The 3 Ways Jesus Sifts Our Desires

siftThis one might lose me a few followers.

Desires. Dreams. Prayers. Goals.

Whatever you want to call them, they are fire to Christians – powerful, vital, destructive when handled wrong. We must be careful with desires these days. There is such bad teaching out there about God and desires, so much energy mischanneled into pursuing your dreams without a thought as to God’s dreams, that we must handle the subject gingerly.

My testimony involves the sanctification of my desires. I found over the years that viewing God as annoyed, threatened, or dismissive of my desires did not bring me closer to him. Of course, nor did clinging to them ahead of his will and love. Neither view is flattering to God, nor entirely Biblical.

Jesus ran into a lot of deep desires in the course of his ministry. Healing, justice, provision, greatness, life. His responses to these pleadings contain surprises for everyone. He granted some, denied some, but most importantly there seemed to be a sifting. He didn’t always heal/feed/deliver immediately; he’d ask a question first, or deny a desire flat-out, in order to get at the heart of the person. Whatever the desire, Jesus was determined to sanctify it, to make it holy.

Interestingly, his denials seem to undergo three distinct tests: faith, paradox, or eternity.

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Godrise

riseWe’ve had a couple spectacular moonrises this last week, the enormous full orb majestically cresting the Swan Range, glowing against the cold, solid purple of the Earth’s shadow at twilight. My friends Mark and Cheryl were able to grab a camera and make a whole album out of it. (That is heroism, by the way – it was below zero temperatures that night. Again.)

No fussy, garish special effects extravaganza in today’s movies can give you chills quite like that simple sight, can it? Or like the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that took place two Junes ago. Your mind knows that what it’s seeing is real, and you are awed – and humbled. Such is the power and artistry of God.

I had a random thought, do what you will with it: The moon prevents our earthly existence from averaging 50% light, 50% darkness. Its “sneaking” the sun’s light back into the night via reflection means that the overall balance ends up tipped in light’s favor…kind of like the balance of good and evil being ultimately tipped in God’s favor.

“Nothing can be so evil as God is good,” wrote Stephen Charnock. That idea stuck with me when I read it years ago. Some unconsciously believe that evil and good are opposite but equal. Cancelling each other out, neither ever quite going away (lest the movie have no sequel). But Scripture says God has won the battle, is winning the battle, and will ultimately triumph entirely.

 

Indeed, in the wintertime with snow covering the landscape, the moon is bright enough that you could drive at midnight without headlights (though I do not recommend it, or accept liability for what happens if you do). A fascinating parallel to the way God can be greatest and closest at the darkest solstice of our own lives.

Some darkness must come today. There will remain a groaning “as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

But one day, it will be defeated. Every tear wiped away. The day is not so far off now. God’s final victory is rising.

I wait eagerly.

In the meantime, God has given me a heckuva universe to watch. I sit slackjawed like a geeked-out kid before his cosmic theater.

 

Photo credit: Mark and Cheryl Reasner

Square pegs in round holes

Well, THAT explains me.

Salvageable

The expression “a square peg in a round hole” is used to describe a misfit—a person who does not belong in the place or situation where he or she is. I suspect the picture many people have of a square peg in a round hole comes from children’s toys which consist of several objects of different shapes—a square, a circle, a triangle, a star—with a corresponding hole for each object. The objects are carefully sized so that they will fit only through the hole where they are meant to fit.

When I was a boy, I read that carpenters in America often used to put square pegs into round holes. There were several good reasons to do this. I never saw square pegs in round holes, though, until I was an adult. A farmer was giving me and my family a tour of his farm, and he came to a…

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Is Your “God’s Love” Tank Critically Low?

meterI pray that the right people see this.

I’m thinking tonight of the main characters in stories that would tear your heart out. Ordinary Christians, drained by disappointment and hardship. They no longer feel any love or peace from God. He seems all but absent. Just when hope seems to be rising, life kicks them again. They’ve been faithful for years, slogging through Scripture and the spiritual disciplines, staying a “good Christian”. They could recite the Biblical reasons behind suffering until the cows come home, but it’s no longer lifting their hearts so much as a whit. And then the cows kick them.

Seeing a brother or sister struggle in this way is one of the things that truly knocks down the door of my apathy and sets me ablaze. I get angry at Satan. I get – well, I would say “fearful” if I didn’t know fear was a sin, so I don’t do that – but certainly deeply concerned for the person. They stick on my heart. I don’t want them to be separated from God. I want so badly for them to know, to rediscover the love of God.

But…it isn’t easy.

