Archive for April, 2011

Childlike Wonder

Posted: April 11, 2011 by clairer in Awe

Have you ever seen young children at the start of a snow storm? Have you seen their excitement and awe as they rush from window to window pointing at one snowflake and then another? Have you seen adults’ reactions to the same snow storm? They will smile, perhaps, at the beauty of the snow, but all the while, they will also be thinking about cancellations, road conditions, and the level of milk in the refrigerator. What happened to that childlike joy…that childlike awe?

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This call to childlikeness can be applied to multiple areas of the Christian walk, but one aspect is wonder.

When children are exploring their world for the first time, everything is new and exciting. Birthdays and holidays are eagerly anticipated, rainbows and snow are special treats, and life is full of new things to discover and experience. But as we mature, these things become more common place. Years, birthdays, and holidays come and go, the miracles in nature (like the change of seasons) become routine, and we go through life expecting little change and wondering about fewer things.

I think a similar thing can happen in our faith as Christians. Like children seeing their first snowstorm, the first time we heard the good news of the gospel, it was awesome and exciting to us. Jesus loves me and died for me — a sinner! That fact seemed so amazing and filled us with joy. But did that truth still seem so amazing one, five, or ten years later? As we became adults in the faith, did our attitudes toward God and the gospel also become apathetic? Has the wonder of our faith become dull? Have we lost that wide-eyed child’s perspective?

I think this is one of the greatest dangers to our faith. It’s far more likely for Christians to become apathetic to the gospel message and cease to take joy in the miracle of their faith than for mature Christians to become atheists and to completely reject or abandon the faith.

But if we are to live passionate lives for Christ, we cannot lose the wonder and awe. It is that wonder and amazement that motivates us to read our Bibles, to worship God, to encourage our fellow believers, to reach out to unbelievers with the gospel. It is apathy that threatens our walk with God. When the gospel becomes old to us, God becomes an afterthought. We read our Bible and attend church out of habit instead of out of love for God and a desire to grow in our knowledge of Him.

Maintaining a childlike wonder doesn’t mean you statically maintain a child’s knowledge of the faith. In fact, a child’s wonder provokes the opposite. A child who wonders at the world around him doesn’t just say, “Hey, that’s a cool rainbow,” and then turns back to the truck in his sandbox. He asks questions about how the rainbow got there. Children are notoriously curious. The wonder provokes questions — a desire to explore and find answers.

Similarly, awe in our faith will not keep us in a childlike state of theology, but will spur us to explore our faith, to ask questions about the bible, and to study the character of God. We will grow, not stay stagnant, through a childlike awe.

But how do we foster or maintain this awe? There are three main ways to do this: reminders, study, and friends. In order to keep the gospel from getting old, we must remind ourselves of its awesomeness on a daily basis. We must daily remind ourselves of who we are, what we deserve, and the awesomeness of the grace that God has shown us. Something I know that has been helpful for me is the Valley of Vision, a collection of puritan prayers. These authors’ awe of God and the gospel is remarkable and an encouragement every time I open the book.

We must also study and explore issues of our faith. A few years ago, I went through a long dry time spiritually. I knew what I believed, but I started to question why I believed it.  So, I started reading; reading about whether or not the Bible was true, how God could be good when there was so much evil in the world, how a loving God could send people to hell, and other theological questions. My awareness and love for God grew astronomically due to that time of study. The more I learned about God, the more amazed I was at His goodness and grace. When we grow in the knowledge of God, the understanding of his holiness, his love, his goodness, and his power will cause us to be more in awe of Him. The study of our faith prompts awe, which in turn prompts us to study more. Study grows faith.

Finally, surround yourself with godly friends who are passionate about their faith. Awe of God is contagious. When you continually spend time with someone who is living in awe of God, His work, and the gospel, you also will begin to have this perspective of God.

“Grown ups” in the faith should be the most awestruck, the most passionate people in the church. They are the ones who have had the most opportunity to study and meditate on the awesomeness of God and the gospel. Excitement over our faith should grow, not dull, the longer we are Christians. Let us never outgrow the wondrousness of our faith.

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Perfection Confusion

Posted: April 10, 2011 by clairer in Perfection, Pride

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”

I would be the first to admit that perfection is unattainable. No matter how many hours I study, there will be days when I do not score 100%. However well-intentioned I am, I will not always give the best advice to my friends. Although I spend daily time with God, I consistently fall short of the passion He deserves. No, I know that the high bar of perfection is unreachable…but I still try.

It’s easy to justify this drive for perfection. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars,” we are told. By trying to be perfect, I’m simply ensuring that I’m doing my best…right?

But are we called to pursue perfection… or excellence? While we are told in God’s word to “be holy because I am holy” we are also told that all have “fallen short.” While we were originally called to this perfection, the minute we sin, we lose all chance of being perfect. It’s like a GPA. The moment you get anything lower than an A in one class, you lose the ability to get a 4.0 no matter how many more A’s you achieve in the rest of your schooling. But, there is hope.

