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Archive for January, 2015

Concluding the second chapter of Philippians, Paul binds up his instructions with the encouragement of two faithful ministers who were working on their behalf: Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Both of these men had given much for the sake of the Philippian church.  Therefore, Paul finds it necessary to point to their service, albeit far less weighty than his own, so that his church might recognize God’s grace and provision upon them and be thankful.

Not that there’s any chance of people in God’s church taking blessings for granted or anything.  Right.

Paul is clearly far more concerned for the welfare of his church than for his own well-being.  All of his best hopes are bound up in hearing about them, how they were doing in the faith, and making sure they were taken care of by a good minister.  He chose Timothy.  Doubtless, Timothy was the closest, most trusted man that Paul had.  So much so, he called Timothy his son and claimed that there was no one like him as far as love for Christ and the church went.  Paul sends his very best because he loves and cares deeply for these people.  He has hope that he, too, will soon be out of prison and back with them as well.

Funny how a good minister looks just like his Father.  Paul wasn’t the only one who sent his very best man to those he loved.  God did, too, when he sent his son, Jesus.

But, wow.  How did Paul get this?  How did he do it?  I mean, most of us are so worried about ourselves and our own well being that we think the world is coming to an end if our lunch gets held up.  Being in Paul’s situation would likely drive us to the depths of despair.  Maybe that’s why the Lord gave we promise land dwellers this passage.  We need to recognize our blessed beyond belief status and begin to pray for more preparedness in the event of persecution.

Paul also speaks of Epaphroditus.  Apparently this man was sort of a go-between messenger for Paul and the Philippian church.  Here also we find a man of great faith and concern for God’s church as Paul mentions that he was more concerned for their anxiety and distress upon hearing that he was ill than about the fact that he himself was suffering.  Epaphroditus almost died serving them.  For this reason, Paul makes clear God’s mercy upon Epaphroditus and himself in sparing his life.  Paul is celebrating the pain the Lord spared him from rather than dwelling on the pain he allowed.  Oh! To have the wisdom to do likewise when we suffer!

Paul prompts the Philippians to readily, joyfully, and thankfully receive Epaphroditus when he comes in return for his great sacrifice for them and willingness to serve them.

In this passage, once again, we find Paul practicing exactly what he is preaching.  Just following his instruction to consider the interests of others above our own, he proves how thoroughly he believes and practices the principle.  This whole section could well have been about Paul’s pain, sorrow, and unjust suffering.  He could have written out a cry for help from the church and no one would have faulted him.  Instead, he looks to the interests of others first and foremost – just as he instructed them to do; just as his Lord did.  Paul concerns himself with the needs of others first.

The fact that Paul even mentions the necessity for the church to joyfully receive and honor such men implies that their natural disposition (and ours) is to not joyfully receive and honor them.   We are prone to jealousy, complacency, and ignorance of even the best men whose best efforts are for us because we are not like Paul.  We are not like Christ.  We do not think of others first.  We think of self.  We expect to be served and we ignore God’s miraculous provision as long it continually flows through our lives.  We are more apt to exclude good men than to welcome them.  We fail to encourage those who do the very most for us.  Paul would not have urged and instructed the church this way if it were not true.  God, give us a spirit of gratitude for those who serve Christ and his church well.

Finally, let us be encouraged by Paul’s great example that following Christ’s greater example is not only humanly possible, but prayerfully prescribed for our greatest good by both in God’s perfect word.

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prototype

I’m not sure if my daughters (5, 7, 9 years) missed me while I was away last week or if they’re just going into a new phase, but every morning since I’ve been home they have been following me around.  When I go into the bathroom to put on makeup or style my hair, three little girls are by my side.

To rightly understand this phenomenon, you must know that my children are usually painfully independent.  They always have been.  My oldest was actually nicknamed “Little Miss Independent” by her preschool teachers when she was three.  Blame it on my hands-off, they need to learn by failure, I don’t even worry about them when I probably should parenting, but these little girls do a lot of things on their very own.

