Enter Hungry

8 07 2013

A recipe for a perfect evening – one family happy to be together, a warm summer night filled with stars, and an ice cream shop. Sitting on the benches outside with our drippy cones, we laughed, talked, and tasted. Looking around at the little family-owned business, I noticed the signs set up to direct traffic into their little corner of heaven. The first sign read “Enter Hungry” and pointed people to the ice cream. The other sign was settled near where you leave and read “Exit Happy.” I smiled as I thought about the anticipation and expectations they set in your mind just by the way they directed your car.

In thinking about their signs (which may require me to go back and do more research), I decided there was a great deal of wisdom in those words. Setting our hearts and minds on the good things God has in store for us has the power to open our eyes to His presence, purpose, and power. What if I put an “Enter Hungry” note on the front of my Bible? What if there was an “Enter Hungry” sign near the doors of our church buildings, Bible classrooms, and worship areas? What difference would it make to remember to Enter Hungry as I bend my knees in prayer or lift my voice in praise?

God makes a number of promises about what will happen within us as we enter His presence hungry for Him. He works within us to fill us with exactly what we need to experience even more of Him the next time we come. When we enter hungrily into God’s presence, we can exit satisfied, convicted, repentant, forgiven, transformed, empowered, at peace, filled with joy, strengthened, humbled, connected, blessed, encouraged, and thankful. Enter Hungry. Exit filled with God’s blessings.

My Jesus Resolution today is to enter hungry. I want to experience all the rich flavor of the life He has in store for me. I want to long for His presence, crave His mercy, desire His goodness, and settle for nothing less than the extravagance of His love. I am going to anticipate the ways He is going to fill me up today and set my heart on enjoying the fullness of His glory. Today I want to Enter Hungry and Exit Looking More Like Jesus.

True Freedom

5 07 2013

“There are two freedoms – the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where he is free to do what he ought.” – Charles Kingsley

The boy stomped his foot and cried. He didn’t want to go to bed, didn’t want to clean his room, didn’t want to stop playing, and didn’t want to eat his vegetables. “I can’t wait until I am all grown up and can do anything I want!” As a parent, I smiled at the scene playing out in front of me. Perspective is everything. Children imagine being an adult as the ultimate pinnacle of freedom. You don’t realize until you are an adult that children are the freest beings of all. As the enforcer behind the “don’t want to” group of requirements, I know that these things are for my son’s best. They aren’t heavy burdens laid on him in order to make his life miserable. They are designed to help him grow into a man who is strong, healthy, and capable.

This interplay between parent and child is a reflection of the struggle we have understanding the true meaning of freedom. The world tries to sell us an immature view of freedom. It promotes the idea that freedom is being able to do whatever you like, whenever you like, no matter what. If I feel like it, I should be free to do it. Many of our battles over rights and personal liberties are grounded in this determination to be independent and decide for ourselves.

True freedom takes a longer view. It isn’t as much about what feels good in the moment as in what will take me furthest over a lifetime. God wants you to experience this kind of freedom. He longs for you to grow into Christ-likeness, stretch your soul, embrace joy, and live in the overflow of His grace. True freedom is grounded in surrender, sacrifice, and trust. This kind of freedom isn’t about standing your ground and drawing lines in the sand. It is about learning to live life on your knees so that you can walk with hope through your day.

My Jesus Resolution today is to set my heart on desiring true freedom. The kind of freedom the world offers is an illusion. It looks good, but leaves me empty, broken, and soul-hungry. God’s kind of freedom opens up possibilities beyond my imagination and encourages me to live with courage in the light of His love. I don’t want to settle. I want to look like Jesus.

Freedom’s Price

3 07 2013

“We must be willing to pay a price for freedom.” – H.L. Mencken

Tomorrow is America’s Independence Day. It is a day that will be celebrated with parades, cookouts, and fireworks. It is a day meant to remind us that freedom is to be cherished and that it comes with a cost. The United States was not easily born. Like all freedom, it came alive in blood and sacrifice.

The ache for freedom runs soul-deep. We see it all over the world. There is a hunger for freedom, a thirst for liberty that continues to spark the human spirit even in the face of oppression and cruelty. This yearning for freedom, however, doesn’t find its roots in politics, economics, or sociology. This desire for freedom is primarily spiritual in nature, even if we don’t recognize God’s fingerprints on its design.

As you celebrate today, stop for a moment and be thankful for those whose vision made the land of the free and the home of the brave a reality. Express your gratitude to the men and women whose daily service allows freedom to ring all over this great land. Pray for our leaders. Embrace the duty of citizenship. Never forget that freedom is never free.

Remember most of all that God was willing to pay a price for your freedom. Enslaved to sin, bound in darkness, we were captive in ways that chained our souls to death. Jesus was willing to pay freedom’s price. It was not easily achieved. Our freedom came alive by blood and sacrifice.

My Jesus Resolution today is to celebrate freedom. I am going to cheer at the parade, salute the flag, and put my hand over my heart at the white grave markers that catalog the cost of freedom. I am going to enjoy the blessings and be thankful for the privileges that come with living in a land so committed to liberty and justice for all. I am also going to pause and be thankful for the most important kind of freedom. The freedom from sin, from fear, and from hopelessness. God wants to ignite that freedom in the heart of every person on the planet. Jesus paid the price. Let freedom ring.

God’s Grief

1 07 2013

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” – Genesis 6:5-6

My kitchen table is a funny place. More happens around that table than just receiving nourishment. It is a place of insight, prayer, deep conversation, laughter, and connection. Today, I was sitting in my spot at the table eating my morning yogurt. On my left, my Bible was open. To my right, the front page of the newspaper was spread out. I always read my Bible as I start my day, and then turn my attention to the news.

This morning, the contrast between the two pages could not have been more striking or heartbreaking. The words of my Bible opened my eyes to God’s glory, His call to holiness, and His deep desire to transform us into a people that are inhabited by His Spirit, defined by His presence, and shaped by His purpose.

The front page of the newspaper highlighted the celebration of a recent Supreme Court decision, a story about a mother’s abuse of a child, the latest celebrity misstep, and the glee one group is exhibiting over the troubles of another group.

I put my head in my hands as my heart ached. How should we respond to the headlines? There are many ways to read the newspaper. I could fold it up and ignore it. I could shake my head. I could get angry, frustrated, or self-righteous. But when God sees evil, He grieves. It hurts His heart. Our evil actions touch the heart of God in a way that moves Him to sorrow. It breaks His heart to see sin take up residence in our world and in our hearts. There is something sobering in realizing that my behavior, my choices, and my decisions have the power to impact God in such a profound way.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be aware of the connection between my heart and the heart of God. It is easy to read the newspaper and point at “them.” But the sin that worms its way into my heart is just as dark, just as repugnant, and causes Him just as much grief as the sin heralded on the front page headlines. Today I want to ask how the choices I make, the actions I take, and the words I say will be heard and seen in heaven. Will they bring Him honor or will they cause Him grief?