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In light of the Lord’s repulsion toward pridefulness, how precious the quality of genuine humility. He will not turn away a humble and contrite heart.

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I will admit that I often battle cynicism, and that this cynical outlook has been a part of my personality for as long as I can remember. It is therefore tempting to think of myself as a “born cynic”, but the Lord is quick to remind me that, “you were not born that way”.  Indeed, this dim view is a byproduct of my experience with people and with the world system in general.  As such, it is a learned behavior.  A few years ago, the Lord plainly spoke to me, “I am not cynical”, which I understood to mean that if I wanted to accurately reflect His heart to a lost and dying world, I would need to let go of the cynicism that had become such an integral part of my thinking.  As I’ve engaged in this process of healing and deliverance, I’ve come to understand that cynicism opposes hope and ultimately faith.  It is exercising more confidence in man’s fallen nature and the spiritual powers of darkness than in the healing and resurrecting power of Jesus.  It is the belief that people will never change even when God says that transformation is our destiny and that He is faithful to complete that good work.  I’ve found that God is not calling me to trust people or worldly systems, He’s calling me to trust Him.  Not only in His ability to guide and protect me, but also in His ability to make all things new.  God help me to have Your heart.

Eventually you begin to realize that the journey isn’t as much about the destination as it is about the destiny, and it’s not as much about the place you’re going as it is about who you’re going with.

Before you were in your mother’s womb, you were conceived in the mind of your Creator; and I believe that the nagging sense of emptiness that hounds so many is largely a byproduct of straying from that original design.  Ultimately, we need Him if we ever hope to become that person.

 

Growing up can often be a disappointing process.  When you’re 10, you imagine that becoming a “teenager” will change everything.  But a few days after your 13th birthday, you realize that things are pretty much the same.  Then you start dreaming about turning 16, and getting your license, which is cool; but again, you quickly recognize that it doesn’t make as much difference as you thought.  Even 18 is that way.  Yeah, you’re legally an adult now, yet you still have to turn in your homework and get up for school the next day.  But finishing High School is different.  Though you may not sense it immediately, the rules change dramatically.  Up to this point, there was a system specifically designed to carry you along.  There was a whole panel of adults (e.g. parents, grandparents, pastors, youth group leaders, teachers, coaches, counselors…) assigned to provide guidance, boundaries, bedtimes, wake-ups, rides, resources, and incentives to stay on the right track.  There were organized activities intended specifically for you, like sports teams, school plays, dances, and 4H club.  And there was an education system built to pretty much ensure your success.  As long as you cooperated (i.e. showed up with a decent attitude) with these processes, you were almost guaranteed to make it through.  But now, that all changes.  Adulthood is very much a give and take proposition.  Generally, you get out of it what you put into it.  Even staying in school changes.  Colleges and Universities are businesses.  You pay to take their classes.  If you don’t show up, the teacher isn’t going to come looking for you.  If you don’t turn in your work, they will not scold you, or even ask about it.  If you fail the class, they will happily allow you to pay them to take the course over again next semester.  The workplace, and relationships, and almost every other facet of life works similarly.  If you want to have a great marriage, a successful career, or even to live in an exceptional community, you need to invest yourself (i.e. time, energy, passion…) in it.  Simply showing up, empty handed, will no longer get it done.  Ultimately, life was never meant to be a spectator sport – if you hope to get somewhere, you’d better dive in.     

 

A child who is never required to bend their will to the parent they can see is unlikely to submit their will to a God they cannot see.

20/20 Vision

This dates back to before I had a blog (2008-2009)

 

As someone who has been near-sighted since birth, I’ve never struggled with the concept of being able to see things that are in close proximity, while struggling to see things at a distance. But I must admit to being somewhat confused the first time I heard of someone being “far-sighted”.  In my young mind I reasoned that if your eyes were strong enough to see things at a distance, they couldn’t be too weak to see what was right in front of them.  It wasn’t until I first tried to focus a camera that I began to understand.  As I zoomed the lens in on a distant mountain range, I noticed that everything in the foreground had become blurry and I realized that it isn’t the strength of the eye that is the issue; it is the ability for it to focus.

