Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In which my Idolatrous Heart is revealed

Following Jesus is a lifetime journey. It's not something we do one time and then stop. Jesus said he who endures to the end will be saved. That doesn't mean we endure to earn salvation but that we endure to prove it. And as we walk this journey, as we are continually conformed to the image of Christ, there are times when we are reminded of just how far we still have to go. Times when the searchlight of God's holiness shines on our lives--brutally and clearly--and we see things in our hearts that we didn't know were there. Happened to me this week.

It's tax season, everyone's favorite time of year. And ever since I've pastored Kelly and I have never gotten a refund. Ever. Rather than a refund we've actually had to pay in every year. So this year I expected the same. I hoped that it would only be a few hundred bucks but really hadn't given it much thought. Worrying about it wouldn't change it, right? So Kelly goes to the guy who does our taxes yesterday. Calls me on the way home with good news. This year we don't have to pay in. Better still, we're getting some money back. Now not to get off subject but how sad is it when we get excited that the government gives us some of our money back? Or has my friend Jonathon Baird says, "Yay, the government is paying me back my interest-free loan!"

But this isn't a post about the sad state of our tax system. It's about the sad state of my heart. I was glad to hear that we didn't have to pay in. Even more glad that we're getting a refund. It's not a ton of money, but it's certainly enough to help out. And I was sort of relieved. Very relieved, actually. I began to think about some of the things we could do with the money. We could put some towards some unexpected medical bills we've recently had to deal with. We could put back a little for some tires on the car. We could take the van in to have the front end inspected, figure out why it's been shimmying.

With each addition to the list I felt a little better. A little more peace, little more relief. My day had brightened considerably since I found out I would have a few extra dollars in my pocket. And therein lies the problem--I was finding peace and happiness in something other than Him. Rather than finding my joy in the fact that King Jesus has saved me and that He has promised to provide for me, my joy was found in the fact that I'm getting a check from Uncle Sam.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying its wrong to rejoice in the Lord for His provision. Nor am I suggesting that it's wrong to be relieved when you're able to pay some bills. The problem is that my heart was happier because of money I was getting. But regardless of whether or not I was getting a refund, God was still on the throne. My sins had still been nailed to the cross. I had still been buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life. My sins had still been washed away by the blood of Jesus and my name was still written in the Lamb's book of life. And I still had a God who had promised to supply my needs. But rather than resting in these things, rather than finding my peace and joy and relief in the truths of God's word, my joy was wrapped up in a few bucks.

Paul's desire was that he would never boast in anything except the cross. God reminded me this week that it's easier to say that than to do it. My prayer, my aim, is that I'm won't boast in refund checks, in superficial abilities, in my discipline, in my position, in any of that; rather I will rest in the finished work of King Jesus on the cross. I will boast in my Savior who love me and gave Himself for me. And I will trust in His provision. I will look to Him for my joy. And I will violently remove all idols from my heart and bow before the only one Who is worthy of praise.

Father, thank You for Your love, mercy and patience. Forgive me of my idolatry. Forgive me for looking to any other source but You for joy and peace. May I boast only in the cross. Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Space Junk, Sin, and other Things of a Destructive Nature

I read an article the other day about near tragedy that was averted in space. Seems that the men aboard the International Space Station had quite the close call. A piece of space junk came dangerously close to them; so close, in fact, that they considered rerouting the station's trajectory. Images of gigantic pieces of discarded technology came to mind as I tried to figure out what could be so serious that they would attempt an avoidance maneuver. And then I discovered the culprit--according to the story, what struck fear in the hearts of the astronauts in space and the controllers on the ground was a six inch piece of debris. That's right, six inches. Not six feet, not some unimaginably large piece of garbage; a little 6 inch piece of trash was enough to raise the specter of an avoidance maneuver. I'm not sure what all that would entail but I'm pretty sure that changing the trajectory of the space station is slightly more complicated than parallel parking my minivan.

Like me, you might be wondering, "Why make such a big deal about something so small?" And the reason is simple--this wasn't just a six inch long piece of garbage. It was a six inch long piece of garbage traveling at 5 miles per second. I'll give you a moment to try and wrap your noodle around that. That, as we say in the south, is putting the hammer down. The reason the astronauts were prepared for an avoidance maneuver wasn't because of the size of the object; it was because of the damage it could have caused.

And that's what really struck me about this story. For the sake of such a small piece of debris, they were willing to go to all the trouble of changing the flight path of the International Space Station. Seems like much ado about nothing--until you consider the damage this tiny piece of debris could have caused. In light of that, an avoidance maneuver would be the least they could do, right?

Now here's the point. The bible describes something that is even more dangerous, contains even more potential for damage than a lightening fast piece of space debris--sin. Sin kills, it maims, it destroys; it separates us from God, it hinders our walk and it ruins our testimonies. But we rarely treat it that way. Sure, we'll try and avoid the "big" sins. We won't run around on our wives--but in the secrecy of our homes, with a few clicks of a mouse we'll indulge the flesh with pornographic fantasies. We won't murder anyone--but we'll hold grudges and simmering anger deeply in our hearts and refuse to lay them aside.

You see, it doesn't take much sin to ruin us. In I Corinthians 5 Paul warned the church against this attitude. In vs6 he says, "Don't you know that just a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" The church was proud of their accepting attitude towards sin and sinners. And Paul says, "That's the wrong idea! Sin is dangerous, it has the potential to destroy you. Rather than embracing it, you need to be planning an avoidance maneuver!"

Just as the astronauts were willing to completely change the trajectory of the space station to avoid this tiny piece of debris, I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid sin in my life. God hasn't called to be pretty good. He's called me to be holy. Because of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, and because I've surrendered to Him and turned from my sins, I am positionally holy. But God calls me to practical holiness, to living on the outside according to who He's made me to be on the inside. To be holy means I must shun sin, I must turn from it, I must always be ready for avoidance maneuvers. Doesn't mean I lock myself in my home and never leave. Means that I seek to avoid anything that could make me stumble into sin. And do that not so that I'll be holier than someone else or so I can earn God's favor. I do that so I can bring honor and glory to my Great King, to please the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I encourage you, make sure that you don't overlook the danger of sin. Be ready with an avoidance maneuver. And spend each day in the pursuit of holiness--to the glory of our King.

Father, thank You for loving me and saving me. Keep the dangers of sin ever before me, and help me to continue to run to You for strength and wisdom to overcome sin. Help me be who You have created me to be, for Your honor and for Your glory. Amen.