Look! The Good Side and the Ugly Side

Look! The Good Side and the Ugly Side

An embroiderer weaves the thread looking at the good side everyone will see, but flipping the beautiful project over reveals an ugly side. On the good side, symmetry and order create an attractive design. On the opposite side, the ugly side, threads criss-cross in weird angles and knots hang limp.

Illustrations of the good-side-ugly-side of things are revealed in innumerable ways around us.

Instinctively, we all try to hide our ugly side, even pretending only the good side exists. Jesus consistently flipped over pretty facades to reveal hidden uglies underneath. He wasn’t, and isn’t, sadistic, taking pleasure in tormenting or humiliated people.

Jesus purposefully flipped and turned, looking for those responsive to His teaching and drawing the humble to maturity and order.

The true masters of needlework produce artful pieces, beautiful on both sides. Although I tried, I never reached that level of excellence.

Good or Ugly?

At times, we may be quick to form opinions and cast judgments. The good side might not be as good as we first think. The ugly side might not be as bad as we think, either.

John the Baptist called people to repent in preparation for Jesus’ coming. Tax collectors and sinners, the ugly side of society, responded to his ministry. The religious elite held fast to a different view.

“(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)”
Luke 7:29-30

Those who fought to maintain a strict appearance of looking good ended up nullifying everything — even God’s divine purpose for their lives. Strutting in distinguishing robes and high hats to fit their high heads, they failed to realize the cost of their unyielding pride.

When the good-side people rejected John’s call to acknowledge their bad side and turn their lives around, they forfeited all God had waiting for them.

This Generation

Jesus spoke directly to His generation. They dismissed the invitation to turn — to humbly admit their ugly side, so He could bring out the good side. No one could twist His meaning for some future time, although similarities would exist for every generation.

“Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like?”
Luke 7:31

Jesus broadens His focus beyond a limited group of religious leaders to “this generation.” All of us!

What He reveals isn’t pretty! The more we attempt to hide our ugly side, the uglier it becomes. The longer we wait, the greater the mess we create in and around ourselves.

The Ugly Side

How ugly is the ugly side? Downright ugly! Immature, idle, stage-seeking, groupy ugly! Ouch! Truth stings!

“They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.'”
Luke 7:32

What would Jesus say about me? Forget about brushing this indictment off to others. If Jesus flipped me over publicly, what would He find, and others see?

Where are the areas in my life where I childishly resist taking responsibility — where my attitude or behavior exhibits immaturity? Am I idly “sitting” around when there is Kingdom work to do? Do I seek a platform to be heard or a spotlight of attention? Do I expect others to adjust to my command to “dance” or “mourn?”

As I read this passage this morning, I knew God wanted my full attention. Maybe, He desires to speak to you as well, but I’m just sharing about a little flipping Jesus is doing right here with me.

The Good Side

Even as I felt the pain of my ugly side being exposed, I heard God’s sweet voice of grace inviting me to the good side — the beautiful side displaying His creative hand at work. Again, I felt His nudge to harmonize my life with His good, I mean really good, purpose and plan.

May you hear and feel Him too. May you sense Him drawing you from childish ways into maturity, taking you by the hand, lifting you to our feet, and mobilizing you to a place of fulfillment. Why? Because He doesn’t want anyone, including you and me, to miss out!

Jesus gently draws us away from the crowds and distractions of business and busyness — away from conforming to like-minded, going-no-where thinkers. Instead of setting our own pace and demanding others march to the beat of our personal drum, He welcomes us to the good side.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ . . . “
2 Corinthians 5:16-18

Point of View

Honestly, it is okay if Jesus or others point to my ugly side. By His grace, He continues to take that ugly old side, with warped and knotted ends, and recreates it into a beautiful design no one could imagine. Through Him, even my ugly becomes new!

Oh, may we not resist His perfecting touch! May we each look into the mirror of His doing and see the miracle of the “good side” — His new creation worked in us.

