Friday, March 30, 2018

Bought Debt

If you're like me you enjoy learning new things. A couple of days ago I learned that there is a translation of the Bible called "The Geneva Bible" that was an English translation predating the King James. I'd heard of this Bible before, but I thought the person who mentioned it was severely confused. Turns out it's a real thing. Now I know. Last week I learned that my dentist and his staff are really, really good at that game with the mouthpiece where you have to guess what your teammate is saying. They get a lot of practice with that one.
Some things aren't as much fun to learn. Sometimes learning something new leaves us feeling disappointed and disgusted. For example, I recently learned that there are companies out there that literally purchase outstanding debt. Did you know this? I had no idea this happened until someone told me about it. It's pretty gross, actually.  These companies exploit the misfortunes of others. Sure, some have made unwise decisions and of course people should pay what they owe. It doesn't matter how you look at it, it still seems merciless. What these companies do is contact lenders with offers to take on the claims of people who have outstanding debts. They buy the balance for a fraction of the deficit and then they wait. Periodically, I suppose, they check the borrower's credit  until he or she has a high enough score. They then contact the borrower and threaten to take them to court if they don't pay. It seems pretty rotten to me.
But strangely enough it also reminds me of Jesus.
There sits my debt: a long list of wrongs. Every boast. Every ugly word. Every time I choose self over righteousness; my name justly scrawled at the bottom of the mess in indelible ink. I deserve the penalty- to be eternally separated from God. I could never live with Him in paradise while bearing my sinful heart. I also have no means of paying. On my own I have no hope.Today is Good Friday. 2,000 years ago Jesus endured unspeakable suffering in order to buy our debt. Yours and mine and everyone else's, ever. In one outrageous act, He reclaimed our deficit. I will dramatically understate by saying, however, that He did not merely pay a fraction of the cost. The price of our debt was His precious, sinless, blood. Because of the perfection of the price, the payment was absolute. Every person, ever, has had his or her debt purchased by the Son of God.  1 Peter tells us that Jesus died one time and for each of us; that He invaded death and hell (Revelation 1:18) and ascended to heaven with all authority. That means that He doesn't go back to the cross every time a new believer is ready to accept Him. He doesn't have to go to the enemy to reclaim every sin-list, because the sin of the world was laid on His sinless shoulders on that first Good Friday. Like the debt collector, Jesus already owns the debt, and is waiting. Like the debt collector He peruses us.Unlike the debt collector, He is not waiting for us to be able to pay Him back because He knows that will never happen.  Unlike the debt collector when we acknowledge that, yes and that is our debt, that we are in fact guilty, when we accept His gift and begin our new life with Him, He shows us that He's written His own name in place of ours.  Forgiven. Paid in Full. It is Finished.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Feed My Starving Children

Matthew 25:35-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
37 ‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?”
40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Recently my church participated in a Feed My Starving Children event. It was hosted at the high school by the NHS.  I was sort of expecting it to be like a church carry in: people show up and find something to do to help out.
It wasn't like that at all. A better way to describe it would be "extremely efficient well-oiled machine." Not to mention "marvelous fun." If you ever get the chance to be involved in a FMSC pack you should definitely do it. 
After you sign in, you watch a video explaining what you'll be doing. They send you off in your groups and everyone has a job. Because it's so well organized each job is specific and the whole operation is very fast-paced.  Our session lasted a little under two hours and the time just flew by. 
My job was to take the packs from the weighers and hold them in the press so the next person could seal them and then hand them off to the packer. I got to know the delightful girl who was sealing the packs and that in itself was a blessing.
They encouraged each group to cheer when they completed a box, My group had fun coming up with creative ways to celebrate whenever we reached our 36-pack quotas, including one "Finding Nemo" seagull imitation (Mine! MINE! minemine!) 
And, wait, there was something else special about FMSC, what was it? Oh, yeah! It provides food to hungry people. Lots of it. 
They work by donation and volunteers. People donate money and time and the result is a highly successful way to feed hungry people all over the world. In our session alone that day we packed enough food to feed over 100 children a meal a day for a year. 
Over 90% of the money they raise goes toward meal production. That means that they depend heavily on word of mouth for marketing. So I'm telling you about it in hopes that you might get involved and let others know, too. 
And one more thing. I left the high school that day feeling deeply blessed to have been a part of such something so meaningful. Could they have accomplished it had I not been there? Absolutely. God doesn't need us to carry out His plans, but He gives us opportunities to glorify His name. 
I'm a firm believer that one of the best ways to get blessed is to serve someone else. I hope I have a chance to work another of these events someday. I hope you do, too! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Name Calling

