“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7 NASB)”
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
Of course I wanted to say “At the moment, Sir, I didn’t even remember my van even had a speedometer. But, I’m sure I was going fast enough to warrant you pulling me over.” But, I restricted my response to “No, sir.”
“64 in a 45.”
That was a kick in the gut.
Are You Sorry?
Two kinds of sorrow: worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow says “I’m mad I got caught.“ It ignores the sin and blames the cop or the person who pointed out the fault. It is impotent and devoid of transformative power. Godly sorrow recognizes there was sin involved and deals with it. It says “I’m mad that I sinned.” Inherent in godly sorrow is the vital power to affect change.
Deputy Parker made a point of giving me an epilogue after he gave me my citation: “Mr. Pina, you were very polite. Most people are belligerent and argumentative when I pull them over, but you were very decent… if that makes any difference to you.”
Funny, at the moment, it was a flimsy, cheap, second place trophy. It didn’t make a difference to me I wanted a verbal warning. But, God loves me too much for that. He loves you too much for that. I can’t say that it was me, Mr. I’m-So-Holy who was so polite. I’m rejoicing now in the fact that I could see this evidence of the Holy Spirit doing what my weak flesh wanted nothing to do with: enduring hardship in the knowledge that through this deputy’s actions, I was being chastened by the Father who loves and disciplines me as a dearly loved son. It could have been an accident. It could have been the death of my three toddlers in the backseats or even someone else’s…
“…God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will…
(2 Tim 2:25-26 NASB)”
We’ve had this talk before, haven’t we? “Trials are necessary.” But, every once in a while, don’t we all find ourselves “out of our senses”, doing what is contrary to God’s design for us, and in need of a grant of repentance that leads to the knowledge of truth?
The Pause That Refreshes
Sometimes bad things happen just because we live in a Genesis 3 world and are stalked by an enemy who hates us because of his hatred for Him who created us in His image. But, for the blood bought, born again believer in Christ, abiding in Christ will have its challenges, hardships, and curve balls. Today, consider something you’re doing that would make you sorry if you got caught and ask this: “would I be angry if I got caught… or thankful?”
Sin is heavy and its consequences are a great burden. The knowledge of truth helps us experience the relief of its weight. It can set us free from an enemy who holds us captive to do his will. It is only by grace given. Godly sorrow is the thumbprint of God on our souls. A right attitude toward God and proper perspective that He truly wants good for us changes our attitude toward sin and leads us away from weak, worldly sorrow.
Pause for a moment in your next or current affliction. Pray today that God catches you in whatever sin has you snared and beg for a shift away from worldly sorrow and toward godly sorrow. It is available. It is necessary, fruitful, and it is… a gift… by grace.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He open your eyes to the places where you are being held captive by the enemy and set you free by the knowledge of truth.
Praying God’s Will
Every week, ask at least a dozen guys: “How can I pray for you?” Number one frequently asked question from guys I’ve met for the first time is this: “Would you pray that God gives me clarity about His will for my life?”
Sounds like a good request, right? I, lately (smothered with a ketchup bottle of compassion), explain that there’s not much to pray about there.
Huh? OK, I’ll explain my… explanation…
God has given us scripture so that we can know more about His will for our lives: to know Christ and to make Him known. In fact, part of God’s character is revelation: He is a God who reveals Himself. The reason we are without excuse for our sins is right there in Romans 1:20: God has made some of Himself plain to see right there in the natural world. God is a god of revelation – He’s already revealing. But, where we get “wrapped around the axle” is when “God isn’t revealing enough of His plan for us, fast enough…”
“God isn’t revealing enough of His plan for us fast enough.”
We’re not the main character.
When the tables were (and sometimes, still are) turned and I was (do) ask this question, I later realize I’ve mistaken myself for the main character – God is the main character of the Bible, my story, our lives. He is not beholden to men and debtor to me that He would owe me an explanation. As the scriptures tell us:
“what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him? (Psalm 8:4 HSCB)”
Who gets to determine how much is enough revelation?
Again, we’re in God’s territory, on His time, and the revelation we get is a privilege, not a right. Just as God is right in giving out mercy and compassion to whom He chooses and in the quantity He chooses, He is also right in giving out as much or as little information as He chooses… to whom He chooses.
“Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21)”
When we demand more revelation than God has given, we sin in the area of pride: “God owes me more info than He’s given me.”
Who am I to determine how fast God “ought” to be revealing His will?
Reading about Elijah in 1Kings 17, we have the benefit of hindsight – we know how the story ends. But, to Elijah, God essentially got on Twitter and sent the prophet two tweets – less than 140 characters in the NIV, ESV, HSCB, etc… “Tell Ahab, ‘drought until My say-so’.” Second tweet: “Supper is waiting for you down by the river. Come ‘n get it!”
How do you feel if you’re Elijah in that situation? Are you content with what little info you have? Or, are you desperate for more detail… faster…?
(See 1Kings 17:1-4)
Elijah is among the ranks of many great men of God who despaired for their lives. James even tells us that Elijah, as great as he was, was just like us – human. (James 5:17) Does it comfort you that God kept this man, whose name appears all over the old and new testaments, on a need to know basis? Does it comfort you that Jesus taught the disciples to pray ‘not my will, but Yours’?
