Be Near

Come, God of all the universe on high.
Bend low and hear your servant’s humble cry.
Come, now, down off your glorious throne and stoop
As your dear, finite flower’s petals droop
And all but wilt completely, longing just
To taste life’s spring instead of ash and dust.
Come, Lord, my Maker, Father, turn this way;
Draw near that your full presence may display
Its glorious breadth upon my aching soul
And utterly consume its wanting whole.
Relieve your right hand’s duty to the stars
That you may rest it on this empty jar
Of earthen clay and fill it with your light.
Come near and be my lamp amid my night.

You only fill this longing deep in me.
Were earth’s wide depths and heights of mountains, sea,
Offered to quench my hunger for true peace,
All would fall short—yea, longings would increase!
Come, Shepherd, Jesus, spread your mantle wide
Across this curved and shivering back and hide
Your lamb securely in your shadow’s keep,
Where he might feel you close and know sure sleep.
It’s there he finds his heart’s most craved desire—
To be consumed in your sweet Spirit’s fire.

The Lost Art of Forgiveness

Out of all the things Jesus could have included when teaching his disciples how to pray, one of them was “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Yet, I admit I don’t pray that part of the Lord’s prayer as often as I should. And I would say I probably actively forgive those who have trespassed against me even less. Asking and granting forgiveness is a lost art in our culture today. However, especially among Christians, this shouldn’t be.

Our forgiveness of one another on a human level is rooted in the forgiveness we have received from God. We forgive others because we are forgiven. That was the entire point of the parable Jesus told of the king who forgave his servant a debt of 10,000 talents. In that parable, a servant was brought before his king who owed him the equivalent of billions of dollars. In short, it was a debt that he, a lowly slave, could in no way repay, not in a thousand lifetimes. The king decides to sell him, his wife, and his children. In a desperate last attempt, the servant begs for mercy. “Out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). Don’t pass that by too quickly. The king just forgave a billion dollar debt “out of pity.”

I don’t think I would be spoiling the ending too much to pause right here and point out that God’s the king, and we’re the servant. Every last one of us has an incalculable, unrepayable debt against the God of the universe. We’ve spit in the Holy One’s face by blatantly rebelling against his righteous laws. Everyone has turned his own way. No one seeks after God like he ought. And yet, God forgives sinners. Through Jesus’ work on the cross, hopelessly indebted rebels can find complete pardon (read more about that here).

Back to the parable: So the servant leaves his master’s presence, fully forgiven his debt, and who do you think he bumps into? A fellow servant who owes him a hundred denarii. One denarius was the equivalent to one day’s wages of a common worker. That is, this man owed the servant a hundred day’s wages. This is no small amount. How much do you make in 100 days? For a person who earns $10.00 an hour and works eight hours a day, we’re talking about $8,000. This is no small amount. This is a sizable debt that, if someone owed that much to me, I’d want repaid like yesterday.

Upon seeing the man who owed him eight grand, the servant demanded that he repay his debt. This guy, too, begged for mercy, and the servant refused. In fact, he threw the guy in jail until he should repay the amount.

Well, word spread quickly of the servant’s actions, and the king ended up hearing about it. The king called the servant before him and reprimanded him for not forgiving his fellow servant as the king had forgiven him. Remember, the point is not that the servant wouldn’t forgive the man a small amount when the king had forgiven him such a large amount. Eight thousand dollars is a large amount! The other guy was in serious financial straits here due to his debt. The point of this parable is found in the comparison between the two amounts. The king forgave the servant a nearly incalculable debt that the servant could never repay even if he wanted. This other guy, on the other hand, while he did owe a substantial amount, perhaps could have actually repaid the servant in time.

The point of the parable? We forgive others their very serious trespasses against us because God has forgiven us our infinite trespass against him. Our forgiveness of others is rooted in God’s forgiveness of us. I don’t mean to make it sound like this is easy. Eight thousand dollars is a lot of money! If you need some help in forgiving others, spend some time thinking over the extent of the debt that has been forgiven you. Though the person who wronged you may have really hurt you deeply, God has forgiven you wrongs that you’ve done against him that are infinitely more grievous. And as children of our Father, we should look and act like him.

In these past few weeks, I’ve repented of (that is, I’ve turned away from) some very specific sins in my life and have actively sought God’s forgiveness for those things. Then I’ve basked in the glory to know that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). I’ve accepted the forgiveness that he so freely grants. In light of that, it’s been easier to offer grace to those who have done to me what I consider to be serious wrong. It’s not that the other person hasn’t serious hurt me. It’s simply that in light of the infinite debt that I’ve been forgiven, somehow I’m less inclined to demand full repayment of lesser debts from others.

Living this way is incredibly liberating. It will liberate you from pride, from bitterness, and from a desire for revenge. It destroys barriers that we’ve built between ourselves and other people. You see other people in a new light. You see them in the light of their need for compassion instead of in the light of their indebtedness to you. God forgives; therefore, I forgive.

Forgiveness is a beautiful art that I, many times, forget to practice. It’s certainly been lost in our society today. Nonetheless, isn’t that part of our calling as Christians—to be salt in a tasteless world? What transformation could you start in motion by forgiving others as you have been forgiven? And what more powerful testimony to the greatness of God’s grace could a lost person ask to see? Your forgiveness of others bears witness to the greatness of your God who has forgiven you. There is no God like our God, and your forgiveness of others is proof positive. Grace and peace to you as you forgive like you’ve been forgiven.

