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school

“It’s not spelling, it’s writing!”

“It’s not math, it’s language!”

These are the type of emphatic statements my daughter makes when I correct her school papers.  She does not understand why I mark spelling wrong on her penmanship homework.  She doesn’t get it when I tell her about how she wrote her “5” backwards when she numbered her language quiz.  She thinks each subject should remain separate.  At 9, she has learned to compartmentalize her life in such a way that she feels comfortable justifying error.  She can now enjoy the benefits of avoiding personal responsibility, refuse helpful accountability, and ignore necessary correction – at least in as much as she can continue to convince herself that it is perfectly safe to live life in sordid, unconnected, error-filled pieces.  

I guess spelling, penmanship, math, and language are going to have to wait.  This lesson is far too important to sidestep.  I need a divine lesson plan straight from the Almighty.  As far as teachable moments go for the week, this is it.  I can’t afford to fumble.  

I spend the next five minutes trying to explain how every part of her life is a piece of her puzzle.  I tell her everything must fit together if she wants the best outcomes.  I feel desperately inadequate as we close our studies for the day.  I look to my Father for help giving a less insufficient answer and I ask him to show me how to help her.

What I find is myself standing in utter need, waste deep in confession, and at the mercy of mercy itself.  How many times have I said in my heart things like, “It’s not church, it’s a picnic.”  “It’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday night.”  “It isn’t right, but I’m not wrong because this part of my life has nothing to do with that one.”

That one.  You know, that part which holds it all together; the centrality of all of life; the big picture creator; the weaver of this great tapestry; the one golden thread running through the whole of it all.  The subject?  Jesus Christ.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

He holds all things together.  Every piece of our lives belongs to him.  There is not one about which we have the liberty to say, “This isn’t Christianity, it’s recreation.”  “This isn’t about Jesus, it’s about me.”  “This isn’t religion, it’s work.”  “This isn’t God’s business it’s mine.”  No.  None of that holds water at the end of the day and we all know it.

We know that if Christ is not welcome at work or play or in the recesses of our own hearts and minds at any given moment – if we relegate him to any specific areas and leave him there – nothing will ever fit together properly.  The pieces of our lives will simply never match.  The practice of compartmentalizing our Christianity means spiritual slumber, carnal living, and abdication of personal responsibility.  A compartmentalized Christian repeatedly refuses helpful accountability and ignores necessary correction.  The Bible calls that person a fool.  

A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)

Little wonder why it also warns parents that folly itself is indeed bound up – tied in knots; holding captive; intertwined to a serious and dangerous degree – in the hearts of our children.  We must teach them his ways if we want them to lead righteous lives.  

The problem then becomes us.  We cannot teach what we do not know.  We cannot teach what we do not do.  If our lives are separated by subject, our children will never learn integrity, consistency, faithfulness, or sacrifice.  They will learn, however.  They will learn hypocrisy, abdication, irresponsibility, and self-righteous self-defense.

iF u dOnn’T blevE me, teSt mY werDs?

Go ahead and try to pretend you don’t need reading to do math or language to write.  You will end up like a professor of faith who acts as if he does not need God at work; play; in relationships; etc.  A sayer who cannot, by mere virtue of his own bad theology, be a doer of any good thing.  

Lord, let me not be foolish!  Every compartment of my life must include you.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VIHrBIvyEk

 

After greeting the Ephesians with a reminder of all the spiritual blessings they’d been given in Christ, Paul goes on in chapter 2 to remind them of who they were before those blessings took effect in them.  Alongside reminding them who they are in Christ, he does not fail to remind them who they were without him.  Paul insists that they never forget where they came from, spiritually.  Both reminders are important for children seeking to walk in perseverance and humility.  

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ~Ephesians 2:1-3

Death.  Spiritual death is where every Christian came from.  Not one of use was born alive in Christ.  Not one who is not in Christ is alive spiritually.  All begin human life spiritually dead.  And spiritual life does not come from us.  It comes from God.  We do not make ourselves alive.  God makes us alive.  

