Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fight or Flight?

 Have you ever been in a fight? I'm talking about a real fight, with punches being thrown, blood, tears, adrenaline pumping. A real, Colin-Firth-vs-Hugh-Grant fight! Well, about 7 years ago, I went home to Toledo for Memorial Day weekend. I was 25 years old and I went clubbing with two of my sisters. Long story short, a fight broke out. I saw one of my sisters get hit in the face with a bottle...and it was kind of like: whoa I have to fight! So I ran up, punched that girl in the face, grabbed the arms of both my sisters and dragged them out of the club.

In retrospect, it is one of my greatest achievements! I didn't cause the fight, but...I finished it. Just kidding. However, when it comes down to conflict I have two options: Fight or Flight. Those are the natural human reactions. But what if there's another choice?

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. - Matthew 5:5
I take this two ways: naturally and spiritually. The ability to do this spiritually precedes the ability to do it naturally, and I believe that this characteristic (meekness) is empowered by a supernatural ability to experience peace (fruit of the spirit tie in). What does it mean to be meek? And what is peace?

Meek - overly submissive and compliant. It means to be spiritless, and tame. 
Peace -  freedom from, or the cessation of war and violence.
Ultimately these words, taken in conjunction, mean you don't fight. Spiritually, this means you don't fight God. And naturally, this means you don't fight those who are made in His image.

So in the world of "fight or flight", Jesus presents a third (seemingly wretched) option: Take it. 

Spiritually, this sounds easy: "Ok, I won't fight God...I'd lose anyway." True. However, we still fight God all the time. As I've said in other posts, the Beatitudes are progressive. If you're still rich in spirit (i.e. self-sufficient and self-righteous), then you haven't mourned over the mistaken course of your life previously. As such, it's hard to be submissive and compliant know better. You know when to fight. And you know when to make for the hills. What you don't know is how to submit. 

There's is a biblical figure who I believe is just like us. He's one of my favorites, and you'll never hear him referred to as "meek." His name is Jonah.

The Jonah story in a nutshell:
  1. God tells Jonah to go preach doom to the people of Nineveh (because of their sins)
  2. Jonah thinks "Nope" then makes a run for it (flight) via boat
  3. God is like "le sigh" and sends a storm, Jonah is thrown overboard, a fish swallows him, voms him back up and suddenly...
  4. Jonah is compliant
But you know what? He's not compliant. He just lost the fight.  After Jonah preached his message, the Ninevites went all poverty of spirit and mourned over sins:

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. - Jonah 3:5

And since God doesn't turn repentance down, God decided not to destroy their city. Yay! Happy ending? Not for Jonah:

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish..."- Jonah 4:1-2

How often is this us? How often do you think you can stop something? Or how often do you think your way is better, or that it has to be your way in order to be right? We fight God by running away from His call and by making His will subordinate to our own. Believe me, God doesn't start the fight...but He finishes it. No laughing now. Jonah wasn't meek/couldn't peacefully submit, but that didn't stop God's plan. God will work through you and around you, until you get it: I have nothing to offer (poverty of spirit), I'm a mess (mourning), and I need you Lord to guide me (meekness). 

We have to be open to God will and plan...but how?! The fruit of the Spirit: peace. Scripture says that God give us peace that surpasses understanding.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. - John 14:27

This is a peculiar kind of peace. It is an illogical sort of peace. It's supernatural, because of it's source: it's the peace of God. That kind of peace will take the fight out of you. But it won't deflate you. This doesn't mean you lay down and die. But you do become very still...very still in trusting God, waiting for His movement, trusting His movement.

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God... - Psalm 46:10

*there may be a part 2 to this concerning our fights with people...I'm not sure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You Gotta Cry Sometimes

Depending on the situation, I either hate or love crying.

When I love it: 
I truly saw this twice in theaters
  1. At weddings - it means I'm sharing in your joy, and that everything I see is so beautiful it moves me to tears. 
  2. At the birth of a baby - this has never happened, but I think that it could. I could see myself being emotionally blown away at the birth of my own child. 
  3. At movies- It's both embarrassing & hilarious to realize you have wept watching How To Train Your Dragon.
When I hate it: 
  1. All other times
That seems like a really short list, but truly, crying generally means something is wrong. And I want to live a life that is generally free of of the bad tears. What I hate the most, is when someone sees me cry the bad tears. It makes me feel so small, and weak, and insignificant. Which is what makes the next Beatitude (just like the first one) so hard to swallow:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." - Matthew 5:2

I'd much rather skip the comfort and just be okay. I'd rather never need the comfort. That's why I'm from the school of thought that the Beatitudes are progressive; that each one builds upon the previous. As I noted in "I've Got This," spiritually we come to the realization that we don't have anything, and that we are actually impoverished and in need of a charitable contribution. 

As such, this particular mourning (i.e. weeping, wailing, lamentation) is not related to the things of this world: financial loss, terminal illness, the death of loved ones, loneliness, divorce, rejection, etc. Rather, this mourning relates specifically to your spiritual brokenness and sin against the God who gave you everything. True repentance will lead you to tears. 

For example, King Josiah when he found the Book of the Law. You might be thinking "found?" The temple had been so abandoned for so long, that when Josiah re-instituted the service of the temple they rediscovered the Book of the Law while cleaning. Crazy.

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it..And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest...“Go, inquire of the Lord for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” - 2 Kings 22:8-13

I love this scripture, because I just imagine Josiah, sitting on his throne, thinking he is a great king and man of God (which he is). He's the one who removed all the altars to idols. He has ordered the repair and renovation of the temple. He should feel on top of the world; he should feel like someone who is really doing the work of the Lord. But then Shaphan appears with this lost book and starts reading it to him. In my mind, I see Josiah's face going from a smile, to a slight frown and furrowed brow, to his mouth hanging open in outright disbelief, and finally utter despair. He tore his clothes off. A king! A king tore his royal garments in reaction to his spiritual brokenness and sin against the God he loved. 

