Saturday, May 31, 2014

Just Making It Fit

When I wrote counseling letters for Love In Action, I'd often put down a standard principle and then hunt for a verse or passage  from Scripture as substantiation. More than once, I deliberately took Scripture out of context, assuring myself that the Lord understood my reasons. Of course, He did. He knew my desire to minister comfort and encouragement to hurting people, and He knew my desire to submit to the policies of the ministry.

Deep down, I knew that I handled God's Word dishonestly, shaping it to fit an agenda. The awareness nagged at me, despite all my rationalizations and the abundant affirmation my co-workers and superiors gave me.

In the 17 years between leaving the ministry and now (wow--has it really been that long?), the Lord has radically increased my love and respect for His Word, teaching me how to both read and quote it in proper context. Do I do so perfectly? No. As a matter of fact,  I'm only beginning to understand how it fits together. But I take pains to make sure any agenda I have conforms to Scripture rather than manipulating Scripture around whatever point I want to make. Any mistakes are honest ones.

If "it takes one to know one," believe me that I can tell the difference between a person who inadvertently misquotes the Bible and someone who wraps it around their program. Perhaps  I should exhibit more compassion in the latter instance, but I know that their practice is carefully calculated, especially when those people function as pastors and Bible teachers.

Pastors and Bible teachers, to a much greater degree than correspondence counselors, set the example for handling God's Word accurately and responsibly. Although my past actions required my repentance, those who minister in higher capacities than I did bear an even greater responsibility before God. Let us pray for those who fill our pulpits to present God's Word correctly, but let us refuse to sit under those who distort it for their own purposes.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Leaving Deborah To Better Scholars

Writing about Deborah, the prophetess who judged Israel, will require research. I've done the research before, mind you, but several years have elapsed since I did it, meaning that I've retained basic ideas but need a refresher on the details. So I'd like to present The Womanliness of Deborah, an article from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, as an interim measure while I study. I  know it's long, but I believe it offers a perspective on Deborah by carefully examining Judges 4-5 in historical and Biblical context.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Discarded Intriguing Titles

Titles attract readers. Think about these famous titles:

Night of the Iguana

The Once and Future King

Like Water for Chocolate

The Waking of Ned Devine

Three Penny Opera

Charlotte's Web

Sometimes I entertain myself my thinking up possible titles for blog posts, imagining ways that I might intrigue people. I've come up with some pretty creative ideas. At  least, I consider them creative, although I  realize it's a matter of opinion. But I do enjoy fitting words together to form interesting phrases, always fantasizing about that ultimate blog post title that will accelerate my blog's popularity.

But I can never create posts that fit my ingenious titles. Sigh. I try, you understand, but my train of thought has a habit of switching tracks and moving in directions that I hadn't anticipated. I don't mind the diversions, especially when I end up composing posts that make better points than I'd originally planned, but I wish my brilliant little titles didn't get discarded in the process.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Filling Churches With Empty Souls

A friend I knew back when both of us lived in California posted the following quote on Facebook:

"Some argue that the church should soften its stance on so-called controversial issues. That in order to be evangelists, the church needs to be seeker friendly. They’re wrong. While no one should be bombastic, uncharitable, or imprudent, it is precisely the countercultural witness to what St. Paul called the more excellent way that will bring people to Christ." Ryan T. Anderson

Her post generated several comments, all agreeing with Anderson's position. Some posts augmented the point by citing personal experience with Seeker Sensitive churches. One comment  so captured my attention that I asked permission to share it in this blog. The person graciously agreed.

I asked my pastor last year why we don't have multiple thousands of people lined up at the door as the anointed worship and preaching is so incredible as is the family atmosphere. He told me that "because I ask more of them than they are willing to commit to." In other words, so many just want to be entertained with no commitment so they can feel they are doing their "duty" as a christian by attending church. Oh for more churches that preach the whole gospel including the uncomfortable things like sin, repentance, sacrifice and commitment.

