Monthly Archives: November 2013

Redemption

Redemption is what makes Christianity different, it’s what makes Christians different.  Or – it’s supposed to.

When you are redeemed, what went before your redemption is cleaned.  Your former identity is wiped clean.  You are made new.  No more holding on to the identity of who you once were.

People do two things that aren’t redemption instead of accepting the redemption offered.

  1.  They make excuse.  “Because I was a purple unicorn, it was really okay that I ate all the chihuahuas on that block.  Anyway chihuahuas are super annoying.”  Excusing away what you’ve done doesn’t do any good – it makes it so it’s easier to do wrong things more often, and more easily.  There’s always an excuse!
  2. They self-identify with the wrong thing, and make it their world.  “I stole a candy bar from a vending machine when I was six.  I am a thief.”  And then act like a thief for the rest of their lives – compiling the problem rather than dealing with it.

What Christians are supposed to do sounds more like, “I ate all the chihuahuas, and while chihuahuas are super annoying, it was absolutely wrong.  I’m staying away from tasty dogs from here on out – and those drugs that made me think that I was a purple unicorn.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for bearing my sins.”  We walk in freedom.

This freedom should leave us overjoyed and really annoyingly happy.  It’s SUPPOSED TO.  But mostly it freaks us out that we’re redeemed and the wrong things that we’ve done over our lifetimes have been covered, so instead we do some combination of making excuses and identifying ourselves with shame or covering over the evil.  (Hypocrisy – source).

This shouldn’t be.  We’re supposed to live free, leave our sins nailed to the cross, and get on with our lives to the glory of the God who chose to die for us.

No good comes of lying about what we did, covering it over, or making it our identity.  Freedom comes from knowing the truth and letting Him set you free.

Christians are free.  Let’s hold onto that.  (And make sure the non-Christians know that the invitation to this freedom is open!)

Faith

I’ve had an interesting few days, and I ended up last night with a more visceral understanding of faith.  I need to write this down before it drifts off… it’s important.

I was doing something that God meant me to do.  Something that God, apparently, made me to do – it’s in one of the categories of things that I do a lot of. *  He arranged – that my time with my friend would happen at all.  He arranged every bit of our time together, scheduling things that I didn’t know needed to be scheduled, making things work together that simply should not have worked, and God gave me the energy to work through sleep deprivation, which is not one of my strong suits.  I come out of the time with my friend and … my laundry is on target, the house is still reasonably clean, good dinners were made every night, even my TG grocery shopping got done.   My life for the past four days has been so well orchestrated that I laughed inwardly more than once.  

It’s in the Bible, that all things work together for good, to them that are called of God…  but it’s so easy to tie yourself into a ball of questions, “what good, whose good, what’s going on here, this isn’t fun…”

From my exhaustion came an inward peace.  It’s not very verbal, but is very certain.  I’m going to work on sharing this with you.

Faith is – showing up and doing what you’ve been asked to do, and not worrying about how it’s all going to come together.

If I get up every morning and do the tasks, say the words, that God has put before me, then I’m done.  I don’t have to worry about combining my efforts with the efforts of others or stressing about praying just the right phrase or … whatever.  I can do what good has been set before me to do, and then rest assured that God will settle the consequences.  

I’m not off the hook for doing my best, not in the  least.  I am off the hook for the worry associated with daily life.  The future?  Not my problem.  God’s got this.  More and more with my prayers, as I bring things to His attention, the response is, “I’ve got this.”  I show up, I do my best, and I  stop worrying about it.

This helps me, as I have any number of friends who are unsaved.  My friend who came to visit is at least functionally non-Christian.  I pray for them – and worry that I’m praying the right things into their lives.  How silly!  God isn’t a djinn, waiting to twist my words (and only responding to exactly what I ask).  God is a benevolent, all-loving father who wants the best for all His children.   He wants souls in His kingdom.  Does that mean that all my unsaved friends will end up in Heaven?  I doubt it.  But He will make good of what He asks me to do, and He will use me according to His good will and good purposes.  And they are GOOD.  Not whimsical or cruel or designed to play headgames with us.  They are good.  

I’m not putting this as well as I’d like… I’ll keep trying to develop it.  Ask some questions of me, that always helps clarify things.  🙂

 

* Does anyone else really enjoy doing the things that they were made for doing?  Even when those things aren’t totally easy?  Just like a runner really enjoys running, the feel of the muscles straining… I enjoy doing the stuff I was meant to do… anyone else feel that way?

Make time for people

If people are forever and civilizations are temporary, doesn’t it make sense to spend time, energy and money on people rather than on things?

This is part of the point of having a wife at home after the children are toddlers, in need of immediate and constant care.  Even with homeschooling mine, I am able to shuffle my time around so that I can get on the phone with someone that needs an ear, make a meal for someone in need… just be available.  (If I do too much of this, it gets too much – I have room to shuffle, I’m not sitting around with nothing to do).  

