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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

presence

After the people’s sin with the golden calf and the subsequent judgements, Moses, being the good leader that he is, spends all his efforts on prayer and intercession seeking to make reconciliation for God’s people.  Moses is not moving until he knows God is coming with Him/them.  He cannot be satisfied just by arbitrarily moving on, marching aimlessly as the accepted leader of a motley crue who have no idea where they are going or who is in front of them.  No.  Moses is bent on God’s favor, and, if we study enough, we will find out why we must be as well.

  Listen to his plea to God and God’s response:

“Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.  Consider too that this nation is your people.”  And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” ~Exodus 33:13-14

In Exodus 33:13, we find that Moses’ ultimate goal is for God to be pleased with him.  Moses’ secondary goal is that God would remember His people and have mercy on them.  In verse 14, we find that God has comfort and assurance for Moses.  He says, here is what you need, Moses: me and rest.  Me and rest.  God’s presence; God’s rest.  That’s God’s comfort for weary wilderness travellers who want assurance and direction.  What a good God we serve!

Moses goes on saying, God, if you’re not going with us, I don’t want to go anywhere.  Please don’t make me move on without you!  The only way for you to answer my prayer and give me assurance that we are in your favor is your presence among us.  (Exodus 33:15)

Moses knew that the absolute only way for the unbelieving world to recognize them as set apart was God’s constant presence among them.  God’s presence was imperative to their witness in the world as the people of God.

Oh, church, if we would only recognize and understand what Moses understood!  It is not the building, the music, the charisma, or the programs!!!  The imperative to shining as lights in the world and being set apart for God’s glory is God’s presence!!!  Spend all your time and energy seeking Him and see what he does through you!

So, God assures Moses a second time in verse 17.  Moses still isn’t satisfied.  Moses continues to plead with God.  After two confirmations of God’s favor and assurance, Moses says this to God:

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ “ ~Exodus 33:18

Please, show me your glory.  God, I want to see YOU.  I want to know YOU.  I want to experience YOU.  I am in this for YOU.  And if you’ll not be with me, I got nothing and nowhere to go.  Lord, let that be the attitude of every Christian!

In verse 19, God agrees to show Moses his glory and speaks his famous line that the apostle Paul repeats in Romans 9, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

In other words, God makes it very clear in both Old and New Testaments that HE gets to decide whom he will bestow his mercy upon and to whom he will be gracious.  God alone decides and determines whom he will save.

Consider the context here!  The Jews Paul was talking to in Romans 9 would have understood exactly what he was referring to.  The backdrop of God telling Moses about his own choosing and sovereignty when it comes to his mercy and grace is the golden calf idolatry.  What those people did while waiting on God in the wilderness is what humans very naturally do.  If we can screw up, we do.  What they did is most likely what we all would have done.

Men sinned.  God was angry.  Their good leader interceded for them and God spared some, not all of them.  He killed some of them with swift judgment by the sword and a plague.  For his own reasons, and according to his own choosing, God had mercy on those whom he had mercy.  That remnant understood that without God’s presence, they were not going anywhere.  It was only God’s great mercy and his daily presence that made them different and saved them out of their grievous sin.

Wow.  What a picture of what Paul was getting at in Romans 9.  It is a picture of what we all deserve sprinkled with a picture of what those God extends mercy to actually receive.  Little wonder why directly following God’s famous line about having mercy on whom he will is his promise to Moses about showing him his glory by while he is in the cleft of the rock.

Seeing God’s glory, as Moses requested, is seeing the work of God from behind him.  If we would see God’s glory, He must be in front of us and we must be following behind.  We cannot see him full-on, face to face when he sovereignly chooses who to save and why.  But if we are hidden in Christ as Moses was hidden in that rock, we can see the evidence of his grace and mercy upon the remnant as well as his swift judgment and wrath upon those whom he has not chosen.  It is like watching from behind and seeing God’s glory – as Moses did – as his sovereign will plays out in the lives of every fellow sinner among us.

God doesn’t show his face to man.  God shows his wrath to man.  God shows his mercy to man.  That is how God shows his glory to man.

