Repost: What is Required?

I am a strong proponent of reading ALL of the Bible, considering Scripture in context, studying entire books and digging deep to mine the truth contained therein.

But I think sometimes I am so enamored of finding something new I forget what I’ve already learned.

It’s easy to remain in pursuit of truth and yet dismiss the truth that I’ve aprehended.

I can fool my heart into thinking that learning is the same thing as living.

But it’s not.

Read the rest here:  Monday Musings: What is Required?

Faith in “Faith” or in a Faithful Father?

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God;

Ephesians 2:8 AMP

This is one of my favorite verses because it summarizes the Gospel-God calls, God saves, God keeps.  

It’s ALL God.

Sadly, my human heart can forget this so easily.  I can begin to lean on my “good works” or “holy habits” or the testimony of my “faith journey” instead of resting solely in the enduring love of my Faithful Father.

So when hard times come (and they do) and my faith falters (and it will) I become insecure and frightened and concerned that I will ultimately be lost.  Because I have shifted the responsibility from God to me.  

And I know I’m not strong enough to hold on.

When Dominic ran ahead to heaven my mind was riddled with unanswered questions. “Why?”  “Where were You?”  “What are You doing in this?”

Those questions ate holes in my faith.  

But it’s not ME holding onto God-it’s GOD holding onto me.

The strength of my faith doesn’t determine whether or not His promise is fulfilled, because if it did, there would be no hope. 

So, I refuse to have faith in “faith”.

Instead I have faith in an unchanging, everlasting Faithful Father.

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Wounded Healers

I’ve come to believe that my wounds and the grace God has provided in my woundedness are not my personal possession.

God did not cause my pain, but He is redeeming it.  He is molding me into a different person than I would have been if Dominic hadn’t run ahead to heaven.  And that person has more compassion and grace and mercy and patience than the person I was before.

If I hide my wounds then I am hiding the hope He has hidden in my heart.  

I won’t do that.  

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

Nobody escapes being wounded.  We all ar wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.  The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we  put our woundedness in the service of others?’  When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God’s wounded healer:  through his wounds we are healed.  Jesus’suffering and death brought joy and life.  His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love.  As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.  ~ Henri Nouwen

brennan manning share our wounds

Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For he gives us comfort in our trials so that we in turn may be able to give the same sort of strong sympathy to others in theirs. Indeed, experience shows that the more we share Christ’s suffering the more we are able to give of his encouragement. This means that if we experience trouble we can pass on to you comfort and spiritual help; for if we ourselves have been comforted we know how to encourage you to endure patiently the same sort of troubles that we have ourselves endured. We are quite confident that if you have to suffer troubles as we have done, then, like us, you will find the comfort and encouragement of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 PHILLIPS

Sharing our wounds makes us vulnerable.

When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we invite others to do the same.

But  in this community of mutual vulnerability, healing is possible.

Church Signs

Can I just say I’m not a fan of church signs?

I could list a dozen reasons but here I will simply list one:  It is impossible to constrain good theology to the few words that will fit on most church signs.

The temptation to be funny, cute or trite generally overcomes any desire to be biblically accurate.

Case in point-just down the road from me is this sign:

THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS, ONLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GOD TO WORK.

I could write for days on why I hate (yes, HATE!) this sign.  But I’ll restrain myself.

Here are the top three reasons I want to close my eyes when I pass it:

  1.  It’s simply does not line up with Scripture.  Paul gives a list of “problems” in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27.  Did God help him?  Yes!  But was Paul discouraged?  Yes!  He turned to God but was also thankful for the practical help of those who cared about him and gave him aid.
  2. People who are struggling are not encouraged by platitudes.  Platitudes close the door to further discussion.  They are a giant “period” in a conversation.  If the purpose of your sign is to invite others in, this one will do just the opposite.
  3. Preaching this foolishness (in person or by sign) lets congregants off the hook.  If there are no problems then there is no reason to extend a helping hand.  If God will handle it-why should I get my hands dirty or waste my time?

This week alone I have dealt with at least ten “problems” that required practical solutions in addition to prayers that God would help work them out.

Did He make some things fall in place that otherwise might not?  Probably.  And for that I am very thankful.

But did He shower solutions from the sky like raindrops?  No.  I had to face the problems, look for solutions and ask for help from others.

When Christ instituted the church it was not for us to sit inside four walls and dole out pithy platitudes to passersby.  It was for us to be His hands and feet in the world.

