Is Your Life A Lyre?

“… And upon the lyre I shall praise Thee, O God, my God.” Psalm 43:4

Last week Brett and I attended a small opera put on by the college where he teaches. The show started late and we waited impatiently while the orchestra members randomly practiced their own pieces. It sounded like a conglomerated mess. When the overdue actors indicated they were ready to begin the show, the conductor took his place and raised his baton. Silence ensued for a few long moments before the conductor waved his arms and the quiet in the auditorium  filled with the harmonious vibrations of bows on well tuned strings, the soft beating of the mallets on the timpani, and the airy sound of the wood winds combined with the vibrant brass. Each orchestra member played the music in front of them. They didn’t try to take someone else’s music and play it, nor did anyone stand on their chair and wildly play a piece to draw attention to themselves. Can you imagine what the song would have sounded like if everyone had moved their sheet music over by one stand? Harmony would have exited the auditorium and discord and cacophony would have walked in an set up a dictatorship. 

God is our composer and conductor. He has written a song for our lives. Before we choose to serve God our life is like the orchestra before the conductor picked up his baton, a conglomerated mess of lives ruled by a multitude of self directed conductors. But when we choose to serve God, the one true conductor, we play the music as he has composed it.  

Aspen takes violin lessons. When she practices she needs to tune each string to the correct note. When she first started tuning her violin there were times she couldn’t seem to get it right. She would give up and practice out of tune. My ears protested the nomadic notes who had wandered off the trail and I would take the violin and tune it for her. 

 Pretend for a moment your heart is like the lyre. The lyre is a string instrument and like any stringed instrument needs to be tuned. The true beauty of a musical piece can not be enjoyed unless the strings are in tune.  Likewise the true beauty of what our life was meant to be will be missed if we are not in tune with God’s will for our lives. Each string of my heart needs to be tuned to the will of God. My heart needs to be ready to do his will in all situations. When I hear God strike the note I need to be willing to bring my heart into tune with His. One out of tune string leads to many discordant notes and the song played out by my heart will not be the beautiful melody the original composer intended. When we are true to the notes  God plays out for us our life will be a beautiful song of worship and praise to our Father. He will lean in and listen, delighted in our beauty.  

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The Big Blue Cookie Monster

For the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. Psalm 33:4 NASB

We are the work of Gods hands so therefore His works toward us are faithful. We do not have to worry or complain about the future, because we know He created us with a plan and “all His work is done in faithfulness” to us. 

Pretend for a moment God is a baker and you are a future cookie. He doesn’t pull out His cookbook and follow His favorite recipe. No. He will create a recipe singular to you. He opens His recipe book, writes your name at the top and proceeds to write down the ingredients. He smiles.  Satisfied it’s perfect, He pulls all the required ingredients out of the cupboard and fridge.

First He puts the sugar and the butter in a bowl and blends it well. Usually when I’m making cookies this is a good time to give it a little taste….yummy. But it still isn’t a cookie, God isn’t finished yet. Something we need to remember when we are in a big hurry for God to give us something is that God has all the ingredients and they will be added at the appropriate time. We need not worry about our future because God has it all in His care and in the wisdom of His timing will add what we need when it’s needed. Unlike the times I’ve decided to make cookies and discovered I do not have all the ingredients and have to change recipes, substitute an ingredient, or run to the store for what is missing, God always has everything needed to complete your life.

Next He cracks the eggs and adds them to the mix, stirring until they are completely incorporated into the sugar and butter. Then he adds the flour, and baking soda, and salt, and maybe some chocolate chips, or some cinnamon, raisins and oatmeal. Sometimes He may add some peanut butter or maybe a few walnuts or pecans. Most of us don’t like to be considered nutty, but the truth Jesus teaches can appear pretty nutty. The simplest of God’s teachings; “Love your neighbor as yourself,” can seem nutty when trying to put it into actual practice. Am I really supposed to smile and wave at the person who runs a red light and I need to hit my brakes so I don’t run into them? Truthfully the few times I’ve managed to do that sort of thing, I laugh because it is so incongruous and certainly feels a little crazy. Opportunities to love our neighbor as ourself are often precipitated by a painful battle of our pride against the humility of God. Only humility allows us to love others as we love ourselves while pride lustfully seeks to be the biggest, tastiest cookie at the party. Pride is a cookie that doesn’t seek to feed others, but wanders around the party like the big blue Cookie Monster seeking whom he may devour.