If filling pews requires churches to cater to carnal sensibilities, I'd prefer sparsely filled pews. Of course I want to see every man, woman and child come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the bulk of my prayer list concentrates on loved ones and political leaders with earnest petitions for the Lord to bring them to Himself. But I desire that these people experience genuine conversion. Simply adding people to a church's membership roll may  fatten church bank accounts, but it has no eternal value if those people never surrender their lives to Christ.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Opened Eyes And Ageless Words

Psalm 119 extols the Word of God by using pithy couplets to illustrate its various effects on individual believers. During my time with the Lord this morning, I spent about 30 minutes in this glorious psalm, highlighting and making notes. I only got through 32 verses, but boy!--did the Lord feed me a prime rib meal!

As I chewed on verses that particularly grabbed my attention, one stood out as the key, first to the psalm, but also to Bible reading as a whole.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
    wondrous things out of your law. ~~Psalm 119:18 (ESV)

The psalmist relied on the Holy Spirit, rather than his own intellectual abilities, to give him a clear understanding of Scripture. This dependence on God's Spirit finds support in Paul's words to the church in Corinth:

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)

When a regenerate believer comes to the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps him understand the text. Notice, however, that the Spirit doesn't speak apart  from or outside of the Word,  but rather that He enables us to understand it. The Spirit doesn't bury truth in the way Gnostic religions (that reserve esoteric knowledge for an elite group) do, but He recognizes that those who reject His authority over them simply won't "get it." Submission to Him gives us a willingness to accept His precepts.

Dependence on the Spirit doesn't excuse us from reading God's Word in context. He won't isolate a fragment of Scripture to give it a "personal meaning." What He said to the First Century Christians continues into the 21st Century unaltered, applying to each of us equally. No secrets. No private whispers.

Yet without the Spirit's assistance, we can read  Scripture only as another piece of literature. We may find certain portions beautiful and inspiring, but we'll fall short of letting its words  transform our thoughts and lives. 

So, as I approach Scripture, I pray for God to open my eyes to the wonders of His Word, so that He can teach me to better love and obey Him. I use my intellect as I study, but I also ask Him to teach me, as He has taught believers through the ages, by opening my spiritual eyes. I trust Him to honor my prayer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Relief From What I Deserve

Christ, when He voluntarily died on the cross, accepted the punishment for sin that rightly belonged to me...and to you. When I first understood this wonderful truth, my heart soared with gratitude too deep and wide to describe  in words. I had known, for two gut-wrenching weeks, how horribly I'd violated God's standards and how much I deserved His judgement.

Sadly, I attended a liberal church--my childhood church--which emphasized "being good" over teaching the Gospel. Sure, the Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders taught that Jesus was the Son of God, but they presented Him more as a moral example than as a personal Savior.

With unregenerate eyes, I'd read my Bible, never once applying it to myself. My horoscopes, Magic 8-Ball and Ouija Board served as guides for several of us in the youth group...including some of the adult leaders.

Yet when I experienced sexual longings for the first time, my occult devises couldn't help me. Turning to Scripture, however, I saw how my selfish lust offended God's righteous standards. The Holy Spirit graciously confronted me with the devastating truth that I deserved an eternity in hell, separated from the God I so desperately wanted to know.

When a friend told me that Jesus died to pay for my sin, the relief bubbled into joy. He had freed me from a deserved condemnation. Because His blood paid the penalty for all my rebellion (and it went far, far deeper than sexual selfishness and occult involvement), I received the wonderful assurance that I'd spend eternity gazing on His lovely Face. Now, 43 years later. I continue to glory in  my Redeemer.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Unwanted Vacuum

The wake and funeral now exist merely in memory, though the physical tiredness makes us aware that all the busyness ended yesterday. Now our regular routines must resume. For those closer and more  directly involved in Auntie's life, the routines have already begun changing, leaving a certain greyhound bewildered as to why she's no longer there to administer special treats. Others of us, however, will experience no practical alterations to our daily lives.

