Severe Mercies

I survived a wreck today.

Actually, that makes it sound much worse that it really was.

I was in a three-car fender-bender where the car behind me got hit from behind and ended up bumping into me.

I ended up with a dinged-up bumper and some shaky nerves.

It could have been so much worse.

I often wonder why God allows His people to go through dark valleys of suffering.

I know that the world we live in is broken and all of creation is affected by the fall and original sin. Plus, there’s that little matter of free will.

I also know that sometimes it takes a little pain to get our attention and remind us that our lives are about more than just us and our pleasure.

I believe that there are some precious truths and lessons that can be learned no other way than going through the dark night of the soul.

We find true community when we come together to share each others burdens and be strong for the ones who can’t be strong for themselves.

I still believe that there is no situation any of us will ever go through that is so dire where we cannot discover small blessings and at least something to be thankful for.

The Psalmist said that even in the deepest and darkest valley he would ever walk through, the Shepherd was with him.

There is nothing that will ever come against the child of God that Jesus has not already faced and defeated once and for all on that Cross of Calvary. Nothing.

That means that any trial is temporary and any affliction is fleeing and momentary.

You can survive just about anything if you can see beyond it to something better. Even Jesus endured the cross, knowing the joy that awaited Him on the other side.

Ultimately, I still believe that every day I wake up is grace and everything beyond that is gravy and there are a multitude of blessings and gifts to be found along the way with those who see with eyes of faith.

 

 

No Bad Days

“As long as your heart’s beatin’
There’s no bad days
You got something to believe in
There’s no bad days
As long as you’re dreamin’, reachin’, seekin’
Make no mistake
As long as you’re breathin’
There’s no bad days” (Django Walker/James Slater/Patrick Davis/Jeff Cook).

My old boss used to say, “Any day without a toe tag is a good day.”

My take on that is that any day you wake up is a day that you still have a purpose and a reason to be here.

Any day you open your eyes to the new morning is better for you than many who won’t get the chance to experience the new set of 24 hours.

Every single day you’re alive is a blessing.

To be sure, I do believe that to be absent from the body is to be present with Jesus.

I also believe that life isn’t something where you pass the time until you die. It’s something you get to live only once.

One of my favorite lines from the movie Gladiator goes something like this: what we do here and now echoes in eternity.”

Your small acts of love, your random acts of kindness, you’re showing up and not giving up on a daily basis causes a ripple effect that will be felt long beyond your earthly years.

So make it count.

Oh yeah, and remember to keep things in perspective. In my own life, I’ve found that most things aren’t worth getting upset over. You waste too much time and energy fretting about what you can’t control and what ends up being transitory.

You can’t control most of what happens to you. You can only control you and how you choose to respond to it, Better yet, you can choose to surrender to the God who not only controls it all, but works it all together for good– your good and His good.

That was for free.

 

Too Good Not to Share

“look — we’re facing some pretty big things, Lord,
And You whisper: “Child, look — look at Me.
Now You’re facing the Best thing, who dwarfs all the other things.”
And we exhale.. and we get it, God, because that is the thing:
Prayer isn’t so much to remind our God of what all the problems are —
but to remind all the problems of who our God is.

And You cup us close tonight and tell us: No matter what you’re facing, look into My face — and know it, feel it: Your God is greater than what you’re trying to face, your God is bigger than what you’re trying to escape, your God is better than anything you’re trying to chase.
And our problems fade in the light of Your gentle face, Your tender embrace….” (Ann Voskamp).

That’s it. “Prayer isn’t so much to remind our God of what all the problems are– but to remind all the problems of who our God is.”

That sentence. For the win.

I got my health insurance premiums for 2016. Apparently, they’re going up over $150 a month. That’s a whole lot of moolah.

But no matter how big my insurance premium gets, God is bigger.

No matter how overwhelmed I’ve felt over the pressing issues facing me, God has been and will always be able.

That’s not a news flash, but it’s a good reminder out there to all the weary and heavy-laden hearts tonight who need to hear it one more time. It’s a great comfort to all those who feel like they’re less than adequate to meet all that life has thrown their way this past week.

No matter what, God will be enough.

Let that be your mantra for the days to come. Let it resound in your heart and mind when the lies come and try to drag you down into defeat.

No matter what, God will be enough.

