Sunday, September 25, 2011

Better than a Hallelujah

I have been praying of late that God would lead me in writing some thing ... asking that He would gift me the words to express His heart on a topic that I will share at another time. I full expected that the request would result in the pouring out of promptings of my heart ... the amazing flood of thoughts that spill rapidly onto the page ... a luxurious melody of words weaving together ageless truths ... with me the mere secretary ... working fervently to capture each sentence exactly. A beautiful image ... one that I have experienced, but this time God has chosen to answer my prayer with object lessons designed to teach me from the inside out.

It began with a song that I heard on the radio, Better than a Hallelujah sung by Amy Grant. The lyrics are as follows:

God loves a lullaby
In a mothers tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
God loves the drunkards cry,
The soldiers plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah.

The woman holding on for life,
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what's been done,
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

Better than a church bell ringing,
Better than a choir singing out, singing out.

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

This song began me thinking about what God wants from us ... a relationship ... and the two distinct ways that we as humans seem to approach it which I will call the "Busy Christian" and the "Balanced Christian." Let me describe myself to you and then I will let you know which of these labels I think that I currently fall into.

I have a bookcase filled with Bibles, Bible studies, commentaries, books on apologetics and Christian literature. I listen almost exclusively to Christian music. (Although this is simply because it fills me like no other music can, not because I think Christians should avoid secular music.) I go to church just about every week. I pray every day, and try to find a Bible study to join when I can, and sometimes even do one on my own. (Although I rarely seem to finish every page in any given Bible study.) I also go to a small group once a week. I "do" a lot of things that Christians would agree are great things to do ... things that I should do as a Christian. Things that make me a "busy Christian." I "do" so many things, but do they bring me closer to God? Do they take me deeper? I would like to go out on a limb and say the answer is yes and no.

What God wants from us is a deep, personal relationship ... and these things in isolation could actually be hindering me from having this with Him to the depths that He would like me to go. You see the one thing missing from my list is spending time with Him and spending time in His Word. I am going to be transparent here and tell you that I give of my talent and treasure, but when it comes to time ... I just don't have any left when I am done with all of the day to day doings to read my Bible. Are you beginning to see what I am getting at? I have time for so many things, many of which are things that Christians should do, but I do not have time to sit and get into the Word. Now I am not saying that we as Christians should give up "doing" the things that I listed, I think that they are important ... they are great ways to share faith with like minded people ... a way to grow with each other ... but they are not the one on one relationship that I believe God wants with each and every one of us.  Busyness, be it faith based or world based, is one of the greatest tools that Satan uses to separate us from the one on one, personal  relationship that God wants from each and every one of us ... the relationship that He paid for with the blood of Christ.

So what do I do with all of this head knowledge ... Nothing until my heart changes ... and how does that happen ...  only through getting a little more personal with the Lord ... today.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


It has been so long since last I posted.  Life took over and left me without much time ... But, today I return with something important to share.  A lesson, a reminder, and a story to tell.  So sit back and let this unfold around you.  Stop for a moment and see if you can identify with either of these two characters ... their plights ... their sufferings ... their choices ... and then, if you are so moved, take some time to make the difficult decisions that these two women had to make ... weighing the consequences carefully ... because as with most choices there are hearts at stake.

And so the story begins ...

Life is full of choices.  Some are big, some are small.  Some difficult, some easy.  Some well thought out, some spontaneous.  Some edifying, some destructive.  On one site I visited the person posting shared that a speaker at a conference they were at said that "the average adult in the USA today makes about 35,000 decisions each day."  Incredible right?  Well, this story is about one choice ... one choice the choice of forgiveness.

Imagine if you will a woman torn over a decision, she has to make.  She mulls it over, weighs the consequences ... she spends time with it ... and makes the choice that she feels would be best.  She knows that there is a danger in the choice, a danger in repercussions, but she makes the choice in good faith that it is the right thing to do.

Here is another fact about choices dear reader ... they all carry with them consequences.  Some bad, some good.  Some harmful, some benign.  Some fantastic, some tragic.  Some expected, and some unexpected. But they all have consequences ... 

