Would you like to surprise God? It sounds like it might be fun, but, sorry — you can’t. He already knows the past, present, and future simultaneously. And frankly, it’s better for us that He does. Though it means our lives have never surprised Him, it also means we’ve never disappointed Him either. God lives with complete understanding of our past, an absolute acceptance of our present, and a captivating hope for our future. Sure, we can’t surprise someone who knows everything, but we can’t disappoint someone who loves unconditionally either. One of the most comforting scriptures of all time says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17) What’s better than surprising God? Trusting Him, no matter what’s happening to you. That might be the most surprising adventure of all.
The Myth of “Justifiable Hatred”
I’m always amazed at how each generation rewrites its own history, inventing a “new” right and wrong. And how deeply they cling to their assumptions, as if the obvious is now, at last, evident for all clear thinking, morally advanced people to embrace. A current myth trending is that you’re allowed to hate; but only if you’re really right, and the wrong you’re hating merits being destroyed. I call it the “Myth of Justifiable Hatred.” We’re not the first generation to buy into its lie. Demagogues and dictators have peddled the deception since the serpent coined it in the Garden. Funny! Jesus didn’t catch the revelation. He said that we should even love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), not hate them. Sure, it’s a lot harder to do, but in the end, it’s what He did for us, and now it’s our turn to pass it on.
I was talking with a teenage girl once who had a wristband on that intrigued me. I asked what it was about, and she said somewhat haltingly, “It’s about supporting the government; you know, pro-state.” Hmm? Asking to see it a little closer, I read the words “Healing Your Prostate.” I didn’t want to embarrass her, but thought it would be kinder to tell her, “I think it’s referring healing prostate cancer.” She was a great sport, and we had a good laugh, but as I reflect on it, it reminds me of the beliefs people walk around with that would be funny, if they weren’t so sad. I don’t want to stand before God and find out I’ve believed something that is patently absurd. Just because something is presented as truth doesn’t mean it is. Check it with the final truth standard, God’s Word, and in the end you’ll never be embarrassed believing it.
“We Want Justice!”
One of the prevailing cries being passionately proclaimed on Earth is, “We want justice!” It covers a long list of grievances: from civil rights to equal rights. Some of the issues being championed are completely valid and demand attention and change, while others are significant departures from God’s best for His creation. But take heart! Even if you can’t get justice on Earth, don’t be discouraged. God promises equity in eternity! There, at last, the scales of justice will be balanced and fair. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham asks God, “Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25, NLT) The answer to the question is beyond comforting. In eternity, we will receive infinitely more than we deserve from a benevolent and generous Creator.
The Lost Fruit
Did you know that there is a lost fruit of the Spirit? Well, not exactly lost…just under-utilized. It’s as important a fruit as the others we talk more about: the love, joy, and peace God so freely gives us. But, this fruit is often hidden and obscure. Primarily, because it runs cross-grain to our American way of life: our over-abundant, over-indulgent, pleasure-seeking culture. It’s the fruit of the Spirit: self-control. Obesity is epidemic; pornography makes billions, and we are entertaining ourselves to death. We cast off restraint left and right, and consequently, our souls and spirits are crying out, frankly, not just for more love, joy and peace, but for the lost fruit: self-control. Perhaps, the only fruit of the Spirit that can rescue us from ourselves. God help us! Give us Your fruit: self-control!
I Am the Project
I’ve worked on many projects for God in my lifetime. Some have been completed, others have not. But once, when I had given myself to a task that wasn’t seeming to work out, I was frustrated and whining to God about why it was so difficult to complete an assignment — the project — He had given me. Out of the blue, the Lord spoke to my heart: “You are the project!” It was a lightning-bolt revelation. I’m fixated on some “thing” I think is really important, and God gives me a reality check and says, “Francis, you are the project. You’ve always been the project. Everything else is just details.” WOW! I think I’m doing something “BIG” for God, and He reminds me of what is “REALLY BIG” to Him. It is always…ALWAYS… US!
Over-reacting and Under-reacting
We live in a world where all-too-often we tend to overreact when something goes wrong and under-react when we need to do something right. We miss the mark by doing more or less than God asks us to. So, how do we dial in and hit the bulls-eye of God’s best for us? It will take caring more about protecting God’s reputation than our own. Refusing to bow to fear or self-preservation is perhaps the only way to responding appropriately to God’s will. To embrace the precise requests He asks of us without modifying them for convenience or scrapping them completely because we think we know better. I am so tired of missing the mark, and so desperate to finish well that I want to do exactly what He asks me to do…no more and no less. I’d make a lousy God!
In my nearly-half century of following Jesus, I believe the greatest stumbling block to people serving God is being offended. Jesus even had to encourage John the Baptist to not be offended. So, the issue of offense affects all of us. The Bible says offenses will come. Unresolved offenses are a breeding ground for bitterness. That’s also why the Bible says, “I fear lest a root of bitterness spring up and many will be the defiled.” Learn to forgive those who have offended you by seeing their need, and not fixating on their offense. All of us will be offended, and at times offend others, but if we commit to forgiving and asking forgiveness, we can finish our days with no offense in our heart toward anyone, just as Jesus modeled so beautifully for each of us on the Cross.
Cultural vs. Kingdom Compassion
There’s a funny word that people are doing a lot. It’s called bloviating. It means “to talk at length in an inflated or empty way.” People bloviate about all kinds of things: their accomplishments, their beliefs, and why they are so right about something. But what is most mystifying is when they bloviate about their compassion. There’s an eternal difference between cultural compassion, which is here today and gone tomorrow, and Kingdom compassion, which is birthed in the heart of God and lasts forever. The Bible says, “When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36, NLT) Jesus is still compassionate about our confusion and helplessness. But the only way He can help us is if we admit we are confused in our thinking and helpless without Him.
Paying-It-Forward at a Drive-Thru
A woman I met cares for a boy who is severely autistic and has dozens of seizures every day, some of them violent. To say the least, her job wears on her a great deal. One day, as she was going to work, she stopped for coffee at a drive-thru. Frankly, she was not looking forward to her job that day. When she reached the window and was told that the person ahead of her had paid $4 forward for her drink, this simple act of kindness changed her whole outlook and even her entire day. She said, “I actually couldn’t believe it. It set me free!” It meant more to her than if she had found a $50 bill on the street. What an amazing life-lesson! What simple act of kindness can you and I do that could actually make someone’s day?
God can intercept a life in the most miraculous way! One of my wife’s bridesmaids recently recounted to me her salvation. She had walked into our natural food store during the Jesus Movement in 1973 and was encouraged by our pastor to receive Jesus, which she did. A couple of days later as her car was giving her problems while she was driving, she noticed she had no need to take God’s name in vain, because her heart had been changed. Pulling into a country store in the middle of nowhere, she was approached by members of our Christian community who offered her assistance. Once again, God encouraged her commitment to Him. Now, decades later, she is happily married to one of the Christian men she met that first day in the natural food store. Are you still grateful for God rescuing you?
The other night I was going for a walk with my wife, when we ran into our daughter and her husband who live around the corner. In passing, she mentioned that as she was driving out of her housing complex onto the street that morning, she inadvertently cut a woman off. Though there was no ill will intended on our daughter’s part, and she pulled over to let the woman by, she was shocked that as the woman drove past she held up the international hand signal of displeasure. It bothered our daughter so much that, now, many hours later, she mentioned it to us. We encouraged her, of course, but were left with the stale taste of feeling degraded. What if we became an affirmation-nation, instead of a degradation-nation? Wouldn’t that make it a wonderful place to live?