Take My Hand And Walk

Yesterday I worked really hard, to the point of being physically depleted by the end of the day.  Sometimes when that happens, I wake up the next morning in an emotional funk…feeling like I deserve a medal for the effort I expended, which resulted in my thrashed state of being.  But the morning doesn’t care about how amazing my accomplishments were yesterday, my bones ache, my dog irritates me, and I feel discouraged & negative.  This morning was one of those.
I start drinking coffee as soon as I get upstairs, and instinctively start to search my mind for something to help me get over the hump…a grand purpose to refuel my motivation.  The world’s voices tell us to find meaning & resolve within ourselves, or our accomplishments, or our possessions, or pleasure, or adventure, or whatever….ANYTHING BUT THE ONE THING WE WERE MADE FOR.
If you know me well, you understand that I am not a prude, stick-in-the-mud adherent to religious rules & traditions, but hear this: The older I get, the more I am convinced that the sincere love of God, the life of following Jesus, and the hope of our eternal home, is what makes this life not only bearable…but joyful.  I needed a perspective check this morning, and I found it while listening to the words of one of my favorite old Jesus songs, “Take My Hand And Walk” by The Kry:
“I know there are times your dreams turn to dust.  You wonder as you cry, why it has to hurt so much. Give Me all your sadness, someday you will know the reason why.  With a child-like heart, simply put your trust in Me.

Take My hand and walk where I lead, keep your eyes on Me alone. Don’t you say “why were the old days better?” just because you’re scared of the unknown.  Take My hand and walk.

Don’t live in the past, cause yesterday’s gone.  Wishing memories would last, you’re afraid to carry on.  You don’t know what’s comin’, but you know the one who holds tomorrow.  I will be your guide, take you through the night if you keep your eyes on Me.

Faith is to be sure of what you hope for and the evidence of things unseen, so take my hand and walk.  Just like a child holdings daddy’s hand, don’t let go of mine…you know you can’t stand on your own.

Take My hand and walk where I lead, keep your eyes on Me alone. Don’t you say “why were the old days better?” just because you’re scared of the unknown.  Take My hand and walk.”

The Lure of Power & Possessions

Try to remember today that lasting joy & peace cannot be found in power or possessions.  Some would say that these are among the pantheon of American gods…I would agree.  Neither is evil, but both are snares when pursued for themselves.  In the grand scheme of things, both are meant to be the currency of giving….in other words, they are not meant to be pursued…but given away.  Consider the wise words of Jesus:
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.  So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  (Luke 12:31-34)

Believing in God vs. Believing Him

In what is arguably the most well-known scripture in the Bible, Jesus states that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  That’s John 3:16…well-meaning Christians hold up signs for it at football games, trying to get the message out.  But what does it mean to “believe,” really?  It seems to me that there’s a big disconnect between the sincere, life-giving belief I read about in the Bible, and the hypocritical kind I see around me in the lives of many who say they believe…and often in myself as well.
I think a great deal of confusion exists about the correlation between our perception of who God is, and our experience of God in our daily lives.  In part, much of the confusion comes down to the definition of the word BELIEVE.  You may “believe in God” and yet have no appreciable connection with Him, really….so it makes absolutely no difference in your everyday life.  BELIEF, in that case, may be just a passive & detached agreement with a list of religious facts that kick-in after you die.  But that’s not what the Bible word “believe” means.  It’s a living, breathing, committed relationship that controls your life.  I would argue that many people who believe in Jesus actually don’t….any more than they believe that a tsunami will wipe out the Oregon coast without warning someday.  It’s possible, but it’s not going to keep one from enjoying a trip out to Seaside on a sunny day.  The one who believes that a tsunami is coming would never go beyond the coastal range.  What we truly believe in controls our motivations, values, and behaviors.
Believing has to do with putting one’s trust in something….even to the point of sacrificing something dear to you in order to maintain or obtain something even better.  I not only believe that God exists, but I believe Him.  I believe that His opinions and values are true and right and worth following….simply because He’s God and I’m not.  Belief has to do with trusting and submission…and this produces understanding & meaning & peace.  When this rebellious mind of mine refuses to believe, demanding self-determination, sooner or later I end up at the same dead-end….once again needing to acquiesce to my Savior.  Following is today’s devotion from “Jesus Calling”…
“Let Me control your mind.  The mind is the most restless, unruly part of mankind.  Long after you have learned the discipline of holding your tongue, your thoughts defy your will and set themselves up against Me.  Man is the pinnacle of My creation, and the human mind is wondrously complex.  I risked all by granting you freedom to think for yourself.  This is god-like privilege, forever setting you apart from animals and robots.  I made you in My image, precariously close to deity.   Though My blood has fully redeemed you, your mind is the last bastion of rebellion.  Open yourself to My radiant Presence, letting My Light permeate your thinking.  When My Spirit is controlling your mind, you are filled with life and peace.”