So, having them elbow to elbow with me in the bathroom while trying to groom has been out of the ordinary to say the least.

“Can we go to the store today?” My youngest instructs me to look at her shoes.  “I want you to buy shoes just like this.”  She points out her dress and tells me to change my clothes.  “Wear this dress, Mommy.  So we can match!”  (We have matching blue polka dot dresses.)  “I already have pink dress shoes.”  “No!  I want them to be the same!”

As I apply eyeliner with one hand and primp my hair with the other, out of the corner of my eye I see my oldest reach for my eye shadow and hand my middle daughter some lip gloss.  “What are you doing?  Little girls don’t wear make up.”

Genuinely, she replied, “I want to be just like you.”

I realize it is possible that some sort of I-want-to-wear-make-up-and-I’m-not-allowed-but-charm-will-fix-that manipulation may have been going on here, however, I honestly believe she meant it.  And no one has ever said that to me before and meant it.  If they have, I didn’t believe them.

Normally, I would have shot back something terse and sarcastic like, “Why would you wanna do that?”  I’d give her a patronizing head pat and say, “You must not know very many people, child.”

But not this time.

I looked at myself and then I looked at my three little girls with lip gloss, eye shadow, and pink shoes in hand and I was altogether humbled.  If someone wants to be like me, I better be someone worth being like.  Am I someone worth being like? 

And for the first time in a long time I realized that I actually believe that I am.  I am their representative of what it means to be a woman, a wife, a mom, a daughter, a Christian.  Despite my many shortcomings and failures, I am doing ok.  I am trying to be who God says that I am.  Yes, I pointed them to Christ and told them to be like him but I did not deter them from wanting to be like me. (As if that would even work.  As it is with God’s children, they already are like me because they are mine.)

For an often self-loathing, self-proclaimed screw up, this is progress.  It is not about being conceited.  It’s about being confident in who Christ has made me to be.

Sometimes we err in conceit projecting that we are better than we are.  Sometimes we err in defeat projecting that we are worse than we are.  If you’re anything like me, you swing like a pendulum on nitrous oxide back and forth between the two extremes.  But conceit and defeat are two sides of the same coin.  That coin is pride.  Pride puffs itself up in false confidence to feel better and pulls itself down in false humility to do the same.

This realization in the bathroom mirror was neither.  It was authentic.  It was the realization that these little people love me for who I am and that I really am someone worth loving.  How long I’ve doubted the latter!  Citing all my life as the time frame would be an understatement.

I felt tears well up in my freshly painted eyes and I thanked God for his grace.  A year ago I was not anyone I’d want my children to be.  But today, because of his mercy, I am.

Someone wants to be like me.  This is my opportunity to sow his seeds well.  With a humbled heart I seek to be like Christ that in imitating me, they might imitate him.

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Paul continues in Chapter 2 of Philippians with a “therefore.”  In other words, because Christ has given you encouragement, comfort, love, the Spirit, affection, sympathy, and because of his great example of humility, sacrifice, and selflessness, obey.

Obey.  Continue to obey.

This is the foremost command that Paul gives to the Philippians.  The man is in prison, innocently charged; wrongfully convicted.  He doesn’t call upon his church to start a campaign for justice in his name.  He doesn’t ask them for assistance to obtain his rightful freedom.  Paul considers only the gospel and their adherence to it – not himself.  He tells them to obey.

This is what obedience to the gospel in the middle of a hate-filled, antagonistic, unjust world looks like practically:

 Work out your salvation…  Do not be lazy about your spiritual life.  Give Christ your all with blood, sweat, and tears.  Exercise spiritual disciplines like prayer, fellowship, study, fasting, communion, etc. often.  Exercise your spiritual gifts and give support and encouragement to others with them often.  Know what the truth is, know what you believe, and do it.  Work out, spiritually.  This is how you learn to obey God better.

