faith meets hope

There is a song I often sing called “Twenty-Three” which is based off of the Twenty-Third chapter of Psalms.  It is powerful.  The lyrics are simple and all too profound.

“Twenty Three” – Aaron Strumpel

Arise Oh Lord // Lift up Your eyes // Don’t forget I’m helpless // Oh You lead me to waters and pastures so green // Oh You pour out Your oil and choose goodness and mercy for me // No I will not be in want // You’re with me // I will not fear // You comfort me // I will not fear

So often, I exchange what is critically important for what is immediately demanding.  I make plans.  I pursue goals.  I entertain desires. I press on, and often succeed, but I am left wanting.  The cycle continues as if I am helpless.  “Arise Oh, Lord. Lift up your eyes, Don’t forget I’m helpless.”  Sometimes I feel like I am fighting a battle…. but, I already have the victory in Jesus.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).  The battle can cease.  He sustains.  He will fulfill.  “Oh, You lead me to waters and pastures green.  Oh, You pour out Your oil, and choose goodness and mercy for me.” When I remember this, I begin seeking the presence of the One who promises to walk with me.  “You’re with me, I will not fear.  You comfort me, I will not fear.” Perspective restored; peace renewed.  The song is interjected with a one line phrase repeated over and over again.  “No, I will not I will not be in want… No, I will not be in want…. No, I will not be in want…. No, I will not be in want…”  One day, I realized I may have slightly misunderstood the meaningful intent of this phrase. Perhaps this is not so much a call, demand, reminder, or resolve to not have desires…. perhaps it is more of a statement of reality or the realization of a promise.  I will not be in want.  God is enough.  A section of the passage states it this way:

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;” (Psalm 23:1-4, NIV)

But, an updated version of the NIV, states this new understanding of the meaning more clearly. “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1, NIV 2010).  A reprise of the song, repeats, “Everything, I ever wanted I found in you…”  I shall not be in want.  The truth is realized when hope meets faith.  Not a feeble hope, one that wishes for something that could occur by chance; but a firm hope, one that looks forward to a realization of a promise… a hope like Abraham’s:

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him . . . he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:18, 20-25)

I lack nothing.  This is not to say I will never have temporal need or longing desire.  But in Him, I lack nothing.  We must continue to press on, focus penetratingly on Him, and finish well. (Read Heb 12:1-3).  It is here, but not yet, (“…Who hope for what they already have?” Romans 8:24). But, the scoreboard is fixed.  When all is said and done, I have victory in Him.  He sustains me.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us  . . . What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:18, 31-38).

We are more than conquerors.  I will not be in want.


Befriend Faithfulness

I don’t want to make a new year’s resolution. The thought of making up some kind of new task, calling this thing a resolution, and approaching it as if the very success of 2011 depends on its completion, simply doesn’t appeal to me. And yet, it is not that I find myself approaching 2011 with any lack of resolve, my drive for purpose would not allow this to be the case. Why? Because I know I am called to be found faithful. Yet more and more I am realizing, this call may have more to do with being and becoming and less with doing and achieving. As I approach a year, which promises change, I realize, this call may have more to do with hanging on to Jesus, than with what I could purpose to achieve.

Faithfulness. God’s faithfulness amazes me. He is so good, and He is so faithful. He displays and proves His incredible faithfulness time and time again. It astounds me. It catches me off guard. It leads me closer to Him. It gives me hope. Even when I feel distracted, used up, unfaithful; He is still faithful, proving His faithfulness all the more. So when I approach the idea of being found faithful to Him, my efforts seem inadequate and inconsistent to say the least. And, yet, He has made a way, and that way is Himself. “For He Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14). What else can we do but turn to Him? He is our peace. It is Him alone.

Psalm 37, encourages, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” Befriend faithfulness. Back in the day, I thought a true friendship commenced upon verbal agreement and mutual understanding. I still remember being at camp, at a young age, playing some quality Legos with a kid and asking him if he would be my friend. When he agreed I believed a reliable friendship had formed. However, in reality, a friendship does not form on a whim, or in a moment of agreement. A friendship is invested in, sought after, and grown into. Befriend faithfulness. To me this implies a relationship, a back and forth, two sides, and a growing understanding and realization that I need to be dependent on my Lord even to be found faithful to Him. “My soul clings to You, Your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:8.