 

 

 

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thor

My family and I saw the new film, “Thor Ragnarock” over the weekend.  I am not a diehard superhero fan, but I have to admit that Thor has always been my favorite comic book personality.  I mean, what more could you want?  He’s virtuous, selfless, committed to righteousness, and he’s a courageous, powerful warrior.  The parallels between he and Our True Savior are many.  At the end of the day, Thor often ends up looking a whole lot like a type of Christ.

There were three main elements in this third movie in the series that Christians today would do well to recognize.

Firstly, Thor will stop at nothing on his quest to save his people.  No matter how difficult the odds are, no matter how personally dangerous or costly his journey and fight become, Thor is ever and always running toward battle and reaching to save and serve his people.  My favorite line in the movie is when he finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation and he is speaking to a girl who has all but forsaken her own call, her values, and her fight out of defeat.  She has spent the past number of years drowning her sorrows and just trying to forget her pain.  Thor calls her back to the fight for justice and righteousness as she adamantly resists.  Finally he tells her, “I choose to run toward my problems, not away from them.  Because that’s what heroes do.”

She ultimately follows him and fights valiantly, and, this time, victoriously.

If there is one thing we must take away from this movie, America, it is this.  Our country is operating on the false premise that if one simply ignores, avoids, tolerates, and pretends not to see well enough, problems that must be dealt with will simply go away on their own.  This is nothing short of cowardice.  Failure to stand for and defend truth as we passively keep false peace out of fear and self-preservation is going to be the ruin of us all.  People of God must make peace, and, more often than not, doing so is mutually exclusive with this coward’s practice of keeping peace.  Christ did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Little wonder why we are told to count the cost.

Therefore, this widespread practice of passivity, complacency, and indifference when problems arise is not only cowardice, but it is the polar opposite of what the Bible teaches us to do in the midst of adversity, disagreement, and falsehood.  No matter how personally dangerous and daunting, we must run to the battle as David did!  Real warriors for Christ face their fears head on and do all they can to reconcile what is amiss in their own lives and the lives of everyone around them, and this, for the ultimate good of all.  (**See the list of scriptures at the end of this article which point to us all to this end.)

Secondly, the movie is built around a framework that comes together in the end wherein the father instructs the son about his duty to save.  He reminds Thor that he is not saving a place, but a people.  The prophecy in which Thor becomes the main actor, is for bringing salvation.  As he ultimately learns, the whole plan was never intended to save his planet.  It was intended to save only his people.  The Asgardians learn that they are connected to no specific place, rather, Asgard itself indicates only a people group. Wherever they are is home.

Christians, note this.  The church is not and never has been a place.  It is a people.  The church has never, ever been a place.  It has always been a people.  If you have fellowship, scriptural truth, worship, and prayer with others, you have the Holy Spirit presiding over your people, that is, your church.  The church is not a place; it is a people.

Finally, Thor’s selfless, sacrificial fight for the good of others – unlike his complacent, indifferent, self-serving brother, Loki, and his tyrannical, ambitious, evil, self-loving sister, Hela, shines through and proves him the loving, righteous Savior of his people.  He protects and defends his people from evil, corruption, and death for no reason other than to serve the people he loves and obey and make proud the father he esteems.

Thor is picture of Christ in many ways.  He will always be my personal favorite.  Bravo!

**It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and Christ will ultimately judge, but that fact does not suggest that His people do not have a role as a means to his end -which is to convict, bring ppl to godly repentance, and save them. We are part of his means. The entire bible points to this fact. 

Love and admonition are not mutually exclusive. Rebuke, correction, exhortation, and admonition are all part of one anothering in the New Testament church.  Loving people well is not relegated to only praising, encouraging, and approving of their actions at all times, or, when we do see sin just not saying anything about it.  That’s not what the Bible calls or teaches in the least.  Loving others well includes both encouragement and rebuke as needed, all the time.  It always helps me to think about how biological sisters and brothers are called to interact according to the Bible.  If we love someone, we tell them the truth when they are doing well and when they are messing up.  It’s because we love them.  Here’s some scripture to consider when thinking on these matters:

2 Corinthians 7:8-12 – Here, Paul talks about how he wrote an entire letter of rebuke to an entire church (1Corinthians) and how he wasn’t sorry about it even if it made them upset.  It was for their good.

