You Are Not: A Reminder

I’m about to repeat myself. Again.

I find I keep returning to the same themes in my writing over and over, probably because I keep needing to hear them over and over. Here’s one more reminder for the road.

You are not your worst fears about yourself– that you’re essentially unemployable and that you will never find out what you’re good at and be able to make a living with it.

You are not your spotty employment background or your so-so credit score or your monumental mistakes in the past.

You are not your history of relationship failures (or your history of failure of relationships).

You are not your failed marriages or your broken relationships with your parents (or children).

You are not who you were and you are not yet who you will be.

You are the Beloved of your Abba Father, the apple of His eye.

You are Forgiven, with a blank slate as clean as if there were never any bad marks on it.

You are a child of the One True King, despite your questionable family history and your own long list of personal quirks.

You are exactly where God wants you to be and He knows where you are and where He’s taking you. And trust me, you will get there one day.

 

Love on a Perfect Tuesday Evening

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I sat outside Chick-fil-A with my chocolate cookie and sweet tea and enjoyed me some night air. It was as perfect a night as you will find on a mid-July Tuesday evening in Nashville. Normally during this point of the year I’m sweating like a chicken that’s about to be Sunday dinner.

Kairos was great as usual. Mike Glenn spoke from 1 John 3 about love being more than kind words. I’m convinced more than ever that love is a CHOICE. Feelings come and go, but you can still choose to love. You can choose to serve in love and give in love.

The best definition of true love is seeking the best for the beloved. Even if the best isn’t the easy choice. Or what the beloved prefers.

Love is a three nails and a cross. Love is sacrifice. Love isn’t about getting your own way but giving up your rights.

If I’m honest, I don’t love well. Very few of us do. Apart from God, no one can truly love at all. We love because God loved us first and showed us how.

That’s where I am on this Monday, July 15, at 9:55 pm. Learning to love by learning to be loved by the Maker of all loves.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is still just to love and be loved in return.

Seasons

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The writer of Ecclesiastes talked about there being a season for everything in life– a time to be born and a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to mourn, etc.

I’ve found that to be very true. Especially in my social life.

There have been times when I have constantly been around people and there are times when I’ve felt alone. There have been times when I felt very popular and times when it seemed like I was the only one not invited to all the social activities I was seeing plastered all over social media.

I’ve come to terms with that.

I am who I am, regardless of whether that makes me popular or not. I have friends who I still see on a regular basis and some that I don’t see nearly as much as I used to. Again, that’s okay.

It doesn’t matter who else knows me and knows where I am when God does. While it  would be nice to occasionally hang out with celebrities (and who hasn’t daydreamed about that?) and have some of them know your name, the best part of all is that the God of the universe not only knows your name but has it engraved on the palms of His hands.

That’s worth celebrating.

So maybe I spend a night or two alone while people I know are off having a grand time at places I wasn’t invited to. I’ll live. Things like that don’t bother me anymore.

It took a very long time for me to get to this point. I don’t claim to have fully arrived or to be 100% mature about all this, but I am so much further along than I was two years ago.

That’s the key– not so much looking at how far you have to go but seeing how far you’ve already come and the progress, no matter how small it seems, that you’ve made. That’s what really matters.

 

A prayer for My Future Wife in 2014

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Lord,

You know how tired I am from waiting. You know how weak my faith is and how unstable my belief can be.

I’m still holding onto that mustard seed-sized faith, clutching it with everything I’ve got, with all my heart and strength and soul and mind. I want to rest tonight not in Your promises or provisions, but in Your person, Your character, in You.

Lord, I’m still believing in the miracle that some woman will fall in love with me and want to spend the rest of her life with me. It seems impossible sometimes, but then I remember the words of a pastor: what seems impossible to me isn’t even remotely difficult for you.

I’m praying you will be with her tonight and envelop her with your peace and surround her with your everlasting arms. May her joy be full as she rests in you, completely comfortable in who You’ve made her to be and in Whose she is– Yours.

May she cast aside every hindrance, every distraction, every clamoring voice, and run only after You, her true heart’s desire. May she keep a single-minded focus on Your Son, Jesus, and not fall into the lies and deceptions that tell her she is not enough.

May you bring her into my life, but not until the time that both she and I are ready– and not a moment sooner. Help her faith not to falter and her trust to remain stedfast and secure in You only.