If Elijah – professional prophet – appointed by God to deliver His direct word to kings, got little more than two tweets at a time, what makes you and I think we’re going to get God’s 14-point blueprint for our lives by Thursday? What right, when we have the full canon of scripture and the indwelling Holy Spirit that Elijah didn’t have, do you and I have to demand more from the star and author of the scripture (and our faith – see Heb. 12:2)?!
Good answer… We don’t. But, it’s okay. God sees the whole picture…
Asking Higher Quality Questions
While it’s not license for us to demand from God what He has no obligation to give, we’re wise to start with the heart of the question: our heart. Jesus told us “abide in me and you will bear much fruit”. See John 15… And, let me ask you the same question He keeps asking me when I’m begging for the 14 Point Plan by Thursday: What would you do if He gave you that plan? More importantly, how would you do it?
Most of us would rightly go after the 14 point plan point by point. But, we’d miss God. Desperation is our friend, as long as it is God we are desperate for. The more information we have about God’s plan for our lives, the more likely we are to be distracted by the plan and away from the Planner.
God is not out to manipulate us by keeping us on a short leash… He’s just smarter than we are. He knows that “with much wisdom comes much sorrow” (Ecc. 1:18) and that when we ask Him for things, we often ask with selfish motive to use what we get for our purposes rather than His. Desperation keeps us clinging to the vine – not just for information, but for life. And, doesn’t He know that we need life more than information, anyway? God wants us to be to Him what He is for us: fully present.
Prayer: “Lord, would you give me more of you… always? Would you help me to be satisfied…content with the plan You’ve given me on a need to know basis.”
Pretty sure we can all predict the answer for that one…
Ever Felt the Pressure of a Deadline?
I speak pretty good Spanish… and have forgotten more French than most people know… But, I have a great accent in both languages. The curse in this is that people often approach me and say “say something in Spanish!!!” What you may not know is the pressure that crushes someone put in that position: “Produce greatness at a moment’s notice!!!”
Sometimes, I feel crushed by that same pressure on a Thursday or Friday while preparing for my Monday post… More often, it’s an even heavier pressure… on… Monday morning. Don’t you just love how the pressure of a deadline forces you to flourish or fold? Can you feel it on your shoulders, in your head, or in the pit of your gut?
Are You A “Muster” or a “Truster”?
In any situation, we find this fork in the road – Muster Street or Truster Trail… When we muster results – which often… we must… The solution is based on hard work and ultimately comes down to one word: me. Mustering results is about “force”. When we force things, the outcome depends more on strength and wisdom but under pressure creates excess tension & stress. Victory rings hollow because we’ve fought and won… the wrong battle.
God always desires us to trust in Him and not lean on our own understanding. To be a “truster” overall depends on one word: He. Trusting God with outcome is about “flow”. Outcomes, which always depend on God anyway, remove great pressure from us.
Back to Jonah, “That Guy”, and You
Often, I’ll sit across the table from a guy who’s struggling in his marriage/significant relationship. We’ll talk more and a few other issues will become evident – sometimes family of origin, maybe related to habitual sin, often another issue about work/business troubles… And, “oh, my quiet time is a little spotty.”
We’ve blogged this before, right? If he could rub his bible three times and make one of those problems go away with a wish, he most often picks the work troubles or the marital/relationship issues. If he had a second wish he’d ask God to clean and polish up his life with a little “Porn-B-Gon”… But, rarely if ever does he start with “just pray that God helps me abide in Him and know him better…” Funny, right? The one solution that could solve all of the other problems (or at least make them bearable) is the last one to come to the table…
Solve the right problem or you’re boasting in your strength… Boasting in your wisdom… Looking through Jonah’s eyes and fighting, sometimes winning, the wrong battles.
When we lean on wisdom and strength… specifically, our own, we’re trying to solve the wrong problem. This is most often because we’re seeing the problem through our own eyes. Jonah needed to see the problem through God’s eyes – there were over 100,000 children in that Assyrian city who did not know the Lord… Jonah was more concerned with his own comfort…
How’s That Working for Ya?
Ever played Jonah? Ever gone on a long journey to find what you’re looking for only to find it wasn’t what you were looking for? No one knows if Jonah ever found his full satisfaction in the Lord… We just know that God rebuked him for being more concerned about a plant that brought him temporary comfort from a permanent problem.
Some of the problems that face us are not problems that can be solved in a Genesis 3 world. Those problems require perseverance that only comes from God. Those are the times when instead of God calming the storm on His child’s behalf, He lets the storm rage and calms His child. This is a place of peace under pressure. This is our witness to a lost and dying world.
I can’t think of many other reasons God would put this verse in the scriptures for us, but to encourage us through the times when we mistakenly take the wheel and veer toward “Muster”…
“This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me,that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)”
May you win many battles… because you’ve fought the right ones. May you boast in the Lord and not your own strength. May you boast that you know Him not just know about Him. Therefore, may the outcomes He delivers to you come from Him, letting the stress and strife of the storm pass you by unscathed.