I Have Restless Life Syndrome

My name is Jayson Schmidt and I have Restless Life Syndrome.

Apparently, RLS does exist–––and I didn’t think of it first (trust me, I googled it). In 2013, millions of people around the world have made endless goals and boundless dreams. We’re all dreamers and doers, but some of us take it a bit further and I’ll step to the front of the line.

For me, it’s not enough to just have a career. Coaching lacrosse would be a great career. So would Quarterlife Man, or Quarterlife Woman, or Quarterlife Creative House, or Quarterlife whatever-comes-next. Or my work as a digital strategist. Or my work as a part-time videographer. At my count, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of five careers. I picture it like spinning plates.

My to-do list apps are meticulously held. My iPhone gives me updated reminders every minute, on the minute, it seems. I segment my life down to the minutia (how often do we plan veg-out time?). The words that escape my lips often speak of dreams in which I get away, but honestly, if I was relegated to St. Maarten with nothing but a sailboat I would be miserable. My life is one constant embrace of the rush.

Why does life need to move so fast?

Do you remember the kid in preschool that always tried to fit the square peg into the round hole? If you suffer from RLS, that’s us. We forever try to fit things into this hole that only Jesus can fill. Jeremiah 2:35 sums it up well:

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?

Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
But you say, ‘I can’t help it.
I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.’

How many of us are addicted to alien gods? Career. Relationship. Friendship. Even family. We all seek to jam them into the round hole no matter how poorly they fit. In the two prior verses, the tale is set:

“How dare you tell me, ‘I’m not stained by sin.
I’ve never chased after the Baal sex gods’!
Well, look at the tracks you’ve left behind in the valley.
How do you account for what is written in the desert dust—

It’s time to start looking at the tracks we’ve left behind. If you’re chasing sex or a promotion or a family member who will never love like Jesus does, you can’t refute the tracks you’ve left in the desert. Sure, there’s security in a 401k or a loving wife, but it’s temporary. Even the best 401k loses value and the most joyful wife is bound to get angry. Jesus is the only one whose security is boundless.

What’s the prescription for RLS?

“The rush” only turns fatal when we fail to put our reliance on God. When we put reliance on ourselves, rebellion and a harsh correction are sure to follow. We can be movers and shakers, provided we have the right mindset. To examine a cure, we have to example RLS in its’ purest form, the name. Here’s a definition of restless:

rest·less [rest-lis] – adj.
1. characterized by or showing inability to remain at rest: a restless mood.
2. unquiet or uneasy, as a person, the mind, or the heart.
3. never at rest; perpetually agitated or in motion: the restless sea.
4. without rest; without restful sleep: a restless night.
5. unceasingly active; averse to quiet or inaction, as persons: a restless crowd.

Unquiet? Uneasy? As a person, mind, or heart. Wow. Definition number two hit me like a purse full of bricks. To cure Restless Life Syndrome, we need to quiet the unquiet and ease the uneasiness, which is done by checking our pace and focus.

As a rule, the faster we move, the more God “gets in the way.” Likewise, if we’re moving too fast for God, we’re moving too fast for ourselves. Most times, we admit that we’ve ‘got it all together’, but realistically speaking, who among us is spending an hour in the Word every morning with a jam-packed day ahead? It’s tougher than it seems.

The key here is to slowwwww downnnnn.

Table your two of your least important meetings for next week. Tell your girlfriend/fiance/wife that you’re having a date-with-God night. Get in your prayer closet and just be. No agenda. No to-dos. Just you. And God. And nothing but time.

It’s a fact: restless lives are the antithesis of our ability to pray/read/seek. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to stop everything and pray unceasingly (though that would be great), because you can be doing life at the slowest possible speed and still not living for Jesus. At the end of the day, our ability to maintain our pace on the outside is in direct correlation to how we maintain our focus on the inside.

If we’re focused on the inside, our ability to grab rest and stay eager-but-content wins the day.

Sound Off: Do you have Restless Life Syndrome? Do you think Jesus can be in the forefront while maintaining a restless life? Let us know in the comments below.

