Blog Archive

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Problem with Optimism

image source: No Mas

2011 has been one of the best years of my life. Our five children have each achieved remarkable accomplishments. My husband has finally moved on from a job of incredible pressures. We've received new material blessings that are enriching our lives. The Lord has proven His faithfulness and love for me in innumerable ways, and I love Him more than ever.

2011 has also been one of the worst years of my life, personally, emotionally, and physically. Amid numerous trials, I've been forced to learn the problem with optimism.

optimism : noun 1 hopefulness and confidence about the future or success of something. 2 [Philosophy] the doctrine that this world is the best of all possible worlds.

The first part of that definition lines up perfectly with the way Scripture paints hope:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
~ Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

"For I know the purposes which I am weaving for you," says YHWH, "purposes of peace, and not for evil—to give you a future and a hope."
~ Jeremiah 29:11 (author)

But optimism tends to go beyond the first definition—beyond the hope provided by faith. Optimism wants to go on to define success in terms which are clearly seen, and seen sooner rather than later. While optimism doesn't deny God's promise that the next world will be the far better one, it nonetheless expects life in this world to come close.

God operates on a timetable that defies any schedule. He specializes not in successes the world recognizes, but of the unseen, in realms of the human heart. The effects of His work cannot be hidden, and will bear testimony of His presence at some point. Yet like the tip of an iceberg, what is seen is but a hint of what lies beneath the surface.

If optimism goes far enough to become presumptuous about either the goal of God's work, the method of God's work, or which person achieves God's work (Him or me), optimism may encounter that iceberg with a horrific crash.

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NRSV)

Though the French roots of 'optimism' stem from the Latin 'optimum,' the two should never be confused.

optimum : adjective most likely to lead to a favorable outcome. : noun the most favorable conditions for growth, reproduction, or success.

The Lord creates optimum conditions for His goals to be achieved, His methods to be successful, and His glory to be seen. The Bible describes God's "optimum conditions" with words like:

I think maybe optimism can be a presumptuous and worldly substitute for true faith in the unseen and true hope in God's sure promises. Maybe. I'm not sure yet.

What I do know is that my lifelong optimism has been shaken to its core, while my hope is strong and my faith is undiminished.

And faith tells me that it may be a good thing to let go of optimism and simply stick with hope.

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
~ John 16:33 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Why God Really Sent Jesus

At some point this Christmas season, you're likely to be reminded that Jesus was born for Crucifixion.

While we shouldn't avoid the messy yet necessary message of the cross, we also cannot point so emphatically at the cross that we lose the full circle truth of why God really sent Jesus. Obtaining our salvation wasn't the end that Jesus was born to achieve, but only the means to a far greater end.

God desires relationship with us.

Self-centered, prideful, fearful human nature frustrates relationship. We often have difficulty coming to the cross, either believing salvation from sin is unnecessary because we're good enough, or we think our sin too great to make us worthy of saving. Once we bring our sin to the cross and receive God's forgiveness and salvation, we tend to gravitate toward a new set of extremes—legalism or license. Whether or not we achieve a measure of balance there, we may become so enamored with Christianity that we drift away from abiding with the Christ:

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."
~ Revelation 3:20 (NKJV)

These words are spoken to people who are already part of the church—not to the unsaved nonbelievers, but to the lukewarm believers who've forgotten to keep on inviting Jesus into their lives for relationship. The Great Commission isn't to simply get people to the cross. Our Master asks His disciples—those who have walked with Him, who have shared His death and His life—to bring others into the same relationship.

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love... These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."
~ Jesus, John 15:7,9 (NKJV)

God did not merely step into flesh so that He might one day be crucified. God actually became a Man. He lived with us as One of us. He suffered and wept with us, ate and laughed and had fellowship with us. He even died—with us and for us—so that we might experience His resurrection and live with Him, every single day of our lives.

God didn't save us from our sin for only our own sake, nor for only His sake. He saved us for each other, that He might have intimate, loving, "
exceeding joy" relationship with us.

