Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Rebel's Paradox

Although I am publishing this now, I actually wrote it over Christmas break. Throughout break, and even now, I fought a hard internal battle. There are things that I desperately want because I want them. During break, God ripped through me, pushed me, and challenged. I am still learning. I have to daily focus on desiring God and knowing that He knows what is best. If I get what I am asking for, I will praise Him. If He does not give it to me, still I will praise Him. Because I want nothing to do with anything outside of God's desires for me. I decided to publish this in hopes that it will be an encouragement to anyone who is struggling in a similar way. You are not alone. God is on your side. He is fighting for your heart. 

When you pray do you ever ask for things you really want but know you shouldn't have? I hope I'm not alone in this.

I have found in my heart a revolution. A revolution of rebellion. And in this revolution of rebellion, a paradox. There is an old proverb that says in our hearts there is a constant battle in our hearts between two wolves: good and evil. The wolf that wins is the wolf you feed. But what if you're feeding both? What happens then? Do they continue fighting on and on forever, neither winning, neither losing just fighting on and on and never stopping? This is how the Christian life seems to be sometimes (at least for me). In my heart I find a constant battle between my own will and God's will. Yes, as I grow in grace I find myself clinging more and more to God's will and abandoning my own. But then, just as I think I have a handle on things my own will catches my attention and waves something delightful in front of me as if I'm a dog and the delightful thing is a piece of meat.

Soon, I feel like a small child, clinging to my Father whom I know is safe and will take me where He knows is best but also gazing longingly at a friend or other person trying to pull me from my Father through means of fattening foods or harmful (but exciting) endeavors. And right there, my rebel heart rears its ugly head. Do you really want God's way? Your way looks so wonderfully delicious! Does God really have your best interest in mind? What He's asking you to do seems quite selfish of Him. 

My inward dialogue can be a delight to have around.

While I mull over this newfound idea of a loophole to my own way, I discover a third wolf. This wolf is on God's side, but it starts talking me through this whole thing. So, yes it is actually God, but God the Holy Spirit instead of God the Father. Do you remember the last time you tried your own way? It wasn't very helpful, was it? Your Heavenly Father truly does want what's best for you. I know that morsel looks wonderful now and sticking with God's way exclusively looks painful. But what you have here is temporary. And you will never find true happiness away from God. 

And then I bicker with the Holy Spirit, trying to negotiate like a child asking for a later bedtime. And usually in the midst of these negotiations I am reminded that sometimes God gives us things because we're begging and need a hands-on lesson about how His way is best. And then I retrace and put in the "if it be Your will" or "only if You want this in my life" clause thinking that somehow, some way this will magically make what I want part of God's plan. And then eventually, the thing is settled, I don't have what I want but my heart has a small moment of peace where it thinks of nothing but serving God completely no strings attached. And then my heart feels like rebelling again and it starts all over.

One of the hardest parts of devoting oneself fully to God is denying myself. Forgive me if I sound flippant or confuse anyone, but in some respects the unbelievers have it easy. No one to consult but themselves about major life decisions, they just "do what makes them happy." I know that is a very widespread generalization, but it is something I am seeing more and more as time goes on. No one in the unbelieving world has to deny themselves in the way that is asked of Christians daily.

If one is looking at the immediate, Christianity does not really have much going for it. We're told we can't simply do what we want, we follow this unseen God that we can't hear but are told speaks to us through a book and the Holy Spirit (whom we also can't see). All of this, so we can look forward to a reward after we die. Oh, and a good chunk of the world doubts the credibility of this whole thing.

Unbelievers? Sure they give up things for people from time to time, but in the grand scheme of things most people are going for what they want. Even in their self-denial, they do it because they want to. If one day, they decide they don't want to, they often don't. Life is very much about doing what you want. Please don't take me the wrong way - I have learned of and even studied unbelievers who do nothing but deny themselves. I am speaking in mere generalizations and do not expect every unbeliever to fit in this cookie cutter I am making.

Because of the Fall and the curse that came with it, all of us are born with rebel hearts. We are doomed from day one to spend each day fulfilling our own lusts and desires with no thought for authority or caring for others. Sin has planted rebellion in our hearts. We do not long for submission - we outrage against it! But it is in the life of the believer that we find the rebel's paradox. The heart of the believer has been imprinted with a love for an unseen, but very knowable God who sacrificed everything so we could know Him personally. And because of this love, the Christian's desire is to love, serve, and obey this amazing God who defeated sin, rebellion, and even death just for us.

