Monday, April 27, 2015

Wait! I Can Do Better than That!

Would you agree that one of the greatest frustrations is our own limitations? We want to do more, be better or different... How much time, effort, brain power and money do we spend in our struggle to overcome obstacles?

People like Oscar Pistorious, the Olympic amputee blade-runner, stir up bittersweet emotions. If he can overcome, so can we. Then the bitter--we try and fail, try and fail. His success spits in the face of our failure at lesser things.

One of the most wonderful things I'm learning is personal limits. They're real. They exist. And I'm starting to recognize that I don't have to overcome them, or power through them. I don't have to create excuses or cover stories. Simply acknowledging them, as humbling and disappointing as it may be, has been a great relief.

Perhaps its our American culture. Maybe it's ingrained pride. Whatever the source, it pushes and drives; wall after wall after wall.

Growing older, reading the Bible daily, and praying (sometimes desperately) have given way to a deeper peace; a restful contentment. There are things I can do. There are things I can't. I will never be 5'8," easily reaching the top shelf in the kitchen. The struggle is real. I cannot function on too little sleep. On the other hand, I have a lot of energy that drives people crazy and am learning to harness my enthusiasm. My hair will do what it will do and there are certain things it simply. doesn't. "do."

We creatures, flawed and finite, have limitations. Each of us has been made with a unique bent and personality, set of besetting sins, gifts, abilities and strengths. You are a unique person with unique limits. The problem? I don't want to acknowledge or live within them. I want to overcome, walk on the moon, shoot through the galaxy. Ah, yes, the problem.

The problem is I am not God. I cannot be who I am not. I cannot make myself someone or something--and I shouldn't. God made me with a plan, purpose and design that includes limitations and takes into account sin, faults and failures. It's in my sinful, wanting-what-I-don't-have state that I begin anew to build the tower of Babel; reach the sky on my own; to create what was never intended.

The solution? Rest. It's one of the most-used repeated words and concepts of the Bible.

Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29).

God says, "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." (Psalm 37:7).

Rest. Wait. Re-lax! That is one of the greatest, most difficult, most freeing acts of humility we will ever practice. I used to read the words, "Humble yourself" and wonder how to do that. As I learn and grow and continue to ask questions, this is one way to humble myself--to acknowledge and bow the knee to my God-given limitations.

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)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

That's No Good! Or is it?

"That is so unreasonable!"
"Are you sure?"
We don't say it aloud, but it's what we often think about God. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, we find ourselves failing in answer to the question, "Did God really say?"

In my limited, tainted understanding I disbelieve God's goodness. I doubt that what He has just provided is a good idea, the right answer, just what I need. There is something about my will that wants an easy life, a convenient one, with access to the things that tickle me plump. Miscommunication with a friend or mate, an upset in my schedule or long line at the store are just enough to make me question God's goodness.

What if...what if we took God at His Word? What if we walked in that same gospel that saved us? The gospel says Jesus died for me. Rose for me Lives for me. And if I have accepted that on faith, It is not a once-is-enough-moving-on act of faith. It is the beginning of a life lived in that same faith, day after day, moment by moment

What if we grasped the fact that His good isn't our good? That He is infinite and holy? And His good is for me to be like Jesus--dying to myself and living for God instead? Humbling myself and approaching my friend or mate with gentleness is God's good--it's a step toward being like Jesus. Accepting God' interruption to my schedule graciously and acknowledging His lordship and direction is a better thing. How much better to be like Jesus than myself? And waiting patiently in line at the store is one more way to express content that God is working all things (all of them) for the good of making me more like Jesus.

Jesus had no agenda of His own. "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38 NIV)

Jesus did not demand His rights. "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness...." (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV)

He loved His enemies. "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8 NIV)

And, although Jesus suffered and died--it was all for God's good plan. It was God's love for you and me that brought about His death. It is His continued love for us that drives His work in our lives. He did not save us to simply drag human corpses to Heaven. He saved us to change us--to recreate us into something better. He is providing opportunity after opportunity for us to walk in faith, joy, peace, goodness and kindness. I do this by taking hold of His promises and acting on faith, believing God is good (1 Peter 1:3-4). This circumstance is for my good. This interruption is for my good. This tragedy is for my good. This is a purposeful act of God. And God is good. Believe it....or not.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:23-39

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Being "That" Woman

I appreciated a reminder the other day that humility is not about me--it's actually about someone else. The less I think about me (my failures or successes; my choices, words and actions) the more I'm thinking about someone else. That's what Jesus did--He lived a life focused on pleasing His Father and meeting the desperate need of others. Like carrying a full cup of liquid, the less I look at it the steadier it travels.

I've also been pondering the passage about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31--and the fact that it was given to a young man by his wise mother. This is a "Son, when you're ready for a wife..." And the combination of humility and the Proverbs 31 wife is this--it's really not about me. I can try and try, but working to be a good wife only backfires.  This woman lived with her eyes focused outside her needs and wants to the needs and wants of others. Because of that, Proverbs 31 has a larger application than just wives and mothers.
Once upon a time I told my son to look for a wife with 2 qualifications. "Find a wife 1) that loves Jesus more than she loves you and 2) that has a heart of joy." I figured that was a good place to start. King Lemuel's mother gave it more thought--and God inspired it for eternity.

The woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 was not concerned with how to become a virtuous woman. Instead, she lost herself in serving others and accomplished much. Like Jesus, her love for others was evident in her actions. There is very little about her expectations, her likes and dislikes, the help she received or the sympathy she inspired. What we know is that she loved her husband, her maidens, the poor, the needy, her household, and the tradesmen. She looked for ways to do good to those in her care, fill her days productively, help those in need and fill a niche in the market.

How and why? Because she feared the Lord. Her eyes were fixed on Him. Her words and deeds were motivated by worship and devotion--not to others, but toward God, the Giver of all good gifts. How life would change if my focus was on those around me instead of myself! How much happier I'd be and how much more peace I'd have if my eyes were fixed on the Lord instead of my tipping cup.

By God's grace, my needs are met. Now to walk in faith, watching and seeing; serving and loving!

The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:
An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.
She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.
She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.
She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.
She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:1, 10-31)