Bear in mind that some of the ingredients God has written into our recipe are not tasty on their own. In fact, some are not so very tasty at all and our first reaction is to spit them back out, but they are a necessary ingredient to the recipe. Or maybe you feel like God is trying to make you a plain old oatmeal raisin cookie when what you really wanted to be was the white chocolate chip macadamia cookie. Your recipe will not turn out as planned if you keep resisting the ingredients God needs to add to create you.

Now that all the ingredients have been added it’s a good time to give the the cookie dough another little taste….yummy. But, despite how tasty it is, it still isn’t finished. It needs to be baked in the fire and the heat. And if there is one thing I’ve learned about baking cookies is that they need to be watched over or they become forgotten about and burn. So God, being the perfect baker, watches over his baking cookies and does not allow them to become burnt up and inedible. He faithfully keeps an eye on them and takes them out at the perfect time so they will be melt in your mouth delicious.  

But, the cookie still isn’t finished with it’s mission, it is tasty and sweet, and was created to be eaten. So we, the cookies, are to feed others with the works of God He created for us to do. And the best, most tasty cookies are eaten while they are still hot out of the oven. We are to remain heated by the Holy Spirit and by His power the faithfulness He has given to us we will return to Him and will carry out the plan He has created us to do. 

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 130:13-16 ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

The Parable of Tic and Toc

Once upon a time, in a sleepy little town high up in the mountains of the Alps, lived a Master Clock Maker. One day he created two clocks to work together as one. The first clock said, ‘Tic’, and it told the hour. The second clock said, ‘Toc’, and it told the minute. The two clocks sat together on the shelf and happily said ‘tic toc’ and always correctly told the time.  

One day after the Master Clock Maker had left the shop for his afternoon walk, a suave looking gentleman from the city stepped into the Master Clock Makers store. He looked at Tic and Toc and he laughed. He said, “What was the Master Clock Maker thinking when he made you? Look at you, you aren’t real clocks, you are both only half a clock. Clocks are supposed to say, ‘tic toc’ and tell the complete time, not just the hour or the minutes separately.” Tic and Toc did not know what to say, they had both lived so happily together until now. They hadn’t realized anything was wrong with them. Tic said, “It can’t be true, we have always lived like this and we are both happy doing what the Master Clock Maker created us to do.” The suave gentleman pulled a fancy pocket watch from his pocket and flipped it open. “See here, my clock was made in the city, listen to it, it says tic toc, tic toc, tic toc.”  

Tic and Toc were silent as they listened to the fancy city pocket watch do by it self what they worked together to do. “And see this,” the suave gentleman said, “My watch can tell both the hour and the minute.” Tic and Toc stared, it was true. “Now look around you, every other clock in here is doing the same thing as my pocket watch. You both were pretty stupid not to know you were only half a clock. But say, if you let me, I can fix you up so you will be like all the other clocks.”  

Tic and Toc hurriedly agreed. They were so embarrassed they had spent their entire lives being only half a clock and couldn’t wait until they were each a whole clock. The man opened them up and moved their insides around, removing some of them all together and slipping them inside his pocket. He rearranged their faces and tipping his hat quickly left the store. Tic and Toc eagerly tried out their new insides. “Woof woof, growl,” said Tic. “Meow, hiss,” said Toc.  

Now Tic’s face showed the minutes, but they were three minutes off and Toc’s face showed the hour, but it was off by 5 hours. They continued to bark and growl and meow and hiss, argueing the afternoon away until the Master Clock Maker came back in from his walk. Tic and Toc tried to hide, but it was hard to do sitting on the front shelf to be seen by everyone who came in. They tried to be quiet, but they couldn’t stop barking and growling, and meowing and hissing. They hadn’t realized how horrible they sounded until the Master Clock Maker walked in.  

A sad look crossed his face when he saw his master creation, which had been created unlike any of the other clocks, had been changed by the suave gentleman from the city. He approached them and said, “I can fix you and return you to your original creation.”

