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!

 

A masquerade of mercy offers pithy bail

What is mercy? Does it mean that we get off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket? Does it mean we get the threat of jail but are then dismissed? Could it ammount to a few days behind the bars of the penitentiary until we are given an unexpectedly early release?

No, these things I would call coersion, threats and partial punishment. But, if this should masquerade as mercy, it is no doubt a weak form. Mercy exists because the offended has absorbed what should have been our punish according to their rights so that we could be restored to their good favor.

If we think we are worthy, or have , we have missed the point of it entirely! Mercy is not a reward for good behavior, but a treatment of bad behavior that reveals the incimprehensible love for the offender by the One he mistreated.

Yet, don’t get me wrong here, mercy is not something that may be offered without a cost to the One who chooses such a presentation. Mercy does not do away with the debt, but calls upon the One whose right it is to call for the payment to insteadblay down their rights and see that it is paid for by themselves. In this way, though we mortally offended God by our sin, the Bible says that He was not willing that we should perish by the penalty that sin deserved, so He reserved the entire wrath-filled execution for Himself.

He went to the Cross in the Person of Jesus to pay for our sins so that we could be proclaimed new and acceptable to Himself. Not only did He take our deadly reward from us, but delivered in its place His lively reward. He would die so that we might rise when He did to live forever as a treasure of our God.

Things were great, and then it bit me!

Have you ever heard someone comment after another has experienced some measure of success, “Well, he/she sure got a big head!” Or maybe the sentiment was voiced in a cautionary tone: “Now watch that all this doesn’t go to your head!” In these two examples it is evident that pride can be a fearfully unattractive quality. Yet, there is another assumption here that I would like to deal with here: Pride is something that springs up, suddenly becoming a temptation for us when blessing and prosperity come our way its tag-alongs — praise, prestige and power.

Though prosperity certainly does present a threat to our souls, it is more like a gift that must be handled with the utmost care. A great portion of our knowledge of how to handle blessing must be learned in the midst of it — much the same as the instruction we receive in trials.

We should not be afraid of prosperity; if it reveals our pride, it has done its job. This is not to say that pride’s exposure is its only purpose for being a part of our lives — it is a blessing to us in so many other ways. It showcases such things as the Father’s love, His generosity, His faithfulness, His boundless imagination and His kindness. But to the degree that it reveals sin that has long since lingered in our hearts, it makes the unceasing mercies of our Lord more precious and more astonishing.

We realize that God is not out to punish us for our sin, but to uncover it that we may freely repent and be cleansed of it. Eagerness to find our sin and destroy our dignity was never God’s method. He cannot ignore our sin because everything we do wrong is against Him. He is seeking to reconcile us when He opens our eyes to what He sees that we might not demand from Him His holy discipline.

So when we see our sin we should not fail to see His mercy there too. Not that we should make light of us in our sin, but that we should make much of Him in His holiness. I know that it is a mistake that I have made too many times: I have tried to create an artificial sobriety over my sin by meditating on it. I didn’t realize that only Christ could make my heart both eager for holiness that begins with Him and appropriately sorrowful for sin that dismisses Him altogether.

But recently I have come to the realization that my sinful response can make bad come of anything. But the problem is with me and not with the undeserved gifts that I enjoy from the hand of God. Nothing is bad for me but serves to reveal the corruption in me that I should be constantly aware that is at the mercy of God that I stand and not in the endurance or plenty of what surrounds me.

How shall I know power if I am weak?

What does God’s power look like, do you think? Must it always appear the same way — should it always be stationed in the same vicinities and triumph by predictable means?

Or, is our God ever unique? Is He steadfastly after our hearts and our neighbors hearts — who ever they happen to be at the moment — in new and exciting ways?

Can He be capable of more than we can see? And what is more convicting: Is He possibly now busily at work accomplishing works of redemption and healing while we complain that His mercies are no where to be found?

What if the kindnesses of God have escaped our view not because He has hidden every trace of hope from us, but because we have chosen blindness over seeing Him? Is it not true that we cannot see the works of a Savior unless we look for Him first?

And from where might a Savior emerge? Doesn’t He show up more regularly on the scene of disaster than a parade of bliss? Doesn’t He pass by unnoticed in the ho-hum days when there is no evidence of our need/desire for His services? Isn’t He crucial to our existence only on a desperation basis?

