Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Truth Hurts

Oh, the trepidation of knowing you have something to say, but aren't sure you can get the words out right, and even less sure that anyone has any desire to hear what came to you from the Lord in a very personal, painful way. 

"Lord...why do I only have time these days to blog when You've corrected my sternly about something, and then ask me to share it? Why can't I ever blog the lighthearted stuff of life?"

This was the brief question I asked this morning, over my first cup of coffee, with two rowdy puppies wrestling at my feet. And the answer wasn't audible...it was merely a trembling in my fingers...which is a sure sign to me that the Spirit of God wants to use them. 

First, lest you think I only blog when I have the preaching gene showing itself...

I made my daughter so mad this week that she left the house. LEFT THE HOUSE. She just went for a walk to cool her head, but any of you who know my daughter know that it was a pretty dramatic anger if it made her leave the premises in a huff. I laughed a little, because it was just THAT out of character for her to do. When she finally returned, and we had spoken about how it wasn't okay for her to disappear, no matter how mad, and how I was sorry for provoking her...she still stayed in her room the rest of the evening. Because apparently that's how long it takes for her rarely-seen temper to cool.

Two of my three sons left huge chunks of their skin on the sidewalks of our neighborhood recently. As they came to me, limping and bleeding, I responded with wet paper towels to sop up the blood and dirt, and also with "THIS is why I tell you to wear shoes when you're riding your bike. Your feet wouldn't be shredded if you weren't barefooted. I guess you've learned that lesson the hard, painful way, haven't you?" No one has ever accused me of being overly compassionate.

I fed my kids pizza for three meals in a row this week. Nutritional care is clearly my strong suit.

Okay, enough of that. On to what the Lord has been saying to me, loudly and clearly and repeatedly.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how He shows His character through His Word. I know that's not a new concept, but sometimes I will read a portion of Scripture, and I'll sit thinking about exactly WHAT it says to me about the character of God. (Kind of like my own character being clearly definable, in part, by the above stories of parenting failures.)

We know He is loving, and kind, and merciful, and slow to anger, and powerful, and faithful, and patient, and meticulous in His plans, and mighty, and full of compassion...and all the rest.

Don't those things make you feel gooooooood about being in relationship with God?

And why not? Who doesn't think about the kindness and mercy of God and sigh in relief a little bit? I know I do. Every time I have to apologize to my kids for being an absolute screw up, I am thankful that they forgive me, and the same is true on a MUCH grander scale with God Almighty.

Our Christian culture is full-to-bursting with talk of the mercy and grace and kindness and patience and forgiveness and acceptance of the Lord. 

FULL. TO. BURSTING.

And every time we settle happily into the spiritual posture of "Thank you for being good, and for blessing me, and for being there any time I need you, and for hearing me when I pray,"

...wait for it...

We are missing half of who He is. Dare I say, we are REJECTING half of who He is.

Because the truth is, if we take a moment to be brutally honest with ourselves, we can absolutely see many more things about the character of God in Scripture. We flinch when we read about it. But we know its there.

He is just. He is holy. He is a keeper of His promises...and not only the ones that make us feel good. He protects His character however He has to. 

He DOES NOT tolerate sin. 
He CANNOT bless disobedience.
 He hands out discipline. 
He WILL NOT be mocked.
He is SHOCKING to mankind in the ways He chooses to move and work and bring about His plans.

Did you catch that? SHOCKING.

In all the feel-good ways, yes, because He allowed a prostitute to be in the ancestral line of His Son, and that Son ate with tax-collectors, and He loved us enough to make a way, violent and bloody and sacrificial beyond anything we can comprehend, for us to fellowship with Him. All shocking. All evidence of His character. 

But what kind of cowards does it make us, as Christians, if that is all we are willing to recognize and acknowledge about Him? The parts of His character that are "beneficial" to us?

What about the verse that says "Every branch that doesn't bear fruit, I cut off. And every branch that DOES bear fruit, I prune so it bears more fruit." (John 15:2, paraphrased)

What about the verse that says "I am the One who wounds and heals." (Deuteronomy 32:39b)

Did you read that? He heals, YES, but He also WOUNDS.

Not unbelievers and horrible people and those who don't go to church or call themselves Christians.

He cuts off branches in MY LIFE. He WOUNDS ME. He aggressively prunes the branches that are bearing fruit so that they will bear more fruit. 

HE IS SHOCKING in how He works in my life. And its painful sometimes...a lot of times.

But if I am unwilling to allow Him to show all of His character TO me, IN me, and THROUGH me...then I am picking and choosing what parts of God I find acceptable.

And the fact that He doesn't zap us with lightning every day of our lives is PROOF of just how patient He is. Because we deserve it.

I don't want to be known for only the parts of my character that you find uplifting and helpful and beneficial and 'feel good' to you. How selfish of anyone to want that of someone else.

But its EXACTLY how we are with God.

"Bless me, fill me with joy and peace, help me when I'm struggling, back off when I'm doing good, heal my family members, make my life easy, listen to all my requests, prosper me. Thanks."

WHAT ABOUT "Create in me a clean heart!" "Point out any offensive way in me" "I'll become even more undignified" "Whoever loves his life will lose it" "Take up your CROSS and follow me" "Present your bodies a living sacrifice" "Repent!" "Confess!" 

