“Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23
Everyone deals with disappointment—some more than others. These let downs vary in scope: another year of no raises at work, a friend’s forgetfulness, a lost opportunity, a teenager’s poor choices, a missed deadline, a relative’s financial woes, a boss’s oversight, an injured body or unexpected dental work. In this world troubles abound, but in Christ His peace is profound. Yes, disappointment is a fact that forces us to make appointments with Jesus. He doesn’t disappoint.
Moreover, disappointments left unattended lead to disobedience. The hole in our heart is meant to grow our dependency on God. He brings wholeness and holiness to a lacerated soul. The Lord heals hurt feelings when we offer forgiveness. Yes, disappointment feeds selfishness when we don’t get our way. So be wise, if your frustration replaces your faith you can lose patience and respect. Allow your trust in Jesus to trump testy relationships. Adjust your expectations to His concerns.
“My soul, wait silently for God alone,?For my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5, NKJV
Appointments with God help us to deal with disappointment. He gives us rest when we are restless. He gives us calm when there is calamity. He gives us peace when there is chaos. He gives us trust when there is distrust. But how do we respond to those who disappoint us? We see them as our Heavenly Father sees them—sheep in need of a shepherd. Friends falter, so will we judge them from a distance or love them up close and personal? Disappointment is cause to care.
What is your greatest disappointment? Is it you? Have you appropriated God’s forgiveness and have you forgiven yourself in Christ? Regret is like a large rock on your chest—it is a burden you are not meant to bear. By God’s grace open up to a trusted friend about your past embarrassments—even shameful behavior. Let another’s love cover your disappointment in yourself like a warm blanket on an exposed body. By faith, accept your Savior’s acceptance.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Prayer: Heavenly Father, take my disappointments and grow my love and obedience to You.
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.'" Matthew 5:38 (MSG)
Jack tossed the papers on my desk. His eyebrows knit into a straight line as he glared at me.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Next time you want to change anything, ask me first," he grunted, turning on his heels.
One small change. Wasn't that what I was paid to do? It's not that I hadn't been warned. One co-worker cautioned me, "He's personally responsible for two different people leaving the firm."
As the weeks went by, I grew to resent Jack, although my anger went against what I believed in: turning the other cheek and loving my enemies.
However, many days I felt justified. Jack had been given plenty of chances to be kind, yet inevitably he slapped a verbal insult on any cheek I turned his way.
Other days I felt convicted, and prayed about my indignant feelings toward Jack. But to be honest, I wanted to put him in his place, not love him.
I knew I had to give him what he deserved. I went into his office to tell him how I felt.
When I opened the door, Jack glanced up.
"What?" he said abruptly.
God help me, I prayed.
"Jack, I've never had anyone speak to me the way you do. As a professional, it's wrong. And it's wrong for me to allow it to continue," I said.
You see, even though I wanted to give Jack an "eye for an eye" to treat him the way he treated others, I couldn't. Because earlier the Lord had shown me something Jesus taught on in Matthew 5:38.
Under the Law, punishment was to match the crime. But a group of men named the Pharisees had taken that specific rule and made it literal. If a person stole a loaf of bread, even if they were starving, the punishment no longer matched the crime—they cut off the hand of the thief.
Rather than an eye for an eye, Jesus said that when we meet someone who is evil (in this case that word can mean a person who is stingy, a bad friend, one who exerts authority over you in the wrong manner, or someone with wrong motives) and they hit us on our right cheek, rather than meet violence with violence, we do the opposite.
We meet a stingy person with generosity.
We respond to a person who is overbearing with patience.
This was not only contrary to the Pharisee's interpretation of the Law, but a peaceful response founded in love that introduced self-control and gentleness into an offense.
"Jack, I want to make you a promise. I will treat you with respect and kindness. You deserve that. Because that's what friends do." I slipped out of the chair and closed the door behind me.
One year later, I discovered I had breast cancer. I was 32, the mother of three beautiful young children, and scared. Even after surgery, chemo, and radiation, the diagnosis was grim.
People didn't know what to say. They were afraid for me. There were days that the news was so grim that I asked God for just one word of hope.
On the last day in the hospital, the door darkened and Jack stood awkwardly on the threshold. He walked over to my bed and, without a word, placed a bundle beside me. Inside were several bulbs.
"Tulips." He cleared his throat. "If you plant them when you get home, they'll come up next spring." He shuffled his feet. "I just wanted you to know that I think you'll be there to see them when they come up."
His words were just what I needed to hear. They gave me hope.
I watched those tulips push through the soil that next spring, and the next. In fact, last month I celebrated 21 years of survival.
In a moment, years ago, when I prayed for just the right word and actions, a man with very few words said and did all the right things.
