The Monster Called Mundane

It’s been a tough couple of weeks in the “for all things” category. Have you ever found things not going your way at work? Have you been mistreated by your employer and/or your customers? Lied to? Overworked?

I could go into the details, but I’m afraid it would come across as just complaining, and would feed back into my own frustrations. On the other hand, it might show anyone reading this that we share some common ground. Suffice it for now to say, it has been a miserable couple of weeks with a lot of challenges. And, frankly, I have not met all those things with “giving thanks for all things.”

This morning, I finally got up and spent a little time with the Lord, singing and worshiping. Then I sat down and opened my Bible, and said, “Lord, I’ve read the book. Where do I need to read today.” I looked down at Psalm 52. David was running from Saul and his hiding place was given away by Doeg the Edomite. David wrote the Psalm to say, “You think you are so cool and that you are getting away with doing evil, but it is going to catch up with you someday.” Then he ends it with:

“I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever,
I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,
And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.”

David was still hiding out from Saul. He was still betrayed. He was still in danger. Yet He remembered that God loved Him and cared for Him. God is faithful. God is trustworthy. We can wait on Him, and know He will come through for us, when no one else will. We can give Him thanks forever, because He is a God who “does.”

I realized that all the stuff that was so frustrating to me, that was stealing my joy and making me miserable, was just the mundane, everyday stuff of life. It is all temporal, and only matters as I allow it to interfere with my walk with the Lord, or as I allow the Lord to use it to draw me to Him.

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God Is Faithful

I love 1 Corinthians 1:9. It’s been a favorite verse of mine since I was a teenager. As I was reading in the chapter, earlier this week, verses 4-9 jumped out at me in a way they had not before. They are grouped together. The paragraph ends with verse 9 declaring: “God is faithful through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is a great verse to memorize. It stands on its own as a beautiful reminder of the faithfulness of God. Just the first phrase alone is true and is a comfort in troubling times: “God is faithful.” Taking it with the preceding verses, 1 Cor. 1:9 is like the final brush stroke on a portrait of God’s faithfulness.

African woman accepts Christ

African woman accepts Christ

“I thank my God always concerning you…”  God is faithful. I can always be thanking Him as I think of you and pray for you, because He is always thinking of you and working in you.

“…for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus…”  God is faithful. He has through Jesus given you His grace. His grace is not only for salvation, but for growth and sanctification. It is the freely given power, or enabling, which brings about His divine purpose in us and through us.

“…that in everything you were enriched in Him…”  God is faithful. He hasn’t missed anything. He has supplied everything we need. Not just in a matter-of-fact sense. Not merely adequately. Rather He enriches us. If the implication is not abundance, at the very least it is a nourishing that improves and increases and lasts.

“…in all speech and all knowledge…”  God is faithful. He enriches us in all speech and all knowledge. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” Colossians 4:6. In Philippians 1:9 Paul prays your love will abound in real knowledge and all discernment. God gives us what we need to understand truth and to communicate truth in love.

“…even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you…”  God is faithful. The work He began in Christ – foretold through the prophets, announced to Joseph and Mary, introduced by John the Baptist, observed and attested to by the apostles and other disciples, and repeated through the ages – He has and does confirm through and in us, His followers.

“…so that you are not lacking in any gift…”  God is faithful. By enriching us in all speech and all knowledge, He supplies all we need to rest in Him, abide in Him, and testify of Him. All the grace, the enabling, the power, to live for Him is ours. We have only to faith the faithful God.

“…awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  God is faithful. As hard as it is for some to accept, this relatively obscure, itinerant, peripatetic, Jewish teacher, who lived 2000 years ago, rose from the dead and promised to return. God is faithful to have continued to reveal Him to and through those willing to follow Him. And He will be faithful to that ultimate revelation of His return for His followers, just as He promised.

“…who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  God is faithful. He will complete His work in You. He will complete His work in the world. When He does, He will confirm before all the validity of your faith in Him. When that day of confirmation comes, you will be confirmed blameless because of your faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus on your behalf.

The God who called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, truly is faithful.  “Faithful is He who called you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). “For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

What are some ways you have seen God demonstrate His faithfulness in your life?