  …with fear and trembling.  Be serious about your spiritual life.  This being a Christian thing is not a joke.  It isn’t a joyride or a ticket to an easier earthly life.  Following Christ is dangerous, difficult, and daring.  If you are not all in and rightly sober about your daily decisions, you will fall.  Beware.  You will be repeatedly, violently, mercilessly attacked by the Enemy.  But be not afraid of him or those who would carry out his work.  Fear only the one who holds your soul.  Fear God alone and treat the gift of salvation he has given with reverence, respect, and the utmost concern and care.  Be serious about your salvation.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning.  Paul is not complaining.  Wrongfully, innocently incarcerated, yet he rejoices.  He instructs.  He prays.  He sings.  He teaches us by his example that there is nothing worthy enough in this world to forfeit our joy for the sake of.  Nothing!  Not injustice.  Not violence.  Not betrayal.  Not workplaces.  Not difficult children.  Not sickness.  Not brokenness.  Not pain.  Not suffering.  Not inconvenience.  Not disappointment.  Nothing!  It’s like Paul is speaking life to us saying, “Don’t you see?  This ‘rule’ against complaining is not given to rob us of the freedom to decompress or draw encouragement in the midst of difficulty.  No!  This command is given so we might pour ourselves out to God – the only one who can perfectly encourage, comfort, love, sympathize, and counsel by his Spirit – and trust him in all circumstances.”  This command is for this explicit reason: that we might pour out our broken heart without losing our joy somewhere in between our self-defeating words of doubt and our self-pitying words of discouragement.  Christ wants to build us up in faith.  It’s hard to do that when we’re constantly tearing ourselves down in dejection and distress.  Ask me how I know.

Obeying the “don’t complain” instruction is not about rule-keeping, brothers and sisters.  It is about joy-keeping.  Paul says it makes us blameless, innocent, and without blemish.  He says trusting God with our pain by sacrificing our illegitimate right to complain makes us look like God’s children.  This sacrifice makes us shine in the darkness of this depraved world because it makes evident our love and trust in the word God has spoken to us.  Not only that, but it makes our leaders and teachers proud.  Proud.  Not proud of themselves, rather, proud of us for doing what they have called us to on Christ’s behalf.  It gives them encouragement; a return for their investment in us.  And that should give us even more joy.  What child doesn’t long to make Daddy and his friends proud?

Paul is not in the business of pointing fingers and wearing us out by unkeepable standards.  Paul just wants us to see what he did.  He wants us to understand that sacrificing our illegitimate rights to the wrong things is a fire that leads directly to our own good.  It is a fire that leads to no-matter-what-joy.  It is a fire that keeps us hopeful, faithful, Christ-centered, and other-centered.  This is how we survive this world without giving up.  It is how he did.

 God, help me obey.

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tree

“I miss the kids.”

Not surprisingly, this is the statement a finally-all-alone mommy and daddy utter most on the ever-elusive tropical island we all dream of visiting.  Ironically, the very first word spoken to me by a local on the US Virgin Islands was “mamita.”  I’m going to hope the denotation – “mommy” – was meant given the context.

Still, St. Thomas is altogether beautiful – a paradise of sorts.  The sun is always out, the weather is always warm, and the water is always clear.

The picture (above) was hanging in the kitchen where we stayed.  There is a little boy and a little girl under a tree.  When we were young, my husband and I would always buy cards with the little boy and girl for one another and say it was us.  If you look closely, you’ll see a man sitting off to the right.  “Who’s the man?”  “Easy.  That’s God.  He’s with us.”

My husband and I went alone and stayed in a small cottage atop one of the ubiquitous steep hills.  Living on Red Hook Mountain for a week had its share of ups and downs if you know what I mean.  We learned quickly that you need to rent a car unless you like walking the Summit three times a day, you need a driver like MacGyver to park it up there, and passengers should just shut their eyes and pray while MacGyver drivers attempt three point turns alongside the cliff.

