Friday Poem: The Author

Quill Pen

As the author picked up his pen,
A thought ran through his head:
“How will they remember me when
My life’s spent and I’m dead?
Will they read the books I’ve written
And mourn the loss to art?
Will they say, ‘With work was he smitten;
Too bad he had no heart.’?
When they reflect back, will they smile
At each witty anecdote?
Or will they put my works on trial
And condemn all I wrote?
I trust the small things I do will tell
My love for people then,
And hope to be remembered well
When I set down this pen.

When God Loves Us Enough to Hide From Us

hide-and-seek12Sometimes, it feels like we’ve been waiting on God for years. Even though we’ve been here just over three months, looking for a job has taken its toll on us. Our financial reserves are running out and our faith feels battered and worn down.

It feels like God has hidden Himself from us because, though we’re doing what we believe is His will, we aren’t getting clear direction. The only direction we’ve seem to have gotten is, “Not this job,” which tries our faith still further. We don’t know exactly where we’re supposed to be focusing our efforts, when or from where the money will come, or why God had us move here in the first place.

And yet there’s a small part of me that says that we’re here to learn to trust in Him. We’re here to learn to love Him more than the things of this world. He’s hidden Himself that we may seek Him.

After Elijah called fire from Heaven to burn his sacrifice, thus defeating the 400 prophets of Baal, Jezebel threatened him and he ran for his life. God sustained him, then he went to a cave in Horeb. There, God told him to stand on a mountain. When he did, a mighty wind broke rocks, but God was not in the wind. An earthquake came, and then a fire, but God was in neither of those either. Finally, there was a still small voice.

It was that voice that was God and Elijah had to be quiet to hear Him.

Too often, we seek God’s thunderous voice and the earthquake to shake up our world or, worse, try to create our own earthquake. Sometimes, when it feels we’ve been waiting on God, it’s because He’s waiting for us to seek Him.

Why Loving The Creator And Not The Creation Is Not Just Wrong, But Impossible

I’ve heard Christians say before that they don’t love other people. I’ve been one of them. As an introvert, I don’t get excited about parties and meeting new people like extroverts do. As someone who has struggled with judgmental tendencies, I’ve found myself frustrated with humanity when people knowingly do things detrimental to themselves with no apparent benefit. (Case in point: Joseph Randle, a Dallas Cowboys player recently arrested for shoplifting $123.50 of merchandise. Randle makes $495,000 a year.)

Yet how am I supposed to react when I hear things like this? When I hear of people complaining of how unfair it is that they slept around, but got pregnant or caught an STD? When I hear about people bashing “the system” or “the man” when they work only hard enough to not get fired?

With love.

Always with love. 

And the reason is simple: God loves us, even when we’re that foolish. You can pridefully say you’re not, that you haven’t stolen anything, that you’ve taken few risks and accepted responsibility for the ones you’ve taken, and that you work hard every day. All of that may be true, but none of that matters. Every time any of us chooses ourselves over God in any way, we’re at least as foolish as anyone we tend to point our fingers at. How else could we choose to harbor a grudge even when our mountain of sins has been forgiven? How else can we explain getting angry with God over His refusal to give us what we want?

It’s impossible to be angry with someone to whom you don’t feel superior in some way. A little humility, however, in realizing that we’re all fallen, lost, and, yes, foolish, will take out all that sense of pride, which is probably the most foolish thing we can have.

I’m no better than anyone. Were God to look at me and Hitler side by side, without taking into account Jesus’ sacrifice, we’d be equally worthy of Hell, just as Moses, Peter, and Daniel would be.

If you want to love others, first realize that you’re no better than they are. 

Second, remember what God has saved you from. Imagine for a moment your greatest fear, and then your second greatest fear being added to it, and your third. For me, this would be something like being on a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon, with scorpions all over me while being lit on fire. Then multiply the pain and agony and fear as far as you can in your mind and imagine that this is no mere nightmare, but an eternal torture that will never improve, never slacken, and that you’ll never get used to. You still won’t be close to what Hell is like because we can fathom neither true hopelessness nor eternity. We can’t fathom knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is a God more glorious than we can imagine, but Who is not coming to our rescue because we’ve rejected Him.

And yet, while we are still on this earth, we have the ability to choose Him and not just be spared this torture we earned countless times over, but be allowed to spend eternity in God’s presence, glorying in Him. Streets of gold, never dying, no night, no sickness or ailments – absolute perfection in all things forever. All as a gift for us, all of us who believe in Him, regardless of our pasts.

Third, know Him. Even though we’re created in God’s image, you can’t learn that much about God from spending time with people instead of Him. But by knowing Him, you’ll learn His heart for other people because you’ll learn His love for you.

You cannot have His love in you without it flowing out of you toward others. Just like a pitcher must be filled with clean water before it can pour out clean water into glasses, you must be filled with God’s love for you before you can love others His way. It is impossible to be full of this clean water and pour out dirty water or nothing at all.

Seeking Feedback

Hello, everyone. Some of you are long-term readers, some may be reading this for the first time, but I have a request:

help me help youI want to know what areas of self-confidence you’re most curious about, what issues you’ve been having, what you’ve tried that hasn’t worked, and any questions you have about it. I’ve been actively trying to grow the audience of this blog, so next week, I’m going back to basics on what true Christian self-confidence is and I’d love to know what topics would be most beneficial to you. Whether you’ve been here since the beginning or are a recent follower, let me know how I can help you grow.

Thanks!

Are you carrying your god or is your God carrying you?

Remember the last time you carried something heavy? You want each step to be your last so you can set down whatever you were carrying. Or, if you were carrying it for exercise, you were thinking about how much stronger you’d be after this. Either way, I’m betting you didn’t enjoy carrying it. Even if you were holding a baby (and all the women went, “Awwww…”), that bundle of joy and drool would get heavy. We don’t like carrying things.

