You Keep Using That Word, Part 2: Progressive

I need to preface this with a shoutout to the author whose podcast and book put a name to a dark and nameless dissonance I’d been often frustrated by in my walk with the Lord.

As an atheist who came to know God through the Bible long before stepping into a church congregation, I’d puzzled for years over a disconnect I found between me and some who call themselves Christian. We used the same terms, claimed the same Lord, even referenced a few of the same Scriptures, but what we meant by these things didn’t seem to mesh.

Then I heard Alisa Childers reference Progressive Christianity. Whether by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instinct, or both, I knew this was the name of the lurking menace I’d encountered.

If you’re looking for an excellent Christmas present or a great Christmastime read for yourself, I HIGHLY recommend Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers. She writes with grace, tact, and candor of how a self-proclaimed “flaky artist type” took a plunge into the deep waters of apologetics and learned that her faith is built on Rock-solid ground.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be sorry. Now on to today’s program:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-8

Progressive. The word just sounds so… dynamic, doesn’t it?

It hints at sophistication; of gaining ground. When attached to a noun, this adjective lends a sense of importance, of forward motion, and of… well, of progress.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– Inigo Montoya

But in truth, progress isn’t the significant thing. Making progress in the right direction is of far greater importance.

Four times now, I’ve made excellent progress on a hike – along a route that diverged moderately from the planned path. Once my companion and I forsook the path entirely and struck out on our own.

Such enthusiastic and progressive hiking experiences culminated in a variety of results. One particularly memorable result involved an unintended tour of adjacent mountaintops while keeping one eye on the sun’s position in the sky and the other on our (fortunately) distinctive goal.

We did make it to the goal before sunset, though our appearance must have been alarming. We were immediately offered food and water.

I suppose experiences like these have taught me to be cautious of vague descriptors such as progressive.

So when I first heard of “progressive Christianity,” I initially responded with a mixture of puzzled disbelief and a primal shock of icy horror.

If progressing up the wrong mountainside prompted wide-eyed day hikers to thrust their half-empty water bottles towards me, what is the appropriate response for people progressing towards the wrong eternity?

Though we’re easily lulled into believing our physical, mental, and emotional needs are the most important thing in life, the plight of those meandering comfortably and happily down the broad path to destruction is far more desperate than, say, a starving hiker lost in the backcountry with nothing but the clothes on his body and the seal of the Holy Spirit on his heart.

Progressive Christianity shares very little with actual followers of Jesus the Christ. It is progressively moving towards quite a different goal. A more honest devotee would call it progressive churchianity – or even what it is – secular humanism dressed in a dollar-store Jesus costume complete with Anglo-Saxon features.

Ironically, Christianity as it is understood through the Word of God, the teachings of the Christ, and the early Church is progressive.

It speaks of progressively becoming more like Jesus of Nazareth; of progressively dying to oneself and one’s sin; of daily progress towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Of progressive expectations of persecution and suffering laced with the joy of knowing it all has a purpose and an eternal hope.

However, the other thing wears the name of Christianity much like decaf wears the name of coffee. It has little of the flavor and none of the power.

What passes under the title of progressive Christianity has a form of godliness but denies its power. It promises something which resembles peace on earth and good will towards men while assuming a lack of peace and good will among men is the worst part.

Progressive Christianity treats the spiritual equivalent of ebola with a splash of lavender essential oil and a sweet little smile.

And it is making progress in our churches. Just not in the right direction.

Testify!

I don’t normally do this, but a sweet friend and sister in Christ was moved by my last post to share a testimony of God at work in her life. I found her story deeply moving and was humbled by her transparency.

I especially wanted to share it now as we can clearly see our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, waiting for someone to devour as 1 Peter 5:8 tells us. With her permission, I am sharing it here with you, edited slightly to protect her privacy:

“Scripture says, ‘Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins’ (James 5:20).

In the spirit of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, I wanted to share a piece of my story with you to give you some hope that Jesus can and will transform the hearts and minds of those you see behaving inappropriately—if they let him do so.

In the summer of 2018, my family and I left Station Hill (and church altogether) for about a year.  I was still deeply wounded from a Life Group experience gone wrong several months prior.  I’d struggled with them since the beginning, a chunk of which was my own fault.  I’d gotten into a couple of disagreements on social media about politics with a group member.  My natural political inclinations are center-left; the other’s are solidly right.  (Looking back, soooo embarrassing and immature.  I was willing to sacrifice the unity of the church and my and their Christian witness for my rights and rightness.)

