Seeking Justice or Giving Grace

When wronged, which better describes you: A justice seeker or a Grace granter? The answer to this question, though difficult, is important.

 

Have you ever been lied about? I bet you have. I sure have. Sometimes those lies are little and don’t amount to much. But sometimes the lies can be quite large and really affect you. These lies can be considered defamation of character in many states.

When this happens – and I hope it doesn’t happen to you – what should a Christian’s response be? Should a Christian retain  an attorney and sue? Or should a Christian simply let it go on by.

And what should one do about the anger that comes with this? Oh, the anger!

But now, a few Scripture verses are flying through my heart and head…

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger…Ephesians 4:26 NASB

So I’m angry about this, but am I sinning? Well, lets consider this little gem from James

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17 NASB

So what is the right thing to do. There is my desire for justice and vindication of an egregious lie. But there is also my impulse to show grace and mercy and walk away from it. Someone once said

 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.  Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is thatto you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27 – 36 NASB

When I juxtapose my desire for justice with the verses above, I admit I struggle with what I should do. And I admit I’m not sure which way I’m going to end up going.

I can sue for defamation of character for the big lies that hurt or smear my name. If I do this, I can win and receive a little vindication.

I can also decide to show mercy and compassion, not sue, not win, and not be vindicated by my acts.

I’ve decided to share my journey into this decision with you. For the next few weeks I will write about what I am thinking, what the Lord is showing me and, hopefully, the decision that I make in the end.

So what happens when we are wronged and our desire for justice collides with our impulse to show grace and mercy? I think we’re going to find out soon…and in the process, maybe we can learn something about ourselves and our desires.

 

A Life Well Lived

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB

 

I was sitting outside a restaurant in Brea, California in November of 1997. I had flown to California for some training for my new job in Virginia. I had lived in California from 1983 until 1997. When I found out I was going back for a week I decided to call two of my closest friends to see if they would like to have dinner. They said sure and I was waiting on them.

I had been diagnosed with type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes earlier in 1997. I found out by nearly dying from it. I am still not sure how I did not die – actually the reason I didn’t die is because God didn’t want me to die. Anyway, back to my evening in California.

I sat outside the restaurant waiting on my friends to arrive. I had mixed my insulin for my evening dose, which I would take when we sat down to eat. The timing of one’s insulin dose is important so it is peaking when blood sugar after eating is peaking. I was gently rolling  my syringe between my fingers to warm the insulin (my insulin was stored in a cold pack. Injecting cold insulin is not a fun experience). I could not believe what happened next.

A young man came up and asked me if he could sit next to me. I said I didn’t mind. He sat down and introduced himself. I don’t remember his name but I do remember him. He looked at me and began a conversation.

“I’d like to share some information with you, if thats ok.”

“Sure” I said.

“Well first” he began “I want to say that I am not judging you for your addiction”

I responded “My addict-”

Before I could finish he jumped back in saying “I see the syringe in your hand. I know what you are going to do. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to do this.”

I smiled, figuring he mistook my insulin for some kind of illegal drug. “You don’t understand.” I said.

“Yes I do” he protected. “I was once addicted too but God delivered me and He can deliver you too.”

“Wait, wait. You really don’t understand. I need this to live.” I said.

He replied “I said the same thing when I was nailing up [slang IV drug users sometimes use to describe injecting heroin]. But I’m here to say, you don’t need that drug. You need Jesus.”

Well this little disagreement continued for a few more minutes until I finally said “Dude, I’m a type 1 diabetic This is insulin. See, I have a prescription for this [showing him my insulin vials]. I’m a Christian. Been one since December 2, 1984.”

He grimaced a bit. He looked sheepishly at me and apologized for his mistaking me as a drug addict. Before he could finish his apology, I stopped him and thanked him for his boldness. We talked a few more minutes, I assured him I wasn’t offended by his conduct but encouraged by it. I thanked him again for being willing to share Christ with a stranger apparently in need.

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I wonder how many of us – me included – are willing to risk embarrassment like this young guy did? Are we willing to share Christ with anyone we see, risking we may share with someone who is already a Christian? Or maybe we are worried the person we share with will be openly hostile to the Gospel. Whatever our fear, we need to get over them and share Christ to all who cross our paths – yes, that includes those e disagree with on silly issues like politics.

