Can grief agree with me?

I thought You had
to save the day
or I would die.
Even if my body didn’t
crumble under the grief
of what I’m going through,
I was sure my heart
would faint.
I am not built for disappointments
or standoffs with evil,
but here You have me.
As my Savior,
You weren’t built for these things
either,
and yet You selflessly
share them with me
everyday,
as long as it takes
for Your redemption
to be made complete
in every secret place
within my heart.

Does loving God make us sissy?

Are you afraid of loving God because it might make you lose your reputation? Maybe you’re known for being pretty strong, resiliant; someone that no one else can take down. And you wonder what could be the result of letting your guard down to let God in. If He took over, wouldn’t you look like a half-competant individual? You might resemble a pilot who could never get away with flying his own plane so he had to hire on a more educated and confident co-pilot.

Okay, that’s the one problem you might be facing; the other is that Jesus just might not be so respected among the people you’re around. Let’s face it, it could get a little awkward if you were to pledge allegience to a person your public deems a dead prophet who didn’t have the sense to keep Himself from getting killed. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like an option that would be so ideal in the relations department at your work or school or even in your everyday life with family and friends. After evaluating this for a little bit, you get to the point where you begin to wonder, “Who DOES like Jesus?!”

Don’t be surprised, my friend, when you recognize there aren’t many on the list you might be trying to make. It can get even more disconcerting when you start concerning yourself with who really LOVES Jesus. There may be crickets going off on their third solo song inside your head before you realize that all it takes to silence them is to say your name.

You see, the important thing (in your case) is not whether other people like or love Jesus or whether they will stop liking or loving you if you do. The only question you will have to answer when all your conflict with the world “out there” is over is whether you loved the Lord your God with all your heart when you knew it was right. When you knew everything else, done in it’s place–to avoid giving God your heart–is wrong.

When the fullness of your heart-story is told, the most significant question it will answer is “What did she/he do with Jesus and His proposal?” Were you ultimately united with God or did you choose to cruise with the world, feigning indifference to your true purpose? I hope the oh so popular story of apethy toward God will not be yours. Instead, I pray that you would live every day inviting God to help you write His story in your heart. It will be worth all the sacrifice you could possibly give to God to have His name honored as the Author of all that you were and desired to be. Nothing else could make for a better story!

Frustrated? Yeah, I thought so

Let me ask you a quick question: Do you get frustrated?

(Long pause.)

I thought so.

(If you didn’t say yes, you’re probably frustrated with me right now for even asking.)

Let me pose another: Do you think it’s fated or do you and I have some recourse?

(If you’re hoping I’ll stop, you can relax. I’m not trying to expose your inadequacies to shame you, I’m trying to recommend to you a strength that’s greater than all the frustrations we daily face in this world.)

You don’t have to strengthen your present armor, you just have to ask Someone to become your armor. Not so that you will never get frustrated again, but so that your frustrations will not possess you and hold you captive. So that, when frustrations assault you, you will have a defense–a confidence greater than what assails you.

You and I have available to us a grace that fortifies us with peace in the midst of our frustrations and carries us with mercy when we fall. Neither depression nor expressions of anger or fear can manipulate us when the Force within us is greater than that without.

We know that Christ is great enough to confront everything we face because where we failed in keeping God’s law, He didn’t. He lived in our frustrating world and was as susceptible to its threats as we are, yet He didn’t live according to its dictates or mirror its orientation in His soul. His soul was unblemished. And rather than be frustrated by the world, He frustrated it.

He died on behalf of hopeless sinners who defied God’s judgments. He fulfilled those judgments on our behalf and by doing so exalted God in all the earth. But His mission had no ultimate meaning except in this: that He return us prodigals and pharisees to His Father, that He might also be our Father too.

Who could do this work instead of Him? Who could live as though it didn’t exist? We all can. And yet, in this work is all the answer we have to living in this frustrating world. We put it to work by trusting Jesus; believing that He has removed the frustration that is between natural man and God. We confess that every frustration in us and in our world comes from this one ruined relationship and we acknowledge that we are the ones who deserve the blame for it.

We accept His provision of mercy and forgiveness with wonder–both are undeserved and costly, the mark of a Heart more generous and compassionate and selfless than all others. The only one true heart.

And He has offered in His salvation plan to both accomplish our acceptance in righteousness and make our heart mirror His. This is a sweet deal for us who need a higher calling than here and the blessed fortitude to live it out!

Oh, give us eyes to see the One who encompasses us about in every trouble. You alone can do this, O God!

