I Will

I heard something good from a friend of mine and I just might try it someday soon.

She opened up her Bible, turned to the book of Isaiah, and highlighted every occurrence of the phrase “I will” as spoken from the mouth of God.

Notice that God never says, “I might,” or “I hope someday to,” or “I think I could possibly.” He always says “I will.”

As I’ve heard a pastor put it before, God’s promises are so certain that you can write them down in the past tense as already done. Whatever it is, if God has tacked an “I will” to it, you can count on it as certainly as you can count on the God who made the promise.

God’s promises are most often not what we originally thought we wanted or what we expected, but always better. They are always ultimately what we would have asked for all along had we been able to see the big picture.

So, the next time God asks you to trust Him in the middle of your circumstances, whatever they may be, the best answer is always “I will.”

 

Searching for Sugar Man (and Significance)

“Home is acceptance” (a line from the documentary, Searching for Sugar Man).

I finally got around to watching a documentary called Searching for Sugar Man. It’s a case of the truth being stranger than fiction. A man records an album back in 1970 that sells virtually no copies in America, yet a bootleg copy finds its way over to South Africa where it blows up. The man known as Rodriguez becomes a superstar on the same level as Elvis Presley or the Beatles. But no one knows who he is. In fact, most people believe he died years ago.

I love stories like that. I love rooting for the underdog. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to most of the music I listen to which falls outside the popular radio-friendly songs most people like.

I love that Jesus loved the underdogs. He not only acknowledge them (which was polar opposite to the way most religious leaders kowtowed to those with money and influence) but went out of His way to reach out to them in love. They were the ones He chose to use in building His kingdom. They were the first evangelists and missionaries and apologists.

In the documentary, it shows the man Rodriguez ended up doing manual construction labor with no clue as to how insanely popular he was in South Africa. I wonder how many will never know how far the ripple effect from their daily random acts of kindness goes. I wonder how many realize that there’s a cloud of witnesses watching and rooting specifically for them as they run their race.

I love how Rodriguez finally realized his dream of playing in front of a packed stadium of adoring fans. It took much longer than he would have imagined it could take. In fact, his dream was so long in coming that he had probably all but given up on it.

I love how God’s promises are never slow or delayed (at least not in His eyes). All of them arrive right on time. None of them are in vain. Every one that He spoke– even the ones that still await fulfillment– are as certain as if they were written in the past tense.

So I do recommend Searching for Sugar Man. I also recommend maybe once in a while  checking out artists that might be a little obscure. For me, the reward is always worth the little extra effort to find them out.

 

My Life is God’s Prayer

“When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me. Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer” (Psalm 42:8 MSG)

That’s the kind of rehearsal I really like, remembering everything I know of God and all He’s done for me. Or even better yet, looking back through ages past and seeing how many times in how many places God has come through for His people.

God’s faithfulness trumps my faithlessness. God’s promises outweigh my doubts. Not that I am so bad, but God is so good. Not that I’m so very weak, but God is so very strong.

I could go on and on, but I am really tired. It’s a good kind of tired, but it still leaves me wanting to visit my pillow in the worst way possible.

I’ll be up excruciatingly early on a Saturday, heading over to Belmont University at 6:30 am for Freshman Move-In Day. It’s still in my top favorite activities that I’m involved in over the year.

Yes, you read that right. That’s 6:30 in the AM. A nap will be had later on in the day by me. Then I think there will be the usual frivolity up and down Main Street in Franklin in celebration of surviving a week of waking up at 5:30 am.

“So let my deeds outrun my words
And let my life outweigh my songs” (Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman).

 

F-E-A-R

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“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:17-18, The Message).

Everyone has fears. Everyone.

Maybe yours is a fear that you will end up alone in the end.

Maybe you’re afraid that people will see the real behind the well-rehearsed act and the painted-on smiles and not want to have anything further to do with you.

Maybe you’re anxious over the future, wondering where the money is going to come from to pay the bills.

Maybe you’re scared that you’ll never find out what your purpose in life is.

Ann Voskamp put it best: “All fear is but the notion that God’s love will end.”

As a black pastor put it so well, fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear only shows you half the picture. Fear envisions a scenario where God either isn’t present or is unwilling to help. Fear leads you to think that the way things are now is how it will always be.

But God’s love is stronger than fear. As the song says, “Every fear has no place at the sound of Your great Name.”

When you focus on fear, you live defeated. When you focus on the love of God and choose gratitude and thanksgiving and joy, you’re showing fear the door.

Choose joy. Choose gratitude. Choose life.

I’m not saying I have fear and anxiety mastered. Some days, it can feel overwhelming. But I know that the future Jesus has promised me is more real than the present fear that I’m feeling.

Perfect love casts out all fear. Just remember that.

 

 

A Repeat

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“Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”

Every time I hear those words, they ring more true than ever. These words are from a movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but that doesn’t make them any less true.

