Monday, September 27, 2010

Shall We Accept Good From God And Not Trouble?

I am tired. Seminary is wearing me out. Distance is wearing me out. Being poor is wearing me out. Not having a real church home is wearing me out. Laying in bed this morning and thinking about my latest trials, all I could think of was the words of Job 2:10: "You are speaking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?" The second sentence is the one that stood out in my mind, but the first is important for some context. Job's wife had just told him to "curse God and die" to alleviate his sorrows. I was thinking about yelling at God today, and the analogy that came to me was that cursing or yelling at God is like being angry at the moon and throwing a stick at it. Its not going to get you anywhere. If I really think about it, God has blessed me tremendously, even through the struggles I am now facing and those he has brought me through, and my ability to complain is marginal at best. I eagerly praise God for the times he blesses me and brings me through troubles, but when he takes away what I thought were blessings or fails to bless me as I think he should, can I still praise him? Has he changed, or is it I who have changed? This is a time when I wish the story of Job had continued past his conversation with God. How does one praise God in the midst of trail such as Job. How, when you don't have the divine joy that Paul tells us to have during trials, is one supposed to conjure up feelings of warmth and gladness, not to mention faith that God will provide. I don't know if I have answers to those questions right now. The only answer I can give to myself is to fall on my face in front of God and say exactly what I have just written: God I do not know what your plan is or if you will lift this burden, but I worship you none the less. And, perhaps I have nothing else to say or do except sit silently in heartbroken worship before my God. Perhaps he will restore my heart by showing me that my fears are unnecessary, or perhaps he will simply give me the strength to live with my thorns. Regardless, all I can do either way is live in a state of worship before God. Else, I might not make it too long without a mental breakdown. What more can I say. I will end this with a quote:

Sometimes the Lord rides out the storm with us and other times He calms the restless sea around us. Most of all, He calms the storm inside us in our deepest inner soul.
--Lloyd John Ogilvie

Friday, September 17, 2010

Performance Anxiety

Status anxiety refers to our need to be assured of our status in the eyes of our peers. A status anxiety attack - that panicky feeling that others are looking down at us in contempt or, worse, indifference - may strike at any time, for status anxiety runs like a psychological
fault line through the geology of our sense of self worth. Status anxiety afflicts as many people as the common cold. It is the pernicious fear that we are not living up to the standards of success laid down by our society and that, as a result, that we are on the verge of becoming a nobody. Those who suffer from especially acute cases of status anxiety may feel that they are social
lepers: “Unworthy! unworthy!,” they cry from the cave of their ugly inner child.
Individual Christians and churches too may display
symptoms of status anxiety in the face of a hostile empire, the “empire” not of the ancient Romans but of contemporary global culture (Hardt & Negri, 2000)... It is a terrible thing when one’s sense of identity
“is held captive by the judgments of those we live among” (de Botton, 2004, p. 8)."

(Forming the Performers:
How Christians Can Use Canon Sense to Bring Us to Our (Theodramatic) Senses
by Kevin Vanhoozer, 11)

The way God sees is us is the way we truly are. Worldly status is a game of smoke and mirrors. It’s all about appearance, not reality. In asking us to live a life worthy of the gospel, Paul is asking us to live in a way that corresponds to the way things really are.

(ibid., 14)

In a response to this article, Chuck DeGroat describes some effects of status anxiety as being physically shown in clenched fists, tightness in the back or shoulders or basically anywhere, or even headaches.

Now, I posed this because I tend to tell people that they shouldn't care how they are viewed by others... that it'll only cause them more stress in the long run. But after reading this article and actually thinking about it, I think I am among the ranks of people who suffer from status anxiety. Maybe it isn't completely in the way everyone sees me as it is for other people, but I want to do well in school and when I play sports for the way it makes people view and treat me. When I see myself failing it isn't completely a mental issue, but a social one as well. It is not only a "I didn't live up to my standard" but "I didn't live up to their standard, and now what will they think" as well. The more I think about it the more I think this is something that a lot of us have to give up to Christ, myself included. It is difficult to find my (our) worth in something (or someone) that is unseen, but as Vanhoozer says in his article, saying,

"the gospel responds to the problem of status anxiety with status peace. The gospel is the good news that our status
before God is secure, not because of what we have achieved in this life but because of what Jesus Christ did in his." (Vanhoozer, 14).

I pray that one day sooner rather than later I can truly say that my identity is wholly in Christ and my perceived status before others does not matter, rather it is the reality of my status before God that matters.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some Thoughts on Preaching

I am sitting in my Intro to Preaching class and today I thought I would take notes in essay form for you all to hear. So, if you’re not in the mood for notes on preaching and the Bible, you should probably stop reading. We are now talking about inadequate views of the Bible for preachers. These include a mere tool, a resource, a talisman, a history book, a story book, a launch pad or spring board, and using Scripture as a comfort food or rule book. In essence, Dr. Scharf, our professor, is trying to show that the Bible is much more than all these things, it is the Word of God and it is the source and essence and message from God that is your preaching. We do not need to take a text of Scripture and make it mean something today, it already DOES mean something, we simply need to understand what that is and communicate it to the congregation. The same is true of our devotions. We should not read the Bible for little insights or applications to our lives… but we should read to understand that we might apply our lives to Scripture. Understand? Yeah, its confusing. Sorry about that. It seems like a fine line but in reality there is a huge difference between the two. Is there something wrong with taking Matthew 18:20 to mean that Jesus is with us when we pray together, and thus pray together? Perhaps there is not… but the force of that passage is something totally different. The passage itself tells us how we are to deal others who sin against us (at least, that’s what I’ve gathered from learning from people smarter than me). All that to say, I could pull out a sermon on prayer or be encouraged to pray in groups by that passage, but I would be missing the powerful truth on how we are to deal with relational or discipline problems as Christians! Interesting. Think about that for me. I need to pay better attention to the class that is happening, rather than tangenting on my blog. Oops. Stay sweet.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

To Do Lists

I feel like whenever I make a list I feel better, even if I know I won't get everything on it done as quickly as I think I will. Here is my to do list for tomorrow:

1) Read 60 pages in my huge counseling book
2) Translate and parse Col. 1:1-4
3) Read a section in Fee's book on Exegesis
4) Read 40 pages in Greenlee's book on Textual Criticism
5) Memorize Greek vocab occuring 81 or more times in the New Testament
6) Memorize the first set of vocab for Hebrew and learn vowel rules
7) Read the book Dying to Preach (about a 100 pages left)
8) Do Hebrew workbook exercises

Thats all. It feels kinda overwhelming on the page... but it felt even more overwhelming in my head. I know God has called me to be here, but I'm really good at psyching myself out. I get so overwhelmed with homework that I just want to get it all done and never hang out with anyone so I can get the pressure off my shoulders. It's crazy. And this week I got a job at Caribou, so I get to add that to the list, and I might pick up another 5 hours by working on campus writing emails much like this blog post. I tend to over stack my hand so that the cards start to fall on the table. But God is good. I have to remember that. Regardless how much I feel that I fail here or how much I try to take on, as long as I am listening to Him and obeying his voice and seeking Him, it will turn out for His glory, and that is what counts. Now if only I could stop trying to squeeze time with Him in and start squeezing some other things. Yikes. Pray for me dear readers. I know I'm okay, but I know I'll be stressed all semester like it or not. God willing, I'll graduate without popping too many blood vessels due to stress :).