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Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

“Last fall, I had to make a decision. Being the first year after my Mom’s fatal car accident made 2013 one of the toughest years of my life, as you could imagine. When grieving loss such as the death of a loved one, or even a lost career, a divorce, a cross-country move, chronic or terminal illness or any kind of major loss or change, the regular pains of life intensify. Last year my family and I saw the regular up-and-down’s of life taken to extremes. In the midst of all the raw emotion, I fell into a type of depression. And that is when I was bombarded by the questions and decisions.

As anyone experiencing similar grief, I had a lot of questions about life. I felt like Job who wanted to “take God to trial.” But from all the questions, one monster protruded out from the rest: “Why am I doing all this Christian stuff?” And then all the little monster questions followed right behind: “Why am I hanging onto all these convictions? Why do I follow and obey God? Who’s going to care? Why don’t I just go do my own thing?”

Let me ask you: Why do you do what you do? Teenager, why don’t you have sex whenever you want? Why do you hold on to your convictions? Why do you work hard to obey God? After all, you are saved because of God’s grace through faith — not because of what you do. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about modesty: why does modesty matter? Why don’t we lust and flirt? Why should we bother to live peaceably with each other and strive for reconciliation? Why don’t we murder? Why don’t we lie? Why do we follow the Bible? If none of this adds or subtracts to our salvation, then why bother?”

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Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

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The Hard Stuff of Forgiveness

Want to do hard things? Want to succeed at life’s toughest challenge? Learn to forgive.

Even the most talented people have limited impact until they learn the basics of forgiveness. But what does forgiveness mean, exactly? Is it merely saying “I forgive you”? Does it mean forgetting as well?

We can try to squeeze it into a simple definition by saying: forgiveness is the continuous state of a guilty person not receiving the punishment that justice or intuition demands he receives. But it is still complicated and cerebral and not very practical. Then of course, life doesn’t have simple answers: there is no logical rationalization which we can unpack and forevermore know how to forgive. If forgiveness is so complicated, how can it be understood? Just as scientists can observe light and say it “is such-and-such” or “affects this-and-that,” but cannot say exactly what it is made of; so can man see forgiveness and give an explanation, albeit a weak one, of its attributes.

Forgiveness is mercy. If someone says “You are an egghead!” forgiveness continues to love that person. It is not merely words: it is an attitude. The words “God bless you” or “I forgive you” mean nothing unless continuously lived out on a day-to-day basis. Forgiveness means not holding the actions against the actor.

When God says in Jeremiah 31:34 that He “will remember [our] sins no more,” He is not insinuating that he has a bad memory. God cannot merely “forget” sins. Instead, He is demonstrating to the world that forgiveness involves the injured choosing to put out of his mind the actions of the injurer. In other words, when someone says “I don’t hold it against you” then he really must not hold the other person accountable for their hurtful actions. This is the example set by God. “Disciples, pick up your cross; follow me; learn from me.”

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The Hard Stuff of Forgiveness.

When Life’s Hard… Breathe In

WHEN LIFE’S HARD… BREATHE IN

“Take a deep breath in. Now breathe out. God is active in your life. Breathe in, again; breathe out. God is active in your life. Breathe in, breathe out. God is active.

Every single breath that you breathe is a gift from God — a deliberate act of God’s will to give you yet one more breath of life, and another, and another.

God is not done with you.

Look all around you. There is life! Look up at the sky, marvel at the mountains, admire the trees—see the people? There are so many people! People with their marvelous relationships: there’s the stability of childhood “besties” and college buddies and the complexity of guy-girl relations. There’s children and elderly. There’s black and there’s white. Some people live in dry deserts; others live in swamps and rainforests, or in cold tundras. There’s life, and beauty — diversity and unity. And it’s all good! And all good things come from God. Every single pure pleasure, worthy word, and splendid sunrise comes straight from the heart of God.”

Keep Reading: http://bit.ly/19KN3f6

“I Love You Too!”

The other night as I sat with friends and family in the Miller living room, it suddenly felt like Jesus silently walked in, sat beside me, and whispered “I love you!” In disbelief at first, I ignored it. “I love you!” he seemed to repeat. It seemed like He wanted me to respond. So I did. “I love you too!” I thought awkwardly.