Hebrews 3:12-13 – We are called to exhort one another daily – every. single. day. and the reason given here is so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Proverbs 27:17 – iron sharpens iron.  We have to interact and be honest even when it is difficult because one anothering is one of the very means God has prescribed in order to mold and shape us into his spotless bride.

Galatians 6:1-2 – Here, we are called to go to anyone who is sinning and try to restore them to repentance.

Matthew 18:15-17 – Here, again, we find a call to go to one who has offended him and seek reconciliation with the goal of repentance.

James 5:16 – Here we are called to confess our sins to each other (not just to God) and pray for and with each other.

James 5:19-20 – Here, again, we are called to go to anyone who has strayed off course away from truth.  

Ephesians 4:25 – Here, we are called to tell the truth to one another  – not just when the truth is easy, but at all times.

Colossians 3:16 – Here we are called to admonish one another.

Colossians 4:17 – Here, Paul called a whole church to admonish their own leader and hold him accountable.  

Luke 17:3 – Here we are called to rebuke brothers in the faith when they sin.

Proverbs 24:24 – Here we are promised a good blessing if we rebuke wicked men/wicked deeds.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13 – Here, Paul speaks very harshly to a church who passively allowed sin to remain and did not correct or rebuke those who were practicing it without remorse or repentance.

Ezekiel 33:7 – Here the prophet Ezekiel is dubbed a watchman over God’s people and instructed to warn them of coming judgment if they’d not repent.  

The entire Old Testament is full of God calling prophets to speak hard truth to His people in hopes that they’d repent and avoid judgment.  The entire New Testament is full of God calling the entire church to a community of one-anothering honesty, encouragement, accountability, and even rebuke if needed.  God uses people as a means to accomplish his purposes. Just as he uses pastors to shepherd others, he calls each one of us to be keepers of one another.  Exhorting and holding one another accountable is not the same as passing judgement.  Making judgements about all things at all times is what Christians are called to do – is this right or is it wrong? That’s making a judgement.  If it is deemed wrong according to our authority, the Word of God, we must act to reconcile that person or our wrong perception back to the truth.  

Passing judgement is entirely different.  Passing judgement is when a person makes a judgement about an action and then proceeds to attribute their wrong action to a particular motivation (which they could not know) and then begins to treat that person in an unloving or condescending way.  The truth is, we all sin and therefore we all need correction sometimes. Correction is loving.  Passing judgement and condescending someone in a personal and unloving way is not our call ever. 

 

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help

Moses’ father in-law had come to visit him in the wilderness.  He didn’t just come to drop off the wife and kids and go back home.  Much fruit came from Jethro’s presence in Moses’ camp.

Firstly, Jethro asked Moses how he was.  This may seem trite, but to a leader who is ever placed in the position of asking others how they fare, being asked of his welfare was likely refreshing and encouraging.

Secondly, Jethro listened to Moses.  Here is another seemingly small detail that may mean more to this man than meets the eye.  When you are a listener of all, sometimes listening is the last thing anyone thinks to do for you.

Thirdly, Jethro rejoices and praises God with Moses for what he has done.  It is always helpful to receive encouragement in the good things God has done through you.  Far too little encouragement is found among God’s people for the ways in which he uses each of us individually.

After this time of encouragement and becoming reacquainted, Moses goes back to business as usual.  Jethro watches in curious concern as he sees Moses’ daily schedule.  He says this:

” When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”… Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Exodus 18:14, 17-18

Jethro sees how Moses is conducting himself and he asks a question.  “Why do you sit alone?”  He makes an observation.  “What you are doing is not good.”

How faithful are the words of one who loves us when they say plainly what needs to be said; what no one else wants to say.  More faithful still is our willingness to hear and listen to those words of concern and love.

Jethro isn’t just there to criticize as some may think at first glance.  Moses did not take Jethro’s forthrightness and plain words of truth as harmful criticism because he knew Jethro loved him.  Moses trusted Jethro.  How much good advice do men forfeit out of mere fear, insecurity, and mistrust of the faithful friends who share it!  We must never mistake genuine concern for negative criticism lest we end up sitting alone and doing that which is not good.  Such is the lot of many leaders of old.  Paranoia has a prominent place of position among those who clutch to keep control with both hands.

