Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry –His Sustenance and Joy are Forever!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry –His Sustenance and Joy are Forever!


We’re celebrating. We’re buying and giving gifts, decorating our home, eating plenty of sugar, and spending time with the people we love. It’s a season of thanks, of joy, of sharing, and of giving.

General merriment fills the air as people bustle around malls and take in the lights lining the street.

Our carols tell us of the spirit that fills the world at this time.

Christians –rejoice! You get to celebrate all these things, and the birth of a savior, and the God who is the giver of all good gifts!

What has He given us? To list a few:

·         Jesus. Our Savior and Lord. Born fully God and fully man that He might identify with us, take our place before the judgment throne, and be counted worthy.

·         The Cross and the Empty Grave. He suffered, died, and was buried in our stead. He rose again, to live forever by the side of God and reign sovereign.

·         Adoption. Into the family of God, as His beloved children. Those He pursues, loves, disciplines, delights in, accompanies, and more. Blessed with an inheritance!

·         The Testimony of His Holy Life. An example for us, evidence of His power, and a deeper glimpse into the heart and character of God.

·         A Firm Foundation. His Word stretches from the beginning of time, and it speaks to us now. Grounding us in truth and offering life to us, His Word is the accessible foundation we rely on.

·         The Holy Spirit, Our Helper. Stirring within us, prompting, guiding, and reaching us at our core. His presence readily apparent and active in our lives.

·         Freedom. In a world full of burdens, expectations, pressure, suffering, and limits –He has given us freedom. The freedom is this: His Yoke. His Burden. The direction and weight of a perfect, loving master who strengthens and supplies for our every need. We are free to live in His perfect Will.

·         An Infinite Well of Hope and Joy. Speaking of His provision –joy. Hope. Love. Patience. The fruits of the Spirit. The character of God. The way of righteousness. All comfort. Entirely accessible, without end, to us all day, every day. Come to the well!

·         Everlasting Life. That’s right. Forever. His sustenance and joy are forever. We get to be with Him forever!

·         The Promise. And that is guaranteed. If you’ve repented and turned your life over to Christ, He has transformed you. Just think, that transformation into a new creation is somehow just the start of a work that He will do in you until you are brought to completion. And you WILL be brought to completion. He promises.

More to celebrate, more to praise Him for! What are you rejoicing in today? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

He is More Than (Fill in the Blank)


We need to "love the Lord, not just the idea of the Lord" said my dear friend (SkillzUSA).

That hit home. Like me, I'm sure you've heard the cautionary metaphors and warnings.

Don't treat God like a magic vending machine. Don't just get your hell-insurance. Don't be afraid, as if He is some mean judge just waiting for you to be wrong. Watch out for getting so caught up in all the "love" stuff that you neglect justice and cease to fear Him. Don't be fooled into thinking He is just your invisible homeboy. Don't base your idea of God on experience instead of straight Scripture.

AKA: Don't reduce God to some idea you have about Him and miss out on His whole person as a result.

Fair enough!

 Our Lord is more than (fill in the blank). It's easy to let our perspective of the Lord narrow to whatever is most convenient for us at the time. We're likely to respond to the Lord based on our whims and the experiences we currently face. And that's not fair. That's  "me-centered" and inaccurate.

There is a bigger issue in this pattern of diminishing our view of God to a single attribute or two, though; these responses don't get to the heart of it. These common warnings focus on what isn't rather than what is.

And that's what our ideas tend to do in general: ideas address issues in reactionary ways. We come up with ideas to solve whatever's bugging us. Ideas are tools. They are created, manipulated, and guided by the things we face. Ideas are dependent on people, and they revolve around people. They aren't about what is, they are about what can be (and usually in our favor).

More than that, ideas aren't alive. They don't interact with us. Ideas have no will apart from ours, no abilities that we haven't fathomed.

When God is diminished to an idea -like a method for comfort when someone dies- we act as if God's character depends on us. And what we want. And what we're dealing with. We never get to what matters, we never open ourselves to a Lord that can surprise us and reach us even when we've forgotten He exists.

He is I AM. Done. Boom. From before time began. A living being who is more than anything you can fill in the blank with. Good news!

God doesn't depend on you or I. He isn't an idea. All those cautionary words and metaphors pointing out that God "isn't just..." are pointing towards a complete truth that confronts the nature of man and brings us into a redemptive relationship with the one who IS.

In our attempts to be like God, we must reduce God to something we feel we can control, alter, and direct. Just as in the garden the first people were tempted to become like God...by reducing God into something attainable, someone who can merely recognize good and evil.

The Lord knows this is our tendency. He knows that we'd like Him to be an idea rather than active and outside of our control.

He protects us from a resulting sin, saying Exodus 20:4-5 the second commandment: "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God..."

When my friend differentiated between enjoying the idea of God (and our ideas about Him) rather than loving Him as He is, a question came to mind:

What ideas do we have about the Lord that we hold in higher esteem than the person of Christ?

Which ideas about the Lord do we use to justify our sins?

Is it the idea that He'll always be there that we cherish more than His presence right now? What about instances in which the idea that He is so loving causes discipline and hardship to challenge our belief in His love?

What ideas do we have about God that our circumstances can shake? Those ideas aren't who He is. Because He is more than (Yes. Whatever idea you come up with).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Little Lies

An advertisement came on. It boasted images of beautiful beaches and expressed this basic message: "beaches are all different. But every beach has beer in common".

