Category: God

He Is For You

He Is For You

Right now I think it’s easy to wonder, Is God paying attention? What’s on his mind?

The words, music and facial expressions in this powerful collaboration by dozens of churches in the UK provide and answer: He is for you. It’s the same message wherever we live.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and allow this message, The Blessing, to wash over you.

A Spirit of Sadness

img_3554Today I’m filled with sadness.

This doesn’t often happen to me. I try to go about life with a spirit of gratitude and joy. Yet, I have known for several years now that the tragedies we encounter on almost a daily basis—whether personal, related to family or friends, or on a global scale—pierce me on an increasingly deeper level with each passing year.

I first noticed this deeper piercing a few years ago when I read of two local college girls, home on a brief break, gassing up a father’s SUV for a trip into the mountains, whose vehicle was hit by another car pulling into the adjacent gas pump. One of the girls was in the gas station buying snacks; the other pumped the gas, standing between her SUV and the gas pump. The collision caused a spark which became a conflagration that burned the girl alive. Paralyzed bystanders could only watch in stunned horror.

A Do-It-Yourself-Psalm

A Do-It-Yourself-Psalm

diyI’m not much of a poet, but Psalm 124 provides a template that even I can follow in writing a personal expression of praise.

If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the Lord,
       the Maker of heaven and earth.

The first two verses begin, “If the Lord had not been…if the Lord had not been…” The stage is set for the harmful consequences for us without God’s intervention.

Verses 3, 4 and 5 tell what might have happened to us: “they would have…it would have…it would have…they would have…” We clearly see how badly things would have turned out.

Verses 6 and 7 describe the results of God’s protection of us: “He has not…we have…it has been…we have…” We express gratitude for what God has done.

When you have time for uninterrupted reflection fill in the blanks with an example from your life: “If not for the Lord…it would have…they would have…instead, he has…so I have…”

“Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” v. 8

How would you fill in the blanks?

Remembering What We’ve Never Known

“I desire something I vaguely recall; I long for something in my future that somehow I remember.”— Cindy Crosby Have you ever found yourself longing for something undefinable? Some spiritual or emotional experience you sense is out there, but you can’t necessarily describe? I have; and I think almost all of us do. To me […]

Will You Wear A Mask This Year?

Will You Wear A Mask This Year?

Jack and DannySo, I was enjoying a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend at Starbucks, when all of a sudden I was staring at Danny Devito and Jack Nicholson. I took a double-take. What in the world are they doing here?

But on my third-take, I had a sense that something was wrong. While these men looked very much like the well-known movie stars, there was something just a little bit off, a little bit false, in their appearance.Jack

Curious, I went over to their table and said, “OK, you know why I’m here, who are you guys?” They gave me their cards and confirmed that they were celebrity impersonators. Their calling in life was to represent someone other than who they really were.

We may chuckle, but the truth is we often do the same—we spend great effort portraying ourselves to others as someone other than who we really are. It’s a mask we wear in order to cover up what’s flawed, or to impress others with an image beyond our true selves.

DannyThis pattern, portraying a false self, is epidemic among mankind, and it began very early in the human story. When the first man and woman were caught in deceit, and God came looking for them, their immediate reflex was to cover up and hide:

  • “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked…and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:7
  • When they “heard the sound of the Lord…they hid.” v. 8
  • When God called to Adam, he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” v. 10

With that starkly honest, and horribly revealing exchange, a pattern was set for all men and women who are aware of their fallenness and flaws—”I’m exposed, I am afraid, I must hide myself.” We learn to hide flaws behind a mask, and promote a false self that we think impresses others more than who we really are.

