What Do You Want, God? (x2)

Trials are coming and we need to know what to look for when asking God for wisdom. Here's three questions and I believe they're biblically prioritized.

What do you want to change in me? This is the first and most courageous question we can ask. It's not natural and quite honestly it the most painful. Could it be that the pain of looking at ourselves is the most rewarded by God? The most natural thing to do is to be so fixated on the person behind the trial that we actually get stuck in a blame game. But the richest among us say with David, "Search me Oh Lord, try me and see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way". 

What do you want to take from me? Here's the tough news that we all know intuitively but it's tough to see it clearly when in a trial...God uses trials to pry things from our lives that we actually love. Not everything we fall head over heals for is good for us and God knows best. The only question is, will we trust him. That person we're dating, the job we're hanging onto, just fill in the blank...it may be that God is trying to take it from you. Please note: God does some of his best addition through subtraction.

What do you want to give to me? Yes, every good and perfect gift comes from God and this wisdom is a promise. When we ask the first two questions we'll have eyes to see number three! Hang on, because the prayer offered in faith will be rewarded.

Trials will come our way. We can't avoid them but we can deal with them in a way that will "make us mature and complete, lacking nothing".

James 1:2-8, Psalm 139

Endless TV Pundits < God Changing Lives

I'm fasting from watching televised news. There's a cable channel playing (on mute) in our radio studio in case there's breaking news we need to report. And I go to several sites on the computer to get the high-level facts but watching the pundits is just more than I can take right now. It's just too toxic and I must confess I can get sucked into the stream of contentiousness – this stream is endless. 

But there is some big news that never gets old - God's Changing Lives! For me, news can be a distraction from a bigger yes – my calling in life is to preach the word or encourage on-air. Please don't hear me condemning anyone. I'm not saying it's sin or even wrong for people to watch the news. But I've been blessed with a calling that is actually the solution to the problem. Jesus can change anything and everything.

Just this week I've personally heard or witnessed the following:

  • A broken marriage restored
  • Healing from being abandoned by a father
  • New resolution to stop gossiping
  • Joy of realizing that their life actually matters when they've been told they're a loser
  • Confession of stumbling into sin and finding forgiveness
  • Getting a fresh vision for their life

These stories are more powerful when you see the emotion on their faces. This is a rush I never tire of and blessing I'd be a fool to miss. So let me nudge you just a bit. Is there something, anything, that is distracting you from your calling? Are you settling for the lesser when the richer is calling – is Jesus calling you? 

Take a moment to ask God, "what's the lesser < what's the richer"? His sheep hear his voice and follow him. I hope you have a fresh story today.

Invitation: I've been letting you know about a new church plant I'm lead pastoring. If you know anyone in Chicago who would find this adventure to be "the richer", forward them this blog or this link and join us to learn more this Sunday. 

Blessings,

Karl

What do you want, God?

Trials are coming and we need to know what to look for when asking God for wisdom. Here's three questions and I believe they're biblically prioritized.

What do you want to change in me? This is the first and most courageous question we can ask. It's not natural and quite honestly it the most painful. Could it be that the pain of looking at ourselves is the most rewarded by God? The most natural thing to do is to be so fixated on the person behind the trial that we actually get stuck in a blame game. But the richest among us say with David, "Search me Oh Lord, try me and see if there is any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way". 

What do you want to take from me? Here's the tough news that we all know intuitively but it's tough to see it clearly when in a trial...God uses trials to pry things from our lives that we actually love. Not everything we fall head over heals for is good for us and God knows best. The only question is, will we trust him. That person we're dating, the job we're hanging onto, just fill in the blank...it may be that God is trying to take it from you. Please note: God does some of his best addition through subtraction.

What do you want to give to me? Yes, every good and perfect gift comes from God and this wisdom is a promise. When we ask the first two questions we'll have eyes to see number three! Hang on, because the prayer offered in faith will be rewarded.