Being a literal person, the first thing that came to mind is what a lie that is...lots of beaches ban alcohol.

It makes sense to me that an alcohol company would be advertising alcohol...but why resort to a lie to sell it?

Yet this is a strategy that people use everyday, not just corporations. How often do we tell little lies? And why do we do it?

We're told in the Bible to uphold the truth. We're told that the truth is light that dispels darkness. That the truth sets us free.

And then we tell little lies. You know, just the type that make things sound better than they are, or that twist facts in our favor. We tell lies that help us avoid confrontation -something so common it has a label: a white lie.

It's our hope that our reasons are so good that these little bits of deception are acceptable. But they aren't.

The purpose of our little lies is always, ultimately, for ourselves. We don't want to be liars -we just don't want to lose whatever it is that we're guarding with our lies. We don't often lie by saying outrageous things or weaving big webs. A little twisting, a little silence, a few blanks in conversation lined with implications...these do the trick. Such lies don't hurt anyone else, we assume. They certainly don't hurt us!

Lying is not only a sin, according to the ninth of the ten commandments, but it draws out the sorts of things in our hearts that the Lord finds detestable. These are the sorts of things that cause our feet to stray from His righteous path, as we look not on who we're following but on where we want to get to.

To tell little lies is to do away with integrity, valuing "righteousness" only when it's convenient. Little lies evidence that in our hearts, we don't trust that God can achieve or provide or make a way for us without the aid of our deceptive powers.

A little lie says "Lord, the right way isn't enough to get me where I want to be, so I'm doing it another way that is, well, not right but not wrong."

There's no such thing. It's His way, or the wrong way. That's it. There are no terms to negotiate or compromises that are acceptable.

Luke 16:10-15 cites Jesus' words:

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight."

Little lies are born of little faith. They betray our heart's preference of gain over obedience and righteousness. Though we find all sorts of ways to justify little lies, enough is enough.

God knows our hearts. He is willing, eager, and certain to make a way for us that doesn't require the sin of lying. Give it up and have faith that the honesty He so values -even in the littlest things- is worth it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Exaggerations and Expectations


Exaggerations and Expectations

The fish was thiiiiiiiiis big. I'll die if that happens. You're the best person in the world. You can be anything you want to be. And everyone lived happily ever after. Or so the story goes...

We exaggerate. A ton. It's in our nature. Even Eve did it. In Genesis 2:17, God commanded Adam "not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” When the serpent prompted Eve, saying "Did God really say?," Eve added to the command that they must not even touch the fruit. 

When Eve exaggerated, even just that little bit, she also distorted God's expectations. Suddenly, Eve determined that God wouldn't just kill her if she ate it, He would end her life if she even touched it. God seemed even more unfair, making it even easier for Satan to further twist Eve's understanding of God and His will.

Isn't this how it still goes? We know that Satan is a liar. But we forget that exaggeration is a type of lying. Which means we forget that Satan will use exaggeration to shake us up and make us question God and what God expects of us.

Think about some of the ways that exaggeration is used to warp our view of the Lord and His will. From example, how we read "wives submit to your own husbands" and somehow think all women have to submit to all men. There are plenty of spiritual and social ramifications borne of that exaggeration.

Or, consider how often we determine that God's Word is an exaggeration, like when we say that God's consistent condemnation of sexual immorality is outdated or intended only for a certain generation, instead of being absolute. We even add clauses and carefully debate the definition of terms like sexual immorality to change the expectations God has set for us.

Yet God is clear on the matter: "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2).  "As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true" (2 Samuel 22:31).

When we trust in the Lord -the person of the Lord as revealed through His Word, Work, and the Holy Spirit- we don't need to exaggerate to know what to do, to justify ourselves, or to understand God. And when we forget that and let those little, tiny inflations alter our view, our vision gets cloudy. 

A lot of other things do too:

It's easy for us to feel like God isn't holding up His end of the bargain when we add to His promises -like when we slap a deadline on His provision.

Likewise, it's easy for us to feel like we can't live up to God's expectations of us when we make them so much harder for ourselves or make God so much meaner and less gracious than He is.

Add in the times that we exaggerate the power God that has given to Satan or to us, making God small and our problems looking reaaallly huge.

Or, the instances in which we miss out on blessings and spiritual opportunities because we assume God's Word is exaggerated, so we gossip and swear until our witness is nil.

The world isn't too big. Our sin isn't too much. His expectations aren't too high. 

And the Lord isn't too small. His Word isn't too loose or confined by the times. And we aren't too broken or unrighteous to be redeemed by His blood.

Isn't that good news? 

"let them come to me for refuge;
let them make peace with me,
yes, let them make peace with me." -Isaiah 27:5

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -John 14:27

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

3. Our Perfectionist God


How overdue this post is! I've actually been trying to write it for months. But the words are never quite right. I can't seem to proclaim as loudly or neatly as I want to this wonderful truth:


And not perfect like we think of perfect...

We say "perfect" when things are convenient. God's timing is more than convenient.
We say "perfect" when something fits together really well. God's unifying work is more than that.
We say "perfect" when the highest standards we set are met. God IS the standard.

What's amazed me most recently is that both God's intentions and His actions are perfect. 

So often we do things that end up hurting someone or failing...BUT we meant well. 

