Friday, June 24, 2011

June 24 Unworthy but Chosen

Isaiah 6:5 "Woe to my! I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Isaiah knew who and what he was: a shepherd.. He was not puffed up nor thought himself in any way deserving of the honor of speaking in God's behalf. Similarly David was a shepherd; Paul was a persecutor of Christians and Matthew a tax collector, but God.

That's the point, but God. God is not in any way limited by the tools He has at His disposal. He does all the work necessary to outfit them for the works He has prepared for them. We don't need to worry about our inabilities or insufficiencies or in-any-things. It is God who does all things. And it is God who has been busy designing us for those works He has prepared for us.

I hear people saying virtuously, "I'm such a sinner. I have no special talents." And honestly, it frustrates me. It is like saying "God doesn't or cannot do good work." And that business about being or calling oneself "such a sinner," is so not biblical. You were a sinner; that much is true. But if you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are no longer a sinner. Yes you sin. But your identity, who you are in not a sinner. You are now a child of the King, a child of God, a friend of God, a born-again one.

A sinner cannot help himself from sinning. It is who he is. But it better not be who you are. God made you knew, and He is all about enabling you to live a holy life. Will you ever sin again? Yes, but you don't have to. Not habitually. It is a strange thing for you to sin, to choose an unholy way to live.

So remember, God chose you. He made you for good works. And God doesn't make junk.

We are headed for vacation, and they tell me no internet service, so it may be a while before you hear from me again....but remember God and I love you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 23 Dressed for Disaster

Isaiah 3: 16 and 18 Moreover, the LORD said "Because the daughters of Zion are proud, and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles on their feet...In that day the LORD will snatch away their finery......

What a conundrum - do we just give up all things beautiful because we are Christians? In the New American Standard version of verse 18-23, it says the LORD will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands. crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes...finger rings, nose rings...festal robes, outer tunics...undergarments, turbans and veils because of their pride. It appears these women were all about appearances, outdoing one another. In chapter 4, we might infer from these words, "When the LORD has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion.," that God did not have the same opinion of their beautiful adornments as they did. Or did He?

I wonder if the issue really had nothing to do with all of these beautiful adornments but with the heart of the wearer.

Earlier I used the word conundrum or riddle in which a fanciful question is answered by a pun, a paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma. God made beauty; He surrounds us with beauty. He designed the temple and the priestly garments to be pleasing to the eye and heart. He created some of us with the ability to produce beauty and most of to appreciate it. So is He here telling women to get over it - to adopt an austere life style and way of dressing.

I don't think so. I think we need to take the Word of God in its entirety here: we are to care for the widows and fatherless, for those who have need. We are to glorify God in all that we do. We are to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with. All of that to say, the issue here seems to be more  that one of a group of women who cared only for themselves, for outdoing one another, for ornamentation as an end not a means.

Recently I told a student that she should remember that her dress says something, and she should consider the message she sends with her appearance. Certainly I think we can wear beautiful jewelry or clothing, but perhaps we must be careful about what we wear and where we wear it and what we are communicating through it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June 21 The Faith Roots of Social Justice

Amos 5:23-24 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.

I just don't think God is into accidents or coincidences. In fact, I think He is pretty intentional in what He does and allows into our lives. My church has been doing a series about the "hole in our gospel." In fact there is a book by that title, and it is described in this way at

More than half the earth's population can't find work, feed their families, or secure adequate housing. How can we better care for the neighbor next door---or the woman across the planet? In The Hole in Our Gospel, Stearns explores Jesus' call to love our neighbors and shows you how to use your time, talents, and money to heal a broken world. The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recently announced The Hole in Our Gospel as winner o f both the Christian Life Category Award and the 2010 Christian Book of the Year.

In the last three weeks, in my church, we have been challenged by what we are doing in relationship to the hurting in this world - whether victims of terrorism, abuse, or poverty. The Bible does say in James2: 16-18" and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will how you my faith by my works.”

Then I find this entry in My Daily Bible Devotional - and especially this line: Where religious ritual is void of meaning and commitment, social injustice is bound to follow....Where there is genuine worship, the relationship with God that it engenders compels a greater responsibility toward our fellow man.

And finally, I write for Catapult - an online journal, and the next assignment, due July 1 is a challenge to consider the place of comfort in our lives...and the relationship between comfort and justice.... All of that to get back to my first line - God is intentional and I am trying to figure out what my response to all of this should be.

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 17 What's in a Name

Hosea 2:23 I will show my love to the one I called "Not my loved one." I will ay to those called "Not my people," "You are my people," and they will say, "You are my God."

