January 29, 2013

Start Here

Reading Psalm 29 today.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
    Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord strikes
    with flashes of lightning.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
    and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

The voice of the Lord is powerful.  It was the Lord's voice - His Word - that called all of creation into existence.  It is His voice that can bring the dead back to life.  It is also His voice that can strike terror; for He is holy and just.

But look at those last two verses.  Should the Christian live in (the scared kind of) fear?  Oh no!  We must honor the Lord and submit to Him, for He is enthroned as King forever.  But take a look at verse eleven.  This mighty, powerful God, to Whom all glory is due:
gives strength to His people;the Lord blesses His people with peace.

Friends, we must start our days in two ways:
1. Ascribing to the Lord the honor, glory, worship, and praise due His name and
2. Remembering how much He loves, cares for, strengthens, and blesses His people.

Yes, to some degree God is untouchable and unknowable, and we must simply and regularly ascribe to Him the glory due His name.  But to a pretty amazing degree He has made Himself known to His people through His Word, revealing that He loves His children, calls them to be His own, and promises to bless and keep them.  To bless and keep you, friend, if you have put your trust in Him.  Incredible, isn't it?!

Let's begin the day at the right starting place: ascribing glory to the Lord and remembering He will give us strength and bless us with peace.  Then taking a look at the to-do list or praying through concerns can be flooded with hope, not despair.  Because the Mighty God to Whom we pray is not only able to meet our needs, but loves us and desires to.

Blessings on you today!

January 13, 2013

Truth Transforms: How God Moved Me from Worry to Peace

Since I'm reading through Truths We Confess: A Layman's Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith by R.C. Sproul in these early months of 2013, I have the suspicion (and you should, too) that I'll be sharing from them occasionally, as I encounter thoughts and ideas worth passing along to you.  Here's where we'll begin:  Sproul wraps up his thoughts on Chapter 3, Section 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith with these words:

God is not the only worker in the universe, however.  We are also workers.  We are actively involved in making choices and exercising real power.  Energy is really transferred from one thing to another.  But these things do not happen independently of God.  He exercises his power and sovereignty over all created things 

The more we reflect on this and work through  some of the apparent difficulties, the more we realize that our destinies, our lives, and our children's lives, in the final analysis, are not exposed to the blind forces of chance or fate.  This is our Father's world, and our lives are in his hands.  His purpose and will are being brought to pass.  For this reason no consistently Reformed person can be a pessimist.  You may be pessimistic in the short run or in limited areas, but in the long run and in the big picture, you can only be an optimist.  Do we just dabble in Christianity to feel good about ourselves or be spiritual, or do we really believe that there is a living and reigning God of the universe?  If we do believe that God is sovereign over all things, that should impact our whole way of thinking.  To think theistically, to have a Christian worldview, is to see ourselves, the world, life, and history under the guidance, direction, and will of God.

~R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, p 81-82

*     *     *

I was raised in a Christian home and I am very grateful for it.  It is a blessing to easily call to mind Scriptures and hymns that did not mean much to me at the time, but are supremely meaningful in my life now.  Despite an up-bringing in the church, however, I did not catch on to what Sproul lays out above until years after leaving home.

All my life I was a worry-wart.  I worried a lot about my reputation, being perfect, not messing up, getting excellent grades.  I worried, because I believed that so much rode on those things.  If x, y, and z did not turn out just so, then I was doomed to a future of misery and sorrow.  I also worried about terrible things happening to me: house burning down, loved-one getting sick or dying in a tragic accident, and so on.  I worried about so many things I could not control because, well, I couldn't control them and that scared me.  This pattern/habit/lifestyle of worry began as early as I can remember.

Now I look back and can see clearly how it controlled me. I remember, when we were first married and lived up in Cambridge, MA around the time of the anthrax scare and talk of biological warfare, if I was awake and night and heard an unexpected plane fly over, I'd wonder if "this was it."  Crazy, right?

Well, I don't know.  If our fundamental view of life does not include the truth of the sovereignty of God, maybe it's perfectly normal to think it all rides on your performance, the fates, and/or karma.

If our fundamental view of life does not include
the truth of the sovereignty of God,
maybe it's perfectly normal to think
it all rides on your performance,
the fates, and/or karma.
But up in Cambridge we found ourselves in a church that diligently taught Scripture, weekly preached the Gospel, and instructed us in good theology.  Boy oh boy, did God, in His perfect timing, use that to do something to me!  As the years marched by, the worry-wart began to transform into a woman at peace.  The Lord opened my eyes to the fact that my life is not a television drama.

Neither is yours.

The God of all creation offers mercy, redemption, and transformation to his creatures who don't deserve it.  While you were sinners, Christ died for you.  And if that's not enough to knock your socks off, the Bible says that God, the One who is in charge of and watching over all that is going on, works all things together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

It is naive to imagine that you can orchestrate your life in such a way as to avoid pain or suffering.  The Bible  (and so does our experience, really) teaches us that those are part of living on earth   It is also foolish to  live in fear of potential disasters striking like they do in the movies (at just the right emotional time). Why are those approaches to life naive and foolish?  Because God Almighty has revealed Himself - Truth - to us in His Word, and He says 1) difficult times are unavoidable and 2) not to fear, because He is in control - sovereign - over all of it.

Dear friend, if you are a Christian, you need not be a pessimist, because you worship, love, and serve the God who has all things under the guidance and direction of his perfect and trustworthy will.  That's not wishful thinking, that's solid ground.

