Shout it from the mountaintops!

Recently I attended a writer’s conference at a nearby Christian university. The presenter of the social media workshop posed these questions, ‘what is your passion?’ and, ‘what is your purpose?’ As she talked about this I could only think about what I call ‘my message.’

My passion and my purpose are wrapped up in ‘my message.’

We all have a message, something that we want to shout from the mountaintops. It is often born of a story, an experience, or a tragedy. For some it is learned or discovered. Or, it can be from a revelation from God.

All of us have a message that we convey to the world; an outstanding theme in our journey with God.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   Acts 1:8

As followers of Christ, I believe that our message should contain two parts; 1) a message about God, and 2) a message about humanity.

Passion about God + Passion about People

There are multiple places in the bible that we can find the two greatest commandments. Jesus told us that the most important things for us to do are to love God, and love others. These two are significantly more important than any other.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”   Luke 10:27

Our message, as followers of Christ, therefore, should also contain these two most important parts. Our message to the world should be what you want people to know about God and what you want people know about themselves.

Who is God to me?

God is loving, merciful, forgiving, and the great comforter.

I could say that He is loving and merciful, but that leaves out His great compassion.
I could say that He is kind and forgiving, but that leaves out His faithfulness.
I could say that He is strong and powerful, but that leaves out that He is perfect peace.

God is just so many things. One could say He is everything!

In other words . . . . . He is soooo good! Saying that God is good encompasses everything else about His character. All the things of God fall underneath the umbrella of His ‘goodness’.Umbrella illustrationThis theme has permeated my life for the last five years.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good!”  Psalm 34:8

What is most precious to me about God is His goodness. In my high points and low points of life, He has always been there. He has always been so good to me.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”   Psalm 107:1

Therefore, the first part of my message is that God is good.

About six months ago, I learned of a girl that had been coming to my church with a friend of my mom’s. She was nineteen and very much lost. I knew very little about the details of her life, but I felt drawn to her nonetheless. And, one Sunday, we met.

I wanted to help her, so we agreed that we would meet for coffee later that week.

I can pick out the people in a room that think that they don’t matter. And, she definitely was one of them.

She wrote me a note the day that I met her. It read . . . . 


Angel lady,

The unspoken/unknown connection that has called you to me has intensely impacted my heart and strength to hold on in ways you are unable to comprehend. But just know, wherever this goes – you are just one more strange sign in my life to not give up faith.

There are good people with good intentions, like angels upon the earth who were sent at a time of weakness.  You are unaware of the impact your concern or interest, whatever it may be, has on my heart and faith.


I was shocked by her words. She knew that I wanted to get together with her, but other than that, I had done nothing for her. We only met once. And, I am definitely no angel lady!

Somehow, that tiny gesture of reaching out touched her soul.

I never saw her again. She canceled our coffee date and never came to church with my mom’s friend again. I tried to get in touch with her, but gave up after a while.

I think about her often. And, I have been praying for her ever since.

It’s amazing to me how desperately people want to know that they matter. And sometimes it takes very little to let them know that they do.

I desperately want people to know that they matter.

Whether or not a person knows that they matter can change their purpose, where they live, who they associate with, and most importantly, who they live for. It can change everything.

What if people knew without a doubt that they mattered to God?
What if they knew that they are His masterpiece?
What if they knew that they are worth dying for?

My message to the world is:
GOD IS GOOD, and YOU MATTER!Cartoon Illustration of  Businessman Speaking with a Megaphone.

 

Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart!   Psalm 73:1

God created us all for a purpose. God created us to have passion. He created us with a message. And our message should become our mission.

What is your passion about God? What is your passion about people? What is your message?

Our God is in Heaven; He does whatever He pleases

Who gets blessed? And, what does getting or being blessed look like?

Why does the family down the street get the big house and the nice cars and the perfect kids? Why does one person get healed from cancer and another does not? Is being born in one country instead of another a blessing?

Why do the wicked seem to have no consequences?

Why does God do what He does? Or, why does God not do other things?

These are tough questions that we all have asked at one time or another.

