Category Archives: obedience

Oh The Places He’ll Take Us

That day when evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with Him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat,so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?’  They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’  Mark 4:35-41

“We’re going to the other side,” Jesus announced with a grin; He knew there was a storm ahead, as He told them to get in.  He promptly went to sleep just to see if they would choke; and sure enough the boat looked like it would go up in smoke.

“Wake up Jesus! Don’t you care if we drown?  What kind of prophet are you?  We’re all going down!”  “Relax you ninnies–have you no faith?  I’m the God of these storm clouds, the wind and the waves.”

“Be not afraid!  So please stop your big whines.  I’ve got places to take you that have no confines.  Your faith now is small, but grow it you must.  Place it not on the storm, but in Me and you’ll bust–

stick people motion.pngRight out of your boxes and fears and small boats, and soon you will be preaching to thousands, and you’ll host–all kinds of events and church gatherings, you’ll see.  That there’s no end to what I can do in you through your faith in Me.

 

Don’t tell Me to wake up–it’s you that needs awakened.  I want to do things that will shake you and keep shaking.  I have places to take you so wrap your heart around it; give Me your faith and I’ll equip you–now let’s get it started!”

*Photo from Pixabay

 


The River of God’s Delights

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.  Psalm 36:8-9

I am in earlier stages of studying through the Gospels chronologically.  As I embarked on this, I prayed that God would do a fresh work in me, that He would surprise me new things as I took another walk through the life of Jesus.  I love the song by Meredith Andrews, “The Gospel Changes Everything,” with some of some of its words:

The Gospel changes everything, the turning point in history, even now it’s changing me from who I was; The story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross, The Gospel changes everything and it is changing me…

Jesus changes everything, there is no greater mystery, that God would come to rescue me from who I was; The kindness of my Savior calls me to the wonder of His love; Jesus changes everything, and He is changing me!

I was pleasantly surprised this last week as I felt God answer my prayer, bubbling up within me.  I have been setting my alarm an hour earlier to spend more time with Him in the mornings, and quite often lately as I’m going through the Gospels He just puts things on my heart.  I was at our State capitol this last week to receive an award for our school.

The small group that I was with was walking to dinner the evening before and there was a gentleman talking loudly to himself on the street corner.  He caught my attention.  As I was eating, I had way more food than I needed and God brought the man to mind.  I stopped eating and asked for a to-go box.  I told my party that I hoped the man would be there on our walk back to the hotel.  They too had extra food and I thought they might follow suit, but didn’t.  But they did help watch for the man as we walked.

 

thank you river of delightsI couldn’t spot him and I was dashed.  But as I looked, there came another street person, a woman.  I stopped her, touched her gently on the shoulder, and asked if she would like some food.  She smiled broadly, took it and said, “Have a blessed evening.”  I walked away so happy inside, knowing that this was something that bubbled up from what I had just read from the Sermon on the Mount that morning.

 

God had put it on my heart, and the joy I experienced was from the river of God’s delights.  The neat thing is that God doesn’t just give us water, He establishes in us a fountain of living water that bubbles up from within. I don’t have to conjure this up, or vow each day to “be a nicer person,” He does it through me as I drink deep from Him.

*Image from Google Images

 


The Great Exchange

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God…but they became futile in their thinking…Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for stuff (me)…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Romans 1:21-25

I used to think this was the progression that idol worshipers in places like Papua New Guinea followed–some remote island.  But not me.  I’m not an idol worshiper!  I don’t have carved images in my backyard or on my mantel.  And I’m not like the pagans in my community who go golfing on Sunday mornings while I’m up early for prayer meeting, Sunday school and church.  They have idols, but not me.

Think again.  I’ve been slowly working through Brad Bigney’s  book, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols with a great group of women.  We’re just in the second chapter, so the best is yet to come in this archaeological dig of the heart.  I’m just in the first layer of unearthing my own heart.  I’m seeing that, though I might cloak my idols in a different veneer, they are there.

