At The Cross

What makes you valuable? Is it your skilled understanding of the Bible? Perhaps the number of followers you have on social media? How about your connections with well-known Christian personalities?

The hymn I’ve chosen to present today humbles me. As much as I feel tempted to boast in all the things listed in the paragraph above, I must realize that only Christ gives me worth. Nothing I do either enhances or diminishes my worth precisely because I derive my worth exclusively from Him. And He assigned that worth to me at the cross.

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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.

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Should We Compile Lists Of Questions To Ask The Lord In Heaven?

QuestionsBack in high school, college and the early years of adulthood, my friends and I used to speculate on various theological questions. When we failed to locate satisfactory answers in the Bible, we’d advise each other to add the questions to our list of things to ask Jesus when we get to heaven. Do young Christians still talk about such lists?

Lately, I’ve been remembering those remarks about having lists of questions for the Lord, and I’ve felt kind of squeamish about the concept. Perhaps reading Job a few weeks ago triggered my reactions, since God basically reprimanded Job for daring to demand explanations from Him. I think, in part, that my current distaste for entering heaven with a list of things to ask Him comes from my fear that He would administer the same rebuke to me that He administered to Job.

That’s a healthy fear. As I age, I increasingly realize the value of maintaining a fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

What gives any of us the right to question our Creator? Do we really fancy that we can hold Him accountable to us? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see the humility in requiring God to explain any of His decisions to us. He’s not an adolescent schoolboy who took the car keys and violated curfew. In heaven, He will interrogate us, not visa versa.

Fearing God, then, should be reason enough to shred our silly lists. But I can think of an even more compelling argument against the notion of expecting answers from Him.

When we see Jesus in heaven, will our questions really matter anymore? Or will His splendor overwhelm us so completely that our questions will totally vanish from our minds?  As I read the Bible’s descriptions of the Lord Jesus Christ, I grow more and more aware that His magnificence will dispel our earthly concerns.

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. ~~Colossians 1:15-19 (ESV)

We forget, in our preoccupation with this life, how majestic and preeminent Christ the Lord actually is! We forget that all  creation revolves entirely around Him, and therefore that our questions take a back seat to our worship and adoration of Him.

Maybe our questions seem important now. Maybe the trials loom so large that we want to understand why He allows us to suffer. Or maybe His creation bewilders us, and we simply want to know why He made things as He did. The possible questions are almost limitless from a human perspective.

But I encourage you, dear sisters, to forget your lists of questions in favor of worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about His glory, and His worthiness to receive our praise. Anticipate an eternity of adoring Him for Who He is and delighting to see all creation worship Him fully. Looking at it that way,  will our questions really matter? I don’t think mine will.

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It’s Not About Why A Good Man Suffers

God Answers

Of course I’d read the book of Job many times throughout my 47 years of being a Christian, so its story hardly surprised me as I read it this week. Yet this time I noticed Job’s attitude. During the course of his trial, it degenerates from trusting God to questioning Him to flat-out anger against Him.

Job knew that He’d initially done nothing to warrant the severe suffering that God allowed Satan to heap on him. When his three “comforters” asserted that God was punishing him for sin, he vehemently denied their analysis. Sadly, as they persisted in their accusations, Job slid into the sin of self-righteousness, eventually demanding that God answer to him!

As we know, God finally puts a halt to Job’s temper tantrum by reminding Job that He created heaven and earth. Therefore He has authority to act however He pleases, and His creatures really don’t have any right to call Him into account. Thankfully, Job then repents of his self-righteousness and receives a restoration of God’s blessings.

Let’s talk about Job’s self-righteous anger against the Lord for a bit. I’d never really noticed it until this week, but I believe it holds a key to understanding the whole message of the book.

In college, a classmate who categorized herself as an agnostic summarized the book of Job as an exploration of the question, “Why does a good man suffer?” I thought of her assessment this week as I read Job’s self-righteous protests of his innocence, and I realized the glaring fallacy of her statement.

God used Job’s suffering to reveal Job’s heart. For all his attempts at piety and obedience, deep down Job ultimately trusted in himself rather than God for his justification. God used the trial to confront Job with his arrogance. Although he’d done nothing to provoke God’s judgment when the trials began, his reaction to the unfair remarks of his “comforters” led him to express his deep-seated self-righteousness. And it was ugly.

God, in His grace, allowed Job to recognize his need for a Savior. He graciously brought Job to repentance, and then rewarded Job for that repentance. The book isn’t about a good man who suffered as much as it’s about a good God Who uses suffering to show us both our sin and His wonderful grace.

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Saturday Sampler: February 4 — February 10

Doily Sampler Pink the Sequal

More extreme Charismatics should read Question 6: Is it right or ok to command God? by Clint Adams on Faith Contender. It’s a good reminder to approach the Lord with an attitude of humility.

Using Jen Hatmaker’s embrace of LBGTQ issues as an example, Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder teaches a helpful lesson in discernment with The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About The Bible. His essay demonstrates ways that de-conversion stories undermine Scriptural authority. It’s an important read, particularly as evangelicals increasingly try to reinvent Christianity.

In a guest post for Unlocking the Bible, Jen Oshman reminds us that Your Christian Life Isn’t About You. Well, duh, you say. But before you dismiss her article as being too elementary, check it out. Her process of reasoning just might surprise you.

