Michael Kelley's Blog, page 6

May 12, 2015

I am a habitual garden-killer.

In the past 5 years, everything from tomatoes to cucumbers to cilantro to corn has met its demise at my hand. In almost all of these cases, the death of these herbs and vegetables did not come from violence, but instead came through neglect.

I harbor no ill-will towards plants; in fact, I really like them. That’s why the idea of a garden has been so appealing to me. The idea of going outside, picking something off a plant or vine, and then eating it, is great in my mind. But the knowledge that seeing those proverbial fruits comes only after a couple of months of vigilance is not quite as exciting.

It’s the same thing every day – water the plants. Spray the plants. Weed around the plants. And if that’s not enough, it’s recognizing there are hundreds of critters who are more excited about my budding vegetation than I am. So then it’s build the fence. It’s repair the fence. It’s watch the fence for any sign of weakness. So throughout the last five years, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that though I wanted to have a garden, I didn’t care enough to put in the work for it.

Until this year. And this year, I got a head start, because the previous owner of our family’s home had built raised garden beds. There was already the makings of a fence there. It seemed like a terrible waste not to do anything with it. So even though I didn’t care about it that much when I started, we weeded out the garden. We repaired the holes in the fence. We tilled all the soil.

And a funny thing happened – with every single drop of sweat, I found myself caring more and more about this plot of earth.

Now I suppose that for a lot of people, it works the opposite way – they cared in advance, and the care is what drove them to action. But either way, the action is happening.

In fact, it’s a bit like a circle. Each time you do that activity, you care a little bit more. And when you care a little bit more, you keep doing the things that must be done.

Perhaps gardening isn’t the only thing like that – maybe prayer works a little like that, too. There are, of course, some things or people you care very much about. It’s that care that drives you to your knees. You love them, and out of your love, you petition God on their behalf, over and over again. But sometimes it happens the opposite way.

You don’t care about that person. Or at least you don’t care as much as you ought to. So you begin to pray, and with each petition you find your affection and care beginning to grow.

You pray because you care, and then you care because you pray. It’s a beautiful circle, isn’t it? And the simplicity is perhaps the most beautiful part…

If you care deeply for someone, then you should pray.

If you don’t care deeply enough for someone, then you should pray.

And in either case, the result is that your affection is deepened as you continue to life them before God’s throne.

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Published on May 12, 2015 04:09 • 5 views

May 7, 2015

The natural progression of life is to move from dependence to independence. When you are a child, you are dependent on someone else for everything. First for even the bare necessities of life, and then into things like clothes, education, and wisdom. But you begin to grow, and you become more self-sufficient in these areas as you do. That’s a good and right thing – we are meant to progress this way as long as we do so with a wary eye on the fact that ultimately none of us are self-sufficient. But as long as we are continually reminded of our ultimate dependence on God to meet our needs, then we should move forward in this progression from dependence to independence.

There is, however, another way to look at this movement:

You move from being a demand on other people to being demanded of by other people. You were a child, and then you have your own children. You were provided for, and then you are the provider. You lived on someone else’s insurance and then you become the source of someone else’s insurance. When you become an adult, then, there comes a demand on your time, resources, energy, and attention. It comes from your employer, from the children, from your spouse, from your friends, and from the church.

When you start feeling the weight of those demands – that everywhere you turn, someone needs something from you, there is an inclination that rises up inside of you. It’s that old instinct of self-preservation. It’s the feeling that no one is looking out for you because everyone is needing something from you.

Now let’s be clear, here – there are moments, many in fact, when you find yourself (as I do) in an over-committed situation, and for the health of your family and even your soul, you need to release some of those demands. But in those occasions, you are releasing some demands so you can fully give yourself to others. It’s not an escaping; it’s a re-aligning of yourself to make sure you are giving what limited resources you have to the most appropriate places.

It’s a tricky issue, then, to walk the line between healthy commitment and responsibility and worshiping at the idol of self-preservation. It might help to diagnose the difference between the two by asking some key questions:

1. What am I planning to do with my increased margin?

This is a helpful question because it will help you see who is at the center of your desire. If you want to free up your commitments so that you can be more engaged in what you know God has called you to do, then by all means free it up. But if you are the only person who will benefit from these changes, then beware the idol of self-preservation.

