Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Struggle and Surrender

What is the balance between struggle and surrender? I am thinking particularly of those contexts where either we desire something that does not come easily or we are seeking to escape difficult circumstances.

How does a person following Jesus respond when prayers for a job go unanswered — keep struggling to find one, or surrender to what the Lord may want to do in a period of abandonment? What does a Christian do when the health report is grim — exhaust every remote medical option or rest in the reality that everyone dies and know that Christ has defeated death?

If we are excessive with our struggle is it because we are too committed to self-will? If we too easily give up in surrender is it an indication of apathy and sloth?

Jacob wrestled with God, refusing to turn loose without a blessing. Jesus wrestled with His impending death in the garden, but then surrendered to the Father with not what I want but what you want (Mtt 27:39).

In his book The Struggle of Prayer, Donald Bloesch says, “God wishes us to strive with him before we submit because he wants to convince us. He desires to see how earnest we really are. He hides the full meaning of his will from us until we are ready to accept it. When we finally surrender, we triumph in that God triumphs.” This essentially says that, while we tend to seek “answers” so we can get on with the way we perceive life, God is always seeking intimate relationship with the people He has created and redeemed.

Yet this does not tell us where the “line” is because, I think, there is not one. The “line,” even if we are seeking such from God’s point of view, would be just another “answer” — a “spiritual formula” that would come between us and God instead of keeping us dependent on Him.

Whether we are desiring work, health, or anything else, the only “answer” seems to have been given by our Lord: But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Mtt 6:33). And when “these things” do not come on our schedule (or, seemingly, not at all), we still come to the Father as our Lord did and say not what I want but what you want.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I have been wandering, both physically and mentally, over the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure whether it is just part of reality in this fallen world or whether it is a symptom of insufficient development in my own spiritual focus, but when my daily routines are disrupted I find it much more difficult to maintain “the keen edge.” Circumstantial distractions too easily turn into spiritual distractions.

The nature of the circumstances which distract us are, I think, immaterial — apart from issues connected in any way with mortal sin (we each have our individual foibles). And yet, “average” disruptions are part of our enemy’s arsenal to distract us so that we “wander” into sin. All we need to do to “wander” is take our eyes off Jesus so that we are not consciously, intentionally “following.” When Jesus said Take up your cross and follow me He knew that such a response from us requires commitment.

I have been following the social and ecclesiastical responses to the election along with the crucial attendant issues of human life and sexual morality. I take heart when bishops and pastors speak out in bold and uncompromising ways that testify to the authoritative teachings of the Church. I also wonder if the time is soon coming that public expressions of Christian morality will be illegal (since immorality is being given greater and greater legal sanction).

I have been acutely aware, too, of how much American Christianity has been seduced by comfort and pleasure. Are we ready to follow if the price is financial vulnerability or even physical pain? Most certainly we will not be ready to follow if we allow ourselves to “wander” very far.

Of you my heart has spoken, "Seek his face." It is your face, O Lord, that I seek.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Preach it, Aimee!

WOW -- Aimee (Milburn) Cooper tells it like it is in her recent post on abortion (http://www.historicalchristian.com/my_weblog/2008/11/sex-lies-and-abortion-a-feminist-tale.html) Check it out. (Thanks, Aimee!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


One of my Psalms for last night (as the election results trickled in) was 125, with two of the stanzas saying:

Those who put their trust in the Lord
are like Mount Zion, that cannot be shaken,
that stands for ever.

For the scepter of the wicked shall not rest
over the land of the just
for fear that the hands of the just
should turn to evil.

I was not over-zealous for either candidate; both have positive and negative qualities — like all of us. I must confess to being a bit disillusioned with the political horizon and have little hope that any President can do much to affect true righteousness in a country that has gone too far and for too long into the abyss of self-indulgence. There is an entrenched bureaucracy in our government that is committed to an autonomy that snubs the laws of God.

Over and over in the OT God allowed his people to be subjected to evil rulers — both Israelite and from "the nations"— so that evil could best be seen for what it truly is, causing the people's hearts to turn again to the Lord.

Evil exacts its price, and God's people sometimes have to "pay" along with the wicked who surround them. We, in our humanity, certainly do not desire that.... but we who belong to Jesus do want to see the glory of God exalted, and if we have to live through being put down in order to be raised up then it's no less than Jesus Himself endured.

One Day all will be made right and we will not have a President — we will have a King who reigns forever. In fact, He already reigns— only some of us know it and others do not. Until He comes, we are to model what it means to know it so others might also see.

Obama and everyone in Congress are just a little blip in the ebb and flow of Something much bigger. My heart is with the latter.

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