Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Our hearts are deep waters

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. Proverbs 20:5

Did you ever look in the mirror and not see your reflection?

Uh, hello…where am I?

You run to another mirror in the house. No reflection!

You look down and you see your torso, arms and legs. You touch your head with your hands. You are there. You return to the mirror but you can’t see your reflection!

What in the world is going on?

I know something everyone else in the world does not know. I know what it is like to be me, Charles Wagner. I know my aches and pains and physical ailments. I know my hopes, dreams, and desires. I feel my emotional pain. I know the thoughts swirling around my head that no one else can tap in to…with the exception of unknown technological advances at Google or the NSA.

However, there is something I don’t know. I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be a friend of Charles Wagner. There are hundreds of people I have known throughout my life who have knowledge of me that I do not have. Elementary school. High school. College. Adult life. They have interacted with me in ways that I simply cannot interact with myself.

Imagine if I woke up one day as someone else who was a friend of Charles Wagner. My reflection from the eyes of another person would no longer be hidden. I could see myself in the mirror from other people’s eyes. I could then have a more clear knowledge of the pleasures and annoyances of knowing me. I could see things I do that are thoughtful and the things I do that are hurtful. I could see how people think more favorably of me than I do of myself. Or vice versa. Perhaps more important, no longer confused by hearing the noise of my inner voices and the chaotic thoughts and purposes of my heart, I could take a more objective look at what makes me tick and perhaps see things about Charles Wagner that cannot be seen from inside.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need wise, mature, and godly people in our lives to speak into our inner chaos. There is wisdom in the council of many advisors, advisors who all have insights about us that we cannot have for ourselves. One of the ironies of life is that we feel the pain of our broken hearts but don’t necessarily see the damage it has done. Others can. We can feel the pain of our scars but we don’t necessarily see how those scars distort our perceptions. Others can. We can know we put up walls and barriers but we don’t see how those walls and barriers impact our decision processes. Others can

Scripture tells us that our purposes are deep waters. Translation – what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on in our hearts and minds is dark, cold, and suffocating. We can drown in that dung! We are machines that manufacture chaos and confusion that take the form of thoughts, feelings, decisions, actions, and, gulp, spoken words.

I’ve always been a big fan of Clint Eastwood’s character in his Western movies. Josey Wales. The man with no name. His characters don’t need people! He’s self-sufficent. Whatever is going on in his mind doesn’t need anyone to speak into it. He can be a loner, an individualist, and independent and never be weak. His gun will always be the fastest in the West. However, the truth is that such a man would be a tortured soul. If you could open up his mind and look inside you would see carnage, a battlefield with wreckage strewn around with the smell of rotting corpses.

Why don’t we see the battlefield in our own minds? Because we love to deceive ourselves. “I’m ok. I don’t have needs. I’m fine. I don’t have weaknesses. My thoughts are always correct. My feelings can always be trusted!” We all put up walls and barriers to protect ourselves from being hurt. If we have done a good job constructing those walls, we can really feel a sense of peace and security hiding behind hem. It is a false peace, a peace that we might even ascribe to God’s blessing. However, the truth be told, we aren’t doing the work we need to do so we can tear those walls and barriers down and that is what God really wants for us.

To the point, we should not ever trust our own private counsel! That is one dangerous thing to do. Other people can often make more sense of our chaos, confusion, and dark waters than we can ourselves. And that is why we need people.

While there is no doubt we need people speaking into our hearts, that can be a confusing process as well.

Let’s imagine I want to paint my room. Let’s also imagine I have three trusted friends who are wise and godly. Frank, Jim, and Nate. Frank tells me I should paint my room blue. Jim says it should be gray. Nate says it should be white. What color should I paint the room? I came to the conclusion I shouldn’t choose the color by myself because of my inner chaos. But, in speaking with my friends, they can’t agree on a color either. I’m left no better off than trusting in my own counsel. I’m still confused.

The truth of the matter is that every person who counsels us has their own inner chaos and carnage. They may know what it is like to be my friend but their conclusions about me could very well be distorted by their own perceptions of life, their own deep waters. Frank’s set of experiences in his life leave him feeling blue while Nate’s leave him feeling white. Their advise is colored by their own unique set of circumstances.

So, what do we do? We can’t trust our own counsel. We should also be careful trusting others. Who is this “one who has insight” who makes sense of our deep waters?

