Sunday, February 15, 2015

Don't Shrink Back

A conversation with God:

"I am not going to change My nature to fit your insecurities.  I am kind to the unthankful and to the wicked (Luke 6:35).  I can't make people love me.  But I'm not going to let people override who I AM, because they choose not to love me.  I AM LOVE.  I'm not going to let people change ME because of their own insecurities.  It's the ultimate defiance."

God is defiant.  But He doesn't flip us the bird in His defiance; He offers us His relentlessly warm embrace instead.  He calls us to do the same ~ to our enemies, to the unthankful, to the wicked, and to those we love.

Maybe you've been walking on eggshells lately, afraid the people in your life will misread your kindness or project their own insecurities onto you.  I have been lately.  It's an oppressive and fearful way to live.  Let's scrap that mentality.  Who cares?  Don't let your life be defined by what others might think of you.  Don't let fear of what others may think stop you from walking in Love.

The truth is: real Love is threatening.  It scares people.  Real love without strings attached is dangerous.  It can't be earned.  It can't be taken away.  Real love is up in your grill.  Real love defies the norm.  Real love can't be manipulated.  Real love doesn't react.  Real love just is and real love doesn't change.

God is Love.  God is a madman, who breaks societal norms.  He indulges in doing more for us than we could ever deserve or repay.  And the crazy part is He's never going to call in our tab.  He freely gives us all things.  Think about it.  Don't hate Him for it.  Don't try to repay Him: you can't.  Love Him.  Thank God for this unspeakable gift!

God is not like us.  God doesn't give us stuff just to get something back from us.  He gives, freely, because that's Who He is.  

He who spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things? ~ Romans 8:32.

If we think it's all about us, then we've missed the character of God.  (See the Story of Hosea.)  God is never changing, He is endlessly good, and relentlessly faithful.  Period.  Even when we are flippant, evil, unfaithful, when we spit in His face and downright despise Him.  God's good, infallible character has nothing to do with us.  It's just Who He is.  

So let's let God be God today and just thank Him for it.  I pray we can be more like Him.  I pray we can be scary, reckless, and abandoned in our love toward Him, our enemies, and others.  After all, Love might turn the world on its head.  Love might upset the enemy's camp.  Love might start to turn miracles loose before our eyes, and we might see years-long answers to prayer fulfilled.  Love is at least worth the shot.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.…~ 1 John 4:18-19.

Lord, I pray we hold nothing back.  Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Way Beyond Me

"God, how do I trust You with something so far beyond my control?" I asked.

"Simple," He whispers in reply.  "You have to."

If you think you know God (or anyone, for that matter), you're not doing it right.  As Rich Mullins once said: 

God is a wild man...should you encounter him...hang on for dear life or let go for dear life is a better way to say it. 

A wild man.  That He is!

Hebrews 10:31 puts it like this: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

If you've never been so fortunate as to be knocked off your horse, sucker-punched square between the eyes, or you've never experienced falling up, I pray that you do.  The beautiful, wonderful, mysterious thing about God is He shows us this part of Himself once we think we know Him.  As soon as we assume we know Him, He strips the carpet from beneath our feet and sends us falling to our knees in worshipful awe of His majesty. 

Think I'm nuts?  Maybe.  I'm not sure that you're wrong.  A week ago, a self-confident me would've sat on a pedestal dishing out advice on five ways to a better you.  I would've given you a pep talk or a kick in the pants and sent you on your merry way.  Today, my thoughts begin and end with knowing Him...or, rather, rediscovering Him for the very first time.

Last week God sent someone into my life to interrupt my plans and destroy everything I ever thought I knew about God.  

He picked up my neatly filed memoirs (the script I had written for my own life), on my neatly organized desk, and tossed them carelessly into the air.  I watched in awe as those memoirs burst into a million pieces of confetti, which are now showering down from my sky forever.  This girl was interrupted alright, but in a good way.  Everything I thought I knew about anything flew out the window.  My self-confidence (literally, my confidence in my own self) was flushed down the toilet, reminding me of my absolute futility to do anything without God.  (John 15:5).  My lofty plans suddenly seemed so miniscule in comparison to the allure of the great and powerful unknown.  I was stripped bare to the very core, exposed and vulnerable and alive for the first time, maybe, ever.  How rude!  And yet, how merciful to draw me out of my complacency and into something real.