And that is the paradox: 
a heart born into rebellion 
imprinted with love
by God 
for God 
who abhors rebellion. 

Beautiful, isn't it? 

Believing is what truly changes a person. Faith in God gives us the ability to come before His throne unhindered to ask for enabling grace, discerning wisdom, and endless mercy. And in this fellowship we learn to love God and hate our own rebellion. We grow in grace and knowledge of our Savior and turn to Him instead of ourselves. 

But (here comes the paradox again) we were born rebellious. And when our hearts go under renovation, our hearts rebel. Like stubborn clay, we don't want to change even as we beg God to help us change. We both want and don't want to run to our Heavenly Father and do His will. Continually, our rebel heart and believing heart fight tooth and nail, begging for first place. 

Spoiler alert, and hope for those of us who truly believe: the true believing heart wins. 

But all too often, we like to read the beginning and skip to the end because both ends leave us with warm fuzzy feelings to forget the painful ones we're experiencing in the middle. 

Real life is lived in the middle. In the valley of the shadow where evil lurks. In our hearts, where a battle is raging even now between our own rebellion and our own belief. Belief won't win unless we fight alongside it. And so often it is so hard to fight alongside belief. I want to so badly but rebellion so often looks so, so good. And that - the choosing of sides - is the real battle. Every day, I must choose a side. As I walk through the valley and live in the middle, crying out for mountaintops I must choose to believe in the God I can't see. Because those idols that find their form in people, places, and things will never, ever give me what I truly need. They will never fill me up - I will stay hungry and dry. 

When my own will dangles what I want in front of me and tells me to "come and get it" I must choose my Father over myself. It is a denial that I wake up each day fighting and go to bed still fighting. Some days I win - I run to my Father and let His love fill my soul and I remember that He is there even in the valleys where I can't see past my fingertips. Other days I lose - I run to my own will and entertain thoughts of having what I want now and figuring out this life thing on my own. My will beckons and calls dangling people and paths in front of me, mocking me and challenging me to challenge God. 

How silly I must look when I turn a defiant face my Father's way and demand to know why I can't have what I want. I certainly feel silly doing it. Because as much as I wish for something, I know that if I should not have it my Father is merciful enough that He will not give it to me. And my heart is humbled by that knowledge. Knowing that even when I pray specifically knowing that I may not get it in the way I want because God has something different (and better) and I am praying a paradox, God understands my breaking heart. He understands the rebel will in my heart is strong, and I cannot defeat it on my own. So when I beg for wisdom, He gives me wisdom. Over and over and over again He gives me wisdom. A discerning heart to know that He has it all figured out and I just need to trust Him. And even as my rebel heart once again protests, I can pat its proverbial head and whisper words of comfort, to bring it over to believing. 

God has this one. 
Just like He had the last one. 
And all the others before it. 
He is God, I am His child. 
I know I will try to listen to you again. 
I know, my rebel heart, 
that this battle is not finished. 
But you will never win. 
When the end comes, 
belief will win. 
You'll see. 
I know it hurts, 
my rebel heart. 
I know your own way is so appealing. 
But don't you see? 
You are so short-sighted. 
Only looking to the immediate. 
God is above all time, 
He has seen it all. 
Let Him take the reigns. 
Let Him have this one. 
And all the others. 
He knows what He's doing. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Simple Mercies, Every Morning

God has promised in His Word new mercies every morning. But in my humanness and sinfulness, I all too easily forget His promises.

Every day, I am given a choice. I can hunker down in my mound of self-pity and complain about my weariness.


I can remember the mercies of God and rest in His grip of grace. I can encounter each day with peace, even when rest and relief seem to slip just past my fingertips. I can remember that nothing and no one can snatch my from the safety of His hands. I can remember that life is not meant to be easy - it's meant to point me to Christ.

And on the days when I think I can't go any further, He is there to once again carry me through.

Today, I was given a choice. I could gather up my lack of sleep, incomplete homework, alarm that didn't go off, messy hair, and damaged plans and I can wallow. I can hold it all up and show my defiance. See, God?! Look at how messed up this all is. You're failing me. You promised to help me and I'm falling apart. What kind grace is this?! Is this what you call new morning mercies??" 

