Friday, August 31, 2012


Okay, I've had more than I can stand.  Brace yourself - major venting ahead!

Can somebody please tell me why every single day I have multiple messages in my email inbox - messages obviously targeted to men - from people or pharmaceutical companies that want to sell me products guaranteed to enhance my mojo?

This isn't the first time I've complained about this phenomenon.  Check out What's in My Inbox.  Obviously, there is a huge market for these products - thus the mass emails to the Junk boxes of middle-aged women.  Obviously, then, there are a lot of men in the world who feel, um, shall we say, a little less than adequate.  Who feel like they've lost their Voom!  A lot of men, perhaps, who find that their lady loves are not as enraptured with them as in days gone by.  A lot of men who would reallyreallyreally like to have a magic pill or potion that could transform them into super hotties.

Okay, I've got that.

But now, let me tell you what I think would be really neat to see in my Inbox:

From: Dr. Libido
Subject:  How to talk to and really listen to your wife

From:  Dr. Phallon
Subject:  Praying with your woman - the secret to great sex

From:  High Performance Pharmaceuticals
Subject:  God designed marriage and intimacy - We have His study notes!

From:  Erica Golightly
Subject:  Why work so hard for the real deal when I've got a whole box of shrink-wrapped Twinkies sitting right here on the shelf?!  You don't really want great sex - You want a cheap imitation.  Message me!

Okay, I'm just saying, if there really are a plethora of men out there in the world who are less-than-satisfied with the state of their love lives, I think it might be more helpful for them to actually begin the work of building intimate relationships with their wives than for them to be clicking on links to Cheap Pills!  and Local Hotties!  I'm pretty sure they'd get better results - both in the bedroom and out of it.

I realize I don't have many male readers, but, if you are a man and you don't mind strong language,check out Men and Marriage over at Mars Hill Church.  Good stuff - but, ouch!  I'm working up my courage to listen to Marriage and Women later today.  Pray for me.

As for all my lady readers, here's a question for you:  If you were a company sending a mass email to all the sexually frustrated men in the world, what would be in the subject line?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me." - Exodus 20: 1-3

In yesterday's post, we looked at what God requires of us in the First Commandment:  We are commanded to love and worship God alone.  Worshiping anyone or anything other than the God of Scripture is idolatry.

Question 95 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks:  "What is idolatry?"  Answer:  "Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed Himself in His Word."

Maybe when you hear the word idolatry, you think of primitive people living in a remote corner of the world, praying to a wooden figurine.  But here in the Bible Belt, we're too sophisticated for such foolishness, right?

A friend once shared this very simple definition of idolatry:  "I could never be happy without (fill in the blank).  If you put anything in that blank besides God, you have an idol."  To be more specific, if you put anything in that blank besides God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, you've identified an idol.

A young woman whom I love dearly found out early in her marriage that she would never be able to have children.  She became swamped in a morass of grief and depression.  Finally, she told her husband that she could never be happy if she could not have children.  Later, she confessed that having children had definitely become an idol in her life, but that, through much brokenness and many tears, Christ ripped that idol out and showed Himself to be the only worthy object of her worship.  This sweet young woman later wrote, "Christ is EVERYTHING that I need.  My loss...became much easier to bear because that heart idol had been torn out and destroyed."

Maybe you are single and thinking you can never be happy until you find that special someone with whom to share your life.  Maybe you are struggling financially, constantly fretting, "If only we had more money..."  Maybe you're preoccupied with your body, making costly and painful sacrifices to appease the god of Youth.  Human relationships, financial security, physical appearance, health, entertainment, sports - all of these can be idols if they dominate our thinking or drive all our actions.

Another, more subtle form of idolatry is when we claim to worship God, but we re-create Him in our image.  We decide that our opinions over-rule Scripture, that we can pick and choose what is "true for us" in God's Word.  We like that God is loving and merciful, but we reject the truth that God hates sin and is pleased to condemn the wicked to eternal suffering.  We like that we don't have to pay for our sins and that God freely forgives us, but we don't want to talk about the fact that even for my sins, there was hell to pay... and Someone paid it for me.

When we dissect God and value our own opinions over the truth of Scripture - all of Scripture - we are creating an idol.  You either believe that God is who He says He is in Scripture, or you don't believe in the God of the Bible at all.

