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On Being Remembered

Psalm 112:6

“Surely he will never be shaken; The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.”

The first five verses of this Psalm lay down the basic habits of a righteous person: a healthy fear of the Lord, a delight in God’s commandments, one who is gracious, full of compassion, fair in his dealings with others, who lends and lives with discretion. All of those things sound wonderful, but realistically in a sinful world this is completely counter-cultural making it often difficult to live the righteous life we’ve been called to. However, God’s commands are often followed by promises which is where we find ourselves in verse six, the beginning of the list of promises enjoyed by the righteous.

Oftentimes it would seem there is much to be shaken up about so great are the problems around us. We find ourselves distracted wondering what the point is in doing the right thing. Does it make any difference? Does God even notice? It’s tempting to quit, thinking it futile, and just live our lives and try to get by. But then I’m reminded of people like Dietrich Bonhoffer. What if he had given up? How many prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp where he was imprisoned would have died never hearing about Christ?

What if the Coptic Christians had renounced their faith in the face of certain death? Where would the Church in Egypt be?

What if Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Iranian pastor Saeed imprisoned in Iran for his faith, had retreated after hearing of her husband’s imprisonment? Who would have shared the gospel with the United Nations? Who would have been the voice of support on national radio and TV for those imprisoned for their faith?

II Corinthians 6:7-10 has the most encouraging take on the topic:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

What torch do you need to pick back up and carry? And what are the benefits of remaining strong?

There is a conversation that takes place frequently at my house. It goes something like this:

Kid: Mom, we’re going to go get baseball pants today, right?

Me: What?

Kid: I thought we were going to go get my pants today.

Me: What are you talking about?

Kid: We talked about this. My first game is in two days.

Me: This is the first I’m hearing about it.

Kid: Seriously? We just had this conversation yesterday. Don’t you remember?

Me: I have no recollection of this.

Kid: You don’t remember anything.

Me: Silently combing through the stacks of mental clutter searching for that elusive conversation.

The specifics of the conversation change depending on the situation, but the theme, my forgetfulness, is always the same. If I were 30 years older I would be concerned that something serious was wrong. For now, I’m chalking it up to a cruel joke that both my age and gender are playing on me.

Thankfully, God’s memory is not subject to human failure. In verse 6 of Psalm 112 He assures us that the righteous will be remembered forever. Having spent much of Matthew 25 telling the disciples that in giving to the poor, they are giving to the very Savior, He explains that not only are their works remembered, they are rewarded with eternal reward. Not to mistake works as a means to salvation, they are an important part of our relationship with Christ. They are the proving ground for our salvation, the proof of a Savior to the outside world, and a partnership with God in expanding His kingdom.

Conversely, God’s memory “gives out” when it comes to our sin. One of the things most amazing about Him is His selective memory, if you will.

Isaiah 43:25

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”

Hebrews 8:12

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

Hebrews 10:16, 17

“’This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’”

Isaac Newton is remembered for his discovery of gravity and his contribution to modern physics.

Ernest Hemingway will be remembered as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

Beethoven will be remembered as one of the most influential composers during the time music was transitioning between the Classical and Romantic eras.

Dr. Alexander Fleming will always be remembered as the inventor of penicillin, making it the most widely used antibiotic in the world to date.

As long as history is taught these and others like them will continually be remembered and discussed. Though most of us will never be mentioned in the history books for anything noteworthy, that which we do for others out of our love for God will be remembered and rewarded by Him for eternity.

Verse six is both a reminder and an encouragement to stay strong and to hold onto the hope of His remembering us for eternity.

 

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A Little Mind Control Goes A Long Way

Without a doubt, my favorite kind of movie to watch and book to read is a spy thriller. The adrenaline-pumping, heart-pounding, shallow breathing, bad-guy-behind-every-dark-corner type of story has always appealed to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve always secretly wanted to be a spy. I imagine myself a female James Bond speeding through exotic European streets bullets shooting out the back of my Aston Martin slowing down my chasers as I race to disarm a bomb threatening to end modern civilization.

