encouragement for the crushed

Posted: October 6th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: | Comments Off

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. - Isaiah 26:3 ESV 

Fruit from the vine pressed under Your feet. I would rather be crushed under Your feet than rotting flesh in Your burn pile.

Is want just as much a mirage as plenty? I can’t tell if it’s stress or cause for panic. I’m like a loyal dog. I just need a hint of Your scent. …you keep in him perfect peace…. A reminder.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. – Isaiah 26:4 ESV

I watch squirrels dodge traffic to get nuts. Encouragement by the provision is clouded out by the stress of acquisition.

Aren’t proud cities trampled under the feet of the poor (Isaiah 26:6)? I swing between the two so often that I don’t know if I’m being trampled or trampling.

“…in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” - Isaiah 30:15 ESV

“…whose mind is stayed on you…” A reminder of a mental direction. I’ll keep looking over the glass surface of the sea.

And then You answer….

The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. - Exodus 14:15-16 ESV

“Why do you cry to me? Go forward.” 

squirrel


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twelve

Posted: September 22nd, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The quiet gets masked in fatigue so nobody will ask. Dull pain deep enough to sleep until the distractions can overtake the memories and the questions and swallow them into routine. Helplessness can make a gentle man angry, so the gentle man sleeps.

And I wonder.

God is not bound by time. He forgives from the outside of our beginning and beyond our end. Time heals human wounds unless you pay homage to the sins that caused your hurt. You mark the yearly landmarks like a sin historian whose only sense of worth is through the failures of others. Vowing to never forget only serves to justify your long standing vengeance.

What if you don’t know how to change the course?

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment… - 1 Timothy 5:24 ESV

His sin was obvious. It walked itself into the light. While he stood exposed, his sins marched ahead of him and laid down at the cross. Like venom to venom, a scour to a wound, pain was the antidote. God knew the way to his heart. Gutted by his own sin, this man gladly gave away his rights to your failure so that he could be free from his own.

Are you are afraid of losing something?

…but the sins of others appear later. - 1 Timothy 5:24 ESV

Like a child hiding from his father, you poke sticks at the carcass just to see how the dead moves. You bear witness to his sin, turning the poured out Gospel into a lie. They are so deep that digging out would rearrange the life you built on top of them.

What is a life built on lies? Switch the names. Tell the story that makes you a redeemer. They don’t ask and you don’t tell.

Do you feel like it’s too late?

So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden. - 1 Timothy 3:25 ESV

Does it make you limp?
Isn’t it tiring to hide all the time?
What do you do with the fear?

You keep telling yourself that the monster chasing you is him. But, he’s not chasing you.

Don’t be afraid.

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. - Luke 12:3 ESV

The truth-bomb is still ticking, but you’ve become accustomed to the sound.

One day, every tongue will confess that He is God. Your justifications are a wagging tongue of self. You hide behind his mistakes and justify yourself by blaming him. His sin was blotted from the books when the blood spilled. Are you the book keeper?

Put down your towel. This blood won’t wipe off.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. – Proverbs 10:9 ESV

Does your word mean nothing? You’ve built a house of cards, but he steadies his breath because she lives in that house. I already told you. He’s not your monster.

So, Who is chasing you?

He’s your Shepherd.

Stop running.

Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. - Luke 12:4 ESV

His quiet gets masked in fatigue so he can sleep it away. He lays under undisturbed blankets while the King breathes peace over him. He waits for the housetop proclamations and the mountains bow to the One who watches him sleep.

Love her extra for him today, will You? It’s her birthday.

Happy Birthday, Parker Rain.


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letting you in

Posted: September 16th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | Comments Off

Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. - 2 Corinthians 4:1 MSG

The thing God “let us in on” is in spreading the message of the “new covenant”. The new covenant is Jesus. It’s grace that covers every sin and the absolute futility of a relationship with God through following a set of rules. There is no grace for those who justify themselves with the law.

our sufficiency is from God,  who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. - 2 Corinthians 3:6 ESV

We are given that revelation through our own “coming to Jesus” moment. He sets us free and we automatically become witnesses to how thorough and authoritative His forgiveness is. It’s impossible to know Him as our Savior without knowing ourselves as “sinner”. Once you’ve been rescued from yourself, you don’t want yourself anymore. Pride, the core of rebellion, is gone. It’s not a flippant thing and it requires absolute honesty as you let your own shame surface to face the Light.

We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. - 2 Corinthians 4:2 MSG

This isn’t a game. I don’t understand how people can just add religion to their schedule and not be completely overtaken by the mysteries and riddles. Those who have experienced the transformation don’t condemn others or doubt God’s immediate grace for the fallen.

You can’t just take the scriptures and make them mean whatever you want them to mean. Everything has to be balanced against the Gospel. If it doesn’t balance, or if it’s just someone’s life philosophy, then you have to consider their intellect. But, with the Gospel, even the simplest mind can get the profundity.

