Appeal to Your Caesar

In recent weeks, my church has been studying the “farewell tour” of Paul from Acts 20 onwards. It’s an inspiring but haunting account, overshadowed by Paul’s knowledge that he is moving towards life imprisonment for the Gospel’s sake and will never again be a free man. As he prepares to journey to Jerusalem, his fate is confirmed by prophetic signs. He is convinced enough that he tells the believers in Ephesus and Caesarea that they will never see him again.

Sure enough, the “least of the apostles” gets only a week in town before the local Jews start rioting for his head. This kicks off a series of events during which God continues to weave and dodge and navigate Paul out of deadly situation after deadly situation – yet he never actually gets out of Roman custody. Paul dodges, literally at the last second, a potentially fatal Roman scourging. He adds four (23:10, 23:12-35, 25:3, 27:42) to his already considerable list of escaped assassination attempts. He survives a shipwreck, then a viper’s bite. He rifles through a series of Roman bureaucrats to which he (successfully) appeals his legal innocence.

It’s an incredible streak of escapes, too much to attribute to luck. This is God keeping Paul on his feet.

Yet…he never gets free.

Have you ever asked why God keeps kinda coming to your rescue – but not really?

Have you ever found yourself on a sixth march around Jericho, acknowledging the role of God’s sovereignty in the fact that you still have strength in your feet, but wondering when the walls are scheduled to come down?

Have you ever admitted with a sigh that there’s been a lot of good along the way, and a lot of joy, but you’re still weary and unhappy?

Have you ever sneakily wished that God’s deliverance would take a different form?

It is revealing that the Lord found it appropriate to encourage Paul after the uproar in the Sanhedrin. He must have needed it. He kept having to prove his innocence of both the Jewish and Roman laws, consistently a razor’s blade from vindication, bailed out repeatedly by Rome’s respect for procedure and even once getting a military escort of hundreds to the next town to protect him from Jewish assassins. But the culture of political corruption kept rising up and pulling him back down. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” was his motto by now, but where was it all going?

In Chapter 25, standing before yet another two-bit flunkey stating his case, Paul appears – to the casual reader – to have finally had enough. After years of house arrest, rather than allowing his can to get kicked down the road again, he decides to quit dinking around and requests his case be taken to the highest court possible. Announcing his innocence yet again, Paul speaks four glorious words: “I appeal to Caesar!”

Caesar. The big dog. The emperor. Gladiators and coliseums, singing-while-Rome-burns Caesar. That guy.

What’s Paul’s purpose in this appeal? He has a track record of defending himself to encourage the church and keep The Way clean of criticism, but I wonder – did Paul finally see the purpose of it all? Did he appeal because he spotted an opportunity to take his testimony from dust to marble? He knew God wanted him in Rome, but he could have contented himself with gaining his freedom and then preaching in the streets. A man of lesser character would have just accepted the bribes offered by Roman officials, justifying it with “this will give me the chance to preach to the commoners in Rome!”

Instead, Paul aims high. He grabs the chance to preach Jesus to the loftiest authority he can reach – and only his long custody could have given him the opportunity.

Paul doesn’t get an audience with Nero, but with Agrippa II, the last of the Herodians. So many parallels to Jesus’ life – unjustly accused, beaten, dragged before a Herod – Paul must have been delighted to follow in his master’s footsteps. He does not hesitate to proselytize directly to this governor. And when Agrippa asks, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”, you know Paul is thinking, I’ve seen shorter.

The old Apostle understands that all the narrow scrapes that seem to have gone nowhere – all the obedience and miraculous escapes that still never lead to freedom – were for a purpose all along. Through them, and through his appeal to Caesar, God maneuvered Paul into a room with Roman royalty to share the gospel.

This is what we Christians must do when we find ourselves beleaguered yet again – another illness, another termination, another failed visa, another year of loneliness – and wondering what could possibly be the point of spending a lifetime pressed but not crushed.