Names still have significance...even as they did thousands of years ago. In Africa, one of our pastors was named "Machine" in honor of the large machine, a generator, that arrived the day he was born. Jeudi or Tuesday was named in honor of the day of his birth. My firstborn was named Beth Ann in honor of her grandmother Elizabeth and my sister Margaret Ann and best friend Veronica Ann. My second born is Amy Gale, after one grandmother - Lesta Abigail and another, Eva Gale. My son, James Richard King, after his dad and his dad's best friend Richard and my favorite Uncle Dick. Oh, those names were not chosen because of their literal translation, but to honor selected people, chosen because of their character and significance in our lives.

But more than a name given to me by my family, I have a title, a relationship descriptor - I am a Christian, a child of God, also full of meaning. When people hear you are a Christian, they have an idea of how you should behave; perhaps they attribute certain values to you, and hold you to them. Sometimes that is a good thing, and other times, a very bad thing, when you come up short or even when you do live up to their expectations - perhaps that you would be hypocritical.

The most important thing though is how God thinks we are doing with His Name. My mother was a gracious lady, and my daughter named after her really consistently represents her well. My Savior God Jesus Christ, after Whom I am called is loving, merciful, wise, kind, patient, forgiving, and creative. I wonder how closely others perceive me as measuring up to that standard.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 16 Something Fishy About Obedience

Jonah 2:10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Imagine that, God commanded a fish and it obeyed! God used the sailors as well to accomplish his purpose in Jonah's life. We know Jesus commanded the winds and seas, and they obeyed. But God gave us a will to exercise, even when we do so against His will.

I've been thinking a lot about the exercise of our will lately...and that sometimes God's will in our lives might lead us through difficult circumstances. He does allow us to choose whether will go because we love and trust Him or whether we go kicking and screaming because He has a purpose for us that must be achieved in this way. There is also another alternative: sometimes we choose not to go, and He allows that. We end up missing the beauty that lies on the other side of the trial.

Rod Mac Iver said this: Yes, the strange and beautiful is important to a full life, but sometimes it lies on the other side of the scariness. A ship in port is safe but that’s not what ships are for. It is easy to design a safe life, but that’s not what life is for. Tigers belching, monkeys howling, mysterious swamps and chasms and lightning storms -- some of the best times of my life have been when I’ve experienced things like that. Or when I made it through them and calmed down.

Now, I have no way of knowing that Mac Iver is a believer in Christ, but what he says here is valid. It is in the challenges that we learn the most, about God and about ourselves, and where we achieve the greatest of blessings.

But we don't like learning that way, any more than college students like learning through the hours of study, home work and lab experiences they face. As I think about this I wonder what we do miss when we choose the easier path or when we cave in under the stress, chasing an easier road.

Yes, obedience may cost. It eventually cost Christ first, the apostles and then Paul great suffering and finally their lives. Today we understand there have been more martyrs for their faith than at any time in history. I wonder what God thinks when we beg Him too often to let up on it, to help us find an easier way to serve....whether we actually voice that prayer or just think it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15 Grave Humor

II Kings 13:21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

I know this passage has to do with the power God placed in Elisha's bones and prophecy, but it made me think of something much closer to us and, in some ways, of even greater personal application. A miracle occurred; a dead man came to life as he came into contact with the prophet's bones. Or was the man dead to begin with? Perhaps he appeared dead; his respirations had so slowed down as to look dead, and the blow of the fall was like someone pumping air into his lungs. The deep breath restored life. It has happened, or something like it.. If the band of raiders had not appeared, the man would have been buried gently and respectfully, and with no sudden blow, perhaps he would have eventually suffocated under the soil.

OK, I am not saying no miracle occurred, and I do believe God may have had the prophetic interpretation in mind. The point is, God uses all kinds of things to accomplish his purpose. Whether they are explainable or not, God was still involved. Years ago, I read a book that explained many of the what we might call biblical miracles, all very rationally, many as the consequences of meteorological events. It is true that God might have used natural events to accomplish his purposes, but He orchestrated the timing of it all, just as He might have orchestrated the timing of that man's burial.

How many of us have stood my the bedsides of loved ones or outside operating rooms pleading with God for the life of this person. Oh yes, we may have acknowledged that God knew what He was doing and we wanted God's will, but we also wanted healing. And when the person recovered, we were so grateful for the medical community or medicine. But it was God who timed the miracle that our loved one was living at the time or place where God might use this set of circumstances to bring healing.

I have heard of people who say God doesn't do miracles today, but I think He does them every day, and we are so hardened that we don't see or recognize them. We attribute the averted accident to good timing, the recovery to good therapy or a good doctor, the repentant believer to a sensitive conscience - we forget that God was behind it all. One moment either way, and things could have gone so differently.

Oh God, give us eyes to see that anything good that we have comes from you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14 The Excitement of Restoration

II Kings 12:15 They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.

