Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Heavenly Lens

Nicholas L. Laning
We sing, "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord," for a reason.  It's because we are blind.  And, no matter how long you've been a Christian, no matter how sanctified you've become, there is always going to be some blindness.  I wish I could say that once the truth is revealed to you that you will never forget it, but that's just not true.

Through the lens of depression, God showed me much.  Through that immense pain I came to a place of release.  I gave God my life.  It had gone so far away from where I wanted it to go, there was no turning back.  There was this beautifully reckless pursuit of God's kingdom and glory.  

However, as I have been healed, my eyes have turned from what is eternal, from what is heavenly, and become more focused on the here and now.  It was impossible to get what I wanted when I was depressed, so just let her rip.  But now?  Now there is the temptation to build my kingdom here.  My eyes have been pulled to the present.  And it has made me miserable!!!


Because I want to get my way now.  I am staking my claim here, now.  When things don't go my way, when I don't get what I want, I haven't relinquished that to God.  I haven't rested in the peace of knowing He has me.  I know what I want, and either God will give it or He won't, and if not, then I become indignant, ungrateful, bitter, and angry.  That is what my heart has been.  Though I have much, there are things in my life that, if I am to build my kingdom here, to seek for my pleasure here in this life, that are way way off.  If this life is about me, then it is wrong, terribly wrong.

Praise God!  It isn't about me.  Just last night I was laying in bed, unable to sleep.  With a bitter and heavy heart I cried out, "God, help me!  My heart is so bitter, and I don't know why!  Return my heart to one of thankfulness and love.  Please!  My heart is not loving right now, Lord!"  And, faithful as always, where I once couldn't see, all of the sudden I could.  My eyes have stopped looking to eternal things.  They have been focused here, and I was shown just how much that has affected me.

Today has been a new day.  The outside world is the same as yesterday.  The outer problems are still there.  Yet, my heart has been changed.  Today, heaven is on my heart.  I see those things that I wish were different and I just give them to God.  I openly relinquish them, and in doing so all is joy.  Why?  Because it will be redeemed.  Paul's dream wasn't to get pummeled, shipwrecked, imprisoned, afflicted and then some.  Yet, he lived a glorious life, one we should emulate, for the sake of the gospel of Christ!  If I remember correctly, every single one of the twelve disciples died horrible deaths.  Yet, they are called blessed.  

Matthew 20:23-28

23 He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." 
24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.  
25 But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  
26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  
27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  
28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Jesus doesn't deny that people will be honored differently.  He doesn't say, "Hey, once in heaven, who cares?  We're all the same."  He confirms that some will be honored over others.  If you don't know, where someone sat in Jesus' time was all about honor and recognition.  It was a big deal.  And then He goes on to reiterate what He said to me last night.  To be great is not to be powerful, to be recognized here on this Earth.  It is to be a SERVANT, to put yourself at the service of others, to willingly put yourself under them.  Wow!  

That doesn't sound at all like how I have lived my life these last few months.  I have been entitled to the nth degree.   Notice that the honor is to be near Christ in heaven.   Well, by golly, I want to be as close as I can get.  I want to be up there.  I don't want to lose that because I clung to this brief little flash.  Funny thing is, with my new lens of my heart, I am actually happier now, though that is not my goal.  You have to love paradoxes.

My prayer for you and I is that we would not lose what we have in heaven for the sake of this wonderful, yet flawed, and brief moment in eternity we call our current lives.  May our hearts understand what it means to live for Him.  May we be crazy bold with out lives, forsaking all for His kingdom.  May the Holy Spirit show each of us just what that means in our life.  Amen. 

Friday, May 18, 2012



Don't leave my hyper heart alone on the water
Cover me in rag and bone sympathy
'cos I don't wanna get over you
I don't wanna get over you

Friday, May 11, 2012

What is Righteousness for? I Wonder.

Grace is hard.  It's just one of the many things that makes Christ unique.  You know?  As hard as we try to make Christianity a system, a set of rules, things like grace tear it down.  It brings us back to a living God who wants a relationship.  Just like people, that means things are going to get complicated.  There is no mom system.  I can't do this, this, and this, and have a guaranteed relationship with my mother.  I have to invest in her.  I have to see her for who she is, otherwise, even if I spend time around her and with her, I can actually have not taken in her presence in any meaningful way.

I have struggled with grace and self-righteousness my whole life.  My track is not unique.  The start of my salvation saw me quickly shift over into self-righteousness.  I would read about all these things that needed to be done and I couldn't help but do my best to do all those things.  I have lived most of my life in fear, not of a loss of salvation, but of a loss of favor.  It was as if I could see God saying, "Yeah, you're saved, but I'm so mad at you."  Basically all the time.  I mean, come on.  Sometimes I have actually gotten closish to fulfilling the law, relatively speaking for a human.  There are a ton of people who would probably think of me as self-righteous and a goody-goody, particularly those who knew me in High School.  They were not wrong.  I was doing my dead level best to be perfect, as I wanted God's favor.  I was so afraid of what would happen if it left.

All that got smashed when my depression hit.  I was so sure that this misery I had was because I had done something wrong, something to incur God's anger.  Then I read Job and came to see that wasn't even how it worked before Jesus, nevertheless after Him. 

