Chasing Self Isn’t Brave

1aca051c2dcfcd9cb2295809b6d42e86

The following Facebook post by writer Lore Wilbert is bold and strong and necessary, like a much needed shot of espresso on a dreary morning. She speaks with grace and conviction. Dear believers, something precious is getting lost in the shuffle of our ridiculous obsession with popular opinion.  We are called to first and foremost to holiness. Does anyone remember that word? God is called “HOLY HOLY HOLY” two times in the scriptures and that’s a big deal. The heavenly hosts repeat it three times. This isn’t a quality that exists in a vacuum, out in space somewhere. It comes to us through God Himself, as we are conformed to His image. There are some very loud voices speaking the name of Jesus and preaching a one-sided gospel. It’s a self-serving gospel devoid of a cross, absent of repentance and absent the chance for true freedom. Jesus does not cheer us on to chase our sin, no matter how “brave” or “authentic” we think we may be. We don’t get to choose our own truths, and I for one, am grateful for that. “You must be holy because I am holy”, Jesus said (1Peter 1:16). When something is made holy, Biblically speaking, it is set aside, consecrated and made pure. It’s not a joyless pursuit, but it does require sacrifice, and death to self. People who ebb and flow with the cultural tides are not brave, they are taking the easy way out.

“If people start talking about “my truth” and “your truth,” look them right in the eyes and love them best by speaking the truth. There’s an awful lot in the world that’s not certain, but there’s an awful lot more that is. So rocky as life may seem, seek & find truth. If Jesus is your Savior/Lord, then the biggest truth is His way is the way to life. All of His ways. Not just ones that fit your narrative.

Listen to me, sisters: I’m not going to try to be subversive or coy about this: right now there are women whose blogs you read and books you love to quote who divorced their husbands for a myriad of reasons and are marrying other women. They’re captivating you with their stories, they’re drawing you into their narratives, they’re snaring you with their joy. Listen to me: it’s a trap. It’s a trap they don’t even know they’re setting and they don’t even know they’ve walked into.
I try not to be too noisy about things like this online, but my heart is breaking in a thousand pieces over the past few weeks as I see the fruit of their pulpits eek its way into my sisters lives.
The way of Jesus is narrow—and full of joy. The word of God is hard—and obedience always is. The help of the Holy Spirit is near—because you will need his comfort.
If you’re confused about any of this, the theology, the choices, the decisions made by these women who might have said and taught some things that have *really helped you* in some ways, or even what I’m saying here, here’s what I think you should do: go to your pastor or an elder, or a woman you know who really loves and cleaves to the word of God with her whole life, and lay all this before them, and ask them their thoughts. I’m not your pastor or teacher. But neither should these popular bloggers and teachers be. God, in His goodness, designed the local church to be able to more effectively shepherd you than any blogger, book-writer, podcaster, or conference teacher can or *should.*
Again, though, flee from anyone who starts talking about their truth or yours. Jesus said in this world we will have trouble, and saying there’s only one truth is exactly why. ” Lore Wilbert

Go forward in love, always. Also go with wisdom and discernment, popular does not always mean correct and the joyful way is narrow. The Church doesn’t need any more self-help gospel, we just need people who cleave to the Word and who are willing to practice what they proclaim.

No Distracted Scatterbrains

images

“But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.” James 1:25 (The Message)

Catching a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God… and sticking it out to it’s promised conclusion, that’s a big deal.  I don’t normally read the Message version of the Bible, but I just love how this verse expresses the idea of sticking to God’s Word and not being a “scatterbrain”. The New King James version puts it a bit more delicately and tells us that the person who looks into the “perfect law of liberty” is someone who won’t be a “forgetful hearer” but will be blessed.

Have you ever found delight and affirmation “in the action”?  Have you ever looked intently into God’s Word, caught that glimpse of truth, stuck with it, and found total joy in the obedience of doing what He says?

