Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Without your wounds

"Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service only wounded soldiers can serve."

--Thorton Wilder, The Angel That Troubled The Waters

More than meets the eye

"Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye."

--W. H. Auden

February Song by Josh Groban

When two people love and live for each other

"It is so beautiful to be loved as Laurie loves me; he isn’t sentimental; doesn’t say much about it, but I see and feel it in all he says and does, and it makes me so happy and humble that I don’t seem to be the same girl I was.

I never knew how good, and generous, and tender he was till now, for he lets me read his heart, and I find it full of noble impulses, and hopes, and purposes, and I am so proud to know it’s mine. He says he feels as if he "could make a prosperous voyage now with me aboard as mate, and lots of love for ballast."

I pray I may be all he believes me, for I love my gallant captain with all my heart, and soul, and might, and never will desert him, while God lets us be together.

Oh, mother, I never knew how much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and live for one another!"

--Louisa May Alcott, Good Wives
Give everything for Christ. Don't look back. Let go of anything that hinders you. Run the race, steady and strong. Love those around you with a heart full of grace and gratitude to Jesus. Run your heart out. No selfishness. No mediocrity. No quitting. No complaints. Run until the end, for the prize.

Keep your eyes on the Witness, the Example, the Martyr who has already testified to what happens when it's all said and done. A life lived for God, sold out to the honor of His name, even "wasted" for Christ, is all glory. Never give in, never give up, never look back. Love the Lord, love the body of Christ, love your family, love your beloved, love the world, love the lost, love with everything you have in you, for Christ's sake. Run the race well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vulnerability

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable ... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers ... of love is Hell."

--C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

A larger, lovely whole

"After three years, I continue to live in that tension. But there is a significant difference now. The sorrow I feel has not disappeared, but it has been integrated into my life as a painful part of a healthy whole. Initially, my loss was so overwhelming to me that it was the dominant emotion--sometimes the only emotion--I had. I felt like I was staring at the stump of a huge tree that had just been cut down in my backyard. The stump, which sat all alone, kept reminding me of that beloved tree that I had lost. I could think of nothing but that tree. Every time I looked out the window, all I could see was that stump. Eventually, however, I decided to do something about it. I landscaped my backyard, reclaiming it once again as my own. I decided to keep the stump there, since it was both too big and too precious to remove. Instead of getting rid of it, I worked around it. I planted shrubs, trees, flowers, and grass. I laid out a brick pathway and built two benches. Then I watched everything grow. Now the stump remains, still reminding me of the beloved tree I lost. But the stump is surrounded by a beautiful garden of blooming flowers and growing trees and lush grass. Likewise, the sorrow I feel remains, but I have tried to create a landscape around the loss so that what was once ugly is now an integral part of a larger, lovely whole."

--Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, pg. 51.

A dreamer

"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."

--Oscar Wilde
When you have responsibility without ability, you have to go to the One who is able.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lord, grant us precious moments in Your presence. Grant us rest beside quiet waters. Lead us to places of refreshing. Please help us quiet ourselves and be still before You. Teach us to pray, not so that we would speak better, but that we would listen better. Please teach us to hear Your will.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A while ago I used the phrase “Gatekeeper of Eternal Beauty” to describe a very dear friend, and it’s become a recurring theme ever since. As Christians, we long for transcendence. We want our lives to count for something infinitely bigger than just the random nothings that the world tells us are so important. But how do we do it, especially when we face so many distractions in our daily lives. I want to offer a suggestion: we need to surround ourselves with Gatekeepers of Eternal Beauty and follow their examples ... [to read the rest of this essay, click here].

Gatekeepers of Eternal Beauty

A while ago I used the phrase “Gatekeeper of Eternal Beauty” to describe a very dear friend, and it’s become a recurring theme ever since. As Christians, we long for transcendence. We want our lives to count for something infinitely bigger than just the random nothings that the world tells us are so important. But how do we do it, especially when we face so many distractions in our daily lives. I want to offer a suggestion: we need to surround ourselves with Gatekeepers of Eternal Beauty and follow their examples.

