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Archive for October, 2013

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Thirty-four.

That’s how old I am today.  Somehow, the number seems quite a bit older than thirty-three.  Maybe it’s because I always thought I really would enlist before I turned thirty-five.  (The Army says I have until forty-two now I hear, though.  Perhaps the Marines will make an exception?)  Maybe it’s the fact that if I were to have another child (which I would absolutely love to do) I’d soon be read a whole new list of risk factors.  Honestly, it’s probably just because it’s been quite a long year.

So how should I approach my waning drive to maintain my fanatical fitness reputation?  My fading ambitions to divide and conquer the new, the better, the undiscovered?  Am I just in a rut?  Or am I really beginning on a steady decline in motivation, in vibrancy, in zeal, in life?  Because I was always the girl who had another trick up her sleeve; another ace in the hole; another race to be run.  But now I just seem to be the one who’s been there and done that; who’s so over it; who’s thoroughly disinterested in that level of work.

I consider my present state for a moment and I realize that none of that really even matters.  Maybe I don’t need a new goal or another accomplishment.  Maybe my always-thought-I-would-do-that dreams are just grass-is-greener illusions.  Maybe that’s all any of my meager strivings were.  Yes.  When I consider the truth, I realize the absolute ubiquitous mercy and grace evidenced in my life, past, present, and future.  I recognize that no matter what I’ve done, am doing, or ever will do, I am surely abundantly blessed aside from any of it.  Aside from, not because of my own attempts to pacify, occupy, and distract myself.

And in that case, maybe certainly, it is time to call off the colorless hair counting conundrum and begin counting my cosmic contentment cards.

How does He love me?  Let me count the ways…

1.  I was given life.

2. I was given parents – two, not one.

3. I was given parents who took me to church from the time I was born.

4.  I was given a mother who did not work outside the home until I was twelve years old.

5.  I was given a father who worked hard to provide and take care of me.

6.  I was given an exceptionally, generally physically healthy body.

7.  I was given the opportunity to go to school.

8.  I was given enough intellect to comprehend the things I was taught.

9.  I was given a suitor who actually wanted to marry me.

10.  I was given the opportunity to attend college.

11.  I was given the freedom to choose which career I wanted.

12.  I was given enough food to sustain me.

13.  I was given clothing.

14.  I was given a home in which to live.

15.  I was given a job when I was in need in high school.

16.  I was given a better job when I graduated college.

17.  I  was given the best job in the world when I had children.

18.  I have been given a good husband who loves and provides for our family.

19.  I have been given a car and a really awesome bike to drive.  And a dirt bike.  And a road bike.  And a mountain bike.  Did I mention I like bikes?

20.  I have been given the ability to run.

21.  I have been given the ability to swim.

22.  I have been given the ability to write.

23.  I have been given the privilege to teach my own children.

24.  I have been given another birthday and another year to live.

25.  I have been given the privilege to serve my husband.

26.  I have been given an awesome church.

27.  I have been given an awesome pastor.

28.  I have been given a live-in mom who always helps me.

29.  I have been given a beautiful, intelligent, sweetest ever little girl named Maylee Ruth.

30.  I have been given a beautiful, intelligent, sweetest ever little girl named Addie Elaine.

31.  I have been given a beautiful, intelligent, sweetest ever little girl named Mia Jane.

32.  I have been given a really hot hunk of a hardworking husband named Timmy.

33.  I have been given the greatest possession ever imagined – a Bible.

34.  I have been given eternal life from the best friend anyone could ever have: Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

Now.  All that can only mean one thing…whatever I do not get to do or be or have or experience is a mere novelty in light of what I have been given.  I live an extreme reality – a life of irrational blessing.  Am I so dull?  Ashamedly, most days I am.  But today is my birthday.  From one who ever refers to herself as a little girl, I will remember the reasons I must celebrate.

Happy October 30.  Don’t forget to count your blessings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA1T71cNyDI

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In a day in which church attendance and authentic Christianity seems to be slipping into our history as something remembered, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts.  This is my story.

I don’t go to church to feel better about myself.  If I did, I would need to find a place where I would be told that I am innately good, that sin is not that bad, and the that the totality of Christ’s mission was to make me happy and comfortable on earth.  Hello, Lakewood Church.  Goodbye, truth.