‘Tic’ and ‘Toc’ who were now known as ‘Growl’ and ‘Hiss’ by the other clocks in the store said, “No, no thank you, we can fix ourselves.” So they shook themselves mightily and their parts fell onto the shelf they were sitting on. They did their best to put themselves back together but nothing worked. They read ‘How to Build Clocks’ books, but they were missing pieces and all the instructions were for clocks that said, ‘tic and toc’ and told both the time and the minute.  

So Tic and Toc fixed and argued and growled and hissed at each other trying to tell the other how they should work. One day Tic became so angry he pushed Toc off the counter and he fell with a great crash to the floor. Tic was horrified, he called for the Master Clock Maker to come and help. Immediately the Master Clock Maker brought his broom and swept up the pieces. He quietly sat the dust pan on the shelf next to Tic who said, “Oh please, can’t you do something to help him?”

“I can if he wants me to help him.”

“Oh Toc, please say you need help, please.” Toc whispered out a plea for help. The Master Clock Maker pulled out his repair kit and one piece at a time put Toc back together again. When he was finished Toc’s face accurately displayed the minutes and he happily said ‘toc’.  

Tic felt tears run down his face. He wanted to be restored to his original condition and do the work the Master Clock Maker had created him to do too. “Please, please make me ‘tic’ again,” he begged, “I’m so sorry I listened to the suave gentleman from the city.”  The Master Clock Maker gently picked him up, replaced all the needed parts, and set his face to correctly tell the hour. He placed Tic next to Toc and they resumed taking turns saying ‘tic’ and ‘toc’ and displaying the correct time together. They lived happily ever after and were never tempted to want to be like other clocks again.  

How Many Tree’s Have Magical Powers?

A truth worth moving from your head to your heart is this: Your worth is based on the fact that God created you and loves you. Your worth is not based on what others say about you or how others treat you.

Isaiah 44 tells about a man who planted a tree in the forest and the rain fell and it grew. He cut the tree down and used part of it to cook a meal and keep himself warm. The other part of the tree he carved into an idol and expected it to be his god with magical powers.  

We chuckle at the man’s naïveté, but don’t we do the same thing? Let’s substitute relationship expectations instead of expectations for a tree. When we expect to be treated a certain way by someone in order to sustain or increase our self worth then we have set that relationship up as an idol in our lives. Some things we expect from a relationship are realistic, comparable to the tree becoming the wood that cooked the mans food and provided warmth. Those are realistic expectations from a tree. But it is not realistic for the man to expect the idol he carved from the tree to have magical powers. The same is true of our relationships. Our relationships should not be our gods because humans do not have super natural powers.  

The only true source of self worth comes from our Father in heaven who created us. We can not expect super natural powers from our relationships with people. Our human relationships will not fix our insecurities and make us perfect, only a relationship with God, our creator, can heal our insecurities. 

Everyone’s hearts have broken pieces, when we try to put our broken puzzle pieces together with someone else’s broken puzzle pieces it doesn’t work out so well. But since God was the one who created us, he has the power to restore the lost and broken pieces and the ability to put the puzzle of our heart and soul back together.  

Just like tree’s do not have magical powers because someone carved them into the shape of an idol, our relationships do not have magical power to heal our brokenness. Only the God who created us can fix our broken parts.

I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14

Free Grace Gift Cards

“But He gives us more grace. Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:6,10 NKJV

God doesn’t go around passing out free grace gift cards to everyone. He offers free grace gift cards to everyone, but we have to accept it from Him. The proud do not want grace. Because grace requires them to be humble. Grace requires them to put self down and stop chasing around the gods of pride. The more gods of pride we collect the harder our hearts become and we want more, more, more. Hardening of the heart is a natural consequence of pride. Gods of pride are made of rock and stone and wood, so naturally the more we collect the more we become like them. On the other hand the more time we spend seeking God, the more we become like the Him and He is the God of humility.  