Jesus, You Are Greater Than Who We Are

Who am I, Lord, that you are mindful of me? // Ps. 8:3-4 

This question used to make me feel really good inside, as if it highlighted the great value in “high significant” me that somehow compelled the God of the Universe to take a captivating interest in. What a narcissistic and inwardly-distorting way to read this verse–at least on the surface–and so falsely and terribly give ‘spiritually right’ confirmation to my already sinful, self-absorbed heart. A rotten heart exploiting the Bible to make it increasingly rotten. What a tragedy to not see beyond myself, and the need to be rescued from incessant naval gazing.

Me: “Man, I must be really important if God is this mindful of me”.

But I was reading this verse so foolishly, through the distorted lens of my own, inherent and deep depravity. What I misunderstood for so long is that the verse does not as much lend emphasis on us as it does to emphasize the nature of God. The verse highlights the indescribable, baffling nature of the completely unobligated sovereign of the Universe, who lovingly pursues, redeems, and rewards creation rebels through unreasonable, unmerited grace.

“Who am I, that You would be mindful of me?” is the psalmist’s response to feeling the overwhelming grace of God in his life. Who is this psalmist, that he would ever deserve the work of God in his life? What had he done to possibly receive such loving attention, care, blessing, security, provision, and salvation from God? The psalmist is overwhelmed by the sheer weightiness of this unmerited, unreasonable, but so refreshingly good grace.

See, the question “Who am I, that You are mindful of me?” doesn’t answer who we are—at least, directly. It answers the question of who we are in light of who God is. Who are we? is answered in who He is.

The letter of our life receives its worth and meaning from its greater envelope, which is addressed, stamped, sealed with the significance of its Author and Sender. A letter ultimately does not make sense without the authorship and seal of its Bearer. In fact, regardless of how great the credentials the letter bears, without the name, it is rendered arbitrary–lost of meaning and identity, which are the two necessary intangibles that give life and understanding to the words on the page.

Similarly, the meaning of our life is enveloped in Him, and enraptured in His greater story that is going on right now as you read this. Who we are is only understood in light of who God is. And we can’t see ourselves rightly until we first see God rightly–the One who designed, purposed, and breathed life into us all along.  *Quick side-note: how could the creation dismiss the Creator’s intentions for it, as if they don’t exist, or are wrong? It is illogically inconceivable.

And so, we were made by and for God (Rom 11:36; Col 1:16). And He invites us into His story–where we begin to understand that the gravity of who we are is weighed in part to the greater, more compelling truth of who He is.

And His nature and His character for us, if anything, is most highly demonstrated in the face of Jesus Christ, where He proved that He loved us so much that He wasn’t ever willing to let us go–to leave us in our muck of sin and lifeless, hollow depravity (2 Co 4:6). He soaked up our sin so that we could bask in His reward. He became a slave so that we could become sons. He switched places with us, because of love–who He is (1 Jn 4:19).

We are sinful, but Your grace is greater still. (2 Co 5:21)

We are dead, but You made us alive in Christ. (Eph 2:5-9)

We are weak, but You are strong, and our strength. (2 Co 12:10)

We have no credentials, but we wear the badges of Your accomplishments. (Rom 8:17)

We have no real family, but we become Your sons through Your blood. (Gal 3:26)

Indeed, the question of “who are we?” is answered in who He is. The smaller part of ‘Who are we?’ is totaled in the highest significance of Who He is. For, our identity is completely and inseparably dependent on His.

We were made for infinitely more, and this infinitely more is the infinite God (Ps. 16:11, Jn 10:10). There is none like You (Is. 46:5, Jer 10:6, Ps 86:8).
Photo: benefit of hindsight (CC)

Darla, Cade and the Boy at the Aquarium

I pulled the same prank every week. I knew it and Darla knew it, but that didn’t stop us from repeating it. There was one reason I continued to covertly “steal” Darla’s bowling ball: Her response. When the prank was up, her laugh enlivened the dark bowling alley. But if the alarming trend continues, far fewer of us will know people like her. Darla lives with Down syndrome, a medical condition our society is attempting to erase.

