Saturday, October 25, 2008

I forget

I have a constant problem with forgetfulness. It seems that I forget important things ALL the time. Some examples: I once lost my wallet, when I was a kid, up at my great-grandma's cabin and one year later when we returned I found it in the couch cushions. Everytime I go on a trip I will forget at least one item I wanted/needed to bring (and I do mean EVERY time). I once forgot my class ring at a burger place near the University of Idaho and fortunately it was found by a kind college student who worked at the burger place and gave it to a friend of mine at U of I to give to me later. In elementary school I lost my soccer ball and several coats because I forgot them on the playground. The summer after my eighth grade year my class took a trip to Washington, D.C. where I bought this cool coin separater, as a souvenier, that looked like the picture of George Washington off the dollar bill. I lost it the first day I had it when we took a ferry across a river and I left it on there. I forgot one of my suit jackets at a friend's house after a night of salsa dancing and still have not gone to get it yet. All this to say that I am very prone to forget.

Sometimes I think that I forget about things around me because I am extremely apt at remembering information (such as for tests or hard factual data) and thus I have less room to fit the memories of things happening in everyday life. This might have a ring of validity to it, but we'll just go ahead and say that I'm a very forgetful young man and leave it at that.

This forgetfulness impacts my life much more than in things like forgetting my phone somewhere; it has deep roots in the emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of my life. I find it difficult to remember the emotions that I have experienced; whether they be such as grief, helplessness, joy, happiness, awe, love, or numerous others. While the feeling of certain emotions in a situation should not be given too high a status in the understanding of one's circumstances, this does not necessarily mean that they serve no purpose at all. For God has indeed made us emotional beings who have feelings that can be very strong at times. If we were perfect and the whole world was without sin, we would be able to completely trust our feelings. However, since we and this world are corrupted with sin, our feelings are also corrupted and we are not able to determine rightly in regard to our feelings and emotions. Though we may not be able to put complete trust in our emotions, it is good to remember the emotions we experience at times in our life. If it be sorrow, let us remember our grief and look to the one who bore all of our sorrows. If it be joy, let us remember that true happiness is found in giving God the glory He deserves. If it be a broken heart, let us remember God's broken heart for His creation that have rejected Him though he would love them wholeheartedly. If it be love, let us remember the ultimate example of love - that of Jesus, the Son of God, dying on the cross for our sins so that we will not have to suffer the penalty for our sins which is eternal separation from God. If only I could better remember my emotions so that I could be a more faithful servant of my King.

There have been times in my life of great and impacting spiritual growth or decline that I find difficult to remember on a daily basis. I must remember those times in my life when I was close to God and also when I lived out of fellowship with Him; the remembrance of both of those parts of my life will help me to better live for God today. Remembering the times where I walked out of fellowship with God is important because if I do not remember how easy it is to fall away from Him, how dirty my sin makes me, and how sin only brought temporary pleasure but left me in guilt and shame, then I will once again fall back into the depths of my sinful desires. Though dwelling on my sin is not healthy, it is good to recognize my sin, it's effects, and how to better avoid it in the future. I can only do this by remembering my past failures and then reading God's Word which will guide me in glorifying God. I have repeatedly forgotten the grossness of sin in my own life and have chased after it time and time again. It seems to be so easy to forget the total wrongness of my sin and focus on that brief satisfaction it provides. It is vital to remember that sin only offers lies and that true satisfaction comes solely from God. Some of the most important things that I forget are the times when I am close to God and the things that God has taught me through prayer and His Word. Sometimes I wonder how I could forget something that God has shown me as quickly as the next day. For I know that God loves me yet I have felt unloved. I know that God is always with me watching over everything I do yet I have thought that He was far away from me. I know that I am no longer a slave to sin yet I have felt in bondage to sin. I know that I am set apart for holiness unto God yet I have not sought purification in Him. I know that my destination is Heaven yet I have focused my efforts on the things of this world rather than on the Heavenly Kingdom. Oh that I may constantly realize the depravity that sin leads to and the complete joy of walking with God.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
-Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

My prayer is that I will be in constant remembrance of God's work in my life. He knows the big picture and my view is so small. I am but a small child who one moment rests safely in his father's arms and the next is in tears because he thinks his father has left him. May I comprehend the deepest depths of His love in order to worship Him as He is meant to be worshiped. The mind of man is swift to forget, but the God Almighty over the whole universe is faithful to remember His promises for He is good.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The cost of discipleship

The speaker this last Friday for Special Emphasis was Rick Johnson. Rick is a missionary who works mostly in Tijuana but also in other places in Central and South America. He was also our speaker in chapel on Wednesday and Thursday. This man is truly a disciple of Jesus Christ! He challenged me in my walk with Christ, encouraged me to strive forward with diligence, and urged me to give everything to the Savior.

