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.

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!

Get Your Control Under Control

I’m excited to have the chance to review Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new book (to be released in a few weeks) Its All Under Control. I haven’t read it entirely through yet, but wanted to just share some thoughts on this heavy topic we all struggle with: control.

Bleh. I think if we’re honest, we all deal with this at least sometimes. From a quirky need to have the countertops sparkly all the time to stepping over the line in personal relationships out of insecurity… control can take us from freedom to bondage in a heartbeat. I love this passage she shares:

“When you are at your best, you are plugged into the limitless resurrection power of God, who pulses through you with tremendous force. God created you for great things, and when you live as one empowered, you do these things really well.

But when you are under stress, you are probably like me: running dangerously close to empty a lot of the time. It’s hard for you to tell the difference between what’s essential and what’s unimportant, so you do it all. You wrap your arms around everything, just in case. Without proper fuel, you try to generate your own strength – as if you can propel your car with your feet, like Fred and Wilma Flintstone. This leaves you worn out and calloused. You need to get your control under control.”

Ouch. Get your need to control under control. Our lives aren’t really conducive to this though, and the more we think about it or try to “let it go” be more tangled up we get. We don’t like when things don’t go our way. We squirm at the thought of being uncomfortable. So we orchestrate and we delegate. We plot and plan.

The crazy “new normal” is too much for me. I have no desire for it, yet I’m caught up in it.

Years ago I studied the topic of Biblical surrender at great length. I remember vividly learning about abiding in Jesus. We lived in Germany at the time, along the Rhine river which was full of vineyards. I need to revisit that often as life moves forward and circumstances change. We are required to hold on to some things and let go of others. Out desire to control all the outcomes has to be put down… daily.

Take up your cross… it rings in my ears a lot lately when I find myself running away from the hard things. We are called to carry our cross, but not our baggage. Here’s a huge difference. I hope to dive deeper into that as the next weeks unfold.

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Rise Up

I have a friend who told me a most eye-opening story the other night. She was speaking with a fellow mom who candidly just blurted out how Facebook was making her feel like crap. “Do you ever feel like that?” she asked. When my friend explained she wasn’t on any social media and neither were her teens, she was met with total confusion. “Well… do your kids even have any friends then?” was the honest and brutal response. It turned into a whole long debate, but ended with my sweet friend holding up her phone and proclaiming “this may define you and your family, but it’s not going to define mine!” And that was that.Sadly, unplugged people like her are kind of an anomaly these days. We treat them like weirdos and wonder how they ever get anywhere in life. To say we are letting the tail wag the dog is an understatement. We genuinely believe that going with the flow is in our best interests, even when it causes hurt and harm. It’s not that we don’t have the intelligence to know better, we do. There’s just this nasty thing called pride that will not be hushed. It’s fueled by a relentless enemy who knows that if he can keep us focused on ourselves, we can’t focus on much else. This passage from Lisa Whittle takes the breath right out of my lungs as she laments seeing kids she loves fall into this trap:“I have heard this story over and over again, and I’m sick to death of it. Another talented, God-breathed soul with a limitless future stuck in a web of earthly entanglements that will alter the course of his life. My anger takes me aback. I expect the sadness. I expect the tears, I don’t expect the mad. But my sadness has taken me here, to the manic food chopping and yelling out loud at the devil. With deep love often comes a rising up, and this is where I am. I am fighting for this kid and my kids and all the kids whom satan wants to take down with drugs and sex and alcohol and porn and self-harm and eating disorders and violence and apathy and entitlement and mind games. All my heart and soul and love is rising up within me and crying out.”I think this is what my normally quiet friend must have felt. In this long list of tragic vices, I find apathy to be the worst. It robs us of any desire to get out of our predicament. We stay lazy and self-focused and uninterested in rising up.Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.” If our highest goal is to look good or if we are driven by a fear of missing out… we are going to “cast off restraint” and make poor choices. It can be as dull as wandering aimlessly or as deadly as running totally wild. A vision is more than just a pipe dream or even a goal… in this context, it means revelation from God. A Biblical vision gives us a bigger purpose outside of ourselves. It’s the thing we align ourselves up with because we believe it to be worthy. It’s looking beyond the little screen in front of us to something larger.Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Approval from God first and foremost. Let the rest shake out how it will, but being right with God is first. Yes, we will look weird at times. We may even miss out on some things. There’s a heavy-handed message telling us to keep on in that rat race and que sera sera… it’s the enemy hoping we’ll trade in the vision for some cheap imitation. The God-breathed kind of adventures are so much more interesting than the filtered little worlds we create. Being unapologetically tied to His Word eliminates a ton of dicey situations if we have the good sense to seek it and treasure it. This “web of earthly entanglements” is no game, but neither is the riches in grace that have been provided to believers through Jesus. Power to rise up and fight for what the enemy has stolen. Crazy love that keeps our feet planted when they want to turn and run. A sound mind that can be quiet and humble in a world gone totally mad. Power, love and a sound mind are riches worth fighting for (1 Timothy 1:7).Will we rise up and fight against this apathy? Will we tell the demanding world that it isn’t actually the boss of us or our kids? We don’t need to go cold turkey on it, but we do need to hitch our wagons to something that isn’t fleeting, something bigger than what we create. “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

