Thursday, April 30, 2009
by Rebecca Irwin
I have a dear friend from college who has the habit, when we correspond, to respond with a written prayer just for me. She will address the concerns I have written about in an email or note as we “catch up” on each other’s lives and boldly claim God’s promises and power to address them. It is an indescribable blessing.
In Ephesians 6, Paul wrote : “Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” (vs. 14-18,)
In 1 Timothy, chapter 2, we read : “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know…Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray - not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.” (vs 1, 8).
James also writes in 5:16 “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”
Sisters in Christ, I offer you a challenge today. Bring someone into the intimacy of prayer and bless him or her by writing a prayer for them or praying out loud over the phone or in person. It has a powerful impact when another hears your prayer for them (or reads it) and knows you mean it when you say, “I’m praying for you”.
Lord, I pray for this dear reader that she would have the boldness to bless someone with her spoken or written prayer today. I pray that she would not worry what the other person might think or her words or language. If she lacks words Lord, reminder her of yours. Amen.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
“In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” Psalm 5:3
What voice do you hear in the morning? Better yet, does the Lord hear your voice in the morning? I’m on a mission….my mission is to encourage you sleepy heads to get up – get God – and get going in the morning.
“In the morning, O Lord…”, Now think on that. It doesn’t say in the afternoon, at night, or sometime in between. It speaks specifically to your morning.
“You will hear my voice…” Whose voice? Your voice. What is He hearing you say? Are you speaking to Him in the morning? Is it praise worthy? He is praise worthy.
“In the morning I will order my prayer to You…” There it is again – specific to morning. What are you to do? Order your prayer to Him. That would imply you are up and speaking to Him in the morning.
Then what happens? You eagerly watch. What are you watching for? You are watching for Him to reveal himself in your day. For example, the neighbor who waved at you this morning, the grocery store clerk who needed a kind word from you, the co-worker who said she just needed to put some papers on your desk…but really needed a word of encouragement, the customer who yelled at me on the phone – then shared how he and his wife spend three months a year in India teaching in some of the worst conditions known to man (he apologized for yelling – I forgave him. He blessed my day).
The point is this…Get Up – Get God – Get Going. There is no better way to combat satan than to start you day with scripture said to the Lord. Try saying the verse at the top of this post every morning for the next week – then eagerly watch…you might be surprised at how He will change your vision and your voice.
Mighty God, how often we forget your desire to be with us. We treat you, at times, like an acquaintance as opposed to our creator. The One who knows our thoughts, our struggles, our joy. Your word says over and over to start our day with you. Strengthen us to give you our first fruit of the morning and then have the patience to watch for you during our day. We praise you Lord.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
My theme verse for the year is:
John 15:5 – “I am the Vine, you are the branches. If a man abides in Me and I in you, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Liz Young showed me a devotional selection on how to abide in Jesus. It’s a gradual process – “up the scale” – from knowing He’s there, to consulting with Him on all my concerns, and, finally – the most intimate – to delighting in and enjoying His person. This process includes a climb, but it’s not a matter of sweat – more, a matter of desire.
How much do you enjoy Jesus? Not His gifts, not His peace, not His assurances – just Himself?
Last night Mark and I had a date. Sitting together, watching a movie (The Soloist,) talking about it afterward (schizophrenia and it’s implications) over Mexican food at Chili Pepper’s (his turn to choose – we go there every other time – he is consistent.) – all that built intimacy and enjoyment. Not just because of the food or the entertainment – but because of the time spent together. Time well-spent, money and energy well-spent.
After 20 years of marriage, intimacy grows. Delight and enjoyment is easier. It’s a gift.
I love Jesus. I want to love Him more, enjoy His person, sit and chew the fat (or, the rice and beans, whatever the case) – just because. Just because. Listening to “Mercy Me” (loudly) in the van helped me do just that today. In fact, I couldn’t sing along without crying – wonder how they do it?
“I can feel Your presence here with me, Suddenly I’m lost within Your beauty,
Caught up in the wonder of Your touch, Here in this moment I surrender to Your love…”
Enjoying and delighting in the person of Jesus. It’s a gift. The best and the biggest.
How’s your enjoyment factor? Delighting and enjoying. I look forward to this year of learning to abide.
