Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Duty and Delight

...For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

I live a pretty routine life. I generally wake at the same time each morning and get about my usual morning routine. From week to week, my daily routine does not vary much. I guess you could say, I am a creature of habit. Over the years, the Lord has built up some pretty good habits in me to replace the bad ones, like regular bible reading, fellowship, and prayer times. He's also cut things out of my life and fine-tuned others. On the surface, my daily life could look pretty impressive, spiritually speaking.

Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.
...whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Verses like that should provoke us to ask the question: "How much of my routine proceeds from faith? How much of it is compelled by the desire to be obedient and pleasing to the Lord and how much is just sort of reflex OR, worse, some sort of attempt to control my circumstances/God by my behavior?"

I don't have to look far or long to see evidence of routine for the sake of routine or obedience in hopes of a desired outcome. But the harsh reality is, that both of these motives are sin because they do not proceed from faith. No matter how stellar our routine may be, if we are not also praying for God to use our devotion and obedience to change us and glorify Himself - we are stuck in dead works that will profit neither us nor the Kingdom. If our works do not proceed from faith - from a fear of God based on the character of God and rooted firmly in a hope in God to work all things together for good, including our sin and faithless purposes - then it is sin. We tend to want one without the other - works without faith or faith without works - but they are meant to go hand in hand...they cannot and will not exist independant of each other.

The Westminster Catechism says, "the chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever." Forever includes here and now...today. To know and enjoy involves work and faith...duty and delight. There is a standard. There are responsibilities. God has commanded that the life of a Christian to look a certain way. There is no escaping that, but we can never, not even by our best efforts manufacture a truly godly and faithful life. No amount of planning and habit can do what is necessary for even our best works to glorify the Lord. But add faith to works, delight to duty, and others will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.

Every good and perfect gift comes from above, chief among these good and perfect gifts is faith. From the beginning of time, God has intervened into the lives of men and imparted faith...He still does this today. The faith we need to bring glory to our routine, delight to our duty, is a gift from God. If we find our routines to be lacking in faith, we need only ask. God will meet us there, and meet our need if we simply turn to Him. Like salvation, we must be made aware of our need before we turn and ask...and also like salvation, He is faithful to answer.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Word Became Flesh

"It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. 'The Word became flesh' (Jn. 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation….The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity--hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory--because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear” (Knowing God p. 53, 63) - J.I. Packer

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Refuge in Death

...the righteous finds refuge in his death. (Proverbs 14:32)

It is good to know that even in death, we have a refuge...that if we are truly God's, bought with the price of Christ's life, set apart as His bride, that even death will not separate us from Him. Even death is not to be feared.

I think most people do fear death to an extent. For most, there is the uncertainty of exactly what happens when we die, for other's the mode of death is more fearful. Both are legitimate concerns for mere mortals. But God's promise is that, no matter what happens to the body, if we trust in Him, we will be with Him, our bodies will become glorified, and our tears will be wiped away. In Heaven there will be no wounds, no pain, no fears for we will be one with God as He intended it, as we were created to be.

But, I think the promise of this verse is speaking of more than physical death. We are called to "die daily"...to die to the cravings of our flesh...to die to self. In this death, like physical death, we are promised a refuge. Choosing Christ over what our heart, our mind, our emotions, our physical body, our families, our bosses, our friends are all demanding, every day, is no easy thing. I believe God know's this, but He also promises that when we make the choice, take the step in faith, His grace will meet us there and it will be sufficient to keep us standing in His truth and on His promises. Every time we choose His way over our own, we die a little. And every time we have a refuge, a very present help, a strongtower to run into and be safe, be cared for, and be strengthened. And in so doing, we become more like Christ.

Help us, Lord, to chose you always, to be willing to die that you might live in us and through us more and more. For your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our Shepherd

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who led Joseph like a flock! ... Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! (Psalm 80:1,3)

"Who led Joseph like a flock!" Joseph who was left for dead, sold into slavery, spent years in a dungeon separated from his family, framed for rape...led like a flock, by a Shepherd who loved and cared for him every step of the way and turned every deed meant for evil into good. The Shepherd's job is to watch over the flock, to ward off predators, and lead the sheep to green pastures where they can rest and graze. He is their security...even though they go through the valley, even though wolves charge, even though there is no green pasture in sight. He leads, they follow, trusting that where they are headed will be better than where they've been and all will be well along the way...somehow because they have a Shepherd. And so it should be with us. This is a great promise and should fill us with hope. He led "Joseph like a flock"...and no matter what life looks like right now, He is leading us with the same purpose and care right now.

Thank you Lord for this promise. Thank you for your leading. Thank you that you are faithful. Thank you that we can know, no matter what dungeon or valley we are in that you are with us...never leaving us...never forsaking us...loving and caring and leading and guiding and ordering and providing and working all things together for the good. Thank you...THANK YOU, Lord!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not in Vain

Not in vain, the tedious toil
On an unresponsive soil
Travail, tears in secret shed
Over hopes that lay as dead
All in vain, thy faint heart cries
Not in vain, thy Lord replies
Nothing is too good to be
Then believe, believe to see.

--Amy Carmichael

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thy Way is Perfect

Long is the way, and very steep the slope;
Strengthen me once again, O God of Hope.

Far, very far, the summit doth appear;
But Thou art near, my God, But Thou art near.

And Thou wilt give me with my daily food
Powers of endurance, courage, fortitude.

Thy way is perfect, only let that way
Be clear before my feet from day to day.

Thou art my Portion, saith my soul to Thee
Oh, what a Portion is my God to me!

--Amy Carmichael

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Chosen Portion

The Lord's portion is His people. (Deuteronomy 32:9)

This was the title of today's entry in Charles Spurgeon's "Morning & Evening" devotional. I can't read those words without thinking of how many other things the Lord could have chosen as His portion. I picture untamed, un-sullied wilderness, teaming with life, with creatures who glorify Him by being exactly as He created them to be. The Lion does not try to be a whale, the doe does not vie for the buck's position, the birds fly to and fro, unfettered by fear or doubt or anxiety. He is and they are and all is as it should be. I see majestic mountains jutting up out of the earth, pointing to the heavens and displaying His glory in all their peaks and craggs and valleys. I see the stars in the heavens and entire worlds beneath the sea and wonder "Why did He choose US as His portion?" We who are prone to wander, who nearly every day in our fears and failings seem to say "God is not God" or at the very least "God is not good". But He did choose us. Not only that, He purchased us with His blood and still fought for us while we were yet sinners...dead...calling Him a liar.

Spurgeon says: ...What a battle He had in us before we were won! how long He laid seige to our hearts! We had barred our gates and fenced our walls against Him. But we have become the conquered captives of His omnipotent love. Thus chosen, purchased, subdued. The rights of our divine Possessor are inalienable.

Yet, daily, most of us act as if we belong to ourselves, seeking after only that which we think will please us.

I do not understand it. But I am grateful!

Father, help us to know to whom we belong. Help us also to choose you because you first chose us, to not merely pay you lip-service or resent that you have taken from us that we might know more of you. Let us not say "All I have is God", but instead "I seek nothing but knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified." You are not "all" you are our EVERYTHING! Give us eyes to see this, soften our hearts, fill us with gratitude and love for all you are and all you've done! Be our portion today. For your glory and your name's sake...Amen!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

O Great wind, blow!

There is no fear in love, so we draw near;
Thy perfect love, O Lord, has cast out fear.

As corn before the wind bends all one way,
So would we bow before Thy wind today.

Our several choices, Lord, we would forgo,
Breath of the living God, O Great wind, blow!

--Amy Carmichael

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Graven on His Unchanging Hands

We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God, which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him...whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned. (Brother Lawrence)

I read this last night and it has just stuck to me. I can't shake it.

"All would be equal"…

The truth of this is, as it seems to me, is that suffering and blessing come from the same hand - the hand of God, who is good and does good always. He changes not, so He cannot do anything other than good…even if it looks bad in the moment. So the real problem any time we struggle with some circumstance or loss or denial is that we are not truly resigned; we are, in effect, saying "No, Lord." And those two words can never be said together without contradiction. If it's "No" He's not Lord, and if He's Lord, we can't say "No."

