God Has not Stopped Creating

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I pictured God as being surrounded up in heaven by all sorts of beautiful things he had created and being occasionally distracted by me, a reject of sorts that seemed to not be able to get anything right. In fact, I looked not only upon myself as a mistake of creation but at others as being similar factory seconds in the production line of human souls.

I felt that when the eyes of God gazed upon me they registered disappointment and sadness.

I tend to look at myself as a Ford Pinto or a Chevrolet Vega, inherently flawed to the point of hopelessness and destined for the junkyard. I tend to forget that God is a far better engineer than anyone in Detroit ever was and that my rush to judge what God has created is always premature and shallow.

Romans 1:20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Some people insist that the world and the universe all just happened. They explain it away as if God wasn’t necessary at all. But when I examine the vastness of all of creation and the threads that hold it together, I can see that there is more to it than just a big bang or a one in a gozillion chance. I choose to believe in the God that keeps this world we live in turning and hurtling through space right where it ought to be.

Some say science disproves God but I see him in this world more clearly with each new discovery. His magnificence and power are becoming more clear to me with each passing day.

Why do I feel so often that the God of all creation has become exasperated with me and is just sitting in heaven wondering where he went wrong? I have to remember that he isn’t done with me yet.

I’m a work in progress. Just a couple years ago, I was completely different than I am today. God has worked in me to create something completely new. Those old flaws that frustrated me so bad, well, those have been used in the building of something better. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t been reconstructed from some of that rusty old steel that I was ready to take to the dump. God had something specific in mind when I was created. When I thought I should be some kind of world class sports car, God was building something unique and much more useful.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

I don’t see God as being “up there” and me as being “down here” anymore. As I sit and read the words, the words that created the universe, the words that transcend heaven and knit themselves into my being creating a new me daily, I am tied to God. I am connected and no longer isolated.

I see that there are invisible forces at work and I am no longer discouraged so much by what I can’t see. I know that eventually eternal power and God’s divine nature will be made visible and I will take another step toward being the finished product.

I used to think that my goal was perfection. I don’t even know what that means. Now I can see that my goal is to take a step or two each day toward my creator, being used for what I was built for, without fear of getting a few dents and dings along the way.

I am God’s creation. You are God’s creation. He is still creating in you and will be until he says he is done. Take his words in. Let them work in you. Become something new with the dawn of each new day. That’s just one of the miracles God does in us. I’m learning to enjoy it.

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One of the ways I have managed to get rid of a lot of worry and anxiety from my life is by learning to enjoy what I have. In a world that always wants more, sometimes I have pressured myself to have more so that I appear to be successful.

Getting more is not always easy. The quest for more often leads to poor decision making and financial disaster.

I’m learning to ask questions that focus on getting what I need rather than going through life checking things off my wish list.

It is much more important to focus on things that drive me to become a better man than to appear to be a better man because my garage, basement, yard, house and bank account are full.

The one that dies with the most toys does not win. He simply creates a bigger mess for his family to clean up once he is gone.

When I realize that most of what I need, I already have, I don’t feel the need to worry about surviving another day in the rat race. In fact, in most cases, I have more than I need. I have a whole bunch of boxes in the basement of things that I can’t seem to make myself get rid of but in the year we have lived in this house, they have sat collecting dust, giving refuge to spiders or just holding the floor down.

Yet, as I sit here and type, I could ignore the facts and allow myself to believe I need much more. I could feed the beast that eats contentment and gratitude for breakfast and walk out the door unhappy because I am convinced that some more things and more money would solve all my problems.

I have to be guarding myself against letting the greed and envy monster creep in and take over my life. He doesn’t always take on the form of a thief or bully but as a sickly little liar that convinces people he must be constantly fed and kept alive.

Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

I need to always remember, God is providing. The things he gives me here on planet earth are temporary but what I do for him in the kingdom lasts forever and ever. I don’t know what that bank account will look like but I get the feeling overdrafts will be a thing of the past.

The Verdict

Just imagine a court room, a big court room that seats hundreds of accusers.  Sitting in the defendant’s chair is the most dastardly villain the world has ever known.  The judge sits looking down on a pile of evidence, overwhelming evidence that proves beyond the shadow of any doubts the guilt of the defendant.

The pile of evidence continues to grow, though, and the defendant knows he is done for.  His guilt becomes more and more real to him and he feels as though it will soon crush him.  His accusers continue to take their seats in the room and as the judge begins to take all the evidence into consideration to render his verdict, the crowd begins to chant, “Guilty, guilty, guilty.”

The defendant becomes uneasy.  He knows that he deserves whatever is coming and that there is no escaping the verdict that is soon to come.  The testimony has been damning, the facts are in and they are conclusive.  He deserves death and is certain that is what he will get.

