Monthly Archives: July 2012
So, whose fault is it when things go wrong? Do you ever have a problem giving credit where it’s due? How about blame… Me, too.
In my line of work I see a lot of relational chaos – someone did someone wrong, yelled at someone else who didn’t do anything intentionally wrong, etc., etc. A good majority of marital problems we’re called in to untangle are rooted in unmet expectations, but second place often comes from misplaced blame and misdirected anger. Hence, a look at Prov. 19.3.
Watch Where You Point That Thing
We often joke that “man plans, God laughs”. But Prov 16:9 and Prov 21:31 [rollover links for the verses] remind us that we can plot and plan, but God is ultimately responsible for outcomes. However, when we’re doing (or have done) something foolish, sometimes I think we expect God (Father of mercy and grace) to step in and protect us from our consequences. What’s that all about? Haven’t we been warned about the fruit of foolishness? So, why do we end up with a heart that rages against God when we’ve sown in foolishness?
Problem #1 – Blaming God for appropriate consequences. Reaping a fool’s reward is a predictable outcome: “I keep planting apple seeds, but can’t seem to harvest oranges.” No kidding. Fool’s fault, not God’s.
It was pointed out to me yesterday how often Job’s wife is presented as a nag or just plain mean. “Curse God and die!” (2:9) And, the reader gasps at her blasphemy, right? But, while Job is grieving his losses, how’s she feeling? Isn’t she, too, grieving the loss of her husband’s fortune, her children, and now her husband’s health is in question? Can we really blame her for her outburst? While we have behind the scenes information about what’s really happening, she doesn’t. In fact, if Job is indeed the oldest book in the canon of scripture, she’s the case study – how does that feel? Would you be tempted, in her shoes -grieving, broken, and uncertain of her/her husband’s future, to poorly aim the blame?
The point of Job’s story is the Job worships God despite his circumstances and we can/should, too. Terrible things may happen regardless of our righteousness and right living – we live in a broken world with a crafty, broken enemy who hates us bitterly. Problem #2 – Blaming God for Satan’s work or the consequences of a fallen world. Ultimately, our worshipful response to terrible circumstances can teach angels how to worship God, see Eph 3:10., not out of obligation but out of gratitude and unconditional love.
I am often encouraged when scripture sheds light on the fact that there is a reason for suffering, a purpose to pain, and an over-arching plan in harsh circumstances that will ultimately point greater glory to God. So, today, let’s consider that with problem 1, we’ve already been warned. God, who loves us enough to die for us, left us great encouragement to search out wisdom at great cost and warns us of the many consequences of folly in advance. Praise God.
But, with problem 2, we must keep in mind the fact that at the judgment seat of Christ, we will all see what was really going on behind the scenes as each believer’s life is reviewed in full – we will not only see God’s greater and higher plan in majestic detail, but also potentially learn the struggles others were facing, the fears they were weighing, and the wounds they may have been guarding when they retaliated against us, blamed us for their own folly, etc. We live in a fallen world with a devious foe who will stop at nothing to mar and desecrate us – God’s crowning creations. Let us not give him more credit than he is due, nor allow him to embitter us against God when his nefarious plans “succeed”.
May we shake no more fists at heaven, but take a knee for what God restored for Job and may eventually reward us with at the judgement seat – a reward that lasts forever. May we give God the glory, not the blame when things go sour and keep proper perspective when pain, destruction, and trial comes our way.
Among the many conversations I’ve had with the men God has me walking with, a good double digit percentage of them have been about work – successes, failures, disappointments, prospects, tough cases, difficult people, etc. It always gets interesting when a guy, particularly one who is frustrated with his current work situation, brings up the idea of “going into full time ministry”.
Occasionally, one of these guys is truly responding to a calling the Lord has placed on their heart. Over time and with much prayer, even fasting, the calling is authenticated. For the most part though, we [the guy and I] have discovered he’s simply in the midst of an “I wish” moment, wishing he were somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else, especially with less strife, contention, and aggravation, and often at a higher rate of pay.
We recently moved out of a neighborhood where one of our neighbors was a couple who’ve spent over 25 years as missionaries to the Dominican Republic. I regularly meet with a couple of guys who’ve been in full time ministry for over a decade each. All of these people are amazing, authentically called, God equipped workers for the Kingdom. And, contrary to what some would believe, they’re not always happy about how things are going “at work”.