Like when I make all sorts of plans for my husband after work so we can have tons of fun because I love him and want him to have fun (but he ends up feeling more stressed and tired because he really needed quiet time.) Or, when I say something that comes out sounding insulting (but I mean it as a compliment.) Or, when someone gives me a hug (but squeezes too tight and it hurts.)

It's just as often that we do something that makes someone happy or works out for good...but we meant ill. 

Like when I nicely clean up the whole apartment (just to point out to my poor husband that I did all that work and he didn't.) Or when I give someone a vague compliment that makes them feel good (but that I actually meant very critically.)

You get the picture. 

That's not how it is with our Lord. When He means something for good, His will is perfect AND He does what is good, because His way is also perfect.

What does Scripture tell us about the unified, genuine, unchanging perfection of God?

-His works are perfect, He does no wrong (Deut 32:4)
-His way and His Word are flawless (2 Sam 22:31)
-His knowledge and all that flows from it is perfect (Job 36, 37)
-His law is perfect for what it is designed for: reviving and shaping (Psalm 19:7)
-His faithfulness and resulting plans are perfect (Isaiah 25:1)
-His beauty and splendor is perfect (Ezekiel 16, 27, 28)
-His gifts are perfect (James 1:17)
-His will in all things is perfect (Romans 2:2)
-His power is perfect, without any contribution (2 Corinthians 12:9)
-His love is perfect and casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
-His work in our lives makes our path perfect (Psalm 18:32)
-His person in Christ perfects us (Col 1:28, Matt 5:48)
-His perfection and the perfection through which He creates, revives, and works are forever (Hebrews 10:14)

Lord where can I look
When every view I find
Is darkened, obscured, and surely tainted by lies?
When the best that I’ve found
Has an end to itself and there’s still a gap
But somehow we’re bound in it?
Lord, I praise you
That when my eyes search you out,
You’re enough, you unify perfectly
This broken, sinful world and all of its content,
Simply because you are.

I can look to you, Perfect LORD. 
What a sight for sore eyes.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2. Making Excuses for God

2. Making Excuses for God (a follow up to "1. At Your Convenience...")


Like Jonah, Jeremiah sometimes favored certain traits of God according to his own convenience. Consider the progression of his words in Lamentations 3:

 "the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish" (vs 54)

"You, Lord, took up my case;
you redeemed my life" (vs 58)

"Pay them back what they deserve, Lord,
for what their hands have done.
Put a veil over their hearts,
and may your curse be on them!
Pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under the heavens of the Lord." (vs 64-66)

This isn't the first time Jeremiah wrestled with justice and the characteristics of God. In Jeremiah 12:1, the prophet challenges God, saying: 

"Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease?"

Like so many of us, Jeremiah was quick to plead for mercy on his own behalf and praise God for His righteous and loving qualities. But he was equally eager to want God's anger and wrath for those he considered unworthy and deserving of punishment.

Each of us has this struggle. We're generally quick to blame but slow to accept responsibility. What's interesting is that we expect God, in our image, to be like this. We expect God to put off responsibility for pain and suffering and to point instead at Satan. 

So often, we make excuses for God. We aren't comfortable with a God who allows or even chooses our pain and our punishment. 

Yet isn't our Lord one of wrath, one who is jealous and angry and who punishes?

As Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:37-38:

"Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?"

Without some intense (and sinful) editing, there is no way to read through the Old Testament without witnessing some character traits of the Lord that make us squirm. 

Our Lord, who sent Jesus to die for us and desires that we all should be saved, is the same Lord who:

-Sent a flood to wipe almost all living things out of existence.
-Sent His people to Egypt, where they were eventually abused as slaves.
-Sent deadly plagues not just on Egypt but on His own people in the wilderness and in multiple other instances (see Amos or Joel 7).
-Hardened (most notably) Pharaoh's heart. 
-Killed Uzzah for steadying the Holy ark (2 Samuel 6:7).
-Allowed Satan to destroy a great portion of Job's earthly life just to prove his faith.
-Turned His people over to their sin.
-Empowered enemies like the Babylonians to capture and exile His people.
-Promised to end the world as we know it and judge everyone.
-Blinds unbelievers to the truth so that they can't see the light of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).

That's our Lord. That's the Jesus we want to be like. Bold, angry, jealous, judgmental, and good. How is He good when it seems that there are a lot of traits that we need to cover up for Him?

Because the Lord is just. He is perfect. When the Lord is angry, His anger is always righteous. When God punishes a person, His punishment is proper. When He blesses, His goodness and grace are correct. 

Charles Spurgeon points out in "The Word is a Sword" that "if a stick is very crooked and you wish to prove that it is so, get a straight one and quietly lay it down by its side".

Too often we lay our crooked sticks besides the way of the Lord and determine that it is indeed the Lord who is not right. But He is right. He isn't following the way of the world, the world's system of justice, or giving Himself over to judgement by those who are imperfect and who lack understanding.

It according to the law and character of the Lord that we should measure our own anger and jealousy and actions -not the other way around. We may wish and act in response to what is convenient for us because we are sinful in nature, but God does not.

We don't need to make excuses for God. And we shouldn't. Deuteronomy 32:4 sums up for us what our response to the Lord both in our hearts and on our lips needs to be when it seems He is unfair or cruel:

"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

1. At Your Convenience...

1. At Your Convenience...

I ought to admit, the first time I've ever actually read the story of Jonah in Scripture was today. The story is so popular that we've heard it, we know it, the Lord's certainly taught us through it...but have you ever read Jonah 4? It's fantastic.

