Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba”(2 Samuel 12:24)
This verse is where the story begins to take a turn for the positive.
Regaining, refreshing and renewing intimacy with God will bring us to a place where the way we treat other people is deeply affected by the values of God's Kingdom and - ultimately - by selfless love. Our motivation is changed, as was King Davo's...
I find it very moving that this "union" (how's that for a Ned Flandersism?) - this "union" which was initially adulterous lustful and selfish now becomes compassionate and comforting.
David’s second recorded encounter with Bathsheba began with the purpose of consoling her: “Then David comforted”. He desired to ease her grief, not his own. This time rather than use Bathsheba’s body to ease his boredom, he used his body to relieve her sense of loneliness and loss. David’s motivation had changed.
When we speak of motivation, we often mean two different things, using the same word for both. One is inner motivation, or the reasons why we do things. The other is the driving force that makes us feel like doing something.If you and I are ever to have that passion for God burning in our belly again and a sense of His presence, something critical must change at our core. It must change at both these levels.
Something must change in the way we do things and it must change in the reasons why we do them.
I might focus today on the the driving force aspect of motivation. It's interesting to me (probably to no one else though!) that King Davo seems to have lost his drive, his energy, his motivation at this point in his life. We can see that at the beginning of 2 Sam 11. He's taking afternoon naps and wandering around rooftops instead of out with his troops battling his nation's enemies. Maybe I'm reading into the text, but it seems to me that David had lost the urge to do "kingly" stuff, and his idleness lead to other less noble motivators kicking in.
Energy, drive, motivating impulses...
“How do I change?” is a question at the core of all rehabilitation, repentance and refocussing. In his own refocussing, David had made a good start by admitting his problem and accepting his responsibility. Often we stay at that point, not taking (or even discerning) the next step. And the reason we stand still is usually that we are waiting for something else to change.
We wait for the urge to pray to arise within us before praying.
We don’t show affection to our spouse because we want to feel that affection first.
We don’t give up drinking to excess because we still feel attracted to it.
We don’t start becoming vulnerable because we don’t feel safe enough yet.
We don’t offer worship to God because we don’t yet have the sense of excitement to drive it.
Unfortunately, the driving-force side of motivation doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t appear out of thin air like an angelic visitation.
The author Louis L’Amour, writing about the motivation to write, said
“The water doesn’t flow until the tap is turned on.”
Motivation comes from action rather than coming before action.
How many times has something like the following happened to you?
You say, “I don’t feel like going to the party but I guess I’d better show my face”. Surprisingly after an hour of socialising you find yourself genuinely enjoying it!
You may have had similar experiences regarding chores, going to work, starting an exercise routine or even getting out of bed in the morning.
Many (many!) years ago I was counselling a young man (whom I’ll call Jason) who had come to me wanting to kick a drug habit. Jason was a pleasant person but not well-presented and certainly lacking in energy. One of the things that emerged from our discussion was the fact that he literally did nothing with his time.
He had no job to get up for and no goals to work toward. He hadn’t even registered for unemployment benefits. Going to bed shortly before dawn, he woke up at 4:00 in the afternoon except on the days he was seeing me.
As I prayed with him, it occurred to me that there was a connection between his difficulties in becoming motivated to change anything in his lifestyle and the actual lack of attempting activity. Feeling this may have been one of those mysterious "words from the Lord", I made a suggestion that he try a new routine for a week. Each day he was to get up at a time which would be normal for someone working office hours. He was to shower and dress as if he were going to work and then go straight to the employment agency or buy a newspaper to search the job ads. Jason was willing to give this a try and chose to change his wake up time to 7 am, a massive change in routine!
Jason missed his next appointment with me and so it was 2 weeks before I saw him again. During that time with only a couple of exceptions he had got up at the new time and had undertaken the kinds of simple activity we had brainstormed. He hadn’t found a job but something else - something remarkable - had happened to him.
When Jason came to the church office window, my wife answered the bell – and literally didn’t recognise him! His posture, expression and presentation had changed dramatically. After he told me how he had changed his routine, I asked him how he felt.
“Great!” he said with real enthusiasm (and some surprise).
He went on to tell me that he was more motivated to get things done and that even his relationships were improving because his outlook and moods had changed. The tap had been turned and clean water had flowed...
When I was a teenager, the dynamo - turned by the wheel of my bicycle - would generate power for my headlight. If I stopped my bike, the light would quickly fade as the power source failed. Doing leads to feeling. Action generates enthusiasm. The water doesn't flow until the tap is turned on.
In the story, the child of David and Bathsheba was struck ill. The king's response was to go without food, to lie all night on the "bare ground". He "begged God to spare the child" (12:16). And when the child died, David's heart had been melted, had been turned once more to the needs of other people, had found its urge to love again. "Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba."