So why then do we so often insist on carrying our gods?

Isaiah 46 talks about the uselessness of idols, telling how people would weigh out silver and gold, then take it to the goldsmith, who would fashion a god from it. Then they’d bear that god on their shoulders back to their home or temple and set it on a base, from which it wouldn’t move.

Why worship a god that can’t even move? What good is a god whom you have to carry?

People don’t worship Babylonian gods anymore, but we make gods out of money, relationships, sex, and jobs. Money can get you out of some trouble, but only be decreasing your store of it. And it can be useless when you have certain diseases or are suffering heartbreak. Plus, making lots of it requires sacrifices of your time and potentially of your health. Also, if gods are supposed to be above us, why make a god of something you have control over?

Some people stay in damaging relationships because they’re afraid of being alone. Others give their hearts away readily only to get them broken time after time. Those in relationships often base their worth on what their partner thinks of them. While your spouse should be with you in hard times, there is only so much they can do and they can and will let you down at times. Sex and jobs likewise have high potential costs.

In all of them, there is a trade. You give up time to make money so you can buy a nice home, so time = home. Or you sleep with someone knowing there’s a chance of pregnancy, which may not be desirable just yet, or disease, so sex means a risk.

With God, there is no risk, even though there is far more to lose. 

God’s not very good at this whole fair trade thing. He gives His Son for dirt that He had given life to, dirt that He’d created with just a word and could easily create more if He wanted. He forgives us our sins against Him if we forgive others’ sins against us. He offers us the eternal paradise of Heaven for believing in Him and knowing Him. And, as if that’s not enough, He patiently works with us every day to get us to be more like Him. That may sound like something we’re giving up because it means the changing of certain habits for a lot of us, but He gives us far more in the peace of knowing and trusting Him. Yes, you may be called to give up possessions, career, and even your life, but for a surer hope than your possessions, a life calling, and eternal life, what a deal!

Our God is dynamic. Omnipotent. He carries us when we’re weak, lightening our burden rather than becoming one Himself. And you will never have to carry Him.

Is the Old Covenant a Curse or a Blessing?

There are two types of covenants in the Bible: those built on the law and those built on Jesus as the fulfillment of the law. The first type seems to be a curse because there is no way we can live up to its demands. Even though there are hundreds of laws in Leviticus, there was only one law in the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve still broke it, perhaps within a few days or weeks of being created. Because God is holy, the breaking of this type of covenant has but one punishment: eternity in Hell, whether you break one law or break them all repeatedly.

It’s frustrating sometimes to go on CNN and read any article on religion because the comments almost invariably include someone trying to say God is evil by bringing up verses like Leviticus 20:9 about stoning rebellious children. (See this link for a more thorough discussion of this verse.) Those who use this verse and others like it forget or ignore two things:

1. God is so far above us that our opinion of His law is irrelevant. It’s like a cockroach getting angry at you for trying to step on it. It has no authority to tell you your judgment is wrong and cannot escape your punishment by refusing to believe in you. Likewise, God is above being questioned by us. We are little clumps of dust on a small rock in an unfathomably large Universe that He created by speaking it into existence. What He wants to do with us is not only law, but righteousness, no matter what we think of it.

broken-chain_00312511

We’re no longer bound by the chains of the old covenant.

2. We’re not under the curse of the old covenant. We have the covenant of the promise Paul talks about in Galatians 4:21-26. Now we are under a new covenant, which is built on the fulfillment of the old one. And this covenant sets us free from the rules of the old, replacing the old covenant’s rules with just two. We are to love God more than anything else and love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s it. And we’re promised forgiveness if we forgive others.

It’s such a human thing for us to do to assume that love and acceptance from others must be earned through a fulfillment of certain terms and conditions. Even Leah and I catch ourselves doing that with each other. She thinks I have less reason to love her if dinner isn’t perfect and I think I’m failing her if we don’t have a nice house. We do much the same with God because accepting His unconditional love is an overwhelming and completely humbling venture. We don’t want to give up our pride and accept something we can’t earn.

Personally, I think the old covenant was created precisely to break people of their pride. Not a single adult (I don’t know at what age an action for a child becomes sin if they know no better) before Jesus managed to live according to God’s rules all of the time. Everyone sinned, even if only once. Those who chose to ignore their failings became proud, but those who remembered their failings and the punishment for them could not help but be humbled.

And for those people, there is a new covenant that raises them to a higher place than any amount of keeping the old covenant ever could have. They are now sons and daughters of God, heirs with Christ. Even if someone fulfilled every last law in the old covenant, that person may earn their way to Heaven, but would do so as a chief among servants, rather than as a son.

The twist is that it is the old covenant is actually a blessing in disguise, for it makes us require the new covenant, which is easier, more forgiving, and has a better blessing than the old ever could. Without the old, there would have been no need for the new. And God gave both, that in all things, He might receive the glory.

All That Was Needed

“I cannot do this!” I cried out,
And to this I heard no reply.
“I failed again!” did I shout,
But God did not answer why.
Angered now and so full of shame
That not good enough was my best,
I stormed off cursing my name
And knowing I’d failed God’s test.
“What you want from me I don’t know!
Nor do I think I have it to give;
I need to let this burden go
For this way I cannot live.
I tried to live, God, by your rule;
I failed, I sinned so many times.
And being human, hence, a fool,
I repeated one by one my crimes.
I tried to witness but cannot speak
Your truth in a way they would hear;
I’d be on missions, but am so weak
And crippled still by my fear.
I cannot do this!” I cried out,
And this time my cry was heeded.
“I know,” God said, “Without a doubt;
But your heart was all that was needed.”