Grace supply . .

God, how can I cut myself off from Your supply of grace and then expect to give it to others?

(my thoughts on “denying myself” God’s mercy because I don’t deserve it–and then wondering why I don’t have any to hand out)

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Published in: on September 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fall: Was it Eve’s fault? Are women cursed ever after to be doormats?

Amidst reading Love & Respect, Ben and I have been having a conversation about how we women fear that men think we are almost totally responsible for the Fall of humanity . . One of the reasons women become bossy and ‘unleadable’ is that we are afraid men will blame us for all the problems of the world and treat us like doormats if we aren’t.  Ben sent me his thoughts in response, as follows . .

I know a lot of people have blamed the woman for the fall, but that’s not what the Bible says about it.

In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam not to eat the fruit.  In Genesis 2:22, God created Eve.  So, first of all, Adam received the instruction from God.  Eve got it second hand.

Genesis 3:6b says, “She also gave some to her husband who was with her.”  The Hebrew word translated as “with” means “side-by-side.”  Adam was right there the whole time the snake was tempting Eve, and he did nothing.  Adam was made to protect her, to guide her, to look out for her.

We see throughout the Bible that man is the “head” of the relationship.  But when he saw her going down a path he knew was wrong, he failed to intervene.  And then he followed her.

Romans 5:12 says, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”  Paul doesn’t blame Eve, he blames Adam.  Adam received the law first-hand, Adam stood right there and failed to stop her from falling (apparently didn’t even try), and then he followed her in disobedience.

Granted, in Genesis 3:12, Adam began the long and terrible legacy of passing the buck and placing blame.  “The woman You put here with me…”  He blames Eve, he blames God for giving him Eve–he blames everyone except himself.  But that’s a result of the fall, not how God meant for men to be.

In Genesis 3:16, part of woman’s curse is “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”  I’ve heard it said that the first part means she’ll desire her husband’s position, or authority.  Man was made to guide and protect.  Woman was made to encourage and inspire.  But after the fall, she seeks to rule, and he seeks to dominate.  And so began the most hideous thread of human history.

A lot of people have abused the Scripture to justify their abuse of women (physical or otherwise), but that was never God’s plan.

God wants men to look out for women, to protect them, to guard them as a treasure.

God wants women to encourage men, to build them up–which increases both their strength and desire to protect women.

God does not want men to abuse their authority, nor does He want women to blindly submit to everything a man says.  This notion has been abused a lot and it’s easy to hear the wrong thing in Scripture, especially if that’s what you’ve seen or been taught.

Why we can’t expect people in the church to be ready for church.

No one should ever, under any circumstance, feel too unworthy to go through church doors.  The church is a place for anyone to go who decides they want to know a bit about God.  They could be drunk, high, hung-over, texting, wearing too few clothes, or donning a plumed hat complete with a Styrofoam bird.  They could have just left from a board meeting, parole hearing, divorce court, local casino, the nearest fast food restaurant, off the last bus for the day, or been kicked out of the nearest bar.  They could be coming from a shift at the local diner, a season of selling popcorn at a stadium, ten years of factory work, a six-week stay at a resort, a year of wondering what they are going to do with their life, or a fifty-year career as the CEO of one of the best run companies in the world.

They could have come from a house or an apartment or a hotel or a homeless shelter or the nearest tattoo parlor.  They could have a Bible or a copy of the newspaper or an iPhone or a comic book or a screaming child or a golf bag with broken clubs or a wallet full of fifties or a chihuahua in their purse.

They might be swearing, or they might be correcting everyone’s grammar.  They might have holes in their jeans, or they might be wearing way-too-expensive shoes.  Their phone might ring in the middle of church; they might chew tobacco in the parking lot; they might cough without covering their mouth; they might have no sense of personal space; they might slouch over in their seat.

They might criticize everything & everyone.  They might be prime examples of hypocrites.  They might be uneducated, or they might have too many doctorates.  They might be prejudiced, or they might be way too tolerant.  They might be better-than-thou, or they might be quite sure they are a nobody.

We can expect them, because God is open to taking them all.

When we try to get people to follow God’s rules before they are saved, it’s like expecting a homeless child to follow the rules of somebody else’s parent.

It’s not happening.

And if we try to make it happen, people will get mad, startled, disappointed, hurt, furious, confused, outraged, depressed, indignant, and frightened.

Division of Family Services doesn’t tell Robert the teenager, who is waiting in juvenile hall for a home, that he has to start following all of George and Teresa’s rules.

