Taming God

In The Chronicles of Narnia, a question is asked of Mr. Beaver about Aslan, the lion.

"Is he safe?"

“Safe?" said Mr. Beaver."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.
But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

The same meek Jesus who held little children and forgave sinners is also called "the Lion of Judah." Many people are uncomfortable with that description because we prefer a tame god. The world wants a god that is "safe," one they can pet and brag about, then set on a shelf when he is inconvenient.

We wrestle with doctrine and theology until our minds are satisfied. We can't rest as long as there are unraveled threads we cannot comprehend. And there are always threads.

So we reinvent Him. The Lion of Judah is reduced to a tabby cat.

The Bible calls this apostasy. When men cannot fathom Jehovah and his ways, they give up and make him into their own image. They tame him.

Are you guilty of it?
  • Do you ever feel the need to apologize for God?
(All that messy business in the Old Testament. Maybe God was a bit uncivilized back then, but He has learned from his mistakes.)
  • Do you skip passages that make you uncomfortable and don't mesh with your adopted doctrinal statement?
("But we like our church this way!")
  • Do you harbor pet sins, assuring yourself that God understands and knows you're "working on it?"
(Why do we assume that a holy God who hates the sin that murdered his Son will overlook ours?)

Unless we are willing to hear the mighty roar of a righteous God, unless we are willing to entrust ourselves to those claws that could tear us apart if they chose to, unless we are willing to face Him as the Lion of Judah we can never truly know Him as the Lamb of God. That tabby cat you're worshiping has no power to save you from anything.

Is God tame? Is he comprehensible? Is He safe?

"No. But He's very good. He's the King, I tell you."

The American Church

The Man's body jerked with a spasm that rippled visibly across his taut frame. His mouth opened in a soundless cry. Then he bit his lip and squeezed his eyes shut.

He was covered in blood, his lacerated flesh lying open in folds from the whipping he'd received before being nailed to this crossbeam.

They stood before him, healthy and well, clothes clean, watching the spectacle. Each held a gift.

"I guess this is the place," said the man in the suit. "I've brought my last fifteen years worth of affairs. Sure was glad I knew this option was here. Don't know how I would have stood the guilt if I hadn't known he would keep taking it." With a self-conscious smile he gingerly climbed the ladder anchored at the foot of the cross and placed his burden on the suffering Man. "Thanks, Jesus. Here's another one from Pastor Jorge. Soon as Dorthy and I are finished, I'll bring you that affair, too."

A woman slipped off her stiletto heels and picked her way to the ladder. Two men helped her up and she was careful not to let the bloody spectacle tarnish her silk dress. "Um, Jesus...well, I guess you know why I'm here. I-I know my choices weren't...weren't the best and all, but I've known You since I was seven and of course you know me. I was baptized and slain in the Spirit, remember?

"So, well, thanks for this and all...Here's my next bundle. I wrapped it really pretty for you this time. My latest abortions are in there, and so is my porn addiction. I really appreciate this. Being a Christian is awesome! Instant forgiveness every time. Wow!" She gave a nervous laugh, clearly eager to get off the ladder. "I'll try to make the bundle smaller next time, you know...if I can..if it's not hard...So, here's one more from Sherry!" She nestled her brightly wrapped gift on the Man's left shoulder and picked her way back to the waiting arms of the men at the bottom.

A burly man heaved his way up the ladder, making the rungs groan. "Yeah, uh, Burton here, Lord." He cleared his throat. "I...I uh put a little extra in the offering plate last week, kind of a little apology for that incident at the casino. Well, you know about that. Here, uh, here's mine. This is from Sandra and me. You know Sandra. We've been livin' together a few years now, not ready for marriage, you understand." He wiped his sweating forehead with the back of his arm. "I really been meaning to clean up my act, you know that. Good intentions count for something now, don't they?"

His laugh assaulted the quiet sky and the Man on the cross let out a soft moan. Burton plunked a lumpy bundle on the Man's outstretched arm and let out a soft curse as blood splashed on his oxford shirt.

He rejoined the small circle at the bottom of the cross. In silence they gazed upon the Man. The woman put a dainty hand to her wrinkled nose and lifted a questioning brow at the men.

"Let's close this wonderful service with a song," suggested Pastor Jorge."How about...'When We All Get to Heaven?"

Burton glanced at his watch. "Sure, Pastor. But can we make it quick? Sandra and I are headed to the game at 2:00."

