Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving Day

     Hello to both my faithful readers! :-) Just kidding--I do not actually know how many, if any, but I do know that this blog occasionally gets some hits.

     I have been here at this location on the internet, blogging some thoughts about the Word of God for a fair number of years now, but it is time for a change. I have been working on a new blog for a little while, and today is the day I am officially "moving" to my new site. I have changed things up a bit, though I do plan to continue writing as the Lord teaches me. I have enjoyed my time here, but I think the new blog address will be easier to remember.

     So if you have enjoyed following me here, I welcome you to my new site! Even if you have not enjoyed it, I still welcome you. ;-) You can find me by clicking this link or by cut-and-pasting the following address into your browser:
     Hope to see you over there soon!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

She Speaks 2014

     Earlier in the week, I returned from the She Speaks Conference in North Carolina hosted by Proverbs 31 ministries. It was quite a weekend. It began, as I have found most modern worship events to begin, with music and flashing lights. Since flashing lights and my migraines are not the very best of friends, I started my experience worshiping with head down and eyes closed. But the speakers... oh my. It was well worth the risk. God is doing some seriously powerful things in the lives of many of these ladies.

     Throughout the weekend, He also reaffirmed His specific, clear words to me using almost each and every speaker I heard. I had never heard of many of these names before, due in part to the fact that I am relatively oblivious to anything that does not directly enhance my study of the Word, my homeschooling efforts, or my to-date vain attempts to discern one species of sparrow from the next. In this case, I must say that some of these names did actually penetrate the dense curtain of my preoccupation for a change. God spoke directly through them and confirmed what He has already told me, and so their names are now etched on my heart as sisters that I will someday embrace as we rejoice in our Father's house. Perhaps I will even have those sparrows down pat by then.

     I began the weekend mostly overwhelmed by the sheer mass of lipsticked and high-heeled humanity. I shuffled around in my peasant skirt clutching my standard-issue P31 bag (which, by the way, thankfully saved me from walking about clutching a sheaf of file folders) and tried to look as if I had some idea of what everyone was talking about when they said, "platform" or "hashtag."  After the opening music, I settled in, for Lisa TerKeurst's opening message was on making room for God to set up divine appointments in our schedules. If you have read this meandering blog for any time at all, you will know that God has been, rather loudly and extremely patiently, giving me the same message--and that I have finally begun to hear him.

     Then there was Shaunti Feldhahn speaking on the dire importance of truth and fact checking because it is the Truth that will set people free. Amen! And Christine Caine, a lady I had never heard of from Austrailia, saved me after a day of classes that mainly reminded me of how little I really know about anything but the writing part of the writing industry by reminding us all that if God has called us, He will find us and we do not have to "help" Him at all via self promotion or what-have-you. Which is a relief to me, by the way, since I still at this point did not know what a platform was nor how I was to go about having one. Or standing on one. Or whatever it is that one does with one.

     Suffice to say that I was renewed and encouraged in surprising ways. In a spiritual manner, I was floored to see that the prayers myself and a couple of friends have been sending up for revival are being answered at least in the hearts of some, and that God is working in huge ways in many places that I am not often privileged to see. What an honor that He even allowed me a glimpse! I was also equipped by one Suzie Eller whose class on freelancing made me think, "This I can actually do! Hurrah!" She gave such incredible information and was very helpful. I had an unexpectedly pleasant meeting with a publisher in which we nearly forgot to talk about my book idea (which is not really ready for much exposure at any rate) but instead just enjoyed a little woman-to-woman chat.

     All in all, it was a very exciting and encouraging weekend. God showed up in big ways and honestly gave me the same message He has been giving me for years: Teach my children diligently and keep writing for His glory (trying all the time to put down my pride, of course). I left feeling more than ever the urgency and thrill of my call in Christ, and encouraged that there may be some things I can do a little differently just to keep the old quill sharp. So in that, there may be some changes here in the future. I may--or I may not--revamp this little online journal of mine. I certainly will be working hard on getting the new school year under way for the next week or two. And maybe, just maybe, I will start sending out some feelers and see what kind of feedback I get. If the time is right, if I am faithful to work, and my heart is not too full of ambition, who knows what God will do?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 
Proverbs 3:5-7

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10
     I don't know about you, but if I am entirely honest, I am not sure what I would do in Abraham's position. God spoke to him and told him to leave his homeland, his father's family, and everything he knew to go... where? Abraham (or Abram as he was actually called at the time) was not sure. God didn't say where; He just said that He would show him. Abraham obeyed, and so we see his name many times in the "Hall of Faith" chapter of Hebrews. He is also called "the father of all who believe," meaning that he is our father in faith if we, too, have faith. 
     It occurs to me as I read through this chapter of Hebrews and through Romans 4 that it was no small faith that Abraham showed with that first act of obedience. Almost everyone else had something to fall back on, some story of the faithfulness of God in the lives of those going before. Noah, perhaps, was the exception, for he also obeyed a strange command, believing God against every shred of evidence that his senses could supply that the building of an enormous boat was simple foolishness. He built anyway, and he saw the reason why later. Abraham also stepped out in faith--literally--following the prompting of God to travel around until God told him, in essence, "Here, right here is the land that I will give to your descendants, who by the way will be exceedingly numerous."  Abraham saw the fulfillment of the promised son even after he and Sarah were long past the age of childbearing. But Abraham did not see the Promised Land owned by anyone of his own blood. He died owning only the tomb he and his wife were buried in. It just struck me that there is something here of dying to the material promise to see the fulfillment of a promise that extends beyond this life! 
     That is, however, not my point. My point is that Abraham's faith for that first act must have been a deeper faith than any I could even begin to know. I have a privilege he did not. I can read and re-read the story of his life, see how God provided a son, descendants, eventually fulfilling the promise of a land belonging to his people. Furthermore, I can see how God sent the flood and saved the faithful, how He delivered his children from bondage in Egypt, how He parted the Red Sea to make a way for them. I can see how He blessed the reigns of the faithful kings and sent punishment for rebellion. I can see how He orchestrated events so that His son would enter the world at the perfect time and the perfect climate for the Gospel to spread once the work was done. When I read of the crucifixion, I already know the end and so I can see the joy that the despairing disciples could not. I can read and read and read of His faithfulness through the ages, His wonders, and His miraculous works. Surely this would give me a stronger, more vibrant faith than Abraham? Surely this being able to see what is behind would give me courage to trust in what lies ahead? 
     I only wish it did. I have all of these incredible documentations of His power and might at my fingertips, and I find that when it comes time for me to obey, I hesitate. I question if I really heard from God or if it was just my imagination. I doubt, I worry, I ponder, I delay.  I am more like Moses, wondering if perhaps He might send someone else, I guess. I do not have the faith of my father, Abraham. But oh, how I long for it.

