Saturday, December 31, 2011


Two awesome passages this morning...

Malachi 4:2-6 - But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

Revelation 22:17,20 - The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price...He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

The old year is coming to a close, and the dawn of a new year but a day away. Why not purpose in 2012 to begin reading through the Bible? Just start at the beginning, and then keep turning the pages. Or, check out some of the Bible reading plans posted over at The Gospel Coalition.

For a few tips on reading through the Bible, check out this earlier post.

Believe me, this is something you won't regret. Let's get started!

Friday, December 30, 2011


Something wonderful has happened. Have you noticed?

The days are getting longer. The change is almost imperceptible, unless you're light-starved like me. Watch the sky this evening and take note of the time when the light shifts from lavender to gray. Check it tomorrow morning, too, and see when the stars fade from view.

Very good news, folks - We're headed back toward the sun!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


My childhood home sat nestled on a large green lawn that harbored a forest of trees. Maple, oak, persimmon, pine, holly, willow, pecan. Great, towering, ancient trees, and spindly, newly-planted saplings. Fruit trees and flowering trees. Trees to shade picnics and trees to anchor lofty forts.

One of the trees was Mine. I don't remember now if my mom or dad told me the story, or if one of my siblings made it up, or if it was all a creation of my own fertile imagination - BUT - as I understood it, Mom planted a tree for each of us children when we were small. Now of course, there is not much a child can do with a tree, especially a young whip of a tree, but I thought it was hugely significant that one of the trees surrounding our home was connected to me. That for long years to come, barring a lightning strike or an unfortuitous wind, My tree would be standing alongside my childhood home, bearing testimony to the little girl who had once romped about the lawn.

Yesterday, we planted a new tree on our hill in the middle of the hay field. A cedar - because it's Christmastime and because a cedar is symbolic of healing and protection and of Christ and of the eternal life that is ours in Him. An evergreen...a tree for remembering.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


"Are you crying?" My college room-mate lay in the dark on the opposite side of the dorm room, behind the desk/divider that defined our personal spaces.

"Yes." I wiped my nose with the back of my hand.

She clicked on a light and came to sit on my bed. "I didn't know. You are so quiet."

So, yes, I'm a quiet cry-er. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there were so many rather loud and dramatic people in my family when I was growing up. Maybe I just decided there wasn't room for any more noise or drama!

Maybe it's because tears always caused such a caffuffle, made everyone uncomfortable. I remember that when my mom used to chop onions, she'd start tearing up - and then I'd start tearing up, too, sad because I thought my momma was sad. She'd laugh and say, "It's just the onion, Camille!" - but I didn't really believe her, not completely.

Steve doesn't like tears either - if I'm sad, it makes him miserable, which makes me feel bad, which makes him feel worse...pretty quickly it starts feeling like we're both living under the black shadow of Mordor.

Maybe it's pride, or a distorted sense of privacy, or just personality that causes me to cry silently. I really don't know.

Somewhere in this journey, tears got tied to guilt. If my crying always caused someone else to feel bad, that couldn't be good or right, could it? Better to slip out for a long walk in the rain, take some time to pull myself together, avoid discomfiting others.

Last night, as I lay crying silently and alone in the dark, the story of Lazarus's death came to mind, and I considered anew that one tiny verse: Jesus wept.

What comfort! It was as if Jesus stood beside me in the dark, crying silent tears Himself. No wearisome questioning - What's the matter? Why are you so sad? No condemnation - You need to grow up. This is no big deal, so just get over it. No untimely advice - Just trust God and He'll make everything all right!

Nope. None of that.

No guilt. No shame. Just compassion. The compassion of a Friend weeping with me. Not weeping for me, or over me, or because of me, but with me.

Jesus wept. I don't know if I have ever read more deeply-comforting words.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


You don't really look for shooting stars...
They just kind of catch you by surprise.
A white hot blaze against black velvet.
Your heart leaps, you catch your breath,
It's gone, and you're left staring
Hungry-eyed into the night.

Monday, December 26, 2011


It has been a long and difficult week. A hard month. A tough year. A long and difficult season. Let's just say, I'm not so much living "on the mountaintop" these days as looking for flashes of light in a deep, winding valley.

Got this week's Soli Deo Gloria column out of the chute this morning, then sat down to doodle around here at the blog for the first time in over a week. Hmmmmmm, what to write.... Not really in the mood for silly, but, then, no one is in the mood for heavy.

Then, a sobering phone call, a hard squeeze on an already bruised heart. Okay, this is just not the time to try to write...