Leaving The Bitter Barn

“Do not call me Naomi (i.e., pleasant or sweet), call me Mara (i.e., bitter), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has afflicted me (i.e., testified against me) and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” Ruth 1:20-21

The story of Ruth and Naomi is a fascinating look into the human heart and our differing responses to hardship and tragedy. It’s a fascinating look at how some blame God, some have pity-parties and some just forge on ahead. The redemptive thread weaves itself through the whole thing, and the ending is more moving than a Saturday Hallmark love story.

This was the time of the Judges, Israel had arrived in their promised land, but failed to follow through on the conquest. Joshua was gone and they did not yet have a king. We are told “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25) and it was a time of compromise and confusion amongst the people. They were warned repeatedly to stop following idols and continually refused the instructions of the Lord. It’s no surprise then, that the book of Ruth opens with Naomi and her family  wandering into enemy territory in search of relief from a drought. We are told they remain in Moab about ten years, long enough for Naomi’s sons to take Moabite wives and begin a new life.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Naomi loses her husband and both sons. She is left in a foreign country with only her daughters-in-law. Naomi pleads with them to leave her, for she is old and convinced the Lords hand is against her (Ruth 1:14). While the first daughter-in-law leaves, we are told Ruth clung to Naomi and refused to go. This agitated Naomi so much apparently that when she saw how determined Ruth was to remain with her she “stopped speaking to her” (v.18). This makes me chuckle. Ruth is determined to remain faithful to her mother-in-law, to the point where she will uproot herself and move to a foreign land.

Their return to Bethlehem should be a somewhat happy time, we are told it’s the beginning of the harvest and that the entire city was excited to see Naomi coming home (v 19). Clearly, she was no insignificant woman if years later so many people were gathering to welcome her home. When they inquired after her though, saying “is this Naomi?” her response is nothing short of depressing: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (v. 20).

She up and changed her name from “delightful” to “bitter”. It’s understandable, to some extent, the woman is returning from her exile childless and husbandless, and she has a firm belief that God has orchestrated all of this. I don’t think its a black and white issue, but probably a mix of many factors. Israel as a whole had been living in disobedience and there were consequences to those choices. Famine was one of them. What Naomi couldn’t see past was that the daughter-in-law she tried to shoo away was going to be a huge part of her story, which (contrary to what she believed) was not over just yet.

Naomi and her family were forced out of their homeland by a drought. They sought refuge in a foreign land with foreign people. It’s easy to point and say they never should have left or married into a pagan culture in the first place. Sin has far reaching consequences, though doesn’t it? The famine was a natural consequence of Israel’s disobedience which the people brought on themselves. Naomi’s initial response to cry ‘woe is me’ is understandable, but not helpful. I love how Ruth sticks by her regardless of Naomi’s pleas to basically leave her for dead. Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees and we need someone by our side to listen and say “no… I’m not leaving you, we are going to get through this.”