     Oh my Lord! Please give me great faith, faith that does not need to see or hear Your wonders to obey. I have a puny faith, but I know that You are the giver of all good gifts. I ask that You will increase my faith, not must marginally but in leaps and bounds so that it takes my breath away. Help  me to believe You completely and without hesitation or doubt. Help me to find that You are good because I have already walked out in obedience to Your call. Give me the clarity to understand when I hear from You, the courage to obey, and the faith to follow You no matter where You lead me or what else is going on around me. This is not my country, Lord. Help me not to get too wrapped up in it but to remember that You have called me out of this world, and I sojourn here in temporary housing until that day that You call me to my permanent home with You. Father, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief! Amen. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Contrary Word

And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, "Thus says the LORD, 'Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, "Eat no bread and drink no water," your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'"
(1Kings 13:21-22)

     I encourage you to read the entire chapter of 1 Kings 13 today to gain context on my thoughts here. For convenience, it is linked at the top of the page. I have to say that this is one of those passages in the Bible that has always disturbed me. I have always wondered why the prophet of Bethel would deceive the man of God from Judah and also why the man of God was punished by death when he listened to the prophet's words. I still have no understanding of the first question, and perhaps I never will. Why do any of us lie, cheat, steal, often even in the midst of serving God? It is part of the human condition, a part of the curse of sin that corrupts even our best intentions. The answer to the first question likely lies in that fact somewhere.

     Today, however, it is the second question that I want to discuss. Why was the man of God from Judah so severely punished for sharing the prophet's food when he believed the lie? After all, he seemed to be taken in by the prophet's words and was likely trying to be agreeable, accepting an offer of fellowship and hospitality. To my human logic, that does not seem like such a bad thing at all. However, in my most recent reading of this passage, God has given me insight on this in a very personal way because it is what He has been showing me about myself.

     The plain fact is that the unnamed man of God was punished for believing the words of the prophet over the words of God Himself. The first guy--let's call him Prophet One-- had heard from God, but he took the bait when the other guy -- Prophet Two-- claimed that God had given him a contrary word.The whole story has always troubled me, but I saw it with different eyes today. You see, God has recently shown me that I have the same tendencies as Prophet One. I, too, will clearly understand what God is calling me to do, but sometimes I, too, will doubt. I will listen to others who say they have been praying and think that God would have me do this or that instead of standing firm in what I know He has directly told me--and they may well have been, for all I know. I do not believe ill intentions of anyone in these cases. It's just that ultimately I will not answer to people, but to my King. However, the sad fact is, sometimes my desire to please people trumps my desire to please God.

     Often I do not do this with a rebellious spirit but with a sense of confusion, uncertain that perhaps I was really listening. Rather than having confidence that the Spirit of God clearly communicated His will to me, I allow doubt to be planted and grow. Sometimes, I suppose, I think that maybe others have heard Him better than me. Sometimes, though, the reality is that I do not trust enough in God to believe that He can make His will clear to me without  help from anyone else. It looks like, to me, that I am uncertain about myself. The reality, however, is that I am uncertain about my God's ability communicate. It is that old beast, Unbelief, again raising its foul head. When I read about Prophet One,  I see that I, too, have been deceived and by my own heart lead astray. 

     I am so thankful that God has shown me this tendency in myself. I have been asking Him to illuminate the dark areas, the hidden sins and the areas of disobedience that I have overlooked, and He is of course faithful to do so. Thank You, Lord, that You do not allow me to continue comfortably in unbelief! But more still, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to repent and turn away from this other area of unbelief, giving it over and making of it an opportunity to choose to trust and obey my Lord one layer deeper. I am thankful for my Savior, my Advocate and the great High Priest who stands before the Throne of Grace in intercession for my childish and wayward heart.

     God sent to me a Lion as well. He tore me, but He did not slay me utterly. He merely caused the pain of my sin to be felt and He stood over my prostrate form as I lay, in yet another thing dying to myself. But this Lion has tasted death already and overcome it. This Lion of Judah, my Savior and King, will not leave me broken and useless. In His power, I am dying daily, but I also am being remade, constantly raised from the dead and alive to God in Christ. It is in Him and for His glory that these many small deaths must be accomplished, for in each new area that I learn to reject sin, I learn to die to my flesh and walk more and more in the true Life of the Spirit of God. May it be to His glory that I will become less and less a creature of this world and more and more a new creation in Christ, prepared and perfected for His great glory! Praise be to God who makes all things new in His Christ!!

I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
(1Co 15:31-34)


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


     Well, well, it seems I have grown rather sporadic of late. It has been a crazily busy month for us and now we are headed out of town for an extended visit to family.  I may or may not have internet access, so this will probably be a "see you later for now."

     God has been doing so much around me and in me lately that I long to share it with you. Unfortunately, I have only a brief, stolen moment before I need to finish getting everything ready for a pre-dawn departure. Suffice to say, for now, that I have been recently surrounded by many people who are struggling with sadness or despair. I feel great compassion for them, as I have been in that horrible place before. Right now, however, I am busy but full of the joy of the Lord. I have had some wonderful fellowship with Him and with other believers. I will leave you with this passage which has been so meaningful to me in the last several months. I hope that it strengthens, reminds, and encourages you as you walk the narrow path with our Savior.

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?
He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God"?
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:21-31

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Whose Glory?

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
Psalms 115:1-2     
     This may seem like a strange place to stop quoting this Psalm. It leaves the question just hanging there, unanswered. However, I stop here because this was the question that haunted me for a few days after I read this Psalm in my morning meeting with God. It troubled me on a broader sense applied to the Church in America today but also on a personal level. Why, indeed, should anyone be able to deny God in my life? Am I evidencing His power daily? Or have my fear and anxiety denied His authority?

    It is a sobering question, no doubt, and the key to the answer is given in the first verse of the Psalm. Ultimately, if God's power is conspicuously absent -- from either my personal life or from the life of the Church -- it is probably a misplacing of glory. To keep this personal, I find I must ask myself... oh, so many questions. In all I do, am I seeking His glory or my own? Even in the good, ministry-related things I do, what is my motive? Is it truly for the good name of my King, or do I often operate to soothe my own pride?

     Worse yet, and more painfully, do I stand on His truths even when they are uncomfortable or unpopular? Am I actually willing to undergo humiliation and mockery, feel the brunt of others' anger, even risk physical harm for the sake of His glory and His name? Do I put His glory first, always, even at great personal cost? And if I do not do these things in my country where currently it will only cost me perhaps popularity, warm welcome, or reputation, is there even a faint chance I will be able to stand boldly for Him should the spiritual climate shift to the point that standing for God will begin to cost physical well-being or even life? The great question is, do I stand counter to my culture, even counter to modern church culture, making myself a sacrifice for the sake of my Lord's glory, or do I try to seize my own, small glory under the guise of service to Him?

