Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Never Ever

God will interrupt perfectly normal days
to share His heart with us
If we want to listen.
That really should be perfectly normal.
He once came to shepherds in fields
who were just doing life...
That night there were shepherds 
guarding their flocks of sheep.
The angel had a message for them.
"Don’t be afraid!” he said. 
“I bring you joyful news..."
The Christmas message still bursts
into normal lives with its joyful news.

Walking through the mall this weekend,
God interrupted my life with a message. 
He said,
"Love never fails. Ever."
Although it seemed to come out of nowhere,
I had been Christmas shopping and this
was an ultimate Christmas message.
It was about incarnate love.
I spent time thinking about what He said.

Love one another..
By this all men will know 
that you are My disciples, 
if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

It can be relatively 
easy to state a conviction.
To risk the life of love, however, 
is anything but easy.
Because when I read 1 Corinthians 13, 
I realize you have to live a conviction to do that.
Love is not an ethereal concept.
Paul gives very specific qualities to love.

Love is patient. Love is kind.

Patient: a passive surrender of self-will
in order to yield to the process of another.
Kind: an active surrender of self-will
in order to serve the needs of another.

Would others know I am His disciple
by the way that I am patient and kind?
Because there is one other 
important quality of love:
Love is incarnate.
Love is not words. Love is action.
Patient and kind are only two qualities.
Every facet of love is about elevating others,
laying down our lives and choosing to serve.

I want to speak truth, see clearly and 
know what is right and just.
But after Paul describes what love looks like, 
he reminds us to be careful of other things.

All that I know now is partial and incomplete.
~1 Corinthians 13:12
Our words are going to fail.
Our sight is going to fail.
Our knowledge is going to fail.
Love never fails.
"I shall pass through this world but once. 
Any good thing, therefore, that I can do, 
or any kindness that I can show 
to any human being, let me do it now. 
Let me not defer it, or neglect it, 
for I shall not pass this way again."

Photo credit: David Larkin

Friday, December 20, 2013

He is at Work

Trust the darkness, the tension
and even the pain.
For I am at work in the midst.

I was asking the Lord for His help
 to stand in the midst of some sorrow.
He graciously gave me 
these words of hope.

Sorrow always involves death.
Death of a loved one, a relationship,
a career, a dream, a picture of how
we always thought something would be.
There is some death that we will never
make sense of this side of heaven.
This is not about the tragedies
and abuses that rock our world.
This is about those times when 
God makes it clear that there is a 
death process that we must walk through.

When we face a season defined by
tearing down and letting die,
we will never get to the building up
if we don't first accept the tearing down.
The sorrow comes because something
is being torn down that we don't
necessarily want to die.
It is usually not something we choose.

We just know that God is in the midst.
The challenge comes in trusting that 
the tearing down will ultimately be good.
We know what the old has looked like.
But we can't keeping looking back.
We have to turn our gaze toward Him,
understanding that the Holy Spirit 
wants to lead us to places 
we are not familiar with.
If we do not walk towards His voice,
we may just rebuild that which 
He is tearing down.

Regardless of the reason for tearing down,
we are never alone in the process.
We stand on the truth that guarantees
He will never leave us nor forsake us.
During this season, 
it's not enough to stand on truth.
We now need to walk in it until
we really see Him walking with us,
 guiding us, leading us. 
Until we are not the same as we began.
Until we are more like Him.
Because that is what this is all about.

Tear down seasons are pioneering seasons.
We stand on the narrow road,
eyes fixed, co-laboring with Him.
With our affections turned toward Him,
we know He once again is working
all things together for good.
Behold, I am doing a new thing.
He is indeed at work in our midst.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life 
and patience for the small ones; 
and when you have laboriously
accomplished your daily task,
go to sleep in peace.
God is awake.
Victor Hugo

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Trust and Rest

Let us go right into the presence of God 
with sincere hearts fully trusting Him...
God can be trusted to keep His promise.
~Hebrews 10
Everything we go through can be funneled
into the one act of trusting Him.
There is this tug-of-war that takes place
when faced with circumstances that
we do not like or aren't what we thought.
It is a private yanking on a cord called control.
It's our way of saying,
"God, You may not handle this the
way that I need You to."

He has been faithful to us in the past.
This one looks different, though.
I am not sure He saw this one coming.
I am not sure He knows how to fix it,
or at least fix it the way I want.

I tell from the beginning 
what will happen in the end. 
~ Isaiah 46:10
Nothing catches Him off guard.
Nothing makes Him stand up.
God Himself is at rest. 
~Hebrews 4:10
Oh, deep inner places of my heart, 
be at rest, be at peace.
So much of suffering is related to control.
Can I trust that He works it 
all together for good?
Even if I don't like what is happening?

The reality is that a lot of things happen
that are not what I want to happen.
It is called life in a fallen world.
The answer to all that is trust.
We get to go into His presence with
sincere hearts that fully trust Him.
He is only good and He only loves.
"The opposite of love is not really hatred, 
but control."

God, I come near to You knowing that 
You love me and You are trying 
to get me to rest in Your love.
Your peace can rule where I give up control.
Instead of thinking it is the least I can do, 
I am recognizing it it the most I can do.
I trust You.
Those words release my heart 
to live at rest and in peace.
Your peace becomes my stronghold
and I cannot be moved.