Jordan Standridge consistently writes outstanding posts for The Cripplegate, and Why You Desperately Need the Holy Spirit perfectly exemplifies this point.

Similar to John Chester, I always believed one ought to dress certain ways for church. His article, Why I Don’t Wear A Tie in Parking Space 23, comes at the question from a much different angle than I do, but he makes pretty much the same conclusions that I’ve made.

Leave it to Leslie A of Growing 4 Life to come up with A Lesson from Football to encourage boldness for Christ. I also enjoy her unabashed celebration of the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory. Leslie, rest assured that not everyone in Boston roots for the Pats.

Justin Bullington, writing for Things Above Us, introduces a new series with his post, 8 Reasons Why The Next Missionary Support Should Be A Cessationist – Part 1. He presents compelling arguments that never would have occurred to me. I can hardly wait for the next installment!

Most of you may know that I am having trouble with my power wheelchair right now. This in turn causes secondary problems. So Michelle Lesley’s post, Basic Training: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically on Discipleship for Christian Women, ministers to me tremendously. If you’re suffering right now, you need to read this piece!

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Black Dresses And Moral Confusion

Old Fashioned GirlExcuse me, but the newfound morality of the secular world (led by Hollywood) confuses me just a bit. Maybe I’ve been a Christian too long, and consequently I tend to reason from Scripture, but it seems to me that the world tries to have moral standards without being confined by moral standards.

If that analysis doesn’t make sense, let me suggest that the liberal elitists don’t make sense.

I just looked at some photos from this year’s Golden Globes Awards. In solidarity with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, most of the female actors indeed wore black gowns. A few of those gowns covered them well, but most were as revealing and suggestive as usual. I suppose the wearers would argue that men shouldn’t look at them as sex objects even when they show skin, and that a man’s unwillingness to control his sexual responses shouldn’t restrict them from dressing as they please.

Before I say anything further, let me be clear that the Lord does indeed hold men completely accountable for their sexual thoughts.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

Men who allow their gaze to rest too long on women other than their wives will be guilty of adultery. (Incidentally, the same goes for women who fantasize about men other than their husbands.) Provocative attire by no means alleviates personal responsibility, no matter how high the hem or low the neckline. So please don’t read this post and assume that I think women who dress immodestly deserve to be sexually mistreated. They most assuredly do not!

But neither should they dress in ways that trigger such responses. Any woman who is honest with herself knows when her outfit will make men look. Granted, she may intend that her outfit attract only one specific man. But to suppose that other men won’t also look is highly naive.

Women aren’t that stupid.

And the same God who holds men accountable for their sexual responses also holds women responsible for tempting men to look at them inappropriately.

Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! ~~Matthew 18:7 (ESV)

The black dresses at this year’s Golden Globes Awards sent two contradictory messages. Despite the demands for sexual misconduct to end, Hollywood also demands to flaunt their sexuality without limitation. Never mind that sexual predators are simply taking sexual freedom to its logical conclusion.

Did I begun this article by saying that Hollywood’s duplicity confuses me? As I think more deeply about the matter, perhaps the women on the red carpet at the Golden Globes suffer from more confusion than I do. They need to receive the Gospel, and to understand how to enjoy their sexuality as God intended it to be enjoyed.

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The Unexpected Bible Scholar

OpenBible John 1Chronically, she was in her mid 30’s — just a few months younger than I was at the time. Her moderate intellectual disability, however, left her unable to read beyond a 7th grade level and unable to carry on a conversation that didn’t relate directly to her immediate circumstances.

She attended our Bible Study group primarily because she could walk to it from her home. Since everyone else had Bachelors or Masters Degrees, she never participated in the actual discussions, though she always had prayer requests and sometimes asked if we could sing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Did I say she never participated in the discussions? Typically, she didn’t. After all, we tended to get quite cerebral at times, pretty much excluding her by default (though not maliciously or deliberately).

But one night we hit a verse in Mark’s gospel that, for all our collective brain power, none of us could figure out. We must have spent a good ten minutes flipping to cross-references and asking the teacher what the commentaries said. He replied that none of them shed much light on the verse, leaving us puzzled and  frustrated.

Then she spoke, her voice betraying her surprise at our inability to understand the very obvious meaning of the verse. Using just one simple sentence and her limited vocabulary, she explained the verse with an accuracy that left us speechless. We followed her uncomplicated reasoning, amazed that she was right! Merely by relating the verse to its immediate context, she resolved the mystery.

Proud of our college educations, we’d cluttered our study of God’s Word with fleshy attempts to interpret it, whereas that simple lady read it at face value and rightly understood the Holy Spirit’s intent.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple; ~~Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

I share my favorite memory of this sister in Christ to demonstrate that, for those willing to believe the Word of God for what it plainly says, interpreting Scripture needn’t be arduous. The Lord gave us His Word in order to reveal Himself, not to play hide-and-seek or to increase our intellectual pride.

Sadly, we delude ourselves into thinking that the Bible is difficult to understand. And, while diligent Bible study definitely enhances our understanding of God’s Word by drawing out its richness, we need to acknowledge its clarity and simplicity. Even children and people with cognitive disabilities can comprehend it.

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