Thursday, March 27, 2014

Boxing Up and Labeling God

Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. - See more at:,-Greatness-Of#sthash.pFbN0ry8.dpuf

"Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 12:6

Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. - See more at:,-Greatness-Of#sthash.pFbN0ry8.dpuf

Does God live "great in our midst?" Too often He lives in a nice labeled box, neat and organized. Put away for a season and pulled out when we'd like to decorate our life with Him. Afraid of what He will tell us, reveal to us about ourselves, what He will ask us to change, He is put away out of fear. Yet in this fear we do not live fully. We know of God, but we do not truly know Him.

God doesn't do what is predictable to the human heart. His ways are not our ways! God does not do the things that would be easy for us to understand. He does what is holy and righteous. God sent His son Jesus, who was not the idea of a messiah most people had, to save human souls. God sent Moses to free His people, He made Jonah be swallowed into the belly of a whale. A small shepherd boy defeated a giant and later became a great king. An angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the world's savior. Jesus performed miracles and healed. Jesus rose again into heaven after He was dead for three days. 
This same God who allowed these things to happen is put into a modern mundane and boring box. He is watered down and put into a formula. He is put and contained in the box of the sinful human heart and mind. Yet He desires that we allow Him to dwell in our midst. We must ask and we must be willing to do the work that it takes to live a victorious life with God. We can ask Him to heal us, we can ask Him to do works in our lives even when we don't understand how they could come to pass. God doesn't fit into any normal formula. He will do things that seem strange to us, things others may not understand. God isn't legalistic or bound to any human's box. He is the one who created the heavens and the earth, the one who with a sweep of His hand set all the stars in place.

We can trust God day by day. Each morning we can trust that He is moving in our hearts and minds with freedom and that His will will come to pass in our lives. When God seems foreign, strange, and what He asks of us requires blind faith and not knowing the outcome---may we remember this is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is the God of Noah, Job, Ruth, David and Moses. 
God will never lead us to a place in which His glory is not revealed. We miss out on this by keeping God in the self made box we've put Him in. The one where He is predictable to us, but the one where we prevent ourselves from seeing His righteousness and holiness. This is the God who has mercy on us, pardons our sins, and has created a heavenly kingdom that awaits us. Jesus tells us that if we believe, we will see the glory of God. May we take Him at His word and not be afraid to believe with abandon so that we may see Him fully.
Prayer: God, may I not be afraid to see you fully. Remove the scales from my eyes and heart so that I may see your miracles. I can come boldly to you in prayer for miracles, healing and holiness in my life. Help me to not be afraid of what you will reveal but embrace your peace and life giving presence. Amen.

"Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”  John 11:40-42

"And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose." Acts 9:34
"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book..." John 20:30


Disconnect to Really Connect



"Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’
To silent stone, ‘Arise! It shall teach!’
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
Yet in it there is no breath at all." Habakkuk 2:19


Having the ability to be connected to so much information and people every day can give us a false sense of truly knowing others. The ones that are in front of us can quickly become the ones in the background as we stare at a screen "connecting."  Hearts and minds of little ones and loved ones require cultivating and attention. Their struggles, hopes and laughter are real and they need someone to notice. Treating our devices as if they are almost living, breathing people who need tending too is causing us to neglect the precious gift of family and loved ones that God gives.

Taking the time to be fully present and turn off the devices and distractions is worthwhile. The distractions pass away and we adjust to not having them. Soon we see what we were missing in all of our false connectedness. Connecting with those God put in front of us is one of the greatest callings He gives us. A life lived in constant posting and scrolling passes away in futility. It provides a false high that fades away quickly but soon calls us back for more. It never satisfies, it never provides, and it doesn't breathe. Living a life in the high of constant connectedness is not life giving.

 A life lived in the present moment with all it's difficulties and joys, does not pass away. Being fully present---not avoiding the things that we want to avoid in our daily life---means that we will also open ourselves up to the refinement that comes from the Holy Spirit. His voice will become soft and noticeable. The distractions that called us away from hearing His voice are gone and His voice remains. Getting away from the frantic pace of screen connect gives way to the gentle pace of the Holy Spirit and His life giving ways. The internet gives a false sense that life must always be breaking news and exciting. The latest videos and headlines bombard us into a sense of hyped up, excited living. This is not true joy. True joy comes from the lasting deep down love and holiness that is God. Joy is when we no longer rely on a machine to give us life and a sense of security, relaxation and excitement, but we rely on the living and everlasting God.

There will never be regret that we spent too much time with people we love, investing in their hearts and loving them. We will not look back and regret turning off computers, phones and ipads. There can be regret that we spent too much time with machines and too little with those alive in front of us. Hearts need tending too and often the disruptions of human emotions and moods are opportunities God brings to minister and love those around us. They are not disruptions from our screens and the "fun" we want to have, they are opportunities for the love of God to be shown. Viewing disruptions as opportunities and asking God to guide us in His will brings peace to the heart.

