You Are Never Ready

My wife and I had always had a vague plan that we would wait to have our first child until we had been married five years. As we got closer to that mark, we’d talk about whether or not we’d be ready for a child. From these discussions, I could tell Tara was more easily able to reconcile herself to having a child. I was not. I told her I wasn’t ready yet. Not only were there things I wanted to do with my career – I wanted to hit my target salary mark achieving a level of security and safety before committing to the responsibility of a child. But greater in my mind was that I had to work out a few things in my head before making such a commitment. I was unsure of my ability to make a dependable living and provide for my family. I was unsure of my own abilities to be a father. I felt I needed to be certain that I was capable before committing to a child.

Well, all these considerations ended up being for nothing because in our fourth year of marriage, my wife announced she was pregnant. That first night after hearing the news I was a basket case. I felt very unprepared. Yet over the course of that night, I began to accept that my carefully planned life was not going to happen the way I expected it to.

Of course, now four years later I am grateful that everything happened as it did. We have a beautiful boy who is glorious to be around (most of the time).

About a year ago, Tara and I began talking about having a second child. This time I was much more certain in my ability to provide and care for my family. Yet I still didn’t feel ready. Tara was sure she wanted another baby. I admitted I’d never be truly ready, but agreed we should go forward. Now we have our second son and again I am very grateful.

I’ve just read a book called This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. It has been harder for me to get through this book than any other I’ve read (and I read a lot). It’s not that the grammar was difficult (it’s an easy read in that sense) or that it was very long (only 180 pages). Rather this book describes what living life in Jesus’ kingdom can look like from a practical perspective – not in a far away heaven, but right here and now.

The book has opened a new perspective for me and described my responsibility to a hurting world in such a way that frightens me.  It makes me shudder to think of what living this way might do to my life. I am afraid of giving up what I consider to be mine – my money, my belongings, my time, my plans, my privacy and safe seclusion from the world.

This book paints a picture of the gospel that calls me into to world where injustice happens, people are hurting, and many are without hope. I am seeing that my sitting on the sidelines in my comfortable suburban home, or at my plush corporate desk is not what I am here to do because those settings, by their nature, separate me from the world Jesus came to redeem and reclaim.

I don’t believe that Jesus is calling me to explicitly sell my house or quit my job (someday he may), but I am certain he is calling me to get unselfishly involved in people’s lives – forming real relationships full of the beautiful and the ugly, listening to and meeting their needs. This scares the pants off me and I am not ready for it.

I’m not ready because it requires that I view my possessions in a truer light – that they are not mine at all. Each dollar I spend is not mine. Each moment I spend can be used to either serve this calling or to serve self. I’m not ready because this is a call for total and complete surrender of every part of myself.

When I think back on the story of my children I think that God was using those times to tell me that I will never be ready, but that I should just dive in head first anyway. In fact I picture God saying that it is His purpose that I never be ready.  If ever I was ready to serve, perhaps in my human arrogance I might claim my readiness for myself and strip God of that glory.  God, in his infinite wisdom, was teaching me an important lesson – that the way I order events in life is wrong. I don’t have to first be fully prepared and ready before committing. Rather, I should be fully committed in spite of not being ready or prepared.  Doing life in this way honors God and brings glory to him because it becomes clear that He makes the successes happen not me.

This is the natural order.  God acts and we respond. My action is a responsibility in that I have an obligation to respond to God.  What carries more weight with me is not the obligation.  Rather, I am awed by the image of my potential future evolution – being  entrenched in the mess of this world, forming authentic relationships in order to meet needs and show what living in the present kingdom of Christ can be like.  This image of this possible future feels natural, like the way it was meant to be.  Yet, it is also so counter-cultural that it scares me to think of myself living this way.

I’ve thought it through and understand it.  My heart feels drawn in this direction.  Now what? Does this picture of me serving the world motivate me enough to walk out the door and work, or do I stay in my Lazy-boy?

The Upward or Downward Spiral

Bitterness turns to skeptism which turns to cynicism which turns to an emptiness of the soul.

But Belief opens the door to love. As love grows, God reveals himself more. As God reveals himself more, love increases and trust is created. It spirals upward to ever increasing love and trust and the soul is filled.