I’ll borrow the prayer from Liz’s devotional: “Lord, help me to graduate up the scale from convert, to ambassador, to confidant. To abide in You is to ride the high places of the earth.” Amen. Enjoy your ride.
A little postscript:
I would never had read about that ride to abiding if I hadn’t called Liz for coffee – I actually invited myself to her house. You can’t do that with everyone – you can with Liz. God puts people around us who love to be called and have so much to give. Ask Him if He has someone special in mind for you to call this week. It’s a gift.
Monday, April 27, 2009
It is very common to hear the people in church referred to as the “church family”. In years past, we referred to one another as “brother Bob” or “sister Sue”. Scripture is full of references to the brothers and sisters in the faith, and it reminds us that we are all part of one body.
In our Sunday school class a few weeks ago, we saw in Acts how the infant church gave of what they had so that no one in their group would have need. They took care of one another as if they were family.
"All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need."
It seems to me like we may have lost sight of the importance of the concept of the church as Family. I don’t know if it’s the culture we live in, or maybe we’ve become too self-centered. We come and go to church semi-regularly; we have difficulty committing to regular attendance of a Sunday school class, or a Bible study. Some may even feel like all that is needed is to attend on Sunday morning and that’s going to do it.
I’m here to tell you that that isn’t the case. This past weekend, my family packed up and drove to
There is a big new building now, with a huge new sanctuary, but we held the service in the old sanctuary…where I grew up, was baptized, married, and began my “grown-up” life. What struck me was that even though the building had changed some, it seemed like I was walking into my old home. As I stood, transported back in time, the people began to arrive. Familiar faces began surrounding me, looking 25 years older, but flooding my heart with an amazing feeling of being loved. If there was any question of my still being loved, the hugs and tears of joy were there to remove all doubt! There was my mom’s friend who knew me “before you were”! There was the mom of a high school friend in whose home I had been a frequent visitor. There were the friends who got married the same summer we did, with whom we have stayed in contact over the last 35 years. Then there was Dom…he and his wife were youth sponsors when I was in high school. I babysat their children. He nicknamed me “Alice” because I had a yellow jumper and long blonde hair and he said I reminded him of
What made those people family? Time together, relationship, fellowship around the Word, caring. It wasn’t a magic formula, it was life. It was being involved in each other’s lives, not just on the surface, but deeply involved.
It grieves me when I hear people say things like “my needs aren’t being met so I’m going to another church” or “I’m not happy with this decision, so I’m taking my family to worship elsewhere”. Not to say that there’s no reason for leaving a church, but I think we run away too easily.
Our pastor is fond of saying that being involved in each other’s lives is “messy”, but so does having parents, siblings and children. Most of us don’t run away from our children when they don’t treat us well. (Put them out with the dog, maybe, but I digress! ) Most of us continue to have relationships with our parents, even though they aren’t perfect.
If you don’t have a church home, why not? If you have one, but have never gone any deeper than the Sunday morning worship service, why not? Please consider what you are giving up by not getting in and getting “messy” with the family! There are friendships waiting, there is encouragement to be found, and there is even the occasional exhortation (that word means to spur on) in our Christian walk. I can’t think of anything better or more crucial for your spiritual growth.
Once you find a “fit”, plan on staying. Don’t be so thin skinned that you run at the first sign that the people there may not be perfect (you will fit in, and besides, it’s good practice for the eternity that you’ll be spending with those very same folks!) Grow your roots down deep into the family. Make it a place where you can know and be known. I know for a fact, from experience, that it doesn’t get any better than that!
Lord, thank you for the refreshment of my “old” family. Thank you that the love that was cultivated for so many years still grows strong. Please remind me of that when I become impatient with my “new” family. Remind me that it’s only been 15 years with them and we still have time to go. Please help me to remember that life together is messy and don’t let me be easily offended by the mess. Show me where I can help and lead me to where I can be helped! Thank you that the church is your plan, not man’s. Amen
Friday, April 24, 2009
"Pray for peace in
May all who love this city prosper.
O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
“May you have peace.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem."
