Prophesy Illusions

They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” -Isaiah 30:10

Prophesy illusions.

Those are the words that hit me hardest during my quiet time this morning, both for their poetic ring and their sad reflection of my world today. How many of us are living an illusion – a deceptive appearance of something that isn’t really there? How many of us pretend that all is well in our world when, in reality, we’re on the brink of a major meltdown? How many of us force a smile to our face as we tell ourselves we’re really just fine? We don’t need to change anything – fix anything.

We, like the obstinate nation in the book of Isaiah, ask for an illusion. We paint a mirage for ourselves of roses without thorns, hoping that maybe, if we pretend for long enough, our illusion will become our reality. We reject the truth because we’d rather live a lie, pretending that life is sunshine and rainbows. Have you ever tried to catch a rainbow? It’s impossible. You can see them, but you can never touch one because it isn’t really there. That’s the thing about illusions. They fade. Dissipate. They slip like sand through our fingertips and are gone forever.

I don’t want to be like the people described in the book of Isaiah. I’ll take the roses with the thorns, the sunshine and the rain, the laughter with the pain. I’d rather feel the sting of truth than know nothing but lies. So today I set aside my illusions – my fantasies and disguise – and beg for Truth to infuse my life with it’s healing blade.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32

Mary’s Extraordinary Faith

Everyone has their own take on the nativity story. Mine has changed in the last week or so. I think I’ve always tried so hard to picture Mary as an ordinary girl that I overlooked the depth of her extraordinary faith.

I always imagined that Mary was too wonder-struck to say anything but yes. I figured that there wasn’t much room for logic in the midst of her awe, and imagined that it was only after the celestial being, mysterious message, and rush of excitement departed that reality set in. I pictured Mary instantly going from, “Wow!” to, “Oh snap, how am I going to explain this to my father?”

But then one of my co-workers got me thinking about some other Biblical heroes who weren’t quite as willing as Mary. Think about it:

When Moses heard his calling in the burning bush, he exhausted every excuse he could conjure up.

When Jonah was asked to go to Nineveh, he ran as far as he could in the other direction.

When Gideon was told he would lead his people to freedom, he asked for sign after sign after sign.

The Bible records at least three other cases of miraculous childbirths in which all of the parents had their doubts. They all wanted proof – a sign. Sarah even laughed out loud at the very idea of giving birth to a son (and she was a married woman, so it makes the miracle that much less miraculous than the one Mary was presented with).

Here I imagined that Mary simply didn’t consider the cost of her obedience when faced with the miraculous, but in reality, she was just like all these other doubters. Though she couldn’t fully understand the magnitude of what her obedience would cost her, she could at least imagine some of the challenges she would face – the ridicule, the gossip. Still, Mary didn’t make excuses. She didn’t ask for a sign. She posed only one question: “How?” And when she was assured that all things are possible with God, she said simply, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

That’s how extraordinary Mary’s faith was.

I think the way I once envisioned Mary was similar to what my response might have been. I might have said yes in a wonder-struck moment and been flooded with doubts once the angel disappeared. That’s why God chose Mary instead of me. Not that Mary didn’t have her doubts. I’m sure the shepherds’ words weren’t the only things she “pondered in her heart.” And there’s Biblical proof that she didn’t always “get it,” but she walked forth in obedience regardless of her understanding (or lack thereof).

Today I pray for faith like Mary’s. When I feel God call me toward the seemingly miraculous things of life, I pray that my answer will simply be: “Let it be to me according to Your word.”

The Word

So, I may have a slight fascination with words. (That’s why I’m a writer.) I used to think that this fascination was the reason John 1:1 jumped out at me. But then I began to wonder… Perhaps it’s the other way around. Perhaps my fascination with the English language is a reflection of my fascination with the Eternal Word.

I dare you to read John 1 and not be moved by it. Go ahead and try to study it without having your mind blown. It moves from creation to salvation in a mere eighteen verses.

Jesus is the Word that spoke life into being. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word that came to rebuild and restore.

The Bible says that no one has ever seen God, and yet… the Word – who came and walked among us, lived our lives, breathed our air, dreamed our dreams, and died for the sins of us all – has made God known to us.

So during this Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful that the Word became flesh and stepped into my story in order to tear the veil inside my heart and speak new life into my existence.

