Guest blog by Jeff Andrechyn.

This is the busiest time of the year at US Airways where we capitalize on the unassailable human desire to return home; and nothing activates this homing beacon we all carry better than the holidays. We fly college students, young families with their little ones, and soldiers home. They will risk being hurled into the atmosphere in a thin metal tube surrounded by 60,000 pounds of jet fuel attached to two rockets to satisfy this deep human need to return home.

Why home? Have you thought about that lately? Why on our continuing journey forward are we compelled to return home where we hope nothing has changed? We hope our parents vitality is as strong as when we were 12 years old. We hope our friends will be hanging out at the same coffee shop, and our old teachers will be waiting after school for us to return and thank them for their perseverance toward our betterment.

Does home have something to say about our sacred journey? So many of our favorite movies from The Wizard of Oz to Gladiator have the protagonist’s main goal to return home… “Click your heels three times and say there’s no place like home.” What is it about home and why do dying soldiers in their last breath call out for home?

Is home something we return to or is it a place we are headed?

When Mary Magdalene visits the tomb on the third day she is surprised beyond imagination to see a resurrected Jesus. She does what any of us would do in that situation, she runs to embrace Him; but Jesus has to tell her, “Mary do not touch me for I have not ascended to my Father yet.” After everything, Jesus was going home to his Father.

I want to speak for a moment to every Ranger out there crossing dangerous mountains and encountering the uncertainty of open seas. You are moving out but you are ultimately returning home… to the garden, where it’s just you, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, wet with rain.  A place you remember in your indomitable human spirit that goes way back. Your journey through life is taking you home and if you are anything like me, you are scared to death you’re not going to make it.

I have a hidden curse I’ve been living under and if I tell it to you, maybe God will reveal something in your life that you are living under.  Remember, if you want to fly away home you have to overcome the drag of this world. I have been living under the lie of “this is not going to end well for you.” Whether it’s finances, career, church organizations, friendships or raising kids, my experience is “nothing ends well for me.”  Deep down I believe my destination is up to me and I’m not going to make it.

I read an interview with once with the actor, Alan Arkin, (In-laws – Argo) where he was asked now as  a sage, “If you could go back, what would you say to your younger self?” Alan said, “I would tell him everything is going to be OK.”

Wow, I love that. He was so gentle with his younger self while answering a deep question we all have.

In 1 Peter 3:18, Peter says, “[Jesus] never sinned but died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”

For one moment I want to speak to you with all the authority heaven has granted me, I want to say to every financial disaster out there, every divorce, every disease you have, every untimely death that has touched your life with profound loss, every career disaster and personal bankruptcy, every journey into the unknown, they are all leading you home. All of your suffering will simply merge you with Jesus, your Captain, who is stronger than all of the adversity. He has been given the job by His Father to bring you safely home. You are never alone in this.

So as your Captain this holiday season, I remain in the service of my King and I bid you fly away home with me.

Jeff

My brother-in-law Dan Lohrmann is the State of Michigan’s Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Deputy Directory for Cybersecurity. His job is to protect the state from attack.*

What does this mean? Every day the State of Michigan experiences five-hundred thousand cyber-attacks. That’s right, half a million attacks every day of the year, or about three-hundred and fifty attacks every minute.

It’s been attacked eighty-three times since you began to read this article.

These attacks encompass simple spam to browser-based, infiltration assaults. Their nature varies from planting a tiny virus on a laptop, to flooding servers with requests (and so grinding them to a halt), to cyber-theft of priceless, electronic information.

Every attack tries to infect the way computers think. From the cheapest laptop to the most sophisticated server, the attacks try to alter how the computers process and therefore how the computers operate.

And that’s exactly what spiritual attacks do to us.

How so?

Like cyber-attacks, the vast majority of spiritual attacks are seemingly quiet. They aren’t the screaming, bomb-laden terrorist bursting through the door of the server-room; they are the soundless electronic forces softly infiltrating our infrastructure.

Like cyber-attacks, spiritual attacks are not rare, episodic incidents; they are the thousands of electrons, constantly swarming around our armor, poking about for chinks.

You may have been attacked eighty-three times since breakfast.