2. How did I wind up feeling this compulsion in the first place?

If you’re feeling crushed by the weight of responsibility, you didn’t get here by accident. The question is how you got here, and why. Did you get here because of your pride? That you can’t say no to things, even if you don’t have the time or energy to do them well? Or did you get here because this is the road God put you on? If it’s the former, then you need to evaluate your decision-making process. But if it’s the latter, then you can rest in your faith that God will provide the means to do what He has called you to do.

3. Have I stopped believing God will take care of me?

This is really the question at the core. It could be that the reason you have the need to preserve yourself is because you have stopped trusting that God ultimately will preserve you. Asking this question takes us back to one of the most fundamental and simple things we know to be true, and yet we forget so easily: God will take care of me. And if God has my ultimate well-being at heart, my primary goal is not to take care of myself. It’s to follow Him.

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Published on May 07, 2015 04:47 • 10 views

May 5, 2015

Prayer is one of those issues that almost all of us, I believe, have a relationship of guilt with. We know in our minds that prayer is important; that prayer effects change; that prayer is our lifeline to God Almighty; and that without prayer, we will shrivel on the vine and die. Prayer is one of the most primary means by which we do the work of abiding in Christ.

And yet…

We don’t. We can’t concentrate. We fumble around. Despite all our classes and training, all our best intentions, all our alarm clock settings that get moved to snooze, we fail to pray as much or as long or as fervently as we ought to. When we ask ourselves why we don’t pray, then, there are a myriad of reasons we come to:

I’m too busy. I’ve got so much going on that it’s difficult to devote a sustained amount of time to something that in the moment can feel so frivolous.
I’m too distracted. Even when I do sit and pray, my mind can’t slow down and focus on what I’m doing. I eventually always devolve into musings or making my to-do list for all the stuff that has to be done after I’m done praying.
I don’t know how. I know I should, because it should be as easy as having a conversation, but I still don’t know the best technique, the right acrostic, or how this works with the whole journaling thing.

I totally get it. I feel all those things, too. But I think there is a greater reason why I fail to pray, and maybe there is for you too.

The real reason we fail to pray isn’t because we’re too busy, too distracted, or too untrained. The real reason we fail to pray is because we’re too confident.

Ultimately, I find inside myself the lurking idea that I actually know the right thing to do and have the capacity to do it. I find the notion that I can affect real change in my life or in the lives of those around me based on my sheer will, intelligence, or charisma. I find the lie that I am actually a pretty good person with pretty good ideas and character. I find inside myself a dramatic overestimation of myself, and the result is a failure to hit my knees with the fervency I should.

I am confident in me, so what need do I have at the throne of grace? Prayer becomes an easily disposable segment of my daily routine, something that can be dropped out as soon as something else comes up to take its place.

May it not be so. May we have a “sober estimation” and “think sensibly” of ourselves (Romans 12:4), and may the result be a renewed compulsion to approach God’s throne of grace.


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Published on May 05, 2015 05:38 • 5 views

April 30, 2015

I. Love. Lists.

I live by lists. In fact, I take so much joy in crossing things off a list that if I do something that’s not on my list, I’ll write it on there just for the sheer pleasure of crossing it off. It’s encouraging to me, then, when I look to Scripture and see other list-makers (maybe there’s a place for us in the kingdom of God, too).

One list-maker that comes to mind is Nehemiah. If you’ll remember the context of the book, Nehemiah was one of the children of Israel in exile; he had risen to prominence in the foreign kingdom of Artaxerxes. As the cup-bearer to the king, Nehemiah was a trusted associate charged with tasting of the king’s food and drink before he did in order to prevent assassination. The life of the king, in a very literal sense, rested in Nehemiah’s hands day in and day out. And yet this man was troubled:

“During the month of Chislev in the twentieth year, when I was in the fortress city of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers arrived with men from Judah, and I questioned them about Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile. They said to me, ‘The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down’” (Neh. 1:1-3).

It wasn’t just the walls; it was what they represented. Without the walls, the city could not thrive in safety. Without the walls, the return to the land of the exiles would never be complete. Nehemiah was burdened, and so he began to pray. His prayer, recorded in Nehemiah 1, was a humble plea. In it, Nehemiah remembered not only the love and faithfulness of God, but the infidelity of His people. He acknowledged the just judgment that had ben leveled against the people, and yet he longed for an opportunity to do something. To make a difference. For the walls to be rebuilt.

Nehemiah prayed. He also made a list.