And isn't that just what friends do?
Dear Lord, thank You that You are a friend to me, even on those days that I am gruff. You are patient. You are kind. Help me to be more like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Turning your cheek simply means that you meet an unmerciful action with mercy or peace.
Describe one way you can respond differently.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (NIV)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Worry is a weight that is self-imposed. It uses up today's strength on tomorrow's concerns. Worry worries most when others don't seem worried. It feels the responsibility to be anxious on behalf of friends or family members who are not engaged in anxiety. A fearful person may even get mad because other people are not concerned enough. If left unchecked, worry crushes confidence and grows into an all consuming fear and faith killer. Worry becomes dramatic and ignores intimacy with Christ.
The remedy for worries is to give them to God for His safekeeping. Like a secure vault inaccessible to man, lock up your worries in the Lord's bank of trust. Your salvation is His safety deposit box of eternal security. Because you trust Him with the eternal, You can trust Him with the temporal. Worry given away stays at bay, but worry held on to—controls you. Anxiety is a discontent master who is never satisfied with future preparations—the worst case is already assumed.
“I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’ “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!” Matthew 25:25-26, The Message
However, when you leave your worries with Jesus, He removes the warts of worry with His liquid love. Your Savior soothes your soul with His sweet presence. Christ is your compassionate advocate who takes your petitions of concern and presents them to your Heavenly Father. He empathizes with your predicament, because He understands the physical pain, rejection, anger, betrayal and aloneness that Jesus experienced. His severe sufferings are for your present hope.
Hope hits at the heart of worry. It removes its fangs of fear and calms you under its peaceful influence. Therefore, embrace hope and drink in this encouraging elixir for emotional wholeness. Your hopeful waiting dismisses worry and invites intimacy. Clear communication with Christ and His followers facilitates faith and casts out fears. Verbally process your inner pain and then gaze out at your soul’s portal of hope. Jesus is your living hope—your resurrected Lord and Savior!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for hope in Christ that overcomes my worries.
With his new autobiography Finally FreeMichael Vick opens up about his past, controversy and a brighter future ahead. We caught up recently to meet a little bit of the man behind the cleats.
Family Christian: Michael, can you start by giving us a synopsis of your childhood?
Michael Vick: My childhood consisted of pretty much a little bit of everything. Almost like any other kid. A lot of ups and downs. Situations that occurred – where you have to think through. Some you do, some you don’t. [I got] a lot of spankings, a lot of learning, and a lot of football games that I played at a young age. A lot of trophies and relationships that I was able to build.
As a kid, I always set my sights on doing the right thing. [My goal was to] make my mom proud. Before I did anything, I always thought about her.
FC: As you look back at your childhood, would you it was a good one?
Michael: Yeah. Looking back at my childhood, I would say that I had great childhood. You know a lot of things that I went through shaped and molded me into the person that I was. Growing up into a young man there were times that it was tough. My mom and dad faced difficulties that reflected on us as kids. We managed to keep the faith and pull it through. My mom was the rock of our family. Her faith is through the roof… like out of this world. Even when we were going through trying times, she was always somewhere praying. Even talking to her now, she is always telling me that God has answered so many of her prayers… prayers that He answered while I was in prison.
FC: Fast forward from your childhood, you obviously at some point started getting an interest in football. Was that something that was born instinctively within you or was that as a result of family members or people in your neighborhood? How did you start experiencing the desire for football, then recognizing your own talent?
Michael: When I was six years old, my grandmother was a Washington Redskins fan. She always watched the Redskins on Sundays. So I used to sit and watch the games with her. Then I would go outside and play the same type of football with my friends. Even though we didn’t have pads on, we still played aggressive-style football. I tried to emulate everything that I had seen on TV. Which, I think, [plays] into the player that I have become. That and [eventually] a lot of coaching and great people [who came] into my life. When I was younger, I thought it was one of the best games ever created.
FC: You obviously played it in high school, as well as college. Did you have a good time playing football in college? Was it that a good experience for you?
Michael: Yes. College football was a great experience, because I knew I was one step away from a accomplishing my lifetime goal; making in to the NFL. When I played, I had so much confidence, belief in myself and a higher power, I was able to just enjoy it. I wasn’t out worrying about having great stats. So putting up tremendous numbers just kind of happened. And I think because I enjoyed it so much was the reason why I was able to go number 1. Because I had a great time playing football.
FC: You then signed with the Atlanta Falcons and had a great career with them – about 5 years. What were some of the highlights that you had with being with them?
Michael: Some of my greatest highlights were from the playoff game against Green Bay. Beating them for the first time, when they had never lost a playoff game. Obviously playing in an NFC Championship game in which I took them to 2004, which was a great milestone for me at such a young age in my career.
