Monday, November 30, 2009

Joy for Junk

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" James 1:2-3 (ESV)
It's interesting that I can recall several cliché expressions and points of view that basically revolve around "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger". An idea that failure or persecution can toughen you up if you learn from it the right way.

However, what stands out to me in the verse above is that 3 letter 'j' word ... joy. We should count these trials as not just learning experiences, or events that build strength, but we should count them as joy. Not "when you look back on them be thankful" ... but when we "meet" these trials (present tense) we should count it as joy.

If that's not a challenge against the flesh I don't know what is. I don't know about you but my reaction to a tough situation is rarely if ever joy. However that’s a reason, not an excuse; and I don’t plan to ignore this challenge placed before me. Christ has changed me in ways that are not even describable, and it’s just been getting better and better. The junk doesn’t stop getting thrown at me, but it sure sticks a lot less! Next step is to turn the junk into joy … it isn’t going to be quick or easy, but I have a feeling this fruit tree is going to be one of my favorites!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Sense of Direction

As this Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close, I walk away wondering what I have learned. Being thankful naturally causes you to ponder your own blessings (of which I have many more then I deserve), but hopefully in addition to my thankfulness I will walk away a bit more shaped by His chisel then I was before.

I think the most significant thing I have learned this weekend is that there is no direction other than the direction of His path that I need to be concerned about.

There are many things (and people) in this world that will try to sway you from Him; anything to get your off balance. The enemy is at work, but rarely in the places you're expecting him to be. He comes dressed to kill your soul, and often enough he starts with the heart.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" Psalm 51:10


The picture above was taken on a trip my wife and I took recently on a little weekend getaway without the children during one of our hikes. It was a most amazing tree that somewhere along its early days was reshaped by something or someone and ended up growing horizontally. While living and well, it still grew horizontally, not vertically. My wife reflected on the picture saying it reminded her of how we try to work so hard on our horizontal relationships, and forget about the most important vertical relationship we all need in Him; well stated. However there was no better words that could caption this picture then what my oldest (Amelia) stated when she saw the picture ... she simply said "It lost its sense of direction"

How often we let outside forces spin us around in circles so much we simply lose our sense of direction. We may be alive and well, like this "middle-aged" tree, just doing what it can to grab the sunlight all the while not realzing that it has been compromised ... that we ... have been compromised.

There is only one path that matters, all others are meaningless.

Lord, may I never lose my sense of direction.

Yours

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My time in the cave …

This blog is a little longer then my usual, however it’s been a while … my time in the cave had me pondering for a while …



I recently was in a John Ortberg study titled “If you want to walk on water, you got to get out of the boat”. In this study it reflected how there are those times in despair, pain, grief, confusion, anxiety, etc. that we hide in our cave. Not always a physical seclusion, but mental seclusion. Often I don’t even see that I was in a cave until I get out of it, and I have to say, the last few weeks for me have been spent in a cave. However, I have learned not to regret or fear the cave, but rather use it as a tool to draw closer to Him. And as John (Ortberg) stated, “some of God’s best work is done in a cave”.

Music is a very powerful medium for me, and I’m sure many others, to draw me closer to Him. In my recent cave time, one particular song has hit me again and again. I ask you to read the lyrics, and truly hear what they are saying. The song is titled, “What do I know of Holy” by Addison Road. I only put the first two verses (without the Chorus) below. The song is also here and I encourage you to listen to it – perhaps not, but perhaps it will move you and convict you like it did me.

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?
I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

If I had to pick two things that really was part of my recent journey in the cave, it would be the 5th and the last line. First, let’s start with Fear.

“I never feared You at all” … Oh how sadly true that has been of me. Last week praying God led me to read Jeremiah 4:7-8 - Let’s read:

A lion has gone up from his thicket,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone out from his place
to make your land a waste;
your cities will be ruins
without inhabitant.
For this put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the LORD
has not turned back from us.”

This passage leaves me with a fierce visual of the Lion of Judah. Christ came to free us from the law, but He didn’t come to give us free tickets to keep on sinning. This reminds me of a powerful verse from Hebrews.

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” Hebrews 10:26

I hope this verse haunts you as much as it does me. I hope this verse drives you to Fear the Lord, and to Obey His commands. Forgiveness is there, but it is not to be taken lightly. I think one big mistake modern Christian churches preach is that we are saved by Grace, not works, but then leave it there. Well, true, but if we have accepted, we show the fruit of the spirit.

Of course, if you read a couple verses up on that Jeremiah passage, you will see the promise of the Lord. He is just asking them to turn to Him to avoid all of this.

This fear of the Lord is critical. I often imagine how many people who oppose a leader (such as the current or previous president) would react if they came face to face with them unexpected. I think that fear would strike most of them, and not fear as in terror, but the fear of respect. Oh, I’m sure there would be exceptions, but I think in general, that most would show much more respect then they voice to their friends. Not in a cowardly way and falsely approve, but simply because we have been raised to respect the position regardless of alignment. My point leads me to the last line in that song that touched me. “The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees”. I think we all will react like Isaiah when confronted with the Almighty.

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5 (ESV)

We need to have that fear now, not just then, but now. We need to stand in freedom and joy knowing that we are saved, but never forget that the same God that brought us to our knees, sacrificed His Son on a cross for our salvation, of which we deserve none.

Lord, increase my faith – increase my fear and reverence for You – I thank You for the time we spent in solitude, in prayer, and in healing, and I feel strengthened, renewed, and eager to share Your joy with the world!

Amen and Amen!

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