You Can Do It

I went to bed at 9:30 last night. Rob is getting a bit of a head cold and was feeling tired and we tend to go to bed at that same time. Come to think of it, it’s a rare occurrence for us to not go to bed at the same time.  Sleep has been a  fickle friend the last few weeks so I was surprised at how quickly I drifted off and was even more surprised to not wake up until the alarm went off. (I kept waking up around 4 o’clock and was somewhat hopeful that time change would fix that but oddly enough it did not. Like my sleep pattern was recognizing numerals or something instead of you know, actual hours of sleep.)

IMG_0003.JPGI got up and went to start the coffee and this glow from the pot gave a dull blue light to the kitchen and the thought came to me that I have a lovely home, a good home. It was born out of gratitude for what God has given me and thankfulness that we had taken the time last night to tidy things up well before going to bed.

I’ve been in a bit of a blue fog lately, hormonal and somewhat moody. I’ve felt isolated on the inside with a sort of sadness I guess? It’s hard to explain because I am, by nature, a pretty happy person and not feeling “happy” is weird to me.

Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit but a wise man quietly holds it back.” and whenever I feel myself getting more emotional than normal or moody I try to remember that and live by it. But I also have to be wise and remember that Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” If I let my thoughts, informed only by my emotions, be my only counsel then I can wind up in some pretty dangerous places. I had finally reached a point the day before where I could sort that blue fog out enough to talk to Rob about how I was feeling in a way that married both of those verses. I didn’t spew all the frustration or give full vent to everything but I also tempered my words by seeking understanding…needing it for myself but also asking for it from him.

I’ve seen homes crack under the pressure from outside things and become cluttered and messy on the inside when things are left untended. I know a wise woman builds her home and the foolish tears it down with her own hands. But this morning, in the blue glow of the coffee pot I was reminded of how grateful I am that there is a better way and that it is not a secret known to only a few.

In Deuteronomy 30:9–20 we are given the key to unlocking life:

“The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Emphasis is mine.)

The exercise now is to think through all the things we ought to be obedient in. Not so that we can have a check list of I do this and I do that. But rather so that we can turn our minds and hearts toward a way of life, a way of being, that declares we are His people and we live according to his way, one that takes our focus off of ourselves.

Be thankful and remember the good God has done.

Be reasonable and not anxious for anything.

Encourage. Help. Rejoice. Pray.

Let God’s word dwell richly in you. Do everything in the name of Jesus.

The list goes on and on…be patient, be kind, be tender hearted.

Repeatedly in the Old Testament the children of Israel were commanded to take God’s word with them everywhere, to bind it on their forehead, tie it to their wrists, write it on the doorposts and gates. He was commanding them to keep His ways at the forefront of their thoughts. It was for their good, to help them navigate their way in the sometimes treacherous journey they were on.

The same holds true for us. It is for our good that we do all that He has commanded.

May we be faithful to do so.

 

 

Hope Has Come

One would think after spending so much time thinking and talking about deep things one would have something profound and meaningful to say. But sometimes those things make us quiet and just tired after a while. So we rest from the talking and the thinking and we end up hearing.
The memorial service yesterday was as painfully beautiful as one would expect something of that sort to be. So much sorrow but at the same time so many reminders of God’s faithfulness.
Thinking about it last night I was struck that this week of Advent is hope. There is your profundity and meaning. 
Do you know why we grieve with hope? Do you know why we look at the news of plane crashes and wild fires and everything crazy going on in our world and still find hope?

Because over two thousand years ago a baby was born. A star glowed in the sky and angels sang. 

Our hope isn’t that the savior will come, we have hope because He has come.
Death isn’t the end. Sad stories will get a happy ending. Every injustice will be made right and the earth is being renewed.
Take heart, Christian. Despite how things seems, how you might be tempted to think, how you might even feel, all is well.
Hope has come.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith ~ more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire ~ may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 
~I Peter 1:3-7

Mercy Found

Death, no matter when it occurs, is a difficult thing for us. It is especially hard when the one no longer with us is young. Last week our community suffered a shocking loss that even now, almost a week later, we struggle to wrap our brains around. Sam told Sarah yesterday that he didn’t know what to do with these emotions he was feeling. When she asked him what he meant he explained that he felt loss and he never had before and he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

While it may not be the first time some of us have felt loss we are all struggling with it. The questions have flown fast and furious since the news broke last week. What happened? When did it happen? How did it happen? We want answers. We need to make sense of it and somehow if we ask the right questions and get all of the answers we can make sense out of the unthinkable, the unbelievable, the unbearable.

When I was praying for the family last week I asked God to be merciful. And as soon as the words left my mouth I stopped. In my mind being merciful meant that this father and mother would still have their son. That a boy would still have his big brother. That a girl would still have her boyfriend and people would still have their friend. It was a very harsh reminder that His ways are not our ways.

It was a stark remembrance of the sin that taints our world and the one who seeks to destroy. It was a reminder that death is always ugly and painful but is also a defeated foe. Somehow, out of this hideous sorrow God is working out His good and perfect will. On this side, for those of us left to grieve and search for understanding, we feel the heaviness of a precious life gone. But Grant David, he stands before his King, holy and without regret that his life seemingly ended too soon. He knows, in a way that we cannot yet know, that from his first breath to his last, his first step to his final one, that he did what God required of him. 

