Friday, December 31, 2010

As You Really Are


Show me Thy ways
Teach me Thy paths
Free me from all of my fears.
Trusting in You is so easy to do
When I see You as You really are

As You really are ~ God and King
As You really are ~ Lord of everything
As You really are,
Help me to see You as You really are.

As You really are ~ risen and living
As You really are ~ just and yet forgiving
As You really are,
Help me to see You as You really are.

I love this song. I was reminded of it again this morning when I read the end of Andrew and Emma Murray by Leona Choy:

"Murray urges us to 'gaze and gaze again, worship and adore,
and the more we see Him as He is, the more like Him we must become...
by letting the heavenly likeness reflect itself
and shine out in our life among our fellow men.
This is what we have been redeemed for, and let this be what we live for.'"

Look at Jesus. Behold the Lamb. He takes away the sins of the world.

Aware


I want to always have my ear turned to hear Him, like a mother is always listening for the new baby's cry -- even in her sleep. "Sorry -- gotta go. I hear the Lord calling."

When I would have a new baby, sometimes my husband would send me away to shop for a little while alone. It blew my mind how a couple of hours into it, my body would make me aware that my baby needed me. I would head to the checkout, wherever I was, and drive home. Sure enough, I would arrive to find a wakeful baby who was ready to eat. To think the Lord is like that with us. Aware of our needs. We ought to be assured that the hunger pang that wakes us connects us to Him as surely as the insurge of milk connects the nursing mother to her baby.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At The Table


"Now, behold, two of them were traveling that same day
to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem...
While they conversed and reasoned,
Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
...Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets,
He expounded to them in all the Scriptures
the things concerning Himself.
Then they drew near to the village where they were going,
and He indicated that He would have gone farther.
But they constrained Him, saying,
'Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.'
And He went in to stay with them.
Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them,
that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him;
and He vanished from their sight."
(From Luke 24)

As I read this to my children this morning, I thought about Hebrews 13:2, which tells us not to forget to entertain strangers, remembering that some who have done so have 'entertained angels unaware'. Such a colorful phrase.

They did not recognize Him on their seven mile walk with Him. They did not recognize Him through His heart-burning exposition of the entire Old Testament to them. And although Jesus was not above inviting Himself to peoples' houses for a meal, in this instance, He would have just kept going had they not pressed Him to stay. They recognized Him at the table in the breaking of bread and in prayer. What if they hadn't shown hospitality?

Don't you love being pressed to stay with people? Having your plans changed by urged hospitality? My husband one time came home from work and told me that some people were coming to stay the night with us and have dinner with us. They were only five minutes behind him. They were a touring German couple he had run into. We spent that night and a day later talking about the things of the Lord with them, stirring them to holy living, and it was so fruitful and so obviously Spirit-led. I don't normally invite foreign strangers to stay in my house with me. It scares me. But a Bible study would not have produced the beautiful fruit the hospitality did. We asked some friends on short notice to eat dinner with us one night, and the girl said, "Oh, I love spontaneous hospitality!" I like that expression.

Just as this was on my mind, we read an account of George Washington's life in Virginia. It said that he sent someone to stand near the crossroads sometimes to 'waylay travelers' to come to dinner at his house. I love to be 'waylaid' to come to dinner.

Monday, December 27, 2010

And the Hills Disappear


"For the mountains may move
and the hills disappear,
but even then
My faithful love for you will remain.
My covenant of blessing will never be broken,"
says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

~Isaiah 54:10

Friday, December 24, 2010

God in a Body


 The language in the old hymn is far more beautiful than what follows. But, oh, the Incarnation -- the beautiful mystery of the ages. Making it plain only sets off its dazzling splendor.

Listen: the announcing angels are singing
the magnificence of the newborn King:
the end of hostilities; free pardon to the offenders--
friendship restored between God and sinners.

Full of joy, stand up, everyone!
Join the victory celebration of heaven;
Yell out with the angels,
"The Savior was born in Bethlehem!"

Messiah, worshiped by highest heaven--
Messiah, the everlasting Lord:
Wanted for a long time, see Him come
and live in a hovel here.

Clothed in flesh, look at the Godhead,
Welcome God in a body!
Happy to live as a man with humans,
YHWH is salvation, our God with us.

Greet the Prince of Peace from heaven!
Welcome the Source of Holiness!
He brings Light and Life to all
He lifts Himself up with healing for us.

Softly, He lays His magnificence aside,
and is born to put an end to death,
born to lift the sons of dirt,
born to make them live again!

Listen, the announcing angels are singing
the magnificence of the newborn King.

Do you recognize the hymn I paraphrased?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Bookmark in Affliction


I have been for some time slowly working my way through Edith Schaeffer's book Affliction. I bought it in 1995, I think: I started it in 2010. It is a book that sometimes leaves me weeping, and often leaves me nodding, and writing a prayer in the margin. The bookmark I have in it is a plain strip of card stock upon which I wrote, "In all our afflictions, He is afflicted."

That ministers to me so much. Fellowship with Jesus in suffering makes a temple out of a pit.

I read some time back about a study that showed that being touched by a loved one reduced pain in patients -- I think it even lowered their blood pressure. In the midst of wracking pain I remember the comfort I received from my husband's hand laid on me. When we suffer, learning to recognize the touch of His hand is one of the benefits of the experience. Unlike our medical caregivers, who have often not experienced whatever we are being treated for, our Great Physician is afflicted in all our afflictions. The difference between care administered by doctors and nurses who have suffered themselves, and those who have only read of suffering is huge. Our High Priest is touched with our weaknesses -- He suffers our hurts. And He lays His hand on us in them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Darkest Day


For many years, I have overheard disdainful comments about the celebration of Christmas in December.

"It's a pagan celebration of the winter solstice."
The trees are evil.
It's too commercial.
It's the feast of Saturnalia.
Jesus was not born in December.

Personally, though, I love that for a short season every year I hear the Gospel in song in public places. That the whole world considers Immanuel, God With Us. That His humility and His compassion for us are something to pause over even to those who haven't yet received Him.

It is the darkest time of the year, and He came to us in our darkness -- the Light of the world. When my third child was born, I looked at her and broke down because I thought about Him. That He would condescend to a human birth -- an arrival that requires washing for its messiness -- just overwhelmed me. I think it is appropriate to celebrate the arrival of the Light of the world in the darkest days of the year. He is Light, and every one of us who has received Him has had Him come to us in our darkness. Dark minds. Dark hearts. Dark futures.

