Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

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Thinking about what I have to give

After a certain point of being a Christian, I’ve come to this point where I realize that I have compassion and extra room to forgive that I don’t think many others have.

It’s not like they don’t have access to it, through Christ. Maybe they don’t want to claim it. More like, they don’t want to allow forgiveness to cost them anything. Snap your fingers and a miracle solution.

Or better yet, they aren’t sure they’ll actually gain anything by allowing others mercy. Shouldn’t we all have to reckon with what we’ve done? Shouldn’t they have to be shamed in public, and be scalped, flogged, and broken for my vindication?

Doesn’t everyone see how holy and I righteous I am? Shouldn’t we all acknowledge that I was right?

Help us Lord to realize your love has nothing to do with us. With forgiveness, what does it actually cost to free us of our debts? Do I really believe what I espouse as theology? Could Christ’s sacrifice be enough for me to forgive my family, not just in part, but for everything?

I don’t believe God’s solution ignored the problem. I believe that God’s discipline and just decrees always came from a sense of love. Could he forsake what he commanded us to do, and the stipulations of the covenant he himself drafted? The Lord does not deny himself.

So yes, God cares. Yes, God loves. Will God make himself unrighteous? Hell no. He made himself the compensation for what we could not be, and as a Savior, bridged the gap between God’s mercy and his perfect justice.

Is it just that the Son of God had to die? Is that fairness?

I think that probably, God loved us all enough to sacrifice part of himself, because he knew we wouldn’t make it. I think that he was willing to give himself up, and continually chose that through the life of Christ. I believe that he never lied, never misrepresented the truth, that he’s always known all things, always had all power, always understood perfect provision, and in the Trinity with Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit, always received and poured out love perfectly.

Stepping into the earth and the specific time and space where we are, to save a people who desperately needed their Creator’s intervention, who on their own could not make up the cost.

So when I have the choice between lukewarm love or forgiveness? What do I chose?

I choose wanting better, and striving towards better, even when in my own strength, I cannot achieve it.

I choose a God who was perfectly confident in his own strength and his perfect deity, and intentionally chose to die. And who thought we were worth it.

I choose not having all the answers. I choose the possibility of losing friends.

I choose following the call when it’s inconvenient. I choose giving what “I have” and what “I own”, for his purpose, realizing that the love of the Father chooses me instead. I choose knowing his perfection. I choose allowing him to love me and accepting what that’s worth. For the things I can’t have or I will sacrifice, I count those things as loss. For the righteousness I crave but I know doesn’t belong to me, I directly seek the face of God.

I will not seek his back, or his hand, or a shallow understanding of his name. In an age where God is a tool of politics, I will not take the Lord’s name in vain.

I believe in an Almighty God, I believe he put his purpose through me, and I believe that my life has a reason. It is a privilege to live loved by God. Even when his people scatter like sheep and I am one of few willing to put on boldness, I know what I believe.

I believe that the love and discipline of the Lord are not antithetical, that they go hand in hand, and they BOTH demonstrate his love for me. I am not content with doing whatever it is I want. I know the Lord knows what’s best for me.

I believe that the Lord has given me the strength from his provision to forgive my family. Not to ignore debts, but to make a complete and miraculously full work of declaring any debts useless. Unnecessary. Forgiven.

If the love of God can do all that for me, and allows me to put on his strength, and helps me re-understand family, he alone is perfect. He teaches me things I have never known, and helps me understand things I have never seen, and strengthens me into boldness. This is why I was created. I’m not going to be ashamed of his purpose for my life.

I don’t think that it’s about whether or not God gives me a time or place to use these gifts. I believe he calls us to be ready all of the time, in all places. He isn’t training me up for some miraculous path. He continuously calls me to testify and to glorify his name, and he adds details and nuance as he part of his provision. My job to serve the will of the Lord. He chooses how he makes a way for that. My job never changes.

It isn’t for me to define how I want to serve. The Lord gives us opportunities, and we choose or deny obedience. This portion isn’t special. It’s freely given, and unlike God’s love for each of us, the work he has for us to do can be given away. Who carries out the plan is inconsequential. Therefore, it is our desire and responsibility to be willing to serve. Far be it from me to define how the Lord wants to use my weakness. This is not about me.

And so when the Lord says, “forgive”, I will try to respond with forgiveness. And I will pray and seek his insight about how to do it. I do not have the strength on my own. But I know that the Lord makes a way for all of us to love him. He doesn’t ask me to do it on my own. He is willing to be that source of provision.

Ultimately, this love story begins and ends with the Lord. My biggest hope is to allow myself to be wrapped up in it. When anybody asks, I’m calling it good.

Shame is irrelevant

Have you ever had those moments where you pass by a place that holds a lot of shame, or you remember something so strongly painful that you have to say or do something to shake that pain out of your mind? Like being zapped by an electric fence on a detour, I ran like hell away from that sensation.

So be it. These days, I let it be what it is. There are things in this life that I probably deserve to be ashamed of. I’ve screwed up in magnificent and offensive ways, not always, but enough. I’ve made a fool of myself over boys who weren’t worth the brain space. I’ve hurt friends who I still think about all the time, I still pray for, and I never wanted to wound. I’ve said a lot of off color stuff that just ended up doing more harm than good. Worst of all, I blamed my family for a lot of brokenness that on their own, they simply cant break free of. So be it.

I’m not proud of those things, but on my worst day, God still remembers. Grace is when you have reason to be put to shame, but you are forgiven. I’m not running from my problems or denying when this one or that one hurt me. Nonsense. I serve a God who is bigger than the shame and he takes joy in me.