He sent the priests to inquire of the Lord, and they went to a prophetess named Huldah, and her response is amazing: 

She said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, thus says the Lord, “Behold, I bring evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken Me...But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Regarding the words which you have heard, because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke...and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. 2 Kings 22:15-19 

What David said in Psalms 51 is echoed again right here: a broken and a contrite heart, You [God] will not despise! Note what God didn't say to Josiah. He didn't say: because you took down the high places (this is the phrase for the hills and mountains where people sacrificed to idols). He didn't say: because you're renovating the temple. He didn't say: because you're so incredibly awesome. But it was because he was in mourning. It's because he was convicted of the evil that he, the people, and the ancestors had done. It broke him down. He tore his clothes, and he wept before the Lord. And it resulted in something we all want: to be heard by God.  

And that, that results in an explicable Joy. Joy is the fruit of the spirit that I have matched up with this Beatitude. Another extreme mismatch. Mourning and joy are pretty much opposites. But:

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation - 2 Corinthians 7:10

Strangely, the "right" kind of sorrow brings deliverance from...sorrow. Is that insane or what? Godly sorrow drives you to God.  So it begs the question: do you have joy? 

If not, you might want to examine what you're sad about and how you go about fixing it. Godly sorrow drives you to God, and God produces Joy. Worldly sorrows (which God can also fix) often drive us to attempt to fix everything ourselves ("I've got this" style). And in our pursuit of happiness, we find more despair. 

There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death - Proverbs 14:12

Dang. Almost makes you wanna cry. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I've Got This


 I sometimes wonder if my friends notice three very ridiculous things that I do all the time:
  1. I never ask for rides to and from the airport
  2. I never ask people to help me move
  3. If we're out to dinner, I'll never ask to taste your meal (and get sort of weird when you want to taste mine)
When it comes to the last one, I find that people think it's because I'm not a "sharer". "OH, you were that kid in kindergarten who wouldn't share blocks!" Maybe I was... maybe I wasn't, but that's not what it's about. I've ordered what I wanted. I have what I want. And that's that. If what I ordered was gross...then I swing by McDonald's afterwards or eat cereal at home. No need for your assistance: I've got this.

Taxicabs are my airport transportation. Two Guys and a Truck are real and they meet all my moving needs. Yes, those things cost more...but that's okay, because: I've got this.

I seem to think I'm self-sufficient. I'm not. I'm pretty bad at admitting need. But it gets worse when I become spiritually self-sufficient.  

Remember when I said my next blog series was going to be called "From the Dead"? I lied. Forgive me Father for I have lied. Instead it'll be about the Beatitudes, and this blog is about the first one:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" - Matthew 5:3

For those who don't know, the Beatitudes are the opening words of the famous Sermon on the Mount. It's the first moments of hard-hitting, eye-opening, almost oxymoronic teaching that Jesus just pours out on His unwitting disciples. It's not the way to be saved, but it's how the saved should live.

And the very first one is a doozie: "Those who have nothing, will have everything." That's the gist of it. But it's not that this person is financially strapped. It actually has nothing to do with finances, but spiritually this person never says: I've got this.

The poor in spirit are those individuals who have become aware of their sinful unworthiness, and to the realization that they must depend on God for His mercy and grace:

For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness - Galatians 5:5

The poor in spirit are spiritually bankrupt and are looking for a handout.

This is a hard thing because there are a lot of people (not just me) who don't want to depend on anyone for any time. It sounds negative, but " poor in spirit" is a positive spiritual orientation that is the adverse of the arrogant self-confidence that breeds self-righteousness. And let's just take a moment to say: self-righteous people are the worst. Self-righteous people always say: I've got it. 

It reminds me of a parable Jesus told Peter:

“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?”
 - Luke 7:41-42

There are debtors who don't realize they are unable to repay. Or who is determined not to owe!  Spiritually. If the person who owed $50 loves a little, and the person who owed $500 loves a whole much does the person who still owes (or maintains that they never owed), and is determined to repay out of their own means love? 

It's hard to declare spiritual bankruptcy, because it's the point at which you realize there are no alternatives. It's the point at which you realize: I can't do this on my own, and the only person who can help me...I owe Him something!

Don't you hate that?! When there's a person who can help you, but you've recently played them, so it feels awkward to ask? You have to apologize first.

And cut. I hate apologizing as well. This Beatitude is too much. Impoverished and sorry? I'll pass.

...God knew you would say that.

In enters the Fruit of the Spirit: Love. The Fruit of the Spirit are supernatural abilities to do seemingly common things. But pure Love is anything but common.

First Beatitude = Poor in Spirit (an attitude towards God)
First Fruit of the Spirit = Love (an attitude we must develop towards God - Luke 10:27)

Why must we develop these attitudes toward God?

"For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit" - Galatians 5:17

You see? The primary enemy of the flesh is not other's God. Our very nature fights against God. This is why scripture says we were enemies of God (Colossians 1:21, Romans 5:10).

Love reverses that situation. God's love for us, and our slightly crappy (but accepted) reciprocation.

"We love because He first loved us" - 1 John 4:19

True repentance (i.e. poverty of spirit) is borne out love. There's a not too old Korean drama where they say: "Love means never having to say you're sorry." It's called Love Rain and it totally ripped off of the 1970 film Love Story, which first brought us this flat out lie. Love means always saying sorry. Like always. 

It's that love in response to God's pure love that makes you unafraid and unashamed to be impoverished and sorry.

Each Beatitude is an attitude or state of being that is counter to natural human response. As such, supernatural intervention is required. Supernatural love is the first one. be continued.