"Yes, and the girls and I are going out tonight, " said the woman. "Girls' night at the club. Every other drink is free!" She giggled. "I love this church. So many fun people and God wants us to have fun, right?"

They raised their voices in confident song and then, chattering happily about the moving worship service, the Church walked away, down the hill, and back to the world.

A lone man remained rooted in place. Dressed in black, his face was wet with tears as she stared transfixed at the dying Man on the tree. His lips moved and no one but God could hear the desperate whisper: "Oh, Son of God, have mercy on me. My heart is dark, give me light. I give you everything I am. Make me like you. I will not leave this place until I leave it changed from the inside out."

Slowly he removed his black coat, his boots, and everything else until he stood naked before the cross. With sobs, he started up the ladder. At the top, he wrapped his arms around the neck of the dying Man and kicked the ladder away. Together they hung suspended between heaven and earth. Blood covered them both as the man wept on.

A single ray of light fell from heaven and covered them in a warm glow.

For the first time that day, Church had begun.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? God forbid! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?...our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God. I John 3:9-10

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Matt. 7:21

Is This the End?

Read my blog slogan slowly and think about it for a minute. What does it mean to you?

I first heard this phrase at a writer's conference a few years ago. It was like being hit by a lightning bolt. A successful author was speaking to a roomful of writers, talking about the different paths our lives can take when we are open to God's leading.

I was still in a dazed shock from a combination of my daughter's betrayal and having landed my first literary agent only a month earlier. My settled life of the past 20 years was suddenly veering in a new direction and I had that deer-in-the-headlights feeling.

My daughter's betrayal of everything I'd spent my adult life trying to instill in her had left me devastated. Had my life been some cosmic joke? Had I missed God all along? Was I a failure?

Those words pierced my heart like a spear. God was speaking to me. My life had come to a screeching dead end as I questioned everything I thought I believed, everything I'd committed my life to. Was it all for nothing? My first child out of the chute had made a mockery of everything I stood for. I had three more kids. Should I give up? Let them raise themselves? Forget trying to do something for God?

Was this the end?

It would have been had I failed to make the turn. That night I sat frozen through the rest of the talk, hearing only God's whisper inside my head. "Keep going. Don't stop. It's not the end. Only the beginning."

He was right. I had no idea the fulfilling life had had waiting for me just ahead.

Since then I watch for those bends and approach them with more confidence. There are no Dead End signs when you walk with God.

Only turns.

Be sure you make the turn.


Stop Treading

A father held his one-year-old daughter in the swimming pool as her legs kicked and churned in the water. Her eyes were saucers and her cheeks turned pink with exertion as those little legs pumped frantically. The lower in the water her daddy let her go, the harder she churned.

"She thinks she's keeping herself afloat," he laughed. "She's wearing herself out treading so hard, and she doesn't realize she'd be perfectly safe to just relax in my arms."

How many times am I that daughter? Challenges, problems, fears attack from all sides and I churn and thrash, trying to figure it out, stop the disaster, fix the problem. When it resolves, I'm exhausted and like that tiny child, I think it was my efforts that kept me afloat.

I can imagine my Heavenly Father chuckling at me. "Why don't you relax and trust me? Your efforts wouldn't be enough to solve this dilemma, even if I needed them. I can do this without you. Just relax and enjoy the water."

How about you?

Are you treading fast? Are you wearing yourself out thinking you alone can keep things afloat?

Try handing it all to your Father and relaxing in his arms. He will have work for you to do, but the results won't be your responsibility. He has a plan and your job is to settle into it and let Him do it through you.

Stop treading!


Truth or Consequences

The party was in full swing. She had another drink. And another. Somebody passed around a handful of pills, and with a giggle she downed a couple. That's the last thing she remembers.

A week later, she opened her eyes to a world of white pain. But the pain wasn't the worst of it. It was the lack of pain where there should have been some.

"We're so sorry. We couldn't save your legs," the grim-faced stranger in white informed her. "Quite a smashup you had, young lady. You're lucky to be alive."

She shut her eyes against the thought, against the truth.
That's what she'd done the other night, too. Shut her eyes.

Eighteen years old. Life was just beginning. But life as she' had assumed it would be had just ended.
We hear the word and shrug. Consequences are for other people.

"How long to I have to pay for stupid decisions I made forty years ago?" an angry client demanded. "I get it, okay? I get that I was stupid and made bad choices, but haven't I paid long enough?"
How long is long enough?