Over the last couple of months I have been meditating on the verse:

Romans 8:1 ESV

[Life in the Spirit] There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I had always pushed that lack of condemnation to being in the future, as in, "Hey, once you get to heaven, it's all good.  However, God's favor is still up for grabs."  The Holy Spirit led me to understand something life hanging.  There is NOW no condemnation for me.  God doesn't wait to not see my sin, He doesn't see it now.  When asked about my sin, NOW, God the Father turns to His right, sees Christ, and sees His perfect life instead of mine.  
So, then the question was, "What is righteousness?" I ask, because like many, once grace is felt even a little, it is quickly abused.  Our hearts go, "No sweat, God's going to forgive me."  Even if we know the verse where God entreats the Romans, "Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound?  May it never be."  Even if we know this, our hearts and minds can't seem to reconcile.  What are we to do with righteousness?

It is only within the last three weeks that I have come to see that righteousness is actually good.  What I mean is that I have, like most, felt righteousness to be a drag.  If only I were free to do this sin or that sin.  Man, wouldn't that be great?  The truth is no.  Righteousness is not about God's favor or salvation.  You can't earn either.  They are given in spite of your actions, not because of them.  Your actions are as filthy rags, recall.  No, righteousness rightly understood is about actually pursuing what is good.  Funny thing, and I am in no way ginning this up, or psyching myself out.  It is not wishful thinking that makes me say this.  It is the comp[lete opposite.  Righteousness, when done out of love, and not out of desire to win favor or salvation, brings life.  It really does open up your heart.  You find that your heart was made to work this way.

Righteousness is kind of like the laws of physics.  Life is just better when you understand them and follow them.  Gravity kills when not understood.  We drive a certain way because we know that doing so will keep us alive and well.  Righteousness is the same.  It is a law written on your heart, and even if it is not the means for you to save yourself, or to make God love you more, it will still bring you joy.  

I know that some of you are going to cringe at this.  The very word "righteousness" is going to rub.  You want to be "free."  Only, there is no such thing.  We are always a slave to something.  We can be a slave to Christ, to light, goodness.  We can be slaves to our own base desires.  That isn't freedom.  Did you choose your desires?  Do you mold them?  Do they really free you?  Or, do your desires ensnare?  I already know the answer, because i have given myself over to my base desires many times before.  At first it felt awesome.  But, only for a liver of time.  Soon, I found myself quickly hating myself.  With or without God, I saw that I was a self-centered punk.  All purpose died.  Was I really only about my own pleasure?  Really!?  Vomit.  

I dare you, if you are struggling with this, to read the Psalms.  Listen to David talk about how he loves righteousness.  Listen to him extol the life of one who is righteous.  Recognize that David sinned a ton too.  He wasn't perfect.  He stole a man's wife then had him killed.  Have you done that?  So, know he wasn't perfect.  But, in the end, God called him a "man after His own heart."  I dare you to ask God to show you what righteousness is for.  Ask Him to change your heart.  Ask Him.  What have you got to lose?  He's not going to do it unless I'm right.  Righteousness will not save you, nor make God love you more, but it will make your life better.  It will make your heart more like God's and in that place there is true joy... no matter what is going on around us.

I'm praying for you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Tall trees, white sand, and of course... the ocean.  That's what I have been looking at these last couple of days.  Every time I am near the ocean or the mountains I wonder within my self, "Why don't I live here?  Or, at least some place like it?"

There is something incredible about being around such beauty.  It doesn't get old.  It may not always hold the edge it had when it first cut you, but it doesn't become dull.  When I lived in Ireland, I woke up every single day in shock.  I could literally sit up in my bed, look out the window, and see the Mourne Mountains cascade down to the Irish Sea.  It was, in a word, incredible.   

So, here I am again.  I find myself staring out at the ocean and I wonder, "There are hundreds of  thousands of miles of ocean coastline.  Why don't I live on any of them?  Or, why don't I live near the mountains?  There are mountains all over the Earth."

Deep down I know the answer.  It's people.  My friends and family live in Texas, and thus I want to live in Texas.  If I had the money to fly around when I wanted, I think that I would live elsewhere.  It isn't that Texas isn't pretty.  It is.  Particularly, the my home, the Hill Country, is beautiful.  Yet, Texas is a Jack of all trades and master of none.  We have good beaches, but not great beaches.  We have good mountains, but not great mountains.  Even our deserts aren't that incredible.  We have it all, but none of it is the best.

I don't really have an answer in my heart, just thoughts.  People are more important than the place.  That is for sure.  I am not saying that Texas has superior people.  Texas simply has MY people.  Does that make sense?

Honestly, if I had the money to travel wherever I wanted, I think I would still live in Texas, probably the Hill Country, and just travel a lot.  

Anyhow, it's a pointless, post of random musing, but I felt like sharing.  God is surely good.  Sometimes I think about other people and where they live.  I wonder  about what it must be like to live in France, to be French.  It is odd to me.  People live there.  This is obvious in my head, but as far as feeling it, it is new.  Or, to think that someone actually lives on some tiny speck of an island in the middle of the South Pacific.  It is crazy.  Then it hit me... someone out there is thinking, "Who is actually from Texas?  How weird would it be to hunt deer and wear cowboy hats?"

Again, more pointless musings.  If you have anything to add, leave a comment.  I'd love to hear any thoughts.