Tuesday, January 29, 2013


But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

  I find that the longer I walk with God, the weaker I seem to be. Perhaps it is just a matter of perception, though. Maybe I am merely seeing my own weakness with greater clarity and deeper understanding, for I don't doubt that it was always there. I once thought that a small devotional time with God in the morning was all the spiritual nourishment I needed for the day. Now, however, I find that my thoughts are straying constantly away from Him and I need to call on Him for help in reigning them in. I find it critical to store His word in my heart, for I never know when I will need it. At every point when I fall, every time I am a sullen and snappish old mama or allow myself to entertain resentful thoughts toward another person, I find that it is only by immersing myself in the Word, humbling myself in prayer, and admitting my complete and utter ineptitude to walk alone that can return my thoughts to praise and peace.  A moment in the word is not food enough for this spiritual weakling, it seems.
     I will be the first to admit it: I am no thing of great spiritual beauty. I can be downright unbearable, and I am appalled and embarrassed to admit how easily bitterness takes root in my heart. I find it distressing how readily I will turn from the very pages of the Word of Life and respond in anger to a conflict among my children. I have noted before that in these instances and many others, I have invariably taken my attention off of the Lord and fixed my gaze instead on some problem or slight, whether real or imagined. It is only by His strength that I ever accomplish anything worthwhile at all. I am truly a branch that is useless if vital connection with the Vine is damaged. God forbid that it would ever become severed entirely! I need a strong connection in order to thrive, for I have no life of my own but depend completely on His life flowing through me.

     It is my hope, however, that God will use this infirmity of mine in some way that I cannot imagine to bring honor and glory to Himself. Indeed, if there is anything praiseworthy in my life at all, it must only be attributed to Him. I assure you that I, on my own steam, cannot produce anything worthwhile at all! I am humbled and ashamed of the feebleness of my faith when compared to many who have walked the narrow path before me.

     Just last night I finished reading a biography of Nate Saint to my children. Here was a man who, by all worldly standards, was strong. He had great perseverance and ingenuity. He managed to become a pilot despite a debilitating bone infection when he was a teen and survived a crash that left him with a broken spine, overcoming obstacles that would have me throwing up my hands in defeat if I am honest. In the jungles of Ecuador in the 1950s, he engineered and implemented a device that would save many planes from stalling out due to problems in the gas line with no actual equipment save some cans of cooking oil and scraps of tubing. His energy and creativity knew no bounds, and many of the inventions and systems he came up with continued to be used until the advent of greater technology made them less necessary. He had so much to give, and give he did: He gave his life for the Gospel. All of these devices and creative endeavors were wholly performed in service to the Lord to help spread the good news of ultimate forgiveness to many tribes in the jungle, including one, the Waorani, who did not even have a word for "forgiveness" in their language. It was at their hands that he died, but his story does not end with his death.
     From the perspective of the American dream, it would seem that Nate Saint's life was squandered. He was cut down early at the age of 32, leaving behind a wife and three children. Certainly his agile and innovative mind could have earned him great financial rewards and social acclaim. However, his effort was not expended to increase wealth nor for status, but to serve a God who by human judgement seemed to abandon him at his moment of greatest need.

But this is not the case.

     Nate Saint understood the risks of his endeavors, and he considered them to be acceptable risks. Mr. Saint puts it like this: "People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives ... and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted." He knew that his expenditure would not be for nothing. He knew the value of giving all of his heart, mind, and strength to serve the One who died to save him. He was willing to lay down all, even his own life, to bring this news to others.

