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Sunday, November 11, 2012


My first hero growing up was Julie Andrews. Keep in mind that the most formative movies of my early childhood were Mary Poppins (1964) and Sound of Music (1965). I really do not think they make movies like those anymore...

Any Julie-phile will immediately know which song to start humming from this photo... here are some of the lyrics:

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Strength doesn't lie in numbers
Strength doesn't lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
When you wake up -- Wake Up!

It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone
(Oh help!)

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!

Oh Julie, how I love thee... but these words are not true. That lovely confidence of childhood and middle school years falls apart in high school and the insecurity that remains carries on in some form for the rest of our lives, at least for most of us.

I was reminded of this in so many ways this past week:

  • I met with a youth group last weekend who came up to Santa Barbara for a retreat, and the seniors were open in their profound fears of the future as they anguished over college decisions and social pressures;
  • I met with a class at Westmont who traveled last semester through Turkey and the Middle East. We talked over the complicated idea of what it means to communicate the gospel cross culturally, understanding the language and culture of those to whom we seek to serve. One student said, "I don't like this. It's too hard." We all agreed it's far easier to keep things black and white, rather than in nuances and shades of gray, considering each context on its own;
  • I met with my Westmont internships class, and we talked this week over how to persevere in ministry over the long-term. We agreed that we so badly want others to love us in order to make us feel needed. I talked over the dangers of that, and taught from 1 John 4 -- how loving others with agape love is utterly different from the human love we know naturally;
  • I went to a high school event last night and felt the insecurities and drama of adolescence wash over me as I saw them all talking and texting and flirting and trying to fit in...

But I am not without hope. The older I get, the more I see how impossible it is to live life under my own power. Rather, I am motivated all the more to teach and proclaim the gospel because it is good news: If we lean in to Christ, we gain something new: a boldness and courage that is not human. This morning I am reminded of that gift in Hebrews 10:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus... (vs. 19)

The word "since" implies a response, and the writer of Hebrews does not disappoint:

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings (vs. 22)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (vs. 23)

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (vs. 24-25)

Then we can go dancing down the road like Julie does, drawing near and holding unswervingly and spurring one another one, if we live out of the confidence that only Christ can give.

But as I kept reading, I was sobered by this:

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 

Many of my conversations this week were with young people. I love their idealism, energy and earnest questions. They help to keep me from becoming cynical. But I cannot deny that my own experiences of suffering and disappointment have tempted me to "throw away my confidence" at times. Hebrews 10, with its use of "confidence" in two very different ways in one section, reminds me that regardless of whether I have the energy to dance down the road or only have the strength to sit in sadness and grief, that I can still have confidence. How? As one commentator puts it, a confidence from God helps us to "trust in God, certainty of salvation, the conquest of the consciousness of sin, sanction and power to pray and expectation of the future."

So I do not have confidence in confidence alone, and certainly not in myself. But I rejoice that I can still be bold, and take risks, through Him... In fact, it is crucial that I do so, in order to feel the power of his presence in my life, and to last until the end. Press on with such confidence.

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