Then the judge looks out at the crowd and demands their silence as he wields his gavel. The chants reduce to murmurs and then quickly fade to silence.  The defendant hears nothing but his conscience screaming at him,

“Here is where you get yours!  You have done wrong to too many people for too long and now you will get what you deserve!  Surely death is too good for you!”

The crowd anticipates hearing the judge speak the words they want to hear.  Then the judge stands and as he rises the evidence begins to dissolve into nothingness, the crowd is amazed by the feat.

He asks to have the testimony of the witnesses read back to him one more time.  The court recorder reads back only the defendant’s name.  It is as if none of the testimony that was given ever was spoken.

The defendant thinks that something is amiss here.  He is guilty of it all, all of it and more!  What happened to the evidence that proved he deserved to die?  What happened to the words that confirmed he was vile and wretched and no good to anyone or anything?

Then finally the judge speaks.

“Not guilty!”

The crowd goes wild.  The same ones that wanted the evil perpetrator to be sentenced to death, now could only rejoice in his innocence.

The defendant doesn’t know what to do.  This isn’t right.  This is some kind of joke, a mistake.  Confusion clouds his mind as he tries to make sense of what has just happened. He is led out of the room and out into freedom to live free.  Not guilty.

That’s pretty close to what happened to me.  I have been placed before the eyes of God, proven guilty of every atrocity I have ever committed.  The evidence has been placed under the blood of Christ and no one will ever see it again.

I am not guilty.  How can that be?  All that evidence hidden under the blood of Christ was evidence used to convict him 2,000 years ago.  I have been declared “Not Guilty”.  Sure, I don’t deserve that.  That doesn’t matter.  This isn’t about getting what I deserve.  If we all got what we deserved, well, then there was no point to us existing in the first place.

Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

I deserve whatever punishment God deems necessary for the things I have done.  I’ve done some pretty bad stuff.

Yet I am “Not Guilty”.

Romans 3:24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  

God declares me righteous.  Me, a sinner, a constant screw-up, a failure, a loser, I am righteous.  God says so.

Yet I still hear the chant, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”

There are still those voices in my head that tell me I am still somehow going to be held accountable for these things if I don’t do something.  I don’t know exactly what that something is but surely I have to do something to obtain this freedom and innocence that I have been so graciously given.

Surely I have to earn this right.  Surely I have to spend the rest of my earthly life trying to assure my place among the righteous.  I was so guilty of so many things.  I have to climb out of this mess into God’s good grace!

Romans 3:27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. 

Wow!  I have known these things my whole life, yet I still have a hard time believing this is how it works.  Nothing else in the world gives so much for so little.  God’s grace costs me my faith, someone else paid the real price.  He made a way that I could be a part of eternity with God.  Why?  God wants me there.  He wants me there to be with him forever, forgiven.  I have a place in his future.

Revelation 4:3 The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. 

I’m “Not Guilty”.  No matter what others say, no matter what the devil says or what I say, I am “Not Guilty”.  I have to remember that and live like that.  The one sitting on the throne says so.

Doggone! That was Embarrassing! — BayArt

I was young, maybe first grade, maybe not that old, I’m not sure. I am pretty certain it was with my Royal Rangers group. Royal Rangers was the Boy Scouts clone at our church. We did activities like camp-outs and had meetings and got in trouble for wanting to play and not do the serious……

via Doggone! That was Embarrassing! — BayArt

My Hope

I wake up some days experiencing deep sadness. It will stay with me all day long, through laughter, silence, conversations, meals, good news, bad news. Through all the things that make up a busy day it lingers and it seems it will never go away.

I often question why God wired me this way. I would much rather laugh and joke and be silly. This sadness is irrational and makes no sense. It shows up when things are going good or things are going bad. It doesn’t care if it has a good reason to knock at my door, it just does. It is an unwelcome guest and I despise it. It hovers over my day like a dark cloud casting shadows on everything I do. It threatens to be the beginning of an impending storm as it looms overhead spreading out to the horizon. It rumbles and complains and I fear that lightning will come from its belly and strike me. I want to cry and I don’t know why. I don’t understand myself and it confuses me, it makes me wish I was someone else, someone that has it all together and isn’t always on the verge of breaking down. I feel handicapped and unable to function like the rest of the world. I get angry that I have to deal with sadness even if there is no reason for it to be here.

Psalm 13:1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way. 2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? 3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.

It doesn’t happen every day or even every week but when it does it seems like it is forever. I am easily deceived into believing this is how I am and that is just how it is. And when something that is truly cause for sorrow comes into my life, well, that causes my sadness to descend into despair. Despair takes me a lot of bad places. It is a lousy guide. It leads me to emotions that are better left alone but I follow despair like a kid follows his dad.