The final straw came, though, when the pastor referenced the Supreme Court and abortion amidst the nasty Kavanaugh confirmation saga.  I’d had it.  I walked out of that church, didn’t talk to the pastor or anyone else, and was determined never to return.

To my dismay, however, God wouldn’t leave me alone about Station Hill or break my emotional ties entirely with the people of the church.  (They’d already walked with my husband and me through an intense season of infertility, but that’s another long story.  In addition, there’s gonna be using a lot of “I” pronouns since this is my story; my husband has his own perspective.)

I eventually returned once the church scheduled a meeting about how to support families at the border, a pro-life cause that I felt was being ignored by both the local church and the global white American evangelical one.  I kept coming periodically.  The pastor didn’t throw stones at me from the pulpit, and the two close friends there I had remaining generously welcomed me back.

The political sermon in the “True North” series was particularly healing for me.  I finally let the Spirit convict me enough to email the pastor to repent of treating the church like a country club instead of a family and for any hurt I’d caused by leaving the way I did.  He was gracious, extended the forgiveness to me I didn’t deserve, and invited me to ask any questions I had remaining.  Of course, those questions involved politics and revealed my heart of idolatry–which the pastor could see but I couldn’t at that point.

In a sermon a couple of weeks later, the pastor used a quote from Hudson Taylor that I hope I never forget–‘Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all.’  


You know how sometimes it seems that the pastor is looking straight at you?  That was one of those times for me.  I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart; I very nearly burst into tears.  Jesus is my Savior, and I’d really thought He was my Lord.  It hurt me that the pastor didn’t think that Jesus was my Lord–‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’ (Proverbs 27:6), though, because I obviously hadn’t surrendered to His Lordship when it came to politics. 

That statement, combined with a Coffee House Theology podcast on Galatians 4 that I just “happened” to tune into–about not letting the Judaizers (or their modern equivalent) lure you back into bondage—sparked some immense spiritual growth and love and healing.  I feel like I was “born again” again.   

While I haven’t been politically perfect since that time, God has been so gracious and patient and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love to keep forgiving, teaching, and redirecting me.

I was obedient to let God remove me from a state government job that at that point was reinforcing my ungodly tendencies.  With the pastor’s sermons, I was able to finally see that I was trying to uphold government as the instrument of redemption, trying fruitlessly to force society to skip from brokenness to restoration without going through Jesus.

I surprised myself that when President Trump got Covid, my genuine desire was to pray for him instead of to gloat.  I opted to attend the Women’s Night at church rather than to watch another fruitless, divisive presidential debate.


Other followers of Jesus, not some political party that will rise and fall, are my true tribe now and forever will be.   💗 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rDeiy9-t2GE ” – L. P.

Christianity is Not a Political Movement

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Election day in my country is just around the corner, and this year the rhetoric is particularly fierce. We’re hip-deep in a pandemic and institutions everywhere are struggling to make decisions on how best to cope.

Of course, this is America and we the people are brimming with unasked for, sometimes ill-informed, but nevertheless staunchly-held opinions. Whether we’ve ever run a school or a restaurant or not, we are dead-certain we know the right way (this typically being the way which best suits our lifestyle).

If you’re in any form of institutional leadership, the one thing you can be certain of today is your decisions will make someone furious. You cannot win. For every vehement YES, you can find at least one equally emphatic NO.

And on it goes. But overall, I’ve come to expect such things from the secular world. What makes my heart sink is to hear such fuming from the mouths of people who claim the name of Christ even inside the Church.

It seems we’ve forgotten Jesus did not die to save us from masks or Democrats.

Politics, lockdowns, viruses, vaccines – none of these are the real problem. Sin is. Sin is a cancer much more malignant than any political ideology, virus, or social conspiracy. And with a whopping 100% fatality rate, it’s far more deadly.

All who die in their sins are forever beyond hope. This is news that ought to keep us up nights; not the fleeting idiocy of a handful of politicians; not the failures of our public education system; not even the unspeakable horrors of being asked to wear a bit of cloth over our mouth and nose.

Because of the staggering consequences of lives lived without Christ, if we call ourselves Christian, we ought to be busy rejoicing in our sufferings and preparing to give an answer for the hope that is in us with both gentleness and reverence.

We ought to be considering Him who endured such hostility as a Roman flogging and the cross against Himself so we may not grow weary or fainthearted. So we don’t lose sight of His mission to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey Him.