Maybe this gets to the heart of why the Law of God is a burden and a condemnation to the unregenerate, but beautiful to the children of God.  The unbeliever says to himself, "I am not so very bad, and God is not so very good.  What right does He have to make such claims on my life, to tell me what to believe and how to live?"

The Christian, on the other hand, sees his sinfulness and is painfully aware of how very far short he falls of God's standards.  The Christian doesn't shush away the demands of the holy God, nor does he deny God's righteous judgment and condemnation of sinners.   Rather, he acknowledges both - and thanks God for the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who kept the law perfectly for us and endured God's wrath for those He came to save.

The Christian looks at the Law of God and cries, "Father, I have sinned.  Thank you that Christ's righteousness has been imputed to me and that I have sure forgiveness in Him.  Thank You!  I want to please you and honor You, Lord - help me to do better."

Kevin DeYoung puts it well in The Good News We Almost Forgot:  "We obey the commandments, therefore, not in order to merit God's favor but out of gratitude for His favor...We obey the law in gratitude for the gospel."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


And God spoke all these words, saying, "I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me."  - Exodus 20:1-3

Scholars traditionally divide the Ten Commandments into two groups, or "tables."  The first table contains the first four Commandments, and teaches us about our relationship with God.  The second table contains Commandments five through ten, and teaches us how we are to relate to our neighbor.  Today, let's consider the First Commandment:  "You shall have no other gods before me."

Question 94 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks:  "What does the Lord require in the First Commandment?"  Answer:  "That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures.  That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God, and trust Him alone, look to Him for every good thing humbly and patiently, love Him, fear Him, and honor Him with all my heart.  In short, that I give up anything rather than go against His will in any way."

In today's culture, we are wrongly taught that there is no such thing as absolute truth:  I can have one understanding of truth and you can have a totally contradictory understanding of truth, and yet both can be equally true and valid.  As a young friend put it recently, "I have my opinion.  You have yours.  We don't believe the same thing, but God's okay with that."  However, while it is very possible that we may both be wrong, it is impossible that we can both be right!

Sadly, we often adopt that same wrong thinking concerning who (or what) we worship.  As long as a person is sincere in his faith, and he lives a decent life, and he doesn't insist that his god is the only one, then it doesn't really matter who he worships, right?

God is not so namby-pamby in stating the truth of the matter:  "I AM the LORD your God."  Period.  He is the only true God, and there is no other. "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.'" (Isaiah 44:6)  There is no middle ground, no platform from which to assert that all the religions of the world are equally true and valid.

When God tells us, "You shall have no other gods before me" - He is not saying, "Believe whatever you want about all those other gods, but make sure you keep me at the front of the line."  No, Scripture is telling us that we are not to even bring any other god into His presence.  Don't play at "keeping God first" in you life while dabbling in New Age spiritualism or checking your daily horoscope.  Don't pretend to worship the God of the Bible, but throw out what He teaches in Scripture about His wrath, justice, and judgment.  Don't profess to love, honor, and worship God, then cling too tightly to your job, your relationships, your status, or anything else for security or personal worth.

God commands us to acknowledge Him as the one true God, and to worship Him alone.  Jesus Himself, citing Deuteronomy 6, rebukes Satan with these words:  "You shall worship the Lord you God and him only shall you serve"  (Matthew 4:10).  We are admonished to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

In his study guide to the Heidelberg Catechism, J.I. Williamson writes, "To put it quite bluntly, then:  true religion is totalitarian...God and his Christ demand absolute allegiance, and they demand it in every sphere of life."

Just as Joshua charged Israel, so the Bible charges us today:  "Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:14-15).

Monday, August 27, 2012


(This week, I'm posting three articles written for the Union City Daily Messenger earlier this summer.  In the "Soli Deo Gloria" column featured in Thursday's Religion section, we are working through the Heidelberg Catechism.)

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it as my reward.  Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.  Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.  - Psalm 119:33-35

The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three sections:  guilt, grace, and gratitude.  We learned early in this series of articles that all men are sinners, condemned before a righteous God.  Every one of us justly deserves God's eternal wrath.

Only by the grace extended to us through Christ's atoning work are any able to stand before the holy God.  Jesus lived a sinless life, but then He traded places with us:  He took upon Himself God's punishment for our sins, and gave us instead peace with God and the promise of eternal life in Glory.  This promise is for all who have been given to the Son by the Father (John 17:24).