Here's a link: http://biblehub.com/niv/jonah/4.htm

And a recap: Jonah was told by God to go to the evil land of Ninevah. He didn't want to, so he ran away, but God had an enormous fish swallow him whole. Jonah prayed. God had the fish vomit him onto shore...and told him again to go to Ninevah and proclaim God's message. This time, Jonah goes. He speaks up. The whole city repents and turns to God. So God has mercy.

What does Jonah do? He pouts. He goes off to sit by himself and watch with hope that the city will be destroyed. Jonah gets angry with God. Why?

Because God is merciful, compassionate, gracious, loving, and forgiving. 

Says the same guy who, from the belly of a fish, prayed in gratitude to the Lord for His mercy and salvation, rejoicing that the Lord listens, loves, and lifts us from our (earned) depths of despair. 

The Lord gives Jonah a little object lesson as He challenges Jonah: "is it right for you to be angry?" (4:4). God sends a plant to give Jonah shade during his pity party. Of course, Jonah is glad! Then, God causes the plant to wither. So Jonah gets mad.

God points out to Jonah how foolish his concern for the plant is, given that he isn't concerned for the thousands of people and animals that God just saved in Ninevah.

And a Point: We react to God based on what's convenient for us. We rejoice over His character when it benefits us, and lament when in His perfect character He gives others what we feel they don't deserve. We are petty and self-centered, basing our reactions on our experiences and our concerns -instead of on concern for others or on God's concerns.

Nothing has changed in that department. Aren't we the first to praise God when we get a job and the first to get angry when someone else gets a promotion we don't think they have earned? 

Isn't it just like us to want to deny that God has a right to and (indeed!) does cause grief just as he causes peace and joy and all the other things we enjoy? In Isaiah 45:7, the Lord proclaims: "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." There's no getting around it.

Nothing has changed about the Lord, either. He is to be feared, He does judge, and He is gracious, compassionate, loving, listening, merciful, forgiving, and righteous. And He is just. Lamentations 3:31-33 reminds us that: "no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone."

Our concern with what we, or she, or they deserve is foolish. Getting angry at God for being God is ridiculous. Like Jonah we too often yield our hearts to petty judgments of the Lord's work. But when it comes down to it, our Lord is indeed faithful, and perfect, and right. 

And did I mention perfect? 

Monday, July 14, 2014

To Save a Life


The phrase is everywhere. When someone pulls another person from a car wreck just in time, we say that their life was saved. Some people say that they were saved by the influence of something or someone that caused them to change their lifestyle or perspective. There is even a popular song entitled “To Save a Life”. 

If we stop to look at the phrase carefully, though, we see that it’s misleading. It is impossible for any person to save a life. There are instances in which a person is spared from a form of suffering. Death can be delayed. But as for life itself, no person has the power to prevent its ending altogether.

As depressing as the inevitability of death is, it only illuminates the precious gift Christ gives. 

Christ alone defeats death. His saving work is not as simple or temporary as that of a doctor or a mentor or a so-called hero. When Christ saves us, it is forever!

This is the reason for our hope. How can we not praise Him and rejoice in gratitude?

Jesus destroys death for us. Then, He gives us new life. Eternal life. As if that isn’t enough to astound us, He saves us from more than death -it is eternal punishment that we are spared from. 

Everything that we deserve because of the condition of our sinful hearts is not only forgiven and wiped away, but replaced by this new life in Christ. Romans 6:23 phrases it this way: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

All of this –free. Absolutely, 100% free to us as receivers. He paid the price for us. To rescue and redeem that which we considered ours but that He also freely gave –life itself. From the beginning He has known and formed each of us, His breath is the only thing that gives life. Our God is the creator of life –and He’s the one who saves our lives, making us new for eternity.

We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about life. At funerals, in hospitals, when tragedies occur, we mourn that life is short and fleeting. As we celebrate achievements and reminisce about how they could never have been, had someone not “_________”, we rejoice that lives can change and improve.

At the same time, we spend plenty of time thinking and talking about death. In many of the same places, we look at death as if it really is inevitable. We act like that's okay and talk about finding meaning in it anyway. 

Isn't that crazy? We obsess over people "saving lives" -yet we rarely get to the fact of the matter: our bodies will die, each and every one, no matter what we do. It's nice to have more time on earth, sure, but that's all we get. Except that salvation is possible. Eternity is at hand if only we will accept His free gift of new, everlasting life. 

We rejoice more over the delaying of death than over repentance leading to salvation. When the opportunity arises to speak about life or about death, we must be clear about the options we have. And we can start by re-tuning our phrases for accuracy. 

How can a life be saved? By Christ alone. 

How amazing that our Lord is who He is, can do what He did, and does what He does! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Such Stubborn Hearts!

We have such stubborn hearts! I was so reminded of this when reading Jeremiah 40-44.

Here's the setting:

God's people have been captured and taken to Babylon. It's been long coming. The Lord is using Babylon as a weapon to punish His people for their wickedness.

The Lord's prophet Jeremiah is left behind, along with a remnant to tend the land. This remnant of God's people are being governed by Gedaliah, one of their own, appointed by the Babylonians. Another guy decided to seize control, turmoil ensued. Both Gedaliah and the usurper are killed in the process. Johanan is now the ruler, and he wants to save the people.

