creativity lately

and by lately, I mean in the past year or so…

putting this together, I realized I either use super bright colors or black and white, not much in between… hmm.

 

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Waiting

I got the privilege of speaking at our weekly meeting for ASU Cru this past Thursday night.  So I thought I’d share some things I learned about Psalm 27 over the last couple of weeks.  This is a slightly modified version of what I shared with our students:

 

I was pretty apprehensive to talk on this tonight, not because its controversial or anything but because I like having the right answers.  But that’s not why we do the Christian life, we don’t have all the answers.  And I don’t fully understand the concept of waiting on the Lord yet, but we have to happily confess that Christ is the answer, he’s the only one.  I’m not calling for blind following, but when you wrestle with God and His word and still don’t find life to be as solid as you want, that’s where faith starts.  It would require no faith to believe if all the answers were laid out for us. So here we go, into a Psalm that I find confusing and exhilarating, all at once.

Psalm 27 – A Desire to Live in the Presence of God

I want to do a little exercise, I want you to think of someone who loves you.  Not like a surface level friend, someone who really loves you and wants your best.  Got your person?  Mine’s my mom.  Ok now give them access to all the money in the world, all the world leaders, all the people on earth are under their control, give them all wisdom and knowledge, oh and by the way, give them endless power too.  Now make them sinless, never have they done anything that isn’t the right thing.  Ok, that person calls… oh snap!  New meaning to my mom’s picture popping up on the phone.  She gets on and says… hey can you wait just a second, I’m working some stuff out… how do you feel?  Outrage? Confusion? Lost? Yeah.

Lets explore psalm 27

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. 3  Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. 4  One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. 5  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. 6  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. 7  Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8  You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9  Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 10  For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. 11  Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 12  Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. 13  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 14  Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Lets look at this in a couple different sections:

v. 1-3

– “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”  Salvation finds us in the dark, but it does not leave us there; it gives light to those who sit in the valley of the shadow of death. After conversion our God is our joy, comfort, guide, teacher, and in every sense our light; he is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us.*   What does light do? It enables us to see.  He has to give the light first because we don’t see our way into believing, He lights our path.

– But the next two verses are a little weirder, a little less coffee cup/life verse, get a tattoo of this, kinds of verses.

– Evil men, armies… that’s not really us right?  We may not have people following us wanting to kill us like David did here but who feels like you’re at war against your own sin?  Who fights a battle every single night against evil?  Who feels attacked at every turn to believe what the Bible says when it contradicts what our culture says is right?  There’s nothing new under the sun and we’re in battle here so this applies to us.

– Onto happier things, in v. 4 David asks God for one thing in his battle, a gun or sword? Deliverance from problems?  A book on battle (my choice)?  I can solve anything with a book.  Ever get asked what book you’d bring on a deserted island?  My standing answer is The Coconut Lovers Cookbook, 300 ways to prepare the other, other white meat.  Point is I think I can fix anything with the right book/article/you tube video.  NO here’s what David asks for:

– “to see the beauty of the Lord.”  More accurately to gaze at His beauty.  Here this word means delight, pleasantness, a suitable nature, splendor*.  This idea of beauty isn’t our skewed outward appearance type of beauty, its not Jesus is my boyfriend.  Its pleasant, its right to be in his presence, its like having the exact right solution to any trouble.  The most perfect being in the universe is attentive to ME and David knows that even while waiting for God to work, he hasn’t lost God’s attention.  The beauty of the Lord is anything but surface level, it cuts deeply into our souls.

– A couple verses later in 8-9 he is telling himself to seek God’s face, to be in his presence, when you see presence in the OT always think face to face.  We know inherently that face to face communication is best.  Nothing wrong with a phone when necessary but when you go on a date with someone you don’t want to go over the phone.  Maybe you do but that’s because you’re socially awkward.  No, you want to be in their presence and soak up all of who they are.  This is why its hard for us that Jesus is our mediator, we just want to see God face to face but because of what we’ve done, we need Christ.  This is why texting all day isn’t satisfying, we need face to face communication and David wanted that with God. He felt a longing for it.

– In between vs, 4 and 8 with the beauty stuff and the face stuff is vs. 5.  What’s 5 say?  IN the time of trouble…not if there’s trouble, not when God’s not paying attention, some trouble may come, nope.  Ours is a sin saturated world, we were made for perfection and it IS NOT here, so there’s trouble it’s a normative part of life.  The Bible is way more honest about that than we usually are.

