a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: God (Page 2 of 3)

No Room for Guilt and Shame When Growing Deeper

This weekend I found myself having a conversation with a wonderful lady who was “filled up” with the love of God.  She had shared though how during the week she struggled with yielding over trust to God in a situation and that it surprised her because she thought she had settled that issue.

I then found myself sharing something that I had actually never articulated before and I pass it on to you.  I too have been filled with shame and guilt and discouragement thinking that I too have settled issues only to be returning to them again and again.  I have come to see this differently.  Of course there are times when we actually return to the same issue as we don’t always really give it up and grow through it.  But more often we sell ourselves and the growth that God is actually accomplishing in us short.  Becoming like Jesus is a life long process and just like we can’t see a tree grow moment by moment, we do see it year over year.  We need to get a higher view of our journey and not judge ourselves in the moment.

First off guilt and shame are NEVER God’s desire for us.  So whether we are dealing with the same issue over and over or not, we need to find ways to react that lead us toward God.  He came to offer grace and freedom from guilt and shame.  Godly sorrow and the Holy Spirit’s conviction are more appropriate.  They lead us forward to change and growth.

But in addition to that, I suggest that what we sometimes interpret as discouragement from facing the same issues over and over may in fact not be the same thing at all, but a deeper level.  Here I am not talking about sin specifically, but the areas of yielding trust and faith to God’s control in our lives.  Every step of the way on our journeys is going to be met with opportunities to trust Him.  And they are not like going back to the fist step on our path.  I too wish that I was perfect in trust.  But I am not, and neither are any of us.  But that doesn’t mean that we are not maturing and growing.  And in that process we are digging into deeper layers of issues in our lives that need to be handed over to God.

Instead of interpreting your latest opportunity to trust God as a failure of having yielded yourself fully to God last time, see it as growing deeper.  At the last opportunity you, to the best of your ability and passion and awareness may have fully offered yourself over to Him.  But as He is working in you for His good will, He may be taking you to a deeper or different aspect of something familiar.

Keep leaning in to God’s heart and growth for you.  Don’t let your own guilt or shame derail what God is doing in you.  Instead, and again, let the godly sorrow and Holy Spirit’s conviction propel you to a deeper walk with Him as you become more like Him.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  Philippians 3:12-16 ESV

(Listen to Jeremy Riddle’s Sweetly Broken.  “At the cross you beckon me. Draw me gently to my knees.”)

Living Worthy

Just to be straight from the start I am making many references in this post to the writings of Matt Chandler; The Explicit Gospel and To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain.  They have recently been informing my thoughts, particularly since my growth group is going through the second book as we focus on the Letter to the Philippians.  I wholly encourage you to read these books!

In Philippians 1:27 Paul writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  From my “moralistic, therapeutic deistic” view of life I was raised in, this was always a verse that shamed me, kept me in check, and was anything but liberating.  As so many of us have been raised in the church have come to believe, perhaps not in our teaching, but in our behavior, we are constantly attempting to “manage” our sin to be worthy or acceptable to God.  We know about God’s grace and and even teach it, but then somehow behave in a manner that is all about managing sin to appear moral.  So many of our sermons and Sunday School lessons could be boiled down to “stop sinning, pray, read the Bible”.  And certainly those are expected behaviors.

But that flies directly in the face of what God says to us.  Through Christ we are ALREADY acceptable.  His work on the cross was complete and we are free.  The disciplines are not the goal or even the path to growth!  They are the results of growth, of an intimate relationship with Jesus.  I know that sounds odd and likely it’s not quite as black and white as that.  But the focus of our lives should be Jesus!  And it is too easy for us “not see the forest through the trees” and live the kind of life that elevates the disciplines over the relationship, even to the point of pushing out intimacy altogether.

So what does it mean to live worthy of the gospel?  It means to ascribe worth to God.  Let our lives not be self-focused, but God-focused.  To Live is Christ!  Every moment of our existence should be to bring glory to God.  He is not shaming us or guilting us or asking us to manage our sin that we might be counted worthy.  I could never be worthy!  Salvation, the gospel, is not about me and my need, but God’s great majestic love and mercy.  Because He is loving He chose to rescue me from my sin.  He alone is worthy and there is no other God like Him.

So living worthy means to direct our eyes to Him and allow Him to be big in our lives.  To give over residence to Him so that our self-efforts have no space left.  Then as Paul continues to write you will, “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.”

