The Runner’s Reward

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The shallow, fast breaths hint at the difficulty.  The runner’s arms begin to droop as fatigue washes over the body, and the knees falter in their stride, striving to hold up the exhausted body.  A thought of aborting flashes,  “Quit now!”

That runner was me last night.  Running long and hard, I felt weak and the challenge of finishing well seemed impossible.  The race wasn’t just any ordinary race.  Everyone runs this race called Life; but the drive that pushes each one to the finish line is dependent on the desires of the runner.
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“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”  Straighten up and run.  Run tough.  Keep going.  The race is known for its continual hardness.  Make the path straight.  Consider how to prevent turned ankles and other injuries. Keep your eyes fixed on the reward.

Do the brutal realities of life make it a race too challenging to win?  Resolve weakens.  Our life is compared to a hard race, so hard, in fact, that many are defeated and lose heart.

Our Father God talks straight to us:  The hardship is necessary.  I do not act as a coach, but I am your Father your who loves you completely.  The training and discipline is given because it is necessary for you to finish well.  You will finish.  You will see victory.

When our Father God allows hardship that requires our exertion and exercises our faith, it is to prevent spiritual flab and to grow our faith. “But he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10-11).
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During the training, the pain makes us feel weak.  However, endurance yields a greater good.  What is the energizing principle?  Is it pain-free living?  Then suffering will beat you.  We are promised the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  Our loving Father wants us to know a peaceful life, so he continues to perfect all that concerns his children, exposing what is weak, and  teaching us the right and good way.  “And the highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it.  It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.”  Our Father guards us with his strong love and protects us.  He has given us everything we need to finish the race.

Grace is God’s benevolence poured out on his children.  There is always more grace for the believer.  “But he gives more grace.  Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  More grace.  Always more grace.
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When you feel overwhelmed…His grace is the higher Rock to securely stand on.
When you feel broken…His grace heals the broken-hearted.
When you feel hopeless…His grace removes the shame through His love poured out on us.
When you feel afraid…His grace gives courage.
When lies have sucked you in…His grace tells the truth and sets you free.

So, today I turn in child-like faith, with trust and dependence, to the Father for help.  His Father’s heart is always for His children.  His grace is always more than our greatest defeat. God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?”  (Hebrews 12:7-9).

So I am reminded of how to run the race.  Endure.  Trust the Father and live in practical obedience.  “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15).
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Why even run?  The great motivator to run this particular race is the reward.  Come on!  Let’s run together!  Fix your eyes firmly on the reward.  And the reward? My eyes longingly gaze on the beautiful face of my Beloved Jesus, who is my soul’s lover and my heart’s greatest reward.  The more I trust him, the more I know of His infinite beauty, the more I need him. His love is strong and enduring; and because he loves me, I love him.  And although I am weak, He is strong and always my ally.

I remember in hope that my beloved Jesus endured exceptional suffering for a greater reward.  What joy gave him the reason to endure the evils of the cross?  You and I were the reason. Because Jesus loved us, he endured losing God His Father so that he might reconcile us back to God.  Jesus endured  suffering to receive us as his reward.  Look to Jesus “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:2).

Can we not trust a God like this?  Are we not strengthened to run to obtain the prize?  Love has suffered.  Love is now poured out in our hearts.  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5).

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The Unraveling of Peace

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(Photo credit:  Marc Adamus)

God planted a garden.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8)

Cain built the 1st city on the planet.

Cain also had the distinction of having the very first birthdate in mankind’s history.

Sadly, Cain was also the first criminal having murdered his younger brother in anger.
So this is how it happened that God removed Cain, alienating him from Himself and the earth.  Leaving the presence of God, Cain remained determined and took control on his own terms.  Doomed to be forever restless and experience frustration and futility, Cain discovered being separated from God mattered in ways that he could have never imagined.  It began an unraveling of peace.  option2
Cain remained forever on the outside of things and continually wrestled with his own insecurity.  So, in response, Cain built a city, constructing his own alternative reality, as a way to run from the curse.  In truth, it was a denial of God and His spoken Word.  Attempting self-salvation, to satisfy those gnawing longings of the soul, Cain sought to create his own enduring greatness in his own prideful way.  Blaspheming the things he did not understand, Cain abandoned himself to destruction.Pride is a battle that never ceases, and the heart is the bloody battlefield.  From the dawn of time, the story of human pride has marched defiantly through the corridors of history leaving the refuse of destruction and the unraveling of society.
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Yet, there is hope.  God’s plans are not last-minute attempts but an ancient, long-established, settled victory.  Incredibly, God takes the very symbol of our rejection of him-a city built on pride- and redeems it, declaring, “You shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” (Isaiah 1:26). 