Our Father, please don't let us settle for too little of You. Please use Your Spirit and Your Word and Your people to fulfill in each of us Your purpose of relationship with us, that our "joy may be full," every single day of the year. Please grant us the pleasure and privilege of bringing You joy.

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paradox: The Good God of Suffering

And no one laid hands on Jesus, for His hour had not yet come.
~ John 8:20 (NKJV)

Jesus—God made Man—was both Man of Sorrows during many hours, and faced an hour in which He was allowed to experience consummate suffering.

Perhaps the greatest of all life's paradoxes is the inescapable question of why a good God allows suffering. In searching out the full circle of truth to this paradox, we find an even greater paradox—that suffering is a primary medium in which God works:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NKJV)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
~ James 1:2-3 (NKJV)

But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
~ 1 Peter 4:13 (NKJV)

Exceeding joy. This is the masterpiece God is at work to create in us.

The more that fire refines gold, the greater the glory of the gold. The more that suffering refines us, the greater the glory of our joy.

We reach the culmination of joy only through death, the gateway with potential for greatest suffering. Perfected joy is found not so much in leaving this world behind as it is in experiencing the fullness of God's presence, without the distractions of this world.

But even in current days, during this temporal era of suffering and darkness and death, we find exceeding joy when we choose to place ourselves in the presence of God amid the distractions—and through the suffering—of this world.

Exceeding joy. This is the masterpiece God is at work to create in us, through the medium of suffering, even as He created it in His Son, in His hour:

... Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith ... for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
~ Hebrews 12:1-3 (NKJV)

Next time: bringing the paradox of Christmas and Crucifixion full circle.

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paradox: The Mark of Truth

The defining mark of postmodernism is also its greatest weakness. The assertion of "no absolutes" is not only an absolute which affirms their existence, but also a feeble attempt to rationalize the paradoxical nature of truth.

Truth is accurate and absolute only when its paradoxes are reconciled. To ignore the contrasts of truth which appear contradictory is to have incomplete and therefore inaccurate truth.

Even the absolutes of math contain paradox:
42 = 16, but √16 ≠ 4.
The correct answer is √16 = ±4.
+4 and -4 are opposite—yet the answer to √16 is inaccurate and incomplete without including both.

"... for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." (John 12:47)
"As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous ..." (John 5:30)

Jesus is the ultimate paradox. He is ...
Judgment and Mercy
Joy and Sorrow
Freedom and Ownership
Law and Liberty
Fellowship (Communion) and Holiness (Separation)
Life and Death
Mighty Lion and Gentle Lamb
First and Last
God and Man

The list would go on and on. But for any given contrast, Jesus is not two natures balanced against each other on opposite sides of a fulcrum, as √16 = +4 OR -4. Jesus is wholly and simultaneously both sides of His paradoxes, centered in love.

Both truth and Jesus are best seen when brought full circle.

More next time on the full circle paradoxes of Christmas and Crucifixion, current days and culmination day.

"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day."
~ John 12:46-48 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Work in Progress

Image source: Been Thinking

Last week, our family had a marathon of three EXTRA rehearsals, five performances, three parties, three doctor appointments—and life in general.

This week also brings a few more extra items to our routine, including me orchestrating three Christmas parties on one day for each of three shifts at my husband's office.

Oh, and God's working on me, too. I'd like to take the above sign off my life, but I know it won't come down anytime soon.

No promises on when the next post will be. I'm asking the Lord to make it worth the wait.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see an incredible testimony of what it means to be a new creation in Christ, you are sure to appreciate this post from Makala Doulos (who has the nice habit of using a lower case "i" when speaking of himself): Phase Shift

Friday, December 9, 2011

Light, Part III: Truth & Blindness

"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness."
~ John 12:46 (NKJV)

My mother has been blind since birth, with the ability to only see light, distinguish colors, and visually detect movement. She has sometimes expressed the desire to see an object or activity, particularly when a sighted person describes something to her. But my mother hasn't considered blindness a particular burden in life—it is all she's ever known. She's always said that she feels worse for people who once had sight and then lost it.

