I’ve Looked at Clouds that Way

There are clouds in human life, shadowing, refreshing, and sometimes draping it in blackness of night; but there is never a cloud without its bright light. “I do set my bow in the cloud!”
 clouds21
If we could see the clouds from the other side where they lie in billowy glory, bathed in the light they intercept, like heaped ranges of Alps, we should be amazed at their splendid magnificence.
We look at their under side; but who shall describe the bright light that bathes their summits and searches their valleys and is reflected from every pinnacle of their expanse? Is not every drop drinking in health-giving qualities, which it will carry to the earth?
O child of God! If you could see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of Heaven, the bright light of Christ’s face, you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over the mountain slopes of existence. Only remember that clouds are always moving and passing before God’s cleansing wind.
Streams in the Desert, May 15

Is a “B” Good Enough?

1257962367_38e5fdfe95_m I have a friend who frequently says to me, “Lissa, why strive for perfection when good enough will do?”  I always laugh because the thought hits me as such a novel idea! Most of us have heard of “Type A” personalities or at least we have been the uncomfortable recipients of their intensity as they navigate life and tasks. It seems that women are particularly susceptible to this personality inclination.  Here is how this type is described:

Type A Personality Characteristics & Behavior The Type A is a normal person operating at his maximum possible speed. She wants to achieve a big goal but she thinks that time is very limited and this results in the following behavior:

    • Exaggerated Sense of time urgency: Since the type A thinks that time is running out and since her goals are too big, she always races with time. If you want to lose a type A in a short time, then waste her time (by making long phone calls or making her wait for something too long). Time is a tool for measuring and a means of limiting, confining and defining. As such, time is important to someone who has always had to meet standards and deadlines for acceptance.
    • Issues with Valuing rightly: Type A people have esteem issues, as they don’t base their value on solid ground but rather on meeting standards. As such, rather than by their inherent value as people, they value themselves and what they do by money. What’s it worth, what did it cost, how much do they earn, have and spend? Their language is peppered by references to the cost of things.  They spend or give money as a way of showing love or affection. It is their empowerment and security. In relationships there is a medium of exchange and of acceptance with others and it is money.
    • Competitiveness: The type A is a very competitive person, she considers everything to be a challenge. She is challenging the circumstances that led to her insecurity and so she will challenge every thing else that does the same.
    • Cleanliness: Since A types tend toward perfectionism they have a high need for orderly, clean, neat surroundings. Disorder or dust makes them feel bad about themselves so they are driven to stay ahead of clutter and dust bunnies!
    • Multitasking: The type A can handle more tasks at the same time than Windows XP can.Smiling You know that a person is Type A if you have found that she is involved in at least five unrelated activities while performing well at them all.
    • The Price for Over Achievement: Over achievement does not come for free. Type A’s are subject to tremendous amounts of stress. Their life style is the main drive for this stress (always running, having lots of things to do & racing with time)

Doesn’t that list make you want to settle for a “B”?  As I was pondering the cost of striving for perfection, I ran across this quote from Noel Piper’s book “Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God.”  It caught my eye because it was about one of my missionary heroes, Helen Roseveare.  What a helpful, gospel-orienting help this was to my soul:

“Perhaps the deepest underlying personal factor in Helen’s tension was the need she felt to do her very best and, if possible, to be the very best. God called her to Africa where that was not possible. There were K8JTSCAUO7J84CAYVXZ7DCAFHY0HRCAOE5RKQCAK30FDACAF9OZ8KCA9CDTFACA4HF5OSCAJ4413ICAZV5LM5CACA26UMCAP8G9O4CASHO9Z0CAP2YNUJCAG65LSPCA7JTXEBCAJ89X62CAGTK75JCAZRV2G6 continuing lessons for her: learning to treat malaria by symptoms rather than with prescribed lab tests, having to operate without having been trained as a surgeon, needing to make bricks rather than spending the day with patients. Perhaps that is an issue for some of us–struggling with the reality that God has called us to do less than we want to do or less than what we believe is best. That can happen in any setting.

For me, it’s been especially true in my years with small children – ‘I got a college degree for this?’ Maybe the problem is the way we see ourselves. Maybe we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. If anyone was too good to die, it was Jesus. If anyone should have done greater things than walking dusty roads and talking with people too dense to understand him, it was Jesus.

In Philippians 3 . . . is the verse, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (verse 10). When God called Helen to less than she expected, he was helping her become like Christ, rather than like the best doctor or missionary she knew of. Who is it we want to be like?” (p. 172)

Can you imagine?  Our perfectionist impulses are evidences that we think too highly of ourselves? Oh little one, why strive for perfection–Jesus is the embodiment of it–so restfully settle for the “B”… it is very good enough!