The problem is, that on a certain level it works. There are many masks we take on that effectively cover up, impress, or intimidate:

  • Blamer/Victim.
  • Stoic/Tough guy/Loner
  • People-pleaser
  • Performer/Impresser/Workaholic
  • Perfectionist/Expert/Authority
  • Intimidator/Attacker/Winner
  • Pious legalist/Judge/Condemner
  • Rebel/Passive-ist
  • Clown/Joker

Author Larry Crabb says, “We are ruthlessly committed to self protection.” That is the underlying longing behind every one of these false-self masks. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are following the footsteps of Adam and Eve, and we believe: I am naked, I am afraid, I must hide myself. All of us are ruthlessly committed to wearing masks that provide self-protection.

The Enemy, who is the ultimate deceiver, sees the genuine gifts and talents that God has given us, and urges us to distort them into self-protective impersonations:

  • The man with high quality standards becomes the demanding Perfectionist.
  • The man who enjoys making others feel welcome becomes the Joker who hides his true heart.
  • The man who cares about the needs of others becomes the People-pleaser controlled by the opinions of others.
  • The man of conviction and strength becomes the Intimidator who insists on getting his way.
  • The man with persuasive ability to inspire others becomes the Performer who impresses.
  • The man with enormous energy becomes the Workaholic enslaved by his job.

The mask of the false-self is a broken distortion of our true self; ruthlessly committed to self-protection.

The saving grace is that behind that false-self mask is a godly longing for what mankind once experienced in the Garden:

  • The Perfectionist is longing for acceptance
  • The Joker is longing for joy
  • The People-pleaser is longing for love
  • The Intimidator is longing for security
  • The Performer is longing for respect
  • The Workaholic is longing for significance

All of these longings were placed in the human heart by the Creator, and they were all fulfilled when we first walked with him. But then we turned away, realized we were naked, and we hid ourselves.

Those God-designed longings are now fulfilled when we reject our dependence on our mask for significance or security, and walk instead in the security and significance of relationship with the Father who accepts us unconditionally.

In the parable Jesus told of the Lost Son (Luke 15), the father tells the ashamed, rebellious son, I will never reject you. The father tells the resentful, performing son, You will always have me and everything I have. The heavenly Father says the same to you and me.

Everything we truly long for is provided through relationship with the Father. No mask, no false impersonation, no matter how convincing, will ever satisfy what the Father already gives us: significance, security, relationship, meaning, love.

I urge you to rest in the significance of being the man God had in mind when he created you: the man who inspires, improves, creates, organizes, encourages, defends, assists, instructs, or heals. Be that person, not just some lame impersonator of someone else.

He’s a genuine man, with gifts and flaws, the world really wants to know and really needs.

A Whimsical, Unloving God?

I think one of the struggles that Christians and non-Christians share is understanding how God, who says He is the embodiment of love, allows the horrors we see around us virtually every day. I’ve heard many Believers say it’s the question they intend to “confront” God with when they get to heaven. It’s an honest […]

A Whimsical, Unloving God?
When It Rains, It Hails

When It Rains, It Hails

stormIn the past few months I’ve grown increasingly weary by a series of unmet hopes and regular-life challenges. I recounted to a friend the technical disruptions that began first with this blog, and then the Peregrine website, being hacked; thousands of dollars being defrauded from two accounts (since reimbursed); email turning annoyingly glitchy and then entirely “dark,” disrupted for days.

I also related the hail storm that caused thousands of dollars of damage to our car, the nine weeks of limitless repair delays, followed by an unbelievable claim against us (which we are contesting) for another $1500 hail damage on the rental car after we returned it. I mentioned a few other issues that felt like unfair piling on and he responded, “Wow, when it rains, it hails.”

We all know that feeling: the periodic seasons in our lives when it seems that everything that could go badly, does. We watch friends’ marriages fall distant until they finally divorce in exhaustion; the shocking physical maladies that follow one after another, seemingly at random; financial losses at the hands of others who have no sense of integrity; the slow, gradual passing away of parents; children who suffer teasing or discrimination through no fault of their own.

