The only way you can fail

The only way you can fail is not to love Him back.

“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.” (Jesus’ words to the church of Laodicea, Revelation 3:20, NLT)

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Published in: on January 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One More Chance

Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-8, NLT)

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Photograph by Ian W. Scott, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/ian-w-scott/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

 

On all fronts

It seems to me like I’m under enemy fire on all fronts, wherever I go, and just about whatever I do.  Feelings like rage, discouragement, frustration, helplessness, spite, and a slough of other highly-skilled terrorists work 24/7 to knock me down, keep me from serving God, drag me into sin.

Satan knows what he is doing.  He has thousands of years experience convincing people to sin.  And if one sin doesn’t work, well, he’ll just try another.  And another.  And another.  With every temptation I resist, a sneakier or harder-to-resist one sometimes crops up in its place.

I hate dragging myself off the battlefield at night, wounded from enemy fire and sometimes even realizing I was duped into fighting most of the day for the wrong side.  I hate knowing that I’ve lost more ground than I’ve gained, that my warfare strategies have been crumpled in a ball and thrown in the trashcan.

It makes me think I’m not doing spiritual warfare very well.  I belong in God’s army now, but do I know how to fight?  Do I know how to defend myself?  Do I know how to attack?  Or am I just wandering around aimlessly waiting until a surprise attack blows me to smithereens?  Am I so clueless on the weapons of God that I can’t even engage in battle against darkness?  Am I so hopelessly cowardly that I’m hiding behind any bush I can find, thinking someone else will surely step up to battle for me?

My favorite character in Pilgrim’s Progress other than the main character, Christian, is a man named Fearless.  When everyone else shirks in fear at the thought of following God by fighting their way through Satan’s demons, Fearless steps up to take his turn.  He raises his sword and does not lower it until he has sent the last demon standing in his way to the ground.

Christian learns from what he sees in Fearless.  When he has to fight his own nightmare, Apolyon, he knows the danger.  He could be slain in a heartbeat, but he’s afraid of much worse.  He fears his soul is in jeopardy, and the odds are impossible: a mortal man facing a monstrous, winged demon?  Apolyon invites him to give up, to simply go back to living like someone destined for Hell.  Apolyon promises he’ll be satisfied at that, that there will be no war, no bloodshed, no terror.

But Christian has seen Fearless fight, and Christian raises his sword for a fight worth more than his life.

.  . . that’s one thing for a character in a made up story, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing for me–right?

Who says the story is made up?

God has been making it very clear lately that I’m not ready for war.

My faith is in Jesus Christ.  My heart is after His will for my life.  I see God changing me in ways I could never change myself.  God has taken burdens away from me that I could never have dreamed could have been lifted.

But, at no one’s fault but my own, I still have some rutted habits that aren’t dying.  I still have some patterns of behavior that aren’t changing.  And I still have a whole lot of situations where I’m unsure what to do, half-hearted, overwhelmed, confused, or just wasteful of the opportunities God has given to me.

God, in His incredible grace, has adopted me as His child.  He has enlisted me in His army.  He has held out His war plan to me.

But what I’m seeing in my life is that, if God doesn’t blatantly reveal or give something to me, I’m nowhere and nothing close to ready for battle.  I seem to forget that I even have armor, and I’m unsure how to wield the sword I’ve been given.  My shield seems to be expecting direct intervention from God all the time, and He has been so good to give that to me so many times . . . but I feel Him calling me to responsibility.  I have never even liked that word, but I feel myself longing to be equipped, to be ready, to do more than cry “Help!” every time an enemy arrow flies my way.

I’m tired of losing.  I’m tired of giving up.  I’m tired of getting messed up and fighting for the wrong side.  I want to be like Fearless.  I am a Christian, and I have to fight Apolyon too.

I don’t want to keep asking God to get me out of traps and forgive me for firing at the wrong side and fight my battles without me.  I am ready to ask God to fight through me.  I am ready to charge for the enemy.  I am ready to receive victory by Jesus Christ through my most difficult battles.

I’m ready to live an Ephesians 6:10-17 life.

The war is on.

Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm. Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God’s justice protect you like armor. Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let God’s saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God’s message that comes from the Spirit.  Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18, CEV)

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Morning

I’m so glad that You don’t wake up in the morning and remember my sins.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1, ESV)

Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38b, NLT)

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Photograph by Bill Blevins, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/sailorbill/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Life Verse

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” –Jesus

Matthew 11:28, CEB

Published in: on January 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How to Have 548 Friends on Facebook

I was going to title this “How to Have 542 Friends on Facebook”.  I am proud to say that, since the idea for this blog, I have 6 more people to brag about.

Many of you may be wondering, “How can I be so popular?  How can I have so many friends?”  Others of you, like my grandmother, for example, who has 863 friends, may already have clicked out of this blog.  (By the way, I’m not making that up.  Except, since she is my grandmother, she won’t exit my blog without actually reading it.  I don’t think.  Right?  You’re still there, right, Grandma?)

For anyone who might still be reading because they have less than 548 friends or because they simply feel sorry for me, I’d like to point out the tips I have used to build a successful facebook empire.

