Truly living, Truly seeing

I shall never be truly living
so long as I see the world
through anything but
the eyes of
He Who
made it.

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Why do I need God?

So, You’ve been teaching me I need You
for several years now, Lord.
But I’ve always thought the reason,
what made that true,
was being caught in a life
that was so difficult it demanded You.

But the truth is actually something wholly separate from
anything my life will ever be:
it is a truth about me that has nothing to do with
what I am living with or
what I am living without,
but has everything to do with
Who I am living because of.

Deeper than any truth I can communicate about myself
is the One breathed over me
every moment of my life:
You
need
Me.

God: Giver of freedom or Minder of minions?

Does that second definition resonate with you? I know it has for me. When it came to God, I felt no welcoming to come and know Him. I felt a calling, yes, but to me it was a brutal thing that clawed at me almost mercilessly in any moments I had–as unusual as I tried to make them–of relative repose.

Do you labor, like I did, under the burden of believing that God is a hard task-master and an undesirable companion in your life’s journey? Do you hear, at times, pleasant things about God and find yourself wishing they were true–if only what you knew of God were not so? Do you understand God to be nothing more than a judgmental tyrant? Do you wish there was some way you could negotiate with Him for a level of amnesty? Not so that there could be a greater possibility of closeness between you–there is no way you would be so audacious as to seek that; instead, you desire to quiet down the battle-hype between you and God.

I can understand this penchant for seeing God with that dominating proclivity for casting humans into despair with His unyielding expectations and crushing judgments. It is such a bad thing for us to think these things because if we had an acquaintance who demonstrated even a sprinkling of these characteristics, we would not be in anyway confusing our relationship as a friendship. We would resent the day they came on the scene of our lives. If they stay, we can be sure that they will ruin everything that we happen to love.

Considering the weight of these conclusions we have about God, it’s no wonder that we try to keep God from being close–we don’t want to be any nearer to these negative distinctions than we have to. But would God have it to be this way? Does He want His person to leave you with such an unappealing impression? I used to think He didn’t care. This was obviously the way He wanted things to be.

But, if we’re trying so hard to maintain a significant distance from God, how can we really be sure of what He’s thinking or wanting in regard to us? If we engaged in this type of relationship-management with anyone else, any objective observer would find it necessary to challenge the untested assumption we had about the other. It would not be sufficient to look at there actions of days, months or years past to make present-judgments. We would be required to explore the matter and gather more recent facts and conclusions. There is always the possibility–with our human counterparts–that with time they have changed. What we thought they were at one time may have been accurate, but today it may be in need of a revision.

Too often we conclude God is so different from us–different enough to make Him appalling in His starkness. But why do we think this? Where do these perceptions come from? For many of us, it must come from more than circumstantial evidence, since our shared part with God in this state has been minimal, at best. Would you be inclined to consider that we were born with this broken perception–with this desire to keep ourselves apart from God, apart from and before the interactions we’ve had with Him and His world.

This is going to take a lot of work to sort out. But there is truly nothing we have more time to sort out. This is the main thing we were meant to decide with our lifetimes. But don’t be discouraged if this sounds like something that is out of your league. It’s out of every humans league but for the fact that God calls out to us with every intention of making Himself known, if we are willing to receive Him; if we will but he made to learn and then distinguish who He is from what we’ve thought and what we’ve been told by other sources.

I wish I could tell you right now all that I know He wants you to hear. How He wants His love to break in on you renew your mind with joy and peace. How He has good plans for you that are deep enough to include everything in your history and present circumstances you have considered to be nothing less than the pitiful reflection of a bad plan or an equally bad Planner. God wants you to know–to accept into the deepest places of your soul–the reality that His love is not simple nor scripted; rather, it takes a lifetime of basking in (or abiding as the Bible calls it) to even begin to understand it, to trace out its waves of light that convey energy and hope to the human that depends on it.

There is so much more to say, but I trust that God will say it. He’s always speaking to you, anticipating the joy He will share with you when you turn attend Him, when you bring your heart in full to share with each moment He gives you. When you discover that He gave you life to encounter Him, to experience Him, to disclose yourself fully to Him and find Him complying. That is just a tiny picture of who God is. If you didn’t catch the steadily growing whisper of freedom in the words, ask for God to change your perceptions of Him until they are true and delighting.

What about when I need a break from God?

For some of you, your first thought upon reading the title above is utter shock: “That’s unbiblical!” you cry out. You’re so afraid of ending up guilty of such an infraction that you deny that such a phenomenon could even exist among the race of humans–except, possibly, with the exception of the fiercely pagan (which you make it your business not to know).

For others of you, you read the title of this post with relieved expectation: “Finally, someone is acknowledging that mankind at times finds themselves in such a state.” If you’re in this place, you may want to get out of it, but you also may not. If you are honest, you probably want to get to the heart of what’s going on inside of you before you would ever want to move on. You may have many people around you who are coaxing you to pull yourself out of this “slump”–whether they attempt this by anxious persuasion or caustic maneuvering.

But what are your reasons for needing a break from God? And, may I ask you, what are the characteristics of the God you must escape? How do you see Him? How do you see Him seeing you? These are things that must be considered if the relief your heart needs is ever to be found.