God calls us to live fully in the life He has given us. The difficulties, imperfections, less than ideal circumstances, human flaws---these are all ways God teaches us, grows us, challenges us and refines us to become holy. They are not something to escape from, but something to embrace and in the embracing we lean on God in a new way and trust in Him. He makes us more like Him as we are connected fully to the life He has given us. There is joy, beauty and life right in front of us if we take the time to remove the layers of the unnecessary, the blinders in our life--- to be left with what is truly life giving.

"Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.”  Ezra 10:4

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

Prayer: Lord, help me to connect fully in the life you have given me. Remove my distractions, the ones that blind me to allow me to see only you God. This life can layer and layer distractions so thick that we can no longer hear or see you God. De-clutter my distractions and machines that do not have life and show me the ones who are living that I can invest in, show me your life giving ways. Amen.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Top

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man." Proverbs 3:1-4 

Sometimes ambition to reach the top blinds us to the simple joys. While searching and striving to achieve the big things in life we miss the truly meaningful things that memories are made of--- the building blocks of a life. Searching for the missing piece that will complete our picture, the one that will make us feel we have achieved all. This piece that will fit perfectly into our happiness formula, the one that will complete our success. Books galore and motivational speakers always preach a formula to get to the top. Somehow if we get to the top from our drive and motivation we are deemed a success.

While wanting to grow, learn and be the best we can be in God's eyes is not a bad thing, when we focus on the gifts of success rather than the giver of success we will stumble. When our focus is on the outward rather than the inward man we begin to lose our way.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” -Albert Einstein

God's version of success is very different than man's. God desires that we follow Him obediently walking the path to His version of success for us. King David gave his son, Solomon, advice about success:

"Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go." 1 Kings 2:3

God desires that we follow Him and walk in His ways first, His blessings come with our obedience. We often have it backwards. We create an idol of achievement and success and being the "master of our own destiny" as Tim Keller says in his book "Counterfeit Gods:"

"More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are God, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength, and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme."

Our success quickly becomes part of our identity as we have achieved a lot, haven't we? After all it was all achieved based on our hard work and smarts! When a crisis happens, a challenging time of life, what is our reaction? Are we suddenly telling ourselves we are "failures?" Only to quickly get up again with the same driven ambition until we reach the top again, missing out on the journey towards God.

God's version of success has nothing to do with our money, our possessions or our smarts. He desires that we commit to Him and His ways and He will show us the path. "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." Proverbs 16:3

Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury - to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.”
-Albert Einstein

While in America success is looked at as fame and fortune and some measure of notoriety, there are many successful people who do not achieve big things in the world's eyes. Success in God's eyes isn't always big in the world's eyes. The quiet one who follows God faithfully and touches others lives is a success to God. There are many who have no fame, no money, yet they are known to God. They are His creation and His beloved children. All of our work on this earth, our lives---are valued by God, even the most menial tasks. He sees and He knows.

If to be idolized means having a private plane, a bank account full of cash at ones disposal and fame, fortune, and material goods---yet means missing a life with God. is it worth it? A life lived for God, or a life lived for money and earthly success that will pass away. A life lived for God's kingdom goes on into eternity.

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13

Often the definition of what success is is pressed into our psyche from a young age and is hard to get rid of. We judge success on outward goods and possessions, outer "shininess." Yet examples of a successful man or woman who lived a life for God are few and far between. They held few earthly riches, but many heavenly riches. The sweet and simple life is undervalued. Warm meals, time spent with our families, a good book, knowing God, a simple candle lit in the evenings---these are the good things in life. Leaving our children a legacy of faith, hope and endurance is the best legacy. Leaving them an honorable life, well lived, to look back on and learn from is a huge achievement and one that God values.

"The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker." Helen Keller

As we work to achieve all that God has for us, may we remember that it is not in only striving for the bigger house, the better car, the better outward life, but our efforts to know God and live at peace in ourselves that is valued by God. A peaceful heart, a mind at peace, a heart that abides with God this is what God desires and what He values. May we not miss all that He has for us pursuing our blind striving so that we can live at our fullest in all that He has provided us. Striving for a goal that God does not have for us creates unnecessary stress and wasted time, time taken away from what is truly important.

"God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy. The man who is elated by success and is cast down by failure is still a carnal man. At best his fruit will have a worm in it." A.W. Tozer

Our value is not found in the achievements of our straining, but in Christ. Our hearts can abide in Him in peace, knowing that all He has for us He will accomplish through our weaknesses. The striving was accomplished for us on the cross, we can rest in Jesus.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13

Prayer: "Lord, I will work hard to achieve all you have for me. Help to remember this may or may not consist of earthly possessions, but of a simple life. May I learn to rest in you, find my identity and worth in you and not my bank account. I know that that does not make me a success or failure. Living my life for you and being faithful is a success to you.  Help me to live my life fully God and not miss out because I am focused on striving for a goal you may not have for me. Help me to leave a legacy of faith Lord and of resting in you. Amen."


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Altar of Self


"Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor." 