Maybe it’s because in a spy thriller justice prevails. The bad guy is forced to answer for his transgressions and held accountable. Maybe it’s because the main character faces insurmountable difficulties with a bravery and courage I can only dream of having. I want to be cool-headed in a crisis and make rational decisions that will carry me through whatever situation I find myself in.

Who knows? What I do know is that in real life, I’m often ruled by fear. Plain old ordinary fear. One change in my rigid schedule, and I’m ready to recoil in a corner like a scared puppy. One bill in the mail that I wasn’t expecting, and I’ve mentally declared bankruptcy and have myself living under a bridge begging for food. So it will come as no surprise when I tell you that recent world events have me so twisted in knots at times I can barely breathe.

Our verse this week is Psalm 112:5.

“A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion.”

The richness of God’s Word cannot be overstated. So much of it builds on itself. One verse intertwines with another and often takes us down what would appear to be a rabbit hole all the while leading us back to where we started, the root issue. Let me explain.

The first sentence in this verse assumes discretion rules the day and the actions of a person. But discretion assumes righteousness on the part of the person as a motivator. And where does righteousness come from? What makes a man upright and righteous able to live out life on this earth as an example to those around him?

Proverbs 2 tells it beautifully, a long but worthwhile read.

“My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths; to deliver you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words, who forsakes the companion of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, and her paths to the dead; none who go to her return,  nor do they regain the paths of life—so you may walk in the way of goodness, and keep to the paths of righteousness. For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it (NKJV).

Much of the time minding our affairs with discretion is often thought of in terms of money, power and possessions, I can’t help but think Psalm 112:5 is an impossibility without the basic discipline of mental discretion. Though we are commanded to be careful what we let into our lives in terms of habits and attitudes, the battle starts in the mind.

More than once in recent weeks, I’ve mentioned my battle with fear and anxiety, and in the midst of it, I’ve become aware of the fact that it is just another scheme of the enemy to distract. Preoccupation with anything not of God finds us barely keeping our heads above water. In the end we can forget concentrating on the motive behind lending our time, talents and treasures to others. There’s no room to practice discretion in our interactions with others when we haven’t practiced it at the first line of defense-our minds. Instead we find ourselves having to go back, take control of our thoughts, cling to God’s promises, throw ourselves on His altar of grace and ask Him to replace lies with truth. When we neglect to judge our thoughts against the truth of God’s Word, we do so to the detriment of serving others whether that’s giving of out of our physical abundance, financial abundance or spiritual abundance. If there’s no discretion in what we’re taking in, there’s precious little righteousness in what we’re handing out.

Righteousness reflects a trust in God that those who don’t know Him haven’t experienced. For the righteous, when that trust is wavering, their decisions are affected. And I’m reminded again of the writer’s words in Proverbs 3:5,6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct they path” (Proverb 3:5, 6, NKJV).

A righteous man deals with others and his life with discretion, but discretion comes from a mind that is right with God, a mind that has filtered life through the lens of truth. It’s only from this place of truth can we then deal with others graciously, giving of ourselves and our resources without restraint.

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:13, NKJV).

 

 

 

 

Faith · Uncategorized

Let There Be Light!

Two months after my son was born, we moved to Chicago so that my husband could attend graduate school. Bruce was working full-time on campus and going to grad school part-time. I was home full-time with a two-month old and a two-year old. Despite the fact that we knew this was what God had for us, it was still hard. We left the familiarity of Peoria and all of our friends for the big city which looked a whole lot different to us with two little kids than it did when we were just dating. I spent that first summer crying and being impatient with my two-year old. At one point, I remember Nick screaming as he often did for some unknown reason while at the same time my daughter needing me for something and not letting up until she got a response. The one she got was not the one she wanted judging from the look of hurt in her eyes. That was a wake-up call for me; a lesson in operating out of the darkness in my dealings with other people rather than out of the light that God shines into us if we will let Him.

“Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious and full of compassion, and righteousness.” Psalm 112:4

When I first read Psalm 112, this is not the verse that stuck out to me. In fact, upon closer inspection, it appeared to contain two completely unrelated thoughts. What does light and darkness have to do with grace and compassion? And who is this verse talking about?

