Interrupted

My guess is that your day is filled with countless interruptions (my son just burst into my at-home office, telling me he "needed to go potty," just as I was typing these words!) The question we all need to ask is: how are we responding to the interruptions? 

Anger. Agitation. Frustration.

I know my quickest response to an interruption is anger, agitation, or frustration. This is how I normally react when my two-year old walks into my office telling me he needs to go pee. Again! "For crying out loud. Why can't you do it by yourself!" That's how the thought process in my head normally goes (by God's grace it didn't this time).

It's sad that I still react in this way. One would think that I'd be used to the interruptions by now. Or that I would at least respond more graciously. But because of my sinful heart, I react in a surprisingly agitated way almost every time. Because, when I'm interrupted, I feel like my world and my time are being taken away. It's a pride issue. And at it's core is the reality that I want to be the uninterrupted god of my own world.

It's an unhealthy and unrealistic way to live.

But again, by God's grace, it's a place that each of us can grow out of and more into the image of Jesus. By looking to Jesus, we can see how to rightly respond to and receive the interruptions of our day.

Listen to this passage from the Gospel of Mark:

"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you.' And he said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.' And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.'" - Mark 1:35-39

Jesus simply wanted some alone time, and he went to great efforts to get it. The text tells us that he woke up "very early in the morning, while it was still dark." Jesus was intentionally trying to get away. To be alone. He didn't want to be interrupted. 

But he was. 

It didn't take long before they found him. His disciples. The crowds. All the people in the world who needed him (we're awfully needy as sinners, aren't we). 

What I love about the passage is Jesus's response. There was no anger. No frustration. No disgust with the fact that he had been found, interrupted, and pulled away from his devotions with his Father. No. Jesus simply went on with his day as if the interruption was part of what he was supposed to be doing. He went with the interruption, not as though it was interrupting his work, but as though it was his work.

Jesus, more than anyone else, understood what it meant to be interrupted. He faced the ultimate interruption in our place by becoming a man, and having his life of eternal glory with the Father interrupted. And he would eventually go to a cross, and his life of perfect union with the Father would be interrupted. But it was interrupted for us. 

To put it simply: Jesus responded perfectly to interruptions in our place and on our behalf!  

C.S. Lewis on interruptions

C.S. Lewis had some great thoughts on interruptions. He captures well in words what Jesus did in life. He clarifies for us that instead of viewing interruptions as moments that interrupt our work, we instead need to see that interruptions are our work. Listen to this:

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life–the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it's hard to remember it all the time.*

Embracing the interruptions

Moments of  uninterrupted time are wonderful, but they aren't real life. The reality is that most of life is interrupted, but it's also in those interruptions that life is lived. Jesus shows us, and C.S. Lewis explains to us, that every interruption is an opportunity to be embraced as what it is–real life. Interruptions are real life moments that we're given every day, not to be angry at, but to receive and use for God's glory.

This means that when my two-year old busts into my office 15 minutes from now needing to go potty again, I can receive it as part of my real life work and joyfully take him to go potty. And believe it or not, this act is just as pleasing to God (if not more) as praying or preparing sermons!

What about you? How are you going to respond to interruptions today? Are you going to react in anger because your imagined world of uninterrupted perfection is being interrupted? Or are you going to receive (as Jesus did for you) what your real life work is?

 

* Quoted from What's Best Next, chapter 18, by Matt Perman. Originally quoted: Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root, eds., The Quotable Lewis (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1989), 335.

 

The LORD's Delight

His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. -Psalm 147:10-11

God does not look down upon us and take delight in our own inventions and ideas. He doesn't look at the strength we have in and of ourselves and give us a pat on the back. He doesn't look down at the things we consider to be great and think to himself that he is sure glad to have us on his side. No, God looks down and takes pleasure in those who fear him. Those who know that they can do nothing apart from God's common and special grace upon lost humanity.

God's delight is in those whose hope is in him. 

