Saturday, March 28, 2009

Silly Games I Play In My Head

I grew up hopeful of the future. Some of this was positive, some negative. The good part of my future oriented attitude is that I am a visionary, seeing possibilities and trying to make them happen. The negative aspect of my future oriented disposition is that I miss the here and now, I live in a fantasy world of what is around the bend and the next corner. These may come into fruition, or they may simply be my optimistic take on situations that have little possibility of materializing. (Interestingly, we never live in the here and now since all sensory experience is slightly delayed due to light and sound delays. While practically, we do not think of it that way, we should be alert to the fact that we are constantly rubbing up against the issues of past, present and future thinking.) Focusing on the future makes grumpy when I don't get what I want. It was my hope. Reading recently in the Book of Hebrews I noticed a couple of facts that have made me rethink once again my future orientation.

“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”
Hebrews 7:21 quoting Psalm 110:4 (ESV)

God has for us a hope for me, a future for me, one involving a perfect high priest Jesus. He is immutable. One of the things that makes the future appetizing to me is that there is change from my present state to a better one. Most often I am hoping in a better situation in this present life and not the life to come. My focus is on change while in the end, God's future of hope is built on consistency which exists when there is perfection. Priests in the Old Testament Levitical system had to be replaced since they died. So in a sense, I am looking for something better, but my heart is not set on the perfect one, Jesus. Since he died for me, he loves me with a love that will not cease, he is worthy of all my focus and devotion.

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
-- Hebrews 7:18, 19 (ESV)

Christ's priesthood is the bases of my better hope, it is my optimism that is true. My future orientation should focus primarily on that which is perfect and not on that which is temporal.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Doing It Right

I really like the story of King Saul and King David in the Bible. Saul was a "head and shoulder" kind of leader. He depended on his own smarts and his own strength. He made sacrifices that only the priest should have made. He makes a rash vow. He disobeys the Lord in destroying the enemies of Israel. In the end, he disqualified himself from leadership. A haunting thought that has been my adversary for years is the thought that somehow I have, like Saul, disqualified myself from service to God. I have wanted to do the Christian life the right way. I hoped I was doing it well enough to get God's blessing. This would not have been my official theological position, but it was the hope of my heart to earn God's blessing. My attempts to earn God's blessing though brought more doubts because my many sinful thoughts, sinful motives, and sinful actions. Then the events in my life started pointing to the fact that I was not going to be achieve certain goals. This made me want to strive all the more to attain my goals in holiness and ministry. Eventually this struggle to do it right made me very frustrated and God had to bring me to a point of surrender to his will. Studying Psalm 51 this week, a new insight was brought to me. In Psalm 51:11 David says, "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." David probably was remembering the Lord rejecting King Saul. When David prayed this prayer it was for good reason. David had committed adultery and murder. He like Saul deserved to have the Lord reject him as a king. This verse got me thinking, it is not that if I am going to mess up and deserve God's rejection, it is a matter of when and how much. Because I mess up as a father, husband, friend, employee, neighbor, citizen, witness, student, brother, son, home owner, and Christian, God should reject me. Instead of worrying if God is going to reject my work, I should say the same prayer of David, "cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." I am not talking about losing my salvation but the blessing of God on my family, my work, my ministry. I have worried for years about this but see my worry was a blessing to lead me to the deeper issues involved here. Focusing on "doing it right" is to focus on the outward and surface issues. To focus instead on seeking the Lord's blessing is to focus on the deeper issues. In the end, I can't do it right. And that is a blessing since I need the grace of God. I can pray instead of worry.