Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Cage Door Has Been Opened

"Before this faith came, we were prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."
Galatians 3:23, 24

     Do you have a certain one of the ten commandments that makes you squirm? Maybe it's "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain" because you have a hard time restraining your tongue. Or maybe it's "Honor your father and mother" because they were horrible parents. Maybe you'd rather be on the golf course on the Sabbath. Maybe the memory of a shoplifting incident weighs heavily on your conscience. Have you had an affair? Told a lie? "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

     The law has a way of convicting us, showing us our dirty deeds like an embarrassing stain on our shirt, but it need not lock us in a prison of guilt, thanks be to Christ! If you are guilty of adultery, confess it and let it lead you to the cross, for it's by his stripes we are healed. He paid our debt to set us free - but NEVER take that lightly! He despised the shame of hanging naked on that cross, being mocked and spat upon, becoming sin for us while the face of the Father turned away in disgust.  Hebrews 12:2 says, "Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

     To repent of our sin means to confess it, turn from it and change your ways. Open the locked doors of your heart. Christ came to set you free, to break the chains that bind. You are forgiven now go and soar like an eagle!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

God = Love

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

     "God IS love." How can anyone BE love? I can be loving, but I do not embody love, like God does. When we have God dwelling in our heart, we have his qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control. This is why, when a Christian friend of mine was harrassed by an angry driver, she did not become aggravated. Rather, she prayed for that person. That is love.

     Jesus commands us to love one another as God loves us. Once you begin to talk to people and really listen to their stories, it's easy to see why this is such an important commandment.

     During the course of a day, just by conversing with those around me, I have heard some heartbreaking stories, reminding me of the need for love. One man's family is estranged from him; his grandson omitted his name from the invitation list for his wedding. One acquaintance told me she'd been raped when she was a teen. One of my best friends lost her daughter in a terrible accident. She must somehow endure unbearable burdens. There are those who struggle with alcohol addictions or hampering anxieties. This one lost a sister to cancer. That one's father has demetia and wants to "go home."

     Everyone has been created with a God-shaped hole. Everyone has stories of disappointment, discouragement or disillusionment. Are you willing to listen, offer prayer and be a bit of Jesus?

     I've loved this poem, though I do not know who wrote it:

Love One Another
"Love one another, as I have loved you"
May seem so very impossible to do,
But if you will try to trust and believe,
There are many great joys that you will receive.
For love makes us patient, understanding and kind,
As we judge with our hearts and not with our mind.
For as soon as love enters the heart's open door,
The faults we once saw are not there anymore.
And the things that seemed wrong begin to look right
When viewed in the softness of love's gentle light.
For love works in ways that are wondrous and strange,
And there is nothing in life that love cannot change.
PS: for added emphasis, replace the word "love" with "God", then reread the poem


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.