Monthly archives: January, 2018

LOVE PROTECTS

We are bombarded with messages about protection and security every day.

The ever-present message of having safe sex…for our protection. TSA at the airport gives us a little love (!)… for our protection. We’re strongly encouraged to get the most up-to-date security software on our computers… for our protection. Install an alarm system at our house… for our protection. Carry a gun or take a self-defense class… for our protection.  You get the idea.

Protection. It’s a version of love we crave and at the same time sacrificially and willingly give to those closest to us. In reality, I’d say the notion that security is one of our greatest fundamental needs is accurate, to say the least.

We long to receive it from our significant other. We briefly contemplate putting our kids in some kind of foolproof bubble and sending them to school just to protect them. We want to receive it from our friends; we want them to have our backs. We hope somehow that our employer won’t screw us over. We naively hold on to the ridiculous thought that our bank account can somehow protect us in some way.

We open our Bibles and they are filled with countless stories of God’s protection many of us can recount from our childhood. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), Queen Esther (Esther 1), Baby Moses (Exodus 2), and Daniel in the Lions Den (Daniel 6) just to name a few. All these stories reflect God’s protection over His people in tangible, seemingly impossible situations.

Flip over to the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, mentions four specific attributes of love that are “always” put into action. The first of these is that love “always protects” (NIV). It has been said that the Greek word for “protects” is stegei, which literally means “to cover” and includes the idea of protecting and perseverance. (www.gotquestions.org)

1 Corinthians 13:2 says that if we have all the listed spiritual gifts (solve all mysteries, have all knowledge, have all faith) but we don’t use these spiritual gifts with love, “we are nothing” and it benefits no one. Love must be added to every equation in order to make a difference.

God’s version of love always protects. It’s never about ourselves. It can handle all the pooh life can throw at us. And whenever one of us lays an egg, love has the ability to cover and protect it. (“Love covers a multitude of sins.” – Proverbs 10:12) Which doesn’t excuse poor or abusive behavior because there are consequences for sin. It does mean we come beside and lift up what is weak, defend the defenseless and forgive what normally would be impossible.
We hear and read about God’s protection and yet we sometimes have a slight pause in our mind questioning that provision. If God really protects, why did/didn’t He__________________? How about this…when trying to explain all the hard stuff we’re hearing on the news lately to our kids, how do you explain God not protecting innocent young girls just trying to excel in gymnastics and why does there have to be a movement called #MeToo?

I get that. I’ve had some questions of my own through life’s journey.

We’re so human. We want to see God’s protection as some kind of Star Wars force that is with us keeping us from all harm. We have to pause and remember to remind ourselves that we live in a fallen world where we have free will and people (and we) get it wrong sometimes. And God works in ways we just don’t understand. Sounds cliché-ish, right? But it doesn’t make it any less true.

If love talks, it says words that shield. Words filled with kindness. Words of protection.

Know anyone who could use some protection? Then don’t hold back. Love like Jesus.

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans and tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” – Psalm 46:1-3 MSG


LIVING IN THE LIGHT

Am I the only one who has lived life out of my idea of truth? My truth about who I am? My truth about who I think God is? No, I’m not the only one? Okay, just checking…

When I think about truth, I think about two types of truth. There are small “t” truths and then there is Truth (big T). Small “t” truths are the things in our life that cause us to hide or feel insecure. Small “t” truths become an all too familiar voice in our head that we begin to listen to. We begin to listen intently and our lives begin to mirror that voice.

“You’re not meant to do this job.”

“Why don’t you look like that?”

“But you had an abortion.”

“You’ve been in prison. God can’t use a sinner like you.”

“But you’re divorced.”

“You caused _____ to happen.”

“If only you had ______.”

“If only you hadn’t ______.”

“You’re a horrible parent.”

Once these so-called truths begin to take root within our minds we unknowingly (or knowingly) begin to put on masks. Masks we so desperately hope will hide our beliefs about who we think we are. We overcompensate and try to appear like we have it all together. We put on the religious mask, the successful mask, the great parent mask, the good wife/husband mask, the good child mask, etc. But deep down inside, we’ve come to believe so many lies about ourselves that we’re barely staying afloat.

