Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Remember - Learning to live what we already know - Part I

Progress happens one day at a time. In my case, it will have to be one week at a time. I sense that God has put some thoughts on my heart regarding this idea of remembering. And yet to find time to write it all down is overwhelming and burdensome. So, God gave me an idea. On Wednesday, writing Wednesday, I will commit to myself (and to you, whoever you is) to blog a little bit about the remember thoughts I have rolling around in my head.   I would love it to be a book. But, I am content if all that comes out of it is some encouragement for you and a weekly discipline of writing for me.  I have a good friend here who is also trying to finish his MDIV thesis. So he is going to have one chapter done on Wednesdays of every week, too.  So, hopefully it will help shed some light on what I believe is an overarching theme of the Bible and practical Christian experience. I would love any feedback, good and bad, constructive or conviction, anything, to help further these thoughts...  I see the end. I see the road ahead. But, now I am actually just going to get going, one step at a time.   I will keep them readable and rememerableJ 

Solomon said, “of making books there is no end.”  And that was some 3000 years ago. He certainly nailed it on that one.   Every year, more and more books are being published and brought forth. This is not a bad thing. Culture changes, creativity continues, old books are reinterpreted and renewed thoughts are brought forth.  As a society, we are all about the new: the new diet plan; the new 7 steps plan to fixing my life; the new parenting technique; and/or the new leadership book that will help businesses take the next step.  The promise and hope of the next new is alluring for any imperfect soul. The problem, however, was stated by the wisest man, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  So, do we just stop learning, creating and discovering? Of course not. Learning is what gives life purpose, meaning and joy.  Randy Alcorn argues that we will never stop learning, even in eternity.  But, in search of the new, sometimes we forget what we already know.  Moreover, sometimes learning the new becomes a substitute for living what we already know.    John Calvin said, “Almost all men are affected with the disease of desiring to obtain useless knowledge.” What is cure for this disease?  Living what we know and remembering what we have learned.   That is what this book is about.

I have been struggling with something here in Zambia.  I have been living here for almost three years and am more convinced than ever that Africa has the most amazing sunsets and sunrises.  I’m talking amazing. The horizon lights up with fervor, pink, orange, and yellow, all coming together in a mixed array of beauty.  Every morning and every night, God, the artist, paints a different picture and each time, I stop whatever I am doing to enjoy the beauty and worship my God.  Beauty is meant to be shared. So, on those days when the sunsets leave me breathless, I try to find one other person to share it with. However, I have noticed something that was a bit disconcerting; I noticed  Zambians who just continued walking and talking, acting as if the sunset wasn’t even there, like they were blind to the beauty that was right there before them.  This bothered me so much that one day I asked a Zambian pastor about it.  He said, “We’ve been seeing these every day for all our lives. It is just normal.”  I was talking to a few other Zambians about this struggle of mine and they both echoed the same sentiment.  One Zambian shared a story about being on mission trip with a few Americans who got up early to watch the sunrise.   He couldn’t understand why anyone get up early to see a sunrise.   As if talking to a blind man, I tried convincing this man that the sunset really was beautiful.  He understood the root of my frustration. He told me a story about some friends of his who live on the ocean. He said, “When I was there I was stunned by the beauty of the water, but to them, it was just water.”  This familiar blinding of the beautiful is not unusual.  Now, I can see how familiarity could breed this kind of lack of appreciation for the beauty of sunset or water or even a marriage or children.  On this cool evening, I looked up at the setting sun with the orange and pink blasting from base of the horizon and said, “I guess that is our problem with God, as well.  God becomes so familiar that we just forget to appreciate Him in a way that stops us in our tracks and leads us to spontaneous worship.”  I am not sure if the Zambian fully understood what I was saying, but I kept on preaching.  What I shared with him was the shortened version of this book I have desired to write.
So, before I get to far, let me share an example of how remembering changes me. One quiet morning I was reading from Ephesians. I was feeling a bit discouraged and defeated.  Really, that is an understatement. I was empty and hopeless. I wasn’t doing well. As I read through Ephesians 1:1-23, verses that I have read many times, preached, and taught on, it was like I was reading words that sounded good, but were too good to be true, considering my present situation. The lofty words that explained my rights and privileges of being a child of God did not seem to resemble themselves in any way in my life. 
See if you can relate...
Ephesians 1:15-23 – Paul  prays “18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
What is Paul praying for the Ephesians? 
·         That they may know the hope to which God has called them.
·         That they would know the riches of their inheritance.
·         That they would know the power that they have even now, as in all eternity.
The words seem so weighty, so out of this world, at least my world.
I sit here feeling very hopeless as I look at the pain in world around me and the failures in my life. 
I feel very poor in my sin and in my failures.
I feel very powerless to overcome my fears, my struggles, my anxieties, and my bad habits.
How is it that Paul can write such weighty, true words of victory when I so often feel the opposite of these words?  I suppose I have taken my eyes off of God.  The God who raised Christ from the dead. The Christ who died,  is now raised, and sitting at the right hand of God. The Spirit who works in me, through me, and in spite of me in order to glorify Jesus, to help me remember his words, to convict and empower me to do all that He did in and for Jesus. The Father, the Christ, and  the Spirit are the same yesterday, today and forever.
In moments like these, I must remember...
My hope – The hope that is like an anchor. The hope that before the creation of the world, He adopted me; He chose me so that I could enjoy holiness and peace, and  He gave me all the rights of sonship, as He did his own Son.  This hope does not disappoint, ever, because the Love of the Spirit has been poured out into my heart. This hope helps me in my suffering, consoles me in my frustrations, and sustains me with eyes that can see beyond this world. 
My Inheritance – Everything that belongs to God is mine in Jesus: the blessings, the joy, my Father’s ear to hear me, my daily needs, and my future provided for me.  Everything I need, I already have in Christ.  I am sitting at the right hand of God. It belongs to me. All His love is now mine. All his Joy is now mine. All his peace is now mine.  A remembering of faith is the key to that door.
My power – Raising someone from the dead is the kind of power that I have in Him. I have the power to overcome sin, power to pray people to health, power to encourage and overcome sin, power to have victory over demonic forces, and power to resist the world. 
I do not have to do anything to have these things. They are already mine. I just need to remember. I wish this were my every day experience, but sadly it is not. But, when I do slow down long enough to remember what I already know, it changes me.  My hope sustains me when I feel hopeless. My inheritance encourages me when I feel bankrupt. My Power that I have in Him enables me when I feel defeated.  I am lifted up beyond myself. Who I am becomes more real than what I feel.  I knew all of this. I guess I just forgot.
Remember.  Every Wednesday in 2010-11, I want to spend some time reflecting on the importance of remembering in our Christian life.  More for me than for you, but I would be mighty encouraged if it encouraged you...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This really encouraged me a whole lot! I was really discouraged and feeling defeated...
God, thank You for Your love, hope, power, forgiveness, mercy, and grace! God, thank You for Steve, and his family.
Steve, thank you for being obedient to the LORD!