Under Scrutiny

I have been watching the hearings for the Supreme Court Justice seat, and I couldn’t help but think about how grueling it is to go through that; where you are publicly being questioned about who you are, what you’ve done and what you believe, and yet the strength it takes to go through that process is the strength that is needed to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. She is faced with personal questions that might be embarrassing. She is confronted with questions with an air of trying to undermine her character and credibility.

I had to testify in court when I was 16, and although it was a completely different reason, I am sympathetic to the public scrutiny that one has to go through. I was in front of a court room of people, and when I was on the stand to testify, that was one of the most exposed, raw and vulnerable times I have ever been through. I remember the defense attorney trying to make me look like a liar and and discrediting my character. I felt the attack. It was painful. I felt a strong need to defend myself. I was prepped on what I would be asked and that I would just be required to answer truthfully. I remember breaking down and crying at one point when asked to give certain details that were extremely difficult to do, not to mention adding the stress and trauma of the defendant being right in front of me.

It doesn’t have to be in a court room to have these same experiences of feeling like you are put on trial, exposed, vulnerable, maybe discredited. it might be an experience at work, or maybe it’s an experience with family or friends, maybe it’s in school. It is natural to feel the pain and the need to defend yourself. Being put under any scrutiny is not a place anyone wants to be under, and yet we will all face it to one degree or another from time to time in different circumstances.

I remember, in my court-room experience, the love and support of my family and most importantly prayer and leaning on Jesus. was the beacon that carried me through. The night before I had to testify, I had an extreme case of anxiety, I remember my mom just holding me real tight as we laid in my bed, trying to calm me down. I remember having my mom and dad right there at my side supporting and fighting for me. A lot of the experience is a bit of blur, but those are the things that I remember with clarity. I knew I had the support of my family and Jesus was taking care of me. God has used that experience in my life to strengthen me and depend on Him and He has shown me the appropriate response when I face other kinds of scrutiny.

Whatever experiences of scrutiny, critical examinations you might be experiencing or have experienced, I am here to say it’s not meaningless, and there is something good that can come out of it. Focus on Jesus. He knows exactly how you feel, he was scrutinized to the point of death. There may be weeping in the night, but joy will come in the morning. Tell the truth in love. and be who God created you to be, rely on Him and He will give you the strength to face whatever you need to face. Ask for His wisdom and wait on Him.

“Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:-6.

The Good Ol Days

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It’s been a long time since I heard this song. How much do we feel this longing?

I was singing that line..”Tell me about the good ol days” and had to go listen to the words again. It really is a good song that seems to bring attention to a desire we all have.

It got me thinking about our heart and that longing(one of my favorite things to talk about) that is within us. We long for things to be set right for goodness and love, but what are we looking to for satisfaction in that longing?

One of my favorite quotes by CS Lewis speaks of this longing and desire. When I first read “The Weight of Glory” it resonated so deep, I cried like a baby. Here is a quote from it:

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Blind Spots

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One thing I must keep in check as I get older is that my age doesn’t deem me unteachable. The longer we live in our own skin the more comfortable we get. A few things that I’ve been thinking about are, no humility and all conviction is prideful because it tends to be a self-righteous conviction that can become harsh and without empathy for the other people. No convictions and all humility is prideful still, this is sort of an inverted self-righteousness, because there is no real stand for anything, there is no courage or self-sacrifice. This person is essentially still thinking of themselves too, so it only leaves a prideful person with a costume of humility.

Everyone has blind spots. These are spots in our thinking where we are blinded; these form over time through our environment and personalities.

You know those blind spots when you are driving, you are driving along, you look in both side mirrors before you change lanes, and someone lays on the horn! You swerve over back in your lane, and say to yourself, “where did that car come from? I didn’t see it!” You almost collided with it, but thankfully the horn woke you up! You didn’t see the car, but the truth is the car was there.

The enemy knows about our blind spots. He does not want us to be aware of these, and will do all he can to distract us from seeing the reality. He’d rather we have a collision because he cares nothing about you or the others involved, he is for ultimate destruction.

If you are a follower of Jesus, there is good news, we have a shepherd to help guide us. He knows our blind spots too, and he is watching over us. When we are about to swerve into chaos, God will lay on the horn. We need to be listening for the horn.

Now we won’t be able to hear the horn if we have a whole bunch of distractions. You are driving along and your music is up real loud, jammin’ the tunes, talking and texting on the phone; you know you aren’t suppose to text and drive. 🙂 Or just your head in the clouds.

