Nothing to Prove

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28 has been a verse that I have turned to in times of hopelessness. Let me tell you, I have those more often than I would like to admit. Recently I was reflecting on this dynamic and I realize I often find myself in situations that are challenging, because I engage in things with something to prove.

Thinking back on my life I think I have always had this sense of needing to prove myself. I was a runt of a kid, I had zero athletic ability, I was of average intelligence (that might be a generous assessment), and I was socially always a background performer. Being the youngest of four kids, I will probably always be the baby brother, which is not always a bad thing. With all of these things I have created within myself a need to prove my worth. Looking back on my life, this can create problems. When you feel like you have to prove yourself, you make decisions, think and act in a way that may impact others.

The need to prove is also very problematic when you are trying to follow Jesus. Also in chapter 8 of Romans, verse 26 and 27 say: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

As a Christian you are called into the will of God, but we are weak when we often lean on our own understanding. In the verse above we are faced with the reality that we don’t even know how to pray and it is the Spirit that intercedes. When we have something to prove or when we decide we want to chart our own path, we step outside of His will. Christian, allow the Spirit of God to unlock the will of Him who has called you for His purpose. You may be toiling or wrestling with some challenges, seek the Lord to see if you have wandered from the path He has laid before you. It may be a difficult season, perhaps you have something to prove and you have created a need for God to reprove.

Turn back to the Lord, seek the work of the Spirit and welcome His grace. Jesus Christ works ALL things out for the GOOD of those who love Him and for those called according to His purpose. You have nothing to prove because by grace you have been proven complete. That grace flows from Jesus Christ as He was crucified and then raised from death into glory. That grace covers those called according to His purpose. That grace strips us of any need to prove and frees us up to live for Him! -jason

 

 

 

 

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Speed Demons

My driver’s education instructor told me I have a “lead foot”. I think I am always rushing to go places. Even when I walk Emily tells me I walk fast. It seems patience is not a virtue I posses. This is a problem when you have a police officer pointing his laser in your direction.

After a couple of tickets over the years, I have really tried to stay within five miles of the speed limit. In fact, I will accelerate to five miles over the speed limit and set my cruise control. That is my accountability.

I’m not at the speed limit, I am five miles over. Technically I am speeding, but hopefully within the unspoken limits of grace that police officers give. Still, I feel like I am driving slow. Cars fly by me like I’m standing still. People drive up behind me as if the closer they get the faster my car will go.

Last week as I was cruising in the middle lane at 40MPH in a 35MPH zone, a woman comes blazing up right behind me. She is frantically waving her arm for me to change lanes. With all the sports I watch, I was able to read her lips clearly. She was not happy with five miles over. Emily always says, “maybe there is an emergency and they are trying to get there quick.” So I try not to get too upset.

After that I just started noticing more and more how five miles over the speed limit is really annoying people. It makes me want to drive faster. I don’t want to be in the way or an inconvenience to anyone. Then I think about paying a ticket or high insurance premiums. That’s not something I want just because I’m trying to “go with the flow”.

So where else might I be tempted to go with the flow? What other laws am I willing to break because, “everyone else is doing it”? What about moral laws? Laws of ethics? Cheat a little on my taxes. Little lies here and there. Pilfering small items from your employer. And what about some bigger concerns in our society that are becoming acceptable? Infidelity. Drug use. Violence. Hate. Slander.

If we want to maintain certain standards of morals and ethics we have to be willing to maintain our speed when others around us are flying by. Christian, if you want to be firm in your faith and your walk with Jesus, we need to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

What is your standard? What is right and righteous? There will be speed demons urging you to speed up. There will be many who will defy the standards that you know are right. We must not conform. We must stay firm. Keep your eyes on what is right. -jason

A Veiled View

Last week I was with my family at Ala Moana Beach Park. Every bathroom near the road was closed so I had to walk with my kids all the way into Magic Island. There were some very interesting people there, but one thing in particular stood out.

Lining the outside edge of the cove, in the grass area, are some concrete picnic tables. At each table there was one person. Each person had some kind of electronic device. A couple people even had a little webcam set up, which seemed like was for some kind of broadcast over the web. It just seemed so odd, that each table in that area had people sitting on them, with their backs turned to the ocean.

Later when we were in the parking lot, I noticed at least two separate cars that had full occupancy. The passengers in the car were young men, probably in their 20’s. They were all laughing and seemed to be having a good time, but they were all on the phone.

Again, it was interesting to me that people drove to the beach and even sat at the beach, but were not really looking at the beach. When go to the beach it is the view of the ocean, the feel of the sand and sea, and the full experience of the beach that changes my mood. It’s the direct contact with the beach and all it has to offer that transforms me.

