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Responding Like Jesus

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” -Isaiah 53:3NLT

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” -Hebrews 5:7NIV

The Sadducees and Pharisees harassed and heckled and challenged Jesus everywhere He went. Yet He always responded with patience and wise teaching. Most of his tormentors rejected this, slinking away silenced. But others who witnessed these encounters, including some of the Sadducees and Pharisees, noted and learned from Jesus’ response. Our amazing Lord turned His challenges into teachable moments for others instead of letting His enemies put Him on the defense. Later, when He was alone, He prayed for those enemies—and most likely for Himself—for needed strength to face them again and again.

Father, please help me to remember Jesus’ example in this. Teach me how to respond to challenges and insults with patience and wisdom and sound teaching. Then remind me to bring and release the pain from such encounters to You. Help me forgive those who hurt me and pray for them as well. In Jesus’ name, I pray. I choose to follow His ways. Amen.

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Being Confident of This

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion util the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6

You get discouraged when you fail or discover imperfections in your character. You fear God will give up on you.

But the opposite is true.

God is working in you, bringing these to light to remove them, to show where He’s ready to apply His gentle touch, so you can cooperate with His work in you.

Be confident of this. He began the work in you; it is a good work. He will bring it to completion for His glory and for your good.

Thank You, Lord. Amen.

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If We Had Methuselah’s Years

Genesis 5 . . .

Just imagine . . .

According to this genealogical chapter:

Adam lived for 903 years.

Seth lived for 913.

Enosh lived for 905.

Kenan for 910.

Mahalalel for 895.

Jared, 962.

Enoch, 365 . . . on earth. He walked faithfully with God, so God took him away. (See verse 24.) He may still be alive. He literally may never experience death the way most of the rest of us do. That makes his son Methuselah’s record-breaking 969 years look like, well, our 70 to 100—or maybe more like a miniscule fraction of only our very first day of life.

And most of these men didn’t even become parents until they were close to or into their hundreds!

What would you do with all of that time? How would it change your life?

psalm-90-12

Right now, I’m picking and choosing. Besides caring for my family and our home, participating in church and community activities, reading, writing, running, and flower-hunting, there are several other things I’d love to learn to do. I’d love to learn another language or two. I’d love to learn to draw the flowers I take pictures of now. I might even enjoy trying to grow a few. And I could always use more time for the things I already enjoy.

Instead, I find myself pruning activity from my life in order to make time for the things I’ve prayerfully decided matter most right now. This is the reality of human life. We learn to ask, as Moses did, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We don’t have time to do everything. We must choose where to focus our energy to make the best use of the time that we have.

I wonder if Methuselah ever felt the need to number his days, to conserve time. Did he use his 969 years wisely? Or did he fritter them away? Maybe we’ll get to ask him someday.

S-o-m-e-d-a-y.

That’s right. For now, we pick and choose our activities to use our time as wisely as possible, knowing it is limited here on earth. But someday we’ll start enjoying eternity in Heaven where we’ll be able to pursue all the God-honoring creative endeavors we’ve ever felt inclined to try! Knowing this, we can learn to view this life as one of many seasons of our eternal life just as we break our human life into seasons of its own – the season of childhood, youth, training, home-building, career-developing or transitioning, the empty nest, mentorship, retirement . . .

There are so many seasons we get to enjoy in the span of an average life! Just imagine all God will allow us to do once we enter eternity with Him!

I’m going to try to remember this next time I’m forced to prune activities or to say, “No,” to something I’d love to do. For now, my time is limited. This won’t always be so. I can fully focus on and enjoy whatever season I am in. God has promised there will always be more!

Father, thank You for the promise of eternity—a gift we cannot even begin to understand. Until we receive it, please teach us to number our days, to choose wisely. Help us to thankfully give what we have now to You, knowing You plan to give us so much more someday. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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A Prayer about God’s Way

Romans 5-8

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:6-8

Lord, how did you do this? I really need to know. While we were still sinners, while we were at our very worst, knowing all that we had done, were doing, would do, and still have yet to do, You chose to give Your life for us—to give us hope, to make it possible for us to live as children in Your Kingdom now and to enjoy eternity with You forever.

