28 February 2008

The Entertainment Value of Church and the Gospel

Ok, more television confessions. While I was watching the noon news there was a commercial for a local church. We're not talking large market television where I live so the local commercials have that 'homemade and low budget' flavor. Something I have come to appreciate since leaving California. I live in Kentucky now, where folks are just that friendly and homespun really is their lifestyle.

The commercial had a lovely picture of a church with a voice-over saying the church's name and location. Then they used a split screen with the church on one side and a string of fresh faces with sound-bytes on the other. Each friendly, smiling face used a one word descriptor of the church to entice people to come and attend. I am assuming they used the people in their fellowship to make the commercial. The folks came in all ages and sizes and they used some decent descriptors for a church; fellowship, support, and encouragement among them. Here's the part that made me cringe.... they had one little girl who was especially animated and perky and they spliced her in multiple times in between the serious words. Her one word description for her church? "Fun!"

That's right, fun. The gospel of Christ, the holiness of God, the desperate need for salvation are all trumped in favor of fun. What was that pastor thinking? Did he completely lose his mind and forget the reason for the church in the first place? You have got to be kidding me! People's souls are at stake and right here in the heart of the Bible Belt fun is the best thing you have to offer? No wonder the rate of depression among those who profess faith in God is the same as those who don't. People come in search of answers for the great pain and agony of their lives; the huge burden of sin on their consciences and instead of getting the truth they get a quick veneer of fun! How much fun can you have while you ignore the cancer of sin eating away at your soul?

Is it any wonder that our churches have become little more than breeding grounds for apostates, rabid atheists and skeptics? Does it take membership in Mensa to connect the dots between offering a man-centered gospel and producing completely self-focused professing believers who are willing to do anything as long as it feels good or entertains them?

We do not need a social club. What we do need is a remedy for sin. Why is that so hard for the people of God to understand?? Oh how grateful I am to Almighty God that he has seen fit to place me in a church family where He is the focus of our worship. A fellowship where having fun together is a byproduct of worshiping and enjoying Him first and foremost.

Please Lord, let me never take for granted the gift you have given me in putting men and women who are faithful to You and Your Word in my life. Like my friend James White says, what you win them with is what you win them to. Theology Matters.

27 February 2008

Contentment vs Consumerism

For over a week now I have been at home nursing a back that's 'out' and/or a nerve that is pinched. At first I was so miserable with pain that day to day survival was my focus. I keep feeling as though I am healing but for the last two days I wake up feeling a little worse than the day before. My floors need to be mopped, my rugs vacuumed, my bed linens changed and my poor little doggie needs a good romp out in the woods.

Sunday night I normally have to take my garbage cans to the end of my driveway for Monday morning's early pick-up. My back was in such bad shape that there was no way I was going to risk it greater injury by wrestling with them. Today I took out a bag of trash to the cans and realized the cans were both empty. Being home for a week I hadn't been to the store, done much shopping or done anything much to make refuse.

What I am doing is catching up on my reading. I am honestly preparing myself for reading a couple of books that are likely going to convict me. I mean that. I am preparing the soil for what I know is going to be a difficult season and ultimately a wonderful harvest. Part of this journey has been about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. When I consider what I have I realize I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.

Confession time: Today instead of reading I watched some television and of all things to watch, I turned on Oprah. Lisa Ling, whose work as a journalist I appreciate, had a story about 'freegans.' You can find some information on Oprah's site here. For those of you who hate clicking back and forth on websites, freegans are people who reject our societies rampant consumer values. Ms. Ling interviewed people with 6 figure incomes who did their shopping out of dumpsters. One couple in particular caught my attention. Their names are Daniel and Amanda and they are newlyweds. Newlyweds alway have a tough time surviving, right? Not these two. He is a doctor and she is an engineer. And yes... they are freegans.

Lisa Ling followed them as they collected food from a dumpster. Amanda admitted to being grossed out about it at first, but she changed her mind when she saw the quality of goods that were being thrown away. She's a better woman than I am. I admit I could do it if I had to. I doubt very seriously I would do it if I had $20 in my checking account. Here's the part that caught my attention.

-What made them think it was a good idea in the first place? Daniel says freegan ideas about consumption fit into their beliefs. "We try to live very simply, and we don't spend a lot on ourselves. We are very happy with having a little," he says. "We like to make it a priority to share a lot of our money. A lot of that comes from our Christian values of sharing and generosity."- (copied from Oprah's site linked above)

Wow. I am convicted by their example.
I thought I was doing well to cultivate my attitude of gratitude and yet here are people who are opting out of our society's consumerist mentality not because they live on a fixed income as I do, but because their Christian value system motivates them to buy less and give more.

I am not condemning anybody for having. I firmly believe you should buy the best that you can afford- best meaning best quality for performance and longevity and not best meaning most popular brand. I also think there is a clear difference between buying what you want and what you need.

Contentment. I am going to work on being content with having less stuff and spending more on the things He values.

Psalm 131:1-3
1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child {rests} against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.

Theology Matters: Hidden With Christ in God

Dr. James White at his best. Be encouraged to live radically- as God has intended.

26 February 2008

Real Preachers of Genius: Seeker-Sensitive Mega Church Guy

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this one.

Deep Thoughts...

Every day I follow pretty much the same routines and in doing so, experience the same disappointments. One of my habitual thoughts is "Today, I am going to do things differently." I have good intentions, but you know what they say about those and the road to hell. You know that other old saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." Of course, that's also the definition of "practice."

So.... am I crazy? Or just practicing?

God's Economy

Within the sovereignty of God is a fundamental truth, nothing is wasted. Each and every minute of our lives is preparing us for something, though we may never know how significant that something will be.

I used to tell the college students I worked with that Matthew 1:2 "To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers;" was my favorite verse for encouragement. Of course they would read it and ask me why and I would take them to Genesis and give my version of the story of Joseph. It went something like this:

Joseph wasn't smart enough not to rub it in his brother's faces that he was their father, Jacob's, favorite. Maybe he was that naive, or maybe without guile- I don't know for certain, all I know is he got to hang out with Jacob while his brothers had to do the real labor. It was sort of silly of him to mention his dream to them, don't you think? How would you react if your brother said he had a dream where you would be worshiping him? It's no wonder the boys got mad and threw him in a big hole and schemed about what to do with him.

