Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 23, 2012 The Big Picture

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered and that my life is fleeing away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. Psalm 38:4-5

O Lord my God, you have done many miracles for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. If I tried to recite all your wonderful works, I would never come to the end of them. Psalm 40:5

I feel like these two passages embody what God has been doing in my life these past couple of weeks - reminding me of the fragility and brevity of life, my life, and reminding me of the goodness of God, in particular, the power of thanksgiving.

In relationship to thanksgiving, God calls us to be thankful all the time, but I have come to believe that is not for His benefit but ours. The more we review our lives to "count our blessings," the more we are reminded of not only God's love and kindness to us, but the power available to us.

I realize that I am in the final third of my life, so I have lots to rehearse of God's goodness to me, but it really doesn't matter where you are in physical years. None of us is guaranteed a three score and ten kind of lifetime. The point is fill our days with thanksgiving and use the power that yields for God's glory.

Don't listen to the evil one who would whisper into your ear that a particular dream or idea or even, I would dare to say, vision is impossible. Remember what God has done and given you, and go ahead. Put your feet out there over the water, and watch him separate it, so that you can walk on dry ground to do amazing things.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17, 2012 So, what does it matter to you?

John 21:20-22  Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.
Funny, how we find it so easy to check out what God is doing is someone else's life, and what other people are doing in relation to God - measuring ourselves by that standard. I had fallen into that trap in Africa, and honestly, more than once since then. True confession here - I have been made miserable thinking about other teachers, and their popularity, or other writers and their publications, or other speakers, and their following.

Then there is even the temptation to look at students , too often finding it easy to immediately judge and categorize them by their dress or piercings or tattoos, or use of language for which my mother would have washed my mouth out with soap. I remember thinking some version of this part of the verse, if not saying it, "And what shall this man do?" comparing my own walk and blessing or attention to theirs, completely missing the point.

It really doesn't matter what others do, or what God does in relationship to them. I need to keep my eyes on Him, to follow Him, not my peers in the Christian or the pop culture worlds. As soon as I get distracted by what is going on in the lives of others, I miss what God is doing as He pursues me.

Did you ever see a car wreck and notice how all the traffic slows down so every one else can see what happened...and then an other car wreck occurs when a driver more interested in what is happening at the side of the road rear ends the guy right in front of him? Sometimes I think we make wrecks in our lives when we get all excited or depressed about what is happening between God and someone else.

And He tells us to mind our own business, where it is safer. As I type those words, I think there is a caution. We are to consider our own works, whether they glorify God or not, but we are also to consider the lives of our brothers and sisters - do they need us, and how? Does or can God use us to bless them, to speak words of encouragement and love into their lives?

I guess it is sometimes a balancing act, the kind that you have to look at your own feet first. Then, don't look at others to judge and condemn them, but do look at others to evaluate and see how you can be a blessing to them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012 Confession

Psalm 32: 3-4 When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.

One thing about us Protestants is the pride we take in not having priests to hear our confession, sharing with pride that we don't need a priest, we can go straight to God in prayer. The problem, I think, is that therefore, we don't do much confessing. We find comfort in the reality that Christ paid our sin-debt, so confession is unnecessary. It does not get rid of sin, nor the consequences of sin. At least in our minds.

It is true that Christ paid our sin-debt, and it is true that confession does not rid us of the sin and a demand for payment. However, confession is still an important part of our walk with God because we do still sin. What confession does do is many-faceted.

First, an awareness of our sin and desire to make it right through confession restores fellowship with God. As long as we walk around knowing that we have "missed the mark" and offended God, we feel a distance between us and God. Oh, He hasn't moved, but our own discomfort or feeling of guilt serves to make us feel backed away from. We feel as though our fellowship is just not there, and God becomes more and more a distant acquaintance. Confession restores that fellowship. Confession occurs when we just tell God that we see how we have offended Him and we are sorry about that. We regret it. It's like when you have a fight or disagreement with a friend or family member, and you finally realize you were the one who was wrong. You go to them and tell them you are sorry, and the distance that separated you evaporates.  Your intimacy can be restored. Confession is a powerful tool in restoring relationships.

Then, confession removes that mountain of guilt that we feel. I think the evil one dances a happy jig when believers drift into depression and loneliness and defeat over a weight of unnecessary guilt. God, not only does not want us to live that way, it does not honor Him in any way. Confession says to God, I get it. You already paid the debt for my offences. I am serving an unnecessary penance; I have given the power in my life to the evil one. You call me to be free, to live free from sin and in love and joy and peace.