We need to remember Jesus does not call us to stand up and fight for our rights and freedoms. It’s actually quite the opposite: He calls us to deny ourselves.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Luke 9:23-24

No matter how the election turns out or how few people admire our perspective, we are still called to respect those whom God appoints to govern over us. We are called to pray for them. And even (whether we agree or not), to obey them so long as their laws do not violate the absolute laws of our King.

God is the true Sovereign. And He is less interested in our stance on masks or reopening than on our humble obedience in walking as Jesus walked.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Romans 13:1-2

Whatever happens before, during, and after the election, if we call ourselves by the holy Name of Christ, let us be sure of two things:

First, that our behavior is Christ-like. Self-denying. Self-sacrificing. Totally obedient to the Father and both immersed and well-versed in the Scriptures. Humble.

And second, that our definition of Christlikeness comes from what the Word of Truth teaches about Him and not from this madly crumbling culture.

At the very least, let’s resolve not to throw a temper-tantrum when we don’t get our way, dragging the reputation of He whose image we bear down with us as we flail in the mud.

PS – Click here to listen to an excellent message on a similar topic. Stay through the song – there’s more!

The One I Forgot To Post

Written for my church family for October 1, 2020

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever.

2 Timothy 4:16-18

Devotion

Written by Heather Davis from the Station Hill Campus

The late Ravi Zacharias once wrote, “Beginning well is a momentary thing; finishing well is a lifelong thing.”

Ravi has finished well. According to his daughter, “He turned every conversation to Jesus and what the Lord had done,” until he no longer had strength to speak. He reminds me of the apostle Paul. Paul also used his final days to point others to the goodness of the Lord, putting pen to parchment in order to encourage younger disciples to stay strong. His words still encourage us today.

But ministry wasn’t easy on Paul. In his many travels, he endured varied forms of beatings, hunger, thirst, and frequent danger, only to find himself deserted by friends at his defense following his final arrest in Rome. Yet rather than bitter brooding over this slight, his letters from prison urged others to stay the course—because although the race is hard, the end is worthwhile.

What compelled these two men to spend every possible moment sharing their hope in Christ and strengthening believers? I believe they felt the brevity of this life and the weight of eternity for those who did not yet know the Lord. To the end, they kept their eyes fixed on the Founder and Perfecter of their faith. The rest flowed naturally from His Spirit welling up within them.

I can’t speak for you, but I find it all too easy to fixate on self and circumstance. When I do, whether my days are filled with difficulties or comforts, the temporary things of this world loom large.

But when I set my mind on the goodness of my God and His offer of eternal life and joy in Christ, the jaw-dropping ceaselessness and permanence of eternity come into razor-keen focus. Suddenly my present entertainment or struggle seems trifling. Instead, my awe of God reminds me: people are dying without Jesus, and when they face the ultimate Judge, they will be truly alone. Others are drifting from the Truth and being led astray by false teaching, and they need discipling to keep them mindful of the Way.

With the King of kings as my focal point, I begin to view everything in terms of eternity. No matter what happens to my physical body, I have a hope beyond time.

But my friends—or even my enemies—may not. So I keep pressing on.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. What occupies your thoughts more—your present circumstance or your eternal blessing in Christ?
  2. What are some small, daily habits you can form to make discipleship a natural part of your life?
  3. If you aren’t already passionate about discipling others in obedience to Christ, consider committing to prayer that the Lord will change your heart and focus to be in line with His command to make disciples.
  4. Memorize Deuteronomy 6:4-9 with your family or friends. Print or write it out and post it somewhere as a daily reminder for discipleship.

Comfort Zones

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 1:16-18

My analog life is coming at me hard and fast these days, which hasn’t allowed a great deal of time for writing or bloggish fellowship. I miss everyone, but I also know this is a busy-but-brief season.

In two short years, my nest will likely be empty of all but animal fur, echoing with the memories of busy teenagers and their friends.

Before I grow nostalgic over events yet to be, allow me to segue into a funny moment I recently enjoyed with my heavenly Father. It happened during new faculty orientation when my boss mentioned the need to step out of our comfort zones.

My comfort zone. I stopped just short of laughing aloud.

(Legitimate reminiscence begins here).

As a young atheist, I swore I would never have children, aspiring instead to the status of eccentric aunt. I would spoil my nieces and nephews with the money I earned from the cool job I’d have – a job which I adamantly declared would NOT be teaching.

However, God did not allow me to continue in my atheism long, startling me into full awareness of Him by gifting me with our son, Nathan – whose name I much later learned is Hebrew for “He gives.”

