Thursday, January 31, 2008

Being Happy with who I am

Today’s devotional reading is about being content with how we are made. The author says many people question that, wish they were someone else, complain that they would like to be more this or less that person, and generally are not happy with who they are.

She goes on to say, “God made me and He must know the sort of person He wanted me to be. If He had made me a potato vine, I must be satisfied to grow potatoes and must not want to be a rosebush and grow roses.”

I’ve never wanted to be anyone else. Earlier in life that was surely my pride showing. I thought I was the best person I knew, so had no desire to be different. Then, when Christ got hold of me, I began seeing all my shortcomings and realized that I wasn’t so special. In fact, I am just like everyone else—we are all sinners. For a proud person, that was a difficult lesson!

Then I began to see that I am also unique. No one else is like me. I am created by God for His purpose, and that purpose cannot be fulfilled by another. Ephesians 2:10 says it this way: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

It isn’t just that He created me and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), nor is it that He says of me, “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:21). This declaration in Ephesians says that God has specific good works for me to do, a to-do list that He wrote out beforehand—likely before I was even created—that I should do it. Wow!

Wanting to be another person is out of the question . . . or is it? The Bible also says that God’s intention for me is to be like Jesus. Romans 8:28-29 say that He uses everything that happens to me for my good that I might be “conformed to the image of His Son.”

That marvelous promise was perhaps the first truth from Scripture that made a big impression on me as a new Christian. It may have been pride then (“Oh, look. I am going to be like Jesus!”), but over the years this has become a humbling promise and process. I have not earned nor do I deserve this as my destiny, yet the goodness of God determines that He will make of my life something that glorifies Him, even that I am like His Son.

In the end, that is my destiny. 1 John 3:1-2 says it so well. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

I’m happy I am who I am, but I also have some discontent, not quite the same as my devotional reading describes. It is not that I question the wisdom of my Maker, but that I want to be all that He has promised for me—right now! Sometimes my progress is so slow (or more like regress), yet I know that the outcome is certain. God says so.

In the meantime, my task is to cooperate with Him in the changes (I can be stubborn) and obey those specific assignments. I am His workmanship and as my Maker, He will finish His work in me, just as He has promised.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where I am today on this mountain

Last night I called home to tell my husband I would leave here today around noon. Classes end at 4:30 but I’ve done as much as I can without being able to dig into my own fabric stash. Besides, today’s temperature is supposed to go up to a mere -15 C. At home on Monday, with the wind chill factored in, it was -55 C. We have not had such severe weather for many years, and with a slight break, clearer skies, and the roads clear of snow, I am taking advantage before the temperature drops again.

My quilt design is done and ready for fabric. I will be a fairly literal mountain. Since this is an art quilt conference, we were instructed to begin with a concept, then depict that concept in whatever way works. The class I am in is privileged to have an instructor that is not concerned that all the quilts look like hers or that we use the same style of construction. She understood my concept (she was raised in the church but admits she has “lapsed”) and suggested a construction method that not only suits the work but also my personality and way of doing things.

My concept is about looking up to God, that He is there for me. No matter what obstacles lie in my path, I can reach out and find Him. I might be lifted over or above those obstacles, or He may require that I go through them or climb them or somehow experience them. Whatever happens, He is still there and I can look up to Him.

My devotional reading today asks the question, “Is God over-advertised?” Everything else is; is it the same with God? Has He used gimmicks like waffle words and celebrity endorsements to make Him look better than what He has to give? Of course we would say not, but the reading suggests that many of His people seem to live this way. They have not realized or experienced all that the Bible says is ours as God’s people.

Along with the devotional, I also ask why is this so? I’ve noticed it with the few Christians I’ve met here at the conference. It seems as if they do not have His joy, or they are angry with people and not living out the forgiveness He gives to those who ask for it. Some of them seem to worry about many things or complain about their lot in life.

Before I fall into the sin of comparing, I also have known times of sorrow, struggle, and being angry and upset with people or events. I know that these things are not the fault of God, and part of the problem is that I am still (and always) learning that He is enough.

The verse quoted today is 1 Corinthians 2:9 that says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.

Is that lack of vision because we fail to look up to God? We don’t see the things He gives us because we are too busy fighting life’s circumstances, or worse yet, wallowing in self-pity? My devotional book hints at that, but that isn’t the reason God gives. Verse 10 says, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.

The things of God, the reality of His care, the notion that God is enough are things we ‘know’ (but they seem to take lifetimes to really ‘know’) are all revelations from God. If a Christian is walking in a fog, it could be that is just where they need to be. Only God understands what is going on in each heart. Only God understands how some of His children might profit from a struggle before He brings them up and over those big boulder in their lives into a greater understanding of Himself.

Today I rejoice that He has helped me look up, and not only that, that He lets me see His care for me, and His supply, and all that He is and does is enough for me. Here in the Rocky Mountains I feel as if I am standing on that mountain in my quilt design, not stumbling over a boulder somewhere down in the foothills. However, I dare not let my heart be lifted up by a sense of personal achievement. Here, or wherever I might be standing, is entirely the Lord’s doing. He knows what is best for me. Tomorrow is another day and who knows what challenges it will bring. Today, I am joyful and content, again because right now I know that God is enough.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Has it come to that?

The author of my devotional book relates this, “I remember hearing of a Christian who was in great trouble, who said to a friend in utmost despair, ‘Well, there is nothing left for me now but to trust the Lord.’”

“‘Alas!’ exclaimed the friend in consternation. ‘Is it possible it has come to that?’”

After years of waiting until I came to the end of my own resources before asking God for help, I’m just beginning to learn that if I can trust Him with the big, impossible stuff, why not trust Him with the little things? Certainly if He can carry me through disasters, He can also help me with mild predicaments.

Last night I realized I had a chore that should be done in the morning. My roommate sets the hotel alarm for about an hour later than I need so I have time to have devotions before classes. My own alarm clock (that I’ve been hiding under my pillow so as not to wake her) is keeping time but the alarm has not worked once since I arrived here. I wake up, but this morning wanted to be up at least fifteen minutes earlier than usual to do that chore.

This is a little thing, but surely God can help me, I thought. Last night I prayed and said, “Lord, if this chore is important, make sure I’m awake before 6:30.” I slept soundly, and woke up at 6:20.

My heart is joyful as I think about the faithfulness of God. He is able, and even though I’m often surprised by His totally appropriate and timely answers, I should not be. His Word says He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

His help is to meet my needs, but it is also for His glory. Ephesians 3:20-21 says in full, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God takes care of both big and small things that He might be glorified in His people. We love to share the big answers, but does anyone care that He is also able to wake me up when I needed?

After I did my chore this morning, my roommate roused and immediately asked me, “Did your alarm work?” When I said it hadn’t, she asked how I managed to wake up. I told her of my prayer and that I just woke up a bit earlier than usual. She is a Christian, and I have no idea if this prayer and God’s answer is meaningful for her Christian life, but God did more than I imagined in this small request—He woke me on time, but also gave me opportunity to glorify Him by sharing it.

As my devotional book says, we are told that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). As creative as I think I am, I’ve never been able to second-guess God. He is always doing more than I ask, or something different from my expectations.

Regardless of what is going on in life, He is teaching me to trust Him. Surely, God is enough.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shh . . . just listen

Friday night at this conference the organizers presented the line-up and workshops for next year. This was before I’d started anything, and was something like dangling dessert before the appetizer. Last night I poured over the brochure wondering what I should take, if I should come at all, what would be the best decision in light of another participant wanting me to take the same classes she’d signed up for, and so on. My roommate listened to me for a while, then said, “If it’s this hard to figure out, maybe you shouldn’t come at all.”

Nearly every morning when I sit down before God, I hear His still small voice telling me to drop any anxious thoughts, prayer burdens or other distractions and just pay attention to what He says. This morning is no different. I am particularly directed to Proverbs 1:23 leading to 32 and 33. These verses say:
“Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. . . . For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
Proverbs is a difficult book in some ways. A proverb is a general saying that is generally true. However, it cannot be interpreted entirely the same way as the rest of Scripture. For instance, “Red in the morning, sailors’ warning, red at night, sailors’ delight” is a proverb (not in the Old Testament). While a red sky at dawn often indicates a windy day ahead, this is not always true. So when reading this book, I need to keep in mind the nature of a proverb.