What an amazing and absolutely undeserved gift! I thank You, Lord. Forever, I thank You.

But how did You do this? We hurt You, Lord! We still hurt You today. Even those of us who love You and live for You and serve You sometimes fail. And so many aren’t even trying, won’t hear Your voice, have no interest in Your will or believe that You are there.

When people hurt me, Lord, I build walls. My natural inclination is to protect myself from anyone who causes my heart pain.

But this is not Your way. And I know Your way is better. So teach me, Lord. I’m listening. Please help me understand.

Your Word says that You know how we are formed. You remember that we are dust. (See Psalm 103:14). Is this the key, Lord? You know that we are human, prone to act according to our own interests instead of in obedience to You. You know that our understanding is limited, our instincts hard to recognize and overcome. We are children still learning so much; there is so much to learn.

Is knowing this what gives You such fathomless compassion, grace, patience . . .

Hope?

Do You view us with hope, Lord? Not hope that we might be okay, like children hope they might get something for Christmas, but with that certain-knowledge-of-a-future-in-Heaven-with-You type of hope that You give to us once we chose to become Yours? No matter how we’re behaving now, You know how we’re going to turn out. Is that a kind of hope? Is hope something You can do?

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before [Jesus], he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus endured great suffering and humiliation because of the joy that He knew would follow someday. That sounds like looking forward with certain hope to me.

Whether the terminology is right or not, it’s not something I can enjoy or apply to my relationships with difficult people. I don’t know how they will turn out. You haven’t chosen to reveal that to me. (I can see how that may be a good thing.)

But I do know that we are all formed in Your image and that we are all works in progress in Your hands—still dust. And because I know we are all in Your hands . . . and You love us . . . and You are faithful, able, and good, I can trust You, follow You, obey. I can choose to do right even when other people don’t. How else will they ever see You through me?

You loved the world so much You gave Your one and only Son that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life. (See John 3:16.) I live not to protect myself from harm but to trust You with my life no matter what so that “whoever”—no matter how sinful, hurtful, or hateful—may come to believe in Jesus and enjoy eternal life with You some day.

I do want all people to come to know You, Lord. Yet sometimes I struggle over being the one You call to love them in Your name—especially if they happen to be hurting me through the process. Please continue to help me with this. In doing whatever You lead me to do, I’m learning to trust You with me.

Lord, thank You for loving so much—for sending Jesus to make our salvation possible, to teach us how to live. Help us to follow His example, loving others for Your sake. We love You, Lord. Our lives are Yours. Always. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Life Preserving God’s Way

Luke 17-33

“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” -Luke 17:33

In how many ways do we try to preserve our lives?

  • Scrapbooks
  • Journals
  • Mementos
  • Strict Routines
  • Safe Choices (no risks)
  • Shrines to the Past
  • Refusals to Let Go or to Try Something New
  • On-line Friendships (the comforting illusion of never saying good-bye)

I think I must confess I tend to be a life preserver. A memory keeper. A chronicler. I love taking pictures and journaling memories. I love keeping in touch with friends far away, hearing what’s new in their lives. I’m also a big fan of predictable routines.

Is that always bad? I don’t think so. Some things are worth preserving in some form when we can. In several places in the Bible, God told His people to practice rituals or build monuments that would help them remember. He knew and still knows that memories of what He has done for His people build trust and identity. They also give God’s people the opportunity to pass the story on to the next generation so they can enjoy knowing and trusting God, too. There is a time and a purpose to save: when it reminds us of what God has done, when it reminds us of who we are, when it reminds us from where we came, when it helps us to love or to teach. Without memories, there is no identity, no attachment, no meaning.

