Lord, let me arrange the favors I get!

You don’t know what You’re doing and I could get this job done better than You–at least it will be the way I want it! If this is your heart today–as it has been mine times without number–please do not willingly stay here. Turn to Him who alone can turn our hearts back to Himself. Whenever we want to run our lives we are intent on dismissing what is too great a mystery to be seen in a single moment, or even in a succession of single moments. We need to reach out to Him for eyes of faith; eyes that do not fail when the favors we desire don’t come because His favors have overtaken and far surpassed them in His love.

It’s impossible to love life without truly loving Life

What is life to you? Is it what you do, what you think, what you imagine for yourself, what you like, what you want, what you are? What if life, as we speak, was outside of you? What if you had never really experienced it yet? What if, until now, you have been existing but never knowing what it means to be full and overflowing with life?

Even with every trapping of happiness about us, life and its possibilities for us can still be a distant reality. So, how can we know if we have it or not? To that question I have a simple answer. There has only been one thing or person in all of mankind’s history that has reached out to him and plainly declared, “I am Life”: His name is Jesus.

So, this is all you need for your self-diagnosis is the answer to this one question, “Have I accepted Life?” If Jesus is alive and well and able to be active within you, then there is no question that you do indeed, have Life. This is not just the run-of-the-mill life that everyone has by virtue of their breath and heartbeat. This is a life of the spirit, of the inner man, of the you-i-est part of you–the part of you that will live forever.

If Jesus is alive within you, the part of you that worships has been awakened to God. You will begin to see Him and to know Him in a way that is vital, a way that was not possible before when you were dead in the sins that separated you from Him. From this point on you will grow in Christ, He who brought God’s call to return to Him. You are now a part of God’s household–a baby now, but you will need to grow up and change in order to grow up into the fullness of the Son who has become our Brother before the Father.

For everything that you lack, don’t make excuses–turn to He who saved you in the midst of your wretchedness. There is nothing about you that is any longer unknown. Come out into the Light–this is He who loves you, desiring that His love fill you and your love be His.

The One Great Admission We’re Missing

For most of my life I never really owned up to the fact that there was anything essentially wrong with me–and I still have trouble with this now. Instead, I would have told you that I was a “good” person with “high” moral standards and enviable character traits. Considering yourself in these categories, you would probably agree with me and we would be confirmed as two more people with the standard self-evaluation.

Isn’t it crazy though, that we all look within (and not too deeply, I might add) to get this verdict? I guess we believe we are the only true expert on ourselves, but what if we’re not? Now, I know, I wouldn’t ask my next door neighbor to tell me what he thought of me because it would be just that: him telling me what he thought of me, and in the instance of the purposes we are discussing his offered opinion would have little weight.

So what about family–after all, they know us the best of anyone, right? I don’t know about you, but if I wouldn’t ask my neighbor, I certainly wouldn’t ask my family. I just don’t typically invite judgment like that? You know what I mean: they see us on too many of our bad days. And besides, they are usually inclined to use this windfall opportunity to call upon their long and unforgiving memories to jab us and build themselves up by comparison.

Okay, we agree on that, so can we still take a chance with friends? After all, we are with them when we are our jolliest and most well-behaved. Couldn’t such an interview be helpful? Wait, I just thought of something…what if they wouldn’t really count because everyone knows that friends can be very biased. I mean, their loyalty can be really good for our self-esteem and it is a true comfort that they like us no matter what…but maybe that’s the problem here. No, if you will agree, I think we better find someone more objective. But who?

Who could we possibly find who would be both objective and authoritative on this matter? I don’t know why it always takes me so long to get to this point where everything suddenly becomes exceedingly obvious. Maybe it’s because getting here is exactly what I was trying to avoid. But anyway, the answer to our question, to our need, is God. He has been the answer all the time, but now perhaps we are more able to hear His evaluation. There is something about the truth that is always far better than a million lies, that is, once you’ve decided you will face it.

So here it is: So are we [who are “good”] better than others? No! We have already said that [“good” people] and those who are not [“good people”] are all guilty of sin.As the Scriptures say:
    “There is no one who always does what is right,
       not even one.
     There is no one who understands.
       There is no one who looks to God for help.
      All have turned away.
       Together, everyone has become useless.
    There is no one who does anything good;
       there is not even one.” — Psalm 14:1–3 (Romans 3:9-12)

Not the most flattering description of myself I’ve ever heard, how about you? Actually, it’s the worst description I’ve heard; their is no familiar sugar-coating; nothing has been left out and I cannot deny any of it if I am to be truthful and real. I am left exposed and certain to be rejected by the very Sovereign who executes such a judgment. What is my hope?

