Tag Archives: trust

Jesus Keeps Messin’ with Me!

I’ve been reading a lot lately…a dangerous endeavor for sure. It’s been messing with me. Margaret Feinberg’s Wonderstruck and Scouting the Divine challenged me to look for God in the details of life. God’s divine intervention and handiwork are all around me if only I would open my eyes and become sensitive to it. Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess has me questioning everything from what I eat to what I wear, what I watch to what I spend, and even where I spend it. I’m telling you, MESSIN’ WITH ME!

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But isn’t that what reading and writing are supposed to do? Shouldn’t my current way of thinking and acting be challenged as I gain new insights and knowledge? How else will I grow more like Christ? As I study God’s Word (and read other authors who have studied God’s Word), my heart should soften, my mind transform, and my behavior become more like Christ’s. If it doesn’t, what’s the point?

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Either I believe that what Jesus taught, and what he modeled, is really how he expects me to live or I don’t. Either I believe God’s Word is true or I don’t. Either I learn from the Israelites’ mistakes, heed God’s warnings and stay faithful or I suffer the consequences. Either I believe God is faithful to those who put their trust in Him (Daniel, Gideon, Elijah, and even Jesus) or I don’t. Either I believe God cares about the poor, the orphan, and the widow and calls me to do the same, or I turn away. Either I take “love your neighbor” seriously, or I don’t. Either I forgive others or I harbor bitterness and resentment. Either I step out in faith and risk looking a fool, or I stay in the boat, which might make sense with earthly eyes, but doesn’t allow me to walk on water.

Now those are nice things to say and easy things to think. Here’s the catch: if I actually believe they are true, then my behavior has to reflect that. I have to live life differently. And that is frightening. What if I ACTUALLY DO what the Bible says I should do? What if God really wants me to go through my closet and give away everything I don’t need – not  the “American” definition of need but “third world country” definition of need? Because let’s be honest, I don’t NEED six coats (and sadly that was just off the top of my head). And don’t even talk to me about or think about touching my shoe collection! (Read addiction.) What if God wants me to slow down instead of speed up? What if God wants me to turn off the television, or give it up completely? (GASP – as long as I can have it back before football season and fall sweeps!) What if God wants to use my natural tendency to compare as a way of making sure others have as much as I do instead of making sure I have more? What if?

And why does this all feel so scary, so crazy, and so threatening? I think it is because my identity is wrapped up in the very things God is asking me to let go of and sacrifice for Him. Let’s be honest, I’m a lot more like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to follow Him and then walked away dejected when Jesus said, “Give all of your possessions to the poor” than I’d like to admit. It is comfortable and safe to have a lot of stuff. It is easy to ignore the “have nots” and forget that I’m one of the “haves”. Accumulation feels so good and denying myself doesn’t seem very appealing at all! It is nice to fit in and all the stuff and all the busyness help me create an identity, albeit a false and shaky one. You see, the food we eat, the entertainment we watch, the money we spend, the conveniences of life, the stress and busyness we participate in have all become idols. We worship and define ourselves by these things.

On the other hand, choosing to live how Jesus lived makes me stand out – and not necessarily in a good way! I might get criticized for making decisions that don’t make sense to the world, but store up treasures in Heaven.  And then Jesus comes along and says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)” Jesus commands people who love him to love their enemies and to give to any one who asks (Luke 6). Anyone!? Really? Even the annoying neighbors upstairs?

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So Jesus, can’t I give to the poor and still have my vast shoe collection and keep my brand new genuine leather jacket? I don’t know the answer to that. (Actually I’m afraid I might and just don’t want to acknowledge the truth about my choices.) Jesus, can’t I just love the homeless from a distance, do I really have to actually touch them? Jesus, can’t I eat my $10.00 take out in peace, do I really have to consider those going hungry right now? I know, I’ll donate to the food pantry, that’s good enough right God? Jesus was pretty clear when He said, “That which you do unto the least of these, you do unto me (Matthew 25:40).” He’s onto all of the ways I don’t follow His lead. I’m certain it was with grief, frustration, and a mix of other emotions that He said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say (Luke 6:46)?” I’m afraid that I don’t often do what Jesus said I am to do.

I don’t know what all this means for my lifestyle and I certainly don’t know what it means for yours! I know I’m embarrassed to admit how much anxiety I feel from the thought of shutting off my cable. I’m ashamed to admit how many flips my stomach does at the thought of thinning out my shoe collection (obsession). I’m overwhelmed at the thought of actually getting close enough to care about “the least of these.” But I know what God commanded and I know it is worth wrestling with. I know that I want my identity to be found in Christ and not in the clothes I wear or the activities on my calendar. I know I want my treasures in Heaven and not in the deep recesses of the drawers and closets in my apartment. And how else will I grow if Jesus doesn’t MESS with me once in a while?