Last week, we read that true repentance involves not only dying to our old, sinful nature, but that it also involves a joyful coming-to-life concerning the things of God.  (You can read that article - True Conversion - here.)  In this new life in Christ, we long more and more to please God and to glorify Him in every aspect of our lives.  God's will becomes the standard that shapes and influences our attitudes and actions.

"The Law of God" - how do those words make you feel?  Maybe you feel guilty.  You realize that you fail miserably at keeping God's Law with the purity and perfection He demands.  The Law of God, as revealed in the Ten Commandments, is a burden too heavy to bear.  As a son of Adam and an heir to Adam's sinful nature, you feel keenly your guilt and God's just condemnation.

Maybe when you consider the Law of God, you feel a desperate need for rescue.  "There's no way I can keep the Law of God perfectly," you cry.  "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  That, too, is a right response to the Law of God, as it points us - even drives us - to our Savior, Jesus.

We have covered guilt and we have covered grace.  What about gratitude?

Interestingly, the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism placed the lessons concerning God's Law in the section of the catechism dealing not with guilt, not with grace, but with gratitude.  Have you ever read thoughtfully through the Ten Commandments and felt compelled to cry, "Thank you, Lord!"?

Thank you, Lord, that Jesus kept your Law perfectly!  Thank you, Lord, that Jesus's perfect righteousness has been credited to my account!  Thank you, Lord, that I no longer live under the guilt of being a lawbreaker!  Thank you, Lord, that because Christ redeemed me and because I am safely and forever yours, the Law cannot condemn me!

Does this mean that Christians just throw the Law of God out the window?  That it no longer has anything to say to those who are in Christ?  On the contrary, to the Christian, God's Law is beautiful, precisely because God's Law shows us the character of the God we adore - what He loves, what He hates, what He desires for us and from us.  The Law of God is like a hand-written letter from a beloved Father.

The recent movie Nanny McPhee illustrates the beauty of the Law to the believer:  When Nanny McPhee arrived at the Brown house, she found seven wicked, disobedient children.  The children saw Nanny McPhee as a dreadful monster, complete with big hairy warts and a scary stick.  To the lawless children, she was a threat to their freedom and happiness.

Over the course of the movie, however, the children learned that it was their own terrible behavior that threatened to destroy their family and to separate them from the father they loved.  As they learned to obey Nanny's rules, they found life grew pleasanter for everyone.  They were also amazed to discover that Nanny - instead of being a scary hag - was actually very beautiful.  The Brown children had fallen in love with the very rule and structure they once despised.  They saw that their sinful lawlessness brought them heartache and bondage, not liberty; but the once-feared "law" brought life, joy, and peace.

Join us in the weeks ahead as we look at the beauty of the Law of God.  Maybe you, too, will find God's Law to be a delight!

Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day. - Psalm 119:97

Thursday, August 23, 2012


"I think maybe the chickens are finally laying eggs!"

New little peep!
We've had these chickens since mid-spring, when they arrived via U.S. Mail, tiny balls of yellow peeping fluff delivered in a cardboard box.  Ben's flock of Rhode Island Reds had long been extinct, save one precious pet who eluded the foxes and raccoons and who we liked too much to convert to stew.  This spring, I decided to order my very own flock of chickens, and Ben has been teaching me the ins and outs of chicken farming.

Buff Orpingtons.  They are simply beautiful.  So fluffy that they look like they are wearing frilly bloomers.  And they are congenial - even the roosters are pleasant.

But these are the stupidest chickens I have ever met.  They don't put themselves to bed at night until after dark, when the owls are already out hunting dinner.  They startle and run at the silliest things.  They have an entire hayfield in which to graze...but they prefer to strip the rose bushes of all their petals.

Gorgeous George

 The roosters try to put on an air of manliness on occasion - but give one a stern look and he'll trot off to hide under the chicken house.  No, they're not very smart or very brave - but, man, are they good looking.  Reuben has dubbed the fanciest rooster "Gorgeous George"  - all glam and no substance.  The other rooster, we call Larry.  Leaning Larry.  Everything about him is kind of "sideways" - his tail, his gait, his stance, his way of looking at you.  Again, definitely not the sharpest tack in the box.

