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God is in the Renovation Business

renovation2

God is in the renovation business. But you have to do your part.

You have to ask Him for help.

You have to surrender to God, tell Him you need Him to move in your life even more powerfully, that you want to go deeper with Him, that you hunger and crave more of Him in your life, and you refuse to settle for where you are right now. You want more.  And to have more of Him, you know He needs to renovate you.

So you bravely ask Him to reveal the weak areas in your life, those hidden places you’ve been too busy to notice. You ask Him to be the silversmith that heats the silver, revealing the dross, those impurities in your heart, so He can scrape them off and toss them out of your life.

But before He removes them, He lets you see them. All of your bitterness and anger surface and sit there like ugly black chunks beside the bright, hot metal.  God allows you to get a good look at it, to really see it for what it is.

You get more and more uncomfortable the longer He allows it to stay. You want it gone.  You want God to hurry up and dispose of it because it’s painful to see.

He allows it to linger just long enough. This isn’t to hurt you, but to give you the opportunity to see what you’ve kept hidden and what it was doing to you.  You realize, this is a lesson from your Teacher.  You hear Him whisper, “That anger is like a disease in your spirit.”  And when you think about it, you realize it started as a small speck but because you failed to deal with it, it spread like some sort of gangrene, devouring the goodness and purity surrounding it.

And you can’t help but notice the striking contrast:  His blinding, powerful light against the darkness of your hidden sin.

But again, you asked God to draw you closer to Him. This isn’t a task to simply point out your flaws but to point out your need for Him.  He’s the only One who can remove such agonizing and toxic things from your life.

So you take a deep breath, acknowledge what you see and ask for forgiveness and for help. And then you let go.  You let go of the time someone hurt you, the moment you were abandoned, discarded, forgotten, and labeled.  It’s done ugly things to you and holding on isn’t bringing you power over the situation; it’s trapping you in the moment and keeping you a prisoner as the disease spreads and consumes more and more of you.

But again, God is in the renovation business; taking the old, worn, and broken and making it new.

So you focus on Him. You imagine His mighty hand removing all the poison, refining you.  Perhaps you hit your knees, completely falling apart knowing He is about to rebuild.  Or maybe you stand taller, tears streaming down your cheeks as you close your eyes and lift your face heavenward, knowing He is watching you… and smiling.

His renovation has brought you not only closer to Him, but to something He offers:

Freedom.

The ugliness no longer has a hold on you. The memory no longer traps you.  The guilt and shame no longer suffocate your joy.

You are free to walk even closer to God. It’s where He’s wanted you all along.

“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” (Psalm 66:10 NIV.)

 

The Empty Chair

empty-chair

I felt led to revisit this blog post.  Perhaps you are needing this today.  If so, I’m praying for you…

A writing teacher once taught that to create a fictional character you have to peel away the layers to get to the heart of the person. Like an onion.  Isn’t that how we are as real human beings?

We have a layer we show to the world. You know, the face you show in a busy grocery store or at a crowded department store.  The one that says, “I may nod at you or smile, but don’t talk to me.  I’m in a hurry.”  We have another layer we show to acquaintances, those we see from time to time and maybe ask, “How are you?” as we rush in the opposite direction hoping they don’t really want to talk.  Another layer we reserve for family and friends.  We let them in but only so far as to share what we’re comfortable sharing, but we hold back the rest because it’s guarded.  It’s too personal, too fragile to let anyone see.   It’s like this tiny room we have inside of us that we keep hidden because rejection of any kind here would be nothing short of annihilation.  So we quietly lock the door and pretend we don’t hear if someone knocks.

But God gave you that tiny room.  He is very aware of its location and everything inside.  Maybe that scares you because you’ve stashed some big-time mistakes under the floorboard or crumbled up a few regrets and tossed them in the corner, and you’re afraid He’s just going to drop by sometime.  Or perhaps you think it’s such a mess in there, you think you’ve really screwed everything up, and God wouldn’t dare step inside because it’s so NOT perfect.

You couldn’t be more wrong. First, He will never come in uninvited.  Never.  He is so polite He always waits for an invitation.  And second, He designed that room.  And maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but it came furnished with two chairs.  One for you.  One for Him.

So when you’re exhausted and you come here to escape the world and all that’s wearing you down, not only do you get to rest, but you can hang out with God here. That’s what He wants; to take a seat on that empty chair and spend time with you.  Don’t worry about the mess.  Just unlock the door and let Him into that room, into that heart of yours.  Listen.  He’s knocking…and waiting for you to answer.

