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Why God’s Love Is Better Than Boys’ Love

Women today, through the explosive impact of highly sexualized messages of romance in the media, have been led to believe that our love-hungry hearts will find ultimate satisfaction in modern Prince Charming. Hardly a twelve-year-old girl exists today that does not secretly believe her worth and value lay in her ability to get a boyfriend and nary a forty-year-old woman has not found herself profoundly disappointed by Prince Charming’s feet of clay.  Yet that same woman continues throughout her life to search for that loving feeling in the ubiquitous romance novel.

I’d like to offer a response through an excerpt from a book by Rebecca Manley Pippert about lifestyle evangelism:

“What drew me to [my man] was my desperate need to be loved.  He does love me, yet it feels like sand being poured through a sieve.  My heart has this unslaked thirst for love that can’t ever seem to be filled,” she said sadly.

“[Girl],” I responded, “romantic love can be real and deep, but only if it is not asked to be what it isn’t.  It is not within [your man’s] power to give you a sense of being and purpose.  No human can fill every inner crevice of our longings.”

“So it’s all a sick joke, right?” she replied.  “Why do we carry such a hunger when it can never be met?  I told him that I thought our love would give ultimate purpose and meaning to my life.  I banked all my need for love in him.  He’s already told me that he feels an unbearable pressure to be all that I need.  And it’s odd, but even knowing that he loves me, my heart is still restless and unfulfilled.  Can this immense wish to be loved ever be gratified?”

“[Girl], your longing for love is very valid.  But human love, for all its wonders, will never be able to handle the immensity of the task.  It can go away or die or fail us at the precise moment we need it most.  And if it is to meet our needs and longings, love must have a base.”

“But what base is there that is big enough and stable enough to build our lives upon?” she asked.

“The only base we can really count on is God’s love.  That’s what Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman.  He recognized a woman who was thirsting for a love that would truly satisfy her and never leave her.  So he directed her toward himself.  Jesus knew that what the soul longs for is a safe home, a place where we are loved and known perfectly – and that can only be found in God.”

[The Girl] sat for a long time, taking in what I had said.  Finally I broke the silence and said, “[Girl], would you like to come home now?  Would you like to ask Christ to come into your life?”

“Yes.  But what do I bring to the equation?”  she asked.

“All you bring to God is your faith and your willingness to let him be at the center of your life…” **

Questions?  Comment below or use the contact page for alternative ways to reach me.  Want to ask Christ to come into your life?  Pray (talk to God) something like this:

“God, I admit that I am a sinner.  I want to put my faith in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross paid for all my sins.  I believe that you raised him from the dead and that by believing in my heart and confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, I will be saved.  Jesus, save me and be the Lord of my life.  Let me know the love of God for me.  Amen.”

Now go and tell a Christian you know and trust that you have just prayed to become a Christian.  And tell me! May God richly bless you with the knowledge of the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which surpasses human understanding that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19).

** Pippert, Rebecca Manley.  Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life.  Second Edition.  Pages 41-42.  InterVarsity Press.  Downers Grove, Illinois:1999.  First Edition 1979.  Second Edition 1999.

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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Adventures in Christ

 

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Quiet Times In God’s Presence

Jeremiah 29:11-14a:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back from captivity.

God clearly calls us to His presence and assures us that if we seek Him wholeheartedly we will find Him.  In His presence, we find security, our needs met, our future assured, and we are freed to hope.  In His presence bonds are broken and we are brought back from captivity.  In His presence we, with tired spirits and burdened souls, come home.

Like the hymn says,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”*

What prevents you from purposefully spending time in the Lord’s presence?**  Busyness?  Debt?  Conflict?  Not enough hours in the day?  Something else?

Excuses.

What keeps us from coming into God’s presence is not a lack of time – we all have the same 24 hours in each day.  It is not long working hours, crying children, or a myriad of errands to be run.  No, the problem is not external circumstances.  The problem is even greater than our mixed up priorities.  We have met the enemy and he is us.***  The problems lies within the coldness of our hearts toward God.  It is not the habit of the sin nature to seek God.  It turns away from God, supposing it has better things to do.  But God says,

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law” (Galatians 5:16-18).

In other words, we who are in Christ are no longer held captive by our old selves, but are free to obey the Spirit of God who indwells us. The Holy Spirit transforms us from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.  We respond in faith, lifting the pitcher of cool, clear water to our parched lips and opening our throats to receive its pouring.  God says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

God calls us, draws us, and enables us in Christ to find Him.  Living in His presence, habitually spending time with our heavenly Father, is less a choice than a matter of faith and obedience.  And God says we will find Him, we will enter His presence, and we will find rest for our souls when we seek Him with ALL of our heart.


* Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922: Public Domain

**The Practice Of The Presence Of God, Brother Lawrence, 17th C.

***By Pogo, a comic character created by Walt Kelly, 1970.

 

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Out With Old, In With The New Year Goals

Just before the close of each year, I like to spend a little time reviewing it according to the vision, goals, and objectives set the previous January.  This year, I’m happy to report that I met most of my goals.  There are several reasons for my success.  First of all, I tossed out the whole idea of new year resolutions a long time ago.  Surely I understand by now that there is nothing worthwhile I can accomplish in my own power, no matter how sincerely I may resolve to do so, yet, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).  God empowers us to do His will, therefore the place at which to begin is with God himself.  With that in mind, I changed my entire approach:

  1. I spent time with God in prayer and petition, seeking His will;
  2. I formed goals based on the principles of His Word, not on a self-centered wish-list or worldly idea of perfection;
  3. I refrained from merely creating a depressing list of my faults, and
  4. I focused on goals and measurable objectives that were challenging, but not impossible.

The question to ask before committing your goals to paper is not, “What do I want?”, but, “What do You want?”  I found that by putting God first, the goals He set were not burdensome.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29:30, NIV).  This can also be summarized by Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Unsure how to recognize God’s voice?  Make your goal this coming year to know Him better.  The more intimately acquainted you are with God, the better you will discern between His voice and your own or that of the enemy.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4).

Keep in mind that the spiritual maturing process won’t be over any time soon: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).  Develop goals that you are actually able to meet in a single year.  Instead of saying you’ll lose 50 pounds and never eat cake again, why don’t you start with something a bit more realistic, like asking God to use this year to help you understand what is behind your overeating and under-exercising.

Finally, focus on the growth God wants to bring about.  Matthew 21:22 says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This is because you are asking according to His will, not your own.  More than that, it is because in offering yourself fully to God as a living sacrifice your mind is renewed.  You – and your will – are transformed (Romans 12:1-2) into the image of Christ.  Remain watchful, therefore, for your answer will come … in God’s timing, according to His ways.  After all, whom do you really desire to be the lord of your life – yourself or God?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:19-21).

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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Speaking The Truth In Love

 

Bird of Paradise

Loving my neighbor is not the thing at which I excel. Case in point: I’ve found myself responding in kind to some recent online bickering over the true meaning of Christmas.  Silly, isn’t it?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: We who are Christians are being idiotic when we expect non-Christians to think and act like Christians.  Selah.

Jesus put another way, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”   Matthew 15:14.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our neighbor is to speak the truth in love.  But read carefully here: the key element of that conversation is love.  Are you speaking to stir up a response of faith or are you just trying to stir up trouble?  I’d like to say that my responses were strictly meant to be helpful, but the truth is that I really wanted to slap them upside the head for being purposefully dense about Christ.  It irritated me and I responded in kind.  At the heart of my response was not love for Christ, but love for me.

I’m not sorry I spoke the truth – I’m glad I did – but I wish my heart had been right because then I might have used words that drew them toward Christ instead of pushing them further away.  Remember, it is Christ’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance that draws us to Him, not condemnation.

God is just as concerned with our hearts as our doings.  Let me ask you this:  What is in your heart when you are speaking the truth to a non-Christian?  Is it love or is it condemnation?  Is what you say designed to draw them to Christ or is it merely a posture of defense against those who do not believe?

I’m going to continue to speak the truth, but by love, because I want to be a fragrant flower that draws people to our glorious Savior.  How about you?

Lord Jesus, help us to speak words that bring people closer to You.  Check our motives, Lord, and teach us to differentiate between our own selfish desires and love of Christ. Let us truly be about your business.  Give us courage to speak the truth in love to those who do not yet know you, that they might be led out of the darkness and into your marvelous light.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 
 

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The Sure Thing

Ever wonder why our daily lives seem so, well, daily?  Same stuff, different day.  Same old tired argument, same old bickering, same old knee-jerk reaction.  You look ahead to the years before you and wonder if things will ever change, if you’ll ever change.  And a change of heart comes so ssssssssssssslowly.

Steady as she goes ...

Sometimes I feel trapped by circumstances.  I think I know where I want to go, but it’s taking forever to get there.

I have this great vision of how my life should be.  I should be an in-demand Christian women’s speaker and teacher, traveling to and fro, bringing the light of the Word to a motivated and hungry world.  Wherever I go, ministry happens.  Women are comforted, encouraged, and grow strong in the Lord. People everywhere turn to Christ.   I should have a book or two tucked under my belt and a lively, well-trodden blog through which I interact with scads of other Jesus freaks and true seekers.  I should have my perfect, pretty little house to come home to and wonderful clothes to wear on my slim, trim, healthy, & strong body.  I’d be properly plugged into my local church serving alongside women who love Christ and one of them would be my best friend.    I’d have plenty of time and energy for hiking and reading and just messing around.  All my bills would be paid on time and in-full, especially my credit card.  There would always be more than enough money to go around and I could give furiously and extravagantly.   My family and friends and, well, just everyone, would love me.  My whole being would honor and glorify God all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Amen.