Similar with Jesus. I believe it is possible to go to church, to read your Bible and even to pray, but never really stand face to face before the Lord. In fact there are probably many more than you think that still experience the Lord through a veiled view, much like the people of Israel when Moses descended with the tablets. The new covenant with Jesus Christ calls us to experience an even greater glory and to experience Him unveiled, face to face with His glory, so we might be transformed. 2 Corinthians 3 talks about this new covenant in Christ. Paul tells the church in Corinth that they are losing sight of the work of Jesus and the grace it brings. It is not by abiding in some law that we find salvation, but submitting to the Lord in the work that He has done on our behalf. When we behold that glory, we see clearly and we are transformed. It is the Lord that lifts the veil, but yet we insist on putting it back on. This chapter concludes with verse 18:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

This was a personal revelation for me. Even though the Lord has lifted the veil, I choose to cover, turn my back on His glory and attempt to create that glory by my own works. I see the effects of His glory all around me, I am living within it, but I am not transformed as He continually does when we see Him, unveiled and allowing the Spirit to transform. Stop placing that veil over your eyes, His grace is enough. -jason

 

Uncles and Aunties

When I was a hospital chaplain at Marin General Hospital, I would have to make cold calls. Cold calls were random visits to patients staying in the hospital. I would knock on the door and confirm that I was in the correct room by saying their name, “Mr/Ms….?” After many visits the pattern was people wanted me to call them by their first names. That was not comfortable for me to do. Eventually I got used to it until I met Mrs Johnson.

I knocked on the door and called out her first name. After she acknowledged I walked in and introduced myself. She responded to my introduction with, “Ya need ta call me Mrs. Johnson.” I felt so disrespectful for calling her by her first name. I went back to my original script from that day forward.

I’ve noticed in recent days the aversion to the titles of Mr and Mrs and even Uncle and Aunty. Growing up in Hawaii everyone was either Mr/Mrs or Uncle/Aunty. I understand that those titles can make people feel old. I recently did a wedding for a couple and they referred to me as Uncle Jason. WHAT!?!?!

Titles should not identify you, but they may develop a culture of respect that we sorely lack in today’s society. It’s not wrong to express a preference to be called by your first name when done properly.

No one wants to feel old. Sometimes certain titles can make us feel that way. When used appropriately, the use of titles is not so much about our age or identity, it is about the person addressing you and allowing them to show respect and honor. It may be those little things that help develop a larger culture of respect.   -UncleJason

Anxiously Awaiting

A couple months ago I was driving home from work through Waimanalo. Waimanalo is a fairly narrow two lane road, one in each direction. The car I was driving at the time had a broken driver side window and broken air conditioner. My new jeans were of the ubiquitous fit, which is a little too tight for my taste. The weather was warming up and this particular day was significantly hotter than the last few months had been.

Suddenly I began to feel like I couldn’t breathe. The car appeared to shrink around me. I felt like a sardine in a can. The traffic was practically stopped as construction and other things slowed us down. My very hipster jeans were starting to shrink wrap around my sweaty legs. My thoughts were beginning to swirl chaotically in my head. I’m having a panic attack! I recognize anxiety since I was a kid, but never like this. What do I do???

I swung the door open enough that I could get some direct air. I took slow deep breaths in and out. I closed my eyes when I could and prayed for peace. After what seemed forever, my mind calmed. The anxiety was still there, but it was manageable.

It is embarrassing to talk about. There’s fear that people will think I am weak. I will be judged. Especially since I had not experienced it before, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Since then, I’ve spoken with many people who shared that they struggle or struggled with anxiety and I have been able to share my experience with them.

At a conference I recently attended the speaker was sharing that the common age of onset for an anxiety diagnosis was 13. Was, because new research is discovering that the age is probably closer to 9.

Severe anxiety is more common than I realized. Shouldn’t be surprising with all that we are faced with. Expectations for work and education, even our social lives bring on great expectations. We have familial obligations, we have community obligations, we are obliged to a world that is larger than many of us knew 20-30 years ago. So many demands and perceived expectations, how are we all not anxious? We live in an anxiety inducing world.

Scripture says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

It’s a great verse, but it sure isn’t helpful when someone throws that in your face like it will magically make anxiety disappear or worse to imply that you must not have a right relationship with Jesus because you suffer from anxiety. The comfort I see in the scripture is that it is a REAL problem. We see it in God’s Word because it is something that people have been struggling with since the days of Christ! In fact in 1 Peter 5 we are instructed to “cast” our anxieties on Him. Meaning it’s present and we must give them over to the Lord continually. To assume if you are a Christian so you shouldn’t be anxious is ignorant. It really is the same as saying, “If you are a Christian, you will not sin, because the Word tells you not to sin.” Absurd. That’ why we NEED God’s grace.

Instead we are comforted in our anxiety because we know God sees our worries and fears and is willing to give us peace. That’s why Philippians tells us to make our requests known to God through prayer and supplication (or humble pleading) with thankful hearts. Many of us will face anxiety, but for those who place their faith in Jesus, there is a hope for comfort. Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” There is enough to worry about today. We cast out anxieties for the day upon the Lord. When we get overwhelmed with the anxieties of tomorrow, we lose sight. Tomorrow should be looked upon with hopeful expectations. We should expect that the Lord will do great things. Today, there will be things that may awaken the anxiety in me. Today, I may need to lay at the feet of Jesus in my worry. That’s okay. It’s okay to take time to cast your anxieties on the Lord. It’s okay to take some times to seek Him. It’s not some magic formula. Tomorrow I will look toward with hopeful expectations. Tomorrow will bring new mercies and new beginnings. Today I wait upon tomorrow. It may be a day of anxiously awaiting, but I find hope that my Lord will never leave my side. -jason