I just may to say these three words
over and over again.
As many times as it takes
to remain in rest.
His grace is totally sufficient
to live there today.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holding the Tension

In seasons where we find ourselves
hard pressed on every side, 
 prayer feels much like an exercise in
"holding the tension."
There is the place where we are
and this place we want to be.
There is the way we thought it would be
and there are the circumstances before us.
The only thing we know is that
we are not in control.

There is darkness, doubt and confusion.
There will be light, faith and understanding.
But not yet.
And we somehow know this is the place
that God has us and He is with us.
His Spirit hovers over dark places.
And His voice breaks through darkness.

A dark fog draped over the deep 
while God’s spirit-wind hovered 
over the surface of the empty waters. 
Then the voice of God  pierced the darkness.
Genesis 1:2

As we stand in tension, in pain, in loss, 
we are more willing to be silent.
We are more willing to receive His grace
and listen for His voice.
His voice, the sound of grace, asks for our
doubts, fear and insecurities.
It pushes back our self-made borders.
When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
He brought me into a spacious place.
Psalm 118:5

When hard-pressed, we cry out to the Lord.
His relentless love meets us and 
brings us into a place that's larger 
than the one we just left.
We can get comfortable with small lives;
there is nothing small about the love of God.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.
Psalm 18:19
There is this beautiful tension of
darkness and light, of doubt and faith,
of confusion and understanding.
It is called Holy Mystery.
In these places of darkness,
I hear Him hovering.
And trust that all that He is 
working behind the scenes,
working all things together for good.

They all realized they were 
in a place of Holy Mystery and 
that God was at work among them.
Luke 7:16

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Safe Place for Risk

I have been reading many motivational words 
encouraging people to say yes, move beyond,
take a risk, never settle, take action.
Risk is often associated with action.

On one level, it might look like
switching careers, running a marathon, 
pursuing a dream, running for office,
asking someone out for coffee,
moving to another house, another city.

All of these could be the right thing to do.
But action for its own sake is not risk. 
Sometimes it is a response to panic. 
"Just do something!"

But if we are wanting to look like Jesus,
our action is never self-initiated.
It is response driven--
not response to fear or even desire,
and never to panic.
It is a response to His voice.
 I do nothing on My own initiative,
but  just what I hear My Father saying. 

Risk might look like doing nothing.
In times of uncertainty, confusion or crisis,
the biggest risk just might be doing nothing.
It might be in listening and waiting.
Jesus said everything that He did
 was a response to His Father’s voice.
We have to hear to respond that way.

Jesus said that He was the Good Shepherd.
and that His sheep hear His voice.
We have to hear His goodness so that 
we might follow His voice into abundant life.
We risk losing our abundant life
if we detach ourselves from His voice.

Today, I risk doing nothing.
I want to "respond to," not "act out of."
When everything inside screams
“Do something!”
I refuse to listen to that voice.
If He dared not move on His own initiative,
that must be my pattern as well.

I refuse to act out of self-initiative.
It won't be perfectly, but again and again,
by mercy and grace, 
until it becomes more and more like HIm.
...the sheep hear His voice.
He goes ahead of them, 
and they follow Him because
they recognize His voice.
John 10:3,4
My GOOD Shepherd is ahead of me,
His voice leading me every step of the way.
I want my life to be 
a continual response to His voice, 
to His shepherding heart of love for me.
It is the only safe place for risk.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Give My Life

I was recently listening to 
Hillsong's "Savior King."
I love you Lord, I worship You.
Hope which was lost, now stands renewed.
I give my life to honor this
The love of Christ, the savior King.

I was moved in my spirit by that declaration.
I give my life to honor this one thing:
The love of Christ.
No other motive sustains through opposition,
holds under pressure,
draws us forward through the storms.

There are times I wish that God
operated from a control tower.
Because then He would be responsible
for all my decisions, and 
 I would look more like Him when
I operated from that same center.
But that is not who God is.

Our God gives us choices.
I set before you options...choose life. 
He does not enforce His will through control,
but instead promises to work
all things together for good.
Because not all decisions that I make and 
not all circumstances that come my way 
are good in themselves.

He makes all these provisions for us because
He is mercy and grace, and He is a "permitter."
He warns us that control is not His nature.
The whole world is under 
the control of the evil one.
1John 5:19

Control operates through fear
and permission operates through love.
God did not give us a spirit of fear.
He gave us a spirit of love and self-control.
There is a constant pull on our decisions:
will we make them based on fear
or will we be compelled by love?

Questions rooted in fear include:
Will I be hurt?
Will I get what I had hoped for?
Will I have the final say?

Questions rooted in love are different:
Will others be hurt?
Will my decisions help others?
Will I trust God for the outcome?

Love draws in and cheers on.
It believes that mercy always wins.
Control drags in and demands.
It disdains mercy and mocks grace.
One looks like Christ.
One looks, well, a lot different.

When life seems out of control, 
it is a perfect opportunity to resist control. 
Every time we resist control,
we declare that the love of Christ wins.
Because, ultimately, there is a presumption 
that God is good and He can be trusted.

The love of Christ 
sustains me through opposition,
holds me under pressure and 
moves me forward through the storms.
I give my life to honor this one thing. 
The love of Christ.
He sets before me options.
I have no other choice.