God Fills

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

“May God fill”, the God of hope, it is the God of HOPE who does the filling.  And HE fills with joy and peace…as I trust, the result is joy and peace filling me so that I then overflow with hope.

But here is the thing:  I have trusted.  I did trust.  Its not that I have abandoned trust, after all, what are the alternatives?  My theology is worthless if God is not actually sovereign, not actually fully in control of all things, not actually certain to accomplish every detail of His good, holy and perfect will.  But, I guess the best image I can think of right now is that its more like God and I are doing what 1-2 year olds do, “parallel playing”, rather than engaging one another.  And, my being “not God” means that I can’t force Him to engage with me on my terms but that I just have to keep waiting.  And, though all those “uplifting songs for the family” on the radio proclaim getting stronger in the waiting, well, lets just say waiting is doing very little for making me admirable or healthy in any way.  Then again, I suppose, “trust” means that even this season that seems to be causing me to waste away not just to invisibility but worse, decay and stench, is also part of His good, pleasing and perfect will?

How long o Lord?  How LONG?

When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.   He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.  He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.  The waters covered their adversaries;  not one of them survived.  Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.  But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.  Psalm 106:7-13

I am clearly one of His people, even to my quick forgetfulness and refusal to wait for Him.  I am an ancestor of Abraham, having received the promise, experienced captivity, experienced rescue and then going in search of a golden calf if that could bring relief to my waiting.  Moses was up on top of the mountain just too long to reasonably expect patience.  Hmmm…and that is where the Good News comes in.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love,  joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22

Even patience is the work of God, accomplished by Jesus, applied to my heart by the Holy Spirit.  Even patience in the waiting is not mine to muster up, white knuckle or will of myself with a clenched jaw.  But what do I do then?  This dissonance is physically stressful, emotionally grueling and mentally disorienting.  How do I wait for His plan to unfold when we actually need tuition money from a job I can’t seem to acquire, when relationships feel strained in my heart in ways that I can’t resolve, when my vision is muddled but the days keep passing?

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in deep anguish.  How long, Lord, how long?  Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.  Psalm 6:2-4

Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68

Where else can I go?  When Jesus was in anguish, weary, exhausted, “on empty”, terrified, depleted and otherwise aware of the weakness of His humanity, He didn’t “dig deep” or “pull it together” or “snap out of it” or strain for a more positive perspective or make new resolutions.  He knew that His weakness could only be satisfied by the Father.  How much more so is this true for me?  The answers will not be found anywhere else.  Strength will not be gained anywhere else.  Love for others will not come from any other source.  Patience can’t be faked, at least not indefinitely.  He alone can handle my frustration, disappointment, wounds and confusion.  He alone can bring an end to this season that apparently, like Mr. Miyagi’s strange training techniques, is in fact working out His good purposes for me.  May He quiet me, settle me, gentle me and fill me with His righteousness.

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. Is. 32:17

The Toxic Nature of a Meritocracy

And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?”  1 Sam. 6:20

Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?  Who can be in front of Him naked and unashamed after Adam and Eve’s violation of His Law?  Only perfect, unwaivering, purely motivated obedience allows for life to be sustained in the presence of the Holy God.  Who then can stand?

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?Romans 1:28-32, 2:1-3

The answer is that nobody, no not even one, can stand before a holy God by his or her own efforts or sense of self-righteousness.  Even our charity is tainted with selfishness, even our kindness to others can be motivated by what we get from that relationship.  We show favoritism toward those who offer us something we are lacking and either totally ignore or even detest those with whom we disagree or find offensive to our goals and purposes.  We, I, constantly pass judgment on others for the way they respond to a situation or do their jobs or don’t do their jobs or continue in bad habits that we ourselves don’t struggle with at this time.