  • How long will that eighteen-year-old be crippled?
  • Will there come a point in middle-age when God decides she's suffered long enough and suddenly reattach her severed limbs?
  • Can she outlive the serious consequences of her choice?
We understand physical consequences, but what about emotional and situational ones?
A bad marriage. Poor parenting skills. Lazy work ethic. Refusal to complete an education. Those choices have serious consequences as well.

That's why God gives us such detailed instructions for living this life. He promises to bless those who pay attention. He hates the consequences of sin, too.

Are temptations dangling just out of reach?
Are you at a crossroads, wondering whether God's way is worth it?

Every choice has consequences: pleasant or painful.
Consider the consequences of your pending choice. Are they ones you're prepared to pay?

Be sure you like them: You may have to pay them for a very long time.


Noelle's Ark

Lessons From a Floating Zoo

I mean no disrespect to the Biblical patriarch Noah, but I’ve always been more curious about what his wife thought of the project that took forever to complete, cluttered up the yard, and seemed completely useless at the time.

We have no record that God spoke to the missus when he directed her husband to build the Astrodome of boats. What must she have thought? Was she as spiritual as her husband or was she the trusting sort who hoped he’d get it out of his system and move on to something else?

Noah’s wife—let’s call her Noelle—garners only a brief mention, and then it’s in reference to her husband. But she was a person too, and like any wife, crucial to the success of her husband’s mission.

So what can we in the twenty-first century learn from Noah’s wife?

1. Don’t squash your partner’s dreams.

This boat-building project was between Noah and his God. Alone. Although the three sons were later involved in the work and eventual salvation from the Flood, they had nothing but their father’s word that this was an inspired endeavor.

Along with being a stand-up guy and superbly righteous, Noah must have been a great dad. How many sons would spend a hundred years helping their father with a project that seemed pointless? Just because he asked them to. That says a great deal about the kind of man Noah was.


And his wife must have supported that. Even if she never had the vision herself, she supported his. No power-struggles. No criticizing Dad’s dream. Noelle’s response to her husband’s project may have been the chief reason all three sons joined them on the ark. In supporting her husband, she also saved her family and the future of the human race.

2. Watch where you step!

Imagine sharing your home with that many animals! None of them housebroken and no yard to send them to. Imagine the smell! Imagine spending over a year cooped up with braying, honking, quacking, bellowing beasts of every kind. That would be enough to send most women over the edge of the boat.

Noelle must have had a spine (and a nose) of steel and a faith as strong as her husband’s. Once the first raindrops started, she must have looked at her man as though he was God himself.

So he was right all along! God really did speak to him!

How thankful she must have been that she hadn’t fussed at him for the last hundred years. She’d supported his project, believed in his vision, and trusted his relationship with God even though she may not have been privy to the conversation. She’d kept her foot out of her mouth and was quite thankful when that boat began to rise. She was careful where she stepped when it came to his convictions and God blessed her for it.

3. Your house doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.

What a pig pen! Literally. Four men and three daughters-in-law to pick up after—not to mention all those smelly beasts—could make a woman crazy before the rain had stopped. Most women like their nests kept in some sort of order. But since there were no neighbors to drop by unexpectedly and no town gossips to spread the word—Did you see Noelle’s boat yesterday? What a mess!”—she did the best she could and then let it go.


This was God’s house, existing for His purposes. So there were bear droppings in the hall and the parrots were chattering night and day. The family was together, they were safe, and they were right where God put them. She could live with that.

The next time your spouse gives you a sheepish look and says, “Honey, I believe God’s leading me somewhere, but I’m not sure how you’ll take it,” remember Noelle. Maybe the survival of the human race doesn’t depend on your attitude, but when God’s talking, you don’t want to get in the way.

Whose Show Is It?

  • She jerked to her feet and stalked out. Session over. Relationship over.
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  • The sky outside was dark and rain pelted against the windows. I stared out at the empty parking lot where a new client's car should be. Nothing. Stood up. Again. I'd come out in the rain, to an empty building for a client who did not show.
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Circumstances can be quite convincing if we give them voice. Their conclusions come without invitation:
  • This was a bad idea.
  • You're doing something wrong.
  • You should quit.
That would be good advice if it was my show. If what I do all day was my choice, my creation, and the source of my pride and self-worth, I should be listening to those opinions.