What is the cost of Shalom?

God paid an unimaginable price to reconcile us back to Himself.  Even while we were without hope and alienated from the life of God, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13). he-has-now-reconciled-in All of sin’s curse and punishment is taken once for all by His Son Jesus on the cross.  The God we have rejected offers us redemption.   “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.” (Isaiah 25:8).

No longer outcasts, God keeps us in His peace and gives to us a song of praise: “We have a strong city; He sets up salvation as walls & bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
(Is. 26:1-3).
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Sight of Glory

My Prayer for Today
Please, dear Jesus, do not let me diminish the greatness of your salvation; for my desires betray me, and I must be rescued from my own heart’s reign.  Keep my heart from straying, from soaking in and absorbing the temporal enticements of this world.  Oh, how I am reminded by the prophet Isaiah that I barely understand the weight of glory that surrounds the I AM.
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God, you are both immanent and transcendent. Perhaps, I gravitate toward your immanence (talking of Your love & kindness, stressing your nearness, accessibility and my oneness in Christ) but spend less time remembering Your transcendence (stressing your holiness, your inapproachability, your total ‘otherness’ and distinction from us). Let me see the fulness of your glory! Open my heart’s eyes to see like your servant Isaiah.  Give me understanding so that I might know ALL of your wonderful glory!  I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted us ; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  John commented,”Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke about Him.” ( Is. 6, John 12:41).  You created us and are separated from us in your glorious holiness.

Isaiah was given eyes to see your rightful judgment on those who would not worship you, our Creator God, as the one and only God.  And Isaiah, gripped with agonizing and extreme feelings of fear, wrote, “Therefore I am filled with anguish. Pain grips me, like the pain of a woman in labor. I am too perplexed to hear, too dismayed to see. My heart staggers; horror terrifies me. He has turned my last glimmer of hope into sheer terror.” (Isaiah 21:3-5).  This is the rightful response to God’s holy judgment by the one who has eyes to see it.
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O Jesus, I bow my knee to your worthy name! I am nothing apart from your great salvation!  That you would consider me blows me away, but I am even more humbled and awestruck that you have pursued me with your relentless grace.
Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; I wait for You all day long.  Your glory is too much for me! I love you and delight in your glory!  There  is indescribable joy in knowing that you have made a way for me to know you!
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Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!

White as Snow

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Blood stains the brilliant white of the snow
My sins are scarlet; where shall I go?
Seeking to entrap, death chases me
I am guilty; where can I flee?

Let us reason, my LORD pleads,
Return; your Advocate will intercede
For a broken heart I will mend
A contrite spirit will not offend.

 
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Heinous scarlet shall be like glistening snow
Crimson stains purged clean, your heart hallowed
Exacting judgment meted on the cross
Innocent blood covers the ugliest dross.

Grace is free and resurrection power is given
Obey the Spirit for true and joyful living
Make no room for selfish lust or slavish fear
Your Redeemer overcomes in glory and draws you near.

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Dreaming with a Bigger Lens

vangogh-stars-quote1           (PC:  Rebecca Barray)

Dreams are often wishes unfulfilled.  Our longings take concrete shape as our minds explore endless ways to create what our visions for justice, push for discovery and desires for beauty beg for.  Made in the reflection of the infinite, God wires us with aptitudes and investigative minds able to innovate, design, build, create, examine, explore and solve; and it would seem humanity is a tireless and thrilling resource for more of whatever our restless mind can imagine.  Because dreams are not easily navigated, the formidable limitations that hold us back, whether our own inabilities or weaknesses, or the less controllable ones like being born in the wrong century or the wrong neighborhood, can kill our dreams.   As poor, destitute Fantine would sing, “But the tigers come at night, With their voices soft as thunder, As they tear your hope apart, As they turn your dream to shame.”  Dreams often remind us of what we are not.

Dreams were never meant to define us.  All people everywhere are defined by their relationship to God.  Because we were intended for oneness with God, God is to be central in all things; and the inspiration of our dreams must be motivated by the realization that our longings will only find a satisfying reality when they are in correct alignment to Him .  Hundreds of years ago, the apostle Paul spoke in the meeting of the Aeropagus in Athens saying, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”  The reality of whatever we are hoping for is made a real hope in the resurrection of Christ, the glorious central figure in all of reality.

