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Mirrors

Today is hard. I sit in the middle of the shop by myself writing this. Frankly, I have many days like today. As I’m sure many others do too. From the outside, and to many degrees from the inside, life is going well. But so often we can let what’s going on today get you down hard. That desire you’ve been asking God for, but He’s teaching you to wait. The expectation you had for the day up in smoke. Maybe your normal has been shaken up. Or today you just feel alone like me in the shop. Whatever it may be, today is hard. It’s days like these when temptation is strongest. “You know coming to me will make you feel better…” your shame will tell you. Most would say that shame comes from sin, but it’s only shame that would suggest it. It’s what you look into that will give you an answer. Like a mirror. You go look at it to reflect back what you can’t see. On hard days you look into the mirror to see what’s going on. The mirror of shame looks back at you saying “You’ll always look this way and you’ll never change. You may as well go to whatever you’ve done in the past, it’ll feel good this time.” But the mirror of Grace says “Look at me, reflect what you see in me not what you see in yourself.” Grace knows today is hard but there’s hope for tomorrow, even for the next hour. Shame knows today is hard but wants you to think yesterday was easier. The only difference between yesterday and today is perspective. Yesterday you didn’t know today would be this way. Maybe you thought yesterday was hard. But Grace got you through it, or maybe you failed entirely. Shame will highlight that it was easier to sin yesterday, it’ll feel good today. But Grace knows sinning today will only make tomorrow harder. Resist the enemy and he will flee(Matt. 5:39). If you keep looking into the mirror of shame you’re only making room for the enemy to linger. Put it down, drop it, destroy it, leave no more room for shame in your life. Put a big ole fat mirror of Grace in your every moment.

“Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:19‬ ‭MSG‬‬

What is it that reflects upon your face, Grace or shame? Even in your hardest day, you have to go to Grace. If it was the darkest night of your life, Grace still only reflects who you are and not how dark your night was. Keep Him in the middle. “This is my day and this is my Grace.” That’s what we need to be saying. He alone allows me to even breath. Even in the midst of hard days, if I’m breathing Grace is with me. And He knows just how tough your day is. I warn you not to put on the pseudo joy of grinning your way through. That will only lead to bitterness, both for you and those that experience your mask. Find real Joy and place it before you. The only way through in to truly experience Grace.

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:15-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

We go through exactly what Christ goes through? So if today is hard, Christ is right there too. The key is going through it with Him. Not just going through and seeing Him on the other side. The promise is not a good or easy time, but Christ with you through it all. What use would a good time be without Christ? Better to have one bad day with Christ, than a thousand good ones without Him. God is reigning you in until you are completely ready for the release of the glorious times. Let it be joyful anticipation that builds in you and not resentment.

“….Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer? God, they murdered your prophets, They trashed your altars; I’m the only one left and now they’re after me! And do you remember God’s answer? I still have seven thousand who haven’t quit, Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish. It’s the same today. There’s a fiercely loyal minority still—not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think they’re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The “self-interest Israel” became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this: Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways, God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears, Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors, and they’re there to this day. David was upset about the same thing: I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals, break a leg walking their self-serving ways. I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors, get ulcers from playing at god.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭11:2-10‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Your loyalty to God cannot be based on what He can get you out of, but the purpose He has put in you. Your awareness of His purpose in you will be the key to getting through today. If your loyalty is based on what He can get you out of, you will become loyal to getting out. Who or what you’re comfortable with, you’re loyal to. Therefore what you go to for comfort will determine your loyalty. Is escaping reality what you’re loyal to? Whether that’s a substance, porn or unhealthy relationships. We can’t say “God get me out of this day.” We have to go through it good or bad. The challenge is to dive into reality and take it head-on. That doesn’t mean we can’t ask for help through it. This is where healthy relationships come in. How often we think we’re alone? If only we would look around. Beyond our problem to its purpose. What is it teaching? Many times I lay my problem down to engage with someone, only to find that encounter held the answer I was looking for.  Another perspective on my situation. A good friend will tell you who you are and that you’ve got what it takes. Maybe not in so many words, but God will use them to bring context and truth. If we will be open and not self-consumed. When we search for the solution to our problem out of our own self-interest we get into a hall of mirrors. Looking back at each other only reflecting the problem back on us. Where all you see is the problem and not who you’ve been called to be. The mirror of Grace says “Look into me and become like me.”

“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:25-28‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Are you convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing you? Do you see the attention He is giving you today? Pruning and cutting back the lies that you’re believing. Yes, today is hard, but not without reason. Maybe today God is teaching you through your pain. Let there be more purpose than just a hard day. He is loyal to those He calls His own. He is tender to your pain but fierce toward the lies you believe. Look into Grace and remember who you are (James 1:23). Lean on Grace today, because tomorrow is coming.