     It is funny how that one question lead to so many others. It caused me to humble myself in prayer, begging God to show many any areas where I was outside of His will or forsaking His truth for my own, personal comfort. It also reminded me that I need to truly exalt His name in my life. I need to concern myself with bringing about His glory, saying as the Psalmist did, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name give glory."

     I have a firm conviction from all this questioning that it is His name, His honor, His Word, and HIs Truth alone that really matters. I need to concern myself more and more with living so that His name is not smeared with mud by my life but rather exalted. I need to live my life with great reverence and respect for the Name I bear. In fact, everything I do should be centered on this one goal: to bring glory, pleasure, and honor to my Lord and Savior. After all He has done for me, rescuing me when I did not even know I was imprisoned, washing me when I did not even know I was filthy, dying in my place before I even knew I was sentenced to death, is it so much to ask that I would now live for His glory alone?

     Lord, this country needs a revival of faith in Your word, remembering that it is for Your glory and pleasure that we even exist. But I cannot change this country Lord; I can only change my own choices. I ask today that You will strengthen me in this purpose, to live entirely for the glory of Your name no matter what the cost to me. In Jesus, You have already given me all I need. Teach me what it means, what it looks like, to live for You and You alone. Forgive me for the times I seek my own honor, prioritizing myself over You.  From now on, may my life become nothing more than a reflection of Your glory, Lord, for Your Name's sake, amen. 

The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day." 

1 Kings 8:57-61

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Repost From Another Blog

Not long after I wrote my last post on a few verses from Hebrews 12, Pastor Keith Vaughan wrote a post covering the same passage on his excellent blog.  It was so perfectly timed and such a gorgeous bit of truth that I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

Getting Rid of the Weight 

       -By Keith Vaughan
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
“Hey Pastor…Are you going to get on my case about the little bit of extra weight I’m carrying? I’ve tried to get rid of it, but nothing seems to work.”
Well…I am going to talk about extra weight — but not the kind you might think. In the same way you shed a few pounds, you must also put forth the spiritual effort to get rid of the extra weight you are carrying around in your spiritual life. The “weight” we need to lay aside might be sinful or, in some cases, they may be legitimate activities. There are some things we need to give up not because they are harmful within themselves, but because they are keeping us from serving God and being obedient to what He wants for us.
Let me suggest 4 things you and I need to examine in our lives today. Maybe some of these things are hindering you in your service to the Lord and need to be set aside.
1. We need to lay aside the weight of spiritual immaturity.
In a few short days (we hope) — my son and daughter-in-law will welcome a new baby into this world. Hudson Keith Vaughan will be born and begin his journey on this earth. I certainly don’t expect him to come home a have a steak and baked potato with me right away. He’s going to need milk and eventually baby food BUT ONE DAY — he will sit down with his Poppa and have a steak!
A baby is supposed to act like a baby — but if that baby is still acting like a baby at 10 or 12 years old, then we know something is terribly wrong.
The same is true in the life of a Christian. One of the great tragedies that I see in the modern church is the number of people who remain spiritual babies and never give themselves to a discipline of growth and training that makes it possible for them to be used mightily by the Lord. 
One of my favorite verses in the Bible says this about Jesus Christ…
“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
There is nothing wrong with being a baby Christian — but there is something terribly wrong if you REMAIN a baby Christian. Lay aside the weight of spiritual immaturity.
2. We need to lay aside the weight of self-righteousness
We all have been guilty of looking around us with a critical spirit and patting ourselves on the back for our achievements when we look at the perceived failures of others. It’s “funny” to me how Christians criticize EACH OTHER! I continually hear folks say (both in word and deed) — “I’ve figured it out and you haven’t.” Whether we are criticizing a non-Christian or criticizing the church — our sinful nature causes us to look at ourselves and pridefully declare — “I’ve got it. You don’t get it.”
Read the parable of the publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18 again. You will quickly see there is no room in the Christian life for a self-righteous attitude — either toward the lost world or toward fellow believers who may not jump on our bandwagon.
In Revelation 3, the problem in the Laodicean church was primarily an attitude of spiritual self-satisfaction. As Christians, we must NEVER allow ourselves to become a pious self-centered circle of people who come together for emotional “self-edification.”
3. We need to lay aside the weight of unforgiveness.
You know what I’ve learned in 30 years of pastoral ministry? Here it is — write it down…
You cannot please everybody!
There is no way to escape criticism. There will be times when others will deliberately seek to hurt us in some way or another. Do you know what Jesus said we should do? 
“Yes, Pastor. I know…but I’ll tell you right now…I don’t like it.”
Let me tell you why it is so hard to forgive. As long as all your attention is directed toward the person who needs to be forgiven, you will never understand and appreciate what Jesus taught us about forgiveness. Jesus’ primary concern was the effect of an unforgiving spirit in the life of a believer. Hard feelings have a way of festering into hatred. Hatred destroys joy and robs you of true happiness. Our hostile feelings do more injury to US than they ever do to the person who offended us. You cannot life an effective Christian life and carry a grudge at the same time. It’s impossible.
4. We must lay aside the weight of worry
Undue anxiety and worry is caused by a lack of faith. Worry is USELESS! Matthew 6:27 says, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
There is no need to worry about yesterday — you can’t change it.
There is no need to worry about today — you won’t accomplish anything of any value.
There is no need to worry about tomorrow — you aren’t even promised there will be a tomorrow!
I’m sorry I can’t help you drop the excess pounds you may need to drop in your physical body — I have my own problem with that! But I do pray that these suggestions will help us drop the excess weight we may be carrying around in our spiritual lives.
Have a great day.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Hebrews 12:1-2
     Sometimes, I just need to be reminded of what I am doing, where I am going, and of Whom I am following to get there. I have been having one of those times of reminding lately; a time when God has been patiently waiting for the fog of sickness and busy-ness to clear so that I can see Him clearly once again and get back into step. This is a time when He is faithfully reminding me of who I am and Who He is to me so that once my head stops spinning, I will be looking, not for something new or some further distraction, but for Him. A time when He is reminding me of the ultimate goal of this journey that I am on.

     Today's passage is special to me because it was the inspiration for this blog, the source of its title, and also serves as a kind of a perpetual reminder of what my business is on this largish, whirling ball of rock and water. It reminds me that my life--my marriage, my home school, my child raising, everything--is a sort of race. I have trained for it even before I had a hint that I might be doing it, and to finish it will take more than merely doing my best. It will take an endurance that is far beyond me. It will take me looking to Jesus--fixing my eyes on Him so firmly that all else fades into black and I keep going, not from any strength of will that is left to me but because the vision of Glory at the end of the tunnel that perpetually draws me homeward.    