Anything I exchange for the one true God is an idol.  I can exchange the glory of God for stuff, materialistic things that I can hold on to.  And I can exchange the truth of God for any lie that I cling to that I think is easier to hold on to than to really believe what He has promised.  That’s my great exchange.

idol-7Back in Exodus when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come back down from the mountain they had Aaron make a golden calf.  That seemed so silly to me.  They had just seen God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptian army and all.  Now they have to wait 40 days and it’s too long?  But God has given us front row seats to His glory too and when He’s not on our timetable we go running off to something or someone else all too easily.  We turn to something we can control because we lose the faith or patience or the toughness that it takes to wait it out just a little longer until God delivers.

I remember working at an all girls’ camp and being over a dozen counselors and about 50 teenage girls.  The tricky part was that there was a boys camp across the lake and around the bend.  So my sleep was disrupted regularly by trying to catch the occasional interlopers.  The one that sticks in my mind was a twenty something counselor that was busted hooking up with a guy counselor at chapel point, (of all places) to have sex.  Her justification was, “in case she never gets a chance again.”  Really?  So like the golden calf crowd.

We get jumpy and stay in the drivers seat and exchange the truth of God for a lie.  The lie might be that trusting in money is better than trusting in God.  Isn’t it funny that we have “In God we trust” on our money (when we really trust in money)?  A friend from college stopped in about ten years after and I asked him how he was doing spiritually.  He was an engineer in a glass company and was doing quite well.  He was shockingly honest and said that he wasn’t doing well spiritually.  He said he had the same attitude he used to have when he smoked pot, but now it was money that he was smoking.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was embedded in materialism.  No one at church bothered him about it. He said it wasn’t like when he smoked pot, but it was the same rebellion.  The good news was when I saw him about five years later and asked him if he was still smoking money, he said he wasn’t.  I could tell he was much healthier spiritually.

 God isn’t always on our timetable so we get take matters into our own hands, just like the golden calf crowd and we turn to something we can control, says Bigney–even though idols serve us so poorly, and hurt us and cost us.  But we think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” but I think at core we wrestle with that most of the time.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus in John 11 was “You’re late,” when she had sent word to him that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus didn’t come right away and now he was dead.  Don’t we tell God He’s late a lot?    Jesus told Martha it was for the glory of God that He waited.  In chapter 2 of his book, Bigney says that “God is good, but He’s not safe. He will mess with your life–not just to be messing with it, but to conform you to the image of Christ.”

Jesus came late to mess with Martha and Mary because He had something so much bigger up His sleeve than just healing their brother.  He wanted to prove that He was the resurrection and the life and to give them a sneak preview of a huge coming attraction–His own resurrection.  And they got front row seats.  Wow.  Follow Jesus and that’s what He’ll do with you.  Put your life on the line and He’ll take your clean little life and turn it into a big, messy one.  Is it safe?  NO.  But like Mr. Beaver told Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Still in chapter 2, Bigney quotes Richard Keyes, from “The Idol Factory,” in No One but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age.  Keyes says that, paraphrased, we make idols because we don’t want to face God himself and His holiness.  So rather than to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards ‘creations,’ and kind of make up our own rules.

In other words, we have the evidence of God within ourselves and in the world, but it’s too demanding to play life by God’s rules.  So then we make up our own religion that looks kind of like God’s, but we’re the ones in control.  It’s too difficult to really draw near to God, because if you’re entertaining unconfessed sin, or flat out rebelling, you can’t be in the same zip code with God.  His holiness will consume you.  You’ll go nuts.

Keyes goes on to say, “Since we were made to relate to God, but do not want to face Him, we forever inflate things in this world to religious proportions to fill the vacuum left by God’s exclusion.”  That’s why we have elevated sports to such an over the top status, even in Christian families.  Bigney words it so well: “As Christians–lovers of Jesus Christ–we have a higher calling.”