As is usually the case, God did not leave me flailing around for too long before enlightening me, calling to mind examples from His Word and my life that explain what He’s trying to get across to me. In this case, I was immediately reminded of the story of Joseph. This verse could very easily be used to sum up the theme of his life. From the moment of his enslavement due to his brothers’ heinous actions against him, Joseph’s life became a living example of finding light in our darkness and allowing it to light the way in our relationships with other people.

At the end of Joseph’s life, after his father Jacob had died, his brothers were concerned that Joseph would finally take his revenge on them for their sin against him. I’d like to take four verses at the end of Genesis 50 to make a case for Psalm 112:4.

“Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.’” (Genesis 50:18-21, NKJV).

Here’s what the life of Joseph has taught me about Psalm 112:4.

1). “Am I in place of God?” By begging for Joseph’s forgiveness, his brothers had placed him on somewhat of a pedestal where he knew he didn’t belong. At some point in his life Joseph had to come to the realization that he wasn’t calling the shots, and the sooner the better. We can’t know when and how his conversations with God turned his heart to submission. Was it in the initial betrayal when he was cast into the pit? Or was it on the road as he was being hauled away into slavery? Maybe as he sat on the dirty prison floor among criminals when he wasn’t one, that he surrendered to the idea that he wasn’t charge. Whenever it was, he learned the lesson we all need to come to grips with-placement is everything and we are not at the of the table.

2). “God meant it for good.” Darkness doesn’t exist simply for the sake of darkness. Paul understood this when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” in Romans 8:28.

I can’t imagine being Joseph at the end of his life and reflecting on all he’d been through and having the rare opportunity of seeing the bigger picture. How different would his life have been and the life of his brothers had he chosen to wallow in his darkness, refuse to let the light in and seek revenge on those who’d wronged him? How would history have changed? Perspective is everything.

3). “I will provide for you.” There is a vast difference between the righteous and the unrighteous in how they behave toward other people, especially those who’ve wronged them. What separates the righteous from the unrighteous is from where they are living-out of a position of light or from a position of darkness. It is from a position of light that the upright mirror the life of Christ through their grace, compassion and righteousness. It’s amazing what a little light will do.

Unless we’ve chosen to live off the grid, out in the middle of nowhere completely devoid of human interaction, we will deal with people every day. That’s what this life is about. How we do it depends on what we do with our darkness. Darkness comes in many different forms. Everything from the death of a loved one to difficult relationships, fear, depression, worry, illness, all of it and so much more casts shadows of darkness over our lives often to the point of rendering us paralyzed, unable to function at the level of life we’ve been called to. At the point of our deepest darkness, we have a choice to either sink further into it or to surrender ourselves completely to God and let Him shine His light in the dark corners.

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not My will but Yours, be done.’” Luke 22:41, 42.

“Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, in to your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:44-46, NKJV).

Talk about darkness! The whole earth was shrouded in it. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, surrendered His will to the Father, gave up His Spirit and finished the work they had set out to do from the moment of the Fall. To the human eye, the crucifixion was a dark day, but the bigger picture would argue otherwise. To those of us who know Him personally, the light seeped in the moment He died and the veil was torn giving us unlimited access to Him culminating at His resurrection. Because of His willingness to die in the murky darkness of sin, He made a way for us to experience His light in our lives. His surrender granted us grace and compassion. This is what the righteous man is to mirror. The darkness often has a higher purpose, but not for the purpose of wallowing in it. We would do well to remember our place, surrender to it, and allow the light of God in so that our dealings with others will be marked by grace, compassion and righteousness.

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Let There Be Light!

Two months after my son was born, we moved to Chicago so that my husband could attend graduate school. Bruce was working full-time on campus and going to grad school part-time. I was home full-time with a two-month old and a two-year old. Despite the fact that we knew this was what God had for us, it was still hard. We left the familiarity of Peoria and all of our friends for the big city which looked a whole lot different to us with two little kids than it did when we were just dating. I spent that first summer crying and being impatient with my two-year old. At one point, I remember Nick screaming as he often did for some unknown reason while at the same time my daughter needing me for something and not letting up until she got a response. The one she got was not the one she wanted judging from the look of hurt in her eyes. That was a wake-up call for me; a lesson in operating out of the darkness in my dealings with other people rather than out of the light that God shines into us if we will let Him.

“Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious and full of compassion, and righteousness.” Psalm 112:4

When I first read Psalm 112, this is not the verse that stuck out to me. In fact, upon closer inspection, it appeared to contain two completely unrelated thoughts. What does light and darkness have to do with grace and compassion? And who is this verse talking about?

As is usually the case, God did not leave me flailing around for too long before enlightening me, calling to mind examples from His Word and my life that explain what He’s trying to get across to me. In this case, I was immediately reminded of the story of Joseph. This verse could very easily be used to sum up the theme of his life. From the moment of his enslavement due to his brothers’ heinous actions against him, Joseph’s life became a living example of finding light in our darkness and allowing it to light the way in our relationships with other people.

At the end of Joseph’s life, after his father Jacob had died, his brothers were concerned that Joseph would finally take his revenge on them for their sin against him. I’d like to take four verses at the end of Genesis 50 to make a case for Psalm 112:4.

“Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.’” (Genesis 50:18-21, NKJV).

Here’s what the life of Joseph has taught me about Psalm 112:4.

1). “Am I in place of God?” By begging for Joseph’s forgiveness, his brothers had placed him on somewhat of a pedestal where he knew he didn’t belong. At some point in his life Joseph had to come to the realization that he wasn’t calling the shots, and the sooner the better. We can’t know when and how his conversations with God turned his heart to submission. Was it in the initial betrayal when he was cast into the pit? Or was it on the road as he was being hauled away into slavery? Maybe as he sat on the dirty prison floor among criminals when he wasn’t one, that he surrendered to the idea that he wasn’t charge. Whenever it was, he learned the lesson we all need to come to grips with-placement is everything and we are not at the of the table.

2). “God meant it for good.” Darkness doesn’t exist simply for the sake of darkness. Paul understood this when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” in Romans 8:28.

I can’t imagine being Joseph at the end of his life and reflecting on all he’d been through and having the rare opportunity of seeing the bigger picture. How different would his life have been and the life of his brothers had he chosen to wallow in his darkness, refuse to let the light in and seek revenge on those who’d wronged him? How would history have changed? Perspective is everything.

3). “I will provide for you.” There is a vast difference between the righteous and the unrighteous in how they behave toward other people, especially those who’ve wronged them. What separates the righteous from the unrighteous is from where they are living-out of a position of light or from a position of darkness. It is from a position of light that the upright mirror the life of Christ through their grace, compassion and righteousness. It’s amazing what a little light will do.

Unless we’ve chosen to live off the grid, out in the middle of nowhere completely devoid of human interaction, we will deal with people every day. That’s what this life is about. How we do it depends on what we do with our darkness. Darkness comes in many different forms. Everything from the death of a loved one to difficult relationships, fear, depression, worry, illness, all of it and so much more casts shadows of darkness over our lives often to the point of rendering us paralyzed, unable to function at the level of life we’ve been called to. At the point of our deepest darkness, we have a choice to either sink further into it or to surrender ourselves completely to God and let Him shine His light in the dark corners.

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not My will but Yours, be done.’” Luke 22:41, 42.

“Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, in to your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:44-46, NKJV).

Talk about darkness! The whole earth was shrouded in it. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, surrendered His will to the Father, gave up His Spirit and finished the work they had set out to do from the moment of the Fall. To the human eye, the crucifixion was a dark day, but the bigger picture would argue otherwise. To those of us who know Him personally, the light seeped in the moment He died and the veil was torn giving us unlimited access to Him culminating at His resurrection. Because of His willingness to die in the murky darkness of sin, He made a way for us to experience His light in our lives. His surrender granted us grace and compassion. This is what the righteous man is to mirror. The darkness often has a higher purpose, but not for the purpose of wallowing in it. We would do well to remember our place, surrender to it, and allow the light of God in so that our dealings with others will be marked by grace, compassion and righteousness.

 

 

 

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What Are You Leaving Behind?