 

Roam and Rest in God’s Faithfulness

“Believe in the Eternal, and do what is good—
    live in the land He provides; roam, and rest in God’s faithfulness.
Take great joy in the Eternal!
    His gifts are coming, and they are all your heart desires!” (Psalm 37:3-4, The Voice)

  “Believe in the Eternal, and do what is good.” Or as Oswald Chambers said, trust God and do the next thing. Don’t worry about how you will serve God over the next fifty years. Be concerned with being faithful and obedient for the next five minutes.

“Live in the land He provides.” Bloom where you’re planted and treat your job as your holy occupation and your act of worship. In fact, treat everything you do from the moment you wake until you lay your head on your pillow as worship.

“Roam, and rest in God’s faithfulness.” Trust that God will provide. Trust that God’s faithfulness in the past is a good indicator of how the future will play out. In fact, you can safely rest in the same God who’s legacy of faithfulness is well documented through the 66 books of the Bible.

“Take great joy in the Eternal!” Live life as the gift it is and live in a constant state of joy, remembering that you are always loved and cherished by the God who made you. You are still the apple of your Father’s eye.

“His gifts are coming, and they are all your heart desires!” The best gift God gives is always God Himself– His presence is the best gift you’ll ever get. When you start living out of thankfulness for God’s nearness, you will find  His other gifts along the way.

God is good. God is faithful. What He said, He will do. Believe that and rest tonight. Live as if what He promised has already come to pass. Thank Him for what you’ve yet to receive. Then joy unspeakable will be yours.

 

 

A Good Place to Start

It was another good night at Kairos, a young(ish) adult worship event that takes place at 7pm every Tuesday night at Brentwood Baptist Church (shameless plug). It’s located off I-65 exit 71 if you’re ever in the area (another shameless plug).

Tonight, Mike Glenn spoke about how Jesus, who defined how we measure history, came into the world in an inauspicious way. He didn’t come with pomp and circumstance to Jerusalem or Rome. He was born to peasant parents in backwater Bethlehem and the first eyewitnesses to the event were some smelly shepherds keeping their flocks in a nearby field.

The takeaway from tonight? Jesus is looking for a good place to start.

If I can offer up even the most hesitant agreements and the most tentative yes to God, He can completely transform my world and then use me to transform the world around me. I still believe that because I’ve seen it too many times not to believe.

That’s why I love the Christmas story. Jesus didn’t ask us to get our acts together and get cleaned up so we could make our way to Him. While we was still mired in sin, Jesus came down to where we were and became one of us. Not as a high and mighty ruler or a holier-than-thou mystic, but as the son of a carpenter. A regular joe.

By the way, if you come to Kairos, they have free coffee and Cheez-Its. For me, that’s an irresistible draw, but I understand that not everyone has come to truly experience the awesomeness of the little snack crackers known as Cheez-Its. I pray they one day will.

And if you’re stuck in a rut or don’t like where you are, remember that God is always looking for a good place to start. Maybe that next place is in you?

 

Hey Y’all, It’s Fall!

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! “(Romans 5:3-4, MSG)”

Today, September 23, is officially the first day of fall, or as those who prefer the pronunciation po-tah-to call it, “autumn.”

Whatever you call it, I love it. I love the brisk air and the leaves changing colors. I love bonfires, hayrides, and all things pumpkin spice.

Even more than that, I love that fall signifies change before winter comes. Change can be scary, but in God’s economy all change eventually leads to something good, due to the fact that He works all these things together for good for those who love Him.

I personally can’t wait to see what God will do next in my life.  I can’t wait to see what God will do next in the life of The Church at Avenue South. I can’t wait to see how He will stir up His Church all over the world to even greater deeds of love and sacrifice.

Even when the circumstances look as bleak as the tree limbs barren of leaves, we do not lose hope. We know that the same God who kept His promises throughout the history of the Bible and through the centuries won’t fail to keep them now. That’s a fact.

So bring on the mid-60’s temps. I’m ready. I’m also ready for flannel and jackets. I’m ready for hot dogs and s’mores over an open fire.

Bring it all on.

 

Glory’s Just Around the Corner

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner” (1 Peter 4:12-13, The Message).

Glory’s just around the corner. I love that.

