Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Stable of My Heart

As I listened to the radio yesterday, I was struck by the thought that God’s place of dwelling, of alighting, has not changed since Jesus came to the stable. He chooses to live in my heart—what a humble, loving Savior! To choose to dwell in a place of stinky selfishness, rough-hewn (mortal) structure, surrounded by the limits and busyness and fallibility of humankind. But He stays here. He’s at work here. He is glorified here. In the stable of my heart.
God, forgive me for trying to “fix it up” when all I should be doing is kneeling at your feet. To have Your presence is glory. Anything I might add would simply distract from and desecrate the “being” of Your presence. Help me to rest. To worship. To be still and know that You are God.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Parade of Homes

Do you enjoy glimpses of people in their homes lit by evening light? I do. Home decor and layouts fascinate me. There is something comforting and intriguing about seeing others move and work in an environment so much the same as--but different than--my own. A private confession: I love our home.

As a SAHM, I spend a lot of time here. We used to move often. To make resale easier, every room was painted the same color. All the carpet was the same. We were ready to sell at a moment's notice. Until we moved twelve years ago. Now we hope to stay. Not too long ago my husband stood in the dining room, looking at the rooms on either side of him, and had an epiphany. "Hey," he called, "have you ever noticed that none of our rooms look the same?" "Yes, Dear," I answered, "I planned it that way."

Of the time I spend at home, some of it is spent cleaning, dusting, decorating, and doing basic home-maintenance. Most of the time, however, I am simply doing other tasks and enjoying my surroundings because they are comfortable, they are mine and, honestly, because I delight in them. They fit my taste.

Perhaps abiding in Christ is much the same. To abide in Christ and His commands is to study them, know them. Then to arrange them in my life where they belong; to polish and straighten them. But most of the time, I simply live out the tasks of life, enjoying the blessings and the comfort of His commands. They have become the structure within which I move. They are chairs in which I rest. There is a kitchen from which I serve and meet the needs of others. In the living room I relax or spend time with others, getting to know them and sharing from the abundance God has given me.

If, however, I were to view the teachings of Christ as harsh, rustic, and rigid, I don't think I would enjoy my domicile at all. My life with Christ would be sparsely furnished. I might simply have a one-room soddie with a stiff, uncomfortable chair and faded linens. As I sat in my chair, my back would be ramrod straight, my feet planted firmly on the floor. Yet, when I would visit the homes of others, they might tell me of the authentic one-of-kind memento they recently acquired in their walk with Christ. I would be jealous. Angry. How could they have such beautiful objet d'art while my life was one of barrenness and self-pity?

May I suggest that the God of both homes is the same? The teachings of Christ are the same. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3).

It is my perception of and response to God that makes the difference. It is the moving of His Spirit that brings life and freedom. When I submit to His Spirit, and take God at His Word, I find that He is loving...good...kind...gentle... patient...lavishing good things, beautiful things, on His children. Perhaps you, too, have found that the artifacts in an exquisitely decorated home are often reminders of great pain and loss. The stained glass window may represent the provision and sufficiency of God after the loss of a child. The dried flowers in the hand-blown vase may be a reminder of a gift given at a time of financial hardship.

The difference? The one who lives with a good God, who submits to His will and way, relying on Him, finds a beauty, solace, and comfort that can be found no where else. The one who views God and His commands as burdensome and weighty captures only the fleeting treasures the world has to offer while her heart stores up criticism, resentment, bitterness. Life is hard. Life lacks comfort. Life lacks refinement and grace.

Today, where am I living? What does my abode look like? Am I using it and enjoying it in a way that honors and pleases God? Am I sharing it with others--even sending them out the door with gifts and reminders of the grace of God? Am I abiding in the teachings of Christ? (2 John 9).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

When the I Am Says There You Are

Have you ever had one of those incredible realizations that the thing you've struggled with for months, even years, has a name? And, suddenly, without Hollywood music or drama, the name creeps into your thoughts. It swirls around until it makes its way to your tongue and you speak it aloud. And now, now that your ears have heard what your heart has spoken, there is a sense of freedom though nothing, nothing at all, has changed.

