Choir or Chaos?

It's Spring!.png

Typically, I’m a sucker for birdsong. There’s nothing so soothing and beautiful as a walk in the woods or a time of relaxation in my backyard while the birds serenade me with their songs of joy and contentment. I love it! But one day this week, the song was not so sweet.

As I sat in my chair trying to have my quiet time with the Lord, I noticed an agitation in my spirit. At first, I couldn’t identify its source, but as I quieted my thoughts and became more present of my surroundings, I immediately tuned in to the birdsong. It was as if every bird in my yard (and there are a lot) was singing a different song with a different tempo. Instead of blending their voices in harmony, their varied and overlapping songs created chaos. And it was that “noise” that had caused my heart to race and my mood to shift. The discord of their conflicting melodies reached my inner spirit and brought about feelings of anxiety and stress. All of that from birdsong. Who knew?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized how much those birds remind me of those of us who are believers in Christ. Sometimes, we get so caught up in doing our own thing, singing our own song, and being our own person that we forget how to unite with other believers. While the Bible calls us to be separate from the world, it does not advocate being separate from one another. But in this day and age, we’re so busy fighting over non-doctrinal issues like clothing, music styles, and whether the church carpet should be tan or blue, we’re causing discord within our ranks. Is it any wonder the world wants nothing to do with us?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing individual churches drawing away from one another. I’m sick of hearing one pastor belittle another. I’m weary of the robes of self-righteousness worn by those who claim to want to share the love of Christ. We’ve become so caught up in our standards and preferences we’re creating nothing more than a noise that is turning the lost away from the gospel. We’re so focused on being different from (aka, better than) one another that we’re becoming more like the world in that we’re filled with pride and causing strife and division. In our desire to be set apart from the world, we’re putting a bad taste in the mouth of the lost. When they look at the church and see only discord and strife, why would they want to be a part of that? I can’t say I blame them.

But what if, instead of each trying to outdo the other, we learned to get along and accept our differences? What if churches could meet together in harmony and make beautiful music that would entice the lost to come? What if we focused less on our preferences and more on the truth of God’s Word? I believe the noise would become a heavenly melody—one that would honor, glorify and please our heavenly Father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we may not agree on everything, and that’s okay. As long as we believe the Bible and hold fast to what it says (not what we think it means), we have enough in common to get along. There’s no reason for there to be strife within God’s family. There’s no justification for division among the children of God. Let us put aside our differences and seek to love one another as God would have us do. And in doing so, we’ll make beautiful music the world cannot resist!

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
— Psalm 133:1
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
— Romans 12:10,18
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
— Romans 14:19
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
— Ephesians 4:1-6

Borrowing Faith

It happened again. The past few posts have been an outpouring of some of my most embarrassing and secret struggles with trusting God when things aren’t working out the way I think they should. Whenever I feel God prompting me to open myself up like that, I balk. Who wants to publicize their spirituals battles? Not me! But it never fails that when I obey, I receive a letter, email, or message from someone telling me how much they needed to hear what I had to say. They cannot say enough about how much it means to them to know they’re not alone and not the only ones struggling with such raw emotions.

As I read in Lysa Terkeurt’s newest book this morning, I came across two quotes that made me smile, and I wanted to share them with you.

Sometimes when you can’t find your footing with your own faith, you just have to go stand on some else’s for a while.
— Lysa Terkeurst

Oh, I like that! I love the thought of being able to stand on someone else’s faith when mine is weak and wobbly. But even more so, I cherish the idea that someone might be able to stand on my faith when their own is crumbling beneath their feet. That’s what my ministry is all about. That’s why I pour my heart out in writing and share my most secret places with my readers—so they can know they’re not alone. And if something I say gives them enough hope to stand upon my faith while they’re working to repair their own, I say, “Praise the Lord!” This leads me to Lysa’s second statement:

When you make one other human simply see they aren’t alone, you make the world a better place.
— Lysa Terkeurst

I believe that. I know what a joy it is for me to read through a fellow Christian’s struggle and realize they’ve put into words what I hadn’t been able to. They were describing my feelings exactly, like they’d been shadowing me and reading my thoughts. And at that moment, though I mourn for them in their struggles, I find comfort in knowing it’s not just me. There’s peace in discovering I’m not the only Christian who argues with God or doubts His goodness from time to time.

