Wednesday, January 23, 2013

change

Early this morning, I dreamed I was sitting in a car dealership, attempting to catch a catnap while waiting for a friend. During a subsequent interchange, we discussed an impending revolution (undoubtedly an implant from having viewed Les Miserables and the John Adams miniseries the last couple weeks). My friend stated with timidity: "I'm not sure that I like the sound of that." I concluded the dream with a well-constructed rant on the nature of change -- how words like "revolution" are words without meaning until we see the threat of change in front of us.

Far be it from me to inspire my own reason, but something this dream Anthony said resonated upon my wake. We hear the word "change" tossed about during political cycles and among philosophical gatherings, traditionally among those young enough to find semi-objective flaw in the constructs that exist. This attitude is neither imaginative nor insightful -- after all, what is today's world but a prior generation's attempt to make change? Some might argue that today's youth have merely adopted in practice the values that their ancestors considered in theory.

Regardless of a generation's motive for change, I've found one axiom to hold weight: as men of flesh, we will not reject a fresh idea that raises our level of comfort. Likewise, a call for change that elicits discomfort will unquestionably be met with opposition.
good change = comfort
bad change = discomfort
And this has always rung true.

Those opposed to the American or French revolutions rarely objected on grounds of the potential good. More commonly, they perceived the good but could not reconcile the level of discomfort necessary to facilitate their vision. The difficulties in declaring our own independence were not due to loyalty for the British throne but by deliberations of fear and loss of comfort -- the untimely threat of war.

I consider what we as Americans protect today -- despite our vision or distant hope, what ideas must we cling to for the preservation of our own comfort? Is it our privilege, our position, our entitlement to own? Do you preserve out of love for your neighbor or fear of loss? When you hear the word "change," do you immediately consider laws that would build a cozier life, or is it accompanied by a responsibility that threatens the fabric of your work, play, family, or faith?

In the past, I had written a great deal about reformation and what it requires of us. I have quibbled over the seeming contradiction between man's thoughts about the church and our practices. Truth be told, I've found few in my generation that would argue against the principles of a reformation -- we can identify the problem. However, we struggle against the forces of bad change: the uncomfortable actions required to proceed under His vision. We cling to a compromised alternative that calls out the brokenness while leaving the walls unmarked, because let's face it, in the end we'd rather grasp pieces of rotten wood than risk a season of reconstruction.

No difficulty is found in making change to ease our comforts. Tolerance is not a change of inclusion nearly so much as one lacking confrontation. To uphold truth and live righteously, we cannot expect change that will simultaneously bring hope for earthly warm-fuzzies. It has never been done... "bad change" must forsake its beastly connotation for transformation to occur.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

the strongest desire

Ten years ago, I earned my first dependency to caffeinated beverages. A woman from my church decided to open a coffeehouse, and spending the entire morning with high school girls set the perfect stage. During this season, a fellow frequenter and doctoral student delivered philosophical questions to the locals. One such inquiry elicited a lengthy discussion:

"Is it possible to respond contrary to your strongest desire?"

This of course led to individual discourses on sin nature and the boundaries of free will. All of these trailed to a problem with semantics -- if we can choose something else over our strongest desires, were they truly our strongest desires, or was the "something else" our strongest desire all along?

I deliberated over this question in considering the choice to love. I'll be honest: given my limited relationship experience, I find it difficult to give feet to this philosophy. If love is a choice, I have to accept that most humans do not have a clue how to give or receive. If love responds to the elusive laws of "chemistry," I'm dependent on the subjective whims of another. I do believe that God has established loving relationships through both avenues (according to His good grace), but could we presume that relationships are most easily sustained through a combination of both?

Trailing back to the original question...

I believe that our strongest motivations and desires are demonstrated not by word, but by action. For example, if I proclaimed some non-negotiable standards I hold for a wife: to love Christ and His church, to have a reformational heart for His people and a Spirit-filled eye and understanding for the lost, to serve meekly and with compassion, to follow according to the Godly favor she has found in her husband... to be attractive according the world's standards... our truest desires are made known when pursued regardless of any accompaniment by weaker desires. As a man, I could proclaim everything short of the superficial finish, but if I find myself more willing to compromise the former than the latter, my words are in vain. My strongest desire is exposed by the pursuit of my heart.

Yes, I lean towards the "choose to love" camp. I've felt the warm fuzzies and experienced mystical chemistry only to expose the idolatry of my heart. The question for myself and others like me is what we will choose to love. If our strongest desire is to know Christ and the spiritual mysteries of His truth, our actions will be dictated by this desire. We will choose to invest in relationships that draw us closer to His feet -- those that stir the portions of our heart most intimately in love with Him.