Well, despite the fact that there’s certainly no shortage of church bodies who would try and convince me of just that, I value my soul a lot more than my feelings.  Do not lie to me.  I hate lies.  You should, too.  If you are in a church who purports these ideas, leave.  If you are purporting these ideas, repent.

No.  Going to church to feel good about myself is like going to a professional sporting event to feel athletic.  I’m not the athlete.  I don’t deserve the praise.  I’m not calling the shots, and, usually, I’m not making them either.  Other people aren’t there to see me; to worship me.  No.  There’s someone else on display to whom we all wish to look.  There’s a team with a plan who is running this thing and I’m merely there to cheer when they win and grieve when they lose.  Yes, but my team isn’t playing a game -they’re fighting a war.  A war, that is, that they’ve already won.

My team has only three members: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  They can be found in any one of my brothers or sisters.  That’s why I love to see these people.  They show me what God is like.  By their obedience to him, they represent and resemble him – and so do I.  I am not alone.

Therefore, in all my dullness and listless, unmotivated hard-heartedness, I go to my people; my church body.  With them, I do not feel any better about myself or my sin.  I feel better about my God and my hope.  I am reminded of how much I need Him; how lost I am without Him; how fortunate I am to have him; how desperate I am to know him.  These are those from whom I hear his echoes of mercy; his whispers of love.  This is when I’m filled with his goodness and lost in his love.  Blessed Assurance!  Jesus is Mine!  This is my foretaste of glory divine!

This is my story.  This is my song.  I go to God’s church – his people – to learn how to praise him when the war wages on long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umrtr4O3Maw

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In Job 27, Job goes on speaking in his own defense.  He speaks as one who has authority and commands his listeners with the very truth of God.

And Job again took up his discourse, and said:

2 “As God lives, who has taken away my right,
    and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
3 as long as my breath is in me,
    and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
4 my lips will not speak falsehood,
    and my tongue will not utter deceit.
5 Far be it from me to say that you are right;
    till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
6 I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;
    my heart does not reproach me for any of my days. ~Job 27:1-6

Job continues to speak highly and confidently of a God who has not yet surfaced for him in the midst of his pain.  He maintains his integrity and refutes the false charges of hypocrisy against himself.  He refuses to falsely accuse himself as all of his friends insisted he do.  He refuses to curse God and betray himself, even if his resolve to fight on brings him to his very death.

Job’s conscience was his one last comfort.  He would be a fool to forsake it in exchange for the false charges of his friends.  Job may be lied to and about, but he will not adopt a mentality of deceit or succumb to believe lies of himself.  Such is Satan’s best attempt to belabor a believer.

Job goes on to explain the very reasons why he could assure himself and his friends that he was most certainly not what they said and thought of him – namely a hypocrite.

– Hypocrites have no hope; Job never gave up.

– Hypocrites’ prayers go unheard; Job trusted despite God’s silence.

– A hypocrite’s religion is useless and unhelpful; Job’s gave comfort and hope.

Furthermore, Job proves that he does not disagree with these men on matters of truth.  Of course the wicked will come to ruin.  Be it in this life or the next, there is no doubt regarding God’s justice in Job’s mind.  Hypocrites are to be pitied above all men!  Job certainly agrees.

In this, Job proves he is neither unreasonable nor heretical, but that he is, and always has, accepted what is actually true without exception.

One has to wonder if Job would have been better off if his friends had never even shown up.  It’s one thing to live through the kind of pain he experienced; it’s another to be repeatedly questioned, attacked, and falsely accused while bearing it.  Compounded miseries are most severe.

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. ~Matthew 27:39-44

When every comfort is removed, every voice condemns, and all signs point to utter defeat, look at Jesus.  Paste his image over the bloody battle in you mind and consider him.  Surely the Man of Sorrows will comfort us in this wretched war we call life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXAqoZuYvyA

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“Mommy!  Mom!  Mommy!  Mommy!”

Maylee runs toward me with great anticipation.  

“What?”

“Mommy!”

“What?”

“Mom!”

“What?!”

Yes, she’s getting a little redundant here.  Every mom knows what’s going on here.  Every child does this.  My temptation, if I’m not looking closely enough or paying careful attention to her, is to furrow my brow and answer sternly.  Guilty.  I’ve done it plenty of times.  It goes something like this:

“What already?! Quit saying my name if I answer you!”

But I’m learning.  When I do that and impatience gets the best of me, I miss her.  I crush her little spirit and squelch her joy before she even gets to the part where she can’t wait to show me what she made or tell me what she learned.  Her countenance drops, her smile vanishes, and her great expectations of her favorite friend wanting to know her are dashed in an instant.

