A post from my prayer journal that I hope will encourage my readers.
You know those times when you know what you should be doing, should be thinking, but when you try, it doesn't seem to work? Everything feels half-hearted, but the problem isn't everything,, it's you. It's me. I've been feeling like this on and off recently. How do I go from being half-hearted to sold out? From being lukewarm to on-fire?

Even as I write this, I'm reminded of the lukewarm church in Revelation 3, and I revisit the passage.
"'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor,blind, and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes,so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as(AZ) I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"
The church's problem is that they forgot who they were and who God is. That's my problem, too. When I look at schoolwork and social justice work and other responsibilities of mine, I let my performance in these areas dictate who I am. But that's not who I am. I am wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked - but I have been given worth, love, wealth, sight, and am clothed by the righteousness of Christ.

I can't decide to change my heart, but I can decide to "buy into" Christ. I can buy gold refined by fire. How? By seeing it for what it is. For dwelling on it and understanding its worth. And for selling everything I own and everything I am for the One I've found. (Two things God told me: that He is strong and He loves me.) And though he reproves and disciplines those that he loves, he also makes us rich and clothes us and gives us sight and knocks on the door of our hearts. He is near. He has conquered and invites us to sit and rest in His victory.

He who has an ear, let him hear the Spirit speak. Let he who hears not be a hearer only, like a man who looks at himself at a mirror and forgets what he looks like, but a doer. And let he who does do it whole-heartedly as the conquering love of Christ transforms him by the renewing of his mind.  Praise to Jesus Christ who gives us the victory.


More than Conquerors

Photographer: faraz_memon of Flickr under CC 2.0 and is likewise released under the same license.

HT: If God Wants Me Happy, Why Do I Suffer So Much? article from Desiring God.

Lewis Corollary

Saul's Spirituality

This year, I've been using an OT/NT read-through-the-Bible-plan, which I've really been enjoying because it helps me revisit old passages that have intrigued me in the past but aren't necessarily the sort of passages that I would return to time and time again on my own. One such passage is 1 Samuel 28. It's the story where there's a battle with the Philistines coming up, Saul freaks out, he goes to a witch who raises Samuel's spirit from the ground, Samuel's kinda pissed, the witch freaks out, and then she gives him food to get him on his way as fast as possible. As a kid, the story was interesting to me for the obvious reasons- there's not much witchcraft in the Bible (as to be expected), the witch seems surprised that Samuel's spirit actually comes up from the ground (not as expected), and Samuel's angry (also expected) because Saul turned to witchcraft and also because I'd imagine that he just got pulled away from paradise/ "Abraham's bosom"/ the intermediate state.

But another interesting thing is the process that leads Saul to try witchcraft in the first place.
When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.
To use contemporary Christian parlance, Saul had a "fear of man." To use a more practical phrase, Saul didn't wasn't too keen on dying at the hands of the Philistines (and to give him at least a little credit, I'm sure he didn't want to lead his men to their deaths, either.) And what came of his fear? It led him to inquire of the Lord.
And when Saul inquired of the LORD,(G) the LORD did not answer him, either(H) by dreams, or(I) by Urim, or by prophets.
Saul is at the end of his rope, and he turns to God, but God doesn't answer him. Why?

I think an important piece of backstory information in the passage is that back when Saul was actually winning battles, he wasn't seeking the Lord. He was doing his own thing and generally messing up all over the place. In this story, Saul is not seeking the Lord because he is a holy, righteous person. He is seeking God because he's scared out of his wits and doesn't know what to do. He sees the Philistine army and is afraid. It's not so much that Saul wants to know what God's will for him is; he already knows that. Instead, he goes to God for some sort of assurance or strategy or power. He wants God's blessing for the upcoming battle, not God himself. Finally, our doubts about Saul's heart are confirmed when he seeks the counsel of God...from a witch. You know, the witches that God said to get rid of way back when because witchcraft was an abomination. Those witches.

A note on interpretation: it is important to understand that this story is a unique one. It is unique to Saul and his experience and his time period. It is meant to be a descriptive series of events, and not prescriptive instruction for our lives. This was in the OT and God's Spirit did not continually dwell with his people the way He does now. However, "all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in all righteousness." So what does this passage teach us about God and our hearts?

One lesson we can learn is that God shouldn't be plan B. When looking at my day or my week and staring at my "to-do" list and failing at doing everything on my own...it's easy to become afraid. I'm afraid because I have created the idols of control and security in my life, and circumstances don't allow me to worship my idols. These things have obstructed my view of the cross. If I started out fearing and obeying and loving God, there would be no reason to fear anything else.

The second lesson we can learn is to examine the reasons why we seek spirituality. We seeks spirituality because we have some sort of "hole" in our lives we need to fill. What is that hole? Do we seek God because we see our grades/ jobs/ futures/ families slipping away? Do we seek God because we want some sense of fulfillment in our lives? Do we seek God because we want him to fix some situation for us? Seeking God may make us seem spiritual, even (and especially) to ourselves, but it is important to examine why we are searching. If we are seeking God for God himself, then we will find him. Ask, and you will be answered; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.

However, if we are seeking to fulfill our own desires, if we want to make God in the images of ourselves, or if we want God to be our Santa Claus, then we aren't seeking God at all. While we are seeking spirituality, we are not seeking God. We are consulting a witch.

When do we seek God? And why?

