Time Enough for One More

Yesterday was Easter, and after our family returned from church, I put into gear my “Easter Day Plans.” With only a few members of our family home for this holiday, I planned to sit down as a family and watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. So after our meal was over, and after venturing out on an egg hunt, I grabbed my box of kleenex, and we settled down in our living room to watch the Easter Story.

I had watched this movie when it first came out years ago, and I remember just lingering in my theatre seat with my head in my hands weeping for at least 10 minutes after the credits rolled. The severity of the torture, mockery, and beatings that Jesus endured and that this Hollywood film could portray, was more than I could take in, and the fact that He endured it all for me was overwhelming.

Watching the movie with my kids, I was peppered with questions as the story they had heard in bits and pieces over the years was now played out in a timeline of harrowing events. Between my bawling and nose wiping, I would explain who various characters were and what their roles were in the moments leading up to the crucifixion.

Over and over in scripture, when you read about the life of Jesus, you read about a man who was moved with compassion. He was constantly followed by crowds, and every crowd had needs–lots of them. Every effort He made to withdraw to solitary places to re-fuel, pray, rest, was met with one person, if not 5000+ persons, begging for His help or for a moment of His time.

The introvert in me cringes at the idea of having a super busy day, then finally relaxing with my family only to be barraged by a crowd of people all needing something that only I can provide them. And yet, this is Jesus on a daily basis. Even more striking is that those who insisted on His help, despite their verbal or societal persecution and isolation, always  received it. I’m talking about Blind Bartemaeus who shouted and shouted on the side of the road: “Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me!” And as the people around him told him to shut up, he cried out all the more. Bartemaeus received his sight back that day. (Mark 10:46-52)

Others would include the Caananite woman who insisted that if Jesus even dropped “crumbs” of His goodness in her direction, it would be enough to heal her daughter who was tormented of an evil spirit…and He did, and the daughter was healed. (Mark 7:24-30)

So, we are watching the final hours of Jesus’ Passion played out on the screen, and true to His character, even completely bludgeoned, dehydrated and weak, Jesus takes time. Dangling by nails on a cross suspended high in the air, a thief on one side of him cries out for mercy. If ever there was a “bad time” to ask for help from someone, this moment would seem to be the epoch. It’s been a long day…the kind of day where death is the welcomed ending in order to end the suffering. He is nailed to a tree for goodness sake!! What can Jesus do for a man like that at a moment like this??

I begin weeping again, as Jesus, full of compassion looks in the direction of the thief and comforts him with the assurance that He heard his cries for mercy, He loves and values the man, he forgives him, and He will personally see to it that when his last breath is taken, he will be joining Jesus in Paradise.

With His last ounces of oxygen, with the final moments of enough energy to speak, Jesus takes time for one more. Confirming again that God places a high value on people, affirming again that those who cry out to Him are heard, and that He answers, Jesus shows us what the Father looks like even while hanging on a cross. It’s some kind of beautiful madness.

Through a faltering voice I tell each of my kids in the living room, “This is the Jesus we have given our lives to. This is the Jesus we are living for. Whatever it may cost us to follow him, He is worth it all.” And I weep again, in awe of the God who has the time to answer my cries for help, and is moved with compassion for everyone He has made.

If ever there was a good time for you to call on Him, it is now. “Jesus, have mercy on me!”

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Who Told You?

I’ve blogged on this subject before in different ways, but as faithfully as I add cream and sugar to my coffee every morning, the principles of what I am writing about, I add to my life almost daily, and I wanted to share them with you.

Life is 5% about what happens to you, and 95% about how you interpret what happened to you. (I just made up that statistic). Out of how you interpret the events of your life flow your actions. Your responses to life flow out of what you believe to be true about your circumstances, and what you believe to be true about the resources you have to overcome them.

Life happens. Daily. Events, story lines, tragedies, triumphs, and blank stares happen to us on a regular basis, and we are quickly swept up in the narratives. Without time to process or think through everything, we move ahead, or backwards in our lives in familiar directions for the sake of ease, and when we find ourselves stuck, or in a rut, or unable to move forward, this is where these three principles began to ask me questions.

In Genesis chapter 3:1-11 we read the story of the first sin. Adam and Eve, (who had every right to think to themselves, “We are the only ones here, what does it matter what we do? It’s not like we are hurting anyone.”) disobeyed God and ate from the tree he told them not to eat from. Up until this moment, their narratives of life were interpreted through the lens of a good God who spoke with them daily, walked with them, and taught them everything they needed to know. Their “Resource” for life was unlimited, so no challenge was to great, and no questions nagged as doubts, until the introduction of another “voice”–Satan himself.