Can’t you just hear the response?  “Who is George and Teresa?  Why should I follow their rules?!?”

It’s obvious to us that Robert needs to live with George and Teresa before he is going to want to–or even understand why he should–follow their rules.

We can’t expect people to come into church and want to follow God’s rules.  You have to be adopted by God before you want to follow what He says.

When Robert moves in with George and Teresa, and they show him his new room and buy him clothes and enroll him in the local high school and drive him to football practice every Monday and Thursday night, it will be very natural for them to tell him he can’t smoke cigarettes or download pirated DVD’s or leave the house in the middle of the night with a spray paint can.

Whether Robert agrees or disagrees with the rules, there is a relationship they are built on.  Does Robert live in the house? Yep.  Do George and Teresa now drive him to football practice every Monday and Thursday night?  Yep.

Now–here is something very important to notice.  Before Robert ever knew George and Teresa, it was still wrong to smoke cigarettes, download pirated DVD’s, or go gallivanting around at midnight.  But now he is motivated to do what they say.  He lives with them.  They take care of him.  He relies on them.

We all have a relationship with God as our Creator, but only believers have a relationship with Him as our Father and Savior.  So, while everyone will be held to the same standards under God’s perfect Law, only those who know Him will want to obey Him.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (Jesus, quoted in John 14:15-18, NIV)

We can’t expect people in church to be ready for church.  But we can expect believers to be.  If we have been saved by Christ, then we are going in His house much like a child running into the arms of a parent.  Church for us needs to be all about out-and-out worship, total outreach, and an imitation of the same patience for others in the church that God had for us when He chose to stay around for us . . even when we broke all the rules.

After all, we are the ones living in the Father’s house.  When visitors come in, our goal isn’t to critique them, or make them less embarrassing looking to God–oh my!  I would hate to think how embarrassing I have been to God over the years!  It also isn’t our job to make them feel good about their sins–just like we aren’t to feel good about our sins.

Our goal is to bring visitors in our home to our brother Jesus, not to keep them waiting at the door until they make themselves ‘more presentable’.  Jesus is the only way any of us will ever be presentable to God.  He is the only one who can bring us for adoption to the Father.

When Jesus pays for someone’s sins, they are adopted into the family of God  . . just the way we were.  So we should look at every person who walks through our church doors as a potential new member of our family.

Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (Jude 1:23, NLT)

A Clean Start.

One of my favorite dramatic scenes in TV shows and movies would have to be when someone comes to a desk jam-packed with clutter–I mean just loaded up with paperwork and various unworkable projects–and slides their arm across the table, knocking everything to the floor.  The desk is empty, clean–no overdue work left on it to do, so that whoever owns the desk can focus on something totally new.

Do you realize that, if we believe in Jesus, this is exactly what He does for us every morning?  It’s true!  Jesus comes along and sweeps His arm across our desk every morning before the sun is up.  All the things we fell behind on, all the overdue bills, all the catastrophic projects we don’t know how to fix, the illegible to-do list, all the papers scratched up with red pen . . Jesus clears them off all.

What we’re left with is today–an empty desk, clean for new work.

And the freedom to start over.

Believers, see what projects God gives you today.  See what revisions He wants to make to your ideas.  And be sure to drop off any bills that come due today on His desk.  But realize as you are doing all this that you are not “behind” on getting into Heaven–Jesus has cleared away everything you have ever failed at, every poor choice you’ve made, and every debt you cannot possibly pay.  He’s cleared off every project you’ve fumbled, and every goal you’ve bungled.

Believers, take a good look at the empty, clean desk in front of you.  And then ask Him, “What do you have for me today, Boss?”

It’s a clean start.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

(Lamentations 3:21-26, NIV)

Recharge

Batteries are not my friend.

I have an electric toothbrush, programmed to make my teeth almost-dentist-office clean.  But it doesn’t work, because I don’t know where the charger is.  So it just makes my teeth plain-old-toothbrush clean.

I have a MP3-like player that I never use, because I lost the power cord, and then when I found it, I never charged it.  So it never works when I want it.

I have a phone that, until very recent times, was either shut off or about to shut off because I didn’t charge it.

I keep my iPod docked almost always.  That way, I don’t have to worry about charging it (or losing it).

I have, somewhere, a box of chargers that evokes dread.  They are chargers to something–either something I used to have, or something I have now–that have found their way in the dreaded charger box.  The idea of figuring out which one is which is just too out there for me.