Father, help us to say YES to whatever and KNOW that all things come from Your unchanging hand, which was pierced for us, the same hand upon which we are "graven"! For your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Graven on His Hands

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.—Isaiah 49:16

Zion said, "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me." (Isaiah 49:14) How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God's favoured people? The Lord's loving word of rebuke should make us blush; He cries, "How can I have forgotten thee, when I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands? How darest thou doubt my constant remembrance, when the memorial is set upon my very flesh?" O unbelief, how strange a marvel thou art! We know not which most to wonder at, the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of His people. He keeps His promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt Him. He never faileth; He is never a dry well; He is never as a setting sun, a passing meteor, or a melting vapour; and yet we are as continually [plagued by anxieties, suspicions, and fears], as if our God were the mirage of the desert. "Behold," is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of His hands. "I have graven thee."It does not say, "Thy name." The name is there, but that is not all: "I have graven thee." See the fulness of this! I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works; I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; I have put thee altogether there. Wilt thou ever say again that thy God hath forsaken thee when He has graven thee upon His own palms? (Charles Spurgeon)

Father, we believe...help our unbelief. Indeed, how can we ever doubt You, your goodness, your faithfulness, your kindness. You have never failed on one of your good promises. You woke us up this morning, set the sun in its place, and hold the world and all that is in it, moving and causing and allowing and working all things together for the good - always. Your mercy was indeed new this morning. How can we doubt that you will continue to do what you have always done? Lord, give us eyes of faith to see not what is right in front of us or what is constantly changing, but You who hems us in behind and goes before and changes not. What we can imagine may be waiting for us today or tomorrow or next year is nothing, you go before and prepare the way. Fix our eyes not on the circumstances that may lie ahead of us, but on You who are always going before us, leading us, and who is our rear guard. You have graven us on the palms of your hands. How can we doubt the one who suffered in His body for us, who bore the weight of our sin for us, who ever lives to interceed for us? May it never be so, Lord. Help our unbelief! For your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Grace

But He giveth more grace… (James 4:6)

He is never tired of giving more, so we need never fear to ask. He is ready; He delights to give; He gives more…What do you want today? Patience? He giveth more. Love? He giveth more. Strength? He giveth more. (Amy Carmichael)

Whatever it is, "He giveth more". More than we think we need. More than we can think to ask. More than the impossible amount we think necessary. He giveth more…and more is always more than enough.

Thank you, Father that you always give more, that we can never overextend your grace or reach the end of it, that whatever you call us to do...whatever is good and right and righteous in any situation we find ourselves in, you give MORE grace than is required to honor you and obey. Give us more grace, now, to take hold of what you offer and do what you command, always. Amen!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Moving day approaches

A little over 4 years ago, I moved out on my own for the first time. I'd been living apart from my parents for a quite a while but had never had my own place. It was July 2002, to be exact and a lot was going on. I was going to be living by myself for the first time in my life, I was leaving a job I'd been at since graduating from college, a few months earlier I changed churches and prior to that I lost my Grandfather, my dog and my Pastor all within a couple of months of each other. But I was excited about the newness (at least at first) and at the prospect of setting up house...not just making due with someone else's place and stuff and tastes.

In two days, my stuff and tastes will be taking a backseat as I move in with a friend from church. My flesh is already screaming. I wonder where I am going to put all of my things. I wonder if I am really going to be able to make our shared space a home. I wonder how comfortable I will feel there and how well my friend and I will get along as roomies. I wonder how on earth I am going to get everything packed and moved in two days. I wonder if any of the men in my life will step up to help me get my furniture and appliances downstairs and into a truck. I wonder how on earth I accumulated so many things that I just can't seem to part with. I wonder if the next time I move, I'll be doing it alone again.

As I've been packing, and trying (in vain it seems) to find guys able to help with the heavy lifting, I've been feeling very, VERY single. It's difficult to explain to someone who isn't single and above the age of 25...but that is the feeling. Very single. Very alone. Very much without men in my life.

My life, it would seem is comprised of me and a bunch of boxes that I have to cart around every few years. Boxes of things that really only mean something to me, brought to places that will something short of an actual home.

At least that is how it feels sometimes. I know that is not the reality...and certainly not where I need to allow my heart and mind to dwell...but it is there and it is noisy sometimes. But then there is always that moment when noise diminishes and His word breaks through and there is peace.

When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? (Job 34:29)

The only thing that can break the quietness and peace He gives, honestly, is sin. In this case, the sin of putting my wants and preferences and desire for ease above what God is doing and calls good for me right now.

This road he has called me to walk, and even this next step, is not an easy one. It's not. I make no excuses about that. It is not easy to feel so much alone, to feel so disconnected no matter how much I attempt to connect my life to others, to fight the temptation to be perpetually disappointed because my life doesn't look the way it seems it should. But it is His portion for me and He if for me and only does good. I cannot begrudge what He has given...what He calls a gift...simply because I didn't register for it or the bow is the wrong color.

Where I am going is not going to be an easy place to live, either. The friend I am moving in with (though I love her dearly) is pretty much the antithesis for my personality. I am not so naive to think that SHE will be the only one sanctified, broken, wounded, changed and then healed in this deal. I fully expect to be challenged, shaken, sharpened, rubbed up against, and have my misplaced toes stepped on.

Sounds fun, don't it?


All joking aside...this is the reality of what I see, and what I have experienced at times in our friendship. I can only logically conclude that these things will magnify once we are living under the same roof. My knee-jerk reaction is RUUUUUUN! But, that is not a faith reaction and therefore would be the wrong one. God is at work in both of us, to will and to do according to His good pleasure...and He means this to be a gift for both of us. For a time, that gift may feel like I am wearing a Brillo Pad suit a lot...but it won't always.

And, if and when the Lord provides a husband, I have no doubt that the learning to live together part of our marriage will feel very much the same.

Regardless of reasons or implications or specific preparation, I know the Lord is in this. When it is just He and I in the vacuum of prayer, my heart is at rest and I am confident of His leading and also of His ability to work out all the details and make my Brillo Pad suit less itchy over time. So what does it matter how smoothly the move goes or how many men show up or how my flesh responds to differences and stress and adjustments? When He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?

Though sorrows, heaviness, and faintings of heart ever so much increase; yet, if thy faith increase also, it will bear thee up in the midst of them. I would fain have it go well with thee, and that thou mightest not want the holy Counsellor and Adviser, in any strait or difficulty which the wise and tender God orders to befall thee.--ISAAC PENINGTON

Monday, October 23, 2006

It's about a Man...

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. (1 John 2:1-7)

Christianity is about a man. It is about the Man, Christ Jesus who was born, suffered and died for our sins and the sins of the world that we might be at peace with God, no longer enemies, but sons and daughters even as Christ is His Son. This is the gospel. This is the truth. But this Gospel, this truth isn't simply an idea that should mold and shape our thoughts, change our hearts and effect our behavior. It isn't simply something that points us in the direction of the best way to live life and be happy. It is about a Man. Any obedience, any change, any peace begins with a Man, is because of the promise of a Man, through the strength of a Man and for the sake of the Name of this man, Jesus.

...And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says "I know Him" but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him...

Christianity is about a Man. It is about knowing the Man, Christ Jesus. Knowing Him changes us and produces obedience to His commandments. Keeping His commandments teaches us more about Him and His character. Walking in habitual faithfulness allows us to know and love Him more. There is no knowing without obedience and there is no obedience without knowing.

... I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

There are many wonderful teachings out there on "living the life"...some very practical applications of biblical truth. But without purposing to do as Paul did and "know Christ and Him crucified" first and even to the exclusion of other things, if necessary we've simply subscribed to a set of rules and regulations...our faith is in a system, not in the Man who died to save us, who lives to interceed for us, who is our advocate with the Father and who loves us freely.

Oh, may we have fresh vision for knowing Him. May the Lord give us a clear revelation of our level of pursuit to know Christ and increase our desire for Him. May He bring us to a place where we feel we know Him far better than a doctrine or teaching or application. May He then take our theology and understanding and application and make them about knowing Christ, about becoming like Him, and about proclaiming His glory. Lord, make our faith and practice less and less about us and more and more about Your Son!