Periodically we notice how wealthy we are and how poor believers are in other parts of the world, and we either give some money to a cause that will help them or we might pray for them, that it rains and they have a good harvest, or something like that. Then we move on with the busyness of our lives, perhaps for a moment, thankful for all that we have. However, some of those same people pray for us, that in our abundance, we recognize that we still need God..

As I thought through this passage, a lot of things came to my mind; obviously the above thought among them. It is hard to imagine what those early believers in Acts experienced or these Old Testament believers, so enraptured with the God of their faith, that their possessions had little hold on them. Not only did they give willingly, without hope of personal gain or immediate recognition, but they gave with closed eyes. "Here it is," and they put it into the basket to be used however the leaders felt it should be strings, no accounting, just trust.

How far we have come from that!!! I wonder if it the farther we get from the garden, the farther we get from the cross, the more preoccupied we become with our own rights and our own stuff and our own interests. The idea that we have to give (Ephesians 4:28) is a foreign concept. I wonder at the freedom and the joy they must have experienced, to be freed of possessiveness, to live in faith and trust.

This summer we have college students living with us again, and it has been interesting what I have learned about myself, about how tightly I was held by routine, by control. And also interesting when I learned again the freedom of just letting go, of living the adventure of trusting God, of just being available and holding very loosely what He has given me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13 The Day of the LORD

Joel 2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, of the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand.

First, for any of you who follow this blog at all, I have been rather under the weather for the last week. It appears, as we all probably know, that antibiotics can be the greatest thing since sliced bread or sometimes more like burnt toast. For the last couple of weeks I have been dealing with the burnt toast side, but I think we are finally out of the woods.

Now about this passage. I think it is always fascinating how God brings together - like the recent hullabaloo about an end-of-times prediction. Of course the world did not come to an end on the predicted date; the prophet now says his math was off. But Scripture says no man knows the hour or the day when Christ will return.

Still, as Smith says, "...death will forever close the door to our preparation for Judgment." Those are powerful words, especially considering that just as we do not know when Christ will return, we have no guarantee of a long human life. Just read the obituaries for a couple of days: teenagers drop dead of undiagnosed heart defects, innocent people die in the cross fire between rival gangs, sudden onset diabetes kills a twelve-year-old, and we won't even talk about the people who die as the result of impaired or distracted drivers. All of that to say, there are no do-overs or guarantees of three-score and ten.

For those of us who are believers, we have hope. We know our death will take us into the presence of the Father. We will see Jesus. We know also that "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward." I Cor.3: 13-14

So...I wonder how differently we might live if we truly lived, to borrow an old hymn's words, with eternity's values in view. And if we did so, 24/7, something much easier said than done.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6, 2011 When Prayers Get Desperate

II Chronicles 20:12 For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.

For many years I have taught about the Lord's Prayer, and it came to mind as I read this verse. Both writers (inspired by God) emphasize the importance of acknowledging our relationship with God early on. For years I began every school day reciting this prayer. Yes, that used to be the pattern of a public school day: the Pledge to the American flag and the recitation of Lord's prayer. Later, as part of a church body, I had corporately prayed the Lord's prayer, all without really looking at it.

Notice that both prayers begin with acknowledging the gap between our ability and God's ability. I do not think we are told to pray the Lord's prayer as it is written to boost God's self-esteem or to show Him that we know what a big shot He is. I think it was written this way for us, to remind us of the great God and power that we have access to.

This Holy God who made all things and who controls all things cares about our welfare. Not only do we matter to Him, but in a way that no one else is, He is able to keep us from and through temptation. Apart from Him, we are at the mercy of our circumstances. Too often we live that way, at the mercy of our circumstances, not even remembering Who it is that loves us and desires our good and not evil. We forget that He is to do all things, and that His ability to do is tempered by His holiness and His righteousness and His love for us.

Consider then the peace that is available to us when we look into His face, just the same peace a small frightened child experiences when she looks into the eyes of her loving father. Daddy will take care of us. So our Abba Father will take care of us, in the best of all ways.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 3 Too Little Faith From the Faithful

II Chronicles 16:12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from his physicians.

Wow, talk about being hit in the face. About a week ago I was diagnosed with a double ear infection, my third in a year, and the doctor wanted me to take a particularly potent antibiotic - with a possible side effect of tendonitis or ruptured tendon. Within a couple of days, my left knee (which has never troubled me) began to hurt. It felt like it was a big as a basket ball and the tendons and ligaments hurt like mad with ever bend of the knee. Tendonitis? Maybe. I took the medicine for a few more days before the pain made me think it was time to take a risk on the ear infection. So, I called the doc and they said stop the medicine, which I did.

My knee still HURTS. I fear the stairs, and after I have been sitting for a while, standing feels like a risky venture. And honestly, all I have been thinking about was talking to the doctors. So this is a timely entry. I cannot tell you how many other people I have prayed for in the last few days, but not for me...