It was pretty fortuitous that a caravan happened by too. I think that they would have killed him for certain, except that one brother, Reuben, said no. Then, along comes this caravan and with it came the opportunity to sell Joseph into slavery. With a way to get rid of him, it's off to Egypt for Joseph.

Now of all the folks who could afford to buy a slave, Potiphar, a high ranking official of Pharaoh's, becomes Joseph's master. Joseph must have demonstrated remarkable integrity and ability, because Potiphar treated him well and Joseph had a lot of responsibility. Yes, I know Potiphar sent Joseph to jail when that wife of his lied about Joseph and accused him of a crime...but he had the right to kill Joseph for such an offense. I think he may have known his wife lying, however, that's just speculation on my part.

We think of Joseph being jailed and how unfair it is. Again, Joseph demonstrates some remarkable character and integrity because after a while the jailers have Joseph running things. And you know the story about how Joseph interprets some dreams for Pharaoh's baker and cup-bearer. Things wouldn't work out so well for the baker. The cup-bearer would be released from jail and return to Pharaoh's service. And it just so happens that the cup-bearer will remember Joseph's ability to interpret dreams when Pharaoh has one that troubles him and wants it interpreted.

You know the rest of the story. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream, which just happens to be about years of plenty and years of famine. He impresses Pharaoh, and Pharaoh makes him second in command of the kingdom and in charge of food. I love the part where one of Joseph's brothers comes to Egypt to beg for food and how he doesn't recognize Joseph. I also love the way Joseph toys with him a little, but only to have a reunion with Jacob and his siblings. Joseph saves the lives of the very people who wanted to harm him. What they intended for harm, God intended for good. The whole story is great, but I think most people miss the best part.

None of us would sign for a life like Joseph's. We would like to think we would, knowing how the story ended, but we wouldn't volunteer for that sort of treatment. Most of us wouldn't volunteer for our own lives if we knew what was going to happen to us- all the bad things and stuff that breaks our hearts. Each step in Joseph's life prepared him for next job God had for him. It was a pretty important job too. Because of all things he went through, Joseph was able to preserve his family line. The very line in which it was prophesied that Messiah would come.

Here's why Matthew 1:2 is one of my favorite verses. Look at it again with me: "To Abraham was born Isaac; and to Isaac, Jacob; and to Jacob, Judah and his brothers;"
It was through Joseph's life that the family line was preserved and he doesn't even get honorable mention in the genealogy of our Lord. It was one of the brothers who wanted him dead who gets the honor of being in Jesus' genealogy by name.

So, why do I like this verse so much? Because it puts things into perspective. Whatever hard things life consists of, whatever jobs God has given us to do, we may never have our names in lights or in the credits, but it could be pretty important generations later. It's only in God's economy, it all counts.

25 February 2008

Larry Norman- The Great American Novel

During a particularly dark time in my life I picked up a CD by some guy I had never heard of before, his name was Steve Camp. It was God's providence that I picked up this CD. Several of the songs pierced my heart. I remember pulling out the jacket of the CD to read the lyrics. Do you do that? Do you get so moved hearing a song that you want to know more about it right away? I do. This song, The Great American Novel, had me transfixed. When I saw that Larry Norman had written it, it was especially touching for me. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a child of the 60's and I remembered him from my "Jesus Freak" days. I understand that Larry went to be with Jesus yesterday. His best work has just begun.

24 February 2008

Change and Sanctification

Ever have the feeling that you're on the verge of change? I have that feeling now. I believe that's because God is about to make me very uncomfortable. Why do I believe it? Because I've asked him to. I know myself well enough to know that even though I have asked Him for change, I am likely going to fight Him about it. Unless He does something to rewire me, I have a pretty typical pattern set. First I see the need to change, and then I ask Him to change me. Next I resent the changes He is making and fight Him by kicking at the goads, pouting and being resentful. After that doesn't work for me, I get tired and broken and call for His help. He is always merciful and sends someone to encourage me to see the good in what God is doing. Next I repent, wonder why I fought Him so hard and enjoy a wonderful honeymoon period with Him. I call it a honeymoon period because I am dumb as dirt and my sinful heart is going to restart the whole process by asking Him to change me yet again. Wouldn't it be clever of me to skip all the steps between asking Him to change me and enjoying His company with gratitude for my sanctification?

I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend. I know I am going to be convicted when I read it.
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate
Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges

I am so certain that I will be convicted that I am actually following a self-imposed ban on reading anything new until the things I have half-read around the house are read and back on the shelves of my library. Talk about stalling!

So, what do I think God is going to address for me? I am a malcontent. I have been searching for good sermons on coveting and haven't really found any. I don't covet material things, I covet those things that don't fit in a box and that you cannot buy in a store. I covet talent and ability. I also covet situation. So I predict that I am going to be convicted over my lack of contentment. I am going to cry over it- big tears. First I will cry because I don't like to be wrong and then I will cry real tears of repentance.

God takes wonderful care of me. My physical needs are met with abundance. I don't want or need more stuff. The trouble with what I want is that none of it is unreasonable in and of itself. I don't want fame or fortune. I don't want status or notoriety. However, my desires, though reasonable, are entirely selfish. For example, I want to be able to sing with a voice that is always in perfect pitch. I don't give a rip if anyone but God hears me sing, I just want to sing from my heart and have the right melody come out.

I so appreciate art, I want to be able to paint a beautiful landscape or still life. I don't want to be famous, not ever. I don't care to sell a single work. I just want to be able to paint something that begins to resemble what it is that I see. I want to be an expert in something, something that would be helpful to others- like gardening. I want to grow food and flowers in abundance. Enough to give away lots and lots.

I want someone to want my company above everyone else save God. Not for every moment of the day nor every day of the year, but every once in a while I want to be first on someone's list of folks to talk to or have coffee with because they enjoy me, quirks and all.

Oh yeah, change is coming. I see the need for a major overhaul in my life and lots of lessons on being content. I am cautiously optimistic though. Feel free to ask me if I have started the book, it will keep me honest.

A Puritan Prayer on Choices

I found this prayer in The Valley of Vision and thought it was a wonderful addition to a post on Choices....if only my heart reached out to His with this type of faith and honesty.