That said, we absolutely adored the cottage.  The view was magnificent – just like the pictures you see on tv.  Every morning the sunrise woke us up to what felt like our second honeymoon.  From the flower the husband found floating randomly underwater for me to his mispronunciation of St. Croix – St. Crooks, St. Crow, and my personal favorite, St. Croaks, every day was perfect.  Little wonder – we spent most of our time in “Nazareth.”  Of course it was not the Nazareth, but there is absolutely no doubt that my redeemer was there with us.

We spent a lot of time snorkeling and exploring the different beaches.  We saw a lot of unique sea life, corral reefs, and even went out on a sailboat one day.

Taking a trip like this alone with your spouse sends you back – especially when you’ve been together for almost 18 years.  It really just reminded me of when we first met and fell in love.  No cares or worries – just hot summer days and time with one another.

As we stood in line to go through customs in the airport before we left, a man asked where we were from.  He told us he’d gone to seminary in Ambridge, PA and we ended up having a mutual friend.  Before our flights whisked us all back to the snow and cold, this man sat and listened to us, offered great encouragement, and prayed for us right there in the airport.  There is no doubt the Lord sent him to us.  Thank you, Pastor Dana for praying for us.  God answered.

And I couldn’t be more thankful.  I could not be more thankful.  We had an amazing trip.  I have an amazing husband.  We have a very concerned, involved, caring, and amazing God.  We found him walking on the beaches in Nazareth last week and he made sure we knew he was leading us home.

Thank you, Father, for your mercy and grace upon our marriage.  Thank you, husband, for your generosity and sacrifice for me all the time.  Thank you, parents, for taking care of our children, dogs, and home.  Thank you, pastor, for your prayers.  Thank you, St. Thomas, for renewing our love.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

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Paul continues to instruct the Philippians on unity in chapter 2.  His focus is on action and attitude.  Paul reminds them of the benefits received in Christ.  He exhorts them to use their grace-given gain for his glory and the good of others.  He fashions his exhortation in such a way that encourages these Christians to consider whether they have gained anything good by following Christ, and, if so, how that should spur them on to do as he did.  He reminds them what Christ-like sacrifice really looks like.

Paul uses deductive reasoning to bring his readers to a proper conclusion.  He says this:

if there is any encouragement in Christ;

if there is any comfort from his love;

if there is any fellowship with the Spirit;

if there is any affection and sympathy found in him

then complete my joy

then be of the same mind

then have the same love

then be in full accord and of one mind

then do nothing from rivalry or conceit

then be humble

then consider others more significant than yourselves

then stop being selfish

then serve others

then have the mind of Christ.

So, are these things true?  The questions become, “Has Christ offered encouragement to us?  Has he loved us?  Has he comforted us?  Has he given his Spirit to us for fellowship?  Has he been affectionate and sympathetic to us?”

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  The answers are all yes.  The Bible teaches us that Christ has indeed done and is doing all of these things for us and much more.  If he had not and was not, we would still be without hope and without God in the world.

But, Paul, what if I don’t really feel encouraged much?  What if I’m continually discouraged by doubt, fear, anxiety, and regret?  What if I don’t feel loved?  What if I am lonely, full of sorrows, and continually accused by myself and the Enemy?

If anyone had reason to doubt and despair, it was Paul.  If anyone could have justified wallowing in self-pity and defeat from an undeserved jail cell and a life full of severe earthly hardships, it was Paul.  Instead, he wrote Philippians and told his church and all the churches coming after how to practice faith with joy.  Oh, to have the perspective of Paul!

By divine wisdom, Paul knew this: by reminding ourselves and our brothers and sisters of the great undeserved gifts Christ has given to us, we choose to place our faith in the truth.  We debunk the lies our feelings, our sinful nature, and the Enemy tells us and we agree with God about his care and concern for us.  Not only that, the reminder should serve to stir us up with like-minded gratitude, thanksgiving, and service towards others.  When we are full of God, we sacrifice being full of ourselves right up on the altar.

Little wonder why Paul stresses unity and humility.  Division stirs up pride and pride stirs up division.  Christ desires harmony and humility in his church.  He pioneered the road with sacrifice and paved it with selflessness.  Who’s following?