Think about it….what do you seek after needing more of, wanting more of? Shoes? What kind of god is that? As we bow down to the latest style and color of leather, or pleather, or fabric. We put it on and think we look pretty great…on the outside. But those new shoes we so desired crusted up our heart with just a little bit more pride. It doesn’t have to be shoes, it can be a job promotion, a bigger house, a faster car, a beautiful girlfriend, front row seats at the show, the biggest tv screen or the latest iphone on the day it comes out. It can be an attitude of superiority, a pride of our knowledge, our education, our GPA or IQ. Or pride in the numbers in our bank account. Or maybe we bring the best food to potluck, or have the biggest muscles at the gym, or the fastest time running a marathon. All we do should be done for the glory of God, not for our own personal glory. (1Corinthians 10:31)

God has to resist the prideful heart. It is a natural consequence of choosing death over life. In the terms of infinity, death can not co-exist with life. We live a finite life. Our knowledge is finite. Our pride chooses finite gods. The only way we can join with infinity is to choose an infinite God… and the infinite God is humble. He was not too big or too great, to send His son to die for our sins. It is because of His bigness and greatness that He is able to offer us free grace gift cards. 

 And so it is with us, with every irritation in life, every put down by someone, every time we are cut off in traffic or passed up for a promotion because the boss’s cousins daughter got it instead,…when we serve the God of humility we have the grace to live bigger, greater lives of humility and forgiveness just like He does. We don’t become God, we become like him in the sense that we allow the power received from His free grace gift card to be lived out in our lives. Which is interesting because that is exactly the tidbit of truth the snake twisted as he threw it out to Eve, “you will become like God himself.” But the lie was that if you chose to do your own thing, seeking after your own pleasure, you would become like God himself and that is simply not true because self seeking increases our pride and pride is death because the God of infinity ‘resists a prideful heart’.  

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”   James 4:6-10 NIV

Truth, Lies, Rocks and Cookies

During a Wednesday night Bible study exploring the joy of praising God, I said that at times there seem to be no words big enough to praise God.  Who He is, defies description , any words I have are too small to adequately describe the greatness of God.  Someone else in the group suggested we use the names in the Bible for God, for example He is our Rock.

I got to thinking about that.  God is our Rock.  He is also the Truth.  I really do not like it when someone lies to me.  I’m sure you feel the same about being lied to.  The truth is light, while a lie is darkness, so when someone lies it muddies the waters and it is hard to see clearly.  When we believe in God, the Truth, we stand firmly on the Rock. It is only when we choose to believe a lie that we have nothing firm to stand on and we start slipping and falling. 

Take for instance, if when I have a frustrating moment in life, rather than turning to God and allowing Him to give me peace in that moment, I choose to reach for a cookie instead. Cookies will not bring me long term peace because too many cookies and I will gain a few pounds.  Then I reach for another lie.  I tell myself I can get myself out of this mess.  But no amount of dieting, working out at the gym, buying the latest running shoes, etc.  will fill the space I originally tried to fill with cookies.  I want to make a disclaimer, there is nothing wrong with healthy eating, working out and buying new shoes, the only problem with any of them is when we try to use them to fill up the emptiness inside.  This is the lie the devil tells us; Buy more, do more, and you will be happy.  But it is not true.  Only standing on the Rock of Truth will quench our thirst for something more.  I find it interesting that when the Israelites needed water in the desert God provided it from a rock.  Only God, our Rock, can provide us with living water so we will never thirst again.  

The rich young ruler in Luke 18 was seeking something more.  He had plenty of cookies, more than enough shoes, and didn’t need a gym membership because his home gym rivaled anything in town and he didn’t have to share it with anyone.  But he wanted more and couldn’t figure out on his own what that more was.  So he went to see the new teacher in town hoping maybe he had the answer.  The young man asked Jesus, “What do I need to do to obtain eternal life?”  Jesus boiled it down to this profound answer, “Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me.” 

Can you imagine the scenes flashing through the rich young rulers mind when Jesus answered his question? He probably looked at Jesus and couldn’t imagine dressing like a poor man. Maybe he remembered times he had made fun of people wearing clothes like that with his friends. If he sold all his stuff and gave it to the poor…well he probably wasn’t even sure they deserved it. Afterall he was rich because God had blessed him. And follow Jesus? He knew what kind of peple followed Jesus. Why some of his disciples were uneducated fisherman and he had been educated by the finest minds in the country. He could just picture the reaction from his friends and relatives if he told them he was selling everything he had to give it to the poor then to top it off he was going to follow this Jesus fellow around the country side. Why he would be the laughing stock for years to come.    