Another interesting aspect about dreams and hopes are how they shift and morph along the sands of time.  What you dreamed about as a kid probably is not your current big dream.  slide_442010_5844780_freeSimilarly, as our culture has shifted its focus on what matters most, we discover  it is reflected in our own aspirations.  Dr. Tim Keller states, “In ancient cultures what mattered most was honor and making your community proud by fulfilling your duty. The world was conceived as a testing ground to see whether you would be faithful to truth, beauty, and causes higher than your own emotions and interests.  Today, however, our cultures are highly individualistic. There is no duty higher than plumbing the depths of your own desires to find out who you want to be. In modern narratives, the protagonist is usually a person who bravely casts off convention, breaks the rules, defies tradition and authority to discover him or her self and carve out a new place in the world. In ancient tales the hero was the person who did just the opposite, who put aside inner dreams, aspirations, doubts, and feelings in order to bravely and loyally fulfill their vows and obligations.”  So it is that our lofty goals often mirror our world’s changing reflections.  (PC:  Rhiannon Logsdon)

The coming of Jesus brings hopes to our dreams.  What do you dream about?  What keeps you up at night pondering and planning?  Each part of our life is to be laid in submission to the King’s command, and yet the eagerness of the King is for his people’s eternal joy.  Do we dare to place our susceptible aspirations and most secret, heartfelt longings into the hands of the one who breathed life into us, offers rescue from our sinful destitution, and assures that in Himself is life full of love and acceptance?  Is it hard?  Are we afraid of disappointment? The beloved preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “If you reject Him, He answers you with tears. If you wound Him, He bleeds out cleansing, if you kill Him, he dies to redeem. If you bury Him, He rises again to bring us resurrection. Jesus is love manifest.”  In an individualized society, do we dare to turn over our dreams?

Jesus offers an alternate way of living human.  Jesus asks us to have the same mindset that compelled him to completely empty Himself and become a human.  Though completely equal with God, Jesus did not grasp after it.  Though a king, he became a servant of all. manger2013 Jesus deliberately gave up the biggest, living dream ever, lost it all, in order to gain something greater–the redemption of his people.  Now Jesus tells his followers to do the same, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” The Word became flesh and lived right here among us, and we saw his grace and glory.  This glory is life overflowing, and it spills over onto us to give us what we need; grace and truth is spilled out, ever-present, ever-holding on to us, overflowing like a river in us, giving us grace, over and over, grace upon grace.  828fdc9db1c33ecb221f6a7dc7bed7c5

Jesus also provides us with a new filter for the longings of our heart.  Jesus leaves us with His Spirit, the power of the crucified and resurrected Christ.  The Lord tells us that we may ask anything in His name, and He assures us that He will do it with every desire and every dream processed through that precious name for the glory of God.  We ask for His fame, not ours.  Our desires and dreams are put through that filter–His fame, His worth, His wisdom, His honor, His glory.   And we find that our dreams were never really big enough, our lens were too small to capture the story of glory that is now ours through Christ.  

Infinity Emptied into Infancy

The people were scared, terrified actually.  Strong forces were joining to wage war against them, and their hearts trembled like the great trees in the forest bowing to the wind. 1383498429_4-640x477 Isaiah, the prophet, is sent with a very simple message: “Do nothing-be careful, quiet, watch your heart, and don’t let it be afraid.” God gave the message of hope to his people, because God knew what they could not know.  His warning was clear: If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.  

This way of faith seemed inadequate to the people.  Isaiah didn’t budge.  “I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face…I will hope in Him.”

But, the people wanted to control the future.  Their hearts sought the false & the futile.

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God promised joy to come.  Would they believe? or would they choose to only hope in what they could see?  God promised to give a royal son. His zeal would bring peace, joy, justice and righteousness without end.

 

 

 

The people who walked in darkness have see a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has a light shined.
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy
at the harvest…For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.
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For unto us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:2-3, 5-7

Seven centuries would pass before the birth of Christ.  God masterfully designs His promise to span across the centuries and tells His people, “Do not fear; I will do it.”

Between 2 FINITE things there still remains some degree of proportion; for example, a drop of water exhibits some proportion to the ocean. But between the finite and the infinte, it is IMPOSSIBLE; the Psalmist writes, “Who is like Yahweh our God—the One enthroned on high, who STOOPS down to look on the heavens & the earth?”

Amazingly though, infinite God becomes a finite man–on purpose–in order to reconcile a very messed-up child back to a hallowed Father! The humiliation is mind-boggling!! Apalling wonder…God sends His own Son Jesus, who STOOPED, making voluntary descent from His elevation, “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He EMPTIED Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.”