  • Friend friends of friends.  Try to choose people whose faces look kind, so they will feel bad about rejecting your invitation, or people who look absent-minded, so that they’ll probably accept your friend request without even thinking about it.
  • Go after friends of friends of friends.  Don’t ask petty questions like, “Do I know this person?  Could they be a well-known bank robber?” but instead “How likely will they be to turn me into the facebook police if I friend them and they figure out we don’t actually know each other?”
  • Find celebrities.  They like facebook numbers, too.  (This is kinda like the birds that clean the alligators’ teeth.  The alligators tolerate it because they don’t have to buy dental insurance.)
  • Make it your job to hunt down the long lost friends and relatives of other people.  They’ll be so grateful they’ll want to be your friends.
  • At church, bring a clipboard and sign-up sheet and ask everyone to write their full name as it appears on facebook.
  • Follow a vaccuum salesman around.
  • I’m about out of tips.  If you need more, you might check with my grandmother.

There was a time in my life when I was lonely, lonely, lonely.

And now I love my 548 facebook friends.

I love friends.

But there’s one friend who is galaxies above.  A friend who loves me whether I have 548 friends or 863 friends or 0 other friends.  A friend who loved me long before there was even a facebook, as a matter of fact.  A friend who loved me even back when I was a teenager so lonely I posted on internet Beanie Baby forums to feel like I could be a part of something and belong.

A friend who loved me enough to give His life to make a way back to Him, when I’d been the one who’d ended our communication.  A friend who never disappoints me, never betrays me, never lies to me, never tricks me, and never breaks His promises to me.  A friend who never abuses me, never misuses me, and never refuses to love me, even when I don’t deserve it (which, you know, is always).

A friend who gives to me, forgives me, restores me, and resurrects me.

My friend, Jesus Christ.

Unlike my other friends, Jesus loved me when I was unlovable.  When I was the one who turned away, Jesus gave His life to give me a way back to Him.

I would trade all 548 of my facebook friends for Jesus Christ in a New York minute, not because I don’t care about them, but because Jesus is the key to loving anyone.  And through Him, I am able to be a friend to others—not just a friend who clicks a button—but a friend who loves, cares, and gives.  As any of my friends can tell you, I’m far, far from the perfect friend.  But I know the perfect Friend, and it’s in sharing this mysterious, incredible, divine Friendship that I become a true friend to others.

There was a time, there really was a time, when I thought my value was in how many friends I had or at least how much they loved me.

But now I see my value is in the Friend, and He’s not giving me up.

And if He won’t give me up—the person who looked for love in Beanie Baby forums—believe me when I tell you, He won’t give you up, either.  But He won’t force you to be His friend–that’s not friendship.  You must want to give Him your heart.  And if you ever do give Him your heart, you will find there is nothing so beautiful as His.

there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24b, ESV)

Heart

I want to give my heart to You.  And the good news is, You keep it forever.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26, ESV)

And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. (Mark 12:30, NLT)

Either

Either we will face Jesus as the one who saves us . . . or as the one we turned away from.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:36, NIV)

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Photograph by Bo vxla, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/vxla/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Controversy, Conflict, Commitment, Conviction, & Courage

I guess if I’m honest, there is a part of me that likes controversy.  There’s something perversely exciting about a scandal, a disagreement.

And then there’s giving an opinion about a controversy.  That’s conflict.

I hate conflict.

For intense controversies, I would like for everyone to agree with me before I state anything about anything.  From the time I was a little child, I have hated for people to be angry with me.  I hate anger directed at me.  And I learned, at a very young age, to avoid conflict by agreeing with everyone around me.  When that didn’t feel very honest, I would decide to stay silent, but never speak up.

But when I committed my life to Christ, my life radically changed.  Rather than worshiping anti-conflict, I worship the living God.  What I’ve found in my two-year or so journey, is that I am being called, at times, to conflict.

I have resisted.

I have resisted mightily.

The habits of my childhood are like weeds with deep roots, and ripping them up is no easy or fun thing.  I want to live in a world where no one hates me.  I want to live in a world where I can lead people to Christ without ever saying anything that might be offensive to anyone.

Throughout my journey, Jesus has worked on different things that need drastic transformation in my life: authenticity, for example, honesty, compassion, submission, obedience, and love.  Now He is leading me where I am probably more afraid to go than almost anywhere we have gone so far.

He’s leading me into courage.

I am afraid of courage.  I am afraid to have courage in the face of conflict.  If I am really honest, I am more comfortable experiencing the conviction of not being courageous than the conflict of being courageous.

I don’t like to say things that I know will make people mad.

But what if, by my silence, I am letting people go astray?  Is it enough if I keep myself from going astray?

If one of my closest friends was driving down the road and headed down on a street that I knew was a dead-end, would I let them go on down because I didn’t want an argument?

What if the road led to a dark tunnel, and inside that tunnel, I knew there was an unseen pit.  Would I let my friend drive down the road now?

Maybe.  I am not a very courageous person.

I need courage, and there is only one Person I can receive courage from: the Lord Jesus.

My prayer in my life right now is that Jesus will give me courage. If you’re a believer, would you pray for me for that, too?

It would take a miracle for me to become a courageous person.

And I believe that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Because I believe in the mighty power of a Savior who chose to die the worst death that has ever taken place in the history of the world, when He could have stayed reigning in Heaven instead.

Lord Jesus, I can’t wait.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16a, NIV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Summer is here

Jesus, You are my summer.

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Photograph by Bo Nielsen, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/bo47/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Published in: on January 23, 2012 at 7:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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