Do you enjoy irony?

Evidently, so does my God.

Before the dust settled around the collapsed house of cards my old worldview turned out to be, God gave me two more children in fairly rapid succession.  But He was only setting the stage.

Now that He had my attention with an undeniable call to motherhood, He placed a new calling on my life: Homeschooling.

What, Lord?? You must be kidding!”

He wasn’t.

He called me to teach my children – not only about Him, but about reading, writing, and all the things as well. In the meantime, the Lord continued removing cushions from my comfort zone. 

For example, I was painfully shy and loathed talking in groups. He had plans for that, too.

You know that awkward silence that happens when a group leader asks a question and everyone looks at the floor and hopes someone else will speak up? Guess who gets to break those silences? Turns out, speaking up was a nonsensical fear.

To avoid writing a lengthy, multi-part series about the methodical deconstruction of my comfort zone, let me fast forward a bit.

After a decade of homeschooling, breaking awkward silences, teaching classes of young children, and a grand array of other things I said I’d never do, I thought I’d learned my lesson pretty well. However, I’m afraid I did state out loud to others that middle school students were not my favorite age group.

You see where this is going, don’t you? I should have…

Back to orientation for my new job – as an office assistant and a middle school photography teacher.

On the way home, I talked with the Lord, reflecting about how I no longer had a comfort zone. Since my first faltering steps of obedience, He’s taken me on a whirlwind journey down overgrown paths and little-used avenues in directions I didn’t even know existed.

I’ve never once known what is coming next, but somehow I’ve lost my anxiety about the future along the way. Pretty sure I dropped it along with a sizeable hunk of self-interest during one of many full-bore pivots around a blind hairpin turn.

Anyway, as we talked, I heard that beloved, oh-so-familiar whisper. You still have a Comfort Zone; just not the same one.

He’s right. He always is.

My comfort zone is much more expansive than it used to be. It’s less a zone than an Eternity.

You see, my present comfort zone is precisely in the middle of God’s will. It’s always an adventure, not always exactly comfortable for my flesh, but it is the safest and best place I can be.  

And it’s exactly where I want to be.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, 
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever, 
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Isaiah 26:3-4

Unmasked

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Here’s a bit of irony for you: the issue of whether or not to wear a mask has unmasked a disturbing dereliction of duty within the Church.

If only the problem were confined to small bits of cloth…

But it isn’t. Every time I browse social media, a heaviness invades my heart.

So much of my feed brims with frustration. So many responses are subtly, or even overtly, hostile. So many opinions flung into virtual print seethe with smugness and accusation but lack verifiable data.

It’s sad to see the bickering in the secular world, but it’s appalling to see it within the Body of Christ. It’s as if we’ve forgotten who our enemy is.

Our enemy is not the lady asking you to please put on a mask in the grocery entryway, nor is it the man walking around without one.

Politicians, political parties, billion dollar industries, liberals, conservatives, illnesses, treatments, “THEM” – none of these are our enemies. And none will be our savior.

In truth, all the issues causing us distress and mouth-foaming rage are temporary. Transient. A vapor soon dispersed by the wind.

For those of us who are in Christ, the time we spend here is not a matter of rights or politics or safety. It’s a matter of eternal life or death.

Brothers and sisters, the hour is growing late. We are ambassadors for the King, and it’s imperative we remember what this means.

And if I may be frank, getting caught up in the swirling digital babble clamoring over politics and masks and disease numbers and the maelstrom of controversy does not point the hurting, sin-weary heart to Christ.

We are called to share in suffering, not dodge it. We willingly sacrifice all else in order to proclaim forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are in Christ, our allegiance is not to any worldly agenda. It is to God’s agenda, and it we take it up at any cost to ourselves. A quick glance through the pages of Scripture yields several examples.

Jeremiah endured public ridicule and imprisonment, but not for his rights – for the Word of God. And he did it after God told him no one would listen.

Hosea did not place his right to a happy and satisfying marriage over his obedience to God’s command to marry an unfaithful prostitute. The command of God superseded his rights and he knew it. And acted on it.

Ezekiel did not spend over a year lying on his left side and eating bread baked over a poop fire because it brought him joy. He did it for the Lord.

Paul did not suffer persecution, torture, and chains by standing up for his earthly freedoms. He, too, did it for the honor of serving the Lord.

They knew what today’s Church seems to have forgotten. This world is dark, broken, horrible. Bad things will happen. And yes, we will lose rights and freedoms; we will be persecuted. We will suffer harm.