I saw a news article today that said that this year the winter solstice and a lunar eclipse are coinciding for the first time in 456 years -- making Tuesday the darkest day in over four centuries.

Joy to the world: the Lord is come--
Let earth receive her King!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Consciousness of Failure


"Let us trust Him and praise Him
in the midst of a consciousness of failure and of a remaining tendency to sin.
Notwithstanding this,
let us believe that our God loves to dwell in us;
and let us hope in His still more abundant grace.
...No more speak of the feebleness of your consecration.
Our mistake is, I think, that we form our own ideal
of an abiding exhibition of power and success
which is not according to the mind of God."

~Andrew Murray

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Like Losing Time


"When you first begin waiting on God,
it is with frequent intermission and failure.
But, do believe God is watching over you in love
and secretly strengthening you in it.
There are times when waiting appears just like losing time,
but it is not so.
Waiting, even in darkness, is unconscious advance,
because it is God you have to do with,
and He is working in you.
God, who calls you to wait on Him,
sees your feeble efforts, and works it in you.
Your spiritual life is in no respect your own work;
as little as you begin it, can you continue it.
It is God's Spirit who has begun the work in you of waiting upon God.
He will enable you..."

~Andrew Murray, Waiting on God

Friday, December 10, 2010

God's Plan


"Understand God's mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself.
In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments...
Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him.
Then  your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught,
and you will overflow with thankfulness."
(Colossians 2:2-7)

God's plan is Christ. Mysterious. Beautiful. We have no wisdom and no knowledge in ourselves. But in Him they lie hidden. And when we let our roots grow down into Him, we draw our strength and our sustenance from Him. Letting our lives be built on Christ, we reject the alternate foundation of anything else. Christ is our base. He is our soil if we would bear fruit. He is the plan of God. God has no alternative route to holiness for me. If I would be sanctified, if I would live -- it is Christ I must live in. If I would be God's child, Christ is my only hope.

If I am trying to grow in holiness outside the soil of Christ Himself, I will wither and die. When I consider Him, I can lift my head in faith, because of who He is. My faith grows strong, because it isn't in me, and thankfulness is unavoidable because He works in me.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Many Things


"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now," Jesus told His friends on the eve of His crucifixion. "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." (John 16:12,13)

It is remarkable to me that Jesus restrained Himself from telling them what He knew they needed to know, but could not yet understand. He considered them in the state that they were in, and held back. But even more amazing to me is His trust in the Holy Spirit's work. He trusted that in leaving them without telling them these things, and sending the Holy Spirit to them, they would have the teaching they needed. If God With Us can trust the Holy Spirit to speak to His own, I think we would do well to also trust Him. He trusted the Holy Spirit to fulfill His mission.

Many years ago, a friend of mine who had been straying from the Lord returned to Him with some baggage. Our relationship in the past had been one of me telling my friend what was right, and my friend, being a genial person, would do it. My friend called me one night for advice about the baggage. I, being a person of many opinions, knew exactly how my friend should handle the issue. But I plainly felt the Holy Spirit telling me to be quiet, and not offer an answer. I suggested my friend pray and ask the Lord for wisdom, which He promises to give us when we ask. I had the great joy of seeing my friend learn to walk. We prayed with one another, and I trusted the Holy Spirit to teach my friend. And He did.

Too often we try to take over His job, and we get in the way of others learning to hear from Him for themselves, and learning to walk on their own feet. But people who walk on their own feet, although they may stumble and trip, have stronger legs than those who are carried everywhere. And the Holy Spirit is a better teacher than I am.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Wind Blows


My husband mentioned to the children tonight that if they are ever confused or upset, and they need to talk, that they can talk to us, and ask us questions, and although we won’t always know the answers to their questions, we would be happy to pray with them. He told them he didn’t want them to feel like they couldn’t talk about things. “And if it’s something private, you can ask, and we will talk to you privately.”

Without warning, a child sobbed out, “Sometimes I feel like I hate them (indicating the other children), and I don’t want to!” I held the child in my arms and heard the cries of torment over this hateful heart. It wasn’t self-pity. It was the horror of what was inside.

“This is why we need God to give us a new heart, a clean heart, because that same wicked hatred is in everyone’s heart.” I told the child that when I was a little girl, I knew that I was like Cain, with murder in my heart. I assured this child that although that is a very wicked sin, God’s word promises us that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to wash us clean of all that sin. I said we needed to pray and ask God for a new heart, that the Lord would change that.

“I have been praying about it,” the child said. I prayed, too. We prayed 1 John 1:9, and we asked that the Holy Spirit would fill the child's heart with His love, and wash that sin away.

I said it was because the Holy Spirit was working in the child's life that the hateful heart disturbed the child -- there could be no peace with it. I talked about the Holy Spirit’s work -- that He is there to convict us both of sin, and of righteousness. That He points to our rotten hearts, and says, “This is sin -- it needs to go.” And that He points to good things, and says, “This is good.” And I prayed the child would be able to hear when the Holy Spirit is speaking. And I mentioned how I have seen this child choose to be kind and to do what is right even when I knew it was not easy. The child left my arms smiling and free. Two siblings were lined up for hugs.

“The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.
It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
(John 3:8)

It is a beautiful thing to see the effect of the Holy Spirit interacting with someone right before your eyes -- though you cannot see Him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Jesus Said to Failure


 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?"
"Where I am going, you cannot follow Me now, but you'll follow Me afterward."
"Lord, why can't I follow You now? I'll die for Your sake."
"Will you? You'll without fail deny Me three times before dawn." (John 13:36-38)

This is where the chapter breaks. I think this is where most of us would break it, too. Peter, you failure. Your failure is why you can't follow the Lord now.

But Jesus was still talking. In light of this devastating news to Peter, Jesus says, "Don't let your heart be troubled."  

WHAT?! How could he not let his heart be troubled? Peter would rather die for His sake and go with Him than be left behind, but Jesus tells him that in fact, he's going to fail Him utterly three times before dawn

"Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."

Peter's failure did not trouble Jesus, and He asked Peter to not be troubled by it either. God's love, and His work on Peter's behalf were sufficient to provide for Peter's failure. Trust Me, Peter -- I won't let you go. Your failure can't nullify My work.

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

Although you will fail multiple times, Peter, and although you can't follow Me, I have you in mind. I will complete what you will always fail to complete. I'm coming back for you. You'll be with Me, but not by your efforts. I will do it for you. You just believe Me.

Jesus spoke of Peter's coming failure as inevitable. Peter's failure was inevitable because Peter was a failure.

