When All Creation Cries…

Rain

(FreeImages.com/SimonSmith)

I awake this morning to more news of suffering and tragedy. The air is heavy with humidity, and I wonder if it isn’t the tears of this world, groaning because of the depths of such suffering and such evil. Hearts are heavy, and as much as we couldn’t exist without God’s grace and long-suffering, we hold our breath in collective question and ask, “How long, Oh Lord?”

Tears pour down, and I grieve for the mommies who want to hold their precious babes one more time. …for husbands and wives who wish they could love one more time… for children who wish they had a parent to kiss their tears away… There are no simple words for anguish so deep.

Within this heavy, collective breath, I see Him, like it was yesterday, hanging there on the cross, and saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He was perfectly sinless; they were perfectly evil. Why does He say, “They know not what they do?”

Perhaps, the answer is this: if we all really saw and understood the heart of God and His purpose and plans for our life… if we saw what He desires for us and tasted of His goodness and His life… if we really and truly understood… if eyes weren’t blinded by lies, evil, and suffering… if people didn’t turn away from their true Source of comfort, peace, and love and turn inward, trying to cover the searing pain and questions…

Then, we would know that the answer to this world’s agony is not enacting more laws. It’s turning to the One who doesn’t just turn a deaf ear to our suffering, but He took on our suffering and became one of us. He not only suffered along with us, but He suffered for us. He carried agony that we will never experience.

That is why the cross is a picture of “Unfathomable evil intersected with unfathomable grace at the cross.”

Advertisements

What The Cross Really Represents…

Dirty Fingerprints

(FreeImages.com/StephenDavies)

This struck me so powerfully this morning:

Unfathomable evil intersected with unfathomable grace at the cross.

And I am undone… because this. challenges me. to forgive. to love, even the unlovable. to “fellowship” with those who don’t yet understand their value to God. to be patient. because what looks like too far or too low looks like something completely different to God.

Sometimes, it means I need to get a little dirty because grace takes the ugly and wraps it up in the garments of love.

When The Hard Questions Abound…

Tea party

(FreeImages.com/PontusEdenberg)

Two close friends and I sat, cross-legged on the floor, drinking tea… comfortable enough to ask some hard questions. The questions went like this: “If God is both good and Sovereign, why do we see such evil in this world?” It’s a question that lingers in a lot our minds when we see the depths of evil that shatter our innocence and the sweet idyllism of youth.

These friends and I have come to know our God personally, and we know Him enough to know that He is good. We have seen His power, and we know He isn’t weak. So, why evil?

While sipping the comfort of the tea and gazing at the love-filled eyes of these dear friends/sisters, it struck me!  We look at this so wrong so often.

There are two parts to the answer: one is that God has chosen to give us free will. I see this over and over again. Love gives the freedom to choose. Anything forced or manipulated is not true love. With the ability to choose means that evil will exist.

The fact that we see both good and evil in this world demonstrates that there are two forces at work in this world: the force of evil and the force of good. I believe intrinsically we all know this, and our sub-conscious reflects this in movies and books.

What struck me though while listening to this discussion is we wonder why there is evil if God is all-powerful and all-good when in reality we should wonder why there is any good in this world except there be a good God?

The fact that there are examples of sacrificial love, faith, hope, true joy, true peace, generosity, and selflessness indicates that there is present a God who is good — Whose influence permeates this world from falling beyond hope and from yielding completely to the baser elements of evil.

God is Sovereign and God in His sovereignty chooses to allow free will.  Why?  I believe it’s because “wills” are important to Him.  God wants us to exert our wills to respond to Him.  He wants us to exert our wills to surrender to His loving and all-wise guidance.  God woos us for this purpose.

We should not be shocked there is evil in this world — rather we should be amazed that there is good, life, and how many times we are protected and bad things don’t happen.  A world left to itself would only portray death.  It would be a base world where only the strongest, smartest, and most charming survive.  It would be a world where selfishness dominates — where people are only as valuable as they are useful or “usable.”

God though doesn’t operate that way.  He loves the unlovely.  He forgives the “unforgivable.”  He redeems the “useless.”  He takes the ugly and makes it beautiful.

In the end, evil finally will be obliterated.  God’s justice will prevail, and the baser elements, the suffering, the anguish, the pain, the evil will be removed.  Why?