     It is not just the reminder of the Purpose of the race, however. I also love the bit right before that, though--the bit about laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely. This is a reminder to me of the two things that hinder me in the completion of this race. One is sin, naturally. The sin I allow myself to become mired in does cling like so much heavy mud, impeding my ability to press onward toward my goal, at times even constraining me to the point of a spiritual immobility. I can become confined by my own sin, imprisoned. Yet because Christ has set me free from the bondage to sin, it is a prison I allow. I love the reminder that I do not have to submit to to sin's claim of mastery. I belong to the Lord who give Himself for me, and so thanks to His power at work on my behalf, I can lay the encumbrance of sin aside--an action that does not connote great effort but merely decision. Thanks to Him I am free, so I ought to run as only a free woman can run.

     But its the other thing--the laying aside of every weight--that I find I need the most frequent need of reminding. I do often allow myself to become The Greek word translated as "weight" is transliterated ogkos, and according to Thayer's dictionary means, "...Protuberance, bulk, mass... hence, a burden, weight, encumbrance." Why, when I read that definition, do I hear so clearly Jesus' words, "Take my yoke upon you...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light?" Besides the weight of sin which I allow to inhibit me in my progress down the path, there are the many burdens I heap on that are not necessarily sin but are not explicitly given to me by God either. They are the bulky items I add to my agenda, the clutter I place in my priorities list, when I see spare time in the schedule given to me by my Father.

     It is my tendency to look at the Divnely appointed task list I am given and think, "Is that all?" and so feel quite justified in embellishing or adding on a little thing here and there until I find that I am no longer running freely, but fettered by chains of my own making. Once I am so heavily laden that my race has become more of a plod or a sluggish crawl, He will step in and remind me that I am only responsible for the things He has given me to do. Even if that means saying "no" to other people, it is not to them that I must ultimately answer, but to Him. And when He provides room for rest, it is not helpful for me to fill it with activity. In fact, this is where doing good things crosses the line to sinful, for that space in my agenda was given to me, not for my own selfish purposes, but for me to spend with my Lord; listening, learning, soaking in His presence. It is His space I am filling, and in doing so I am crowding Him out of my schedule when He desires me to sit at His feet and listen for a time.

    This over-scheduling is an insanity, but one I hope I am finally recognizing and will be able to thwart in the future. For I do find in my times of self-imposed busy-ness, the one thing I miss most is those long and leisurely hours spent with my Father, meditating on His word, listening to His soft voice, or even merely reveling in His great Presence. There is a reason He does not call me to do all the work that needs to be done. It is not all my place to do. It is my place to listen and to obey, to do all the work assigned to me heartily as to Him and not to man, and to remember that He is the goal, the purpose, and the stimulation for the endurance needed to finish this race. By His grace, I will finish it, and I will finish it for Him.

     Sometimes, I need that reminder.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalms 127:1-2


Saturday, May 17, 2014


Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 
Micah 6:7-8
     I don't know about you, but I often find myself in a hurry these days. Or at least I did until God sat me down firmly and reminded me of what my duty is to Him. You see, though my heart desires to follow His priorities alone for my life, I often find that there is another, more earthly portion of my heart that wants to please others, or perhaps to look good, or some other, less noble motive. That is the part of me that struggles to say "no" to scheduling items, the part that wants to make sure my home-schooled kids are involved in enough activities, the part of me that, flatly stated, does not trust God enough to follow Him and Him alone but rather adds to the agenda He has given me so that it appears (to me) more well-rounded and fleshed out. Fleshed out, indeed, for it is simply works of the flesh that I add in; they have no spiritual merit or use to my Lord at all. He has given me the work that I need to do, but I continually struggle with a tendency to want to "improve" the list He has given me.

     Very recently, I have found myself in this place again. In addition to our regular schooling, we attended tutorial this year, were involved in activities in 4-H, took care of our house and large lot, and kept up our commitment to church and to family in another city. That may not sound like much compared to the typical American family involved in multiple sports and extra-curricular activities, but for our rather easily frazzled family, it was a lot. Bear in mind, too, that I was not merely substituting my own agenda for God's, but adding to it. With all of this, we rarely missed our daily Bible reading as a family, our family prayer times, our commitments to ministry both small and large. These things are often unseen, but I knew somewhere in my heart that they were non-negotiable. And so, rather than drop them, I added to them until my daily schedule had very little margin time, very little time to sit at the feet of my Lord and listen. In fact, the Bible reading often became a mere check-list item and not a time of spiritual nourishment and refreshment.  In adding to God's agenda, I found myself in the same sinful state as if I had dropped His priorities altogether.

     Then there is the simple issue of health and how each of us is constructed differently. With all the bustle of this school year, I did fine for the first semester, but once I caught my first cold, I never really shook it and have had a variety of relatively minor (thanks to modern medicine) but still cumulatively debilitating illnesses. I am simply not able to keep up the modern pace, perhaps in part due to the one-two punch of meningitis followed by childbirth years ago, perhaps simply because it is how God reminds me to focus on Him. I do not know why--I only know that it is a fact that I really cannot escape.  That more tangible fact coupled with the knowledge that I tend to become less joyful and gentle and more hateful and grouchy when I am overly busy leads me to the certain conclusion that I am not designed to live the fast-paced modern lifestyle.

     As for my kids--well, it is much the same with them. Their physical health does not suffer as much, but they become more snippy with one another, less focused on the Lord, less obedient and more sassy with me when they are over-scheduled. The most difficult realization of this lesson to me was the realization that I had prioritized worldly values over Godly ones when it came to the teaching and training of my children. I had a soul-sickness, and I dragged my children along with me in my incessant attempts to measure up. I have seen a change in their focus, too. Less focus on the task at hand and more on what is coming next--as if I were training them not only to be busy but creating an addiction to busy-ness that increased as we became busier. Instead of creating a sense of satisfaction once the activity was over, they began to immediately ask about the next thing to come as soon as one was complete. It reminded me of junkies in need of a fix, and while it did not bother me in myself, it appalled me in my children. In order to achieve some self-imposed standard of what a good home school mom should do, I had given my kids to feed this monster of appearance within. I had figuratively sacrificed the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul.

     The funny thing is, I did not think we were over scheduling this year at all. That is why I found myself adding to God's agenda liberally and even with relish. And He let me, likely because, in His wisdom, He knew that I would respond to the more concrete facts than a simple command. I am much like my own children--I often need the consequence to see why I should have listened in the first place. That is a humbling realization.

     The fact of the matter is this: There are many good things to occupy my time and a veritable wealth of good things for me to get my kids involved in. As a home school mom, I often feel pressure to make sure my kids' education is comprehensive and balanced, to make certain they are not falling behind in a fast-paced society; in essence, I feel pressured, to use a cliche, to "keep up with the Joneses." This is not, in itself, wrong. I also feel pressure to make sure I measure up in ministry--that I am engaged in my quota of discipleship and missions-minded ministry activities. This also is not, in itself, wrong. But neither is it wrong to have a simple life, quiet time to listen to the Lord or reflect on His word, time to simply be and not just rush from one task to the next. It is not only not wrong, but critical, when that is precisely what He commands.

