Doesn’t jive

An unchanged life doesn’t jive with the book of James.

Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice. If you listen to the word, but do not put it into practice you are like people who look in a mirror and see themselves as they are. They take a good look at themselves and then go away and at once forget what they look like. But if you look closely into the perfect law that sets people free, and keep on paying attention to it and do not simply listen and then forget it, but put it into practice—you will be blessed by God in what you do. (James 1:22-25, GNT)

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Published in: on January 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Follow me? Part 2

At the end of The Two Towers movie, Gollum invites the hobbits to hurry after him through the forest.  He seems happy to help them on their quest into Mordor.  But just when he’s got their attention and they’re heading his way, he turns around to where he’s not facing them and adds under his breath, “follow me,” in a sinister hiss[1].  The camera is focused on Gollum’s face, and you get the distinct idea he is not taking the hobbits to Worlds of Fun.

Following is only a good thing if the person you’re following isn’t working to mislead you.

Be careful who you follow.  Above all, be careful who you follow with your soul.  You only have one soul, and one life to choose.  Your eternity awaits.

From the prophet Isaiah about wicked leaders:

The leaders of the people mislead them, and those they mislead are swallowed up. (Isaiah 9:16, HCSB)

From Jesus about false religious leaders:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

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[1] Lord of the Rings, Two Towers, New Line Cinema, 2002.  Screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.  Based on the book by the same name by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Follow me? Part 1

A few months back, I signed up for Pinterest.  I had a friend who said it was great.

I tried to get an account set up on Pinterest, but I didn’t like the preference program much.  I’ve accessed Pinterest a few times through google links, but I haven’t logged back in since the first few times I spent trying to figure it out.  All in all, I may have spent 10 minutes max on my account.

Since I am about as uncrafty as watermelon, learning Pinterest doesn’t interested me much.  (I guarantee you haven’t seen any beautiful crafts on Etsy lately that were made by a watermelon.)

Here’s the crazy thing, though.  I get emails from Pinterest that say such-in-so friend of mine is now following me on Pinterest.  Following me?  I haven’t ever pinned a single thing to my wall, my account is gathering dust, and balloon animal dogs are one of my best current crafts.  Should my friends really be following me?  

Following is only a good thing if the person you’re following knows what they’re doing.

Be careful who you follow.  Above all, be careful who you follow with your soul.  You only have one soul, and one life to choose.  Your eternity awaits.

“Can one blind person lead another? Won’t they both fall into a ditch?” (Jesus, quoted in Luke 6:39b, NLT)

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A life minus ingratitude

Thankfulness is something we can never expect a believer not to have.

No matter what might happen in my life, there is nothing in all the world that could merit a state of ingratitude in my heart, when Jesus has paid for my sins.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2, NIV)

Published in: on January 27, 2013 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Not yet

I trust the “not yet”.

Brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord comes again. See how farmers wait for their precious crops to grow. They wait patiently for fall and spring rains. You, too, must be patient. Don’t give up hope. The Lord will soon be here. (James 5:7-8, GW)

Published in: on January 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Overcoming Regret

Excellent message for me, and I know it will bless others, too.

Unshakable Hope

Do you ever feel like your regrets are haunting you like ghosts from your past?

I used to allow regrets over things I’ve said or wished I had said and things I’ve done or wish I had done, to steal my joy, peace and hope. I became so aggravated with these condemning “ghosts” of regret that I finally decided to figure out how to defeat them. The following “battle-plan” (for conquering regrets) has helped me and I hope it might help others dealing with this problem too.

Defining this enemy
Even though I knew what the word regret meant, I began by looking up the definition, which, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is: “sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair: an expression of distressing emotion (as sorrow)” 

I also noticed that repent is one of the synonyms for the word regret. I suppose this makes…

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Published in: on January 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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Nothing if it is not

God, there is nothing I want if it is not in Your Kingdom.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. (Colossians 3:1, NIV)

Published in: on January 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The sign

“Once and for all,” said the prisoner, “I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you -”

“Oh!” cried the three travellers as though they had been hurt. “It’s the sign,” said Puddleglum. “It was the words of the sign,” said Scrubb more cautiously. [1]

–from the Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis

Jill and Eustace–boarding school outcasts–find themselves on an adventure in another world.  The prominent land of the world is Narnia, and Aslan the lion is its protector (and creator of the world itself!).  Aslan has called the children to Narnia to charge them with the task of finding a lost prince and returning him to the Narnian kingdom.