Two other guys – Kurt, probably in the best shape of any guy I know. So much so, that he’s a professional personal trainer (who does amazing things for his clients with only a small amount of weight and very few workouts per week). I run into him at some event maybe once every two years, but I see his Facebook page much more often than that. There, I notice two things – he’s not wishing he was doing anything else, and he’s clearly on a mission to stir up peoples’ thoughts and get them thinking about the gospel. Recently, he commented: “I think people tend to harbor naive views as to what is more a thing of God than another.” Great point.
Ron runs a large company – over 200 retail locations nationwide. I have no idea how he gets done all that he does in a given week with all the employees, warehouses, and fires he has to put out. But, he somehow finds time to write incredibly insightful content for a ministry for men called ONE TH1NG, study scripture, and present a cogent 15 minute “set up” that leaves the dozens of guys who attend thinking deeply about the thoughts of God and how those should govern their lives.
Neither of these guys are “in full time ministry”. Yet, they show no evidence of playing “I wish” with their careers. What gives? Why the contentment?
Cristine had an opportunity to pick up a part time job last year for a few hours a week. One of her co-workers has been deeply wounded by “church people” in her past because she identifies as a lesbian. After six months of prayerful, Spirit-led conversation, Cristine received the comment that she had “restored her faith in Christians”.
This isn’t to brag about how godly Cristine is, how selfless Ron is, or how bad you need to inbox me if you’re serious about getting in shape with Kurt… Alright, only the former two are true. Inbox me and I’ll connect you with Kurt. The point is pretty obvious – it’s not about how difficult people are at work, how off the pay is, how challenging the workload, etc. It’s about the fact that God:
We have all been given a time, a place… a platform to proclaim the gospel, to spur others on to love and good deeds, to urge others to consider their ways and the God who made them. To assume that we should be somewhere else is a “vertical matter” – we must all weigh seriously the leadings of the Lord who would have us move from one career to another. However, this prayer must always begin with great thanksgiving that God has indeed placed us where we are with whom He placed us for a reason. To ignore this is to call God a fool and assume He knew not what He was doing when he placed us there.
If scripture is true, and I believe that it is, then God has placed some in “full time ministry” and others in “full time ministry” (not a typo). Enjoying the Lord most is often found in enjoying even the rough landscape upon which He has drawn our career path. There is someone in your office, your client list, your platform that needs the love, the wisdom, the comfort, the counsel, the truth and grace of Christ. Reaching them does not guarantee “graduation” to a “better” job, rather it guarantees a “well done, good and faithful servant” from the God who searches hearts and minds and will reward all for what they do in the body, whether good or bad.
Let us find ourselves rejoicing in adversity, thanking God for His toughest assignments, and receiving eternal rewards once we have ultimately “overcome” (see Rev. 2 & 3), rather than clicking our ruby slippers together wishing we were anywhere else.
Maybe you’ve read this verse before – John 1:10-13. Maybe not. Regardless, it’s quite a big deal and I’m publicly admitting I’ve glossed over it a few times hoping it would just go away so I wouldn’t have to be moved by it.
You may have had the perfect dad growing up. Mine was often… “busy”. My older siblings had a different relationship with him. But by the time marriage #2 and child #6 came around, he was spread a bit too thin to give me the time and attention a kid like me was craving. So, reading about being a son gave me a bit of the same fear you get after you fall off a bike and get gravel in your knee and the doctor says “okay, time to go inside and clean this thing up…”
This might sting. And, you might have to deal with some past hurt in order to heal fully and walk right again.
Eventually, I did. I had some great opportunities over the past decade and a half to engage with my dad about what was “missing” from my childhood and experiencing his death a year and a half ag. My perspective has markedly shifted. Gone are many of the illusions I’ve had that God, as perfect Heavenly Father, was just a bigger version of an imperfect earthly father. Today, I understand “sonship” more clearly.
Last week, I was reading Proverbs 2. Couldn’t get past the first two words: “My son…”
How do you do when you read that? Today, I read it in light of the fact that every morning, I deserve to have a bottomless bucket of God’s wrath poured out on me all day long. Yet, He poured it out on Jesus instead. Do you consider the fact that despite all of your failures, foibles, and shortcomings, God – perfect, holy, righteous Elohim reaches out to you both in the Spirit and in the word to leave you notes of encouragement, wisdom, protection, even love? Have you considered that the Lord of everything that is, was, and is yet to come has taken the necessary steps to reveal himself to mankind, inspire errant men to write down His inerrant truth, and preserve and protect it to this day so that you and I can read the whole story (so far) of His pursuit of a traitor race that He loves and bids us call Him “Abba [Daddy], Father” (Romans 8:15)?
