Great reminder in this article that staying close to God and keeping a watch out for temptation is key to growing more like Jesus:
The Discipline of Watching
Great reminder in this article that staying close to God and keeping a watch out for temptation is key to growing more like Jesus:
The Discipline of Watching
Part II – Some thoughts on speaking the truth in love, naturally.
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Gal. 5:25
I am writing this in response to many of the comments/emails I received after my last post.
The amount of people who engaged in that post was kinda overwhelming.
So, this is my response to much of the feedback I received. For those of you who know me, you know I tell it like I see it. As always, I’m being pretty transparent and you’re getting a wide look inside. Halving that said, this is my heart. This comes from years of conversation with God and researching scripture for my own benefit on this question. Take it as you will.
The constant question for Christians seems to be this: when/how do you speak truth to someone? (I don’t even know if I like the way that question is worded. But, whatever. We’ll go with it for now)
When it comes to this topic, people love to use…
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So thankful for the author sharing such a great example of reaching out with grace and love…
The other day, Zac and I went into a retail store and were greeted by an associate.
I soon recognized the associate as someone I used to go to church with years ago. Someone close to my age, who I had shared many years sitting next to in our small little church.
But, he had changed.
He was now a she.
I could tell my friend recognized me, but didn’t think I would recognize them. They helped me around the store and their hands were shaking almost uncontrollably the entire time.
I knew why.
They were afraid.
Afraid of what I might say if I caught onto who they were.
Afraid of seeing the shocked Christian look of horror on my face.
Afraid of my judgement or God knows what Bible verses I just might hurl at them.
Afraid of being shamed.
And it BROKE MY HEART.
I decided to…
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We all know that just about anything spoken in English sounds better when spoken with a British accent. Especially when it’s a good word from a brother in Christ. Actually quite a few good words.
Living Out is an outreach listed on the resources tab, and I’ve appreciated the work that they are doing across the sea. Here is a talk worth listening to:
How can God be Holy, Good, and Jealous?
I remember reading long ago Oprah Winfrey saying in an interview that she was turned off to God after hearing God being described as “jealous.”
“This great minister was preaching on how great God was and how omniscient and omnipresent and God is everything and then he said, ‘the Lord thy God is a jealous God.’ I was caught up in the rapture of that moment until he said ‘jealous,’ and something struck me. I was like 27 or 28 and I’m thinking, ‘God is all. God is omnipresent. And God is also jealous?’ God is jealous of me? And something about that didn’t feel right in my spirit…and that is where the search for something more than doctrine started to stir within me.”
Through the years I’ve come across more than one person getting stuck on this perceived character defect. Most recently a friend shared that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, “because God was jealous.” (See Genesis chapter 22.)
There are some things I believe those of us who have followed Jesus for a long time take for granted, and this is one of them. It’s obvious to us that God is not jealous of Oprah (neither when she was in her late 20’s, just before she started to host a local morning talk show in Chicago, or now as a successful entertainment mogul.) That kind of thinking can seem silly.
And yet there are, by my count, 25 times in the Bible where God describes Himself or is described as jealous. And elsewhere in Scripture jealousy is pointed out as sinful. So how can God be good, holy, and jealous?
I believe this problem comes down to two things: 1. A misunderstanding of the unique nature of God. 2. The lack of a better term to more accurately describe the type of sinless jealousy that only God can exhibit, due to His unique nature.
(Oh, how I wish I could figure out how to sum up those points more succinctly!)
Ah, well…let’s look at the second point first – the language barrier.
In English we have one word for love that is used quite freely, but can mean many different things. For example, after being married for a few months, my husband and I realized that we needed a different set of bedroom furniture to accommodate the “his and hers-ness” of our clothing. We shopped and found a great set, and about a week after that I walked into the bedroom and had this exchange with my husband:
Me: “I love my new dresser.”
Spouse: “You can’t marry it.”
Me: “I don’t LOVE love my new dresser, I only love it.”
Sigh – it’s easy to see how inadequate the word love is when used as a verb in English. In Greek, there are four words for different kinds of love: agape, eros, philos, and storge. Storge meaning empathy, or affection, philos referring to friendship, eros describing erotic love, and agape is the type of unconditional love which God has for us.