In the story of Job, the question of blessings and ‘the law of retribution’ caused Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to get stuck.

They believed strongly in the idea of cause and effect. They assumed that what happened to Job was 1) done by God, and 2) because of  sin. Neither of which was true.

Eliphaz speaks.

You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will fulfill your vows.
28 What you decide on will be done,
and light will shine on your ways.   Job 22:27

Bildad speaks.

Since your children sinned against Him,
He gave them over to their rebellion.
But if you earnestly seek God
and ask the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
then He will move even now on your behalf.    Job 8:4-6

Zophar speaks.

But if only God would speak
and declare His case[b] against you,
He would show you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom has two sides.   Job 11:5-6

If Job would just repent and change his ways everything would be better, so they thought.

They were stuck. They couldn’t fathom a cause outside of themselves – meaning humanity. They couldn’t fathom the cause being all about the glory of God and not  Job or his children.

How often do we get stuck like these men? We can’t figure out why God gives blessings to some and not others.

I’ve lived a righteous life, why is this happening to me?
Why is God not answering my prayers and healing me?
Am I being punished for something?
Why did God protect their child and not mine?

We think that it is all about us. We are so wrong.

But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.  Psalm 115:3

Everything God does is ultimately for His own glory. It’s not about us.

How often do we look at the questions of life through the lens of our own humanness; our own importance; our own significance?

The world revolves around the human race, right? After all we dominate over the earth. We are far superior to any other living thing. We like the idea of being the center of the universe.

However, this mentality is exactly what keeps us stuck.

What if we viewed life through the lens of God’s glory?

Once we grasp the fact that it is all about Him and not us, it takes the pressure off. Then, we are free to be His children, and free to be who He created us to be.

God doesn’t necessarily give us what we deserve or don’t deserve, or try to make everyone happy. He doesn’t do things for this person or that nation. It is about His glory, and His glory alone.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth!”   Psalm 46:10

The fact that God does everything for His own glory does not make Him selfish. If we look at it through very human eyes, then we might see it as selfish. But, if we look at it through His eyes, the picture is very different.

The fact that it is all about Him is a good thing. Because He is good!

According to John Piper in his book, Desiring God,

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

We want God to be glorified and He wants us to be satisfied. It’s mutually beneficial. The way He designed it is perfect. He goes on to say . . . .

“God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied are one experience in the Christ-exalting act of worship–singing in the sanctuary and suffering in the streets.”

“We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us.”

He is so good! And when we live to glorify Him, our lives are transformed.

We should be thankful that the universe does not revolve around us. If it did, the world would be an empty, lonely and dark place. It would be a black hole without the glory of God. He brings light. And, He brings everything that’s good in the world.

So, does God do whatever He pleases? You bet He does! And, thank God for it!

“But he stands alone, and who can oppose him?
   He does whatever he pleases.   Job 23:13

 

Life in the ring; wrestling with God

Whys and hows seem to fill my life. So many more questions pervade me than answers. I have been wrestling with God for years about a specific issue. My heart aches and I find myself exhausted.

As I was taking communion one Sunday and thanking God for who He is, I felt the warmth of His sweet comfort and mercy. He is so good.

I have often thought as many of us have, ‘why me?’ or ‘ why does this have to be so painful?’

Then, it hit me, something that I have known all along. No matter how painful, no matter how extreme the heartache . . . . HE IS WORTH IT!

The heartache that I experience is nothing compared to the great worth of knowing the Almighty God and my savior, Jesus Christ.

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

My Sunday school class is going through Job. I love this story. 

This is a man who lost everything; everything down to the last donkey.  You know the saying, ‘You don’t have anything if you don’t have your health!’ Even that was taken from him. He was left a shell of a man crumbled in a heap on the ground.

And he begins to wrestle with God and with his ‘friends’.

Round 1 = Job and Godwrestling-40804_960_720
Round 2 = Eliphaz and Job
Round 3 = Bildad and Job
Round 4 = Zophar and Job

 

Rinse and repeat. It’s like clothes in a dryer spinning around and around, but never seeming to get anywhere.