Lots of things in life require someone to just be there – it’s like making stews or baking bread.  You see the time in hours required and you faint – but mostly it’s not about sitting there for hours messing with something the whole time.  You just have to poke whateveritis with a stick occasionally to make sure it stays on course, and the rest of the time you use to do other stuff.

Making time for people in life is like that – you just leave little air gaps in your day, in your life, so that you can do people stuff.  People stuff is the stuff that matters.  I know, it feels like thingstuff is the stuff that matters.  To me too!  But resist the urge to turn into a Martha – you can do the dishes later.

The mark of a Christian is supposed to be love for one’s neighbor.  How can we love our neighbor in spirit and in truth if we can’t do anything for him/her?  Are we supposed to give in to the ethos of today and just think happy thoughts about them?   James says that’s not much use.  (James 2:16)  I’m pretty sure, since “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the second commandment (after “Love the Lord your God”) that we should make sure that we’re really loving people.  

Speaking of loving – we need to love one another, as Christians in the family.  I might disagree heartily with some points of your doctrine – you know, there’s a good probability of that – but if we’re both Christians, both part of the family of Christ… I’ve got your back.  Families take care of our disagreements in private, and we stand together in public.  We take care of one another and patch each other up and scootch each other towards what’s best.  Yeah, we squabble – what family doesn’t? – but we need to remember that we are a FAMILY!  The concept is to get more folks to join our family, you know?  We need to have each other’s backs in order to get through these dark days.  Too many people hate us for loving our Lord – we don’t have time to hate one another.  

Anyway.   Make time for some people today.  🙂  In the Family, out of the Family – make some room in your life for love.

Be Careful What You Wish For

This is going to be a bit more personal post than usual on this site, but it’s relevant to the theme of being an ambassador for Christ.

I did a spiritual scrub-up this weekend.  It’s something I do about once a year.  I really go through and look into my heart, see what needs to get dragged out into the light, what needs praying over, etc.   After doing that, I’ve had quite a lot of opportunities to pray for serious stuff going on in other people’s lives.

Look, I know I don’t have a huge readership, and mostly the people who do read here are sisters in Christ.  I’m good with that.  Eventually I’ll do something about making this a book, just as well I don’t spoil it by having half of it in the public domain.  If I can encourage you guys in your walks, then awesome sauce.

I’m just going to speak from my experience.   I do have a good family, I do have a tremendous amount of love set on “default”.  When I ask God to set me a task, He sends me *so many people* for whom that’s not true.  There is such a huge need for folks to love others.   I got a phone call today… I don’t want to reveal details at all, but basically I was thinking, “oh gosh.  I’m so tired.  I’ve been so busy.  I don’t want to do… ” and God was saying, “do it”.  And then I agree… and am humbled by the why.  This person needs to feel some love and normalcy.  (I know decency isn’t normal any more, but you know what I mean).  I didn’t know the why until after I agreed to the what.

I always have a hard time letting God set my appointments.  I either want to chase  them down (most often) or go take a nap instead.  But when He does, I am just …awestruck.  He uses me.  I don’t know how salvic the whole thing is (and I worry about that) but I do know that I am being used to disseminate love.

Don’t praise me for being loving.  I’ve never had a choice, it’s as much who I am as my eye color.  I am awed that God chooses to fill up my cup to overflowing so that I don’t have a choice to pour over.  It makes me happy, it makes me feel whole, like I’m doing what I was made for (and there is a powerful pleasure to that).

So today I want to encourage those of you who think that your “normal life” and “normal heart” have nothing to offer.  The world isn’t a normal decent place any longer, and your normal decent self… you have a LOT to offer.  Just let God use you.  He will, and He’ll bless others with the blessings He’s given you.

It’s pretty cool how He lets us share what He’s given us, isn’t it?  And always a surprise, always some way you’d never think possible.

So.  It’s been one of those days.  Last few days really.  And I’m sharing.  And now I’ll go take that nap.  😉

A Heart for the Lost

Why live the Christian life out loud?  It’s so much easier to live on the QT, just going along and getting along, not creating any waves, just being in love with God and accepting His blessing on your life.

This life isn’t so we can live in peace and quiet with our vine and our fig tree.  That’s not for us, not our promise.  (We have better).  Our lives are to be lived to bring glory to God.  We’re in a spiritual war, every day of our lives.  And sometimes it’s easy to think of the other humans on this planet as the enemy – but they aren’t.  They’re deluded prisoners of war.  Some of them are wielding swords for the enemy, some of them just sit there and clank their chains despondently, but they’re not the enemy, and our goal isn’t to defeat our fellow humans.    No living human is our enemy.