 

Choose your heart surgeon without a reference — if you dare

You have a heart, it cannot function under its own power, so you must have a surgeon work on it. Depending on who you choose for this weighty undertaking, you will find that your heart has been fashioned after the heart of your operator. Of course you will want to choose wisely. Therefore, may I make a few helpful pieces of information to help you decide?

First of all, You have only two options here:

One is God–the Maker of all things, the Beginning and the End, the great “I Am What I Am”, the great Physician, etc–

and the other is His enemy, Satan (or Lucifer, the Devil, the Father of Lies, the antichrist, the beast,etc).

Beyond their names and various titles I can offer you a brief sketch of their characters and histories and methods of infiltrating the human heart…

I’ll start with God. As far as God’s character goes, He pretty much steals the show on morality, but He does it with a finesse that suggests He’s been doing all of this since before there was even a concept among us of such a contest.

As for history, again, God totally created the parameters and definitions that even enable us to have such a thing. In case you’re not aware of this, the word history actually means His Story–as in the sovereign-ly executed treatise on divine glory in which we all play a part in unfurling throughout time.

Moving on to methods now, keep in mind that God wants you to be clear on this point (just as He does in all the others): God accomplishes heart change by working with and in us using two primary means–His Spirit and His Word (the Bible). Now, if you are like most people, these terms of methodology are a bit foreign to you (actually, they are to all of us) and they may make you a bit uncomfortable at first. Do not be discouraged. God will not do anything to coerce or manipulate you; in all things He absolutely respects your free will–after all, He’s the one that decided you should have it!

Always, with each bit of territory that for you is new and untested, God will invite you to come along with Him and test it. He will not tamper with your results, though He may enlighten you regarding the import of the results you find (as desired). God’s ultimate goal for your heart is that it might know Him and return the love He keeps pouring over and then (when we’re willing to receive it) in to us.

In case the above is not convincing enough or you are the kind of person who likes to get the full story before they make a decision or judgment, let’s spend some time talking about the other surgeon on our list.

Satan has a character all his own. The only way to define it is to contrast it with that of God–for Satan was created by God to be subservient to Him, but chose to rebel against Him and alter the imprint of God’s design upon Him. He chose to turn against God and war for glory and a position that would make him equal to, if not capable of override, God. Satan’s glory is in his corruption of the glory given to him by God–he seeks out evil in all his ways, thoughts and ambitions; in this he finds his one joy.

Regarding his history, Satan would like you to be in the dark. He would like you to think that he has always been and will always be and complete power belongs to him. He does not have to be greater or more powerful than God in actuality, so long as he can make you believe that he is. He is constantly trying to get God out of the picture so that you will not perceive the larger story unfolding beyond you and him.

I have hinted at his methodology frequently in my descriptions of his character and history, but just to be clear, let me go a little deeper here. Satan is a deceiver–the Bible tells us that he is the Deceiver. Everyone who knows or practices the art of deception has him as their teacher. Satan does not work on your heart for nothing, and he does not work on it for your sake–he has a larger scheme. He targets you and exposes you and intimidates you and works out ever form of destruction upon you (yes, all this centers around your heart) so that he can grieve God as much as he possibly can. He knows–likely much better than you do–that God loves you and what that really means. He wants to destroy the investment God has put into mankind by coaxing you to reject Him in sinning against Him without remorse or repentance.

Satan is not more of anything than God except evil–He is totally evil and will one day be defeated and God is totally good and will one day pronounce His victory. At the same time, God is not afraid of Satan, or without the ability to keep him in check. God knows all of Satan’s schemes and how he targets us to unleash them. God promises to guard our hearts against the evil he constantly has prepared to work against us, but He lays the invitation at our doorstep and waits for our reply. He will not join Satan in his tactics of manipulation; in truth, He does not need to.

You are precious to God, but He will not go against His decree that you would be like Him in having the freedom of choice. He wants your love–the overflow of your heart–not your fear-driven service. He is waiting…have you decided yet?

You can’t have everything in life, so what will you choose to have?

There are only so many things that we can enjoy in this life, so what will you choose? Will you scour the earth to make the most of your outer life in a rapidly passing succession of adornments, or pursue the life that begins in the heart and spills out into everything you do, even the people you touch?

If this sounds like I am asking you to restrict the fun you have in life, then consider this: The greatest limit you can place on yourself is to start on the outside and try to work your way in, when the whole time you could be starting where everything you want lies and working out.