Recognizing (finally!) that God is who He says He is and that Jeremiah is in line with the Lord, Johanan and the people ask Jeremiah to pray for them. They want him to ask God if they should flee the land in fear of Babylon or stay where the Babylonians left them and trust him. The people say -yes, they say- that regardless of the Lord's response, they will obey Him. His might has been displayed, they know it's useless to disobey Him.

So, God replies after ten days through Jeremiah. He wants them to stay in the promised land where they were left. God promises to deliver and protect His remnant.

What do they do?

The same people who just said they'd obey God regardless of His response (and His response was in their favor!) flee. They flee because they are afraid of Babylon. Moreso, they flee because they decide that Jeremiah is trying to trick them.

This is how stubborn our hearts are! We witness the Lord's work, we go to God and surrender, we vow to obey Him and perhaps we mean it. But as He responds we don't trust His Word. We twist it, defiling it with worldly assumptions, and we still do things our own way.

If you keep reading, or read any of Scripture leading up to these passages, you'll find more of the same. God works on behalf of His people, they recognize Him and proclaim their allegiance. Then, their stubborn hearts follow temptations, trust in deception, and fear immediate threats rather than the promises of the Lord.

And this isn't just the story of the Israelites. This is each of us.

How often do we go to God with a question and get impatient when He doesn't give an immediate answer?

How often to do we doubt His responses, choosing to fear the potential of evil deceit than to trust those who seek Him will not be left wanting?

How often do we surrender to Him and then go our own way anyway, with some excuse or another?

Our hearts are so stubborn! And God knows that.

Scripture tells us that the Lord's target is our heart. He knows it to be our personhood and the center of all of our operations because He made it (Proverbs 4:23). When the Spirit transforms us, in starts in our hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). It is on our hearts, not on tablets of stone, that the Spirit writes the truth (2 Corinthians 3:3).

David knew a lot about the heart and how stubborn it can be. His prayer can be our prayer, because Lord knows we need to surrender first and foremost to Him that which all this stubbornness originates in.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." -Psalm 51:10

Friday, June 27, 2014

We're Under Construction!

This blog is operational, but currently messy. A new blog will be coming soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What If I Missed God's Will?


There are two ways in this world: God's, and not God's. Somehow, we forget that.

I'm guilty of living as if God hands out riddles that we solve correctly...or else. It's easy to think this way, blurring the line between free will and God's sovereignty. When opportunities arise, it's normal to question whether it's what God wants or not.

God's will is a big topic. John MacArthur's book Found: God's Will is a thoughtful, concise exhortation teaching discernment. In the book, MacArthur particularly points out that the will of God isn't nebulous and isn't ours to uncover. Throughout the Bible, our Lord very clearly exemplifies His character and His desires, while also making clear the commandments that define His will. If we earnestly seek to follow and obey the Lord according to His Biblical will, MacArthur suggests, then our desires will be in line with Christ, so we can pursue our desires.

Isn't that relieving? The simplicity of the truth is amazing. Our Lord deals in clarity, as in light. That Christ is the light illuminates for us that the truth is not hidden, muddied, or mysterious -whether it is His will in our individual circumstances or His will for the world in all of history.

Now, "we know in part," knowing that in heaven we will know in whole (1 Corinthians 13:12). But we know that everything that we need to know right now, from God, we find in the Bible (Psalm 19:7-9, Jude 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

For some, that's all fine and dandy, but what happens if we miss God's will? What if we follow a desire that perhaps wasn't closely examined before Scripture and find that in a particular instance, our passions were worldly?

There are some ways that we act in fear of missing God's will:

1. We set up tests

Like Gideon in Judges 6, we lay out "fleeces" to attempt to get God to confirm things. This can quickly become a matter of testing God, which is sin.

2. We create back up plans

Like Jacob in Genesis 32-33, we divide our "flocks" in case God doesn't come through the way we want or expect Him to. How little is our faith.

3. We go ahead zealously

Like Peter in Matthew 26, we grab our "swords" to make a way for God to do what we think He should do. Our blind ambition does not mean that God is "on our side" and "on our terms".


In the meantime, God is at work. Because God is always at work. Our Lord, regardless of the sins that tempt us and entrap us, "works all things together for the good of those who love Him according to is purpose" (Romans 8:28).

For example,

1. God makes a way through all circumstances (Isaiah 43:16)

Whether the Israelites are backed up against sea or several disciples are condemned in prison or we find our conditions hopeless, God makes a way for His children for their good and for His glory. He is never thwarted by evil or the straying of man because of evil pursuits.

2. God provides an escape from sin (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Truly our Lord never gives us more than HE can handle. Christ died that we might have an escape from our enslavement to sin into the freedom of righteousness before God. That enslavement was our biggest dilemma. There isn't a lesser situation in which sin ultimately gains victory over us.

3. God works on behalf of those who wait on Him (Isaiah 64:4)

Waiting is hard -it's true. So is not worrying. But how faithfully and surely does our Lord provide! His plans, in His time, are immeasurably more and better than our highest aspirations and dreams.

Whatever opportunities the Lord presents, we can count ourselves blessed to put our hope and trust in the one, true God who never misses out on His opportunities.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not on My Watch

I'm a punctual person. It's fun to be married to a guy whose pet-peeve is being on time. (Okay, so that's a little exaggerated, but being late does often seem to be his goal!)

