Thursday, October 23, 2014

Doin What Comes Natur'lly

We're fixers aren't we? Men don't want to listen to problems unless they can fix them. Women not only talk about problems, they work out things that aren't broken...yet. It comes so naturally! And since we come by it so naturally, we might think that's what we were made to do--solve problems. Or is it?

The thing that strikes me every time I read Psalms is how little the psalmist actually does. He doesn't seem to fix anything! He writes about enemies. He writes about problems, bigger problems than I hope I'll ever have--the threat of death, loss of his kingdom, betrayal of his son, and sin of adultery. And I ask myself, if he had all these problems and they're bigger than mine, what's the right answer? How did he deal with them?

1) He told God--and he was brutally honest.
2) He reminded himself of who God is and what He does.
3) He responded to God, not the situation.

In other words, David, the psalmist, didn't try to fix the problem. He doesn't record ideas of how to get away this time or thoughts on if he said this then she would say that and they could do this.... From other books in the Bible, we know he made decisions. He used common sense and logic in light of God's Word, but first and foremost, he praised God. He sought the Lord. He trusted. He settled his mind on the goodness of God. He didn't manipulate circumstances or worry about people. He didn't fixate on a desired outcome. He took comfort. He rested. He waited. And the result?

He found peace. Hope. Contentment. Rest.

How often we need to stop our brains and talk to God--not ourselves or others. We need to share our frustrations, difficulties and sorrows. We need to recall who He is and how much He loves us. And we need to wait. If He can create the known universe, He can change my circumstances. If He moved from Heaven to Earth, lived, died and rose again, He can mend broken relationships and change hearts. I can't.

And that's the crux of the matter, isn't it? As long as I fret and worry, I feel a sense of importance, control and crucial involvement. What? Give it up? Never. Because.'s mine. It's about me. If I stop, it may not turn out according to my design. Honestly, I'd like to think I can come up with a way to make it work. If I rest in the Lord instead of working my design, who gets the credit? Oh, yeah, God does. And if I wait on Him, it's not as much fun--what will I do with all the extra time and energy? (How many "I's" do you count in that paragraph? Very telling isn't it?) Oh, how easy it is to give in to self and fear forgetting we live by faith, faith in a loving God who is very, very capable.

Doin what comes natur'lly is just that--my natural bent, living as if God doesn't exist. Harsh, but true. When I do it supernaturally--wait, rest and praise--He works amazing things. Without my help. Imagine!  And in the midst of it all, He is enough. More than enough.

 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:5-8, 12-15, 31-39

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blind Man Walking

This summer I traveled to St. Petersburg, FL with three teenage farm girls. We had a fabulous time trying on the latest fashions at Walgreens, taking pictures of geckos, eating unique food...and learning how to get by in the city. It didn't take long to realize the importance of traffic lights. Go means go. Stop means stop.

The same is true of God's Word. We live in a world riddled with danger, temptation, obstacles, and (may I say it?) our own stupidity and ignorance. Those of us who trust Christ walk by faith, not by sight. We know the importance of observing God's traffic signals and living by the Creator's play book. Or do we?

How often do you and I effectively say, "Wait, God, I've got a better idea!"

"I know it says ________ but didn't You really mean _________." Somehow, we expect God to miraculously stop the car coming around the corner! How guilty I am of reading God's Word and twisting it to fit my own past experience, personal judgment of others, or desire to control the outcome!

If I had taken blind teens to the city, it would have required extra care. That is the world without Christ--the drivers, walkers, and crowds of people who surround us. They are not only hindered by the influences of the world, they cannot see it for what it is. And that was me. I once was blind, but now I see--not all of it, the future nor person's path beside me, but the path and direction God would have me go. He guides me daily by His Word, empowered by His Spirit. Why? So I might walk as Jesus walked.

What does that look like? To touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable; to seek the lost, to help the needy, to make Him known. The goal isn't financial success or human popularity. God doesn't guide and direct us into fulfilling careers and living out our full potential--not for our sake, our glory and happiness. God's desire is greater, bigger. His goal is to recreate the image of His Son. When you and I reflect Jesus, when local churches live in a way that makes Christ known, God is revealing His wisdom to the blind and lost as well as rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:8-10). That's our calling.

Today's choice; walk by faith or blinded sight? Knowing God through Jesus allows me to see and walk worthy of the calling with which I have been called.

Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesian 3:13-4:7)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Where's Jesus When We Need Him?

The woman looked at me, pain in her eyes, "Is there anything you can do to help?"
It was a moment for honesty. "I can't solve the problem or make it go away. But together you and I can find God in this. It's an opportunity for you to draw near to Him. Together, we can find peace. You can have peace with God and peace in this situation." I paused. "Are you willing to give it a try?"

We used to say love makes the world go round but that's not true anymore. Psychology makes the world go round. When a problem or crisis hits we may google it, ask our closest friends, or, if it gets really--I mean "really"--bad, we may talk to the pastor. Then, after days and weeks and months of struggle, we look for professional help and seek a psychologist or psychiatrist. That may or not make a difference.

If you are a person of influence in your church, you have had opportunity after opportunity to speak to broken, hurting hearts. And if you're a person like me, those hearts are not only outside, but inside your home--and your head as well.

Let me challenge each of us to get real about who Jesus is and what He can do. Does He love me? Real, down-to-earth love or love that was written on a page 2,000 years ago and forgotten? Does He know what's going on my life? And does He care? If it's true that He cares, where is He in this mess called life?

You and I can quote rote answers to the questions of life and suffering, but until we have tried Him and found Him true, until we know Him, have studied and questioned and lived Him, we can never place our full weigh and dependence on Him. If you are struggling with not seeing Jesus right now, where you are:

- Pray and ask God to reveal Himself. He wants to be found (Isaiah 55:6)
- Spend time daily reading God's Word and calling out to God. If you don't know where to start, begin with Psalm 42 and continue. Make lists of who God is and what He does as well as proper responses to His wonders, grace and love.
- Praise God. Yes, that's right. Praise Him. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. God is worthy--even in our pain. Put Him in His rightful place with your prayer, words and actions.
- Seek help from godly sources. Talk to your pastor, a godly friend, or biblical counselor. Seek books that exalt God and direct your focus to Him in the midst of your suffering.

When we have tried and tested Him ourselves, we are equipped and able to answer those who ask, "What can you do for me right here, right now?" In that moment, we will say, "Not I, but Christ. He is here. He is waiting. He is enough." And in that moment, as we love and give of our lives in response to their pain, Jesus has given, is giving...and loving--through me and you. Will you be His Body, broken for them?

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me....

"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you....

"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 16:32-17:26 NIV)