Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Faithful Father

I was reading in my devotional this morning (always a good thing) and it talked about the words that Jesus spoke in Luke 13:34, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." This is the kind of openhearted love that God continued to have for His people, regardless of how many times they turned away from Him. When you think about the word picture that Jesus is giving us, it really is quite profound.

He is always longing for us to live under the "shadow (and safety) of His wings"; we are the ones who keep wanting to wander off and explore the wide world around us. We are looking for something to fulfill us, something to give us meaning and purpose, something to satisfy the void in our hearts. What we are missing, is that all of those things can only be found in the Creator of the Universe - the very One who longs for us to come running under His wings.

As I think about that kind of love, that kind of faithfulness, that kind of commitment & patience - I see Someone who is so far different than myself. I see qualities that I can't ever measure up to; a perfection that I could never obtain. The gap between who He is and who I am is so wide that it's almost overwhelming. Even though those characteristics are the kind of things that we are looking for in our Heavenly Father - the kind of things that we want Him to be - it can also be somewhat intimidating. Here's what I mean: when I see into His character (which is His holiness), and then I see how sinful and imperfect that I am, the difference creates a hesitancy in my heart. I want to go and draw close to Him and become familiar with that love & faithfulness, but at the same time I don't know how to respond to it. He is so much different (or transcendent for the theologically inclined) from me, that it's practically safer to just stay where I am. If I draw closer, perhaps more of my imperfections will be brought to light. If I get to know Him better, I may only end up seeing just how horrible I really am. If I can't compete with the degree of those characteristics, being near the One who is the very definition of them, will only make me feel worse. Or will it?

It is our natural tendency to shy away from something that we don't understand or can't comprehend. We think we are safer and better off if we just stick with what we know. The truth is, when we tear down the walls around our hearts & open ourselves up to the perfect-ness that is God, we definitely get the better deal. We get the security of being in a relationship with One who knows us inside and out. We get the assurance that His faithfulness and love will always be new every morning. We receive the kind of forgiveness and restoration that can only be given by Him. We receive a wholeness that is given by grace instead of worked for by our own strength. Although it may seem scary at first, the benefits & rewards of having that kind of relationship are well worth it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Hate Sin

This was something that I actually wrote out several years ago, but came across it earlier today. Since I haven't posted anything for a looong time, I thought I would throw this back out there. I wrote it after a friend of mine shared a struggle that he had been having.

i hate sin. i hate what it does to people. i hate that it pulls you in ever so "innocently" and then sucks the life out of you and leaves you cold and alone lying in a gutter feeling absolutely miserable about yourself. i hate that it brings out the worst. i hate that it makes you do things that you would've never thought you'd do. i hate that it destroys lives and shows no remorse. i hate that it shows no partiality and attacks whoever it can. i hate that we're so naive to fall for it.

i do however love that God's grace is more than sufficent and His love is relentless. i'm glad that He stepped in when we were weak and did what we could not do. i'm glad that He loves us more than we deserve. i'm glad that the deepest and darkest of our sin is but a pebble in the ocean of His mercy. i'm glad that love never fails.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Crazy" Thoughts

I have decided to share a few of my thoughts from the book, Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Here is my favorite piece of the first chapter entitled, "Stop Praying"

"Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves. His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can't contain Him. Isn't it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?"

How amazing is it to realize that God is so huge, that we cannot possibly exaggerate Him?! Think about all the things in life that we try to make seem bigger than they really are: the line at walmart, the length of time we sat in traffic, the amount of work that we have to do, anything. We naturally tend to over-express something with words when we are trying to make people understand a certain situation.

But we can never over-express God; it's impossible!! Our words can barely even contain Him, let alone exaggerate Him. How amazing is it that we serve a God that is so great?

Take some time today and think about that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The real deal on St. Patrick's Day

Anyone that knows me knows that I like to do things different from everyone else...sometimes to a fault. I have never been one to jump on a band wagon just because everyone else jumped on. In fact, there have been a few wagons that I jumped off of because they go too crowded. I tend to stay away from common practices that the majority follows out of habit or reflex. That is, until I find purpose and intentionality behind something. Then I follow something for a better reason then, "just because".

St. Patrick's Day has kind of been one of those things. I would occasionally wear a little green if I was in the right mood, but most of the time I treated it like any other day. Maybe it was just my way of refusing to conform, I don't know. This year I decided to try to find out why the day is celebrated and what all is behind it. So here's the brief summary.

