A Prayer of Thanksgiving

This prayer was originally published on my old blog in 2012. It’s no less true today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Father, Provider,Comforter, Deliverer, I have much to thank You for today. You have given me so many blessings, and for many such as food, shelter, clothing, and health I have expressed my gratitude numerous times. Yet there are blessings I have neglected to thank You for, in part because I have only recently recognized some elements of my life as blessings.

Betsie Ten Boom once thanked You for the fleas in the filthy concentration camp barracks she was imprisoned in, only later to discover that it was the fleas that enabled Your word to be spread and shared without interference from the guards. She was wiser than I and recognized that Your blessings do not always come dressed in a package the human mind appreciates. I have neglected to thank You for the “fleas” in my life, and today I intend to do so.

Lord, thank You for long, friendless spans of time in my pre-Christ life. Those periods of separation, though they chafed at the time, prepared me to walk the narrow path unaccompanied at times when I find that it is necessary to choose between walking alone or forsaking Your way. Thank You that feeling rejected then has galvanized me against being rejected now, for the zeal I now have for You and Your Word is not always readily embraced, and I again find myself categorized as a freak, albeit for better reasons this time around!

 Thank You that the same loneliness left me with a tremendous ache that was oh, so ready to be soothed by Your love. My heart had been seared by suppressed anger, by fear and rejection, and by my own bad choices, and it was calloused and numb. The shock of meeting You, the realness of You, pierced through and made a start from which You began Your patient work of pruning. It hurt, but I knew somehow even then that it was worth it–that You were worth it. Thank You for carefully debriding and then healing the fathomless wounds of my heart.

 Thank You for bringing me away from my hometown, for causing every friend I thought I had to desert me, for showing me the intense suffering of a young person dying of cancer, and for bringing me to the point of questioning every worldly philosophy my non-believing self had embraced. Without being confronted with death, I may have never found life. Without that sobering morbidity thrust into my directionless, bar-hopping lifestyle, I may have continued in my flippant attitude about death, life, and all things Christian. Thank You for forgiving me of the disrespectful manner towards You that was my custom at the time. Thank You, also, that in those small acts of betrayal and desertion, in the agonies I witnessed, and in the death of self I experienced, I am not alone. Jesus, too, experienced those things, and so I know my Redeemer can also empathize.

Thank You for the headaches and other pains of aging today that are a constant reminder that the outer man is wasting away but the inner man is being renewed day by day. Thank You, too, for the increasing slips of my mind and waning of physical strength that remind me that Your power is perfected in weakness. In the relentless decay of self, I find that apart from You I truly can do nothing.

Thank You for allowing me to walk through times of darkness and despair in my Christian life, for in those bleak spells I have learned that You truly are with me wherever I go even through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank You, also, that in those times of desolation You have stripped away all the consolations of religious feeling, all my pride, and even the sense of gratification that comes of service to others or to You. You have utterly flayed my soul until all of me was raw and naked, weeping before You.

Painful as that those times were, in them I have found that at last I know where my allegiance honestly lies and it is no longer to myself. With my spirit laid bare and bereft even of the longing for You and the satisfaction of knowing You, You gave me the blessing at last of utter assurance in this: I cannot be separated from You. When You asked me, “Would you, also, like to leave Me?”  I can now echo Peter in saying, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life!”

 Thank You for the times of financial crisis my husband and I have been through. I thank You specifically for the time when we had a single car, single income, both a baby and a mother-in-law to support, a tiny duplex where we all lived, no television, basic phone service, no Internet, and no cell phones. Though it did not make sense, we chose to forsake my income and obey Your voice that I should stay home with our infant and our future children. We learned so much: That You truly provide for our needs always, that there is a very distinct difference in what we need and what we want, that You bless obedience even when obedience does not make human sense.

We are in a different stage of life now, Lord, and we have so much that I sometimes take it for granted. I find I am now feeling that my needs have increased  when in fact it is only my wants that have increased. Lord, forgive me for presuming upon Your provision and thank You for the lessons You taught me in poverty. Should You choose to remove all the material gifts You have lavished on us, I will still follow You. You are my God. You are my Portion. You are my Reward.

And I am Yours, wholly Yours. Thank You for all the blessings of pain, irritation, and desolation that have brought me to this conclusion. Thank You for the fleas–every last one of them

Wisdom Seeker: Day 27

Proverbs 27

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:6

There’s quite a bit of wisdom in the reading today, as usual, but verse 6 is the one that stood out to me. Why? Well, I guess because I have been blessed with true friends – friends who are more concerned with my eternal good than my present comfort. Friends who will not hesitate to speak difficult truths if I need to hear them.

They are not harsh or hateful -far from it! But I greatly appreciate people who are unafraid to tell me I have broccoli in my teeth. How much more, then, when they are unafraid to point out where my feet have strayed from the Way?

Thank You, Lord, for friends who love You enough and love me enough to keep me accountable to You on this journey! They are a gift I am definitely grateful for.