Friday, October 20, 2006


Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. --2 CORINTHIANS 4:17

ONLY be still, and wait His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure,
And all-discerning love hath sent;
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own. --GEORG NEUMARK, 1657

OH, how is the face of life altered, as soon as a man has in earnest made his first object to do his Father's will! Oh, how do, what before seemed grievous burdens, bodily sickness, domestic trial, privations, losses, bereavement, the world's scorn, man's unthankfulness, or whatever grief his Father may put upon him, how do these things change! To those, whose hope is in heaven, everything becomes a means of discipline, an instrument of strengthening their cheerful acceptance of their Father's will. Their irksome tasks, privations, sickness, heaviness of heart, unkindness of others, and all the sorrows which their Father allots them in this world, are so many means of conforming them to their Saviour's image. Then doth everything which God doeth with them seem to them "very good," even because He doth it. --EDWARD B. PUSEY

everything which God doeth with them seem to them "very good," even because He doth it.

This week I've been thinking about the word "Amen." Thinking about what it means...

Amen: Hebrew, meaning 'let it be so'. It is a plea to God for a response to prayer, an affirmation of what will be done by God, a 'Yes' to God's vision, a statement of confidence in God, and even a celebration of what will come from God, even before God gives it. (http://www.spirithome.com/defamen.html)

I love that phrase "a 'yes' to God's vision." And at the same time I glory in the idea of that "yes" or better..."YES!" I am convicted by how often I don't give God's will the big "Amen!"

Too often I ask, "Lord why can't...how come...can't I just have...would you please allow...why does this have to be so hard?" I don't believe it is wrong to ask God "why?" and He tells us to carry our cares to Him...but the problem is that so often my "Why?" isn't about knowing His will and seeking His purposes, it is just me lamenting that my will is not being done.

To those, whose hope is in heaven, everything becomes a means of discipline, an instrument of strengthening their cheerful acceptance of their Father's will.

A cheerful acceptance...

Just let that sink in a minute...

Think of the last time you were disappointed...

Was your response "cheerful acceptance?" Did you look to God and speak a humble "Amen"?

I didn't. I had to grieve my loss and fuss and receive correction first. But why? Was it that I suddenly stopped believing God was good? Was it because God was, indeed, being unfair or unkind? Did God momentarily suspend His promise to sustain and comfort and provide for me?


He crushed His son for us. Anything else we need or ask is considerably less than what He has already done. Because He is good and He is love, we can know that He will give all that is needed and blessing besides. So, whatever He gives or takes, shouldn't we say "Amen"?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"...shall I not drink?"

I thought I’d be floored…devastated… inconsolable.

I wasn’t.

Yesterday, for the second time in two weeks my heart was broken (or at the very least, seriously wounded) and I didn’t die. Not only did I not die either time, but I haven't been any of the things that I thought I would be should merciful, immediate death not come. I 've not been hysterical or a sobbing, gorging basket case. I've been a bit sad, hurt, broken-hearted, emotional…I have cried and sometimes I've sobbed…but really, I'm ok. I'm functional. And I can see mercy in the heart-break and disappointment.

When I got the “2” of my 1-2 Punch yesterday, I simultaneously heard a verse from an old hymn I’d been listening to earlier in the week:

I saw him in the furnace,
he doubted not nor feared
And in the flames beside him
the Son of God appeared
Though seven times 'twas heated,
with all the tempters might
He said the yoke is easy,
the burden it is light!
(Blood-washed Pilgrim)

I’ve been feeling the heat lately. I feel like I am losing or being denied just about everything that is precious to me. Everything but Christ, that is. What this song spoke to my heart is that it is in the flames, when the fire is heated 7 times, that we see The Son of God…that we see Him so well that it is like He is physically right there beside us. Only then.

That thought reminds me of something my friend Elisabeth Elliot wrote:

Moonless Trust
He is not all we would ask for, but it s precisely when we do not have what we would ask for, and only then, that we can clearly perceive His all-sufficiency. It is when the sea is moonless that the Lord has become my light…it is an opportunity for proving Him to be indeed the El Shaddai “the God who is enough.”

The God who is enough. The God who is in the fire with us. The God who is the fire.

He is the fire I’m in. He designed it. He stokes it…not to be mean or to hurt me (though at times it really does hurt) but to purify me for His glory.

Everything that can stand the fire must go through the fire. –Numbers 31:23

I’m in the fire because He thinks I can stand it…not in my strength (because there is none of that) but in His. And in the fire, I can enter into the fellowship of His sufferings…and see the truth of my heart that more often than not I want so many things before I want Him. I could see this as punishment, but I think it is more like this:

...to cleanse An Upright heart of toxic stains With searing irons is not like chainsLaid on the soul in penalty For guile and crimes no one can see.… God is kind, In ways that will not fit your mind. (John Piper)

It is also another “Chance to Die” as Amy Carmichael would say. And we could all use more chances for that.

After I got the 2nd punch yesterday, my e-mail devotion that I usually get in the morning popped up, so I read it. It said the following:

Dying to Self
The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink? --JOHN 18:11

Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. --ROMANS 12:2

When we are fully delivered from the influence of selfish considerations, and have become conformed to the desires and purposes of the Infinite Mind, we shall drink the cup, and drink it cheerfully, whatever it may be. In a word, we shall necessarily be submissive and happy in all trials, and in every change and diversity of situation. Not because we are seeking happiness, or thinking of happiness, as a distinct object, but because the glorious will of Him whom our soul loves supremely, is accomplished in us. --THOMAS C. UPHAM

It couldn’t have been more fitting. For now this…these losses…fill the cup handed to me by God. Shall I not drink it? It is my portion. Shall I not take it? They are caused and allowed by a God who loves me, who has perfect plans for me, who crushed His son for me…shall I not thank Him for this, too?

I shall. “There is no try.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"...There is no try."

Do or do not. There is no try.--Yoda

Isn't it amazing just how current and real and personal the Lord is? Just this morning he used a randomly recalled quote from a movie I haven't seen in years, by a character I didn't even like very much to pierce my heart and change me.

Do or do not. There is no try.

Lately I've found myself saying "I'm fighting." or "I'm trying...to think or act or speak or respond as the Lord would have me." Really what I am saying is "I'm getting my butt kicked." "I'm failing." "I'm not trying hard enough." If I were really fighting...really determining to live what I know to be truth, to take my head knowledge of scripture, apply it to my heart and live it out, there would be no trying about it, I would only be talking about what I was doing. Now, this doing would be all of God-enabling and grace, but it would be doing just the same. He promises us all grace, all sufficiency in all things, so our failures and falling is our fault. If we fail, we did not try, we did not lean on Him, we did not resist to the point of shedding blood, as scripture says. Our not doing, my not doing, is for this reason only. The enemy is defeated and our Lord promises to be strong in our weakness, to hear when we cry for help, to make all grace abound to us in all things. So, again I say...there is no try. Do or not do, that is all.
Lord, deliver us from "trying" and enable us to purpose to DO at all costs...by your might, through your spirit, and for your glory!

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Church

Over a year ago, everything connected to my life was either damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. My family lived like nomads for nearly a month, I had to live and work most of the week away from them for over 3 months and still my parent's home and my church are virtually unrecognizable from its pre-Katrina condition. My parent's home can and is being rebuilt. My church will be demolished and by God's grace be rebuilt better than it was before.

Please take a look at this short video of our story and prayerfully consider how the Lord would have you respond.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Treasures, Fire, and the Satisfied Soul

…everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. (Numbers 31:23)

God wants what is most precious to us, not because He enjoys robbing us of our treasures, but because our treasures often times rob Him of the glory due Him. We all have things, people, hopes, and plans that either do or threaten to rival our affection for God. It wouldn’t require too much time and effort to think of the last time one of our treasures caused us to sin against God in our hearts, if in no other way.

God requires the best we have to offer. No polluted or discounted or left-over or second-best thing can be offered to Him. In the Old Testament times, the first fruits, the first born, the cream of the crop and best of the flock were required…the same is true today, only instead of livestock and harvests, we are called to offer our will, our dreams, the treasures of our hearts.

everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. (Numbers 31:23)

Back in March, I blogged about this very thing. Then, the treasure was a very specific hope for marriage. That hope has remained in the fire since that day. The Lord has not called me to stop praying – only to leave it in the fire until it is either clean or all burned away. All these months later, I still don’t know which it will be. It has been painful and frustrating and heart-wrenching. It has also served as preparation for this latest treasure which He is taking and placing in the fire: The love I have for my nieces and nephew.

