Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reboot Your Brain

Our favorite duo knew the photograph was key to solving the murder investigation, but the pieces weren’t fitting together. 

“What are we missing in this photo?” They knew the victim had been killed and the photo stolen to protect the murderer’s identity. But the person in the photo wasn’t the killer as they first assumed. “Then why,” they asked, “is this photo so important?” 

It turned out it was not the subject of the photo that incriminated the killer. Instead, it was an incriminating location, which in turn, revealed the murderer. It wasn’t until they got a new perspective on the evidence that they were able to solve the case. They had to reboot their brains to change their mindset. 

That’s exactly what we need in order to identify the killer in our midst. We ask, “Why do I keep doing the things I don’t want to do? The things that bring me heartache and trouble, and ruin my relationships.” We’re trying to solve this mystery from the wrong perspective. We tend to focus on the behavior in the foreground of our lives, assuming it’s the guilty party for our misery. All the while the clue to the cause of death is the incriminating location—death begins in our mindset. 

Romans 8:5-6 explains, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

It’s not that we mean to bring death on ourselves; it’s the natural result of our sin nature. But when we give ourselves over to the leadership of God’s Spirit, He gives us a new mind—one filled with life and peace. 

The sinful nature sees the thorns; the Spirit reveals the flowers. The sinful nature complains about the steepness of the climb; the Spirit-filled mind rejoices in the view from the top. The sinful nature whines about discomfort, trials, pain, rejection; the mind controlled by the Spirit anticipates the eternal rewards of living in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’ve been memorizing these verses because I need to internalize this concept and reboot my mind daily. If the choice is death on one side, and life and peace on the other, I’m going to choose Door Number Two—Life and Peace!

How do we do that? Here’s a tool that helps me tremendously. When I realize I’m focusing on problems and killing myself with negative, defeating thoughts, I use Philippians 4:8 as a template. These questions give me a new focus and reboot my mind according to God’s Holy Spirit:

What is the truth about God, me, or this situation?
What or who do I see that is noble (honorable, decent, worthy)?
What is right according to God’s Word?
What is pure (untainted, wholesome, clean) in this?
Who or what is speaking or acting in lovely or admirable ways?
What can I praise God for that is excellent or praiseworthy?

This solves the mystery. And if we consistently put this into practice, the God of peace will be with us, and fill us with life and peace.

#thinkpositive #murdermystery #getanewmind #lifeandpeace #rom8:5-6 #phil4:8

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Mother Heart of God

Yesterday we celebrated Mother’s Day, which brings a full range of emotions for all. Some of you were delighted to honor your mom and remember all the love and wonder she brought or brings to your life. Others of you struggled to say anything good about your mom, who was not there for you. She may have even brought pain and suffering into your life. 
Many of you moms were delighted to be honored and pampered, and received cards, gifts, and love galore. Others of you were disappointed, forgotten or ignored, or even railed at. Some of you have empty arms that ached to have children but did not, or had a child who left this world too early. Perhaps Mother’s Day is your hardest day of the year.

I rejoice with those of you who celebrated with a full heart yesterday. I grieve with those of you who are still raw from the pain. For all of us, no matter where we fall in the spectrum, there is good news. 

God is both our perfect Father and Mother. Created in His image, we are male and female—two complimentary genders to make up the perfect and complex character of God. I have no desire to change the male pronouns for God throughout the Bible. But I would like to point out how perfectly He fills our need for the nurturing, gentle hand moms can bring, as well as the provider, protector, and strength of dads.

Before anyone, including our own mothers, knew what we looked like or what our personality would be, God delighted over us in the womb. He thought about us like an excited first time mom thinks constantly about the baby growing inside her. He saw each movement, watched our growth; He designed every cell and dimple and quirky personality. He loved us!

 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. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you. (Psa. 139:15-18)

God is like a playful mom—smiling, teasing, singing, wiping away the tears and bumps life so readily hands out.

