Our faith and His ‘pop-quizzes’

Leave a comment

If the three most important words in real estate are ‘location, location, location’, then the key three words for the Christian are ‘entrust, entrust, entrust’ all to Jesus.

Remember…(those)… who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 NIV

If we are to ‘copy the faith’ of someone, that means we must be able to notice it. The text above actually makes that point.  The Greek word ‘consider’ means to behold.  What are we to observe? The conduct of believing Christians all the way to their dying end, through their journey toward the final portal into Life.

One’s ‘way of life’ indicates conversation and actions, how these mature believers interacted, how they handled affliction and upsets.

This morning, I read a different translation of 1 Peter 4:12 that compliments these thoughts: ‘When trials come to test you, don’t freak out.’ How clear!

Observing mature Christians who have taught us God’s word, mimicking their faith responses, watching how they think through and make decisions has a corollary. Just as we copy their pattern, that means others are watching us, too.  We aren’t always aware, but they are. 

But that responsibility won’t tax us if we recall our Lord’s assurance of supernatural, divine help promised to sustain us all the way to the end. God’s chesed, that is His steadfast love and mercy, is constant, never changing. Here’s to ‘not freaking out!’

**

As is my Father’s pattern with me, I can count on a ‘pop quiz’ to follow up what I observe in His Word.  Sure enough, He provided the ‘practicum’ just a day later while on our trip out to Seattle to visit Mike’s mom.

When I dread something, I will hand it over to You. Psalm 56:3 (my wording)

I had to repent this morning at ‘pee o’clock’.  Washing my hands, my head flew to the coming day and what I was dreading.  We have planned to treat Mom to a dinner out 3 blocks from her retirement complex.  My fears over the past few days have been: ‘What Uber driver will want to transport us that short of a distance and back?’ and ‘Will the ambiance and food please Mom or will it be too loud and unsatisfying for a 92-year-old?’  

So, as soon as I thought in the dark, “I’ll be glad when today is over”, He convicted me, clearing away the fog of fear.  “Oh, I have a heavenly Father!  I can hand this entire situation over to Him.”  And so, I did and fell back asleep.

Now, further into the day, I keep reminding myself that He has ‘got this’.  The grace we will need is already stockpiled. This event is meant for future praise.

PS: Well, it’s ‘the day after’.  And of course, God’s score card continues to be perfect. Not a single driver balked at the four-block trip.  We arrived on time.  There were ramps for Mom and her walker to use.  We were seated by ourselves in a spacious alcove with a view over Seattle.  Visibility was perfect. Our menu selection pleased Mom and we made it home with no hitch.  Our driver was in his early 80s, seeking always to be productive.  He understood Mom’s needs. 

Father, forgive me yet again for doubting your ability to come through. Thank you for your kindness to us and to Mike’s mom who delighted in being able to view her beloved city from the 14th floor.

A bit of vulnerability

1 Comment

Our Father is a very personal parent.  He treats each of us differently, according to what we need. In His holy judgment obviously. I like to think of His discipleship training course as an IEP, an individual education plan, in ‘educator speak’. 

This week has been no exception to tailor-made lessons for Maria.  Painful ones, yes, but kind.

**

May the God of peace…(be) working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ….Hebrews 13:21 ESV

I woke up feeling blah today. Usually cheery, I checked the usual suspects (sleep, pain, problems).  Fact is, I didn’t sleep well and my body feels off. But the REAL issue is that my heart is cold.

Two days ago, I read an email from a ministry we support. Once a year, they launch a focused prayer season.  I didn’t print out the attached guide.  It just felt too much, to add something else to pray for every day.

Then yesterday, our pastor sent out his weekly email detailing the upcoming Sunday. This year, 2021, we’re back worshipping in person. And two other services are planned for Passion Week.  My reaction?  Not interested.

Now THAT is the real reason for ‘the blahs’.  God made me look fully into a picture of my unholiness, my sin.

But, God prompted a friend…..who just ‘happened’ to send the above verse. Firmly nudged by the Spirit, I made a ‘deal’ with God. “If that Good Friday service is during the day, I’ll go!”

I checked the email. Sure enough, it’s scheduled for noon.

