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He Is Perfect

"Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory." Psalms 24:10

My Lord, my God, perfect in every way.  Awesome in power and in majesty.  I come before you your imperfect adopted daughter, grateful for the cleansing you completed in me through your Son, Jesus.  Grateful for the work your Holy Spirit continues in me so that I can bow before you blameless and faithful.  Amen

One of my daughters suffered for a while with perfectionism.  She once told me that she got that need to be perfect from me.  I had to admit I played a strong part through my own need to always do things just right.  And that need stemmed from a hole in my heart.  A hole that needed filling with love and grace.  I worried if I “messed up” then I would lose respect, lose friends, lose love.  I’m sure my daughter felt the same.  And it grieved me I had passed that along to her.  I’m so grateful she had the courage to share her struggle with me so that I could remind her how much I love her – no matter what.  Thankfully, she sought out God and the healing power of Jesus sooner in her life than I did.

I have finally realized the truth behind the flippant remark, “nobody’s perfect.”  Well, there is one “body” who is perfect and that’s the Triune God.  Other than that, we all fall woefully short.  Can I get an “amen?”

" When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless (“perfect” KJV)." Genesis 17:1

When God had this conversation with Abraham, He wasn’t expecting this man to be sinless – an impossible goal for us to reach.  In fact, the word “perfect” is translated as “single-hearted, without blame, sincere, wholly devoted to the Lord.”  It’s not to say we aren’t to strive to mirror God’s perfect will but as our Creator He knows our weaknesses.

"I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he."  Deuteronomy 32:3-4

In the history of our human existence there has never been another worshipped god that can claim this state of perfection.  The Greek gods fought amongst themselves and were jealous.  They required constant preening and begging to intervene in human lives.  And when they did, you didn’t know for whose benefit they would act.  The god of the ancients, Baal, also needed constant pleasing through child sacrifice and sexually immoral acts.  Fast forward to today and the gods we modern humans have created look a lot like ourselves.  We place our minds in the center of the universe and need to feed the god of humans through wealth and fame and accumulation.   All the while not being able to accomplish a tiny portion of what the One True God has done and will do.  

Yes, God wants our attention.  He wants our worship.  He wants our obedience.  But He doesn’t need any of it.  He is perfect without us.  That, my friends, is what makes His devotion to us and His love for us and His sacrifice of His Son for us all the more glorious!  What I say to that is thank you, Lord!  Thank you for your Holy Word, your promises to us, for justice and mercy and grace.  I give you all the glory you rightfully deserve!

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At Home With God

“Yet he (Abraham) did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.”  Romans 4:20

Holy God, everything I have belongs to you — my home, my car, my food, my marriage, my family. Help me to use them in service to you each day so I can proclaim Your glory and the wonderful work you have done in my life. Amen

I’d have to say one of the first obvious signs that I was submitting to God and giving Him authority over my life was years ago when my brother-in-law came to visit us and wanted to bring his girlfriend.  We had two small children and my husband and I decided we needed to model God’s morals by telling his brother that although she could come, they couldn’t sleep in the same room together.  He laughed, thinking we were joking.  But when we affirmed our decision, he asked how we could decide that when we, ourselves, had lived together before marriage.  It’s an easy answer actually.  We were now Christians with children to whom we were responsible for modeling God’s will.

Here’s the thing, Christian, it’s ok, even necessary in God’s act of progressive revelation, to change our minds.  To grow in our faith.  To set up new boundaries.  Especially in our own homes.  For Abraham, mentioned in our first verse today, he struggled to align his entire household with God.  He made bad decisions about his wife, he had to make peace among his family, he was faced with the prospect of sacrificing his son to the Lord.  But He kept moving forward in his faith.  With each step he learned more about God’s expectations of him and he guided his family and home toward God’s promises.  He set history on the right path by giving glory to God over and over. Joshua carried this forward when he assembled all the tribes of Israel.

