Monday, March 28, 2016

With Intentionality and Conviction

So much of an evaluation of history comes down to one’s perspective.  For instance, was Solomon a good king or a bad king?  Yes.  For that matter, one could equally ask the same thing about David.  Certainly the end of David’s reign was more positive than the end of Solomon’s reign.  David seemed to have maintained a stronger relationship with God toward the end of his life than Solomon did.  But was Solomon a good king for Israel?  From a purely political perspective, no one reigned over a larger or more prosperous kingdom than did Solomon.  For the most part, Solomon’s reign was a peaceful reign.  And there’s no doubt that Solomon was wise beyond his contemporaries.  But nevertheless, when one reads about the end of Solomon’s days, one finds that he had allowed himself to drift away from an undivided devotion to the Lord.  What began so promising, didn’t end that way.  Soon after his death, Solomon’s kingdom was divided. 

Solomon’s story serves as a reminder that regardless of where we presently stand in relation to God, we must be diligent and disciplined in order to not only maintain our present relationship, but to also see that relationship grow.  Just as any healthy marriage requires intentionality, so too does our relationship with our Savior.  Most people who lose their faith don’t wake up one morning no longer believing.  Nor do many people simply decide to quit following Jesus with one big decision.  Most people begin to drift slowly away and before too long, the Promised Land is out of sight, well beyond the horizon.  So wherever we find ourselves today, even if we’ve drifted too far, may we fix our eyes on Jesus and with intentionality and conviction, walk slowly, but surely in his direction. – Shay   

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Like most people of faith, I've experienced moments of doubt and despair.  I've had to wrestle with questions like, "Do I believe?  Why do I believe?  What if I didn't believe?"  I've never lost my faith, but on a few occasions I have feared that I might.  Though seasons of disorientation are always uncomfortable, I've discovered that every time I've passed through them, my faith is stronger on the other side.  Looking back on my younger years, I realize that my adolescent faith was, obviously, immature.  But it was true faith, if even but a mustard seed's worth.  As my faith has matured, I've tried, though not always successfully, to maintain the passion of my earlier belief, while ridding myself of some of my earlier naivety.  There are probably times where I get it backwards - embracing a new naivety, while failing to hold onto the passion. 

But as my faith has ebbed and flowed, the one conviction I've held onto above all others is the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth to the Christian faith.  We can get a lot of things wrong (and we all certainly do) regarding what it means to follow Jesus, but we cannot get the fact of Jesus' resurrection wrong and still remain true to him.  Certainly our understanding of this most important event will continue to develop and change as our faith matures, but belief that the tomb is empty is what essentially differentiates believers from non-believers.  And when we strip everything else away, the resurrection of Jesus is the reason why the person of Jesus has become the most significant in all of human history.  His resurrection makes sense of where the world has been, where it presently is and finally, where it is going. - Shay          

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

David's Community of Faith

David was a man after God’s own heart and in many ways, he was the example of the man that many of us want to be.  He had cut his teeth as a shepherd, defending his father’s flock from bears and lions.  David was a valiant warrior who experienced military success after military success.  He was charismatic and handsome, and as scripture makes abundantly clear, he was a bit of a ladies’ man as well.  Though an outdoorsman, he was also a cultured artist.  He wrote poetry and played musical instruments - a warrior poet.  In short David was the guy the girls wanted to be with, and the guy the guys wanted to be!

But David was also a deeply flawed individual.  He failed as a husband, a father, and even as a king.  David’s story is a good reminder that none of us are perfect and all of us are in need of the grace of God.  And David’s story reminds us that none of us can do it alone.  Where would David have been without his mighty men?  How might David’s life have been worse had he not had the close companionship of Jonathan in his younger years?  David’s story may have ended up completely different had Nathan the prophet not confronted him about his sin in 2 Samuel 12.

 Men especially, but also women often try to do it all on their own.  But David’s life reminds us that we are all stronger together and none of us can faithfully walk with God without the aid of others.  We need  to seek out communities of faith where we can serve others, receive strength from their encouragement, and at times, be rebuked by their wise counsel.  It not only takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to live life faithfully. - Shay          

Monday, March 7, 2016

Timing is Everything

It’s a cliché, but nevertheless true - “Timing is everything.”  Though already anointed king by Samuel, David did not take it upon himself to establish his kingdom by his own means or in his own way.  He trusted God to establish it when the time was right. 

How often do we try to force God’s hand in matters great or small?  Even when we’re sure of God’s will in a particular area, do we sometimes try to bring about God’s work through our own skill and efforts, rather than choosing to wait on God and trust him to take the initiative?  We certainly shouldn’t be passive in exercising our faith, but there is such a thing as being too aggressive.  We should walk confidently through the doors God opens, but we would do well to exercise caution and restraint before picking up a battering ram. 

Back in 2008, Juli and I had to consider whether or not we would pursue our dream to work with churches in Ireland.  We felt God had put this passion on our heart, but at that point it didn’t seem as if God was opening up the necessary doors.  Rather than trying to force our way to the Emerald Isle, we took a step back and reevaluated God’s calling.  Within a few months’ time God had begun to move in ways that we could never have orchestrated on our own.  By aligning our lives with his timeline, we were blessed not only with the opportunity to live and work in Ireland, but we got to do it with 8 other amazing people!  If only I would surrender control in a number of other areas of my life.   

I need to be reminded of David’s patient trust so clearly visible in the opening lines of Psalm 40 – “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”  At least part of being a person after God’s own heart is learning to trust him and his timing. – Shay