Boo You

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Have you ever jumped at your own reflection in a mirror?

It’s kind of funny when a puppy does it, not so much when it’s you.

The whole notion of scaring yourself seems impossible–to be both the frightener and the frightenee at the same time.

But it happens.  And not just when you catch your reflection across the room.

Sometimes we can freak ourselves out by assuming the worst about things:  “Somebody has stolen my wallet!  Somebody has—oh, here it is.”

Sometimes we scare ourselves by looking up strange symptoms on Web MD, or by reading too many negative Facebook statuses.

And sometimes we scare ourselves into thinking we are utterly alone in the universe.  That there is no God.

Ever do that?  It can happen.

It’s like Belief is one side of the coin and Doubt is the other, and if we get flipped the wrong way…

BOO!

It’s okay, you know, to have doubts and to wonder.  It’s okay to ask “what if?” about difficult faith questions.

But when you start to freak out about the existence of God, I recommend reading Psalm 139.

Here, I’ve copied it below.  Read it slowly:

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

– – –

Okay, verses 19-22 are kind of extreme, but read verse 23 again:

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Maybe this Psalm was written by someone who had been scaring themselves about God, but found a way to “flip” things back into a faithful perspective.

Perhaps these words could help you the next time you freak yourself out, or you could take a few moments to simply put into words what your faith tells you.

It may not be poetry,

but you never know what can happen when you paws to reflect.

Have a good week,

Mitch

 inqDog2

Will we ever be free of evil?

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You’ll never get to read the devotion I just wrote about evil.

Because I erased it.

I called out Isis.

I lamented the 939 hate groups in the U.S.

And the 747,000 registered sex offenders.

I listed all the evil I could think of, and then thought of more.

I made such a convincing case for the prevalence of evil in this world, that my insides turned cold.

I seized up, recognizing that there is evil, too, in my own heart.

And I held all of that evil in the palm of one hand,

and in the other hand, I held the Lord’s prayer.

Remember, the prayer Jesus taught us to say?

Phrases like, “Deliver us from evil”

and “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”

and then I stopped writing.

3 questions entered my mind, at that point:

1.  Are we humans powerless over evil?
2.  Will this world ever truly be free from evil?
3.  What is God waiting for?

And I had a moment of doubt.

* * *

But not anymore.

That devotion you’ll never read?  It was missing something entirely crucial in a devotion.

Namely:  DEVOTION!

Once I realized that, everything inside me changed.

My devotion to Christ points to all the ways I have been “delivered from evil”.
My devotion to God reveals the promise of God’s Kingdom come, and God’s will being done.
My devotion to the Holy Spirit helps me respond to God’s invitation to put Love into action.

Devotion is not just a heady spiritual response.

It is a lived, passionate response.

And so, here’s my mine:

I do not doubt the presence of evil in this world, but I am a child of God.
I am tapped into a power greater than any evil could ever touch.
And I testify to that power, and rejoice over it, and strive to wield it on behalf of the God of Love who is coming into this world.

There. Yes.

That’s much better.

Now, my writing for this week is concluded…

but my devotion continues on.

Have a great week,

 

Mitch

 

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Blocking God

…for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  -James 1:8

“Thank you for waiting”,  James smiles thinly.

“I have a little survey for you to fill out.  Please use a #2 pencil.

“Question #1.   Do you have any doubts, as far as your faith is concerned?  Ever wonder about the miracles Jesus performed, or if there’s a Heaven, or if God hears you when your pray?   Hmm.  Okay, that’s interesting…

“Question #2.  Are you single-minded in purpose?  Do you always know exactly what you want, where you’re going, and what you believe?  In other words, are you 100% focused?   Aha.  Let me just write down a few notes here…

“Question #3.  Are you dependable, rock-solid in your faith, and totally devoid of neuroses?   Okay.  As I suspected.

“I’m terribly sorry, but you do not appear to qualify for any assistance from God.  You’re just too much of a doubter, too double-minded, and thoroughly unstable.   Maybe you can try back in six months.”

—-

Yep.  That’s how I picture an encounter with James happening.  I mean, wow, those are some pretty tough criteria in the scripture above.  Could you meet those criteria?  Could anyone?  I picture James sitting behind a window with a big ole’ rubber stamp that says ‘denied’.   He has a little fake sad smile for you as he looks at the person behind you in line.  “Next!”

Wow.  Is James really that tough on who gets some assistance from God?   Well, it says it right there in the Bible, folks who don’t meet the requirements  “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

Oh wait…I just realized something.  James is talking about what you and I will receive from God.  Not what God is transmitting to us.   See the difference?   James is saying there’s nothing wrong with God — God wants to give us Love, Hope, Faith, Patience, etc.   The problem is on our end, with our receivers.  

It turns out this isn’t some restrictive list James made up to keep people from getting God’s Good Stuff.  It’s a list of the conditions we humans find ourselves in that make it hard for us to receive it.

Sometimes, try as we might, we let our doubt get the best of us.  Instead of letting faith light our way, we gum up the works with too many questions, too much uncertainty.   When we give in to doubt, we’re blocking God.

And other times, we get distracted.  We become double, or triple, or quadruple-minded.   We’re thinking about the bills, troubles at work, and the argument we had with a friend.  When we become unfocused like that, we’re blocking God.

And at other times, well, we’re an unstable mess.   We can’t think clearly.   Can’t make good decisions.  We feel like we’ve let the walls of our lives come crumbling in around us.  When we’re unstable, we’re blocking God.

James is merely saying, “Push through that!”

Easier said than done, right?  Actually, James knows that.  He’s here to help.  Here’s what he has to say in verses 2-4

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

James isn’t some disinterested nay-sayer.  Quite the contrary.  He’s reminding us that tough times met head-on with faith produces endurance and wisdom.  You may go through hard times when your life threatens to block God from reaching you, but hold on to your faith.   Consider it joy that your faith will sustain you and help you grow!

That is Good News, indeed.   Something I know I’ll try to remember.

Thanks, James.   If you were here I know you’d say,

“You’re entirely welcome.”   And then you’d say…

“Next?”

Have a Great Week,

Mitch