Instead, I raise my brow, I smile, I open my eyes as wide as they go and look her in the face.  I run toward her and I repeatedly answer, “What!”

Because, if I’m not too busy being self-absorbed and stingy, I simply cannot wait to see what she’s up to.  My response is full of the same excited expectation as her requests.  She cannot wait to show me her world and I cannot wait to see it.  I am not annoyed; I am blessed beyond belief when I see her new block tower with me and her on top or her special picture of she and I standing in the middle of a dozen hearts.  

My other two girls will do as much when they bring me cards or makeshift, self-inspired crafts.  There are Q-tips, cotton balls, misspelled words, stick figures, scribbles and repetitive themes galore.  But despite my love for order, grammar, and the nagging teacher in me, I never see those flaws when I’m graced with those kind of gifts.  No.  These are that in which I delight.  

“…But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word. ~Isaiah 66:2b

God delights in his children.  He looks only at our hearts.  He never criticizes our redundancy or gets annoyed with our misplaced, mis-communicated excitement.  He is not selfish with his time or impatient with our makeshift gifts.  He is not annoyed with our misspelled, ill-fitting words when we rush in to talk to him.  His children already know their attempts at perfection are not good enough.  He never feels inclined to remind them.  No.  He is not like us.  God looks at our hearts like a mother looks at her youngest child – raised brow, eyes wide, arms open, expectant smile.  I can almost see him extending his hand to receive what he does not need from me and hurrying to tell me how beautiful it is, how much he loves it, and how thankful he is that I chose to give it to him and no one else. 

Bank on it.  If you’re running to him, no matter how awkwardly, he is waiting to delight in you. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk9G7OyKwLM

 

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The pastor encouraged us to consider the promises of Isaiah 65:17-25 this week.  I suppose if I were normal, such a task would be quite simple.  It would not find me geekin’ out with commentaries, reference books and no fingers left to mark pages with in my Bible.  That’s if I were normal, though.

So, the new heavens and the new earth.  When I think about it I always get this weird feeling which is the result of a cross between Jehovah’s witness tracts and talking animals.  I start needing a Zanax as all the weird end time sermonators flashback and creep into my consciousness.  I recall my orthodox friends shaming me into stopping my very enjoyable study on preterism.  Someone, help!  Bring me a Bible before I get post-traumatic stress over this assignment!

I read the passage again.  Sounds great, right?  Gladness, rejoicing, joy, life, security, food, gardens, no crying, no sin, no failure, no conflict, no pain.  Love it, right?!  So let’s go!  Who’s ready?  To die is gain.  I’m with Paul.  

There’s only one problem.  My favorite Bible teacher, Dennis, has always taught me to let the New Testament interpret the Old, not the converse.  So, in light of that, here’s the problem…

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. ~Revelation 21:1

The “old” earth – yeah, the one we’re living on right now – has to die first.  Or, for you politically correct Nazis, “pass away.”  2 Peter 3 says it will be set on fire, burned up, dissolved, and melted.  Eeeee.  

That might even be ok and resonate quite well with me if there weren’t so many people here.  But guess what the new heaven and the new earth is made of?

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb…And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb…No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ~Revelation 21:2, 9, 22-23, 22:3-5

People – namely the people of God – renewed (not new) people, and the presence of God himself.  The newness reflects the renewed people – the people who who once were lost and dead in sin, now transfigured into part of the body – the Bride – of Christ.  Christ is the center of this new city and his bride is his glory (Revelation 21:11) all around him.

I suspect that Isaiah himself failed to fully comprehend the truth he was writing.  Fortunately, our New Testament writers can help us by reiterating and interpreting his words more clearly.  (Hours of fun for the whole family!  Finally, we know what people did before tv!)  But, as I struggle to write with four books crowding my lap, the biggest question I must address today, and every day, is not what’s literal or figurative. The biggest question is not what’s physical and what’s spiritual.  The blaring question my heart asks when I read Isaiah 65, Revelation 20-21, and 2 Peter 3 is who is coming with me?  Who is coming with me?  Because this is every dream fulfilled.  It is every pain healed.  It is every hunger satisfied and every need met.  

