3 Relieving Ways God Is Not Like You

Victory Succeed Freedom Motivation Winning Man

I’ve come to believe that what each of us considers “God” is actually, in large part, a projection of ourselves. We think of God as sharing our opinions of things – right down to our judgments of others; of pasts, presents, and futures; and of ourselves.

It can be disrupting to find out otherwise, to find out that God has a very different take on…well, practically everything.

The classic example is revelation of sin. “No, that is not okay, and it cannot continue,” says God in your life with the gentleness of one who no longer condemns (Romans 8:1), and we have to obey and adjust. This is not a chore; it is freedom. How wonderful that he is holier than we are!

Or God might nudge us onto a plan that is different from ours. Isaiah 55:8: ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” And we are reminded that God’s plans are higher and more trustworthy than ours. Again, a relief. How awful it would be if we were in charge of all the drawing boards.

These are the common ways in which we think of God as “not like us”.

However, I am constantly discovering even more.

Continue reading

How Do You Want Your Singleness Remembered?

victoryLong-term singleness can be heartbreaking.

For all the church’s teaching on how singleness is a valid season and state of being (and it is), they seem to miss the point sometimes. Or a lot, depending on who you ask.

Some of us don’t do well on our own. We just don’t. The idea of vacations by ourselves seems utterly pointless; every year sees more friends marry off and leave you with less in common; and no matter how much good stuff we hear about self-improvement, no one person will ever be good at everything. Or even remotely competent, as my attempt at steak last week could testify. Such success is rare in my apartment.

For those who never grew up in strong homes in the first place, the search for love, for a witness to our lives, takes on a far greater urgency. Their “love tank” is empty. As the grandchildren of the sixties continue growing, you will see more of that.

Continue reading

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.

We know God wants our righteousness. We know Satan opposes that. Some corners of the church are bizarrely allergic to teaching this heavenly priority to their congregations, instead preferring endless “power and promises” stuff that keeps butts in pews. But it’s not about living your best life now. It’s about growing up, becoming more like God. I’m grateful for a church whose teaching pastors stand on this, who speak unabashedly about our call to righteousness and aren’t particularly concerned who might be walking out the doors because of it.

But another important matter is what we do once we sin. Because we will, and we’ll need to know how to handle it postmortem.

Continue reading

Spurgeon on Secret Sins and Practical Atheism

I’m back with original work, but every once in a while you stumble across a post from someone else that makes you just want to retract into your own belly button with conviction. This is one such post.

The Isaiah 53:5 Project

image

“I hold that secret sin, if any thing, is the worst of sin; because secret sin implies that the man who commits it has Atheism in his heart. You will ask how that can be.

I reply, he may be a professing Christian, but I shall tell him to his face that he is a practical Atheist, if he labors to keep up a respectable profession before man, and then secretly transgresses. Why, is not he an Atheist, who will say there is a God, yet at the same time thinks more of man than he does of God?

Is it not the very essence of Atheism—is it not a denial of the divinity of the Most High when men lightly esteem him and think more of the eye of a creature than of the observation of their Creator? There are some who would not, for the life of them…

View original post 127 more words

3 Tips for When You’re Misunderstood

Ipointt’s frustrating having your motives misunderstood.

Sometimes people will innocently misunderstand. Other times they’ll deliberately twist your motives because they dislike you. It’s a part of life; we all will face it sooner or later.

Sometimes – and I’ve seen this in the lives of friends recently – it is your excellence that will get people distorting your motives. Though they don’t realize it, they’re irritated because they see you working hard to do your best, and it makes them insecure.

Or it might be that you made a mistake, and people will try to decode why without having all the information (i.e. without asking you).

If that’s your situation today, you could be friends with David.

Continue reading

Having Abundance Takes…Contentment?

abundanceAt some point, we have all probably quoted this verse to encourage ourselves:

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

We might have mis-quoted it, too. The context of this passage is not declaring the ability to do anything you want to do, but the ability to handle what God wants you to do:

…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. (4:11b-12)

The context reveals that contentment, not abundance, is the goal for the Christian (and is honestly the more impressive trait anyway).

