Thursday, September 29, 2011

When He Trusts


"Whosoever cometh unto Him, He will in no wise cast out.
Though dishonest as the thief,
though unchaste as the woman who was a sinner,
though fierce as Saul of Tarsus,
though cruel as Manasseh,
though rebellious as the prodigal,
the great heart of love will look upon the man who feels himself to have no soundness in him,
and will pronounce him clean,
when he trusts in Jesus crucified."
~C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, September 29

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something Jesus Would Never Want You To Do


When my husband and I were first married,
we were 'counseled' by Christians regarding the bearing of children:  
Yes, children are a blessing of the Lord, but God wants you to be wise.
As though receiving a blessing from the Lord could be unwise.

The problem, of course, is that those who give advice along these lines,
have made their wisdom the standard.
Setting our own opinions and preferences up
as the way to really honor God drives people from Him.

My son told me that years ago, a teacher told him,
"Tearing the papers off of crayons is something
Jesus would never want you to do."
Frankly, it made my heart hurt.
Because he said he believed her.
He thought he had sinned against God.
I wish I had known it sooner.

"If you really want to be a God-fearing person, 
you will wash your hands 
in the prescribed (but extra-biblical) manner 
before eating your food.
If you are truly a believer, you will keep a spotless house, 
so that others can see the cleanliness of Christ in your dust-free home.
If you are sold-out for Jesus, you will forfeit marriage 
in favor of communal living in an elder-dictated community.
Jesus would never walk with a cigarette-smoking sinner.
Give up your tobacco so Jesus will speak to you.
My preferences are God's preferences, 
and I can show you how to please Him."

Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."
And He didn't say a word against the tearing of crayon wrappers.
But He did have a few things to say against teaching men's opinions
in the place of God's requirements.

It causes a conflict when we read what God's word actually says.
We attribute evil to God when we see Him doing the things
men have told us are wrong to do.
But He is good, and He does good.
Or we hide ourselves from Him (and from our brothers and sisters in the Lord)
because we think He's angry.

And when it cost Him so much to give us access,
I don't think we're doing His work when we push others away from Him.
Furthermore, it trains the consciences of those we teach
to dismiss real evil as inconsequential
while carefully obeying worthless edicts.

That's not the Gospel.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making More Sins Than God


My husband made a delicious dinner tonight.
The conversation was good, too.
We asked our kids a bunch of questions which weren't planned,
but which I think were important.

Do people ever dishonor marriage in the way that they live? (Yes.)
Should we, then, say Christians shouldn't get married?
Can we do evil things with money? (Yes!)
Is money evil? (No!)
Can we honor the Lord with money? (Yes!) 
If people might do evil things with money, maybe we should ban money.
Can we do evil things with our bodies? (Yes.)
Does that make our bodies evil? (No!)
Can we honor the Lord with our bodies? (Yes!)
Can we do evil things with meat? (Yes.)
What kind of evil things could you do with meat?
(You could take it away from hungry people! You could be a glutton!)
So is meat evil? (No!)
Can we use meat in a way that honors the Lord? (Yes!)
Maybe, since people can use meat in a way that is evil, all meat should be destroyed.

There is an interesting passage in 1 Timothy 4:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times 
some will depart from the faith, 
giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 
speaking lies in hypocrisy... 
forbidding to marry, 
and commanding to abstain from foods 
which God created to be received with thanksgiving; 
for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 
If you instruct the brethren in these things, 
you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, 
nourished in the words of faith 
and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 
But reject profane and old wives' fables, 
and exercise yourself toward godliness. 
For bodily exercise profits a little, 
but godliness is profitable for all things, 
having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

Reading the whole thing in context makes it plain
that the forbidding of the gifts of God,
which He has given us to be received with thanksgiving,
and which are made holy by His word, and by prayer
is a teaching of deceiving spirits, 
a lie, 
a doctrine of demons, 
a departure from the faith, 
and a profane old wives' fable.
Pretty strong words.
Good ministers of Jesus Christ reject such teachings.
The 'discipline' of abstinence from these things
(which are holy if done in holiness)
profits little.
But godliness is always profitable.
And godliness comes by faith in Him, and in His work.

"Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated
by destroying the object which is abused.
Men can go wrong with wine and women.
Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?"
~Martin Luther

"Thomas Shepherd, pastor and friend of Governor John Winthrop  
(Puritan governor of Massachusetts),
advised against forbidding a temptation.
He wrote Winthrop to argue
that forbidding a temptation provokes God
because it makes 'more sins than (as yet is seen) God himself hath made.'"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Like a Child


Mundane chores, when done alone, are such a perfect time to meditate.
And tonight, while I washed the dishes, I thought about being a child.
When I was seven I wrote a very concerned letter to the president.
He wrote me back a two page letter.
But this isn't about that.

Sometimes I think about Jesus telling His disciples they needed to become as a little child.
Why?
What about that?
What do they have that we lose?
Or what don't they have that we pick up?

My mind wandered back over the letter I wrote,
and I thought about the boldness.
About the lack of concern for what power thinks of them.
About the singular focus on the problem at hand,
undistracted by worries about protocol.
In a library, loudness.
In a church service, they don't sit like ladies.
In a hurry, dawdling over wonder.
In distress, howling.
No stuffing it down until it manifests in illness.
In joy, laughing uproariously.
They're real.
They don't pretend that good is bad and bad is good.

I don't think God is as fond of our niceties and protocols as we are.
I think He isn't afraid of reality.
I think He likes us to interrupt Him,
to cry on Him,
to notice His handiwork,
and look at the ants.
To yell out louder when the ones surrounding Jesus tell us to leave Him alone.

My children have screamed me from the far corners of the house when they needed me
and I wasn't responding.
They have hollered me out of a sound sleep.
They don't give up.
But they're more persistent at it when they're littler.
As they get older, I find out about problems sometimes hours or days later.
"You were busy. I didn't want to bother you."
As they get older, they let me sleep.
The youngest one still bursts into our room in the morning
to shove paper into his dad's face and demand a paper airplane.
Such a lack of respect for boundaries.
My body is mine, and your body is mine, too.

Is there ever more intimacy in the relationship between a mother and her child
than when he's living inside her?
And after birth, when the baby is nourished from nothing but her body?
Is that what You want, Lord?
For me to live in you?
To eat from You?
To let You wash me with Your living water?
To be clothed by Your hands?
Comforted only in Your arms?
Obsessed with where You are every second of the day?
Watching You?
Wanting You?

Eventually they will have morphed into the socially apt adults we all hope they'll become.
They'll give shy deference to the 'important' people in life.
They'll hold back their happiness so they won't look like fools.
They'll sew their mouths shut to keep from blurting out the truth.
They'll spend years without crying even though they're heartsick.
They'll ignore the moon, and look at their bank statements.
I hope they revert to their childhoods with Him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Eliminate the Need

Industry Decayed
'Then some Pharisees and teachers of the Law 
came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked him, 
"Why is it that your disciples 
disobey the teaching handed down by our ancestors? 
They don't wash their hands in the proper way before they eat!"
Jesus answered, 

"And why do you disobey God's command and follow your own teaching?"'

Can I make a list of things to do
and refrain from doing
that will create in me a clean heart?

Can a kosher diet cleanse me of the internal dirt?
If the Spirit of holiness living in me does not make me holy,
all the teetotalism in the world leaves me
morally bankrupt and condemned.

The sufficiency of Christ is a crucial doctrine.
If Christ is sufficient,
there are no second class citizens in the kingdom of heaven.

When we add to the righteousness of Christ,
we trample Him,
and we trample His children.
We say, "Jesus, You aren't enough --
Your holiness is not as holy as my list."