Drop off/pick up time at my son's preschool is usually pretty uneventful, but one morning offered a small adventure.
I was getting back into my car when I noticed a little white dog running around the parking lot.  A lady was trying unsuccessfully to coax him back into her car so a few of the other preschool parents and I tried to help herd him over to her.
We called to him, whistled, and tried to corral him. He was having none of our directions but heaps of fun. It was a glorious game for the little white dog.
"What's his name?" I asked the self-conscious handler of the naughty dog.
She smiled at me apologetically. 
"Chase" was her amusing answer.
I think about names often. Naming characters, for me, is one of the hardest things about story writing. I work in a library and I'm always looking up names of patrons to process their transactions and it's fun to see how many "Susans" or how few "Scarlets" there are in the Evergreen program.
I think one of the reasons names hold fascination for me is that my name (except, perhaps, for the spelling) is so very ordinary. Just today I came across at least two people with the same name as me.  Having the same name as so many others makes me feel common and uninteresting sometimes. It's silly, I know.
But there is one thing about my name that I love: the meaning. My name means "beloved" and like Chase the mischievous dog, it fits. Not because I'm especially charming or adorable or anything, but because of The One who goes by many, many names. Here are just a few:


I am loved beyond comprehension by Him. 
And so are you.
 He takes away our orphan status and calls us sons. No matter how ordinary, rejected, unworthy or forgotten we feel we are His Beloved. 
Check out this very exciting, mysterious verse from Revelation. This was the passage was the message of a recent sermon at church and I've been thinking of it ever since:

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.                                                                       Revelation 2:17

Maybe others have given you names. The enemy sure has. Maybe you've given even yourself some. I know how that feels. Hello My Name is...Ugly? Weird? Irrelevant? Ordinary? I've worn all those names and more on my lapel. 
But no one has the authority to tell us who we are except the One who created us. Not even ourselves.
 Our Father is going to give us a new name. Something special that tells us what we really are to him. I don't really understand  all that this verse means and I certainly have no idea what sort of new name Jesus would have for us, but I know one thing: While, like Chase the dog, our name will suit us, our new name will not be one of the  soul-killing, untrue labels we've  worn here on earth. Our name will not be "Ordinary" because we are extraordinarily loved. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

I give my scared to Jesus.

In His Hands

It was a dark and stormy night.
No, really. With all respect to both Madeline L'Engle and Snoopy, it was truly windy and ominous that night and my five-year-old didn't welcome his bedtime. He was afraid the stormy sounds would be too scary to allow him to sleep.
I remembered something our pastor once said. First he reminded us about how big God is. Creator of all. Everything in His hands. Everything,including time. He created time and holds it in His hands. So that thing that's bothering you? The problem that's hanging over your head? You can put it in His hands. "Put it there in His hand," he told us, "set it right next to time."
I reminded my son that we, his family, were there. His brother was there in the room and Daddy and I just across the hall. Jesus right there with him. I told my little boy to imagine his "scared" like a stone in his hand. He could take that stone and put it right into God's hand. The same with his mad and his jealous and his embarrassed. Put it like a stone into His hand and He'll hold it for you.
Later that night my husband overheard him telling his brother,"I give my scared to Jesus."
What freedom.
You know what I love most about that? Jesus wants those things. He isn't put off by our weaknesses. He died for our sin and conquered our shortcomings with His resurrection and He wants us to give them to Him. And once surrendered they are entirely manageable in His hand.
My anxiety: spiky, corrosive, and clinging becomes a tiny pebble, cool and innocuous in His hand. My discouragement? My confusion? All of it completely manageable and un-intimidating when He is in control of it.
It's not about me. What a relief to say so. One of the many, many benefits of being His child is that my burdens are not mine to carry. He promised we would have trouble and He promised He was master of it. 

