Friday, July 27, 2012


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Ephesians 6:10-18

I have spent the last several days processing the Aurora, Colorado shootings. I have a deep sorrow for those among the victims who may have died without Christ. I am heartbroken for the families who lost members and who have no hope because they do not know and trust the Lord. I ache for the injured who are grappling to make sense of this thing which would be senseless, save for the fact that I know that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. For those who are unaware of that fact, what happened is purposeless horror, and my heart is crushed for them. I even feel pain for James Holmes, the man who stormed in, guns blazing and left a bloodbath in his wake, for he, too, has been most heinously deceived. Yesterday, I read that at least one family had begun a lawsuit against the theater, of all things. This, too, grieves me, because these people are desperately lashing out, trying to find someone to blame and some way to exact retribution.

The truth be told, there is someone to blame. Satan, that deceiver of old, the accuser of man and of God, the restless destroyer whose fate is sealed and who is all the more fiercely determined to mock God and to delude and devastate that part of creation which was originally crafted in God's image. That ancient dragon's schemes are relentless and I am sure the anger, the bitterness, even the lawsuits that are budding will bloom into a sickly-sweet aroma of victory for him.

Not all will let him triumph, however. He is not the only character in this story; he is merely the usurper whose rule has been exposed as evil and overturned, and he is wreaking havoc until the return of the King. The fact is, God originally gave dominion over His creation to Adam, but Adam turned his back on God, choosing disobedience over leadership and thus ceding his authority to Satan. That old goat has gloated over this triumph since and has attempted to hold the entire world in his sway, propagating lies and striving to undermine God's truth.

God, of course, intervened and sent his Son to pay the ransom for Adam's choice, and thus the serpent's rule was challenged and proved false. There will come a day when the Son will come and claim what is rightfully His, but in the meantime the devil is battling to annihilate and con as much of humanity as he may drag away from service to the proper King.

All of the tragedies that play out on earth are symptoms of this greater, more invisible battle. Trying to make sense of this or any other terrible event without understanding the role of sin or the greater spiritual battle that rages behind it is like trying to cure an illness without knowing what a virus or a bacterium is. In both cases, a person may hit close to the mark quite by accident, but there will be no true grasp of what has been done.

No matter how dark the hour or how cheerless the news seems, there is still hope. For God is still alive and active in this story as He is in all others. There is good news in this calamity; hope in the face of obvious evil. That hope lies in Jesus. He alone is the true Victor, and He offers His peace to all who will come freely, trusting in Him and Him alone. It seems senseless, perhaps, but if there is a greater spiritual battle going on, then there is a greater reality behind what we can see. We can sense it; for all of us have a deep, inner perception that there is Something greater than us, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. As children, we knew it unquestioning; as adults we often discount it as fantasy, though we are drawn to it. Superman, Spiderman, X-Men--all of them a human fabrication of that gripping desire for Good to conquer Evil in the end.

The fact is, Good will conquer evil in the end. The war has already been won, and what remains is the enemy's desperate skirmishes as he attempts to destroy the realm that has been wrested from him before the appointed time of its reclamation. Things will get uglier before the end--that much has been foretold as well. But in the end, those who trust in Christ will overcome. In Him, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). In Him, we can take heart, for He has already overcome the world (John 16:33). In Him, we will find that peace that passes all understanding to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). In Him we meet the God Who Sees, the God Who Heals, the Rock, the Comforter, the Ancient of Days who never changes and whose love endures forever. In Him alone can we make sense of this increasingly senseless world. In Him we have hope, not because of anything that happens in this world, but that even after our bodies wear down and expire, our future is secure. Won't you trust fully in Him today? His offer stands--it is up to you to accept it.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 20, 2012


     Just the other day as I was working in my garden and contemplating the possible refinance of our house, it struck me how incredibly wealthy I am. Honestly, the weight of it took my breath away. What I realized was this: I live in a country privileged enough to assess the value of a property by its attractiveness and convenience rather than the feasibility of obtaining food from it.

     That may seem like a small thing, but I assure you it is not. It was not many decades ago that any one of us would have given the majority of our time to the collecting and preparing of food for storage, hoping only to stock up enough to pull us through the winter. The value of a place of residence would have been in the sturdiness of the structure, the nearness to a water supply, and the possibility of having a milk cow or two, some live beef, a few chickens for eggs and meat, and a sunny place to grow food. Our concern would not have been in having a perfectly balanced diet, but in having enough food for the year so that we could have any kind of diet at all.

