I thought you might think better of me this way…

Time for a major confession here; no more hiding: I try to maintain like I’m not selfish…EVER! (I know, how believable, right?) But, the problem is that I believe that this is a facade that others should be able to easily equate with the real me. I don’t feel like I can deal with the truth if it were to be universally acknowledged.

I struggle, trying to always be ahead of where I really am spiritually. I don’t like thinking I’m a sinner–that is so just…ugh! Who wants to believe that about themselves? Certainly not anyone who has any pride. (Ding! Ding! That would be me.) The truth is that I have not yet gotten to the place where I do not want my image to be a prominent part of my life in Christ. I cannot seem to let it go.

I like the idea of being linked with Christ, but in my heart I do not yet understand all that such a union must entail. I do not have a strong enough concept of Christ. I perceive that I must be always seeing Him in light of me rather than having it the other way around. I believe I’ve it here before that I see myself as the measure of all things, if I’m truly honest.

So the question then becomes, if I see myself as the one the universe revolves around and hinges on, how can I possibly have the capacity for being unselfish? Surely, God who is truly the embodiment of these things, does yet remain unselfish though He does have the right to absolute rule over His universe. But, as one who has a heart-problem that projects myself into His place of infinite prerogative, I cannot maintain sinlessness in attempting an unauthorized copy of His deity.

So the fact that I can say I appreciate God for who He is, is largely influenced by the fact that His identity is something I covet for myself. I want His image to cover me, but in the wrong way. I anticipate how He will make me look good–almost like I favor Him as my ticket to achieving a spiritual make-over. I love Him for me, not Him.

But, if this is not how God intends for us to love Him, how can you and I move beyond living heart-lives similar to what I’ve described above? Is there hope for us and, if so, what does that look like? How can God invade our hearts to the point that our hearts look more like His than the ones we started with? Where does the transformation come from?

I think the secret is found woven into the very questions we’re posing. The necessary ingredient to spiritual transformation is not expecting it to come from us. We broach the journey with the assumption that we are going to be worked on far more than we will ever be purely working out.

We trust that God will be the miracle-worker here. Whatever He asks of us we will do, but nothing that comes about will be recognized as purely our effort. There is so much more going on here than we can see; therefore, we cannot possibly be leading the project at any time. Our change is in God’s hands.

Because all that needs to change us must be God’s project, we do not relate the facts about us to the case first. We sidestep everything that there is to be known about us and choose to boast with God only in the Person of Jesus Christ. If we want to stay where we are in our selfishness, we need not reach out for God at all. But if we want to take on the character of Christ in its place, then surely we can do no less than set our focus Him.

In fact, we must seek Him for the power to lay aside every other enticing focus of our affections and interest. We want self to lose all of its governing power over us. But this victory is truly only as valuable as the internal territory that God gains by the fight. If we become selfless but do not become godly, there is no credit to the Savior. He wants the end to show that He was the One who brought, not just change, but redemption. Selfishness is wrong and distasteful because of the corruption that it is of God’s original design for us. We don’t just need to become less self-intensive but to be redirected to become beings of glory-giving to our God. Does this sound like it might be the offensive strategy we need against the self that seeks to use all our hearts for one who is not one with the Father, Son or Holy Spirit?

Forgery of the cross–everyone talks about it, but who is the one guilty of it?

Is it Christ or is it us–the Savior who hung on the cross and is accused of not rising from the dead to complete His mission or those of us who accept the cross as a “happening” without at the same time accepting the Savior who’s mission made it necessary? A mission that included us, was prompted by His desire to save us from sins that we chose to commit. This is to be decided–for now–not in a court of law or in a college classroom or philosophy conference, but in your own heart.

What does the cross mean and why is this particular cross more important–worthy of notice–than all the others? This is a story too closely intertwined with your own for you to dismiss it; if you reject a part of it, perhaps you are rejecting a part of yourself. Yes, maybe an unpleasant part, but what if it is also the key to pleasantness that atones for all the unpleasantness?

What all the worst of you meets at the cross is all the best of Him. What if it’s better to have His best–even what looks like weakness–than your best. Could this be true? Give it some serious thought. But don’t restrict this process to your brain–extend it; indeed, bring it into the living room of your heart. It must be played out here.

There is no other place for it to go on. Your heart is the place that the cross makes its claim on–though it doesn’t exclude your brain in the transaction. You cannot boast of entertaining or dissecting the death of Christ unless you take it to your heart and let its case be spread against your own. But, by doing this you’re basically asking for a fight because your heart will not passively or pleasantly consent to the claim without resistance. Expect it discomfort and trouble from facing the truth and lies–for both have such sway over your heart.