Saturday mornings during college, I volunteered with the Special Olympics bowling league and track club. And it was Darla’s charm that acted like an unsnoozable alarm clock whenever I considered shirking my volunteer commitment. Her big hugs and contagious smiles greeted everyone she met, and they were the highlight of my week.

Darla

When I finished college and moved away from Indiana, Darla’s embrace faded from my memory. But her smile resurfaced and branded itself on my heart when I read Cade’s story and learned that 92 out of 100 babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. I grew up in a special needs family and grieve that 92% of these families will not experience this unexpected and overwhelming joy.

Last week, my family visited the Denver Aquarium. While there, I saw a young boy with Downs who clamored for a good view of a tropical fish tank. Nobody in the aquarium matched his delight. He saw the world with unfiltered enthusiasm, his imagination captured by the brightly colored fish darting and twisting through the water. The little boy at the aquarium doesn’t know me, but he captivated my imagination with his whimsy.

We characterize people with Down syndrome by their challenges—much like we portray people in poverty by their problems. I’m so glad I’m not identified by what ails me. Chris? He’s the guy that is overly concerned by what other people think of him. Or, Chris? Oh, he’s a “considers-his-own-needs-above-all-others” type of guy. Thankfully, I’m just Chris.

We purge the richness of God’s marvelous creativity by telling thousands of babies that they do not deserve a stake in our society because of their uniqueness. Darla, Cade, the boy at the aquarium, and their many courageous friends are not problems in need of a solution. Darla is a woman who spreads optimism in spite of adversity. The boy at the aquarium reminds us to marvel at the beauty in our world. People worth celebrating and worth protecting.

 

Originally posted at Smorgasblurb.

The Fuzziness of Being Faith-Based

Breakout sessions typically make me want to break out my smartphone or break out of the room. Rarely does the side stage stack up with the main act. But at a recent conference for human resources professionals, one breakout session was full of fireworks about a controversial subject—what it means to be a faith-based organization.

What the speaker shared, however, left me disheartened. There is no more imprecise label than faith-based. It holds a hundred meanings, each of them different than the next. For nonprofit organizations that wear this label, our interpretation of its implications varies even more. And these differences became clear in the session.

The presenter—let’s call her Sharon—hailed from a widely-known faith-based organization, one of the largest in the world. Her organization is consistently platformed at major evangelical churches and conferences across the country as an organization fulfilling Christ’s call to bring hope to the least and the lost. Sharon directed their global hiring efforts across 50 countries. As a member of the executive team and as “final say” on all senior leadership positions, her stamp carried significant credence. Sharon led a breakout session on recruitment and hiring, her domains of expertise.

She flipped through PowerPoint slides with ease, articulating how she screened job candidates and recruited for positions in remote countries. Sharon concluded her talk, and the audience thanked her with a round of gentle applause. And that’s when things got interesting.

The conference included folks of a swath of religious beliefs—apathetics, atheists, evangelicals, Muslims and everyone in between. One questioner, based on his tone, was likely a practicing antagonist, if you can call that a religion. I remember their exchange vividly.

 

Antagonist: You say you’re a Christian faith-based organization. Does that mean you only hire Christians?

Sharon: Well, we hire Christians for our senior leadership positions in the countries where we work, but let me state with absolute clarity: We have a strict non-evangelism policy and hire people of all faiths for entry and mid-level positions. We’re about helping people, not about telling them what they should believe.

Antagonist: So you do discriminate in your leadership roles. Well, how do you know if someone is a Christian?

Sharon: We don’t discriminate. When I say “Christian,” I mean we aim to hire leaders that exhibit the Golden Rule—that love their neighbors like themselves. Good people that exhibit kindness and humility. We look for those traits in interviewees.

Antagonist: OK, so say you do hire a Muslim or Hindu for a mid-level position: Could that person be promoted to a senior leadership role?

Sharon: Absolutely. We have numerous Muslims and Hindus, in fact, that serve as country directors for us across the globe.

