A Greater Grace {for when life gives you trouble}

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“In this world you will have many troubles…”  Jesus.  Red letters.  Not maybe.  Not just some of “you.”  Everyone. Troubles.  You’ve got them, don’t you?  Big troubles, little troubles.  Unexplainable ones and predictable ones.  They’re everywhere and can’t be avoided. … Continue reading

Getting Through Stuff: Storms, Scares, & The Stuff that Makes Us Trust

“We get through stuff” were the last words spoken in the darkened bedroom just before the first ray of light broke. 

We do.  We people get through a lot of stuff–we get through broken relationships, broken hearts, broken bank accounts, and broken bodies.  Instead of perishing, we find a way to white knuckle our way through some pretty treacherous storms.

“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.  The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?'”  Matthew 8:24-27

There are many of us who are probably in a boat of sorts that is being covered by the waves.  This week I have been hit with waves of grief, disappointment, and betrayal.  And I confess, it seems like Jesus is asleep in my boat.

I have sounded the alarm.  He appears to still be sleeping.

I have nudged Him with fervent prayers.  Yet on the storm rages.

I have felt like the disciples, like I am perishing.

Yet, Jesus when awakened by the disciples does not recognize the same peril of which they are distressed.  He first addresses their fear, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”

We all want Jesus to rebuke the storms in our life–to seperate the elements, quiet the uproar, and set us safely into “perfectly calm.”

Far fewer of us, most notably me, are willing to let the Lord rebuke my fear and my lack of faith. 

Is it possible that the storms rage on in our life because it is more important to God that we trust Him in spite of the storm and not simply because of the storm?  Jesus knew full well that the disciples would not perish from the storm.  The much bigger threat was their lack of faith.  The storm scared them.  They scare me too.  They’re probably scaring you.  Let the Lord rebuke your fear.  Allow the storm to show you what you do not yet know about trust. 

Today, I am declaring “Christ is in my boat.  Bring on the waves!  Amaze me, Lord!”

You?

Are You Sleepy?

It’s easy to get sleepy.

I have long since discovered that the circumstances of an event in no way condition my attentiveness to them.  I can be reading the best book and still nod off.  I have fallen asleep on the most entertaining of speakers.  No matter how close to the edge of my seat a show may lead me, it’s not uncommon to find myself waking up the next morning wondering how it ended.  I always pass judgment on the disciples for falling asleep on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He and I both know how often I have repeated their folly. 

I posed the question here yesterday about how to stop evil without becoming evil.  This was a question generated by my study of the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.  (If you’re not familiar with the text, see my previous post.)   No one would contest the fact that there is evil in the world–we see it in every new’s medium, and occassionally confront it on our own hearts. 

So how should disciples of Jesus live, those who for the present struggle with life in the tension of the is and not yet kingdom reality?  How do they respond to evil? 

One response formulated by the parable is obvious:  Understand that evil is for God and His agents to judge.  Know that there is a coming judgment. 

That comforts me.  Yet within the whole counsel of truth, I understand that I don’t just exist for my own comfort.  So, the parable begs another question:  Do I sit back with no response to evil just because I know that judgment is coming for those who do evil?  Furthermore, the parable has an omnious warning:  The wheat and weeds can look identical.  In fact, if not carefully discerned, the weeds would be harvested by a farmer and he would not know it until the weeds molded his flour. 

The careful reader–and the respondent disciple–must take this warning seriously.  Kingdom living in the not yet fully present kingdom requires alertfulness.  Note carefully, Matthew 13:25–

But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away.

Parables teach us about the kingdom, so I don’t believe that this is in reference to a physical sleep–but a spiritual sleep; a drowzy approach to life that the apostles frequently warn against in the New Testament writings. I believe the church, especially in America, has fallen into a it-can-never-happen-to-us induced coma. 

I’m not usually one for doom and gloom.  Yet I have been reproached by the Spirit this week for my own casualness.  I have been watching the ticker tape of prophetic warnings go unnoticed by many church leaders.  The weight of this is such, that I feel compelled to speak up…even if at the risk of you thinking I’m becoming theatrical.  Trust me, I don’t want to be this messenger.  I like California Casual; where it’s “all good” and everyone goes with the flow.

It’s easy to get sleepy.  It’s dangerous to mistake our circumstances wrongly.  Maybe we think that because we’re going to church on Sunday, or helping the poor, or we’re a leader in the church that we’re all doing everything right.  That all the problems belong to those weeds–the other guys.  We get sleepy with our standards for ourselves–we justify, we rationalize, sometimes we might even spin the truth to make sure that no one wakes up to what’s really going on.  And while God’s men sleep, the enemy plants seeds.

So what do we do?

1) Identify where you are prone to sleepiness.  In discussion with my dear friends on Friday we made a list of our own areas of apathy–those things/conditions in life that lull us into a false sense of safety or immunity.  We included pride & arrogance, comfortability, busyness, luxuries, self-righteousness, and rationalization.  How about you? 

2) Get alert!  Listen to emphatic exhortation of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians:

While they are saying “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.  But you, brethren, are not in darkness that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of the light and sons of day.  We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober…But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. ~I Thessalonians 5:3-8

 Don’t get me wrong:  I do proclaim the sovereignty of God.  I do trust in His coming judgment.  I am confident that He will one day set right all that is wrong.  But these truths cannot be responded to passively.  They ought to wake us up!  Call us to action!  Judgment is not ours…but we ought to live as those who will be judged. 

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.  ~I Thessalonians 5:14-15

Whatever you do, dear friend, don’t doze off!  I need you to be awake; to help me stay alert.  For the sake of one another, we all need to have our eyes wide open.  

Are you sleepy?

Drawing the Line

Lines.

As children we were taught how to color inside them.

As teenagers we practiced how to cross them.

As adults we recongize the importance of having lines; boundaries.

Those lines that say,

“Stop!”

“No more.”

Lines that declare,

Autonomy.

Importance.

Value.

Safety.

Sometimes we draw lines for others

     …to keep them safe.

Other times we draw lines for ourselves

     …to keep us safe.

There are different kinds of lines: Battle lines, laugh lines, and finish lines.

Everyone has and needs lines, but recognizing where we need them, and how to draw them is not always easy. 

I’ve drawn lines before.  One line I drew with platinum & diamonds when I called my man my husband.  I’ve drawn lines with loyalty to defend friends in need of faithfulness.  I’ve drawn lines with convinction to stand for what I know is right.  Many lines I have drawn with humility on bended knees.  I don’t regret any of the lines I’ve drawn.  When viewed in panoramic, they outline the clearest picture of who I am.

Today I need to draw a line; create a symbol for the emotional threshold that needs its space…its safety…its peace. 

The only question I still haven’t answered is if it will be in the sand or in the cement.

How about you?  What have you learned about drawing lines?  Any that you regret?