Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's in the Application

Some teens and I spent an afternoon at the beach this week and had a wonderful time--until an hour later when we felt the effects of the sun. We used sunscreen, but our application was amiss; some intentionally, some not. As we climbed into bed that night, moaning and groaning carried across the room. There are still moans and groans a day later--and some are my own.

(No, this is not one of us. Thanks, Wikipedia, for the sample photo.)
God's Word is much the same. We can apply it liberally, sparsely, or not at all. The sun shines and the same hardships, trials, and blessings fall. Yes, God sovereignly blesses and disciplines His own, but we are not exempt from the realities of life on planet Earth. The effects of hardship and blessing are felt differently, however, based on our application of God's truth. It's what we believe about God and His Word that makes the difference. We can carry it in our purse, take it out and read the directions, even promote it to others but if we don't apply to ourselves--properly and liberally--there is no personal benefit.

On the beach, we had varying beliefs about the effects of the sun and sunscreen. Some of us wanted the appearance of sun exposure--we wanted to look affected and blessed (but the hidden cost was pain, discomfort, and harm). Some of us thought we were protected from the sun's rays but failed to apply sunscreen as heavily or thoroughly as needed. The sun was relentless. It didn't choose one over another or show partiality. It did its job and shone its best.

The world, sin and our own sinful nature will do their job and do it well. It's what I believe about God and how I apply His Word, the gospel, to my life that makes it bearable, that makes me victorious. If I think I can handle life on my own, I will get burned. If I trust Him, despite the circumstances, He will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus and give peace (Phil. 4:6-7). The apostle Paul referred to spiritual armor instead of sunscreen. Armor or sunscreen. Either way, it's all in the application.

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints...."(Ephesians 6:10-18)


Monday, June 16, 2014

The Futility of Being a Lone Banana

Why has it taken this long to realize some things (many? most?) are what they are. There's no changing or fixing or finagling. It. just. is.

While on vacation last week I enjoyed (not quite the right word, but it sounds spiritual) Elyse Fitzpatrick's book, Helper by Design: God's Perfect Plan for Women in Marriage. And although it's not the primary message of her book, the biggest message I've gotten thus far is this:
Your husband is not perfect. You are not perfect. Surprise! Your life is not perfect. And that's exactly what God intended. So stop trying to fix your husband. Ask God to show you what He had in mind and get ready to love, serve and follow. God created us--women that we are--to love, serve and follow our husbands the same way the Church was created to love, serve and follow her Savior. Oh, wow. That's where the change happens. Right. here. in. me. Of course, I knew that; I just didn't want to hear it.

So it's not rocket science, but I've found life is easier and there's less tension when I admit that some things are the way they are. Yes, it applies to marriage--but I've found it applies to so many other parts of life: wanting to be the life of the party when being the wallflower is a better fit, wanting to sleep in the morning when circumstances prevent it, wishing I had this or could do that... And in the midst of it all, Jesus seems to say, "Peace, be still."

How like Christ to look at my husband who made a wrong turn and say, "We'll get there. No worries." How like Christ to hold and receive a rejected child instead of trying to work change or bring a solution. How like Christ to trust the Father instead of being the hero. How like Christ to hold my tongue instead of correcting or looking important. And how often I fail.

This week, this month, my goal is acceptance. I'm praying for the ability to look at a situation from God's perspective and ask how to respond before I jump into what our youth group calls "Lone Banana" mode. To go it alone, to (in pride and with selfish motives) become the hero and fix the problem, does not glorify God--or work change in me. But to do my best, to accept my limitations, and trust Him with the outcome: that is where Christ increases and I decrease.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;  whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bring Down the House!

It's true. After encouraging you (and myself) to read the Bible every day, this week it hasn't happened. Sure, there were upsets in my schedule--and trips out of town--and children home from school--and it's easy to give in to change while letting important things slip.

As I read Joshua 5-6 this morning I was reminded that acts of regular obedience precede a work of God's power and direction. If I want God to use me and show me and reveal Himself, I need to do what I know to do--in the little every day things.

God brought Israel out of Egypt. He wanted good things for them: freedom from their enemies, generous amounts of food, resources, peace, prosperity. It was their lack of faith and failure to obey that kept them from outstanding blessings. What kind of God abundantly blesses people who fail to acknowledge Him? Would a good God promote laziness and doubt?

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

After forty years in the wilderness, God was ready to do big things--to make good on His promises. He gave this new generation an opportunity to step out in faith and do what He had asked forty years before: be circumcised and observe the Passover. Apparently their parents didn't take God seriously enough or love Him enough to declare Him through the care of their children.

There's some tough application here. Do I love and serve God in the way(s) I care for my family? Do my lifestyle and choices declare me a different person than the rest of the world--even if peculiar? Do I make time to remember and celebrate the faithfulness of God with my community (church body) weekly, regularly?

If I'm unwilling to love and serve God in my family, daily life, and regular worship there's a good chance I'm missing out on some pretty amazing blessings. God won't lead me to walk around Jericho in quiet, steadfast faith--with outstanding reward and testimony--if I'm unwilling to sit down and spend time with Him regularly. It's only when I learn to obey in the little things that He'll bring the house down--or the city, or established sinful strongholds and entrenched sin. God is able. Do what you know to do. Trust Him with the rest.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’  His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:20-30)