Tuesday, March 31, 2009

God is Good, All the Time

One of the most frustrating, universal aspects of ministry is that it's a long-term process in which you rarely, if ever, see the fruits of your labor. Therefore, it's a tremendous blessing when God opens the curtains a little bit to show you how He's been working through you, how His plan has progressed.

Yesterday I received a nice e-mail from a past youth group student who's now married with a kid. Heh. In it he mentioned how he was now going to Liberty University to become a youth pastor -- the first teen I know of from our youth group to go into the ministry. I had been praying for this day for a long time, and it's just so overwhelming to think about it, and to think how way back in 2001, he and I were talking at an amusement park and he mentioned offhand that he might want to be a firefighter or youth pastor. It's amazing how God takes those little seeds and grows something mighty.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Anticipation of Glory

I was doing some thinking today about anticipation -- of upcoming video games I look forward to, of our baby who's less than a month away from being born, of the summer, what have you. People are separate from the rest of the animal kingdom in that we don't just live in the now, we live for the future as well. We look at the horizon and hope.

Paul's statement that "To live is Christ and to die is gain" goes against the grain of secular thought -- why should he look forward to dying? To die means the end, the final act, the forever separation from all that you knew and had and did. And yet, to the Christian, death is but a graduation to a much better life, a severing of the pain of this world and the glory of the next. He looks forward to the future and revels in the hope of what is to come.

One of Christ's greatest gifts to us was to take away the "sting" of death, the worry that it is the end of everything. As the ugliness of the cross was turned into a symbol of victory, so is the fear of death turned into the promise of life for his followers.

There are things I want to accomplish in this world, time that I want to spend with my family, and hope that I might one day rise up to the challenges of the ministry that I've thus far failed to fully reach. Whether or not God gives me the time for this is up to Him, but I can rest assured that His timing of my death will be perfect and serve purpose, and that on that day, I will gain everything and lose nothing.

If I was the one to design the official Christian flag, I think I'd put that verse smack in the middle.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Defining God

I had a professor back in college who once said that we are always struggling to put God into a nice, neat, tidy box. We want him to fit in there, to be able to handle him, understand him -- and limit him. But God's never in the box, no matter how much we try to fool ourselves.

Yesterday at my parents' church, the youth pastor talked about our tendency to attempt to define God according to our own wishes and comfort level. It's kind of a funny reversal on the creation process -- God created us in His own image, and we try to define him according to our own. Yet no matter what we may choose to believe about God, what we accept as comfortable and understandable, God is who God is. We only limit ourselves by trying to confine him to whatever we deem acceptable. You can't pick and choose aspects and qualities of the Almighty and discard the rest because they strike holy fear in you, or challenge your established patterns of sin, or cause you in any way to tremble before his majesty.

It reminds me of that one scene in Talladega Nights, when the characters are having dinner and praying to Jesus, and then talking about which "type" of Jesus they like best. Baby Jesus, party Jesus, what have you. It's funny because that's how many people truly engage in a relationship with God -- by picking just one aspect to fixate upon (such as Jesus being my friend, or Jesus being my protector) and ignoring the rest (Jesus as my King, Jesus as my judge, Jesus as my teacher). God is the whole package when you commit your life to him -- He doesn't limit himself to you, and doesn't allow you to define him in any way that would lessen the perfection and power that he contains.