The Door of My Heart

In light of my recent announcement that I’m stepping out and pursuing a new dream, a co-worker of mine decided to educate me on the subject of open doors. It’s his personal opinion that God doesn’t open doors. He claims that the doors are always open with the exception of one… the door of our hearts. Now, it’s a great theory, and I would agree that sometimes our hearts are the only door left to open. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes my heart feels ready before the rest of me is. And sometimes I want to go barging through a door I probably shouldn’t open yet. A look through my journals will prove that I’ve been jiggling the knob on this door for a little over a year now. Trust me, if it wasn’t locked, I’d have gone right through it a long time ago and ended up who-knows-where. But it was locked. Because God knew I needed a little more preparation before starting this new journey.

Maybe the doors in my co-worker’s life are always open, but the doors in mine are definitely closed because God isn’t worried about having to fight with my heart; He’s worried that my heart is going to move sooner than my head.

And maybe there are doors that God has left hanging open, waiting for the day we finally have the courage to step over the threshold. But most doors are left closed until the timing is right, and then there is nothing that could keep you from walking into the great unknown.

“This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open.” -Revelation 3:7

Chasing the Wind

I was talking to a missionary friend about doctrine the other day. He said it’s something he’s been struggling with lately as he visits churches here in the States. He’s had a couple of churches tell him that they’d only be willing to support him if he and the pastors he supervises preach the doctrine these churches believe.

Now, I’m not saying doctrine is a bad thing. It’s great… until it gets in the way of more important things. The little details that define denominations are not the Gospel that my friend is proclaiming. And when people in India are dying without ever coming to know the Lord, what does it matter what they believe about predestination? The only thing that matters is that they are saved.

You can analyze the entire Bible and interpret it whatever way you wish, but there are certain truths that never change no matter how you look at them. As long as Jesus remains in the center of things, the other details are just details – and they shouldn’t keep anyone from getting involved in what God is doing around the world.

I couldn’t help but smile as my friend confessed that some of the driest seasons of his life were in seminary – with all that knowledge, all that theology, all that doctrine. It reminded me of the verse in Ecclesiastes that says, “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” (chapter 1, verses 17-18)

You can know everything there is to know about Christianity and still feel as if you’re missing something because it’s not doctrine that draws us to the heart of the Father; it’s His unfathomable love and mercy. And while it’s important to know what you believe, you can’t let the little things separate you from other believers. God never intended for doctrine to divide His church. Don’t get so caught up in chasing the wind that you miss the miracle of what God is doing in this moment here and now.

The Gospel of Tolerance

Tolerance. I really hate that word. I’m sick of seeing it everywhere I turn. “If people just had more tolerance…” I’ll tell you that I don’t need “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from my own,” and I’m certainly not looking to develop my “act or capacity of enduring.”

It’s not tolerance that is going to change our world. It’s love. And maybe we shouldn’t “tolerate” everything going on in the world, but we should definitely approach others in love.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world.

Not just the people who would come to repentance. Not just the people who do what He considered socially and morally right. God loved everybody. Even the people who spit in His face. Even the people who drove nails through His hands. He loved them; not tolerated them.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to preach tolerance; He came to lavish love upon a broken and dying world. As Christians, it’s not our job to judge. It’s not even our job to “tolerate.” It’s our job to follow Jesus’ example and love people to repentance. And if they don’t seem to be repenting? Love them anyway.

I’ve read through the Bible multiple times and never found the gospel of tolerance, but I have found the gospel of love. Because the Bible is all about God and God is love.

Learn to love like Jesus today.

Faithful to Fulfill

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me: your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.” -Psalm 138:8

I find it comforting to know that David – a man who is recorded in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart – had struggles just like I do. How refreshing it is to think that I don’t have to have unshakeable faith to be counted among one of the faithful. Even David doubted. Why else would he feel the need to plead with God not to abandon him?

I relate all too well with David’s 138th Psalm. I’ve felt abandoned. I’ve wondered where God was in the midst of my circumstances. I’ve had to remind myself time and time again that God truly is the God who interrupts, redirects, and fulfills my wildest dreams.

You may be floundering in confusion, wondering what exactly your purpose is for this season of your life, but that’s okay. We serve a God who holds eternity in the palm of His hand, and He will be faithful to fulfill His purpose for you.