Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Orange, Blue and Belief

Driving last night just after sunset, I was silenced by pale peach clouds against sapphire sky. When have I seen those two colors together above me--orange and blue? And when do I ever remember reading this: Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance… “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:35-36, 38-39).

I am struck right now by the power of what the Gospel actually is: Somehow my resolute confidence in the accomplished work of Jesus completely satisfies God’s wrath against me. Had I not believed, had I shrunk back in fear, or my aloof pompousness, it would be to my own eternal destruction. That’s perdition. It is my belief alone that secures my being thoroughly delightful to God Himself; Creator GOD.

He is the One who initiated and pursued me: You did not choose Me, but I chose you (John 15:16). When my will staggered after its own pleasures and revelries, He said, “I will put My Law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33b). When He wrote His Law on my heart, it was satisfied by His own provision, the blood of Jesus-- blood that demanded my freedom, then declared it! He reassured Me His entire Law could be summed up in Love. Love the Lord your God, with all your HEART…SOUL…STRENGTH (Deuteronomy 6:4). And that love would spill over onto others by this important thing: Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law…(Matthew 7:12). He supposes the degree to which my hope is in Him will be made obvious by how I treat other people: A good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7:18-20).

My hope in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, is THE ONLY absorption of God’s consuming wrath against unbelief. Faith in Jesus is my salvation. I am saved through His mercy when I believe what He says. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3). My right standing with God is secured to the degree that my faith remains grounded in Him.

This takes a lot of work to believe. Trusting Jesus instead of depending on my own intuition, seeming facts, or what is tangible to me is hard work! Everything else is so much more immediate and demanding sometimes-- most times.

When I was driving home, alone in the car with the orange and blue sky, I was mad at myself. I had again failed Jesus in a hidden area of my mind only He and I knew about. I was frustrated, and cried out loud to Him, “Why do I perpetually insist on doing things my way, when my way fails to provide lasting satisfaction EVERY time?! What game plan do I need to resurrect? What now?” I groaned relentlessly, droning on and on…
Minutes later, I looked up. I saw it; the sky in furious splendor. I was silenced. Trust in the Lord and do good… feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalms 37:3-4). In that moment, this one thing was real to me: BELIEVE JESUS MORE! To overcome trials, temptation, raging self-absorption… is to BELIEVE JESUS MORE. How can I do that?

I ran inside, closed my eyes to the piles of laundry and opened my Bible in a quiet place. Spending time with Him helps me to believe Him more. Trying harder makes me resentful. Oh! But to BELIEVE JESUS MORE (What does He say? I’ll do it!) is to have every desire of my heart satiated. My belief in what God says not only guarantees my future with Him, it frees up my present with Him, to be bubbling over with continual joy.

I am dry, pouty and dull when I am not believing God. Sometimes, I don’t know what to believe, because my mind is too full of my own blaring newscast. I’m having to stop what I am doing or thinking in that moment to feed on His faithfulness. Sometimes this means closing my eyes and crying out to Him, “I don’t know what to believe right now. Help me!” Other times, it means giving my children a task, setting my plans aside, and opening my Bible in my lap, when I’d much rather be meeting my needs my way.

Feeding on His faithfulness is hard work initially. I rarely want to do that on my own. But once the grazing begins, my only task is to believe what I’m feeding on, then do it. God himself even provided a helper for me to actually obey: the Holy Spirit. Before his death, burial and resurrection, Jesus said: It is to your advantage that I go away…the Helper…I will send Him to you (John 16:7). He therefore enables my obedience, through the Holy Spirit, to the degree that I believe. Obedience is rooted in belief. The minute I stop believing God is the minute I fall...

Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (Hebrews 10:35).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

White Noise

I love white noise. For now, white noise is the perpetual hum of the ceiling fan droning out Michael reading Dr. Seuss to Chloe, who repeats every sentence after him. We have arrived back in California at the Mission House for our final weeks before language school in Costa Rica, and Mission House living means life includes a bunk bed. Oh, oh, a bunk bed! Julia squealed when her eyes fell on its bright reds and blues: I’ve always dreamed of a bunk bed!This famous sleeping spot currently houses Michael, Nathanael, (hanging from the bars, doing flip and spins) Julia hovering over the book to listen carefully, and Abigail making necessary corrections to Chloe’s repetitions. Michael steadily plods through the book while interruptions ensue, as if all he hears is white noise…

These last weeks were somehow swallowed up in the thrill of closing out responsibilities, goals, reviews and an exit paper at the International Learning Center. However, it is the play time that my mind is settled on for now: shrewd scheming in the dim-lit quad as the Mafia game unfolds when the day is done. Aunt W and Aunt P have everyone fooled, and are winning--again. I taste Uncle D’s famous, marshmallowy popcorn balls (listening to Abigail moan upon nearly cracking a molar on a corn kernel). I hear Uncle Brian and Aunt Felicia playfully jousting in their wonderful deep-south Mississippi drawls, while Uncle Andrew wields out the Uno with whichever children are begging him to play. Uncle J rides Sydney on his back playing the Shetland pony role, (quickly becoming famous as Skylar and Nathanael skid across the carpet to yank his T-shirt and hoist themselves onto a free ride!) Aunt Christine is back from the quilting quad with a patchwork of autumn colors perfectly stitched together, and she pulls out the summer Oreos, the ones with the blue cream in the middle. Inevitably, Chloe has managed at this point to gather chapstick from Aunt Amber’s pocket in one hand, while she’s talking on the cell phone she pried from Aunt D, making her way out the door, and into the grass field where she will cunningly collaborate with Levi, allowing him to talk on the phone next. Aunt K comes strolling over with her diet-something soda, which nearly spills onto her new shirt when Nathanael runs to her, tightly squeezing her legs, my friend! Then Julia bursts in the quad with a new journal and cold Chick-Fil-A french fries as an offering, while she stumbles over the details of a date off-campus with Aunt Amy…

I love white noise. The white noise at the Learning Center was people noise. The white noise at church this morning was people noise. People who love Jesus have an other-world bond—-their hearts are united and set on another place. The sweetness of our togetherness is deepened by the fact that it is temporal. We’re not just cloistered in the narrow comfort of one another. We’re partners in combat. We’re in a huddle: rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep. But the huddle is not the means to the end. We remember the end: That your way be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; Let all the peoples praise you…Psalm 67:2,5b.

We actually live for the end; the real deal. When the white noise is the prayers of God’s people singing a new song to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God: You are worthy… for you were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Revelation 5:9,10.