Because love always triumphs over evil, and truth always trumps the lie.  The day is coming!

The time we have now is a gift — a gift to respond to a God who is love, truth, and just!  The choice is ours!

I choose Him.  What about you?

This. Is. It!

Ray Of Light

(FreeImages.com/CarterPerrier)

I love it when God removes the “blinders” and reveals truth to me!  The interesting thing is that often it’s truth I have known in my head but somehow didn’t really understand and/or believe it, meaning live it.

Remember, what you believe is what you live.

It’s interesting how “old truth” suddenly becomes “new truth” when you finally really “see” it!

That’s how it was for me when I realized anew the truth of the following insights God was revealing to me — truths I had “known” before but not really knew.

For example, I blogged previously how God showed me that faith isn’t something God quantifies; it’s something we simply need to have, and that it’s the Object of our faith — God Himself — that is the Source of our faith.  We can’t produce authentic, powerful faith through our own ability to muster up faith.  We have faith as a result of knowing our God — Who He is.

Secondly, I have come to treasure prayer and to view it as the amazing privilege it is — the opportunity to partner with God in His work in another person’s life and the incredible privilege it is to communicate with God.

I used to think prayer was me, naming off a bunch of requests to God and hoping He would choose to answer some of them the way I wanted or thought they should be answered.

I grew to understand that prayer involved some worship of God.  I remember trying to “tack on” a few worshipful-sounding words in order to meet a higher level of spirituality, or so I hoped.  Sounds really shallow, doesn’t it?!!  To be honest though, my prayer life was often exactly that — shallow.

My prayer life was shallow though because my understanding and therefore relationship with God was more shallow. 

It’s hard to pray to One that you don’t know that intimately, don’t really grasp that His love is unconditional and not affected by performance, and don’t really trust. 

The power of prayer is the One to Whom we are praying.

The problem is we so often don’t really understand God, or our thoughts about Him are based upon misconceptions, twisted truths, and harmful misrepresentations.

I recently read the following quote in the book, Wonder Struck:

The wonder of prayer is rediscovered in Who we are speaking to.

— Margeret Feinberg

Reminds me what God showed me about faith.  Once again, it’s the recipient of our prayers and His interaction with me because of Who He is that makes prayer so vital and so incredible!  It’s not the words, in themselves, that make prayer so powerful.

Prayer is so incredible because it is the opportunity to speak to God or as the following quote says:

“Prayer is the opportunity to bend the ear of God.” — Margaret Feinberg

It’s a big deal because of Who God is!  He isn’t some conniving, selfish, evil, uncaring God.  He is a God who longs to hear our voices, especially when they are lifted in awareness of Him.

Have you ever sat with someone and experienced their inattention or complacency?  It’s not exactly pleasant or satisfying.

A lot of prayer life consists of mumbled phrases thrown out to appease a false view of a vindictive God.

A prayer life is transformed though when we begin to see the amazing and incredible gift it is — an opportunity to commune with an ever-present, ever-loving, ever-powerful God!!!  It is an opportunity to be heard by God but also to hear from God.

This brings me to a third truth.  I read the following quote recently and loved it:

“Hope is confident expectation.”  (Not sure in which devotional I read it.)

Do you see that?!!!  Hope is confident expectation in Who?  The power of hope is in Who the expectation is!  Hope isn’t lasting or “powerful” because it’s something we just randomly possess or stir up in ourselves.  Hope is a powerful emotion that comes from a powerful Source. 

It’s the Source of the hope — what we are expecting or looking to — that determines the resilience and strength of our hope.

As I was pondering the above truths, I was thinking how all kinds of other emotions I can think of owe their power and passion to their source.  If it’s a good source, it can be a good emotion.  If it’s a negative source — a reaction, fear, or bitterness — it can be an emotion that wreaks great destruction.

I couldn’t help but ponder that the authentic reality of truth, love, peace, joy, grace, wisdom, life, hope, faith, and prayer all owe their power to the object or source of their existence: God Himself.

It really is that simple!

This is why I have experienced the pure, authentic fullness of these characteristics only in the Presence of God Himself.

You can pursue peace, purpose, and joy outside of God, but I can personally tell you, it won’t last, and it is only a shallow representation of the authentic reality of knowing the Divine Source!