My hope, your hope, the hope of all mankind, is, surprisingly, not small, but hugely significant. Yet, it can be found in only one place. The place where we hold both the scars of my humanity and the balm of Christ’s divinity. In Him the two have been forever bound together. Hope exists in our acknowledging before the Savior our need for help and healing. I know of no other way by which we might be saved from our sin and our fearfully dangerous propensity to deny that such a reality is ours.

Christ stood in our place, wrapped in our flesh and shrouded by the shadows we brought upon ourselves. He faced our deepest darkness and accepted our final punishment so that we could be returned to the Father who has loved since the beginning–He whom we rejected with all our soul and strength until now.

Assuming God needs a justification here…

So, you want something. We all do. Instead of asking what it is you want, let me ask why it is you want it. Strange question? The question one asks depends on the depth of information one is looking for.

If you’re struggling in the absence of what you want and finding it difficult to see what justification God could have for opposing in your desire, please read on.

Assuming God needs a justification for what He does with you and I, and assuming we could understand and accept it if He did, consider this.

All of our desires lead us to something else. They may seem complex and widely assorted, but they can boiled down to very simple and very few. (We aren’t as complicated as we think!) For example, one of “unanswered” prayers, for a while, was for God to remove from before me my obstacles to my goal for weight-loss. Simple sentence equals I wanted to be thin. And God didn’t seem to be giving it to me; truthfully, He wasn’t giving it to me. In fact, He even made it clear to me that He was not going to give my request to me–not like it was.

You see, some of our requests simply are not acceptable to God. We ask that we may spend what we receive on the foolish pursuit of our own pleasures, never considering what may bring God pleasure. James chapter 4, verse 3 convicts us saying, And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

It is not that God wants to keep things from us merely for their own sake, but for ours. We won’t want what we should, or as we should. The Bible says again and again such things as it is the Father’s desire to give us the kingdom (I don’t know that He could find us a bigger gift), but we are not willing to receive it. We are caught up in vain desires that put the flesh above the spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:6-8)

God would deliver us from our death-ridden inclinations. He would turn us from reaching the destination we blindly chase: death and separation from Him. The final question is, are we willing to be worked with in this way; to have our desires regenerated; to become people who insist on having everything in us serve Christ that He lead us into more life with Him?

Are you sure desire is the mother of sin?

What does a good desire, a right desire look like? Well, sometimes I’m really not sure I could say.

Is it what makes us happy? You could say that. Is it what moves us to become more of the person we are supposed to be? I’m confident that it is. Is it something that we can share with other people — to make their lives better? Most likely.

All of our desires are the parts of us that show us our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses at the same time. Sin is not in our desires, but in how we act upon them. They will either be executed in such a way as to bring us more into submission to Christ, or to seek to subvert His just rule in our lives.

So, am I do for a lifestyle change?

Do you know one of my least favorite words? Lifestyle. There it is. A concise description of who I am. You look at what I do and you know me very well. When I look, I see where my policies on life don’t intersect with my practice. Why does the pattern of my life not match the blueprint I started with. Maybe it’s because I have two: the natural one that functions in my head and the supernatural one that often sits buried within the gold-rimmed folds of my Bible. I want them to be the same thing, but this requires that I become more and more faithful in choosing the one the Bible presents that it may transform the one already inside me.

O Lord, fix Your Word within me

convince my heart of Your ways

and endorse my days with Your signature

because You’ve lit my being with Your love!

Longing to be free of God’s interference? Good luck!

The resurrection of our Savior is like nothing else that was or will ever mark history. It’s the one thing that showed us this is God’s story — what makes us able to see and understand His action among us. Without this, how much easier it would be to ignore God’s message!

We wouldn’t have to be confronted with our sin

hanging there on His shoulders

ripping at the tethers of His heart

making the blood and mercy flow down.

I don’t know, you might wish that this were the case; I mean, what is God if He’s not annoying, right?

I guess like any other person with which we would have a relationship (distant or close), we must all find Him annoying. Yet, why do we see Him as such? What has He done that we should get so riled with Him?

Maybe you don’t want to even face these questions (maybe as you read this, I am becoming annoying). If you feel the need to cut out here, feel free–for you are free to do as you please and decide the limits of what you will bear with. I don’t want to even try to counteract that, but as long as you’re reading, I would like to get to know each other a little better, and most of all, I hope we can both get to know God a little better.

Have you ever found that people are annoying to the degree that you don’t know them, and knowing, understand and love them? As annoying as it may be to consider this, maybe it is easier to just decide you find someone annoying than to acknowledge that you do not know him and have no desire to see that gap bridged.

In many cases it is not that the other person is so little worth knowing, but that we are so little determined to abandon our sense of comfort and superiority to humbly approach them.  We would find it necessary to embrace vulnerability and proceed in spite of a certain degree of trepidation. Could we do this?

