Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Hush now. Be Still.

Sometimes when we come before God  in a moment of crisis or confusion or uncertainty, when we lift our face to him in supplication seeking his guidance, some sort of answer or direction, instead we get something unexpected. Sometimes there are no great insights, no grand visions or prophecies, no “word from the Lord.” Sometimes, it’s just….”Shhhh. Hush now. Be still.

How many times as a parent have you had a child rush up to you full of hurt or anger or confusion, and they climb up in your lap and pour out their thoughts or fears with such intensity, sometimes with tears in their eyes, and you realize that the first and best thing they need is simply…comfort.  “Shhhhh.., “you whisper. “Hush.” You rock them a little, you wipe away some tears, you smooth their hair, and sometimes all you do is just hold them against your chest, let them cry, and you whisper softly, over and over, “Shhhh, now. It’s okay. I’ve got you. Shhhhh...”

Sometimes people need comfort more than they need answers. And sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes it’s just enough to know that there’s a place we can go, a lap we can crawl up into, a comforting hand for our forehead and gentle fingers to wipe away our tears. Sometimes it’s just enough to be loved.

God is a good one for giving us what we need, more than what we think we want. And sometimes all we really need…is to know that He is there.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Reclaiming Lost Ground

In my last post, I talked about surrendering to God. Surrendering can mean many things; sometimes it means letting go of something, but sometimes it can mean NOT letting go!

In surrendering ourselves to God, we agree, we resolve, we commit to opposing everything in our life that is un-Godly. Or at least to try. To work at it. To make it a priority. BUT! If I stop resisting something, if I allow myself to become complacent, to just give up and accept it as part of my daily definition of “normal,” then I will have surrendered to it and not to God.

It can be as something as simple as a hardness of the heart that I’ve learned to accept, an area of unforgiveness, resentment, or anger – however justified in my mind – that I have ceased to oppose or worked to resolve. I just accept it as “the way things are.”

In doing so, I accept defeat. In effect, saying, in THIS area, God is not sovereign. In this, I “cannot win”…or don’t want to. In holding on to that anger, in nursing that grudge, in accepting that addictive behavior, I show where have I given ground over to the Enemy.

But the more you give him, the more he will try to take. Each step backward is a foothold for the enemy to advance further into your life.

Victory in Christ means not accepting defeat in your life. Find every piece of ground where the enemy has gained a foothold, and renew the offensive to reclaim it! Turn to God, acknowledge it to Him, then seek and accept his equipping to oppose and defeat it.

Challenge: Lord, show me daily, minute by minute, which battles I’m not fighting that I should be.  What footholds has the Enemy gained, what areas of my life do I need to reclaim? Teach me to live daily in the victory you have secured for me on the Cross.

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: The Power of Letting Go

I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed savior, I surrender aaaaalllll.”

So the song goes. But…am I really doing it? Am I really giving everything over to Him? Or, am I still holding on to a few things I plan to handle for myself?

Why do we sometimes cling sooo tightly to a favorite fear, or chose to continually re-live the same past trauma, or dwell forever on that one special mistake we made way back when? It’s like some ragged stuffed animal that’s been with us for so long that we just can’t quite seem to let it go.

MINE!” we yell.

So, inevitably, that’s precisely where God is going to focus his attention; because it’s the very things that we hold on to the most tightly that are the most important for us to let go of.

It’s those learned responses, those conditioned reflexes, those programmed behaviors, those things where we stubbornly insist, “It’s just the way things are!” Even if they aren’t pleasant, they are comfortable, they are familiar; they are what we know.  And they may even be true…for now.

But…just because that’s the way things are, doesn’t mean that’s really how they have to stay, is it? God is all about taking what is…and changing it into what can be.  HOWEVER…

…we have to let go of it first.

It’s those very things that we “know” with such certainty that too often get in the way of discovering the real truth of things.  It’s only when we stop trying to tell God how things are, that we become open to the possibilities of what they can be!

Problem is, that means letting go of our illusions of control, of our carefully nurtured victim-hood, or of any of 101 other things that we tend to put in place of a complete reliance on God and an unwavering trust in His sovereignty over our life. And that’s hard. Real hard. Because we really like our little teddy bear.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  1st Cor. 13:11-12

If I hold on too tightly to those artifacts of the past, if I cling too tightly to that ragged old teddy bear, I can never really grow up the way I am supposed to, the way God wants me to. I stagnate, I get stuck, and I don’t grow. So, before I can move forward, I have to stop looking back. Instead of focusing on what was, I can start seeing what new things God is ready to lead me into instead!