This is relationship. I had real interaction with Jesus Christ, the Creator and Sustainer of life! I think that this type of interaction really happens many times, but I usually doubt it and dismiss it as simply emotion. I will always cherish this brief interaction with Jesus, and look for more. It amazes me how loving and good God really is. Even in His wrath, He is still loving and good.

Yesterday morning, as I sat in on a chapel service, the speaker showed a YouTube clip about persecution in Indonesia. In the clip, Muslims were slaughtering other Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Although it was only six minutes long, I kept thinking to myself “Just make it stop already! Just make it stop!” I thought the clip would never end, but I knew I had to watch as much of it as I could stomach. I had to see. This brutality is the price these people have to pay in order to follow Christ. And then I thought about how this is what Jesus had to pay to set us free! Not only was He mocked and ridiculed, but He was beaten and bruised, and His flesh was torn apart. He suffered immense pain, agony and separation from the Father [God] so that we could be forgiven of sin and unified with the Father.

And I realized how pathetic my love for Him is. Could I honestly bear His name, while having half my scalp chopped off? I’m not sure I could, save by His incredible grace.

I desperately desire deeper love for Christ. I long for stronger faith so that I can stand firm on the Rock, Jesus Christ. I want to trust Jesus, rather than doubt Him or His love. I want to be convinced of God’s goodness. By realizing my security in Christ and knowing that He is completely good and loving, I can endure the pain He may call me to.

Someone once said something like: “to the degree that we suppress pain, we also suppress joy.” I desperately want to be surrendered to this concept: that to experience great joy, I must also allow myself to experience great pain.

I think in many ways I have tried to suppress my pain. I have tried to be strong. But I think there is something beautiful about just letting yourself hurt and allowing yourself to be weak. The picture that I get is a big and strong middle-aged man kneeling before a gravestone bawling and letting his pain out by gasps and screams.

Many times we get knocked down and we can’t get back up. We need a helper, a savior, a healer. Jesus Christ is that Healer.

I do not know if I have responded well to the pain and hard things in my life, but I want to do better. I want to allow myself to hurt: to grieve loss, struggle with change and allow Christ to bring healing when it is time.

I don’t like pain—I run from it. I pursue happiness just like everyone else. But there is health in bleeding; there is relief in flowing tears. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Finally, I am beginning to understand this verse. Jesus is saying, “Allow yourself to hurt, because I will comfort you!” And we will hurt, but we can’t “bottle” it up, or we’ll burst.

Keep battling on. Keep hurting. Keep healing. Keep relating. Keep living. The end is in sight, just a few more years. God is faithful, by His strength we can do this!

Poured Out Like Wine

Hugo McCord

Would you be poured out like wine
upon the altar for Me?
Would you be broken like bread
to feed the hungry?
Would you be so one with Me
that you would do just as I will?
Would you be light and life
and love My Word fulfilled?

Yes, I’ll be poured out like wine
upon the altar for You
Yes, I’ll be broken like bread
to feed the hungry
Yes, I’ll be so one with You
that I would do just as You will
Yes, I’ll be light and life
and love Your Word fulfilled

Where He Leads Me

Ernest W. Blandy

I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling,
I can hear my Savior calling,
Take thy cross and follow, follow Me.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him through the garden,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him through the judgment,
I’ll go with Him, with Him all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
He will give me grace and glory,
And go with me, with me all the way.

Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

Mom

A mom is security, love and support;

She knows what you’re about, both inside and out.

You tell her the latest, the good and the bad,

And caringly she listens to the heart of the sad.

From childhood to grown up

She’s there in the midst.

She’s everything that matters

Like a precious jewel she sparkles and shimmers.

But you take her for granted.

Yet her love is not lessened,

Diminished or slanted—

It’s within her deeply planted.

And then,

You wake up and find,

The gem afore spoken

Sits there and is broken;

She’s moaning and groaning

And running out of time.

Oh what I would do,

Looking back with regret,

To whisper her name again and again.

To sing her sweet songs.

Oh how I do long

To shout with my life

I LOVE YOU, MOM!

I would tear down the sky

Just to say one last good-bye.

To hug her and kiss her

And let her see me cry.

The tears run so easy

Like never before,

She loved us so much—

Why didn’t I love her more?

But now she is gone,

Taken beyond,

To a land without shadow

A place that is hallow.

She’s traveled to Heaven

She’s taken to Jesus

And Jesus can love her

‘Cause He’s the true lover.