In English we do have two words that describe different types of covetous feelings: envy and jealousy. The difference between the two is accurately defined in one of Homer Simpson’s brighter moments on the long-lasting comedy show:
According to “vocabulary.com” the words are defined as follows:
“You can feel envy about something you don’t have but want, but you feel jealousy over something you already have but are afraid of losing…”*
Right there we see the limitations of both words when it comes to God, because God has everything He will ever need, and He is never afraid. He doesn’t know what it means to want something He cannot have, nor does He ever tremble in fear of loss.
So what does it mean, then, for God to be jealous? Let’s take a look at the following scenario, and see if this illustration helps:
Imagine that you and your spouse have raised your children with love and care – they are your adorable 4 year old twins. You’ve saved up for months for a vacation to Disney World – and your kids are bursting with excitement!
You and your family get off of the plane, find your rental car, set your things down at the hotel, then you are finally off to the massive entrance gate at Walt Disney World.
As soon as you hand off the tickets and pass through, you sigh and start to take in all in – when out of nowhere, a young couple breezes up and takes each of your children by the hand – your children are enraptured and are swept off their feet by the park and by these total strangers, and they go off to have the time of their lives, while you and your spouse follow along behind.
Wait – who ARE these people? What are they doing with YOUR kids? They belong to you! They don’t even KNOW your children…do they have the best interest of your four year olds at heart? They cannot just sweep in and live your life.
Of course, in real life, hopefully your kids would notice that these strangers are not their parents and would cry and call out for you. And the outrage and fear over this kidnapping occurring before your eyes would be overwhelming and keep the feeling of jealousy from registering in your mind.
But it’s this quality of emotion – in the imaginary scenario of your kids enjoying Disney World with total strangers, not paying one wit of attention to the fact that you are not there – the pain of that loss in front of your eyes, the hurt of the fact that your kids forgot that they belonged to you and seem to rather spend their time with strangers, rather than the fear of that loss – this would be closer to the type of jealousy that God feels.
And we do this to God all the time. Even though we may have pledged our lives to Him – called Him our Lord, Savior, Father – we are constantly letting go of His hand and forgetting who we belong to. For while God does not feel fear, He does feel pain.
It would be different if the kids in the illustration above were in their teens and were joined by their good friends at the gate, and went off to enjoy the park with them. Although that might be painful, it is also part of life, learning to let go of the parental role. But it’s not a part of God’s parental role…we don’t outgrow Him as our Father, as our Lord, as the Lover of our souls, indeed, a love that surpasses all earthly loves.
And this leads us back to the first point I made earlier – that we often misunderstand the unique nature of God. There are certain things about being omnipresent, immutable, omniscient, eternal, omnipotent, perfect, etc. that we aren’t able to completely grasp. (I can’t tell you the last time I’ve experienced any of those characteristics myself.) This uniqueness creates a different type of relationship than that which can exist with anyone or anything else on earth.
God looks silly in our clothes – our shoes don’t fit Him.
And it is due to God’s unique character that He has the capacity for a type of jealousy which we cannot (at least not easily) express. This holy – or Godly – jealousy, if you will, has painful and protective qualities, and even grief. It’s an acknowledgement of not living up to the loyalty we’ve promised to God through our acceptance of Him, of our trust in who He is, and His nature, which always is striving for our best. It’s also an awareness of the fact that there is no other source of life, hope, joy, and love that lasts, and that creates a sadness that is also hard for us to comprehend.
There is a passage from a children’s story, and then a passage from Scripture, that might help us to understand this last point regarding grief. In The Silver Chair, Jill Pole has been showing off in front of her friend, Eustace Scrubb, on the edge of a cliff. When Eustace tries to pull her back, they get into a bit of a scuffle, and Eustace falls over the side. (He does not die, but is blown away out of sight.)
Jill spends quite a bit of time crying over this, and when she’s done she realizes that she’s become very thirsty. She discovers a stream, but beside it is a great lion – actually the Lion…
“If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,” thought Jill. “And if I go on, I shall run straight into it’s mouth.” Anyway, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.