 

The conversation continued for some time, the Antagonist and Sharon each feeling each other out, like boxers at the weigh-in ceremony. After their brief exchange, I replayed Sharon’s responses over and over again, attempting to reconcile what she said with the assumptions I had about her organization. Some might read that exchange and be encouraged by it. I felt betrayed.

I was certain she wouldn’t have repeated this to the Christian churches that support her organization. In fact, I’ve consistently heard a message from her colleagues that sharply contrasted it. But there she was, one of the organization’s senior leaders, castigating evangelism and repudiating efforts of other faith-based organizations that place importance on the beliefs of those they hire.

What I expected would be a blah breakout session became a personal watershed moment. The “faith-based” label was not one size fits all. Our world is better because of Sharon's organization, but they are not who I thought they were. And they are not who they set out to be. In our pluralist culture, the gravitational pull of secularism can feel irresistible. But there is fresh momentum building among many faith-based organizations that believe it's not.

This fresh momentum surfaces in surprising places. Even an adamant atheist pleaded for faith-based organizations to remain anchored to our faith. To hold fast to our foundation. Though many disagree with the message of Jesus, we all agree that a light under a basket is no light at all.

 

Photo: Marcos Fernandez Diaz (vj catmac)

Why Be Humble? Why Be Gentle? Why Forgive?

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…” 

(Ephesians 4:1-2 ESV)

I have always loved this passage.

For a long time, I missed the most important thing about this verse: its motivation–––what produces the attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. They are great qualities, but how can they be truly produced in the life of the believer?

For the longest time I believed that they were more-or-less emotions to muster up, or more-moral personas, dispositions, or attitudes to emulate. And while this verse does allude to the rebirth’s new attitudes, actions, and fruit, we must be careful to not emphasize the fruit (results) at the neglect of the roots and soil (motivation). Otherwise, we won’t have any real fruit to begin with. Indeed, if we are unaware of the roots, then we surely won’t have any idea of what real fruit looks like either—we will therefore gain false, trite, or empty understandings and representations of humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness.

With that being said, let’s look at the motivation behind these verses, the roots for these fruits—or for you literalists—the real, foundational reasons that will organically produce the genuine attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness, and not cheap, vain attempts at veneered Christian expressions.

Like anything we read—especially the Bible—we should ask the questions Why? and How? But before we go into a quick analysis of asking why? and how? we attain these fruits, we actually find the answer to the why? of Paul’s urges before this passage. In 4:1, Paul says, “I therefore urge you to walk [this way]” (Aerosmith paraphrase). Therefore? Ultimately, Paul is casting the imperatives of his urges in light of what he just talked about in chapters 1-3. The opening three chapters focus largely on Christ’s work of salvation and the following new identity for the one who believes. Thus, in a summarized explanation of chapters 1-3, Paul says, “in light of this remarkable feat of Christ for you and the new identity with which you have been graciously given, LIVE IN LIGHT OF THIS”. It is important to realize that Paul’s imperatives are enshrouded in a greater indicative. What Christ has done and, accordingly, the new identity of the believer as a child of God, will be the fuel and foundation and reason for carrying out these imperatives to truly be and to live a certain way.

Now that we have the context for this passage—or how chapter 1-3 frames and enriches the understanding of 4:1-2—let’s address the fruit.


“Be completely humble”

Why be completely humble? Because Christ has done it all.

He alone gave us His position of permanent and unconditional favor, approval, acceptance, and love in the eyes of God (Eph 2:1-9, Rom. 8:35-38). We were completely dead in our sins, but God completely saved us–our work is absent in the equation. We can, thus, only boast in Him and, thus, only be humble. There is no room for us to boast in anything we have done. All credit is due Him. We had absolutely no part. Therefore, there is no reason or motivation for self-righteousness (what we have done) nor shame or despair (what we feel like we haven’t done but should’ve done).

You are forever loved not because of anything you have done or will do, but because of everything He did. It is finished and nothing can change that. Not circumstances, not people, not your sin, not your goodness. Now live in light of it. And it’ll be a surprise if genuine humility doesn’t poke through the thin, cheap masks of humility from before. It did for me.

