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TRAVEL

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

Travel: The Judean Wilderness

The desert is clean physically & spiritually because the sun shines in every place and bakes it sinless. Nothing can hide from its righteouRead More...

FAITH

The High To Keep You Satisfied

The High To Keep You Satisfied

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in May 2014. Not every difficulty is a storm: sometimes life is a drought. We do not aRead More...

INSPIRATION

Home Sounds: Ryan Bingham

Home Sounds: Ryan Bingham

If you love the voice of Ryan Bingham, then you love it out of the blue. At first it sounds raspy, discordant--then you hear that note of truth. IRead More...

WORLD

Why Does the Devil Get the Art?

Why Does the Devil Get the Art?

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in 2013. For a long time, I’ve had a lot of unanswered questions about art–such as, why Read More...

Entries Tagged as 'Walking with the Savior'

The High To Keep You Satisfied

Posted on: Tuesday, March 7, 2017

This is an archived Sky Blue post originally published in May 2014.

Not every difficulty is a storm: sometimes life is a drought.

We do not always suffer because of dramatic tribulations, but small things that compile, constant weariness that takes a toll, the routine cruelties of human beings that build up over time and shut us down by centimeters. Daily life can leave our spirits unbearably parched.

As we grow older, we begin to realize that ice cream, summer vacations, and the annual cooperation of Santa are not enough to satisfy us. We become disillusioned and search for other things. This search is really the key to so many human decisions, from using drugs to getting married to establishing empires. We are always on the hunt for a high to keep us satisfied. But life continues to let us down.

Some people search for happiness in success, others in security, others in respect. Many search for it in love, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

“And in the end, we were all just humans, drunk on the idea that love, only love, could heal our brokenness.”

This past year, I have been searching. I wish that the books I’ve read and the sermons I’ve heard over my lifetime about the sufficiency of Christ could have clicked for me at a heart level. But for some reason, I was fairly sure that God had missed something. Yes, yes, inHispresenceisfullnessofjoyandinHisrighthandarepleasuresforevermorePsalm16:11, I know. But I’m pretty sure this friendship is also crucial to my happiness. Also, this guy. Also, my family. Also, having a lot of fun all the time. Also…..

But recently this left me in a desert, tired and drained and lifeless. My sources of security had failed me. I was spending my money on sawdust and working for things never meant to sustain the divinely-thumbprinted human soul (Isaiah 55:2). I’d been trying to stay alive on muddy water from a puddle, ignoring the living water that was mine in Christ (John 4:10). I had been shackling myself to dependency on things meant only to enrich my life but never to define its meaning, chaining myself to the fear that I would be broken if my heart was broken, when I was actually free in the Lord to live and give and love while all the time remaining rock-solid secure in the everlasting belovedness that is my reality because I am His (Galatians 5:1).

When everything is stripped away, the follower of Christ will find that he/she stands. When life gives us no sustenance, we see without distraction the river of life in our souls. I never understood what John 7:38 means until right now.

In the past few months that I’ve been absent from blogging, this is what I have learned. The God who chose the desert nation of Israel as the stage on which to display His glory for the galaxies works through the desert of life on a fallen planet to bring supernatural, odds-defying peace and happiness to redeemed souls. From a desert, He has brought me to the highest place I have ever walked. I knew it, I believed it, but now I have tasted, seen, and found it to be true: Jesus is all I need. Everything else is a blessing, but no matter what happens in life, I can have joy. This world is a desert, but I will never go thirsty again. Has life left you disillusioned and drained? Come to the water (Revelation 22:17). This is what your soul was made to drink, and nothing less will fill you up.

Habakkuk 3:17-19:

Though the fig tree should not blossom
nor fruit be on the vines
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places.

 

Walk the Line of Grace

Posted on: Saturday, February 11, 2017

Humans are not good at balance. We live in extremes. Liberty to the point of lawlessness, or discipline to the point of asceticism. We boast in the flesh one way or another: in our ability to express it or in our ability to control it. We take pride in our sin or we take pride in our purity. We are the judge who condemns or the judge who pardons. In both extremes, we take the throne and play god.

Grace is the line that we walk, the one we fall off of on both sides when we stop looking at Jesus. And there is no self-glory in grace.