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Unshamed

I’ve found myself lately putting greater value on certain sins than others. I have equated the value of the sin with the amount of shame that the enemy sends with it. The goal would be to not feel any shame, not to be confused with sorrow. To get to a place shame is not a factor in how we handle our sin. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 (NLT) Why do we deny our healing just because we let some sin get in the way? With the “big” sins, like pornography or cheating on your taxes, there are incredible amounts of shame poured on you so you deny confession. With “little” sins, like a white lie or taking God’s name in vain, we feel little or no shame so we don’t even think to confess. In reality all sin is the same, whether you kill someone or you disobey your mom. It all separates us from God and is all equally important to confess. Your healing is far more valuable than the mask you think you’re hiding behind. Imagine how much easier your healing will be without heaps of shame on you, due to hiding and repetition. To be clear I’m not talking about physical healing, there are lots of non sin related factors that go into that. I’m talking about emotional and spiritual healing. Becoming one with the Father. Let’s not let the fear of our sins being exposed keep us from intimacy with God.

Most people don’t know this, but I was addicted to porn for 10 years. In fact I can only think of a maybe 25 people that did before this. Which in comparison is quite a lot considering most people will never tell anyone, sadly continuing their addiction as a result. I used to say to myself that I was grossly addicted to porn, but that is just too narrow of a word. Needless to say that porn is a gross perversion of a gift from God, this does not make the addict a gross person. It can if you let your addiction become your identity, this is what happened to me. I was voraciously addicted to it. The more I consumed it the more I wanted, I couldn’t get enough. What I didn’t know was that what I consumed was consuming me. In my mid teens I was a pretty witty kid, I am still today its just a bit dryer and sprinkled with dad jokes. But back then my ammunition was corse jokes, I became the master of “that’s what she said”. I got the laugh, but it came with a cost. I remember like it was yesterday. I was a part of a summer internship that my youth group facilitated. We were sitting in a technical college class room, when the girl behind me made a remark and I turned around cracked a corse joke. She didn’t laugh but gave me more of an “h’s are ew” response. I just turned around a thought to myself “yeah, I didn’t think it was that funny either.” Later that day I was in the restroom with a friend, no we didn’t intentionally go together. We were washing our hands when he looked over at me and asked “Conan, do you know what we call you?” “No, what?” Anticipating a positive remark. “We call you the pervert.” “Oh…why?” “Because of all your jokes.” My heart hit the soles of my feet. All that I thought I was instantly became a lie. Though I didn’t recognize at the time, the Father stepped in at that moment. I felt the tug on my heart, I knew exactly what I needed to change. The next youth service I found a guy that later became my first spiritual father. I walked right up to him and told him I needed to confess. We began to meet and my healing process began. I didn’t choose at random though, so be at peace. You don’t have to pick out of a hat who to seek help from and random guys likely won’t come confess to you. There was relational equity between us from serving together. Though it was not a lot of equity at the time it was enough. Always be building relationships no matter how lighthearted. My life was changed because of relationships.

As much as my addiction consumed me, so did my fight. My every thought became fight this massive sin. How I was going to beat it tomorrow. I was misguided where the fight really was. We are not fighting to beat evil, evil is already defeated. The fight is not to conquer sin, but to get in the presence of the Father. To be present with the Father is to be absent from sin, and vice versa. To surrender to His battle for my heart. Will you surrender to the God that has waged war for your heart. He has already beat your enemy. The battle is yours to win. Your battle is not with computer screens or magazines, but with principalities and spirits of darkness. His light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 (NLT) The Father has already extinguished the darkness, it is our choice to walk in the light.

What had kept me from the light the most was shame. “I can’t come to God with this filth on me.” Wake up, God can’t see sin. In the same way that parents refuse to see when there kids are making poor life choices, He refuses to see anything other than our true identity. But to deny the existence of the bad choices would be bad parenting, in the same way He does not deny your sinful nature. He just won’t call you by it. Would a good parent call you by your bad choices? “Drug addict come here.” “Hello my cutting daughter.” NO! Not only are you ashamed of yourself, mounds and mounds of shame are dumped on you that way. This where wounds come from. Daddy does not inflict wounds, He’s a healer. He simply cannot see you when you sin. Its impossible for Him to be with sin, therefore when you’re in it He cannot be with you. Have you ever been in a room with someone and they’re not there? They’re on the phone or lost in thought. You’re both in the room but you’re not in relationship. They’re denying your presence in the room. This is what it means when He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” God is always in the room, it is your choice to acknowledge His presence. To truly welcome Him in is to deny sins entry. When we sin we leave the room, the Father will be right there waiting anxiously for you to come back. But He still cannot see sin when you re-enter. He never sees sin enter the room, but sons and daughters. He sees righteousness and goodness and all the wonderful things He calls you. This is the first thing He says, “Where are the robes of righteousness I gave you? I had them tailor made for you.” Shame really does make you look fat, at least that’s how it makes you feel. When the prodigal son returned the father didn’t acknowledge the rags or the sin, but called for the best robe to be brought out. Grace is like the little black dress or tailor made suit. You look good in it and walk with that extra bit of confidence. One thing is required though, to put on the clothes you were designed for. You have to take off your bed clothes, take off the shame.