0242


“Be completely gentle”

Why? Because no matter what charges people make against us or whatever circumstances happen, it cannot threaten the steadfast eternal inheritance of all that is bought for us in Christ.

Therefore, there is no reason to be defensive or angry when people threaten any aspect of your identity, reputation, or face. Because our identity is anchored eternally as an heir with Christ and forever saved by grace, regardless of what people say and regardless of what happens in life, nothing can ever change that or ever rival its value.

If the gospel is most weighty in our life—as it indeed should since it constitutes eternal proportions with the Ultimate of the universe—then trying, temporary events or sinful peon’s words will even be a challenge or threat to us. In light of what the gospel teaches, there is no reason to be defensive, threatened, angry, etc—but only gentle and gentle with them. Those temporary hardships can’t phase us because whatever happens, it can’t steal from, jeopardize, or rival what Christ has graciously secured for us (permanent forgiveness, approval, acceptance, love, hope, sonship, provision, eternity).

Gentleness is an unphased-ness without pride, being completely content in eternal, invaluable grace. We no longer have to feel the need to ‘muster up’ a gentle complexion or sappy-sweet voice, all while we ‘white-knuckle’ it underneath, trying to maintain the appearance of Christian gentleness in the midst of insults, frustrations, or trying events. I know I’ve been there. Rather, God’s unconditional grace and the eternity it rewards gives us deep, strong contentedness, which expresses itself in gentleness in all circumstances. Indeed, because of what the gospel entails, there is no reason to not be content. In Christ, all that you need for existential salvation, you already have—because of sheer grace—and it can never be taken away. There is no reason to not be gentle.


“Be patient and bear with one another in love”

Why? Because God was patient and dealt with us in love even when we lived in direct rebellion against Him. In fact, when we were at our worst and full deserving of wrath, God poured His wrath on Jesus instead so that our sins could be atoned for (Rom 5:8). Therefore, if God was patient with us, dealt with us in underserved love, and forgave us in light of our cosmic treason, how much more then should we extend forgiveness to others? In fact, in light of our sin against a Holy God and how He pardoned us, it should be easier to offer forgiveness to others because their trespass against us doesn’t come close to comparing to the cosmic treason our sin committed against God. A sin against another sinner is one thing. A sin against the Holy Sovereign of the Universe is another. Therefore, because we have been forgiven of our greatest crime, we should be able to forgive even the worst things people have done to us, because their trespasses against us don’t nearly compare to the trespasses we committed against God, which were forgiven with love. In other words, if our cosmic sin was pardoned, how much more should be eagerly willing to forgive any and all wrongs that have been towards us, which pale in comparison to degree?

Think about the parable Jesus told regarding the man who owed an incalculable debt to a ruler—this man and his long lineage to follow would have to work to pay off this debt. Yet, the ruler mercifully, without reason, gave him full pardon. Beyond astounded, he thanked the ruler incessantly and left the courtroom freed. However, the story ends on a quick, ironic change of tone when the just-freed man crosses paths with a poor beggar who owes him a couple pennies and strangles him angrily, demanding for the immediate payback. Not surprisingly, after Jesus told the story, the audience was furiously bewildered. Surely, they cried, “how can someone who has been forgiven an incredible, incalculable debt immediately strangle a poor man over a couple of pennies? It doesn’t make any sense!” And I’m sure Jesus responded with a modern day answer of something along the lines of “that’s the point”. Similarly, when the debt of our sin entails drastic, eternal punishment—yet we were fully, lovingly forgiven—how can we not forgive other people’s sin against us, which is infinitesimally insignificant in comparison? Those who realize they have been forgiven much will, in fact, forgive much (Luke 7:47).

Being unconditionally forgiven by God empowers Christians with the motivation for forgiving others, bearing patiently with them in love—unconditionally.



Indeed, “be completely humble and gentle, with patience, bearing with one another in love” is not an empty, groundless command. It follows the preceding good news that Christ has accomplished everything for sinners that sinners could have never accomplished for themselves.

