Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We are tomorrow what we choose today

At the end of our lives we are exactly the sum total of all the decisions we have made.

This is the thought that I woke up to this morning. Random, even for me.  Usually it is something more along the lines of "why did God have to invent early morning?" or "why couldn't the electricity have gone off last night so that my alarm clock would have reset?".  Needless to say, I am not usually a morning person.  But, this morning I awoke exploring the depth, width, and accuracy of this thought, that I can only assume was a divinely inspired alarm clock.   While mornings and I are not bff's, I do love waking to thoughts worth exploring. 

I must admit that while at first this thought feels a little empowering, like I have some sort of control over or ability to guide who I am becoming or end up being, after a little exploring it felt much more sobering.  I know my history of decision making, and how much energy I have expended exploring the life shaping results of those decisions.  Somehow, the importance of doing so seems to escape most young men.  Somehow, consequences seem so dimly lit in the moment of promised joy.   Somehow, the obvious seems to hide so well.  In the light of my abilities, this thought now feels condemning.

But! In the light of the Cross! There is Hope!
In my relationship with Christ, I have on numerous occasions wondered if Jesus was running some sort of hidden camera show.  There have been times when I was certain of what He wanted of me, and almost just as certain that if I were to follow through with it there would be someone jump out screaming "YOU'VE BEEN HOLY SPIRIT PUNKED!"  There have been times when His beckoning made perfect sense, and there have been times when His beckoning defied all common sense.  This is a feeling that I am sure people like Noah, Moses, Ezekiel, Gideon, Joshua, and The Disciples would all identify with.  

Often, the decision God places in front of me makes perfect sense and is easy to follow.  Often it is a stretch of my faith and is very difficult to follow through with.  Sometimes, it makes no sense at all and is almost impossible to act on.  Truthfully, how safe and predictable the outcome of the decision determines the difficulty.  I know, both logically and from experience, that carrying out God's callings is the best path for my life.  But, when examined individually, some of those callings are scary to say the least. 

In those times we would be better off to stop thinking and ask ourselves 3 questions:
  1. Is God Trustworthy?
  2. Does God truly love me?
  3. Is this hurdle worth abandoning the entire race? 
When viewed as an isolated decision I think it is easy to get distracted by the difficulty of a single calling, the uncertainty of  possible outcomes, or even almost assured negative outcomes.  But we must remember that in the end we are the some total of all the decisions we have made. 

While God does not often reveal the outcome of specific decisions, He has clued us into what the sum total of a life decided to follow His leading will be.  We know He has promised to work all things out to the good of those that love Him.  We know He is sanctifying us.  We know that along the way and in the end we will become more and more like Christ.  We know it will have had eternal impact on others.  Most of all we know that it will have fulfilled its ultimate purpose of glorifying God. 

At the end of our lives we are exactly the sum total of all the decisions we have made, and in Christ that is a beautiful thought.  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us - Hebrews 12:1

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pass/Fail vs. Excel/Fail

In High School, and possibly more so in college, I went into the first day of a new class with a single question: "what is required of me to get an A?"  After I had this piece of information I would weigh out the the effort that would be required of me to get that 'A' versus the consequence and shame of getting a 'B'.  My attitude was never one of a desire to excel, but rather one of meeting the minimum requirements.  If we were to be honest with ourselves this is the exact attitude we approach most areas of our lives.  It is a sad truth, but unfortunately one that is easy to live with.

This Sunday a verse was thrown into my Sunday School lesson.  It was not a main verse, but really just thrown in for some support.  It played a very small role in the lesson, but as I left church it haunted me all day.  While watching football and attempting a nap, this verse's sister passage in Luke 10 began to consume my thoughts.  Most people probably associate this passage with the parable of Good Samaritan, but I'm pretty sure I will now associate this passage with my 'minimum requirements only' attitude. 

In Luke 10:25-37, A lawyer (or student of the OT law) asks Jesus two questions: the first question was full of hidden agendas, but the second exposed the truth about his heart and possibly ours as well.  The lawyer answered his first question, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?", by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  Jesus says his answer is correct and has even himself said that these are the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments.    

The next words out of his mouth reveal that either: 1.) He doesn't fully understand the depth of what he has just quoted, or 2.) He doesn't fully desire to 'DO' what he has just quoted.  His question "who is my neighbor?" might as well have been "what are the minimum requirements for me to pass this test?"  or "who do I have to love and who can I get away with not loving?". The problem with asking this question is the first half of his answer. 

The Problem with His Question and Our Pursuit of God
"Love the Lord your God with ALL your HEART, with ALL your SOUL, with ALL your STRENGTH, and with ALL your MIND."

ALL - All means all!  More specifically all means the whole number of, the whole quantity or amount, the greatest possible quality or degree.  Love the Lord your God with ALL!  Love the Lord your God with the whole quantity or amount of and to the greatest possible quality or degree of your heart, soul, strength and mind.

HEART - Dictionary.com says heart is the center of the total personality, esp. with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion.  The ESV Study Bible adds the will and deepest convictions.  Love the Lord your God with the whole quantity or amount of and to the greatest possible quality or degree of your total personality, intuition, feeling, emotions, will and deepest convictions.

SOUL - It could be said that your soul is where you feel life, and that it is that non-physical, spiritual part of you that makes you, You.  I think it is also the part of us that lets us know that life as we live it is not life as it should be.  While pinpointing and differentiating it may be a difficult thought process, the desire to attempt the task might do exactly that.  Love the Lord your God with the whole quantity or amount of and to the greatest possible quality or degree of your spiritual nature and that aspect of you that makes you, You.  

STRENGTH - Our strength here speaks of our physical abilities, powers and endeavors.  One definition for strength is "vigor of action".  This is all that I do, and do is a very small but exhaustive word.  Love the Lord your God with the whole quantity or amount of and to the greatest possible quality or degree of your physical abilities, powers and endeavors.  

MIND - Our Mind is our intellect or ability to understand and reason.  It includes all of our thoughts and thought processes, and the 'lens' through which we see life and the world around us.  Love the Lord your God with the whole quantity or amount of and to the greatest possible quality or degree of your intellect, ability to understand and reason, thought and thought process and the lens through which you see life and the world.  

These 4 things make up the entirety of You.  Everything that is thought, felt, done, experienced, believed, considered, etc... is to be completely focused into love of the Lord your God.  If every ounce of who I am is focused on loving the Lord my God, how is it that I would desire to exclude anyone.  Jesus' answer uses someone who, because of race, would have been culturally hated and an outcast.  But we can also draw from Matthew 5, where Jesus tells a crowd that if you are identified with God you will be different than those who are not identified with God.  He says everyone loves people they like and that love them back.  But those identified with God are to love and pray for their enemies.  

The Point
The lawyers correct answer to his own question is both huge and disturbing.  Huge because it has the potential to revolutionize our life.  Disturbing because I know the attitude I have approached much of the areas of my life and at times my relationship with God.  In this answer there is no room to seek to only accomplish the minimum requirements.  In this answer THERE ARE NO MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS!  This answer provides for only the entirety of who I am to be given in love of the Lord my God, and loving everyone else to the same extent as I will love myself.  It leaves no parameters, no limits, no acceptable efforts.  Even worse, one is something that left to myself I will not do, and the other is something that left to myself I will not do.   

This answer calls for a love that is comprised of the whole of who we are for God, and that love requires a surrender of the whole of who we are to God.  We cannot approach our relationship with God with an attitude of doing what we must to pass, but rather an attitude attacking our relationship with God with the entirety of who we are in order to excel.  When we do not, we must repent and surrender that part of ourselves that we are holding back.