Monday, December 3, 2007

Better Is the Day of One's Death

Three funerals in a week and a half.

Going to funerals certainly makes you think about giving account to God for the way you spend the precious minutes and hours of your brief time on earth. Solomon said that it makes you wise.

Things I've learned:
Even the most insane people can be loving.
Even the most forgotten people will be remembered.
Everyone leaves an impression on someone.
Grief has its time.

May God be merciful to us all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Such Joy!

he does cry.
but he is so sweet
when he smiles
and when he sleeps.
to see his loving parents
with him is so wonderful
that it hurts.

Trash Talking

I was talking to a friend lately about a book she had read about verbal abuse. She recommended it highly, especially for people in the ministry who might deal with people about verbal abuse. She commented off hand that the Bible doesn't deal with things like verbal abuse. REALLY? I challenged her on that!

Some biblical words for "verbal abuse" include insult, derision, scoffing, scorning, and slander. What about the command that forbids "bear[ing] false witness against your neighbor"? Anyone who has been on the receiving end of that could verify that he/she felt brutalized emotionally! Verbal abuse could also be a subset of larger concepts such as affliction, suffering, persecution, opposition, malice, anger, wrath.

In contrast, there are the faithful wounds of a friend and the rebuke of the righteous. Some things hurt because they are evil, other things hurt even though they are good. Pain is not a reliable means of evaluating the goodness of words or the motive of the speaker.

Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they were afraid that he would retaliate against them for their malice toward him? "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." So even when we are verbally abused, God can use it for our benefit. Could He even use it for the good of the person who is verbally abusive? The good news for all of us is that the death of Jesus on the cross frees us all from the sin to which we are enslaved. And we have all been verbally abusive--we are just extremely adept at justifying ourselves.

God have mercy on us all!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Children's Children

ian is three weeks old today.

the joy he brings is immeasurable.

we are living in another dimension.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sufficient Grace

I am deeply moved to see the grace of God at work in Ben and Christina as they have gone through four days of slowly progressing labor. When they are at our house, we see every one of the aspects of God's Spirit bearing fruit in their lives. Love for each other, joy in the certainty of God's goodness to them, peace through the waiting and the pain, patience as the hours and days pass with little to show, kindness to all who call or visit, goodness as they continue to do what they are able, faithfulness in not giving in to discouragement, gentleness to each other, self-control in maintaining thoughts of trust in God.

The source is obviously not human. They are dear to us, but the power for such display of divine graciousness comes from God alone. As God has said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." The children's song reminds us that we are weak, but He is strong. Oh, yes, Jesus loves us.

May the Lord continue to extend His mercy to us all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Always the same

I've been thinking recently about how God is always patient. How can we understand God's patience with us? Jesus said that He is "meek and lowly of heart." Think of that! The all-powerful God--gentle and humble. He doesn't have to overcome pride in order to be humble--it is an innate quality of our great God! He never has to overcome impatience in order to be patient with us. He never chafes at the fact that He has to bear with us in our frailties. He is never tempted to be unkind to us. He persists in drawing out of us and building into us those qualities that bring us into sympathy with His way of thinking. In order to accomplish this, He wants us to be people characterized by an all-consuming love for Him. Then like Him, we can have an unfailing supply of patient, gentle, humble love for others.

His mercies are new every morning, and the supply of mercy is not depleted at night either.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Difficult People

What do you do with those people who are spiteful and mean? Telling you to "love your enemies," "pray for those who despitefully use you," "bless them that curse you," or "rejoice when men say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name's sake" can sound flippant or unfeeling. Perhaps this is because we have become too familiar with these phrases.

If you are gladly obeying God, someone is going to hate you for it. This is the truth; God tells us that "all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."

So someone says something spiteful and mean? They ridicule your ideals or your goodness? They misconstrue your motives or twist your words? Satan wants you to cower in impotent fear or retaliate in selfish anger; God wants you to gloriously overcome evil with good. In light of this truth, pray for the spiteful--that God's kingdom will come and His will done in their lives in the same way that it is in heaven.

So someone curses you? They predict failure? They insist that God is against you? Ask God to bless them in any way He sees fit. They may not want the kind of blessing He chooses to give, but He will give it. You may be tempted to be jealously resentful of the kind of blessing He chooses to give them. If you give in to resentment, Satan will be delighted. Move beyond that temptation and grant full forgiveness, as God has forgiven you. After all, those are your prayers that God is answering.

