Our Lives Reveal Our Lies

photo-1521170846124-1cc55eeba816.jpeg

The book of James describes God’s Word as a mirror, revealing who we really are. When we catch a glimpse we have a choice what to make. Do we begin to make changes or do we walk away and forget what God revealed? When I approach reading the Bible, I try to really evaluate myself through the lens of His Word. Do I really believe what it says? Am I living according to God’s instruction? Often I discover areas where what I claim as my belief and my what my actions reveal don’t actually line up.

Sometimes I don’t believe what I think I believe. I am convinced that we act according to what we believe. really believe. Deep, gut belief.

It’s like the kid who approaches the rotting bridge in the woods. “I believe I can cross that bridge,” he boasts to his friends. As he approaches the decaying wood he hesitates. He wants to cross the bridge, to have victory over the bridge,  but deep down he believes there is a chance he will fall to his death. Or at least get wet, or maybe break a leg. The bridge isn’t that high.

What if I were to boldly tell you that I firmly believe it’s wrong to eat meat, then every time we go out to lunch but I consistently order burgers or the steak and shrimp? Will you continue to think I really I believe it’s wrong to eat meat? No, because my actions reveal otherwise.

So when reading in 2 Corinthians recently and I came across the words, “Since we believe…” I had to stop and ask myself, do I really believe?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NLT) Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

I like to ask myself questions Do I really believe that Christ died for all? Every person?  Do my actions reveal that belief? Do I really believe I have died to my old life? What was my old life, my life before I really gave it all over to Jesus? Have I really given it all over to Jesus? Does my life belong to myself or to Him? What does it mean to not live for myself? What does it mean to live for Christ?

A part of the growing up process is learning to make our own decisions. We want that independence. We want that day when our parents no longer tell us where to go or what to do. We want to be in complete control of our time, our activities, our friends. We desire the freedom to do what we want. A lot of times that means pursuing what we think will make us happy.

It turns out a lot of the things I expected to make me happy, left me feeling empty. I’m reminded of Solomon’s wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 1:8 (NLT) Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

The things of this world leave us unsatisfied. We were made for eternal things, not worldly things. As a result, I believe we need to shift our perspective on growing up, it shouldn’t about gaining the freedom to chase pursuits that ultimately leave us empty. Rather, our goal should be to discover and pursue what God wants for our lives.

How we manage to do that, however, is the subject of next weeks blog.

What Only God Can Do

photo-1526566661780-1a67ea3c863e.jpeg

“I can do it by myself!”

There is a joyful moment as we grow when we no longer want help, but to prove we are capable of doing it by ourselves. From potty training to bike riding, being able to do it by myself is such a fulfilling accomplishment. It’s a part of growing up, becoming self-sufficient.

I want to be fully self-sufficient. I want to be strong. I want to prove I’m capable. Of course, as we grow hopefully we learn the value of depending on others. We learn we don’t have all the answers, we may even call our parents and ask for help. We reach out to talk when we can’t sort through our thoughts and feelings. We look. to others to help us keep accountable for our goals.

When it comes to my spiritual life I recognize that the goal is not to be self-sufficient but to be fully surrendered to God.

I’ve been on a journey this year of self-discovery. I’ve learned a lot about myself, how I perceive the world and how I can best connect with God. I do believe in learning ourselves better we can learn to better connect with God. I also believe it is equally important to learn who we are through the lens of how God sees us.

My point is simply this. There is a work within us only God can do. No matter how self-sufficient we may want to be, no matter how much we discover about ourselves, we must come to a place where we are fully surrendered to the Lord.

The work God wants to do in me is something I could never accomplish in my own strength and my own finite knowledge. However, I do have the responsibility to position myself to allow God to work in my life. This means approaching my prayer time with less of my agenda and more just to seek a deeper relationship with my Father. It is in intimacy that God really begins to reveal more.

We live in a fast-paced, instant notification culture and it’s easy to forget that the work of intimacy is not a fast-paced work, but requires an investment of time. Getting to know someone on a deeper level requires lengthy conversations over a long period of time. It is no different in our walk with God. It is a slow work, but such an important work.

Trying to live a surrendered life, without intimacy is drudgery. For one we all struggle to stay surrendered. Our own will constantly tries to take over. Just this week I had a desire to do something that I know would have been a disaster. I knew it wasn’t something God was leading me in, yet for a few days, it seemed like such a great idea! If I had let my great idea lead my life then I would have gone down a path that could have potentially derailed my life.

I want to remind you today that intimacy with God is a daily pursuit. Persist. Don’t give up. Keep creating time each day to spend with Jesus. I know some days it feels lacking, but never judge the whole of the pursuit by one day or even one week. As you are faithful to position yourself to receive from God He is faithful to continue the work He started in you.

Philippians 1:6 (TPT)  I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!

I’ve Got Some Bad News

photo-1495020689067-958852a7765e.jpeg

Have you ever read something in the Bible and thought, “Nope. Don’t like that!” I did that the other day, thinking THIS DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE!

I know. I know. I’m being a bad pastor again.