     If you are not familiar with his story or with the legacy left behind by his death, I encourage you to explore and find out. It is a thrilling and mighty story. His sister went to live with the tribe that speared him and his 4 colleagues, not only preaching love and forgiveness but showing it in her very actions and by her refusal to harbor bitterness against them or attempt to avenge her brother's death. Revenge was the key component of Waorani culture, the very cogs that turned the wheels of their existence. The concept of sacrifice and undeserved forgiveness perhaps never spoke louder than it did to those people who lacked the vocabulary to discuss it. The deaths of the five missionaries laid the foundation of a road that, in all likelihood, would have crumbled atop a lesser framework.
     The many like these that have laid their lives down as freely as Jesus Himself laid down His give me pause. I have to ask myself, am I willing to go to any lengths, to endure any discomfort, to even stare unflinching into the darkness of the grave for Him? Do I trust Him enough even to keep toiling away at a job He has given me that appeals to none of my own desires or dreams? Do I trust Him enough to leave my finances in His hands, not fretting over the needs of tomorrow but only being content with the provision of today whether abundant or meager? Do I love Him enough to feel His compassion flow through me and extend a hand of love or friendship toward those I would merely endure if left to my own devices? Do I love Him enough to do anything and everything He tells me to without excuse or delay? Lord, if I do not, change me so that my entire being is consumed by unquenchable devotion to You!

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 
Psalms 73:25-26

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.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! -- Patrick Henry

     The war has begun, it is true. In fact, it has waged for years. I read the above quote to my children today as a part of our history lesson and have been reflecting on it since. For one matter, it is no small thing that such fiery men as this were willing to take up arms to defend a liberty that they hungered after in their very bones. Starting early on in our days as a group of 13 British colonies, there was a desperation in the hearts of the people on this land for freedom. The earliest ones were willing to give up the luxury of routine and normalcy to explore; to endure hunger, cold, and want; and yes, sadly, to eventually conquer and supplant the native peoples of this land. Men laid down their lives and others suffered scorn, hardship, and loss in order to find the freedom to worship God without interference from an often corrupt, political and power-mad church dictating the terms. Many of our forefathers, in fact, the very ones we call "Pilgrims" were here simply because what they saw meted out in the state-run religion had nothing to do with what they read in the Scriptures. They came so that they could find peace from persecution. Others fought and died that we might have a government based on a more even distribution of power than the kingdom they fled from represented.  That is one matter.

     The other is that we also have this same cry of, "Peace, peace," in a spiritual sense but here, too, we find no peace. We are at war in a plane of existence only marginally and incidentally tied to the political climate we now live within. We are at war against powers that we often cannot understand and frequently categorically dismiss as superstitious nonsense. And how much more easily are we ambushed when we walk through this spiritual battleground blithely as if peace were the theme of the day! I must state to you now that, if you are not a believer in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible, I am afraid some of this will have no meaning for you. Do not, however, make the mistake that your disbelief in any way negates the reality of the spiritual battlefield. I fear that you are perhaps more easily ambushed and may in fact be doing the work of your own soul's enemy without even realizing it. This land is still at war, though many of the ardent voices of the past have grown faint in the growing cacophony of combat.

     However, we must not lose hope, fellow Christian, not on the political front nor in the realm where spiritual hostilities rage. We are told only to stand after we have done everything, to simply stand firm on the truth. We can also be encouraged that our Commander in Chief--the King of kings Himself--has already overcome the world. There is nothing that can happen out of the reach of His arm, and we have no need to fear those who can merely enslave or injure our bodies. We are free; the truth has set us free, and we are now free indeed. We not free to do as we please, but free from worry that what we do will bring the divine plan to a grinding halt. Free from fear that our government or any other authority can cause more than momentary despair in the light of Eternity. Free to realize that even the heaviest demand or the most grueling labor asked of us is truly just "light and momentary affliction... preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison," (2 Corinthians 4:17).

     In each and every trial we face, we are learning more and more to deny ourselves and take up our cross. In day-to-day irritations or dealings with irksome people, we are being taught to lay down our lives and treat others with more honor than ourselves. In all of this, we die daily to ourselves and are crucified with Christ until it is no longer us who live, but He who lives within us. And so I agree with Mr. Henry in some ways. I would rather throw away my life than willingly take up chains of slavery, both in a physical and a spiritual sense.