You will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem. (Isa. 66:12-13)

The Mother-Heart of God wants a relationship with us like the bond a toddler has with her mommy. Past the demanding need for nursing, yet attached and comforted by her mother’s warmth and presence. Leaning in to her embrace. 

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Psalm 131:2)
photo by Selaphotography

photo by Selaphotography

When we pull away from God, it tears at His heart, just as surely as a mother grieves when her children refuse to let her protect them from harm. Jesus expressed the grief He feels when His children turn away from the love and forgiveness He offers.

How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34)

Even worse, is the defiant child who turns his back on Mom—running away, calling her names, blaming her for the trouble he has brought on himself. God feels the same ache when His children rebel and leave Him behind.

“I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—a people who continually provoke me to my very face.” (Isa. 65:2-3)

And yet, like so many mothers we know who remain constant and tenacious in hope for their child’s return, so is God in His love for us. He cannot forget us—He bears the mark of His love on His hands.

 “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” (Isa. 49:14-16)

To all you mothers and all you children, may God enfold you in His loving embrace today.

#mothersday #areyoumymother #hatemothersday #abandoned #emptyarms

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lies from a Friend

It must be stamped on my forehead. I hope it’s not permanently tattooed, because I’d like to have it removed! Somehow, only visible to those who know what to look for, it must say, “Lie to me; I like it. I’ll believe whatever you tell me; I’m gullible.” I realize that’s a lot to squeeze on one forehead—my head’s not that big. But there’s got to be something there, because I continue to believe people when I shouldn’t. 

I’m embarrassed that I trusted yet again; angry at the one who willfully deceived me. And I ache for all those who were hurt by their lies, as well as for the one practicing deception. I keep asking why? Pretending to be what they were not. Making promises they had no intention of keeping. They had to keep all their stories straight as the web increased in complexity and eventually strangled them. The one who lies is the sorriest victim of all.

It’s a sad fact that some people lie and should not be trusted, but I’m not suspicious by nature. It’s taken me longer than some to figure this out. You think I’d develop wariness, a cynical attitude, after the first time or two. But I don’t want to become hardened to people and those in genuine need.

When He sent His disciples out with the Good News about God’s kingdom, Jesus warned, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). What does that mean for us today? 

I have definitely encountered a few wolves in sheep’s clothing! Haven’t you?  Wolves are intentional about the harm they do. It’s good to be aware they are out there—in the world as well as in the church. They pose as one of the flock to get whatever fleece or meat they can gulp down before they’re discovered and have to make a run for it. Despite the danger, I’d much rather enjoy the life of a sheep under the care of the Shepherd, than live the precarious life of a wolf.

 Snakes are pretty clever. The Bible describes them as craftier than any of the wild animals God made (Gen. 3:1). Jesus wants us to put that cleverness to work for good. Being a disciple of Jesus shouldn’t be equated with stupidity. We need to live in the world with our eyes and ears open, testing every supposed truth against the Word of God, and be wary of letting our emotions (or hormones) choose for us.

Doves, on the other hand, are symbolic of purity, innocence, sacrifice, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All of which are qualities which should be displayed in God’s people.

What do you get with you put them all together?

a     a. A fleece-covered bird with a long neck
b     b. A snake with wings that says “Baa!”
.          c. A smart but innocent sheep with a forked tongue
d     d. A person who lives in the world, but is not fooled by its version of wisdom or lured into evil

I want to be wise to the lies of the Deceiver and expose his trickery, but not hardened to those who’ve been deceived themselves. I want to spend my time, money, energy, and mind in the pursuit of the Mission—to love and care for people, point them to Jesus Christ, and help them learn His ways. Sometimes that means getting hurt. So be it. The rewards are worth the wounds. And there is wisdom to be gained along the way.

#wolfinsheepsclothing #deceived #whocanItrust #toogullible #wiseasserpentsinnocentasdoves