Hopefully this article––––if you got through it––––was helpful in understanding how the gospel is present in these commands, and that it is not only the grounds and reasons for the commands, but it is also the fuel for them. The good news makes us into humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving people. The more we enjoy the good news, the more we demonstrate to others what Jesus has demonstrated to us—in a way that is not coerced or obliged, but organic–just like Jesus. Yet, conversely, when the gospel is divorced from these imperatives, we turn into legalistic and fake people—trying to be good without a reason to be ‘good’, which is probably inwardly worse than not trying all along.

Therefore, the question What Would Jesus Do?  is answered in What Has Jesus Done?

Remembering the Wonder of Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

We sing about it, we buy gifts, we have parties, and we spend time with family and friends. But why is Christmas so special?

It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas rush; to pack our schedules so full of events, that we often don’t have time to stop and think about why we celebrate in the first place. We send, and receive cards talking about the birth of a baby thousands of years ago, and we put out our nativity scenes with this same baby lying in a manger. But what is so special about that baby?

Christmas is about the birth of hope.

This is the time of year when we celebrate the fact that God himself, took on the form of man, lived a life which served as the example of perfection, loved us to the point of death, and then rose again, ushering in a new creation which is bursting forth from the midst of this one.  A time when we remember how the divine came to earth and conquered death itself.  A time to rejoice in how our God is a God who chose to relate to us, to experience all the things we go through, to face sadness, exhaustion, pain, rejection, betrayal, suffering, death, and then conquer them all and provide us with the opportunity to do the same.

Christmas is a time of celebration, a time of joy and hope, and a time of remembrance.  It is a time to sing, a time to fellowship, and a time to meditate on the truth of how God loves us so much, that he was willing to walk among us, and die for us, so that we could have a relationship with him.

We do not serve a cold, detached god.  We serve a God who understands, a God who empathizes, and a God who offers us the assurance that this life is meaningful, we have purpose, and there is nothing that has not already been conquered. He knows what you are going through, he knows the pain that life can bring, and he longs to wrap his arms around you and whisper, “I love you, and I’ve taken care of it all.”

 

This holiday season, take the time to think about what we really celebrate this time of year.

Remember the tiny baby, God himself, born in a manger, who now waits to cradle you in his arms.

At the heart of Christmas is a story of God, taking on flesh and blood, walking in our shoes, and saying, “I’m right here with you, I know how you feel, and I’m on your side.”

His death and resurrection is not something for the worthy, but Christ experiencing the loneliness, sorrow, and fear of death, OVERCOMING IT, and saying, “This too is yours.”

Merry Christmas!

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An Observed Suffering: The Newtown Heartache

This morning my heart aches even a little more than yesterday for the parents suffering the loss of their child. For the families at the loss of their adult children. For the teachers. Even for the family of Adam Lanza, who along with his mother, killed himself.

A sweet friend put it this way: yesterday, they faced the nightmare head on. They got the phone call. They identified the children’s dead bodies. They mourned. When they awoke this morning–––had they even slept at all–––they were forced to face it once more, but this time with reality hitting a little harder. It was not just a malicious and vile nightmare their unrelenting brains conjured up. It was reality. It happened. Their child was gone and the world kept spinning. Lives kept going. Jesus never came back to rescue them from a crude, dark world. Not yet.

Twenty children gone.

Nine adults gone.

The murderer and his mother gone.

All three are unthinkable, evil tragedies.

 

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize. . . but one who in every respect has been tested as we are.
Hebrews 4:15

Mass murder, torturing slavery, and brutal evil are all reasons Jesus came to us the way He did. What kind of Savior is necessary for the comfort of a broken heart from brutal loss?

This world needed a Savior who has tasted sheer horror and brutal torture. One that has been through what the families in Newtown are going through. One that has been through what the world has and will be going through. We never needed a majestic prince with locks of gold nor a comedian to help alleviate stress by bringing laughter. Not a preacher. Not a doctor. Not a genius. This evil world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Not just a sufferer, nor just a Sovereign. For the suffering man would not be strong enough to save, nor the sovereign man be weak enough to sympathize. This man, the suffering Sovereign, came to Newtown, Connecticut.

He planned to be crushed.

He was ready to be wounded.

