Sunday, March 15, 2020

If someone says, “Jesus makes me happy all the time,” they have probably only been a follower of Jesus for a short time. Don’t get me wrong. I have found deep joy in following Jesus. Sometimes that joy looks like laughing, smiling happiness. But sometimes, though I feel joy, it is mixed together with the strain of circumstances or the anguish of being attacked by another. 

In the Good Book, an older follower of Jesus says to a young protege, “Everyone who wants to live seriously spiritual life in Jesus Christ will be opposed and attacked” (2 Timothy 3:12). Everyone. The “normal” Christian life is joy among sorrow, peace amidst persecution. If you want to follow Jesus, it will be a long, hard road. Full of inner peace, yes, peace that defies explanation. BUT, with side swipes, back stabbing, and full head-on collisions from the darndest people at the most inopportune times. 

The encouraging news is “the Lord [will rescue] me from all of them!” (2 Timothy 3:11). Like salmon against the current, following Jesus can feel like a grind. But “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 3:10).

Sunday, March 8, 2020

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:1-3).
Knowing God means learning to let go of your inner control freak. None of us likes "losing control." But, if we are ever to get over our self-importance and self-centeredness, we have to get over our heads and learn that truly, deeply, really, God is in charge. Every ridable horse must be "broken." Everyone who wants to walk with God in a deep way must be broken. The path to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God involves breaking, surrender and yielded-ness.
Charles Spurgeon puts it, “It is not a curious thing that, whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first?” This is the example of Jesus and his followers, and the witness of the spiritual greats who have walked the face of the earth. To yield to God’s purposes, we must have our wills broken and tamed. 
Spurgeon continues: “Have none of you ever noticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement, and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? That is His usual way of working; He makes you hungry before He feeds you; He strips you before He robes you; He makes nothing of you before He makes something of you. This was the way with David. He is to be King in Jerusalem; but he must go to the throne by the way of the cave. Now, are any of you here going to heaven, or going to a more heavenly state of sanctification, or going to a greater sphere of usefulness: Do not wonder if you go by the way of the cave.”
Breaking is part of the deal, and its fruit is more intimate relationship with God, more faithful obedience and clearer understanding of the deep truths of God’s Word. It doesn’t hurt any less when we realize this, but at least we can then receive what God is doing because it frees us from bondage, and makes us more like Jesus.
In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian wades into the River of Death, his last obstacle to cross on his way to Celestial City. As he goes in he cries out to Hopeful, “Help! I sink in troubled waters! All his billows go over me!” Hopeful calmly replies, “I feel the bottom, and it is good.”