Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letting It In--Romans 7:8-9

Some of the toughest things to confront in life, are the moments that challenge our world view.  It's an interesting dichotomy, that although many of us desire to grow and to learn, we're all on some level very biased concerning what information we let affect our personal set of exclusive beliefs (these being our deep seated philosophical/ideological premises).  And when we do let something in that challenges these beliefs, it's often times a pretty scary situation, because it presents us with the possibility that we might be mistaken in how we've been viewing the world.

This morning, I was reading Romans 7:8-9, in which Paul discusses the effects of the law and sin--"For apart from the law, sin is dead.  Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died" (just to clarify, the "law" that Paul discusses here are the Ten Commandments).  What I realized, is that it can be a very trying time when we're confronted with God's law, either for the first time or in situations when our lives are contradictory to it. Our natural tendency is to shut out the forces that challenge us, and it's really just an act of self preservation.  We all want the safety of a manageable world view, in which we feel we're living "on the good side".  

Yet what the law does is show us that the whole world isn't living on the right side--that we're actually blowing it BIG TIME when it comes to how God desires us to be living.  And so we shut the law out, because when we're not living accountable to it, we feel alive as Paul says--we don't have anything telling us we're wrong.  Nobody wants to feel repeatedly condemned their whole life when they mess up--it's really a horrible way to live!

This is where I think so many people stop, but the greatest revelation of the Bible is that God says there's one more piece to the puzzle...Jesus.  And here's the big secret so to speak: we can never fully understand Jesus, his holiness, or the beauty and greatness of what he did on the cross, without letting the law into our lives.  If someone tells you that Christ died for your sins, but you don't think you're a sinner, the obvious answer is, "cool story what?"  But when we let the law show us who we really are in God's eyes, the cross becomes the most gnarly, the most beautiful, the most precious and loving gift that God could give...because now we understand what Christ died for: OUR sins.

There's a great verse in Matthew 11: 28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Such amazing words!  The burden that Christ wants to lift, is the weight which the law puts upon us--the reality of our sin. And the bottom line is this: if we want to know Christ, we need to let the law humble us.  

It's a big jump, but take Christ's word for it when He says, "I am gentle and humble in heart." God loves you. And if you want to know the depths to which His love goes, the first step is to open your heart to God's law.  You'll be amazed how God will show you how crazy His love for you really is.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Giving When We Think We Can't--Luke 21: 1-4

   As Americans I believe we have a great propensity to think and make decisions from a financial perspective.  Not to say that this is always the case, but I think the predominant mentality is that if you're low on cash, you can't afford it.  Now this seems completely responsible doesn't it--that a person should always be aware of how much money they have, and making decisions that fit within those means.  This is an absolutely wise model when it comes to spending.  But when it comes to giving, it can be very hard to rationalize doing this, especially when we're financially stressed.  And although it sounds crazy, I'd like to encourage you to keep giving even when the money is tight.
   The Bible has a very interesting take on giving found in Luke 21:1-4.  Luke writes, "As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'I tell you the truth,' he said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'"  You see it's easy to give when you have much, because it doesn't cost YOU that much. A hundred bucks is really just pocket change if you have a million in the bank.  But when you're living paycheck to paycheck, when you're struggling to pay your bills, when you just got fired or laid off from your work, this is when we brush off the idea of giving.  And we do it because we're not sure what the future has for us--we don't know when we'll be back in a place of financial security.
   But the beauty of what the Bible says here, is that God is STOKED when we have nothing, and yet we still give.  Because giving when we have nothing humbles us before God, making us trust and depend on Him to sustain us. And it takes us out of ourselves, causing us to let go of living egocentrically.  These are two things God loves, because it allows him to show us how much he cares for us, and it frees us to love others as God has loved us.
   Check out Luke 12: 22-32 as well!  The most amazing thing about the Lord, is that he frees us to live recklessly!  Not in the sense of jumping off a cliff, or robbing a bank.  But God gives us complete confidence that He will provide for us, as we love people wildly by giving generously of what He has blessed us with.
   But remember this, because it's important---when we become reluctant or afraid to give when it DOES cost us much, we limit our ability to see God working powerfully in our lives.  I can say from experience that being in this position opens up our eyes to God's provision.  And most of all, we put more value on God's provision because we're in a place where we need it so much more.
   So don't be afraid to give when you don't have much!  You'll see God do some amazing stuff in your life, and you'll grow more confident in His greatness and love.