How about you? Do you have friends who will say the hard things? And are you humble enough to receive it when they do?

I know that part is hard – I struggle with it myself. But I’ve asked the Lord to keep me humble and teachable, and He is always faithful to answer. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the sting of a well-placed bit of conviction. It simply means I can see the need for it, repent, and move into that sweet spot of joy and gratitude.

He will do the same for you. All you have to do is ask … and cooperate. It’s worth it.

Wisdom Seeker: Day 15

Proverbs 15

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:3

I know of a family – not a personal friend or even an acquaintance – who lost a 15-year-old son in a horrific circumstance. Though I have no personal contact with them, the story broke my heart and I pray for them.

The circumstances of the child’s death amount to homicide. Accidental, I’m sure, yet still a young life has been snuffed. From what I have heard, there were multiple witnesses and even a video of the event that ended up in a fractured skull and death.

Yet still the death is “under investigation.” Evidently, the video has been withheld. Lies have been told. It’s ugly.

Today I am reminded that nothing goes on that the Lord doesn’t know about. I hurt for the family who lost a son. But I also hurt for the ones who believe their lies are a safety net. I ache for the one who now sees a murderer in the mirror every day.

Even if they manage to keep the truth hidden from the authorities, no one hides truth from the eyes of God. Better to come clean on this side of eternity and face the consequences while there’s still hope for forgiveness in Christ.

It’s a sobering reminder – not just for those who are covering up “big” evil like homicide, but for all of us who are covering up “little” evils like lust, discontent, or so-called white lies. Sin is sin.

And the all-seeing God is a just Judge. One way or another, in this life or in eternity, He will see justice done.

But Christ gave Himself up to the Judge, taking our punishment on Himself instead, if only we will submit ourselves to Him and trust our lives to His hands. None have to face eternal torment. Eternity is a long, long, long time. I have a hard time wishing that on anyone.

Even if the consequences for our sin are difficult to face in this lifetime, better to have our eternity secured in Him than risk extending the hell of guilt and separation from God forever.

Father, forgive us for we have all sinned. Help us to trust in You for ultimate justice and not to fret over what we cannot change. In the case of the murdered child, let justice be done. Comfort the family and let Your grace be sufficient for them in loss.

Save those who are responsible and bring them to repentance over their sin. Save those who witnessed it and make them to think carefully in future choices in the future. And break our hearts for other people, never letting us forget the dire consequences of unrepentant sin, amen.

Apt Words Then and Now

In the course of my life-coaching with my blonde daughter, I’ve read some of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. This section stood out to me as incredibly pertinent to the modern day. It also reminded me of some more ancient words penned in a letter to a young preacher named Timothy some hundreds of years ago.

“In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling [sic] and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert any thing of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay had a right to a place, my answer was, that I would print the piece separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me to spread his detraction; and that, having contracted with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring states, and even on the conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences.These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous practices…”  –Benjamin Franklin from his autobiography

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…
(2 Timothy 2:14-17a)

 

 

The Advent of Truth

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)

For the season of Advent this year, I toyed with the idea of revisiting some meditations I penned in the past; dusting off some ideas from an old blog and revisiting them with what I have learned about the Lord in the intervening years. And if you are interested, feel free to let me know and perhaps I will dredge them up after all.

But… as I prayed about what to write, all I could really think about was Jesus. After all, He is the sometimes overlooked celebrity of this story, buried as He may be beneath piles of wrapping paper, parties, and endless strings of lights. For today, let’s put aside all the chaos that we have added to this season and simply take a look at the King of kings as He first came to us, not with great pomp and privilege as royalty rightly should, but as a tiny sojourner wrapped in scraps of cloth whose first bed on earth was a temporarily requisitioned feeding trough. . .

It is no small thing that the Truth Incarnate came into the world in such a humble and unexpected circumstance. On that first Christmas, Truth came as a gift heralded by angels; knowable and yet known by few. Ironically, about thirty-three years later, this same Jesus would stand before a Roman governor who would look Truth in the face and respond in doubt; “What is truth?”

Perhaps Pilate believed, as many still believe, that truth is subjective and not something concrete or unchanging. But that is a lie. Despite what the ancient deceiver would have us believe Truth is knowable. Jesus is knowable. Yet we will not come to  know Him by accident,  nor will we do so without an expense of time and effort on our parts.

So how do we come to know this Man, Immanuel? How do we know Truth?

I think, to illustrate, I would like to give an example of how not to know Him; or rather, how to know a portion of the truth without knowing the whole.

Perhaps you have seen something along the lines of this floating around on social media:

It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three candidates.

Candidate A.
Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologist. He’s had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B.
He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C.
He is a decorated war hero. He’s a vegetarian, doesn’t smoke, drinks an occasional beer and never cheated on his wife.

Which of these candidates would be your choice? Decide first… no peeking, then scroll down
for the response.

————————————————————-

Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.