The secret therefore to the full life is knowing the God of life.  The secret to the above three characteristics is knowing God — truly knowing God.  In order to do that, it may mean laying aside all the false ideas and harmful representations of God so you can finally meet the reality of God Himself.

Additional Notes: 

As I was contemplating these truths further while washing my dishes, it “struck me.”  We often think that people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in God because they are lacking faith or because they are rebellious.  What shattered that pre-conceived idea for me is that just as I need to understand God is my Source of the abundant life so it is with the “unbeliever.”  Perhaps, the person who doesn’t believe in God isn’t about his/her lack of faith at all but more about his/her lack of understanding or false understanding of God.

In other words, how can you believe in One that you think is angry, harsh, uncaring, vindictive, and selfish?  It’s easier to pretend He doesn’t exist than that He does but could be those things.

It is a wrong view of God that is the biggest hindrance to a person’s ability to trust in God.  How can you trust in One you don’t believe loves you unconditionally, perfectly, and eternally?

Rather than telling people they need to have faith, maybe we need to be telling them and showing them more what our God is truly like — not a man-made version of a god but God Himself.  That may mean, we first need to get to know Him more intimately ourselves.

Save

Save

A Full Calendar But An Empty Life?

 

 water fall

(FreeImages.com/RebeccaVaughan)

“We learn to praise God not by paying compliments but by paying attention.” — Frederick Buechner.

How many of us actually take the time to pause, reflect, and ponder upon the wonder of our God and allow His love to flow over, through us, and in us?  It is the absence of this that is the prevailing reason why we find ourselves “parched,” despondent, unsure, restless, and longing for something more.

This summer has been very full — full of fun moments, plenty of activities, and many opportunities to engage with friends and to make new friends!  In the middle of all of this “fullness,” I began to feel such emptiness.

A full calendar does not indicate a “full” life.  In fact, the busier my calendar became, the more depleted I felt until I knew I was getting close to a “crash.”

Then God, in His love, intervened.  He created unplanned space within a day — actually two days — for me to be able to pause.

I took the opportunity to dive into satisfying that for which I was starving — time in God’s Word/time with Him.  By this time, I have learned that I am never at greater authentic peace and fully “satisfied” then I am when I spend time with God.  I knew I needed it.  So, I partook, and was it ever satisfying!!!

As I began to open God’s Word, read my devotional, participate in my Bible study book, every word pointed back to the need to pause, rest, reflect, and ponder.  The “words” addressed my need to create boundaries and to be intentional in creating “space” for this to happen.

The words I read also absolved my guilt over the fact that I have noticed when I am too busy, I am less able to handle life with as much grace. I become reactive rather than responsive to God’s voice.  Why?  Because I am unable to hear God’s voice in the deafening cacophony of the chaos.

I would tell myself that I should be able to handle the craziness if I was strong enough…

Do you see it, like I see it now?  How proud and self-reliant that is!  What was I really saying?  Wasn’t I saying that if I was strong enough (in myself — not in God), I could handle this?  Why in myself?  Because I wasn’t taking time to actually gain strength from God.  Therefore, I was drawing or attempting to draw strength from myself and therefore “crashing.”

My “well” will never be full enough to quench all of the winds, fires, and droughts this world sends my way.  And neither will yours.

It humbled me to see that God loved me enough to intervene, to stop me in my head-long race to burn-out.

He created “space” for me and then provided the refreshment I needed to be recharged and resupplied in order to live the “full life.”

It doesn’t make us weak to acknowledge our dependency upon God.  It actually makes us strong!  How so?

This reminds me of a vacuum cleaner.  A vacuum cleaner is a very important machine that helps to keep my house from falling into total disarray.  It’s a product of ingenuity for which I am very thankful!  The vacuum cleaner has a powerful motor that sucks up dirt, pieces of food, dust bunnies, and insects.  Yet, unless I plug the vacuum cleaner into the source of its power — the outlet — it is a useless piece of equipment that takes up unnecessary floor space.

So it is with us!  God has designed us to be used in many amazing, creative, and productive ways!  Yet, when we aren’t “plugged in” to our Source of Power — God Himself — we are incapable of producing that which will have eternal value.

Today, let’s you and I pause and contemplate, reflect upon our God, and allow Him to nurture our souls and fill us once again with His abundant life, true peace (wellness of soul), and true joy.

There is no better place to be!

Let’s pursue the full life rather than the full calendar.

Save