People around me may give me flack for sharing the Gospel. They may laugh at me for believing it. Because I am a Christian, I have not received promotions and being a Christian contributed to my losing one job. I chose not to sue or strike out against that employer because I feel like that kind of treatment is part and parcel of being a Christian.

I don’t want to live a life that is camouflaged. I don’t want people to wonder if I belong to Christ or not. My life – all aspects of it – should preach the Gospel.

Don’t just preach the Gospel with your words. Preach it with your life. And don’t just think that living an outwardly moral life is OK. Preach the Gospel with your mouth too. Really, it is as simple as Paul wrote to Timothy: be always preaching, be always ready, be always teaching sound doctrine, and know those who don’t want to hear, won’t.

In doing this simple thing, we can be assured that we will live a life well-lived, regardless of the bumps along the way. And maybe, just maybe, we will meet someone on a bench and bless them with our boldness and forever leave a mark on them.

 

 

Thankfully Broken

“When I see the Lord on His throne, I figure I won’t be able to stand, much less be able to chit chat with others about something that is suddenly not so important. I figure when I see God exalted, I will fall down in awe and worship. What will you do?”

 

I often wonder how I am doing with my thoughts about who God is. I wonder if I am really in awe of Him or if I’m just going through the motions. One of the best ways I think to figure this out is realizing how much sin I have committed, how much of my sin He has forgiven, and How holy He is. I really don’t have to contemplate this too much though. We have a wonderful encounter with God’s holiness and the brokenness of a sinner recorded in Scripture. We find this passage in Isaiah

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” – Isaiah 6:1-7 NASB

The first thing we experience here is that Isaiah sees something.

“…I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.”

This whole scene unfolds in a difficult time for Isaiah. Their earthly King – Uzziah –  had just died. I have little doubt that Isaiah was feeling a bit depressed and discouraged at this time. But in the midst of his discouragement, God gives Isaiah a vision of the Throne Room. Let’s read through the images Isaiah conveys to us.

First, Isaiah sees the Lord lofty and exalted.  What a beautiful description of God. Then Isaiah sees the train His royal robe filling the Temple. Now this probably refers to the entire Temple Mount. That is a lot of area to fill with the train of a robe.

Next Isaiah sees Seraphim – angels – who were attending the Throne of God and worshipping God by stating Holy, Holy Holy, is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory. Imagine being there and experiencing this sight. This is followed by the foundations of the thresholds trembling at the voice of Him who called out while the temple was filling with smokeSo we have a vision of the Lord Himself, His holiness, demonstrated by the length of the train of His robe, angelic hosts worshipping God and an earthquake at the sound of his voice. Umm, wow. Wow.

The next thing I want to emphasize if that Isaiah realizes something.

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah realizes who he is in light of the holy God who is before him. Look at what Isaiah says…

woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, 

Isaiah realizes that he is in bad shape because, as a sinner, he cannot be in the presence of the absolute holy God of Israel. But Isaiah’s realization doesn’t end there…

And I live among a people of unclean lips; 

Not only does Isaiah recognize his own sinful situation, but he also realizes that he lives with an absolutely sinful people. This poses a major problem for Isaiah and the nation. No unclean thing or person could stand in the presence of God and survive. Isaiah, is broken over this. Not that he is in pickle. No, I think he is broken over the holiness of God and his sinful nature.

Isaiah recognizes his sinfulness in light of the holiness of God. Think about how you would react. Would you or I react the same way? I wonder.

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When I hear Christians talk about eternity in trite terms, I cringe. I hear some Christians who say “When I get to heaven, I’m gonna give Adam a piece of my mind…” or they say how they want to speak to Paul or something along those lines. I’ve realized as I have grown older in the Lord that those things – while they may be neat to think about – probably won’t happen.

imagesWhen I see the Lord on His throne, I figure I won’t be able to stand, much less be able to chit chat with others about something that is suddenly not so important. I figure when I see God exalted, I will fall down in awe and worship. What will you do?

