I had a conversation recently with a friend where we were discussing what I call a Holy Tension.
Sometimes when I am praying for direction I ask the Lord for peace concerning a decision I need to
make. When I sense that peace I feel confident to move forward. But recently, I was praying about
moving into an area of ministry that is a new direction for me. As I prayed I asked for peace but I felt a
little unsettled instead. Not unsettled about the decision so much as about whether I am equipped to
handle it. Can I stay humble? Can I keep the fruits of the Spirit as my standard and not become prideful
or arrogant? Do I have enough wisdom and knowledge to meet the responsibility I would be accepting?
This is where the Holy Tension surfaces. Yes, I need to know God’s peace concerning my decisions
but there will always be a health caution when it comes to carrying out His direction. I will never be
completely settled because if I am then I’ve ceased to trust God minute by minute. I will always need to
feel dependent on God, recognizing my own shortcomings and relying on His power to accomplish what
He’s called me to do.
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted
by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are
always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
I never want to become so confident in myself that I quit leaning on the Lord. The peace in my spirit is
the peace that comes from trusting in God’s perfect abilities and the tension comes from acknowledging
that on my own, I am nothing.
My husband is a woodworker. He builds everything from chicken coops to porch swings to fine dining room tables. He is a craftsman who settles for nothing short of excellence. He also restores furniture. I’ve seen him take a broken down piece of furniture that someone brings him and patiently restore it to its former glory. Sometimes the transformation is amazing.
He takes a piece into his workshop and begins by assessing the damage. He doesn’t care where the piece has been or what abuse it may have experienced. He focuses on returning it to useable condition and the purpose for which it was created.
He removes the old finish, sands and glues and sands some more. Then he carefully applies the new finish and watches as the richness of the wood is revealed. He patiently waits for each coat of finish to dry before applying the next.
Our Heavenly Father is also a master craftsman in the business of restoration. He can take a life and strip away the old, stained finish. He can gently sand away the rough spots and mend the broken pieces. He can apply a brand new finish, rubbing the oils of healing into our hearts, causing the richness of His presence to shine in our soul as it was intended from the beginning when He created us and then declared His creation very good.
God doesn’t care where we’ve been or what we’ve experienced. Nothing can disqualify us from being beautifully restored if only we will put ourselves into the hands of the Master Craftsman.
2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
Do you sometimes feel like life is out of control? So many things to do that you can barely focus on anything? Sometimes it reminds me of a common circus act from years ago.
Remember the plate spinner? He took large plates and set them spinning, precariously perched on the top of rather flimsy poles. He set plate after plate and had to constantly return to the first ones to add energy to the spin so the plates wouldn’t come crashing to the floor. By the end of his performance he was running frantically back and forth between the poles attempting to keep everything going at the same time.
Does that sound like how our culture has conditioned us to see our lives? We try desperately to keep everything going in our own strength. We become a one-man-show so to speak.
But I believe God has a different idea about how it’s supposed to go. Consider for a moment, the Master of the Universe. Would He need to run back and forth in a panic, trying to manage everything at once? Of course not. God could simple lean against the nearest wall, casually cross his arms and look toward the collection of spinning plates. With a nod of His head and one word He could control the entire activity. A simple command of “spin!” and… all would have to obey Him.
Jeremiah 10:23 says, ”I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”
It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be responsible to do the things He has designed us to do. It’s when we take it upon ourselves to do it on our own that we get into trouble. We become that plate spinner, focusing on the task of keeping it all going and perhaps missing the joy along the way. No, God probably won’t take over and leave you nothing to do but watch. But you can be sure that if you look to Him for direction and focus on that task…the plate that is His priority at the moment, He won’t let even one of the other plates fall.
The Masks We Wear
If we’re honest, we have to acknowledge that we all wear masks at times. Even our closest friends only see what we want them to see. We hide our true selves for many reasons, but the root is usually fear of what others might think if they knew who we really were. The risk of rejection is just too great so…we hide.
I wish that was as far as it went but I don’t think it is. At times, I find myself even trying to hide from God behind one mask or another. I’m not alone in this….Eve actually did it first…hiding from God in the garden. Of course, she hadn’t read Psalm 139 so maybe she didn’t know that God was intimately acquainted with all her ways, or knew her words before she said them.
Once, many years ago, I was required to participate in a children’s costume party. My costume included a mask and when I was dressed in the complete outfit no one could possibly guess it was me inside. I found a certain freedom to act in any way I wanted since no one knew it was me and wouldn’t judge me for anything I did. But it was an artificial freedom. Because I wasn’t perceived by the children as “real” they interacted with me from a distance, unwilling to get too close . They instinctively knew that what they were seeing wasn’t the whole picture. I felt freedom to act as I chose but I also experienced a sense of isolation. Several of the other adults knew who I was inside my costume and were the ones who would draw closer and interact on a more intimate basis.
Isn’t that how it is in life? Don’t we avoid people who seem “phony”, keeping our distance? Don’t we feel more comfortable with people who have earned our trust by being real? How effective can we be in ministry if we can’t be real? Who will allow themselves to risk a relationship with us if they sense we aren’t what we seem?
One final thought…who knows what’s inside the masks we wear in our daily lives better than the Lord? Who is more willing than anyone to draw close to us? Who has seen everything there is to see in us and still loves us? Jeremiah 23:24 says, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? declares the Lord.”
We don’t need to pretend to be something we’re not. We can be real with God. He knows all about us and loves us anyway.
What is Joy?
Webster’s dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires…and the expression or exhibition of such emotion.” Well-being is defined as “happy, healthy and prosperous.”
My first response to those definitions is that if you feel joy then it should show! As I look more closely at those words, I find that what the world would call joy is covered well in the first part – well-being,success and good fortune. Most people would agree that those are all good reasons to rejoice. But what if your life hasn’t been filled with good health, good fortune or success and prosperity? Is this reason to despair? Not for a minute! For believers, the rest of the definition is where we find our hope as well as our joy. “The prospect of possessing what I desire”…. eternity with Christ! No matter what life looks like today, we still have reason to be filled with joy.
Many years ago I knew a man who, for me, was the personification of joy. John was no more than about 5’5” and wore glasses thicker that pop bottles. What little hair he had left was white. He was severely diabetic and also wore a colostomy bag. Yet every time you saw him he had a smile on his face and a story to tell about the goodness of God. The man dancing in the aisles each Sunday morning during worship? That was John. He wasn’t healthy or wealthy but he was wise. He knew the source of his joy – that he would possess what he most desired – eternity with his Lord and Savior. Toward the end of his life, John lost his dancing legs to complications of his diabetes and yet on the day he went home to his Savior he was still singing songs of joy.
Psalm 118:4 “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
How will you express your joy today?
Last week I wrote in my journal, “Sometimes I feel invisible.”
Sometimes I wonder if what I’m doing has any real significance – does any of it matter to anyone? If I were to just disappear would anyone even notice? Or am I already so invisible that it wouldn’t be evident to anyone at all?
Last week when I wrote in my journal, I had been experiencing an exceptionally challenging week. I’d known ahead of time that it would be difficult and I’d need God’s grace and strength to make it through. The circumstances were out of my control but my response to them wasn’t. I started with a good attitude, acknowledging my need for God’s direction. But as the week went on and I began to get tired, I also began to lose my perspective. By the time I wrote that I was feeling invisible, I’d allowed my focus to shift to myself. Then, as He does so faithfully, God intervened. The method he often uses with me is the written word. His, as well as others that He has inspired to write.
This time He used John 3:30. John the Baptist is speaking about his ministry when he says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” The Lord also used a tiny little ninety page book by Nicole Johnson called The Invisible Woman, When Only God Sees. In this little book the author talks about the building of the great cathedrals in the 1400’s. Some of these magnificent structures took more than a hundred years to complete. Dedicated craftsmen spent their entire lives working on a project that they wouldn’t live to see completed.
The cathedrals are breathtaking to behold. But what’s even more amazing is to consider the thousands of skilled artisans whose names will never be known and who received no credit for their work even though they faithfully gave their talents for a lifetime. And the ultimate gift they offered? Some of them labored over miniature intricate carvings and then hid them behind walls…where they were intended for the eyes of God alone.
The question I find myself asking is – how willing am I to faithfully complete the tasks the Lord has given me? Am I willing to be invisible on purpose instead of whining about how unappreciated I can feel when no one seems to notice me or what I am doing?
My prayer today is, “Lord make me invisible so others may see You more clearly!”
Are You a Starter or a Finisher?
There are three possible answers to this question.
A starter is someone who sees the vision from the very beginning and jumps in with both feet. Enthusiasm may run high…for a while. Eventually the momentum slows down and then interest begins to wane. Maybe the task has become too challenging or maybe it has become tedious and …boring. Either way, it can be an easy thing to justify quitting.
Hebrews 10:35-36 says to the Starter:
“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
A finisher is someone who sees the vision – see what the end result could be, but also sees all the obstacles that need to be dealt with in order to reach the goal. Hesitation to take the first step has the potential to cause years of procrastination.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says to the Finisher:
“He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.”
God wants us to be something more. He calls us to be overcomers. We can overcome our excuses and our obstacles. We can persevere through the challenges and even our own boredom. If we can say with Paul, that our desire is to finish the task God has given us, we will indeed be the victors!
Acts 20:24 – “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
“Is God Good?” That is what we call a rhetorical question…like “do birds fly?” Our response is instant. “Of course birds fly.”
Is God good? Our affirmative response comes just as quickly. But the real question is – do we believe it in every instance? Do we believe Psalm 119:68 ? “You are good and do good.” Period.
I think we are quick to say we believe that God is good and we’d like to believe that everything He does is good. The problem is that life is full of circumstances which, from our limited perspective, don’t look so good. Our question to ourselves during those times becomes “Is God still good?” His Word has already told us that He is. All the time. In every circumstance. Our lousy circumstances don’t turn God into a lousy father. Our Heavenly Father turns our lousy circumstances into good!
No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we must resist the temptation to evaluate God in light of our trials. He doesn’t change. He is always good and everything He does is good. He can’t go against His own character. We need to adjust our perception.
Four of my seven sons are color blind. When they look at an object they don’t see what I see. When they look at a cardinal in the pine trees in our backyard and the bird blends in with the branches because they can’t distinguish red from green they can make a false assumption that what they see is correct. However, if I tell them the bird is red and the tree is green – highly contrasting colors to a normal eye, they have two choices. They must either believe me even though their perception is different, or argue that their point of view is correct. But whether they see red or not doesn’t change the facts.
We do the same thing every time we doubt that our circumstances can be used for our good. I would never lie to my children and toy with their color deficiency – pretending to see colors that they cannot see. God would never lie to us. He would never tell us something that looks bad to us is really good – unless it’s the truth.
Our problem is that we look at our circumstances the same way my sons look at the bird and assume our perception is the correct one. We need to take our eyes off the circumstances and focus on what we know to be true.
Is God good? Take a good honest look at your circumstances for a moment and then lift your eyes to the heavens, above your circumstances, and gaze into the face of your Heavenly Father and ask the question again. “Is God good?” God’s response to your heart’s cry will be a resounding “YES!”