I was told last week that they are moving to Dallas, Texas. It is supposed to be temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like a great many things that are just bad and wrong. The thought of being separated from them, of their being in a foreign environment without us, without their Father, is like having my heart excised with a plastic spoon. At times, my fear for them and what this will eventually look like for our family is so strong I can’t breathe. But God…

In Psalm 22:10, it says On you was I cast from my birth and from my Mother’s womb You have been my God. From birth…from my Mother’s womb…before I knew Him or surrendered my life to Him, He was my God. And He is their God, too.

I tell my nieces and nephew I love them all the time. I say “I love you so much.” They repeat it. I say “I love you a million, trillion, billion.” They repeat it. Then I ask “But who loves you more than TiTi?” And they answer “Jesus!” They know this. I know this. Now we all have to live it out. He is their God. He is their protector. As painful as it is, this is His good and kind and perfect will for them and for us.

My flesh and my heart do not like it. “They are the only good thing I have in this world, Lord. You know this.” I cry. “Why must you take them from me?” There is no answer, only a hushed sense that He really just does, and that He is still good and does good always. And, that “the end, it will explain.”

In the original post in March, I wrote: God wants everything…but it must be clean…it must be our best…and little by little, fire after fire, He will have all.”

All is all that will satisfy our jealous God. He is all that will every truly satisfy us. That is why we can and should say with Paul that all loss is gain for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. There is no treasure on this earth or in our hearts that can or should be more precious than Christ…or that will satisfy our ever longing, ever striving souls like He can.

In His poem on Job, John Piper says:
… ponder everything we've lost.
And let us bow before the throne
Of God, who gives and takes his own,
And promises, whatever toll He takes,
to satisfy our soul.
Come learn the lesson of the rod:
The treasure that we have in God.
He is not poor nor much enticed
Who loses everything but Christ.

He will have all. In this respect, also as John Piper says “Jesus is not safe…” No. He is not safe. Those things that are sacred, untouchable to us are the very tools He uses to make us wholly His. They are at His disposal to touch and press and twist and take and put through the fire. But, with that is a promise that “whatever toll He takes” He will satisfy our souls as only He can…and in a way that will bring glory to Him alone.

It is easy to be distracted when things are being taken, when we feel the heat of the fire on our faces and in our hearts, by what we are losing and what it is costing us. The pain of each loss is real, there is no denying that. But what is more real is that the one who is the consuming fire is good and does good always. He loves us and through the taking, through the pain, through the loss He is giving us His best. “The end it will explain…” but in the meantime, may it suffice our hearts and minds to know this one thing: no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

We can’t know the outcome, but we can know that it will be good because He is good. We can’t turn the pain off, but we can cast our cares on Him who cares for us and rest in the comfort that is assured us there. We can’t have a guarantee that things will not go as we fear or as we hope, but we can trust that God is sovereign and that His way is perfect. We cannot change our circumstances or those of our loved ones, but we can shift our gaze from what we see to Him who promises that He is always moving and working in the unseen.

everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. (Numbers 31:23)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Killing Me Softly...

Behold the kindness of the Lord:
"What we have lost God will restore
When he is finished with his art,
The silent worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won't be long until the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God."
(John Piper from the poem "Job")
This past weekend I had a sort of confrontational conversation with a family member. I do not meant that it was heated or ugly, but I did have to confront this person that I loved and who was angry with some truth about their circumstances. It wasn't a flattering conversation and though I tried to infuse every word with kindness, I know some things I said hurt and were unwelcome. I also know that in trying so hard to be kind, I may have also somehow made the truth a little less glaring.
This is not the case with God. He alone has a way of saying things to us that cut right to the heart, are unvarnished, and seem as ugly as they really are and yet, as UGHly and painful as they are, somehow, He makes us feel completely loved. He rod becomes the kiss.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, the Lord has been revealing some pretty ugly things in my heart. He has also been shaking my circumstances. There has been discord in my family, many deadlines at work, schedules have been rearranged, plans changed, hopes left unfulfilled, finances stretched, etc. Through these I have seen some of the gunk that still lurks in my heart and have, at times, literally choked on it. Yet when I go to the Lord with this ugliness and pray or open His word, He ALWAYS responds to me in kindness. He reminds me of who He is and who I am to Him and that His plan is still moving forward. Though I sin He does not change. Though ugliness rears it equally ugly head, His thoughts are still precious toward me. I am poor and needy and He takes thought of me. He is good and does good...whether I do or not.
At one point last week, I was so overwhelmed by His response to me that I broke emotionally. I burst into what can only be characterized as "cartoon crying". The tears were literally springing up and outward from my eyes and hit my hands as I was raising them to my face! I've never sobbed that way in my life and as I did - though momentarily thrown off by the strange tear phenomenon - I cried out "Lord, you are breaking me and killing me with kindness. Thank you."
As much as I want circumstances to change, the truth is that it is moments like this, where everything is going "wrong" that God's glory is the most relevant and shines the most brightly in our lives. And the promise is that it will not be so always. The contrary winds will one day soon cease to blow, the rod will become the kiss, and the end it will explain. This is the way of the disciple: deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Him and die daily.
Praise our Father in Heaven that we have a God that kills us with His kindness and disciplines us with a rod that becomes a kiss!

Thursday, September 7, 2006

"Deny yourself..."

From today's "Gateway to Joy" by Elisabeth Elliot...

An important sign of maturity is the acceptance of responsibility. One quits depending on everybody else and acknowledges that certain duties are his alone. If he doesn't do them, nobody will. Every day there is, for example, a "cross" to take up. Who else is going to carry it? It is mine. It lies in my pathway, and unless I accept it--and accept it gladly for Christ--I simply am not following Him. He has made it perfectly clear that there are two prerequisites to following, that is, to being his disciple: denying oneself, and taking up one's cross. To know yourself is to know your cross. Francois Mauriac says, "to flee one's sorrow and evade and ignore one's cross is the whole occupation of the world; but that occupation is at the same time a fleeing from one's own self"--or, we may say, from our proper and assigned responsibility. We may not always see a particular task laid before us, but one thing is sure: to trust Him is a task, proper to every Christian, assigned to us every minute of every hour of every day, and to flee this task is worldly, irresponsible, and immature.
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? (Ps 27:1 AV).

I will trust, and not be afraid (Is 12:2 AV).

I will trust and take up my cross.
I will trust and deny myself.

On the surface it may seem that trusting has very little to do with taking up a cross and denying one's self. But it doesn't take much meditation and thought to realize that it has everything to do with trust. Self-preservation, desire for ease, cravings for comfort, self-reliance, self-indulgence, fear of suffering, loss, pain, embarrassment...all of these are reasons to leave our cross where it lay and fail to deny ourselves. We need to maintain the status quo or protect something we feel is rightfully ours...so we forsake our cross and indulge in arranging and controlling and vain imaginations and manipulation and justify disobedience. We are sad or scared or anxious and need comfort...so we forsake our cross and grant ourselves food or comiseration or guilty-pleasure TV or reading material or justify gossip and idle talk. We just need to do it fix it make it happen make it right change it accomplish it all on our own...so we forsake our cross and indulge our pride and justify our sin and absence of faith. We fear imagined pain, difficult consequences, the severing of a relationship, losing face in front of someone, appearing weak...so we forsake our cross and indulge our disbelief and emotions and justify selfish prayers and lack of wisdom.

I could go on.

For every we I could put an *I*...but I think I am not alone in this. I/We are not good at denying ourselves anything. What we want we seek after and pursue and do some pretty impressive mental, emotional, spiritual and physical gymnastics to get it...not to mention concocting twisted theological dissertations in our heads to make it all ok.

But Jesus says that without self-denial we can not be His disciples. If it is not our habit to deny ourselves and submit our emotions, our thoughts, our habits and our actions to Christ on a daily, hourly and minute-by-minute basis we are not truly His...we are ours.

You cannot serve God and mammon and you cannot serve God and self.