     The problem arises when I am given a Divine instruction, and instead of simple obedience, I embellish; when I think my marching orders look bare and stark, and so I touch it up here and tack on a little accessory ministry item there. At that point, while I may give every outward appearance of the good and faithful servant, I have in reality crossed the line from obedient child to disobedient rebel, albeit subtly and with the best of intentions. I have left the feet of Jesus and given in the  insistence of Martha that I get off my indolent rear and help her with the work, for goodness' sake. I have forgotten what is required of me. I do have work to do, but it is not always the work I believe should be done. It is simple, really: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.  Not run ahead or lag behind, but with Him, every day, every step of the way.

     O Lord, help me not to take for granted the simplicity of the commands You give me. An act of obedience to You, however small it may appear to my own eyes, is still a far more noble thing than any good deed done in defiance of Your express command and wish. Help me no longer to crowd out Your voice with my rushing about. Help me to teach my children the difficult priority of making abundant room for You in our lives even when it requires a sacrifice of many other good things and especially when it means sacrificing the way we appear to others for the sake of obeying You.
      Make my heart long far more to please You than it does to please man. Remove from me the tendency to want to put what others think I should do--even others within Your Church--over what You have told me to do. Especially, Lord, I repent that it is often my own perception that lays this burden on me and not actual pressure from other people, for it is my anxious comparison of myself to others that cause me to over schedule and not scorn from them. It is all me, Lord, and I take full responsibility for this sin. Forgive me and help me to put You first in all things, even when it means that my schedule looks much emptier than I think it should. Even if I do receive criticism or contempt from others, give me the strength to be obedient to You first and foremost.  Help me to trust You enough to obey You explicitly, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, and as a teacher. May my life be lived to Your glory alone, amen. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Encouragement from Hebrews

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:9-20
     I love that the author of this letter followed his very stern warnings with some equally strong encouragement. He reminds us of the patience of Abraham, who received the promise but not in the timing that our American minds would find convenient or acceptable. The fact is that our microwave society chafes at waiting for anything: We press the buttons on the elevator again because the door did not pop open at our behest, we groan when a program does not instantly load on our computer or phone, we pray and wonder if God is listening because the answer to our prayer was not waiting for us neatly tied up in a shiny ribbon the moment we opened our eyes.
     But there are things worth waiting for.This passage not only encourages the readers that the author, while concerned, does believe that they truly do have a commitment to Christ, it also serves as a reminder that He is worth the wait. After all, Abram waited 25 years on the promised heir, he obeyed and waited faithfully up to the very moment of wielding the knife for God to provide protection for that promise, and he died not seeing the land promise fulfilled but understanding that it would be fulfilled to his descendants.

     There was an even greater promise given to Abraham; the promise that through him, all the nations would be blessed (see Gen. 22:18, 26:4). That promise was certainly not fulfilled in his lifetime, nor even in many lives of his children and grandchildren. It was centuries in coming, but as God is faithful and cannot deceive but is always true to His word, the promise was fulfilled.  And Abraham saw it.

     We know this because Jesus told it to an increasingly hostile crowd. In John 8:56, He said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."  This riled the group so much that they attempted to stone Him, but He had already left. We can see in these words a glimpse of the magnitude of the promises of God and of their longevity. We can see our own impatience and selfishness, often believing that all promises have everything to do with us right now and forgetting that sometimes they have more to do with all His Kingdom and with generations that may come from us.

     And so "we have this sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf." We can be encouraged that God has never forgotten His promise and that He never will. We can be reminded that it sometimes takes patience,a  patience far above what we are accustomed to exhibiting. When we do not see His promises fulfilled in our time frame, or even within our lifespan, we can cling to the reminders throughout the Scripture that He is faithful and just, and that He has never once gone back on a promise. We can remember Peter's words: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

     Lord, teach us to be patient and to trust in the surety of Your promises. Forgive us for doubt and help us to be encouraged that You are not forgetful, but that You are patient and compassionate with more than just us and our small spheres of influence. Give us Your patience and help us to cling to the steadfast hope we have in Christ, that You will always come through and Your promises are a guarantee that we can build our lives upon, an unshakable rock that will stand the storms and the test of time. Amen. 


Monday, April 28, 2014

Warnings from Hebrews

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. 
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Hebrews 5:11-6:8
     This is a pretty humbling section of the letter, and one that is pertinent to at least the general American church today. It is pertinent also to me. It is probably pertinent to you. Nothing in it is easy to hear, however, it has been my experience that it is not in the slaps on the back that I grow the most (with the exception of my pride), but in the areas where I have failed and must try harder to achieve the goal. When I am lazy, I do not need someone coming alongside me to tell me it is OK, that I deserve it, that we all need a break sometimes. It may be nice to hear, but it does not help me to accomplish what I need to accomplish. It does not help me to grow. No, at those times what I need someone to tell me to get off my rump and get to work!

     I think that one of the greatest misconceptions the modern worldview holds is the belief that anything difficult to hear or that seems harsh is unloving. We must remember, however, that "all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it," a truth written later on in Hebrews chapter 12. As a society, we want to be coddled and we do so enjoy lashing out at those whose ways are not as soothing as we would like, calling them intolerant. Ironically enough, that is, itself, an act of intolerance--a refusal to see another worldview as valid and acceptable.

     However, when I read this letter, I do not see judgmental anger or harshness. I see the desperation of one who is trying to wake loved ones out of a dangerous state of lethargy. My friends, if you snatch me from the path of an oncoming semi--even if I am wounded in the process--I would not say you were in the wrong or unloving. I would be thankful that you tried to save me at all! A broken limb may mend, but that semi may have done irreparable, permanent harm.

     This is the state of the church this letter was written to, and this is largely the state of the American church today. We are being lulled into a lethargy that will soon find us drifting into hazardous waters. We need to be woken up, snatched from danger at al
l costs. Even if we suffer some slights to our pride or damage to our tender sensibilities, even if we must be broken and humbled to recall that God is the Creator and that our opinions really have no bearing on the reality of His nature or His plans, these injuries are temporary and easily mended. They may even be necessary, as a greater wound is often inflicted in a surgery to remove a diseased organ or a cancer. Sometimes damage must be done before healing can begin.

     When we think about tolerance, love, hate, and all the rest, it is important to remember that it is not the state of the brief life we lead in these faulty, leaky, and fragile organisms we now dwell in. These are tents, temporary shelters for the one part of us that will go on--or not. However, if we hope to reach the final, permanent resting place offered through Christ, we must walk in Him. He is the only Way. We cannot afford to redefine this way based on cultural acceptability or soften His teachings to become more palatable. We need loving and firm teachers like the author of Hebrews who care enough to shake us up, to bring to mind the urgency of navigating through the ever-increasing atmosphere of cultural decay. We need to be reminded of the permanence of our spirit, the weight of our sins which He bore, our own terrific need for a Savior. We need to be reminded that belief is not obedience, and obedience is an act of love. We do not just acknowledge Christ as our Savior--we love Him for it and need be willing to throw everything else away for the privilege of spending eternity in the mingled presence of Him and of the Father.