All they must do to be successful on their journey is remember the signs.  The signs are mysterious instructions Aslan gives for the children’s journey.  The signs don’t make always make sense to them and the children rarely stop to think about them.

Most of the journey is a terrible bungling of the signs.  Through doubting, criticizing, and forgetting the signs, the children fall into danger after danger.

Now at last they have come to the last sign–the very last–and they have the chance to do right by it.

But herein lies the biggest problem they have yet faced.

The fourth sign:

“Fourth; you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.”

Up until this moment in the adventure, none of the three were worried about following the fourth sign.  Up until that moment, the fourth sign seemed easy.  After all, it was the way to identify the lost prince and complete their mission.

Up until this moment.

But now that the children and their guide, Puddleglum, are miles below the earth in caverns of darkness, now that the requirements of the sign is met by a frightening lunatic who is bound to a chair so that he won’t go on a murdering rampage. . now following the sign doesn’t seem so easy.

“Oh, what are we to do?” said Jill. . . [3]

This is the moment of truth.  All the other signs they bungled because they weren’t paying attention or didn’t understand.  But now they fully understand what they are to do–honor the sign, and set the lunatic free . . or fail the sign and stay safe.

But how do they know that Aslan meant for the sign to come to them this way?  How do they know that this isn’t a mistake?  What if Aslan hadn’t known that this lunatic would say the words of the sign?  How do they know that it’s really the sign and not the words of the sign?

“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.

“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.

“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.

“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.” [4]

Puddleglum understood something the two children didn’t.  The sign and the words of the sign were the same.  Inseparable.  And irrevocable.

Either the words stood, or they fell.  If they weren’t true now, then they never would be.

The words could not be dismissed, edited, or reinterpreted.  Either Aslan knew what he was talking about or he didn’t.

They decide to follow Aslan.  They break the bonds of the lunatic, and discover he is actually in his right mind, and he is the lost prince of Narnia.  But they had no way of knowing it before they obeyed; they had to obey and risk all to find out whether or not they were right.

Even though they’d had no way of knowing what would happen, they did have reason to believe in the sign.  All the other signs had held true.  And they knew Aslan was the overseeing ruler of Narnia who had more knowledge of the world than anyone else possibly could.  They had reason to trust him, but it was still faith that cut the bonds of the underground prisoner who could have murdered them all.

C.S. Lewis knew what he was writing about.  We are bombarded with philosophies that try to distinguish between the sign and the words of the sign.  

Things like, “But God didn’t mean for me to obey Him in this special situation . .” or “This is a cultural passage and doesn’t apply me” or “But God didn’t realize about . . when He said that.”

Either God is right or He is not.  Let us not pretend there is some in-between ground.  Either His Word is true, and we should obey every instruction He gives us, or His Word is false, and we should disregard everything He says.  But let us not try to be like Scrubb and fool ourselves with nice-sounding philosophies that really result in disobedience.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NLT)

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Check out: What I Learned in Narnia: True Authority is Obedient

[1] From chapter 11

[2] From chapter 2

[3] From chapter 11

[4] From chapter 11

Giving & Recieving

A reality of giving gifts out of love for God is that you will never be able to give as much as you receive back.  For sure.

If you give out of love for Christ, you will receive back more than you could possibly have imagined.  My pastor says “You can never out-give God”–in anything!  Offering God your time, sacrificing bad habits for Him, or giving gifts to show your love for Him will never go unnoticed by Him, and you’ll never be able to give Him as much as He will give you.

When I give, I might not find more of the cheap: money bags on your doorstep, extra presents under your Christmas tree, a car that never breaks down, or a growing savings’ account.  Those are the big deal kind of stuff to us, but they are the cheap stuff to God.

And when I give, I might not get more health-on-this-earth either.  I’m not really thinking about the narratives I read in the Bible when I give for this reason.  Job gave generously and his children died in a tragedy, he lost all his wealth, and he broke out in horrendous boils.  Paul gave generously and spent many nights in cold cells, was viewed as the scum of society, went hungry and sleepless some nights, and was beaten over and over.

Though God may not give us wealth or health to “reward” our giving (as if we deserve any reward for giving away a little of what we have received from Him by His outstanding mercy!), as we develop giving hearts, we find that, more and more, those aren’t the kind of things we really want anyway.  What we will find more of is the priceless.

