Just Go Fishing

“The world seems to have a real genius for being wrong, even the educated world. I can see how a right man might live in a wrong world and not be affected by it except that the world will not let him alone. It wants to educate him. Society, being fluid, usually moves like the wind, going all out in one direction until the novelty wears off. Whatever people happen to be interested in at the moment must be accepted as normal… our highest ambition should be to become integrated to the mass, to lose our moral individuality as a whole.” AW Tozer  Culture

AW Tozer wrote here in this essay of just wanting to go fishing, but the world and its nonsense just wouldn’t leave him alone. I’m sure we all can relate. There are times I walk into a room and my husband is watching the news and I just walk right out… my brain just can’t handle it. It’s like Alice in Wonderland up in here, and everything is topsy-turvy.

As Christians, we are right people living in a wrong world. Not “right” because we win every argument and follow all the rules, but because we have a right standing with God through faith in Christ. And so we, like Tozer so boldly stated years ago, have a choice to make. We really just want to go fishing, but we know there’s no escaping this. We can join the ranks who, in their desperation to be relevant and needed, have bent to the cultural winds. They’re easy to spot, because they put themselves right there on center stage. You’ll hear their opinions on the patriarchy, and the need for a revolution of some sort. You’ll be told to be brave, until you’re supposed to be afraid. They’ll stir you up to make a change, but forget to give you any tools to work with. It’s like trying to make a meal out of stale crumbs.

We have to stay though, because we deserve better than that. We have to fight the good fight. Ditch the hot-takes and seek wise counsel. Our highest ambition should not be integration, but a holy separateness that draws people away from the crumbs and leads them to the feast.

On Election Day it’s so easy to be sucked into the whirlwind of opinion and emotion. The talking heads will shriek and aim to “educate” everyone who isn’t on their particular side. It’ll be exhausting to be sure, and we will all probably just want to go fishing. That fluid society will keep changing and demanding more, until we have totally sold out to it and have nothing left to give.

Psalms tells us what happens to those who keep on going their own direction: “their days He consumed in futility and their years in fear” (78:32).

Take a step back today and remember that we are called to wage good warfare: “That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:15

On Election Day and every other day, we use our voice the best we know how, and return to the Rock that is our foundation. The whirlwind will settle and stir up again a hundred times, and will beg us to join it. Don’t give up your ground to it or feed on fear or pride. A sound and settled mind that returns each day to Christ is stronger than any army of opinions. Remember, the world has a real genius for being wrong.

Free A’s And No Homework!

One of my favorite lines from THE INCREDIBLES movie is “if everyone is special, then nobody is special.” It comes from a villain who is plotting a way to make everyone into superheroes, thus negating the current superheroes’ power and prestige. I tried hard to prove this “everyone gets an A” picture as fake news… but alas, it is not. Where was this when I was crying over my math homework in fifth grade? Obviously, it didn’t exist because we lived in reality where you had to earn your grades. Interesting to note that homework and cupcakes are also banned at this particular school in Arlington, Virginia. Of course they are.

Just so we are clear, everyone receives an A regardless of their performance. If the reality is that you did not actually earn that A, a tiny little asterisk will lead you to a comment section where you can read about areas you may need to improve in. That’s a scary word, reality… it means something may be true whether it gives us all the feels or not.

Can students’ eyes physically not handle seeing any other letters besides the A? I have a list of questions. I can’t help thinking of entire generations past that would be rolling over in their graves upon seeing such a spectacle. People who saw war and depression, can you imagine what they would think of this?

The virtual phone screen world we live in has made us soft and squishy about real life. Certainly nobody seeks after hardship, but to fear it in this way isn’t healthy or helpful.

-We don’t believe you can handle seeing a bad grade, therefore we won’t give you one.

-Homework is hard, therefore we won’t bother you with it.

-Cupcakes… well who knows about the cupcakes, I suppose flavors could be offensive.

