Monday, September 22, 2014

Mercy > Wrath

"You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them."
Jeremiah 32:18

"For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments."
Exodus 20:5

"Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
Exodus 34:7

     I imagine every parent has trouble with their kids now and then; I know I have. But is the Lord punishing them for something I or their father did? Or maybe something we failed to do? In 1 Samuel chapter 3, the Lord told Eli he would "judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about." (vs. 13) His sons were wicked but Eli did not restrain them. Also, King David's son, Adonijah, tried to usurp the throne. The scriptures say, "His father had never interfered with him by asking, 'Why do you behave as you do?'" (1 Kings 1:6)

     Proverbs 29:15 says, "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother."

     As parents, it is our responsibility to "train up a child in the way he should go." I know I told my children about God's love, about Jesus' sacrifice. I prayed for them and with them. We made a birthday cake at Christmas time for baby Jesus. We spoke of his resurrection at Easter, not of bunnies and eggs. I'm sure I could have done more, though.

     I can honestly say I don't understand these verses about the father's sins being cast upon the next few generations. Our sins are placed on the shoulders of our Savior, are they not? I would cringe to think that punishment for my sins was thrown in the laps of my daughters. They should not be held accountable for what I have done.

     I do glean from Exodus 20:5 that God's mercy is greater than his wrath. I have never hated God so I would think he'd show his love to "a thousand generations of those who love me," even though I have failed to always keep his commandments.

     This is what I firmly believe: "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed...The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53: 5,6)

     Although I do not always understand what I read, I rely on God's wisdom and discernment to guide me and my descendants through this life into the next.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Being Clingy is Okay

"My soul clings to you."
Psalm 63:8

     I fondly remember holding my daughters as toddlers; they'd cling to me with their chubby, little hands. This told me they trusted me, they needed me and I loved it. Sometimes, they clung out of fear (my youngest was afraid of costumed mascots or Santa Claus) or sometimes, love drove them. Either way, they knew they had a safe refuge in me.

     Likewise, I love the vision of my soul clinging to my Father. I still feel like a child inside, one who would love to return to my childhood home, smell the supper on the stove and watch for my dad to come home from work. When responsibilities press down hard on me, I long for these pastoral days of my youth.

     There is no other feeling than going to the Lord with my apprehensions and appreciations, or just to rest at his feet in pastures green. What a relief to be yolked with my Savior, knowing that he will never give me more than I can bear.

     Being clingy is okay with Him, thank God!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Helpless? Never!

"My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly."
Job 42:8

     Do you ever feel helpless when a friend comes to you with a mountainous problem?

     God held Job in high esteem. In the beginning of the book of Job, God boasts to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (Job 1:8) Imagine God, thumbs under his suspenders, rocking back on his heels, mouth upturned at one corner, bragging. Would he say such about me? As memory of my sins loom before me, I doubtfully scoff.

     However, if, by the graceful redemption of Jesus, I stand against evil, in fear of the Lord, perhaps then God could boast? Like the apostle Paul, I say, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14) Then, with the power of the cross infusing my soul, I'd pray for my friends and God would accept my prayer on their behalf and not "deal with them according to their folly."

     Two people I know and love have come to mind as I write this. Both have been shocked and rocked by tragedies. Both need prayer desperately. They have both come to me, pouring out their hearts' lament and, although I cannot remedy their situation, I can pray! There is power in prayer.

     Lord God, my fervent prayer for my friends is this: carry them to pastures green, make them lie down beside still waters and restore their souls. By the power of the cross, accept my prayer. Amen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Faith or Fear?

"Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful."
2 Chronicles 20:20

     The Christians in Syria and other such places persecuted by the Islamic State (ISIS) are warned, "We're coming to get you" as ISIS marches across the land, purging anyone in their way. They mercilessly behead men, rape women, plunder towns, and impose high taxes as they strive to set up their caliphate. The very description of these dastardly acts stokes fear in the heart of mankind.

     What would you do if they came to your town?

