Expect opposition if you are in God’s will

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Opposition - chess pieces

 

 

 

Saul had just been anointed Israel’s first King as recounted in the book, 1 Samuel, chapter 10.

24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.” So all the people shouted and said, “ Long live the king!”……
(25b)….  and Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his house. 26 Saul also went to his house at Gibeah; and the valiant men whose hearts God had touched went with him. 27 But certain worthless men said, “How can this one deliver us?” And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent.

I am learning that you can be in God’s will and right where He wants you to be AND there will be push back and opposition.  The question then emerges: Why are we surprised?

Here are 3 facts:

1) Trials are intended to grow our patient trust (called steadfastness) in God.  They are necessary for us to be complete.  They are required if we are to be fully equipped, lacking nothing.

  • James 1: 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

2) God uses every aspect of these trials, aka painful circumstances & suffering, to bring about our maturity, training and equipping.

  • Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose

3) Sometimes the secondary cause, the deliverer of the suffering/trial/hardship, is via spiritual forces of wickedness.  God, the first-cause, allows these attacks for His own good and loving reasons.

One of those ‘good’ reasons is so we will KNOW how real and safe God’s Word is.  Last week, I re-learned that lesson.

I had gone about 6 weeks with no parent complaints in this my first year in a new school.

No complaints since

 

 

 

 

I really didn’t see this one coming.  And when the complaint filtered down to me via my principal (I explicitly excluded a disruptive child when I passed out mini marshmallows for good participation in class), I was emotionally drained.  My confidence and enjoyment of the students had been growing since the nadir in January.   But this episode set me back.

My tête-à-tête with my principal happened on a Thursday.  And the following Monday I felt even lower.  It was like I had lost all sense of purpose in life. I seriously considered how much money I could make cleaning homes as an alternative to THIS!!!

My poor husband didn’t know how to react to his normally optimistic, perky wife.  But he defaulted to the most effective use of his time and words.   He prayed fervently most of the evening, unlike Job’s friends.

And praise be to God, the next morning, something that Tullian Tchividjian said in a podcast brought relief.  He was recounting his ‘year from Hell’, his first year as senior pastor of  Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale.  And MY thought was this: “I bet Tullian seriously considered resigning and going to work at Lowe’s to support his family!”   My next thought tumbled out: “Wow!  Then we would have been deprived of his ministry of grace, his books and the Liberate Conferences!  I bet this was spiritual attack by those who were bent on stopping any advance in the Kingdom!”

Spir Warfare - the lion

 

 

 

And just with that thought, I was ‘right-side-up’ again with purpose and renewed resolve NOT to let the enemy defeat me.  It might be that God’s will for me at that school is just for this year.  That decision is in His hands.  But for now, I will fight on, determined to reach out to my students and colleagues and be available to them.  I am learning the absolute reality and security of God’s word.  As my cousin Terry reminded me:

No wpn formed against you

 

 

 

 

 

And thank you, Michael, for your prayers.  As James points out, “the fervent prayers of a man who is in right-standing with God make A LOT of power available!” (James 5:16)

No more taking pride in those bleak ‘Ecclesiastes’ moments!

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“The specific quality of faith is extraspective and in that respect is the diametric opposite of works. …….Faith looks to what God does; works have respect to what we are……,” John Murray on Romans

Psalm 131:2 - Instead, I have kept my soul calm and quiet. My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother’s arms.

I think I was approaching 50 when I started occasionally detaching and viewing myself and others around me in a kind of surprise.  I’d be at a red-light at a major commercial intersection looking at fellow drivers to the left and right.

drivers all together

 

 

 

 

I would start to wonder, “What is the point of life? ”  Now, don’t get me wrong; I was a Christian then, well-grounded in my Bible.  I’m just sharing how I was feeling.

Ennui animal

Soon I started going further down this ‘pseudo-sophisticated’ and semi-existential path.  It was a kind of mild depression. It had to do with the daily sameness of an ordinary life, thinking that there was nothing exciting to look forward to.  Maybe it was a kind of weariness of life.

I would even indulge in a bit of superiority in my own special ennui, knowing that buying new stuff  or going on a vacation wouldn’t satisfy me, like it would many of my mid-life peers.  I was one of those ‘deep thinkers who needed much more!’

I infected my husband.  He was in a similar boat in a job that brought no joy.  And when I named my feelings, my unoriginal term, ‘Eccleasisates Moment’ (as in ‘all is vanity’ à la King Solomon) resonated with him.

Not much good comes from all that introspection except for the helpful and salubrious-to-the-budget realization that spending money is no antidote to what is immaterial, namely a feeling.

Recently I have been helped by God’s word to me about taking joy in the simple provisions of life.  I have stepped down from indulging in those super-serious but unfruitful thoughts about the meaning of life.  More and more I am content to settle into and accept  what God says is the meaning of life.

If all life is a gift from God, no matter the form it comes in, then I am meant to live moment by moment with the anticipation that little kids have who are about to receive a treat.  God the good Father via His Spirit implanted in me is growing my feelings of love, joy, and peace.  He is giving me practice (through trying circumstances) to develop the habits of restful waiting, of being kind, of offering grace, of faithfulness in work, of  gentle words and responses to others and most of all teaching me how to control my emotional reactions to life.

