Archive for the 'hard times' Category

Dad: My daughter’s starting a new business…

What father wouldn’t want to help his child get his or her new business started on the right foot?  If you had the ability and contacts as a parent, wouldn’t you let your friends, colleagues, golfing and fishing buddies know about your child’s new venture?  Pass out business cards?  Ask them to help your kid get started?

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What parent wouldn’t help their child any way they could?

Now imagine your 22-year old daughter is auctioning her virginity on e-bay.  Perhaps she’s marketing information services only and has launched her own porn site?  Maybe she’s more professional and has become, well, a professional. 

Would you call your friends and pass out her business card, asking them to bid on her auction, log-on to her XXX site, or become one of her clients? 

If you (like most parents) wouldn’t dream of promoting one of your own children’s career in promiscuity, you might think about your own personal stand on the issue of pornography and prostitution. 

This is not a “victimless” crime or a “victimless” pastime. 

The reason we cringe when we think of our own sons and daughters in these careers is that our spirits bear witness to how very wrong it is. 

And if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to dig too deep into the Bible to discover how God feels about it.  Indeed, Jesus calls viewing pornography, adultery.  Cut and dry.  No rationalizing it.  No getting around it.  That’s just the way it is.

And sadly, it should not come as a mystery that this issue is epidemic in the church.  We are ignoring it, looking the other way, making excuses, keeping secrets.  It is a cancer that is destroying families and congregations from the inside out.  The devil has a vast playground as secret sins stay in the darkness. 

Prison Light by Dani Batz.

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Are you or someone you know grappling with pornography or promiscuity?  My prayer is that you bring that sin straight to the foot of the cross, and allow your merciful and loving Savior to free you from the prison you’re in.  There is a way out.  His name is Jesus.

And for those of us who call ourselves Christians, we best pause for a moment lest we get caught up in our self-righteous judgment of people like the seller in the ebay-virginity auction.  Instead, how about we pray for the Lord to draw her to Himself, to heal all her wounds, and to provide for all her needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus? 

Know somebody who is struggling?  Pray for them.  Especially if it’s your daughter.  Especially if it’s you.

I’m Thinking Jesus Wouldn’t Have Snarked Back

The other day, one of my daughters stomped in from declining to do a task that had been Grossly Unfairly Assigned to Her, and angrily (and loudly) grumbled, “WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO BE NICE TO ANYONE WHEN NO ONE IS NICE TO ME?!”

Praise the Lord for His discernment and the fruit of self-control, because it truly was Him keeping me from becoming furious right back at her. It amazed me to hear the words coming from my own mouth, calmly and gently (how ’bout that, another fruit?!):

Bless those who persecute youBless those who curse you, bless and do not curse.”

And in that moment, it was like a switch was flipped.  Her fury subsided, she gave me a hug and went back to what she’d been asked to do.  

Please understand, if you don’t know my kids personally, this is NOT what any of them are naturally inclined to do.  Naturally, they are inclined to argue, defend, pout, grumble about fairness…you get the picture.   Further, I am not naturally inclined to be calm and gentle when faced with Ultra-Snarkiness.  This was not a natural phenomenon.  It was quite literally, supernatural.

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There’s simply no substitute for memorizing the Word, purposefully hiding it in your heart.  I guess that’s one of the side-benefits of having that Word in your heart–it’s right there, ready to spring forth on your lips when you need it the most.

Now it doesn’t always work that way.  Not because the Word of God is impotent, but because I’m sometimes inclined to put my own parental two-cents worth in–you know, “improving” God’s Word with my own “so there!”  (Because God really needs my help…yes, right.)

But this day, the Lord gave me the discernment and strength to be able to respond like Jesus did when tempted in the wilderness by the devil himself, with the Word and the Word alone.  Noteable that when Jesus responded to the enemy with the Word (“It is written”), “then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

If it’s good enough for the King of Kings, perhaps the strategy might be good enough for me and my family.  Worth a try.  Sure helped score one in the win column that day.

God is Not an Idiot

With the chaos that we’re seeing and, let’s face it, experiencing, in our world, it’s easy to start to blame God.  Why doesn’t He fix this?  Doesn’t He care?  He must be either mean or impotent.  Why on earth would I follow anyOne like that?

Listen, God is not an idiot.  The problem with the line of questioning above is that it starts at the middle of the story, instead of going back to the root of things.

The Beginning

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Now, before you start thinking I’m going to slam Bible verses down your throat, I just want to encourage you to take a deep breath and ask yourself a few questions.