And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:2 MSG

in on it


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dead works

Posted: September 15th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | Comments Off

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God… - Hebrews 6:1 ESV

People can spend their entire lives learning doctrine and altering their behavior to reflect their beliefs. It’s the societal separation that knots their identity. It’s self-denial to the point of pointless non-statements. The blandness of it all leads to giddy pride in the obscure sub-cultures. Deeper and deeper into the weird creases of homemade religion, you can find people who get off on how bland they can be. Cold polenta and crooked teeth. Thick toenails and rubbery oats.

Plant one in the vanilla bucket of out-dated pop-culture and she’ll slip up and start shaving her legs or covering up her pimples. She always knew who she was when she was the most plain. But, now she’s just regular and has to deal with her spot in society. Maybe she’s not all that pretty, so if she could say she didn’t try, then she’d have an excuse. Without her religious expression of self-denial, she has no excuse. She strikes out at the “sinners” who wear perfume, who squeeze into designer jeans, and color coordinate their underwear. She does this in the name of being holy. She says she’s drawing closer to God so that He’ll perfect her walk. Her goal is to be like Jesus.

People can spend their entire lives learning doctrine and altering their behavior to reflect their “blessings”. It’s the societal separation that flaunts their identity. Embarrassing extravagance only serves to make those who have less to feel less than. The loudness of it all leads to giddy pride in the not-so obscure sub-cultures. Flying on the flagpoles of photoshopped religion you can find people who get off on how rich they, and apparently you, too, can be.

The divisions of expression float by on the parade of life. They do their best to dress the part that makes their version of Jesus more pure or more successful. But this is all washing and dressing. It’s the finger-painting doctrine. Meanwhile there is a world of people out there who need them to get over themselves. Maybe Plain Jane and Fancy Nancy don’t mean any harm, but their lack of maturity is poking holes in the boat and maybe we’re not all ready for water-walking yet.

“Dead works” are works of the flesh while the Spirit remains caged. Trying to get the “self” in line is evidence that you’re still “married” to the law. That’s why grace feels like you’re cheating. It’s because you are. Until you recognize that the death of Jesus was actually you dying to the law, freeing you from the “marriage”, you’ll be a spiritual adulterer. You’ll be serving two masters. You were set free for a resurrection “marriage”. You’ll be able to progress beyond the elementary doctrine and start living the Love we claim to know.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. - Romans 7:4-6 ESV

dead works

 


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sodium and chlorine

Posted: September 12th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

“What is salt made of?”

The best conversations start out this unassuming. Eleven had some deep questions and salt was the best place to start.

I thought for a moment, trying to conjure up fragments of information from my biological science class. “Salt is a crystal made from minerals. If you looked at it under a microscope, it would look like uncut diamonds.”

Not Yet Satisfied asked, “Well, who was the first person to make things like salt?”

“Are you asking about the first of everything?” I’m a closet mind reader.

She nodded.

“Well,” began my genius bequeathment of eternal knowledge, “when God made the very first person…”

“Wait, start with who made God.”

“Oh, there is no start to that. He’s always been.” This is one of many slow motion moments where I may sound like a lunatic to the one I’ve taught to be outspoken. And I’m fully aware I built my own gallows by urging my children to think for themselves and question everything until it becomes nonsense or truth.

“No,” says my obedient questioner. “Who made him up?”

“Nobody made Him up.” I pause so that I can read her face. “He made us up.”

Her face tells me that I need to explain. “God has always been…” Churchy-habit forced me to add, ” and He always will be.”

She didn’t get it.

“You know how outer space doesn’t have an end? Like, you’ll never be stopped if you travel in one direction? There is no end to the space?” I know I’m speaking perspective-relative gibberish while failing to mention the numerous pitfalls of space travel, but I’m unrehearsed and this is where my brain went.

“No.”

“Exactly.” I went with the ‘comfort in the unknown’ approach because that’s the point. “There are a ton of things we can’t swell our brains to fit. But, we are accustomed to shrinking everything down to a manageable size. We need to know where we are in relation to where we live. We need to know where in the town our house is located. Where in the state our town is located. Where in the country our state is located. Where in the world our country is located and people usually stop there. But we have a location in a galaxy and a galactic location in space that is entirely unexplored and completely unknown. It’s called space because it takes up room, but is mostly undefined.”

I watched it dawn … “There are tons of things we can’t shrink to fit our understanding. God is one of them. He has always been.”

The satisfied question gives birth to a dissatisfied question. “Why did he make us?”

“He made us so that He would have something to love that would love Him back.” I wonder if it’s too simple. “You were made on purpose and for a purpose. You’ll spend your life learning how to love, how to discover, how to survive, how to create, and somewhere in there you’ll feel a deep calling to Something More and you’ll start being able to hear God. You were made to be in a relationship with Him and with each other.