Trials will come our way. We can't avoid them but we can deal with them in a way that will "make us mature and complete, lacking nothing".

James 1:2-8, Psalm 139

Four Words That Will Change You

The good news of Jesus and the result of God touching our life isn't just some wimpy platitude – It will change you or wasn't the real deal. For too many the reality and power of salvation is illusive because they've settled for intellectual assent but the power of the gospel has never touched their soul. Many have walked isles but not yet walked with God. This doesn't have to be the case.

Take a listen to some of the clearest evidence of what happens when authentic change happens. When God touches a heart and turns a life, it comes "not only in word, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction". This is how each of us can have assurance of salvation...to know "that he has chosen you". I Thessalonians 1:4-5

Yes, we can be so close and yet so far away from saving faith. The illusion of salvation is so blinding that no one is beyond the reach of its deception. Jesus says that preachers, demon casters, and even Christian workers can claim the name of God...and not be his kids. Matthew 7:21-23

It's no accident that, just following those stone sobering words by Jesus, a leper (one that was filthy and believed to suffering from his sin) approached him. He simply said "Lord, make me clean". The answer for our lostness, deception, and powerless life is to confess the uncleanliness of our soul and trust Jesus to touch it and turn it. Let him! Matthew 8:1-3

RESURRECTION SUNDAY - New Day/New Year/New You

Their leader was dead. Those first God chasers were now in more pain than before they ever met Jesus. The loss of their dream was only made worse by mountains of shame.

Then it happened at the perfect time. The word spread fast and far. Most could hardly believe what they heard. And that message has sustained its power to this very day. He's not dead – Jesus is alive!

He did it! He did for you and me what we could never do for ourselves. He crushed the tempter. He shouldered our sin and even our shame. And he beat the odds makers when he rose from the grave – it's a new day!

This is more than a day to remember. It's a moment of opportunity to hit the reset button. It's a time for new beginnings, fresh starts, big dreams, and to honor God's victory by embracing things beyond our capacity.

THIS is a new day. It can mark the beginning of a whole new year and a whole new you. Let's go!

(I have something for you that may help kick-start your life. Tomorrow morning (Monday the 28th) Volume #1 of The Seven Series will be free for Kindle users. It can be read with phone apps as well as other tablets. God speed...)

Why I Quit Twitter

At the ripe old age of 55 (just entering my prime:) I canceled my Twitter account. I've made a commitment to stay on top of technology and social media as much as possible because it's akin to the printing press for the modern communication revolution. I have some high-profile friends with a huge and active follower base and for them it's valuable to get their message out. But the Twitter world is not for me until a few things change.

Time - valuable minutes of my life were getting swallowed up by chasing stories that are more easily found with a blog aggregator. I tracked my use and found I could read two more books a month and not miss much of anything by never seeing another tweet.

Trolls - this is a problem that Twitter is trying to fix but it's broken and reveals how debase humanity can be. People hide behind eggs, flags, and fake pics to remain anonymous as they lob incendiary and hateful comments. I'm trying to not give fools another moment of my life.

I may pick it up again one day but it will be after Twitter fixes the troll thing and I can manage the time thing.

Many blessing to you as we "redeem the time" to the glory of God and our personal joy.

Time for Hope & Change!

Remain hopeful & be bold. We live in a post Christian nation but that doesn't mean the gospel has lost its power...no way! The message of the gospel has always been strongest when opposed.

Our personal posture before God should still be our focus. Brokenness is a place of hidden blessing. God gets more of you & you get more of God...and our witness builds in strength. The greatest gift you can give the world is – a fully alive and growing YOU!

II Cor. 5, Matt. 5:3

As you're steaming into 2016 I believe this can be your best year ever. Those aren't just words. There are lessons from Joshua that we can import to our lives and be CHANGED. There is a code to habit changing and God already cracked it!

I invite you to join the journey to extraordinary. Below is a link to Volume 1 of a 9 part The Seven Series. The cost is $0.99 and all proceeds go to mentoring boys on the South-side of Chicago.