"15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Our home spaces are the perfect place to glorify God.  Why? Because when we stand in our home, every blessing we can see belongs to Him.  The home, apartment, tent, condo, all belong to God.  The food in the cupboards, the furnishings, the beds, the indoor (or outdoor) plumbing – yes, all belong to Him and should be used in His service to glorify Him.

My two oldest friends are unfortunately not believers.  And over these last few years I’ve had the Holy Spirit convict me of my behavior when I’m around them.  I need to show them the work God has done in me.  When they are at my house, I must model God.  That means I shouldn’t allow certain behavior or speech within the walls of my house.  I fail at times when I let myself be pulled into the world of unbelievers.  Sometimes I forget to pray over our meal, I drift into outraged political discussions, and I gossip.  My first step was realizing what I was doing doesn’t honor God.  My second step is to be more consistent in application.

Friend, if the Lord has blessed you with a comfortable place to lay your head each night, a place to make a life for your family, a home to provide hospitality to others, we need to remember it was all given for a purpose.  If we struggle to honor God in our home, how can we be expected to receive further responsibility from Him outside our homes?  So today, stand in the middle of the place you call home and proclaim it is all for His glory.

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From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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Contend for the Faith

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  Hebrews 10:33-35

Our country has become a virtual cafeteria of different religions, cults, and non-Christian world views that are all vying for supremacy on America’s religious landscape.  Our country is also currently confronted by many tough domestic and global issues.  We need Christian wisdom and biblical discernment as never before.  

Ron Rhodes, 5 Minute Apologetics for Today

That phone call that dreary night will never be forgotten, at least by me.  And I wasn’t even the person in trouble.  I wasn’t the one who desperately needed to hear the right words to save a life.  But I was in need of knowing the right words to say.  And because I didn’t have the wisdom, the strength of faith I have now, I must take part of the blame for ending a life that night.  

My friend’s voice was filled with desperation.  She was pregnant.  She was also just 19, a college student far from home, a woman who was having an affair with a married man (who had also gotten another woman pregnant).  I had counseled her before, over and over, trying to get her to stop seeing this man.  He was slimy and untrustworthy.  But of course, he was oh so different with her – a genuine prince apparently.  And so, a life of unwanted, unprepared motherhood was staring at her in the face.  What would she tell her parents?  How could she show her face?  My immediate response? “You must get an abortion of course.”  

This young woman who dreamed of being married one day and having many children was looking for a way to erase her mistakes.  To reboot her dream of becoming a nurse first then having a family.  And I helped her take what seemed to be the easy path.  We washed our hands of it all and moved forward with both our lives.  But I have never forgotten what I did.  And I doubt she has either.

I wasn’t a Christian at the time but I was a member of the human race.  A person that valued fairness and justice.  A person who for the most part thought she was a “good person.”  I had no one in my life telling me different, showing me a different way.  It wasn’t until I drew closer to Jesus that I realized how far from the truth I was really living.  

The problem was I then swung too far in the other direction.  I took up the mantle of “truth” and forgot about the Royal Commandment – to love one another.  And I think when we Christians get ourselves mired in political and social issues we can forget about that place of balance that God seeks for us.  We can forget about what we are really needing to accomplish in God’s name.

In the United States, the Republican/conservative/right leaning parties are automatically associated with Christians.  And yes, there are many of the same values involved.  But to assign our faith to one political party’s platform is a mistake in so many ways.  For one, it politicizes the message of Jesus. For another it assumes that all party stances are within the biblical realm.  It also assumes there aren’t people in other parties that profess their Christian faith.  

And so, when we come personally up against a faith/biblical/moral issue we may frequently pull back from our commission of helping others out of a sin-filled life because we don’t want to be labeled a “right winger,” a “bigot,” a “nut job” or any other derogatory statements.

To be fair, too many of our churches have either abdicated their responsibility to teach their flock about so many hot button issues such as homosexuality and abortion and how to respond correctly.  While others have so politicized their churches you can’t tell the difference on a Sunday between a patriot rally and a sermon.