Wakeup Call

Photographer: Zvone Lavric, Slovenia
HT: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/04/07/christians-ought-to-be-the-worlds-greatest-explorers/

Falling like a grain of wheat

What's your brand?

I've recently started reading a legal blog called "Above the Law." The other day, one of their posts, "What's your brand?" reminded me of what we have been learning at church. The basic gist of the article is that each person needs to find their "brand," the thing that characterizes them, the thing that they're known for.

To be honest, reading the article made me kind of sad. Readers are encouraged to "consider their packaging" and find their strengths. The problem is, we're packaged in sin. Every part of our lives- even every part of this world is enveloped by the Curse. There is nothing we can boast of. But for we Christians, we can boast in Christ. We're packaged in His righteousness. Our "brand," to use its other definition, is the Holy Spirit, God's seal and promise that we have an inheritance in Him. We don't have to worry about or navel-gaze until we find our strengths and play them up for the world. Our strength is God's strength that is made manifest in our weakness. When we walk into a room, we don't have to focus on the one thing that we want people to see in us. We want people to see Christ. (Note: the goal isn't to show people how holy or spiritual or religious we are, either. If that's our goal, then we're still missing the point.)

I think it's really easy for Christians to look at this concept of self-branding and say it's completely anti-Christian. But I don't want to stop there. I think there is something we can learn from this. We all have the same "brand" in Christ, but are we not also different parts of one body? One person is the eye, and one person is the ear. "But I don't feel like an arm," a person might say, "I feel very small." I would respond, well maybe you are small, but that does not mean you are insignificant. Maybe you are a foramina , a small but necessary hole through which a nerve travels. You might not be the eye that sees or the nerve that controls it, but you might be an important support structure that allows this function to happen. Maybe that is your much-needed gifting.

Like I said before, navel-gazing is bad. However, a little introspection is necessary to utilize our places in the church. For example, with my health issues, I've developed my own doctrine of suffering, control, and health. Someone else may have developed their own doctrine of what it means to serve others while getting practically nothing in return. Another person may develop their doctrine of hospitality, and yet another what it means to represent Christ in a predominately non-Christian environment. The list goes on. I think through our experiences and our giftings, we learn different things about God, and we can use those unique aspects of our lives to affect the way we serve others.

These individual characteristics can become a type of "brand," though I hesitate to use the term. I do not mean "brand" as something that defines who we are, something that gives us worth, or something that we are known for or by. What I do mean, however, is something that characterizes the individuality that God has blessed us with and the ways we can use that individuality to serve God and others. What has God been teaching you lately? What is the brand God has given you?

TSN Reorg

What, a Wednesday post? You betchya. After over a year (and over 100 posts), I decided to switch things up a bit. (For my Feed readers: the blog's shiny new redesign reflects this.) My Lent reflections reminded me of how much I love to write, so I decided to have "Free Fridays." To accommodate this change, comics will be posted Mondays and Wednesdays. Fridays I post whatever I want. It might be a text entry of my own, a repost from another blog, or maybe even an additional comic for the week. It's my choice, but as always, I take requests. What would you like to see on TSN?

Faith for Tomorrow

The “Is that contestant on American Idol a Christian?" Scorecard

For my TSN readers who are unfamiliar with Stuff Christians Like, we have the awesome opportunity to participate in a 130+ blog "post-a-thon," with each blog containing one scoring criterion to determine if a contestant on American Idol is a Christian.  (Yes, Stuff Christians Like is where I got the idea for a Church Website Scorecard.)  The author of SCL is also coming out with a book.  Truthfully, I haven't bought it yet, but I'm planning to and you should too.

And without further ado...

57. They swear during one of their interviews. (Like one of the big ones that is often changed in movies to "Melon Farmer.) = - 3 points 
To add up your score with over a 130 other ideas on this scorecard, visit stuffchristianslike.net

For SCL readers stopping by - welcome.  Three Star Night is a Christian-themed webcomic that is transitioning to also include text posts.  If you are interested in looking around, a nice sampling of my style can be found in my posts about coffee, a topic which I find myself returning to quite a bit.

"The new covenant in my blood"

Photographer: inxsive28 of stock.xchng

Washing Feet

The Prince came in with royal robes,
and having walked down many stairs
descending from His golden throne,
removed His regal gown and airs
and wore His holiness alone.

He gleamed more bright than whitest white
though in a world that knew Him not,
dead in its heart and in its mind,
it boasted life but reeked of rot.
The Light had come to blind mankind.

He came to me and spoke with care,
but I could not respond in kind.
Dead like the rest, what then of life
knew I? Its brightness I maligned,
contented with continued strife.

Yet humbly He sat down in dust
and wrote a few things in the sand.
He took a bowl and washing sheet,
continuing with purposed plan,
the Prince knelt down and washed my feet.

But Sir! I said in frightened voice
Please do not do this lowly deed;
You should regain your princely seat.
They're not that soiled; there's no need-
And I myself can wash my feet.

Despite my protest He went on,
disgraceful soles He took in hand
I did not know my sin so great-
the more He washed, the more demand-
and from my soles He bore the weight.

Now as the blackened dirt washed off,
I watched as it then turned to blood.
He washed my feet, but then He bled
from where His garments washed the mud,
His body taking pain instead.

I did not understand the cost
before I looked into His eyes,
and I then realized with disgust
that He had taken my demise
and there He lay dead in the dust.

'Twas my iniquity for which He died;
He Himself was damned and I - justified.

The thoughts behind this post can be read here.
Originally posted on Heroic Bytes.