I could go on and on about the value of confession, but I think instead I need to spend some time in personal self examination to see if there is sin I need to confess. It is amazing how easily sin creeps in, building walls, brick by brick, to separate us from the love of the Father.

And that line about discipline - maybe that is God's effort to bring us back, to restore us, not to punish us.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 8, 2012 Making It Count?

Matthew 25:21, 26-27 The master was full of praise. "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let's celebrate together....The master replied, "You wicked and lazy servant! You think I'm a hard man, do you, harvesting crops I didn't plant and gathering crops I didn't cultivate? Well, you should at least have put a little money into the bank so that I could have some interest."

It is missions conference here at BBC, and yesterday Kristi Walker, an alumna now serving in Germany spoke in chapel...hmmm, spoke in chapel just doesn't do justice to what happened yesterday. Kristi, in her words and with her gestures "shared her heart," and she just didn't talk to the students, she nailed the faculty and staff as well.

Among the many things she said were a couple of things I want to share here. The first, and maybe the most important, thing she said is that you should not wait for a call, for a feeling. We have all be called to represent God, to serve Him out of our giftedness. Then she talked about trusting God, that our plans and demands (without consulting God) don't end well, that God loves us and His plans will always end well, if we trust Him and follow Him. Finally, she got in our faces, and in so many words, said some of us were just doing a job, when God wanted more. He wants our hearts. He does not want, though, more than He has given us, because He will make much of the little we think we have if we give it to Him.

Well, here I am again. Maybe the same place I am at every mission conference, wondering what I am doing, and whether what I am doing is making any difference, and wondering if there is something else I should be doing. As I reflect on what I have said in the last month or so to a few people, it is not always about the end, about the big things or what we accomplish. Sometimes it is more about the journey and that "so great cloud of witnesses," some of whom we see and some we do not. What am I showing them about the difference it makes to love God back...because He did love me, and you first?

I don't sing. I don't paint. I definitely do not play basketball. But I write, and I love to coach writers...and since I am old as the hills, I do have some life lessons to I guess I'm in a good place to do those things - maybe you could say, I am in my mission field...and I have to be careful to recognize the evil one's strategies in this place - like discouragement, like desiring too much to see fruit, like fatigue or busyness, and like the thing that happens when we compare our lives to someone else's.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January 31 Moving Mountains

Matthew 17:19-20 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, "Why couldn't we cast out that demon?" "You didn't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "If you had faith even as a small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."

The sun was shining through the spring green trees, walking up the hill to my house after school. My sister was either behind me or ahead of me because I remember being all alone with that verse kept running through my mind, 'faith as a grain of mustard seed could move a mountain.' So I thought I would give it a try. I can't remember whether a tree or a mountain was the object of my test, but I can remember closing my eyes, and thinking, I believe, I believe, I believe God can do anything. He can move a mountain."

And as hard as I 'believed,' nothing had changed when I opened my eyes. Well, for the moment that was that, and I figured there was something I was missing here - because I did completely believe God could do anything He had a mind to.

Now, over forty years later, I recognize there is one, probably among many, thing good about aging. I have had many opportunities to see God move mountains, even though I did not recognize what was happening at the time. Born into a home where my parents sent me to a liberal church Sunday mornings, God moved so that a neighbor had a CEF Joy Club where I heard the gospel and received Christ as an eight-year-old. As a fourteen-year-old I asked to be baptized in the good Baptist Church, God moved mountains to get me to, and the deacons said "No," because I only could get there Sunday mornings. God moved mountains in my heart keeping me from bitterness, so I went to Bible College (get that - a mountain moved) unbaptized, and later God moved mountains allowing my husband and I to serve in pastoral roles. In Africa, in the middle of a civil war, we were surrounded by gunfire with no way out, but God moved mountains to provide a way for my children and I to escape, and my husband a month later....well, I could go on and on.

I have seen God move mountains and do the impossible, and I have to admit, through faith the size of a mustard seed. But did you know that a mustard seed can grow a tree/plant ten feet or more tall? God planted that seed of faith in my heart as an eight-year-old, but He has nurtured it all these years, and it has grown. Could I say as tall as the tallest mustard plant - I don't know, but I do know that regardless of the storms that have blown that plant almost flat sometimes, God has restored it every time.