Monthly Archives: June 2009

rediscovering something old

I am rediscovering weakness… or even pursuing it again.  I think, I pray, I hope with a new actual awareness (or alomost awareness) of all the weak and broken parts of myself that the Lord has shown me over the past year.  Indeed it was a year ago that I enjoyably blogged about discovering the gospel in weakness, reading and recording the thoughts of Henri Nouwen (Wounded Healer) or  Richard Sibbes (The Bruised Reed) or Kyle Strobel (Metaphorpha) or just my own musing thoughts.

Through the past year, the Lord has, I think, shown me his Fatherly affection by placing me over his knee and WHACK.  Chastening the child he loves.  Showing me my personal fear of weakness/sin/struggle even as I “theologically” engaged it with passion.  Putting me in a place where the wrestling match with weakness was… hell.   May I say with truth and candor: church planting has been the most difficult life experience, even as God has grown his church and planted us in the “west valley.”    I am so thankful for the fog of last Fall, and the slow unfolding of a spiritual Spring over the past few months.  I have seen life come from death.  Energy returned.  Weakness confessed.  Habits exposed.  Righteousness (my own) revealed as filthy.  Gifts (preaching and teaching) used as a cop-out for true pastoral leadership.  Otherness revealed as a serious weakness.  Exhaustion evidencing gospel-thirst.  Excessive work falsely defined as “success.”  Being at home with my family confronted with what it truly is to “be home” and undistracted.  Loving my wife compared to laying my life down for her.  On we could go.

Maybe this is what freedom feels like.

We are in confining quarters, indeed, when we are enclosed in self, but when we emerge  from that prison, and enter into the immensity of God and the liberty of his children, we are truly free.

Though it sounds strange to say it I am rejoicing that God has reduced [me] to a state of weakness.  Oh, how painful, but how beneficial these times of weakness!  As long as any self-love is remaining, we are always afraid it will be revealed.  But God does not give up as long as the least symptom of it lurks in the innermost recesses of heart, God pursues it, and by some infinitely merciful blow, forces it into the open.  And the sight of the problem becomes the cure.  Self-love, forced into the light, sees itself as it really is in all its deformity and disgrace.  And in a moment, the flattering illusions of your whole selfish life are dissipated.  God sets before your eyes your idol: self.  You look at that spectacle, and you cannot turn your eyes away.  Nor can  you hide the sight from others.  To expose self-love in this way without its mask is the most mortifying punishment that can ever be inflicted.

When you finally see self for what it is, weakness has become your only possession.  Strength is not even in the picture.  And if you had any, it would only make the agony longer and more distressing.   If you die [to self] from weakness and weariness, you will die more quickly and less violently.

What, then, shall we do?  Do nothing.  Seek nothing.  Hold to nothing.  Simply confess everything, not as  a means of getting relief, but because of humble desire to yield unto Jesus. (Fenelon, Let Go)

But [Jesus] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamaties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

O Lord my God, thank you for this church planting weakness exposition – all for your glory and display of your grace.  Amen.

 

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Letting Go, by Fenelon

A church member and friend has coerced me into reading a book by Fenelon, “Letting Go: to get peace and real joy”.  I say coerced because I know he asked me to dig through it (short but stout) because of my desire to control aspects of life that, well… are in need of God’s continual control.  Say, like pastoring a church plant that is the living body of Christ.

It is a brief book of letters written by Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France during the seventeenth century.  He was writing to a small group of people at the Court of Louis the Fourteenth.  Apparently they lived in a world of shameless immorality and struggle, kinda like us.  Try his words on for size and may they be a blessing to you.

The good that comes from any experience of personal weakness is the realization that God wants us to be lowly and obedient.  So may the Lord keep you!

I am amazed at the power that comes to us through suffering; we are worth nothing without the cross.  Of course, I tremble and agonize while it lasts, and all my words about the beneficial effects of suffering vanish under torture.  But when it is all over, I look back on the experience with deep appreciation, and am ashamed that I abore it with so much bitterness.  I am learning a great deal from my own foolishness!

The great Physician who sees in us what we cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife.  He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up.  And how it hurts!  But we must remember that pain is only felt where there is life, and where there is life is just the place where death is needed.  Our Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already dead.  Do not misunderstand me: He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life.

Learn to cultivate peace.  And you can do this by learning to turn a deaf ear to your own ambitions and thoughts.  Or haven’t you yet learned that the strivings of the human mind not only impair the health of the body, but also bring dryness to the soul.

Love of self, which the world advocates, is a thousand times more dangerous than any poison.

Be careful about your motives in this eager chase for knowledge.  You are aware, aren’t you, that all we need is to be poor in spirit, and to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.  Although being a know-it-all makes us feel important, what is really needed to strengthen Christian character is love.  You certainly don’t think it possible that the love of God and the dethroning of self can only be reached through the acquisition of knowledge.  You already have more knowledge than you can use.  You would do better to put into practice what you already know.  Oh how we deceive ourselves when we suppose that we are growing in grace because our vain curiosity is being gratified by the enlightenment of our intellect!  We need to be humble, and to understand that we cannot receive God’s gifts from man.  The love of God comes to us only from Jesus.

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