Why Are Lies So Loud and Truths So Quiet?

If only life had the decency to be the other way around.

I do not know why lies have all the connections to adrenaline suppliers.

I do not know why it’s fear, anger, and self-hatred that can seize your heart and weigh it down with a twenty-pound force, rather than peace and love.

I do not know why worry seems so inescapably truthful and peace so too-good-to-be-truey. (Okay, I didn’t have a good word there, but you know what I mean.)

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But it is so. Some things are promised to the Christian, but not immediately possessed. Truths must be worked for; lies ride the second law of emotional thermodynamics straight to your doorstep. Truths must be fought for; lies dart across your battle lines and start whispering their propaganda. Truth is the gym visit, lies the chocolate cake. Truth is the ponderous jetliner, lies the gravity. The world and the four silent walls of your apartment shout addiction, despair, and your lack of value; God speaks in a still, small voice.

Even listening to the relatively loud voice of nature requires work – spiritual linguistics. Many eyeball the galaxy and see an accident. When your own life is chaos, it’s easy to agree. Part of your heart whispers, “isn’t it obvious? He isn’t there. Or he isn’t good. Just quit fighting to believe otherwise; it’ll all be such a relief.”

The good news is…muscles expand.

Work gets easier as it is performed. Ever heard the saying, “It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape?” It works here. There was a time when praying my way into peace took hours of spiritual work. Now it takes much less. In fact, knowing it’s possible does half the work. Like a youngster’s body finally bringing together all the right muscle movements on his first bike, the spiritual disciplines come.

It can be a long, difficult phase in which we learn to routinely surrender our emotions to Christ and find stability, peace, and hope in him. But there are equally long and difficult phases in which we learn that simple mistakes can get you fired from even your first job at the chicken joint, or that driving recklessly can get your car totaled, or that your first high school relationship is rarely destiny. It feels unfair. How were we supposed to know?

But there was a second job, a second car, a second chance, was there not? A second side to the valley of the shadow of death.

To those are born on the battlefield, perhaps in a foster home or saddled with depression, God offers more. The bigger the battle, the bigger God’s reinforcements.

Don’t give up hope. You’re far stronger than when you started. As we learn the Shepherd’s voice, the lies grow strangely dim along with the rest of the things of earth, while the truth fills our ears. Though we might not possess it yet, we are promised it.

 

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!

Jesus Doesn’t Run Viking Ships: What I Think about an Abusive Ministry Revealed in My Valley

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Imagine you’re drowning. Your head has slipped beneath the surface. You see a beckoning hand burst through from above. Desperate, you remember Jesus’ offer to Peter and grab it. Anything for life.

But instead of being hoisted dripping into the vessel of Christ, whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, you’re swung aboard a Viking ship and set upon the oars against a gale. There, you have unrelenting and hostile demands laid upon you day and night, serving not the risen Lord but a human – one claiming to command in His name.

That’s how this feels right now.

Our local paper just dropped a long-researched expose on a respected ministry internship program in our valley. It revealed stories of poor conditions, abuse, manipulation, and inappropriate conversations, thankfully now in the process of being shut down.

I recognized many of the red flags of cult behavior as I slogged through the cringeworthy article. Mental manipulation tactics. Separation from the outside world. Sleep deprivation, a classic tool for disorienting and subjugating. Control of every facet of the students’ lives. Slander of detractors. There’s no shortage of outrage generators here.

Though it all grieves me, what really jumped out to me was that the ministry leader allegedly…

…“preys on the vulnerable” and offers people with histories of problems with drugs, poverty and abuse an “opportunity to turn your life around.” … “Do you come from a messed-up background? Did you have an eating disorder? We’re the perfect place for you.”

This. Seeing a sublime, awe-inspiring core truth of the faith – that the broken and repentant are God’s delight – twisted despicably against them.

Awful, because it’s true.

The broken and humble are God’s delight.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench (Matt. 12:20).

Is this not the God who chose nobodies, stutterers, weaklings, cowards, murderers, and adulterers to be his friends and co-heirs? It is God’s modus operandi, his telltale signature upon our stories. The church is intended as a haven for them.

Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Cor. 1:27)

He does this to show his compassion…and his strength. It’s a shorter trip for the strong to become his servants, but for the weak and broken to be transformed…only God could do that. We all know it. And so he does it.

Hey, he uses me.

To see this pearl thrown to swine in the case of this ministry is appalling. Yet you see it in cults all the time – preying on people who haven’t yet learned how to stand on their own, haven’t yet learned to seek their joy and peace in God so that they aren’t hooked into the world for it and yanked around like evergreen branches in a gale. God is patient as we learn, but humans see only an opportunity.

