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Alien with a Cause

“We don’t own culture, and we don’t rule it. We serve it with brokenhearted joy and longsuffering mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ.”

This quote, and my new, prayerful and heartfelt mission statement, is from an extremely relevant article by Dr. John Piper, even though it was written ten years ago.

I can barely stand listening or watching the news anymore.  I try to keep an eternal perspective of events through Scriptures, worship, prayer, and listening to other Christians’ worldview, such as Dr. Albert Mohler’s “The Briefing” podcasts.  But, I can relate to a guy who tweeted Dr. Mohler today:

“@albertmohler hey I had to stop listening to the briefing cause I was getting depressed at the state of our culture. Thoughts?”

Dr. Mohler replied:

“Glad to hear from you and hope you keep listening. God is on his throne and we must not despair. God is at work here and now.”

Dr. Mohler’s response and Dr. Piper’s article turn our focus to the Lord…but not entirely away from our culture.  Rather, in spite of upside-down world we find ourselves in, we need to view the present culture through the eyes of Jesus—the One who shows mercy, compassion, and gave His life for all, including those who scorned Him most:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

Dr. Piper affirms,

The fact that Christians are exiles on the earth (1 Peter 2:11) does not mean that they don’t care what becomes of culture. But it does mean that they exert their influence as very happy, brokenhearted outsiders.

Why are we brokenhearted, when we’re called to be full of Joy?   He continues:

….our joy is a brokenhearted joy because human culture –- in every society –- dishonors Christ, glories in its shame, and is bent on self-destruction.

Along these lines, Wess Stafford of Compassion International, recently spoke about the meaning of “compassion.”  In his message, he said that we, like Jesus, are called to be “weeping warriors.”  He derived this term from the Latin and Greek words for compassion.  The former is compatior, or with suffering. That’s the weeping part.  We weep, groan, and suffer with the decline and sorrows of our present culture.

The Greek word embodies the fervor of emotion that rises up from other’s suffering, begging for change and action.  This compassion wants to stand between the woman and those who plan to stone her, to turn over the hypocritical tables in the church, rescue the abused, or find a home for the homeless.

Weeping Warriors.

So, with brokenhearted joy, may we walk in awareness of our indebtedness to God’s abundant grace towards ourselves and others; focus on God’s image stamped on every person; place our trust in His ultimate purpose; and make a difference in our world’s changing culture through tears, prayer, and action, for others’ good and God’s glory.

That is a cause worth living and, if need be, dying for.

Assurance for the Journey

Someone may have made this point already, but my husband says that each day is a lifetime.  We wake up/are born, we move through the day/live, and go to sleep at night (sometimes)/a mini-death.  So resolutions shouldn’t be limited to New Years, birthdays, anniversaries, etc;  everyday we should resolve to surrender to the Lord, and trust His guidance… moment by moment.  God’s promises are for each day (give us this day..), so too, should be our reliance and trust.

Spurgeon offers this assurance for today’s Journey, and every Today:

And the LORD shall guide thee continually. ~ Isaiah 58:11

“The Lord shall guide thee.” Not an angel, but JEHOVAH shall guide  thee. He said He would not go through the wilderness before His people, an angel  should go before them to lead them in the way; but Moses said, “If Thy  presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” Christian, God has not left you  in your earthly pilgrimage to an angel’s guidance: He Himself leads the van. [yes, he said ‘van’ :-)]

 You  may not see the cloudy, fiery pillar, but Jehovah will never forsake you. Notice  the word shall–“The Lord shall guide thee.” How certain this makes it!  How sure it is that God will not forsake us! His precious “shalls” and “wills”  are better than men’s oaths. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Then  observe the adverb continually. We are not merely to be guided sometimes,  but we are to have a perpetual monitor; not occasionally to be left to our own  understanding, and so to wander, but we are continually to hear the guiding  voice of the Great Shepherd; and if we follow close at His heels, we shall not  err, but be led by a right way to a city to dwell in.

If you have to change your  position in life; if you have to emigrate to distant shores; if it should happen  that you are cast into poverty, or uplifted suddenly into a more responsible position than the one you now occupy; if you are thrown among strangers, or cast  among foes, yet tremble not, for “the Lord shall guide thee continually.”

