Truth Traded

This is a true story that happened long, long ago that is recreated every day in every life.  It is an ongoing story.  This is the story of how truth was traded for a lie.  It is an exchange of life for death.  It is why we experience loss, pain, and everything else that is less than perfect.  But, in the beginning, it was not so.  In the beginning, everything was good.  God had created everything that had been made; and all was perfect, a delightful world full of goodness and truth.

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Into this delightful paradise, a beautiful creature approached an exquisite woman.  It was Eve the woman God had created to be with Adam.  It was an interesting interaction.  Although this creature was a snake, it wasn’t scary.  So with cunning finesse, the snake began to skillfully question the very words of God.  Oh, and just as carefully, the snake avoided calling God by His name.   For Yahweh was God’s personal name meaning, “I Am He Who is and Will Be.”  In a small, but subtle move, the deceiver deftly attempted to demote God.  Did not the daughter of God consider this?  A creature who did not acknowledge God as God—was it not a reason to leave this guileful conversation?  Doubt and confusion swirled in the carefully crafted intrusion, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”  thumbnail-dgrs-440x440

The daughter of God was created to love Yahweh with all of her heart, soul, mind and strength.  Her love for Yahweh was to be supreme, and His words were to be her joy and life.  Nevertheless, in a great reversal, Eve listened to the contagious lies spoken by the artful creature; and she herself then turned and judged the words of her Creator.  So, with a few modifications, she answered, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Wait, oh daughter of God!  Your Creator God delegated his authority  and commanded you to rule over the earth.  Rule over this damning creature!   Instead, suppressing the truth, Eve exchanged the worship of God for self-gratification.  The serpent seized the opportunity to rule over the world with his darkness.  Stealthfully, he answerd, “You will not surely die.” Ironically, the serpent’s bold contradiction would bring death.

downloadGod alone is the standard for absolute truth.  We are to worship God in truth in our inner being, the deepest parts of our heart!  Made in His image, we are to reflect His character, His magnificent glory! Oh, Eve, do not turn away from all that is good! Let your heart rise in thankfulness to your Creator.  All of Him, His words, His works are good and right and greatly to be praised.

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent continued. 997347adc71a10b71c4c43f8d584b3e6 The serpent watched Eve closely as she considered an alternative way to be like God.  Could this be?  Is there more than one way?

 

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Yahweh which is a beautiful humility that honors and worships His greatness.  There is only one way to wisdom, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear God, and turn away from evil.

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In a soul-crushing turn, Eve despised wisdom and leaned on her own understanding.  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…

feelingsvstruth-pull2Relying on her own experiences and desires, Eve actively pursued her own satisfaction.  Eve did not allow her experience to be shaped by God’s words alone.  She trusted her own feelings and experience to guide her; and convinced that she was right, she influenced her husband to do as she had done.

Adam and Eve’s eyes were immediately opened to their nakedness.  They attempted to cover their bare bodies.  It wasn’t their clothes that they had lost; it was their righteousness.  Their sin left them unacceptable and totally exposed before God.  They no longer had truth in their inner most heart, and now this man and woman had a wrong fear of God, a fear of being known by God.  But, God did see, and know, and did call for them.  Would they tell Him what He already knew?  Would they humble their hearts and tell God the truth?  No.  They no longer enjoyed his presence, so they sought to hide from God.  It was their sin that now separated them from God.

The deceiver would rule the world for a very long time, and darkness entered the world holding it in its bondage.  Sin and death were a new reality. It would take a snake-crusher to free the world from the power of darkness held by the soul-crusher.

