Archives

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.

Jesus, My Prize

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 
I Cor. 9: 24-25

Wow, it’s been quite a work out, I am completely out of breath, and I need some serious recup time….from all the Olympics we’ve been watching!

Along with the sporting events, I really love the personal stories that chart the courageous journeys of various athletes:  each story is different, but the similarities are noteworthy—their road to the Olympics was not easy, filled with intense training, focus, sacrifices, hurdles (literal and figurative), races won and lost, aches, pains, and sheer exhaustion.

A little Citi commercial captures the discipline unseen to the cheering crowds:

“Take a day off? I can’t take a morning off.”

 “I haven’t ordered dessert in two years.”

 “I haven’t watched TV in months.”

And I wonder why I’m no Olympian 🙂

But I am in a race. And God’s Word reminds me that I’m pressing on for a prize much greater than a gold medal, of more value than huge commercial endorsements, and more enduring than world fame.

Jesus, my Redeemer and Saviour, is my Prize.

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:12

His worth is beyond compare and His value, priceless.

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

No fireworks, TV coverage, or anthems play as we press on to Him. But, hey, we do have a cheering squad!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

If we falter, stumble, or lose ground along the way, we have a loving Father who will pick us up and carry us across the finish line.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy….” Jude 24

 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

 My favourite part?  There are no losers! Everyone in Christ wins!

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8

And finally, there is no room for pride in this race. Humility is the winning characteristic.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” I Peter 5:6

The journey of a Christian is not easy.  It is a lifelong,uphill climb; often met with more jeers than cheers.  And it requires as much diligence and discipline as we see demonstrated in the most inspiring of Olympians.

Please, join me, in the challenge, so we can encourage each other as we…

“….press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:14

A Time for Everything

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Eccl. 3:1

After several months of intense activity and 2500 more miles on Trustee Toyota,  we arrived back at The Hollow and I aggresively set out to tackle a personal to-do list; as one can imagine, The Hollow is ever in want of care and upkeep.

The Hollow

We inherited a lovely herb garden when we bought our home 6 years ago. It is often a source of blessing, and less frequently, a curse.  Loads of herbs, fragrances, and enjoyment; but not without regular weeding and transplanting, and battling with the lemon balm which always wants to take over.

The Herb Garden

But today the Lord let me learn and enjoy a little blessing from it.  He gave me Rest.

Rosemary Clippings

These cuttings were leftover from the day I did the dirty, weeding and pruning work.

But the restful part was bundling them up.  Why?

Because, what else can one do while sorting through little sprigs, tossing the bad ones, gathering 12-15 fresh ones together, cutting twine just so, and tying the twine around each little bundles?  Not much, but…

Listen.

I listened to worship music, the birds singing, hummingbirds at our feeders, and other buzzing things.  And I listened to the Holy Spirit, reminding me how much more important my relationship is with Him, than being busy.

Rosemary sprigs, all cozy in the basket

All in all, it was a pretty productive day.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength….” Isaiah 30:15 NIV

“God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  Eccl. 3:11 (NLT)

[Little disclaimer–these photos aren’t from John’s talented eye; instead, my eye and little HTC cellphone are the culprits.]

Some thoughts on Anger

“Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”     James 1:19, 20

We are to take extreme CARE with the emotion of anger.  I’ve heard it’s okay to be angry, because after all, the Word says “Be angry and don’t sin.”  But I find there’s quite a blurry line in my life between anger and sin, one I can’t see very well, so perhaps I should avoid that contested boundary if at all possible.

Jonah offers an interesting contrast between man’s anger and the Lord’s.  One is quick.  The other, slow.

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.

He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”

Jonah also illustrates the great chasm between our anger and God’s forgiveness.  Jonah gets angry over a plant dying!  Yet, for the life of him, he can’t grasp God’s mercy towards the 120,000 people (and their cattle) He spares due to their sincere repentance!

He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”

But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

In the book of Job we read, that even when we feel sick and tormented, a rash and angry response will undoubtedly lead to sin. “Beware that wrath does not entice you to scoffing” (Job 36:18).

However, God’s slowness to anger always results in compassionate redemption:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

He will not always strive with us,  nor will He keep His anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

Psalm 103:8-13

And finally, our anger often usually leads to unforgiveness.  Jesus is pretty clear how he feels about that in his parable on the unforgiving servant:

“Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?”  Matthew 18:33

Ultimately, humans have a bad track record with anger.  We are encouraged to put it aside, along with all the junk it creates in our minds (and bodies).  So….