    This thinking led me to remember that, in many places, people still live this way. There are children who have never had a full belly in their lives. There are moms whose daily hope is that they can lug home enough muddy water to keep their families alive for one more day. These do not have the luxury of deciding not to cook a particular dish because they prefer the taste of something else; if they have food, they eat it. Many do not have mattresses or bed frames--many do not even own shoes. To so many people in this world, the idea of decorating a living space or color-coordinating fabrics, carpets, and paint is an utterly foreign and entirely frivolous thought. If they could step into any one of our homes, they would be awed by the sheer sumptuous nature of our lifestyle. A trip to Target or Wal-Mart would be totally overwhelming as they tried to take in the sheer volume of stuff. The gadgets and gizmos that many of us take for granted would be down right shocking to those who are not even in the habit of having basic needs met.

     We are truly wealthy. I do wonder, though, for how long? Can this opulence last forever? Can it even last many more decades? It is a sobering thought to realize how fragile a thing our wealth truly is. A good string of natural disasters could reduce us to basic needs again--fighting to feed our families, to find clean water, hoarding our existing clothing and food. I wonder how long it would take us to redefine our ideals of value.

     I suppose these are not happy thoughts. With the current drought, the other natural disasters in recent years, the rising costs of fuel and groceries, and the continued slowdown of our economy, it does not take a terribly creative mind to imagine a dire future in which these things only worsen. It is not difficult to foresee a future time when we are forced out of our affluent bubble into the harsh, cold reality that greets much of the world each morning.

     So what hope have we, then? Well, in truth, if what we value is comfort, pleasure and the pursuit thereof, assorted gadgetry, and the latest and greatest models of everything, then our hope is fragile indeed. These things will certainly fail us sooner or later, and none is guaranteed--at least not without the purchase of an extended warranty.

     There is, however, one thing of value that we can cling to even if we should be faced with financial ruin, economic and social collapse, or any major disaster imaginable. That is the Kingdom of God. It is a thing of eternal and unparalleled worth that will never diminish in value or break. If we surrender our lives to Christ, we are promised a place in that House that will not perish. But surrender we must, laying aside all that we hold dear to cling to Him and Him alone.

     Once we have truly and completely yielded to Him, giving Him preeminence in our hearts; making Him the focus, the crux, the motivation by which we live and work and draw breath; then we find that He will allow us to keep some--but not all--of what we have gladly relinquished for His sake.

     You see, He requires only our entire allegiance, and He will suffer no rival, be it so small a thing as a favorite hobby or a teeny-tiny little addiction to technology -- or anything else. The beauty part, however, is that He is the most valuable Person we can ever meet, and His Kingdom is everlasting. Once we devote ourselves completely to Him, loving others because He first loved us and abiding in Him, utterly wrapped up in preoccupation with Him, His love, and to His service --we have found something of supreme worth. We will then find that His words to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [our daily needs] will be added to you," are true. The difference is, they will no longer have any hold on us.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 8:14-18

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27-33

 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4

This is the refrain that I keep repeating to myself at this season of my life, although my version goes something more like this:

Where there are no children, the house is clean, but abundant joy comes by the company of a child.

I think this to myself as I scan my house. The stained carpet. The remote-control-car-battered baseboards. The stray colored pencil left by my creative one. The hand prints in funky places on the walls. The multitude of books lying half-read and scattered across the living room sofa. The socks abandoned inexplicably on the stairs in the middle of summer. The relentless duties of cooking, cleaning up, and laundry. The room full of homeschool materials. The endless stream of crafts, drawings, party favors, toys, and assorted oddments that have taken up residence in my home. The closets and drawers that I can never quite find the energy to organize. And so on and so forth.

If I had no children, it is true that much of this would be a non-issue. I would have a smaller, cleaner home. I would have sparkling windows, freshly-painted everything, maybe even a well-tended garden. My dogs would behave. I may not even have dogs. Or cats. And so on and so forth.

But there is so much I would miss... The sweet morning greeting of a still-sleepy child. The spontaneous hugs. The hilariously random things they say. The precious moments snuggled up sharing a book or movie together. Giggles and shrieks of laughter. That deep, adoring gaze that I sometimes catch in a quiet moment. The delicious moment when you have encouraged them in a way that no one else can quite manage. The endless stream of drawings, love notes, and homemade gifts. The excitement of birthdays, Christmas morning, and Easter. The "Ah-Ha!" moments when something clicks as we read the Bible together. The privilege of seeing them grow to love the Lord. The somewhat scary, somewhat exhilarating feeling of watching them grow from a tiny, helpless newborn to young men and women. The wonder of seeing the world for the first time all over again through their eyes. And so on and so forth.
I am glad for my not-perfectly-clean house, or at least for the reason behind it. True, raising children is the most challenging and difficult job I have ever had. It is simultaneously frustrating and rewarding. It is humbling and it it causes me to rely on God in ways I probably never would have otherwise. It is scary when I think of the consequences of failing, of the many painful things that can happen, of the hardships that they may have to endure. However, it is also the most intensely powerful emotional experience I have ever had, and it has given me new insight on what it means to be God's child when I see what it means to be a parent.

