Friday, November 30, 2012

Everything I Need: Part 3

Welcome back for Part 3.  My emotions are a little raw again this morning.  This was the day set aside for Rex's memorial service.  I came across a song for the first time this week, or perhaps I just really heard the words for the first time.  Steven Curtis Chapman wrote it after the death of their young daughter the summer of 2008.  It is titled See. This video has a brief interview in which Chapman explains where the idea for the song came from with the song actually beginning around minute 4:22.  Even when our hearts are breaking, even in the midst of those unanswered questions we see things with an eternal perspective and that makes all the difference.

And that patient endurance in times of struggle leads us to godliness. (2 Peter 1:6b)  I have to ask, what is godliness?  I pulled out my Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance again (love that title!)  The Greek word used here is eusebeia (yoo-seb'-i-ah) which means godliness and Strong's expands upon that to say: "it is from eu, 'well,' and sebomai, 'to be devout,' denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well pleasing to Him."  So then godliness must be a devotion to God that seeks to please Him, in thought and in action.

Godliness leads to love for other Christians- that brotherly love we hear about.  Look how far down the progressive list this is.  Can it be that brotherly love does not come as naturally as we think?  Can it be that it comes with maturity in the faith?  Can it be why the church has such a bad reputation in the world- we do not yet know how to love one another as we should?  Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34-35, NASB  Jesus is not talking about just putting up with people, smiling and hugging them on Sunday at church and then walking away and thinking/speaking poorly about them the rest of the week.  He is not talking about telling people we will pray for them and then never giving them another thought.  He is talking about loving them the way He loves us- sacrificially, without reservation, without limit.  Can you imagine what our churches would like like filled with people like that?!  Well, it starts with us dear ones.

"and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone." (v. 7b)  A love that extends not just to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but to everyone.  For God so loved the world...He does not desire that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  He loves the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Mormon, the prostitute, the drug addict, the homosexual, the liar, the thief, the murderer.  When we look at the people around us do we see a world that is lost, a world in need of the Savior.  They seem to think we are in the business of condemning people.  Just what do I see when I look at those outside the church.  They are people who are lost, stumbling in the dark and most do not even know it.  The kind of love that is genuine here is the kind of love that leads me to see them not as the enemy, (which they are not!) but to have compassion, just as Jesus did.  Not to condone their lifestyles, but to be salt and light- to show them that what I have found in Christ is so much better then anything they could imagine and it can be theirs too.  I am troubled by those in the church today who think we need to change the message to bring people in.  A watered down gospel that does not confront sin is not a gospel that will save anyone.  Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only Light, and no one comes to the Father apart from Him.  The only commonality between the Muslim and the Christian is that we are both sinners in need of a Savior.  

"The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But those who fail to develop these virtues are blind or, at least, very shortsighted.  They have already forgotten that God has cleansed them from their old life of sin.  So dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen.  Doing this, you will never stumble or fall away.  And God will open wide the gates of heaven for you to enter into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  -2 Peter 1:8-11.

Today our community is remembering Rex.  And we do not mourn as those without hope.  He was a ten year old light that shone very brightly, and I think I can hear him saying to all of us- "See, it's everything He said that it would be, and even better than you would believe.  And I'm counting down the days until you're here with me.  And finally, you'll see."

Rex Fleming- a giant of the faith.


Blessings dear friends,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Everything I Need- Part 2

Welcome back! Yesterday I began a look at 2 Peter 1:2-11 in Everything I Need-Part 1, today I continue beginning with verse 6, "Knowing God leads to self-control."