My real life is nothing like that.  My real life is so daily: making uncomplicated meals for my mom who has Alzheimer’s, helping her dress appropriately at least a few times a day, and generally keeping her entertained so she doesn’t start in with “Where’s the baby?”, “I have to go to work,”or her latest, “It’s time to go home” scenario.  And all the while trying to time everything so she’ll go to bed without a fight that evening.  Arguing with my mom is fruitless.  I’m getting better and better at taming my tongue, but there’s still a lot of habit to break in that domain.  Taking care of my mom is mentally exhausting.  Sometimes I want to tune her out.  I spend a lot of time confessing, but only some of the time actually repenting.  Most of the time, I just want to sit in my recliner all day lazily sipping coffee, reading, writing, and playing on the computer.  There doesn’t seem to be much energy leftover for exercise, get-togethers, and the like.  Of course, this is actually the easy part of caring for my mom.  Things will only get worse as time goes by.  She’ll progressively require greater physical care as more and more of her brain’s ability is usurped by Alzheimer’s.  

That’s when I wonder if this is what my life is all about.  Am I going to spend these years caring for Ma and then just collapse and die afterward never having done the things I want to do?  Is this all the daily bread there is for me?

I cannot know the future, but this I know.  God has called me to this season for purposes of His own.  I have a pretty good idea that these years are essential to the work He is completing in me.  It’s my job to take my eyes off the circumstance and stop asking, “What’s in it for me?”

And that, my friends, is what this season is all about.  It’s an opportunity to obey His call to live for the sake of another.  It’s about humility, considering my mom better than myself.  Not for a crown or reward, but for love of Christ.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”      -Philippians 2:3-8

These are not wasted days.  This is prime time.  My dream is a nice one, albeit a bit magnified.  But given the choice – and we are, my friends, we are – I choose God’s plan, His dream for me.  What about you?  God’s plan is always so much bigger and better than our limited imagination.  And better yet, it’s a sure thing.

 
 

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God Is Good, Part 2

Continuing on from God Is Good, Part 1: During my second year of seminary, I drove every Sunday afternoon from my home near Seattle to the seminary in Portland, Oregon; every Thursday afternoon I drove back to be with my family.   And every night in between, I rolled out a self-inflating mattress and sleeping bag on the floor of a closet in the big, old-fashioned house that was the girls’ home.  Yes, you read it right – a closet.  It was free; it was perfect.  God is good.

 

Queen Anne's Lace

 

 

And then it happened.

I’d been sleeping in the closet four nights a week for several weeks.  One Sunday I arrived, books and clothes in hand, to find the closet filled, floor to ceiling, with empty cardboard boxes.  Why on earth would they would fill the closet – my closet, as I thought of it – with boxes, leaving no room for me? Why would they do such a thing?  The house was huge – they could have stacked their boxes just about anywhere.  Why fill up the closet when they all knew I slept and studied there?  I felt pretty unwelcome.  I don’t think there could have been a more succinct way to communicate rejection.  All that week my mind simmered with embarrassment, pain, and anxiety.

First there were excuses like, “We have no place else to store our boxes” or “We don’t want to leave them out – it doesn’t look nice.”  I soon discovered, however, that at the heart of this hurtful behavior was sheer resentment on their part that I had been given free accommodation in the same house for which they had each paid a pretty penny.

“Yeah, but I’m sleeping on the floor of a closet” was apparently no excuse.  It was still free housing for me versus expensive housing for them.  At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate their feelings.  All I could think of was my own feelings.  Their actions hurt me deeply and I responded as I always do when hurt.  I got angry.  Really angry.  Burning, churning, spitting mad.

Itt was Thursday and I was driving home.

Late fall in the Northwest means dark skies and rain, lots of rain.  I drove out of Portland into sheets of rain pouring down on my car the long journey home.  I could barely see the cars in front of me.  Semi’s drove past, soaking my windshield over and over, further reducing visibility.  Already tense with anger and anxiety, I started shouting at the truck drivers.  Before I knew it, I was shouting at God.

“What am I supposed to do now, God?  Where can I stay?  They don’t want me and I don’t want them!  You can’t possibly ask me to go back there!  They treated me badly!  I only had the floor of a closet!  It’s not like I had a whole room to myself.   What do you want me to do?  Do you want me to stay in a motel?  How will I pay for that?  What am I supposed to do, God?  What am I supposed to do?