O God,

Though I am allowed to approach thee
I am not unmindful of my sins,
I do not deny my guilt,
I confess my wickedness, and earnestly plead forgiveness

May I with Moses choose affliction rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin.
Help me to place myself always under thy guiding and guardian care,
to take firmer hold of the sure covenant that binds me to thee, to feel more of the purifying, dignifying, softening influence of the religion I profess,
to have more compassion, love, pity, courtesy,
to deem it an honour to be employed by thee as an instrument in thy hands,
ready to seize every opportunity of usefulness,
and willing to offer all my talents to thy service.

Thou hast done for me all things well,
hast remembered, distinguished, indulged me.
All my desires have not been gratified,
but thy love denied them to me
when fulfillment of my wishes would have
proved my ruin or injury.
My trials have been fewer than my sins,
and when I have kissed the rod it has fallen from thy hands.

Thou has often wiped away my tears,
restored peace to my mourning heart,
chastened me for my profit.
All thy work for me is perfect,
and I praise thee.

23 February 2008

Choices, Habits and 'Oh Face' Moments

It's not fair but choices you make when your 14 affect you when you're 40. I say it's not fair because what in the world do you know about life when you're14? Certainly not enough to make good choices. Your brain isn't even fully developed and connected when you're fourteen. Doctors say that happens around 20.

I remember counseling one young man who was in his senior year in college. He was having a bit of a pity-party about how difficult life is and how unprepared he was to make the decisions ahead of him. Career, marriage and everything else that was coming his way left him feeling overwhelmed and I couldn't blame him. Not really. He had a lot of book knowledge and not a lot of practical skills.

As we discussed his options I told him that two hundred years ago he would have started college at the age of 14 and could read and write in at least three different languages. It would be a privilege to go to college because it would mean not having to apprentice at a job requiring hard labor. Not only that but if I threw him out in the acreage behind the college he would have been able to build a shelter and forage for food without using his father's credit card or going to Burger King. I asked him what he thought the difference was between the 14 year old 200 years ago and the 22 year old man he was. He thought for a long time and then said softly, "I have never worried about my survival.... I have been given everything." That was an "Oh face" moment. You know the look of knowledge that comes over someone as they say "Ohhhh" and they see something clearly for the first time. As a counselor, I live for 'Oh face' moments.

I had my own 'Oh face' moment today. I hobbled out to get my mail and I saw an envelope with a return address I didn't recognize. The envelope had a computer generated address label on it and it looked like some cheesy graphics on computer paper. I immediately thought I was being solicited for donations and wondered who wanted me to give them some money. Boy was I surprised to find that an older couple from my church had sat at their computer and made me a get well card.

Suddenly I was touched at the time and effort that they would put into personalizing a card for me. I was also ashamed of myself. So ashamed that I didn't want to go to church and see this lovely couple for fear there would be a neon light shining above my head flashing "She is so cynical and jaded she thought you wanted money from her." It has become very clear to me that God has placed me in this family of believers to teach me how to be loved. I am not very good at it.

The choice that I made as a child to keep everyone at arms distance isn't serving me well at 50. It makes me wonder what other habits I have that aren't serving me well. God made us creatures of habit and when our habits are good it works for us. When they are bad, it works against us. I wonder what else is lurking under the surface that I need to deal with? I will leave it to Him to show me.

Daniel 2:22 22 "It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. (NAS)

22 February 2008

Everybody wants to change the world but nobody wants to go first

I am a child of the 60's and grew up believing that together we could change the world. I was born in Oakland and grew up in the East Bay. I have always felt fortunate to grow up during that particular time in history and to grow up in what would be called "cultural diversity." I have a deep love and respect for people in all shapes, sizes and colors. My family is mirrors that diversity. We have just about every ethnicity accounted for in our gene pool. I am proud of my heritage and expect no less from others.

My back has been out for a couple of days and so I have been fairly immobile. I have read some, slept some and in desperation, I have watched a lot f television. There's been a lot of coverage on the presidential candidates. People are looking for answers and hoping to be able to judge from those answers who is the best choice for Commander and Chief of these United States.

I am not overly politically minded, but I do pay attention and maintain an interest in the policies and positions of the candidates. It seems that the front runners in the race for the White House are senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama. Now, before I get started on the real subject of this post, I want to make it clear that none of these people would be my ideal candidate for president. I took a look at all of their websites and in doing so I noticed that Senator Obama has listed Trinity United Church of Christ as the place he attends worship. So, I looked up their site to find out more. You can click the link for yourself or you can read what I am cutting and pasting from their website:

We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.

The Pastor as well as the membership of Trinity United Church of Christ is committed to a 10-point Vision:

  1. A congregation committed to ADORATION.
  2. A congregation preaching SALVATION.
  3. A congregation actively seeking RECONCILIATION.
  4. A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA.
  5. A congregation committed to BIBLICAL EDUCATION.
  6. A congregation committed to CULTURAL EDUCATION.
  8. A congregation committed to LIBERATION.
  9. A congregation committed to RESTORATION.
  10. A congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY.
Are you shocked? I am. I cannot help but wonder what would be made of one of the other major candidates attending a church that substituted the word Black for White or Female in their mission statement.

Somebody please tell me how this agenda is God honoring?

20 February 2008

My Possessed Kitty

The other day I was telling my friend that my dog, Chet, believes his step-sister, Mali is the spawn of Satan. After witnessing her behavior tonight, I think Chet may be right. We were all cuddled up on the couch together. Sometimes the two of them want to be in the same spot. Chet has seniority though and he was sitting closest to me. Mali had made several attempts to usurp his position but she had been foiled by me, mostly because her idea of being closer is sitting on my head. Suddenly Mali's eyes began to glow red. She pounced on Chet who yelped, it was not so much a yelp of pain as it was of fear. Mali only knew she had elicited a reaction and she was thrilled. She pounced again in a move the WWF would be proud of- and they both tumbled to the floor. Chet scrambled and rolled himself upright. Mali met his moves and sat on her haunches, one paw on either side of his head, batting him with a succession of right and left punches. Suddenly, she had gone from WWF theatrics to a boxing match. Chet's head went back and forth, snapping at her paws... he looked like windshield wipers gone mad. Mali ran away from him with Matrix like agility, she banked off of walls- ran over the couch- slid across the glass topped end table- her eyes fixed on mine because she knows being on tables is a no-no, landed on the bare floor where she tried in vain to get traction and collided with the spider plant.
Chet seized the opportunity to jump on her and give her what for-she feigned submissiveness by rolling over on her back. Chet walked away, thinking he had properly schooled her, when to his dismay she jumped up and over the back of the couch and right into my lap- occupying the spot he had been and she wanted when this all started. Chet looked at me with eyes that said "Mom, how could you??" All I could do was laugh. I am so thankful that God gives us pets... even kitties whose eyes glow red in the dark!