And I choose to overlook my mess in favor of the awesome and enthralling privilege of loving these three small people and shepherding them into adulthood.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

Daniel 3:14-18
     In recent weeks, God has been speaking to me about the things I trust in. I long to be a person who trusts in Him and Him alone, to say in adversity as Job said, "Shall we receive good from God, and  shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:20). I know that in the past, I have often trusted more in my ability, but lately that seems to be sliding away. My memory, once nearly photographic in quality, is now spotty at best and has begun to fail me more often than it serves me. My hands, never exactly nimble, are experiencing spells of numbness and my fingers often feel awkward and clumsy. The energy I once had to get up early and stay up late, accomplishing so much in between times, is flagging and I find now that sleep claims me if I am still for very long. So much for ability!

     At first, these things and many others caused me a great deal of distress. I would agonize over the fact that I seemed to need wider margins than ever in my life and mentally flog myself over the many tasks I had forgotten. I found this idea of being stripped of my native abilities to be exasperating and distasteful, and I railed against it for a season. However, after some time of reflection, I have come to embrace it as this, too, is a reminder that while my "outer self is wasting away, [my] inner self is being renewed day by day," (See 2 Corinthians 4:16). In dislodging my self-reliance, God has caused me to more and more rely on Him to get things done. Of course, in order to do this, I must also learn to trust Him to set my schedule, an aspect of control that I find I am still struggling to disengage.

     As I have walked through this new season of my life and am becoming more at ease in it, I find myself questioning more and more where my trust truly lies. There have been times in the past where I was tested and proved false, my faith more in the abundance of provision or in the tranquility of my circumstance rather than in the Provider of both. Now, as I finally begin settling in to life as His servant, it is my fervent hope that I will trust in Him no matter what He allows to happen in my life.

     My hope has shifted, you see. My hope is not in God to save me from pain, from suffering, from debt, or from disease. My hope is simply in Him. Period. He has already saved me from sin, and for that I am eternally grateful. Whatever He allows in my life, I will choose to trust, though the way be difficult and the purpose be hidden from my sight. I know that He is my reward, not riches; He is my comfort, not circumstance; He is my portion, not health or abundance. Those are all wonderful gifts to have and to enjoy, but I know that tat any moment hey may be removed without warning or recompense. In the breadth of a heartbeat, everything that I hold dear may be snatched and my entire life can be altered--except for my Rock, the God in whom I trust. He alone will never change, He alone will never fade, and He alone is what I will cling to when the tides turn.

     In part, it is helpful for me to remember the many who have trusted in Him throughout history. Joseph--hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, imprisoned for a crime he refused to commit--remained steadfast and eventually was allowed a glimpse of God's purpose in his pain. Daniel--enslaved and his life threatened both by the temper tantrums of Nebuchadnezzar and the weak will of Darius--continued to trust in God and worship Him alone and was delivered. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego also declared that their God was able to deliver them from the fire, but even if He would not, they would still choose Him over the golden image. Job said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him," at a time when his family, his possessions, and even his health had been cut off.

     There are many others, none perfect but each a reminder that God is worthy, that He is true, that His ways are inscrutable to us and yet perfect in purpose and in timing. It is a blessing that we may occasionally glimpse the wonder of His plan, but it is no less a blessing to rest on the fact that we do not need to understand in order to trust Him. Not all of God's heroes saw their fortunes restored or themselves protected from evil. Paul was flogged, stoned, thrown in prison, and most likely beheaded for his service to the Lord. Isaiah was sawn in half for his faithfulness. Peter was crucified. The lives and deaths of these men, too, serve as reminders that our hope is in God alone and not in position or circumstance. However, once we can wrap our minds around the fact that He is our portion, our inheritance, and our reward, we will finally have true peace, knowing that whatever our lot may be, our Father has His hand in it and will bring about His good. When we live only for His glory and pleasure and not for our own, we will never again go unsatisfied.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.