Friend, if you are not a Christian, I invite you to check God out: talk with people who know Him, attend a worship service (or more), start reaching the Bible (I recommend starting with the book of Mark or John).  The Truth sets people free, and I'd love for you to know freedom!

Have a great Sunday!

January 9, 2013

The Worthless Made Worth-full

Sometimes I get to the end of the day, and even if I enjoyed most of it - having spent my time well with the kids and laughed around the dinner table when dad got home - once the children are asleep, I can go to my physical or mental to-do list and suddenly feel like a failure.  The change in my mood is swift and fierce.  Suddenly it was a terrible day because I didn't get enough done, according to some standard set somewhere in my heart.

Well, hello idol!  How quickly I let you be in charge of me, my mood, and my sense of worth!!

Have you been there too, friend?  If so, I've got a word for us today, so read on.

*     *     *

Are you familiar with this verse in Jonah's prayer from the belly of the great redemption fish?

Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
Jonah 2:8

Or this one, about Israel just before they were exiled from the promised land?

They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers
and the warnings he had given them.
They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.
2 Kings 17:15a

The Bible has very much to say about worshiping idols and the disaster to which it leads: missing out on God's grace and, further, becoming as worthless as the idols that are worshiped.  

When our affection is placed on something worthless,
we go the way of worthlessness.
We wither; we wilt; we die:

For the wages of sin is death,
Romans 6:23a

Oh, it is a sad state of utter depravity!  None of us can escape it on our own, because (be honest!) you're an idol worshiper just like me.  You bow every day at the altar of self.  Without an intervention, there's no alternative.

Scripture tells us God intervened!  Romans 6:23 continues:

but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The natural consequence for our idol worship (worshiping anything or anyone other than the One True God) is death - utter worthlessness.  We get what we deserve.  BUT God comes on the scene with a gift: LIFE!

Search the pages of Scripture and you'll find out even more about this gift of eternal life.  Not only are we rescued from death, but we're given a place in a family - God's family.  We're drawn from depravity into righteousness.  It is the gift of all gifts (definitely not what we deserve!), in which we find the continuous and endless joy, hope, life, peace, and joy that our idols have not and will not ever be able to supply.

Israel turned from God to idols (passing on any opportunities God gave them to repent), and thus forfeited God's grace, becoming as worthless as the mute idols to which they sacrificed and in which they trusted so foolishly.  But Scripture tells us that if we take by faith the gift that God offers - eternal life in Jesus - our value is restored.

When our affection is placed on the One who is worthy,
we go the way of worth-full-ness.
We bloom; we flourish; we live!

The worthless is transformed into something valuable, precious, and cherished.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should become children of God!
And that is what we are!
I John 3:1a

Again this worth is not because of who we are, but because of Who we worship.  He lavished His love on us, so we could become His children and be restored to worth-full-ness.

*     *     *

It's difficult isn't it, Christian, (knowing how often we stumble and fall and worship at the altars of deaf and dumb idols), to believe we are valuable to and loved by God the Father?  Like Martin Luther said, most days
I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. Still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet [I know that] this is what I should and must do.
So to you and to myself today, I want to issue this reminder, encouragement, and exhortation:

If God has called you to be His own, His love for you and your worth to Him is unchanging because of the gift of eternal life given through Jesus Christ our Lord.  You are worth-full, because of what He chose on purpose to do in your life, rescuing you from your sin, giving you new life, declaring you righteous.

IT IS AWESOME, or as John Newton said, AMAZING GRACE!

Turn your face from those idols as soon as the Spirit moves in your heart to reveal your sin.  Repent and believe that God really forgives your sin in Christ.  Every.  Time.  And go forth boldly in your worth-full-ness to the King of kings and Lord of lords, to love and serve Him and your neighbor.  You have been called according to His purpose and are loved and secure beyond what you might ever be able to imagine.

Much love to you in Him today.

January 3, 2013

Seeking Wisdom in/for 2013

Happy new year!  I wonder how the first couple days have been for you.  I've been very tired, and I didn't even make it to midnight to ring in the new year on Monday night!  Today I'm feeling much more rested, however, perhaps that's why you're hearing from me.  :)

Usually I make a buncha crazy resolutions this time of year.  I do have some thoughts in the back of my head, but I didn't wrap up 2012 with a concrete plan for the new year other than to read through these books:

And keep reading the Bible.  This morning I was thinking about focusing on the Psalms and Proverbs this year.  Do you have any good books on your end table that you're planning to read?

All that said, the real reason I'm writing today is to share these verses with you from Proverbs 3.
13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
    the man who gains understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
    those who lay hold of her will be blessed.

Reading these this morning got me to thinking about how I don't necessarily pursue wisdom.  I look for good  advice or suggestions as to a good way to do things, but that is not always the same as seeking wisdom.  Then I thought about how I could also be helping my children to seek and desire wisdom - and that perhaps that is even more important than getting them to simply obey me.  (Though it is wise to obey one's mother and father!) 

Aaaaaanyhow, I wanted to invite you to chew on these verses a little with me here at the beginning of 2013.  According to Scripture, finding wisdom is "where it's at," and it begins with the fear of the Lord.  I'd love to be a little wiser (to God's glory) by the end of this year.  How about you?  The Bible teaches that we begin that process by looking to our God - the source of all wisdom - learning from His word, listening to and for Him in prayer, asking the Spirit to work in our lives.  In short, leaning not on our own understanding, but rather leaning on Him to find the straight path.  There I'm sure we'll find God's got some renovation in store for us this year, without making any official resolutions of our own!  :)

Happy New Year, friends!