     Physically, I do believe that our country has become complacent, believing that the freedom they enjoy is a right, forgetting that it is a privilege that has been dearly bought. Spiritually, I believe that many of us also take for granted our freedom that Christ paid so exorbitantly for, abusing it or using it lightly as a social outlet or as a thing done only on Sundays for the sake of appearance. In both realms, we are standing aside, mildly watching while the shackles are clamped in place. In one stead, I would echo the final words of Patrick Henry and would rather die than see my freedom violated.

     However, in the other, more imperishable and thus more vibrantly urgent sense, I would willingly lay down the whole of my life for the One Who gave His blood as a ransom for me. I would be free, not physically or politically free, nor free to choose my own way but instead free from choosing the wrong way of sin. I would be free from my peevish, spiteful, and prideful self; free from enslavement to sin and shame altogether and taking up a new cry; "Give me liberty through my death!"

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. -- Galatians 5:1
  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, January 9, 2013


Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 
Psalms 51:9-17

     Speaking of sowing and reaping, the life of Jacob is a prime example of that. Travel with me, if you will, back to the time when Jacob and Esau were young men. Israel was not yet a nation; indeed, the father of that nation had not yet been humbled and had his name changed by God. He was a rather arrogant and self-serving man by the name of Jacob --"supplanter"--and he had a twin brother named Esau. It had been prophesied while the boys were still in their mother's womb that the older would serve the younger, and Esau was born first with Jacob clutching his heel. As the boys grew, Jacob became his mother's favorite while Esau was the favorite of Isaac, their father.
     I have to wonder if Jacob's mother had shared the prophecy with him while they worked together. She may have told him that he was destined to be the greater of the two. Whatever the reason, this young man was rather cocky and self-serving. When his brother asked for some of what simmered in the pot one day, Jacob offered to trade it for the birthright--the inheritance that was Esau's right as firstborn--and Esau, apparently not really caring to become the patriarch after his father, accepted and forfeited his right to inherit his fathers wealth and land for a bowl of hot stew. So the younger son, treacherously taking advantage of his brother's indifference, supplanted the older.
     Now, while Jacob was doubtless acquainted with the things and ways of God, it is evident at this time in his life that he did not know the Creator personally. He certainly did not display anything recognizable as humility at any rate, and it seems he had a habit of referring to God as "your God" when talking to his father. Rather, it would seem that he believed in his destiny, but he did not believe that God would grant it to him but instead he set out to seize it  himself. We see this in the incident of the stew, but also as Isaac was old and blind and preparing to bless his favorite son before his death. Jacob and his mother conspired to deceive the father and Jacob stole his brother's blessing as well. He had once again supplanted his brother, this time by outright deceit.
     This act, of course, caused Jacob to have to flee for fear of his life, and it was when he was alone and God reaffirmed the covenant He had made with Abraham and Isaac to this young reprobate that we see Jacob even trying to bargain with God, saying "IF You do this and IF You do that as You promised, well, then I will serve You."
     But of course God had a plan for bringing this haughty head low, and Jacob eventually came to Laban, his mother's brother. Here began the reaping, and here is where God began to use the very fruit Jacob had sown to bring him to a breaking point. With Laban, Jacob the supplanter, found the bride he longed for and worked 7 years for supplanted by her homely older sister. Jacob, the deceiver, was deceived by his uncle on numerous occasions. He may have sown a few seeds, but he certainly harvested an abundance!
     This was not an overnight process, and I could go on and on, but suffice to say that it ended up with Jacob, 4 wives, 12 sons, probably a few daughters, flocks, herds, and almost certainly a houseful or two of dysfunction heading back home to reconcile with Esau, the brother who wanted to kill him. Jacob was reasonably terrified and went to great lengths to appease his brother, but first he sent his company across the river and spent a night alone.
     That night, for the first time in our reading, he admitted that perhaps he wasn't such hot stuff after all. That night he begged God as a man who has no other hope begs. And that night he wrestled with a Man, who was not likely a mere man, but to the best of my understanding was the Lord Christ Himself, who is not bound by time or space or any portion of His own creation just as a painter is not bound by his paints to make the sky blue. But I digress.. He wrestled with God until he could wrestle no more, and then he simply clung to Him, saying, "I won't let go until You bless me." God laid a finger on his hip and put it out of joint, making sure he was always aware of his weakness and need for help, but He also gave Jacob a new name: Israel, literally translated God Prevails.
     I don't know about you, but I see myself in this portrait. I, too, was arrogant and proud, out to claim my rights regardless of the cost to others. I, too, was for years more interested in "looking out for #1" as the cliche goes. I, too, tried to promise my service in exchange for some blessing or another--as if my paltry service is worth a cent to the Almighty! I, too, harvested the fruit I had planted before, and I, too, wrestled with God before I finally gave up and just held on to Him with all I had left in me. He also continually gives me reminders of my weakness before Him and my vast need for Him. And He also gave me, perhaps not a new name just yet, but a new nature. But first, I, too, had to first be broken, contrite, and humble.