However, this is also the Word of God. When God speaks, I cannot think this is just a proverb. He is speaking to me and I am to listen up, which is exactly what these verses are about—listening and taking seriously what He says.

Wandering away from God’s Word is dangerous and could even lead to death. I’ve seen that happen. Not taking seriously what He says and having an ‘I could care less’ attitude is also dangerous. Lives are destroyed when people ignore the principles and truths from God’s Word.

The wonderful promise here is simple: listen, be assured of His care, and don’t live in fear. This proverb does not promise that evil will never happen if I do this. Rather it says I will not be afraid of it. While it does say I will live in safety, the rest of the Bible (and life itself) is more realistic, so I must remember this is a proverb and not think God lied to me when I am less than safe.

These verses also apply to last night’s anxiety. Instead of slowing down and even asking God what He wants me to do, I was flapping all over the place trying to figure out what I wanted or what I should do. So I simply asked Him to show me what He wants. I am listening and my heart is at rest. I know He will tell me. That knowing produces peace; I will make the right decision. God is enough.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Two Views

The speakers and instructors at this quilt conference have expressed several times that it’s okay to leave unfinished a project that I am unhappy with, and go on to another, using what was learned to do better next time.

Another group of quilters associated with a particular challenging project have a motto, “Finished is better than perfect.” Instead of aiming for ‘well done’ they aim for being done. While the idea is to do a good job, this reminds me of a twist I once heard on a famous adage, “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.” In other words, happy or not, finish the thing.

I’m not sure where I fit. What I’m trying to do is find out the heart of God on this. Part of learning to be a spiritual person and learning how to walk with God is making mistakes, confessing to God that I did so, learning from them and moving on. However, another part of being a spiritual person is perseverance. Dropping something because I don’t like it might be just the opposite of what God wants from me.

This morning I read some verses from Romans that say I am not in bondage to rules and laws. In fact, Romans 8:15 says, “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Abba means “Daddy!”)

My devotional goes off in another direction with this verse, but when I read it I thought, God sets me free from the bondage of law-keeping but also from both of these ‘rules’ about quilting. I am not to be tied in knots by anything—because I answer, not to a set of rules, but to God.

Before I go off into thinking I don’t have to do anything anyone tells me, there are certain principles of art that work. I don’t abandon those just because I’m free from the bondage of rules. This isn’t what God intends with this freedom He gives me. My freedom is from being battered back and forth with the ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ indecision that keeps me from doing anything. Instead, I’m to discuss it with my heavenly Father and He will guide me in the best direction.

Translation. Sometimes I may need to persevere and finish a project. He might be wanting that quality developed in my character, or maybe it will turn out better than I imagine. Or He might want me to abandon a project because I am wasting precious time and He has far better things for me to do.

Being a Christian means that I don’t live according to adages and mottos, but according to the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t as black and white as rules, but it is a wonderful freedom, sort of like that of a child skipping along a path holding Dad’s hand.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I don’t need to carry my suitcase. . .

A traveler in an airport takes one of those long moving sidewalks that hastens the journey from one end of the terminal to another. As the sidewalk whisks him along, his heavy suitcase remains slung over one shoulder, tilting his body sideways.

This image came to mind this morning as I read about casting my cares on God. A couple of passages also come to mind. The first one is Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Curious, I once checked out the words in this passage, particularly “burden” and found out that the first one, the one that makes us weary, is the Greek word for a heavy shipment. In contrast, the second ‘burden’ that Jesus offers us to share with Him is the Greek word for the paper invoice on the shipment!

My devotional book writes that Christians often bring their cares to God, but instead of leaving them with Him, we pick them up again as we go on our way. Like the traveler in the airport, we don’t seem to realize that we have a resource who will carry our load for us.

Trusting God is more than words. To really do it, I have to know that He will do as He says. How do I learn that? Part of it is from reading the Bible and checking out His past history. Part of it is from my own history with Him. He has never failed me. Yet each time I have a burden, I also tend to jump on the moving sidewalk of giving it to God, yet wind up carrying it myself.

I have to be honest. This is a choice. When I do it, I may not be trusting myself because if I thought I could handle it, I would not be so burdened by the thing, but I’m certainly not trusting God. I might say I am, but I’m still carrying that dratted suitcase.

I’ve learned that it helps to confess my pride and failure to trust Him—because this is what is wrong and both are sinful. Besides that, these two are burdens enough in themselves. I don’t need to carry them either. Jesus took all my sin at the cross and bore my guilt and shame. How foolish to take them back!

The other thing that helps me put down my load is prayer, not just the prayer that basically asks Him to fix it, but the prayer described in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

God says when things get too heavy for me, I need to pray and ask Him to deal with those things, but I also need to do it with thanksgiving. This is key. Thanksgiving acknowledges the goodness and power of God. It is an admission of a kind that tells Him He is able and worthy to carry my suitcase. After speaking words like that to Him, I can easily sense how silly it is, and how much I am insulting Him if I hang on to that heavy thing myself.

I’m in Canmore today at a conference. The Rocky mountains loom large outside our window. The attendees are enthusiastic and easy to talk to, and I’m looking forward to what I will learn. At the same time, the issues and questions of life, concerns for my family, and burdens for others in need lurk in the back of my mind and threaten to weigh me down. I’m tempted to skip prayer time and go right into conference time, but God is telling me that even though I can get on that moving sidewalk, I’ll feel much lighter at the end of it if I will take the time to put my suitcase down and let Him carry it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My ‘excuse’ for pride

Way back in those so-called carefree school days, I felt a lot of pressure. God blessed me with the ability to do well in almost every subject. In my thinking it was a good memory, not a high IQ, but whatever the case, it was not easy to live with. After a while, parents, teachers, even the other students expected me to get good marks all the time. If my scores dropped even a couple percent, some of the kids teased me.

Of course that background created in me the notion that to be acceptable, I had to be at the top of the class. Yikes, no one can keep that up. I learned that no matter how well I did in anything, there is always someone who does better. Being queen of the mountain is a fleeting achievement and in light of the pressure, it’s hardly worth the view.

After I became a Christian, it was no surprise that this became a battlefield. No matter that I knew pride and a competitive spirit were not Christlike, shedding this inner ambition has never been easy. Just when I think I’ve overcome it, another test comes along and out it pops.

This week I took a quilt to a monthly meeting of a quilter’s group I regularly attend. Most of the time our quilts are at about the same skill level. For me, there is no competition and no comparing, just enjoying the skills of each person. However, this week we had some visitors. One was the guest lecturer, the other, her friend. I’ve known both of them for years, but they attend the evening version of the meeting while I go to the afternoon one. I’d known that the two groups were not the same. The evening quilters are more serious about their work. Many are instructors, some of whom have taught me.

Anyway, these two brought some of their work, and it blew me out of the water. My ‘show and tell’ was a challenging piece that I struggled to finish, but their pieces were works of art, incredibly creative and beautiful with superb craftsmanship.

Out popped my old pattern of thinking. I wanted to hide my quilt, go home and improve it, do something, anything, to raise my own status—not for the sake of those who admired it, but for my own sake. It was that old, “get 96% instead of 99% and I’ve failed” syndrome, and it left me feeling kicked in the gut, partly because it was there, but also because I thought that part of me had died. This was a surprise that I didn’t like one bit.

This morning’s devotional was about trusting the Lord and directed me to 1 Peter 5:5-7 which says, “. . . be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

I am positive that only God can rebuke and hug at the same time. Here He tells me to drop my pride; it will only bring me into conflict with Him. That kicked-in-the-gut feeling is just that, being out of sorts and at odds with God. At the same time, He says He cares about me and I can cast this foolish attitude upon Him. If I do, He promises to take care of that deep human need for significance. (I’ve learned that it might not be the way I expect, but He cares, and He can and will do it.)

As I think about putting this selfish ambition and pride thing upon God, I try to imagine what He is thinking when He looks at a flower that grows slightly bent, or a river that is dirty with mud, or a sunset that is colorless and ordinary. Does He kick Himself and exclaim, “Oh, I failed, again”? Is He overcome with shame because His efforts are less than He knows He can do? Does He vow to try harder the next time? Certainly not! Such foolishness.