But if we belong to Christ, we will not be overcome so long as we remain faithful to Him and His calling on our lives. But we must have a willingness to share in suffering as good soldiers.

The enemy is not out there, fudging numbers and plotting to cover the faces of the globe with cloth. The true enemy works intimately, stirring up our pride; our selfishness; our sin.

Mine. Yours.

And he is gloating over our distraction from our primary purpose as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Let’s no longer give him the satisfaction.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, 
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 
Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything;
hold fast what is good. 
Abstain from every form of evil. 
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

Of Dogs and Disciples

A revised TBT post in honor of Chestnut who suffered with DM in his last weeks. He achieved his potential.

RIP Chestnut 2010 – 2020

My husband and I have developed our own dog ranking system, partially in jest and partly because…  well, partly because.

In order, the Official Davis Dog Hierarchy is:

  1. Good Dog
  2. Has Potential
  3. Bad Dog

Allow me to embellish.

This is Mayumi:

Yumi001

Mayumi is a Good Dog.

She is very obedient… with occasional exceptions, typically because I haven’t given her adequate exercise. When small children are over, she’s gentle and submissive. As for tricks, she can jump through hoops, sit, stay, high-five with alternating paws, close the door (well, sometimes), and play dead.

As a puppy, she would lay quietly in her crate as long as she could see me. Mayumi is my loyal companion who follows me from room to room and generally wants to be near me. She is calm and can be trusted with people of all ages and animals of all sizes. I love this dog!

This is Chestnut:

Chestnut Has Potential.

For the most part, he is obedient (even coming when called more faithfully than Mayumi), but he does lack self-control.

He absolutely adores people – exuberantly adores them with wild, oafish boundings and clumsy gyrations that threaten the vertical stability of moderately sized humans. Chestnut also has trouble holding his licker and frequently leaves slobber trails on… well, everything.

Due to his… ah, enthusiasm… we crate him when small children or elderly people are visiting. Not all furry things that enter our yard survive – except the three skunks that got him first (honestly, three times !!! Sheesh!!).

I have no pictures of Sable, but she was aptly named. Sable was a Bad Dog.

In the brief time she lived with us, she managed to terrorize the children, (who were still very young), lose all off-leash privileges inside and outside the house, and generally cause me to rue the day I first saw her.

On her final chance off leash in our yard, this demon dog attacked me. Fortunately, I had some training in judo and her snarling challenge went rather badly for her. I walked away from the encounter carrying her by the scruff, angry but unhurt.

Sable became a junkyard dog.

Last but not least, this is our Miscreant thinning the herd of origami reindeer given us by the talented Mr. Leonard Gluck.:

But he’s in a different class entirely.

These animals -or more specifically, their rankings – remind me of myself.

Before I came to know and love the Most High God, I was as dark-hearted as Sable, a miscreant in an altogether separate category – an aimless and nameless wastrel.

But instead of meting out the death penalty I had earned, God did something altogether unexpected and remarkable: He sent His only Son to live out a pure human life without sin and then to die in my place. He – Yeshua Messiah – satisfied justice as the spotless atoning sacrifice; the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

When I deserved pitiless death, I received mercy… and yet God did not stop there. With grace beyond my wildest reckoning, He raised His Son to life again – and promised if I would unite myself with the Son by dying to my own selfish nature and desires, I would be granted a share of His resurrection, too!

Although I was a reprobate, the King called me Daughter.

Although I deserve to pay for my sins, He not only forgave my debt but lavished upon me a spiritual inheritance of inestimable value. What’s more, He has brought light and life to all that was darkened and deadened within me.

My Lord and my God! May the wonder of it all never cease to astonish me!

If I truly love Him for this incredible gift, my life ought to reflect nothing short of complete devotion and steadfast loyalty to Him.

Kind of like Mayumi is with me.

Where He is, I want to be. When He commands; I want to obey promptly. Though I may slip up from time to time, I earnestly desire to be fully His, wholly trusting Him and trusted by Him around people of all ages.

May I never be a casual partaker of Grace, giving the Almighty a perfunctory nod as I tuck His gift carelessly in a pocket while asking Him to bless my self-determined course!