Now, I am not talking about one of many popular philosophies that require us to turn inward when we face challenges, promising that when we do, we will find that each of us already has all that we need to prevail and find fulfillment. I am rather, inviting you take a look at your heart that you may notice and be struck by the full impact of what you lack. (Don’t worry, this isn’t supposed to be a self-confidence or -love building exercise, so you will know it is working when you begin to feel just the opposite.)

I believe we must focus on our hearts to determine their accurate conditions–until we do this, and continue to do it, Christ shall never mean anything to us, and we shall be choosing less than life to abide with. From this view of our hearts we will discover that we have needs that we cannot fill–not even by all the treats in the world–unless we take in what is outside of this world.

It’s not that the benefits of living in our world are not good, or we cannot enjoy them, but we do not want our life to be tied to these things. I guess if they lasted forever, it would be okay, but this just isn’t the case. They weren’t designed to replace anything that is forever. Therefore, it would be wise of us to consider the end of things and act appropriately before we must be forced into adjusting to them.

I want to enjoy my life without the fear that what I have been holding onto will be ending or dying or becoming useless. If we know anything about life, from babies we understand that life is filled with change — many of which we cannot avoid. Occasionally we have a choice to make when change sweeps into our lives. And sometimes we have the ability to commence change in our lives.

To what depth do the changes that you implement go? Are they centered around lifestyle, behavior and circumstance, or your heart–the base of who you are? To the extent that you place priority on confronting your true self and allowing God to redeem what you find, you will enjoy riches that go down into the center of who you are and delight your entire being with eternal joy.

And You’ll do this for me without end?

This Psalm breaks my heart with the weight of God’s unspeakable kindnesses, and then lifts my spirit from those fetters He has crushed so I can fly free in the wonder of who He is.

Thank you! Everything in me says “Thank you!” Angels listen as I sing my thanks.
I kneel in worship facing your holy temple
and say it again: “Thank you!”
Thank you for your love,
thank you for your faithfulness;
Most holy is your name,
most holy is your Word.
The moment I called out, you stepped in;
you made my life large with strength.

When they hear what you have to say, God,
all earth’s kings will say “Thank you.”
They’ll sing of what you’ve done:
“How great the glory of God!”
And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below;
no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.

When I walk into the thick of trouble,
keep me alive in the angry turmoil.
With one hand
strike my foes,
With your other hand
save me.
Finish what you started in me, God.
Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.

Psalm 138

The art of “being used”

How does one work for God? In my experience God works on us that He may then work through us. There has been a cycle of three convictions that He has regularly used to cause my heart to be possessed by my Lord and Savior to a new degree.

The first is always being satisfied with God. Now, by this I do not a boring acqiescence to having “just” God. Being limited to God is only a deprivation in the weakest sense. It is the chance to see what we could never see if our lives were crouded with unnecessary distraction. It is firming up our faith by practical means: If God really is as great as He says He is than I can afford to let this go to discover more of what all of this means for me. It is an experiment; a pure and privileged opportunity to realize who God is that I might know who I am in Him.

The next sequence is being willing to let God change up what I’m doing. I like predictability and timeliness, but efficiency on God’s scale of values often requires that my definition of these be changed. Each alteration in my activities and concerns addresses the sin-orientation of my heart in a new way. I couldn’t handle everything that He wants to do at once, so converts me by degrees, He corrects me in one area at a time. He knows what I can handle, what will most tenderly and forcefully affect me in the ways that I need to be to receive more of Him. He is always increasing my effectiveness for Him just as He and His mind is perfected in me more and more each day.

The last exercise He does is in enlarging my desire for Him to obtain glory from me and through me. The change that occurs here is in seeing that my whole life is summed up in Him and that He is my richest supply of joy. Because I would be lost without Him, I cling to Him and ask that only one thing would come from my life: He would be recognized as the giver of every blessing that I enjoyed, every trial that brought me closer to Him; that He would be attractive and a curious mystery to anyone that got to see anything that He did through me; that the testimony of how central and essential He is to the life and livelihood of every man and woman that He created would go out through the life-tale of one more humbled person.

Keeping the God of your minstry your God

i don’t know about you, but I struggle with keeping God the main thing in my life. One of my great pitfalls is in glorying in the potential of ministry more than the One who is the purpose of ministry. I forget that this work is not an end in itself, and that there is no point in expending myself here if it is not all for relating the Minister to everyone who needs Him to minister to them.

God has been speaking to me on this theme recently, and He’s included a few tips for His needy “ministers” — each of us who functions as a type of the Master we want to communicate to others:

Don’t get discouraged if no one seems to be impressed with the goals God has placed in your heart or the efforts you are expending to bring them to fruition. Believe, instead, that God knows how to make testing work for our good just as well as happy progress.