*****

He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 NASB

God’s timing, as always, was impeccable. I listened to an interview with a Christian comedian while cleaning yesterday. He described how his comedy improved once he changed the question (and purpose) from ‘How can I get people to laugh?’  to ‘How can I give people what they need?’

This morning I felt hurt when Anne texted, cancelling Spanish class for Noah because of her surgical appointment.  I have been longing for more contact with her.  So, not even knowing that she had scheduled a procedure stung.

I sat quietly with God, journal open.  Providentially, I had been on the cusp of writing down that comedian’s advice.  By grace, the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask, “What can I give Anne right now in this relationship?” Then I knew!  I can write her a newsy, encouraging card.

Immediately, I felt happy, hurt feelings dissolved. I had let go of “I’m not getting what I want” to something better and more freeing.

And you know what?  About an hour after I experienced the bigger blessing of looking at how I could serve this dear gal, she texted and suggested we face time tomorrow. A sweet smile from my Father.

What is something fresh or different you see in Scripture?

2 Comments

Don’t you love it when the Holy Spirit shows you something new in His Word? I have chosen two of my ‘devotional bites’ (what I call each day’s writing practice) that talk about new insights or discoveries.  The first offers a different way of thinking about Christian liberty.  And the second describes a new practice I am implementing.

Whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.  But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord  is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image. 2 Corinthians 3:15-18

Taken in context, Christian freedom communicates a meaning different than most talk about. This is not a liberty to do as one pleases.  Paul is writing about being emancipated from an incorrect understanding of God’s Word. Before Jesus came, we were not at liberty to comprehend God’s plan.  It was hinted at, but ‘kept under wraps’ until the right time.

‘Freed’ from wrong conclusions, we now can grow in knowledge of Jesus by means of the Spirit. And most amazing and wonderful of all, this release or freedom from the custody of the law, as Paul explains in Galatians 3:23, means we are growing to be more like Jesus.

Grace frees us to be holy.

****

(Jesus) wrapped a towel around his waist. John 13:4 NIV

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:15 that we are to live FOR the One who died and was raised FOR us. Jesus modeled what it means to center one’s life on someone else.  It’s called service.

As an illustration, Jesus put on the ‘uniform’ of a servant when He grabbed and attached that drying cloth to himself.

‘Just what is MY uniform?’ I pondered this morning.  The idea came, ‘What if I put on one of my 4 necklace crosses?’  That day-by-day deliberate act of fastening the clasp would remind me that I am Jesus’ servant, with tasks He assigns.

And for whom are these daily duties?  Jesus Himself isn’t physically here. However, we know that when we serve others, we are serving Him.

But what should we be doing? Hebrews uses the term ‘sacrifices’ to describe our service.  In Hebrews 13:15-16 the author explains that we are to praise God continuously, do good, and share with others. All and only in Jesus’ power, of course.

Wearing a cross reminds me I have a Master.

What do you expect? And are you content?

1 Comment

This week I write about one sanctification issue that God patiently brings up time and time again: contentment. The other topic has to do with expectations.

 Friends, we do NOT serve a boring Master! I’m finding that Jesus likes to change things up for me, keeping me ‘on the hot griddle’ as my mom used to say. She employed that as dating advice when I was a teen.  She was trying to teach me that men did not like the predictable. I don’t know if that is true about men, but it turned out to be absolutely the case when I taught middle-schoolers and older teens.  The brain craves novelty!

As it turns out, Jesus is the most novel teacher I have ever had!

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 ESV

This morning I saw a way into contentment by asking: ‘What do ‘I have’ already?’  Well, I have Christ!  And He will never abandon me.  So, maybe a way to ‘do’ contentment is to desire what I already have, namely the living, indwelling Spirit of Jesus.

Don’t you and I desire what we don’t have? Billions of advertising dollars work to create and fuel longing for something better, newer, different.  Companies invest in creating DIS-content.

But I don’t think I can FEEL content, unless I stoke my gladness over what I have. It’s like appreciating one’s spouse and recounting to him all the precious memories of joy and tender moments you have shared.

Maybe at least on Sundays, we can offer to Jesus our version of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem: ‘How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…’ And stoke our contentment.