I screamed and yelled and cried all through that long, long drive in the pouring rain. Poor visibility pushed anxiety to the limit.  There I was, crying and shouting out to God, “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO, GOD?  WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?  WHERE SHOULD I GO?  WHAT SHOULD I DO?”

Suddenly a car pulled in front of me.   My eyes went straight to the only part of it I could see – its back bumper and license plate.  I was screaming and shouting, “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO, GOD?  WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?” when I read the car’s license plate:

FORGIVE it said.

I fell silent.  God had clearly spoken.  I’d like to say I fell prostrate with grief over my bitter anger (well, maybe not prostrate since I was driving).  I’d like to say that, but in fact, after only a few seconds, I opened my mouth again.

“Forgive them!  Why should I have to be the one to forgive?”

I spent the last hour of the trip home arguing that I didn’t want to forgive and they didn’t deserve it.  I complained about it most of that weekend, yet all the time I knew that God had spoken and there was no getting around it.  Forgiveness was the only recourse.

I thought a lot about what it means to forgive.  It means letting the other person(s) off the hook.  No strings attached.  It means no longer using the incident as a weapon against them.  It means I could not stay angry, fight or ignore them.  I must not gossip, especially in the ignoble guise of a pretend prayer request.  Forgiveness means choosing to actively do good to that person, no holds barred.  This is not mere neutrality, but positively seeking to bless and pray for those involved.  It means confession, repentance, forgiveness, and faith.  More important, it is doing so without any guarantee, expectation, or demand that others do likewise.  It is admitting and accepting the consequences of my part in the conflict.  Most of all, it means obedience to God.

I chose to obey God.

When I returned to seminary the following Sunday afternoon, the first person I saw was a girl from the house.  She saw me and flinched.  Before she could turn tail and run, I walked up, hugged her, and asked for forgiveness, explaining my change of heart.  She met me halfway, apologizing for their harsh maneuver.  By the end of that day, we – all of us – had worked through confession and repentance, and came out of the conflict through forgiveness and faith.  We could appreciate the other’s perspective.  Lastly, we came to a mutual agreement on the matter of the boxes.  The haze of selfishness disappeared and we saw God clearly in our midst.

God is so good.

 

Queen Anne's Lace

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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God Is Good, Part 1

Diane, tell us a story …

 

Our Front Steps

 

During my seminary days, I was housed in some unusual accommodations.  The first semester I stayed for free with an elderly Christian lady who had a spare room.  It so happened that while I was on the phone with the seminary’s head of housing, this lovely lady called in on another line.  Within minutes, my need and her desire to help became God’s provision.  I was given the incredible blessing of free housing and she, a lonely little old lady, had company and a little extra security.  I spent each day on campus and every evening in her company, talking, praising God, and watching Seinfeld together.  To this day I’m amazed at how perfectly He brought us together.  God is so good.

But that’s not all.

At the close of that semester, during the Christmas break, she became very ill.  Her daughter called to let me know that I would probably need to find other arrangements for the following semester.  About two weeks later, she called again, this time with bittersweet news.  Her mother, my hostess, had died in the hospital.  Now here’s the sweet part: while lying on her deathbed, this incredible woman spared some of her last thoughts for me, a woman she’d known for only a few months.  While she lay dying, she took the time to instruct her daughter to allow me to stay in her home, for free, the following semester.  And her daughter, while wary of a complete stranger living alone in her mother’s house, was faithful to her promise.

What an incredible gift!  The housing itself was a huge blessing, but more than that, I was absolutely stunned that this loving woman had chosen to bless me in obedience to the Lord’s calling on her life, even from her deathbed.  What an example of faith in action!

 

 

Fall Colors

 

Now, fast forward through the spring and summer to fall of my second year in seminary.  New housing had to be found.  This time there was no little old lady with a spare room.  Campus housing was full and I had no money to stay elsewhere.  Driving from Seattle to Portland and back again, six hours round trip, four days a week was out of the question if I wanted time to study.  I considered sleeping in my car as a last resort.

Fortunately, the seminary’s head of housing came through again.  She offered me a place to lay my head each night for, you guessed it, free.  It would not be glamorous or even particularly nice.  But it was free.  I accepted on the spot.  Every Sunday afternoon I drove from Seattle to Portland, Oregon; every Thursday afternoon I drove back to be with my family.   And every night in between, I rolled out a self-inflating mattress and sleeping bag on the floor of a closet in the big, old-fashioned house that was the girls’ dorm.  Yes, you read it right – a closet.  It was perfect.  God is so good.

And then it happened.

Coming Soon:  God Is Good, Part 2

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Adventures in Christ

 

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