As a culture, we do a lot of blaming, scoffing at, or downright ignoring God.  We treat Him as if He’s a monster, a tyrant, an ego-maniac, an indifferent taskmaster.  We act like He’s mean, impotent, our fairy-godmother or our sugar-daddy.  We’ve put expectations on Him based on how we view the world, not the way the world really is.

As Americans, in particular, we err because we (thankfully) have been brought up in a democracy, where we have votes, rights and choices because we are entitled to them.  But God’s set-up isn’t a democracy, it’s a kingdom, and He’s the King.  This really irks us Americans because we think because we’re entitled in our country, we should be entitled in eternity.  (We aren’t.)  We tend to think that a God who doesn’t rule by democracy, who indeed would have the audacity to rule at all, is just a big selfish meanie.  (He isn’t.) 

We are oh, so educated and sophisticated.  We know a lot about a lot of things.  But one area where we fail grievously, frequently, both in side “the church” and outside, is that we really mess it up when it comes to the character and nature of God.

God is not an idiot.  He has a plan and we are part of it.  We can’t even begin to conceive the breadth of His plan and purpose.  Even if you could follow with your best logic, one thread of his eternal tapestry, your mind would boggle before getting far.  Your best computer couldn’t run the equation.  Eternity is written in all of our hearts, but we simply cannot wrap our minds full around it.

So does that mean that we need to just respond to every gut-wrenching, horrifying issue or fear or circumstance with a pie-in-the-sky, glib response of “well, we’ll just have to wait until heaven to figure out that mystery” or with the the converse decision to resign ourselves that God isn’t real, isn’t powerful, or doesn’t care? 

NO!  What it means is that we need to get back to the basics.

Years ago, I went through an intense time of searching and disillusionment.  I really wanted to know the capital-T Truth about life and my place in it.  I’d been brought up in church, and believed most of what I heard, but couldn’t understand why God seemed so impotent and indifferent to me, if He really was who my pastor had told me He was.

So I started looking–everywhere.  I read tons of self-help books and “new-age” books and took courses and collected all kinds of treasures and techniques along my way.  I devoured any kind of information that helped me to understand a God, a universe, that had some meaning in it.  And I found a lot of answers.  (What those “answers” were is a subject of (several) different posts.)  The only problem was that while those answers usually provided some temporary relief to my searching soul, they didn’t yield any lasting real results.

Discouraged and frustrated, scared, even, since almost NOTHING had turned out the way I expected it to, despite my very best efforts, I did the last thing I could.  I actually prayed. 

I believed there was a God out there, a Supreme Being that maintained the order in the universe, but I was no longer so sure of myself as far as how to get to Him.  I believed that there was an after-life, that what we are seeing and experiencing right now is not the end of the story, and that there was some Big Guy in charge of the whole thing.  I even had a Very Intelligent Theory about how it all worked out–one that had me comfortable enough with the world I lived in to still claim God, yet not be crawling out of my skin all the time with angst about it.

I still remember the horrifying feeling when the thought crossed my mind:  What if I get to the end of my life and find out I’ve gotten it wrong?  Woo Boy–that would be the wrong time to find out that I’d been deceived.  And then it hit me hard:  no matter what, I did not want to be deceived.  Not by any person or any religion or any theory, even my own.  It occurred to me that at the end of my life, I wasn’t going to get the last word, and that it might behoove me to try to get a glimmer about the nature of that word now, this side of the grave. 

So I had an earnest conversation with God, as I understood Him.  I told Him that I didn’t want to be deceived and that I really wanted to know Him.  I meant it, too–don’t you know, you really can’t snow-job God, no use trying.  I told Him that if He would reveal Himself to me, I would follow Him, wherever He led.  I asked Him to make whatever revelation He might have for me personal to me, and to take people with their religious or personal agendas out of the equation.  (Being a skeptic, I naturally resisted anything that anyone tried to ram down my throat–still do now, come to think about it.)

I remember the conversation had a desperate feeling to it, as I so desperately did NOT want to be deceived and really did want to know the truth.  I expected alternatively a big huge epiphany or just to be ignored.

Remarkably, I did hear back from God.  This was not my imagination.  It certainly was nothing that would have been forthcoming from my preexisting wiring.  God’s response:

“Read my book.”

