The Fog

Yesterday morning I went on a prayer journey. I drove my truck West, and headed for Bald Peak. It was very foggy.  The fog was everywhere and created confusion because I couldn’t see anything – even things that were familiar to me I did not recognize, and I got lost a few times. I pondered this and understood the metaphor that God was showing me. 

Fog is a very powerful metaphor for the effect of sin. Sin literally means “missing the mark.” It’s the word God uses throughout the Bible to describe our motivations, attitudes, & actions that go against the grain of His creation, intent, character.  I have sin in my life that rears its head now & then, and blocks my view.  Just as fog blocks the warmth & light of the sun, sin blocks God’s influence from our lives. The fog also took away the pleasure of the journey because I couldn’t see anything to appreciate the view. It made the journey feel like drudgery, especially when I was going uphill…all there was at that moment was the painful toil and work of going up the hill in the fog and I said out loud “This is exactly how I feel right now.” Drudgery…have you been there? 
Another thing about fog is that it moves. It is not stable or predictable but malevolent, intending to create confusion and havoc.  As I continued to travel higher and higher up the mountain, I eventually broke through the fog and was surrounded by blue sky and sunlight and all of God’s beauty around me. It had been there all the time but I was consumed inside the fog and could not see it. This is the type of reality I want to come into, and my soul pleaded with God that I will be able to experience this sunny & promising state in my inmost place . His promises to us are always that if we pursue him, and endure trials, and accept the rod of discipline when we screw-up; that we will emerge in his perfect timing into the place of warm & bright flourishing…where he designed our spirits to live. I trust in God to be true and reliable, so I take hope in this. 
Then I remembered where the fog came from, it came from my own weaknesses and bad choices and spiritual wandering…so in his justice as a good Father, the process of getting me out of it will take time and effort on my part. God will not give us all the answers that we seek while we are in the fog, but will instruct us to put one foot in front of the other and be faithful. Then after watching & helping us be faithful for awhile, will restore strength & vision. God will not bless you with deeper understandings or further visions until you are faithfully doing and being what he has already put in front of you.
God is so faithful! So wise and gracious and good to His children!

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud.I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.Oh, return to me,for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:22


Blaming trouble on the Lord

I was reflecting on how common it is for us, in times of trouble in this broken world, to do whatever we can to push the blame away from ourselves and find a scapegoat on whom to pin responsibility. Often, fault is truly not ours…but when it is we tend to blame others or God, as though it were His job to make us happy. I remembered this fitting quote from a book I read in college by James Baldwin:

“It seems to me that trouble is the one thing that never does get stopped and I don’t know what good it does to blame it on the Lord.” James Baldwin, in Sonny’s Blues

A few words from God to encourage our hearts today:

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world…I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.” Jesus, in John 16:33

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13


God can use our daily trials to grow us

Day 8 with the cast on my right forearm – trying to stay in shape is interesting. It’s waterproof, so the doc said swimming is ok as long as my fingers don’t carry a load. It was the clumsiest & slowest 20 minutes of my life…like swimming with a brick duct-taped to my arm! Actually everything in my life is more difficult. It makes me feel much more appreciative, actually…that is, after I work through the initial frustration and irritation, and give it over to Him to create something better.

We know through Scripture that God is not the inventor of the various sufferings we face in this life… much less the evils that tempt us and pin us down from being who he created us to be. However, he certainly desires to use the limitations and frailties and crappy circumstances that happen to us along the way in this broken life in order to draw us closer into his image…his intended purpose for us in relationship with him.

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:2-5)

Today, father, please draw me close to you…please help me to redirect my frustrations with the trivial difficulties of my life into opportunities to develop endurance, character, and hope from you. Amen.

Did Jesus really say “Do not judge?”

Did Jesus really say in the Bible “do not judge?” What did he mean, and how does it jive with the other things he said? Does it mean that there’s no right & wrong, and that he couldn’t care less about our moral values & choices? I’m probably the last person you’d accuse of being a judgmental finger-pointer – I endeavor to show love & respect to everyone I meet regardless of whether or not we agree about everything…. but I’m pretty sure there’s more to this often misquoted verse than meets the eye.

It has become very fashionable as of late for people to quote scriptures from the Bible that agree with their preconceived ideas. They take individual verses out of context and ignore what comes before and after in order to support views that are important to them. One of the most common examples is in Jesus’ “sermon on the mount” when he said the words “do not judge”. they will take this verse out of context and develop an entire theology around it that seems to indicate that God has no opinion about our opinions and values… And ultimately leads to the belief that there is no such thing as right and wrong, good and evil… which supports the common popular belief that truth is relative. This is a false belief, which happens all the time when people read their own views into the Bible rather than extracting principles from the Bible by which to form their views. Jesus did in fact say the words “do not judge”, but they were in the middle of a sentence, as well as a paragraph, that was not about judging but about hypocrisy…judging a speck in another’s eye when there’s a big plank of wood in our own (now there’s a funny word picture!). At the end of the section it clearly indicates that we are to judge each other as a means of helping each other stay on track, but that it must be done in compassion and humility.

Following Jesus has to mean living life the way that he would live it if he were you or me. In order for me to follow Jesus truly, I must value what he valued, love what he loved, and stand up against what he stood against. If my mindset is anything different than that, then no matter what I call it I am creating my own religion and not really following Jesus at all. Of course people are free to believe and do whatever they want, but let us dispense with this nonsense that we can successfully follow Jesus on our own terms… and avoid trying to make the Bible say things that it does not say in order to justify our own beliefs. We need to become students of the word of God so that we can understand the truth, which Jesus promised will set us free.

I highly recommend you read the sermon on the mount, Jesus’ most famous collection of teachings, in the book of Matthew chapters 5 through 7.