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20-14 (NIV)

You have to answer, why are you wearing shame? This question cannot be avoided if you want shame removed. This is how confession brings healing. This question is not for the sake of the Father, but for you. The truest answer I can think of is that we forget who we are. Shame is what keeps us from coming to ourselves. We sit in the pig pen because we have forgotten who we are and who our Father is. So get up and run to the Father. He will run to you. Become alive again. Let your sin nature die, don’t let it breath the air your spirit is supposed to. Then begin to celebrate.

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Finding the Sparkle

I was recently faced with two starkly different situations. I was working with pictures for a set and one of them had two girls laughing. This thought crossed my mind, if they were the only two girls in the world which would you choose? I would’ve chosen to stay single. I know sounds pompous, but that is a loaded question based off a picture. I simply was not attracted to either one. The second situation was party where there were lots of single girls. That night I literally did choose to stay single. I was attracted to some of the girls there, but it was still only based off an outward appearance. I’ve pursued girls based off physical attractiveness and it lead no where. These two situations got me thinking.

How often do we settle because we think they are all there is? We put ourselves in a box of finding the person we’re attracted to and trying to make them fit the personality we want. Or finding someone with the personality we’re looking for, but we find them unattractive. What do we do? This conundrum makes me want to pull my hair out. Which side of the coin do we put the emphasis? Do we really have to go though life flipping this relational coin, until we decide heads or tails? (metaphor unintended) We can get so caught up in either one.

We are willing to set aside the physical if they just love Jesus with all their heart. If they’re passionate about what God is doing in there life, I can see past the warts. The trouble in this is that some days they aren’t going to be quite the Jesus you thought they were. Because you went after someone you’re unattracted to, bitterness has a greater chance to creep in. “Why am I in this realationship? I don’t like the way they treat me and I wasn’t even attracted to them to begin with.” This is not to say attraction can’t grow over time, but come on don’t settle. If your not attracted to them by the time you get married, there’s a good chance that attraction won’t grow. Don’t get caught in the lie that just because you find them unattractive that everyone else does too. You’re not the authority on who’s hot and who’s not. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Oh, here is where people will say “See past the outside to who they are”, and I agree, but it doesn’t mean you have to marry them.

The far more dangerous settlement is to set aside character for beauty. We think we can lead them into who there meant to be. I just thew up a little, because I’ve been that guy. Talk about immense amounts of pressure. Can you imagine having the responsibility of developing someone else’s character besides your own. Without the infrastructure of integrity in a relationship the greater the chance of compromise. Physical based relationships lead to physical results. Are you willing to risk what God has for you because of self fulfilled desire? God knows the desires of your heart. Don’t think for a second that He’s has someone for you to settle for. Second best is not in God nature, He created Eve just for Adam.

Take some pressure off yourself and your future spouse. Media advertises the unacheivable and porn steals our gift. We are told to look for perfection and find ourselves lost in the search. We try to make someone fit a mold when they are supposed to shaped by a potter. The gift is stolen in two ways, it’s unwrapped and given under the wrong name similarly it is given wrongly to the receiver then the giver is exposed. Pressure is removed by leaving the gift wrapped, or rewrapping, and allowing them to be themselves, even with the flaws. The beauty of getting to know people is, we get to see the heart of the gift before recieving the gift. Go after the heart not the body. Allow yourself to go after the heart of someone your attracted to, allow them to say no if they’re not.

A great example of this is when Jacob married Leah and Rachel. The bible says that Leah had no sparkle in her eye. I’ve heard that interpreted to mean that Leah either had poor eye site or wasn’t pleasant to look at. I would add that it could also mean that her eyes didn’t light up when she saw Jacob or she was unsure of who she was. We assume that Leah was attracted to Jacob and it was just not reciprocated. Let us assume that Leah was attracted to Jacob just as much as he was to her. They’ll never put a smile on each others faces just for walking in the room or should I say tent. Jacob will never be able to put that sparkle in her eye and he knew it, that is why he chose Rachel. The bible also says that Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. Leah and Rachel were sisters, chances are that they looked alike. I believe Jacob went after a heart and reaped the benefit of a beautiful body, he went after the one with the sparkle in her eye.

Have you ever looked at someone in the eye who lacked confidence in who they are? It’s near impossible, because they won’t maintain eye contact. They are afraid you see the sparkle in their eye. They are not afraid to show the sparkle, they just believe there is no sparkle. They believe that what they are showing is just a dim light and that is what will be seen. But the reality is that if they would really allow themselves to be seen there would be a sparkle so bright that darkness would never extinguish it. There is nothing more attractive than someone who knows who their heart belongs to and is willing to expose it. If we search through the lens of the heart rather than body or personality, someones sparkle will catch your eye and you will be willing to work 14 years just to let it light up your room or tent.

Jacob marries Leah and Rachel

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