Those Adult Coloring Books Though…

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Image Credit: Patheos.com

 “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” Timothy Keller

Accepting that ‘radical truthfulness’ about who we are can be brutal. We have a difficult enough time being honest with ourselves regarding our hopeless state, and hearing it  from an outside place like church can be downright intolerable for some. Our culture (and parts of mainstream Christianity) have run full speed ahead with the notion that we all relatively fine. Our sin-nature has been whitewashed and watered-down to include nothing more than little faults we can fix ourselves with a good self-help book. Lowest common denominator kind of preaching my get people saved, but where is the righteousness, peace or joy we as believers are supposed to have? (Romans 14:17) We are a people “ever learning, but never able to come to any knowledge of the (real) truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7). Once we leave the safety of the revealed truth provided for us by God in His Word, every step we take becomes shakier and more unbalanced.

Truth is hard. It makes us uncomfortable and exposed. It requires something of us. A few weeks ago while browsing my local Christian bookstore I noticed a new section, an entire wall really, that was dedicated to just one type of book: the adult coloring book. Dozens of them. Markers and paints sold separately, of course. You can while away the hours coloring intricate Biblical scenes, verses, mostly just designs with a verse printed on the sheet. Part of me gets it, I really do, it’s a craft and people need to put down the iPhones and check out once in awhile. If coloring does it for you, fantastic. I cringed though, at the scope of this whole thing – so much so that I snapped a picture and texed it to a friend with the caption “does this seem weird to you?!” with a laughing emoji.

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So again, I’m not making fun of it, I’m just feeling like there are some red flags going up in how we are becoming less and less interested in God’s word, which leads to a really anemic kind of faith and a lukewarm, indifferent attitude towards the truth. Unbelievably, this new section is where the ‘classics’ used to be shelved… the irony isn’ lost on me. They’ve been moved to the back of the store now, I weep a little inside thinking about it.

So we have a ton of “love” (or feel good stuff) with about an ounce of God’s truth. This is why we have Christian (I use this term loosely) writers endorsing gay marriage, coming out themselves as gay, mixing the Bible with the teachings of Buddha, and on and on. It’s a self-serving age and a self-serving spirituality.

For those of us still holding on to our actual Bibles, this presents a problem. The vast majority of us I would assume, don’t hate people just because they struggle or have wandered, quite the contrary. Our hearts as true disciples of Jesus should be 100% FOR people. We have sadly become really comfortable with being comfortable. We snack on sugar all day when we need to be eating our vegetables. We try and fuel ourselves on pretty, filtered Instagram memes when we need the Jesus of the Bible.

David and Jason Benham have written a fantastic article entitled “Understanding the Balance of Truth and Mercy” and have a great analogy on the love/truth conundrum:

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “It’s not enough to help hurting people; you must also stop the things that hurt them.” In the Bible, we call this the balance of truth and mercy. God commands that His followers show mercy by helping hurting people, yet He also requires they expose the things that hurt them so they can be led to the truth.

This requires supernatural balance, because there are ditches on both sides of the road if you err to the extreme of either side.

To be all merciful and yet refuse to speak the truth is like building a hospital at the bottom of a cliff without also installing a guardrail at the top. Sure, you’d help plenty of hurting people, but you would stop no one from falling off.

To be all truthful and yet lack mercy would be like installing a guardrail without also building the hospital. You would definitely prevent a lot people from hurting themselves, but you’d have no way to help those who fall.”

I simply love this picture they paint. We need both guardrail and hospital. Help those who have fallen, be ready in season and out to speak God’s healing truth (2 Timothy 4:2), but also have some safety measures in place that keep them from going over the cliff in the first place.

They are correct in saying the balance is supernatural – avoid the ditches by experiencing God’s amazing grace and uncompromising truth for yourself… they go beautifully together and were never meant to work alone.

So take time to color, have some candy now and then, it’s ok. Take even more time to know and speak the Word, it’s the only way we are able discern that candy from poison.

 

It’s ALL Spiritual

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This is such a difficult day. Remembering the events of 13 years ago like they were both an eternity ago and yet some of it feels like yesterday.

I’m finding this to be a frustrating day as well. Frustrated at where we are at. Starving for leadership and a way past all this darkness that has in no uncertain terms, declared war on us simply for being the light.

The feeling that I want someone to stand up for us is overwhelming me today. I want someone to call it for what it is and do something about it. Recognize the enemy. Go after them.

But the opposite happens. It seems like it will continue to happen. It’s confusing and maddening.

God is patient when we’re all stirred up, He listened to me all morning rant about injustice and stupidity and evil. Then I went to the mailbox and found something I had almost forgotten about. A necklace I ordered weeks ago. It was kind of an impulse buy – proceeds went to a charity, it was cute, there was a coupon… you know how it goes. So I pulled it out and read the inscription: Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. And I felt it in a different way than ever before.

