Now, Why...?

This photo doesn't even need a caption. We've all felt this way.

  • Two seconds after the comment slips through your lips...
  • That moment when you realize you've locked your keys in the car...with the baby...
  • Your ATM card has just sailed across the floor and down through the grate...
  • You've already blown your character-trait-for-the-day practice and it's not even breakfast
Why did I say that!
Why did I do that?
Why didn't I listen?
How could I?

Most of us are very good at berating ourselves. We are our own worst critics. Our expectations for ourselves can be much higher than anyone else's expectations of us and when we fail to reach that impossible standard, we feel shame.

People who live under an umbrella of shame tend to take it out on the world around them. I may feel shame that I did something stupid, but you'd better look out! The next move you make will be my chance to make myself feel better.

What if we learned to forgive ourselves the same way we know we are to forgive others?

Does that sound like feel-good psychology?

It's not.

It's the truth.

I John 3:20 encourages us with these words: If your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart and knows all things.

In other words, stop being so hard on yourself. God isn't. Your willful sin has to go. Your selfish choices, addictions, and evil behavior are non-negotiables. God hates it more than you do.

But the millions of little foibles that plague every member of the human race don't count against you. The "uh-oh's" and "oopses" that make up our lives don't have to go on our Low Self-Worth list. You won't find them on God's list anywhere.

OK, so you went through the drivethru backward,
so your skirt was tucked into your pantyhose all afternoon,
so you're overdrawn at the bank,
and you accidentally texted your pastor a steamy message meant for your spouse.

It happens.

But when the barrage of self-berating words bubble to your lips, stop. Ask yourself: Would I say this to someone else? Would I call my friend a stupid idiotic loser because she straightened her boss's tie before realizing what she was doing?
Would I call my co-worker a no-good jerk because he led a meeting with spinach between his front teeth?

Why do we believe it's acceptable to treat ourselves with less respect than we treat everyone else? Each of us is a valuable person, created by God just the way He wanted us.

That's why he reminds us that our hearts can't always be trusted, but He can. Maybe it will help to remember this week that even if your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart.

My baby girl, Susie, is in Europe for a month with our friend, Ruth Lovin, a talented photographer who took this shot on the northern coast of Ireland. They are working with a mission organization, Operation Mobilization, taking photos for publicity materials and recording video documentaries to promote the work OM has all over the world.

Ruth's caption on this photo reminded me of something. Everywhere we look, nature displays the glory of God. The skies are filled with color, the forests with sounds and scents. The animal kingdom exemplifies God's creativity and proves that He is the only giver of life.

Just as the sky is filled with God's glory, the earth is filled with His story, as His people scatter over every nation, tribe, and tongue proclaiming it.

He paints the sky with color and expects those who've sampled his palette to bring beauty and color to the lives of those who've known only darkness.

He infuses creativity into every object of nature. He has passed some of that creativity on to us and expects us to use those creative skills to echo His truth.

Are you using all He's given you for His glory?

Is some of His brilliance hidden away in some dark closet of your soul
because you are afraid of failure?
Of rejection?
Of what others will think?

Take another long look at this photo. Is some of that beauty tucked away in your arsenal of unused skills? Is it fair to deny access to the God who gave it to you?

Take it out today. Dust it off.

Is His glory filling your world?
Are you using what He gave you to spread His glory to others?

This would be a great day to start.

Is Your Glass Half Full?

Polly lifted the mud-filled bowl so that her mother could see the problem. "I wanna put water in here. It won't go."

Mom took the bowl gingerly between two fingers. "It's full of mud, honey. See?"

She handed it back to her daughter. "You can't put anything else in there when it's already full. Empty out all the mud and then you can fill it with water."

Seems simple, doesn't it?

So why do we have such a hard time with it?

Many Christians wonder why they feel so far from God most of the time. They want to be closer. They want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as we are commanded to be. They pray, they try. But nothing happens.

The problem?
They are like the muddy bowl. They are already full.

Philippians 2 shows us to the starting gate. "Let this be your attitude, the same one Jesus had. He was God, yet he voluntarily set that aside and emptied himself, took on human flesh, and became one of us."
(my paraphrase)

Notice the first thing He did. He emptied himself of all rights and privileges that made Him the "darling of Heaven."
(Darlene Zscheche, Worthy is the Lamb) Before he could become like us in our weakness and frailty, he had to first empty himself of everything that separated him from us.

And we are to do the same.