And so she made her choice, but little did she know the storm that would ensue.  Anger and wrath poured out upon her from one who was affected by the choice.  One who was looking at the choice through a different set of experiences and feelings ... and the result was tragic.  In a split second in time, a long time friendship was damaged ... and it left both hearts bleeding.

Reader I pause for a moment to speak to a truth ... one choice, always begets another, and the consequences can build from choice to choice.  It is a dangerous field to navigate at time ... and should be taken carefully and with great prayer.

And as with most choices, this unfolding situation, presented to her yet another choice ... the choice of pride or humbleness.  You see, even in the aftermath ... even when weighing the cost ... she knew that her choice was right ... but she was also painfully aware that it had angered and hurt another person.  It was not the intent of her choice, but it was a direct result of her choice.  And so she began to grapple with a truth spoken into her heart ... that as a follower of Christ she should approach her friend and ask for forgiveness.  Oh, how I wish I could convey correctly the battle that raged within her. To feel so wronged, and yet be asked to ask forgiveness for hurting someone else.  To swallow her pride, put being right second, and the feelings of the other person first.   But she really had no choice.  The Lord made that clear ... in her heart ... in the sermon at church that Sunday ... He was relentless in His request ... and in the end she submitted to His desires.

I would love to tell you that asking for forgiveness make everything better ... it seemed to her like it should have .. after all forgiveness is supposed to go both ways ... it is supposed to soften hearts ... to mend ... but in this case it did not.  For her plea came back unanswered.  She was left wounded again, only this time by the choice of another to choose anger over forgiveness.  Oh, how she prayed for the Lord to reconcile her to her friend.  Oh how she waited upon him ... and still is.  But, to no avail it seemed as if there was to be no relief from the oppression of anger ... and to this date there has not been.  But ... she waits in the peace that she was faithful to forgive and ask to be forgiven ... she was obedient to the tuggings of her heart that called to her follow an example set long ago ... and put another first and extend grace and forgiveness.

And that is the end of the story ... an ending that is simply unfinished.

As with most good stories, there is a moral.  A nugget or two of truth that call out to be shared.  So, what are the morals for this story you ask ... well there are a few.

1.  Anger with out forgiveness will run like a forest fire seeking to engulf and destroy ... it is easily fed ... and tends to grow over time.  It feels righteous at the time ... but is equally, if not more, dangerous to the person that is harboring it as it is to the person at whom it is aimed.

2.  Being right does not mean that you can't be held responsible for the effects your choices have on others.  To quote another ... Apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego. - Unknown

3.  On this side of Heaven ... there will be those that do not make the choice of forgiveness when it is presented to them.  You might even be one of them, as I know that I have been at times.  BUT ... it does hurt.  It hurts both the person being denied, and the person that is doing the denying.

4.  Followers of Christ are called to forgive:

Matthew 6:15-17

15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 18:35

   35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-22

 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 5:24
24 First go and be reconciled to your brother," he recommends, "then come and offer your gift.

5.  Called or not ... forgiveness is a choice ... a choice that has consequences just like any other choice.

So how does this apply to me you ask?  Well, that is simple.  Search your heart.  Are there people that you need to ask for forgiveness ... but the pride of thinking you are right (and you may well be) has gotten in the way?  If so, pray about what the Lord would have you do, but don't put it off.  Time is not your friend in this.  OR are there people that you need to forgive ... that you need to release from the wrath of your anger, disappointment, and hurt?  If the answer is yes, then know that it will hurt you in the long run ... holding grudges ... punishing others ... only breeds more negative feelings that will bury themselves in your heart and fester.  AND ... if you are a follower of Christ then people are watching to see if your actions match your words when you are faced with the decision of asking for or giving forgiveness.  Asking for forgiveness can be hard ... but we are told to do so.  Giving forgiveness without a preceding emotional punishment can be hard ... but we are told to do so.  If we choose not to either of these there are consequences ... and inevitably more choices.