On a hot day in August 1950 in Arnolds Park, Iowa Billy Graham was scheduled to speak at a series of campground meetings. Due to sickness, he was unable to preach that day so an evangelist by the name of Leighton Ford stepped in and took his place. In typical Billy Graham fashion, the preaching was followed by an altar call for anyone who wanted to come forward to receive Christ as Savior. I don’t know how many people responded that day, but among those who did were two very special people, Fred and Marj Hintz, my grandparents. They were a young married couple with two little kids, both of whom they dragged to the front of the meeting with them while they prayed to receive Christ. One of those children was my mom.

It was a costly choice as many of their friends and some family walked away from them, but legacy always outweighs cost. Fast forward to 2015 and their descendants include 5 children, 11 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild (I think). Incidentally, of the 16 great-grandchildren, two of them have been adopted from Africa extending the reach of Grandma and Grandpa’s obedience to an entirely different continent!

Psalm 112:2, 3 (NKJV)

“His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed; Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.”

My story is a good one, and I’m one fortunate person to have been born into a family whose grandparents and parents were obedient to Christ and answered his call on their lives. But this is not everyone’s story. How do we interpret these verses in light of our reality? How do we reconcile these verses with the reality of wayward kids, financial distress, or having no children at all despite the fact that we really do try to live a righteous life? Have we missed out on God’s blessings? Are we just simply not righteous enough?

It’s important to remember that the study of God’s Word is to be done in context. This Psalm, obviously, is part of the Old Testament where spiritual blessing was often, though not always, demonstrated through financial blessing, long life, many children. In addition, as part of the Old Testament, it was written in the context of the Law. To apply this Psalm to our lives today we need to apply it in the context of the New Covenant and all that that entails. It is from this vantage point that we will find our answers.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NKJV)

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-‘not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,’ says the Lord ‘but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord,’ for they all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’”

Everything changed when Jesus hit planet earth to bring a new covenant, the covenant of grace which replaced the Law that those of the Old Testament lived by. No longer were generations taught the Law and commanded to live by it. Instead, His kingdom was eternal, open to everyone, not just the Jew, and easily known by anyone who would desire it. To that end, He taught unceasingly what the life of a believer would look like. I mentioned earlier that Psalm 112 is one of 13 Psalms in this series of didactic Psalms that demonstrate two ways of life, that of the righteous and that of the unrighteous. Ironically the characteristics of the godly mirror the character traits of those in the Beatitudes, that is, meek, poor, needy, brokenhearted and the like.

If His kingdom was spiritual in nature, then the blessings we can expect are often spiritual in nature. Maybe you’re the first person in your family to have a relationship with God. What an opportunity to set the foundation for those who come after you. Maybe you don’t have children, or have only one, or those you have are not following Christ. Does that mean you’re unrighteous, that God will withhold blessing from you? Hardly. What about those around you who have been encouraged, or who have made a different decision about something because you took the time to listen and point them to Christ? Or maybe just by watching your life someone else mustered the courage to take a different path, the right path.

I sat at a funeral over the weekend of a woman whose life was an example of this. She had terminal cancer and lived with it for years in front of everyone. As a result of her relationship with Christ and the way she handled her disease people from all over the country who had never met her were touched by her life. Her identity was in Christ, not her cancer. She lived and parented strategically, always with her identity in Christ at the forefront of her mind dictating how she behaved.

What are we talking about here? The Christian life is not about us. It’s about leaving a legacy in whatever way God has mapped out for you whether that’s through your children or friends, strangers we meet, whomever. The life of a Christian should mirror the stone that’s thrown into the water causing ripples to go beyond what the eye can see. That’s the wealth and riches we can count on, that we can store up for ourselves. Those who’ve come to Christ because of our testimony will spend eternity with us fulfilling the promise that our righteousness endures forever.

I Timothy 6:17-19 (NKJV)

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

 

 

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Heroes of the Faith

The first time I met Elizabeth Grant I was sitting in her living room chatting with her about blogging. I’d heard so much about her from my husband who, at the time, had her daughter in his fifth grade Bible class. I’m not sure what I expected when we went over to deliver a meal to her and her family. I know what I didn’t expect was her smiling from ear to ear, taking me on a tour of her house, listening to her plans for the kitchen and basement, showing me the creative way she had come up with to help her son in a subject he was struggling with in school. She was amazing.

