Psalm 149 tells us God makes affliction beautiful by saving you out of it. Here are my thoughts on salvation this Christmas Eve…
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments!
Psalm 149 tells us God makes affliction beautiful by saving you out of it. Here are my thoughts on salvation this Christmas Eve…
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments!
Originally posted on The Way CA blog at https://thewayca.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/set-apart-to-the-dance/. Be sure to visit and check out some of my friend Ben’s material there as well!
Ever heard of the word sanctification? It’s a big fancy word that basically means “set apart.” Many people also explain that it’s an idea of being set apart from one thing and set apart to another. This is the essence of the term “holiness.” After all is said and done, I like to say that sanctification is a dance made complete by our participation.
“The Dance” of sanctification is never done. It was never intended to be either. The Dance isn’t measured by how far along you are, but by whether or not you’re willing to dance. It’s less like a letter grade on an exam and more like a pass/fail sort of thing, and if you’re willing to dance, you’re passing.
The Dance is between you and Jesus and if you’re not willing to participate, the Dance isn’t happening, it’s not complete, it’s not perfect. We may have our internal struggles about how the Dance takes place and we might even trip while trying to execute the moves. There will always be a process of maturing and that’s okay. However, while there is a process of maturing in our ability to dance, actually Dancing is not that process.
The Dance is all about living fully present with the Spirit of God inside of us convicting us, teaching us, comforting us, wooing us. It’s about messing up and repenting, matching our steps up with His to jump back in. It’s the experience of God’s holiness in us and our agreement to express His holiness through us. It’s about our willingness to say “yes” rather than our capacity to sustain it.
We can never arrive at a place where God no longer needs to sanctify us because sanctification isn’t something that you can build and then leave alone to remain in tact. It’s something that exists or emerges by nature of being in the presence and service of another. What’s maybe even more important however is that God can’t help but sanctify the people He hangs around. It’s His nature to sanctify.
Let’s take a look at one of my favorite verses, Hebrews 10:14:
There’s a LOT we could talk about in this verse, but I just want to look at the end, the part on sanctification. Rather than jump through a bunch of intellectual hoops (which we definitely could) I want to take a linguistic shortcut and rewrite this verse by putting the verb at the end into the active voice: “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those He has made and is making holy.”
By re-writing the verse this way, it’s a lot clearer that this verse is making a beautiful statement about God being a God who sanctifies. Holiness is a continual experience because God has been and still is involved in it. His nature is unchanging because He has sanctified before and still sanctifies today.
Is God making you holy right now? If so, that’s good news because this verse says that anyone who is being made holy is covered by Jesus’ sacrifice. Anyone who is learning the steps of the Dance, participating in the never-ending movement and growth, is perfect in God’s eyes.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this to me is that the moment of “now” is always a new moment which we have to sanctify with God. According to the eyes of experience, the present moment is always a new moment that is filled with God’s sanctifying presence because of His Spirit in us. If He were to ever change, then there could potentially be a moment in the future where we would no longer be sanctified; but because He never changes, we are always sanctified.
As I said earlier, the entry price of Dance itself is not about our process of growth but our willingness to say “yes.” It is an ongoing experience of the result of something that is fully complete. In Hebrews 10:14, we read that the finished work of Jesus on the cross defines everyone who says “yes.” Jesus’ sacrifice was the creation of this Dance and it continually flavors our relationship with perfect love. As we Dance through different seasons of life, we experience how holiness reacts with and shapes different parts of our lives that weren’t touched by the Dance before. We begin to say “yes” with every inch of our hearts and come into a perfect awareness of our already perfect reality.
Thankfully, a “perfect reality” doesn’t mean that we never mess up, but that we stay in connection with the Holy Spirit through thick and thin. It’s about our ability to participate rather than the level of our participation. It means that we keep our gaze focused on the fact that at all times and in every way it’s all about Jesus.
I leave you now with this summarizing thought from the brilliant Graham Cooke:
Don’t forget that if life is about you becoming more in Jesus, then every situation is about God being faithful to that directive!
— Graham Cooke (@GrahamCookeBBH) May 17, 2017
I’m not waiting for another opportunity. I am not waiting for a chance to make it big in life, strike it rich, or become famous. The truth is that I am famous to God. Being known and adored by God is the most elevated position in the universe. I’m already at the pinnacle of success, fame, and wealth. I am now free to pursue everything I do without a worry in the world because I’m not looking for personal gain, I’m looking to share the wealth.
Jesus Christ does not give me opportunities—He is my opportunity. He gives me permission to live abandoned to His care, to build healthy relationships simply because I enjoy it, to demonstrate to others that they’re worth my time because I am worth God’s time and now I have all the time in the world. I’m not worried about my next paycheck, finding a place to live, or having the right friends/network/connections. I’m motivated to find the people who don’t know who they are, the people lost in the negativity of the enemy, and share the abundant wealth of joy, fellowship, and provision in my life.