The introduction of the voice of Satan now created a new line of thinking…doubts. Lots of them. That doubt led to action–the sin. That sin led to another voice–theirs, but not the voice they communicated with God with before that was full of trust, expectancy, and delight, but a new voice that looked at their nakedness, their insufficiencies, their guilt, and clothed them with shame. And so they hid.

Have you ever been there? Hiding?

You are no longer answering the phone calls, replying to the texts, showing up to events you are invited to, making excuses as to why you can’t “get together” with people, spending more time in bed and solitude than usual?

This is where the first question of God to Adam and Eve comes to rouse me. “Where are you?”

Stop and allow God to ask this question of you right now. “Where are you?” Are you hiding? Are you making excuses? Are you hedging, fudging, hinting but not communicating? Are you disconnecting? Are you reaching for an addiction to numb yourself?

When you have finally answered that question with, “I am hiding”, the second question comes to unravel the secret.  “Who told you?”

God asks Adam and Eve “Who told you you were naked?”

You see, discerning the voices that drive our decisions is critical if we are going to come out of our hiding and into fellowship. “Who told you?” becomes the litmus test for truth, and gives us the ability to evaluate the voices and their validity in our lives. Even if the voice we are listening to has been in our head for years, (childhood memories, parents, school friends/foes, siblings), we still need to pull the narratives out into the light, and with them in full sight answer God’s question.

Once I have answered that question, I ask one final question of my narrative and situation, “Is this something God would say to me?” And if the answer is “no”, then I need to go to God to get His narrative. I go to scripture.

When I say I apply these principles almost daily, I am not exaggerating. It is something I have to make a part of my life to keep me moving in the direction of God’s goodness. It’s the means by which I access his reservoire of help and resource and hope for my life. It’s how I retrain my soul to hear His voice above all other voices, and make courageous decisions with His help. Faith comes by “hearing” His voice, and through the Word of God we “hear”. (Romans 10:17) Then faith is walked out by trusting that voice, and depending entirely upon His resources to take each step.

If you are in need of tools and life principles to help move you from a place of being stuck, I would like to offer these three questions to get you started. Make it a daily practice and begin to learn how to differentiate the “voices” in your head. What they tell you will determine your outlook, and your outlook will determine your actions.

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God Without a Doubt

I first noticed it in the story of Job. Job is a book of the Bible in the Old Testament that tells us the behind the scenes moments in the life of a man who lived righteously and whose integrity was impeccable, and was the victim of a nefarious plot from Satan himself.

Job 2:2-10

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Did you see it? Look how God speaks about Job. God describes him to Satan as a blameless and upright man who fears God, shuns evil and maintains his integrity. Not only does God accurately describe the character of Job, He speaks as a God who has no doubts about Job. While Satan is looking for the loophole, for the weakness in Job’s character to bring him down, God has a confidence in Job that no one could shake, not even Satan.

From the life stories of Moses, Gideon, Esther, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the disciples of Jesus comes a recurring theme of a God who has no doubts about the ones He chooses, or whether or not they will succeed in the thing He is calling them to. We hear these people doubting all over the place, sometimes even pretending they have nothing to do with God (Peter for example), and yet God has an unwavering confidence.

I so want to look at each of these people and say “God chose them because of this or that, like their righteousness,” as in Job’s case, but more often I see the reason God chose these people is that He looks for people who will put all of their confidence in His abilities. Because God has unswerving confidence in His own abilities, God chooses people He can transform, who are willling to be positioned in uncomfortable places and lean in to Him with all of their might. These men and women are unstoppable in God’s purposes. And He never doubts them.

There is a lyric to a song that has grabbed my heart these past months called “Mercy“by Amanda Cook, and Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger, and it says this: “Oh Love, Great Love, fear cannot be found in you, and there will never be a day You are uncertain of the ones You choose.” I mulled these lyrics over and over in my head. “there will never be a day You are uncertain of the ones You choose.” These words are true. I see them throughout scripture from the Old Testament to the New.

Jude, a brother of Jesus ends his book in the Bible with this Doxology:

Jude 24-25
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

To Him who is able!! Because of God’s unfailing ability to always do the right thing, because God has committed Himself to you and your eternity when you put your trust in Him, because He is not limited in power, potential, mercy, grace, strength, and vision, and because He loves you, He has no doubts about you, He is able to present you before His glorious presence without fault, and with great joy!!

Have you considered His Credentials? Meditate on a God who has full confidence in His own abilities. Think about how God enjoys sharing His victories with us by inviting us into His plans and purposes. Lean in to His strength, and power. And put your full confidence in this God without a doubt!

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Photo credit: Bethany Morris (c)2016

We Want a King

A short story series for Holy Week

I think I get it now. Our country is run by tyrants. We believe we can be better than this. We have a dream for a better country…one without oppression, where our children can grow up in freedom and opportunity. A country where everyone lives from the same moral page, and the Golden Rule is still esteemed.

