Easy Button

Days like today should be the norm, but they’re not. I got groceries this morning, the bill wasn’t too high, the items fit well into the recycled bags I bring to Aldi. (Weeks that I don’t have enough bags for it all I get really embarrassed for some reason. First world problems, right?) The kids went down for a nap reasonably well, and I now have a window of free time to choose an activity. For me. To do. By myself. Cool.

But, like I said, this is not what happens every day of the week, and usually what does happen requires great struggle and sacrifice on my part. My wants and needs are often marginalized. I am often asked to put others and their needs first. My gut reaction is usually to complain, even if only inwardly, I didn’t ask for this! Why me, why now?

The first study question of my BSF lesson hit me squarely in this. ” How does this passage (John 18:1-27) show you the Lord Jesus Christ chose to suffer and was not a victim of circumstances? ” Wow.

You could almost say that most trials of life, and our choices while handling them, fall into either one of these categories. We can choose to suffer, ie. die, to ourselves and submit to what we can learn from the experience, or play the victim, and hold on to our rights we think we have to a happy life and NOT this happening, with any number of resulting fits and tantrums, even if only inward ones. I’m queen of the second category, by the way. I’ve played the victim all my life. Jesus is King of the first category, one of many reasons He is holy, so completely ‘other’ in His behavior. I want to be able to look at life and my choices in it the way He did while He was on earth. Not least of which would be His determination in His final days, arrest, and crucifixion. The only Person who could ever have truly played the victim, didn’t.

 

Love Language

In my Bible study this morning, I was challenged to define

‘…and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

Huh. You mean I am actually expected to obey this command, and therefore understand what each part of the command means? I never thought about that before. Once I did give it some thought this morning, I came up with this:

with all your heart- I thought about how He wants His word to be hidden in my heart, so that my heart can be one that is completely His (Ps. 119:11; 2 Chron. 16:9a)

with all your soul- maybe this has to do with living each day more for eternity than the day before, spending less time wrapped up in the temporal (2 Cor. 4:18)

with all your mind- here lies the battlefield; how willing am I to discipline my mind to where I am thinking on things that please the Lord? (Phil. 4:8)

with all your strength- I thought about how much guts it takes to be self-controlled. Our BSF leader was talking about how it is last in the fruits of the Spirit because it is the most difficult. I need to focus my energies on doing what I should rather than what I want (great 252 Basics definition!), more of the time. (Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 9:24-27;1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Wow, it is a tall order, loving God like this. But one that is attainable through Christ my righteousness and my strength. I had a good day trying it out, and it felt pretty good, like test driving a new car. I hope the smell God smelled was better than that new- car scent.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14

 

To Remember

My verse memory has taken a nose dive. Last year I thought it would be neat for the kids and I to memorize Psalm 51. We got about halfway through it together, then I worked on a few more verses, but still can’t say it in full. It embarrasses me that I cannot seem to find the time to memorize Scripture, yet can find time to do all sorts of things that don’t matter. But, no wallowing in guilt today; I want to move forward. Maybe I will devote the weekend to finishing Psalm 51, but I definitely want to commit the following gem to memory soon:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Back when we only had four and Noah was little, I was into names and their meanings, so I worked at locating a verse for each kid that highlighted both their first name’s meaning and their middle name’s meaning, if I could find one. Noah means ‘comfort’ and his middle name is Christian, so I wanted a verse that brought out not only the comfort to be found in God, but the work of God in the life of the believer. I think the above verses are an excellent example of that. Recently after the death of a friend’s son, I was looking at verses about comfort, and rediscovered this verse in 2 Thessalonians after reading through the first chapter and seeing verse 11:

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,

I like how Paul praised the Thessalonians for wanting to do good, for wanting to make a difference in the lives of those they met. Paul noticed, and we know that God noticed, too. Anyway, that ‘good work’ stands out to me in 2:17 as the goal of the Christian, once he or she has tasted of His divine comfort. Doing the good God has planned for us to do helps us to move forward in a time of grief, or anytime, for that matter.