I went to that meeting proud of my effort and could hardly wait to show it off. I came home humbled. God saw to it, not because He wants me to get only 96%, but because humility is more important to Him than achievement. He cares for me.

When my attitude slips out of line, He sees it long before I do and He lines up whatever is necessary to block me from sliding back into my old pattern of thinking and living. He cares for me.

When selfish ambition and pride threaten the Christlike character that He is working to produce in me, He will resist it. He would rather see humility in me than see me get 100%, not that He is against achievement or doing well, but that He cares far more about who I am than what I do, or how well I do it.

I’m still feeling somewhat ashamed of myself, but now it is more from missing that pride creeping back in rather than stumbling over it when it did. Yet even with this sense of, “Oh, brother, I did it again,” God reassures me that I can cast all of it on Him. He knows exactly what to do with it—because He cares for me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Enough Guidance, Enough Care

As I read through the Bible (a yearly discipline) and read my chosen devotional book, I’m often startled by the juxtaposition of the two days’ readings. This happened today.

Yesterday was entirely too full. After it was over, my bone tired body and befuddled mind wondered if God had guided me to do all this, or the day’s activities had been the product of vain ambition on my part. I went to bed praying for a long, deep sleep, something I seldom need to ask for since I usually sleep like a dead person.

This morning I am reading the very end of Exodus where God’s guidance is described. “Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up” (Exodus 40:36-37).

God put a cloud over His people when He wanted them to stay put, and a pillar of fire to impress them to move on. Christians often say things like, “I felt this was what God wanted” or “I don’t have peace about doing that.” We are guided by a spiritual sensation that could also be emotional, but I never related to the cloud and the pillar until just now.

The cloud could be a foreshadowing of that sense of doubt or lack of peace that tells us whatever we are considering may not be the will of God. It is one of those “when in doubt, don’t” sensations, an inner guidance from the Holy Spirit.

The fire could be a type or foreshadow of the nudging of His Spirit that makes us feel strongly urged to go ahead. Yesterday I felt that sense of ‘go for it’ all day. It wasn’t until evening when all that ‘going for it’ had me weak-kneed that I began doubting that God was in it.

This morning my devotional, God is Enough, is again about the fatherhood of God. In part, it says, “We are told that we are of the ‘household of God’ (Ephesians 2:19). The principle is announced in the Bible that if any man provides not for his own household, he has ‘denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel’ (1 Timothy 5:8). Since we are of the 'household of God,' this principle applies to God, and if He should fail to provide for us, His own words would condemn Him.”

Later in the writing, the author says this is “meant to teach us the magnificent fact that the Creator, who has made human parents responsible toward their children, is himself equally responsible toward His children.”

With the author, I felt distinct joy at this, and at the same time some guilt that I had not trusted God concerning yesterday’s path. Certainly earthly fathers can fill a child’s day with chores and activities that leave that child almost out of breath with exhaustion, yet that same father would tuck his exhausted offspring into bed and make sure nothing disturbed his rest.

How much more does God do the same thing! The Bible is filled with exhortations to wait on Him when we are weary and overburdened. I know that at timed my burdens could be my own doing, but not always. He gives responsibilities that stretch my faith; these might also stretch my physical resources. But then “He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

All day He guided me with fire in my heart and took me through an unusually busy schedule. Then, when the fire burned out, He took responsibility for my exhaustion and gave me a long, deep sleep.

Surely my heavenly Father is enough!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Does God ever get impatient? or is it just me?

Occasionally I’ve seen children in a store asking their parent for something. The parent says no, and while some children settle for that, others begin to whine and beg. Sometimes the parent gives in, sometimes not.

Anyone who is a parent has been there. These ‘battles’ are not much fun. For the parent who refuses to give in, they might end with the child pouting and declaring, “You don’t love me” or worse yet, “I hate you.”

I’ve had some battles like that with my heavenly Father. Occasionally He wants me to keep on asking, at least if whatever I’m asking for is a good thing, within His will, and a legitimate prayer request. However, if it is not, and He says no, I’ve the choice to accept His wisdom or begin whining and wondering if He loves me. I might not say I hate Him, but I’m acting as if I do.

That never works. God loves me far more than any earthly father could, but that love means that sometimes He will not give me what I ask for. He is not being “mean” or exercising His control, but knows me well and knows that whatever I’m asking for is not good for me.

James 4:1-3 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

These verses from James always sounded like a scolding to me, but as I read them again this morning, I hear another tone. I know that selfish prayers do not rate high on God’s ‘I must answer this’ list. He sees how selfishness causes many relationship and other problems. To indulge me only perpetuates my covetous, greedy, me-first tendencies. Saying no is one way to wake me up and make me realize that I am asking God for the wrong things and with the wrong motives.

God shows me what I am like so I can confess these things and be forgiven and cleansed. He is not out to merely rap me on the knuckles, but to change my life, to make me a better person. This is why He says in a few lines later, “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely?

God longs that I love Him, put Him first, trust Him with all things. He knows this is what is best for me and His Spirit, who lives in me, expresses those longings every time I ‘want what I want when I want it.’ That longing, described here as a holy envy for my affections, is a little like the loving mother who hugs her crying child through the supermarket checkout, shielding him from the eye-level displays of candy that he so desperately thinks he needs. She loves her little one and wants the best for him, even if he thinks otherwise.

Scolding words like these from James are sometimes necessary. I’m not always listening to the still, small voice of God’s cautioning rebukes. Sometimes I just want what I want. So when my hands are over my ears, to get my attention He must lovingly pull them away and speak sternly into my face.

Sometimes I act like a child of God. Sometimes I’m just a brat.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

His Love in the big picture

For fathers (and mothers) to be like God they must consider that their children are just that, children. When mine were little, I went through a period of expecting them to behave as small adults, which was unfair and likely as stressful for them as it was for me.

Now I know better. Because they are children, good parents realize their limits and adjust their expectations. This is like God. Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

Today’s reading says that then adds, “Christ has declared to us the name of the Father in order that we may discover that the Father loves us as He loves His Son. If we believed this, could we ever have an anxious or rebellious thought again?”

When I read that, my first thought was, His love for His Son included death on a cross. I’m not sure I want to be loved that way. John 3:16 explains that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” to die so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If God loves me as He loves Jesus, would He send me to my death so that others might live? And if so, does that mean He loves those ‘others’ more than He loves me?

These questions are answered by the verses from Psalm 103. Just as God knew that His Son would obediently die for the sins of the world and would be able to rise up from the dead, He also knows my capacities. He knows what I can do and will do. He knows what He can ask of me and what would be too much for me. However, that does not ensure that I will go through life without being asked to make sacrifices.

Some think that believing in Christ will make their lives trouble-free. Some preach a prosperity gospel that declares God wants you rich, and put a distorted focus on money. Others think that faith in Christ will make you healthy and that no one would be sick if they just have enough faith.

These and other notions need to be tested by the life of Jesus Christ. God loves His Son, but did Jesus have a trouble-free life? Was He wealthy? There is no record that He was sick, but He certainly experienced hunger, thirst and fatigue, just like the rest of us. If God loved Him yet allowed these things, how can we expect to be exempt?

It seems to me that most definitions of love are far too selfish and personal. Besides that, where the Bible says God loves us, it mostly uses plural pronouns. His love considers what is best for all His people and the eternal well-being of everyone. If a personal sacrifice will benefit the family of God, then He could ask me to make it.

Yet in the asking, He still has compassion and knows that I am mere dust. Apart from Him and faith in Him, I cannot do anything sacrificial, nor do I want to. It is not part of my human nature. However, at times of intense prayer, I’ve found myself saying, “Lord, if taking me out of this world would draw ______ to Jesus, I am willing for even that.”

Those words are Holy Spirit words. This piece of dust would never say them unless the love of God was at work. This is a mystery. His love is so intense that He would die for me, and when He came to live in me, He began filling me with a love so intense that I’ve experienced that same willingness. How awesome!

The love of God is not an ‘out there’ love bestowed on me for my pleasure. It is an ‘in here’ love that transforms the heart. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has not one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).