So I picked up the closest book at hand, the Heidelberg Catechism, and began to read instead. Here is what I read:

Question 26: What do you believe when you say, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?"

Answer: That the eternal Father of our lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by His eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ His Son. I trust Him so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world. He is able to do this because He is almighty God; He desires to do this because He is a faithful Father.

In his study of the Heidelberg Catechism (The Good News We Almost Forgot), Kevin DeYoung writes this about Q&A 26: "...(God) will turn to good whatever adversity He sends me. The Bible is not naive about suffering. Trusting in God's provision does not mean we expect to float to heaven on flowery beds of ease. This is a 'sad world' we live in, one in which God not only allows trouble but at times sends adversity to us. Trust, therefore does not mean hoping for the absence of pain but believing in the purpose of pain. After all, if my almighty God is really almighty and my heavenly Father is really fatherly, then I should trust that He can and will do what is good for me in this sad world..."

Could these words have been any more timely? A bright torch in the darkness of a scary place! And so I popped right back on here at the blog, to share this with you, just in case you, too, needed some light today.

One more jewel from Mr. DeYoung before I leave to swim through what this day will bring: "We have often heard that God is our Father, which is true, but we don't always remember that the opposite is just as true: your Father is God."

Powerful medicine. The elixir of life.

(Praying for you, my beloved.)

Friday, December 16, 2011


Sounds like the title of a really bad country song, right?

"Mom, I don't think that's a good idea." Martha sat at the bar watching me heat a plate of enchiladas in the microwave. It was late - 11:00? - too late for dinner, but I'd just gotten in from my shift at Wally World and was hungry. "I don't think you should eat that," she continued. "You're going to have weird dreams tonight."

I ate the enchiladas, read the Daily Messenger, then headed to bed just before midnight. I don't remember any weird dreams last night...only that the alarm went off much too soon this morning, waaaaaay before I was done sleeping. 6:10. Time to start a new day. Did you know that it's possible to take a shower while you're still asleep?

Enchiladas at midnight. Sleep walking. All part of the new norm.

And memory lapses. Sunday morning, I sat at the breakfast table and wrote out my little tithe check. Later, as we were heading out the door, I could not find that check any where. Not in my pocket, where I would have normally put it. Not in my Bible or my Sunday school book. Not on the table or the kitchen counter or my bedroom dresser. Not anywhere. I remembered sitting at the table, writing it out...then blank. I had absolutely no idea what I'd done next.

When we got home from church just after noon, I searched the house once more. Finally found the check - in the trash. Go figure!

Then another morning, I was making breakfast. Needed two eggs, but only had one left in the bin in the kitchen refrigerator. Well, I grabbed that one egg, then went to the laundry room frig to get another carton of eggs. Back in the kitchen, I opened the carton, placed an egg on the counter, then put the carton away. But then I couldn't find that first egg, the one I'd gotten out of the kitchen frig in the first place. Looked everywhere, growing a bit exasperated at my absent-mindedness. How do you lose an egg?!

Finally found that first egg. It was still in my hand. I'd been holding it the entire time. Duh!

Think we can make this into a Top Ten country hit?

Up before dawn, stumble to my feet
Standing in the shower still half asleep
Strong black coffee, pour myself a cup
Glow in the east says the sun's coming up

Sleep walking, sappy talking,
Rock the baby, stir the gravy.
Another cup of coffee then it's time to clock in.
Knock it out, clock out
Sleep fast and then
Buck up and do it all again

Driving home in moonlight
Enchiladas at midnight

Help me here, folks - what's the next line?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


We didn't do school today. Well, Thomas and Martha did some Physics homework, but they did that on their own. So, guess what I did with a little bit of extra "free" time while the baby napped?

A. Cleaned out my closet (which is so cluttered that you almost can't walk into it)
B. Cleaned my bathrooms (you just don't even want to know how gross they are)
C. Decorated for Christmas, finally
D. Mulched the strawberries, finally
E. All of the above

And the correct answer is....

Nope, I flopped around like a brain-dead rag doll all day. When baby napped, I crashed on the couch. When Reuben took baby for a walk outside, I snoozed on the couch. When Martha read baby several books, I dozed on the couch.

Now don't get the wrong idea - I didn't sleep all day. Zombie Woman did fix breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I did some laundry. And I played with baby and changed several nasty diapers.

Finally, about 4:00 this afternoon, my glazed eyes cleared and things began coming into focus. The gray fog in my head began to lift. Ahhhh! Time to do something productive to redeem this day!

