What if we planned to be amazed?

COntrary to one of my favorite assumptions, wonder does not have to spontaneous, awe need not only be merely an unplanned moment in our lives. Instead, these things ought to fill our lives and characterize who we are.

Considering the truth that we get to partake of daily, we ought to be amazed by grace and its Giver on good days and bad days. We ought to be well-versed in praise that is the overflow of a full heart. We ought to gorge ourselves on realities that we should not have had the privilege of enjoying apart from God’s initiation.

How do I work with people who just don’t work?

How do we work with people who are completely different from us? My strategy has always been to either make it work by forcing them into action or insist that I do all the work by myself. Yet, if you consider these options, you will notice that neither one of them achieves the ultimate goal of causing both of us to grow by learning to relate with each other better.

As a person who finds it more natural to be concentrated on projects than people, I often found myself asking myself, What kind of success can I enjoy while I must be working with this person? Clearly they were only getting in the way of what I could be accomplishing if they didn’t happen to be in my way.

I really knew nothing about working together. I asked myself, Why do we even have to try to make this work? They obviously didn’t want the same things that I did? My eyes were too focused on my own performance for me to see beyond myself to the gifts of the other person.

These motivations can work for you for a good long time, but its funny that as humans we would say that something works for us when it causes us so much frustration. Maybe we are too afraid to try another way; maybe our own goals would be compromised; maybe our efforts would end with a greater return for the other person than ourselves.

But there comes a point when we realize that we are only getting so far with goals that are not absolutely critical anyway. All the success in the world is worth little if we do not have people to bless by it. Relationships are the facilities that support our hearts; although they are what test us the most, yet they are give us the most to treasure.

Sometimes it takes a trial that compromises our ability to work to show us where life really resides — at least, it did for me. I discovered that I was really only going in circles in everything that I was doing unless I was intent on walking somewhere with God and others. I would not grow in the ways that I wanted to unless I opened the door that guarded my heart and let people walk in and out.

We do not worry that our efforts will be wasted, that our hearts will be mistreated, that we will regret not living for ourselves and our work. We do not wait for the other person to change, we do not wait for the perfect person that will be worthy of our vulnerability, we do not wait until we feel more comfortable with this self-adjustment. Instead, we take action. We lean in close to our Father — in whose contact we are absolutely secure — and ask Him what He has in mind for us. We plead His peace and faith to trust His protection of our weak little hearts. And for every instance that the other person will wound or worry us, we choose to desire this above all: that He would show us how much we could bend to bring the heart of God near to them in our actions.

Pride lied: “I hide what you cannot confide”

Have you ever had things about yourself that elicited such deep shame for you that you would do anything to remove the blemish they created? I have had many things; things that I felt compelled to cover up.

Envy has been one of them. Inside I was saying I want to be like you; I despise who I am because I am not what I think I should be. Since I can not be the version of me that I want to be, I will try to be everything that is attractive about you. This is my last hope of being special.

Gluttony has been another sin I felt consumed by, and yet unable to confess. I spent years of my life thinking of food as my first object. When I woke up in the morning I was set on preparing the meal I had went to sleep planning for myself. I refused to turn to God for comfort when I was grieved. I also refused to let Him be the center of my interest when I knew I lacked something meaningful to live for.

Idolatry figured largely in my addiction to food, but it was also fed by other things when that wasn’t the first thing on my mind. I was convinced that God could not be everything to me, so I made myself an indentured servant to other gods that seemed to offer more pleasure than I could get with Him by means that were more desirable to me.

Or how about gossip? This was just one more of those sins that other people were guilty of; guilt that God’s grace could not be enough to cover in my place. I believed that He and I just expected too much of myself for me to go ahead and engage in such crude and common behavior. Imagine my surprise when I began to realize that the intentions of my heart in conversation was not as pristine as I thought!

Add to this list self-righteousness, judgment, fear, jealousy, hate, and all the evidences of a lack of love and you should have no shortage of things to chew on. But this sin-celebration wouldn’t be complete without the cake that holds all these brightly burning candles in place. The reason why I could not trust God in what He wanted to do in my heart was because my pride.

I would not let Him reveal to me my true appearance. I could not allow Him to remove my sand foundation from beneath me and insist that He build me up on a foundation of rock. I would need to be too vulnerable if I could not depend on my appearance. God wanted me to take on His appearance, but that offer wasn’t worth it to me if I couldn’t look beautiful for who I was without Him.

Have you ever had a trial that put pride to death in serious ways? For the past six months I have gotten to know just how creative God can be in unbinding the fetters of our idols and setting us free to worship only Him. Though it has been the hardest thing I have gone through so far, it has been necessary to my growth in Christ, necessary to my understanding of the gospel, necessary to reflecting the image of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Sin weighs down a heart in need of holiness

Have you ever experienced what it is to have your heart weighed down by your sin? You may term it as a conscience that is working over time, or guilt that is bothering you, but if this is the case, please don’t miss the blessing here!