19 February 2008

Putting Away the Things of Childhood- Letting Christ Define You

1 Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

In my last post I talked about the real damage that children face when they have a parent walk out on them. I thought about it all night- should I have posted it? Would someone reading my post think that I was excusing the children who had been abandoned from having to meet the standard of God's word? Nothing could be further from the truth.

My rotten childhood is not the cause of my sin. It is merely the context in which the content of my heart is revealed. Yes, by the world's standards I have every right to be angry, bitter and afraid. I am not measured by the world's standards. I am measured by God's.

There is no discounting that my hesitancy to trust people is well deserved. I have come by it honestly. However, being self-reliant and refusing to ask for help when I need it is evidence of my sinful pride and nothing else. When I believed the world's standards for me, I was incapacitated with despair and grief over a lost childhood. My history simply gave a plausible excuse for my behavior.

One day Keith, a pastor whose blog you can find here, was talking to me and he said something that set me on the path to freedom. He said "The events that happened to you were terrible and your reaction to them is sinful and that is the part you can control." I didn't care much for Keith at that moment.
I wanted to be accommodated. I wanted his understanding. I wanted him to lower the bar of expectation and instead, he lowered the boom! Loving, gentle, confrontation- took me from the quicksand of self-pity and placed me on the Solid Rock.

Keith challenged me over a period of time. He suggested books for me to read, most of which I threw under the dresser in my bedroom. He began to rate a book's effectiveness by how far I launched it. He challenged my understanding of God's Word, and he put me in contact with a woman who had a similar horror story. The only difference between us being repentance. She had seen the sinfulness of her reaction to her past and I wanted to hang on to mine.

I am a different woman now. I wrestled with God and lost. Ahh! The sweet rest I have now knowing that nothing comes to me that doesn't pass first through His hands.
Job 5:7 For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.
I no longer ask questions like, "why me, Lord?" The truth is, why not me? And as horrible as my childhood was, it wasn't all bad. Even if it was, the very worst life here is better than one second in hell. My past has shaped me but my God defines me.

Galatians 2:20
20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

1 Corinthians 6:20
20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 7:23
23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

Titus 2:11-15
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;
14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Lamentations 3:31-40
31 For the Lord will not reject forever,
32 For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.
33 For He does not afflict willingly, or grieve the sons of men.
34 To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the land,
35 To deprive a man of justice in the presence of the Most High,
36 To defraud a man in his lawsuit-- of these things the Lord does not approve.
37 Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded {it}
38 {Is it} not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?
39 Why should {any} living mortal, or {any} man, offer complaint in view of his sins?
40 Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.

18 February 2008

Whose Little Girl Am I? A Message to Fathers

My friend, Carla, posted something here that has made it impossible for me remain silent on an issue that is very sensitive for me. She writes about the father who walked out on her as a child. There has been a cycle of abuse in my family that is the poison fruit of having a father walk out on his children. So, in the hope that one man or woman might read this post and think twice about the legacy he or she wants to leave their children- here I go.

When my parents met they had three things in common. Both had been married before, both had three children from those marriages and both of them had been abandoned by their fathers when they were young. I was about 3 years old when my mother took my siblings, her children from a previous marriage, and left my father. She was also pregnant and placed my baby sister for adoption when she was born. She and my father had never married and so he had no say over what my mother could do with her child. She left me behind. I never got to ask her why. When you're three the why of it doesn't matter, not really. All you know is that it is your fault. There had to be something the matter with you or you wouldn't have been left behind.

At first I was passed from family member to family member. My father's mother had me the longest period of time. She made certain that I knew my mother was trash. As an adult I can understand her anger. When my mother placed my baby sister for adoption, she took away my grandmother's grandchild. I didn't know that as a child. I only knew it was my mother's fault I had to be raised by my grandmother and that was highly inconvenient. At the ripe age of three I knew that I was substandard and unwanted- a bastard child an inconvenience and a problem.

Occasionally my father would pick me up on the weekends and give my grandparents a break from having to raise me. When he picked me up I knew that meant we would have breakfast at "Sam's Glorified Ham and Eggs" and then run errands. He would bring me back to my grandparents house that night. He was fairly consistent and so that was my routine. One or two days a month my father would spend the day with me. The rest of the time I tried to be invisible so I wouldn't provoke my grandmother's wrath.

My father had sons from his first marriage and I got to visit with them occasionally. It seemed to me that they had a nice life because they got to stay together. They had their mom and their step-dad. My mother's children had a rougher start. They had been in foster homes until my mother remarried. My mother's new husband adopted her first three children and they all stayed together. I was the outcast. I didn't fit in with either set of siblings and I knew it. I was on my own. The only thing I could count on was my grandmother telling me how terrible my mother and her family were and my father occasionally taking me to "Sam's" for breakfast.

One weekend my father picked me up from his mother's house and we didn't go to breakfast. Instead, we went to see friends of his- a young couple named Barbara and Walt. I didn't know it but my father was taking me to their house so they could watch me. All I knew was I had to be on my best behavior while we visited and we visited for a long time- so long that I fell asleep on their couch. I woke up early the next morning with no idea in the world where I was.

I can tell you to this day exactly what I saw when I woke up. The room had wheat colored drapes that were pulled closed over a long narrow window. The bed was covered in a chiffon ruffled bedspread with huge yellow cabbage roses on it. There was a walnut chest of drawers in one corner and a night stand that had a crystal based lamp. I was as still as a statue taking inventory of the room, looking for clues as to where I might be. As I lay there in bed I speculated . Whose little girl was I now? What kind of little girl they might want me to be? Did they want a quiet girl? Did they want a silly girl? Did they want a tomboy or a princess? I was very relieved when Barbara opened the door of the bedroom to check on me. She was young and pretty and I thought it might be nice to belong to someone who smiled. I began to work for her affection right away in the hope that she wouldn't tire of me and give me away as well.

I don't know why my father had Barbara and Walt watch me, nor do I remember how long they cared for me. It was long enough that I had a birthday party there. I was surprised when my father showed up one day and took me back to his mother's house. It wasn't the last time Barbara and Walt watched me, nor were they the only people to take custody of me for short periods of time. I wondered each time I was introduced to someone if I was going to be their little girl. I once overheard someone tell my father how good I was with adults. I guess they didn't realize that I viewed everyone as a potential new parent. I didn't want to give anyone an excuse to reject me.

