Sunday, February 19, 2017

All the Information You Need

As we’ve been preparing for our move to Korea, we’ve been praying for open minds to absorb all we can. I’ve always been amazed at how children are able to pick up new languages so easily, while adults struggle and strain to say just a few phrases. As Jesus says, the Kingdom of Heaven is given to those who are like little children with open minds and open hearts, humble and eager to learn what they’re taught.  

I recently watched a lecture on learning new languages, and a line that the speaker said really stood out: Be tolerant of ambiguity. 

He was referring to language learners who are picky about every detail of why a word is used, how exactly the grammar works and why there’s no perfect translation for that word. Those people learn the slowest, and often just give up in frustration, believing that either they aren’t smart enough, or the language is too tough. But the flexible ones who don’t demand explanations for everything, who just keep listening, learning, observing, imitating and believing that sooner or later they’ll get it – they’re the ones who learn on a deeper, more instinctive level. They’re not afraid to feel a bit lost and confused because they are certain that eventually it will all make sense. They’re the ones who don’t mind fumbling and bumbling along and sounding funny, because they know it’s all part of the process, and they even laugh at themselves as well, which actually helps them learn from their mistakes. Do you see the spiritual corollary here?

Jesus’ only words to Jairus were, “don’t be afraid, just believe,” when the devastating news of his little daughter’s death came to him. “Leave your father’s household and go to a country that I will show you,” God simply told Abram out of the blue. “Why are you crying out to me, Moses? Stretch out your hand over the water,” God said as Moses and several million Hebrews were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. If God had been speaking to closed-minded men, they would have been full of questions, exasperating questions. “What? How can you say that? Don’t you see what’s going on? Listen God, I need some explanations here...”  

But whoever has a living and active faith focuses on what they do know, and don’t waste time on what they don’t know. If God calls you to sacrifice a job, a friend, a hobby, a habit, a fear – He will provide all you need to make it happen, and then reward you beyond your dreams. Exactly how, when, and where He’ll provide is not always our business to know. Sometimes we only find out these details right before they happen or even as they’re happening! If that means we have to bumble along, laugh at ourselves, wait and do our best with the little that we know, then that’s what He expects of us , and that’s what pleases Him.  Remember, great trials of faith don’t always come in heroic life-or-death moments. They often come in those awkward ambiguous phases. But like children, that’s when we learn the most.   

Maybe you’ve known for a while that God has been calling you to do something, change something, sacrifice something, reach out to someone, or just simply act in faith. Maybe you’ve been resisting because you want all the details charted out for you in advance. So focus on what you do know – He wants you to do it. You also know that His eyes range back and forth throughout the world to strengthen those who are fully devoted to Him. You can’t use the excuse that it’s too hard, because He’s promised to come to your aid. That’s all the information you need. Those truths outweigh all the uncertainties. So, go ahead, act on it. Tolerate the ambiguities, and watch how much easier blessings come your way as you do.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes, who is risen, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Romans 8:31-34 MEV

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How to Look Directly into the Sun

CS Lewis wrote an essay I like called, “Meditations in a Toolshed.” Here’s a quote:

I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.  

Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.

Knowing God is like standing in that beam of light, totally immersed in the life-giving energy of the sun, where everything is made clear and bright. But many people aren’t inside that light, but only observe it from a distance. For them, God appears as a narrow shaft of dusty light while everything else remains dark and gloomy. It’s the perfect description of many Christians. Maybe at one point they stood in God’s light out of a simple need for Him – a humility to surrender, a sacrifice of their desires, a trust. And what they found was His amazing life-giving power. But now, they’ve stepped aside. God doesn’t force His light on anyone – we’re perfectly free to step back into the gloom if we choose. It’s less effort and requires little trust, but then we become disconnected from that life-source.  

So what do you have to do to stay in that light? Some time ago a man shared with me his struggle with shame and anger at the injustice of being falsely accused by coworkers. He had proof to argue his case, but he would hurt others in the process. He was trying to do the right thing by simply enduring the frustration, but a nagging feeling told him that God didn’t even care. At that moment, he was looking at the beam of light from the outside and feeling very dark inside. 

So I challenged him to go against his natural inclination. To embrace the situation he was in, not to resist it.  “Be logical.  Fact 1: God is just, isn’t He?  So choose to be totally at peace that He is fighting to defend you and stop thinking like a victim.  Fact 2: Give, and it will be given unto you, right? So give your best on your job, give kindness even to those who’ve mistreated you, give shamelessly, freely and with determination, because that will break the power of the devil on your job. Don’t worry about how people will react – just give, and give with a smile!”
He was crazy enough to actually do it! The first day was hard, but it got easier as the days went by. He was battling against his flesh, but also destroying the spirits of lies and greed in his workplace. The more he disciplined his emotions to behave in kindness and goodness in the face of injustice, the brighter God’s light shone on him. His was both in God’s light, and shining God’s light. As the sun can give and give and never run out, that’s how he chose to live each day. Before he knew it, evil couldn’t torment him anymore. The situation was still the same, but he was happy, energetic and full of peace. He could focus and work better than anyone in his office. A few weeks later, the entire case against him unraveled and he was trusted with a better position that he hadn’t even asked for.   

Our bodies, souls and spirits were made to look directly into God’s light, just like Adam and Eve. We become unhealthy when we aren’t looking straight into His presence, where the entire world around us is bright and glorious, and beauty and power is evident in every situation. Even unpleasant times become supernaturally illuminated. Even moments of dullness, shame, weariness, anger, grief, pain, loss, frustration and all other negative experiences can have that same light blast it all away. Choose to fearlessly live out God’s character this week, to be bathed in His light, to see everything clearly, and become completely untouchable to the devil. 

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give favor and glory, for no good thing will He withhold from the one who walks uprightly.  O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You. Psalm 84:11-12, MEV