Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What God Does Not Want
Possession is serious business to God.
The whole earth is mine.--Exodus 19:5
The silver is mine and the gold is mine.--Haggai 2:8
I own the cattle on a thousand hills--Psalm 50:10

Everything God made belongs to Him. Everything.
Because He loves us, he gives us some of it and, from that portion, we are to give some back, and thus worship and honor Him.
He is not joking about this either:
Bring the whole tithe into storehouse...and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.--Malachi 3:10

He's designed a perfect system, really.
He makes stuff; He gives to us; we give back, and so on unto infinity.

But there's one catch.
Some of what we have, He does not want.
Jesus said,
Bring me a denarius. Whose inscription is this? Repay unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.--Mark 12:11-12
God does not want us to give Him what did not come from Him in the first place.

Doesn't everything belong to God?
Yes, it does. Everything He made.
But didn't He make everything?

Hmmm... Think about it. What you have that did not come from God?
Actually, the list is quite long:

Should I go on?
As it turns out, we have plenty of things that God did not make, does not own, and does not want. We cannot ever dedicate those to Him. He will not accept them.
And His response to our attempts to do so looks like this:
Unanswered prayer
Rejected requests
Ignored pleas
Wrong turns
Trouble, trouble, and more trouble.

It's all about motive. Just ask Cain and Abel.
God says, Give back my best and I will give you even more.
Try to give what is not worthy and you will be stuck with it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Wearing Two Faces

Oh, God--you and your contradictions...
You tell me that life will be hard, but I will be glad.
You take away my sin, but not before you show me its full squalor.
You make me rich, but in the process, humble me down to the ground.

Because of you, I wear two faces--
One that knows your joy, and the other that knows myself and this world.

Who are you, anyway, that you must do this?

Father, Teacher, Brother, Friend, Lord, Christ, Redeemer...

Somewhere, somehow, you must be enough.
You do not breathe your own Spirit into a handful of dust, then blow it apart, consigning it to random winds.
You, who ignite the spark of life and carefully lay out the order of the worlds, do not abandon your work to sad entropy.

I cannot make myself happy by leaning into days that flash by, swirling into time's tempest.
There is only You.
Satisfy me with your unfailing love that I may sing for joy and be glad all my days.--Psalm 90:14

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not Being Grace Kelly

Dear God, You know that I always wanted to be like Grace Kelly.
But I'm not.

Instead, this is me:
No one's idea of perfect.
All dressed up, but a poor substitute for beautiful Grace.
Trying to cover up shortcomings with no luck at all.
Getting along, but excelling at nothing.
Having friends, but always trailing behind.
And smiling.
Always smiling.

What would I do without You?
You make up all my shortcomings.
You love me if I am excellent or not.
You walk beside me all my days.
You give me a reason to smile.

I love you, Lord. It doesn't matter if I don't wear a crown.
You do.

My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden. He, who is mighty, has magnified me and holy is His name.--Luke 1:47-49

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Witness Between Us
Why are Christians always arguing among themselves?
It's almost never necessary.
But we are so sure we are right and our brothers are wrong. 

We should have learned long ago that we don't always see things clearly.
Way back when the Israelites first divided up the promised land, and settled on both sides of the Jordan river, they did  the same thing. The people of Reuben, Gad, and half of the people of Manasseh lived separated from the others, so they built an altar there, a copy of the tabernacle where the rest of their people worshiped, so that they would not forget God's faithfulness even though they lived separately.

And what did their brothers in faith say? Did they slap them on the back and say "Good job. So happy for your faithfulness!"  No, of course they didn't.
They said:
How could you break faith with the God of Israel? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves and altar against Him now?--Joshua 22:16

They didn't get it at all.
So the Reubenites and Gadites set them straight:
The Mighty One! God! The Lord! He knows! ...It is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow that we will worship the Lord...--Joshua 22: 22,27

A witness between us and you.
To unite, not separate them.

More often than not, the God we worship is the same God.
Our sects and denominations are not supposed to separate us. They are incidents of upbringing and location. They are different flavors of the same Living Bread.

Some people like statues and stained glass, some a bare cross.
Some prefer loud music, some stately, some none at all.
Some dunk, some sprinkle.
It doesn't have to matter.

Though separated by differences that sometimes seem as wide as the Jordan, we need not destroy one another.
I don't always agree with my husband, but we almost always present a united front to the world.
Why can't Christians do the same?
Stop nit-picking your brother and put your arms around him.
There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all--Ephesians 4:4-5

Do you see it differently?
Do our denominational differences really matter all that much?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What BFF Really Means
I always thought that the epitome of human relationships was love.
God tells me to love and most of the time, I like doing it.
I love my husband and my children and my friends in His name.
But He also tells me to love my neighbor, who I don't always like.
Even worse, He tells me to love my enemy, who I absolutely don't like.
Now that I think about it, sometimes I want to love and sometimes I don't.
But I have to. Whether I like it or not.
And God has to love us. Loving is who He is. He can't not do it.

