Archive for October, 2011

Our wise guide

Proverbs 3:5-7
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes…

Our culture and human nature relies on being wise in our own eyes. Figuring out our future preoccupies our days and keeps us up at night. But sometimes all we know for sure is that we don’t know anything for sure.

How will I make this relationship work? What will I do if I don’t get that job? Where will I go to school? When should I move?

It’s refreshing to remember that we’re ultimately not the ones with the answers. “Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.” Psalm 25:12

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
Psalm 37:23

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
Psalm 32:8

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Psalm 73:24

For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.
Psalm 48:14

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach.
James 1:5

For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.
Proverbs 2:6-9

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Things that are not

This morning I woke up with a hopeless feeling in my soul. For years I have hoped for something, and it seems I am no closer to it than when I first cared.

I didn’t want to get out of bed before I came to some conclusion. But the only conclusion I came to was that I couldn’t stay in bed all day.

Reluctantly, I opened my Bible and skimmed through Romans. The faith of Abraham got my attention. “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb” (4:19-20).

We all have things we hope for that are, at the moment, as good as dead. We hope for a child with a barren womb. We hope for a job with total inexperience. We hope for relationships with debilitating insecurity. We hope for a family in the midst of dysfunction.

Abraham’s body was as good as dead, yet “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (v. 21-22).

Like Abraham, our natural ability to make our hope happen is as good as dead. Yet also like Abraham, we can hope against hope in “God, who giveth life to the dead, and calleth the things that are not, as though they were” (v. 17).

What are those dead things causing us to grieve? What are the “things that are not” that we hope will be? We with dying hope can grow strong in our faith as we give glory to God, fully convinced that he is able to do what he has promised. Maybe he has not promised something so specific as he did to Abraham, but his promises to us are no less staggering and beyond our greatest imagination.

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (8:24-25)

As we wait for our faith to become sight, we can “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer,” (12:12) confident that the God who called light to shine out of darkness, caused order to come from chaos, and brought life out of death, still has the same power to calleth the things that are not, as though they were.

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Definition: repentance

re·pent·ance   [ri-pen-tns, -pen-tuhns]

1. Repentance always distinguishes itself from mere regret.
2. Repentance always means more than saying sorry.
3. Repentance always arises out of brokenness.
4. Repentance recognizes our offense against God, not just against others.
5. Repentance never attempts to dictate the terms of restitution.
6. Repentance never retaliates or seeks revenge against the disciplinary.
7. Repentance is real only when subsequent change is evident.

from OnePlace.org

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Forbidden fruit

‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…’ (Ephesians 4:30).

When the Spirit of God is grieving inside of us, we sense it. We may continue down a path he warned us against, but we can’t take a step without deep reserve. We may be flirting with something or someone we know is not best for us, but we can hear the still small voice. Maybe on paper nothing appears to be wrong, but we know something isn’t right. Our conscience is crying. When we continually resist the Holy Spirit, when we’re scared to speak openly with God about something, when we refuse to consider the consequences of our actions, we are most likely being tempted or disobedient.

The Holy Spirit grieves because he is fully aware of the consequences of disobedience. Relational consequences like separation, bitterness, loss of trust, unforgiveness, resentment, numbness. Emotional consequences like anxiety, anger, frustration, disappointment, depression. Mental consequences like confusion, lack of discernment, disbelief, doubt, fear.

God’s way is the only blessed way. Ultimately, we cannot know good apart from God. When we think we’ve outsmarted him, we’ve only fooled ourselves. Forbidden fruit looks sweet, but rots at the touch of our tongue.

When we give into temptation and sin, it’s an invitation for God’s merciful discipline. Lately I’ve been tempted and disciplined continually, and the other day I cried to Jesus only to realize he had tears on his face before I did. I grieved him before he grieved me.

Obedience is not at all as impossible as it seems, and disobedience knows no end but pain. If only we could see the consequence before we made the choice. Usually, it is a series of choices. Maybe that’s why heaven and hell are usually depicted as entered by stairways.

Obedience may mean denying temporary, instant pleasures, but it is always worth it in the end. Obedience may not even make sense. We are still children who don’t always understand our Father’s instructions, but we are always wise to listen.

‘Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon’ (Isaiah 55:7).

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Beyond the door

‘The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps'(Proverbs 16:9).

In theory, we take comfort in this thought. But when our way and God’s way seem to go in opposite directions, he may have to drag us kicking and screaming. Despite the tears and temper tantrums, our good Father knows what is best and over his dead body will he settle for less.

Sometimes we can knock long and hard enough that he opens the door, but other times, ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death’ (Proverbs 14:12). God is good to open doors, and he is just as good to keep them closed.

‘I know, O LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps’ (Jeremiah 10:23).