The Seven Series (First few words from my new book series - coming soon)

Every volume in The Seven Series is woven together with essential elements for you to achieve your God-given dreams–your journey to extraordinary is possible.

Some might call these rather simple elements a secret. But to say it’s a secret would mean that it’s hidden or unknown. These few essentials remain a secret for many but not because God has hid it, it’s that too few have owned or applied the simplicity of God’s teaching. There’s a reason for that.  

Change is painful. Extraordinary living doesn’t come easy. Many have caught a glimpse from God of a richer future but not everyone is willing to pay the price of admission. The cost of anything extraordinary is the pain of breaking free from patterns of mediocrity. This pain will at times be severe but the reward is awe-inspiring.

Here’s the irony: For the skeptics who think that the pursuit of God-given dreams is self-aggrandizing, it’s really the opposite. When we resign ourselves to mediocrity we can only pat ourselves on the back. But when we pursue something extraordinary we are driven to dependence on the God who gave us those dreams. And like a child who rides the shoulders of their dad into a wonderland of discovery–we’ll always brag on our dad.

Game Changer

Aim your life at something extraordinary. Never let go of a God-given vision. Hold onto hope and refuse to settle for less than God’s best.

This isn't just another rally cry that has to result in dashed dreams. This is an epic story of one man’s journey from mediocrity into extraordinary–it can be your story as well. But the gap between where we stand today and the where we can walk tomorrow must be filled with someone greater than ourselves. We need greater wisdom than we’ve proven to possess, limitless passion to help us through the dry times, and power that exceeds our capacity. For anything to really be different in our lives, we need a "game changer".

"Game Changer" is a sports metaphor that describes a dramatic shift in the direction and momentum that radically impacts the outcome of a game. Yes, God is the ultimate game changer. But there are some critical pieces that Joshua had to import into his life. He could never experience extraordinary if he continued to live like he had in mediocrity. God was with him, the promise was amazing, but some key things had to change. God gave Joshua the game plan that would change him and a nation for eternity. This same plan can be applied by you–everything is about to change. 

Read Joshua 1:1-9

Habits Are Critical (Part 2)

Step #2 Renew Your Thinking

“…be renewed in the spirit of your minds” Ephesians 4:23

Proverbs 23:7 “As he thinks within himself, so is he"

What we think is the truest indicator of how we’ll behave. Behavior always follows belief. Character is the ultimate outworking of our convictions. The stuff that churns in our mind will work its way out in our life. The trajectory of our life hinges on the thinking in our mind.

What we think will either strengthen or undermine our resolve. If we have flimsy belief systems we’ll have broken resolutions. But if what we think and believe is rock solid and unshakable, we’ll be able to withstand storms of adversity and our resolutions will still be intact. 

Successful resolutions are not a mystery. It’s not about mustering enough self-will every day to slog through internal and external resistance. Resolutions, at the core, are a matter of belief.  This is why Paul says in Philippians that peace is ultimately the product of “thinking" about the right things and “practicing” those thoughts with right living (Philippians 4:8-9). The more our thinking is renewed the stronger and more successful will be our resolve.   

Habits Are Critical (Part 1)

We all have habits. Some habits are necessary and practical but most habits fall into one of two categories: They either lift us or bury us. Habits can propel us into positive change or they act as an unseen anchor – holding us back from our calling, convictions, and vision for our lives. Some habits are very destructive and leave us derailed – unable to believe that change can even happen.

Here’s the bottom line: We can have the best intentions and boil over with passionate resolve, but if we lack the habits that promote change we’ll find ourselves in a defeating loop of resolve followed by inevitable failure – only to try it all again. You’ve undoubtedly been there and are probably living this loop in a significant area of your life. All of that craziness can change and it can change now!

