Wednesday, January 28, 2015

There's no time for this! {Warning: I'm yelling in this post. At myself mostly.}



You know what keeps you locked in a cage of doing what you know is wrong when there's a clear way out? A total ignorance, a total unawareness, a total blindness, a total denial of the times.

When a person knows their about to die you know what they don't do? They don't say, "You know what, I'm gonna die tomorrow so today I'm going to cheat on my husband, destroy my marriage, break trust with everyone I know, defame the name of Christ that I carry around in the title "Christian", abandon my kids, rob a bank, and do every other vile and deplorable thing I can think of that for a fleeting period of time might give me some sense of pleasure, or freedom or vengeance because tomorrow I'm going to die and that's the way I want to spend the rest of my life. That's what I want people to remember me for when I go.  That's what I want them to think of when they think of a Christian."

No one says that!

But many do it.

And the only reason we do it is because we're in total denial. We refuse to believe there's no time for such things. We refuse to believe the end of all things is at hand. We refuse to believe we're going to die and leave a reputation behind and face the One who made us, the One we've been naming ourselves after so easily.

Christian. Really? Are you really? Am I really? Am I a Christ-ian? A "little Christ"?

I am. I say I am. I carry around His name. And One day I'll meet him face to face.

The end of all things is at hand. I do not get to stay here this side of that day forever. I only get a time. A very short time.

So many of us in the Disneyland of America are in a tangled web- abandoning our vows to each other, indulging in sexual pleasures outside of marriage, consuming images for our pleasure, ignoring the needs of those around us- we toy with sin and wrestle with whether God will forgive us if we chose to keep toying, and we argue with each other about various doctrines... and we're fools! There's no time!

There's no time to caress our pity party about our less than ideal marriage and feast ourselves on the cocaine of a forbidden relationship. There's no time!! We carry the name of Christ. We will see him face to face one day. We won't just live this life forever apart from a day of reckoning. We don't have time to toy with sin. We have wasted enough of our lives on those lies and traps and temporary pleasures (that are really chains)!

We only have a short time here to pray and watch the God of all the earth do amazing things through us! Us!

You know, I hear the call from godly men and women to stand for the unborn and those enslaved in human trafficking.  I hear the call to be willing to stand out as "hateful" in a world that will hate you for loving them and unashamedly confessing that God designed marriage between a man and woman.  I hear a call for embracing all races and ethnic groups as equally bearing the image of God, and for pointing to the blood of Christ as the only hope for any man.  I hear the call to abandon comfort and ease to go to an unreached people group, bringing them the light and truth of Christ.  I hear their calls and I think we're over here wasting our lives on sinful pleasures and desires, arguing amongst ourselves about what the Bible says and our seconds and minutes and hours and days and years tick by and we trample under our feet the blood of Christ, clinging to our sin, mocking God and declaring we can continue in sin because grace abounds.  All the while those who rightly call themselves Christians are spending their minutes and months and lives fighting to stand against the devil's schemes, putting their own lives in the way of those marching to slaughter and giving up domestic life for a very uncomfortable life reaching people who've never heard of their Savior.  And it's not just those "glamorous" calls that Christians are spending their lives on.  They're bending their knees to raise up a child day in and day out with prayer and teaching and nurture in the Spirit of Christ  They're denying themselves to love a world-weary man who doesn't love them well.  They're laying down their lives to tender-heartedly love a woman whose bitternesses are spreading.

So you're not called to sell all your possessions and move to the Congo.  But, when those thoughts come, "He's never going to change... I don't deserve to be treated like this... I'm not loved like I long to be loved... No one cares what I want, what I desire... What about me?..." When those poisoned-laced darts of sweet lies penetrate my brain I need to declare: THERE'S NO TIME FOR THIS!!

I need to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God and destroy that lying worm with 1 Peter 4.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.
Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. - 1 Peter 4:1-5,7-11


You and I need to let the pain of the battle to stand in Christ free us when our husbands don't love us like they should, and our children require us to constantly give our time and energy and life, and our bosses fire us because of our expressed beliefs when asked, and our neighbor rejects us because of our refusal to celebrate same-sex unions, and our friends cut us off because we won't pat them on the back and join in with encouraging them in the sin that is destroying their lives.  When those things happen, you and I need to let those pains, those sufferings come so we can be one battle closer to being done with sinning! We need to let those trials come and hurt us so we can stop spending the rest of our lives chasing our own desires but rather wake up every day on edge to do the will of God! Instead of running away from the pain and suffering that comes with following Christ, we need to let it free us from the chains of sin and to a life abandoned to his will.

And if we find ourselves in the pit of the sinful mess we've made of our lives, right now, there is time to turn around, and stop denying the truth, and let the blood of Christ be enough for us to stop wasting our lives on our own desires and spend our lives on HIS!  There's no time for anything else!



