Beauty in Brokenness

"He has made everything Beautiful in it's time." Eccl. 3:11

Big City, Big God

on March 16, 2014

Spring Break is here! (Despite the still chilly temperatures)

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This year instead of loading up and making the 20 hour trip to Panama City Beach, we decided to stay local.  To some a week in urban (slightly shady) Chicago doesn’t sound to appealing.  Especially compared to sunny Florida.  But for a number of reasons we decided to check out the City.  Getting a close look at some of the less well known areas.  No, we did not see the bean.  And yes, there is more to Chicago than the Magnificent Mile.

During the week, we stayed at the Agape Community Center in Roseland, the far south side of the city.  But we traveled all over, from uptown to China Town, Downtown to Greek town to Roger’s Park.  We definitely got around!

The aim was to get out of our comfort zones.  We were able to help out some of the many ministries that are active in the city by serving in very practical ways, as well as sharing the Gospel on campuses downtown.  The biggest blessing was to realize that we were not needed to come in and save the city.  We were to come alongside the servants that God has already put in place there.  The experience was inspiring and humbling.  

God is bigger than I can ever comprehend.

The whole week was quite a different experience than I had expected.  God was speaking to me in ways that I would not have recognized on campus at NIU.  I will admit to you all at the beginning of the week my heart was not in it.  I had experience the Chicago trip before, and this time I was leading students.  It has been a long and busy semester already.  On day 1, my attitude was pretty apathetic.  I wanted to go through the motions lead the students to learn about God, but I didn’t really feel like my own heart was surrendered to Him.  I did not really want to be taught, or used, or pushed.  I wanted to get a cool experience, make some memories, and maybe get a little sleep.  

But that is not what the Lord had in mind.  God was ready to teach me about His heart for people.  He was wanting to teach me that I am not the center of His universe.  And mostly He wanted to teach me that I was making Him so much smaller than He really is.

One morning, we listened as the ministry director led us through an exercise on Biblical Social Justice.  He explained to us that Biblical ministry is not just sharing the Gospel, or loving God,  but also loving people through practical ministry to physical needs.  Without all three of these working together their will be no relevance to our mission.  He also challenged us to take a look at our view on giving, serving, and social justice.  I realized that my view even that very week looked a lot more like the cultural idea of serving, which centers around giving as a means to better yourself, then biblical service, which focuses on self sacrifice for the cause of Christ.  Christ is concerned with the spiritual health of each one of us, but His heart is also broken for the poor and needy.  He challenged us to remember that those who are rich in the world can still be poor in Christ.  Without Christ we are all poor and needy.  So our attitude should not be one of selfishness or charity, but of genuine love and concern.  

I have been tempted to think that service to the least of these is a lesser mission than that of sharing the Gospel and making disciples.  Mostly because it makes me feel better about what I do.  Plus it is easier for me to walk along side people and talk to them about Jesus, than it is to really get down and dirty in the needs of others.  I like my comfortable world that I have created for myself.  The fact that I so readily dismissed what he had to say, even though he had been working in this ministry for over 10 years, really showed me my own arrogance.  I did not want to hear truth or face some of my own views that might be unbiblical.  Why?  because that would require me to do something.  To make myself uncomfortable.  To surrender my own values for God’s.  And I did not want to do that.  

Another morning, we went as a group to the campus of Columbia University.  It is a Liberal Arts school, made of artists, film makers, and theater students.  Liberal is an understatement.  The intern that is in charge of the campus ministry there described to us the attitude of a typical Columbian student.  They were not apathetic, as much of Northern students are.  Many have had experience with church or religion (many of those have been burned by Christianity in the past).  They have most likely thought long and hard about their spiritual beliefs, and have come to their own conclusion.  Their opinion of truth is normally ideas from many different world views all smashed into one idea that is comfortable for them.  They prize uniqueness and individuality. 

As I listened to her describe this attitude of spiritual things, I felt convicted.  The arrogance of a college student who thinks that they can determine their own spiritual truth is frustrating to me.  Who do they think they are?  In their 20 years of life they think they can determine the climate of the universe better than anyone else?  We live in a prideful generation.

But this pride is not for the nonprofessing believer alone.  At least these students are willing to admit their spiritual rebellion.  But if you really think about it, isn’t this attitude common among our generation of believers as well?  It is for me! The convicting feelings I had the first day were all starting to fall into place.  

I was just like these college students.  Picking and choosing things that worked for my life.  Taking the parts I am ok with, and disregarding the things that make me uncomfortable.  I was making a little box for God and shoving Him into it.  Essentially I was saying… that ministry that you serve in is good for you, but I am going to believe that God only wants me to do this thing over here that feels ok to me.  I was robbing God of parts of His character because I could not be in control of my wants and desires.  

But at least the rest of the world is admitting it.  I hide my idolatry with Christian words and a busy schedule.  Essentially I am like the idol maker, who creates an image out of wood and tries to lay it over with gold.  It looks pretty but it is still worthless, perishable gold. (Isaiah 40) 

So I am allowing God into the mess I have created.  He is shaking up my tidy view of Him and the things He is calling me to.  I am asking Him to open up my eyes to see the things that He sees.  God is big and worthy of praise.  He is worthy of my surrender.  God is bigger than I, and His agenda is greater than my comfort.  

I don’t have it together yet.  I am still selfish and stubborn.  I don’t want to change.  But I know that He is worth it.  He is patient in my sin.  He is showing me who He is.  The real God in all His glory.  An image I will never see clearly until I reach Heaven.

What a day that will be?!

 

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