A Prayer of Surrender

Our Lord, I look to You not only as my King but as the Provider for my family. I live in a nation of wealth and plenty, and often it is too easy to forget that it was You who brought me to this place and this moment in history. It is also within Your power to remove it all.

Either way, whether enjoying plenty or little, I choose to recognize that all abundance comes from Your hand. Let my family and I never forget it, Lord, nor take for granted Your gracious provision. Thank You for all we have; not only abundant food, shelter, and clothing, but the ability to meet together with other believers, to study Your word, and to worship You free from fear.

As I recognize Your provision in my life, please open my eyes to those things which You have provided but are less easily recognized as blessings. Pain, suffering, trials, hardship, loss – all of these, too, can be blessings when surrendered to You or when used to bring us closer to You. Nothing is wasted in Your plan, Lord, and I am deeply grateful for that. Thank You that even the unpleasant moments in our lives are both useful and usable in Your Kingdom purpose.

Today – each day – I surrender all to You. I choose to thank You not only for what is commonly viewed as “good” but also for those things commonly thought of as “bad.” As Paul wrote, I rejoice in my suffering because I know it will produce endurance, and endurance will produce character, and character will produce a hope which will never put me to shame.

Each new day, I choose to put my hope in You no matter what my earthly circumstances may be. Even if my whole life is marked by pain, even if you should remove prosperity and I should fall again into financial poverty, I rejoice because my ultimate hope is not in this life but in Christ and His Kingdom, amen.

Preach It, Brother!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(Romans 1:16-18)

There’s a concept bouncing around here and there in my nation’s church culture, and it’s one I have always found rather odd. It’s the idea of a letter, article, devotional, or what-have-you being too “preachy.”

As a semi-aspiring author I’ve also found numerous submission guidelines cautioning against preachiness. And if I may be frank, I don’t get it.

For one, “preachiness” is subjective. I wonder sometimes if we get preachiness confused with conviction? What one man finds preachy, another may find wakes him up to some truth he’d previously been deceived about. Still another may pass it over without a second thought either way.

But for the most part (and pardon me if I slip into my native East Tennessean here):

Y’all! Since when are we afraid of a little good, old-fashioned preachin’?

Now when I write of preaching, I do not mean hatefulness. There’s a vast gulf between preaching truth and spewing spite and venom.

Real preachiness is twofold, stemming first from God’s Word and secondly from a sincere desire to see other people saved from what the Lord calls “the outer darkness” (or sometimes the fiery furnace) where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (see Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 50, Luke 13:28, et al).

Or as Paul puts it:

…I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
(Romans 9:2-3)

As I’ve been reading and studying through Romans for several weeks now, it amuses me to imagine Paul, Peter, James, and some of the others looking for a market for their letters in today’s social climate. Goodness, a good percentage of the Word of God is preachy, even in-you-face confrontational.

In my own experience with the Lord, it was not positive and upbeat snippets of devotional thought which brought me to bow the knee before the King of kings. It was through the preachiness of good expository speaking and writing, verified by the words of Scripture itself, and stirred up to Godly grief which lead to repentance by the Holy Spirit.

Church, if someone’s called to preach it, let him preach it! We each have a job to do for the Kingdom, and part of that job is holding one another accountable to the Word of Truth.

So unless someone preaches a different gospel, let ’em preach on, whether you like the tone or not. Perhaps you are not the divinely intended target.

But what if you are? I’ve only walked with the Lord for around 2 decades, but in that time, He has kept me diligent in my reading and study of His Word. One thing I’ve learned when I find my feathers ruffled by a writing or teaching is to take it before Him in prayer and with my Bible open before me.

Sometimes the teaching is erroneous, and I sigh in relief since I’m not the one in need of chastisement.

But other times… Well.

My first question when I take these matters to the Lord is whether or not my reaction to preachiness is actually conviction. It is all too easy to confuse the two.

So maybe when we find ourselves chaffed by some preachy article, it’s time to do a prayerful heart check. It could be a message we need to hear, exposing something God wants us to address. Or it could be a message for someone else.

And yes, it could be a flaw in the writer. But as Romans 8 says, God really does work all things for the good of those who love Him – which includes learning from our mistakes.

After all, each of us is ultimately accountable to God. And He does discipline His children when we step out of line. Trust me on that one.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:1-2)

 

On Bridles and Leashes

Some old thoughts while I’m out of the “office…”

Running the Race

Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Psalms 32:9

I have very little experience with horses, but this verse rings true to me nonetheless. What I do have is a dog that I absolutely adore. Actually, I have two dogs but one if them is squarely my dog.