A new friend of mine told me how she was visiting various churches trying to find a new church home.  One visit took place on the 4th of July – the U.S. Day of Independence.  As she stood for the beginning worship, she noticed all the songs were patriotic ones.  And when the US flag was marched in by worshippers, she got up to leave.  At the door the pastor stopped her and asked why she was leaving.  Her response?  “I came to worship God, not the United States.”  She loves her country but her love of God doesn’t have anything to do with her country.

And so, like the women in my Bible study groups we ask questions that our churches fail to address or in the way they need to be addressed.  We feel safe to dig deep into what the Bible truly says about homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and more.  But we aren’t theologians – that’s why we go to church.   To hear the Word of God taught to us in ways we can turn around and use them out in the world.  It’s sad, to be honest, to hear Christians desperate for knowledge and yet left unfed week after week.

One of the ladies in my study group recently had a profound breakthrough related to this topic.  She is very sweet and prides herself on creating good relationships.  But she realizes her desire to not “rock any boat” has also been an excuse for not speaking the truth + love when it is needed most.  “I’ve realized that in the past I had the excuse of being naïve as to the expectation of what God wants from me.  But I can’t use that excuse anymore.  I know he wants me to contend for the faith.  I know what is truly at stake.  I’m now struggling to see what that looks like for me,” she said.

I’m not going to take each major issue facing our world today because I am not a theologian with lots of important degrees to back up my words.  But I will direct you to the steps you might take to be better prepared when your friend tells you their daughter wants to start hormone treatments to become a man.   Or, when your co-worker tells you that having a nice house in a nice neighborhood is white privilege and you should be ashamed.  We also need to be prepared to step back and know when a political issue maybe doesn’t have any biblical connection at all and just must be looked at from a “good citizen” point of view.  Because yes, not everything we deal with is a faith hill to die on – but how we deal with those issues is.

You’ll remember at the beginning of this post I referenced the book 5 Minute Apologetics for Today.  It was written in 2010.  But you’ll find most of the issues we face currently.  It’s a great, easy read for giving us biblical perspectives.  In addition, here are 4 steps that were recently explained in my current Bible study on Jude.  

As background, Jude (Jesus’ brother) was writing to a church that was infiltrated by false teachers.  Teachers who were leading lives and encouraging believers to give themselves over to sexual immorality and more.  Towards the end of his letter, before he tells the believers how to confront the false teachers, he gives them these four pieces of advice:

  1. Build up your knowledge and confidence in the Word.  Learn about and study the Bible, God’s character, His promises and the judgment to come.  Be immersed by also finding a good biblical teaching church – not one that just tells you some good stories each week.  Join Bible studies and do the work! Jude 20/Eph 2:19
  2. Pray not in the flesh but in the Spirit.  Go to the Holy Spirit and ask for help in what to pray.  By doing so you’ll show God your dependence on Him.  Ask for help in knowing what issues you should be concerned about and which you should just leave alone. Jude 20/Rom 8:26-27
  3. Keep yourself in the love of God.  Fight to resist your own passions and doctrine that keeps you separated from God.  Lean into God for His promises and His direction. Jude 21/John 15:9
  4. Stay in the hope of the mercy that is waiting for you.  As Jackie Hill Perry says about this, “We have been saved from God’s wrath for God.”  The knowledge and hope of what is to come when Jesus returns should feel like a protection.   We have something better in store for us than man’s approval.  We need to keep our sights on this so the persecution we might face doesn’t silence us. Jude 21/Heb 11:25-26

On a final note, I want to encourage you to do a study on Revelation.  It helps to do it with others.  Don’t just read Revelation.  It’s probably too confusing to be honest.  A good study with people you trust will reveal to you what so many of our churches seem to fail to remind us each and every week – that judgment is coming to all.  We have a greater commission than just being “nice Christians.”  We are commissioned to help God save souls.  We might want to start in our own households.

