The Lord Will Give What is Good

Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?  Show us Your lovingkindness, O LORD, and grant us Your salvation.  I will hear what God the LORD will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly  ones; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in the land.  Lovingkindess and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.  Truth springs from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.  Indeed, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its produce.  Righteousness will go before Him and will make His footsteps in a way”  Psalm 85:7-13.

Do you hear the good news?  There isn’t anyone I know who isn’t facing at least one overwhelming circumstance.  I would be a very wealthy person if only I had a dime for every time this week I said, “That really, really sucks!” We’re all surrounded by seemingly impossible situations.  Don’t lose sight of Jesus.

Read the verses again–note how He makes impossible things possible.  He places nouns side-by-side in sentences as friends when they should only occupy the same space as enemies:  Lovingkindness and truth brought together.  God’s righteousness and our wretchedness kissing in peace.  Only Jesus.

What are looking at in your life that only Jesus can remedy?  Do not forget–“the Lord will give what is good.”  He’s done it before, trust Him for it now.

Weekend Plans

Do you remember the simpler days, when life didn’t seem to propel you out of the things you really value?

I don’t know if I remember those days are not.  I know we talk about the “good old days,” but after traveling back in time four decades by watching three seasons of Mad Men I realize every generation must make the choice to live the life they really want.  The temptation to cheat our family and friends out of the love we have for them is no more enticing now as it was then.

So this weekend, I will be the me I wake up each morning wishing I will be:

I will begin today by going shopping with a friend…because she asked me to and I like being with her.

I will spend the evening with my hubs.  I will listen to his stories and laugh at his jokes…because I like what he has to say.

I will hang out on the couch with my kids.  I will find out their latest video game score & explore their feelings about the start of school…because these are the things that are really important to them.

I will walk the dog…because he likes a change of scenery.

I will spend time with my church family…because they are beautiful people.

I will call my sister and talk to her about something light…because her husband just lost his job and she needs people to deliver smiles to her.

I will put a care package together for my nephew…because Afghanistan is a long way away from anything that feels like home.

I will do these things…because I’ve being saying I would for too long and life is too short to not do what matter matters most.

What will you do this weekend?

Devoted Hearts

“But you and your heart, shouldn’t feel so far apart,” goes the line in Jack Johnson’s  latest hit.  It’s a truth I’ve been spending a lot time thinking about

My heart gets distracted by the little things that feel big. It gets distracted by the silence of God and the places in life where God has left me to wait like a desperate child voluntarily tucked away in a closet, anticipating their discovery in a deceptive game of Hide and Seek.

I need the reminder of Colossians 3:1-4,

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

I attempt to wrap these Christ-exalting truths around my heart, but it’s often like a runaway train onto which I can’t jump to pull the brake.  Instead, it speeds ahead to thoughts, attitudes, and action plans.  My heart impulsively finds ways to replace my need for God with something to satisfy my flesh.

 This truth was brought painfully to light the other day as I continued reading in Colossians 3 to verse 4,

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”

Idolatry?  You mean like the golden calf variety of idolatry?  Plain and simply, yes.  When things are not going our way and at our speed, we’re inclined to believe God has abandoned His plan and it’s up to us to satisfy the requirements.   We equate God to what He is doing. If we see nothing, our impulses demand we find a new god.

We’re not the first.  The People of God tired of waiting on Him to deliver His plan and decided to awaken their passions with a god they could see with their eyes and dance circles around.  The provisions God had given as reminders of His power and providence were melted down and worshiped in their own right(Exodus 32). While God was inscribing the plan on the tablets, the people’s hearts drifted from their devotion to a God they could not see and who often requires His people to wait.  To wait alone.  To wait in silence.  Like our ancestors, we rarely hear the fingerprints of God inscribing on the tablets of our lives.

It’s in the waiting we discover to what or whom we are most devoted.  In the quiet, the idol worshiper in us finds an audible “voice” for God.  In the unknown, the idol worshiper in us manipulates and forces plans.  We push, pull, demand, and desire for a visible, tangible god…even if it must be ourselves.

Those who are convinced God is real and is who He has declared Himself to be will not presume upon His timeline or His technique. Our hearts will be still and know that He is God. We will have a heart that is not far apart from the God who made it…even when it is asked to sit and wait.

