Monday, November 30, 2009

Nothing to Distract, Part I

In the last couple weeks, the Lord has repeatedly brought my attention to the truth that every moment of my days is an opportunity to live for His renown. There are so many distractions which encompass me, both internally and externally: busyness, irritations, disappointments, heartbreaks, loss, expectations, rejection, choices of others, sickness...the list goes on and on. All of these distractions, if they capture my focus and imagination, can in turn affect me in such a way that I become a distraction to the renown of the Lord.

In II Corinthians 12:7-10, we find Paul in a similar situation of distraction. The Lord allowed something in Paul's life which Paul refers to as "a thorn in my flesh". This thorn in Paul's flesh was greatly disturbing to him. He went to the Lord three different times, pleading with Him to take this thorn from his life. The Lord's response to Paul was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

When Paul received this answer from the Lord, a connection was made in his spirit. A deep understanding filled him and he said, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

These words greatly encourage me. They show me that the distractions which the Lord allows in my life are opportunities for His strength to be displayed through me. The question is: will I recognize these distractions as opportunities for His renown, or will I demand to see my own expectations fulfilled?

Romans 12:1 tells me that my spiritual act of worship is to offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. I am called to be an offering of uninterrupted worship. In essence this means that every part of my life is to point to God...nothing about me should detract from Him. Uninterrupted worship is what Jesus talks of in John 4:23...true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth...

Worshipping in spirit and truth means that my thoughts and imaginations are devoted to the truth of God. Nothing else is allowed to rule over my thoughts and imaginations. II Corinthians 10:3-5 says, For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. In other words, nothing that the world has to offer captivates me more than Christ -- not even its weapons! My imaginations are captured by the very Word of God.

Too often, my default reaction in distraction is to fight like the world. Belittling words are met with defense...hindrance is met with impatience...inconveniences are met with grumbling...ailments are met with complaint...the unexpected is met with fear...but in Christ, these default reactions need no longer be the norm for me. If they have surfaced, it is because I have allowed my thoughts and imaginations to be taken captive by the arguments and pretensions of the world. When this happens, I am allowing a situation to control me, permitting it to develop into such a distraction that it becomes a stronghold in my life...it has taken a stronger hold on my thoughts than the truth of Christ. Sadly, as a result, worship of the Father is rudely interrupted, for my focus is directed toward defending my own rights rather than living for His renown.

Part II will soon follow...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just For Who He Is

My heart is overflowing with thankfulness, not just for all that the Lord has given me, but for who He is. How many times have I doubted Him? Yet He always longs to work in every situation for my good...He is faithful. Though I live in a chaotic and pain-filled world, as I surrender to Him, He redeems every pain...He is gracious. When serenity seems an impossibility, He surrounds me with rest and comfort...He is peace. He directs my steps in the way that is right and helps me understand His Word...He is truth. Through heartache and loss, He gives a contentment which words cannot explain...He is joy. Even in my darkest days, He provides glorious bits of sunshine...He is light. Every new day is filled with His mercies, with His promise of renewal...He is hope. Nothing can take me from His hand...He is love.

I am amazed that He longs to share Himself with me, that He wants to teach me of His perfections. Truly, my Creator, Redeemer, Master and Friend is More Than Enough for every moment of every day. May the offering of my life show how truly thankful I am.

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like a great deep. O Lord, you preserve man and beast. How precious is your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of your house; and you give them to drink of the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalm 36:5-9

Monday, November 16, 2009


Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's...The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love...he does not treat us as we deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us...Praise the Lord, O my soul. ~Psalm 103:1-5, 8, 10-12, 22~

Remember...the Lord has whispered this word into my spirit with great repetition. He calls me to remember His benefits, to revisit and meditate on who He is and what He has done...and as I remember, my heart is filled with gratitude, my mouth sings His praise. What wonders He has done in my life! I cannot think on them without thanksgiving.

