I’m a Friday person with my eye on Sunday

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I recently changed my ‘business card’.  For God has been weaning me from my dependence on merit badges or self-promoting tag lines. For years I felt the need to trumpet how great I am because I do XYZ. In my case – I teach French and many people have ‘oohed and aaahed’ appropriately upon learning that.

In the stripping away or burnishing off the tarnish, I have gone to a simple card that communicates my name, email, blog links and one verse.

Selecting just one God truth or promise as representative of what I believe challenged me.  I settled on:

  • sorrowful, yet always rejoicing from 2 Cor 6:10

Christians and non-believers look at life through different lenses – either via God and His good sovereign control over every molecule or via the haphazard, random circumstances of life.  This divide even extends to how we view the days of the week.

‘Worldlings’** or non-Christians live in the fog of Monday, but live for foggy Friday, which the world sells as the best day of the week.

Christians live in the Friday of this world (remembering the Cross) – that is they acknowledge that life on earth before Jesus returns is primarily one of suffering and sin, punctuated by joy and glimpses of beauty and goodness all the while bounded by God’s grace.

But Christians live for Sunday. For a restored and resurrected, categorically new and different heaven and earth.

Why am I writing about such heavy matters one week into the New Year?  For one, I am a happy realist.  The Bible has made me that way.  I’m learning, slowly, that through the school of neediness and suffering, our good Father blesses me.  In a recent broadcast (26 Dec 2016) Joni Eareckson Tada mentioned that very truth, a truth universal to Christians who rely on a Biblical lens to make sense of life. She explained Jesus’ challenge to His followers….

  • ….whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Matthew 16:24 

….as an invitation to know Him through suffering.  That’s it in a nutshell:  the only path to know the 2nd person of our Triune God in an intimate, satisfying, joy-producing way is to walk yoked with Him in what has been named the Via Dolorosa, or ‘Pain Street’.

But our pain is NOT meaningless pain.  God’s directed hardships have many purposes. I give thanks for how they keep me desperate for Him.

I’m slowly learning the futility of trying to duck or avoid His purposeful pain.  I’m acquiescing to the fact that it’s easier, safer and quicker to cling gratefully to Jesus.

If you dipped into my blog posts from 2016 I think you’ll notice that I am growing to embrace this truth:

  • My neediness is God’s best gift to me.

Unable to handle life on my own (and willing to proclaim that truth to anyone who cared to listen) has taught me to call constantly on God.  And He always comes through.  This inability to live independently of my Heavenly Dad also keeps me glued to what He has to say to me in His inspired Word. I HAVE to meet with Him each morning, just like I HAVE to eat.

So ‘clingy’ to Jesus have I now grown, that wanting to advertise THAT central fact about Maria is what I want people to know about me.  In this area, I rejoice to see some progress, growing more like my Uncle Paul.

  • As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 6:14

 

**worldling

noun

1. a person who is primarily concerned with worldly matters or material things
Modern Language Association (MLA):
“worldling”. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 Dec. 2016. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/worldling>.

Make it obvious, Lord

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Psalm 5:9 – Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight, before me.

Straight path

How kind of God to give us the specific words to pray for obvious, ‘in-your-face’ guidance and direction.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to have to GUESS what God wants you to do!  Therefore, it is doubly good news that our Heavenly Father tells us to pray for a straight path that is unmistakable.  Does that mean the path will be easy?  or provide us with a constant view of the destination? Not necessarily.  Come with me and take a moment to think about what a ‘straight path’ implies:

  • In the photo above, can we see any obvious stopping point or terminus?  No.  But we do see enough of the path to walk on for probably 5 more minutes. From past experience, God gives just enough light for the next step.  I certainly WANT more, but I’m learning that this is God’s way and He is giving me practice in trusting Him.
  • A straight path is not necessarily a level path.  Sometimes the way ahead is UPHILL.  We live in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina.  In our cove, the incline is about 13 % on average.  So when we walk DOWN the half mile to get the newspaper, we have to walk back UP.  It’s hard.  And it doesn’t FEEL like it has gotten any easier in the 2 years we have lived here.  My point is that even straight paths are difficult.  Somehow knowing that ‘hard is normal’ make it easier to accept

To amplify this ‘Life is difficult by design’ truth, I’ll share with you a verse that Joni Eareckson Tada spoke about this week on her radio broadcast Link to the radio page of her website.  She told the story of Paul undergoing a sudden furious stoning that was meant to kill him.  Paul’s own analysis of this murderous attack was that this was God’s training. So Paul explicitly used it in his instruction of new believers:

  •  Acts 14:21-22 – after being stoned and left for dead (acute suffering) Paul taught the following, with Barnabas accompanying Him –  “They preached the gospel in that city (Derbe)  and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faithWe must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God, they said.

One final thought about God’s provision of the righteous path, the God-glorifying path: He will show us how to live, where to go, what posture or lifestyle to adopt in the face of enemies.  That we will live among enemies is a given!  What sort of enemies are these?

As many wise Christians have counseled, we should not be collecting enemies needlessly because we are jerks! But there WILL be enemies set on our destruction if we are showing our true colors as redeemed, forgiven, beloved children of the King. As long as we are sons and daughters who fearlessly, with joy, share news of available freedom from guilt and adoption as a sibling of Jesus we will be opposed.  Satan and his spiritual forces of darkness DON’T consider what we herald as good news.  And they sow lies as often as they can, through whatever means they can, both IN the church and in secular society.

Satan's plan

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