Monday, January 28, 2008
The guest speaker, John King, preached an impassioned and inspiring message based on the story of the friends who dug through the roof of Peter's house to bring the paralytic to Jesus. Pastor King had so many good things to say about the order of the church based upon that story, but what stayed with me the most occurred early in the service, right after he announced his text. I was flipping frantically (and rather frustratedly) through my Bible, seemingly unable to get to Romans, and thinking that everyone else must be having the same trouble because it was taking him a long time to speak again, when I heard him say something about "the lady there in the scarf" and felt the friend sitting to my right nudging me to say he was trying to get my attention.
I don't normally broadcast prophetic words over my life in such a public fashion, but since he spoke to me with microphone in hand before the entire church, and cds of the service have been duplicated and handed out, I'm thinking any effort on my part to keep what he said private is futile. I won't go into all the details, but one thing he addressed is what God wanted to do in my life regarding what he called a "tremendous fear of men."
I was praying about that this morning, and asking God for wisdom, when He gently reminded me of Proverbs and that He'd already put wisdom at my disposal--my responsibility was to apply what He gave. So I flipped to Proverbs 28 (on January 28--original, I know) and stopped at the first verse, which reads: The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.
Figuring that God is a specific God, and that He has a good eye for details, I did a Hebrew word breakdown on the verse to see exactly what He was saying. I've always read it as, "a bad person's going to run away all the time even though nobody's chasing him/her, but a good person will walk into dangerous situations without being afraid." And I still think that applies to some extent...but some of the meanings of the words surprised me. Here's what I found:
The wicked -- guilty one, guilty of a crime, guilty of sin
Flee -- To cause to disappear, to hide
When no one pursues -- to be behind, to follow after, to pesecute, to harass
But the righteous -- the just, lawful, the justified and vindicated by God
Are bold -- to trust, to be confident, to be secure
As a lion -- young lion
What struck me was that the definition for boldness in this verse was less of an "I'm walking into a dangerous situation," proactive kind of word, and more of a quiet, "God's got me" kind of word. When we know that God has vindicated us, that He agrees with our decisions because we've made them according to His leading, and when we rest in His perfect will, we are automatically granted the same right to confidence and security as is given a lion cub romping near it's mother.
Fear, then, is ultimately a lack of faith in the knowledge that everything comes to us filtered through His hands. And we know that anything that is not faith is sin.
At this point, I am still working out how to apply this to my life. It's all well and good to speak of changes we need to make in ourselves. It's another thing, though, to be in that split-second of strong emotion on your backside in the church foyer trying to process what just happened and how to respond. However, if we can trust Him to protect us in the rough times, to hold us in the hard times, to vindicate us in the unfair ones, and to challenge us when it's time to grow, then we can trust Him to have the grace to lead us through every new situation; and that's an awesome arsenal against fear.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
"Love is a most costly commodity. The more you are willing to pay, the more valuable the prize. The question is, are you willing to pay the price?" ~Johnny Lingo, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo." Dir. Steven Ramirez. Video. Turtles Crossing, LLC 2003
I awakened this morning with the question, "how much do you want?" spinning over in my mind. The story written by Patricia McGerr of Johnny Lingo and his 8-cow wife is one of my favorite legends (you can read a condensed version of it here. The 2003 movie adaptation strays from the original story in some areas, but the underlying theme is the same in both.
My thoughts this morning, however, were not from a standpoint of making sacrifices for love, but making sacrifices for the anointing (which, when you come down to it, ultimately is about love, but not in the romantic sense presented in the Johnny Lingo story). It is an often overwhelming paradox that the more I learn about God and the more time I spend with Him, the more I feel like I don't spend enough time with Him. Could this be a religious spirit pushing me to faith through works instead of salvation through grace? Possibly. But more likely it is simply that I just can't get enough of Him--and since Scripture shows that He can't get enough of me either, it looks like that's a good thing.
So why the question?
God requires different things from different people according to their callings and the ministry to which He's called them. Some are called to lives of fasting and prayer like Anna in Luke 2. Some are called to leave home and family to serve on a mission field. Some may have to sacrifice the good opinions of those around them. For some, it's giving up television and/or secular music. For some, it's offering their lives in the sacrifice of martyrdom.
The bottom line is that He's looking for obedience on the most basic level in our lives. There is great power that comes with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but it only comes at a great price. As He sees we are willing to do whatever it takes to be like Him, He is able to trust us with more. Anna was one of the first mouthpieces of the Gospel, a recognized prophetess, and favored with one of the earliest-recorded encounters with Jesus, but it came at a price--84 years as a widow compared to 7 years of marriage in a culture where the worth of women depended so heavily on fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, and a lifestyle of constant fasting and prayer.
If I could rewrite the quote above, I would change it to say "the anointing is a most costly commodity." God has purposes and callings for each of us, and more than anything He desires relationship with us. The more we respond to Him and the more we desire Him, the more of Himself He gives to us. The "responding" process, however, is where we face the crossroads. What price are you willing to pay?