And though I can’t see it,

And hardly believe it:

I rest in this promise

For I know He will keep it.

C.D.

He Loves Me, Yes!

I have found it healthy to now and then go back and remember life: to recall one’s thoughts and actions a couple of days, weeks, months or years ago. This morning I took the time to look back in my journal nearly three months. I came to November 4, 2012 in which I wrote about some personal struggles I was having. About half way through I penned these words: “I just wish I could feel and touch, see and hear Jesus.”

On Monday November 5, 2012, I wrote about what I might say at my brother Asher’s wedding reception on the 10th (which I did not actually say, then). I also described some good experiences we were having in Colorado. Life was relatively normal—even good, I would say.

[Turn the page.]

November 12, 2012: “My life has forever changed.”

I cannot bring myself to read November 12th. I read the first paragraph and realized that every fiber of my being loathes this journal entry, but every fiber of my spirit says that reading it would be healthy. It is like pulling off a bandage for the first time.

My left elbow got all chopped up by glass in the accident and the first gauze bandage that was put on, “healed” itself into the wound. This meant that if I wanted to take the bandage off, the scab had to come off as well. It felt like all the healing had been “undone.” But if I wanted a wound free elbow again, it had to happen.

Or maybe it is better described like my back, which was severely put out-of-place. Apparently the vertebral column is so smart that if put out-of-place, over time it will align itself with gravity so that your head will be straight again, even if your back is still out-of-place. So over November and December my back “fixed” itself and quit hurting. Then I went to the chiropractor and had it adjusted, and the pain was renewed. It is not that the chiropractor gave me a bad adjustment, it is just that my back fixed itself wrong, and it may continually need to be put back in place until the muscles get used to the normal positioning.

So it is with my soul. Over time it has coped and settled with the new reality of the absence of Mom and the grief and pain that accompanies it. But God comes along and, sometimes gently sometimes not—but always perfectly, gives me an adjustment.

Great pain is not something one can just ignore and still remain healthy. If I lightly burn my finger, I can live through the pain and my body will heal itself properly; but if I break my leg, it would be wise to immediately seek medical attention and to continually do so until my leg is fully healed, not necessarily made “normal,” but healed.

God is the Great Physician. It is fun to watch Him “do His thing.” It is not always fun to have him “do His thing” on you, but it is always worth it.

Most of the healing is not done through a grand miracle or a great remedy, but through the slow process of therapy; the process of going back, again and again for adjustments, learning how to walk again, or talk—or love.

So here I am: learning to “walk” again and to trust God. It is easy for me to get lost in the world between the pages of November 5th and November 12th; to wish for life before November 6th happened and to fantasize about how life would be had it not. But I am learning that reality has me in a pool of grief flowing from November 6, 2012. And the amazing thing about reality is that God wants to swim with me in my grief. He does not want to take me outside of the pool and have lemonade. He wants to soak up my grief with me and be there to teach me to swim in the deep parts.

I cannot do this alone. I need God. I need His peace to get me through. I need His love.

His love.  What an amazing thing. If I could only grasp a fraction of it, I would be content. But wait, I do not need to grasp His love. He gives it to me freely, and pours it unrestrained into my heart, and from this truth every lie flees. Because if God—the Almighty, the Holy Judge, the Sovereign King over everything—has given me His love without condition, and has justified me and placed me in Christ who sits at God’s right hand: who is there to condemn me? Who is there to keep me from peace? Who can stop me from being healed? No one, I say, because nothing can separate me from the love of God.

On the morning of Tuesday, November 6, 2012, I again repeated to Jesus those words I had written two days before: “I just want to feel you and touch you, to see you and hear you, Jesus.” Three days later as people filed passed my family after attending my Mom’s funeral, I realized that every single day since the 6th I had felt and touched, seen and heard Jesus in an amazingly wonderful and terrible way; because I had felt, touched, seen, and heard the Body of Christ.

He listened to me! And in a weird way, He used tragedy as an answer to my prayer. Yes. Yes! YES! He loves me!

It is because of this love that I can keep pressing forward (although I need daily reminders). It is the assurance of Christ’s affection for me that gives me hope, because I know that all things work together for good to them that love God. Why? Because He loves us.

