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Monday, March 25, 2013

Objects of Our Sanctification

Objects of our sanctification. What on earth does that mean?

Awhile back, my mentor suggested that God had allowed something into my life as an object of my sanctification- something that God was using to make me more like Jesus. In that case, it had been a relationship that was teaching me humility, patience and trust. Good things to learn, but usually only learned through trials and tough circumstances.

Lately, my wife and I have really been wrestling with some attitudes and behaviors of our 8-year old. She can be a great joy, and great pain, within any given 10-second window. One thing we have noticed is how well she does when we can focus just on her. She thrives under attention and one-on-one time of any kind. But placed in a situation- any situation- where she has to share or accommodate the needs and interests of others (such as a 5-year old sister or a 4-year old brother) and she has the tendency to flip out.

So the other day, I was thinking about this objects of sanctification idea and how it related to my 8-year old. We happened to be hanging out in my office together and I said to her, "Alyssa, I think you are an only child to whom God chose to give siblings in order to teach you how to share." She looked at me with excitement and replied, "Yeah, I told you I should be an only child!" Well, at least she had part of the message figured out.

But we went on to have a nice little daddy-daughter conversation about what I meant. That sometimes God uses things to help us learn how to be more like Him, even things we don't necessarily like. (No, I did not use the term "objects of sanctification" with my daughter) While I am not sure if she totally grasped this concept, it still has me thinking today. What are the things God continues to use in my life to shape me? Where could it be said of my life, "I was made to do this, but God also gave me that to help me learn"?

Some of my thoughts:
I was made to perform and be up front, but God gave me weaknesses to learn to trust Him. 
I was made to lead, but God allows doubt and fear so that I learn to listen for His voice.
I was made to accomplish, but God gives me relationships so I learn to slow down and put people ahead of tasks.

What are your thoughts? What objects of sanctification has God placed in your life?

May you see His shaping hand at work on your jouney-

Nick

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Training



Spring tends to be a season of preparation. If you practice Lent, you make intentional decisions to lay certain things down to make more room for God. You determine to pick up certain things in order to have a greater focus on Christ and His sacrifice. In doing this, you and I are communicating to our heart and our brain that the Presence of Christ in us matters and is worthy of our attention.

If I am honest, I am a long ways away from living in this constant awareness of His Presence. There is an ideal I have of what this unbroken communion with Jesus would be like, and most days I am nowhere close! I can either beat myself up about this lack of faith and focus, or I can determine to prepare myself to live in this way. I begin to practice. I train.

You may find yourself in a season of preparation as well. Preparing to get married, preparing to have kids, preparing for college, preparing for a new job- all of these require a certain way of life. As a church, we are also in a season of preparation in many ways- preparing for Easter, preparing to hire staff, preparing to plant a church. In seasons like this, what parameters should guide our behaviors? I would offer these four principles:

1. Do the hard work now so you can enjoy less work later.
I think of this every spring with my garden when I am busy tearing out unwanted growth, trimming back bushes, and tiling up cold, hard soil. The more work I am willing to engage in now, the better the summer will be. If I make the effort to ready the soil of my garden, I can spend far less time pulling weeds in the summer. I have to remind myself of this, or else the work just feels like drudgery.

Life works this way. There are seasons in which we must invest heavily in something so that it has the freedom to grow and flourish. You may be putting an extra focus on your walk with Christ in these weeks- this will lead to a stronger friendship with Him. You may be pouring countless hours into young children- this will lead (hopefully!) to better adjusted adults who can contribute in the world. You may be struggling mightily to change a behavior or addiction- this will lead to a better, freer way of life. Be willing to engage in the hard work now because life will flourish when you do.

2. Endure unpleasant things because better days are coming.
When I head out to run on a cold, miserable February or March day, I rarely appreciate the weather. I don’t like running in the rain, and I really don’t like running in the wind. If, however, I let these elements stop me, I have just eliminated 6 months from the running calendar! Enduring some unpleasant runs in the early spring gives me the ability to enjoy running on beautiful summer evenings and in crisp autumn races.

Your season of preparation may be causing you to face or experience many unpleasant things. These adverse conditions may leave you wanting to quit. Don’t do it! Making these sacrifices now will pay off. The author of Hebrews said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) You are training yourself to be able to receive a good harvest!