Challenge:  Lord, what are those things in my life that I haven’t let go of yet? What are things I need to put into your hands? What are the fears I most need to trust you with, and the places in which I most need to be the most open to change?

Thoughts from my Quiet Time: Sometimes, It’s Really Not About You.

Going through my Oswald Chambers for today and he takes on the concept of “suffering” in terms of God and the Bible, referring to 1st Peter Chapt. 4 &5. Reading through all that really got me to thinking.

God repeatedly speaks of suffering as though it is a good thing!? That is not only inevitable but desirable?!  Why it this?

Because if we understand that it is inevitable, we will have a different attitude about it. We will be better equipped to face it rather than surprised by it.  And more importantly perhaps, we will have the awareness and foresight to look beyond our immediate circumstance and our own condition, and begin to look for the purposes of God in what we are enduring.  Why has he led me here? What purposes are being served?

This trial, this suffering may not even be about me. I may have been placed here to minister to someone else, or accomplish a mission, purpose or goal far beyond my own narrow vision.  And if I am only looking at myself, focused so completely on the depths of my own personal inconvenience, I may miss that opportunity entirely!

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NASB)

Challenge: Am I so focused on my own condition that I may be missing the work God is doing around and through me? Lord, help me to daily remember that even in times of sorrow, suffering or persecution, you are there. Help me be open to your will, no matter the circumstance.

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Embrace The Foolishness!

If you spend enough time on the Internet — not to say that I do of course — but if you do, you’ll find that there are a lot of really polarizing issues out there. Me, I tend to gravitate towards political and religious discussions, and those can get pretty heated pretty quick.

I’ve seen comments about Christians (and about people of faith in general) that run the gamut from enlightened commentators who state with utter certainty that Christians are mislead, ignorant, close-minded and/or foolish, to those who will insist with all sincerity and concern that teaching your children about God is “child abuse,” or that people with a strong faith in God are mentally ill and need to be rescued from their delusions. I could send you links. Really.

It’s sad, but…it’s also understandable. What Christians think and believe can seem kind of out-there sometimes…even to Christians! A God so mighty that He created the universe, and yet somehow notices something as small as me? Not only notices, but cares? Miracles and healing and a Savior who rose from the dead?! Folly! Foolishness! Bah!

It’s not easy to hold onto your faith sometimes in the face of such doubt and derision. And yet, it is essential that we do it.  Our struggle daily is, and should always be, to be more fully conformed to the image of Christ. To worry less about how we are perceived according to worldly standards, and more about how we measure up on the scale of being Christ-like.

Understanding that as Christians we will have a perspective on the world that will seem strange, confusing, even foolish to those who do not know Him, who do not see with His eyes. But maybe, just maybe, that perspective, that lifestyle that I emulate and communicate will somehow become so compelling, so troublesome, so curious that people who don’t understand it…will want to. My faith and compassion and forgiveness in the face of everything the world has to throw at me will frustrate and confuse and bewilder.

But maybe, just maybe, it will also become something so different from what they know that it will begin to take on the form of a mystery that they must solve.

The mystery of Christ.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…for since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong..  1 Cor. 18-27 (NASB)

Challenge:  Am I communicating a compelling vision of who and what Christ is, by how I live my life, by the choices I make, and by the way I love those around me?

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Victorious Is A Verb

How often do we, as Christians, truly live as if we are victorious? Or do we too often still live in defeat? As though our decision to follow Christ were merely an event experienced along the way, something of little consequence, rather than a fundamental alternation of the very fabric of who and what we are?  To the point that it even alters the way we interact with universe itself?

We. Are. Changed.  But do we live as ones who have been been changed, and are being changed?

Do we live as though we share in the victory of Christ over sin and death? As though we are an intimate part of that victory?  Are we dancing and singing and clanging our symbols as we follow along behind our Victorious One? Or do we live more as mere observers, those who witnessed the action and cheered, but now see ourselves as separate, standing quietly off to the side as they march by? Maybe as not worthy? Maybe not like those “real” Christians over there?