Step #1 Break Old Habits

Here’s the great news. Old habits can be broken. This breaking process is so critical that to try and build new habits into your life, without breaking the old ones, will certainly result in failure. Scripture speaks to this issue of breaking with the old in plain terms. Paul lays it down in Ephesians 4:22. “...put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires”. 

We were born with a marred disposition. Without God doing a work in our life we are slaves to a “manner of life” that is a train wreck. We know that and don’t need to quibble about the fact that we are decaying under the habits of deceitful desires. 

But when we are in a relationship with God, Boom!, everything can change. We can take that tangled, twisted ball of attitudes, emotions and habits that have us wrapped up and begin to break them and trash them. This is the right and responsibility for everyone of God’s kids. With every life-transforming resolution you’ll be faced with an opportunity to get honest with yourself and break the old habits that have held you back from God’s best for your life.  

Remove The Failure Label

We will experience moments or seasons of failure, but it must never define us. What's so systemic is the number of people who allow failure to paint, with broad strokes, layer after layer of destructive messages. Even in the lives of those who have been redeemed we find that deception can bury the new birth miracle under piles of lies. God's jealous to eradicate lies and set us free, not into perfection, but back onto our feet and onto the path of spiritual adventure. Evil is tough enough to battle on a daily basis, we sure don't need to start each day in a hole. Walking to a spiritual mirror shouldn't shame us as failures. Each glance at ourselves should be a testament to grace of God, love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit to overwhelm our flesh. 

There is a reason some people never get past failure. Some are marked at a soul level with the pain of failure through a simple flaw. This flaw results in a tragedy. Failure now defines many while God never intends for us to live with this label. There is an answer and James shoots us straight. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Don't let familiarity brush you past a simply amazing truth. We can either live alone with our sin or open up to get free from our sin.

We have two systems to chose from. If we live in a closed system we lack energy from others who love us and we lack input from people who are smarter than us or who have walked the path of failure before us. Sin will happen. But if we live in a closed system we will die in that system. Without the input from others we miss the wisdom we need and the loving energy we must have to get free. But if we open up to trustworthy people who aren't in competition with us and they truly desire us to win, we have radical hope for tomorrow. Confession to God and man snaps the back of evil and opens a portal to spiritual fresh air, energy and God's mercy. Giving someone an opening who loves us, is the best way to get deliverance from a spirit of failure. 

Don't live another day with failure as a label. Give an opening to God and others who believe God for great things in your life. If you don't have those people yet, wait on God and ask him for just one, they will soon come. This is the best way to get new definition in your soul and for your future. Tomorrow looks great!

James 5:16

Take Sin Seriously...(even the smallest sins)

This week I heard word of another high profile pastor who had fallen morally. It made me sad and then caused me to stop dead in my tracks and ask myself, "What do you want to teach us Lord, what do you want to teach me"? I had heard John Piper speak of this classic by John Owen. It is tremendous!

It's never too soon to take sin seriously. If you desire to honor God with your whole life, this book will rock your soul and cause you to make tangible changes throughout your days. This is not legalism...it's wisdom and discipline. And don't be deceived by what you may write off as "small sins". Howard Hendricks often said, it goes something like this... "There's no such thing as a blowout...our life goes flat because of a slow leak". I don't believe I'll be the same as a result of reading this great work. Get this on your reading list...you won't regret it and it may save you from serious pain.

Another warning: Don't look at your life and assume that because you have stayed faithful to your spouse, or faithful in singleness, that it equates to purity. Many have grown cold in faith and suffer paralyzing, joyless living, and it's because sin has not only crouched at the door...we have allowed it to pounce on our soul. But in Jesus we have the victory over it all! Praise God!

Enjoy!