Despised and rejected.

Submissive like a lamb to the slaughter.

Endured anguish.

Then poured out death.

Isaiah 53

The God-flesh, Jesus Christ, is the One drawing near to the broken in Newtown. No one else can love like He can (Luke 7:48). No one else can heal like He can (Mark 1:41). No one else can sympathize like He can (Isaiah 53:4). No one else can redeem like He can (Luke 12:8).

As a people being made into a likeness of Him, may we be quick to pour out those characteristics such that we have the Spirit of the living Messiah working these mysteries inside of us. We must work out what He is working in us. Salt of the earth, light of the world. This is the very reason the Messiah had to rise and become alive again after his murder. Not only to defeat death at its very core, but so that He may still be living and active with His Spirit right here on planet earth.

We are the ambassadors. May God make us tender vessels of the suffering Sovereign.

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Do I Have A Choice?

We serve an awesome, mysterious God. We serve an infinite God, who can never be fully understood by our human, finite minds. There is no end to the depth of knowledge and understanding to be gained by our striving to know Him more, but there is joy and meaning to be discovered in our attempts to grow closer to Him. It is a journey which has raised many debates, and one such debate is the sovereignty (power) of God and man’s free will.

Man’s free will has been a question which has been discussed for centuries. Do people have a choice, or does God determine what people will do? It is an argument which divides Christians, splits churches, and has caused many to question the power and goodness of God. Within the debate, there are two lines of thinking which I would like to discuss; Libertarian and Compatibilist.

 

LIBERTARIAN

The Libertarian view would argue that man has the completely free opportunity to choose or reject God. That God does not intervene in a person’s decision, but that He creates, and then steps back and allows mankind to live life freely. They would point to examples in the Bible where people seem to make choices of their own free will (such as the Pharisees rejecting God’s purpose;  Luke 7:30), and ask why God would determine for people to act against Him.

The Libertarian view would say that the Bible makes it clear that God will hold people accountable for the choices they make in life. They would argue that there are consequences for our choices, and that the only way God could be a good, just, fair Judge is if people are free to make those choices completely on their own.

 

COMPATIBILIST

The Compatibilist would say that man has a choice, but that it is directly intertwined with what God has determined. That God is all-powerful, and that there is nothing He does not control. They would say that there are examples in the Bible of both free will and God’s determinism (such as Philippians 2:12b-13, which says to “work out your salvation,” [free will] “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” [divine determinism]).

Like the Libertarian, the Compatibilist would agree that God will hold people accountable for the choices they make.  However, they would say that it is only by God’s intervention that anyone would choose to do good.

 

AS FOR ME

I would say that I fall more into the Compatibilist camp. However, I am humbled by the mystery and awe of how God works. Does man have a choice?… Yes. Does God’s sovereign will reign supreme, and His plan already encompass our every choice, even before we are born?… Yes. So, is it free will or determinism?… Yes.

God created us with a choice, and for a choice; with the ability to make a choice, and for the purpose of making the choice He’s determined. It is a beautiful tension in which I live, knowing that, as Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord…” Knowing that Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”, AND in John 7:17, “if anyone CHOOSES to do God’s will…” It is not an “either/or”, but a “both/and.” Like Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved by faith, but not of ourselves, for it is a gift from God.

So, I will choose God because I have no choice.  I will place my faith in Him, for there is nothing else I can do.  And, I will live in the tension, wonder, and mystery of choosing God because He first chose us (Ephesians 1:4).

[alert style=”info”] Sound Off: What do you believe? Are you a libertarian or compatiblist? Both? Let us know in the comments below. [/alert]

Waiting in Purpose

There is nothing harder for me than waiting. In a world of point-and-click, instant gratification, it’s hard not to expect everything to be accomplished in minutes or shipped overnight.

Lately, I have found myself waiting often, and slowly discovering the joy in doing so.