I hear God asking me to pray for
Though I was raised in the church, it was never mentioned as far as I can remember. I think that’s pretty common, though I don’t know why. Or maybe I just wasn’t hearing it then? I don’t believe we should pray for
Lord, thank you that you have the perfect plan for the redemption of your people, and that you have chosen to use the nation of
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Where or who do you take instruction from? Do you give thought to why you do what you do? What gives order to your day? Do you ever open your eyes in the morning and the previous days “issues” are still flooding your brain? Let’s give this a read…
“But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face. The "worst" is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.” Lamentations 3:22-33 (the message).
I love those words! Face it…I like orderly instruction, but I love the passion of the text more.
I’m going to resist the urge to pull out teaching points (the post would end up being very, very long). Instead, I’m going to give you an assignment…
Cut and paste the above scripture onto some paper stock. Put it in a place you will see it and be able to read it EVERY day for the next week. Seriously, I know many of you…I will come to your house and see if you followed my instruction!!! (and I’m not above taking a road trip..) Now, when you read the text, I want you to read it out loud. When you finish reading it….pray….as simple as saying, “Lord, I’m bowing low, I’m not running from my troubles, I am trusting the “worst” is never the worst. I’m sticking with you!”
You just took a HUGE, big step in taking instruction from the Lord and allowing Him to order your day. One more instruction from me…call or email or text a friend each day this week and share one hardship you saw the Lord work through that day.
Mighty God, we need to bow down and enter the silence. In our silence may we hear Your voice saying, “Come to me all who are weary...that I may give you rest.” Help us to “diligently seek and passionately wait.” I love the action words, Lord. Thank You. Lord, we know in our heads that you are tenderhearted towards us, may you transform it to heart language. May we see your “mercies new every morning.” We praise you Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
II Chronicles 16:9 caught my eye this morning:
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…” (NIV)
The Lord is on a search, it seems--His eyes on the look-out, seeking for certain types. He wants to pass on His strength. He’s ready and willing to give what we need.
Would His search stop over your house this morning?
“Hey, look! There’s Sue. Here’s one whose heart is fully committed to Me. That’s so great – okay, here’s the strength she needs for today. Onward and upward.”
“Uhh…no use stopping here. Sue thinks she’s got it together without Me. She loves me somewhat, obeys when it’s convenient, and serves Me if it doesn’t hurt too much. Nope. She’s Mine, all right, but not exactly fully committed. Too bad. She’s going to need my strength today. Let’s move on. Maybe she’ll wake up soon.”
(I’m an idiot.)
I like the NAS: “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”
No room around that phrase: “completely His.”
Have mercy on my soul. I need Your strength every minute – even when I forget. Remind me, remind me. I don’t want a day or minute without You.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Scripture reading for the week of April 20....Psalm 108:1-5
I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre;
I will awaken the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens,
And Your truth reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
And Your glory above all the earth."
Friday, April 17, 2009
For the past few years Travis and I have been enjoying reading to each other in the evenings. Well, really, Travis reads to me while I do my crafts. Somehow it makes my sewing seem much more profitable. Since we got rid of our TV our times together have been much more interactive and sweet and we’ve been able to read some great books together, including the Narnia series and The Heavenly Man, our two favorites so far. Just today, we finished another good one while Travis came home on his lunch break: Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn.
The story is about two men and how their lives cross paths. It reveals much about the Chinese Christian house church and although this story is not entirely true, Alcorn says that it is mostly a collaboration of all that he has seen, heard, and learned of the Christian’s life in
I come away from this book desiring to have less, so that I can have more of Christ. The Christians written about in this story are incredibly impoverished and literally have nothing. Yet their heart’s passion and faith in Christ are greater than I have ever seen in
I haven’t figured out yet what steps I need to make to change my way of living in this wealth that surrounds me, but I do know that I need to do something. Something that will make “Christ reliance” so essential that I truly won’t be able to survive without Him. I want to want Him as a deer pants for water, as a babe cries for milk, and as a starving man craves food.
So, anyway, all this to say, I love books that get me thinking. Not just frivolous ones that spark a fun and romantic chord in me, (although those are good from time to time), but ones that reach deeply into my soul and cause me to yearn for Christ even more than if I hadn’t read it at all. Do you know what I mean? What good books have you enjoyed lately?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
by Rebecca Irwin
I can now freely eat sweets. I no longer have to feel the guilt of breaking my Lenten commitment to abstain from them. Oh, how I missed Oreo cookies and milk shakes! However, I must confess I did give in several times to the temptation. Once, almost savagely, after I passed on dessert at my friend’s, I came home, yanked open the freezer door and ate three scoops of mint-chip ice cream covered in chocolate syrup.