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The Purposeful Path

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from God.  3 John 11

When I was first researching the word “resolute” I came across the tiny village of Resolute in the province of Nunavut, Canada. Back in 1999, Canada created a new province from the original Northern Territories specifically for its native citizens.  And Resolute was one of the northernmost inhabited spots in that province.  Its most famous resident, who put Resolute firmly on the map, was Joseph Idlout, the subject of two documentaries, Land of the Long Day in 1952 and Between Two Worlds in 1990. He was for a time one of the most well-known Inuit and was shown on the back of the Canadian two-dollar bill.

I decided to watch the Land of the Long Day and was treated to some childhood memories of old fashioned documentary film styles.  This little film about a tiny family eking out an existence in the Arctic held my fascination for over an hour.  You see, Mr. Idlout purposefully chose to keep his family close to the old ways of living.  They hunted and gathered what was available each season, storing up for long, dark winters.  They used every available resource to keep their family alive and thriving.   Everyone in the family had a job to do for their survival.  And to maintain this way of life he petitioned the Canadian government to move to a tiny weather station called Resolute and create a home for themselves.  Rather than uprooting their lives and becoming more “modern” they chose to remain true to their culture.  And they flourished. 

It’s perfect that this “most famous Inuit” moved to a tiny town called Resolute because that’s what it took to make his decision for his family.  And I wonder, how many decisions us modern parents make are based on what God really wants for our children? 

As a grandma and parent of two, now grown women, I can easily recall times when I had to make decisions that would set my children and family apart from others.  So many times, when I would go against the norm, others would say to me,  “I hadn’t even thought about that.”  In other words, they were just going along to get along without consulting any moral code whatsoever.

“When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, “No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It seems so natural to automatically sign a permission slip for your child to go on the 4th grade overnight trip that every single 4th grader in your school has gone on for the last 10 years.  There’ll be chaperones and it’s just down the street.  Everyone is going.  And then you find out boys and girls will be sleeping together in small rooms.  Chaperones include moms and dads – many whom you don’t know.  So your daughter will be spending the night with boys and a dad.   No problem, everyone is going.  Everyone has gone.  No one has ever brought up any issue.   So what’s your problem?  Are you going to set your child apart?  Will you be resolute in what you know is the God-directed answer?

In the verse today it says “imitate evil.”  And I think so often when we read things like that in the Bible we give ourselves little passes to make immoral decisions, especially when we feel it might harm our kids’ social lives.  I mean, it’s not “evil” to let our kids go on a boy/girl sleepover.  It’s not “evil” to allow our daughters to wear the latest fashions that might be a bit revealing.  It’s not  “evil” to let our sons play violent video games.  It’s also not “evil” for all the parents at the birthday party to get drunk. Right?

In a world where parents are pressured into allowing their elementary and middle school children to start dangerous hormones and go under the knife in order to try and change their gender, letting your kids watch R rated movies and TV shows seems tame in comparison. And we let it slide.

“Perfect behavior may be as unattainable as perfect gear changing when we drive; but it is a necessary ideal. Prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars…it would be idiotic not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It’s interesting that this quote from Mere Christianity involves using a stick shift in a car.  For just about every one of us that process has changed to be an automatic.  But the question I ask is your automatic response to making decisions for yourself and your family set to the world of the flesh or the Word of God? 

For Joseph Idlout, he drew on his people’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history and made the conscious decision to not go the modern route of the world.  And I have to say they seemed to live a pretty content and peaceful life.  Not an easy one by any means.  The harsh Arctic conditions probably led many to scoff at their decision.  They might even have been called any manner of names from savages to crazy to ignorant.  But his children didn’t grow up with drug addictions, suicidal tendencies, endless debt, and more that our world offers.

We can’t all put our families on an island away from the world’s influences.  But we can stop pretending things aren’t “evil” when they go against what God wants of us.  We must be resolute and purposeful in following God’s will for our families.  To be His humble servants, to know His Word inside and out so that it becomes automatic, and to live like the chosen people we are.  Our children’s lives depend on it.

