Fear and Hustling

Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he comes and rain righteousness upon you. –Hosea 10:12

I’m no farmer, so I looked up the exact meaning of the word fallow in the dictionary after coming across this verse. It means land that is unseeded, unsown, idle or obsolete. It’s land that could be used to grow crops, but has been left alone to compact and harden. Fallow land will yield absolutely nothing come harvest time, except possibly some weeds.

Hosea is pleading with the people of Israel to get real about the sin in their lives and turn away from it. Throughout the book, he refers to them as an unfaithful harlot whose straying has wreaked havoc, causing all kinds of idolatry and chaos. This verse is an encouragement, a plea in the middle of an otherwise dreary chapter, to snap out of it and return to the God who really is on their side. Continue reading

Courted and Persuaded

Courting is kind of an old fashioned idea, gone out of style except maybe for the occasional Hallmark movie. It’s a flattering thing, when someone finds such value in you that they want to win over your affections. Courting implies a pursuit of some kind, one person chasing after another because they value their affections. It’s a lovely thought.

Until… it’s not. Hallmark movies aside, what about when the pursuing party isn’t all that wonderful? Think of slimy politicians courting their voter base with empty promises. We all would like to be pursued by someone worthy, but what about when something very unworthy is knocking at our door?

I read this morning in Galatians a plea from Paul to the church that struck a chord:

“They zealously court you, but for no good. Yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.” Galatians 4:17

He’s speaking of false teachers who prey on believers for their own benefit. I got to thinking about the world as a whole, how it entices us and knocks at our door… how it courts us with outstretched hand to follow its lead. We fall into a kind of daze at the promise of something better and we follow it right into a dead end, or worse. The promises are empty.

He goes on to say this:

“You ran well, who hindered you from the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” 5:7-8

This persuasion… this arm-twisting, this luring, this tempting… this is not from God! Paul is acknowledging that they were doing so well, until they allowed themselves to be courted and persuaded by the wrong people.

We feel this draw every single day, this almost magnetic pull the world has on us. It holds out its hand and summons us to come and follow. Some of us get lost in hours of scrolling or shopping, hoping the world will fulfill its promise to satisfy us. Others throw themselves into work, thinking the world will reward their sacrifices. Some habitually get lost in pills or a bottle because its better than feeling disappointed again.

It doesn’t really matter how we do it, what matters is that as children of God, we shouldn’t even be willing to allow the enemy to court us or persuade us in any form.

Paul says that we are known by God and he can’t even fathom how we could turn ourselves over to such weak and beggarly elements whose only goal is to push us back down into bondage (4:9).

Ok Paul, since you put it that way… weak and beggarly. These things that seem so powerful over us are really nothing in the light of His love for us. Jesus doesn’t offer us some second-hand, watered-down alternative to the exciting world outside our doorstep, He offers us the real thing. It’s the world that is watered-down and phony. If we flip the script, we’ll see that the things we are courted by and persuaded into following are all just smoke and mirrors. Beauty, popularity, fame, position… it’s all more temporary then we’d like to admit.

Paul finishes the chapter by reminding us that we have been called to liberty (5:13). Freedom is our calling, and it comes when we refuse to be courted by the world and all its charms. Liberty is our calling, and we walk into it when we refuse to be persuaded by things that are not of Him.

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.” AW Tozer

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.