A Mommy’s Love

I was re-reading Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ. I highly recommend it. What I read this morning had to do with Jesus being our righteousness. Murray pointed out that as we begin with Christ and begin to understand righteousness, we think of it as something we have to put on regularly. When we begin to really grasp not only what He has done for us, but that He is our righteousness, it changes our perspective. We no longer look at it as a robe in which we clothe ourselves, or a way of life or behavior. Instead, we realize that the Lord Himself is our righteousness. We learn that because we are His, and He is ours, His righteousness is ours as well. That makes us want to abide in Him all the more.

Murray wrote: “The life and the righteousness are inseparably linked, and the believer becomes more conscious than before of a righteous nature planted within him.” As I read it, I became aware that we often fall short of this realization. Why? We are busy and distracted – in our personal lives, by our culture, all the sensory stimuli available with media, computers, games, activities, and even in the events and programs that make up most of our Christian experience. We think we are righteous because we “put on the robe of righteousness.” We never quite really know that we are righteous because we abide in Him as our righteousness. We love the world; we love church; we love being religious, but we don’t have time to love Him.

motherlove

A friend stopped by yesterday. She was telling us about her daughter. Her daughter is adopted, and recently met her birth mother. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for them all. In telling us this story, she gave us some of the background about her daughter. Unable to have children herself, our friend and her husband met an unwed mother who was considering placing her baby for adoption. They got to know her, became somewhat involved with her life, and adopted the baby girl right after her birth. When she was about 8, a girl at school told her that her real mommy didn’t love her and had given her away. That evening she talked with her adopted mommy who pointed out that her birth mother had loved her so much she wanted her to have both a mommy and daddy who would love her and provide for her in ways she could not do. The next day at school, she told her classmate that she was actually the lucky one because she had two mommies who loved her very much, and she was sorry her classmate only had one mommy.

So many people think that having a baby will give them someone to love, or someone to love them. Some fear that if they give the child away, even to a loving couple who would be eager to adopt, that they would be rejecting the baby or shirking their responsibility. I was struck by the depth of love this birth mother showed. I was struck by the deep love our friend has for her daughter – there is obvious joy and delight. In addition, I was struck by the healing and the confidence the daughter found when she came to know of her birth mother’s love. And the healing came full circle. When they met, the birth mother had feared that her daughter might hate her for “giving her away.” Instead, all those years of wondering and worrying were erased as her daughter thanked her for loving her so much.

I don’t know if this is “the best” illustration for the point I want to make, but it evoked in me the same emotion I felt as I read Murray’s challenge to realize how God loves us and provides for our righteousness. If we could but understand the depth of the love of God for us, we would find liberty and strength for life. We are called to abide in Him. Too often we love the idea of loving Him. We love the idea of being a Christian, of doing religious, or even “righteous” things. We don’t get around to actually loving Him, much less abiding in Him.

God does not just make demands on us. His “standard” is not a goal we are commanded to attain and then left struggling to fulfill. He took on flesh to bring holiness into the human experience. He died to open the veil, through the torn veil of His own flesh, and make away for us to abide in His presence. He rose again to become executor of His own will, and to live within us as our righteousness, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Whatever He commands, He enables the willing follower to do. His command is His promise – He is at work both to will and to work for His good pleasure. It is by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us the wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

What keeps you from abiding in Christ? What are your distractions? What other illustrations can you share of lives that have been made stronger through sacrificial love and/or a grateful heart?

 

So, what will you settle for?

Extreme church, exceeding righteousness, the surpassing value of knowing Him. I attended a photography seminar a few years ago and got an idea for promoting senior portraits that I felt communicated an important message to potential customers: “It’s Your Image . . . Don’t Settle.” Your high school senior portrait is (or, at least until social media, was) the most viewed photograph you would ever have made. It needed to be well-made, by someone who knew what they were doing. It needed to look the best it possibly could, better than what an amateur with a “good camera” could pull off.

I think I liked that as an ad campaign because it also fit with a spiritual principle that has become important to me over the years.

Don't Settle

Don’t Settle

God wants to give us Himself. We “settle” for earthly experiences. God doesn’t want to deprive us of pleasure, but wants us to find the greatest possible pleasure – knowing Him.