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Finally Isaiah experienced something.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

In short, Isaiah experiences the forgiveness of God. His sins are immediately cleansed. As a result, Isaiah volunteers (in the verses that follow these) to go on a mission that will not bear much fruit. But Isaiah goes on this mission quite enthusiastically.

Isaiah has seen the glory of God. He has seen God’s holiness. He has heard the angels, he has seen heavenly worship. And the result of all this?

Isaiah realizes his utter sinfulness. And he is broken over that. In that brokenness, God forgives him and cleanses him.

How are we doing?

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When we meet God – either at salvation or during prayer – do we realize what Isaiah realized? Do we realize that God’s holiness is so awesome that our puny mind cannot fully comprehend it? When we see that holiness and remember the forgiveness and cleansing God has performed on us, are we thankful? Are we broken?

I think we should be thankfully broken about our sin and our new life in Christ. We should never become arrogant – thinking we deserve this life. We should always remember whence we came. We should always remember the cost of our forgiveness. We should hit our knees in thankfulness. And brokenness. Like Isaiah, we should be broken.

Thankfully. Broken.

 

 

 

 

 

Afraid to Die?

We are free from condemnation because we are in Christ. As a Christian, that means my future is secure, regardless of what I do. There is not a sin I can commit – as a Christian – that will cause Christ to reject me. If there is such a sin, then the cross lacks power to keep me saved. 

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As long a I can remember I have feared death. I’ve always thought that if I did something too risky I would die. I have feared that my entire life. Not knowing what happens after death has always bothered me. I would like to see it happen before it happened to me. But with death, there is no way to watch the process before experiencing it.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 NASB

When I accepted Christ in 1984, I thought this fear of death would leave me. But it didn’t. I still feared death and dying. I would avoid situations certain situations because I thought they were too dangerous. This resulted in avoiding ministry opportunities that presented themselves to me because of my fear. This fear lasted until recently. I’m convinced that my fear of death wasn’t real – and it wasn’t imagined. I misunderstood my fear. I never really feared death. At least I haven’t feared it since receiving Christ.

I feared life.

You read that correctly.

I. Feared. Life.

And living.

Now you may wonder what I mean by that.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36 NASB (bold mine for emphasis)

Simply put, I feared living the life that was purchased for me on the cross.

I have always struggled with being accepted. There are reasons for this struggle which I won’t share here, but there are very real reasons I struggle with being accepted. I suppose that is the root cause of my fear of life. I always wondered if I would do something that would cause Christ to be disappointed in me and reject me.

I erected rules and regulations to keep my behavior in check. I thought that if I crafted a narrow enough path of conduct then I would be fine. Even I wouldn’t be able to be stupid enough to cause a problem. My guardrails would be enough to keep me safe. The guardrails that I meant to hem my behavior in order to reflect my commitment to Christ became walls that kept me from becoming who I was meant to be by HIm. To say I got things messed ups is an understatement.

Even though I felt that I was doing well, I wasn’t. In my zeal to live within my guardrails, I forgot about freedom. I’m not talking about the idea that I could do anything and be OK. There are rules to the Christian life. I’m talking about the freedom that comes with knowing that I am secure in Christ and being able to live boldly and righteously.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. – Romans 8:1 NASB

In my zeal I had forgotten to soak in one of the  most critical verses for a Christian. Romans 8:1 is extremely important for every Christian. We are free from condemnation because we are in Christ. As a Christian, that means my future is secure, regardless of what I do. There is not a sin I can commit – as a Christian – that will cause Christ to reject me. If there is such a sin, then the cross lacks power to keep me saved.

Righteousness is credited to me by and through Christ. He decides to see me through His righteousness.  At the time of salvation, I am declared righteous by God because of the sacrifice Christ made for me. This declaration is a legal one that is forever settled. One day I will be righteous – one day when I will no longer sin. That day will happen in glory, when I have been perfected in Christ.

But that day isn’t today. I still struggle with sin – and fear – each and every day. I sin, repent, and then sin again. I am frustrated by this but I now understand that this is how life goes until the day I am made perfect.

Though I still fear life – I still worry about doing stupid stuff – I don’t fear being rejected. God has seen fit to remind me of His undying love for me. The fact that He has declared me righteous means that can’t be changed by my actions. I need to rest in this.