I’m not telling you your feelings and needs are wrong, and I don’t believe God is either. I’m challenging you to let these feelings and needs lead you to a deeper level of revelation than you’ve ever plumbed. Find out what you’re running from and what you’re trying to run to. What is the source of your chains and what holds the power of your release? These are powerful questions that hold out to you the potential of freedom.

These questions will serve your heart well. They do not deny the condition of your heart; rather, they seek to diagnosis your heart in the deepest way possible so that it may be aligned with its most ideal treatment. The ultimate treatment is not something you can do for yourself, but you can certainly do some work to get yourself in a place of contracting with God for this work to be accomplished in you.

Not everyone understands the heart well–even people who claim to know God like they invented Him. But if you want to truly understand your heart, go to God and invite Him to reveal what He sees inside you. Expect His tenderness to train you in paths you haven’t gone. Understand that though He does not protect you from recognizing obscene realities of sin within you, He will cause you to rejoice in seeing that your shame He has fully taken upon Himself. He assumed the weight and penalty of your shame so that you might go free. But He didn’t do this so that you could then walk away from Him.

He did this so that you would have every reason to walk toward Him. And not just walk, but run into His arms–knowing and being convinced of how much you’re wanted there. This realization is the only thing that will be able to call off your break from God. More than that, it is the only thing that can resolve the arguments that anchored you in your retreat.

To demonstrate how much He cares about resolution when it comes to what’s going on in your heart, God has already done three things for you:

The first thing He did was that He took care of your ultimate problem. He set at ease the enmity between you and Him and opened Himself up to you. He saw your fault in the problems that exist between you and He and assumed the debt you racked up. Where you were wrong and had to make things right (but couldn’t), He made things right.

The second thing He did was call you to come look at what He did and understand why He did it. A lot of problems we have with God would be cleared up if we would just look at the cross and take the time to ask Him “Why?” He died so that love could be the answer.

The third thing He did was invite you to embrace the implications of that answer. If God loves you, why aren’t you taking advantage of it? No, don’t use this as an opportunity to scorn Him and get the upper hand when it really counts. Doing this will only make the gift you were meant to enjoy non receivable, even a curse. Instead, delve into this love-gift. Discover in it’s depths (no, I’m sorry but you won’t find this from a distance or by hovering on the surface of it) the most steadfast and true love you will ever find. Come rest in the one place where your performance is no longer counted against you–for good or bad. Hide yourself–find your covering–in the place where One performance forever seals you in the arms of your Father and Heart-Lifter.

For all your arguments and struggles, God entreats you to  argue with Him. He does not want your heart to be burdened and beat up any longer. The cross shows us that He is serious. Christ’s whole heart became blistered and bruised by your very pain. Everything that is wrong with your life and you He came to know intimately. He insists, now, that you come near and not retreat from Him because He wants to sort things out with you. He does not want you to isolate yourself with your problems; He came to Calvary so that fellowship could be restored between you–even to the extent that your problems would become His.

God removed every reason that sin and shame had to keep you apart from Him and invites you to hash out what remains–showing you that all these things together are not as strong as His love for you. He will provide the means for conquering them if you will ask Him to. God does not call you to dismiss parts of yourself to be able to fellowship with Him. Instead, He insists that you bring everything that composes who you are to Him. He promises you that seeing yourself in the pure light of who He is will remove all the blemishes of your heart; all the misconceptions, anger and frustration.

This does not mean, for now, that you will never experience these things again, but that they will no longer rule you. They will never keep you from fellowship with Him. Rather, the weaknesses in you will cause you to find greater comfort in His strength. And you will learn to let go with joy because what He holds out to you is far more important than anything that would keep you from receiving His gifts. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” ( Isaiah 1:17-19).

The relationship between your shame and His sacrifice is the only thing with the power to not just draw you “back”–to the less rebellious place you were before–but call you Home (to God) for the first time. This is grace: What you’ve been looking for so long to find. This is fearlessness in facing the truth because the Truth already faced down the reasons for your fear.

He arrested the development of your eternity-defining struggle against Him so He could call you home to mercy and not what you deserved; to life and not the death that awaited you from a wrath-appointing God; to peace and not the enmity you’ve always known to be the chief characteristic of your relationship with God. So, ask God to give you a break from your troubles–if that’s the request that burdens you the most. Ask Him to give you a break from all the things that make you hate Him or misunderstand what He’s doing (or done) in your life. But, above all, ask Him to teach you the blessed opposite of taking a break from Him. He will teach you–oh, most eagerly!

What makes you think laughter is such an un-Divine thing?

Does God laugh? If so, what excites that reaction in Him? Is it us, like people say? Yes? Well what are we doing when He guffaws and is it a nice, joy-filled laughter or is it a harsh, sarcastic judgment that’s more like a snort? Does God laugh and is it something we can join in with Him?

I not only hope that this is so, I’ve experienced this to be the case in various times with Him. Having those moments together makes me want to have more. They have opened my heart to Him more as I have discovered a side of Him I never guessed was there. A part He meant for me, for us, to share. One more way to enrich our relationship.