That sounds compelling, doesn’t it? However, while there may or may not be some fact to these descriptions, not a single one of them contains the whole truth.

To be perfectly honest, I am woefully ignorant of the lives of FDR or Churchill. I know nothing about the former president. And despite my good intentions, I only made it through a couple of chapters of Churchill’s famous biography, The Last Lion, but in that portion I did read that he was a sickly child and as an adult would often nurse a single drink for the better part of a day in order to appear to be a “manly” drinker.

But after reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, I can tell you that the facts about Hitler are only a tiny slice of the picture; a piece of the puzzle lifted out of context of the complete life of the man to prove a silly and useless point. To  know the whole truth requires a little more effort, but it gives you a more complete portrait of the man.

For one thing, Hitler was only a vegetarian later in life due to severe stomach trouble. Although he may never have cheated on his wife, he scarcely had the opportunity. Hitler and Eva Braun, his long-time mistress, were married for less than 48 hours before committing a double suicide in an underground bunker near the end of World War II.

As far as morality goes, besides having mistresses it is also true that a younger Adolf had an extremely jealous and possessive relationship with his niece, Geli Raubal, who later was found dead by gunshot in her room and ruled a suicide. Besides these things, he was also responsible for the breaking of many treaties, millions of deaths, and horrendous persecution of the Jewish people.

In that solitary  and far-from-complete example, it is easy to see how misleading a picture one can acquire from a partial truth.

In the same way, we cannot rely on social media memes, snippets of Scripture, or the opinions of others if we want to acquire an accurate portrait of Jesus Christ.  By His own statements, to know Him is to know the Father, and in order to know  them well, there are absolutely no shortcuts to reading and understanding the full counsel of the Word of God.

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
(Psalm 119:160)

That, my friends, requires time, dedication, prayer, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you truly want to know the Truth, you must read the Word of Truth and be guided by the Spirit of Truth.

Today I find myself fascinated that my incomprehensibly great God is all these things: the God of truth, the Word who was in the beginning, the Truth, and the Spirit of Truth.  Check out Isaiah 65:16, John 1:1-14, John 8:28-32, and pretty much all of John 14-17 for more insight on His truth. I would love to hear how you are experiencing the Word of Truth this Advent season!

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
(John 17:17)

 

 

 

What is the Truth?

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32

More on truth. . .  I told you, I have had truth on the brain lately! We’ve already talked about one link between love and truth and how love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

But what is the truth? I don’t have enough space here to explain how I came to believe that the Bible is true nor to give credit to all the evidence as I have had it explained to me over the years. If you want some depth, there are many good books on the topic including I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek.

For today, I will simply state that I believe the Bible to be true on good evidence. I believe there is an actual, Creator God who made all that we can see, taste, touch, and understand, and I believe in His ability to radically transform a life based on my personal experience. I also believe that man has an immortal soul that will exist after the death of the body, and so Eternity of greater importance than the transient life of the body.  The eternal impact of our choices in this life are grave.

Because God created everything, it is His definition of wrong and right — His decisions on morality — that constitutes moral truth and provides the standard for right and wrong.  By experience and observation alone, I can see the truth that mankind is sinful.  Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We are, all of us, selfish and self-centered. While we may have moments of charity and compassion, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, even those moments are frequently tainted by self-righteousness or motivated by personal satisfaction rather than selflessness. We have all lied. We are all imperfect. Originally created in the image of God, we have without exception allowed sin to twist and distort that image.

All but Jesus, that is.

The ultimate embodiment of Truth was in the person of Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He came to live as a man without sin, unreservedly given over to the will of the Father. As a Man, He alone retained the unspoiled Image of God, living out a loving and total trust in the Father’s will.  In His first appearing, He came not to conquer and rule as is His right, but to suffer and die for the sake of a people who had repeatedly rejected Him and who repeatedly still do. He came to drink the full cup of God’s wrath and spare each one of us that horror if we will accept His way.

He died for the truth of a holy God who loves all the men He created and yet cannot be defiled by their sin. Jesus died to bridge the gap; the only unstained Image Bearer who willingly gave Himself as ransom for all who are corrupt so that, through Him, we may all come before the Almighty.

It is only by faith in Jesus that anyone can be saved. This faith, if it is real faith, invariably involves an understanding of and recognition of sin that is very personal and leads to contrition and repentance. Genuine repentance brings about surrender to the Lord and His will. Only by this process of “putting on Christ” which is compared to changing garments (Eph. 4:22-24) and to dying to sin (Romans 6) can we enter the presence of the One whose name is Holy; the Creator God.

In Christ alone, we are set free from a hopeless bondage to sin and death and given instead a hope of eternal life lived in the glorious presence of the Almighty. In Christ, we are restored; the image of God in us is renewed. What grace and mercy! I am humbled by the enormity of it and intensely grateful for the grace of a God who could merely destroy His rebellious creation and yet chooses to rescue and redeem.  How can I not love this truth?

But you are near, O LORD, and all your commandments are true.
Psalms 119:151