I've been getting very frustrated at tending my extraordinarily stupid chickens - but have persevered in the hopes that they will soon redeem themselves by laying eggs for breakfast.  Apparently, Buff Orpingtons begin to lay later than other breeds....still no eggs.  So, Helen's announcement this morning was the cause of great excitement.  Uproarious cackling - a sure sign of egg production - had me all excited.  I walked outside - no chickens anywhere in the yard.  "Helen, I think you may be right!  I think they've all headed back to the hen house!  Maybe they've decided it's time to lay some eggs!"

(Now, why on earth would I think the idea would occur to my silly chickens to lay eggs in their nesting boxes?  Hmmm?)

It wasn't twenty minutes later that Ben looked out the window and asked, "Mom, why are the chickens all over at Grammy's?"

No, the chickens were not in the hen house laying eggs.  Rather, they had decided today was a lovely day for a road trip.  They had hiked all the way over to Grammy's, for who-knows-what reason.

Errrrrgh!  I ran into the yard and called across the hay field:  "Chick!  Chick!  Chick!  Heeeeeeere, chick, chick!"  Gorgeous George raised his head and looked at me.  The hens perked up and trotted a few steps down Grammy's driveway.  After 20 minutes of calling, I gave up.  All they did was stand at stare at me.

Thankfully, Helen agreed to help round up my wayward flock. By the time we had hiked over to Grammy's, there were no chickens to be seen anywhere.  Not in the yard.  Not in the road back to the cow pasture.  Not in the calf lot.  So we headed out to the barn.  Finally!  I found George and 5 hens chilling out under the tractor.  Where were the other 12?  Nowhere.

I began herding George and his tiny flock across the pasture toward our house.  Herding chickens is about like herding cats - if you want to develop patience, here's a good way to practice!  We reached the tree-line behind our house.  Under the canopy of trees, I found several other hens.  Then, further up the hill, more chickens.  Grrrrr!  "Come on, Chick-chick, back to the hen house!"

The entire flock is now safely back in our yard.  My legs are scratched from crawling through the underbrush, and I'm waiting for the poison ivy and chigger bites on my ankles to start itching.  We still have no fresh eggs.

But, as Helen cheerfully observed, at least I something to blog about!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I've been thinking and writing lately about spiritual nakedness and about the glorious covering of righteousness that is ours in Jesus.  Brought to mind this post from a couple of years ago:

May 5, 2010

I love the book of Ruth in the Bible, but not because of Ruth and Boaz. Yes, that is a beautiful story of romance and the redemption of a vulnerable young widow (although it is a rather calm, deliberate, dispassionate romance, by Hollywood standards!)

I love the book of Ruth because of the story it tells of broken Naomi and her faithful God. Sure, lovely, young Ruth is redeemed - but, even more amazing, the old, worn out, childless Naomi is redeemed.

Everything Ruth does in this story, she does out of love for Naomi, the woman who introduced her to the living God. She leaves her relatives and her homeland to travel with her mother-in-law to the distant, unfamiliar town of Bethlehem. Destitute, Ruth works tirelessly in the fields, despite the danger of physical abuse, gleaning grain to feed them both.

Their story rises to a climax in the third chapter of the book. Ruth, per Naomi's instructions, lies exposed and vulnerable at the feet of Boaz as he sleeps on the threshing floor. Around midnight, Boaz is startled awake. Realizing someone is lying at his feet, Boaz asks, "Who are you?"

Knowing full well that her bold response equates to an unorthodox request for marriage, Ruth replies, "I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your garment over me, for you are a redeemer." Ruth was very bold indeed - but she was motivated in her boldness, no doubt in part, by love for Naomi. Ruth understood that marrying Boaz would secure rest and safety not only for herself, but also for the mother-in-law she loved. "Spread you garment over me..." - Boaz's garment was sufficient to cover Ruth and Naomi.

Boaz redeems Ruth and, by doing so, reaches out to redeem Naomi also, eventually even providing withered, broken Naomi with a son. I love the way the book of Ruth ends. "A son has been born to Naomi!" They named him Obed, worshipper.

Change gears now, and take a peak into my squirrely brain. I look at every passage of Scripture with at least three questions in mind - What does this say about God? What does this say about Christ? What does this say about me, a child of God through the atoning work of Christ? Maybe that's way overpersonalizing Scripture, but it's how my brain works.