John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 I can give my scared to Jesus. You can give your worry, your hurt your resentment to Him. When you do feel His peace wash over you as see your trouble grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Be True To Your School

I'm sure the man didn't intend to make me feel bad. It was my own fault and he had no way of knowing. My husband and I were waiting for our food at Wendy's and while I was collecting drinks and those little tubs of ketchup, an older man pointed at me and said the name of a city in Indiana.
"Terre Haute," he smiled.
He thought I'd been there because I was wearing a tee that boasted the name of a college I did not attend. I felt bad. I told him, no, I hadn't graduated from Indiana State, but Indiana Wesleyan. He was unfazed.
"Marion," he nodded.
He seemed concerned with nothing other than his geographical knowledge of institutes of higher education, but I still felt guilty. Dishonest. I love my school and I felt a little false wearing a shirt that implied I had gone somewhere else. I bought the shirt at a second hand place because I liked the fit. I wasn't losing sleep over it or anything, it just didn't feel honest.
The only IWU sweatshirt I have left is as old as graduation day and it's pretty ratty so I asked for some new shirts for Christmas. Now I save the Indiana State one for housework or painting and wear my new IWU ones when I go out. If anyone asks me about it I can tell them, yes, I graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University. Go Wildcats!
But here's the thing: All this silly tee shirt stuff made me realize that when I wear the name of my school I am a representative. It's like I tell my boys sometimes, "When people see you they think of Daddy and me. They think of Grandma and Grandpa. You're representing your family and you should honor your family."
So what does that say about my walk with Christ? If I wear a tee shirt that sports the  IWU logo I remind myself to behave in such a way that honors the school. Every day I am a daughter, wife, and mother and I need to conduct myself in a way that brings honor to my family.
Most of all I am follower of Christ. When I let Him down it's like I'm wearing someone else's tee shirt, pledging my allegiance
to someone other than Him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Useless Weapons

I've been thinking a lot lately about the value people put on appearances. More to my point, I've been thinking a lot about the things people are willing to do to get what they want. Identity is important. Status...not so much. It's especially upsetting to me when it comes to believers. We're all sinners and every one of us has a sinful heart that wants to be selfish. But it seems that there are some who are more intentional about their disobedience. When it's not just a bad habit, but a strategy. 
Human beings have always used little tricks and gimmicks to get what they want. How about intimidation? Temper and abuse are effective tools for sending others scurrying out of one's way. On the other side of the spectrum is charm. It may be bogus, duplicitous, conditional, and totally insincere, but it achieves a dual payoff: getting one's way and stroking one's ego. The manipulations are probably endless. Whining, bribing, guilt-tripping, snubbing, flattering, and belittling. We humans have found ways of avoiding discomfort and accountability.
Like I said, there are payoffs to these acts of selfishness and dishonesty. But there is a huge downside. While it feels good in the moment, ill-gotten victories are cheap and temporary. But much, much graver, these tricks do not work on God.
A prominent atheist was once asked what he would do if he found himself face-to-face with the Creator he so vehemently denied. He said that he would ask Him, "Why did you take such pains to hide yourself?"
I  promise you that when he passed away in 1970, he met God and yet did not ask that question. All of our favorite little weapons that have been so effective in manipulating our brothers and sisters? We won't even think of trying them on God. Though I honestly believe that there are people who have this plan. 
God will not be intimidated by your anger. He will not cower at your temper. He will not wink at your sin because you're just so gosh-darn cute. He will not rush to soothe your whining or be abashed at your scolding. You will not out-think, out-talk, interrupt, or confuse Him. Neither will I. We won't even consider it when we stand before Him and His indescribable holiness and glory. Remember when Moses questioned God? Job? To put it mildly, they did not come out the victors of those conversations. Frankly, I think I would faint with terror if God said to me "Brace yourself like a man;I will question you, and you shall answer me." 
Remember that part near the middle of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" when the four children are making plans with The Beavers? Edmond, having already been deceived and poisoned by the White Witch, asked a question. 