In the New Testament, Paul personally taught Timothy how to be a pastor, and then exhorted Timothy to teach others, and for those others to teach others, too. Today, we also need these kinds of Gatekeepers, these friends and mentors who are further down the road of the Christian life than we are. They’ve seen the beauty of God, the Gospel, and eternity better than we have yet, so we spend time with them because we want to think their good thoughts after them, and follow their example. We mimic their hearts and lives so the eternal beauty that’s reflected in their lives gets imprinted onto our lives, too, so that we, too, can increasingly reflect that same beauty to others.

Gatekeepers are not easy to find. They are few and far between, but they are definitely worth the search. If you find a Gatekeeper, befriend him or her as if your life depends on it—because, in one sense, it does. A Gatekeeper watches out for our best interest, often because he or she has already been down the road we’re about to take and knows the dangers we will face. If we want a victorious journey, we must take heed to their exhortations and encouragements.

A Gatekeeper of Eternal Beauty is a student of beauty, a lover of goodness, and a seeker of truth. A Gatekeeper is someone who sees beyond the façade of daily life, and even of a whole lifetime, to eternity, to heaven, to the Gospel, to ultimate reality—the way God sees things. A Gatekeeper is someone who understands that our preoccupation with eternity and the Gospel doesn’t just affect our future status in glory, but our daily life today as well. God has woven His story and His beauty into our daily lives, right here and now. Gatekeepers love life, not because their lives are perfect, but because their hearts know the One who put all the beauty into life, and they are blissfully overwhelmed by Him and by what He does in their lives.

A Gatekeeper is not only a pursuer of beauty, goodness, and truth, but is also a guardian, a sentry who makes sure that we do not lose touch with those issues which matter most. In a metaphorical, shepherding sense, they help us know which gates to enter and depart from, and they send us in the right direction.

Becoming a Gatekeeper happens to those whose worldviews are entrenched and wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This world is utterly dark until we understand and receive the forgiveness of God through Christ, who died in our place, as our Substitute on the Cross. That truth, the Gospel, is the cornerstone of all beauty in our lives. Sadly, few of us plumb its depths and its massive implications for the beauty that our lives can enjoy. Why? Because we do not understand how to take the truths we hear and read and reach to the depths of our worldview.

Reprogramming our worldview is not as easy as we may think. Changing our worldview is not about taking a class or reading a book. We can change our beliefs fairly easily, but not our worldviews. They are deeply hidden inside us, and though they get easily programmed when we are children, they get harder and harder to change as we grow up. In fact, it’s difficult to even identify them. A worldview is not what you think about; it’s simply what you think.

Very often our beliefs and our worldviews are polar opposites, even though we don’t necessarily realize it. For example, we can truly believe that life is beautiful, but have worldviews that “know” on a deeper level that life is sad and disappointing. Or we can truly believe that our bodies are good, because God made them, but on a worldview level we may hate our bodies. We can adhere to something in principle, but not really “buy it” internally. And in the contest of belief versus worldview, worldview always wins.

Gatekeepers are people who have deliberately asked God to push eternity into the depths of their thinking and to reprogram their worldview. In Romans 12, after Paul plumbed the depths of the Gospel, the very first way he applies that great theology is by exhorting us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. God wants our minds—our worldviews—renewed.

God takes such willing servants and grants them the desires of their hearts, which He Himself planted there. He shapes them into seasoned warriors, passionate poets, more prepared than ever to minister grace to those around them. He makes them better able to cry out to God in prayer than ever before. He gives them eyes to see the angels coming down from the mountain that no one else can see. He helps them see that He really does bring beauty from ashes.

As God transforms our worldviews, He puts into us a greater capacity for joy, and a deep gratitude for the good things in life that He grants us. But whether every dream of ours comes true or not, we find ourselves realizing more and more that life’s beauty does not come from God becoming our personal Genie Who grants all our wishes. We find that beauty is already all around us. Our eyes lose the scales that were over them, and we find our hearts welling up to the point of overflowing. We find ourselves smiling at everyone we meet, not because our lives are perfect, but because no matter what storm we may face, we have the settled conviction that God knows everything that is happening in our lives and has a plan for our good and His glory.

