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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.

The N to the B to the F to the J.C. Word

I hate the N word.  The rage it contains, regardless of who says it or how it’s spoken, pierces my heart and make me want to throw up!  It is aimed to hurl hurt, harm, and ridicule.  Its intent is to make someone feel like less of a person than others.

And yet, Jesus said that if we call someone, “You Fool!” we are guilty of murder in our heart.   Fool?  Really?

“Fool” seems so tame compared with the variety of awful words we call each other, or even ourselves.  But that’s because Jesus, always, always aimed for the heart.

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

He knew if it wasn’t “Fool” it would be something else. It could be the N word, or the b word, or a whole collection of words connected with the F word somewhere or how.  There are so many creative ways to call someone a Fool.  How scary and dark the caverns where we mine words to tear down another person.

James, the brother of Jesus, shared this dilemma and disgust in his letter:

“…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be!”  James 3:8-11

It should not be!

And that’s not all.

                                               Jesus Christ.

How did you read that?  If I put an exclamation point after it, would it change the meaning?

Jesus Christ is the name of my Lord and Saviour, God’s precious Son, the only mediator between God and man, my Creator, Beloved redeemer, the one in whom I place all my hopes and fears, and very life.

Yet, JC is written into movie and television scripts with the same frequency as the f or gd or the b word.  And even if someone doesn’t believe he was God or “all that,” why do they yell his name when their finger gets slammed in the car door?

Jesus Christ is daily mocked through the slanderous use of his name.  So how does He feel about that? Is he surprised?

Not really.  Nothing surprises Him, especially not our sordid behavior or our ridiculous, slanderous words.  In fact, the Psalmist actually predicted it ages ago:

“When I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards.” Psalm 69: 12

So Jesus knew his name would be used maliciously.  But it doesn’t change who He is.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth”  Philippians 2:9-10

While for some, his name is a curse word on their lips, for others—for me—Jesus is the name above all names.   And someday, no matter how we say it now, we will all bow in hushed reverence at His name.

~~~

Back to the heart.

Is JC a mockery word for you?   If he was just a man, why His name?

Emotions, words, actions.   Where will our words take us?  What do they say about us?

~~~

Parting thoughts from Jesus Christ himself:

“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”  Matthew 12:35-37

Jesus-name-above-all-names

A Song in the Night

“….‘Where is God my Maker who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’” Job 35:10, 11

Clouded moon

Christ’s death and resurrection is particularly dear to me this year, as our earthly celebration follows mere days after my sister-in-law passed away. Over the past four years, some of my posts documented Rebecca’s battle with cancer and requests for your prayers.  You shared in her victories and disappointments. Now she is gone–and it’s as difficult to write that as to believe it.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” 

I Corinthians 15:56, 57

Becky wrote a song the night before she had a very difficult back surgery to remedy months of excruciating pain caused by an unforgiving tumor.  The song was put to music by the worship team at her church and played at her memorial service last week.  I may have a word or two wrong since I transcribed this from a shaky recording, but it deserves to be shared:

Becky’s Song in the Night

Jesus you are the bright and morning star

Illuminate our hearts and guide us where you are

Help us dear Lord in the shining light you send

Oh morning star, we love you, and we long for You

Jesus morning star, our lives in you made new

Jesus morning star, our lives in you made new!

~~

Chorus:

Praise the bright and Morning star

Praise his holy name

Praise the Master and the Saviour,

You won’t be the same

Praise Him, Morning star!

Praise Him, The bright and Morning star!

~~

Now as you rise in heavens glory, morning star

Help our hearts to rise up on your wings

Help us know the ways you made us free,

And let us see your beauty and your majesty!

~~

Praise the bright and Morning star

Praise his holy name

Praise the Master and the Saviour,

You won’t be the same

Praise Him, Morning star!

Praise Him, The bright and Morning star!

How amazing, that her song in the night focused entirely on her Morning Star!  Becky’s eyes were fixed on Jesus!