Sin is a great burden that rests upon our souls, but how much worse off would our condition be if we didn’t know it. No healing and no comfort could be received because none would be sought; it would not be known that they were even necessary.

What a awful thing it would be if we could not feel the weight of the sin that occupies our hearts! We would think that being without rest for a given moment is normal. We would not day-dream about weightlessness or wish we could feel what it is like to be light.

Now, if what we are speaking of seems a remote predicament — your sin seems to not be a very heavy thing to you — than might I suggest that the longing for holiness has not yet taken over heart your heart?

Holiness is kind of like food — if your spirit is awake it will be hungry for it. Holiness, though we have never experienced it, is what makes us reach out for God. Your soul waits for its redemption — for its hope to be set free in Christ — but your body still holds on to everything that sin and your own ways can give you.

Therefore, Christ is the only One we can trust to deliver us from burdens we have created and not even we would remove if we could. So, if you feel overburdened, or even a little burdened, then waste no time in measuring the weight, but in committing it to Christ and letting Him remove it bit by bit so that you can see just how ensnared you really have been by it.

Success in certain terms

This past week or so I have had myself in a mess. I have been considering the future and worrying about what’s going to go on. It bothers me so much that I can’t predict what will be. I can’t say whether anything will turn out the way I’d like, or whether I will just have to adjust to so many things staying the same even though new seasons of the year are unfolding. Does this sound familiar? Maybe it is — I’m sure I’ve said something along these lines several times by now. But each time I explore these questions in the light of a new situation, I take away lessons that are rich with significance for the times I’m living in. 

This time, I have to ask myself, what makes my life a success? Is it in my dreams coming true without delay, or is it in knowing no matter which way my life unfolds, my Father is caring for me? I have to decide these things if I am to be at peace with God, myself, my life and what happens to me — even if things don’t change.

You see, I have decisions before me. I have prayed about not dwelling on disappointment or the discomfort of my present trials, and God’s answer has been a surprise to me. He says, “I won’t just give this to you; you have to work on it. I have already done enough in your life to know that I am trustworthy and abundant enough to be all that you need. Now you have to work this out in your heart. You know what to believe, you just have to decide to live it out.”

How do we do this? For one thing, I need to stand back and assess my situation based on the truth that I want to live by. I may not be able to count on little things that I would like to enjoy right now, but this cannot — and should not — diminish what I do have and what I can have.

I can live for today, not basing my happiness on anything that I can’t fully enjoy right now. At first this may sound foolish, but I don’t believe this is because it is in any way unbiblical. I don’t want to dismiss the overflow of blessing that I have in this moment that I can only be guaranteed today. I don’t want to hold on for more as if what God has provided for my needs at this time is not enough. I have all the fullness of God to enjoy and to strain for in this moment. I pray that I would not be caught up in vain pursuits that discard my God for lesser things.

See the sovereignty of God in what I lack. He does not expect me to believe that things things are inherently bad or that desiring them is bad, but that by withholding them — even while they be good things — He is teaching me to trust Him without condition. How shall I trust His heart if I do not allow Him to freely take from and give to me whatever He sees as best? Truly it is impossible for me not to grow and benefit from His will if I am putting it first in my life.

God honors the sacrifices of praise that we offer to Him, therefore, let us be swift in lifting them up to Him. My life is not what I hold in my hands in this moment, but in what I hold in my heart. If lacking material, social or temporal things puts me in touch with the abundance of possessing Christ, than I will rejoice in whatever loss I have.

I also need to deal with my perspective on my present and my future. The more aware I become of the truth, the more responsible I become for keeping my heart diligently committed to it. The lesson here seems to be that because I have grown more mature in my faith through the Holy Spirit’s work in various trials, God will no longer be treating me as a child in the faith. He will be calling me to stand up and bear more of the brunt of living for Him. I know how now, after spending so much time observing His love in taking care of me, His consistency in instructing me as a parent, and His provision in building up my spiritual muscle.

People markets need the Savior advertised

Contrary to popular presentation, people sell products, products do not ever sell people. In every vein of advertising, people are the ones who rate what they like and elevate its level of market demand. Material objecta lack the inherent dignity and enduring presence to have any real worth apart from the value human consumers put on them. Certainly we cannot treat them as though they have the stature suitable for providing a significant rating of people.

What do I mean by this? I am talking about this assumption we have that people can be quoted by the value of objects that they own or wear or display a taste for. In the end, no matter how great the value of these things we would attach to a person as an identification of their worth they question the strength of human dignity. If we should be no more than what we display of temporal treasures, then why should any of this really matter?

