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Archive for March, 2016

son

I’ve been thinking a lot on jealousy.  I considered the story of the prodigal son.  I kept thinking of the older brother and how jealous and angry he was when his long lost brother came home.  I went into study asking myself, “How could he not be jealous?” – even that he had every right to be angry.  I came out humbled by what I found.

In Luke 15:11-32 we find two brothers and one father.  One brother is described as younger.  It seems that, as most younger siblings, this man was much more immature than his elder brother.  His sin was evidenced in foolishness, irresponsibility, recklessness, carelessness, and selfishness.

At first glance, the older brother seems righteous – even righteously indignant.  He is hardworking, diligent, trustworthy, and responsible in doing his father’s work.  Little wonder why he was angry and jealous when his wayward brother gets a robe, a ring, new shoes, and a grand celebration upon his return from licentiousness.

I began to examine just why he was angry and jealous, though.

The text reveals that the elder brother believed that he had never disobeyed his father.  He was angry because he believed that he deserved more – much more than his foolishly disobedient brother.  He believed that his work was meritorious.  He believed that he was earning favor by working worthy.  Little bro certainly hadn’t done anything like that so how could he possibly be shown such favor?

When he discovers the celebration, the older brother refuses to participate.  He begins to mull over what the incentive of obedience is if disobedience followed by repentance produces even more grace from his father.  How could he not be jealous, right?  Wrong.

As I studied this passage, the Lord revealed to me that the brothers are not different, but the same.  One is not good and one bad.  One is not obedient and the other disobedient.  One is not sinful and the other righteous.  No.  They are the same.  The elder brother simply has a different set of besetting sins.

Where the younger is foolish, careless, irresponsible, and reckless, the elder is prideful, self-righteous, arrogant, and jealous.  Both are selfish.  Both are equally sinful.  The only difference is which sins they are guilty of and how they display them.  Both hearts are desperately wicked.

Note, the younger is blatant and overt in his failings.  Everyone knows when he messes up because it is obvious.  The elder, however, has hidden sin.  He is able to hide well the hate in his heart because his external actions are squeaky clean.

I just went from searching for reasons to justify my jealousy to asking myself which kind of sinner I am acting more like this time.

The elder brother counted worldly living as something to be envied – just like his sinful brother did – when he expressed a desire to have a goat with his friends rather than the fattened calf with his newly restored family.  The elder dismissed his apparent, long standing blessings – just like the younger did – when he stood accusing his father for never giving him anything special or significant.

These boys are the same!  Both are equally sinful!  And the faithful father meets both of them with extravagant grace.  He runs to meet the one and he comes out from his feast to meet the other.  He shows neither anger nor impatience to either one.  There is nothing but grace for both the overt and the covert sinners.  And both desperately need it.

The self-righteous sinners who hide their sin through external good works love to hate the reckless sinners who are blatant in their failure.  The reckless sinners who are blatant in their failure love to hate the self-righteous sinners who hide their sin through external good works.  How foolish!  We are merely two sides of one coin.  We are siblings with a common father.  We are the same.

Therefore, this parable is not about a sinner and a saint any more than it is about the man in the moon.  This is about two different kinds of sinners who the father is transforming into saints.  The hide and pretend sinner and the out and about sinners.  We may identify with one over the other but, if we’re honest, most of us swing back and forth between the two like a pendulum throughout life.

Still, the father runs to us with arms wide open.  He comes out mercifully to meet us.  He gives.  He forgives.  He restores with his words of assurance, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”  ~Luke 15:31

That, friends, is the most amazing kind of grace.

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happy

I received a call recently from a lady who had looked my number up in the phone book. She told me she reads my articles in the Herald-Standard and she felt that the Lord wanted her to share her devotional reading with me because she thought it was for me. I was amazed both that she went out of her way to encourage a stranger and that people still use phone books. But this is not the first time someone has looked me up and called to encourage me.  People stop me in Walmart and tell me they recognize me from reading my articles.  I’ve received cards in the mail, too.  It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it is always so refreshing to see people going out of their way to be a blessing to someone they don’t even know.