As soon as we drift away from Christ and the centrality of the gospel, we start erecting substitutes for God.  That’s why our culture is so desperate to make heroes and celebrities our everything and everybody–because of our innate yearning for God and the freedom of His gospel, both of which we as a people have rejected.  And we try to fill the void with hero and celebrity worship.

The antidote?  Shine a light on your heart, but quickly turn it to Jesus.  Read the Gospels, delight in grace and what Jesus has done.  Don’t drift.  In Sunday School we decided to ask ourselves the question about what we needed to fast from that might have a foothold where it ought not have.  Bigney’s question in identifying idols is “Am I willing to sin to get it?”

Where have I exchanged God’s best for a lie, a cheap substitute?  Where have I caved to something that is easier than to walk by faith and have chosen instead to walk by sight?

We’re going on an archaeological dig straight into our hearts.  I’ll tell you what I find.


God is ‘The King of the World’ and the King of Me

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.  Isaiah 40:21-23

 Do you remember that scene in ‘Titanic’ where Leonardo DiCaprio is on the bow of that great ship and cries out, “I’m the king of the world”? Or, Shirley MacLaine in the movie, “Out On a Limb” when she stood on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and sang, “I am God, I am God, I am God.” (see Fatheralexander.org)

What do you suppose God thinks of that? Frank Peretti humorously imagines in his video, “The Chair,”  from Compass International, God hearing this little squeal while Shirley MacLaine is beating her chest and declaring loudly that she’s God, and says, “Hey, Peter, get a load of this,” as He hears a little squeak.  In other words, He is God and we’re not. He is the true King of the World.

king-world-concept-25324632God sits above the circle of the earth and we are like grasshoppers. He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and brings princes to rulers to nothing. Isaiah 40 goes on to say that scarcely have the kings and princes established themselves when God blows on them and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us that, The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.  God controls the rulers of the world, even the evil dictators. They do His bidding. So when it looks like the world is falling apart, with a variety of situations that threaten to spin out of control—know that God establishes leaders and He brings them down.

We don’t need to fret when we turn on the news. We do need to entrust ourselves into the hands of a God who sits above the circle of the earth, whose Ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, as Isaiah 55:8 declares.

The personal application of Isaiah 40 is coming to the conclusion that there is a God who sits on the throne and that this God of the universe if worthy of all of your praise.  I was reading about what Steven Hawking believed.  He was one of the smartest guys on the planet, yet before his death in March of 2018, he still claimed to be an atheist.  He believed that there was a grand design to the universe, but it had nothing to do with God.

 Throughout the years, Hawking has made many statements in opposition to religious beliefs. A few are listed below.  These quotes are taken from owlcation.com:

  • “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
  • “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
  • “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.“ This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

I look at the contrast between his life and mine.  I am not as smart, by a long stretch, but I do know, to borrow the line of a hymn, “that at God’s right hand stands the One who is my Savior.”  The same power that enables Jesus to hold the universe together (Colossians 1:17) is the same power that holds me together.

 

 


Keeping Our Heart Safe

 

 


Of Eagles’ Wings and High Walls

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 40:31

Those who wait for the Lord.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  Have you ever run ahead of God?  Maybe you were too impatient to let Him work out His plan, so you took matters in your own hand, and you ended up with a mess.   If you did, how did it work out?

Waiting on God means that we apply Psalm 34:5, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  It is trusting God to direct your steps, praying to Him and waiting for an answer before you act.  It is also daily coming to God to ask His opinion on your day, not just going in your own energy and strength.

Shall renew their strength.  Paul said in Colossians 1 that his goal was to teach and admonish everyone with all wisdom so that everyone would be mature in Christ.  In verse 29 he gives away a little secret, “struggling with all of His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”  This meant that Paul had to put a lot of time and his own energy into reaching others for Jesus, but He did it with Jesus’ strength and energy.

