What Writer’s Block Teaches Me About Discipline And Joy

OpenBible John 1My writer’s block continues, tempting me to take a day off from blogging. I do realize that doing so wouldn’t be sinful. Maybe I’d even get some digital art done, which really wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Yet I fear that indulging these feelings of not wanting to blog could put me on a slippery slope.  I know my sinful, lazy self well enough to understand that I need the discipline of performing tasks regardless of how I feel about them. That same commitment to discipline helped me, 40 years ago, to develop the habit of daily Bible reading.

Admittedly, a Christian should approach God’s Word with eager anticipation, knowing that the Lord speaks to us through the pages of Scripture. It shames me that there are days — way too many of them — when I come to my Bible confessing that I’d rather play Solitaire or work on digital art. Interestingly, those are often the days that His Spirit most clearly illumines His Word to me.

Whether we feel the desire for Scripture or not, we need the daily nourishment it gives. Job certainly understood the value of God’s words.

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ~~Job 23:12 (ESV)

The fact is, Christians need daily Bible intake even more than we need three square meals a day. Sure, there are days when we can only spend five or ten minutes in the Word, and the Lord understands that. But the discipline of coming to His Word regularly, unless unusual circumstances make doing so impossible, establishes a rhythm that ensures daily communication with our Savior.

I disagree with imposing legalistic rules like “No Bible, no breakfast” or reading a specified amount of chapters a day. However, some sort of general routine helps. It’s only when you turn that general routine into rigid law that you pervert godly discipline into ungodly legalism.

And legalistic Bible reading shifts the focus from hearing the Lord to checking off a religious duty to entering into communion with the Living God. Discipline may bring our feelings under control, but it never blocks us from the joy of hearing God’s voice as He speaks through His Word. We may open our Bibles as an act of discipline, but we’ll close them rejoicing that the Lord has spoken to us.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Alleluia — The Only Reasonable Thing To Say!

I doubt anyone is surprised that I’ve selected the most popular Easter hymn to feature this week. I’m quite sure other bloggers who post Sunday hymns will also post this one. I’m equally quite sure that you sang it in church this morning.

But please don’t let the familiarity of this hymn dull you to its glorious message. God means for us to see Christ’s resurrection as a joyous promise that, at His return, He will raise our bodies to live eternally with Him. For this reason, Alleluia can be our only response, and we can’t possibly say it enough!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I Want My Life Back!

Count It All Joy

In my 20s and early 30s, I regarded life’s trials as intrusions that kept me from living real life. Oh sure, I knew that Jesus promised tribulation in this world (John 16:33), and I undoubtedly quoted it sanctimoniously to friends during their various times of difficulty. But deep-down, I resisted the idea that I should be subjected to hard times.

All too often, as I went through those hardships, I’d protest by declaring, “I want my life back!” In my estimation, adverse circumstances robbed me of the quality of life that I expected God to hand me. I equated ownership of my life with maintaining control of my situations.

It took years (far too many years, actually) before I understood that my trials were as much a part of my life as the things I enjoyed. They didn’t intrude on my life. They were part of life! Furthermore, they were meant as God’s instruments in refining my character to reflect Christ’s.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~~James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Having moved through a few more decades, I’ve learned that life fluctuates between good times and uncomfortable (even painful) times. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t give me the right to demand life on my terms. I belong to Him as His slave, and because of that fact, He has the authority to exercise full control over my circumstances.

This past couple years, I’ve noticed several friends respond to their struggles by declaring, “I want my life back!” So often, I’ve wanted to shake their shoulders and shout, “This is your life, honey! Grow up and stop being so self-centered!” Thankfully, the Lord has mercifully restrained me from making such a callous mistake, reminding me of the gentleness I desired from my friends when I was young.

Interestingly, I’ve been going through a variety of trials lately that have interfered with my schedule and how I want my life to proceed. A few weeks ago, I caught myself telling God, “I want my life back!” Almost immediately, I had to laugh at my self-centered attitude, and then I had to repent of my hypocrisy.

Like my younger friends, I still need to acknowledge that my life belongs to the Lord, Who will use my circumstances for His purposes and glory. I don’t have to like my trials, but I can take joy in knowing that He uses them to develop me into a woman who lives for His glory.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Easter All Year Round

Is it too early to start celebrating Christ’s resurrection?

Talk about a ridiculous question! The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ provides the cornerstone of our faith, and really should be celebrated throughout the year. Because He rose from the dead as He said He would, He guarantees that He will one day raise us to live with Him forever. That promise fills me with joy!

Since celebrating Christ’s resurrection can never begin too soon, let’s get into the Resurrection Day spirit with this contemporary hymn that accentuates the joy of His triumph over sin and death.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

If We Love Those In Heaven

Spotlight on God

This past Wednesday I introduced the topic of whether or not our deceased loved ones look down on us from heaven. This topic touches everyone; we’ve all lost at least one special person, and consequently we feel the powerful desire to cling to the relationship. We crave assurance that that person still loves us. That we matter to them.

