Contentment vs. Complacency

Lately when people ask me how I’m doing, I say I’m doing great. I’m content with where I am and what God has done to get me there. Which sounds super great. Except yesterday I realized that my contentment may have been masking something not ok – complacency. Yes, I’m ok with where I am, but did I reach that point by looking at the good things I have been given (partially) or by resigning myself that this was good enough and ignoring the goals, opportunities, and people God put around me to pursue and engage (…)?

Yesterday I was reading Isaiah 1 and verse 27 stood out…

Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent by righteousness.

In the midst of the storm they were about to face – being torn from their way of life and land – God promises that in the end they will be restored. But the restoration comes with a price.

Justice is the fair treatment or lawfulness of actions – and in this case God acts as the righteous judge in determining the price that must be paid for the sins that have been committed. He even says earlier in the passage (verses 12-15) that he is tired of their burnt offerings and feasts (note: these are the things he says will be pleasing to him in Numbers, among other places). Is God being duplicitous? No, that cannot be, so what is he saying instead? Let’s look at the following verses (16-17)…

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause. 

I think, as with every time God tells the people of Israel about his precepts and his desires, he wants authentic worship. He wants them to be pleased with their stature before him, to recognize his awesome power, and to bring (along with their burnt offerings) a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Then, from that place of understanding who He is and who they are, to move forward and bring his love, justice, and mercy to the world.

So what happened?

The people of Israel had become complacent in their place. They weren’t content with what God had asked – sure they kept doing the things they were supposed to, but they weren’t satisfied anymore. And hey, maybe, like me, they thought they were content. They thought they were down with what was going on and ever so slowly they started drifting without even noticing. Little by little you stop dwelling on his words, thinking about what you’re doing, noticing those around you…and instead you start thinking about other things, going through the motions, and suddenly you really don’t care about that widow -you’re too busy strolling through your day to day actions “living”, revelling in our saved-ness and neglecting what comes after the salvation and hoopla along with it.

As I read the chapter I couldn’t help but be reminded about how we ourselves are saved through justice and redeemed through righteousness. Our sins deserved the ultimate sacrifice of death; and the only way we could have been redeemed was for someone to pay that debt. God just didn’t blankly forgive our sins – as a just and righteous God he couldn’t do that. A debt needed to be paid. The full payment was accepted when Jesus died for us, taking our sins upon himself, and by that justice we are saved. We are reinstated as a people right with God and we can come to him with our broken and contrite hearts.

However, just like the people of Israel we are also called above the physical actions of our lives and the routines of Christianity. We aren’t supposed to just physically take part in communion, but to consider the significance of it, and repent of our sins before taking it. We are still supposed to confess our sins to God and we are still supposed to turn from evil and run in the opposite direction. Plus, we are supposed to move beyond that and act in our lives. We are to do all the “one anothers” – serve, love, encourage, etc. We are supposed to be trying to see the kingdom of God here on earth, experiencing his goodness and sharing it with others.

We too are not to be complacent, but to be content. Yes, to be content, but not to be content with being complacent and staying where we are. Obviously we will be content when we are complacent because when we are complacent we don’t need to deal with the harder questions or care about the state of those around us. We can be blind to our own sin and parade around our status in life because “we’re happy here.”

Just because I’ve made it this far doesn’t mean that this is as far as I’m going – God still has more for me. He has more adventures, more things to learn, more people for me to meet, and more souls to save in the world, more justice to bring to those who cannot take it for themselves. My contentment is to be IN Him, what he has given me and where he has placed me. Yet I am still to be longing for a fuller communion and deeper intimacy with him. I am still to be carrying out his justice and mercy to those around me and I am still to have a desire for more of him, less of me, and to see his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

So: are you content or complacent?

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Pour into These

When I was younger I thought that by the time I reached this age I would be living an  adventure. I thought I would wake up every day filled with joy and passion for living, and that I would feel like everything I was doing was meaningful, impactful, and fulfilling. (Clearly this is a fantasy because emotions.)

In the age of the internet and social media I’ve ready quite a few articles on how young people should live their lives. They tell me to quit my job and just travel for a year (um but how do you pay for it?), or to invest in my career (how do you even know what you want?), or to live alone for a while (again, is no one worried about money anymore?). But, while these all sound super tantalizing and nice, I know that they don’t actually satisfy they way they sound like they do.

The articles that touch me deeply are the ones that talk about how young singles should be living their lives for God. How we should be investing in our churches and our ability to say yes to things that come up. Mentor this person? yes! Support this person in ministry? yes! Volunteer for this event? yes!

What they don’t talk about is the mental challenges you face to do that. Apathy lurks around every corner when I start thinking about the lost. Doubt trickles into my mind whenever I think about taking a step towards mentoring. And let’s not even get started on how hard it is to go to a church and say “Hi. One of my spiritual gifts is administration. Let me run stuff for you.” (Besides the fact they usually already have someone, you kind of need a little more rapport than that.)

And so I find myself in an awkward place. I’m trying to live, but feel hindered by the regular facts of life. I thought I would be working in full time ministry, and instead I’m working elsewhere (and I do love my job, but it isn’t the same). But most of all I wonder if what I’m doing has impact. Or if it has worth. Is what I’m doing with my life meaningful? Expectations of what I should do seem to come from everywhere (but they’re probably all just in my head), and then I feel lost.

So I, like any good 20 something who doesn’t know what is going on with this adulating thing, I half-seriously asked my mom what I should do with my life.

You have a job. You have a church. You have a family. You have friends. Pour into those.

Pouring out is not a quick one time deal. Pouring is flowing from yourself into others. And I think this sums up what all those articles are saying. (Or what they’re trying to say.) Your life isn’t more impactful or more meaningful if you’re a foreign missionary. You have circles of influence and within those you have the ability to invest in their lives. You have the ability to show people the love of Christ. And hanging out and spending time with people is NOT a waste.

Over and over again in the Bible we are reminded of how we are to care for the lost and the broken. The least of these. In Galatians 2 they have a huge hullabaloo meeting about how to live as  Christian and if circumcision is really necessary, and what do they decide? The only thing they leave Paul with is to remember the poor (Gal 2:10). There’s the woman at the well Jesus decides to invest in (John 4). Healing the sick and afflicted (the Bible…). Elijah provides food and healing for the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17). etc.

Then there’s Jesus and Peter:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17

So you know the people you see every day? The ones that you talk to or hang out with and see often. Or maybe the one you see once a week and chat with. Maybe the one who is growing and looking for guidance. The one who is hurting. The one who is right there.

Pour into these.

Live Redeemed

I haven’t blogged in over a year, which is fitting as I usually blog when I’m inspired to do so, and this was an uninspiring  year + a few months with some of the hardest, crippling moments of my life. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though because I had some pretty sweet moments too – like graduating! *insert London Tipton clap* Yay me!

Highs and lows aside, it was a year where I tried very hard to achieve some goals (and failed), and went through a massive transition which I’m only now getting used to (note: graduation & life after). It is also a year where I let a lot of not the best habits (exercise? what is exercise?) slip into my life with the excuse “I’ll fix/do that after I graduate” (spoiler: they have not been eradicated yet).

And so I found myself mid-December, doing one of my favourite things to do at Christmas time, reading Christmas letters from all of my parents’ friends. I mostly do this because I know who their kids are, but I also like hearing about what God has done in the lives of people I don’t know. This year my mom was telling me about who wrote one of the letters I was reading. She described her as someone who believed that we were all redeemed children of God, and that even in the midst of sins and difficult times we should live like we are redeemed.

Boom. New Year’s Resolution.

Ok, it took a little more thought and a few weeks before I reached that point. Let me break it down:

Live

The dictionary definitions I looked up for this basically said it meant you weren’t dead. Which is true. But I’m taking it a step further to point out that living requires one to live; which means you have to get up and do things instead of giving into the temptation that is Netflix, or whatever vice you have that occupies your time. (Not that we don’t need breaks, I full endorse sabbaths and breaks, and believe we were created to need them (see Leviticus 23:3 & Leviticus 25), though it may look different today than it did then).

Redeemed

When I think of redeemed, I think of three things: Jesus, Ruth, and Hosea (Francine Rivers may or may not have had an influence on the latter). Hosea with Gomer, and Ruth with Boaz, display for us in a very physical and tangible way, what Jesus does for us, which is a more conceptual thing (though his physical death was as tangible as it gets). “Redeemed” is defined:

1. to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for something else
2. literally translates from latin to “buy back”

Hosea bought Gomer out of prostitution into a different life (see Hosea), Boaz raised Ruth up from being an outcast to a member of society with worth (see Ruth), and Jesus paid for our salvation with his life, death, and resurrection (see the Gospels/the Bible). We were bought out of our sin, and brought into the light (Colossians 1:13).

Living Redeemed

I like how John says it (Chapter 10):

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came that we could live our lives abundantly. To have more than we need in it. So that covers LIVING, and I think to do it redeemed is to give the life we are living back to the one who gave it to us. This crosses into the familiar territory of allowing God to redeem and restore (the entirety of) our lives. AKA the sanctification process. There are a lot of parts of my life that I haven’t allowed to be redeemed. But if I am redeemed, then all of me is redeemed and the life I live should reflect that.

Living Redeemed isn’t something I expect to start and succeed at right away. In fact, I don’t fully understand what it will look like. What I do know (and have been reminded of many times already) is that I cannot do this redeemed thing without God. It requires me to admit and accept that I am a sinner. I did not redeem myself, and I cannot redeem any part of my life either. However, in him I am redeemed and by him I can live abundantly.

This resolution isn’t about doing a 180 and suddenly being perfect. It’s about facing what I’ve been running from, falling in the dirt, and getting back up again. It’s a resolution I’m going to fail at, but that I, by grace, get to keep trying at, knowing that one day I will be fully restored to live with my redeemer forever.

 

Faith and Works (James 1-2)

What a coincidence. I actually wanted to do a study on James myself…it’s actually SO good. So many things to write about…

James raises interesting points in regards to faith without works being dead. While we know that our salvation comes by grace alone, we cannot earn it ourselves, we are still called into action with our faith. If you think about it, it is sort of the difference between believing in something and trusting in something. When we believe in something, we say it exists, but that is the extent of our “faith” if you will. Example: I believe that this chair exists, it is right there. However, trusting in something requires the next stage – we actually put that belief or faith into action. Example: I believe this chair exists, and it will hold me up. Now I will sit in this chair.

By pairing actions, or works, with our faith, we are moving past simply saying it is true into actively showing that it is true (note, works without faith would also be dead in this scenario). Therefore, we can take the things James talks about in chapter one and actually put them into practice, knowing that as we continue to put our faith into action we continue in the process of continual growth in Christ Jesus.

Yesterday and Today and Forever (Hebrews 13)

Well hello there, super encouraging chapter! One of my favourite parts of the letters in the New Testament is the parts where they talk about Christian living. It’s usually a lot of super short concepts all strung together, and to unpack it all takes a while. But in the end, we’re left with a lot of good lessons that we can apply to our lives.

I also really like when they tie in truths from the Old Testament and reapply them to our lives. It reminds me 1. that the OT still has so much in it that we can apply to our lives if we would take the time to really read it and look at what it says, and 2. God’s promises don’t have an expiry date. As the writer of Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8). Therefore, the promises hold true. We can hold fast to them and know they will come into being. We can still read and be comforted by them. We can still ask for them today. And, of course, we can take the overly quoted passage here and the Psalm and rest.

“I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, Deut 31:6, etc.)

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not hear;
what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Citizens of the Kingdom (Hebrews 11-12)

There are so many things to talk about from this passage, I’m not sure what to write about.

The part that stood out to me today was 11:24-25:

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

I know chapter 11 focuses on faith and how we receive things through said faith, but can we just stop and actually look at what Moses did here? I think it’s a beautiful picture of what it looks like to live contrary to what the rest of the world says. He chose to be mistreated as one God’s people instead of the good feelings of sin. Pain>Pleasure. He saw Christ worth more than all the treasures of a great and mighty nation.  He even defied said nation further and instead relied on the king of the invisible country (which, coincidentally, is mentioned in chapter 12).

How many times today do we face the choice to trust God and act as citizens of his kingdom or follow the “fleeting pleasures of sin”? And how many times do we actually pick the right answer? Our actions should be able to speak for us here. As citizens of the kingdom, our actions should set us apart. Knowing is one thing, doing is another. And it is only by faith and continually relying on God that we can succeed.

Into the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 9-10)

Hebrews is steadily becoming one of my favoured books of the Bible.

Today we learn more about the significance of Christ being the high priest for us. He overcomes the sacrifices that were necessary before. Instead of constantly sacrificing animals for our sins, we are covered by the blood of Christ. Now he can enter the earthly holy of holies and beyond, into the physical presence of God. And now we can draw near for the curtain has been torn. Knowing this, we can have assurance in our salvation, and we can continually remind each other of the good news. Continuing to persevere and push each other on as the second coming of Christ comes closer. Isn’t it neat how this ties into community? We can now band together and try to live the way we are called, ever aware of eternity at stake that defines our every moment.

Now that’s a pretty neat two chapters.

New Covenants (Hebrews 7-8)

Ok seriously I need to stop writing about what the next day’s readings are. Legit. Plus, there is my answer to who Melchizedek is, right there in chapter 7.

mm…I sense inklings of old and new covenant theology things here, but I don’t know much about the nitty gritties involving that, so we’ll just stick with observation and some basic interpretation for today.

I love how through explaining Christ as the eternal and perfect high priest, we are able to see how our lives are different because of it. He constantly can intercede for us, and he can save anyone. In fact, he already has paid that price. And through this new order, there is a new covenant. And this new covenant remedies the faults in the old one. In this one we have the law written on our hearts (it says so) and we are God’s people and he is our God. That is actually one of my favourite phrases from OT. It just sounds so intimate whenever God says it to his people. It’s like a promise of eternal, deep, loving friendship. Sort of like a marriage contract: you will be mine and I will be yours, together we shall be one. Not saying we’re one with God, but the intimacy and seriousness of that saying always hits home for me. Plus, he is merciful towards us and forgets our sins. That is pretty beautiful, you have to admit.

Anchored (Hebrews 5-6)

So yesterday talking about the high priest thing sort of jumped the gun, but i will continue today.

I noted that I’ve read about the order of Melchizedek in Psalms, but I actually still didn’t know what it was…so I looked it up 😀 Apparently he was the dude in Genesis who blessed Abram after he rescues Lot (and by dude I mean high priest ..). Therefore, it makes sense that Jesus is from his “order” in that he has taken his place as high priest, but he will take it forever.

However, I think my favourite part comes in verse 19:

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain”

Because Jesus has fulfilled this high priestly role, we can have confidence in Jesus’ intercession for us, and through him our salvation. An anchor holds a boat in place despite currents and winds, just as our confidence in Jesus holds us in place despite the turmoils and storms of life. Now that is encouraging as I gear up for school.

Rest Through Christ (Hebrews 3-4)

Rest is a wonderful thing. And God has invited us to come and join his rest. However, it is because of Jesus that we are even able to do so. Jesus is greater than angels, as discussed yesterday, but he is also greater than Moses, as discussed today. And even though we turn away, just as the Israelites did from God during the time of Moses, we still have an opportunity to approach God. As the author puts it, we have a great high priest. Instead of the priests God set up, beginning with Aaron, we have Jesus. Jesus who knows what we are going through because he has experienced it.

And yet, do we keep this greatness to ourselves? Or do we continue to bring the good news to others that they too may enter this rest won for us by Christ Jesus. Not that we cause them to enter by any means, but that God may work through us to reach those whom he loves.