Don’t Be Unreasonable!

We dread dealing with the unreasonable person, yet more and more we are a people who demand our rights, voice our opinion and complain when things don’t go our way.

Our hearts ache so much from our own issues that sometimes we take it out on the next unfortunate soul who comes across our path.

We are masters at blaming those in leadership, those who sit across the aisle, those with a different view or conviction than ours. We blame anyone but ourselves. “Freedom of speech!” we proclaim loudly, but only wish it for those who agree with our way of thinking.

Yet, as Christians we are called to be reasonable. (Not doormats, but reasonable.)

Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” That verse implies they had something to be unreasonable about. We tend to excuse unreasonableness when we have a “good reason”. The trouble is we always have a good reason, but Paul doesn’t include a qualifier. Not just our friends and those we love. “Everyone”, even those we disagree with.

This verse is sandwiched between; “rejoice in the Lord always” and “do not be anxious about anything.” (vs. 4 & 6) The words always and anything don’t allow for exceptions either. How is this kind of life even possible?

If God is our life, like we claim, storms won’t shift our eyes off of Him. We rejoice that He is with us in the storm. We rejoice that this life isn’t all there is. We rejoice that this “momentary light affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17) is just that; momentary in the time table of eternity.

We won’t be anxious knowing that our God sees, hears and knows our difficulty. That to worry about what might happen shows a lack of faith in the one we have put our trust in. To know that whatever happens, good or bad, He is there with us. We will brave the storm together. We will learn more of His faithfulness through it.

And so as His redeemed children we rejoice, we put anxiety aside, we learn to be reasonable. In our own strength impossible. But our God makes all the difference. If He can raise Christ from the dead he can transform us as well.

 

 

Forgotten Grace

The grace of God is all around us. We have grown blind to it. We take it for granted or forget completely what God has done for us. Recently, while at a family gathering, God reminded me of His grace.

My cousin, Dennis, told me of a time when we were children. One summer his family came for a week-long visit. His dad planned to help my dad build a basement so he could expand our four room house.

Someone drove the older children in to town to swim. Dennis, being the only boy, went to the boys’ changing room alone while my sisters and his sisters went through the girl’s side. He changed quickly, raced out the door and jumped straight into the pool. Too late he realized it was over his head. He hadn’t learn to swim yet and he sank down below the surface of the water. No one saw him.

While struggling he saw the ladder that went below the water line. He grabbed it, worked his way up and dragged himself out of the pool. It was amazing he didn’t drown. He went back to the changing room, having had enough of “swimming”.

No one saw, no one helped. But I believe God was watching that day. God saw a little boy full of life jump into danger. God helped him make it over to the ladder and get out. He showed him grace.

My sister, Nancy, told us of a time she was with our Dad while he fished. There were long reeds near the shore of the lake that disguised where the water began. At one point my Dad saw that Nancy was missing. He happened to look down to see her hair floating on the water in the midst of the reeds. He grabbed her hair and pulled her out. God was watching that day too. He saw a little girl wander into water that was over her head. God caused my Dad to look around for her before it was too late. He showed her grace.

My cousin realized too late the danger he was in, but his eyes saw the ladder and he had faith enough to reach out and grab the only thing that could save him.

My sister realized too late that under the grass was water, not solid ground. She had sense enough to not fight against the strong arm of my Dad who pulled her to safety.

But there is a greater danger than drowning and physical death. We are all weighed down by the sin that will drown us. God sees and God has provided a way out of certain eternal death.

John 3:16 reminds us… “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, but grace is freely offered.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” Ephesians 2:8

Physical life, though precious, is but a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. God is extending grace to each of us. Don’t fight against His good hand. Don’t close your eyes to His offer of salvation. His Son has died so we could have life.  Just as it would have been certain death for my cousin to turn away from the ladder, it means certain death for us to turn away from Christ, our only hope.

How will you respond? Will you ignore the ladder? Will you fight against the strong arm?

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

 

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded sick and sore.

Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity love and pow’r.

I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms.

In the arms of my dear Savior, O, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome. God’s free bounty glorify;

True belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh.

Let not conscience make you linger, Nor of fitness fondly dream.

All the fitness He requireth is to find your need of Him.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden, Lost and ruined by the fall.

If you tarry till you’re better; You will never come at all.

(by Joseph Hart 1759)

I should have included this song in my last post.  When my voice returns I will try and record an audio version to be added here.  There is a modern/new tune, but I prefer the old one.

 

If the Cure Won’t Kill You…

I’ve been struggling the last few weeks. It started as a cold that wouldn’t go away and when the coughing overstayed its welcome I took myself to the doctor. Bronchitis was diagnosed and antibiotics were prescribed. I thought that was that and dutifully took my medicine and proceeded on my way.  A couple weeks later my cough was sneaking back and there was no more medicine to take. I called the doctor’s office and they prescribed something stronger.  It remains to be seen if this medicine will be effective, but I got a bit of a shock when I read through the three pages of warnings and possible side effects. I suddenly was afraid I would die in my sleep,  if I could get to sleep.

But my biggest problem isn’t bronchitis. My biggest problem is sin. Like the paralytic in Mark 2 whose friends bring him to Jesus, tearing up the roof to get him there, Jesus first words to him were…”Your sins are forgiven”. It wasn’t that Jesus was overlooking the obvious (his physical condition). It was that Jesus saw his most pressing need as the need of his soul, the need to have his sins forgiven. The man didn’t get his life cleaned up before he came. He came sick and helpless. Jesus knew his most pressing need was his soul and almost as an afterthought he heals his body as well.

