Thursday, February 26, 2015

politically incorrect

Anymore when I look at the world we're living in today, I don't recognize it.

What happened to right and truth versus wrong and falsehood? There used to be clear distinctions between the two, but today instead there seems to be some sort of sliding scale. Or even worse, there's the idea of "whatever works for you--each person has his own truth."

The problem with that is that there is only one Truth.

In John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

But somehow, even Jesus is being used to push a certain "progressive" train of thought, one which usually revolves around being politically correct. In that ideology, we as Christians shouldn't be speaking out against things because that isn't being loving. We are told that we are being judgmental and turning people away when we take a stand.

The idea that we should be politically correct is even being preached from some pulpits today.

So that begs the question, would Jesus be concerned with being politically correct?

While it's true that we have accounts of Jesus being followed by greats crowds of people who wanted to listen to His teachings, we are also told numerous times that there were mobs who wanted to kill Him--and they eventually did kill Him.

At one point, Jesus made a whip to drive people out of the temple for defiling it by selling animals and changing money.

Another time, He told the Pharisees that they were hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, and a brood of vipers.

While some would argue that being against the hypocritical Pharisees is what political correctness is all about, I disagree.

The hypocritical Pharisees of old where men who thought they were better than everyone else because they were somehow more holy, more deserving. Today's hypocrites are those calling out their own superiority based on their lack of religion--or their religion of total inclusion with no mention of Truth or sin. They are those who claim to be calling for peace and acceptance while instead creating hatred and division by saying that we have no right to stand up for our own beliefs--we're just supposed to accept and fall in line with society's views.

Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that God loves and accepts each of us. Romans 5:8 tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." His death was His gift to us, given solely in grace. It was given freely to all of us, no matter how long a list of sins we had.

But then He says what my Momma always said, "I love you too much to let you act that way."

Jesus died for us while we were sinners, but He did not intend for us to stay in our sin.

A little bit later in Romans 6, we read that when we believe that Christ died on the cross for our sins, that means we join in His death to sin and His resurrection to a new life. Though we were once slaves to sin, belief in Christ makes us slaves to Him. "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?"

Jesus wasn't worried about being politically correct because He was too busy teaching the hard lessons that a lot of people really didn't want to hear. Most people know John 3:16 without really even having to think about it: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

What about the rest of His words to Nicodemus (a member of the Jewish ruling council, by the way) that night?

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." ~John 3:17-21

As followers of Christ, we need to step forward into the light. Our condemnation has been lifted, and we need to speak the truth so those around us--those lost in the dark and afraid of their deeds being exposed--can come into the light and no longer be condemned, slaves to sin.

We have the key to unlock the chains, so why in the world should we keep quiet about it in the name of being politically correct?

I don't know about you, but I'm more worried about being right with God than being politically correct. In today's world, you can't be both. We have to take a stand and speak love and truth, even though we will be hated for it.

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and in view of His appearing and His kingdom,
I give you this charge:
Preach the Word;
be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke, and encourage--
with great patience and careful instruction.
For the time will come
when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead,
to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them
a great number of teachers
to say what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth
and turn aside to myths.
But you,
keep your head in all situations,
endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist,
discharge all the duties of your ministry." 
~II Timothy 4:1-5  

 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Paths in the snow

Sometimes, I wish I was the type of person who could learn lessons from nice things, like a cup of coffee. You know, how some people look into a steaming cup of coffee and see lessons in the light creamer and dark coffee mixing together or in the sweet and bitter combining?

That would be nice, but apparently that's not how I learn things.

Instead, my lessons come in the form of shoveling snow when the temperature reads 1 degree Fahrenheit outside.

The kids had a 2 hour delay before school this morning because we've had quite a bit of snow the last few days. Nathan had already left, so I needed to clear a path for the kids to be able to walk out to the bus. I started on the steps, then all I had to do was follow the sidewalk. The first thing to throw off my progress was a decision when the sidewalk came to a T: right or left? Should the kids walk over to the driveway or up to the road? The driveway seemed like the obvious choice at first, partly due to the fact that I wouldn't have as much shoveling to do. The ice under the snow over there changed my mind, though. It would be nice to have a clear shot to the car when we needed it, but I could just see both kids falling flat if they went that way.