Also, I'm a planner. And a worrier. Knowledge is important to me. So important to me, in fact, that sometimes it makes me that annoying conversationalist who will halt all dialogue just to be sure that all of the details thus far are perfectly correct. Some have referred to me as "exacting," and many others as a "know-it-all". Personally, it's my natural response to wonder why anyone would want anything to be imprecise or choose not to know something they could learn. That's how mistakes happen, chances are missed, and opportunities are lost.

Right? Wrong.

Not only are my husband, my friends, my plans, and my problems not precise, calculated instruments, but neither is my God.

So often I find that I expect God to run on my timetable, in the ways that I find make sense. I've found myself and others even acting as if it is the Christian responsibility to "keep watch" for God, making sure that every detail of every aspect of life is perfectly righteous and on target. 

It's as if we actually think that God needs us to be in control, or else our lives dishonor Him.

Isn't that such a sneaky lie? We honor and please our Lord by seeking Him and obeying Him, not by doing and acting perfectly. Part of such worshipful action is casting our cares on Him and trusting Him with our whole being. 

We can trust our Lord with timing, and to know what we don't know and feel like we should. We can trust that He will not put more in our lives than He can handle. We can trust that if we wholeheartedly seek Him, our desires will be in line with His. 

Even further- we can trust that when we sin anyway, He already knows. There's no sense in hiding shamefully, He is eager to forgive.

Praise the Lord that:

"His way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure." -Psalm 18:30-32

Friday, May 16, 2014

Discerning God's Work in Hardship


Being able to discern how God is at work in difficult experiences is important for believers because we are vulnerable to adopting false perspectives of the Lord’s character. Instead of seeing God as just, faithful, and absolutely loving, we often respond to hardship as if God isn’t holding up the end of a bargain or is breaking promises.

The Bible provides examples for us to look to when we face trials. Through discerning the work of the Lord when we think we might be experiencing punishment, discipline, or testing, we can remember who our God is and how we can righteously respond to Him.    
1. Punishment
                Sometimes it feels like we are just being punished. Things are going every way except how we want them to, and we have this sense of guilt, as if we’ve done something wrong to deserve it all. We can easily see in Scripture that God has long punished His followers, and assume that He is doing so to us.

                When the Lord punished His chosen people, it was in response to willful wickedness that He could not ignore because He is just. In the Old Testament, we find several examples of God punishing Israel for sins that they chose over His commands –like idolatry. Harsh punishment falls upon those of His people who choose, outright, to disobey Him.

                Yet even in the punishment of the system of justice that the Lord commands, there is mercy. Those who practice willful disobedience are able to approach the Lord and seek forgiveness. In the Old Testament, through sacrificial offerings; in the New Testament, through the blood of Christ, by which all sins repented of are forgiven (1 John 1:9).  

2. Discipline
                Hebrews 12 makes clear that those the Lord loves, He disciplines. According to the passage, hardship sometimes comes as discipline. We can trust, as verse 10 states, that: “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.”   

Discipline is quite different from punishment. Rather than being pronounced as judgment by God, discipline is chastisement or correction for the purpose of training one up. It is carried out in order to urge us along on the path of righteousness and curb us from that which leads us astray.

                Deuteronomy 11 indicates to us that an example of God’s discipline in the Old Testament was the wandering of Israel in the desert for decades. The passage speaks to the generation who witnessed God’s work in Egypt and received the commandments. It reminds them that they have been disciplined so that they know how much they ought to lead the future generations in obedience.

                We witness in God’s discipline of the Israelites that hardship comes to those who belong to the Lord and seek Him, but neglect to remember His work and put themselves at risk of disobeying Him. Our healthy response to the loving discipline of God is to endure the hardship and submit to God, knowing how He loves us.       

3. Testing
                Scripture makes clear that God chooses to test people. Job is a popular example. A Godly man, Job did nothing wrong to warrant testing, but God chose to test Him, allowing Satan to plague Job’s life with suffering. Near the end of his testing, Job says this to the Lord: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6). Job, seeing God’s might in His testing, repents for all of his frustration and angry words against God. And God blesses him with more than he ever had before he suffered, including an intimate display of God’s might.

James reminds us that our blessing might not come in this world –but God is faithful to us and uniquely, personally, shows us His love in times of testing. James 1:2 tells us to: “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  Later in the passage, James highlights that remaining faithful in struggles –which involves listening to God and obeying Him in our actions- results in the crown of life. While we are not saved by good works, even in hard times, the Lord ultimately blesses those persevere in faith.

                There are certainly other reasons for our suffering, and a multitude of circumstances. But what a gift from the Lord that we can look to Scripture and see that He is good, righteous, and just. He punishes our disobedience, but offers forgiveness when we repent. Our Lord disciplines us, in love, to keep us from straying. When He tests us, it produces faith filled fruit. We can submit to Him wholly, knowing that the Lord does “work all things together for our good” as He promises (Romans 8:28).