I am a failure. You are a failure. It is inevitable that failures will fail. But Jesus never fails. And His words to His friend, His wannabe follower, His disciple, His beloved failure, on the very eve of his failure are, "Believe in Me."

If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Trying to Assess a Soul


 Sometimes the kids ask me about other people. "Is he a Christian?" is a pretty straightforward question. Some people would look at the person, and immediately say 'yes' or 'no' based on church membership, or good works, or a fish bumper sticker. Sometimes I don't know the answer. Jesus said that if we believe on the One God sent (Himself) we would work the works of God. I do not claim to know the heart of every person I've met. Some Christians are pretty rough around the edges. Some unbelievers are very sweet people. Sometimes I don't know what to say.

"Is Mr. X a Christian?" Elisa asked me.
I smiled. "I'm not really sure. He's a very strange person. On the one hand, he does many kind things and is nice. On the other hand, he uses pretty bad language all the time. I don't know what he believes."
Elisa looked puzzled. "He doesn't speak good English?"
I guess I just added one more superficial thing to judge a man by. 
Whoops.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Membership


 A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a friend teach on Mary and Martha and their friendship with Jesus. He talked about good friends, and the way they walk into your totaled house, and instead of judging the mess, lend a hand because they know you and realize your week was rough. He talked about Martha's frantic service, and Mary's fellowship. I've kind of had it in the back of my mind since then.

Two of my sisters have been in town for the holiday. I didn't clean my house to welcome my little sister and her husband and three kids the other night. (And believe me, the house could have used the attention.) But it's my sister. She loves me. She keeps an amazing house herself, but I don't care if she sees my dirty dishes -- because she's my sister. She's not here to see how my house looks. And, aware of the remodeling that has been going on forever, when she walked into my kitchen (which was not yet cleaned up from dinner), and which showed off my cluttering skills, she said, "It's beautiful!" That would not be the comment out of the mouth of an acquaintance. An acquaintance would see the mess. But my sister saw the improvement.

I share DNA with my family. It isn't the only way to gain membership to a family, but it's how I got in. We are members because we are part of one another. My husband married in. We also have a sister we accepted in. She doesn't share DNA with us. She has no legal standing with us. But she's ours. We take her part, and she takes ours.

Sometimes it seems like rather than being a family, as Jesus asked us to, we change family into something else. Club members have an artificial likeness to one another. There are entrance fees and dues to be paid in order to reap the benefits of membership. Club membership requires conformity. And no fellow member of the club is going to be accepted without anxiety into my trashed house -- because my membership in the club could be affected by my mess. I am only accepted on the basis of my performance.

On the other hand, the biggest losers in the family have full membership. The laziest ones. The stupidest ones. The immature ones. The uncool ones. The ones who went away and crept back, battered. The ones who agree with all my opinions and the ones who oppose them have equal part in my family. There is no attitude of "all those who hold my opinions are on a higher plane than the rest."

I have been chased by my sister with a butcher knife, and she's still in. I've been wrongly accused of things; I've tried to poison my sister with harmless but disgusting substances; I've given out at least four black eyes to the same brother; yelled at members and been yelled at by them -- and none of us have been excommunicated from the family.

Every one of us would have been put out of a club.

Bad news for one of us hurts all of us. And causes for rejoicing are equally joyous. And I think that as each member has grown older and matured, the other members have become more precious and more valued. Our relationship has become more layered. We are friends as well as family. And we have learned to communicate our disagreements without resorting to gouging each others' eyes out.

I'm glad Jesus offers me membership in a family, and not a club. I am accepted in the Beloved.

"Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you." (Romans 15:7)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whole Offerings


I stayed with my kids at my mom's house while my husband and my dad did an out-of-town job. It also happened to be the day we both received our last phone call from my baby sister (who is pregnant) before she left the country with her husband to be a missionary in a far-off land.  It was kind of an emotional day.

My mom had one last text, called and left one more voice message to say, "I love you," and sat down at the piano to cry and sing.

Hear my cry, O God
Attend unto my prayer
From the ends of the earth
Do I cry unto Thee
And when my heart is overwhelmed
Lead me to the Rock
That is higher than I
That is higher than I

I cried and worked in the kitchen. We've done this before. I am the oldest in a large family. The sister right behind me, a number of years ago, left pregnant with her husband for a far off land. We all waited at the airport with them, tears streaming down our faces. An observer of our tears chided us for them. Not feeling the loss himself, he could not comprehend our grief. We have seen my younger brother off to war. And another younger brother leave for another coast, not knowing when we would be together again. Of course, 'dangerous' places are harder to bear. But every loss hurts.

My children were concerned and confused at the tears, and came around asking questions. I listened while my mom explained her singing and her crying to the kids. She led them through a number of David's prayers to the Lord for help to show them what she does when she is overwhelmed.

But I was thinking of another of the things David said:

"I will not offer to the Lord whole offerings that have cost me nothing."

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Check From a Check


My husband and I are perpetual offenders. When it comes to returning library books, we are always late. And when it comes to time spent at the library, we have a number of times outparked our spot. Our city has this sweet habit of giving out courtesy tickets, which basically say you deserve a real ticket, but since it hasn't been more than once in thirty days (I think it's thirty), you're getting away with it this time. We had a real one several weeks back. We didn't even discover it was on our car until the next day, after a rain.

From a financial background of unemployment and underemployment, a $15 fee for parking in a space that is reserved for the public to park in makes me angry. Okay, I get pretty angry about most fees that always serve to oppress the poor, and never hurt anyone who has enough. I think they are wrong. I think they are unreasonable. To threaten citizens who have done nothing immoral or reckless with the loss of their car if they don't pay extortionary fees to the city just makes my blood boil.

And so, after struggling for some time to find a dang parking spot at the police station, and finally parking in a spot reserved for a local attorney's office in direct opposition to the sign that said so, with boiling blood and a sharp tongue unleashed, I stalked into the police station after first trying the wrong door and finding it locked. I saw the window I had to approach to pay my fee. I pulled out my check book and prepared to say some scathing thing to the clerk who waited for me to write. And my eyes fell on the message that I had printed above the signature line: Jesus rescued me. And God sent Him for you, too. I bit my tongue, and wrote in silence. And then I said, "Thank you."