Maybe you had a great, “available”, fully present Dad who offered you encouragement and love at every step – that’s great! You’ve been truly blessed. But, like all men, your Dad was still flawed – imagine what it will be like when we see Jesus face to face and He presents us to our perfect Heavenly Father!
I pray today that we all begin to pick up Proverbs differently. In fact, that we pick up the bible differently, and own the fact that God calls us sons and daughters of the Most High even though without Christ we are nothing more than “objects of wrath” (Romans 9:22, Ephesians 2:3).
Read on, sons and daughters. Let us walk on, as children of light.
In a recent article at Christianity today, Michael Horton places some perspective around some remarks recently made by Alan Chambers. Chambers is president of Exodus International, an organization ministering to “ex-gays”. As a man who dabbled in the homosexual (bisexual) lifestyle for close to two decades until I submitted to Christ as both my Savior and Lord, I was compelled to read up on the “controversy” as well as the reply.
The most important word I see God using throughout the entire catalog of scripture is the word “repent”. It’s from a Greek word “metanoia”. It essentially translates as “new mind” or “change of thought”. When I met Christ as He appears in scripture, the things He said caused me to change my mind about how I lived. First, that I am incapable of meeting God’s standards on my own – if I spent the rest of eternity doing good, I could never make up for the sins I’ve committed against a God who is both Holy and eternal. That was a game-changer. Further, when I realized that Christ raises the bar on sin – “You have heard it said… but I tell you… even think like this and you’re guilty of sin…” I had to make a decision – “Can I honestly serve two masters? Can I serve both porn and Christ? Can I truly serve Christ while still disobeying his call to sexual purity, whether bi or heterosexual?”
To repent is to turn away and run to Jesus. If I’m facing my sin and trying to face Jesus, I’m not really running, am I? So, I ran to Jesus. Only by His grace am I saved and does He continue to keep me from my “natural” propensities to habitually sin. Do I still cuss? Do I still burst out in anger? Do I still lie? Yep. Still imperfect. But, not as often, not as willfully, and not without remorse and continued repentance. I don’t go to those things to find life anymore.
“our choices… reinforce or counter the specific sins toward which we are especially disposed.”
“In a world that refuses to be healed, we must face the fact that we
are not the heroes of our stories. it teaches us to rely on something
bigger than ourselves and teaches the source of true compassion.” Jeff Goins Wrecked
With our own eyes we have seen it.” Psalm 35:19-21, NIV1984
I have an addiction. More often than I’d like to admit, I battle with approval addiction. I used to justify it by preaching that I’m just “chief reputation officer of myself”. Within moments of opening a conversation with me, you’re likely to hear any number of statements that explain or defend my character. Jon Ortberg calls it “impression management”, things like “I would never…” and “I normally don’t…” We all have a tendency to guard against being misrepresented by what’s unspoken or mischaracterized by others’ perceptions of us. Unchecked, it becomes and all encompassing addiction inextricably glued to us by the powerful adhesive forces of social media.
A year or two ago, I had to make a few radical choices to solve a very unique set of problems that were facing us. We’re pretty sure the God gave us the solutions because a) they were incredibly effective and b) neither of us would normally have thought so far outside the box in our own strength. Recently, some friends of ours learned about what I did and made vague comments in disapproval. My ego felt bruised and feared my reputation was tarnished, at least in their eyes.
Ever felt misrepresented? Ever felt like you just needed to issue a public statement to clear your name of some misperception, gossip, or worse, lie about you? Ever felt like there’s a person or people watching your worst move(s), just waiting to say “Aha!!!”? Ever felt like writing an open letter or posting a well-sharpened retort on Facebook designed to bring your enemies to shame and clear your name in one fell-swoop?
King David – the anointed of the Lord – was plagued by scandal in his rule, even before he ever came to power. Psalm 35 was likely written when he was being pursued by Saul. So, it is before he could have leveraged the resources of the Kingdom of Israel to defend his good name. However, his response to the scandal, the “Aha”‘s and the “GOTCHA”s is no less correct:
Even the great ruler of Israel had “Gotchas” after him. You and I have Gotchas after us. Learning the difference between control over our reputation vs. influence on our reputation is a crucial step toward the peace of God. Holding onto control is a sure sign of addiction. Submitting to God in this area offers freedom and recovery from addiction that can’t be found anywhere else.
Are you addicted to approval? Are you “cautious about your reputation” (addicted to approval)? Are you bitter with your accusers? One day, we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) and the truth of what you have done or haven’t done will be aired in front of the Lord. Fighting for your reputation is often fighting against the Lord. What peace might we find if we surrendered our reputation (and vindication) to the Lord now, instead of waiting for the judgment seat to come?