Owned

This is a passage that, if you consider it honestly and seriously, will rock your world and radically change your priorities:

Luke 12:31-34 

But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  HCSB

I’m praying for the courage to take the hard look necessary to be a faithful disciple and change where change is required. 

TGC Article: 8 Lies Christians Believe About Success

Man, this is such a great article on the lies Christians believe about being successful in life.  If you are serious about being a faithful disciple of Jesus, I would highly recommend you read and re-read this from The Gospel Coalition blog.  Here is an excerpt of a few of the lies we easily fall for:

lightstock_12509_small_seth_magnuson__350_233_903. God helps those who help themselves.

When God tells us to become like a child, he doesn’t mean “become like a child emotionally but make sure you have life insurance and pension and a stocked pantry.” No, he means seek first the kingdom of heaven and all of these things—the food, the clothing, the future—will be added unto you. He wants to take care of us while we devote ourselves to him. And it will probably mean appearing foolish to the rest of the world.

4. You are what you make of yourself.

There’s a lot of pressure to speak up, to be assertive, and to make your name known lest you get lost in a sea of pixels. But Jesus says the last shall be first. Despite being God, he made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient to death—even a cursed death on a cross (Phil. 2:5–11). He trusted God to glorify him, even as he emptied himself of glory. We’re called to do the same.

5. Suffering is a sign of failure.

When did North American culture become adverse to pain? If we begin to feel uncomfortable, we pop a pill. If we struggle with depression or discouragement, or if we encounter a terrible diagnosis, we rush to therapy or the doctor instead of first going to the Father and asking him what he wants us to learn through this suffering. God uses suffering for our good, even if it should end in death. We carry around within us the death of Christ, and we will never know the power of Christ’s resurrection if we don’t enter first into suffering.

You can read the full article here.

When Despair Creeps In

weaknessIf I am being completely honest and transparent with you, I’m struggling.  I’m wrestling with the mental affects of chronic pain.  Now, chronic pain can be labeled in different ways and is usually reserved for pain that has no real end in sight.  Hopefully, that is not the definition for me.

I have been dealing with some form of pain in my left shoulder for over a year.  It’s a very life-altering thing that has changed how I do life in significant ways.  I am hopeful that there is an end in sight as I am recovering from surgery performed one month ago tomorrow.  In light of that, I have hope for normalcy.

That being said, I’m still dealing with some significant pain.  I write that not for pity, but with a mind for those who are dealing with pain much more severe than mine and with little hope for relief in the near future.  I know something of the mental anguish that is involved with extensive physical pain.  I understand a little of the twinges of depression that try and creep in.  I feel the despair that lurks around the edge that maybe this will never go away. It’s very real.  It’s very challenging.

Any time we have challenges like this in our lives, it causes one or two things to happen.  One, we get angry.  We give into despair and begin a downward spiral of sadness, anger, rage and self-destruction.  In short, we run away from God.  We don’t understand why He would allow this in our lives.  We can’t get our minds around a loving God who would allow such suffering with no relief in a way no earthly father would, if he could stop it.  Yet, the suffering continues.

A second possible response sees things differently.  Though he hurts the same, he runs in a different direction.  He runs to the God of all comfort in the midst of pain.  He holds onto God’s promise that was made to Paul during his suffering: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Paul’s reply, appropriately, is, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

This second response is the one I am holding onto.  I understand that bad things that happen in my life are not for my punishment (that was taken care of by Christ on the cross).  Instead, as John Piper put it, they are for my purification.  I am made strong through suffering.  I am made more Christlike in tough times, because that is where I learn to rely on His strength rather than my own.  I feel weak.  I know God is strong.  That’s the glory of the Gospel…the glory of the cross.

I work my shoulder everyday.  I go to physical therapy faithfully.  I pray for healing regularly.  I believe it will come.  I am content, though, knowing that in my weakness, He WILL BE strong!

Hold on!

A song for the wilderness.

I talk a lot about “The Wilderness.”  All of us experience it and often we have no idea why we’re there or how or when we’ll ever get out.  We ask a reasonable question: “If God loves me, why doesn’t He deliver me?”  Well, I’ve often said that God is the God of the wilderness.  It’s one of the places His voice His heard most clearly because it’s the place where all of the other noises are drowned out and we get to a place of desperate listening.

Laura Story (writer of the hit song, Indescribable, recorded by Chris Tomlin) has written a song in the midst of walking through a wilderness of her own with her husband, Martin, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2006.  She has found the God of the Wilderness to be faithful even when all the questions aren’t immediately answered.  Does God bless in the wilderness?  Is there more than meets the eye?  Are blessings only related to prosperity and success?  Listen to Laura talk about her own journey in the wilderness and then watch Laura sing her song here.

The Fight for Purity

                

Purity is something that we battle for all of our lives.  If we’re not battling for it, we’ve already given up on the idea.  For a Christ-follower, purity is not an option, it is a command; an expectation; a requirement.  Purity goes hand-in-hand with holiness, which we are called to be since Christ is holy.  Makes sense really: Christ lives within His followers. Holiness and unholiness don’t mix. Something cannot be both pure and impure at the same time. You are one or you are the other. 

Therefore, the battle must be waged.  It’s not easy. It’s often not fun.  It is, however, a matter of life or death.  I would say ask any one of several who have lost the battle, but most of them are dead now.  Amy Winehouse is one of the most recent examples.  It starts by giving in a bit and in small areas, usually, then the enemy completely overwhelms.  Listen to hints of the progression towards destruction from Winehouse’s own mother (source): 

In an interview in 2008, her mother Janis said she would be unsurprised if her daughter died before her time.

She said: ‘I’ve known for a long time that my daughter has problems. 

‘But seeing it on screen rammed it home. I realise my daughter could be dead within the year. We’re watching her kill herself, slowly.

‘I’ve already come to terms with her dead. I’ve steeled myself to ask her what ground she wants to be buried in, which cemetery.

‘Because the drugs will get her if she stays on this road.

‘I look at Heath Ledger and Britney. She’s on their path. It’s like watching a car crash – this person throwing all these gifts away.’

How bad does it have to be for one to come to terms with a child’s death before it ever happens because you know it’s inevitable?  If we give up the spiritual battle of purity in our lives (and you’re fooled if you think it isn’t spiritual), then you given in to all that is destructive. 

Old married guys (just like singles) have to deal with it, too.  Everyday, married couples have to wrestle with issues of purity: our thoughts, our practices and our habits.  We are called to purity in all aspects of our lives all the time.  It’s a fight.

I just read a really good, article on this struggle and some great advice on how to deal with it.  Read this excerpt (and then read the entire post):

Trisha and I have spent more time apart this summer than we have at any time since our separation five and a half years ago. I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t brought up questions and concerns and conversations. I’ve been free from pornography for almost six years. It no longer has a grip on my heart. But neither of us are stupid either. I’m one choice away from compromising my integrity; my relationship with God; my marriage; my boys. I know that.

 There’s a lot of honesty in there.  Honesty is where it all begins.  Being honest with ourselves, our weaknesses and our failures.  Being honest with God regarding our need for Him.  Then understanding that this is going to be a lifelone fight for our lives and for our families.  

It is hard…very hard, but it is worth the fight.  

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