Remember God has already given us everything we need for living a godly life and we are taking a deeper look at what that means.  First we have to know Jesus, then we have to have faith, then we add to our faith moral excellence, and then knowledge of God, and now we come to self-control.  Notice that self-control does not come immediately in this process.  It comes as our knowledge of God increases.  If it came first in our list then we could say that we are doing all the work and grace would have no place in our lives.  Websters defines self-control as "restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires."  Oh my, when you put it that way I am not as far along as I thought, but I can see improvement.  I still allow anger to rise to the surface in my marriage, but far less than in the past.  I have a real weakness for quilt fabric and patterns, but I am learning to put restraints on that spending, s-l-o-w-l-y.  I have even started to share my stash of chocolate, sometimes with joy in my heart. We gain self-control when we are being influenced by God's divine nature as we spend more time in His good company.  What a difference in my days when I spend time in His Word and in prayer.  Are you, like me, ever just fine with being angry with someone- I do some of my best housework when I am mad.  That is not self-control.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have had an attitude adjustment take place when I stop and spend time with the Lord, nor the number of times that I have not spent time with Him because I did not want to experience an attitude adjustment.  Knowing God makes all the difference- there is no shortcut if I really want to change.

Self-Control leads to patient endurance.   Oh, this is perhaps my least favorite thing.  It always seems to involve some sort of suffering, some sort of trial.  There have been a few of those in my life so far- I wrote about two of them in When God Says No.  What do we do when the road gets tough?  What do we do when temptation comes knocking.  What do we do when it feels God is slow to answer our prayers?  Do we give up and walk away?  Our lives as bond-servants of Jesus often put us in opposition to the world.  I think about my cousin and his family who are in Nigeria where they put their lives on the line to even attend a Sunday worship service.  There are those of the faith who are patiently enduring things that I cannot even imagine, so my trials seem pretty puny in comparison.  The Greek used here is hupomone which means steadfastness, constancy, endurance (Strong's NT 5281.)  When the going gets tough I need to remember that I am exactly where God wants me to be at that moment.  He has not changed, His love for me has not changed, His promises are still trustworthy.  I need to cling to verses that remind me that I am not alone, that the Lord who made the universe, the King of Creation, the great I AM is always with me and He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."

And here I am out of time again this morning.  I hope you will stick with me for part three...


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Everything I Need- Part 1

Let's see, I've got my drafting supplies...

Lot's of fabric in my stash to choose from...

Thread (love the two-sided cases for thread storage I picked up 
from Superior a couple of years ago by the way...)


Rulers- these are my personal favorites...

new rotating cutting mat, rotary cutter...

Assorted notions...

Iron and pressing surface...
Sewing machine...

and even a chair to sit in...

Add some batting...

have quilt frame on standby (Ken and I built one just like this 
from a kit over 20 years ago, I think I need to stain mine and make it pretty...)

Yes, it looks like I have everything I need to make a quilt.  
On their own all the individual parts cannot do much, but put them all together and

I read 2 Peter 1:1-21 this morning and in this letter Peter stated that As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. (v.3)  Where does our knowledge of Jesus come from?  His Word.  It seems these days we want the easy road for everything, we can even take a pill to help us lose weight instead of eating properly and exercising.  We peruse the bookstores for books to help us solve every kind of problem we have, looking to people for solutions that God tells us He has already provided.  He has given us EVERYTHING we need.  That means that there is nothing we lack.  So why do we often feel so lacking?

 He has given me all of His rich and wonderful promises (v.4) and I have but to apply the benefit of these promises to my life.  It all starts with faith.  That faith is grounded in something very specific.  Jesus died once for all-He was the ultimate sacrifice that allows us to be reconciled to God.  Without that faith none of the rest of this is going to make much sense.  Knowing Jesus leads us to that faith.
Faith in turn produces a life of moral excellence.   Moral excellence, sounds kind of high and mighty doesn't it.  I don't believe Peter is talking about a list of do's and don'ts, I think it simply means to do what is right, in all things, in all areas of our lives.  When we really know Jesus there are things that suddenly make us uncomfortable.  Sometimes the language we use needs to change, sometimes the things we watch with our eyes and listen to with our ears need to change, sometimes there are habits we need to let go, sometimes even the way we dress needs to change.  It means more and more I choose to do the right thing in every circumstance, even if I am ridiculed by the world for it.  I think it means that I recognize that right and wrong do exist, despite what the world all around me is trying to sell.  "If it feels good do it," it not moral excellence.  Interestingly that life of moral excellence that comes from knowing Jesus leads me to knowing God better.