No.  Jethro’s intent was never to offer his opinion in order to discourage or criticize.  Jethro had advice!  Good, wise, helpful advice for this man whom he loved, respected, and rejoiced over!  Jethro loved Moses so much that he was adamantly unwilling to turn a blind eye to things he knew would eventually destroy Moses – things that would lead to burn out, wearying of well-doing, and bury him in burden-bearing.

Jethro actually says, “Obey my voice…” Obey my voice?!  Wasn’t Moses supposed to be obeying God’s voice?  Moses, if he had been insecure, mistrusting, or prideful of the counsel of this man, may have been inclined to malign Jethro and tell him he was called to obey God alone.  But, could it be possible that God really does use men to instruct men—even when and if those men are not as gifted in the prophetic as those to whom they offer counsel?  Could it be possible that he uses more practical men to counsel his prophets and vice versa?  Yes and amen!!!  

Jethro’s advice was thus:

 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” ~Exodus 18:21-23

Hey, Moses.  Son, what you are doing is not good.  You cannot do it alone.  You need help.  Ask men to help you.

If Moses had been prideful, insecure, or less in tune with God, he would have turned on Jethro in a nanosecond upon hearing these words.  These are not, after all, easy words to hear when you’re the authority in all the land; when you are the God-ordained, called, confirmed and chosen leader who comes complete with past prophetic power plays as proof.  Can’t you just hear his thoughts?

And just who is Jethro anyway?  Some shepherd from nowhereland?  Who cares what he says anyway, right?  I’m the prophet.  He’s some worker ant with a pretty daughter.  He probably doesn’t even know God.  What does he even know?

No.  Moses does not think evil of the man who loves him when he is told the truth as many of us may tend to do in our fleshly weaknesses.  Instead, Moses listens.  Moses proves his humility by having the wisdom to listen to one who is bold enough to say hard words in efforts to help.

Jethro not only gives advice on what to do, but how to do it.  What kind of men is Moses to choose to help?  His buddies?  No.  Here, he is given criteria from a very practical man, again, ultimately for his own benefit.

The men he chooses must fear God.  These men cannot fear men.  They must be confident, courageous, and certainly not cowardly.  They are going to have to judge and confront many situations and disputes.  They cannot be cowards who duck and run at the first sign of trouble.

The men he chooses must be trustworthy.  Trust is not something a man magically gains simply by being amicable, educated, or even profoundly gifted.  Trust is something that must be proven, time and again, over a considerable period of time.

The men he chooses must hate a bribe.  These men must absolutely abhor partiality, favoritism, and pats on their own back.  These kind of men cannot be bought by accolades or personal advancement of any kind.  If they can be, they will be and the entire justice system will be completely compromised.

Matthew Henry describes them this way, “It was requisite that they should be men of the very best character.  For judgement and resolution – able men, men of good sense, that understood business, and bold men, that would not be daunted by frowns of clamors.  Clear heads and stout hearts make good judges.

Finally, Jethro concludes with the reason this must happen and a promise of sorts.  His reason: “So it will be easier for you.”  The promise: “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 

If you do this, the fruit will be your ability to continue and peace among the people.  Inferred from that statement is, if you do not do this, you will not be able to continue and there will be division among the people.

Practical men who love prophetic men often advise them from a place of wisdom.  Prophetic men who love practical men often advise them from a place of wisdom.  Let us not despise the counsel of another based on either paranoia or a pit of hell presupposition that arrogantly assumes their gifting is inferior to our own.

Kyrie Eleison

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fear

How could David decide and declare in his darkest days that he would fear no evil?  Surely his valleys were just as deep or even much deeper than our own.  Surely the valley of the shadow of death that he referred to was a terrifying place.  Surely David “felt” afraid when he fought the giant; when his life was so repeatedly threatened by those much stronger than he; when he sinned so grievously; when his darling child died.  Surely David has much to be fearful and worried over.  Yet, David says, “I will fear no evil.

Feeling fear is not wrong.  Letting fear dictate our actions, reactions, and lack of action is what is wrong.  The difference is where David felt afraid, he simultaneously turned his eyes to God, trusted in Him fully, and submitted his own will to faith rather than giving in to his feelings.  In the midst of great fear, discouragement, suffering, and even personal failure, David refused to be led by anything other than the goodness of his great and all-powerful God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

I will not.