But, Paul, if we live like this, putting self last and everyone else first, never using our own right to be right – even when we are, won’t we be taken advantage of?  Won’t we get used?  Won’t everyone play us for fools?  Won’t every narcissist and no-gooder land on our door step?  Won’t we miss out?  Won’t we be abused?  Won’t we lose?  We’re going to get ripped off, Paul.  People are going to walk on us.  If we listen to you, we’re going to need therapy because our wicked, deceitful, selfish hearts are going to rebel and bully us into self-pity and depression with an inferiority complex on the side.

If Paul were here, this is what he’d probably say:  Go back to the ifs, Lori.  Christ will encourage you.  Christ will comfort you.  Christ will fellowship with you.  Christ will affectionately sympathize with you.  Christ’s humility is his glory.  So it is with you.  Start with thanksgiving and consider the cross.  Constantly remind yourself of the truth.  Stop being selfish.  Serve.  Remember that imitation is the highest form of admiration.  Make him known and you will be known by him.  If he is always with you, be always with him.  Humble yourself and you will be exalted.

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dog butterfly thumb

“I don’t see ANY work being done in these pictures!  Where are your books?  You need to send your kids to school so they can actually learn something!”

“Lol.  We approach learning as all-inclusive…we learn from every aspect of life including many things other than book work.  Here (in these pictures) you find nature (science), parades (civics/community), and historical monuments (history/geography.)  The (stuffed) owl is Mia’s own art project for the week.  We believe learning takes place in the kitchen, the backyard, the community, and the world in general in addition to the desk.  But, yes, we do traditional “schoolwork” everyday, too.  We read and act out bible passages, discuss them, and then we do math, phonics, spelling, and reading.  Personally, I observe them learning a lot more by living than they do by being made to sit still and be quiet…then again…don’t we all?  Come up and visit us!”

Yes, this is a real conversation I actually had with a keyboard warrior out to discredit the educational choices my family has made for our children.  I suppose facebook gives people a kind of boldness wherein they feel that they not only can, but should, tell other people exactly how they ought to live their lives.

 After reading a handful of similar sounding responses following Monday’s article in the Herald-Standard on homeschooling, I remember this bizarre personal attack I endured several years ago.  It went on with many more insulting, capital letter comments from a lady I was barely even acquainted with, who, by all evidence, felt she had ample right and reason to pass judgement upon my life choices after viewing a photo album of my children playing outside.

I try to be reasonable, folks.  Really, I do.  I’m not interested in arguing or stirring up strife and I certainly do not know all things.  But when I see adults acting like children because they’ve been misinformed by misguided people, I need to at least try and set the record straight.  Therefore, if you are at all interested and willing to be better informed on the truth about homeschooling, please, at the very least, stop talking long enough to listen for just a moment.

The unrest coming to the surface is a result of new, less invasive laws concerning what homeschoolers must turn in to their designated school districts.

I understand the concern.  Really, I do.  What if parents don’t actually teach their children?  What do they do all day anyway?  What if they have a disadvantage because of a lack of diligence on their parents’ part?  What if these unsocialized weirdos never make a friend and become agoraphobic before age six?  What if these kids play video games all day and can’t spell the word C-A-T?  What if parents hand out 4.0’s and diplomas like candy at the circus?  What if they can’t function in “real life?”

Let me put some of these irrational fears to rest with the truth.  The truth is that the evaluators (who still must review and sign off on each home school student’s portfolio each year) cannot have “questionable credentials” as incorrectly stated by Mr. Serock in Monday’s article.  There is strict, specific criteria that an evaluator must possess in order to be deemed an evaluator.  This is what the law states that an evaluator must be:

  • a licensed clinical or school psychologist
  • a teacher certified by the Commonwealth”
    … “The certified teacher shall have experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students.”
  • a nonpublic school teacher or administrator.
    Any such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have at least two years of teaching experience in a Pennsylvania public or nonpublic school within the last ten years. Such nonpublic teacher or administrator shall have the required experience at the elementary level to evaluate elementary students or at the secondary level to evaluate secondary students.”
  • “At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the district of residence superintendent.”
  • “In no event shall the evaluator be the supervisor or their spouse.”Teachers or administrators who evaluate must have the following experience.  Licensed clinical or school psychologists, or those who evaluate with the prior consent of the superintendent, need not have this experience.