“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”
…For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink.” …she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.”
~ C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
Imagine for a moment that you are the Lion, and you know very well that there is no other stream. How would you feel if Jill, learning this truth, ran off anyway in search of another means to quench her thirst? If you cared for Jill, wouldn’t it make you angry that she’s trying to drink in tree bark, or sand, or salt water, when you know that these things won’t satiate her desire? Part of holy or Godly jealousy is a sorrow that comes from knowing this – that only God can satisfy.
I’ve felt this type of sad anger with my patients (I’m a Physical Therapist) when they aren’t following the steps that I know will help them heal faster – walking on an unstable broken leg, or not wearing compression gloves that will prevent their fingers from growing webs between them after a burn injury. I’ve seen cases that have healed the wrong way – bone can grow into a person’s muscle belly, and I’ve met people with webbed hands…and that knowledge stirs up a frustrated exasperation when people choose to not listen or comply with medical advice.
You see, God is not so much jealous of us (Oprah Winfrey’s mistake), but rather He is jealous for us. For there is no other stream.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Years ago I was on a hiking trip with three other friends (I’ll use their initials to protect their identities, although I don’t think that they would mind me sharing this story), T, S, and V. While T, S and I all were experienced hikers, V was new to this activity. She had quizzed us before the trip with all kinds of questions – what boots to buy, what kind of pack, water bottle, and hiking pole to use, what kind of training she should do to prepare for the trails, how to handle any emergencies, etc.
We were enjoying an 11+ mile day hike on a gorgeous sunny day, and came to a curve that hugged a canyon wall. It was very steep & sheer uphill and downhill of the trail – at some points you could reach your left arm out and touch the side of the mountain. T was in front and I could see across the canyon that there was a mountain goat on the trail ahead of her. I wasn’t worried about the goat attacking her, but I could see that it was using the trail because there wasn’t footing, even for the goat, any other way, and as we came around the curve behind her, T and the goat were in a stand-off, (at a safe distance, I might add!)
T and I conferred, and went with the option to politely move forward, avoiding eye contact, until the goat found a place where it could step to the side of the trail and allow us to move on past it. There were a few times when the goat seemed to consider mowing all four of us off the mountain, but fortunately it huffed and changed its mind and moved back. Finally it came to an area with a few trees and a boulder on our left, and it hopped right up, it’s hooves at our eye level. T, myself and S hot-footed it past, offering our quiet “thank you’s” and “sorry’s.”
Then I turned around to see V, the tallest of our group, walking in slow motion very stiffly past the goat. The goat was getting impatient and voiced a rather displeased huff, which made me quite nervous.
“V – hurry up!” I said in a hoarse whisper.
With her teeth clenched like a ventriloquist, V replied, “You said not to run in front of the wild animals!”
Sigh, I had said that, and V was following instructions to the letter.
“The omnivores, V, not the herbivores…it’s OK to walk quickly this time…it’s waiting for us to go by.”
She sped up, just a bit, and all turned out well.
Our National Park Service was established in 1916, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” This continent was full of wild country years ago, and as we’ve “paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” in the name of progress, we’ve needed to set aside and protect unpopulated places. These parks allow room for wild things to run free, and these areas have rules and regulations to keep everyone safe.
In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.
~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 317
Jim Burnett was a National Park Ranger for 30 years. He wrote a book entitled, Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor & Misadventure from America’s National Parks. The following is taken from his introductory chapter:
For many current-day visitors to national parks the “great outdoors” is an alien environment, and most of what they know about dealing with the natural world comes from a TV program or magazine article. The expression, “I know just enough to be dangerous” applies in a big way to some people who decide to try a canoe trip, climb a mountain, spend a night in a campground, or even just take a short hike on a nature trail.
I’ve also concluded that a few park visitors take their goal to “get away from it all” a little too seriously and simply leave their brains at home when they go on vacation. As a result, they end up doing things that they would never dream of attempting in their native habitat, whether that happens to be a big city, suburbia, or a small town. Sometimes this situation is compounded when people try to cram too much fun into too little time, resulting in a trip that might more accurately be called, “wreck-reation” than recreation.
