Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat!

Following You isn’t that strenuous, as long as You don’t ask me to step out of the boat.
But You do.
(from A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

It’s true.

You are a God who sets my feet in broad places, then continues to extend the boundaries as You push me beyond human logic, tempting me to trust You with my mustard seed-sized faith.

Your conduct is baffling. Nonsensical even, as You make mud pies from saliva and serve up a slice of sight to blind eyes.

Your forthright approach taunts folks with tales of “sleeping” daughters You raise from the dead.

You instruct people to leave Your presence, daring them to believe for a healing to come “along the way.”

You command tombs to be opened and call forth dead men, reuniting family and friends.

You drive demons into pigs, setting crazed men free and whole.

Blind men wash in pools of water and receive their sight.

Proud lepers dunk in dirty rivers to have their skin made clean and soft.

You clear a temple with a whip, overturning tables and religious expectations as You invite children to sing the wonders of Your praises.

Former prostitutes and pagans support Your ministry.

Simple fishermen and scorned tax collectors are gathered to become the leaders of Your Church.

What is the point of these strange tactics?

Why must faith give birth alongside the stench of stable’s manure and mix with blood running down Calvary’s crossbeams?

Why are places like this the places where miracles are found?

Why can’t You take a safer route, a more practical approach to Christian living?

Why can’t You be content to let Your children simply enjoy the boat ride?

And why, oh why, do I struggle so against the wonders of Your ways?

With pharisaical heart, I ponder Your offer, then turn again toward the known and familiar, clinging futilely to religion without power.

And all the while, Your voice keeps calling me to step out of the boat . . .

But I prefer to let the waves rock me to sleep as I close my eyes and dream of miracles.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

 

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Acting Cozy with the Riffraff

Later Jesus and His disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers.

Such read the sentences from The Message’s paraphrase of Mark 2:15. Here is Jesus — surrounded by disreputable characters. Seemingly having a good time. And even more importantly, having divine relationship with the local riffraff. Over and over, we find the Holy One hanging with the undesirables of His day — prostitutes, tax collectors, common laborers, swindlers — notable sinners and outcasts all. And unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them became His followers.

Funny how often the very ones we think are furthest from knowing God are the ones who end up becoming His friends, as evidenced by His companionship with Levi, and Mary Magdalene, and Saul, and . . .  yours truly. Yes, thankfully the Lord chooses to keep company with the likes of me, too.

Though I recognize my desperate need for a Savior as I flounder in my own sin-sickness, I can’t help but wonder where I would have stood in this scene set in Mark. For while there was a collection of His disciples alongside Levi the tax collector and the folks still hung up in their nasty habits, there was also another crowd on the fringes. When the upstanding religious elite saw the company Jesus was keeping, they couldn’t help but offer their two cents’ worth (which might just be an over-evaluation of their comment’s value to Jesus). I can’t help but smile at Eugene Peterson’s choice of words for the encounter between Jesus’ disciples and the smug traditionalists: The religious scholars and Pharisees saw Him keeping this kind of company and lit into the disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?”

What kind of example, indeed. Who does Jesus think He is?!? Oh, that’s right. He’s pretty confident He is the Son of God who came to save men from their sins. The kind of Savior who chooses to place Himself among the kind of people who need to be saved. Who will welcome Him for dinner . . . and for a lifetime of relationship beyond that.

While there are many things to be learned from God’s Holy Writ, the one take-away I’m pulled toward today is in wondering what my response might be to this same scenario. It’s easy to want to reduce Christianity to merely a topic of conversation, a worldview, a religion, or a tradition passed down through generations. But true Christianity is much more than flaunting a talisman for others to admire, or for self to possess. Rather, it is a faith that transforms souls and delivers lives from death. It is a message come in the Person of Jesus Christ with the power to change Levi the tax collector into Matthew the disciple, Simon the fisherman into Peter the Rock, and Saul the persecutor of Christians into Paul the apostle of God. Just to name a few.

Woe to the one who places confines upon Jesus. As Mark 6:3 warns: They tripped over what little they knew about Him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.

Limited knowledge of God confined the religious leaders of the day to place finite limits upon Him, thereby blockading themselves from the entrance of faith. Because they could not envision Jesus operating beyond the boundaries of their own religious venue, they failed to truly see Him at all.

Jesus is Christianity — a living, consuming Savior who invites the riffraff of the world into intimate relationship with the divine.