In short, I do not want to a disciple who merely Has Potential…

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:9-10

Walking a Thin Line

Written for my church’s daily devotional in June…

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

Romans 2:1-3

As a chaperone for a New York City field trip, I boarded the subway with my daughter’s class. A man lay on one seat, sweatpants pulled up to the knee revealing legs crisscrossed by scabs. Despite open eyes beneath his blue-tinted sunglasses, he remained oblivious to our group. When spoken to, he either could not or would not respond. A wet stain with yellowed edges on his pants added a tragic stroke to an already dismal image.

Recognizing signs of drug abuse, I stood between him and the teenagers in my care, uncertain how the chemical cocktail in his veins would manifest in his behavior. My heart hurt for him.

Early in my Christian walk, I lacked such compassion. Shamefully, I often disdained anyone who fell short of obeying God by my standards, blind to my failure in obeying Him to Christ’s standards. Such judgmental thoughts never stay secret but corrupt actions and attitudes, poisoning our witness.

Since those days, God has humbled me, reminding me I’m no better than the man on the subway. But for the grace of God, I could have been lying there.

As an unbeliever, I struggled with an intense self-focus I preferred to call depression. I congratulated myself on not taking prescription antidepressants even as I self-medicated with alcohol and marijuana. Pride blinded me to my double standard. How many steps down this slippery slope did I lack before tumbling into my own pit of addiction? I shudder to imagine.

 The truth is, the condition of the man on the train closely mirrors anyone’s spiritual state apart from Christ. Including mine. When I reflect on the mercy God showed me, I can no longer condemn others.

What horror brought this man to a point of surrendering hope and dignity for a temporary respite from reality? I doubt he made a conscious choice to enslave himself to a drug. Addiction is insidious, seeming to offer relief. But over time, it takes more and more until it has complete dominion. Exactly like every other sin.

Today, Christ alone stands between the filth of my sins and the wrath of the Father, and He alone offers genuine and lasting relief.  He offers it to the man on the train, as well. My place is not to judge but I have the privilege of sharing the freedom I’ve found in Christ. I pray that poor man will find Christ, too.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Most of us struggle against addiction in some form. If not drugs or alcohol, it could be porn, food, approval, work, reward, entertainment – the list is long. What are you prone to enslave yourself to?
  2. Does what you give your time and effort to really satisfy, or does it take more and more over time?
  3. Next time you find yourself craving some relief or release, try crying out to God instead, asking Him to change your craving for what does not satisfy into a desire for Him.  He alone can truly fill our gaping need.

Recent Absence and God’s Unexpected Provision

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:26

I know I haven’t been around much, and it’s looking like that trend may continue.

Oh, I’ll pop in here and there; maybe read a few posts, maybe write one on occasion. But I’ve kind of given up regular posting for a time.

For one, there is SO MUCH NOISE in the world right now. My little voice simply isn’t loud enough to be heard over it all. And to be honest, there are tons of people in my analog life who need time – and tons of people in the digital realm with a wider impact for the Lord than this mama.

If I can be candid…? I’ve been working a part-time job plus another small writing contract, and those added to ME/CFS and regular life (not to mention all the appointments which are now crammed into summer thanks to Covid-Madness) have left me with little extra time.

That extra time belongs to my family and analog friends. For now, at least. Who knows what may happen later? But as I type this, my girls are about to enter their junior and senior years of high school and my son is looking for his first apartment.

This is a season – one that is passing all too quickly. So I will be around the blogosphere; just not necessarily weekly.

But before I go, I need to boast a little about my God.

Last Monday while driving to a dentist appointment, I was praying to the Lord for provision. My current part-time job didn’t quite cover tuition and yet my attempts to work full time at this place brought about extra physical issues.

As I was asking the Lord to provide what I could not see coming – and mean literally as the words were coming out of my face – I hit something in the dentist’s parking lot and blew a tire.

I laughed and said out loud, “No matter. I trust my God to meet our needs anyway!”

The very next day, I went into a meeting with the school’s headmaster. To my great surprise, he had a part-time role there at the school for me.

In fact, it had been his impression that a former employee had already set things up with me (nope!), and among other roles, a schedule had already been made with my name as teacher for a 7th period photography class!

Anyway, it’s a long story how that came to be, but suffice to say working at the girls’ school is very much ideal. For one thing, it almost totally covers tuition. Also when sports practices and so on begin, I’ll already be on site.

I’ve subbed there, so I know and love the people, too. And I get a captive audience of young people to talk to about the Lord. It’s a win-win!

Now to figure out how to translate my experience as a semi-professional-but-mostly-amateur photographer into a classroom teaching experience…

I’d love it if you find a second to pray for me as I tackle this new adventure!

O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Isaiah 25:1