So then shedding the entanglements of sin and living out the Christian disciplines are responses and natural outcome of a life where we have fallen in love with Jesus.  They are no longer attempts in hope that we will be picked to be on the team, but the results of one already on it.  It’s a difficult dance to be sure.  For us to see where the motivation in our hearts begins.  Is our relationship with Christ the foundation or the goal of our behavior?  I think this is where Revelation’s letters to the churches come in – “you have forgotten your first love”.  We may start well but somewhere along the way it becomes about the routine, the discipline, and we begin to deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve got it handled.  But we don’t!  John’s plea to not “claim we are without sin” is not for the first moments of our conversion, but for our whole life.

But even here I am not trying to focus our eyes on our sin!  Stop striving to manage sin, to be worthy in your efforts and instead rest in God’s greatness, the power of the transforming gospel, and direct your life’s passion to ascribing worth to Him.  Let your “striving” be for living together as one for faith of the gospel.

Prayer:  God help me, help us as your body, to recognize the transforming power of the gospel and to be free from trying somehow to make ourselves worthy.  Help us not to get caught up in shame and effort, but instead to rest in the full measure of your grace and see just how big you are and can be in our lives.  May our life’s goal be to know you in the power of your death and resurrection.  A power that causes our sin to die once for all and to be made new again in life.  And may we be filled with such a response of praise that our whole life ascribes worth to you through a unity of faith in the gospel!

Beyond the Sun

Waves of sadness and joy course over me as I have an “aha” moment.  Once again, God has shown me something.  Not anything new to mankind, but a deeper awareness of what he has been saying all along.

I have have been hungering more for God and leaning in to that posture more and more lately.  I am excited to see what God is doing in me and around me and I want more of that. 

But how that takes shape is continually surprising.  Recently I found myself repeating an experience that I have had in the past.  Something I knew then was not the best for me but it didn’t hold the same weight of grief when done in the past.  But this time, it truly grieved me after the fact.

Jumping ahead, this morning I am reading Matt Chandler’s, The Explicit Gospel, and he writes this, “In the end, there is nothing under the sun that brings lasting fulfillment.  You have to look beyond the sun.”  This of course is a reference to Ecclesiastes and the preacher declaring all is meaningless, there is nothing new under the sun.  While reading this, the song in my headphones became clear to me. “set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.  I want more of you God, I want more of you! (Set a Fire, Will Regan & the United Pursuit)

Back to my grief of sin.  I am not trying to justify or excuse it in any way, but there was a positive side to this.  I discovered that as I fill my life’s ambition with more of Christ, the impact of anything less than him, is greater.  I was broken because I had disappointed Him.  That is a right response.  But rather than get stuck in the shame, I now see instead the joy.  I have tasted the Lord, and He is good!  I went back to try something else, but it just didn’t satisfy like it used to!  In fact it tasted outright bad.  Am I glad I tried it again?  No.  But am I glad that I had this awareness, YES!

What is under the sun is meaningless and is old, stale and unsatisfying.  It may not be “sin”.  It may just be normal pursuits.  But in comparison to the fire that God set’s within our hearts, it just won’t do.

Writing Your Story

I have been listening to a number of different speakers lately that have all woven the idea of one’s story into their messages. The idea being that the narrative we live is in many respects up to us and we have the ability to write our own stories. Of course this is not a new topic or idea, but the language used; plot, narrative, meta narrative, etc gave it new life to me.

If we feel our story is meaningless or boring it is because we have written such a story. Theologically this has implications because many of us have come to conclusions that we are just waiting on God to direct us. We are then often passive characters in our own stories. And while God is sovereign and may at times have very specific parts for us to play, more often His plan is general. He desires all of us to experience love, redemption, forgiveness, to participate in His mission and be maturing followers. But as one speaker said, unless you hear a donkey talk or are a pregnant virgin, you likely are not on a specific plan.

So feeling stalled? Has your story line lulled? Begin re-imagining the next plot line. Ask yourself “What if…” questions. What if that fear was overcome? What if you forgave that person? What if you moved to a new state or country? What if you adopted a child or took in a foster kid? What if you changed careers to follow your dream? See which ones stick with after a few days and then follow that storyline out to its conclusion.

I too believe that we often feel God’s will is more specific than it is. One of my guiding verses is Psalm 37:4. When we delight ourselves in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart. The discovery of God’s will is far less mysterious than most of us make it to be.

What we need to remember, however, is that every good story has conflict that is overcome. Our narratives will not be free from failures, missteps, or tragedy. They may not even have the short-term happy endings we desire. While we are writing our own stories, we are only co-authors, and sadly God is not our only contributor. Many others are adding their stories into ours and ours into theirs.

The point to this though is that we take more of an active role in our own narratives. In creating the ending we desire. Think of your story in movie form. How is it ending as the credits roll? Along the way did you root for yourself or were you falling asleep while watching? Is it a story of heroism that inspires others or a cautionary tale?

