“But God…” A Dozen Reversals of Life’s Heartaches, pt 2

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Fussy grammarians identify the word “BUT” as an adversative conjunction; something like the word “and” with a contrary attitude. When a decent “but” drops into a sentence, it turns the world upside down. How true, especially when the “but” unveils a divine operation — a heaven-sent miracle for life’s darkest hour.

This crabby but beautiful adversative conjunction invites your faith in a God who is the adversary of all that breaks your heart.

Today’s post is part two from an earlier post which you may find here. I hope you find comfort, strength, peace, and hope in a half dozen more “BUT GODS.”

  1. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NKJV). As the argument goes here, you might help out a friend; you might do something good for a decent human being. We find it far easier to help a person who is decent, thrifty, brave, and clean. BUT GOD is different. He embraces us with a love that knows now bounds when we are at our worst. While we were still sinners — moral train wrecks, fallen, helpless, and still shaking our collective fist in his face — the Son of God paid the ultimate sacrifice by shedding his precious blood on Calvary’s hill. He did not fold his arms and wait till we had our act together. Christ died for us, God proved his love for us, and the invitation to heaven’s banquet was sent to us long before we ever deserved it. But God…
  2. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:27, NKJV). The earliest Christian churches weren’t pretty. They attracted society’s lower classes — not many mighty, not many wealthy, not many educated saints sang the praises of God. From all outward appearances, Christianity was a rag-tag assemblage of life’s last in line. The upper-crust occupants of Downton Abbey would look down their patrician noses and scoff. Who are these rabble? Must they be so noisy? What do they matter? BUT GOD delights in choosing life’s B-Team and using us to turn the world upside down. It is not the size of your portfolio, but the quality of your heart, that puts a smile on the face of God. Not your social rank, not your Klout score, not your Amazon ranking, and not an elite pedigree that fits you for service to the kingdom of God. It is your humble receipt of grace and your glorious identity in Christ that chases away the devil’s darkness and makes the angels stand and cheer.
  3. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV). This is one of my favorite verses. No matter what adversities assail you, God is faithful. The night may be dark, the wait may be long, the news may be bad, the hope may unravel, BUT GOD will never let you go. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
  4. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Galatians 3:18, NKJV). Hi. My name is Bill and I am a recovering legalist. Having spent half my life straining every fiber to measure up to God’s impossible demands, I so love the reversal in this verse. At question is the nature of God’s way of granting heaven’s immeasurably rich inheritance to God’s people: how does this happen? What is the nature of our great salvation? Paul offers only two choices: law or promise. These two choices determine the human response. If God offers salvation based on law, then the response must be obedience, compliance with the laws of God. If that’s the case, bend over backwards and kiss heaven’s inheritance goodbye; you’ve already screwed it up. BUT GOD offers salvation, not as a law to obey, but as a PROMISE. How do you respond when a promise is made? Simply BELIEVE. Your legalistic demons may peck you into bondage and despair, BUT GOD will keep his promise: he will save you freely and forever based on the finished work of Jesus Christ if you will only believe.
  5. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (Ephesians 2:4, NKJV). Spiritual corpses, sinful, seized by diabolical forces beyond our control, slaves to lust and passion, and “children of wrath…” That is our dossier, by nature, before the court of heaven. The slimy pit of human depravity offers no escape. Any right-thinking judge, any decent, self-respecting God, would hurl javelins of judgment our way without batting an eye. Condemnation is our due. BUT GOD, who is rich him mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sin, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… that in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. It just doesn’t get better than that. Thank God for the shed blood of Christ!
  6. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NKJV). “Image is everything.” “It’s not the truth that matters, but the perception of truth.” Every day we swim in a sea of philosophical sharks ready to shred our hope, our self-esteem, and the deepest truths about who we are in Christ. Religious pretense. Social climbing. Outward conformity to the peer group. Fit in. Be cool. Dress just right. The world’s philosophies will squeeze you into a mold that can only lead to the death of your dreams and a cold and bitter heart. The world says we must boast in our conformity to its death-dealing system. BUT GOD opens a way of escape, inviting us to glory in the Cross of Christ, to stand secure in the robes of righteousness, to rest in the grip of his hand, and to wait for his glorious appearance. Your search for significance is over — you have found it in the approval of God gained once for all by the matchless grace of the Cross.

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How has God reversed your fortunes? Are there any BUT GOD moments, big or small, you can point to? You can encourage us all in the comments below. 

