Friday, December 28, 2012

More Relevant Than Ever

Our present day culture is over-sexed. I don't even know if that's a term, but I think you know what I mean. Pop music incessantly fills our ears with sex and romance, advertisements visually taunt, the substance of many TV shows is silly talk and coarse jesting. That's just the beginning: movies, magazine covers, headlines, games - the list is almost endless. Sex - the pushing of it and the concept of being motivated by it - is everywhere present. Well, maybe not if you are alone in the woods. But even that would depend on who you are. Our minds are inescapable and are highly influenced by our souls. And our souls are impacted by all this stuff around us.

American culture has bought this junk hook, line, and sinker. We have even allowed ourselves to be defined by our sexual behavior. We claim identities like heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, transgender, yada, yada, yada. I'm sorry, but I think I am much more than my sexual behavior. A whole lot more.

Once upon a time it was simple. So simple that we had only to check one of two boxes: male or female. "That's all." (Think Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada for that one...)

I am best with simple things. I do simple best. I need simple. Get the message? So when emotions are pushed and pulled, appealed to and manipulated, then stirred up to the point of desiring action, I pull back and reach for the Word of God. I find the simple words of scripture to be a bedrock for my soul which is readily assaulted or set to sea in a windblown craft of frail structure.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,  not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God...1 Thess. 4.3-5

This text is pretty straightforward and simple: abstain from sexual immorality. Possess your vessel (otherwise known as self-control.) Do not act out of passion of lust. And might I add: DO NOT make decisions while in a frenzy of sexual desire, emotion, or romantic soulful responses; and DO NOT look for Godly wisdom that will also embrace these things. It is clear from scripture that pursuit of His will DOES NOT include immorality or passion of lust.

Sights and sounds around you are pushing you, drawing you, enticing you. And what's more, emotionally based pleas to surrender Godly wisdom for carnal wisdom are broadcast, shouted, MEGAPHONED continuously - pleas that would make you feel less than compassionate and caring, pleas that demand personal happiness over sacrificial living and Godliness (not knowing and believing that true Godliness brings deeper happiness.)

We are assaulted with questions and demands concerning acceptance of immoral relationships, definition of marriage, government funded birth control. We find ourselves grappling with questions of where to draw the line with entertainment (we want to be relevant, right?), internet (it CONSTANTLY bombards my view with less than desirable images), music (have you really listened to these lyrics?)

You become like the thing you behold. It happens. How do you think Madison Avenue works? Why do you think we all like the same thing at the same time? You do realize that two decades ago most American homemakers decorated with vintage Victorian and now those same homemakers look to Pottery Barn to set the pace, don't you. Why is that? It's because if we look at something long enough we like it.

So, look at the Word. Look long at the Word. Look honestly at the Word. And pray that the Holy Spirit would make the Word life and healing to your hammered, bruised soul.

Holiness isn't lame, boring, empty and shallow like the Liar would like you to believe. It is wonderful, happy, warm, beautiful, and light.

For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.   1 Thess. 4.7,8

Let's remember the council at Jerusalem. There were only four things listed: abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, meat strangled, blood, and sexual immorality (Acts 15.29). It is simply obvious that God considered this important.

Sexual immorality is rampant. Our young children are barraged with wrong thinking and unholy ideas about sexuality. They are pushed, pulled, and shoved. It is time to consider long the Word of God.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Tidings

Walking down the hallway, I notice a poster for the Christmas Eve service hanging on the bulletin board. It is a simple graphic in black, gray, white, and gold: a gray hillside; a silhouetted manger with a mother, a father, and a baby in black; a shining gold star. And a simple text: All is well.

All is well.

I was arrested, stopped in my tracks, instantly gripped by the message of those three simple words. I considered now the image, mesmerized by the beauty as I remembered once again the simple story, the humble birth. And the great good news: All is well.

All is well. Though this world suffers political strife and economic disaster, though blows of hatred and sin send us reeling, earth and humanity's desperate need was seen, our cries were heard. God's help was extended, His touch felt; a Savior was sent. We need not be troubled. All is well.