When we fail to deny ourselves we are essentially saying that we can give ourselves something better than God can or has. We are saying we don't trust Him.

I don't know about you, but when the Lord first spoke that to my heart this morning I was overcome with how ugly that is. I choked on it and tears were instantly in my eyes. As well it should have. It is ugly ... and it is a lie. A lie that I didn't even know I believed, and would never have thought consciously, but fall for time and time again. Indulgence is a trap and a snare set by the evil one to keep us from doing that which makes us the Lord's and keeps the enemy at bay. When we resist, deny, and twart the trap, the enemy has to flee. That is the promise. But each time we indulge we keep that door wide open for him to come in again and again and again.

But we do something far worse than subjecting ourselves to repeated and successful attacks...we forsake His cross, the fellowship of His suffering, the sharing in offering one's self up for another, in knowing what it truly means to be His disciple.

O Lord, make us more willing to deny ourselves that we might truly follow you, know you and be wholly yours...for your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Friday, September 1, 2006

Where to go from there...

If it is true, and I believe that it is, that "All is as it should be" with our good and sovereign God...where do we go from there? It has been my experience that simply "knowing" this truth doesn't necessarily change my heart or mind. It certainly doesn't change my circumstances or keep new developments (or lack of developments) from shaking me in some way or provoking emotion. It does not keep my flesh from wanting what it wants and wanting to rage against what is. So, if simply knowing isn't the solution...isn't the way to rest, what is? Do we have a part to play?
It has been my experience that we usually always have a part to play.
When I say "All is as it should be" I do not mean that we are to simply sit and wait and watch God work. Sometimes that is the way it is. Sometimes He forbids us from touching or working on a thing He wants to do. But mostly, he gives us responsibilities. Mostly, we are called to do or actively not do something; we are called to change; we are called to take steps; or we are called to sacrifice in some way.
Life will always bring uncertainty, perplexity, change, difficult circumstances. But we have a promise of help that David speaks of in Psalm 73: "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory."—Psalm 73:24.
Knowing that "All is as it should be" is the first step, believing that God is our guide and will counsel us...and lead us to glory is the next step. The head knowledge becomes heart knowledge when it is applied and put into action. Heart knowledge leads to wisdom, which can then change the tambre and color and intensity of whatever uncertainty, perplexity, change, difficult circumstances we face.

Charles Spurgeon writes: The Psalmist felt his need of divine guidance. He had just been discovering the foolishness of his own heart, and lest he should be constantly led astray by it, he resolved that God's counsel should henceforth guide him. A sense of our own folly is a great step towards being wise, when it leads us to rely on the wisdom of the Lord. ... and so would we give ourselves up implicitly to divine guidance, nothing doubting; assured that though we cannot see, it is always safe to trust the All-seeing God. ... Be assured that thy God will be thy counsellor and friend; He shall guide thee; He will direct all thy ways. ... This is thy portion; live on it this day, and if perplexities should surround thee, go in the strength of this text straight to the throne.
Our hearts are indeed foolish and wayward and in need of divine guidance. As Spurgeon says, this a a giant step toward wisdom. Without this knowledge we might never know our need of God, and never know the reality of His leading and guiding and help. He also says this - the promise of guidance and help, God as our counsellor and friend - is our portion. We tend to think of material blessings as our portion. If we have what we need and then some, if we receive some cherished wish or stumble upon some wonderful act of providence we think "My cup truly does runneth over!" But these are incidentals to God. These are not our portion. Our portion is Him...fellowship and fathering and friendship with Him. Healings and treasures and all other blessings pale in comparison.
This is where we go from "there"... We go from seeing our circumstances for what they are to seeing that, in God's sovereign goodness all is as it should be to seeing that He is our ever present help and guide and counsellor to seeing that, if all else falls away and all we have is Him it would be our greatest good. He is our greatest good.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

All is as it should be.

Over the past couple of days one point has been driven home to me and it is this: the ONLY problem I have is the problem of self. Me. I am my biggest problem.

No matter the situation or circumstance, if I am struggling, I am the cause. Am I anxious because my niece is sick? Am I frustrated at work? Are my emotions overwhelming and a bit oppressive? Do I want to comfort myself with food? Am I irritated with my mother? (Insert your things here) The specifics and whys and wherefores and logical explanations do not matter...the real problem is not life and all the things it brings my way, the problem is me and my response to them. In each instance, no matter what it is, my degree of struggle is directly related to how far the circumstances are from what I'd like them to be.

The truth is, if God is sovereign (and I truly believe He is) then whatever place I'm in or set of circumstances or denials I face...all is as it should be. He has ordered and ordained everything that touches my life. All is well...all is as it should be...all will turn out for the good. That is the promise. And He is not slack in fulfilling His promises, indeed, none of His promises have failed, ever. So, truly, my only problem is that things don't look or feel the way *I* think they should in that moment, and I have chosen to respond to THAT as opposed to the truth, which is: God is good and does good always. All is as it should be. The Lord has it all well in hand. I can trust Him. I can trust that He is moving, even (and perhaps, especially) when it looks like He isn't. I can trust that there is a "Yes and Amen" on the otherside of denials, because He is only saying "No" to one thing to say "Yes" to another, better thing.

In her devotion this morning, my friend Elisabeth Elliot said:
Sometimes our prayers are for deliverance from conditions which are morally indispensable--that is, conditions which are absolutely necessary to our redemption. God does not grant us those requests. He will not because He loves us with a pure and implacable purpose: that Christ be formed in us. If Christ is to live in my heart, if his life is to be lived in me, I will not be able to contain Him. The self, small and hard and resisting as a nut, will have to be ruptured. My own purposes and desires and hopes will have to at times be exploded. The rupture of the self is death, but out of death comes life. The acorn must rupture if an oak tree is to grow. It will help us to remember, when we do not receive the answer we hoped for, that it is morally necessary, morally indispensable, that some of our prayers be denied, "that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in these bodies of ours" (2 Cor 4:11 JBP). Then think of this: the agonized prayer of Jesus in the garden went unanswered, too. Why? In order that life--our life--might spring forth from death--his death.

So again, I say my biggest problem (and may I say, YOURS, too) is the problem of self. In almost every instance, our "negative" response to any circumstance is simply our self resisting the reality that things are not as we think they should be. But the Lord would say, "Come to me. Trust me. All is as it should be. When all is revealed, you will have no questions. Come to me and I will give you rest and peace and joy."

This is truth: God's sovereignty and goodness is equally displayed in denials, deliverance, struggle, and the impossible being made possible. He is the same God, and equally good when He says "No" and when He says "Amen". The promise of His faithfulness and kindness and active presence in our lives is equally certain both when we see it and when we don't. In fact, when it appears God isn't moving, He always is.

Father, help us to remember, to see you rightly in every circumstance, and to glorify you today and every day.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Men and Women

Several months ago, I met a very kind, godly man. My attraction was instant and my emotions soon followed in a way that was both intense and unlike any other crush or interest I've had before. Since then, we've maintained a friendship and I've come to know more about him. Time, revealed weakness, and unfulfilled expectations has not dampened my longing, neither have I felt led of the Lord to repent of my feelings or give up on the hope that this friend will one day be more. Quite the contrary, actually...which is both scary and exciting.

Very early on, well meaning friends have suggested that I be open and honest about my feelings and lay my cards on the table, so to speak. But before those suggestions were put before me, I knew that was not an option. It is not that I don't want to know - I DO, and it isn't so much that I am afraid of rejection - though that is a prospect I am not excited about; my resolve to remain silent about my affection is because I simply do not believe it to be God's will.

My resolve has been met with many examples of love stories that may have never been had the woman not clued the guy in to her feelings. "Men are just clueless" is the common refrain I hear.

But are they, really? And, does it really matter?

Most women seem to think so. And, I can tell you that at times it does seem like my friend just has no clue what he means to me. But it could be that "clueless" is just easier to swallow than "disinterest." I just can't escape the possibility that it isn't so much about him not getting it as it is about him just not being that into me...not feeling what I am feeling or seeing what I'm seeing. If he were looking for it, he'd see, is my arguement.