What about you? Are you a Christian who fears life? Do you worry that you may do something that will cause Christ to ultimately reject you? If you are, I hope you are encouraged by what I have shared here. More than that, I want you to be encouraged by God’s unchanging word

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 NASB

 

The Big Question

All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question. 

 

What would you do if God appeared to you and said “Ask me for anything at all. No lists, no restrictions. Ask for anything at all and I will give it to you.” Wow, talk about a tempting question! I wonder what my answer would be. What would be yours?

Would we ask for riches, stuff, glory, honor, or position? Would we ask for all those things? What would anyone ask given that situation?

We have a record of at least one man who was asked this question. We also have record of his answer, which may surprise you. Lets take a look at 1 Kings 3 and discover the real definition of being rich. Join me, won’t you?

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5 NASB

Solomon was asked the question of the century – maybe of all time!  From verse 6 until verse 8 Solomon recounts how God had blessed him. Solomon speaks about how God has  blessed him. He recounted how God placed his father (David)on the drone and then how God placed David’s son (Solomon) on the throne. Solomon remembers how good God had already been to him. Finally, in verse 7 Solomon says “yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Solomon demonstrates maturity in this statement: he is self-aware and knows that he doesn’t know enough. Now look at how he answers in verse 9

So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3:9 NASB

What an amazing answer to such an open-ended question. Solomon didn’t ask for riches, power, or position. He asked for an understanding heart. Some understand this as Solomon asking for wisdom so he will be able to judge His people well. Truly this was a selfless act on Solomon’s part. What is incredible about this passage is when one reads this in Hebrew.

In Hebrew, Solomon asks for a Lev Shomeah –  a hearing heart.

He could have asked for anything and he asks to have a heart that hears. And it wan’t for his own fame or fortune he asked for this. Solomon asked for this kind of heart so that he could govern God’s people correctly. How refreshing this is, especially in today’s me first society.

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Often I wonder if I have a hearing heart. I wonder if I care enough to want a hearing heart. Ouch.

Life is much easier if we choose not to listen with our heart. If we just listen with the ears we have, its easy to dismiss the problems of others. It gets easier to dismiss the hurts other have is we hear only with our ears.

Hearing with my heart is difficult. It makes life much more complicated. I must struggle more if I hear with my heart.

I must actually care.

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All the riches of heaven are mine. I am a co-heir with Christ. My future is secure. I need not worry about anything or anyone. God is asking me, “What do you want, Patrick?” God is asking you the same question.

How you and I answer reveals much more than our desires of life. It reveals our motivations, our commitment, our Christlikeness.

When we answer this question, we need to think carefully about the answer we give. If we answer like Solomon, there are serious consequences. We place our heart eat risk of deep hurt because we will listen with it. If we decide to answer a different way, it too has serious consequences for our continued sanctification.

We cannot refuse to answer the question – What do YOU want?

 

As for me, despite the consequences, I want to choose…I must choose to have a hearing heart. So God with a trembling soul and a weak heart, I humbly ask that you give me, Your servant, a hearing heart so I can minister to Your chosen rightly, for who can do that unless empowered by You.

 

וְנָתַתָּ֨ לְעַבְדְּךָ֜ לֵ֤ב שֹׁמֵ֨עַ֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֣ט אֶֽת־עַמְּךָ֔ לְהָבִ֖ין בֵּֽין־טֹ֣וב לְרָ֑ע כִּ֣י מִ֤י יוּכַל֙ לִשְׁפֹּ֔ט אֶת־עַמְּךָ֥ הַכָּבֵ֖ד הַזֶּֽה׃

Running Below E

driving-on-empty-e1523064122524A friend of mine recently shared with me the story of her driving her car until her gas gauge was below E  – meaning it was below empty. She sent me a picture of her gas gauge (it is to the left). She said that when she finally filled her tank, it took 16 gallons of gas, which was the most gas she ever put into her tank.

We laughed about it and the what ifs about running out of gas. I remarked at one point that I always refill my gas when I get slightly below the 1/4 tank level. My friend replied something like But how do you know how far you can go if you don’t ever take it below empty?