When the work of your hands prospers...remember. When surrounded by those who love you...remember. When your body knows sweet health...remember. When peace fills your heart...remember. At the first sign of doubt...remember. When tears soak your pillow...remember. In sickness...remember. When your bank account balance does not equal the amount needed for your bills...remember. When the unexpected threatens your peace...remember. For the Lord gently whispers: "Circumstances may change, but I do not change. I AM the same yesterday, today and forever...I AM." Remember.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Isle of Exile

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos...Revelation 1:9

Isle of Patmos. John. Banished. Suffering. Alone. And yet not alone: The great I AM, who is and who was and who is to come, was with him. This was the darkest time of John's life and yet amidst this dark and abandoned place, he was not abandoned. Far from it. Rather, on that Isle of Exile, God came to him in comfort and revelation.

This seemed like the end for John...his days of fruitfulness were over...or were they? Was not God in this forsaken place? Was not his ministry to God? Had he not always lived for an audience of One? This had not changed. His heart was ever surrendered to the Lover of his soul...as relationship with the Righteous One abounded, so, too, would fruit abound.

Despite this harsh existence, there was Love. There was purpose from the One that loved him - and His purpose is the only actuality. The One who works and wills to His good pleasure was present with John on that Isle of Exile.

In ostracism, John may have felt that he was being put "on the shelf", that the days of being used of God were over. Yet, in this lonely place, John was given the privilege of coming to know God in a way that few could even fathom. At a time of seeming unproductivity, John was given the Revelation of Jesus Christ as King of Kings.

I know nothing of physical exile or imprisonment, but my metaphorical exile has been illness. There have been many moments when, due to illness, I felt "out of service". But the faithfulness and love of God has dispelled that deception. For truly, I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

I have come to see that times of exile, metaphoric though they may be, are marked by love and purpose. In these seasons of seeming unproductivity, the activity of the One who works and wills to His good pleasure has not ceased. He weaves His wonder through every part of my days, gently calling me to trust the work of His hand. Through these pivotal time periods of my life, I have been reminded that relationship with God is the dearest treasure, that living for an audience of One is a priceless privilege.

The seasons of exile in a believer's life can have multi-faceted purposes: the birth of a new vision, preparation, a greater understanding of truth or even much needed rest...but whatever the appointment, these periods of life are first and foremost about sitting at the feet of our Master and learning more of Him. If we will seize the occasion, these seasons will have further reaching results than we could ever foresee.

Now I look for the revelation in my Isles of Illness. I embrace these periods of my life as an opportunity to learn more of God -- I seek His face, relish His Word, talk to Him about everything, and I am filled with awe that He brought me to the Isles of Illness so that I could know Him more.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Want To See

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God...Luke 18:35-43

I love the persistence of this blind man. I love that he was not silenced by the rebukes of the people. He knew Jesus could heal him...and he wanted to be healed. When Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?". The simple reply was, "Lord, I want to see".

Though his eyes were darkened, this man saw the truth of Jesus that many sighted around Him failed to discern. He called out to the Son of David...the people had referred to Him as Jesus of Nazareth, but the blind man asked the Son of David to have mercy on him. Was he quoting the prophecy of Isaiah and requesting that the Branch of David judge his need with righteousness? (Isaiah 11:1-4) With the words, "Lord, I want to see" was he proclaiming his desire to see the Messiah with his own eyes? How many dimensions of meaning were enveloped in the words, "Lord, I want to see"? I cannot say with certainty, but I do know that this man believed Jesus was the One who caused the blind to see.

The plea of my heart is much like the plea of this visionless man, for my vision is so often blinded by the fleeting and the temporal. The simple request of this man resonates within me because I, too, long to see. I desire for the eyes of my heart to be enlightened. I want to see the unseen.

Like the blind man, I am persistent in my cries to Jesus. With a desire to discern wonderful things from His law, I say to my Lord, "I want to see". I know that Jesus is the One who causes the blind to see. I trust that in His light I will see light. Does not Jesus love the perseverant seeker? Is He not looking to reward hearts that long for Him?

Oh, yes! I believe that as I continue to pore over His Word, its rays of truth will illuminate the edges of the eternal; the temporal will lose distinction, and in high-definition, I will see the lasting beauty of eternity.