All of the relationships that I was able to make – Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Jim Mora, who was a great coach. Dan Reeves. The people that I was able to meet while I was there. Anybody that I left out – they know who they are. Just a lot of great people. More than anything, I still have those relationships.
FC: And then it all came crashing down in 2007.
FC: Are you okay talking a bit about that time?
Michael and Tony Dungy
Michael: It’s okay. In 2007, I was convicted of a crime that I was involved in. And everything kind of came crashing down. I lost everything. I was put into prison. I didn’t have any money. My family didn’t have any money.
All I could do was depend on God, my Higher Power – and to keep
the faith. My faith was through the roof. I just felt like something was going to happen. Especially while I was praying. That’s when I grew closer to God, and the things that I needed the most. [To move] away from disobedience.
Michael: I met Coach Dungy one time in 2005. But [it was] really when he came out to visit me during my prison sentence [that we got to know each other]. We just sat and talked for a long time. Shared a lot of life experiences together. He just told me that he believed in me. He told me that my future was bright. I may not be able to see it, but that he had faith in me. That’s where we made that connection. I do appreciate Coach Dungy so much to this day.
FC: Michael, where was God in all of your life up to that point? In your childhood, you talked about…
Michael: He was always there.
FC: He was always there.
Michael: I always knew that I had to have a form of obedience, a form of belief in God and the Holy Spirit. When I was in high school, I slept with the Bible under my pillow, I talked about that in my book – because I believed that the only way that I could get there with all the adversity and controversy that I was facing then as a black quarterback… that I needed to do something different. I felt like I just had to have a great deal of faith. A great deal of understanding and to comprehend by doing the right things.
During all that – the only answer I could come up with was “put my faith in God.” Still to this day, I find myself doing it. I did it this morning. I am doing it right now. I’ll be doing it Sunday before the game. So on and so forth for the rest of my life.
Michael ministers to people in prison.
FC: Is there a particular Scripture that you have in mind that continually comes back to you? That you find a lot of encouragement from?
Michael: Psalms 23. You know Scripture.. Everyone pretty much knows there is so much merit to it. It gives you confidence, plus it gives you strength. It gives you faith in yourself. Belief in yourself. And whatever you are about to endure, you can always walk through it with confidence if you read that Scripture before it. Off the top of your head, you can just rehearse it in your mind. It puts you in a different mindset.
FC: As you look over your life, your past and your present, and obviously on into the future, without stating the obvious Michael, you are a famous person. There are thousands, if not millions of kids and adults that certainly look to you, some with a critical eye and some with fondness. What do you hope that people would know about Michael Vick above everything else?
Michael: I want people to know that I was true to my faith and that I was true to myself. When things weren’t going so well, I acknowledged it, and I accepted it. I believe that change can come and that it happened. I couldn’t have done it without God... and I’ve got to give all the glory and thanks to Him.
So I just hope that everybody sees that I am changed person. That it’s my faith that really got me through it. It was me believing that something was really going to happen. For that next day. Or the next day. Or the next day. Whether it was just me changing my mindset, or life was changing, or my financial situation changing. My living situation. Or the situation with my family. It all came to fruition – and it was all because of my faith.
FC: What do you think of the upcoming season?
Michael: I’m excited about the upcoming season. I think it will be one that we will all remember. I have been doing a lot of work and preparation. I believe in myself. I believe in my team. And I know that we can kick this off.
From the unexpected beginnings of Desperation Band, to the ups and downs of serving in his local church during a tumultuous public scandal, Jared Anderson has learned that he’s never walked alone. His new album, The Narrow Road calls believers to trust and walk a God-centered life, even through the toughest times.
Family Christian: So where did you get your start leading worship? At New Life Church in Colorado Springs?
Jared Anderson: I did grow up at New Life but I went away to Oral Roberts University [in Tulsa, for college] where Glenn [Packiam] was my next door neighbor and Jon [Egan] was on my wing. I met all those guys that are in Desperation Band. And we all ended up at New Life together. None of us intended to go to the same place or thought we’d be working together at all, so it’s pretty cool how that all happened. Came back, [although] I swore I’d never go back to Colorado…
FC: …And you left because Oklahoma was so beautiful?
Jared: (laughs) Ha, yeah… no. In high school I always thought, “I can’t wait to get out of here.” But it didn’t take too long of living in Oklahoma before I realized, you’ve got a pretty sweet spot in Colorado. I did not see myself working in a church or leading worship – [but I] started helping out and kind of didn’t realize that I became a worship leader until I was one. I was just trying to help out and serve, but the Lord had me there.