Yes, God loves me as much as He loves His Son. He also considers my capacities and weaknesses, knowing that I am not able to be or do all things. But His love does not leave me weak and helpless or even unwilling to accept from Him the same challenges that He allowed Jesus to experience. Instead He gives me that which I would never have apart from Him—His incredible love that is not mine to hold and enjoy. Instead, God’s love for Jesus and His love for me is as Romans 5 says, “poured out in our hearts” meaning that He pours it in so that I might pour it out.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Which ‘father’ is the metaphor?

Some things we get backwards. I’ve heard people gripe about God not being fair, or God not caring about people. It seems as if their idea of ‘fair’ or their ‘caring’ is better than His. In putting Him down, the undergirding assumption seems to be that God should be like us because we see things more clearly. Since His ways don’t match ours, then He must be the failure.

That is backwards. God wants us to be like Him and He is perfect. Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Our problem is that many people don’t know what He is actually like or how He measures perfection. They are evaluating Him with a limited perspective.

The past few days in my devotional guide, the author discusses God in terms of father and mother, a perfect parent. Today I’m reminded that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” then followed with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

The author goes on to say, “It is inconceivable that a good father could forget or neglect or be unfair to his children. A savage or wicked father might, but a good father never! In calling our God by the blessed name of Father, we ought to know that if He is a father at all, He must be the very best of fathers, and His fatherhood must be the highest ideal of fatherhood we can conceive.”

It strikes me that this asks readers to compare God to the goodness of the very best earthly father, but isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t we compare our fathering, our mothering, to Him? Isn’t He the standard? By thinking that way, would we not conclude that “all far short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) because even a good father at times makes mistakes in his parenting? But God never does, regardless of our opinions.

I know this devotional writer is trying to elevate her readers’ concept of God, yet no matter how much I try, I cannot form my thoughts of Him by looking at my parents. Even though they were great parents, by doing this I pull God down to human standards rather than see Him as high and lifted up.

The more God shows me what He is like, the more I see my own shortcomings. He is holy, a word that means “other than” and conveys the idea that He is totally different from me, and far above all my imagination. Of course I am made in His image, but sin warps not only that image but my perception of it. To see Him as He is, I must look at God’s revelations of Himself, not at another person who suffers from the same warping.

I don’t want to be misinterpreted, but have to say this: no matter how wonderful my parents were, even their love and care for me did not satisfy my longings for a perfect love, for total care. That hole in my heart could not be filled by them, only by my Creator. I see how His incredible ‘other-than-ness’ allows Himself to be compared with things I do understand, such as fire, mountains, rocks, fathers, mothers, even mother hens, and so on, but He makes it clear that none of these come close to a perfect description. I cannot look at a rock and say that rock is what God is like. I can only say God says He is something like that rock, but much more.

I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone else, but I noticed in these readings about my loving parents being like God that my thoughts went to my parents. However, as I consider God revealing Himself as Father means He is just a little like they were to me, I began thinking that God is incredibly above and beyond all the love and care I can imagine. If my parents, who were sinners too, could sacrificially give their time and energy to care for me, then the God who created them will do and does do so much more for me.

Am I hairsplitting? Maybe so, yet I do it because many people want God to be more like themselves (as if they are wiser, more loving, fairer, etc.) than He. They don’t know that God is so far above them that they cannot even see what He is like. They have it backwards.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Mother

My devotional book, God is Enough (edited from writings by Hannah Whitall Smith, Ballantine Books), first compares God with fathers and then with mothers. While this book was written more in line with ideal parenting without saying much about those who abuse their children, I’ve been blessed by the idea of God as my perfect parent.

Today’s reading speaks of how a mother is always ready to feed her hungry child. Many mothers would (and have) starved themselves before they would allow their children to starve. My mother was never pressed to that decision, yet her heart came out at mealtimes. She wouldn’t sit down until she was certain everyone had what they needed.

The author of God is Enough points out that wise mothers do not always give their children the food they ask for, knowing that some foods are not good for children and too much of them could be fatal. Instead, these mothers give their children the most nutritious food they can find. It goes on to say that God, who made mothers who care this much, is the same—He gives us what is best, often when we have not even asked, and not always what we ask for.

Jesus said it this way, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11–13).

Although Jesus uses the term ‘father’ this applies also to mothers. The point is, God knows how to give me exactly what I need. My reading says that sometimes what He gives may appear to me like a “serpent” or a “scorpion,” but because God is the giver and He knows me and my needs better than I know myself, I can be sure everything that comes my way is the best thing for me.

When I was a very new Christian, He impressed this truth on my heart. He knew where my path would take me and that I needed to know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29). Had He not taught me this up front, I know I would have resisted or blamed many tough events on Him instead of seeing that He was using them to change me.

The thought that touched me this morning is this: a “child does not have to supply or prepare his own food; that is the mother’s responsibility. All the child has to do is eat and live, without care and without cost.” Paul echos the same idea in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Whatever I need, God knows it before I do, but also moves heaven and earth to make sure I am supplied! While these words tend toward thoughts of material needs, my mind goes back to the verses from Luke 11. It says that in giving good gifts God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. This is the ultimate gift. With the Spirit of God in my life—and my will yielded to His—I am able to know and trust my heavenly Father to be both father and mother to me. He cares about me and will take care of everything concerning me. As my reading says, He is much truer to the ideal of motherhood than even the best earthly mother can be.

I miss my own mother who died nearly six years ago, but I appreciate this reminder. Even though she is not here, I can rest in God’s infinite care and be thankful for every provision.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Who is responsible—the leaders or the people?

(NOTE: January 7 to January 18 have all been posted today also.)

D
uring our two weeks in Florida, we heard many people talking about their government, the presidential primaries, and the current economic situation. We also heard people cursing their leader, the president.

Although I pray about them, normally I don’t bother with social issues. Any study of history shows that things come and go, so my thoughts and comments could be obsolete tomorrow. However, in reading through parts of Exodus this morning, I realize I need to be more aware of current events in relation to what the Bible says. I read one verse that really startled me, particularly in light of our south of the border observations.

The verse says, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people” (Exodus 22:28). It cross-references to Ecclesiastes 10:20 which goes farther: “Do not curse the king, even in your thoughts.

God’s will for His people is that we respect authority. These verses from the Old Testament, especially in their context, show how serious a matter this is to Him. For example, the Ten Commandments include one about honoring parents, and a few chapters later, those who curse their parents are to be put to death.

We don’t follow that practice today, but the point is worth repeating; God takes respect for authority seriously. He repeats this in the New Testament in passages like this one: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).

This is about recognizing and yielding to the sovereignty of God. He governs the people who govern; He allows rulers to rule nations. If God’s people curse their rulers and refuse to honor their authority, we are reviling God and His sovereign will. Other passages make clear that when God’s people do this, their whole nation will suffer because the Lord God will bring judgment on them. Some of those judgments included crop failure and the inability to conquer their enemies.

As I ponder these things, the logical next question is this: In a country with a collapsing economy and other hardships, and a seeming inability to win their wars, who is to blame? Certainly leaders can make dumb decisions, and a whole host of factors can affect their economic status, but considering the sovereignty of God who can overrule any negatives and bless any person or group of people whose hearts are set to obey Him, is decline really the fault of just one leader? The Bible is filled with God’s promises to bless obedience and curse disobedience, but these promises are given the entire population, not just the leaders.

Of course complaining about the government could be justified; all presidents, kings, and other rulers make mistakes. Some of them are downright evil. But such complaining cannot be justified before God. His will is that His people stop grumbling to others and get on their knees, taking their concerns to Him. One familiar Old Testament verse says: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

The New Testament adds this, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

No country or people are exempt. Those who know and love the Lord are as responsible for the state of their nation as their leaders are responsible. God will bless and have mercy on those who trust Him, even if their leader seems to be doing the wrong things. We need to pray for our governments, not revile or declare hatred for those in authority.

This might sound simplistic, and perhaps it is, but if God is not sufficient to take care of decisions made by those in authority, or the economy of a country, or the safety and well-being of those who live in it, then who is?

“If my people hear my voice. . . .”

His Part & Our Part

January 18, 2008

When a mother carries her child, the baby often grips her neck as if his own strength is needed to keep him from falling. Of course this is not true. It is the mother’s loving grasp that carries the baby. After a time, the baby usually realizes that he need not fear; he can rely totally on his mother’s arms. My devotional reading points out that the “everlasting arms” of God (Deuteronomy 33:27) can be no less.