Thank You.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And We Know


"Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.
For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Now He who searches the hearts
knows what the mind of the Spirit is,
because He makes intercession for the saints
according to the will of God. 
And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose...
What then shall we say to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?"
(Romans 8:26-28, 31)

Likewise. Earlier in the chapter, we are told the Spirit is life. It says the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

And it says He helps our weaknesses. I am so riddled with weaknesses. And especially, I think, when it comes to prayer. I just don't know what to pray for. I bring my children to the Lord in prayer, and I feel like I stumble over my words, and don't know what to ask.

I pray for my brothers and sisters, and sometimes it just comes out as a groan. "Lord... help." But He does. He is the One who searches the hearts -- and knows what the mind of the Spirit is. And He prays for us according to the will of God.

And not only that, but apparently He answers His prayers, too, and works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Even While


"Mom? You know how Jesus is everywhere at the same time?" my son asked me.
"Yeah."
"Well, if He's inside of time and He's outside of time, that means He is talking to Moses even while He's talking to us."

Wow.
Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am." The past tense does not really apply to Him, and everything He was, He is. And just short of my ninth birthday, I had no such thought.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Crying


 This life is full of so much grief. There's nothing we can do to remove it from others. But we can cry with them. Let their griefs hurt us, too. Suffer with them.

My friend is crying today. More than one of them, actually. Anniversaries of loss, present losses heaped with them... so much to cry through. I look forward to heaven. To seeing my friends with joy filling their faces, to the touch of His hand as He wipes our faces dry, and to the end of loss. The end of death. The New Testament tells us to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

When my uncle died in July, I went to my parents' house and sat and cried all day with them. It doesn't remove any of the loss, but there is something in knowing we aren't alone in our misery. So many of my friends are on my heart today, and I'm crying, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

They're Watching


I overheard my seven-year-old daughter's telephone conversation with her cousin. As a parent, it's always amusing to hear their interpretation of life and things. Well, maybe it sometimes makes you hold your breath as they take out of their brains the twisted, mutilated version of a conversation about something else entirely and apply it to something you never did. But this one was a blessing.

"We pray over our bills together, because we don't have enough money for them. But God has been helping us a lot."

One day, as I was explaining our bills to the kids before we prayed, this same daughter asked me, "Mom, why are you telling us this?"

"Because I don't think that you seeing the wilderness we are in in any way limits God from being able to help us, and I want you to pray with me."

I have been praying the Lord would show my children who He is, that they would know His handiwork. I don't really want them to worry, but I also don't want them to not be in the habit of going to Him in time of need. And I think the only way they will know to do that is if we show them our needs, and take them with us to Him.

Much of my young faith was formed in distressing situations. I think back to what I have seen of the Lord's help, and it gives me courage to ask Him for help again. I want my children to have that database. And every time He sends help, I think of ravens, and water from the rock, and it reminds me that His arm is not short that He cannot save, His ears are open to the cry of the righteous, and my Father knows that I need all these things.

Let us therefore draw near with boldness 
unto the throne of grace, 
that we may receive mercy, 
and may find grace to help us in time of need.
~Hebrews 4:16

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Blessed

Pouring over the Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog

It warms my heart when I see my children conspiring to help someone else. 

Discussions in our house have included being thankful for such things as we have, and contentment with godliness being great gain. And we've been talking about not having the kind of Christmas they are used to. The kind of Christmas they are used to is a fairly simple one. We buy very little in the way of gifts in a good year. This has not been a 'good' year. But frankly, I think it is a good thing for Christian children to be trained in thankfulness. My kids don't get avalanches of electronic gadgets, piles of clothing, and all the latest toys. And they say, 'thank you' when they open socks and underwear. Contentment and gratitude are so beautiful to look at in people.

In spite of receiving news that their own gifts will be minimal, my children gleefully brought out their piggy banks today to add their money to a small amount we had set aside to participate in Operation Christmas Child. We shopped for hours today, looking for killer deals so the money would stretch as far as it could, praying that the Lord would help us to pick things that would bless the child who gets it. Every year, the Lord lays some different things on our hearts to include, and we wonder about the child who will open the box. We have read stories in the newsletters about volunteers praying as they reached for a box to give a blind boy in the crowd... half expecting to pick the wrong one. The box is opened, and has a Walkman in it (I-Pod, for you newer generation people). A perfect match. We pray that for the box we pack. We talk to the kids about how we don't know this little girl, what she loves or who she is, but her Father in heaven knows every hair on her head, and He is able to bring this gift right to her.

Tonight before my daughter went to bed, she skipped over to me and hugged me, smiling happily. She looked over at the box we packed, and said, "I'm so glad we were able to get that much stuff!" It really is more blessed to give than to receive.

My husband and I have participated in OCC for many years, and when some of our children were younger, the shopping was not always easy. "Can I have...? I would like that!" Over the years, I have watched them change their tone. I think today I heard only one faint: "Mom, could I -- oh, wait! We're picking things for a girl who doesn't get anything." My kids don't complain that we buy more gifts for a total stranger than we buy for them every year. In fact, they give, too. And I am so proud of them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spirit Life



 They came to Him looking for bread, and He said, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

"What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" they asked.

Be at all the church services? Don't use drums in your worship? Wear polyester? Tithe? Be accountable? Don't touch yeast? Beat yourself with rods until you bleed? Don't cuss? Never dress your children up as princesses and superheroes? Pray six hours of every day? Read ten chapters from the Bible every day? Don't smoke tobacco products? Take a Nazirite vow of no grape products, no fig products, and no haircuts? No bacon from here until eternity?

"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

I'm the bread! I'm the Life! I'm the gift of God to you. I've come down from heaven to give life to the world... 

 Then He offended them all. 

"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in Him."

Pandemonium. That was too much. It is too much, isn't it? We recoil. His disciples complained and argued with each other, confused. 

"Does this offend you? ...It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."

I believe Jesus wanted them to understand that communion with Him, being filled with Himself, is the only eternal life there is. He is the Life. How do you explain that to material-minded men? They wanted bread. They looked for signs. But what He spoke, they would not hear.

He didn't explain it to those who got offended and left. But to those who stayed, complaining as they were, He tells them "the flesh profits nothing. The Spirit gives life." All our solutions are flesh solutions. But He is Life. When we believe what He says, we are hearing Him in. We eat His flesh by believing Him. Because God is Spirit. Jesus came physically as a man to take our part. But He is eternal. He is Spirit. I think He was saying, "Here I am. You can have Me. I am given for you. You can have every part of Me. I am your provision. I am your bread. Live on Me."  