It seems like it is so much trouble just to “upkeep” my electronics.  It’s just a plain old lot of work.  I wish someone would invent little wheels on my phone and toothbrush so they would roll themselves to the charger and plug themselves in when they’re running low on energy.  (Actually, we have a robotic vacuum that does dock itself–in theory.)

A lot of times, I seem to forget how much I am like my battery-charged gadgets.  I have had a huge burst of focus on God in the last three years of my life.  I committed my life to Him and I want to serve Him so badly, sometimes I can scarcely stand it!

But here is what I am awfully bad about forgetting: recharging myself in His Word.  As hard as it is to believe . . as much as I write devotions about verses, teach a Bible study, Sunday school class, and write letters with Scripture verses in them . . I often neglect to read the Word just to be reading for my own self.  

I am so focused on what I want to share with others, or how I can help other people with their problems, that I forget that God is sharing with me, and helping me with my problems!

It’s pretty easy for me to catch myself at this.  It’s pretty easy, because I get as run-down as a 1980’s cell phone (and folks, that is pretty run-down), melodramatic, uselessly angry, and feel more like I’m dragging opportunities to serve God in a sled behind me rather than running after God as He pulls the opportunities along.

It’s a mess to try to figure out which charger goes to what in my electronics’ world, but it’s not hard to figure out what recharges me for God’s Word: it’s spending time with Him.  I can’t expect to have any energy, ideas, or motivation to share with others what I haven’t first received from God!

I know I need to recharge each and every morning, but Satan is ever finding ways to tempt me into doing something else.  And I’m not just talking about carnal stuff here, I’m talking about things that really is valuable!  Writing letters of encouragement, preparing for teaching a Bible study, surfing a Christian apologetics site, or seeing who “liked” me on facebook (ok, I admit, the last one is totally carnal).

I can testify from years of experience that cell phones don’t keep working day after day, call after call, or (after I caved in to the texting craze) text after text.  They run down.

In the same way, we can’t be the light we need to be for others if we aren’t kindled by God’s Word.

Note to self: Recharge.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. (Psalm 41:1b, NLT)

____________________________________________________________

Photograph by Collin Anderson, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/collinanderson/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.
See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Dad, you were . .

Dad, you were the one who held me up so I could see the Disney characters face-to-face.

You were the one who took me out for ribs with extra sticky barbeque sauce.

You were the one who knew that Gonzo was really a kind-hearted chicken hawk.

You were the one who taught me to ride my bike . . even if you got a bit crabby about it.  🙂

You were the one who drove me to college every morning for a semester, never mentioning how pathetic it was that I didn’t have my license yet.

You were the one who made sure I had all the baby dolls and foo-foo-plastic-animals-with-vinyl-hair that I wanted . . even if you never knew how you were supposed to play with them.

You were the one who let me tell you the dumbest jokes on the planet, because you were too patient to tell me how annoying I was.

You were the one who said how smart I was.

You were the one who traded in your dreams of playing baseball and taking nature walks with your little girl for playing Disney characters and visiting the ice cream shop instead.

You were the one who told me I had your eyes, and it was indisputable.

You were the one who left every December day on your lunch hour to check if any nearby Wal-Mart stores had the Nintendo 64 in stock.

You were the one who taught me how to line my putter up with the hole . . and then regretted ever teaching me to move the leaves out of the way before I putted.

You were the one who bought me my first roses.

You were the one who never seemed upset that I couldn’t cook or play sports or keep track of my money or tell you how much I really loved you, even though I really did.

You were the one who liked my high ponytails because you could twirl them.

You were the one who buried my frog in the backyard, because I couldn’t stand the thought of it being flushed down the toilet.

You were the one who said–every time you came across someone who was in a wheelchair–how good you really had it to be able to walk.

You were the one who later sat in a wheelchair and never complained that you couldn’t walk anymore.

You were the one who couldn’t wait to get back from business trips to see us again.

You were the one who thought manilla envelopes were “vanilla envelopes” (and I did, too).

You were the one who read a tract a friend named Elvis gave you and you gave your life to God.

You were the one who drew cartoon characters with speaking bubbles of encouragement for my trip to Hungary.

You were the one who was going to walk me down the aisle one day.

You were the one who naturally went down on your knees when you prayed about something deep in your heart.

You were the one who wanted all my college to be paid for, because yours wasn’t.

You were the one who I promised to take to Maui again someday, and you believed me.  I know you know I would have, Dad.  It was a promise.