Help me to be the man who can win her heart and guard it until the day you ask for it back. Help me to become the man who will help her to unveil all the beauty and wisdom and lovingkindness you have placed in her so she will become all that you created her to be.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief. And hers, too.

Amen.

For When You’re Feeling Anxious

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It’s February. And unless you’re living in Hawaii with all those palm trees and beaches, it’s cold.

My feelings on cold weather go something like this: if it’s gonna be this cold, it might as well snow, or what’s the point?

Maybe you’re feeling more than just cold. Maybe you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

Perhaps you’re out of a job and wondering how that big stack of bills is going to get paid. Or where they money is going to come from to put gas in the car. Or food on the table.

Maybe you’re still single and wondering when (or even if) that special someone will ever come along.

Maybe you’re children don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore and you don’t know how to get through to them anymore.

Maybe it’s just a combination of a million little things all rolled up into one big case of anxiety.

Don’t you know that Jesus didn’t come to bring your peace?

He came to be your peace. He is after all the Prince of Peace.

That’s what all of us who are overwhelmed with worry and stress need to remember. Jesus may not take away all those things that cause anxiety, but He promises to walk with us through every trial, every tribulation, and every dark valley.

Jesus has already overcome whatever you’re afraid of. Nothing can touch you apart from God’s permission. And absolutely nothing can come between you and the love of your Abba Father.

Sometimes, you need medicine to make those anxieties go away. That doesn’t make you less spiritual. It just means your brain needs a little help to function normally.

I love the line from that movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

American Idols

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I suspect that we’re all guilty of idolatry at some point. I wish I could remember the definition of idolatry I heard earlier today, but I didn’t take very good notes so I’ve forgotten most of it.

It had something to do with us valuing anything more than God, of seeking our identity and purpose in anything other than God.

In biblical times, idolatry often meant bowing down to little tin or bronze statues. But in our time, it is much more subtle. Sometimes it’s harder to detect because it looks like normal devotion.

I wonder how many parents idolize their children. Or how many children idolize their parents. Or maybe it’s men (and women, too, I suppose) who make idols out of their careers or their spouses.

I think anytime you say that your child is your world, you’ve created an idol out of him or her. The same goes for spouses or boyfriends or girlfriends.

You can even make religion into an idol if you get caught up in following rules and rituals for their own sake rather than because it pleases Jesus.

It can be wealth or the desire for wealth. It can be sex or the desire for sex. It can be a relationship or the overwhelming desire for one. Idols are tricky like that. It’s not about an object as much as the desire in your heart.

You can make idols out of genuinely good things, like your children, your marriage, your job, your bank account . . . just about anything and anyone can be an idol if you place it above God in your heart.

How do I know so much about idolatry? Because I’ve had more than my fair share of idols. I can always tell when a relationship has become idolatrous in my life because my peace of mind gets tied to my perception of how well that relationship is going.

It’s easy to point the finger at the Israelites in the Old Testament for their propensity for idolatry. Heck, they were barely out of Egypt before they were bowing down to golden calfs. But that tendency is just as much in me as it was in them. I suspect it’s in you, too.

I think we have idols because we haven’t fully grasped how good God is, how much He’s really for us, and how much He really does love us. Or maybe we’ve just forgotten like those old Israelites did back in the day.

The best way to combat idolatry is to remember. To go back and recall how it felt when you first grasped the love of God for you. Or as the Bible puts it, “to remember your first love.”

I Believe, I Believe. It’s Silly, But I Believe

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I love the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street. She’s like me and so many others who really and truly want to believe but seem to be running low on faith.

Sometimes, faith IS believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Faith really is the art of believing still even after circumstances and life events haven’t gone your way.

Maybe you’re single with no hope of a spouse in sight, yet you cling tenaciously to a slender thread of faith.

Maybe you’re married to an unbelieving spouse and it’s all you can do to mouth the words ” All things are possible” when it comes to your mate’s salvation.

Maybe it’s a wayward prodigal child or an illness that lingerd. Maybe it’s a dead end job that makes you feel like you’re living a dead end life. Maybe it’s just a general sense of hopelessness and despair.

There’s wisdom in that little girl’s mantra. Good things come to those who keep waiting and hoping. God’s best comes to those who refuse to quit despite everyone else telling them to give up.

I don’t know your specifics or your situation, but I do know God. He hasn’t broken a promise yet or failed to keep His Word. Ever.