I could go on about the horrors of my childhood. My only real memory of my mother and father being together is of my mother shooting at my father with a bolt-actioned rifle. My father was very abusive, but he was there. My mother was permissive but had abandoned me to the man she tried to kill. It is only by the grace of God I survived. History has a way of repeating itself. My mother's first husband walked out on her and his kids and although she remarried a kind man who adopted them, the scars of having been jettisoned by their biological father ran deep. My eldest sister looked for love in all the wrong places. Before she married she had three children all with different fathers and all of those men walked out shortly after their babies were conceived.

After my sister died, I had the pleasure of raising two of her girls. The oldest came into the world wanting to be a 'daddy's girl.' She suffered terribly because her father didn't love her enough to stick around and see who she might be. Her heart breaks to this day. She will tell you she ran away at 15 with the first man who said he loved her. The youngest pretends to be indifferent about her father not being a part of her life. She can fool most people but she cannot fool me. I was there for the pain she inflicted on herself, cutting and burning her own flesh. She is a mom now and protects her son as only a woman who knows the pain of being discarded can. She would die before she let her son feel unwanted or unloved and she would kill anyone who tried to abuse him.

Men, I implore you... do not take your role as father so lightly nor think so little of your children that you would sacrifice their stability so you can chase your temporal happiness. Children need fathers to raise them, to teach them confidence and give them a sense of their worth. Sure, there are some children raised by incredible single moms... but sadly the success stories are outnumbered by the tragedies. Fatherless children are more likely to commit crimes, injure themselves, end up in prison, become homeless, drop out of school, and be institutionalized. The girls are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers and teenage fathers are more likely to walk away from their children... thus ensuring the cycle will continue.

Please, I beg you. I am a 50 year old woman who can finally admit I am living the consequences of being so hurt and damaged as a child. For too long I have let the pain of my childhood keep me from trusting people. I remember deciding at 3 years old that I wouldn't get married or have children because parents couldn't be trusted and I didn't want to hurt anyone like I was being hurt.

If you have been hurt as a child, let me give you hope. There is a full life for you to live in Christ. God has blessed me far more than I can believe. I am happy, healthy and whole now because of Him. You can be too. If you need help believing that, please ask.

15 February 2008

Loving Confrontation - It's not for Cowards

In my earlier post on confrontation, I talked about the bad reputation confrontation has, and why we need to rethink letting the world tell us it is bad. We need to quit taking advice from the world in all matters, but that's another post for another day. I fear this post is going to be lengthy enough and difficult to get done.

Confrontation is a complex issue that takes wisdom and discernment. When done correctly, it is about restoration and reconciliation, strengthening and challenging. It means loving someone enough to tell them the hard things they don't want to hear in a way that removes their defenses and leaves them with only two choices; continue in sin or repent. It also means being willing to get into the trenches with them and fight the good fight and not condemning when failure occurs. Although it can yield instantaneous results as Nathan's confrontation of David did, more often it is a process. If you're going to confront someone, you need to be in for the long haul. You see, confrontation is more than telling someone they are wrong, it is also encouraging them to live rightly. It is more about being a 'cheerleader' than being the 'behavior police.'

I want to reveal my bias to you now. I disdain what I call "drive-by exhortations." I am talking about the tendency for someone sitting on the periphery of a person's life, who disagrees with what they are seeing, or think they are seeing and who, without benefit of dialog, slaps a couple of Bible verses down and runs away. More often than not they run to a pastor or church elder and in the name of 'genuine Christian love' disclose their concerns anonymously. If you cannot stomach confrontation- do not ask someone else to do it for you or hide behind anonymity. Cheap shots and cheap grace seem to go together. It seems impossible to me that a true understanding of the Word of God would lead someone to believe that it is their Christian duty to hide behind anonymity when making accusations about a person's behavior (and yes I include anonymous blog comments in this, if they are accusatory). Check you heart and see if you aren't using the opportunity to gossip about or defame someone 'in the name of Christ.' Proverbs 11:9 With {his} mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.

I wish there was a formula on exactly how to successfully confront or exhort someone. The sad truth is, the most godly confrontation does not guarantee immediate repentance or appreciation. My heart has broken more than once as I confronted someone who did not receive it well. On occasion, the Lord has been merciful to me and I have seen wonderful fruit despite initial rejection of what I said. One student in particular that I worked with studiously avoided me for months, harboring bitterness toward me. Some six months later she came to me in tears and told me I had been right in confronting her. That was a gift- for both of us. You see, the standard is the Word of God for both receiving and giving exhortation-and- the results are up to the Holy Spirit, not you.

There is a framework we are given in the Word; principles we should follow, but if you're looking for more than that from me, I am going to disappoint you. The biblical principles hold true in all areas but the finer details are going to be different. I want to be very clear, I am not talking about church discipline here. Matthew 18:15-18 gives clear direction for church discipline. I am talking about the life on life encouragement and confrontation we are called to do as believers. While it is possible that something you are confronting a brother or sister about may lead to church discipline, it is not a certainty. There is a difference between being in full rebellion against God and knowing it and struggling in an area and needing guidance. That said, here is the framework I use. I begin with checking myself by God's standards.

Anger has no place in confrontation. Our anger is not generally born of holiness. When we are angry our flesh rises up and those unsanctified thoughts of ours go rolling off our tongues. Confrontation needs to be done in a timely fashion but if your anger is out of control, it is best you leave the situation alone. James 1:19-20 {This} you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak {and} slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Before you speak, take care of that log and speck thing Jesus warned us about.
Luke 6:41-42 "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Details. Didn't someone once say the Devil is in the details? Know what you're talking about and to be familiar with the one you're going to confront. Proverbs 18:13 says "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." Far too often we want to communicate our opinion or what we think the problem is before the problem has truly been identified. You also need to know the whole story. Proverbs 18:17 The first to plead his case {seems} just, {until} another comes and examines him. Remember, in absence of evidence to the contrary, love believes all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

The goal of confrontation is to help the other person see God and His standards more clearly. It is to help them put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4). You are not trying to punish, demean or break someone. Please, please, please never forget it is His kindness that leads us to repentance. Read Ephesians 2 and Romans 2 until you understand what kindnesses and mercy God has bestowed on you in Christ.