I pulled out my big blue binder, the one in which I keep lesson plans for the current semester. Wow! Only one more week of school left in this term! It is so exciting to realize that we have actually managed somehow, in our muddling along, to complete an entire semester of school work. Next week, I'll be calculating end-of-term grades and filling out grade/attendance reports.

Today, however, I began mapping out our coursework for spring, taking notes of supplies I'd need to have on hand, books to order, etc. Writing out spring lesson plans is an exciting exercise. One, because it's encouraging to see what we have already accomplished. Two, because it means we are on our way back to summer and the long summer holiday. From here on out, we'll be counting down lessons 'til the end of the school year. We're over halfway through the math books and the science books...headed for the books' back covers!

Yep, I'm looking forward to tackling spring semester. I'm especially looking forward to two weeks off for Christmas break - something tells me I'll be taking lots of naps, and maybe I'll check some of those chores off my To-Do list, too!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Two things I desire to have smelted from my heart: A wrong belief that things and/or human relationships can be ultimately satisfying - and - a tendency toward melancholy. Bad, bad, bad combination!

I remember as a girl an episode when I struggled particularly hard with this Dastardly Duo. I don't remember what precipitated the inward turmoil - death of a family member? hurt feelings at school? loss of a beloved pet? - but I vividly remember lying in bed one night, tears streaming down my face, confessing to God that my heart was fickle, that I had conditioned too much of my happiness and security in something or someone beside Him. As a consequence, the bitter fruit of loss (or rejection or disappointment) had become too terrible for me to swallow.

I specifically remember asking God to take my heart and keep it for Himself. "Lord," I wept, "I give this fickle heart where it ought not be given, in ways that I should not give it. Please, keep it for yourself. This heart belongs to is Yours. And when I try to take it back so that I can invest wrongly in some new fancy, please don't let me have it. Lord, you must be the guardian and keeper of this heart, because I cannot tend it well. Teach me to rest, to be content, in You, and to trust You to tend my foolish heart as You see fit."

That was probably, oh, 35 or 40 years ago. And, yes, I've tried to take this heart back many, many times. Even tried to justify doing so to God. "Lord, I know You would want me to have ______. I mean, I wouldn't even have this desire if You hadn't given it to me, right?" - when what I honestly mean is, God, I reallyreallyreally want this thing. I NEED it. I'll be miserable without it! - OR - "Lord, I think this relationship would honor you" - when what I really mean is, I've already gone emotionally too far with this guy, and he's really cute, and, well, he goes to church most Sundays, and I don't think I could be happy without this relationship. You want me to be happy, right?

Occasionally, God has allowed me to indulge my wayward heart. "Okay, you think this will make you truly happy, Camille? Let's just see..." Strangely, whatever I think it is that will satisfy my heart always falls so far short, and then I'm back to swallowing that bitter cup of disappointment again. Back on my knees before God, longing for His presence and favor, confessing that No, the relationship or the job or the membership at the fitness center really was not enough.

This morning I was reading in Hosea, and this verse seemed to leap off the page: They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me...They return, but not to the Most High. (Hosea 7:14, 16b)

A painful description of my own heart! How many times have I lain weeping, crying out for temporal things, for "grain and wine" - earthly relationships, financial security, relief from pain, sleep - yet failed to cry out for God Himself. I want good things, God's blessings, but I so often want them wrongly: I begin to believe the lie that these things will satisfy me. I start shifting the basis of my security and happiness from a relationship with my Creator, to a relationship with His creation. Inevitably, the "grain and wine" prove inadequate to meet my heart's needs. They do not satisfy. And I find myself crying out with the Psalmist, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Thankfully, despite my faithlessness, God is faithful. My heart is prone to wander, but God is a faithful shepherd, seeking me out and wooing me back. Yes, God has answered and continues to answer the prayer of that girl from so long ago.

The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one...May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. - 2 Thessalonians 3:3,5

Friday, December 9, 2011


"How in the world do you manage with so many kids?!"

This is a question I am frequently asked when someone first learns the size of my family.

Last spring, Kevin DeYoung posted a funny article over at The Gospel Coalition that he titled Parenting 001. In his post, DeYoung commented, "...if I ever write a book on parenting I'm going to call it The Inmates Are Running the Asylum." (Yes, you probably ought to take a minute to click over and read the article!)

