Archive | November, 2008

Living for God’s glory

8 Nov

Oh, how hard I struggle to do this: live for God’s glory. It seems every time I turn around, I have yet another selfish, narcisstic, vain, sinful ambition or motive. Nothing brings these times out like marriage. A few days ago, I listened to a couple sermons on marriage by Tim Keller and in one of them, he says that marriage is used as a santificiation tool. Now, I knew that before I got married, and I do believe God was sanctifying me through Travis even before we were married. But nothing prepared me for this!

If marriage is a sanctification tool, then sanctification happens quite a bit differently than I thought it did before getting married–because I see all my sin coming out, but don’t feel like I’m being “sanctified” from it. I’ve heard it said before “When you pray for patience, does God give you patience or does He give you situations that you have to be patient in?” Marriage is a constant situation that requires so many virtues, all of which I feel I have only a microscopic sliver of–nowhere near the full amount I would need to be a good, humble, servant-minded, submissive wife.

Travis frequently tells me “You’re such a good wife.” While I know that he says it in knowledge of (and in spite of) my sinfulness, I truly feel like I don’t deserve such gratitude or compliments. So I respond “No I’m not.” I fall SO SHORT of who I want to be–and who the gospel says I could be! Just this past weekend, I kept saying and doing things I immediately regretted (over stupid stuff!) and got to the point where I wanted to just go to bed and sleep so that I didn’t have to deal with the stupid, horrible, sinful person I was being.

I know that I’m not believing the gospel. Reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer and listening to those sermons by Tim Keller, I have been shown that I am not resting in God’s opinion of me and in the hope of the gospel. I am living in a “world without windows” as Tim Keller says–meaning I am not living with my eyes set on the hope of heaven but rather set on the concerns of this moment–namely, my own desires, needs, and happiness. When I don’t get MY way, I get angry (and most of the time, I also get even.)

I just read a blog post about marriage and the struggle to believe in the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel by my friend Katie. She wrote, “I know I am being changed daily to be more like Christ, but it seems such a slow process…If I’ve been radically forgiven by Christ for all of my short-comings and for all of the sin in my life, shouldn’t I freely give grace to those around me, especially my husband?” I feel like I could have written those words. Except I probably would’ve said “I know I am being changed daily to be more like Christ…wait, do I know that? It doesn’t seem like ANYTHING is HAPPENING!!”

I have come to realize that while in the bubble of Campus Outreach, I was guilty of using all those truth phrases of the Christian life that have been so conveniently encapsulated into bitesize nuggets (so that the Christian can suavely throw them out in any conversation). Well, that bubble has popped. And all those phrases are still floating around my head–except I no longer know what any of them mean. Oh sure, I could explain them with WORDS. But the practical side of those truths got lost somewhere on the highway between Minneapolis and Denver.

Take, for example, living for the glory of God. I can sort of wrap my mind around the concept. But I can’t for the life of me seem to figure out what that truth means for my life.

Or take Living in light of the gospel. I understand the idea. I also could tell you what the gospel is and why it should effect me. Here is what I would not be able to explain: why it DOESN’T affect me. Why I am left with being the sinful, selfish, stupid person I was before I became a Christian. I know that I will continue to sin as long as I am on the earth. I just didn’t know I would still be so…pathetic.

I feel like I am at a stalemate, like the apostle Paul (oh, what glorious words!): “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 7:18-8:1)

The Bible doesn’t mention specifics in its exhortations to “live for the glory of God.” It doesn’t say “To live for the glory of God, you must work for charities in addition to serving the homeless, all while caring for sick animals and doing at least one mission trip every year.” It doesn’t say “To live for the glory of God, you must work at a job that contributes something to the greater good of society.” There are no specifics like that in the Bible. In fact, to illustrate this point about living for the glory of God, the apostle Paul uses eating and drinking, 2 things that every single human must do or else they die.

Even though there aren’t any specifics, I have been trying and trying to discern them for my life–and to no avail. I am starting to realize (through the help of the Holy Spirit no doubt) that the specifics of how to live out the Christian life come out of the principles of the Christian life. I need to understand the principles before I can understand the specifics.

That very thought leaves me completely empty-handed. I have seen increasingly more over the past year how completely incapable I am of discerning any spiritual truth without the Spirit’s guidance and prompting. Each time I blog, pray, read, or think about these things, I am left without my own resources, but utterly dependent on God’s spiritual provision in my life. To be sure, without Him, I am nothing.

“Wretched woman that I am! Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The gospel is all I got.

