Thursday, August 10, 2017

Paradox

One of my favorite poems from The Valley of Vision
Paradoxes have always been brain candy for me. I remember when I discovered the book Valley of Vision in college. It is a revised collection full of puritan poems, prayers, and devotions, and they seemed to enjoy paradoxes as much as I do by the way they write their poems. 

This past week I was reintroduced to a paradox that I discovered back in high school, and I have been so encouraged as I keep dwelling on it and praying about it. We all need to be broken in order to be made whole.

When reading the Scripture, God’s view of the proud and self-righteous person is strong. James 4:6 says that “God opposes the proud.” If you get a chance, take some time and do a word search through the Psalms of the words “break” or “broken.” God is pretty explicit about how He will break down the wicked, yet then in Psalm 34:18 it says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Here enters the paradox. Is it possible that God can be the one to break us and yet also be the one to heal our broken hearts? Well, my personality also has a paradox. I’m very stubborn, yet I’m also laid-back. Personalities always have some type of paradox, and God’s is an amazing picture for us to grow and become useful instruments in His hands.

I remember in high school, I thought it was cool to compare myself to an egg. An egg has to be broken to be used as anything worth value. An unbroken egg will eventually go bad, just like an unbroken person will eventually become…well, a rotten egg.

The point to brag on is not the broken shell though. Oftentimes people get stuck being proud about their brokenness. We throw that away and start praising God for how He can use us after we have been broken and submit ourselves to Him.

This became an important paradox to me in high school because that was when God began to break me down. Recently as I talk to those around me, many people seem to be in the broken state of mind, but they are not letting God heal them and use their brokenness. I struggle talking with people who are completely broken and yet still refuse to give their lives over to God. It is a painful place to be, and I know there is not much I can do for them.

He [God] heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

You [God] will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17


Bitterness against God doesn’t make sense. Our choice is either to be a rotten egg or a useful one. God wants to heal us and use our stories and experiences to further His kingdom. We just have to wrap our minds around the paradox that "the broken heart is the healed heart" (Valley of Vision). His process is not only good; it is perfect.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Double-Minded

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4:8

I have found myself meditating on this verse for over a year now, and I’m still not done with it. There is so much to think and pray about concerning the first half, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” I haven’t focused as much on the second half though, other than recognizing part of drawing near to God is cleaning up life and living under His standards. This past week though, the word double-minded has been turning over and over in my head.

Double-minded is a harder concept for me to think about because others can’t see it necessarily. Our minds are ridiculously complex, and the amount of thoughts that we think about in one day is impossible to count. I am currently taking a class for a job preparation right now, and I started monitoring my brain during the very long lectures. It is amazing how many things come to mind while I’m listening! I would like to say that all my thoughts match up with the direction I want to go in life, my relationship with the Lord, and holy living, but in reality, I feel like my mind tends to go wherever I know I won’t go.

Peter talks about the way we need to be living holier lives in I Peter 1, and he says in verse 13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

How does one prepare your mind for action? Or how do we train our thoughts to think FULLY on the grace of God? A long-lasting relationship with God can’t usually start with only our actions simply because actions without love is worthless (I Cor. 13:1-3). Yes, our actions need to change (seen in the purifying our hands part of the verse), but there is also the deeper struggle of purifying the things others don’t see, otherwise we are living double-minded lives, or saying one thing with our actions but letting our mind be somewhere else.

Changing one’s actions seems relatively easy compared to controlling our mind and thoughts! Like I said, the mind is beyond complex, and the number of thoughts that run through it every moment seem impossible to control. It goes back to the heart of a relationship with the Lord. Doing this on our own is so impossible. But, when we draw near to God, and we want a relationship, and we openly talk to Him about our thoughts and how difficult it is, He will help.

When I am in class, and my brain is active and running loops around me, the only way I’ve been able to capture them and relax them a little is to talk to God during class about the word double-minded and how I desperately don’t want to live that way. Basically, it is as simple as the verse puts it. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Ask God to save you, and He will save you. Talk to God about the struggle and how you need strength, and He will protect you and give you strength.


On a side note, I feel for my teacher. Teaching kids and holding their attention is hard, but having a group of adults and holding their attention and brains seems even harder to me!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Forgotten God

I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:7

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:22-24

Forgotten God by Francis Chan
Here is another book that I have been trying to find time to post about recently. I have listened to the audio version of this book two times, and now I’m slowly reading it again in my spare time to digest some of the details even more. Something very close to my heart is truly following the God of the Bible and building a relationship with Him. I have seen so many holes in Christian living over the years: works based religion, hypocritical lifestyles, switching to a god that actually is not the God of the Bible, or just mediocrity in relationships with God.

Something, or Someone, seems to be missing a lot of the time from the Church in large, ministries, and relationships, and Francis Chan does an awesome job at Biblically talking about what we are missing. This has been such a challenge to my own walk with the Lord as I try to grow closer to Him and follow His direction in my life.


If we look like the world, than something is wrong. If we are true followers of the God of the Bible, the Spirit of God is living inside of us, meaning we should look like Him/very different from the world. Just as a simple example, if I told you that the spirit of Julie Andrews was living inside me, you would expect that to mean I could sing beautifully just like her! But, if I then proceeded to open my mouth and not be able to hold a tune, what would you think? You would think that the spirit of Julie Andrews was in fact not living inside me. Silly as it may sound, we do this to the Spirit of God all the time. There is a problem if we claim He lives in us, but we show no evidence of His work in our lives.

This book is full of Biblical meat for Christians craving to know God more intimately. You should read it!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Relationship Status

James 4:8
 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Zechariah 1:3
Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

Matthew 7:7
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

A lot of the responsibility for how close we are with God falls on us. There have been times of my life where I’ve looked at certain people who were so close with God and envied them or wondered how they did it. But, it is in my power to be closer to God. He has promised me that He will be as close to me as I want to be.

Working harder to look like a Christian, act like a Christian, or sound like a Christian was not the point of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. A works based Christianity will eventually push people away from Christ. A relationship with Christ is truly what we need to change us, and His support, love, and guidance is worth more to me than all those other things that I chase after.

When it comes down to it, I cannot help someone grow closer to Christ unless they choose to draw closer to Him. I cannot expect to grow in my own walk with the Lord unless I choose Him over everything else in this world. Thankfully though, the moment I, or anyone else, chooses to return to Him, He has promised to return to us! We definitely are not following Christ for the reward, but I will say the reward of being close to Him should keep us coming back every time we fail Him and slip  way. An eternal relationship with Him is better than any temporal relationship here on earth, which is why relationships here on earth should be centered on growing closer to Him and not fulfilling fleshly desires.
  


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Proverbs 3

Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart

  3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.
Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

Blessed Is the One Who Finds Wisdom

13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
    and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
    and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called blessed.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
    by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
    and the clouds drop down the dew.
21 My son, do not lose sight of these—
    keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 and they will be life for your soul
    and adornment for your neck.
23 Then you will walk on your way securely,
    and your foot will not stumble.
24 If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden terror
    or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
26 for the Lord will be your confidence
    and will keep your foot from being caught.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
    who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason,
    when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence
    and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful,
    but to the humble he gives favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor,
    but fools get disgrace.