Friday, February 16, 2018

Because It's There!

While shoveling snow last week, God revealed my hear desire to "git er done" and "do it my way." Yesterday I lost my "to do" list and realized how dependent and driven I am to get things done and check them off the list--maybe you're one of those people, too.

I can evaluate, over-think, and question my motives: Why is it so important to get things done? Is my greater concern what others think of me or what God thinks of me? Where is my value? Am I living out my position in Christ, resting in His love, or am I trying to earn it? The sidelong glances of others make me wonder if I'm on the right track... so I camped there for a while and here is the result:

Those aren't bad questions to ask (or answer) every once in a while. As I've worked through my heart, thoughts and attitudes, interacted with Scripture and other Christians this week, I concluded that one of the benefits of knowing my "bent," the way I'm wired, my "way" or preference, is that I can harness and use my design for the glory of God, knowing that my choices and outcome will be different than anyone else's.

My desires (referenced in James 1:14-15; 4:1-5) are often neutral: comfort, relief, peace, happiness, acceptance, order, accomplishment. They are not bad--in fact, they're God-given, God-reflective desires. But when a desire takes precedence over God, when any one of them becomes my goal, my savior, my chief objective, that's when I think, speak, and act sinfully. Seeking peace at any cost will result in sin. Choosing relief at the expense of responsibility will result in sin. On the other hand, praying for peace or relief and trusting God in the face of difficult circumstances or relationships will lead me to pray, think, and act in a way that honors Him.

The beauty is that as I live, read His word, and pray, I learn more about who I am: what I value and how I respond to the world around me. As I learn more about who God created me to be, I have opportunities to activate the Word of God and the Spirit of God to do the work of God in a way that only I can. One friend, in a moment of loss and grief, shared the gospel around a hospital bed. Another friend is exhibiting God in the midst of a strained marriage relationship. God has uniquely designed and placed each of us according to His good will and purpose.

In learning to be me, the key is to live by the grace of God instead of comparing myself to others or allowing their expectations to shape and form my becoming. Struggles with sin, wrong motives, wanting to please others, speaking when I should listen, expressing enthusiasm inappropriately, etc., are uniquely mine--and God is faithfully presenting opportunity to confess my sin and change. Seeing and knowing my sin is one of God's tools of humility, and that's not bad; it's good. He is using even my sin to make me more like Christ: humble, dependent, aware of my limits. That, too, is His hand on my life, teaching me how to glorify and honor Him with my response to His unique design in and through my physical body, intellect, abilities, nature, and desires.

Each of us is responsible to God. Others can (and should) help us see ourselves clearly. We can (and should) pray for one another, encourage one another, confront, and lovingly rescue one another. But life is a process of learning who I am, what makes me tick, and how God has designed me to honor and glorify Him, reflecting, more and more, the image of His precious, one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in 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 as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:1-11)

Monday, February 12, 2018

An Honest Look at Shoveling Snow

Towering snow fell last week and since my husband was out of town, I had the privilege of snow removal. If you haven't visited our farm, we have more than a person can do with a shovel--but plenty of that, too. As I bundled up for -3 temperatures I prayed, "Lord, give me wisdom. Help me do this well."

Then the biblical counselor in me kicked in asking, "What do you mean by well? What kind of wisdom are you asking for?" Honestly, I wanted the least amount of inconvenience and the most efficiency. I wanted to get it over with so I could enjoy a quiet day at home without obligation. I didn't want to work hard, toil, sweat, and labor. I didn't want difficulty or roadblocks. I wanted to "get on with my life."

How true, how true. Even as I lay in bed last night a dreaded task came to mind followed by our pastor's voice saying, "God works all things together for good; all means all" and I realized I don't want "all" things to be working together--even if it's for good.

I think it would be nice to have a few difficult things, spaced out to my liking (or not at all), and mostly easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy things instead of, as my daughter says, "difficult-difficult-lemon-difficult" things. I don't want God to control all the things in my life (hear the rebellion?) and I don't want all of them to count. I want time off for good behavior. I want to have moments that God isn't using for my "good;" moments that are just mine, not His (And even in writing that, I'm feeling very, very small and convicted).

But God is God. He loves me. He knows me. He is much more concerned with best than comfort, with change than convenience, with Christ than my preferences. And what a good God He is. There were times Jesus wanted out of the program, too, but He submitted to His Father. He was perfected through suffering. He has become the Author and Perfecter of our salvation--and He will forever be counted worthy as the Lamb who was slain.

And when I consider Jesus, snow is not too big. Circumstances are not impossible. Relationships are not bad. They are all part of reflecting a loving, gracious, giving God to a needy, lost, dying world... And. I. Must. Keep. Going. Praise the Lord, He will make sure I do--according to His good will, purpose and plan.

They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:32-36)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:1-13)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

God, Grace, and Lemon Meringue Pie

I got up early Saturday morning, made coffee, set out pie crusts to thaw, moved a mountain of laundry, spent time in Bible reading and prayer then shaped the crusts and put them in the oven. A child headed out for the day--and as I listened to my book on tape and started the lemon filling, I was happy and thankful.

Then the filling boiled, the pie crusts were done, and the husband entered the kitchen. I couldn't turn off my headset, the crusts fell apart and the filling continued to bubble. In that moment--and the ones that followed--I realized how little control I had.

We know we need God for the big stuff: a job, which job?, school? life partner? church? move? But the truth is, we need His help when it comes to making lemon meringue pie, too. I know I do.

After baking new crusts I prayed the filling would set, the meringue would hold, and continued praying, step-by-step, holding my breath as I packed multiple items for that day's fundraiser. God's grace extends to every moment, every choice, every thing that falls into place, and every thing that goes awry. We weren't in the Garden when God placed Adam and Eve, but His daily presence and interaction--as well as Scripture that exhorts us to trust Him--remind us that He created us to be fully dependent. God does not expect us to do it on our own. The American ideal of independence, especially individual independence, is not biblical. We cannot do it on our own. We can't make anything turn out the way we intended--either by wishing or extreme effort. When it does, if it does, it is an act of God's grace and favor.

The more I cry out to Him, ask for His help, and acknowledge His grace, the more praise, glory and honor He receives. The more I ask, the more He reveals Himself and is seen for who He really is. This week, I'm praising Him for lemon meringue pies (among other common and special graces).

As for God, His way is blameless;
The word of the Lord is tried;
He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.
For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God,
The God who girds me with strength
And makes my way blameless?
He makes my feet like hinds’ feet,
And sets me upon my high places.
He trains my hands for battle,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have also given me the shield of Your salvation,
And Your right hand upholds me;
And Your gentleness makes me great.
You enlarge my steps under me,
And my feet have not slipped. (Ps. 18:30-36)