We know he made a list because when the king asked him why he was troubled in chapter 2, Nehemiah responded immediately. He didn’t brush off his sadness; instead, he provided a well articulated answer as to what was burdening his heart. But then, when the king dug further into Nehemiah’s troubles, the cup-bearer had a detailed list of exactly what he would need. He would need letters of commendation, timber, and a specific grant of leave from his post as cup-bearer.

The point is that Nehemiah’s list was more than an exercise in planning; it was an exercise of faith.

Nehemiah prayed, and he expected God to move and work and answer. We know he did because he made the list. And this list of Nehemiah makes this list-maker wonder whether I truly believe God to answer when I pray. This is the attitude of David in Psalm 5:3:

“At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly.”

Nehemiah prayed, and he believed, and the expression of his belief was his list.

It’s a good reminder to us that we have a God who not only listens but also acts, in His time, and in His way. And it’s a good reminder that when we pray, we should also be making some lists of what comes next when God answers.

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Published on April 30, 2015 06:24 • 6 views

April 28, 2015

What do the words gram, liter, square foot, parsec, minute and pound have in common? They’re all units of measurement. They all are used to set a length or weight or distance or some other quantity with assigned values so that we can have a common point of relation when we want to discuss the amount of some solid, liquid, gas, time or anything else. There is really nothing we can’t assign values like these to; even the largest or smallest known things in our universe can be measured in some way.

But how do you measure something intangible? How do you quantify the amount of that which is not a physical entity? How, for example, do you measure something like faith?

It’s not just an intellectual question; the reason it’s not is because of how important faith is. Without faith, one cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). And what are the works God requires? At the center of all of what we might attempt to do for God and His glory, the Lord is looking for the act of faith – belief in the One He has sent (Jn. 6:29). This is a sobering thought – that the center piece of what it means to be a follower of Jesus is our faith. Surely, then, we would want to do the same thing we do with everything else in the world, which is to know how much we have of that which is so essential.

But here you see the problem. How do you measure faith?

Well, one option would be to look at results. Jesus was the One who said that even with a small amount of faith, faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell a mountain to get up and move and it would (Lk. 17:6). In our minds, this looks like a focus on results. That the one with faith will be able to believe that a certain thing should be, and it will be. That’s how we know how big our faith is – it’s based on whether or not that which we can conceive actually becomes reality. But I want to propose a different measure of faith, one not based on results but instead based on something bigger and better than those results.

And you can describe this kind of boldness of faith in five words:

“Even. If. He. Does. Not.”

Remember this phrase? Three exiled Hebrews said them a long time ago. They spoke them to an angry potentate in the more dire of circumstances. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood before the gigantic golden statue the king of the foreign land had erected in his own honor. The law had been passed; every citizen of the kingdom was required to bow low and pay homage to this statue, and the king the statue represented. This was too far for these Israelites.

Sure, they had lost their home. Yep, they had been stripped of their families and national identity. Absolutely, they were living in the midst of a foreign culture. But they would not bow, and they were ready to face the consequences. In this case, those consequences meant sudden and certain death. In light of the serious threat before them, the king was curious about their resolve, so they were questioned:

“Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will be immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” (Dan. 3:15).

Can you hear the arrogance in the question? Can you see the sneer of the one who seems to hold all the cards? These three men could. And that’s what makes their response all the more remarkable:

“Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king” (Dan. 3:16-17).

This is boldness, is it not? Standing firmly in the face of an adversary, declaring the power of the unseen over that which is seen? And if we stopped right there, we might have our measuring tool. We might conclude that the measure of faith is not only results, it’s confidence that those results are actually going to happen. But the story goes on:

“But even if He does not rescue us…”

What’s that? Is it a chink in the armor? Is it a thread of doubt in this God and His power? On the contrary, this is the true measure of the boldness of faith. Faith is not measured by results; it’s measured by confidence in the God behind the results.

Even. If. He. Does. Not.

This is faith. This is looking a ruler, a situation, a circumstance directly in the eye and humbly admitting that we do not know the best outcome, but we know the One who does. And because we do, we trust the ultimate outcome to Him. Christian, don’t stop short in your faith today. Don’t assume you know the right answer. Don’t let your confidence drift into arrogance. Instead, refocus your faith not on the results but on the One behind them. And then even if He does not, we stand even still.

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Published on April 28, 2015 05:12 • 5 views

April 23, 2015

There are those times when you pray, and then you pray again, and then you pray again.