Appeal to your Caesar.

By which I mean, find the highest audience to whom your pain gives you unique access, and share Jesus. Ask God to show you what it is. Use your story to reach the most people you can. Ask God to turn what was the enemy meant for evil into a demon-crushing good.

This is a request God will not refuse. He would have all people, eloquent or not, share his Word. And that Word is the opening to an eternity with God that leaves all earthly suffering in the dust, as Paul said: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Paul could have gone faint. He could have groaned and given up. But he chose to defy the purposes of Satan, who desired Agrippa II to hear the Gospel about as much as he desired a hole in the head. Despite the weariness and the devastating string of setbacks, Paul kept fighting.

Do the same. Appeal to your Caesar. Ask God for the opening. Let the enemy know his worst blows have no purpose except what God sets for them.

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The Restful Obedience of the Women at the Tomb

Sometimes it’s the smallest Easter eggs that bring the best lessons.

I was reading through the Easter account of Luke and stopped on a verse I probably would have normally overlooked.

The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed along and observed the tomb and how His body was placed. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. (Luke 23:55-56)

If any verse were to win the “Most Likely to be Overlooked” Award for the Passion accounts, this might be it. Instead, it’s once again proven that no verse from God’s hand is an afterthought.

The women watching their Savior being laid to rest in death…rested on the Sabbath.

Am I the only one blown away by this little detail?

These women have just experienced the greatest disappointment of their lives. As far as they could see (before Jesus opened their eyes), their faith was left in tatters. Jesus, the Savior they’d come to believe in, was gone. No redeeming Israel, no salvation of the people…just a victorious Roman oppression and stifling religious leadership.

Yet these women rested on the Sabbath.

You have to wonder about their state of mind as they watched Jesus’ burial. Did they expect a resurrection? They were preparing enbalming spices, so likely not. Precious few, if anyone, seemed to understand what was going on that weekend before the risen Jesus opened their eyes. What had come of the prophecies that shared a scroll with those Sabbath commandments? What had come of their hope, their anchor, their very light?

Yet these women rested on the Sabbath.

I don’t know that many people who’d be that obedient to God in the face of such confusion and letdown.

I know a lot of people who would walk away instead. Who would run from fear, like his disciples. Who would conclude God had earned their abandonment. Who have concluded that very thing, looking upon the pain and destruction God allows in the world and telling God, “I don’t like your terms. I’m not following you anymore.” People I know.

Yet these women rested on the Sabbath.

Sure, it was habit for them after a life of faithfulness. But it was a habit tied to promise, a promise that now seemed dashed. Cutting that string should have dropped their faith right through the earth. If the prophecies weren’t reliable, why bother with anything else?

Yet these women rested on the Sabbath.

I am inspired – and exposed. This seemingly small detail challenges me. Am I willing to obey God in the details great and small despite the disappointments life has brought me? Am I willing to follow him when he doesn’t appear to be following my life that closely? If he slayed me, would I trust him, as Job did?

These women came back days later to enbalm their Lord. Instead, he buried their doubt.

May ours meet the same fate, proven through obedience.

 

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Leave Your Egypt Behind

It can be quite fun to view our Christian faith as a long, extended defeat of external enemies, and one of the most familiar stories is the exodus. God’s people are enslaved by Egypt for four centuries, and the day finally comes when they pay the price. While instructing the Israelites to protect themselves from the angel’s wrath by spreading lamb’s blood on their doorposts – a ritual installed as Passover – the Lord’s hand moves against Egypt in ten plagues and then the destruction of their army in the Red Sea. The lesson: “The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet” (Exodus 14:14).

But that is not Scripture’s final lesson on the exodus.

Centuries later, there is a new Passover lamb. Where once blood on the doorposts served to guard huddled Israelite families from God’s judging hand, it is ultimately revealed as a foreshadowing for a much greater protection. As with so many things in Scripture, something in the Old Testament is taken up and given fulfillment in Jesus: “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. You are indeed unleavened, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Glory to God. Our personal taking up of Christ has spared us God’s judgment once and for all.