Friday, May 9, 2014

Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas


-4 Boneless pork chops (small)
-1 Red bell pepper
-Chicken broth
-Taco sauce
-Chili powder


1. Place chops into the slow cooker and pour in chicken broth until the meat is just covered (use another type of broth, if you prefer).
2. Add bell pepper that has been chopped into strips (the ratio of pepper to pork should be about 1:4).
3. Pour in a tablespoon of taco sauce.
4. Cover and allow to cook on high heat for one hour.
5. Flip pork, cover, and allow to cook on low heat for one hour.
6. Remove pork and cut into thin strips.
7. Return meat to slow cooker for another half an hour, or until the meat is tender.
8. Drain, and serve on tortilla with preferred additives, like cheese or rice.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Prototype Problem

It’s a rainy day. Or, as my husband says, “it’s a nice day to be a duck”.

What it is about rainy days and “should be”?

There is something about the grey, the damp, and the howling wind that makes people unstable. And when people feel unstable, at least in my experience and observation, we tend to look for models of security. We begin to demand that things make sense rather than facing the uncertainties of our life.

I’m speaking more, I think, to emotional and spiritual uncertainty. Questions like whether or not our lives have meaning after all, what we have to hope for anyway, and so on. There arise those unwanted, uncomfortable feelings of being lost, if not lost for eternity, than at least lost in much of what this life seems to be.

Desperate to get a grip, I think many of us in our uncertainties seek a prototype. We look for a prototype of God. A prototype of self. A prototype of daily life. It seems we’re looking to escape the difficulty of relying wholly on our Savior and the Spirit’s work in order to live under the false pretense that everything is in order, in an order that we can comprehend.

Instead of seeking the Lord, we seek simply Adonai, the father figure God. Or perhaps God as our protector. Maybe we look for the Jesus who identifies with us because once He was a man and was tempted too. A controlled idea of God is what we desire.

As for ourselves, we begin to analyze. Some of us are more critical, seeing ourselves as selfish, hopeless sinners who can’t deserve anything at all. We mourn and grieve our sins and punish ourselves for being so human. Others take refuge in the goodness of their deeds and seek to self-justify. Whatever defines us, we're just glad to be understood.

And then there are our lives. Our jobs, our responsibilities, and the expectations placed on us. Lists develop, miles long, of our failures or our successes. We compare these lists, and ourselves, and our relationship with God, to others. We edit and rewrite our versions of God, of ourselves, and of our life-lists to mirror the prototypes that look like the best investments.

So it goes on. Over and over. If we stop to think about it, it seems a little silly. Isn’t this a child’s game? Don’t children get freaked out over this stuff, and grown-ups have it all figured out? You eat, you work, you sleep, you chat, you watch TV, the end. Don’t do bad stuff. Be a good person. Life can’t be that hard, it can’t be as complicated as our feelings and ideas make it out to be.

Good news! It isn’t. The truth is simple.

                God is God. He isn’t made in our image. Phil 2:7.
 He doesn’t play “good cop, bad cop” with us, revealing only certain versions of Himself at particular times. He has always been at work, has never changed, and lives up to all that He claims to be. Heb 6:17, Heb 13:8, Psalm 100:5, Rom 1:20.
His records are perfect, there is no detail glossed over or misinterpreted. Psalm 37:23, Psalm 139, Isaiah 40.
The Lord is not a prototype. He is alive. His Word and Spirit are living. And He is who He says is. John 14:26, Hebrews 4:12, Exodus 3:14.

                We are who He says we are.  Sinners, saved by grace through repentance and faith in the our Savior. Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:8.

Further, we have been redeemed and adopted as God’s own children. We face His loving discipline, as He is our Father, and we know that we will are rewarded by inheriting eternity with Him. Galatians 4:7, Hebrews 12:7, Romans 8:17.

Our hope is in Him, and we can live before our Lord in all confidence because of His mercy and grace. 1 Tim1:1, Psalm 62, Heb 4:16.

                Our lives are in His hands. We can be anxious for absolutely nothing, because He always provides sufficiently. Psalm 31, Matt 6.

                It’s alright for us to not know. And to not worry about what happens or what we gain or what other’s lives seem to be like. To be with Him is everything! Psalm 73, Isaiah 55, Proverbs 19:21, Jeremiah 9:24.
                Enough with the prototype problem. There is no “should be” that our Lord has not (past, present, and future) considered and covered. Life is not an equation that we have to plug the right stuff into to get good results. God is not a concept. We are not set in stone. Life is not a neat little story. He is living, He gives us new life, and it is a life without end.

                Praise the Lord that we don’t have to worry about what we don’t know, or what we can’t do, or any of the stuff that attempts to convince us that we are actually lost. We know exactly Who we need to, and He is sufficient!         
                 Colin Smith says it well when He explains what the true faith that we rely on is:

“Christian faith does not rest on our feelings, it does not rest on our insights, it doesn’t rest on our interpretations, Christian faith rests on God’s explanation of His own actions, revealed to us and recorded for us in the Scriptures. He has risen. Who says so? God says so! And you can stake your life and your eternity on that.” –Colin Smith, Unlocking the Bible, “Jesus Offers Life to His People”, April 16, 2014.

                Psalm 23 reminds us that, in all circumstances, on all days, He is with us, and we have nothing to fear. Not even uncertainties and insecurities.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Heaven is for Real, And We Shouldn't Diminish That

Quite a bit of controversy has arisen over the popular book and film, Heaven is for Real. It might seem a little silly to squabble about. But I have to admit that many of both Christian and secular discussions of this story -even in reviews and articles- are disturbing. 

