Sunday, May 27, 2012

Falling Short

"There is a huge difference, I have found, between committment and surrender.  Committment says,'I can.  I'll do it somehow.  I'll serve you, Lord.  I'll keep my promises this time, you'll see.  I'll witness this year, I'll lead that Bible study.  I'll stay away from alcohol, drugs, etc.'  But surrender says,'I can't.  I've tried, but I don't have the strength.  Lord if it's going to happen, the only way it can is if You are in the boat, calling the shots.'"  (Roger Glidewell, Youth Ministry by the Book, p. 26).

Last weekend, while we were celebrating our son's graduation, visiting family was showing mercy:  buying crepe-paper poppies and slipping money into the pockets of needy individuals they didn't even know.  Their examples were both encouraging and discouraging, because there were people in the back of my mind I'd been wanting, intending, to help, for weeks.

This week passed and people nagged at my thoughts, but I just didn't get done.  Until yesterday.  And maybe today.  And as I lay in bed this morning giving thanks, I was reminded that, "it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  I can have the best intentions in the world.  I can have the best, most creative intentions in the world.  I can have the best, most creative, and earnest intentions in the world.  But apart from the hand of God, they won't happen.  Without God, something will thwart those good works, those good ideas, every time.

This morning I'm praising God that He accomplishes His good work:  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.(Philippians 1:6, Ephesians 2:10).

And the question is not, am I committed to God and doing His work?  The real question is, am I surrendered to giving up my way and waiting on God to accomplish His?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bragging on God

Our oldest son is graduating this weekend.  I've drug out the papers and art projects that were squirreled away in the basement, scanned pre-digital photos and put them together for a slide show.  And it's time.  Time to brag on God.

With graduation looming, floods of answered prayer come to mind. A friend and I meet weekly to pray for our children and schools and this is how we've seen God work:
- We prayed that God would expose dangerous substances in our community and that very night police arrested members of a drug ring from Chicago at the local grocery store.  Shots were fired.  No one was hurt.
- We continue to pray for the safety of our high school and middle school students.  For the last three years, there have been no end-of-the-year or alcohol-related accidents.  We have specifically asked God to intervene in cases of attempted suicide, and have seen His hand in that as well.
-  We have prayed for those who guide and guard our schools:  the administrators, school board, and counselors.  God has continued to prompt them to lead with righteousness and justice.
- We have asked God to make Himself known through excellence in our education system, and this is the result:
- We pray for strength and perseverance for our teachers, for unmet and hidden needs of students, for attentiveness and diligence.  God provides.
- We have prayed about weather for both school- and construction-related events and praised God as He worked all things for His glory.

Personally, I am praising, blessing, and thanking God for the years we've enjoyed with our son.  We are extremely blessed and proud of him, of who he is, of who he will become.  He will be missed at our house and enjoyed elsewhere.

In wrapping up the school year, I ran across this verse: Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

This is my God--a God of kindness,  justice and righteousness who is actively at work. Have you seen Him lately?  It's your turn to brag!


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Death of Life

The women sat around the table, grappling with the  impossible, the inconceivable, the unimaginable and their hearts twisted, their stomachs clenched, their minds spun.  Okay, maybe the other women didn't feel that way, but I did.  It was lesson seventeen of eighteen on the book of Mark and, once again, I marveled at Jesus' journey to and through the cross.

We discussed the courage of Peter and John in the courtyard, the physical abuse and the betrayal Jesus endured, but could not get past the fact that God Himself bore our sin, that the Godhead was rent.  How could the one who said, "I am the resurrection and the life," become unrighteousness and death?  

And I realized that we, the created beings, live in a state of death.  Until God draws us and quickens us, there is no spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1).  We begin as small babes with little awareness of the world around us and grow, day by day, as we are fed and nurtured into fullness of life (John 10:10).  Jesus was life.  The Author of life. The Giver of life.  The Fullness of life.  And He, bearing my sin, gave up that spiritual life, what He was, what He had always been.  There is no level of human comprehension to span that distance.

Then we, dead, naked corpses that we are, claim that God died for all, that we will all join Him in paradise, that we can live as we choose and take the rot to heaven where God will miraculously transform unrepentant hearts into joyous rapturous ones that continue to seek their own pleasure.  Not so.  We must come.  We must fall on our faces, acknowledging our sin and fallenness and asking for His mercy and forgiveness.  We choose to take the life He gives and live daily in the dual body of death vs. life until this body is left behind and we, too, experience His presence in its fullness.  We would still be dead.  We deserve nothing more....

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10).