The truth about me is that God accepts me. I know this because I have joy. Since God accepts me, my main goal in relationships is to accept other people and demonstrate their value by listening to their stories, celebrating their victories, and plotting ways to bless them. I am looking for people to accept, offenses to forgive, and kindnesses to celebrate. This is who I am because Jesus Christ exists—there is no downside whatsoever!
I’m done with waiting for my next encounter.
I’m going to give thanks for everything I consume and everything I partake of and everything I engage with as though they were each different expressions of God saying directly to me: “I love you.”
I refuse to live like a love-starved beggar. I am not love-poor. I do not live in a poverty of love. No one lives in poverty—they waste away, they decay, they die.
I will subvert every experience of the ordinary, subduing them to serve the needs of love. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.
Do I feel safe right now? I will receive this as a moment of “I love you.” Thank you, Jesus. Am I enjoying this meal? “I love you.” Thank you. Do I appreciate the way this table allows me to write comfortably? “I love you.” Thank you. Does a particular song pull on my heartstrings in all the best ways? “I love you.” Thank you!
I have a vast host of raw materials around me to frame within the context of love. I refuse to fail to take advantage of them. I refuse to allow a narrow-minded poverty paradigm tell me that only a few select and choice encounters, experiences, and interactions equal true love. I refuse to be a picky love-eater.
My next big love encounter could very well be found in the way the sunlight falls on the floor as easily as it could be found in a person literally saying the words “I love you,” or spending quality time with me or giving me gifts or a hug. God transcends space and time. Every moment could be a moment of quality time with Him. Every item I receive could be a gift from God. Every appropriate touch from someone could be a loving touch from God—we are all His ambassadors. Every thought of love, wonder, thrill, and satisfaction could be God’s own voice within my mind—His spirit dwells in me and interacts with me all the time.
Any mindset that allows for the idea that I am unloved is a mindset of rebellion against God because He gives us all things to enjoy.
I will do violence to apathy and self-pity. I will do violence to the ho-hum, mundane ordinary. I will do violence to the spirit (attitude) of poverty and desolation. I will find and experience the heavenly kingdom of love in the here and now. I will become the encounter I desire and go from one love encounter to even greater love encounters. My mind can re-wire my brain. My healthy loving thoughts can cause my DNA to reproduce correctly in healthy ways. I will restructure my experience by framing all things as coming to me out of love.
I’m done with waiting and pleading. I’m going to live like I’ve been answered, even before I’ve asked. I’m not waiting, I am enjoying and I even have enough to share.
“Wow, this is deep,” I mused.
I find myself enraptured by the words I read on the screen, when the inevitable moment arrives: I disagree with the author.
“No, that’s a horrible way to look at it. This is exactly the mindset that irritates me about people today.”
Then I remember a crucial detail: I’m reading my own posts from 3 years ago. At some level, I wonder if this points to growth. It surely shows change of some kind… I’ll just call it “growth” for now.
This is the quote in question: “Yet, before we can see the wholeness of God, we must first be confronted with the utter brokenness of the world and feel the painful despair of knowing that we are powerless to fix it.” (If you’re curious, it comes from this post.)
You may have heard this same idea phrased in terms of light and dark: “You don’t know the value of light until you’ve experienced darkness.” The problem is that since dark doesn’t technically exist, but is only a term to describe an absence of light, the root issue of not valuing light is a one of perspective and insinuates that if you don’t value light, it’s because your perspective actually values darkness. While it is possible to learn to value light by experiencing its lack, it’s also possible to learn to value light by experiencing a greater measure or intensity of it. Say for instance that you were sitting in a room lit by 800 lumens and then turned on another light which brought the level up to 1,200 lumens, you could say that the increase of light revealed that you had only known darkness before the increase (pessimism) or you could say that the increase of light revealed to you a more marvelous reality of the power of light (optimism). Thus “darkness” becomes relative to your experience of light. There is no such thing as darkness, only a perspective that values diminishing light (that is, centered around measuring visibility in terms of how much light is missing from the environment and evaluating what you can’t do because of this lack, which is the nature of pessimism).
Bringing it back full circle, there is no such thing as brokenness (which I believe is nothing more than a perceived lack of the desired level of wholeness), but only a perspective that is centered around the concepts of brokenness and despair. In any situation, I believe you can see brokenness getting in the way of healthy and functional systems, or you can see wholeness promoting the growth and betterment of the same institutions. You can pinpoint areas of lack and problems, or you can pour effort into increasing the efficiency and health of the good things that are working. The two perspectives are not getting at different issues, but are approaching the same thing from different angles.
