If you’re thoughts have been a mess, maybe it’s time you gave yourself a little time-out

Here’s a peak at some thoughts I journaled earlier today:

I can’t sleep and I’m kept awake in the wee morning hours by the thought that if I could flawlessly execute a request to God I could beat the system. Pain could be a distant memory if only I could unlock the code of my deep desires and get God to grant them! What a lie for Satan to feed me. He pushes me to believe words that are contrary to my Savior’s words: You’re not making the best use of God; His best for you is dependent on the activation of your initiative and imagination, in lieu of these you’ll be neglected.

How many of you are aware that Satan has been feeding you the same deceptions? Your nights are too often ones in which you kept awake by conflicts that He arranges in your head–conflicts that are made of fear and dread toward your Maker. You go over your actions and misdemeanors of the day again and again in search of the secret solution that will deliver you from guilt for what you did wrong (or not quite right). Somewhere in the back of your head you’re convinced that this is what God requires of you at the close of each day. If you don’t have your nightly guilt-session then something must have come unglued your conscience-to-brain wiring.

But is this really what God wants for you? For this to be the case, you must assume that God expects you to be drowned in obsessive thoughts about yourself on a consistent basis. And, you must suppose that He sees this as a good thing–both for your sake and for His. I don’t think you can do that if you really understand God’s character. For Him to be a proponent of self-centered thoughts in you would mean that He could not be steadfast proponent of having your thoughts diligently trained on Him.

The more I get to know God, the more I become convinced that He wants nothing less than for each of us to have our thoughts consumed with thoughts of Him. He was meant to be the focus of our thoughts, of our very beings, and if this is not the case, we are out of focus. Hence, being endlessly focused on self.

There is no good thing that can come out of me pouring over my own performance. I know, that sounds so contrary to what we would expect to be the case! We think there is nothing that God cares about more than our performance–isn’t that the greatest thing that He puts emphasis on when it comes to salvation?

Well, if we look at His plan of salvation, we must be convinced that this idea couldn’t be farther from the truth. God didn’t make a big deal of our performance in salvation–except to show us that it was forever insufficient to be called righteousness. He chose, instead, to put His Son’s performance in the place of ours and make us righteous by grace and not by law-keeping on our part. He revealed His character in His desire to draw us to Himself.

This is a reality that Satan would forever seek to hide from us. In fact, he does all he can to obscure the truth that God is for us. Everything he tells us he twists–whether he makes the love of God a reason for us to legitimately destroy ourselves or the judgment of God an excuse for us to rebel against God. The things I find most tricky are when he makes himself seem so superior in spiritual affairs. He convinces me of what God wants of me–usually with a strong emphasis on the wrath of God. He implies that God’s wrath is His most dominant characteristic–the one thing with which I must steadfastly occupy myself.

I often do not realize that while the wrath of God is a very biblical concept, it cannot be properly understood outside of its boundaries. The import that Satan gives it strips God’s justice of all its passion for holiness. He makes it appear directionless and unavoidable. His constant reminders dull my sense of the blessing it is that my God is just and good. The fact is that Satan doesn’t ever draw my attention to one of God’s characteristics and link it with the idea of that being good; he brings a negative connotation to everything about God.

Therefore, I need to be careful to submit my thoughts to Christ and ask Him to train them in the ways of His mind. I do not want to be dominated by the mind of the devil–I want his schemes against the fame of God to be defeated every time and in every place he tries to lodge them within me. The more I surrender my thoughts to God’s directing, the more I discover the blessing He meant for me to have in His presence. My thoughts become a joy and even a weapon of defense against the tempter who tries to steal my sleep. Now that we’ve gotten our minds settled, what do you say if we both go get some rest?

 

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!

 

What will the weekend hold for us?

My whole life is shaped by a three day time period. No, not the last three days, or the three days surrounding my wedding, or the three days of perfection that I anticipate popping up in my future. All of these things can only shape my life to a certain extent. But the weekend that I’m talking about shapes more than that, it shapes the lives of everyone on the planet and it shapes me — particularly because it shapes my heart.

What I want in life and where I go have their beginnings — as do so many other things both small and great — in Christ dying my death on the cross and proving that He is the Son of God in His timely rising.

The events of the holy week were not just meant to be a display of God’s passion, but a sacrifice provocative because of the responsibility God has allowed us to have in it. We have the remarkable privilege of seeing the scope of human cruelty in its greatest display. A display of the demand we have made upon the righteousness of God in our rejection of His name and glory. Jesus Christ made Himself a cross of our hate and rebellion against God so that the Father might smite Him and preserve us.