Just before Christmas last year, I found some old e-mails I’d printed out and kept many years ago. My grandmother had told me to write down cute things the boys did and said while they were little because otherwise I’d forget. Instead I kept copies of the daily e-mail messages I was sending to my mom. (This was before Facebook, text messaging, digital photography, or camera phones; e-mail was the new, great thing, and I was so thankful for it.) I was writing the messages because we were separated by a full continent, and I wanted my parents to know their grandkids. I kept copies as a simple way of following Grandma’s advice, but I never reread them until the end of last year.

And then I laughed myself silly, wondering as I did how I survived raising kids. Mothers of littles, you are heroes! As I consider each of my grown sons, I can testify, just in case you’re tempted to doubt, it’s worth every melted M & M staining the carpet, near death of a small rodent rescued just in time from testing a homemade parachute, and Brer Rabbit superglue incident broadcast by speaker phone to a room full of strangers.

If you don’t believe I mean this, let me remind you that my husband and I are preparing to adopt a sibling group and go through it all over again (hopefully minus the stains, rodents, and superglue—I’m trusting our new additions will come up with something surprising and new just as each of our boys did in turn). Raising kids, helping them reach their potential, watching them grow and mature—always worthwhile, no matter what. I’d be willing to raise mine again, but they’re doing just fine where they are . . . and so, as God is leading, my husband and I will raise some more. (I thank you for your prayers.)

Life Preserving Gods Way

I think that’s the key here. Preserving what was and what is as it is takes energy. Jesus wants us to use that energy to follow Him instead. He doesn’t want us to preserve what we’re going to lose anyway. He wants us to live! Just as I’ve raised my kids and they are living their own lives, I must continue to live mine. Do I enjoy the occasional visit with stories and pictures and memories? Yes. But my home is not a shrine to what was. It is a place where people live, now, doing whatever their hands find to do in Jesus’ name. We need to view our churches and work within our communities in the same way.

We can’t go back into the past. We can’t take the past into the future. We have to let go. And when we do, we get to enjoy all the new adventures Jesus is leading us into—ultimately, in Heaven with Him.

In any moment, all we try to preserve may be gone forever. If that is all we have, then we’ll be left with nothing when that moment comes. But moments devoted to Jesus are preserved—by Him—for all eternity. We can trust Him to save what matters as we live every moment for Him.

Jesus, thank You for this warning. Help us to live for You now, faithfully following wherever you lead. We’re entrusting our past, present, and future to You. You are absolutely worthy. Amen.

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The Mysterious Aroma of Christ

“For we are the aroma of Christ among those who are saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?” –2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Pansies

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder why anyone would ever turn Jesus down. When I think of Jesus, I think of love, friendship, grace, mercy, peace, joy, hope, beauty, kindness, forgiveness, freedom—and the list goes on and on and on. Jesus defines all that is beautiful and glorious and happy. Why would anyone turn that down? I wrote the question in my journal and have been talking it over with God ever since.

I think, I think, I’m catching on.

R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God, helped me start to understand. In this book, Sproul refers to Isaiah’s encounter with God in Isaiah 6 and Peter’s encounter with Jesus in Luke 5. When Isaiah met God, he said, “Woe to me! . . . “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (v. 5).  Seeing Jesus in action, Peter said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (v. 8). The two men were experiencing something that frightens people away from God. In fact, they were experiencing God, and they wanted to draw away, not because of God but because of what He revealed in them.

As people go about their daily routines, minding their own business, their sin blends into the world’s sin and seems to disappear. All feels right; it’s comfortable. In God’s Presence, however, sin becomes painfully obvious. People feel ruined, full of shame, and eager to hide. They want the relief that comes only through God’s grace, yet often react by telling Jesus to go away.

We see this happening in Luke 8:26-39. When Jesus visited the region of Gerasenes, he was met by a demon-possessed man who lived in the town graveyard. No one could subdue this man, so he hung around among the tombs. Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs, setting the man free.