The Love of God

Frederick Martin Lehman
MercyMe: The Love of God [open in separate tap]

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen can ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,

God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled,

And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,

And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,

When men, who here refuse to pray,

On rocks and hills and mountains call,

God’s love so sure, shall still endure,

All measureless and strong;

Redeeming grace to Adam’s race

The saints’ and angels’ song.

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above,

Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

C.D.

The Soldier

“Tell me a story, Daddy!” the little boy exclaimed.

Looking down at his son, the Dad did not see a little boy, but a future soldier. A man who was in training to face the battles of real life, someone who would one day face the world and need to be prepared for it.

So the Dad softly began the story.

“Once upon a time there was a soldier, who served a mighty king. One day, the mighty king called all his soldiers to battle. Like a good man, our soldier responded and headed for the battle.

“The enemy was fierce and terrible. It was said that the enemy was as fierce as a roaring lion. At first this intimidated the soldier, but he pressed on because the king had called him.

“The fighting was intense and many men died. The enemy ravaged the towns and villages of the countryside, burned buildings and killed families. It was brutal. But still the soldier fought on, knowing his king would not let him fight alone.

“At one point, the enemy fought especially hard. It seemed like there was no way for the kingsmen to live out the fight. Some soldiers fled, but our soldier sent a petition to the king and the king sent reinforcements that drove the enemy away—but not after a long night’s fighting. During the night, the enemy made a surprise attack and our soldier was injured. The kingsmen took him aside and comforted him, but eventually they all went back to their fighting.

“The soldier felt all alone. It was dark and he could hear the screams and horrors of the battle. He almost despaired, but just then he felt a firm hand and heard a friendly voice say, ‘I am with you, soldier! Don’t give up; you will be healed if you make it through the night!’ It was the army’s great physician, who had come to help!

“The soldier was encouraged and able to tolerate the darkness a little more after this. But it was still so very lonely. He could hear the enemy making a great noise and he was intimidated.

“Soon the sun began to rise. The soldier could see the glimmer in the far eastern sky. Already the soldier could tell that whatever the great physician had done was healing his body. He sat up and looked around. By now the fighting was over, and had moved to a different place, but the destruction was obvious. The enemy had killed and destroyed, burned and plundered, what hope was left?

“The soldier wondered if there was hope. He saw the destruction from the battle and wondered what good could come from it? Could anything beautiful ever arise again? The soldier looked at his arms and legs, all bruised and bloody: could he ever live normally again?

“Questions and doubt plagued his mind. At first he resigned to the destruction, realizing there was no way around it. This was reality. But as the soldier crawled through the dirt and the ashes, he became angry. Why hadn’t the king responded sooner? Why did the king allow the army’s numbers to become so depleted? Hadn’t the king failed?

“But just then, the soldier looked up, and right there, right in front of him stood the king.

“‘The enemy has been routed and the nation has been saved,’ the king said.

“The soldier was ashamed at his thoughts and anger and looked down mournfully. ‘I am sorry to doubt you,’ said he.

“‘Do not be ashamed, sir,’ said the king. ‘But come and arise, we are victorious!’ And with that the king grabbed hold of the soldier’s shoulders and hoisted the man to his feet.

“‘There is nothing to fear because I will always protect you,’ affirmed the great king. ‘You will never be alone, but always safe under my protection. So go now walk in my joy because you are my victorious soldier.”

The Dad looked at his son who was now fast asleep. It was his story: the Dad was the soldier, and Jesus was the king. One day the little boy was going to face the same experience and the same struggle. He was going to be hurt and would need healing; he was going to doubt, and would need renewed faith. But until then, he would sleep in the safe and loving arms of his dad.

Safe

Phil Wickham

To the one whose dreams have fallen all apart
And all you’re left with is a tired and broken heart
I can tell by your eyes you think you’re on your own
But you’re not alone

Have you heard of the One who can calm the raging seas
Give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet
With a love so strong it never lets you go
No you’re not alone

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

Did you know that the voice that brings the dead to life
Is the very same voice that calls you now to rise
So hear Him now, He’s calling you home. You will never be alone

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

Cause these are the hands that built the mountains,

the hands that calm the sea
These are the arms that hold the lame

and they are holding you and me
These are the hands that heal the leper

pull the lame up to their feet
These are the arms that were nailed to the cross

to break our chains and set us free

You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms
The hands that hold the world are holding your heart
This is the promise He made, He will be with you always
When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms

C.D.