But it begs the question: If Jesus is the new Passover, then who is the new Egypt?

The answer is not so pleasant. Some flavors of church love to emphasize the destruction of our enemies, giving it a prominent place in their teaching, and people love to hear it. It’s not that it’s un-Biblical.

But like any matter of discernment, the problem is often what’s not there. We like to talk about our enemies’ defeat, but we miss the one enemy that matters most. We’d rather not hear about that, for the revelation is disruptive, tense, exposing.

For the exodus story ultimately had a sad ending. What happened to Israel once they were freed? Did they file straight to Canaan without hesitation and conquer it in God’s name and power? Did they honor God’s deliverance with faith and trust? They didn’t. They doubted, grumbled, set up golden calves. They ate quail as a concession from God, then quailed from his mission. They never saw the promised land.

For although triumph of our enemies is part of the faith, what does Scripture always guide us back to if not our own hearts?

If Jesus is the new Passover, then who is the new Egypt?

We are.

You and I.

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! (Romans 5:10)

It’s easy to focus on external enemies. It spares us from having to look inwards and admit the gossip we’ve been partaking in, or the white lies we’ve told our clock punch, or how long we’ve neglected to crack a Bible.

But sin isn’t an external enemy. It’s internal. The New Testament ultimately guides our vision back to our own hearts, and reveals us – all of us – as God’s enemy. Such stark words! And God’s greatest mission is not to deliver us from external enemies, but from the sinfulness of our own hearts. That’s why the best teachers remind us that the greatest enemy is not without, but within.

And God tells us to leave that Egypt.

Leave self.

Leave sin.

Leave the idols and doubts and grumbling.

And walk to the promised land of faith, selflessness, and peace.

Next time you read the exodus story during the upcoming Easter season, remember that its ultimate fulfillment was in Christ and his deliverance of us from our sin. Choose to leave your Egypt. Leave your sin behind. Use your life to honor Christ and all he’s done for you.

 

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The Thing I Most Ask to Be Delivered From

A book I’ve been reading posed a whopper of a question: “If God were to remove one of your greatest sources of pain, what would you ask him to take?”

Now, this was not followed by another ill-fated health-and-wealth excursion, no tired treatise of living your best life now through positive thinking and self-actualization. The author was actually framing it as a teaser for heaven, one of whose rewards will be to wipe away every source of pain.

But when I read the question, I found myself applying it to my life here, on earth.

What would I ask God to take?

My mind riffled through any one of countless prayer requests, obstacles, and disappointments, both for myself and those closest to me. If I could pick only one, what would it be?

I know a handful of things I probably would have settled on, in years gone past.

Now, I wouldn’t pick any of them.

Instead, one goal now overrides the rest.

I would ask God to remove my inability to know his love.

Scripture and its teachers keep on telling us that we can find true purpose, joy, and safety only in God, but do we listen? Not particularly. We’re the stubborn teenager who just has to find things out for herself.

We look for satisfaction in being selected for projects and leadership. It lasts for an instant. Then we’re wondering why we didn’t get selected again, or whether we did well the first time. It crumbles to ash in our mouths.

We look for satisfaction in relationships. It lasts for an instant. Then we’re overanalyzing, navigating hurdles, finding ourselves in need of constant reassurance. It turns to sand in our hands.

We look for satisfaction in food, drink, or distraction. It lasts for an instant. Then we wake up to the consequences, sending much of it literally into the toilet.

I’ve tried these things, in varying degrees. I’m glad to say I’ve never committed any grievous sins in them. But there was one: thinking that they’d be better than God.

We don’t always wake up explicitly thinking “these things must be better than God”. It’s not that we high-ball the Other Things; we just low-ball God. It’s hard to cultivate a relationship with the unseen, so we gravitate towards the seen. And oftentimes, we find what we think is a “safe zone” within our Other Things (enjoying lots of food but not alcohol, seeking a godly marriage rather than just any marriage, looking to bring your talents to ministry rather than the corporate meat cleaver). It’s still not God. Not necessarily.

