God is Furious About What’s Happened to You

sunriseA friend I hadn’t seen in years somehow found my lost wallet the other day. As we caught up, he revealed his story, of which I’d heard only snatches. Great pain, through a mixture of his own errors and others’ betrayal. The years since youth group had not turned out as he’d hoped (boy, can I relate). When he finished, I asked him how his faith was doing.

He said it was behind him. “I suppose if there is a God, he might have had a purpose in all this…” he mused uncertainly. I don’t remember what he said next. I was already agonizing over what he had evidently never heard.

God is furious about what’s happened to you.

There are some of you who need to hear that, too.

That parent who walked out on you, or made your life a living hell. All the shaming and stalking you experienced in high school. Losing a job through false accusations. The devastating accident from someone’s foolishness. The maelstrom of sin that has brought a shattering to every life.

God is furious about what’s happened to you.

Does this take you aback?

When I read those eight words one day, it changed my view of God forever. That day was a sunrise. It was a balm on years of encrusted pain from my family’s collapse, the trailhead of a long walk back to him.

Because despite years spent in church, I had never heard those words before.

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Stop Struggling with Your Sin and Kill It!

myswordOne April during my Air Force tour, our squadron commander handed us a goal: a 100% off-duty safety record for the summer. I raised an eyebrow. Our squadron consisted of twentysomethings brandishing motorcycles, ATV’s, jet-skis, and a love of drink. Expecting no off-duty accidents for a whole summer seemed as achievable as deciphering a Newsboys lyric. Did I mention we were based in college-town Phoenix?

Later, that commander visited the flightline and happened to strike up a conversation with my work group. Being a little (too?) bold, I asked if he expected the 100% goal to be reached. His gracious reply:

“Well, what results would I get if I only asked for 80%?”

I am among many Christians struggling with certain sins. (The rest are just being quiet about it.) We sincerely want to please God, cut the garbage out of our lives. The first thing I often say to teens who say they’re struggling is, “Good. Struggle is good. It’s better than surrender.”

But eventually we have to face the results. Longings to become gentler and kinder, with little to show for it. The years of bondage to sexual sin. Constant failed attempts to be more honest. The addictions that beset us. Our flesh is not about to roll over; it weighs us down, and our hearts sink with it.

One day, I heard a talk that transformed my approach to sin.

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Singles Training #5: How to View God

mountain-climbing-768813_960_720“But God…you’re just so boring.”

The confession was guilty, but honest.

I was in the waning years of my teens, struggling with loneliness, and had stumbled upon an article telling me to “find my ultimate satisfaction in God”. The author just dropped that little gem in front of me and then…finis. End of article. Walked away without telling me how to do it, how to find pleasure in a God I couldn’t see or hear.

As if it’s a piece of cake or something.

Relationship with the unseen is hard. I don’t wake up every morning and have a crisis of belief over whether my best friend exists. I’ve seen him, I’ve heard from him, and even though we don’t get to hang out as much as we’d like, I know – easily, simply, without a doubt – that he loves me as a brother.

It isn’t like that with God. He’s intangible. Elusive. He tends to speak with a still, small voice. Sometimes it takes hour of prayer, Scripture, and meditation to hear him.

I certainly believed in God through Scripture, saw him as a master and a savior. But intimacy? Delight? That’s another level. Especially when I felt I was disappointing him, that our relationship was mostly expectations. When the Psalmist spoke of “eternal pleasures at his right hand” (Psalm 16:11), I felt guilty. Like when you sing the lyrics “O How He Loves” and secretly groan, “It’s a beautiful song, but I have NO idea what he’s talking about.”

Who wants to be pressured into a relationship?

Especially with human fulfillment so seemingly close at hand, so simple to drink from. Home and hearth and sex and babies seemed way more tantalizing. Everyone else seemed to be getting such a kick out of it. Looking back I can see the illusion, how tense and spotty it really was, but at the time, I remained blind. God seemed like the manipulative mother, sabotaging her son’s life so he’d stay home.

So I spent years resenting the very God who wanted to fill me. I accepted a grievous lie, one which I believe many Christian singles have embraced deep down.

“God can’t really fill me like a mate can.”

If you don’t think you’ve embraced this lie, tell me your reaction if I told you you’d be single the rest of your life. How do you feel? Do you have something else to fall back on?

I didn’t.

I’m embarrassed about it now. But I didn’t.

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The Gospel is the answer. There is no other.

daybreak-over-lake-michigan-at-point-beach-wisconsinThere’s a dangerous idea floating around.

It’s the idea that the world’s darkness can be overcome by anything but the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We seek spot welds, individual solutions to individual problems. Do we not? The solution to racism is equality. The solution to poverty is charity. The solution to terrorism is war/closed borders/isolationism/whatever your favorite politician is hawking. A different flavor soup for each symptom. John Lennon would have you believe that love is a key for every lock.

I’m not here to debate the validity of any of these. There’s something to each. Many seem to have the words of Jesus behind them, if you argue your case well enough.

But the scattershot approach is dangerous. It’s dangerous because the days are short, our energies precious, and false solutions are sucking them up.

We are right to be heartbroken and outraged about these symptoms. But…and I include myself in this…we are heartbroken and outraged selectively, about our preferred lineup of issues, colored by our upbringing and nationality and what not. We don’t see that the five minute scream-and-hang-up session you just directed at your father, or the money you just cheated from your subordinate, are no less grieving to God than murder and hate.

If you’re going to bring Jesus into it, you’re going to get more than you bargained for. You have to see the problem through his eyes.

And he’s got a much different take on what’s generating this mess.

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Singles Training #4: How to View Others

US_Navy_101112-N-9132C-184_Sailors_from_the_engineering_repair_division_perform_jumping_jacks_during_group_physical_training_in_I have a confession to make.

When I got into a relationship a few years ago, I caught a distinct sentiment running through my head:

“Now it’s my turn to shut people out.”

And sadly, for a while, I did.

Perhaps I’d been roasted too often by some friend disappearing into their own little world upon finding someone. We all know the pain of finding ourselves on a friend’s back-burner. Once we find someone who really gets us, it’s amazing how expendable everyone else suddenly looks.

And that betrays a pretty awful assumption: that relationships are about us.

I’m making an assumption: that we singles are training for our future marriage with our eyes on God. We’re seeking what he wants for us, revealed through Scripture, believing it’s best, choosing even in our relationships to practice as many marriage principles as we can.

So what if Scripture led us to train as if marriage isn’t about us?

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