Questions

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)

We have some amazing youth at First Baptist Richmond, I must say.  Bart asked a few questions this evening as our time was ending.  The first I had planned for, since we had spoken about it a few minutes before.  Initially, he asked me “if you could ask God for anything, and knew He would give it to you, what would you ask for?”  That question was easy, or so I thought.  I know some would have jumped at the chance to ask for something or someone in this life, or perhaps tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers in jest, but I knew I would want to ask neither of those.  I’d ask for the plans: those things that would both bring me the greatest joy and give God the greatest glory.  A life in which I’m not constantly discerning God’s will for my life, but knowing 1) that I know what I’m supposed to do and 2) that I’d be already there.

After everyone arrived and settled, Bart dropped one word that completely changed the intent and depth of the question:

If you could directly ask God anything, and you knew He would answer you, what would you ask?

So, what would you ask?  What would I ask?  Remember back to Genesis, where God is walking in the garden with Adam and Eve; face-to-face discussions with God.  One student asked the question that just amazed me.  She said that she’d ask how God began, if He could explain it in terms we could understand.  We’ve been taught that God always existed and will exist, and that He is outside our time, but what’s His story?  Can you imagine that kind of chat, sitting in rocking chairs on the back porch of God’s house, staring into the sunset, learning about Him?

The second, however, took me by surprise, and it immediately brought a lot to mind even though it seemed nearly impossible to answer.

If God were to directly ask you one question right now, what would He ask of you?

My first thought was, what have you been doing with the time I gave you? Or, why don’t you trust Me? Or… The list goes on.  Now, looking back at the first question and answer, I’m starting to think I may already know what that plan is; or at least the direction.  Jesus’ call in Matthew 28 is a homing beacon to both questions.  Over the next few months, I need to refocus on Jesus’ call to us as Christians, knowing that I want to find the place that best serves Him and gives joy.  It isn’t easy, and hasn’t been over the past few years, but I know there’s a place that my abilities and talents will directly serve to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

Abram’s Vision

I was reading my daily chapters in the Bible today, and came across a very interesting revelation given to Abram well before he was Abraham.  This is something that I have completely overlooked in the past, but lays out the end of Genesis and the Exodus.  Here it is, in the NASB:

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” –Genesis 15:12-16

Why have I not put this together before?

New Years Resolutions

I’ve been thinking about new years resolutions this year, reflecting on years past.  This morning, Jim Sommerville almost took the words out of my mouth at First Baptist in Richmond.  I still figured I’d share my thoughts.

Every year, I’ve tried to make resolutions, but they all seem to fail in time.  Two years ago, I tried to do a 365 days of pictures on Flickr, which lasted on and off for just over two months.  It was a lot of fun, but eventually “life” got in the way.  Even trying to stay simple, I’ve tried from giving up things such as fast food, soda, and tv time to promising to read for fun every day and going to the gym more often.

I don’t think this is the right direction to take the beginning of each year.  Rather than try to add specific goals, such as “lose weight,” “get in shape,” or “read more,” we should strive toward who we want to be and who God wants us to be.  I know the person that I know I can be is not the person I am now, since there is so much more I want to do and be in this world, and I believe that God uses those dreams and passions.  For me, this year, it means that I will be more focused on serving God wherever I am; being more proactive about quiet times, reading time, posting and taking photos, building friendships; and researching new directions that God wants to take me.

So, my parting questions are: 1) Who do you want to be, and who does God want you to be?  and 2) What can you do in small steps to become that person?

Mercy

So, this morning, I was reading through Titus and was really struck by Paul’s words.  Here is the first half of Titus 3 (NIV):

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. (Titus 3)

What really hit me were these few words, “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”  God is so awesome that he saves us through mercy, which is good because I wouldn’t want to have to earn salvation  through righteous things I have done (deeds) because I wouldn’t stack up.  But God is merciful.  We have been washed, reborn, and renewed by the Holy Spirit through Jesus.

But Paul doesn’t stop there!  We are saved by God’s mercy, but should still be “devote [ourselves] to doing what is good.”  That is not always easy to do, but a calling I know we all have.