We have some fighters among us trying to start a revolution, but we are getting weary having to wait.

Whoever our next leader is has to be strong. He has to be able to throw off the oppression of the over-reaching government. He has to re-calibrate our monetary systems and get rid of the dishonest scales and the pilfering tax collecting agencies. He must be strong and give us national pride again. Give us something to believe in!!

They say our next leader is riding in today from the East Gate of the city on a donkey. You can be sure we will be there lining the streets. We have large palm branches to wave, and slogans to shout!

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!”

Oh, did you think I was talking about America?

Yes, this candidate looks very promising!! He appears humble now, we just need to see if he has any military training. Someone said he once kicked dishonest merchants out of our local religious temple by making a whip out of cords and throwing tables over. Yes, we could use a guy like that in our national government! Clean up house!!

What we need is more force! More “in your face”leadership! Someone who can’t be bullied! Someone who is willing to unite our country again. We want a king!!

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!!”

…….

If this guy can’t get the job done, I say we kill Him. We’d be better off to release a murdering criminal back into society than deal with another lame candidate.

Lucky for us, crosses are being constructed this week.palm branches

Welcome to Holy Week. AD 30

A Borrowed Life

Surfing the internet for information yields some very interesting discoveries.  I find it more and more difficult to find trustworthy information.  Everyone has an opinion, and now, thanks to social media, your opinion can be known by thousands upon thousands of people in just a few seconds.  Opinions are a dime a dozen, facts are rare.  And have you noticed how angry everyone is? Outside of articles written about actual atrocities, crimes, and evil in the world, are millions of quotes, comments, and blogs written by people, about things they have never really investigated for themselves, but became stirred in their anger, doubt, or indifference.  Conversations with people tend to move that direction too–from the things they have studied and know, to the angry opinion about what they have never really looked into.

They are shouting from rooftops, and writing articles.  They break into every conversation with their opinions, but if they are pressed as to their anger, you will find it is second, third, or fourth-hand offenses, doubts or information they are borrowing as their own.  The topics range from politics, religion, local churches, schools, animal shelters, restaurants, medicine, etc….  “You see, I once heard this guy who told me of a story heard about this person who was a real jerk…and that’s why I won’t step foot in that place.”

I find it rare to encounter someone who is angry, doubt-filled, or indifferent about a particular subject or person who has first-hand reasons to be.  People borrow offenses, borrow doubts, borrow answers, and borrow trouble more than they can keep up with.  It becomes the reason people won’t read books, won’t ask questions themselves, won’t investigate truth, and won’t live fully. It creates clan wars, tribal feuds, church splits, and mud-slinging arguments. And when you live a borrowed life, the only fuel that can keep you going is anger.

Anger is the new caffeine.  But to what end does this fuel drive you?

I want to challenge you to live.  Living means learning, growing, investigating, educating, feeling, being moved with compassion, working, trying, forgiving, resting, being.  Life isn’t only living in the intense feelings of distrust, bitterness, judgment, arrogance, and opinion, thought that may make you feel the most “alive” at the moment.  Living involves living a first-hand life and dealing with your anger and frustration.

Anger and frustration are alarm systems put in place to let you know you need to move one direction or another. You either need to confront the obstacle or issue or you need to move from it.  You may need to investigate the source of the “smoke”, and put the fire out yourself, or you need to change your own battery which is now worn out, cynical, and all other ways grumpy and hard to live with.

No matter what, you are responsible for your life and the causes you live for and ultimately die for.  Don’t waste your life on someone else’s anger or doubt.  Don’t live a borrowed life.  Find your passions and then make a difference.  Investigate your questions. Let your life add to the beauty of living.  Be the neighbor you want to live next to, and the student you would love to teach.  Be the woman or man that is respected because of the way you treat others, not because of the fear you invoke.  Take the risk to live.

When you walk away from the borrowed life you discover that people are valuable and opinions are noteworthy. You realize that there is real evil to confront, and sometimes it’s inside of you. You also find that you know a lot less than you thought, and that you are in need of a Savior. If you doubt that–investigate it for yourself!2004-01-04 13.49.42

Goodbye Outer Court

I find it amazing that many times in life, I find myself making decisions and drawing conclusions without complete facts or data.  There is this desire to sit in the “outer court” with others and speculate, pontificate, postulate, induce, and deduce meaning, purpose, judgement, and actions.  O, the blogosphere of ideas!  We have come up with answers for almost everything–we just need to sway the audience in our direction.  And we can “succeed”, to some degree, in convincing others we know what we are talking about as long as not all the facts are presented.  Sometimes we don’t know all the facts, and other times we don’t want to know. Let me give you some examples:

1, From my living room in Homer, Alaska, I speculate on what happened to the Malaysian jet that disappeared, using knowledge available to me from the internet (true or untrue).  I can read articles, watch news casts, and talk with friends and neighbors.  I can unravel the mystery, come to a reasonable conclusion, and be utterly wrong because I do not have all the facts.  Perhaps someone or someones out there knows exactly what happened, and is keeping it a secret.  I don’t know.