I’ll never forget that day with her. As I followed her around her house she casually mentioned that the kids really wanted a cat to which she told them they could have one when she was dead. I was shocked.

“You really say stuff like that?” I asked incredulously.

“Of course,” she said. “This is reality.”

It wasn’t long after that I started my blog and asked her to guest post for me on a series I was working on called “Raising World-Changers.” She fascinated me for many reasons, but it was her parenting in light of her reality that struck me the most. I figured if anyone had a clue as to how to raise kids that would one day change the world, I couldn’t do any better than to ask Elizabeth. The following is an excerpt of what she wrote that day. You can read her whole piece here.

“There is truly no better parent than God the Father, my King, my Creator. My children are in good hands. They are safe. I trust, You Lord. You will watch over them and guide them and teach them. For however long they have me here on earth, please work through me. Use me. I don’t want to parent them…I want YOU to parent them. I can’t tell you the instant relief and peace that filled me from then on. Even now, I sort of find myself pushing my kids away from me and on to Christ. I remind them that I fail and I make mistakes and I may not always be there to listen to them. Even while I’m alive, I get too busy and too cranky sometimes. I want them to find all of their answers in the One who holds all the answers. I want them to know the certainty of Jesus Christ — beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

As moms we want many things for our kids. We want the best life that they can have; we want safety and success for them; we want friendships for them; we want them to be proud of us and we want to leave them a legacy. Most of these things are beyond our control, but the legacy we leave for them is completely in our hands.

Elizabeth would argue that she wasn’t anyone special. Maybe not, but neither were Abraham, Moses, Hannah, Ruth, Esther, Mary. My contention is had she lived as one of their contemporaries she would have either had a book written after her, or at the very least, been mentioned in Hebrews’ list of the faithful. Why? Because she didn’t fail? Because she was perfect? Because she never had a bad day? Because she never snapped at another human being? No. That was neither true of her nor of those in the pages of Scripture. What made her special is what makes anyone special worth mentioning, her faith. Elizabeth Grant had it figured out. She understood that life is a whisper, and you only get one shot at doing it to the glory of God. There are no do-overs. She gave more than lip service to her love for God, and in that way left a legacy for more than just her children. For those privileged to have met her or to have read her writings, she gave us a front row seat to her life and allowed God to use her as a teaching visual to encourage the rest of us in how to live our own lives.

Elizabeth Grant, you will be missed more than you know, but you’re right. Your kids are loved even more by their Creator than by you. You taught them that. You have set them up well for this life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your example on motherhood and faithfulness. To God be the glory!

“What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-17, NKJV).

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Get Your Facts Straight

One of my biggest hang-ups in the Christian life is the idea of legalism. I’ve mentioned before that the church I was born into and where I remained until my teenage years was a very strict, legalistic one. Women were encouraged to wear only dresses and no makeup, to be quiet in church and to submit to their husbands in such a way as to make them second-class citizens.

When we finally left that church and went to the one that saw me through my teenage years and the one in which I would eventually get married, there was true freedom and finally joy. Over the years, I’ve had mixed emotions on church finding it stifling on the one hand with its rules and regulations and “loosey-goosey” on the other with its “everything is permissible” mentality taken to unbiblical extremes.

The one thing I have tried to avoid more than anything else is appearing legalistic. Having grown up subjected to the pharisaic legalism of other Christians, I will do almost anything to not be one of those people. To that end, I’ve not always made the best choices. For instance, I don’t particularly believe that the occasional drink is wrong, but deep down I know it’s not for me. My reason for indulging is mainly for the purpose of not appearing legalistic and because “everything is permissible”.

I recently read a fabulous article on what legalism is and what it is not. The writer argues that legalism is not the deed itself but rather the attitude in which it is done. With an attitude of legalism we perform certain actions with the intent of adding to what Jesus has already done for us on the cross because His work wasn’t quite enough. In other words, insisting that women wear skirts was one way the Christians from my childhood church used to add to God’s work on the cross implying that we are not holy by the redemptive work of Christ alone.