But it's not. My life is no longer the Lea Ann Show.

When it was, I had nothing but external circumstances to help me determine whether I was on the right track. But  I've dedicated my life to the glory of God and it is no longer my show. The results are no longer my concern. The only question at the end of the day is: Lord, was I as obedient to You today as I know how to be?
What about you? Why are you doing what you do every day?
We get so bogged down, our faces to the dirt, white-knuckling our way through life. It's easy to forget why we're doing any of it. Life is easily reduced to a series of choices, putting one foot after the other, grappling with one problem after another, slapping at potential tragedies before they have a chance to take over. It's all about me, right? It's all about surviving and avoiding the most pain.
That's one way to do it, but I don't recommend it.
Too often we think we're responsible for the results, when in fact, we're not big enough to control the results.What looks like disaster to us could very well be the perfect plan of God.

When we choose to "do everything for the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31) we have the confidence that no matter how it may appear to others, God is very pleased with our efforts. He is delighting in us and there is no greater reward than basking in the smile of God.
Have you dedicated your daily tasks to Him? Do you look at grading papers, washing dishes, arresting people, or digging trenches as an assignment from the Lord God Almighty? If you are His child, then everything you do is His concern.

Do it for Him today. Dedicate the rest of the day to His control and at the end of it, thank Him for how it turned out. If you did it for Him alone, then know that He is pleased. Bask in his pleasure. Soak up the rays of His joy as He looks at you and the job you did for Him.

If you were obedient, then you did well. The results are His concern. He'll take it from there.

It's not your show. It's His.Remembering that is the only way to truly enjoy it.


Who do You Look Like?

A couple of years ago, Facebook declared Celebrity Lookalike Month. It was fun to see people post photos of celebrities that they (often slightly!) resembled. For some of us (me!) the resemblance was a long time ago.

Be careful whom you choose to admire, because we become like those we idolize. Even Scripture warns, "A student will become like his teachers."

In every society, people become like that which they reverence. It has been said that "we are a sum total of all our loves." In primitive cultures, people still live in constant fear of the gods of their own making. They fear the sun god, the moon god, the river gods, and they offer sacrifices of everything they have in an attempt to appease these imaginary deities.

The Muslims worship their god, Allah, and view him as vengeful god of wrath, determined to obliterate all unbelievers. As can be expected, societies controlled by this mindset are characterized by continual acts of violence and terror--offerings to their god. For them, salvation is obtained by vigilant adherence to the pillars of Islam, frantic works, and a lot of fear. Even Mohammad stated that he didn't know if he would make it to paradise.

In our enlightened culture, we smugly brush that aside. Thankfully, we have no such tenets. Some admit lighthearted acceptance of the God of the Bible and consider themselves spiritually complete. Others boldly claim: "I don't need a god. I decide for myself what is right and wrong, what I'll do and not do. I have my own code of ethics that beats any religious nonsense. I don't worship anything."

Oh really? Take a look in the mirror.

Just as many children cannot deny their parentage because the resemblance is so acute, you cannot deny your god. The resemblance is unmistakable.

We all worship something, We call it ambition, or drive, or power, or success. We call it the "pursuit of happiness." 
You have a god, all right. He's not supernatural or made of wood and gold. Your god may be your culture: the peer group with whom you've chosen to associate and the lifestyle you shoot for. From it you gain your values, your options, and your worldview. You live for its approval and when it frowns on you, you do whatever you must to regain your standing.

Or maybe you thrive on self-denial, philanthropic serving, or public humility. That can be a god too, when your motives are self-serving. When your goal is to be noticed and applauded for your service. Or even when your motivation is the self-satisfaction you get from doing it.

Either way, it always comes down to the same god--SELF. The medical community is overloaded with dissatisfied people clamoring for cosmetic surgery to change some aspect of their physical appearance. Debt is about to destroy this nation because we simply cannot be happy with what we have. We must have more because we CAN. Morals are irrelevant when we are enmeshed in frantic pursuit to satisfy our god.

It's easy to shake our heads in disgust when we watch idolators throw their lives away, but what about you? Do your choices, financial decisions, and pastimes clearly identify your god? Your lips may pronounce the appropriate Sunday School answer, but what does your life say? To what do you gravitate when you have extra time, money, or energy?

Take a look in the mirror...or better yet, invite God to take a look inside your secret places.  

Who do you look like?
Don't be afraid to face the answer. Remember, everyone else already knows.