So someone is trying to destroy or damage you in some way? They put you down? They are damaging your reputation unfairly? Love them. Be patient with them, kind to them, willing to suffer for a long time if necessary. Don't act ugly, don't be selfish, don't be easily angered, don't mull over their wrong-doings. Don't think about ingrained evil, but concentrate your thoughts on God's truth. Put up with their manipulations, believe that God is capable of transforming them into the image of Christ, expect Him to work all things together for good for anyone who loves Him, endure whatever happens because you love God and you are committed to furthering His business. Never fail to be loving.

So someone is lying about you in ways that you never would have anticipated. That's good news! You are in great company. Remember Joseph? Job? Elijah? Jeremiah? Isaiah? Peter? Paul? John? As they are even now enjoying the blessings of heaven for eternity, you will also.

Wouldn't you like to know the enemy who's causing this stress in my life? Well, I'd love to tell you about it, but I have some blessing, praying, and loving to do.

God have mercy on us all.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Great Jumping Hailstones

The afternoon was clear and balmy. Then the clouds started rolling in, the wind picked up, and a little rain started to fall. That was all great; we pray for rain to combat the forest fires that are raging all around us. But soon the wind was whipping the trees around and the rain grew harder. Within seconds large hailstones were pounding the windows and doors, driven by the wind. Minutes later hail, wind, and rain abated. Roads were flooded with the rainwater covered by floating hailstones.

I went out to survey the damage in the flower beds and vegetable garden. Most of the garden had gone from lush foliage to broken leaves and stems in the few minutes that the storm had taken to sweep through our valley. But their roots are still in the ground, and some of the vines and fruit remain. I am eager to see what becomes of them with the return of sun and milder weather. In contrast to all the battered looking plants struggling for survival, the low growing herbs look undamaged, and the aroma they give was only enhanced by the force of the hail.

I am reminded of Satan's vicious attack on Job--the suddenness of destruction. I am reminded of the beauty of redemption and restoration. I am reminded of sacrifices of praise in the midst of affliction.

Our loving and sovereign God's faithfulness is great indeed. His mercies are new every morning.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Surprises and Faith

Everything has been so perfectly average--and therefore predictable--with our daughter Christina's pregnancy. In the thirty-third week of gestation, all seemed blessedly tranquil for the final seven (more or less) weeks of pregnancy. Then on Monday afternoon as she went about her normal activities, she suddenly was taken by severe back cramps that didn't let up, and the sensation of contractions. After a couple hours her husband Ben took her into the hospital where her contractions and the baby's heartbeat were monitored. Since she was not dilating and none of the usual symptoms of emergency were present, she returned home. When the contractions increased in intensity and frequency (5 in an hour) on Wednesday morning, she returned to the hospital for further monitoring.

My heart is heavy as I see my only child facing the unprecedented. Combating the initial alarm with thoughts about God's goodness, I recall the fact that He Himself is the one knitting Ian together in his mother's womb, the truth that His love for both of them as well as for Ben is infinitely greater than ours. Obviously I am helpless to do anything but to encourage them to find peace and comfort in their loving, powerful, and sovereign Lord. They too feel a helplessness to protect the little son that they have come to love so fervently. However they too trust the loving sovereignty of God. We rest in His gracious favor to us, and trust that whatever comes, it is good because He is good and can do no evil.

So as the contractions increase or decrease in intensity and frequency, I rest in the knowledge that my children, my grandchild, are cradled in His loving hand.

God be merciful to us all.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Summer as usual

With the coming of summer comes a myriad of ministry opportunities. We go from camp to VBS, plus ministering to the various needs in our congregation. In the midst of much activity, one hears the call to come aside and spend heart-to-heart time with the One for whom we are presumeably doing all these activities. Today I am challenged by Martha, who thought she was serving the Lord Jesus Christ, but in some way was serving her own interests, because under pressure she had an emotional meltdown, barged in on the Lord's teaching, and reprimanded Him f0r not sending Mary to help her. In response, He rebuked her for misplaced priorities. What am I to do in similar situations? He does not allow me to justify boiling over; so He must have a solution--don't be anxious, but pray and be thankful, and God's own peace will reign in my heart. I desire to receive this message from Him humbly. God be merciful to us all.