A heart set on fire with that worldview cannot help but want to cherish life and soak in the beauty all around us. The Gospel takes us to the point where we want to give and give and give, to be “wasted for Christ.” A heart set on fire for God knows how much it’s been chosen, forgiven, loved, wooed, cherished, and protected. Gatekeepers put all of life’s circumstances through that paradigm—that filter, that grid. As with all of life, any particular situation isn't just about that situation; it's about something much bigger. It’s about the Gospel and about ultimate reality, about how the circumstances of our lives reflect or explain God's character, His salvation plan, and heaven. There is a always massive theme going on behind the scenes, and though we can't see it yet, it's there.

If your heart is focused on God’s beauty, you will find that you will naturally surround yourself with Gatekeepers because those cherished moments in their company are what make life seem healthy, whole, and beautiful. You’ll find yourself asking them what they are reading, what they’ve been thinking about, what songs they’ve been singing, and what kind of art they’ve been enjoying or creating. You’ll find that you have conversations that you look back on with amazement. The cheap stuff of life—the gossip, the celebrities, the tv shows, the pursuit of more and more “stuff”—will show its true colors, and will sicken you. You won’t reject the cheap side of life because a preacher told you to, or because you read about it in a book; you will reject it because you really want to, and you will replace it with the true beauty—God’s beauty. Changing our worldviews is not about setting up a list of dos and don’ts; it’s about truly wanting to pursue God, from the heart.

Some of us might feel discouraged by these concepts because though we want that kind of life, we feel like it’s out of reach. If you don’t feel like much of a Gatekeeper, like you really want to be but can’t imagine how you’ll ever get there, take heart. Chances are you’re already on the path and don’t realize it. The key is not our perfection, but our direction. We don’t need to focus on where we think we should be or could be by now. We need to ask ourselves what makes our heart soar and what makes us feel like we are home. We need to ask ourselves what are the deepest desires of our hearts. If what you want most in life is to tell others about what God has done for them in Christ, and to glorify God with your life, and enjoy and share the beauty He’s given us in Himself and in His creation, then you are already well on the way to being a Gatekeeper. You’re already marching to the beat of a different drum than the world; keep marching. May we not grow weary.

To all that is beautiful, good, and true,

--Tim

God is not the author of confusion. When God enters a situation, truth is spoken, and truth frees us from lies, doubt, and confusion.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When Jesus is all you have, you realize that Jesus is all you ever needed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

God cannot help but bless us. He blesses us constantly, whether we realize it not. He constantly works things together for our good. He will only ever bless those who are His. What could He do that would not ultimately be a blessing, even if it currently feels like a loss or a disappointment? God is not afraid to curse those who are opposed to Him, but for those who are His children by faith, He will only bless and bless and bless. Even His discipline is a blessing, because in teaching us to give up something, He is focusing us on His will, our character, His glory, and our good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why we care about homebirth

"Because we are too short, too tall, too thin, our feet are too small, we're too old, too young, too wide, and our pelvises are too narrow, too small, too untried, or unproven or the wrong shape, and our uteruses are too scarred, or pointing the wrong way, or we are too multiparous [we've had too many babies], too fertile, too infertile, too female, too small, too big, too fat, too emotional, too detached, too strong, too weak, too intelligent, too well designed to birth, not designed well enough, and our vaginas are too scarred, too unproven, not stretchy enough or too stretchy, and we're too inconvenient, too unpredictable, too demanding, too informed, too loud, too messy, and our bodies labor too long or not long enough, and our cervices don't dilate 1 cm an hour on command and because when you hire a surgeon you get surgery, and hospitals are for sick people. And so for these and many other reasons, we are part of the homebirth movement."

--From a blog at http://joyousbirth.info.

Joyous Birth

http://www.joyousbirth.info/
"God would literally rather die than be without you."

--Matt Ballard

Monday, September 21, 2009

His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!

--Matt. 25:23

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Visiting family




Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

--Col. 4:6

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ridley Creek State Park




God sees absolutely everything we do, and knows every thought and intention of our hearts. That may be either the most comforting or frightening thought possible. He saw everything before we ever did it or experienced it. He rejoiced with us or cried tears for us before we ever did. And He has a plan for our ultimate good.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Abraham believed in what God had said, and God credited it to Abraham as righteousness."

--Gen. 15:6

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. They cannot understand it, because it is discerned only by those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grace by Laura Story

The question is not whether we understand what God is doing in our lives; the question is whether we will trust Him to give and take away, and to see it all as blessing, since we are His children and He is our loving Father. "Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say, it is well with my soul."