Several years ago, my mother collided with a sharp object she didn't detect and lost her remaining vision. She now lives in an unfamiliar and colorless world of perpetual darkness. She laments often that losing the sight she once had is far more difficult than it was to never see at all.

She remains grateful that she is only physically blind. She loves the Bible's truth, and has good spiritual vision.

"There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land...
Therefore you shall stumble in the day ...
My people perish for lack of knowledge."
~ Hosea 4:1,5-6

To live without truth and mercy is the result of not knowing God—of being spiritually blind. Spiritual blindness doesn't start out as complete, for the Bible says there's no such thing as a atheist (Romans 1:18-20). Truth and God's existence are known through (among other things) conscience, creation, and the place in every human soul that only God can satisfy.

When we don't know God, we grope about as spiritually blind. We feel around in the darkness for something to fill the God-shaped void in our lives. We expect to be soothed and satisfied by things like:

Food, Caffeine, Tobacco
Alcohol, Drugs (whether illegal or prescription)
Career, Achievement, Status
Sports, Hobbies, Recreation
Entertainment, Amusement, Media
Sex, Relationships
Money, Power
Justice, Revenge

Some of these things are plain evil. Many are only bad if used in excess or the wrong context. Every one of them is bad on the occasions when they displace God.

Therefore He says:
"Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."
~ Ephesians 5:6-14 (NKJV)

I don't know a single person (including yours truly) who never falls back on one of God's provisions in a moment when they instead need only Him. Any one of us can have those moments, come to ourselves, and turn back to God—in prayer, in reading His Word, in seeking out His Light in others. (Woe to us if we do not!)

But the person who is spiritually blind, to whom Light is unfamiliar, knows nothing else. They continue to grope in the Darkness. They may even become so accustomed to Darkness, and embrace it so fully, that they deny the existence of Light—and lose the little Light they have.

"For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away."
~ Matthew 25:29 (NKJV)

We are children of Light. When we encounter a child of Darkness, we may be inclined to condemn their spiritual blindness and abandon them. (Woe to us if we do so!)

We also have the opportunity to shine upon them with truth and draw them into the Light. They may choose to come with us, and be healed of their blindness. Or they may cling to Darkness, their blindness growing.

Their decision cannot be excuse for Light in us to dim. To be a Christian is to be a little Christ, anointed with His Light, and bring it to every person around us.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
~ Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Light, Part II: Good vs. Evil

Seventy years ago today, a foreign country attacked our homeland and decisively engaged the U.S. in World War II—no longer permitting us to watch "them vs. them" from a distance. When war became "us vs. them" (no pun intended), one of the measures our nation took was incarcerating U.S. citizens of Japanese descent, lest we be infiltrated by our enemy.

War brings us to redefine whom we call good and whom we call evil, in order to separate ourselves from the "them" we must battle.

So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.
~ Exodus 14:20 (NKJV)

The Lord YHWH would soon call and train His people to cooperate with Him in waging war against the various enemies of YHWH and His people. But in this passage, He chooses to instead segregate the Israelites from the Egyptians, while YHWH wages a battle reserved to Himself. At the Red Sea, YHWH delivers His people in parting the waters to permit escape, and seals that escape in the returning waters which destroy their enemies.

The Red Sea incident is the Lord's vivid picture of spiritual deliverance and destruction accomplished some 1475 years later at Calvary, a battle God reserves to Himself. In Jesus' blood sacrifice and death, He destroys mankind's greatest enemy of Death, sealing our escape penalty for sin.

Having been delivered from our greatest enemy, we are now called and trained to cooperate with the Lord in waging war against the various powers that would cause us harm. Our enmity is not with people, but with sin and its influence. Just as the Israelites of old were instructed to be ruthless in destroying their surrounding enemies, in order to escape the infiltration and influence of other nations, we are to be ruthless in fighting against sin's strongholds in our lives, to escape the infiltration and power of sin.