This story is enacted every day.  Every day the deceiver brings doubt and confusion to persuade people from God’s life-giving Word.  Every day humanity judges God’s Word rather than coming under its rule and authority.  Every day, people choose to rely on their own experiences and feelings to guide them rather than holding on to every word of God as truth and life.il_fullxfull-423058173_fwo7

But, this story does not go on forever.  The snake-crusher has come to deliver us from the tyranny of sin’s deception. the-serpent-under-the-right-foot-of-mary-300x197 Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  There is only one way.  There is only one absolute and supreme Truth.  Life is only in Jesus.  Anything else is an alternative choice that leads to an inescapable death.  One day, the ancient serpent who leads the whole world astray will be eternally punished.  This is the second death and it never ends.  Jesus Christ will make all things new.  In the new heavens and earth, “nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful  or deceitful.”

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God’s Heart For Me is My Hope

I am in awe of how God works in our hearts.  I am learning that our hearts are a trust account into which we make deposits.  The deposits we make are our beliefs; that is, what our heart truly relies on.  We can believe truths or lies.
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One thing I know– my heart will yield to whomever/whatever it trusts. So, may I share about two deposits of truth God has put in my heart that has increased my trust in Him?

 

Deposit #1:  God’s HEARTBEAT is to reshape everything in my life for his glory.

This is clearly seen in Is. 43, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.

Because I am His daughter, God wants to reshape everything in my life for His glory!  It is so easy to drift from our true purpose in life. So, what is my most important need of life every day?  hand-drawing-heart-beat

MY NEED is to be realigned to God’s HEARTBEAT.  

 

How does that happen? Well, let me share a bit of my story.  Because God uses everything… I need to tell you about a fall afternoon in 2014.  I was in my car.  I was driving on north Interstate 205 headed to my son’s soccer game.   I have never liked to drive very much, and that day I didn’t know exactly where I was going.  I attempted to pay attention to the British lady on my cell phone giving directions, but I was distracted.  It rains a lot here, but on this day, it was raining really hard.  The raindrops were dancing madly across the windshield.  The windshield wipers were moving in tandem trying to keep up with the dancing rain.  The rush hour traffic propagated around me with cars whizzing by in the periphery. There was so much motion.  I was having a really hard time focusing.

raindrops on windshieldI began to squeeze the steering wheel more tightly and I started praying. I kinda shook my head to reboot my vision.  Shaking my head, tilting my head or blinking hard seemed to reboot my vision, but my eyes were still refusing to work together.  I was beginning to panic.  I kept trying to discern what was going on.  I can’t see!  I began to realize that actually I was seeing three landscapes!  In my left eye, I saw one landscape on top of another, the same landscape.  The right eye saw a single landscape, but that image was set diagonal from the other two images.  I was begging God for help at this point Please, God, I really need you to watch over me.  I can’t see!

That was a hard day, and after multiple tests and visits with specialists, the doctors still don’t know what caused it all.  They have suggested that my vision impairment stemmed from a horseback riding accident I had experienced in 2000.  I had suffered a broken jaw, a fractured skull, and, most importantly, a cerebral cavernous carotid fistula.  The cranial nerves which control my eye muscles are affected somehow.  And for fifteen years, my brain had compensated!  But, now, my brain was refusing to “see.”  What the specialists do agree on is that there are no medical options available to address it.

For six months, I was homebound.  I could no longer drive.  Gradually, as my vision improved, I could travel a very short radius from my home.  I began to understand and adapt to my limitations.  I usually only had 2-3 hours to do errands, grocery shopping, or go to an appointment, etc. before my eyesight would begin to scramble again.  One Sunday, a year later, I had quite the meltdown.  I sobbed long and hard, experiencing a tornadic upheaval of emotions, and I was beginning to ask some hard questions. What was my purpose anyway? Why should I even bother to go through the motions of the day?  Laundry didn’t exactly seem like an inspiring purpose of life.  What was the meaningfulness of my life?  How did my life matter?   Being at home, isolated, and alone day after day was wearing me down.   The unpredictability was also hard.  One day, my eyes would allow me a short burst of freedom.  Another day, I would be unable to leave my home because my eyes refused to cooperate.
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In the middle of my angry confusion, the gentle Holy Spirit spoke to my heart.  He reminded me that although I pray often, I had not prayed my honest emotions about my eyesight.  My Father was asking me to become helpless—like a child needing help from a parent. I have always been uncomfortable praying in such a vulnerable way.  I could pray for my family, a friend in need, etc.  But, I held back my personal complaints before God; because it felt disrespectful to me.  I believe God is over all; so, I reasoned that I needed to submit to His providence.  I told myself that I just needed to buck up.  (Which, by the way, is not helpless dependence at all!)