As I close my Bible upon this portion of Scripture, I can’t help but wonder who would show up to join Jesus for dinner today.

I also wonder who might show up to express their disapproval.

Most of all, I wonder if I would be seated at the table with Him, or find myself standing among the scoffers.

What about you?

©MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

Struggling to Unfold the Dratted Chair

charlie-brown-cruise-shipI recently stumbled upon this comic strip from beloved cartoonist Charles Schulz and can only conclude that Charlie Brown and I are kindred spirits. On the cruise ship of life, sometimes I’m still struggling to open my dratted chair. Forget the lovely view or the leisurely pace of life at sea. While everyone else seems peacefully resting, I’m tugging and gripping and fighting to unfold a place to plop.

It is in this struggle that I am oft reminded of the verse from Psalm 32:8:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go,
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

God does not throw out counsel haphazardly, nor does He give direction without knowing my position at all times. Not only does He know the final destination, but He knows my starting point and all of the obstacles, roadblocks, and detours along the way. He also knows how stubborn my heart can be in following His directives. Why? Because He sees me in every step of the journey.

Never are we beyond the sight of our heavenly Father. No matter how our circumstances may tempt us to believe otherwise.

Like a loving and patient parent, God is there, remaining vigilant in His watch. Never slumbering, never ceasing in His continual care over us. Stooping to draw us close with compassion when we stumble over our own feet. Rising to lift us up, again and again. Gently staying flailing hands struggling so hard to do things our own way when His way remains open and clear.

Too often I can be like Charlie Brown when I’m faced with any number of life’s scenarios — I can’t even get the dratted chair unfolded! I twist and tug and squirm and pull in every direction except the right one. Exerting all my energy and determination to conquer a task that has grown in mammoth proportion by my insistence on doing things “my way,” I fail to notice the one way to easily accomplish the goal before me. Too impatient to listen to wise counsel, I grit my teeth and fight against the instruction from above until I finally persuade myself I will never be able to open the chair and enjoy the view. No matter how many times I try.

I choose to live as one deceived, convinced I have somehow been overlooked. Unnoticed. Unseen. Uninvited. Everyone else can sit and soak up sun’s rays on the cruise ship of life, but I may as well confine myself below decks and curl up on the hard floor. It’s obvious I don’t belong with the rest of the folks who have things all together.

Whether succumbing to a pity party or continuing to fight and wrestle to unfold my chair, I’m basically just giving in to spiritual amnesia. Forgetting the One who sees me wherever I am. Neglecting to turn and ask for counsel from the One who knows all things and is willing to patiently instruct me, even though I’m so unwilling to listen.

All it really takes to unfold the deck chair of life is learning the secret of pulling in a particular direction. A direction always leaning toward the Father-heart of God.

If you find yourself in a position somewhat like Charlie Brown’s, I encourage you to join me in remembering the truth that you are really not the only one struggling to find your place. You’re not the only one who feels alone and on the fringes of a life that is passing you by. You’re not alone in this mess of humanity futilely grasping for a respite.

You’re. Not. Alone.

You are watched over by a God who sees you where you are. A loving Father who offers His counsel with clear vision for every step before you. A wise Daddy who knows all you really need to do is follow His instructions to unfold your chair and rest in His presence.

Will you heed His voice and trust His counsel for you today?

ferry-1524267_960_720FOR REFLECTION
Can you ever relate to Charlie Brown, struggling to even begin something that others seem to have already accomplished? Are you tempted to overexert yourself in trying to keep up, or are you more likely to give up altogether? Contrary to how it may seem at times, you are not overlooked. You are noticed and you are loved by a Creator who knows you well. God has the wisdom you need for any given situation, and He is willing to share that counsel while keeping an ever-vigilant eye upon you and your surroundings. What will it take for you to begin to trust Him with your circumstances? What areas may you need to address and be willing to change in order for Father to help you unfold your chair and enjoy the view of His presence more fully today?

© merewhispers.wordpress.com

Finding Grace When I Need It Most

After spending a restless night warring against my failings, I found myself literally on my knees at my bedside, confessing my sins and asking God for the forgiveness He freely extends to all who come to Him. I was broken and fretting and apologetic . . . and guilty.

Guilty is not a word I like to use to identify myself, but it can be one I cling to for all I’m worth. Once I’m aware of the inward truth about myself, I see my sin blazing brightly and it breaks my heart. How is it that I have walked alongside my Savior for so many years and still struggle with such basic temptations? Why do I so easily stumble into a trap the enemy has set to snare me? And worst of all, why do I respond in a way that invites others to become prey with me?