Holding On

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”  John 8:31

Christ is saying, ‘Many hear the gospel and stick with it because it’s useful to them.  They gain money, possessions, and honor from it.  Yes, dear friends, who wouldn’t want that?  That is why I teach that if you live by what I say, you are truly my disciples. There are only a few who hold tightly to the Word when there is a cross to carry.  Where can I find those who will stand firm?  Therefore, I say, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’

rock-climbing As I read this verse and Martin Luther’s thoughts about what Christ is saying, the idea of “holding on” really captured my attention.  When I think of that phrase, images come to my mind of people clinging to tree trunks in violent storms, of climbers clinging to a rock face for dear life during a challenging climb, or a toddler who feels threatened embracing the leg of his parent.

“Hold on” assumes something precious is at stake and would be forfeited if intentional clinging was forfeited. When I read John 8:31 with those vivid images in my mind I understand why the winds of suffering blow so hard against us in this life.  I sense that our sufferings are coming as the merciful wind of the Spirit pressing us to cling to what is eternally precious.  Beyond that,  the winds that cause us to hold on are the same winds that reveal which followers are true and which are false.

Murray_clinging_to_life_by_a_thread People would gladly believe in Christ if it meant becoming rich and acquiring a kingdom.  But if it involves suffering, then their faith is finished.  So Christ knows many of them won’t keep on following His teaching.  Remaining true to His teaching is rare, especially when evil winds blow.  Many become Christians and hold to the gospel in the beginning.  Afterward they fall away just as the believers in this passage did.  It’s similar to the parable about the seed that fell on the rock.  When the heat of the sun beat down on it, it withered and dried up (Luke 8:6).  But those who stick with the gospel are true disciples of Christ.” ((Martin Luther, Faith Alone, Zondervan, 1998, May 14 Devotion))

Beyond Cameraman Prayers

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:22

cameraman So, I ask for relief from financial distress, safety in travel, smooth relationships, healing from every sort of malady that I hear about.

Aren’t they the best prayers?  Don’t those requests reveal my belief in the truth of this verse?

Yes and no.  I think my eye gets so fixated on what comes after the comma that I fail to weigh the significance of the words that come before.  “If you believe…”

The second part of the phrase really has no substance or benefit apart from the first.
It raises the question, what do I have to believe in order for the second phrase to stand in all its truth?  Psalm 145:13 answers that question.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises.”

“This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word.  That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking.” ((Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone, Reformation Trust 2007, p. 146))

So, if I believe — that is, have unswerving confidence in the promises of God, how will that affect my prayer life?  Both Peter and Paul address this question:

“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  2 Peter 1:4

“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”  2 Corinthians 7:1

These verses reveal that through God’s promises He reveals His goal of holiness.  The promises that I believe impact what I will pray and what I pray is intended to impact what I become.  With promises in mind, my prayers would be focused not on health, comfort, ease, convenience, prosperity and approval but for God to progress His promised plan of transformation within me!

“It’s as though we each look at life through a video camera and ask for changes in everything except the person filming.  The cameraman is never in view.  We will pray with parents for their straying teenager to straighten out; we rarely pray for the parents not to be fearful, bitter or controlling.  We will pray for a person to get a job; we rarely pray that he would grow in faith as he learns not to fret about money.  We pray for the conversion of someone’s loved ones; we rarely pray that the believer would grow more loving and honest in the way she treats the loved ones.”  ((David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love, New Growth Press 2005, p.118))

As a cameraman whose view finder is full of the disruption of joblessness, today I want to believe more and pray something bigger than, “Lord, please bring us a good job.” Today, with reverent trembling I want to pray, “Lord, you have promised to perfect holiness in me–that will mean purifying my heart from so many contaminating loves that reside there. 

Let me love your transforming work and the tools you use to accomplish it. I believe you are accomplishing your promised goal of helping me escape the corruption of this world, so I am bold to ask now, allow me to be a participant in the divine nature. 

That is a promise prayer too wonderful for me to comprehend.  I believe that you are working out 1 John 3:2 and so I say, your will be done Father.  In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure

My Strength and My Song

“The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

Isaiah 12:2-3

singing (Small) “Trust me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song.  Think what it means to have Me as your Strength.  I spoke the universe into existence; My Power is absolutely unlimited!

Human weakness, consecrated to Me, is like a magnet, drawing My Power into your neediness.  However, fear can block the flow of My Strength into you.

Instead of trying to fight your fears, concentrate on trusting Me.  When you relate to Me in confident trust, there is no limit to how much I can strengthen you.

