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Friday, July 8, 2016

heart surgery

Tension.  Dumbfounded confusion.  Injustice…I sit and watch it in full pixel color and I sense a stirring of attitudes and beliefs I thought only resided in history books. Surely I’m not the only one who feels like people are not speaking the same language.  They are using words with letters and syllables that sound similar, but the core understanding of those words is different.  Reminds me of the people long ago who built a tower--one of self-exaltation, pride, and rebellion--and the result was division and confusion.  

That’s what sin does, doesn’t it? It impairs understanding, separates, and exalts one person over another…when sin enters the picture, confusion is right there with it.  In our fallen world there is only One that can mend the brokenness we see on TV or feel in our own hearts.  Political correctness can’t change the heart; shoulds and shouldn’ts can’t change the heart; rules, programs, and knowledge can’t even change the heart.  The only One that brings the change we so long for is Jesus Himself.  

He is the only cure for a tower-loving, self-exalting people. 

The only thing that changes these deeply embedded prejudices, intolerances, and indifferences is the cutting away of the flesh by the Savior Himself.   Whether hatred or indifference, both are evidence of our own personal need of this life-altering heart surgery.  The gospel of Christ that tells us His death did what we couldn't do and His resurrection gives new life that we didn't deserve is our only hope.

 When God shines His light on sinners’ hearts, He exposes truth for truth and lies for lies; He exposes the vast difference between what we say and what we actually hold to be true.  And when those embarrassing attitudes are made visible, maybe only to me, I must bring them to the cross—the only thing that crucifies sin.  I can no longer glaze over what He’s revealed in me with a shiny coat of political correctness or knowledge of what I should think or feel.  He has uncovered and laid bare this sin He died for and declares I must pluck it out, waging war on my own hypocrisy and prejudice before I can expect something different from others, moving us from mere tolerance of others to active love and care for others.  If God Himself  "rises to show compassion," (Is. 30:18) surely I can walk across the room to do the same. 
This requires courage, tenderness, and compassion. It requires me to have empathy for others and a desire to understand before I can seek to be understood.  No longer can we give pride or defensiveness a seat at the table.  

Brokenness and humility precede healing and wholeness.

I must engage in the story that is playing out in front of me.  I am forfeiting God’s grace to me as an individual and to us as people if I am not applying His cross and, praise God, His resurrection to the story.
And if others wrong me, I know that they are people for whom my Savior died—their attitudes that offend me are no more offensive than the attitudes He has exposed in me.
We are a broken people in full need of a Savior to shine His light, expose our dross, and burn it away.  I must be willing to see what He sees and be willing to let Him do the heart surgery on me before I begin to pray for real change in others.

Oh Lord, shine the light of your Spirit on us—burning away all that is not of You and illuminating all that is. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Give us courage. Give us humility. Give us compassion.  Give us You.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Whatever

I am no longer my own but Yours. 
Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will. 
Put me to doing, put me to suffering. 
Let me be employed for You or laid aside for You,        
exalted for You or brought low for You.
Let me be full, let me be empty. 
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am Your’s.  So be it.  And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.

John Wesley


Whatever You want, Lord.  This is the phrase the Lord has been teaching me to pray lately.  To want His will and not my own is my heart's deepest longing and need.  This is a hard lesson to learn though.  I have fought Him, struggled with Him, questioned Him...been angry, confused, and indignant.  My pride has been hurt, dismantled, and exposed.  

Whatever You want, Lord.  When I pray these words it is less a disclaimer of mature faith and more  a desperate plea for Him to align my heart with His.  I am hoping that as my mouth utters the words, my heart hears and follows suit.  I want to love Him with all my heart, I want to want His will above all else, I want this heart of flesh to be transformed. 

Whatever You want, Lord. He has not treated me as my sins deserved; He has not counted my sins against me.  Instead, He has lovingly drawn me close, whispering "wait, be still...My ways are not your ways...rejoice in Me and My love for you, not in yourself, your accomplishments, not in anything you can see...everything is a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Me."  Knowing Him.  In His goodness and mercy He has made a way for us to come, not when we finally love Him enough, but in the midst of half-hearted devotion.   

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Message for the Suffering

My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You…  Job 42:5

These artful words have lingered in my soul for years.  Spoken by a man long ago, they tell of one who moved from one type of knowing to another…from hearing about to seeing…from knowing facts to experiencing. 

This is the reason I read the book of Job. 

From the beginning of the book, when God Himself describes Job as “a good man,” to the end where Job repents and acknowledges this new intimacy with the Lord, what was one thing that caused this deepening of faith?

Suffering.

Because in spite of the questions the book raises, in spite of my fears that God is preparing me for suffering if I read it, and in spite of my desire to only read joyful words from God, I can’t get over what happened inside of Job when everything outside of Job went to crap. 

The thing about suffering that we’re afraid to voice in some circles is suffering sucks.  In a world that chases comfort and thrill, talking about suffering and loss is avoided and seems extremely out of date.  Suffering is painful and inconvenient—it stops us in our tracks and often there is not one thing we can do about it. 

 Suffering is not relative.  When in distress or pain, I can’t look to someone in worse pain and think, “ok, nevermind, I feel ok now.”  Looking at fellow sufferers, I often commiserate: “yep, you and me both, sister” or I let the guilt-inducing “shoulds” take over: “I should be happy, I should have faith big enough to get over it…”   

The root word of suffering means “to bear from below.” So how do we “bear” what oftentimes feels like the world’s weight, what helps us bear the suffering?  

Knowing who God is and clinging to His truth that is still true even when the feelings are absent.

Knowing that it’s temporary.  This may mean that it is a short-lived burden or that it is only short-lived in light of eternity. 

Knowing that it’s purposeful—God uses suffering to draw us near, to humble, to expose, and to bring Himself glory.

Knowing that my struggle has an eternal significance and is an opportunity to glorify God.   
Knowing that my strength and peace will run out sooner than I expect but that the strength and peace that God supplies will not.  This is one of the beautiful and painful lessons of suffering: the practical “how to” of leaning on the Lord and not on ourselves. 

Knowing that it’s necessary—there are truths about God and about ourselves that we only learn when we suffer.  While we’re in physical or emotional pain or distress we may feel alone, but if we lean in, we’ll experience a nearness to God that satisfies even our deepest longing.  

And yet, we suffer on. And we love a God who allows suffering.  And we follow a Savior who suffered...not so we would never suffer, but so our suffering would be temporary and so we would know Him who redeems all things, yes even me.

Job’s intimacy with God was not the original purpose given at the beginning of the book.  The purpose of his suffering was the glory of God.  God’s honor was at stake and intimacy with Him was a result. 

When God’s glory is the goal and focus, intimacy follows.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.