But, I also didn’t want to be that open with God, because I really did feel upset about it all.  So, if I hid my emotion before God, I wouldn’t feel inadequate before Him. I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable.  But the Psalmist says that God delights in truth in the heart.  God, my Father, knew I was holding back, keeping a pretense between us.  My Father wanted me to tell him what He already knew.

He was teaching me that I am safe in being completely known by Him.  I am still loved, still acceptable because Jesus had given his life so that I could stand acceptable before a God who knows everything anyway. My Father God was teaching me about ‘real’ relationship with Him.  I was a real person in a real world with real struggles, and I needed a real God who not only knew me, but loved me.  My heart could be real with God, and it was held safe in His love.

I started studying prayer and how to pray like a child.  I learned from the Psalms how to lament—how to pray my tears.  God was teaching me about His nearness.  I learned to come as a child with tears of helplessness to a Father who treasures me. He says, “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me.” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

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The LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession.” (Deut. 26:18)

I learned my Father would care for me, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18).

But, that wasn’t all.  The Teacher, the Holy Spirit, spoke the Word into my heart again, this time using Scripture from Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  At the time that all of this was happening, the youngest of my four children was a high school senior soon to graduate, and I was ‘graduating’ from my “stay-at-home” mom status.  I was on the cusp of beginning a new & exciting chapter of life; I had dreams of what-could-be.  But, somewhere along the way, the “living sacrifice” had crawled off the altar.  So, I confessed my fear and my own weak love for God.  I confessed my own strong desire for control, and I submitted my body—my life—as a living sacrifice.
God is reshaping everything in my life for His glory.

Deposit #1:  God’s HEARTBEAT is to reshape everything in my life for his glory. I am his daughter.  I am known, and also loved.   Is. 43

Deposit #2:  Because I BELONG TO HIM, GOD’S HEART IS FOR ME and HE IS MY KEEPER.  

Well, by the end of 2015, things were improving.  Deposits of truth about God’s worth, his faithfulness, his nearness, his steadfast love, his commitment, his desire to be my ally, were being placed in my heart, and I am so very thankful for this time.  In God’s wisdom and love, he was preparing me for what would come next.

This last summer, our family moved to to a beautiful home in a nearby town.  Everything about that move seemed to have God’s fingerprints all over it.  But, the move itself took a steep toll on my poor little eyes.  This time my eyes crashed very, very hard.  There were days that all I could do was sit.  My eyes were not working together at all.  I had ocular pain, temporal pain, and incredible nausea.  It was awful.  It would be several months again before they would stabilize.

At the same time, I also was extremely fatigued.  I could barely, I mean barely, go up and down the stairs.  I had experienced a chronic cough for two years which was becoming more severe.   I had been going to doctors who could not find the root cause.  Last September, after months of waiting, I got in to see a pulmonologist.  I was fully expecting another dead end. I received very unexpected news.  My lung x-ray was abnormal. The doctor was fairly certain I had some form of interstitial lung disease.  He just didn’t know which one.  This was a devastating report.  Typically, people only live for 3-5 years after this diagnosis. Then just as I was leaving the Oregon Health Clinic late that afternoon, I received a phone call.  It was a police officer telling us that our 18-year-old son, James had just been in a car accident.  Both of the vehicles involved were totaled.  Everyone was okay.

So that evening, John and I sat in a darkened family room numb with all of the news we had received that day.  It was a lot to take in.