 

THE PREGNANCIES

My wife and I are currently expecting our second child (can’t wait to meet my baby boy, Bond), and those close to us know that her pregnancies have been rough. Morning sickness (Which is a horribly misleading word by the way. A better term would be “all-day, everyday sickness.”) is no stranger in our house. During her first pregnancy, we spent a couple weeks in the hospital because of her dehydration. The employees knew us well, and they often greeted me during my midnight caffeine runs with a friendly, unbelieving, “You’re still here?”. Though the second pregnancy has been better than the first, I still find myself wishing we could just have our baby tomorrow.

Then I have an evening with my little sixteen month old princess, Bella. My time with her reminds me to cherish every minute and not be so eager for everything to progress and change.

 

THE SCHOOLING

In the midst of work, a pregnant wife, and raising our baby girl, I am also attending seminary. Again, my mind is continually full of thoughts about it just being done. Meanwhile, the classes have challenged and stretched me, the people I am meeting have been an amazing encouragement, and the time is actually flying by.

 

THE LORD

And here lies my worst impatience.

Our God is a God of rest, and yet I often find myself frustrated and asking why I can’t just know. Why can’t I know what the next step is? Why can’t I know how He will work out the bills? Why can’t I know what the future holds?

I have been so all-consumed by my own impatience, that I have often missed the peace of waiting on the Lord. The God who releases us from the worry and stress of success, and into the peace of His will.

The joy of serving a God whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light, is the realization that I am only called to strive to glorify Him and He will handle what succeeds.

I once heard it asked, “Can God trust you with His silence?” This question stuck with me, and has constantly can back into my mind during times of impatience. The question is really about whether or not you have the faith to wait on the Lord. Have you reached a point in your relationship with God that you don’t need an immediate answer to know that He is in control?

 

THE PURPOSE

Waiting is difficult, but often it is in the waiting that memories are created, lessons are learned, friendships are made, peace can be found, and God is ever present in the gentle whisper.

[alert style=”success”] Sound Off: What’s one area that you are finding difficult to wait in this season? Let us know in the comments below. [/alert]

Giving Thanks.

First of all, let me say that I am extremely thankful for all of you that read Quarterlife Man. Everyone wants a voice–––a collection of people who listen to their words–––and I am fortunate enough to have that. So from the bottom of my heart–––and the hearts of all of our writers–––thanks for reading.

 

We are built to give thanks.

I firmly believe that God created us to have giving thanks on the forefront of our minds. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” That might be one of the more popular verses throughout all of the Bible, but the scriptures are clear: thankfulness is littered all throughout the Old and New Testament.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
–Psalm 100:4

 

How will you give thanks today?

My plan to give thanks is simple. For the second time since 2005, I will be spending Thanksgiving with my parents. I am originally from Michigan and throughout college I never ventured home, so this is still really special. They moved down to Palm Beach in April of 2011 (and I’m lovin it), so I will give thanks for the home cooking. I am also thankful for the fellowship of great friends, great opportunities, and a great God.

If there’s something that I love about my mother and father, it’s their immense sense of thankfulness. Nothing is ever taken for granted and I am so grateful to have shared in their values as I have matured as a man. The trickle-down effect was so key in my life, so let me pose another question:

 

Who are you replicating yourself in today?

It’s easy to be thankful for what you have. As Americans, we are pretty good at giving thanks… and even if we aren’t, there’s at least one day per year when we get it right. Christians are called to go above and beyond, so in this case, we need to go above and beyond thankfulness. Instead of just speaking thankfulness, let’s also duplicate ourselves.

By instilling our love and values from Christ in someone else, we can say ‘thank you’ to God in a larger way than ever possible. God loves when you disciple others. Listen to what Oswald Chambers said:

“Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit.”

Last year around this time, Chris Southard (our head coach at Palm Beach Atlantic) asked myself and a group of our athletes an open ended question:

“If I told you to bring your “one” to lunch next Tuesday, who would you bring?”

Who would you bring? Do you have someone that you’ve been discipling? I challenge you today to really hone-in on that person to replicate yourself in as we move toward the holiday season. Be thinking of who you can disciple and how you can grow that relationship. If you’re not in a food coma yet, congrats for getting through the post.

(In the meantime, enjoy this image of the pheasant pants I am wearing today, and GO LIONS!)