Longing for the Word

“Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

One question: when last did you long for the word of God? When did you last hunger and thirst for Scripture?

These are questions not meant to guilt you into picking up your Bible, but to gauge where you and I are spiritually. I know for me if the Bible is the last thought in my mind when I have some down time, it means that I am in a spiritually vulnerable place.

May God grant each of us a desire for His word that outweighs all other appetites, even physical ones, so that we can search the pages of His word and find Him there.

Amen.

 

Something I Read Lately

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I’ve prayed this prayer many times on many different occasions. Never once has God answered my prayer by changing my circumstances, i.e. making my life easier, taking away my difficulties, instantly transporting me to the other side of my trials. What He has done is reminded me ever so subtly that He will be with me as He always has during my dark road.

Peace isn’t always  a feeling of contentment. Sometimes, the butterflies remain but so does the promise that God won’t forsake me. For me, a feeling of peace doesn’t always mean peace, nor does a lack of it indicate its absence. Try and work that one out and see if it makes sense.

After all, it is a peace that is beyond my utmost understanding. I don’t need a god who I can figure out and manage and understand. I need a God who is bigger than me, stronger than me, wiser than me. I need a God who is completely Other than me (not a bigger, stronger, wiser version of me).

My advice to you? Keep praying for that peace that passes all understanding and keep claiming it, whether you feel it or not. Keep trusting that the God of peace is walking with you through your dark road.

Sometimes the absence of peace means there is something in your life that needs to change. You’ll generally have an idea of what that something is and how to go about making the changes. You can’t have peace if you’re consistently making choices that go against God’s Word and refuse to submit to His will for your life.

Even then, peace comes with repentance. Peace comes to those whose hearts are broken, like King David’s, over their sin. Peace comes to those who admit once again their total and complete dependence on God.

That’s all for tonight. Come back for something completely different. Or maybe more of the same. You never can tell with me.

 

 

 

Lessons from Lent

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This may be old hat for you or not. I’m not sure. But stop me if you’ve heard some or all of this before: last year, I gave up only Facebook for Lent. This year, I decided to give up all social media. It turned out to be one of my best decisions ever. Although if I’m honest, I was being obedient to what I felt God was calling me to do. It really wasn’t my decision at all.

I don’t regret for one single second going without social media for those 46 days. I got in more prayer time, I read my Bible more, I read more books in general. Plus, I had a greater sense of peace from not being tied down to Facebook or Twitter.

I think sometimes in order to appreciate something more, you need to step away from it for a while. That was the case for me. I did sometimes feel out of the loop after missing all the news from Facebook. But I can always catch up on that.

Lent is more than just giving up. It’s replacing it with something better. It’s no good to give up social media if you’re going to fill up the time with television. Hopefully, you spend your extra free time in learning to hear God’s voice and hear His heartbeat and feel His love for you. Obviously, the best way to do that is through His Word.

I don’t claim that I was anywhere near perfect in that regard. I wasted too much of the time I had away from social media. But I’m not beating myself up about it. Instead I choose to focus on the fact that I was more discipline in regard to prayer and Bible reading than I’ve been in a long time.

I hope to be able to participate in Lent again next year. I hope that I can be free enough to walk away from anything that enslaves me and takes my eyes off Jesus, whether that be social media or TV or anything else.

Like I said before, it’s really not about giving up stuff or sacrificing what you love. More than that, it’s about prioritizing your life and making sure that Jesus and His Kingdom really and truly are first. Then everything else will line up and fall into proper place.

What I Gave Up for Lent This Year

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Last year, I gave up Facebook for Lent. I won’t lie. It was harder than I thought it would be. I found out how much of a hold Facebook had on me and how much of my time it consumed.

It was freeing to not feel tied down to Facebook, to not have to check to see who responded to my posts. Who liked them. I admit I didn’t always use the extra time toward seeking God. But it was a start.

This year, I’m giving up ALL forms of social media. For those of you new to the interweb, that means Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I checked E) All of the above.

This is my second day and the old tug is back. That tug that says that one glance won’t hurt. That one look won’t lead to an hour or more checking status updates of friends.

I covet your prayers. Specifically, I’m asking for you to pray that I’d use this time more intentionally to seek God in prayer and in His Word. That I’d be open to whatever He says, whether it’s something I want to hear or not, whether it’s easy or painful, even if it requires me to die a little more to the safe and comfortable and routine.