There is at least one door I have been knocking long and hard on for months… and months… and months… but at this point I think it takes more strength to walk away in faith than it does to wait. The question is, will I give up hope that God cares and become resentful and offended and apathetic? Or will I hope against hope that he cares too much to open this door, because he has a better way in mind?

Often the problem is not so much that we’re spent and tired, but that we’ve forgotten our hope is so much higher. When we’re tempted to give up, it’s good to remember that we have a greater hope than a door being open or closed. A hope beyond the door. Our hope is in the Lord, who has the key to every door.

In my experience, Jesus doesn’t crush our will, but gently breaks it. He leads in a way that helps us to see for ourselves that his ways are truly better. Still, we lose blood, sweat, sleep, and tears in surrender. And even when we feel we are losing our life, his will becomes our life. Suddenly there is an open door that we never even saw before, and looking back we stand amazed because we couldn’t have asked for more.

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Divine design

‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ John 3:8

We often try to make sense of the Spirit’s work in our lives. We can sense His effects just as we feel the breeze in our hair, just as we hear the whistle of the wind, just as we see it move through the trees. Sometimes it is gentle and sweet to our senses, and other times it is a hurricane strong enough rearrange our whole lives.

Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind when he was in conversation with Nicodemus, who was trying to understand spiritual things in natural ways. In John 3, Jesus tells him he must be born again (spiritually) to see the kingdom of heaven, and Nicodemus doesn’t understand how a man could be born again (naturally) after already being born.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where all we know is that we don’t know what is really going on. We naturally think we are there by chance, that we are facing this challenge or that we met that person by coincidence. Sometimes we settle for simple ways to explain it away. But when it effects us to the point of heartbreak we do hope to find deeper meaning. Yet sometimes, just like with the wind, we know the “what” but we can’t see the “why” and “how.”

Jesus goes on to share the gospel, and it seems his whole point is that we don’t have to understand God’s work in order to trust in it. We don’t need to explain it away in order to be saved.

We don’t understand the science of the cross, yet by faith we have been reconciled to God. In the same way, we don’t have to understand the science of our lives to know that we’re living in a divine design.

God’s image is being redeemed in us every day and He is being revealed in so many ways. We see many things as accidental, yet in all things He is deeply intentional. He is a surgeon with perfect precision. When we feel the ache, it is only the cancer he’s cutting away. The greater the pain, the deeper the change. We may not understand how or why, yet we can trust he is saving our lives.

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I love you, too

It can be continually discouraging to love people who fail to love and appreciate us in return. To feel forgotten by those we remember. To say the three words and not hear the four words, “I love you, too.” A part of us loves to love, but another part is tired of feeling taken for granted.

A few months ago I watched the movie “Seven Pounds.” It is the story of a man who gives himself away without limit to love those around him. During the credits I remember sitting in silence and I had this feeling like my perspective on loving people would never be the same. And it hasn’t. Not just because of that movie which was as heartbreaking as it was inspiring. Not just because of the beautiful idea of living a sacrificial life of love. But because I am continually and forever changed by one sacrificial life of love lived for me.

When the love with which Jesus has loved us is embodied in a fresh sense, experienced in the present, we don’t have the strength of intellect or depth of emotion to express what is happening. When we look beyond a distant picture of a man on a cross 2,000 years ago, into the eyes of the greatest Lover of our soul who presently sees us as we are and cherishes us so deeply that tears stream down his face and blood easily flows from his tender heart for us, then we begin to see. The sun is dim compared to the light in his eyes when he calls us by name. And when we begin to believe it and see it and hear it, the beauty of it ruins us.

We’ve found what we’ve been searching the earth for, and we don’t just want to behold it, but to become it. To embody it. We’re desperate for the beauty of his love to shine in our eyes, to work through our hands, to run through our veins. We want to make the difference that beautiful love made in us. We want to join the movement. We want to go where he goes, see what he sees, do what he does… because we know our life will not just be lived, but accomplished, when we see his footprints left by our feet and his fingerprints left by our hands.

To behold and become like Jesus is the deepest need of humanity. All it takes is a glimpse of his glory to lead us on to eternal conformity. It’s a beautiful existence, but sometimes we forget that even the one we are dying to become has scars of love. We forget that to be like him means to open our hands when we feel the nails. Suddenly we realize what it really takes to love like Jesus does, and we fellowship with him in his suffering. We also know that on the cross he had no one, but we have him. His grace is always greater than our pain.

Consider those who have taken you for granted, those by whom you feel forgotten. Dearly beloved, you haven’t been. “HE will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10) Jesus takes your work and love for others personally! Not only that, but Jesus died years before his love impacted our lives.. It took us at least 2,000 years to say, “I love you, too.” We may not live to see the fruit of our lives, but if our work and love is in Christ, it is not confined by time.

So when you’d love to love someone, but that little voice holds you back and asks, “but what are YOU getting out of it?” Though the fact is you may be getting nothing from them, the truth is that you are getting to be like Jesus, which is everything in the end.

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