Like cyber-attacks, spiritual attacks target how we think. Mosty people picture spiritual attacks as physical assaults (“I got a flat tire because of spiritual warfare”). The real attack is on how we process life, and therefore how we operate. Oswald Chambers said,

Our stamina is sapped, not so much through external troubles surrounding us but through problems in our thinking (My Utmost for His Highest).

Like cyber-attacks, some spiritual attacks simply plant the virus of doubt; we doubt God’s goodness. The moment that doubt takes “root”—or to the degree it controls our OS—our lives become filled with anxiety, fear, and grasping for self-significance.

Like cyber-attacks, some spiritual attacks simply flood us with thoughts, preoccupations, doubts, hesitation, second-guessing, and suspicion of others. Our lives grind to a halt.

Like cyber-attacks, spiritual attacks try to rob us of life-giving truth, God’s true nature.

The threefold purpose of spiritual attacks

Our enemy may use flat tires as a means, but they are not his end. His goal is not simply obstacles or inconvenience; Satan’s goal is to alienate us, to alienate us …

  • From God,
  • From each other,
  • And from our true selves.

The beginning of the book of Job describes Satan’s purpose in his attack; “[Job] will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). Our enemy wants to change our beliefs (like about the goodness of God) so it changes our behavior (so we mistrust or curse God).

When negative circumstances arise in our lives, they may have been caused by Satan; but they may just be the result of the brokenness in the world.

Maybe Satan caused my flat tire last week, but maybe (just theoretically speaking, of course) it was because I ignored the low tire pressure warnings for the previous eleven days.

No matter their cause, our enemy use every negative event to try to plant his virus, to get us to doubt; to alienate us from God, from each other, and from our true selves.

So what should we do?

If doubt is the virus, right-belief is the anti-virus.

We need the vigilant awareness of God’s goodness. He did not create the evil in the world, but he uses everything—even the evil that hurt us so badly—to accomplish such good in our lives that we are enriched beyond our wildest dreams.

And God brought our friends into our lives for a purpose. Yes, they’re far from perfect, so don’t be surprised by their betrayals. But God can use even their betrayals (as well as their encouragements) to polish the diamond he is creating in us.

(And, by the way, he uses our imperfections—you know we have them—to polish our friends as well; we aren’t so perfect either.)

Let’s also not reject our true natures. God is fulfilling his design for our lives that will bring life to others. Don’t give up; don’t despair; don’t self-flagellate. If God cared for us when we rebelled, how much more will do through us now that we’re adopted heirs.

God found, fought, and destroyed the only hulking enemy that could totally annihilate us, sin and death. If he destroyed that enemy—and he did—we know that any other attack he allows will only strengthen us.

Look at my brother-in-law

Who would imagine that God could bring good out of cyber-attacks? Yet my brother-in-law is perfectly suited—by temperament and by skills—to attack them right back. God used spam to give Dan Lohrmann his perfect job.

Who knows what God is doing in you right now, but we know it’s good.

Sam

* For a short video about the work Dan Lohrmann does, watch this special report.

I once talked with a group of college students, and one of them asked, “How do you explain Westboro Baptist? I can’t stand Christianity because of churches like them.”

Have you heard of Westboro (pictures above)? They picket military funerals in protests against gays. Their website is, God Hates Fags dot com (I can’t bring myself to type the link).

Westboro Baptist is a tiny church. Where they fail to attract many members, they excel at attracting the media. And where they fail to represent the True Church, they excel at representing what’s wrong with the church.

I’ve never met a soul from Westboro—and I’ve never met anyone who’s met someone from Westboro—and I cannot say anything about any of its members’ hearts.

But I can say this: if we don’t understand churches like Westboro, we’ll never understand grace.

Why do we do the things we do?

Everything we do is driven by a motivation. While minor actions, like eating dinner, are driven by minor motivations, like hunger (I’m speaking of the affluent), every major action is driven by this major motivation: we long for significance, we need to know we matter, we have to be special.

But our personalities differ, and our solutions for significance differ too. So our lives, decisions, and the groups we join, look incredibly different as well. But underlying these differing choices lies one unifying drive: we need to know we’re significant.

  • Some crave power and use every fiber of their being to dominate, often ruthlessly oppressing others to grasp for control.
  • Romantics long for love, and you’ll find them flitting from one affair to the next, unfaithfully betraying one lover when they find someone more satisfying.
  • The greedy think wealth will mean they matter, and they cold-bloodedly seek money, even cheating and betraying friends to seize it.

