Saturday, May 22, 2010

This Cracked Pot

If I were to be unfashionably transparent, I would admit that I have struggled with bitterness and resentment lately. There was an opportunity for gratitude and appreciation, and it never came. There was a place for public recognition or an expression of thanks. It never happened. Instead, after weeks of feeling set up, laughed at, made fun of, criticized, taken advantage of, and extremely disrespected, I was overlooked. Taken for granted. I didn’t want to be the martyr, or feel the martyr—and at the time, I didn’t. But later on? Yeah. It was the afterward part that got to me.

“Well,” I muse, “that’s life….” And, that’s God. Not artificially or sarcastically. Sincerely. In reading and studying 1 & 2 Chronicles, God’s hand in King David’s life was so evident. There were times he was overlooked and taken for granted, even despised, by King Saul. There were moments of victory and praise. There were times he sought God and times he disobeyed. In every moment, every circumstance, the purpose and hand of God moved the hearts of men to accomplish His will. What a tremendous testimony of life!

Then, this morning, as I read in 2 Corinthians, I was encouraged by this passage and thought:
“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4: 6-7).

What I have, say, and do that glorifies God is the result of His grace and glory in my life. My life, in and of itself—this body, this shell—is simply a vessel intended to carry and bear the life of Christ. When that is what I am doing, I am accomplishing the purpose God has for me. It is not in the accomplishments of life or the platitudes of men that I meet my potential (though it would seem that way and many others would believe it). I do not deserve praise or appreciation or gratitude. When I look at Christ's example, I am ashamed and humbled to think I felt an entitlement that never existed.

My goal and aim is to bear Jesus Christ in this body, in these circumstances, at this point in time, to those who surround me. Sometimes it means death—affliction, perplexity, persecution, being struck down or forsaken. But even in death there is victory, for these moments of pain and confusion are working to bring an eternal result. There is an inner renewing day after day after day, despite the circumstances. There is an eternal weight affixed to each small victory in which the outcome is not my physical, emotional, or mental improvement, but a representation of Christ in that moment, toward a specific individual or circumstance. This is life as it should be.

As those thoughts of sadness or disappointment come in waves, I am choosing to set them aside and step forward asking, “Was Christ reflected in that moment?” If the answer is yes, the goal has been met. Today is a new moment to show Christ through the cracks of this earthen vessel.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Monday, May 10, 2010 1 Chronicles 26
Verse 6: they were mighty men of valor
Verse 8: they were able men with strength for the service
Verse 9: valiant men
Verse 12: To these divisions of the gatekeepers, the chief men, were given duties like their relatives to minister in the house of the LORD.
Verse 16: Guard corresponded to guard.
Impression: The job of gatekeeper was not for sissies. God used specific men to guard the gates of the city, to open and close the gates, to oversee that which went out and that which came in. They were men of valor and strength whose job was understood in their ministry to the LORD. Should I view the importance of my soul any less? Or this body which is the temple of the Spirit? To guard against outside forces, to overcome self, to open and close the gates of my heart is not a job for a sissy. If I choose to sit back and let enter what will, I have failed to guard my heart (Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.) If I choose to “be myself” and give in to every thought and desire, I have broken down the walls of my heart (Proverbs 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control).
God is the One who gives valor, strength, and ability. He is the One who ultimately oversees the gates of my heart, but I must submit to His Spirit and His working in my life to benefit from His guardianship. How? By conscious choice and open request. With a soft heart and a determination of will, dependence on God becomes a lifeline that overcomes the dangers of laziness, procrastination, permissiveness, the desire to exalt self and please others.
(Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Cost of Forgiveness

Forgiveness. Yesterday was Easter and my reflections fell on it. It is not a frightening word. It is not a negative word. On one hand it's expected. On the other, it's... impossible. Forgiveness is the act of moving beyond an offense, intentional or otherwise. Neither side of forgiveness is pleasant. The one who has offended must accept it with humility, with lowliness and meekness. The one who offers forgiveness does so at a cost.

God has been teaching me the cost of forgiveness and I am learning a greater sense of awe and reverence for who He is. I have discovered that forgiving others means that, although they were wrong, I bear their offense. If I was slandered by another, I bear the price of their slander. I am the one that was defamed. But in forgiveness, the price is not laid on the one who initiated the crime. It weighs on the one who was wronged, the one who forgives.

To forgive is to relinquish the expectation of reconciliation or retribution*, although that may come. To forgive is to simply live on apart from the offense. It is so very impossible. My mind recalls words, details, memories and I must put them to rest. I must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I must choose not to dwell on, or remember, those details, by the grace of God. Apart from the working of God Himself, this is humanly impossible.

This is the forgiveness of God. This is the picture of Christ's death, His substitutionary death for me--that He took on Himself my sin, my wickedness, my death, and I pay nothing. God does not expect me to make it right. I cannot. He does not expect me to pay Him back. I cannot. In His forgiveness, He indwells me and enables me to "simply live on apart from the offense."

The other amazing thing I've learned in practicing forgiveness is that God has already given us an antidote for relieving the pain. Five times the writers of the gospels quote Jesus saying, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39, 16, 25; Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33). In a voila moment, I realized that the hurtful moments that roll off my back are the ones I don't take personally. Jesus was not only speaking of finding life after death, but of the eternal life we can experience in the here and now. I can experience the joy and peace of God when my life is not my own. In those moments that my life is lived for Christ and not for myself, the offense is not mine, it is His. Not only is the offense not realized at the time, the pain of forgiveness is nil. It is not mine to forgive, it is God's and He has already given it.

To walk in the Spirit is to walk with an eye ever on the Savior, with a heart bent to His will, with an ear listening to His voice. To forgive is to rely on God to faithfully prune those areas of my life that I hold too dearly, and cling to those that will draw me closer to His side.

* I may be wrong, but I believe God's forgiveness is free of reconciliation--Jesus forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. But reconciliation is the only way to experience a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The forgiveness is available, but must be received in order to restore the relationship. Through Christ I can forgive someone apart from a restored relationship.