Instead of arguing whether God intended or even initiated these events, I think it’s more helpful to look at the bigger picture: when circumstances go wildly off the rails, the God of the universe isn’t for one single second fretting about how to fix it. He wove the story of Ruth and Naomi so masterfully, we cannot help but be in awe of His desire to redeem and restore what we have knotted up and seemingly wrecked.

I feel so incredibly sad for Naomi and her circumstances, but her spiral into a pity-party is a warning to us. Fainting onto the couch and calling ourselves ‘bitter’ is not helpful. God was for her the entire time, regardless of what may have happened to her, she just refused to see it. Thankfully she had a Ruth by her side who refused to let her go down like that. We need people like this in our lives who stubbornly stand by us no matter our level of crazy, and we also need to be the friend who stands strong when someone is crumbling.

I have a confession: I struggle with people who choose to wallow in their circumstances instead of getting up and joining God. I want to be a friend like Ruth, but sometimes I feel like that other daughter-in-law who headed for the hills. It can suck the life out of you if you let it, which is neither Biblical nor helpful. I love Ruth’s relentlessness with Naomi, her refusal to let any of the negativity affect her. She had something inside her that understood the bigger picture, and I want to be able to point people to that.

What should keep us going then when we or someone in our life just want to throw in the towel and dwell in the bitter barn? The closing verses of the book of Ruth are my answer:

“The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.” Ruth 4:14-17

Can you even believe the beauty in this? The townspeople are gathered around Naomi marveling at how blessed and redeemed she now is. She is holding her grandson, who will be in direct lineage to the Savior Himself. It’s almost too much to take in. The focus isn’t even on faithful Ruth, the focus at the end of the book is on Naomi, who is restored. What a beautiful thing that her little pity-party was interrupted by a true friend. Bitterness has turned to beauty and the beginnings of an even bigger story have just begun to unfold.

God can weave redemption where there was disobedience. May we know when we need to stubbornly cling to people who have given up. May we likewise never, ever rename ourselves ‘bitter’ as a result of our own painful circumstances, but look to the God who knows how to weave redemption into everything.

Not A Safe Space

“Christians should be creating safe spaces, not ridiculing them.”

The headline grabbed my attention. It was an article on Patheos that was tagged ‘progressive Christian’, which, admittedly is not the way I lean, but this is a topic that kind of ruffles my feathers. When I think about it, it’s because I see so much more below the surface than just the politically correct talk we all adhere to. There’s so much more going on, and it has to do with our hearts more than our political beliefs. Here’s an excerpt from the article, written by a United Methodist pastor who works on a college campus:

“So one way of understanding safe space is as a retreat space in which a marginalized group can decompress and relax together. It has to be okay with me that the black, queer, or female people I love sometimes need to spend some time apart from white male messiahs like me… So many chest-thumping conservative evangelicals are in love with the idea of costly grace. They need for their Christianity to feel mean and hard enough that it cannot be accused of worldly compromise. We live in a very graceless, cut-throat world. Some universities have decided to build their brand off of being that way. But as Christians, our most fundamental act of evangelism is to create safe space for those who are poor in spirit, meek, and persecuted. The measure of how saved I am as a Christian is how safe I am able to be for other people.”