I had the privilege of being included in a Good Friday service last week held in a friend’s home. A very random and eclectic group of people was assembled to eat soup and bread together. After a simple meal, we moved into the living room and sitting in a large circle, we read portions of the gospel account of Jesus’ crucifixion and suffering. At times, our host would break and allow others to tell a story of brokenness or God’s silence in their own lives. We left with a greater anticipation for the joy and victory that Easter Sunday celebrated.
As I reflected on Lent, it struck me that simply giving up sweets for six weeks was at times incredibly hard! My weakness in even keeping this one self-imposed law was time and again revealed. I began to fudge the rules (well, tapioca pudding isn’t really a sweet) or justify my indulgence. It struck me on Easter Sunday that Jesus’ sacrifice was not JUST dying on the cross! His sacrifice for us was made minute-by-minute, day-by-day as he time and again made the choice to be our PERFECT sacrifice! His crucifixion was the culmination of His consistent sacrifice.
Look with me at Hebrews 10:14 (the Message) “It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process.”
And at Hebrews 5:7-9 (ESV) “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…”
May you stand today all the more amazed at the gift we have been given in eternal salvation!
Thank you Jesus for your perfection! We would have never made it past a day if this was required of us. Only God’ son could have planned the perfect redemption and accomplished it. May we stand in awe of you. Amen
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I’ve been challenged by a book I read recently called Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. It is a good read on the Holy Spirit. One section of the book has a quote from Peter Marshall who is the former Chaplain of the United States Senate. The quote reads this way…
“I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to read one of the Gospels until we came to a place that told us to do something, then went out to do it, and only after we had done it, began reading again? There are aspects of the Gospel that are puzzling and difficult to understand. But our problems are not centered around the things we don’t understand, but rather in the things we do understand, the things we could not possibly misunderstand. Our problem is not so much that we don’t know what we should do. We know perfectly well, but we don’t want to do it.”
Hmmnn….how does that sit with you? What are your days like? Where is your focus? Are you in a season in which if you got up a little earlier you could start your day reading scripture – stopping at the spot that told you to do something – then did it? Have you ever given thought to how deeply the Lord desires to use you? Ask Him? Don’t try to create that which isn’t there. Maybe just respond to His word with, “Yes Lord.”
There is a national program which encourages purchasing at local independent companies called the 3/50 project. That is asking the question, “What three independently owned businesses would you miss if they went out of business?” Next, if every employed person spent $50 per month in an independently owned store the revenue would be above 40 billion dollars. Interesting concept.
How about we take this concept and apply it to sharing Christ. Stop right now and ask the Lord to give you three names of people He desires for you to share Christ with this week. Write it down….Commit to “spending money” in the bank of their heart. I’m sure they could use the deposit. As you read His word this week, stop at any action point and do it. Remember….the Lord has already gone before you and has paved the way. He is the great connector. Be brave, be bold, you are filled with the Holy Spirit, get out of its way and hold on….you are about to start a Wild Goose Chase.
“I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” Psalm 139:7-10
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
“Church is supposed to be a sanctuary (not just have one.)”
Many, many around the world entered a church sanctuary on Sunday – maybe the one time all year, being Easter and all. Did they find the sanctuary they needed? Hopefully, they were invited – not just to come again, not just to join a new social circle – but invited into soul-sanctuary: a forever-refuge from human-ills, sin sickness, loneliness.
Paul told us that if we’ve entered this eternal sanctuary, we now “house” the Spirit – we ourselves have become little temples of God. He’s graced our lives, dwelling inside 24/7, til we see Him face to face.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” I Corinthians 3:16
At Easter Sunday brunch, Jean and Mark provided sanctuary for Bev, widowed just 4 weeks ago. She loves their sweet boys (and they her.) A much needed refuge for Bev.
Sanctuary was at work in Grace’s courtyard as Lisa (90 and a spitfire) met new best friends over coffee and muffins (“Yes, we will pick you up for the salad supper, don’t worry…”)
Dan’s soul received refuge when a friend told him, “I will keep your boy in my prayers during his wandering. My brother wandered 9 years but came back through much prayer.”
