Eclipsing the Son

They came close to him and said, “All we want to do is build corrals for our livestock and towns for our families. Then we’ll take up arms and take the front lines, leading the people of Israel to their place. We’ll be able to leave our families secure in fortified towns, safe from those who live in the land.

Numbers 32: 16-17 (The Message)

I focus so intently on what I do, or how I get along, that I forget why it is that I live, Who I live by and Whom should receive my greatest attention. I want to always be right, and never necessitate reproach, so I go above and beyond to rearrange any externals that might elicit this.

I want a way to eliminate my need to be real and then deal with the consequences. I want things to always go well, and for myself to always appear exemplary in action and motive.

I am looking for so much that I often lose sight of what I am sacrificing to pursuit all this me-centered satisfaction. I am missing God, eclipsing His Son and running at full steam into a dead end. I have lost sight of what is really worth seeking after.

Healing or Hedonism?

Oh, that I would let God deal with me rather than insisting that I do it all myself! Protecting myself from the Savior feels so right, so comfortable, I miss the noose, the rope so strong, yet so dastardly. What do I want? How could I want more than Him? I clearly do not know what is best for me when I let Him show me what it is that I have been so willing to avoid.

All avoiding of His methods is avoiding of Him. Where do I have to run if I am not going to Him? I want to find some kind of relief from the kind of exposure of internal sin and shame He brings, discrediting the very real release only He can execute.

With the death of sin and the flesh do I really die, or is it merely a longer process, a less pleasurable escape from death than I thought was reasonable to expect? The very limitations I ask God to remove from me, do not fall away with earnest prayer and right action, I get to know HARD. Hard, where only Christ will do to see into the future with HOPE.

When I realize how little progress I make on my own, Christ and His liberating love become my crucial need. A necessary part of my religious way of life do not accrue with the real purpose of His presence in my life: profound and un-abating NEED.

I can make no headway without Him, I can find no real satisfaction in myself. I need Him for Who He is, especially in light of who I truly am. I do not want to live with what only I am or supply.

I need a depth of realism that I am to crippled to provide. What is real about me is not holy, what is perceived about me is not enough.

Do I think that unvarnished pain are too raw an offering to God? Do I truly want God to teach me to long for what is good (being the absolute best that He has created for me), even if He should choose to allow me to feel the absence of the same instead of immediately knowing gratification on its account?

Is it okay if I should be emptied, slowly and painfully prepared for Him to fill me? Or will I be content with all the alternatives I can more easily get my hands on, even when they do not get to the bottom of my need?

I didn’t tell you this earlier because I was with you every day. But now I am on the way to the One who sent me. Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?” Instead, the longer I’ve talked, the sadder you’ve become. Let me say it again, this truth: It is better for you that I leave. If I don’t leave, the Friend won’t come. But, if I go, I’ll send him to you.

When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this world is brought to trial and convicted.

I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, “He takes from me and delivers to you.”

In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so, you will see me.

– John 16:4-16

Well

Have you ever wondered what well feels like? I have; in fact, it seems that has been the most frequently asked question on my spiritual radar lately.

Will things ever get any better than this, or could the future possibly hold worse things? I want to know, and I want to see, if only so that I can forget what I am seeing now.

I want to get away and escape. I thought I was over that inclination, I had matured beyond the point of needing to have the details of my life turn out how I planned. I thought I was enough about God and His plans to welcome what comes with open arms. I thought…a lot of things that I could do because of what I’ve already been through.

But it seems to be that I’ve forgotten something very important, and by letting the rest of my thoughts lose their strength, God is reminding me that I am missing His thoughts.

He thinks of nothing less than joining me to Him. His purposes for me never stray from an all-encompassing relationship with Him. He acknowledges no other need than for Him to become larger in my life…in my mind…in my heart.

So, to be in any place, of want or of plenty is to be in the place God has ordained for me to experience His mercy. As Matthew 11 says so fittingly:

“Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: ‘Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from the sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.’