     King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, was told similar fear-invoking news as the Moabites and Ammonites came to make war in his land. Alarmed, he "resolved to inquire of the Lord and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah." (20:3) Gathering the citizens in front of the temple, as he prayed, he reminded God of his plan. "Didn't you drive out the inhabitants of this land so you could give it to Abraham, your friend? You said if calamity ever came upon us, we should cry out to you and you would hear us and save us." (paraphrase mine) At the end of his prayer, the great king surrendered in humility by saying, "For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You." (20:12)

     As Christians, we are all part of one body of believers, so if our brothers and sisters in Syria face attrocities, so do we! We must assemble together and resolve to inquire of our God. Declare a fast; do without something you like so you can better implore of the Lord on their behalf. Remind God of his power and might, his promises and prophecies. In humility, hit your knees, acknowledging the omniscience of God. Christ is the Head of the Christian body and He is our Victor. Keep your eyes on Him. We have nothing to fear and all the reason in the world to have faith.

     "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God's." (20:15)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Pink Suitcase

"You hem me in, behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the night will shine like the day for the darkness is as light to you."
Psalm 139: 5, 7-12

     Ever feel like running away?

     I was mad about something, one dramatic childhood day, so I grabbed my pink suitcase and set to packing my belongings. "I'll show them, by jove! I'll run away!"

     The suitcase, which was perfect when packed with swimming stuff for the Y, suddenly seemed so small when I tried to cram in all I had. Slowly, it dawned on me how good I really had it as the piles of clothes and toys in my wallpapered bedroom would not fit. And, the thought of walking, at night, alone, past "The Boulevard" where I'd never been allowed to go, suddenly scared me, so it wasn't long before I simmered down and unpacked.

     Even if I had left, it would not have changed my identity; I was still my father's daughter no matter where I went. I was a Schupp with three sisters, two loving parents and grandparents and nothing could alter those absolute truths. I belonged to that family, more than just genetically. They loved me and would have come looking for me (right?).

     Do you ever feel like running away from God? You squirm and writhe under his absolute truths and it becomes uncomfortable to be "hemmed in" by Him, especially when you want to go "past the Boulevard." But you can't change your identity. You are your Father's child no matter where you roam and, like the Prodigal son, the Father's eyes scan the horizon daily, looking for his lost son.

     Look around at your piles of benevolence. Simmer down and unpack your suitcase. Nothing can ever sever you from the love of Christ Jesus so just accept that and settle into the warmest embrace you'll ever experience.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Keeper of the Keys

"Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."
Revelation 1:17-18

     Remember when you got the keys to your first car? Holding the keys to my car or my house means I am the owner and I have the right to enter and do what I wish. No police officer is going to question me about that.

     Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades, for which I am soooooo glad. I would not want THOSE keys! Since he has the ownership, what have I to fear? Jesus owns Satan and his dastardly realm. He was given those keys when he became Victor over death on that first resurrection day and I will live eternally because His spirit lives within me. Whew!

     Jesus. He's the First. He'll be the Last. He'll close up at night and tuck me in. Sleep in peace.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Charles Atlas

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9

     Remember with me those last pages of comic books. Next to the cheesy ad for Sea Monkeys was one for Charles Atlas' exercise program. The cartoon showed the 97-pound weakling having sand kicked in his face at the beach by husky bullies while his disgusted girlfriend flounced off in a huff.
"If only I were muscle-bound like Charles Atlas!" he thought, as he sent for the program.

     Where do Christians derive their strength in the face of adversity?

     A paralyzed person who cannot lift a spoon has the power of Christ at his disposal through faith and prayer. A person of low IQ may be discounted by most of society, but the grace of Christ transforms him into a powerhouse. The simple prayer of a faithful child can move mountains. A feeble old man with dementia utters universal truths propelled by the Voice of the Ancient of Days.

     "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." (1 Corinthians 1: 27)

    So, if you ever feel weak or powerless as the haughty folks kick sand in your face, think again! You are stronger than any Charles Atlas. The Creator of the world resides in you! When others persecute you, insult you or create hardships due to your faith, rejoice! "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10) You bear the marks of the crucifixtion on your spiritual body and you may proudly claim the power of the resurrection!

     Remember with me the words of one of my favorite hymns:

"Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross.
Lift high his royal banner,
It must not suffer loss!
From victory unto victory,
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished
And Christ is Lord indeed!"