The sweet, simple things of life

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”

--Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, September 14, 2009

Answer by Sarah McLachlan

I will be the answer
At the end of the line
I will be there for you
While you take the time
In the burning of uncertainty
I will be your solid ground
I will hold the balance
If you can't look down

If it takes my whole life
I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all gone out
You'll still be burning so bright

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind
Take me to a
Place so holy
That I can wash this from my mind
The memory of choosing not to fight

If it takes my whole life
I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
'Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all burned out
You'll still be burning so bright

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind
Do you ever think about God’s laughter and sense of humor? Divine humor is fun, colorful, occasionally harsh, always deserved, and ... [if you would like to read the rest of this essay, please click here].

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Divine laughter

Do you ever think about God’s laughter and sense of humor? Divine humor is fun, colorful, occasionally harsh, always deserved, and not emulated by us nearly enough. If we want to be like Him, we might want to look at what puts a smile on His face and what makes Him laugh.

I imagine that God frequently laughs because of how much fun He has creating things. We all know the joy of little children with play-dough, and the fun things they create. Imagine how much fun God had at creation, and how much fun He still has sustaining His creation. No doubt He chuckled as He made the platypus and the giraffe, or when He decided to make elephants and first watched them trying to mate. He is the Master Artist, brilliant and creative to the extreme, yet mixed a sense of humor and a love of fun that we haven't even begun to understand. I am sure God laughs often, and has been doing so for all eternity. God isn’t a killjoy; He’s the author of joy.

The Bible teaches that God delights to give His children good things. We know how much a loving human father delights in the joy His children receive when opening up a gift, how he laughs and smiles at their innocent pleasure and fulfillment. He jokes with them, plays with them, gives them gifts, and delights to give them a safe, loving environment in which to enjoy themselves.

How much more does God do that? I can only imagine the laughter and smiles God enjoys when a person realizes his or her need for the Cross. Or when His children realize the joy of giving up their rights and dreams for the sake of ministering to others. Or when someone counts the cost of witnessing, and gets to see the faith spread to an unexpected proportion. Or when an engaged couple who are living for Him get to finally enjoy their wedding day and wedding night. Or when a baby is born, and the wonder and splendor of life takes that couple to new heights of love and joy. God delights to surprise His children good gifts, and no doubt He laughs when He sees how beautifully overwhelmed we are at His blessings.

In Genesis, God made Abraham wait until he and his wife were in their retirement years to make their bodies fertile. Abraham and Sarah didn’t deserve it, nor did they even believe it at first when God promised it to them. But when the baby was born, they knew God had been gracious to them, and they were filled with so much joy that they named their son “Laughter”.

Do we laugh enough? Do we let our sense of joy take over our hearts and faces often enough? Proverbs 31 says that it is a virtue to smile at the future. Are we willing to admit we're a little too concerned about the details of life’s myriad situations, both past, present, and future? We ultimately have no control over the path God gives us, yet God has said that He will make everything turn out for good because we love Him. Are we willing to take the adventure that He has for us, not with fretfulness or apprehension, but with courage, joy, and laughter?

You can tell by the time someone is an adult whether they have this mentality. Their smile is imprinted into their face muscles. They are positive and optimistic people, not because everything around them is going right, but because they know that God will do what is right and that He loves them very much.

God surely laughs often simply because of the joy of giving. That is a joy He wants us to share. He says in 2 Corinthians that He wants us to be extremely joyful givers, sharing what we have with those around us out of the overflow of our hearts. How could we not be joyful to give to His work when we see the big picture? I mean, really, think about it:
  • We didn’t even deserve to be a part of God’s plan, to be declared righteous and made worthy. We were given grace upon grace upon grace, even when we didn’t know how desperately we needed it.
  • The small sacrifices we make in life are nothing compared to the sacrifice God made for us at the Cross, and yet God chooses to praise us for our sacrifices and to say “Well done” when we’re just doing what servants should do anyway.
  • Think of the investment return! What investment on this planet is going to give a one billion percent return or more? Yet the smallest things we do in life for God’s glory, like giving a cup of cold water to someone in need, reap benefits for all eternity.
  • We’re not only reaping benefits for eternity, we’re reaping them now, because we know and believe that even our meager offerings—our two pennies or our few loaves and fishes—can be multiplied exponentially by God, right here and now. God does immensely beyond what we could ask or imagine.
  • Whether we would see benefits here or in eternity or not, we know that the reason we’re giving at all is because we’ve been set free! We know the power and penalty of sin and the lies it told us when we were slaves to it, and the darkness of the prisons it put us in. And now we’re dancing in the light! We had broken lives, and He made us new. We were once beggars, but now we are free, and showing other beggars where to find the bread. If that is not enough to put joy in your heart and in your voice, nothing is!
God’s sense of humor also extends to darker humor as well. God’s Word is full of examples where God uses irony and even harsh sarcasm to make a point. He does not hesitate to make fun of the fools who set themselves up as His enemies. It’s clear that irony will be a major motif of final judgment as God proves that He meant what He said. He not only says that we’ll “reap what we sow,” but that He will “pay us back double”. It will be ironic to no end to see those who were first become last and last become first, and those who thought they got away with their sin find that they have another think coming.