Anyway, I came home last night from my shift at Wal-Mart to find the inmates at my house "running the asylum." Me, I'd spent the evening checking out shoppers at Wally World. Steve, he was hosting a Woodmen seminar/dinner, so had to be away from home for the evening, too. When I walked in the door, this is what I found:

Martha had cooked dinner and then cleaned up the dishes after everyone had eaten. Someone had kept the clothes washer and dryer running and had folded the clothes. The girls had made cookie dough, in preparation for Saturday night's dance. Then the kids turned the kitchen table into a craft station - spread with paper, glue, glitter, and ribbon - where they spent part of the evening constructing dance cards.

When I walked in, they were all lined up on the couch, watching a movie. Now, I really do not like the sight of kids boobed out in front of a TV, but last night, even though it wasn't family movie night, I really couldn't complain: my four teenagers (well, one is only almost a teenager) were laughing hysterically at The Aristocats. Too silly!

You know what's really cool? I hadn't left a To-Do list or instructions or anything.

Today, hopefully, we are going to check off some schoolwork, chase the baby, finish making dance cards, hem a couple of skirts, and bake a few more goodies. Then this evening, I'll head back out to Wal-Mart. Sounds like it's going to be a very full day!

How in the world do I manage with so many kids?

How in the world would I manage without them?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


My mom used to say that spring and fall in northwest Tennessee were those seasons when the weather slammed back and forth between winter-summer-winter-summer-winter...until it finally decided to stay just one of them - either winter OR summer - for a few months. Yep, that's how our weather has been here lately. One week, 65 degrees and sunshine. The next week, lows in the 20's and freezing drizzle. Oops, no, not winter yet: back to the balmy temps and blue skies. Whoops, slipped back into the deep freeze - let's build a fire!

But winter really is almost here. Soon, the mild weather will be behind us for good, and we'll begin counting down the cold, soggy months until spring, when the winter-summer-winter-summer game will return to escort in a new summer.

Other signs that it's winter in the Boondocks:

1. Deer. Deer in the ditches on the side of the road. Deer on the hood of your car. Deer hanging from trees in the backyard. They're everywhere, lurking in the grayness of twilight, so keep your eyes open and drive carefully.

2. Silage trucks, and tractors hauling round bales of hay. The pastures are beginning to die off, and the colder weather has all the bovines feeling extra hungry. Time to start feeding the cows. Be prepared for a slow drive into town if you head out early in the morning!

3. Mud. It's hasn't gotten cold enough long enough for a hard freeze here, the kind of freeze that turns the topsoil into concrete. Nope, underneath that crunchy chocolate crust lies a quagmire of mud soup. So there's mud on all the trucks, mud on the tractors, mud on the boots, mud on the insulated bib overalls, mud on the laundry room floor, mud on the cows, mud on the horses, mud everywhere.

4. Smoke in the valleys. People are cranking up their fireplaces and wood stoves. I love how in the evening or early morning, you come over a hill to find a valley where the smoke has settled snugly around the houses, like a great down blanket. Something wholesome about the smell of wood smoke, too...a sense of home, hearth, warmth, comfort.

5. Furs in the freezer. While the boys are busy packing the deep freeze with deer meat for the year ahead, they are also busy running trap lines. So I have to remember - People food on the left; shrink-wrapped fur coats on the right. Blech!

6. Seasonal foods. Oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates - yum! Turnip greens from the garden patch out back. Chex mix and hot chocolate for an afternoon snack. Baked sweet potatoes. Lots of soups and stews and chilis on the menu, and lots of venison. Fudge - my mom's recipe, because it really is the best. Grammy's divinity - divine!

7. Secrets! Lots of whispering and sneaking going on at my house. Last night, Tom was confined to the work room with me while the girls bustled about, working on some top-secret project. Secrets, and giggling, and anticipation. Less than three weeks until Christmas!

8. Carols and greenery and twinkling lights. The ladies at Grace decorated the church building for the holidays last week. The green garlands and bright red holly berries definitely add a festive air to the 100-year-old structure. Martha and Helen have been practicing "Coventry Carol" the past several days, to sing at a Woodmen dinner Steve is hosting later this week - such pretty voices and sweet harmony from my two young ladies.

9. Final exams - yes, we have those even way out here in the boondocks! The college men are chugging through finals even as I type, and are both looking forward to a much-needed break from their studies as fall semester draws to a close. Tom has his final art review on Thursday. Here at home, the twins are counting down math lessons - two more lessons and a final exam and the green book goes back into the closet to stay. WooHoo! In Helen's history, we just talked about Julius Caesar...can you guess who's on the lesson schedule for next week? :)

10. Gunfire. We can hear duck hunters, miles away on Reelfoot Lake. The Pop!Pop!Pop! of their shotguns. And the occasional rifle crack of a deer hunter on a neighboring farm.

