Heads up!

Here's our flooded backyard! But our basement is dry. Very grateful! a lot of people around here are flooded!

Here’s our flooded backyard! But our basement is dry. Very grateful! a lot of people around here are flooded!

As I read the devotional Jesus Calling early this morning, one particular sentence stood out to me: “I (God) designed you to need Me moment by moment.”

Hmm, I thought, that is the complete opposite of human parenting–or at least of my version of it. I am trying to get my children to be less dependent on me, to be more self-sufficient each year, to increase their problem-solving skills. I often tell them, “Before you call ‘Mo-om!’ immediately, ask yourself if you can do this on your own.”

But God wants me to be more aware of my dependence on Him, more aware of my lack of self-sufficiency and of my inability to control anything.

I jotted these thoughts in my journal, worked out, made sure all the kids were up and moving, fixed Patrick’s breakfast… and then learned that school was cancelled because of all the flooding in our area. My kids literally went off like fireworks. I think you could have heard them from the street.

Was I happy for them?

This bird seemed a little confused by all the water. So it perched on our back deck (and, yes, those are still Christmas lights. Honest, though, all the other Christmas stuff has been put away for ages.)

This bird seemed a little confused by all the water. So it perched on our back deck (and, yes, those are still Christmas lights. Honest, though, all the other Christmas stuff has been put away for ages.)

Ye-es.

But I must admit I had to readjust my idea of the day I thought I was going to have. Better get ready to hear “Mom!” all day long, I told myself.

And then I laughed! Because I remembered Jesus Calling and my lesson of the morning.

It was very nice of Him to give me a heads-up!

Turn TO

Judy is 16! Cake by Emily.

Judy is 16! Cake by Emily.

Last week I tried on a pair of jeans I hadn’t worn in several weeks and discovered they were a bit tight. That prompted another thing I hadn’t done in awhile: I stepped on the scale.

It was certainly not the result I was hoping for. (By the way, weight loss is NOT the focus of this blog post.)
I stepped off the scale and thought of the week ahead of me—a week full of baking and sweets for three of my kids’ birthday parties.
Not a good week to try to cut back.
So I came up with a self-control strategy: I would wear those slightly-too-tight jeans to remind me that I needed to resist.
It didn’t work.
In fact, it had the opposite effect: I felt slightly depressed, and chocolate seemed like a good antidote. After scraping brownie batter from the mixing bowl into the pan, I eyed the spatula in my hand and the leftover batter on the sides of the bowl. I shifted my jeans with my free hand and thought dark thoughts, like, “Oh, why not? It’s not like these are ever going to be completely comfortable again.”
Today I went back to wearing my comfy, stretchy jeans.
And I had a complete change in attitude! I felt good, relaxed but also confident. Yes, you CAN say no to that, I told myself when I pulled rolls hot from the oven. You can have an apple instead.
I’ve realized there is a correlation between my tight-jeans strategy and my attitude toward my sinfulness.
I’ve been writing about my sin a lot lately. I find that the closer I grow to Jesus and the more I study Scripture, the more aware I seem to become of my own sinfulness—that it’s not just actions or even thoughts but a selfish focus rooted deep in my core.
I identify with St. Anselm, who said, “My life affrights me. For when carefully reviewed, its whole course shows in my sight like one great sin; or at least it is well-nigh nothing but barrenness. Or, if any fruit is seen in it, that fruit is so false, or so imperfect, or in some way or other so tainted with decay and corruption, that it must needs either fail to satisfy God, or else utterly offend Him.”
I don’t think I would have understood Anselm’s quote as a young believer. I used to think I was okay, not such a bad person, but now I see my faults much more clearly. And I know that as I grow older, my sinfulness will grow even more apparent to me.
I understand that Christ’s death was the once-for-all payment for my sins: past, present, and future, but how do I deal with this growing sense of my sinfulness?
The answer is this: I repent—again and again, like the first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said, ‘Repent,’ He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
“Repent”: to turn from sin and turn to God. It has TWO parts, but all too often my approach has been like my wearing the too-tight jeans last week: I stay, at least subconsciously, halfway between the two. “Oh, I see that, deep down, I am not patient. I am not kind. I am mean and self-centered, and even my goodness is NOT good—not true GOOD.” I turn from my sinfulness in horror, but I don’t complete the “turning to.” I stay in between in a state of guilt and shame.
It’s not true repentance if only do the first “turn.”
Hudson Taylor, the founder of China Inland Mission, regularly asked his believing friends, “Have you repented today?” Now obviously Taylor was asking if they had done some self-examination, if they had asked the Holy Spirit for conviction. But Taylor didn’t want his friends to stop there. He didn’t want them to mope through their days, laden down with a consciousness of their sin. I know this because I’ve read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. It took years of spiritual self-beating for Taylor to realize Christ’s finished work and CLING to the cross as full payment for his shame. He wasn’t about to suggest that his friends go down that same path. No! He knew that wallowing in an acknowledgement of sin is not good! This becomes a denial of Christ’s amazing work.
Taylor wanted them to fully repent: to turn from AND turn TO.
I have several Biblical examples that help me understand complete repentance: Isaiah was “undone” by the contrast between himself and the Holy God; Peter was crushed by the realization that he had denied his beloved Jesus; David wrote, “…my sin is ever before me” after Nathan confronted him with his adultery and murder; and the Prodigal Son said, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
Yet all four were quickly restored. Isaiah’s mouth was touched with a burning coal and moments later he was jumping up and down, saying, “Send me, Lord, send me (to do your work)!” After only a short (though very meaningful) conversation, Jesus restored Peter and charged him: “Feed my sheep.” Three verses after his proclamation of sinfulness, David asked, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness… restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” The Prodigal Son’s Father ran to him, embraced him, kissed him, and threw a party in his honor.
Turn from—fast.
Then, turn TO.
And find that GOD is turned to US.
Because of Christ, He has arms wide open, ready to embrace us and draw us into His limitless love.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9