I shall not.

I must not.

I need not.

I ought not.

I should not.

I have not.

These, too, are often just what I do.

Still, God does something different.  He leads me somewhere different.

 He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness…

He cares for me in every way I could possibly need or imagine.  His leading brings me to a place far too few ever find – peace.  When I am faithful to follow his lead, I find myself in abundance, stillness, restoration, and righteousness.  When I choose to put away want and look to Him, I find His peace; the peace that passes all understanding; the peace David was speaking of.

Nothing can take that kind of peace.  I fear nothing when I know that I know that He is with me, fighting for me.  I am comforted in Him despite any and all evil that might surround.  Fear is swallowed up by courage and confidence and it is all done for his name’s sake.  It is not just for me, it is for him, too.  Therefore, I am all the more sure He will bring it to perfect completion.

I know my future.  He awaits me in glory.  Therefore, I know my that neither my past nor the present can cause any want or fear to overcome me.  I know that goodness and mercy are what He intends for each and every day of my life, regardless of what valleys it may bring before me.

Therefore, I shall not want.  

Therefore, I will not fear.

Therefore, I am safe.

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“Put fear behind you out of sight and mind, rebuke it as you do other sins –  it is one of the worst of them.  ‘The enemy’ may be a human foe, a bad habit, a false belief, or any peace destroyer.” ~Nora Holm, “The Runner’s Bible”

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courage

Sunday school commences and my big kid husband reads the parable of the talents.  Between giggles and coos my thoughts on God suddenly become impeccably clear.

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ~ Matthew 25:24-30

The servant was “afraid.”

As the story was read, the main idea became crystal clear to me.  Fear is not and will not be an acceptable excuse to not invest in the things God has placed in our hands.  Fear does not justify us in sins of omission.

The servant who justified himself by claiming fear was judged wicked and lazy by his master.  R.C. Sproul notes that,  “The third servant was unwilling to do the work of investing the talent for the benefit of another.”

What, then, does that mean for those of us who struggle to use our hands, feet, voices, and abilities for God due to fear, worry, and anxiety?  What does the Bible teach us and how we are to overcome?

It means we must overcome fear.  The Bible teaches us that there is no fear in love.  When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and our gifts in His priorities – namely His people. We are to do this despite our fears. We are to do this despite our failure.  We are to do it despite our weaknesses, weariness, and worries.  When we love our Master, we do His will by investing ourselves and the gifts he has given to us against all odds.  Christians are called to be courageous.  Cowards, on the other hand, are listed among those who take their places in the second death.

When one fears God or men in an unhealthy way rather than loving Him and them truly, he will fail to serve either rightly.  That one will continually justify and excuse himself on the basis of fear.  Likewise, if we use fear as the reason for our lack of investment in God’s gifts and His people, we will be sorely judged on the basis of disobedience and unfaithfulness in what we were given.

We must overcome fear because we know that while it may indeed be a reason for our stagnancy, it is not and never will be a reasonable excuse for it.  The question we must cease asking immediately is then, “How can I justify my lack of investment?”  We must change our focus from the problem (fear) to the solution (Christ) and begin to ask rather, “How can I overcome my fear through Christ and begin to invest earnestly?”

The answer is found in believing and applying the promises of God and dismissing the reasons and justifications of the world’s wisdom.  Because courage is required of Christians on a daily basis, we must understand what courage looks like and how it feels.  Courage is not the lack of fear or anxiety.  Courage is being afraid and anxious but trusting more in God to do whatever He is instructing me anyway.  God did not place gifts, abilities, opportunities, and, most importantly, people, in our laps for us to hide from and avoid.

Fear is unbelief and distrust of the Master.  Though we may experience fear frequently, He has been faithful to give us the resolution to it.  Consider His many promises and be free from fear:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. ~Psalm 23:4

For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:3

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1

 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” ~Hebrews 13:6

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. ~1 John 4:18

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!” ~Romans 8:15

When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me? ~Psalm 56:3-4

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident. ~Psalm 27:3

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. ~Matthew 10:29-31

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”~ Joshua 1:9

There are many more examples of our Master giving us hope and courage to overcome fear in the Bible, but I am going to be focusing on each of these particular scriptures  individually  in context over the next few weeks to explore exactly what kind of assurance He has given us despite our fear in this world, what kind of faith He is calling us to live out, and what courage in the face of fear really looks like practically.