Remember that I am also you Song.  I want you to share My Joy, living in conscious awareness of My Presence.  Rejoice as we journey together toward heaven; join me in singing My Song.” ((Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Integrity Publishing, p. 84))

 

“Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your Presence.”  Psalm 21:6

The Dark Side

 after-american-idol-its-time-for-vietnam-idol_14  The 7th season of American Idol has begun!  Once again we get to listen to the good, the bad and the ugly as they audition before Simon, Paula and Randy.

This year the judges are trying to relax the contestants before they sing by asking them, “What do we need to know about you?  What about you would we find interesting?” 

On the first night of auditions, a young woman with no guile simply said, “I have never seen an “R” rated movie.”  Shocked, Simon asked, “Why not?”

The young woman with gentleness said that this was just something she had grown up observing and that she simply continued it in adulthood because it suited her. 

When asked if she was married, she responded, “Yes, I have been married for three years.”  The judges asked if her husband had ever seen an “R” movie and she again with winsome simplicity respondedamerican-idol-judges. “No.”

At that, Randy and Simon cut eyes at each other and with disbelieving sneers suggested that this woman did not know her husband and that he surely was lying to her and probably enjoyed Internet porn. 

After her audition she was invited to go to Hollywood and Simon suggested that given a week he could bring her over to the “dark side.”

The next night a boyishly good looking young man answered the question, “What do we need to know about you?’ by saying, “I’ve never kissed a girl.”

Again, the male judges pounced with condescending sneers.  The young man explained that his desire was to save expressions of physical intimacy for the woman he would marry.  His audition was not that strong and he was not invited to Hollywood.  When he asked what he could do to improve, Randy snidely replied, “Kiss some girls!’

It makes me sad that values that seem ennobling of  human nature are the source of such settled and unchallenged derision. It makes me sad that being drawn from purity and chastity to the “dark side” of sensual indulgence is presented as something to be valued.

It occurs to me that the show is very aptly named–it is all abut the idolatry of America! 

We lust after fame, after what is material, after what is pleasing to the senses, what is erotic and self indulgent. 

The warning of Psalm 115 resonates in my heart–we become like what we worship!  Simon by his own admission says it is dark where he lives—I want to live in the light of His Presence!

For our God is in the heavens,
    and he does as he wishes.
4    Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
    shaped by human hands.
5    They cannot talk, though they have mouths,
    or see, though they have eyes!
6    They cannot hear with their ears,
    or smell with their noses,
7    or feel with their hands,
    or walk with their feet,
    or utter sounds with their throats!
8    And those who make them are just like them,
    as are all who trust in them.
(Psalm 115)

 

15    Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
    who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.
16    They rejoice in your name all day long;
    they exult in your righteousness.  (Psalm 89)

Do you Sense His Love?

image154 This morning I was revisiting a favorite book by A.W. Tozer The Pursuit of Man.

He used a wonderful illustration to make the important distinction between knowing about Christ and His love andknowing it experientially.

Tozer asked, “What good would it do a starving child to know about bread when his stomach rolled and growled begging for food to be satisfied?”

A person can die of starvation knowing all about the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables but knowing about them will not save him from starving!

“Knowledge by acquaintance is always better than mere knowledge by description.”

With that illustration in mind, I wondered about the love of God.  It is not uncommon to hear people proclaim that God is love, that He is by nature a loving and caring being.

loveofImage10b (Small) Wouldn’t life be more viscerally satisfying if we knew those truths by acquaintance rather than description? 

Maurice Roberts wrote on the subject of sensing the love of God and he suggested:

“The way to get God’s felt blessing on our hearts begins with an act of faith.  That is to say we must believe that there is such a thing to be had in this life. If we do not expect or even believe in such experiences, the probability is that we shall know but little of them.

There is, as we have sought to show, a true and scriptural enjoyment of Christ which is no fanaticism but the subjective fruit of the gospel.

Then, having become convinced that there is a genuine experience of a ‘felt Christ’ to be had on earth, we must go to God in prayer for it.  We come to the throne of grace as suppliants to receive this choice favor of ‘tasting’, or being made subjectively conscious of the love God has to us in Christ.

We do harm to our souls and hinder our own progress in the knowledge of God (remember how that differs from knowing about God) if we treat prayer as an exercise of the mind only and do not expect to emerge from the presence of God with a fresh token of His love born in us. ((Maurice Roberts, The Thought of God, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1993, p.61))

What vitality would be breathed into our living if we stopped existing on the knowledge about God and sunk our teeth into subjective experience of tasting and seeing that God is good! Psalm 34:8

Let’s starve no more!