Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Work in Progress

One of the things I have been learning lately is that it’s okay to be a work in progress. What comes with that understanding is it’s okay to admit that I have areas in my life that need work. I’m not perfect but I’m also not where I was previously.

A couple things got me thinking about this. One was a Christian movie I heard about recently. The basic story is about a guy who was a messed up jerk. He was dishonest in business and treated his family poorly. He becomes a Christian, everything changes, and they live happily ever after. It wasn’t quite that simple but you get the idea.

I know that when I became a Christian at eighteen years old, which was almost thirty-seven years ago, things changed dramatically. It wasn’t just saying some prayer then going on as before. So I do believe that there can and should be a big change in someone’s life when they come to Christ.

Where I think we go wrong is in thinking all change in our life can be as easy as those times when God does something dramatic and things are changed in a moment of time. I’m thankful for those experiences but it seems most of the time it’s a slow uphill battle with various setbacks and failures.

I think of the stories of Old Testament battles. There are times that God’s people had to fight face to face with the enemy and there was blood and guts everywhere. Then there were some times where God did something and they stood on a hill and watched as the enemy was defeated.

Another problem with a wrong understanding of change in our lives is how we look at others or how they look at us. How many wives have gone to a nice Christian movie like the one I mentioned then wished their husband was like Mr. Wonderful? Or how about all the fiction written for Christian women? Mr. Wonderful in those stories is rarely like the lump they live with at home. The same thing can happen when husbands look at their wives through distorted glasses.

In our instant world, we want things to happen now. We don’t like to wait. We may feel that if we really repented then why are we going down the same road again. Or we look at a spouse, child or some other person and think the same thing.

Because of some of my feelings like that, I have a hard time saying I’m sorry. I figure I will probably do the same thing again and then the apology will ring hollow. I think all of us have had an apology thrown in our face. The accusation is that we obviously didn’t mean it. Many times, I have felt that I needed to conquer the problem before saying I’m sorry.

Another thing that got me thinking about this was something I read recently. The writer said that the church likes the victorious testimony but we don’t do very well with the unfinished one. We like to hear the story of Joe Horrible who is now Mr. Together. There isn’t much middle ground. How safe is it to tell the truth in church or in a men’s group? Many times brutal honesty is met with condescending stares, pithy advice or a trip to the woodshed.

I am a member of the Samson Society. We are a group of guys who are working to escape isolation. That isolation has kept us from others and made us feel that we are the only one with a problem like ours. We are committed to telling the truth and listening without trying to fix.

I am learning to be honest about what is going on in my life. It may be a good week or a bad one. I can speak about what is going on when I have no clue about how to fix it. My brothers will listen knowing that it’s not their job to fix it either. We are learning that we can’t fix ourselves or each other; that’s God’s job.

And here is the amazing thing. In that safe, honest environment the power of secrets is broken. There is great liberation in telling the truth and then finding I am not the only one who has felt a certain way. Others are honest with their past and present and through that, we lift each other up. We know we are not perfect and before we get it right, we will probably mess up a lot more.

I am a work in progress. My greatest desire in life is to follow and please Jesus. I am also a messed up man who has a long way to go. It’s not a bad road to be on.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Dance of Redemption

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
Psalm 51:12

My sin
Your unfailing love.
My transgression
Your great compassion.
My iniquity
Your cleansing.
My evil
Your mercy.
My sin
Your wisdom.
My iniquity
Your presence.
My transgression
Your restoration.
My sin
Your salvation.
My song
Your righteousness.
My broken heart
Your delight.
My prosperity
Your good pleasure.
Your altar
my delight.
Did you get that? The back and forth movement between us and God is like a dance. Our sin, our weakness, our need coupled with love, redemption, strength, provision and so much more from Him.