The Bible speaks at great length of our need to be diligent workers. We must handle God’s word with care and attention, and we must understand how to be rooted in it when the high winds blow. It’s not a mere suggestion, it’s our lifeline. Trouble will come. Uncomfortable feelings will crop up. Heck, someone may even bring cupcakes that you don’t like. What will you do in such a time as this?

Our kids are being encouraged to stand and scream at the wind. Like little hothouse flowers, they are trying to control their environment instead of fortifying themselves for it. Instead of sending their roots down deep, they are in harms way demanding that all harm cease. It’s the definition of futility, but when everyone thinks the same way, it doesn’t occur to a person to change course. We aren’t in charge of the winds, but we can and must work on our roots. One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible is Jeremiah 17:8:

“He will be like a tree planted by the waters that sends out its roots toward the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes, and its leaves are always green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.” 

The book of Romans tells us that suffering produces perseverance, character and hope (5:3).

We can live well and thrive in hardship because we root ourselves deep in God’s love and truth. Choosing to try and self-preserve is a futile and foolish way to live. God’s Word is full of regular folks who chose to fortify themselves for battle. David. Esther. Paul. Hardship was the name of the game for them. They chose God, planted their feet, and came out victorious on the other side.

Calling all grown up Christians. Rooted Christians. Not perfect, shiny, world-pleasing, smooth talkers… but folks who have pushed through with Jesus and want to continue doing so. These are the people I want to be in the trenches with, the ones who choose daily to pick up the cross and follow where He leads, whether it makes them feel comfortable or not.

Everyone says we gotta be brave and we gotta have hustle. Get the A, win the game and climb the ladder. It’s played out. It’s a sham, because when those things don’t happen, we run for the hothouse and demand our free ‘A’.

We try and cocoon ourselves from every negative wind that blows. Jesus invited Peter to get up and walk on the stormy waters with Him. No bravery needed, just faith. What a powerful example to us that we don’t need to keep running from what makes us uncomfortable!

The Brains God Gave You

My oldest son recently became a teenager and I attended a meeting for youth group parents at my church. The leaders said they’d be tackling a myriad of topics this year, ranging from respecting one’s parents to unpacking the transgender phenomenon permeating our local high schools. A parent asked, “What curriculum are you using?” The leader responded, “The Bible.” We need more of this, please and thank you.

A really insightful article today at Uncomfortable Grace discussing our need to use the brains God have us when discerning who and what we pledge our allegiance to. In this age of opinions and outrage, we must be careful to not set our minds to autopilot when it comes to deciding where we plant our own flag.

The author cites the fact that people she once trusted have of late, veered from the path of Biblical truth. She humorously admits, “the dissonance did not cause me to have a stroke.” Yes, Beth Moore really went off the proverbial deep end recently when she pretended to personally stand in the gap and absorb all historical guilt and shame for sins committed by others. Supporters of hers may have a hard time with the realization that she too is a flawed human just like the rest of us.

People alter and change and disappoint. It’s a fact of life. Someone I listened to five years ago may be off the bookshelf now, and that’s just fine.

If you haven’t noticed, mob mentality is the rule of the day. Groupthink has never been more oppressive or pervasive. The masses declare what is right and wrong and that settles it. This is what happens when we blindly follow human wisdom before going to Gods Word. Truth is simply what the majority is choosing to believe at the moment. The news said the other night, in no uncertain terms, that it’s cruel and abusive to believe there are only two genders. The anchor managed to also slip in how equally hateful it is to question the validity of the massive mob of humanity whose stated goal it is to breech our country’s border. Groupthink.

Is it disappointing to see our media and even church leaders speaking nonsense? Of course. Never have I lost respect so quickly for someone as when they choose the approval of the masses over what they know to be right. Should we all set our hair on fire and run around like crazy people because they have abandoned us? No.