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lives

Lives matter.  Isn’t that what all the hullabaloo is about these days?  Really?  In the year 2016 humans are still having to be told that life matters.  Is the agenda simply concerned with schooling us on which lives really matter most?  Or are the lives that everyone that is shouting about lives that are largely devalued by the majority?  And why does it seem like there is an elephant named stereotyping standing in every room full of fighters?

It started with “black lives matter.”  No doubt they certainly do.  Some take the statement of this obvious truth to imply that the rest of lives – those that belong to we who are not black – matter less.  Hence, the hashtag “all lives matter.”  Or what about the people group indicted by the “black lives matter” community?  As Chick-fil-A contends, “police lives matter,” too.  It has become a war about which lives are paramount.  And where there’s a war, there are no winners.  There are only  bleeders.

All the buzz, forgive me, has me a bit confused.  It’s one of those things I begin to think about and then look up to see if anyone else’s face reads as puzzled as mine.  We’re bleeding out all over America because we have been asked to pick a corner and fight over a fundamental truth that should be quite obvious.  Life matters immensely.  .

Don’t get me wrong, the issues are real.  There are bad cops.  There are racist people.  There are works of evil all around us all day, every day.  If there is anything anyone can do to shed light on the abuses against innocent victims, I’m all for it.  But, America, let’s at least be ambitious enough to uncover what is at the bottom of our outrage.

All of these thoughts swirled though my subconscious last night at the theater as I watched the movie “Risen.”  It was a fictional story about a Roman soldier who was alive during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  In that time and place, perhaps the hashtag would have read “Jewish lives matter.”  Maybe it would have said “disciples lives matter” or “soldiers lives matter.”  I don’t know for sure but I do know one thing.  Then, as well as now, many people were wrongfully abused, injured, and murdered at the hands of the authorities of both church and state.

 Think about that for a moment.  Let it sink in.  Like the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun.

But let’s get back to the movie.  Jesus shows up and he, claiming to be God, does not fight for the value of his own life to be recognized by those who hate him.  He does quite the opposite.  Instead, to those who love him, he teaches his example of self-abasement, humility, and how to consider others better than themselves.  To that end I ask, is that what we are doing, America?  Because it seems like there is a lot of finger pointing going on and none of it ever points inwardly.  We, who want justice, are just as responsible for valuing life as those we are shouting at.  And honestly, our own self is the only person we have the power to change.

As Christians, we should never minimize or ignore the suffering of others.  The truth is that every life was created by God and that is what makes every life intrinsically, immeasurably valuable.  That means nothing can make us more or less valuable.  Not our skin tone, our profession, or our age.  Neither our social status, salary, smarts, or even our sins.

The young black man who is shot by a middle aged white cop is certainly no less valuable than the young white cop who is shot by a middle aged black man.  We, as honest people, see the tragedy of both situations as equally horrific.

When our forefathers wrote that all men were created equal, I do not know what they originally meant.  I do know that the concept of human equality is borrowed capital from the Christian Bible.  What that means is that at the cross, the black man is equal with the white as is the woman with the man; the thief with the philanthropist; the adulterous with the virgin; the drunkard with the sober; the unborn baby with the ninety year-old.

Every life matters to the God who created them all.  He shows no partiality.  None.  If we follow him, every life must matter to us as well.  Anger does not win people and cause them to stop doing evil; believing evil; being evil.  Civil societal wars won’t save the lives being snuffed out daily.  Picking sides will only divide us further.  Instead, we must learn who we are.  We were made in God’s image and that is why we are all to be highly valued by one another.

Your addicted neighbor is valuable.  Pray for him.  The coworker who treats you poorly every day is valuable.  Show her love.  The waitress who got your order wrong is valuable.  Tip her well.  The man who spoke ill of you to everyone you know is valuable.  Forgive him.  The girl who always dresses inappropriately is valuable.  Teach her.  The wealthy man running for president who acts like an utter fool is valuable.  Do not hate him.  The mad black woman shouting about how valuable her life is is right.  Respect her.

