Once people who know me well do see those things, the truly good friends began to call those things out of me. Anthony deMello said, "A friend calls forth, creates, a quality that he sees in me."
I am not wise enough to brag about wisdom or knowledge, nor am I especially strong enough to brag about my great might in any way. I certainly have no riches to flaunt before anyone.
“These convictions I have lived by”
So much of our spirituality and religion is greatly affected by who we know God to be. A.W. Tozer said, "Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God." We all have within us a gallery images of who God is, and those images dramatically affect our responses to Him. This gallery greatly affects the faith and religion we live out each day in relationship with God. The trouble is many, if not most of those images are distorted at best or entirely false at worst. This God many of us relate and respond to is not the God of scripture, and we begin to wonder why some of us live out such a grim, hard, and loveless faith each day.
It is because the God we have come to believe is distant and hard to please. God becomes a cold Father demanding your work without encouragement or love or pride in you. It is very difficult to serve that god with enthusiasm or joy. It is difficult not to chalk up other more enthusiastic brothers and sisters to fanaticism when the god you know is cold, removed, and grim. But this is not the God presented in scripture. This is the god of the Pharisees and he will always drive a Pharisaic religion and faith.
The moment I was first ambushed by the love of God is when I came to see the Father of Scripture who loves and delights in me, His son. He comes close to me in a true fellowship where I can find rest and healing. He is not hard to please.
Yes, he disciplines us, but I have come to know His delight and smile. He will correct and challenge me with the smile of a Father who is tender and proud. My Abba is proud of me and knows I am His "imperfect by promising" son. I see His delighted smile which knows I am coming to look more and more like my Abba every day.
It has been since June that I resigned just after starting this journal. Journals have legs to walk with you through various journeys and seasons. Journals have backs and hearts to carry a great deal of things so you do not have to. This journal is a gift from a friend I have not seen or spoken with in many years. It was a random gift which arrived just before an enormous life change I did not foresee at the time. This journal came to me from a friend who has always been a strong encouragement to "Keep writing. Always keep writing." This journal came from this friend just before a season where it would have been easy to cease writing.
This journal has carried a lot of the things I never wanted to carry. If I could only displace those thoughts and processes on the back and heart of this journal, I could get through days, which would have been otherwise very discouraging and debilitating.
This journal contains the weak prayers of limping through the process of learning to ask God 'what' instead of 'why'. I rarely get answers to 'why' questions, but I have learned to look at any and all circumstances asking, "God, what are you doing in me through this?"
This journal contains notes for interviews come and gone for positions I thought were great, if not perfect, but clearly not where God was guiding and calling me.
This journal contains notes for sermons along the way for beloved groups who, unaware to them, gave shock paddles to my heart by giving me opportunities to do what I love in a season when my heart was weak and confused for the future.
This journal has been able to carry the promise of prayer my heart made for the new year. It proves that the challenge remains. It is written in ink after all.
This journal, #38, passes a baton to #39 with promise and hope attached. It uses the discouragement and healing as a springboard to speak to my heart, "You are a better leader, husband, and father than you were before we began walking together, but more importantly, you are closer to the heart of Jesus than you were before we met."
In our remembrance of the Passion of Christ, what do we mourn? What brings us sadness? I wonder if it is the same thing Jesus would have us mourn and be sad over. Do we still get sad for Jesus; do we do as Christ tells the Daughters of Jerusalem in Luke 23 on his way up the hill to Golgotha? "But Jesus turning to them said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." (vs 28)
Do we weep for Christ at Easter or our remembrance of the cross throughout the year? Or... Do we weep for ourselves and the condition of the world? Do we weep for CHrist when we remember the cross (which he did conquer), or do we weep for the condition our own hearts are still in?
When I search my heart and find my faith lacking lately, it is less about doubt than it is about fear. My lacking faith is really my increasing fear. I fear a great many things, and I wonder how or if certain things will happen. I am afraid of certain outcomes happening and other outcomes not happening. I am confident in who God is. I am confident in what He is able to do. My lacking faith is not so much about any doubts I have. It is about the fears and worries my mind and heart feel at particular points in life.
Lately I have been wondering whether faith has more to do with lacking fear than it does with lacking doubt.
Who is Jesus to me? He has to first be Savior and LORD before He can be my Teacher. Anyone who only calls Him Teacher must be hopeless, because no pupil or disciple could really accomplish His teaching; not even the best ever student could accomplish his teaching. I need Jesus first to be Savior and LORD. I need first that very realization that I cannot accomplish even a portion of his teaching, because THEN I am 'poor and humble in spirit' enough to know my need for rescue from my undeserving and incapable condition.