But women, apparently, aren't the only one's who think men need a large, anvil shaped clue sometimes. I recently heard a song by Chris Rice named "When did you Fall?" which talks about the moment he suddenly realized that his friend (who is now his wife) was in love with him. The song chronicles outings and talks and lots of time spent together and just how oblivious he was to her feelings. So, it would appear even men think they need a little help in the love department. BUT, what the song does not include is the woman putting her feelings before the man. The revelation was internal in him; something got flipped on and he could see the difference in her, the look in her eye and he just knew her feelings and then he KNEW his.

Even the creation story seems to indicate man's need for strong guidance and help when it comes to finding a suitable mate. Before Eve was created, Adam was presented with every creature on the planet. He knew that none of them would work, but he had no clue what would. In His mercy, the Lord put him to sleep, created Eve and presented her to Him...and so that there would be no mistake, she was alone, looking at him...and nude. The Lord made it as clear as possible...but there were no words - none from God and none from Eve. She simply stood where she was placed and waited for Adam to know what was plainly evident to everyone else in Eden. Not because Eve explained it to him. Not because Eve first expressed her feelings but because it was clear that the Lord had done this. It was God who prepared and then enlightened Adam.

This is the way I want my story to go, too.

I realize men need help. I realize they aren't always as sensitive to the implied and those subtle nuances that we seem to see in everything. I realize that there is a chance that if I never say a word of my feelings to my friend, he will remain just that...and only that. But I would have to conclude only that it is the Lord's will for it to be so. I can conclude nothing else because God is sovereign and good and none of His good purposes and promises fail...ever.

But there is something else at work here, too. Something that women generally don't talk about when they are detailing the helplessness of men in the ways of love. Our sin nature. It is our way to naturally want to do the opposite of that which we were created to do. We are created to glorify the Lord - yet we constantly strain to glorify ourselves. Men were created to lead and exemplify the Love Christ has for the church - so most tend to struggle with either wanting to be LORD themselves or not wanting to lead at all. Women are meant to be led, to trust those who lead - so most tend to take the lead and distrust and fight against those who won't do things their way. We can again go back to Eden to see a clear picture of this.

I see Eve and the serpent. They are at the tree. The forbidden tree. Both Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the tree, which was at the center of the garden. But it would appear that Eve thought she knew better. I imagine she'd made many visits to the forbidden tree before she met the serpent. She was drawn to that which was being denied her. She longed for what she could not have. She thought she knew better. So she casually walked by the tree. She looked at the fruit. She could smell it's aroma. She could almost taste it. Then the serpent bid her to touch and taste for real...and she did. And gave some to Adam, too.

The fact that the fault of the fall is laid at Adam's feet, I think, really drives home the
point and purpose and perfection of God's order in the male/female relationship. Adam had obviously not protected and led Eve and kept her from hanging out around the forbidden tree. So, in his weakness, Eve took the lead and led them to the tree...to the serpent...to the fall. His failure put them both in jeopardy and led to the fall of man...and we continue to suffer the consequences to this day.

The current state of my lack of love life could very well be due to some weakness in the man my affections are set on, but I do not believe that me taking the lead is the solution. God set this in motion, and before my friend and I were even a created He set forth an order and a plan designed to bring Him glory. To step outside of that, to seek to know what is at this time hidden, to express feelings because I can or somehow think they might get me what I want sooner is to sin against God - to sin like Eve - and would not help my friend lead (if this is his difficulty). It is also to assume that I somehow know what is going on in his heart and head. I don't. But God does. And, if it is His will, and when both of us have been sufficiently prepared, I believe the Lord will awaken my friend like He did Adam and Chris Rice and countless other men and I won't have to explain a thing because we will both know and feel...as it was meant to be. And, if it doesn't happen this way, though I grieve I will praise Him for His mercy and kindness in keeping me from pursuing that which was not His will for my life, for He is kind in both His gifts and His denials.
In the meantime, I pray...and that is more powerful than any word or action, not because it compels the Lord to do something He might otherwise not but because it changes me and strengthens me to stand where the Lord has placed me and wait on Him to move. I can do nothing else because - though he be clueless or just not intested - the clearest truth is I just don't know, but I know whom I have believed and that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him...and that which He has committed unto me. None of His good plans or promises will fail. He has led and He will lead me to pleasant places and green pastures...where He alone will recieve all the glory and praise.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Because He has gone up before...

The Breaker is come up before them. (Micah 2:13)

Because Jesus has gone up before us, things are much different than they would have been...Your fight [is now] with a vanquished foe. (Spurgeon)

What an amazing word for us this morning! Because the Lord goes before us, things are much different than they would have been! What a thought! How many things have been undone are never were simply because He went before us, chose us, redeemed us, saved us? How many plans meant for evil have been worked for good because He called us His own? How many hardships have we not known because He called us by name out of the pit we were in and into fellowship with Him? How many blessings have come into our lives and our family's lives because of His faithfulness to us and our "house"? How many more await us between now and eternity? No matter...because however many or few, no matter where we are called to stand or how we are called to fight (or how many battles are fought solely in the heavenlies) the foe is already vanquished! No weapons formed against us shall prosper - not because of good we have done but because of the Son and His righteousness.
Thank you, Lord that you came into each of our lives...that you rearranged everything...that you have and will continue to make things much different than they would have been had we never met you. Continue, Lord, to "mess up" our plans, break our habits, and destroy our idols. Continue to show us that you know the way we take...that you go before...and that when we have been tested we will come forth as gold. For your glory and your name's sake...amen!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Obedient Unto Death

...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.—Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

"...obedient to the point of death,"

Those words gripped my heart like never before last night. We are to be like Christ...who humbled himself and was obedient to the point of death...while we were still sinners. Though we continue to sin.

"...obedient to the point of death,"

Obedience is a form of death - death to self. And sometimes, obedience can even feel like death. I have had moments when it seemed every fiber in my being was screaming for one thing or another, where every nerve, every impluse, every muscle was demanding the one thing I knew the Lord did not want me to have. In the times I obeyed, I did not die. And, by His mercy, I didn't die through my disobedience either.

But Christ was obedient to the point of death, on purpose, knowing what we are and what we would still be afterwards.

The love of Christ ... surpasses knowledge.

Truly it does.

Lord, I know that it is unlikely that I will ever have to obey you in a way that would mean my death, but please help me to be willing to obey no matter how fiercely my flesh fights against you. Help me to be willing to be obedient unto death - if that is what it takes - or more to the point, to continue in obedience allowing nothing but death stop me from doing that which you call me to and endeavoring to glorify you every moment of every day.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

God has a way of getting His way...

Twice over the past week or so, I've been resolute. I had reasoned things all out in my mind and knew what I was NOT going to do. I told the Lord all about, explaining the whys and wherefores...I was right...justified...reasonable. And twice, the Lord caused me to (at last joyfully) do that which I had vowed (ok ranted) I would not do. These weren't major things - one was an e-mail reply and the other was a strain of dinner conversation. What they were was not the issue, it was the principle of the matter. To the Lord, it was my heart that mattered. In both instances, my motivation for the decisions and vows and rants wasn't, necessarily to be wise or obedient, it was pride and self-preservation.

Standing on the other side of both things now, it is just so clear to me what it means for his will to be done. Often, I can have this general idea about the certainty of God's will, but my experience in life is that things rarely ever go the way I think they will or plan, so I can't really grasp that level of certainty when it comes to the events of life. God can. God does. What He wills, despite opposition and seeming impossibility and even sinful thoughts and actions or inactions...His will is certain. It was his will that I respond to an e-mail I didn't want to respond to and it was His will that I discuss a topic I had no intention of discussing with a virtual stranger. In both instances, I was so decidedly set up that when the moment came to relent, to relinquish my will and obey, it was so clear it wasn't even a fight...and it was funny to me how the Lord got His way despite my best efforts.

It is this truth, the certainty of His sovereign will, that I hold to when I am less inclined to pride and self-preservation. It is this truth that restrains me when those around me are encouraging me to jump into something feet first, to put my hands on the hunk of clay, to attempt to order my own steps in the direction of something I want. It is this truth that helps me to smile at their care and concern and desire for good things and say simply, "I can't. I must trust the Lord with this."