So, left. Okay, sounds like a good plan. The sidewalk that way leads straight up to the road, so it should be a straights shot.

The thing was, when I started going that direction I quickly lost track of the stone sidewalk. The snow was too deep for me to shovel down to the ground in the amount of time I had before I needed to get back inside to finish getting the kids ready for school. No big deal--I just needed to shovel a straight path up to the road for the kids to walk to the bus.

I was almost to the road when I looked behind me. Not only was I not on the stone sidewalk, I wasn't making a very straight path, either.


The path wasn't very straight, and it wasn't where I was planning for it to be. It would work, though; it was a path to take the kids from the front door out to the bus without them either getting their boots full of snow or having them fall on the ice.

Right now, I have no idea where my path is headed. I've had many times when I thought I knew where the sidewalk was, where I knew what would be the best path. Instead, though, the path God has me on seems to be winding its way around so much that I can't even see where it's headed.

My kids didn't question the path I cleared for them. They simply walked it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

life lesson from the check-out line

A while back, I was in line at Wal-Mart. I was in the express line, picking up something in between classes way back when I was working towards Medical Physics (or not so long ago...I guess it just seems like my many different educational paths should be more spread out than they are). There was an older gentleman in front of me, actually having a conversation with the cashier.

Having worked as a Wal-Mart cashier, I can tell you that someone carrying on a conversation with the cashier is a pretty rare occurrence.

I don't know what they were talking about; I was trying not to eavesdrop despite how much I like to people watch. I like to call it research for writing--it sounds a lot less creepy when I put it that way. Before he paid his bill, though, he turned to me. He told me that he had always lived a very fulfilling life, and he said that the reason for that was in his two hands. I could tell he was leading up to something, and I wasn't in a hurry so I bit: "What's the reason?"

"Hold your hands up like this," he said, putting both hands up in front of him. I did what he asked. There was nobody in line behind me, and I was curious. The cashier had a knowing look on her face, so I imagine she had gotten his life lesson in the past. She just smiled and watched as he went on.

His voice was slightly accented, though I couldn't place where he might have been from originally. He reached out with one life-worn hand and grabbed the tip of each finger, one at a time, assigning one word to each one:
If
   it
      is
         to
            be,
      it
         is
            up
               to
                  me.
"I say that every morning when I get up, as a reminder to myself," he said, then wished me and the cashier both a good day and went on his way.

His words have stuck with me, though I've tweaked the meaning a bit. I'm reminded of the picture we have in our living room:
Two hands, Adam reaching out to touch the hand of God while God reaches back. When I see that picture, I think of that man's words and the reason he said he had lived a fulfilling life. I see that my hands have to be active, reaching out. If I want something to happen, I need to take action to make it happen. Most importantly, though, I need to be reaching out to God. Because
if
   it
      is
         to
            be,
   it
      is
         up
            to
               Him.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

the right place at the right time...

Trust.

Can I tell you how scary that word is to me? It definitely wasn't my pick--kind of like when this blog started with the word faithful. As I've mentioned lots of times (and I apologize if I sound like a broken record), trust doesn't come easily to me. It means I have to rely on someone else...someone who isn't me.

That's hard to swallow.
I've always wanted to do things myself, a trait that started when I was little and hasn't stopped. I've wanted to earn things by my own merit, to accomplish things using my own hands and through my own power.