After sending a facebook message asking for forgiveness from friends whom I unwittingly, yet knowingly dragged into my sin with me (an oxymoron to be sure, but I’m fairly certain I had both a conscious/subconscious struggle going on in my mind at the time), I began scanning through my newsfeed. My scrolling stopped abruptly when I came across the following post:

Godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.  – 2 Corinthians 7:10
I know my sins. Only God can blot them out. Having inward truth about myself opens my ears to joy, the joy that accompanies salvation. A humble heart is the only basis for outward acts which are truly acts of worship.

My heart resonated with the truth of those words staring me in the face, baring my heart wide to God’s call of humility and repentance. I’m so thankful for godly sorrow, even when it causes me to lose sleep at night. I’m even more thankful it leads to salvation. The “without regret” part still catches me at times, and maybe that is why God chose to place two simple words in the very next post beneath this preceding challenge:

70602-Forgive-YourselfTwo simple words that carry great weight and freedom when taken to heart.

Forgive Yourself.



I know my sins. Only God can blot them out and open my ears to the joy of His salvation. So I must choose to accept His merciful grace and go on to forgive myself, striving to surrender my failings into His capable hands in hopes of choosing wisely the next time I’m confronted with temptation.



If you are struggling with a weakness or find yourself stepping headlong into an act of sin, I encourage you to look up and to fall down. Allow God to get your attention and draw your eyes toward inward truth, especially in those moments when the truth within is less stellar than it should be. But don’t stop with just recognizing the truth; humble yourself with godly sorrow so He can lift you up and restore you to a place of righteousness.

Then move on.

Confess your sin, accept the forgiveness, rise from your knees, and live a life of worship recognizing His sacrifice of love that has cleansed you. Forgive yourself and lean heavy upon Father’s grace.

It is enough for this moment.

It will be enough for the next moment, too.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.  – Hebrews 4:16

Finding grace when I need it most . . . that’s the treasure of belonging to God. Even at my darkest times, He shines His love brightly upon me and draws me near.

Forgiving. Redeeming. Restoring.

And sending me out once again to bring His kingdom to earth.

When Moderation Ceases to be a Virtue

Several years ago while visiting Savannah, Georgia, with my family, we stumbled upon Colonial Park Cemetery, a resting place for some of the early citizens and patriots of Georgia. One of those famous men laid to rest within its borders was Archibald Bulloch, great-great-grandfather of Theodore Roosevelt. A fiery patriot who became President of the First and Second Provincial Congress in Georgia and delegate to the Constitutional Congress, Bulloch was praised by John Adams for his “abilities and fortitude.” A historical marker bearing Bulloch’s words from his speech to Georgia’s Provincial Congress in June of 1776 not only caught my eye, but bored its contents into my spirit in an unsettling manner. In the years since first reading his words, they’ve risen to the surface of my conscience time and again, tugging me toward truth with their conviction:

This is no time to talk of moderation; in the present instance it ceases to be a virtue.

It’s no exaggeration to say that words such as moderation and tolerance have become “virtues” in this rat race of political correctness. As Christians, we are continually being told to accept things that grate against the very roots of both our nation’s establishment and our consciences — all in the name of tolerance. Moderation is to be used in approaching anything of a “questionable” political or moral nature. Truth has shifted from what is sure and certain, to being termed as a trait relative to one’s own interpretation. It has not merely slipped from its governing position in how we are to weigh what is either acceptable or not; it has jumped over the edge of reason hellbent on crashing and burning at the bottom of this steep slope of dulling consciences.

And honestly, I’m just plain tired of it. I’m tired of being told I must be tolerant of things that war against morality and against the very commands of God. Yet, I must admit to speaking this truth with tongue in cheek, because as much as I despise being told by others what is allowed to be considered “good and right” or “evil and wrong,” more often than not, I am the very one enforcing this spirit of moderation upon my own belief system far more than others do.

I am the one who has allowed apathy to sneak into my faith life. I’m the one who has tempered my beliefs, seldom implementing this dynamic power available to me through the gifting of His Holy Spirit burning within. And while I say I’m tired of this state of cradle-rocking whimsy, am I willing to be awakened enough to actually do something about it? Am I willing to not just break this mind-numbing complacency, but to take a stand against it, knowing it will cost me my much-coveted spiritual nap time?