What legalism is not, argues the author, is keeping God’s commands. How do we argue with John 15:14 “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments”? When I took a vow to remain true to my husband until death do us part, I vowed to behave a certain way based on that vow. How silly would it be of me to feel like I’m being legalistic by refusing to engage in certain behaviors that would go against that promise? Quite frankly, I don’t care if I look legalistic when it comes to my marriage. I made a promise, and my heart belongs to one man. In the same way, my full allegiance belongs to Christ and Christ only, and my life should be a testament to that not because I have anything more to prove or earn beyond what He has done for me, but because my desire is to live out my acceptance of His gift.

So what does this have to do with this week’s verse?

Psalm 112:1

“Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments.”

When I read a verse like Psalm 112:1, I bristle a bit. The first sentence, “Praise the Lord” is fine. In fact, I spent all of last year praising God for something new every day and posting it on my blog’s Praise Project. I did this because I know that praising God is a vital part of keeping my attitude in check.

I can even fear the Lord, that is, live my life with a healthy respect for Him. I understand that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I’ve got that part down too. But then I read that we are blessed for delighting in God’s commandments, and the old fear of legalism rears its ugly head.

Part of the problem with the Church is that we don’t have our facts straight. We use words we don’t know the meanings to and attempt to live our lives by incorrect standards. We think of terms like commandments as stifling to our freedom and reject them in favor of what we envision to be a footloose and fancy free existence only to find ourselves strangled by chains of our own making.

If God’s commandments are so stifling then why is His Word filled with statements like these:

Psalm 19:8

“The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”

Psalm 119:93

“I will never forget Your precepts,
For by them You have given me life.”

John 15:4

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Statutes, precepts, commandments, they are all boundaries set up for us to live the most joy-filled life possible on this earth. The Christian faith is a faith with borders. God’s commandments are the borders in which we live in safety and joy, not because our works determine our salvation, but because our salvation determines our works.

“If we love Him we keep His commands” (John 14:15, NKJV)

We keep His commandments, not because we need to add to what He has done for us. His work was complete and always will be. We keep His commandments out of a love for Him.

Psalm 112 is one of several Psalms known as a didactic Psalm which simply means it’s written to teach a lesson, in this case living a righteous life versus living an unrighteous life. In the NKJV the heading to this chapter is “The Blessed Estate of the Righteous”. We will either choose to live the life of a righteous person, or we will choose the unrighteous life. There’s really no in-between. Living a life that is pleasing to God is not legalistic, and Jesus wasn’t legalistic. In fact, in John 10:10 He said this, “ The thief does not come except to steal and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (NKJV).

An abundant life is a righteous life, and a righteous life involves praising God, fearing Him and keeping His commandments because we love Him and desire to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). It is the lie of the enemy that causes us to believe that commandments are legalistic when, in fact, they are what bring us true freedom. If we want to live a life pleasing to God, we have to get our facts straight first.

 

 

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Chasing Resolutions

I hate New Year’s resolutions for many reasons not the least of which is that I am terrible at them. You’d be hard-pressed to shuffle through the list of resolutions I’ve made over the years and find one I’ve stuck with for more than a month let alone a whole year. It just doesn’t happen, but it’s become culturally expected to have some grand plan to reinvent ourselves in the new year. I hate it.

There are a few other reasons I’m averse to the whole New Year’s resolution thing:

1). For some reason, most of us love the newness of a week, a month and especially a year. “I’ll start dieting tomorrow or after the weekend, or next month when things slow down. Starting January 1 I’m really going to buckle down and get my life organized, lose 50 pounds, get out of debt, etc.”

Steven Covey, author of the best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People made a most profound statement when he said this:

“The ability to subordinate an impulse to a value is the essence of a proactive person.”

In other words, tomorrow is not more magical than right now. Big changes start with little everyday, moment-by-moment changes. Want to organize your life? Start by picking up the clutter in one room. Want to get out of debt? Cut up the credit card today. Want to lose weight? Walk away from the Oreos. Better yet, don’t give your food nemesis kitchen real estate in the first place. Want to develop a deeper relationship with God? Turn off the TV right now and start plowing through the pages of Scripture right here, right now. Choices.

