i have a lot of thoughts running through my head right now, mostly of the random and un-concise nature. but you know? that’s life. and i said i was going to document life, real life. well. this is it. =)
so. last night i was reading a large portion of acts. i don’t like falling behind on my scripture reading, for obvious reasons. primarily because that means i have gone several days without spiritual food. but the one redeeming thing about it is that it means that when i catch up, i tend to read large sections of it without stopping, which gives an amazing sense of context which normally i miss when i read a few chapters at a time. so. last night i read the first fourteen chapters of acts.
come to think of it, it was not entirely without stopping. i stopped short at chapter nine, verse thirty-one. the first nine chapters chronicle the growth of the church, the acts of the apostles, and in so doing, tells of all the intense persecution going on at the time. in chapter nine, in the verses preceding thirty-one, luke explains how the hellenistic jews were trying to put paul to death…and then, as if it follows naturally, comes verse thirty-one:
“so the church throughout all judea and galilee and samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”
i don’t know about you, but when i think about peace, what comes to mind is not persecution. and yet luke says so. “so the church…enjoyed peace.” like it’s the logical, natural result of persecution. like it’s the natural state of a persecuted church. “it’s a persecuted church…of course it’s going to enjoy peace. what persecuted church doesn’t?” how is that possible? that is not logical. that is not natural. that makes absolutely zero sense…until you keep reading: “being built up.” “going on in the fear of the Lord.” “in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”
no, it’s not logical. it’s not natural. but it does make sense when i remember that my Savior delights in doing the seemingly impossible. that He perfects peace in chaos. that He delivers joy in sorrow. that His love redeems every scenario, and that redemption doesn’t mean just taking a bad situation and making it not bad, but taking a vile situation and making it full of light and beauty, the kind that is only borne of pain. when i realize what kind of God i serve…it starts to make sense.
and then building off of that, at tonight’s evening service, i got to hear an amazing message by adrian denato. the sermon was on a different topic (specifically the role of giving in the life of a believer), but as with all of Scripture, it carried many of the same threads from last night’s ponderings. one of the verses mr. denato referenced was second corinthians eight one and two:
“now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.”
wow. again. not only affliction, but a great ordeal of affliction. and not only poverty, but deep poverty. and yet — well, no, not “yet.” the word used is “in.” we tend to think of it as “yet,” but it almost sounds as though, again, what we tend to think of as bad things produced something beautiful. so i won’t say “and yet,” but rather, and in this great ordeal of affliction, they had joy. but not only joy, but an abundance of joy, such an abundance that even in their deep poverty (because of their deep poverty?), this joy overflowed, expressed itself in giving wholeheartedly to the support of the saints.
a few verses farther, paul goes on: “…begging us with much urging for the favor of participating in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord…”
would it be redundant to use the word “wow” again? because that’s the one that is coming to mind at the moment. how often to i beg for the favor of participating in the support of the saints…through giving. which brings to mind another passage from last night’s acts reading, which talked about paul and barnabas rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to share in the sufferings of Christ.
these people…they talk about it like it’s an honor to suffer. like giving is somehow more precious than receiving. and i think most Christians know that theoretically. but i, for one, don’t act like like i know it, most of the time. it’s so unnatural…so very unnatural. this flies in the face of everything that we think, in our flesh. and while we (i) might say that we believe it, our prayers are more honest than we are (my prayers are more honest than i am). i pray for release from suffering. i ask for boons. how often do i pray that i might be made worthy to share in the suffering of my Savior? how often do i beg God to allow me the favor of using the material things which He has given me to further His purposes instead of my own? and do i truly count all things, all things, to be — not just nothing, but worse than nothing: loss — when compared with the immeasurable riches of knowing Christ, my Savior?
i think about the gospel, about its magnitude. about how i don’t even know, and probably will never know, the
splendor of the gift of righteousness because my finite brain can comprehend neither the magnitude of my violation of God’s holiness, nor the infinity of His grace. and i wonder how it is that i can hold on to anything at all with such shortsightedness. what is it i’m clutching? nothing, worse than nothing, rubbish and loss.
mr. denato said tonight something like this: “so we hold everything with an open hand.”
an open hand. yes, God gives us material things which often are blessings…but once we close our hands around those things, they become loss to us, loss in comparison with what we have already been given. we learn to hold those things (what am i talking about, “those things”…all things) with an open hand, and it becomes beautiful because then our focus becomes using those things not for ourselves, but for God’s glory and purpose, which if i think about it seems like a stupid thing to say because who am i to think that any of it was mine to begin with? of course it is for God’s glory and purpose. it’s His, after all.
and now it seems like i should have some nice little paragraph to wrap up all these musings into a package, but i don’t. i wish i did. maybe then it would all be easier to think about. but the truth is, it’s hard to wrap my mind around this stuff. writing it down helps work out the kinks, but i don’t have it figured out by a long shot. it’s not in a nice little package. it’s threads that lead to other threads that are tangled up with other threads and i have a feeling it is going to be a long time before they begin to make sense. maybe they won’t ever make sense, or at least, not in this life. and that’s ok. because life eternal is mine, and if you are in Christ, it is yours as well. and one day we will stand in His presence — stand, because Christ purchased for us the right to standbefore Almighty God — and know that nothing we ever knew on earth, whether riches or poverty or health or sickness or anything, could be compared with knowing Christ, and Him crucified, and ourselves saved by His blood.
and i had better stop there. for one thing, i’m in danger of causing my keyboard to short-circuit because i tend to get quite drippy when i think about this stuff. and for another…if i wait another five minutes, i’ll have to change the post title to “monday musings.” and frankly, i’d prefer to just get a bit of sleep before another week begins before i’m ready for it. so, i will hit “publish” and fall asleep praying that everything i’ve just typed won’t be just words on a screen but will be evident in my attitude and perspective, even when life is as hectic as it is right now.