In fact, if you think resistance is an indicator of this not being your “truth,”  then you are wrong. This truth is above you. All other truths are beside or below you. This one exerts supreme authority. You will either submit to it and change accordingly or you will fight to remain in steadfast ignorance of it. There is no middle ground. But this does not mean that you are all one way or the other. There is a choice; which means that both sides have pull on you. You must decide which one you will give your will to that it may have mastery over you.

Scary concept? It’s only as scary as the worst of the two decisions. Decide which one is which by studying each. In most cases, that will only require studying the one you are unfamiliar with. Yet what is required of you is more than a cursory study. You must remember that the side that has been courting you does not merely play offense. Part of the defensive strategy employed in this war  is to anesthetize you to the claims of the opponent or to make you ignorant of them all together. In this world, this often isn’t very hard. You very easily miss what you never knew was there.

Don’t let this be your fate. Consider the side that’s weakest in your eyes. Perhaps it’s weak because you considered its mystery too strong to unravel. But there is a message here. Do not let the mystery so pre-occuppy you that you ignore or discredit the message. Learn what it is you were intended to know. The object on which you were meant to make a choice.

Both good and evil have their mysteries. God and the world. Your job is to discover their revelations that you may not miss the contrast between them. You must have information to weigh–when you look you will find plenty. Just be sure you get the whole story!

Some good questions to be answered are:

Jesus died, why?
I have a future with God, why/how?
What’s the eternity argument–how do I get to each?

You may be surprised how many answers you find and how much there is to them. Take your time and digest them. Let the answers appeal to your conscience–what you know of truth. Because you are made of truth, based on truth, you have built in receptors for identifying it.

These questions and answers must go deep. They serve no purpose, if left on the surface, but to shift around and make trivial fodder for weak brains. Wisdom is only as deep as the dive that mind and heart together take to find it. Don’t let these two remain separate on this expedition of truth, God and man. Let all be involved–all of you and all of the Deity that out-measures you by at least 2-1. This is the only smart way to do it.

You will not “sail through” this expedition. Why then, does one undertake it? Because there are some rewards more meaningful than sorrow-less success. What you find at the end will not be trivial, and neither, anymore will you be. This journey will change your life and engage your heart and give you a new reason for life. It will return you to your original reason to live/source of life. You will feel as though you’re finding in real life what you once lost but knew till now only as a dream.

You life will be complete yet only because you acknowledged it was empty and sought the One who made it to be full. Your joy will be full, but only to the extent that you enter your sorrow and let it’s work be made complete at the cross–where real sorrow and joy meet. The whole work of the gospel includes everything in your heart being united with everything in God’s heart. The cross symbolizes with the Way, the Truth and the Life being presented to us in human flesh that knew how far we were from Him. But, don’t be discouraged by this reality; instead, be drawn to Jesus who is manifested and magnified in His dealing with our need. To forsake the cross is to claim it is a forgery–that it is not real and does not stand for anything, anything capable of upending your life. The only way to authenticate the power of the cross on a personal basis is to yield yourself to its purpose–letting the Christ triumph in your heart and life. Will you?

It’s not that I don’t like you, you’re just hard to live with!

Okay, so that’s pretty much a smack in the face. (Sorry. I do that sometimes.) I know you don’t, but a little therapy should clear that right up!

So, anyway, what do we do with people that it’s hard for us to live with? Do we smack them? Do we avoid them? Do we try to grin and bear it? Do we make them a priority-one on our prayer-lists? Do we ask God to intervene and level off one of us?

Yeah, this business can get pretty insane! (Why do you think I’m trying to have so much fun with it?)

Is there a formula for making it easier over time or a counteraction devise that can make our relief immediate? Well, if these things are legal, we have to wonder whether they might use them against us at some point?

Maybe our definition of live with needs to change. It is often a term we use for such maladies as a chronic illness, a bad marriage, an awful work situation, a bad attitude… But does such a thing apply to a person? Are we supposed to just live with people; try to get along with the inconvenience, learn to adjust into our state of perpetual despising?

I hope not! I pray there’s more hope than that for them and us! And that will be my focus here: us. We are the ones that must learn to live. We are the ones with the problem. (I’m not saying we are to blame, but is our responsibility to handle ourselves in this situation.)