The things I’ve done may be screwed up, but God’s love for me and all other people is so great that he rejected himself to love me. Does that make sense? It totally doesn’t. Christ came and received the rejection that belonged to me, and I can bear up in those moments of shame because God is greater. God didn’t deny my brokenness in order to save me, he compensated for it. He went out of his way to make up from it. He is both honest and faithful. He went so far out of his way for my sake and the sake of those who love him. He doesn’t expect me to feel like I have to lie about the pain; he is the bridge that helps me through it.

Only in knowing that my God is greater has the sense of shame started to leave. Those memories have less and less bite. Those chains are coming of. After a while, the shame is going to feel irrelevant. I serve a mighty God. And he still loved me as is.

Thought 11/3

Can honesty be a place of proving yourself? Can you value honesty so much to the extent that you demonstrate a more transparent image of your life than you live it? Can transparency be an idol that serves to prove that you are not a liar/hypocrite/like the other hypocrites? If honesty can be a pedestal, then trying to be more transparent in how you live is not for the sake of clarity, but so that you distance yourself from those you hold in judgment.

My self-righteousness and possessiveness of the truth

Having a little extra time this morning, I read an article about the Lord’s prayer about purity as being a designation under Christ, instead of narrowly defined by sexual activity alone (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/purity-more-saving-sex-marriage). These two articles helped me focus in on something that has been bothering me lately: my own self-righteousness.

I really love being right. It is possibly my greatest distraction from the glory of God as of this point. I love the truth and the sense of justice that has been made available to me under God, but that often takes the form of my own selfishness and trying to take possession of the truth. Being stubborn, I don’t often allow other people the ability to be concurrently right, though God has humbled me in small doses. Because his work is still not complete in me, maybe I can use my sin as an opportunity to grow closer.

The issue with self-righteousness is not the love of the truth, which in itself is holy. The issue here is tying the truth explicitly to oneself, and ignore that God alone is the one who make the difference. Combined with some issues with authority, self-righteousness can be a fiercely isolating force in my life, but if I ask God in prayer how to respond to a situation instead of resting on my laurels, I’d be a lot better off, and so would others. The proof that righteousness is not up to me comes at the point where I am willing to condemn other people who I perceive as a threat to my ability to remain comfortable. This is a trait that being rooted in the flesh, is not glorifying to God.

None of us receive grace on our own, so the solution for this is probably to turn to God as the solution, and ask for help. Asking him for guidance to love the truth but not take possession of it is probably more helpful than insisting in my own way and being surprised when I’m dealing with more unforgiveness over time, as my sin multiplies. Selfish as I am, I’m still framing this question as what it offers for my own personal good, but the fact of the matter is that loving God and seeking his fruit instead myself is for my own good (which loops back to me, but is also about him). If I keep going like I’m going, even with un-exposed sin still brewing in my heart, I’m just going to set myself up to hurt and estrange loved ones, strangers, and family. This kind of selfishness is a threat to God’s kingdom. Sounds like it’s time to pray.

If you follow this blog, expect that I will be talking more about this process in the following days and weeks. I’m going to be looking to God to help me see outside of myself.

What we forget about “history” and the belief in he who is better than us

As we have gone through a moment of discussing drastically different beliefs in my classes, I want to take a moment to consider how history shapes the world’s perspective in ways that are less than savory. As human beings, we are not always conscious of pros and cons of our habits, nor how we express them. It seems like the more life experience you accumulate, the more you are less conscientious and aware of the need to put yourself on the spot and reflect over what was really your intention when you said, did, or thought through a specific thing. We become more comfortable in ways of doing things, and that isn’t always bad, to be honest. If you choose to center your life around things that give you life, like a true representation of Christ Jesus, those habits might truly work out for the glory of God. But all too often, we as humans promote all sorts of things to the position of God and begin to focus on them in a way that inevitably leads to bad health. We look to all sorts of things to protect us, determine our futures, inform us of the future, and generally reinforce this false sense of security that death can easily snatch away.

When we look back on the mistakes of the present day or throughout history, how quickly we forget that these men and women were once as we were, and how little mercy we have on the fruits of their present-day “mistakes”. The fact of the matter is that all to often, we have no idea whether what we are currently doing is right. Without the love of God, we would all run after our own way, which you can see in biblical stories like the story of Tamar, or of the stories in Judges, or basically anything were humans are given the free pass to let their god awful idols run wild (think the Lord of the flies). Grace is necessary to have security in life if not for loving God, than for having some sort of peace over all the things we ruin. If I am truly forgiven, then I can focus on who God is and try to be like him instead of perpetually crucifying myself over all that I was wrong about, could never accomplish, or never fully appreciated. It’s not just that individuals don’t know any better, its that humanity as a whole doesn’t know any better, and we aren’t exactly very good at trusting God either.

It’s not so much about whether we are right, but what we cling to. If God is your righteousness, then you still don’t get a free pass, but you have some sort of process to work through at the point where failure would just shut down progress. Oh, you’ve sinned? Well, game over I guess. Salvation makes it so there is always a way out, regardless of whether that makes us irreverent. God loves us steadily through the very worst mistakes, and his love is indivisible; it’s entirely whole. It’s lucky that who God is is the only thing we as humans can absolutely bank on, because in his consistency, we can find healing. When nothing else makes sense, God does, because he doesn’t change. He may not be easy to face or seem particularly kind in that moment, but you can know for certain he was and is and is to come.

It’s funny how the older you get, the more the “grown ups” start looking like children. So be it. I don’t have fancy philosophical labels for it, but I believe at a baseline level that humans need redemption and they need a Redeemer who is greater than humanity on it’s own. I believe in God because I have hope of that through Jesus, and I’ve seen the Holy Spirit move enough to know a God who isn’t dead. I know that he cares for us because he’s infinite, and if we’re this broken, then it would stand to reason that he’s not. If all good things come from God, then he probably has the justice we’re seeking.