That was it.  Pretty humbling, but not at all demeaning.  Of course, I realized that I’d read tons and tons of other complete spiritual works–and even part of the Bible, but never had I read the whole Bible.  Imagine that.  Read my book.  Seemed too simple.  And to top it off, I’d heard from God and I didn’t feel any big emotional change either.

But I’d told Him that I’d do what He asked, and gambling (this was a good gamble) that He’d taken me at my word, I promptly started reading.

What followed was a string of events that was so personal and enlightening, that I am confident that God was in the midst of them.  Questions were answered for me that I’d never dared ask another person out loud.  As I would find myself asking a new question, the answer would appear as I dug just a little bit deeper.  Piece by piece, graciously following my own quirky logical question-and-answer way of thinking, God Himself reached into my little life and took the time to answer me, personally and individually, as only He could.

(Caveat:  God is not the only spiritual entity among us, so just because it feels spiritual or right doesn’t necessarily make it so.  There are ways of discerning if something is really God or if it’s just a warm fuzzy feeling or if it’s something vastly worse–but that’s also the subject of a different post.)

Suffice it to say, the journey that I went on with God, which I certainly will detail here in future posts, has been sufficient to show me personally that God is not an idiot.  He is not mean, or arrogant.  He is not indifferent or impotent.  He is immeasurably wise, loving, patient, caring and powerful. 

I would not have believed those words if someone just told them to me.  I’m not a “blind faith in a human leader” kind of gal.  But I do believe them now.

I dare you:  consider whether it’s possible at all that you’ve been deceived about God, about eternity, even by people who were well-meaning.  If it’s the tiniest bit possible, then ask God Himself to show you The Truth.  Don’t believe it just because I said it.  God loves you enough to deliver the Truth straight to you.  It may not come in a fancy package with warm fuzzy feelings, and you may need to dig for it.  But He will come through.  Because contrary to being an idiot, He delivers.  That’s just the kind of God He is.

 

 

Where is God in All This?

 

 

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During a recent, unanticipated, lengthy holiday stay in the hospital, my very brave husband was a complete trooper.  Seriously, he surely has somehow earned the Good Patient Award for the month of December.  I, on the other hand, won the Loud-Talking-Don’t-Make-Her-Mad-Get-It-Done-Or-Else Award, I’m afraid.  But between the two of us, we managed to make sure he was well taken care of and (hopefully) maintain our testimony at the same time.

 Near the end of this stay, as he really started to grow weary, my husband started sharing his concerns with me, which included (*gasp*), “I hate to say it, but I’m wondering, where is God in all this?”  Now, I must tell you, he actually seemed to feel kind of guilty for even asking such a question.  Forget, that Job and David and even Jesus dared to have such thoughts! 

Somehow we had been programmed through our upbringing or teaching, that the God of the Universe was going to smack our hands (or worse) for even asking such a question.  But far from a reprimand, what we got was incredible reassurance.  It was almost as if the moment we posed the question to God, He responded, “I’m so glad you asked.  Now, I think I will show you.”  After that, we proceeded to have numerous, unsolicited blessings and reassurances that came our way, many times through sources that we didn’t expect. 

A group of amazing homeschool mothers in our area rallied to provide us meals and prayers and comfort as soon as we returned home.  A friend who is such a carrier of the peace of God showed up, just as my husband came around a corner, anxious and really feeling like he needed comfort.  I could go on and on.  Encouragement came from so many unexpected sources–we just paused and said to each other, “Look at God.”

In addition to asking, “Where is God?” we did one more thing.  We remembered the character of God in the midst of our challenge.  Late one night, as I wearily emailed an update to some friends, I found myself reflecting on the reason for the season.  One of those friends put that part of my email in her blog–which I’ll let you click here to read.  

The point being, first we remembered the character of God, as we know Him through the Holy Spirit and His Word.  Then we placed our doubts, concerns, and needs in the lap of the Father.  And then (why am I still always amazed when God comes through?), God answered us with encouragement beyond our expectations.

Where is God in all this?  In every nook and cranny we surrender to Him.  Everywhere we allow Him to be.

Handling Hard Times–Does God Really Care?

Awhile back, I visited a friend’s blog, where she was considering the Bible verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10) and how it related to a very difficult situation in which she is finding herself. It got me thinking… (and this post is, in part, how I responded to her)

I used to approach God like I viewed the school principal when we found ourselves in a crisis–someone in charge, but more concerned about the big picture, who probably didn’t care very much about me personally.

