Archive for the ‘Personal Walk’ Category

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.
And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to his way of loving.

excerpt from Thomas Carlisle’s “You Jonah”

The past six/seven months have been packed with transition and learning, and I haven’t had the will or wisdom to write. Today while sitting at a Starbucks praying through a project at church and what it looks like to have a heart for missions I realized that much of “Thoughts from a Runner” really could be summed up by the book of Jonah.

One particular similarity knocked the feet from underneath me this morning…

The past eight years as I have grown deeper in my walk with God. I am beginning to see that this growth has been a constant process of God calling me to live a life on mission, me fighting it and then, through His amazing grace inviting, and molding, and shaping me to have his heart for the people around me.

  • Ministry at the University of Arizona
  • On Mission in Kazahkstan
  • Reaching College Students in Australia
  • Helping lost people find their way back to God in Tucson
What does this have to do with Jonah?

Jonah is such an amazing book because we can see God still working to teach, to reach his thick-skulled missionary with the truth of who He is and His heart for the nations. That the entire book of Jonah is about God working on Jonah’s heart. What I realized this morning is that, like Jonah, I can many time miss the point of the storm, the sailors, the fish, Nineveh and most importantly a gourd tree.

A gourd tree?

When I got back from Australia I was blessed, due to no real effort on my part, with the comfort of an amazing community.

At the end of the book of Jonah, after everything God has done, Jonah still doesn’t get this call to live a life on mission. God uses one more approach – the miraculous tree (Jonah 4:5-11). A climbing gourd springs up quickly, and offers Jonah protection against the beating sun. The community that I was a part of was totally God given and such a blessing. What we see in the story, is that as quickly as the tree grew it withers and dies, the victim of an attacking worm.

Jonah is… annoyed.

At that point God again turns to his missionary-student, using the tree as a lesson. The creator of heaven and earth, the God of human history, of wind and waves, who spoke the universe into being, who just miraculously redeemed and restored the entire city of Nineveh to himself, tenderly asks Jonah, “Are you really so angry about the tree?”

Jonah in anger and frustration responds: “Yes, angry enough to die.”

God’s response to such bitterness is so beautiful. Despite everything that has happened up to this point, He is still calling Jonah to join him on mission, to “his way of loving”:

“You are sorry and concerned about the tree, though you had nothing to do with growing it, a plant which came up in a night and withered in a night. My heart and concern is for the great city of Nineveh, with its 120,000 who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”

While I wasn’t aware of it until today, I have been quietly discontented and annoyed with God causing the comfort that I experienced with this community to wither away. Despite this, over the past few months I have experienced a tender questioning: “Are you really so angry that I took that community away? What about the city around you?”

If I’m honest my response to God has been at times just as mature as Jonah’s.

By God’s grace, however, I am growing not only an awareness, but a deep heartfelt sorrow and concern for the 1,020,000 people in the Tucson area who “do not know their right hand from their left.” Beginning to sincerely yearn to proclaim the gospel students at the University of Arizona. To share hope and good news with broken families in the foothills and South Tucson alike. To show God’s grace and love to the thousands of international refugees who call the Old Pueblo home. To join with other Christians to come alongside the numerous military families who currently call Tucson… home.

As God works on my heart, I am growing to care more about the rescue and redemption of those in the mission field that God has called me to than I do my comfort.

It has been a hard lesson, and this thick-skulled man is grateful for God’s forgiveness and grace, humbled by God’s provision as He has provides fellowship and community, and most of all, in awe of God’s tireless and tender call for me to join his missionary heart – to live a life focused and dedicated to “Helping lost people find their way back to God.”

Oh, Have I Messed Up

Posted: 07/15/2011 in Personal Walk, Worship
Tags: , ,

Over the past week I have been studying through Psalm 51 preparing for a sermon this weekend. I have been aware of this Psalm and been able to recite a good portion of it for years, but this week it has been cutting to deep places in my heart.

I have looked at repentance and thought about forgiveness in a way that glorifies me far more than it glorifies the wondrous cross. I have spent the past week looking deep in my heart and I live out and advertise the “pretty places” the easily admirable. Now I know that I am seen as fully righteous, not out of my own merit, but becuase what was fully accomplished by Jesus… but I spend my time trying to prove to God and to others that I was a “good and worthy investment”.