My own experience says that, and surprisingly, Scripture says that. It grants that cultivating a relationship with the Unseen is counter-intuitive and hard. Especially once you step back and see all the obstacles arrayed against it, the spiritual opposition, the inertia from our unsaved days, the shiny lies about where we should be looking for our joy.

Start with this: do not accept the way things are. There is no Scriptural basis for the idea that God’s love and joy should be limited, blocked, or withheld from us. Indeed, other than salvation, an ironclad peace and joy in any circumstance is the greatest treasure of the kingdom, the very thing Christ died to give us! The Bible does not speak of this stuff in terms a scarce trickle, but of plenty, abundance, overflowing. He meant you to have it “to the full” (John 10:10).

So, you ask…why is it not flowing?

Ultimately, it must be God doing the answering. I do not know your particular situation, which could be varied as the stars are many, and I don’t have a lot of power in myself anyway. But I can offer my own story, and some Scriptural thoughts God has taught me.

1. You can’t do it alone.

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Brokenness Isn’t All That Authentic

Transparency about our brokenness is good. But the subtle lie that’s crept in is that real holiness and integrity aren’t really possible. They ARE. And it’s supposed to be our heading as Christians at all times – “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

Into the Foolishness of God

“We want flawed. We want imperfect. We want real. And this kind of corduroy rather than polyester faith is a growing and refreshing influence in the world today.” Josh Riebeck, Fighting for Authenticity
If there is one prevailing topic I read about over and over recently, it is that of living “authentically”. It is the badge of honor of an up and coming generation to shake the dust off of the conventional traditions they grew up with for newer “more authentic” experiences. The churches of their parents and grandparents have been a little too polished, the doctrine too narrowly defined, and their leaders too phony. Authenticity is at the top of the list for many church goers and seekers. The bar is high for relationships and personal experiences. People desire community and fellowship, both of which mean nothing if people are not able to be their true selves.

Enter a…

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Why Evil for Evil Doesn’t Work

cubesIt’s cold.

As I write this on January 4th, the temperature is 8 degrees below zero. The air is painful to breathe. I’m keenly aware of all my nose hairs. Pipes are freezing, and every traffic light in town has somehow been reprogrammed to turn yellow at the exact moment where I must either slam on the gas and risk a ticket or slam on the brakes and risk destruction. I blame the Russians.

Now, you would not walk into your house in these times and say “Man, it’s sub-Arctic in here, let’s open the door.” That would fix nothing. In fact, it would worsen the problem; sub-Arctic would become Mars. Instead, you turn on the heat. It just makes sense.

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.

Someone at work triggers you in some way. They yell at you, or circulate an unfair or inaccurate comment about you behind your back. Our first instinct in these situations? Hit back somehow. Defend our honor. Eye for an eye. Maybe we yell back; maybe we spread a rumor about the other person, or just bring up a genuine flaw in them to “balance things out”, even if it has nothing to do with the matter at hand. At the very least, we feel like we haven’t just rolled over and taken it, right? That would look weak.

Except…has it ever worked? Really? Does the other person ever just roll over themselves and go “Oh, yeah, I was wrong” ?

Maybe sometimes, depending on how it’s handled. But typically, all that “evil for evil” does is leave the two parties hating each other, and everyone else gets to deal with it. Workplaces, churches, and families across the world are infected with this stuff. Nobody’s ever proven right; nobody’s vindicated; instead, resentment festers, and the whole environment is left feeling awkward, fragile, and, well…

…cold.

Enter Jesus, wielding advice.

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The Fresh Start No Calendar Can Bring (and Why You Need It)

earthA funny thing, this January 1.

I can’t help but imagine the sun giving us a weird look right now. “Okay, Earth, so now you’re one degree further over and…oh, it’s a celebration for you this time? Umm…ok. Have fun, I guess.”

This is the day that most of humanity seems to connect with a fresh start. We’ve got a new paper book hanging on the wall with a big “2017” scrawled on it, so now we get to dump the last 365 days of failure and launch a new life. Or something.

A fresh start is a nice thought. Whether it’s from failure or from simply not being someone you yourself can like, the concepts of redemption and a clean slate permeate literature, television, and film. “Lost” was a great example (darn that show. YOU NEVER TOLD US WHAT HAPPENED TO WALT!!!! Ahem…). The idea of getting to become a better person calls to all of us. Even in the darker shows (think “House of Cards”, not that I could bear to watch it for long), we root for the antihero to experience that gradual turn towards the light. The theme is prevalent – almost universal.

Perhaps there’s a reason redemption sells.

The truth is, it’s speaking to a primal, unspoken truth running through the fabric of mankind. A fresh start is not a novelty. It’s not a fallback strategy, not a last-ditch measure, not “for those other people”. It is a necessity. For everyone.

Even for you, who think you have lived a good life.

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