When does it end? I have felt the sadness, pain and confusion of friends, and have had very little to offer in terms of advice. I’ve recognized that I’ve felt bewilderment, compassion and even agony at their suffering. I’ve also increasingly recognized that I’ve been angry. At God.

Though it may sound dangerous to admit it, I know God is certainly “big enough” to handle my anger. Many of the most honest authors in Scripture have admitted as much. It has felt in some ways like righteous anger, ironically, to feel this way on behalf of others. Increasingly, though, I’ve needed to admit that I’m angry at God, on my behalf, not just on others’.

The challenges I encounter pale in comparison to those of other friends; and they certainly do in comparison to a man like Job in the Old Testament. But rereading his story is revealing to me some important principles. In the book, The Gospel According to Job, author Mike Mason points out that Job’s first response in trial was to worship God. But he did so honestly. Was he filled with some sort of other-worldly peace and joy in the middle of his suffering? “No, not at all. He was as broken and cast down as a man can be.” (p. 35)

Yet he still chose to worship (Job 1:21a). Mason points out that “real worship has less to do with offering sacrifices than with being a sacrifice ourselves.” (p. 36) I’m reminded, yet again, that this world is so horribly broken that we will regularly encounter the disappointments and tragedies life offers to all.

When you and I feel the weight of the world’s brokenness, when it seems that it is not only raining, it’s hailing, remember that our very lives themselves are an offering to God. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, for this is your spiritual worship.” (Ro. 12:1)

An indication of growing spiritual maturity is the ability to worship in the middle of life’s hailstorms.

My Non-Resolution List for 2014

My Non-Resolution List for 2014

Lars Leber Photo

I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Hope for 2011,  that I’m not particularly fond of making New Years resolutions. I do, however, value the opportunity to recalibrate my spiritual compass by reviewing areas where I see a need for growth, and by clarifying priorities for prayer and choices I make in the coming year.

If you read the previous post you’ll notice some similarity with this year’s list. Either that means I’m spinning my wheels making no progress whatsoever, or else the Spirit continues to reveal deeper levels of maturity for me to experience. I’m going with the latter interpretation.

My Hopes for 2014 are:

1. Choose Joy

This remains an area where I regularly notice how short I fall. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve prayed for more consistent joy in my life for over 30 years. It remains an area in which I long to grow.

I still claim the words of Job 8:21: “…He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”

2. Be Grateful

As I survey my life landscape I am stunned at the variety of ways God not only provides for Beryl and me, but goes far beyond the minimum requirements. He shows his goodness in so many ways; I don’t ever want to take him and his Hand for granted.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Ps. 16:6

3. Overflow with Hope

My thoughts on this are described in some detail in the above post so I’ll refer you to that, rather than repeat them here. I’ll just say that a spirit of Hope, (in God’s character, not in my efforts) is still one of my highest longings.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Ro. 15:13

4. Embrace God’s Presence

Here’s another repeat from 2011. I still want to do it more. To be regularly aware, in whatever setting I am in, (at a worship service, on the interstate, at a sports event or hiking through a forest) that God’s presence was there before I showed up, and He surrounds me every moment I’m in that setting.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.”Ps. 139: 7-10

5. Bring the Spirit of Christ

My longing and my Hope is that increasingly, in every interpersonal encounter I have throughout the day, every day, I will bring the Spirit of Christ with me. I say this with glaring recognition of how often that isn’t the case (as in a recent 1 hour and 40 minute internet tech “help desk” conversation with 4 people from 4 nations, with varying English and tech skills, that left all of us exasperated and exhausted).

I would be thrilled if God worked in me to the point where, when I am with someone, it feels increasingly for them, that Jesus is present.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Phil. 1:27; 4:23

So, these are my Hopes for 2014. I share them so I remember them; so you can ask me, “Hey, Craig, how’s that Grateful thing going?”; and so God might choose to bring increased growth in these areas for me. It would be a miracle and it can only be through Him.

What are your hopes for the coming year? I’d love to hear them.