When God says he’s the source of life, he’s not being insecure. He’s not giving a big cosmic “you’ll get nothing else and like it”. He’s not being the psychotic parent who goes out and sabotages a daughter’s relationships so she’ll stay home. He’s rescuing us from disaster. As long as we build anything without his love as the foundation, it will collapse in on itself, taking us with it.

For that reason, and for his own glory, I really do want to know his love more than anything now. Seriously. He’s convinced me.

So I ask him to remove the barriers. He has erected none of them; they’re all of my own construction. But he can show us what they are, help us tear them down. All that’s left is beating the illusion, destroying the images of worldly goodness that crop up all around us, even good gifts that God has given us, or wishes to. They look so good. So we must endeavor to fill our minds with God instead. Meditation, Scripture, the spiritual disciplines…only then will he look good to us.

 

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You are Not in Control of Your Own Happiness

I get it. The common sentiment that “you’re in control of your own happiness” is meant to bring us from a place of learned helplessness to one of responsibility. It’s intended to take our focus off external circumstances, to free us from waiting for the galaxy to align and make us happy, and instead empower us to take charge of our attitudes. On the surface, it sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

In reality, it’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Sure, there’s value in learning to shape our worldviews. It’s life-changing to realize that there are days in which we can stare our stresses and disappointments in the face, say “I can have a good day despite you,” and discover that it actually happens! It’s not every day, admittedly – the meter tends to bounce back and forth – but we do have a role to play. A limited one.

If we are ultimately in control of our own happiness, though, it’s a sentence of death and despair.

We are disasters. When you examine what Scripture says about our nature and our ability to honestly perceive ourselves, we are disasters. I nearly left the house wearing mismatched shoes last Thursday, and the Bible says that’s the least of my dysfunctions. Am I trustworthy with my own happiness? Not on your life. I know myself too well.

How do we really know what will bring us happiness? Most of us are willing to look back on mistakes we made five years ago and admit we were off the beaten track. But we’re still judging from the same vantage point: by what feels right. We may have some more wisdom to aid in the squinting, and that’s something, but we haven’t actually changed positions. It felt right back then, too, though we didn’t know why.

Isn’t anyone starting to suspect that we might not be the best judge in these matters? I’m looking for a better yardstick – something outside myself.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7-8)

I found a great Tim Keller quote recently that basically says that the Bible’s contradiction of your own instincts and desires is actually proof of its veracity – that a Bible that never contradicts you, but somehow always conveniently echoes you, is probably one you should be highly suspicious of. Like spam in your email.

Something outside us, however, can be trusted – especially if its accuracy has been verified historically, as the Bible’s has (despite greatly exaggerated reports otherwise).

I’m glad the people in my life don’t want me to be happy. Well, they do, but they first want me to be holy, because they recognize that one comes before the other. God asks for some sacrifices in return for happiness, yes, but given the sacrifice he made for us, it’s not an unfair request. Without him, it would be a cross for us.

You’re not in control of your own happiness – and you don’t need to be. God is willing to take that over for you. That’s actually a relief, if you think about it.

 

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Your Greatest Worship Experience Won’t Come At Church

I don’t have much against flashy, neon-drenched worship services courtesy of starched hair and skinny jeans.

That’s because I don’t know the hearts of the hair and jeans. When the great test of worship comes at 3am – when they get the dreaded phone call, or when they simply wake up with the old terror pressing in – for all I know, they pass with flying colors. They trust God. They worship at their bedside. Why assume they don’t?

See, your greatest worship experiences probably won’t come at church.

I attend a church that doesn’t have one of “those” worship experiences every week. We try to stay simple, competent, and authentic. Fortunately, it’s also a church that teaches us to think of ourselves with “sober judgment”, which has helped me check my critical spirit towards other churches and how they operate. We celebrate when other churches succeed.