I know I’m not alone in this. Our minds wander as we consider our problem, thinking, “if God cared about me, how would He allow this situation to continue?” That mindset ultimately causes many, many people who are already hurting to then feel like God, who they wish they could count on, either doesn’t care about their situation or isn’t powerful enough do anything about it.

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Seeing God as indifferent or impotent is bound to put a little distance us and Him. And it’s not God that moves away. It’s us, as we start searching elsewhere for answers.

Well-meaning Christian friends and parents and pastors and teachers might actually compound the problem, answering earnest questions about your situation by telling you to “just have faith” or explaining that this is one of the great mysteries of life and warning that you’d better not disrespect God by asking about it.

So at this point you’ve got pain over the very real event in your life, no answers based on your understanding of God’s nature (“If God is so loving and so powerful, than why doesn’t He do something about this?!! Hmm. Maybe He isn’t…”) Your problem is still there, but now you’re wondering if God even cares, and when you ask people you think should know, they tell you (ever so politely) to shut your yap and stop asking such insolent questions. Now you’re feeling offended and hurt by the church-people, isolated, misunderstood and even more confused, or possibly a bit guilty for ever daring to bring it to God in the first place.

And you still have your problem. You’re still stuck in your circumstances. So you keep seeking. And this is the point where people become so, so vulnerable to false teaching, false hope, false doctrine.

God gave you your brain and your heart for a reason. It’s perfectly fine to search for answers to your problems. He expects you to. But consider saving yourself some time and heartache and going to Him first, rather than when you’ve exhausted all other options and sought all other opinions!

Please also remember, if you are going through a tough or confusing or lonely time, as you move through this season of your life that God has written every moment of it in His book. Your name is engraved in the palm of His hand. We were created for relationship with the Almighty. He deserves and loves our honor, but He does not need it. Our honor can’t add one thing to God. Yet, we who are in Christ, honor Him out of obedience and even more out of wonder at His amazing love for us.

The Bible is the world’s greatest love letter. This letter from the King of Kings to his precious children is His roadmap, His battle plan, His blue print, His love letter, all designed to draw His precious creation back to right relationship with Him.

And relationship with God is the purpose for which we were created. We messed it up and He made a way for us to get back to Him. Amazing. It’s what God wants from us more than anything, and what He will not take without our permission and participation. It’s what we experience more and more of as we grow with Him.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords knows your heart. When your cup is full, He wants you to pour it out to Him. He is not disappointed when you share your grief and even your anger with Him. Yes, maintain your awe and reverence, but if you’re furious, stamp your foot and throw a fit—He knows that’s how you’re feeling anyway.

The Psalms are also full of places where David, called by God Himself as a man after His own heart, cried out in despair and anger to the Lord. Where he pleaded for vengeance, retribution, justice, answers, resolution. (Psalm 13, for example).

We are called to engage with people in this world differently as Christians, and we can do that by placing our desires for justice and righteousness in His capable hands, telling Him honestly, transparently how we feel, then trusting Him completely with the outcome.

If the Almighty God did not expect us to cry out in our agony (to Him—not whining, gossiping, sniping, dissension-mongering, etc.), He would not have given us the Psalms that expressed His children’s anguish. He would not have given us the book of Job. He would not have let us hear about Hannah’s anguish. Moreover, He would not have rewarded these people with such honor.

Your King is also your Daddy. He’s a good Daddy—Abba Father—who, while expecting and deserving reverence and awe, also desires that you crawl up in His lap, pour out your heart to Him, and let Him put His arms around you and comfort you like no earthly parent ever could. For those of us with a rough parental upbringing, this is a pretty hard concept to wrap our mind around. But His ways are not our ways, as you well know.

Beloved, the Lord who gave us Psalm 46, designed to fill you with courage in the face of terror, also gave us Psalm 131:1-2.
My heart is not proud, O Lord, My eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters Or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child with its mother, Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

And every mother knows that before a child is weaned and still and quiet sitting next to her mama, safe and trusting and peaceful, there have been lots of screaming, sleepless nights while that child learns that she can trust that parent completely, for all sustenance and love.

When we face something gut-wrenching or terrifying or challenging—when we are alone and trying to figure it all out, we are like the infant, still learning to trust the Lord in this season, this situation, this challenge. Still learning to understand His provision, to be quieted by His love.

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When you have exhausted your expression of confusion and grief, you’ll find you’re still on His amazing lap, you remain in His loving embrace, and you still have his complete unmerited acceptance. There, you’ll find yourself still. Quiet. Safe. At peace. And so near to your King—exactly where He wants you to be.