But we all feel the unwanted vacuum. Auntie/Mom/Sis/Nana has left us. She made her exit as quietly and peacefully as she lived among us, with characteristic dignity and beauty. Those of us who merely married into the family shed as many tears as her actual relatives do, perhaps because each of us couldn't resist someone so gentle. So regardless of the varying degrees that our routines change or don't change, the vacuum changes us. And we miss her.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Boxes Of Deadly Letters

A favorite saying of Charismatic Christians and those who espouse liberal theology (or at least flirt with it) is: "You can't put God in a box." People who wish to sound more Biblical will quote (out of context) 2 Corinthians 3:6, which states that "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Paul, of course, didn't mean that we could ignore New Testament restrictions which we deem cultural in  favor of pursuing activities that we "sense the Spirit leading" us toward. Rather, He wrote that  small sentence in order to address the false teachers who infiltrated the church in Corinth with the  doctrine that Gentile converts must observe Jewish laws of atonement and cleansing. Those laws, Paul explained in Romans 7:7-12, served to show us that we are dead in our sin, and require the Holy Spirit to bring us regeneration.

When people use the last fragment of 2 Corinthians to justify women in leadership, premarital sex, homosexuality, extra-biblical revelation or anything else that relegates Scripture to a position below their subjective spiritual experiences, they essentially make a non-verbal  statement that God does not have  permission to put them in a box.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Week For Family

As eager as I was to blog this week, I need to go on least partially. Two members of John's family passed away yesterday, so right now I feel completely distracted and emotionally drained. Not conducive to much writing, as you might understand.

In the next few days, we'll need to be available to family members, so I prefer not to pressure myself with blogging. I may post a video here and there, but I'd rather not undertake any major writing. Thursday is the wake, followed by a service and burial Friday. Clearly, this week promises to be both busy and emotional. Please pray that I can support my husband and his family during this time of sorrow.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

His Blessings For His Glory

For a few months now, I've been reading Psalms and noticing how often David and the other psalmists entreated Israel to praise the Lord for all He'd done on their behalf. Looking at these psalms through 21st Century eyes, I struggle against temptation to equate these ancient Hebrew hymns with the many man-centered songs that typify contemporary praise  music.

The difference, of course, lies in the psalmists' insistence that the Lord's blessings ultimately refer back to Him. Any benefits we receive should cause us to meditate on His power, faithfulness and steadfast love.

Similarly, the hymn I wish to share today recounts God's blessings, but does so in a way that directs our attention back to Him. His care for us, despite our rebellion against Him, shows just how good He really is. And how wonderful that the very King of creation, Who spoke the world into existence, should condescend to care about the details of our lives! His love, which I'll never understand, compels us to shower Him with praise and adoration.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Tender Toes Of Preaching Women

My goodness, have I stepped on tender little toes by saying that women who teach and preach to men dishonor God's Word! One friend even requested that I have the "humility" to preface my remark with the phrase, "In my opinion..." But if I offer merely my opinion on any Scriptural principle, do I not elevate my subjective opinion over the Bible's clear teaching?

Admittedly, an increasing number of evangelicals argue that the Bible's teaching on women in leadership roles lacks clarity, citing Ruth, Miriam, Huldah, Deborah (whose name I bear with much emotional conflict), Esther, the Samaritan woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, Lydia and Priscilla. Put on the defensive, I assume my critics expect me to answer for these ladies. I will consider doing so, though certainly not in one blog post.

In the first place, an average blog post of five or six paragraphs takes me about two hours to type...if I don't include Scripture passages, links, photos or artwork and if I'm properly positioned in my wheelchair. Otherwise, a post could take even longer. Please don't misconstrue this statement as a plea for sympathy; I love blogging, and take great joy in fashioning each post. I merely want readers to understand my physical limitations. Writing about Deborah alone, if I wanted to do her justice, would be a major time investment. Don't fancy, then, that I could cover all these women in one fell swoop. I can't.

More importantly, I'm afraid of crossing a fine line into setting myself up as a teacher. If I knew that only women read my blog, I'd very confidently delve into deep Bible teaching, and particularly about these women! I know I  can explain even Deborah, problematic as she is, by examining Judges 4 and 5 with other Scripture, looking at Hebrew words and consulting commentaries. But in so doing, would I violate the very principle I seek to support? I must carefully consider this point.