May the tune of our song align with His truth:

“The old is gone!
The new is here!
All this is from God!”

Oh, sing it saints! Sing it again and again until it settles in your soul. Sing it mature, active, humble followers of Jesus. Don’t try to hide your ugly side from God or others, but let the world see your truly good side.

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Transparent Love – Love Must be Honest

Transparent Love – Love Must be Honest

Only through transparent love does it grow and mature. To love fully and freely, love must be honest. Most of us struggle to overcome our tendency to hide.  We hide our thoughts, our emotions, our failures, our differences, our unacceptable-ness. In hiding we deceive ourselves, robbing us from the blessings love offers.

Paul said,

“What a wretched man I am!
Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”
Romans 7:24

That’s honesty! Who among us is so bold as to announce to the world for infinity the poverty of our minds and souls? Few. Very few possess such transparent love.

Love is Blind

An adage says, “Love is blind.” Saul on his way to Damascus to murder and imprison Christians perhaps literally experienced this quote. As he neared Damascus, “a light from heaven flashed around him.” The light was immediately followed by God’s voice questioning his objectives.

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.”
Acts 9:5

In asking the question, he declared the answer. The Lord he thought he knew was not this Lord. Here was love, he had never experienced before. When he picked himself off the ground and “opened his eyes he could see nothing.” Saul once driven by religious passion became blinded by love — unconditional, indisputable, undefinable love. Love so pure that darkness had no place.

For three days Saul fasted and prayed. Everything in his life changed from that moment of encounter forward. Everything except one thing.

Honest Love

By the time that we meet Paul in the Book of Romans, he has undergone a name change, a vision change, a mission change, a radical life change. Years have passed and the implications within Paul’s life since encountering Jesus Christ on the Damascus road stretched broad and wide. His conversion undeniable. His transformation unquestionable. Yet, he testifies to the Roman church, not in self-abasement, but in raw honesty.

“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
but I see another law at work in me,
waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law
of sin at work within me.
What a wretched man I am!”
Romans 7:21-24

What freed Paul to be so honest? What released him to such transparent love?

Most of us are confronted with our misdemeanors before such confession — our breaches of conduct exposed, our sin and failure made public. Not this man! Paul was different.

Perfect Love

John, the disciple Jesus loved, penned these words,

“There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear,
because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 5:18

Here lies the heart of our issue, our stumbling block to transparent love. We’ve learned early that honesty brings punishment, reprimand, perhaps rejection and shunning, often unforgiveness and broken relationships. So we live among those we are supposed to love, and who are called to love us, with fear. Fear denies love the freedom to thrive and grow.

Yet, Paul’s encounter with Jesus Christ, his relationship with the God who by His very nature is love, so grounded him to boldly and honestly acknowledge his greatest weaknesses even among His enemies.

He laid out his true condition before those who could do him the most harm, the church. Yikes! If ever there is a critical bunch, they can be found sitting in the pews, praying in the prayer rooms, and sharing communion at the altar. Unfortunate, but sadly true. The places where love should most abound at times is lacking. Lacking in me most of all!

Yet, here more than any other place authentic, transparent honesty finds hope, help and healthy relationship.

No Pedestal

Though some would like to climb on the pedestal marked human perfection, there was only One who could hold that rightful place. His sinless life was enough to redeem us all.

For the rest of us, we are in process like Paul — trying our best, longing with all our heart not to sin and let others down, and repenting often.

If there is one verse I take great comfort in, it is this one,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

I haven’t reached the fullness of God’s intention for my life and fall far short of it most days, but I’m not the person I used to be — the broken one, the despised and rejected one, the unloved one. By God’s grace alone, He has called me by name and chosen me as His daughter. He loves me even though I’m undeserving.

As a matter of fact,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

Paul wrote both of these passages. He called himself the least of the apostles, unworthy of that designation. In another place, he identifies himself as the worst of sinners. This is the regenerated Paul — the cleaned up, polished-off apostle who is effectively planting churches everywhere he goes.