And nothing happens. It feels like those prayers you lift up about your health, your children, your church – they hit the ceiling and then fall back to the ground. There is no measurable change in your life situation; the kids are the same. The marriage is still troubled. The church is still divided. The balance sheet hasn’t fluctuated. When you pray and pray and pray again and nothing happens, you can feel yourself slipping, ever so slightly, into a sense of despair.

This slipping is slow, but it’s there – the joy and hope that once felt so natural slowly ebbs away and is replaced by… nothing. Just a sense of emptiness, and hopelessness. In your more lucid moments during days like these, there is a question that forms down in the recesses of your heart that goes something like this:

Is this what the victorious Christian life looks like?

It’s a question born out of Scripture. Remember the triumphant language of Romans 8, when Paul extols the greatness of the love of God, that love which nothing can separate us from? In fact, in that passage, Paul actually makes up a word to describe the Christian. He calls us, who claim the name of Jesus because Jesus has laid to us, “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). He combines two words: the preposition “above” (“super” in Latin) with “victory.”  The person described has surpassing victory where the enemy is completely routed.  Not only that, but the verb is in the present active indicative which implies continuity.  The Christian is continually winning this victory.  They are super-victors.

Really? Because when you pray and pray and pray again, and nothing seems to be happening, you don’t feel like a super-victor; in fact, you’d settle for being a “little-victor.”

So is this what a victorious Christian life looks like? One who struggles with sin and despair?

Is this what a victorious Christian life looks like? One who is ailing from the same disease day after day?

Is this what a victorious Christian life looks like? Those who are marched onto a beach to be martyred because of their faith?

Super-victors? Not us. Not even close.

And yet in moments like these, we have an opportunity to realize there is a greater victory. There is a greater victory than physical prosperity. There is a greater victory than safety and comfort. There is a greater victory than a good reputation in the community. There is a greater victory that cannot be measured in our circumstances but can only be seen in light of eternity. The greater victory for the Christian does not ebb and flow based on our feelings, our pain, our financial situation, or even our death. The greater victory is what comes next.

Paul, for his part, did not have an unrealistic view of the Christian life. If you look back at Romans 8, you’ll see a series of rhetorical questions:

If God is for us, who can be against us?
How will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
Who is the one who condemns?
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

If the victory Christian live meant a utopian set of circumstances, then why ask these questions at all? The reason Paul brings them up is because we will have those come against us. We will be deprived of things. We will be accused and condemned. And affliction, anguish, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and the sword will threaten to separate us from the love of God in Christ.

The victory, then, is not that these things won’t happen or will stop happening; it’s bigger than that. The victory is that even in the presence of these things, we are even still victorious in Christ.

Christian, don’t settle for rejoicing in the tiny battle. Instead, refocus on the greater one and know that we have won in Him.

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Published on April 23, 2015 04:26 • 6 views

April 21, 2015

Every day it’s the same thing.

You leave the office and begin the fight with traffic to go home. At first, you’re thinking about what you left behind—a to-do list that only seemed to grow; responsibilities that will be there in the morning; boxes to be checked, meetings to be had, and calls to be made. You’re thinking about these things as the miles start to click by on the odometer, and then, at some point, your focus changes from where you’ve left to where you’re going.

You’re going home. The road is familiar; you’ve driven it a thousand times before. Then comes the exit where you get off the interstate. Then one turn; then another. Then there’s the left turn where you always have to wait, and you wonder when the gap in the traffic is going to come. And then it does. You’re in your neighborhood. Your street. And then finally, there out your window, is your driveway. There’s the crack in the retaining wall you’ve been thinking about fixing; there’s the yard that always seems to have a few more weeds than it should; there’s the left-out frisbees and scooters that, again, those kids have failed to put away.

And you smile because you’re home. You pull into the garage in that space that’s always a little too tight. You open your door and bang it into the side wall just like you did yesterday, noticing that the paint is finally starting to peel off the car from many such encounters.  You open the back door, and it hits you.

Depending on the season, it’s a blast of either pleasantly cool or warm air. It’s the sight of the same place where you hang your keys up so you won’t forget them (again) tomorrow. And the smell. The smell is the greatest part of all. It’s a smell that reminds you that humans live here, and not just any humans – they’re your humans. This is the smell of your home, and it’s unique to your home. It’s a wash of bodies, scented soaps, laundry detergent, and whatever’s cooking on the stove upstairs. It’s your smell, worn into the walls with a thousand family conversations, a thousand popcorn and movie nights, a thousand wrestling matches on the carpet.

You’re home. And it is glorious.

The familiarity of home is one of those gracious gifts the Lord drips into our lives everyday; it’s one of those things reminding us that here, even if nowhere else, we actually belong. Here we are safe. Here we are loved. And yet at the same time, moments like these point us to the greater realities. We have a better home. It will be more familiar. We will be more safe. And, though we are fully loved now, we will have no more doubt or misplaced expression of that love any more.

We go home, and we are going home.

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Published on April 21, 2015 06:06 • 8 views

April 16, 2015

“This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? But take a look at your schedule. Take a look at your agenda. Take a look at the host of things that simply must be done this day, consider how many of them are part of the regular routine of life, and it becomes more problematic. Rejoice in the paying of the bills? Rejoice in the pick up or drop off line? Rejoice in the folding of the laundry or the making of the lunches? Maybe not.

Combine that with the fact that this might well be the day when everything changes and it becomes even more difficult. This day might be the day of the diagnosis. Or the car accident. Or the conversation. Or the whatever. In as much as you might have a carefully crafted schedule and to-do list, no doubt it will be interrupted today. This day. And those interruptions might do more than just throw your schedule off kilter; they might turn your life upside down.

The statement is simple: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Despite its simplicity, the rejoicing of the day is contingent upon the weighty assumptions packed into the first section. It’s only by embracing what’s between the lines of part A that we can really get to part B. Here’s what it might look like:

This is the day.

It will do me no good to wish for another day. A different day. The day that someone else is having. This is the day that I’ve been given. This day, full of the mundane and the ordinary, full of the opportunity unexpected. This one, the one that’s beginning right now, is the day.

That the Lord has made.

Regardless of what this day holds, it is the day that the Lord has made. He is not some cosmic clockmaker who set the universe in motion and then stood apart, watching it tick away. He’s still in the business of making days, and He’s made this one for me. Although I know very little of the potential ups or downs or highs or lows that this day holds, it is nevertheless the one made by the Lord. Because it is made by the Lord, I know that along with making it He has also given me the resources I need for it. I have the grace I need. The patience I require. The perseverance necessary. The discipline to do and work. Along with this day He’s made He has also given me His limitless supply which I take hold of by faith.

I will rejoice and be glad in it.

That’s why I can rejoice. It doesn’t mean everything today will make me happy; none of us are naive enough to believe that. Surely things today will make me frustrated or sad, angry or disappointed. But this is the day. The one that the Lord has made. And because I know something of the nature and character of God, I can rejoice in this day, the one He has made for me, and be glad in it, trusting that though it might not feel like it at the time, everything that happens today has been filtered through the loving hand of a loving God.

Rejoicing in the day at hand means embracing the sovereign work of a loving God. Otherwise, I’ll be wishing for another day. Feeling bombarded by seemingly random circumstances. And I’ll be far from rejoicing when my head hits the pillow tonight.

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Published on April 16, 2015 05:06 • 10 views

April 14, 2015

Sometimes as a parent, I think, your job is to teach your children the habits and traits that will serve them well in the world. Take, for example, how to handle money. We have tried from an early age to help our kids know how to divide the money they have into a plan, giving some, saving some, devoting some to things they need, and then finally having some set aside to buy things they want.

Or, for example, the way they eat. Our kids have often bemoaned the fact that being a kid means having to eat what they’re told instead of exactly what they want, and how they can’t wait to be an adult so they can have Sprite with every meal and chase everything down with a candy bar. We try to emphasize to them that not only is it not healthy to do so, but actually living like that will reduce the amount they enjoy both their Sprite and candy bars.

Or, in another example, that simple acts of politeness will go a long way for them in the future. Saying “please” and “thank you” are simple, easy ways to not only show respect for others, but also to get what you want in a lot of cases. People respond to that kind of politeness in a world of privilege and entitlement.

These are all good tips for kids to have in their minds, but if we don’t as parents emphasize that there is a spiritual component to all these things, then we are selling them short. If we never help them see the spiritual that drives the tangible actions, then we might be creating good citizens, but we aren’t raising gospel-centered kids. We might be raising kids who are successful in the world, but we aren’t raising kids who are mighty in the kingdom.

It’s not enough, then, to help them manage a personal budget; we must teach them that money is a tool but a seductive one which, if not handled shrewdly, will draw their hearts away from God.

It’s not enough to teach them to eat in a healthy way; we must teach them that their bodies are temples and we must honor them as such.

And it’s not enough to teach them to say please and thank you; we must teach them that these, too are deeply spiritual matters.

These are not just lessons we teach to our children though; they are also for ourselves. When it comes to the last of these things, the issue of gratitude, it is a hard learned lesson indeed. How, then, can we move our gratitude out of the realm of “good advice for a good life” and into the truly God-honoring and spiritual realm it’s meant to exist in? It’s by recognizing at least these two aspects of God-honoring gratitude:

1. Gratitude is a choice.

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). Don’t miss the fact that this verse is not a suggestion; it’s not a maxim; it’s not a trite saying to help you have an attitude of optimism. This is a command. What’s more, Paul says that this is unequivocally God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Among other things, this means that gratitude is bigger than circumstance. Most of the time, in fact, gratitude is a choice you have to make apart from the circumstances you’re in. When everything in your life makes you feel like a victim and the siren song of self-pity creeps up on you, the way you beat it back is through gratitude.

But let’s be careful here lest we think Paul is advocating a kind of gratitude that can very quickly devolve into some kind of positive thinking mumbo jumbo. That’s not godly gratitude; that’s sentimentalism, which leads us to the second thing we must recognize about God-honoring gratitude:

2. Gratitude is rooted in God’s character.

What keeps our gratitude from devolving into sentimentalism? It’s the fact that God-honoring gratitude is rooted in God’s own character. This is what elevates our level of gratitude past circumstance; it’s what lifts our souls with life seems to be caving in. When we center our gratitude on the character of God, then we can trust that He is, despite what our circumstances tell us, working for our good. He is, despite what our circumstances tell us, bringing all things together under Christ. He is, despite what our circumstances tell us, still in control of even the minutia of life. We know this not by what our senses or our feelings tell us, but instead through faith which goes beyond the realm of those senses.

We know this by looking to the cross, where God’s character is most fully and completely displayed. We see at the cross the extent of the justice and wrath rightly directed at us and we see the extent of His grace and love when He redirected that same justice and wrath toward His Son. We look to the cross, and we see God as both just and the One who justifies. When we do, then we are truly thankful.

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Published on April 14, 2015 04:50 • 5 views

April 9, 2015

“The result of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quiet confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

She didn’t mean to be incendiary. She was just asking a question.

My daughter not long ago during a family discussion about the Bible asked us, “How do we know these stories are actually true?”

The question makes sense; she’s reading all kinds of stories right now from Harry Potter to Fancy Nancy to Prince Caspian. That’s where the question came from; she wanted to know the difference between these stories and the stories we talk about from the Bible.

It was an innocent inquiry, but I felt it – something inside of me starting to rise up. Something a little bit angry. Something more than a little bit defensive.

Ever felt like that? Like you needed to step up and defend Jesus? The disciples certainly did.

When some irresponsible parents were letting their children sidle up to Jesus, and the disciples felt the need to protect Jesus from the annoyance.
In the garden, Peter was so committed to defending Jesus that it cost a Roman soldier his ear.
When Jesus said clearly He would be crucified, Peter again felt the impulse to defend Him from His own words, lest Jesus say something embarrassing.

These defenses of Jesus came from a misunderstanding of His character and mission; they happened because even those closest to Him failed to realize that He was not the conquering king but the suffering servant, and that even (and most especially) the lowest and least had a place with Him. They misunderstood Jesus, and the result was an impulse to defend Him, even if it meant defending Him from Himself.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s not a good and right time to stand for the truth of who He is. But in an honest assessment of myself, I find that times like those are very rare indeed. In fact, most of the time when I have the impulse to come to the defense of Jesus it’s not because I’m worried about His reputation; it’s because my eyes are fixed on myself. I am compelled to defend Jesus not out of zeal for His name and glory, but instead these criticisms or questions, innocent though they may be, force me to probe the depths of my own heart. They make me ask myself, Do I really believe this?

That’s when I get defensive. That’s when my advocacy for Jesus is less like quiet confidence and more like anger. That’s when I can verbally chop off the ears of any bystander. It’s during those times, I need to remind myself that Jesus doesn’t need me to protect Him.

In fact, my place is not in front of Jesus with a sword, but behind Him. This is my position in the gospel – not as Jesus’ advocate and defender, but with Him as mine.

Ironically, when I find myself in His shadow instead of running in front of Him, I can answer those questions whether from a little girl at my kitchen table or in society at large, be they innocent or accusatory. I can speak with a quiet confidence in the Son of God, secure in who I am because He is secure in who He is.


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Published on April 09, 2015 04:55 • 7 views