Political Confession

5 Nov

I mentioned this in my post about voting for Obama but it has happened so often since then, I feel the need to blog about it again.

Conservative Republicans really get me fired up. I feel like I am viewed as “less of a Christian” because I have liberal ideals (just look at the comments from Russ on my post about Obama). Every time I hear a Christian voted Republican, regardless of why, I feel like screaming “You don’t need to vote Republican just because you’re a Christian!”

For the record: I don’t agree with abortion or same-sex marriage and I believe in the God of the Bible.

Maybe my problem is just that I don’t view abortion and marriage as big enough issues to sway me one way or the other and other people do. That would explain why I get angry when someone voted Republican for those 2 issues alone.

I mean, think about it. Individual states can make same-sex marriage and abortion illegal (look at Florida, California, and Arizona). And a very conservative President, who would have illegalized abortion and made a Constitutional Amendment about marriage if he could have–is just ending his term in office. You can’t get rid of all the Democrats by just having a Republican in office–so I don’t think Republicans would have any more success in banning those 2 things than they have had in the past 20 years.

I know plenty of Republicans and know that they’re not all self-righteous do-gooders. But some of them are. I read a blog post written by a female who is very staunchly Republican. In the same post, she declared her pride in being a Republican and bashed Democrats saying we would “cry and whine like little babies” if Obama didn’t get elected. 

Right…

Is that a very Christian attitude to have? Doesn’t sound very humble to me… I’m not saying that Democrats have everything figured out. I think they do take liberalism to an extreme on a few issues. But to say Republicans have it all figured out is JUST as proposterous, if not more. After all, aren’t they the ones “with Christian values”?

Well, it doesn’t matter anyway because OBAMA WON! Pfffffffttttt!!!

Obama won!

5 Nov

Whoop whoop! untitled

There are 2 other things I’m excited about. Because the election is now over, that means:

1. No more political ads, phone calls, canvassers, signs. YAY!

2. No more Bush in the White House (come January). YAY!

I voted!!

4 Nov

For Barack Obama!!

While some conservative Christians might scoff at my choice or wonder why I voted for a presidential candidate who is so openly pro-choice, I think Barack Obama, notwithstanding his short term as a Senator, would be a better president than McCain. And when you think about it, both candidates have the same amount of experience being President: none. McCain may have more political experience but that is not necessarily an indicator of his ability to be President.

The fact that Obama is pro-choice does bother me–but only in some ways. I don’t think abortion is right and would not elect to get an abortion (not even if my life was in danger–because I believe in the sovereignty of God). But having studied the underground abortionist movement in the 60s and 70s while I was in college, I know that making abortion illegal will not solve the problem. Obama seems to know that as well, so while he doesn’t advocate overturning Roe v. Wade, he DOES advocate other forms of education and awareness to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I feel like so many Republicans have their heads in the sand when they think that making abortion illegal would be the end of it.

I also agree with Obama on healthcare over McCain. McCain’s plan for health care is so confusing and roundabout that it doesn’t really make sense. It would be fine if you only had to pay for health care once a year, coinciding with the time that you would receive your $5K stipend from the government. But that’s not how health care works…Add to that, a good health insurance plan for a middle-aged person costs more than $5K (it’s more like $12K) so that “rebate” wouldn’t go very far in alleviating the expenses. 

Obama’s plan, on the other hand, is not without its problems. Mandating everyone to have health insurance, though necessary to lower the health care premiums enough for lower-income families to afford, can appear to infringe on Americans’ rights. It is more like socialism than capitalism. But my opinion is, if the market and capitalism are failing, the President should not keep trying to fix what has not been working. Rather, he should try something new. The government, IMO, is responsible for the wellbeing of Americans. That’s why I support education reform, investment in our country’s infrastructure (even if it means higher taxes), and fighting against injustice of all forms.

I also think Obama’s approach to foreign policy (being willing to talk and negotiate with other countries, regardless of how “horrible” they are) is a very mature, needed approach. There are plenty of countries who already hate the U.S. Let’s not make any more hate us! Turning our backs on countries and refusing to talk to them is not the way to global peace, just as giving the cold shoulder to someone arguing with you just makes them more angry.

Obama has lofty ideas, some of which, at first glance, seem extremely difficult to implement. But at least he has told Americans what he would do as President, instead of ONLY putting down his opponent (which is what McCain did in his debates).

Finally, Obama supports withdrawing our troops. There are times you have to admit failures and defeats. This is one of those times. It seems McCain won’t pull the troops out until we have a victory. Um…that could be never. Meanwhile, the Iraqis and Radical Islamists just hate us even more.

