Love Confirmed…(see last post!)

Quote

From the Daily Office for Jan. 1st….

You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62: 4-5

“Good Things Happen When Jesus Comes…”

imageThey sang it as they walked through the jungle. A tribe of people hatcheted their way through the vines to reach the neighboring village. Their words took on special meaning for me. Here are these people, without the common comforts I am so used to, joyful in the gifts they have received in knowing Christ. He didn’t solve all their problems. He didn’t take them out of a jungle or away from a church made of mud or to a place with running water and air conditioning. What exactly are they singing about, I wonder? What good things did Jesus bring?

I tried to place myself in their shoes, or more correctly, bare feet. What are all the good things that Christ brings to a culture previously untouched with a knowledge of His word? And conversely, what are the good things that I enjoy because I know Christ or others around me know Him.

Imagine the introduction of the Ten Commandments.
Imagine learning that you should love your neighbor.
Imagine learning that God loves you.
Imagine learning that we should all work to support ourselves and our families.
Imagine learning that you should respect your parents.
Imagine learning that God will one day chain the forces of evil forever and that He will make a new heaven and a new earth for those who love Him to enjoy with him.
Imagine learning that marriage should be honored by all.
Imagine learning that you are a sinner.
Imagine learning that Christ took your punishment on Himself.

Imagine the implications that the acceptance of these ideas have on a culture, even if only a few people hold to them. Consider how those beliefs have shaped the culture we have. Everything we have is touched in some way by a worldview largely influenced by a Judeo-Christian ethic. Without it, my world would be very different. With the introduction of it, these tribal people are finding
that good things have come.

Of course a knowledge of good necessarily leads us into a confrontation with evil, either within us or outside of ourselves. But that, in itself, is not a bad thing. It is the work that makes the world into a better place and us into better people. So whether we consider the blessings of knowing Christ, or the sacrifices of following Him, we are experiencing something inherently good–even if it is unpleasant.

This is Christmas Eve, the words of these people still echo in my mind as I read what the angels said the night Jesus was born:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

How true it really is!

Good things happen when Jesus comes!

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The Day That Finally Came

I knew this day would come. I thought about it ten years ago when we decided to homeschool our oldest. It took ten years to happen but happen it did. The New Year’s paper declared it to the world: gay-lesbian-transsexual-bisexual education is officially in California school systems at last. To some it is a cherished victory, to others it means finally admitting that privately educating their children is now a must. It is also the mother of all discipleship opportunities.

Historically, the church in America has been a champion of education. Schools and universities in early America rose almost as fast as the corn grew. The importance of having a hand in the education of its citizens was not lost on the Church. Somehow I have to wonder where that enthusiasm went. By the time it came for us to look at education opportunities for our own children only three options existed. Fearsomely expensive private education was one–high enough to force most mothers trying to stay home with their children back into the workforce. The public education system was another–a place of undoubted opportunity but also littered with land mines many parents wonder if their kids can navigate around–drug use, sexual experimentation of all sorts, a God-less worldview, etc. And behind door #3? Homeschooling. Homeschooling? A private education for a fraction of the cost–in money. In time, in love, in patience, the cost is high. We believed that a mother at home was ultimately more important than anything so we chose homeschooling. I thank the Lord that we could.

But what about those who can’t? What about parents who are sick or alone? What about the unemployed or the underemployed? What about those in a dysfunctional marriage or with a substance-addicted spouse. Or the homeless? Should a Christian education be only for the wealthy and the healthy? How many kids will stay in the government school system simply because a parent can’t get them out? Why should these children not by discipled? Because that’s what Christian education really is–teaching someone over time to see the world like Christ does and to act within it as He desires. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But anytime someone helps someone who needs help it is always two things: a ministry and a sacrifice.

So here’s my challenge to Christian leaders–guys with vision who champion causes that further the proclamation of Christ and the reconciliation of souls to Him. What can we do as a church about these parents who need help?  What five loaves and two fishes can we offer to the Lord for Him to bless for the feeding of many? Many parents will be looking for options. Can the Church be one?

“X” Marks the Spot

“X” marks the spot. The spot where you are. The perfect spot for you. The spot He has planned for you to be in. I learned that the way I so often learn new things…after descending to the dumps where God never fails to shine a light to help me.

After the holidays there is always a let down of some sort for me. After the family leaves and the pretty packages are exchanged for a few new piles of stuff to organize, the new year looks daunting and gray like the fog that envelops our neighborhoods in the early morning. The challenges of the new year come to the forefront of my mind and I survey my surroundings and resources with a critical eye. That dastardly spot on the carpet that will not come out laughs at me knowing that the family budget allows him at least one more year in my house. Lesson plan books lay waiting for me to fill in their blank squares and I feel more than a little overwhelmed knowing that four growing children depend on me to chart a course for their spring. Couple that with the ever encroaching realization that my daughter will be graduating in two short years, the pressure to make the most of these precious moments gets to me. I usher in the new year shedding tears of frustration with the inadequacies of myself and discontent with my resources. It’s this stinkin’ thinkin’ that got me in the dumps. Acts 17 got me out!

Here’s a great thought for the new year. God has preplanned your environment especially for you. Yes. Your little house crammed with kids, your quiet house without them, your too-small budget, your city, even the time in which you walk across this stage called Life. He didn’t plan it that way so you would have a chance to do something awesome…He did it with one goal in mind. To have you meet Him. Pretty amazing! In Acts 17 Paul shares that God ” made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” And isn’t that what should happen? When we face our weaknesses and the shortcomings in our environment–it’s really a chance to meet God and get to know Him better. How blessed we are that God desires us and wants us to find Him! So this year, let’s not yield to frustration with where we are and what we have, but seek God and invite Him into our lives. By the end of the year, we’ll know Him better and be stronger in 0ur faith because of it!