I used to live with all this garbage isolated and alone. My wife didn’t know when I was going through this, my kids didn’t know, my friends (barely called friends because they didn’t know me at all) didn’t have a clue. If the pastor asked me how I was doing, I simply lied right to his face, “I’m great!”

Let me tell you something, this kind of lie is just as evil as any other kind of lie. It is a lie that makes it easy to wallow in my misery. It is a lie that causes me to believe no one else cares and I have to carry this burden alone. It is a lie that leads to many other lies.

Here is the truth: Dozens of people care about you right now. If you quit lying about what is bothering you, hundreds will care about you.

I have opened my life up to other people. They don’t just know that I love to fish and watch football. They know more than my weight and the color of my eyes.

They know about my weaknesses and failures. They know my struggles. They pray for me and they care for me. Saying “I’m great!” when they asked me how I’m doing didn’t get me there. Being honest got me there. I don’t carry anything alone anymore. Neither do they. I share their load. I care for them. There is love that I didn’t experience for years.

There is real sorrow in my life right now. I can honestly say that I am not man enough to carry it alone but I don’t have to carry it alone. God has blessed me with people that surround my sorrow with joy. They bind my hurts and heal my wounds. God works in my life through people. If Satan can deceive me to the point that I isolate myself from them, he has convinced me to block the help God is sending my way.

I gotta tell ya’, looking back at all the times I did that, I feel like a moron. Even worse, I am still tempted to run away and hide in a hole when that dark cloud comes my way. I forget that it is just a cloud and it is hiding the sun, not overtaking it. The cloud will pass and the sun will still be there shining just like it did before. This sorrow will pass and I will feel strong again. Until then, others will be strong for me.

I Thessalonians 5:11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Galatians 6:2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Seriously, I have thought I was too important to help someone. But now I see that without the help of others I am beat-down and useless. I am not important on my own at all. I am only important when I allow God to use me to help others. My value isn’t in being me, it is in God using me.

Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.

My Golden Ego

I was watching an episode of Bering Sea Gold the other day. It is the show where the guys are diving under the ice to search for gold on the ocean floor. This is a “reality” television show.

One of the crews is doing pretty well and has been on the gold. The guy that is top dog on the crew has some sort of self-esteem issue where he has to let everyone know how great he is all the time. That has been pretty plain since day one. But the more success the crew has had the more he has pointed out that it is all because of him.

Now, I’m sure the producers have picked up on this from early on as well and knowing that people are more inclined to stay tuned to bickering and fighting than just a bunch of guys having a great time finding gold, I figure they have been in this guy’s ear telling him a lot of stuff about how he should let everyone in the world watching know how much he is responsible for all this success.

So the bragging goes over the top and the guys that feel like they should be his equal are made to feel like mere dogs in his way. Finally, none of them will work for him anymore and the owner of the rig has to help him doing menial chores.

Most owners of companies don’t really appreciate being ordered around by their employees especially when they are paying other employees that are nowhere to be found because some guy’s ego has forced them to go elsewhere.

The owner fires the guy and leaves him with just his ego. I hope his ego can buy a lot of groceries because I don’t think there are a lot of jobs in Nome.

The producers of the show were no doubt happy with the results as they got to film a lot of gold and a few big arguments that nearly came to blows. People will watch that. I know I did.

This ego thing is tough to beat. I push and shove to fight my way to where I want to be and I get angry if somewhere else is there first. I want to be in front of that car on the highway and do whatever it takes to get in front of him so I can drive behind a different one. I spend hours and hours worrying about me when I should know that I am fine and that I am going to be fine. If someone says something a certain way, I instantly think about how that affects me and not what is going on with them that is causing them to be out of character.

I’ve sat and re-ran a lot of the things I have said and been ashamed of my bragging. It is disgusting. I would cringe listening to it coming from the mouths of others but yet I blow the trumpet, loud and blaring, to announce the greatness of my accomplishments giving credit to no one but myself.

James 4:16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.

I’m slowly learning to live where I am, knowing that I am here because God led me here. I have to remember that the ultimate destination of everything I have tried to accomplish on my own for my own glory has led me to shame and that only through Christ have I done anything worth my time and effort at all.

Proverbs 16:32 Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

Patience and self-control are not going to make me a star in this reality show of my life. They will make me happy and I have to stick to my guns on seeking them. I have to ignore those voices that whisper about how the world needs to know how great I am because it is through my weakness and helplessness that God’s greatness is glorified.

Without God I can do nothing. I have definitively proven this to be a fact. Say there is no God if you will but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has rescued me from death and no one can tell me different…ever!

I’m doing all I can to only hit the brag button when it comes to what God has done because if there is glory and honor to be put anywhere it is in him. When I boast of myself and lift my ego to the sky as if it were some great hero of mine, I am telling lies. My greatest accomplishment is to humble myself before God and put him first.

2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.

Worried?