God thinks those who mock Him are so foolish that they deserve not just judgment, but sarcasm. Psalm 2 says that He laughs at them; He’s “amused at their presumption” and scoffs at them. He connects people’s sins in life with their judgment in eternity and shakes His head in wonder, saying, “Why are you so intent on dying? Are you really that foolish? Are you really that bull-headed that you will jump right off the cliff despite my warnings? Do you not see the irony of how much you act like you love yourself, yet you are actually, in view of eternity, proving that you hate yourself and a glutton for punishment?”

The Scriptures are full of sarcasm, from God’s speech to Job, to God’s mockery of the false gods of Egypt (through the plagues aimed directly at the power of those false gods), to the prophets’ speeches to the nation of Israel, to Christ’s sharp answers to religious hypocrites, to Paul’s blatant name-calling, to the ironies in the final judgment of Revelation.

We will be blown away in eternity at not just what happens there, but at the contrasts between:
  • What people did in life versus what they could have chosen
  • The obviousness that we can’t get away with sin to the silliness of how much we tried to
  • How much the afflicted will be comforted in eternity versus how much the afflicters will be discomforted
God turns human reality on its head in the face of divine, ultimate reality, and the contrast is not just striking; it’s downright hilarious. It’s not that God takes any delight in the death of the wicked. God isn’t laughing with glee; He’s laughing at the foolishness. He cried over them for thousands of years, begging them to turn from their sin, and now, as they shake their fists at Him, He is done crying over them; He gives them what they asked for, and laughs at their hard hearts and bizarre choices. If you are inclined to be so sweet that you can't appreciate God's sense of sarcasm, you've misunderstood God. Let's not try to be more holy or loving than God; His holiness and love don't preclude sarcasm and an appreciation of the ironies of time and eternity.

When you add it all up, it’s clear that for many reasons, God laughs. Some reasons are glad, and some are sad. But it is ultimate reality: the divine sense of joy and the divine sense of humor has ample room for laughter of all kinds. If you can’t smile at the beauty of life, if you can’t laugh at life and even at yourself sometimes, if you can’t chuckle at the ironies of life and eternity, and if you can’t occasionally enjoy the same kind of sarcasm God does, then you’re missing out on some of the most obvious, colorful, and fun aspects of who God is. So make some jokes. Don’t be afraid of using a little sarcasm (God isn’t afraid to)! Laugh a little! Laugh a lot! God does, and so should we.

The heart of God

The Year of the Lord's Favor

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

"For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
and make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed."

I delight greatly in the LORD;

my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.

--Isaiah 61
If Christ sets you free, you are truly free.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Slaves for Christ

Hands already full

One by one God took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Till I was empty-handed,
Every glittering toy was lost.
And I walked earth's highways grieving
In my rags and poverty,
Till I heard His voice inviting:
"Lift those empty hands to Me".
So I turned my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches
Till they could contain no more.
And at last I comprehended,
With my stupid mind and dull
That God could not pour His riches
Into hands already full.

--Anonymous

The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--Robert Frost

What dreams may come

Separate yourself to the Lord. There are common, everyday dinner plates, and there is fine china. Special plates. Set apart. Not for common use. Different. Reserved for a unique and privileged use. Prepared for something more than the ordinary.