Yes, I regard women in leadership as one of the many ways Christians compromise the Word of God with worldly values. In my opinion (and in this sentence, that qualifying phrase is appropriate), the practice can rightly be labeled "baptized feminism." Whether feminism drives it or not, however, it blatantly  defies 1 Timothy 2:8-15, which I quoted in yesterday's post. And, though saying so steps on delicate toes, such defiance can't avoid dishonoring the Word of God.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Empathy Without Sympathy--A Musing On Women Pastors

Can the Lord call a woman into pulpit ministry? I'd say no, based on the assurance that He can neither lie nor contradict His Word. Sure, I can understand how a woman may feel gifted in ways that indicate a call to pastoral ministry, since I have sometimes considered myself to possess such gifts (except for my speech defect). I empathize with women who sincerely believe they have much to offer as pastors.

But empathy doesn't entitle me to redesign Scriptures so that they accommodate a woman's erroneous perception of God's call on her life. As a matter of fact, my personal struggle regarding this issue, and my subsequent submission to God's Word, qualifies me to tell my sisters that the "call" they feel doesn't come from the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. ~~1 Timothy 2:8-15 (ESV)

And no, I don't believe verse 15 connects eternal salvation with the ability to physically reproduce, since many other Scriptures clearly base that salvation on Christ's shed blood. The Believer's Bible Commentary offers excellent insight into this verse.

 This is one of the most difficult verses in the Pastoral Epistles, and many explanations have been offered. Some think that it is a simple promise from God that a Christian mother will be saved from death in the physical act of childbearing. However, this is not always true, because some godly, devoted Christians have died in the act of bringing life into the world. Others think that childbearing (literally, “the childbearing”) refers to the birth of the Messiah, and that women are saved through the One who was born of a woman. However, this scarcely seems to satisfy the sense of the passage, since men are saved in the same way. No one could reasonably suggest that the verse means that a woman receives eternal salvation by virtue of becoming a mother of children; this would be salvation by works, and works of a most unusual nature!
We would suggest the following as the most reasonable interpretation of the passage. First of all, salvation in this context does not refer to the salvation of her soul, but rather to the salvation of her position in the church. From what Paul has just said in this chapter, the impression might arise in the minds of some that the woman has no place in God's purposes and counsels; she is reduced to a nonentity. But Paul would dispute this claim. Although it is true that no public ministry in the church is assigned to her, she does have an important ministry. God has decreed that woman's place is in the home, and more specifically in the ministry of raising children for the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the mothers of the leaders in the Christian church today! These women never mounted a public platform to preach the gospel, but in raising their children for God, they have been truly saved as far as position and fruitfulness for God are concerned.
Lilley writes:
She shall be saved from the results of sin and be enabled to maintain a position of influence in the Church by accepting her natural destination as a wife and mother, provided this surrender is further ratified by bringing forth the fruit of sanctified Christian character.
It may be asked at this point: “What about those women who never marry?” The answer is that in this passage God is dealing with women in general. The majority of Christian women do marry and bear children. As far as the exceptions are concerned, there are many other useful ministries committed to them and yet which do not involve public teaching or having authority over men.
Note the qualifying clause at the end of verse 15: She will be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. It is not exactly an unconditional promise. The thought is that if the husband and wife maintain a consistent Christian testimony, honor Christ in the home, and raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, then the woman's position will be saved. But if the parents live careless, worldly lives, and neglect the training of their children, then these children may be lost to Christ and the church. In such a case, the woman does not achieve the true dignity which God has ordained for her.
Let no one think that because woman's ministry is private and in the home that it is any less important than that which is more public. It has been truly said: “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” In a coming day, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, it is faithfulness that will count, and this is something which can be exhibited in the home as well as in the pulpit.
Not exactly the mindset of post-modern churches who would manipulate God's Word into conformity with current culture! But perhaps that attempted manipulation is precisely the problem. If a woman will employ all sorts of hermeneutical gymnastics to justify her pastoral position, should  a congregation trust her to properly handle the rest of God's Word? If she so willfully disobeys the Bible's teaching, how can she serve as an example?

Don't make it an issue of gender equality. Rather, keep in mind that all legitimate Christian ministry must uphold the authority of Scripture. While I very much empathize with women who wish they could be pastors, I have no sympathy for those who ride roughshod over God's Word just to pursue a career goal. I pray that women might delight in gender-appropriate ways of serving the Lord, trusting His ability to use their gifts in ways that glorify Him.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In Defense Of Narrow-Mindedness

Assaults on Biblical doctrine by self-identified non-Christians certainly sadden  me, but I generally expect such people to reject Scripture's authority. How could a non-Christian believe when the Holy Spirit hasn't done a work of regeneration in that person? Non-Christians require my heart-felt prayers.