When we catch that glimpse, that Holy Spirit nudge, that free life… there’s no changing our minds or turning back. James doesn’t mince words here, he’s telling us that just hearing the word isn’t going to cut it, we have to be doers of it as well. When James tells us to look intently into God’s perfect law, the word he uses implies bending down and getting close to it, examining it face to face. He reminds us that it’s useless to learn something and immediately walk off and forget what was taught. It’s like when people say they took three years of French in high school and can’t remember a single thing. Or if you’re like me, any form of math. I didn’t value it, I truly didn’t care and so, in one ear and out the other!

This verse is so rich I think because it doesn’t stop at the hearing part. It’s showing us the entire life cycle, if you will, of how obedience to God plays out. We will find delight and affirmation in what we do because He’s the one who told us to do it.

Maybe He’s calling us to let go of something. He’s probably also telling us there’s something worth holding on to that needs some healing. Whatever He’s nudging you about, lean in a bit and put in the time to discover what it is. There’s not much room for fear or doubt when you heed His instruction. This verse assures us we won’t be a distracted scatterbrain if we focus in on God’s promptings. That “free life” we are all chasing lies just on the other side of obedience to His Word.

Anyone can drink their coffee and casually read the Bible. What we do when the Holy Spirit starts pushing us in a specific direction makes all the difference. He’ll push us towards things we may be hesitant to get near. He’ll pull us away from unhealthy stuff we may not want to let go of. The beauty of that obedience is that it really does bring that free life, if we can just commit ourselves to bending down and examining closely what Jesus is freely telling us.

Delight in doing what He tells us to do.

Affirmation in our circumstances because we obeyed.

What a great amount of heartache we could probably save ourselves if we bent down a bit more often to examine His word to us. Lord, teach us that when we catch a glimpse of your truth we need to stick with it and see it through. Show us how it isn’t enough just to hear your words, but that the true joy lies in obeying them and seeing the results!

 

Life Is Too Short For Chess Games

images

I saw an Instagram post yesterday with a framed picture by a fireplace that read very simply “Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

The quote under it, from author Lore Ferguson Wilbert stuck with me all day:

“I made it as a reminder for us and those who cross the threshold of our home. We don’t play chess with our lives, making the most strategic, financially savvy, career-making, and good for mostly us decisions. We walk by the words of scripture, the Living Water, and the book of Life. Nothing else trumps the word of God.”

The chess thing really struck me for some reason, perhaps because my 10 year old recently taught me how to play and I’m really bad at it. There’s a purpose and an end game to every single move you make. You need to not only watch what you’re planning, but what your opponent is cooking up. There’s short-term tactics and long term strategy. You gather information and store it up. It’s fascinating, but can be mentally exhausting.

Like a giant game of chess, many people are just out to make the “good for mostly us” kind of decisions. We’ve been conditioned to make moves based on where it’s going to land us on the board. Life has taken on the appearance of a giant competition, and seemingly those who know the game are the ones getting ahead.

Of course, we are given brains and logic by God Himself to make wise decisions about our lives. We aren’t robots and we aren’t cave people. Life requires all kinds of judgments on our part to keep moving, and naturally we want to do what is right for ourselves and families.

If you’ve walked with Jesus for any amount of time you’ve probably come to realize this truth: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8-9

I think we often read this and think “oh well, God knows best, que sera sera… whatever will be will be.” That’s flying blind and I don’t think that’s what He intends for us. Once we understand that instinctively our thoughts don’t always match up with His, (we have this thing called flesh, it has a tendency to get in the way a lot) we can also see that that’s not the stopping point. His thoughts and ways are higher (better) than ours. Not unattainable, just something greater to which He desires to reveal to us.

Paul tells us that we have the MIND OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 2:16), therefore we can be a part of these ‘thoughts and ways’ if we are surrendered to Him. When we have the mind of Christ, we desire what He desires. It’s naturally going to be the best thing for us, but we aren’t stuck in the prison of self-serving, self-promoting strategic chess playing with our decisions.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death…” Proverbs 14:12

So much of it is a trap. You fight for something that in the end doesn’t satisfy, you burn bridges to get ahead when it only leaves you isolated and alone. We’ve all had our well-laid plans derailed and seen how in the end, God’s way was far better.