For the first time in a long time I encountered something genuinely Divine.  You know you've had this experience if it's something you can't wrap your mind or your arms around.  It doesn't make sense and you can't explain it.  But you know it to be real.  Perhaps you alone know it's real. 

Like a hurricane, my world was rocked and left in shambles.   I experienced something Holy.  Something wholly different than most people will ever experience.  I experienced an awesome and mighty, powerful God, who cares infinitely more than I do about you and me and others.

My socks were rocked.  This rolling stone realized for the first time ever she can't do this life alone.  We need people; we need God. 

Now I see Him again for the very first time: He's beautiful.  And dangerous.  And lovely.  And wild. 

There must be something in the water.  I'm diving in way too deep and I'm in over my head.  Lord, teach me to swim, and to enjoy it as I do.

"Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch." ~ Luke 5:4.

May you, too, be rocked by the recklessly exciting love of the Father.  May it hunt you down and find you where and when you least expect it.  May He jump out at you and startle you and change your life forever, as He has mine. 

And, to my dear friend who tossed my life into uncertainty: thank you.  For interrupting my plans.  You are the hands and feet of an Almighty, Loving God, and because of your relentless pursuit of Him, this girl's life is changed forever.

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." ~ Proverbs 27:17.

Thank God for His unconventional answers to prayer.  His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.

"For you, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.  How great are Your works, O Lord!  Your thoughts are very deep." ~Psalm 92:4-5.

Whatever just happened is way beyond me...and I love it!

"Ok, God..." I say.  "Let's do this!" 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jesus Walks

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation (he emptied himself), and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. ~Philippians 2:5-8.

Jesus walks among us.

When Jesus was born in a lowly manger with livestock and straw, it probably didn't smell too well.  Jesus was born a helpless babe.  Jesus had to learn, like you and me, how to walk with the Father and to grow up in Him.  Jesus was born into humanity and He was, and is, not afraid to get dirty.  He is not afraid to walk among us, to get the dirt of humanity on him. 

For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. 
~Hebrews 4:15-16.

The Father didn't despise the humanity of Jesus; neither does He despise our humanity. 

I was flipping through the channels last night in one of my rare TV moments and momentarily landed on "Say Yes to the Dress."  Some young newlyweds were featured on the show.  They were being interviewed about whether they intended to have kids in the future.  My ears perked up at the wife's response.  She said, "Kids are gross!  They always have jam on their fingers and stuff."  The husband looked on sheepishly.  I sincerely hope she was joking, but deep down, part of me knows she was not. I know, because I used to think that way, too. 

How sad to let a little dirt separate us from a lifetime of love.

Fortunately for us, Jesus doesn't think like that.  Jesus rolls in the dirt with us.  We have a Savior who has walked through every temptation we have.  He knows everything we're going through.  He's not afraid to get his hands dirty.  Aren't you glad Jesus is among us, not floating above us?  If he were above us, we couldn't reach him. 

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord    of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:6-13.
Jesus is one breath away: his name is in our mouth and in our hearts.  Jesus didn't come down to our level to be like us, but so that we, in the midst of our humanity, could become like Him (who was tempted in all the same ways we are, yet without sin). 

And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.  But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace we are saved; ) And has raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: (so) that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  ~Ephesians 2:1-7.

Don't ever think "I'm in too deep in poverty or sickness or confusion or broken relationships to come to God,"  "I've messed up too bad," or "I'm beyond help."  He intimately knows what you're going through!  He infinitely cares!  And He Loves the dickens out of you!  Knowing that our Savior has gone through everything we're going through, go boldly to the throne of grace!  There, you'll find mercy and grace to help in your time of need.  

Remember, Jesus came to our level so He could bring us back up to His level.  Praise God!  

