Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Under Pressure (Or Recovering The Joy of Blogging)

You took my joy - I want it back.
You took my joy - I want it back.
- Lucinda Williams, Joy

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
- Matthew 11:30

A little hiatus was in order for my blogging.  I began this blog (about a year ago) and I immediately decided that I would write one entry a week and at first I couldn't wait.   Noticing things here and there to write about I was eager to return every Monday morning to write/journal again.   But somewhere things took a turn.

Around 2 months ago the anxiety began.  "What should I write?  Is that really worth writing about?  Who cares about that?  Who's even reading this? Maybe this would be better than that?".  I was paralyzed.   Megan wisely advised, "Don't make yourself do it if you don't want to! This has become a self-imposed chore - it should be a joy".

It was true - I had lost the joy in blogging but I continued to labor joylessly.  I had put myself under a new law: YOU MUST BLOG ONCE A WEEK!   I was anxious at the thought of blogging and continually nervous throughout the execution.

What started in freedom and was once a joy was now a burden because I had begun to make it a part of my weekly "checklist".  Suffice to say that while I'm writing this week, there is no safe bet that I'll be back at it again next week; I think (I pray!) I've learned my lesson.

As has been well documented on this blog I hate working out.  Maybe it was the doctor telling me I have high cholesterol or maybe, in the spirit of full disclosure, the “mirror don’t lie” BUT I’ve finally resorted to working out with some consistency. 

Specifically I’ve been spinning.  Basically, a stationary bike is being ridden with zero abandon for an hour or so two or three times a week by yours truly.   I feel like Richard Simmons on wheels yet I furiously peddle forward (getting nowhere!) to the sound of music that (except for spin class) I have very little use for.   Think Black Eyed Peas' I’ve Got a Feeling and then rip the knob off!

The variable that makes spinning so difficult occurs when the pressure or tension around the wheels is applied. It instantly requires more muscular involvement which leads to a harder workout, higher heart-rate and for me an endless stream of sweat. Maybe 15-20 times throughout the class our instructor shouts, “Ok, please give me another half turn, you animals!”.  

I’ve been considering of late how we apply pressure to our lives in a variety of ways leading to altogether unnecessary stress and dis-ease within the Christian faith senselessly stripping The Gospel of it’s power to free us from "trying" and cheapening the infinitely costly grace of God in Christ.

(Please note here that the pressure to which I'm referring is of an self-imposed, internal sort and not the external pressures with which all humans must inevitably confront be it through suffering, relational conflict, disillusionment etc...  Incidentally, this space, it is said, is where true character is revealed)

Christians are those that, by definition, come to a place in their lives when they realize they are now (and have always been) in need of God's forgiveness and subsequently come to believe in Christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross and God's institution of a New Kingdom in which Christ, having been resurrected from the dead, is the first fruits (1st Cor. 15:20).

Unfortunately, after salvation, like an institutionalized prisoner (think Red in Shawshank Redemption), Christians begin to slump back into their old self-reliant, achievement-oriented ways. They ratchet up the resistance on their proverbial bikes.   It is then that they return to seeking self-control.  No longer free to "let go" by God's grace, they begin to, once again, hold on to their lives for dear life and with all THEIR might believe that they steer their decision-making, life-changing process.   

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
- Matthew 10:39

Fundamentally the Christian life is about grace leading to rest and peace and transformation - not about trying but about relying.   Our over-acheiving, busy-ness and people-pleasing are all inhibitors to the peace that the knowledge of Christ's finished work provides.   Paul who called himself a "prisoner of Christ" (Eph. 3:1) also called Christians "more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37).  What a paradox!  How can a prisoner also be a conqueror?

Paul concluded that although he was saved (read: freed) by Christ's atoning work, in his flesh he was still a slave to the law in his mind.  A Christian may give ascent to Christ's power to forgive without embracing The Spirit's power to free us now of shame (read: take away our internal pressure!)

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? - Rom. 7:22-24

Not stopping there he goes on to deliver one of the most glorious and temporally liberating lines in God's Word.....

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Rom. 7:25

We can now rejoice knowing that the Cross of Christ brought us the death of doing.  We are delivered from our DOING because in Him it is DONE! (John 19:30)

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 
- John 6:63

Christ made a blessed distinction drawing a line in the sand between the work of the flesh and the work of The Spirit.  Being found poor in MY spirit (Matt. 5:3) requires a cognizance of the futility of my striving to relieve pressure and dissipate shame and the beginning of dependence upon HIS indwelling spirit to have it's way with me.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
- Rom 8:1, 2
So many choruses in our churches seem to proclaim our future intentions to love God, honor God, seek God, praise God; Our doing seems to be the emphasis of these undoubtedly well-intentioned songwriters.   But sincerity before God demands intellectual honesty about the state in which we overwhelmingly find ourselves: helpless.   I wonder how we may be increasing the pressure on our hearts even within our worship services through renewed pledges and vows to DO more for God instead of only and always feeding on WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US!

Our admission that we are helpless to love God and walk in His holiness without His very inward working power is the first Spirit-empowered step.   It is the degree to which we relinquish our illusions about our perceived power that God will truly empower us to move toward Him in the righteousness of Christ for His Glory and Honor.

Grace and Peace,

*Exercise: Take a moment and listen to this haunting Andy Williams classic against the backdrop of a life in Christ....

This Week

* Wednesday Men's Group -
Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore - Intro and Chapter 1 @ 7am - 2 American Center, 5th Floor (Ritcheson Law Firm)

* Saturday - The Magills at The Forge in Ben Wheeler, TX w/ Jake Armerding and Kevin Gosa - Costumes optional but will be appreciated - 7pm!  (Our Special Guest Vocalist Stephanie Carter will also be joining us for a few tunes!)

* Sunday - Green Acres Baptist Church, Tyler, TX - Jake Armerding and Kevin Gosa w/ The Magills - 9:45 and 11:15 services

Next Week...

* Monday Men's Lunch - Dakota's 12pm - Chapters 11 & 12 of Andrew Murray's Humility


* The Gospel According to Pixar featuring David Zahl of Mbird.com, Chris Legg and The Magills - November 11, 2011 and PLEASE "like" this event on Facebook.com


1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you're spinning! I miss our runs around the Reservoir. :)

    And thanks for this glorious reminder of the joy and simplicity of resting in Jesus!