Before the Holy Spirit can completely fill and empower us, we have to empty ourselves of everything that keeps us separate from God: our will, our opinion, our rights, our agenda. Just as Jesus did.

Jesus had to empty himself before He could step down to dwell with us. We have to empty ourselves before we can be lifted up to dwell in the "secret place of the Most High." (Psalm 91) We cannot soar on wings of eagles while anchored firmly to earth. If we are still captivated by this world's goodies, still living with tunnel vision as though our little lives were the center of the universe, we are too full. We force the Holy Spirit to ride in the overcrowded luggage compartment.

To empty yourself means you voluntarily set aside everything that makes you YOU, just as Jesus did. Not that everything about you is wrong. It's just in the way.

The Holy Spirit cannot fill a vessel that is already filled with YOU. Until your will is lost in His, until you are "hidden with Christ" (Col. 3:3), until God is your delight and single-minded focus, you are a glass half-filled with mud.

There are many areas of life that you don't get to choose, but you get to choose what fills you.

So how's your bowl? Is it ready for water?

Maybe you need to empty it first.

What the World Needs Now

Notice anything odd about this photo?

What makes it odd?

Do you find it strange that a bear would snuggle up with another species? Doesn't seem normal, does it?

The sad thing is that we feel the same way about people.

We automatically choose to love those who are like us, sentencing those we consider different to a lower level of relationship. It can be outside our comfort zone to embrace people who are not in our social, economic, spiritual, or racial realm.

We may give lip service to "loving everyone, regardless" but how often do we really practice it?

  • When was the last time you went out of your way to show true love to someone very different from you?
  • When was the last time you learned something valuable from someone you initially thought inferior to yourself?
  • What about your speech. Do you use derogatory terms for other races or cultures? What about seemingly harmless phrases like "those people?"
The first thing we notice about the above photo is the obvious difference. Our eyes quickly scan the two animals and our brains sound a warning: Incompatible! Separate species! Not right!

But notice how much more the two have in common than they differ: fur, color, region, appetite, and the fact that they are both cold.

We are all human beings. We are all created by God for his purpose and pleasure. We have the same basic needs for love, security, self-worth, and significance. Let's learn to snuggle up a little closer and love each other.

If they can do it in the animal kingdom, then surely we can too.

Atheism Defined

What if I were to swear to you that this is an untouched photo!
That I took this picture while at the beach
and I am as amazed as you are?

Would you believe me?

No? You sure? Why not?

Think about your answer for a minute.

You may have thought something like, "That's impossible because cows don't swim in the ocean and they certainly don't leap like dolphins. They never have. Never will."

Yet that is exactly what atheists and Darwinists expect us to believe. Their theories insist that we suspend logic and reality and accept pictures like the one above as undisputed fact. Any reasonable question is met with the same unprovable answer:
If you don't understand it, just add a few billion years. That will explain it all.

Every time I watch a baby calf run to his mother in a field of identical cows...

Every time I look at my own hand and consider the thousands of things it can do...

Every time I see a wild flower, perfectly painted in imaginative color...

Every time I hear a debate of abstract ideas and consider human thought...

Every time I am thankful for the gift of sight and how amazing it is...

Every time I consider the vastness and complexity of the universe
and how impossible the idea
that it spontaneously erupted all by itself...

I think: Atheism is really stupid.

Free Will-y

I will.

We say it when we marry.

We say it when we agree to something we don't particularly want to do.

We say it when we swear in court to tell the whole truth.

I will is a powerful statement. It is a declaration of intent, an indicator that a person has himself under enough control that he can direct his future actions.

Lucifer was probably the first created being to use the phrase when he said, "I will be like the Most High God. I will set my throne above His."

Even after that revolt in Heaven, God still embedded in the human heart a free will. Lucifer's betrayal did not deter God from His purpose: to create man in His own image with the freedom to choose right or wrong.

You have a will. Every moment of every day you are exercising that will. Even though you may feel trapped by your circumstances, chained to a dead-end job, or drowning in children who had seemed a good idea at the time, you still have a choice.

Remaining chained is a choice. Whether or not to cave in to your emotions is a choice. How you choose to deal with your particular circumstances is up to you.

But God has a will too. It is His will that every one of his human creations come to love and honor Him. He desires that every one of us choose His will over our own.

But He won't force it.

Isn't it interesting that the God who created the universe sets aside His own desire to give us what we demand? If we demand our own way, if we insist on trying to meet our own needs in our own way, he won't tie us down.