If this is the first time you've read one of this series of posts, please click on the label at the end of the post (Relighting the Fire) to read all entires. Unfortunately, they're in reverse order, so like many blogs, you'll have to scroll to the bottom to find the start of the the thread...
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
'... the issue is my learning who this person is who God keeps insisting I already am. There is this person who we already are in God's eyes. And we're learning to live like it is true. This is an issue of identity. It is letting what God says about us shape what
we believe about ourselves. This is why a shame has no place whatsoever in the Christian experience. It is simply against all that Jesus is for. When we stumble and fall back into old patterns, we call them what they are: old patterns. Old ways. Old habits of the old person. Something new is happening inside us.
...The point isn't sin management. The point is who we are now. Often communities of believers in the New Testament are identified as "saints". The word saints is a translation of the Greek word hagios, which means "holy or set apart ones". '
(Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis)
The Jesus we follow, who takes us into the Father's presence and brings His love to us, is the Jesus of my post Oops! - He believes in us, has cleansed us, is over our sin, has refreshed the image of God in us, has chosen us and set us apart for great things. Knowing him is the goal of our walk, not sin management (as Rob Bell says).
'Walking toward him is walking away from sin.'
(So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore, Jake Colsen)
Monday, August 13, 2007
"Keep yourself pure" (1 Timothy 5:22)
What's Paul telling us? I know what the word PURE means, I looked it up the dictionary, it's easy to grasp. And the greek word for pure is ... pure. So I'm not analysing the word. I'm just wondering what I'm to aim at here.
I used to follow an arrogant belief system. I told myself that as a Christian, I was no longer a sinner. It was unscriptural to think I was. When I heard other Christians say "I'm just a sinner saved by grace", I would think/say "If that's what YOU want to be, fine. But my Bible tells me I can reach a state of sinlessness (I think I got that from the latter parts of 1 John); that I'm a New Creation (Ephesians); that I'm already made perfect because of what Christ did (Hebrews)". And there is truth in each of those things.
But facts are facts. Even at my best, on those days or in those seasons where I feel 'tuned in' to God or self-controlled or motivated - I'M STILL A WEAK SELFISH PETTY MAN WHO THINKS SAYS AND DOES WEAK SELFISH PETTY THINGS!!!!
So what kind of purity is God expecting? How pure is pure, when we've all eaten of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
If we're talking moral and character issues here, and the best I could hope to acheive is 99.9% good and only 0.1% evil, is that enough to call myself pure? Would I drink a glass that's 99.9% rain water and 0.1% raw sewerage?
Or might pure refer to an allignment of the heart? One that 'righteous' actions grow out of? Something that starts in humility perhaps...?
Because I know that wheat AND tares are growing in my soul together, because I know that my best efforts only take me so far, the story Jesus told of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:10-14) gives me hope.
I am the tax collector.
No matter how much I try to move toward the pharisee's "testimony", I often find myself hiding in the shadows, weeping over my condition. "I am so like other men...!"
All I can do is trust Jesus that at the last day, He will save me from my sin. Without that hope, I am lost...
Sunday, August 5, 2007
How helpful, how "godly", how spiritual is that really? Standing at the train station unaware of what's happening around you, awash in feelings of remorse and self-pity. Is that a "christian" way to respond to personal or moral failure?
How about doing something about your life today, whether that's making amends to someone you wronged or deciding to get up off the "boxing ring canvas" and go another round? That would seem a far better use of the day God is giving you.
But we seem to warm to this particular tactic of our enemy; it feels strangely satisfying to beat ourselves up, to be crushed by despair, to agree that we'll never get better.
I just love the last scene in John’s gospel where JC and Simon Peter are on the beach. And I shared this with a friend of mine on his blog this morning. As I shared, God gave me a new understanding of the passage...
JC: So. You love me more than these guys right?
Pete: You had to bring that up! Of course I do (I’m a bad man, I’m a bad man, I’m a bad man)
JC: Ok, well, then feed my lambs. (Hmm, I don’t think he heard me). Simon. You. Love. Me. True or false?
Pete: C’mon, stop torturing me; you know I do!
JC: Right, so, take care of my sheep. (Sigh! Still not getting it). Simon? Dude! Do you feel a deep affection for me?
Pete: You’re breaking my heart here! Of course I do!
JC: Then that’s what matters. You can get on with your life, stop wallowing in self-pity and feed my sheep. I’m over your sin and I believe in you. This is the way I see your life: when you were young you did what you want. Now you are so committed to me that when you're old you'll be prepared to go where you don't want to, to die an unpleasant death, because of your love. You and me? We're ok. Now that we got that straight, I'll take you back to what I said to you right at the start so that you get going again: Follow me.
Friend, He’s over your sin and He believes in you. Follow Him afresh today.