The Virtue of Imbalance

One of my friends told us about his daughter’s basketball coach. The coach kept the girls busy morning and night, even over the holidays. The coach told the kids, “You have to balance sports, school, church, and sleep.”

He omitted family.

Even so, are sports, school, church, sleep, and family equals to be balanced? I’ve been told to balance life’s demands, balance work and family, balance my emotions, and balance my checkbook.

Today, I say… Forget about it. Balance is not your friend.  I hereby set you free from balancing life’s demands. You’ll be trapped.

What did Jesus mean when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NKJV)?

By his word FIRST, Jesus delivered us from the blandness of balance. Life is to be about IMBALANCE. We tilt toward God first, family second. Everything else comes down the line. Instead of thinking balance, think priorities — a predetermined imbalance.

1. A predetermined imbalance puts God in his rightful place. The idea of holding God in balance with any other person or priority is just plain silly. He is above all.

  • Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9, 10, NKJV).
  • For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, NKJV). Amen (especially the first part).

2. A predetermined imbalance gives you permission to say no, even to legitimate and pressing needs. Jesus said no when he turned his back on a clamoring crowd that he might spend time alone with God (Matt 1:35-37). It was a holy imbalance that made the Twelve summon the multitude and say, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” (Acts 6:2, NKJV). Their NO grew out of a God-ordained imbalance toward the calling of God on their lives. Others might have resented it, but God was pleased.

We live in a culture in which people can’t take no for an answer without stomping off in a drama-queenly snit. So good luck with that. Trying to please everybody is the death of a thousand cuts.

No is a complete sentence. Practice saying it: No.

3. A predetermined imbalance helps you put first things first and keep them there. Hobbies, sports, entertainment, socializing, worship, service, Scripture, prayer, leisure, marriage, dating, parenting, caring for elderly family members, ministry involvement, keeping the home, car repairs, sleep, fitness, exercise, shopping, cooking, stewardship, education, training, margin… These things are not equals. Some are essential, some are luxuries, some are desires, some are optional. A mature person differentiates.

There is no way, holy or otherwise, to  balance the hordes of life’s demands. We shouldn’t try. Tilt toward the big stuff. Husbands love your wives, and wives respect your husbands. Do not provoke your children to wrath. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8, NKJV). First things first. Squeeze in the rest.

Have you ever felt like a plate-spinner in a circus? Watch the video and see what balance feels like:

I hereby give you permission to let a few plates fall. It’s okay. Honest. Life will go on. Devote your energy to the important plates, and let the other ones go. God knows. He’s got plans you’re not aware of.

Priorities, not balance, is the message of Scripture.

Life is like filling a dishwasher: put the big things in first, and then squeeze in everything else.

Margi’s Memo: The Art of the Compliment

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From: Margi–attorney, professor, mom, and pastor’s wife
To: The gals in our church
Re: The Art of the Compliment

The comment: “Wow, you have full lips. Because most old people have thin lips.”

The speaker of the comment: a 16 year old young lady

The recipient of the comment: me

My response: dumbstruck

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Van – 1 Bill – 0

David, you gotta help me… I started a job, and I can’t get it finished. Can I tow my car over to your place, and will you rescue me? I feel like a little boy asking for help fixing the window he just busted before his mom comes home.

car-repari.jpgReal men hunt, fish, scratch, chew and spit. And work on their cars. I guess three out of five ain’t bad. I like working on my cars. Always have. My Uncle Tom taught me how. We spent countless hours fixing cheap cars, especially Dodge Darts (and their twin, the Plymouth Valiant). My first car was a 1971 white Plymouth Valiant with a straight-six engine. One of the most dependable engines ever made.

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Maximum Efficiency–One Shining Moment

My fingers flew as if possessed. My mind raced ahead of the action. I knew–don’t ask me how–what was coming next. I was in the zone. It was like magic. Even the clerk knew it. He stood in awe of me. Almost done… soon… a couple more moves…

Oh no! I blew it! I can’t believe I blew it! I was so close! lowes1.jpg

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Self-Esteem, pt 2

“There’s my beautiful girl!” he said as he lifted her in his arms and drew her near. romance-guy.jpg

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed close. Her heart swelled with joy. She had waited and waited for his return.

He loved her. She was sure of it.

They held onto each other and knew it was a special love.

Click here for the rest of Margi’s Memo…