Two ears, one mouth, and no highlighter

“We have two ears and one mouth, which ought to remind us to listen more than we speak. Too many times we argue with God’s Word, if not audibly, at least in our hearts and minds.”

The above quote is from Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on the book of James (Be Mature: Growing Up in Christ).

The quote reminded me of a call-in guest I’d heard not too long before on a radio program. He identified himself as a Christian who was a formerly practicing homosexual and then said, “I had to get to the point at which I read God’s Word and said, ‘I agree with that. I may not like it, but that doesn’t change its rightness and trueness.’”

That’s an amazing statement, I thought, and went on, but God kept bringin

From our yard–beautiful!

g it back to mind. The issue, I realized, is that it is easy to tell someone struggling with an “obvious” sin that he/she needs to agree with God’s Word, but it is even easier to ignore the fact that I need to do the same. I once listened to Shane Claiborne, author of several books, including Irresistible Revolution, talk about the fear with which he approaches the Bible. He said something like this: If I truly believe the Bible is God speaking to me, then I can’t just ignore what He says. Every time I open the Bible, I find that I am called to do something that disrupts my comfort.

It is easy for me to point the finger at those who have beliefs or lifestyles that noticeably contradict Scripture and say they need to accept God’s Word. But what about my “acceptable” beliefs or actions that are pointed out when I allow Scripture to pierce me, when I read them and say, “Yes, I agree that this is TRUE and right, even though I don’t necessarily like what it is saying about me”?

Shane Claiborne, focusing specifically on the Church’s attitudes and actions toward the poor, and how we place more emphasis on some commands/theology than others, wrote, “But I guess that’s why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest.”

Mark Twain wrote, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” I am most definitely mis-interpreting Twain’s original intent (considering that you generally find this quote and many others of his on atheist Web sites), but I can apply it to my life. The meaning is clear when the Scriptures call my heart “deceitful” and “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:7-9) and my tongue a “raging fire,” “set on fire by hell” itself (James 3:6), but I don’t like those pointed statements, and I haven’t “highlighted” those verses in my Bible.

But Scripture calls itself a dividing sword. Sometimes it’s like an axe (like when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah: “You are the man!” [2 Samuel 12]). Other times it’s as fine-tuned as a laser: Psalm 19:12 asks God to reveal “hidden faults,” because “who can discern their own errors?”