FC: Did you go back to Colorado with this idea, “hey, we’re Desperation Band”?
Jared: No, not at all, the only reason Desperation Band happened was because David Perkins wanted to start a conference and he asked Glenn to lead worship at it, because Glenn was there about nine months before Jon and I came on staff. So once that happened, David was like, man, these guys are writing songs, it would be great to record a CD to help get the word out about the conference. And when they said we’re going to record a CD at the first conference Glenn didn’t want to do that by himself so he asked the two of us to be a part of it. [And] that was our start. So the band started for the conference, but then we started getting asked to do stuff, and we were like, we gotta call this something.
FC: So then how long was it before you decided to go out on your own?
Jared: Glenn stepped down in ’08, the first conference was in 2002 so that was 6 years, then I stepped off the staff in ’09 and moved to Nashville and that’s really when Jon started running with the band. I was doing solo stuff on the side anyway, so we felt like that was the right fit for all of us.
FC: And are you still in Nashville?
Jared: No, I was there for one year writing and trying to figure out – I knew I wasn’t supposed to be on staff but I didn’t know what the next step was. We had sold our house and we were going to build a house, but I said, before we build I want to make sure this is the right thing for me.
FC: Please keep in mind that if we ask anything uncomfortable you don’t have to answer, but we’d like to talk a little about the massive transition New Life went through a few years ago, which led to Pastor Ted Haggard stepping down. Obviously people on the outside had a lot of feelings about how the church handled it and you were on-staff at that point. Everybody could kind of imagine your response corporately, but how about you individually? How did that unfold or affect your walk?
Jared: It was massive. (pauses) I think… it is really difficult to lead while you’re processing, yourself. It was really a vulnerable [time] because you’re like “there’s no handbook for this. I don’t know that I want to lead or even have anything to give at this point.” But somebody’s gotta lead – I mean, what are we going to do, all stay home? It’s a point of decision to put one foot in front of the other. We’re going to worship the Lord. Really, the fire has a purpose of reducing to the gold. The gold is only refined in the fire and I feel like every church, every Christian has to walk through that to realize, to know if there’s anything there or not.
FC: So now 6 or 7 years ago when you look back at that, we’re assuming you don’t look at it fondly, but what is your feeling of that time? Specifically concerning your own personal walk with Christ, or your view of what happened corporately as a body, your family. Would you characterize it as a wilderness?
Jared: Totally. I mean, it’s what makes you who you are, ya know? Anyone has a testimony, it’s not something you would ever wish on anyone to have to go through the struggles that you went through, but everybody’s going to have to go through struggles. So if this is the thing that makes me who I am, great, because the Lord was with me the entire time. With my wife, with our marriage, with our church and we’re still standing. I think that’s a testimony.
FC: As a follower of Jesus, outside of this job of leading worship – how did you walk through, what sustained you?
Jared: I went through several seasons of doubt like, well I just drank the Kool-Aid, I’ve been living a lie, my leader had been leading something that wasn’t true, self-admittedly so! [I wondered] maybe there’s a lie inside of me that I have to discover and so [it led to] this question of okay, what do I believe? If none of this structure still stands, what do I carry inside of me? And it’s the faith – following Jesus. It was just one foot in front of the other, He’s still there, He’s still faithful. We’d get together as friends – the staff – night after night after night. We’d play it all out in our heads and try to analyze it, discover it, but then finally you just gotta quit talking about it and go back to living, ya know? I think what it did primarily is change my “success criteria” of ministry. That’s the bottom line. What a trial will do is make you go okay, what does it mean to be successful? And that’s to follow Jesus, to raise godly children, to have a great marriage that reflects Christ and to minister to people in authentic ways that lead them by the Holy Spirit to the person of Jesus.
FC: So your family has grown, you have four kids and you’re in the process of adopting. When do you hope to have these 2 additional children?
Jared: Last year we had two miscarriages in the span of about 8 months and my wife really started to feel like her desire to bear more children was lifting – which I never thought would happen because she loves having kids. We’d had miscarriages before, and they’re hard, but you get through them. So we decided to start the adoption process in November [of 2011]. We went down to Haiti in January to meet the director and we met John Diego then.
FC: So what has the adoption process been like for you so far?