I am disturbed for this reason: 

Heaven is not the good news. The good news is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we take liberties, even small ones, in what we proclaim, believe, and set our sights on, we are vulnerable to in-numerable trappings and abuses. Further, when we condone or approve of such liberties, we expose others to a wayward path.

And, in more detail, 

1. We diminish the kingdom of God when we place our faith in human experiences that add to or subtract from the Word of God.

It seems in regards to this story that we are all largely concerned with the things of this world, not with the Kingdom of God. Some of the concerns, for example, involve believing/disbelieving a four year old child whose experience occurred while he was drugged. Others involve what to make of the "evidence" for his story, namely that he was able to piece together things that were never directly spoken to him. 

Generally, when people publicly claim to have had spiritual experiences that are not in line with the Bible, Christians largely consider the experience to have been misunderstood or to be folly. For example, many believers have claimed over time to know details about Christ's return. Scripture is usually quickly referred to -no one knows the time of His return (Mark 13:32). No person is given license to add to the Bible in such a way. 

People also try to subtract from Scripture. For example, many individuals have tried to claim that all spiritual paths can lead to God, dismissing that Jesus is the way, singular (John 14:6). Bible-believing Christians often respond in unity, appealing to God's Word as infallible.

This is according to Scripture. Deutoronomy 4:2, for one, says:

"You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you."

What the Bible tells us about heaven is not in line with stories like those presented in Heaven is for Real, or the many other differing tales on the topic. So what about the evidence people provide to justify themselves?

Trying to work out the nuances and "science" of experiences like those presented in Heaven is for Real is foolish. The story isn't a myth to be debunked, it isn't truth just because it was sincerely spoken. Heaven is not in need of our discovery and presentation; the Bible has got that covered.

2. We diminish our hope in the Lord and His Gospel when we take foolish risks about what we should or shouldn't believe.

Our hope is in the Lord. The Gospel alone saves us. Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it doesn't matter if we believe in heaven and want to get there. It doesn't even matter what we think heaven is like. The Kingdom of God exists. Scripture tells us to "repent and believe in (the good news of) the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). We learn that the Kingdom of God isn't a worldly or human matter, like eating or drinking, but is found in the Holy Spirit, and in pleasing God (Romans 14:17-18). 

Romans 14:20 highlights the issue for us. "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food." 

The Greek word "food," transliterated "bróma," is figurative and literal. It indicates anything selected for the purpose of satisfying the soul or the mind. The implication is that the selected thing is not God Himself.  "Destroy," transliterated "kataluó," describes an act of thoroughly loosening or breaking up something bound properly, like a yoke.

This verse exhorts us -do not loosen the yoke of the Gospel for the sake of something to satiate you with satisfaction apart from the truth.

Further, later on in, in verses 21 and 22, we read this: "It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves."

It is better not to participate in things selected to satiate us that could cause another person to loose hold of the truth. Our beliefs about the things that might be currently considered unclear spiritually in our minds are between us and God alone. We are blessed by not approving of things that we might actually be condemned by. 

It is also wise for us to not jump on a feel-good bandwagon that could be headed far from the truth, simply because it might satisfy one of our many sinful cravings for foreknowledge and hope beyond the sufficiency of Christ. This is even more so because it might not be only ourselves that we condemn in the process, but others who are led astray. 

3. We diminish the sufficient and living quality of God's Word. 

We have good reason to be cautious in what we believe about other's experiences. Scripture has plenty of examples of visions, signs, and wonders, that are not of the Lord (see examples such as Egyptian magic in Exodus 7 or Satan and the false apostles being disguised as angels of light in 1 Corinthians 11). 

There are also a few Biblical examples of people having visions of heaven -but always for an explicit, new purpose and message from God. Those who died and are raised in the Bible, regardless of their experience with death, never recorded what occurred during the experience. And all occurrences are in absolute conjunction with each other and the rest of Scripture. The stories we hear of modern folk's experiences of heaven, like in Heaven is for Real, are never like those had by Biblical characters and always add something.

Why do we "add to the truth" as if God's promise of heaven (the Kingdom of God, which is at hand!) isn't sufficient? Why do we place our hope and faith in the fanciful dreams of men and their children instead of in the One who is living? And in His living and active Word? 

4.  We diminish our belief in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). It matters that we put our whole faith in Jesus Christ, and not in any person, no matter how convincing their tales. Christ alone is the Savior who is with us and will be with us forever.

The glory of heaven is something to look forward to, but we don't have to wait for the peace and joy and righteousness of the Kingdom of God. It begins for us, though it is not yet brought to completion, when our life is given anew in Him. When the Holy Spirit begins to work in us and we can securely fix our eyes on the Savior who is with us and will be for the rest of eternity, we have the guarantee of future glory, and we have the beginnings of our witnessing glory now. 

We shouldn't diminish the reality of heaven. We must not diminish the Gospel that gives us access to eternity in glory. Yet we do diminish all these by skipping over the Gospel, dismissing it, or putting it in second place, right after our own "happy day" arriving in heaven. Heaven is established and maintained by God, who is the only one worthy of all glory and honor and praise. 


Hebrews 12 is a beautiful place to revisit the course laid out for us, remembering not our selfish desires for glory, perfection, and joy, but our actual goal:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

And what is our prize? Not a jolly mansion in the sky, not schemed up angel wings, not seeing people who we've never even met, but as Philippians 3:8-14 states:

"I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

(Underlined emphases added)