If you have managed to read this far, I hope you are thinking that confrontation is a lot of work and a lot of responsibility. If you aren't thinking that, I haven't communicated the subject matter correctly.

12 February 2008

When God Makes a Point

For the last couple of weeks I have been following my normal routines and am detecting a pattern or theme that God is bringing to my attention. I can be as dumb as dirt so He's left all subtlety behind and is using a holy 2x4 at this point. Let me explain. I just read a fabulous post on holiness on Steve Camp's blog. I recommend it, you can find it here. Earlier today I attended a community bible study where the topic was on God's holiness and our sin. Sunday my pastor delivered a sermon that was both convicting and encouraging. He was preaching on Philippians 2:9-11 and tied it to the holiness of God. Just before that I was asked by a group of women to define the holiness of God. See what I mean? One of the principles of hermeneutics is when God repeats something, it's important. It seems apparent to me that God wants my attention and He wants it focused on His holiness.

I know I was going to write more about confrontation, but when God keeps bringing something to your attention it is best to listen. I don't believe in coincidence. I believe that God has providentially placed these people and circumstances in my life to snap me to attention. So here I am, Lord and I am listening.

The holiness of God is a truly awesome and terrible thing. The only way to begin to understand His holiness is in juxtaposition to my sin. No matter how I try I cannot really comprehend the absolute righteousness, perfection, and goodness of my God. I think a nanosecond of seeing Him in all of His holiness and glory would vaporize us. Isaiah was undone, Moses' face and hands shone after spending time with God and God protected Moses from seeing Him. (Isaiah 6, Exodus 34). The holiness of God will lay you out flat and make you tremble. Sitting here thinking about it has moved me to tears.

God, in His merciful providence, is allowing me to see how great a gift I have been given in my salvation. If I could, I would run from Him. I know who I am. I know the wicked heart I have. I know that He is the one person I cannot trick into thinking there is something good in me, other than His Holy Spirit. I know my bent for sin. I know that even after this glimpse of His holiness and the way I tremble here and now, in the next moment my flesh can rise up. And yet, for reasons I will never understand let alone never merit, He has called me to be one of His own. Jesus Christ, my Savior, has paid the penalty for my sins past, present and future. Knowing exactly how many times and ways I would fail Him, he has imputed his righteousness to me.

Recently I asked God to help me desire heaven. I think His answer has come in reminding me of His holiness and seeing my sin for what it truly is. My salvation is secure and I am free from the penalty of sin. My sanctification continues as I am freed from the power of sin. When I serve Him in heaven I will be free at last from the presence of sin.


11 February 2008

Loving Confrontation

I love confrontation, though I don't always appreciate it at the moment I am being confronted and seldom appreciate it when it isn't done biblically. Biblical confrontation is a loving, life-saving tool that we Christians have allowed the world to define and label for us. Why is it we insist on letting the world define truth for us? Why are we so willing to believe them when they tell us confrontation is evil and nothing more than bigoted intolerance? We have even let the world tell us intolerance is wrong but there are things we should not tolerate. The irony is even those in the world would agree with that statement, they just have subjective standards on what is intolerable.

Unfortunately, we have given the world reason to point the finger of blame at us. The valuable tools we have been given by God have all been counterfeited by the enemy of our souls. In our flesh, we have abused confrontation and exhortation in the name of Christ. Anytime we operate in the flesh the resulting product is suspect. When we desire to confront someone we should suspect our motives. Too often the flesh desires confrontation in order to put someone 'in their place.' However, loving confrontation is a life-restoring, life-changing communication. The bible says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6). That is the truth we should believe, not the world's tainted version.

Flattery is one of the most insidious forms of abuse. Let me demonstrate in terms our culture can understand. If you have watched the beginning shows of American Idol when they search from town to town for talent, the highlight of those shows are the people who haven't a clue they are terrible performers. If you doubt me, or you haven't seen them- here are some of the 'best' examples. I am not trying to be funny. In our affirmation crazed society somebody hasn't loved the majority of these people enough to tell them that, at the very least, they need more practice. Sure, some have been told and their egos wouldn't suffer the thought and others have been told they would never amount to anything and sell millions of albums now....not that that is an indication of being good at your craft. I will concede that some may be fabulous and were lied to about their ability. That isn't loving confrontation. My point is that for some, the sting of being told by someone who loves them or knows them that they aren't ready- or may never be ready- has been replaced by the humiliation of being on national television and YouTube and laughed at by millions. My heart breaks for them...the ones who will forever been known as a reject. Especially if someone along the way could have prevented their humiliation by confronting them with the truth. Sadly, in our gladiatorial society, we enjoy the failures of others because it makes us feel superior.

Biblical confrontation and exhortation do not have the aim of humiliation and degradation. They seek to warn and bring reconciliation. They are an encouragement to do what is right and forsake what is wrong. A bible study I am doing with the ladies of my church had us reading the story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David regarding his sins of adultery and murder. The author points out that though there were temporal consequences for David's sin, his repentance bore much fruit and stands as an example for us today. Who can read Psalm 51 and not appreciate the soul baring honesty it contains? Who can miss the joy of sin forgiven in Psalm 32?

When we are teachable, we appreciate loving confrontation. When what we profess is not congruent with our actions, if we are being teachable we may feel guilty and ashamed, but we will know we must repent and change. The relief that results brings us joy. Repentance brings restoration. When we are rebellious we become indignant and determined to prove to the one confronting us that they are wrong and/or we run and hide. Our pride will keep us in hiding while our wounds fester. We will become either hardened or so miserable that we crave confrontation. Why do you think Dr. Phil has so much success? No, I do not recommend Dr. Phil. I am just pointing out that his style is that of confrontation and 'telling it like it is'- though his ultimate authority is not the Bible. People need and want confrontation. Biblical confrontation is the ultimate intervention they need, not the world's band-aids.

Lord willing, my next post on confrontation and exhortation will be how to accomplish them biblically. I do not want you to read this and think it is license to tell everyone what you think about what they are doing. This is not a post designed to give you the right to do "Drive-by exhortations and confrontations." I have a lot to say about people who use the Word of God as a battering ram and an invitation to fillet someone's life and leave them bleeding. That is not exhortation, it is not biblical, it is not loving, and it is not helpful. What I do want you to do is think about confrontation and exhortation biblically.