Truth is that God DOES work.  But most often He works through US.

All around us are people hungry for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to put out a sign, could it just say, “We welcome the broken, the wounded, the hurting, the ones with no hope”?

Isn’t THAT what Jesus came to do?

weary

 

 

 

Repost: Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

“The worst conceivable thing has happened, and it has been mended…All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich

I’m not sure when I first read this quote, but it came to my mind that awful morning.   And I played it over and over in my head, reassuring my broken heart that indeed, the worst had already happened, and been mended.

Read the rest here:  Resurrection: Reality and Reassurance

Feet of Clay

God is not offended by my human frailty.  He isn’t looking down from Heaven, shaking His head at my halting steps forward on this long, hard road.

we are dustHe understands my fear, my sadness, my longing for wholeness.

But sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that.

I’m surrounded by messages that scream,

“You can do better!”

“Be all that you can be!”  

“Try harder, practice more, do this, do that and you can attain your dreams!”

Even in Christian circles we tend to rank one another based on hours spent in Bible study, Sunday School lessons taught, singing in the choir, serving on committees, showing up at services.

That was the way of the Pharisees-impossible burdens piled high that crushed precious hearts so that they couldn’t imagine a Father in Heaven Who loved them.

That made Jesus angry.

They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Matthew 23:4 NLT

He didn’t come to mock my limitations or make light of my struggles.

He came to Shepherd my heart past those very things to see His heart for who He created me to be.

He reaches out and reaches in.  He sings love and courage and hope when I’m desperate to hear it.  

For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. “I have gathered your wounded and taken away your reproach.

Zephaniah 3:17 TLB

Reality is this:  I AM broken.  I AM frail.  I AM burdened by this life on earth.  It is absolutely too heavy for me to carry.  I will be crushed to dust beneath its weight.

But He offers to take that burden for which I was never made and replace it with the one perfectly fitted for my shoulders.

His yoke is easy.

His yoke is light.

And He is the One Who pulls alongside me to bear it.

you who are weary come to me

 

 

Facing My Inner Pharisee

 

In centuries past it was common for Christ followers to fast.

They fasted for many reasons:  to consecrate themselves for a task; to seek answers to prayer; observance of seasons on the church calendar; or for strength to overcome besetting sin.

Today, fasting has fallen out of favor in most western churches-deemed unnecessary or an attempt to gain favor with God by “works”.

That’s unfortunate.  

Because fasting has never been about making points with God, it’s been about removing self-reliance from our spiritual vocabulary.

It’s not about demonstrating personal fortitude or displaying self-righteousness, it’s about recognizing my weakness and desperate dependence on Christ.  

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are – dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.

~Hudson Taylor

Like the Pharisees, though, I am apt to make much of my “sacrifice” and little of Christ’s sufficiency.  I want to bargain with God and rise in the ranks of His favor because I’m so “good”.

It doesn’t work like that.  

I was almost to the end of a 40 day fast when Dominic was killed.

I am physically unable to fast 40 days consecutively so, for several years, I had done an every-other-day fast so that it equaled 40 days.

At some point in the first week after Dom ran ahead to heaven I remember crying out to God, “What exactly do You want from me??? I’ve done all that I know to do in an attempt to live up to Your expectations, and yet it is never enough!”

And (not then, certainly!) but at some point in the nearly 3 years since, He answered, “Your righteous acts are as filthy rags. The only sufficient sacrifice is My own Son’s blood.”

THAT was humbling.

Because even though I would have given the same answer to anyone else who thought they could “work” their way into God’s good graces, obviously the truth of it had not seeped into the fabric of my being.

I WAS trying to make points with God.  And I was angry He hadn’t taken that into consideration and spared me the pain of burying my son.

We often mock the Pharisees for thinking that “getting it right” means “being righteous”, but I understand the temptation to substitute acts of righteousness for relying on relationship through Jesus Christ.

The one means I am in control, the other means I have to follow and give up control.

If there is one thing I’ve learned through child loss that I cannot forget for even a millisecond is: I am NOT in control.

I am utterly dependent on Him for life, for breath, for saving AND sustaining grace.  

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing.

Ephesians 2:8-9 VOICE

Fasting from food is relatively easy.  Fasting from my tendency toward self-righteousness is much harder.  

This year, as I observe Lent,

as I fast,

as I add in holy habits,

I am asking God to help me remember that I am not trying to win His favor,

I am making room to hear His heart.

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