11. Whiskers. Lots of the men around here grow their beards out in winter, to protect their faces. Folks are looking wild and woolly in these parts! We won't see their clean-shaven faces until the spring thaw.

12. Cold, clear nights when it hurts to breathe, but you walk to the house slowly because the stars are so bright against the ink-black sky that they look like they are alive. Dancing. White-hot embers in the frosty air.

What signs of winter have you noticed in your neck of the woods?

Monday, December 5, 2011


Last week was way too long. Too many late nights, too many early mornings, too many long days. A crash was inevitable.

I cried all the way home from work Saturday afternoon, not because anything was really wrong, but because I was just so very, very tired. And I knew I'd have to fix dinner, when what I really wanted was just to crawl into bed and sleep for two days straight.

Waiting for sleep later that night, absolutely broken, I prayed that God would somehow give me the grace to desire and pursue and promote His glory over my own comfort and happiness. More than anything else, I wanted rest, wanted this present season of toil to be over. I could no longer bear - did not even want to bear - the yoke that had been laid upon me. "God, I cannot do this any longer. I cannot even bring myself to desire to continue. If there's any way that I'm to continue on the path that You've laid before me, then You are going to have to do it for me. God, You are going to have to re-align my thinking, and You are going to have to sustain this flesh. God, I need more grace..."

Sunday morning, I contemplated skipping church. Black circles under my eyes (we're way past gray), shaky emotionally, I knew I'd fall apart the first time someone chirped, "How are you today?" But I'd missed last Sunday, due to the Plague, and I really didn't think I could survive another week without the fellowship of my brothers and sisters and the nourishment of sound Biblical teaching. I was exhausted, yes, but I also felt like I was starving. I chose nourishment over sleep - everyone would just have to suffer with me in my weakness. Part of being family, right?

In Sunday school, we are working through a study by J.I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness. Here is the last point that was discussed in our class yesterday morning:

Quoting Packer: Sign five (that we are growing in grace) is a greater patience and willingness to wait for God and bow to His will, with a deeper abhorrence of what masquerades as the bold faith, but is really the childish immaturity, that tries to force God's hand. It is the way of children to want things now, and to say and feel most passionately that they cannot wait for them or do without them. But the adult way of petitioning is the way of submission, modeled by Jesus in Gethsemane - "My Father, if it is possible...Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matt. 26:39). It is right to tell God what we long for and would like Him to do, but it is also right to remind ourselves and acknowledge to Him that He knows best. When Christians are learning to submit to God's ordering of events with undaunted realism and humility, it would seem that they are growing in grace.

Ever feel like God is talking directly to you, like He's holding your face in His hands, saying, "Listen to me! I'm talking to you!"?

Well, between Sunday school and church, Diane Traverse came over and said Hello. "How has your week been?" Poor Diane! She caught the deluge, then sat with me until the storm passed, until I was again at ease and could turn my attention to the worship service. Yes, I love my Grace family!

Brother Billy had printed this quote from C.H. Spurgeon for us to read and consider during the musical interlude as we prepared for worship: I doubt not, light streams continually from every part of the sun to cheer the worlds that revolve around it; so, from the whole of Christ, there issues forth comfort for poor and needy souls. He delighteth in mercy. He is a Savior and a great one. He is all love, all tenderness, all pity, all goodness; and the very chief of sinners, if they do but see Him, shall see light.

Ever feel like God is talking directly to you, like He's holding your face in His hands, saying, "Listen to me! I'm talking to you!"?

Our first hymn was "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates" - one of my favorites. Just consider this one verse: "A helper just he (Christ) comes to thee, his chariot is humility, his kingly crown is holiness, his scepter pity in distress."

And then, Brother Billy continued preaching through Acts. In chapter 14, verse 22, we found Paul and Barnabas "strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Through many tribulations - yes, this journey, this faith walk, will be difficult, fraught with tribulation. But the chapter concludes in an interesting way: "...and from there they (Paul and Barnabas) sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled...they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" (emphasis added). Paul and Barnabas endured much greater affliction than I have ever known, but all of it - the beatings, the persecution - all of it was part of their fulfilling the work that God had given them. Through their tribulation, and through the tribulation of their brothers and sisters in Christ, God was doing a mighty work.

Ever feel like God is talking directly to you, like He's holding your face in His hands, saying, "Listen to me! I'm talking to you!"?