Yet, he claimed nothing for himself. He desired no pedestal or promotion. In transparent love, he clearly identified with sinners, redeemed only by the pure love of God.

Love Redeeming Hope

So where is our hope and help in the midst of the internal battle we all wage. Paul sums it up in a single sentence.

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me
through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Romans 7:25

“Who delivers me” is a continuous action! Jesus, our Beloved, continuously draws us into the intimate love and fellowship of the Father, freeing us from the claws of fear, releasing us to transparent love. Risky? Yes. Vulnerable? Beyond question. Worth it? Absolutely.

This morning I awoke weeping and singing, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son, to make (this) wretch his treasure.” I’ve spent the morning resting in that love. In His perfect love, repentance flows freely. Not just remorse or guilt, but a repentance that sets the captive free.

“Godly sorrow brings repentance
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
but worldly sorrow brings death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

Transparent love honestly draws us into repentance of anything that marks, distorts or hinders love’s fullness. Repentance starts at the cross and flows to everyone around us. The world’s vain replica brings destruction. But the honesty of Christ’s love in us leads to the sorrow of repentance that embraces even the wretchedness of our present struggle.

Transparent love redeems pulling us up to a higher standard, a wider reach, a deeper flow of loves pure intent. So herein is God’s challenge to each of us — to love with transparency and honesty, to refuse to play it safe hiding in fear, to risk vulnerability before God and others. The pursuit of such love lasts a lifetime, but such is redeeming love.

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Another Read:

Adonai Jehovah – The Giver – The One Who Pours Out

Is This Prayer? Vocal and Silent, Raw and Active – This is Prayer!

Is This Prayer? Vocal and Silent, Raw and Active – This is Prayer!

“Is this prayer?” is a question frequenting my thoughts lately. Moses’ powerful public prayer was birthed in intimate face-to-face encounters with God. His life demonstrates the qualities and benefits of this deep relationship. Though I enjoy a personal relationship with God, He has been challenging many of my paradigms of prayer. 

Moses, unlike any other person, experienced God in unprecedented ways. He heard God’s audible voice. He received detailed instructions on how to bring unity to a nation not yet nation, as well as how to build and organize a worship center for over a million people. His dependence upon God was evident,

“Then Moses said to Him,
‘If Your Presence does not go with us,
then do not send us up from here.'”
Exodus 33:15

Difficult Times

Perhaps, nothing forces us into the Presence of God quite like difficult circumstances. Moses faced more than his fair share of struggle. A posse of grumblers confronted him and his leadership. Dathan, Abiram and On were their self-appointed leaders. They boldly aired their grievances unaware of their own pride and disrespect!

“(They) became insolent
and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members
of the council.”
Numbers 16:1-2

Such descension came not from a renegade group of has-beens or back-benchers, but from “well-known community leaders.” These men were “appointed members” of council! 

Envision the scene for a moment. Two hundred and fifty strong, angry, powerful recognized leaders shouting their demands!

“They came as a group to oppose
Moses and Aaron and said to them,
‘The whole community is holy,
every one of them, and the Lord is with them.
Why then do you set yourselves
above the Lord’s assembly?'”
Numbers 16:3

Silence

What would you do? What would I do? Would the first instinct be to fight, flight or fall? Moses prayed. Although the word “prayer” might not fit our preconceived notion of what prayer looks like.

“When Moses heard this
he fell face down.”
Numbers 16:4

Have you been in a situation so volatile, uncertain, and beyond reason that words won’t come? Any utterance falls insignificantly short. After prostrated silence, Moses would speak, but not now. Now was the time of waiting on the Most High, being still in His Presence, and listening for His voice. Hearing always precedes speaking for the wise of heart.

Is silence prayer? Can prayer be wordless and still be prayer? 

Raw

The conversation Moses had with God was raw, audacious, and vulnerable. 