That is a big secret.  The only way we can live the Christian life successfully is to let God live it through us via the Holy Spirit.  Usually we don’t figure this out until we come to the end of ourselves, like through some sort of disabling injury or disease, or loss of a job or some situation where we are in over our heads.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and figure it out now! Philippians 4:13 reads I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not I can do all things because I have so much strength. Come to God daily and ask for Him to give you His strength and wisdom for the day. Don’t rest in your own strength, wisdom and resources. They will quickly fail. If they don’t, you’re just full of your own pride, and that’s another issue.

They shall mount up with wings like eagles. The Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity.  He is God’s personality and His job is to teach, convict, and guide us.  His job is also to empower us, according to Acts 1:8, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses… The Holy Spirit gives us the power not to sin, the power to set our mind on Heavenly things and not on ourselves, and He gives us the power to mount up with wings of eagles.

They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Many days when I’m already worn out and I just got out of bed, I find myself praying these verses.   Psalm 18:29 says, For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. Claim God’s strength to equip you to do what He has called you to do.  It’s funny that on those days when I’m driving to work with no energy and I’m calling out for it, when I’m driving home on those same roads, I’ll think: “I made it!”  I’ll marvel that God did it, not that I did it.  He’s that kind of a God.

receive His strength.jpgI pray that God would give you His energy and strength.  I pray that God would give you His power, wisdom, creativity and equipping for the day.  May you mount up with wings like eagles and may you run and not grow weary. In Jesus name today may you leap over a high wall.

 

 


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139: 23-24


A Gospel Ambition

I endeavor to bring the Gentiles to obedience of the faith, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God…so that I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and this I make it my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ has already been named.  Romans 15:18-20

That was Paul’s gospel ambition, to go where ‘no man has gone before’ to preach about hands upJesus.  He had dreams and he was fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.  A Gospel Ambition.  That sounds so lofty, reserved for heavy hitters like Paul, or pastors and missionaries.

Maybe the rest of us get ‘life ambitions.’  Now we call them ‘bucket lists,’ after the Morgan Freeman movie.  It doesn’t have to be spiritual, at least that’s what we think.  So our bucket lists include things like: seeing the Grand Canyon, or running a half marathon, or getting on Jeopardy (that’s mine).

**But does God put spiritual bucket lists on our hearts?  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “We are HIs workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  The NIV words it “that God has prepared in advance for us to do.”  He’s given us a mission just like He gave Paul.  It might not be as sweeping and far reaching as his, but my point is that God gives us all a ‘Gospel ambition’ a life purpose, and He burns it on our hearts.

That means we don’t have to look hard to find it.  We know what it is.  And God gives us the Holy Spirit to give us the power and the boldness to carry it out.  That’s what Acts 1:8; 4:31 and Colossians 1:27-29 say.  It wasn’t just for guys back then, it’s for us too.  Jesus lives in us and gives us His power, energy and boldness.

I occasionally get dreams that I know have spiritual significance.  I had  one this week.  I knew that there was something to the people and events in the dream, so I sought out a friend that is a pretty good interpreter and encourager.  One thing he has taught me is that if I have a dream about somebody else, I need to tell that dream to the person because God has a message for them.  God has been speaking to me about several things since that dream, including not letting me back pedal from my Gospel ambition.

In my dream I was walking a co-worker’s father home.  It was a snowy evening, and I was walking him home on a trail to his daughter and son-in-law’s cabin.  They had the fire going and they welcomed him in.  The father and I didn’t talk, nor did the couple invite me in.  My concern was that he got ‘home’ safely and I was successful.  I have never had a personal connection with this father until about three weeks ago when I rode with him and several others to a sporting event.  He is almost 80, so no spring chicken.

As I turned to head back down the snowy trail, the sun was going down almost completely and I saw that I had a head lamp.  My co-worker, who is not a Christian, called out, “Don’t you love those head lamps?  I have one every where I go.”  But within a few steps it dimmed.  I looked down the path and about 30 yards ahead there were four or five bears in my path.  I saw them, they didn’t see me.  My head flashlight went out completely and I laid down on the ground and back pedaled up hill and woke up.