That is not an easy position to be in and is not reflective of my wants or just a veiled attempt at pride and more self-preservation...it is what I am called to right now. I am called to Ask, to Trust, and watch the Lord work. I am called to believe not simply that He can accomplish His will...but that He will accomplish His will...that it is in fact already done. Now is simply the unfolding or revealing. I just see a piece, but I can know that the rest is coming and will be made plain soon. I can also know that even in the most stagnant seeming of moments, even when I feel the strongest urge to give in to my friend's advice and go grab that bull by the horns, this praying and watching is the exact opposite of inactivity or passivity. I may not get the instant gratification of a forced result or knowledge, but that doesn't mean things are at a standstill and will remain so if I don't act. God is ever moving and working, and leading and guiding and setting me up...step by step. I have no clue what the next one is, but I do know that there will be one, and when I get there, no matter what I've vowed or determined or what I think I understand, His way will be plain - His will WILL be done - and "the end it will explain."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Repost: Hope Does Not Disappoint

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-6)

Hope does not disappoint?
Can this be true?
Right this moment I can think of many hopes that have been disappointed in my life. When I was 6, I wanted a baby sister. When my mom was set to deliver her 5th child, I crossed my fingers and didn’t uncross them until they brought my 4th brother home from the hospital. I even wrote with my fingers crossed, which was quite the attraction for the kindergarten teachers that week. When I was 13, I “fell in love” with Al Ugalde. I wrote his name on my notebook and made googly eyes at him and told everyone I “loved” him, hoping he’d be touched and return the gestures. He didn't. When I graduated from high school I put my hope in my life plan: go to college, meet a nice man, get married, become June Cleaver (though probably sans apron). Like the hope of a sister and the love of Al, those hopes ended in disappointment, too.

Today, I still have hopes. I hope to win the love of a godly man, to raise a family and see my parents and brothers and nephews and nieces come to know the Lord. Thus far, there isn’t much more than momentary flickers of action that look like possibility on any of these fronts. From this vantage point, it might seem that these hopes, like all the others, have or will end in disappointment.

But God’s word says “hope does not disappoint.” I think we can all agree, with or without my silly examples, that hopes can in fact be disappointed, but I don’t think that is what Paul was talking about. He says “Hope” does not disappoint, that is, choosing to be hopeful will never leave us disappointed…a hopeful heart is not a disappointed heart. There is no room for disappointment when the attitude of one’s heart and the thoughts in one’s head are set on all that is possible and not on what seems impossible. But, I also think, Paul is not speaking about hope of the kind that kept my fingers crossed for a week or made me a shameless flirt or even led to much grief and many tears in college. The hope Paul is speaking of is hope that is set on something certain, constant…that endures and builds character…hope that changes us.

There is only one thing we can set our hope on that is constant and has the ability to change us and that is God Himself. Everything else, no matter how good it seems, is prone to change and tends only to build selfishness and self-centeredness, not character, and as such, will generally lead to disappointment of some form or another.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:5)

Hope in God?
What does that mean, though?
Does is mean I turn off my “hopes” for other things? No, I don’t believe so. We are told we have not because we ask not. Who asks for something he does not want…or does not hope to have? No one. God knows we want things. But there is a difference between wanting and demanding. A heart which has set its hope on God wants and asks yet knows that the answer may be "no". Its hope is not set on getting the desired result, but on God’s will being done. It can say, “though you deny me this, still I will praise you!” It isn’t always easy. Right now, even, I want something (a specific something) very badly. I can see it, and have feelings about it, and can only foresee good things if the current desires of my heart and the Lord’s agreed. I have hope (little “h”) that the Lord will have favor on me and grant this request. But my Hope (big “H”) is set on God, the Shepherd of my Soul, who chose me before the foundation of the world, who is right now interceding for me, who is my Advocate with the Father.

My Advocate with the Father!
I can’t think of a single person on this planet right now that is my Advocate. Not a single person who talks me up, goes to those who have power to effect or change my life and says: “You know, I love Tina and want these good things for her. Bless her lavishly. Give your best to her. Fill her with joy and peace.” But Jesus does…and is…right now. How can I then, demand anything when He is planning and plotting and pleading for my best…AND He knows everything, to boot? I certainly don’t know everything and my track record has proven that what I would choose is just as likely to be the worst thing for me than anything else. Though everything in my natural self fights against this, it would actually be stupid to Hope in anything but His plans and purposes for my life.

Hope does not disappoint…
We have His assurance and His promise: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart…(Jeremiah 29:11-13)

A future and a hope…that is His promise.

Oh may we, may I, trust Him and Hope only in Him!

Friday, August 4, 2006


A link in my stats led me to this post. As I read, I knew it was the Lord. Since I don't believe He gives us anything He doesn't intend us to share, I will repost it here...
I woke at 3:15 this morning, to the sound of something driving up a gravel road. Only, there is no gravel road near my window. After a few seconds, I realized it was only the rain, then looked at the clock to check the time. Rather than roll over and try to go back to sleep, I decided to "go with God" on this one, and rise earlier than necessary and spend time with Him.
This isn't the first time He has woken me at this hour...in fact, it has become quiet a routine thing over the past few weeks. This was the first morning I didn't try to go back to sleep or wake and occupy myself with other things like baking or surfing the web.As I got out of bed, I thought again of the strange sound of the rain...the sound of something approaching. Then I thought, something is approaching. A new day...new mercy...fresh grace.
This morning, I desire that new mercy and fresh grace so much. I so want it to humble and break me, that I might be truly contrite before the Lord. I need it...it's been far too long. Yet, as I type that, I am reminded that even the desire to come is a gift from the Spirit of God, and that what pleases God most is not emotion or outward shows of worship, but a heart that is turned toward Him.
Oh, what I wouldn't give to know that my heart was truly turned toward Him right now. I feel that it is so full of other things, so distracted, so prone to wander, so set on seeking all but Him.
This weekend, before our prayer time, we sang "Give Us Clean Hands."
We bow our hearts
We bend our knees
Oh, Spirit come make us humble.
We turn our eyes
From evil things,
Oh, Lord we cast down our idols
I thought about my idols, and how much they had been in the forefront lately. Then, as a kind and gentle Father, I was shown why.I was created to know and be known by God. I was created to seek after Him...His glory...His kingdom. I can't honestly say that this has been the driving force of my life of late. What truly is? I can't really say that either. I've sort of just been going with the flow...not really seeking one thing...not really being ultra purposeful in much of anything.
Perhaps that is it? I've been seeking ease - minimum effort, maximum comfort.
Whatever it is, the point is that I know I haven't been seeking after the Lord as I should. Sure, I read most days, I throw up quick and needful prayers throughout the day, but that is not seeking. That is wanting the benefits of God without being truly subject to Him...without taking the time to stop and be still and know if what I am asking is what I should be asking...to know why I am being led to read what I am reading...to receive correction and application. No...not to receive, because that tends to come, regardless (thank you Lord) but to SEEK it more than I desire what I want, what I am praying about.
The Psalmist says, "One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)
I think the lesson of these last few weeks is, that when I am not seeking after this, I will seek after other things. I was made to seek. It is in my, put there by God. I was made to seek Him, but also made to have a choice. In effect, created with the ability to choose to NOT seek Him. If it were not so, the choice to seek Him wouldn't be a choice at all.
In her book, "Discipline, the Glad Surrender", Elisabeth Elliot speaks on this topic. She writes: "The freedom to obey (or choose or seek) would be nothing at all without the corresponding freedom to disobey (or choose wrongly or seek other things).
What an awesome thought! The creator of the universe...and of me...who knows that I am simply because He is and continues to give me breath, who has revealed Himself clearly through His creation, His word and His Son, has given me a choice to seek after Him or seek after other things. This same God, knowing what I would choose, and how sincerely, and how often, has called me and keeps me and continues to send new mercy and fresh grace each day.
If one is not humbled and broken by that thought...perhaps one needs to read it and think on it again.
Which is exactly what I did.
I read that passage and thunk on those things last night, underlined them and wrote them in my journal and everything...and nothing. Then I was awakened by the sound of something approaching on a gravel road...to new mercy and fresh grace...and time to re-read and re-think.
Thank you Lord."One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." Lord, let this be true of me today! Holy Spirit, continue to stir up this desire to seek. Help me make right choices...choices that show that it is the Lord that I seek and desire most!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

First Be Quiet

This devotion by Elisabeth Elliot really struck me...and I feel led to both comply with her advice AND pass it on...
First Be Quiet
Our hectic lives involve many changes, and changes require decisions, and decisions must often be made in the midst of a multitude of confusions. We run here and there asking advice. Often we make decisions without sufficient deliberation because we simply haven't time--or so we tell ourselves.