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Back to Bethel

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. Genesis 13:3-4

I heard a great sermon the other day about Genesis 13.  I love how God lets us view people in the Bible with an almost cinematic touch.  We reach deep into their thoughts, their trials, their sins, their joys.  We can sit back and know they are about to fail or conquer.  But like any good director, God places seemingly insignificant artifacts and occurrences into the story that, in order to get the beautiful breadth of the story we need to look again and dig deeper.

That’s the advantage of being in a church which hosts a good teaching pastor.  They find the nuggets and carefully remove the outer layers, revealing the gems.

And so, I learned the other day about Bethel.  About coming home.  About retracing my steps to bring me back closer to God.  Two little sentences in the Bible showing me where to go when I feel lost.  When I have gone off track.  I praise God today for Bethel – for His welcoming home.

Many years ago, I wrote a short poem for my mother in law.  The gist of the poem was that like a bird finds its comfort in a beautiful birdhouse, so I find my home with her.  A lot of people feel that way around her.  She brings you in and gives you rest and comfort.  In Abram’s case, after he had made some disastrous decisions while in Egypt, he made the wise choice to go back to God’s house – Bethel.  It’s where he had built the first altar to honor God.

He didn’t just show up there, he entered back into communication with God.  And he was surely welcomed.  

Our human nature is to grow up and out of our parents’ homes.  To plunge into the world of adulthood, seemingly going it alone.  But for many who come from loving, healthy homes they know they can always come back for advice and aid.  

Our relationship with God is unique.  He wants us always tethered to Him.  He desires to be constantly asked about who to marry, where to work, how to handle difficult relationships.  He wants us to join His home gym, giving us strength to make it through trials and tribulations.  He longs to have us sit around His dinner table sharing our day – our joys and our pains.

And when we wander too far away, we need to remember to retrace our steps.  We need to follow our hearts back to Bethel.


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Busy or Fruitful?

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:20

For much of my life I sought busyness.  If I wasn’t “doing” then I was not worthy.  It didn’t matter what that doing was, I just needed to do something.  When I quit working to be a stay at home mom my greatest fear was to be seen as worthless.  A non-contributor.  And yes, I know I was doing the important work of raising a child.  But having grown up through the 70s and 80s, being a homemaker was not a goal any of my friends wished to attain.  

When my husband would come home from work and ask me, “What did you do today?” I took that as a judgment of my worth.  I felt the need to provide an hour by hour list of all the important things I had accomplished.  

Fast forward to 2020 – yes, the Great Lockdown.  I see that time as a sifting of sorts.  If you weren’t tied to a Zoom-based job you either embraced staying at home working on little projects around the house, completing endless puzzles, catching up on all those books you’d ignored, jumping in to Bible studies or you were going mad with boredom and itching to “do something important.”

What does this all have to do with praising God?  I realized the other day that I need to be thankful to Him that He never asks us to live a life of “busyness.”  I praise Him for instead expecting us to live a life that bears good fruit.  Quality over quantity.  He is not a task master.  He doesn’t have verses in the Bible about accounting for every hour of our day.  Yes, He doesn’t want us to be idle.  But that means not wasting our precious time doing things that don’t produce good fruits.

Time spent in mediation is not idle.  It helps me commune with Him.  Time spent in study brings me closer in line with what He wants of me.  Time spent in nature helps me appreciate and praise Him.  Time spent with my husband during a round of golf brings us closer together and strengthens our marriage.

But busyness distracts me.  It physically causes my heart to race thinking I need to accomplish something – anything.  It darkens my heart when I equate my doing with my worth.

Jesus came to change our hearts.  To remind us that our wrong intent is just as bad as our wrong doing.  And knowing that releases my heart and mind to live in a peaceful state. 


 

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God’s Guardrails

For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. Deuteronomy 30:16

I grew up not wanting to have children.  In my isolated world I experienced a parenting style that used harsh, physical, anger-fueled discipline.  I didn’t know there was any other way and knew it wasn’t what I wanted impose on any children.  So often as we become our own people, cleaved from our parents, we take the elements of parenting we don’t like and try to do the exact opposite.  However, I also acknowledged as a new adult that the harsh discipline kept me from a lot of dangerous behavior.  So where was the balance?

