Teacher Seeking Approval

It was the middle of a Tuesday and I found myself picking the date for an announced observation for the following week. We settled on December 12th at 8:45 am. That score will play a big part in determining my LOE score that will tell, at a quick, convenient glance, what kind of teacher I am. It’s hard not to absorb identity from that number. It feels like approval or disapproval. It feels like someone has pronounced judgement on my worth as a teacher.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hurry, the pressures, and worries of this time in the semester, I forget that those things are not the sum of my life, or even the sum of my present circumstances. I have to stop and remind myself that this person’s approval may be pressing, that activity may be urgent, this work may be threatening to consume my time, but that is not all of my reality. The tyranny of the urgent will always be there, but there is always more. Everything in life- the good, the bad, and the in-between (including scores and observations, and human approval, praise, and judgement… and life outside of teaching) – all those things shape me, but they have no say in who I am now and what I have for eternity. God has that say:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do… Eph. 2:4-10

According to Ephesians 2, because Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came and brought me salvation by dying for my sin and rising again, this is my reality: I am loved by God with great love. I am God’s own handiwork, so I belong to him. I am created in Christ for good works, so the work is his, not mine. My future is not uncertain because God has prepared it in advance. God desires to show me the incomparable riches of his grace. He shows me great kindness in Christ. He gave me true life when I was dead in my own works and my own heart of hatred and defiance against him. As Paul tells the Ephesians to remember, I also remember that I was once without hope and without God in this world. I almost can’t bring myself to say those terrible, soul-shaking words aloud: without God in this world.

I need to remember that, so that I can remember this: because of God’s great gift – one I did nothing to deserve- I have received approval by the One from whom it matters most. And I am no longer without God in this world… or in eternity to come.

So, whatever comes today or the tomorrows that follow, as believers I hope this will always be among the first of our thoughts: I am no longer without God in this world. And may we remember all that that truth entails.

Whatever is pressing or clamoring for attention, he always has been, and always will be more. His is the approval that matters most, so that we can live in true joy and seek to please him as we walk in all the good works – at school and elsewhere- he has planned for us to do.

Prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Eph. 3:16-21

Rest for the Weary

The fountain wasn’t running that day. It didn’t even have water in it. Still people kept coming to the fountain. Some came alone; some came with a friend; some came as a family. They studied something written on the side of the fountain, as if soaking the words into their very bones.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

I watched them for a bit from my brother’s 3rd floor hospital room. I wondered how many of them were reading this as their first Bible verse and how many were reading precious words that were already imprinted on their hearts and minds. The people coming to the fountain were weary in body and spirit and, maybe, burdened in their soul, needing salvation — as we all do — not just from the soul-weariness of walking through the valley of Shadow, but salvation from their own soul-sickness of sin.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus’ invitation recorded in Matthew is said in the context of him telling us his ability to reveal the Father and the way to Him, meaning salvation from God’s judgement and forgiveness of sin.

He called his hearers to himself. He is calling the people at the fountain to himself. He is calling me to himself. He calls us to a relationship abiding in his love and forgiveness, where we can find rest for our souls. He doesn’t call us in the hope that we will do enough, but in hope of himself, who is God, who lived perfectly, died in our place, and rose to life again, securing forgiveness for all who repent and believe — works we could never do.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God, my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5

If Jesus can give us eternal rest for our souls, then he can give us the rest we need for day-to-day…

Are you weary of life? Christ will give you a new life and teach you to rejoice in Him always! Are you disappointed? Has the world given you a slap in the face where you looked for a kiss? Come to my Lord! He will give new hopes that shall never be disappointed, for he that believes in Him shall never be ashamed, world without end! Are you vexed with everybody and most all with yourself? Jesus can teach you to love and put you at your ease again. Does someone fret and tease you from day to day? Come to my Master and the vexations of the world shall gall you no longer. You shall reckon these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to you! — Charles H. Spurgeon, Rest for the Laboring, Oct. 22, 1876

Christ takes our burdens of sin, unbelief, vexation, unforgiveness, and disappointed hopes to give us His burden of faith, forgiveness, love, and lasting hope. Whatever temptations or difficulties come, His burden is light.

The LORD replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:!4

Rest for our hearts, our minds, our cares and worries, our doubts and fears, for our spirits and bodies, so that the same self-admonition awakens our hearts at hope of His provision in the morning and reflection of His provision in the evening:

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

Saturday Song: Counting Every Blessing

Count blessings instead of unknowns.

Persistent in thanksgiving instead of complaining.

Remember past grace instead of dwelling in uncertainty.

Rejoice in salvation instead of cultivating bitterness.

Counting Every Blessing by Rend Collective

September 11, the Weight of the World, and the Goodness of God

“For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened…” 2 Cor. 5:4

Sixteen years ago, I was getting ready for the day, when I heard news of the first plane flying into the twin towers. I watched in disbelief, frozen in front of the television, as the second plane struck. A terrible thought sank into the pit of my stomach. The towers are going to fall. I retreated to my bedroom and cried to God that the towers would not fall. But they did. And with them thousands of people.

I spent part of that afternoon at my neighbors’ house, a couple who had seen the Day of Infamy at Pearl Harbor. And here was their second day of infamy. So, we cried to God together. And in the days to come, our nation mourned under the weight of the shadow of death, under the veil that is cast over all the peoples. Even the stories of sacrifice and brotherhood could not lift the weight of the nation’s tragedy.

And yet, all these years later, we are still a people under oppressive weight. The weight of a fractured nation. Of divided denominations, churches, and families. The weight of natural disasters. The weight of our own pride and strained relationships. The weight of memories and regret. Of condemnation. Of sickness. Of starting over with nothing. Of death.

We carry the weight of the sorrows of our friends and neighbors, even of people in other parts of the world. The past couple weeks alone saw floods in Asia, hurricanes in the U.S., and an earthquake in Mexico, with people crying out under the weight of their devastation.

“We do not lose heart…” 2 Cor. 4:16

This seems almost impossible to say. Under such crushing weight, how can we not lose heart? How is it that we can be afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; struck down, but not destroyed?

Faith in the goodness of God.

The spirit of faith that says with the Psalmist “’I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us … into his presence.” (2 Cor. 4:13-14)

God spoke and it will come to pass.

More than a triumph of the human spirit, our hope is sure and steady.  It is not of the things seen, but the things unseen… the things that are eternal.

This is a divine assurance that knows that all the weight of these afflictions are preparing a weight of glory. This weight of glory is so great, all our crushing afflictions are light compared to it. Even if our afflictions last a lifetime, they are still momentary compared with this glory that is eternal.

God has spoken and it will come to pass when the veil of death will be lifted forever. No more will we struggle and mourn under the weight of suffering and death.

And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the LORD has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the LORD; we have waited for him;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:7-9

Terrorists will not have the final say. Neither will the cancer, nor bitterness, nor brokenness nor demons nor war. Neither will our sense of brotherhood and sacrifice. The LORD has spoken, and so we do not lose heart.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!

Wait for the LORD:

be strong and let your heart take courage;

wait for the LORD!

Psalm 27:13-14