But God, being rich in mercy,because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— ~Ephesians 2:4-5

All who become spiritually alive do so by God’s will and grace alone.  Dead sinners do not make dead sinners live.  God makes dead sinners live.  Paul tells us that it is God’s great love that saves us when we are least deserving – not when we clean up our acts and stop sinning.  First, he saves us, then he sanctifies us.  We do not save ourselves.  We do not sanctify ourselves.  God does both by grace and enables our incapable spirit to respond rightly; to change; to stop sinning; to love Him and others well.  He does so by giving us a new heart, new desires, and a new life wherein we now want to live for him.  His grace is the reason we want to live for him.  

Ceasing from sin and starting to live for Christ means doing good in the world, in our work, in our families, and in our lives.  This is the very reason we were created.  

 

Paul.  The Paul.  The apostle Paul.  He wrote most of the New Testament.  He was the greatest missionary the world has ever known.  He was sent out by God himself to found and establish a great portion of the early church.  This is who he was – by God’s grace alone.  God’s will is what made Paul who he was.  Before God’s grace entered Paul’s life, who he was was ugly.  He was Saul – the self-righteous religious superior who hated and murdered true Christians.  God’s will made a hopeless man into a hope-filled man.

Paul wrote Ephesians.  This – a letter to Christ’s church in the city of Ephesus.

Ephesus was a great city of importance politically, educationally, and culturally.  Idolatry was rampant.  Christians in Ephesus struggled under false teaching and ungodly interpretations of the gospel.  Paul’s purpose in writing to them was to offer grace and peace through reinforcing sound doctrine and offering the confidence found in spiritual, not physical, blessings in Christ.  In Ephesians, Paul focuses on sharing the mystery of the church.  

 While many a teacher may give in to the crowd-pleasing temptation to begin by asking and expecting God to bless us, Paul begins his teaching by blessing God.  He follows up by telling his readers why we should do so.  

So why?  Because he has blessed us.  One who knows that he has already been blessed by God has only gratitude to speak of.  Those who continuously ask for more often are those who take for granted the greatest blessings.

And what are the greatest blessings?  How has he blessed us?  Spiritually.   While we are constantly tempted to trust in physical and material blessings, Paul emphasizes that the greatest blessings we possess as believers are spiritual.  Therefore, when our physical, emotional, and material circumstances are the very worst, we must recall God’s goodness by remembering the spiritual blessings we have been so generously given.  Paul identifies them here as: election, love, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, a guaranteed inheritance, and the seal of the Holy Spirit.  

Paul gives thanks and prays for his fellow believers.  He asks that wisdom and hope might be added to their faith.  He reminds them that Christ was resurrected and that the same power which resurrected Christ from the dead is what is working in them.  He reminds them that Christ is seated at the right hand of God with all rule, all authority, all power, all dominion, and all glory.  

Therefore, I can trust him.  You can trust him.  Paul reminded them so that you and I would remind each other of who we are, what we’ve been given, and, most importantly, who God is.  Some days are harder than others.  No matter what we face in this wilderness we call earth, the Lord is in control of it all.  The Lord who chose us; who loves us; who adopted us; who redeemed us; who forgave us; who sealed us; who waits in heaven to give us the inheritance he alone purchased for us – eternal life.  Let us cease from fear and be thankful.  The best is yet to come.

fix

“I spent a lot of money on this.  I had it replaced twice.  Every time I go to use this tool, it falls apart.  It’s worthless.”

I watched as the mechanic tried unsuccessfully to repair the brand new God-forsaken object that was supposed to be helping him repair something else.  I watched as the ball bearings rolled out and underneath the car he was working on.  I watched as the entire tool fell completely apart in his hand as he tried to piece it back together.  I thought about his great level of frustration and I considered what he had said…

“Every time I go to use this tool, it falls apart.”

…and I saw myself.  Surely the Lord sits on his throne watching me fall apart in his hands right at the very moments when he is seeking to use me most.  I was bought at quite an extravagant price, too.  He continuously returns me to himself and makes me new, but it seems that the very mechanics of my inward parts disallow me from delivering when the stakes are highest.

