Saturday, October 29, 2016

Be Still



Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14:13-14
 
Be still.” Say it out loud. “Be still.” If you have children or work with children you probably say those words fairly often and then cannot understand why the child isn't still. Now, personalize it, add your own name after the “be still.” Hm.... maybe you're beginning to understand the kid a little better.

It isn't easy to be still or do nothing or wait. For most of us it is our nature to be active. So we pray and then we take action, not waiting for God to speak to us, direct us or just take care of the matter Himself. After all, “the Lord helps those who help themselves” right? Wrong! So, so very wrong. If right now you're thinking “but that's from the Bible!” I assure you it is not.

One of the hardest things God can ask us to do is nothing. To be still and wait often feels impossible. Ohhhh how we hate do nothing. If we read both verses above from Exodus we can see that it is a very active waiting or stillness. We may not be moving or doing anything but then again we are called to do something. We're called to “stand firm.” Also a difficult directive.

When life is hard or tumultuous we want to change it, fix it or bolt from it. That is often when God asks us to stand firm, trust Him and wait to see what He's going to do. It's so passive and yet so strong. It is not easy to trust anyone else to take care of a problem or need that we have but when we're talking about God we can be sure that He has our best interest at heart.

Lately I've been praying the same few prayers over and over and over and.... well, I'm sure you get it. I'm waiting, trying very hard to stand firm and harder still to be still. Just this past week I really thought I couldn't do it one more second. Then God met me in my need. He spoke to my heart and showed me that His timing is perfect but that I'd better pay attention and look for what He's doing. In case I missed the urgency or power of that message, He showed me the verses from Exodus just this morning.

God knows what is right and best. He's willing to fight our battles for us and deliver us if we just stand firm and be still.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Not Fair


 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7

The stories in Luke 15 of the lost sheep and the prodigal son beg for the whiny response, “that's not fair” because on the surface, from our worldly perspective, it's not fair.

Look closely. Ninety-nine sheep are sticking close to the shepherd and he leaves them to search for the one who wandered off. That one didn't get left behind, the shepherd didn't abandon him, he wandered off of his own volition. Willfully doing what he was taught not to do.

Then there's the prodigal son. This brat said, “Give me my money Abba, 'cuz I'm over you and this dreary farm. So, basically I'm wishing you were dead and I could do my own thing. See ya' later.” Like the sheep, this boy was not thrown out of his home, his very comfy home. No, he threw it all away in a fit of selfishness.

The shepherd searches for the sheep and when he finds him there is great rejoicing. The son comes to his senses, realizing that home was actually a pretty good place to be and he returns. There is once again, great rejoicing. Everybody's happy. Well, maybe not everybody.

Sheep can't talk so we have no record of any of the ninety-nine whining to the shepherd, “That's so unfair! We stayed right here. We were good sheep but you left us. Left us! A wolf could have come you know. Not fair sir! Not. Fair.”

We do however have the older brother of the brat child prodigal, who, to paraphrase, says, “I've been here with you side by side all this time while that little brat went off and did his own thing. Now you're happy that he's back. Not fair, Abba. Not fair and not cool.”

It's not fair! The ninety-nine did follow directions. The older son did stay and do the right thing. Good for them! But.... each and every one of us has been the malcontent sheep or son. We've wandered off distracted by greener grass or in pursuit of the shiny object over there, away from responsibility and commitment. When we're lost we want our Shepherd to search for us. When we come home, repentant, we want Abba's open arms to be waiting.

I hate, loathe and despise the expression “not fair.” I am so exceedingly grateful that God is “not fair.” Grace is certainly not about fairness or deserving. Grace flows down and covers me when I wander or willfully walk away and I count on that grace every day. In those moments I don't care if it's fair. I'm just so thankful to receive it.

Next time you're tempted to see something as not fair because you're one of the ninety-nine or you're the older brother, remember a day when you were the wanderer or the prodigal. I'm willing to bet the idea of fair or not fair will fade pretty fast.




Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Who Wins


And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. Revelation 20:10a

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:13


The other night I was watching a television show with my husband. It's all about the conflict between good and evil. It's wildly imaginative and fun to watch. It's also quite a bit farfetched, even for its genre. At one point one of the main characters said to another, “Face it, darling, the villain always wins.”

I laughed at that, first because every fairy tale I've ever read, no matter how gory parts of it might be, has ended with, “they lived happily ever after.” Sure there's death and destruction in some of the original, darker tales but in the end, good always trounces evil. Tells me that somebody's reading their Bibles.

The other reason I laughed was because I know that is the world view in so many cases. No matter how hard we try, no matter how “good” we think we are, ultimately, nice guys finish last.

If you look around the world, there's plenty of evidence to back that up. Most of us don't even have to look very far. We see the cheaters, liars, hustlers and charmers getting away with the prizes. That's not fair! (Ooohh how I hate that expression!) But what prize are we talking about? Anything that is of this world will fade. For those of us who love the Lord, eternity should be our goal.

More bad news, we can't achieve happily ever after there either. Good news? Jesus did it for us. The “good” guy, the very best guy conquered sin and death. He achieved ultimate victory and in His gracious love, He's promised to share it with us.

The Bible is full of evidence that good triumphs over evil. The villain will fail. In the end, the Good Guy, our Savior will win and His people will live happily ever after.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Unforgivable


 

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

For whatever reason, I seem to be experiencing a season of testing in the area of forgiveness. It's not just my own challenges either. I've had a couple of friends come to me to talk about how much we're supposed to forgive, how often and what that means going forward.
In those conversations it's easy to quote the Scriptures about forgiveness. It's easy to talk about the next steps, reconciliation or moving on from those people who are toxic to us.* The conversations are easy. The actual living out that forgiveness is hard, very hard. As flawed human beings, when the offense is too much for us, or has happened too often, we say, “That it's! That one is unforgivable.” Hm.....

Think about Jesus. He suffered and died for all sin. All sin. Every single sin that had been committed, has been committed or will be committed, those sins caused the torture, humiliation and ultimate death of the One perfect being. Not His sin, not His shame, but ours. Think of the worst thing you've ever done. Now think of the worst thing that has ever been done to you. Now, think about the most horrific event you've ever heard about. Are any of those unforgivable?

Personally there have been a few moments lately when I've been sorely tempted to think of an event or action as unforgivable. Wrong. Who am I to say something cannot be forgiven? Jesus knows each and every one of us at our very core. He knew all about the horrible things man would do to man and to ourselves when He made His way up that hill to His death. Not once did He stop and say, “Oh wait, most of it, sure, I can forgive most of it, but that one thing.... No sir. That's it. That's where I draw the line.” Not at murder, not at torture, not at rape, not at stealing, not lying, not deliberate humiliation, not at pettiness, not at any point at any action or any thought, did Jesus say, “Sorry, you've pushed me too far.”

I'm pointing fingers here but mostly at my own chest. As I said, I've been very tempted to withhold forgiveness but the truth is, it isn't mine to withhold. I live by God's grace and God's grace alone. My Father gave clear instructions about forgiveness and I need to follow them. I doubt that I'm the only one who needs this reminder and my prayer is that if you are reading this, it will enable you to forgive others as we have been so richly forgiven.

*That is not to say those people are evil or without any positive attribute. Toxic relationships are a two way street. Think oil and water, or gasoline and matches. Some relationships just don't gel. Others are truly dangerous because two perfectly fine substances simply cannot co-exist.