2. I am in the jury box selected to decide the guilt or innocence of an offending minor, and as the testimonies are presented, information leaks out–important information that could sway the case one way or another, and it is quickly stricken from the record and not allowable as evidence in the case.  We the jury debate and grovel over someone’s permanent criminal record using just a few pieces of the puzzle while internally begging that they would release more, since we know there is. Again, from the sidelines, our information has been limited, therefore our judgement may be wrong.

3. I have a secret sin.  Others around me have theirs too.  None of us want to judge the other because in doing so, it will expose us.  So we argue in the outer court.  We rationalize our sin.  “We have good reasons why we don’t need to break off that relationship.”  “No one needs to tell us what to do in our private lives.”  “God made me this way, what else does He expect?” “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t honor our contracts, our agreements, our word.  No one else does either.”  We brag about our laziness, go on and on about our addictions, tell hundreds of stories of our misbehaving children, our lack of self-control, and take no responsibility.  This is the Outer Court after all.  There is no judge here.  I might be wrong, but no one here is going to tell me.  No one here knows all the particulars.

What if i could know the facts?  What would I do then?  When it comes to our hearts, there is an answer.

God calls me into relationship with Him that brings me out of the “Outer Court”.  He calls me to leave the “God wants me to be happy” zone, and calls me into intimacy with Him.  Very few will venture here.  Here is where I learn the hard truth.  Here is where the ugliness gets exposed.  From my motives to the execution of my actions, every mystery is unraveled.    This is what happens in intimacy.  I find out that my secret sins are not a secret.  I am exposed for the lies I have covered.  I have no excuses for the responsibilities I have let go of.

God’s holiness and character demand that I come clean.  God’s kindness draws me to repentance.  God’s mercy allows me to make a u-turn.  God’s Spirit empowers me to choose Him over my secrets.  God’s love renews my purpose and infuses my hope.  God’s faithfulness establishes the reasons why I need to honor His Word.

Out here in the outer court, I justify myself, because I look pretty smart out here. I deflect the conversations off of me, and pin my troubles on another.  Even “Born into Sin” becomes my banner.  I am what I am.  Live and let live.  But in the inner-court, where the real judge sits, where the coach of the team calls the plays, where the laws of God call me out, where the Mastermind behind every mystery executes His plans–this is where I have been called to live.

See, intimacy can be defined “into me—see”.  It’s where our lives are vulnerable and naked before the One to whom we must give an account.  But not vulnerable to be exploited–no that is not God’s character.  Vulnerable to be corrected, covered, clothed, and cared for. Here is the crazy thing–God is what our soul desires.  He is the satisfaction of all of our yearnings.  He is the fullest expression of every virtue we know, and the only source of it–but we are afraid. Why should we go there?  For the very reasons I stated above–all of our longings are met in God.  Every desire and yearning of our heart has a fulfillment in Him.  “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

What else do we find in this “Inner Court”?  Mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, a fresh page to write our lives on, hope, compassion, purpose, meaning, healing, satisfaction, direction, wisdom, miracles, humility, power, and life.  See–it’s everything we long for when we are wasting away in the outer court, drowning in our excuses.  It’s the power to start again and change the direction of our lives.  Instead of living for the “outer court”, we boldly approach the throne room of God and ask for help.

Where is this “Inner Court”?  It is in the presence of God.  How do you get there?  You ask Him to take you there.  You read His Words (The Bible), You pray, You worship, and like David you say, “Search me O God and know my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

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Hungry for revival?  Say goodbye to life in the Outer Court.

 

When Your Vision is Too Small

When your vision is too small, you focus on what you do not have.

When your vision is too small, you tell others about all of your limitations.

When your vision is too small, you make your children even smaller, by assuring them they cannot rise above your inadequacies if even their own.

When your vision is too small, you are found complaining about everyone around you who seems fulfilled.

When your vision is too small, your excuse list exceeds your “to do” list.

 

When your vision is big, you focus on possibilities.

When your vision is big, you encourage others, and constantly communicate a bigger picture.

When your vision is big, you pack a lunch for your child, so in case he is in a crowd of 5000+ hungry people, he will have something to offer Jesus to feed the whole multitude.

When your vision is big, you run out of time for complaining because you are so busy being about your Father’s business.

When your vision is big, you realize that you are only a sail on a boat, but that God is the wind, and with Him you can go anywhere and accomplish anything.Jamin and Sitka