I am not a morning person. And that is putting it mildly. My ideal sleep schedule would be 1am until 9:30am, because I prefer to stay up late, and I love sleeping in. I love the coolness and darkness of our bedroom, the warmth of being curled up in the bedcovers, and spooning with my wife. I love the slow wake-up, and groggily heading downstairs in my PJs to begin a pour-over of True-Stone Peru roast with raw sugar and cream. Pulling up a chair in the fireplace room and spending time in the Holy Scriptures, and talking with the Father in the name of the Son with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. At a leisurely pace. So that the rest of the day would start somewhere around 11:30am.
Somehow, about a year ago, I joined a discipleship group that meets every couple of weeks, early in the morning. Which means that every time we meet, I don’t want to get up and be part of it, but every time we do, I can’t believe how great it is. I think a great deal of discipleship probably works that way.
One of the things that being a part of community like this has reminded me is how much I need other people in my life who will speak truth to me when I seem to be doing nothing but listening to the lies of my flesh and the Evil One. Which is exactly what happened recently at one of our meetings. One of the men shared this with me, and us, among a host of other comments, and it hit me like a thunderclap.
God has no mixed feelings about you whatsoever.
Ok, stop. Stop, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Busyness, rushing through this little post and on to the next thing in your stuffed-to-the-rafters schedule.
Take a look at that sentence again.
Let it soak in.
Say it for yourself, preferably out loud,
God has no mixed feelings about me whatsoever.
It strikes me that I don’t functionally live or think that way. I look at me and see plenty of reason for skepticism and disappointment. I see all kinds of areas for improvement. I’d like to submit my person to Chip and Joanna and their Fixer Upper program and see what they could do with this old house that is in need of some serious repair.
You see, I am filled with mixed feelings about me. But God looks at me, as a follower of Jesus, as his adopted child, and has no mixed feelings whatsoever.
His love is steadfast,
“Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…” (Ex 34:6)
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him…” (Deut 7:9)
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Ch 16:34)
“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Ps 25:10)
“…steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” (Ps 32:10)
“The steadfast love of God endures all the day.” (Ps 52:1)
“Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.” (Ps 63:3)
“For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you…” (Is 54:10)
and his mercy is neverending.
“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!” (Ps 40:11)
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.” (La 3:22–23)
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life…” (Ps 23:6)
“…God, being rich in mercy…” (Eph 2:4)
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy…” (Heb 4:16)
“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” (2 Jn 3)
He delights in me, takes joy in me, loves me, sings songs over me.
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zep 3:17)
He has grace on top of grace to heap upon me. (Eph 2:7)
He is happy about who I am and that I am part of his family. (1Pet 2:9-10)
He placed me on mission and is ready to celebrate what he will do through me for the sake of his kingdom. (Luke 15:1-32)
He’s guaranteed me he is going to keep me around forever. (John 10:1-42)
I hope you (and I) are getting the point. On and on we could go through the Holy Scriptures, mining them for all the encouragement that is there supporting the truth that God has no mixed feelings about you or I, as followers of Jesus, and his children, whatsoever.
Part of what makes us feel like God (or anyone) has mixed feelings about us is because we look at our incompleteness and deficiency, and merely see someone who just can’t seem to get their act together. But we are not defined by our doing and performance and a perfectly executed “act.” Jared Wilson has recently written a whole book about that, which is saturated and dripping with grace for people who can’t get their act together. From his conclusion:
What I’m trying to say is this: you are not your quiet time.
Okay, day to day, you kind of are your Bible reading. The spiritual disciplines—the rhythms of the kingdom—do shape us and help us become more of what Jesus is making us through them. But in the end, you are not your quiet time.
You are not your cruddy prayer life. Prayer is vital and necessary. When you pray, you strip your soul down to your proper proportion, helpless and needy and desperate. Prayer of all kinds is basically confessed need of God. It is an expression of our un-God-ness and God’s total God-ness. But in the end, you are not your prayers. Jesus is meditating for you and the Spirit is interceding for you, making up for all your prayerlessness.
You are not your standing before people.
You are not your past.
You are not the accumulation of harsh words from others and negative self-talk.
You are not even your sin, as primary and as serious as that problem is.
I’m not trying to affirm your sense of goodness. I’m doing the opposite, in fact.
I want to, by God’s grace, give you the freedom to own up to your not having your act together. I wrote this book for all who are tired of being tired. I wrote this book for all who read the typical discipleship manuals and wonder who they could possibly be written for, the ones that make us feel overly burdened and overly tasked and, because of all that, overly shamed.
You are not your ability to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
You are not the sum of your spiritual accomplishments and religious devotion.
You are a great sinner, yes. But you have a great Savior.
Child of God, you are a child of God. And he will never, ever, ever, leave you or forsake you.
(from The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together, by Jared Wilson, pgs. 229-230)
AND, HE HAS NO MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT YOU WHATSOEVER.
The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together, by Jared Wilson is available at the Calvary resource table.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.