The journey doesn't end once we come to faith.  Simply doing what's right from here on out is a good start, but it is just that, only the beginning  There really is no such thing as blind faith-God wants us to ever increase in our knowledge of Him- to open our eyes to the glories of who He is.  "Come in-come in! and know me better, man!"  (A line from the Ghost of Christmas Present from A Christmas Carol by Dickens)

There's more!  But this is going to be a very lengthy post if I do not break it up somehow.  So I hope you will come back and read "the rest of the story."

Blessings to you this day,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When God Says No

I read in Daniel this morning the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They refused to worship the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected and the penalty for that was to be thrown into a fiery furnace.  These men were brought before the king who gave them another chance to serve and worship that gold statue.  The king entreats them and then states, "But if you refuse, you will immediately be thrown into the blazing furnace.  What god will be able to rescue you from my power then?"  This is how those men replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us, He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if He doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have put up." (Daniel 3:15-18, NLT1)  And so they were thrown into the furnace.  A furnace that was made so hot that those whose job it was to throw them into the furnace died in the process, but not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The God whom they served did indeed rescue them, not a hair was singed, not a thread of their garments was burned.  When they were thrown into that furnace they were joined by a fourth individual and even Nebuchadnezzar recognized the divine being in his furnace.  I don't know about those three men, but I would have been desperately praying to be rescued by the Lord before I ended up in the furnace.

This past week my mind has been drawn back to the last days of my brother on this earth.  It was my turn to go and care for him after he began hospice care.  The colon cancer had spread to his liver and now the time was drawing short.  I spent three precious days with him.  Mostly he slept but for brief moments of clarity when we shared a few words.  I had to know that it was well with his soul and he assured me that he was looking forward to going home to be with his Savior.  Nothing else really mattered.  He slipped from this life to his eternal home in heaven surrounded by family and friends who loved him.  The very first thing we did was to gather in a circle, holding hands and praying together to thank God for the blessing Jeff had been to all of us here.  We also had to acknowledge that it all seemed so unfair.  I wrestled a lot in the two years leading up to Jeff's death with what to do when God says no.  The pat answers do not cut it when your heart is breaking.

I have been wrestling with those same issues again, this time as a family in our church has dealt with cancer in their young son.  It is well with Rex's soul now too.  He went home to the Lord this past Sunday night.  And this mother's heart is breaking for another mother.  And the pat answers just do not cut it.  My questions remain the same, how is this a better story of God's glory than healing would have been?  I don't know.

What I do know comes from my reading of 1 Peter 4:7-5:14 this morning:  this world is not our home, not if we are Christians, not if we have the privilege of being called by God's wonderful name.  I can trust myself to the God who made me, for He will never fail me.  I can give God all of my worries and cares for He cares about what happens to me.  In His kindness God called me to His eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ.

As we enter into this Christmas season what greater reminder is there that this world is not our home.  My life is not made by the decorations I put up, the perfect gifts I give, nor the ones I receive.  It does not revolve around lights and parties and pageants, and certainly not shopping malls.  Christ came into this world those many years ago not so that I could have a wonderful party on earth each year, but that I could have my sins forgiven once for all, that I too might someday meet my Lord and Savior face to face in heaven.  So I spent yesterday listening to music, a lot of the great hymns of the faith and some new favorites too.  I lifted my eyes towards heaven from whence comes my help.  It was no longer a time of fasting and pleading, but of looking towards the One who holds my heart in His hands, the One who saves me, who strengthens me, who comforts me. The Prince of Peace has come into this world and He offers something far better than the trappings of this world.  He is my hope.  I don't know why God said no once again.  He doesn't always keep us out of the fiery furnace, but I know He is right there in the midst of it with us.

Blessings dear friends,
(Peter closed his letter with these words, "My purpose in writing you is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens."  I pray I have accomplished the same thing.)