A Rebuke Worse than God’s?

wrathWhen I mess up at work, and my boss calls me on the carpet about it, I’ll feel awful for a week and redouble my efforts to improve my work processes.

When my mistakes affect a coworker or increase their burden, I’ll feel even worse and seek to do them favors.

When my pastor point out an error in ministry, or even just provide advice upon my own prompting on how I could refine a certain area, (by the way, people, do not start walking on eggshells around me because of this post – I need and value correction), I’ll be quite humbled for a while.

And when a friend or family member expresses disappoint in me for whatever reason, an entire fortnight goes in the tank.

But when I sin and only God sees?

Well, something’s different. And not in a way that should be.

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“Happiness is Up to You”

celebrate2I entreat you for a respite from our usual Christian talk about how joy and happiness are different things.

Joy is possible in any circumstance, generated by intimacy with God and hope of heaven, not our earthly trappings. I fully embrace that as a central and crucial tenet of our faith. I even embrace the idea, without flinching, that God will withhold happiness if it makes us holier. That is well and truly believed on this blog.

But since I also believe that God does not exactly hate our happiness, let me share a verse from a poem that I ran across yesterday…

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No”,
He said, “I give blessings,
Happiness is up to you.”

– author unknown

Wow.

Yes, I know…I took this from a larger poem containing a few other ideas that some might differ on. That’s why I only reproduced this paragraph, because…wow.

How many blessings have we received and not made the most of?

Now, I hate that the previous sentence (and others like it) tend to come across so watery, wispy, and commonplace. Sometimes a little jolt is needed to really make a thought come alive. So let me offer a question I once read, one that truly exploded my contentment and easily counts as one of the top five most mind-blowing things I’ve ever absorbed:

What if God were to announce tomorrow that he would remove from your life everything for which you failed to thank him today?

ACK.

duck

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What God Doesn’t Heed

snowMore snow?

It makes me want to interrupt Job 38:22, if I dared. “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or…” “YES.”

I admit we were overdue for a solid winter since 1996’s snowpocalypse. You’d be surprised how relatively dry and warm winter can be in the valleys of the Rockies, so hey, if you’re going to interrupt my high country hiking and lake boating for nine months, at least go for broke. And it’s not like our plucky firefighters won’t be happy for the coming snowmelt.

But…come on.

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Goodies and Godliness

goodiesThere is a rhythm to our repentance and God’s grace.

Part 1: Be Careful What You Ask For

Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

Part 3: All The Wrong Reasons?

Part 4: He Runs to Us 

Isaiah sees God and laments his unworthiness, only to be cleansed with a coal on the lips (Isaiah 6:5-7).

Daniel is put on the ground by just an angel; he is invited to stand and called “highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:5-12).

In grief over Israel’s defeat at Ai, Joshua falls to his face, which you’d think appropriate, but God says, “Stand up! What are you doing up on the floor?”

The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27) and the centurion (Matthew 8:8-9) plead Jesus’ mercy, not their own merit; he grants their requests.

Peter sees a miraculous catch of fish and tries to push Jesus away out of unworthiness; Jesus merely ups his role in the kingdom (Luke 5:8-10).

Later, he says he can’t accept a foot-washing from his Savior; Jesus responds that he’d better find a way to accept (John 13:8)!

Finally, after Peter is faceplanted by the transfigured Christ’s glory (Peter gets a lot of time in the “faceplanted” category, does he not?), Jesus touches him and tells him not to be afraid (Matt. 17:6-7).

Do you see the beauty of it? The more God’s glory is revealed, the more our sin is illuminated. We are driven to our knees by a sense of our unworthiness. Yet God reaches for us. He places us on our feet.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:21-24)

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All the Wrong Reasons?

homeI have a confession to make: there have been times I’ve doubted the Prodigal’s motives when reading this piece.

Part 1: Be Careful What You Wish For

Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

Part 4: He Runs to Us

Part 5: Goodies and Godliness

“When he came to his senses…” (Luke 15:17a)

Biblical commentators make much of the phrase “came to his senses”. Jesus seems to be describing a soul gone mad from sin, detached from reason, and only just now waking up.

Most skeptics think that Christians are the ones detached from reality. Hearing voices, imaginary friends, etc. They say reason leads away from faith.

They’re using the wrong wisdom. When 1 Corinthians 2:14 says “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised”, commentators identify the natural man as unregenerated, governed by carnal motives – labeling even earthly wisdom as carnal and prideful. It can’t reveal God.

Sure, that’s a convenient thing to say to a skeptic. It sounds to them like circular reasoning.

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Be Careful What You Ask for

handThanks for the prayers, everyone. I’m back from my mini-vacation. Let me tell you – I love my home, but central Colorado is some spectacular driving. Also, I may or may not have filled my car up with gas one time and then gotten back in the car to find it still running.

What? It was a long trip. It won’t happen again, Mom, I promise.

You know what else I love? The Prodigal Son story.

I’m gonna have to do a series here, for the Prodigal Son passage from Luke 15 is stuffed to bursting with symbolism and meaning. Here we find the haunting testimony of every fallen human, a solemn warning against religious pride, hints of the kingdom’s treasures, and perhaps most importantly, a poignant glimpse of God’s sheer emotion towards his children, one which has comforted me many times. There’s so much here to dig into; the treasures are more than worth the time.

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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