Remember the olden times and wishing they were never conceived–Unraveling the pain of our history with God

How do you remember your childhood? You probably think of the good times–the happy moments–if you’re a positive person. If you’re not fully characterized by an upbeat personality, you may think of the sad times–the disappointing outcomes in your early life–before you think of anything else.

But how does God look at your early years? Does He see it the way you do? Where was He anyway? some of you may be wondering. Did He even care? I certainly didn’t sense Him. In fact, the older I got, the farther away He seemed to get.

What hope is there for this sort of history? What do you make of a life that you wish had been more intertwined with God (the loving God you hear about), yet didn’t happen that way because God apparently thought it was a bad idea.

You look about at all the people who grew up so sweetly in safe Christian homes and you envy them their freedom to develop. You wager you’d be right there with them in their present glory if you hadn’t had such obstacles so early on. But some big things got in the way of you acquiring faith and there’s nothing you can do about it now. There just isn’t any hope–not for you.

Do you feel this way? Have I just given text to your words? If so, know that I do not hold myself apart from you–I have felt that way. I have known the distress that a painful past can give you as you look to your future. The distrust that makes pursuing a relationship with God difficult, if not impossible.

But I also know a grace that fits those of us who find ourselves here. This grace is not a medical solution, nor is it a product of social engineering or psychology. Rather, this grace is the Engineer Himself come down to us–to live at home, not only in the outward manifestations of our mess, but in us. He is Love that come down in a form that would not just fix us, but claim us.

He is the God who contrasts Himself with the ones who left you, loved you less than you needed and lived without ever really taking the time to get to know who you were. He is not like that. He has always known you and He is not content with merely knowing you from a distance. He wants you to know that He knows you, and for you to know Him as well.

For a time, He may have allowed things to close in on you, for you to be taken captive by evil purposes. He may not have come to your rescue, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t listen to every one of your tears.

You may ask, “What kind of God would do this?” To that I’m compelled to share with you what I believe is His answer (at least in part): Do you really want to know? Is your purpose in asking to discover who I am or to justify your “private” rejection of Me?

God wants to share with you who He is, He wants to unfold His plan for you–from the beginning to the end–but He cannot reveal Himself or His mission to you if you are not open to Him. He desires to have a delight-producing exchange with you, but He will not force you to into this. Thus, He leaves the decision up to you: Whether you are willing to bring your questions to Him in eager anticipation of the delight you will find in Him or whether you will scorn any joy He offers that you might keep supreme your own idea of God and throw your bitterness-fueled questions forever in His face.

The question is who will be the one to exercise power here? Who will take the lead? God waits to be offered the lead in your life. You may say that He already ruined the life He had control of and now it’s your turn to make amends for what He did (or didn’t) do. But how can you judge the result if He has not had control of your life and heart at the same time? God plans the beginning, but He gives us the choice of whether we will let Him bring the fullness of the ending He wants in our lives.

The beginning is not always beautiful until the beginning and the end are able to tell the same story the Narrator had in mind. You received the beginning, it is your choice whether you will trash it or submit to the Story Teller in order that you might not miss the transformation He has long had in store for the end. Will you do it?

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When God meets man the lies explode

To anyone who might struggle with believing that surrendering one’s life could ever be manly enough for them to feel good about converting, let me ask you something. Since when is it not manly to face the truth and commit yourself to living for the only thing that will last?

You may excuse yourself by saying that you’re not one who is much for religion or a relationship. But, are you for being a fraud, for paving a road of regrets, for destroying your own chance of securing a foundation for your future and home? Will you let Life pass you by because it’s portreyed as something you don’t want?

Don’t forget that your enemy, Satan, knows you better than you think — He will paint God in whatever hues you most despise. He is on the offensive so hard with you right now because he knows that it is a losing battle for him if you even attempt to investigate who Christ is and what His claims are on your life. The excellence of who Christ is and what He offers will immediately take hold of your heart and mind and expose to you the imposter-god you have been following around. He knows that every time you believe that you are doing your own thing and forging a new path that you are taking and digesting another potent portion of his great big lie about who you are and where you fit. He will let go of you easily; while you play into his demented scemes he can torture you and grieve God at the same — it’s a win-win for him and a lose-lose for you.

But, if you’re angry at God or find some other reason to be strongly opposed to Him, don’t think that this is your angle. You will die in the end. Nothing that you can do can change God. And the only reason why Satan bothers with you is because you are very significant to God. If you want to do someone in, turn from Satan to God and you will foil the plans of your deceitful Adversary while taking taking hold of all the now-hidden benefits of the plans of a God who is for you.

Now, don’t be too quick to judge what you read by phrases or word-pictures that may disagree with you — find out who God is for yourself and then use your own word-pictures!