God protects His people. Like a little child, our defenses and means of self-preservation are nothing compared to His mighty care. Our grip around His neck signifies commitment more than having anything to do with being safe because it is His arms, His powerful love that holds and keeps us.

Nevertheless, He invites us to cling and we do that by obedience. I’m also reading through the Bible, something I’ve done for several years. This morning I noted three passages in Exodus that say something about the care of God and our part in receiving that care.

The first is from Exodus 15:25-26, God’s promise to give His people good health. It says, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.

His part was the gift of good health; their part was listening to and obeying Him. While it is never legitimate to blame all diseases on disobedience, this is a powerful promise. I’ve read several books on the effects human behavior have on our health, including None of these Diseases based on this passage, and When Your Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. Both were written by doctors whose experience backs up this incredible promise from God. If I do what He says, He will take care of my body.

Another passage is about my complaints. The New Testament says I’m not supposed to grumble about my lot in life, but trust the Lord instead. This lack of complaining also can be a testimony to a world of people who are never satisfied about anything. However, Exodus 16:6-8 says this about the complaints of God’s people.
“Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, ‘At evening you shall know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord; for He hears your complaints against the Lord. But what are we, that you complain against us?’ Also Moses said, ‘This shall be seen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the Lord hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.’”
I’ve realized that any complaining I do, even when it seems to be against others, is really a complaint against my sovereign God who rubber stamps everything that happens to me. Yet this passage says that God hears those complaints I’m not supposed to make!

In this case in Exodus, He considered the spiritual maturity and physical situation of His people. At this point in their journey they needed to know that He cared about them and would take care of them, so He answered their cries and did something about their needs.

I’m not saying this makes complaining right. What I see here is that if something is wrong, I must tell God about it. I should not complain to others or even blame others. He is in charge and if the problem needs correction, He will correct it. My part is to give Him the opportunity, not bellyache as if He is not on my side or caring.

The third passage is Exodus 19:3-6 and is of far greater scope than my health or personal needs. It says, “Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.’

His part is making His people a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Their part is obedience. Remembering His deliverance from bondage in Egypt and His care in the wilderness would help them keep His commands. As they did, He would do great things in their lives.

This is a New Testament truth as well. God is at work to make His church the very same thing. We need to obey or the process slows to a crawl. I need to obey so He can do this great thing in my life, giving me a significant role in His plan. When I don’t obey, I fall short of that ‘special treasure’ category.

The Christian life can be complex, but at times the simplicity needs to be restated. God is enough. All He wants from me is that I love and obey Him. He will take care of everything else.

Now there is a word for it

January 17, 2008

In the February issue of The Writer magazine, I learned of a new word coined by a television comedian. This word was named Word of the Year in 2006 by Merriam-Webster, so I’m a bit red-faced at being behind the times. Nevertheless, the definition of this word is quite familiar.

The word is “truthiness.” It comes from the current thinking that facts do not matter; perception is everything. In other words, truthiness means that something is true because a person believes it’s true, even if it is false.

The article linked this word to the way current political candidates rework language so they can say something no one wants to hear and make it sound good. Words like “increased taxes” are massaged to “necessary revenue enhancements.”

As I read the article, I linked it to the way this kind of thinking has almost obliterated the concept of absolute truth. It has particularly affected the Gospel and given people yet another reason to reject it.

Not that this reason has never existed. Long before this word was coined, people would say about the claims of Jesus Christ, “That is true for you, but it is not true for me.” For them, truth is about their perception. If it doesn’t feel true, or seem plausible, or they don’t want to believe it, then it isn’t true.

Truthiness affects how a person thinks they can be saved from sin and go to heaven when they die. Absolute truth says that Jesus died for our sins, and by believing in Him we can have eternal life. “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22).

Truthiness ignores the claims of Christ and the clear teaching of Scripture. Instead, it says “If I’m a good person, God will let me in.” Millions of people believe this, mostly because pride wants it to be true. Because so many think this way, in their minds the ‘gospel of good works’ must be true, even though God’s Word declares that it is false.

Truthiness describes the thinking in cults also. My brother told me that because there are so many followers in the religious group he belongs to, and because all of them are convinced they are right (and everyone else is wrong), then his cult must be the true ‘faith’— even though what he believes is contrary to what the Bible says.

I’ve tried to point out the illogical side of truthiness to a few people. For instance, if someone told me my house was on fire and I felt that it wasn’t, obviously my opinion or perception is more than risky. If the house is on fire, perception will not change that reality. A call to the fire department might, but if I am unconvinced, my opinion could mean disaster, not only for my house but my very life.

Politicians and salesmen and others use euphemisms to cover up words that might make them unpopular or expose the flaws in their views, or in what they are trying to sell. The idea of making it sound good helps people to think it (whatever it is) is good, or good for them—even if it isn’t. This is not only deceptive, but insincere. Even those who cannot decipher their truthiness language can sense that something is not right. How can a person vote for the best candidate (or purchase the best car) without having clear information?

The same question applies to spiritual matters. Who can make an intelligent decision about the claims of Jesus Christ if the message is massaged to the point of being palatable—but no longer true?

I thank God that He doesn’t waffle or massage His words. Some of what He says is difficult to understand, but that is seldom the real problem people have with it. They don’t like what they do understand. Sadly, instead of exploring the truth and God’s solution for it, this so-called enlightened generation, including its cults and isms, think that the best way to deal with plain truth is to rework it into truthiness. That way, they reword the Bible, or its message, into something people like to hear. Their version is no longer true, but at least they can sell it to those who prefer truthiness to truth.

A Leap of Faith

January 16, 2008

A few years ago a young woman was taking care of several children while their mother and father were away. The family had a swimming pool in the back yard and it was a hot day, so all of them were in the pool and very much enjoying the water.

This was a Christian family in which the parents lovingly taught their children to obey them and the authorities in their lives. Had they not, this day would have brought horrendous disaster and sorrow.

As the children were swimming, the baby sitter noticed a small spark from a wire in an overhead power line. She called out to the children, “All of you! Out of the pool! At once!”

How many children would instantly stop their play, or if they did, at least protest that this was fun, so why must they get out? These children, without any hesitation, quickly jumped out of the pool. At the instant the last one was on deck, the power line snapped and fell into the water.

I think of this real-life story when I’m at a swimming pool, or watching children interact with their parents. Learning obedience is difficult—learning instant obedience without protest is even more challenging.

The Bible tells fathers to bring their children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), because it first tells children to, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” How can a child obey God unless they learn obedience from godly parents who raise them under the instruction and authority that God gives? It is possible, but certainly a greater challenge for those whose parents didn’t take on this responsibility.

My parents were told by my doctors that I would not live past sixteen years. For that reason, they didn’t give me a lot of orders. I remember the household rules and things like “stay away from bad boys” but not a lot of other instruction. By the time I passed sixteen in good health, I wasn’t as teachable as I might have been ten years before that. I don’t think I was a brat, but taking instruction has been a challenge for me.

This year, as I work through my annual purpose and goals, God is asking that I take a leap of faith. In previous years, I listed the givens (personal spiritual life, relationships with family and friends, and household responsibilities) then added goals in four other areas. This year, the Lord is nudging me to include those four areas, but drop my goals and the resulting to-do lists. After I take care of the givens, will have some free time for those other things, but instead of making my own set of plans, He wants me to listen for His direction each day. He may tell me to complete a project half done (I am working on many PhDs!) or start something new, or take off in another direction. The point is, I’m to pay attention to His will and obey it.

I respond to this something like Moses did when God spoke to him at the burning bush and told him to go back to Egypt and lead His people to the promised land. Basically, Moses said, “Here I am, send Aaron.” He didn’t want to do it, made excuses, told God he was inadequate, said he was not a speaker, blah, blah, blah. God replied, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say” (Exodus 4).

In other words, God told him that He created him, poor of speech and inadequacies included, but this was not about Moses. It was about the sufficiency of God.

Moses didn’t get it. He said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.

While I don’t outright say the same words, in my heart when I pray for others, I’m thinking that God is enough, He doesn’t need me, and because I’m not capable, I’m sure He will send someone else.

