“I don’t need ‘personal revival’.” That honestly was my first thought while recently reading I Saw the Lord by Ann Graham Lotz. And almost as quickly at that self-satisfied, smirky thought came, the conviction that I was wrong settled in my spirit.
No matter how deeply any of us feels we know God – there is still more God desires to show us. C.S. Lewis described this reality in The Last Battle with the phrase, “Further up and further in.” Regardless of how well we think we know the Bible, the Holy Spirit is still patiently waiting to take us further up and further in. No matter how consistent and personal our prayer life, the Lord plans to move us further up and further in. Even when we believe we are fully obeying Christ – there is still more Jesus desires to accomplish through us going further up and further in.
There is still more, always.
And when you or I become complacent, arrogant, or distracted, it doesn’t mean God is satisfied and doesn’t have more for us. It merely means we are missing out because He has more.
Oh Lord, that I may know you and the power of Your resurrection, the fellowship of Your sufferings, and be conformed to Your death! Will You take me there? (Philippians 3:7-11)
The semester after I graduated from high school, I found a drop cloth in the garage and painted a world map on it. My brother and his family still have it.
The problem is that my map is outdated. No South Sudan. No Kosovo or Serbia. No Montenegro. Even though we can all think of new countries or countries who have changed their names, we still think of the world’s geography as being final, set in place.
But God’s geography is truly unchanging.
Point at something. It’s His.
Think of something in your life. It’s His.
God’s map is simple: It merely says, “Mine.”
Everyone knows: All grapefruit is ugly. If you stop at the skin, grapefruit is a puckered, warty, mustard-colored sponge blob.
But last week I sliced it open and found out that some grapefruit is also ugly on the inside. This particular grapefruit was a disproportionate amount of white, bitter flesh and a minuscule amount of fruit – that appeared dry. Staring at it, I resigned myself to eating it, an ugly, dry, shrunken masquerade of a grapefruit.
And then I tasted it. Wow! What flavor, sweet and tangy, not bitter.
How often, I thought, do we look at the situations of life and stop at the obvious. God, that’s hard and ugly. I don’t want it. Illness. Death. Loss of a job. Strife in a relationship.
We regularly just resign ourselves to our circumstances. We look to God, hands on hips and say: Just get me through this until you have something good to give me. Cure this sickness. Make the pain go away. Provide a better job, with more money.
And most of us stop there. But it’s only when we stop and taste and see that the Lord is good do we experience the sweetness of what He desires for us in those ugly seasons of life. Comfort by His Spirit. Wisdom through our struggles. Healing in our pain. Hope by the proving of His promises.
Even in the terrible parts of life, our God is good. He knows the tearing of a parent’s heart. The crushing of a world scarred by sin. The confusion of being betrayed. He understands suffering and still He works through it to bring good for His children.
Think about that next time you see a grapefruit.
Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? -- Luke 14:34
Look out across Utah's Salt Flats -- plenty of salt, but what good does it do? Salt that just stays on the flats can't season my cake or your casserole. As long as the salt is all in one spot, it can't preserve your pickles or my olives. It can't do what it is supposed to do because that salt is somewhere it can't be used.
If we are the salt, are we where God can use us?
Are we spiritually maturing so He can teach through us? Or are we stuck in a sin that keeps us from fulfilling our purpose?
Are we seeking Him so we can serve in the strength He provides? Or are we grinding it out in our own effort and ignoring the One Who makes us able?
Are we living out the faith of Jesus Christ for our neighbors? Our co-workers? Or are we pretending at church and hiding in the world?
We are the salt. Together, we fulfill our purpose when each of us is fulfilling God's calling as individuals to be salt. And salt is good.
The Salt Flats may be unable to absorb water, but the water still comes. Every season, the rains descend and snows come trying to bring life back to that desolate wilderness. In some areas, it floods from the sheer amount of life-giving water. And yet...nothing grows. Nothing.
In many ways our country reminds me of Utah’s Salt Flats. It’s drowning in spiritual water and yet it’s bone dry. Bibles galore. Solid Christian teaching available in droves online. Our presses kick out thousands of solid Christian books. Churches, now sometimes vacant, on every street corner. We are drowning, and yet we are bone dry, a desert under the floods. Many will argue how it happened – but few argue did not occur.
The Salt Flats need a miracle. To be fruitful, they would need to be fundamentally changed from the inside out. Our country needs a miracle and to be fundamentally changed from the heart-side out. And just as we cannot expect orchards to grow on the Salt Flats, we cannot expect non-Christians to believe or act like Christ followers.
