Monday, August 13, 2012

Cleaning the Junk Drawer

Praying this prayer is like cleaning out the junk drawer.

You need to do it.
You’re not sure what you’ll find.
It’s easier to keep it closed and pretend like it’s all okay.
You’ll find things in there you never knew you had.
In the end, you’ll have lots to throw away and you’ll feel better.

{Psalm 139:23-24}

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
 Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting! (ESV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
 test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
 and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT)

Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life. (The Messge)

How often do you ask God to search your heart?
How often do you ask God to point things out in your thought life that offend him?
How often do you let God reveal things hidden in your junk drawer, only to straighten it out again?
How often do you go to God in repentance and humility asking Him to reveal sin you are unaware of?

How often do ask God to search you? Know you? Test you? Reveal you? Guide you? Forgive you?

Go now . . . the Good Shepherd is waiting.

Friday, August 10, 2012

What is Faith?

I’ve been doing a little word study on faith.

For some reason, the story in Mark 5 just wrecks me. It is the only time Jesus calls someone “daughter”.

“And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (v.34)

Her faith has made her well.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8)

By grace through faith we have been saved!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

By faith we finish the race.

Faith: Human belief in and reliance upon the divine.
Faith: Dependence upon, confident trust, reliance

Faith is more than belief . . . it’s reliance.
It’s not passive, it’s courageous.

It is faith, this dependence, confident trust, reliance upon the LORD that
Makes us well
Saves us
Gives us peace
Helps us continue on

When I’m facing trials . . . do I have a reliance upon God? Do I have confident trust, dependence upon Him? Will I be able to say “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I have kept the faith?”

I hope so. By the power of the Holy Spirit oh LORD I hope so!

Oh how I long to hear the words “Daughter . . . your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Christian Life & Suffering: Finish the Race

{When running the race feels more like walking with a limp.}

I run (okay, fine, I walk) the same 3 mile route every time I exercise. I have a bad hip, and I can tell you exactly when my hip will start bothering me. But I press on because I can also tell how far I have to go before the journey is over. Then I’m home, I can put my feet up, take some Aleve, and feel good again.

If only suffering and the Christian life were the same. If only we knew the exact distance we had to go before the journey of suffering were over. But we don’t.

If the Christian life is running the race, let’s face it . . . somedays it’s just.plain.hard. Your hip hurts, it’s too hot outside, you're dehydrated, you’re lonely, etc.

The friend who prayerfully waits for a spouse has no idea how long she’ll have to wait.
The wife who longs for baby has no idea how much longer until God to opens her womb.
The man who seeks relief from a stressful job has no idea how long he’ll have endure.
The widow who is still alone after 10 years has no idea how much longer until the loneliness lifts.
The friends who lost their baby have no idea how much time will pass between heaven and earth to hold him again.

But that’s the thing . . . we can’t just give up. We can’t stop, we can’t stand still and just “wait”. Scripture tells us to run. Keep moving . . . keep pursuing. . . press on toward the goal.

When my body aches I can’t just sit on the corner of the street and call it day. I have to push through the pain to get back home. Even if it means limping the rest of the way home.

And that’s just it. Sometimes the Christian life is learning to walk with a limp. It may not be easy, you may not be the fastest, but you’re continuing on. We don’t know how long until we’re home, we don’t know if the weather will heat up or cool down, we just have to keep going.

We may not be the first to cross the finish line, or be in the best shape, but that’s okay. Keep going. Keep running. Keep walking. Keep limping.

Because let’s face it. Which story is more inspiring? Usain Bolt that fastest man in the world who wins the gold because of his own strength and training?

Or Oscar Pistorius, the man with prostethetic legs who trains and runs the race anyway?

He probably won’t win, he may even finish last, but His perseverance is inspiring.

I don’t care what “place” I come in, I just want to finish the race. I may be limping now, but I’ll press on.

*PS For those of you who are sprinters . . . those of you who are strong, who are healthy,who’ve got it going on, if you don’t mind slowing down to run along side us who are limping, that would be great. We could use the encouragement, the friendship, and the extra hand.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why "Try Harder" Won't Work

{My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

I always wonder how Jesus taught the sermon on the mount? Did he just go up to the mountain and start blurting all of this stuff out? Were his disciples asking him topical questions and these were his responses? Did he know that the pharisees were listening, defending their prideful religious behavior by saying "Well it's not like I've committed murder or adultery Jesus. Why are you making me out to be so bad?"

Can't you just imagine that conversation among the disciples and pharisees and this is Jesus' response? This is how I imagine the conversation going down:

Pharisees: Jesus, you're always saying we've broken the commandments, when we haven't. You're always warning us that we're hypocrites, that we only appear to be righteous. How can you accuse us of such a thing when we are working so hard at keeping the Law?

Jesus: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

You guys think you're so "good" at keeping the law? Well how about your heart? Have you ever had an impure thought? Have you ever looked at a woman with lustful intent? If so, it's your thought life, the deep recesses of your heart that declare your guilt before the LORD, not just your actions.

Pharisees: Okay, you got us there. Well, I guess we'll just try harder in our own strength not to even let our minds wander. We'll do everything within our own power to stop sinning.

Jesus: Really? You'll do anything. You think that you can just beat sin in your own strength? Okay . . . 29 "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

Do you see Jesus' point here? We can't defeat sin in our own strength. We'd have to mutilate our entire body! We can't be "good enough" on the outside, because even our hearts are deeply sinful.

This issue of sin, religion, try hard, etc is a battle that we can't fight on our own. The act of sinning starts long before the hands, it starts in the heart. We can (and should) take drastic measures against sin. We should be willing to do whatever it takes, to keep our hearts from wandering. But, that still won't be enough. We have to allow Jesus to work in us and through us. We have to rest in His promise of Matthew 11:30 that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

That's the beauty of the Cross. We no longer have to fight sin on our own, because the battle has already been won! We can't keep trying harder, because we will never be able to try hard enough. We must accept the grace God has given us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to pay the penalty of sin and free us from its power.

We don't have to work at being good, because He is good. We don't have to put sin to death, because He was put to death. We don't have to do enough, because He is enough.

We just have to believe, trust, rest, and be thankful.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Anger: Why We Can't Worship With It

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny." (Matthew 5:21-26)

Oh Jesus, why are you always making things so hard?! It's so much easier to separate my real life with my church life and pretend like the two have nothing to do with one another.

Are you really trying to tell me that it dishonors you when I'm at church trying "worship" and I have anger in my heart and unresolved issues with my brother or sister? Are you serious? Being angry, speaking insults, and calling someone a fool is the same as murder in your eyes??

Are you saying not having the last 10% of the conversation with friends in the church is a sin against you?

Are you really saying that if I can't be reconciled to my brother, it will be difficult to be reconciled to our Father?

I'm starting to think that the peace we have with others is directly related to the peace we have with you. If we don't have right relationship with our own neighbor, how then oh LORD, can we have right relationship with you?

Is there someone, a brother or sister, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker you need to be reconciled to? Is there someone in your life you need to have a conversation with? Go and be reconciled first . . . then come and offer your gift.

Let's stop pretending, let's stop gossiping, let's stop letting anger fester. It causes division between one another and most importantly division between us and the LORD. Go and have that hard conversation and worship Him all the more!