A Fearsome Possibility

Spielberg’s Jaws scared me more than Tolkien’s orcs. I shudder to think about what Spielberg could have done to Jaws if the special effects capabilities available to filmmakers today existed back when he created his infamous killer shark. I probably would have never stepped in the ocean again. I’ve always felt safer with fantasy. In fantasy you can comfortably assure yourself that nothing like this could ever happen. But thrillers about killer sharks, spiders, and viruses are another issue altogether. Those shows leave me looking over my shoulder for a swarm of bees or some other menacing insect looking to colonize my home.

Here’s something else that scares me–something that has happened to others. Starting well and finishing poorly. Case in point: King Solomon. He amazes me–and sobers me. Here is a man to whom God granted the singular privilege of building His temple here on earth. Even King David was not allowed the honor of doing so. Solomon was spoken to by God, blessed by God, allowed to work for God, and saw God’s glory fill the temple. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. But for all that Solomon did, for all that He saw of God’s power and majesty, he didn’t end well. He spent the latter part of his life more in love with women than with God. I Kings 11 tells us,”4For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5For Solomon went after  Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.” All this happened because he disobeyed God’s command to not take foreign wives. Why would he do this? Maybe he thought he was too strong to be tempted by their religions. What is clear, however, is that Solomon “clung to them [his wives] in love.” ( I Kings 11) At some point his love for God waned. Maybe it was never that strong. Only Solomon and God know.

I want to end well. My take-away from King Solomon’s life is to continue to pray like David did:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139

Only God can give me the grace to resist loving this world. And wonderfully enough, God wants to help us do just that! Jesus says that all who ask will receive. So Heavenly Father, in the name of your Son, I ask you to make me faithful. Do as You promised for You have said, ” He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

6So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. 7Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.” I Kings 11.

For Those of Us Who Are Really Angry

Ok. So someone hurts your feelings. Or steals your parking spot. Maybe they are late to your event or didn’t RSVP. You’re angry.

Or…someone molested you, killed a relative, stole your creative work, broke their marriage vows, abandoned you. You’re REALLY angry.

You just can’t lay hurts like that down and call everything happy. You may want to. You may try. But it never magically goes away.  I’m writing this post because letting go of anger is more than just trusting God to be just. It’s about looking at something that actually happened. That something that happened is as real and as horrible as what happened to you. That something can save those of us who are REALLY angry. In fact it saves us TWICE.

When we have been hurt, deeply hurt, we cry. Elementary. The tears heal and they let others know we suffer. Something else is born in us, too, though you might not believe it. A cry for justice. You can deny it but it’s true. It’s actually not a bad thing in itself. It shows that what was lost has intrinsic value. That cry is a kind of anger. Here’s the clincher. Your need for justice has been satisfied. You didn’t even have to fill out a report, call a lawyer, or attend a court date. No jury deliberations necessary. God knew every wrong that would happen to you and kept a record. And He exacted justice. About two thousand years ago.

You can have a front row seat to that event. In fact, you probably should take one. If you have a deep hurt it’s the next thing you should do after reading this post. Go somewhere by yourself and take that hurt to an ugly hill with three crosses on it. On one cross is an innocent man. He’s been nailed there and left to die. His name is Jesus. You can imagine a crucifixion. Stay long enough until you realize that God exacted justice for your hurt on Him. I don’t know how long you will need to see Jesus writhing there before you realize that He took your perpetrator’s punishment in full. It will happen though. At that point you will have been saved from your cry for justice. Each time the anger comes back take it to the cross and you will realize it again. But it will take less time.

Be sure to do one more thing before you leave the cross. Stay there long enough to realize how many of your actions Christ suffered over. You’ve hurt others and offended God with your sin. Accept that He took that punishment for you, and let Him be Lord of your life. At that point you have been saved TWICE. Once from anger and once from your own unrighteousness.

What a Savior!

If you want to know more about this awesome God who loves you this much you can send me a reply or simply visit my church’s website at www.clovisevfree.org. We have great pastors and elders who would love to talk to you. (And some great sermons to hear, too.)

Letting Go of Anger

Anger is a complicated emotion. I didn’t get a degree in psychology but I have been a human for 39 years. In my experience…it’s complicated. Letting go of it is even more of a puzzle. I think that there is a very logical reason for this…anger is very logical.  And because our anger towards a situation can be reasonable, at first glance, it seems irrational to let it go.

“What about justice?”

“They need to be taught a lesson.”

“They were wrong.”

“Somebody needs to know.”

These are just some of the thoughts that fuel the enmity we hold against our offenders.  We shouldn’t deny these feelings and desires. Being made in the image of God, we want justice, as He does. What we must do is submit these situations to our Father in heaven, who asks us to leave judgment to Him. If we deny our hurts or need for justice we are doing something futile, like trying to hold a beach ball under the water. It can’t be done without exerting constant energy which wears us down in body and spirit. I think the only true hope for dealing with our anger is to acknowledge the wrong and then take God at His marvelous word.

He will repay. He will teach. He will correct. He knows. He can do it well.  And He loves us  exquisitely in the meantime.

You prepare a table before me, in the presence of my enemies.”  Psalm 23 (emphasis added)