Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Greatness was beheaded

I don't know about you, but if you listen to much Christian music on Pandora, or visit your local Christian bookstore, or hang around social media much...it won't take long for you to believe that you were "made for more than ordinary", you "can fly", you "were made for so much more", etc.....

You hear stuff like that for long and you start believing it. You start believing it and you quickly lose your joy when those things don't happen. Then, instead of trust, you start to question. Instead of rest, you grow worried and anxious. Instead of peace, frustration creeps in. All because you listened to others instead of listening to God through His Word.

Oh...and by the way....the "you" tense I keep using should really be "I". How often I believe the lies. How desperately I need to be washed, daily, in the truths of God's Word!

Here is some of the truth that I need to "wash over" me. Jesus said in Luke 7:28 that "among those born of women there was no one greater than John". What happened to John? He was imprisoned and had his head cut off. Forget "made for so much more" , what happened to John is the stuff our nightmares are made up of!!And Jesus said He was the greatest of all born to women?! Of course, John the Baptist stands in a long line of those who lost their lives and endured massive hardships for loving and following Jesus.

All those were following in Jesus' own footsteps, footsteps that walked a life of sacrifice and died as the final Sacrifice so that we could walk in newness of life. Newness of life, though, does not mean prosperity and ease all the rest of our earthly days. It means we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of Christ. It means we have been adopted into God's family and we are a co-heirs with Christ. It means that all that God does for us, both the joyful and the painful,  is for our good and for His glory. It means that we are indwelt by God Himself through the Holy Spirit and, therefore have ability to live out His fruits, day in and day out, as we deny self, take up our cross, and follow our Savior wherever He leads us....through dirty dishes, arguing kids, and mounds of laundry. Through seasons of joy, laughter, and refreshment. Through sickness, singleness, job loss, chronic pain, and rejection. Through the ordinary and mundane of each and every day. Newness of life means Jesus is enough. Period.

"The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him." Lamentations 3:24

You and I may never be beheaded...but may we live in such a way that we recognize that true "greatness" is having a heart like John the Baptist: "He must increase and I must decrease."

"But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me - that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things declares the Lord."     Jeremiah 9:24

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If God works all things together for good...then what's wrong with my life?

Romans 8:28...it is a verse I have been chewing on for the past week. I love this verse and will often preach it to my own heart. The problem is, I am defining "good" by my own standard. Good, to me, means it will all "work out" in a Disney movie sort of way. Good, to me, often means life will smooth out and relaxation will come. Good, to me, ...leaves me waiting for the pretty bow on the package...for children to make wise choices, for a husband to understand my every emotional wave and tide, for money issues to disappear. For me, the word "good" is a word I often see in the "prosperity" sense....though I would tell you over and over that I hate the false "prosperity gospel".

I when I preach that type of truth to myself....I am DEAD WRONG.
The "good" of Romans 2:28 is defined in the very next verse! Oh why did we not grow up memorizing them TOGETHER?!

The good that God is working together in my life and in yours (if you are a child of the King), is that He is conforming us to the likeness of Jesus Christ! And He will use whatever it takes to accomplish that purpose and see it to completion. It's a total shift of focus and perspective, isn't it?

I think we are often robbed of so much joy in our Christian walk because we keep looking for physical, tangible, "good" to come out of our trials and pain...and when we don't see it, we lose hope and despair. We may even start to question whether Jesus keeps His promises. Our perspective is skewed so our conclusions will be faulty, as well.

BUT, if we gain a proper perspective....seeing life through the lens of Romans 8:28 AND 29...we have much to rejoice in and can trust fully in the promises of God. We can rest in the fact that there is not one trial, pain, or tear that is wasted. He will finish the good work that He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6) and the good work has nothing to do with material blessings or gifts (though, many times, those are ours in abundance, too!)....the good work is becoming like Jesus...for God's glory and for our ultimate good!

I read a blog post yesterday that took all the thoughts I have been thinking and drove the nail home, so to speak. I couldn't end this blog post better than with the words of Matt Papa:

I have spent too much of my life, and my prayer life, asking for God to lead me into His “perfect will”.  “God lead me”.  “Guide me”.  “Use me”.  “Bless me”.  While I know that God is a gracious, condescending God who meets us wherever we are, I something wonder if God has been up there saying….
“Um…yeah.  I’m Your Shepherd.  That’s what I do.”
So there’s a problem revealed here.  If I really believed that God was good….that He was my dad who was all powerful and all knowing and all loving….then I wouldn’t be repeatedly begging him to lead me with this certain twinge of anxiety.  I would relax.  Dad’s got me.  Chill.
But I don’t believe it, obviously.  And yet the problem goes deeper still.  If the pulse of my prayer life is set on my future (“God lead me guide me help me”), and not on God Himself (“Our Father who art in heaven”) then this has revealed that there is really a rival god in the mix.  An idol.  “Success” or perhaps “Comfort” or “Control”.  I want my best life now, not Jesus.  Really what I have been asking is….”God make my life go perfectly”.  “Make it exceptional.”  “Make my life epic.”
Now….there’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking God’s guidance.  But ask yourself this….”If the world could read my prayer journal….all in all…..would God look more like a genie or a treasure?”
Why are we so obsessed with “it” (God’s will) unless knowing “it” is more desirable to us than knowing “Him”?
Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be epic.  Maybe He wants it to be normal.  Maybe He wants your heart to be epic.  And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation.  God, for His children, will patiently and lovingly deny them of their desires until what they desire is Him.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
What are you seeking?  God or something He can give you.  Your happiness is at stake.  Your soul is at stake.

"Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge."      Psalm 62:5-7