It has to be God! He has a very unique understanding – He knows simultaneously what it is like to be Charles Wagner while at the same time knowing what it is like to be a friend of Charles Wagner. No human being can understand both sides! He can see all the battlefields in my mind. He sees the tapestry of scars, walls, barriers, and broken hearts and how all that mess leads to my thoughts, feelings, decisions, actions, and words.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to imagine a big pot. I mean a big pot – four or five feet high. A large fire is burning under it and steam rises from the pot. Standing beside the pot is God, dipping a spoon into whatever is cooking and tasting it. He reaches for some more ingredients and stirs them into the mix. He tastes it again. Reaches for more ingredients and stirs them in to the mix. “Yes! That’s it! It’s perfect!”

He then hands you a bowl of the soup for your consumption. The soup? Total understanding of who you are and what makes you tick. God Himself has been the person with insight to give you the understanding of who you REALLY are.

What are the ingredients in that soup? The soup has plenty of reading and studying of His Word. It also has devoted prayer asking for Him to reveal the deep waters of your heart. However, those little ingredients He kept throwing into the soup? Our relationships with other people. He threw a little Janice into our life to give us a unique perspective only Janice could give us. Janice saw something in our hearts we couldn’t see for ourselves. He threw a little Oscar into our life to give us a perspective only Oscar can give us. He saw something in our hearts we couldn’t see in ourselves. Neither Janice or Oscar could possibly understand the big picture but they understood pieces of it. A master cook used them to create the soup that will help you heal.

Every relationship we have is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to draw us out of the deep waters of the purposes of our heart that we would otherwise drown in. The Master Chef brings people into our lives for a season and takes them away when the messages we needed to learn from knowing them have been communicated.

We can then see who we really are in the mirror.


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Gotta have a Porsche!

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

Hope…I want something I consider very important that I presently don’t have and I have some kind of logical reason to believe it may very well work out for me. I don’t hope that I will wake up 6’2″ tomorrow morning. There is no logical reason to believe that. Could God perform a miracle? Certainly. He is the God who can do the impossible. However, there is no logical reason to believe a change in my height can in any fashion serve His purposes. All it would do is to make me a circus story for those who enjoy reading about the bizarre while they eat their cereal. It is essentially impossible for God to decide such a miracle would serve His purposes. I know biology won’t change my height and God certainly will not choose to perform that kind of miracle. I have no hope for a change in my height because hope requires some kind of belief that what is longed for is “possible”. Therefore, in Romans 5:4, whatever it is I desire is something that is very possible for me to experience.

Character…I see it as a new set of values, expectations, and priorities. Before we enter a season of suffering and perseverance, we want things for ourselves, things that give us pleasure, and things that satisfy our cravings. A new Porsche in the driveway. A drug. A drink. A bank account. A job title. A relationship. However, these things cannot possibly deliver to me the peace and contentment I long for deep inside. In other words, as I “hope” for an expensive new car, I am actually being “hopeless” – what I long for simply will not do for me what I want it to do. That car cannot and will not, under any circumstance, deliver anything of true value to me.

When I come out of a season of suffering and perseverance, I want things that are more honorable. Honorable? A daily walk with God. Stronger faith. Wisdom. Ability to do good works and make a difference in people’s lives. A stronger ability to be kind and loving to others. More self-control. Those sort of things. Now, instead of getting all excited about a new car, I’m excited about giving someone a word of encouragement or a helping hand. I’m now excited about seeing God’s amazing creation in a little critter in the woods. I now am excited that I have deeper understandings of life, more wisdom. Ladies and gentlemen, these kinds of things really do deliver peace and contentment. Therefore, suffering and perseverance change our set of values, expectations and priorities so that we end up hoping for things that are very “possible” – like a changed value system, things that God wants for us too!

Perseverance…the discovery process where you learn to stop reacting mindlessly in pursuit of meaningless things and start holding out for something better.

I’m approaching my mid-50s but I can remember one day my long-deceased cat jumping on my bed when I was a teenager. I was laying at the edge of the bed, my face turned in the opposite direction. I didn’t see the cat coming. When she landed on my back, I was startled so much I instantaneously flung my body around to see what on earth touched me and, in the process, sent her airborne unintentionally.

The human brain is extraordinary. It is a marvel that it can associate the comforting of a frightened cat four decades ago with the reading of Romans 5:3-4 this morning. The electrical signals in my brain decided that particular stored memory was a good destination this morning. I will go with it.

What strikes me about that encounter with the feline is that I responded in milliseconds, giving no thought to my actions. I reacted thoughtlessly. I could have said something like this – “okay. I’m alone in the house. Something just touched me. There are cats in this house who frequently jump up to be with me in bed. I bet it is Pepsi or Muffin. Let me turn around calmly to say hello to them.” Such a response would be more mature, reflecting a deeper peace in my soul, a place where I am not nervous and anxious.

