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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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.


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.

Enduring Obedience

I write having failed in this area not two hours ago.  I should have been up at five. However, when my alarm went off my half-awake self started talking to my good intentions. It’s still dark. You didn’t sleep well last night. Just one more half hour. You deserve it. I yielded to the siren call of sleep and woke two hours later. Wow, Elizabeth. What a fighter you are. I definitely did not obey what I felt the Lord wanted me to do. One thing I certainly did NOT do today–endure obedience.

Have you ever thought of obedience as something to endure? I usually think of obedience in terms of making the right decision at any moment in time. Enduring obedience takes this to a higher level. It’s making the right decisions faithfully over a long period of time and bearing any pain that comes because of it. Hebrews says of Jesus Christ, “that7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him”. Jesus didn’t learn how to obey, he was sinless, but he learned or experienced what it was to obey to the uttermost. Because he did it perfectly, he became our perfect high priest, able to save because of his sinless sacrifice and able to sympathize with us in all our temptations. Jesus endured his incarnation and his obedience won salvation for us all!

So, are you enduring something now? Is being obedient exacting a high price? Are you a parent, who needs to be faithful in the never-ending cycle of housework, meal preparation and child care? Do you have to go to a job you don’t like day after day in order to provide for you family? Do you have to care for someone who is sick? Do you have to face the work of overcoming an addiction? You’re in good company. Jesus knows what it is like to obey and to do it for a really long time. Don’t give up! Talk to Him when it is hard…He knows! Remember that if you are His, you belong to a great company of others who have endured too.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)