Another alternative lifestyle…

wedding-626020_1920Do you ever wonder at the Christian tradition of being married at an altar?  Here is the bridegroom all decked out in formal finery gazing wistfully upon his beautiful bride in her white satin and lace while everyone is trying to see around the photographer and Aunt Judith is loudly blowing her nose.  Happily ever after is just waiting to enfold the sweet couple at the end of the aisle.

I mean, historically an altar was a blood-stained place of sacrifice… 

Okay, on second thought, anyone married for more than one year (how about one week?) gets the connection. Continue reading “Another alternative lifestyle…”

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Stone, wraps, and other impediments.

I wonder if Martha gets a bit of bum rap.  She’s the calculating one, knows what needs to be done and does it herself if necessary.  The list-maker, the bean counter.  Martha was the chief cook and bottle washer when Jesus came to visit her and her siblings.  She alone was the one who received a gentle rebuke from the Lord when she demanded that her sister, Mary, come and help her in the kitchen instead of sitting with the Master, listening and absorbing.

I bet Martha as the older one, the one who helped her little sister growing up to put on her clothes and lace up her sandals.  You know how older sibs are called upon in a family.  Insert all of that on Martha’s shoulders.

Now Mary, it’s possible that Mary is same woman mentioned in another of the Gospels as the “unclean” prostitute who broke the jar and anointed Jesus in an act of repentance for her now-former lifestyle. The jury is out on that one, but for argument’s sake…

In this context, I can perceive Martha’s frustration, helping to sacrificially raise her younger sister only to have her go off and ruin the family name.  Perhaps this is why no spouse is mentioned for Martha— in that culture once the family is disgraced, who wanted to marry into that?  If this is case, like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal, I get it.

Then their beloved brother dies. 

Interestingly, when Jesus finally decides to make an entrance, Mary is the one who stays behind, but it’s good ole’ practical Martha who goes out to faithfully meet the Master.  Of course, the first words out of her mouth are, guess what, cause and effect:

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Problem defined, problem solved.  That’s Martha.  If Plan A didn’t transpire, she always had a Plan B.  It wasn’t, however, quite what she expected:

 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

How often do I ask God for a miracle, only with the proviso that He does it my way.  Good grief, don’t open the tomb!  Don’t expose the decay and don’t make the smell of death public.  No, I like to keep things private.

I forget there was nothing private about Jesus dying on a cross—for me.

There is something about the things we keep hidden which allows them to fester and multiply.  I’ll try to deal with it on my own. If my first plan is tanked, then I’ll think of the next step, but by all means, let’s keep stench under control.

window-806899_1920Except life doesn’t actually work that way.  The only way Lazarus was going to walk out of that tomb was to roll away the stone and let him breathe God’s fresh air.

How’s your air quality today?

John 11:21,21,39 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Whoa, hoss!

rodeo-2685568_1920

 “Pay attention to this, Job. Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!”

This passage encourages me to ask God for His miraculous intervention!  What a God we serve!  Creator of the Universe!  Molder of the everything from the Rocky Mountains to the pebble I skip in the lake!  Designer of the intricacies of the human body as well as an amoeba! 

This dove-tails right into what Jesus said about having mustard seed-sized faith and moving those mountains and asking for “whatever you will and it shall be done”—that suits me just fine, thank you!

Then I realize this passage comes from the book of Job…which gives me pause.  More like slamming on the brake…

If anyone had reason to ask for miraculous intervention, it was Job.  By the time this verse shows up in the narrative, we find our ragged hero drowning in disappointment and sitting on an ash heap with pus leaking from his multiple skin sores.  All of his children and most of his servants have been killed in various assaults, his wealth has been stripped from him, his wife has been less than encouraging, and now his erstwhile friends have showed up to accuse him of being guilty before God for who-knows-what. 

It hasn’t been a good week.

I’m all about asking God for miracles; He knows more than anyone how badly we need them down here.  However, God is more concerned with intervening in my character than with intervening in my situation.  If the trial will benefit my intimacy with Him more than the miracle, He’ll choose the trial every time.

Which sounds pretty scary at first, but then God also says this in the book of Job:

“I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’”

No matter what the circumstance, my Father is still in control.  His plan for my character and my relationship with Him supersedes my immediate comfort, (and not just physical, but emotional, mental, and spiritual as well.) 

Even the secular segment gets the idea that sadness has a crucial place in our proper development:

Of course, I have choices to make in how I process these difficult times—regardless of what’s happening around me, I have decisions about what is happening within me.  And as a Christian, God says I have internal resources not otherwise available.