Remember when Jen Hatmaker came out in support of gay marriage? Her followers went nuclear. Part of this is a justified anger, but the rest was because they felt betrayed from someone they have so much in common with. How can we reconcile that? By realizing the opinion and ways of man must always submit to Gods absolute truths.

When we put Gods opinion over that of others… the fact that people disagree with us doesn’t ruin us. The reason these teachers are under the microscope (and rightly so) is that they have forgotten God’s way is our true north. In trying to make people feel better, they’ve put themselves up on a pedestal in which there is nowhere to go but down.

Gods Word doesn’t come with those risks. Point people to Jesus and you don’t have to worry about taking a tumble. When people clamor for a certain book or study and shy away from the actual Bible, it’s always a warning sign. I’ve told the story before of the time my husband and I wanted to lead a couples Bible study just using the Bible and not one couple signed up. People actually expressed to us that the it felt bare, boring or just strange not having some kind of “chapter book”. It confused me, but it didn’t do me in. It wasn’t a personal attack on me as much as it was a resistance to Gods Word and what might come from it.

We need to be able to think critically and thoughtfully on why we believe the things we do. The world is no friend to Biblical living, and even the church itself is wrapped up in some harmful beliefs. We are all just human. The answer to all that is God’s Word. Simple, but very profound once you dig deep into it. It keeps us on track, free from opinions not based in truth, and able to think critically about the myriad of situations that constantly beg for our approval.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Baby Tigers and False Peace

“Is it even possible to live a holy Christian life? The kind of life we talk about and aspire to, but seem to fall short of on a daily basis?”

Some form of this question has been buzzing around in my conversations the past week or so with different people in my life. I’ve come to the conclusion that we humans fall into two categories on this subject: man-centered or God-surrendered.

A man-centered approach to this life assumes (rightly so) that we are a hopelessly flawed bunch of people trying to do our best. Not just flawed, but sinful. We float from one good intention to another, sometimes succeeding, but often falling short. We hope that we can meet the goals we’ve set, but we are realistic about the fact that we are mere mortals and certainly not saints. The bar is always just a little bit out of reach.

A God-surrendered person realizes that yes, that bar is set pretty high and the chances of us performing our way to the top are slim to none. They take into consideration however, something that the others do not: we CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens us… through His power alone. God-centered people don’t do things God’s way because they are superhuman holy rollers…but they do believe that Christ’s power in them makes all things possible.

When we get cozy with our sin we will find all sorts of ways to gloss over it… but God says “be holy as I am holy” (1Peter 1:16). He doesn’t tell us to be perfect or without flaw, but our general walk should be toward holiness and away from the sin that entangles us. Sometimes that walk feels more like a slow marathon through quicksand… but we keep going in the direction of holiness. Why? Because we feel like it? No. Because we know “the way of man is not in himself” (Jeremiah 10:23) and that in Christ we are “a new creation; old things have passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Rosaria Butterfield wrote a fantastic article showing us the futility of the man-centered approach to sin:

As believers, we lament with the apostle Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:19–20). But after we lament, what should we do? How should we think about sin that has become a daily part of our identity?

Now that it is in the house, don’t buy it a collar and a leash and give it a sweet name. Don’t “admit” sin as a harmless (but un-housebroken) pet. Instead, confess it as an evil offense and put it out! Even if you love it! You can’t domesticate sin by welcoming it into your home. Don’t make a false peace. Don’t make excuses. Don’t get sentimental about sin. Don’t play the victim. Don’t live by excuse-righteousness. If you bring the baby tiger into your house and name it Fluffy, don’t be surprised if you wake up one day and Fluffy is eating you alive. That is how sin works, and Fluffy knows her job. Sometimes sin lurks and festers for decades, deceiving the sinner that he really has it all under control, until it unleashes itself on everything you built, cherished, and loved.

