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Archive for January, 2013

Alluring destinations of all kinds bid us come; hide away, escape the dreariness or difficulty of life, if only for a moment, and find rest.

For centuries, the people of God found respite and renewal with Him in literal locales. God, of course, is everywhere present; but He chose to “show up” in particular ways and particular places … a burning bush, a mountaintop, twin pillars of fire and cloud, a wooden chest and eventually a temple in a city (Mount Zion/Jerusalem).

That God would “show up” at all in a broken world full of rebels is astounding; but that He would leave the infinite glory of Heaven, “take on flesh and dwell among us” (John 1:14), defies all expectations. And still there’s more … The Creator of all things wasn’t content to merely be WITH us. He ultimately chose to be IN all who would receive Him by grace through faith (John 14:16-17; Eph 1:13).

Our greatest place of rest isn’t a place, it’s a people. There is no more stunning destination on earth than a community of Christ-followers inhabited by the Spirit of God living as the people of God displaying the love of God to the glory of God!

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One year ago today Kimberly and I sat together in pre-op awaiting her mastectomy. I can say we felt a genuine sense of hope, peace, even gratitude as we prayed for a successful surgery, a positive prognosis and a full recovery. We celebrate today a challenging but beautiful year of healing. We’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from friends and even strangers. No amount of words can express how thankful we continue to be for the care shown us while walking through “the shadow” as I called it.

Mingled with the genuine joy I felt throughout Kimberly’s treatment was a nagging helplessness looming every step of the way, a feeling I’ve detested as long as I can remember. It has been in that place of undeniable fragility and need that my faith has deepened most. God has diligently wrestled away more and more of my self-reliance and instilled in me ever-growing contentment with the uncertainty of life.

As a result, I’m diligent to do what seems wise and best in any given moment while more frequently resting in the possibility of circumstances I might never choose, but which achieve in me character forged only in suffering. My hope is rooted less in desirable temporary outcomes (though I still pray for these) and more in a future that is as certain as the love demonstrated on a Roman cross by my Creator.

That which was exposed in my soul by a threatening diagnosis has become covered by the grace and mercy of our compassionate God. I’m learning in a very real way the beauty of the Lord’s words to Paul in response to His pleas for relief, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). I gladly welcome prayer for continued growth in this area all of my days. I’m truly grateful for those who have and continue to walk with me along this amazing journey of faith.

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Psalm 47: Shout!

They come in all shapes and sizes in all parts of the world. Tens of thousands file through their gates to be entertained, paying tribute to their champion. These are the adult playgrounds of our day, grand monuments to their designers … though few within their walls actually play. Most contribute to the occasion with a raucous roar, shouts of triumph for every step toward victory.

Why is it that we rise so effortlessly, so religiously with raw zeal for human achievement and remain so comparatively composed while extolling our God? Why does the victory achieved on a cross at Golgotha not evoke an eruption of praise in our sanctuaries unlike any heard in a stadium of sport?

How can we be so inhibited in the King of kings’ presence while so boisterous in homage to mere mortals?

Could it be that our joy of redemption is mingled with shame over what our transgressions have required of our Savior? Or perhaps we’ve yet to appreciate the full magnitude of the love so lavished upon us?

Whatever the cause, may the goodness and glory of our God now stir us so completely that our songs of praise would dwarf even the applause of angels. “Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”

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Psalm 46: Holding Out Hope

All of creation is in a tantrum (always has been), revolting like an angry child against its consequences of the fall in Eden (see Genesis 3). Natural and un-natural disasters plague our experience and fuel fears of living in a world we cannot control.

What if it all were to crumble? What if our greatest nightmares interrupted our waking hours?

  • God would still be the great I AM.
  • We would still find safe refuge for our souls in an all-sufficient Savior.
  • The redemptive plan of God would carry on unimpeded, certain of fulfillment at the moment He has appointed.

As impossible as it seems, when my world is unraveling … I can rest assured that God will hold me together. I need only to listen, watch, wait and hope (expectantly) for Him to show. “Be still and know that He is God.”

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I strive not to make too much or too little of human greatness I encounter.

Though we are finite, frail and flawed in so many ways, God has endowed His image bearers with remarkable abilities that amaze and inspire. It is exhilarating to see people with feet of clay ascend to untold heights.

Still, no degree of achievement erases the guile of the Garden, the curse of death earned by independence.

Our greatness is spectacular, breathtaking, but only a glimpse of true glory, that of our Maker. May the remarkable story of humanity with all its tales of triumph stir our souls and send our gaze heavenward where complete and untarnished majesty truly resides. God is the King of Glory!

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How is my opinion of God altered in times of great suffering?

“Now there was a day” … when Job lost everything (Job 1-2:10); livestock, laborers, real estate, his health and all his children. His wife advised him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) I guess she assumed that life wasn’t worth living if it meant living with loss.

Job replied to his wife’s counsel with a sobering question we would all do well to ask, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (HCSB, Job 2:10)

I have to ask myself, are my acts of obedience currency I dole out to God in exchange for desirable conditions? Do I believe worship obligates Him to do my bidding? Is my love for God contingent upon acceptable circumstances? Or do I love Him simply because He first loved me, and that is unalterably true in the best and worst of times.

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Temptation is so alluring when life gets tough … a moment of relief, a sugary substitute, a way of escape. Pain certainly heightens our awareness, even our appreciation for all things pleasurable. And if iniquity weren’t somehow pleasurable, well then, it wouldn’t be the least bit attractive.

But compromise comes with a cost. Sin offers deliverance and then shackles the suckers who take the bait.

In the fog of fear and frustration, we are wise to look for light not leisure. We do well to set our gaze far and wide beyond our circumstances in search of a “straight path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The God-honoring way through hardship is always available, just hard to see through distorted desires.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

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