If you take a brief walk through the history of parenting you’ll see a modern conflict similar to the one I was having.  The harsh disciplinary view of old was met face on with Dr. Spock and his more “loosey goosey” style.  But as the Spock kids became the radical children of the 60s and 70s parents searched for a middle ground.  One psychologist, Dr. James Dobson took up the challenge.  He brought parents back into the position of authority but done with love.

Discipline isn’t, by definition, a bad thing. Studies have shown that the most effective way to foster healthy relationships with children and give them the ability to learn and utilize self-control is through positive discipline. 

Lauren Steele, Fatherly.com

We humans need fatherly guardrails.  It’s a proven fact since the beginning of time.  We need to remember that when Moses came down the mountain with the 10 commandments they were NEW rules.  New guardrails of how to worship God, how to treat other people, how to be respectful within our families, and how to protect ourselves from well, ourselves.  

The Old Testament has a shadow story woven throughout.  Yes, we follow the woeful Israelites through trials, tribulations and successes.  But put in context God is constantly showing them how to live differently than all the other nations around them.  Nations that He created as well but saw how they overwhelmingly desired to live outside His guardrails – rampant sexual exploits, child sacrifice and more.  He was testing them all, just like today.  Free self-reign or accepting governance by God.

I praise God today for His guardrails.  For the 10 Commandments He gave us to live within.  Because just like our children we prove over and over that without them we can get ourselves into a lot of trouble.  Without His guidance, His narrow path, we wander off into parts unknown, get lost, live in fear and despair, and ruin not just our lives but the ones we love.

When I met my husband and told him why I didn’t want children he assured me we’d figure it out.  He wouldn’t let my past keep me from a full future.  Thankfully as we took the journey, we met God along the way.  I may have pushed up against those guardrails a few times but He always calls me back to the center of the road.  


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Rinse & Repeat

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Matthew 24:42-44

If you are a parent, or even a supervisor of others at work, you can relate so well to Jesus already.  You work day in and day out to show those who look to you for guidance how to live, work and even play.  Through your love, your willingness to give up other things to serve them, your confidence, counseling and teaching you hope all that you share sinks in deeply.

And then you turn your back for a minute.  

I was listening to the Talk It Out podcast the other day.  It’s three friends who discuss the teachings of Joyce Meyer.  This particular episode found them doing their first Covid-19 distanced podcast.  One of the women shared how the day prior, when they were practicing how the podcast would actually work, she set up her two kids in the bedroom with snacks and a movie.  She then went to another room for privacy.  Everything was perfect.  The kids had what they needed and were properly admonished.  

Partway through the run-through her daughter interrupted the proceedings.  As the mom turned to see what caused the interruption all she saw was a massacre.  At least that’s what it appeared to be.  Her young daughter had somehow gotten a hold of red nail polish and had painted her entire feet and hands.  And the white bedspread.

When asking her slightly older son what happened he replied unabashedly, “I dunno, she needed me to open it so I did.”

Jesus spent three intense years teaching, showing, guiding and yet even His closest disciples struggled to model Him.  And we sit here about 2,000 years later, with our red nail polish spilled all over our guidebook.  Oops.  

The thing about the red nail polish on the sheets is it never completely comes out.  It leaves a pink stain, as the mom found out.  She sat night after night staring at it.  But thankfully, each time we fail to live up to the lessons of Jesus we can come with our stained hands and hearts and ask for forgiveness.  We are washed white as snow.

We need to get up off our knees and try it again.  We turn to Him and say, “show me, teach me.” Because He will come back into the room with us to see how well we have lived out His example.

Join me for my next series, “Jesus Mindset,” where we break down the different characteristics of Jesus and how we can live them out.  We will all get them wrong at different points but God always holds out his hand to lift us up and dust us off.