Holy cow… or baby tiger. Time to remember that the gospel we trusted in for our salvation is the same gospel that keeps us marching in the direction of home. We will always struggle with sin, but it sin doesn’t get to make the decisions. Paul wrote “…that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God…” 2 Corinthians 1:12. So, in answer to the question “is it possible to live a holy Christian life?” I say it’s not only possible, but should be expected. How different things would be if we thought that way… with simplicity and sincerity about seeking after Jesus.  No false peace, no excuses, no baby tigers in the house. Just authentic forward movement, not by our might but by His spirit.

For The Simple Folk

Reading backwards through the Psalms this morning… does anyone else have that habit of flipping through a magazine from back to front? It probably means something weird psychologically, I don’t know. I noticed some neat things when I read them from the bottom up:

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me.” 138:8

“I have chosen the way of truth.” 119:30

“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with a whole heart. You have commanded us to keep your precepts diligently.” 119:2-4

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” 119:11

I’m not one for ten-step programs or reducing God’s word down to bullet points, but I think there’s something really beautiful here in the Psalms and in the way they all fit together to give us a bigger picture:

We hide His word in our heart > we whole-heartedly obey Him > we choose to make His truth our truth  > He works out and perfects everything that concerns us.

So often, we read a verse like 138:8 about God working things out for us, and we shut our Bibles and think ‘well, God’s in charge!’ and move on doing our own thing. We want the end result, but aren’t willing to really dig in deeper to see what our role may be. Psalm 119 is all about Gods word and how we are to treasure it in our hearts. Without first doing that, we aren’t able to obey Him or choose truth. It follows that our obedience to His word knits us together with His will which brings us to that much-coveted outcome of Him perfecting the things that concern us. I don’t like formulas, especially when they concern our living, breathing relationship with our Creator. We are way too easily swayed by human catch phrases… but I do know that we as Christians must treasure His words to us more than anything else.

“The entrance of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.” 119:130

You don’t have to be a theological scholar to know the truth, you just have to love His word and give it priority in your life. When we love what God has to say, we actually can’t help but “hate every false way” (119:104).

But we straddle fences we know we should get down off of.

We dip our toes into waters that have a potential to sweep us away.

We casually play with fire knowing full-well it could burn our house down.

And we lament the fact that God isn’t “perfecting” the things He said he would.

I saw a pretty little picture frame at a boutique the other day that read “Nothing can stop Gods plan for your life”. Is that true? In theory, yes… God is God and He has a marvelous plan, but we have choices to make that either keep us on the path or knock us off. That phrase implies we can do whatever we want and God’s blessings will still come to pass. We need only to glance around at the world to see that doesn’t work.

Yolk yourself closely with an unbeliever and see what comes to pass. Allow drugs or alcohol to rule over your body and see what happens. Keep anger and unforgiveness stirred up in your heart and show me how that little phrase can possible be true. It can’t.

God is the great redeemer of all those things and more, so let’s not think we need to be perfect or that I’m throwing any stones here. I’m saying we can really clog up the works when we don’t treasure and love what He says in His word. His mercies are new every morning, we never fall too far out of His reach. It should be our hearts greatest desire to choose Him over and over again so that we don’t have to live in a constant state of panic. We say we want a steady and blessed life, but we place ourselves too far out of bounds for that to be possible. the Bible tells us we are like sheep and our only safety lies in sticking close to our Shepherd. Wandering off to greener pastures invites disaster. He’ll come and get us, He’ll “leave the 99” (as the ever-popular Reckless Love song plays over in my head)… but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s ok to go wandering off like a dumb sheep all the time. He wants us with Him. He gave us this wonderful Word of His so that we would actually desire to stay close, sober and alert. That’s how things get “perfected” in our lives.