I had one of those moments the other day. In keeping up the suspense--which I'm afraid will be utterly shattered once I tell you my secret--it is something that has followed me for decades. I remember where I was when I confessed this struggle to God during a half-day of personal prayer and retreat, but I didn't have a name. I didn't know what it was or why it was, only that it accompanied me day in and day out, haunting my thoughts, affecting my words and actions.

Now it has a name and I can begin to address the heart issue (although I am confident it will be with me until the moment I die). The name my heart whispered to my mind was, "here I am." As I moved into my day, heart pounding, brain whirring, I whispered, "here I am." That's it. You may be disappointed in the revelation, but only because you don't understand. "Here I am" had become my daily, hourly cry.

When my prayer request went unanswered, my voiceless cry echoed, "here I am." When my husband worked overtime in the fields, my muted actions called, "here I am." When my children complained and whined about the unfairness of life, I wanted to respond, "here I am." But I didn't know how. I didn't understand my frustration, my anger, my resentment or bitterness.

Now that it has a name, God has stepped in. God has whispered, "There you are." With all that He has and is, He daily ministers, "there you are." When the people and things in life disappoint, His Spirit speaks, "I am here."

In His gracious, abundant, sacrificial gift of His Son, I see the sin--the pride and arrogance--of my heart. As His child, the one He has redeemed, the one who is in Christ, I am now called to be a "there you are" person as well. In my sinfulness, life is all about me: my prayer request, my husband, my children. Do you see it? But when I have encountered the "I AM," all claims of "here I am" are nullified. The request has been met. It is satisfied. My continuous cry is no longer justified. I have been seen. I have been heard. I have been ministered to. I am complete.

So now, as my 8-year-old daughter awakens and sits on my lap while I write, I can respond, "there you are." I can put aside my agenda, my importance, and focus on others.

A friend reminded me this last week that when I open myself to the grace of God, I am able to extend that grace to others. If all I experience is the judgment and condemnation of God, that is all I have to give others. What is your relationship with God? Are you drinking in and meditating on the fact that He is? Are you delighting in the love He has for you? Are you relishing the "there you are" He would shower upon you? Or are you wallowing in the "here I am's" of life?

"He who confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world." (1 John 4:15-17)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rebellious Faith

My heart was pounding. Each breath echoed in my ears, throbbing with each pulse. My parent's voices called from far away; nearer, then further. As I hid in the rocks with my brother and cousins, my heart twisted with guilt. The plan was to go to Mt. Rushmore and watch the evening film. We had decided not to go, so we hid. Our parents, of course, wouldn't leave.  Eventually we gave ourselves up.

As I read the story of Jonah this week, I was reminded of that willful disobedience; of the heart that pounds with terror in its rebellion. Jonah disobeyed because he believed God. In his own words, "I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity" (4:2). It was Jonah's faith in God's mercy that caused him to disobey.

As I thought about Jonah's disobedience ("he rose up to flee...from the presence of the LORD" (1:3 (2 times!), 1:10), I was questioned my own reaction to God's commands. When, through the voice of a Bible teacher, a friend, or God's Word, I hear the voice of God, how do I respond? The worst case scenario would be apathy; not to respond at all. Jonah's rebellion--a selfish, sinful response--at least carried an element of faith. He knew God, he believed God, and wanted no part of it.

How often do we fail to respond because we really don't know God, we really don't believe God, we really don't care? That is ever so much more frightening. That, I believe, is a sign of spiritual death. We cannot process the word of God, we cannot respond to the word of God, because there is no Spirit of God to empower His word. Much like an electric circuit, without a conductor (Jesus Christ, "abide in me and I in you" (John 15:4), we cannot respond to God. We are dead (Ephesians 2:5, "we were dead in our transgressions") outside of repentance and a relationship with God.

If you find that you are drawn to God, but do not know Him personally, check out the post on this site from April 2008, "How Much is Too Much?" And, if you find yourself fleeing from the presence of the LORD today, consider the God from whom you are fleeing. What is it you believe about Him? Search out the Scriptures on your own or with a trusted friend and find that Good Shepherd who longs to give you abundant life. After all, He is "...a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity" (4:2).