Praise be to God that Jesus hoped perfectly in the Father for us. In Christ, we now can have hearts that are made new. Hearts that are redirected. Hearts that hope in the living God. 

Where is your hope today?

Faithful Afflictions

 

I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. -Psalm 119:75

I doubt that we very often view the afflictions in our lives as God's faithfulness (I know I don't). I think the common idea is that if things are going good, then I must be living in a way that is pleasing to God. Or, if things in life are going bad, then I must be doing something that is making God angry. It's this view that God is a ticking time bomb, and he's hovering above us just waiting for the wrong move to be made so that he can afflict us with some sort of malady.

But the Psalmist doesn't view God like this. Instead, he startles us with the above verse, saying that God's afflictions are a part of his faithfulness. How is it that the Psalmist can think like this? How can he possibly believe that the suffering in his life, the difficult things he faces every day, are a part of God's faithfulness?

The Psalmist can think this way, because his every thought is shaped by God's words to him. Let me give you two verses that demonstrate this.

 

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. -Psalm 119:76

The Psalmist view of God's affliction is that this is God's way of showing his steadfast love. It's God's way of showing that he alone is the ultimate comfort in life. How often have you attempted to look for comfort in things? Material possessions or relationships? Every time, these things fail to comfort us. Relationships are hard and everything material in this world is wasting away.

God wants us to see that true comfort comes only from him. His afflictions upon us are faithful to show us this.

One more verse.

 

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. -Psalm 119:92

This verse directly reveals the Psalmists secret to making it through these afflictions–the law of the LORD is his delight.

For the Psalmist, the truth of God's words always trump his experiences in life. Not the other way around. So the Psalmist is able to go through trials. He's able to live with his life hanging in the balance as his enemies pursue after him, because he believes more in what God has promised than in what his present circumstance is presenting to him. 

Jesus would do the same thing, only perfectly and in our place. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, it was the truth of God's word that saw him through the circumstance. When Jesus was ready to face the cross, it was his reliance on God's faithful words that saw him through the agony. 

And he has done this for us. Where we are quick to believe lies, Jesus fully believed the truth. Where we are quick to believe that our present circumstance proves God to be unfaithful, Jesus believed that his present circumstance was underneath the sovereign and faithful hand of his Father.

God is always faithful. His promises have been fulfilled in Christ. You will make it through your afflictions. Do you believe this? 

 

 

 

 

Refuge

Humanity longs for comfort, security, and safety. We have the need to find something or someone to take refuge in but we often look for that refuge in the wrong places. 

Last week I began my at least annual trek through the Psalms. There is a theme that has stood out to me; the theme of refuge. The Psalmist, on several occasions, says, "In the LORD I take refuge" (Psalm 11:1; 16:1). As I've been reading, I've been forced to stop and ask whether or not my refuge is the LORD?

Refuge In The Wrong Places

We aren't naturally inclined to take refuge in the Lord. We're prone to take refuge in our current circumstances. We might attempt to take refuge in relationships, job security, material prosperity, or success of our children. But all these things are false refuges. They simply don't provide the covering that we need–the covering that we can really only get from God. 

These things, or refuges, are all bad refuges because they are imperfect. They're like a house with a crumbly foundation. When you take refuge in a relationship, you really only feel secure when things are going well. Your spouse might provide a good refuge for a while, but eventually he or she will have their shakiness revealed. Suddenly they aren't as strong as you need them to be. Your refuge might be in your secure job. But a jolt in the economy can take that away in an instant. You might find great comfort in your material possessions, but you very quickly realize that all of those things are breaking down very quickly. Furthermore, you realize that once you finally have whatever it is you "must have," you almost immediately become dissatisfied and must have whatever has most recently become better.

On and on we could go.

Refuge In The Lord

The God of the bible is a different refuge entirely. 