My girl Lisa Whittle sums it up nicely, so I’ll leave you with these thoughts:

“At a certain point we have to ask ourselves if we want to continue to settle for a hot and cold Jesus life and if we can really stomach one more year of the spiritual roller coaster. At some point, we have to choose to do something else. When we are truly tired of being on the spiritual roller coaster, we will do something about it. Until then, we are only a little weary and a lot on the fence. A true commitment to God is a thorough, overarching commitment over every area of our life. It’s the kind of commitment that lasts, and keeps us off the highs and lows of Christian living. Commitments to Him have never come cheap. It’s not enough to say “Yes, I accepted You as a Savior” and then go on our way. It has to be about “Today I choose You again.” And if there is to be a sacrifice in all our choosing, let us not look at the denial but at the better that has come from it. For in our love and obedience, we become grounded, steady, solid as a rock. It’s not our figuring out how to get more brace or lifting more spiritual weights by joining every Bible study we can get our hands on. It’s in the choosing of our God and choosing Him over and over again.” 

Choose Him today. Choose Him when it’s hard, love His Word more than you love your own way. God knows we are simple people, He doesn’t ask that we figure it all out, He just wants us to be all-in so He can do all that ‘perfecting’ we so desperately want and need.

On Nightmares and Disarming Foes

“Whatever foes may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; there are serpents, but their fangs are extracted; there are rivers, but they are bridged or fordable; there are flames, but we wear that matchless garment which renders us invulnerable to fire. The sword that has been forged against us is already blunted; the instruments of war which the enemy is preparing have already lost their point. God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, the army may safely march on, and you may go joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are conquered beforehand. What shall you do but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is to divide the spoil. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight shall be with a vanquished foe. His head is broken; he may attempt to injure you, but his strength shall not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be easy, and your treasure shall be beyond all count.”  Charles Spurgeon

Have you ever woken up from a wickedly vivid dream and thought… yikes! what can that mean?! I had a dream like that last night and was only reminded of it when I read this quote on Instagram this morning (how pleasant when social media is actually helpful). We were in a large house and there was a giant snake on the loose… like, it just kept popping up, falling from the ceiling, slithering all over the place, an absolute nightmare. A whole crowd of people were trying to pin it down and get rid of it, but we just couldn’t. It finally went to bite someone and once it latched on, we realized it didn’t have any fangs and were so relieved that it couldn’t actually harm us. We ended up hacking it to pieces… it was really gross and unpleasant.

I know God speaks through things like this if we will only pay attention. Life is full of little puzzle pieces that fit together like that if we are on the lookout. There’s a song that plays often on the Christian radio called “Fear Is A Liar” and I can’t get it out of my head. The enemy is such a liar. It’s actually quite devastating that we don’t realize it sooner. He whispers junk to us all day long… as we drive, while we work, it’s relentless.

I saw a facebook post for a young teenage girl who said that for her birthday in lieu of gifts,  she’d like everyone to donate money to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, because it’s something she personally deals a lot with.

You guys. It broke my heart. There is no reason people should be in this kind of a state. Not because we don’t have problems. Not because we don’t struggle. I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t support organizations that are meant to help people, I am saying that FEAR IS A LIAR and if we don’t recognize that fact first and foremost, we are simply thrashing around in quicksand with no hope of getting out.

Yes… there are lions and serpents and raging rivers and fiery flames. If only we understood… not just intellectually, but in our very bones, that Christ has indeed already defeated all those things. Satan is in his death throes, he knows his time is limited, and he will do anything to have more company on his way down. Jesus isn’t just waiting for us up in heaven somewhere, He’s here now and offers us life abundantly. 

When we know that fear is a liar, we understand that the beasts have been de-clawed, the sword has no sharp edge, and our armor is fireproof. It makes me heartsick to see teenagers so tangled up in pressures of the world that a pill is their only consolation. The number of adults out here in ‘suburbia-land’ that are numbing themselves with addictions of all kinds is awful. Ignoring our fears won’t make them go away.

I am scared every day for any number of reasons. Sometimes, I wake up in the night with thoughts that will not be hushed.