To those damaged by this ministry, I’m praying for you, as are many. That you would be healed, but also that Satan’s theft of this truth – that God loves and pursues the broken – will not be completed. You are loved. The hand pierced by nails is still extended. And you will not land amiss.

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

When God Actually Answers

This weekend I received a massive, unexpected blessing. It came with a sobering cost, but it came, and it will allow me to make some changes I’ve long been working towards.

I’m still shaking my head at the out-of-nowhere nature of it, like a cat who smacked into a wall. God really does this stuff?

Brandon J. Adams

rainOur valley has been choked with thick, disheartening smoke for the better part of a month as our beloved Glacier National Park burns. It’s a tough fire to fight; Lake McDonald is a bowl, collecting smoke and giving it nowhere to disperse. Aircraft have reported being unable to even find the fire, so concentrated is the smoke.

(Note: this post was written in August of 2018.)

So, yesterday morning in church, we asked God to deliver the goods. We asked for rain.

He answered. That afternoon, a cold front bequeathed us a steady drizzle worthy of Seattle.

Today it not only continued, but turned into snow at higher elevations. In August. Granted, that isn’t actually unusual in Glacier, but this year, it couldn’t have been more welcome.

And I’m…kinda flabbergasted.

Disbelieving.

Happy, but disbelieving.

God healed my knee during a recent hiking trip. I know what my knee felt…

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Is Your Comfort Overflowing Along with Your Trial?

waterfallI’m grateful that our youth group is willing to talk about suffering. We don’t masochistically enjoy the topic, but as Paul wrote with intake of breath, we don’t want our students uninformed (2 Cor. 1:8). We can either warn them, or we can let them catapult into the world and discover gravity on their own. Pick your poison.

(It’s not like suffering is abstract to them anyway. In our era of family brokenness and instant access to news of the world’s powder keg, anxiety and trial are finding them. Getting into their homes, their pockets, their hearts.

They should never have had to deal with all this so young.)

Last night, we had a chance to get ahead of the game and cut off a common twisting of Scripture: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” It’s a distortion of 1 Cor. 10:13, which refers to temptation, not trial. And it’s a not a trivial fudging. For when it’s trial’s turn, God will allow more than you can handle – purposefully.

For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

Sounds like more than he could handle.

trickle.jpgHasn’t that proven true for you by now? As one student said, “how do you grow unless God breaks your boundaries?” (I secured his permission to use that brilliant phrase in this post, and promised him a dollar.) This verse is unmistakably foundational in its description of the Christian life.

BUT!!!

As I sat in our circle last night, combing through this chapter while the students philosophized and giggled, one verse struck me differently. It was the fifth.

For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. (2 Cor. 1:5)

Overflows.

In a manner grammatically constructed to compare in intensity to the suffering – and written as a promise.

Would you say your comfort is…overflowing?

For much of my life, the comfort was merely a drip. A trickle. Maybe a rivulet. I dammed it up with self-pity, entitlement, despair. I let it take center view. The implosion of my family, the stress of the Air Force, a lot of social isolation for numerous reasons…it was a waterfall. The comfort did not match it.

And that is not how it should be.

6918284549_c37f2b073b_zDid God’s promise fail in my life? I say no. Just because you’re promised something doesn’t mean you possess it. There’s a real world we must still go through, and an enemy. I didn’t yet know how to go through my enemy, how to swing the sword.

Now I do.

Triggering the second waterfall starts with being prepared for the first. We pray. We worship despite our pain. We mix in some service, partially to alleviate others’ suffering and partially to get our own minds off things. We acknowledge God is not cruel, has not abandoned us, but remains faithful and is dispatching comfort our way. And that it will match our suffering.

Let us be raised from the dead. For we know that one day, at the trumpet sound, one of these waterfalls will dry up forever.

 

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!

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)

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Who Failed Who?

Though tragedy brings us the haunting worry that God has let us down, it is healthy to ask ourselves questions first.

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Psalms 75, 76, 77, 80

Have you ever felt like God isn’t keeping His promises? The psalmists did. They, like many of us, find ourselves in situations where God is noticeably silent or worse, absent. Didn’t God promise to never leave or forsake us, to be our strength and shield, to give us everything we need? So why does it seem there are times He reneges on His promises?

When the psalmists felt disappointed in God, they often started to remember the many ways God had been faithful in the past. God had proved His faithfulness over and over, fulfilled one promise after another. Then inevitably, they realized it was they, not God who had reneged on their promises to Him.

As I read the Bible I am reminded that God loves to bless His people. God longs to shower His children with love and joy and peace, and to…

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Love the Inconveniencers

Lord, help us get over ourselves.

Brandon J. Adams

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. First it was a trouble where the engine would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump and my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

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