I was so moved as I read these lines over and over this week. What a wonderful God we serve. There is not a good thing that He withholds from His children.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Because of God's love, you have been invited to the dance of redemption. In the middle of the dance, what are the things that you pray for the most? Do they tend to have to do with situations and circumstances more than they have to do with struggles of the heart?
I see what it is getting at. Am I looking inside or am I concerned only with circumstances and other things on the outside? I know there are times I pray for God to work in my heart but many times I want situations changed and don’t even think about what God might want to do in me.


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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Darkness and Light

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

For I know my transgressions.
Psalm 51:3

He'd lived in the darkness for so long he didn't know that it was dark. Dark was normal, and since he'd never experienced light, dark didn't seem dark to him. It wasn't as though he woke up in the morning praying and longing for light. And it wasn't that he had to work to accept the darkness. No, darkness was all he'd ever known.
As I think back to the time before I became a Christian in 1973 I think I always knew about the light. I was raised in a Christian home so godly values were a part of my upbringing. I tried to play by the “rules”; I didn’t want to end up in hell. But many of the rules I played by were of my own version. In reality I was living in darkness.

He had no idea what he looked like because he'd never really seen himself. He thought he knew what he looked like because he'd touched his face and run his hands down his torso, but he'd never seen himself in the light. He was actually quite content in his darkened world, and he was quite happy to do what people do when they live in a dark place. He just got up every day and did what you do when you can't see. Except he didn't know that he couldn't see, because he'd never seen, because he'd always lived in darkness.
That was the darkness I lived in too. I didn’t know what my heart was really like. I thought I was a “good” person. Yet I lived an illusion. My imagination didn’t sync with reality.

Then it happened one day. He hadn't longed for it. He hadn't asked for it. It just happened. A shaft of light exploded into his world. At first it scared and confused him. He didn't know what it was and his eyes didn't seem able to take it in. All he really knew was that it was different from the darkness he'd always known.
That happened to me on October 14, 1973 and I didn’t understand it either. I was confronted by a reality I didn’t comprehend. In some way I knew that I was a sinner. I decided I would follow Jesus whatever that meant. The journey began.

He remembers well those darkened days in that darkened place. He remembers it all with a broken and a celebratory heart. And he is very aware that not only has he been cleansed and healed, he's been given the ability to see as well. And he's deeply grateful that he's been clothed with what he couldn't purchase and that deep within him has been placed the desire to be clean.
So many years later I have a better understanding of darkness and light and I find that there is a lot of darkness left in me. On a regular basis the shaft of light reappears. Sometimes it’s during prayer, sometimes from God’s Word, sometimes it’s through another person and sometimes it comes from nowhere. In that moment I am confronted – will I leave the darkness? Will I follow the light?

Here is a question from the meditation:

What changes has God brought into your life that you need to see, to remember, to celebrate, and to pursue?
I need to remember that my life has changed. Sometimes all I can see is the dark and I forget how far God has brought me. In those times I need to remember that it’s by God’s grace that I have been changed and He’s not done with me yet.

If you want to read more about my conversion, here is an earlier post:
In World but Not Of It


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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Caucus Tonight - Read this and participate

Caucus tonight. If you are in Colorado, the precinct caucus is tonight at 7pm. This is the grassroots starting place in the election season. It’s your chance to get involved and you can make a difference. If you don’t get involved tonight then don’t complain about candidates later.

Here is a link to find the Republican caucus locations:

If you are Democrat, see this link:

Here is what will happen at a typical caucus, this is Denver's Republican agenda:

Business to be conducted at the Precinct Caucus:

  -  conduct a preference poll for Governor and U.S. Senate;
  -  elect two (2) precinct committeepersons per precinct;
  -  elect delegates and alternates to the Denver County Assembly and District Assemblies; and
  -  conduct all other appropriate business associated with the Precinct Caucus.

Precinct Caucuses will generally last less than two hours (typically about an hour and a half), and you must be an Republican voter, affiliated with the Republican Party for at least two months and registered to vote in your precinct at least 30 days in order to participate.