After puzzling a few moments more, I reneged on the thought of God’s disappointment with me and I reminded myself that I am not simply a tool made of cold metal.  I am, rather, a child.  His child.  God may indeed be a stellar mechanic when it comes to matters of the heart, but he is never a frustrated one.  He is not a disappointed boss – ever – because disappointment, by nature, comes only upon the heels of failed expectations.  The Lord of the Universe knows and has always known exactly who I am, where I’m at, and what I will do.  He knows absolutely everything and therefore never expects anything that will not come to be.  He already knows when and where and how very much we all will fail throughout our lives, and yet, he saved us kids anyway.  He bought us at an outrageous price.  He adopted us at the very time when we were most undesirable and he seeks to use us even though we often fall completely apart when he seeks to use us under pressure.

All is not lost, though.

When that tool broke for the third time, the mechanic reach instinctively down and positioned the new part by hand without it.  He showed himself an expert builder by his clear lack of need for that small, insignificant tool regarding the sure accomplishment of his desired result.  Likewise, through each human failure, we prove our God stronger; more able; altogether independent; an expert builder in need of nothing and no one regarding the sure accomplishment of his purposes.  Thankfully, unlike the mechanic’s tool, our failures do not make us useless.  Consider Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul…and these were those who did some of the greatest things for the kingdom of God!

 God does not throw us away when we fall apart under pressure.  Instead, he takes those opportunities to discipline, prune, and mature us – loving father to ever-learning child.  He uses those times to prove himself strong and perfect in our weakness, and that, friends, is wonderful news.  These truths should encourage us if we are his children.

As we embark upon a brand new (home) school year, I rest.  After the worst year of my life, I can confidently say that if I am faithless, he remains faithful.  (2Timothy 2:13)  I do not have to worry whether he will carry me when I inevitably become overwhelmed.  He is the one who called me to work in this capacity.  I sometimes act like a hammer trying to be a screwdriver or a drill trying to be a fire extinguisher.  But God made me a wrench’s wife.  He asked me to teach the mechanic’s children and he specifically said I ought to do so at home.

By the grace of God, that is what I am about to do once again.  The days I fail will prove my God strong.  The days I succeed will prove him faithful.  I pray that every day in between will find me growing more mature, less unworthy of my calling and more useful to his kingdom.  Amen.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

fix

“I spent a lot of money on this. I had it replaced twice. Every time I go to use this tool, it falls apart. It’s worthless.”

I watched as the mechanic tried unsuccessfully to repair the brand new God-forsaken object that was supposed to be helping him repair something else. I watched as the ball bearings rolled out and underneath the car he was working on. I watched as the entire tool fell completely apart in his hand as he tried to piece it back together. I thought about his great level of frustration and I considered what he had said…

“Every time I go to use this tool, it falls apart.”

…and I saw myself. Surely the Lord sits on his throne watching me fall apart in his hands right at the very moments when he is seeking to use me most. I was bought at quite an extravagant price, too. He continuously returns me to himself and makes me new, but it seems that the very mechanics of my inward parts disallow me from delivering when the stakes are highest.

After puzzling a few moments more, I reneged on the thought of God’s disappointment with me and I reminded myself that I am not simply a tool made of cold metal. I am, rather, a child. His child. God may indeed be a stellar mechanic when it comes to matters of the heart, but he is never a frustrated one. He is not a disappointed boss – ever – because disappointment, by nature, comes only upon the heels of failed expectations. The Lord of the Universe knows and has always known exactly who I am, where I’m at, and what I will do. He knows absolutely everything and therefore never expects anything that will not come to be. He already knows when and where and how very much we all will fail throughout our lives, and yet, he saved us kids anyway. He bought us at an outrageous price. He adopted us at the very time when we were most undesirable and he seeks to use us even though we often fall completely apart when he seeks to use us under pressure.

All is not lost, though.