It is evident when I have once again developed Gospel amnesia because my patience is thin and my intolerance is thick, my compassion is deteriorated and my condemnation is dominant, my affection for others is absent while my anger  places them on a fragile trip wire where at any moment I might punish them with my words, glares, silence or tantrum.  I return to living by merit when my heart is gripped by Gospel amnesia, forgetting that it is by grace alone I have been saved and not by any “good works” of my own, that it is by grace alone that I am secure in the love and affection and blessing of God regardless of my nasty attitude, poorly chosen words, unfulfilled obligations and other offensiveness.  And when I start riding the highs and lows, mostly lows, of living by the merit of my accomplishments, productivity, generosity toward others in action and attitude, talents and credits, I demand that others do as well.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Matt. 12:34

The Pharisees were called sons of their father, the Serpent.  In Genesis, when the promise of the work of Grace was announced, it was to the offspring of the woman and referenced the offspring of the serpent.  Gospel amnesia creates a strong pull toward the perspective of the Pharisees, disbelieving God’s word that only through the completed work of the seed of the woman, Jesus, could man be righteous and free from judgment.  My heart often just doesn’t agree and thinks my own work is praiseworthy.  Conversely, I have quite a lot to say about the shortcomings of others, how they aren’t doing it right/well/to my high standards…which are never as high as God’s.  Requiring others to attain a perfection that God has said is impossible offers only a death sentence.  When the nature of my conversation, words and attitudes is characterized by criticism of others, distrust of others, disdain for others and general judgement of others, what is being exposed is not my superiority as I have come to believe in that moment, but my viper’s heart.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus  the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free  from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:1-4

Even my viper’s heart is no match for His grace.  His grace is sufficient for me for His power is made perfect in my weakness.  And I must extend this same grace to others.  He has freed me from the just judgement of the Law so I cannot demand others meet standards that only Jesus can.  It is impossible for me to love generously until I realize I have been generously loved.  I cannot overflow with grace, mercy and love if it has not overcome me.  Where I recognize its absence, may I be drawn back into His embrace, drinking deeply of His unreasonable generosity towards me so that I may respond with unmerited generosity toward others.  Just as His kindness leads us to repentance, it is this life breathed in through Grace  that multiplies life in the place of death brought from judgment.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“In Repentance and Rest is Your Salvation, in Quietness and Trust is Your Strength”

“I, even I, am he who comforts you.  Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass, that you forget  the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?  For where is the wrath of the oppressor?  The cowering prisoners will soon be set free; they will not die in their dungeon, nor will they lack bread.  For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord Almighty is his name.  I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand — I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”  Is. 51:12-16

Fearing “mere mortals who are but grass”…but the grass can be prickly and hurt, it can provoke allergic reactions, it can grow long and entangle and it can become infested with weeds.  The grass can become so demanding or overwhelming that it consumes time and energy, sucking out passion and imagination.  So yes, even the grass which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire has successfully caused me to forget my Maker and wonder if I really am “His people”.

People can be so delightful and hilarious, bringing laughter and lightness of heart.  People can be encouraging and inspiring, motivating new boldness and strength of purpose.  But people can also so be passive aggressive, bullies or simply so self-absorbed that those around them are reduced to utilitarian instruments, existing primarily to serve the will of the most committed to their own dominion.  There is something very dehumanizing that happens when individuals become the most important person in a group, stripping the reflection of God away from everyone in a desperate search for his or her own enthroned image.  Judge not that ye be not judged…and as I have felt this hollowing out I have been the one slashing and burning all who do not conform to my will.

“Seek His face not His hands” was an instructive quote I was told in college.  I am to worship HIM not simply adore what He can do for me or through me or around me.  I was made to image Him in character by loving, serving, sacrificing, nurturing, mending, restoring, gardening.  I was not made to BE Him in power, authority, position or glory.

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Rev. 2:2-4

I like deeds and doing, knowing and identifying “the true Gospel from new laws and false gospels”.  I have returned to being my own first love, forgetting the Lord my Maker who set the heavens in place, laid the foundations of the earth and put His words in my mouth and wrote them on my heart.  I would quite prefer, it seems, to be like one of the desert fathers who found utmost holiness in solitude, because in solitude you don’t have to deal with people and their sin and their different perspectives and ideas and thoughts and preferences.  But Jesus came to dwell among His people, to wash the feet of His creation, to be accused and despised by those with the power and influence to convince others He was wrong and they were right.  I want to run away from people and He moves right into the heart of them.  He never  mistook the grass for His Lord and never replaced His own will for the will of the Father.

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility;  perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.  Zeph. 2:3

Jesus is the only One who is perfectly righteousness and absolutely humble.  In Him we may be sheltered from the Lord’s anger.  In Him I may find life in abundance, never possible by slashing and burning in a vain search for my own kingdom.

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;  its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.  Is. 32:17