I can remember the day in August several years ago, after working in one industry for seventeen years, that my job was yanked out from under me. It is a bad feeling to go from being a well-paid employee to a laid-off forty-something in the space of about ten seconds. I knew that the odds of me ever finding another job that paid that well and offered so much would never come my way again.

On top of that, I had a daughter with a chronic illness and it was very expensive but it would be even more expensive if I couldn’t maintain her insurance coverage so that if and when I became employed again, I wouldn’t have to wait six months for them to cover her due to an untreated pre-existing condition.

My legs gave out as I got the news and responsibility swallowed me whole on the kitchen floor. All the depression I had been feeling my whole life multiplied exponentially as a heavy weight on my insides began crushing the life out of me.

I worked really hard to get employed again. I took some pretty awful jobs and worked in some terrible conditions. I began to dig out of the hole and finally I landed a decent job that paid almost enough.

But the crushing just kept on happening. Day after day and night after night. I was being mangled and deformed inside. I worried constantly but tried my best to pretend I didn’t. I worried about my daughter’s health, I worried about my son. I worried about things that would never ever happen.

Sure, a worrier may be right about a thing or two but there is no possible way that a full-time worriers fears can all come to pass. I always had that feeling that rode on top of my depression of a giant hammer about to fall and land squarely on top of life again.

I also found that no amount of worry, even if it was about something that would eventually happen, ever fixed a single thing. Expecting defeat never makes defeat easier to swallow but it can make me blind to victory.

One of the exciting things about finally getting help for my depression is that it has taken a lot of worry out of my life. I guess I will talk more about that later. But for today, I will just share that there is hope no matter how bleak the circumstance is, but it isn’t found inside me. It is in God. Finding that hope isn’t always just through sitting down and asking God for it. It is usually through getting help from other people that have already found hope.

I’ve been hard-headed about letting other people into my worries and sadness but I’ve found that they are what God uses to heal me so much of the time.

Psalm 42:5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and 6 my God!

 

Today’s Words

Most days I can keep from doing bad things. That’s a good thing. There was a time in my life that I was just as likely to take a swing at someone for saying something that made me angry as I was to just walk away and not take it personal. I had a really bad temper and I have a few scars to show for it. I can honestly say that losing my temper has never really gained me anything, although it did give me a few stories to tell.

I guess that having a temper and getting it under control is a lot like taming a lion. It seems impossible at first but with a lot of time and patience and some sort of plan it can be done. But always in the back of your mind you have to wonder if it will suddenly become wild again and devour you.

I’m pretty positive I won’t smack anyone today.

I could go on and on about the things I am pretty sure I won’t do wrong today. There is one I am not so sure of.

At some point, I am almost positive, my mouth will outrun my brain and I will say something that I shouldn’t have said. Someone will say something that I just cannot resist making a sarcastic or rude comeback to in the name of humor and they will laugh and leave the room. I will make fun of someone for something that they have no control over. I will make a statement in anger that was best left unsaid.

I am getting better at making amends and apologizing but it is a lot more fun to not have anything to apologize for.

As a representative of God, that’s what I am called to be, I don’t always present a safe and loving environment for other people. As a man, I was never really taught to do that. I was taught to be rough and tough and be like John Wayne poking a double-barrel shotgun full of manly sayings in the belly of anyone that got in my way.

Proverbs 4:24 Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.

I ask God to lead me and guide me and take care of me all day long and from time to time he has to hear me ranting and raving all sorts of things that I wouldn’t dare say if I could see him there. But he is there. He hears me. It hurts him just like it hurts those that I put down. It hurts him just like it would the person who would hear them if I wasn’t talking behind their back.

Proverbs 20:19 A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers.

Many times I try to hide my gossip inside jokes and innuendo. I know I shouldn’t gossip so I try to make it into something else that isn’t quite gossip. I can look back and many times this week I was a chatterer, yakking with no good purpose other than to put others down and lift myself up. This is in no way respectful to other people and is far from what God asks of me.

I know that I am an imperfect person but things that can hurt other people need to be watched closely and I need to gain ground on them every day. Doing good to others by giving them food and clothing is a good thing but honestly I just can’t always do that. Kind words cost me nothing but my pride and I have far too much of that. I can afford to obey God generously in this regard.

Proverbs 16:23 From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. 24 Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Kind words are not only sweet to the soul and healthy for the body to the person receiving them. In order to say them I am forcing myself to look past the faults of others and finding the good and I instantly become a deeper thinker, someone who sees more and perceives good when others see no hope. They heal me as well.

I’ll never regret saying too many nice things to others. I’ll never long to grab kind words from the air and stuff them back into my mouth.

Today is just a reminder for me to be a little slower to speak and quicker to listen. Like they say, “I have two ears and one mouth so that I can hear twice as much as I say.”