Ecclesiastes says that He set eternity in the hearts of men. We are created in His image. But sin has slain us. We walk around on this earth as the living dead. The death sentence of sin is on each one of us. Starving. Our spirits withered and terminal. No hope. But Jesus was sent to be our food. To be our drink. To join Himself in all His Life to our dead spirits. And all we have to do is believe.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

O My Soul

Candlelight hamburgers
Many times growing up, we would gather to the table for dinner -- all nine of us -- and we would sing our prayer to the Lord. My mom has a very loud singing voice. I hear it in my mind. I see my family, all my younger siblings, and my mom and my dad around the table singing. Sometimes others were gathered with us -- saints from far away who would stay with us, or friends who just couldn't stay away. Such sweet fellowship around the table: long hours of happy talk and stories of what the Lord had done for others. It had more effect on my faith than years of church services.

Bless the Lord!
O my soul!
And all that is within me!
Bless His holy name!
For He has done great things --
Hallelujah!
He has done great things --
Hallelujah!
He has done great things --
Bless His holy name!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Do You Know Why?

"Mama, do you know why God made eggs and toast fo' us?" my three-year-old asked me.

"Why?"

"Betause He loves us!"


"Do you know why Jesus made sour cream fo' us?" he asked me in between licks of the sour cream spoon.

"Why?"

His eyes twinkling, and his face covered in it, he said, "Betause He loves us!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

And Faith Eats, Too.


I've been thinking a lot about Elijah lately. In obedience to the Lord, Elijah gave the king a message: "You're not getting any rain or dew these years unless I say so." (You can read this story for yourself in 1 Kings 17.)

Then the Lord tells him to flee -- sends him to a brook to drink the water and receive charity from birds. Relying on the charity of birds doesn't sound like a responsible plan. And then the brook dried up because there was no rain -- at his word.

When the brook dried up, the Lord told him to go to Sidon (Lebanon). "See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you."

A widow? That pretty much guaranteed poverty and want. But Elijah went and found her. She was gathering sticks. Her son must have been very young, or he would have been gathering the sticks. When he asks her for some bread, she answers with reference to the Lord, the Living God -- and explains that she is making the last meal for herself and her son. They plan to eat it and die. All she had was a handful of flour and a drizzle of oil.

Doesn't that excite you? God chose a woman on the edge of starvation to 'provide' for His prophet. In a way, though, He chose to provide for a woman on the edge of starvation through His prophet. Here's this woman with some knowledge of the Living God, and nothing in the bank, and one pathetic meal's worth of food, and God says she's appointed to provide. The prophet tells her to give him a little first, and that God said her bin of flour would not run out, and her oil would not run dry until the Lord sent rain. And she believed him.

I wonder what would have happened if she had said 'no'. She would have starved, I think -- and her son. But the prophet would have been provided for through some other widow.

I think every time she opened that jar and looked inside, it looked nearly empty. I think every time she went to cook it was an act of faith. And every time she ate, it was food from nothing. The Bible says, "The just shall live by faith." And: "we walk by faith and not by sight."

Sight says to go to the land where His name is known, find the richest, most powerful religious leader in that town, and make your appeal. It does not say to go find a Lebanese widow with NOTHING and ask her to be your hostess.

Sight takes water from cisterns -- planned in advance, filled by careful engineering, and guarded over seasons. And it toils to bring forth a harvest of grain, to grind it, to store it, to ration it, to hoard it.

Faith takes water from the Rock and bread from the desert. Faith reaches into the jar and pours out the 'last' drop of oil, and hands it to someone else. And Faith eats, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disconnected

I've been baking a lot of bread in my bread machine lately. I was so excited to have another loaf baking tonight. I heard a not-quite-normal sound during the kneading cycle, but neglected to investigate. I opened the machine to take out my bread, and to my dismay found it baked but completely unmixed. I hadn't snapped it into place. The last of my yeast gone. All those ingredients lost. And no bread for tomorrow. The machine works. The pan is just fine. But the connection wasn't there.


"Abide in Me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sick All Along


Over eight years ago I was suffering from an infection whose seriousness I did not recognize. I thought I had a minor problem (misdiagnosed by myself), and watched it as it did not improve. There's a funny thing about watching something bad. When it turns a little worse, you can't tell. You think, Is that worse, or is it the same? And you keep thinking that maybe it's improving. Well, with my misdiagnosed minor problem, which was slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, I lived for several weeks. It began to be an obviously not small problem, but by then I was intimidated by the possible consequences of seeing a doctor. A doctor might tell me it was worse than what I had decided it was. I read in a book that if it was what I was afraid it was, the pain would be excruciating. So I waited longer. Until the pain did become excruciating. Then I called.

He couldn't see me until the next day. When he did see me, he looked worried. He put me on a heavy antibiotic, a narcotic pain killer, and told me to call him if it wasn't obviously improving in twelve hours. And he told me to treat it with heat. I went home and did just that. Part way through the prescribed treatment, I felt an end to my pain, and rejoiced that it was working. I thought the pain killers were making me crazy, so I stopped taking them. I didn't realize I was delirious. When the twelve hours were up, I called and spoke with a nurse, described my condition, and the strange coloration that was now part of it, and was given a hearty, "Sounds like you're getting better!" I never spoke to the doctor.

The next day, my problem exploded. Literally. On the phone with a doctor (but not mine), I was told to bandage it, and that it was an improvement. I didn't want to sit in an ER on a Saturday night with a newborn, so I was glad to not have it looked at. The bandages kept sticking to the wound, and pulling skin off whenever I changed them. My husband looked at it on Monday morning and insisted I call my doctor and have it looked at, because it wasn't right. Something was wrong. I wanted to go see our friends, and wasn't happy to listen to him.

The doctor, when he had finished ripping the bandages off, grew very pale. His eyes looked huge. He said in an obviously trying-to-keep-calm voice, "I'm going to call my friend Dr. A over at the hospital and have her take a look at you." I just wanted an ointment that would keep my bandages from sticking. I wanted to go to lunch. I was still delirious, and my thoughts weren't connecting coherently.

I said, "I just don't want this to be gangrene."

"Technically, that's what that is," he said. He sent me to the hospital with a hug. His eyes looked afraid.

At the hospital, the triage nurse and the ultrasound tech stood with their mouths hanging open, speechless. "How did this happen to you?" one of them finally asked.

I felt stupid. "I don't know. I thought..." I thought it was okay. I didn't know I needed help.

They called the specialist down, and she was fast. She looked at the problem, watched the ultrasound, and said, "We need to take you upstairs now." In a whirlwind, they were lifting me onto a gurney, explaining a surgical procedure I was adverse to, and shoving release forms in front of me to sign.