I don’t think we serve a God of chaos who just throws random circumstances at us willy-nilly to see if we’ll choose the right door, like some cosmic game of Lets Make a Deal. I actually think we often create our own chaos by not putting His precepts first. We could save ourselves a lot of confusion and heartache by doing what that little sign by the fireplace said. Focus on God, not the outcome. He has that part handled. When we make the Word of God our dwelling place, not just our drive-through, we actually enjoy just being with Him in the process. We attain the mind of Christ and His thoughts and ways. We can relax and not obsess over all the next moves, because God will reveal them to us.

The “good for mostly us” kind of lifestyle has left behind a trail of chaos in it’s wake. It trickles down from bosses to employees, friend to friend, parents to children. Have you seen any little league or kids sports lately? Just last week I saw an 11 year old get caught cheating and his response was “if you don’t cheat a little sometimes, you’ll never win.” I’d rather lose with my integrity intact, thank you very much. The point is, when we let God’s Words slip through the cracks in any area, we become a slave to self-centered positioning. It’s the natural progression everything will take if we take our eyes off Jesus, and it will always lead to an empty, unfulfilled, chasing-our-own-tail kind of life. I think God honors humility, not strategic moves.

Life is too short to be playing chess all day. We can’t see four moves ahead, and I think that’s not a bad thing. When we yell “Jesus take the wheel!” we actually should mean what we say. We don’t totally check out, but we do need to allow Him to show us the direction to go. We don’t have to be swindlers to pull ahead in life, quite the opposite actually.

Lord, may we delight in Your Words to us and desire to put them before any outcome we may desire. May we not obsess over attaining a position, but be humble in where we are placed and wait on You to promote us the right way.

Find something that reminds you and those you love of this truth: in this house, in this life, we put God’s ways above the ways of the world. We may lose position sometimes, but we will also gain it back, in unimaginable ways. Let Jesus be one who moves you around the board, let Him decide what gets sacrificed and what stays. He’s the outcome, He’s our end game. Fix your eyes on Him and watch as the rest flawlessly falls into place.

 

Grasping or Grabbing?

I’m re-reading some chapters of the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst and was struck this morning by this paragraph in which she addresses our never-ending need to be filled, with something… anything… that satisfies our deepest longings.

“If we grasp the full love of Christ, we won’t grab at other things to fill us. Or if we do, we’ll sense it. We’ll feel a prick in our spirit when our flesh makes frenzied swipes at happiness, compromising clutches for attention, paranoid assumptions with no facts, joyless attempts to one-up another, and small-minded statements of pride. We’ll sense these things, and we’ll be disgusted enough to at least pause… All these things we’re tempted to grab at? They won’t fill us the way they think they will.”

Frenzied swipes at happiness, paranoid assumptions, small-minded statements… all things we do in our flesh hoping for some relief, some acknowledgement that we are doing ok. She uses Paul’s prayer in Ephesians as a wonderful example of the difference between grasping and grabbing:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to GRASP how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be FILLED to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

When we grasp (understand, take hold of firmly) the love of God and all the true riches He has in store for us, we are FILLED. Genuinely filled, like eating a healthy meal that nourishes instead of a temporary sugar or caffeine fix.

The world tries to get us to grab at any old thing for that fix. If we go out into the world, out into relationships expecting to be filled by them, we are going to be sorely disappointed. People disappoint. It’s inevitable and a part of human nature. If we are finding ourselves driven and controlled by things out of our control, we need to pause. It’s like putting water into a bucket with a giant hole at the bottom of it.

What’s the difference if we are rooted and grounded in Christ and His love? What if we let Him fill us up first and then we go out into the world, into friendships, into family life already satisfied and grounded in who we are?

We aren’t flattened by someone’s hurtful words. We don’t need to compulsively ‘fix’ every little thing. We aren’t obsessing about how or what or why or when (insert dilemma here) will be fixed. It’s not to say we’re ignoring life or problems, we just are grounded in Jesus and want to allow Him to steer the ship. We stop grabbing at what the world can do for us and we learn to grasp how profound God’s love is toward us and all our dilemmas.