   "She won't turn him into stone, too?" said Edmond.
   "Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!" answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh. "Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her own two feet and look him in the face it'll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her."

Yes, Jadis had power. She was a witch who made it winter for over 100 years. "Always winter and never Christmas". She turned the beloved Mr. Tumnus, and many others, to stone. She had gained fear, respect, and in some cases even devotion from the Narnians. These temporary victories caused her to greatly overestimate her power. The White Witch (though she knew she was no match for Aslan, that Aslan had no match) still dared to challenge him. She lost. 

We, too, will lose if we dare to think that our ludicrous, petty, human weapons will silence God. We may feel we are a powerful, victorious Queen Jadis, turning people to stone if they get in our way, but don't be deceived. Standing on our own two feet and looking Him in the face is the most we will do and more than I expect of us. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Who Told You That You Were Naked?

Conviction and Condemnation

Last month I was listening to an interview on the radio. James Merritt was talking about his book "52 Weeks With Jesus". The interviewer, Lynne Ford, read an excerpt from his book and I've been thinking about it ever since. You can follow the link to hear the whole interview, but I'll paraphrase the excerpt here.

There was a group of tourists watching a flock of sheep. A man was chasing them where he wanted them to go and one of the people watching asked their guide why the shepherd was chasing the sheep from behind. Don't sheep follow their shepherd?
Yes they do, the guide told them. The person chasing the sheep wasn't the shepherd.
It was the butcher. Jesus leads. It's the devil who chases.

Notice that both motivate. Jesus asks us to go along with Him where He's already gone ahead of us, protecting, preparing, promising. The 23rd Psalm is crammed with practical allegory about the trusting relationship. Sheep trust their shepherd.

Then there's the enemy. He chases us from behind with fear, accusation, and discouragement. We don't move because we trust the devil we move because we fail to trust The Shepherd. We believe the lie just like Adam and Eve did.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” [see the subtle cynicism here? The ever-so-slight criticism of God? The devil knew what God really said. He wasn't asking a question, he was planting one in Eve's mind]

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

4“You will not certainly die,”[big, fat, filthy, LIE] the serpent said to the woman. 5“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, [very true] and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [he knows they don't understand the implications of "knowing". He knows that he's implied that God is holding out on them, that He's offered something less than His best. Not directly spoken, but another HUGE lie, nonetheless.]

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. [doesn't it just make your heart sick every time you read it?] She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [Adam sitting silent is a topic for another day] 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. [They let the enemy chase them to their shame]

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Okay, so if you've hung in here with me though my little commentary, here's my point:
God is not the one who shames. He is not the one who scorns, or condemns.
The enemy does that.
Though he has nothing anywhere like Our Father's power* he is sneaky and efficient. He mixes up lies and the truth to trip you up. Your enemy will chase you toward sin and then try to make you feel like scum for failing.
If the voice whispering to your spirit is sneering at you in disgust you can bet your favorite hoodie that it's not Your Father, but your enemy.

So here's a practical example for you: You lost your temper and spoke harshly to a friend or family member. You know you hurt them and now you regret your words and your tone.

The enemy: You really messed up. They hate you now and you've done irreparable damage. Things like that are the reason [fill in the blank with an insecurity he's choosing to pick at, adding discouragement to guilt and shame]

The Father: Your words were spoken in anger. You know from My Word that it is not My hope for you to sin in your anger. I want better for my children. You must ask forgiveness of Me and your loved one. In the future, call on Me when you are frustrated. I will use these trials to make you more like Me.

So there's some really good news. You have total access to The One who loves you as if there's no one else to love. James 4;7 says "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Because of Him you have authority over the enemy of your soul. At the Name of Jesus, he, the accuser,will be the one chased away.

*read: the devil is not God's opposite; God has no opposite. the devil is not God's nemesis, though he's love for us to think it. He's under no such delusion himself, but knows he is defeated and has no power other than what God allows him. Again, that's a topic for another day.