I sound like Moses.

The next verses say that “the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses” and He replied that Aaron, Moses’ brother, could speak well so He would use him as a spokesperson, but He would first tell Moses what He wanted said. Then Moses would tell Aaron and Aaron would do the talking.

The first thing that hits me is that God promised to give Moses everything he needed to say. This would be when he needed to say it, and would require moment-by-moment listening and obedience on the part of this reluctant man. I have wondered about this. If I drop my to-do list, will God speak to me and let me know what to do next? Or will silence drive me back to doing things the old way, my way?

The second thing that hits me is that at times I have ‘passed the buck’ on obedience with the excuse of inadequacy. I’ve said, “Here I am” and wanted to be used by God, but in my heart, I’ve not expected this to happen because I’m not good enough, and He has far more capable servants. Just like Moses, I’m now hearing Him say, “Who made you? Don’t I know all about you? If I wanted someone else, I’d ask someone else.”

Obedience isn’t about me, or what I think about me. It is about the sufficiency of God. Neither is having a to-do list about what I think needs to be done. It is about the plans and purposes of God, which can be easy to miss, ignore, or neglect because I am too involved in busy work to fill in the hours in my days.

We heard a sermon last Sunday at Friendship Community Church in which God challenged us in the importance of prayer empowered by the Holy Spirit that seeks God’s will in all matters. The pastor said that too many Christians settle for mere survival instead of living as the Christians of the New Testament. He also asked, “If the hope of the world rests on you, what would the world be like?”

That hope does not rest on me; it rests on Christ, thank God, yet He makes it clear that I have a part in it and that role can be known and lived out only if I place my own plans in His hands and wait each day for His direction.

This is scary. Will I hear it? Will God’s direction be enough? My heart says of course it will, but taking a leap of faith is somewhat terrifying—I don’t like jumping at His command without knowing what will happen, nor do I enjoy the interval between taking that leap and landing in obedience, but then this isn’t about me, is it!

My Father

January 15, 2008

The author of today’s devotional reading ends it with, “Discomfort and unrest are impossible to souls who come to know that God is their Father.”

This devotional was written in 1906, yet I’m sure that even back then fathers were not the perfect strongholds and comfort this author portrays. Today this might be worse. Children are beaten, abandoned, ignored, yelled at, given harsh ultimatums at the hands of their fathers. Mental and verbal abuses come to mind for many at the mention of the word ‘father’, and yet as terrible as these things are, perhaps worst damage is done by imperfect fathers in that they are giving their children an imperfect idea of God.

My father was a good man. He worked hard, loved his family, and had no vices. When I was ill and he wasn’t sure I would survive, he spoiled me. That is, whatever I wanted, he did his best to provide, even giving me my own horses (a tough concession for a man who loved all things with carburetors). When I became a Christian, I thought God would do the same. After a few hard lessons with unanswered prayers (of course they were totally selfish), I learned that God was not like my dad.

I’ve learned since that almost all children form their ideas of God from their earthly father, and if they want to truly know God, most of those ideas need reshaping. What are those lessons like for someone who has been severely mistreated and abused by their father? What are they like for those who have been abandoned or ignored? Some will think that God caused their sorrow, that He cannot be trusted. Others will think that God is not at all interested in their lives. I’ve known people in both situations. Learning that God is good was difficult for them, far more than for me. I’d assumed His goodness was about indulging me. They assumed goodness didn’t exist.

Because of this (and other reasons) some people take issue with verses like Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” and 23:13-14, “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.

These instructions were written in a different era, a time when fathers did not abuse their children but indulged them, sometimes to the point of letting them sin without correcting them. Eli is a classic example. His sons held roles as priests yet they treated the sacrifices with contempt and had illicit relationships with female worshipers. Eli rebuked them but didn’t stop them, and God had to step in and deal severely with their sin.

Part of the role of a loving father is discipline, not because he is angry at the child but because he cares about the child’s well-being. Hebrews 12:7-11 says:
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
God’s purpose in chastening is to make us better. Far too often, today’s fathers chasten a child for reasons of personal ego, or the child is annoying them, or they demand perfection to make themselves look good. Not so with God. He knows who He is and is not thinking about our behavior being a threat to that, but a threat to us.

Besides, when we sin, His love remains; it is never turned off. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

I found an illustration about the fatherhood of God that begins by telling of a father tucking in his six-year-old son in bed for the night. The father asked him, “Son, when does Daddy love you the most? When you’ve been fighting with your sister and getting into a lot of trouble? Or when you’ve been real helpful to Mommy and real nice to everyone.”

The son thought for a moment and then said, “Both times.”

How many children know that they are loved no matter what? How many children are confident that even when they do something that violates his rules and makes their father sad or upset, he still loves them?

I’m humbled as I think of God’s gift of my parents, particularly as I realize their importance in helping me understand His goodness and that He is enough. Their love for me isn’t as perfect as God’s love, but they did model love. I feel deep compassion and concern for those who didn’t have the same role models.

We cannot choose our parents, but we can choose God. We can learn both the similarities and differences between our heavenly Father and our imperfect fathers here on earth. We can also rely on Him as a God who knew that our parents might let us down. Psalm 27:10 says, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.

Today I’ll be thinking of and praying for those who are blocked from knowing God because their father (and mother) stand in the way as bad examples of the fatherhood of God. Everyone needs to know that whatever anyone in our lives, fathers included, have failed to be, our Father God is enough.

Life is not always fair, but God is good

January 14, 2008

My title today comes from an incident that happened more than fifteen years ago in a little church in southwest Saskatchewan. I was attending Bible college at Caronport while my husband supervised the building of a fertilizer plant east of Moose Jaw. We attended church in a small town called Mortlach. One Sunday another student from the college came with us. Brook is about six feet tall.

After the service, an older woman who was a regular attender visited with him. She was very short. Something about their conversation led her to stand on her tiptoes and jab her finger into Brook’s chest. She said, “Life is not always fair, but God is good, and don’t you forget it.”

I don’t know if Brook remembers this, but we often visualize the picture of that little woman exhorting our tall friend. We also remember her words of wisdom, particularly when life seems unfair.

I thought of her words again this morning while reading the story of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he gained power in Egypt because he obeyed God. When a famine hit, Joseph controlled the food. When his brothers showed up to buy grain, they didn’t recognize him, but Joseph knew who they were. After bargaining, sending them home, and their return the second time for more grain, he finally revealed his identity to them.

I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you!” (Genesis 45:4-8).

Later on after Joseph’s entire family came to Egypt and lived in abundance, Joseph said again, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (50:20).

Life is not fair, but God is good. Joseph knew it without a doubt. At this point in the story, I almost always start weeping at the joy of it. This morning was no different except that I also mentally placed Joseph alongside our little woman from Mortlach.

My devotional reading is on this topic also. The writer tells how one day God hit him with Psalm 34:8. After reading, “O taste and see that the Lord is good,” each time that goodness was challenged by adverse or perplexing circumstances, this truth came to mind. God rescued his mind from doubt by reminding him that He is good, no matter how unfair life seems.

As I pray each day for unsaved family members, I have learned that my plea is not to persuade God to open their hearts to Him and bring them to saving faith in Christ. He wants to do that great good in their lives far more than I want it. Instead, my prayers are part of a spiritual war against the evil one who holds these family members in bondage. That battle is not against God, but one where I fight alongside Him.

Yet at times I wonder why He isn’t doing anything, at least anything that I can see. It would be easy to assume that He is less than good because He is withholding this answer to a prayer that seems to be in His will. Why don’t things change? Why are they still blind to His truth? He could reveal it. Why doesn’t He?

Circumstances like this have often challenged my mind into wondering about the goodness of God. Even though I know none of us deserve even the least of His mercies, He does invite us to ask and He alone has the power to save souls. Why then does He seem to not fight with me or answer?

Today these three words come back to me, reminding me that regardless of what life is like, God is good. His goodness will win over evil. His goodness cares more than I care, and as I think about the story of Joseph and do the math, I realize that it might take a few years for His goodness to be revealed. Joseph was years as a slave to Potiphar, years in jail after being falsely accused by his master’s wife, and seven plus years as Pharaoh’s head man in Egypt before his brothers came for grain. God intended to use for good his sale as a slave by his brothers, but that good did not happen for at least ten to fifteen years.