**

I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Matthew 20:14 ESV

Jesus used this scenario to illustrate the ‘last are first’ principle in the Kingdom of God. I wrote in my journal this morning: ‘The early hires got what they expected, but didn’t like it.  The late hires got what they didn’t expect and loved it.

Today is Inauguration Day for President Joe Biden. Four years ago, I watched Donald Trump’s inauguration while eating lunch in my French classroom in North Carolina. Just as the vineyard owner shocked his last-to-be-hired workers, so too God surprised me. Never would I have imagined on that day, January 20, 2017, that four years later I would be retired and watching Joe Biden’s inauguration from here in Alabama.

Maybe God has surprised you, too!  I think the lesson for us is this: Let go of expectations and trust our good, generous and creative Father who doesn’t do things the ‘human’ way.

Face the facts…pray…work and trust God!

Leave a comment

Haggai 2:3 Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Is not this in your sight as nothing in comparison to that? Yet now be strong, alert, and courageous, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; be strong, alert, and courageous, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, alert, and courageous, all you people of the land, says the Lord, and work! For I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts. (Amp)

Facts are never a problem for God. Rather, He, the Creator of these ‘facts’ calls us to face circumstances and name them.

But He doesn’t leave us alone in the midst of our overwhelming situation to stew in our ‘not-enoughness’. Not up to the assigned task? That is how He has planned this moment, for the Lord of the Angel Armies is WITH us. He assures us that He will provide what we lack, making up for our God-designed deficits. Ever our Father, He pushes us forward, gently but firmly, TOWARD the situation that scares us.

Last Tuesday at the local pregnancy resource center here in Huntsville, I faced the facts. Nothing as scary as what the returning Hebrew exiles were up against, (the book of Ezra details this ‘adventure’) but unsettling enough for me to ask Mike and my friend Joyce to pray!

Every Tuesday morning, I meet with women who believe they are pregnant and turn to us for verification and assistance. They also want to find out how we can help them during their pregnancy. My role as an intake counselor is to meet with them, listen and learn what they are facing, administer the ‘pee test’, discuss our cost-free services, share something of the Gospel and to pray with them.

My husband Mike always asks God urgently to provide for me throughout my morning shift because of the gravity of these one-on-ones. All of us who volunteer and work at the center recognize that the life of the baby is sometimes in jeopardy because of the possibility of abortion. Even more important, these appointments can be occasions where questions of the eternal destination of the gal (and her partner) arise. With so much at stake, these 45 minutes or so ALWAYS feel weighty and I depend on God entirely for His direction – what to say and how.

Nine months before I left teaching Middle School French full time, I started working on my Spanish. My motivation? – a planned student trip to France and Spain the following summer. That never happened because we moved to Huntsville, changing my life dramatically. But already hooked on Spanish, I continued my language-learning journey in order to be more useful to God in a volunteer capacity here.

A data geek, I track everything about my personal Second Language Acquisition process. It’s been 27.5 months since June 2018 when I began from scratch. I employ the same method I used to teach French, that is acquiring the language through input, not via grammar or explicit learning. Starting first with simple videos and podcasts, I now read in Spanish and have some weekly conversations (language exchanges). I am at the intermediate level. The ‘problem’ is: I know what it FEELS like to be fluent in French. I can’t help but compare my skill levels. I call my level: Broken Spanish. A Mexican colleague has assessed my speaking as ‘adequate’.

Obviously just where God wants me, forcing me to depend on Him!

Back to ‘facing the facts’ this past week. Arriving at the center, I knew that all 3 of my appointments for the morning were going to be with Hispanic gals. A first for me!

No point informing God: ‘I wish my proficiency level were more advanced!’ He knows because I remind Him often. Daily, I plug on, continuing my Spanish journey, through comprehensible input (my goal is 3 hours with Spanish a day).

So, this past Tuesday, I JUST KNEW that His will for me that morning was to move ahead with my meager ability, trusting Him to make it enough.

Of course, He came through. No, I didn’t suddenly experience a jump in proficiency. My Spanish STILL felt broken and IN-adequate. But it was enough. The Holy Spirit made up what I lacked. The gals helped me as well. (They spoke NO English and two of them from Guatemala were illiterate as well – how scared THEY must feel, far from home!) And I served ‘my clients’ well enough, I think.