I implore myself and you today, believe in Jesus.  

Growing Your Veggies is like Growing Your Spirit

This is a picture of my new veggie garden.  I just planted lettuce, spinach, kale, and snap peas.  I’m totally excited about it, which makes me sound totally old, right?!  The garden plot has been occupied for the past many years by our above-ground swimming pool, but the kids barely used it last year so we retired it and I’m still trying to sell it on Craigslist.  OK, back to the garden.

I think that gardening….the art & commitment to growing stuff…is a lot like our spiritual lives.  We don’t know exactly why & how seeds grow into plants, but we know what to do in order to cooperate with nature so that it happens.  We can just become students of what different kinds of seeds do, what they require, and put-in the hard work that’s needed to make them behave in the way they were designed to by the Designer.

Like plants, we all want to grow, to be healthy & protected, to bear fruit and be lovely & useful.  In life, we want to be blessed, to be favored in our circumstances and fulfilled in our hopes & dreams.  We all want to go to heaven when we die.  We all want to love and be loved.  We want to make others happy. We all want to internalize the lessons we learn from our mistakes, getting stronger & wiser as time goes on.  We all want to make a difference in the world, so it’s better because we were here.  But in my experience, not many people are willing to do what it takes to nurture these outcomes.  Instinctively, these are all manifestations of the GOD STUFF in us, and it is THROUGH GOD that they ultimately find their fulfillment.

Every one of us was made in God’s image, and that image lay within us like seeds.  The amount to which the God stuff grows within us, out from us into the world, and underneath us propelling us into closer relationship with our Creator beyond this world, is proportional to the amount of commitment we exert in seeking those things in the manner He has revealed to us.  We don’t invent the rules, but we can learn to cooperate with them.  Scripture calls this kind of lifestyle “submission”, “faithfulness”, “walking with God”, etc.

If you want a withered & weak spirit, ignore all this and do whatever you want.  But the God of the Universe has reached into human history and left footprints for us to follow.  If you’re open to Him, and want the best of what He created you for, it’s not necessarily easy but it’s really simple.  Seek the objective truth of who God is relentlessly, read your Bible for real, pray like God is actually there, spend time with other people who are more committed to following Jesus than anything else, be generous to others with time & money, say “no” to passions & temptations that inhibit your dedication & growth in God.  The growth and fruit is worth it….it’s the only thing that’s worth it that will bloom into eternity.


Tough Question 6: Why Does It Seem Like God’s Way Is Against the Way of the Real World?

Tough Question 6: Why Does It Seem Like God’s Way Is Against the Way of the Real World?

Because it is.
Because our ideas of the purpose of life are most often in direct contrast to God’s.
Because God’s Kingdom is more real that the world we currently live in.
Because we were made for something else, something far more whole, but it hasn’t started yet.

Wow, this sounds like the Matrix, right?! (one of my all-time favorite flicks)

Remember that guy Copernicus, the one who said that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the sun revolving around the earth?  Before his bold proclamation in the 16th Century, it was generally understood that the earth was the center of the universe.  Well, guess what, it’s not….and the Copernican Revolution changed science forever.  To me, this is a perfect analogy for the intrinsic human assumption that we are the center of the universe.  We may not actually “believe” that, but we sure do consistently act like it, don’t we?  Our behaviors telegraph our inner values & belief systems…the real ones.

We act like our lives in this world are the only lives we have, and that after we die, we’re done.
We act like the purpose of life is happiness, and that happiness is the result of circumstances.
We act like success is measured by comparison with others.
We act like comfort, pleasure, and entertainment are the keys to the enjoyment of life.