You Can Have Me

So, with everything going over the past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying.  Well, just as I’m Still Yours really spoke to me in January on the way back from GEM in Colorado, You Can Have Me really hit me last night as I was driving back to Charlottesville.  I don’t think I have ever heard the words to that song as clearly as I did last night, and they are quite amazing:

If I saw You on the street
And You said come and follow me
But I had to give up everything
All I once held dear and all of my dreams

Would I love You enough to let go?
Or would my love run dry
When You asked for my life?

When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love, You can have me
You can have me

I want to be where You are
I’m running into Your arms
And I will never look back
So Jesus, here is my heart

- Sidewalk Prophets, You Can Have Me

Signs, Listening, and Free Will

Today ended up being quite a refreshing day, leaving me quite relaxed about the future, while at the same time leaving many questions open about which signs I’m missing and how I haven’t listened very well over the past few months.

In Sunday School this morning, we discussed Numbers 22-24, where Balaam misses the signs that his donkey is saving his life by avoiding the sword of the angel of God.  It wasn’t until God opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel and make his donkey talk before Balaam realizes the signs that he had missed.

This, of course, led to an in-depth discussion on free will and predestination.  We had an amazing analogy for free will, but at this moment, I can’t remember it.  I still think about CS Lewis’ analogy to our stories from Mere Christianity, where he describes our lives as a book that we only get to see one page at a time, making our choices and living in the moment.  God, being infinite, can step back from the page and look at the whole volume.

He knows how it ends and He can use us in each place we are.  That is incredibly comforting.  Where does it lead me?  I’m feeling more pulled in one direction.  I won’t say what that is now, but I need to start talking to people and setting things up.  I have so many interesting ideas in my head that I need to start formulating and taking risks on.

I know there is much more to say on the topic, but I’m going to have to hold the conclusion until tomorrow.  I do, however welcome any comments on signs and listening to God.

I’m Still Yours

This song has been on my mind quite a bit lately, ever since I found it while coming back from Colorado.  It’s off Kutless’ worship CD, and it just really hits me:  “When my life is not what I expected/The plans I made have failed/When there’s nothing left to steal me away/Will You be enough for me?”  But, “I’m still Yours.”  God is always there, and He’s bigger than my plans.  That is very comforting and reassuring in all the craziness right now.

If You washed away my vanity
If You took away my words
If all my world was swept away
Would You be enough for me?
Would my beating heart still sing?

If I lost it all
Would my hands stay lifted
To the God who gives and takes away

If You take it all
This life You’ve given
Still my heart will sing to You

When my life is not what I expected
The plans I made have failed
When there’s nothing left to steal me away
Will You be enough for me?
Will my broken heart still sing?

If I lost it all
Would my hands stay lifted
To the God who gives
And takes away

If You take it all
This life You’ve given
Still my heart
Will sing to You

Even if You take it all away
You’ll never let me go
Take it all away
But I still know

That I’m Yours
I’m still Yours

Oh, I’m Yours
I’m still Yours
I’m still Yours

-Kutless, I’m Still Yours

Plans change, new commitments

So, it’s the day after Christmas, and so many things have happened in the past month.  After an entire summer of emptiness, I had the opportunity to go to Europe and interview at Oxford.  Even if I don’t get in, this is the changing point, the start of something new.  It’s time to get moving.  It’s time to start focusing and do everything that I said I was going to do in the past, but never took the time to do.  That is, I’m going to break free from this feeling of being stuck in a “waiting period” that I think I’m creating myself.

Part one is this blog.  I plan to start writing about everything, from news to technology to Christianity.  Anything that I find interesting every day (that’s right, every day), I’m going to post here, with links.  Secondly, since I do love photography but have been so lazy recently in going out and actually taking photos, I’m going to try one of those 365 photo streams on flickr.  Basically, that would require posting a picture every day.  Maybe then, I’ll improve some and perhaps justify getting a D-SLR.

More plans in the days ahead.  I am also still trying to figure out a better title for the blog.  Anything’s better than “Robbie’s Blog.”  Might even comment later tonight on Sherlock Holmes (the movie), since I’ve heard so much about it.  The critics love it, the SH fans hate it.