This spectacle of Life crucified for the dead is meant to so interrupt my assumptions of what human life is supposed to look like that I will be attracted to God. I will see how intent God is on being central to my life, and how right He is. When I see how empty and joyless my life is — how I am characterized by being without — I will not be afraid of all the mystery of this God who has become a man. I will embrace Him and wake up to a day of salvation that goes on forever and ever even while time pretends that it rules my life.

Who is Jesus Christ anyway?

So Jesus is our Savior, but where does His power and authority to save us come from?

His power — yes the one thing in His personal profile that puts Him above every other holy man the world over — is in the fact that He is God’s choice; God’s specific means of saving us.

God looked on us in our sin and saw it as so definitive of our identity and nature that only He could do anything to save us from being who we are. He would send His only Son to work out in our midst the Father’s plan of salvation for us.

But, what did it mean for Him to be the Son of God? How is He different from us who also have the privilege of being called God’s children when we are reconciled to Father God through His Firstborn?

Well, for one thing, Jesus’ coming into the world was marked by the birth of a virgin. Mary carried the Savior of the world in her womb because the Holy Spirit (God) had enabled the physical conception of He who would be God in human form.

From the very beginning of Christ’s life on earth He was strikingly different than any man on earth. Yes, He was similar in visible form to His earthly companions, and yet there was so much of His composition that would not make sense to them unless they believed that He was at once the Son of God and God Himself.

This may sound like a peculiar thesis, but it is on this that the whole of Christianity hinges. Unless Jesus could be God and human simultaneously, He could not reconcile the two. These parties have been astranged because man’s sin can not be deleated and God’s glory cannot be compromised. If God accepted us on our own merits — with our sin — He would need to change His commands and become like we are in character to fellowship with us. This transformation would have done nothing good for either of us; after all, the predicament was not due to the fact God is not good, but that He is and we are in conflict with Him because we are evil.

Therefore, God had to do what would not alter His decree, but deliver us from the harshness of its punishment. The only way for us to be excused from serving our sentance was for it to be served by One who could give perfect righteousness to us in exchange for paying for us a debt He did not owe.

None would do that — none could do that — but Christ. Only He could boast the credentials necessary for a salvation proposition worthy of God’s divine consent. He was holy — it radiated from His whole identity: He glorified God in everything He did; He kept the law in every way, even when it came to the executing the Creator’s intent in His motivations; He knew God and had unbroken fellowship with Him; and He had power over the hearts of man — to declare to them the truth, convict them of their sin and save them from the penalty they deserved by offering divine forgiveness. Yet even in all these things that He did, He did not work to bring glory to Himself; He was faithful to His mission and the temporary limitations that it brought upon the revelation and exercise of His glory and majesty.

Though He was with God when He formed the earth and the world (as it says in John 1:1), He is also the reason all these things were formed. In Christ resides all the essence of God though He for His particular responsibility took on the fullness of mankind’s essence.

The second thing that distinguishes Christ in the eyes of God and the world is that He was sinless throughout the time that He was wrapped in the physical. The weakness of our fleshly bodies subjected Him to every sin that we are tempted and taken in by, but He was greater than the trap. Our mortal limitations were not His whole; He wrestled with sin because He was not under its power and it could have no claim over Him.

This sinless identity and legacy left no room for a barrier to exist between God the Father. In all things He was obedient; The Word (as He is called in John 1) was able to communicate God’s plea for faith to arrise within His people that they might accept His sacrifice on their behalf.

First we were sinners guilty of cursing God and incurring His just wrath, but how much more are we worthy of death if we should bear the guilt of an Innocent’s death rather than claiming it as our only hope before God?

If Christ is not the only thing that we have, then He is the condemnation against us in everything else we have. If I would offer an aliby it would discredit me in the eyes of the Judge; the only plea He will hear is Christ.

More clearly than anything else, Christ reveals the boundaries of God and man, but He also reveals what was the mystery of where they are meant to intersect.

God the Father, our Redeemer Christ, and the guilt of our consciences form the three-fold witness against each of us for our crimes. There is no reason that we should be released from death row except that One who knows our sins would bear them to the grave — putting all their power against us to death under Him.

Christ cannot be dismissed as a false witness on the part of His testimony of our sin. When He was tried to prove the legitimacy of what He testified, He told our end because of what we have done and announced that He would not let us go there without giving us access to His full pardon — a pardon He would offer at the cost of His own life. (God would know death for us so we could freely enjoy His eternal life).