So if you ever launched out on some project without consulting God, then wondered why it faceplanted even though you read this verse, that might be your explanation: the verse doesn’t suggest you can do just anything. It’s about glorifying God, both his power in you and his purposes for you (desirable or otherwise).

But you know what gets me about this verse?

The idea that you would have to be content in abundance.

Because the verse implies that Paul needed contentment in both abundance and need.

Like, why on earth would Paul need contentment in abundance? I ask myself. You’d think that’s where you wouldn’t need contentment. Just sit back and enjoy the good life, for as long as it lasts.

But Paul experiences otherwise, and it seems to suggests two things.

One has to do with that pesky “as long as it lasts” tag: the good life is not entrenched. Fortunes come and go, sometimes triggered by the most trivial and frustrating events. Jesus had some bad news for the guy in Luke 12 who upgraded his barns and decided to eat, drink, and be merry. All things in this life are transitory.

And that leads to the second truth: abundance does not bring contentment. Anyone who thinks it does, has probably never had abundance. Or has taken it for granted.

When I worked on the reservation years ago, many of my students had their eyes fixed unwaveringly on attaining abundance. Get more money, they reasoned, and life would be better. They weren’t entirely wrong. Poverty was a real problem and causing genuine pain in their lives. I could sympathize; there had been a time when I, too, was living paycheck to paycheck.

But having come from off the reservation where the median income was higher, I could tell my students that being better off wasn’t making anyone particularly happy. It just made you want more. Get a nice middle-class home and your middle-class conversations shift to how awesome those big homes up on the hill must be. Attain that level and the conversations turn to the architecturally fancy mansions up on the mountain. Each step you take up the socioeconomic ladder, you build a lifestyle that sucks up everything you have. And on and on it goes. Someone’s always got a bigger boat.

Paul could have been talking about either one of these things when he referenced having to be content, of all things, in all things. You either want more, or you end up tightening your grip on what you have, out of worry.

I want neither existence. Chasings after the wind, both of them. I want peace today, and God. More of him. Paul got that, and he spends his epistles swearing up and down that it’s the best thing ever.

If wealth increases, pay no attention to it. (Psalm 62:10b)

Today, if you’re having trouble being grateful for what you have, I heard a question once that rocked my world: “What would you lose if God were to remove everything from your life tomorrow that you hadn’t given thanks for today?”

A Beef with God

I listened this last weekend to a podcast from a respected Christian author. He’s often told of how God has a way of getting his by disrupting his fishing trips. (I suspect this would get the attention of many a man.) The fishing was terrible until finally the man, having learned to look for God in the small things, asked, “God, what are you saying? What is this about?” He felt God’s reply was, Your hatred of me.

I suspect many of us have a beef with God over something. Lingering disappointment. Heartrending tragedy. The state of the world.

There are answers for all this, theologically. But it doesn’t always reach our hearts, our emotional fault lines.

I would know this. I’ve taken unexpected blows, like my family’s collapse, that God neither stopped nor undid. And every once in a while, some resentment towards God reveals itself in my soul, like a Rottweiler peeking out from a garbage pile. (I saw that on a pizza run this last week and it seemed to work here as a metaphor.)

On that pizza run, I prayed something like this.

Lord, forgive me for my bitterness towards you. I have no right to be angry with you. Not after the cross. Not after the empty tomb. Please give me strength to put aside my resentment towards you. Help me forgive you. 

I know that the idea of “forgiving God” sounds theologically scandalous, since God is incapable of wrong. But if you think about it, you can stand in need to forgive someone whether they committed wrong or not. You can be bitter towards a hiring manager who turned you down years ago for a badly needed position simply because you weren’t the most qualified. You can hold a grudge towards another driver who slid on impossible ice and hit your car. Bitterness is a funny thing; it doesn’t actually require moral wrong. It just requires someone…or Someone…who had an agenda different from yours.

So I prayed for strength to release my simmering resentment of his agenda in my life. And I prayed for new revelations of his love.

They came.

Like the spray of a waterfall after a thirty-mile desert hike, they came. In the same quirky, personal ways God shows his love to me, they came. Once the resentment was out of the way, they came.

I have no delusions that the garbage-clearing is over. It will likely be a layered, ongoing event.

But on the days when your beef with God arises, clear it out. Release him from your resentment. You will know his love again in fresh ways.