How have we become a body of believers who are willing to repent and confess once, for the forgiveness of our sins and the acceptance of the saving power of Christ's blood (because those area benifit to us!) ...but after that we balk when repentance and confession are suggested?

DAVID prayed for God to create in him a clean heart. DAVID, the man after God's own heart.

I WANT TO BE LIKE THAT. And I think that's WHY David is called that. He didn't arrive at the status of "man after God's heart" and then never do any more work. He screwed up, a LOT, and still kept saying " create in me a clean heart..." 

He repented repeatedly. Go read about him. You'll see. And God dealt shockingly with him because of his sins. But David wanted, and pursued, a clean heart. And THAT made Him a man AFTER God's heart. 

Because the heart of God isn't only rosy and sweet and peaceful.
It's also full of reproof and consequences and painful discipline and stern rebuke.

And if we are truly seeking after His heart, then we are blindly arrogant to assume we will only get the 'feel good' from Him.

He wounds me, He cuts branches from my life, He snaps His fingers at my snarky lip, He pulls me into His lap and puts a cool towel on my bleeding foot, and then reminds me that He TOLD me not to ride my bike without shoes, and I won't forget this pain next time, will I?

Sometimes He asks me to set aside things that aren't inherently bad. He just taps on my heart, and whispers "You can let that go. It isn't a thing that is seeking after my heart. You said you wanted to be a person AFTER my heart. So...lay that thing aside. It consumes time that you could be using to know Me better."

This particular pill was HARD to swallow this week. I pitched a rather epic tantrum about it, in fact. I left the metaphorical house and went on a walk to cool down, and then spent the rest of the day in my room, just to make sure my feelings on the matter were clear.

"That's RUDE, Lord. I love You, and I want to serve You and follow You and be in intimate fellowship with You. None of that is affected by my love of cop dramas or medical dramas or courtroom dramas. I won't love You more if I quit watching them. I'll just be giving up my ME time. And I hardly ever get any of it in the first place. I find this request way too uncomfortable and shocking." (This is not an example...its the ACTUAL rant I conveyed to Him this week.)

And I chuckle as I read the words...because the whole freaking POINT is that He wants me to have more time for ME AND HIM, and less "me" time. How selfish and spoiled do I sound? It's absurd. My mom-hand is twitching with the need to pop the mouth of the person who threw that fit..except it was me.

And before you judge me...I guarantee you would throw a similar fit if the Lord asked something of you that you find enjoyable and acceptable and 'not hurting' anyone.

We are all walking around like the Lord only wants to give us things, and requires nothing of us in return. Its comfortable, this Christianity we have created for ourselves, the version of God's character we have carved out in our lives.

And...It's a lie. He is more than what You give Him credit for. He is much more than you make room for in your comfortable life.

And don't pretend you don't know it. You, we, just don't want to acknowledge it. Because if we really, TRULY, gave our hearts to Him fully, with access to anything and everything...who KNOWS what He might try and do with us. It's too terrifying to contemplate being burned at the stake or crucified upside down...or selling all our possessions, or giving up our favorite shows or books...

And it isn't even only the obvious, tangible stuff He will start calling us to shed.

What if He asks you to stop walking in rejection and offense all the time?
What if He tells you to quit posting controversial things on Facebook?
What if He says "speak life-giving words, or don't speak at all."
What if He wants you to listen for His voice, and OBEY Him when He speaks, rather than balking and flinching and waiting? Because delayed obedience is disobedience, any way you slice it. I tell my kids that all the time.
What if He wants us all to confess our failures and struggles and sins to one another. What if He just asks us to acknowledge that we all do, IN FACT, have sin and failure and struggles and we aren't perfect and to act as if we have arrived is just PRIDE and COWARDICE and those are sins we should be confessing.

It gets messy and painful and bloody and uncomfortable really quickly, doesn't it?

And so, we climb up on soapboxes and we rant about the politics of the world and the country, and we disagree vehemently with people over things that are trivial and useless...we obsess over things we cannot change, we are consumed with things that are vain and superficial and fading...because if we don't LOOK at the whole character of God...we can continue to hold a false carving of Him in our hand and live our comfortable lives. 

Hear me, men and women who say we are followers of Christ, who claim that we know the Living God and who say, with our mouths, that He is Lord of our lives:

He will always continue to draw us to the cross. Not JUST the cross that Jesus died on. But the cross He wants US to take up. The road of death He wants US to walk. He will. It's part of His character. 

And He does it BECAUSE He loves us. His discipline, His correction, His harsh cutting away and pruning and stern reproof, the wounds He inflicts...it is all evidence of His great love. We have to begin to see it that way.

Today, can we look at the cross, the one He asks us to carry, the altar He asks us to climb up on, and TRULY accept that it might, it WILL cost us more than we want to give...and still choose it?

That is truly being a person after God's heart.
See the cost. And know that He is worth it.

It's been 5 days since I deleted the preset recording of all my favorite courtroom and medical and cop dramas. It stung, bad, doing that silly thing that I didn't want to do.

But I see Him. And I choose Him. And I know it will cost me more...but because He is good, He will always be enough for me. That's the 'feel good' part of His character. And I'm grateful for it.

Thanks for letting me share.