And many get their significance by being good. These people flock to our churches.

It’s not every church member, but…

Jesus said that the church will be filled with wheat and weeds (Matt.13:24-30). We suspect those hypocritical weeds are the adulterers and thieves hidden among us, and we think the wheat are the good people. Like us.

But Jesus says that many of weeds are actually the ones doing good deeds:

On judgment day many will say, “Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and perform tons of miracles in your name?” I will clearly tell them, “I never knew you. Get away from me” (Matt. 7:22-23 PAR).

And Paul writes,

If I have enough faith to move mountains, but lack love, I’m nothing. If I give away every penny I have, and even if I surrender my body to be burned, but lack love, I gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:2-3 PAR).

Some church-weeds are those wicked sinners, but many of the weeds are those moral people who preach, heal, give away tons of money, and even die for the faith.

Are we scared yet? We should be.

How can this be?

Every evil in the world comes from self-centeredness and our constant crusade for self-significance. So dominators rape, greedy pillage, and love-hungry lust. We “ruthlessly, ceaselessly, unsmilingly concentrate on ourselves” (C. S. Lewis, paraphrased).

And if our self-significance comes from being a good person, we ruthlessly and unsmilingly join a church, the place where morality is praised.

Evil deeds are motivated by self-centeredness, but many good deeds are too.

Self-applause

Jeremiah 9:23 describes it this way. We normally hear this passage read with the word “boast” but the literal Hebrew is “hallelu-himself” or “praise himself”:

Let not the wise man praise himself for his wisdom, let not the mighty man praise himself for his might, and let not the rich man praise himself for his riches.

And when Isaiah says that all our good deeds are as filthy rags (Is. 64:6), he could just as easily have told us, Let not the good man praise himself for his goodness.

We desperately need significance to know we matter, so we save ourselves with self-applause through our wealth, wisdom, and strength. And our goodness.

What are we to do?

Every problem in the world is caused by our self-centered solutions to satisfy our longing for significance. The conundrum is that we are made for significance. We are made to matter. It’s in our DNA. We are made in the image of God.

Our longing for significance isn’t the problem. The problem is our self-saving solutions for self-applause—in both the wicked and the moralist. The only solution that will work (and the only solution that will heal the world) is the right praise from the right person.

Paul exclaimed, “God forbid that I should praise myself in anything but the cross of Jesus Christ.” The solution to our need for significance is to receive applause from the right person: “At that time each one will receive his praise from God” (1 Cor. 4:5 PAR).

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Being a Christian is more than believing that Jesus is God’s son (Satan knows it too); it’s more than being a good person (which may only be our self-saving); and it’s more than the magical claim that we have a good heart (if we have one, why doesn’t it show?).

Being a Christian means that our self-saving has died with Christ—that old person that self-applauded through self-significant deeds is buried six feet deep.

It means we have risen to a new life where all the significance we ever needed is lavishly poured into us—even though we didn’t deserve it—in the self-sacrifice of Jesus who died for the joy of having us as his brothers.

Being a Christian means we finally cease from the interminable striving for self-applause, and we rest by faith in the significance freely given to us by God’s grace.

So what does all this have to do with being moral?

Our immorality (and morality) used to come from grasping for self-significance. When we finally have the only significance in the world that will satisfy, something changes.

What does grace have to do with morality? Everything.

  • When we’re tempted to lie to save our reputation, we now have the only reputation that will really satisfy us; we are the beloved of God.
  • When we’re tempted to control others for self-glory, we now have the only glory that will ever fulfill us; we have been praised by God.
  • When we’re tempted to steal, we now have the only wealth in the world that will content us; we ourselves have become the treasure of Christ.

How does Westboro Baptist help us understand grace? By using it as a mirror we see ourselves, clutching and clawing, grasping and gnawing for self-significance through immoral hatred or self-serving goodness. And we turn to the free gift of grace.

Jeremiah closes his passage above with this:  “But let him who praises himself praise himself for this, that he understands and knows me” (Jer. 9:24 PAR).

And by grace we finally do know him, the only truly Good person ever. Grace means we now do good deeds for Goodness sake, no longer for our own.

Sam

I had an uninvited guest stay with me for several days last week. His visits are frequent and unannounced. His presence is initially disturbing and eventually pleasant.

