Quieted by His Love

I don’t know how I could love anyone more than Gabe. Flesh of my flesh. I remember some mom saying having a child is “having your heart live outside your body” and I can’t agree more. I enjoy every moment I get to know his little heart. To see his eyes light up, his mouth chuckle, his feet kick with excitement. How can I not expect God to at least be the same? I mean he literally is Love. Like all that is loving, good, kind, caring, self-sacrificing is, in their fullness, found in Him. Yet I lessen His desire to love me to less than my tainted love for my son.

So what do i loose to believe God loves me that much? Why is it scary?

I think it comes down to this verse, “Let not my hope [in the Lord] be put to shame”… Continue reading

Beholding the Love of God by Timothy Keller

Sermon – Beholding the Love of God by Timothy Keller

This sermon is gold if you ever wanted to know what it looks like to experience God and what the difference is between someone who has beheld God and one who is religious or moral. Soooo good and convicting that God will not be controlled and a great reminder of how great his love is, that moves and remakes us! Pastor Tim Keller paints a great picture that God’s work in us is not counter to intellect but moves the knowing of truth into the whole of our being.

I love TK!

God IS truly Good

I doubt God’s goodness more often than I want to admit.

I believe that God is good but I live expecting the worst. Recently there have been circumstances God has surprised me by them not working out the way I thought. They were better. And given God’s nature to be good, steadfast, faithful and all together perfect, I should expect Him to have more positive and life-giving outcomes of things He is involved in, including the things in my life.

Then why, given what I know that about God, why do I expect so little? Why is it more comfortable to not expect much?

I think because I also know depravity of man. I have felt it’s sting, been under it’s wrath. I let the pain of suffering weight in too heavily into the argument. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s all I hear. But when I allow the reality of evil in the world to be bigger than the steadfast, righteous and good God I worship, the King over the world, I am degrading His glory. I am stripping him of what he deserves: All my faith, all my worship and all my trust. Cause God wins. At times it might not feel it, at times I feel stuck in the mud or endlessly wandering the desert valley, but in the end He wins. And he already won and I am supposed to live in the knowledge of that. I think this is why God says:

“But let him who boasts, boast in this – that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

So I want to repent of this preparation. The readying myself for situations in preparation for the worst. I trust too heavily in my instinct and ability to read people and to protect myself from harm. But God, even the pain and the discipline you bring me under when I enter your presence, I see the end. I see you as good, and therefore the pain as good to me. I cannot believe you, without experiencing your goodness. Help me not run from your discipline, or hide from your reprove, for to me I would rather stay under the Hand of God than to run into the unknown where God is not.

But sometimes, you don’t choose suffering to grow me. Sometimes you choose joy! I will rejoice in that! You are so much better than I give you credit for. You are incredible. No situation or struggle you bring me through is thoughtless or without purpose. But you also choose to bless, grow, breathe life into dead bodies, break bonds and set captives free. You care about my good and the good of your children. I don’t need to prepare. I don’t need to self protect. I need to lean. Lean into the Spirit…. Lean into You. You knew that blessing would remind me that I can trust you. You can handle this – You have got this perfectly figured out. You do not need my help. You want my heart and soul.

So I am just freaking thankful. Thankful that God loves me enough to remind me of his goodness. That although his plans include suffering, his goodness and power is ever present and I can continually trust.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10

“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalm 25:10

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7

“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

Surrender & Brokenness – Jeremiah

I have been confronted by the theme lately of complete surrender and complete brokenness. It’s like God is whispering to me, reminding me of what I had unknowingly lost track of in the dust of suffering. The last six months have been like surgery. God has been taking a knife to heart and digging out the pieces he doesn’t want there anymore, in hopes I would cling to Him, completely. I am left without many options to cling to besides Him…. although my broken, desperate and wandering heart tries to find them.

I think to solidify this in my heart and to bring some type of comfort to my broken soul, God directed me to read Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet. Sometimes I laugh – Sometimes my rebellion wants to yell “Really, God?” Cant I read John or Psalms? But He always knows how to take care of me. He always cares and He is always good.

In the first chapter, what God calls Jeremiah to do shook me. Most people quote the verses about how God knew Jeremiah “before he was formed in the womb” but if you read on this is what He says:  

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:7-10 NASB)

What strikes me about this is God called him to be a prophet. This was no choice of Jeremiah’s. It was also not his age, experience or rank that qualified him but God who commanded him to go and to do.

What did God call him to? To pluck up and break down. To destroy and overthrow, to build and plant through the words God places in his mouth. He would be a mouth piece to a rebellious, unrepentant Israel. What a weighty call. What a heavy burden. For a man who loved Israel, he would now go through horrible rejection, reproach, persecution from his beloved nation, even to  the point of despairing of his own life, to obey and be the mouth piece of God (Jer. 15:15b)

Is this what you picture calling to be? When Christians talked about their “calls”, I have never heard anyone even come close to discussing anything remotely close to what Jeremiah experienced. I don’t know if it is the result of the American church or our own sin that entices us to believe the direction and will God has for our lives will always be coupled with ease, comfort and we will be rescued from harm. This is not the calling of any of our forefathers of the faith. Certainly not what God commanded Jeremiah to do.

The promise here is no different than in other parts of scripture – God will be with you… to deliver you. Deliverance does not mean escape from rejection, physical strife, loneliness or possible eventual death. So what does deliverance mean here?