     Or, as the author of Hebrews says, for those of us who are not new believers, we should already know all about repentance and the foundational stuff of discipleship. The doctrine of sin and repentance should not be novel to us, but rather should  by now be a matter of habit borne of diligent practice. We should be growing more like Christ, not more like the world. We do not need to claim some silly, false "repentance" that leads to no change, for as this letter's author wrote, that is akin to sacrificing Christ all over again and holding His death up to contempt. No, repentance should be genuine and lasting. Neither dare we to overlook sin and repentance altogether, for it is to set us free from sin that He gave His life. Let's resolve to grow, to put into practice the pursuit of personal holiness, to move on to solid food, and to ask our Father to keep us safely on the narrow path.

Father God, I am so very thankful that You gave Your Son to be our High Priest.I am so very thankful that You saw fit to spare me the drinking of the cup of Your wrath. Lord,  I ask that You will keep me humble and keep me from drifting away. Wean me  from spiritual milk and help me to learn to walk in the light. Teach me to make a practice of rejecting darkness and agreeing with You on its definition. Help me to move on to maturity in Christ and to be Your building, established on the Rock and no longer tossed about by the changing winds of this world. Help me to walk in joy, peace, love, and patience with others as You have shown great patience with me. Help me also not to presume upon Your patience but to diligently and steadily seek Your face and Your wisdom and will for my life.  I ask in Jesus name, and not for my own sake but for the honor of His name, change me more and more into His image,amen. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 
Hebrews 4:11-16
     Happy Resurrection Sunday! This is my favorite holiday of the entire year. It is the day I look back and remember with reverence and astonishment the work done by my King on the Cross. It is also the day that I look past that with joy to the empty tomb, the fact that He was not defeated either by sin or by death. It is because He lives that I now have an advocate on high, a High Priest who knows more about humanity than He would by only being the Creator. He came and lived as one of His created, sharing in the same frailties of the flesh and enduring every temptation that faces mankind with one important exception: In His fatigue, His hunger, even at His weakest moment, He never fell into sin. He was tempted, but He resisted fully. Because of this, He was the only complete substitution sacrifice to pay for humanity's sins once and for all. Also because of this, the sin curse had no hold on Him, and since death entered through sin, neither did death. He has risen!

     But let's back up a bit...  The opening of today's passage talks again about entering the Sabbath rest that God offers. If we were to read all of Chapter 4, we would see that it is an extension of 3, expanding on the idea of rest after the careful warning of not to harden our hearts. I love that right after all of this talk of hardening of hearts and rest, there is the very poignant description of the Word of God. After all, this is the only tool that we have in truly determining the state of our very selves. It is this Word that exposes the evil desires I carry, the twisted motives, even the pride of self that I harbor in my heart when outwardly doing "Christian" things. It is this Living Word that shows me the depravity of man, myself included, and the desperate need for a Savior.  It reminds me that I may fool myself into thinking I have it all sorted, but ultimately it is to Him that I will someday give an account, not only of my blatant sins but also of my secret wrong motives or my subtle arrogance. I don't know about you, but I need this tool in order to walk humbly with my God. It reminds me of His glory; it reminds me of His Sovereignty. It also reminds me of the fact that even when I am at my very best, I still cannot measure up to this Holy God. It is not my goodness but His power and strength alone that are good enough. I am totally insufficient, but His grace is sufficient for me.

     Now we are back to where we begun: Jesus as the great High Priest who has experienced physical and emotional pain, hunger, distress, and fatigue. Jesus, the Man who experienced the temptations to speak angry words in a moment of weakness or to do a deed for His own glory rather than the Father's, or a myriad of other sneaky temptations that trip me up daily, yet He did not. He did not fail. He endured the temptation until the bitter end and He overcame. This is the One through Whom I have access to the throne of grace. By His steadfastness, the libation of His precious blood, and the complete surrender of His will to the Father's, I am granted mercy and grace. Not for anything I have done, but for what He did for me. How can I not rejoice?

     He is risen!

     He is risen indeed!

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mark 16:5-6

Friday, April 18, 2014

Rest and Belief

      Faithfulness and unbelief.  What a fantastic topic for Good Friday. Today is the day we reflect back on the faithfulness of Jesus as He fulfilled the Father's redemption plan for mankind, though it cost Him much pain and suffering. It is a good day to hear again the warning God gave His people and that the author of Hebrews reminded the church of in the New Covenant: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion..."   
     It is an apt warning for us all today.

     The words that follow are equally poignant: "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God; but encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today' so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."  When I read this, I wonder at the struggle some seem to have to "make" the Bible relevant today. What could be more relevant than this warning? It is ageless, as true 2000 years ago as it was when first spoken hundreds of years before that. It is a warning that will be necessary as long as the sin nature exists. For it is very much in our nature, each of us, to drift away, to fall away, to harden our hearts and make excuses for our sin. It is very much a part of us that we will justify sin away by calling it something else; dressing it up in a more appealing-sounding package.
      But sin is still sin. And it is for sin that Christ suffered and died, laying down His immaculate life as the final and only price of absolution for all of our sin. Because of Him, and only because of His choice, we now have access to God. We now have an invitation extended to enter into God's Sabbath rest. This is a two-fold word, this rest. It is an invitation to come into the Kingdom, to have a life beyond this life of toil and labor, an eternal life of worship in the presence of the Living God. It is also an invitation to rest from our burdens and anxieties now; to understand that God is Sovereign and that He will carry out His plan. If He did not spare His own Son, do we honestly think He might just drop the ball now at the very point of finishing the game?  We have nothing to be anxious over, but if we are in Christ, we do have everything to be grateful for. I know that His faithfulness did not come easily. Neither will ours. But we can rest in the understanding that if our hearts truly desire Him, He will make us faithful. He has already done the work. We have only to enter the Father's rest--that is, to trust and believe.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 
John 19:30

Lord, we confess that we have such a small faith.  As we meditate on Jesus' work on the cross today, we long to believe without reserve, holding nothing back. We do believe; help us overcome our unbelief!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

High Priest

Hebrews 2:5-18

     This passage continues the theme of the supremacy of Christ above the angels that was begun in chapter one, but as I have read it over and over, that is not all I see. I also see a glimpse of the fantastic, tragic, and astonishing nature of the entire redemption story. For if Christ was so much greater than the angels, in fact, if He is God Himself incarnate, then how much more devastating to my pride is it that He would deign to die in my stead?
     If He, the agent of creation, so vastly higher in rank than angels and of a divine and changeless nature, set aside for a time all power and glory to be made, "for a little while lower than the angels" so that I might achieve a victory that I could neither attain nor deserve on my own merits, how can I stand by idly and just accept such a phenomenal gift with a mere shrug of acceptance or a casual, "Thanks," and go about living my life as I please?  Impossible, if I truly believe it happened thus. This perfect example of humility and this selfless sacrifice, this epitome of surrender of human will to the greater will and plan of the Almighty, this stepping down of the King of all things into His creation to save it from it's own choices... how could I not respond in love and gratitude?