When she was a puppy,  she would only sleep in the crate if it was positioned where she could see me in the bed. If I leave through the downstairs door, she is often found waiting for me on the top stair when I return.

YumiWaiting004

Her crate days are long over, and while she has branched out a little and often ventures into rooms I am not present in, she does still, for the most part, follow me like… well, like a puppy dog.  She…

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Thursday Repost

And again, I find myself shortish on time and longish on things to say. Cramming every moment of writing time into my novel in hopes of having a finished product ready to pitch in September when I attend a nearby conference. And dealing with teens, intractable headaches, etc.

But some bit of good news! I have a tumor inside my skull. While it may not sound like good news, it is. It is very tiny, almost certainly benign, treated with medication, explains a few odd symptoms I’ve enjoyed of late, and may even have something to do with my headaches.

The truth is, even if it wasn’t benign, it would still be good news. Whatever God wants to do with me is His business. I am His either way. To live is Christ; to die is gain. Truthfully.

But without further ado:

https://letusruntherace.net/2015/12/16/on-tents/

Beauty?

Once again, I am underwater with intractable migraine, teens, a novel, and some article deadlines. Speaking of teens, today I wanted to share this post by a certain teen I am very proud of. I’ve been forbidden to say the name, but suffice to say I love this kid tons of tons!

Enjoy!

theeliteonearth

Beauty has many meanings. From the Chinese who wrapped their feet as babies, damaging their bone structure to the Maya who would place boards on their heads to gain sloped foreheads, everyone seems to expend so much effort for beauty. I have never met a single person who truly did not care what they looked like. Never.

What does beauty mean? You could look it up in the dictionary or ask somebody, however everyone has their own idea of beauty and it could not be simply explained entirely by definition. There is only one completely reliable source we may look to.

Psalm 50:2 states, “From Zion, perfect beauty, God shines forth.”

Zion is believed by many to be the place of God’s ruling during the end of times as found in Revelation 12. So, from where God reigns there is flawless beauty. The Bible also tells us we are made…

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A Distinctive Voice

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
(Isaiah 40:3)

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(John 1:23)

Once again, I have been largely absent in the blogosphere. Many apologies to the fine writers I follow but whose posts I have not had time to read. Someday, my friends. Someday…

Until then, suffice to say I’m in a very lonely season, at least in my home. For now, I’ll keep the details sketchy, but for anyone who’s had three teenagers at once and a husband who works 70-80 hours on the average week, you may be able to imagine a bit.

However, I am honestly grateful.

Unlike a previous season about 17 years ago when God used my extreme isolation to bring my attention to Himself, this time I do have friends around.

But the biggest difference is this time I have Him. He is with me always, and I do not doubt it now while I was ignorant about it then.

As often happens with me, I lift up my concerns to the Almighty during these intervals of seeming solitude. We talk them over, my Father and I.

A few days ago when I lamented my inability to engage the people I love most in a discussion about the Lord, He reminded me of the above verses. I’ve been reflecting on them since.

It’s a nerdy little grammatical fact that there is some slight ambiguity in translating the  Hebrew of the time period to modern English. This is not due to ambiguity of the language so much as it is due to a lack of punctuation in the ancient tongue as well as a tremendously different syntax.

*** As an aside, none of these perceived ambiguities affect the tenets and doctrines of the Christian faith any more than the absent comma in the sentence, “Let’s eat Grandma,” refers to an actual act of cannibalism.  We see the same principles in written English when it is not meticulously worded and punctuated. The Hebrew of the day was often passed on orally for those not studying to be a rabbi, so voice tone and inflection were more useful than punctuation. 

I love how the ESV Bible reflects this ambiguity in the translation of Isaiah 40:3 and John the Baptist’s quote in every Gospel account. Is it a voice crying in the wilderness, or a voice crying out, “In the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord?”

What my Father has been reminding me lately is that it doesn’t matter. Even though at my worst moments, when a migraine or a migraine prodrome have me feeling horrid and my kids are taking offense at the mere mention of God’s Word, I am not allowed to throw my hands up in defeat.  (And for the record, I mean when I am talking about my own conviction, not beating them with Bibles).

Whether I am a voice crying in a wilderness of disinterest, or whether I am crying out for them to make a straight path for the Lord in the wilderness of their hearts doesn’t matter. I need to be that voice; to keep crying out whether anyone responds or not.