Give Him your humanity and He'll give you His divinity; 

Give Him your sickness and He will give you His healing; 

Give Him your insecurities and He'll give you His security / sure-footedness; 

Give Him your depression and He'll give you His joy; 

Give Him your brokenness and He'll give you His peace;  

Give Him your silence and He will give you His voice;  

Give Him your fear and He'll give you His love.  

He came down so we could come up.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Amen. (So be it.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Waiting for "The One" Part II

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding...(Proverbs 3:5)

Trust is Built on Truth, Not Assumptions.

Like in weight training, we have to be broken down before we can be built back up.  Last time we talked about "waiting for the one," and how destructive and disappointing it can be when we wait for the "perfect" one who never comes (there's only one perfect man, after all: the man Jesus Christ!).  Here, we have a situation where a whole lot of Christians are disappointed, bitter and angry with God about their relationships (or lack thereof).  Before we can talk about building healthy relationships, we have to break down the false assumptions that are causing the bitterness, anger and, frankly, hatred toward God that I've seen in so many (including myself).

As unpopular as this may be, I have yet to read a scripture prescribing "the one" person for me.  Anywhere.  I see a lot of scriptures on wisdom; how "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose"; and the importance of being equally yoked with like-minded believers ....but this still leaves room for free choice.

Another reason why "the one" mentality is so destructive is because what if "the one" doesn't get the memo?  Seriously.  Remember when I told you about the man on the bus who thought I was "the one"?  Does that mean his fate in marriage was left in my hands?  Does that mean I threw the stars out of alignment and usurped the Divine scheme of things by declining to marry him?  Does that mean my fate is forever left in the hands of another?  I sure hope not! 

This is not funny.  People think this way.  I used to think this way.  I've heard people lament after years of marriage that they don't think they married "the one" and so they covet longingly for "the one" who got away.  Their kids are growing up before their eyes, but they're too busy to notice because they're wishing their life away.  Scary business, folks.  "The One" is not just some Hollywood movie tactic.  This mentality is impacting and stealing from real people's lives even now.  Maybe even yours.

(Disclaimer:  I am NOT taking anything away from those of you who have found a marriage partner or someone you love.  I in no way doubt God's goodness in the love that you share, and neither should you.  I rejoice with you in that.  This message is directed to you swinging singles out there who've gotten a little impatient and bitter at God for perceived promises unfulfilled...and to you married people who find yourselves looking and longing for more.)

Why do I care about breaking down this false assumption?  Because...

Idols Make Us Idle

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12)

Folks, I know that of which I speak.  The only reason why I would lay my heart out here for you like this is because I sincerely love you, and I don't want you, or anyone else, to fall for the same traps I have.  The purpose of me sharing these things is so we can move from "hope deferred" to "longings fulfilled."  It's time for us to receive our victory.

When we have false, man-made idols in our lives like "the One," then we sit idly by.  We watch the clock tick by and we eventually give in and give up on God's promises, because that hope (not being based on truth in scripture) will never come to fruition.  Our hope in "the one" is built on our assumptions, not on a God-founded promise.  We've wasted so much time hoping/waiting on an assumption, rather than waiting on The Real One (God).  And that's just wrong.  That's just WISHFUL THINKING, which ends in disappointment.  Here's God's truth to stand on:

Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. ~ Psalm 37:4-5.

We have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy our lives and he does so, first of all, by robbing us of truth.  Anything in our lives not based on Truth is going to fall and fail, and the enemy knows that.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6).   Satan seeks to separate us from the Truth.  Satan will separate us from truth (God's real promises) by putting a carrot in front of us (like "the one") and taunting us with it; then he'll pull it away at the last second and leave us starving and bitter at God (of all things!).  But God is the only one who can help you!  There's no one who cares for you more than God Almighty.  Don't be mad at God!  Wise up.  Once you get offended at God, you might as well: a) repent or b) kiss your victory good-bye.  I know, my friends, because I've wasted a lot of time being mad at God for 'broken' promises that He never promised!  It's time to get real and win.