The Bible defines our war not in the sometimes nebulous terms of good & evil, but instead uses definitions such as Spirit & flesh (or sinful nature [NIV]), truth and lies, light and darkness. Because of the kind of influence they both have, the Bible also calls us to have separate kinds of relationships with people of light than with people of Darkness:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
"I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."
~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 (NIV)

The above passage is usually applied to marriage. While marriage is the most important relationship to apply this principle, it is not the only one. The context of these verses is recognizing that we have become a completely new person, and should no longer rely upon the world's definitions for segregation.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
~ 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NIV)

In being reconciled to God and His Light of life, we also recognize that while we keep company with people of Darkness, we need to remain separate from close relationship with them—even as we, who are God's light, minister His reconciliation to them (the very next verse):

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:18 (NIV)

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Light, Part I: Choose Life

My current Bible study on light is certainly the proverbial drink from a fire hydrant. If just one thing stands out, it is God's use of light for separation.

Whenever I teach or speak, working in threes has consistently proven to make things more manageable. Posts for today, Wednesday, and Friday will cover the three most prominent separations evident to me between light and darkness:

Life & Death
Good & Evil
Understanding of Truth & Spiritual Blindness

☼ ~ ☼ ~ ☼

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.
~ Genesis 1:3-4 (NKJV)

Genesis tells of God first creating the heavens and the earth as waters, and then describes six days of giving them separation, definition, and life by the power of His Word. Days one and two separate light from darkness and heavens from the earth. Day three defines the earth with terrestrial land (and botanical life) before the heavens are defined by their celestial bodies on day four. Day five fills the waters of sky and sea with animal life, while God's last workday is spent filling the land with creatures. God finally presents to creation His magnum opus—humans made in His image.

If Genesis gives a creation account from Earth's perspective, perhaps John's Gospel provides the creation account from Heaven's perspective.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [apprehend, seize, take] it... That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
~ John 1:1-5; 9-10 (NKJV)

God is Spirit (see Genesis 1:2; John 1:18; John 4:24). Note that John says of Jesus, God's Word:
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Also note that before God separated light from darkness, He first created light. It seems to me that light didn't originally coexist with God, until God's Word (Jesus) spoke light into existence.

John's Gospel makes clear that life is inherent to God, and his words equate that life to light.

If—(HUGE "if" here)—God was invisible as Spirit and Word, perhaps He chose to make Himself visible as light as the means to impart life.

I'm no biologist, but my understanding is that in the physical world, there is no life apart from light. Even those life forms which exist in darkness are dependent upon light for the photosynthesis and other chemical reactions which provide their food. In simpler terms, mold might be growing in the utter darkness of my refrigerator, but it was the light of the sun that first enabled the food to grow that feeds the mold.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
~ 1 John 1:5 (NKJV)

In the spiritual world, there is no life apart from God's light.

Wherever God is absent, our souls are either dead or dying in the spiritual darkness. If we would choose life for our souls, we must cling to God and turn our faces toward His light.

"I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life ..."
~ Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Go Toward the Light

Here are some random observations and verses from my study of light.

The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
~ Psalm 119:130 (NKJV)

Of the Bible's ~370 references to light (contrasting 220+ mentions of darkness), 13 are in the very first chapter.

Light is the Creator's first work.

Light drives back darkness with no more than light's existence.

"The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness."
~ Luke 11:34 (NKJV)

The oil used by lamps for light is also used for healing, anointing, and to show favor.

The Oxford Dictionary's entry for "light" includes this sub-entry:
SEE THE LIGHT : 2 undergo religious conversion

"Light" is a word stemming from Old English leōght, while "delight" has its origin in the Latin delectare for "to charm." Despite the lack of an etymological connection, I can't help but see a strong connection between the two.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
~ 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

In the above verse, the Greek word translated "marvelous" ("wonderful" in the NIV) is thaumastos, rooted in a verb describing the act of looking at something deliberately, intently, carefully, contemplatively, attentively—with admiration—in the effort to interpret it.

Another post on light is planned for Monday.

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – buildingHisbody [plus]
Copyright 2011, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.