Could we allow for one moment that we may be operating more in fear than in power, more in selfishness than in respect to the degree of separation ourselves and another? If we can do this, we can act in such a way that we invite the truth to come and meet with us. And with His coming we just might surprise ourselves–receiving Him with open arms and a hearts unclouded with deceit. Oh, what a prospect!


Stuffing or Straddling?

Have you taken a blow today? Do you know what you’re going to do with it? Are you stuffing the pain and confusion down deeper inside, or are you able to authentically confront where you really are with what is going on in your life? Is your response to discomfort too repulsive to your pride-sense for you to accept it as your personal reality and move toward God in it?

Why can’t I just let you off the hook?

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you
have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
–James 2:13, NLT

I don’t know about you, but I don’t understand mercy and forgiveness. Last night was actually the first time I realized this, though. I confess that one reason I don’t understand them is because they have never really been anything more to me than flimsy terms repeated over and over again in Scripture. Sure, they are everywhere, but I thought that meant they were just naturally in me too–not!

Maybe it’s because I’ve never faced in a straightforward manner the wrongs of others committed against me; never faced them with the intention of forgiving and extending mercy to cover them. I’ve ranted and raved my fair share (ask my mother and she would say it has been to the point of excess), but sorting through the pain like this has done nothing to redeem the situation–only to discover where I stand, how I feel, in what ways I am justified.

I have wanted to make of each painful situation something else. Something that I might find more easy to swallow–to live with if need be (in the event that the person hurting me would choose not to notice what they were doing to me and apologize).

I have strained for understanding, grasped for empathy and held out for change. But, until now I have had no answer for dealing with things as they are at this very moment, for the coldness of the truth. Vacillating between what I know to be true of the situation the two of us are contributing to and searching for the key to what the other person believes about it has not served us as much as I had hoped it might.

I do not have to make this all right–making sure that I bridge the chasm of misunderstanding. I do not need to make a project out of acquitting she who has caused me grief, I can let God settle our differences, the pain that lingers between us: I will forgive.

I will make no excuses for her, and thus an indirect excuse for myself. I do not need to uncover secrets and air perspectives. I need only adopt the diagnosis Christ offers me: I have been hurt by the sin of another. And before I run ahead and try to learn my lesson and seek God to reveal my sin in this situation, stopping, I will forgive.

Rather than trying to amend the situation–to somehow lift us both beyond our propensities to sin–I will recognize that this is not the first offense, neither will it be the last. I do not have the option of eliminating sin or the grief it causes me. I will accept my need for a Savior, and I will forgive.

Because paradise will not be sneaking up on me tomorrow; because I will not be able to escape both the need for pardon and the need to give it; because God chose to redeem each of us sinners by a way that offers us none of the control I think is essential for peace-of-mind and deliverance-from-everything-I-don’t-want-to-face, I will not wait another minute, I will forgive.

The “fine” line is a crooked thing

Have you been struggling and yet feet pressured to say that you’re just “fine” when someone asked the perfunctory “how are you?” after their greeting? I know I sometimes wonder, why are you bothering to ask me if you don’t even care to pause a moment to listen to my answer. I am not always fine. And I don’t want to pretend to be. I want to be honest about wherever I am and whatever I’m going through. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t even have to sound good. WOW! Has that ever been a tough lesson to learn!

I have always figured that people would never want to talk to me if I was in any way “problematic”. And since I always have been, guess who took it upon herself to make them all disappear?

I thought I was serving others by doing this. I thought they would thank me for making sure I was just plain “normal” all the time, but no one did. Obviously they did not see the effort I went to to keep this up. So, I developed another strategy: I would be the constantly happy person. I would never be without encouragement for others. I determined I must always be able to totally forget myself (and whatever difficulties I had in the present) before I went out. I could never afford to be a downer; instead, I derived my identity from being a constant upper–even raising the “levels” of others when possible.

This seemed to work pretty well–better than expected, actually. But, I began to notice that I was never able to get the help I needed while I was so busy deflecting everyone’s attention from my needs to my joys and their needs. I thought this was a good thing, until God really began to sit me down and make me understand that I am HUMAN.

This may sound funny, but I’ve never really known that. I either felt that I was worth nothing because I was weak and broken, or I was superhuman because I could transcend everything and be absolutely strong and composed. Certainly I knew nothing of the fact that both weakness and strength, brokenness and openness are present within everyone of us as human beings. The secret is having them balanced.

Christ brings that balance. At the cross both aspects of my identity are represented. I who was once strong, have been weakened in my rebellion against God. And it is now as I confront my weakness brought on by sin and my inheritance of the Fall, that Christ resurrects my potential for strength; strength that does not lead me away from Him, but is able to stay and wrestle with Him until His spirit of grace and surrender overpowers me.