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

The Faith To Be Content

MP900405586“But godliness with contentment is great gain…” I Timothy 6:6

I have always considered myself a fairly content person. I don’t need a big house, lots of clothes or expensive vacations to feel very grateful for the life I have. I’m pretty good at delighting in simple pleasures so I was a little surprised to find that God was going to challenge me in this area.

You see, this year our budget got a buzz cut—-a you-can-see-the scalp hairdo. So my world needs to change and now it’s not just extra things that need to go–but some really good things I always hoped we could manage to afford. It’s going to be a strange experience and it’s going to take faith. Funny. Faith is something so often invoked at the outset of grand adventures. I’m going to need it for exactly the opposite purpose. I’m going to need to have the faith to let things go. So will my kids. We will need to have faith that following God’s plan is enough, that living within our means pleases God, that God will give us what we really need, and that He has our best interests as His children always before Him.

In short, do I believe what God says about Himself?

From the pulpit, we often hear about people who’ve taken great leaps of faith, who despite a lack of resources have reached out and obeyed God’s call to serve. Those are awesome stories. I don’t know if downsizing has quite the same romantic appeal. Maybe you could call it the anti-adventure.

Well, hunkering down and living within one’s means may not be exciting, per se, but because it pleases Christ, I know we will be better off for doing it.”

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” Psalms 37

Wrestling with God

thinking businessman Everyone wrestles with God. Even the atheist, though he may not know it. At some point in every life, we are desperate, and we ask the hard questions–the really good questions. Why? Why me? We may even shout, “No!” We find something in this life that is unbearable and for a time, be it a night, a week, or years, we fight with God. We grab hold of Him, whether we understand Him or not, and we wrestle. We are always overpowered by Him. At that point, we decide who He will be to us. Some reject this God they cannot understand or will not accept. The believer, equally exhausted, grabs hold like a child to a parent and cries, “Bless me!”

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, Let me go, for the day has broken. But Jacob said, I will not let you go unless you bless me. 27 And he said to him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. 28 Then he said, Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.  (Genesis 32)

(2+2) x God

Math Teaching Assisting StudentBy myself, I am a simple addition problem. Me, plus whatever I have done. My name, plus all my mistakes and all my talents. But God is a factor that changes the whole equation. As He hovered over the first waters of the earth, when we decide to respond to His call, He hovers over the sum total we have made of ourselves and makes us something that, by ourselves, we could never be.

We are no longer 2 + 2.

We are (2 + 2) x  GOD.

We are Us + forgiven.

Us + changing.

Us + hope of eternal life.

Us + a reason for this life.

Us + comfort.

Us + a million brothers and sisters in Christ.

And it goes on and on. When we are in Christ, we not only are changed but we see the entire world in a new way. Like a 3D movie, meaning jumps out of creation, out of our sufferings, and out of Scripture. It’s an exciting way to live- in this Christian dimension.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

Who’s Kid Are You?

 “Are those awful kids yours?” One time I had someone say to me that my kids were the worst ones they had seen in 70 years of their lives. Seriously. Really. No kidding. The infraction: running around at John’s Incredible Pizza. Granted, they were running in the dining area….more like trotting and I was just a little too tired to scold. Besides with Sponge Bob blaring on the T.V. screens (notice plural) I figured how much of a nuisance could four happy kids be? In my heart, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have tolerated them out of their seats on a regular visit to a restaurant–but today I was out with other moms and, well, their kids were “trotting around” too. Peer pressure. Apparently, an elderly mother-daughter combo had decided to luncheon at John’s Playground of Chaos. On my way to take the kids to play in the game room the eldest woman stopped me and gave me a piece of her mind.

I mumbled a word of apology…and felt thoroughly humiliated. My kids? I was more used to people stopping me and telling me how GOOD they were. I’ve even had complete strangers ask me for parenting advice! Well! As a walked away from them I mumbled less charitable retorts I wasn’t brave enough to say to their faces. Then the Holy Spirit started working on me.

In the end, I returned to the ladies and issued a more sincere apology with the very true confession that it had been against my better judgment to let run about. Their response was much more gracious than before. The elder lady did admit that she noticed how quickly my children obeyed me when I told them to sit down…so I must not be all that bad as a mom. Ouch. But, I thought to myself, at least if she shows up at the Bible study I am leading, I can look her in the eye. Small price to pay.