He allows what he hates because He is completely just. He won't violate His own laws for the sake of His heart.
  • What if you took your will--as though it was an object you could detach--and handed it to God?
  • What if you made it your goal to forfeit your will in favor or God's, just as He has done for you?
  • What would your life look like then?
Is that a scary thought?

Lucifer became Satan when God hurled him from Heaven and he lives for the dark thrill of scaring us to death. Where do you think you got the idea that total surrender to God will involve heartache and disaster? Whose twisted mind produced the thought that God only wants to hurt and destroy you? It wasn't yours.

Ever since the evil one uttered those first defiant words, I will, he has made it his goal to get us to do the same.

What if you stopped listening to him and made it your goal to have no will of your own?

What if God's will became yours?

What if you tried that today?

What if in answer to God's call on your life, you answered,

"I Will!"

Ask First

"Um, Dad? I think I'm lost."

The cell connection was weak and crackly. His heart sank. His little Princess was out there somewhere in the dark, alone in her car, on some treacherous highway filled with bandits and serial killers. Or at least that's what it feels like to a father when his teenage daughter calls at midnight.

"Why didn't you call me earlier?" He tried to check the irritation in his voice, but fear drove it an octave higher.

"Um...I dunno. I thought...I thought I knew what I was doing..." Crackle. "Oh, and my phone battery is almost dead."

Anger battled with fear. Once more her impulsiveness and overconfidence had become his problem.

God completely understands that father's frustration. In Joshua chapter 9, we read of a little incident when Mighty Joshua, who had just earned enough military medals to sink a ship, got a little overconfident and "did not inquire of the Lord" before making a disastrous decision.

The sworn enemies of Israel sent some spies, disguised as travelers from afar, and tricked the leaders into making a covenant not to destroy them--in direct disobedience to God's stated command. As a result, these enemies were allowed to live and became a deep thorn in Israel's side for generations to come. All because they "neglected to inquire of the Lord."

How much trouble would we save ourselves if we made it a habit
to run everything past God before making a decision?

God loves to be consulted. He loves having an active place in our lives, directing our steps, and blessing our obedience.

But how many times are we like the overconfident daughter who only calls when she's in desperate trouble?

We use God like 9-1-1. We want him to be there in an emergency, but the rest of the time, He's not even on speed dial.

It doesn't work. Joshua and the Israelite leaders could tell you that.

Take a look around your life right now. Got a choice facing you? A decision? A fork in the road?

Be sure you "inquire of the Lord" first.

You get peace and an "ever present help in trouble," and He takes care of the results.

How Often?

Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily.

  • So how often do I need to offer myself to God?
  • How often should I ask God to search my heart?
  • How often should I...?

Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily.
Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily.Daily.

I am surprised at the number of times I am asked these kinds of questions. One major reason so many professing followers of Christ live in such defeat--never experiencing the power and joy God longs to give them--is that they are surviving on leftovers and hand-me-downs:

Leftover commitment.
Leftover dedication.
Leftover victories.

Hand-me down inspiration.
Hand-me-down values.
Hand-me-down insight.

If the Apostle Paul said he had to "die daily,"(I Corinthians 15:31) then how much more do we regular believers need to stay current in our relationship with God?

Just as dangerous is the current tendency to rely on books by others who have experienced God, rather than enter into that experience yourself. There are thousands of great books out there, but none can take the place of the living Word of God to speak to your heart, convict you of sin, and draw you closer to Him.

Would a marriage last if the partners only affirmed each other once a season? Would you be able to fully commit yourself to someone you'd only heard about through the grapevine? Could your body remain healthy if you only ate once or twice a week?

A friendship with only sporadic interaction is at best casual. Heart friends are cultivated by spending a lot of quality time together, going through things together, encouraging each other, and remaining faithful to the relationship. And God longs to be your heart friend.

There is no substitute for a daily re-commitment of yourself to God. If His "mercies are new every morning,"(Lamentations 3:23) that must mean we need them every morning.

We can't lay our fleshly desires on the altar before God and forget about them. They'll jump off! That commitment you made to Christ last spring has to be freshened every day, or it grows stale and your love grows cold.

So what's the secret to keeping your relationship with God the most vital thing in your life?

A daily offering of yourself to Him. Daily allowing His Spirit to search your heart for problem areas and getting rid of them. Maybe it wasn't a problem yesterday, but today is a new day. Don't let it get started.

How often do I seek God?

Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily. Daily.