As you probably surmised, I haven’t given up WordPress. It’s funny how God can speak to me through my own writing, sometimes while I’m in the very midst of writing it. This and a sleepy cat in my lap are my forms of therapy.

I’ll keep you updated on what I’m learning and hearing from God during these 46 days of Lent. I’d love to spend this time praying for you specifically as well, so feel free to text me your prayer requests at (615) 556-5850 or email me at gmendel72@icloud.com. I am also available to meet with you in person (if you live close to the Nashville area). But please, no autographs. 😁

May this God that the grave couldn’t hold draw you ever closer to Him during this season of remembering and reflection and become the very desire of your heart. Amen.

A Beautiful Borrowed Lenten Prayer

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I found this Lenten prayer from Henri Nouwen when checking my email. I’m subscribed to a site that sends me a daily quote of his because I am a huge fan of his writing. This one spoke powerfully to me and echoed my own thoughts better than I could ever express them. It seems very appropriate for this Ash Wednesday.

“The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me. Amen.”

I could only add that God would give me the discipline to take the time I normally spend on social media and use it to delve into His Word and not just read words but to have my mind and heart transformed by what I read.

 

Yet Another Bible Find

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Lately, my quest is to go to used bookstores and thrift stores in search of obscure or relatively unknown translations of the Bible. I have all the popular ones, like the NIV, NASB, ESV, NKJV, and so on. Why stop there?

Today. I found a copy of the Revised English Bible at a bookstore in Green Hills. It’s a revision of the New English Bible and both are primarily British translations. I bet you’ve never heard of either one.

My goal is not to pay $80 for a top-quality leather Bible. I try to keep it under $10 if I can.

I never know when I’ll run across a version of the Bible that I’ve never heard of before. I find it’s helpful to read through more than one translation to get a better picture of what the original writers were trying to communicate.

For the record, I am not a fan of the KJV. I personally would rather not have to translate the translation, but if that’s your Bible of choice then more power to ya. I still say it’s good to diversify every once in a while.

I’m still looking for a New Jerusalem Bible. It’s a Catholic translation that Brennan Manning used quite a bit in his books. And it is quite the tricky one to find, apparently. If you see one, let me know where and how much (preferably in the Nashville area).

If there’s any point to this, it’s to read your Bible more. And yes, I’m preaching to myself, too. If I believe I possess the words of God written to and for me, I should do more than carry them around. I should read them, obey them, and live them.

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

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As you probably already know from reading earlier posts, I have quite the collection of Bibles. I don’t mean on my iPhone or iPad, either (although I do have TWO Bible apps with a plethora of translations between them). I mean actual Bibles.

I have a 1611 facsimile of the King James Bible. I also have at least one of the following: American Standard Version, New American Standard, Revised Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Version, New King James Version, English Standard Version, New International Version, New Living Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Amplified Bible, New English Bible, The Message, and The Voice.

I ran out of breath just typing that.

I have lots of Bibles that look pretty and make me look all spiritual and impressive when I tote them under my arm. Not all of them at once, mind you. I only carry one at the time. Two tops.

But for all that, how much of a Bible do I carry inside me? How well do I know this Bible I profess to love, that I boldly proclaim as inerrant, perfect, God-breathed?

And if people are reading my life like the only Bible they will ever read, what kind of message are they getting? Is it that God only loves good little children? Is it that God loves the same causes I do and is against everything I’m against? Is is that you have to jump through all the right hoops and say all the right magic words to get God’s approval?

Or is it that I (like you and everyone else alive) am a broken person living in a broken world, hopelessly lost and estranged from God? Is it how that very God took on skin like mine and came to live among people like me to show me the way Home? To be the way Home?

I don’t have a neat and tidy ending for this post. I don’t have a funny story to close on. I do have the feeling that with all these Bibles, I should know a lot more about THE Bible than I do.

I also know that God is faithful and patient. He wants me to know Him far more than I do most of the time. And He’s very persistent.

I’m praying for a deep hunger and thirst for God’s Word. I want to crave it, to live it, to breathe it, to cherish it, to make it as much s part of me as my own skin.

“Deep within me I have hidden Your word so that I will never sin against You. . . . Your word is a lamp for my steps; it lights the path before me” (Psalm 119:11,105).

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Some Inconvenient Truths

This is probably not going to be one of those feel-good blogs that leaves you all warm and fuzzy. This is probably not going to win me any popularity points or make me the next trendy blogger. Then again, the truth has never been popular.

