Friday, February 7, 2014

Is Ought

It is the beginning of February, the time of year when most people are puttering out on their New Year's Resolutions. It is that day when you forgot to go to the gym and 2014 is feeling a lot like 2013. This time of year is hard. It is easy to aim too high when we make resolutions and get discouraged when we fail because our new exciting dreams must be accomplished by our old imperfect selves. This forces us to reckon with the question, "Which is more important: Who I am or who I want to be?" Because I want to be a person who reads her Bible every day, but I am someone who has made the habit of staying up late watching YouTube videos then falls asleep in her Bible. I want to give each person individual attention and a taste of God's love, but I am someone who gets tired and selfishly silent. I want to be led solely by the mission of the cross, but I am often being controlled by my flesh. How do I understand these two identities?

I went to one of my best friend's house and their white board had an illustration of a stick figure who had to learn the lesson of Is vs. Ought. You see, this fellow had an idea to bake a loaf of bread. Unfortunately, the bread did not turn out. The bread ought to have been delicious, but it was burnt. Now Mr. Stick-Man had two choices, he could dwell on his failure, or try the bread again, maybe paying a little closer attention to the recipe.

We are kind of the same. We know how we ought to be-- Loving, kind, productive, efficient, dedicated-- but are also faced with how we are which is often selfish, thoughtless, lazy, inept, and discouraged. As Christians we want to be how we ought, and it is on an even deeper level because we want to be this way in order to advance God's kingdom and bring Him glory. However, we are not perfect. So what do we focus on? Our goal of being a good ambassador for God's kingdom or our imperfections standing in our way?

Like most philosophical either or questions, the answer is a balance of both. We must be aware of what we desire for ourselves. We cannot give up our goals and New Year's resolutions! Desires are a reflection of the heart and motivation for the actions, it is necessary to have goals centered around the glory of God and crave the day sin will reign no longer and there will be absolutely nothing keeping us from seeing God in the entirety of His splendor. However, we cannot take the practical steps to get there without being aware of where we are starting from. Although we are children through the act of justification and cannot add to it, we are in some stage of our sanctification which we should be conscious of so we may grow stronger in Christ. I am by no means trying to undermine the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, in fact I think it is all God's grace that we progress! But we must be diligent to dwell in scripture and purge sin so He can work more fully. We do this by God's grace.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Sometimes my dreams teach me a lot about myself. I don't believe they can be weirdly interpreted, but it is what is subconsciously in my brain so, occasionally, I pay attention. For example, last night I dreamed I was walking down the street ran into Justin Bieber  (VERY likely scenario ;))! I just gave him a quick hug and talked a bit, but, for some reason, the brief exchange deeply inspired him. He was so moved by me that he decided to change his life around and the dream ended with me bidding him farewell as his limousine headed to rehab.

Anyway! Maybe this was just a result of reading too many articles about the pop star's sad decline, but I think it also proved something about me. I really want to save people. I want to be the strong one for people to lean on and I want to be able to conquer the world. After all, who doesn't want to be powerful? Is there anyone who doesn't want a great life that inspires others?

Unfortunately, this "togetherness" is not a reality in my life. The truth is, I am weak in almost every way. I get so upset every time I break down. Why do I have such little control of my life?

Maybe it is cause I'm human? I was reading Mark today and came across the story of a father whose son was possessed by an unclean spirit. The father begs Jesus to save his son who is literally being destroyed by the spirit. The boy has been this way since childhood and no one has been able to cure him; the situation seems out of control. The father has no strength to save his son and Jesus is his last hope. He asked Jesus, if He can, to have compassion and heal the boy. Jesus replies with, "All things are possible for the one who believes."  So the weak father exclaims the famous, "I believe; help my unbelief!" The father has been given his strength: Faith in the power of Christ. Jesus heals the boy. (Mark 9:14-29)

Many of us feel like the father most of the time. We want to make everything better, but we are faced with the reality of our weakness. We look everywhere for help, finally falling before Jesus and begging Him to save us. We would do anything He told us to do if only it would fix it all. But the command Christ gives us is strange: Believe. Even this is hard for us, but we pray God will take our meager faith and do great things. He does. Jesus Christ renews even the most helpless situations, He is our strength in weakness. Our lives will never be so perfect that they will transform others, but luckily, it is not our life we are looking to and Jesus' life does inspire and it does bring change and His new life does save.

"Then they said to Him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'"-- John 6:28-29