Where does Christ fit in Christianity?

If you have heard anything about Christianity, you may be wondering, where does Christ fit in there? Is He just a person to give this vein of religion a name, or is He somehow more central to a believer than can be perceived at first glance?

I would certainly be a proponent of the second concept. Christ is everything to Christianity; without Him, there would be no reason to be a Christian. But, I would not stop here, I would go so far as to say that without Him, there is no reason for engaging in moral or religious exercises at all. How can I say this? Because I believe that life is not really about being good or getting ourselves right with God, but in recognizing that Christ is good and that He alone is the Way that we can become right with God.

Jesus Christ is not merely a complementary addition to our salvation agenda. If we should presume to have a salvation agenda for ourselves, we would certainly not find it necessary to consult Him as our edge. But even so, Christ does not provide us with any kind of edge.

In truth His only benefit to us is in welcoming us into God’s salvation agenda. And because ours is not even worthy of speaking of, we either choose to become a participant in God’s plan of salvation or Satan’s plan of refuting it.

In reading this you may surmise that we are just complementary elements to God’s salvation agenda. This is actually critical to the reality of salvation working for us. We do not work for salvation, but salvation works for us.

Salvation was conceived in the heart of God to bring glory to Himself through a display of His mercy and judgment on sinful people. If we were the main attraction in salvation, He could not be properly glorified: His judgment would look cruel and His mercy a sham.

Seeing things this way only serves to distract us from our real problem, which is that we need to be saved because of what we have done — there is something wrong with us — and not because of what He has done — there is nothing wrong with Him.

The purpose of salvation is to show us what we have denying all along: That God is absolutely right and we are in opposition to Him, which would automatically makes us wrong. This is our trouble. This is where Christ comes in.

Christ is the Truth that illuminates all the specks of deceit in our hearts. In fact, His light is so strong that our entire make-up appears corrupt. Under these floodlights we see God for who He truly is: The God we have no acceptable excuse for not serving. When we see Him this way, we must either stand down and allow the truth to humble us or stand up and pretend that everything is as it seemed before we saw the Light.

Welcome my fellow know-it-alls to the reality of how little we know. None of us will know anything of true condition, or the new condition offered us in Christ, unless He shows us! We may boast that we feel grief over our sin, but repentance can have no effect unless pride’s concentration on self has been broken by a humble understanding of what our sin has cost God. Regret for sin gets us no where unless it is in agreement with God’s justice and dependent only on His undeserved mercy. The conviction of sin that is brought upon us by the Word of God — the revelation of His gospel (the message of Christ’s death and resurrection over our death penalty) — has no other objective than reacquainting us with the character and construction of God.

Life is won or lost today!

To live for God is to be blessed to an extreme that is beyond the measure of anything else. To live for God is to accept His invitation to join the race of life. For our participation on His team — having forsaken our own — He promises to train us to finish well on the way to the victory He has already secured for us in His name.

The steps that I should take have been charted out for me from the beginning of this contest, so I accept the call and strain every day to bring my body and mind into agreement with them. And, as difficult as it is to live for the goals my Trainer has set before me, they enable me to become the dedicated runner I need to be in order to grow more excited as I pass each mile-marker.

I don’t race on confident in the caliber of my own ability, but though I constantly slip up and fall down, I rejoice because He who facilitates my performance is fully able to use all these things to make me more focused and obedient to Him. I do not get anxious in spite of the obstacles that slow me down because they are my helpers in disguise; they remind me that this race is not about me, but every feat I accomplish along the way is not exclusive of my efforts. When I make a mistake, Christ picks me up, dusts me off and reminds me that I rest in His perfection and not my own; I am a winner not because of my medals, but because He has chosen me as His medal.

I race because my spot was purchased for me; I have been given the promise that if I leave the wasted life of sideline-living to take the place selected for me in this challenge and continue to press on despite the obstacles, I will realize the larger purpose in being out on this road and cease worrying over how I do.

Where does this assurance come from? Not cockiness, not foolishness, not self-preparation. I know that the One I run for already finished my race for me that I might now run in the foot-path of His monumental death to self. I owe none of my joy in being on this run to my efforts or successes, but like my Savior, I look beyond the heaviness of these present trials and the fatigue they create in me to the joy before me. When this all ever I will have the awesome privilege of knowing eternity with no separation from my Lord.