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Building Set Apart

Each Christian life is a building; a work in progress. Someday we will see the finished product built on Jesus Christ, the foundation. According to the Bible we enter the kingdom of God by faith in the completed work of Christ, apart from personal effort (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5). When we finally stand before Him, there will be a day of testing--and until reading the passage in 1 Corinthians again today, I have misunderstood this whole concept! You may read this entry and wonder at my ignorance. But perhaps you, like me, have had the same understanding. Or, I may simply be wrong. Please comment as you are led.

Consider this passage:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NASB)

I have always interpreted this passage as how I build/invest my own life based on the foundation of Jesus Christ. I thought of the tested materials as the result of my doing, my works--that the gold, silver, and precious stones were those things I accomplished through faith and dependence on God by His Spirit; that the layers in my life were the result of my actions and choices.

But another thought has taken shape, one that requires more thought and research:  what if Paul is continuing the thought of others buiding into our lives? Earlier in the passage, Paul refers to himself as a builder in the lives of others (1 Corinthians 3:9-10).  Could this be a continuation of holding all who build accountable to One greater than one's self? I have been privileged to grow under the influence of pastors who laid precious stones upon the foundation of Jesus Christ--Landis Epp, Roy Kooshian, Dan Wetzel, John Sauser, Tim Waldron.  Each one has invested in my life, each one has opened the Word of God and spoken truth. And on that day when my life is tested by fire, the quality of their work will be revealed and each of them will receive a fitting reward (v. 13-14). So the building, the influence, the teaching invested in others is what will be tested, not my own efforts or outcome.  In the American church, we are so "me" oriented, we forget the "we."  If that were the case, how would it change my life? 

It make me more aware of the words I speak into the lives of others—are they truly God-honoring and intended for edification (Ephesians 4:29)? If they are self-motivated or self-glorifying, they will be revealed by fire as wood, hay, or straw. If the words I speak into the lives of others build them up according to their needs and glorify God, they will be revealed by fire as gold, silver, and precious stones.

If this interpretation is true (and it appears to be, given the context), then each of us has the opportunity to build on the lives of others, and our work will be tested as well. As I speak truth and love to others, I am building on the foundation of Christ in their lives. Those words and actions will not be built on my life, but on theirs--and it is by their life that I will lose or receive my reward. Oh, what weight that places on my words and actions. How that takes the focus off of me, myself, and places it on God and others!

"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, bu only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Heart of Stone

There was weeping. I could hear the broken, stifled sobs; the high pitched hiccuping sound that mewed from the back of the sanctuary in waves. As I sat quietly during the communion service, head bowed in prayer, my heart tightened and air froze in my lungs. More than Scripture, this humble response to Jesus' beating, crucifixion, and death restrained me. I found myself asking how many times I had heard the same verses, even read the same verses aloud, and remained unmoved. And now, here was one so torn, so distressed, so in love with the Savior that her sobs could not be contained.

In the book, Revolution in World Missions, David Mains describes a recent working of the Holy Spirit in India this way, "It would hardly have been different...had Jesus Himself been bodily among us. The spirit of worship filled the hall. The singing was electrifying. The power of the Holy Spirit came upon the audience. Men actually groaned aloud. I have read of such conviction in early American history during times like the two Great Awakenings, but I had never anticipated experiencing it firsthand."

It was John Owen who wrote, "Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us. Look on him under the weight of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying: bring him in that condition into the heart by faith; apply his blood so shed to thy corruptions; do this daily....A mind filled with the love of Christ crucified...will be changed into its image and likeness, by the effectual mortification of sin...." (A Quest for Godliness, J.I. Packer, p. 200-201).

As I look on my sin, my weakness, my failure, I come exposed, realizing how seldom I am broken at the foot at the cross. "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me;" "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Luke 10:23, Matthew 11:30).

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Passionate God, A Passionless People

In place of the usual tete-a-tete, I've decided to simply cut and paste from my daily Bible reading--not to be "spiritual," but because of its lasting value.

Friday, September 18, 2009 Deut. 28:49-68
Verse 15, 63:
But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statues with which I charge you today….It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it.