After all, what access do I have to the hospital rooms in which the rubber of those believers’ faith meets the road?

What access do I have to their last late-night session with their thinning checkbook?

What access do I have when twenty years of isolation finally breaches the dam of their hearts and leaves them curled up against a silent wall, even after all their valiant demeanor from stage?

Your greatest worship experience won’t come at church. It comes unscheduled, unrehearsed, unforeseen, on days other than Sunday, when your character and trust are tested by life’s nastiest assaults. It comes when you’re on the ragged edge of snapping at your coworkers, or when the bottle’s comfort just feels irresistible, or the arms of someone you know you shouldn’t be seeing. The true and only question is simply this: will you choose him? Over despair? Over idols? Over distance?

That’s worship.

Raising your hands on Sunday means nothing if you sin with them the other six days. Tithing means little from a resistant giver. A degree from a Bible college is pointless if it’s not put into practice. This sounds harsh, but I can draw no other conclusion from Jesus’ words.

Worship at its deepest form happens not on the stage, but in the closet.

That’s actually comforting. It means your life doesn’t have to be the internal equivalent of multicolored spotlights and smoke machines for you to come before him. It means that humble churches without such assets can still run to him. It means that the “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10) is ours regardless of the rest of our wardrobe.

Worship with your life.

And if it’s been a while since you did so, worship with repentance right now, in your closet. It can be done. Jesus awaits with open arms.

 

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When God Moves Us Fraidy-Cats

23746683041_6dd4b048d1_zThis weekend, I helped someone move, and there was a cat involved.

Some cats handle moving better than others, staring wide-eyed with fascination out the window as a world beyond their understanding flits by.

This was not such a cat. She has to be the most timid beast I’ve ever met. For weeks, she has been crouched behind whatever will give her cover while her owner clanked dishes into boxes and thumped belongings around – the usual chaos of moving. At one point, once almost everything was packed up, she hid behind a book on the floor. A book. The front cover was upturned, and she hid her face behind it, rump protruding from behind.

And once she was safely in the car and there was nowhere left to hide, she simply turned her face to the corner and kept it there for the entire ten-hour ride.

I was tempted to make fun of her.

But then I saw myself in her.

The cat had no way to comprehend what was happening. It was beyond her. Cars, houses, moves, jobs, thunder, sunshine…she lacked the faculties to understand a tenth of it. All she knew was that she was being moved into an unfamiliar environment, without knowing how long, sound and fury all around her.

Yet the humans in charge knew it signified nothing. We knew it was an unremarkable move between states. We knew it would all be over soon, that she’d be okay, and that she would eventually grow into her new surroundings.

We are this cat.

When God moves us, it scares the willies out of us, honestly. We haven’t the capacity to see or understand a tenth of what’s going on. The spiritual clanks and crashes behind what we see and hear, the purposes of God in it all – it’s on the same level to us as elevators and internal combustion are to the average cat.

And so we turn our faces to the corner, and a little part of our hearts (maybe not so little) resenting God. We want our old place, our comfortable toys and occasional plate of tuna water.

But God sees a greater reality. Wonderful things are happening, or at least necessary. He knows our destination, knows his purpose, knows all the plans he’s carefully laid out. He is not callously throwing us to a new owner, or casting us onto the street.

He has packed everything we need and sent it ahead of us; he has arranged for its unpacking when we arrive.

When we drive through thunderstorms on the route, they will not destroy us; when the sun rises and sets on our journeys, he remains our light.

And most of all, he himself will be there.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

And though we hide from him in fear and frustration, he keeps pursuing us, like I did with this cat. He seeks us in our hiding places, turning over unpacked bags and blankets until he finds our trembling form, and reassures us.

Will we wander out again? Will we peek out from the maze of dollies and askew furniture, walk back up to our Owner, and take a drink from his water again?