You have all these distractions and you are about to change lanes and the horn is honking but you don’t hear it.

The Lord is leading us even in our blind spots, but we have to be alert and ready to hear his horn to get us back in line, so we can avoid destruction. We have to be aware of distractions that might steer us off.

Our conviction and humility goes hand in hand. The Lord is your shepherd and He is guiding you and you are trusting him to take the wheel, to keep you from harm, to protect you. You trust Him, that he knows what’s best for you and He sees all. This takes strong belief(conviction) to act courageously and it takes humility because it is admitting your weakness, and you are placing your dependence on Him.

I have asked the Lord to forgive me for taking the wheel of self righteousness, and I am admitting my blind spots and my need for an all seeing shepherd to guide me.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

We see because Jesus gave us sight! He is our sight. May our eyes be open. May our ears be attentive to His leading, warning and correction. The Holy Spirit who dwells in you will guide you into all truth. Are you listening?

The Echo of A Tune

A beautiful, ebony grand piano sits in a room fashioned for the grandeur of the magnificent instrument. You have known and heard what beautiful music could come from it. You could sit and look at it for hours, but in any one of those hours gazing at it, would you gain any knowledge or understating about the music that can come from it? The instrument itself can’t teach anything. You could buy a house full of pianos and could stare at them. You could even sit on the bench and play the keys, and you would never know one thing of the beauty of a Bach Prelude, or a Beethoven Sonata. I’m sure you can see where I am gong with this. To understand, to gain knowledge we have to be taught by a teacher, not the piano. The piano is just the instrument, in and of itself its just wood, plastic and strings.

One piece by Mozart moved me so profoundly, when I heard it, and played it, I had this thought of the weight of pain and suffering we sometimes endure in this life, and then at the end of the piece Mozart transitioned to a major key and the piece just ended glorious and that part made me think of our restoration that is found in Jesus. Now, I could not have been taught that from the piece alone. It just came through the piece. The piece did nothing to teach me that there is restoration and redemption through Jesus. I’m quite sure Mozart wasn’t thinking that when he composed it, but for me the music was.a perfect backdrop for the truth that had already been illuminated to me.

CS Lewis said, “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

What are we seeking to try to get to God? What path are we taking? No amount of nature walking, mountain climbing, book reading, degree earning, charity giving, will bring us to a greater knowledge of God. Jesus said, “I am the way” If we want to understand and know God, read the Bible, pray regularly, and worship and serve with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Any other path will get choked. Anything can become a religion, a set of beliefs and worship, but is that getting you any closer to God?

I don’t want the counterfeit that will just break my heart. I want the tune in my heart that sings of His praises and for His glory. We have beautiful echos here that God has given us, nature, music, literature, family, but these things are echos of the glory that awaits. May those things point us to the source of the beauty.

And The Answer Is………???

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How do Christians respond in such a polarized society?

What side do Christians take with sensitivities running high? 

The message is……….it’s the same as it’s always been! The answer is Jesus! The answer is the gospel. Forget trying to argue about which lives matter, whether or not white supremacy exists. If we stick to the message of the gospel and live our lives filled with the Holy Spirit, this is the main thing that will transform and produce change! 

No other message has the power like the gospel! 

Even Christians are dividing because we are getting off the main thing, the gospel. Is the gospel and the Word of God enough or not?

Who are we trying to please first? The world? Or God? 

Jesus said, “If the wold hates you, remember it hated me first.” John 15:18

The closer we get to the Lord and the more we preach Him, you can guarantee more backlash and heat coming up against you. It will make you question whether you are doing the right thing, with so many people coming up against you. We better keep our barometer in check. How are we measuring our actions…..by the way the world reacts, or buy His Word?

I don’t want to be rejected, I don’t want to be unliked, but the bottom line is, the more we stand up for Jesus the more enemies we will find. So then what? We love them! We keep speaking the truth in love. We show genuine kindness and care, because God loved me in all my sin and brokenness. In our love to God, we treat all with love and respect regardless of how they treat us. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and the only way is through his Spirit helping us in our weakness. 

Jesus was rejected, Jesus had many enemies and what did he do? Did he try to argue the latest political argument? No, He cut straight to the point. Just to name a few:

He said, “I am the way the truth and the Life no one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:6

He said, “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.” John 8:11

He said, “Father Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

He said, “Come unto me, all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

He said, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

He said, Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

Jesus preached love, but he preached about sin and repentance. 

Kindness and love, everyone can agree with you on that..but when you start talking about sin, and that all of us are sinners, in need of saving, then the offense comes. The good news doesn’t have much value to us if we don’t first deal with the bad news.

If we approach all the problems in the world with the presupposition that everyone is basically good, then quickly everything falls like a house of cards. No one likes to admit that they are the problem, but it is indeed where the problem is. 

I am the problem, I’m a sinner, and I need Him every minute of day. He is the only one that is good and He is the answer to all our problems. He is the solution. but it starts by looking in the mirror and crying out to God as the Psalmist says, ” Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Now this is where I get to preaching! Whoops! Sorry! Not sorry! ( I get it honest, preacher’s kid here)

Let us step down off our moral high horses and elevate the One who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He is our answer! He is the only answer to peace and love. He is the definition of love and peace, all other is a fake. The answer is Jesus! The answer is, He saved me, He rescued me from the pit of despair. I was lost, without hope and He found me, and I am here to tell you about Him. He is inviting you too. There is reconciliation and it is through Jesus. There is healing and it is through the name above all names! To Him be honor and glory both now and forever. Amen!

Take hold of That For Which Christ Jesus Took Hold of Me

All have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) This is the first step to progress. We can’t know the depths of forgiveness until we know the depths of sin. The reality of forgiveness will come when we face the reality of sin. Stare down sin in all of its fulness so you can know forgiveness in all of its fullness. We are full of sin. We are wretched. This is where the truth starts. The truth doesn’t start with forgiveness. What’s the value of forgiveness if there is no price for sin? We have to stare it down. Search my heart, Lord!

In Psalm 51, the Psalmist is staring down his sin. “For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

When we have stared sin down in its face, it’s time to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. What is “that”? It says take hold of “that” The “that” is the gospel. The “that” is that I am a wretched sinner that was lost, but because of his death on the cross that paid my penalty and the power of this resurrection, I am raised with Him a new creation, no longer held by the chains of my sin. I am free in Christ! This is the “that” for which I am to take hold of.

Our progress has only one source and activator and it’s Jesus. Apart from him we can do nothing.  We, on our own, can’t produce and progress. 

When we lay hold to the Truth, that’s when progress is happening.  Psalm 51: 6 says, “Delight in the truth in the inward being.” The Truth is Jesus! If we are attached to the Root,  we will bear fruit.  If we aren’t attached to the Root, we will wither and dry up. 

Lord I thank you that you have washed me clean and brought me to life!

Difficult People

Run, run far away! Isn’t that what we want to do?  When we are dealing with difficult people, and situations, let’s just say, we’d rather not, but we can run, hide and avoid every time, and in a minute we are faced with another one. 

First, we are all fallible humans, with personality quirks, difficult pasts, stories and hurts. We also can be pretty selfish. We instinctively think of our selves first, our feelings, our hurts, our loves, and when one or all of these things gets infringed upon or we are put in an uncomfortable situation, we want to flee, do we not? Or we want to fight, but neither of these are the best answer.

Jesus said “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

He didn’t say, love only the neighbors that are easy to get along with.

“Jesus, you can’t really mean I need to love that person that is difficult?”

Yes he said, “love your neighbor as yourself”, and he said, “love your enemy.” Jesus must have got that one wrong, right? He must have meant, fight your enemy!

It’s a tall order, and no one does this instinctively, so how in the world are we able to?

He gives us the power to do it through His spirit. He is helping us in our weakness. The apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The key words are, “through Christ”

Try and do it on your own power, it’s too much! We can’t carry that. Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”

He will carry it and give us the grace to follow through. 

Try it! 

The next time you are approached by a difficult person, and it will be soon, pray, Lord help me in my weakness, give me grace to handle this person with love and care. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. You may not get a fuzzy feeling; most likely you won’t. Love is not a feeling it’s an action. Go against your own feelings, and act in the way you know is right.

God will bless it and work in it and through it. This is how walls of hostility are torn down. 

Second, I have been the “difficult person” in someone’s life, I can actually think of a several times right now. We’ve all been the difficult person.

When I am pointing the finger, I try to remember to look at myself first. That’s not easy though.

How are we difficult sometimes? It’s good to look at our own flaws and short comings. 

The good news is, God loves us in our messy difficulties. He loves us in our moaning and complaining. He loves us in our grumpiness. He is patient with us. God knows we are not capable of living this out perfectly, but if we will come to Him and let Him work in us, He will help us and give us the grace we need, but we must call upon Him. He won’t force His way. 

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Knock! Knock!

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There is a knock at the door, you hear it, now what do you do? You may be like me, sneaking to the window to get a glimpse of who it is. “Oh no! It’s a salesman. Be quiet!” You wait. They knock again. “Shhh……..not a peep.” They finally go away. You hear another knock at the door…oh its your friend who happened to be in the neighborhood. You gladly open the door, “please come in!” You are so excited to see your friend.

Why do we hide from the stranger/salesperson, but welcome the friend? Don’t you think it might have a little something to do with trust? We don’t know that salesperson, we don’t know what they are selling, and we don’t want to get hung up in a long ordeal, in short we know they aren’t knocking because they care about us, they just want to sell us on something. We know our friends, we trust them, we know they love us, and we love them. We know they decided to knock because they care about us.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20 NLT

Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts. In the morning he knocks, “Good Morning Johanna, let’s have a morning talk.” In the middle of the day, He knocks, “walk with me.” In the evening, He knocks, “lets dine tougher.” When I am sick, He knocks, “I am your healer.” When I am restless, angry, or sad, He knocks, “I am your shepherd, I am your strength.” When I am discouraged, disappointed, and burned out, He knocks, “I am your comforter.” He knocks again and again, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25 N:LT

Will we open the door when he knocks. Do you trust Him? Is He your friend.? Are you hiding from Him? Open the door. He is waiting and He will continue to knock. He is patient, He wants your heart. You wouldn’t turn down your friend who happened to be in your neighborhood to come pay you a visit, so how much more should we not turn down the knocking on our hearts door, from the One who is Life.

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me
See on the portals He’s waiting and watching
Watching for you and for meCome home, come home
Ye who are weary come home”

Prayer

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When we pray according to what we think is possible or impossible, we most certainly will determine what is worth praying about and our prayers end up being not much of a prayer, but our own proclamation. We have made a decision for God, when that was none of our business. I am writing this, because I experience this. I am guilty of this.

In O. Hallesby’s book titled “Prayer” he says, “….whether the fulfillment of our prayer is hard or easy for God. What we think or do not think about this has no bearing on the hearing and answering of prayer. Not only that, it has a blighting and destructive effect upon our prayer life, because we waste our strength which is not our concern, and which our Lord never asked us to be concerned about.”

When we get busy already determining the answers to our prayers, we won’t get very far in our prayer life. If we have decided the answers to our prayers, how can we have faith? It seems more like a conversation with ourselves than a prayer.

So it got me thinking….our prayer life will not deepen, if we don’t know who God is and keep reminding ourselves of who He is. I mean really know who he is, not our idea of him. We can have an idea about God, and then there is the truth about who God is. How do we know and determine who God is? Well we don’t come to know him from just looking on the inside and whatever feels right and sounds good. No cherry picking. Some say God can’t be known, but this is false. Romans 1:19 says, “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.”

He can be known. He has made himself known to us, in two ways, through creation, and through His Word( the revealed Word, the Bible)

Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” So it’s impossible to have a rich prayer life if we don’t know who He is. When we come to Him acknowledging the truth of who He is, then we trust that he will answer according to His will and good timing.

Have you ever held back bringing up a difficult conversation with someone, because you already had decided how that person will answer? How foolish! It’s never our business to project how someone will answer. Let them do the answering. The difference with God is he gave us promises to stand on, we may not get all the details on how He answers our prayers, but we can trust that how and when He answers, it will be good. We can trust that He always hears and will answer according to his perfect will and for our good.

Prayer is not a chess game; I will make my move, but I have anticipated your moves, so I won’t go over here or over there because I know what you will do

We need faith. Why, because anyone who comes, must believe. What does he do when we come to him in faith? He rewards those who seek him in this faith; that means he answers. He will answer in His good and perfect will and timing. We can trust this. He will not fail.

Do you know the truth about who God is? God is not just some cosmic being out there somewhere that has no relational bearing on our every day life or one that we only come to a few times a year for things we think are prayer worthy.

How is your prayer life? What have you given up praying about, because you predetermined it was too hard for God. What have you not offered up in prayer because you thought it too petty and could just deal with it yourself?

I am working on this in my own life. When I pray, I first and foremost give praise and thanks for who God is, and for his grace in my life. We would do good to spend a lot of time in this area of prayer, it will strengthen our faith when we make our requests known to Him. When we praise Him for making the sunset and the sunrise, and praise Him for the very breath that he gave me this morning, we begin to see the power of God and how BIG he really is. Get your microscope out and start praising God for every little thing, and then with boldness of faith make your requests known to God and leave the answering to God.

Psalm 34:1 “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will always be on my lips.”