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, January 3, 2013

Sowing Seed

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. 
Galatians 6:1-10

     This principal of reaping and sowing is one of those instances where God has imprinted a spiritual truth in His creation. As an amateur gardener, I know this to be a fact, for every time I have sown potatoes, I have reaped potatoes. If I sow zucchini, I will later harvest zucchini. Last year I planted seeds that I had saved from the previous summer and labeled "butternut squash." To my surprise, a few weeks later I found a rather large pumpkin growing where I expected squash. Though I fully believed that it was squash that I planted, the seeds were not fooled for they were pumpkin seeds all along.
     I see this very principal at work in my walk with the Lord as well, for He is not deceived either. I can think well of myself for doing this or that thing, but if my heart is selfish and desires the glory that is His due, it is selfishness I will reap. It is not what I think I sow that matters, you see, but only what is actually planted that will bear fruit: If I sow seeds of discord, I will one day eat the bitter fruit of of strife. If it is pure, humble love that I sow, well, my harvest will be much more palatable. God is never mocked, and I will only harvest that which I put my effort towards.  I should never expect to enjoy the delightful fruit of righteousness if the work I do is self-serving and willful, even should it be done to look good to others and not simple and humble obedience to my God. He knows my motives and He knows what I sow, even if I should mislabel it.
     Parenting provides a rather quick way to watch the sowing and reaping effect, for it is true that in many cases what we sow spiritually here on earth will not be reaped this side of the grave. As I ponder that fact and reflect, I can see much of what I have sown in my children's hearts beginning to show the first bloom that will become the yield of my labors. Not all of it is good; in fact, much of it humbles me and stirs me to repent. I see angry responses that reflect my own impatience with them in the past. I see sprouts of selfishness and am forced to recognize it as seed that I planted with my own hand. There are many weeds in my little garden, and I will be hard at work this year to undo the poor planting I have done in the past.
     But God is also faithful, for I do not only see weeds but some thriving, strong plants that I hope will become oaks of righteousness for the display of my God's splendor someday. My children are thoughtful, far more so than I ever have been. Just yesterday my girls and I walked our dogs and stopped to chat with a neighbor whose truck had broken down. He was waiting on a tow truck and it was cold. My sweet little darlings talked about ways we could help him as we walked away and finally struck upon the idea of bringing him some hot chocolate. We rushed home, made a quick cup of homemade hot chocolate, and I drove them back to the stalled vehicle so they could deliver it themselves. However, I cannot claim credit for these children who think of others far more than I do. This is the planting of the word of God, and this is the only seed in my garden that I have pledged myself to work diligently to protect and nurture at all costs.
     God is not mocked. I will reap what I sow, and not just as a mother. The kids are simply a part of the greater spiritual lesson, and they must also learn to sow carefully with the harvest in mind. This year, I pray that God will help me to sow good spiritual seed in the hearts of my children and everywhere I go. I ask that He will goad me to cast away the unsavory seed before it is planted and that He will strengthen me to destroy the weeds I have already allowed to take root. I wish to be mindful this year, always looking to the future with every word, every thought, every action; hoping always to take every thought captive to obey Christ and planting only that which will bring my Father joy.
     God is not mocked. We will, all of us, reap what we sow. Will you be intentional about what you sow this year?

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.