It got me to thinking about how little we do this.  I am wondering why.  Is encouraging others really a difficult thing to do?  I do not believe it is.  The difficulty lies in getting our focus off of ourselves, our needs, our work, our desires, our busyness, and placing it on the needs, work, and desires of others.

I used to know a man who would actually tell people they were doing a good job consistently.  He would tell the server at the restaurant, “You’re doing a great job! Thank you!”  He would tell the choir, “Your voices sound beautiful together!”  He would make frequent encouraging comments to almost every person he came into contact with.  He always tried to make peoples’ day a little brighter.

Do I do that?  I know all too well how it feels to be discouraged.  I am no stranger to plugging along with nary a nice word from anyone – or worse – not nice words.  I want to be an encourager.  I try to be an encouragement to those around me.  If you ask my daughters, though, they may tell you a different story.  It might go something like this:

“Mom never likes anything.  She says, ‘Good job,’ then tells me five ways to work on my so-called ‘good’ job.  Just when I think I’m done and that I did really great, she sends me back to work again.”

I want my kids -and anyone whose life I have the privilege to speak into – to be the very best that they can.  I encourage their efforts, but often I also critique them. It is not to make them feel small, but to make them great.  I already see the greatness in them.  It simply needs pruned and shaped.  Therefore, words of encouragement often walk hand in hand with words of correction in my household.  Both are out of nothing but love. I have to remind myself, sometimes, that things do not necessarily always need to be perfect, though.  They are children.  Just the fact that they had an idea, took initiative to carry it out, and pursued it to completion should be more than enough to warrant words of affirmation with no strings attached.  And sometimes it isn’t a perfect job, but an imperfect one that needs the very most encouragement.

When my kids are trying really hard and just cannot seem to “get it.”  When they seem frustrated, tired, or exasperated, these are the times when I must be keen to give genuine encouragement without criticizing their attempts to succeed.

All of this takes discernment and wisdom.  It takes a heart that is purposeful and other-centered.  When I am wrapped up in my own agendas, I do not even notice what those around me are working towards and trying hard to accomplish.

We are all children.  We are God’s children.  As brothers and sisters, we must find creative ways to support one another.  Whether it is gentle constructive criticism, giving positive feedback on a frustrating job, or simply taking notice of the good work and goals of others, the Bible instructs us to offer encouragement and help to one another in every way we can.

  To that end I wanted to thank the lady who took time out of her day to encourage me – a perfect stranger.  It really means a lot to me when I receive encouragement. It inspires me to do better and to encourage other people.  Therefore, I  wanted to encourage you to go and do the same.  Find someone and build them up as best you can.

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tomorrow

Even after the Lord had turned Egypt’s water to blood, Pharaoh refused to obey God.  Moses came to him a third time and told him what God had said.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go that they may serve me.  But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs.’ “

The reason Pharaoh would not let God’s people go to serve him is because they were serving Pharaoh.  Obeying God would mean denying himself their labor.  In order to obey God, Pharaoh would have to sacrifice his own plans and submit to the authority of another.

Pharaoh was the authority.  No one was higher than him in the entire land of Egypt.  Pride and position had made him powerful and pompous.  Why would he listen to a God he didn’t even believe in?  He had no incentive to stop serving himself in order to serve God save another warning from a couple nobody Hebrews.  Therefore, God brought another plague.  The purpose of the plagues was that the Egyptians might know the Lord.

Moses and Aaron warned Pharaoh and when he refused to listen, the frogs came in droves.  Again the magicians duplicated the onslaught compounding the problem, but were unable to remove it.

 Afterward, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to take them away.  It is interesting that he would go to Moses and plead for mercy but not to God himself.  It is also interesting that Pharaoh wanted to wait on God’s mercy until the next day.  When Moses asked when to take the frogs away, Pharaoh said, “Tomorrow.”