The thing about the pessimistic perspective I’ve described that irritates me is that it encourages you to actively look for problems and exerts an emotional gravity that sucks you into cycles of hopelessness, despair, and frustration. The pursuit of problems can eventually lead you to ones that seem so big and so powerful that you feel utterly insignificant and powerless. It leads you to experience a reality that often defies the facts because you are emotionally compromised. Without the realization of a powerful and loving God who is committed to your deliverance, this realization of insignificance is an emotional dead end.
However, if you are somehow convinced of the reality of a God like I mentioned, something must fundamentally change in your perspective. To continue looking for bad things in life is an activity that is incongruent with the assumption of an all-powerful, loving God. If you live from a pessimistic perspective, your actions reveal a belief (perhaps even a subconscious belief) that God is not good, uninvolved in your life, not willing to help you, or other similar ideas.
Optimism can also cause you to become emotionally compromised, but in a way that enhances your ability to act, connect with others, and flourish. It can lead you to experience a reality that defies facts by convincing you of your power to change things through a commitment to your internal values and practicing boundaries that keep unhealthy thoughts out of your heart and mind. It leads you to celebrate life through engaging in it, rather than withdrawing from your circumstances through criticism.
Coming back to the quote (from my own mouth!) that set me off in the first place, I believe that what I’ve said is correct as long as it’s interpreted as a descriptive statement rather than a prescriptive statement. I don’t want to tell anyone that they have to be aware of darkness before they can value light. As long as you’re aware of what’s changing, that’s what matters. It can be viewed as brokenness causing pain or as wholeness advancing peace, but don’t make your perspective into a prescriptive stance on life. Use it to celebrate the possibility of change. Use it to enjoy the present. Use it to subvert reality and make circumstances your playground rather than your prison.
If you also happen to confess (as I do) that God is loving, all-powerful, and engaged in your personal life, then I want to encourage you with the thought that you are a Divine detox agent. Your positive confession of who God is creates an environment where negative thoughts and brokenness become consumed by righteousness, peace, and joy. The intensity of your detoxifying effect is determined by the singularity of your focus on God’s power to raise the dead to life, as shown by the life of Jesus who is the firstborn of the dead, and your choice to remain fully convinced that God wants to make you like Jesus.
Basically, life with God in view is wildly optimistic because the nature of His being is goodness. I don’t have any more time for negatives.
To me, there’s something mysterious about the period of day we know as twilight. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the morning twilight or the evening twilight, because both represent hope to me. Something about having the sun below the horizon yet still radiating its light across the sky gives me assurance that there is still hope. It could be an analogy for how though I cannot see the sun, I can see evidences of its existence—kind of like Jesus’ illustration to Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit.
The evening twilight represents hope to me for the promise of nightfall and rest. The morning twilight represents hope to me for the promise of a new day and opportunity to actively pursue my passions. I don’t think I’d ever want to be stuck in twilight forever though. Stuck in the tension of a hope to come, yet not ready to be fulfilled. It would make my heart sick yearning for the coming of that hope. Yes, perhaps that’s why I’m enamored with the twilight right now. That’s my season of life: the tension of hope in a coming Savior, seeing His power at work in the world, yet not currently able to see His face.
Twilight is about trust: trust in the evening that morning will come, trust in the morning that rest will follow. In those precious few minutes of twilight, I learn again to hope. I learn again to trust that all my doing and all my resting has found fulfillment in Jesus. I learn to stay my mind on Christ and to expressly release control to Him over all of the situations and relationships that I cannot make right and look to Him for the restoration of all things. I learn to aspire to wonder at the marvelous power of God and expectantly wait for Him to show forth His goodness, His glory. In the twilight, my heart cries out to Jesus.
On one of my many pilgrimages from my apartment to the library, I came across this sight:
This branch was dead. The first word that came to my mind was “withered.” I think it reflected my current feelings of my spiritual life. I felt like I was withering.
In the past, when I felt like I was withering, it was usually because of noise. People around me are always searching for some sort of external stimulation: television, music, talking, eating—whatever they can find to fill space-time around them. They have lost the art of silence—the blank canvas of life. That’s another discussion. My point is that in the past, I found myself spiritually parched because of excess noise. This time it was different. This time I had not enough noise. This time I had grown complacent.
I felt the usual uncertain, unguided longing in my heart and suddenly realized that I hadn’t spent much time lately with Jesus and I sorely missed Him. I was shocked at first because I had been surrounded with so much silence and then I realized that in the face of pure silence, I too had sought other things to clutter the canvas of life.
Odd: when I am surrounded with other people’s clutter, I make room for empty space. When I am surrounded by empty space, I splat whatever cheap paints I can find onto my canvas. The freedom of silence is what we were made to live in, but we do that so poorly that one begins to wonder if true freedom can ever be achieved. Thus begins my next challenge over summer: I make room for God in the midst of other people’s clutter quite well; now, can I make space for Jesus in the midst of my own clutter?