– So you may be thinking yeah this all sounds good but I’m not David, I’m not a Bible character, I can’t always say that God’s beauty, his face is where I want to be.  Me either.  We can be forgetful people.  We forget who God is (or maybe don’t know because we’ve not owned our faith enough to find out for ourselves).  We don’t see Him rightly.  Two quick things David knows and we should know:  He is the Father who never forgets him.  He says in v. 9, you’ve been here.  Our earthly fathers have issues right, they’re sinful.  God has not missed or forgotten one tear you’ve ever cried (Psalm 56:8).  God has not forgotten your feelings, your dreams, your details, He is not capable of forgetting that you exist and He is involved.  There’s safety in that.

– Also God speaks.  Have you ever thought about what it means that He speaks to us?  Think of the most glorious natural thing you’ve ever seen…the Grand Canyon, Swiss Alps, an ocean, he SPOKE that into existence, he spoke you and I into existence.  And every thing and every person that has ever been!  His words have created everything we’ve ever seen.  I say all kinds of things, my words don’t carry any weight.  His words caused all of creation.  And He speaks to you and me (He’s never spoken to me audibly, but in His Word.)  You can’t see the Bible as a boring but necessary book filled with bad tasting but good for you medicine.  These are the weightiest words on the planet and they are for His glory and your good.

– Ok so what do we do?  I studied this Psalm a couple weeks ago and I got to a point where I started to make a list.  I so love lists, give me a list of stuff to do and I’m happy.  How do I get to the beauty treasuring, face seeking place of worship??  What do I do? What goes on the list?

What you do is you Wait.

– v. 14 says to wait, to look for, to expect, to hope in.  All throughout the psalms we’re told to wait.  All throughout scripture we’re told to wait.  What does waiting on the Lord look like?

– Two things waiting is not:  1. Needing direct revelation on every single decision.  We struggle with this, think about how it would play out though, you see sally on campus.  Pray about saying hello, no direct revelation, can’t say hello.  No we live our lives and do things all the time without direct commands from God.  But when it comes to choosing a major or where to live, suddenly we’re scared to move without direct revelation.  God often expects us to use the commands he has given in scripture and step out in faith rather than being afraid to move.  The second thing I think waiting on the Lord is not is sitting and refusing to do anything proactive.  No.  David’s moving, he’s writing, he’s worshiping, he’s running for his life.  Waiting isn’t a sedentary life.  Here’s what I’m starting to think it means:

– Being patient for God to work in His time, not mine but pursuing the things we know He loves (people coming to know Him, growth in knowledge of the Word, missions, extending mercy)

– Looking to Him, seeking Him in His word before I seek the opinion of others or even form my own opinion.  There are lots of issues out there in culture that many of us are wrestling with, trying to form what we think.  Go to the Word first and give it first authority.

– Praying before I act and trusting He’ll guide me.   Praying for God’s will but not demanding to know it ahead of time.

– Waiting is letting the confidence that what He says will be true, drive you.  You say in rest and repentance is salvation, You say you’re close to the brokenhearted, You say the poor in spirit with inherit the Kingdom, its hard for me to see that those things are true but I’m going to trust that they are and build my life around that.

– Its saying I don’t get why this happened to me but you say its for my good so I’ll choose to be content with that.

– Its saying I’m 27 and single so apparently there’s a plan unfolding and obviously you haven’t forgotten my needs or desires.

– Its saying I’m not going to give up on seeing a heart change for my roommate because I’ve tried for a year and haven’t seen it yet, I’ll continue to know You’re working, God.

– Its saying I would get lots of pleasure out of living this way (sexually, with how I use my time, with my words) but you say that’s not honoring to You or others so I’ll trust You in that.

– Waiting isn’t solving your problems with study or one more sermon or one more accountability partner or one more campus ministry… waiting on the Lord is walking with Him its an attitude of hope in Him.