“When you see only injustice…” Act justly.

“When none show mercy…” Love mercy.

“When pride is all around…” Walk humbly.

This is hard for me today. It does’t exactly flow happily through my spirit the way it did when I bought it online. Actually doing this is difficult.

Then He took me to Ephesians for another reminder that is sometimes hard to swallow.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:12)

When all my anger is focused on what I can see (politicians, world events, snarky comments by others to name a few) I am missing the truth and struggling in vain. The real enemy behind all this is much bigger than any one person or group.

Without getting into all the political details… believe me this is difficult… let me just say this: we have failed to see or speak the truth about our enemy. It’s either through ignorance or on purpose, and I don’t know which is worse. God reminded me today that it’s more important than ever to speak the truth about our unseen enemy. He has declared war on us in every way and wants nothing more than to steal, kill and destroy. Pretending he isn’t there doesn’t make us any safer, it actually puts us in more danger. Ignorance leads to defeat. We are not to be ignorant of our enemy. I’m ready to roll. Bring it. Put on the full armor of God and lets do this.

Oh but there’s that Micah 6:8 verse… love, mercy and humility and all that.

I don’t feel loving today. I feel injustice piling up faster than we can shovel it away. I don’t feel very humble either. We’re right, they’re wrong. The mercy rule isn’t at the top of my list right now either. I watched the Karate Kid last night on TV and can’t help running that awful dojo teachers words through my head, “We do not train to be merciful here, mercy is for the weak!!”  Ugh. Lame.

God reminds me that while I long for earthly justice, He is eternally just. He steps in for us and defends us when others won’t. My longing for leadership brings me to the feet of Jesus, the leader and author of my life. I can’t live by the ‘no mercy’ rule because He had mercy on me. He will bring it to pass. It may be a rough ride, but He is faithful to us.

So on this day and in this age when injustice seems to rule over us… I am reminded that I am connected to the source of justice itself. A God that will stand up for me and lead in ways no earthly person ever could. He will defend us when others won’t. He knows our enemy and is able to defeat him. And though it’s hard to remember, it’s ALL spiritual.

Profoundly Simple

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“Keep it simple, keep it pure. Keep it sincere.” The more I dive into the Word this year, expecting some complex revelation to wash over me, the more I hear this. Back to the basics in the New Year. My 9 year old woke up yesterday morning and told me about a dream he had. Just before he woke up, there before him was a  bright sign declaring “God Helps At Hard Times.” He remembered it and was struck by it. I asked him to write it down for me. He did, in bubble letters, because he said thats how it was written. God used bubble letters. Awesome.

Childlike. Bordering on cliche. Of course God helps in hard times. Sunday school 101. Check. Got it.

As we talked about it though, I started to wonder…

Do we turn to Him in our “hard times” for real? Or do we retreat into ourselves and our own futile efforts?

Have I been an example to my children that God really is the strength in our weakness? Or have I taught them to try and ‘perform’ their way out failures or difficulties?

I came across this beautiful bit of truth this morning and the question hit me again:

“PILLAGE AND LOOT THE WORLD FOR ALL IT’S WORTH, BUT ONLY IN JESUS IS THERE 100% ACCEPTANCE BEFORE EVEN 1% PERFORMANCE.” Ann Voskamp

Whoa.  I stop for a moment, knowing how much I need this and how much I barely grasp it. We can’t perform our way out of trouble or failure or disappointment. Hard times come in all degrees. Some are annoying. Some are downright tragic. What is our first instinct when we are challenged? When the enemy pushes every button, tempts us in every way to give up and give in… where do we turn?

“God Helps At Hard Times.”  If we let Him.

The simple things are often the most profound. Oh how we long for the new, the fashionable, the ever-changing. The world we live in demands it. We can check e-mail, twitter, facebook, instagram and Pinterest all while sitting at a stoplight. Sadly, modern day Christianity also demands it. People aren’t comfortable with the pure, straightforward truth of the Word anymore. There must be something new to discover or believe. The old truths need a new spin. New books must be bought. New catch phrases are created. And we lose Jesus in the mix.

God’s truths to each one of us are new every day. They aren’t stale leftovers of what someone else received. They’re personal. They aren’t complicated, but they are very profound.

This new year, I don’t need to go buy a new Bible study based on how promising it’s cover looks. I need to open my own Bible. I need to listen to my kids. I need to look for God in the simple things and let Him reveal Himself through them.

Two weeks into the new year, I am asking God what HE wants for me this year.

Keep it simple. Keep it sincere. Keep it real.

God IS with us.