Grace exists because law exists. We stand in need of grace because God’s standards are high, fierce, and unbending. He is not permissive. He is not flexible. We broke the law, and if you are tempted to think the law does not matter, look at the cross and see the blood God bled for His law. Jesus Christ died because the demands of His law had to be met. We do not get a pass.

We don’t deserve this love and we can’t achieve it or buy it or earn it or win it back. Doing good deeds to earn God’s favor is like trying to polish the deck of the busted Titanic. We’re already sunk. 

Grace exists because we are not good. We get grace because we are so loved.

That is the balance of grace. It’s a law that matters, and it’s a love that covers. It’s not taking away the law and not adding to it either. You don’t need to help God out by removing the commands that are unpalatable in the 21st century or by hedging His rules with extra rules to be on the safe side. God doesn’t need our help. Follow His law. Obey your conscience. Trust that He is able to lead and convict your brothers and sisters without your licentiousness or your legalism. Walk in love, because you are loved. Look around. You’re swimming in grace. Don’t despair. You have hope, victory, and resources as a child of God. Look down. Have you fallen off the way? Has your heart built callouses that let you indulge in the sins for which your Savior died? Are you subsisting off of pride in your culture, creed, and browbeating way of life instead of drinking deep from the living water of truth: the truth that you are loved in spite of, and not because of, who you are; the truth that your identity is “beloved sinner;” the truth that Heaven will be filled with whores and thieves and other people despised by the Pharisees of the world who are there on the same exact merits as you, dressed alike in Christ’s white robes, welcomed into the embrace of God? And then look up, look at Jesus, and walk the line of grace.

Shame Keeps Us From Community

Posted on: Sunday, June 5, 2016

The church is an unlikely group, but we have Jesus Christ in common. We are called to accept one another when it comes to things that don’t matter. Instead, we often condemn others for trivial things and isolate ourselves, either by forsaking community or by living in false conformity. We avoid vulnerability in order to protect ourselves, but as a result we are deprived.

In a TED talk on Vulnerability, researcher Brené Brown said:

“Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection. Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection?”

The gospel is unique. We are called to live in community, but also in private communion. Not “on display”–with special uniforms, dietary restrictions, and other marks of religiosity–but in quiet holiness. Not in performance–with loud public prayers and declarations of fasting–but in truth; praying and giving in private, loving truly, acting in the interest of others instead of in the interest of self-promotion.

There are two extremes: Separatism, and total immersion. We’re not supposed to escape the world in safe communities, hiding our light under a bushel. At the same time, it’s foolish to pretend that being salt and light in a dark world is easy. Out here, we need the church more than ever.

It would be easy for believers–both those who are strong in conscience and Christian liberty and those who are not–to block out dissenting voices. With the unprecedented accessibility of the Internet comes unprecedented imperialism over our social groups. With the click of a button, we can excommunicate people from our own little kingdoms. 

But if everyone decided to protect their lives from intrusion by cutting out dissenters, we would create pockets of sectional, isolated living, and we would all be stagnant and prickly in our own little comfort zones, surrounded by yes men. Flannery O’Connor said, “Conviction without experience makes for harshness.” If I only socialize with people who think just like me, I’ll never be challenged and I’ll never be changed. And neither will the people I’m avoiding.

Brené Brown points out that the word “courage” comes from the Latin word for heart. The original definition of courage is: “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” This reminds me of James 5:16:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

It is easy to play a role, to give an appearance of following rules, to say what you’re supposed to say and do. It’s much more difficult to be honest about your failings and to let people love you when you’re weak, lonely, or struggling. 

It is easy to subscribe to a set of strict, manmade rules–rules that sound like those mocked in Colossians 2:21: “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.” (That passage goes on to say that these human, “religious” regulations have the appearance of wisdom, but are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.) It is much more difficult to live a prayerful life of faith and obedience, trusting God’s guidance through the gray areas of life, looking to Him every day for the wisdom and strength we need to make our way in a dark world. 

There are no shortcuts to holiness. Our private prayer lives inform our public walks. When we live in openness and transparency before God, we are able to live in openness and transparency before others. When we understand that we are forgiven and free in Him, resting in His righteousness, our shame disappears, and we can experience true community.