Our lives are to be lived in such a way as to draw others to Christ.  We’re to draw the lost to His banner, we’re to remind the prodigal son that there’s a banquet waiting at home.  We can’t do that if we’re all the time worried about making nice and keeping up with the Joneses.  It has to be okay to be different, to be something weird and wonderful and amazing – to let the sheer difference of life with Christ shine through us.   The world is dark and there are fewer and fewer lights – it’s easy to do this, so long as you have the courage to start.

My heart is – and always has been – for the lost.  I’m a terrible evangelist.  Worse yet at apologetics.  But I will stand for Christ.  I will stand here and say, “Come Home”.  I will wear the badge of “Christian” gladly, even when some of folks calling themselves by that precious name have splattered it with mud.   I don’t want to confuse anyone.  COME HOME.  The door is open.

Helping Christians live as better Christians is a good thing, but I want to help Christians live as LOUDER Christians.  You’d best be living right – no one wants to listen to a loud note of discord – but that’s not my business.  I want you to get right and then get out there.   You live in the midst of starving people and you have bread.  Start spreading it.  Talk about God, talk about Jesus, talk about your Christian walk.  Follow the rules.  Be kind, be generous, be funny, be loving.  Be honest.

The poor prisoners all around you don’t believe that you’re not wearing shackles – so first you have to show them that you’re free.  Then they don’t see their own chains – so you have to pray that the Lord opens their eyes.  And THEN they can come to Jesus, and accept the freedom that He offers.

The Church has gotten so good at acting like “everyone else” that no one will believe that we’re free until we start dancing.

Embrace your freedom.  Be different.  And get busy.  The fields are white and ready for harvest……. we *need* your hands.   We need your voice.   Please.  This life is short, and it’s not for living for just ourselves.

Shiny Sparkly

So, our lives ilved in the will of God worked out.  Or the lives of our parents, lived at least more-or-less in the will of God – they’ve worked out.  

Maybe it’s okay that we make people uncomfortable.  Not on purpose, but maybe it’s okay if – to speak more precisely – God uses us to prick someone’s heart.  I’m a squish, so it’s awkward.  But… maybe it’s okay.  Maybe we need to let God use what He’s worked in our lives for His purposes and not get in the way.  And maybe that awkward uncomfortable feeling we get when people look at us as if we were boasting is God’s way of keeping us humble.  

I think I pricked a heart today.  Wasn’t meaning to.  But I think I did.  Just every day chatter.  And I could have taken the softer road, but I said what I meant and went forward.  

Yes, there are a lot of people who talk a good talk about being self-confident.  But they’re so transparent that they might as well be plate glass.  Resting in the power of God, resting in the power of your identity in Him, isn’t that better?  So, maybe if He shines through you and that makes folks feel weird, maybe that’s what you were there for – to make them feel a little weird.

I am a smush, I like making people happy and comfortable.  But Christians die because they make people uncomfortable.  Good Christians, who are exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, not rebels.  They die.  They weird people out.  Just – doing their thing, living their lives the way God said to live ’em.  

We are supposed to live in the expectancy of Jesus’ soon return.  We don’t need to fit in.  We need to get on with our mission, as children of the King.

Just Be Who You Are: No Boasting, No Hiding

There’s a difficult balance to be struck (balance is always a pest) between boasting and humility.

Hiding the good is hiding your lamp under a bushel.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to be the lamp, because you know that you’re making other people feel bad about their lives.  No one wants to do that to their friends.

I have a friend, her life has sucked from the get-go.  She told me not long ago that until she met me, she assumed that her (abusive) family was normal.  She didn’t think loving families really existed.  Until she met me, until she met my parents.  She was 15.

Let’s take a moment and think about that.  You know, it wasn’t until a few years later that I made the opposite discovery – that *I* knew people whose family members were more than just grumpy, they were outright abusive.  This didn’t just go on in books or movies.  (My friend hid just how awful her family was.  Innocent me, I thought they were just jerks … after all, they were nice to me…)

Being a light can make the darkness recede.  My friends with the awful families – guess what?  When I was around, their families at least tried to pretend to be normal.  And when they were with my family, they were exposed to love and peace and kindness.   That’s a very good thing.  I’ve had folks tell me that I was the best friend they’d ever had – because I treated them with what I call common courtesy.

I’m sure there was some resentment.  That’s not my fault.  I didn’t boast of my loving family – I thought it was normal.   I just… was.

The same thing goes for your Christian walk.  We’re accused sometimes of being Pollyannaesque.  And if you’re *faking* your happy – knock it off, our God is not the father of lies. But if you’re not?  If you’re happy and you know it?  Your life *should* surely show it.

Sometimes people will get angry or sad or resentful… and sometimes they’ll want to be your new best friend.  Light affects folks in different ways – and it affects folks in one way at first and in another in time.

Being who you are is not boastful.  You don’t have to hide.