3. Remember that unseen, little things usually become visible big things.
Every spring, the Major League Baseball season begins almost unnoticed by most of us in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Mariners open practice usually around the third week of February down in Arizona. Day upon day, they will take to the field in the early morning hours and scoop ground balls, shag pop-flies, and take swings in the batting cage. Few fans attend these workouts. Why? Because they are BORING. But come April, 50,000 people will fill SafeCo field for opening day. On that day, a thousand little things done by the players will be on display in a big way.

So is the case for all of us. We may be engaging in practices that seem small in the scope of life, and go unnoticed by almost everyone else. We get up early to pray. We read the Bible with our children. We skip that extra snack or desert. We practice kindness when we could have been rude. Choice after choice, we are creating a life that will one day be on display for all to see. Don’t let the hidden nature of these acts convince you they are unimportant. They mean everything in the end!

4. This is a season; and season’s change.
A final principle to keep before you is that season’s change. You can’t plant seeds all year-round. (Ok, I’m sure there are some that you can, but you know what I mean.) You have a window of time to plant your garden or your flowers and then the growing season ends.

Whatever changes you are making right now will not be your focus forever. They shouldn’t be. The kids will grow, the relationship will change, the habit will become a routine- life has a way of changing. So focus on this as a season. Bring intensity and discipline to this season because you know it won’t last forever. Stagnation- or not changing- is what creates despair and causes us to quit. Viewing your current commitment as a season may give you the grace and strength you need to see it through. And God will be with you.

So, may all our seasons of preparation become the fertile ground leading to new, and greater, life in Christ.Journey on!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Go Kill Something

At East Hills, we have been challenging one another to read through the entire Bible chronologically in one year. This all sounds great until you realize that it takes more than a month to get through the law portion of Scripture. As an encouragement to folks, and for perspective, I offered this post for some perspective on all the gory, sacrificial details of Genesis-Deuteronomy.

"As we continue to wind our way through the first five books of the Bible, one of the things we can't help but stop and ask is, "why are there so many laws in these books?" And, "why are they in the Bible?" For most of us, I think we feel like there is little that we can gain today from studying them, and we never hear them preached on, if not for more than a passing reference here and there. This blog is an attempt at helping all of us to understand the place these laws have in our faith today.

If you think about it, these first five books were the only Bible the Israelites had for quite some time. In fact, for several thousand years, when Jews would ask the question, "How do we live in a way that is pleasing to God?" these books- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy- were their answer. Their ONLY answer.

So imagine if you had been alive many, many years ago before the Bible came to be the Bible. You had no written record of what pleased God and what didn't. One day, God came along to you and said, "Person, if you sin, you should bring me a sacrifice!" With no other reference point, you are going to have many, many questions. Such as, "what is sinful and what isn't? What kind of sacrifice? Do all sins require the same sacrifice? When do I bring the sacrifice? Where do I bring it? Do I sacrifice it myself, or does someone else do that? What does it mean to sacrifice something to begin with? Burn it? Kill it? Eat it?" All of these questions and many like them would be logical, and expected responses to God's command.

In light of this, the length and specificity of all these books starts to make a lot more sense! I have been told that even in the 1st century at the time of Jesus, Jewish school boys were still required to memorize the entirety of these books in school. Crazy as that may sound, it actually makes a lot of sense when we remember that these rules were their primary link to pleasing God.

If reading all of these laws and commands does one thing for us, it ought to make us eternally grateful for the work of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice has ended the system of sacrifice (Hebrews 10) and made righteous forever all who trust in His name. So as you read about bulls and goats one more time, pause and thank Jesus for coming on your behalf.

So while Jesus made our approach to God much simpler, he actually made the requirements infinitely more challenging! When you think about it, Jesus summarized thousands of laws with two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Very simple, but very, very hard to do. It would actually be much easier for us to follow the sacrificial system than to live out the laws of love in every single thing we do.

This is the amazing conundrum of Jesus. He raised the bar of God's righteous standard even higher than the Old Testament law, but he lowered the bar of acceptance. In the past, the people had to obey all the commands in order to be acceptable. Jesus, however, made everyone acceptable through His blood. Why? Because God knew that when people understood they were loved and accepted by God already, they would be empowered to go and live out his law of love.

We can never hope to love God and others perfectly. But thanks to the amazing love and grace of Jesus Christ, we have the freedom to try, knowing that our acceptance before God isn't contingent on how well we obey His law. How cool is that?

So go for it. Go and love God and love others with all that you have. And when you realize you've come up short, which you always will, fall back into the amazing grace of Jesus Christ. And then go out and love some more."

May your journey through Scripture give you a deeper love for Jesus than ever before!

 Nick