There  are no dilemmas out of which you shall not be delivered if you live near to God,  and your heart be kept warm with holy love. He goes not amiss who goes in the  company of God. Like Enoch, walk with God, and you cannot mistake your road. You  have infallible wisdom to direct you, immutable love to comfort you, and eternal  power to defend you. “Jehovah”–mark the word–“Jehovah shall guide thee  continually.

~~~

Dear Father and loving Guide, Thank you for the assurance of your Presence and the promises you give.   Help me to trust you more.  “Trust in the Lord with all you heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”  I’m so blessed to be your child, and I trust you as my loving Father.  In your son’s precious name, Jesus, Amen. 

~~~

Peace in every way

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all!”
2 Thess. 3:16

~~~

My devotional today…one verse.

The Lord of Peace

Himself

continually

give

you

PEACE

at ALL times

in

Every

Way.

Matthew Henry comments on the wonder of this prayer and promise:

The apostle prays for the Thessalonians. And let us desire the same blessings for ourselves and our friends. Peace with God. This peace is desired for them always, or in every thing. Peace by all means; in every way; that, as they enjoyed the means of grace, they might use all method to secure peace.

We need nothing more to make us safe and happy, nor can we desire any thing better for ourselves and our friends, than to have God’s gracious presence with us and them–no matter where we are, if God be with us; nor who is absent, if God be present. It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we hope to have peace with God, and to enjoy the presence of God. This grace is all in all to make us happy; though we wish ever so much to others, there remains enough for ourselves.

I pray that you may have peace in every way today…from the Lord Himself, the Lord of Peace and Grace.

 Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
2 Thess. 3:16 (NIV)

~~

[Brief disclaimer for my blogging absence the past few months.  Many new travels, places, battles, faces…and little discipline to write through it all.  Your patience is appreciated as I press on with writing, albeit, with small steps.]

Scales of Suffering?

Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
Psalm 30:1

Do you think God won’t help you find your keys because it’s not a big enough concern?  There are more important things to Him, such as feeding the poor, defeating the Taliban, hovering over cancer wards, or preparing the world for Jesus’ return, right?  So why would He bother to help find those keys?

Or maybe, when a migraine, cold, fever, or a yucky flu bug brings you down,  do you silently doubt that God will answer your prayer for healing, because, after all, “it’s not cancer”?

If so, welcome to my world!

I constantly gauge my needs, pain, or “suffering” by other’s.  In fact, I even had a hard time writing the word “suffering” because I don’t really think I know what it is—in comparison to rest of the world.  If you’re like me, you may be encouraged by reading this article, No More Minimizing Pain, by Ed Welch of Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF):

“There is no suffering gauge in Scripture, as if being burned at the stake scores a 100, Stage IV cancer is an 85, a broken friendship is a 50 and uncomfortable shoes are a 5.  If there were such a system, a person whose suffering topped out at 80 would have to defer to the one who measures 81.   The one with the less severe suffering would have to suffer in silence. He or she would have no right to seek the comfort of others or God.  To do so would be hogging time that could be better used by more qualified sufferers.  
Dr. Ed Welch, CCEF

I wish I had written this!  But I couldn’t, because I live in the comparison world of meters, gauges, and deference.  I question if my suffering is even on the charts!! Maybe a .003 on the scale of world-wide problems.  Those lost keys, forget about them.  And no hope for my headache as long as a thousands of parents are visiting their children in Pediatric Cancer wards.  But, Dr. Welch goes on to say,

“The danger in establishing a pecking order within suffering is that you feel authorized to call out to the Lord when things are really bad, but you remain isolated and silent if your pain is below the national average.”

So the biggest fault, or sin, of minimizing pain and suffering is that it keeps us from calling on the Lord. And, for me, this attitude creates a dangerously false god, who doesn’t want me to bother Him unless it’s really Bad…somewhere between 75-100.

What a dreadful trap to fall into, even though it appears rather noble.  It reveals my lack of understanding of God’s love and unbounded mercy.

“..when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”
2 Corinthians 10:12

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The entire article may be found HERE.   Thank you, Dr. Welch!

Timely Word for the Journey

My favourite Christian author, preacher, writer, and teacher is Charles H. Spurgeon.  Anyone who’s read my blog for even a week has probably figured that one out!  The devotional I’ve worn out for the past 7 years is Morning by Morning.  Each page offers insight, encouragement, and Scriptures that always point to Jesus.  His daily meditations have never ceased to offer timely words for my journey.

Sometimes I share little blurbs, other time composites of Spurgeon thought, but today I must share the devotional in its entirety.  It’s That good!  May it connect with someone’s heart and need today, and lift up a weary pilgrim along the way:

“He led them forth by the right way.”  Psalm 107:9

Changing circumstances often causes the anxious believer to ask, “Why is this happening to me?” I looked for light, but darkness came; for peace, but faced trouble. I said in my heart, my mountain stands firm, I shall never be moved.  Lord, You hide Your face, and I am troubled. Only yesterday I could read my title clearly; but today my evidences are blurred, and my hopes are clouded.  Yesterday I could climb the mountain and view the landscape and rejoice with confidence in my future inheritance; today my spirit has no hopes, but many fears; no joys, but great distress.

Is this part of God’s plan for me? Can this be the way in which God would bring me to heaven?

Yes, it is even so. The eclipse of your faith, the darkness of your mind, the fainting of your hope–all these things are just parts of God’s method of making you ready for the great inheritance, which you will soon enjoy.

These trials are for the testing and strengthening of your faith–they are waves that wash you further upon the rock–they are winds that steer your ship more quickly toward the desired haven. What David wrote then will be true of you: “He brought them to their desired haven” (verse 30). By honor and dishonor, by evil report and by good report, by plenty and by poverty, by joy and by distress, by persecution and by peace–by all these things your spiritual life is maintained, and by each of these you are helped on your way.

Do not think, believer, that your sorrows are out of God’s plan; they are necessary parts of it. “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.” Learn, then, to “count it all joy . . . when you meet trials of various kinds.”

O let my trembling soul be still,
And trust Thy wise, Thy holy will!
I cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
Yet all is well since ruled by Thee.