Like Ruth, I have someone I love most dearly in this world, someone living Naomi's broken reality, someone weary and needy and longing for rest. Like Ruth, I lie at the feet of my Redeemer and say, "Spread your garment over me, for you are a redeemer" - all the while praying that His garment is sufficient to cover both me and my beloved. Maybe, after all, this is how we are called to pray for those we love who are hurting or lost.

Often throughout the week, the words run through my mind, "Spread your garment over me...and let it reach to also cover --------." My faith and my prayers will never bring peace or rest or relief to another, but my Redeemer will.

Jesus isn't wearing Spandex (although He does love people in "stretchy pants"!) Scripture assures me He does not wear a skimpy, tight-fitting garment that has to be stretched to just barely - hopefully - cover me, leaving gaps that reveal my shame and expose me to the elements. No, Christ's righteous robe is large enough to cover me and my beloved. Large enough to cover all who are His.

I guess that's why I like the book of Ruth so much - it shows me a big, generous, sufficient Jesus.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. - Isaiah 6:1

Monday, August 20, 2012


For I am not ashamed of the gospel... - Romans 1:16

Yep, my brain is still mulling this one over.

After last Friday's post, another passage came to mind.  At the conclusion of the account of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 - God has just created the world and everything in it - we read this:  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Gen. 2:25)  Adam and Eve were perfect - perfectly beautiful, perfectly healthy, perfectly guileless, perfectly sinless.  And so they stood before each other and before their Creator without any sense of shame, no need to cover or protect themselves, nothing to hide.

Of course, in the very next chapter, we read of the Fall.  Sin and corruption mar what was once perfect, and Adam and Eve know right away what it means to feel guilty and ashamed.  They are afraid (as they should be!) and they try to hide themselves from God.

As the children of Adam and Eve, we have all been doing the very same thing ever since that sad day in the garden.  Though we try every way possible to convince ourselves otherwise, we are still painfully aware of what it means to be guilty, naked, ashamed.  And so we try to hide from God.

That, I think, is one of the things that makes the gospel so shocking - for creatures who have for thousands of years made it their standard mode of operation to hide, to deny, to pretend (like the emperor who wore the invisible clothes), the gospel calls us to proclaim the truth that we are indeed naked and guilty before a God who is holy and just.  After so many generations of lying, how can one suddenly change course and just admit the truth?  Gasp!  If being naked before this God makes us feel ashamed (and it does, no matter how vehemently we protest otherwise), then actually admitting our nakedness must bring with it shame of such magnitude as we've never known!

Except that it doesn't.

In the garden, after the fall, God sought out His guilty children:  "Where are you?"  Adam answered, "I was afraid, because I was naked..."  What did God do with this confession of guilt from His naked children?  We read in Genesis 3:21 that "the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them."  God knew their shame, and in compassion, He covered them.  We've been wearing clothes ever since.  But even garments of skin couldn't cover the nakedness of our souls, the shamefulness of our sinful hearts.  What was to be done about that more terrible nakedness?

God knew, even way back in the garden, that animal skins could never cover this greater, deeper nakedness.  And God already had a covering for that, too.  We needed - we need - a garment of righteousness to cover our shameful spiritual nakedness.

Speaking of Jesus:  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (1 Corinthians 5:21).  In Jeremiah 23 we read:  Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which he will be called:  The LORD is our righteousness (verses 5-6).

The LORD is our righteousness - that is the gospel!

In Christ, we have much better than we had in Adam.  In Christ, we are covered physically and spiritually - what Adam lost, Christ has reclaimed...and more!  Finally, we can know once again what it means to be "naked and ...not ashamed."  Why?  Because God sees us and knows us - knows it all, people, every nasty detail - and He mercifully covers us with garments, not of animal skin, but of His own righteousness.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. - Isaiah 61:10

Naked, more!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:16-17

Naked, more!

Friday, August 17, 2012


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
 - Romans 1:16-17

We are studying the book of Romans on Sunday mornings at Grace.  Last Sunday, we looked at the two verses above.

"I am not ashamed of the gospel..." Why would Paul make such a statement, unless there was some possibility, some assumption, even some likelihood, that shame would be a natural emotion for someone associated with the gospel of Christ?  Why would he need to assert that he was not ashamed?  Ashamed of what?  What is shameful about the gospel?