I now know that I have mild to moderate scarring in the interstitium of the lungs.  Presently, I have 59% lung capacity.  I have hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and the antigen that my body is reacting to is literally everywhere.  So, though I would prefer this to be a detour, the detour has become the road I am now traveling.  Having HP is not necessarily a terminal diagnosis, but it could be if it keeps progressing.  There is a lot of unknown; this condition is fairly rare.  But, whatever I don’t know, God does know. Nothing has changed. I have never known what tomorrow will bring.  Only God knows our tomorrows.

And, through all of this, I am learning that because I BELONG TO HIM, GOD’S HEART IS FOR ME and HE IS MY KEEPER. God tells me, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”  (Is. 43:1-2).  Every time…no matter what the trial, God keeps telling me, “I have redeemed you.  I am your Father.  You are mine.  I am here.  Don’t be afraid.”  You see, I do get afraid.  When life hurts, you can feel very alone.  I can fear that God will abandon me and give me what I deserve.  God is getting rid of the lies and telling me truth!  I belong to Him; He belongs to me.
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In that same passage in Is. 43, God tell us, “…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.”  It is hard for me to believe God said that and that I am that loved.  Precious?  Me??  But, He does say that.

 

God has given himself to us.  He will go through affliction with us.  God has proved he would rather die than lose one of us—the cross is the evidence.  God so loved us that He gave us His Son Jesus to suffer for us.
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Jesus has taken what I deserve, so that I don’t have to endure the worst suffering of all—life without God.     Jesus is my redeemer and he has taken me on as his own personal responsibility. He understands my hurt, because He Himself has suffered.

Because I belong to Him, God’s heart is for me, He loves me, and He is my keeper. This truth is becoming sweeter to me all the time.  I know myself.  I know I can’t do this.  I need Jesus.  I so thankful that He is my keeper, and He will bring me safely home.
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My disappointments, discouragements and plain ‘ole tough times do have purpose.  It helps me to see that there is nothing here in this life to put my hope in that will last.  Everything in this life is passing away. God’s love sent His Son Jesus to redeem our lives.  Salvation is more than forgiveness of our sins, salvation is about making everything about us new.  In “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” 

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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A Tale of Two Rivers

rivers_title_0There is a tale of two rivers told to the reflective heart.  There is glory in the story and great and gentle a reprieve from all that overwhelms.  This story is set oh so long ago, but the heart of the story never quits thumping loud.  Listen, my friend, and hear hope’s story.  Better yet, it is a true story.

Long ago, the powerful Assyrian Empire reached outward expanding westward.  The surrounding nations were nervous, and Syria and Israel sought to compel Judah to form an anti-Assyrian alliance.  King Ahaz, with arrogance of heart, was unwilling and refused to join.  The prophet Isaiah advised the weak, but prideful, king, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands…thus says the Yahweh God:  ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.'”  But, King Ahaz also foolishly refused the counsel of Yahweh God.  Gathering silver and gold from the temple’s treasuries, King Ahaz eagerly offered gifts to the forceful Assyrian king asking him to come to Jerusalem’s aid against the mounting Syrian and Israeli forces.

Judah’s king was jubilant!  Yes, the king’s own strategic alliance had worked! King Tiglath-pileser had defeated Israel and Aram just as he had envisioned.  He had been right to reject the prophet Isaiah’s warnings and to enlist the help of the formidable Assyrians.  Ah, but the ambitious Assyrian had no motivation to stop.  Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.  2 Chronicles 28:20.  So, the rage of the rushing River swept over Judah heeding no bounderies.

Once again Isaiah speaks using beautiful imagery to paint on the canvas of the heart:  The Lord spoke to me again:  “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,  and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”  Isaiah 8:5-8
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The small perennial fountain situated in Jerusalem was called Shiloh, and from it flowed a little river that ran gently through the city.  God reminded his people, “Do you not realize that I am in your midst?  I am a gentle brooklet softly meandering with placid, untroubled waters of life.  I invite life and refreshment.  Will you not come to the well of your salvation?  My everspringing fountain of life was meant for your joy.”