To be honest, I have no idea where I’m going with this. I guess I want to remind you, first off, that you’re not alone. We all go through stuff, and some of it is downright ugly. Welcome to life! But I think I’d also like to urge you to be open with others. Don’t be afraid to share your struggles. Your honesty may be exactly what someone else needs today.  

If you’re in a place where you feel your faith is crumbling from beneath you, I would be happy to let you borrow mine. I won’t say it’s the greatest or most secure faith, but I think it’s strong enough to hold us both while yours is under repair. You’ll get through this—whatever “this” is, and God will make something beautiful from it. Trust in Him. He never fails.

Seeking Great Things

Love and compassion urged Jesus forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back..png

In yesterday’s devotion, I laid my heart bare about my current season of life and how I found peace in learning some new things about having joy in the journey. If you didn’t get the chance to read it, I urge you to do so because, in today’s devotion, I want to pick up where I left off and share with you a couple of other Bible passages the Lord has used to encourage my heart. Let’s begin in the book of Jeremiah.

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
— Jeremiah 45:1-5

As you can see from this chapter, Baruch had an “I” problem. Woe is me. My grief. My sorrow. I fainted. My sighing. I have no rest. Poor pitiful me! Unfortunately, I hear my own cries and complaints echoing in my ears, so truth be told, I’m no better than Baruch. I’ve been so wrapped up in my personal disappointment and discontentment that I’ve failed to see the needs of those around me. As the Lord put it in the passage above, I’ve been seeking great things for myself. “Who cares about anyone else? So what if people are lost and going to hell? I’m not happy with the way things are going. Poor pitiful me!”  I cringe as I type these words. Though these thoughts have not been in the forefront of my mind, they’ve been there nonetheless as has been proven by my actions and my self-consuming prayers. God, forgive me!

Before I go any further, let me say I truly believe God wants to bless us. He gives us far, far more than we deserve. But God never promised us a happy life. He never assured us we’d never suffer or feel disappointment or grief. In fact, He promised just the opposite (John 16:33). The point I want to get across is, God is not cruel. Life is hard because we live in a sin-cursed world. It’s not God’s fault. It’s ours. But despite that, God goes above and beyond to provide for our needs and even many of our wants because He’s a good, loving Father.

That being said, we saw in yesterday’s devotion how even Jesus became fearful and overwhelmed at the prospect of His crucifixion and all that it entailed. While He was willing to do His Father’s will, He wasn’t exactly happy about the circumstances. It wasn’t a joyful season of life to experience.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

This is a familiar verse, but don’t overlook the words used to describe Jesus’ emotional state. He endured the cross. He despised the shame. Endured and despised. Boy, can I relate to those words? I’ve been enduring a lot lately—going through the motions of doing what needs to be done and trying my best to do so with a good attitude. And I’ve despised the person I’ve become through this season. Cautious. Critical. Cynical. That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be.  

But I want you to notice another phrase within that verse: “for the joy that was set before him.” Not the joy He was experiencing by obeying the Father. Not the joy He felt at laying down His life and suffering agony on the cross. Not the joy of being a good Son. It wasn’t a present joy; it was a joy to come. The joy of defeating Death and Hell. The joy of holding up the keys of Hell in victory. The joy of being reunited with His Father. And last, but certainly not least, the joy of living in eternity with us.

Unlike Baruch, Jesus wasn’t seeking great things for Himself. He was seeking great things for us.  Jesus wasn’t so consumed with His own suffering that He turned His back on others. Instead, He used that love and compassion to keep Him moving forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back. He envisioned a brighter day—not for Him, but for us, and that vision gave Him the strength to suffer. Yes, He endured. Yes, He despised. But in the end, He rejoiced, and He will continue to rejoice.

Lord, please help me be more like Jesus and less like Baruch. No matter how difficult the season or how weary I become, please help me keep my focus on others and not myself. Let my love and compassion for them drive me to obedience and surrender. And help me remember there is a brighter day coming!