The most uncomfortable topic-introduction I’ve ever given:

They say farting (or “tooting”) freely and often is a sign of excellent good health. If you talk to the right people, they’ll tell you that you should let the gas escape to give bodily relief–this is a waste-product of your completed the digestion cycle. If you’re uncomfortable with this subject, you’re not alone. I don’t think I would be comfortable with it even if I was a biologist deeply engrossed in this field. I just don’t favor open discussion of all kinds. I think there are limits.

But the reason I bring this up is because I think the discomfort we feel about this topic is a good correlation to the discomfort we feel regarding confession of our sins to one another. We often know the contamination (of sin) is there, and even that it has been known to escape into the open at times, but we are still  do our best to keep very private the details of our struggles. Somehow, we think that if we don’t speak of it, no one will notice that we really are worthy of the title “sinner.” (Choke!)

I think this is not only a shame, but it is wrong. This is not how God has called us to live. He wants us to show forth His grace as we live lives that showcase our weaknesses and need of grace so that grace can be seen for the blessing that it really is. If our lives hold back the evidence of grace’s necessity, how can grace truly shine against the backdrop of our lives?

Yes, sharing the concrete truth about our sin can be unpleasant and embarrassing, but does this change the fact that it is for the good of our spiritual health? The reality is that if sin is in us, it will come out. Confession is not helping more sin to come out, but acknowledging that sin is already coming out. We are admitting that we are the reason that sin comes out and we need help–a solution to deal with what’s inside.

We are often tempted to keep the most unpleasant factors of who we are to ourselves. If we can’t always hold them in, we make sure they are only exposed in absolute privacy. But, while this may be a good-manners policy regarding gas, in the case of spiritual health it is a no-no.

God cannot deal with our sin in the manner He wants if we keep holding ourselves aloof from the help He provides. Because He has already taken care of the penalty that we faced for our sin, we can and must now deal with the roots of our sin that we may be turned in the whole scope of our being toward the God who has saved us and called us to be representatives of His righteousness, peace and grace.

If we do not have peace about owning-up to our sin and the dependence on God that it makes evident in us, than it may well be that we do not yet understand God’s righteousness or grace. They are the very qualities that empower us to fellowship with others free of facades and carefully-planned frameworks for conversation. If God’s righteousness covers us, than we do not have to worry about what our righteousness says about us. If His grace boasts that we are His children, adopted into His sacrificial death, then any boast of identity besides this must be laid to rest.

It’s really quite simple. Let’s not complicate it. It may be uncomfortable to do so, but we must take advantage of grace. Coming closer to God is not necessarily comfortable, but it is ever so good! Shame is a quality that Satan tries to use against us. But instead of cowering before it, we should rejoice that it no longer holds us back from fellowship. Seeing our shame should only remind us of how glorious our Savior is who took our shame upon Himself. He did not bury our shame, but transformed into something that would make us wonder at the love He has for us–how deeply He was willing to enter into our identity and make it bow before His own.

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.

Maybe the destruction the storm brought was necessary

Are the waves too rough to awe you?

Sometimes mighty waters are too rough for us to recognize the wonder of them. The destruction they bring upon us seems too devastating a mess to be attributed to anything but a serious mistake.

Yet, even with all of our complaining neither the winds nor the direction of the vicious current turn away from us. Mercy doesn’t come to us in the way that we would expect.But, maybe calm does not come to us because we are at odds with the Master of the Malaise.

Perhaps understanding and peace would come if we would turn to God and let Him teach us to reverence Him when it would really change who we are — storm or no storm. After all, wild water is many times the only thing that can touch, change or move substances that refuse to budge under the power of anything less than this wet and widowing wonder.

But, this is no reason for us to be intimidated or disheartened, for the heart of Him who winds the seas about us knows what He is working at when He tests us; knows the parts of our soul that need a calm that can only be discovered after the storm about us has expelled the tremors from our within us. Arduous tests pave our pathway to the heart of God with reformed interest and understanding.

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”

Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track.”

God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.
Sing together—everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!

Psalm 32