The deepest truth is wrapped up in Jesus  answer to the rich young ruler…Sell all you have, give the money to the poor and come follow me.  We must get rid of anything stopping us from following Jesus.  It wasn’t the young man’s money that stopped him from following Jesus, it was the pride the money created in his heart.  Jesus knew it was the money that created the heavy burden in his heart.  But when presented with the truth he chose not to stand on the rock of truth, causing him instead to stumble over it.  The problem with not accepting Gods truth when he gives it to us, is that if we do not choose to stand on the rock of truth we will trip over it instead. 1 Peter 2:8 says, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they do not obey God’s word…”

The rich young ruler chose not to follow Jesus, not because he couldn’t give up his money, but because he couldn’t give up his pride.  His money activated his pride and kept it healthy and alive.  He couldn’t give up his own plans for his life.  He insisted on sitting on the throne of his heart and ruling his life…one temporarily sweet delicious cookie at a time.

Moving Out of the Land of Defeat and Despair 

Do you live in the Land of Defeat and Despair? First of all, what country does the land of Defeat and Despair reside in? Is it in heaven? Or hell? I’d say most of the time we are feeling defeated we don’t much feel like we are in a heavenly place. When God sees us in the Land of Defeat and Despair He says, “Pack up your bags we are moving out. No longer will you live there but you will live in the Land of Hope and which is filled with my promises.” The gifts of joy and peace are in the Land of Hope. They grow from the trees there like apples of gold in settings of silver. Joy and peace shine with the pure love of God and when we partake of the fruit of joy and peace our souls will light up with joy and our feet will walk in paths of peace. Our thoughts will overflow with thanksgiving to the One who leads us into all joy. 

God will do all he has promised because his promises are bigger than us. We can not fulfill his promises to us, only He can do it. Truthfully, most of the time we can’t fulfill our own promises to ourselves, remember the last time you said you would give up sugar, or start walking 30 minutes every day?  But God promises to lead us out of the Land of Defeat and Despair and into the Land of Hope and promise. 

We are not to allow our weakness to prevail over Gods strength. We are to overcome all obstacles by Gods power at work in us. “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…”(2 Corinthians 12:9). One of the dictionary definitions of grace is this; Deliverance from sin. Grace delivers us from sin. Grace is Gods power made perfect in our weakness. When our ‘bestie’ sin comes and knocks on our door we usually run to the door and fling it open, so excited to go out and play with our friend. Usually in the process we trip over the door frame and end up rolling in the mud with our bestie. After a bit, instead of playing fair, our bestie gives us a punch or maybe pulls our hair. All of a sudden playing with our favorite sin isn’t so much fun any more. We call out to God for salvation and he sends Grace to help us. Grace sends sin skedaddling down the road and then Grace lifts us out of the mud, cleans us up, and takes us back inside. The next time our ‘bestie’ sin comes knocking on the door instead of answering the door ourselves all we have to do is send Grace to the door. Grace is full of strength. Graceful ballerinas do not trip and fall. When Grace opens the door she sends sin on it’s way and sin is now the one who trips and falls in it’s hurry to leave. The power of Gods grace is made perfect in our weakness. Grace indeed delivers us from sin and opens the door to salvation.     

God loves you.  He has prepared you for this very moment in time. The time to decide if you will continue to live in the Land of Defeat and Despair or join him on the move to the Land of Hope. On your journey between the Land of Defeat and Despair and the Land of Hope, full of the promises of God, you will have learning experiences, just like the Israelites did on the way from Egypt to Canaan. Their learning experiences are their story, their witness to us of what God did for them. On your journey to the promised land you will experience Gods power and work in your life also and it will be your witness to God….your story to tell of His glory and power at work in your life.  Victory is ours. It has been guaranteed by the blood of Jesus. You are no longer alone, you are united with the power of God. 

Who’s the Monster Hiding Under Your Bed?

The Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians. They wanted a change in their life, they wanted freedom.  In fact God had promised them freedom, but day after day they trudged on as slaves. Then came the day God set them free from their captors. When they marched out of Egypt freedom was theirs. God had given it to them. But they didn’t always choose to use their freedom. Sometimes when they got up in the morning they left it under the bed. Then instead of change being something they wanted and needed they became afraid of the very thing that could set them free.  

When the Israelites were trapped between the Red Sea and their former masters marching to take them back into slavery they couldn’t see any other possibility for their future than certain death. They were trapped with the enemy coming up behind them and the Red Sea before them. Death was eminent and they wanted to go back to their old familiar stomping grounds of slavery. Surely slavery was better than death. Rather than whole heartedly embracing the change God had given to them they had kicked it under their bed and now it resided in the dark and it looked scary.  

When we rely on our own self power to change we have fear because we can not clearly see the future. But if we could only see the change God offers us by the full light of day we would embrace its beauty for God only wants to use change in our lives to bring us into our promised land. The reason most of us fear change is because we imagine crawling under that dark dusty bed with the scary monster himself. There might be spiders under there. Or maybe you have allergies to dust. You can’t see what shape change is so it is easier to continue living as a slave.  

The Israelites grumbled and complained about their situation. Now I can be pretty sure that after spending their whole lives as slaves grumbling and complaining was a daily occurrence for them. The problem is while they were physically free from their previous masters, they still remained in slavery. Slavery for example to grumbling and complaining. Because as long as they were grumbling and complaining they were focused on themselves and how impotent they were rather than focusing on the power of God.

True freedom is found not in living according to our plan, but in giving up our plan and living Gods. But too often just like the Israelites we would rather remain in slavery than die the death to self. But true peace and joy only abides in humility. A humility that dies to self and lives for God. A humility that seeks a power outside our own. A humility that seeks a wisdom outside our own. A humility that is willing to give up grumbling and complaining and be joyful in all situations.  

The problem is we want to hold onto our ‘right’ to grumble and complain. After all if we have been treated unfairly or life hasn’t happened quite like we thought it should, then we want to retain our ‘right’ to grumble and complain. But grumbling and complaining keep us just as enslaved as the Israelites were when in bondage to the Egyptians because grumbling and complaining exalts not God, but us and our idea of how life should be treating us.

Do you really want to live in the promised land of peace and joy? Then ask for humility, because only humility gives us the freedom to live the peace and joy that exists in heaven on this earth.    

Jumping Into the Volcano

I have come to the conclusion that dying to self can be compared to climbing to the top of an active volcano and jumping into the flaming fire and molten lava. First of all it’s hard enough to get to the place of even considering dying to self. Just imagine the climb to the top of an active volcano. Then at the edge of the volcano you have the choice to die to self and jump in. Once you jump, you die, but you become part of something bigger. You are on fire, part of something unstoppable and bigger than yourself.  

But, who wants to die to self in order to become part of something bigger? We all like to consider ourselves the biggest. Pride actuated within our hearts rules us and keeps us smaller and more dead to our potential than if we jumped in the fire and died to self to become a part of something bigger than we are. When we die to self, our life becomes the smoke ascending from the volcano, a holy sacrifice to God and his eternal wisdom.  

It’s our pride that keeps us small, our pride lies to us, it tells us we are big enough on our own without jumping into the fire. It tells us if we jump we give up everything we ever wanted and we will never enjoy the fruits of serving ourselves again. Pride actually keeps us in a tiny little prison too afraid to jump. Too afraid of the uncertainty of being truly alive while actually dead. It doesn’t seem possible so we don’t. Many of us don’t even try to climb the mountain to look in to the top of the volcano and even consider jumping in. There are people who say only the weak believe in God but it is only by the strength of God that we can jump into the midst of the raging volcano.  

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the fire. They had two choices, worship the king of this earth or worship the King of the universe. Basically they could choose to worship the temporal or the eternal. They chose to worship the eternal God of heaven and not only die to self, but face the possibility of physical death as well.  

King Nebuchadnezzar had the same choice. But rather than worship his creator he chose to insist on receiving worship that wasn’t his to receive. When the three Israelites chose to worship the eternal God they opened themselves up to something bigger and more powerful than self. King Neb on the other hand made his world smaller by focusing on his own selfish desires.  