Separate yourself unto the Lord. Let Him call you His holy people, set apart for Him, His glory, and the honor of His name.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More mercy

"There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us."

--Richard Sibbes
Give back to God a portion of what He has blessed you with, with a grateful heart, in thanksgiving for all His provision and care.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We are made in the image of God. We are His representatives to all of creation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

May the depths of me collide with the depths of You; may I be transformed through and through, from the inside out.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Recently I’ve been thinking about the desperate needs around us, both locally and around the world. I recently heard ... [to read the rest of this essay, please click here]

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We are all called

Recently I’ve been thinking about the desperate needs around us, both locally and around the world. I recently heard a Christian talking about how he thought some people are called to the hard ministries, like ministering to those dying of starvation or those without the Bible in their language, and others are not called to that. He also admitted that he liked his comforts too much to even consider going. What he verbalized, I see lived out in the majority of Christians that I observe. Our greatest concerns appear to be what coffee shop our Bible study should meet at next and what Christian concert is coming to town next.

Many of us have recently seen a video online which reminded us of some facts which should spur us to think differently:

  • There are 13 million orphans around the world.
  • 30,000 starve to death every day.
  • In the last hour, 1,625 children were forced to live on the streets. 1,667 children died from malnutrition or diseases. 115 children became prostitutes. 257 children were orphaned because of AIDS.
  • Half the world’s population live on less than $2 each day.
  • There are approximately 100,000 missionaries working in the world today. About 3% work among the unreached.

And what of getting the Bible and the Gospel message to the world? While we have hundreds of translations and versions in English, 2,393 language groups, comprised of 200 million people, have no Bible in their own language.

At what point do these facts become meaningful enough to us to make us go? Would those people in far-off places mean more to us if we were blood relations? If they lived across the street? Is it “out of sight, out of mind”? Because we don’t have to see their hollow hearts and dying bodies every day, we ignore them?

Would it make a difference if our positions were reversed? If we were the orphans, starving, dying of terrible diseases, and we had a chance to beg someone to come help us? If you were the poor, imprisoned, dying person in a far-off place, without hope, what would you say to someone in our culture, whose main goal is to live a “standard Christian life” in a clean-cut, comfortable, safe environment for the rest of his life? How would you get such a person to have enough compassion on you to believe he can make a difference, and to take steps to do so? How important would your rescue be to you if you were the one dying on the street, orphaned by disease or war, and with many questions about eternity but no answers at all in your language?

Our lives are not ours. We belong to Jesus Christ. We do not call the shots. Our all-consuming passion and mission is to be useful to the Master. He has the resources: what He needs are people who are willing to give up anything to heed the call He gives to all His followers.

Who will go for me? Whom can I send? Here I am, Lord; send me!

The call to follow Christ is a call to give up anything God asks us to—everything, if necessary—for the sake of ministering grace to others and sharing with them the Good News of the cross.

There is no second choice. There are not Christians who are called to serious ministry and those who are not. We are all called to find the darkness around us and shine the light of Christ. We start in our own homes, and go across the street, across the country, and across the world. No matter where we are, we have one uniting cause: people all around us are lost and dying without Christ, and we alone have the message of salvation.

While we are going about our lives, the most pressing needs deserve our greatest attention. A massive wound gets much more attention than a hangnail. Our missing a few meals here or there is not on the same level as the starvation killing thousands each day. And our comfort is not worthy to be compared to the suffering happening on our city streets and all around the world.

When and how did we become so callous that others’ desperate needs became so secondary to our comforts, so disconnected from our purpose in life? At what point did having a quiet, peaceable life, which God asks us to pray for, become equated with living in suburbia and focusing on which coffee shop to visit or which movie to see next?

God has not called us to mediocrity, self-centeredness, or complacency. He has called us to radical obedience and total commitment to reach out in love to the world. Discipleship means following Christ, and it has a cost which must be counted—but which is infinitely worth it.

Proverbs 24:11 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” If it were you or I being led away to slaughter, we would be horrified to think that there were Christians in other countries who were praying for us on Sundays but whose primary thought all week long was about funding their retirement funds so they could take lots of vacations and keeping up on the latest sports scores. We would sit in wonder at the audacity of the contrast. We are a people who care enough to talk about it, yet feel no compulsion to go, as if it’s someone else’s problem and someone else’s call.