~~~

If you would like some daily encouragement from Spurgeon, you can buy his devotionals HERE, or read it online HERE.

Love exiles fear

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”  I John 4:18 (NLT)

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” Psalm 139:17

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”  I Peter 5:7

Perfect Love casts out all Fear!  That’s is the WHOLE reason we don’t need to fear! And a good word for us on Fearless Friday!   As we direct our minds towards His love, our fears will blur. One version of the Bible says, our fears will be Banished!!

What does expelling or banishing fear really mean?  Here’s a few choice words:

deport, discard, dismiss, dispel, drive away, eject, eliminate, eradicate, evict, exclude, exile, extradite, get rid of, isolate, oust, outlaw, remove, rusticate, sequester, shake off, shut out

So perfect love exiles, eliminates, gets rid of…all fear. These words suggest a near-annihilation of something, placing it beyond reach or grasp.  We’re often unwilling to release the strangle-hold we have on our fears, because we still doubt His love.   So, perhaps this excerpt from Spurgeon will give a glimpse into God’s perfect love..for us:

God is always thinking upon us, never turns aside His mind from us, has us always before His eyes…

His thoughts area always tender, loving , wise  prudent, far-reaching and they bring to us countless benefits.

In all our wonderings, the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us–we never roam beyond the Shepherd’s eye.  In our sorrows He observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes Him; in our toils He marks all our weariness, and writes in His book all the struggles of His faithful ones.

The thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being.  Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for; all the littles of our little world are thought upon by the great God.

~~~

I really enjoy finding songs that amplify our discussion, and today, this one by Annie Herring and Matthew Ward speak perfectly of perfect love:

Apple of His Eye
Glimpses CD

He’s the one who loves you more than you will ever know
He’s the one who dries the tears you cry.
He has formed your very soul and knows your every need
He will guide you through your darkest night.

Chorus

For you still carry inside you His light that never dies
And you are always before him
The apple of His eye.

He’s the one who holds you close when no one will come near
The one who sees what no one else can see.
He’s the one who keeps your burden light enough to bear
For He will be your strength when you are weak.

Nothing in this world could ever keep His love from you
And He gave His life to see this promise through.

He’s the one who loves you more  than you will ever know
And He has counted every tear you’ve cried.
He will take your tear-stained heart and make it light as snow
And He’ll become your wings so you can fly.

For you still carry inside you His light that never dies
And you are always before Him,
The apple of His eye!