It is easy to take up a cause and start shouting.  It is hard to live out a life of love toward fellow sinners day in and day out.  Nevertheless, that is what we must do.  That is the solution.  Love saves lives one at a time.  That is our job.  We must stop letting our differences divide us and pray.  Stop carrying torches and shouting about which lives you prefer and prefer them all in the sphere of your very own life.  Place value on those you least love for the sake of both solidarity and sanctification.  We are all yet students.

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bowl

She steps out of her shoes and into rare form.  It’s people time.  My megaphone mouthed mini me begins to melt down.

Maylee wants to bowl.  She loves bowling.  But her bowling shoes bring with them a big bawl – and I don’t mean the kind you roll.  Just like with the way too heavy bowling ball, her five year-old strength is scarcely equipped to be thrown down the alley alone.

My soon to be six year-old is an introvert.  She gets nervous around new people, unfamiliar places, and unexpected experiences.  This is a girl who, by age three, decided that opening her Christmas presents was far less important than having to hide her reaction to them.  She clams up.  She falls out.  And when all else fails, she lets her fear and fury fly the only way a normal non-social knows how.  The equation for all you analyticals like me goes something like this: mommy + volume = safety.

Yesterday was daddy’s turn, though.  As expected, despite her superhero cape, her turn came up and her countenance fell down.  All I can say is, I’m glad bowling alleys are used to a high number of decibels.

Stripping off her borrowed shoes in self-protective defiance, she began to wail.  He scooped her up swiftly and began the universal daddy fix – fast hand motion on and off the crying mouth.  After obtaining the desired mouth in front of a fan noise, the crying turned to laughter.  She lay in his lap and I watched her change.  More than a few moments mounted before the shoes went back on and the first turn was taken.  Meanwhile, I studied.  I learned.  I saw my need and I saw the solution plain as the tears running down both of our faces.

Despite the fact that I do prefer books over people any time prior to eight a. m., I am not an introvert.  Nerd, yes.  Instrospective, yes.  Introvert, not so much.  But the truth is that I have lived my entire life guarded.  I am extremely self-protective.  Where Maylee avoids social interaction, I try to control it.  I hide myself until the game is over.  Maybe everyone does to a certain extent.  I mean, we learn this.  Pain is a powerful teacher.  We swear after the first time we are rejected for being who we are that it will be the last.  We become someone else more pleasing, less pleasing, or altogether absent.  One way or another, we hide.

Little wonder!  It is a fearful thing to be vulnerable; exposed; honest about who we really are.  Rejection often gives way to isolation, anonymity, and a general superficiality with everyone all the time.

This is a problem for everyone, but it is particularly a problem for deep, analytical thinkers.  We need our schematics to connect.  Our world is very complex.  Superficiality has no place.  Our circuits must close and open properly, lest we get shocked, start a fire, or stay in the dark alone.

What we often fail to realize is that rest in Daddy’s arms is the only place true peace is found.  Even if it all made sense; even if life’s math all worked out; even if I wasn’t afraid or anxious or hurt or lonely – the only place closure and connection could truly be found would still be lying in Daddy’s lap allowing him to know me; learning to know him.

I read a blog about an old study about scientifically trying to make people fall in love recently printed in the New York Times.  (Apparently it doesn’t work for people who are already in love.  My husband and I tried it and ended up arguing.)  Anyway, the writer did get one thing right.  She said, “…the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.” ~Mandy Len Carton

Only my heavenly father can give me the confidence it takes to get my borrowed shoes on and throw the balls I can barely lift down life’s alley.  Because at the end of the day, that’s all our time and space in this world is – borrowed.  The things that belong to us are better.

My dad was electrical engineer.  Maybe that’s why I’m often a resistor in this circuit we call life.  I believe it’s who my heavenly father made me, though.  Without resistors, current won’t flow.  It’s not about who does or doesn’t like resistors or what we have to say.  It’s about the grand schematic and the glory to come with it.

Regardless of who he has created us to be or what our vices or voices are, the solution is always found resting in our father’s arms.  When we do so, his name is hallowed.

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