 

I was again reminded of this concept by the lyrics to the song, “God of this City” (Chris Tomlin). Within the refrain it says, “For greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city”; which caused me to ponder all of the things that we’ve yet to see happen in our city.  I realized that at one time reaching the city for Christ had been the top priority, but that over time the desire to impact the nation and even the world for Christ had diminished the focus on that goal.  While it is certainly not wrong to want to impact the nation and ultimately the world for Christ, I felt like the Lord began to speak about becoming spiritually “far-sighted” and about the balance of things that He’s calling us to.

 

As in the natural sense, both near-sightedness & far-sightedness are spiritual impairments as well. Spiritual near-sightedness will keep us focused on ourselves, our circumstances; our perceived lack… and will likely keep us from ever extending ourselves beyond our own self-interests.  In this condition the church can simply become a place for God’s people to hide from the evil of the world until Jesus returns to rescue us.  While this is a serious problem, it should be a fairly easy condition to diagnose; whereas spiritual far-sightedness may not be quite so apparent.  This latter condition is likely to occur in active ministries, where there is visionary, goal-oriented leadership and where there is a general understanding of the fact that God has commissioned His children to have an impact in the world.  Often the only indicator that there is a problem is that the church is having a minimal effect on the spiritual condition of the community around it.

 

I’ve heard it said that if you want to measure the spiritual health of a church you shouldn’t look at the congregation itself, but at the community that surrounds it; and I believe that to be a valid point. Throughout the New Testament there is a sense that we are first called to reach out to those people that God places us amongst, before reaching for the uttermost.

 

As Paul talks about the qualifications for leadership (1 Tim 3), he says that one must be an effectual leader within the context of their own family before they are fit to oversee matters within the church; Jesus speaks of our need to show ourselves faithful over a few things, before we will be entrusted with greater authority; and in perhaps the most pointed example, we see Jesus initially turn down a Canaanite woman’s request for help, because His first obligation is to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt 15: 21-28). He goes so far as to say that it would be wrong for Him to give bread that belongs to the children to the dogs.  Though this woman’s faith eventually caused Jesus to comply with her request, this story seems to substantiate the principle that our first calling is to those that He puts within arms reach of us.  While for an individual that would most likely be his family & neighbors; for a church, it would likely be the community in which it is planted.

 

In praying about this far-sighted condition, I don’t sense that it develops because a church is apathetic toward their community, but because in many ways it is more difficult to reach the people who are closest to us than it is to touch someone who is half a world away. Anyone who has endeavored to reach out to a lost relative, an unbelieving spouse or a rebellious child would likely testify to the same.  Even Jesus Himself experienced this in His hometown; causing Him to conclude that “A prophet is never honored in their own town” (Luke 4:24).  I would guess that in many cases this condition develops after long seasons of outreach to the community fail to bear much fruit, which perpetuates the concept that it is ultimately more productive to find some other field in which to plant seeds.  While it is not difficult to understand how we might arrive at that conclusion, such thinking can result in a church becoming like a minister whose platform ministry is enthusiastically embraced, but who goes home to a completely dysfunctional family.  While I don’t believe that we have to conquer the community for Christ before we can reach out beyond it, I would suggest that our efforts to impact the community must remain at the forefront of the local church’s’ mission.  Though the local church is often viewed as vehicle for ministry, it is first and foremost a community of Believers.

 

As the church seeks ways to impact the culture, there is a temptation to view culture in broad and distant terms (e.g. Entertainment = Hollywood, Government = Washington DC…), but the Lord impressed upon me that the place He’s called us to (e.g. family, neighborhood, community, workplace, school, city, region…) is the culture that He’s calling us to impact first.  He reminded me that while Jesus most certainly came to impact culture, He wasn’t born in Rome (i.e. the epicenter of Roman culture) or even Jerusalem (i.e. the epicenter of Jewish culture); He didn’t spend time trying to engage Caesar (or Herod) on altering their public policy and that His disciples impact on the world did not come through positions of power within the cultural infrastructure.

 

Ultimately Christ’s influence is most effectively conveyed on a personal level and to those with who we are in relationship with. As I queried the Lord for an example of what 20/20 spiritual vision might look like, He reminded me that Jesus said that He didn’t do anything that He didn’t see the Father do first and that we have been counseled to fix our eyes (i.e. focus) upon Jesus, who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.