What if my kids believe the lies? What if this job is a dead end? What will I do when they don’t need me anymore? Did I remember to close the garage door? There’s probably a bear in there right now… 

It’s enough to make a person literally crazy. No wonder everyone is taking a pill and downing a bottle of wine.

What if we lived and made decisions based on the actual truth instead of our fears? What if, instead of short little bursts of inspiration, we stood flat-footed on the solid-rock truth that Jesus actually DID disarm our enemy long ago?

So there’s a snake in the house… he can’t hurt you. Get it out.

So the flames are burning hot and strong? Your armor is fireproof. Walk through it.

So the enemy is pointing a knife at your heart? It’s been blunted. Push it away.

He will try, but everything about him is phony when placed in the light of what Jesus already has done. Yes, there is trouble around every corner, but dear believers, it doesn’t have to paralyze you to the point of inaction. If we spend all our time running from what scares us, how will we every know the joy in chasing after Jesus?

Combat, yes. Battle, it’s certain.

The enemy is defeated, and that makes all the difference.

These Three Things

A “JOY FUELED, OBEDIENCE-FILLED, CHRIST-EXALTING LIFE…” Jaquelle Crowe

I read this phrase this morning and it just popped right off the page at me. If I could articulate my deepest hearts desire, it would be that my kids grow up experiencing these three things. To be driven my a profound joy that isn’t based on circumstances, to desire obedience to God’s Word and ways and to live out a life that glorifies and points people to Jesus. When I think on these things, my heart nearly bursts for the hope and potential we all could experience if we surrender ourselves to the great I AM.

I keep a special little picture album tucked away in my Bible and was looking through some of them this morning. Special moments, people and places from other lifetimes seemed to leap off the page and transport me back in time. Old snapshots of my childhood mixed in with some of my boys when they were younger suddenly had me frozen with a weird kind of fear. What if that was as good as it gets? 

It’s not a very Godly thought, but it creeps up on me sometimes. As time marches on, children grow up and you face things you’d rather not. They don’t need you in the same way they used to. Some days, the best I can hope for is that they acknowledge my presence in the room with a kind-ish word. I’ve learned though that I don’t want them to desperately need me, I want them to desperately run after Jesus. My job is to point the way, but also to get out of the way and allow them to run their race. That is so much easier said than done.

I will go to the ends of the earth to help them find JOY in this dark world. I’m almost paralyzed some days with fear for what I see happening in their world. It’s no joke being a teenager these days. I try and wrap my head around it and end up in total despair. They are a generation that runs on virtual reality, instagram filters and being the best of the best. It’s an impossible and phony world. How do you make them understand the silliness of it all? How do you make them see that their worth isn’t based on what others think? There is a joy to be found in Christ that no circumstance or person can ever take away.

Without OBEDIENCE to His ways, nothing else can fall into place. While riding in the car the other day after spending time teaching some teens I said to my boys, “You guys, like 85% of your life right now is just about avoiding dumb-a#$ decisions.” Spiritual, no? I remember a time when rules and disciplines made me feel like I was missing out. The sooner we understand God’s boundaries are more like guard rails keeping us from falling off a cliff, the better off we will be.

Living out a CHRIST-EXALTING life isn’t something we have to strive for, it’s the natural outflow of His love passing through us. We exalt Him when we choose Him over the popular crowd. We honor Him by valuing what He says over what the hot shots in our culture say. Picking up our cross and laying down our idols is hard, but it’s just where we need to be.

The world mocks this kind of life relentlessly and the enemy is working overtime lying and deceiving any who will listen. He whispers to us that we are a victim… Jesus says we are heirs to His kingdom.

I have more questions than answers about all this sometimes… it seems like an insurmountable climb when so much is working against you. I’ve had to go on a news-fast just to get my emotions back in check.

Jesus had not left the building, even though it seems to be burning down.

He tells us to take heart… for He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

I’m going to go write these three things down and place it on our mirrors I think. It’s not an unattainable desire, it’s what we should be living out every single day because He lives in us!