Getting Taught

My first year of college I was a double major in history and math, with a secondary education emphasis. I wanted to teach. In my high school years I was heavily influenced by math teachers and an English teacher. I fell in love with history thanks to my dad and AP History class. Even at 18 I saw how impactful teachers could be on the life of a bratty teen like myself and felt I owed them more than just an A in class, but to turn and give back myself.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Great Teacher went in the temple to teach. Christ, during His time here on earth, often taught through the lens of parables, illustrating an idea through story in order to bring about revelation on the hearts of those who hear. He took the harder lessons to be learned and brought them to the people who most needed to hear them.

But here we sit looking at Mark 11-13, and the hard words of Christ teaching and the Pharisees interrupting, to try to trap Him or ensnare Him. They bring lofty legalistic views, with religion carried on their shoulders rather than trusting in Christ, the God-man Himself right before them, teaching and preaching, pointing to the time of redemption.

They doubt His authority, seeking to be their own authority. I have to say, we all are alike in that vein. We prefer to use ourselves more often to rule than allowing Christ to rule in and through us. As one writer states, “We are not really interested in surrendering that rule to anyone else.” We see further on that they fear others more than they fear God, when they make decisions based upon the crowd’s opinion instead of the words of Christ before them. They chose the safe route, the expedient one rather than what was true, right.

Sounds a bit like me some days, alot of days. Choosing for myself based upon the opinion of others often instead of what Christ commands of me. When I look at this text I cannot help but ask myself, “Does what others will think of me hinder me from moving more towards Jesus?” Do the lessons He teaches me alter me in a way that moves me more towards His likeness or more towards the crowd’s opinion?

In many ways I am just as they were, questioning whether this Teacher has authority and influence in my life, whether I would allow the opinions of others to bare weight over His command. So on this Tuesday as I sit and look at the Teacher and His teachings that day thousands of years ago, I have to seek to know how much of all this is a reason to mask my own fear of what faith might cost me socially, relationally, and culturally. Whether I will be taught or continue to think I am the teacher.

Bandages and Temptations, Oh My!

Confession time.

00381371046539_a1c1When I was a kid I stole Little Mermaid bandages from a store. I was around 8 or 9 at the time and I asked my mom for them. We already had bandages at home and these were not needed. I kept swirling about that endcap full of them wanting them so badly. Finally I opened a box dumped them in my little purse, closed the box and put it back on the shelf.

I was quite the little thief at a young age. And to my own detriment, sneaky as well.

In doing research on another topic in 1 Corinthians, I couldn’t help but recall my Little Mermaid caper when I came to 10:13:

No temptation has overcome you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (NKJV)

The reason being that I think we put our own twist onto this verse and knowingly engage in temptation to test God. Temptations do overcome us, they are common. He gives us a way of escape so that we can bear out the temptation and not giving in to it. Here’s the rub…we have to choose the way of escape and then lean fully into bearing it out with God. For us though, we keep circling the temptation much like I did those boxes of bandages, dwelling on my desire rather than on the words of my mother, rather than walking away and choosing obedience.

We like to circle the temptation because we allow the desire to give much more voice to us than the obedient and faithful call of God. He is faithful to provide that way of escape if we but take heed to listen, to choose to turn and walk away from it, not engage in lingering or even second-guessing. Honestly, it doesn’t have to be these big huge temptations that we often like to play out when we read this (or maybe it’s just been me). It doesn’t have to get to adultery, pornography, thievery, alcoholism…it can be something that we feel is so insignificant and don’t recognize as tempting us.

One that I have been wrestling with is the temptation of wasted time, of being lured by the “well I need this” rest of television-watching or scrolling through feeds rather than pursuing a God-given dream to write. If I am truly transparent with y’all, I wrestled with it even on this very post today. I was knocked by the topic, sat it aside and then walked back by where I had the Bible and notes open and thought “Well I could catch up on the DVR instead.” It’s not often glamorous or celebrated when we choose obedience over temptation. Doing the obedient thing isn’t sexy or even fun, (it can be, don’t get me wrong) but it’s what our hearts call us to more than our desires…it pushes us to a deeper relationship with Him and in Him, honoring His faithfulness to provide it to us and then faithfulness reflected back to Him in turning from it, choosing that escape route.

Yours may be different, but when we begin to actively choose the escape He provides, when we can see it or hear it, then we begin to build relationship with Him to then hear Him in each and every thing we face, in the face of each temptation that comes (and they do come, in all shapes and sizes, at all times) so that we may choose turning rather than tempting.