You see, there is no innate part of our person-hood that God does not share. Our person-hood came from Him and the best parts of us are but pale reflections of His perfect image. Sin taints us, but it in no way affects the essence of His character. Therefore, we cannot consider ourselves to be the best demonstration of personality, we should worship Him because we find that this great honor belongs chiefly to Him.

Because we share His likeness–and yet recognize in Him none of our own sinful–we can find joy in relating to Him. Any cause for fear (in the negative sense) has been decomposed at the cross. The only thing that has–or will–ever come between us and God is our sin and at Calvary Christ destroyed all of its power in His body. It can no longer separate from God those of us who receive His salvation.

Because all this is true, we acknowledge that His sacrifice had all authority over our relationship with God and our lives. Now consider, how could laughter–the by-product of joy–be foreign to a God who would give us such grace as this? In the gospel He displays the ultimate delight–one that would come after guilty sinners to restore them to His heart and home simply because of love. He would seal us for the redemption that will one day take us Home to be a part of that endless celebration that will be so rich with heavenly pleasure that laughter and mirth will ring from the doors. If these are the things that characterize His plan, must they not also be the things that characterize the Person?

Is there any such thing as something “too good” for us?

I was watching an old silent black and white movie last night. It was only for a minute or two (before I took my tired self off to bed), but one 1921 actress got my attention with a single statement. “Get your hands off — this (blank) is too good for you!”

How often do we get the chance, in today’s society, do we get to hear that something is too good for us? We may say something like that to someone else, but how often do we hear it ourselves? We hear a lot of messages, but not this one. We hear “you deserve it”; “isn’t it about time?”; “you should treat yourself” and on and on and on it goes.

All these imperatives certainly get our attention, but what are they supporting? Do we need this type of bolstering or is it hampering us in more ways than we might be willing to recognize?

We cannot answer these questions unless we inquire into what these things are truly spoken for and what is the goal behind their loud declarations. Are we being blasted with the truth or lies that are necessary to accept in order product sales to be maintained? What I mean is, we must investigate why an advertising campaign says what is says and what response its message is designed to elicit.

For example, if a car company wants to sell cars, it will advertize in such a way that you will not only be informed about the cars they are selling, but that you will want to by it. Well, that form of advertizing seems a little retro, actually. The type of advertizing employed today insists that we not only realize that a certain product is worthy of desire, but that we also realize that the desire itself is god. If the desire is god, it must be obeyed or there will be consequences: The god will destroy us.

So, we pacify the god–we give it what it wants. But, in doing so, we forget that the god we are serving is our self. Worse, the will has bowed to the emotions and the emotions are as changeable as the temperature on an early spring day.

There is a war going on all around us for the permanent possession of our souls. You may say that adverting and the many other things that go along with promoting the world’s way of life just concern what we buy, own and enjoy, but it is so much more. It concerns our beliefs about ourselves and what rules us. It leads us to choose who shall be our God.

I don’t know about you, but I would like my God to offer more than (in the case of one popular product) just the ability to get me around places–especially if I must supply the gas and the maintenance, and replace it when it dies. Just a thought.

 

When “I love you” is a mistake

I love you.

It can be such an easy thing to say, we can end up using it only flippantly. Maybe throwing it out during a lull in conversation. Maybe treating it as a farewell akin to goodbye. We think we should love, we’re expected to love, so we say we do. We sometimes skip right over “like” and use “love” just as a means to impress the one we address.

But is love really something that can so easily be thrown around? Is it merely a souvenir of a couples’ time together; a bauble that looks pretty on a ladie’s finger?

Does it really mean anything? Is it the conveyor of our deepest sentiments, or just something to fill up the space in our interactions with others?

Well, if we separate love from God, I think it is exactly what I’ve just described: a cheep trinket used to impress both those who give it and those who get it–and hopefully those who observe from the sidelines!

But shouldn’t there be another name for this kind of thing–something that suits it better than the misconstrued L-term? Maybe the other L-word: lust? Or, Infatuation? Self-interest? Keeping up appearances? Relationship insurance?

I think that last one hits what I’m trying to get at right on the head! (Am I glad I just picked up that telemarketing phone call that was advertizing life-insurance!) How many of us do things, say things, pretend things just to insure that our relationships stay where they are, stay a part of our life? Far too often I think.

The problem with this is not always that it doesn’t work, but in its deceit it insulates us from the other person and establishes the relationship on less than true love and commitment.

Self-love and self-commitment is not love or commitment–at least not what can be considered worthy currency to invest in a relationship. Then it is not a relationship which offers mutual benefits, but a service agreement that subsists on the level of personal pleasure derived from it.

That doesn’t sound a lot like God’s love. That sounds like man (meaning humans) loving for the sake of giving to himself. How do we get away from this? How do we learn to not only acknowledge what real love is, but practice it consistently?

We connect with God, who is love, and then we connect with others so that His love can flow through us and into others. We don’t let our love get in the way. In fact, we move ourselves out of the way, out of the center, and let God be God. Then we give Him our will as a free-will offering, knowing that when God has the will, He has the man. And that man will no longer live for Himself because Christ will live in him and make love full in him.