I think if every Christian took Romans 14 to heart, many of our problems would disappear. 

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4

Shame keeps us from community, but Christ came to abolish shame. In Him there is no pretense–we are all sinners who need a Savior–and in Him there is no condemnation. It takes courage to be honest about our failures, and it also takes courage to allow others to stand and fall before their Master without our permission. It feels good to judge; it lets us give ourselves a pass. Legalism and separatism are the easy way out. Rules are easy. Private obedience and trust, public honesty and vulnerability, a love that believes the best of others (1 Corinthians 13:7)–this is the radical life of a transformed person.

Where the Bible is clear, we must be clear. For everything else, there is grace–the kind of grace that kills shame, brings joy, and can only exist in God’s house.

What You Need to Know About Anxiety

Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The fight against anxiety is not passive.

Many people struggle with anxiety. Of the hundreds of sermons Jesus preached, so many of those recorded have to do with the most basic, even banal, of human concerns. Food. Clothes. Money. Your Father knows you need these things.

When the world talks about anxiety, it speaks in negatives. Don’t worry. Don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid. But if we are going to win the fight against anxiety, we must not simply tell ourselves to ignore our fears and concerns. When the world tells us what to do with our anxiety, it says: Have faith, it will all work out somehow. But what are we supposed to have faith in? And will things, in fact, work out? For millions of people throughout the course of human history, things haven’t. Many people have suffered without relief or resolution. Why should we be any different?

Perhaps that is why, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 20% of Americans who suffer from anxiety or a “mood disorder” also battle with misuse of drugs and/or alcohol. In their attempts to ignore their anxieties and fill the void, some people even use prescription pills, alcohol, and illicit drugs to deal with the weights and pressures of everyday life, using artificial means to dull their senses because their senses are logical and contradict the blithe platitudes the world calls comfort. The inspired writer of Proverbs understood that (“Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” Proverbs 31:6-7).

But those who know and follow Jesus Christ have something better than prescriptions, alcohol, and empty words.

The Bible doesn’t command us to replace our anxieties with a vacuum. God tells us to replace our anxieties with actions, and to preach truth to our worries.

Take action over your anxiety:

PRAYER.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6

GRATITUDE.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

CONTENTMENT.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5

TRUST.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

OBEDIENCE.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

SEEKING GOD.
“I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

FRIENDSHIP.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25

PEACE.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

BELIEF IN GOD’S POWER.
“But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.'” Mark 5:36

FAITH.
“And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?'” Mark 4:39-40

REST IN CHRIST.
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

NO FEAR OF MAN.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

SEEKING A BETTER REWARD.
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:14-15

LOVE.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19

Preach truth to your anxiety:

GOD’S COMFORT.
When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:19

GOD’S PRESENCE.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

GOD’S GIFT OF A NEW SPIRIT.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

GOD’S CARE.
“Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

GOD’S PROVISION.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26

GOD’S SALVATION.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

GOD’S SUSTANENCE.
“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22

GOD’S HELP.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2

GOD’S PROMISES.
“I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

GOD’S PLAN.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

GOD’S ENCAMPMENT.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” Psalm 34:7

GOD’S VICTORY.
“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But HE laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.'” Revelation 1:17-18

GOD’S DELIVERANCE.
Psalm 91

GOD’S LOVE.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I get letters asking me to address anxiety on this blog because it is such a real pain point for so many women. Many, many times I have meditated on Jesus’ words to Martha, who was complaining that her sister–instead of helping her serve guests–was sitting at His feet and listening to His teaching. How many times these words could be spoken to you and me.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

Jesus doesn’t just leave Martha with a nice saying. He doesn’t tell her not to worry. Our Lord understood fear–He Himself was afraid in the garden of Gethsemane. He doesn’t tell her she is crazy or irrational. He doesn’t disrespect her or dismiss her concerns. He simply tells her what matters more than her fears. He tells her what is truer than her fears.

2 Timothy 1:7 says we were not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. Some translations say “a sound mind.” He has already given us everything we need in order to be strong and courageous in the face of anxiety. Our Father knows what we need.

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