Full, fulfilled, secure, accepted, content… these are all what comes when we allow ourselves to be defined by our Maker instead of other people. What a difference to go out into the world this way. We can be genuinely happy for others’ successes. Our ability to see the best in people replaces the side-eye cynical junk we’ve learned to live with because we’ve been hurt. We learn there is beauty in quiet surrender of things we don’t fully understand. The things we once grasped at become a little less intriguing in the light of being filled up with Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come so we would spend our lives grasping at straws and fretting over our position or status. Laying that stuff down isn’t easy, but how amazing that we have a Savior who came and actually told us to unload it all at His feet (Matthew 11:28).

He tells us to come to Him and He will give us rest. Make rest your starting point. Begin there, at His feet and get filled up. Instead of going out into the world as a sponge and soaking in all the things that never fulfill, go out already full and see the difference. Things don’t soak in as easily. We can discern things more clearly. Our emotions aren’t dependent on the actions of others. That’s how relationships thrive, that’s how our hearts come alive. No frenzied swipes at control, no weird assumptions that turn us into our own worst enemy. Just reliance on the One who asks us to sit quietly at His feet and get filled. The people who do that are the ones I want to surround myself with. I want to be like that. The freedom that comes when we let Jesus fills us up is better than any temporary success or self-made victory.

“The more you taste the sweet joys of Jesus, the more will sin taste bitter to your soul. Fight satan’s taunts with God’s pleasures.” John Piper 

 

Kneel, Roll and Be Free

camel_one_previous_owner4Photo courtesy: moxon.net

This post is about how to act like a camel, so bear with me for a moment.

Every once in awhile I come across a familiar verse and see it in a whole new way. There’s this little section in my Bible they call “word wealth” and it aims to reveal the true meaning behind certain words. The original meaning, from the Hebrew or Greek. What’s fascinating is that some of our English words just don’t cut it when it comes to understanding what God was conveying to us through His word. In the same way that Eskimos have several different words for what we just call ‘snow’, there are layers and meanings to our ‘ordinary’ words.

Here’s the verse, which we’ve probably all heard a few times:

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:5

Commit your way. Words like dedicate and devote come to mind. If I commit my way to Him I’m making a kind of pledge or promise to follow Him. All good things.

Here’s what my Bible had to say on it that just was such a powerful picture to me:

commitgalal (gah-lahl) Strong’s #1556; To roll, roll away, remove. In this text the reader is encouraged to roll his works into God’s care. The picture is of a camel, burdened with a heavy load; when the load is to be removed, the camel kneels down, tilts far to one side, and the load rolls off.

Did you catch that? Read it again. We’ve all probably seen a camel kneeling down to drink or let someone off it’s back. It has to get down on it’s front legs and roll the load off it’s back.

Kneel. And roll.

This is such a simple and profound thing for me. We all have loads to carry. Some is just life responsibilities, like work or kids or marriage. We carry them everywhere we go. It’s our God-given ‘load’ and in the right context, it’s a joy to carry. On the other hand, we pick up things along the way that are simply backbreaking, things we aren’t meant to haul around.

Guilt. Disappointments. Old scores to settle. Resentment. Opinions of others. What a long list we can all make.

Is your back hurting? Is your spirit heavy? God is saying it’s ok to bend the knee and take a rest. Furthermore, after you’ve bent the knee, feel free to roll all that junk right off. Lighten your load. Get rid of it. Roll it AWAY from yourself and ONTO a God who can actually do something about it.

How very freeing. Remember what Jesus says to us:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

Rest for your SOUL. I don’t know about you, but I desire that kind of rest. You know how you feel after a solid nights sleep? I imagine soul rest is even better and more important. It doesn’t mean the troubles disappear, it means though that they are off our backs. Rolled onto a Savior who willfully takes them. What is required of us? Kneeling and rolling. Pretty basic.

Ask God today what you need to roll off your back and onto Him. We aren’t required to walk around heavy-laden on the verge of collapse. It’s not heroic to be overburdened. Camels aren’t the most graceful of creatures I suppose, but neither are we when we are overwhelmed. Kneel down, awkward as it may be, and roll all that stuff off. I imagine we’d all walk a little lighter and straighter without a giant load weighing us down.

Blessings friends.