Do you find waiting on God difficult?  Some of you, like me, are waiting for God to show up  in a situation where God seems silent or absent.   You might be waiting for a healing, a relationship to be restored, a marriage to satisfy, a baby to coo, a job to change, a boss to affirm,  a child’s heart to soften. No doubt, your heart is waiting for something–I don’t personally know anyone who isn’t.  In the waiting, say ‘no’ to the idols–they cannot save. Say ‘yes’ to the hope of God in Christ Jesus–He does not disappoint, no matter how long you have to wait.

If you want to do some greater examination to determine if you have idols in your life, I encourage you to check out Matt Capps blog.  He has some powerful questions for taking inventory of your life.

What Are You Reading?

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.  ~Edward P. Morgan

Here’s what I’m currently reading…

1. From Eden to the New Jerusalem, by T. Desmond Alexander.  I’m reading this primarily because I loved his From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Main Themes of the Pentateuch.

2. Contagious Holiness:  Jesus’ Meals with Sinners, by Craig L. Blomberg.  It’s challenging–not so much on an intellectual level, but in its application.

3.  Man and Woman, One in Christ:  An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters, by Philip B. Payne.   I just need to understand this issue as much as possible.

4. The Mentor Leader, by Tony Dungy.  An inspirational read because Dungy is such a man of integrity.  There is application in this book for husbands, parents, teachers, ministry leaders, bosses…there is something for anyone who desires to lead others well in any environment.

5. Great is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God, by Ron Highfield.  This is not a book you’ll want to speed through.  It’s transformational…if you let it be so.

6.  By My Spirit, by Jonathan Goforth.  Writing of his missionary experiences in China, Goforth provides a valuable reminder to all ministry leaders of the need to depend upon and rejoice in God’s work.  His humility and dedication is inspiring.

7.  Sports Illustrated.  It’s football time, so once again I care what’s being talked about in the sport’s world.  Will the Seahawks give us something to cheer about this year???  Maybe???  Please?

What are you reading?  Any recommendations?

It is Mine

There it sits…

right in front of me.

I know what it is–I have seen it before.

I know whose it is–it declares its owner like some haughty personalized plate.

There it sits…

The fruit of my prayers…the wakeful nights spent praying for conviction.  The early mornings tirelessly imploring for a confession.  The sentinel preoccupation of waiting for a sign of repentance.

And now there it sits…

All mine to claim.

Like so many times before, I’ve slipped and fallen back into sin.

I’ve cluttered my thoughts with libraries of judgment.

I’ve crowded my heart with hate, depositing offenses like a frenzied shopper collecting bargains at a clearance sale.

I’ve worn another’s weakness as my own folly.

Like so many times before, I alone stand guilty.

Next to my guilt, sits another truth…

the basin containing the water of forgiveness.

The cut of conviction has been bathed in its mercies before.

Each dip into its warmth and comfort soothes my grief and awakens my poisoned thoughts and heart to live again the life they have been called to live.

There it sits…

My forgiveness.  It is mine.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness., let the bones which You have broken rejoice…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain with a willing spirit…Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.  O Lord, open my lips, that my tongue may declare your praise”  Psalm 51:7-15.

It’s the Gospel, Stupid

Are we curious why our voice doesn’t seem to be heard and our words don’t make sense to anyone? Maybe it’s because we’ve lost our focus and our talk has become limited to water cooler chatter. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to talk about the important things anymore.

My husband says that Twitter isn’t about social networking, rather it’s a group of people trying to out-do each other with profound sayings and ironically, nothing is profound anymore.  This got me thinking that maybe the church has tried so hard to get fancy with the gospel that it has ceased to be the true gospel message.

If the gospel is not a love story–your loved story–it becomes old and boring, and you can live life week to week on three-point sermons without Jesus. I’m becoming uncomfortably aware that most of what we talk about in and out of the church, what we tweet, what we preach and teach, and what occupies our thoughts and calendars has very little to do with Jesus. Yet, His love–the love found at the cross–is the only valuable thing we have to offer.  Everything else is just confusing and meaningless.  We need to dig ourselves out of this vast expanse of information in which we live to the simple message of the cross, “Jesus loves me.”

It’s the gospel, stupid.  We don’t need better programs (Please, no more programs!), we don’t need better behavior (although it wouldn’t hurt for some of us to start living the gospel out in truthful speech and sacrificial love) and we don’t need more information (as I add to the mountain of blogger blather).  We just need a compelling love story and that is what the gospel is–you and me being  incredibly loved by God in Christ Jesus.

The apostles got this.