I suppose there are lots of answers to those questions, but one in particular has occupied my thoughts this week.  Let me try to explain...

By trusting in and testifying to the gospel - by confessing my own complete poverty and filthiness before a holy God, and by resting only in Christ's righteousness applied to my account - I am basically proclaiming to the entire world that I am a Loser.  Worse than a loser.  No, I am not "all that and sliced cheese."  I can't even do the first little thing, take the tiniest fumbling baby step toward a right relationship with my Creator.

The gospel - the "good news" - begins with the very bad news that I am a sinner, that I hate the things of God, that not only do I deny His holiness and justice, but I run from it with everything I've got.

But captured by God's grace - captured and captivated! - captured by grace which flows from God's infinite mercy, I have been made new.  Transformed by my Creator from a God hater to a God lover.  Not because I desired God and sought Him out, but because He desired me and pursued me.  Not because of any virtue in myself, but entirely because of the virtue of Jesus.  Not because I had faith, but because Jesus is faithful.  Not because I have within myself one iota of righteousness, but because Jesus has applied to me the very "righteousness of God."

As a redeemed sinner, I find the gospel message beautiful - it is life and hope and joy and peace.  But the gospel also has a dark exposes me for what I truly am.  I cannot tell you about the radiant beauty of Jesus without exposing the darkness in my own heart from which He has saved me.

If I am going to tell you that Jesus died to save sinners - I am going to have to put down the facade, strip away the self-deception that so desperately labors to make me (and you) believe I have any righteousness in myself.

To truly believe and rest in and live out this gospel - it's like standing in front of the world naked.

Yes, the shame of the gospel would be too great to bear, were it not for the glory of Christ, were not for Christ's covering me with His own righteousness.  Thankfully, the gospel is powerful - powerful enough to overcome my shame.  Indeed, it is the very "power of God for salvation"!

It's a power that makes a dirty, trembling, naked sinner look up in faith and joyfully proclaim to the world around her, "I am not ashamed!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


"I am a cowardly Christian."

I had known this about myself for a long time, but that Tuesday evening on the front porch talking with a friend...that was the first time I had articulated the truth, spoken it out loud.

No, it's not that I'm afraid to talk to people about Jesus.  Not even strangers.  Working at Wal-Mart taught this shy, introverted woman at least one thing:  I can initiate a conversation with just about anyone, if I set my mind to it!

No, I'm more afraid of what might come next, after an initial conversation about faith and grace and the gospel.  It's one thing to share the gospel with someone you don't know.  It's a totally different thing to then enter into an on-going relationship with that person.  What if the dirty, stinky man on the corner starts coming to my church, and wants to sit next to me each week?  What if the woman with a list of ex-lovers longer than my arm wants to talk to me about the messy relationship with her current boyfriend?  What if the chain-smoking, tattooed mom wearing the spaghetti straps and short shorts brings her whole wild and woolly brood to Sunday school - am I going to have to ask them all over for lunch at my house after church?

That's what scares me.  I'm afraid of what I might be getting into.  I want to know ahead of time how this is all going to shake down, that I'm going to be "okay" with whatever comes next.

"I am afraid of what God may be asking me to do," I told my friend.

The Wednesday morning after our front porch conversation, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to continue reading through the book of Luke.  First thing that morning, fresh on the heels of my confession of cowardice, I read in Luke 10 about Jesus sending out the 72 disciples.  Jesus told His disciples to "Go."  He told them their work would be messy, that they would be like "lambs in the midst of wolves."  He told them not to worry about the details of their journey:  "Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals..."  He told them to live among the people they would be discipling, but He didn't give any guarantees these folks would be pleasant.  He told them to GO, and proclaim the kingdom of God.  Just GO.

Yeah, that kind of hit me like cold water in the face.  It was like God met my fear head on:  I know you're afraid, but that's not the point.  The point is, I'm telling you to GO.

Then, just in case I hadn't gotten the message Wednesday morning, Deon preached from Isaiah 43 that evening.  Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine...(verse 1).  This is not an easy chapter.  God is rebuking Israel for their faithlessness and warning them of impending judgment.  But, even in the midst of very severe discipline, God exhorts His people:  Don't be afraid.  You are mine.