That’s a lot to take in, for me anyways. It’s sad that this man sees himself as some kind of awful protagonist and thorn in the side of others. Jesus doesn’t see us that way, but we are obsessed with categories aren’t we? I’d like to say that yes I am unashamedly IN LOVE with the idea of costly grace, but not because I’m a mean jerk; Christ paid a price for my freedom and He told us there would be a cost to following Him. Grace is meant to set free the sinner, not set him free to sin. This tendency to see traditional Christians as ‘‘cut-throat” and graceless is pretty prevalent, and there isn’t a lot to back it up. A surrender Christ and an obedience to doctrine are way too often thrown under the bus because they don’t mesh with the a selfish self-centered spirituality. As for our most “fundamental act of evangelism” being to create a safe space for people… I disagree. We are to love God and our neighbor, yes indeed. That love though, flows from a larger place than our human relations, it comes from our relationship with Christ. Pleasing the people is not our highest calling, loving them the way God loves us is. The last sentence floors me: if we truly believe the measure of how saved we are depends on how ‘safe’ we are for other people we are in deep trouble. We are saved based on our accepting what Jesus did for us on the cross, period. This is a willful misunderstanding of what grace means and it is dangerous. You cannot criticize people for being obedient to God’s word while simultaneously telling others their salvation hinges on how ‘safe’ they are for other people to be around. We are all on the same sinking ship here, what a pity if we have to rely solely on another passenger to validate or save us.
To counter this all, I read an article over at Sheologians, one of my go-to podcasts and sites for gracious, but truth-filled discussion. The tackle this idea that church should be our “safe space” where we are free to be friends with sin and remain Switzerland when it comes to hard topics, but they do it gracefully and with truth. Popular sayings like “we just need to make more room at the table” heap shame on anyone who thinks there’s a price to pay to actually be at that table. Claiming everything is too nuanced or complicated is the go-to argument to shut down any challenging conversation. Some have recklessly and boldly planted their flag in the worlds camp, which doesn’t help anyone. Others have become so new-age and mystic in their writing, nobody can really understand what they are saying. Like Summer says in the article, Christians, we need to know how to play ball in this area.

The approaching Easter season is a real reminder to us that our freedom came at a price. Jesus told us that we are to rest in His finished work on the cross and that a life spent with Him requires some sacrificial things of us. We don’t always get to follow our feelings to wherever we please, especially when they lead us further down the path of self-glorification. It’s not complicated, it’s just not easy to crucify that awful selfishness we all have. That’s the whole issue here… we want what we want and we want it now. Joining in that chorus is one of the saddest things a Christian can do. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“I struggle with all the “space” talk these days. There’s safe spaces and white spaces. Black spaces. Female spaces. Spaces for dissent. Spaces for discussion. Just space space space. What I do know is that it is very virtuous to create space, and not to inhabit too much space, and to never, ever make someone else feel like you don’t care about their space. I have no idea what anyone is talking about.

Assuredly, if “safe space” does exist, it is decidedly NOT the church. The church is not a safe space. Let me make this perfectly clear. The church? The Bride of Christ? It is not safe for the world. It is not safe to your sensibilities. It is not safe for your feelings. The Bride of Christ is anything but, because the Bride of Christ is literally covered in blood. Christ did not knock on the door of your heart and ask if he could come in, He is the Son of God incarnate and his body was crushed and broken and he slayed death to make you His bride and if you are indeed his bride, you have died, too. You are dead. And now you are alive in Christ. Your flesh is at war and the church is the hospital for those of us who are wounded by our remaining sin and seeking to mortify that sin. The church is not a safe space. You will find healing and you will find fellowship, but it is going to be among other soldiers who are also fighting the good fight and showing up week after week badly bruised and broken and scarred by their remaining sin. You will find peace and joy everlasting, but the church does not exist to give you that. Believers exist to be active, serving members of the church, and it WILL cost you to do so. Your peace rests solely on the head that wore a crown of thorns in your place, and that cross that Jesus was crucified on? It is foolishness to the world. It makes no sense to the world. It is laughable to the world, and it is detested by the world, and it is not safe. It’s the centerpoint of history itself. It is the hinge upon which our very calendars turn because until that cross, the world was just waiting for Him. And since that cross, we are waiting for Him, and we are told that the cost of following Christ is so high, that unless you are willing to hate father, mother, sister, brother, you go ahead and put that cross down and get out because it is not for you.”

That’s not easy stuff. It’s true, but it pokes and prods us right out of our comfortable places. This idea that we all must be catered to at every moment and never made to feel uncomfortable is bananas. I read the other day a painfully long comment on social media from someone who was called “she” instead of “they” and was ready to burn the house down. She (they?) was (were?) violated in the worst way. Don’t infringe on my feelings. Don’t disagree with me. Don’t ask questions. Just do it.

The level we have reached is bordering on militant. The flesh screams for validation while Christ offers freedom from it all… IF we choose to pick up our cross and follow. Here’s the great news:

“Now, all of that said, the church is a great place to work out your faith. The church is where we should be ready and willing to wrestle with tough issues.”