Soren Keirkegaard’s parable of the king disguised as a beggar. The king could not make people love him by displaying his power. But as love grew, he could display more and more power because the love others had for him was not based on his power, but on the trusting love.

Deconstructing Legalism

Note: this post is constantly being edited, but I’m making it public anyway.

Series Introduction:

Jesus’ feelings about legalism are revealed in his dealings with the Pharisees. Jesus railed against the Pharisees. He clearly communicated that their way was not the right way. Why was he so hard on them?  The Pharisees were the essence of what it meant to be devout. Their strict belief in observing the Law caused them to want to not only observe it, but to observe it with such vigor that they would not only forbid themselves from crossing the line, but also to forbid themselves from even approaching the line. Their motivation was their belief that disobedience caused separation from God. Therefore, they committed themselves to not coming close to disobedience. They implemented this belief by creating new restrictions in the hope that such restrictions would insure they did not break the Law. Over time, they began to observe these man-made restrictions as Law. Jesus had a problem with this because they had created a new set of laws that were not from God. They bound on others what God had not bound.

Jesus walked through Galilee teaching a message of freedom from the legalistic worldview of his Pharisaic brothers. Scripture says that he fulfilled the Law with all its requirements. Jesus satisfied the Law by offering himself as the supreme sacrifice – a sacrifice worthy enough to not only cleanse the Jews of their centuries of sin, but also worthy enough to cleanse all people of all cultures through all of time. His sacrifice ripped the veil separating God and man bringing the two together.  Jesus restored humanity’s direct access to God by removing the blood guilt of sin – he made us white as snow. By his sacrifice, we have become God’s children, adopted into his family and made heirs to kingdom which now exists in part and will be fully revealed one day.  Because of all Christ has done, we no longer have to cower in fear of God’s judgment.  We no longer have to hold ourselves to an unachievable standard.  We are free to boldly and with confidence walk into the presence of God as his sons and daughters.  Without fear, we can look directly into his eyes.  With confidence we can point to that man sitting at his right hand – the one with holes in his palms and feet and proclaim that Jesus, the firstborn, has made us spotless for the glory of his father.  And God smiles.

Sadly (and I mean sadly), some in the church have not embraced this message of grace and freedom.  Some have not heard it because it is simply not preached in their churches.  Others refuse to hear it because the message implies that their long held legalistic beliefs are wrong – a realization being too difficult to accept leaving rejection as their only option.  Still others have overtly rejected the message because they simply cannot fathom that salvation could come so easily – as a gift. Lastly, others reject Christ’s freedom because they enjoy control – controlling themselves and others.  They arrogantly see a world where everything is so easily defined and comprehensible.  They love the status quo, their traditions and want to keep their world the same forever.

This series of posts will explore what legalism is and the cultures it creates.  Also, the series will offer a lay interpretation of the psychological affects of a legalistic culture over time.  All of this will be approached from a biblical perspective supported by scripture and personal experience and interpretation.  The goal of this series is not to stir up division, slander brothers or project a sense of personal and intellectual superiority (Lord knows there is far too much of all this already).  Rather, the goal is the opposite of all those things.  I hate division with a passion.  I want for my legalistic brothers to be free from their yoke of slavery to an imaginary law and to experience the joy of life in the kingdom.  And I realize that I have no claim to authority or superiority because my circuitous way out  of legalism was strictly by the direction of God.  Without his leading, I might still be there.  So, this series is intended to rescue and reconcile not rebuke.

Series Topics:

What is the culture of fear that legalism creates?

What does God think about obedience?

What does God want our motivation for obedience to be?

How does God want us to respond to him?

If it is not through the keeping of a set of Laws, what is our response to be?

Where does agreement on doctrine fit into the mix?

What is the difference between life being a journey and life being about the destination?

What is the difference between view the kingdom as a reward to be received later verses the kingdom being something to experience now?

What is  “conventional wisdom” and how did it affected the Pharisees and us?

What is the transformation of the heart through the power of the Spirit?

What is the word of God?

Where is the power of the word of God?

What about the prophesy to make living stones?

What about putting the law on their hearts?

These are some questions I’d like to explore in future posts.  I’ll post these under the “Transformational Living” category.