~~~

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are!  I John 3:1

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:10

~~~

Dear Father, Help us to focus on your Love today, not our Fear. Help us to release the grasp we have on our fears, worries, cares and anxieties.  Exile, banish our fears far from us, by filling our minds and hearts with the knowledge and awareness of your perfect love…love that hung on a cross in our place.  Love that knows us better than we know ourselves.  Thank you!  In Love’s Name, Jesus, Amen.

~~~

[Note:  I regret that I can’t upload an audio version of this beautiful Annie Herring song presently.]

Sin in Control

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”      Psalm 51:4

I’m not a theologian, I don’t read Hebrew or Greek, and I’m not a subject-matter expert about much of anything. There.

But sometimes I’m burdened about something so much, that I’m compelled to step out of my comfort zone (as a warm-fuzzy encourager), and share my heart. It’s my sincerest prayer that through today’s post and future Titus2sdays, you may grow in the Lord, pleasing Him in every respect, and His name would be glorified.

Even though it’s quite clear that the desire of  human nature is to control and be in control, I think women struggle the most with this battle. I  know—I am one.

Genesis 3:16 reminds us why we’re so encumbered:

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

When boundaries are set, we instantly to try to step over them, climb under them, or reason our way around them.  The apostle Paul discusses this inclination extensively in Romans 7.  Specifically, verse 7 says,

For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”

So, just as the Word revealed Paul’s coveting as sin, we too face an uncomfortable fact:  Our desire for control is sin. We don’t want to be ‘ruled’ by anyone, God or man.  Perhaps because we don’t trust others to make the right decisions on our behalf.  Or, we don’t trust God.  And that equates to sin.

But desiring to control is more than not trusting God, it’s attempting to be God.  One of my favourite authors, Paul D. Tripp, discusses this dilemma:

  • The desire to be God rather than to serve God lies at the bottom of every sin that anyone has ever committed…. Sin is rooted in my desire to live for me. [1]
  • Self-sovereignty is the dream of every sinner. It’s hard for us to trust ourselves to the wisdom, power, and control of another. We want to write our own drama, and we want to be the central character of the story. But the spiritual reality of the universe is that we are not authors of our own story. Our story is a part of a larger story written by the Lord. In this story we are never on center stage. That is a position to be occupied by the Lord alone. [2]
  • You and I can change no one. Ultimately, personal change comes from only one source: the gracious act of a powerful God. When people try to change one another, typically the focus is on behaviour. Yet behaviour is not really the issue…the root problem is the heart. When we attempt to do God’s job and change someone’s heart, we only cause frustration to ourselves and pain to the other person. [3]

So try to control others according to our limited wisdom or for our benefit, we become self-serving, we hurt others, and, we’re sinning against God.

“Against You only, I have sinned.”

Thankfully, the Lord is gracious. He is compassionate, wise, understanding, and above all, forgiving. He is able to help us. We can and must depend entirely on Him, yielding our hearts and minds to His control.

What a wretched woman I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!!  Romans 7:24

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Let’s pray together about this during the week and ask ourselves:

Where do I need the grace of God to say no to the temptation to step over God’s boundaries and control?

How have I sinned against the Lord by trying to control others?

~~~~~~~

Dear Lord, Thank you for the victory we have through Christ! We are incapable of living out this Christian life apart from you.  Sometimes it’s so difficult, we feel like quitting. Please meet us first thing each morning and all day long, with your mercy and grace, to enable us to relinquish our behaviours, thoughts, and words to You. Your kingdom come, Your will be done…not ours. In Jesus’ powerful name, Amen

~~~~~~~

[1]  Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

[2]  A Shelter in A Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble

[3]  Broken-Down House

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Join us next Titus 2sday for more discussion on control, trust, and the help available through Jesus!