Saturday, December 3, 2016

Don't Despise the Lost, We All Have Rotten Meatloaf in Our Refrigerators

I used to always kind of chuckle when I read an article about a guy who did some crazy thing, hiking the pacific crest trail, driving across the country, or even going vegan, in a quest to ‘find himself.’

“Seriously?” I’d think in a scoffing tone of think. “Pull up your diaper and get a job. Stop being selfish and thinking about yourself and do something."

Only recently have I have ben realizing that my dismissal of those ‘self discovery’ quests, my disdain for, and even sense of superiority to, people looking for themselves comes from a deeper place than a simple sense of productivity or efficiency. The reason I didn’t like them, was very simple, and unnervingly close to home.

I realized, I am that guy.

And I don’t like him.

Not knowing who I truly am is a feeling that I’d stuffed deep down, tried to not think about, ignored. Ever opened your fridge and seen that tupperware container of last weeks dinner (ok, admit it, it’s actually from last month’s dinner), growing various unnatural colors and textures, probably smelling up a storm inside it’s little plastic coffin, just waiting to offend the smelling sensibilities of anyone foolish enough to open it? What did you do with that little container of overripe meatloaf? Yeah, pushed it into the back of the fridge, maybe hid it behind the bag of carrots. Pushed it away, to be dealt with later, hopefully by someone else, when you’re not home.

That’s what I did. I pushed my smelly little container of my rotten identity, or rather, an uncertain identity, into the corner behind a container of ego or false humility or something and tried not to think about it. But it was there, and though it’s hardy tin of polycarbonate did an admirable job of containing it’s festering contents, some would always seep out, reminding me of it’s presence, affecting my life. I couldn’t ignore it, but I also couldn’t deal with it. I didn’t know how. I wasn't brave enough to face it, so I pretended that it wasn’t there, and mocked those who were brave enough to admit that it was.

“Besides,” my subconscious must have reasoned, “Look at the rest of the stuff you got, it’s all pretty good, not even close to it’s expiration date, don’t worry ‘bout it.”

*   *   *

In each of us there is a longing to be loved, but to be truly loved, you must be truly known, deeply known. And the deeper someone get’s, the more likely it is that they’ll find something they won’t like. So we close up, close off. They can’t hurt us if they don’t know how bad we can be. I mean, can you imagine what they’d think if they found that tin nestled neatly behind the eggnog? Can’t let that happen.

And yet, the desire is there, for someone to know you all the way, to know all those nasty thing’s you don’t know what to do with in your fridge that is life. But there’s a risk in letting them in, a risk that as they go deeper in, they’ll get weirded out by all the gunk, or maybe just not be able to handle the stench, and they’ll pull out. But after you’ve let someone in, there’s no going back, because now they know, and they know too much. But what if they get in, and they don’t look at what you think is garbage with disdain? What if they see it, and feel empathy, compassion, and love? What if, in seeing that you’re not perfect, they’re opened up to reveal that they’re not perfect either?

We’re all broken, walking this broken way, which conveniently enough, is the title of a book I’m reading right now.

Those people we meet in this life who are brave enough to be broken with us are like gems: rare, beautiful. God may only bring a handful of them into our lives this side of heaven, but oh how sweet is the fellowship of those who are raw, who are broken, and who love the broken. Yet as amazing as those friends are, there is One who actually knows the extent of our brokenness, and loves us more than any other human ever could.

*   *   *

So while the old me might have mocked the idea of going on a quest to ‘find yourself,’ new more recent me gets to dismount his high-horse, apologize to all the identity seekers out there (Sorry!), and join them on their quest, our quest, to discover who we truly are, and are truly meant to be.

Monday, November 7, 2016

No Matter Who's Elected, Christ is Still King

Today was a very productive, restful day. I worked on my business, read some out of Delighting in the Trinity (which, btw, is a book you should read), visited with my host family, filled out my voting ballot, ate dinner, listened to music and a few podcasts, etc.

'Ok Paul, we're all thrilled that you had a great day. But this isn't Instagram, go post photos of your food elsewhere' I can hear you saying. Or maybe you're not. But either way, I do indeed have a grander purpose in telling you all of this.

I'm not pleased with the two front-runners, not one bit, and the funny thing is, I don't think 80% of America really is either. And while I won't be voting for either of them, I think it's a safe assumption to say that we'll either have a power-hungry criminal or a power-hungry business man as our next commander in chief. But that said, Christ reigns. Right here, right now. He's not 'going' to be in charge one day, He won't take control of the planet sometime in the future, He's exercising his authority right now. Even over who is elected president of the US on November 8th.

And it's because Christ is at the right hand of God that I can go about my day today and not fret about tomorrow (Matt 6:34). Does this mean that tomorrow will necessarily be more comfortable than today? Absolutely not. We may experience persecution like America hasn't ever seen, we might see religious liberty curtailed and marginalized. We might see the rounding up of our weapons, abolishment of the 1st and 2nd amendments, it might turn into hell on earth. But we need not fear.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating inaction or passivity We've been given the responsibility to not just vote, but to speak out, to get involved, to influence. We cannot abandon those duties, those privileges, to the hyper-calvinistic fatalism of 'well God's in control, so what can I do?' God is sovereign, but we are responsible to act.

The true King is still on his throne. I love Psalm 37, the whole chapter's so good, but the heart of it is Psalm 37:4-12. I know it's a long section, but I entreat you to read it and let it's truth sink in:

"Trust in the Lord, and do good;
 dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
 Commit your way to the Lord;
 trust in him, and he will act.
 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
 fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
 Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming."
And if we need further reassurance that He is ruling now, Daniel 2:21 tells us "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding." 

Brothers, sisters, friends, whatever happens, whoever gains office, wherever the nation goes, I encourage you, trust God. Love God. Know that He loves us, and has our best in mind. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18). For those of you who know me well (you know who you are. :) ), you'll know that I'm preaching to myself here more than anything. I have fretted, I have feared, I have wrung my hands over the direction our country is taking (and a million other things). But I've been encouraged as of late by fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and by reading the Word, meditating on the truth that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil.

I'll leave you with this one thought, an excerpt from R.C. Sproul's Podcast, Jesus Changes Everything, because he said it better than I ever could.

"And so my hope and my prayer is that as you go to bed tonight and await the election results tomorrow, that you will never lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ reigns. That Jesus Christ has given us the leader that He’s chosen for us for His glory and the good of His people. We may be chastened, we may be persecuted, we may be driven into the coliseums like our fathers before us, for sport. I don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is that Jesus holds the future."


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