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” 2 Corinthians 4:5.

The early church got this.

He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” Colossians 1:18.

When did the church forget this?

When did I?

A Healer and a Hope

One of the things I do is walk with women through pain–pain experienced at the abusive hands of another.  My conviction is that there is no pain that my God cannot heal.  I hold on to this conviction even when I sit with wounded hearts through hours, days, and sometimes years of darkness that appear to the eyes to be impenetrable to the light. 

I loan out hope. 

I loan out courage. 

I loan out the message of the cross that says, “There is a way to live again!” 

Yesterday I received an email from one of these precious women.  With her permission, I share this with you, because I am confident that there are those of you out there who are trying to make sense of your suffering and wondering why and for how long the pain will whittle away at your peace, joy,and hope.  Please read and be inspired by the God of all hope; know you are not alone…this too could be your story one day.

Since I left you today the wheels in my head have been turning , thinking about who God is and what His greater purpose is in suffering (a little more so than usual, oh yeah, it’s Thursday).  So I took a look at Isaiah 53.  As I was reading different translations, trying to fully grasp the meaning I came to realize and question a few things.  (Forgive me if these are things you’ve told me five hundred times already.) God sent Jesus with a plan in mind for him to suffer.  His life was ordained and played out as it did. Did God author the evil that was done to Jesus?  If his plan was for Jesus to suffer, then wouldn’t he have to author the evil?  If God does not author evil, but chooses not to stop the evil sins of man because…well, then I guess we’d be in heaven already, in which case there wouldn’t have been any reason to send Jesus.  So that being said, man sins by nature.  God can (and probably does, very often, I’d imagine) choose to stop a person from committing a sin against another, however, we wouldn’t know it, because it didn’t happen.  Conversely, God also chooses not to stop evil things from happening, just as he didn’t stop the sin of man against Jesus.  The key point in Jesus’ suffering is that it was used for a greater purpose (which glorifies God), and although it caused Jesus much anguish, Jesus becomes aware of this greater purpose and is able to accept the terrible deeds against him knowing what the greater purpose was/is.  If I understand Isaiah 53:11 correctly it clearly states that ‘He shall see [the fruit] of the travail of His soul’, another version says when ‘He sees all that is accomplished by his anguish’, another, ‘out of the anguish of his soul he shall see’ and they all end with ‘and He will be satisfied.’  Even Jesus, Son of God, Son of man needed to see a purpose in His suffering.  He needed to understand the glory to God that was to be had of His own suffering.

So, looking at it from that perspective, if God allowed such evil to happen to His perfect son, (for a greater good and His glory) then who the heck are we to think that we’d be exempt from such suffering?  And if we are image bearers of Christ being transformed into His likeness, then we too must go through suffering knowing that it is for a greater good and His glory.  So if our purpose of being created is to glorify God then so must our sufferings.  And just as God sent Jesus to suffer and reconcile us to himself then are we also made to share this message of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ through our sufferings (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)? Is this the ultimate purpose in suffering?  I’m suddenly reminded of something you’ve said to me a few times (hopefully I don’t butcher it).  If there’s no suffering at all, then who needs a Savior? But because there is suffering, there’s Jesus.  Which leads me to think about His healing power and what it looks like.  If we are being transformed to be like Him and will ultimately be like Him (1 John3:2) and we allow Him to dwell in our hearts now, then do we have the ability to face suffering as he did?  And if we can face suffering as Jesus did (too tired to explore that right now), is that what it looks like to glorify God? 

Please share this. For as much pain as it caused my head to process, if it will help someone else, by all means share (hmm, a purpose?)  I think because if that is where I’m going to rest, then with it comes responsibility. A responsibility that I’m afraid will leave my heart vulnerable.  Allowing God to lead my heart and allowing others to see it is frightening to me.  I guess it’s kind of ironic that the purpose that I long for also scares the heck out me when understanding comes within reach. It also leaves me wondering how this will play into the rest of my journey.  Jesus forgave His adversaries in all His grief, to the glory of God, for a greater purpose.  How do I muster up that kind of strength to stand in such glory?  To be determined…

Have you reached the end of your hope?  Have you experienced sexual abuse?  Have you suffered what you think is unspeakable pain?  There is a Healer for you!  Please don’t suffer alone.  Reach out.  Ask someone to loan you hope, walk with you to the cross, and cheer you on to embrace its power.  Come, discover your Healer!