     There is another point made in the above passage that stood out in my readings. As it says, though He is sovereign, we do not yet see all things in subjection to Him. It is important to note that this is not due to a lack of power or authority. Rather, it is a demonstration of patience, waiting until the Day that every person who will turn to Christ has turned. He has done the work on the cross, sowing seeds of love, mercy, and grace. He now waits for the fruit to be ripe and ready for the harvest.

      This is the patience spoken of in  2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."  This is patience for me when I stray. This is patience for you. This is patience to wait on the friends and family who now reject Him or simply do not know. It is patience for the tribal man raised having never heard the word, "Jesus" in any tongue who simply does not yet know his sin is sin nor that there is another way. This is patience that is full of the expectation of life and of better things to come. It is the patience for every soul on earth to have ample opportunity to hear and consider the Gospel; patience that everyone may have a chance to make a decision to either accept or reject the Christ.

     So in this patient, generous God-man, we have not only a Savior, but one who understands us more thoroughly even than we understand ourselves. He has the understanding of a Creator--He knows the stuff we are made of, the peculiar chemical and organic mixture that makes up each individual, and the very number of hairs on our heads. He also understands us in another way, both far more profound considering He is the Author and simultaneously far more basic. He understands what it means to be human because He has been human. He has learned to walk and talk and feed Himself. He has faced temptation, indeed, as C. S. Lewis points out, faced it more completely than any of us for only He has seen how strong temptation can become because only He never gave in to it. He knows the full extent; we only know the point to which we fell.
     This is the risen King we worship on Easter Sunday; the all-powerful Creator who chose to come among His creation as one of us, to live that perfect life, to lay down His life as ransom for our own, and by that act to loose the grip of sin and conquer the fear of death for all who love and obey Him. This is our High Priest--Jesus, whose ministry is tangible, accessible, complete, and incredibly practical.  "Hallelujah, what a Savior! I owe everything to Him!"

Monday, April 14, 2014


Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. 
Hebrews 2:1-4
     Drift. Neglect. These are not very dangerous-sounding words. There is no violence in them, nothing to that would spur us to the same frantic efforts as would the idea of an alarm signaling an imminent assault, nor do they inspire us to leap into action as urgently as we would for the deliverance of friends or family from a looming menace. Neither do these words reflect a purposeful action as in a rejection or a repelling.  I wonder, however, if the very passivity of the words should not cause us to act as swiftly and decisively as would a more obvious peril.  For I guarantee you that our enemy is just as thrilled with our lull of complacency over the inactivity of drifting away as he is over the more direct and purposeful sins we can commit. Perhaps more so, for he hopes that if he can keep us diverted long enough, we will drift right away from the Father and become lost in his vast, murky kingdom of lies. In cases of drifting or neglect, the method of arrival may be more meandering than in the case of deliberate rebellion, but the destination is equally grim.

     In our culture today, is it not easy to drift? Is it not the simplest matter in the world to "go with the flow," to drift peacefully and effortlessly, allowing the social current to sweep us along? Simple, yes, but ask any ship's captain and you will find that being adrift is neither an ideal nor a useful situation. In a lazy hour with a pleasant sun, drifting may seem almost luxurious. Once a storm rolls in and the waves churn madly, however, to be caught adrift with no certainty of location nor navigational plan will quickly turn a peaceful and gentle rest into a frantic scramble for one's very life. With no clear heading, the aimlessly floating ship is now found lost, off course, but where? Now the ship requires saving, someone from the outside to help the crew gain their bearings. Even then, it will require a mighty force of effort and labor to bring the ship right again.

     Neglect, too, is a passive word. A person does not have to do much--in fact, does not have to do anything--in order to neglect. It is a shirking of duty, inattention to what needs to be done. The effects of neglect, like that of drifting, are not immediate. By neglect, a plant will slowly wither and die, a garden become overrun by weeds, a house rot and collapse, a child starve and pine away, and a sick man fade away to death. Neglect is a silent killer; a slow menace that withholds rather than assaults. It is often done, not intentionally, but but by a mere lapse of attention.

    In these two words, passivity and inattention combine to bring disastrous results. I know from my own experience how easy it is by a momentary forgetfulness, to form a habit of such quiet yet certain death. I do not set out to reject God nor to neglect His Word.  I may even read it daily, but negligently, scanning the beautiful words of life while my mind is shamefully occupied by my task list or by desire of some temporal pleasure. How easy it is to drift away from the Truth, embracing some area or another of wrong thinking because it is commonly viewed as correct; forgetting that my anchor must be firmly established in the Word of God so that the tug of the chain will remind me when I am in danger of being drawn away from His port.

     Oh, Lord, it is my sincere prayer that You will keep me from drifting. Send Your Holy Spirit as my guide and keep me from being lulled into complacency in my spiritual journey with You. Keep me attentive, focused on Your will and desiring You above all else. May I not become passive or inactive, but zealously embracing Your truths and rejecting the subtle lies of the enemy.  Keep me spiritually awake and alert, teach me to take sin seriously and to repent fully, and keep me humble that I may recognize the whisper of Your Spirit in the conviction of sin and of righteousness. Grant me willingness to be hard-working, willing to exert myself on the narrow path and resist the pull of the current seeking to draw me onto the broad path to destruction. 
     May it be not only me that Your Spirit revives in this way, Father, but awaken all of Your people to this quiet danger. Revive us in Your word, wake us up, and teach us to pay closer attention to what we have heard from You. Let us not neglect the incredible salvation You offer us in Christ! Give us the strength, the awareness, and the spiritual discernment we need to navigate in the crazy, conflicting currents of this world. We ask this in Jesus' name and for the sake of Your kingdom, amen. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hebrews--Part 2

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."
Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire." But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions."
And, "You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end."
And to which of the angels has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? 
Hebrews 1:6-14
     According to my study guide, this section speaks to the Jewish tradition of the time that the Law was handed down by angels and points to the supremacy of Jesus over the angels. Considering the effect the appearance of angels had on people as documented in the Scriptures, this is not a bad distinction to be made. There is a nice juxtaposition of the unchanging nature of Jesus Christ and the angels, who can appear in many forms and be used for many purposes. However, if struggling with the hierarchy between the Son of the Living God and angels is not your weak point, there is still plenty here to ruminate on. 
     Two things in particular really stood out to me as I read through this section. The first is relatively minor, but it made an impression on me, and that is the fact that the author of Hebrews quotes extensively from the Old Testament in this first chapter, but he does not give credit to the original author as so many New Testament epistle writers do. In the context of this chapter, I firmly believe that is because he is pointing away from the human authorship and toward the Divine authority of the Scripture. It does not really matter what tool the Master inspired to pen His words. They are His words, and that is what we all need to focus on. I applaud you for that, author of Hebrews! I have to wonder if perhaps that is why he, himself, did not make his name known in this writing. . .