If it wasn’t for guidelines and laws, some people might try to use the parks as their own personal hunting safari range, or mow down rare and beautiful plants and animals with four wheelers, or toss trash into clear mountain streams – things they wouldn’t dream of doing to their neighbor’s property in their own home towns.
I am so thankful for our National Park system, and our country’s Wilderness Areas, and for those who work in these places to keep people and the environment safe. Most of the vacations I’ve taken in my adult life have been trips to hike, bike, and kayak through these parks. On my hikes I’ve come across moose, fox, bear, antelope, badger, prairie dogs, trout, turtle, raccoon, otter, pine martin, woodpecker, trumpeter swans, eagles, hawks, cranes, marmot, pika, elk, deer, buffalo, loon, and heard the cry of wolves. There have been fields of wildflowers filling green valleys so lush you’d think it was Eden, and waterfalls that shine like silver over smoothed out stone. Cooling breezes and warming sunlight fill the day, and countless stars sparkle as I’ve settled down to rest at night.
Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.
~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 235
Getting out past the “front country” nature trails and information kiosks into the woods for days has been a great blessing. To know that this rugged, uncultivated land is there – to look around for miles and only see things that God has put in place – to be pulled by the desire to see what’s coming around the next bend – to have enough space for all of this to exist is such a gift.
No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty!
~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 208
Last week I came across this quote for the first time, and it’s haunted me (in a good way) since:
The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.
~ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
We often think of the rules when it comes to Christianity – and sometimes it can seem that is all that Christians are focused on. But to do that is to miss the forest for the trees. Or perhaps, in continuing with the idea of wilderness, we can look at it another way…
A park ranger was once asked by a man leading his family in one of the great western National Parks, “What would you do if you only had 15 minutes to see this place?”
“See that bench over there?” he replied, “I would sit on it and cry.”
The vast majority of visitors to National Parks never venture 1 or 2 miles away from their car. Their experience is going to be vastly different than that of someone backpacking into the wilderness, living in the woods while carrying all their supplies. So too, I believe, are the experiences of those who dabble in having faith in Christ, getting their toes wet from time to time, rather than plunging in with their whole lives.
It’s not the rules of Christianity that hold us back, but rather we often hold ourselves back from the wild goodness that is allowed to run free under His wing. So, for the Christian, here are a few questions to consider…
Are you enjoying the good things running wild in your own life with Christ? Are you following rules and setting order for rules and for order’s sake, or are you digging deeper and walking further down the trail in your faith? Are there times you’ve carved out to spend with Jesus and allow Him to speak to you through His Word, or quiet you with His love, like a pika in it’s den? (Zeph. 3:17) Are you expressing gratitude for all that you’ve been blessed with, like wildflowers in a meadow, whose pedals follow the sun across the sky? Are there moments when worship spontaneously bursts out of you like a waterfall through a crack in the rock?
If not, maybe getting out into a bit of the wild itself might help draw you into a deeper communion with the Creator of all that is good and wild, beautiful and pure, noble and true.
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.
~ John Muir Our National Parks , 1901, page 56
Secondly, examine your life to see if you are you creating an environment for others to enjoy. Is your life, your home, your friendship giving room for good things to run wild? Is your house &/or are your conversations a haven, a refuge? Are you walled off with tall fences and concrete roofs, or open to the starlight? What are you shaping with your life? Are you inviting chaos with your choices, leaving destruction, ruts, and trash in your wake, or are opening wide landscapes of peace? Is your life drawing people in, wondering what could be around the next corner?
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
~ John Muir The Yosemite (1912), page 256
Consider these questions with Jesus, and ask Him how you might move forward to give room for good things to run wild in and through your life.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in You I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from You I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup;
You make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will You let your faithful one see decay.
You will show me the path of life;
in Your presence is fullness of joy;
in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
 The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
A great gathering of quotes from an upcoming book by Rosaria Butterfield: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/20-quotes-from-rosaria-butterfields-new-book-on-sexual-identity
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