And believe me, that choice looked way too delectable. It was so tempting. Even right as I thanked God for waking me up to noises I normally sleep through, I could feel the bitterness creeping into my heart. The wondering why, why did God let this happen? My homework isn't done, I need the points I'm going to miss in these classes, I stayed up late for nothing, and this just isn't fair, God! How could you?

I let my heart fester on the car ride to school. And even as my mom requested something of me that really truly is not much trouble at all, my rebellion sharpened. I shifted between trying to make the situation work out in my favor (and conveniently, to everyone else's inconvenience) and being silenced by the knowledge that what I was doing was wrong. But still I persisted, half listening to God and half trying to make it so I got my way, but mostly trying to get my way and then begrudgingly complying to my poor mother's request. That woman needs an award simply for dealing with me pre-coffee/good attitude.

Every Tuesday and Thursday I spend at least ten minutes after I get to school completely by myself. It's usually the only "me time" I get during the day, and I look forward to it. I study for my quiz, let myself get lost in thought, and just enjoy the silence.

But in the silence today, conviction ripped my heart open. And I remembered my other choice for today.

I could put down the mirror. I could look up from my mud pit of self-pity. And open my eyes to the grace and mercy God consistently washes over me. To see the quiet little mercies He sprinkles throughout my days and remember them. To set aside my loathing of a terrible morning and to let my heart drink in His goodness - whether or not my conditions improved.

And with every mercy He gave me this morning, God showed me (once again) that without awful days like today, I could not see His mercies so beautifully. Without pain, joy is not as sweet.

And for the rest of today, I'm making a better choice than the one I made this morning.

I will remember the mercies in an easier quiz and a reading check moved to next week {thus easing my homework problem}.

I will remember the mercies in waking up at 6:07 and immediately knowing that only God could have done that.

I will remember the mercies of a teacher willing to set aside his planned lecture and engage his students in gospel-centered conversation for the full class hour.

I will remember the mercies of Christ-centered friendships that serve to encourage me - whether or not they know I'm having a bad day.

And most of all, I will remember the love and grace and mercies of a God who shines brighter than the valley He meets me in. The God who draws me to Himself, does not discredit my heavy heart, and cherishes my hurts (even when I know not from whence they came). The God who lovingly, but firmly chastens and convicts my rebel heart and draws me back to Himself. The God who gives me a second chance for a better attitude in the afternoon, and the opportunity to reach out to those I've wronged for forgiveness.

I am resting in His grip of grace, and He will never let me go.

My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the Lord.”
Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness.
Surely my soul remembers
And is bowed down within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
Lamentations 3:17-25

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December 3rd [Advent]

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, 
and that it was a delight to the eyes, 
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, 
she took from its fruit and ate; 
and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, 
and they knew that they were naked; 
and they sewed fig leaves together 
and made themselves loin coverings.
They heard the sound of the Lord God 
walking in the garden in the cool of the day, 
and the man and his wife hid themselves 
from the presence of the Lord God 
among the trees of the garden. 
Then the Lord God called to the man, 
and said to him, 
Where are you?” 

Genesis 3:6-9 

The first question in the Old Testament is God seeking out man, asking "Where are you?" 

Where are you? 

We all have a void in ourselves. An insatiable hunger that cannot be filled with anything this world has to offer. We are desperately hungry, and yet we do not seek the One who will fill our hunger. 

"We only find out where we are when we find out where He is. We only find ourselves...when we find HIm. We lost ourselves at one tree. And only to find ourselves at another." --Ann Voskamp 

God is asking you, "Where are you?" 

He wants you

God is pursuing you with an everlasting love. He is ready to forgive you, if you'd only respond to His calling. 

"In all humanity's religions, man reaches after God. 
But in all His relationships, God reaches for man." 
Ann Voskamp 

It is in the arms of God that we find our solace, our satisfaction. Only He can fill that seemingly bottomless void in our souls. He is pursuing you - won't you turn to Him? 


It's not too late to start your own Advent celebration. Whether you do anywhere from one day to twenty-five, I encourage you to join me in this journey. Jesus is coming. 

Kimz Kitchen {a blog that I am following through the 25 days of Advent. Kim writes eons better than I do, so I encourage you to follow her Advent journey!}

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