.

By His Grace.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Am A Sophomore

There have always been literate ignoramuses who have read too widely and not well. The Greeks had a name for such a mixture of learning and folly which might be applied to the bookish but poorly read of all ages. They are all sophomores.”
-Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book, p. 12

I really think I can fall into this--a dangerous trap indeed. Thus I have started reading the book quoted above in hopes to change that.

Come alongside me as I seek to change.
Don't be a literate ignoramus.
Don't be a silly sophomore.

By His Grace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How Do You Respond To People Who Are Rude?

During my morning drive I usually listen to Greek vocabulary (insert nerd comments here) or I keep the radio off all together. However, when I started the car talk radio was blaring as yesterday I must have been belting out lyrics to the latest Top 40 hits. The topic caught my attention right away so I decided to listen on. The folk on the radio (I don't even know the station to be honest) were talking about how they respond when people are rude to them. I found it intriguing on several levels:

  • They spoke of doing kind acts where people don't respond in kindness. For example, a guy who desires to be "chivalrous" actually holding the door open for a lady, yet when she passes through she doesn't say anything. Was her lack of a "thank you" rude? How would you respond gents? Should we expect kindness in return for kind actions done to us?

  • At the check-out counter. They were gave the example of actually trying to interact with the person who is checking out our groceries or clothes or whatever, but the person has no desire to talk. I encounter this quite frequently in the city. Should I expect a person who sees countless people come through the line, many of whom themselves are rude, to be kind to me if I am kind? How should I respond if they don't say a word, don't even look at me, tell me my total, give me my change, and move on to the next customer?

  • A guy shared a story of a woman in a Corvette flicking him off in traffic. This man at 6'4", 220 lbs said that he got out of his car, walked over to hers, and proceeded to spit on her driver's side window as a way of telling her that she shouldn't be rude like that...awesome. Is that the right thing to do, to respond to rudeness with an equally rude or even greater rude action?

There were several other examples given, but I found it interesting that many of them on the radio, and I would include myself in this, have this high expectation that if I am kind to you that you actually owe me kindness in return, that in fact it is your responsibility as a human being to be kind back to me. If you aren't kind to me then you have violated my right to receive kindness from you and therefore I can in turn be rude to you and show you that you should have been kind. Is that how I think? Is that how you think?

Well, they shared one response that I found cutting in various ways. When asking for response from listeners, they mentioned that someone texted in a response to rude people. What was it? "Jesus loves you" of course. The DJs then said, "Dang!!! That's a good one. That one hurts."

By His Grace.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Are You Restless?

This is brief meditation as I work through one of my texts for a class.

What is restlessness?
I just quickly took a glance at a dictionary definition of restless (I love the Dictionary function the Mac by the way); here's what I found--"[A person or animal] unable to rest or relax as a result of anxiety or boredom." I haven't heard too many conversations these days about cats or kangaroos being restless, so I will refrain from delving into this issue with animals. However, with these "tough economic times" restlessness is an everyday reality to the teacher who might lose her job in the latest round of layoffs, or the father who has lost 50% of his 401k in the past eight months. I am accused often of restlessness because I bite my nails; I simply argue that it's just fun. However, are any of us willing to go so far as to say that restlessness is actually sinful?

What is sin?
Before entering into thoughts of restlessness, it would be important first to define sinfulness seeing as how the idea or concept of sin is a bit muddled these days, often being played down to a weak slap on the wrist with a feather. A basic definition of sin is "placing something else, anything else, in the supreme place which is [God's]" (Erickson, 598). Sin is making anything else a god besides God.

Further thinking here requires us then to ask "What is God like?" because our definition of God is going to influence the magnitude of offense in replacing Him with something else. For example if we define God as Crest toothpaste, replacing Him with Colgate doesn't seem that bad. But if God is the God of the Bible, the God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, fully good, loving, just and holy, deserving of our praise and worship, replacing Him with our significant other or money or whatever is frighteningly horrible. Too often we are guilty of making God out to be as trivial as the former instead of recognizing the reality of the latter.