In my life today: God is a God of passion. When He blesses us, He does so grandly—but only as it meets His primary desire to transform us. When He curses us, He does so perfectly—and there is no room for questioning His design or plan. He does what He does completely. In writing this, I realize that I have come to appreciate the capricious nature of man. I count on it—often believing that in the inconsistency of others, I will get a break. I will not be held totally accountable for my actions because there is “wiggle room.” There is no “wiggle room” with God. Either we are saved by His grace or we are not. To be the recipient of God’s grace is to be free from condemnation and wrath; to be ever and always under His watchful, protecting, discipling Hand. To be apart from His grace is eternal death, separation, wrath, torture.

Why do we refuse to see the world through spiritual eyes? God has given us all we need for life and godliness, but we don’t want to look. We squeeze our eyes shut and try to stumble ahead—waiting for Him to whack us one direction or the other, failing to acknowledge the many who are perishing. To see God….to know Him more fully…to understand the brevity and immediacy of this earthly existence…. To live with His eyes, today. Even for a moment…would change my life…and perhaps the life of another…forever.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Spiritual Sunscreen

It's been a cool summer. Too cool, in fact, for our kids' pool to heat up adequately. Too cool for sunburns. But we're not complaining. The sun's been out and it's been more comfortable outside than most summers, so we've enjoyed it. Now that everyone is back at school, we've set the sunscreen aside until next year.

In the book, Changed into His Image, Jim Berg likens God's Word to the sun's exposure. The more we expose ourselves to the Word of God, the more evident it becomes to others--and ourselves. If we are not seeing the change in our lives that we know God is working, we need more exposure, more "time in the sun." I like the analogy and think it can be carried even to the "tan lines" of our lives--those areas we choose not to expose to God's light.

But the thing I've been thinking about lately is the spiritual sunscreen that keeps me from absorbing the light of God's Word. Spiritual sunscreen diminishes the effect of God's Word in my life. Spiritual sunscreen produces the same appearance in my life as that of unbelievers--who have little or no exposure to God and His Word at all. I am not saying that God is ineffective in His work, ways, or Word. What I am saying is that we often fail to see how we inhibit God's working in our lives. And spiritual sunscreen is? Pride.

When I protect myself from the conviction of God's Word with slippery justification or anchored excuses or wimpy admissions, I cover myself--even while experiencing open exposure--and minimize God's intended effect. It is only when I come to God bare, uncovered, unsheltered, and vulnerable that His Word will sear me, even as Isaiah's lips were burned with the live coal. As I yield to His Word and the working of His Spirit, He will make Himself evident in my life. When God reveals His glory in my life, the expected result is humility and repentance--this is the outcome of exposure the the Light. This is the evidence of a God tan.

In exposing ourselves to the Word of God--in our personal lives, families' lives, and as a local church Body--may we take the time to strip off the sunscreen and allow the light of God to minister to our hearts and souls in an intimate, quiet, searing way. May others see beautifully coppered lives that reflect the glory of our God and Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ, and by His Spirit. It will be evident in brokenness, humility, servitude, and repentance. It's time to put away the sunscreen. How's your tan?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rest Time

We have just finished a week of vacation Bible school. As I write, I am surrounded by boxes of decorations and teaching supplies: bed sheets, shoe organizers, space rugs, cast iron pots with lids, the list goes on.... It seems with any task, there is preparation, execution, and resolution: i.e. collect the stuff, use the stuff, put away the stuff.

Jesus' life may not have been surrounded by stuff (in fact, when he sent out the disciples, they were told to take only a staff--imagine teaching VBS with only a staff (for some of us, that might be a blessing!)), but His life was more full of people and needs than any of our lives. In Mark chapter 6, Jesus sent out His disciples to preach (v. 12), and their return was met with news of John the Baptist's death. It was a heavy load. They were tired physically and spiritually, and now they were no doubt frightened and discouraged. "And He said to them, 'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'" (v. 31).

Jesus, of all people, recognized the need for seclusion and rest. He understood the demands his disciples had been shouldering. He knew the press of the people, the pain of John's death, and the prostration of weariness. There was nothing self-indulgent or wrong in separating themselves from the people and their ever-present needs. It was necessary and appropriate for the disciples to get away. It was a gift.

Two things strike me. The first is that it was a command couched in an invitation. He wanted to provide for the disciples and He knew their need. Was it any less important to obey Christ in rest than in work? To obey Christ is to do what He says, regardless of the task. Rest is a task. When He invites (or commands) me to rest, I have a choice--to rest or not to rest, to obey or to disobey--knowing there is always blessing in obedience.