The injustice of it makes us all a little uncomfortable. Job was a good man who obeyed God. So why did God allow such awful things to happen to him?

Many have tried to explain or make sense of this story. I am not sure that anyone has been successful. I doubt it.

Why would a loving God allow so much tragedy in the life of an upright and righteous man that He dearly loved? Why would He allow His beloved child to be broken?

“Why is light given to those in misery,
    and life to the bitter of soul,
 to those who long for death that does not come,
    who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
 who are filled with gladness
    and rejoice when they reach the grave?”   Job 3:22-24

I am not sure that anyone has lamented more thoroughly than Job did.  Some may say that he was complaining. God couldn’t have been pleased with him acting this way . . . could He? We are supposed to praise God even in adversity, right?

It isn’t that simple.

Some may say that God is using Job in this story to show us what not to do in the face of a great trial.

I don’t think so.

Speaking as someone who has had many trials, I am convinced that there is nothing wrong with lamenting. I’ll even go a step further and say that as human beings it is necessary and unavoidable. And, God doesn’t count it against us.

We are human beings; finite and inadequate. The chasm between us and our Creator God is immense. He is transcendent. We are not. Therefore, there are many things in this life that transcend our understanding.

What if God designed human beings in such a way that we must wrestle with Him through pain and suffering? What if it is the only way?

What if to ‘suffer well’ is to wrestle with God? What if it is necessary to bring us to our knees?

God is not like a critic throughout the Old Testament explaining right from wrong. He is often just narrating. Many stories were told in a very matter-of-fact manner. He tells a story and leaves it to us to wrestle with it.

Why doesn’t God tell us what Job should or shouldn’t have thought or done, or what Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar should or shouldn’t have said when counseling him?

Why doesn’t He tell us the err of each person’s ways?

Why didn’t God always explain the shoulds & shouldn’ts in Scripture? And, why does He leave the ‘why’s for us to contemplate?

In Genesis 29, the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, God merely narrates. He never says what is right or wrong.

I wish God would have just said . . . . .

Jacob shouldn’t have picked someone to marry based on outward beauty.
Leah and her father shouldn’t have deceived Jacob into thinking she was Rachel.
Rachel should not have given her slave Bilhah to sleep with Jacob.
Leah should not have given her slave Zilpah to sleep with Jacob.
Jacob should not have slept with so many women!

Or, the story in Genesis 25 when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob. God could’ve said . . . .

Esau should not have sold his birthright just because he was hungry.
Jacob should not have deceived his father, Isaac, into thinking he was Esau

Or the story of Joseph and his brothers . . . .

Jacob should not have favored Joseph
Joseph should not have told his brothers about his dreams
Joseph’s brothers should not have sold him into slavery
Potipher’s wife should not have tried to seduce Joseph

In these particular stories, the rights and wrongs are obvious. However, in many other stories such as Job, they are not.

Why should we expect to understand everything in scripture? God is God, a unique and much greater being than us. Thinking that He would relate to us like one human to another doesn’t make sense. God is extremely NOT human! More importantly, we are extremely NOT God!!

I am convinced that wrestling with God is what we must do during times of suffering. It may be the only way to walk through pain that is obedient to God. Being tossed this way and that is moving us through the process of pain and growth. It is leading us to something better.

Wrestling with Him allows God to give us something more. Something extra that he promises us for persevering.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.   James 1:12

I know that without the trials in my life, I would not be as in love with my God as I am today. And, I know that there is nothing greater in this life than being totally and helplessly in love with the One who created us, and His precious Son Jesus who saved us. 

The love that we can share with God far surpasses any romantic love, or love of family and friends that we often settle for here on earth.

So, I am grateful for the wrestling. I may be beat up and bloodied at the end of the match, but as I heal, I am always stronger, wiser, and a more powerful human being then before.

It is as if God imparts His power onto us when we wrestle with Him.

I praise God for my relationship with Him everyday! God and I have a good thing going. My times of wrestling with Him have only made me love Him more.

I wouldn’t give up any part of my journey that has allowed me to be where I am at this very moment for anything.

Are my days of wrestling with God over? Probably not.