St. Patrick wasn't actually Irish, but traveled to Ireland with a mission to spread Christianity. During the more than 20 years that he lived there, he gained tremendous favor with the people and won many converts. After his death on March 17, AD 461, the day was used to commemorate his life and work to the Irish people. It was traditionally a Catholic holy day where families would have the day off of work, go to Mass, and have a meal together. Believe it or not, pubs were even closed on this day (until the 1970's). There was a sanctity and holiness to this very sacred holiday - much different then it is today.

Although green is the color that is most attributed to this holiday, it was not the color that was associated with St. Patrick. Blue was his "officially assigned" color, and is still seen on ancient Irish flags and even on the uniforms that the Irish special forces wear today. The "wearing of the green" actually referred to wearing a shamrock: a symbol that St. Patrick used to explain the concept of the Trinity. It represented how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. St. Patrick's followers began the tradition of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.

In fact, green was a sign of superstitious "bad luck" that had something to do with a folklore legend about fairies kidnapping children who wore too much of their (the fairies) favorite color.

So in my own "I have to be different" sort of way, I'm proudly wearing blue today (with a little bit of green). I couldn't find a shamrock to wear, but that's probably because I didn't really find all of this out until yesterday, and waited until the last minute to look for one. Sometimes I'm different just for the sake of being different; other times I'm different because there's a purpose behind it. As I have discovered a while ago, things tend to last longer when there's intentionality to support it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm really bad at this!

Apparently I'm not as good at updating as I had hoped I would be. I have definitely had several "God thoughts" that would've been good to write out and share, but that's what happens when you keep putting things off....they don't get done.

In the past month I have: finished a book ("The Sacred Echo" by Margaret Feinberg), started a new book ("Crazy Love" by Francis Chan), changed offices, rocked out to a new favorite song, washed my car (like 3 times!), had a good chat with a good friend, fought for a new level of freedom, thought about my future, legally rode shotgun with Matt Murphy (and have lived to tell about it), been stressed about taxes, been ice skating, been able to use the phrase "I'm with the band", and been reminded why dogs are cooler than cats.

So that's the quick update from the life of Mark. Hopefully, the next one won't take as long.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Finally, an update!

I wish that I could say that the reason why I haven't blogged in a while is due to a period of deep, reflective meditation and such - but the reality is that I've just been busy...or lazy, depending on how you look at it. Whatever the exucse, I decided that it's about time for me to blog again.

A few updates off the top of my head: I finally got a newer car! Goodbye 1987 Buick Regal, hello 2002 Ford Focus. I find myself cleaning it all the time. If it wasn't so cold outside, I would probably wash it a little more often...or at least rinse it off. It's nice to have a car that you can actually wax if you want to (oh yeah, i want to).

I'm doing children's ministry now (comes with insurance). Actually Adelle is doing children's ministry; I'm just working in the office for her. It works out well. She does all the stuff that I don't like to do (cause she likes it) and I do all the stuff she doesn't like to do (cause i like it).

I'm reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality again, along with the rest of the pastoral staff. We've started meeting as an accountability kinda group and it's been great. It's good to be able to get together weekly with other people that help to keep you on track spiritually. Think of it as a way to re-center and re-focus your priorities every week.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between Professional Christianity and Authentic Christianity. As easy as it would be to just throw it out there and say that it's a problem that a lot of Christians face. it's a little harder to bring it home. But if I'm honest with myself and with God, there's no way that I can deny how much I have been playing the game of Professional Christianity (PC for short- not to be confused with 'personal computer' or 'politically correct'). I pretty much have it down to an art form. I can play the game and convince everyone around me that it's all together on the inside, but the truth is something different. I completely don't have it all together on the inside: my spiritual life has been quite malnourished, my devotional life has been practically non-existent, and i find myself surprised that the "Christianity Auto-pilot" never kicked in and kept things running smoothly on the inside.

I certainly have not turned my back on God and walked openly into sin and disobedience, but I probably wasn't too far from making that leap. I had fallen for a classic Christian blunder - I had neglected my relationship with God, and all the disciplines that kept that relationship alive. Somewhere along the way I stopped pursuing Him - I just settled for being kinda close. It almost feels like after I stopped, He kept moving forward (attempting to lead me to a farther point). The longer that I stood still, the further apart we grew, until He became a distant figure on the horizon. I still recognized who it was, and every now and then would run a little closer to keep Him in sight. I was comfortable not being close to Him, just as long as I could still make out where He was - almost like a kid playing in the ocean, turning around occasionally to make sure that mom & dad were still in sight. I thought that playing in ocean (just doing life as usual) was more imporant than where He was leading me.