Jared: When we lived in Nashville our neighbors were in the process of adopting when the earthquake hit [in Haiti], so they went down and got their kids out – and we watched that process happen. We thought this is amazing, when we’re done having our own, we want to do this. So that’s kinda how we got started. We went down there with our old neighbors and met all of the people that they already knew and were just kind of curious about this little boy, John Diego, when we were tucking all of the kids in at night. We thought he probably had a home because his crib was decorated with little toys and stuff and that usually comes from the parents who come to visit, so we’re like oh, isn’t that fun, he’s got a little family waiting for him. So the last night we’re there we’re like, we should check and see if he’s available at all and turns out he was, so we thought we’ll take him. They called us about 6 months later, [and] they were not supposed to have any girls available for 2 years and to get a baby girl was even more distant. But they called us at the end of May and said – we have a 5 month old girl for you. So we hung out with her in June. So we’re just going to keep going down there to visit our kids until we get them and it will probably be at least another year. The orphanage is called New Life Link and we work with an adoption agency called Love Beyond Borders.
FC: Here at Family Christian our calling is James 1:27 “…to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” so that’s what all of our efforts are really for; to help propel that Kingdom calling. We want kids adopted and foster kids in homes.
Jared: One of the things the Lord laid on our heart was that we’re not supposed to carry this burden on our own, so we had this puzzle made. We took a picture of John Diego and had a 250 piece puzzle made of it then asked people to sponsor just a piece of the puzzle. We’ll write their names on the back of each piece and then at the end, we’ll get a 2-sided frame and hang that in his room so he’ll know who helped to bring him home. The time has come upon us to have all of the finances and we have to raise about $15,000 [more] in the next 40 days so we’re on an active mission to get the word out.
FC: Let’s talk briefly about The Narrow Road, your new record. Everything you’ve talked about today, Colorado to Oklahoma to Nashville to Colorado, then everything you went through at your church and now the adoption. Do all of these things feed into the record? What’s the theme?
Jared: Yes, for sure. When I left the staff position at church I felt very much like the instruction God gave Abraham leave your country and go to a place I’m sending you felt very much like [what He was saying to] me. Two things really helped shape my psyche in this transition: First was reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It’s all about the journey of Christian away from the city of destruction to the Celestial City. And his wrestling with distraction and meeting all of those characters along the way. And the other was the experience of visiting one of our missionaries in Mexico and going from house to house with him; his process of making disciples. Discipleship is you come with me and we go here. And I think in the mega-church world that had become to me kind of a lost art. Training people to just pick one [person] at a time, and [say] you and I are going to live life together and go forward. That’s reducing discipleship to its most basic format and anyone can do that. The road is narrow and only a few find it. That’s a hard message to swallow sometimes, but this is calling people to holiness, a separateness away from worldly wisdom and away from morality and religion and these things that take our focus and distract us and make us think that we’re successful. [These places] where we can have the appearance even when we’re not really on the road. That’s sort of the journey I’ve been on.
FC: In talking about “the narrow road” you mentioned Abraham being called out of something and into something. How much of this record reflects this idea of I’m moving and I don’t know where? Is that part of the story for you?
Jared: I think every season builds on itself so I don’t know that I’d say… well like, there’s a line between leaving and disowning. I’m not disowning anything of my past. That has brought me to what I am, but I do feel called to run with a message that the Lord has given me and it’s a new season for me doing this full-time. Going and ministering to people on the road it’s like – ok, what is the message? I’m not just a songwriter or a song leader – I’m a message bearer, an ambassador. To go and preach the Gospel really is the goal, so that’s kind of a new effort.
FC: What do you hope this record will do?
Jared: I think it’s the soundtrack for that road, for the journey of life in Christ.
FC: When you write your songs, do you write for yourself, for individuals you know, for the broader audience who is participating in worship music?
Jared: I write what I need for me for the day. That’s the Lord’s reveal. I can’t give anybody anything that I haven’t experienced. A lot of times I feel like I write a message or a burden that’s in my heart, and the Lord causes me to have to live that out. For instance, the song “Jesus Makes the Impossible Possible.” It’s something I needed and am still walking through with this adoption, like man, what a burden, what a journey, how’s this ever going to work out? How long is this going to take? It’s my ‘impossible’ right now, it feels like a huge mountain to climb. And yet I know that this is what God has called us to do and He’s going to make a way. He’s going to reveal Himself through it. So that’s joyous… There’s joy in that.
FC: Has there ever been a song in your catalog that you go back to and you’re like – I don’t know how I wrote that song, but it was for me?
Jared: Yeah, well like, “The Great I Am” totally. I couldn’t go back and just sit down and say, I’m going to write a song like that today, ya know? [laughs] But that has been a journey for me to draw near to the Lord and then to see how big, vast and overwhelming He is. To ask, why have I ever had any trace of fear when I’m included in a God of this magnitude…?
"For we know, brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you ..." 1 Thessalonians 1:4 (NIV)
I stand with my back against the school's red brick wall, my woolen plaid skirt scratching my legs even though I have on my best cable-knit tights. Trying not to look desperate, I secretly pray I won't be the last one chosen for the team that morning.
