Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I've been in the lab for approximately 36+ hours for the past four days. No, you did not read that number incorrectly. CSE 141 Lab, project 3 ... its approaching the final stretch.

The progress we've made in the past day has been quite significant ... I honestly do not think I could have made it this far without God's grace. People might just say that we got lucky, or we persevered and figured it out. No...this was by God's grace we got this far. You gotta understand that debugging this project is very much looking for a needle in a haystack. I can't even count the number of times where I heaved a sigh, walked out of the lab room, and prayed all the way to the bathroom, prayed outside getting fresh air, prayed walking back in. And soon after we would iron out one bug after the other. Its been slow and steady progress ... I praise God because he's caused this to work for the good. Several times I thought of just random things to try that worked out successfully ... today, a friend suggested a solution to a huge problem that we were having. Lo and behold, the suggestion worked perfectly. We saved at least 4-5 hours there.

I dunno, most people would be content to say that they got lucky or fortunat ... I personally find it much more plausible that I recieved divine help than the fact that we just "happened" upon the solution.

Anyway, its been physically draining past couple of days ... I'm thankful these times in life because even though its a lot of work, the pace of life is definitely slowed down. I don't make appointments or run from place to place ... I just chill in the lab to get as much of the project completed as possible. Inevitably, there has been ample time to think and process ...

Something that has been on my mind recently, is the prevalence of human weakness ... and how that is actually what God desires to work with.

Yeah, obvious enough right?

Haha, I dunno ... something that I've realized about myself is that I'm constantly fighting in my mind ... the "what is" in conflict with "what should be." If you've read my blog, you know that I often criticize followers of Jesus Christ for the "what is," how we have fallen short ... and to believe and strive for the "what should be."

I can't stand weakness ... whenever I approach God, the thing I am most aware of are my own limitations, insecurities, fears, and failures. I tend to operate in a performance-oriented Christianity. Somewhere in my heart, I have been led to believe that if I don't "perform," that God somehow is displeased ... and things aren't going good unless I'm hitting all cyclinders in what a Christian ought to do. Very much similar to how we may view our relationships with our boss at work, our friends perhaps, and often our parents.

But this is clearly not consistent with the fact that God's love is unconditional; it is not dependent on what I do. He doesn't love me anymore if I led 6 million souls to heaven, than if I lead 0. He doesn't love me anymore if I am able to do my devotions every day of the week, if I'm nice to everybody I meet, or even *gasp* if I pray daily.

It is a difficult concept for my mind to really wrap around, that God actually doesn't love me anymore (or less than) than the murderer on death row or Billy Graham. Mike Bickle writes in The Pleasures of Loving God, that we are all God's favorites ... how is this possible? It blows the mind ...

I think the one of the most mind-blowing things about being a Christian is that God doesn't work the way we do. I've heard this so many times, and in my mind ... I understand it to be false and yet ... my actions tend to reflect the belief that God's just chilling up there in heaven and shaking his head in disproval as I go through life. And something I've realized is that God actually LIKES working through me in my weakness. The verse:

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." -- 2 Cor. 12:9-10

has only just started been unveiled in my life. It staggers my mind when I realize that God really doesn't need us, yet he chooses to work almost exclusively through weak human vessels. Moreover, God doesn't need my talents ... he is more glorified in my weaknesses than in my strengths! So why is that I keep on acting like "when I get my act together," God will finally start using me?

A group of us at UCSD have been praying every Friday night almost without ceasing (I think we only stopped during winter break), for a little over a year now. We started as a group of five us ... all of us desperate for more of God in our own lives and on this campus. Believe me when I say that who you surround yourself with significantly affects what you say and do ... even what you want. I have changed more in this past year and I could have ever imagined. Our little prayer group has now expanded into a little less "little group" of about 20. And there are another 70 which are on the way. Has it because of our accomplishments that suddenly we have enjoyed a four-fold increase?

There couldn't be anything further from the truth.

The greatest growth you will ever experience in your life will come from the greatest pains, frustrations, and struggles. The growth that the five us have experienced has been wrought from intense struggles between the flesh and spirit. It was pretty awkward, dirty, and nasty ladies and gentlemen. God apparently loves to do his work in the dirty stables in tiny insignificant places like Bethlehem.

I find myself here, in light of all the blessings and growth of the past year ... I find myself with such an increased awareness of my own limitations in the presence of a living God. The past couple of weeks have seen our group engage in some discussions regarding how the group was going to be run. The prevailing feeling at the end of the meeting? We really don't have a clue of what we're doing.

Last week during prayer meeting I was totally rocked mentally ... struggling with fears, doubts, accusations, and temptations ... I don't know how I made it. I don't know what happened but somehow I ended up praying in the Spirit, ministering to others, and ministering to the heart of God. I didn't know what i was doing ... and if anything, I was not ABLE to do anything ... and yet God moved!

The list goes on, even this CS project is a testimony to God's faithfulness. You think I know what I'm doing around here? I don't. But God does ... so I throw myself at his mercy and grace every day as I remember to.

The point? I don't know where you folks are at. Maybe you're struggling with the piercing reality of your weaknesses ... In the Bible ... Peter struggled with the same thing. Jesus exhorts Peter in the garden ... "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Matthew 26:41) And we find Peter denying Christ three times shortly after. How often do we find ourselves in that position! We know temptation is coming, we know that there will be tests ... we tell ourselves ... must watch and pray ... must be vigilant. And BAM. We fall ... we miss the mark, we fall short. Perhaps we don't feel like we've denied Christ (perhaps we have) ... but we feel horrible. How could God possibly be happy with this?

Later on we see Jesus reinstating Peter:

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
17The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." 18
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!" -- John 21:15-19

I read a commentary from the same Mike Bickle book as mentioned above ... and he notes that Jesus isn't questioning Peter's heart. When Jesus asks a question ... he seldom is looking for our answer. The question is for our benefit. What we see here is Jesus showing Peter where his heart is ... in his heart of hearts ... Peter DOES love Jesus. Even in spite of that failure in denying Christ three times, Christ shows Peter that there is a difference between weakness and rebellion. We somehow get into this idea that OMG ... we must have "shocked" God back there when we failed to share the gospel, or we let a swear word slip out in a moment of frustration, or we fall into some other sin.

He is not surprised.

"13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you." -- Phil 3:13-15

If we are ever to progress in our faith, if we are ever to "be mature," ... we must remember this. We must forget the failures of the past ... we must even forget the successes of the past. Not to say that we shouldn't learn from the past ... but if our past begins to prevent us from moving into the future, we must give those things to God. He delights in us even in our weakness.

"I dare you to move, I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move, I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before"
-- Switchfoot

So dang it, don't let the enemy whisper you to the floor, motionless. Get up get up!

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