I listened to the last of a sermon series by Tony Evans the other day, and in it he was wrapping up Joseph's story. He pointed out that Joseph didn't have any qualifications or connections, and that lots of people would say that he ended up in the position to provide food for his brothers and their families because he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

People say that all the time, don't they? Good things happen to people who are in the right place at the right time. Brother Evans pointed something out though--how in the world did Joseph end up in the right place at the right time? To paraphrase him just a bit:
He wouldn't have been able to provide for his brothers if he hadn't been second in charge in Egypt.
Joseph wouldn't have been second in charge over all of Egypt if he hadn't interpreted the Pharoh's dream.
He wouldn't have interpreted Pharoh's dream if he hadn't met the cup bearer and baker.
He wouldn't have met them if he hadn't been thrown in the dungeon.
He wouldn't have been thrown in the dungeon if he hadn't been falsely accused by Potiphar's wife.
He wouldn't have been falsely accused if he hadn't been put in charge of Potiphar's household.
He wouldn't have been put in charge if Potiphar hadn't bought him.
He couldn't have been bought as a slave if he hadn't been sold to Egyptian slavers.
He wouldn't have been sold if his brothers hadn't thrown him into a pit.
He wouldn't have been thrown into a pit if his brothers hadn't been jealous of him.
His brothers wouldn't have been jealous if he hadn't been showing off the coat his dad gave him. 

Yes, Joseph was in the right place at the right time...because everything in his life had led him to that place. Even the things that others had meant for evil, God had worked out for Joseph's benefit and in order for His purpose to be carried out. Joseph was in the right place at the right time because God had orchestrated his life so that he would be there.

Right now, things are a bit stressful in my household. Nathan and I are both wrapping up grad school, but we have no idea where we are going when this summer rolls around. I've been more than a bit worried about it, even though I've been trying not to get too stressed out. When I was listening to the end of the story of Joseph's life, I was reminded of something: when I got the job teaching at Lead Hill, it was through nothing I did. I didn't even know there was a job opening there. I hadn't applied; I got a call one day asking if I would be interested in coming in for an interview.

I say that to say this: when I look back at my life, it's full of times when I couldn't control what was happening and thought things were spinning out of control. Through all of it, though, even the times that others meant for evil, I can see how God worked in the middle of it to bring about His purpose. If He has done that time and time again (without my help, I have to admit), what's to keep Him from doing it now?

Trust.
It's a hard, beautiful thing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015...a year of trust

Welcome to 2015!

I know I'm a little bit late...sorry about that. In fact, I haven't posted anything since the middle of November--so I guess I'll say sorry for that, too, because two months is a long time to go without writing anything on here.

There's a good reason for about a month of my silence, because my parents brought us home for Christmas so I was away from the computer. Here's a glimpse of what my time there was like:

I would like to say that that's my only reason for not writing lately. The thing is, there's this little matter of promising to be honest, faithful, and transparent when I write here.

So I have to admit--I haven't written because I feel like I've lost my voice. For so long, writing has been the one thing I've been able to do without fail. No matter what chaos or confusion was swimming around in my mind, I could pick up a pen and get everything out. Even though it didn't change anything, just being able to put my thoughts into words somehow made things better. No matter what I was facing (and there's been quite a mess of stuff), I could write about it and make some sense of things. Lately, though, that hasn't been the case.

Am I alone in this? Do you ever feel disconnected from the things that have always made you who you are? No matter what else I have ever faced--teaching, physics, teenage angst, moves, grad school, being a wife and mom--writing has always been part of the very fabric of who I am. In fact, it has often been what held everything else together. It's hard when you feel like you're coming apart at the seams and have lost your needle and thread.

I'm reminded of Proverbs 3:5&6, verses that are probably familiar:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths."

Maybe I'm looking for the wrong needle and thread. Instead of looking to something to do on my own to try to pull myself back together, I need to trust.

Trust the One who holds me together, who doesn't need needle and thread to fix the seams because He's the One who knit me together in the first place.

Huh. Funny how that works--I didn't plan on taking part in the whole One Word thing this year, because I was at a loss for what word to choose. As I've found so many times, though, when I get out of the way God has a way of speaking to me, of letting me know what it is He's trying to get across to me. Apparently this year, He snuck a word in:
Trust.
What a perfect word for a year that promises to be full of changes and unknowns, a year of new beginnings and a move, the end of a chapter (grad school) and the start of a new one, and the next 6 months where so much has to happen in what is truthfully such a short time. It's not an easy word for me. I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record, but I don't like to rely on other people. I have a hard time with it, to be honest, because it means having to admit that I'm not in control. This year may prove difficult for that very reason.

You would think that I would be used to that by now. After all, there's been very little I've actually been in control of for the past decade. Sometimes I'm a bit slow on the uptake, I guess. At times, it takes a 2x4 for lessons to sink in. 

So this year, I'm going to try to trust.
Just now, when that word came into my head, I looked up "trust" in the back of my Bible and here's what I found:
"The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know Your name will trust in You,
for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You."
Psalm 9:9-10

So, here's to 2015...a year of trust. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

broken hallelujah

For those who really know me (or those who have been reading this blog for a while), this will come as no surprise:

I like to be in control of things, to know just how everything is going to work out. I like to have a plan.

If you ask my mom, she'll probably tell you that my mantra has always been, "I can do it myself."

I have always been an incredibly independent person. I can usually figure my way through a difficult situation, and I've always taken pride in that. I don't like to ask for help--I'm perfectly capable of working things out for myself, thank you.

Only, sometimes I'm not.

That's something that has taken me a long time to be able to admit (and something I'm still working on, to be honest). I've always tried to be strong, to stand on my own two feet and face whatever life throws at me. The thing is, that's not what God wants from me.

God doesn't want my strength,
because He has more than enough of His own.
What He wants is my brokenness,
my realization that I can't get through
this thing called life on my own,
my willingness to come to Him in humility
and tell Him that it is only His strength that matters.

I've been listening to a sermon series from Dr. Tony Evans called, Joseph: Detours to Destiny. Pop heard part of it and had Mom order it to send to me because it seemed like just what I needed to hear.

It's been wonderful. If your life is on a detour--you know, one of those times when you feel stuck in someplace that's keeping you off track from where you're supposed to be--I highly recommend you listen to it.

When I was listening to it today, Dr. Evans was talking about the fact that God doesn't need my help to get me to where He wants me to be. He doesn't need my connections or whatever I think I can do to hurry things along. My future is in His hands, and He is the one in control. He will lead me to my destiny, and He doesn't want to share the credit with me.

God doesn't need me to do it myself. In fact, He doesn't even want my help.

What He wants is for me to realize that my hands are empty. He wants me to let go of trying to control things, because when I'm holding onto the illusion of being in control, I can't hold onto Him.

He wants me, acknowledging that I am broken and weak, because it is only then that I will step out of the way and let those around me see His strength.

Friday, November 14, 2014

God is there, even in the storms

This life is hard--sometimes unbearably so.

Just yesterday, an amazing couple with a strong faith lost their son to a mysterious, aggressive illness. A sister lost her brother, her kids lost their uncle, some sweet friends lost their cousin, and a whole host of people lost a friend.

Life hits hard sometimes, hard enough to knock us flat. In those times, the times when we need God the most, it's incredibly hard to see Him.

It's like when the disciples were in the boat and a storm came up without warning. They were facing the wind and the waves, fighting desperately to keep the boat from sinking--struggling to just keep from drowning. All the while, Jesus was sleeping. (Matthew 8:23-27)

We cry out like David,
"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." (Psalm 69:1-3)

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered You, O God, and I groaned; I mused and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: 'Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?'" (Psalm 77:1-9)

Sometimes, God seems silent. He seems distant. Sometimes, when life is hardest, it's easy to wonder if He has abandoned us, if He really loves us.

In those times, though, He is still there. Just like Jesus was in the boat with His disciples while the storm raged, He is with us in the tempest.

He is quiet because He knows we need time to grieve, time to be sad and angry and hurt. So He simply wraps His arms around us and lets us cry.

He is there in the silence. He hears our cries and listens to our questions and feels our pain, and He hurts for us. We are told in John 11: 35, "Jesus wept" and in Isaiah 53:3 that He was "a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering."

Our God will never forsake us. He is there, even as the storms rage around us and the waters threaten to swallow us up.

He is there, always.

"The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
(Zephaniah 3:17)