All is well. Though my soul languishes in deepest sorrow and grief, though life's storms may rage, He is acquainted with my pain. I am known by Him; He understands and He will carry my personal burdens. I need not fear. The Prince of Peace has come. All is well.

All is well. He has come for you. He has come for me.

I wept. This is not new news to me. But this is needed news. Sorrow, grief. Fear and foreboding. He came, a babe so long ago. A star shone, a mother wept. And all is well.

All is well. Every single thing.

Hear again, hear anew, and receive the gift.

All is well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sunday Afternoon

We filled the table - eleven adults, eventually twelve, enjoying a casual Sunday afternoon meal. Many were just meeting for the first time. But we all loved Jesus. So guess what? In no time we left the chit chat behind. We let down our guard and became family - closer than earthly family. It was the first meeting for many, yet one by one, individuals opened up.


We were telling stories about the One we all love best, our wonderful Father, and about Jesus our Savior, and the wonders of salvation. One told about the sorrow of a past abortion and His healing power. Another shared stories of choosing to leave home to live a homeless and drug ridden existence before God touched him deeply. A young man told of calling out the name Jesus as his car, spinning out of control, came to an immediate stop, inches from collision with a tree. He knew then that he wanted a close relationship with his Father in Heaven. One young mom talked of the loneliness of raising a child alone when still young herself, thanking God for bringing her to this place where others champion family and motherhood. Alcohol, a destroyer of two men's lives, had been overcome. God is even now rebuilding their lives. Depression, abandonment, drugs, alcohol, free sex and the sad outcome, broken marriages and broken lives, children suffering the result of such brokenness -- twelve adults representing twelve average American lives, all now changed by the power of Christ. Resurrection power.

There is nothing so refreshing as stories of Jesus and His love in people's lives.

Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here;
Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
                             William H. Parker

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Soul's Housekeeper

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom...   Col. 3.16

This simple phrase has been my portion for several days now. I've been contemplating the importance of the Word. I am impressed all over again with the simplicity, the integrity of  His great counsel. A child can know and heed. One doesn't need a lengthy degree from seminary (although I am happy to know those who have said lengthy degrees) to read or hear a simple verse and discover the Holy Spirit within bringing it to life and teaching how to apply that Word. It is wondrous, it is simple, it is alive, and faith-filled!

The Greek word translated "dwell" in the verse above is:
enoikeo - to dwell, to dwell in and influence for good, to keep house

So there you have it. The Word - the precious Word of God - is to live in us. But more than that, it is to influence us for good. And beyond that, it is to keep our house. It is NOT to be our servant, but rather the overseer, the master "who has a right to prescribe to and direct all under his roof." (Matthew Henry Commentary)

The Word provides, as a good housekeeper will, meat in season, nourishing meals, grace as needed, cleansing for routine maintenance, and a regular reordering and tidying of our mind. But we must allow that. Hence Paul's exhortation at the opening of the sentence - Let. Let the Word of Christ dwell, let it influence for good, and let it keep your house.

It is popular to use scripture (or more correctly, to misuse scripture) for our own purpose, thinking it might well serve us and our desires. We look for comfort but not correction. We take the glad promise but reason away the harbinger of trouble. Uncomfortable passages are dismissed as cultural or irrelevant.

We are a bit spoiled and lazy, not having learned to eat our vegetables, for example. Instead we have grown up on fast food: immediate satisfaction and no green stuff to speak of (and don't give me that line about lettuce, or pickles being a vegetable, or ketchup being tomato.)

We have not learned to yield, to submit, to take commands, to be led. We have not learned to trust and obey.

Maybe we have not had good fathers. Perhaps authority figures have let us down. Abuse, apathy, and abandonment certainly take a toll. Sin is the great spoiler.

But these are not just any words of which I speak. These are the Words of our heavenly Father. This is Love itself. Jesus, the Lover of my soul, wants to teach, lead, and guide me for His glory and for my good. He is asking me to release the Holy Spirit to use His Words to bring abundant life to me. Many times it is delightful; He speaks words of comfort, joy, pleasure. But sometimes it is death; the Word challenges the very core of my belief, stripping away false hopes and vain dreams so that He can replace them with truth and possibility.