The reasons why I didn’t vote for McCain are:

1. He bears too much of a resemblance (in my mind) to George W. He rarely forms entire, coherent sentences. He seems more like a bumbling idiot than an educated, experienced President. (But that may just due to his lack of public speaking skill…)

2. Sarah Palin. She also appears to be a bumbling idiot and after watching the SNL spoofs of her, I don’t think that I could ever take her seriously. While I admire her bravado and maverick-ness :), I don’t think that she is ready to be VP…and definitely not President.

Finally, I just want to vent about a little pet peeve of mine: It irks me when Christians vote for a candidate simply because they say that they’re Christian and pro-life–and they don’t even look at any of the other specifics that the candidate stands for! Yes, I agree that (in an ideal world) we would have a President who is truly a Christian or at least has Christian values. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Take George W, a “Christian” who is pro-life. That’s great but look how he’s messed up our country. Democrats are not the devil!! We need a competent, wise, rational, humble leader–and I think that’s what Obama is.

So I will be sitting glued to the TV tonight, hoping Obama wins. But I know that God is sovereign and whoever wins the Presidential election (Obama, McCain, Ralph Nader) was chosen by God and I will accept it (at least better than I accepted Bush winning AGAIN in 2004).

Ok, I’m done with my political soapbox now.

Making my life worthwhile

1 Nov

My past few blogs have been about my life purpose and my feeling like I’m wasting my time doing what I’m doing. Numerous times, my heart’s unrest has called to mind the sentiments of Solomon in Ecclesiastes: “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” And by the time Solomon wrote that, he had done GREAT things…and he STILL felt that way!

After more informal meditation on these things, I began to realize that I am restless because I can’t see how what I’m doing today will lead me to where I want to be tomorrow. While praying one day, I also realized that I can’t assume that my life tomorrow will actually look like what I think it should look like–it may very well be completely different. God is the One who orders things, not me.

All this has contributed to a sort of stalemate in my life. I’ve been left with the feeling that I want to do something different but can’t, because I’m not in control anyway. And my life is my life for a reason; even if those reasons involve sin, it’s not ALL sin. God’s purposes triumph even in spite of my failures and weaknesses. So what is the purpose of me being here, doing this?

I’ve been reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer (great book so far!) and I came across this passage the other day in the chapter entitled “God’s Wisdom and Ours”: “The harder you try to understand the divine purpose in the ordinary providential course of events, the more obsessed and oppressed you grow with the apparent aimlessness of everything, and the more you are tempted to conclude [with Solomon] that life really is as pointless as it looks.” When I read that, I immediately knew that that was what I have been doing all this time: wanting to see the big picture; wanting to understand how my present circumstances will aid and prepare me for the times to come; wanting to see what are the times to come; wanting to have some control over my own life and purpose; wanting more than what God has ordained for me in His word.

Packer goes on to write: “For the truth is that God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives.” So while my desire to make my life count more now is a good thing, my desire to make my life count more now in order to make it better in the future, is not. I am not to be concerned with the future–I live my whole life in only one day at a time.

And I should not concern myself with the task of making my life eternally worthwhile–that is God’s purpose and He will carry it out. As Packer writes, my purpose in life is to “‘Fear God and keep his commandments’…trust and obey him, reverence him, worship him, be humble before him…Live in the present, and enjoy it thoroughly; present pleasures are God’s good gifts…Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do, and enjoy your work as you do it…Leave to God its issues; let him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you.”

So I see that my problem has been one of faith: not being able to trust God that He can use me and make my life worthwhile–and make it worthwhile according to HIS standards, because they are surely different than what I suppose them to be. My anxiety over wasting my life is revealed as an inability to trust God in the midst of the questioning and restlessness. My part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at my command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before me–and to leave the rest to God.

Speaking of opportunities, my old boss, Carol Ann, called me yesterday and left a message wondering if I’d be interested in teaching a ESL class 2x a week for adults. My first thought was: “I don’t know how to teach! I’m not capable!” My next thought was: “This is an opportunity that God has laid before me.” My third thought was: “This is my chance to not let fear dominate my desire to serve and make a difference.” I still have lot of questions about the opportunity (training, what hours on what days, length of commitment, curriculum, etc) but I’m leaning toward stepping out in faith on this one (even though it scares me to!). But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have been going through this soul-searching process, praying for God to open doors of opportunity for me, and then this comes along. I’m still going to pray about it and think about it. But this could be God making my life worthwhile…not because of me, but in spite of me.