There is a marvelously helpful practice that we usually overlook. It is quietness. Notice how often in the gospels we find Jesus going away alone, even when people needed Him. He deliberately chose solitude. The more hectic our lives become, the more necessary is this quietness. When it is impossible to break away physically to a place of solitude for a day or so in order to think and pray over a hard decision, there is one thing which I think helps--do not speak about the decision to anyone but God for forty-eight hours at least. Just hold it before Him alone. Keep your mouth shut for two days. Pray. Listen. Seek his counsel.

Try this, too--sit before Him for fifteen consecutive minutes in silence, focusing your mind on the words of Psalm 86:11 (NEB), "Guide me, O Lord, that I may be true to thee and follow thy path."

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!

Folks, these are my parents. This picture is generally pretty reflective of who they are as a couple. Oh they bicker ... a lot ... but to them, that is almost as good as sweet nothings. And, today marks 36 years of such smiles and bicker-tinged sweet nothings.

Though they grew up less than a quarter of a mile apart in the same neighborhood, they didn't meet until high school. After meeting, they discovered many mutual friends and a somewhat shared family tree. Yes, that's right...they are related...on 3 of the 4 branches of their now legally shared family tree. They aren't close enough to be illegal or especially icky, but suffice it to say that their grandparents sometimes when to the same family reunions. My grandmothers and maternal grandfather grew up in the same town - one of those towns where everyone is related.

Despite the fact that my parents don't have what one would characterize as a godly marriage, I am thankful for their example. Thirty-six years is nothing to thumb one's nose at, no matter the circumstances...and the fact that they did it through the bickering and fighting and with 5 kids and an always exhausted budget is a testimony, I believe, to what God intended marriage to be. It is meant to be a covenant, a commitment, one that is not nullified by difficulties or differences.

My parents are about as different as two people can be. Dad is frugal to a fault, Mom shops as much as she breathes. Mom doesn't like to talk about things, Dad needs to talk everything through. Dad can get bogged down in details, Mom is a big picture person. Mom wants to "live today for tomorrow we may die", Dad is always thinking about how today will impact tomorrow. But it works. They have helped each other to balance out and mellow out over the years and sometimes it is truly beautiful to see just how much they still love each other...how much they need each other...how much their lives are intertwined with the other's.

I thank the Lord for the example of their commitment and for His faithfulness to our family by giving them to us.

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad. I love y'all!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Unreservedly, Fearlessly His

Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given it to me; to Thee, O Lord, I restore it; all is Thine, dispose of it according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is enough for me....Alone with God, let us give Him ourselves, all we have and are and shall be, to be unreservedly His. WILLIAM R. HUNTINGTON

There is no stay so strong as an unreserved abandonment of self into God's hand. H. L. SIDNEY LEAR

I still remember, very vividly, my first day of Kindergarten. I was the oldest and the first to go to school. I was also the only girl. At that time, I had only 2 of my 4 brothers. My newest brother, Joey, was about a year old, No. 3 (Brad) was 8 months in the oven...and less than a year after that, Timmy, "the caboose" would be born.

My neighbor friend, Chantel, had already gone to Kindergarten and told me all about it. Since I always wanted to do whatever Chantel did, I was none too excited. So off I marched, with Mom and brothers lagging behind, in my new dress, holding my snazzy bookbag which looked like a denim briefcase with pockets and a really cool latch on the front. Daddy had written my name and phone number inside the front flap in what I thought was the fanciest handwriting ever! Inside, I had my special tablet, a couple of big fat pencils, a pack of big fat crayons and a big flat eraser. I was set!

When we got to the corner, there were several other kids there already waiting with their Moms. Soon, the bright yellow bus - the coolest vehicle EVER in my 5 year old opinion - was coming up the street. I remember feeling something like a bubbling coming up from my toes which wanted to come out as a squeal but didn't. I looked behind me to smile at my mom and brothers, as if to say "this is so awesome!" (or whatever the colloquial equivalent was in 1977) But most of the other kids weren't looking back at their Moms that way. Most of them were crying, begging to stay home, looking at the slowly approaching bus - which brought such a smile to my face - as if it were the giant yellow machine of death.

I didn't get it.

Despite the fussing and crying and screams of terror, soon we were all on the bus-slash- monster. Once inside, most kids reluctantly sat, whimpering in the dark green vinyl seats which seemed HUGE...way too big for kids our size. Others continued to cry and plead with the driver to let them off. Still other kids tried to get the windows open to make one last attempt at convincing their Mom of the horror that was sure to befall them so they would, at last, rescue them from this, albeit cleverly disguised, monster. I sat in my seat with my bookbag on my lap, smiling. I didn't even look back to wave goodbye. I was off, on to the Adventure of Kindergarten and I was psyched! (or whatever we would have said then)

I thought about this as I drove to my parents on Sunday. I thought about how fearless I was. I thought about how excited I was. I thought about how I didn't think about what I was leaving behind (my room full of barbies, my brothers-slash-living baby dolls, my easy-bake oven). I didn't worry about what might or might not happen at school. I didn't wonder if I'd make friends or be able to learn to write or if I'd not be allowed to be mommy when we played house. I was where I was supposed to be, going where I was supposed to go, doing what I was supposed to be doing and that was all that mattered. What lay ahead was a complete mystery to me, despite Chantel's efforts to describe it, and I didn't care. I wasn't worried. I wasn't afraid. I was excited...about what I didn't know, but boy was I excited!

Nearly 30 years later, I wonder...when did that change? When did the unknown come to be such a scary thing? When did tomorrow hang over today with a sense of foreboding? When did worry and what ifs creep into my mind? When did I learn to expect the worst? When did I begin to think I had to fiercely hang on to what is to keep it from becoming what was? When did I lose that automatic and untouchable sense of excited anticipation?

I don't know. But I do know none of it is pleasing to God. And, I hate that it still lingers and infects my heart and mind even after I've given my life to Christ.

Jesus says "He who seeks to save His life shall lose it."

And really, that is what all the fear and dread and worry and what ifs and holding on is...an attempt to save my life. My life that was bought. My life that was saved. My life that is owed to Christ.

Today, a plan of mine was disappointed. I'd set a goal or deadline and it is now past. On the way home, I got a little weepy and apprehensive about what that might mean. Then, clear as day I heard "It was your plan, not God's". I needed that perspective. I can make all the plans I want...the mind of man plans His way but the Lord directs His steps. His plans, and His plans alone will prosper. I need not worry about my plans failing...whether they do or not, His plan is the one that matters and His plans never fail. What other logical choice is there but to surrender, to abandon oneself and one's plans to God and trust that no matter what...no matter how many disappointments or big yellow monster buses come our way it will be fine. We are the only ones taken by surprise. God's got it...and He is good and does good always.

Despite their fears and cries and screams and falling on the floor in a quivering puddle, all of the kids that entered the belly of the beast (also known as the school bus) returned home, safe and sound, happy, with snacks in their tummys and a new friend to tell Mom about. Only a few of us didn't have to hear, "See, I said you would have fun and you did, didn't you?"...and feel the shame for behaving so badly.

In truth, nothing, not even the worst tragedy that has ever happened to us in our lives, is ever as bad as we imagine it to be. And in the midst of tragedy, for believer and unbeliever, there are many evidences of His grace to recount. Mercies that were simply undeserved, blessings and encouragements, favor, and proof that He truly does work ALL things together for good.

Lord, Help us. Help us...help me...to look on the next moment, the next hour, the next day or year or decade with the same excited anticipation I had that first day of Kindergarten...with the same surrender that Christ had at Calvary "for the joy set before Him." Make the truth of your goodness and faithfulness so real that the thought of being fearful or dreading what may come grieves us. In moments when we brace for an imagined blow, may we feel your Spirit convicting us and repent for accusing you of something you cannot do or be. Forgive us, Lord...help our unbelief and help us to be daily more abandoned to You, Your will, and Your ways. Amen!