When you meditate through the writings of the Psalmist, you realize that his circumstances were often very dire. Enemies were after him. His king (before he was king himself) wanted to kill him. His own son wanted his throne. Etc. But over and over he writes in a manner that, though often despairing at first sight, often turns into a testimony of praise to God. Repeatedly the Psalmist finds himself crying out to God because of the suffering he is going through.

But astonishingly, we also see him giving his praise to God. Why?

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken... You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. - Psalm 16:8, 11

The Psalmist could still praise the Lord because it was the Lord who he took refuge in. You see, when our eyes are set on finding refuge in things that aren't meant to be taken refuge in, our eyes are taken off the Lord. This makes it easy for us to blame God when we perceive things as going wrong. But, when our eyes are continually on the Lord, when we see him as always before us and always at our right hand, we will begin to become overwhelmed with joy.

The Lord is a refuge who will not fail. 

Jesus experienced this for us. The night before he was headed to the cross, Jesus was in the garden praying. His prayers were so intense in this moment that he was sweating drops of blood. Jesus was overwhelmed with what was before him. But he prays a remarkable prayer. "Father, if you will, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done." How could he do this? Just as the Psalmist, Jesus's refuge was in the Lord. Only Jesus is the better Psalmist because he took refuge perfectly in his Father.  

Jesus would of course go on to die on that cross. But he would also rise from the dead! This victory over death gives us great confidence. Jesus not only suffered for us, but he took complete and perfect refuge in God for us too. Now, because of Jesus, our eternity is secure. There is nothing that can take us from God's hand. He is our refuge.  

Abide In Christ

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. -John 15:5

It's easy to forget how much I need Jesus. Yet the reality is that I need him every day. And so do you. The above verse reminded me of this truth this morning. 

I often live life as if I accepted Jesus and then moved on. But the reality is that he is the vine and I'm the branch. This means, that for me to truly have life, I need him every waking moment of every day. Have you ever cut a branch from its vine? It has the appearance of still being useful, but the reality is that it immediately begins to wither and die. This is what our life is like severed from the vine of Jesus. Sure, we might not appear to be dead immediately, and we might be able to have some fruit to show for a while, but eventually we dry up and the fruit falls off.

Now, the good news for the Christian is that he or she will never be severed from the vine of Jesus. As Jesus points out in John 10, he is the Good Shepherd and nothing will enable us to be snatched out of his hand. Furthermore, he has such a firm grip that we can never jump out (Nor would we want to if we've really experienced his salvation). Our salvation is secure through the sheer grace of God and through faith in the finished work of Jesus. 

However, our day to day life must still consist of our utter dependance upon the gospel. For the finished work of Jesus is not something that we needed just at a certain point and time in our past, no, it's what we need every day. The finished work of Jesus has not only saved us, it's also what sustains us. And it's through a constant belief in the gospel that we are sanctified and made to look more like him. 

Apart from Christ we can do nothing. The works of religion might look good for a while, but in the end they're fruitless. But as we abide in him, we're made to be more like him, and our faith in him will produce much fruit.

So stop yourself today and simply abide in Christ. Fruit will come.

The Scriptures Have Emotions

Yesterday, Taproot Church worked her way through the final half of Mark 5. The passage tells the story about a man named Jairus whose daughter is dying. This man comes to Jesus and asks for him to heal his daughter, but his daughter dies. Sandwiched in this story is the story of Jesus healing the woman with a chronic bleeding issue. The story ends with Jesus raising this little girl from death.

One of the main takeaways for me from yesterday's sermon was not even a point from the sermon itself, but simply a realtiy from the text. It was highlighted by my pastor. 

The reality is this: the scriptures have emotions.

It's easy to do and we often do it; we read the scriptures outside of their emotional context. We read them as if the characters are fictional and the events made up. But this isn't the case. The story is one with real people and real events and these people felt real emotion in the midst of the real events they were experiencing.