Sobered,
Sheila

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why I took my boys to see Selma


I took my kids to watch Selma today.  Every year on MLK Day I purposefully talk with the kids about Martin Luther King Jr.  I set out to rescue the day from the "just another day off school" it could easily become.  Selma helped me do that in a big way today.  But I didn't just take them because today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  I took my boys to see Selma movie for a four reasons:

1)  I want to be purposeful about talking to my kids about history and social and moral issues.  History is what they're living and history is what they'll learn from and repeat or change.  And the social and moral issues of life will confront them unless they move to the Alaskan wilderness alone or hide in the basement playing video games for the rest of their lives.  I pray neither of those options will hold any draw for them.  The truth is, even though most of us don't live in either extreme it's easy to hide from social and moral issues.   I don't want my kids to hide.  I want them to shine.

2) My boys are about as white as white gets.  Blonde. Blue-eyed. Freckled-faced and have never been called a racial derogatory term in their lives.  They have no idea what it feels like to have a "people" who's history is full of not-too-distant slavery and segregation.  They have no idea what it feels like to live in an era when segregation was commonplace.  Neither do I for that matter.

3) Dr. King demonstrated the kind of gutsy submission I want my boys to have in life.  I want them to be characterized as a Christian should be: as a submissive person.  Submissive as Christ was.  Submissive to authority.  Respectful of those in leadership.  Obedient to the law.  Yet, like Christ, I want them to be willing to suffer when they have to stand up and against unjust laws.  In a interview on Meet The Press after the march from Selma to Montgomery Dr. King was asked how he could justify going against a law that forbade him from marching when he himself proclaimed to be a peaceful, non-violent protester.  King's response is spot on:
There are two types of laws. One is a just law. One is an unjust law. I think we all have moral obligation to obey just laws. On the other hand, I think we have a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. I think the distinction here is that when one breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, he must do it openly, he must do it cheerfully, he must do it lovingly, he must do it civilly, not uncivilly, and he must do it with a willingness to accept the penalty. And any man that breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty, by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law, is at that moment expressing the highest respect for law.
Oh that we as Christians, even me and my sons, would be so changed by the goodness and grace of God and the excellence of his ways that we would be model citizens and when we must break a law that our conscience tells us is unjust, we would do so openly and cheerfully and lovingly and civilly and willing to accept the penalty and thereby express the highest respect for the law.

4)  Martin Luther King Jr.'s mission and stand is a powerful and inspiring way to point my boys to Christ.

Dr. King's stance against the moral evil of racial bigotry and segregation, and for the moral good of all human beings to freely live in their society, share equal access to that society's economy, politics and social aspects as people created in the image of God no matter the color of their skin is important and life changing because it's right!  There is a right and there is a wrong.  There is evil and there is good. There is sin and their is righteousness.  God through Christ showed us what righteousness is.  We human beings demonstrate over and over again what sin is.  Out of our hearts comes all kinds of evil.

Forcing people with dark skin to eat in a different part of a restaurant, go to a different school, drink from a different sink; beating peaceful demonstrators for respectfully standing against legislated evil; preventing black people from voting... and the many more evils that were accepted as right by our society is deplorable.  It should never be.  But even when that evil is eradicated from the planet other evils persist.  The killing of the unborn.  Human trafficking.  Child pornography.  Violent and oppressive governments.  Child abuse.  Domestic violence.  And the list could go on and on.  All these are evils that have come out of the human heart.  Dr. King pointed us to the One who's glory is the only cure for it: Christ.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches were prophetic and jarring.  He often quoted from the Bible in his speeches.  One from Amos really struck me in the movie today, "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."  It's righteous, God's righteousness, Christ's righteousness that will make things right.  In our lives individually now, as much as can be this side of His kingdom come.  And one day, on that great and glorious day, fully when we see him face to face!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.  His glory is not merely racial equality and it is not less than racial equality.  It is massive.  It is transforming.  It is the right we long for.  And He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.  All that evil.  All that has poured out of our hearts for generations and has done horror upon horror to each other and this world and ultimately has spoken enormous slander of God's name whom we bear as creatures made in his image.  His wrath is coming against all that evil that we have done.  And there is only one place to escape His wrath- His Son.

Christ did ultimately what King was a small shadow of.  King suffered the evils of men to stand for what was right.  Christ suffered the evils of men and the wrath of a righteous God against all those evils (to which men have held dear) to save us and make us right.

The hope for the black man and the white man, the Chinese woman and the Arabian woman, the African child and the Iranian child is the One who created them and died to redeem them all.  Only His Kingdom come and His will be done will bring the ultimate of what Dr. King sought.  Freedom.


Quieted,
Sheila

Monday, December 22, 2014

Joy to the world... a sign that is opposed has come.