-Proverbs 18:12

 Loud, proud, seen and heard is the culture of today. We live in a world surrounded by the "selfie." The latest of our lives, what we see and do has to be posted somewhere and seen. Opinions and beliefs on social media are spouted without a second thought. Our bodies are worked out to perfection, social media tweaked to show us in the most positive light and hobbies, classes, and clubs galore to serve our "interests".  Bragging about all the activities and achievements comes as easy as breathing. An altar is built and we are quick to offer up living for heaven in exchange for serving ourselves. Vanity, pride, and selfishness are developed and nurtured.

Serving ourselves feels really, really good at the time. It's easy, quick, painless. We buy into the world's view of happiness and try to find it ourselves. With various messages in culture coming at us such as "self love" and "discovering ones true self" we set off on a journey of "finding ourselves." We may find out a lot of useful things about ourselves and discover a talent or two but something is still missing. The heart yearns for the definition of who we are and whom we serve. The heart misses being refined by turning away from self (sin) and toward Christ.

The altar of self is vain and conceited.

Christ is not focused on His own vanity but rather how He loves and serves. The prudent person is not self seeking but Christ seeking. Opportunities for conceit and vanity are turned away, it is not a goal in life nor is it sought out.

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."  Galations 5:13

The altar of self is loud and uncontrolled, the tongue cannot hold back. It says what it wants and doesn't care about the consequences to others.  Discretion is not used over one's tongue and thoughtfulness is left behind. Talk is valued over silence. We give "full vent" to ourselves never thinking if it is the wise choice.

Christ was controlled, never making a fool of Himself. He was wise and thoughtful with His words. The Bible places value on being quiet, self controlled and guarding our tongues. A wise person places ultimate value on thoughtfulness and values silence as well as talking. The prudent person uses discretion and knows when each is appropriate.

"Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." Proverbs 17:28

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." Proverbs 29:11

"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent."  Proverbs 10:19

The altar of self is focused on achieving the perfect earthly life. A better house, car, next gadget, acquiring the next material good is the focus of ones goals. The outer life is seemingly wonderful without any focus and goals for the inner life. Years are wasted chasing after this perfection, contentment is elusive at best. This is a very American idea of success.

Christ was focused on living His life for others, for us. Pursuing material possessions was never a focus or mentioned in Christ's ministry. Think of Christ trying to faithfully minister and lay Himself down for us while simultaneously trying to focus on his dream house and his new ipad. There is not one place where chasing after material possessions or an elusive "perfect life" as a goal on earth is mentioned. He focused on His heavenly kingdom, His place at the right hand of the Father. He had no goals for any possessions on this earth, only for the kingdom of God. How many lists and charts do we make of our goals that are self focused? Is there even one list of goals aimed for God? When we aim our goals off of ourselves and place them on Christ we find true freedom and joy. The self is a prison, Christ is freedom.

"And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15

"But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."  1 Timothy 6:9

The altar of self is rooted in pride. We want to mask our own sin and live a life running to cover it. The need for our own salvation and to repent of our sin is not seen. All of these things serve to fuel the pride, the temporary good feelings of satisfaction we will achieve. Pride leads us to believe we are "good enough on our own" and we are "good people." The deep need to follow Christ and surrender all is never acknowledged.

There was no self pride in Christ. He was humble, lowly, meek, a servant. Focused on God and His ministry. While we will never be Christ, His character is an example for us to follow. He was focused on love. There is no pride and selfishness in love. They cannot peacefully coexist in a Christ follower. All of our knowledge, achievements and possessions are fruitless if we do not pursue Christ and forsake the altar of self.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." Proverbs 27:2

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

May our goals be to have more of Christ, and less of this world. While we may enjoy the fruits of our labor and the blessings God does bestow upon us, they should never take all of our focus, or become an idol. Focusing on our treasures stored up in heaven and not on what will eventually pass away leads us to God and the altar of self is left behind.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal."1 Corinthians 13:1

"For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world." 1 John 2:16

"The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does."  -Thomas a` Kempis

"For a small reward, a man will hurry away on a long journey; while for eternal life, many will hardly take a single step." Thomas a` Kempis

The mythological Narcissus (below) who fell in love with his own image and was doomed to die because he would not turn away from it.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014




 "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5

"I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and
getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the
immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of
your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation."
~Jeremiah Burroughs

The beauty of the house is order;
The blessing of the house is contentment;
The glory of the house is hospitality;
The crown of the house is godliness.
~ Anonymous

"And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15

"Oh, that men and women would learn to live with an awareness that one day they are going to die! Truly it is a waste of time to set our hearts on a dying world and its short-lived comforts and pleasures, and for the sake of momentary pleasures to lose a glorious eternity in Heaven! Here we are striving, laboring, exhausting ourselves about little things, and running here and there like ants on an anthill and yet after a few years we will all be gone, and another generation will take our place. Let us live for eternity. Let us seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness that can never be taken from us." ~ J.C. Ryle