Sunday afternoon, I finally got some much-coveted sleep. Dozed on the couch so that I could be among the kids and their chatter. In bed last night before ten - hallelujah! - and actually awake this morning before the alarm went off at 6:10. Reading in Daniel this morning, where once again, God seemed to be speaking directly to me. Awesomely encouraging Facebook status by my son Reuben, reminding me of God's goodness to us in Christ, His perfect and perfectly satisfying provision.

And then I found this, another of my favorite hymns, on YouTube: Thou Lovely Source of True Delight If, like me, you've been crashing in the darkness lately, this song will speak to your heart. "'Tis here (in God's Word), whene'er my comforts droop and sin and sorrow rise, Thy love with cheering beams of hope my fainting heart supplies."

Like John, I can testify this morning, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Like Spurgeon, I can confidently assert that "He is a Savior and a great one...the very chief of sinners, if they do but see Him, shall see light."

Thursday, December 1, 2011


In my current read through the Bible, I've been camped out for some time in the major prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel...should be starting Daniel early next week.

Seems like no matter how many times I read a particular passage, there is always something new about it - either a new insight, or a fresh revelation of an old and familiar truth. This Book really is living, and it never grows old!

One thing that has struck me afresh as I've been reading is the significance God places on keeping the Sabbath. God pronounces and executes His terrible judgment on His people, and the #1 charge brought against them is their failure to keep His Sabbaths and to worship Him in purity and holiness. Yes, the prophets mention that Israel has oppressed the poor, distorted justice, murdered the innocent, robbed their brothers. But the charge brought against them the most - it comes up over and over and over - is that they have forgotten the Sabbath. This is The Biggie. They have gone too far. God will tolerate their sin no longer. Consequently, they must suffer His wrath, poured out through famine, plague, the sword, and exile.

A second thing that jumped out at me this time through the prophets is the value God places on sexual purity. The charge of sexual impurity ranks as the #2 offense Israel commits against their holy God, if you look at the number of times this sin is mentioned. You have forsaken the wife of your youth...You have violated your neighbor's wife...You have uncovered the nakedness of another man's wife...You have violated your daughter-in-law...You have allowed your lust to run unbridled...You have looked lustfully at another...The prophets hammer this over and over.

Honestly, I don't know if my natural tendency would be to rank sexual immorality and licentiousness as greater offenses than stealing, abusing the poor, or legal corruption. I mean, what I do with my own body is my private business. If I'm entertaining lustful thoughts, or if I'm having sex with someone who is not my spouse, or if I'm excusing improper attitudes and behaviors in society, that's nowhere near as bad as stealing property from a destitute widow, or enslaving my neighbor, right? Wrong.

I think these two particular things - reverence for the Sabbath and commitment to sexual purity - have impressed me rather strongly as I've read through the prophets because of the lackadaisical attitude toward them which I see among so many Christians today. How many professing Christians do you know - decent people, people who would never steal from their employers, people who pack gift boxes for orphans in Asia, people who devote time and money to mission work, people who volunteer at the homeless shelter, people who post Bible verses as their Facebook statuses - How many of these professing Christians do you know who think it's really no big deal whether or not they are faithful in participating in corporate worship with the body of Christ? How many of these people are sleeping with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or cheating on their spouses, or cruising the internet for porn, or indulging in the "softer" porn of romantic comedies or "Christian" romance fiction, and who boldly defend their sin - to themselves and to others - by saying that what they do in their private lives isn't anybody else's business, or that times have changed, or that it is really just not that big of a deal anymore?

How many of my Christian friends - people I know more intimately than just the general public - have a low regard for the Sabbath or demonstrate a lack of commitment to sexual purity? I ran out of fingers to count on, in a matter of seconds, and gave up this foolish exercise with a sad heart. And in case you think I'm pointing a holier-than-thou finger at these weak sisters and brothers, No, I have stood among their number, and even today am not above stumbling.

God did not overlook the blatant sin of His people Israel. The prophets describe a judgment that is difficult to read about, that turns your stomach, that makes a reader recoil in horror and disgust. Wouldn't even make the cut for an R-rated movie because of the violence. And yet, today, God's people stand in almost the very same dangerous, precarious place, flagrantly disregarding what is precious to God, while living lives that are a pretense of holiness.

Why do we, the Church, presume that we are above God's judgment in these matters, flippantly presuming upon God's grace and dishonoring the life and sacrifice of Jesus?

Reading the major prophets makes me tremble.