Are we part of a triumphal procession…or are we content to watch and cheer from the sidelines?  Are we truly transformed…or merely affected?

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”  (1 Cor. 15:54)

Challenge: Am I daily living in the victory secured for me by Christ, and is it daily transforming my life?

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Trinkets vs. Treasure

Here’s a thought. It might fly in the face of a great deal of theology and conventional wisdom, but I think it tracks. So here goes.

Don’t seek the kingdom. Don’t seek the blessings. Don’t seek the gifts.

Seek the person.

Strive to know only Christ until everything else falls away. Your desire should be for Him, not for what He can give you, not for what he can do for you. But for who He is to you.

The strange truth is that even if God never answered a single prayer, never performed a single miracle in your life, you should still be striving to know Him more fully and completely in every moment.

Not to ask, “where is God?!” when things go sideways on you, but instead, “who is God in this moment? And who am I in Him?”

It is not about rewards, or circumstances, or plans for the future. It is about merely abiding in His presence and that being more than enough.

That said, there are abundant gifts and blessings in store for those who give their life to Him, for those who abide in Him; but they are trinkets compared to the treasure of the simple, consuming love we can and will share. The pearl of great price.

Our hope is not in the promise of blessings in this life, but being more fully in His presence in the next. And so our abiding is manifest in our prayer, and in our seeking to know the person of God…not just clamoring for His stuff!

Challenge: Today, am I going to hunger for more of God’s love, for more knowledge of him? Or will I let myself become too focused on what I do or don’t have, what did or didn’t happen to me? Lord, help me seek you and find you in every situation today!

Thoughts from my quiet time: Being conformed to His will

Everyday, resolve to confess that you still know so little. That the mysteries of God are far from solved, and that truly, the only way to know God is to spend time in His presence. To be more fully conformed to His will.

Wait…what? What does that even mean?!

Conformed to His will. Taking on His likeness, His countenance, so completely that someone looking at you recognizes Him. Not like a doppelganger, but as someone who has spent so much time with another that they begin to share gestures, mannerisms, turns of phrase. The way a couple can finish sentences for each other, or pass the sugar bowl without being asked just because they know the other so well. An intimate familiarity. Something that only come from time spent together.

It is beyond apprenticeship. It is as a servant who never leaves his master’s side, to the point where the servant knows every quirk, every desire, every mannerism and habit of his master. To the point where it becomes a service not born out of obligation, but of love. But then, even more. For the Master loves the servant so much that he adopts him as a son or her as a daughter, because he wants more than just a servant. He wants an heir.

This puts a different feel on “obedience” doesn’t it? It gets to the point where it stops being obedience, and it starts being love. Where the two natures become so intertwined that you do what is right by the other because you don’t know anything different. You truly become conformed to the other. To look at one, is to see the other. His will is the same as your own. Absolute intimacy and spiritual union.

 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Rom. 8:15-17

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 14:6-9

WWJD or WWYHMDL?

A while back the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were all the rage.  They still pop up now an then.  Like tying a piece of string to your finger, I believe the the WWJD bracelets were supposed to be reminders to live your life in a more Christ-centric way, to evaluate your actions in the context of what you think Jesus would do in a similar situation.  It is certainly an appealing and catchy sentiment that appeals to our desires to “do the right thing.”  There’s just one problem.

It’s asking the wrong question.

Asking WWJD means that you are guessing.  You’re taking your best estimate as to what YOU think is the right answer in this situation.  You are trying to live your life like Jesus lived his.  So, does that mean that are you wondering if you should go overturn the tables in the temple courtyard?  Should you go live in the wilderness for 40 days, or get in the Pharisees’ face about their legalism?  Should you go hang out in the lunch room at IRS headquarters so you can fulfill your mandate to consort with tax collectors?

Uh….probably not.  See, the thing is, you CAN’T LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE JESUS, because he was the Son of God.  He set an unachievable goal.  He didn’t set us an example to follow…He gave us a path to follow!  He didn’t come to give us a list of do’s and don’ts…He came to show us the way to the Father.  Jesus only gave us two commandments…”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)

I propose that you can’t really do the second one until you start doing the first one!

So, instead of wondering WWJD, what we should be asking is, “What Would You Have Me Do, Lord?”