That next Sunday morning, Brother Billy was out of town, and Deon filled in for him.  Instead of continuing through Romans (Bro. Billy's current Sunday morning series at Grace), Deon picked up where he'd left off in Isaiah.  Guess how Isaiah 44 starts off....Yep, with a big "Fear not":  Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.  For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams in the dry ground...(see verses 2-3).

A woman once asked how she could find the Bible's answers to the particular issues she was dealing with in life.  We've all heard of the flip and jab-a-finger method.  A concordance is a great tool.  Or a devotional guide that speaks to a particular topic.

But I have found that simply reading the Bible is the best way to find answers to the struggles faced in this life.  Start reading, and then read the next page, and the next.  You'll be amazed at how God puts you in just the right passage at just the right time to address just exactly what you're dealing with.

And if you don't see what He's telling you the first time, don't worry.  Persevere.  God will get His message through.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Amazing how a single verse can be so comforting.

I have just begun reading through 1 Samuel.  Hannah, grieved at her barrenness, cried out to the Lord for a son.  God heard that prayer, granted Hannah's request, and gave her a son - and then, in gratitude for God's gracious gift, Hannah turned around and gave her son back to the Lord, to serve in the house of the Lord at Shiloh.

At a very early age, Samuel went to live and work with the priest Eli...and with Eli's two worthless sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  These wicked men would abuse the Israelites who came to offer sacrifices, forcefully taking the best parts of the meat that was meant to be offered to the Lord.  They took advantage of the women who served at the tent of meeting, forcing them into adulterous sexual relationships.  They disregarded the correction of their father.  We read that Hophni and Phinehas "treated the offering of the Lord with contempt" (1 Sam. 2:17).  God sent a messenger to tell Eli that his two sons were such an offense to Him that He had resolved to destroy them both in a single day and to curse Eli's family from that time on.  These were two really bad dudes!  And they were young Samuel's new "family."

Samuel served Eli in the tent of meeting.  You could say, Samuel literally grew up in church.  The doctrines and practices of the Jewish faith and worship were a part of Samuel's every day life.  Samuel knew about God, about God's people, and about their religion.  But, in the middle of all this - the messy family situation, the daily exposure to the religion of his parents - did Samuel know God?  Did God know Samuel?

I am a mother who once thought she would never have children (Hahahaha!), and who prayed fervently for a baby.  I am a mother who desperately wants to give my kids back to God - I want God to make them His own children, and I want them to know and serve Him.  I am a mother whose children now find themselves growing up in a world surrounded by godless men, men who mock God and who belittle and abuse their neighbors.  And, yes, my children have grown up in church.

Yet I find that sometimes I fear for my children's souls.  It is a daily, earnest prayer: "Lord, please grab hold of my children and make them yours!  Let them know the beauty of Jesus, and give them faith to trust in the sufficiency of His atoning work.  Give them a hunger for your Word, and a deep love for your church..."  I know that it is possible to "grow up in church" and yet never truly, personally know God or love His people.

Yesterday, I read this verse:  "Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him." (1 Sam. 3:7)  You probably know what happens next, right?  The LORD came and personally called Samuel into a relationship with Himself and appointed Samuel to be a prophet in Israel.  Yes, by God's grace, Samuel did come to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him mightily.  Samuel was passionate about the things of God and lived a life of service to God's people.

So that one little verse - "Samuel did not yet know the LORD..." - encouraged this mother greatly.  Because it reminded me that knowledge of the living God comes from God Himself.  God initiates that relationship, grows it, and establishes it securely.  It's not my child, not the culture around him, not even his familiarity with sound doctrine, that determines if he'll grow to know and love the Lord.  No.  It is God.

As a mom, that truth comforts me more than anything else can - because I know that God is sovereign over the lives of my children, and that He loves them very much.  "...the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him."  I don't have to be afraid for my children, for their souls.  Instead I can earnestly pray - with great hope - that God will in time reveal Himself to each one of my children, that He will indeed make them His own.

The LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.  - 1 Sam. 3:21 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


My kitchen counter is piled high with books.  This week, I hope to read through at least four of them.  Why this reading crunch?  I would like to have some titles to present to the session next week for them to review for our women's study in the fall.

So many little time!

