Friday, August 31, 2012

Aug. 31, 2012 How Awesome is That?

II Cor. 4:17-18 Our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don't look at troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.

In light of eternity, our present troubles are indeed small and of short duration, and we have to do the work of reminding ourselves of that reality.Sometimes that is not as easy as other times.  Yet, the brevity of that time of challenge and pain bears fruit that lasts forever - an immeasurably great glory and joys that will last for eternity.

I cannot tell you how many times I have read this passage, almost flippantly, to get to the rest of the story, but this morning, these few words caused me to stop in my tracks at this astonishing truth. My challenges, trusted to me by God, somehow, in ways my mind is too small to grasp, they produce glory and joy - and if I don't see it now, I will understand it later.

It's funny how you can look at someone else, like Joni Erickson Tada, and say that you can see how that is true. Paralyzed, living her life in a wheel chair, yet serving God by writing and speaking, Tada has glorified God in the present and certainly deserves a glory and joy-filled life in eternity. But it is much harder to conceive of that for us.

I am so grateful that God is not in the comparison business. He has sifted the challenges we face, allowing only those into our lives that we and He together can endure in a way that honors Him. It may be as little as conquering a temptation to sexual sinful thoughts or as great a trust as living with chronic pain or in a prison cell for your faith. But, those challenges, those trials are temporary, a few years, and God uses them, like rain on thirsty ground, to produce the fruit of glory and joy.

I am sure I still don't grasp it all. but what a thrill just to think about this reality, this hope.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

August 28, 2012 And why should I be discouraged?

Psalm 42: 1-3 and 11  As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you O God.  I thirst for God, the living God.  When can I come and stand before him?  Day and night I have only tears for my food while my enemies continually taunt me saying, "Where is this God of yours?..."  Why am I discouraged?  Why so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again - my Savior and my God.

As I was reading this, it suddenly made a new kind of sense.  How foolish to be discouraged, to be sad because you have given power over you emotions to anyone other than God!  I am not speaking of the sadness that comes from losing someone you love - it is reasonable to feel sad from time to time when you lose a loved one.

It struck me that it is unreasonable to be discouraged when we have God on our side.  When, as someone who has put their faith in God, in Christ as the One who gave His life so we might have life, and as someone who believes the Spirit of God dwells within us, why on earth should we be discouraged?  God has said He loves us. He has promised never to allow us to be tempted above what we can endure or pass through because we do not do it alone.  He has filtered everything that comes our way, and we can do it...because as our loving parent, our loving heavenly Father, He only allows into our lives that which is for our good and for His glory.Think about it...our failure does not bring much glory to Him.

Anyway it just struck me this morning, that it is unreasonable for us, as children of God, to yield to discouragement.  We have to get our eyes back on the God who loves us.

Another thought, and a short one, but important I think....could we say that, "I long for God in the same way that a thirsty deer, perhaps one fleeing human presence, does?  I fear we take God too much for granted, pulling Him out when we need Him.  Anyway thoughts that challenged me this morning.

And my apologies for anyone who might have been wondering what happened to me.  I confess these last couple of weeks, getting ready for the students to arrive, and a couple of other distractions have kept me from writing here....not from engaging with God's Word.

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10, 2012 Ready to go?

Psalm 31:5  I entrust my spirit into your hand.

I read this passage yesterday morning, and today I learned that a dear friend, Darlene Baker, has entered into the presence of God.  Certainly Darlene had many years ago entrusted her spirit into God's hand .  These past several years, she has lived gracefully with this ugly disease, ALS, a disease that every day robbed her of more of her ability to function. But she continued to be faithful to God, to trust in His goodness when others may have faltered in their faith.

I have not written much in my blog this summer because I have poured most extra moments into a book I was commissioned to write, taking the journal of a woman who had cancer and turning it into something others could benefit from.  Like Darlene, Sandi said, "Not my will but thine," and "To God be the glory." 

These two women have shown me afresh not just what it looks like to die, but to live.  Both women suffered intensely, physically and mentally.  Think about what it is like to find your body failing you and having to live at the mercy and good will and patience of others - to feel like you must depend on those you longed to serve. Both of these women loved God first, then their husbands and family, and then us...and both would rejoice that even in death they could reflect glory to God.

So today, I am grateful to have known Darlene personally and to have come to know Sandi as I typed her journals and as I talk to those who did know her personally.  And I pray, that I might similarly live and die for the glory of God.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Aug. 3, 2012 Making It Up To God, or Doing Penance

Mark 1:15 Repent and reform your lives.

I have been reading Souvenirs of Solitude by Brennan Manning before I go to sleep and came cross this thought-provoking, at least to me, chapter on penance. My first impulse was to turn on the discernment antennae, and honestly I must admit, read on with prejudice. My understanding, albeit subjective and faulty, was that Catholics confess their sins to the priest to be forgiven and to get rid of the penalty. The priest told them to say three Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers, and they were good to go. At least that is what my television viewing taught me.

Then I came across this paragraph, and I will probably copy most of it here: Evangelical penance has a twofold purpose: to overcome the disorder and disharmony in our lives and to deepen our relationship with Christ. It should be both corrective and productive. A dialogue at Wernersville, Pennsylvania, with Father George Schemel, S.J., on the subject "What is a suitable way to do penance?" was enlightening. A suitable approach to penance depends on how the spirit has been wounded. How have I grieved the spirit within me? How have I wounded myself? How have I burdened or damaged the vital, animating force in my life? Obviously the most suitable way to do penance is to do that which revivifies the spirit within me Rather like letting the punishment fit the crime.

Manning goes on to ask "How has the spirit been deadened?...We are talking about the person here.

Ok, here's what came to me: my sin does separate my from the Father, from the Spirit of God - it damages my relationship with the Father in a way similar to what happens when one of my children might have sinned or offended me. The communication between us then is flawed, unnatural and shallow until the offence is cared for.

So penance is probably an unfamiliar and perhaps scary word to us, whatever you want to call us: evangelicals, Protestants, conservatives, fundamentalists, or Baptists even. Take your pick. We hear the word, tie it to Catholicism and dismiss it.

But I have come to like it - a way to name the process where I clear the air between God and me. I examine what I did, admit it and think through why I would choose to offend the One Who loves me and paid my sin debt. Remember, this is not about getting a sin paid for, but about repairing a violated relationship.

Then, I apologize to God for grieving Him, and I ask for His help in identifying what I allowed into my life or bumped into in the course of my life that made that particular sin reasonable, at least at the time. And with His help, I make a plan not to go there again. To that place, whether mental or physical, where the temptation might occur or where I am weakened by whatever, wherever that option of choosing self over God is reasonable.

I love this line: the most suitable way to do penance is to do that which revivifies the spirit within me. I have, with my sin, shut down the Spirit of God. I have hardened my heart to His voice, and now I must revivify it, or make it alive again. In reality, it never died, but I died to it, and now I must do whatever it takes to make myself alive again to the voice of God.

Well, this is much longer than I wanted it to be. I wrote a version yesterday and lost it, so I have to believe God wanted me to work through it once more...and here it is.