His Peace Must Be Chosen

jordanEver heard psalmists and David Crowder sing unabashedly of God being “everything they need” and wondered, What on earth are they talking about?

Me, too.

One of the chief comforts of Scripture when we are disappointed, discouraged, or heartbroken, is that the Christian’s highest goal is not that dream or achievement or milepost you’ve fallen short of, but knowing God. Making him your peace, your joy, your contentment, your soul’s richest food and water. He, the Bible tells us repeatedly, is the only thing that will truly ever satisfy.

But you might have noticed it doesn’t just drop in with the mail.

Where is it then, God? Where are you?

Or as a friend put it recently, “Why can’t I appropriate for myself what God has promised me?”

We know God is faithful. His side of the deal is inerrant and unfailing; there is no lie or failure with him.

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Is God Opposed to Your Dreams?

soldierAs I was wrapping up Air Force basic training (never have seven weeks passed so swiftly and so slowly), one of the final bureaucratic details was the chance to tell the Air Force our preference of first posting, for them to promptly ignore.

We were given a “dream sheet” on which to list eight desired destinations. We could select a base, state, region, or country.

Some of us got an insider tip: wait until tech school to file your sheet. For whatever reason, sheets filed there tended to be actually seen by someone, whereas those filed at basic vanished into the same black hole that has probably consumed all my socks.

So I waited until tech school, filed my sheet, and waited with bated breath for my posting. The sergeant announced them weekly from the podium outside the dorms, usually triggering jeers of fake sympathy for anyone getting “Why Not Minot?”

Finally, my turn came. I got a posting in the…half of the country I’d requested.

Wrong border, though. 1,500 miles away.

Did the Air Force just not care?

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When You Dislike Being Needy for God

mistLong ago, I listened to a remarkably holy man, a cancer patient, sharing a conversation with God.

It was a naked, piercing, and heavy testimony of the “when you’ve finally just had it” variety. During a morning quiet time in his big easy chair, he is praying and listening for God and suddenly (for are not these things rather sudden?) just explodes into venting about the story God is writing for him. It’s not just the disease. It’s the ongoing changes and the endless appointments and the constant vigilance and the social misunderstandings and the lack of closure and the shame and fear that attend. All his anger and helplessness and isolation explodes before the throne in frustration. He lets God know.

And the man described hearing God reply, “I understand you don’t like the story. How do you feel about the Author?”

Ugh.

It cut me to the quick – one of two things he said that did so. Not a pleasant reveal, but an unmistakably holy one. A divine refocusing.

For though I dared not compare my life’s difficulties to cancer, the question was stil one that I had not wanted to face. For I could tell you exactly how my journey (e.g. my family history, my weird and glitchy personality) has made me feel about God.

The other thing he said was:

“I could just hear the clarity coming to myself, and I finally said it: ‘What I really don’t like is, I’m now living a life where I need you, God, on a day-to-day basis, just to get through it. And I don’t like being desperately needy for you, God.'”

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The Best Responses for Christians After the Election – Win or Lose

afterThere’s just no two ways around it – we can’t all get what we want on election week. After months of tiresome campaign ads that test all of our adherence to Matthew 6:34, we’re about to see which direction the government – most importantly, the Senate – swings.

We can’t control what happens, beyond our duty to vote (by the way, VOTE). But we can see to our reaction.

I’m no sage, but here’s what I have a conviction about come Tuesday – win or lose.

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Was Your Mind Made Up?

stormWe were expecting life to be pretty smooth.

High school graduation, maybe a college degree, maybe the family route instead, all falling into place in our twenties without that many bumps.

And when heartache started calling instead, when our plans for life folded like a cheap suit and God was nowhere to be seen, some of us just shrugged and walked away. “If God won’t be there for me, why should I be there for him?”

Maybe it wasn’t quite that total or explicit. We still love him…kinda. We believe…that he exists. We certainly get riled up on his behalf when some atheist starts talking.

But we’re not really on fire for him otherwise. Continue reading

Don’t Cut Corners In Obedience

engediI don’t usually riff off sermons from my church, but 1 Samuel 24 is too chock full of good detail begging for extraction.

Quick background – David is on the run from a jealous Saul, who catches up in En Gedi. Saul chooses to relieve himself in the very cave David and his men are hiding in.

 

1. David’s men got the prophecy wrong.

Ever played the telephone game? One person whispers a phrase to another, and they to a third, and then a fourth, and down the row until the phrase is hilariously distorted.

This appears to be what happened to the prophecy that David would dethrone Saul. David’s men said this as, unseen, they (eww) watched a vulnerable Saul relieve himself:

…so they said to him, “Look, this is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’” Then David got up and secretly cut off the corner of Saul’s robe. (v. 4)

This is exaggeration. As best I can tell (and correct me if I’m wrong), no prophecy was ever given permitting David to do “whatever he desired” with Saul. The existing prophecies focused on David’s anointing.

It proves the importance of listening to God’s exact guidance. He doesn’t talk just to hear himself.

 

2. The robe scrap wasn’t necessary to prove David’s honor.

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When You Can’t See Behind the Door

doorMy Bible this weekend has been opened to Psalms 127-132 page, and 131 caught my eye, standing out by being shorter than its surrounders:

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I do not get involved with things
too great or too difficult for me.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself
like a little weaned child with its mother;
I am like a little child.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forever. (Psalm 131:1-3 HCSB)

This is comforting. But other translations seem to bring a closer laser bead on what exactly the Psalmist is turning his eyes from:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty:
neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. (KJV)

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. (ESV)

It seems as if the Psalmist is refusing to let his eyes get above his pay grade. As if there are matters beyond his rightful contemplation, things he just can’t grasp – and as if there is a holiness in refusing to try.

There is.

Only those who trust God, who trust his machinations behind the “curtain” of reality as it were, who trust him to keep turning the gears that we don’t even know exist, can fully quit trying to understand it all, can quit himself and live for today.

We’ve all got gears we’re trying to understand. Whether God will beat the cancer at the last minute. When the verdict will arrive. How on earth that crushing bill is ever going to get paid. When the spouse or child will finally come. Or come back.

I remember hearing a speaker several years ago who shared the story of asking God all these questions, and finally he felt God speak, “Enough. Stop looking over my shoulder and focus on being the man I want you to be.”

Maybe that’s all we need. To take our eyes off God’s business and bring it back down to our own.