Please understand that I really do understand that craving. When my friend Bob succumbed to his battle with AIDS, I found myself believing that he watched me from heaven, perhaps even more attentive to me in death than he’d been in life. In a sense, his death allowed me to feel closer to him. In my mind, he was now always with  me, focusing his love on me.

Dear sisters, do you see my self-centered attitude here? I wanted Bob’s attention to center on me rather than on the Lord.  I disregarded the truth that he now beholds Christ in all His glory — a wondrous sight that will consume him (and me) for all eternity!

As mortals still locked in sinful bodies, we tend to forget Christ’s preeminence in His creation. I realize I quote Colossians 1:15-20 often, but this passage has so profoundly transformed my understanding of heaven that I want to again draw your attention to it.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

Although Paul didn’t write Colossians 1:15-20 specifically in reference to heaven, the concept of Christ’s centrality in His creation should clue us in to the fact that creation revolves exclusively around Him. That being the case, it seems to me that heaven strips away everything that distracts from Him. Therefore, those in heaven with Him must be consumed with adoration of Him.

Doesn’t it seem selfish, then, to expect our loved ones in heaven to divide their attention between the Lord and us? Wouldn’t we want them to delight wholly in Him, completely liberated from all other concerns?

And do we seriously want to compete with the Lord for their attention?

I challenge you to think carefully about that last question. As harsh as it sounds, I believe it brings us to the heart of the matter. In repenting of my fantasies about Bob watching over me from heaven, I’ve had to confront my tendency to rival the Lord for Bob’s attention. Not a pretty admission, but a true one.

We continue to love those who go to heaven ahead of us, as well we should. But let’s love them enough to rejoice that they behold the beautiful face of the Savior. And let’s love our Savior enough to rejoice that our loved ones can worship Him without distraction. One day, we will join them in that glorious devotion to Christ.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Praise Is His Gracious Choice

According to my Facebook feed, many of us have had a rough week. I certainly have, but several of my friends have experienced difficulties far worse than mine.

In trials, we easily get distracted from the Lord, or else we harbor bitterness and resentment towards Him. But He calls us to praise Him, even in our frustration and sorrow, trusting His sovereignty regardless of anything we go through.  And praising Him, even when it hurts, often realigns our perspective by reminding us Who He is and how deeply He cares for us.

Today’s hymn sweetly encourages us to praise the Lord simply because He deserves our praises. Its cheerful tune and uncomplicated lyrics lift our attention to Him, assuring us of His unfailing presence.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

This Isn’t A Eulogy, Exactly

IMG_0693Saturday, a friend of ours lost his battle with cancer. I suppose I could tell you about his love for the Lord, about his beautiful devotion to his wife and family, about his ministry as the Youth Group director at his church or about how he and his wife fostered children and young adults. Alternately, I could tell you how, early in my marriage to John, he taught us a few important points on marriage.

Some of you might enjoy reading such things, but face it — almost all of you never met him. A eulogy probably wouldn’t be very meaningful to you. It might not even be that interesting. For most of you, he was just an obscure guy in Massachusetts that had no direct impact on your lives. You’re sorry for my loss and all, but you didn’t come to my blog to read about him. And I definitely understand that position.

So rather than write about my memories of this man, I want to reflect on the joy he’s experiencing now. If people who knew him happen to read this article, please understand that I by no means want to minimize your grief; all of us who knew him are broken hearted by his passing. And yet, as Christians,  we know he’s beholding the wonderful face of Jesus.

Obviously, none of us really knows what it’s like to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face. I therefore want to avoid any extrabiblical speculation or conjecture, preferring to keep within the bounds of what God has revealed in His Word.

Scripture gives glimpses of that wondrous occurrence by recounting the experience of the apostle John.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~~Revelation 1:9-20 (ESV)

Okay, I realize that John still had his sinful body when he saw the Lord, making his experience arguably different from that of someone who has died.  But I would submit to you that he described Christ’s glorified state. Those who die, because they finally have freedom from their sinful bodies, may not fall paralyzed  at His feet, but we will see His same glory.

With that fearsome glory, however,  John saw Christ’s compassion. Notice verse 17, where the Lord reassures John. The tenderness in that verse beautifully balances the overwhelming description of Christ’s magnificent and terrifying holiness in the preceding verses.

With compassion to temper the brilliance of Christ’s glory and holiness, John could joyfully serve the Lord by writing the Revelation. Fear subsided as he went on to narrate what will happen when Christ finally returns to claim His Bride and establish His kingdom.  What joy fills those last two chapters of Revelation!

Although I have no way of knowing what my friend saw when he entered heaven Saturday, I rest assured that it brought him immeasurable joy. As a result, the sadness I feel for his wife and children gives way to rejoicing for him. And one day I will also see that same glorified Christ in all His splendor!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin