So it’s been quite a while since I have blogged… like a year and almost 2 months long. A lot has been going on in my life, most of which I’m not ready to delve into in this forum. But as I was outside reading, praying, journaling, I believe the Lord was showing me some things, things I needed to see, and things I NEED to remember. Let this thought be an ebenezer to me, as I wake, as I sleep, as I go throughout my day, as I learn to love like this….
God hates sin. The most perverted to the most religious would agree. Unless you’re of the vein that there is no God to which we are accountable. If you qualify for that group, I have nothing to say, right now. The point is, God wants us to move on past His hatred for sin. Not in the sense where we, His followers, don’t hate it like He does. But to the point where we see His love shine through, engulf it even. To the point where people know that God’s love covers a multitude of sins. God did not set up people for failure, for sin. He did give a choice though, which is real love by the way. His love exceeds His hatred for sin, but not in the way a lot of people believe, or want to believe. Hear me out. His love exceeds His hatred for sin because He could have left it be in Eden, and that would have been that. That would have been justice, punishing sin on the spot and no way for redemption. We have to remember God does not lay down His justice for the sake of His love. Instead He had a wonderful plan, a painful plan. You see in the cross of Christ, there is no greater display of the Father’s love. Instead of starting over or changing plans, He redeemed. I can’t wrap my head around it, and at times I wonder why He didn’t do it another way. I struggle with blaming Him for allowing the whole thing to go down the way it did. But I think it’s because my view of love needs readjusting (among other things…).
Any other idea or notion that God will some how appease His divine wrath other than by or through the work of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, is cheapening to the cross of Christ. Either He meant it when He said, “It is finished”, or the Incarnation was in vain. I hate that people will go to Hell, I hate it. But to suppose that God is somehow going to meet us in Eternity and declare us righteous apart from the Sacrifice made on our behalf in Christ is not love or justice. The Father says, “You are clean” to those who trust wholly in the work of Christ on the cross. The beautiful news is that for those who read this there is hope and love that does win. Not the love this world’s system has in place and is trying to sell, what a cheap knock off of the real thing. True love wins at the cross, where He beckons, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find REST for your souls.”
Think God hates you? Look at the mess the bloody cross left and think again.
The trap we fall into is thinking that our junk, our sin, is too big for God to handle. We think, “I better fix this before I bring it before the Lord so it doesn’t look as bad”. HE is bigger, HE is stronger. He is not surprised; in fact He wants our surrender and desires us to be real with Him. He can handle all of our doubts, the sin, and the struggles with belief. Personally, I am going through a deep, dark, beautiful season where the Lord is killing me of my self-righteousness, my pride, and my piety. Thinking I have to have it all together to serve the Lord is wicked and a facade. I don’t save myself, Jesus has saved me and keeps me and forgives me. He is making me a worshipper of Him.
Let Jesus change you as you come to Him with all your junk, don’t try to fix it up before you bring it to Him. Come with a godly sorrow, realizing you have sinned against a holy, just God. Refuse to come with a worldly sorrow which is self centered and prideful. The most beautiful thing is to realize that everyday it’s about a holy and loving God, not me. We were created for His glory, and He has made a way for us to know Him regardless of our sin, for His glory!
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2cor. 7:10
I am learning this lesson now, and the Lord, not me, is faithful to keep me and bring me through this time…this time of beauty and chaos…
“oh praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead…Jesus”
“Straight in, suck up and go,
Cool it, swallow, swallow
Breathe deep, take it all
It comes cheap
Push it through the doors
Because in between the lines
I’m gonna pack more lines
So I can get in
Ooh traffic jam got more cars
Than a beach got sand
Suck it up, suck it up, suck it up,
Fill it up until no more
I’m no crazy creep, I’ve got it coming
To me because I’m not satisfied
The hunger keeps on growing
I eat too much
I drink too much
I want too much
Too much” …
-The Dave Matthews Band
As humans we crave stuff…food, money, position, power, relationship…gods??? If we are not careful we can spend a lot of time moving from one thing to another, filling ourselves up to the brim, trying desperately to satisfy ourselves. When we just can’t quite get enough we are left desperately wanting until we focus our attention elsewhere to someone or something, expecting fulfillment but ultimately finding discontentment and no satisfaction.
It is one thing to have needs and another to have “wants”. As Americans especially we don’t know the difference. As Christians (if you are one) then we REALLY don’t know the difference. It’s quite sad. The Lord is personally walking me through this subject, slowly (because I know I can’t handle it all at once, and God knows that too) showing me the difference. Often times it’s hard to see it, and come to grips with it. As my pastor has said before, “the American church has adopted the American dream”, and they cannot biblically coincide.
As I was reading this morning in the Old Testament book called Judges, the author is giving an account of the spiritual prostitution of the Israelites. They literally whored or lusted after other gods. God would show His grace and mercy towards them, and the next thing you know they are back at it again…seeking fulfillment…leaving unsatisfied. The phrase, “The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” is a common one throughout the chapters of this particular book. The funny thing is, those Israelites had everything they needed in their relationship with God yet they didn’t see it. In verses 13-14 of chapter 10, after speaking of His continued deliverance, God said, “Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of distress.” And even after their disobedience, time and time again, God still showed up because of His love for them. This is a theme throughout the Old Testament, God’s deliverance of a wandering people. The story is quite similar for the church of today. I see it daily in my life and the life of the American church.
So as believers here we are…lusting and whoring after other things, claiming Christ yet not being satisfied in Him. We have our God but we have our gods. It is time we choose who we will serve whole heartedly. It’s not Jesus plus ______; it’s only Jesus, period. Let’s stop living as if Jesus was made for us and let’s stop treating Him like an add-on to our lives. We were made for Him because He is God, and we are here for His glory.
Before you can put God first, you must first know God. I encourage you to not just mentally assent or acknowledge Jesus and who He is, but to actually trust in Him as if your life depends on it…because it does. Take Him at His Word that He truly is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.
Imagine this scenario: Place yourself back in the glory days…that’s right, high school. Vividly paint the picture with your mental brush strokes. Allow yourself to walk through the halls, visiting your favorite memories with pristine care and detail. You walk down the halls seeing that guy or girl you had your eye on, this group or that group that conjugated in all the wrong places (like right in front of your locker). The trophy cases, the memorabilia, it’s all coming back to you. The cafeteria was always a place to conjure up conversation, to see the “who’s who” and the “who’s not”, so let’s head over there. Whether you were or you were not, allow yourself to be vulnerable in this setting. You are kind of awkward, really trying hard to fit in, really desiring to be liked. A best friend: allow yourself to walk with your best friend (at this point, fictional is alright, just really imagine a wonderful best friend). This is the person that knows you; I’m talking dives in to “you”. They know who you like, what you have and haven’t done (on all fronts), your dreams, your hopes….and now they have just pulled your pants down in front of everyone. That’s right; you just got de-pantsed at the largest public setting quite possibly in ten square miles. All eyes on you, front and center (this may be easier for guys, as most have been de-pantsed or at least witnessed an attempted de-pantsing episode).
Unfortunately, that’s what religion does to a person. You spend your life trying to measure up, trying to meet the requirements, trying to earn your “rightful” place in the heavenlies, only to work, work, work and try, try, try just to find out your work was in vain, and your effort, although piously exerted, has left you far short from the mark. Religion leaves a person standing in the cafeteria with their pants down and their undies showing. Your face gets red, covered in embarrassment, and you’re grinning like an idiot.
Maybe you get it, maybe you have come to the conclusion that you just don’t measure up, that your works are, “as filthy rags”. Maybe you “get” Jesus and why you need not only His salvation, but also His life. But maybe you are on the other side. Maybe you have been burned by a church experience, or someone who is a Christian. Maybe you just think it to be foolish to put all your eggs in one basket. Maybe you think religion is a waste of time and that anyone who adheres to anything that dominates their time, finances, and life is a complete weakling. You think, “Man, I am self sufficient, I feel bad for those people who need a crutch.” I hate to be the spoiler, but your pants are down too. Your religion is yourself, and being that you (and I) are not perfect; you have left yourself far from the mark.
So what is the mark? Simply put, the mark is perfection. Sounds impossible and it is. That is why it is so important to stop trying to make it on your own, by whatever method makes you “feel” good. Feelings don’t reflect truth, they reflect fallibility. Truth remains true whether we “feel” like it makes sense or works for us. The age old problem with religion is arrogance, pride. Like we could actually come to God on His terms the way we are?? Good one. I know me, and I know I just don’t have what it takes. You may be more wise, more educated, more likable, smell better, speak more eloquently, do more “good”…but you’re still too jacked up to come before a holy, perfect God. I am a big fan of perspective, and I have mentioned it in previous posts. If you can at least look inside yourself and realize there are some major issues going on, most of which have been suppressed or prettied-up for years, then you have to admit you need help. That desire you have that everything else just won’t meet is because you have gone about it all wrong. Your attempts, though valid, are skewed. You have thrown everything else at that innate desire that resides deep within in order to shut it up , everything that is except the one thing that desire is meant for, which is to know God. Knowing God has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with a relationship.
We come to God on His terms, not our own. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we are saying, “I know I can’t do it on my own, and I know I just don’t measure up, but man, Jesus, You do measure up.” God knows we can’t make it on our own, so let’s stop pretending we are able. Let’s stop “trying “and “working” and instead trade that death trap in for real life. Let’s trade it in for a relationship with the Creator of the air you are breathing right now.
Let’s be real. I know there are very genuine, even valid objections to this topic. Let’s face it, it’s a hot topic of much debate and our culture which screams for everyone to be “right” and the relativistic nature of our society hates absolute truths. Uh-oh. Think about it, how can everyone be right? How can everyone be wrong?
Get freedom, get life…get your pants up.
I hate to be wrong. One of the most humbling things in life is to be wrong. It goes against our nature. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that we spend a lot of time trying to prove ourselves right. Even more so, we spend a lot of time trying to prove ourselves righteous.
I spend a lot of time reviewing my actions, my thoughts, the things I say. I am constantly critiquing self in order to improve. Is it so terrible to want to be right, to do right? Is it so unnatural to seek the “good” warm fuzzies that follow when we know we made the right decision? It’s not unnatural at all, but the problem is the “natural” must go!
What I (we) have to remember is that our very nature, our core, is wicked. Very unpopular thing to say, in fact it goes against the cultural norm. But no matter what culture constitutes as the wicked and the good, the culture is not the standard. God is the standard. The bigger issue appears in the church as the cultural norm has meandered its way into the back doors and subtly made its way to the front row.
Concerning sin, the pride in me says, “How could I do such a thing?” when I should be saying, “how could I NOT do such a thing?!” On my own, I am left to ruin. I can try and try but in the end I fail. Even as a Christian this thought of complete confusion and amazement at my own sin is quite ironic. It’s ironic because the very reason I trust in Jesus Christ’s death on that rugged cross is because of my sin. He paid the price that my imperfection, my wickedness no matter how “good” I think I may be, could never pay. I can never prop my self righteousness up against the righteousness of a holy, just God and call it even. Yet then I question how I could struggle with particular issues because I think I’m too good to lie, or too good to think lustfully, etc. Too good?!?! What spiritual pride!
We have to understand that we absolutely have nothing to bring to God that makes Him think, “wow, look at that guy, he is so good, so appealing”. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God…” After we trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, we have to continually allow His righteousness to be our own. We cannot try and will ourselves to moral perfection. Instead we must allow Him to break us of the habit of self. Complete surrender is the only way. As Christians we have to understand that the only reason we can do anything righteous is because of Christ in us. We must consider 2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Simply put, repent because you have sinned against a holy God, not because you feel bad in your prideful status that you couldn’t get it right. Of course you and I can’t get it right! Praise God in Jesus Christ for His mercy! Praise Him for the death, burial and resurrection of His Son that pays the price for our sin, once and for all!
God is not surprised by my sin, so I shouldn’t be either. The grace of God must compel me and overwhelm me to live for Him and by HIS grace I can and will live right, nothing in me can do it. I am at a unique and special place where God is allowing my frustration with myself to bring me to my knees and remind me that only Jesus can make it right…only Jesus.
If you are feeling particularly frustrated with yourself in this area, feeling like you just don’t quite measure up you need to realize you don’t; I don’t; we don’t. Trust Jesus to save you and make it right because He does measure up and He desires you to know Him in a personal way. Surrender equals freedom…finally.
I was outside this morning spending time in God’s Word, praying, thinking, reflecting….all that good stuff. I was thinking about how God is blessing my wife and me right now: as we have just moved He has provided jobs for us, He has opened doors to begin an outreach gathering in the community, He has opened doors at our church to serve…God is good!
But what about my brother who is struggling right now? I started feeling guilty for God’s goodness in my life. With a friend who loves Jesus going through so much right now (out of work because of injury, marriage in shambles), I feel my perspective is skewed. “Things are great so God is great” is too often the mentality we as believers hold on to. Yet that is the exact opposite of what God’s Word says. What about my brother who is struggling, is God not great in his life? Too often we quantify God’s goodness by our feelings, on our “lot” that has been cast or drawn. God’s sovereignty is a blanket that covers all things. God brought Acts 2:42-47 to mind, which talks about the way the church should look and operate. Phil 2:2 says we are to be of the “same mind” and “one mind” and goes on to say in verse 3 that we are to count others better than ourselves. Essentially we choose to be like minded, we choose to care.
The point is this, while things may be great in my life, or your life, whatever is going on in my brother’s life or your brother or sister’s life is just as much my burden or your burden as it is their burden. Our lives are not separate but one. We lift each other up, not waiting until all of our lives seem to be equally great. It is perpetual motion as a community of believers, not separate houses on the same block. For me to idolize the goodness in my life and yet stand at a distance from my brother whose heart is breaking is disgusting. I am called to bear his burden, to treat it like my own because we are united in Jesus. When I can take my eyes off of me and place them on others, then I will get it. It’s not easy, but “easy” is not in the definition of perseverance. We persevere because it’s worth it. Jesus is worth it. My brother is worth it. As my pastor said a few weeks ago, the “American Dream” has drifted into the American church. We have so many blessings and freedoms in this country, and instead of using them for selfish gain, we, as the church, need to start using them to promote others and serve people. When the church gets this, then the church will start being the church.
So while my life may be seemingly “great”, my brother may be broken, and it is my call of duty to pick him up and bear that burden with him and for him, in the name of Jesus. Giddy up.
Filed under: Life, Personal, Spiritual | Tags: Bob Ross, Fall, Happy little trees, Jesus
Happy little tree…. that’s what Bob Ross used to say as he would paint and brilliantly install a tree into his artwork. This time of year, especially in Western Maryland, you can’t help but notice all the “happy little trees” around. I LOVE fall, as many do. There is something special about this season. Maybe it’s the conclusion of summer and oppressive heat that usher in a much welcomed, refreshing burst of seasonal bliss. I am a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy so this season is like a beckoning to my casual, yet comfortable senses. Bon-fires, the smell of change, hiking…gotta dig it!
I was sitting on our back patio this evening embracing the most perfect blend of scenery and temperature. It was probably in the low 60′s, just right for a long sleeve t-shirt, pants and some flops to be the right mix for optimum viewing pleasure. I was praising God for His creation, reading a little bit from His Word, and sipping some coffee. As I sat facing east (not Mecca, just the Blue Ridge Mountains range line) I was staring at a beautiful tree with the leaves a bright orange, vivid and alive. There was a small shadow working its way up the tree and before I knew it, this tree was blanketed in the long evening shade of the house. Even through this shadow the splendor is still revealed.
I wonder if this tree could be a small representation of God’s glory. Beautiful, vivid, yet our perception is not quite what it should be because of sin. Our sin has cast an earthly shadow on who God is. This shadow does not change who God is, but instead it changes our ability to see Him in all His rightful glory. We have this innate desire to worship something and yet the very thing we crave is veiled by the shadow of our sin. This isn’t God’s fault, it’s our fault. We are a culture of blame, of no accountability. In fact, we are a breed of blame, of no accountability. This is innate, we can’t help it, yet we are still accountable. Why are we accountable? Perception. It’s not about us. We were created with a purpose to know and worship the creator of the “happy little tree”, yet we curse Him instead because life isn’t perfect. That’s not His fault, it’s ours. We are living in a world clad with “happy little trees” but also sin. The beauty or glory of it all is that when we “get” Jesus, I mean, really “get” Him the veil is lifted so that even though life isn’t perfect, we know we have been welcomed into the Truth. How do you “get” Him? Faith. I put “get” into quotations because before You receive Jesus’ gift of life (real life…eternal, not a nice house in the ‘burbs, 2 cars, and a boat) you have to understand who He is and who you are. When you “get” that, you can’t help but come to Him. You can’t help but respond to His love and grace, and don’t forget mercy. You will make the exchange which requires giving up your life for the one He offers. Trust me, it’s better. Actually, don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself, the offer is available to all who will come. What an invitation.
As the climax of fall is upon us and the leaves are still beautifully dressing the trees, find that “happy little tree” and enjoy its beauty. Then, if you dare, seek the One who created you, me, and the “happy little trees”.