I can't tell you what yours should be; I cannot reveal mine, short of being put to the same test. A suitor or recipient often discovers as much about him/herself as they do their beloved. In the meantime, I must allow my heart to be open to His encouragement and rebuke, whichever may apply to the desires of my heart. My prayer must be as David's in Psalm 139:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

34

Perhaps the most difficult part of celebrating birthdays is coping with the idea that I am not of primary significance to any one person... and feeling selfish for expecting anything special. I don't know how I should feel about my birthday, if there's anything to be felt at all -- I do acknowledge a wound with a lot of reinforcement. As early as 1st grade, my friends found excuses not to attend my birthday party (the kid with the same birthday allegedly took it more personal if they didn't show, whereas I would "understand"). By the time I turned 25, only one of my birthdays had received any unsolicited attention from friends; it was easy to conclude that short of throwing myself a party, nobody would notice.

My most painful was #26: having turned the calendar during a youth worker convention, my acquaintances verbally demonstrated how annoyed they were with having their plans interrupted. We were in Dallas on the weekend of the Longhorn/Sooner rivalry game, thus every restaurant was packed, and the other leaders made it known they would rather order pizza than endure a crowd. Through debate and compromise, we eventually made our way to dinner, but the ordeal began again when one of the men suggested they should cover my meal. I wanted to scream loudly, "You know I'm sitting right in front of you!"

After this most recent slight, I decided to expect nothing at all. I asked my employers to schedule me for work and attempted to distract myself from anything capable of reminding me.

This is why the past 24 hours captured a surprisingly delightful of events. After being set up by another scheduled gathering gone bad (and wrestling through the disappointment of seven people bailing in a week), a few friends decided to meet me for wings and a game of cards. Nothing particularly enlightening transpired, but for one desiring quality time above all else, it was nice to be something other than an obstacle on everyone's schedule. God provided exactly what I desired.

Friday, September 7, 2012

state of being

Hmm... it's been a crazy good 7-day stretch. I've been swallowing a good amount of truth from the Spirit. I haven't decided yet whether I want to share it all here, but suffice it to say that God has been faithful.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

in the name of love

For mortals, as you said, will become more and more jealous. And mother and wife and child and friend will all be in league to keep a soul from being united with the Divine Nature.

-- C.S. Lewis, from Till We Have Faces
That everyone knows I know this as "love" leads to the most dangerous sin of all.

Friday, August 24, 2012

veil

I'm excited to share one of my favorite passages in scripture, but in the words of my beloved Greek instructor: "Context is everything!"
It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. (Exodus 34:29-35)
As often as I've identified with Moses in my flesh -- his fear, his frustration, and his stubbornness -- I relate too well with this story. Returning from Kansas City amidst an intimate pursuit of God, I head-wrestled with the multitude of believers content on pursuing an intermediary and cringing at the suggestion that He desires His Word to be understood by the "ordinary" Christian. When I read this passage, it bewilders me; not only did God's people have zero interest in climbing the mountain to know Him personally, but the evidence of His presence among Moses brought them fear.

We see a similar attitude from the church in Corinth, who took no issue with boasting in their lawful deeds, but continually struggled with their desire to be accepted and affirmed by men, most notably placing their identity in "super-apostles" that promoted a self-seeking gospel through skilled presentation (2 Cor. 11). Unfortunately for Corinth and the church in America today, the ordinary believer has chosen to relinquish his/her right to know Him intimately out of fearful inferiority, spiritual pride, or outright idolatry.

As I fail to view salvation as the most beautiful incentive of my life in Christ, it would be amiss of me to let my brothers and sisters rest with such a view of the Gospel. I find it infinitely more extraordinary that our Father granted salvation as a means to lift the veil, reconciling our relationship according to His original intent to be among us.

That truth drives me CRAZY for His love!
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:4-18)
Did you catch that? Even the Law leading to death demonstrated His glory, vividly enough to disturb His people to fear. However, in Christ the veil has been removed, and we have been granted privilege by His Spirit to encounter the fullness of His glory! Clearly, our God was not merely interested in saving us from death; He intends to meet with us in a more intimate manner than was possible for Moses himself!
"But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:5-15)
For those believing the lie that your Father does not delight in communicating with you, understand that the primary purpose for the death of Christ was that His Spirit might take residence in your heart. Jesus considered this fatal transaction to your advantage, as remaining in the flesh would not have removed the spiritual veil that divided you from the glory of your Father. For a God to go through such romantic lengths to make Himself intimately known, it seems the most vain of all spiritual vanities to accept the death of Christ apart from the Spirit that brings freedom and demonstrates His glory through holy transformation.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

very inspiring blogger award

While not the first time I've received a blogging award nomination, I feel compelled to share something for the sake of promoting the woman that nominated me. Elaine posts regularly on her At Home With God blog, sharing the daily surprises, blessings, and challenges of an intimate relationship with her Creator. Everyone should check it out; her maturation process is weaved through the archives and serves as an encouragement to any believer interested in lifting the veil. I'm excited to know that pursuing His Presence is not in vain; Elaine's relationship with God testifies to the reward of my longing.