A message of warning or encouragement, designed to motivate persons to action. The apostle Paul often exhorted his fellow Christians to live out their calling as ministers of the Lord Jesus . (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

1Thessolonians 2:3-12
3 For our exhortation does not {come} from error or impurity or by way of deceit;
4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts.
5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed-- God is witness--
6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing {mother} tenderly cares for her own children.
8 Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, {how} working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
10 You are witnesses, and {so is} God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;
11 just as you know how we {were} exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father {would} his own children,
12 so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

09 February 2008

Being prepared for the Bridegroom

The storms last Tuesday night were not entirely unexpected. The meteorologists could read the signs and see that trouble was headed our way. Prudent people heed warnings and prepare themselves for bad weather and rainy days. I have been doing some thinking about what I know and yet ignore. It reminds me of the admonition in Matthew 25 about keeping ready. It also reminds me that I said I would post something about marriage from my Biblical Backgrounds class. It was good for me to review my notes!

Marriage and family were a very big deal. It was through marriage and having children that your life had meaning. Children were a sign of God's blessings upon you. Women were saved by childbirth (I Timothy 2:15). For women, the idea of being barren was the ultimate horror and a sign of God's removal of blessing from your life. Think about how Hannah prayed so hard for child and how she kept her promise to God if He would give her one (I Samuel 1). Now, never having children of my own, I can tell you that knowing these things stings a bit. We still see unmarried women and childlessness as a sign of something woefully wrong. However, in the context of that day's culture, the significance of being childless was vastly different than today. For this reason I want to start with some family background.

It was tradition that the oldest male would inherit the largest part of his parent's estate. This was because it was his duty to provide for his parents in their old age. So it wasn't just about having kids, it was about producing a male heir. Think of Sarah's despair and jealousy of Hagar. Imagine how she feared she might be treated by the son of her handmaiden had he been Abraham's only child. It makes me feel a bit of empathy for her in treating Hagar so shamefully.

For a man, having a son was important because through him the family name was preserved. Sons stayed home bringing their wives to live with them. A good marriage increased family size, wealth and status. Having girls was cause for celebration as well, but remember, women leave their homes and go to live with their husband's family. This didn't necessarily mean they all lived in the same tent or house, but they did live in the same area or compound. Keeping a large family insured survival. A man's name and legacy were in his progeny. For this reason if his wife was unfaithful to him and caught having an affair, she was put to death. If the husband was caught having an affair with an unmarried woman, she became a part of his family. (Leviticus 20, Deuteronomy 22).

Marriages were arranged by parents and sometimes brokered with the help of others. Love wasn't entirely out of the equation, it just wasn't the primary reason for picking someone for your child. Because marriage was a covenant and covenants were not to be broken, just announcing the intent to marry or the betrothal was more serious than the wedding. Vows or a ceremony occurred at betrothal and betrothal could only be broken by divorce. The bride's family had to be compensated for the labor they would lose when losing her and a dowry had to be paid to the bride's father. This isn't as awful as it sounds. Her father was supposed to keep the money in trust for her in case she was widowed and without children to see to her survival. (Although dad could spend the interest it earned.) In the case of the suitor's inability to pay, he could work for the right to marry the daughter. Jacob, Rachel and Leah would be an example of this in Genesis 29.

With everything settled and the betrothal made, the bridegroom went to prepare a place for he and his bride to live. The bride-to-be began making the clothes for the wedding and her family began stockpiling for the wedding festivities. Betrothal lasted about a year, but there wasn't a set date. The bride could not procrastinate in her preparations because she didn't know when her bridegroom would come to claim her and there was much to be done.

The only real wealth most women could accumulate was what they could make with their hands. Weaving fine cloth and making fine clothes were her portable wealth. It took a woman approximately 120 hours to make a tunic. She had to gather the wool, clean it, card it, spin it on a drop spindle and then weave it. If she wanted a design in the fabric, she had to dye some of the wool. She didn't have 120 hours to sit and work on something until it was finished. She had to find time to make it in between the rest of her chores. The average person could only afford to have one tunic and one cloak. Doesn't this give Matthew 5:40 and Luke 6:29 seem a bit more meaningful to you knowing that? They didn't have Wal*Mart or Target to go purchase clothing from, although trading was possible you still had to make the item(s) to trade.

The friends of the groom and the friends of the bride watched the two of them make progress toward their big day. The covenant had already been made in the betrothal, so the wedding itself might not have been a religious ceremony. Remember, it was mostly a celebration of a vow previously made and ready to be completed. Finished with the home for his bride, one evening the bridegroom would start a procession to come and fetch her. He would be accompanied by his friends and family as he would start out and the numbers increased as they headed to her home. Meanwhile, one of her friends would run to warn her that her groom was coming for her, while others were keeping watch and would light their oil lamps and come join the procession. There was little chance for a false alarm because you dressed up for your wedding. The bridegroom would be hard to miss in his attire- adorned with jewels and garlands.

The bride would be bathed, dressed and readied by her companions. For approximately a year, her parents had been stockpiling dates, honey, wine and food for a week's worth of celebration and festivities. As word spread that the groom was coming, the bride's parent's household would be making ready. The procession through the streets was lit by the oil lamps of the guests as the two entered and sat under a canopy and the feast began. There would be singing and laughter and much rejoicing.

As I heard this lecture, this verse came to me: Luke 12:40 "You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." We are the bride of Christ. We are to be ready for Him as He comes to claim us. Read Matthew 24-25 and think about your readiness to receive your groom.

Revelation 19:7 "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."

Hosea 2:19-20
19 "And I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, 20 And I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.

Isaiah 62:5 For {as} a young man marries a virgin, {so} your sons will marry you; and {as} the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, {so} your God will rejoice over you.

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

Isaiah 61:10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

06 February 2008

The Mercies of God

Last night the storm that went through my hometown was incredible. Three separate times the tornado sirens went off beckoning us all to find sturdy shelter. I don't have a basement or a storm cellar so the safest place for me is the walk-in closet in my bedroom. I knew it was going to be a rough night so I put a nice comfy bench for me to sit on, threw some pillows on the floor for my little dog and made certain my cell phone and some water were on the shelf.