After all, people are not generic in their qualities, or valuable based on their comparison to other equally serviceable people.

People are not here just to serve a single, situationally exclusive purpose or a specifically need-identified demograffic.

Only man-made objects that lack personality or eternal indispensibility are meant to fall into these categories. Mankind is meant to be so much more than this — each of these examples I have just given can even begin to describe the purpose of any one of us.

Our design reflects so much more — more intelligence and care and love for what is created — than any other thing we could find in the universe. If a single star burnt out, it would leave no hole in the heart as if the life of one man or woman, boy or girl’s life were suddenly blown out of their heart and lungs.

The collapse of one irreplacable specimen is an example of a life failing. Before we discuss why life should fail in us, let us not forget the fact that this would bring no small gref to our Creator God. It is not just that one of His creatures is no longer alive — as would be the case with a member of the animal kingdom — but that a unique reflection of Himself is gone from the face of the earth. His own life goes into us at birth, and even before that, His own partial personality marks us from the moment of conception. When we die, an aspect of God’s beautiful handiwork is removed from this earthly landscape.

But truly all that I have said would be as the equivalent of saying nothing if I did not make certain to proclaim this: We are God’s main object of consideration in His created universe because He made us to have a relationship with Him. If we pass through death without ever acknowledging our need for this offered relation, than we are lost.

Now to discuss death as I promised. We who were designed to know only life know death because we have forsaken the first for the freedom to experience the latter. If you’re like me, this no doubt sounds hard to believe — being the stupidest thing you have ever heard. Yet, it is true because death is the consequence of a choice made in favor of sin, a rebellion against God.

God specially formulated our global habitat as a place in which we could enjoy the blessings that were the increase of fellowship with Him in paradise. But if you ever wonder wonder what happened to this paradise, let me explain the Curse.

With all that our First Parents possessed and enjoyed to the full, when the opportunity for becoming like God, they jumped at it. Little regarding the cost of disobeying the command that God had given them, Adam and Eve together took and consumed the fruit of rebellion.

Immediately the eyes of their hearts were open to the new reality of their sin and they struggled with the knowledge — once covetted — of evil that now resided within them. They ran and hid from God the One good and communal being present in their universe. A humanly irreversible break had been made between God and man according to the will of man. Death was welcomed in to nestle in the breasts of every existing and forthcoming seed of man. No more would life flow through this race as the godly inheritance necessary to abundance and peace.

But, back to God. He who risked losing us to our freedom of choice, now immediately set His plan of redemption into play. He would pursuit His spiritually naked and now hopelessly needy creatures. He would bring glory to Himself in finally taking hold of them and clothing them with His own love and righteousness.

He accomplished this when the thread of human history was woven into the divine climax on earth. Jesus, the Son of God ascended a cross and was cursed in His death for us. He forsook blessings only beneficial to Himself that blessings for all mankind might come out of one man (and this the God-Man) being cursed and ultimately punished for many.

God could have looked away when He saw you on your road to a just penalty that ends in hell, but He choose to not only look after you, but put Himself in your place that He might turn your eyes back to Him. He wants to reinstate paradise, but we need to agree to let Him do it; to acknowledge that we really are as important to Him as He says — even if the value He places upon us is love and not a reward in regard to the exhibition we have made of ourselves.

A masquerade of mercy offers pithy bail

What is mercy? Does it mean that we get off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket? Does it mean we get the threat of jail but are then dismissed? Could it ammount to a few days behind the bars of the penitentiary until we are given an unexpectedly early release?

No, these things I would call coersion, threats and partial punishment. But, if this should masquerade as mercy, it is no doubt a weak form. Mercy exists because the offended has absorbed what should have been our punish according to their rights so that we could be restored to their good favor.

If we think we are worthy, or have , we have missed the point of it entirely! Mercy is not a reward for good behavior, but a treatment of bad behavior that reveals the incimprehensible love for the offender by the One he mistreated.

Yet, don’t get me wrong here, mercy is not something that may be offered without a cost to the One who chooses such a presentation. Mercy does not do away with the debt, but calls upon the One whose right it is to call for the payment to insteadblay down their rights and see that it is paid for by themselves. In this way, though we mortally offended God by our sin, the Bible says that He was not willing that we should perish by the penalty that sin deserved, so He reserved the entire wrath-filled execution for Himself.

He went to the Cross in the Person of Jesus to pay for our sins so that we could be proclaimed new and acceptable to Himself. Not only did He take our deadly reward from us, but delivered in its place His lively reward. He would die so that we might rise when He did to live forever as a treasure of our God.