No matter what lies ahead of me, whether it be better days or worse, I will follow Him; even if it means painful wrestling in the valley of the shadow of death.

I will follow God because . . . . HE IS WORTH IT!

You Have No Power Over Me

One of the toughest parts of an active and effective Christian life is facing spiritual battles.

Our faith grows as we learn more of God’s Word, increase our prayer life and serve others.  We draw near to Him through bible studies and church fellowship. We seek to imitate Jesus’s life by going out in the world to  . . . seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) . Knowing God more intimately causes us to change from the inside out. Our nature becomes more like His.

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

Just when we are closest to God and seeing fruit in our lives . . . . wham! We get knocked down, we are blindsided. We have become a threat to Satan, and he is going to try to take us down!

Satan has many tools in his toolbox. He rubs salt on old wounds, whispers lies to us, shoots arrows of shame, deceives us, and confuses our thoughts.

The enemy knows how to push my buttons, and he knows how to push yours. He knows where he can get a foothold in our lives. He knows how he can be most effective with each one of us. He is cunning and subtle and ruthless.

Attacks from Satan will are more likely to come when we have a good relationship with God and we are doing the work of advancing His Kingdom on earth. Satan abhors the Kingdom of God. He will try anything he can to destroy it. Thank God he never will!

However, when we are wrapped up in ourselves, Satan won’t give us a second thought. Pride and ministry cannot dwell in the same place. When we are consumed with our own lives, our jobs and our families, we tend not to make time for ministry. If we are uninterested in advancing God’s Kingdom, than we aren’t a threat to Satan.

If God is our number one, than advancing His Kingdom is a central part of our lives.

Separating us from the love and grace of our God and Father is Satan’s mission. He may try to take your kids, your marriage, and your joy to accomplish this.  But make no mistake, he wants to destroy your faith! If he can take that from you, his work is done.

Ultimately, Satan wants to destroy our faith!

Brothers and sisters, it is time to FIGHT!  It is time to take a STAND!

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness”  Ephesians 6:13-14

One of Jennifer Connelly’s first movies, if not her first, was The Labyrinth in 1986.  In this labyrinth_movie_image_jennifer_connellymovie, a 15-year-old girl wishes her baby brother away to the goblin king (David Bowie).

She finds herself in a fantastical world filled with strange creatures and dangerous riddles. To save her brother, she must find her way through the labyrinth to get to the castle before midnight or her baby brother becomes a goblin forever.

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city,” she says. “My will is as strong as yours.”

The goblin king has a spell over her throughout the journey. When they are finally face to face, the king offers the girl her dreams and everything she wants. “just let me rule you,” he says. All of the sudden it hits her. She remembers the words to break the spell and says,

“You have no power over me!”

“You have no power over me!”

“YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!”

 

At those words the spell is broken, the creatures and the strange world dissolves into a vapor and the girl is free of the goblin king. She finds herself back in her house and the baby is saved.

As I was thinking about the spiritual battles in my life, this scene popped in my head.  When Satan lines up his forces against us, we have the authority in Jesus’s name to say, “Satan, you have no power over me!”

And, don’t say it . . . . shout it!!!

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”    James 4:7

Sometimes we are called to be warriors.  Sometimes we have to fight.  There is a time for everything . . . a time for war and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”  Ephesians 6:16-17

In the name of Jesus, you have no power over me!

Spiritual warfare is very real. But praise God that He has given us everything we need to be victorious! He has already won!

We were redeemed when we breathed in the Holy Spirit and became a follower of Christ. And that is all there is to it! No longer does Satan have dominion over us.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,”   Colossians 1:13

He has given us power and authority. What have we to fear?

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19

Let’s not be blindsided when the fiery arrows start to fly. Let’s rejoice in sharing the sufferings of Christ! Let’s give thanks when we are a threat to the evil one!

When you feel Satan messing with you, just remember that you are on the winning team. Remember that you are a child of the Creator God. And, remember that authority has been given to you in Jesus’s name.

“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord”   Philippians 2:10-11

So, get in his face, and tell Satan where to go!