I made up a little song back in the day, for Noah, to help us remember these verses:

May Noah be strong in every good work

May Noah be strong in every good word

Noah Christian

Jesus loves you

May He comfort you and give you hope

Where O Where

…Is my Bible? When I called a friend today and explained I thought I left it at her church last Thursday, it occurred to me that this sounded very unspiritual of me. How could I be missing my Bible for five days and only now be calling her about it? I resisted the urge to make lame excuses like:

-We cleaned out our van in great haste Saturday morning; I figured I must have put it in the back with the other items I wanted to hide from our traveling buddies

-You should see our bedroom right now; each day I looked under a pile and didn’t come up with anything

-We have many other Bible versions available around the house and online, and I found doing my Bible study with them, particularly The Message on Saturday, quite enriching

Silly, fruitless chatter going on in my mind. Fact is, I feel as if I have lost one of my arms, or even an eye. I hope it will turn up soon.
A couple of hours after I called my friend about my Bible, Noah came running from his bedroom, saying a blue minivan had just stopped at our mailbox and put something in it. We thought this might be my Holy Book, so Sam went running down the driveway to see. He returned with a bag of not one, but two new phone books we don’t need. Sigh.

I suggested getting The Message as a gift for someone for Christmas, and Luke uttered a vehement No Way. I didn’t realize he felt so strongly about this translation, er, paraphrase. I think it is kinda fun to read, once in a while. No, one shouldn’t probably go around memorizing portions of it, but I don’t see the harm in reading it. I’m studying Matthew (in BSF) right now, and the reactions Mr. Peterson has the Pharisees producing in chapter 9 are quite humorous: “Hocus Pocus!” they conclude when Jesus drives out an evil spirit from a mute. I heard this quote at lecture last night-
“The unbelieving mind will not be convinced by any proof. The worshipping heart needs none.” ~A.W. Tozer

Time to start my pantry chili and a cake of cornbread. Looking forward to eating it tonight.

Are You Still Here?

When I was younger, our house in Columbus was pretty near some railroad tracks. The train would go by at night, and if it blew its whistle while passing our subdivision, it would sound an awful lot like a trumpet. You Left Behind readers are already way ahead of me, aren’t you? Sure enough, every night that train whistle would sound, I would jump, fearful. Afraid Jesus had come and I’d been left behind, many times I would head to my parents’ bedroom door to see if I could still hear snores. Then, quite relieved, I could go back to sleep, pretty certain the end wasn’t too near.
At naptime on Monday, A Minor disappeared. A Major had gone in the bedroom to do something, and noticed her bed was empty. I knew it had been empty, too, earlier, but had just assumed she was in the bathroom. We looked all over the house as quietly as we could, and in our house that didn’t take very long. Still no A. So we went through all the rooms again. It was raining, so I was reasonably sure she hadn’t ‘run away’, a game they play during waking hours. I was beginning to think, given the size of our house, the weather outside, and how eerie her sheets looked without her under them,
What if the rapture has happened and she was the only one saved?!
This was disconcerting on many levels: first, she is not a Christian yet, to my knowledge. Add to that, a little while later I discovered that my phone had been dead all morning, so if anyone else’s unsaved five-year-olds had disappeared, I wouldn’t have heard about it. Hmmm.
Finally A Major looks under A Minor’s bed and there she was. A Major said she looked there before, but… I was relieved on many levels. First, this means I am on the right track spiritually (phew- was worried there for a split second), and what’s more, it made me unusually grateful for the rainy day making her hiding somewhere in the house the only option.
So, He hasn’t come back yet. How should I feel about that?
“Even so…”
Can’t wait to see You, Jesus.

Sharing Night

Tomorrow night is the last BSF class of the year for the study of Isaiah. Typically, the evening follows a different routine, where they open up the floor for anyone who wants to share how their life was changed or encouraged from the study. I have been thinking all week about what I want to share- Here are some bits.