As Christians we are called to excellence, not perfection. The Bible says that “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.” Thus, if we are supposed to be doing everything for God, we should be doing everything with excellence or to the best of our ability.

But how does striving for excellence and striving for perfection differ? If you’re striving for perfection, aren’t you striving for the highest level of excellence? I think there are two things that differentiate the pursuit of perfection from the desire for excellence: the motivation and the response.

What is the motivation behind perfectionism? Pride.  The fact that we feel the drive to be perfect means that we think we can be perfect. We become motivated by end results (perfection) and not the process. We are saying that as long as we try our hardest, perfection is the only acceptable result for us. That’s a prideful motivation.

Perfectionism is also selfishly motivated. We are doing things to glorify ourselves rather than doing our best to use the gifts God has given us to glorify Him.

On the other hand, when we are striving for excellence, we are doing so with a desire to glorify God. Since God is our Creator, doing things well automatically reflects upon His excellence, omnipotence, and goodness. Using our gifts and talents points others to Him.

Our reaction to the result is also different depending on our goal. If we are always striving for perfection, then any result other than a perfect one will be unacceptable. We may have done our best and still have fallen short. Perfectionism is full of disappointment. Striving for excellence allows us to  be satisfied – and trust God — with the results. Excellence enables us to be content knowing we did the best that we could, and it permits us to learn from our mistakes. It’s been said, “Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.” Our imperfections teach us. When we acknowledge our inability to be perfect, we are freeing ourselves to learn the lessons we are meant to learn.

It takes humility to let go of our perfectionism. It requires us to admit that we cannot be perfect and it reorients praise from self to God. As Christians, we must acknowledge our call to excellence and pursue it– not perfection– for God’s glory.

In Light of Eternity

Posted: April 9, 2011 by clairer in Purpose, Worldview

When I hear the word “worldview,” I usually think of a basic belief system.  But a worldview is more than just a statement of faith or a list of beliefs about God, sin, and salvation. It is literally the lens through which we view the world — the perspective and attitude we take towards life. Our worldview helps us to evaluate ourselves, our circumstances, and the events we witness around us.  And, ultimately, it gives shape to our thoughts, our words, our actions, and our interactions with others.

When we’re living with an eternal worldview, we are living for the glory of God and living for eternal consequences instead of getting tied up with the daily concerns. It’s the embodiment of the verse “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:20) Living with an eternal worldview will drastically reorient the way we approach our daily lives.

School: Having an eternal worldview gives us a specific purpose and a perspective toward our school work. First, an eternal worldview gives us the purpose of our work: the glorification of God through our diligence, the worship of God through the study of the world He’s created, and the preparation for the work that God has planned for us in the future. What an eternal worldview tells us is that the purpose of school reaches far beyond good grades or acclaim.

When we understand the purpose of our school from an eternal worldview, we take a different perspective toward how we do our school. An eternal worldview pushes us towards excellence. If we are doing our school to glorify God — working “unto the Lord and not for men” — we are going to do things excellently (not necessarily perfectly, but to the best of our ability). When we view our school as the study of God’s world and universe, we can find interest and awe in any subject — no matter what our natural skills or interests are. Finally, school’s purpose of preparation helps us to put the results of our education in perspective. An eternal perspective shows us that grades are not the purpose, learning is. The goal is to learn so that we can be prepared for what God wants us to do to accomplish things for His kingdom in the future. In the long run, a B+ instead of an A makes little difference; but the skills we learn and the implementation of those skills for God’s glory will matter.

Friendships: An eternal worldview also changes our approach toward friendships. What if we viewed our everyday interactions with people as more than opportunities to laugh, talk or to hang  out.  What if we intentionally viewed these people as eternal souls? How would that reorient the way we relate or the time we invest in these people? Living with this eternal worldview shows us that when we hang out with people, we are influencing them. Therefore, we should be sure that our interactions are edifying and God-glorifying, since each interaction has the potential to influence eternal souls.

Spiritual Walk: Living with eternity in view will change our priorities and put them in the right order. When we’re living for eternity, our spiritual walk will become our first priority. Morning devotions will be skipped less often. Church will be more anticipated because our goal will be to grow in Christ. An eternal perspective helps us to realize that only Christ is what matters in the end.

Trials: We all have them. Some are bigger than others. A trial might be the loss of a paper when the computer malfunctions, or it might be the loss of a loved one. It might be sickness: a cold or cancer. Whatever the trial is and regardless of whether it’s “small” or “serious,”, having an eternal perspective helps us to make it through these trials. Having an eternal worldview reminds us that there is more to life than this world. The trials we’re facing now may be overwhelming, but they are only temporary. We can have hope in – and look forward to –eternal life without tears, trials, or pain.

Having an eternal worldview drastically re-directs our lives. It helps us to acknowledge what is truly of value in life. It helps us to gain perspective on work, sleep, eating, socializing, sports, literature, relationships, media choices, and everything we do in life. As we develop an eternal worldview, we come to value what God values. We will be living this day for that day.