The second thing, then, is the disciples' response. Unlike many of us, they didn't ignore Christ or argue with Him. They readily obeyed. How often, when we hear Christ's faint voice calling us from the busyness of life, do we argue with Him and justify pressing on? Could it be that we are striving to finish the work that He would have us leave behind? Could it be that we are more concerned with our own reputation than with His? Or could it be that we no longer hear Him because we failed to heed long ago and have hearts that are hardened past the point of sensitivity? Perhaps there is too much busyness to listen--or we choose the busyness because we are afraid of the thoughts that plague rest and how God will use the rest itself to transform us.

Rest when He calls. Trust His voice. The needs remain. They are not yours to meet--they belong to the Father. The demands may not lessen, but obedience to rest is the same as obedience to work. It has the same value. It is the same Lord, the same Master, who calls us to both.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Essence of Grace

My husband took early retirement this spring from an international company. The travel had become a point of stress for our family and God provided the means for him to farm full-time. As we have adjusted to a new lifestyle, there have been many points of giving where we had not given before and taking in altered ways.

As I read the account of Ruth and Boaz once again, the pictures were much more vivid. I was more aware of the back-straining work it must have been to glean a wheat field by hand; of the danger Ruth would have subjected herself to as a new, single, foreign woman in a workplace dominated by men. Then, when Boaz extended himself to her that first day he offered himself for her protection and his means for her provision. "...and he served her roasted grain, and she ate and was satisfied and had some left."

The beauty of his generosity was the fullness of another word: grace. Grace is extended from the one who has much to the one who has less. Boaz served Ruth out of his much. She was satisfied, and there was more to spare. I was struck by the not so profound thought that to give grace, one must have more than what he/she needs. In other words, I can only extend grace to others when I have an excess. In this adjustment to a new life and a new routine, I can only extend patience and kindness when I have more than I need. Knowing my limitations, I will not have an excess until I am depending on God to meet my many areas of shortcoming. Only He can provide excessive patience, excessive lovingkindness, excessive thoughtfulness, excessive peace, excessive joy....

Once again I opened the refreshing writing of Angela Thomas Guffey in her book, Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul. The whole of the book centers on grace, on God's gift of so much more.... Let me leave you with a taste of God's grace from Angela's pen,

"Can you hear this? No matter what your feelings of worth before the Father, He loves you now and forever. Grace is the forgiving, redeeming, and pursuing love of God for us. Grace has nothing to do with the things you do or who you are on this earth. The extravagant gift of God's grace comes to us only because we belong to God.
"That is what makes it so extravagant; we can not earn it, and yet we so desperately need it.
"We cannot make God give us more, because He freely gives us all.
"We cannot fall beyond the reach of God's grace, and we cannot grow past our profound need.
"We cannot understand the mind of God, so we do not completely comprehend a love that is without boundary or limit. We are awed to know that we can turn away or run away, but God is always, and eternally, still in love with us.
"Because of His mercy, we have the privilege of living in this abundance of grace. Some people spend their whole lives striving and searching. others accumulate accolades and things. But we are most blessed, because the divine grace of God has come to us.
"He is here, and by His grace, we can rest.
"He is here, and by His grace, we can live.
"He is here, and by His grace, we are free." (p. 126)

Today, may we flourish in the grace of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, even as we shower those around us with that same grace.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I received an email from a friend requesting a "whack-a-mole." She wanted/needed someone to give her a good "whack."

Most children's food and play courts have a machine that takes tokens in exchange for a violent game that involves a mallet and inanimate moles that randomly pop out of holes in the floor. The more moles the child whacks, the more tickets he receives for worthless, breakable plastic intended to plague parents. Great. So why does my friend want to be whacked?

I shared the illustration with our Bible study group after listening to Pastor James MacDonald explain our need for endurance in difficult circumstances ( Both the English words "endure" and "submit" come from one Greek word, hupotasso, which is translated to put oneself under. In the context of Hebrews 12:2, Jesus endured or put Himself under the humiliation of the cross. In the same way, we are called to "run with endurance (put ourselves under)the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1, emphasis added). Simply put, the Christian life is not about fixing problems, or seeking relief, or choosing convenience. The Christian life is about enduring that which God has chosen for me in this time, at this place.

