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As a follow-up to my previous post, today I offer up a short devotional reading from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

Read the prayer slowly pausing after each line. Let the wording and imagery sink into your heart. Notice how the writer of the prayer says that the cure for emptiness isn’t to fill our lives with things or stuff, but to go to Christ in order to lay hold His fullness and in turn find ourselves being filled.

O God,
You have taught me
that Christ has all fullness and
so all abundance of the Spirit,
that all fullness I lack in myself is in him,
for his people, not for himself alone,
he having perfect knowledge, grace, righteousness,
to make me see,
to make me righteous,
to give me fullness;
that is my duty, out of a sense of emptiness,
to go to Christ and enjoy his fullness, as mine,
as if I had it in myself, because it is for me in him;
that when I do this I am full of the Spirit,
as a fish that has got from the shore to the sea
and has all fullness of water to move in,
for when faith fills me, then I am full;
that this is the way to be filled with the Spirit,
like Stephen, first faith, then fullness,
for this way makes me most empty,
and so most fit for the Spirit to fill.

You have taught me that the finding of
this treasure of all grace in the field of Christ
begets strength, joy, glory,
and renders all graces alive.

Help me to delight more in what I receive from Christ,
more in that fullness which is in him,
the fountain of all his glory.

Let me not think to receive the Spirit from him, as a ‘thing’
apart from finding, drinking, being filled with him.

To this end, O God,
do establish me in Christ,
settle me, give me a being there,
assure me with certainty that all this is mine,
for this only will fill my heart with joy
and peace.

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“You want me to do what? That sounds impossible and ridiculous.”

As an elementary school kid my mom was religious about my brothers and I having swim lessons every summer, whether we wanted them or not. We lived in Kansas at the time and there was a community pool just down the street from our house. Twice a week, on hot mid-west summer days we would head there for swim lessons. Today we were learning how to float on our backs. Up to this point in life, my experience taught me that in order to survive in the water an individual needed to work (stroke, kick, swim, tread water, etc…) to keep their head above water. Today I was learning something different.

“Really. I’m serious.” said my swim instructor. “Just lean back with your arms stretched out and you’ll lay there and float.”

After a few failed attempts from flailing my arms and legs, on my next try I did it! I did exactly what he said. I took a deep breath and relaxed my body. I leaned backward and with a slight arch in my back. I stretched out my arms and with the warm Kansas sun shinning down on my face, I slowly bobbed up and down on the surface of the water. It was amazing!

A few weeks back I kicked off a series of posts reflecting on the fullness of God that Paul mentions in his prayer for the Ephesian church. You can find that post here.

Today, we reflect on the question what is the fullness of God? At some level the idea of God’s fullness can seem a bit abstract. Is it a feeling? Access to deeper Biblical insight? Greater spiritual maturity? What exactly is it?

But perhaps, it’s not so much a question of what, but rather a question of who.

In Colossians Paul writes, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness (2:9-10).” In the first fourteen verses in Ephesians 1, Paul states seven times that we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. The person of Jesus is the one through whom the fullness of God is brought to fulfillment.

But again, what does it mean to experience the fullness of God in Christ?

In his prayer for the church in Ephesus, Paul says explicitly that the fullness of God is found in the love of Christ. He writes,

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph 3:17-19).

A.W. Tozer said, “Knowledge by acquaintance is always better than knowledge by description.” The fullness of God in Christ isn’t just believing that God loves you, it’s knowing and experiencing His love for you.

But that still seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? What is that experience like? Is it butterflies in your stomach? Sweaty palms, a racing heart and fumbled words as you talk to the man or woman who has most recently captured your heart?

David Benner in his book Surrender to Love describes it as “floating” in the presence of God. In his book he tells the story of teaching some folks how to swim and specifically float in the water with no flotation device. He said the key is to surrender and trust, to put one’s full weight on the water and completely let go. He writes, “We float only when we stop trying to do so. And we never discover that we do not need to do anything to stay afloat until we let go.”

We can only float when we are fully relaxed, fully extended and vulnerable. Once we think we need to do something to stay afloat, we tense up and start to sink.

This is a great parallel when it comes to experiencing the fullness of God’s love. We experience and receive it only when we come to realize that we don’t have to do anything to earn it. All we have to do is let go and surrender to it.

This may be the most challenging aspect of it all. It seems counterintuitive. We are conditioned to work for and earn the things we receive. Taking something for free makes us feel like lesser of a person.

But when it comes to God’s love, receiving it for free may actually make you more of a person.

So this week…
May you lean back and relax.
May you let go and surrender.
May you float in the fullness of God’s love for you.

Questions:
1. Where do you experience God’s love most vividly and frequently?
2. What are the barriers in your life to receiving God’s love?

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iStock_000003380154SmallEach night as we sit around the dinner table as a family, we go around the table and share the high and low point of our day. We call it “high and lows.” In teaching this to our daughter Kate, the terms high and low make no sense in her 3-year-old mind so we ask her, “What made you happy today?” and “What made you sad?”

In repeating this nightly ritual, I’ve come to realize, we’ve unintentionally taught Kate that “happy” things are better than “sad” things. And perhaps, unknowingly, we are also teaching her that it’s best to increase the amount of happy experiences in our life and decrease the sad. After all, that’s the principle on which our country was found, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But is there something to be said about embracing sadness?

When people experience tragedy we expect them to grieve. It seems a bit strange if they don’t. But what about allowing yourselves to be sad when it’s triggered by something you see, hear or experience?

Now,  before you stop reading or click over to another blog thinking this just took a depressing turn… take a look at this video.

In an interview, comedian Louis C.K. tells of a similar experience. (Quick disclaimer: If you go searching for Louis C.K. stuff on the internet as a result of reading this, note that he can be quite offensive.) In the interview he was talking about how we often distract ourselves from things we don’t want to experience and feel.

He went on to tell about a time he was driving in his car and a sad song came on the radio. He said as the song played he started to feel sad and instead of changing the station or turning it off, he pulled his car over and allowed himself to cry to the song. In the interview, he went on to say that profound joy is discovered after knowing deep sorrow. It’s through embracing the sadness, working through it and coming out on the other side where we discover true joy.

In the end, by distracting ourselves in moments where sadness creeps in, we end up living in this in between space where we never let ourselves feel sad, and as a result, never truly find deep joy.

So I finish by asking the questions again, is there something to be said about embracing sadness?

What do you think? Do either the video or the Louis C.K.’s comments resonate with you?

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