Don’t make the mistake of setting your hopes upon the ministerial progress you experience in the Lord’s service — when you find little increase to boast in you will be grieved unnecessarily.

Don’t wake up in the morning with no greater thought than what reinforcement you will receive from the community you serve. You will criple God’s ability to bless you and use what you day this day.

Don’t pass over the joys and sorrows of your colleagues and counselies — ministry blossoms in the hearts of hurting that God sees and longs to heal today.

Don’t neglect to reflect on your own brokeness and need for the Holy Spirit to minister to you daily and specifically for any grace to pour forth from your vessel.

Don’t look forward to the praise you will receive with the expectation of making as much out of it as you can — don’t be intent on dragging out your thank-yous with since-you-noticed comments. No one is here simply to notice and congratulate you for being you. Be content with the privilege you have in beholding evidence of people being reconciled to God through His Son — whether He used you to make the introduction or not.

Enjoy what you get to do before God first and foremost for the experiences it gives you in fellowshiping with Him. There is no greater mark to your life than that God intervenes in it and ever expands your relationship with Him.

Just that I might see His glory

How much the Lord encouraged my heart last tonight! I went to a young adult meeting at my church for the first time in months, and I got to see how He has been working in ways that I have not been at liberty to be involved with or aware of until now. The group there is growing in number, variety and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God!

As we sang and listened to the message that followed, the Lord impressed upon my heart a few things that I needed to hear.

He showed me that He was fully aware of the thoughts and questions that I have had on my mind the past few difficult days. If I would listen to His voice, He would do for me what I asked earlier as I prayed:

Lord, please clear up some of my confusion and doubts about what You are doing with my life. I know that my heart has to be re-set on You and how my needs point me to because I will not be filled and made content any where else. Only You can bring my trials into proper perspective.

He began to show me how He saw things — with me and my position being represented so differently than I saw them with my own eyes.

“You have not been caged, Elaine,” He said, “Where you find yourself is not some kind of detention from the good things in life. You are not in a position so difficult that all you can do is sit around and feel sorry for yourself as you wait for someone to rescue you. I do not need to make your life absolutely carefree for you to recognize the presence of the freedom I have given you in your life. I have not left you with any remaining constraints that will mean your doom. I have given you life to know in the fullest through Me, and sometimes I choose to let you see how amazing this gift is by letting you see in temporary sufferings how great a wealth of suffering you have escaped because of My death that defeated hell’s right to torment your soul forever.

“Quit waiting for the bars to be removed from a prison that doesn’t exist for you anymore. I am not holding back any joy, peace, hope or purpose from you in allowing you to wade through the uneasy waters of this trial. Neither am I letting this hardship be in vain — I am developing from it invaluable fruits. The fruits of My Spirit can only be witnessed and exhibited by My people who know Me and abide in My love no matter what their present difficulties may say to the contrary. Your faith in Me and what I am doing even when you can’t see right now, is what will cause you to grow strong and confident and able to more fully understand the realities of My death and rising-again that are greater than you do now.

“The sorrows you know now are small compared to what you would know without Me. Since you have not realized this the freedom that I have awarded you is from sin and soul-slavery to Satan and a destiny spent in hell, you have trivialized what real freedom looks like.

You do not need to feel good all the time, or get out of the house on a consistent basis, or be oblivious to troubles in your life. You need life that includes Me and lacks nothing of spiritual abundance. When you appreciate that, when you hold Me as the awesome backdrop of your life, you have the strength to deal with whatever else lies in the foreground of it.”

God has been repossessing me!

Yesterday I woke up — Sunday Morning — with my heart as my alarm clock. Rather than a jangling bell or a honking buzzer, my wake-up call was initiated by something richer, deeper, more connected to me. At first blush of consciousness my spirit leaped into one of those moments of rarest bliss when the notes of heaven sound a higher, more alluring note than anything the world is busy whining.

Thoughts of the previous night were vacant, and plans for the coming day were forgotten. I was perfectly in the moment. The surge of light that transformed the feel of everything in my little room, rejuvenated my heart and fascinated my spirit.

No, the light I gloried in was not the outpouring of a perfect, sunny morning; it was still too dark outside for me to say hello to the sun. Yet, the gloom around me made the reality of my heart throbbing in the presence of my Savior only more distinct and gratifying.

He cemented in me a more prevalent vision of my Life in His purest form. Knowing Him in that moment stretched my faith across a fathom of eternity I had never imagined or touched before.  Dreams impossible to dream flitted into my mind, and desires only He could create took possession of another sinfully indifferent place in my heart.