You’d think the townspeople would have been thankful. Instead, they told Jesus to go away. I kind of wonder if maybe, perhaps, on some level, the people sorta liked their demon-crazed mascot. Compared to him, they looked pretty good—whatever they did. All sin in their town seemed to be in the graveyard where it belonged until Jesus sent the demons away. Suddenly, the people were in the Presence of Holy Perfection—and they felt uncomfortable. They told Jesus to go away.

If Christ dwells in us, if we are forgiven and living under His grace, it doesn’t matter how much love, friendship, grace, mercy, peace, joy, hope, beauty, kindness, forgiveness, and freedom we offer to the perishing. People will smell death when we’re around. They will watch for and point out and sometimes even invent failures in us to make themselves feel better about themselves (which is one reason why we must confess our sins and ask forgiveness instead of covering things up). Sometimes, unsaved loved ones may even tell us to just go away

No wonder Paul asked, “And who is equal to such a task?” How do we offer life when people smell death? How do we lead them to Christ when He repulses them because of their sin?

We can’t, of course. But God’s Spirit can. And so we live for Jesus, no matter how the world treats us and we pray continually* (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Lord, people don’t like being in Your Presence when there’s sin in their life. And Your Spirit dwells in us! Please help those we encounter to recognize their need in spite of their fear. Draw them to You when their instinct is to run away. This is something only You can do. Thankfully, it’s the longing of Your heart as well (Luke 13:34-35). In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.


*Praying continually is the theme of my book, Parachute Prayer. To learn more about training yourself in this discipline, click here.

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Finding Grace for Me

Finding Grace for Me“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.”Psalm 103:8-9

My philosophy of illness and injury doesn’t always work out well for me. While I’m usually pretty compassionate with others, telling them to take it easy and get the rest they need, so they can recover more quickly, I’m more likely to tell myself to just walk it off. In fact, I read somewhere that you can run off a cold, so I try to keep up with my running routine even if I have to stop every few steps to blow my nose. I try to keep up with all of my other expectations for myself, too, believing on some level that if I stop to rest, I’ll succumb to the illness or injury. I’d rather outrun it.

But like I said, this doesn’t always work out well for me. This week I had to give in and rest.

I haven’t been happy about this.

At first, I tried to console myself with the thought that forced relaxation was giving me an excuse to enjoy more guilt-free reading time. But even as I was saturating my mind in great books—really great books!—I was scolding myself for not being more disciplined. The floor needed to be vacuumed. I had a blog post to write. Minimum maintenance was not enough! My lecture to myself went on and on.

Then one of the authors of one of those great books I was reading included Psalm 103 in his work, and God drew my attention to the beginning of verse 9: He will not always chide.

Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful expositions of the character of God and His stance toward His children one can find in the whole Bible. (If you haven’t read it in a while, click here to read it in the English Standard Version at BibleGateway.) It reveals His justice and righteous, His mercy and grace, His love and compassion and patience—all given in perfect parental balance. He expects obedience because He wants what is best for us, yet He remembers that we are dust and provides for us what we cannot while helping us grow stronger every day.

He will not always chide. He knows that would only discourage us. There will always be something we can improve on.

When I realized that I was expecting more of myself than God expects of me, I stopped. He and I had a long talk about the situation. God helped me to see that though I was calling myself undisciplined, there are some things I am extremely disciplined about—even in illness. And so I made a list.

It’s what I do.

I made a list of everything I expect or want myself to do routinely. Then I put stars by the ones I’m already disciplined about, activities I do so routinely that I can’t even imagine not doing them. There were quite a few, and most of these were the ones I would consider most important on the list. I realized that labelling myself undisciplined, especially while sick, was unfair and untrue. I may struggle to be disciplined in a few areas of my life, but generally, I am a disciplined person.

Realizing this, I decided to stop scolding myself. Instead I tried offering myself the grace that God already gave.