This why the solution is not policies or judges or politicians. Nor is in resignation, apathy, or isolation. The solution is Christ – the Miracle Worker. So keep asking Him for a miracle. Keep pouring on the Water. All mankind was once a salt flat – you and me included -- but God is able to transform a salt flat into a garden.
A barren beauty. The Salt Flats in western Utah are fascinating. Miles of white, smooth ground, unbroken by rock or tree or bush (just occasional manmade structure – like a sea monster of tires painted green). One may be tempted to think, “This plain clearly gets no water and that causes it’s beautiful baldness.” But the truth is the Salt Flats get a fair amount of water (for the desert).
So why are the Salt Flats barren? The soil is bad. It cannot absorb water. Rain and snow melt just puddle on the surface and never penetrate that hard, depleted crust. Regardless of the amount of water, the soil is not prepared to receive water or seed or nutrients. It cannot do what it is meant to do.
And as I peered out over the sad, dry reaches of those Salt Flats, I wondered: What parts of my life (or heart) have the potential to bear fruit for Christ, but are barren because my soil is unprepared to receive the Living Water of Christ? Has unforgiveness hardened some areas? Maybe pride is sealing up other parts? Ungodly entertainment? Goals apart from God? Poor stewardship? Personal demands or expectations?
“Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” – Hosea 10:12
I met someone who needed a Bible this week. I had one...but it was embossed. It was signed by a famous person. It was a memento from a mission’s trip. It had my notes in it for the Bible study I planned to write... And I didn’t want to give it up.
I had other Bibles at home. I could have transcribed my notes. I had other souvenirs. Who cares if a celebrity had signed it? That’s not what a Bible is for. A Bible is for winning souls. But I didn’t want to give it up.
Afresh, I was reminded of the physical things we can’t let go of. My favorite dress, coat, pen. Our expensive car, career, or abode. Often, we hold on to these things so tightly because we do not recognize the true purpose of my car – is to allow me to serve Christ. The true design for our money is to bring others the gospel of Jesus Christ. The true reason God gave us X, Y, or Z is to glorify Himself. Our furniture...it’s God. Our family...God’s. Our influence, our stuff, our everything...we have it for God’s glory. Mine doesn’t exist – it’s all God’s and only God’s.
When we cling to “our” things with a vice grip, we not only defeat it’s true purpose but our own as well. We are created to glorify the Lord our Creator, and everything we own is to help us do this!
Have you ever cracked a lens on your glasses? They still work...kind of. But everything looks oddly similar – broken. Around the star of glass splinters you can somewhat make out the faces of loved ones. If the dog isn’t in the middle of the fame, his goofy smiles is still visible. And the edges of the landscape show up without spider legs in the frame.
But all that doesn’t change the facts: Those glasses only display a fraction of the truth, a vague representation of what is. That damaged lens skews reality. That lens is our perspective.
We see pretty well...at times. But our view of the world is incurably twisted. It’s damaged, not by a stray rock or clumsy moment, but by our sin, our selfish interests and inherent flaws.
God’s lens is never cracked, never scratched. He sees everything the way it is. He reads every situation exactly the way it is. His evaluation of every heart is altogether true. His prescription for how to fix us, our neighbor, our country, and our sin problem is perfect. His perception, not our own, is the one we want to trust.
A picture is worth 1,000 words and yet it still cannot capture the splendor of the mountains, the beauty of a single desert blossom, or the wonder of a baby’s infectious laugh. If it could we wouldn’t take dozens of photos of the same things. We wouldn’t keep piles of albums and scores of digital files. One photo would do it. But it doesn’t because these things escape our cameras and our words.
How much more does the majesty of God defy our explanation? How much more does the glory of the Lord and the greatness of His works overwhelm our expressions? Our best efforts – though in and of themselves evidence of that glory – cannot come close to conveying to the reality of Christ, His kingdom, His heaven, His majesty. And when our tongues, our pens, our paints fall short when describing our Savior and King may we merely say, “All glory be to our God, who sits on the throne.” (Revelation 5:13)
A supermodel's job is to make clothes look good and show them off to the fullest extent. So our job as Christians (or little Christs) is to display Christ. Comparatively our job should be easy -- have you seen some of the hideous creations supermodels wear? We get to put perfect clothes, Christ's righteousness. His sinlessness covers our sinfulness, and our rags are exchanged for His glory.
With this in mind, it should become more important to take a deep breath and count to ten before we bawl out the service person who is doing anything but serving us. Knowing we are Christ's showcase should make it easier to accept being cut off in traffic or the line at the DMV. Remembering that God has chosen us to make His Son known to the world should prompt us to engage in our communities for His honor and glory.
After all we are Jesus' supermodels -- supermodels in training.
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.