Increasingly, however, professing Christians subtly (and often unknowingly) malign God's Word by embracing false teaching and/or living in unrepentant sin. Today, I've been reading a variety of blog posts, each addressing a different example of so-called Christians cozying up to 21st Century culture. These articles grieve me, but they also inspire me to stand up for the truth.

I've been called narrow-minded because I refuse to consider ideas that differ from the Bible. That epithet apparently is meant to shame me. It promotes the presupposition than intellect must welcome a broad  swath of beliefs, perspectives and ideas with as little discrimination as possible. Unless, of course, one discriminates against "fundamentalist interpretations" of the Bible. In this post-modern culture, a tolerant person must take special care to avoid tolerating the view that Scripture offers the complete and authoritative Word of God.

When non-Christians object to the  "narrowness" of the Gospel, I shrug and pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes. But when those who claim to know the Lord sacrifice Scripture's integrity to the ungodly demands of worldly philosophies and practices, they betray the very Lord they so ardently profess to love.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taking You With Me

Yesterday, Boston's high temperature reached a glorious 85 degrees, thus beckoning us to wander into the Public Garden. John took 45 photos--37 of which I wanted to share. So I put together a video, and waited two hours for YouTube to process the audio. But it finally finished, and I'm so pleased with the results! C'mon and stroll through the Public Garden with me and John as we celebrate a very long-awaited spring!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shouting With The Millions

I can't resist a Fanny Crosby hymn...and especially one that looks forward to praising the Lord in heaven! Like Fanny, I marvel at His love and faithfulness in the here-and-now, as He protects me from more dangers than I know, and I join her in calling Him wonderful.  But I will comprehend His wonders in their fulness when, through the power of His resurrection, He will raise me to His glorious Kingdom, where Fanny, I and many millions will eternally praise Him!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Wrinkle In Theology

Joy is the infallible proof of the presence of God.  ~~Madeline L'Engle

When that quote showed up on my Twitter feed last night, I vacillated between laughing, crying and throwing up. I have fond childhood memories of Madeline L'Engle's book, A Wrinkle In Time, but I rather wish she'd confined her writing to children's fiction and left theology alone. That quote sounds pretty and poetic, admittedly, but it positively oozes with the sloppy theology that permeates today's visible church.

L'Engle elevates the subjective emotion of joy as "infallible proof" that God is present. This "reasoning" reminds me of so many professing Christians who validate things like the Gay Christian Movement because they interpret the enthusiasm among "gay Christians" as an indication that He sanctions their misinterpretation of Scripture.

But truth must never be at the mercy of fleeting experience. People often feel great joy in the midst of extremely sinful behavior. Yet God, being holy, neither will nor can grace sinful  behavior with His presence. The joy at a college drinking party may, in some instances (such as celebrating the end of finals), be quite genuine, but any true presence of the Lord would bring the revelers to repentance in short order. Indeed, His presence brought the prophet Isaiah to humility.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)

Throughout the Bible, actually, God's presence frequently evoked fear and trembling as people saw the contrast between their sinfulness and His holiness. Sometimes, joy followed. And we definitely will have joy in heaven, where those of us who are born again through His Spirit will be in His presence forever. But humility and repentance serve as much more reliable indicators of His presence for now.

Hopefully Madeline L'Engle ironed out her theology before she died.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

When Faithfulness Turns Sour

The photos from yesterday's trip into Boston...well, they remain on the camera, useless to illustrate any narrative I might have considered presenting today. Which suits me fine, since I didn't have much to say beyond the glorious truth that spring (dare I say it?) has finally arrived in New England.

Translation: Less frequent blog posts.

And to be truthful, I welcome this easing up on blogging. Lately, I've pressured myself to produce a post nearly every day, and that pressure has made it more of a burden than a joy to write. Cultivating consistency and a sense of responsibility certainly have their place, especially in writing for the Lord, but when those attributes sour into legalism, the focus subtly shifts from God's glory to my purported "faithfulness." Frankly, puffing up my already inflated ego isn't what I want anymore.