The father that I walked home is not a Christian.  One of his daughters is, and I felt led to call her and ask about his spiritual state.  The night before my dream they had just had a family meeting to say that her mother had breast cancer and they were talking about where their burial plots were.  He is a skeptic and a debater.  She said, “I won’t be in that grave long.”  He said, “I’ll be in that hole for a long time.”  He needs Jesus.

As she told me this, the Michael W. Smith song played strongly in my head, “I’ll Lead You Home.”  Some of the words: “It won’t be long before your sun goes down, just leave it to Me, I’ll lead you home;  A troubled mind and a doubter’s heart; You wonder how you ever got this far; Leave it to Me, I’ll lead you home.  Hear Me calling, Hear Me calling…”

I had just watched the movie, “A Case for Christ.”  It’s about Lee Strobel, the big skeptic who tried to disprove Christianity and ended up becoming a Christian in the process.  The father was a lawyer and reads a lot.  I ordered the book and am going to give it to the Christian daughter to give to him this next week when they get back from a trip.  We’ll see where it leads from there.

The bears in the path are/could be resistance, nay sayers, overbearing people who would cause me to back pedal and to not be bold–hence, my light for the Lord dims and goes out.  It doesn’t shine and doesn’t do it’s work.  That so hits the nail on the head.  It is so easy to back pedal and avoid confrontation.  It took boldness just to call the Christian daughter out of the blue and tell her that I had this dream and to ask her about her dad.

When I read these verses about the Holy Spirit being the one who gives us the boldness, as well as the  ambition to be used by God in the first place, it gives me the confidence that God will do a work in this father’s heart before He dies.  He will lead Jim home.  I just get to walk with him down the path.

 

 


A pretty good Easter message

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce all ungodliness…and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in our present lives.  When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 2:11-12; 3:4-5

When Jesus showed up, that’s when His grace came.  That’s what gave us the ability to “Just say no” as the old anti-drug slogan said.  It’s His grace that trains us to be better people.  Coupled with the Holy Spirit, we can change from being selfish jerks to something much better than that.

Well then, why did I launch off on the Sirius XM customer service person on the phone because of their hidden charges fee that I found on my bank statement the other day?  Aren’t I supposed to be better than that?  I hung up, shaking my head at myself.  Who was that on the phone?

I was just reading these verses: “Fools show their annoyance at once,” Proverbs 12:16.  And “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools,” angrywomanfrom Ecclesiastes 7:9.  I don’t need to let things like hidden taxes set me off and I roll out the welcome mat to anger.  Forgive me God.  I’m sorry phone person.

I am not going to let anger take up residence in my heart.  God’s grace is at work in me, training me away from a life of being irritated easily, being grumpy, prone to resentment, self pity or moodiness.  That’s not who I am.  Romans 5:20-21 says that where sin increases, that where grace abounds all the more. As sin reigns in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life.

In other words, when I sin, God pours out His grace so that righteousness triumphs instead of sin.  When Jesus came, He brought goodness and kindness with Him.  He brought grace and mercy with Him.  He’s pouring it on on me so I can pour it out on others.

That’s a pretty good Easter message.  Grace is what showed up when Jesus came and the the training away from ungodliness was made possible because He rose from the dead.

*Image from Google images

 


Whatever it Takes

count it as loss

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:7-8

I’m back to the white spaces again.  We talked about this in our women’s Sunday school class.  One younger woman seemed particularly bothered by why God would leave questions unanswered for long gaps of time, or why in my case, He would seem to lead overseas and then head me in a total opposite direction and not tell me why for so long.

Three years ago I would have jumped on that question and argued with God on her side and yelled, “Yeah, WHY GOD?”  I’m so much more mature now 🙂  Not really.  It’s just that He’s tipped His hand a little more since then.  And I’m thankful.  Thirty years ago I did think that God was calling me to be an overseas missionary and instead I’ve been stationed instead just south of Lake Superior in Wisconsin.  I’ve not been labeled as a missionary, and for parts of the time I’ve not had many friends, a healthy church to attend, or have I been overjoyed to be posted here.  I’ve tried to relocate, only to feel pulled back by the hand of God.  Rats.