Meetings will start promptly at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, March 16, so please arrive at least 15 minutes early.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Romans 7

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:2

I am a mass of contradictions; I don't want to be but I am.
I preach a gospel of peace, but my life isn't always driven by peace.
I talk about a Jesus who alone can fully satisfy the soul, but I am often not satisfied.
I celebrate a theology of amazing grace, but I often react in ungrace.
And if I rest in God's control, why do I seek it for myself?
Even in moments when I think I am prepared, I end up doing what I didn't want to do.
Wrong talk
Are not the fruit of the new life, are not the way of grace.
Romans 7 is my problem. I am not what I want to be. I don't do what I want to do and I do the things I don't want to do. Where is victory? I try harder but it doesn't last. I really want to change but I find myself in the same place over and over.

That battle inside me cannot be solved by
Helpful hints
I have been humbled by the war I cannot win.
I have been grieved by desires I cannot conquer.
I have been confronted by actions I cannot excuse.
And I have come to confess that what I really need is rescue.
And there is the message I need. I need to be saved from myself. I need redemption and regeneration. I need the further message of Romans 7 and into 8 that through Jesus Christ I can be set free. I accept that my own ways have failed; I await rescue.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Is there a place right now where how you live is not consistent with what you say you believe? Isn't it wonderful that you do not have to panic, hide, or be depressed? Stop and confess your inconsistency to the One who was consistent so that you could be accepted and forgiven even in your moments of greatest inconsistency.
Isn't that great! He knows what I am and who I am; He knows all my secrets; It's nothing new to Him. He waits for me to come to the end of myself - not once and forever but today. I confess again; I confess what I realize today and I am rescued - again. And bit by bit I change.


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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Butterfly Circus

You really need to watch this. An amazing story of hope and transformation. 20 minutes.

Click here for the movie.

"The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph."


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wounded Bride

A story of love and forgiveness.

Something Bigger

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. The devotional is indented.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Psalm 51:13

I have a confession to make. My confession is that I think I went for years as a Christian and didn't really understand confession. I think there's a subtle, yet significant, difference between the admission of wrong and true heart confession. Let me give you an example. Let's just say (and you know this would never happen in my marriage) that in a moment of busyness and irritation, I speak unkindly to my wife. And let's imagine that a friend overhears what I've said and comes to me and confronts me with this wrong. Now I've been caught. He heard my words; there's no way of escaping it. And so with him watching and Luella listening, I say, "You're right; I shouldn't have spoken that way. Luella, please forgive me." Now this doesn't sound so bad on the surface, but it bears examining.
What is the motive for confession? Is it to save face? Were you caught red handed and need to make peace?

As a parent, I try to teach my kids to make confession. The steps are to say: "I'm sorry for (fill in the blank), will you forgive me?" The hope is that the heart gets involved. Many times it doesn't. Sometimes it's obvious by the tone or attitude: "I'm sorry!!!"

Isn't the heart what true confession is all about? We may fool someone else but if the heart isn't right it doesn't mean a thing.

Here's the point. It's only when I'm grieved by my sin and acknowledge that this sin is heart-deep that my confession will be followed by the turning of repentance. You see, I speak unkindly to my wife not because my schedule is busy or because she's less than perfect, but because there are things that I want (such as success, control, approval) and when she gets in the way of these things, I'm immediately irritated.
It's my heart where the problem is. Some proper introspection is called for. I'll be way ahead when I admit the source of my sinful actions. The words of my confession might not change but the attitude will.

What results when you confess because you're deeply grieved by what you've done? What happens when you acknowledge that your physical sin is caused by a heart that's run amuck? The result is that you turn, really turn. What do I mean? I mean that you don't just turn away from the physical sin pattern, but your heart turns to God in new and deeper ways.
So as my heart gets involved with my confession, I am drawn closer to God.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Do the things you confess tend to be limited to wrong words and wrong actions, or do you confess to the wrong thoughts and desires that lie behind the behavior or words?
I definitely need to grow in this one.


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