When that tool broke for the third time, the mechanic reach instinctively down and positioned the new part by hand without it. He showed himself an expert builder by his clear lack of need for that small, insignificant tool regarding the sure accomplishment of his desired result. Likewise, through each human failure, we prove our God stronger; more able; altogether independent; an expert builder in need of nothing and no one regarding the sure accomplishment of his purposes. Thankfully, unlike the mechanic’s tool, our failures do not make us useless. Consider Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul…and these were those who did some of the greatest things for the kingdom of God!

God does not throw us away when we fall apart under pressure. Instead, he takes those opportunities to discipline, prune, and mature us – loving father to ever-learning child. He uses those times to prove himself strong and perfect in our weakness, and that, friends, is wonderful news. These truths should encourage us if we are his children.

As we embark upon a brand new (home) school year, I rest. After the worst year of my life, I can confidently say that if I am faithless, he remains faithful. (2Timothy 2:13) I do not have to worry whether he will carry me when I inevitably become overwhelmed. He is the one who called me to work in this capacity. I sometimes act like a hammer trying to be a screwdriver or a drill trying to be a fire extinguisher. But God made me a wrench’s wife. He asked me to teach the mechanic’s children and he specifically said I ought to do so at home.

By the grace of God, that is what I am about to do once again. The days I fail will prove my God strong. The days I succeed will prove him faithful. I pray that every day in between will find me growing more mature, less unworthy of my calling and more useful to his kingdom. Amen.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

 

robin

“Mommy, that boy over there looks like the alien.”

“Mia, that’s not nice.  What alien?!”

“You, know, the alien guy from that show.  The guy who died.”

“Oh.  You mean Robin Williams.  Mork?”

“Yeah.”

Needless to say, my little girls like to watch reruns with Grandma.  

Even my children have not escaped grieving the death of a man the vast majority of we wanna-be mourners never knew.  

A man we never knew.

What did we know, though?  We knew he was talented.  We knew he was famous.  And rich.  And, perhaps, handsome.  We knew he was well-received, admired, and quite popular for several generations.  We knew that most of what he did was decent, clean, humorous, and done with excellence.  We knew we liked his work.  We knew we liked his many accomplishments.  We knew we liked him.  We really, really liked him.

Nevertheless, we did not know this man.  We never ate with him.  We did not converse.  He never called us when he won, or, when he lost.  He never asked for our help or for our children’s names.  We never spent the day hiking or picnicking or celebrating one another’s birthdays.  We did not know his address, his favorite meal, or his pets’ names.  We did not know his joy, his pain, his sins, or his struggles.  So why do we feel so attached to him and to his family’s loss?  

Well, we liked him.  We really, really liked him.  Dare I say, because we liked him so very much, we wanted to know him.  We really, really wanted to.  We wished we could have.  We’re sad that we didn’t.  I mean, he’s the kind of guy that a person would want to have around; a good guy.  This man was a high quality individual and his life’s work proved it so.  There was so much about him that was interesting; intriguing; noteworthy; brilliant; distinct.  However, none of that changes the fact that we never met this man, and, this side of eternity, we now never will.

I cannot help but wonder how many of us have the very same fictitious relationship with another extraordinary man.  A man who is also talented, remarkably rich, internationally famous, and universally well-received and admired.  Yes, many of us have this false sense of familiarity with a man who has been quite famously, and infamously, popular for generation upon generation.  We know all about how very decent, clean, excellent and exceptional his accomplishments are.  We simply love his stellar work, and, by golly, we surely do like him a whole lot.  Nevertheless, we do not know this man either.  We never eat with him.  Better yet, we never stop eating just so we can spend some time with him.  We don’t converse with him.  We don’t call him when we win, although we may often blame him when we lose.  We don’t answer when he asks us to help and we fail to remind our children of his Great Name.  We never spend the day hiking or picnicking or celebrating with him.  If we’re honest, we do not know very much about who he really is or what he is really like at all.

His name is Jesus Christ.