Tomorrow.  Why?  Pharaoh was probably hoping he would come across anther out in the mean time.  He’d rather let everyone, including himself and his own family, suffer longer than to have to admit that God was in control over him.  He would rather put off his promised obedience one more day.

How easy it is to play the part of Pharaoh.  We want to hold onto our own agenda; be our own boss; have the final say in our own lives.  We want autonomy.  We make ourselves the ultimate authority repeatedly disregarding the word of the Lord and his people.  We fail to deny ourselves despite God’s clear commands and purposes for us in doing so.  We refuse to submit to God and obey him because that often means sacrificing our own plans for his.  We go to men for help rather than God.  When God disciplines us for our stubborn disobedience, we do not rejoice and give thanks for his mercy and grace.  Instead we stall and put off obedience to God until “tomorrow.”  Usually, tomorrow never comes.

Pharaoh did not obey as he promised the next day when God mercifully removed the frogs.  Pharaoh’s relief was enough to deceive him right back into complacency and disobedience once again.  Even after the plague of frogs, Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go.

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Blacklisted

black sheep

In a world where last names matter, I grew up a world class nobody.  It’s not who you are, it’s who you know, right?  Yeah.  By the time I realized that I was good enough – or better – than those taking their places ahead of me, I had a complex composed of discouragement and doubt.  I had always assumed I was not qualified because I had not been encouraged in my talents or picked by the powers that be.  Even the small voice telling me I know better was silenced by disillusionment.  You’re Lori.  You’re difficult.  You’re disliked.  You have no place.  No one wants to deal with you.

 In my pride, I did not care.  In my misery, I cared far too much.

Sometimes it just doesn’t matter how smart you are.  It doesn’t matter how much you know or how much you care.  It’s not even about how hard you work or how well you serve.  When you’re that girl nothing – not discipline, not diligence, not honest dialogue – will ever make any difference.  Wherever you go, you will always be that same girl.  The outcast.

I have come to learn at this stage I call mid-life that certain people are seen in certain ways.  Once you are labeled one way or another, nothing you can do or say can ever bring redemption.  Call it blacklisting, if you will.  There’s always a black sheep in the family.  For some reason, (likely my own sin) it’s usually me.  In the eyes of those who have made up their minds about your undesirability and insignificance, there is simply no deliverance. And I guess that’s ok.  If this is who God created me to be then so be it.  I do have to admit that being Lori is harder some days than others, though.

I lack confidence across the board.  Confidence from the Latin words “con” (with) and “fidere” (faith).  With faith.  Aha.  There’s my real issue.  If I couldn’t put my finger on it before, it is crystal clear now.  I lack confidence because I lack faith.

Redemption.  I am among the redeemed.  Christ has paid for all my black sheep blame and made me spotless.  I know who I am.  I know I have infinite purpose.  I know my worth.  So why do I still struggle so with confidence?

I believe it is the same reason I find myself struggling with jealousy.  I am not jealous materially.  I am jealous relationally.

Because I have so often felt rejected and unwanted in life, it is hard for me to believe that I am chosen by God.  It is hard for me to believe I am chosen by anyone.  I have a negative self-image reinforced by those who have made me the girl that will always be the unchosen outsider no matter what I say or do.  How often I hear people talk about how Jesus loves, forgives, and wants to know us personally!  How often that rhetoric, albeit true, is followed by actions that prove that they do not.

Therefore, after another mediocre jog through the neighborhood, I have come to find that I am jealous.  I want to be included.  I want relationships that other people have.  I want to be useful, and purposeful, and helpful, but I am always wondering why I often still feel so uninvited.  I am struggling with the tenth commandment.  “Thou shall not covet.”  Unlike the other commands from God which deal primarily with outward actions, this one focuses primarily on thought.  Little wonder why it is my problem.  Little Lori has always lived inside her head.

Pride and jealousy are married.  False confidence is their offspring.  Faith and redemption are married.  True confidence is theirs.  My prayer is that the thoughts of my heart turn away from discouragement, loneliness, self-pity, pride, and jealousy to faith and confidence in Him.  Amen.

