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 simple.

High school graduation, maybe a college degree, maybe the family route instead, but all of it falling into place in our early twenties without all 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?”

It wasn’t quite that blase. We still love him…kinda. We certainly believe. We know he exists. We get riled up on his behalf when some atheist starts talking.

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

I don’t mean this as a guilt trip. Please hear me out.

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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.

When God is in a Simple Camping Trip

If you’re wondering where I was Thursday when the time came to do a blog post…what? You didn’t notice. Oh, well. That’s ok.

Anyway, I was camping. Took four guys and hiked eleven miles into a nearby wilderness area. It’s a terrific wilderness, really, compared to the nearby Glacier Park; far fewer regulations, far fewer tourists, bigger group sizes and no campsite reservations required. (Also, it’s not currently on fire.)

But the fun part was seeing God in it.

There were all kinds of little blessings. For one, there was practically no smoke in the drainage we were inhabiting for three days. The double-cliff bluffs above us were there for the eye-gazing in all their God-given glory, and there were no breathing problems.

For another, I already knew the area because circumstances two weeks earlier had redirected a friend and I to camp there. (That, too, was an excellent trip.) That ended up being an enormous benefit when our original hike (in the park) was snuffed out by evacuation-worthy fires.

We saw a bear and a moose; the moose was trotting across the road as we drove out, but the bear we saw on the trail, darting across a mere 100 feet ahead. It’s unbelievable how something that size can move so quickly. I’d like to say it was a grizzly because that’s a cooler story, and I did get the impression of a humped back, but I couldn’t really tell.

A couple of hiking mishaps (broken pack straps, etc.) were averted by the engineering knowledge of two of our guys and the screwdriver that I’d happened to bring. I initially started packing it to make sure my gun holster stayed tight instead of spinning around on my belt leaving the barrel looking up at me, but it came in handy for different reasons here. Funny how things end up working.

Did I mention the trip happened to come at the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower? We spotted a few great fireballs as we retired to bed for the evening.

But I think my favorite part was the answered healing prayer. My right knee was acting up the entire time, leaving me reliant on Advil, which had the ability to knock the pain down from a 7/10 to a 2/10 but still didn’t leave me very trustworthy of the knee. The four guys said a prayer for me and in the morning, the pain was entirely gone. Even the 2/10 was gone. I didn’t feel a twinge the rest of the trip.

This really blew me away, honestly. I’ve been on a lot of trips and outings where I or someone else had a bugaboo, we’ve prayed, and nothing improved. Seeing my knee healed this time (though the Advil was enough to control the pain) was another reminder of the cynicism I’ve developed towards seeing God come through, of how my “theology of suffering” (the very good Biblical philosophy of how not all prayers answered and we shouldn’t be focused there anyway) might be a little too well-honed.

Perhaps the positive answers to prayer (there have been others lately) is because my attitude towards God has hit a new tier of improvement lately. I posted a while ago about getting past that “mad with God” thing. It’s a hard thing to get past, partially because it’s so hard to diagnose; we don’t dare walk around being consciously and openly mad at God because we know it’s blasphemy. Yet when life “bumps” us, it will surface. Often only then.

So I’ve focused on releasing annoyance towards God over the bad things that have come my way in this life (my family, for instance). It makes a difference. Not just answers to prayer, but levels of daily peace. I recommend it.

Anyway. Just a quick tale on how good even a simple camping trip can be when God gets involved. I’d been worried about it. It felt opposed. Fire activity in the area has made everything uncertain, and several guys I’d invited had been forced to drop out. But we went with the company we could, and it was an absolute blast. Praise God.

Don’t Let Satan Win Twice

desertI love the entire Scripture, but I’ve always been especially partial to the book of Hebrews. It’s partially because I long for a close, approachable relationship with the Father, and it’s (in part) the book of Hebrews that taught me to seek that, taught me that God himself seeks it.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain of His body, and since we have a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold resolutely to the hope we confess, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

Let us draw near.

And if you know God wants something, it’s a good bet that Satan opposes it.

This Scripture makes a connection between our nearness to God, the assurance of faith, and the state of our conscience. That means that what we do after we sin is probably a crucial matter. We need to know how to handle the aftereffects of our sin. Because we will sin.

Too often, our instinct is to hide, as Adam and Eve did. We imagine God saying, “Get out of my sight. I don’t want to see you right now.” It’s certainly good to bear some humility towards God, and too often we let it drive us from God. We have this ingrained belief that we should hide from a God greater and holier than us,

That’s letting the devil win twice.

He tempts us to sin, then seeks to use that sin as a wedge between us and God any way he can. A diabolical one-two punch, the second half of which we don’t often even register.

Contrast it with David’s approach to repentance:

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

David seeks more of God in this time, not less. This is the guy who just will not shut up throughout Psalms about the greatness of God’s presence. Instead of slinking away from God’s presence and trying again on Thursday, he actively repents and seeks God’s intervention in his heart.

Don’t sin. But when you do, turn to God in that very moment. Repent and ask him to change your heart. Draw near.

Near. To the God whose mountain could not even be touched, whose very face made Isaiah fear for his life, who routs armies before him and changes the heart of kings.

That God wants me near.

I think I will accept his offer.