This guest’s name is Unsettledness and his presence stirs these desires:

I don’t want to dabble my life away.
I want to finish my life swinging for the fence.
I want to be on a mission that’s significant and that needs the real me.
I want to be someone my kids can proudly talk about and want to emulate.

By living for something more important than his children, a father gives them the most precious gift any father can give, the gift of transcendence.” – Dr. Larry Crabb

These “wants” pulse through my heart continually, but grab my full attention only occasionally, as it did last week.

I wrestled with the origin of these thoughts. Were they centered in pride, envy, and jealousy; or were they focused on a desire for transcendence, advancing the Kingdom, and loving my neighbor?

I knew that this unsettledness was at least an invitation from God to ask, seek and knock, and that it would not be solely between Him and me.

He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.” – Proverbs 18:1

To be very candid, I was wrestling with the state of The Noble Heart – one of the expressions of the glory and desire of my heart. I thought it might look different by now – not so small and unstable.

I knew from experience that when I am alone in this, I will end up in the cul-de-sac of Self-Examination. I needed another to help me navigate this road of asking, seeking and knocking.

I had a long conversation with Sam (Williamson) in which he asked me numerous probing, clarifying questions in the tone of sincere caring and curiosity.

Later that day Sam emailed me saying that he had been praying about our conversation, and he sensed the nudging of the Holy Spirit to re-read the previous day’s writing in Oswald Chamber’s, My Utmost for His Highest, which he could not recollect at that moment. It read:

One student a year who hears God’s call would be sufficient for God to have called the Bible Training College into existence. This college has no value as an organization, not even academically. Its sole value for existence is for God to help Himself to lives. Will we allow Him to help Himself to us, or are we more concerned with our own ideas of what we are going to be?”

Chambers articulated my greatest desire for The Noble Heart (for God to help Himself to lives) and my greatest struggle (being more concerned with my own ideas of what I’m going to be).

I’d like to say that this has settled the question of my life’s effect with God in this world, but I can’t. I can say that I feel heard by God and that He has given me something specific to ponder: Can it be sufficient for one person a year to hear God’s call?

I believe that these questions are universal to the human heart, they are good, and they are designed to bring us into intimacy with God and into a weighty life.

Unsettledness will visit frequently and unannounced, but each time it does, we wrestle with our desires from a different place. It’s part of the cyclical awakening and deepening process.

So, let unsettledness remind us to ask, seek and knock as we explore our life in this world. Asking, seeking and knocking will first lead us back to God and then back to our true heart.

Gary

The Bible is About God

Have you ever been in a relationship in which everything you say is misunderstood? It’s as though the other person has a built in bias to misinterpret you:

  • You say their new tie is attractive. They wonder if you are buttering them up in order to borrow fifty bucks.
  • You privately mention that their plaid, pink tie clashes (in the tiniest way) with their striped, orange shirt. They think you are a critical jerk.
  • You say nothing at all about their new tie. They figure you are a self-obsessed narcissist who never notices anything about anyone else.

A built-in-bias prevents them from hearing what you have to say because their hearing is filtered through their agenda. They only hear what they want to hear.

Well, we are that biased, agenda-driven person, only we misinterpret what God says. We read scripture through the lens of our purposes, and we overlook his purpose.

We are missing the boat to a rich life with God, and boarding a dinghy to relational hell.

The misread purposes

Our personalities and training bias us to read scripture through these lenses:

  • Doctrinal. We primarily read scripture as a handbook for how to think. Francis Schaeffer, a leading 20th century Christian thinker, claimed that his biggest temptation was not temptations of sensuality but temptations to abstract theological truths. Thinking-oriented people see the Bible this way.
  • Behavioral. We primarily read scripture as a guidebook for how to act. We see the Bible as God’s guidelines for human behavior. It is about the right and wrong of actions. Legalistic-oriented people read scripture this way.
  • Inspirational. We primarily read scripture as a manual of inspiration. The normal course of human life brings difficulties which result in pain. We just feel bad. We read the Bible as an emotional supplement to bolster our feelings. Feeling-oriented people read scripture this way.

Please don’t misunderstand me (and, by the way, that is a very nice tie you are wearing). It is only in scripture that we discover true doctrines, right behavior, and great inspiration.