When God Calls

Nothing can strike fear into our heart like leaving what is familiar. The thrill of new adventure, new life, or a fresh start, is quickly diminished when we hear "get ready to go". Suddenly our surroundings can look pretty good. Those little things that drive us crazy about our life of mediocrity begin to have a nostalgic glow. The people we need to leave, the places we never wanted to stay and the very things that have held us back, now have a strange magnetic pull. That's for good reason. The predictability of familiarity becomes a dysfunctional friend. Time can build a bond with all that is unhealthy and that bond is only strengthened when fear of leaving it creeps in. Nothing can strike fear into our hearts like leaving what is familiar.

When God say's "arise" he simply means, "to stand, become powerful or arrive on the scene". This is the first test for any person who wants to live life to its fullest. When we're imagining or discussing a richer future it can seem real doable. But optimism and energy can instantly leave us, like someone pulled a drain plug, when God says "arise". All our will-power disappears. Those things you never liked about the status quo, now seem to look okay. The brilliant vision of a richer tomorrow fades to shades of grey. But we can't live in this cycle any longer. Spinning through visions of possibility followed disabling fear must come to an end. Leaving all that's become familiar is a fear that must be crossed over.

The fear of leaving will not simply vanish. With the slightest move we make to stand, we'll feel the increasing weight of fear. But we must cross over it, armed with brutally honest truth about the cost of never leaving. When God say's arise he intends to do a miracle. He won't remove the fear in total, but he will give us the spirit to get over it. In God's economy the only thing worse than not hearing from God is hearing and never moving. A promise needs to be possessed, a calling needs to be claimed, and that means a fear must be crossed over.

Joshua 1:2

Turn Lemons (Trials) Into Lemonade

Last weekend I delivered this message. I hope you find it massively encouraging and that peace guards your heart. The trials you face today are leveraged by God to do something extraordinary in your life. Believe it! 

I'm taking a weeklong break from broadcasting and blogging. I'll be back, fresh, recharged, and ready to rumble. God speed...

It's Never A Waste

Don't give up on people. No, we can't throw our time and treasure at unrepentant folks. But when God puts someone in our path and they keep getting up, are willing to face the music of truth, and turn to follow Jesus yet again...Go with them. 

Jesus arrived on the scene to save sinners and condemn hypocrisy. He would wade into the lives of the "losers" and "low life's" who recognized their spiritual poverty, more than lock arms with those who wouldn't admit their brokenness and need for God. 

I had a dear friend who rocked my world and many others. Vince was a piece of work, just like all of us. He battled with addiction. He was hooked on heroin, crack and about anything else that could alter ones mind. And when he came to Jesus, he came all the way. 

I prayed with him...wept with him...wrestled with him...struggled with him...repented with him...argued with him...laughed with him...and dreamed with him. But he didn't make it. I was brokenhearted to see Vince go. I gave it my best...but God gave His all! I know that some people are saved...but still live enslaved. 

Here's the kicker. God gave me more through Vince than Vince could have ever known. I learned patience, the power of truth, and how to get ripped off but not let it steal my joy. It's never a waste...I'll see vince on the other side.

This was our family picture with Vince (on the far right) three years ago.

When God Stretches Us

If we let God stretch us we'll be shocked where God takes us! Watching God do things that can't be attributed to natural causes is the very way God wants us to live. This happens with vision that looks beyond things that are seen, "to the things that are unseen". Maybe you need to pause right now and ask God to let "the eyes of your heart" see the eye popping "hope to which he has called you". When God said we've been transferred power that is likened to "the raising of Christ from the dead", He wasn't trying to make us feel good about ourselves, God was calling us out to walk in the supernatural. But we have to be honest enough with ourselves to admit it's possible to "live in the Spirit" and not "keep in step with the Spirit", or we wouldn't have been warned about this real danger. So the call of God requires our stepping out into the promises of God. One of the greatest ways to see God at work in us, is to allow God to stretch us.

Stretch goals exercise the muscle of faith. They challenge us to trust God more and rely on ourselves less. Stretch goals are not about us, they're about benefiting others and soaking up the joy of watching God work through a "jar of clay". Stretch goals build a legacy. Stretch goals love neighbors well and they make the world a little better. Being stretched by God is a paradox of pain and pleasure. It has to hurt, before it can help. But this is for real: The further we lean into the stretch goals God has for us, the more we'll discover the joy of God!