“Then Moses became very angry
and said to the LORD,
Do not accept their offering.
I have not taken so much as a donkey from them,
nor have I wronged any of them.'”
Numbers 16:15

The sting of injustice and angry retaliation oozed through Moses honest interchange with God. Is that Allowed? Is emotional venting prayer?

***

She sat across from me confused, disappointed, and unable to understand the situation that seemed to threaten her. Raised in a Christian home, she had attempted to honour God at every stage of her life. Purity was high on her expectation list both for herself and her spouse. 

Past sins and secrets were recently disclosed by the man she loved. She fully submitted her marriage to God. Yet the sense of betrayal remained — not only by her husband but by God.

She was stuck in the dilemma of nicety. “How do you tell God your angry?” Such transparency seemed risky.

Slowly, she began to articulate her grief, pain, and the depth of loss she felt. Gradually words started to break from the inner dam of disbelief and mistrust.

Afterward, she sensed God acknowledge and even thank her for her authenticity and courage to admit and honestly voice the pain of her heart. Perplexed she wondered why God welcomed the exchange. Slowly she began to realize God’s love covered her unconditionally. He desired genuine relationship with her.

Many people might ask, “Is this prayer?”

Standing in the Gap

Perhaps, Moses’ next exchange with God pictures more clearly our perception of prayer. 

“But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out,
‘O God, the God who gives breath
to all living things,
will you be angry with the entire assembly
when only one man sins?'”
Numbers 16:22

This is intercession at its finest. God stands ready to vindicate Moses and Aaron once and for all. Instead of saying, “Yeah! It’s about time! Do it God!” They stand in the gap by falling on their faces. Instead of applauding God’s justice, they plead for His mercy.

Only a few verses before, Moses laid silently face down in the dust. Again, He falls to the ground. This time with deep wails that would not be silenced. 

“What difference does the prayer of one person make?
You will never know until you pray.”
– Anne Graham Lotz

Which one is prayer?

Action

Can action be prayer? 

The grumbling in the camp rose in unceasing waves. No sooner had God dealt with one group of complainers and mutants, than another pushed their way to the forefront.

God’s patience ran low! His love would not restrain correction any longer. When Moses and Aaron saw the sudden appearance of “the cloud” covering the tent of meeting and “the glory of the LORD,” they knew time was running out.

“‘Get away from this assembly
so I can put an end to them at once.’
And they fell facedown.”
Numbers 16:45

Falling facedown in prayer almost seems synonymous for Moses. But this time, face to the ground prayer led to a completely different response. Quickly, via Moses’ instruction, Aaron “ran into the midst of the assembly” with a censer and burning incense.

“He stood between the living and the dead,
and the plague stopped.”
Numbers 16:48

Is running and standing prayer?

It may feel outside our traditional prayer paradigm when God spurs us to obedient action. The results will speak for themselves. 

More than one prayer warrior I have talked to has sensed God instruct them to stomp their feet or aggressively dance in warlike fashion as a declaration of freedom and breakthrough for others. Each of them testified to a distinct shift that enabled a restoration of relationship with a prodigal son or daughter. Their prayer acts somehow created a “gap” between the dead destructive choices while opening “paths” for the life of Christ to flow.

The bound were set free,
the lost found their way home, 
the plague of sin and shame broke.

Obedient actions when directed by God carry the sweet incense, the aroma of prayer, to the throne room of heaven.

Is this prayer?

Is This Prayer?

Yes, beyond a doubt, as Moses demonstrated, it is prayer. Prayer at its deepest level — sometimes silent, often raw, gap creating, active involvement initiating prayer. Prayer beyond words. 

This is the prayer that releases God’s authority and His mercy. Prayer that enables true and ever-deepening authentic relationship between God and man, Father and child, Redeemer and redeemed. 

It is the kind of prayer that refuses to abandon, pleads for mercy, and seeks another way. Prayer reaching to the perishing. Prayer staying the hand of justice and soliciting mercy. Life being ministered to the lost and broken through the partnering of God and man.