Here’s the deal: You are on a hunt. You’ve likely heard some stories about God, but those are just clues that reveal a God who weaves His stories right in the middle of people’s lives. Now it’s your turn to find your story in the big one that God’s telling. When you do, and you learn His take on you and what you’re all about, you are guaranteed to find two things:

1. God has some definite ideas about you and what you should be doing (yeah, I’m aware that you were probably waiting for that) and,

2. His reasoning, and the plans He has for executing it, is actually pretty compelling.

God wouldn’t insist on putting a call on your life if He didn’t absolutely belong there. And what’s more, He wouldn’t make public His intent to find you and refocus your attention and direction if it wasn’t for the fact that He was on a rescue mission.

If you thought that this was just something that came under your area of expertese, then think again. This propensity to perform daring feats and the prowess with which you are able to accomlish them is an awesome example of the imagination of God at work in your life.

All this search-and-rescue stuff; this facing-danger-and-risking-death-to-deliver-someone-else-to-safety; this leading-and-taking-charge; this conquering-all-the-odds-when-you-take-o- the-world — this is all stuff that God did first. And, what’s more is that He did it for you.

Yeah, you need to escape hell, but your sins keep tripping you up; you may have already been briefed on what must go down here, but unless you are sobered enough to recognize what the antecdote is going to cost you, all this information is a loss to you. Confidence without correction and confession will not be able to change anything for you. You cannot make it out alive without first laying hold of the object upon which your destination-alteration depends. That object is not a thing, but a Person. It is believing that Jesus Christ died, absorbing your penalty of wrath from God, in place of you and rose again to offer you His life.

To reject this would be to sink all your chances at once. Because the truth is, you only have one chance: You must be cleared of your errors — not just one, but everone, including the ones you have yet to make — and this will depend on a perfect Person’s testimony and blood being spilled to cover you before the scathing eyes of God.

This has already happened and this is why God has made such a point of meeting with you — He must make you aware of His offer and receive your response. Considering that Christ has stood in the gap of your sin for you, will you choose to stand in His sacrifice?

Whether you realize it or not, you are responsible for the death of another Person — the God-Person Jesus Christ — since He died for you. God did something for you at the highest cost to Himself, because any death-payment for sin that you could have orchastrated for yourself could not have brought you to life on the other side.

Evil is my greatest witness to Christ

Is your God big enough to handle the evil in your life?

Is your Redeemer righteous enough to work all those difficulties you face into a marvelous backdrop for the work He is doing in you?

When your closest family, friends and coworkers disappoint you, and there is no immediate success to lift your spirits, can the Master of your soul be trusted to harvest an abundance of virtue in you even if He chooses to do it with the help of these frustrations?

Can your God be good and unsurpassed in blessing and honor even when your life and dreams are falling apart all around you?

Is your God worthy of the same praise in the storm as in the calm?

To be honest, I think the answer to all of these questions is yes. But in regard to the last one (on the appropriateness of praise in life’s moments of storm and calm), I think a mere affirmation is insufficient. I believe it is absolutely true to say yes, but lets not stop there; this scenario represents such struggle for our souls that we need to clarify the substance of this position more so.

We rejoice in trial for one reason: When the night is darkest He shines brightest. All of our once-lovely-but-insufficient hopes are easily extinguished in a black-out like this, but the Light who once seemed dispensable has become our only remaining beacon.

It is then that we rise up with the Psalmist to boast that He has become our salvation. He was our Lord before this; we knew Him as Friend from our birth; but today — against the backdrop of our undeniable weakness — something has taken place that will forever change our life and relationship with Him: Today we have seen Him who rescues the distressed; the One whose praises the universe shouts from end to end: “Our God — Oh, how blessed we are! — He is mighty to save.”

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.”

Safe and Sound

“O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in
God.”     –     Psalm 3:1-2

As I read these verses this morning I realized that this is not only David’s cry for help, but mine as well. In fact, it is relative to everyone. All humans have a foe. Even so, when I look at a passage like this, I wonder do I have any “foes”?

I have known Satan is my enemy, but for some reason I suppose his terms of communication are so bold that I will easily apprehend his schemes. I feel confident that I’ll recognize the “roaring lion” when I see him and resist him. It will just be natural and automatic. Right?

 Wrong, I discovered. Yesterday I got to know my adversary a little better, and I learned that my understanding of him is deficient. You see, my foe was not the being for which I had prepared. He was a great force, but not in the way that I expected. He didn’t turn up in the form I had been anticipating. His blatant proposal for sin was missing too. Instead, my faulty perceptions of how he worked provided him the perfect accommodation for his purposes.

He offered me a stimulus that appealed to my emotions. An emotional response would divert me from considering who was truly stimulating me. Pointing to my feelings of discontent, he tugged on an inherent value (personal advantage), and incited me to question God’s character. Once I turned from trusting God, I could only turn to him with that same trusting submission.

I did not perceive the destruction he had drawn me into until I had pursued doubt into anxiety and depression. When I cried out to God for peace, He brought me out of the trap of my feelings, and back to the only foundation I can stand on: His steadfast love. This love is salvation from my foes and my own misdeeds.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Jesus Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he [God] set aside, nailing it to the cross. He [God] disarmed the [demonic] rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [Christ]. – Colossians 2:13-15