2). I love social media as much as the next guy. It’s the perfect virtual rooftop on which to shout to the world my love of cats. However, for me personally, I don’t like it for the self-centered nature it takes on when we use it to help spur on our resolutions making big proclamations for worldwide accountability. In my own experience, I’ve found deep and lasting change comes in the quiet moments when the only other Person involved in my change is the Holy Spirit Himself. No one else is privy to the information we share in an effort to put me on the right track.

3). Mainly I hate resolutions because they are performance-driven. The success of them is based on our accomplishments, what we achieve, what we’ve conquered. Instead, I believe that real change starts inside with answering the most basic question: “where is your heart?” It is with this idea in mind that I want to spend the next few weeks dissecting Psalm 112.

“Praise the Lord!

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.

His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever.
Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.

He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established;
He will not be afraid,
Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.

The wicked will see it and be grieved;
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked shall perish” (Psalm 112, NKJV).

In the exercise world, it is taught that the strength of our core, that is our abs, determines how well we perform in sports and daily activities such as gardening and housework. A strong core improves balance and posture, strengthens the lower back and of course, aids in weight loss. With a strong solid core, the rest of our muscles are able to do their jobs more effectively.

The same could be said of our hearts. With a solid foundation, that is, a heart grounded in Scripture, Godly character is formed from which flow Godly decisions in both simple and difficult experiences. This is a life-long pursuit, and I daresay the noblest of all. If you need a resolution, a goal, a new habit, chase this. For from it many of the other less meaningful pursuits will either lose their allure or find accomplishment beyond your wildest dreams because of the character from which they are built.

 

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Praise Project, Week 52

If you’ve followed my blog for the last year, you know I’ve been working toward 52 weeks of praise-my Praise Project. In the beginning I wrote about how when my husband was a youth pastor he would challenge the kids on Sunday mornings to look for God-sightings that following week and be prepared to share them with the group; the idea being to concentrate on what God was doing in their lives rather than focusing on the negative things that were going on. I took that idea and decided to find one thing every day to praise God for and document those things a week at a time.

I admit over the last year, there have been days and weeks where it has been challenging to find anything to praise God for, wondering if He ‘d lost interest in me, if He was really working in my life. Always after setting myself and feelings aside, He would gently remind me of what He was doing, how He was working and encourage me to keep pressing on.

Because this is my last Praise Project I really wanted to do something different. It wasn’t until singing an old hymn in church this morning that I settled on the following Praise Project, words from the hymn “I Stand Amazed in the Presence” by Charles Gabriel (1856-1932). Singing these words this morning felt like the crescendo to the whole year of focusing on God’s presence in my life in the form of praise. I couldn’t have said it better myself, than this hymn so without further ado, I’ve numbered a week’s worth of praises within the verses of the song. Thank you for taking this journey with me this year.

I stand amazed in the presence

Of Jesus the Nazarene

1).  And I wonder how He could love me,

A sinner condemned, unclean.

2). For me it was in the garden He prayed,

“Not my will, but thine”

3). He had no tears for His own griefs,

But sweat drops of blood for mine

4). He took my sins and my sorrows,

He made them His very own

5). He bore the burden to Calv’ry,

And suffered and died alone

6). When with the ransomed in glory

His face I at last shall see,

7).’Twill be my joy thro’ the ages,

To sing of His love for me.

How marvelous! How wonderful!
and my song shall ever be;
How marvelous! How wonderful!
is my Savior’s love to me!”

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Praise Project, Week 51

This week I’m praising God:

1). For safety on the road getting Abby back from visiting my mom.

2). For meeting people enduring seemingly insurmountable struggles with a smile on their face and thankfulness in their hearts.

3). For the new year ahead.

4). For the remarkable freedom to express the truth on social media.

5). For the life God has given me as wife, mother, house cleaner, blogger, writer, tutor.

6). For the unshakable love God has for us.

7). That the space between situation and response is completely my decision based on my God-given free will. I am not a robot or a victim, and neither are you.