Yesterday afternoon I was reading through Mary Kassian's Girls Gone Wise In a World Gone Wild.  Wow  - there's some pretty stiff medicine here for the modern woman!  Thankfully, it is served up with sweet grace and a dash of humor.

Mary devotes chapter two to the topic of counsel:  where do we get "instruction" in this life - actively or passively - on how to live, how to love, how to understand who we are and what we were made for?  I found this excerpt particularly convicting:

Speaking of media (movies, music, magazines, etc.), which certainly seek to inform us about who we are and why we are here, Mary writes, "Most of us recognize the danger of blatant evil, so we tend to set limits on the type and extent of sin to which we expose ourselves....we try to weigh the danger level.  If it doesn't go beyond some arbitrary threshold of what we feel we are able to handle, we tolerate it, thinking it won't affect us.  But evil is not benign.  Author Josh Harris says we might as well ask how much of a poison pill we can swallow before it kills us."

She quotes Harris:  "The greatest danger of the popular media is not a one-time exposure to a particular instance of sin (as serious as that can be).  It's how long-term exposure to worldliness - little chunks of poison pill, day after day, week after week - can deaden our hearts to the ugliness of sin....The eventual effect of all those bits of poison pill is to deaden the conscience by trivializing the very things that God's Word calls the enemies of our souls.

"Does anyone really believe that if I disapprove of the sin I'm watching, or roll my eyes and mutter abut Hollywood's wickedness, or fast-forward through the really bad parts, my soul is not affected?  Yeah, sure - and if you don't actually like chocolate cake, eating it won't add to your waistline."

Little bits of a poison pill.  Just a forkful (and another and another!) of chocolate cake.  Suddenly, we are surprised to find the whole pill swallowed, the cake plate empty.  Suddenly, we find ourselves in a place we never intended to be, calmly watching and listening to and enjoying things that should make us recoil in disgust.

We are cautioned as children of God to guard our eyes, guard our ears, and guard our hearts - to make sure that what we are daily ingesting affirms the truth of Scripture and truly edifies our souls.  That is so hard to do in this day, when bits of truly good food are very often laced with poisonous additives:  Satan is a crafty enemy!  We must pray for strength to be vigilant, and grace to be faithful.  And when we do swallow the pretty pink pill, or eat another mouthful of that chocolate cake, we need to be honest about what we're doing (instead of lying that "It's no big deal") and realistic about the consequences (instead of lying that "It doesn't really matter").

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:8-9

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Paul begins his letter to the Romans by expressing his great longing to see them.  They are on his mind constantly and always in his prayers.  (Is that how you feel about the church family God has given you, Dear Reader?)

In Romans1:11, Paul writes, "For I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you -"  Hmmm, a gift to strengthen his brothers and sisters in Christ...a prophecy? a prayer for financial blessing? protection from persecution?

Nope.  Paul continues in verse 12, "- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine."  When Paul - that great Apostle to the Gentiles, the man who penned so much of the New Testament - wanted to give a most precious gift to the beloved church in Rome, he chose the gift of mutual encouragement.  Let me share with you again the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how that Gospel is daily transforming my life!  You tell me again the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it's influence among you - how is Jesus ministering to you? growing your faith? increasing your love for and service to one another?

I've had two "holidays" recently when I've been blessed with extended time in the company of Christian sisters - last weekend at a movie shoot, and last night on the front porch.  On both occasions, the sweetest savor of our time together was that time spent sharing our faith - talking about what God is doing in our different churches, in our families, and in our own hearts.  Hearing the "Travel Journals" of their Christian journey in this life - and sharing my own - provided such sweet encouragement and truly strengthened my faith.

 Friend, you have a precious spiritual gift to give to the body of Christ - the gift of encouragement that comes from living in faith as a family.  Next time you see a Christian sister or brother, give them the gift of Jesus.  Tell them how God is working in your life - convicting you, calling you to repentance, challenging you, growing you, and encouraging you as you seek to comprehend the Gospel more fully and to put shoes on it daily.  Ask them how God is working in their lives - What are they learning in Scripture?  How are they growing in faith?  Where do they feel convicted, comforted, or encouraged in their walk?  How can you pray the Gospel for them?

Encouragement - a gift fit for royalty, for the sons and daughters of a King.  And it's yours to give today!