We may like him.  We may even really, really like him.  There is so much about him that seems interesting; intriguing; noteworthy; brilliant; distinct.  We have convinced ourselves that we know him quite well.  After all, we can quote plenty of his original lines verbatim.  We want to know him.  We wish we could.  We’re sad that we don’t.  Still, for many of us, none of that changes the fact that we have never met this man.  The only difference is, when this side of eternity hands us over, we all surely will.  

Seek him now while he may be found, friends.  He wants to know you, real-ly.

 

redeemed

In a low valley somewhere between the “Lord show mercies” and the “God please forgive me’s,” my threadbare faith became.  It became not better or worse, rather, it became what it was always meant to be.  So necessary that I could not loosen my white knuckle grip upon his pierced feet; so constant that I could not live without prayer for even one single moment.  It did not become more or less real; for it always was so.  It simply became.  No longer full of doubt; no longer man-dependent;  no longer heartless knowledge;  no longer duty driven.  No.  In that dark valley, somewhere between the “Lord show mercy’s” and the “God please forgive me’s,” my threadbare faith became a brazen blanket bleeding brand new hope.  

Change is no longer forever tomorrow’s promise used to pacify my conscience.  On the contrary, it is now a certainty grounded by the felt gratitude towards the one who did indeed have mercy and forgive me.  It’s assurance is fortified by the bitter residue left by its ugly predecessors – failure, shame, and pain.  

The scars left when one chooses to do things “the hard way” are not easily forgotten.  No.  But they do serve their purpose.  Never again will the little girl touch the stove to see if it really is hot.  Never again will she drag her soft finger along the edge of a razor blade to prove whether or not it really is sharp.  She has undoubtedly proven herself wrong.  She has unwittingly made herself an utter fool.  She holds hands with humiliation as she wakes and as she lies down.  That girl is forever changed.  She knows what she has done.  She has surely learned her lesson well.

Brokenness is her advantage; grief her teacher.  The only place she has left to go is the only place she has ever needed to be – the arms of her savior.  And after all, she is safe.  She is new, and no matter what happens from here, she trusts him.  She knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that her very life is in his hands – for better; for worse, for richer; for poorer, in sickness; in health, in joy; in sorrow, and death will never part them.  

When she thinks about how he sought her, she marvels.  She cannot doubt his great love for her.  From the “I love Jesus” cardboard sign in her childhood bedroom to the “God is love” Sunday school project which hung in her Pappy’s kitchen.  From the countless sermons she had the privilege to hear to the overwhelming provision of proper people in her life.  From his consistency to his constancy to his forgiveness.  She stands amazed.  Though she still asks her portion daily, she trusts fully in his great mercy.  She knows just who she is in him despite her failures.  She knows he has done everything necessary for her salvation.   She is free.  

Regret, accusation, guilt, and self-inflicted condemnation may try to break in upon her at times but, as with the wild wind and roaring waves, his love quiets them all with a mere word.  

To her surprise, it was not her perfection, but her imperfection and subsequent repentance covered by his perfection that eradicated her doubts.  It was not her obedience, but her willful disobedience covered by his perfect obedience that consumed her fears.  She understands what she could not comprehend before – brokenness is the prerequisite of reconciliation.  Yes, reconciliation, by very nature, has a prerequisite of brokenness.  One does not seek to fix what they believe is intact.  That burn was necessary to prove her broken.  That cut was imperative to reveal her need.  

But the end of a matter is better than it’s beginning, and patience is better than pride.  (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

Her conclusion?  She must wait.  We are called to absorb often a great amount of pain in exchange for true and lasting change within ourselves and others.  Jesus did as much and was guiltless.  How much more we who are guilty!

As she writes on the very last page of her ragged should-have-been-finished-months-ago-but-she-got-detoured-by-sin notebook, she knows that this is not the end for her.  The gospel works.  She is covered by grace.  She lives by faith.  She trusts in God.  She waits in hope.  She is living proof that even the least of these – those with absolutely no claim and nothing to bring – can be redeemed.  Dare I say, they are the only ones who ever were.  

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! ~Psalm 27:13-14

 

 

 

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