“The problem is, sometimes our relationships with each other can get in the way of our relationship with Him. Sometimes our relationships with ourselves can get in the way of our relationship with Him.”

“How?”

“Well, while we’re busy being people and figuring things out, we make choices. We make choices all the time that tangle us up in guilt and regret. God gave people a way to keep the guilt at bay and a way to clear the slate periodically.”

She’s listening.

“You know the story of Adam and Eve?” I assume she’s heard it in church, but she shakes her head. “Really?” I stonewalled my own torrent of disappointment with standardized religion because I wasn’t in the mood for the soapbox.

I’m not a spoon feeder or an opportunist. I’m not trying to sell religion or peddle salvation. God doesn’t forget, so I can wait until she starts to hear Him. Then I can grab her hand at the “knowing” that dawns while I tell her it’s Him.

“God made Adam and Eve, the very first people, and they spent their time the way they were designed to spend it. They created, they loved each other, and they loved God.

“One day they were given a choice. They could know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, or they could stay the way they were. They knew that knowing took disobeying, but they didn’t know the price of disobedience. They thought, with everything inside of them, that they could be trusted with ‘right and wrong’.”

I wanted her to get this part, so I repeated it. “They thought that if they knew the difference between right and wrong, they would always choose right.”

“Isn’t it interesting that their faith in their ability to choose the right thing was carried in the bag of disobedience?”

“What?” She laughed at me because she knows that I speak in metaphors.

“They really wanted a chance to make their own choices about good and evil, but they had to choose the wrong answer to get that ability.”

She’s getting it.

“That’s called ‘irony’.” I raised by eyebrows up and down, silent-movie-style, when I said ‘irony’.

“The problem is, people can know right from wrong, but still choose wrong.” I wrapped my arms around my stomach for dramatic flair. “That’s the most gut wrenching part of being a human being: knowing right from wrong and being completely unable to get it right every time.

“So, God created these rules for people to follow that would help them avoid that horrible feeling. Remember, all He wants is for us to have a relationship with Him?” She nodded. “So, He made a way for us to not be blocked by that feeling.

“Here’s the thing, though. Breaking the rules required a death and even the death had strict rules about it. People started paying more attention to the rules, …getting them right, and forgot about having a relationship with God. They felt good about themselves for being decent rule followers, but knew nothing about their Creator or why those rules were put there in the first place.

“Then, God sent Jesus to satisfy the rules, the “Law”, that He made. Jesus was the only one who could pay the price of death that would work for everyone. He sacrificed Himself because He wanted us to not have to worry about always choosing the right answer. He knew we couldn’t and wanted to save us from always feeling like that.  Jesus made it to where there was nothing in between us and God.”

That should be the end of the story. Technically it is. But, she’s my baby girl and she just returned from a summer visit to see family that has a bad habit of being overly critical with an occasional religious bend. She was feeling like a failure. I needed her to know why people get weird and unnatural when they talk about God and why they uphold various versions of the openly disputed and infuriatingly inconsistent rules. When you’re a child at the mercy of people trying to prove their religious worth, it can feel like walls crushing in around you and can give you church-minted anxiety.

“The thing that kills me is when people use their behavior to refuse the validity of what Jesus did. They think that following a set of rules is proof of their love for God, but they’re still focusing on the rules. It would be like if you had the best behavior, but never hugged me. Or if you were so formal with me that I never got to see how goofy you can be. I would literally want you to misbehave so that I could see something real. It’s like the difference between a perfect robot and a human. The flaws are how you can tell real from fake.

“It’s like that with God. He loves you exactly the way you are, not matter what. He used Jesus to scoot everything out of the way so that nothing would ever keep you from Him ever again.”

I get intense when I talk about this stuff. It’s the seat of my passion and I can’t help it.

“I get it.” She’s smiling and I know she’s not just trying to shut me up.

“Really? You mean you can feel it inside you?” That’s the best way I can explain it. You feel something come alive inside you and you know that it’s right.

“Yes!” I think she’s surprised that I know what she’s feeling.

“That’s what happens when you hear the Truth.” I’m beaming because I’m watching Him talk to her right in front of me. This is the dawning of the knowing and I’m grabbing her hand. She’s beaming because she can hear Him.

After a moment of us grinning at what just happened, she ask, “Why don’t they talk like this at church?”

Ugh. “What did you learn at church?”

“Nothing.” And like a dagger with a twist, “We just play games.”

I don’t understand the lack of passion or the preoccupation with making church a “super-fun” agenda of instilling a balance of guilt and hidden-conditioned acceptance. We have to take on the responsibility of teaching our kids how to recognize the voice of the Spirit in their everyday lives. It’s not a Sunday thing. That’s primarily a social outlet to find like-minded people. If you don’t have your own relationship with the Truth, then how do you know when you’re being entertained with a lie?

their own drumbeat

 

 

 


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