 

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Resting Killface and the Hard Glory of Yet Another Task

desertResting killface is a condition in which the mouth’s corners do not naturally turn upward, even when you’re eight tics happier than you look. The result is a face like mine, perpetually frozen somewhere between “quietly petrified”, “incurably grave”, and “Deep South serial killer”.

Your parents during your childhood: “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” you’d reply over your book.

“You sure?”

“Yep.”

“You look annoyed.”

“I’m not. Now I’m annoyed because you keep asking.”

Years ago, I arrived at a party to announce I’d nabbed a new teaching position, only for a friend to go, “so why do you look like someone just shot your dog?”

If any of this is familiar, you might have resting killface. We’re good, we swear! We only look like we’ll strangle the next person who approaches us.

But eventually I had to face how my killface was impacting my social life. When I stood around in neutral, my downer look would repel folks. When I made a joke, my lack of smile would conflict with my tone, leaving others unsure of my intentions. It was subtle, but influential.

Following on this revelation’s heels was the fact that the onus was on me to change.

oasis-67549_1280.jpgThat was frustrating. I’ve never been socially gifted; friendmaking has been slow. To hear that I had a hand in getting where I was, and had more work to do, felt honestly like insult added to injury.

But the world wouldn’t change for me. Social dynamics were social dynamics. No matter how many Disney movies sang “be yourself”, no matter how many memes of people snapping their fingers in a “Z” motion and celebrating rejection of all advice, the score was the same. I needed to accept either this new “growth opportunity”…or the status quo.

Have you waged a years-long campaign only to be confronted with yet another battle?

Your student with special needs uncovers another learning disability.

Your illness breaks remission.

The new boss appears and turns out worse than your last three.

God exposes another soul weakness that needs work before he ends your singleness (I do believe he does this with some, my last post notwithstanding).

Another retreat fails to fix your marriage.

Your church keeps on bickering and back-biting, and now its foremost tither announces he’s moving.

Ugh.

I think of Shasta in The Horse and His Boy. He has just raced thousands of miles across country, first in a desperate flight from slavery, then carrying word of a coming invasion of the free and noble Archenland. He’s evaded city police, endured days of desert heat, and been chased by lions. Gasping, ready to collapse, he finally reaches Archenland’s citizens with news of the impending attack – only to learn that he’s the only one who can reach the king in time. He must keep going.

…”he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed, your reward usually is to do another and harder and better one.”

I don’t know where C.S. Lewis got this sage stuff (well, yes I do), but it’s the kind that alters a young man’s trajectory.

Perhaps it is not cruelty but honor and reward, wearying though our journey be. Perhaps we should throw ourselves in without hesitation, as Shasta did the first river he found after his desert crossing. Or into the next leg of his journey.

For Shasta’s mission succeeded. In fact, not only did Archenland receive his warning in time to fortify its defenses until Narnian reinforcements could arrive, but Shasta discovered who he really was: the long-lost son of the very king he’d warned, heir to the very kingdom he helped save.

Be refreshed by God today. It is only through these travails that we will discover Whose sons and daughters we’ve been all along.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

mountain-background-hd-14

 

How the Doctrine-Averse Can Know God Really Loves Them

lostOccasionally, you might spot a Facebook page promising a Toyota 4Runner to some random user who shares the page.

Naturally, those pages are fake. They’re newly created, lacking Facebook’s verification symbol. Reminds me of that watershed of generosity, the Nigerian prince, who somehow dug up your email address and settled upon you(!) to receive his inheritance.

Baloney radar, start beeping. It claims to be good news…but how do you know?

I’m staggered by our willingness to accept any agreeable thought that crosses our minds. If it feels good, offers resolution, or minimizes emotional resistance, it stays.

Me? I’m leery about even the most encouraging thought, like a hiker balancing on a shifty rock in midstream, unless I know it comes from God. Unless an idea has his royal stamp, I’m holding onto it loosely at best.