But, their hopelessness and poverty made their hearts envy; and their weakness made them desperate.  Their restless hearts were dissatisfied in God; so they gave their confidence to human aid and worldly powers.  Mad with desire, they sought to control their future by trusting in the resources of a mere mortal king.  How stern the lusts that ravage the soul dictating rejection and contempt of holy salvation only to rejoice in the strength, wealth, and assistance of the false and the fickle!  Euphrates the most celebrated river in all the east is an impetuous river that heeds no boundaries.  If you enter this rapid river you will be plunged into the deep; its rushing powerful waters will overtake you.  This river will rise to your neck and you will be caught in its powerful grip.  In its strength, you will perish.
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So, the tale of the two rivers was told, but the lesson was not learned.  A few years later, the Assyrians completely beseiged Jerusalem fulfilling all that that the Yahweh God had spoken.  The River rose spreading like wings over the land engulfing all into its strong currents.

If only you had listened to My instruction,  then you would have been flooded with peace; Your righteousness would have risen and crested like waves on the sea.  
Isaiah 48:18 (VOICE)

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There is yet glory in the story, for the land belongs to  Immanuel; and though violently wasted, the true king will not abandon her.  He would bring massive righteousness to her, rising strong with power and peace.  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. … The people who walked in great darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. …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 ofhis government and of peace there will be no end.  
Isaiah 9:2, 6.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:27

Hear real hope meant to comfort the heart.  Hear the lesson of the two rivers, and choose life.  Turn and trust in the Prince of Peace to still your heart and give the lasting rest your heart stumbles after.  He is gentle and kind softly wooing your heart with his goodness; for in Christ alone will you find sanctuary.

 

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

The Startling Reshaping of God

Add this preference.  Take away that dislike.  Choose the place and the how.  There are many ways to worship God, right?  The ancient story recorded in Judges eerily seems to mirror the current thoughts in the mainstream today.  The uncanny likeness sends chills down our pious spines.  Let it be a warning to our modern hearts to guard against making a god that conforms to our own shaping preferences. tim keller idol

 

 

How can a god save us  that we can control?

 

 

 

 

Judges 17 & 18
Oh, they had great dreams!  Lively discussions ensued as the tribe made plans to develop their future home.  The tribe of Dan had entered the Promised Land along with the nation of Israel ready to receive the long-awaited gift of a permanent home, but progress had stalled due to their failure to settle in their allotted territory and obtain their promised inheritance.  The Danites had been promised an inheritance by Yahweh, but their vision had become distorted and clouded with confusion.  Hazy goals are hard to see in a fog.

What was their vision statement again?

Micah was a thief.  He wasn’t even a respectable thief, either; for he had actually stolen a huge amount of money from his own mother.  Never fear, his mother was not one to bear a grudge against her son.  No, she would affirm her son’s choice to return the money by giving him a small reward.  Better yet, she would praise Yahweh for this blessing!  So, this indulgent mother hired the local silversmith to design a couple of images to celebrate her son’s return of the money.  Micah already had a shrine in his home, so this would be the perfect gift to encourage him for doing what was right.  Micah had his own personal gods, and he continued to pursue with dedicated fervor what he personally believed was right.  Full of religious intensity, Micah added an ephod and even hired a Levite priest for his own personal worship.  Believing his life was devoted to all that was right and good,  Micah said, “Now I know that Yahweh will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Yet another example of how confession will bring the blessings of God, right?