You can begin to reach beyond yourself today no matter your history or how much failure and shame you've endured. Stretch goals are beyond human attainment and that's the point. So stand squarely before God and ask Him to do something outlandishly not of you, that would surprise even you. Tell him you don't need acclaim, you just want to partake of the power he has made available and soak in the presence and joy of God. Laying down your life "as a living sacrifice" is the very next move that takes you - beyond you. But lay down face up. You'll have a front row seat to watch what too few have witnessed, the "demonstration of the Spirit and of power". Don't measure your stretch by anyone else. God knows what you can take, but even better, God knows where He wants to take you!

II Cor. 4:18, Eph. 1:18, Gal. 5, II Cor. 4:7, I Cor. 9:23, Rom. 12, I Cor. 2:4

Break Free (part 4): Get Back Up

Let’s get something clear from the get go: Anyone who begins to follow Jesus will experience waves of joy and peace accompanied with bouts of huge failure and deep grief. It’s just going to happen. Followers of Christ will inevitably fall down and at times it may be a more significant face plant than at any time prior to our spiritual transformation...Period! If you know this going in, you’ll be ready for the fallout and more encouraged to get back up, dust yourself off, and get moving again with God.

One of the most humiliating things that has ever happened in my life, was just after Jesus saved me, gave me a new life, and offered me my first real shot at living. To have God pour his love and forgiveness into my life was awesome, but my personal failure in light of his love made me feel awful and pitiful. I hated how I essentially spit in God’s face after he had done so much in my life. 

Here’s what happened. I was about four weeks into my new life as a Jesus follower in a new town. It was time for me to get some work and I joined a construction crew building a health club. It wasn’t long and I was invited to a party. I thought I could handle it and even share Christ with party goers. Well that was a stupid move! I got sucked into the deep end of the sin I’d been saved from. Within hours I was on a hunt for, believe it or not, the very substance God had set me free from–Cocaine. It got worse. We didn’t find Coke, we could only find Chrystal Methamphetamine. I was in the darkest place I’d ever been and with every snort of the meth I stepped away from light. At this dingy shack of a home, in pitch darkness, I could sense the evil trying to take me out. 

After a long night, God somehow pulled me back to the home of my spiritual mentor. I didn’t want to show my face to a soul. My spirit was crushed, I had utterly and fully failed my God. When I awoke, I truly wanted God to kill me. I wondered, how could God redeem such a loser? But through brutal honesty with a couple people who loved me, time in God’s truth, and hours on my knees, I heard the most loving voice say “get back up”. It was God and he wasn’t condemning me, he was cheering me on. I learned some great lesson that horrible weekend and those lessons keep me moving even today. God redeems our personal failure to his glory and our gain.

What failure in your past do you think is too great for God to forgive? Where have you been stuck and feeling like you’re unredeemable? When was the last time you allowed God to hear you out and fully aired out your dirty laundry with him? I have three simple words for you, Get Back Up! Don’t let evil get the last word in your failures. God has a way of taking our biggest mess-ups and turning them into lessons that will strength us as get back up and get moving again! Let’s go...

Romans 8:28

Break Free (part 3): Walk Away

We can only follow Jesus when we cut ties with those things that suck the life out of us and hold us back from the abundant life. Becoming a Christ follower implies that we're going to have to walk away from something, and it's for our own good. In order to move ahead toward God's bigger yes for our life, we have to learn to say no.

How do we break away from anything that’s destructive and stealing life from us–Walk Away! The real genius and power of Jesus’ call to “follow me” is that it implies we need to leave something. Jesus knew that if we’re going to get victory, we have to break free. And to break free, we have to walk away. The things that hold us back almost always hold us down. 