Thanking God it’s Friday

TGIF…we say it every Friday, but thankfulness should be more than just a declaration of escape from the grind of the work week.  Thankfulness should bubble up from a deep conviction of who God is in our lives.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to the Him, bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” Psalm 100:4-5.

Here’s my TIGF list:

1. I will spend the evening with my favorite human–my husband.

2. My favorite pet–Percy the Basset–makes my heart smile with just one glance at his goofiness.

3. I have friends who speak truth to me.

4. I see God at work in the lives of my friends…I see His goodness, faithfulness, and love mightily at work.

5. I woke up today and my migraine is gone…at last, after 4 days.

6. The tool of my trade is the Bible.  The Bible–the holy script of God!

7. I work with a group of women who take God at His Word and press in to be all they can be in Christ for the sake of His Church and His glory.

8. My children are not in the hospital, a jail, or rehab…when you have teenagers, you’re thankful for such things.  (Since I’m listening to Lindsay Lohan’s mom talk on NBC’s Today…I’m aware what could be our reality.  Although, I HOPE I would not have the level of profound denial this mom is displaying.  No wonder the girl is messed up!)

9. I have a husband who keeps encouraging me to be all I can be and backs up his commitment to me with selfless sacrifice that will allow me to start my MDiv this fall.

10. God is not finished with me yet.  On the authority of His Word, I know that He has authored my faith and He will perfect it.

For what are you thankful?  Not sure?  Remind yourself with a reading of Psalm 147.

Mad Men

My husband and I have been living in a Mad Men obsessed haze the last three days.  Set in the early 60s, the AMC series is about the advertising men of Madison Avenue.  It has all the essentials for a good watch–drama, suspense, romance and comedy.

It’s also a fascinating study on women’s struggle to be recognized as fully human in our American culture.  From the stepford wives who ante up their worth through home cooked meals and thin waistlines, to the office secretaries daily beckoned with whistles reserved for an average family pet–Mad Men has become a place for me to see gender bias outside of myself.

*Men ignore women, assuming they have nothing of true value to offer (unless, of course, it’s sex), and are threatened by any woman who has broken the social norms to find for herself a place of power, privilege, or persuasion.

*Men steal women’s bodies, ideas, work, and dignities as tally marks for their own egos.

*Men are shocked if women say something intelligent.  “Leave the thinking to us!”

*Men patronize women with half-hearted “there, there” apologies and considerations.

*In “noble” moments of protection, men shield women from the truth…even though most often it is covering themselves from accountability.

*Men consider other men “right,” even when they are clearly wrong.  How much easier to let a lowly woman wear the blame than to have a man and his promising future compromised.

*Men harshly judge women who desire to work outside of their homes…but I wonder, who did they think would get them their coffee and/or afternoon martini?

…and at last, in this early-1960s, twenty-third office floor on Madison Avenue in New York City I have a discovered a place where gender bias is worse for women than what they are today experiencing in the church.

[I am not saying ALL men in the church treat women with such low regard.  Rather, my point is to emphasize that within evangelicalism today there is a prevalent pattern of belief that the church is a man’s world and the image of Christ in women is less than necessary for the Spirit’s expression in building up the church.]

I’m concerned by the similarities because the church should not bear even a slight resemblance to Madison Avenue.  The fact that I can, as a woman in church ministry, so identify with the women in this show–to understand their silent looks, their shamed glances, and their frustrated longings to be seen as a person and not as a commodity–speaks strongly to the fact that there are lives still in need of surrender to the Spirit’s transformation.

Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even as we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:16.

I see the application of this for both men and women:

Men, (if any of you read this blog), see women as image bearers!  See Christ in them!  Welcome their expression of the Spirit’s work.  Stop seeing them through the lens of the flesh–the flesh is concerned about such things as roles, and power, and appetites, and who gets credit.  The Spirit in you does not.   He cares about each person–man or woman–being all they were intended to be in Christ for God’s glory.  If a woman will bring more glory to God through the exercise of gifts and ministry, will you allow it?