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Infinity
e  m  p  t  i e d
into infancy…

 

The promise fulfilled.  And so we wait again in calm assurance and quiet hope for our Lord Jesus to return.  If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.  

The Royal Rotted Root

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
    and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
-Genesis 49:10

The promise of a royal line had been a blessing given to Judah uttered solemnly in faith by his aging patriarchal father Jacob.  The blessing of the kingdom expanded as God promised the throne to the lineage of King David, “Then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (I Kings 9:5).

But, the royal root rotted.  JudahEmblem.png

The throne was not good, evil was the new counterfeiter.
The king’s glory no longer gleemed, for darkness shrouded light.  
His reign put bitter for sweet and sweet was now bitter.
His rule was only shrewd in his own self-centered sight.
Heroes at drinking wine, life was wasted to fritter,
Acquitting the guilty, depriving the innocent of right.

God no longer defended and protected the land.  He allowed the enemy to conquer. The kingdom was gone and the people were exiled.

So their root will be as rottenness,
    and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
    and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
-Isaiah 5:24

But, what about the royal root?  Did God forsake his people and the promise?

fulfilment-of-scripture-root-of-jesseSilent royal root.  Not forsaken, the royal root waited unseen.  The time was coming…a wee babe would be born.

Then it will come about in that day that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glory.
Isa. 11:10

In days to come Jacob shall take root,
    Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots
    and fill the whole world with fruit.
Isaiah 27:6

Why Do I Need Christmas?

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Exactly…

Why is it that we need Christmas?

Do we really need Christmas?  Or is this season simply overrated? overhyped?  Filled with a mega dose of Hallmark and imaginative play on lofty, surreal ideals?  It seems overmarketed at least. It is the biggest retailing event every year.  Yet, why?  Why do we consistently support Christmas?

On a personal note, I need Christmas.  And, well, there is only one reason why I need Christmas.  It starts  with the beginning of the story…

Long ago…in the peacefulness of beginning, God lived here on earth. His face was seen by the people he made, and His beautiful glory and presence was known and enjoyed daily. In that day, the world was a garden, a true paradise that defied any imagination to envision a surpassing, unparalleled perfect home. Injustice did not exist. Hunger was unknown. Poverty was not conceived. There was no disease, death, or decay. God’s beauty filled the earth. But, like all good stories, there arose conflict that threatened the beauty. The created wanted control. Humanity decided to write the story, to be their own master. It ruined paradise.

The result is that all of humanity now lives in a broken world apart from the perfect community enjoyed in the presence and glory of God.
Paradise is now remote from earth.
When our relationship to God unraveled, our relationships with everything else unraveled. The ideal became desolate and broken, remote from the real beauty and glory. Mankind experienced psychological, physical, emotional, social, etc. alienation from God. So, we became the antagonist against a very good God.

I need a guaranteed hope for rescue, for I will suffer from this same malady to death. There is no perfection in this life apart from a true rescue of body and soul.  I need Christmas, because I really do need God to become a babe, live the life I couldn’t live, and give me a real rescue from the darkness.  I want to know real beauty and glory, live it, breathe it,  and be near.  If my soul so longs for something greater, what would that greater be?  The transformation of all that is broken into beauty that cannot be marred.  Christmas is a person, a deliverer, a rescuer promised–Emmanuel, “God With Us,” come to set his people free.  Free from fear.  Free from hate.  Free from self-love.  Free from serving the lesser gods that will not be able to deliver the true rest for our souls, nor fill it to overflowing with graces of real love and glorious tangible beauty. mt hood lost lake.jpg

I confess I need Christmas, because I need the promised babe of Christmas.  I need authentic transformational heart change. “To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins.   If God loved us as much as that, surely we, in our turn, should love each other!”  (I John 4:9-11, Phillips).

photo credit:  unknown, internet

Love Found Me in Murky Waters

“If what you believe is the truth, and indeed you care about knowing the truth, why should you be afraid of challenging it? If the evidences backs it, your truth with be justified, and if not, why do you wish to continue believing a lie?”

I grew up in the south which used to be considered the Bible belt of the United States.  I was raised in a conservative church environment that focused primarily on sovereign grace doctrine and even more heavily on the external behavior of a person, rather than on the heart of a person before God.   barn with hailI have experienced a great deal of pain from wrong teaching and a legalistic subculture, but I cannot say that about God. For awhile,  I became very distrustful of pastors and most churches because of those experiences.
But, God never changed.

