Monday, August 27, 2018

Got any Failures?

When was the last time you felt like a failure?  It could have been as long ago as ten years, or for me, less than 72 hours ago, but we all have times when we feel like failures.  And it’s definitely true that we all fail.  Because we are human, we miss the mark and don’t live up to our potential.   

Have you ever stopped to think about how many of the ten commandments King David broke?  Do the exercise.  It might surprise you…. but then it might encourage you, because after all of that, he was still called a “man after God’s own heart.”

They key to getting beyond our failures is to honestly repent and be willing to believe that God has forgiven us.  Check out some verses from Psalm 51 when David was calling out to God after Nathan confronted him following his sin with Bathsheba:

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

If we have a broken and contrite heart, God sees that.  He knows our hearts and He is there, through Jesus, to forgive us, no matter how many times we fail.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Got any Desires?

If you have known me for a reaallllyyyyy long time, like since the previous century, you may remember this truth that God taught me way back in the early 90s.   I had a job that I enjoyed immensely as the Dean of Student Development at what was then Bartlesville Wesleyan College.  My fourth year there in that position God began stirring my heart about the country of Mexico and I ended up leaving my job, selling everything I had, and moving there for a couple of years to help a Bible college get accredited.

As I was raising my own support to head there, I used this verse from Psalm 37:4:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Prior to that summer, I had always interpreted that verse as saying that if we will delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us what we desires -- the desires of our heart.  But I came to understand that if we delight in him He will give us the desires themselves.    The more we delight in Him, the more the desires we have align with His desires and the more they lead us into adventurous, radical, 100% outlandish places that give us the fulfillment we can't even imagine.

The first desire that He gives us is a desire to know Him, a desire FOR Him, a desire to have Him be the center of all that we are.   But then He goes farther and gives us the desire to serve others, the desire to pursue His dreams, and the desire to make our lives count the way that HE wants to make them count.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Got Any Valleys?

I bet you are thinking that I will soon run out of metaphors that describe bad times in our lives.   Not yet!

A valley is different than the others though, because we often picture it between mountains.   So a valley can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing.

A valley is a good thing when your mountains represent really hard climbs and difficult situations — they are a break between trials.  But when mountains represent mountain top experiences, then valleys aren’t so great.

When I was a teenager, I loved youth camp.  It was my favorite week of the year and I am still in touch with many of the people who went to camp with me 40 years ago.  Yikes.  Typing that made me cringe.  But I digress…

Our youth camp was nestled deep in the mountains of Colorado, so we had literal mountain top experiences.   I remember coming home just knowing that I would be able to sustain the spiritual power and presence of God like I did at camp.  This year, I would tell myself, I would be that person that I knew I could be long after I got home.   And then I would walk into my house and was greeted in a not-so-pleasant way by my younger brother and it all fell apart immediately :-)

You know what I’m talking about though, right?  Does does some amazing thing and we are flying high, convinced that it is going to last and suddenly it is over.  The feelings go away.   The key is to remember that when the feelings fade, God is still there.  That part doesn’t change.

One of the most significant examples of this is the story of Jesus and Peter, James and John when they went up to a mountain and saw Jesus transfigured in  Matthew 17.  Immediately impetuous Peter says — Hey, this place is great.  Let’s put up some tents and just stay right here.  But Jesus knew that life is not a series of those emotional highs and they leave the mountain.  

In Scripture the very next passage is about a demon possessed boy.  Now I’m not comparing my youngest brother to someone demon possessed (thought I’m sure I thought that as a teenager) but you get the picture.  Sometimes emotionally charged spiritual experience come back to back with darkness and we have to figure out a way to make it through those days.

If you are on a mountain top, enjoy it!  Rejoice in those great times …. but realize that there will more than likely be a valley to follow.  And if you are in a valley, realize that there will be another mountain top soon enough — it’s just the rhythm of life.

This song got me through the valleys of my youth.   Anybody else listen to this about a zillion times a few decades ago?

Or if you’d like a more modern version of the same concept.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Got Any Doubts?

So, do you have any doubts?  Most people do.  Even people that you would expect have it all together and are confident and self-assured still have an inner voice that says, “Am I really the right person for this job?  Can I do what I’m being asked to do effectively?  Am I really making a difference?

Self-doubt can plague us, especially if we allow ourselves to be seen through the eyes of our biggest critics.   When we go down that road we start to obsess about the negative things people say and begin to believe them.   What if really am as ______ as ______ says I am?  

There’s really only one opinion that matters.

Play this song and let the words soak in.  It will do you good.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Got any Wastelands?

Wastelands are deserts…. dry spells….. times when God seems far away and distant …. times when we are thirsty for Him and can’t seem to find Him.   Times when our souls feel dry and parched.

I was listening to this passage on Monday from Isaiah 43:

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

And when I realized that this was the verse that I had shared with my team the first week I was at my job.  I had no idea what was ahead.

In the past when I read this passage I read the words (my paraphrase) “I am doing  a new thing!  It’s springing up, get it?”

What I didn’t focus on was the next verse... a way in the wilderness, a stream in the wasteland.   Sometimes in order to get new things, we have to spend some time wandering in the wilderness.  Moses spent most of his life there and he was one of the greatest leaders of all time.  Jesus, even though He was God, in order to understand humanity, had to spend forty days there.

As human beings we all want to find a way apart from the wilderness and enjoy springs without wasteland.  But they go together and if even Jesus wasn’t spared from that experience in His life, we can’t expect to be either.

If you are finding yourself in a wasteland right now or you feel like you are wandering in the desert, God is doing a new thing.   Right there in the midst of the dry spell, he’s making streams and showing the way.   Look for them and you’ll find them!