"I can walk. I'm fine. I want you to do it under local -- I don't want you to give me anything that'll hurt my baby. He's breastfeeding. He won't take a bottle."

The doctor was firm but kind. "We're not doing this under a local. And you can't walk."

In the prep room for surgery, a nurse lifted the blanket to tuck a warm one around me and saw I was still in street clothes. She yanked off my pants. Another lady from anesthesia talked cheerfully with me. She injected me with something. "What is that for?" I asked.

"To help you relax."

Oh. They wheeled me into the operating room, asked me to sit up, look straight up at the big light, and open my mouth as wide as I could. Under the influence of my 'relaxation', I did just what they asked, wondering all along, I wonder why they want me to do that?

When I woke up, I had a gaping wound. Cavern, really. And oh, the relief. It felt a hundred times better. My husband had to be trained to pack the wound, and he had to continue doing it for over three months. It was an ordeal.

Years later, I was pondering the words of Jesus to the Pharisees. He was eating with some tax collectors and other unsavory characters, and the Pharisees were bothered. "Why does He eat with such people?" they asked.

Jesus heard them and answered, "People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick."

Jesus, our Great Physician, is found among the sick. In the past, I always thought the tax collectors were the 'sick', and the Pharisees in the story were the 'well'. But thinking on His words, I remembered my condition when I had an infection that I didn't think was an infection, and when it deteriorated to gangrene, and the pain grew significantly less, and so I delayed seeing my doctor again. I was sick all along. But I didn't think I was sick. I didn't think my condition was serious enough to need a doctor. So I didn't call.

Those Pharisees were sick. In another place, Jesus said they were blind. They needed the doctor, too. But they wouldn't call.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In the Tombs

A cliff on the Sea of Galilee

My husband was reading to me and our children about a week ago from Luke 8:26-39.

It says in the story that when Jesus stepped out of the boat, a demon-possessed man met Him. "And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs." This man was so bad that he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles, but he broke the bonds and was driven by the demons into the wilderness. The passage in Mark 5 gives the additional information that always, night and day, he was in the mountains crying out and cutting himself with stones. And it says he saw Jesus from afar and ran and worshiped Him.

As I listened to this story which I have heard so many times, a question came to me: What do you think this man's biggest problem was? Was his biggest problem being naked? I mean, the inappropriateness of it! Look away, Christian. You don't want to be corrupted by his nakedness. In fact, maybe it would be best, Jesus, if you don't go to the Gadarenes. There's a man over there who hangs out completely naked. What will people think if You are seen with him? You're the Son of God. Consider how it will look.

Was his biggest problem that he was homeless? That he was obsessed with the dead? Was it that he was not hygienic? He was probably covered in infected bloody wounds. He needed everything. He lacked modesty -- even a basic sense of decency. He didn't have a job, because he was too busy cutting himself and screaming. He lacked friends. No one wants to remain with a person so socially retarded. But none of these things were his biggest problem. His biggest problem was not external. It wasn't the nudity, the homelessness, or the medical conditions.

He was full of demons.

And Jesus, our Hero, our Savior, came looking for him. Looking for the naked man. Looking for the homeless man. The one who stumbled over mountains screaming and gashing himself, and didn't go to synagogue. The one who couldn't be bound with the chains of society's guardians. That miserable man who was tormented by entities who hated him -- who wanted him bleeding and screaming out in pain and homeless and naked -- cold in the winter and blistered in the sun, bitten by every insect, driven to destroy himself. Maybe he did have a basic sense of decency. Maybe that was part of the torment. Maybe he was humiliated by his horrible condition. But he couldn't escape them.

I think it's interesting that seeing Jesus from afar, he ran to worship Him. I think the man was desperate. But it's strange that he begged Jesus not to torment him. Was it the demon begging, or the man? Was the man aware of his own horrific guilt? Or was the demon aware that God values His creation, and doesn't look kindly on those who torment them? If the man, especially strange. We do get twisted ideas from the enemy about what God's plans are for us. "Don't torment me!"

When the town came to see the economic damage caused by the demons (a far greater tragedy in their minds than this poor man's long suffering at their hands), it says they found him sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. They had tried many times to bind him with chains that would control his offensive behavior. But Jesus cleaned up the real problem. He set him free from the terror and slavery of his life. And there the man was, at peace, at rest, coherent, and clothed. Oh, I love Jesus. He is not one to put band aids on gangrene. He fixes us from the inside out. Demons first. Clothes later.

Jesus said to the man when he begged to stay with Him, "Go home to your friends and tell them what great things God has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." God's compassion on him was not another chain. And in the freedom he was given, his one desire was to follow Jesus. To stay with Jesus. Can't say I blame him.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Good News?

A friend of mine recently shared a quote from Martin Luther: 

"It is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel." 

I keep thinking about it. 

'Gospel' means 'good news'. And isn't the gospel the best news you ever heard? God loves you! He loves you so much He sent His Son for you. He sent His Son to die so you could live. He paid the price. He opened heaven to you, although you were entirely steeped in sin -- and He is holy. He made a way to have fellowship with you, although your sins separated you from Him. He comes to dwell here in this fallen place, to inhabit our bodies, which were previously temples to sin. He promises help and hope and love and companionship and eternity to us. 

The law is not the way to heaven. The law is the way to hell. 

Because we can't keep it. We can't be holy. We can't be acceptable to Him. But His Son, who is accepted, was willing to trade places with us, and clothe us in Himself. We are accepted in the Beloved, in His Son, with Whom He is well pleased. Do you understand that? In Him, we are well pleasing to God. He is satisfied looking at us in His Son. And His Holy Spirit comes to make a home with us, in us, to bring us into our inheritance.  

And the enemy of our souls makes it a law. An abomination of striving miserable service. A 'you have to do this now because you're saved'. A driven list of musts and mustn'ts. 

Although the Scripture says if you walk by the Spirit you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, the enemy says we can't trust the Holy Spirit to lead us away from sin. We need some laws. And if we listen to him, he'll lead us right out of the Spirit's leading into a straightjacket of our own contriving which can neither keep us holy nor bring forth fruit.

Do you know that what God has for you is GOOD NEWS? He gives rest to our souls by means of His easy yoke. He wants to fellowship with you. He doesn't come with 12 steps to holiness. He comes with His Son and an offer to exchange your unrighteousness with His holiness. And by the same Spirit He makes us alive in, He wants to keep us alive. 