It is recess time and kickball is my classmates' game of choice. Names are called. As I look to the captain pointing and choosing kids, my heart's cry is simple, "Pick me! Pick me!"
I sit in sixth hour a few years later awaiting the end-of-day announcement of the homecoming court nominees. Earlier that crisp autumn day, the lunchroom had been all abuzz, a whirlwind of activity: scribbled ballots and scrambling beauties seeking votes. Now that the folded papers are tallied and the results are being read, my heart's cry remains the same, "Pick me! Pick me!"
College girls gather around the stately cement fountain in the middle of campus. It is the place where many women give others a glimpse of "the ring." The ring that means they are chosen and loved, soon to be some dashing coed's wife. While the third finger on my left hand remains painfully naked, my heart's cry is still so very, very simple. "Will some man please pick me?"
Throughout much of my early life I desired nothing more than to be wanted. Yet, at many junctures my heart repeatedly felt rejection as someone else was chosen instead of me. It wasn't until late in college that a wonderful truth was shared with me.
I am already chosen. Already loved.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 nails it. "For we know, brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you." (NIV) We are loved by God. He's already picked us.
So there is no need to hope and wish and cross our fingers for good luck. We won't be left standing against a wall, unloved and passed over for someone with more skill, better looks or more brains. We are the objects of our Savior's love and nothing we do will change His feelings for us.
Will you cling with me to the very words of God? Let them be louder than the voices from your past or the jeers of the present or even your own negative self-talk that tells you that you're not worthy, not loved, not _________ enough.
You are the one He is pointing at, in front of the whole wide world's schoolyard, boldly declaring both now and forever, "This is My heart's cry: I choose you!"
Dear Lord, help me erase the negative thoughts that run through my mind at times, making me feel unloved and rejected. Remind me that I am chosen and dearly loved both now and forever. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you ever been chosen or passed over? What happened? How did you feel when you were chosen? How about when you weren't?
You are the object of your Savior's love and nothing you do will change His feelings for you.
Ephesians 1:4-6, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (NIV)
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
God makes things beautiful, so in turn they can make beautiful things. For instance, an artist who has tasted the grace of God is able to take a blank canvas and create a complex and attractive expression of Christ’s love. A writer can take a blank sheet of paper and describe, in desirable detail, what it looks like to worship the Lord, despise sin and serve people. Architects make plans, builders make houses, homeowners make warm homes and chefs make meals. Senators make laws, technicians make systems, leaders make decisions and gardeners make gardens.
What are you making for your Maker? Perhaps you have made loved ones who love the Lord and people, a legacy of wise living, eternal financial investments and relationships built on respect and unselfish service. You are God’s wonderful workmanship created in Christ for good works. Yes, He molds you with messy circumstances, painful processes and daily discipline. Your spiritual formation in Christ is not always easy, but it is fulfilling. Indeed, Jesus doesn’t make any junk.
“When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” Isaiah 29:23
The Lord has prepared beforehand what needs to constitute the work of our hands. The world tempts us to spend abnormal amounts of time in time bound busyness. However, our heavenly Host frees us to focus on faith and timeless significance. Christ’s desire is that we integrate our being with our doing. He wants us to assimilate what we learn at church with what we do at work and home. We are joint-heirs with Christ to advance His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
Furthermore, the last words of Christ to us, His disciples, were to make disciples. This is the end game for our Lord. Are you in the disciple-making business? Do you pour into others—so out of their overflow—they pour into others? Yes, disciples are made not born. You learn Scripture, so that you can share Scripture with other students of the Word. Disciple making invites the power and presence of Christ. Thus, ask God who you can invest your time in to help make them a mature disciple of Jesus. Model for them how their Maker wants to make them a disciple maker!
“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 The Message
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for those who invested in me, so I can invest in others.
Have you ever wondered what makes a certain act sinful and another not sinful? Why is it wrong to lie? Or kill? Or commit adultery? Who says viewing porn is wrong when our culture tries to reassure us that it’s natural and normal—in fact, based on popular consumption and the ten-billion-dollar industry it generates, you’re abnormal if you don’t view porn!
One way of thinking about why something is sinful is to respond, “It says in the Bible that it’s wrong.” While true, God put dos and don’ts into the Bible because they reveal something much deeper about us. When God tells us not to commit adultery, He is telling us that doing this goes against our design. “Do not commit adultery” is God’s version of “Do not brush your teeth with a toaster” or “Do not grill steaks on a block of ice.” It just can’t accomplish what it was designed to do. Like sailing the seven seas in a Chevy pickup—it doesn’t get the job done, and you put yourself at great risk.