Ouch! Stepping on my own toes can be an uncomfortable waltz, indeed.

Thankfully, no matter how much my tendency toward spiritual slumber, God continues to call me to awaken. Though I’m content to lie down among green pastures, He shakes my shoulders, rousing me to the fact that I’m not resting in a secure place but rather trying to nap upon a battlefield. This struggle between truth and relativism is a raging war between light and darkness, and I have been placed here as a warrior, not as a spectator. It’s time to don the battle gear and “man up.”

Now, I am not saying to pick up a sword and begin swinging haphazardly at anything or anyone that comes into your peripheral. One must be wise in wielding such powerful weapons as we’ve been granted, and sadly, we Christians have become rather good at slicing arbitrarily into others with great finesse. But our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is not a war between you and your detached spouse, or your defiant teenager, or your difficult in-laws, or your obnoxious co-workers. In fact, chances are those adjectives are not a fair assessment of the persons or situation anyway. That’s merely a smokescreen thrown down by the real enemy — the one who has been warring against the true King for ages. We’ve simply allowed him to fool us into believing his lies so as to be distracted into skirmishes of no account.

We’ve allowed moderation to tempt us to believe that things just must be the way they are with no hope for change. We’ve allowed truth’s firmness to slip from our grip, causing us to hang our weary heads and slide into a slumber of our own making, one that nods its approval at apathy and ceases fighting for what is good and right. After all, does it really make a difference what we do?

YES! The answer to that question is a resounding “YES!” It does matter what I do. It does matter how I live out my beliefs. It does make a difference — both in my life and in the lives of countless others who are inadvertently counting on me to fulfill my God-given purpose as it overlaps their lives.

So what am I to do with this knowledge?

Stay awake and start living my faith.

Begin applying the call to move forward in truth, rushing to meet the enemy head-on in battle rather than pretending there is no war being fought. Rising to meet each challenge equipped with a power that comes from HE who is greater than all else. Tearing down strongholds of distorted thinking in my own life in order to raise the standard of Jesus to its rightful place of ruling over me and my dwelling. It’s time to reclaim and occupy territory long overrun and occupied by the prince of this earth. It’s time to cease acting with insecurity, tempering each call toward faith with a moderation of my own realism.

I mean, seriously, since when has true faith ever looked rational to human logic, anyway?!?

Instead, I’m challenging myself (and you if you’re prone toward the same spiritual slumber as I am) to respond with faith to the following words from Matt Redman’s song The Awesome God You Are:

“Let Your Majesty speak peace to me and chase my fears away.
To my heart I preach Your sovereignty and the power of Your name.
I’ll stand in awe of You alone.
God, let hope arise and faith become the fortress of my heart.
I will lift my eyes and see You as the awesome God You are.
Believe You as the awesome God You are.”
(emphasis mine)

I consider today’s post to be a sermon to my own heart as I preach God’s sovereignty and power over my life. In this meek attempt to stir myself up, I pray I am also challenging those who may be struggling along with me to implement the very beliefs we’ve been called to exert in faith.

May your hearts be filled with the assurance of God’s love and power at work in you, dear friends, and may you rise to the call of moving mountains with the seed of faith that is within you. It is enough because He has deemed it so.

Let’s cast aside this temptation to live a “moderate faith” in Jesus Christ.

After all, in the present instance, it ceases to be a virtue.

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To Live in the Shadow

Nothing about this faith journey comes easily to any of us, friends.

That said, God has really been stirring things in me the past several weeks about being more proactive in my faith. It seems every book or blog post or Bible verse I read is pointing out my glaring need to embrace and activate truth in my life. A truth that often goes against the grain of society and grates against my own nerves more often than I care to admit. As much as I believe the words of the Bible, I struggle to implement them in the throes of everyday living. I war against doubt just like the next person, wrestling to hold onto hope when everything I’m feeling is begging me to throw my hands into the air and walk away… just away.

Unfortunately (or more appropriately, fortunately), I seldom can wander too far.

For better or for worse, I’m most often known as the “truth-teller” within my circle of friends. A stigma that can be bittersweet at times. Truthfully (pardon the pun), I don’t enjoy reminding myself or others of our responsibility according to Scripture when we’re all feeling fed up with life in general. But no matter how I fight against it, the pull to challenge people to take the higher road just won’t stop tugging. Because as much as I want to provide a listening ear and an understanding heart, I also want us to grow beyond our circumstances. To rise above our hurts and take ownership of our inheritance in Jesus Christ.