And God’s mercy? It is here, fully present, as we come together to weep with those who weep. His mercy shades our grief with the hope and truth that this separation is only temporary and that one day we will all stand before our King, knowing fully, finally,  just as we are fully known.
Later today many of us will gather for a memorial in honor of our young friend. Tears will fall and more than a little laughter will be heard as stories are told and memories are revisited. We will realize our questions don’t matter and we’ll realize the answers we have sought aren’t really the answer. Mercy will be found as we come together, one family, but truly one body, in His name sharing in a burden far too heavy for one or two or even three to hold.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

To Live Is Christ

It would be foolish to assume an easy answer.

In some ways it’s a very complicated issue yet the longer I have twisted and turned it over in my head the more I have come to conclude that the answer, while certainly not easy, is rather simple.

There are nuances and shades of all sorts of stuff that I will never even begin to understand. I am, however, smart enough to know that it is not just women and children seeking asylum. There is a potential threat in allowing refugees to enter our country. I am also smart enough to realize that not everyone of them are terrorist in waiting. Islamic? Yes, but not radical terrorist. No more than everyone who uses the name Christian is of Westboro. The vast majority of them are desperate people literally running for their lives.

Just as I want to do all that I can protect my children I cannot help but imagine the peril these mothers have faced. First to be hunted down and forced to flee their homes and then to make such an exhausting and terrifying journey, all in the hope of keeping their children alive. The fathers and husbands who have done all that they absolutely can and given up everything to protect their families.

I take it back. I can’t even begin to imagine what they have lived through.

There are people who will be making decisions and deciding for us as a nation how we will handle the refugee crisis. We can all be as involved as we can and should be in the process of making that decision but in the end it will be our task to accept whatever the general consensus is and act accordingly.

And this is the simple conclusion I have come too.

May God grant me the opportunity to reach out my hand to the needy.

May He give me the opportunity to offer peace in His name.

May He grant opportunity to declare His goodness to those who do not know Him.

May I be light in a world dark with fear and uncertainty.

Because He took on flesh to meet my need.

Because Christ died to bring peace between God and man.

Because He spoke into time and history and called my name.

Because He is the light of the world.

Because we are to imitate Him.

And may He grant me courage to stand in the face of whatever evil or threat that could possibly come. Because I want my children to see me follow after the way of the cross and not the media induced fear of the world.

I would rather die offering the love of Christ than live having withheld it.

“And the King will answer them, 
Truly, I say to you, 
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to Me.”
~ Matthew 25:40

All Lives Matter

Do they? Are we sure we mean that when we make that statement?
I think that it is good and right for us to push hard for momentum against Planned (Un)Parenthood. I think every legitimate interview, story and video you come across should be shared as publicly as it could possibly be shared. The shroud behind which they operate must be torn down to expose them for what they are.
I agree with Pastor Toby Sumpter that we should pile it on right now and we fight our enemies with truth and grace and we are relentless as we pursue them.
But let us be clear that it is not enough to just save the babies.

Do all lives matter? We say so. But do our actions bear that out? Do they matter as long as their messy train wreck stays away from our dinner table? As long as they stay in their part of town and out of our nice clean neighborhoods?

Those babies come with mamas and the vast majority of them are in situations where they are overwhelmed or ill prepared to deal with their circumstances. And that mama didn’t get pregnant by herself…there is a father somewhere.
What good is it if we convince them that their baby’s life matters if we aren’t willing to do all that we can to show them that their life matters as well?
James 2:16 should echo in our ears as we press forward against our foe.
“And one of you says to them, “go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

Contact your local crisis pregnancy center and ask them how you can help. They need stuff so by all means give them your money…give them all of your money. But also give of your time…of yourself…because what they really need are more people being Christ to the ones they are helping. Because what the babies and mamas and daddies really need is Christ and His gospel.
Because all lives do, indeed, matter.

The Reason For Self Sacrifice

I seem to miss things sometimes.

Or at least it takes me a while to recognize that there can be, and normally is, more than one part to a thing.
Like knowing and understanding that there is more than “Thou shall not kill” than just the shall not part. Not only are we to not take life but there is an implicit command that we are to give life. 
It’s easy to become so convinced that we must die to self that we forget that there is another aspect that is part of the dying. And that is what it should accomplish, not just in us but in those around us that we are dying for.

Without that realization we make the act of self sacrifice a very self centered thing. And a self centered self sacrifice just doesn’t make much sense.

If we are in a situation where we can clearly hear the call to die to our own wants, desires, and needs then we must look for what benefit there is for the one that we are yielding too. What do we hope to accomplish with our death?

Christ’s death brought us much benefit…namely righteousness. If we are to be imitators of Christ then our self sacrifice should also bring benefit to the ones we are dying for. Our willingness to lay down our life should strengthen and enrich the righteousness of our community.

If a wife is merely letting her husband have his own way because she is tired of arguing then she is not practicing real self sacrifice nor is the husband receiving benefit from it. It will breed contempt and put up barriers that will hinder their relationship.

Here’s another way to look at it. A parent can sacrifice time, money, sleep, health, even other relationships to ensure that their children have everything they need or want. But if that self sacrifice does not spur their children to greater righteousness and faithfulness in their walk then it is for naught. All the parent has done is raise a child that thinks absolutely everything can be forsaken for what they desire. And that is an extremely dangerous thing to do to our children.

Righteousness has many facets one of which is doing the right thing with a right heart…motives and actions rightly ordered. The purpose of dying to self should be to pull those two things into alignment in ourselves and in the ones who we are dying for.

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.
Proverbs 10:32