I’m just starting to get this and I’m trying to figure it out but I want us to be people who wait well.  I want us to be worshipers who aren’t needy, spoiled children demanding God show up in ways we want but needy, graced children who lovingly wait for our Father’s good plans to unfold.  Lastly, here’s CH Spurgeon on v. 14:

“Wait on the Lord.” Wait at his door with prayer; wait at his foot with humility; wait at his table with service; wait at his window with expectancy. Suitors often win nothing but the cold shoulder from earthly patrons after long and obsequious waiting; he speeds best whose patron is in the skies. “Be of good courage.” A soldier’s motto. Be it mine. Courage we shall need, and for the exercise of it we have as much reason as necessity, if we are soldiers of King Jesus. “And he shall strengthen thine heart.” He can lay the plaster right upon the weak place. Let the heart be strengthened, and the whole machine of humanity is filled with power; a strong heart makes a strong arm. What strength is this which God himself gives to the heart? Read the “Book of Martyrs,” and see its glorious deeds of prowess; go to God rather, and get such power thyself. “Wait, I say, on the Lord.” David, in the words “I say,” sets his own private seal to the word which, as an inspired man, he had been moved to write. It is his testimony as well as the command of God, and indeed he who writes these scanty notes has himself found it so sweet, so reviving, so profitable to draw near to God, that on his own account he also feels bound to write, “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”  –CH Spurgeon

 

Going back to the very beginning, if someone who loves you, and has all power and money and time and control, so God, if He tells you to wait, the only conclusion can be… its good for you to wait.  So if you’re waiting right now, and you probably are, I certainly am.  If you’re waiting to know what He wants for your future or how He’s going to use your hurts for good or what He’s doing with a difficult situation you’re in now, then its good for you to wait.

 

* Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the whole Bible

 

we need the winds

I was encouraged by this paragraph this morning as Mr. CH explained Jeremiah to me…

“Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.”

– Spurgeon

steadfastness

2 Thessalonians 3:5 says “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

steadfastness in ESV = patient waiting in KJV = ὑπομονή  (hoop-om-on-ay) in Greek =

cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy:  enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).

Cheerful Endurance

I think of cheerful endurance/the steadfastness of Christ as some beautiful combination of:

heaven wrapping around you

the solidity and reliability of a deeply rooted tree

feeling sometimes like an invisible, half person

enduring but not escaping

waiting with patience

knowing there’s beauty that isn’t outlined in black out there somewhere

asking when and how long?

cheerful endurance isn’t easy.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Shame

Leonardo Da Vinci said “It is not enough to believe what you see, you must also understand what you see.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown.

I’m still trying to understand her thoughts completely but I think Christians can learn a lot from her about shame and vulnerability.  I also think secular research and wisdom can only take us so far and need to be tempered with and answered by Biblical wisdom.  Here’s the video and some thoughts:

I agree with her that “connection is how we’re wired,” however, I don’t think mere connection is why we’re here.  (Psalm 86:9, Romans 11:36, 1 Cor. 10:31)

She says to live whole hearted lives, we need courage, connection, and vulnerability then we’ll achieve joy and belonging.  She also says we numb both the good and bad emotions to try and protect ourselves from the bad, amen and amen.

Brown’s Advice for whole-hearted living:

1 – Let ourselves be seen

Yes, but seen by whom?  Who will see and know us in this life and continue to love us completely?  I don’t think humans have the capacity for that(unconditional love) but its what we’re all longing for.  God is the only and most important One who can know us completely.  (1 Chronicles 28:9, 1 Samuel 16:7, Psalm 139)

2 – Practice gratitude and joy

Yes.  Absolutely necessary, that’s why God commands us to be thankful and joyful.  (1 Thess. 5:16-18, Deut. 16:14, 1 Chron. 16:34)

3 – Believe that we’re enough

This is where I most disagree, yes we are loved by God, but its despite our unworthiness, not because of our worthiness.  For me, when I’m trying most to believe/convince myself that I’m worthy of love and connection is when I’m least likely to be vulnerable and truly known as she prescribes.  We don’t measure up, we’re not enough.  (Romans 3:23, Eph. 2:1, Eph. 2:8-9) In Brown’s words, “we’re hard wired for struggle.”  In the Bible, we can see that we’re both valuable to God and completely depraved.  Here’s a really helpful and short post on self worth at Desiring God that has helped me to understand this.

Anyway, I don’t know very much about psychological research at all but found Brown’s conclusions interesting and helpful.

If you’re interested, her follow up talk is also quite good and is here:

.