The truth is that there aren’t many ways to heaven. There’s just one. Jesus Himself didn’t say, “I am one of the ways, one of the truths, and one possible life. You can get to Heaven through me if I fit your lifestyle.”

No. He said, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life. No one comes to the Father (or gets to Heaven) but through Me.”

The truth is that hell is real. As much as I would love to say it’s not, as much as the reality of it makes me uncomfortable, I can’t deny that Jesus belived it was real and spoke more about hell than heaven.

The truth is that the Bible is God’s Word and it is without error. It may not always say what I want it to say and I in my own human reasoning would have left some parts out. But thankfully, I didn’t have a say in what got into the Bible.

The truth is that God can save anyone at anytime anywhere who truly believes in Jesus. Not just their parents’s belief. Not just intellectual assent. But real faith that translates into a lifestyle of obedience and surrender. After all, as one pastor has said, “If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.”

I didn’t make it up. I didn’t come to the truth because I was so very smart and wise. God revealed it to me.

To say that I know the truth isn’t arrogant; to say that no one can know the truth is. Has anyone spoken to every single person alive on the planet to know that none of them know the truth?

To know the truth means I am responsible to live it out. It means it will change everything about me. I can’t be glib about speaking the truth. I must speak it with great humility because apart from the grace of God, I woud never have found it.

I may get called a fundamentalist or a Bible-thumper or arrogant or narrow-minded. I may get defriended or unliked. But for me more important than being popular or liked is to be faithful to what I know to be true. I can’t do anything else.

By the way, the truth will still set you free.

A Letter to Kim Kardashian

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Kim,

I don’t know if you will read this or not. Realistically speaking, I’m pretty sure you won’t, since you probably don’t have time to read blogs by people you don’t know who aren’t famous. But if by some extremely remote chance, you happen to stumble on this quaint little blog, I hope you know I’m rooting for you.

I know a lot of people will look at your decision to start a Bible study and question your motives. They will say you just want to hook up with Tim Tebow or give some other reason why you can’t legitimately want to read God’s Word for its own sake.

I am not one of those.

I hope you read the Bible and find all that God has for you in there. I hope you find God’s love letter to His people, including you, and how much He loved His people and what great lengths He undertook to win back His people lost to sin and death.

I hope you will find that true beauty is in what God says about you, not what some magazine or television producer says about you. God says, “I made you and that makes you beautiful, because I made you in My image.”

I hope you will know that Jesus loves you just for you, not because of what you do or what you wear or who you know. I hope you can find joy in the fact that Jesus looked at you in your worst moments and thought you were still to die for.

I hope you fall in love with God’s Word and want it more than anything else. I hope you are transformed by what you read and that every time you read the Bible, you put it down a different person than when you picked it up. More than that, I pray you will take what you read and live it out in compassion for the needy and love for those whom God loves.

I hope you understand that no matter what you’ve done in the past, God has a purpose for you. He can work in and through you to do some pretty amazing things that will blow you away.

Like I said before, I’m rooting for you and hoping you find the peace you’re looking for.

Signed,

A Ragamuffin who is just trying to tell others about the grace of God that he’s found

PS It’s still not too late, no matter how messed up your life seems right now. Jesus can still turn your mess into something beautiful.

He giveth more grace (featuring a surprise guest blogger!)

Ok, not really. It’s still me, but I am including a bit of poetry (not mine) in this blog, because it so profoundly affected me when I heard it tonight at Kairos Roots. Here it is. May it affect you like it did me and make you more thankful and grateful to our great God! Here is her story and then her poem will follow (I copied and pasted her story. Shh! Don’t tell anyone!)

“Annie Flint was born in the Johnston home where she lost her mother, then shortly after lost her father too and was raised by the Flint family. After she graduated from college, she contracted arthritis in one of its most crippling forms and lay in bed for not one or two years, but for decades of her life. And if that wasn’t bad enough she lost control of her internal organs and to her utter embarrassment had to live on diapers for many years of her life. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough she began to become blind and cancer began to take its toll…according to one eyewitness, who wrote a book(called Making of the Beautiful), the last time he saw her, she had seven pillows cushioning her body from keeping the sores from inflicting indescribable agony.

In the midst of all that, she wrote this beautiful poem:

‘He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!'”

Annie Johnson Flint