Focusing on the Right Question

Picture this: someone is gathering belongings for her vacation, busily packing a swim suit, towels, sunscreen, boogie board, rubber flip flops. When she’s all prepared, she joins her fellow vacationers, only to find out they’re setting out on a snow skiing trip.

Whoops. Seems like someone forgot to ask an important question.

If you don’t know where you’re going, then how can you prepare yourself for the journey?

Where do you believe you’re going with this one life you’ve been given? We all have an answer to that question. If you’re not sure what your answer is, then look at your actions, because we always act based on what we believe.

What drives your thoughts, financial plans and schedule each day? Whatever you’re spending your effort “packing” indicates where you think you’re going. Isn’t it important to be sure you’re spending your time packing the right stuff?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Noone comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14). Those of us who believe that statement spend our time checking with Him to pack the appropriate things for our journey.

Here’s a list of a few items in my bag:

Confession – I have had to give up the idea that my view of the world is 100% correct and name the ways I have been getting it wrong. That means I have to cast away pride, because if I’m packing pride, confession won’t fit.

Repentance – I need to correct my behavior and attitudes to match up with what God says is true. Spending time reading God’s Word and with other believers will help keep me honest with this, if I let them (again, no room for pride).

Forgiveness – When I confess and repent, God is faithful to forgive me (1 John 1:9), and He expects me to share with others what He has given to me. I have to remove revenge to make room for forgiveness, and I have needed help from other people and wise counselors to learn how it fits. In the process, I have had to repack confession and repentance, and try again with forgiveness. The church word for this process is sanctification, and it’s really pretty annoying. I just want to get it right and keep it that way. But, then, forgiveness can be shared with myself, too.

Thanksgiving – This is the most versatile item. The Bible says it like this: “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5). It’s appropriate in all circumstances. It’s the little black dress for life. Thanksgiving can look like singing, dancing, prayer, enjoyment with other people, quiet moments alone – it can take almost any form and be practiced any time. The more thanksgiving I pack, the more space seems to be freed up for my other items. It’s like the TARDIS that way.

If I spend my time and energy packing these items, I will be equipped for where I’m going, because I’m going to be with my Father in Heaven.

Won’t you join me?

Advertisements

Love Thy Body – book review

“Every social practice is the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human.”* Nancy Pearcy’s Love Thy Body walks readers through the various worldviews that underly many of today’s hot-button issues: abortion, euthanasia, issues of sexuality, gender and familial relationships. She exposes a common theme of disregard for, or even hated of, the physical body.

By contrast, the Christian worldview declares “body and soul together form an integrated unity,” and that “what God has created has intrinsic value and dignity.” These values inform human rights.

Pearcy’s writing is compassionate, yet unflinching in its honesty. I had the pleasure of meeting her the day I bought the book, and she spoke of how she studies her students (she is a Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University) in order to know how to teach them best. I feel that same desire to connect with her audience is in her writing. She often reminds the readers that the issues she is covering impact real people with real struggles and real pain. She includes many personal examples.

This is a very meaty book full of valuable notes and a study guide. Pearcy’s research is thorough and current, and I found practical applications of the ideas she covers on almost a daily basis. She repeatedly calls on the Church to be the active force of loving truth in a society that needs to learn what love truly is.

*quotes from Love Thy Body

Good Grief

Good Grief

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Therefore, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. – John 11:5-6

Jesus didn’t rush to heal Lazarus. He waited. He waited so long that Lazarus died. He did it because he loved Lazarus and his sisters.

There are notes in the margin of my Bible that show a shift in perspective that I’ve had about this scripture. My earlier note says “our difficulties are to his glory, perhaps that’s a form of his love.” I was expressing my faith that, on some level, God works all things out for the good of those who love him.

That is true, and as we try to take hold of this truth in faith, we learn the discipline of setting our minds on the hope we have in Christ, and the good that God has in store for us when all things are complete and redeemed.

But God wants us to experience more. It seems, in my experience, that a significant trauma in our life primes us to receive what God wants to give. When we get to the end of our own understanding and strength, when something we relied on for security or self-identity is removed, that’s exactly the point at which God does the work only He can do.

God presents Himself to the “poor in spirit” in a way I find impossible to adequately describe. His comfort is sustaining. Jesus was a man of suffering and pain, so he truly understands.

He gives us significance in this life – not just because we will one day be redeemed, but because our struggles and sorrows are seen by him now. The work he wants to do with us in the Kingdom of God begins now.

I learned these things after going through significant loss of my own. Martha, Mary and Lazarus learned it after having their lives, as they had known them, stripped from them. And, through Jesus, our lives were restored with new purpose.

The original note is crossed out and new words are written around it: “Their faith would be unshakable after this loss.”

I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You. Psalm 16:2

GOD, Don’t You Even Care?

Hurricane_Isabel_NASA

As the disciples rowed Jesus on the lake, an enormous storm erupted around them, threatening to capsize the boat. Jesus, having spent every ounce of energy he had, was sleeping despite the chaos. He is awakened to the frightened cries: “Don’t you even care that we’re about to die?”

The day of the storm, Jesus had just spent hours and hours teaching huge crowds of people. This was not necessarily a receptive crowd. There were a lot of argumentative and hostile people among them. Ever have a day like that?

And he spent more time explaining things to his disciples. Patience. That’s what’s needed when the folks who live with you, who should be the ones to understand you best, still need tons of explanations. He cared enough to take the time.