It is not that I don't think God could heal. It is sad however that it is easier to pray for other's needs for healing and too easy to call the doctor first for my own. The idea of being fully devoted to God has been a constant on my mind lately; perhaps this is one more area that I need to give to Him fully first. Then after consulting Him, if I sense the doctor's office is what He would use in my care, then good. But that option cannot be first or the most trusted.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2 When Death is an Honor

I Kings 14:12-13 When you set foot in your city, the boy will die...He is the only one belonging to Jereboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jereboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good.

There is so much in this passage: a parent will lose a child, a good child, the only who is good, a child will die....each one of these thoughts could be elaborated on, and I will probably wander around through them.

First, there is the nightmare of losing a child - a nightmare for the parent, not the child. A pain so great there are no words to describe it has torn its way into the life and body of the parent. A gaping wound wrenches that parent into nightmarish wakefulness each day and releases him only as exhaustion brings on sleep at the end of the day. No parent can find any justice, and rectitude in the death of a child; it is not natural for a child to precede the parent in death. The loss of a child is not only the loss of a child, at whatever age, he or she is, but it is the loss of all the joys that child would bring - all of the firsts, the shared laughter and memories, the delight of watching the child grow and mature, the delight of seeing that child have a child. Instead of colorful pages in an album of life, there are only dark pages, a void on a background of grave-clothes....a reality for those who have no hope of anything more.

Then I think of Jereboam knowing he is going to lose the "good" child. And that his own sin is responsible for this child's death. Though the others will die, this child is a special child, and Jereboam must live through this loss, see this loss.

Finally I think about perspective and death. I guess perspective continues to be much on my mind. When someone dies, especially a believer, we name it tragedy, forgetting to add that the tragedy is ours, not the person gone. I think of Jereboam's child; his death was such a blessing for him. He was freed from the nightmare that was to follow in his family. My brother, who died just before his fifth birthday, in my father's own words, would never be sick again, would never experience pain again, would never endure the temptations that follow a boy or the sickness and loss of our parents. He was spared all of that.

I think of countless believing acquaintances and friends and relatives who passed into eternity in the last ten years and the void left by their home-going - pain for us, but a pain tempered by the confidence we have of where they are. These loved ones have been spared by the natural disasters of this twenty-first century, spared of further physical and emotional pain, spared even of further temptation. They are present with the Lord. What bliss!!! And what a respite for us! to know how much better life is for them now. I know we miss them, that we experience loss, but we can also choose a right perspective. Instead of rehearsing how great is our loss, we can rejoice in the place of our loved one. After all, isn't that what love is - wanting the good and the happiness of the loved one over our own?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June1, 2011 Some thoughts

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: "meaningless! Meaningless!"says the Teacher, "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.

I grew up reading this in King James" English, and I must admit, it was a discouraging passage, at least then. I have come to understand it is all about perspective. All of life is about perspective. Here in the USA, we think we are owed good housing, food, schooling, roads, access to medical care, and I could go on and on. From our perspective, in this First World world of excesses, our norm is more than much of the world could dream. Still, whatever we have, we see and seek the more that surrounds us.

However, every year immigrants pour through our borders seeking a better life than the one they leave behind, believing they will find it here, believing the mantra of "work hard and you can achieve anything in America." And they do work hard, many many of them, working hard to send money back home...(I wonder if they have read Ephesians 4:28)

Meanwhile, never satisfied with what we have, we always want more and better. From their (the immigrants) perspective, we are a nation wealthy beyond belief while in our cities the doorsteps spill over with a population devoid of vision, of drive, buried in the ghetto of their hopelessness, the dead dreams of those who live all around them. So we build bigger and better and newer, and from time to time, put money in the Benevolence Fund or drop a check in the mail to help the poor, money we probably will never miss, walking over the "less fortunate."

When I think of all is meaningless, I think about the perspective of eternity. All my shoes, all the technology in my world, all the food in my cupboard, the dollars in my bank all are really meaningless because I will not take them with me when this life ends.

Every THING is meaningless, not every person or every life is meaningless. It is the lives of people that matter. It is as I serve people that my life has meaning. It is those hours of joyful sacrifice that will furnish my mansion or room that John speaks of, the place where I will dwell forever.

I have discovered that no matter what I buy or am given, tomorrow will start with another shopping list, and shopping lists never satisfy because the perspective is one of immediate gratification or satisfaction. When I live from an eternal perspective, what matters is what I buy with my time. Is it souls? Is it the fulfillment of my brother's needs? Is it the healing of a broken heart? Is it a moment's peace for a hurting friend? It is the immaterial that has meaning. As Solomon reviewed all of his wealth and possessions, he recognized the emptiness wrapped in silks and gold.