Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Brief Thought on Thanksgiving

A friend who is getting her master's in linguistics recently told me there is a relationship between the words "joy" and "awareness." As we talked about what that implied, we realized the more aware we are of the blessings and work of God, the more joy we experience.

For example, when you stand along the ridge of the Grand Canyon and take in its expanse and depth, what do you feel? Awe. And if you know the Creator-God personally? Awe and joy. That's what it is to see the glory of God revealed. We see Him, we know Him--and He fills us with inexpressible joy!

May today, every day, be filled with moments of awareness, gratitude, thanksgiving--and joy--as you see the work of God through our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap  bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,

“He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever.”

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:9-15)

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:12-16)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

But I NEED It!

"But I need it!" How many of us have heard that cry from children in a store, in our kitchen, even from our own heart?

How do we respond when our husband asks us to do something that has neutral consequences? Sometime we grumble (honestly, we do). Sometimes we procrastinate or forget.  But what if doing what he asks leaves me in a bind or has negative consequences. What if it stands between me and my needs?

"If you make a reasonable appeal and your husband insists, you do it."

I realize this flies in our face like un-American pie. I sound like someone from the dark ages who lives in a cave...alone. To answer your questions, yes, I live in America today and I am married to a real man.

Lets' face it, our primary problem in giving in to a husband's request is pride. "What am I, chopped liver?" No, of course not. But God designed marriage with a leader and a follower (before sin entered the world--not after). Living as a helper/follower is within the planned bounds of perfection. Pride is a result of the Fall. There's nothing wrong with following.

Second, you and I don't see the purpose in suffering as the result of our husband's choices. If he looks like a fool, we feel the fool. If he leads our family into debt, we all suffer. It's true. But as we pick at him, complain and correct, we're not being followers. Not only are we failing to do our job, we're frustrating his, making it more difficult. How often has your husband thrown in the towel because you had an objection? It's not long before a man loses heart and gives up altogether. This is the choice: live out a negative consequence in a God-honoring way or evade negative consequences with selfishness, hatred and discord.

The third problem we face is need. Gritty, grisly going without. I don't like that very much. In fact, I want what I want when I want it and, in our time and culture, there's very little I do without. At the point of going without, my heart says, "Doesn't he know I need this? If he only understood....if he could only see _____ (again, fill in the blank)!" In studying Genesis, I discovered that need is okay. It's not bad and doesn't require an immediate fix--God knows my need. He will make a way for my needs to be met. He even allowed "need" in the Garden of Eden.

Where? In chapter 2 God created the animals and paraded them before Adam to be named. Male and female, one after another after another. "But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:20). What a wonder. God allowed Adam to see his need, but it was need without anxiety, care, anger, and discontent. This was need in absolute trust. And God miraculously met that need with Eve. "It is very good."

Your man will most likely have to see your need before thinking about how to fill it. And that's okay. God knows. He really will meet your need. He sees and hears and answers. In the meantime, be a helper and follower with prayerful dependence. God Himself has promised to be your portion, to meet your needs, and be your all in all. You will grow in Christlikeness--and so will your husband!

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 2-3:9)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When It's Okay not to be Okay--and When It's Not

Guess what? It's okay. It's okay to fail. It's okay to see your failure. It's okay to be imperfect and make mistakes and do things wrong because...because that's our nature. It's who we are. Imperfection is part of our existence.

What's not okay is to stay okay with not being okay. I made a crusty, sarcastic remark to my husband. That's not okay. And while it's okay not to be okay, what's wrong is to continue not being okay and act as if I did noting wrong, hurtful or unkind.

Why? Pride would puff itself up and tell me it's "his problem," "he deserved it," "it was just a little comment, I didn't really mean it, " etc. etc. But those offenses grow. They create rifts and chasms between me and others--between me and God. Living life in and out of the wrong lane with no correction leads to living there habitually. Ignoring failure in my life results in broken lives, in destruction, loss of property, relationships, dreams, and potential. It's the type of life every man, woman and child lives apart from acceptance of Jesus' death and resurrection for personal sin.

When we belong to God, the indwelling  Holy Spirit works against our sinful tendencies. Guilt and remorse are gifts of mercy that draw us back to our Heavenly Father. We are convicted by His Word and called to obey; to confess our sin and repent. God woos us to His side offering forgiveness, the opportunity to learn and change. That's why it's not okay to remain not okay, striving against God's ultimate purpose and design for our lives.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that our lives, lived in the mercy and grace of Christ, is a witness to others and to unseen powers. God's will is that, for eternity, we will be living displays of His kindness. I am a trophy of His grace. You are a trophy of His grace. We are made to imitate Christ; to reflect His glory and image (Ephesians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29)--and God will use all means necessary to achieve His purpose (Romans 8:28). Why? Because He loved you to the death and beyond--and that love is active, present, eternal. He wants what is best--and Jesus is the best. Is anything more amazing, supernatural, or extreme than reflecting the God-man, Jesus Christ? How pitiful for us to choose the mud works of our own little un-okay world.

If you've gotten stuck or you don't know how to get turned around, find a godly friend or pastor and ask for help. It's not too late. God provided His Body, His Word and His Spirit to help us--all of us. Read Psalm 51 prayerfully and follow King David's example. Here is a worksheet with Scripture that has been a helpful tool for getting back in step after failure: "Recovery Plan After Failure".

God knows we are made of dust. He knows our frailty and propensity for failure and He's given us direct instruction and help in His Word--over and over and over. It's okay not to be okay but it's not okay to stay not okay. Why? Because God loves you--and He loves His glory. And how amazing is it to think that He allows us to reflect Himself to others. When we get that, our hearts will swell with gratitude and humility. He uses us despite failure... No, more than that--He uses us with the full intention and design of His glory ruining around, in and through our failure. What a God!

Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:13-8:4)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

When it Doesn't Go My Way

So what does it look like to trust God instead of getting my grubby paws in the middle of _______ where they don't belong?

One of the first things I do is ask myself, "Is this my personal responsibility--is there something only I can do in this situation?" If the answer is yes, then I need to get busy and git 'er done (by God's grace and with His help). If the answer is no, I need to step back and pray about it. It's a concern, but it's not my job--it's someone else's (maybe even God's).

"But...," you say. "But..." Yes. I hear that "but."That's when you and I need to remember that God is. He is in control. He is working all things for the purpose of making His children more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Content that I am His child and He is both able and intentional, I rest. And wait. And watch.

The question isn't "What can I do to fix this?" The real question is, "Am I content? Do I trust Him?" You and I are never more Christlike than when we are being humbled by difficult circumstances and fix our hope on God. And, the truth of the matter is, most of our meddling is not the result of suffering for doing good, it's because we think we must or should or want a desired result. It's a choice. Will I demand my way and throw a spiritual tantrum, making demands and refusing to obey or will I quietly submit and trust God with the outcome?

When I do what God has called me to and trust Him to do what He has promised, my life is one of joy and peace, contentment, rest and goodness. It's just the way God is.

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 131)