I know the world always promises us that we can handle our situations–in the sense that we can do something with them–but this isn’t always true. Sometimes all we can do is handle ourselves in the midst of a certain situation. We do not always have the influence we would like, but we do have the management of our wills. That is what God calls us to submit to Him. This is our chief concern in living.

We must not concern ourselves so much with the things we live with, but with the God who teaches how to live while we face them. You see, the tests, the annoyances of this life are a stage: they are a back-drop for character development–both God’s and ours. This is not to say that God’s character grows in itself, but that on the stage of life’s bitter difficulties and strife it manifests itself in growing splendor before our eyes. And as this takes place, our characters–who we are–learn to abide more in Him.

So, you see, no matter what the details of the story, we can’t get caught up in them. He is the story and we learn who He is by embracing what plays out in our lives. If we were the story it would be a horror production, but because He is the story, everything we experience has a profound meaning that we’ll know only as we draw close to Him.

Therefore, we need not concern ourselves so much with what we live with and who, but about Who lives in us even so. God bless you in every disconcerting season with difficult someones; remember the story they’re apart of, you’re a part of.

Wikipedia: so definition: in a manner or way indicated or suggested.

The God-Practice of heart change seen in reverse

God sure doesn’t go about changing the heart’s of people the way I would! If I were capable of such a God-activity as monitoring and manipulating the seats of personalities, I believe I would be looking to accomplish a lot less than what He sets out to do with you and me.

Rather than aiming at setting up a relationship between us and allowing our hearts and wills to collide, I think I would keep my distance and busy myself prescribing various avenues of cure — avenues that I would not have to go down myself.

As for methods of affecting the transformation needed by my patients, I would most definitely be seeking out the most uncomplicated and unharmful — for me that is! Two of my favorite “care” options would have little to do with me exercising care — you can be assured.

So far I have come up with two very simple processes I would like to call the zap technique and the extention technique. The patient would be given some measure of choice in the matter, but my recommendation would ultimately decide their fate.

According to the zap technique is designed to treat extremes found on the sin spectrum. A particularly good or abhorably bad would be speedily be transformed into the absolute in divinely inspired perfection with the press of a button.

Then for the more centrally located populace, I would get the exercise out of my heart-alteration practice by constantly hounding the illegitimately holy for all their missteps and then roughly making the corrections in their person as needed.

No one would voluntarily come to me, I can be sure; but I would not voluntarily help them either. My patience would be thin as a strand of floss and love for the sinner at my mercy would be non-existent.

Now, I say all these things because I am amazed that God is not just so with me. By all accounts of my sin, even with His forgiveness, His response to me should leave little room for error. Yet, God is not as like me as I would like to think He is. He loved me when I was just a figment of His perfect imagination, and so He created me and gave life to my little body.

In the full exercise of good plans He gave birth to my God-reflecting image and intelligence. And to this He added freedom that I might be crippled as something like a toy or a tool that can not move or speak on its own. He loved me down to the faculties that gave me expression — whether that should be good or evil.

Therefore when He goes to change me, it is not to start over or to set limits on what I can now be, but to open wide those avenues that I have closed with my willingness to turn away from Him. Now He walks in and takes my hand, saying, “Child, come with Me. I am going to show you what it means to be a boy/girl who does only the best of what she is capable of.”

Let Me See You, O God!

God, it seems you’ve been our home forever; long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God.

So don’t return us to mud, saying,
“Back to where you came from!”
Patience! You’ve got all the time in the world—whether
a thousand years or a day, it’s all the same to you.
Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
no more than a blade of grass
That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
we’re at the end of our rope.
You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed
since we were children is entered in your books.
All we can remember is that frown on your face.
Is that all we’re ever going to get?
We live for seventy years or so
(with luck we might make it to eighty),
And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
Who can make sense of such rage,
such anger against the very ones who fear you?

Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

Psalm 90

Misplaced Dread

The mountains and the valleys of life…Do you ever wonder why they’re there?

I do. I wonder why my time on the mountainous terrain isn’t more extensive and why some of my “valley” seasons can’t be more easily cut short.

Yet the more time I have spent in the valley, the more I wonder why I dread it so — this station where joy rises with the morning and where real worship begins. It is here that I can most effectively take leave of myself and learn what it means to cling to Him while holding nothing back.

It is when I am aware that I am making my ascent — closing in on my next peak — that am most tempted to push and shove; to insist that God get “out of my way” so I see all that I’ve been missing while so far below. But it is in the valley that I become the most patient. I realize that I cannot push God around and I have no reason to expect to get my way. I learn what it really means to say that God is good. And I discover grace is not a luxury, but a daily support I cannot press on without.