I know the tiredness of being soul weary when wave after wave of storms keep turning the tide against you. I know the temptation toward leaning into hopelessness instead of into Jesus’ arms, though they are constant and stable in their openness to receive us. Oh, the storms might appear differently in my life than they do in yours, but they are there nonetheless. I’ve had my fair share of being overwhelmed by the “too muchness” of it all. Of wishing to avoid the wilderness wanderings and head straight to the promised land of ease and plenty.

Yet through every struggle, the call toward truth remains. Beckoning this prodigal heart to return, and convincing me to gather fellow-stragglers along the way. Issuing yet another invitation to remember and to believe the timeless riches of a certainty that stands firm even when we don’t.

No matter the season of life in which you are dwelling at the moment, no matter the trials facing you or the storms threatening to unsettle the very foundation of all you believe, I urge you to call to mind God’s faithfulness. No matter how desolate your surroundings appear, there have been signs of His presence along the way. There have been answers to prayers. There have been treasures hidden in the darkest of nights. I pray you are stirred to remembrance of these things today. Instead of comparing the seemingly insignificant answers against the largeness of your still very real unanswered requests, I pray you can look beyond it all and focus upon the cross of Jesus.

Even if He never once answered another one of our prayers or gave even a mere inkling of His presence, the cross is still enough.

I hope you will be reminded to go there, today.

Go back to the cross.

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Get back into the shadow of Calvary and let your pains be absorbed in His own, even if you have to fight your way there on bloodied and bruised knees. Turn your thoughts toward His grace and salvation. Allow your heart to be moved to His feet and your days surrendered once again into the Savior’s keeping. For it is in that shadow that you will find rest and strength. And, believe it or not, that long-sought-after victory.

Get there, and stay there, my friend.

Be tenacious in reaching out despite the enemy’s lies tempting you to draw back within yourself. Stretch to believe again. Stretch to reach past the veil torn to allow you close and constant access to the One who is mighty to save – once and for all and continually. Moment by moment. Struggle after struggle. Through every tense relationship. In every season of heartache when you are at your very weakest of faith.

May you find your way back to His grace and linger long in its shadow until your heart is convinced of not just His ways, but of His love and kind intent toward you.

For it is real and larger than any lie looming to convince you otherwise.

It’s not over until Father says it is over. He is not finished with you, and Satan does not get the final say on your life…

Calvary does.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)

A Mosaic of Mercy

There’s always a reason for the breaking. Sometimes it’s simply because who I was cannot continue to support who I am becoming.

The earthen vessel must crack and expand even as my spirit grows. Filled with His own. What once seemed so stable and secure must shift in order to hold a new and better way of life. Of living.

Humility emerges, shaking the core of this humanity. Spirit breath stretches against containment, for what I am meant to hold cannot be confined by finite clay. The earthen vessel needs room to grow. This newness cannot coexist with the stagnant wine of yesteryear, else all becomes spoiled.

So let the cracking commence and continue as shards are set free. Broken to be filled. Deadened for a season, but not for forever. Simply making room to come back to life.

Releasing the past to grasp hold of a new present, I choose to believe I will be better for this breaking. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how empty before the filling.

Like the little town of Bethlehem, I scarce can make room for so great a redemption being birthed within these borders. With humbleness, I offer my soul’s shelter — unfit for the King, but chosen to bear His life, regardless.

Yes, I am broken, but not without purpose. Not without promise of a coming glory. Never without a plan of redemption in full view of the One who not only has eyes to see but holds the power to make all things new and beautiful.

So as I sit in the silence, falling apart bit by bit, I trust in being re-membered. Beauty in the making, refitted piece by piece to bring to life new life. Earthen vessel though I may be, He has chosen to place His other-worldly presence here.

bits of broken
splinters of hurt
shattered pieces
weakened
emptied
discarded
alone
scattered

found
seen
valued
cherished
scooped up by divine hand
reaching beyond the breaking
revealing beauty beneath the scars
making room for Spirit.

gatherer of fragmented lives
You come into the splinters
with creative grace
determined to fashion a masterpiece
from the ruins of this soul
breathing life with artistic wonder
fashioning flawless
from the blemished and marred.

in humble awe I stand complete,
a mosaic of mercy at Savior’s feet.

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