But what if someone asked whose kid I was? What would my behavior indicate? In 1 Samuel 17, David and Goliath have their epic battle with David showing himself brave, full of faith, and innovative. King Saul asked his men, “Whose son is that?” Saul was more interested in knowing who David’s dad was then in David’s own name initially. I hope that as I live my life, and yes, raise my kids, that I am brave enough, faithful enough, humble enough, and even crazy enough to make someone ask the same question. “Whose kid is that?”  and have their answer be, “Oh, she’s just God’s kid.”

Dare to Be Less Than You Can Be

It’s sounds un-American. It almost sounds sacrilegious. From Disney’s nothing-is-impossible-if you-can-dream-it to the U.S. Army’s classic “Be All That You Can Be”, America’s the place where you can reach your goal if you only work hard enough. It’s what makes us the greatest nation in the world. Right?

But what if being all that we can be isn’t the real goal after all? What if it’s about being what God asks us to be. Mother Teresa came from an educated family and excelled in teaching. Why should she give up using those talents and benefits and commit the rest of her life picking up nearly dead humans from the street and feeding them a few mouthfuls of gruel before they passed away? But God asked her to go, and she did. We all know the rest. Perhaps greatness in God’s kingdom is about fulfilling His desires for us where He has placed us. Not in cultivating our deepest desires and most obvious talents.

Don’t get me wrong, though. God gives us our talents for His glory. But sometimes, and I would propose most often, the development of these talents, for a true Christian, will look, to the unbelieving world, less than optimal. That’s because for the Christian, the use of our talents is about forwarding His work here on earth, not about triumphantly making it to the top of the hill. Isn’t that what Christ did, anyhow? He could have done a lot more than teach 12 men. He could have turned stones to bread as Satan had tempted Him to do. But He didn’t. He did less than He could. Instead He did what God asked Him to do. And make no mistake–someday we will see everything Jesus can do–when the time is right. That goes for us to. The new heaven and the new earth will be an amazing place where human potential can flourish as God truly intended.

That’s why we have dreams of doing more than we could ever accomplish, by the way. Dreams are the the soul remembering that it is immortal. And when that time comes we will be all that we can be!

Has God Offended You?

He did everything right. He was filled with the Spirit before his birth. He renounced physical comforts. He lived in the desert, focusing on God and His service. He traveled relentlessly up and down the Jordan preparing people to receive Christ when He came. He faithfully proclaimed a message of repentance and he ostracized himself from elite society by pointing out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. He recognized Jesus when He came and even baptized His own Lord in obedience. People started to follow Jesus and his own ministry declined. He accepted it in humility without jealousy. Let’s face it, John the Baptist was a pretty awesome individual.

So why is he left to waste in prison–Herod’s prison–a nasty fellow, a man of total depravity? Jesus is God’s Son, right? He’s devoted everything to Him. Jesus is performing miracles and John is still in prison? Would it be so hard to free him? The days go by and John’s faith is tested to the breaking point. Finally he calls two of his followers to him and sends them to Jesus. He just needs to know that he hasn’t gotten everything wrong. And here we have one of the most poignant interchanges between a suffering servant and his Lord:

‘And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

And he [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”’ Luke 7

Jesus’ answer said it all. Yes, He was the Messiah, doing all the miracles the Coming One would do. And then Jesus said something that still resonates in the heart of every believer. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I never considered that I could be offended by God. I love Him for all He has done for me. But following Him is not a bed of roses. Actually, maybe it is, come to think of it. His presence graces our days with beauty and the fragrance of truth, but thorns are there for anyone who follows long enough. Obedience pricks the fingers of those who live in God’s garden. He asks us to do hard things, to love difficult people, to deny ourselves for the good of others. Doing all this for a short time is one thing–but when the trial is protracted? When hard situations hold no promise for change? How do we feel then? Angry? Cheated? Offended? Hopeless?

Jesus said, “Blessed in the one who is not offended by me.” When we are tempted to be offended at our lot, and yet choose to believe God’s promise that He loves us, has good plans for us, disciplines us for our good, and is preparing a place for us, we do something we could never have done without walking through trials–we honor Him, we glorify Him, and, best of all, we express true love to Him. “We become a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto God.”

So my  rose garden has now taken on new meaning for me. I will remember that the thorns of obedience will always be with me in this life…after all, who am I to complain? Jesus was crowned with them.