Monthly Archives: March 2011

Disappointed Faith

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I’ll be honest with you. Being a Christ follower hasn’t always panned out in ways I would have expected. There have been seasons in my walk with God that I have been disappointed, frustrated, confused, and even apathetic.

Why?

Because I am human. And because my finite intellect only allows me to rationalize and understand a fragment of who God is and what He is capable of.  I don’t intend to keep Him in a box, but I do. I simply lack the ability to understand Him outside of measuring Him against myself.  

And there in lies the problem.  I have stripped Him of all mystery, omnipotence, sovereignty and glory because I have attempted to contain Him and shape Him by my limited imagination into what I know best: my own limitations.

There were two avenues that led me to this realization on Sunday.  The first avenue was during the worship portion of church service. I don’t remember now, three days later, what song it was that we were singing, but there was  a line in it that had to do with the forgiveness we have received. So I began to repent and ask forgiveness for various things until I heard the Lord say,

I have already forgiven you of those things. Stop repeating your requests and thinking I didn’t hear you the first time. I can’t move on with you until your forgive yourself.  What’s it going to take to let go? What’s the hold up?

Huh… that was not the response I was expecting.

The hold up is me… again.  It’s all my pride attempting to dictate when I have finally paid my penance.  What a shameful waste of time.  And what an obvious root of frustration. My pastor once defined frustration as “unmet expectation.” 

Finally, dots began to connect themselves. Any frustration I had with the seeming stillness of God was simply me keeping Him at bay and then blaming Him for not answering when I called. Same song, second verse, and what a tragic tune.

The second light bulb lit up when my pastor began preaching his sermon entitled “Disappointed in Jesus.”  In Luke 7: 19, John the Baptist sits in prison, awaiting a sure death, and in the midst of what seemed to be likely uncertainty, sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was who He claimed to be. Was He “it” or should they look for another?

John the Baptist questioned in the final moments. John the Baptist, the forerunner and literal cousin of Jesus, wavered beneath the weight of his circumstances and asked the question so few of will ever admit to: “Jesus… are you really who you say you are?  If I did all that you asked, how did I end up here?”

And how did Jesus respond to His beloved?

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). 

Typical Jesus. No direct answer.  Instead, He quotes Isaiah and challenges John, and us, to recall what we have seen Him do because in His actions alone, is proof enough.

It’s no secret that I wrestle with fear, insecurity, and doubt. A lot. But why I continue to is beyond me. The only evidence I have in my life of God is His hand at work orchestrating my every day, providing for my every need, and revealing Himself clearly when I choose to look. And still, I find myself disappointed or frustrated that it didn’t pan out just how I imagined because I have days, like the rest, that are hard.

But I haven’t sat on death row before, like John. I honestly can’t imagine the disappointment or perhaps even disillusionment he may have felt as he sat there trying to rework the equation of his life’s work.  How was this the sum total of his efforts? 

My pastor quoted Gene Edwards, author of “The Prisoner in the 3rd Cell.”  In his book, Edwards concludes,

Die, my brother John, in the presence of a God that did not live up to your expectations.

The question I walked away with was simply this: Do I believe God enough to trust that should the rest of my life bring nothing but suffering, He would walk beside me, ordaining each pain for His glory and my good?

I pray that tomorrow I answer with a resounding yes. I hope the same for you, friend.

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Music Monday

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Bring Music Monday back strong with an incredible song by a personal favorite, Tenth Avenue North.

Lyrics to “You Are More”

There’s a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she’s wandered
And the shame she can’t hide

She says, “How did I get here?
I’m not who I once was.
And I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love”

But don’t you know who you are,
What’s been done for you?
Yeah don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she’s been given new life
But she can’t shake the feeling
That it’s not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try

But don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,

You’ve been remade.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade.
You’ve been remade.
You’ve been remade.

Making It Our Aim

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We make it our aim . . . to be well pleasing to Him —2 Corinthians 5:9

We make it our aim. . . .” It requires a conscious decision and effort to keep our primary goal constantly in front of us. It means holding ourselves to the highest priority year in and year out; not making our first priority to win souls, or to establish churches, or to have revivals, but seeking only “to be well pleasing to Him.” It is not a lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but a lack of working to keep our eyes focused and on the right goal. At least once a week examine yourself before God to see if your life is measuring up to the standard He has for you. Paul was like a musician who gives no thought to audience approval, if he can only catch a look of approval from his Conductor.

Any goal we have that diverts us even to the slightest degree from the central goal of being “approved to God” (2 Timothy 2:15) may result in our rejection from further service for Him. When you discern where the goal leads, you will understand why it is so necessary to keep “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul spoke of the importance of controlling his own body so that it would not take him in the wrong direction. He said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest . . . I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

I must learn to relate everything to the primary goal, maintaining it without interruption. My worth to God publicly is measured by what I really am in my private life. Is my primary goal in life to please Him and to be acceptable to Him, or is it something less, no matter how lofty it may sound?

Hey Kettle. It’s Pot. You’re Black.

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Have you ever had a conversation with someone, say a close friend, in which everything that you said to them turned out to be a truth that you needed to hear?

In other words, the circumstance that they were in, the thoughts and feelings they had, mirrored your own and when you attempted to speak into it  you realized that you had not practiced what you were preaching.

I have a real bad habit of being “that person.”  Let’s be honest, plenty of Christians know what to say, know what to recommend: more of Jesus.  But when it comes to walking that out, well… we stay put.

Last week, one of my closest friends expressed to me that she was very “unsure” about a particular situation she was in.  She knew where she wanted to be, confident of the destination that she hoped to arrive at, but was afraid of taking the next step to get there.

Confident that I could help encourage her from “past” experiences, I spoke up.

Well ___________ (friend’s name), at some point you will have to determine that if the destination holds greater value than where you stand now, you have to step out into the water. Just like the Israelites. When the Lord brought them to the river, He promised to lead them across dry land, but they had to put their feet in first. They had to obey His direction even when they didn’t understand the course.

God promises to grant you the desires of your heart, and if you think you see them just on the horizon, but the river of fears is at your feet, you have to step in first before He can dry them up.

And who’s to say that the roaring water isn’t just a farce.  We all have our insecurities and doubts.  But what if we stepped out into them… I wonder if we wouldn’t realize how shallow they really are. More than that, what waits on the other side should be the bigger motivation. Freedom. Deliverance. Life no longer defined or dictated by fear.

Take the chance. Take just one step.

In that moment, I heard a third voice in our conversation.

“Psst, Mere. God here. I hope you paid attention to what you just said.  Ironically enough, that’s what I have been trying to tell you but you keep avoiding me.”

She didn’t say anything.  I didn’t say anything.  Turns out, I had spoken the very thing I had heard spoken to me, but instead of being encouraged and taking the chance, taking that step, I said “thanks,” and kept sitting on the water’s edge staring at the river.

At least my friend had her eyes on the horizon.  My gaze had been completely fixated on the rushing water.  

If you sit in one place long enough, convincing yourself that your comfortable where you are and that you can manage your fear simply by looking at it, you’ll find you lose sight of the vision because you became consumed by the view. 

My friend just looked at me. “That’s huge,” she said.

“Yeah,” I replied dryly.  “Guess I should give it a shot since I told you too, huh?”