See, the thing is, we don’t have to wonder.  We don’t have to guess.   As believers in Christ we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we have a hot line straight to God, such that when difficult situations arise, we don’t need to look to our bracelet…we can go right to The Source.

While, granted, WWJD fits better on a bracelet or a T-Shirt or a bumpersticker than “WWYHMDL,” we need to understand that relying on our best guess estimates makes us the arbiters of truth.  It becomes too easy to live life according to a series of handy, and often changeable “Jesusisms” that reduce His Word to little more than philosophical precepts.  We might as well ask what would Gahndi do, or Buddha, or Oprah.  Jesus was not just another philosopher exhorting us to live better lives.

He called us to live our lives in service to Him, and the only way we are ever really going to know what that is supposed to look like is to ask…HIM.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 14:12

The key word in this passage is the word “seems.”  There is an answer which “seems” right to us, a way that “ought” to be correct, or a solution that “feels” good.  Except that, if it is OUR way, then it is wrong. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord , and turn away from evil.  Prov 3:5-7

Lean not on your own understanding.  Rather than do what “feels right,” study the scriptures, pray, come before the Lord and ask Him to tell you what to do.

We are too easily swayed by the ways of the world to trust our own judgement when it comes to spiritual matters.  So, instead of settling for What Would Jesus Do, let’s keep asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

You may not always like the right answer, but it’s always better than feeling good about the wrong one.

Day 6

I begin to realize that the Enemy’s greatest weapon against us comes in the form of the “Tiny Distraction.”  Kind of like the “Noisy Cricket” from Men In Black, it seems so small, so inconsequential, only to have it surprise you with its power.

Charles Hummel called it the “tyranny of the urgent.”  It’s the little, ceaseless distractions, the “oh, just real quicks” that constantly distract and divert our focus from God.  There always seems to be time to check one more blog, to finish one more level on that addicting online Flash game, play one more hand of online poker, or hit that snooze alarm one more time because you were up too late last night reading the latest Dean Koontz novel.

And we wonder how come our Walk is so fractured, so shallow, and ultimately so ineffective? 

I was lamenting today about how I’m always feeling so tired, so run down.  I feel like someone who is pulling themselves up, hand over hand, along the railing of the Titanic as it goes down, trying to get to the lifeboats, but my arms are just sooo tired, so tired, and my feet seem to keep slipping out from under me.

And then, in that clear, quiet voice He so often uses, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the admonitions of scripture to be FILLED by the Spirit, to not lean on our own strength, but God’s.  To have Him carry us through when our own strength fails.

Isa 58:11 says:

 “And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

Wow.  What a potent image.  Right now I feel like an office plant that someone forgot to water when they went on vacation, all dry and withered and brittle.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be a watered garden, lush, green, vibrant, rivers of living water pouring through me.  Where can I get me some of THAT?!

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “  Jhn 7:38

I believe in God, but I have not been watering myself.  I have not been drinking from this fountain, and, as the Bible promises, I have become a barren wasteland, dry, desicated, producing no fruit.

That’s what get me about these passages, where God’s word promises such terrible things to those who forsake Him.  So many detractors and scoffers want to make these out to be the threatened wrath of an angry God ready to bring down ruin on those who don’t obey!

The fact is, we bring this ruin on ourselves.  These are not promises of wrath, but warnings of inevitable consequences.  God KNOWS how the system works.  He CREATED US.  We were created to love Him, to have fellowship with Him.  There is some essential nature in us that needs His presence in our lives.  Without it, we cannot truly prosper.  Our lives can never blossom into the fullness he would have for us.  God is trying to warn us of what happens to us individually, and as cultures and nations when we forsake his protection, his provision, and his life-giving Word.

God is telling me that the problems I am facing are a direct result of my allowing all these other tyrannical disctractions to come between me and Him.  On the other hand, He’s also trying really hard to get my attention!

I am thirsty, I am hungry, and oh LORD am I ever tired.  I am reminded of the words to one of those worship songs I’ve sung so many times throughout the years:

Holy Spirit,
Flowing through me.
Holy Spirit,
Come and fiillllll me up,

Come and filllll me uuuup!

I no longer have the strength to do this all on my own.  It is time that I returned to the Source, and start letting HIM fill those places I have allowed to run dry.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;  then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.  (Prov. 3:5-12 NIV)