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I Call Him “Lord”

From the west, people will fear the 
name of the Lord, and from the rising 
of the sun, they will revere his glory. 
Isaiah 59:19 

I admit it.  I have a difficult time with authority.  I don’t like being told what to do and when to do it.  I’m not sure how this developed in me.  It’s not like, as a child, my parents encouraged me to question.  In fact, we weren’t to question at all for fear of punishment.  I’ve heard it said that we either grow up to be like our parents or work so desperately to be the opposite.  For me, I think I so wanted to be heard and to be “right” for once that the desire became my personality.

This desire has helped me in many ways.  At work I was always seen as someone with new solutions and ideas.  I could cut through red tape and simplify processes.  And until I garnered some maturity, I did all that like a bull in a china shop.  But this way of living life can make it difficult to submit, especially to a force that is unseen.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of 
knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and 
instruction.  
Proverbs 1:7

When you read Proverbs the very first words are about wisdom and instruction.  And sure, we can study our Bibles, listen intently to our pastors while scribbling notes in our Bibles but true submission to our Lord is more than that.

For a long time, I really just didn’t understand the concept of “fearing the Lord” and submission.  Of course, given my nature it wasn’t like I was interested in the first place.  I also wonder how many pastors these days even talk about “fearing God?”

If God is love, then why does He command us to fear Him? The fear of the Lord isn’t about being afraid of God; it’s about revering Him above all else. When we do that, we position ourselves to receive all the benefits that come with putting God first in our lives.

Dr. Charles Stanley

We humans are afraid of a lot of things – some of which we don’t even realize.  We fear being made fun of, we fear being left out, we fear being unloved.  I saw a movie that really brought this concept home called Defending Your Life.  The main character, played by Albert Brooks, is a worrier.  His fears become so overwhelming that he is stuck in a never-ending loop of inaction and regret.  And then he gets hit by a bus.  He finds himself in a waystation of sorts where he needs to defend the pitiful life he had on earth.  And he meets a wonderful woman played by Meryl Streep.  She’s opposite of him – jumped in on all that life had to offer.  

It struck me that our days are filled with decisions that are made either based on fear of the world or fear of God.  Do we go about our lives trying to keep our head down so the world and people around us won’t take issue with us?  Or do we acknowledge that our Lord is sovereign over all and He has behavioral and moral requirements of us?  Do we submit to the flesh or to the spirit?

Jesus calls us to his rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. 

A. W. Tozer, Pursuit of God

I’ve come to acknowledge that while it is okay to call Jesus, “Rabbi,” or teacher I also need to call Him, “My Lord.”  Because when I do it places Him above me, above all.  When I call Him, “My Lord,”  it means I need to submit to His will.  My fear comes in as a concern that I want to be sure to serve Him and Him alone.  Am I living a life that would please Him, not the world?

I don’t want to be like that Albert Brooks character when I face my Lord.  Full of regret for having missed opportunities to place God as my life director.  

I have a friend who is fascinated by all things British royal family.  She knows just about everything you’d want to know about the monarchy.  Shouldn’t we be that way about our one true Lord?  Sitting in awe at His feet.  Anxiously awaiting His orders.  At the ready to do His bidding.  Hoping to please Him at every turn.  And fearing His disappointment.

By faith Noah, when warned about things 
not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark 
to save his family.  
Hebrews 11:7

If there were ever a man who had a lot to fear when it came to being judged by the people around him it was Noah. I mean, what a lunatic! Building a giant boat with no water to be seen. His “holy fear” kept him aligned with the will of his Lord.

It’s so easy to fall into a humdrum world-centered life.  And it’s easy to make our prayer and worship life be rote.  But if we can just picture that each morning when we rise, we step into our Lord’s magnificently built palace.   Are you ready to approach His throne and submit to His Holy authority?  Are you sitting in awe at His feet today, marveling at His awesome power and might?  Let’s all sing at the top of our lungs today in worship of our Lord — and let the world tease us. We know who is smiling.