Archives for the month of: February, 2015

fireplace

There is something so comforting about a fire inside with snow falling outside. I love the look and the sound and the heat. But fire is powerful. It is not tame. It is beautiful in a fireplace, useful in a fire pit, and dangerous when it is unleashed. It is hot and unapproachable. It permanently changes what it touches. It can also refine precious metals to make them more pure by allowing the dross to melt away. Once something is burned, it can’t be restored. You can’t just add water to a burned dinner or rehydrate burned wood. It is permanently changed.

So are people who allow themselves to know God as he actually is are. God described himself as fire. As you consider the idea that God is a refining fire, ask him to reveal to you what needs to be burned off of your life to make you more pure. Pride? Judgmentalism? Despair? Addiction? Need for the world’s approval? Need for control? What is so stubbornly entrenched in your heart and mind that you just can’t decide to get rid of it; it must be burned away? When our knowledge and our passion meet, there is an energy and power there that challenges us to become more than we are and usually brings out the best in us.

Knowing God is like that. The Christians who best reflect God’s truth and life are those with a burning passion, whose lives are filled with a purpose and “fire” as a result of their relationship with God, not the milk toast ones who just go through the motions of religion.

Cooper

My life has been stressful lately. There has been a fair amount of frustration and chaos, and despite my fervent prayers asking God to show me what he wants me to do, I still find myself fumbling through most days, accomplishing the urgent, hacking away at the necessary. I don’t have a firm grasp on the big picture or my next step. This morning as I prayed for wisdom to know and courage to do God’s will in my day, my dog would not leave me alone. He nudged my computer away; he wanted to be in my lap; he wanted my full attention. He wasn’t concerned with my to do list; he wanted to be my only priority.

I absolutely believe he is the world’s greatest dog. He has blessed our family for just over five years. Most of our life and history came before he took over our hearts and home. There are parts of our current life that he doesn’t participate in or understand. He doesn’t understand current events or have any concept of financial responsibilities. He trusts that his meals will be served on time with no idea of where they come from. He doesn’t know what a grocery store is; he’s never been to church or to school; he doesn’t have a job or commitments that ever take him away from us…he’s part of our home and our family because he loves us. We didn’t get a dog because we wanted him to pitch in with the chores or bring home an extra paycheck. We wanted a dog because we wanted him to love us and let us love him.

He seeks our attention and constantly wants to be with us. He is overjoyed when we return home or when he is allowed to go with us in the car. He shows his affection for us by bringing us toys or snuggling, and nothing brings him more joy than having our full attention. His primary goal is to be with us.

Jesus taught using parables and metaphors that were familiar to his followers. This morning I believe he sent Cooper to remind me of some things. So much of who God is and what God does is outside my understanding and presence. There is so much that I don’t understand about the one who is so very, very different from me. There are some really important things in his world that I have absolutely no control over. But God has not equipped or called me to those. God’s call on my life is to love him and the ones who are in my “place” right now, with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.

This morning I asked God to show me what he wanted from me. Cooper edged my computer out of my lap so that he had my full attention. I get it.

wilderness 4 

It can be an actual place or a period of time in your life. It is characterized by desolation, whether that looks like overgrowth or emptiness. You can be driven there by pain or suffering, or you can choose it in hopes of relief. It can be somewhere you intentionally go to find peace or understanding in the midst of uncertainty or pain, or it may be somewhere you end up because the difficulties of your circumstances leave you feeling so incredibly alone. It may be the only place that all of your emptiness, frustration, and isolation will fit. It is always a place or a time where you feel alone, separated from the frantic pace and expectations of the world.

The Bible is full of wilderness stories. Moses went there to escape from Egypt. God required the Hebrews wander there for 40 years. Elijah and David hid there from rulers who wanted them dead, but Paul intentionally went there to learn about God. Jesus went there to prepare for his ministry. Battles were fought there; prophets spoke truth there; people were baptized there. The wilderness stories of the Bible are full of miracles, deeper insight, temptations, and fear. But one thing all wilderness time has in common for people in the Bible and for us; it changes the hearts of those who spend time there.

You may seek the wilderness to hide your shame or to find some direction. You may go there because you don’t belong where you used to be, or because you no longer want what you have. Your time there may be a source of rest or restlessness. Many found healing in the wilderness. Some died there. Some repented there. Nearly all saw or heard from God there. Some received new direction for their lives there. Others were refreshed there and left with new strength to return to their original calling.

Don’t waste your wilderness. Don’t just spend time there and go back to your world and your problems unchanged. Let the desolation of your wilderness lead you into the presence of God. Let it give you new perspective on what took you there and what is next after your time there is done. May your time in the wilderness deepen your understanding of and your commitment to the Almighty God who seeks you wherever you go, even, and especially, in your wilderness.

fence

She said, “My property goes right down that fence line, all the way back to that oak tree.  When you get to the river you cross the line.” She found comfort in knowing where outermost limits of her property were. Boundaries give us definition. Fences give us protection, for what’s inside our fence and from what’s outside our fence. I like specific direction and clearly defined end results.

God never promised to wall us off from all that threatens us. He does not give us a fenced in comfort zone and tell us to stay there. He does not give us a limited supply of his grace and power and tell us to save up and make do. God promises to dwell with us and fill us with his Spirit so that wherever he leads us, we are safe inside his will.

We’ve created invisible fences that protect our dogs; we also have invisible fences that we hide behind to protect our comfort zones. But what happens when God’s call on my life doesn’t end at the edge of my comfort zone? When my to-do list includes more than I’m capable of? When people need more from me than I have to give or want to give? When I have more interruptions than patience? More responsibility than time? More fear in the future than trust in my God? What happens when God wants to move my carefully constructed fences? When he asks me to obey when I can’t see the plan? Do I insist on and enforce my limits on God, or do I seek his?

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let  yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 Do I become a slave to the fences I’ve built, or do I trust God to walk me past the edge of my expectations and cross into new adventures, new stories, new opportunities to see him at work in my world? God never said there were no boundaries for us. His laws and his plan require that we allow him to establish those boundaries. God set the boundaries for the Promised Land and for the areas for each of the 12 tribes. David described the boundaries God put on his life.

 Psalm 16:6  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

 Following God to whatever boundaries he takes you to will allow you to find the pleasant places of his will and the delight of the inheritance he has planned for you. May you follow him past your comfort zone and allow him to securely establish you in the places and hearts he has prepared for you.