The Choice

forkI saw this on my Facebook feed yesterday (thanks, Christy!) and had to share-and-quickblurb.

“What if God said to you: ‘You can be part of my own awesome, immeasurable aims that are bigger than your ability to understand, and you will experience confusion and waiting…OR I can limit my activity in your life to only that which makes sense to you, and your life will feel much simpler. You pick.'” -Gary Morland

Oh, man.

Oh, man.

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Two Dates

dateIn what seems to me sometimes like a cosmic joke, a person’s life is often boiled down to a sequence of numbers – two dates with a dash between them.

The first is the date of our birth. Its arrival every year is an occasion for joy, for gifts, or perhaps just a little extra attention. We’re familiar with it. We write it on official documents. It’s a friend to us, right down to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing – the further we get, the worse we feel.

The other, the day of our death, is unknown to us. It lurks in the future, possibly fifty years from now, possibly this very day. We will, by definition, never write it down. By the time it’s known, we can do nothing about it. It evokes loss, shadow, looking back and evaluating, the arranging of one’s affairs and moving on.

At least it does for “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

But this last week, a friend of mine passed (expected), and the words used to describe her passing were, “She met Jesus!”

Immediate jealousy.

My friend escaped. She got out. She finally leaped beyond the reach of this world’s grime and reached Jesus.

And it hit me:

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What the New England Patriots and Satan Have in Common

bradyNote: This post’s first half is tongue-in-cheek, folks. If we can’t have a sense of humor in the comments section, I’ll be throwing penalty flags on you. Because heaven knows they won’t be thrown on the Patriots.

I personally suspect that it might be amongst the lowest-rated Super Bowls in NFL history. I’m writing this several hours before kickoff, so I don’t know if this prediction is true as you’re reading this. But it’s my guess.

And not just because of this year’s well-intended but broad and self-defeating player protests, though that’s part of it.

No, it’s because it’s the Patriots.

Again.

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Unbreak that New Year’s Resolution

runnerIt’s 22 days into 2018 and broken resolutions litter the ground like tree branches after a windstorm.

I’m here to cheer for you to take them back up.

for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. (Proverbs 24:16 NLT)

Not that you’re wicked if you don’t stay on the treadmill or something. And not that we have permission to sin or good reason to dump a healthy resolution.

But I have to say, as a professional faller myself, it’s mighty comforting to read this verse.

New Year’s resolutions are funny in that we often see them, sometimes without realizing it, as all-or-nothing. We think we have to clean up completely, hit perfection after January 1, to deliver on the resolution.

The commentaries on Prov. 24:16 say that the fall referenced here could be from either sin or from hardship and affliction, and they imply that only the righteous man has the ability to bounce back – that God keeps his hand around the righteous and pulls them back to their feet.

But many years ago, during a momentary retreat in my battle for righteousness in a certain area, a friend of mine gave me some advice: “When you slip up, don’t reset your streak to 0. That’s the biggest downer ever. Just get back up and start fighting again.”

I think he had a point. Cognitively speaking, it’s massively depressing and discouraging, on top of failure, to flip your internal calendar back over to “0 days since the last mistake” once you fall. Adding insult to injury. You look back at how hard you had to fight for that streak, and you can’t imagine repeating it. It’s an added burden.

In addition to the practical downside, there could also be a spiritual downside: faulty expectations.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

This is only one of many New Testament verses that make provision for the fact that Christians will still sin. It’s expected. It’s not good, but it’s expected. Our sanctification will be life-long.

But what a comfort to find God offering strength to retake our feet: the righteous rise again.

John Piper offered this:

We balk at claiming to be among the righteous because it implies to us perfection, never sinning, and we know that is not true of ourselves. But to be a righteous man in Old Testament language does not mean to be perfect. God required that the saints be righteous in order to be saved (Psalm 1:6); he never made perfection a prerequisite of salvation. The whole sacrificial system was designed to impart forgiveness to sinners so God could save them.

The easiest way to see that being righteous did not mean being perfect in the psalms and to see what it did mean is to look at Psalm 32 . Note especially: 1) David sins and is forgiven; 2) he says there is a group called “godly” (v. 6); 3) the wicked are contrasted with those who trust in the Lord (v. 10); 4) these trusting, forgiven ones are called the righteous and the upright in heart (v. 11). So whenever you read about the righteous, think: those who trust in the Lord for their joy and repent of their sins in earnestness.

Now, there’s a galactic difference between accepting this reality and letting it make us complacent. I’ve known my sinful heart to twist this grace: “You’ll never be perfect, so go ahead and sin.” Paul hammers that sophistry in Romans 6. He’s still pressing on towards the goal. The holier your goal, the better your results will be. Compromise your goal and you compromise your results. Our goal should still be perfection.

But when we fall short and ache in our souls, God’s Word reorient our expectations – and encourages us to retake our feet. We repent and we end the retreat. We rise again.

Don’t toss your resolutions (spiritual or common) out the window because you failed today. Take them back up. God doesn’t care whether the first day of your permanent victory over (insert struggle here) is January 1 or not. He just wants to see you victorious, made so through his strength.

Give the Day After to God

deadtreeAhhh, here it is…the day after.

Adulthood consists mostly of three things, I think: paying bills, keeping your mouth shut, and grappling with the day after.

With Christmas behind us, there is now a comedown. Family is gone, the tree and wrapping paper have mutated from colorful expectation to trash recycling fodder, and now we have to confront just how much the entire affair has strained our waistlines and credit cards.

If you’re don’t struggle with this “day after”, I’m certainly happy for you. Certainly, there’s some relief in escaping the pressure of busyness and getting to unwrap that “peace and quiet” present we wanted most of all. But for others of us, there is, I think, an odd letdown. A crash back to earth. If it hasn’t come already, it might still, once the last of the family has hopped in the van and left, or once New Year’s is past.

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Christmas is Bigger Than Your Opinion Of It

catIt was during a December that my family fell apart.

I do appreciate that the blow had enough grace to wait until the 27th before coming out of nowhere, but is there really ever a “good time” for such things to happen?

Anything that’s ever harmed family tends to feel highlighted, called out, by the approach of Christmas. The season has a way of reminding you of what you’ve lost (or never had to begin with). I know what it’s like to rely on the charity and love of non-family during the holidays (for which I’m very grateful), to struggle with the emotions, to feel left out of the joy because you’re dealing with things that (it seems like) nobody else is.

So I’m the last person to tell anyone to “just get over it and celebrate”.

That’s not my approach at all. The Bible defends, even celebrates, our grace-given ability to honestly approach the throne of God with our pain, fear, and disappointment. Psalms is full of it. Jeremiah vents to God even though he knows exactly why God is inflicting his nation. Even Jesus does not try to hide his sweat and blood from his Father. He cares about our hearts. He has big shoulders. He will always listen to our tears.

BUT.

But.

Sometimes, I think, there are days when a swift kick in my own butt really is warranted.

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It’s About the Destination, Not the Journey

journeyIt’s one of those little fluffy kerfluffles of human philosophy, one that at least has the honesty to face the reality of we’re not home yet and try to make peace with it.

“Maybe it’s about the journey, not the destination”.

I say bogus.

I say the Christian life is about the destination.

(WARNING: Scripture ahead. I know some of you experience an instinct to kinda “check out” and skip Scripture because it’s too dense, too preposition-heavy, too hard to understand, it’s something you just plain don’t like, etc. DON’T. If you’ve honored me by clicking on this post, I urge you to fight that instinct. Read through the Scriptures. There are treasures waiting.)

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