Therefore, if we need His rescue, the only thing that could prevent us from receiving its benefits would be in denying either our need or His ability. The first error of a desperate sinner with an unexplainable aversion to rescue is rooted in apathy. Despite being suspended over hell by consequences of our own actions, we excuse the situation from which we need escape as something that is “really not that bad” whether this is due to ourselves not being that bad, or God being too precise in His expectations of our repentance.

The second error is also a quality of faithlessness, but in this case it is sated in doubt of God that is a disguise for woefully misplaced grief. We know we are in a bad spot, and that there is no undoing what we have done to get ourselves here, but if only God had helped us be better people, we would not be in this spot. God is the reason we are here on death row at all.

The cure for both apathy and self-pity is nothing less than choosing to believe God for what His Word says. Faith in God — the strenuous and only legitimate work of the soul — takes hold of the gospel in such a way that it turns us out of our own one-man sin party and instead compels our spirits to be united to the God of heaven. It recognizes that we are sinners at no fault of God’s yet He has mercifully reached out to save us. We will accept His offer at whatever terms He gives us; trusting that He will fulfill His promises to completely transform us into God-fearing and God- glorifying individuals that will one day fill His presence with praise and passion.

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.

Mercy denied is our worst offense

Nothing makes me more interested in mercy than a deepening awareness of my sin. Considering how God should treat me, mercy makes no sense and yet all the all the sense in the world. It makes me cling to God and live according to His judgments because I have seen the unmistakable beauty of His character acting upon me from yhr beginning.

If we misjudge mercy as a little thing we have committed a crime worse than all the sins that first thrust us upon this quality of God. On the other hand, if we assume that mercy is to high a judgment to bridge the gap between us and God, than we do not really have any idea of how much better God is than us.

Where mercy is provided we must not question its relativity but throe ourselves head-long upon it. If there is no hope of it being applied to us, than we truly have nothing else.

If mercy be withheld from us, then we would be back to relying on the merits of our own behavior. If this is what we have to go back on, then our cause is already death — all of our work having already been set as further evidence against us. Sinners born and sinners condemned were ever only sinners dead.

But regardless of our demerrits, mercy stands ready to release us from what we deserve and prepare us for grace which delivers what we don’t deserve. Mercy is guaranteed to we who seek it because Sinless Judge has a Son who is just like Him. The Son needed no mercy from His Father, but chose to step into the place of judgment, taking our position and our vile punishment by declining the mercy so freely available to Him.

Mercy does not depend us but to be welcomed. It cannot be obtained in any other place but where judgment is passed down and carried out not on us but on Christ. We will miss it entirely if we try to find other than on our knees, bending low before the cross that put the death-opposed in the grave for us. There we discover that we are free and now alive when we receive the One who rose from the depths of hell to introduce us to His Father once our Judge but now our closest Friend.

When ugliness of the soul is revealed, Christ may still be glorified

I was sitting in my room listening to Kutless and talking to God in preparation to seek Him before I read the Bible. I began journaling a little, trying to reflect on how mighty God is to turn anything and everything into something that brings glory to Him.

I thought of some of the things I have done lately that I have worried over the rightness of. Sometimes I do things or say things that I feel God leading me to do or say, but that doesn’t always mean that it goes over really well. Often I go away feeling like I have learned more than I knew I needed to; I end up believing that maybe the interaction was really more for my mind to be jolted and my heart to be brought in tune with God’s than anything else. The brilliant ideas of glory streaming from the very pores of the moment that I do what God tells me to do, are not really consistent with the need that God was addressing with the direction He gave me. Rather He had prepared a new way for me to see the pitiable state of my glory and potential so that my eyes might be lifted from this seat of self-endorsing glory.

God throws the spotlight on redemption when He speaks and instructs me to do something. I readily believe this at the outset, but I am thinking most naturally of the redemption of the other person. Only when I have passed through the opportunity, and look back, always with some measure of doubt, I question God as to the good He can bring out of the unmistakable evidences of my insensitivity and arrogance. Yes, there is love there, and more importantly, the power of the Holy Spirit is at work throughout the engagement, but I seem to be the neediest sinner in the exchange. How are You glorified in that, Lord? I ask in distress.