From that stance, God and I went over the rest of my list together. I chose one item on the list to focus on for now. My goal will be to incorporate it into my routine as diligently as the items that I’ve already put stars beside. At the same time, I’ll still be aware of the other items on my list. I’ll keep trying to incorporate those as well, but, with God’s help, I will remember that though I’m not doing these as perfectly as I’d like to, I am doing them well enough. At some point in the future, as God leads, when my current focus item has become something I can’t imagine not doing routinely, I’ll turn my focus to another item on my list.

And when I can’t get to everything, I will not chide. Instead I’ll seek God’s grace toward me.

  • In what area of your life is God offering grace while you are not?
  • What do you tend to chide yourself about?
  • What will you do to discover God’s opinion on the matter?
  • How is He calling you to obey?

Father, sometimes I expect too much of myself. I expect myself to be able to do what I would never expect, counsel, or even want other people to do, knowing it is too much. I expect more of me than even You do—and You know what I’m capable of. You created me. You know me better than I know myself. You have good plans for me. You love me just as I am. When I catch myself chiding myself, draw my attention to You. Help me to seek Your opinion on the matter and to respond obediently. I guess obedience isn’t being more perfect than I am. It’s humbly doing what I can as You lead—and trusting You with the rest. Please help me with this. I thank You, Lord. Amen.

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Questions to Ask When People Bring Hurt

1 Peter 3-8n9“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”1 Peter 3:8-9

If only everyone would follow Peter’s instructions found in these verses, our world would be a happier place. Just imagine if everyone tried to see the other’s point of view, to be sympathetic, to love, to show compassion, and to act with humility in all situations.

Sadly, not every does. In fact, everyone doesn’t—at least not in every situation all the time. This may be why Peter devoted one sentence to how to conduct ourselves positively and two to what to do when others don’t. In this world, we will encounter evil and insults. We need to know how to respond.

Here are three things to ask when deciding how to repay evil with a blessing:

1. If Jesus were in this situation, how would He handle it? When we don’t know the answer, we can study to gospels and ask God’s Spirit for help. The better we know Jesus and His way, the more naturally we’ll follow in every circumstance.

2. What might God be trying to accomplish in this other person’s life? Depending on how well we know this person, the answer may be obvious or hard to determine. Either way, we can take what we know to God as we talk with Him about the situation and pray for the other person.

3. How might God be able to use our response to this event? Asking this question takes the focus off ourselves and our personal injuries. We can trust God to help us and to heal us regardless of what the other person does or has done. Therefore, we are free to pray for the one who hurt us, to seek that person’s good.

When we repay evil with such a blessing, we enjoy personal peace, we help to bring healing to the situation, we offer good to the one who hurt us, and we send a message to the world. All of these honor God because as Christians, we are being watched every day. Unbelievers want to see, to test, how we handle life. Our reactions to evil and to insults teach them about Jesus Christ.

Father, that’s a sobering thought. When someone hurts me, my response can’t be all about me. But, thanks to Jesus, it doesn’t have to be. I can trust You to take care of me. Help me to offer blessings to others to encourage the world to seek You and to do good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Our Brains on Technology

Psalm 46-10“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” –Psalm 46:10

I read something interesting recently. Scientists have discovered that all of our electronic gizmos and gadgets may be doing yet another type of harm to our brains. (Or perhaps we’re allowing them to do this by not using them with care.)

Now I don’t have anything against electronic gizmos and gadgets. I listen to my mp3 player when I run. I check in on social media sites several times a day. I prefer typing on a keyboard to writing with a pen. I take my cell phone with me wherever I go.

But that’s why I found this study interesting.

You see, lately I’ve been longing for silence more and more. I leave the music off while driving in my truck. I say, “That’s enough,” and shut down my computer for the day. I often sense my eyes and my ears and my brain telling me to remove the noise—for a little while, at least, —so I let them rest by doing non-electronic things.