Think for a moment about this man Jairus. His daughter is sick to the point of death. He comes to Jesus (who was quite busy and surrounded by thousands of people vying for his healing touch) and asks him to, if he can, heal his daughter. Jesus can and he begins to make his trek to where the girl is. But in the midst of all this turmoil, Jairus' servants come to him and inform him that his daughter has died.

I don't know how many times I've read this story without even blinking an eye. But stop for a moment and think about. This man's daughter has died. She is dead. This is a moment filled with heart-wrenching, tear-soaked emotion. Imagine your child being to the point of death. You are searching for someone to heal her. Your last hope. You finally find that someone who can help, only to receive a message moments later that says your child has died. It would be an emotional roller coaster of a situation.

This man's situation was one of desperation and Jesus was the only one who could possibly do anything about it.

When we read scripture, we need to read it in light of not only its historical grammatical context, but also in light of its emotional context. Place yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of the people in the story. How would you react if your daughter died? How would you be moved if you were healed of an illness you had been suffering from for 12 years? How would you react if your once dead child was revived back to life?

When you read the bible, don't just read the words on the page like they are simply words on a page. Read them as they are. Real stories that happened in real time to real people. If you do this, the way you receive from God's word will be radically transformed.  

Bible Reading...Digital or Old School?

Do you read your bible off of a device? Or, do you read it old school? A good old-fashioned nicely leather bound 1,000 plus page book?

This is a question that I've asked myself many times and have also been asked. There's kind of a weird stigma around reading a digital bible. It doesn't feel as holy I guess. At any rate, my personal preference is to do it old-school. I like to read my bible like it's a real book. If not for anything else, I like the nostalgia. The sound of the thin pages turning. The look of the ink wearing. The underlined passages from years passed. The oil marks from my fingers. The smell of that oh so soft calfskin leather. What a delight. 

All nostalgia aside, I want to give you a few reasons why I prefer (at least currently) a "real" bible versus a digital one. 

No Crashing

If there's one thing I can't stand about digital bible apps, it's the fact that they crash. And they seem to crash a lot. It makes me crazy. I hate being in the middle of a good Old Testament story or parable of Jesus or argument of Paul, and then CRASH! Nothing. Just the home screen. Now I have to go back in, push the button, wait for it to reload, find where I was, and get back on track. 

As it turns out, a "real" bible never crashes. Always the simple nice fluidity of words on a white piece of paper.

Less Distracting

The second thing I like about a "real" bible, is that it's less distracting. Let's face it, bible apps are pretty flashy. There's so much you can do with them. Little letters and numbers to push that will take you on an hours long rabbit trail. Various ways to highlight and take notes. The simple ease of touching a word and having it defined for you in the moment. Oh what joy. But oh what a distraction. As convenient as these little tools can be, I also find that they can be horribly distracting.

There is a sweet joy in opening the book on a quiet morning and simply reading a passage without the ability to push a button. I love a time of uninhibited, no rabbit-trailed devotion. 

Spacial Recognition

Now this might just be me and it might be really strange, but I can't stand not having any spacial recognition. When people ask me about a verse, I want to know where to go. My bible has depth to it that a screen doesn't. This way, even if I don't remember the exact chapter and verse, I at least have some depth perception and more ease in finding what needs to be looked for. 

I've read passages many a time on an iPad. It never fails, that when I go back to look for that passage, I find myself scrolling endlessly with the inability to find what I'm looking for. This simply doesn't happen (not as easily at least) with the "real" deal.

It's About The Content

In the end, these are all personal preferences. I've discovered that I personally enjoy reading the "real" deal. What needs to be made clear is that reading the bible is not about the method of delivery, rather, it's about the content. The delivery method might be ink on pages or a digital screen. You might use an iPad mini or a little pocket bible. You might even be the weird guy who carries his ESV study bible around (perhaps you like the workout?). 

It doesn't really matter how you read the bible. What matters is that you find what works best for you and your personal time with Jesus. The reason we read our bibles is to know him more. 

So pick your weapon. And happy reading!