You were the one who never got to see me teach a single lesson to a class full of second-graders, yet you paid thousands of dollars for my chance to do so.

You were the one who always agreed with Mom for the 79-cent (or so) “cinnamon twisties” to go to me whenever we splurged at Taco Bell.

You were the one who wanted a life for me filled with the beauty and essence of Christ.

Dad, I have good news for you.

I’m getting there.

You were a lot of things for me, things that outlasted your time here on earth.  But none of this tells the most important part of the story.

Who you are.

You are the one who made it to Heaven before me.

You are the one who stands with all the other made-it-home believers in the Presence of God.

The chapter of your life here on earth is closed . . but it isn’t the end of your story.

There will always be stages where I will miss you.  There are people I want you to meet, things about who I am now that I want you to know.  I want you to see my life, and how it’s changed in the hands of the Savior just like yours did.  I want you to see that I followed in your footsteps, Dad, that I know Him now the way you did in your time on earth . . before you saw Him face-to-face.

It isn’t, Dad, that you were my daddy.

You are my daddy.  Always & forever.

Thank you for holding me up so I could see the Disney characters face-to-face.

Thank you for holding me up in hope that, one day, I would see God Himself face-to-face.

I will now.  I love you.

To Be Real

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day . . . “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

–From The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, courtesy of GoodReads.

I had a cassette stories I listened to faithfully every night before bed as a young child.  I kept my Fisher Price tape player–won because I drew flowers and a sun on my coloring page of a Sesame Street/Sears contest, but that’s another story–close to me like a teddy bear.

And I listened to those stories, over and over.

One of them was The Velveteen Rabbit.  It was a very sad story to me, almost too sad to listen to.  There were parts I didn’t understand . . but I guess I kinda thought I would one day.

One key part of the story I didn’t understand was that the Velveteen Rabbit had no back legs.  As a kid, I was always terribly afraid of getting tricked by something and–even though the story clearly says he has no back legs–I didn’t get it.  They were called “hind legs” and I had no idea what “hind legs” were or why he pretended to the real rabbits that he was sitting on them.  Only when I saw a picture of the Velveteen Rabbit with only front legs many years later did I realize he was missing limbs.  (I had seen a picture of the Velveteen Rabbit before, but he was in a Christmas stocking.)  I found this quite upsetting, even though I was about ten or eleven at the time.

Now, I see the marvel of the metaphor.  A stuffed rabbit who has no hind legs, can’t do anything rabbits really do, stuck up in a toy nursery on a shelf.  The ingenious element Margery added is that he is self-aware.  He knows he isn’t real.  But he desperately wants to be.  And, he might be just a little bit afraid of it, dreading it and desiring it at the same time.

I haven’t read The Velveteen Rabbit in years, at least since college.  But I still remember the hauntingly sad voice of the narrator that came on after I pressed “play” on the tape player.

I always liked that the Velveteen Rabbit became real in the end.

I always liked that part.

But . . it was scary, too.

I would have liked the story much better if he had simply been loved by the boy forever, and the boy had stayed a boy forever, and the rocking horse (I think that is what “skin horse” was) stayed a rocking horse, and they stayed in the safe, self-contained nursery.

Going out in the wild . . becoming real . . being on your own on a winter night like a real rabbit . . that seemed very frightening to me.  It wasn’t the idea of predators.  It was the idea of “open space”.

I have always had an aversion to open space.  I was often scared to look up at a kite in the sky as a child.  I was afraid to lay on my back on the grass and look up at the sky, or the night sky, lest I “fall up” as children’s poet Shel Silverstein says.

I don’t like “big open”.

I like small spaces.

When I am extremely upset, I like to retreat to a dark closet.  I like small rooms, rooms with doors, and I really like ceilings.

For these reasons alone, the idea of rapturing to Heaven is terrifying to me.  I would much rather die of old age.  I don’t want to be pulled up into the sky.  I am fearful of open space.

I read tonight that “agoraphobia” includes a fear of open spaces.  I thought of agoraphobia as being afraid of people, afraid to leave your house–neither of which I have.

It’s that openness, too much open-endedness, too much lack of closure, too much ambiguity about what is to happen next that I try to avoid, that frightens me.  I guess that I, without knowing it, have lived a life afraid of becoming real.  I would rather be the stuffed bunny than the real rabbit.

God has been exceedingly kind to me.  Although He could have demanded I became real before He would have anything to do with me, in essence He picked up my fragile stuffed bunny soul and held me until I felt safe in His love to explore . . just a bit . . what real would feel like.