Closeness with God can be a difficult, ever changing thing. It’s never because He changes, but always because we change. Change. I hate it and love it at the same time. It’s what happens as we renew our minds and bring our lives into alignment with the reality of our new natures in Christ. We are already seated in heavenly places with Christ, but we have to learn how that looks as we live on earth and it can be a difficult, painful process. Sometimes there is great joy in the process too. Sometimes we celebrate the process with other people. Sometimes we journey alone for a time, a phenomenon I know as the desert.
I think that we go through many deserts in life—times when the landscape (circumstances, relationships, etc) are barren and ever-shifting. No matter how well you prepare for it, you will eventually run out of supplies, and you must rely on God to provide manna in the morning and quail in the evening. You must rely on God to provide water from rocks and make the bitter waters sweet. It is often a time of loneliness.
With each desert that we go through, the only thing we can do to experience it differently is to change our perspective of it. This time through, I’m realizing how much joy there is in letting go of everything. I’m releasing friendships, grades, dreams, and plans, and finding that in my human loneliness I find spiritual closeness to my God—One who is not present physically, yet Who is more real to me than any other person I’ve ever met. I find myself hungry for the manna of His presence which, oddly enough, I cannot find in the company of others. I need the desert in order to draw close to Jesus. The desert has become for me no longer something I dread. I love the wide open spaces. I love the utter dependence. I love the closeness. I know that when I have reached the end of my desert season I will be ready for whatever comes; but for now, I am resting. Jesus, I am resting. Thank You.
I had a thought this morning: what if everywhere I went held a special meaning to me because I had memories of God’s presence there? What if I made it a point to acknowledge Jesus’ presence with me in every place that I set foot? What if I could look back on my activities throughout the day and remember each moment fondly because I experienced God everywhere I went? The fullness of His presence is the ultimate gift, and memories are the ultimate memorial. I think I understand partly what he means when the psalmist cries out in Psalm 103:2, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits.” (NASB)
All day today, I’ve had the words of a song playing through my head, “What does it sound like when you sing heaven’s song? What does it feel like when heaven comes down? What does it look like when God is all around? Let it come.” I feel my heart consumed with longing to realize each moment as an opportunity to acknowledge that Jesus is with me and thereby redeem the time. There will come a day when we get to enjoy God’s manifest presence without ceasing night and day—I want that to begin today. I can enjoy His presence right here and now to the degree that I set my love on Him. The only reason that I am not constantly overwhelmed by His love may be due to the fact that I am not completely consistent at setting my mind on things above and not on things on the earth.
So this is perhaps one of the coolest things I’ve come across in the last year!
But this isn’t just any pocket-sized notebook… open it up and you find…
Five-line staff paper!!!!! This is a musical notation heaven! A friend at school had this notebook and offered it to me knowing that I might appreciate it as a music major. I do, in fact, appreciate it. Actually, I adore it. Now, whenever inspiration strikes me with an awesome melody, I can jot it down quickly to notate on my computer later! This is probably the best thing since apple pie.
There’s something deeper though that I would like to point out: it has to do with remembering. I love notating music because not only do I not have the money to immediately invest in all of the equipment I need to record at my leisure, but because notation offers a way to memorialize music and gives others the freedom to explore someone else’s musical idea and build upon it. Ah, there it is: memorials.
Notation is a type of memorial. It helps us to recall a melody. In the same way, writing helps us to recall thought processes and experiences. I think that God likes memorials. When He shows Himself faithful to keep His promises to us, we should make memorials to remember His faithfulness. Memorials of God’s faithfulness help us to not only remember what He’s done, but also to share that experience with others so that they can then have the boldness to seek out their own experiences with God in relation to His promises.
With that in mind, let me share with you a recent memorial that I have made. It’s about surrendering to God’s authority over every part of our lives. I recently came to the realization that I was addicted to the feeling of sorrow. I actually subconsciously enjoyed the sensation of feeling bad. It didn’t make sense. In one breath I would be claiming the joy of the Lord as my strength and in the next I would continue to wallow in my past hurt. Of course, as a believer, it is most certainly true that the joy of the Lord is my strength, but if I refuse to give Him my hurt and sorrow, then I prevent the power of God from working in my life. I don’t want to be the one standing in the way of God’s miracles.
So, after coming to this realization, I wrote a song about it. A song expressing my soul cry to recognize Jesus Christ as the God of my sorrow (as in “God over” or “in authority, in charge over”). He is not just the God of my joy, He is the God of my sorrow too. He is Lord over the entirety of my life, but since sorrow is an area I’m learning to let go of, it is particularly meaningful for me to recognize Him as God of my sorrow. I have since notated the melody as a memorial—a memorial to remember the song, but more importantly to remember what He has done in my life. This is the power of memorials.
P.S. If you play piano, here’s the fully notated score for you to enjoy. 🙂
God Of My Sorrow