Part of that processing has to do with interpretation; that is, how I “see” my circumstances.  It’s very, very tempting to fall prey to thoughts such as:

God doesn’t love me like He loves others.

“For God shows no partiality [undue favor or unfairness; with Him one man is not different from another].”

Or, God’s going to do what He wants anyway, so why bother praying?

 “Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];”

Then there’s the age-old: God must not exist. 

“For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

The bottom line is the historical reality of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ—when nothing else makes sense, that does.  The splintered, bloodied pieces of wood and the splendidly empty tomb mean there’s more going on behind the scenes that I’m not privy to…yet.  To think otherwise means my arrogance is peeking through, something God addressed with Job in no uncertain terms.

So where does miraculous intervention fit in to all this?  Jesus’ template of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” is a good start, but I don’t think He meant for it to be a spiritually lazy default.  I like His disciples initial request: “teach us to pray.” 

Which is becoming an ongoing request for me: “Holy Spirit, teach me what to pray specifically, give me grace to pray persistently in the face of disappointment, and help me to engage the power of Heaven for the building of Your kingdom in this circumstance.”

quarter-horse-746979_1280Interestingly, I suspect that’s when something quietly miraculous begins to happen…

…in me.

Romans 2:11; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:16  Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Job 37:14; Job 38:11 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Not just the click of a button

translate-110777_1920I am horribly monolingual. 

Bob and I spent six years living in married student housing at Indiana University/Bloomington while he was working on his degree, with three little girls in tow, and thus we were surrounded by many cultures.  My dad used to say we lived in a mini-UN.  Our eldest had a map of the globe on her wall, and since our kids attended the university elementary school, we realized that she knew children from every continent save one (Antartica—does anyone actually live there?  BRRRrrrr!) Continue reading “Not just the click of a button”

Liar, liar, pants on fire (#2)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Did you know that middle school kids lie?  Now I realize that may be an astounding revelation to some, so don’t choke on your Coke.  One of the wonderful teachers I’ve worked with for years cracks me up; she encourages the kids to “come up with something better than THAT” when they feed her an obvious falsification about why they don’t have their homework.  (She’s been around a while…)

Of course, kids aren’t the only ones skilled in what my brother-in-law refers to as “a flexible sense of integrity.”  For example—

The story of Hezekiah is fascinating.  Here the king of the formidable Assyrian nation comes knocking on Judah’s door demanding submission, or else.  Reading the accusations, there are several things the Assyrian head of state gets wrong:

  1. He says that the God of the Hebrews Himself told him to attack and subdue Judah, (2 Kings 18:25). Okay, that’s been done before so the idea isn’t completely foreign; however…,
  2. In the paragraph preceding that part of his tirade, he asserts that Yahweh is pretty ticked off with Hezekiah for destroying all the other alters of worship expect the one in Jerusalem, (2 Kings 18:22).   Guess the king of Assyria hadn’t done his background homework, because those other alters were one of the very things that made God quite upset with His people, and tearing them down was a definite plus in the Jews’ ledger sheet.
  3. Then this would-be tourist proceeds to lump Yahweh into the list of “all the other gods” who were unable to stand before the mighty Assyrian nation, (2 Kings 18:33-35). That was certainly an epic fail.  Not only was this a colossal insult, but also an incongruity in his argument—why would God tell the Assyrians to destroy His people if He couldn’t Himself stand up to the instrument of His own choosing?

There’s more to be gleaned from this account of Hezekiah’s dealings with Assyria, but here’s one of the points worth mentioning:

lies
Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/tsandwick/realies/

Liars have to keep lying, and generally someone is going to catch their slip, whether it’s a gap in logically reasoning, a contradiction, whatever.  You have to have a certain level of talent to deceive consistently, (granted, there are quite a few talented people around today.) 

Satan, however, is the best, as he has been at it quite some time now with amazing proficiency.

“When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

And his lies are not merely to inconvenience, but like the king of Assyria, Satan has much bolder plans—

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.”

Satan’s lies are aimed at the heart, the very place God says we are to guard since “the wellsprings of life” come from that very spiritual place. And what is at the heart of every Christian, but our intimacy with our Father Himself?  Satan will try every which way to convince us that we are rejected by God, not accepted into the family of God, or at the very best, a doormat for the more “important” saints.  Or that God, Himself, is mad at us. 

The list goes on, but eventually his logic does break down, because it’s no match for the Cross. 

Or as Wally Fry puts it so well at Truth in Palmyra:

satan liar

“Don’t let Satan set the ground rules”

John 8:44; John10:10  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.