I don’t rollick in open fields.  I would ten billion trillion times rather play with a marble roller coaster than ride a real one.  When I feel very overwhelmed I like to curl up in a bit of a ball.  Many times I would much rather go to God to be held than go on an adventure.

God is working with me on realness.  The becoming.  One day, I know I will be made totally new.  I am really hoping that, if the Rapture happens in my lifetime, God sends an angel to hold onto my wrist.  I sometimes hope there is a closet in Heaven I can go into in case it becomes too frighteningly exciting or majestic.  And thinking of actually leaving my body . . no . . I usually don’t.  I have to just trust God on that one.

But Jesus met me where I was.  He did not just pull me off the shelf and throw me out the window to get some fresh air.  He came to where I was on the shelf.  He began to convince me that it is safe to be outside with Him.

Now I have so much joy in my life, so much love, (and still so much fear) . . in this coming-to-realness.

I want to be real.  Even if it does hurt.

I know God will be right there, holding me in His hand as I change from manufactured to marvelous, from helpless to hopping.  And if I happen to be a screaming Velveteen rabbit in this process . . He will still love me.

That is God I serve.

He is the God-Who-Makes-Real.

“I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life.” (Jesus, quoted in John 6:47a, The Message)

Just a copy? Only a trick?

In The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, a beautiful, melodic witch in an underground world tries to convince her prisoners that there is no “overworld” at all.

When one of them brings up the sun as proof, she asks what the sun hangs from in the sky.  When her prisoners can’t give her an answer, she says, “When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me.  You can only tell me it is like the lamp.  Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp.[1]”

There is nothing Satan would like more than for us to believe that God will somehow disappoint us if we get to know Him, that He will turn out to be only pretend, a copy or ourselves, or a dream.

[1] The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

“This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” (From John 6:39-40, the latter part, The Message Paraphrase)

Change of heart . .

This post comes from my beloved Ben . .

“When [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up to the [Passover] festival, according to the custom… After three days, they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” – Luke 2:42, 46-47.

“At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. ‘If you are the Messiah,’ they said, ‘tell us.’ Jesus answered, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.’” – Luke 22:66-69.

Two scenes in Jerusalem, roughly twenty years apart, where Jesus speaks to the priests and teachers of the law. I wonder how many of them were the same priests. How many who listened to him when he was a child, now stood condemning him?

How often have I done the same? Lord, let me not be fickle, but follow You down any road, through any battle, to any end.

Published in: on September 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Startling sin

Sin can startle us into looking at who we really are.  We ask ourselves, Did I really say that?  Did I really do that?  Did I really think that? 

–From Pastor John’s sermon.

Sin can startle us into looking for a Savior.

Only when we know we are wretched do we look for a way out of the mess we’ve made.

As my pastor said on Sunday, the things we never thought we’d say . . the things we never thought we’d do . . the ways we’d never thought we’d think . . can give us a reality check of who we really are.

I think in an analogy from Lord of the Rings.  There are these orcs–ugly, twisted, horrible, cannibalistic creatures who were once elves.  Now it doesn’t do any good to pretend they are still elves.  They aren’t.  They are totally fallen, irredeemable in themselves (they can’t change who they are in essence).  Whatever bad thing it is, they would say that, would do that, would think that.

Of course, in Lord of the Rings, there were never any orcs who turned back to the good side.  But I thought it would be really cool if there were.  If a mighty wizard could change them back into the elves they once were, long ago.

Actually, those orcs are better off than we humans are, in this sense: We are often outrageously out-of-touch with how sinful we are.  We are connoisseurs at covering up what we do.  We are brilliant at denial.  We are justifiers to the max.

We will try to make anything, no matter how atrocious, seem acceptable if we were the ones who did it.  (If somebody else did it, Heaven help them.  But if it was us, well, we had our reasons.)

But often it’s in the really awful things in our lives . . the times we know we have fallen badly and can’t get up . . the times we see how twisted and gruesome we really are . . that we get a glimpse of how we look in the sight of God.

In and of itself, that is one of the most dangerous states of depression around.  But if we look to Christ, then it is really just like the molting state of the caterpillar.

Sin can startle us into covering up what we did, denying what we did, or justifying what we did.

Or, we can look at our sin straight in the face, and find an urgent need to find the Savior.

He is able to change us into new creatures.

Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. (2 Corinthians 5:17, GW)