This went on all day. It was evening before Jesus asked them to row him across the lake. Sleep probably felt like a mere moment before the accusatory cries came. Don’t you even care?

Our answer to that question makes all the difference. We’re dying down here. Does God care, or not? If you find you’re often overwhelmed, perhaps you know how you’re answering that question, even if you would never let the words escape your lips. So, let us take a moment to strengthen ourselves, and remember the character of our God.

Compassionate – Psalm 103:13-14

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust.

He’s never going to ask more from us than we can give. He isn’t asking us to save ourselves, or even almost save ourselves. In His compassion, He has taken care of our every need through Jesus, the Christ.

Gracious – John 1:16

Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness.

We’re not saved by works, but He gives us plenty to do. The abilities and opportunities we have to work, serve, help, play – all of it – comes from our gracious God. Eyes that can read, ears that can hear, minds that understand, other people to share it with. God’s graciousness is in evidence everywhere because He cares for us.

Patient – 2 Peter 3:8-9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Patience is an ironic thing. Sometimes, people get yelled at for being patient. God has that happen to Him a lot. But often, maybe even always, the thing we’re yelling at Him about is more evidence of His love for us.

Love – Ephesians 2:4-5

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

We are His absolute treasure. He always planned to draw us near to Him, into His family through Jesus. It was His pleasure to do that on our behalf.

He loves you. He has sacrificed deeply to prove it. Storms will come, and they will be scary. But one thing you can rest your mind about: God does, indeed care.

 

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Moon

The other day I was driving my boys to school when it was still dark. Traffic was already congested, and as I pulled up to the front of the line at the intersection, I looked down the road to my right. The moon was hanging bright and low and heavy in the sky. It was a harvest moon. I mistook it for a road sign at first.
Once I realized what it was, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and I became a dangerous distracted driver for a moment.

I thought how very long the moon has been hanging out there. In my imagination, time went through a high speed rewind. Everything around me became undone. The road was unbuilt; cars disappeared as well as road signs, light poles, buildings. The ancestors of the current people hadn’t yet arrived.

But the moon was still there, as it’s always been. A deep peace filled me in that moment.

Many times in the Bible, God points to the skies to remind us of His faithfulness. You can count on His promises the same way you can count on the sun coming up in the morning, and the moon and stars staying in their places.  The steadfast love of the Lord is forever. His loving-kindness never ends. He is speaking to us through His creation. Let us draw near.

Psalm 19

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

The skies display his craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;

night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or word;

their voice is never heard.

Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,

and their words to all the world.

Shattering the Power of Death

golem-318509_960_720

The people of God are free from the power of sin and death. We are. I believe that, and lately I’ve been thinking about the fullness of the significance of that statement. We are free from so much more than the fear of eternal separation from God. We have been freed to see life as it really is – a way stop, yet so very full of significance!

As I go through life, I’m noticing many ways the power of death attempts to manifest itself. There is a golem who lives inside each of us who wants it’s Precious NOW. If we are not on the alert, we will become enslaved to this merciless master and waste the days the God of creation has given us.

Everyone knows the power of the fear of death (except, perhaps boys between the ages of 7 and 21). But death’s power lures us with many attractions as well. People want every experience available to them in this life. They want to try every food, travel to every beautiful locale, swim with the dolphins, snuba in the Caribbean. The fear of “missing out” drives people to unsuitable relationships. Some grasp at whatever experience is in front of them because – why? The power of death looms behind wasted moments, wasted energy, wasted money because we buy into the lie of “if not now, then never.”

We wear ourselves out pleasing people because we feel we fall short in this life if we don’t perform. The power of death shows up in our desire for significance or eternal youthfulness. Every moment must be documented, shared (blogged about?), preserved, somehow, beyond itself, or perhaps it wasn’t enough.

There is no peace down this road.

We serve a God of peace. He, Himself, has given us our significance. All who have believed in the power of Jesus to save have been given the high honor of being called children of God (John 1:12).

He did not stop there – God has given the moments of our lives eternal significance, as well. We have each been created to do good works, prepared in advance just for us (Ephesians 2:10).

And he has given us relationship with each other that transcends this life. We aren’t individuals trodding this earth for a time. We are part of an eternal family that is being built into a kingdom we are excited to see in its fullness one day (Ephesians 2:19-).

So, God has broken all of the power of death through Christ Jesus. Our days are no longer ruled by fear or immediate desire or striving after the wind. We are grounded in purpose, thankful for our opportunities, patient in difficulty, generous with our time and money, fully awake to the significance of every person and moment in this life, but not held captive by any of it.

Walk in this freedom, my fellow believers. Experience anew the joy of the freedom of God. Let’s be a light in this generation so the power of God will be evident to all.

If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

20160917_160659

Wow. I’m not a fast reader, but I inhaled this book. Metaxas lifts our eyes to see again the hope that is America. How long has it been since you’ve listened to retellings of the heroes of our nation’s history? Have you heard or thought about the exceptional circumstances that formed this country of ours? When was the last time you felt proud of America?

Metaxas is an amazing historian with a talent for shining a light on good and noble things. He speaks of things we don’t hear much about anymore: patriotism, heroism, moral leadership, divine purpose.

I don’t know if our nation can be revived, but this is an excellent step in that direction.  I am reinvigorated to pray for our nation. But I do wonder: can our people show mercy to our nation and extend it to the world if they don’t even know what mercy is or that they need it? The ultimate call, in my mind, is for the Church to rise up and fulfill her calling to go, teach and make disciples. Very inspiring book.

Equipping and encouraging with information and knowledge