A Poem

I share this poem with you to allow you into a struggle of mine, as well as, Lord-willing, provide encouragement to you if you share this struggle.

I’m praying it’s impactful for you. Not because I’m a killer poet (I am not–this is the first poem I’ve ever written), but because Jesus is King and He’s gracious to us.

 

Here I lie

My heart’s like granite

I don’t believe I’ve been granted–

Grace. Here I lie angry.

Why do I sin?

Self-inspection? Perfection. That’s what I seek.

I toil for strength when I’m asked to be weak.

“Meek” ? Jesus says…that’s not my M.O.

I’m haunted by pride, it’s a tireless ghost.

Where is grace?

I ignore it. I lose it in the labyrinth of thought.

Truth is lost, and my heart is the cost.

Lose sight of my King, lose everything.

Lose sight of the tree, diminish His decree.

“My grace is yours!” I hear Him yell from the wood.

But my back is to Him, distracted by “I should”

The King’s final cry, can it turn me around?

In “It is finished!” is there grace to be found?

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A Letter to Pride

Pride,

I will not believe your lies. Let’s establish that immediately. You are not my King and you hold no actual power. Now, let’s begin.

You, who tries to coax me to make the treacherous climb to the throne and attempt to sit on it…I deny you.

You, who whispers in my ear that I’m entitled to anything…be silent. All that I have is bound up in my actual King. I am entitled to death. He (yes, Him) asks me to die each day.

Pride, you’re fake. At face value, you offer a crown and scepter. But I know your tricks. The King’s items are not yours to offer. He is, as we speak, wearing the crown and holding the scepter.

Pride, you present yourself as the right choice. You’re appealing. I would lie if I denied that. You want, above all, to give me glory. We’re at odds, though. As much as my bones cry out for glory, the Life within me glorifies the One who deserves it.

Life wins. The King, Jesus, defeated death, making life the winner.

Pride, you lose to Life. You’re dead, yet I will not cease to kill you.

I know your schemes. I know that when I try and kill you, you’ll tell me that I can accomplish it on my own. Ironic, no? In trying to kill you, you’ll try to convince me to bring you back to life by killing you with my own power.

The 44th Psalm says it well when it says that “Not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but [His] right hand and [His] arm…”

Pride, you appeal to my Self. My Self is part of me. I await the day when my Self is destroyed. I await the day when I embrace my King and you, Pride, are eliminated.

Pride, I’ve chosen you too many times. The battle is not over yet. You have not won. I won’t relent. I’m coming after you with militancy.

Help me, my King, to kill Pride.

Held Back

Our main character’s life is spent on a mission. His work ethic is second to none. His pain tolerance is incredibly high. Physically, few things can phase him. His enemies thrashed him, and he didn’t break. His friends turned on him and he was reduced to a pulp. At times, even his best friend would not have been able to recognize him. His face has been bloody, and his body beaten and bruised. He goes without sleep for many nights. At times, because of his mission, he does not even have a place to rest. He’s exposed to the elements. Shelter is not a luxury that this man can often afford. The same goes for food. He can’t afford to eat often, because he’s either busy, poor or afflicted.

This man’s suffering is not just physical. Anxiety eats at him. His mission is of such importance, that he can’t help but be anxious. The mental strain of what he does is his true suffering. If he can sleep, every day when he awakens, he’s drained. He feels empty. He has to remind himself why he’s doing what he’s doing. Some days, he’s unsure if he can go on.

In those moments, he remembers that the man who gave him his mission gave him an incredibly high calling. He trusted our main character with much, and so much was expected of him. Our character knew that this other man’s life’s mission was similar to his. He believed in the mission. He knew that, even if he died, if the mission was being furthered, he would not die in vain. Why else would he suffer as he has?

Let’s join our main character. He’s in a place he’s visited several times. He’s in the enemy’s territory. There are people in this place that hate him. They hate him so much that they want to kill him. But the source of their hatred is in his mission. They hate what he’s doing. As a direct result of what he’s doing, these people are losing money. And they really, really like money.

Our character’s invested in this place, and specifically in these people. He’s accomplished part of his mission here. He cares about this place. He loves these people, even. His mission demands it. He must be with them.

Although he’s in the enemy’s territory, our character is seeing success in his mission. Until one day.

One day, the enemies that have lost money have enough. These men gather together, and incite chaos. They want the place they are in to feel their rage.

So they begin to run the streets, and unite these people by appealing to their civic pride. They begin to cry to everyone who will listen that our main character’s mission should be ceased. The people join. They’re on board. They’re not sure why, but they are on board.

They say, “I’m not sure what we’re doing, but let’s do it! Down with this man’s mission!”

As the people gather, they assemble together in a type of amphitheater. It’s the closest and most easily accessible gathering place. There’s a tunnel that leads into this amphitheater, where the droves of mindless people pour into to take their seats and listen to these enemies of our character.

After they’ve all gathered, the enemies begin to speak.

Our main character and several of his trusted colleagues hear the commotion, and come running.

Our character stands outside the amphitheater and hears the yelling. He knows that what’s happening isn’t good, but he isn’t sure to what degree, yet.

He reaches the end of the tunnel leading into the amphitheater, and listens intently.

He hears his enemy yell, “We need to refocus! We’ve allowed this man’s mission to take root here, and it’s ruining us! His mission has no worth! We must end his mission!”

Emotion hits our character like a battering ram. Tears fill his eyes and anger fills his entire body. He must enter this theater and end this. His mission is not worthless. He didn’t care about being thrashed again. He didn’t care about dying.

The apostle Paul could not allow the name of Jesus to be called worthless.

Paul’s muscles flex as adrenaline flows into his arms and legs, and he resorts to end this.

His disciples see this. They reach out and grab his arms, restraining him.

“LET ME GO!” Paul bellows, through flowing tears.

“Your mission! Think about the implications! God isn’t done with you. You know your calling. This isn’t the place to die, Paul!”

Anger flows through Paul. Not with the people. No, he knew that they hated his King. They didn’t know what they were doing. He longed for them to know his Savior.

He hated what was happening. He had suffered for this. He had almost died for this. He was thrashed for this. Flogged, stoned, and beaten for this. He bled, sweat, and cried for this.

His mission was too important. It couldn’t be shamed.

“Remember your calling, Paul.” His disciples said, “Remember what God’s told you to do. You know you aren’t supposed to die here.”

Wet-faced and with rage flowing through him, Paul remembered. He knew they were right. He knew how human he was. He knew that this reaction was emotional. He knew that his calling was more than just emotions.

He waited for the riot to end. He listened to the lies and the spoutings of his enemies. And he prayed. He prayed that the gospel, his mission, would take root. And that these enemies would know his King.

God wasn’t done with Paul yet.

—-

Acts 19:21-41

Screens

My pastor told me and a group of my peers once, “We’re a generation of people that look down.” He was addressing the use of cell phones.

That’s stuck with me. There are passages of Scripture that talk about looking up at the Lord.

Psalm 121:1: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from?”

Isaiah 40 details God’s creation, and the beauty of it. More than that, it’s rich with God’s power in His creation.

Isaiah 40:25 says, “‘To whom then will you compare Me, that I should be like him?’ says the Holy One.”

Verse 26 then reads, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power, not one is missing.” 

These ideas come from my pastor. And, please understand, I’m not arguing that there is Scriptural support that cell phones or looking at screens is sinful. These verses, of course, have their place contextually and historically. What I do see, however, is the truth that there is benefit to “looking up”.

I’ve been chewing on this idea for a while. While chewing, I’ve been observing. I watch people. A lot. Like, a whole lot. And what I see is a nation of people that look at screens. The U.S., in particular, spends an enormous amount of time looking at screens. I had a conversation with a friend who told me that during a trip to England, he noticed that English people don’t spend as much time on their phones. Specifically, they don’t walk from place to place with their cell phones out.

Obviously, I can’t sit here and write that all nations outside of America are not looking at their cell phones, or other devices. This is one example. My point is that in solely observing what is happening around me, and around others, I see a nation of people who love screens.

We have to have screens, though. That’s a given. I wouldn’t be writing this if I wasn’t sitting behind a screen. Computers, tablets, and cell phones are all tools. Virtually every workplace will require people to sit behind a screen of some sort.

Here is the reason why I am writing this post:

There is so much world to see. And there are so many experiences to be had. There are adventures everywhere. God has made a beautiful world. He’s made it for people to enjoy. Whether it’s a relationship or a river, a Bible study or a bluff, the Creator has a masterpiece that’s sitting in front of us.

I decided a year or so ago to delete major social media apps, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, off of my phone. It was a personal conviction. I spent too much time on those apps. After this, I began to slowly “wean” myself off of other devices, too. I decided to sell my PS4, and sold it an hour after I decided to do so. My “screen time” declined even more with that decision. And, please, don’t read this as “Karsten thinks he’s so great because he’s stopped using devices.” That isn’t it. These are just decisions that I decided to make, based on my own convictions.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that since I have given up “screen time,” I have “detoxed,” if you will. I have begun to see that so many people are seemingly ensnared with their cell phones. And if not their cell phones, then Netflix. And if not Netflix, then Call of Duty.

We’re a nation of people who love screens.

And loving screens so easily means missing out.

I implore you…

Look up. Look at the world. Behold His beauty in all things. God has weaved His character into creation.

I’m not asking anyone, or expecting anyone, to destroy their cell phone, or sell their sleek 65 inch flat screen. Use the technology and tools available to you. I do! I am as I write this!

But go on an adventure. Put the phone in your pocket (on Do Not Disturb, of course) and look at the magnificent world that God’s created. Engage with the people around you while you’re in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Go on a hike, and take in the breathtaking views of things He’s crafted. Get coffee with someone, and listen intently to the person, the soul, sitting across from you.

“Lift up your eyes”

Justice, Kindness, Humility

If you haven’t read the book of Micah, you’re missing out. The book of Micah is a book about the sins of Israel, and the indictment (formal charge of a crime, which in this case is sin) of the Lord. Micah then progresses into the revelation of a Shepherd-King, who redeems and shepherds His people. Read this book. Seriously. I promise you won’t regret it.

Before the passage below, Micah has, as a mouthpiece of the Lord, just begun speaking the indictment of the people. God is reminding His people that He “brought them up from the land of Egypt and redeemed them from the house of slavery” (6:4).

He then essentially provides a “moment of response” for the people. Micah 6:6 and 7 are questions being asked by the people. And verse 8 is Micah’s Spirit-led, God-given response.

Micah 6:6-8

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
 Will the Lord be pleased with  thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
 He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, 
    and to walk humbly with your God?

After knowing their own sin (before God has even really mentioned it…the real weight of it follows this passage) and God reminding them of His goodness to them, they’re like, “Shoot. Well what can we do?”

They begin to think that they can do something or offer something to God in order to please Him. When faced with sin, their response is, “Alright, I’m gonna fix this.”

The church today does this exact thing. We may not say “Hey, guys, I can’t make bowling tonight. I’m gonna try to sacrifice thousands of rams to please God because I sinned.”

But we do offer Him things. I have. I’ve told God before, as if I have the ability to bargain for my sin, that I will sacrifice something that I love or give up a certain part of my life in order to appease Him, because I knew that a different area of my life was lacking. “God, I’ll give you my mornings and evening in quiet time, because I know that I’m choosing sin in trying to gain the approval of man.”

This whole concept makes me think of the scene in some movies when a person says, “If I live, God, I swear I’ll ______ (fill in the blank).” When faced with death, or in this passage’s case, sin, people try and offer things to God. Maybe if we can give Him something or provide something, He’ll spare us. Or He will even go one step ahead of that and extend grace.

Verse 8 destroys this entire concept.

What do we do? What does God require of us? “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Let’s begin with justice. The ESV Study Bible helped immensely in understanding what justice means, here. Isaiah 42:1 also talks about justice, and the meaning of justice in both that passage and this passage in Micah is “fulfilling mutual obligations in a manner consistent with God’s moral law” (ESV SB). In other words, if justice were enacted perfectly by humans, then whichever society that happened in would be perfected. It would be a utopia. The “Holy Grail” of so many schools of thought. If humans could just get ______, the world would be a utopia. Clearly, that has never happened.

It will, though. Jesus is the only hope for what we would consider “utopia.” Granted, it isn’t the utopia that so many people want. But Jesus provides hope. He’s coming back, to unite Himself with His bride, the church, and give us eternity in His presence. It is an “already, not yet” circumstance. Already we are “united with Him in a death like His, so we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:5).

Therefore, “justice”, or fulfilling the obligations we have according to God’s perfect holiness, is through Jesus. What can we offer Him? What can a human do to atone for his or her sins? Nothing. In the Messiah there is perfect justice.

So, in Micah, when it says “do justice,” it’s more so saying, “know Jesus,” because Jesus is the only hope for justice being fulfilled.

Next, the passage says “love kindness”.

The word “kindness” can also be translated to mean “steadfast love.” So, “love steadfast love”.

1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Once more, the subject is the Lord Himself. Do justice by knowing Jesus, because He is the only hope for justice, and love steadfast love, which is God. Know God and love God.

Then, “walking humbly with your God” is the gathering of these two things together. It’s almost as if this is summarizing the first two points. Humility is necessary to know God and love God. You won’t care to know Him or love Him unless you’re walking humbly with Him.

What’s our response to sin? When we clearly see God’s indictment against us, and know our sin, what’s the Christian’s response?

“Know God, love God, and humble yourself before Him”

He’s given us the freedom to do these things. Each day, we have the opportunity to bend the knee and submit to a justice-fulfilling, steadfastly loving, and supremely powerful God.

Humility

I promise I will follow up on “Crucified”. There are pressing topics I want to write about, though.

Humility, for example.

I’ve been studying about humility. And I’ve noticed a pattern in the Scriptures.

Humility almost always goes hand in hand with brokenness, or contriteness (which simply means feeling or expressing remorse or penitence).

See these passages, for example:

Isaiah 66:2: “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Self-explanatory)

Psalm 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (David’s entire prayer in this psalm drip with humility. He’s reached the end of himself, and is humbled before God).

Now, it’s this passage that God’s really used to speak to my heart.

Luke 18:9-14: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The man who was broken before God, and almost not even capable of forming words, is used in this parable to show humility. Humility and brokenness happen simultaneously.
To say it simply, humility means seeing one’s sinfulness clearly as what it is, knowing it’s sin, being broken by it, and understanding that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).
It is seeing the smallness of self and the greatness of God. What’s the opposite of humility? Pride. What’s the root of pride? It’s seeing oneself as God, or as higher than God. Pride likes to call the shots. Pride likes to ignore sin.
The Pharisee from the parable above was prideful. He was self-righteous. He was bragging to God, telling God about all the things that he had done. And he thought that his good deeds were better than the tax collector, who was beating his breast (symbolic, by the way, of contriteness) and broken completely before God because he saw his sin.
God gives the gift of humility to those who are saved. If you follow Jesus, you are completely capable of repentance. You’ve been given that ability. You can be broken. And brokenness is beautiful. Humility is beautiful.
And humility before God precedes humility before people. You’ll place yourself higher than others unless you’ve placed yourself lower than God. Simply seeing Him is enough to humble you.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served (pride) but to serve (humility), and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Satisfaction

I’ll follow up on “Crucified” soon.

First, read this:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, put first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

Oh, God, be my everything, be my delight
Be, Jesus, my glory, my soul’s satisfied.

My Jesus, you satisfy.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

– “Be Thou My Vision” by Ascend the Hill

What if followers of Jesus literally were satisfied first by Jesus? What if the living, resurrected King Jesus was what brought satisfaction to His kids? To us?

I’m writing this at a time in my life where I want something, but the wisest path for me to take is to not have it. I feel like I’m a toddler screaming at his parent “But I want it now!”

I just want what I want. I keep returning to the idea in my head of a battle between spirit and flesh. “Pray…for the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) As I’m sitting writing this, I feel my spirit (intertwined with His) saying, “Yes, this is right” and my flesh is screaming “No! You should get what you want.”

You, as a reader, may be reading this with a similar feeling. Or, you may be lacking satisfaction as a general principle.

The most beautiful lines from the above song are highlighted. “Oh God, be my everything, be my delight. Be, Jesus, my glory, my soul’s satisfied.”

Humans live every second of every minute of every hour of every day desiring something. People live their entire lives seeking money, or sex, or relationships, or good looks, or whatever, in order to find what they’re looking for. It’s the human condition.

What if you, Christ-follower, found satisfaction in our Jesus?

“My Jesus, you satisfy.”

What if you and I were able to let go of the things we want to satisfy us? Whether it’s something we don’t have and want, like my season of life currently, or whether it’s something that you are indulging in that gives you momentary and false satisfaction.

Jesus satisfies. End of story. That’s all there is. He is all there is.

Our cry can be, “Be, Jesus, my glory…my soul is satisfied.