     What I really love about this passage, this collection of quotes, is how each quote points to the unchanging nature of God and of His Son. This is a rather critical and relevant point, I find, in today's world. It seems that most people, indeed even several who claim to be a follower of Jesus, do not want Him to be the eternal and unchanging Rock that He is. Many enjoy talk of His love and His forgiveness but want to forget that He has "loved righteousness and hated wickedness," or how that love and forgiveness is intended to inspire gratitude and devotion. Many more would like to believe that His decisions on what is and is not right are as flimsy and fickle as human culture. The Church of today is rife with worldly philosophies embraced by its members--philosophies and beliefs that frankly run counter to God's nature and make a mockery of what Jesus died to accomplish. But the fact is that He is unchanging, and all these philosophies and the pop-culture ebb and flow will dissipate or morph into some new, twisted up doctrine perhaps, but someday they will vanish all together. He will not. Even the works He has made--the heavens and the earth--will wear out, but He will remain just as He always has been, just as He always will be. I don't know about you, but this gives me enormous comfort.

     You see, there are times that I take my eyes off Him, times that I allow the crazy, cracked-up culture to worry me, times that I allow fear for the Church to overreach its bounds and encroach on my faith.  Then I remember: My Rock is unchanging. He is constant, solid, and He is in control. Things may come up that surprise me, but none of it surprises Him. He is today just as He was the day He walked with Adam in the Garden, just as He was the day He called Abram out of Ur, just as He was when He spoke to Moses in the burning bush, and just as He was the day that He wept in the Garden of Gethsemane (a beautiful, full-circle picture if you stop to think of it). He has not changed His mind about what is and is not sin, nor has He changed His mind about His one great and final offer of rescue from that pervasive disease. He gave His only Son so that we could share not only in His death but also in His new life, as we see in Romans 6.  He has given us a way out of the mess. It is through Christ. However, it is not something that we can have by default, this new life. It is something we must surrender to. We must be willing to bow the knee to the Lord and be willing to let go of everything else to obtain, even our very lives.
     The incredible thing here is this: the plan to send the Son of God into the world is not new either. In this, too, God has not changed. It was His plan all along; this horrible, tragic, spectacular redemption. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; none will come to the Father except through Him. This is the final word, the unchangeable and unchanging plan of reconciliation, the glorious portrait of the immutable compassion of an eternal and unalterably fatherly God. I can hardly read it without breaking into worship!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hebrews-- Part One

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"?
Hebrews 1:1-5
     Our group has been studying Hebrews lately, and I had the thought of sharing what I am learning in the hopes of keeping it around in the old grey matter a bit longer. We are further into the book, so the necessary review should help retention. At the present time, I am recovering from a long and nasty cold, so if the following seems disjointed, please accept my apologies. I have allowed myself to grow rusty and so must get the machine started up once again.

     As I read chapter one, the opening verses really inspire awe.  That the Almighty Creator of all things would speak to us at all is somewhat shocking, if you really stop to think about it. He made us in His image, which is itself astonishing, and then, quite despite the fact that His masterwork veritably spit in His face, He continued to speak to us. Before the Fall, He actually walked with the first man and woman, speaking to them Person to person. Afterwards and because of the stain of sin that now besmirched His perfect image, He spoke through intermediaries--the prophets. Then, in the ultimate act of compassion and sacrifice, He sent His own Son in a final, desperate act to reach the hearts and minds of His rebellious creation. Jesus came and lived among us, walked the earth alongside of us, lived a life fully experiencing and yet fully resisting temptation, and then gave His life in our stead, paying the penalty of our sin in full. Gloriously, the story does not end there, for He rose again in a victory over death that changed everything for those who put their trust in Him.
     But I get ahead of myself. For now, is it not enough that He would even come and speak to us at all? That the Son of the Living God would, Himself, walk on the surface of His creation among His created and teach, love, heal, and instruct? The wonder of it all really gives me pause.

     Then there is this beautiful description of my Lord and Savior: "...the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature..."  This brings to mind so many other passage about Jesus being the Light of the world or references to God being light: John 1:4-5, and verse 9; John 8:12 and 9:5; 1 John 1:5, just to name a few. There is something awe-inspiring about this description, about this radiance, this light, this glorious Savior. Not only a man, but a God-man.
     Think about what it means to be the exact imprint of His nature. Sinless. Spotless. Holy. Pure. Undefiled. Perfect love, perfect wisdom... the very epitome of perfection. Though He was mysteriously and unfathomably fully God (one of those seeming paradoxes which are in actuality created by our finite cognitive ability and not by reality), He lived as a Man. Not just a man, but Man as man was meant to be; an unspoiled companion of the living God, sharing in an intimate and joyful Creator/creation love relationship like no other. For in other parts of the Scriptures, we see that Adam was the first man, the one through whom sin and death entered the world. In Jesus, we find the "second Adam" through whom comes new life (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-50). You could think of it as Jesus redoing what Adam was supposed to have done at the beginning: living in perfect obedience to God the Father. Only thing is that Jesus had to do it in a world ruined by sin, and thus His obedience was infinitely more painful than the first Adam's would have been. However, it lends a depth to the obedience that Adam never could have mustered. I revere Jesus for His obedience. Had Adam obeyed, He would not have inspired the same response.

     As I read the last few verses, I recall that when I studied this passage I did not at first understand the bit about angels, but our study guide soon shed light on that. It was a Hebrew tradition that the Law was given by angels (which is referenced multiple times in the Bible--a fact I had always overlooked).  The author of Hebrews, then, is banishing any idea that Jesus might have been just another angel or even on the same level as them. Perhaps I just took that for granted, but there it is, spelled out for anyone who may have doubted it. The remaining verses of chapter 1 continue that theme, which I may or may not get into at a later date.

     For now, for today, it was good for me to go back to the beginning of the study, to review chapter one of Hebrews. I needed to remember that God gave such a breathtaking gift, to step down into His creation personally and speak His Word. I needed to be reminded how beautiful is my Lord Christ, how resplendent and how brimful of power and perfection. I needed to recall that He has done the work and now sits at the right hand of God--the place of favor and of honor, the seat of completion. For there are many troubles that plague my mind, many concerns and sorrows that assail me. It is good to remember that these things are largely not my business at all. They are His, and He is the one Who can affect, alter, sustain, or end them.

And He is good, so I have nothing to fear.