When the Israelites would not bow down to him, King Neb became angry. Anger is a fire inside of us desiring to be fed. His fire demanded the death of those who would not cave to his wishes. In the process of heating the fires of the furnace as hot as they had ever been several of his faithful soldiers died from the heat. Innocent people died because King Neb needed to feed the angry beast within. How many innocent people have been stepped on, pushed aside, ignored, because an inflated self pushed ahead knocking down anything in it’s way?

When the Israelites stepped inside the fire, their world became bigger. The Son of the eternal God himself walked with them and protected them from the fire which had killed several soldier who came too near to it. When King Neb saw the three Israelites still alive and a fourth walking with them, he recognized a power bigger than his own. His own self aggrandized world of power shrank immensely in the presence of the power of God. 

We can jump into the volcano and die to self while becoming a part of something bigger through no effort of our own except the giving up of self. Or we can walk away and next to the volcano pick up some sticks and start our own fire. But no matter how hard we try, no matter how far we run, or how out of breath we are with trying to keep our fire going, it will always be a tiny little self powered fire in danger of being put out by the next rain cloud headed our direction.  

 God’s wisdom and beauty is like a fall day.  There is beauty in death to self.

Never Good Enough

Do you ever feel like you’re never quite good enough? Does it feel like your own or someone else’s expectations for you can’t quite be reached no matter how hard you try? Unattainable expectations are not peaceful so why do we keep trying to attain them? If we are doing God’s will for our life then we will have peace. We know what Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, it’s a popular text: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The KJV says God has thoughts of peace towards us.

Peace. Most of us would like to live a more peaceful life. But it seems as if something always comes along to disturb our peace; coworkers, family, random people we don’t know and personal ‘beat myself up’ thoughts as well as worried thoughts. 

When was peace first interrupted? When Satan decided his wisdom was greater than Gods. He wanted to be set free from “the rules”. He wanted to “do his own thing”. He wanted everyone to think he was the greatest. Now think about it for a moment, could this be why we have so little peace? We like to think all the rules don’t apply to us, we want to break free and do our own thing and secretly we want others to think we are the greatest…at least the greatest at something. So we set about living life with unrealistic expectations about how people should treat us. And when it doesn’t happen that way? Our peace is disturbed.  

Let’s go back to never being quite good enough. When I was a kid and the teacher sent home a report card I usually felt pretty good about it. Then my mom would look at it. It didn’t matter if I had all “A’s” I could have done better somehow. Then there were the expectations from my dad, there was just no way I would ever be as good as my sister.  

So we try to live up to others expectations and we try to live up to our expectations. But what about the plans (expectations) God has for us? The same pride Satan had that led to his downfall leads to our downfall as well. We think we don’t have pride because we beat ourselves up over how awful we are. Awful, because we can’t meet our own expectations, but if we truly believe the promises of God, then Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that Gods plans for us will bring us peace. 

God does have a plan for us. And since He has a plan for us He will also make sure we have everything we need to complete that plan. 

God’s plan for us includes hope, but how much hope do we have when we feel like we can never reach the mark?  

Let’s take a look at Moses. God called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In Exodus 4:10-12 Moses told God he couldn’t speak well. And God told him, I will go with you and teach you what to say.  

Who led the Israelites through the desert? If you said Moses, you are right. But who led Moses through the desert? When the people needed food, Moses didn’t pick up the phone and make a call to Pizza Hut. No. God sent them manna to eat every day. When they needed water God provided it. When they needed to cross the Red Sea, Moses didn’t call up his skills as an engineer and build a bridge or try to teach the people how to swim. God sent a mighty wind and created a dry path across the sea and to top it off he destroyed the enemy following them with one mighty swoosh of water.  

Moses did what God called him to do, but God gave him the power to do it. What would it look like if you decided to follow the plans God has for you? He is able to do far more than we can ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20). Moses didn’t know how to get the people across the Red Sea so he asked God. What was impossible for Moses was possible for God. The only way to have God’s peace in our lives is to give up desiring our own will and seeking God’s will first, in all things. We need to humbly give up everything to God. Everything. Not just everything except this one tiny little thing over here, because that one tiny little thing over there is the thing that disrupts your peace the most.