And so as I wait for the bronchitis cure to take effect I have to think of a more effective cure that has already been applied, one of eternal value. I can’t earn or work for it. I don’t deserve this cure and yet it is freely offered to me and to anyone who will apply the finished work of Christ to his life. Jesus did what I couldn’t. He died so I wouldn’t have to. He gave up His inheritance so I could inherit. How could I help but love such a God.

I Need to See Something Good

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Show me something good… I need to see something good…

There are times in my life when I am surrounded by trouble. Deep discouragement overwhelms me. I find myself crying out to God…Show me something good…I need to see something good.

God in His mercy shows me good things. Things I have overlooked. Things I can’t see through the clouds that surrounded me. He shows me how He is working, unseen.

Lately I was reading about Thomas. He has gotten the unfortunate nickname of “Doubting Thomas”. (I shudder to think what my nickname would be if I was mentioned in the Bible.)

Thomas had been handpicked by Christ to be one of His disciples. He had spent more than three years walking the countryside, listening to, and working beside Him. He had left all to follow Jesus.

Now Jesus was dead and Thomas had given up hope. They all had. He was so discouraged that when reports started coming in that Jesus was alive, he couldn’t believe it. It was better not to get his hopes up. He didn’t dare believe it was true. It hurt too much.

When his fellow disciples tried to tell him they had seen the Lord he responded with…”Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

It wasn’t really a prayer, and yet it was. A desperate prayer to a God who had gone missing.

Eight days later when the disciples were together in a “locked” room Jesus suddenly appeared. After greeting them with, “Peace be with you.” He turned His gentle attention to Thomas.

“Reach here your finger, and see My hands, and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20:27)

Thomas’ immediate response was, “My Lord and my God!”

The relief must have been immense. What he didn’t dare hope for was true. His Lord was alive. His God wasn’t missing after all.

What came next must have broken his heart. “Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29)

It breaks my heart as well. When I fail to believe because things are dark, when I ask to see good when I am discouraged… God is gracious, but He must long for me to trust Him in the dark. He must long for me to know that He is good even in the midst of trouble.

Teach us to Number our Days

January is more than half over and I am still contemplating what my goals should be for the new year. I attended too many funerals last year. There were at least half a dozen. January brought even more. It is a sad reminder that life is fleeting.

I have been settling in for the long haul and God reminds me that this life is just temporary. Heaven is waiting. This life that I cling to so fiercely will be but a flash when I am finally home with Him.

So what are my marching orders as I live day to day here? My husband pointed out to me the most mentioned command in the Bible. I was sure it was something about loving God and our neighbor. Ready?…

“Do not be afraid”  or “Do not fear”

God said it again and again. He said it to Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, Moses, the nation of Israel. He said it to Hagar, a slave girl, who was afraid her son was going to die of thirst in the desert.

The Psalms are full of the command.

Psalm 23:4 “…I fear no evil, for You are with me.”

Many of the prophets said it multiple times. (Isaiah 35:4; 41:10; 41:13)

God sent angels to give the message to Daniel, Zecharias, Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, women at the tomb.

Jesus also repeated it often to his disciples. Reminding them that they were worth more than the sparrows. (Matt. 10:31)

The command applies to me as well. “Do not fear!”  – Why? Because I have a God who is with me and guiding my steps.

He doesn’t promise that my path will be easy. There will still be trouble and funerals and dark days, but He is with me.  …and someday there will be no more crying. There will be no more sin. There will be no more fear.

For now I need to trust him with today. I need to have courage that he will provide the strength for what he has called me to do. I need to believe that this God, who cannot lie, will do more than I can ask or think. Knowing that this troubled life is but an instant compared to eternity.

 

“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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Say to those with anxious heart, Take courage, fear not…” Isaiah 35:4

“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, Do not fear, I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

The trouble with Santa

“You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Clause is coming to town. He’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty and nice…He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

Santa, the all-seeing god-like character we see so much of this time of year. Unfortunately some people get their view of God from Santa. He is a pale comparison. Here are some important differences.

We are told Santa keeps track and will only bring presents to the good. Contrast that to “…You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” God sending the gift of His son didn’t depend on us being good, but was sent because we were sinners. Good people don’t need a Savior. Sinners need a Savior.

Santa’s list keeping implies that he will not deliver gifts intended for us if we are naughty. Romans 11:29 tells us “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” God’s gift of salvation isn’t taken back if we are unworthy. Truth be told we are all unworthy. Again, that was the point of God sending His son.

Santa shows love to those who show themselves to be good. God loves those who understand that it depends not on their own goodness, but on God’s grace. II Timothy 1:9 says “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,”

Santa visits one day a year…while we are sleeping, just long enough to leave a pile of presents.

Jesus came to be with us. His name Immanuel means “God with us.” The most important gift we can get is His presence, not his presents. Things get old and wear out. They lose their appeal, but the very real presence of God Himself is a gift beyond compare.

So what is our response? The wisemen had the right idea. They journeyed to a foreign country to find this king and when they found him…”They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Upon meeting the child they “fell down and worshiped him.” They didn’t come expecting to receive, but to offer what they had. So we too can offer what we have. A heart yearning to know this God who stoops down to be with us.

Praying you each find the peace only God can give in this troubled world.