Interesting -- none of the above happened inside the building-sanctuary
Have you received someone’s “sanctuary” for rest and respite? It doesn’t have to be at church. Have you given that same sanctuary to a fellow pilgrim?
We all need to be that shelter and retreat for one another as God’s little sanctuaries.
Even if you feel you are the one who needs it most today, if you spread your nets wider, make that call, write that note – your heart will also be refreshed. That’s how it works. Ask Jesus to help you know just what to do. He’s right there, closer than we realize—“Don’t you know…God’s Spirit lives in you?” How fun to be His refuge to those He loves.
Thank You that You came to dwell in our lives. You offer the best refuge and shelter. May we know just how to give that sanctuary to one of Your children today. Amen.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I LOVE Easter Sunday! This morning at church was a wonderful celebration of Christ’s resurrection! I love the message of Easter. This year, leading up to Easter, I had been especially thinking about the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for my life, so Easter service was especially meaningful to me.
When I got home from church, I learned that there was big news in the world. The ship Captain captured by pirates off the coast of
The similarity of this story to the Easter story caught my attention. The captain was willing to give his life as a sacrifice for the lives of his crew. He didn’t consider his own safety or well being, but offered himself to be held for ransom in place of his ship and it’s crew. The world considers him a brave hero to be lauded and admired by all. I agree.
As I listened to the story, I suddenly said to
The good news of the story, of course, is that Jesus rose again. He went farther than mere mortal man could ever go. His death didn’t simply spare our lives. His death gave us eternal life. What mere man could offer so much? So I have decided that Jesus is my hero. He is worthy to be lauded and admired by all.
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Saturday, April 11, 2009
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded himself…” John 13:3-4.
The above scripture is a familiar part of Passion Week. Many pastors’ teach on the servanthood described in the above passage – as well they should. Yet, that which the Lord keeps calling me to are the four words, “…laid aside His garments…” I’ve been pondering the “garments” of the bible. How they are used in scripture, what is their significance, what lessons can be learned.
Christ revealed much in a simple act of removing his outer clothing, girding himself with a towel and washing the apostle’s feet. What the apostles saw though, was a man, ordinary in sight, but wearing something most weren’t – a perfect inner tunic - which when woven remained seamless. It was flawless and perfect and formed from the scriptural model used for the priests of the temple – presented to Him by his mother as he entered manhood. Why did His inner tunic have those characteristics…because He is our “great high priest” (Hebrews ).
Christ was stripped when crucified and lots cast for his clothing. Actually, it was only his inner tunic that lots were cast for. There were four roman soldiers – each one took one of his five pieces of clothing – yet one piece remained, the inner tunic. What do you think Mary felt as she witnessed that piece of linen being gambled over? She knew who her son was. She knew the significance of the garment.
If the outer garment of your heart was removed – what would be revealed? Would anyone gamble over the perfection of what was left – or said another way – do those you interact with see your outer garment or your inner tunic? When Jesus removed his outer garment that night, what was once again revealed was a humble servant with royal blood who loved so deeply that He gave His life for that love.
As you contemplate His eternal victory this Easter morning – take time to bend your knee and “…delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10)
Friday, April 10, 2009
Suffering is never a fun topic. I’ve had my little share this week. I say little, because though it was awful, heart-wrenching sorrow, it also coincided with a week of mass shootings, an earthquake, and of course, the imminence of Good Friday. I don’t want to go into the details of my suffering, but instead what it has caused me to do. I cried out to God for comfort and help. I also cried out for answers. I ran to the Word. I think that’s the first time I literally have done that, my gut reaction being I need to drink from the living word. Several psalms filled my heart and mind.
As the days passed this week, sweet encouragement from friends has been a balm. And I was drawn to seek out scripture specifically about suffering. Of course the one about rejoicing in our suffering came up, and I grudgingly read it over and over, thinking I don’t want character that much.
"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5
But hope? I do want that; I need that. Truthfully, I do want perseverance and character, but the promise of hope appeals more to me on an emotional level. Later I came across Hebrews 2:9-11:
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."
I had never thought about Jesus being made perfect through suffering. Isn’t he just perfect because he is the Son of God? But he had this mission, this purpose in becoming a man: to suffer and die so that we could be reconciled to God and be called brothers with Christ. Perhaps it means that the perfect will of God was not accomplished until Jesus could say, “It is finished.” In any case, God saw this suffering of his son as “fitting”, not a tragic accident. And it was for bringing many sons to glory! That same glory is our hope.