I'm not currently reading fifteen blogs, so the acceptance process would be in vain. Typically, I follow five blogs at a time, and those I find most inspiring usually run their course and cease to exist... until God brings me a fresh five. I try to promote my favorite blogs on the sidebar, though it's in need of deep cleaning as some have left me missing their words. :)

Merriam-Webster defines "inspiring" as having an animating or exalting effect. One of its synonyms happens to be breathtaking, but as this could describe an ugly baby as well as my blog, I'll stray from its neutral connotation and pray the Ledger's inspiration has been a positive one. Thank you. :)

[Since I have yet to kick the obnoxious habit of adverb overuse, this award is most fitting. Very inspiring, indeed!]

Seven important and personal facts about myself:
  1. I appear to have shed the nickname bug for the first time in my life. Since preschool I have been Ant, Anth, Antny, Antonio, Antony, Antoine, Twan, Twanithan, Twanifer... this list excludes the glut of embarrassing pet names offered by my mom. Interesting to note: I have never introduced myself as any of these. I steadfastly hold the conviction that nicknames should be received organically rather than solicited. Aside from name shortages initiated by parents (Dan for Daniel, Beth for Elizabeth, Zach for Zachary, etc.), an individual should never promote the advance of his or her own nickname-fame. If it's meant to take off, it will happen. Creating a nickname for yourself is lame.

    More about nicknames:
    • The only common thread in my adolescent dating relationships was the use of my real name. I never demanded it; my girlfriends intuitively knew I would find it special. I did.
    • In the vanity of youth, I broke my cardinal rule and tried to create my own nickname. It failed miserably. I would tell you what it was, but then I would have to change each of my internet passwords.
    • I have never been a Tony. I will never be a Tony. I know you're tempted at this very moment -- don't do it... EVER! I WILL DESTROY YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY!!! =)

  2. This blog was originally inspired by 1 Chronicles 29, in which David passes the torch to his son and pleads with the assembly to consecrate themselves before the Lord. David offers a large inheritance to the building of God's temple, a task larger than Solomon can handle in his youth and inexperience. However, there's an air of spiritual preparation in David's intercession:
    O Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided. (1 Chr. 29:18-19)
    I love transition points in scripture. God regularly provides transition in leadership where a new work is to begin. Moses couldn't enter the promised land. David couldn't build the temple. Isaiah was given the Messianic prophecy once his spiritually proud king had died. I believe that we're living in another such time and that God is allowing me to prepare a work that will be completed by a generation removed from the idolatry of the contemporary church. My ministry is to till the soil for a move of the Spirit that I will likely never see to the end. I'm perfectly content with this arrangement. :)

  3. My best friend through the first 15 years of my life distanced himself because his high school girlfriend didn't like me. I haven't truly had a "bestie" since, and I've gone out of my way on several occasions to avoid gaining one. For this reason, I think it's easier to identify with God being almighty and sovereign, but less so as an intimate friend. At the very least, I respond to God with the same degree of standoffish independence that I do with my earthly friends. We're working on this.

  4. After playing football in junior high, the head coach of the high school team asked if I'd volunteer as a team manager the following year. This established the need to run from Poing A to Point B, as the coach had me "gophering" this and that for four years... items that were always needed "yesterday." Not only did this role get me in amazing shape (I used to do acrobatics running for the kicking tee during games), it developed a habit of running when it was sufficient to walk. During my camp directing days, our administrator once commented that it never felt like Teen Camp had officially begun until she saw me running across campus to grab a forgotten item during registration.

  5. I have an unhealthy obsession with the color blue, but I think it's getting better.

  6. As a youth pastor / camp director, I loved van and bus rides. I still love to travel, even if I'm by myself. I led four Spring Break trips to Florida, and only the first of these was laden with bad weather. However, I hold this trip in higher regard because the van ride was more memorable. I can't remember much of anything about the other trips.

    I desire to take a coast-to-coast trip some summer, visiting large cities and ridiculous rural claims-to-fame as I go. The only rule: never use an interstate to pass through area where a U.S. Highway still exists. This should send me through quaint towns, mountainous passes, and urban hoods -- I want to see everything my citizenship will allow. And if I never have the funds to complete this trip, I'll have to get a job as Googleman.

    BTW: this is only my consolation trip, should I never have the opportunity to cross Western Europe with nothing but a backpack of belongings!

  7. The only passage of scripture that has been personally prophesied over my life is Psalm 18. All the more reason to grow in faith.