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.

Spotting the blessed life hidden in the pages of a Book I’ve never lived

Are you looking for the blessed life? So am I — yet, as much as I want it, I really don’t know much about what it looks like or how one gets there. But, God knows we want it, and He is determined to show us all that we need to know about it so that we can experience it. He sat me down tonight and began to reveal a few things to me through the words of Psalm 119 — what I would normally look at as a very intimidating chapter of Scripture for both its intense admonitions and exceptional length. Tonight was different, though.

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD (verse 1).

It does not say, “blessed are they whose way is bleakest” as I usually like to think. The world pities the sinner whose “lot” in life is tough and so I gladly put myself in that place to  receive whatever it can give me. I hope to soon be recognized as patient and deserving of a raise in position and profit, but God expects so much more in a blessed designation — one that brings primary glory to Him and not the troubles swirling in my life. He is eternal, but they are in no way His competition for endurance or significance.

Here we see that Scripture does not automatically recognize the down-trodden as the deity-toting. He clearly judges our hearts, detecting the sin that keeps us from honoring Him, even when our earthly audience would just as readily offer us a prize for just living through a hard time.

Trouble and sorrow are no guarantee that God will intervene and turn things around for a person. How often do we assume we know God because we have some divine idea of what good should look like in our rebel-addicted lives!

Yet our confident assumptions do nothing for us when it comes to getting us near the truth and freedom from the bondage of an un-blessed life.

The truth — being far above anything else that is pleasing in this world — is what gets us beyond the hopeless realities of our world. A fresh taste of what attention, popularity, recognition or sexual pleasure can do for us promises instant happiness that only runs skin deep. Each of these things leaves us feeling more tense than when we started their joy-ride if they must bear the weight of all our expectation of bliss and fulfillment. After all, they make poor substitutes for what we were meant to have in lives centered on the undying pleasure and ever-increasing peace of knowing and relating to Christ.

Now, the blessed life has another characteristic that holds the first and the third (upcoming) characteristic in check for us. We find it in the second verse of Psalm 119:

Blessed are they who keep his commandments and seek him with all their heart.

A lot of times in my life I have heard the encouragement to seek God, but with no idea of where to go with that. The words didn’t sink into me very deeply because they had no weight in knowledge and conviction to pull them down to the lowest places of my soul — what makes up who I am and the way I do life.

The Word of God didn’t accomplish a lot of change in my life because I needed it to correct my heart to be something I could see as being truly “good” for me. Correction may not sound like the mark of any blessed person that you know, but without its strength and unshakable ability we would never be able to obey God. It is only when we obey God that the blessings of the holy life are borne out in us by the Holy Spirit with fruit that is described, in our third and final snapshot, this way:

They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me (verses 3-8).

I’m done Worrying, trying to be like God, and thinking I must have it All Together

I’m no longer going to worry about whether or not God will keep His promises to me; and how He will do this; and when…and the rest of my inhibitions about His seemingly inconceivable arrangements for my life.

Worry does not make me any more like God. And besides, no matter how much I think I will be able to get myself geared-up for the future He has for me, I will never be able to meet His purposes with confidence in my own readiness. By faith I leave all that needs to be done in me in His ever-capable hands.

After all, does God ever call any of us into projects and purposes that we have already mastered on our own? No, He welcomes us into a much larger world — where so much more is possible for us than what we know and see all by ourselves. By faith He teaches us to dream of how big and majestic He is with our eyes firmly shut and our hearts and minds wide open to His multi-dimensional views.

Distress that Drives Us to God

With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.

Trust us, we’ve never hurt a soul, never exploited or taken advantage of anyone. Don’t think I’m finding fault with you. I told you earlier that I’m with you all the way, no matter what. I have, in fact, the greatest confidence in  you. If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles.

When we arrived at Macedonia province, we couldn’t settle down. The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles. We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out. Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and hearts with the arrival of Titus. We were glad just to see him, but the real reassurance came in what he told us about you: how much you cared, how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me. I went from worry to tranquility in no time!

I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad — not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

And now, isn’t it wonderful in all the ways this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter. My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you — that you would act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God. That’s what happened — and we felt just great.

And then, when we saw how Titus felt — his exuberance over your response — our joy doubled. It was wonderful to see how revived and refreshed he was by everything you did. If I went out on a limb in telling Titus how great I thought you were, you didn’t cut off that limb. As it turned out, I hadn’t exaggerated one bit. Titus saw for himself that everything I had said about you was true. He can’t quit talking about it, going over again and again the story of your prompt obedience, and the dignity and sensitivity of your hospitality. He was quite overwhelmed by it all! And I couldn’t be more pleased — I’m so confident and proud of you.

2 Corinthians 7

Isn’t it crazy the gentleness and sensitivity we find in God, even when He disciplines us, alerting us to what needs to be changed or corrected in us. He goes so deep, yet He remains so tender.

The Lord has been so intense with me for last few months, showing me how little I trust Him, how impossible it is for me to want His plans, yet how faithful He is to convert my heart to long for what is good. How many of us like junk food, yet would be offended if offered a carrot to satisfy our cravings instead? That is the way my interaction with God has seemed. He wants to feed me and see me satisfied, but He’s never content to use just what’s on hand in my pantry. He is looking for substance that is more than what I’m used, more than I’m willing to wait for or chew on.

I like what tastes good, what feels right and what looks appealing; God keeps on introducing what tastes too-natural, feels strange and looks like I’m going to have to get used to less in the sights department. So, needless to say, it’s taking me time to get used to all these new delicacies, a lot of time. This is not to say that it is impossible, I’m just not always sure whether I even want it to be possible.

I struggle with what God wants, in light of what I want. Why does He always have to have a completely different agenda than I do. I think it would be nice if we could meet in the middle somewhere. Why does He have to insist on acting as if there is such a great divide? I really think it could be simpler.

But, then again, this is all said in an attempt to manipulate God to rearrange His will to be more comfortable for me. I hate the idea that He won’t change for me; that He won’t look at me, take pity and say, “You know, I really should be easier on the girl; she’s only asking for a little lee-way.”

But, if I truly knew the magnificence of His plans, if the eyes of my heart were not so veiled by sin, would I still demand His change? Would I still think His integrity was less than my selfish whims? Would I trust myself less, and cling to Him with all my strength? What I forget about myself and what I want and strain to experience all I can of Him and what He has, rejoicing that I should know anything of Him?

Realizing this makes me wish I was there now. I want God to be everything to me, like the world I know won’t exist without Him; like I’m a rag-doll who can’t be loved unless He’ll choose to play with me; like the symphony of life is playing, and I’m lost if He won’t teach me the part I have to play.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care — then do me a favor: agree with each other, love each other, be deep spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came he set aside the privilege of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that — a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth — even those long dead and buried — will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

Do everything readily and cheerfully — no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ’s return. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

Even if I’m executed here and now, I’ll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ’s altar, a part of your rejoicing. Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me.

And that’s about it, friends. Be glad in God!

Philippians 2:1-18, 3:1