Or consider porn this way. Wouldn’t it be rather odd if a trained fighter pilot never left the hangar for fear of not knowing how to fly the jet? Or consider a gifted sculptor who never picked up his hammer and chisel because he couldn’t find the perfect block of marble.
What if a major-league baseball player didn’t show up for practice because he spent all his time playing baseball on his Xbox? Or a master shipbuilder never sailed the open waters because his fantasy of the perfect seaworthy vessel kept him on dry ground?
This is what porn is like. It allures us with the image or fantasy of being with a woman, while preventing us from being able to actually engage with a real woman. Porn keeps us from flying the jet, getting in the game, or sailing the high seas. All because we settle for something that doesn’t exist and will never satisfy us.
So how does porn go against our design as men and sabotage God’s dream for us to live out our true identities? C. S. Lewis spoke to the heart of this question when he wrote about the soul damage caused by sexual fantasy (whether through masturbation or pornography) and what he called “imaginary women.” Lewis described these imaginary women this way: “Always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadow brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.”
Lewis began with the assumption that sex is good, not bad—a gift to be enjoyed within God-designed boundaries. He also framed his words against the backdrop that “the main work of life is to come up and out of ourselves.” Lewis assumed that God designed us to mature and become less focused on ourselves and more focused on loving others. When we fixate on porn, we choose to remain selfishly anchored to our own pleasure above all else. When we preoccupy ourselves with meeting our own needs and ignoring the needs of others—in this case, our wives, flesh-and-blood women, and not some Photoshopped model—then we stifle our spiritual growth. Lewis summed up the problem with pornography this way: “In the end, [imaginary women] become the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. After all, the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. . . . All things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”
Lewis calls us to remember what a man is made for: our deepest longing is to know God in the center of our being, and out of that place to offer ourselves for the sake of others. Augustine taught about the theological idea of incurvatus se—a life turned in on itself. Porn successfully accomplishes this—it causes our soul to turn in on itself in self-absorbed isolation and shame. It diminishes our souls. It seduces a man to use women to meet a need in himself—without meeting any of her needs. And this act of “using” comes not only at her expense but also at the devastating cost of his own heart. We don’t realize the price we pay until we feel empty and bankrupt inside.
You were created for something bigger than yourself.
You were created for excurvatus se—a life lived outward. Not outward as in codependent or being a martyr. Not dying to self in a way where legitimate needs are neglected. But a life that flows from a deep source. A life that bears fruit. A life lived outwardly enhances, builds up, and causes the heart to flourish. Donald Miller has suggested that we are trees in the story of a forest. And that story of the forest is better than the story of the trees.5 Pornography perverts and upends this idea with titillating images that invite us to live as if the story of the trees were the only story, and the story of the forest doesn’t exist.
The purpose of this book is to go beyond the common “Just don’t do it” strategy of sin management. Together, we will explore the truth of how you were meant to live and how you can get there so you can enjoy a new and better life in the forest. I invite you to stop looking at pictures of F-18s in combat and ships on the high seas, or playing baseball on your Xbox instead of eating the dust of a real baseball diamond. We’ll do much more than that. You’ll discover the thrill of getting into the game, flying the F-18, and sailing the ship so that pornography and lust lose their grip on your soul.
Please read closely: the deepest truth about you is that you are the F-18 pilot, created for combat. God designed you to be a hero— to focus your strength and courage on behalf of something and someone bigger than yourself. You are the major-league ballplayer, created with the offensive and defensive abilities to get in the game with a team of others on a common mission. God uniquely fashioned you to win games. To hit home runs. To steal bases. God chose you to play on His team.
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7a (KJV)
The day started off just fine, but ended with confusion and tears. As a timid middle-schooler, I climbed the steps of my school bus eager to get home after a long afternoon.
Sitting quietly in my seat, all of a sudden I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Although my surroundings appeared to be the same, something was not right.
The bus was the normal sunshine yellow. The seats were standard black vinyl, displaying rips and tears from years of students. The floor was littered with the usual misplaced pencils, erasers and wadded-up papers. Yet, I felt out of place.
That's when I realized I did not know any of the kids sitting around me. And I had never seen the bus driver before. Frantically, I searched for anything familiar. My cheeks grew hot and my heart raced with panic as I realized I was on the wrong bus.
Although I WAS headed somewhere, it was NOT where I wanted to go.
I'd been distracted by conversations with friends, thoughts of sleepovers, and how much homework I had. My thoughts were not focused on where I was going. The actions that followed caused me to end up somewhere I did not want to be.
Thinking back on that day, I've considered how our thoughts determine a lot about the direction of our lives. Like my school bus, our thoughts will always take us somewhere, but it may not be somewhere we want to end up.