I am more able to embrace the work of suffering in my life after learning that even Jesus was perfected through suffering. I also realize that some of our suffering is the result of sin; either our own, or others, or just the fallen state of creation. Other times suffering can clearly be seen as suffering for the cause of Christ. I trust that God will use both to make me more like Christ, and ultimately to bring glory to himself.
Lord, thank you for your suffering on the cross to make me part of your family forever. Thank you for pursuing me that hard. Help me to see my suffering in light of yours, and according to the promise of hope that you give me. And thank you that the hope you give will not disappoint me.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I was given a writing assignment to begin a story that I could add to over the next three weeks. I struggled to come up with a character for my story until one day, my youngest son walked in and I had an “ah-ha” moment. I told him I was going to write a story about him. If a boy of five could look flattered, he did. The beginning of the story reads like this :
“His name, as he skips across the grass or whistles in the kitchen is usually Jack Henry. He is the boy with the wild hair, always a scraped or skinned knee, and chocolate brown eyes that look deeper than seeing. He is the boy who can make a new friend in an instant, charm you with his smile and a wink and say laughable things with just the right timing. He is also the boy who can grit his teeth and curl his lip and stomp off when his plans are foiled. But this boy doesn’t always match his profile. Sometimes, he takes a different name and exhibits new behaviors.”
When I had completed the first page I invited him in and read it to him. He was totally thrilled with himself for being a character in a written story. He urged me to keep writing!
For this same assignment, we were given a series of questions to ask ourselves about the story in progress. Questions like: “Do each of your characters have a desire?”, “Do your characters evolve?”, “What happens in your story?”.
This caused me to ponder; Is our life a story of random chapters with no evident over-arching theme? Are we the authors of our story? Do we have sole control on our character development? What will happen in my story?
We all live out of a story. But it is a hopeful truth that as followers of Jesus we are given an alternative story to live out of through the work of Jesus Christ.
I find, like the disciples, (especially Thomas) I have a difficult time trusting God’s story will turn out like he said, or that His promises are true. In Matthew 28:6 we see “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (italics mine) But we also read in the resurrection story about their doubt : “Still later, as the Eleven were eating supper, he appeared and took them to task most severely for their stubborn unbelief, refusing to believe those who had seen him raised up.” Matthew 16:14 (italics mine).
Step back and see that Jesus Christ has included us as characters in an amazing story that has purpose and direction. And, just as He said, He will come again to restore His Creation! My hope this Easter is that our hearts will believe His promises as we live out His story as His church and await His return.
Jesus, thank you for giving us a record of your amazing story and including us in it. Thank you for being the Author and Finisher of our faith. Thank you for the certain victory you will have over death in our lives too – your resurrection power! Please eliminate our “stubborn unbelief” and doubts and cause us to have faith in your promises and live out of your story.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Many of my friends have taken up observing Lent in recent years, but I have never participated. One friend shared with me what she learned from her Lenten observance this year—it’s much harder to give up something that you already have and enjoy than to have never had it in the first place. Although she gave up a familiar indulgence, chocolate, the act of giving up something she regularly enjoyed caused her to think more about her own family situation as they are struggling with their finances in these economic times. At one time, money was not an issue in her household, but now they are suffering from financial loss of income and hardship. She said it’s more difficult to lose it than to have never had it. This led her to consider the fact that Jesus had it all before His incarnation. She came to a greater understanding of the sacrifice He made in coming to earth knowing the glories of heaven and yet willingly forsaking it all and giving Himself.
When she shared her new deeper understanding with me I was reminded of
Philippians 2:5-8 which says, “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (The Message)
He gave it all for me. And He did it for me, a sin-sick woman. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Oh praise Him for His great sacrifice for me!
Father God I praise You that You are sovereign with an eternal plan.
Please forgive me when I take your great sacrifice for granted.
Thank You that You had it all, yet You gave it all – for me.
Please remind me anew during this Passion week of Your love for me and the demonstration of that love through all that You gave up to come to earth to live and die – and praise You that it didn’t end there. I praise You for Your resurrection!
In Christ’s Name, Amen.