I do know that God had me learn things in the 80’s that I needed to know for life in this spiritually tough area:

  1.  I learned that the Bible really is the power of God for salvation.  I had been a part of several camps and youth ministries where I was able to lead hundreds of people to the Lord, or to be a part of God’s process.  I learned that if I taught with a Bible in my hand, things would happen.  I saw hearts changed radically and visibly.  I needed to know that so when I got to this area, two different places in NWest Wisconsin, where the spiritual climate was drastically colder and harder, I wouldn’t give up.  I learned not to resort to emotionalism, manipulation, or slick tricks to get numbers.  Today, I still teach with the Bible in my hand, trusting that God will do His work.  The visible results aren’t there like they used to be, but it’s still true.
  2. I  learned that the Holy Spirit is real and is alive.  I had been taught in my youth that all of the work of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostles.  God did some amazing things to show me this was not the case.  He wanted me to have the Holy Spirit as my close friend and power to stand and to keep standing.  It’s a good thing, because there have many spiritual warfare battles and I have learned in the trenches how to chase demons away.  I even had a graduate professor astral project into my bedroom a couple of times when I lived alone in the woods.  But that’s a story for another day.
  3. I learned that God still had purging and refining to do in me.  I had claimed a song as a life song in the 80’s, “Whatever it Takes.”  Some of the lyrics are:                       There’s a voice calling me from an old rugged tree, saying ‘Christian, draw closer to Me.  Leave this world far behind, there are new heights to climb; and in Me a new life you will find’…For whatever it takes to draw closer to You Lord, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  I’ll trade sunshine for rain, comfort for rain–that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  For whatever it takes, for my will to break, that’s what I’ll be willing to do.  When you say, ‘Whatever it takes’ to God, then you better mean it.  You’re giving God the license to purify, purge and sanctify.  I needed and still need junk hosed out of me.  The time here has done that, and it hasn’t been fun.  Some of the time just about killed me.  But it has been good (kind of like a root canal).
  4. I learned that God is writing a story in me, in all of us, that He wants to use.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a third grader in my principal’s office.  She and another girl had gone on a stealing spree, going through classmates’ lockers that they thought would have cool things to take.  The biggest problem was that they took and lost a girl’s retainer, worth hundreds of dollars.  And they seemed unfazed by it.  Something in me snapped, and I said to the one in my office that day a speech something like this, What do you want in your life?  Do you want to be in jail like your mom?  I know she just got out.  I know that wasn’t fun for you or her.  I know where you live.  Not really–I don’t know where your house is.  What I mean is, I grew up like you did.  I lived your life.  We didn’t have plumbing half of the time.  Our lawn mower didn’t work most of the time so the grass was over our waist and I slunk down in the bus seat because I was ashamed for my classmates to see it.  And my clothes were all hand me down’s because I had two older sisters.  Then our house burnt down and so we got the whole neighborhoods’ hand me down’s, so my clothes were really bad then.  I could have stolen things because I thought I was a victim.  But I did something instead.  When I was in third grade, your age, I read every book in my school.  It might have been a little smaller school than this, but the point is that I used my brain.  And that’s what got me out.  Find something that you’re good at and run with it.  Make something out of your life!  She sat there frozen, just staring at me.  My words probably went over her head, but they didn’t go over mine.  Maybe she helped me find a little more of my voice that day.  God has written my story and He wants me to tell it.
  5. God isn’t finished with me yet.  Caleb was 85 when he went to Joshua (in Joshua 14:10-12) and said, “I am 85 and I am just as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…so now give me this mountain!”  Caleb still had dreams and plans until the end, and that’s a great role model.  I’ll never arrive until I get to see Jesus.

I don’t remember when I quit singing that song, but I do know what God did take me at my word.  He has made me more like Him, not to be mean, but to make me useful and to lovingly make me who He made me for my good and for His glory.  And He’s not done yet.