The scripture says, "Be led by the Spirit
and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh."
But we want to eliminate Him from the equation.
We want to remove the need for the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When we make our list of extra-biblical rules for the truly holy to follow,
we are attempting to rid ourselves of the need for God's Spirit in us.
We set ourselves up in His place --
where we ought not to be.
Wherever we begin to preach ourselves,
we cease to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians are the workmanship of God.
Individually handcrafted masterpieces.
And we attempt to wrest the work from Him,
patent it,
and machinate the work.

If the blood of Jesus Christ
and the power of the Holy Spirit
are not enough to make me holy,
what will?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recast

Some time back I stood in a cemetery in front of a monument erected for men lost in the civil war.
It was sobering.
I can't get out of my mind the phrasing of it.


"Not painlessly doth God recast and mold anew the nation."


I thought about the pain of those
who sent their loved ones
to fight a war within and against our own nation.
Of the families who lost them because of an evil that had been tolerated for so long.

I pray that the pain of September 11, 2001,
and all the losses since
would be comforted by the God of all comfort,
and that He would recast and mold anew our nation.
That there would be new life and love
born again in our land.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Defining Lowly


It's such an old-fashioned word.
Out of date.
But we haven't replaced it with something modern and understandable.
How do I update 'lowly'?
Because we need a good word to recognize His character with.

Jesus said, "I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls."
We'll find rest working for Him.
Working with Him.
Because He doesn't heap on burdens and weigh down His tired sheep.
So I am trying this morning to define 'lowly'.

He isn't average, but He's among the average.
He came by way of a woman in such a way that guaranteed
He was looked down on from the very start.
Born in an animal shelter.

He isn't base.
At least not as we understand it.
It's funny how many of the words that interchange with lowly are insulting.
Because low is despicable to us.
Baseborn.
Cast down.
Common.
Commonplace.
Ignoble.
Lowborn.
Mean.
Mundane.
Menial.
Obscure.
Poor.
Servile.
Simple.

But I guess if He is willing to define Himself
with a word that means so little to us,
He must be comfortable with the low creatures that we are.
So that we who are cast down can approach Him freely.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wednesday's The Hardest

I was given a heritage I hope to pass on.
A heritage of grace.
A heritage of prayer.
A heritage of privilege -- the privilege of being a part
of seeing the Lord's hand of help extended in answer to prayer.

Several years ago my Papa mentioned to me his method of praying for his family.
He has five children.
Plus their five spouses.
With their children and their children's children,
he has sixty-two people he considers it his responsibility to pray for regularly (if I counted correctly).
That's just unsolicited prayer because we are his.

I also want to be faithful in praying for my family.
So I paid attention.
He told me he gives one day to each of his children,
and prays for all those who came of them on that day.
He said, "Wednesday's the hardest day -- that's the day I get to your mother.
I have to allow a little extra time for them -- I start on Tuesday."

Will one of my children, in my lifetime, represent 30 souls?
Because that's how many souls are in the family just under my mother.
He told me he knows the name of every one of his grandkids and his great grandkids.
Many people never meet their great grandparents.
My children are prayed for by name by theirs.
Every Wednesday.

After my first conversation with my Papa about this,
I wrote out the days of the week,
and distributed my husband, my children, my parents, my grandparents,
my husband's parents, my siblings and their offspring over the days.
And a few pastors, missionaries, and churches I feel responsibility for.
It looks a lot less daunting to pray for a short list daily than a list I can't possibly get through.
It isn't a life habit to me yet.
I first began a couple of years ago, and have not spent all of those days carrying it out.
But I hope to hit my stride in it and run with endurance.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What I Tell Them In The Dark


Yesterday an old friend wrote and asked for prayer -- mentioned being bombarded by fear.
Oh, how I relate.
Is your chest seizing up?
Can you feel it creeping up your throat, and trying to choke you out?
It comes often to me, too.

Sometimes my children wake in the night afraid.
I am more intelligent with them than I am with myself.
I pray with them, and I say, "Do you know what Jesus said?
He said, 'Fear not, little flock: 
it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.'
Don't be afraid, little lamb:
it makes God happy to give you His kingdom."
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