“Look at me. I stand at the door.  I knock.  If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”  (Revelation 3:20 The Message.)

 

 

When Your Defenses Are Down

defenseless

If you’re fighting the flu, it’s hard to fight off other infections.  Your physical defenses are down.

The same is true when your spiritual defenses are down. You haven’t been praying, pushing God off to the side thinking you’ll talk to Him later, and reading the Bible?  Well you’re too busy for that.

Until something hits you hard. Maybe not a tragedy but something comes along and aggravates you and your patience melts like an ice cube on a hot sidewalk leaving you foaming at the mouth in anger and narrowing your focus to the problem and the impossibility of fixing it or figuring it out.

You’ve just been caught in a trap, my friend. Remember the cartoon where a loop of rope is hidden under a pile of leaves to catch the unsuspecting rabbit?

Well here you are, the rabbit, hanging upside down from a tree just kicking and flailing and totally stuck. Before long you run out of kick and you just dangle there.  You’re plumb tuckered out.  The blood is rushing to your head and now you’re forced to hang there and think about what just happened.  If you would have paid attention, you would have seen those sneaky eyes peeking out from behind the tree watching you and waiting in the darkness to pounce on you when your defenses were down.  But you were too busy.  Too busy for God and too busy to be alert.

Of course the enemy comes out from hiding, smiling at you and laughing this sickening laugh that makes your skin want to peel off and crumble. He’ll start talking to you while you’re hanging there, telling you you’re defeated, and he’s got you now.  He’ll remind you of the fit of rage you just had, and he’ll smirk when he tells you he caused that whole situation.  He’ll laugh when he tells you how this time, you really messed up and it’s too late to turn back to God now.  Yes, he’ll even remind you how you were pushing God away because you were too busy.  And he’ll ask you why you think God would want anything to do with you now.

My friend, it’s time to cut through those lies with the truth of God’s word that’s hidden in your heart:

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5 NIV.)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9 NIV.)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love…”  (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV.)

Speak His Word with authority from the core of your spirit and watch as those words slice right through that rope like the sword that it is. And don’t worry about the fall.  That pile of leaves?  Satan may have used them to disguise his trap, but God will use them to cushion your fall.

So stand up, brush those leaves off, and turn your back on that lying enemy, and press on. And after you thank God for that rescue, ask Him to forgive you for pushing Him aside and ask Him to help you make Him your number one priority.  When you do, everything else will fall into place.  And you’ll know the next time there’s a trap up ahead.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11 NIV.)

 

When You’re Standing All Alone

narrow path

Life can get lonely. Friends move on, family members move away, and some relationships you once treasured lose their luster and become like driftwood a rip current has pulled out to sea.  Before you know it you’re standing all alone, the water no longer kissing your toes and everyone you know has gone.

You can sit on the beach and blame yourself, go over and over in your mind all you did wrong or you can blame everyone else; point out their flaws and shortcomings. You can sit there and cry, sulk, beat your fists into the sand, and refuse to get up even though the sun is toasting your skin into a nice shade of lobster red.

Why bother. I mean, there has to be a reason you’re alone, right?  Like this is some sort of punishment for bad behavior or something.

But what if that’s not the case at all. What if there is a reason God has placed you on this beach all alone.  Not as punishment but as a blessing.

Maybe you’re wondering how this deep-within-your-bones loneliness could possibly be a blessing.

Why don’t you stand up, brush that sand from your backside, and stop pining for and gazing at what type of life you think you should have right now. Turn around.  Do you see that forest behind you, that gap in between the trees?  Go check it out.

The break in the trees is the beginning of a narrow path leading into the forest. You realize there is enough light to see, but you can’t see everything.  And as you move into it, the tree limbs brushing your arms and weeds tickling your legs, you quickly learn the path tapers with each step you take.

Yes, it’s a very narrow path. Just enough room for you.

And God.

You see, God has more for you than all the vast sea, that broad path, has to offer. You may think you’re missing out on some grand adventure, but God has better things here on this narrow path for you if you’ll trust Him.

Sure it’s tempting to follow everyone else because you’re lonely. But isn’t God enough for you?

Of course He knows you’re lonely; He sees your tears even though you try to hide them, when you put on your “I’m fine” face. Remember, He can look right into your heart.