My God is patient, not slow.  He longs to redeem this fallen, evil, terrifying world in which we presently live.  But even more, he longs to redeem us.  He longs to redeem me and you.  So much so, that he allows the entirety of his creation to wait for us.  When I consider the implications of that, I rest.  I trust that my God really is good.  Because, yes, the world is deathly sick, but, no, it is not because he does not care.

In this world, creation came first and man after.  In the next, man is the crux of the new creation and his dwelling only secondary.  Therefore, do not love the world.  Love the people in the world.  Find someone to go with you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xwzItqYmII

 

 

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In Job chapter 26, Job answers Bildad’s “Get ready, I’m gonna teach you something now” speech with wisdom and reproof.  He goes on for five chapters in his own defense because, quite obviously, this broken, weary, suffering man has really had enough.  It wasn’t just Bildad.  It was all the falseness and foolishness he’d endured up to this point.  Job states his case.

Then Job answered and said:

2 “How you have helped him who has no power!
    How you have saved the arm that has no strength!
3 How you have counseled him who has no wisdom,
    and plentifully declared sound knowledge!
4 With whose help have you uttered words,
    and whose breath has come out from you? ~Job 26:1-4

Job mocks Bildad.  The one who is constantly under observation and interrogation turns the tables and, instead of answering, questions.

Job asks essentially three things:

How have you helped me – a weak and suffering man?

What good counsel or wisdom have you given?

From whom has your diction come?

His direct questions answer themselves.  How crystal clear Job has made the foolishness, the insensitivity, the supposed instructions of his friend.  Here’s what Job’s questions are saying to Bildad:

Prove yourself, Teach.  I can’t find any comfort or encouragement from the little truth booth you’ve set up and keep dragging me into.  So you tell me, just how does this “wisdom” apply?  How can it help me?  What is its use?  Your pretending to convince me of that which I’ve so long known is not helpful or comforting.  In fact, it’s driving me out of my mind.  Do you think I’m in spiritual preschool?  Do you think your “God is good, man is bad” speech has any proper place in my beyond broken heart right now?  I know my God and I know how he speaks.  This is not him.

Matthew Henry sums the issue up beautifully: “Was it to me that thou didst direct thy discourse?…Everything that is true and good is not suitable and seasonable.  To one that was humbled, and broken, and grieved in spirit, as Job was, he ought to have preached of the grace and mercy of God, rather than of his greatness and majesty, to have laid before him the consolations rather than the terrors of the Almighty.  Christ knows how to speak what is proper for the weary, and his ministers should learn rightly to divide the word of truth, and not make those sad whom God would not have made sad, as Bildad did; and therefore Job aks him, ‘Whose spirit came from thee?’ that is, ‘What troubled soul would ever be revived, and relieved, and brought to itself, by such discourses as these?’ “

The rest of Job’s reply goes on to agree with the truth Bildad spoke.  He proves that he is not at all at odds with the truth or with God.  No.  Job is only at odds with the undiscerning, lacking-in -love attitude of his counselors.

We must get this, church.  If there’s ever been a Bildad, it is certainly I.  There is no place for careless truth-slinging toward the broken.  The bountiful Jobs in our culture need truth with love-slinging.  They need truth with mercy-slinging.  The suffering need grace, comfort, and encouragement for the fire they have been called to walk through.  Before we speak, let us continually ask,

Will this truly help?

Is this truly wise?

Is this from God or me?

Sincerity plus truth does not always equal wisdom.

Lord, let us not be truth slingers.  Help us learn how to love one another.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7SvofIl–g

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Gratitude

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Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

There is nothing I have that I have not been given.  All blessings come from the hand of God.  I did not earn favor or deserve goodness. I owe an insurmountable debt of praise.

Praise him all creatures here below.

If I fail to praise God for his goodness, I will be the only creature who stands in rebellion.  Every bird sings.  Every dolphin jumps.  Every ants works.  Every cheetah runs.  Who am I to reverse God’s order?  I was created to give Him praise.  Everything else is besides the point.

Praise him above, ye heavenly host.

All of heaven praises God.  I long to be there in glory, giving Him glory.  I need to practice for eternity because I intend to be there – forever.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Praise God, praise God, praise God.  He has given me three persons upon which to call.  He is my Father who gives me good gifts.  He is my Savior who rescued me from death.  He is my helper who keeps me from sin.  How thankful I am for his careful love!

Praise God.  Praise Him.  Praise Him.  Praise every part of Him.  He is good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KsaaZsFtkE

 

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