Find out what God promises in the area of relationships.  I'll give you a hint: the foundation has everything to do with the God kind of Love (agape).  See 1 Corinthians 13, for starters.  Let's forsake our worldly mindsets and trade up for the perspective of the One who designed relationships.

He is the only One I'm waiting on.    

Wait on the Lord.  Be courageous, and He will strengthen your heart.  Wait (expect/hope) on the Lord! ~Psalm 27:14.

My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. ~ Psalm 62:5.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Waiting for "The One"

The sad, but true reality of Christian dating...

I felt like I was watching my life on rerun the first time I saw this video: a frighteningly accurate montage of modern Christian dating.  I've seen the disappointing consequences of this flawed paradigm play out in my own life and in the lives of too many people I love.  It makes me wonder...

How Did We Get Here?

I was talking to one of my long-time gal friends on the phone recently and, as often happens when girls talk, the topic of boys / relationships came up.  I asked my friend regarding relationships: "What advice would you give a younger you?"  Both of us have scars to prove we've learned things the hard way on the battlefield of love, so I thought it would be fun to join our collective wisdom and spare the next generation (and ourselves!) from the common pitfalls along the way.  Here are just a few of our ponderings I thought were worth sharing.

When we boiled it down, we realized, in essence:

We Had Great Expectations Off Of Wrong Information!

Here's what I mean:

#1:  Are We There Yet?  Our Readiness For Relationship is a Function of Perspective, Not Time

When you're a young pup, you want everything now.  Right now!  Yesterday, preferably.  But with a little seasoning, you realize some things get sweeter with time.  Including us.   We waste so much time being mad at God for not bringing "the one" (*See below*) soon enough.  We get tired of waiting, so we make poor relationship choices or we strive earnestly to prove we're qualified to be in a relationship.  We overcompensate by working to achieve great success, working out, having a bunch of friends to prove we're worthy of love, when really we were worth it all along!

"Waiting on God" doesn't mean staring at a clock and getting mad when X amount of time passes.  Waiting on God means enjoying your life where you are, right now.  It means being thankful for the many people He has already given you to love in your life today.  It doesn't mean I have to be a certain age or "have it all together" to qualify to be in a romantic relationship.  What are we waiting for?  Our readiness for a relationship is a matter of our perspective, not time.

#2:  Selfishness or Selfless Love?

My friend and I also noticed our initial desire to find a romantic relationship was born out of a desire to be loved rather than to love someone else.  It was selfish.  When you really love someone, you care about them, not what they can do for you.  True love seeks not its own.  (1 Cor 13:5).  When we love, we of our own free will decide to care for and nurture one another.  When I love you, I care for you for your benefit, not my own.  Yet, all the while my needs are met, because I know I am completely loved by a God who is Love.

#3:  Love is Not a Flash in the Pan, But a Steady Hand

Romance movies thrive on flashy coincidences where two star-struck lovers emerge out of nowhere, but, in reality, love grows; it's not fallen into.  A movie of grass growing would take too long, so we always get the cheapened, Hollywood version of love, where the hero swoops in and saves the day in three hours or less.  Yet, in Hollywood, romances crash and burn as quickly as they emerge.

In reality, the things of God come quietly.  Building a love that lasts takes time and trust.

#4:  Waiting for "The One":

We set ourselves up for disappointment when we wait for "the one" who is perfect (in our estimation).  Newsflash: none of us are!  My man is going to have flaws, and so will I.  "Prince charming" is not perfect, and neither are we!  He will be sincerely disappointed if he's looking for a perfect mate in me.

We err when we put people on pedestals, when we place unreasonable expectations on ourselves and others.  When those unreasonable expectations are not met, people fall off our artificial pedestals and we're disappointed.  Really, we should view all people, not just our romantic partners, as people to love and cherish, not as the solution to our every insecurity.

In waiting for "the (perfect) one," we're missing "the ones" standing right in front of us.

Any of this hitting home to you?  Come back next time for more musings on relationships, dating and God.  We'll talk about the Savior Complex, the "Friend Zone," and the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.