Many times during this study, it has become evident that a key component to staying encouraged in the Lord and maintaining joy is to sing His praises. We see Isaiah frequently break out with a joyous song of thanksgiving, of hope, or of victory to God for his many wonderful deeds. I got the idea to make a mix for my iPod that contained songs that made some mention of something said in Isaiah. That is something else neat about this book- I never realized how many oft-used phrases can be found here, like “white as snow”, “mighty to save”, “hiding place”, and “refuge and strength”. I would have placed these in the psalms before I would have thought such wonderful imagery would be found here.
So, from our thousands of collected psalms, hymns and spiritual songs on iTunes, I started culling ones that had these themes. This will be a long process before I am done, but already I have a great playlist of songs that remind me of the things I studied this year in Isaiah. For example:
‘Salvation Belongs To Our God’- Crystal Lewis
-this song describes the praise and worship at His throne at the end of the age, where the redeemed are saying,
“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
How thrilling for Isaiah to have gotten glimpses of that day.

I also enjoyed ‘looking’ for those key thoughts and themes from Isaiah in my hymnal. The verses from ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ at times read right out of Isaiah’s pages, as does ‘Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart’, and ‘You Are My Hiding Place’. One hymn for which I have a new fondness, because of this Isaiah study, is ‘Jesus Paid It All’:
I hear the Savior say
“My child, thy faith is small
Child of weakness, watch and pray
Find in Me thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete
“Jesus died my soul to save”
my lips shall still repeat
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
If nothing else, I hope this study will have instilled in me a deeper love for my Savior, and a desire to sing for joy at all He has done for me.

Weaker Members

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable… 1 Corinthians 12:20-22
This gave me pause as I was reading through the ‘body of Christ’ chapter last night. Indespensable! How lovely, considering I feel like one of the weakest members of His body that ever was. (Um, if you haven’t yet figured out what body part I am, it is the uterus.) Think about it though- you’ve got the eye, so critical to bodily function, yet it can be incapacitated by the tiniest of eyelashes, or, in the case of a friend of ours, a piece of coconut. Ouch! Take the brain for another example- absolutely critical to bodily function, yet it lies encased in thick bone, without which it would be not much more than a jellyfish washed ashore on the beach.*
Just another reminder from my Savior that even though I am weak, I can do big things for Him. Be encouraged today, any of my fellow weaker members.
BSF Question of the week: Give examples from history of [God’s ultimate] control.
It is so exciting to remember that God is so big (see last post) that the nations are a drop in a bucket. He is the one in control, not some evil dictator or well-meaning president. He will accomplish His purposes, in His time. Lord, let me be a help to Your cause, not be one in the way.

*with no medical experience, I don’t know this for a fact. The brain might just be quite meaty and have great texture.

Judah Became His Sanctuary

I’m ‘away’ the first part of this week, staying with Luke in Columbus while he attends a technology conference. It has been very nice and restful. I still went to BSF last night, not wanting to smudge my perfect attendance record. The past two weeks we have been studying Isaiah 40, a rich bridge between the judgments of the first part of the book, and the marvelous blessings of the second. This week opened with the section of verses 12-17, where Isaiah describes God’s massive power and wisdom, and how both of these attributes originate with Him. Um, actually, everything originates with Him. He’s it! Thinking about this just blew me away, as I realized that there really isn’t a word that describes the size of our God, or His infinite knowledge. And the things He’s created, in comparison to Him, are like a drop in a bucket, like fine dust.
Yet He didn’t stay there, parked in His high and lofty place, far removed from the people He made. My read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year schedule had me in Exodus 15 today. That chapter talks about how, after the Israelites are delivered out of Egypt, the LORD begins to dwell among them, first from His pillar of cloud and of fire. In later chapters of Exodus we read how He eventually resides in a tent in the midst of the Israelite camp that could be folded up and carried along with them. Imagine: this massive Being coming to be among people!
Yet He didn’t stay there, dwelling in a tent made with human hands. I love how Anne puts it in this post: He became one of us. Immanuel, God with us, born of the tribe of Judah, fulfilling the promise to Jacob that God would bless his descendants.
Yet He didn’t stay there, living a perfect life as one of Israel’s heirs. He chose to die for the people He made, His resurrection and return to Heaven making it possible for His Spirit to come dwell in us. I Corinthians 8:6 (another read-through verse from yesterday) says:

…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

This is a jumble of thoughts that may only make sense to me, but I wanted to get them down while I was thinking about it. God enthroned on high humbles Himself to raise me up! (see Ps.113:6,7) Now, when a problem comes up that tempts me to doubt God’s existence or presence in my life, I should remind myself of what He’s done- maybe even put it on the fridge or something.

BIG God (Is. 40:12-17)
BIG God in cloud (Ex. 15)
BIG God in tent (Ex. 35)
BIG God in Man (Luke 2:11)
BIG God in me (Col. 1:27)

Post title from Psalm 114:2a

Go Tell It

Good news is hard to keep to oneself; very contagious. New baby, loved one comes into some good fortune, husband gets award at work, there are so many things that go on that bless us, and we can’t help but share how we have been blessed.
As I was going through my BSF lesson this week, I got to thinking about good news. First of all, I appreciate the way the powers that be in BSF had us stay in Isaiah 40 all week. It is so good a chapter, and needs the time taken. In verse nine it talks about how His people are to lift their voices with the good news that the LORD GOD is coming! Yay! But back up to verses 3 and 4, where it says the many ways the LORD has made a smooth path for His glory to arrive. There is such beauty in that He has pursued us and made it pretty easy, really, to know Him. And He wants us to tell others about it, too, with our voices. He could have chosen other modes of communication, but here He is telling us to use our voice to speak the news of His coming.
There must be something to that ‘spoken word’ concept, with God. I think of Him sending Gabriel to Zechariah with the good news of John the Baptist’s birth, and Zechariah suffering from not being able to speak when he evidenced unbelief. I think of all the different angelic appearances to assorted people, spreading the word that Jesus was coming. What a fun time that must have been for God, like sending out the first of many invitations to the biggest party ever.
Getting back to me- why don’t I get as excited about this very good news, this reality that has changed my life and my eternal destination? Why do I not have trouble keeping it to myself? Shame on me. It should spill out every chance I have to speak.

Get yourself on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Isaiah 40:9

BSF Study question of the week: [Since no man can look at God and live,] How will all people be able to see the glory of the Lord? (words in brackets mine)
-I can’t wait, can you?

There Are Books, And There Are Books

“A book is a present that can be opened again and again.”
I saw this little ditty on a library poster this week while checking out. There are many books that would make my list of “presents”, ones I love to pop open more than once. The Mitford novels, the Little House books, and one recently to add, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The latter I have found so inspiring in the last few years as I try to move toward more local, and home-grown food for our family. Another recent addition is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Wow! I had never read that before, but what a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness. These books are ones I actually own or hope to own someday, differentiating them from the odd library take-out.
As I think over my good book list, though, I realize how late in my musings the Bible comes to mind. I have been trying, through BSF, reading it through-the-year, and other methods, to make it more of a discipline in my life. But I think what God is hoping for is for me to find it a delight, instead. Hungering and thirsting. Like a deer panting for water. I am just not there. Does that make the rest of my favorite books rather trivial and maybe even sacrilegious, to beat out the Holy Word? Maybe. But He’s on there, and I know He’s climbing to the top of my bestsellers’ list.
BSF Study Question of the week: Put Hezekiah’s prayer of Isaiah 37:15-20 in your own words regarding a situation you are facing right now.
Excellent! I won’t put mine here; it is a bit poisonal. But I loved being challenged to do this. It helped me see that it is God who is ultimately hurt when His people are hurt, and it is God’s glory we should seek when we are asking for help.