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Educating Faith

"It came to pass... that the brook dried up." (1Kings 17:7)


"The education of our faith is incomplete if we have not learned that there is a providence of loss, a ministry of failing and of fading things, a gift of emptiness. The material insecurities of life make for its spiritual establishment...

"Cherith was a difficult problem to Elijah until he got to Zarephath, and then it was all as clear as daylight... The woe and the waste and the tears of life belong to the interlude and not the finale.

"Had Elijah been led straight to Zarephath he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man. He lived by faith at Cherith. And whensoever in your life and mine some spring of earthly and outward resource has dried up, it has been that we might learn that our hope and help are in God who made heaven and earth."  (F.B. Meyer)

(From Streams in the Desert)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Horse Handling

I was not raised on a farm. I visited one yesterday. My friend wanted to show us her horse performing a figure eight pattern. I went along in utter ignorance. I was handed the guide rope for a pony and told to shake the rope if the pony invaded my space, and not to let her get too close to me. Getting the pony and the other two horses into their stalls in the barn was fairly uneventful. But the beautiful horse which was to demonstrate her abilities for us was 'feeling her oats', as my husband would say.

My friend led her out, and the horse kept wildly trying to do her own thing, breaking out into a short run here and there, and crowding her handler. I kept thinking about that passage in the Psalms which says (in my personal paraphrase), "Do not be like the horse or the mule which has to be controlled with bit and bridle. I would have you respond to my eye." Because the horse was so headstrong, my friend forced her to do boring stuff. Go left. Go right. Go left. Go right. Back up. Walk forward. Circle around. She said she could not have the horse do the figure eight until the horse calmed down and followed her lead. She watched the horse for 'softness' -- a responsiveness to what she asked of her. No rebellion in the holding of the head, no stopping when she said 'go'.

Even in the horse's 'bad' behavior, my friend would say, "She is so smart." As the horse responded without willfulness, my friend added other steps. Even as she exclaimed over the 'naughtiness' of this horse, she would express her love and admiration for this horse to us -- her expectation of future greatness. She wanted to show her off, but the horse wasn't cooperating yet. She would say, "I love this horse. She's so beautiful. When she's trained, she'll be amazing. I'll be able to put kids on her." You could hear the admiring affection in her voice, even as she forced the horse to do what it didn't want to do, and to not do what it did want to do.

It struck me that the horse's master had better things in mind for it than the things the horse was being made to submit to in that moment. She made the horse walk backwards to the barn, and the other experienced farmwoman who was walking with me made a comment about how calm she became. My friend said, "I've found that walking her backwards puts her in a better frame of mind." Do you ever find yourself being walked backward to put you in a better frame of mind? Go left. Go right. Go left. Go right. Circle around. She makes the horses do things they aren't comfortable with. Like be in confined spaces. They make better horses if they've conquered their fears, I guess.

As the farmwoman and I watched our friend work the horse, I asked her, "Do they ever get so good that they don't need the rope?" The farmwoman sparked up a little. "Yes. But I think it's very advanced. This one is too young for that. But they can be trained to respond to movement and signals. They're very visual."

When we went into the barn, my two friends were discussing the personalities of their horses, and what kind of training was good for which kind of horse. I didn't realize each one needed something different. There were charts on the wall laying out horse personalities, and what kind of training would bring each kind to obedience. I skimmed over the chart, and noticed among them a 'distrustful' trait. It said to be gentle with that horse.

My Father is gentle with me. He handles me with such care and skill. And ultimately, He's got a future far in advance of what I can see in mind. And His affection for me and value of me is far more than I have yet attained. He sees what I can be -- what I will be -- in His care.

One more thing: the farmwoman told me this was a horse born to breed. But it was born with some kind of deformity. Something to do with its legs not being straight. The original owner was going to kill it. It was a horse rescued from death, and cared for in love. And it was a horse whose legs were now fine. It was beautiful.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Against Me

I read Genesis 42 this morning. It was famine. Jacob had lost his most beloved son years before. In sending ten of his others to Egypt for grain to keep the family from starving, Simeon was taken captive by a foreign power. And that same power demanded Benjamin, too. Jacob had no choices, and he expected no good thing.

"And Jacob their father said to them, 'You have bereaved me:
Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin.
All these things are against me.
...My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is left alone.
If any calamity shall befall him along the way in which you go,
then you would bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.'"
(Genesis 42:36)

Jacob was not able to see the end. But we get to. We get to see his heartbroken grief and fear. His "I can't take another thing! It'll kill me. I'll die if my sorrows increase." Two sons were dead, and the third would die, too. I read his grieving words, his fearful words, and I cried for him. But I've read the end before.

He said, "All these things are against me."

Were they? They looked like it. It had been years of miserable sorrow. Of Joseph, torn by a wild beast, of ten sons walking in fear and guilt, and of his last son, clung to as 'the one left alone' -- all he had left from Rachel, the woman he loved at first sight and worked fourteen years to get. But reality was, His Father had been working all these miserable things together for his good for all those years. Joseph's loss was his salvation. Simeon's loss dragged Benjamin down there. And Benjamin's loss brought all the rest to exactly the place where God wanted that family -- and to a reconciled, whole, fed condition.

What Jacob said was true. They had bereaved him. But remarkably, God untwisted their handiwork and saved Joseph, Jacob, the ten guilty brothers, Benjamin, and all their family in spite of it and through it. All these things were being worked together for Jacob's good all along. But they were also being worked together for the good of his guilty sons. To restore them all to each other.

Jacob said, "I'll be brought down in sorrow to the grave."

But God had plans for good for him, and not for evil. Plans to give him a future, and a hope. He was right on the edge of having food through the famine, Joseph and Joseph's children, Simeon and Benjamin all given into his hands. He was on the edge of joy, and he couldn't see past sorrow. And the very things he thought were against him, were working for his salvation.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Be Still

This is an old hymn based on Psalm 46. It is attributed to Jean Sibelius and Katharina Von Schlegel (translated by Jane Borthwick). Mary Barrett sang this on one of her cds, and often in person at conferences. 

There are times when my heart races and terrifies me. This song so poignantly addresses my fears and griefs. I play it over and over again, and let its words soothe me.


Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, loves purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Service of Waiting

I read this morning in Streams in the Desert:

"I have sometimes found myself interrupted in what seemed to me a career of usefulness. Opposition came and forced me to go back, or sickness came and compelled me to retire into a desert part.