Faith isn’t so much holding on to God, but being firmly convinced that He’s holding on to you with everything He’s got and He won’t let go.

We believe, Lord. Help our unbelief.

Amen.

God Bless Us, Every One!

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“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.” (St. Augustine of Hippo)

It’s Christmas Day.

For me that means a contentment that goes deeper than me getting all the presents I wanted. It goes even deeper than seeing the faces of family when they unwrapped one of my presents.

For me, contentment on Christmas Day comes from knowing that the baby born on this day doesn’t live in men’s hearts only one day of the year, but all the days (I “borrowed” that line from a movie I watched again earlier today).

The true meaning of Christmas will be just as true on December 26 and beyond. It remains true 365 days of the year, every year. Even on those weird leap years.

I’m content. Even if I watch every girl I’m ever interested in fall in love with someone else, I’m content. Even if I never get that dream job, I’m content.

God became human for me so that I could be like Jesus one day. So that everything that belongs to Jesus– perfect peace, complete joy, unending love, eternal riches– could be mine. Better yet, it is mine.

Like Scrooge, I don’t deserve to be so happy, but I just can’t help it. I really can’t.

May that kind of joy be yours on this Christmas Day and on every day that follows!

Advent Is For You

Maybe you know the feeling.

Maybe a certain someone at work is friendly to everyone else but you.

Maybe you’ve set your heart on someone only to have that feeling go unreturned and maybe even unackowledged.

Maybe you feel alone in a crowd, unwanted and invisible.

Maybe you’ve even felt that the world would be better off without you in it.

Maybe you feel like no one will ever choose you, that no one will ever desire you, that no one will love you in the way you’ve always dreamed of being loved.

Advent says differently.

Advent says God saw you at your worst and thought you were worth saving.

Advent says God loved you so much and couldn’t bear to be without you to the point that He put on human skin to be born in the lowliest way to the lowliest people to show that no one is beneath His grace.

Advent says that God’s love for you is more than academic and theoretical. That love led Him from a manger to a cross, where His death once and for all gave your life meaning and purpose and value. He really did think you were to die for.

In the next 13 days, it’s always good to remember those we love and choose gifts that represent how much the people in our lives mean to us.

But don’t forget the best gift is already given. The best gift came wrapped in cloth, delivered in a dirty animal feeding trough, born to die so that you who are dead may know what it means to come alive to God and everything good.

What is my gift in return? Me. What is your gift? You.

Not your good works. Not your best intentions. Not your trophies and awards.

You. Right where you are, just as you are, warts and scars and all.

Like 2,000 years ago in a little barn, all God is looking for is a place to start.

Crazy Little Thing Called Fear

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I’ve heard that the command “Don’t be afraid” (or some variation of it) occurs 365 times in the Bible. Then I read somewhere else that it’s nowhere near that many times. I’ve read arguments on both sides.

First of all, is it really necessary to argue over everything? Is it so all-important to be proven right all the time?

I know this command is used more than the commands to “Love others” or “Tithe more” or any other. I know it’s because we’re fearful people, prone to worrying. I’ve known fear for much of my own life. Too much in fact.

Jon Acuff mentioned that his favorite verse about fear comes in Matthew where Jesus tells us we are worth more than birds, whom the Father feeds and clothes and takes care of. He uses the most common example so there’s practically nowhere I can go without a visual reminder of why it’s safe to trust Jesus instead of listening to my fears.

Fear has kept me bound to the past, to shame, to the humdrum. Fear has kept me from stepping out on adventures and trying new things.

Maybe fear has kept you from asking that certain someone out on a date.

Maybe fear has kept you from going deeper in your marriage and dealing with all those unresolved issues.

Maybe fear has kept you bound to a job you hate, to a routine that feels more like a rut, to a life without much meaning.

There’s no such thing as a comfortable adventure or a safe quest. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear, but going forward even though you feel like crying and throwing up and passing out all at the same time.

I’ve always loved this definition of courage: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

May you find that the perfect love of Jesus really does cast out all fear.

May you step out in faith even in the midst of fear to find out the bridge built on planks of thanksgiving and joy really does hold (thanks to Ann Voskamp for that one) and that Jesus will be with you in the fieriest furnaces and the darkest nights and the coldest days.

Fear ends. The love of Jesus never will.

That’s where my hope lies.