1.  No other God

The Danites still needing to locate themselves permanently and finally agreed to pursue a piece of property that particularly appealed to them.  The Danites felt themselves justified in slaughtering a peaceful, undefended, unsuspecting community saying to each other, home sweet home“The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”  The takeover was easy and did not require faith or courage.
Clouded vision distorts how we see things.
The Danites were happy.  They had secured their inheritance.  The Danite leaders had just been informed by their scouts that nearby there was an ephod, artisan images of worship, personal gods, and, the best of all, a Levite priest.  The scouts advised, “Now therefore consider what you will do.”  Indeed, what an opportunity!  So incredible was this opportunity that the men engaged the young priest immediately with a better offer as well as taking full advantage of the worship center.  “And the priest’s heart was glad.”

Weren’t these God’s provident blessings?  2.  No idols

Of course, Micah was not happy that his gods were taken away.  But, since these Danite men were too strong for him, he went back home.  What could he do?  It is what it is.

The Danites were on a roll.

Since the strategy had worked so well, they employed it yet again and enlarged their space by overtaking another quiet, unsuspecting community with sword and fire.  They also had a celebrity priest.  Gershom and his sons continued to serve as priests, and everyone knows that Gershom is Moses’s grandson.  Yeah, they certainly had been blessed.1.  No other God

Can we really reshape God from our own
cloudy vision?

God has revealed himself through his Word, not as our hearts direct.

When Fear Paralyzes

key to my life   FEAR PARALYZES.  God gave his people an inheritance of land with a promise. However, the people of Joseph came to their leader Joshua complaining that that their population was too dense for the land space allotted to them. Joshua didn’t budge. If they were so numerous, then be a numerous people with great power and make something of the land. Still, they complained of the obstacles that seemed to define them in their shaky selves. Joshua kept pushing back with God’s promise already given to them.

What devastating weakness lurks in my life, that doubt that makes me shake in my boots?  Remember, fear paralyzes when we forget who is in control. Measure risk by God’s promise. His promise is a sure thing outweighing the loss every time.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
(Col. 1:11-12)

Tim Keller object of faith
Often, courage  is defined by NOT reflecting what we are surrounded by, but rather courage will call for us to step away from the devastating norm and lead into a new direction by faith in God’s promise.

 

The Cup

the-cup-300x186
All of hell was held in that cup.
The dark wine of God’s fury filled to the brim.
In just a few hours, Jesus would no longer be the Beloved Son,
but rather the one Cursed by the Father.
If Jesus had not drank the cup of God’s wrath,
we would have to drain that bitter cup ourselves.
Together, God in the Father and God in the Son suffered
to atone for our many violations and the very intentions of the heart.
Silence.
Separation.
Thunderous, quaking judgment of horrible proportions,
as God abhorred his soul.
Jesus, you drank the cup of wrath without mercy,
so that I could receive your mercy without wrath.
All glory, honor and power be yours!
Receive the cup of His mercy, O Sinner, and live!

Sibbes more mercy than sin in us

The Not So Simple Act of Forgiving

Forgiveness is a tricky thing. Nobody can “just forgive,” not even God. First, it is impossible to “just forgive,”to just let the wrong go.

Forgive

Dictionary definition of the word Forgive.

“Let it go” sounds nice, but forgiveness is not a simple thing and never easy.  Every wrong has a cost. Someone always pays.  The cost of the wrong is paid in sleepless nights, damaged relationships, regret, lost trust …well, you get the idea…and that is just the beginning of the incredible cost. Besides, what if we really care about the person who violated what is right?  Is it in the best interest of the person for us to magically “let it go”? Would it be loving or just for society to overlook evil?   How much more so with God?

God’s justice is wrapped up in His essence. Psalm 85 10, 11If there is a God, there is a real justice.
If God lets injustice go, then there is no right or wrong.
If there is no absolute right or wrong, we have a paper doll god.  Please, don’t give me a paper doll god cut out in one dimension, a god of my own making.

Forgiveness gets really messy and complicated. Perhaps, that’s why we love fairy tales that serve us poetic justice and a “happily ever” after ending. So, bottom line…how does a real God deal with real wrong?