It is Enough

It is enough. I am alive.
I feel God’s earth beneath my feet
And from the sun his light and heat.
Though my libs wilt and can’t derive
The strength to stand, I am alive.
Such true and lofty thoughts defeat
Mere circumstances hard or sweet.
Though foes in pride succeed and thrive,
I am content to be alive.
For life is proof that God, replete
With sovereign joy, extends complete
Love always. Praise him. I’m alive.

© 2012 Eric Evans

Now Stand

God fells a tree to forest’s floor
that fainting fledglings might see sun.
God raises rotting roots to plant
resistant, righteous ones that that grow
deep down, resisting fiercest rain.
God breaks a man that he might build
him better than he was before.

Great God, and now you bid me stand?
How can you bid me stand in strength
when you in sweetest sovereignty
secured my swift and sure demise
and devastated my whole world?
Is this some kind of hateful joke?
Am I to stand up tall or die?

The tree falls for the fledgling’s sake,
and rot is rooted up for life.
It seems, then, God has broken me
that I might be rebuilt to stand,
for standing is impossible
with malformed legs that can’t hold weight.
Now wrecked and built anew, they stand.

© 2011 Eric Evans

Oh, Those Things I Do

Why do I do what I do? Ever asked yourself that? Why do I keep such a close guard on every word I say and how I come across in every situation? Why does my heart race whenever I begin to suspect I didn’t come across as I intended? From where does such behavior stem?

It is both gloriously liberating and dreadfully devastating to hear what James 4:1 has to say about the matter. With piercing clarity, James states, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights [outward behavior] among you? Is it not this, that your passions [desires, wants, longings] are at war within you?” Ouch. Turns out I do what I do because of the desires of my heart. In other words, my actions are a direct reflection of what I want deep down.

Ever wanted to change yourself in some way? You’re going to have to go deeper than you might have realized. You’re going to have to change what you want. I’d really like to stop feeling an adrenaline rush every time I think someone has had a bad impression of me. Looks like I need to stop wanting that person’s approval so much.

But how do I change what I want? I mean, really? Who is able to consciously decide to stop liking chocolate or pepperoni pizza? Desires you want to do away with are best changed not by uprooting the unwanted desire merely. Although you’ve got to do that. The best way to rework your heart’s cravings is to replace those cravings with higher desires. Using our example, if a person wanted to stop liking pizza, perhaps the best way to do so is to replace that desire with an even greater desire, like the desire to lose weight, for example. Until a person’s craving for pizza is replaced with something greater, behavior is not likely to change.

If deep down I crave for people to like me, the best way to change that yearning is to replace it with a greater desire, say, my desire for God to like me. And in Jesus, I’ve got that. (Does God like you?)

Wait, why was I worried about another person’s opinion of me?

But what do you do if that so-called “greater desire” just doesn’t do it for you? Pizza may look so much better than a smaller jean size. You, my friend, need new eyes to see. You want what you want because you honestly perceive the desires of your heart to be good for you. You think they’ll satisfy. A person wants pizza more than he wants to lose weight because he perceives the pizza as more satisfying than weight loss. I want people’s praise because I value that above the acceptance of my God. What in the world do I do now?

We are not without hope, for God is in the business of giving new sight to the blind. He alone can change what we perceive as good which affects what we want which results in a change in our behavior.

Need new eyes? God draws near to those who draw near to him. He promises he will hear his own. Happy desire refining.

“What Suits?” or “What Saves?”

I was skimming through a TIME Magazine article the other day and was struck by a graphic that compared the various views of heaven that several major world religions hold.  That’s when a thought struck me.  I wondered if that’s not how many people decide their religious beliefsbuffet style.  That is, I asked myself if many people today don’t choose a belief (or an entire religion for that matter) merely based on how it stacks up when compared with another one.  Whichever belief suits the prospective believer best wins, as if all the various beliefs of all the world’s religions were laid out on a buffet line to be looked over and chosen only if the hungry seeker deemed them palatable.  And even closer to home: Do I do that?

That’s not really a good way to go about it, to be honestchoosing your religious beliefs (or even your entire religion) that way, I mean.  It shouldn’t be as much about what suits me.  My main concern should be centered on what saves me.  It’s not a matter of which belief appeals to me the best.  What should interest me most is whether or not the belief under consideration is true.  After all, I’m a firm believer in the fact that I don’t determine reality.  Simply because I believe something does not make it true.  It follows from that conviction, then, that determining whether or a particular religious belief is true is much more important than whether or not I like the idea.

How do I determine truth?  I seek my shepherd’s voice.  What does Jesus have to say about a particular belief?  What words from God’s written word—the Bible—is Jesus speaking to me about the matter at hand?  That may not be a satisfactory answer for many, but for me, that thought fills me with indescribable peace.  I think it’s because I trust the good shepherd so much.  I’m sure that when he says his sheep hear his voice (present tense, indicating an ongoing reality—something that’s true right now), I, his sheep, will in fact be able to discern his voice and know his will, and in that way, he will lead me to truth.  And even when his voice does not give me the specific response I would like, he’s still so trustworthy that I’ll humble myself and wait for all to be revealed the day I stand before him face to face.

So how about you?  How do you decide what you believe?  Leave me a reply.  I’d love to hear from you.