It is not only in the area of earthly pleasures that we settle for less than God has for us. It is also in the area of Christian living and lifestyle.

We have so many plans, programs and events that we consider to be part of living the Christian life, that we don’t know how to just be Christian. And that works both ways. We are so unsure of how to just be Christian, that we come up with plans, programs, and events in an attempt to make it happen.

We think church is something we “go to” and that Christianity is the things we do, especially in relation to church. We manufacture something called the Christian life that is composed mainly of classes, seminars, services, retreats…. We are so convinced that this is what it means to be a Christian that we teach people this is how they must live.

We preach “Go into the world and invite people to church” when Jesus said, “As you go, make disciples….” We are proclaiming religious activities instead of proclaiming Him. We teach people to join in our programs instead of teaching them to love God and live in His strength. We teach them to go to church in stead of abide in His presence. Instead of equipping the saints, we are engineering a lifestyle.

Besides just being the way we’ve always been taught, I think it’s just part of our struggle to “be holy.” We struggle to figure out what we must do to be holy. And in all our efforts, we never quite make it. The only way for us to “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” is to let Him be both the standard, and the one who makes it happen. The Old Testament Hebrew names Nissi (Standard), and M’kaddesh (the One who makes holy) come to mind. That is who He is.

We settle for so much less than He desires for us when we raise up a standard of holiness that is anything less than God Himself. We settle for so much less than He desires for us when we strive to attain holiness by any means other than His indwelling presence enabling us to live. No wonder Jesus said our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.

“It’s not the law, and not the book, not the knowledge of what is right, that works obedience, but the personal influence of God and His living fellowship.” – Andrew Murray

Your Father knows how to give good things to His children. He longs to give good things to you! He craves the privilege of giving you great joy. He takes great delight in giving you great delight. He apparently has fun blessing us!

He really is. And He really is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

 

Losing Your Loss

I’m a survivor. I’m a cancer survivor, four and a half years and counting. I’m also a divorce survivor, not counting, but it was a long time ago. I’ve had a variety of jobs, some at which I was successful, some at which I failed, and some that more or less failed me. Looking back on my life, you could say I’m a stupidity survivor. Although I have made some good choices and I have made some really dumb/bad ones, too. There have been bad experiences I inflicted on myself, and some that were inflicted on me by others. And I’ve done some things right, and at times have been helped or blessed by others, sometimes totally unexpected and often undeserved. I have had my share of heartaches and tears.

 

Listen deeper to what Paul said, “…count all things lost for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” If you are looking at what you lost, mourning it and grieving over it, you are still valuing it. It is part of the “all things” in your life. Count that loss itself, the very experience of it, as loss, for the surpassing value of knowing Christ. Let your experiences, good or bad, gain or loss, all result in your receiving the greater benefit of knowing Him.

No, I’m not saying ignore or even stifle your emotions. I am not saying it is wrong or a sin to grieve over a loss. You will. You are human. You were created with emotions. God is not surprised or offended by your grief. He made you that way. Grieve over a lost loved one. Hurt when a business you invest your heart in fails. Be sad when a child rebels and makes wrong and hurtful choices. Feel your hurt.

At some point, let your hurt cause you to let go a little bit more of the temporary, transitory, tactile, time-bound things that make up this earthly existence. Cling to Him. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

ALL things in life – good or bad – anything that we just keep holding onto that interferes with our holding onto Him – we need to learn to let go. If we will learn to count both our gains and our losses to be loss for the surpassing value of knowing Him, nothing the enemy throws at us can have a lasting effect on us.

Hebrews 2:14 says that Jesus’ death on the cross rendered the devil “powerless.” That means literally “of no effect.” Of no effect is working all day on a task and accomplishing nothing. It would be like running your lawn mower over your yard, motor running, blade spinning, but not cutting any grass. More familiar to most of us, it is like working for a couple of hours, entering something on your computer and closing the program without ever saving your work. You did the work, but there were no results – effort without effect.