Work it out. Don’t ignore the plank in your own eye, don’t excuse sin at every turn or just accept that this is how things are… wrestle and fight because truth is too valuable and the freedom Jesus offers is too beautiful not to. There’s so much more to life than feeling safe and not offended! The world needs to understand that. Christians, put down your fear of being misunderstood, set aside your pride and go love people with the true gospel. It’s not a safe space, but how quickly we learn it’s not all about us and our wish to be comfortable. It is however, the only place where we will find anything worth holding on to.

Picking The Weeds

“If I could just...

-Figure out (A,B,C)

-Follow through on (all the goals)

-Get (so and so) to (do such and such)

-Perform (certain action) and receive (certain result)

Does this sound familiar? I’m realizing the deeper I go and the more I grow with Jesus just how deeply ingrained these law-abiding beliefs are in my mind. The more of the truth I know, the more they seem to pop up, which I suppose is a good thing. I’m no newbie, I know there’s not a darn thing I can do to earn my way into good standing with God, I know the sacrifice Jesus made that covered all my sins that I receive through faith alone. It’s the foundation of everything, my weakness being made perfect in His strength. So I find it fascinating that the more I soak in that truth, the more I feel I need to put to death the idea that I can work for my blessings.

“I once heard of a pastor who spent time each week on a farm pulling weeds, hoping to bring about the renewal of all things on this earth. There is a reason he has to go back each week. The weeds kept growing back, because the weeds are always with us.

And my weeds are always going to be with me, just as yours are always going to be with you. To believe otherwise is to believe according to the law, a dead stalk in dry ground that tells us we’re able to fix inconsolable things ourselves, that perfection on earth is possible. These are beliefs that purposefully set Him aside and force us to look inside of ourselves for the hope and power we need for living. We become the answer to ourselves.” Christine Hoover

What a conviction to my heart. We live in a strange time, when evil hearts compartmentalize evil acts on the basis of their own morality. A woman can be both a health nut and abortion advocate. Child advocates can turn out to be child abusers. On the flip side, Christians walk around thinking we can earn our ticket to a good life by performing (or out-performing) one another. Yes, obedience is a big deal, I’ve spent a lot of time on that. There are consequences to our disobedient choices no doubt, but we must be very careful about slipping into the false belief that we can perform our way to a good life.

“If picking weeds is our hope, then we have none at all. If we demand the present be perfectly beautiful, we not only prove we weren’t actually listening to Jesus’s words but we become deeply offended that God is not living up to what we thought He’d be.”

A good and perfect life isn’t the goal, and we miss so much when we make it our highest aim. Look around this world, sin and evil cannot be controlled and we are driving ourselves mad trying to do just that. Sinners trying to control certain evils while unrepentantly basking in others… there is no answer outline or legislation for that, not ever.

The more things spin out, the more I want to tighten the reins of control. “If… then” sentences begin to pop into my head and I begin to reason myself right out of Jesus’ presence. We live in dangerous territory where DIY spirituality is a real thing. Jesus loves us whether we stick to our well-meaning goals or not. He doesn’t abandon the family dinner table if devotion time turns into a nit-picky argument, (or so I’ve heard). Our obedience is a result of His grace, not the other way around.

Everything He gives us is a gift, un-deserved and un-merited. We accept it joyfully and obey because we love Him. Obedience doesn’t assure us a perfect life, and I for one need to be reminded of that more and more as the world offers up empty solutions for big evils. So yes, we need to pick the weeds, but we need to make sure that isn’t all we are doing. Flowers grow, grass returns, all at the same time. Not only is perfection not possible, it shouldn’t even be on the to do list.

It’s very easy to start bargaining with God, even if we well understand that everything is a gift… it’s our nature to work our way into or out of situations. Jesus says give it a rest and come to Me, you’ll have imperfect blessings and learn to thrive amongst the weeds.

Lord, we don’t actually desire a perfect life, we long for an abundant life with You, weeds and all. Help us not become dependent on “If/then” statements in our walk, but let us receive the beauty You offer that comes through all the imperfect things as well.