Righteous Anger?

“Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life” (James 1:21).

I have a question for you (and for myself, too). Why is it that we as believers get upset when nonbelievers act like . . . well, nonbelievers? Why are we so surprised?

Salvation is more than a new morality code. It’s more than a different kind of behavior.

It’s a total transformation. The Bible uses the word regeneration when speaking of someone getting saved. Paul talks about becoming a new creation. Not a better version of the old creation, but a completely new one.

The question isn’t why nonbelievers act like nonbelievers, but why believers don’t act more like the faith they profess so loudly.

I love what my pastor Mike Glenn says: the world doesn’t hate Christians because they’re too different but because they’re not different enough.

If I really believe what I profess about how Jesus can take anyone at any point and rescue him or her from who they used to be and make them into something completely new, then my life should show it. I should be different.

I should talk differently for sure, but I should act in a way that lines up with all my verbiage.

That verse in 2 Chronicles 7 about God healing our land? That’s not directed at nonbelievers getting their act right. It’s about those who are called by God’s name, i.e. Christians, who turn and repent and seek God like never before. That’s when the healing happens.

. . .[If] my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health” (2 Chronicles 7:14, The Message).

Maybe it’s time to stop the finger-pointing and blame-assessing and maybe start praying.

 

Going Home

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“Going home is a lifelong journey. There are always parts of ourselves that wander off in dissipation or get stuck in resentment. Before we know it we are lost in lustful fantasies or angry ruminations. Our night dreams and daydreams often remind us of our lostness.

Spiritual disciplines such as praying, fasting and caring are ways to help us return home. As we walk home we often realise how long the way is. But let us not be discouraged. Jesus walks with us and speaks to us on the road. When we listen carefully we discover that we are already home while on the way” (Henri Nouwen).

That’s what really matters in the end.

I’m headed toward my real home and Jesus is the one who’ll help me get there.

This journey is where Jesus walks with us and speaks to us. In fact, Jesus Himself said that knowing Him is the journey. He said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

He didn’t say that He knew the way.

He didn’t even say that He was an expert in the knowledge about the way.

He said He is THE way.

There is no other way because no other god ever took on human flesh and became one of us. No other god willingly laid down his life for us in order that we might escape the punishment we deserved.

Sometimes, the way seems long and hard. Many of us sometimes feel like we will never get to the place we want to be or become the persons we feel we should have been all along.

Rest easy, my friends.

Jesus promised that even though the road was narrow and few find it, He would be there.

Jesus promised that His yoke would be easy and His burden light.

Jesus promised that He would finish that great work He started in you.

He promised to never leave or forsake you.

When Jesus is with you, you truly are already home while you’re on the road home.

 

Why I Still Pray

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Yeah, what he said.

You’d think I’d be a lot better at praying by now, considering how many tests I’ve taken in school and how many job interviews I’ve had over my lifetime. But as it turns out, I’m not. It would be fair to say that most of the time I really suck at prayer.

There have been times in my life where I simply couldn’t find the words to pray. Other times, I couldn’t focus long enough to string together two sentences in prayer.

Sometimes, I can only pray short prayers like “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy” or “Abba Father, I belong to you.”

Sometimes, the words flow. It feels like they are coming from somewhere other than from me, like the Holy Spirit is the one praying in me. Or if you like, God in me praying to God.

I do agree that prayer changes me more  than anything. It changes my perspective and gets me out of my own myopic, self-centered little world. Prayer helps me to see that this is not my story that I’m living, but God’s story  that He’s invited me to be a part of.

Rick Warren was right. It’s not about me. It is completely and totally about God. Always has been, always will.

So that’s why I pray.

 

What I Read This Morning

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I’ve been reading through the Bible this year in a different translation. It’s called The Voice, and I really like it. It’s not perfect, but I have yet to find a translation that was perfect. That’s why I tend to use more than one and go back and forth between different ones.

That being said, I was struck by reading a familiar passage in a different way. Here it is:

If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them.

Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid.

If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.

If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give” (Luke 6:27-38).

That’s a hard teaching. I know I could never do all that in my own strength. But that’s what t I’m aiming for. That’s what we’re all aiming for if we truly follow Jesus.

I had another thought. People want to paint Jesus in their own colors. Either they make Him into an ultra-rightwing conservative or a peace-loving liberal fanatical. I do think there’s some merit to both, but yet each side falls short in its vision of the Messiah. Jesus Himself prayed for Jerusalem that she might know His peace, but yet He also said that He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword.

To me, Jesus was so much more than either conservative or liberal. He was (and is) the Eternal God-Man and, just as God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours, so in a way is Jesus. He’s beyond any of our categorization.

One thing I know. Jesus didn’t come to legitimize one side or the other. He didn’t come to justify a belief system or a political platform. He came to seek and save the lost, no matter where they came from.

He asks one thing of us. His command is, “Follow me.” More than an ideology or a systematic theology, Christianity is and has always been about following the person of Jesus. That’s it.

Sleeping in a Storm

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I was recently reading over a very familiar passage in Matthew 8 where Jesus calms the storm. I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve either read that story or had it read to me.

The scene opens with Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. It’s a calm sea, nothing unusual or unexpected. Suddenly, out of nowhere, hurricane winds start rocking the boat and the disciples start majorly freaking out. Like I would probably have done. I’m sure there was some hyperventilating and breathing into paper bags.

They find Jesus sleeping in the boat. I guess that’s not hard to imagine, since Jesus is likely exhausted from a very full day of ministry and teaching. Plus, He undoubtedly has been up all night praying.

What gets me is what I read today in a commentary. It said that one of the signs of true trust in God is being able to sleep in the midst of trouble. Like Jesus slept in the storm.

Jesus more than anyone modeled perfect trust and faith in His Heavenly Father. That allowed Him to sleep in the midst of crashing waves and strong winds.

I think the point of the story isn’t how Jesus keeps His children out of storms, but how He is with them during these storms. And just like the disciples, we end up finding out that Jesus really is in control of the wind and the waves and our lives.

I’m sure that if I got the easy, comfortable life I’ve often longed for, my faith would be weak and worthless. I’d never have front row seats to see how Jesus has faithfully come through for me in every crisis and storm and trial.

So I guess I’m thankful even for those storms. That’s where I learned just how close Jesus is to those who cry out to Him.

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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Things I Love 47: When the World Gets in My Face, I Say, ‘Have a Nice Day’

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“…this counting blessings was the unlocking of the mystery of joy, joy, “the gigantic secret of the Christian,” joy hiding in gratitude … God had used the dare to give me this; led me all he way to give me this, live fully, fully live.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

Today, I ran the usual gamut of emotions from “the girl of my dreams is just around the next corner” to “I’m giving up the dating scene and joining a monastery. The truth lies in the middle, though I lean optimistically to the hopeful side. Even on rainy Wednesdays, I can revel in the joy of God’s goodness. I can be thankful for being alive to see eager earth soaking in more rain just as I can yearn for more and more of the presence of Christ that my gratitude and thanksgiving ushers in.

1,461) Another good kind of tired at the end of another working day.

1,462) The fun way Betty Rock does the traffic and weather reports on WAY-FM in the mornings.

1,463) Taking off my socks at the end of the day.

1,464) My Kairos friend’s homemade bread.

1,465) Obnoxiously persistent and persevering hope.

1,466) Those rare moments of genuine undiluted contentment.

1,467) Having a very manageable number of friends on Facebook.

1,468) Still having my memory.

1,469) Still having all ten fingers and all ten toes (even if one pinky is slightly crooked).

1,470) My growing collection of pocket-size Bibles.

1,471) The smell of new leather Bibles.

1,472) Wondering what new features the next iPhone will have on it.

1,473) Not grieving as those who have no hope.

1,474) A little coffee with my creamer and sugar.

1,475) My unique and very unorthodox typing style.