As I anticipate more wonderful Boston Adventures, some of which I'll write about, perhaps the relaxation may invigorate my writing as a whole.  We shall see. But when I blog--even about excursions into my beloved adopted city--may my posts ultimately point to Christ. And may I write from joy, not compulsion.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Only For Mature Minds

For various reasons (all good), I have limited time for writing today and tomorrow, so I just visited YouTube and found this excerpt from a sermon by Voddie Baucham. Less than five minutes long, this video takes a common objection to Christianity and exposes the faulty premise behind it. Only watch this  video if you have enough maturity to deal with an intellectual challenge.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Profoundly Obvious

Scripture sometimes shows us the obvious in such profound ways. In my Bible time today, I ran across a psalm that opened with a plea for God to take vengeance on evildoers. I thought, "Apart from Christ, I'm an every other human being. This psalmist seems a bit self-righteous."

Perhaps so, but he also demonstrates remarkable insight into why we think we can violate God's law. Though he cites extreme examples in the passage below, I believe it also applies to sins that we consider to be excusable, as well as to ones that we no longer recognize as being wrong.

They pour out their arrogant words;
    all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord,
    and afflict your heritage.
They kill the widow and the sojourner,
    and murder the fatherless;
and they say, “The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob does not perceive.” ~~Psalm 94:4-7 (ESV)

Essentially, we sin because we simply don't believe the Lord will judge us. That insight seems very obvious when we apply it to other people, but quite profound when we have the humility to apply it to ourselves.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Even Americans Need This King

Here in the United States, the concept of  bowing to a king seems foreign and (to those of us familiar with the American Revolution) decidedly uncomfortable. For Christians, however, the promise of crowning Jesus delights our souls. We celebrate His sovereignty even  now, and joyfully serve Him by proclaiming  His  Gospel to all  nations, but we eagerly look  forward to literally bowing before His throne in praise and adoration, hailing His power and authority!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Blessed Frustrations

I'm still, seven months after my birthday and attendant celebration of the occasion, vehemently resisting the fact that I'm 60. I went through a slightly similar, but more understandable (to me, anyway), struggle over turning 30, but I attributed my grief then to my singleness. This time around, I'm happily married to a man who adores me, yet the reality of my new Senior Citizen status disturbs me.

And the fact that growing older causes me such grief troubles  me even more than the aging does. Don't I realize that the dwindling of my time on earth merely brings me closer to that glorious day when I'll see Jesus face-to-Face? Why would I want to cling to the follies and frustrations of this life?

Yes, my next few years on earth will usher in increased frustrations, as happens to all human beings who advance in age. But those very frustrations, particularly the physical aches and pains of our  natural bodies wearing out, hold the marvelous potential of helping us long for heaven. How beautiful of the Lord to adorn old age with hardships that will make it easier to look forward to eternity with Him!

As much as I miss my youth, I praise the Lord for using the aging process to disengage me from the attractions of this world. I hope I'll adopt this attitude more fully when I celebrate my next birthday.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Correcting The Desires Of My Heart

At last, two rings encircled the third finger of my left hand. I praised God that He'd saved the greatest desire of my heart (marriage) until last. Along the way, He'd granted all my other heart-desires by blessing me with two beautiful nieces, three months living with other Christians in Wales and twelve years on staff at Love In Action. Certainly, the Lord had given me everything I'd ever wanted!

In the months following my wedding, I wondered what was left. Now that He'd graced me with marriage to the  man of my dreams, would He call me to heaven?

Eleven years later, I cringe with shame as I remember my obviously self-centered view of life. I still praise Jesus for His obvious goodness to me, but I regret my temporal focus, through which I grossly distorted the promise in Psalm 37:4 that delighting myself in the Lord would result in Him giving me the desires of my heart. Through His patient grace, His Holy Spirit helped me understand the proper context of that promise. Even the first nine verses make it clear that God promises to fulfill desires for righteousness.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. ~~Psalm 37:1-9 (ESV)

God has much for me if, instead of seeking temporal blessings for my personal satisfaction, I'll long for His righteousness to rule. How glorious to know that Jesus will some day return to abolish sin and to establish His kingdom!


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