I didn’t get to ‘share the Gospel’ in the full sense that I am able to with English-speaking clients. With my limited Spanish it was enough for me to get through the content of their pregnancy status and services and set them up for a follow-up ultrasound appointment. BUT……I wasn’t at all afraid to pray in Spanish. For a year now, I’ve been enjoying my morning time in God’s Word using a Spanish study Bible. (Thank you, Michael!) I have acquired much of the Spanish specialized vocabulary that goes with talking about God.

But get this! I would have been thankful enough, just making it through the appointments without serious misunderstandings. But God gave me MORE.

For the first time, walking to my car at the end of my shift, for the VERY first time, I FELT upbeat about my Spanish. Serving here at the pregnancy center, using my limited Spanish is a GOOD challenge, a ‘meaty’ dig-your- teeth-into kind of worthy goal. Maybe this will turn out to be a ‘turning the corner’ marker in my quest for Spanish proficiency.

More importantly, I learned, yet again: daunting circumstances are no obstacle for the LORD.

With this ‘language high’ so vivid in my mind, this morning’s reading in Haggai struck me as a needed pep talk from God to these 5th-century BC folks (as well as an encouragement to me!) Under the Holy Spirit’s power, the prophet Haggai speaks pointedly FIRST to the elderly returned exiles from Babylon. They are the ones who likely remembered the much larger dimensions of Solomon’s Temple as youngsters in Jerusalem before it was destroyed and they were taken captive. God, through the prophet speaks to:

(Haggai 2:2) ‘….. Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to……’ the returnees who chose to journey and undertake the rebuilding of the Temple:

  • saying in effect…..Yes….this is going to be a smaller temple…and these rebuilding conditions are very, very difficult and dangerous BUT…
  • and the LORD cites those wonder-filled reasons above NOT to be discouraged.

So, it is with me, and with you, with Christians everywhere. God has created us on purpose NOT to be up to the tasks He assigns. That’s the whole point, don’t you think? Each time He comes through, our faith and awe deepen and He gets the glory. My habitual fear of failure and occasional balking alert me to my mis-guided assumption that completing this assignment, this Mission Impossible, is up to me. Yes, I need to face the facts, but I also need to focus more on the Truth. That God is my ever-present Helper. Hebrews 13:6

Why do we dread events?

Leave a comment

Deut 7:21 – You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.

  • The doctor’s appointment
  • The confrontation
  • The all-important exam or presentation
  • The looming busy week with one event after another
  • Going to bed and the potential of another sleepless night

I sometimes find myself dreading what is next in the week or in my day.  Why is that?

I’ve been chewing on this for a while.  The days when not a single dread-laden happening threatens are days I anticipate with relief. As if I could predict the future?

I seem to gravitate toward this illusion of ease because I prefer to cruise on neutral.

The truth is, my idols are comfort and success.  We all know that the nature of idols is that they take the place of God.

Hebrews 13: 5b to 6 – …..be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6 So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

If God is ALL THE TIME with me, and I value His presence more than anything else, then comfort, time, success, money, work, country, family, friends, health – all those arenas in which the tides move in and out, don’t matter as much as what I already have.  Him.

And the other feature of dread (or happy neutrality) is the baseless assumption that I know what is going to happen in my day!  I am  not omniscient.  Thank you, Father!  For what I might fear, why do I act as though God has not already planned and stockpiled mercies and provisioning grace?

thermometer   Maybe dread is actually a helpful alarm or indicator that I’m worshipping a false God.  That I’m loving and treasuring something MORE than the God.

Paul prays for believers in Colosse that they will GROW in the knowledge of the true God.

Col 1:9-11   For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.

Who is this true and living God?  Only the One who left perfect fellowship to live in a human body and experience my pain.  Only the One who chose to live and die FOR me so I could experience and enjoy intimate fellowship with the most loving and happy triune personal God. When I talk myself into how bad something might be, I am blind to this God.  That’s why I need to preach Gospel truth to myself daily.

%d bloggers like this: