Living Through the Lean Years

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Psalm 51:4

    What makes a person change his ways?  Consequences.  God entrusts His children with gift after gift.  When they pervert them and use them to invest into a wayward journey, God steps in.  He takes away their comforts so that they feel the pain of deprivation.  All this is to discipline those He loves so that we might be saved and turn back to Him with a whole heart.

Photo illustration by Dale Kalus
Photo illustration by Dale Kalus

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A Little Defensive?

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.  Psalm 51:3-4

The first obstacle humanity faces is to recognize its own guilt.  The second challenge, once recognized, is to own it both personally and publicly.  Rarely do we encounter others who quickly admit to being wrong.  Even when backed into a corner and the guilt is obvious, they can still feign innocence.  I can’t be too hard on them.  Without Jesus, I wouldn’t want to admit to being wrong either.  If my sense of self is fragile, I will feel I can’t afford to be at fault.

If I am addicted to others respect and acceptance, being wrong is not an option.  At all costs, I must talk my way out of situations lest those around me come to the conclusion that I’m guilty.  Self-defense can be developed into a cunning art form.  I can do it so much that acquitting myself with great confidence happens like breathing.

If I am one who has trouble admitting I’ve sinned, I must bring my shaky self to the arms of Christ.  I have not yet understood my sin, the power of the cross, and Christ’s love for me.  I am holding on to a faulty self-righteousness that needs to be surrendered at Calvary.  Admitting guilt does not diminish me, it frees me to enjoy God’s mercy.  Never am I more attractive to others than when humble.

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When Life Isn’t What I Dreamed It Would Be

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7

         Last night, this quote from John Piper was sent to me. It struck me so deeply that I actually dreamt about it.

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped it would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have. John Piper/Desiring God Ministries

Life is a series of losses to be grieved. On the other side, God waits to be embraced and that is the most difficult thing of all. Satan wants me to believe that I’m forced to embrace the One who withheld my dreams. The very idea of intimacy with God, in that case, is distasteful. Who wants to be a friend with the person who has hurt you the most!

I have to look at the broader picture and take myself off center stage. Every chosen man and woman in Christian history was favored, but then afflicted. The ones who triumphed and experienced some unforgettable mountaintops along the way did so by trusting in the character of God. In spite of suffering, they partnered with a God who loved them and called them.

While Piper’s quote is short, each part penetrates and challenges.

I weep deeply over my disappointments. Tears are not the end of my journey but they are a part of it. It takes courage to admit that my hope has been spent. Think of the times you may have commented to someone, ‘You must be broken hearted!’ Rarely does someone admit it. The hurt is minimized because down deep, we suspect we can’t survive coming to such a conclusion. What then?! Instead, we give our pat answers. ‘It’s just a bump in the road.’ ‘I’m a little sad but I’ll get over it.’ For me to know true joy, I have to embrace the unvarnished truth. Otherwise, unspent grief spills out in repression, depression, and anger. Most spend their lives trying to numb out pain.

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I grieve the losses. Nothing is as intimidating. I believe that if I start crying, the tears will have no end. It’s an illusion. While much of grieving is solitary, I remain in a small community to keep my perspective. I surround myself with those who will encourage grief and not condemn. They speak Jesus’ words over me and give me whatever time is needed to emerge from the ashes. This is one reason not to make shallow people your best friends. … Continue reading

Pretend Believers

“We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  Jesus answered them, Did I not choose you, the twelve?  And yet one of you is a devil.”  He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.  John 6:70-71

Peter spoke on behalf of the group.  “We have believed.” “We have come to know…” Yet because Jesus knew the hearts of men, he knew that one of them was not a true believer.  I feel certain it was shocking for Peter to hear that one of them was being referred to as a betrayer.

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Love I Just Can’t Acquire

I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands.  I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  Psalm 63:4-5

Of all the things I could pray for regarding each of you today, feeling satisfied in God would be at the top of the list.  Some of you are selling your souls to get the love you want.  You prostrate yourself, promise things you have no right promising, all for the prospect of someone’s affection.  Others of you are saying goodbye to an aging parent and you’re realizing the window of time is short for getting the love you’ve always craved.  Perhaps all your efforts, day and night, are trying to figure out how to turn their heart toward you.

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Oh, how we yearn to belong, to be under the care of someone trustworthy.  We dream of sitting in their shade, satiated and content.

God promises all that and more.  He’s calling us to lose our souls to Him and call His Son “Master.”  He knows that if we willingly give up our life, we will find it.  A soul who abdicates his right to a self-proclaimed identity and then blends into Jesus only finds that his true self emerges.  We are meant to be united to Christ, meant to live in total and complete unity with Him.

The beloved John spoke of the barrier to love.  It is fear.  If I open up my heart completely, no secrets, to someone as big as God, and then He rejects me, I will find it unbearable.  To play it safe, I open up my mind to the thought of His love while I seal away my heart in order to protect it.  God wants my heart.  Our relationship wilts without a mutual heartfelt affection.  I’m not alive to God without a complete heart investment.

To open myself up completely takes faith.  I must believe Him when God tells me what He is like.  I must also believe Him when He tells me the truth of what I’m worth to Him.  Even prodigals can go limping home with confidence.  If I allow the Master to pour on His love without restriction, it will fill me up and splash over onto the very people upon whom I’ve been waiting to love me!  That’s the irony and the miracle.

It took years, Lord, but I’m not afraid anymore.  Amen

It’s A Dangerous Business

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Psalm 59:1-4

Christianity is a dangerous enterprise. Jesus has always been a threat to someone’s power or ideology.

There’s a new movie out in the theatres called The Young Messiah. I’ve attended it twice and have been equally moved both times. While fictional, the movie portrays what the 12th year of Jesus life might have looked like. The story starts in Alexandria, Egypt. Jesus and His family had lived there since Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus away from Judea. You remember that every male child was massacred and Jesus was the only one to survive Herod’s rampage.

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The movie shows the possibility that Jesus spent much of his life in danger, even though young. Joseph and Mary lived with the stress of keeping their son alive. His touch on people was profound even though He was a child. The searing truths He spoke about God exposed evil and those who had an issue with God took issue with Him. The storyline proposes that Jesus raised a dead bird to life and even healed the sick. His compassion for people urged Him to ask His Father in heaven for healing. And it came! News of His spiritual power was hard to keep quiet and threats to annihilate Him were everywhere. Joseph and Mary begged onlookers to keep news of Jesus quiet.

On the one hand, it’s hard to understand why someone who just wants to love God provokes such anger. Worship is a quiet thing and a private endeavor, right? I used to think so. But to love God means to accept the great commission of His Son, Jesus. To convert and to make disciples is to challenge the god of this world, the very one who comes disguised as the respected leader of all man-made religions. To share Jesus is to threaten every other world view, even if done with love and compassion.

I understand, Lord. I’m not called to live as someone who loves You. I’m called to let You live through me. It’s Your life they see. You were hated once and will be hated again and again as Your glory shines through Your servants. Advance Your kingdom in the midst of hatred. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

 

Do I Really Know My Potential?

DO I REALLY KNOW MY POTENTIAL?

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.  Psalm 92:12-14

Every living thing needs the right environment so it can be all God designed it to be.  Put a fish on a beach and he will slowly die.  A passerby will have no idea that he can swim or have a clue that swimming is in his nature.  He will lie there pathetically, leading others to misunderstand who he is. Put an eagle in water and you will never get to see him soar on wind thermals.  He will sink to the bottom.  Put a panther in a zoo and kids who see him through the glass will never understand that he can run at clocked speeds of 64 mph.  It is only when each of God’s creation lives in his perfect environment that his full potential is released.  Only there can he rise to his spiritual destiny.  Are the wheels turning?

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