No Comparisons: Or, the Grass is Not Always Greener

A truly random pet peeve: When I talk about myself, and people feel like they’re “not as good” as I am. Even when I am about to say, “And this is a weak spot…” it gets grabbed onto like I’m all that and a pile o’ potatoes.

Here’s a good example. I’m bookish. I didn’t have much choice about being bookish, my parents both spent much of their professional careers teaching, and I spent a year virtually without friends when we lived overseas (in a country without English speaking children). I *like* books. So – I read well, and I read very very quickly. Coming out of that, I take tests well and I take them – again – very very quickly. I might not retain the information, but I can pass the test. So what? We’re not in school any longer, how does this make me a better person? It doesn’t.

And it can be a problem. The public schools failed my children, and I’m currently homeschooling my kiddos. My 9yo learned to skim rather than to read for content and I have no idea how to deal with this. “Read it” is my basic starting point. Just .. read it. But her habit is to skim! And I have to teach her to read every word. It is *so* frustrating for me. I never went through this!! I spend so much time saying, “read all the words”. I am fortunate to have sources to help me help her – but it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Here’s another – one of my Spiritual gifts is encouragement (or exhortation). I am God’s little cheerleader. I care (intrinsically) about the happiness of the people around me. I can’t *not* care. So people will tell me how nice I am, and how they feel guilty because they aren’t like me… but they don’t see me freak out when the people around me aren’t happy. They don’t see the sin I slip into because I can’t deal with other people’s negative emotions.

And most good stuff comes with a mirror of bad stuff, or of sin. Like, my Spiritual gift is exhortation/encouragement. Guess what my most prevailing sin is? Despair. If I can’t fix it or fluff it or … I decide it will *never get fixed*. And I have to fight that tooth and nail. That’s why you hear so much “get up and do it”. I’m talking to myself! I’m not very patient, even if I’m great at waiting if you tell me when the wait will be over. (I find something to do).

At the end of the day – I didn’t make me. I have a job to do. I’m trying to do that job. I’m inviting the Holy Spirit to show me my weak spots and fill me with grace to fix them (or turn them over, or both). YOU have a job to do. It’s not my job. It’s your job. So why should you be just like me? If God wanted someone just like me… I’m thinking the Potter could have hooked that up.

I am not you. You are not me. We *are* responsible for our walks toward Christian perfection, but we are supposed to have our eyes forward, on Christ, not on one another. Your walk isn’t going to be mine. I might be able to help you over a rock, but I’ll be looking for your help on the other side of that next trial. We’re siblings, not competitors. We’re all on the same team, and we play different positions. It’s good. In fact, it’s beautiful.

No comparisons, not unless you’re comparing yourself with Jesus – or the person you know you should be, today. Striving forward toward the goal, always.

What vs. Why

I popped over to SSM’s joint* just in time to catch a great guest-blog by Scott of The Courtship Pledge, and then spent some time snuffling through the archives on his site. (Well worth your time, and he’s got a great idea – http://courtshippledge.com/).

It brought to mind the what vs. why dichotomy in evangelism – and in Christian living, including Christian parenting. I have two kids. Of course I want the best for them (which includes courtship) but I’ve never said, “do this or else”. Instead, I’ve worked on them from the time they were wee – telling them that they absolutely had to have a Christian spouse (and why), and then as the world has been quite generous with cautionary tales, explaining to them the dangers of doing things the wrong way. “Look, see? This could be you!” The world is *very* generous with cautionary tales. :p

I was raised in a church that just went for lists of rules (What) instead of explaining the reasons for the rules (why) in any depth. Didn’t work out for me, I figured I knew better. I don’t want to make the same error with my kids – they get why out the yingyang.

Extrapolate that “what vs. why” to your conversations. Our faith is a reasoned faith. When God sets up a rule, you don’t have to wait too long to find out why He set that rule in place. It’s not hard to point to the world for examples and say, “If we followed God’s law, this wouldn’t be nearly as big a problem as it is”. We tend to focus on the hot-button issues of the age, but how about focusing on social justice for a change? There are loads of corrupt judges, and our God *is not down* with that. Our lawmakers? They’ve completely forgotten accountability. My liberal extremely not-Christian friends are the loudest to howl about a lack of justice – and there’s plenty of reason to do so – so why not open the conversation about God as Ultimate Judge?

Lists of rules only work for those who want to obey the rules. *I* am very fond of God’s law, but that’s because I love Him and want to please Him. My non-Christian friends? Not so much. And why should they be? No. We have to show them why the rules work, and work for everyone’s good, and how they’ve been twisted.

We have to show them how our relationship with Christ Jesus operates in our lives, and talk about the choices we make and why we make those choices.

And once they understand the “Why”… at that point they’re ready for the “What”.

*https://sunshinemaryandthedragon.wordpress.com/ frequently NSFW/K, especially the comment section.