I want to befriend faithfulness. I want to cling to Him. I want to seek His presence and allow Him to hold me up. This past summer was intense and busy. However, on occasion, I spent time laying in a hammock, late at night. I just laid there, all of my weight held in its strings, cradled in the middle of the air. Hammocks are cool like that. I prayed simple, honest prayers telling God that I gave Him everything and I came just as I was. Soon I realized maybe my relationship with Jesus (not so much what I do as a result of it, but the time I spend seeking His presence) should look a lot more like laying in a hammock and a lot less like the performance I find myself trying to make it. What would it look like if I could consistently come before my Maker, Savior, Sustainer and quiet my heart, offering Him all of me, just as I am, regardless of what I have or have not accomplished? What would it look like if I did this, simply allowing Him to refresh, renew, and refine my heart and soul? Then everything else I did would come out of the overflow of this intimate dependence. I dare to say I would be less concerned with performing well and more concerned with loving well. I dare say this would look a lot more like being found faithful.

It is amazing when I take the time to do this. When I put expectations aside, and honestly seek His presence and renewal, something beautiful happens. Things are put back into perspective and we are set free to love and serve well, far better than what we can achieve on our own. We are made new in Him 2 Cor 5:17. “Be still and know” He is God. (Psalm 46:10). May He “establish the work of our hands “ (Psalm 90:17).

I am not speaking of lukewarm faith, for that is the furthest thing from being found faithful (Revelation 3:15-17). This is not a half-hearted pursuit. No, I am all in. By all means, I am all in. I am speaking of an admission of my own humanity, and an invitation to be dependent on the only One who can restore me, make me whole, and give me purpose. It is a resolve to pursue Jesus daily, passionately, and in dependence, clinging to Him and letting Him uphold me. It is a resolve to befriend faithfulness.

I am reminded, yet again, of the words of Paul, he is passionate, purposed, and driven. He wants to do and become, and yet he knows he has not arrived. He can only focus in, and press on, because Jesus has taken hold of him. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:10-14) I have not attained all this, but I will press on and press in because Jesus has taken hold of me. In Him I can befriend faithfulness–passionately, intentionally, daily–all the while, surrounded in His love, grace, and… faithfulness. Jesus took hold. He touches us, and it is beautiful.


Beautiful

Today in chapel we sang the song “Beautiful” by Phil Wickham.
You can hear this song here

“I see Your face in every sunrise
// The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes //
The world awakens in the light of the day //
I look up to the sky and say //
”You’re beautiful”
//
I see Your power in the moonlit night
// Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
// We are amazed in the light of the stars
// It’s all proclaiming who you are //
You’re beautiful
//
I see you there hanging on a tree //
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
// Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
// Soon we will be coming home //
You’re beautiful //

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
// Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
// We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring //
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
// You’re beautiful
//
I see Your face, I see Your face, I see Your face
// You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful”

This song rings true in me. So many times this semester I have bemoaned the fact that I have early morning classes, only to shift my tone entirely as I step out of the back door of my house, hop on my bike, and ride to class toward a beautiful sunrise. I have even become expectant of the scene. It points to something beyond, full of meaning, purpose, and beauty. I see the beauty of the colors strewn across the sky, and I am thankful. I am thankful because it reminds me of God’s faithfulness, His ability to breathe fresh life into all things, and make something beautiful. This beauty reminds me of the beauty of my Lord. He is beautiful. As the song goes on to explain, His sacrifice, too, is beautiful. He sacrificed it all because of his intense, intense love for us. This is beautiful love. This love is deep, and I am convinced I only know glimpses of its depth. This is the kind of love that proclaims us, as the church, His bride. Then, will we know the depth of the beauty, when we arrive in the presence of our Lord, The music builds, “We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring //
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
// You’re beautiful
//
I see Your face, I see Your face, I see Your face
// You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful.”

So much of this life stands insufficient as a representation of the next. So much calls, even demands, our attention. Yet it is in these glimpses of beauty that we are reminded of what has purpose and of what pales in comparison. What holds ground when lined up with Christ and the beauty of our relationship with Him? So often we take this as granted… the fact that we are called into relationship with our Maker, Savior, Sustainer–the God of the universe. This too is beautiful. He calls us to bask in His beauty.