I encountered the Warren Wiersbe quote about arguing with God because I’m in a Bible study on the book of James right now that is using his commentary, and I’m discovering lots of verses in James I’d like to ignore. But instead I’m called to read verses like James 1:20: “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” and AGREE with it. I have to say, “You’re right! My anger—no matter how provoked—is not working Your righteousness. I HAVE to let go of my anger no matter how justified it seems or how good it makes me feel in the moment.”

Wiersbe also writes this in his James commentary: “Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them.” And pastor/speaker/author Stuart Briscoe says, “As we look into Scriptures, we (must) let the Scriptures look into us.”

I agree with that. Now it is time to DO it.

One Cry

Here is a Web site to check out on the topic of big, bold prayer: http://www.onecry.com.

The OneCry Web site says this about itself: “OneCry is a movement of believers who are urgently crying out to God to revive the church and transform the culture. It isn’t an organization, program, or event. It’s a movement of like-minded people, churches, and organizations who agree that our nation needs a dramatic turnaround—but not the kind that comes from different politics, more education, or a better economy. Instead, it’s a cry to God for spiritual transformation of our hearts, homes, and communities. We believe that extraordinary things will happen as we turn from sin and seek God together!”

Tomorrow night (October 30) from 8-10 EST there is a OneCry radio prayer summit being aired by more than 300 stations. If you want more information on it, visit the OneCry Web site and scroll down to the bottom. You can view all the radio stations airing the summit or listen to it through the Web site itself.

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”
Oswald Chanbers

 

Krishnan and Hurnard on prayer

A friend who lives in Indonesia sent me a link after my last blog post: http://vimeo.com/8467883. It’s a video of Sunder Krishnan, pastor of Rexdale Alliance Church in Toronto, Ontario, speaking on prayer at the Urbana Conference in 2009. It’s titled “Pray Big and Pray Bold,” it’s about praying for our everyday requests in the same power that was exercised by the early church in Acts 4, and it is AWESOME! I listened to it today as I ate my lunch. It would not load the last four minutes of the video, and I’m hoping that’s not a permanent problem as I’m planning to watch it again later (maybe while I fold laundry 🙂  ). Here’s the link to the Youtube posting just in case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZRT5q1DuMg.

I also have a quote to share from one of my favorite authors, Hannah Hurnard. If you have not read Hind’s Feet on High Places, I recommend it. That’s her best-known book, though she has also written other excellent ones. As I read and re-read Hinds’ Feet, I find myself thinking–and sometimes saying aloud–“Yes! That’s exactly how it is. That’s what my soul WANTS to say–without knowing how to say it.”

Anyway, here’s the quote by Hurnard that I wanted to share: “It is not that prayer changes God, or awakens in Him purposes of love and compassion that He has not already felt. No, it changes us, and therein lies its glory and its purpose.”

6 word gospel memoirs, continued

I have this beautiful “flower” (I don’t really know what it is) in my yard. It looks a little like a heart, which makes me think of another 6-word memoir: God’s heart for me revealed: Christ.

Earlier this week (September 17) I wrote about 6-word memoirs and how they can show the gospel at work in our lives. Here are a couple of 6-word memoirs that readers sent in: “Saved by grace, continuing the journey” and “God found me. I am alive.”

The following quotes aren’t limited to six words, but they are great statements about the gospel. I kept finding more and more I liked, so I got a little carried away with the number I pasted in. Hope you enjoy them, too!

“There are only two ways that God’s justice can be satisfied with respect to your sin. Either you satisfy it or Christ satisfies it. You can satisfy it by being banished from God’s presence forever. Or you can accept the satisfaction that Jesus Christ has made.”
― R.C. Sproul, Choosing My Religion

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.”
― John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life

“The Law saith, Where is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction? The Gospel saith, Christ is thy righteousness, goodness, and satisfaction.”
― Patrick Hamilton

“If the gospel is old news to you, it will be dull news to everyone else.”
― Kevin DeYoung

“Salvation is not a reward for the righteous, it is a gift for the guilty.”
― Steven Lawson

The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
― Timothy Keller

“Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is the life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than a diamond. It’s depths man will never exhaust.”
― C.J. Mahaney