I want to win, but everything I once held onto to secure that place I have left behind. I race on, but not for the glory of grabbing whatever I can find and making from it a winning campaign, but I race for the sake of what I already have and what I will have. I race because of what I have found — because I know that God’s greatest treasure of companionship, fulfillment, and peace have already been won for me, and that it will furnish all the power I need to finish my part of this race.
I’m not here to try to win on my own strength, but to showcase the beauty of racing in the stride of the only One who finishes this life-race (the race for our Salvation) to His own acclaim.

I don’t boast because I have won and everyone else has lost, but because Someone else has Won in place of all of our losses — even when acknowledging this includes testifying to my loss. I see myself and all of my fellow racers in the same boat and I rejoice that we are not left in our last positions, but are welcomed to become part of the Star Racer’s line. And I enjoy the winnings all the more in welcoming others into it. He is my reward, and I know it well when I can share Him with others.

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.”

So much more than “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again”

...and still I've got it wrong

Suffering seems a far cry from salvation. But maybe I’ve been missing the reality of the two being intertwined.

Salvation according to Christ can never come apart from repentance. We receive this — His grand accomplishment won for us — by confessing our sin and receiving His forgiveness, but we don’t stop there. This becomes the pattern of our lives. Every day from that point on, we turn ourselves over to living lives determined to bear this out in every smaller action and event in which we participate.

God has been showing me a persistent idol in my thoughts and dreams. I can either see it and quickly jump to defending myself, or I can look into the light of what He’s saying long enough to meet Him at the cornerstone of His judgment.

I must ask myself: Do I just want to clear myself of His judgment, or do I want it to change me? Do I want to be self-assured, or more subject to His precepts? Is it more important for me to be right or repentant?

You see, I’ve discovered that there is more to repentance than simply telling God “I’m sorry; I’ll try not to do it again.” He wants more than that. He wants a changed heart and a changed life.

This idol I have mentioned is something that seems so necessary to me, and worthy of my worship, that I have not naturally taken God’s point of view about it. I want God to be happy, but I want myself to be happy more.

Yet, this mode of operation does not satisfy my all-righteous, pro-relationship God. Apathy in the right direction is not obedience at all. Thus, God brought the idol up again — for the third time this week. He seemed to be waiting, hanging over my head to see what I would do.

God, I prayed, I want to repent, but You need to show me how; I don’t know what I’m doing here. You keep telling me to turn from this idol, but I don’t know all that You mean by that.

And as I began to pray, His power and deliverance (from my sin) came; He enlightened my mind as He excavated my heart.

I began where I was:

God, I repent of making ______ an idol;

and from there He moved me steadily along, calling me to name my idolatry for what it is…

I repent of worshiping (this idol) as my savior;

I repent of treating living in a condition in which you have made me aware of my need (in so many prominent ways) as a thing to be saved from;

and then the last piece of this reconciliation puzzle came into place:

I repent of not seeing You as my Savior because You haven’t gotten me “out of” my present condition.

There it was — my heart in a nutshell. Now it made sense why God had came at my idol with His holy hatchet again and again: only He knew how deep and how wide the course of my evil commitment had spread. He couldn’t just heal one area, but my whole person had to be treated as diseased.

Idolatry is a sin that goes so much deeper than we realize. It is never a matter of simply removing the offending object from our reach, but in crusifying the lusts that make it appealing.

And here lies the hang-up for most of us in fighting this God-offending quality in our hearts — what we are rebelliously leaning our whole body, mind and soul upon is good, but it’s not God. Turning away from Him in one manner is turning away from Him in every other matter. Rejecting Him in one area of our personality is a rejection born out by the entire body.

Therefore, to follow God and embrace His life indefinitely, we must not deny our propensity to be sin-filled and -directed at every level. And, if this be true, then we must also be unearthed by His truth till all of our arrogance has been quantitatively removed.

Salvation is first and foremost His delight, not mine

What is your idea of salvation? Is it more about you or Christ? I must confess that I most often live like its about me. I think about being saved and my mind turns to me. I don’t see it as a work that has ultimately been decided. I look around, and I expect more to have been accomplished, even if I haven’t seen it all yet. I don’t care how it has to be, I want it and right now! What worth is there in having a Savior if He doesn’t work for me? I wonder.

I know, this doesn’t sound very grace-full, but the dismal truth is that I am not grace-ful. After all, I am not the reason I was saved. At the littlest opportunity I walk away from seeking Him — I don’t remember that fact that I am nothing without Him for very long.

Again, let me remember that He is the reason that I was saved.

It was by His might.

It was by His fight.

It was by His delight.

Where is there any room for my glory in that? There is room for my responsibility and response, but there is no room for my own promotion campaign. He has done, and, in fact, is all.