So, today at work, over more coffee than I would like to admit, I have been praying through what Paul wrote to Timothy as he was encouraging him toward leadership:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

 1 Timothy 1:12-15 (ESV)

This might be a strange connection to Psalm 51, but it is where God has been taking me. I look at what Paul says and the statement “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service” seems like it would be a perfect and ideal appeal to authority. Of course Timothy should take him seriously… but then Paul messes it all up, becuase of what he says next… “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”

WHAT?!?! Paul what are you doing? And then I realized he is standing in the mercy of the cross and saying “I don’t deserve this!… please know that. This is about grace. Its about the cross. Its all about God and HIS great, glorious, Gospel.

And returning to Psalm 51, sitting with the Holy Spirit, I see David, a murdering, lying adulterer talk through so much, pleading for God to do a restorative work and then he gets to:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
  and uphold me with a willing spirit.
 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
 and sinners will return to you.

David is not content to be forgiven, clean, elect, to have a right spirit, by… I am blown away, because David, a man after God’s own heart, is not content UNTIL… his brokenness… heals others.

I look at my sin and I have wrestled with: “My sin, my past it disqualifies me from being used” or “I’ve got to be totally triumphant until I have a witness.” Often my prayer is for God to erase those things so I may never have to talk, or think about them again.

But David (and Paul) have passed through such horrors, and their plea is… if you could remind me of my salvation, you could use this so that sinners would know and glorify God. To put it another way it is as if David in this Psalm is praying:

“God, I know I have messed up. Oh, have I messed up. I have killed, and raped and my baby is dead… God, would you cause people to come to Christ… through my messed up, broken life.”

And here is my prayer: God, help me to be consumed with the scandalous beauty of the cross, to sing loudly of your great glory and profess with boldness and brokenhearted joy the awesome redemptive work you have done in my life.

This afternoon, after spending time thinking about bugs, I took a walk and was blown away about how much nature points to the glory of God.

Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote about nature and said:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

There certainly are some days that I am oblivious to the awe due to the creator of such an amazing world. But some days, like today, I feel like the holy spirit opens my eyes and everything around me seems to radiate with worship and point to the awesome power and creativity of the God we serve.

I don’t mean to delight in bugs, or in nature as a whole, as an end. I mean to savor what God has made as a reminder of who He is.

So often I am going at 100 mph and I take it all for granted, it all seems so commonplace and ordinary.

Until I am reminded and shaken out of the stupor by great authors who look at nature and see that God is so, so, so, so much greater and glorious than we ever can imagine.

This is one of my favorite examples:

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork.

People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.

This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death.

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.

G.K. Chesterton

God, great Father and awesome Creator, may you help me to see more clearly, and worship you more constantly.

I was reading a blog I thoroughly enjoy and a twitter series by a gentleman by the name of Scotty Smith was mentioned: “Signs You are Growing in Grace”. Regularly on Provocations & Paintings there is a compilation of these sweet tweets… so as an homage, to an homage, on the glorious subject of God’s grace, and how we grow in it… I am going to ask for your grace as I participate in the time-honored tradition of blog-plagarism-imitation.

A sign you’re growing in grace is you work much harder at remembering names and forgetting slights.

A sign you’re growing in grace is movement from destructive cynicism towards redemptive engagement.
Anybody can spew.

A sign you’re growing in grace is that you’re less like a drive-by-shooting with criticisms & more of a healing presence.

A sign you’re growing in grace is evident when you receive feedback non-defensively and give it clearly & lovingly.

A sign you’re growing in grace is evident when people don’t feel like they have to walk on egg shells around you as much.

A sign you’re growing in grace is committing fewer homicides in your heart of slow drivers.

A sign you’re growing in grace is praying for our government rather than simply being cynical about our government.

A sign you are growing in grace is that you are more disgusted with your critical spirit than offended by others’ sins.

The last few months have been daunting. Only now do I realize that falling off the face of the earth with the last post being on the topic of endurance has a degree of poetry to it.

    I have not been doing very well at my endurance and this can be seen as I haven’t done all that well at keeping up on blogging… and laundry and … we’ll leave it there.