Redeeming the Past

Do you ever wish you could go back and fix something with the knowledge you have now? I bet something popped to mind didn’t it? Some decision (or lack thereof) that was made on your part that took you off into one direction that you ended up regretting, apologizing for, and paying the consequences on for far longer. Maybe you even have more than one…

Recently I had a realization that I had been working towards my own redemption in a way. That I was pursuing something far out of where God wanted me to be solely as a means of redeeming my past, as someone who was let go from their job. It really took a rattling moment of clarity to see that I had been pushing at something so very hard that I knew was not meant for me any more. I was attempting to prove I was in fact worthy, true, a hardworker, diligent in my responsibilities and of value.

For almost two years I have been trying to redeem my past in my career-one that I am finally accepting was not for the long-term but rather for a season of life. It was what God was using to further my growth and development and to use in His grand story, not my own. Over and over again though I kept feeling the pull of lies that I had something to prove, that I had value to earn and worth to contribute. I wanted to be the one to fix it, it was my reputation and name that had been marred. It was my heart that was hurt and wounded, that I needed to put back into place to mend.

I didn’t really say all those things, but my actions sure did lay it out before me and before God. I kept saying I had chosen to move on from that career path, and yet there I was once again interviewing, applying, seeking out redemption by my own definition and in my own power. Y’all you may not even realize you are in it too, but it happens. When we go about attempting to redeem ourselves, our stories, our pasts we tell God we don’t trust Him with any of our life. We don’t believe He’s capable of redemption even in our past, let alone our current state or our future.

If we are His children, then we are redeemed. All of it. Every last bit of us is redeemed, even that ugly part we hate to acknowledge or that moment we look back to with such regret and heartache, He has redeemed it. He has forgiven us when we bring it to Him, and He uses it mightily. Y’all, He wants us to stop striving to work out way into worth and value, to stop pursuing redemption on our own. He got this along time ago and we cannot stop forgetting that truth. We choose the lie that our value depends on us, instead of what He has told us about ourselves and about Him. We deceive ourselves that we are actually god and that we can redeem any bit of ourselves on our own.

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. 

Colossians 1 reminds us that we already have redemption, and it’s not in ourselves but in Him. It always has been and it always will be. It’s not defined by our actions or striving, so why do we try? Why do we pursue these attempts instead of reveling in His awesome ability to redeem us and our pasts to be used for His work…which is so much better than my measly workings in my own vain attempts. He came after us in the darkness of our prideful striving to move us into fellowship with Him. We are of value, we have worth. We just forget that every bit of that is found in trusting Him.

It doesn’t come from us, and it never will. But in faith and trusting Him we find that redemption is given freely, always there and ever working for our good and His glory. So I can stop trying to make a name for myself because I already have one, His.

 

 

 

All the Questions. 

I ask a lot of questions. I like context and clarity. It’s something as I have gotten older that has provided me with both, and saved a lot of time assuming something else or misunderstanding a situation/comment/task. 

When I was fired from a job, I had a lot of questions, none of which have ever been answered. For a while that unknown, that “no-cause” just left me deflated and assuming a lot. It welled up anger that had to be dealt with, and it also took me to God asking Him a lot of things about how He could let that happen and so on. 

We take a lot of questions to Him, maybe not all of them because we are human and we often try to answer the majority of them on our, in our own thinking, instead of laying them before Him. However He answers in His time and His way. But I find that some questions I ask, and this may hold true for you too, just don’t get answered. 

We hold some elite company in the Bible as well with this. When we look at the life of Joshua we can see his ordainment to lead the people of Israel into the land that was promised. Confidence and influence are with him, as is God. We see him lead them across the Jordan, obedient to the commands of God. 

Then he meets a Man. The commander of the army of the Lord as a matter of fact. Joshua doesn’t know this, only that this Man has His sword drawn. Joshua asks Him a question, of whether He is for them or heir adversaries (Joshua 5:13-15). His question, it goes unanswered. What follows in that very brief synopsis is God meeting Joshua right where he is at, and that’s all that mattered. 

You see I believe that often it’s not our questions being answered that we are in deep need of, but that we need to encounter God and be obedient in humble worship. That we need that time with Him far more than our future revealed or a question deeply answered. He tells us over in Jeremiah that His ways, His thoughts aren’t ours. The sovereign Lord of all is answering our questions so often by giving us what our limited understanding couldn’t comprehend-time spent with Him. 

It took me seeing Joshua and Job (Job 42:5,6) have their direct questions go unanswered to see they were answered by the loving, caring and reigning God for what their deep need was, Him. To know that when I take all of that to Him, He gives what He knows is needed…more of Him and less of me. 

God of the Small

Do you ever find that you only look to God for the big? The Noah moments, the Lazarus-level healing, even the Boaz bringing?

Maybe it’s just me. For so long I knew and trusted He was the God of the big stuff. Sovereign in creation, in resurrection. A life-giver and miraculous healer. A God of miracles and wonders.

DSCN1931The insane beauty of a sunset, oh that’s God. Look at the grandeur and working of His hand. He’s all over that.

But my small, day-to-day stuff? That’s not where I have found Him.

Or rather, that’s not where I have been looking for Him, relying on Him and allowing Him to enter in with me. He’s not the God of small, or at least that’s what I have been selling to myself and my “stuff” in the small. Why would the small matter to such a big God? Because God works the small just as He works the big, if we are faithful in the small.

Let me take you to where I saw Him in what I deem the small of life. I am back over in Ruth once more, because y’all He’s doing a work in it. If we are looking ahead to the big ending we miss the small, we miss how Ruth was faithful to go and do the work. To glean in the fields behind the reapers. To do the hard, grueling work in order to provide for her and her mother-in-law Naomi. From sun up til sun down, with a break “in the house” as we are told.

She did the faithful work and God was right there in it. It wasn’t a miraculous boat being built, it wasn’t the falling of a wall by musical instrument. It was getting up, going out, and doing. Day in, day out.

We can handle the small, so we tell ourselves. We cop to the lie that we are the mini-gods of the small, having control in to-do lists and tasks, making the bed and filing reports. But I think it takes seeing the faithful work of Ruth for me to understand God wants to be in the small of a meeting, a phone call, or a task. He wants to be in every single detail of my life, if I choose to relinquish the need for complete management of it.

Yes, He is the God of big, but He’s also the God of small. Of noticing us and being with us, if we step back and invite Him into it. If we remain faithful to do the work before us with Him. Knowing it isn’t for accolades or awards that will never come from grading papers or serving coffee, but about the beauty of Him with us in each moment as we faithfully work for Him and with Him.

By Faith Alone

I am a planner, it comes naturally I think. I like to map out things and plan trips. I think that’s why I enjoyed event planning and teaching, it gave me the opportunity to plan and prepare. If it were an Olympic sport, I’d be the Michael Phelps of it.

So you can possibly get some context to my discomfort when I read these verses in Hebrews recently:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son,  the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.

You see Abraham had no way of knowing. He just didn’t. God didn’t reveal some divine knowledge to him about the place He was telling him to go. He didn’t give him a map and say, “Here’s the land where I want you to go, this is what you can grow there, here’s the supplies for building homes. You’ll need a winter jacket and several military grade weapons to protect yourselves from the giants who lived there.” He didn’t have foreknowledge of God putting a ram in the thicket of bushes.

No, God told Abraham to go…and so he went.

God told Abraham to sacrifice the son he had waited decades to receive…and so he went.

Abraham had faith in God. He trusted without the details, without the knowledge within himself. He simply trusted (as if we ever allow it to be that simple). It didn’t involve anything but going on Abraham’s part. He went because God called him to go.

I try to overcomplicate matters, no I do overcomplicate matters. I want the GPS directions, a full detail spec sheet on the situation and a debrief on the plan to address a situation, along with a full guarantee of my safety, security and comfort. Plain and simple, I don’t trust God with what He’s asked me to do, what He knows is ahead I simply do not have the faith that He’ll see me through it. I want to look at the end goal, and how I am okay in it all. He looks at me and desires to have me move towards being more Him-like in the process. I want answers and He wants obedience.

Abraham obeyed in full faith when he couldn’t see beyond the step in front of him. How is my faith and trust in God when He asks me to do the same? He’s not asking any more of me than he did of Abraham…He’s asking for faith in Him, belief that He is faithful and good, trust in that His Promise is sure.

Maybe you’re like me and want the answers and the full Google maps directions with travel times before you will say yes to God. By faith today, let’s just take the step to go. Without the knowledge of anything else, without the security of answers, but with God.