And that’s what this study has found we all need.

The scientists discovered that after we take in new information, our brains need downtime to process it. They need time to chew it up and absorb it, so it can stick with us. If we’re always taking information in without rest, the information can’t stay. So if we’re listening to music while talking on the phone while surfing the internet, we may think we’re relaxing, but we’re really stressing our brains out. Our electronic gizmos and gadgets allow us to multi-task like never before, but scientists say they are wearing us out.

I think this study shows that God knew what He was saying when He told us to “Be still and know that I am God.” If we really want to know something, we have to take time to be still. And what is more important to know than that our God is God! He will be exalted in the nations; He will be exalted in the earth!

Maybe this is why the things God taught me during my quiet time refuse to come back to me until I’m driving down the road in my truck or cleaning the floors in my home. Maybe mindless activity isn’t mindless at all—it’s time our minds can use to process and sort recent input. It’s also time our God can use to firmly stick His Truth to our brains.

Maybe this is why I learn best by rewriting headline verses and truths, praying about them, journaling my thoughts, and thinking about them in quiet moments over several days. If we want something to stick, we have to learn to be still.

Lord, please help us use technology wisely and well, turning off the noise when that is what we need. Remind us to be still, to know that You are God—to hear what you want us to hear—to carefully keep thoughts you want us to keep. Our minds are fearfully and wonderfully made—by You! Help us protect them, and use them in the way that You want us to. Thank You, Lord! For Your glory, Amen.

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Siesta Scripture Memory Team, Verse #6

Blue Pansies“Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” –Matthew 7:10

It’s been a rough couple of months expectation-wise. More than one company I’ve trusted with my business has let me down. Disappointments: appointments missed, promises unkept. Frustration. Fear. Broken heart. In one case, it was like running downstairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought only to discover a lump of coal in my stocking. But I’ve been a very good girl. Sometimes life just is not fair.

That’s the beauty of Matthew 7:7-11. God promises that if we ask, we’ll receive. If we seek, we’ll find. If we knock, the door will be opened. No missed appointments or promises unkept. We can count on God, the one perfect Father, to provide us with everything we need. And we don’t have to worry about unwanted substitutions like snakes in place of fish or stones in place of bread or coal in place of a wanted gift. Our God only gives good things.

I’ve been talking to Him about these businesses that did not. They didn’t deliver, but God knows what’s going on. I know that since He allowed this, I can trust Him to make it right—in His way and in His time. Maybe He has a better means of meeting my needs. Or maybe I don’t need what I thought I did, so God is sparing me.

When I was a little girl, I used to order books from Scholastic through my school. (My kids all got to do this, too!) I remember one time when I ordered one book I really wanted but received another in its place. Scholastic said they’d run out of the book I wanted. Rather than refund my money, they sent a substitute—of their choice—in its place. I did not think that was fair and refused, for a long while, to read the book.

But it had a pretty cover. And it did sound intriguing. Eventually I gave in and read it. It turned out to be one of my favorite childhood books!

I’m not saying that what Scholastic did was right or fair. They were a business dealing with a customer. Their job was to provide what the customer ordered or refund the customer’s money if they could not. But God is a parent dealing with a child. When He makes substitutions, His decisions are always best, always right, always trustworthy. If I ask for a fish, He might say no—if it’s not good for me. But He won’t give a snake in its place. He’ll give something better—something I never imagined—something I really need.

I’m continuing my Siesta Scripture Memory Team challenge to memorize Matthew 7:7-29 plus the verses I’d already committed to memorize—and keep memorized— this year. It’s going slowly, but well! I’ve added 1 Corinthians 4:3 to Proverbs 16:33 and I’m keeping up with Matthew 7 so far, adding verse 10 this week. My newest memory trick is to place the verses on digital sticky notes on my computer screen.

  • What verses are you trying to memorize right now?
  • What new memory tricks have you invented to help yourself?