1,476) Being the only person in the entire universe with Spongebob Squarepants hanging from my rearview mirror.

1,477) Anticipating another trip to McKay’s Used Bookstore to trade in some movies.

1,478) Not being broke.

1,479) Words of affirmation in any format, whether spoken, texted, tweeted, posted, messaged, or emailed.

1,480) Getting comments on my blogs.

1,481) People who unfailingly respond to my texts and posts and Facebook messages.

1,482) Being my cat’s favorite pillow.

1,483) Shamelessly plugging my cat’s Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/LucyTheWonderCat?fref=ts.

1,484) Finally being okay with not getting responses from posts and texts and personal messages.

1,485) Not having watched even one second of any of the episodes of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, or any of those so-called reality shows.

1,486) Being up to 30,475 views on my blogs.

1,487) Not living in an area affected by drought conditions (at least not this year).

1,488) Being a bit wiser at the end of the day than I was at the end of yesterday.

1,489) Writing letters to my future wife.

1,490) A night of Bible reading, praying, and then sleep.

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More Thoughts on Fighting From Victory (And not For It)

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I normally don’t do follow-up blogs to ones I have posted. Kinda like the line about not repeating this ever again or something like that. Did I mention my brain is a little fuzzy this evening?

Someone posted a comment on my blog that got my attention. I failed to mention or say correctly that we should pray for strength. Absolutely. We should pray that God will strengthen us with power through His Holy Spirit.

It seems to me that sometimes we should claim the power that is already in us. The Bible states that the power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. It is in us because the risen Christ is in us.

The power that my sin couldn’t overcome. The power that death could not conquer. The power that the grave couldn’t hold down. That kind of power.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t pray to be strong, but rather that God would be strong through me. I want to be a vessel that God pours through, that God loves through, that God comes through.

Sometimes I know how I want to say something in my head and for whatever reason, it doesn’t quite come out in print. On a side note, I have become quite familiar with the taste of shoe leather for as many times as I have put my foot in my mouth and said really dumb things. That really makes me feel like a heel.

Pray for strength. Yes. Claim the power of the risen Christ in you. Yes. The point is that you don’t have to live defeated and downtrodden. You can live in victory because the Victor lives in you.

That’s what I am praying and claiming for myself and for all of you tonight. May God’s peace rule your hearts tonight, friends!

Some not-so-original thoughts on prayer

“To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God. As soon as we begin to divide our thoughts about God and thoughts about people and events, we remove God from our daily life and put him into a pious little niche where we can think pious thoughts and experience pious feelings. … Although it is important and even indispensable for the spiritual life to set apart time for God and God alone, prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts — beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful — can be thought in the presence of God. … Thus, converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centred monologue to a God-centred dialogue” (Henri Nouwen).

Prayer is not about me letting God in on information He was unaware of, or getting Him to do or change things for me. Prayer is about getting to know the heart and mind of God. It’s about seeing my problems and issues with His eyes. It’s about me being conformed into His image, which is ultimately God’s will for all of us.

Prayer is not just about me alone with God. It’s about me and other believers coming together in one accord before God, praying as one. It’s about seeing and seeking God in every waking moment.

All that to say that I am not really that good at prayer. I can pray in emergencies or crisis, but I forget to pray when I feel I am in status quo normal mode. Sometimes, I even forget about God and all He’s done for me. But I’m learning not to come at God all the time asking for things and not sticking around for His responses. I’m learning to come to God and be open to whatever He has for me. I’m learning to be still and listen. I’m learning to quiet my mind and be still. I’m learning to pray not my will, but Thine.

I am a student in the school of prayer who has a very patient Master who won’t ever flunk me or get frustrated with me or give up on me. He is pleased with my weak efforts and my directionless monologues out of a mind that is so easily distracted by anything and everything else. I have an Interpreter who will take the groans and sighs of mine that can’t find words and turn them into perfect prayers.

As always, I believe. Help my unbelief.