Maybe what I am saying here is a bit extreme, but I had a funny image that came to mind. I remember a few months back when I babysat a dozen or so kids, the parents wanted me to spend time with the kids and lead them in Jesus songs. It was amazing! Their enthusiasm was intense, their singing was right on, and they new all the lyrics by memory. I really enjoyed the singing, but when the music was over, all the kids wanted was just to play and do their own thing. Whether it was watching a cartoon, play, or whatever. Man, don’t we do that? Do I do that? Do I get pumped about Jesus on Sundays without thinking about what after? What about on Thursdays when things get weary and exhausting? Where is Jesus? He is still faithful. He is still there. He is still leading. I’m sure there are days that I just look away and see days that are completely not attached to his mission of making disciples and planting churches. Ha! I’m just like those kids. Glad the Holy Spirit is leading me out of it.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” – Malachi 4:5-6
As a family, we had a helpful argument earlier. At least I felt like it was. God really broke my heart for the ways that I haven’t loved dad well and the Spirit started to change my heart toward dad. A few days back up until today, I was just really bitter that he wasn’t taking responsibility and felt that he was selfish and didn’t love us. However, after talking about the ways in which he has tried, but being just fronted and mom and I giving him so much crap, I can see how easy it is for him to lose heart. I’m not excusing parts of his laziness, but it was eye opening for me to grow in my respect for dad knowing that he does care, that he does try, that he’s not just all selfish all the time, and an utterly hopeless soul. He is a real man who needs a real savior who is Jesus. I’m praying that Jesus would use me to love and honor him well as a son and to not get in the way of Jesus’ pursuit of him, but to come alongside Jesus as he is pursuing my dad through me and others. Also, learning to communicate with my mom to learn how to communicate with dad to be more respectful and submissive wife so that dad can grow and not be nagged all the time. Though her disappointments and frustrations are real and legitimate, her sinful responses aren’t. That goes for her and for me.
So the Spirit has been putting a few things on my heart lately:
- Don’t work your ass off to gain wealth thinking that it will help fix your family – that was the lie that got you into this whole mess to begin with
- Focus on Jesus – he is your hope, your king, your sustainer – continue in growing in your hope and joy of the reality that you have been loved and blood bought by him. Your security lies in him alone and nothing else.
- Respond to Jesus in your life – your work, your interaction with family, your planning, your emotions – all of that respond in light of Jesus and no other functional idols. Begin to live free as you have been set free.
Something clicked today. A stillness, a gleam of hope, and just a shattering of the walls of lies and strongholds.
The lie that I cannot change and that I am stuck. It is not true because Jesus is not done with me.
The lie that I cannot change and that I am stuck. It is not true because Jesus grace forgives me. It is not true because Jesus grace empowers me. It is not true because Jesus grace cleanses me.
So the truth is that I can change by Jesus loving, cleansing, amazing, real, forgiving, and powerful grace. His grace given to me is ill-deserved – making him that much more gracious and awesome.
I was really upset earlier with dad. The little things that he does and doesn’t do adds up and, honestly, it’s very hard for me to respect him. I don’t really know how to love the guy when half of the time I get really pissed at him for being the way he is.
Yet, even when I think of those things, the cross humbles me and brings me back to the point of forgiveness that Jesus gives me. Jesus forgave all of my sin. ALL.
To not forgive my dad, call him to repent, and do so lovingly and respectfully is antithetical to the gospel that I have received and live in.
I’m also weary and tired. Illness has set in again. There has been just waves of discouragement and depression at times. Partially because I haven’t rested well physically and spiritually. I’m getting worried about things I can’t control and not doing well with things that are in front of me. I need to slow down and refocus. I need rest and good quality time with Jesus instead of running on empty.
Work has been nuts lately. Busy as heck. Working less hours. Trying to always keep in mind what is the most important and urgent. Studying now and trying to be a pharm tech by the end of October before the change up the exam.
Been discouraged a bit lately. I think to myself what is the end of all that I am doing. Sometimes, I live out of fear of man. Other times, I just live for my comfort. Most times, I think there are many strongholds and functional unbelief in practical areas of my life – in particular relational. With family, it’s almost like God doesn’t apply. Don’t know how to communicate with non-believers anymore and treat people like people without jumping the gun. I want to learn how to listen, draw people out, interact meaningfully with them and also have the courage, tact, and boldness to proclaim and contextualize the gospel.
I think the craziest and most absurd thing that comes to mind in recent memory is just how easily I become and practice the log-in-eye-dude-thing. It freakin kills me. I hate talking and thinking about how messed up other people are before looking at myself, telling and applying the gospel to myself – before looking at other people first.