There are others on this path up ahead some distance and even some who will begin after you. Some of your family and friends will find their way here.  They’ll also have to walk “alone” for a little while.

This is the time when you break apart from what everyone else is doing to follow God. Sure it’s hard.  No, there are no shortcuts.  Yes, you will make it because you have the best Guide possible.  No, you’re really NOT missing out on those adventures at sea.  Many of them will be lost out there.  Don’t be fooled by the soothing sounds you heard while you were sitting on the sand, those smiles as you watched everyone leave.  It’s really not some great party out there.  Not at all.

Actually you are the one heading to the real celebration on this path. You see, this narrow path will allow you to focus on God, to draw closer to Him, to hunger for Him like never before and to feed on those words He gives you, filling you fully.  He’s jealous for you and wants your full attention, your deep devotion, and He wants to spoil you madly with His love.

The path will be bumpy of course but you’ve got God’s hand to steady you. If you’ll just keep going, He will bring you all the way through into a glorious clearing where there will be others who chose to follow Him too, just waiting to welcome you home.  Again, some family and friends will be there.

And Jesus Christ. He will be there too.

And you’ll never be lonely again.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV.)

 

 

 

When God Renovates a Broken Spirit

renovation

It’s a great feeling to scrape off old paint and watch the thirsty wood drink in a fresh coat or to demolish an old deck that was nothing more than an eyesore and a disaster waiting to happen and watch as new boards begin to reach into the backyard.

Renovation.  Taking the old and broken and restoring it and making it new.

Is God renovating your broken spirit?

Perhaps your spirit is a like a run-down house that’s falling in on itself, and it’s exciting and uncomfortable at the same time to watch God work; He may be doing things you don’t understand or things you’re not sure you’re going to like.  But you gave Him permission, even cried out to Him when you were in trouble when your spirit, your house, was crumbling.  No matter how hard you tried to fix it, you couldn’t.

So you step aside and take a seat on a hillside not too far away.  The scent of the sun warming the grass and the cool breeze on your skin comforts you as you rest and watch God work on you.

Still uncomfortable because change makes you squirm? Remember, this is God.  The Creator of all things, and He knows how to build you.  He did it in your mother’s womb, and He can do it again.

Only this isn’t like creating or building you for the first time.  This is rebuilding you.  Renovating, remember?

He’s going to pull all those rusty nails, so He can design something new.  He’s going to scrub away the dirt from your past, scrape off the peeling paint of your failures that you keep focusing on, and rebuild your brokenness; He sees how others have hurt you and He’s going to permanently fix that crack in your heart that you keep trying to patch.  He’s going to wash away the black spots, the anger and bitterness, to stop them from spreading.

And when the demolition is complete and there’s nothing left but a mound of rubble, you can take a good look at your own hands and admit you can’t rebuild by yourself.  You need God.  You realize your sad attempts were like building a house out of wet cardboard and tape.

God has so much more for you than the soggy shoebox contraption you’ve been fixated on and tried to maintain.

As you trust Him to keep working, to gather the materials He’s going to use to rebuild, He will also dig up the painful things you have buried deep in the soil right outside your door; the place where the brown grass crunches underfoot.  That’s where you buried all the junk you didn’t want to bring into your house but couldn’t stand to look at anymore.  You know, the stuff you needed to deal with but didn’t.  God’s going to touch and heal that spot and plant a brand new seed.

And when He’s finished rebuilding and you stand from your place on the hillside to move in closer to see all His handiwork, you’ll realize all the brokenness and ugliness have been replaced with many wonderful changes and exciting, fresh starts.

And just wait until you see what He’s planted outside your door.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NIV.)

A Spiritual Intersection

Intersection

Have you come to a spiritual intersection in your life and you’re waiting at a red light?

This is different than a fork in the road where there are two similar paths and you have to choose between the two. And it’s not a bend in the road either where the destination ahead is shrouded in mystery.

This is an intersection. There is commotion and movement.  There is also stopping and waiting.  But not for long.

If you’ve arrived here, change must be happening for you. Perhaps you’ve prayed for it or perhaps this intersection comes as a surprise.  Whatever the reason, you have to make a decision.

Should you continue on this road you’ve been on or should you turn right or left?