As we remember our Lord’s Passion, his suffering, pain and grief, may our songs in the night melt into praise in the morning, as we see Him, risen with power and glory, paving the way of Hope for our eternal future!

~~

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.   According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

And so we will be with the Lord forever.

I Thess. 4:13-17 

~

Little Moments of Grace

Six weeks into 2013.

How’s those resolutions going?  Perhaps at the cusp of the New Year, some of us were

reviewing the year,

regretting mistakes,

re-thinking goals,

and resolving to change..

But why do we keep repeating the pattern every year?

We long to make some dramatic difference in our lives, checkbooks, children, spouses, selves, homes, or whatever.  Or at least, I do.  I want that big “reveal” at the end of the year, or my lifetime, to show  visible improvement, growth, and purpose.  It’s taken me a long time to learn that life is not about the drama or applause.

Life is played out in the everyday moments, minutes, reactions, choices, and responses.

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Paul David Tripp discussed this in one of his recent articles:

“The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.

What leads to significant personal change?

  • 10,000 moments of personal insight and conviction
  • 10,000 moments of humble submission
  • 10,000 moments of foolishness exposed and wisdom gained
  • 10,000 moments of sin confessed and sin forsaken
  • 10,000 moments of courageous faith
  • 10,000 choice points of obedience
  • 10,000 times of forsaking the kingdom of self and running toward the kingdom of God
  • 10,000 moments where we abandon worship of the creation and give ourselves to worship of the Creator.

And what makes all of this possible?

Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace….”

(From Paul Tripp Ministries, PaulTripp. com)

Oswald Chambers said much the same over 100 years ago in his famous devotional, My Utmost for His Highest :

“It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God: but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes”

So, even though it’s February, can we still do this?  Is it too late to turn little moments into blessings, the ordinary into the exceptional?

Pick a day, some odd day on the calendar, like February 10th, and choose to make your moments matter.  It’s not about lists of resolutions.   It’s about moments of choices.

Breathe a prayer.

Obey that still small voice.

Let a kind answer turn away a harsh word.

Forgive.

Little moments of grace….

weave a path to His glory and honour.

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Living among Immortals

“There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
–C. S. Lewis,
The Weight of Glory

I’m still alive and writing!  This year has been gratefully busy and spread out between family, grad school, and helping a humble ministry leader express his story for a future book.  And, in a mere hours or days, we will be meeting and welcoming two more little ones into our growing family!

Baby A on the way

Soon we’ll see Baby B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I’m so behind with sharing. My heart and mind are full of songs, opinions, new favourite quotes, and encouragement from God’s Word.  So I better get started.

There are no ordinary people.

Jericho Road’s Coffee House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live our life among the immortal.  Every single person we talk to, brush past, or ignore, is valuable, every spirit, eternal, and each soul, purchased by our Saviour’s blood.

You

and

I

and

each person

that crosses our path,

will outlast the prettiest flower

and the deepest sunset

and the wildest mountains

or the most graceful deer~~~

~~~~

If that be true, how do we treat others?  The others we may not like, who have hurt us, or tailgate us on the highway, or make choices that cause us pain?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

John 13:34

Jesus didn’t ask us to love one another.  He commanded it!

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

  Matthew 7:12

Casting Crown’s song, Jesus, Friend of Sinners, says it like this:

Oh, Jesus, friend of sinners,
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours.

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who’s writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of your mercy bring your people to their knees.

How do we live among such immortals?

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

and

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

Ephesians 4:31,32

We will never meet a mere mortal.

May the Lord grant us the grace and humility to treat everyone we meet on our journey with an eternal perspective. We already have an example from Jesus:

“….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

Let us love one another…as long as we have breath, to eternity….and beyond!

“Yet 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.”   Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

[I invite you to listen to Casting Crown’s song in its entirety from the Music Box.  And you can purchase it for yourself on ITunes or Amazon.com.]

 

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