And He answers, Look, child. The whole thing was a glory to Me because it showed you both that I am “what it’s all about.” It was My idea to move you out of your comfort zone and speak the words that I gave you, but to see that they do not need your power of eloquence or persuasion — where there is nothing to carry them, they carry both the speaker and the hearer; thus you both need them, and I am the One who gets appreciated and profoundly recognized.

Therefore, do not grieve over seemingly unfavorable reactions, or unsightly errors in your character, that is why I came to save you. What I did for You in my death and continue to do for you in My life is too important for you to forget, so I remind you by the only thing that will build your faith knowledge that comes from Me of who I am and who you are.

This seems to make such a beautiful concept, until the shadows of my sin loom large in my recognition, and I cry, “But God, this stuff is just ugly! I am so ugly. This disgusting pride stains everything I do and say, everything I am. I am a sinner, what hope have I that I can do anything good even when I want to be involved in everything that You do?”

I know, My child. You know, none of this surprises Me. I saved you like this, and I keep saving you. I am not turned off by how you are, who you are — I am your Savior, it’s who I am.

Even in this I am letting you know the depths of My grace by the demands of your sin. There’s nothing of you that I can’t handle. So, don’t worry what others will think — it will give them a clearer vision of their own sin and their identification with you. You do not need to be great in the eyes of another for them to be turned to Me, the only contingent here is that I be great. If that be true, than every man is a lying sinner who needs my mercy and forgiveness more than he knows. And that is the only thing that anyone needs to take away from the actions and arguments of life.

Thank God for His miracle mercy to we, the children He loves

Oh, thank God—he’s so good! His love never runs out.
All of you set free by God, tell the world!
Tell how he freed you from oppression,
Then rounded you up from all over the place,
from the four winds, from the seven seas.

Some of you wandered for years in the desert,
looking but not finding a good place to live,
Half-starved and parched with thirst,
staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.
Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God.
He got you out in the nick of time;
He put your feet on a wonderful road
that took you straight to a good place to live.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
He poured great draughts of water down parched throats;
the starved and hungry got plenty to eat.

Some of you were locked in a dark cell,
cruelly confined behind bars,
Punished for defying God’s Word,
for turning your back on the High God’s counsel—
A hard sentence, and your hearts so heavy,
and not a soul in sight to help.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He led you out of your dark, dark cell,
broke open the jail and led you out.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
He shattered the heavy jailhouse doors,
he snapped the prison bars like matchsticks!

Some of you were sick because you’d lived a bad life,
your bodies feeling the effects of your sin;
You couldn’t stand the sight of food,
so miserable you thought you’d be better off dead.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He spoke the word that healed you,
that pulled you back from the brink of death.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves;
Offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
tell the world what he’s done—sing it out!

Some of you set sail in big ships;
you put to sea to do business in faraway ports.
Out at sea you saw God in action,
saw his breathtaking ways with the ocean:
With a word he called up the wind—
an ocean storm, towering waves!
You shot high in the sky, then the bottom dropped out;
your hearts were stuck in your throats.
You were spun like a top, you reeled like a drunk,
you didn’t know which end was up.
Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time.
He quieted the wind down to a whisper,
put a muzzle on all the big waves.
And you were so glad when the storm died down,
and he led you safely back to harbor.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
Lift high your praises when the people assemble,
shout Hallelujah when the elders meet!

God turned rivers into wasteland,
springs of water into sunbaked mud;
Luscious orchards became alkali flats
because of the evil of the people who lived there.
Then he changed wasteland into fresh pools of water,
arid earth into springs of water,
Brought in the hungry and settled them there;
they moved in—what a great place to live!
They sowed the fields, they planted vineyards,
they reaped a bountiful harvest.
He blessed them and they prospered greatly;
their herds of cattle never decreased.
But abuse and evil and trouble declined
as he heaped scorn on princes and sent them away.
He gave the poor a safe place to live,
treated their clans like well-cared-for sheep.

Good people see this and are glad;
bad people are speechless, stopped in their tracks.
If you are really wise, you’ll think this over—
it’s time you appreciated God

Psalm 107