    Anyway, I’m not here to explain the law to anyone who gets paid to know it.  I’m here to call attention to the gross inconsistency with which home school antagonists approach this subject.  

    Let’s forget for just a moment about whether or not our home schooled children are getting a “proper” education or not.  Let’s, for argument’s sake, even say they are not.  Let’s consider the logic of this conundrum from another angle.

    Let’s say these kids really do eat butter all day from isolated cells full of legos and toy guns.   Let’s say they are passed through school arbitrarily as illiterate, unmotivated zombies who cannot think for themselves and do not know how to interact or even hold a conversation with other human life forms.  Let’s say they are given a diploma without really earning one.  Let’s pretend all these vicious rumors really are true.

    The truth is, not only will those individuals not excel in life, get a decent job, or be able to actually use that piece of paper for anything beneficial, but *the truth is* that I’ve actually just described at least 50% of public school graduates in reality.

    I hear the arguments.  What if they’re undereducated?  What if they’re unsocial?  What if they’re indoctrinated with *your* values and beliefs?  What if you don’t really care about your kids and you just want to get them out of hard work?

    To that end I simply ask, do you really care?  Do. You. Really. Care?  Why do you care?  Does it matter who “scores higher” on written tests?  Do written tests envelope all facets of intelligence, aptitude, and ability?  Is that value the value of your child?  Does it matter if my child has one friend and yours has ten?  Does it matter that my beliefs and core educational focus is different than yours?  All people are different.  All children are different.  Frankly, I don’t care what you teach your children, how many friends they have, or what their test scores are.  God did not give them to me, he gave them to you.  I’m responsible for my own and you for yours.  Nothing the government can or cannot regulate upon me changes my urgency to do the very best I can for them.  I realize this is not the case for all home schoolers, however, it is not the case with all public schoolers either.  Kids with concerned, invested parents usually excel and kids without usually digress.  Laws cannot fix what family lacks.  I am not perfect.  I try my best and sometimes I definitely fail.  I fall flat on my face and I miss the mark more than most.  And so does every other parent regardless of how they choose to educate their children.  Can we just be that honest?  The sum total of my child’s education is not dependent on me, as the home school teacher, and it is not dependent solely upon public school teachers for those students either.  My job is to create interest and a love of learning, not fill a bucket with trivial knowledge so my child can win Jeopardy by the tenth grade.

    Are there any public school kids who come out undereducated?  Does that mean they all are?  Or do many factors contribute?  Are any unsociable?  Are they being indoctrinated by a system of values and beliefs?  Yes.  Yes, they are, folks.  But the truth, well, the truth is that it’s not my place to lecture their parents solely based on the fact that I choose to live my life differently.  I’m certainly not going to discredit their choices and deem those parents wrong and ridiculous because I chose something else for my kin.  Those aren’t my children and therefore, that’s not my call.  All I’m asking is for the same kind of tolerance and respect for my choices and the choices of my fellow home school friends.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    If you are unsure about home school or the new laws and have questions, I’d be happy to answer concerns.  You can reach me at witnesschic@hotmail.com

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hnlr8ZpyDbo

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idol

Ok.  So maybe this isn’t a topic most people think about.  Maybe it isn’t something that’s an issue for anyone besides me.  Or maybe most just don’t recognize idolatry when it rears its ugly head.  In any case, placing my security, hope, joy, faith, and trust in my abilities, my spouse, my appearance, etc., etc. has been a struggle for me for the better part of nearly two decades now.  Well, as long as I’ve been a Christian.  Let me try to explain.