The one real God absorbed the wrong. All wrong has a cost, and God Himself chose to pay that price.  Together, God in the Father and God in the Son suffered for our great violations. There is a glorious complexity to the cross! A God who just forgives is not a holy God. A God who won’t forgive is not a loving God. A God who cannot forgive is not wise, for He does not know how to satisfy love and justice. In the cross, love, justice, and holiness are fully satisfied…”even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom.”Tim Keller wrath and love satisfied
On the cross, wrath and mercy were satisfied.  And on the cross, love wins.
This personal ransom is paid for me and for anyone who desperately needs real forgiveness and is willing to trust Him for everything.  Oh, how we need Him for everything!

 

 

The Son of Man takes the wrongdoer’s destruction and sets the heart free to love and forgive others.  Only a real God can satisfy so completely the high cost of righting wro
ng.

 

 

 

 

Tim Keller ransom for me

Longing for the Story to Be True

10th-century-greek-bible
How do you write words which simultaneously veil and reveal truth?
which direct a story line unfolding with perfect timing revealing a powerful meta narrative that transcends the mind that reads it?  that masterfully weaves multiple subplots intricately supporting and enhancing the one main theme?  to speak through different voices, periods, cultures with a unifying clarity? using various literary genres without distraction?  where the story’s truth rings loud and clear to every generation without fail?  that creates a longing in the heart that will never be satisfied unless the story is true?

For all to align, the author must be omniscient in the creation of the story, be driven with a meaningful reason to create, be directing the story with omnipotence which in turns conveys the ponderous purpose and meaning behind it, which will at the same time create in the reader such a forever longing in the heart, earnestly yearning deeply for the story to really be true, that will never be satisfied unless the story is real and true. C. S. Lewis kind of copy, an echo(C. S. Lewis)

Only an author wielding such a true wisdom and power can unveil his story with such detailed control and offer the substance that spans millenniums.  The author must also intimately know the reader in order to stir the mind, imagination and will of the person to seek the mystery and meaning of the story.  Desire is flamed as the message permeates the unknown recesses illuminating the darkest, most secret, and tender places of the heart; and the reader is called to  engage, for the heart of the story allows for no neutral ground, and the truth calls plainly in the streets for a response.

Sadly, there are few brilliant writers considering how many people have been born.  However, there is one book whose author continues to stir controversy, give hope, remain debated or revered depending on the reader: God.  The ancient one true God who speaks a living word “…piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  The claim is ponderous, but the influence of this book remains without question.

Why?

Could it be that the invisible reality of the story beckons to what our soul remembers?  Could it be that the conflict of the story is resolved with such desperate, brutal grace that the soul is forever shaken by the unfathomable love portrayed?  It it because we know we could never write a story like that and be authentic, for we could never perform the action?

The Story:   In the beginning, God lived here on earth.  His face was seen by the people he made.  His 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.

We became like a fish flopping in a small puddle of water,
fish in a puddle
barely able to survive,

with no room for flourishing.

Created for God,
everything else is too small for our souls.

But, all of us try to achieve our potentials.  We pursue power, reputation, approval, relationships, family, success, money, country, causes, etc..  Not designed for such shallow waters,  we were never meant to live for those things.

God redeems in order to habit.   So the story churns on based on the very unchangeable goodness of God, the God who would keep His promises and finish the story.  God redeems and reintroduces home through the hero of the story, his Son Jesus Christ.
Home is a place for the deepest longings of your heart and soul to be met
by His presence;
and the way home is through his Son.

psalm 16.11In God’s presence is joy forever; that is, God’s relational presence & glory is the only environment where every created thing flourishes.  We stay frozen as acorns.  The majestic oak never rises apart from His life-giving blood.

C. S. Lewis cottage palaceOur potentialities will not erupt unless with are in the presence of God, for our souls only dance in His love.  Happy ever after is true in the joy of God’s presence.