I’ve never really thought that trying to run out of gas in my car was a good thing. I also have always thought that when the tank in getting close to empty – especially when the warning light comes on – it is a good idea to fill up. And then the inspiration for this article hit me.

How often do we run on empty or below empty spiritually? We may deny this happens but I think it happens…more than we want to admit. Do we even know when we need to refill our tanks, spiritually speaking? Or do we even know why we run on empty? I think I understand why we get to empty and why we tend to be there more than we should.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 NASB

Far too often we conform ourselves to the world. We pick up plenty of bad habits – in dress, attitudes, language – from the world around us. Perhaps the worst habit we pick up is the attitude of self-sufficiency.

Do not be conformed to this world…

Misinterpreting this command is really hard to do, yet we do it all the time. We conform to the world’s standards and expectations. We conform to the world’s views on social issues and, sadly, theological issues. We conform in the use of our time, talent, and treasure. We place more trust in Bitcoin that we do in Christ. What a sad state we find ourselves.

Our tendency to conform to this world is at the root of the problem of running on empty. We  wrongly believe that a five minute devotion is just as good as a good hour or so in deep study of God’s word. We convince ourselves that we can multitask our sanctification by listening to someone read the Bible instead of reading it ourselves. We deceive ourselves into believing that our little popcorn prayers – those inane little thought prayers we pop up to God as we think of them – is sufficient communication with out Father in heaven. We do all these things and are surprised that we lack any real power or sensed presence of God in our life. Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. This should not be.

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

This is an interesting part of this verse. The word transformed can be either in the middle voice or the passive voice. The middle voice is kind of an intensive active voice – I’m doing the action for my own interest or benefit. The passive voice is understood as I am the recipient of the action – someone is doing the action to me. Which voice is in view here depends on the interpreter in many cases. I like them both. Kind of.

If the middle voice is in view, then I am involved in the process of transformation. I’m reminded of the verse work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” That is found in Philippians 2:12. Chapter 2 of Philippians is exhorting us to be like Christ in all we do. If the middle voice is in view, I am to transform myself in my own interest with the result being that I become more like Christ.

If the passive voice is in view here, than I am receiving the transformation – probably through the agency of the Holy Spirit’s role in my progressive sanctification – and am not actively doing it. God is in the driver’s seat here, which suits my Sovereignty of God orientation.

But rather than quibble about which voice is in view, I’d rather focus on the rest of the verse

by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

My – and your – mind must be renewed. And this must be an ongoing action. Now this isn’t just for the sake of me getting better. Oh no, read the verse. It is so that I may prove – PROVE – what the will of God is. Imagine that.

How do I renew my mind? 

First, renewing the mind includes a steady diet of God’s Word. We are bombarded with the words of the world. We don’t spend near enough time battling the influence tis has on us. We need to bathe our mind in the ever-soothing salve of God’s word so that our battered soul may take refuge in Him.

Second, we must communicate with our Father. This means not only do we speak to Him, but we listen for His voice in our life. This takes time and is definitely what the world has in mind for us in the gotta-get-it-now culture. Our culture definitely creates an unworkable framework furor spiritual growth.

If we don’t listen to what our Father has to say to us – through His word, HIs Spirit in us, and HIs people around us – then we really are not communicating with Him.

Third, we need not only to serve others but receive service from others. We can refill ourselves by giving when we can and receiving when we need to receive. This promotes our community – the Church – to rely on each other.

Are you running on empty?

Have you run your tank to below the E on your spiritual life gauge? If you’re like me, you have done this more than once. You may be there right now. And you know what? Its OK to be there. You can do this every once in awhile. The important thing is not to stay below the E in your life.

May you prosper in the Lord in the coming weeks as you fill, use, refill, use, and refill again your spiritual tank all to the glory of God.

 

When Worlds Collide

381359main_planetImpact-full_full

What happens when two worlds collide? Usually sparks fly, stuff breaks, things shatter. It can be spectacular and ugly at the same time. It can inspire awe and seem revolting at the same time. This is especially true when we experience it in our lives.

God promises to change us to be more like Him as we walk this path of life. This is referred to in theological circles as progressive sanctification. We progressively change to be more like Christ as He works on us. This sanctification can be difficult and painful at times. Maybe it is painful all the time. I know this last round of sanctifying work of God in my life has been incredibly painful and challenging. My world’s are colliding and parts of me are breaking off, burning away. In many ways, the person I am is shattering with the promise being that the one who emerges from this will be more Christ-like.