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trump

Resourceful.  Hardworking.  Innovative.  Street Smart.  Tough.  Straight shooting.  Earnest.    Gifted.  Creative.  Strong.  Funny.  Outgoing.  Passionate.  Intelligent.  Focused.  Friendly.  Tireless.  Industrious.  Authoritative.  Successful.

What girl wouldn’t love a guy like that?  I know, right.  That’s my guy.  These are just a few words that describe my husband.  Nineteen years ago, I saw greatness.  I was neither mistaken nor disappointed.  He’s the kind of guy you want to get stuck on a desert island or trapped in an elevator with.  He just makes things work.  He isn’t scared.  He protects, plans, and produces.

Show me a man with these attributes and I will show you a strong leader.  When a man can play these cards, in tandem, he is a magnet marked out for management, marksmanship, and often, money-making.

America, if you are wondering why on earth any thinking person would get behind the likes of Donald Trump, listen to the little lady who’s been attached to his likeness for the entirety of my adult life.  I fell in love with and married a man with similar strengths – a self-made, big-mouth businessman, if you will.

Unfortunately, alongside these marks of integrity, pure grit, and aptitude are often character traits that are not so stellar and sweet.  Traits that, thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ, my husband has largely overcome and continues to turn away from.  Mr. Trump, on the other hand, is by all accounts an unconverted man paying lip service to Christianity,  filled to the brim and overflowing with them.

Volatile.  Risk-taking.  Hot-tempered.  Ill-mannered.  Brutal.  Egotistical.  Stressed.  Pre-occupied.  Prideful.  Narrow-minded.  Domineering.  Manipulative.  Forceful.

A wise man once said, “Our strengths are our weaknesses.”  While Trump’s opponents scratch their heads unable to imagine anything worse than a president with the second list written all over him in red sharpie marker, his supporters see only the former traits.  Love is blind and the polls are proving it.

I heard a man saying he is supporting Donald Trump because, “He’s different.”  It is  purely reaction to the poor performance of the preceding presidents – and a poor reason to vote for anyone at that.  Different does not necessarily mean better.  Nevertheless, truth be told, many people see Trump as authentic and genuine.  He talks, walks, and acts like a blue collar worker.  He bucks the system and pretends to hate the establishment.  He breaks the rules and laughs at his critics.  He is puffed up and pretentious but that’s okay because he is good at it.  Even if it is just a case of superb semantics, Trump feels real.

People do not care that he is dangerous and domineering.  All that matters is that he is different in a way that makes them feel a great sameness and security with him.  They feel safe, not because he is safe, but because he is on their side…or so they think.  It’s like getting a bully to be your bodyguard.  Not the smartest strategy, but somewhat effective when you’re too small to fight with your own fists.  What they do not realize is that bully bodyguards turn on you the second you stop being useful to their tyrannical reign.

I often laugh and say to myself, “I think I’m married to Donald Trump.”  My husband absolutely does share his strengths and has dealt with more than a few of his weaknesses.  There is quite a difference, though.  Mr. Rodeheaver is a good man, self-governed and submitted to God.  Donald Trump is nothing more than a dictator in disguise.

I can’t tell you who to vote for.  I wouldn’t even try.  I can’t tell you who will be most worth supporting or even who is the best candidate for the election of 2016.  I can tell you who to follow, though.  I can tell you who is supporting the rise and fall of your chest and the very breath in your lungs.  God.  Follow God.  Follow Jesus Christ.  Ask the Lord to show mercy to you and to our country in these uncertain times.  Repent of your not so stellar attributes while I repent of mine.  Make this world a better place by allowing the Lord to make you a better person.

At the end of the day, one thing is for sure.  God is in control.  He sits on his throne and reigns in sovereignty over all of the earth.  No matter who is elected our next president, God will still be ruling this world. In the words of Shane Claiborne the pacifist, “Jesus for President.”

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