Over the past few days, I have been pondering the beauty of my relationship with Jesus. I am made whole in Him. He speaks over me, and He speaks for me. In Him I find rest. In Him I am free (Gal 5:1). “I see Your face, I see Your face, I see Your face
// You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful.”

He loves us intensely. He leads us in the dance.
Check out this song, and be reminded of the beauty of this life you have in Jesus.


Dimly

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

The other day in chapel we sang a song called “Facedown.” The first verse talks about being welcomed into the presence of God, as we stand in the courts of our King; the chorus repeats, “And I’ll fall facedown / As Your glory shines around.” At one point during the song another was spliced in, sections of Phil Wickham’s “Cielo”: “I can’t sing loud enough / When I’m singing for You my God / I can’t sing loud enough / I can’t sing loud enough . . . / But I can’t bow low enough / I can’t bow low enough / At the vision of You my God / I can’t bow low enough / I can’t bow low enough / At the vision of You my God . . . / But I can’t lift my hands high enough / Lift my hands high enough / When I’m reaching for You my God / I can’t lift my hands high enough / Lift my hands high enough / When I’m reaching for You my God”

This is powerful imagery…. the thought of being so in awe of God, basking in His presence, and having no other response than to fall before Him in the midst of His glory. The throne room imagery we find in Revelation talks about the constant praise heard around the throne, “Day and night, they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come'” (Revelation 4:8). We stand before this same throne, worshiping the God of the Universe–Who created all and then swooped into His own creation and redeemed it. It is for this reason we can stand in this place. When Christ died on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). We need no other intercessor, than Christ alone, in order to enter the presence of God. Through Him we have been brought back, and stand before our creator redeemed (Colossians 1:22). We are welcomed in.

It is beautiful to sing about these things–being ushered into God’s presence, falling before Him in the midst of His glory–and imagine the throne room. Yet, now we see only in part; we know only in part. What we know of God and His presence is faint compared to the reality of His glory. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12. If we truly understood this–that we have no idea how to fathom the fact that one day we would realize the intensity of the glory of God, stand in the His presence, and fall before His throne–shouldn’t it change everything? Wouldn’t our lives mimic this as well? Shouldn’t we be in awe that the presence of the God of the universe walks with us? That we have the ability to enter His throne room at any time, in any place, even at our point of weakness? (Heb 4:14-16). What would it look like to live our lives mindful of the throne room? mindful of His presence? What if our lives–our thoughts, actions, interactions, pursuits– all went back to this? What if we bowed down our lives before the throne room of God in an act of worship? What if we spoke with our lives–our thoughts, actions, interactions, pursuits– that we “can’t sing loud enough. . . bow low enough . . . lift [our] hands high enough . . .” in the midst His presence and in awe of Him?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12


Redeemed

This morning as I was getting ready for the day, I listened to a song which totally brought me back to a time, not oh so long ago, when I sat by the fire with some sweet brothers and sisters in Christ, which led me to consider, yet again, what I hope for them. I had to stop right then, and write.

It was a night like any other, but in it moved a wave of redemption. It began with stagnation, then fear; and then You swept in before any of us could have expected You, reminding us You had been there the whole time. Reminding us You were not finished, and neither were we. Reminding us we needed to depend on You, and our best efforts might need to be brought down from their lofty resting place, destroyed in what seemed like turmoil, only so they could be built again according to Your lovely, purposed, choreographed assembly. A peace, a purpose, an anticipation. A glow came from the fire representing so much of Your presence over us and plan within us. Our simple gathering was still not perfect. You don’t ask us to be. But then, as the music built and our voices and hearts were lifted to You in syncopated rhythm You swept in, and the tone was set. We prayed to You, lifting up brothers and sisters into Your hands of purposed protection, in a symphony of voices. Bind us together for Your plan in us.
Their plans have been brought down. There is seemingly no resting place to be discovered. What began with simplicity seems now only tumultuous confusion. Distracted; afraid; stagnant. But there is a wave whispering within them “Redemption.” It is You. You sweep in. You speak over them. You speak for them. You rest within them. But there are so many voices, so many demands, so many lofty plans. And sometimes Your voice seems only a whisper blocked out by the commotion or even all-too-convenient quiet all around them; an enemy who wants to pull them from Your presence; or their own will. They have begun to forget again who they are, and what You have called them to do. This does not stop You. You call for them, to be driven by Your lovely, purposed, choreographed plans for them. Calling them to rest in Your purposed protection. Reminding them You have been here the whole time. Reminding them You are not finished, and neither are they. They are not perfect. You do not ask them to be. You have redeemed them. You have made them new. You call them to sing a song from their hearts, and join You in the dance. They have accepted the invitation, but are unaware they are already present at the party. They are chilled and don’t see the glow in the fire, representing so much of Your presence over them, and plan within them. But still You whisper, “Redemption.” And You speak their name, the one you have given them from the beginning. The one that calls them daughter, son, redeemed. You have so much for them, far exceeding anything this world, in its best efforts, could offer. This is not the end, but only the beginning… a continuation of the work You began in them long ago and will be faithful to bring to completion. The music is building. Let them respond to You in syncopated rhythm, lift their heads, smile, and echo back, speaking with confidence from their hearts, “Redeemed.”