If endurance is the key to spiritual victory (by the enabling of His Spirit), then we cheat ourselves when we give in, when we choose relief over persistence, when we choose convenience over growth. Just as importantly, we cheat fellow believers when we counsel them to give in, to follow "Plan B," or seek relief over discomfort. Peter discouraged Jesus from pursuing the cross and was sharply rebuked (Matthew 16:23). Jesus would not be tempted to disobey the Father through omission, seeking the easy way out, or refusing to continue down the pathway to certain suffering.

To come alongside another is to direct them to Christ, to pray for the grace to endure, to challenge them to draw near to God, to remind them of truth when all seems uncertain. To come alongside a fellow believer in love is to charge them to stand firm, to see it through to the end. Having studied the importance of endurance, we are learning to ask for help, for encouragement to stay under the temptation or trial until the Lord brings relief.

Whacking a mole in the spiritual sense is never easy. It requires self-examination and submission on the whackee's part. It also takes great humility to be "whacked"--even more to ask for it.

The next time you despair of difficulty, ask God for the grace to endure. Then call a friend. A good friend will apply the Word of God, lovingly and gently "whacking" you into the tunnel God personally designed for you. Suffering in submission is never wasteful. Our good God has a will and purpose to accomplish--and it is the beauty of Christlikeness.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
"'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:28-39

Monday, April 27, 2009

Delayed Flight

The airport is rushed, busy, and slow this morning. It seems that ours wasn't the only flight canceled late last night in Denver. The check-in line filled the entire lobby, with agents at all kiosks.

Before coming back to the airport after a very long night of waiting for a delayed flight, sitting on the runway under a blanket of falling snow, standing in line for new flight arrangements and service vouchers, I did enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the airline's expense. And as I ate, I read, "for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night...." (1 Thessalonians 5:5-7).

I was reminded of the many people I waited with on and off the runway last night, stood in line with, and smooshed into a taxi with (there were 5 of us, plus the driver!). Some were angry, most were frustrated; our destinations and places of origin varied; we had differing resources at our disposal. But the one thing we had in common was that we were tired. I was not the only one to arrive at a hotel at 4:30a.m. We were people of the night, people with a natural desire and tendency to rest our minds and bodies.

On a spiritual note, without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, accessed through faith in Jesus Christ's work on my behalf, I am a person of the night. My vision is impaired, my needs are immediate and demanding, my primary concern is comfort. Under the supernatural empowering of God, by His Spirit, however, I am called to be alert and self-controlled, to see beyond the immediate perceived needs--not just because they exist, but because, by faith, I can move forward with confidence. The context of the passage is the return of the Lord--the comfort and encouragement we can have in His coming, the way in which my life will be lived differently in light of His imminent return.

The next leg of my new flight is imminent, the boarding is nearly in progress. And I am a child of the day, a child with hope, purpose, and a loving Creator who goes before me to offer His vigilance and self-control (mine was depleted many hours ago). To Him be the honor and glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This Temple

As we entered the holy week, I began a new chapter in my Bible study on bodily stewardship. The opening question directed me to brainstorm about the temple: holy, sacrifices, worship, giving, confession, repentance, purity, forgiveness, house of prayer, the dwelling place of God.

I don't know about you, but the very idea of the temple and the presence of God is awe-inspiring. I can only imagine what it would have been like to go daily for prayer, to offer sacrifices regularly, to live and breathe these acts of worship. Like any awesome thing, however, it became mundane to some, a drudgery to others (see the book of Malachi). But to think of all it represented from our timestream here in the future is moving.

The Bible study didn't stop there. In bringing to mind the temple--what we know and may not know about the intricacies revealed in the Old Testament--the point was being made that, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are His temple. That my body, this physical vessel, has become the dwelling of God Almighty.