That’s the story of the Bible. That’s the story of unfolding redemption, played out through history. The Gospel.

Adam and Eve knew fine, but their wrong choice ended that. Their sin, the choosing of self over God, made it so that everything was not fine. And so it remains.

Ever since that first sin, it’s been the opposite of fine. It’s been a catastrophe, a disaster, an epic fail. We are cut ofd from God, from each other, and from our true selves– who we really were designed and created to be.

But Jesus came to undo what Adam did, to bridge the gap between man and God, as only God in human skin could. He came to make everything fine again.

Paul says it a little more poetically in Romans 8:28: “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

That’s the whole story. It will be fine in the end because God has promised it would be.

Everything will be fine in the end. It’s not fine yet, but that only means it’s not yet the end.

Why I Call Myself Blessed

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say” (C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair).

Good ol’ Puddleglum. For those not familiar with Narnia, that’s the character speaking these words. And I like them.

I am currently jobless. Again. But I still consider myself blessed.

I’d rather be where I am right now with God than in my dream job, making ridiculous amounts of money, without Him.

I’ve found out this simple equation:

Me + God > Me + Everything Else – God

I don’t know if that’s grammatically or mathematically correct, but it’s right as far as I’m concerned.

I’m blessed because I have God. I’m blessed because this God promises not to give me what I need or lead me to it, but because He’s promised that HE HIMSELF will be my provision.

Even if God never did another blessed thing for me, if God never gave me another sign or another visible reminder of His prescence, He would still have been better to me that I deserve for saving my soul.

So if I wake up tomorrow and draw breath, if I get out of bed and live through the next 24 hours, I’m blessed because God is with me. If I don’t wake up tomorrow, I’m still blessed because then I’ll be with God.

I call that a win-win.

Those Times

I’ve been living my miracle. I’ve been counting my blessings and finding joy in the everyday minutiae of life. But sometimes . . . .

You know the feeling. It happens when you’re tired or hungry or by yourself– or all three. 

You feel like your friends will all eventually abandon you. Little things, like someone not responding to a text or someone else who usually liked and commented on your posts not having done so for a few days, seem like proof that you’re not really wanted or desired.

You find it’s much easier to wallow in that old mire of self-pity and entitlement than to fight for the joy and to consciously bring to mind the blessings. Sometimes it does feel good (but not in a good way) to feel sorry for yourself and believe that no one truly understands or cares about you. Lies are sometimes easier to believe and more comforting than the truth. Well, most of the time.

It’s at those times when you want to lean on what you’re feeling as a gauge for how you’re doing. It’s times when you want to use your understanding as a crutch for figuring out your life at that particular moment.

But just remember this familiar verse:

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“Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding [or feelings]. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6. Amplified)

I added that part about feelings, in case you wondered. But it’s implied in the Hebrew. 

Trust God, not in how you feel or what you think. Those things (thoughts and feelings) aren’t always trustworthy. But God is.

And I know from experience your friends aren’t nearly as ready to abandon you as you think they are. Sometimes, they just get caught up in life, their own pain, crazy work or school, etc. They haven’t forgotten or left you.

Remember even if one or two has left you, God never will. He’s promised with an oath as sure as Himself to be with you, no matter what, not only up to the end, but beyond.

That should help you get past those times.

 

By Faith

I am an optimistic and positive person for the most part. I usually see the glass half full. Unless it’s when I’m really thirsty, then the glass is empty, ’cause I just drank it all.

Sometimes, I have serious doubts. Sometimes, it feels like my dreams and goals are just out of reach and nothing will really ever change. Sometimes, I’m not even really sure what it is I’m reaching for.

Everybody has those times, if they’re honest. Everybody doubts, everybody questions, and as the old R.E.M. song says, everybody hurts.

The question is, Will you still believe even when common sense tells you not to? Will you speak your faith even when you don’t feel it and the words coming out of your mouth feel fake and fraudulent? Will you still hold on?

The old cliche is true. It really is darkest just before the dawn. I’ve found that just when I feel like I’m at my lowest ebb, that’s when I see God moving in my circumstances and in my life.

The promises of God are just as true in the dark as they are in the light. He is just as faithful in the storm as in the sunshine. He is just as near when you can’t feel Him as when you can.

I’ve said it before many times, but it’s true. What you think may lie to you. What you feel may lie to you. But God won’t. Ever.

So many people in the Bible had times when they felt God’s promises were hopelessly out of reach. I think about David and Abraham as examples. David when he was running for his life from Saul and Abraham when he and Sarah were still childless and eligible for Social Security.

But they held on to the promises of God even when everything in them (and probably everyone around them) told them not to, and that faith was rewarded in the nick of time in God’s perfect timing.

May you and I hold on as tenaciously and as stubbornly as they did.

It will be so much more than worth it in the end.