Only then can I look with any confidence at His teaching for my life as His disciple and follower. Without His rescue I would only live in despair all the days of my life in comparison to the life he teaches me to live.
Ozzie Chambers wrote, "He came to make me what He teaches me I should be."
I am saved and controlled and covered by His Spirit in those places I wish I could do on my own but could never hope to accomplish on my own. If I begin with my poor and humble need, Jesus says, "You are blessed." (Matthew 5)
You will be happy if you begin with your humble view and realization that you could never accomplish the half of His teaching on your own if not for His Spirit and salvation within.
God, I have so many things I am thankful for, but I realize I rarely intentionally and actively thank you for those blessings in my life. Psalm 92 opens with the reminder that "it is good to be thankful to the LORD". Good for what? Good for who? I am convinced that it is good for me to be thankful. It is good for me to be thankful, and I am not so sure it is only good in the sense that a good person is a thankful one. I believe being thankful does me good.
So here is my heart and mind prepared to thank you for so many things.
Thank you for protecting my heart through my leaving the pastorship of SOLAS.
Thank you for Eric Waterbury, Jesse Peterson, Glenda Harr, Justin Wallace, Gary Tangeman, Ryan Masters, Grant Cox, Brandon Farmer, Nicole Farmer, Mark Shetler, Anh Powers, Dan Demuri, Tim Layfield, Jeff Koons, Steve Rodriguez who likely all are unawarely said just the right thing at the right moment when my heart and mind needed it most. This is YOUR doing.
Thank you for Tonya who has been a cheerleader who has been frustrated by frustrating things and also encouraging when it is most needed.
Thank you for the smiles and hugs of my daughters where I find beauty that points my heart and mind to you.
Thank you for statements and notes and "drop bys" from friends just to make sure things are good and okay.
God You are good. You are all together good. Surely goodness is to follow all the days of my life.
There are so many times in scripture where we see God "turn them over to their own stubbornness" or "remove his hand from them" or "allowed them to walk in their own devices." This happens over and over again, and it is striking to realize this characteristic in God the Father. He will as often in Scripture say things like "Oh that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways."
This is not the "Old Testament God", as if God goes away to summer camp between testaments to really work on Himself. This is Almighty unchanging God we see here. Jesus does give us an access to God and His grace we could never give to ourselves, but let us realize God's action toward our stubbornness has not changed.
There come times when we choose to disobey God enough times that He will just let us go down that road to experience the pain and the brokenness He would have protected us from if we had only listened and obeyed him in the first place.
This is sobering to our hearts that are prone to wander. We must intentionally keep our hearts focused, open, and obeying, or we may very well see God remove his hand from our stubborn hearts.
Our hearts are truly and terribly wicked. THey need to ALWAYS be focused and disciplined to obey, follow, and love God above all else. But because of the fact that our hearts just really are so so wicked (depraved) there simply is no room for comfortable apathy in this life. Every day my heart is drawn toward its own wickedness, and I have to intentionally focus my heart each and every day on Jesus Christ and the God who demands that I follow Him and obey Him.
My heart is so easily turned away; like terribly easy to be turned away. This depravity and wickedness angers me. I hate that my heart is aligned toward sin and terrible choices, but over and over again I see this in my life.
O God, my heart is so wicked and prone to wander, I am truly prone to leave the God I love and turn from you.
Here is my heart, LORD, take and seal it for thy courts above. Seal and cap my heart for you and your alone. O God, my heart is prone to wander. It is so easily turned from you. Seal my heart. I hate my wickedness. I hate that I am always turning from you if I am not remembering the grace you have given me in Christ. I desire to follow you and lead your people with a fear of you, but heart pulls me.
My heart is depraved and wicked. While I have been redeemed in the blood of Christ on the cross, I still feel prone to wander and leave the path of the God I love. I hate and despise that feeling.
I also realize if I am not intentionally focusing my wandering heart, I will be too easily turned. So seal my heart. Draw me close to you and I will obey you. I will follow you and honor you.
With Psalm 80 I pray, "O God, restore me, and cause your face to shine upon me and I will be saved."
My heat is truly wicked and prone to wander from you. When I do wander, I find brokenness at every turn. So I pray for restoration, and I pray this on a consistent repeat.
Restoration is a return to an original condition before wear and tear and brokenness began to set in.