Sunday, February 20, 2005

In the FoxHole, part III

note on the FoxHole series:

I realize it might seem passing strange for me to be writing this series in the midst of my war. One reason is that it helps me to objectify the situation. By objectifying the situation and by writing to you about it, it really helps me to more consistently and thoroughly apply all this to myself. I do not mean to imply at all that I've got all this down and flawlessly execute; I don't. But writing this is helping me execute better.

In the FoxHole, Part I - Strength Before Strength

In the FoxHole, Part II - Pain as Teacher

My good friend Joe V. in one of the comments below to my last post mentioned the issue of control. That was spot on. I most definitely want to control this situation. If I could just be in charge of the situation, I could expeditiously direct it to what I see as the best conclusion. I see steps A, B and C. I'm a project manager and I have the whole thing mapped out in my mind.

However, I am not in control.

In my situation - at least from an on-the-ground perspective, I am utterly at the mercy of the vagaries of the human heart.

I am reduced to waiting. And I think that's exactly the position that God has allowed me to be in. I hate waiting.

Today I was reading one of my very favorite passages in Ephesians:

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV, emphasis mine)

I don't know how many times I've read or taught this passage but today I noticed something I don't recall seeing before. Paul prays for the Jesus followers in Ephesus to have the strength to understand the fullness of Jesus' love, to comprehend the vast reach of Jesus' love.

It takes moral courage or inner strength to apprehend the love that Jesus has for us.

Waiting requires the same moral courage in the context of this love, this transpropositional love, this love that moves Paul to press the bounds of his language in search of an adequate means of expression.

We have to exercise the inner strength to fall quiet, to rest, to wait, to be still. To realize that our Father is aware of this situation and that He is for us.

A couple of days ago I started tracking this meme through the
Scriptures. Here are some the passages that struck me:

  • We wait in the presence of One Who loves us to a great degree.

7Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8You have said, "Seek my face."
My heart says to you,
"Your face, LORD, do I seek."
9Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in

Psalm 27:7-10 (all references are ESV, emphasis mine)

After I became a father for the first time, I discovered a sustained intensity of love I had never known before. As Paul, the Psalmist favorably compares the amazing love of God to these strong parental bonds. God loves us more than even this! We call out to One Who loves us so much.

  • We wait before One Who knows all that we have done, but He's willing to forgive us because of His great love.

11As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.

Psalm 40:11,12 (emphasis mine)

Amazing. Though He is so aware of our many sins, His love and mercy prevail.

  • Because of His great love, we wait in pain, but are not overwhelmed.

1For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:1,2 (emphasis mine)

I cannot read this without thinking of the wonderful John Michael Talbot song based on this Psalm. Note it reads "greatly shaken." Surely we shall be shaken, but we are not utterly destroyed. Paul speaks similarly:

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

We are certainly touched by the pain that comes our way, but our experience of this pain is in the context of being loved by our All Wise and All Knowing Father.

  • As we wait, He's not unconcerned about how we feel.

8Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Psalm 62:8 (emphasis mine)

We can give God what is inside of us. We can be honest and open with Him. We can share our pain with Him. He invites us to do this.

  • As we wait, we remember His past deliverances - past evidences of His lovingkindness for us.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6 (emphasis mine)

I find that this is not something that I tend to do naturally. But through this war I have intentionally remembered and thanked God for when He's bailed me out in the past. This theme is prevalent in the Old Testament as well.

  • As we wait, we focus on our current blessings - present evidences of his lovingkindness

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8,9

This helps us to keep balance in our perspective on the present situation. It helps us to decatastrophize our problem.

And so I wait and try to remember these things.


JSV said...

As a prof once said, “hamartiologically naïve!”

I think he meant that most ministries and those communicating theological truth have a shallow understanding of the human heart post salvation.

I agree with this and though the believer does have a new heart, to be naïve of the internal conditions will only grip us with the illusion of being in control rather than God. Maybe this is why the road is narrow???

No more sermons from me…let’s get dirty. Steve, this forum is essential. One can be part of a church body and have little to no internal communication with anyone (men to men or women to women) that is little more than a small group series for three weeks. I know this blog is not about personal matters as such, but I can tell you holding it in is no good. Like the great spiritual movie called “Willy Wonka” once said, “…if you squeeze the toothpaste with the top on it will pop out somewhere inconvenient.”

A month ago I had a road rage incident in LA and it was bad. A guy chased me on one of the busiest highways because I provoked him by flashing my lights after he swerved in and out of traffic. I was fed-up with these types of morons and my boiling point hit a peak. I kept flashing this guy until he got in front of me and every lane I moved to, he did the same. It got much worse and I barely escaped a serious incident.

So here we have two males, toothpaste popping out the side of the tube for both, and a highway as a game board. Not good!

I think we need to get serious about the human heart and quit playing like we are in control when the truth is we are only stewards of that which God has allowed us to cultivate for a period of time—project manager, mother, surgeon, or brick layer.

I believe only Christians have the tool (Spirit of God) to be honest here on Earth. Everyone else is a slave to making life work outside of Christ. How can you get FM on an AM radio?

JSV said...

I just read all the passages you presentede and a thought occured...

Maybe this is what the role of the precher is on Sunday first start from the stirrings within (heart)and share (head) without. This type of message is "real."

There are other opportunites in church to "learn" theology, but the sermon must be from the heart. That is a tall call for the be used by God as the heart for the church at hand, knowing those sitting each week will also be in a place to hear the message.

Preach your message Steve as it was meant to be heard...your audience "waits." :)