If we spend time thinking about how our boss does not appreciate us, our thoughts will take us straight to a bad attitude at work and possibly poor performance.
If we focus on how much we do for others and how little we feel appreciated, our thoughts will take us to a place of resentment, with lack of patience and love.
If we spend an entire day fuming over something our husband or kids did, and mentally practice the harsh words we plan to say to them, those thoughts will lead us into a place of arguments, hurt feelings and damaged relationships.
If we dwell on why God has allowed certain problems in our lives, we will transport ourselves into a state of insecurity and unhappiness as we stop trusting God.
If we focus our thoughts on money, career, success and pleasure, we will find ourselves in the land of the lost—feeling frustrated and discontent.
Our thoughts are powerful and need our navigation. If we allow them to run rampant in negative directions, focusing on things that lead us away from God's perspective, we will eventually end up stressed out - from the inside out.
In today's key verse, God shows us why we should choose carefully what we think about, because our thoughts determine who we are and how we live.
Reacting to stressful situations by becoming a chronically negative thinker will eventually increase our stress and possibly take us to a destination we would never choose.
My childhood memory reminds me to consistently ask God to help me keep my mind on Him and on the thoughts He has for me. That way I can live according to His plans and with His perspective, seeking to be acutely aware of where my thoughts may lead me.
Our thoughts really do have wheels. Where are your thoughts taking you today?
Dear Lord, please help me take my thoughts captive, and focus on things that are pleasing to You. Please give me the desire to control my thoughts and maintain a Godly perspective about the circumstances in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you been guarding and guiding your thoughts, or have your thoughts been leading you to a place you don't want to go? Is it possible that you've allowed negative thoughts to bring more stress into your life?
Make a list of all the negative thoughts you have had lately. Ask God to help you replace those emotions and start new with a fresh attitude and a healthy, Godly perspective.
Romans 12:2a, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (NIV)
Ephesians 4:23-24, "Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." (NLT)
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psalm 37:11
Meekness is a bridge to blessing. It is an attitude God honors with the enjoyment of His great peace. Meekness meanders, moving in and out of the halls of heaven. It sets us up to be served by our Savior. Meekness is the manner by which our Master can move us forward in His will. Our meekness transports us toward absolute surrender and obedience to God. It is the meek who tend to trust God. It is the meek who most want to faithfully follow Jesus. Indeed, meekness is most like Jesus. Jesus said of Himself, “I am meek…” (Matthew 11:29, KJV). It is here, with meek Jesus, that we find rest for our souls. However, meek does not mean we are weak; on the contrary, we are strong in our Savior.
Meekness is a conduit for what Christ has for us. He has an inheritance for His children. What is His is ours. He owns the land and all that is within its expanse. We see His quiet white clouds cover the mountaintops like soft sheets. As the sun rises, its warmth pulls back the submissive sheets of cloud cover and introduces us to the day. He has given us His earth for our great enjoyment. It is on the side of the green mountain of His creation that we sit quietly and contemplate Christ. His peace prods our pride to be still and know Him. He hushes our hurried spirit to be silent before Providence. A silent tongue often exhibits a wise head and a holy heart. We have His earth to enjoy now and to inherit in eternity. The meek understand this priceless privilege. They enjoy great peace.
Even as we suffer, we topple tribulations with trust in Jesus while we rest in His great peace. Christ’s consolations carry us along the way. His peace is a platform for His faithfulness to perform. As if watching an engaging drama on stage or in film, we wait until the end for the plot to fully unfold. If we jump to conclusions or draw premature assumptions, we may get caught up in bad beliefs or false fears. So life is a stage where God’s great drama plays out. We are not to fret over what seems to be fearful or a forgone conclusion. God’s plot is still unfolding by faith. His will is being revealed. His cast of characters is still in development. While His plot thickens, we trust. Until the end, enjoy His great peace.
We may not have an abundance of stuff, but we have great peace. It is better to do stuff with our Savior than to have stuff without Him. He is our wisdom when we face complex circumstances. He is the one to whom we cling during a crisis. We silence our murmuring so that we can be silent before Him. It is in silence before our Savior that His great peace saturates our soul. It engulfs our edginess with eternal assurance. On earth we may seem deprived of some things from an enjoyment aspect. But, there is coming a day where this accursed earth will be no more, and we will enjoy the benefits of His new earth without sin, sickness, or sorrow. We will inherit the land of our Lord. In the meantime, go to God for His great peace. Like a river of love, it attends to our soul with soothing security and peace. Enjoy God’s great peace in Christ. Fret not, but have faith in Him. He seeks the meek.
Taken from Reading #26 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/InvUdR
Post/Tweet this today: Even as we suffer, we topple tribulations with trust in Jesus. #trust
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