All that you’re going through, all the heartache and pain, seems like it will never end. You feel like nothing will ever get better, that everything will go on just as it has been.

Remember that Paul calls it light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory that’s coming. Whatever it is, it won’t last forever. But the glory will.

That’s a good reason to never give up. You don’t know how close you are to your breakthrough. It may be closer than you  think. It may even literally be around the next corner.

I might sound like a broken record, but I feel in my spirit that some of you out there are tempted to quit. Some of you are about to give up. Don’t.

Jesus didn’t quit. He more than anyone else had the best reason to give up. He knew what He was facing and what it would cost in blood, sweat, and tears. But He persevered. He kept going.

He knew that even death by torture was a light and momentary affliction compared to the joy and glory that would come after. Not just His joy and glory, but ours, too.

It’s all about taking it 24 hours at a time. Sometimes, it’s about one deep breath at a time, if that’s all you can do.

One day, you will look back and say that it was all worth it. Even the very worst parts were worth it to get to the glory.

 

 

It’s Called Growing Up

“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’“(Jeremiah 33:2-3 MSG).

I think I’ve figured out a lot of the process of sanctification and maturity.

It’s when you look back over a time when you felt like you were completely the injured party and justified in all those things you said and did and realizing, “Well, that was stupid. I shouldn’t have done and said that. I should probably never do that again.”

Maturity is realizing that the one who needs growing up most is me. Sanctification means that the log in my own eye needs to come out first before I start nitpicking about all those splinters I see in other peoples’ eyes. It means I’m the one who most needs to change.

You can never control how others will treat you. You can never make people understand how  hurtful those things were that they said or did to you casually without thinking. Some people are just so good at making and having new friends they never learn to treasure the ones they already have.

You will learn that passive-aggressive is not the way of a child of God, nor is boycotting everyone who slights or offends you. You will also learn that what you intended and what they interpreted won’t always be the same thing. You will learn above all that there is no such thing as too broken or too far gone or too lost or too hopeless for the God who raises from the dead.

You can only control you. You can only forgive the brokenness in others as you come to see your own brokenness. You can’t ever go back and unsay and undo those things that cost friendships and sleepless nights. You can move forward and behave differently from now on.

Above all, you can give yourself grace. You’re not who you were then and you’re not yet who you will be. You’re allowed to fail and make mistakes so that you can learn from them and grow and not make them again in the future.

If you listen long enough and are even the slightest bit honest with yourself, you’ll hear God revealing aspects about you that aren’t your best self. He’ll show you your flaws not so that you can beat yourself up, but so that you can become a better you. He will not only show you, but He will change you if you are willing.

That’s called growing up.

 

Another Random Blog

I have lots of thoughts running through the ol’ noggin all the time. Every now and then, I need to let a few of them loose so you good readers can share in the joy that is called my brain.

1) Social media is great. I love it. I love how you can communicate with friends and family even though you may be oceans apart. I do say this though: if you’re married, I hope that your primary means of communication isn’t through social media. I hope that for every one post to your husband or wife, there are at least five face-to-face conversations (and at least four of those being affirmations). Posts and texts are great, but nothing replaces hearing and seeing your loved one say, “I love you” while looking you in the eyes.

2) As much as I still love summer, it does tend to run on. I’m ready for all things autumn, from cooler temps to pumpkin spice everything to jackets to leaves changing colors. I think you know (or you should know by now) that fall is my favorite season of all. Mostly because I don’t sweat so dang much.

3) As much as you will need forgiveness from others and as much as you will need to forgive others, the most important person you need to learn to forgive is you. You see more of your own weakness and brokenness than anyone else. You know more than anyone how your own road is littered with the carcasses of good intentions and promises you discarded along the way. You also need to know that if God can forgive you of anything, there’s no reason why you can’t forgive yourself. Remember that Jesus was willing to die for what you did. It’s hard, but it’s harder to live in the prison of self-loathing and regret.

4) Go forth and do something frivolous and spontaneous today (or tomorrow if you’re reading this after 10 pm). Take time to notice your surroundings and to take pleasure in God’s creation. Take time to cherish those God has placed in your life for this season. Wherever you are, be there in the moment and live it to the fullest (to borrow a bit from both Jim Elliott and Oswald Chambers).

That’s my latest random post. There will surely be more to follow as I think very nonlinearly.