I have a weather radio and a television in my bedroom. The local television channels take over programming during dangerous weather events and show us pictures of Doppler radar, warning communities based on projected storm paths. This particular storm acted as if it was on rails, a string of organized cells following the same pattern from Tennessee into Kentucky and right past my home. The wind howled, the lightning flashed and sitting my closet watching the television I prayed. I was warm, safe and dry but having worked in public safety for 17 years, I knew that there were people risking their lives to make certain others were safe. I prayed for them.

Between the sirens and the weather radio alarm warnings I didn't get much in the way of sleep, but I am not complaining. It just reminded me of the times I was doing my job in service to others. I thoroughly enjoyed my public safety career. I have been through earthquakes, Loma Priata to name one; floods where we shopped by canoe from the local grocery store in order to feed the emergency workers; fires that burned in excess of 12,000 acres and multiple homes were lost, and crimes that made national news and are dramatized and re-examined on cable television programs. I have had an incredible life. Lord willing, it will continue to be incredible for a while longer.

It's good to take inventory of your life and see God's faithfulness to you. He saw me through a childhood from hell. He has kept me safe, even when I have behaved foolishly. When I lost everything I owned in a flood and was bitter because I was helping others save their possessions at the sacrifice of my own, He helped me remember what was really important. Were it not for His loving care I could be stuck my own private hell, remembering the horrible and gut-wrenching calls for help I have taken over the years. I cannot imagine remembering them without resting in a Sovereign God who is morally perfect and holy.

So as I sit here thanking Him for attending to my safety once again, I want someone to read this and know if they are discouraged that they are right, life can be hard- but it is not without hope. And maybe things will never be the same, but that can be better....even when you cannot see a way that it could ever come to pass. My life is proof of this. He is worthy of your trust and your hope. If you are a Christian, hold fast to His promises. If you are not a Christian, while you still have breath, there is hope that you will repent and by faith believe.

Psalm 40:17 Since I am afflicted and needy, let the Lord be mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.

Psalm 121:1-3
1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come?
2 My help {comes} from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.

1 Corinthians 15:1-14
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;
8 and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
11 Whether then {it was} I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;
14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.

05 February 2008

God's Sovereignty Trumps Super Fat Supercell Super Tuesday

Mardi Gras. People going wild in the streets of Venice, New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro and other cities all over the world. They celebrate and over indulge because Ash Wednesday means fasting. Or it used to.

Supercell... that's what they call it when radar detects a thunderstorm that is the largest most intense type of thunderstorm... the kind that generates tornadic activity.

Super Tuesday is ending and all I know is that candidates are jockeying for position still. Each one has a spin on how they did and why they are the best and why voting for them is the right thing to do.

God's Sovereignty, that's what I rest in. Not an atom moves that God doesn't bid it, "move this way." Let the world go crazy and dance in the streets, let the wind blow where God leads it and let this nation be glad that God puts leaders in positions of power. That sure takes the worry out of my life. Like Job, if I perish, I perish.

Ah! Sweet Freedom when it is well with your soul!

04 February 2008

If you drink too much coffee you really ought to see this...

My friend, Carla Rolfe, has an on-line gifts and apparel store that you need to know about. You can find it here. Now, I cleverly linked to the items I liked best because I am a caffeine junky. But I could have linked you here or here because you'll find some of my other favorites there. Her shop is worth having a look at and so is her blog.

Thanking God for Puny Faith

I woke up today feeling weak. Not physically weak, though that often accompanies feeling incapable and unable to face the day's demands. I am talking about feeling spiritually weak. The feeling that I have great temptations and puny faith with which to resist them.

Puny faith... Jesus was speaking to me when he accused his disciples "Oh you of little faith!" Only when I read that I think, "You think their faith is puny? You should see mine!" And then of course I realize He does see my faith. He is the author and perfecter of my faith. It's not like He is unaware or I caught him not paying attention. My Lord is not wringing his hands and wondering how to get me through today. As William Bridge put it; "Our victory lies not in ourselves and our own habitual strength, but in Christ's fresh assistance."

It's sort of like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus pointed out, we can never step into the same river twice, the water is always being replaced and renewed. As believers we never depend on the yesterday's grace to get us through today's troubles. Whether our faith is puny or not, Christ's mercies to us are new every day and given to us in sufficient measure to see us through each trial and temptation. It is not that I have faith in my faith, which wrongly leads me to depend on my abilities... it is that I have faith in the sufficiency of Christ- the author and perfecter of my faith. I either believe He will will be faithful to complete the good work He began in me, or I don't. (Philippians 1:6) Even the tiniest faith in His sufficiency is faith well placed.

And so, I face today knowing that despite how it feels, today is going to be fine. Puny faith is still faith that hopes and trusts and waits on God. Puny faith says things like "I believe, help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24) Feelings are never a good indication of where you are spiritually. Never forget that Jonah slept peacefully in a boat going in the opposite direction from that which Almighty God had just told him to go. Feeling like your faith is puny isn't cause for discouragement and giving up. Puny faith isn't a reason to stop hoping, it is a reason to hope more. Puny faith gets bigger by exercising it.

Often in my life, hope has been my enemy. I hoped in the wrong things. So to exercise my faith I read Psalms 42 and 43 and then Romans 5:1-5 and Hebrews 6:17-20. They remind me of the blessings that are mine in Christ... and in light of those blessings, today is going to be just fine.

02 February 2008

random self discovery

It's 57 degrees today and the sun is out. The sky is bright blue and you know what my heart longs for? You got it. Snow. I long for a day of snowfall with accumulation. I want to sit in my warm and cozy home with my doggie in my lap and read while watching snow gently falling outside my windows. The silence of a snow fall, a cup of hot cocoa and a good book- the Good Book- ahh!

Yesterday it was cold and gray and no snow fell. I was disappointed. Mind you, this is coming from the same woman who complains about the cold.

I am, it appears, a malcontent.

A Sharp Axe Makes Light Work : The Whetstone of BIblical Discernment

I am an advocate of education. I think the purpose of being educated is to be able to recognize or discern truth from error. One of my favorite verses is I Timothy 1:5 "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." Paul is telling Timothy exactly what the goal of teaching is and by virtue, what is most valuable for us to know.

Similarly, Ecclesiastes 10:10 says this: "If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen {its} edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success."

The Psalmist provides the source of wisdom Psalm 111:10 " The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do {His commandments} His praise endures forever."

If you're having difficulty recognizing truth from error, like me, you need a sharper axe. I recommend you read and listen to this post on Steve Camp's blog.