About two years ago I began a trek of giving.  I haven’t gotten very far, but what I have learned is the more I give, the more wonderful my life becomes.  Giving does mean sacrifice–giving up something you’d really like to have, like a nice meal at a restaurant, or that new trendy outfit, or a necklace you wanted to buy to make you feel special, or a dessert every night after dinner.  I don’t know if you’ll get more of those kinds of things because you give–I kinda doubt it.  What I have learned that happens is those kind of things become less and less important, until they’re dim memories far out-shined by the brilliant light of loving Jesus Christ.

The Bible makes no pretense about it–giving is a part of living a life for God.  Giving out of drudgery or guilt is probably not going to bring you much joy.  For years, I avoided giving altogether because I simply didn’t care about it.  It wasn’t until I committed my life to Christ that I began to see giving not as a feeble try at paying God back but instead a way to back what God paid.  In other words, we stand by the power of the cross in our lives when we give out of joy.  Our giving shows we have an inkling of how much Jesus gave when He died for us.

You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35b, NLT)

The New Collossus

“Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

–From Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, The New Collossus

I always loved this poem.

Until the Statue of Liberty broke its promise to me.

When I was a little girl, my heart yielded to this poem, longed for the words to come true.  The first time as a teenager I saw a refuge forcibly removed from our country to go back to an oppressive regime, my heart broke.  I could not believe my country had let me down.  The Statue of Liberty became a hoax.

I wanted the statue to be taken down and the promise removed.  The statue had failed.  The plaque was powerless.  The words of Emma Lazarus about America had not been able to do what they’d promised.

Emma Lazarus, I believe, wrote those words out of an intent of love.  She saw a beautiful promise, and she wanted her country to reach for it.  But she could not make it so, and she did not make it so.

She probably didn’t know it, but she was actually taking a promise made by one Person and trying to make it apply to others.  Her expression of the promise is catching, but the results of the promise applied to the populous of America have not been.  Time and time again, we have failed in keeping it, which makes sense because the promise really never belonged to us.  We only copied an original, whether we realize or not.

The original Promise–which was not made for the plaque of a statue–has not been broken.  The original Promise was made in the dusty fields of Israel.

About 1,800 years before The New Collossus, Jesus Christ made a Promise.  The resemblance to Emma’s poem is striking, but Jesus’ words are far sweeter.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Unlike us, Jesus kept His Promise.  He carried it out not by constructing a grand statue to promise ideals, but by giving up His hands and feet to be nailed to a cross, His back to be beaten, His beard to be yanked out, His face to be spit upon and struck.  Scripture teaches that Jesus was so badly marred by the burden of our sin that He was unrecognizable, not just that His personal identity was unrecognizable, but that His identity as a human was unrecognizable.
(See Isaiah 52:14 and for a fuller picture of the foreshadowing of Christ’s suffering, Isaiah 52:13-15 and 53).

The Statue of Liberty cost what would be the equivalent of millions of dollars, and it was raised by two nations over about five years[1,2].  In order for the Statue of Liberty to keep its promise, it had to welcome with open arms the “huddled masses” of the world.  But it never opened its arms wide enough.  People upon people have been persecuted in America, or denied access altogether.

The death of God’s only Son is an incalculable cost.  From out of eternity, God would enter into time and die a sinner’s worst death.  In order for Jesus Christ to keep His promise to give rest to the sin-burdened, He had to take on, in one day, the sins of the world, and He had to shoulder them alone.  In one day, Jesus would carry what all of humanity could not shoulder if they had eternity to carry it.  In one day, Jesus would take away the burden of the sin of the world.

Jesus did open His arms wide enough.  He opened His hands and received the nails that were meant to be our burden.  He took the weight of our sin, our shame, our guilt, and our condemnation.  He was crushed under its burden, but He did not yield.  He bore our infinite burden, and He carried it with Him to His last breath, right down to its everlasting grave.

And then He came back.

Emma’s poem isn’t really about America.  It is really about Jesus Christ.  And that is what makes it a wonderful reflection of the real promise, given by Jesus Christ on the dusty roads of Israel nearly 2,000 years ago–and kept ever since.

Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25b-30, NIV)

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[1] “Who Paid for the Statue of Liberty?” About.com, Robert McNamara, accessed 1/26/2013

[2] “How Tall is the Statue of Liberty?” http://www.howtallisthestatueofliberty.org/, accessed 1/26/2013

[3] Ask.com question, “How long did it take to build the Statue of Liberty”, accessed 1/26/2013