It wouldn't make a very good Christmas carol, but the words of a guy named Simeon, who saw Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus are just as true as the more jingly, "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!"
"Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." - Luke 2:34b-35

Have you sat down this Christmastime and just read through the book of Luke in the Bible?  You should do it.  There's a lot of choruses and jingles and ditties and lines floating around this time of year, but when you open the Bible, it really cuts through all those bells and whistles and pierces heart-thoughts and you trip and get up and look at what your tripping over there in the text and you wrestle with it and you come away with a very real blessing.  A blessing much better than anything wrapped under your tree right now.  Guaranteed.

The story of Christ is amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  The unseen God revealing himself in the flesh. Not just taking on a coat of flesh, but really becoming a man.  A baby first.  Growing up in obscurity. And then living out a rejected, perfect manhood.

When I take time to sit and read the account of the coming of Christ in the flesh and the record of his human life laid down for us and the miracle of his actual resurrection and the promise of his return and my actual resurrection, I really begin to celebrate!  Everything else- Christmas cookies, wrapping paper, gifts to buy, things to put in the mail, decor to hang, etc., etc.- it just gets lost in the light of the wonder of the mystery and miracle of the incarnation of Christ Jesus and the glory of how he saves.

So, this night before the night before the night before Christmas, really celebrate.  Sit down.  Open Luke.  Read it.  Wrestle with it.  Talk to God about it.  Maybe like me you'll do like that guy Jacob did, as you wrestle- cling to Christ and tell him, "I won't let go until you bless me!"  And don't.  Don't let go.  Hold on to the things you hear in Luke.  Treasure them in your heart like Mary.  Wonder at the mystery and gaze at the massive truth and cling to the One who brought it to pass until he blesses you with a blessing of knowing, a little more, the unknowable love of Christ.

"...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." -Ephesians 3:17-21
It's the best Christmas gift you could ever get.  Guaranteed.

Quieted,
Sheila

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent meditation: Joy

(That was a sunrise a week or so ago.)

Well, it's 10 O'clock, and everyone is in bed and it's finally quiet so I can think. I'm trying to stave off some bug that's decided to give me a dizzy-headache and sore throat in the last hour. Hot tea and lots of vitamin C I'm hoping will do the trick.

Today, joy.  The third Sunday in Advent the preacher preached on joy.  And I'm glad he did it the way he did.  Cause it's not that easy.  It's not a health and wealth gospel the joy of advent speaks of.  It's not, "Jesus will make you happy." Or, "Jesus will give you what will make you happy."  It's, "Jesus, Man of Sorrows, he knows.  He knows you.  He knows what caused things to not be the way their supposed to be: sin.  And He came to take care of that problem.  And believing that about Him brings something much more real than circumstantial happiness, something you can bank on, something warm and hopeful in you even when you feel sorrow: joy.  Real. Lasting. Unstealable. Joy."

I'm glad he did it the way he did it because honestly, I walked in that building today and when he asked the congregation if we had to pic an emoticon what would we be, I mumbled, "Depressed" under my breath.

It comes like a heavy fog that rolls in.  There's no control about when or how or why.  Depression is a real deal that I've been dealing with for awhile now.  And for the past several weeks it's fog has been gone.  Really gone.  Light and pleasure and smiles and singing have filled my days even in the mundane things that can get a person down.  But a few days ago it rolled in again.  I felt it.  I did a little inventory to see why.  Is it a female hormone thing?  (Note to self made about what day it fell on the calendar).  Did I forget to take my medications?  Is it my diet?  Am I eating too much junk?  Could be any and all of that and more.  But this time, when it rolled in, I did not mindlessly keep wandering through the fog.  I pulled over and preached to myself.  "Self," I said, "Why are you so downcast?  Put your hope in God!"  And then I sang it.  Out loud.  In the kitchen.

"Why so downcast oh my soul. Put your hope in God.  Put your hope in God. Put your hope in Go-o-o-d. Why so downcast oh my soul.  Put your hope in God.  And bless the Lord oh my soul.  Bless the Lord.  He's the lifter of my countenance.  Bless the Lord.  He's the lifter of my head.  Bless the Lord.  He's the lifter of my countenance.  I will never be ashamed..."

The fog didn't clear.  But I was OK with knowing it was there and that, as in the past, it would clear.  I'll wait it out.  The joy in me is the hope of Christ:  He came.  He destroyed sin and death's power over me.  He is committed to conforming me to the image of the Son and He has given me His Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing that when I see Him, I will be like Him and I will be fully alive and live fully with him perpetually and not one drop depressed.  No fog.  No sin.  That's the joy of Advent.  It's massive.  It's greater than all our sorrows.  It can handle sorrow and depression and loneliness and grief and pain.  It knows Who came and Who's coming again.

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. -Psalm 30:5



Quieted,
Sheila