"It was hard at such times to leave my work undone when I believed that work to be the service of the Spirit. But I came to remember that the Spirit has not only a service of work, but a service of waiting. I came to learn that the desert place apart is often the most useful spot in the varied life of man -- more rich in harvest than the seasons in which the corn and wine abounded. I have been taught to thank the Blessed Spirit that many a darling Bithynia had to be left unvisited by me.

"And so, Thou divine Spirit, would I still be led by Thee. Still there come to me disappointed prospects of usefulness. Today the door seems to open into life and work for Thee; tomorrow it closes before me just as I am about to enter...

"Inspire me with the knowledge that a man may at times be called to do his duty by doing nothing, to work by keeping still, to serve by waiting. When I remember the power of the 'still small voice', I shall not murmur that sometimes the Spirit suffers me not to go." (George Matheson)

I am so thankful for the words that saints have left behind them for me.

"Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" (Song of Solomon 8:5)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Led and Hungry

"Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
being tempted for forty days by the devil.
And in those days He ate nothing,
and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry...
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Holy Spirit to Galilee."
(from Luke 4:1-14)


I read this chapter to my children this morning, and this part leapt off the page at me.

1. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.
2. Jesus was led by the Spirit.
3. The Spirit led Him into wilderness.
4. The Holy Spirit brought Him to a place where He was tempted by the devil.
5. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, and led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus had nothing to eat.
6. Following the Spirit's lead brought Him through temptation without food, and separation from people He loved.
7. Jesus suffered hunger as the result of being led by the Holy Spirit, and being obedient to Him.
8. He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit.

But I thought being filled with the Holy Spirit and being led by the Holy Spirit meant green pastures all the way? No harassment from our enemy? Health and wealth and shiny faces? Can I be in the way of peace when the sun beats down and I hunger?

Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone." He seems to have proven His point. Because He was hungry, and not eating, and He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit. It would have to be the power of the Holy Spirit -- He allowed His physical resources to be depleted.

Perhaps if Jesus had had more foresight, He might have laid up something to hold Him over during this lean time. Or perhaps if He was listening closer, He might have found the smoother path. Perhaps these adverse circumstances were the result of some failure? It says the Spirit led Him.

Just the chapter before this, God speaks from heaven and says, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." And yet He leads His Beloved, the One He delights in, to hunger for awhile. But I love that He made sure it was clear: "I LOVE HIM! HE'S MINE! I AM PLEASED WITH HIM!"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

For Your Good

A quote from the end of Foxe's Book of Martyrs comes to mind: "The Lord has been better to us than all our fears."
 
Being an extraordinarily fearful person naturally myself, this quote has often comforted me. Because looking back, it has been true. He does work all things together for your good. I don't know what that will look like, but I know it is true.
 
I've been reading Genesis again lately, making note of every instance of the Lord's guidance in each chapter (some direct instructions, some interrelational conflicts, some famines).
 
I've been thinking about Joseph, and how the Lord said He had sent him ahead of Jacob and the others to save them. All those many years of suffering without any hope in sight... and he was sent. You can't know yet how this trial will play out -- or what good will come of it, but if you are His child, He works all things together for your good who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And He is still preparing a place for you. There is a reward.
 
"Moreover He called for a famine in the land;
He destroyed all the provision of bread.
He sent a man before them -- Joseph -- who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him."
(Psalm 105:16-19)
 
"Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow or pain."
(Streams in the Desert, September 19)
 
I was in hard labor with my oldest for 26 hours. My total labor was 65 hours. Three hours of pushing, one and a half of that with a vacuum extractor -- and no pain medication. I'll spare you the inventory of damages to myself. When he finally came out, my pale, blood-spattered husband said, "We're not doing this ever again."
 
With my baby in my arms, I said, "Why not? I feel like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound!"
 
Joseph named one of his sons 'forget,' because he said God had made him to forget his suffering in the land of his affliction. God knows how to reward the righteous. And His rewards are so rich that no amount of fetters and irons can dull them. No years in prison can be compared with the riches He has prepared for His own.
 
"I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
 
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me."
 
(Also from Streams)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Atonement Rest

I looked at my calendar today and noticed it was the Day of Atonement: Yom Kippur. Being a Gentile, not raised to observe the Feasts of the Old Testament, I turned to Leviticus 16 to remind myself of its meaning.

"For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you,
that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.
It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls.
It is a statute forever."

I was reminded of Hebrews, which says that He (Jesus) is our High Priest, made like His brethren,
merciful and faithful, having suffered, being tempted, able to aid those who are tempted,
who sympathizes with our weaknesses, without sin, having compassion on the ignorant,
and on those who go astray.
And it says that having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

On the day of atonement, when the uncleanness of the nation was to be addressed, when the sin was to be provided for, the people were told to rest. Not to rest in joy, but in affliction of soul. Sin ought to grieve us. But, still: rest. Because our work is worthless to provide atonement. No good work that I can do can make my uncleanness clean. The work of the Priest is the only work to be done for atonement. The sacrifice. The shedding of blood and the application of it for all.

"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God."
When it comes to atonement, my work is to sit on my hands, afflicted in soul, and hope in God -- and let His High Priest do the work.

"Because He continues forever, He has an unchangeable priesthood.
Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost
those who come to God through Him,
since He always lives to make intercession for them.
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled,
separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;
who does not need daily, as those high priests,
to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people's,
for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself."

Able to save to the uttermost. 
Always lives to make intercession for them. 
This He did once for all.
As one of my teachers used to yell: "THESE ARE SHOUTIN' GROUNDS!" I like to maintain my dignity for the most part, but this passage reduces me to wonder and humility every time I read it. And I want to shout.

"Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood 
He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption."

Eternal redemption. He paid it forever! My day of rest does not end. My sabbath in Christ is eternal. He sat down at the right hand of God. Because His work of atonement is DONE!! I am atoned for. My sins are paid for. I'm clean.

By the Brook

Yesterday I read in Streams in the Desert:

"Hide thyself by the brook Cherith.  (1 Kings 17:3)

"The man who is to take a high place before his fellows must take a low place before his God. We must not be surprised if sometimes our Father says: 'There, child, thou hast had enough of this hurry, and publicity, and excitement; get thee hence, and hide thyself by the brook -- hide thyself in the Cherith of the sick chamber, or in the Cherith of bereavement, or in some solitude from which the crowds have ebbed away...

"None of us, therefore, can dispense with some Cherith where the sounds of human voices are exchanged for the waters of quietness which are fed from the throne; and where we may taste the sweets and imbibe the power of a life hidden with Christ." (From Elijah, by Meyer)