As you sit here and wait with your mind scurrying, your sweaty hands gripping the steering wheel, maybe you’re wondering where those who have the green light are going with such confidence and certainty. Perhaps the longer you sit here you begin to doubt your own direction.  It would be so much easier to follow everyone else, but that’s not what God calls any of us to do.  You’re to follow God’s direction for your life, to follow the calling of your Savior, and never settle.  Settling would be if you choose to follow someone other than God on a road that, for you, would lead to the dead-end town of Disobedience where the mayor, Misery, would welcome you with open arms and offer you immediate residency in a prison cell where the walls of those who’ve come before you reek from the breath of their discouragement.

So let me ask you this: Are you trying to lead your own life or are you allowing God to lead the way?

If you’re still trying to figure it all out, trying to glance over at the map you brought along so you wouldn’t get lost, don’t panic. If you’re allowing God to lead the way, He won’t concern Himself with your narrow-focused map or the surge of rush-hour traffic that’s about to swarm.  He knows what lane you need to be in, and He knows how hard this turn is going to be for you.

He will help you if you ask.

So pray and ask God to lead you right where He wants you. And when the light turns green, hit the gas and go.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  (Romans 12:2 NLT.)

When God says “No”

bubble

It’s hard when you’re a child and you’re told, “No.” You pout or maybe even throw a fit to get your way.

But what about when God says, “No” and no temper tantrum will change His mind? It can be downright devastating.  Especially when it involves an old dream you’ve been carrying in your heart for so long.

It’s like this dream of yours is so vivid and living in front of you in its own world; no one else can see it but you see it clearly. It’s like looking in at a snow globe and watching this tiny world moving and breathing before you.  It’s so real you know you can just reach out and touch it.

But when you do, you realize this dream isn’t inside a snow globe but a bubble. And as soon as you touch it, it pops.  It’s gone.  This vibrant world, the image of YOU inside this dream living and doing all those things you’ve wanted to do for so long, is gone.

So you learn the painful lesson that dreams are delicate, especially those closest to your heart.

And this one was so close to becoming reality that when you finally reached out with trembling hands…you destroyed it. Now all you have left is the memory of what you did wrong, how you reached out too quickly or too rough, and tears; lots and lots of tears that fall so freely, so violently.  You can’t hold them back and really you don’t want to.  They’re too painful to hold in and the moment so heart wrenching it scares you because you realize something:  You’re angry.

You’re angry at yourself for getting your hopes up. You’re angry for daydreaming about something that perhaps wasn’t even meant to be.  And then this anger creeps in deeper, burrowing into your heart and burning everything it touches, leaving black holes in your spirit, and you find yourself staring at the face of God in your anger.

This moment scares you the most. You don’t want to be mad at God, and you tell Him that.  But the anger lingers and you don’t know what to do with it. It’s too heavy, wearing you down, pulling you down, and you want to let go of it.  But something tickles your ear and reminds you of your pain and your mourning over something you never even had.

So your dream is gone, but all the daydreaming and possibilities remain to torture you. You try to look away, but you keep looking back.  You over analyze all you did, what you could have done better, what you shouldn’t have done at all.  There is even an inward crumbling and you wonder if you’ll ever recover.

It’s in that moment of internal collapse you realize how important this dream is to you. Maybe too important.  You start to ask yourself if you were putting it above God.  Your heart hurts all over again because you’re not sure if you can honestly answer “no” to that question.

But God answered, “No” to your dream. Or perhaps He whispered, “Not yet.”

You don’t know which one but you realize something even more crushing than not getting your way: You’re not the only one hurting in this.  You hurt God.

Were you looking at that snow globe of a dream and seeing His reflection as He stood over your shoulder? Or were you so focused in on seeing yourself inside that you forgot Him?

He was watching that dream even more closely than you. He’s the One who crafted every part of it to perfection because He loves you, not because He wants you to run away from Him to chase that world.  And when you eventually go into that world, in His timing and with His blessing, He wants you to take Him with you.

So where do you go from here?

Tell God you’re sorry you hurt Him, and ask Him to forgive you. And don’t be angry with Him.  He was simply protecting your relationship with Him.  No dream can ever compare to all you have with Him.

Ask Him to help you with those black spots in your spirit. Never hold on to anger or it will burn clear through you.

Ask God to help you see this dream clearly for what it is: A gift from Him to shine as the child He created you to be and to bring Him honor and glory.  (It only turned black and ugly and blew up in your face when it became an idol to you.)

And don’t ever gaze into that world again and forget to look for His reflection. If you do, you may find out it’s no world worth having at all but merely a bubble on the verge of popping.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”  (Exodus 20:4- 5a NLT.)