Please, Even A Smile Helps

He is there on the same street corner every morning on my way to work. I’ve glanced at the sign then quickly turn away in disgust. A few days ago, after I had looked away yet again, I took the time to ponder my reaction to the words on that sign and to ask myself, “Why?” What does it really cost me if I just give him a smile? One human to another? Did I even consider this disheveled, dirty, matted hair and beard, type of man, a human at all?

I delved a bit further into the motives of my heart and that’s where Jesus met me to allow me to sense my own shame and wickedness. This homeless man is not really the problem. It is my own selfish, unyielding heart. God accepts me just as I am, and he accepts the homeless man just as he is. He has compassion on us all, and perhaps even more so on the Epic-homeless-guy-signhomeless, drug-addicted, alcoholic, abusive child molesters–because they have hit rock bottom and feel their desperate need for rescue day after day. They are incredibly shamed by people like me who look away. And all he wanted from me was a smile.

Why exactly do I look away? Is it because I am afraid he will make a connection with me, expecting me to now give him some money? Or am I not willing to listen when the Holy Spirit speaks to me about the fact that everything I own is his to do with for his own glory and praise? I think of the Scripture verse, Matthew 19:21, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” I don’t believe God is literally telling each of us to give all we own to the poor. He is speaking to the condition of our hearts. He knows we won’t give the homeless so much as a smile; he also knows we won’t part with even an occasional dollar. We are so quick to judge the poor and homeless, even though we don’t know their stories. God, alone knows their hearts, and he listens to their heart’s cry.

How sad we would be if we looked to God for help and he turned away from us in disgust. In fact, he has already done that. He turned away from his only Son when he was nailed to a cross, dying for our sins. He could not look upon the man he loved more than any other human being because all our shame and garbage was taken from us and heaped upon Christ, in exchange for his righteousness. So, next time you see that same sign, beckoning for a smile, try giving him one and perhaps you will see God smiling in return. And if God puts it upon your heart to help in some way, do it.

That’s worth smiling about!

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Medication Blues

O

GOD.

MY

MEDICATIONSpill-bottles-4

ARE

NOT WORKING.

I

WILL

GO

MAD

WITH

SAD.

I’M

EXHAUSTED.

I

HAVE

LOST

MY

MARBLES

AND

MY

BALANCE.

PEOPLE

ARE

PICKING

ME

OFF

THE

FLOOR.

MY

BRAIN

IS

LAYING

BESIDE

MY

BODY.

EVERYONE

STARES.

 

Paradox of Full: When We Think We Are, We Aren’t

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I recently read a blog that contained an excerpt of The Heidelberg Confession. I had to pause for reflection as I read:

“Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”

What is my only comfort in life and in death? I can with all assurance say that I believe the answer above is my confession. But my life experience will show that I have not experienced the truth of those words. Not here, not now. I believe there is a future day when I will be with Christ and my fullness in Him will be realized. But can I experience that fullness now? Can you experience that fullness now? Perhaps. But our potential is blocked by the madness of sin in our lives. The sins that have been committed against us and the sins we have committed against ourselves and others. And these sins, at times, confuse the signals in our brains and cause us to feel empty when we really aren’t. I over-eat to compensate for my emptiness. While I have never been morbidly obese, the eating behavior is still present. It is hard-wired in my brain and tells me that eating is a pleasurable activity and I can feel full any time I want. Of course this is not true and many other people would attest to that, because we have to keep eating more and more. So, what is happening here is at the root of desire.

Every living thing on the planet has been given the gift of desire. Desires drive us toward fulfillment. We desire to be full or to be filled. We are motivated to seek fulfillment over and over. Why? Because we also experience emptiness. When we are empty we look for something to fill us again. We don’t like the feeling of emptiness, so we seek to be filled. This is good desire.

While our desires are common,( need for food, water, intimacy, etc) the expression of those desires (what we desire, where we desire, and with whom we desire) are as varied as each individual. Our past experiences, our culture and our families, in many ways, shape the expression of our desires. While the desires themselves have been declared by God to be “good,” sin and suffering has affected every part of our being as humans and that includes our desires.

The paradox is this: We attain to be filled here and now, and while we can have some fulfillment we can’t have it all. Everytime we engage in eating or sexual relations, sports, recreational activities, building our families, worshiping God (collectively or individually), we have to keep coming back to be filled and filled again. Because we get empty. We don’t like empty. And this is especially true of people who have been abused or are experiencing abuse of some kind.That is because their brain has lost the ability to recognize their own feeling of empty and full. So,some turn to sexual promiscuity, or they develop eating disorders, or eat more than their body can metabolize. They turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the unavoidable emptiness that is so much a part of their life.There is a heightened desire, almost a feeling of desperation to be filled all the time, but they cannot attain it.

Here is the solution: Since we can’t avoid emptiness on this side of heaven, we can choose to be grateful for the feeling of emptiness because it ultimately brings us to the only one who can fill us completely. He fills us with His Spirit for this life He has called us to. Everytime we feel empty we are reminded that we are totally dependent on God for our food, for our health and for our joy in living. Yes,on earth, we need to be filled over and over again. Because we belong to God and He has given every provision for us to come to Him for filling, we can know that in Heaven we will be filled with Himself and we will have no need for any other fulfillment. He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water and the Door by which we will enter into an eternity of riches that have been promised to anyone who is acquainted with physical and emotional hunger in this life. There will be no more cravings or hunger of any kind.

I want to leave my emptiness behind me. I want to be filled by the Spirit of the living God. I can give myself wholly to the Christ who emptied Himself so that I could receive His fullness. The Heidelberg confession lets us realize this dependence on the finished work of Christ, for our fulfillment now, and at the time of our death when we are finally emptied of this body that we carry on earth. Come with me on this journey, together we will discover the endless provisions of an Almighty God!

No Greater Love

gods-unconditional-loveI cannot even begin to comprehend a love that is NOT based on my performance or my successes in life. I simply don’t understand this love that is unconditional. All human love has some sort of attached agenda that is based on success in the workplace, in society, in the bedroom, or in relationships in general.

This love that is so foreign to all that is human nature is surprisingly based not on my successes but on my FAILURES. It’s true. God know that it is my own awareness of the brokenness that has filled my life that drives me into the arms of His sacrificial love. I need not be fully aware of every one of these individual failings. God is Omniscient. He knows. But, I am told in Scripture that each past and present and future sin, shortcoming, or failure has been stamped with “Paid in Full” by the One who so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son (John 3:16). This Christ is the One of whom Moses and the prophets foretold would come and pay to the death for a debt that did not belong to Him. He came not to be served (though He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords), but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28)

Does this idea make you uncomfortable? What stirs within you when you read this? Is it hiding from Godpossible that you are also struggling to comprehend this kind of love? Have you been burned for the last time wforgivenhere human love is concerned? There are really only two answers here. You will either dismiss this God and refuse the offer of His unfathomable love, or you will intentionally search Him with all your heart because your heart knows that there is no greater love.

Pursued by Love

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We are never closer to God than when our hearts are open and free to receive His gentle caress. This is a rare but beautiful occurrence and is completely passive on our part. Humans are naturally repulsed by such love. We are so immersed in our uncleanness before this Holy God that we cannot fathom His unrelenting desire for union with us. Our brokenness has cast the pall of death over our entire being. How can we receive such indescribable love from this Almighty God, who is our Lover, and who actively pursues us while still in our stench so that He can make love to us? Only because the odor of rotten flesh which is so visceral to all our senses, is to God the sweet aroma of the sacrifice of His own Son. We must not deceive ourselves. When we refuse the advances of our God by using the excuse that we are so rotten that we cannot allow Him to enter into union with us, we make ourselves our own god and we close ourselves off to the highest pleasure this earthly life will afford. I have never been pursued like this by anyone else, have you?

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Loneliness, My Winter Friend

I believe that God is preparing for us an eternal dwelling place that will be so magnificent that He could not allow us to imagine such glory here in this world lest the focus of our desire be on the place of heaven rather than the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

The hope of heaven is not that we will finally be free of all sorrow and pain that we have endured in this life, but rather to see with the eyes of our heart the Calvary where Jesus took the scourge of pain and death from us and exchanged it for His righteousness.images (2) The hope of heaven is Christ Himself. He made it possible for us to escape eternal separation from God so that we will someday eat from the tree of life. Indeed, we do eat of that tree, which is Jesus . He is the First fruit of His Father, He is the Door to the Father, He is Living Water, the Bread of Life and He calls us NOW to “Taste and see that He is good.” (Ps. 34:8a)

Yet, we are “soul-journers” in a dry and desert place. We thirst for what we do not have and we chase away the things we do not want because they cause us pain. Read the sign. It says, “Pain and sorrow are not welcome here”. It is written on the faces of all humanity. But none of us escape it. What encouragement we find in Scripture where we read, “These light and temporary trials are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). If only we believed it. Then we would realize that though we are hungry, that hunger is good because it points us to Christ who wants us to enjoy the bounty of His table. Right now, in the midst of our suffering.

Loneliness has become my winter friend.  During the cold and dark months I often try to escape the clutches of that beast that threatens to take me to a dark and dreary place; bitter, unforgiving and desolate. Normally, I despiimages (3)se loneliness. I hate how it makes me feel. Recently, I had an encounter with loneliness and decided to stop fighting it. I began to pay attention to my emotions; when my feelings of loneliness were particularly strong. One evening I was alone in my house, thinking about the difficulties of this life. I decided to put on some music about heaven, knowing the hearing of it would act as a balm to soothe my weary soul. Minutes into my music, I found myself feeling overwhelmed; despairing over the aloneness of my heart! So I turned up the music and sang at the top of my lungs, tears streaming down my face. I felt anger over the loneliness but I was also aware of the intense feeling of joy!  That’s when Jesus spoke peace to my waiting heart. I began to laugh because of this beautiful gift He had given me. This is what He wanted me to know: Loneliness is not the enemy.  My loneliness is for Jesus! My loneliness is a good gift from the only One who can truly satisfy that need of my heart. So, I can invite my winter friend into all the seasons of my life because my loneliness is but a reminder to me of my unquenchable desire for heaven where merely seeing Jesus face-to-face will end all feelings of loneliness forever. Come, Lord Jesus. Come!

Darkness Into Light

images (1)Traversing roads of encumbrance
Winding steeps of despair
Articulating the verbiage of depression
To a world that does not care.

Raucous cries from one beast to another
Emancipate me from this dark bitch night
Yawning is the abyss into which I have been cast
O God, rescue me that I would take flight

Into your waiting arms.