“Father heal Your world, make all things new / Make all things new” – Gungor (We Will Run)


through Your eyes . .

This is one of the most beautiful articles I have ever read::

http://www.wordmadeflesh.org/the-cry/if-i-knew/

I want to see myself the way HE sees me . . .


Fix your eyes . . .

IMG_4401_2_2

Today I played in the intramural soccer championship game.  We won.  It was awesome. Soccer is something I love.  Running? I have no motivation, but throw a ball in the game and I’ll run until I can run no more.  I am way too competitive for my own good, and I love it. When I step on the field, I’m in the game.  When I can put everything else out of my mind but the purpose of why I’m on that field, it’s a beautiful time.  When an entire team does this, the unity exhibited and the ethos created could determine the win.

Athletics have been a part of my life ever since I was in elementary school.  When I first started playing, I had no idea what I was doing.  None.  I’m still ashamed of the videotape which can make me relive my first basketball game at the push of the button.  There I am, running and sliding (a good few feet I might add) in my pink Nike’s, and sporting my fire engine red sweat pants which, of course, complemented my purple and white Jersey perfectly.  Even though I had been venturing out to my cracked driveway to shoot hoops ever since I was three, the whole organized sports thing did not exactly come naturally.  I remember waving my arms behind the offense trying to be a good defender during practice, and shooting at the wrong basket more than once in a game.  One time during a tee ball game, one of the kids on my team scored a home-run, all of my fellow Panthers sitting indian style on the sidelines erupted in cheering and I, overwhelmed, cried.  Awesome.  

The point is athleticism is something I needed to grow into.  But once I practiced, gained confidence, and grew in passion for the game, sports began to seem like a natural extension of who I am.  Being a part of a quality play makes the game for me. I go all out.  I have a hard time making myself hold back.  It’s all a part of the game.  (Unfortunately a black eye or two has made me rethink my enthusiasm from time to time.)

Today when I played, I started out strong.  I was all in.  My love for game itself made life seem that much better.  But quickly, I grew exhausted.  I could barely breathe normally, let alone sprint down the field.   Soon, I had to take myself out of the game for a time (something I would never want to do) and watch my team run with the same passion I have for the game, but with the endurance that I lacked as I collapsed and tried to breathe.

The same is true in ministry and I have been allowing myself to loose grasp on that lately.  In ministry, we need to go all out…we can’t hold back.  God is doing awesome things in hearts and lives, and somehow–by His grace–He invites us to be a part of this, His perfect plan.  However, in order to do this and be sustained, we need to train, condition, catch the ethos, gain confidence, build passion, and throw off every distraction.  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3. 

It’s easy to be busy.  It’s easy even to be busy with ministry.  Unfortunately it is also easy to become so busy with ministry that we forget to take the time to simply be with God.  And why? because it seems we are just too busy serving. But we can’t exude Christ fully unless we fill our lives with Him.  We must “throw off everything that hinders;” and we must “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  If we do not, we will become weary, loose direction, and cease to endure. Then we will find ourselves sliding back and forth on the court in our Nike’s or, worse, taking ourselves out of the game to watch others serve Christ with abandon, in the way we know we are called.

We must fix our eyes on Jesus.  He is our goal.  The rest is just the means He has given us to point people to Him.

So yes, we must run the race, go, do, and become.  But we must also take time to “be still and know” (Psalm 4:10).  We must fix our eyes on Jesus.  

He is our sustainer.  

“My soul clings to you;
      your right hand upholds me.”                                                                                                           Psalm 63:8