Put these things together, and you have the perfect recipe for disappointment, pain, and suffering, because they’re lies.  Even if they seem to work, it’s only for awhile.  We’re creatures, created by a Creator, who alone is at the center.  And when that Creator created everything, He made us as the pinnacle, the high point, the ones to whom He would make Himself known…through all the trials & tribulations His people have earned & inherited for themselves throughout history.  But we’re not at the center.  All this is working towards a climax at the end of what we know of as “history”….when time will converge to a singular point, and then end abruptly….and eternity will continue, according to the author’s design.  And all the temporal ideas and diversions that seemed so important to us in the midst of the previous life will melt away.

There are many, many things I am troubled by and do not understand…but I do wholeheartedly believe that the meaning, purpose, pleasure, and result of this life can only be found by embracing the Creator at the center of all things…on His own terms.  To me, it’s the only thing that makes sense.  It’s the beginning and end of all that is objectively REAL.

“Our citizenship is in heaven…and we eagerly await a Savior from there.” (Philippians 3:20)


Tough Question 5: Why does God let bad things happen to good people?

Tough Question 5: Why does God let bad things happen to good people?
Anyone with a pulse has probably asked that question.  If there really is a God out there, and if that God is all-knowing and all-powerful like the Bible says, then why in the world doesn’t He do something about all the crap down here?  Disease, famine, war, injustice, genocide, pollution, etc….why doesn’t He put an end to all of it if He has the ability to do so?  The short answer may surprise you.  It’s LOVE.  Let me explain….
First of all, let’s take the “bad things / good people” dichotomy.  At the end of the day, there are no “good people” or “bad people”….there are just “people.”  Sure, there are those who are “gooder” and “badder” by comparison with everyone else, but intrinsically we are all a mixed bag.  In our spiritual nature, we are very, very good.  God created us that way…unique as the only creatures made “in His own image.”  We are worthy and valuable and wonderful by nature, and capable to amazing acts of love & beauty.  That being said, I think it goes without saying that we’re all imperfect and somewhat compromised in our inner center of motivation…each of us prone to pride & narcissism in our own different ways.  This is not how God created man & woman, but it is how we ended up, following what C.S. Lewis refers to as “The Great Divorce”….when Adam & Eve, the first man & first woman, broke their relationship with God and were cast out of His presence into a fallen world. 
That world has gone through many changes over millennia, nevertheless it is the same fallen world you & I live in today.  We are, all of us, the same mixed-bags of goodness/badness.  So to wonder why bad things happen to “good” people, really doesn’t make any sense to me.  What DOES make sense is the deeper meaning it points to about God’s love.  God had to create man & woman with the ability to make that choice….to choice to obey & stay or to rebel & leave….or it would not have been love.  God loves us so much, always has & always will, that it was worth the risks to create us with the right to choose. 
My 18-year old daughter is about to graduate from High School, and 2 months after that we’ll move her down to Phoenix, AZ, for college.  I love my daughter dearly, and I desire that she love me too.  Because of our love for her, my wife & I have been loosening the reins gradually over the past year or two.  Not only because it’s our job to help her learn to be successful and responsible without us, but also because we desire her to love us after she leaves.  If we put a bunch of unrealistic rules around her to limit her mobility, or smother her with attention, or try to shelter her from the adult world, we would be doing her no favors.  Actually, it would reveal a shallowness to our love for her, and it would tarnish her love for us.  Love and trust are related.  When she goes away from home, I hope she doesn’t spend time in dark rooms alone with stupid boys or start doing drugs or get in a fatal car crash or decide she wants to worship Satan.  But because I love her, and I desire for her to love me too, I must give her complete freedom to do what she chooses, regardless of the consequences…because REAL LOVE IS WORTH THE RISK.   I would give my life for my daughter in a hearbeat…but this is just a taste of the love God has for us as we sojourn through this fallen world of pain & suffering.  He beckons us to Him through the storm.
Final thought, from Timothy Keller’s book “The Reason For God”:

“The Bible says that Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation.  He had to pay for our sins so that someday He can end evil and suffering without ending us.  If we ask the question: ‘Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?’ and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is.  However, we now know what the answer isn’t.  It can’t be that He doesn’t love us.  It can’t be that He is indifferent or detached from our condition.  God takes our misery and suffering SO seriously that He was willing to take it on Himself.”