Whatever the meat for the season, whatever housecleaning is scheduled by that good and faithful housekeeper, there is always grace (divine enabling) to partake and do. We grow, we learn holy ways, and we experience great joy and abundant life. But it is a faith venture requiring a willing heart. Go to Him today and tell Him you are ready to let His Word dwell in you richly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Magic Nights Of Kingdom Business

Candle glow washed the rooms with golden light. Christmas treasures tucked here and there amongst evergreen trimmings glittered and shone. The painted carousel of little wooden boys and girls shopping for Christmas gifts of dolls and trains whirled, waiting to take center stage when the refreshments were to be finally enjoyed.

But first the guests arrived. Young musicians, donned in their recital dresses, ties, plaid skirts and dress slacks trickled in, bringing such an air of excitement. Tonight they would share the fruit of a semester's studies and practice. In attendance were grandparents, siblings, parents, and friends. Oh, such anticipation, such earnest hopes of a sterling performance!

My daughter hosted the (mostly) annual piano recital, giving another sister and me the opportunity to allow our students to share their talents and work as well. We gladly took advantage of her willingness. There is nothing more wonderful than encouraging young people to explore their talents and to hone their skills. It is akin to taking a diamond in the rough and creating a beautiful gem stone to one day be placed in a golden setting.

Boys and girls, one by one - their little hands, their feet that fail to touch the floor, and their eager eyes flashing - soon took the stage. Solos, duets - Christmas tunes were heard and welcomed by all. An even more eager audience was prepared to applaud such wonderful efforts, such excellence. Each one bowed politely, each one brought their best. Their clothes reflected the importance of the event. Their stage presence delighted. And we responded to their best with our best.

One young sibling shared with me, as we nibbled frosted cookies by the light of the painted carousel, that one day she wants to play the piano, too. "Excellent choice!" I declared with confidence. "That is a great thing to consider. Did you know that someday when you are older, you could help a junior church class learn a new song, or maybe play for your own children in a Christmas program? Playing piano can be real kingdom business. That would be a wonderful thing - to learn to really play the piano well! Excellent choice!" She smiled, and admitted that she had not thought of that, but it truly did sound like a great idea. Hooray! Kingdom ideas are great ideas and are so worth living for.

I love seeing children valued. They are the future. They are His idea. They are, actually, a Kingdom idea. I guess that makes them pretty great.

Christmas recital night. One of the best of the year. Always.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Your Love Is More Than Enough

 Your love is more than enough for me.

She wrote those words some years ago, and I listened to them again today. I was freshly reminded of how His love makes life truly complete. He really is all we need.

When we submit a need for something more in our lives - when idolatry settles in - we minimize the greatness, the completeness of His love. And how sad that is.

"Lord, I love you, but I really want someone to share my life with. Lord, you are wonderful, but I must have a baby. Lord, serving You is all I want, but I really must have this job, too. Lord, you are all I need, but could I do this thing?"

All this maneuvering, all these antics, all this wiggling around to get what we think our heart needs. Are those things in and of themselves bad things? Maybe, maybe not. But do we really need them? Should we not say, "Lord, I love you. Lord, you are wonderful. Lord, serving you is all I want. Lord, you are all I need. Period." If we cannot say these things and mean them, what have we failed to comprehend about His love? If being loved by the God of all the Universe is not enough for us, then what?

This complaining and conniving and wishing for temporal fulfillment reflects poorly on His love, the very love expressed in a life freely given and spent on my behalf. He gave me everything. Everything. And now should I turn around and say it wasn't enough? Can I really say to Him - The Holy One, the Lover of my Soul, The King of every King, The Lord of every Lord - that His love isn't quite enough?

No. Because I know deep in my heart that He is all I need.

Is His heart sad when I whimper for more? I think so. And that makes my heart sad, too. 

God, I'm sorry for times when I have hinted, submitted, and whined to have something more. I love you and am thoroughly acquainted with your great love for me. It is more than enough for me. Always and forever. I will take the cup of salvation and I will trust in You. Amen.