When God called Jeremiah here, there really isn’t much of a choice. To turn away would awaken God’s wrath, that Jeremiah was fully aware of. Jeremiah did not, like many of us, doubt God’s power to move. This made his obedience less of a choice, and more of a necessity. And where else could he go, where God was not? What could he do but follow God. For those who have been captured with the affections and fear of their Maker, there really isn’t anywhere else to go. Even if the path is taking you where you never wanted to go. And asking to do what you never wanted to do.

At one point in Jeremiah the actual translation of how he felt about his call was “seduction” and “rape” in Jeremiah 20:7a. God has seduced him, then overpowered him to do his will. What hard imagery is this? What harsh imagery to reconcile with a good God … But is it?

Why would all of this be a comfort to me amidst suffering? When you have been placed in unlikely of situations, where all feels lost and despaired, to know God can interact with people he loves like he does with Jeremiah is a comfort. To know his love can actually look at moments like hate. His love sent his Son to die for all mankind. God’s love for Israel sent Jeremiah to call them to repent, knowing full well Jeremiah would suffer. God’s love for his Church sent the first disciples to preach the gospel to the world, and to eventually be killed. God’s love sends missionaries to desolate places, to harsh lives.

Why do people like Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus, you and I choose to follow God, even if it’s most likely we will go through refining fire, and maybe through moments of such despair you wish you were dead?

This is the only answer that makes sense to me – God, Himself, becomes better than life. The eternal becomes greater than the finite. God breaks into our lives and shakes us so deeply to our core by his love that we can no longer live for self alone. Gospel Wakefulness takes great efforts to describe this phenomenon. When this “phenomenon” happens, you begin to follow God joyfully … blindly. When God brings you to an unknown, unforsakable place, your flesh might squirm with the fears of what it might entail, but you have no where else to go. You have met Love, Himself. You know too well where all other paths in life will take you. You can not turn back. You cannot return. To do so would be walk away from God.

He promises us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18)

So I welcome whatever following God looks like in my life because I know whatever it is, my life will not be in vain. I have everything in God, Himself. And no matter what I know the goodness, glory and work of God in me is worth the temporary suffering. I cannot say that about any other place in this life. Nothing compares to eternity. Nothing compares to God’s work. Nothing compares to God, Himself, loving, working and living inside of me.

I want to leave you with this song by Sara Groves that paints the tension between wanting to follow God but dealing with the frustration of where it is taking you and having to reconcile that it is still where you want to be.

Painting Pictures of Egypt

Sara Groves

I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

CHORUS

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I”ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know

If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

The Trouble of being a Nerd

 Being the nerd that I am, I am gloriously excited to hear from some seasoned Pastors and Theologians for the next few weeks at my church. What a blessing!

I was struck by Dr. Osborne interview – here are a few thoughts :

1. “I really never had to fight the demons of insecurity that can cause us to run from problems and pursue bigger ministry goals as a means of self-validation.” 

I was intrigued by his perspective on how some need to “grow their church” to be validated. I for one have always felt uneasy with this being the main focus of any push at the church. Yes, I love evangelism. Yes, I think to grow as a church can reflect that the church is healthy. The focus I believe, should be one stewarding and discipling the congregation you have to follow Christ and foster their own faith deeply so that they desire to share their faith with those who do not know. God decides who comes to your church (who is “harvested”). It’s not about manufacturing how your church is to just bring people in the door. It’s like saying if you get more people to crowd around an ice-cream truck, that means the people must worship, follow and devote their lives to ice-cream. It might just simply mean that they felt like a cone today. And then they will move on. Or when it gets cold, they will stop craving cold things. Being inside a building means little. Following a set of rules means little. Being completely transformed by God’s jealous and overwhelming love for you, that all you can do is repent and worship is everything. That naturally makes disciples. Cause one thing people love doing is sharing with someone else what has deeply and genuinely transformed them!

It was just interesting to me for Osborne to call out some leaders who might be wanting numbers to fill the emptiness inside them with the success of their Church. Honestly not thinking of anyone in particular here, just gutsy.

2. “But I do have concerns that I’ve written about in my book, Accidental Pharisees. If we’re not careful, our zeal can lead to pride, exclusivity, legalism, a critical spirit, and lots of unbiblical gift-projection. I see this as the greatest obstacle facing the young and zealous church today. It’s a much greater danger than the loss of any so-called “culture wars.” The darker our society gets, the more a tiny light makes a difference. But if we lose our agape love for one another in hyper-zeal and division, the light will go out.” 

 Did you hear that last sentence! Dude!!! I am chewing on this. In our Christian culture today, the term “truth in love” has been thrown around a lot to mean a lot of things. In scripture, it seems like certain things take precedence over others. Or in other cases, one thing does not work without the another. Like Faith is validated by your works, Truth is no truth absent of love. It stops being true. The essence of it is lost.  Like gifts without Love is compared to a noisy gong (1 Cor 13). The gifts are still truly there – but loose their meaning and function without love. The function of gifts is to build up and edify the body of Christ. How can you do that when people are seeking self glorification and recognition in their gifts over their primary purpose to sacrificially serve others and sanctify the Body?

If Truth … (and when I say truth I mean the whole gospel which includes the deep love of God shown through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins)…  comes without obeying the command to encourage and sacrificially love your brother/sister, especially if he is weaker, knowing the greatest love is to die for one another – if THAT Love is not a part of the truth – I feel it is being served incomplete. I have a feeling this subject will become it’s own post :)

Full Interview with Dr. Osborne here: Interview with Larry Osborne