Every single person who has ever come to Christ has come out of need.  We need many, many things in this life that we are not capable of obtaining on our own.  We try.  And we try.  And we try.  But we always seem to come up short no matter how much money, entertainment, material possessions, relationships, or busyness we can possibly fill our lives with.  Idol after idol after soul-starving idol.  Continuously our gods fail.  We simply cannot climb out of the hamster wheel of wants because it is always the next one which promises what the last lacked.

For men, jobs and accomplishments are usually at the top of the idolatrous list.  For women, though, idolatry is often even more close to the place God seeks to occupy: the heart.  Yes, our idols also include material things and status symbols and I suppose I could write for days on the effects of our greed in those areas.  Instead I would like to focus on the idolatry of relationships for a moment.

What happens when Christ meets our need for a marriage relationship or a child…and we trade intimacy with Him for that blessing?  What are we to do when we are called by God to please and to serve another human being but it feels almost like we do so in place of serving Him?  Is that even possible?  What you do to the least of these…right?

We’ve all learned that it’s easy to do the right things in the wrong way.  How can we know whether our service to another is bona fide service to God or whether it is idolatry?

I’m asking, by the way.

I try to recognize the facets of idolatry, but it often still leaves me second guessing myself.  For example, there is no peace when your idol does not produce joy.  On the contrary, there is perfect peace when God is in the right place even when others are difficult to deal with.  Still, when sensitivity is your most dominant character trait, it is hard to know when you are practicing idolatry in a relationship or simply being both human and female.  Is sensitivity a sinner’s excuse for idolatry?  Or is love simply an emotion that is difficult to override?  Where is the peace that passes all understanding?  Surely it applies here as well as anywhere else.  But sometimes we pray and pray and fast and study scripture and pray some more…and that peace still eludes us.  Why?

I’m asking.

What if sacrificing for another person comes at the expense of sacrificing for God?  Or vise versa?  How do we know which is best?  Or are they one in the same?  What did Jesus really mean when he said  “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” or “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” ?  Why would God give us good things only to use them as a test to see whether we love him more?  I.  Don’t.  Understand.  Am I reading it all wrong?  Perhaps.

Conversations on the drive to church bits of pop culture trivia borrowed from the radio and pieces of our own motley collection of philosophies.

“Janet Jackson turned down the role for Trinity in the Matrix?  She doesn’t seem athletic enough for that role.”

“What?!  Janet was my role model!  She went through phases.  Sometimes she was extremely fit but other times not so much.”

“Well I’m sure it’s hard when you’re rich and famous.  Confusing, really.  You probably have to try everything to be happy.”

“When you have everything you want there’s really no hope at all for happiness outside of Christ.  Because when you have it all, you know nothing satisfies.  At least when you’re striving for things you ‘think’ things will make you happy.”

How does Jesus satisfy us, though?  And if he satisfies us, why do we so often seek satisfaction elsewhere?  Do we not allow him to satisfy us or do we want things he never intended to give us?  Health and wealth preachers will falsify the gospel and contend that he gives us what we want.  We sure would like to believe that, too, but it simply isn’t true.  Because it isn’t true, at least on this earth, we often seek fulfillment and happiness elsewhere – keeping Jesus in our pocket in case something goes wrong with our self-sufficient climb.

The pastor warned us of seeking Christ for what we want instead of who he is.  To be very honest, it concerns me.  I evaluate myself over and over and over again.  Do I love Jesus?  Do I love him?  Do I love him?  Do I trust him?  Do I believe him?  Do I live like it?  Do I?  I imagine scenarios of loss and consider what I would really do.  I know the right answers.  I study them diligently.  But do I have the faith it takes to carry them out if I’m called to?  These are the thoughts that trouble and terrify me day after day.  Am I accused by the Enemy or am I convicted by the Spirit?  How can I not know?  Why can I not tell?

Answers too often escape me.  Still, I know him.  I hear him.  I seek him.  Therefore, I choose faith.  As Piper calls it, faith in future grace.  I do not understand right now.  I do not know what I would do if x, y, or z happened to me.  But I know that I desperately want God.  Therefore, I will fear no evil.  Father, keep me from the sin of idolatry.

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