Sometimes our masks look like deep depression, fear, and anxiety. Oftentimes, it looks like addictions. Or it’s a combination of them all. You name it, there’s a mask for that.  

In our mess and masks, there is good news. The good news is Jesus. He sees the small “t” truths we believe and offers us real, steadfast Truth. He doesn’t want to leave us where we are, so as we begin to take off our masks, overcome our addictions, and face our fears; he offers grace and love along the way. He begins to speak to us in ways that silence the doubts within.

The Truth is that none of the small “t” truths change what God thinks about you. He is so wildly crazy about you that he longs to show you Himself. Romans 5:8 puts it this way, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When I read this I can’t help but think about how in the worst of my messes, Christ died for me. Masks and all.

Choose Jesus, friends. Choose the Truth. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If a truth in your mind leads you to hide, become isolated, or want to escape life, don’t believe it. If a truth causes you to feel anxious, worried, or fearful, know that that’s not from God. God’s Truth leads us to freedom in Christ, not more bondage.

Let’s be agents of Truth. Be real and honest about who you are and your life, seek out others who are hurting and invite them into what Jesus has done on the cross. If you’re not already on that journey, start today.

It’s hard to begin to unmask ourselves, but you don’t have to do it alone. Call a trusted friend, try a support group, start seeing a Christian counselor, begin (or begin again) to pray that God would show you the people in your life who need to hear your story.

Now, let’s purpose to focus on the Truth about who we are in Christ:

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39)

You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)

There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1)

You are accepted by God. (Romans 15:7)

You are redeemed and forgiven by the grace of God. (Ephesians 1:7)

You have the peace of God (Philippians 4:6-7)

You are an heir of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)  

You are righteous, redeemed, and holy. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

(And the list goes on and on…)


NEW YEAR NEW YOU

 

Well, we’re only a couple days in. How are things going? You know, with those New Year’s Resolutions that is. Whether you cringe or get an adrenaline rush from speaking those words, it’s inevitable; the new year is here. Have you decided that you’re going to go for it this year and have already made some new resolutions? Or are you not even going to “waste” your time because you feel like you will fail anyway?

Don’t you think that it seems like there needs to be an extra week at the end of the year between Christmas and New Years just to be able to plan what your resolutions will be?  How can it be that we go from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas in what appears to be days? Before you know it, it’s time to watch the big ball drop in New York and there’s nothing written down to accomplish for the year.

Can you relate?

I’d venture to say that we all know the agony of just trying to decide if we really want to make the list.  The long list that is basically acknowledging just how many things you need to improve in your life. Seems so daunting. But, you decide to go for it.

The typical first week, you’re feeling good about yourself.  You’re “on” 7 days in a row; what’s another 358 days, right?! But in reality, we all know week two and week three arrive. Life happens. You miss a day or two. You get behind. You feel guilty. You quit.

Another year goes by. And in a spiritual sense, isn’t this exactly what the devil wants? For us to stay exactly the way we are…not growing, defeated, stagnant, the same. How can we stop this cycle?

What if we shifted our expectations of what “success” is and not be so hard on ourselves? Last year, I wrote down a list of resolutions. No, I did not excel in every area entirely; but, I progressed in a good majority of areas. Even better, I gained some perspective along the way. I got to the point where I asked myself, “Why am I trying to reach perfection in all these areas?” That accomplishment would be too much for the most driven person around.

Are your feet pointed in the right direction? Are you growing and further down the road in an area than you were last year? Give yourself some grace. Call that progress. Jesus does.

So, let that give you courage in making resolutions for this year.  Remember that a resolution is really just a firm decision to do or not do something. Don’t complicate it. Author Francis Chan puts it this way, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter”.

Follow Joshua’s example in having resolve, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. There’s no muddy area here. Have the same kind of resolve in your resolutions each day.

Go ahead. Grab a pen and paper or a seat at your computer. Make the list.