It was Monday of this week as I did the study and the picture of Jesus in the temple, during the holy week, came to mind. I began to wonder how that same Jesus must react to dwelling in my body, in my affections, in my mind and will. Is this not the same Jesus who drove out moneychangers and overturned tables? Is He not the one who cried out against the robber's den that should be a house of prayer? It was at this point that I begged Him to remove the moneychangers from my heart--those desires and that selfishness that mock Him daily. To take this heart that is so often a den of robbers and make it a house of prayer. Many times this week I have had to stop and ask Him to do a cleansing work, once again, in this humble temple.

The Scripture continues in Matthew 21. "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them." My prayer: that I may, in all ways and at all times, come to Him blind and lame for His perfect healing. That I may remember His deity and sovereignty and recognize His lordship in this frail vessel He inhabits.

Perhaps He does not dwell in you and you are not His temple. See early posts from this blog for a fuller understanding of God's great love for you.

He is risen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Want It!

I want it. I can taste the wanting. I can envision the having. The having siphons freedom, self-control, dignity, and achievement from my thoughts to reality. It feels like fresh spring air blowing around my face, across my arms, around and through--but never binding.

It is not a bad thing, this thing I want. In fact, it is a good thing. It is a thing that I sincerely believe God wants for me. The end result is pleasing to Him--could be pleasing to Him. But I have not attained it. Cannot attain it. I have talked to God about my desire and asked for His help. I continue to fail.

Then, in reading through Proverbs, I came across these verses:
"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But He loves one who pursues righteousness. " (Proverbs 15:8-9).

In the Old Testament, bringing sacrifices was a good thing. By bringing a sacrifice to the temple, an individual acknowledged his sin and the need for God's atonement. Offering a sacrifice was good. It was also expensive...and public.

Prayer, too, was a good thing. Prayer continues to be an act of dependence on God, but is perhaps "inferior" to sacrifices as it can be done privately, without public confession, and costs very little.

The wicked may act biblically. The upright do the same, but often privately. God's pleasure, then, is not dependent on the action but on the heart attitude. The righteous acts of the wicked are detestable; the righteous acts of the upright are delightful. In God's system, one's spiritual condition is more important than one's spiritual activity. It is the pursuit of righteousness that God blesses, not the pursuit of appearance or participation.

What does this have to do with my want? My want falls far short of seeking God Himself. To seek a specific outcome is to miss the Author. It would be like sharing a meal in a palace and so wanting to have good manners that I fail to respond to the king except in matters of etiquette. What a travesty! I would have missed the purpose, the blessing, and the reward of a priceless time. This week, then, I have been reflecting on what I really want. Am I pursuing righteousness? Am I pursing God Himself? Or something less?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Truckin' Buddies

I am blessed to be married to an un-procrastinator. This means his bags are packed the day before the actual trip. It means the afternoon chores may be done as early as 1:00pm. Sometimes it means we come home from vacation a day early. In December it meant that he has already calculated taxes--and this year , we bought a semi-truck and grain trailer as a result. The truck and trailer are part of a long-term goal to farm full-time, but it also opened a new venue for spending time together.

As a couple, we have found that one of our greatest challenges is spending time together. Both of us are goal-oriented and our lives are complicated by his business travel schedule. When he gets home, his list of to-do's is extensive. When he gets home, I am used to arranging my own space and time to accomplish what needs to be done.

We went for a drive together in the semi the other day and I learned something. As a mom/wife, I have a list of need-to's--laundry, household cleaning, phone calls, doctor appointments, children's needs, etc.--and a list of want-to's--concerts, conferences, movies, trips, visits, etc. The need-to list is continuous and cyclical. The want-to list is dusty and dingy. Most of the time, spending time with my husband is on the want-to list. The problem is that there are so many need-to's I seldom get to the want-to's. The want-to's I take time for are short bits when I check email, read a magazine or newspaper article, or log onto facebook for a quick pick-me-up before accomplishing the next need-to item.

To create a 3-hour want-to in the middle of the day feels irresponsible, wrong, lazy--and sets me up for falling behind in the need-to division. But what I have realized is that my husband needs that time from me--and I am the one who can make it a reality. To create that space in my mind, I must move him from my want-to list to my need-to list. He is not just another part of me that I can put on a list for "someday." He is not one of those far-off wishes that will wait for 20 years until our children are grown. He is not a luxury that I can afford to go without. He is my husband, my counterpart, my best friend, my life-partner and that puts him at the top of the list!