How I reacted to the cat is how we react in our daily lives with respect to the meaningless things we hope for. We have to have them…NOW! High anxiety. Nervousness. Palpatations. Perseverance is a wonderful process by which we stop being so hypersensitive to useless desires and we begin to stop, look, and listen for more nobler things.

“Wait…having money didn’t help me last month at my cancer treatment. The love of a friend did. Instead of gambling at the casino, let me call her up.” Change in value system. A new reaction.

Perseverance helps us learn to react differently to life, to begin to awaken into a whole new world of values that really can deliver the hope we long for.

Suffering…it’s just the context wherein we can persevere. 5 people who all believe having a Porsche in the driveway will deliver them contentment. One gets cancer. Another goes through a divorce. The third has a death in the family. The fourth has financial trials. The fifth battles addiction. Each one of them begins a process of perseverance, which will deliver to them the “hope” that comes with a new value system that truly delivers peace and contentment and is also what God wants for them too!


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What is going on with the water?

You put the water in the tea kettle, turn up the heat to high, the burner turns red, and the water remains room temperature. What? Really? This makes no sense!

You put the same water in an ice cube tray and put it in the freezer. The next day you move aside the frozen peas and steaks to discover – the water in the tray is still room temperature. What? Really? This makes no sense!

You can search the Internet, dust off and open old college books, and ask the science professor trimming his hedge down the street. There is no explanation for this. This is enigma, a mystery. It defies logic. It makes a mockery of common sense.

We human beings have this tendency to need things to make sense. If I have water and the temperature is 32 degrees or less, the water will turn to ice. If you apply 212 degrees of heat to water, it will boil. Order. We can make plans around order. We love what we can expect. We find comfort when certain inputs, always processed in the exact same manner, will turn into predictable outputs.

We all understand the laws of order and common sense of the human heart:

  • Children don’t get cancer. They enjoy their young years with laughter and wonder.
  • We drive from place to place without ever having a car accident.
  • Loved ones in their 40s don’t die. They live until their 90s and pass away in their sleep in a retirement home.
  • You work hard, save money, and it will always be there when you need it.
  • A new job will lead to continuous promotions, pay increases, and bonuses for decades.
  • When we love deeply, we always enjoy happy-ever-afters.

God doesn’t think this way. Yes, He created all the natural laws that make life so refreshingly predictable. For example, a man carrying a dry vac up the ladder to suck leaves out of the gutter will fall to the ground when the ladder loses its footing. Trust me on that.  However, God tends to arrange things in our lives that simply make no sense. I believe He actually wants things at times to defy formula, equation, or scientific analysis. A room full of engineers throw up their hands, acknowledging the futility of any further investigation, and God is pleased.

Why? Is God cruel?

No. God has a different priority. Faith.

If everything was predictable, we wouldn’t need to trust in Him. If I knew that Action A will certainly lead to Result B, each and every time, why pray about it? Why give God any consideration? Life would be just a matter of cause, process, and effect. Life would be about formulas. The human race would be masters at formulas. Every mother would know exactly what to say to her daughter when she is in tears because of an insult she received at school. “There’s a formula for that.”

However, when the mother can’t make any sense of the bullying her daughter experiences she throws up her hands and does what – she asks for help from God! He is pleased – a human being He created and loves is asking Him for help.

The problem is that God doesn’t send down a formula to appease the mother’s need for one.

“Janice, this is God. Here’s what is going on at school. Ali’s mother had a bad day at work because her boss was irritable after receiving a traffic ticket. Her mother came home and yelled at Ali about the dishes in the sink, reminding Ali of her overeating in so doing. Ali feels fat and decided to make your daughter feel fat too because she is jealous of your daughter’s new pair of jeans. Capiche?”

Instead, God says something like this:

“Janice, this is God. Help your daughter find her value in my love for her. She doesn’t have to worry about her weight.”

Janice doesn’t need to know the details as to why her daughter is suffering. Janice only needs to teach her daughter about faith in suffering, trusting God when things just don’t make sense.

Much of the pain we experience in life is because we feel we must understand the formula. Our disappointments have to make sense. We shed tears and cry on friend’s shoulders often because we are overwhelmed with confusion. “This doesn’t make any sense! Where are the missing formulas?”

The formulas are folded and in God’s back pocket, kept away from our tear-weary eyes. He wants us to trust Him when nothing makes sense at all.  He’s in control.  He’s got it all figured out.  He knows all the formulas.  He’s managing everything.  Capiche?


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