So I've been on vacation for a few days now. I wanted to spend this time getting closer to God, and having him enlighten me as to what I ought to do with my future. (I also want to send out a huge load of resume's & applications.)
I tend to beat myself up a lot over my mistakes, and for what I perceive as a lack of progress in my spiritual growth. I am certain that Satan can use that as a weapon against me. Still, since I already have a mild chemical imbalance that can trigger a form of depression, it's an easy state to find myself in. I have to be mindful of that.
I am reading through Brennan Manning's "Ruthless Trust." This morning I read a chapter called The Way of Gratefulness. He states that being grateful is a foremost quality of trusting disciple. For those who have sincerely repented now have what they lack - a deep gratitude to God for his mercy and goodness.
He ends that chapter with something that struck me. "To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness." It certainly is a different way of viewing the world, that's for sure.
A few hours ago I went to the gym. I like to bike for 30 minutes to start out the whole routine. I normally listen to a podcast while I do this. Today I listened to a sermon on Matthew from Rick McKinley. (Seriously, you should subscribe to their podcasts.) Rick was speaking on the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Last year, the folks at Mars Hill in Grand Rapids covered this sermon. So it's always fun to compare the way different people view Jesus' teachings.
When Jesus made his grand announcement about the kingdom drawing near, he began by telling everyone the opposite of the way the world sees things.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
The world doesn't work that way. The world tells you that if you have a problem, you should pull yourself up and fix it. The meek will get run over by the "Go-Getters." We might hang out with people in mourning, but after a while it feels rather uncomfortable and we want to move away from them. When you really hunger for righteousness, you realize how far off the mark you are. No one wants to be any of the things that Jesus said are being blessed.
The term "Blessed" that Jesus uses has a huge connotation to it. It's like a giant, cosmic "God is on the Side of" kind of thing. Rick used the word "Congratulations." "Congratulations to the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs."
But no one wants to be poor in spirit, to be meek, to be in a situation where they have to mourn, etc. In many respects, it means you're a loser. Who wants that?
But the more I learn about Jesus and try to hold his hand, the more I understand that he is merely stating reality. I can't fix my own problems...not the ones that really matter, at any rate. Jesus knows that. He tells me that I am blessed because of it.
You would think that when the call came out to follow Jesus into his kingdom, all of the Religious people with good pedigrees and proper performance would have jumped at the chance. Not many of them did. Instead, it always seemed to be hooker, bums, traitors...and losers from all walks of life who ran to him. And Jesus really seemed to have a deep, compassionate heart for those people.
What Jesus points to again and again is for us to cease our striving and just trust him. We can't fix ourselves. We can't DO anything for God. (And I'm not so sure I would want to follow a god who needed me, of all people, to do things for him.) What Jesus points out over and over again, is that it ultimately is all about him. (That's a poke in my ego.)
Jesus did all the heavy lifting for humanity. He accomplished everything through his death and resurrection. He is God, we are not. God longs to be with us, but to do so requires one very uncomfortable admission on our part...that we are not him.
When Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God, he never talks about us advancing it, working, striving, etc. for it. He said the kingdom IS. All he seems to do is invite us to participate with him and what his father is doing.
Pastor Scott says that I see the kingdom breaking into this world more and more every day. I hope so. I want him to be right. I do want to see the kingdom and to participate in it. I am grateful for the journey that God put me on many years ago. I am grateful that I am not the man I used to be. And I hope that tomorrow I will not be the same man I am today. I hope that God will cause me to be a faithful signpost for his kingdom. That's really all I ultimately want out of this life.
It's hard to give up the driver's seat, though. But I'm grateful for that struggle, too.
Speaking of seeing the kingdom breaking into our world, here a link to a news story my friend Andy sent me today. http://www.twoharborsmn.com/event/article/id/20680/ A church in a bar. Go figure. But I can totally see Jesus doing something like this. That is what his kingdom looks like.
Tomorrow I'm going out to the cabin for a few days. It's fun to walk along the winding road there and talk to God. I often feel closer to God when I am out in nature. I figure it's fairly normal to feel that way since I am out in his creation. It's easy to see the kingdom in those circumstances.
There are many people I am praying for at the moment. (You can feel free to pray for me too.) I can see the kingdom crashing into their worlds. I hope they will respond positively. I want them to see that in fact they, we, I, me, them...are all Poor in Spirit, and that Jesus looks at us and says "Congratulations, because of it, I am on your side."
P.S. Since I tend to use a video to help illustrate my posts, I thought I would find one that fits this one. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one suitable. However, since I am on vacation, I did find a good one for that.
Ladies & gentlemen...Lyndsay Buckingham.