Lastly, back to my boy Leo –

“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”
―Leonardo da Vinci

both sides of mercy

John Piper in a sermon on Romans 5:6-8:

Did you hear both sides of mercy? We were weak and helpless (that’s one side), and we were sinners and guilty (that’s the other side). Mercy responds to both. Mercy forgives the guilty and mercy pities the helpless.

Have you built your life on that?

Or maybe I should ask, Have you saturated your life with that?

Have the mercies of God in saving you sunk to the center and core of your life, so that you are living from a deep spring of humble, brokenhearted happiness in the God of mercy?

They had a blood transfusion with Jesus.

Read back through Fireseeds of Spiritual Awakening last night.  Its good stuff.  You can get the first chapter for free here.  This is an excerpt that was especially beneficial for me, I pray that I’ll have hope that this generation of college students will be the kind of person Peter Greig describes.  I pray that I’ll be the kind of person he describes.

 

“So this guy comes up to me ans says ‘What’s the vision? What’s the big idea?’ I open my mouth and words come out like this…The vision?

The vision is JESUS—obviously, dangerously, undeniably Jesus.

The vision is an army of young people. You see bones? I see an army. and they are FREE from materialism, They laugh at 9-5 little prisons. They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday. They wouldn’t even notice. They know the meaning of the Matrix, the way the west was won. They are mobile like the wind, they belong to the nations. They need no passport. People write the addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence. They are free yet they are slaves of the hurting and the dirty and dying. What is the vision? The vision is holiness that hurts the eyes. It makes children laugh and adults angry. It gave up the game of minimum integrity long ago to reach for the stars. It scorns the good and strains for the best. It is dangerously pure.

Light flickers from every secret motive, every private conversation. It loves people away from their suicide leaps, their Satan games. This is an army that will lay down its life for the cause. A million times a day its soldiers choose to lost that they might one day win the great ‘Well done’ of the faithful sons and daughters.

Such heroes are as radical on Monday morning as Sunday night. They don’t need fame from names. Instead they grin quietly upwards and hear the crowds chanting again and again: ‘COME ON!’

And this is the sound of the underground. The whisper of history in the making. Foundations shaking. Revolutionaries dreaming once again. Mystery is scheming in whispers. Conspiracy is breathing… This is the sound of the underground.

And the army is disciplined. Young people who beat their bodies into submission. Every soldier would take a bullet for his comrade at arms. The tattoo on their back boasts ‘For me to live is Christ to die is gain.’ Sacrifice fuels the fire of victory in their upward eyes. Winners. Martyrs. Who can stop them? Can hormones hold them back? Can failure succeed? Can fear scare them or death kill them?

And the generation prays like a dying man with groans beyond talking, with warrior cries, euphoric tears and with great barrow loads of laughter! Waiting. Watching: 24—7—365.

Whatever it takes they will give: Breaking the rules. Shaking mediocrity form its cozy little hide. Laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs, laughing at labels, fasting essentials. The advertisers cannot mold them. Hollywood cannot hold them. Peer-pressure is powerless to shake their resolve at late night parties before the cockerel cries.

They are incredibly cool, dangerously attractive inside. On the outside? They hardly care. They wear clothes like costumes to communicate and celebrate but never to hide. Would they surrender their image or their popularity? They would lay down their very lives—swap seats with the man on death row—guilty as hell. A throne for an electric chair.

With blood and sweat and many tears, with sleepless nights and fruitless days, they pray as if it all depends on God and live as if it all depends on them. Their DNA chooses JESUS. (He breathes out, they breath in.) Their subconscious sings. They had a blood transfusion with Jesus. Their words make demons scream in shopping centres. Don’t you hear them coming? Herald the weirdos! Summon the losers and the freaks. Here come the frightened and forgotten with fire in their eyes. They walk tall and trees applaud, skyscrapers bow, mountains are dwarfed by these children of another dimension. Their prayers summon the hounds of heaven and invoke the ancient dream of Eden.

And this vision will be.  It will come to pass; it will come easily; it will come soon.  How do I know?  Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God.  My tomorrow is his today.  My distant hope is his 3D.  And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great “Amen!” from countless angels, from heroes of the faith, from Christ Himself.  And he is the original dreamer, the ultimate winner.

Guaranteed.”

 

Peter Greig and Dave Roberts, Red Moon Rising (Orlando, FL: Relevant, 2005), pp. 119-22