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:29-32

~~~

Dear Lord, Help us to have mercy on others as you have had towards us.  Help us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, and love as You have loved.  Only then can we experience release from the burden of anger, draw others to You, and accomplish Your redemptive purpose.  You are so merciful, Lord.  Amen.

 

P.S.  A little ♪ note on mercy can be heard in the Music Box above.  It’s a new song by Sovereign Grace Music called, Have Mercy on Me.  You can listen on this site, and dowload at Amazon.com or Sov Grace’s website.

Even better…

Here’s a little Post Script to What’s Your ___ for 2012?

The Psalmist reminds us that no matter what our goals, longings, or desires are, there is something Better!

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.”  Psalm 63:1-3

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10

 

~~~~

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. 

~~~

Enlarge My Life

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.”  G.K. Chesterton,  Orthodoxy

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30 

The Season is picking up speed, rushing forward with frenzy and tension; we’re being constantly reminded of gifts we forgot to buy or people we forgot to write; we’re facing difficulties, sorrow or grief in stark contradiction to festivities around us; the checkbook is empty; good intentions fall flat.  Our failing self seems to loom larger, while meaningful life grows smaller.

I’m not sure how you handle any of this, but the Lord keeps calling me to quiet my soul, trust His care, and turn my focus back to Him.  But since that all sounds a bit abstract, I’ve come up with a few concrete ways for Him to increase, and me to decrease:

1.  Rest and recall:

Os Guiness wrote in Long Journey Home,

The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but His descent to us.  Without God’s descent, there is no human ascent.

We keep trying and trying to ascend to some performance mark.  That mark is different for each of us–it could range anywhere from how soon we finish the gift shopping, to how well we put on a smile in the midst of deep, deep pain or grief.  But it’s not about making the mark, performing, ascending. This Season, and everyday of the year, is ALL about the Love the Father demonstrated to us, while we were yet clueless (my words).  He Gave entirely.  We receive, entirely.  He did Everything.  We can do nothing.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.  2 Corinthians 8:9

2.  Worship:

What other season of the year do stores and public venues inadvertently pipe songs of worship and praise to the Newborn King?  [Though, they’re becoming less prevalent due to the growing secularization of Christmas.]

Listen to the words.  Fill your car, home, cubical, iPod, or kitchen with songs of angels.  Join shepherds and kings, rich and poor, old and young, in the magnificent Wonder of all that is Christmas!  What joy we miss if we fail to truly hear and rejoice aloud that A Child is Born, God and Sinner are Reconciled,  the Desire of Nations has come, God with man is now residing, Born that man no more may die, Glories stream from heaven afar, King of Kings salvation brings, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn! 

If you lack music in your world, you can find some in my Music Box, which has a broad mix of Christmas and other worship songs.  Both iTunes and Amazon have loads of Christian music artists who praise our Lord with new songs and old!  Try out Folk Angel, Keith and Kristyn Getty, and David Crowder Band, for some new takes on the old faithfuls.

3.  Give, give, give:

     Give praise to the Lord,

                           give yourself,

                                                give to the poor!

Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Psalm 29:2

Worship is a gift to the Lord Jesus, whose Birth we celebrate, whose advent, we require.

Give.  We can give kindness, gentleness, goodness, compassion, and understanding.  A smile, a tear, a note of thanks, a hug.  A prayer.

Something surreal and unexplainable happens in our heart and soul, the grief and sorrow fade just a bit, whenever we give our time, attention, or God-given blessings to someone with less   May the Lord open our eyes to our “neighbor,” the lonely, unloved, the poor, near or far, or anyone He brings our way.

And we can give easily, anonymously, and practically to those who suffer most–the hungry, oppressed, needy, abused or persecuted.  A little of our “mortal wealth” can bring great gladness and joy!

Here are a few ‘giving’ websites which help enlarge my life, while making my selfish self a bit smaller:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/

http://www.compassion.com/

http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?lpos=sponsor-a-child_top_img_gift_catalog&go=gift&&section=10389

http://www.christianfreedom.org/

http://freesetglobal.com/usa/home-USA.html

[And a big thanks to Beth Stone who shared the last two suggestions on her website!  Thank you Beth!]

~~~~~~

Dear Lord and Father, Thank you for all your blessings, great and small.  Help me to decrease, and You to increase in my little “kingdom of one.”  Enlarge my life, to see beyond me, beyond the present, to people who need you here and now, and forever.   Above all, help me not to be ashamed of Jesus Christ, who is the Hope of this Season and every day, the only way, truth, and life. Proclaim Him through my life, worship and giving.  In His eternal name, Amen.

~~~~~~