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I have always been a very private person. I don’t readily share my deepest thoughts, fears, or regrets. I also don’t compliment others even when a compliment is appropriate. I am wrong and have to change. But I don’t want to change. Change hurts and I don’t like pain.

On the rare occasion that I do compliment someone, I try to make it as measured as I can. I rarely – if ever – say what I really think about someone for fear of being misunderstood or giving the wrong impression. I rarely talk about specific things when encouraging or complimenting others. I try to stay general in my observations, restrained in my words. I just don’t do encouragement or complimenting well. I’m private with those kinds of thoughts about others. But my world that wants to be extraordinarily private collided with another world recently – the one that wants to be extraordinarily encouraging to others. I really don’t know what to do about it either. Its really confusing.

I have purposed in my heart to be more encouraging to others and to compliment others when a compliment is appropriate. But as I have tried to put this into practice, I’ve struggled with it. When I try to encourage others – be they friends at work, my wife and family at home, or my Pastors at church – I encounter fears. Big fears.

I fear I will be misunderstood. I fear that I may say too many nice things. I fear I’ll stumble over my words and give the wrong impression. I think that maybe I should just keep my mouth shut – I’m just not good at this encouragement thing. I seem to mess it up every time I try. I try to always be accurate with what I say to encourage others. I try not to flatter them because empty flattery is insulting to the one its aimed at. But I do want to encourage others and compliment others when I believe a compliment is deserved. What is going on inside my soul!

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I am an insecure person. As far as I can remember I have been this way. My insecurity isn’t about just one thing either. It is about all of me – my appearance, my emotions, how I speak, and how I act…everything that makes me who I am. My sarcastic speech is my lame attempt to cover up my insecurities as a husband, father, brother, and friend. A really lame attempt at that.

I have wondered in the past if my my marriage would end one day. I worried about how I would mess up my family life. I’m thankful I have a wife and family as tolerant of me as they are. I certainly have received the better end of things with my wife and children. I’m still insecure about this though. I’m fearful that I’ll do something stupid that will wreck this great family God has given me.

Why do I do this? Why do I have these thoughts? I really don’t know. But I do know that their net effect is to inhibit me from doing the right thing. I know I should encourage other Christians. But I often don’t.

A recent conversation I had brought out many fears. It upsets me. And intrigues me. I’m really not sure what to do with what is bouncing around in my head right now. But I know God has brought this on me for my good. Maybe the collision of privacy loving Patrick is colliding with caring about others Patrick. Maybe God is sanding off some really rough edges and sparks are flying. I don’t know.

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My world’s are colliding – and it is disturbing, challenging, encouraging, and frightening. My faith and life, with all its responsibilities to my wife and family – and to my family in Christ, is colliding with my fears of vulnerability, transparency, and intimacy with other Christ followers. It is uncomfortable but necessary. I hate it but I love it. I’m conflicted and confused but never clearer in my goal.

I do know that the journey I call life is filled with challenges. I have challenges to my character and convictions. I have challenges to my way of thinking and doing. I have challenges to what I choose to believe and disbelieve. Challenges abound. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this latest set of fears and challenges, but I do know that God is in the business of sanctifying me. He is making me more like Him. To accomplish this old things must pass away. I have to be willing to change. But change, my friend, is scary.

So what will I do with my worlds colliding?

Maybe I’ll just ignore them. Maybe I’ll just make some sarcastic remark and move on without really dealing with them. Or maybe I’ll listen to them and believe them.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally face up to my fears and confront them, understand them, and have my faith in Christ conquer them. Being transparent and vulnerable is scary stuff.

I’m scared of what is going on in my heart and soul right now. But I think its time to have my faith collide with my fears. Sparks will fly. Pieces of me will be broken and destroyed.  I won’t be the same man  I was before my worlds collided. What will happen after all this is anyone’s guess but it is under God’s sovereign hand. What should I do? What will I do?

 

This is gonna hurt, but let my world’s collide and God’s sanctification of this fearful little servant continue.