So for now I pray that God will allow me grace to meet a need-to that I really want to and I pray that I will trust Him to take care of the need-to's that await! On the road again....just can't wait to get on the road again....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Knocking? What Knocking?

As I walked through the house on my early morning vigil to turn off porch lights, I noticed a seemingly dead car in our driveway. It was 22 degrees below zero, the ground was covered with inches of new snow. The car windows were fogged over, and there was no way to tell if anyone was still in the vehicle or not. I continued my tour until the doorbell rang. There stood a young man, shoulders hunched, head pulled into his turned down collar, gloved hands wringing and clutching each other.

"I saw you looking out the window and didn't want to scare you. My brother's on his way to pick me up."

"Come on in. I was more worried about someone freezing to death sitting out there...."

The fellow, very polite and pleasant, came inside and chatted until his ride arrived.

How strange that earlier that morning, another fellow knocked on my door. As I read through the First Place Bible study, the text directed me to Revelation 3:20 which says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."

It's a verse I've memorized, read many times, even shared with others in presenting the gospel of Jesus. But the question read, "Where is Jesus?" Obviously, He's on the outside of the door--the other side--the side So if Jesus is on one side of the door and I'm on the other, what is between us? The answer came to me like it never had before. Jesus was talking to me, and He was knocking on the other side of my disobedience. My disobedience, my rebellion, even as a believer, keeps Jesus from coming in to fellowship and dine with me. Even then, He was knocking on my door. How many times, in that particular area of my life, have I said, "Just a minute, Jesus," "Could you come back later, please?" "I can't answer the door right now...."

But the reward, the consequence, of opening the door is to share a meal with Jesus! My guess is that He brings the food, the laughter, the open sharing--all I have to do is say yes. Wow, and I would keep my week-old pizza crusts, flat Pepsi, and the desire to have my own way instead! That is a travesty!

I heard the knocking that morning and I'm trying to listen for it throughout the day. Jesus doesn't have to interrupt my life to share it with me--He simply wants to be with me--guiding, directing, providing--every minute.

Today, "Where is Jesus?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Voila! A Look Behind the Hankie

Can you remember the last time you were frustrated because someone rejected your idea? Or the last time you thought you were doing a good thing for someone else and they failed to appreciate it? It happens to all of us--some more than others; at some times more than other times.

I was reminded this morning that my response to an interruption is more important than the task itself. What?! you may ask. How can a reaction be more important than the real thing? What does one's response have to do with anything? To answer the question, my response reveals my heart--and it is the heart that matters most.

Our society chose the "Leave it to Beaver," lifestyle as a reaction to two world wars in succession. In an effort to bring healing and normalcy to fighting men and families, a facade of peace was erected in homes and communities across the nation. There was an emphasis on morality and appearance (for more detail, see Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley, p.114). With the church culture came a church appearance. Moral, unselfish behavior was expected. It was the norm. Unfortunately, even with a soft-glove-enforced religion, there was a mask of surrealism.

We have come to believe--especially in the church--that what you see is what you get. We don't want to admit our shortcomings to ourselves or others, so we do our best to keep them hidden--behind the hankie. We pull a rabbit out of our hat--a good work out of a bad situation, a kind word in response to a hurtful one--diverting the eye away from "hat", or heart.

But Jesus said, "...the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. " (Matthew 15:18-19).

So when I interrupt our children who are watching a t.v. program or playing on the computer and their response is an outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, or factions, I know that their hearts are being ruled by self, not God (Galatians 5:19-20). When I interrupt an activity and they can say, "Okay, Mom," without strife or argument, I know that God is at work in their hearts (Galatians 5:22-23).

The same is true of our service. When my actions or words are unappreciated, unaccepted, or interrupted, my response reveals my heart. If I respond with peace and acceptance, I was not working on my behalf, but the Lord's. The applause of man is secondary to obedience. If, however, my heart responds with ruffled feathers and annoyance, I know that I am more concerned for myself. My heart reveals the working (or absence) of God--regardless of what I "pull out of my hat."

Speaking of interruptions, I have some hungry children chirping for breakfast....

Challenge: As I walk through the day's activities, I want to be more aware of my response to interruptions. Is my reaction God-centered or self-centered?