They just aren’t the primary purpose of scripture. These misinterpretations thrive because they are so close to the real purpose. They just aren’t it. The best counterfeits are the ones closest to the real thing. They just aren’t it.

So what is the Bible all about anyway?

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus meets two doctrinally-weak, behaviorally-confused, emotionally-depressed disciples. He challenges their truth, changes their behavior, and brings them a joy. How does he do it? He reviews the scriptures and explains that the Bible is all about him:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27).

Jesus says, “All of scripture is about me.” The Bible is a self-portrait painted by God.

Scripture is God’s revelation about himself. THE BIBLE IS NOT ABOUT US! It is about God. It’s not about our pet-doctrines, personal behaviors, or feel-good inspirations. First and foremost, the Bible is God’s self-revelation. He’s showing us who he is.

Until we understand that the Bible is about God, we are lost.

Seeing Jesus

‎Jesus claims that abundant life is simply in knowing Jesus (John 17:3). It’s knowing a person. It’s not dogma, behavior, nor just inspirational feelings. C. S. Lewis said,

We come to Scripture not to learn a subject but to steep ourselves in a person.

The four gospels are obviously about Jesus; of course. They’re filled with his birth, life, death, and resurrection. But can we really “see Jesus” in other places, like the law, or proverbs, or stories of early heroes? Jesus said all scripture is about him.

Are the Psalms about us?

We can easily see Jesus in a few, messianic Psalms; he is the Supreme King (Ps. 2, 45, and 72) and he is the suffering servant (Ps. 28, 55, 102). But what about all those other “normal” Psalms, like these verses from Psalm 71:4-5,

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

At first, these verses are inspiring. We ask for God’s protection from injustice. We cry out that he is our hope and trust. From our youth. The verses seem about us.

But wait a minute. I merely want him to be my hope and trust, but the truth is … well, I’m really not so hot at making him my hope. Instead I place my trust in my ideas and street-smarts. There is no one—not one saint, man or woman—in the history of the world who has fully placed their hope and trust in God. Every human has failed.

Except one

Only Jesus really placed his hope and trust in God, and Jesus did it when he was in the hands of the wicked and in the grasp of the unjust. Only Jesus trusted from his youth. Not you nor me.

In this Psalm (and all the rest), when we are honest, we merely see our failure. This Psalm cannot be about us. If it was, what hope do we have? Because we fail all the time.

But Jesus didn’t only die for us, he gave the life he lived to us. When God looks at us, he sees a person (Jesus) putting all his hope in God in the time of his deepest darkness. Read the Psalms with Jesus in mind, understand the beauty of Jesus given to us, and we have no need to despair at our weakness.

When we see Jesus in scripture, we see perfect truth, righteous living, and inspired communion with God; but now it is personal and no longer abstract.

Or let’s look at Old Testament characters

Sure, some Old Testament characters are types of Jesus, but can we see Jesus everywhere?

  • Jesus is the true brother Abel who was innocently slain, but whose blood cries out for our acquittal not our condemnation.
  • Jesus is the better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave the comfort of the familiar and go out into the world.
  • He is the real Jacob, who wrestled with God and took the blow of justice we deserved so we—like Jacob—only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up.
  • Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord, and who mediates a new covenant.
  • He is the better Job, the only, truly innocent sufferer who then intercedes for his friends.
  • He is the better David, whose victory over Goliath becomes his people’s victory, though we never lifted a stone to accomplish it ourselves.
  • He is the true and better Esther, but who said “When I perish, I perish.”
  • He is the true Jonah who goes into the belly of hell itself so the people could be saved (I heard much of this list in a series on preaching by Tim Keller).

Try an experiment with me

Try to see the person of Jesus in your scripture study, or look at these passages:

  • Read the story of Joseph, and ask God to reveal Jesus (Gen. 37, 39-45, 47).
  • Read Psalm 56, see Jesus, and recognize the gift of Jesus’ life to us.
  • Read the Good Samaritan, and try to find Jesus (Luke 10:29-37).

Seeing the heart of Jesus in all of scripture brings the peace we desperately need. Our hope doesn’t depend on how good we’ve been (let’s be honest, we screw-up every day); our hope depends on seeing Jesus.

(And by the way, did I mention that tie really brings out the color in your eyes.)

Sam