People make fun of Christians because they believe in God and say he heals. They ask, if He heals the sick, how come He never grows new arms or legs on an amputee. Now that would be a miracle! Well, in the first place, they would not believe if God brought someone back from the dead to tell them about Him, and He knows it. In the second place, and more pertinent to this blog post – it really isn’t about sick or amputee and healing or not. What it is about is Satan’s purpose is to interfere with man’s relationship with God – with your relationship with God. He does not cause sickness, broken relationships, wars, tsunamis, amputations, or anything else just for the sake of inflicting pain and suffering. It is to keep our attention firmly fixed on things we experience with the five sense. It is to make us look at temporal, earthly things, and keep our eyes off the eternal.

When our focus is on knowing Christ Jesus, and we count all things as loss anyway, even the things the enemy throws at us will result in our knowing Christ. It is the opposite of what he is trying to accomplish. Satan is made of no effect. The results he was seeking to accomplish never happen.

This is the crucified life in practical application. This is being crucified with Christ. Over time, I will share more on this – some insights that work together to help make this easier to accept and, as a result, at least a little easier to do. It really is easier said than done. A lot of this at this stage is foundational. Knowing Him definitely is a foundational principle for Christian living. It should be our top priority, and nothing else is of greater value.

The amazingly wonderful thing is: God is willing to be known by us. He “is.” He exists. And, He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Can you share an experience when you learned through pain or loss to know, trust and love God more?

God’s Competition

Trish and I have two beautiful Appaloosa horses. Rocky and Domino are intelligent, strong, and almost trained. It is not a good idea for people with little knowledge of horse training to take on training an untrained horse, much less two. We intended to work with them some when they were young, but to have them professionally trained. There have been so many things that have competed for our time and money, that so far, we have been the ones training them. We have had some help from friends. But their training has been far from consistent. Not long term anyhow. We would stay with it for months at a time. Then something would happen. Once, Domino got a cut on his leg running through the pasture at night – apparently from a tree limb that broke off during a thunderstorm that night. Another time Rocky was limping, apparently from a stone bruise. Then there was my bout with cancer. Winter always throws us off pace. It could be argued that if we were serious about it we would either find a way to be consistent, or we would find a way to hire a professional trainer.

But then, that’s true of about everything in life, isn’t it? We give time and attention to the things we really believe in, the things we consider truly important? Sometimes there are setbacks and delays, but we make it happen? We keep after it until we attain the goal?

Rocky and Domino

Rocky and Domino

This is totally from my heart. I need it. I hope it speaks to all who read it. It’s written to anyone with a heart to receive, including myself, my wife, my children and their spouses, my grandchildren. I honestly doubt most of them will even read this. As I write it, I am praying, and pleading.

God loves you. He loves you dearly, deeply, passionately. He longs for you to love Him with the same fervor. He is contending for the affection of His people. That’s you and me. Don’t you see?

Yeah, I know. You love God. So do I. But let’s be honest. When it comes to how we live out our lives, day by day, moment by moment, there are a lot of things we give our love to. There are a lot of things we “cherish” or value more than we do Him. We say we love Him with our lips. The way we live our lives, the things we do, the things we focus on, tell a different story.

And why not? Those things are tangible. We can see them with our eyes, hear them, taste them, smell them, touch them. Entertainment. Books. Food and drink. Jobs. Money. Education. Girl friends, boy friends, spouses, children…. They are all so . . . here. They bring us meaning and pleasure (usually). Even when they do not please us, they are at least a real world experience.

Paul spoke of “the surpassing value of knowing Him.” What we value, we spend time with. We treat it with respect and tenderness. What we value, we say nice things about (praise). What is worthy of being valued by you? What is more worthy of being valued by you than He is? All things are eclipsed by the surpassing value of God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must faith that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” First, believe (faith) that He is. That He exists. Then, believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. What greater reward is there for seeking than finding. He wants to be sought. He is willing to be found. He will make Him self known to the seeker. Seek Him and He will reward that effort.

We are talking about a God who has a song that He likes to sing about you. (see Zephaniah 3:17). He created you for fellowship with Himself. He desires that everything about your life be to the praise of the glory of His grace. He wants you to enjoy Him.

God is not trying to make you miserable and take all the pleasure out of your life. He is simply trying to help you realize that you are settling for some really meager pleasures offered by the world. He is offering you Himself. He is offering you the greatest pleasure and joy that can possibly be experienced. “In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”