Life is Vapor: Finding Consistency in a Fleeting Life

Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto

Hi.
It’s been a while since I last wrote to you, my dear readers. Whether you are reading this on Facebook or on www.sixsteps.org, I have been praying for you even if I have not written to you. I have been taking it easy this Christmas holiday at home in Toronto, not doing to much or getting too busy, but rather taking time to reflect, recharge, and recuperate from the past three months.  Since I last wrote to you on December 5th, nothing much has changed.  I wish I could tell you that things are much better, but I’ve come to know well that this life of sanctification is quite the process!  I’ve been reading a lot (well, not as much as I should be actually), praying, journaling, and praying.  And in all this, I have been reminded of a simple truth:

13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

–James 4:13-17, NASB

Life is vapor.

We may be here for a little while, and then we are gone — that is how short life is.  We cannot boast about our plans for our lives, for God only knows what will really happen, and it is God who truly has sovereign control over the direction of our lives.  James’ words are true today as it was two thousand years ago — no one knows what life will be like tomorrow.  As fleeting as human emotions that fluctuate from moment to moment, day to day, so also are the plans we make for our lives. Continue reading

Moleskine is my Best Friend

Journaling has always been relatively an easy discipline for me. I am a blogger, and have been since 2005. These days, I consider blogging a spiritual discipline for me, to put into the world wide web my personal spiritual reflections on the interpretation of Scripture and on theological issues. This is fairly natural to me, but still I feel like there’s an elephant in the room if I have not written anything substantial to journal/blog about after three days or so. It is just so a part of my spiritual life that to not do it means I’m not reflecting biblically about the things that go on in my life and in the world, or that I’m not applying what I’ve read in God’s word to my life. Thus, all things considered, being in Personal Spiritual Disciplines has fueled my blogging even more, for it meant that I can get some academic credit for my writing! Yay=D

On a more serious note, I have become more and more disciplined in journaling – on paper, in my moleskine notebook — every other day, if not daily. Before, I really need a heavy heart issue or a significant “emotional” problem in my life in order to write anything substantial, but these days, putting pen to paper is so much easier and inviting, as I have began to jot down my prayers and reflections on the Psalm of the Day. Instead of just praying things to God by voice, I am no writing them down and recording them for future reflection and reminiscing. My thoughts and my prayers look so much different on paper than in my mind or compared to just praying them out loud. In terms of writing on paper, it really forces me to slow down my thought process and analyze what I am specifically thinking and wanting to say. Again, having my prayers in a paper journal has given me the chance to say things to God that sometimes I don’t feel comfortable verbalizing, and things that I want to write down so that I can have a recorded history of it. I guess, I do that in part because I really want to know that God can and will answer that prayer. So far, I haven’t had any check-offs for some of the big items I’ve journaled down… but I’m crossing my fingers and praying daily to God about it all.

Beside myself, I have tried really hard to encourage a fellow student here to start journaling. He is trying to get into the PhD program here at Southern and is a former pastor in his mid-40s. He says he hates journaling and that his writing is a mess, but after my months of prodding and nagging, encouragements and exhortations about the benefits of recording his prayers and answers to those prayers… he finally gave in and told me a couple weeks ago that he started journaling. I’ll need to check up with him again soon to see how regular of an occurrence it is, but I’m glad I was able to get him to start working on a spiritual discipline that has been a tool that many great church fathers have used in ages past!

What a Wonderful God

To the grief stricken: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).

To the guilt ridden: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

To the jobless: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28).

To those who feel beyond God’s grace: “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

What a wonderful God we have — he is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does he do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

Embracing the Thorn

Yesterday was quite a special Sunday at my church here in Louisville (Immanuel Baptist). We had a brother get baptized (by FULL immersion) and 14 people got voted in to be church members. What added to this glorious Sunday was the ordination and laying on of hands of 3 godly men to the office of Elder (Pastor). You see, Immanuel has been growing a lot recently and thus there has been a growing need for more shepherds to care for us flock. There were previously 3 Elders/Pastors, and now with 3 more, we are now graced with double the amount of plurality in the elder board. I’m very excited to see what God would do through Immanuel for the local community around our church, which is in the “hood” (fairly low in terms of socio-economic levels). And hopefully with this addition of elders, the membership application process can be a bit quicker!

Our Discipleship Pastor, Jeff King, spoke for the Ordination service from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. It was the first time in a long time for me to hear a full exposition on this passage concerning humility. Pastor King reminded us of 3 things: that the origin of humility is God who gives it to Paul as a gift through a thorn in his flesh; the aim of the humility was to show Paul the sufficiency of God’s grace; and the impact of humility was to magnify God’s power in that weakness.

Humility –> Intimate fellowship with God –> Power in weakness

Thus, the place of most spiritual power is in humility through weakness.

During Sunday’s sermon, I tried harder to seek the Spirit to apply the message to my own life. Being a theological geek, I usually take scribbled notes in my Moleskine. And instead of concentrating on what the passage means to me personally, I have often in the past simply sought to understand what the text means in the original context in which it was written. I’ve noticed that in the past, I have concentrated less on how God is speaking to me directly, and only learning about the Scriptures for a mainly academic/theological purpose. I was recently reminded through an older seminarian about the need to apply the text wholly to myself — and listen to the voice of God speak to me, to truly hear what God wants to teach me.
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Get Out. Now!

Deceitful richesIn Mark 4:18-19, Jesus is in the middle of explaining the Parable of the Sower and narrows in on the seeds that are sown among the thorns. “They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

What I realized as I studied this passage in the cafe was how much this is representative of those in our churches, and especially the young women. During my quiet studying, a bunch of girls passed by the Founders Cafe and I overheard one of them saying something along the lines of, “It sucks so bad that I don’t have the money right now to go shopping.” (Do I need to mention that this happened on the campus of Southern Seminary?)
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Convicted of Sin, Convinced of Grace

A prayer and reflection on Psalm 38

O LORD my Lord,
You are majestic in all the earth!

It has been a long while since I have last written and you know well of the reasons of such distance. “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.” Your word at times like these have seemed so far from me, so distant from my heart. And as such, I have felt that great chasm of space that is between us; it has been a lonely place to be so far away from my God and my Savior.

Like David said, my iniquities are way over my head and have consumed me. The evil one of this age had temporarily succeeded in condemning me of my guilt and shame. Yet it is true, that I am guilty as charged — and I experience the appropriate shame for my actions. The cause and effects of transgressing against you are clear and undeniable; a place I do not ever want to be again.
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Soul Awaiting in Silence

A prayer and reflection on Psalm 62

LORD my Lord,
You are my rock and my salvation, the God in whom I trust, my help in times of need. Though the world around me should shake and crumble, you are my fortress and my dwelling place! My body and my soul shall not be shaken, for I take refuge in you my Lord and Savior.

My heart and my soul waits for you in silence, and in you alone I wait for an answer — for a sign, a signal — for your hand to work wonders in my life. I trust you, Lord, with my life: my studies and my devotions, my career and my ministry, my health and my finances, my friendships and relationships. There is nothing in this world that I don’t have faith in you for, because I know that you have the whole world in your hands; you have my life planned to the utmost abundance of goodness!
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