On Thursday Rick spoke of the gratefulness we, as Christians, should have for the free gift of salvation given us by God Almighty. He shared with us a passage in the gospel of Matthew about the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. This passage tells us how only one of the ten who were healed came back to Jesus, fell at His feet, and thanked Him. How many of us Christians simply take the blessings that Christ gives us and then merrily go our way without thanking Him? I know I have done this a multitude of times. Why do we not run back to Jesus and thank Him for saving us? I know that I do not do this most of the time because I am exceedingly selfish and usually only think of myself and my own needs. The true disciple of Christ will constantly be on his face in utter worship and thankfulness. Oh that I might completely realize my utter worthlessness without Jesus. It is His work on the cross that has paid the penalty for MY sins. It is His rising from the dead that ensures I will also be raised again from death unto an eternal life with God. I must praise His name and pour out my gratitude without ceasing. It's all about Him!

On Friday Rick spoke about the true cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus means being willing to give up absolutely everything, including one's life, for Him. I have also heard it said: "Salvation costs us nothing, being a disciple costs us everything." There was literally a point in Jesus' ministry where he told the people following Him that if they could only follow Him if they were willing to give up everything in order to follow Him. The Bible records that many left Him at this time. It is so easy to get caught up in thinking that I only have to give some of myself to Him, but, in all reality, he wants it all! I have been bought with the blood of Christ and he owns me now. I am a slave of Christ and should not be surprised if I am treated as a slave. I am owned by a gracious and loving Master but I am still a slave. This slavery is not unto hardships that endure for though I will face numerous trials in this life, I have the promise of an eternal reward of everlasting life. The cost of faithfully following after Christ will cost me everything: my comfort, ambitions, dreams, family, and perhaps even my own life. The sacrifice, in and of itself, of these things that I hold dear is not what is good, for not everything I hold dear is intrinsically bad. Rather, it is a supreme focus on Jesus Christ that results in the giving up of everything else.

I have been examining my own heart and the cost of following after Christ has been steadily sinking in. I have always known that the life of a missionary requires a lot of sacrifice in giving up many of the comforts that I, as an American, enjoy and that missionary life is very difficult. I have never grasped the full meaning of this until I started to wonder what it would be like if and when I ended up on the mission field. The cost of giving up everything I now have to go live in another country where I will have little to none of the things I currently possess is extremely high. Or is it? God himself became man and died for my sins. Is there anything less that I could do than giving Him everything? My life is short. Will I lose my life for Him so that I may gain it in the end or will I seek gain in this life rather than for His kingdom? The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Oh, that I may never lose my focus on Him alone. He is my Captain. May I follow Him and give my life, my strength, my all for Him!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Running out of gas

This past week on Tuesday I ran out of gas. I simply felt emotionally, spiritually, and physically empty and hollow. It was a very sudden drop for I had spent the previous hours in the Word of God and prayer but about half an hour before dinner on Tuesday I felt like I had nothing left in me. Tuesday night I was reading in Psalm 25 and verses 16-17 described exactly what I was feeling.

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have englarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!

I think what brought this emptiness to my heart was a combination of missing home, family, and friends, completely surrendering all my hopes and desires to Him and then struggling with letting God reshape my life into what He desires it to be. My soul was in bitter anguish and I felt as if there was no escape. All of life's worries and troubles seemed to just pour out on me all at once and I was overwhelmed in this tidal wave. I had been trying so hard to give up my life to Christ so that I could be more like Him and live in such a way as to bring glory to Him. I came to the realization that night that I just could not do it. I can't live the Christian life and I can't even handle life in general. In the depths of my despair I was crying out to God to comfort me and show me that He loved me. I read His Word but it did not touch my heart. I prayed to Him but seemed to receive no answer. Where was God?

The next day was Day of Prayer and Chris Darland spoke in chapel to start off the day. He spoke about the rest that we find in God and how it is different from what we usually see as rest. Jesus told us to take His yoke upon us because He will carry the load and we just need to follow along. He also shared how God is a God of comfort and comforts us in our needs so that we can comfort others. How amazing that we should be talking about this in chapel the day after I was in desperate need of such rest in Him and comfort from His hand. I spent the rest of the morning talking to one of the staff here, praying while walking around the park, reading my Bible, and talking to my Dad for almost an hour. Talking to my Dad really encouraged me because a lot of the verses that he shared with me I had recently read and so they were made that much more real to what was going on in my life. One thing that really stuck out to me about what my dad shared was from a verse in Psalm 30:5b, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." All my sorrows are really only temporary for my true joy is in the LORD and he will not leave me in biting despair. In these times of trouble and inner turmoil God seems to do most of his molding and shaping us into better tools for His use.

I am doing much better now, but it is indeed humbling to realize that I am completely empty without God. I now strive to live in such a way that every moment I am in an attitude recognizing that any good thing in me is not of me but of God's work in me. I am a twisted shell of a man, but in Christ I am a new creation. He has made the old new. Oh that I may humble myself so that God would be seen through me and praised!

For those of you who read this I ask that you will pray for me:
That I will humble myself before my Lord
That I will praise God when I find myself in a pit of life.
That I will rejoice in the LORD always.
That I will come to see life from God's perspective instead of mine.

Casting Crowns sings:

I was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm