Understanding that Comes at Dawn

If you believe in something, it will be evident by your choices. Your conviction will result in more than the understanding that fuels explanations and theory; there will be a practice that displays the trust you have placed in that thing. If your belief is based in truth, that display should actually build on itself. In other words, if you’re acting in accordance with your beliefs and those beliefs are based in truth, your actions will become habits.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.” (Isaiah 50:4-5)

If you believe in God as Lord and are connected to Him relationally, your desires will increasingly align with His. The desire to help those that are “weary” will align with His heart for the broken and forgotten. That belief, those desires and such alignment won’t happen in a “one and done” fashion, however. It will happen morning by morning.

Morning by morning, you will wake up and seek deeper understanding of His will. In His faithfulness, as you draw near to Him, He will provide that understanding. The practice of persistently searching will shape your character because it will require a sacrifice. That sacrifice, at a minimum, is time. It may include sleep. It could require a choice that puts it above another option (breakfast, business, social media, etc.). The sacrifice for connection, however, will most certainly have a return on the investment.

Growth comes in the seeking and seeking, according to this passage, starts in the morning. There is something special about mornings. The dawning of a new day presents fresh mercies and new hope. The challenge of yesterday starts to give way to the hope of tomorrow.

Recently, I had a special morning where my understanding grew. It was one of many mornings, however, and not every one is as impactful as another. They build on each other. The relationship grows in the discipline and sacrifice and relationship is what fosters trust. Trust allows for sharing and sharing feeds understanding.

I suppose that kind of searching out doesn’t have to come in the morning and would never suggest that it can only happen in the A.M. Still, there is something special about mornings. We are all invited; morning by morning.

The One Thing that Fixes Everything

The older that I get, the more challenging things can be. After 52 years, I am less confident in my correctness than ever before, even when I am right. I am increasingly decreasing through humility imposed as much as humility chosen. “Adulting” is no joke.

In my youth, zeal and ignorance kept me from fear. I was too young to know better and that’s not entirely good nor entirely bad; it just is. In fact, having the perspective of a child is ultimately the goal.

Now, I’m a professional Christian. I write things and say things and organize things that center around Jesus because I believe that everyone can benefit from what He is offering. I really do believe . . . and I doubt. I really am passionate . . . and I get weary. I really do want to help people . . . and I get hurt by them. I really do love people . . . and they wear me out. I really do trust God . . . and I’m afraid He won’t come through sometimes.

That list of paradoxical perspectives, feelings, experiences and thoughts could likely go on for quite some time. The uncertainty of me doesn’t change Him. The absoluteness of Him invites that uncertainty of me time and again. He remains who He has always been and invites me and my fluidity to his foundation. In that place, when I seek Him and find Him, there is a restoration and re-filling of contentment, peace, joy and peace.

His grace never gets tired of my agitation. His grace calls to me to step towards the one and eternal solution. The only thing that was ever designed or intended to be everything we need is, thankfully, also the most consistent and never ending thing we can ever imagine. In fact, it is beyond our imagination.

The only thing, place, person or feeling that fixes everything is the love of God. Only when I spend time in pursuit of the first and foremost need do the second and inferior other things take their proper place. Only in the security of relationship to “Abba” or Father God, even “Daddy” God, do my insecurity, inferior logic, busy mindedness, hurt, fear and other distractions fade to insignificant.

For some reason, and unfortunately, I’m too quick to go back to the other stuff once it starts flying at me. Then I am reminded of the open invitation to sit quietly with Him. He approves of me. He likes me. He loves me. He feels the exact same way about you . . . Just ask HIm. He’ll remind you.

The Grace of Pain

When and if you stop to consider your arguments and rationale for why you should get things that you want, those reasons are often based in our perceived value, contribution, entitlements, etc. For those of us of faith, we’ll then put those expectations on God and often find a Scripture or two to “support” our justification. Sometimes we’ll even mistaken the challenges we face as an “attack” when, in fact, God Himself has both orchestrated and allowed our discomfort and He has done so for our benefit and His glory. Consider the following passage:

“You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:8-11)

The Father addresses the rebellion of Israel, which is typically no different than the rebellion of you and I. He explains that instead of appropriate wrath for the depravity of rebellion against a Holy God, He chooses to refine. Instead of a swift and just judgment to the demise of the prodigal, He allows for affliction to grow up the immaturity and grow out the obstinance. I’m thankful for that because without it, I would have been destroyed long ago.

He chooses to look past our depravity which is offensive to His nature and, by His grace, work it out of us. Here’s the bigger point; He does it for His glory and fame. We aren’t really that big of a deal, despite our participation trophies. He is and always will be the point. He knows our selfishness and shallowness would prefer it were about us, yet He allows the affliction of difficultly to refine us and work out those iniquities.

Justice would demand our punishment for punishment’s sake. We would be destroyed but we are pressed to work it out of us, instead. It’s gracious to give us the time to grow and it’s gracious to allow us the process of refinement to redeem what otherwise is simply unacceptable.

In this world, you will have trouble. It’s not always an attack, but no matter if it is or not, the Lord is likely willing in every challenge to work out some expectation of justice or entitlement from within you. He’s willing to redeem your pain for His glory through the resulting maturity that comes with trust, if you’ll submit to Him through the circumstances and allow His glory to be the point over your comfort, preferences or expectations.

The Tremendous Cost of Relying on Ability

The cost of refusing the invitation isn’t just an opportunity missed. The ramifications of our choices bring consequences that can be directly opposite to the intentions we had when we made the choice to ignore the chance. The thing that we set out to do can be defeated in our efforts.

A couple of days ago, I wrote of the invitation that Jesus gives us in Mark 6:31 to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” In that post, the resting point is that without a conscious choice to put things down, we won’t be able to accept His invitation. 

Turning down that invitation may not mean much on it’s face. It may not seem important to rest “in this season” for whatever reason. Maybe that reason is just this one project or the crisis of the present circumstances. Maybe it’s the sense of calling to change things for the better, therefore, “Jesus wants me to do this for Him right now” or some similar language.

If you are a professing believer/follower of Jesus, here is what He says about the stuff that we do: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

The word for “nothing” there at the end of the last sentence comes from a word that means “nothing” in the original language. Nothing means nothing. That is, without connection to, reliance on and abiding in Jesus as the Source, then whatever we do amounts to nothing. Even if we are able to raise money, build buildings, etc.

The opportunity cost for choosing not to rest with Him isn’t just refreshment; it’s everything. Without a “yes,” the rest doesn’t matter. It may feel good in the moment. I may draw some attention, adoration or accolades from others. Even so, it won’t matter. It’s nothing.

You see, I know, because I do. I like to do and I’m good at doing some things. Those things that I’m good at doing can even bring me some attention, reward and satisfaction. They are nothing, however, compared to when and what He does. Jesus is better at everything than I am. He’s a better lawyer, business owner, minister, leader, writer, speaker, you name it. Failure to truly trust Him to be better has, at times, cost me my “yes.”

No more. I say “yes.”

The Intersection of Faith, Fear, Theory and Belief

My beliefs have changed drastically over the past 20 years, although the foundation for what I now believe was put in place as a kid. In between being a kid and 20 years ago, I would have claimed some of the same beliefs that I was raised on, although there was no evidence in my life that I actually believed them. I was living like hell even when I said that I believed there was a heaven.

A belief is not a belief until it is displayed in a choice. Up until the supposed belief is manifest in a decision, it is little more than a theory. It could just be culture. When decisions are made in accordance with a previously untested belief, the theory becomes fact as our trust in the belief is proven.

Whether we claim to believe in God or not, we all face problems. No matter what our stated beliefs are related to God’s love, power, goodness, sovereignty, etc., those statements will be tested in our circumstances. Then, and only then, are our theories of belief put in the fire for refining. They will either be strengthened or prove themselves to be false.

‘But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?’ (Psalm 56:3-4)

David sings of “when” he is afraid, because sometimes he is. This “man after God’s own heart” experienced fear and, at that point, his belief in God was tested. While his soul cries out all through the Psalms, the place he lands is “I trust in God . . . What can mere mortals do to me?” He lands in a submission to God’s sovereignty and eternal context.

His comfort is in the distinction between man and God; temporary and eternal. His fear is the intersection for trust and decides that God’s sovereignty and the outcomes of the eternal picture are better than anything that might happen as man, among man, in the temporary state of man.

The “promises of God” we have are eternal glory . . . AND trouble in this world. We are invited to share in the sufferings of Christ here and now, trusting that our place with Him is forever. We either trust that His wisdom and intentions are better than our preferences or not. You’ll know the answer for you in the choices that you make about Him.

God Bless Texas

It’s easier to be in charge than it is to trust and release. We trust our limitations more than we trust the limitless possibilities of what might happen beyond our capacity. Our very nature, in it’s fallen state, is to be sovereign over ourselves and other stuff.

The sovereignty of God is a more complex idea than we might appreciate at a glance. If we really believe that there is a God who is actually God, then that means we can’t be. That realization contradicts our fallen state and requires our submission. No submission = no belief.

Concepts are not belief; choices are. For everything that I control the outcome and withhold my trust, then I remain “g”od where “G”od is ready, willing and able. For everything that I attempt to show Him how much I’ve done for Him, He is a spectator of my futile and temporal jukes towards religion as He waits willing to offer eternity.

The net result is often a life that lives out the Lord’s prayer as follows:

“Our Father, Who is in heaven . . . 1) give us this day our daily bread, 2) forgive us of our flaws and 3) protect us from evil. But just in case, for today until You show that You will actually come through in the way I prefer, I’ll strive to provide for myself by working myself sick and robbing relationships from valuable time. Also, I’ll continue to be expected to be judged by my intentions as others consider me but I’ll evaluate them based on their performance. Finally, I’ll buy lots of guns and stockpile money and build plenty of “wise” safeguards around my suburban existence to ensure that we can still make it to church on Sunday. But I trust You . . . really. Just keep blessing me, because, You know, I’m an American and a Republican and, oh, yeah . . . a Texan. Amen.”

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:20-21)