Memories of a little woman saying big words are a blessing from God when it seems as if He is not listening or that things will never change. Regardless of what happens, her words, His Word, and the story of Joseph convince me that even though it may take time to see what He is doing, God is still good.

The dangers of not going to church

January 13, 2008

Last Sunday in California with my relatives offered no opportunity to go to church. Had I asked, one of them would have taken me, or at least dropped me off, however, without any knowledge of the churches in the area, finding something appropriate and nearby may have been a challenge.

Here in Florida we have attended several over the years of vacationing in this area. Some are vibrant and teach the Bible (Yes, it is true; some churches do not) and we will go to one of those this morning. My devotional reading reminds me of one good reason not to miss church very often.

I love staying home, being alone, doing things on my own, but one of the dangers of time alone is the hermit thing where a person starts talking to themselves and hearing voices. In the spiritual realm, if this isn’t prayer and the Holy Spirit, it will be doubts and the enemy who fuels those doubts with his lies.

Some of the questions a loner or a lonely person might start asking are seldom vocalized, but if they were, they would sound like this: Does God really love me? Will He hear and answer my prayers? Does He understand my problems or even care about them? Will He intervene on the behalf of others that I care about and who are in danger?

Today’s devotional reading says, “Although these questions may seem irreverent to some, they simply embody the doubts and fears of a great many doubting hearts, and they only need to be asked in order to prove that these doubts and fears are in themselves the real irreverence. We know what the triumphant answers to such questions would be. No doubts could withstand their testimony; and the soul that asks and answers them honestly will be shut up to a profound and absolute conviction that God is and must be enough.”

“They only need to be asked”—yet when I am alone and get caught up in a fear or a doubt, often I don’t ask. Instead I just stew about my problems, wrangle with my fears, and fail to see the obvious. Yet when I go to church, invariable someone says something that directs my mind away from my inner battle and puts it on the glory and power of God.

The truth I need to hear that day might be in the words of a chorus, or in the sermon, or from another believer, or even something written in the bulletin. Wherever it comes from, God knew what He was doing when He put Hebrews 10:24-25 in the Bible. It says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

I need the exhortation of others. I need to be stirred up when I get complacent, encouraged when I’m tired of doing good for others (sometimes with no visible rewards), and reminded that Jesus will return, especially when the same-old, same-old gets me down.

I also need my fears and doubts exposed, either by hearing them said out loud or by hearing the obvious answers to whatever has been flying through my head. No matter how much I think I can survive all by myself, too much time alone makes me vulnerable to oblivion and to forgetting the power and sufficiency of God.

Is it okay to rejoice in what I do?

January 12, 2008

A T-shirt for children says, “God created me and God doesn’t make junk,” yet many adults seem to need these words. I’ve heard people bemoan their inadequacies to the point that they cannot see anything else around them, never mind anything positive in themselves.

But does the gospel allow us to see good in ourselves? The Bible declares “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10) “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (verse 23). Because of verses like these, some adopt what has been called a “worm theology” that gives no merit at all to any human being. In the sight of God, we have all gone astray; everyone has turned to his own way. We are totally worthless and therefore have no right to see any good in ourselves or anyone else.

Yet we are created in the image of God. Although that image is marred and distorted by sin and selfishness, people have the capacity to be creative, care for one another, and do good things. Because of these things, the declaration that “everyone is sinful” confuses many people, and even makes them angry.

Sometimes I draw a diagram to explain how I understand the difference between good and godly. I use a long horizontal line with words inserted. It looks something like this:

Evil <-----------> good † godly <-----------> totally like Jesus

Every person is born on the left side of the center symbol (my best effort to draw a cross in this font). While each person has capacity for “good” as defined in human terms, we also have the capacity for evil. Most people do not go all the way to the left into total evil, but no one can go farther to the right than being a “good” person—unless they go through the Cross and respond to the gospel.

The gospel takes care of the sin issue, and it is sin that keeps a person from being godly or Godlike. Because of sin that Godlikeness is covered up or perverted. When sin is forgiven and cleansed through faith in Jesus Christ and His saving work at Calvary, a person can move from the left side to the right. In the beginning, and at various times in life, that person may not look much like Jesus, but he or she does have the capacity because sin is covered and Christ now lives in their heart.

All that said, I used to put people into black or white categories. If they didn’t know Christ, they were bad people; if they did, they were saints. While this is how God looks at us, I’ve realized that I cannot see as He does, partly because the lines are not as clear to me as I once supposed. I don’t always know who is who, or who believes what. Also, I’ve learned that although an unbelieving person cannot be godly, goodness in a Christian can be self-effort, or what the Bible calls living according to the flesh. Another term is self-righteousness. This is just as “black” in outward appearance as the sin of unbelief, maybe even more so. Because God looks on the heart, He knows what is going on, but I don’t.

Anyway, as I read and study and think about the sufficiency of God, I realize how difficult it is to think about Him and His power throughout the day. It is easier to focus on my will, my abilities, my resources. Yet is that bad? It was sinful before I became a believer, but now that I know Jesus, have the lines changed? Can I rejoice in my new life and the things I do?

I question this because I listen to Christians who cannot rejoice in much of anything. They dismiss their godly deeds as if it is somehow sinful to acknowledge that God has used them to do something in a Christlike way. This contradicts what happens in my own heart when I do something creative or Christlike. If I share my joy, I often get odd looks as if I’m doing the wrong thing.

For example, last night I stayed up past midnight designing quilts on my computer. I’ve never had the luxury of that amount of time so each revision became more creative and pleasing to my eye than the previous one. It felt good. I wondered if a similar elation ran though the heart of God when He flung the stars into space or created thousands of variations of a tree. Surely it did, and even more so. The Bible says when He was finished His creative work, He declared it “good.”

Am I not like Him? Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

God gives me good things to do, but it’s difficult keeping a balance in how I feel about my performance. I can fix my eyes so exclusively on myself that all my thoughts are directed toward my own condition—Is my love for God warm enough? Am I enough in earnest? Are my feelings toward Him what they ought to be? Have I enough zeal?—or I begin to gloat over my accomplishments as if I did it all by myself. The happy alternative is rejoicing in being His workmanship and delighting in those good works that because of Christ Jesus I now have the capacity to do.

So then, what is the difference between the feel-good of an artist who does not know Jesus and the joy of a Christian over their creative works? Before Christ came into my life, I was satisfied for such a short while. Very soon after completion, I began to feel as if the work I did, creative or otherwise, was not good enough, certainly never as good as the next person, and never totally satisfying.

Not so in Christ. When I make something or do something as His child and in obedience to His leading, I can hear the Holy Spirit saying “Well done!” He fills me with His joy, a joy that does not depend on the quality of the work, but on my relationship to Him and on simply doing as He asks.

God’s saving grace is sufficient. It even includes the grace to be thrilled at the work He gives me and the completion of each task. I can stand on the right side of that diagram and rejoice at form, pattern, color, line and design, because He lives in me. These things please Him and I can feel His pleasure.

I’m no longer driven to do the perfect painting, create the perfect design, make the perfect quilt because He alone is perfect, and what He has done in my heart is more than enough!

Get with the program

January 11, 2008

Although the idea is illogical, I’ve done it myself and heard other Christians say it: “When I’m suffering, I tend to try everything I know to fix it, and when all of that fails, then I ask God.”

We are too resourceful. We have too many skills. Help comes in too many forms. We have doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and if these don’t give us the answers we want, we try the Internet! What makes anyone think that God intended Himself to be our last straw?

My devotional reading today says, “Let us try to imagine the apostles and early Christians as being filled with as many doubts and questions as modern Christians, and think what effect it would have had on their preaching and work. We can see in a moment that it would have been fatal to the spread of the gospel. A church founded on doubts and questions could have made no headway in an unbelieving world.”

Individual issues as well as the big picture reveal that the modern church seems to have little idea that we are in a spiritual war. The enemy desires that we make no headway, neither as a church nor as individual believers. He fills our head with lies about God and as we fail to discern what is happening we flounder in doubt about the character and power of God. In our minds, when life gets tough, God has stopped caring and we must ‘fix it’ ourselves.