Sin can be an action, like stealing, where the object becomes greater than the God who is our Provider (Matt 6:25-34). Sin can be something we would consider part of our nature, like selfishness or greed. Jesus famously teaches that not only are adultery and murder sins, but that our lustful desires and unjustified anger are sins as well (Matt 5:21-30). Finally, I would venture to say that we all could quickly admit that we are imperfect people, never doing everything "right." If I am allowed to define rightness as always keeping God in his rightful place, then I can suggest that we are all sinners, and to this the Bible would agree (Rom 3:23).

Is restlessness sinful?
So back to the original question: Are any of us willing to admit that restlessness is sinful? Here I draw from the text in my class, which discusses various effects from sin. In it, the author writes how restlessness is one such effect:

Finally, sin often produces restlessness. There is a certain insatiable character about sin. Complete satisfaction never occurs. Although some sinners may have a relative stability for a time, sin eventually loses its ability to satisfy. Like habituation to a drug, a tolerance is built up, and it becomes easier to sin without feeling pangs of guilt. Further, it takes a greater dosage to produce the same effects. In the process, our wants keep expanding as rapidly as, or more rapidly than, we can fulfill them. It is alleged that in answer to the question, "How much money does it take to satisfy a man?" John D. Rockefeller responded, "Just a little bit more." Like a restless, tossing sea, the wicked never really come to peace. (Erickson, 635 bold added)

Are you restless?
I meditate on this because I do not think restlessness is relegated only to these "tough economic times." I saw it living in a fraternity house where the each night needed to surpass the next in how much alcohol was consumed. I went to a school where guys thought the next girl would be the "best they'd ever had." I interact with people now who think that buying a home will complete them, where getting married will solve all the problems. I see it in the classic example given above dealing with drugs, when a little fix becomes a large problem. And because "we are all sinners" I must really first look at myself and see that my restlessness is in how I will do in school, how I can support myself, how successful I will be in the church...yes, even in finding someone who I could call my wife. I am willing to admit several of I am sure many other issues in my life where I am restless and thus sin by replacing God with my little gods of success, money, and marital bliss. I guess I am wondering if you are willing to do the same.

Rest for the restless heart
It would suck if I just ended there, instead of asking "Where do we go from here?" The author of my text in this section only describes the effects of sin, but does not share what the solution is. I propose that even if I got straight A's in school (which I would be a miracle), I would want all the money; if I had all the money I wanted to take mad crazy people out for good food and drink I would want the big church; if I planted the big church with lots of people who love Jesus; I would want the amazing wife. Something would always be nagging at me. I would remain restless.

The only answer I know of to restlessness is rest and the Bible gives the only solution that I personally know of--Jesus--Who leads us into our complete rest in God now and forever. Jesus said,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28-29)

In our labor He calls us to Himself for rest. In our burdens He beckons us to Himself for rest. As Moses led the people of Israel through the wilderness to the Promised Land, Jesus leads us through the depth of our sin by His death on the Cross in order that we might find rest in God, the ultimate, final, eternal Promised Land (Hebrews 3:7-4:13).

Augustine sums this up well in his Confessions as he reflects back on a life filled with restless pursuits, including a strong desire to hook up with women, writing poignantly over 1600 years ago:

Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.

In His Rest.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bike Week Weirdness

So the posting on both Facebook and my personal blog has nearly ceased this semester. But when something like this comes around I have to muster up all that is within me to get back to the blogosphere.

I am home for my Spring Break so I am making my rounds throughout FL visiting as many people as I can in a short period of time. Last night I was driving to my mom's during the final few days of Bike Week in Daytona. I was on the phone with a friend when I noticed out of the corner of my eye two bikers, one of who looked like he had his dog strapped to his back. I thought "this could not be" so I examined more closely. What I noticed instead was the skin of a wolf on the passenger's head! The entire wolf from head to toe was on this guy's head and every time he turned his head the body wagged back and forth as if it was alive. I pulled right up next to him just in time for him to look over at me, smile with his sunglasses on, giving me a big upward nod--all combined to convey some kind of coolness I didn't really think was evident. Passengers are never the cool people on motorcycles, even if they were to have the skin of a mythical creature like a unicorn or a minotaur on their heads.

Here's the best photo I could find to convey what I'm talking about. I can't even imagine what people who actually went to Bike Week saw.

Monday, March 02, 2009