The wisest counsel I ever received was to walk away from destructive systems I had set up for myself. To break away from Cocaine, Crown Royal, reckless carousing a huge shift had to happen. Now, God would never ask us to leave a spouse or kids to follow Jesus, but he will ask us to walk away from deadly patterns and obvious sources of temptation. For me to follow Jesus meant I had to fly away, literally. Thirty years ago I boarded a plane. I left a good job, from a monetary perspective, but it was filled with coworkers who lived for the weekend and the next gram of coke. I left a small circle of friends who didn't understand, but as I soon found out, didn't really care. I walked away from the only city I knew to go to a town I'd never seen. And at this new town I was met by a man and a woman who I barely knew but I was certain they loved me and wanted to help me follow Jesus. I doubted at times, got hammered with shame often, but I soon discovered that living as a disciple is worth any earthly price we might have to pay–even to look at the life we’ve made and walk away.

Too many new born Christian's become derailed disciples of Jesus, because we fail to follow Jesus no matter how crazy we may seem. When Jesus said “follow me”, he essentially gave us a clear plan to break free. What’s holding you back and holding you down? By faith we need to take a big first step. Walk away from that group of friends who suck you back into destructive systems. Walk away from that job that keeps stealing life from you in ways you’ve never told a soul. Walk away from that emotional affair, possibly that physical affair. Not another thing has to be listed, God has already placed on your heart what is holding you back and holding you down. So by faith, walk away, and watch what God has just around the bend. 

Matt. 16:24

In my next blog, I’ll share one of my deepest failures and the resulting pain that came just after I followed Jesus. Many of our greatest battles happen just after salvation. Maybe me sharing my failure will encourage you to keep moving.

Break Free (part 1): Look At The Ugly

This is a small series of blogs to walk us through a normal road to true life-change. It’s not pretty, sanitized, and religious people who like it clean will find it rather dirty. But it’s the way God changed (and still changes) my life, and he may do the same for you!

We can only break free from what’s killing us, after we’ve seen how ugly it truly is. Jesus led a woman at a well to rehearse the pain of her past. Memories flashed through her mind of the five husbands she’d had and even the man she was now shacked up with. All the pain of being used, abused and reinvesting her soul into that which could never deliver, must have pained her deeply. The prospect that now again her heart was about to be broken over her shame, would have been brutal to bare. But instead of running away from more condemnation, she heard the voice of truth dripping with compassion. This precious woman was about to break free from what was killing her, but it required a deep look into just how ugly her sin (and the sin others visited on her) really was, and how damaged her soul had become.

That long deep look into our sin is not a sadistic game that God plays, it’s a small price that positions us for the priceless freedom we can only find in Christ. No one can see their need for someone to save them, unless they’re certain they’re sinking. God will only show us the depths of our depravity, in order to reveal the inestimable heights of his mercy and love. 

God lifted the fog from my life over several months in the early eighties. But the more I could see, the less I could envision any kind of solution or future with genuine hope. It was at the bottom of empty that I came to grips with my life–I had to “look at the ugly”. The escape of Cocaine had no more pop. Now I was only more paranoid with every line that I snorted. The desired effects of alcohol was no longer for social release, it was for emotional relief. I drank to dull the pain and passing out was fine by me. No one saw any of this like I felt this, and that's why it is so important to have freedom as we’ve truly dreamed, not as we hope others perceive.

So I humbly ask you to “look at the ugly”. Grasp how empty that food addiction has become. Get ahold of how far that ladder-climbing in business and material pursuit has pulled you from the family you love. Take an honest assessment of how numb and self-absorbed that fantasy and/or pornography has left you. Get sobered up for a moment over how much that substance you pour into yourself has become a crutch that you can’t imagine not leaning on. Stop blaming others long enough to see that the very things you desire to receive you rarely give away. Look at the ugly. But look only long enough to realize that there is a voice calling into the dark night of your soul. And when you turn to see it, you’ll be utterly amazed.  

John 4