God has a lot to say about this big thing that we resist—suffering. Perhaps the most important truth is that He has a purpose in it. Instead of fighting it or trying to fix everything I don’t like, I am supposed to trust Him and seek His purpose. Otherwise that trial is a waste and I’ll likely need to experience another test before God’s will is done in my life. 1 Peter 4:12ff speaks about this:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”
This is a rich passage that reveals much about my trials, but first it reminds me that Jesus suffered too, far more than I ever will. Because of that, I cannot suppose that living a good life will exempt me. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 says that, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The godly life of Jesus Christ angered people to the point of wanting to kill Him and God even allowed them to do it! If I determine to be like Jesus, I can expect opposition, and if not from people, certainly from Satan, but I can also expect that God is controlling all of it.

The passage also says that I need to watch out that people don’t have good reason for disliking me. In other words, don’t bring it on myself by sinning or by being a jerk. 1 Peter 3:17 says, “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil,” telling me that I can suffer at the hand of God for both. One purpose might be to chasten me for sin—and that suffering can be avoided. The other purpose is that I see this as an opportunity to glorify God. Of course I will not do that if He is last on my list of resources.

Peter also points out that God uses suffering to perfect His people. We have rough edges that need to be knocked off, but we also have the potential for deep faith and great Christlikeness that will not show up until we suffer trials. Therefore, to bring glory to Himself and growth to us, God allows these tests. Instead of falling into doubt and questioning God at this point, I am supposed to trust and glorify Him.

Later on in 1 Peter 5:8-12, the Bible says I am to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Sometimes I forget that Satan is trying to wreak my life and God is trying to perfect my life. Instead, I blame God for the disasters and try all by myself to make things perfect—using all sorts of schemes. God is gracious and allows my efforts to work—sometimes, but His eventual goal is that I become like Him and glorify Him. Instead of taking matters into my own hands, I’m far better off when I get with the program and cooperate with His goals—and His methods.

Perfect assurance because . . .

January 10, 2008

Holidays, especially at the beginning of a new year, are a great time for reflection. As my husband and I experience the simplicity of being ‘away from it all’ and the enjoyment of ‘no schedule’ I tend to think about ways to reorganize my life, perhaps to make it more like a holiday?

Other thoughts on my mind include those things I am sure of, things that I can build upon. Life holds few guarantees, yet I’m fairly assured that when we arrive home, I will still teach, quilt, cook meals and need to keep my house clean. Of course there will be all those interruptions and sideswipes that push their way into the simplicity of that to-do list making even the basics an uncertainty.

One thing is different: spiritually I stand on solid ground. God is true and no matter what happens He will not change—and whatever is based on His character stands forever. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The promises of God are also a certainty. Some of them do depend on my response, but even that response comes from Him. Consider this from 1 John 5:10-13:
“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
“Anyone who believes” depends on verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 that declare how faith is a gift from God. It comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), another gift of His grace.

This passage goes on to affirm that eternal life is also a gift. This life is in Christ, and those who have Christ also have life. He lives in those who believe in Him. When God granted me faith, He also gave me Jesus. Now that I have Jesus, I also have eternal life—and I know it.

I’ve known it since that day Jesus Christ made Himself known to me and came in. That was more than thirty-five years ago, and even though I’ve had many ups and many downs since then, I’ve never doubted that I belong to Him. This secure knowing and deep assurance are not based on me, or what I do, or even on how much I trust Him. It is about Jesus. He is the source of my salvation, not myself.

Some may think that this wonderful eternal life depends on faith, as if a person stopped believing they would no longer have it, yet defining the word ‘eternal’ does not allow for that. Eternal is forever, without beginning or end. It has to find its source in Jesus, not in faith which can come and go.

Apart from semantics, eternal life is definitely a God-thing, not what I do or do not do. There was a short time when I did stop believing, or at least tried to because I was losing a battle against a particular sin and came to the conclusion that this being a Christian is far too difficult. Yet God held on to me. He dropped verses into my situation to show me that He was sufficient and that I could win that war. In other words, my salvation (as well as my eternal life) does not depend on my performance but on the power and sufficiency of God.

This is solid ground. It will not change. This new year could bring all sorts of challenges. My husband has an incurable cancer. Any number of disasters could happen to friends, to family, to me, but God is. He is my anchor, the keeper of promises, my life and eternal destiny. Because He is who He is, He is enough.

Why so many interpretations of the Bible?

January 9, 2008

Last weekend a man told me that it was important to trust the “man upstairs” yet at the same time he had no use for the Bible. When I asked why, he said there were too many different ways to interpret it; one person says one thing, and another has a different view. Since everyone claims to have the correct interpretation and (in his thinking) this is impossible to sort out, he tossed the whole book.

I suggested to him that the reason for all these views is that each person wants their own way, and when we come to the Bible with that in mind, we will interpret it according to our own way. It is only when we can willingly give up all our “I wants” that we can begin to understand what the Bible truly says. He was somewhat surprised at that answer since it fit with his complaint of everyone claiming they are right.

This is a huge issue for many people, both Christian believers and those who do not believe in Jesus Christ or the Bible. Every person wants a reliable and correct understanding, yet with a multitude of interpretations, who can know for sure what is correct?

I see this as two issues with several possible solutions, some applying to unbelievers, and others are for Christians who disagree on what the Bible says.

Unbelievers struggle with the Scripture because they are trying to interpret it without the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:19-20 says that, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

This means that even the men who wrote it did not rely on their own wisdom and understanding in the process. Instead, God moved them, or ‘inspired’ their writing. The writer is a glove and He is the hand that moves the glove. Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible would not be the Word of God, but just as the Holy Spirit was vital to the writing, He is also vital to the understanding. 1 Corinthians 2 says “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,” and no eye or ear can grasp these things, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.”

If I tried to read a book in a foreign language, I would similarly need an interpreter. I’d need to meet the author and be able to communicate in some way. When the author explained the writing, I would begin to grasp what his book says.

Yet even those who have the Holy Spirit living inside of them through faith in Jesus Christ can still have different interpretations. This is likely more confusing than the first problem because many of them seem to be godly people claiming to have the inside scoop on what God says. They may even know verses like Daniel 2:21-22, “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him” and claim that God has shown them that their interpretation is correct.

My devotional reading today gives one good reason why there are differences between believers about Bible interpretation. The author likens it to the view as a person climbs a mountain. The farther up they go, the more the landscape changes. That which they saw on the bottom is correct and true, but so is the view from the peak, even though the appearance is much different. He likened this climb to closeness to God. The deeper one’s relationship is, the more their view changes, even enlarges. The initial view is not wrong, just limited.

That is a grand image and applicable in many cases, yet the Bible gives a few more reasons why believers can differ on their interpretation.

One is that some of us fear the Lord and some of us have lost that, or have an undeveloped sense of reverence. Proverbs 25:24 says, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” Without a positive respect and awe for God, the Holy Spirit will not open my eyes to His truths and my understanding of Scripture will be incomplete at best, or in error at worst.

A second reason I can misinterpret the Bible is because I am not obedient to what I do know, Jesus said in John 7:17, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” Knowing the will of God and the Word of God depends on my willingness to obey it. If I am not willing to do what it says, the Holy Spirit is not going to show it to me.

Another reason for many interpretations is that Christians sometimes fall into the sin of trying to look good to the world instead of being concerned that God is glorified. Verse 18 adds, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

I’d not put this verse with verse 17 until thinking about this problem. However, I know that it fits. If I am concerned that people are impressed with me, then I’ve lost touch with the Holy Spirit whose main goal is to glorify the Lord. As soon as that communication link is broken (by this sin or any other sin), then I cannot properly interpret the Bible.

It would be best if Christians who are out of touch with God would stop trying to figure out His book, but sadly, we sometimes don’t recognize our slide into self-rule. We may not see how this slide creates a view much like that of a mountain climber who slipped and started rolling downhill!

When this happens, I must confess my sin to Him and be forgiven and cleansed, not keep on as if nothing were wrong. My backsliding distorts my understanding of the Bible, causes disagreements with other Christians about what it says, and results in great confusion for those who are still seeking God’s truth. Instead of being a light, I am then not only stumbling about in the dark, but causing others to trip over me.