Allow me to set this up for you.

Psalm 112:1 (NLT) How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.

That wasn’t it. I like that part. This is great. Walking in obedience to the Lord leads to being joyful! That’s excellent. I could always use a bit more joy. However, later on the psalmist writes this:

Psalm 112:7 (NLT) They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

WHAT?! Don’t fear bad news?! Perhaps you are a bit more spiritually advanced than myself, but I can honestly let you know today that I do not wish to receive bad news. Seriously who would? Imagine it. You’re waiting to hear news. Perhaps it’s a doctors report or a family situation. Maybe you’re on the brink of financial ruin and the call is coming at any moment. It could be good news. Or it could be bad news. You telling me you’re not even SLIGHTLY afraid of the bad news?

Get your head out of your rear David! I don’t even know if David wrote this psalm that’s how annoyed I was when I read it.

*sighs*

I guess I have some bad news.

Once again the Word of God has revealed an area of my life where I have room for improvement. The Bible is good that way. Many times it is a mirror revealing parts of myself I would never recognize on my own. The scripture sums it up quite nicely. If we fear bad news it illustrates we lack trust in the Lord to truly take care of us.

Of course, I trust the Lord, but when real-world circumstances start to overwhelm it is easy to lose sight of my faith. It’s easy for my perspective to shift off of God’s protection and provision and on to the fear of my circumstances.

Recently I read the book “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” by Lysa Terkeurst and at one point she exclaims that there is a difference between news and truth. For example, if you receive a bad medical report, that is the news. But the news does not negate the truth of God’s Word.

I’m not suggesting we deny the news. Declare that it’s untrue and we are really healthy while storming out of the den of lies doctor’s office. I am suggesting we can still trust completely in the character of God and in His ability to care for us. This bad news is not a surprise to God. It is nothing He can’t turn around and use for His glory.

When I gave my life to Jesus I gave my whole life. My aim is that everything in it would make His name known. When I am at my best, may God receive glory. When I am at my worst, may God receive glory. When the ugliness that still lurks within me surfaces, may God receive glory. When circumstances are great, may God receive glory. When everything seems to be descending into the abyss, may God receive glory.

I don’t get to control every aspect of my life. Parts of it are going to catch me off guard. Relationships will be strained. I will make bad choices. Injury may come my way. I will experience loss and the grief that accompanies it. Life is not always going to go according to my plan, but my trust was never in MY plan. My trust is in a God who is bigger than myself, my hurt, my choices, my mess. God is ever in control. I may not always have a say in what happens to me, but I can choose to honor God through it all.

Still, I sure do hope tomorrow is a good day.

For you and me both.

Rest in the Rhythm

photo-1524690183982-eff332751cec.jpeg

It was 11:45pm and my mind was not a safe place. Our church had just finished a three-day conference and it was only Tuesday. I still had two more work days left, including Wednesday which for me would the 4th 12 plus hour day in a row. Ordinarily, I would go right to bed. I am not a night owl. When 9:30 comes around I expect to be well on my way to sleep. However, for much of the past few days, I hadn’t done any of things I ordinarily do “for me”. The things that give me energy. It was late, but sleep wasn’t my primary need at that time. I needed soul restorative rest, not physical sleep. So I sat quietly for a few minutes, processing the day’s events. I turned off my mind for a short while with a show and I was able to chat with a friend for about half an hour before I finally turned in. I needed rest, but it was a different kind of rest.

My Rhythm had been disrupted and I needed to reclaim soul restoration.

Every day, week, month and season has a rhythm, a cadence through which things progress. There are busier moments and quieter moments. If we let it, the world will drown out our quiet moments and rob us of the “empty space” on our calendar. That space is, for me anyway, the most important part of my day. That is when I can breathe, create, process and connect with God. It is not “less important” because it isn’t productive. Without it, I quickly cease to be my best self during all the “more important” or “productive” times.

I believe every day should have at least one “breathable moment”. A break from the pull to engage. A moment to be you. A moment of solitude. A moment with the Lord. A moment to do something that fills up your soul. What is it that fuels you?

We are all different and find that kind of rest in different ways, for me it includes reading, meditating, praying, walking outside, writing, or even a quality one on one conversation if my social tank is feeling low. (Even introverts need social energy from time to time, just less often and in smaller doses and perhaps smaller crowds.)

Fight to find those breathable moments in your day, week, month and season. No one will make it a priority for you, so love yourself enough to take a break. Cancel a social engagement, turn off social media, disconnect from the world, take a walk outside. Figure out what gives you rest and seize every opportunity to engage in it

I fear in today’s world many have “down time”, but rarely have true rest. Our world keeps us increasingly busy, or at least it keeps our lives loud and disrupted. The constant call of social media and the notifications on our phones keep our mind engaged. I’m convinced that many times it keeps us from actual rest. We need moments where we disconnect from it all and just be. Moments in God’s presence where it is really just us. No agenda. No pressure. No noise. There is something profoundly restorative in prayer that truly is just about being with the Lord.

God is always fully present. How perfect it is when we decide to be fully present as well.