Confusion and real questioning left me in murky waters for an extended period. I did read the Bible, but what I heard from the pulpit did not match what I read alone in the quietness of my own home. Slowly, I began to understand that the focus on externals was nothing more than trying to legislate morality in an attempt to find continued acceptance from God. It was a tiresome treadmill of trying to do better and better that left me exhausted, defeated, and finally bitter toward the split personalities of hypocritical lives. During this time, I began to realize that even if my outward actions were deemed good enough to climb the ladder to God, my heart would betray me. How do you conquer motivations that are self-seeking? I began to “see through” those around me that talked the loudest about our duty toward God. There were holes in all the religious did or said. Life became a fish bowl.  C. S. Lewis correctly pointed out seeing through everything eventually leads you to see nothing: “You cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it…If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.” (The Abolition of Man, p.81).   I could not “see through something” to see.  Brown's creek
I remained stuck in the muddy creek bottoms struggling in murky water, unable to see; for there was a great disconnect between my life and the presence of God. And that was the one thing God wanted me to “see through” to more than anything…
4x4 mud tyres
Disconnected.  I did not understand His incomprehensible Father love toward me, nor did I know how to be his child. You see, the gospel itself teaches clearly that God never did expect me to climb the ladder to get to Him, but that He was the Deliverer who was willing to come down to the skull mountain with radical redemption in order to restore a broken relationship with me.

Love was missing.  old country church
Empty religious performance creates the phony facade that everyone eventually sees through.

But, God’s love is not phony. It is the one thing to be remembered.

When I started asking God to see His love, He made Himself real and tangible to me in such full-disclosure and heart intimacy that I am left convinced and stupefied at a love so compelling and incomprehensible. I just flat out cannot deny the irresistible presence of God. The Scriptures were now streams of light piercing through the roily, high waters of confusion.  Where before it was merely academic knowledge acquired, now the words are God-breathed to my soul, keenly powerful with the scarlet thread of His love deftly woven  from page to page.  So, although I identify with the struggle, the questions that come…I have been convinced by His irresistible love.

Love was the critical angle
where light passed through

the murky, clouded waters.  
refractionUnderstanding who God really was and what He had done for me was slow…there were a lot of working errors that had to be stripped away.  I had misunderstood so much of the Bible having been taught it as a manual of how to measure up and “be like Jesus.” I can never be like Jesus; it is impossible, for purity cannot be corrupted. Our planet has never been home to a person so pure save the holy child who was born Lord at his birth.   God never asked us to climb a ladder of do’s and don’ts to become accepted and loved by Him. No, God sent His Son down to us. It took “God here with us,” Immanuel, to satisfy justice and open the door to a Father-child relationship. So, the Son of Man, with a perfect life, came to satisfy the law’s demands. For if each of us are honest, there is no one whose heart does not deceive, who has never committed a wrong, and who is not indicted for anarchy against the Highest King. Yet, it is God’s very holiness that also transcends in love that ordained this sacred redemption. The Son of God emptied Himself of all privilege, made Himself nothing, and offered His body as bail; so that, justice would cry no more against us. “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.” (Colossians 1:13-14). There is no one that loves like that–there is no greater love. There is no one that can love me unfailingly, laying it all down in order to attain intimate relationship with someone who had turned from that love.  There is no one whose presence is so tangible that I cannot deny it, even if I wanted to, whose love will never be dissuaded, and whose daily song over me is His love.  There is no one who will never break a forever promise, never ever abandon me, but remain eternally true.  Jesus is a strong lover of my soul.

It isn’t about what I do that makes Him love me.  No, it is all about His love performing change in me. His love infused me in such a authentic way that it is my final evidence for reality. No one has to make lists for me on how to live this life any more…there is a spilling out of what is now inside…love God…love each other. It is a spreading goodness.  I continue to ask questions, but I am now regularly amazed at the answers found in the Book. The murky waters are moving, clear waters now, flowing freely from the Eternal Fountain.
falls of spreading goodness

It is written that God has “created all things for His pleasure.” At first thought that sounds selfish, until one realizes that His pleasure is that of giving His all. He’s not looking for something to get from us to fulfill His desires or to please Himself, but rather His pleasure is to give.   –Christopher Bernard

“If you remove the enjoyment of God from faith, it ceases to be faith. 
If you remove enjoying God from everyone of the thousands of acts of obedience, it ceases to be obedience. If you remove the enjoyment of God from life, it ceases to be life. ……It is remarkable that God has made joy the central point of those pieces.”   ~John Piper