    Today I got home from work and realized that I had enough time for a nap, but instead of laying down I thought I might take the little bit of extra time to read a few of my favorite blogs and post something quickly. I’m really glad I did.

    My homepage points to http://theresurgence.com and I saw the following poem about being single:

    I will wait for you

    Written & Performed by: JANETTE…IKZ

    I love this for so many reasons:

    1. How this makes my heart beat… I can’t explain this any other way
    2. The creative commitment to craft such an amazing piece of worship
    3. THE HUGE CALL to what it looks like to be a godly man & godly woman (starts at 5:30 & 6:16)

    I, as one who has been fairly confident about being single, have been thinking for some time about dating and marriage. The more that I study, the more that I journal, the more that I seek God for what this looks like, the more I realize what a high calling I MUST view the office of husband and father.

    …and I will know you, because when you speak I will be reminded of Solomon’s wisdom, your ability to lead will remind me of Moses, your faith will remind me of Abraham, your confidence in God’s word will remind me of Daniel, your inspiration will remind me of Paul, your heart for God will remind me of David, your attention to detail will remind me of Noah, you integrity will remind me of Joseph, and your ability to abandon your own will remind me of the disciples, but your ability to love selflessly and unconditionally will remind me of Christ.

    At these words I sat stunned, heart beating and jaw dropped.

    I want to be that kind of man.

    Listening to this Godly woman bravely testify to what kind of man she is waiting for, sent shock waves through the weak, lazy, self-serving complacency I have allowed to settle in my heart. I am sitting here now, actually yearning to finish this post so that I can spend time with God and in his word.

    Before I go, this next video, in conjunction with the last, is doing an excellent job at re-focusing my personal aim to what kind of man I want to be.

    For The True Man of God

    Written & Performed by: Matthew Lee

    I took last week off from blogging and spent the time thinking through the next season of life that is at my doorstep. I love using this medium as a tool to distill my thoughts, but when you need to sincerely address fears, hopes, concerns and how they might align to a calling in life, it seemed more appropriate to go to my journal.

    Its not as though my thoughts have been all that intimate that I haven’t wanted to share, but I kept finding myself with the urge of using this platform to either distract and hide from the issues, or to posture and paint myself in the best light possible. Neither of which are very helpful when trying to navigate through some good, tough, life-changing decisions.

    Speaking of decisions… while I think the decision not to blog about this was wise, exclusively going to my journal wasn’t.

    Somewhere at the intersection of “I can figure this one out on my own” and “I want to look like I have it all together”, I probably, quite literally, drank a gallon of Earl Grey tea and wrote to my hearts content.

    The problem: for every answer that I came to, I came up with three or four more with which to distract myself.

    What I desperately needed was some good counsel.

    When I say counsel I don’t mean going to bunch of random people for their opinions and advice. What I mean is, swallowing my pride, going to wise people I respect and listening, learning and submitting to their leadership in order to navigate this maze.  To admit that I can’t see the forest for the trees and to humbly ask for help.

    This shouldn’t be a novel idea to me. Our Christian lives are called to be lived in community, in community with God, and with the people God has providentially placed in our lives in the church. Sadly, I so often live my life as though it is a solo effort.

    So humbly I’ll admit, if it weren’t for the prayers, wisdom and hard, loving truth that I have recieved over the past week, I would probably still be lost in a journal.

    Yesterday I admitted to being wrong and silly when it came to how a person plays the guitar.

    The day before I talked about the how God uses tragedy in our lives to draw us to know Him and love Him more fully and accurately through the story of Job.

    Thankfully, not many of us will ever have to endure the pain of losing all of our children, all of our possessions, and then go through a painful season of physical sickness. While this might seem like it renders the book of Job into a worst-case scenario, that we pray never happens to us, there are so many things that can happen in our lives that mirror the utter destruction we see in Job’s life.

    The great thing about Job is it a narrative that we can identify with. There is something to be said about our heart and our mind’s ability to engage with truth when it is lived out.  Here is a brief story about God being in control and working compassionately through what seems like destruction and loss.

    I love the line in this video… “the things that He is most concerned about, in my worship to Him, is for me to never forget that the instrument He is most concerned with, is the instrument of my heart.