If parents were staring out their home’s front window, and saw their daughter being attacked, would they do something to stop it? Of course. What if they got a text message or call from their daughter across town? Of course. How about a state away? Still, yes. How about in another country? Still, yes; parents would do anything to rescue their beloved daughter.

What about a niece? How about a neighbor’s daughter? How about a stranger’s daughter? How far does the example have to be removed for us to justify letting it suddenly become someone else’s problem, and no longer urgent? How often does it have to be reported on the news before we just shrug our shoulders and forget about it? How many years of self-centeredness does it take for us to picture such suffering and just walk away so we can catch up on our Facebook updates before we watch our favorite reality show?

No parent would say, “That’s not my calling to rescue my daughter.” No one would think of it as a special gift or talent. No one would act like it is a difficult sacrifice to go help his or her daughter escape such a situation. It would be understood that it’s a parent’s responsibility, and a parent would be proud to go. It would be an honor and a privilege to sacrifice anything to rescue a daughter in need. Why is it somehow a massive sacrifice we’re unwilling to make when it’s someone else’s daughter? And why are we so short-sighted about the toll the sacrifice will make on our lives when Christ has said that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life"?

I will not allow this culture or even the Christian culture to callous me to the needs of the world. I am personally responsible, as all Christians are, to heed the call to reach out those with the most desperate needs. Book clubs and coffee houses and Superbowl parties are not wrong, but if that’s the sum and substance of our outreach, we have missed the boat.

Do we not understand the words? People are starving to death right now. Children are being sold into prostitution this very second. People are dying this instant in groups that still have no Bible.

How can we say this is anyone’s problem but ours—each and every one of ours? How can we turn a blind eye and focus our lives on anything else but those crying out with the deepest needs? If it were you or I, it would be an urgent matter. I will not let it become less than urgent simply because it is someone else’s problem and because it may cost me dearly to reach them. What cost could be too great to pay, especially in light of the great cost God paid--His own Son--to rescue us? If I were a father, I would ask others to be willing to pay any cost to rescue my children if I could not do so myself. It would eat me alive to watch my children be attacked or die of starvation or diseases. No cost is too great to rescue those who are perishing. No cost is too great in light of the cross.

I will not let my privileged status as someone who grew up in a safer, wealthier environment, to allow me to ignore the urgency of others’ plights. I will answer the call. As soon possible, I will go, and until I can go, I will help send others and pray for them, as well as for those to whom they are ministering. And as soon as I am able, I will answer the call that God issues to all of us.

Lord, send me!

There is always time to do what God created us to do

Those whose hearts are completely His

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely His.

--2 Chron. 16:9

The Things We Leave Behind by Michael Card

In need of grace

"To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace…there is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are."

--Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel

Listen by Michael Card

Amazing grace

"Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace."

--Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel

Carpe Lumen by Elijah Bossenbroek

A broken and a contrite heart You will not despise.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Feels Like Home by Chantal Kreviazuk

Since God has forgiven us for everything, there is absolutely nothing for which we cannot forgive others. Nothing. Our crimes against God are heinous, treacherous, and constant--sometimes even after we have come to know Him as our Savior. Yet He forgives with infinite love because He Himself took all our punishment. If the God of the Universe can forgive all our debts, then there is no debt incurred against us in life that we cannot fully forgive. Healing and restoration may take time, but forgiveness is a radical but crucial choice, and is the fruit of a changed heart. Unless we forgive others, it evidences that we have not truly received God's forgiveness. Let's take our focus off the injury or injustice done against us, and remember the injury and injustice we caused a holy God, as well as the undeserved forgiveness and lavish grace He poured out upon us in response.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I can be your hero

What a blessing to simply sit in His presence and be still, to push out the noise of the world and listen to the Holy Spirit instead. I've always loved turning out the lights and sitting on the . . . [to read the rest of this article, click here].

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yahweh is a jealous God. He will have all of you or none of you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Seek what is true, good, right, and beautiful. God put beauty everywhere to testify to His amazing, creative power, and to point us to Him, the source of all truth, goodness, righteousness, and beauty. Soak it up and share it everywhere you can.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We are not called to change hearts; we are called to be faithful to share the Gospel of Grace. God alone changes hearts, and God alone decides whose hearts He will change.