You’re probably bracing for a dry, theological rant about how what feels good is not necessarily truth.

Well, yes, but that “necessarily” matters. Sometimes, a thought tickles our ears for good reason. Some theological truths can make us feel amazing. Though he is too big to wrap his existence around our emotional states, God still cares immensely about them. Otherwise, vast swaths of Scripture would not have been bothered with.

So…how do we know?

I mean, you and I have crossed dark places because of lies we couldn’t spot. We believed we were inadequate, that we had to be someone else to be loved. We believed that we had to control others, step on them (or over them), to get due credit. Though they look like a dark alley now, those thoughts looked agreeable at the time because they seemed to offer a way out. It’s a testament to our minds’ deceptivity.

How do we know what will really make us happy?

Take the news that God’s grace is a free gift, independent of our merit. It’s the best news we could hear. Yet our baloney radar fights it tooth and nail – we insist on a system where it must be earned. That’s why we fear losing God’s love after we sin. Our incredulity at such abuseable love surfaces at the worst possible time.

How do we know it’s true?

Doctrine.

We know because God’s Word holds it true.

Massive allergy-trigger-word, I know. Doctrine isn’t popular. Too many feel that it’s used to stifle joy and freedom rather than give life.

Yet doctrine also conveys amazing, true-beyond-all hope. There is a steadying quality in elevating Scripture above all. It eliminates the middleman of our own minds. Though some doctrine is difficult, with the bad comes incredible good.

It’s true that cults invoke this logic, gaslighting our intellect to cow people into subservience. But those cults don’t rely on (or don’t correctly interpret) archaeologically reliable documents that claim God’s inspiration. I mean, Scriptures is our only source of Jesus (one reason he lived in obscurity – to prevent the existence of fifteen “historical Jesuses” waiting for their own A&E specials). If we love him, why would we reject the rest of his words?

This is why this blog elevates Scripture above all. I trust what’s outside of me. It’s not about chasing our own happiness, for only Jesus knows where happiness lies. It lies in him alone!

 

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Does God Need ME to Correct This Person?

Scripture Religion 3d Faith Glasses Bible Book

We’ve all been there. We look at someone else’s life, we see an issue that might need speaking to, and we experience an urge to be the one to bring it up – “for their own good”, of course.

I’ve learned to stifle these urges, for the most part.

One of the most encouraging possible relational truths is that whatever correction is needed in a person’s life, God is already on top of it. He hasn’t missed it; he doesn’t need to be notified. In fact, he saw it millennia before it came up.

Sometimes God doesn’t even use a human speaker. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve kept my mouth shut about someone else’s rough edges and, months or years later, heard the person speak of working on that very matter themselves, without any involvement from me. God laid it their heart all on his own.

And that’s when I’m right. Sometimes I’m wrong about what I’m seeing. Or, what I’m seeing is the result of deeply rooted habits or wounds that would change the conversation entirely if I knew them.

If the person doesn’t seem to be changing, there are a few possible explanations:

1) God is waiting for a moment when they’re ready to hear correction;

2) God is grooming the right speaker with the right words;

3) The person isn’t listening to God;

4) Change is slow. (Or has change been fast with you? I’m afraid it hasn’t been with me.)

Whatever the case, I find I’m rarely the person God uses – or nearly not as often as I’d volunteer myself.

Some of that’s just simple math. If we assume every person has twenty mature, Scripturally literate people in their lives that they trust to speak difficult truth, just how many times should I expect to be the one out of twenty?

It’s also worth mentioning that I’m often just ooking to eliminate an inconvenience on myself (the ripple effects of their behavior) rather than honestly seeking to help.

So I don’t say much anymore. Instead, I trust God to have eyes to spot what’s important. Like a pair of colored glasses, he sees things I don’t. And what I do see, he sees differently.

Besides, don’t I have enough sanctification to work on in my own life?

Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning when he seals his lips. (Prov. 17:28)

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!