You see, the love of Christ compels me to speak. If I did not mention Him or speak His word, my very bones would burn with the fire of trying to contain it and I could not keep it in.

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
(Jeremiah 20:9)

Walking with my Father the other day, it hit me.

This isn’t just my job. This is our job.

Church, it is our job to be the voice of Truth. It’s irrelevant whether we cry out in a wilderness of cultural apathy, strife, confusion, conflict, racism, injustice, persecution, mockery, anger, and immorality or whether we are crying out that a straight way for the Lord be made through this wilderness.

We cannot despair. Nor can we compromise the message of the Gospel to make it more palatable or speak an altered and sanitized “gospel” which only comforts and never confronts. The consequences are too dire.

This doesn’t mean casting off discretion and berating everyone without mercy. This simply means openness about what is and is not sin according to the Creator; honesty about where we have, ourselves, been set free from slavery to sin; and genuine in our acts of mercy, our pursuit of righteousness in all aspects of our lives, and devotion to the Kingdom and Righteousness of God.

And the darker our world becomes, the more disctinctive our voices will be.

If we truly love the people we serve, we need to love them enough to tell them the truth. The Gospel Truth. The best news there ever was or ever will be.

Assassination of Self

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…
…For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:11, 17-18)

The call to homeschool is a call to sacrifice.

No, wait. It’s been on my mind lately as I’ve found myself advocating for a troubled young lady. But there’s more to it. Hmmm, maybe –

The call to be a parent is a call to sacrifice.

No, no. Not there yet. To be married? Single? To work? To stay home with your kids? Be a missionary? Be a friend? Be alone? Write? Eat? Breathe?

Ah, yes. It’s all of those and more.

The call to follow Christ is a call to sacrifice.

Or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated it:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our  lives to death… When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.  (from The Cost of Discipleship)

Let me speak frankly here, my friends. The more I walk and talk with my King; the more I read His word and put it into practice, the more I surrender to Him and learn to trust Him, the more I see the beauty in sacrifice. In death.

Last week, I wrote to you about a confession of my own sin and of the good which came of being hurt by church. Today I can tell you I still feel free from the taint of bitterness. But it was not a process either quick nor comfortable. It was long and terrible, for the root of bitterness was wound tightly around not only my heart, but around everything else as well. And it did not begin with confession – it ended there.

In some ways, it was nothing short of spiritual open-heart surgery. Or, if you will, circumcision of the heart. It was painful. It was bloody. And it was completely worth it.

And there’s the thing – no matter what the King of kings calls us to give up in this life – even if it’s hurt feelings or pride or selfish ambition – it is worth it. Not only will it be worth it for the next bazillion years, it will be worth it here and now.

An image comes to mind here from one of my pastor’s sermons. He spoke of putting to the sword any temptations, selfishness, envy, pride – literally anything which distracts you from the Lord.

Guys, let’s be real here. These are not vague words encompassing ideas of “bad stuff” to avoid. These can even be good things. Praise music. Family visits. Fun times. Entertainment. Anything which has become an idol for us and merits more attention than the God who gave them to us must go. Anything. 

(…and a quick aside for the record, I am not advocating putting your family or your movie collection to the sword! Just the idolatrous misplacement of our own affections…)

Whatever it is which entices us away from the Lord’s best, from growth and humility and Truth, we need to put it to the sword – the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

Let’s think about the use of a sword for a moment. To put anything to death by the sword, there’s a necessary intimacy. A gun is cold and impersonal; the slight pressure of a single finger and the deed is done. I can shoot from the relative anonymity of a passing car or a window. I can put a neat bullet hole right into a skull without ever seeing the face of the one I robbed of life.

Not so with the sword. To put a person to death with a sword takes proximity. There’s some degree of effort involved, as even a sharp blade will not penetrate far into muscle, bone, and tendon by accident. There will be pain. There will be blood. There will be screams of agony and it is likely I will see the eyes of the one I destroy – the windows to her soul.

Look in the mirror, Soldier. There’s your target. It’s time for the assassination of the old self. But it has to be personal. You have to mean it.

Even when it hurts. Even when it’s embarrassing. That’s just the death throes of our pride, friends. Bloody, messy, agonizing, horrible to endure, but so, so worth it in the long run.

Lord, may we all be willing to let You show us what must die, then give us the strength and trust to put it to death. Forgive us for clinging to what we believe are good things when You truly do know best. No matter how painful or shaming, expose them in us. We yield them to You to rip out, and we take up the sword in cooperation and obedience to You, our King. 

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
(Romans 6:6-7)