As followers of Christ we are assured of the ultimate “happy ending” but that doesn’t prevent us from squandering the life we have until then. I reflect on Christ’s words that He came to give us life to the fullest. He also reminds us in the parable of the talents to not operate in fear of Him being a hard taskmaster and wasting the opportunities afforded us. Instead he rewards the risk taker, the one who invests and lives.

Until we are dead we have a responsibility to live. Live the fullest life you can imagine. One that glorifies Him and serves others. One that reflects justice and mercy and grace and beauty.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYQ7FlND93c&w=560&h=315]

A great soulful cry to trust in the strength of God!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjn9sw6aXnk&w=560&h=315]

God is unchanging, unstoppable and unshakeable! I remember years ago when taking teams of students to Mexico, every time we hit a bump in the road on our plans that I would gather the entire group together and give a good news/bad news update. I would start with the bad news, delay of getting to location, truck breakdown, loss of supplies, etc and then follow it up with the good news, “But God is still on the throne!”

God is not surprised by anything. He never steps away from the throne to take a break. He is all-powerful and all-engaged in our lives. We can place our trust in Him and yield our dreams to Him. Believe you me, He dreams more for us and to a greater measure than we could ever imagine!

Live “dangerously” and be transformed by who He is. Shed the “first world problems” of what our lives get so consumed with and focus on the greater needs and concerns of life – the lost and broken world in need of the love and forgiveness of God.

I am not suggesting our issues are not real to us – they are. Let’s just get perspective in light of eternity and in light of a sovereign God. This is my journey as of late. To be reminded of the weightier purposes in life. To know God more intimately and thus be compelled to share Him more!

Surprised by God Once Again

I spoke a message this weekend to our church as part of our series, Roadblocks. (addressing the issues in our lives that keep us from going deeper in our faith).  My message was on the “Fear of Risk.”  I always find it amazing that as I near speaking a message God takes me through experiences which challenge me to “own” the message.  This message  topic and date had been calendared many months ago, but as we neared it I had the whole crisis of faith regarding our house sale (read the story in earlier posts).  I of course wove it into the message and I believe I was sharing truth I didn’t just know about but knew.

But in the midst of all of this I am still working out the rebirth of many other dreams.  The dream for financial and “stuff” freedom is only part of a bigger dream to live a “dangerous” gospel again.  I have felt like I personally have gotten in the routine a lot in the last few years.  I have been on a serious journey these past two years to be shaken up and out of my comfort zone.  God is working in me to dream again, to hunger for more of Him, to be used more by Him, to be more radical in Kingdom building.  Along the way I have been addressing family of origin issues that were holding me back, I have dealt with issues where I was placing my trust and finding comfort in more than God, and most recently the home sale where God was working in me to show me that not only can I hear His voice prompting me, but I can trust Him to take me through it.  But this is not the end of what is going on.

I had a meeting the morning before I spoke the message and the person in the meeting used a phrase that I had planned to say in the message.  A key phrase that God used to jolt me and confirm that what we were talking about I needed to sit up and pay attention to.  It was in the context of a growth change that I was dragging my feet on and finding ways to say, “yeah, but…”  But God took me right back to what I felt He was leading me to say to the church, “Your whole life has led to this moment to take the risk, the risk that will bring the breakthrough!”

Once again, “my” messages are really God’s message to me first.

Whatever comes my way I will trust You…

Sometimes statements like that are only seen in light of trials and storms. But trusting God during the calm and joyful times is even more important to remind ourselves to do. It is in those times when we are tempted to forget the very real presence of God who carries us. It is in those times when we may even begin to take some sort of credit and fail to give God His due.

As much as I appreciate the God who rescues, I am grateful that He is sovereign and is mighty and in control in the good times as well. He doesn’t just show up when I need Him, but is with me even when I think I don’t!

Ruin me Lord!

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide,
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN

A Four-Fold Benedictine Blessing by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

Heard this today and loved it.  I don’t want to hover above the grittiness of life.  I want to be compelled to do my part.  Not sure how that looks.  I’m not the activist type, but don’t feel you need to be to make a difference.  I think most of all, you need to be the “heart of God” type.  What breaks His heart should break ours.  The saddest state is that a person be lost to eternity with God through Christ.  But in order to get there we sometimes need to meet them at their most perceived needs.

I have heard people say, “I am ruined by God.”  A very odd statement since God is the restoration business.  He makes all thing new!  But what is meant by that is that He breaks our pride, or self-sufficiency, our self-importance so that He can use us to reach a lost world.  And to that end, I desire to be “ruined”.  It has been and once again is my prayer, “Have your way O God.  I step aside so that you may be seen in and through me.”

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