Thursday, May 28, 2009

Elder Brotherish Entitlement

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
-Romans 1:21

This weekend, someone confronted me with the truth that my fears surrounding the past and the future were the result of a real lack of gratitude for what God was doing in my present.

WHAT?! I’m totally grateful AND thankful. Come on.

But then when I got to thinking about it, when I really evaluated it, I realized that I have a pretty serious attitude of entitlement. When I looked at my thoughts, they were totally gross… I believed that I was deserving of my blessings. Because why? Oh, well, because I’m a pretty good person. And because I deserve beauty for ashes in my life because I have followed the rules, right?

Wow. How convenient that that kind of attitude makes me my own savior so that every blessing that comes my way is either 1) something I deserve because of my performance or 2) not quite good enough because I think I deserve something a little better.

"In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O' Connor says of her character Hazel Motes that 'there was a deep, black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.' This is a profound insight. You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. If you do that, then you have "rights". God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die. You don't need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior." -The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), there are two sons. The younger one takes his part of his fathers inheritance and squanders it on “wild living” and then returns to his fathers home, asks for forgiveness and is welcomed with open arms.

The elder brother responds to his fathers compassion in the following manner:
“Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

Hmm… that sounds a little familiar…

And T. Keller points out in his book The Prodigal God that those of us who are “elder brothers” (ahem, LAUREN) are just as depraved and fallen as the “younger brothers” but that it is a more dangerous trap because we are so blinded by our own self-righteousness. Instead of replacing the need for a savior with “wild living” to fill our emptiness, we have replaced it with our performance, by our law keeping, by living our lives as “a good person.”

So hopefully taking a good hard look at my own depravity and at Jesus as the one who has saved me from that will shake loose my attitude of entitlement.

And hopefully losing my attitude of entitlement will result in a deeper attitude of gratefulness for my blessings in the here and now.

P.S. Photo by Leslie Talley.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mountain Moving

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
-Mark 11:22-25

My thoughts on prayer are constantly being challenged but this week I am starting to realize that I, embarrassingly, don't pray for things if I think that they can't be accomplished or achieved. I have faith that prayer can be answered on a local level. I have faith that the prayer for your needed job or your friend’s ailment can be accomplished through prayer. But as far as my prayers affecting something on a global level.... as far as prayers that can really move mountains... well, I am realizing how much I lack the faith for that.

Once again, I have put too much emphasis on myself instead of the object of my faith. The object of my faith (Jesus) has defeated eternal death and suffering. He has defeated the ultimate Evil. Why shouldn't the object of my faith be able to defeat the suffering and evil that exists in this world?

But instead of focusing on any of that when I pray, I am focusing on how inadequate I am as someone whose prayers should be answered.

When we sussed the above passage (Mark 11:22-25) out in Bible study we realized Jesus is saying for our prayers to move mountains there are some things that have to be in place:

1) I have faith in God. (Not my own "prayer" abilities.)
2) I can't doubt. I must believe in my heart that it will happen.
3) I must not hold anything against anyone but must forgive them so that...
4) God in Heaven can forgive my own sins.

And I have seen God move mountains. I have seen and experienced amazing miracles in my own life and a miracle is a miracle. It is something that was impossible that God has made possible.

If God has given beauty for ashes in my local community, why would I doubt that He could do it on a larger scale? Why is the healing of brokenness for an entire place or people more intimidating than what I have already seen and felt Him do in own life and the lives of those around me?

Well, it shouldn't be. Time to put a little more focus, again, on the object of my faith who has moved mountains of sin and death and take the focus off of myself and my own inadequacies.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Completion in Christ (A.K.A The Opposite of Self-Sufficiency)

Since feeling convicted that I need to get my mind under control, I have been overwhelmed recently with how negative most of my thought process is. The things I say to myself are far crueller than anything I would ever say to anyone else. I am not truly grasping that my identity is not in myself, my performance or my appearance but in that of Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:20).

Recently saw Sight and Sound's production of Behold the Lamb. When Jesus went walking on the water and then called Peter to come out on the water to Him, Peter starts out fine, then sees the wind, freaks out and sinks. (Matthew 14:25-32). And in the show, Jesus says to Peter when He pulls him out of the water, "You did so well until you took your eyes off of me." (And cue Lauren's tears.)

I'm realizing how much that is my issue lately. I have taken my eyes off of Jesus completely and focused them on myself. All of my inadequacies. All of my brokenness. All of my failings. Lauren. Lauren. Lauren.

But the object of my faith (Jesus) is consistent, good and loving even when my faith is constantly shaken by the whispers of the Enemy in my ears.

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." -1 John 1:5

If lies of darkness are dominating my thoughts, that cannot be of God for God is light. In Him there is no darkness. There can be pain and suffering in Him but it is a pain and suffering that exists with Hope. And if I am walking in darkness and consistently living out of the lies that are being spoken to me, I cannot claim to truly be in fellowship with my God. I have become reliant on myself for my identity.

So tonight I reread Henri Nouwen's Life of the Beloved. What a blessing of a book. My favorite passage that shines light into the darkness:

"We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us. That's the truth of our lives. That's the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That's the truth spoken by the voice that says, ' You are my Beloved.'

Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: 'I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me. I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse... yes, even your child... wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one.'"

(And cue Lauren's tears... of joy.)

P.S. Photo by Leslie Talley.