But that is not true of friendship.
We get to choose our friends.
And so does God.
I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father, I made known to you.--John 15:15.

Friendship is a privilege, not a command.
As we believe in and worship God, He calls us friends.
 This is not a slap-on-the-back buddy relationship, but a deep heart caring that shares and laughs and cries together. It is a relationship born of basic likenesses, deeper even than love. 

Friendship is more exclusive, reserved only for the closest of those God must love.
Love comes from God to all, but friendship, well....that is a finer thing.
BFF. Yes, I'll take that.
Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Deciding to Let Go
The time has come. You have to decide whether or not you are EVER going to let go.
You have held onto them all of your life.
Mother. Father.
Husband. Wife.
Son. Daughter.
Best friend.
You have loved them and they have tried to love you back as well as they can.
But they are not enough.
There is a longing in your heart that even the ones you love best can't fill.
Are you going to continue to ask them to try?
Or are you going to give up, finally and forever and just.... let... go?

John did:
He must increase...I must decrease.--John 3:30
Peter did:
We have left everything to follow you! --Matthew 19:27
And there is no other way for us, either.

That doesn't mean we get a divorce or that we abandon our families for a cloister, but it does mean that we completely shift our priorities.
We do have to absolutely know once and for all that God comes first.
In every circumstance, every frame of mind, every plan, every dream.
He becomes our primary motivation for everything. All the people we held, and continue to hold, most dear must take a back seat to His supremacy.
We have to tear them away from the first place they have held in our heart for so long and yield that place to God, to whom it has always belonged.

And then what?
Peter wanted to know, too:
What will there  be for us?--Matthew 19:27

And God had an answer for him, and has the same answer for us.
We will not have less, but more.
I tell you the truth, Jesus said to them, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come, eternal life.--Luke 19:29-30

The only way to find this out, though, is to do it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Can You Feel It?
Expect miracles.
That sounds good, like something worth doing, but what, exactly, does a miracle look like?
It's easy, really.
A miracle is the place where God injects Himself into our world. 
It's the place where He touches us, where He lets us get a glimpse, where He is, well, Himself in a world that is so not like Him.
And we should expect Him. He's here, all around, just waiting.

Lord, I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our time. Make them known.--Habakkuk 3:2

This is not only a plea. It's an expectation of wonder, of revelation.
"Make yourself known," we say.
"With pleasure," He says, and then He reaches down.

We are God's people, and God is great. Why not expect great works from Him?
He loves us. Why not expect His touch?

The world will not change much. It will continue to disappoint and to fall into decay. We know that.
But God did not create us to drop us on our heads.
He has something wonderful for us in Himself. 
Anticipate Him.
Can you feel it?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Baby Will Come

In 1972, pregnant with my first child, I asked my mother, "How much will it hurt?"
"Don't worry," she told me. "You forget about it after the baby comes."

She was wrong about that.
I didn't forget--not then, and not through my second delivery. I still remember.
I remember the urgency.
I remember the  intensity.
I remember the whole, round, bigger-than-me desire to have the whole thing over with.
I remember how much, partway through, I wanted to give up the whole job.
But, once begun, I was stuck.
Once conceived, once carried, and so long anticipated, the baby would come.

The earth does the same thing.
God implanted in it the perfection of Himself, the pregnancy of His promise, and that child will, with or without our permission, be born.
And we groan in the waiting for it.
Every day, we feel how things ought to be and long for them.

Why do we know so much evil when God is so merciful? we ask.
Birth pangs.
Why do poverty, and sickness, and injustice continually plague us? we ask.
Birth pangs.
Why can't men and women just get along? we ask.
Birth pangs.
Every day, the earth swells with expectation of God's return, it leans into its own pangs of wanting, it opens the way and says, between cries, 
"Come, Lord Jesus!"

Creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one Who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as if in the pangs of childbirth right up to the present time.--Romans 8:20-22

Do you remember your own pangs of childbirth?
Do they give you any insight about the world's imperfections and what joy might still be in store?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New Temple, New Fire, New Freedom 
The Holy of Holies.
The place where God dwelt among His people.
The place where men could not enter for fear of death because of God's monumental glory.

This the measure of the magnitude of what Christ has done:
The same glory that dwelt in the Holy of Holies now dwells in us.
God promised.
The nations shall know that I, the Lord, make Israel holy by putting my sanctuary among them forever.--Ezekiel 37:28

Forever. He dwells with His people forever. Even after His brick-and-mortar sanctuary has long lain in ruins.
Christ not only rent the temple curtain.
He sent His Spirit, the same Spirit that dwelt in that sacred place, and made it resident in you and me.

Christ freed us in this and, in a way, also freed Himself.
No longer is He confined to a place, but He is broadcast like seed among a walking, talking people.
No longer does humanity come to the temple--or to church--to see God.
Humanity looks at us.

God has completed His covenant, not by re-building a new temple, but by building up His people.
In what ways do you know that you are the construct of God?