Women, Do not regard yourself through the impulses of the flesh. Stop waiting for some voice of affirmation.  Start obeying the Spirit’s prodding in you!  This includes, not using your flesh to garner influence or sympathies.   Be careful how you dress!  Be careful how you speak.  Be careful not to long for control.  The ministry of the Spirit is expressed in servanthood.  Be who you were made to be–a passionate lover of Jesus, serving others because the love of Christ controls you–and let the Spirit be responsible for your fruitfulness.   You can choose to play it safe, quietly pining away in the roles that men allow you to have or you can choose to focus your eyes on Christ and surrender to being the new creation He intends for you to be.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to a man that I was preparing a “talk” on Romans 5.  His response, “Can you handle Romans 5?”  My response, “Well, the same Spirit that lives in you, lives in me and since it’s His text, I figure He can handle it.”    The Spirit doesn’t give regard to my gender.  He will use me however He sees fit to build the Kingdom of God–be that teaching the Word or  cleaning toilets.  But whatever He asks me to do, I will do it with no regard for the flesh…for the flesh is of no value.

No doubt the gender issue will continue to struggle for clarity in the church.   As for me, I will not sit and wait at home with curlers in my hair.  I have been invited by the King of Kings and the Lord of all Lords to express His worth and tell of His greatness.   He doesn’t consider my feminity a challenge to using me for His glory.

The Short List

I haven’t written in a while.  It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say.  In actuality, I’ve had too much to say about the events of this last week.  However, to have spoken of them out loud, would have been of no benefit to the speaker or the listener.

One thing common to all the things I’ve wanted to comment about in the last week is that they make me weary–tired, discouraged, impatient, dissatisfied, crumbling, diminished.  The world I’m living in–you are living in–has a diminishing affect on the people I am fully convinced we were created to be.  Glorifying God and enjoying Him is no simple purpose in a world marked by the insidiousness of sin.

So what I am weary about?   Here’s my short list:

1. Anne Rice left Christianity…and we’re all making a very big deal about it because her reasons resonate deeply with so many of the things with which any honest Christian struggles.

2. There are far too few visible evidences given for others to join Christianity.  I fear Christ has become so diminished in many churches that those who are wanting to know about Him will have to look beyond His Church to find Him.

3. Iran will stone a woman.  Stone a woman!  What year is this?  How can we let this happen?   Who among us will be Jesus to this woman and write a message of freedom in the dirt to release her life from this kind of oppressive religion?  Are we all really that calloused to the grace by which we have been set free?

4. I am a woman.  Yes, being a woman makes me weary.  Not that it has be this way, but I find the things I’m told I can do and the things I cannot do by men “speaking on behalf of God” leaves me trying to fit God’s image in me into a box not suited to its size and shape.

5. The reports of what “trusted friends” have said about me, but not to me, has reached my ears.  The only reason trusting others is so hard is because we’ve all made faithfulness too casual a virtue.

6. Many of my friends and those with whom I counsel have been betrayed by someone they should have been able to trust and their healing is slow and their pain is profound and every time I think about them or pray for them, my heart takes a labored breath.

7. My nephew is in Afghanistan.  His letter this week describes how he and his troop will most likely not have a real meal for a year, but only MREs.  They have no running water, no toothpaste, and limited electricity.  He’s 19 years old and I can’t help but think that he is the poster child of our nation’s abandoned youth.  (…and I hope my sister doesn’t read this, because I know it will make her cry.)

8. The fiction I read sounds more and more like the biographies of people in my life.  I read the first two fiction books of the year while on vacation this week.  Fiction used to be my escape to places and people I didn’t know…but I knew all the places and persons in these stories, just by different names.

9. Fathers abandoning their daughters is a commonplace reality.  Both my sons are dating girls whose fathers have failed them and now at 16 and 18–when they should be living care-free– these two young men are trying to be a bright spot in two saddened hearts.

10. Prop 8 has been repealed.  The Californian courts have declared Prop 8 to be unconstitutional and so men and women of the same sex will be free to marry.  Yes, this grieves me…but not as much as the Christians who decry it based on the sanctity of marriage, all the while marriages within the Christian community crack and crumble.  Before *we* throw rocks at other’s ideas of marriage I wish *we* would paint a better picture of a Christ-centered marriage…then *we* will have a legitimate battle cry.

I know I’m not the first to be weary.  Maybe today as you read this, you too, are weary.  May we all take comfort and courage from the apostle Paul,

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” Galatians 6:9.

A greater reward awaits us.

The cross of Christ beckons us to come and hope again.  To long for the redemption and restoration of all people–women, children, men.  For those who find themselves on the other side of small and big stones, Christ’s resurrection speaks with hope, “There can be life again!”

What are you weary about today?  Speak it aloud and dethrone its power by adding to the end of your sentence, “…but, do not lose heart, for in due time…”