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. ‘The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me, get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'”

-vs. 25-30

Let Me Be First

Sometimes to receive God’s best means to wait for Him to riddle our desire for less.
There is a surprising difference between God’s best and our best. Generally, I am not aware of, or inclined to recognize this gulf. I have my reasons for thinking things are best, and I would rather God didn’t toy with them.
When God disarms what I like, He is also, unmistakably, performing an act of spiritual arrest. I am the culprit, He is the Judge. And without fail, the idea is that I am the one with a need for change.
Kind of interesting, if you ask me: We will never find God going around wondering what He could do to change, to become more agreeable to the human race, or to fit in with His non-existent peers. God is not looking for that kind of approval and perfection…I am.
But isn’t it crazy, that right in the middle of our need for transformation, we find it most convenient to insist that God must change for us? We do this when we make it clear to God that we haven’t come to terms with His ways of dealing with us. We forget that sin (ours) is so bad, and ask for an easier remedy. There is really not so much wrong with me, just the choices God is making on my behalf; God is wrong, and I could name all the reasons why…
How it must grieve our one true Friend that we would so distrust Him, as to discredit His ways! When we do, it is to assume that we know more about God and us that it is impossible to believe that He could possibly disprove our understanding of the two.
What a loss this is to us! Not only will we miss a true understanding of ourselves, but God’s divine revelation of Himself will always be closed to us. We claim to have knowledge, but lack understanding. Christ alone is the Truth, if He be not in us, we who claim to be without sin, or to have the solution are liars.
Let me be the first to say that I am not the biggest fan of God or His ways. He stumps me, and regularly seems to only get in my way. There are plenty of times when I wish I could just remove His actions from the equation, and make my life what I wish it would be. Then everything would be right.
But, it is when I am most sure of this, that my Father whispers in my deaf ear, “I am your best.” And I realize that without Him I have life by the tail, yet with this guarantee: You will never be satisfied; without Life, living doesn’t much matter, whether I am free to do what I wish or not.

“You sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received…the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Philippians 4: 16-20, 23

I Should…(I think)

Do you ever notice that a good deal of your thoughts and actions are directed by a vague intuition that you “should”? For instance, I don’t do too well without boundaries, so I make up my own where there don’t seem to be enough. I like to be able to gauge how I am doing and where I stand — it is how I judge whether everything is right with my world or not; whether I am right or not. And, of course, the goal is always that I would be right. It is a disappointment when I am not, but also a perfect challenge to make things right.

If I am feeling like I have done something wrong, I identify a loss of personal security. I  insulate myself with my pride based on what I can do. The funny thing is, though, that I never count God in when I am working on these things. I am working on me, and I forget that God is the first One to be concerned with me.

As I’ve tried to clean myself up, I have found that living a life dominated by what I think I should do is actually recklessness. I know, that sounds ridiculous! Me taking things in hand equals recklessness? Are you kidding? Isn’t the definition of recklessness living without responsibility?

Well, yes. When I discount God, I am truly living without caution, being utterly unconcerned about the consequences of my actions (whether mental, emotional, physical or spiritual). I want to live as though God doesn’t exist and I am the “captain of my fate”; yet, according to Scripture our responsibility is not to lead our own lives, but to turn to God — a much different reality than what we would bank on.

We often make it our practice to sidestep our own role as human beings, and try to make our mark in the role of God. But what are we really looking for? Romans 3 gives us a pretty good idea. In the first 8 verses we find about as many things we seek in this life:

advantage

value

righteousness

truth

glory

good

Yet, the question must be asked, where? Where are we looking for these, and whom do we expect to deliver them to us? I am sure I would not be alone in admitting that I often bear a burden when it comes to these things. I hold it as my responsibility to add these things to myself, walking about hoping to find authentic fillers so that I can walk on without emptiness.

The problem: As I am, I have no advantage, no righteousness and no glory. And the good and truth that God has already given me I have rejected in favor of what I can achieve and encounter on my own. Yet, God insists on leading me to another, blessed way — by which He has delivered to me what I could not gain on my own. For me He has accomplished all that I could desire and more:

But in our time something new has happened. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us…Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners…and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of pure generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in, and restored us to what he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public — to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now — this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his righteousness.

So where does that leave our proud…claims…? Canceled. Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.

And where does that leave our proud…claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider[s]…as well as insider[s]. How could it be otherwise since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it…

But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and the ways God commanded? Not at all, what happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.

– Romans 3:21-31 (The Message)