Pain Has a Purpose

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I heard a story about Tony Dungy, the former Superbowl winning coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and his young son. Tony and his wife have a large family of both biological and adopted children. One of their young sons began to do some things that made his parents scratch their heads. He would jump from the top of the stairs and not express any pain, even though the jolt of the landing ought to have hurt. He would frequently not notice when he had cut himself or scraped a knee while playing outside. But the final straw came when Tony’s wife caught their young son taking a cookie off a baking sheet while it was still in the oven and put it directly in his mouth. Though the hot cookie scalded his mouth, he did not cry. Though his hand was red and swelling with blisters from the hot baking sheet, he did not show any signs of being in pain. At the hospital, the doctors ran test after test and concluded that the boy had a rare disease that prevented him from sensing or experiencing pain. The Dungy’s lives immediatey changed. They had to constantly check their son for injuries or else he might walk around on a broken leg for weeks and not know it. They had to develop trust that inspired obedience in him because he did not learn from experience and so had to take their word for it.

Although the reason for pain and suffering often eludes us, one thing is always true: pain gets our attention and teaches us. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This is quite possibly one of the most misunderstood verses in Scripture. Note that it does not promise that bad things won’t happen to those who love God nor does it say that God causes the bad things that do happen. The question of why bad things happen to good people is nearly as old as creation itself. If God is so great and loving, why doesn’t he protect us from hurt and pain? Questions of why are rarely eased by answers of reason and logic and theology. Which is why I’m not convinced they should be answered at all. Instead, what if the focus is on God’s character as a healer, comforter, and redeemer. You see, what Romans 8:28 DOES say is that God will use everything that happens – good or bad – for His ultimate purpose, not necessarily our purpose!

My pastor once said, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a puzzle to be solved.” How often I try to solve the “puzzles” in my life instead of just living day by day and trying to enjoy the mystery of it all! What would life be like if I stopped questioning and began trusting in my loving heavenly Father? What would your life be like, how would it be different, if you did the same?

Lessons from “A League of their Own”

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A League of Their Own has always been one of my favorite movies. Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a washed up former Major League ball player whose career was cut short by his own drinking problem. He’s given one last shot at a career in baseball when he’s offered a position as manager of the Rockford Peaches, a team in the newly formed All American Girls Baseball League. Gina Davis plays Dottie Hinson, the catcher for the Peaches and the best player in the league. When her husband returns from the war, Dottie decides to quit just before the playoffs are set to begin. In my favorite scene, as Dottie is about to leave the team, Jimmy looks at her and says, “I never thought of you as a quitter. Baseball gets inside of you. It’s what lights you up.” Dottie responds with, “It just got too hard.” Jimmy replies with, “It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”

So often I avoid doing things that seem “too hard.” I fail to remember that “the hard” is what makes it great. And more importantly, “the hard” is what makes God great. If I never choose to do hard things that stretch me beyond my own gifts, talents, and abilities, I’ll never tap into the power of the living God in me – the same power that gave sight to the blind, calmed the sea, and raised the dead. I’m called to do hard things so that my name becomes less and God’s name becomes more. It’s supposed to be hard so I’m forced to rely on God. I’m forced into a place of trust and dependence on His strength and power. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” And the more I learn to lean on God and trust in Him, the more my faith grows. The more my faith grows, the more God “gets inside of me” and “lights me up inside.”

There’s no doubt that taking the risk to do something beyond my own ability is scary. Trusting God takes courage. However, God knows what He is doing! Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God knows more than we do. He is a good God. He can be trusted. Yes, it is difficult to risk failure by stepping out in faith to do the hard things that God may call us to, but it isn’t really our reputation on the line. It is God’s! If we follow God’s lead, we can’t fail! And remember, any success we experience is really God’s victory, not ours. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” In our fragile and weak moments, God’s power is able to shine all the more.

Where my abilities end, God’s begin.

When I am incompetent, God is competent.

When I am incapable, God is more than able.

When I am weak, God is strong.

When I am fearful, God is bold and courageous.

When I tend to back down, God is more than a conqueror.

When I am powerless, God is powerful.

When I’m ready to quit, God “lights me up inside” and provides the hope and passion to persevere.

What “hard thing” might God be calling you to do? And what obstacles keep you from stepping out in faith?