So dreams. I will work toward that dream of killing this self-righteous, hypocritical, cowardly, Pharisaical, foolish, self-destructing, inward-spiraling, depressive and unhopeful self so that I may rest in Jesus and live from a new identity. One that I have to continually revisit day in and day out because I forget and am so prone to just throw it out the window like exam material post-final.
What a mind blowing statement.
Despairing thoughts come to mind even at the thought of such a statement.
I’ve definitely not done that well. How can I measure up?
But having the context tonight for these commands that God gives has just flipped this whole thing inside out. Realizing the Fatherhood of God as a present reality and truth for me right here and right now is just starting to demolish and expose idols.
I’m comforted and open to the Spirit navigating my heart to seek and expose areas that I have functionally trusted and placed my hope, worth, and identity in and some of it has been exposed tonight.
One large idol that has been masked well has been a combination of education/wealth/status/comfort. Oh boy. This is a big one. How do I now it is an idol? I give my time to it. I give my money to it. I give my heart to it. I place my hope in it. I bank my future and my life on it. I think those are some good enough reasons to believe it is an idol. But man, how terrible an idol it has been for me. It has gotten me into debt without me completely realizing what I was doing, it has fooled my parents and countless other immigrant families that the way to ‘heaven’ is through social mobility achieved through hard work, education, and a great paying job. Sounds simple, but I think this is huge for me personally. I’m not going to point fingers at anyone else, except at myself right now. Looking back, so many lies have been entangled with this weird idol.
If you do well at school, then you truly love your family. What kind of child are you if you don’t provide for your family?
If you succeed, look at the glory, honor, and praise you will bring to you and your family. This career/path is what you need to get there – take it at all costs. Even if it costs you your life, relationships, money, and precious time.
There’s a fine line for me in terms of stewardship, redemption of work, and idolatry – freaks me out a bit, but right now I feel like my head and my heart are on straight. I’m realizing that all of the things I seek from an education are things only to be found in God as Father. He provides true, complete, and eternal security. Hands down. No gimmicks. No lie. There it is. He is my ultimate hope of life, joy, and love. He is the one who loves perfectly, understands completely, forgives readily, and embraces wholly. Because of Jesus, He sees me as his son. He sees me clean, righteous, spotless, and acceptable. When I sin, it kills him and he will do whatever it takes to get to my heart and get to me. I’m glad he knows me well. The only one that knows me perfectly. He knows my nature and will at times speak loudly, but more often, he is very patient and kind. He draws me to repentance and I see his goodness there. I thank him for that.
As this happens, he is convicting me of a few things.
- Repent of holding a conditional standard of love for my family by loving them unconditionally the way he has loved me in Christ. I won’t be perfect, but by his power I can love them by looking to his face, trusting him, and looking forward at my parents. It is possible.
- Put my faith into practice like this in more areas of life and stop excusing, blaming, escaping, hiding, or denying areas that I am a functional idolater. I need to see him. Remember him. See his heart. Then respond accordingly in faith.
- Redemption of my career is necessary. Obstacles and barriers include: fear of man, diverting back to idolizing career/education, unhealthy comparison/covetousness, and just an overall defeatist and self-condemning pride.
I’m seeing that these things are just impossible apart from seeing his face and knowing him as Father. That alone is enough for me because as I tackle all these things head on, I see that he is before me in these things and will guide me through the valley of the shadow of death. He will lead me well and I believe that. Following is something that needs to be lived out – not just believed in my head.
I was given an opportunity today to tell a little white lie.
You know, one of those that “won’t hurt anyone” (just as long as you keep it between us) kind of little white lies.
I made the decision to not participate in telling the little white lie, but afterward it really got me thinking.
Clearly, it’s the right thing to do – but why?
I may gain a lot from telling the little white lie!
No one will ever find out! Woohoo scotch free!
But in reality, I think at the heart of it was not wanting to dishonor Jesus and proclaim his justice and goodness.
Things are never “just between us” – Jesus sees the hearts of men – including myself.
So that then begs the question: have I done this before?
Probably! All those little tests and answers I used to get an inch up to beat people in class. All the shortcuts I took.
Man, I wonder if even submitting that record for my speeding ticket was worth it. I probably should have just confessed guilty. So what if my premium goes up? That’s my fault. Maybe I should just pay it, go to traffic school, and learn from my mistake.
Lots of situations like that – the little white lies that add up and are all before the face of God. Yet, it is not self-righteousness that propels me to decide, but rather a response knowing that Jesus is there and obeying out of respect, fear, and love knowing that his grace is upon me and that it pleases him and brings me joy when I go through life as he leads and not rebel.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Convicted that I know a lot. I am convicted a lot. Often times I just leave it at that. There is no pressing into Jesus as I walk in faith and follow. Not a whole lot. I want to move in faith as Jesus leads.