Peace - Dove

 

 

So just as the Psalmist himself had finally realized, I am finally learning as a young weaned child of God simply to rest my head on Him.  It is enough to know that I belong to the Eternal God as an adopted daughter.  My good Father plans out my daily events and walks by my side to provide the helping hand and steadying I need as I depend on Him and practice keeping pace with Him.  Our Father is very much like Corrie Ten Boom’s dad who quieted her anxiety about an upcoming train trip and her need of a ticket. He assured his young daughter that he would hand her ticket when she was about to board the train.  So too, God – our Father will give us what we need when we need it, not before. I don’t have to know more than what He has told me and shown me today.

And when I start to fret about the seeming ordinariness of life, I try to remember that Jesus celebrated daily life by living it with bickering fishermen and complaining housewives and restless children.  He didn’t hang out too often with the Important People who were doing ‘big stuff’. He liked good food and physical labor and walking over hill and dale and camping out.  He celebrated with the wedding party and accepted people’s gifts.  He was a mensch.  May we be ones too!

Jesus and kids

 

Feed on this as we move closer to Easter

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Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.  Ephesians 5:19 (Amplified) 

Here is a mid-week suggestion for you to feed your soul with some good music.  Graham Cochrane from The Recording Revolution just released his first solo album in 10 years.  You can download the 5 songs at the link below.

The Tree Album Cover

 

 

 

 

 

The lyrics are a synthesis of his theological development in his 20s  and into his early 30s (the album was released on his birthday, 31 Mar 2014).  His melodies and accompanying instrumental harmonies do not overpower the vocals, so the words are easy to comprehend.

Since his senior capstone music project at James Madison University when he recorded his first original solo album in a campus studio, there have been 2 A Cappella Christmas albums  and 7 Aletheia Church albums.

My favorites are the 1st and 3rd songs.

Bon appétit!

Download music here

 

Graham with studio behind him

Envy – that invisible sin

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Envying a bigger fish

 

 

 

It snuck up on me awares. First one friend’s good news, then another’s and finally a third – all in the space of 2 days.  Before I knew it, my coveting was in full bloom!  Thankfully , the Holy Spirit was on duty and drew my attention to what this was;  pure and simple – ugly SIN!

Funny how men are quick to confess their struggle against lust and women their indulgence in gossip.  But covetousness? envy?  - who admits that?  But you know that it must be a biggie, to have made it on God’s Top Ten List.

10 Commandments

 

 

 

What we wish we had that we don’t is also an indicator of our idols – the things we worship.  I’ve heard it said that the act of worship bookends the commandments – at the outset, the proper and exclusive worship of God, the Creator and at the end, the prohibition of worshipping the created.

So what did I do, a forgiven sinner who was forced to look her sin straight in the face?  I repented.  And again each time the longings flooded or floated back. Finally, when I had time to examine at length these desires full-on, God led me to a helpful way to put them into perspective.

If we are Christians, then we have been invited and vetted to permanently partake of the eternal heavenly feast, hosted by Jesus in His Father’s Kingdom.  That experience which will go on forever will literally be out-of-this-world in its magnitude and ability to satisfy and provide multi-dimensional joy the likes of which we can hardly begin to imagine.

Heavenly Feast

 

 

 

 

So whatever it is that I long for HERE on this earth is piddly in comparison.  The image that came to mind (thank you, Holy Spirit!) was of someone complaining about their snack in comparison to a friend’s snack, when all along we will both soon be dining at Buckingham Palace or the Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore

 

 

 

Envy is damaging because it destroys our contentment in God.  It keeps our focus OFF of God and on to lesser stuff.  It sets us up for the corrosive thought that we DESERVE something.  When all along as a pastor friend of mine likes to say, “What we deserve is Hell!  The fact that God offers us a pardon is astounding enough.  Everything else we get is a gift.  And that’s a lot of gifts!”

So maybe I’ll have some of my fleshly heart’s desires satisfied here on earth and maybe I won’t.  But the time spent here is a blink of the eye.  I love the way CS Lewis contrasts the length and satisfaction of life on earth to that of eternal life with the Father:

“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
― C.S. LewisThe Last Battle  

Dream has ended CS Lewis

 

How do you know if you are ‘saved’?

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Assurance of Salvation

1 Cor 1:18 For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.

I understand that it is a very unsettling place to be, not to know for sure if you are going to spend eternity with God or away from Him.

I am writing this post to simplify the issue and to communicate that if you want to know whether you can count on heaven with the Biblical God, there is ample written evidence from God to settle that issue, once and for all.

It seems to me that there are several categories of people:

  • those who give no thought to life after the expected 70+ years (Psalm 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years….)
  • those who are adherents of false religions that teach and encourage practitioners to DO THIS or THAT to reach heaven
  • those who are true Biblical Christians but still live with uncertainty about their ultimate destination
  • those who are NOT Christians but think they are and might assume they are headed for heaven
  • those who are Christians and anticipate with growing desire and delight their future in God’s favorable presence in the renewed creation

Marraige Supper of the Lamb

In truth, there are only 2 categories of people: those God has elected and those He has not.  There are no degrees of election or a pathway TO election from non-election. You’re either ALL in or ALL out.

If God doesn’t plant within us new, unnatural desires, we will never understand Him or see Him as beautiful and valuable.

Here’s the simplest way to know if you are a true Christian (and it has nothing to do with how ‘good’ you are or what you do):

Do you see the Biblical Jesus and how one is saved from God’s wrath as an amazing gift? as treasure beyond imagination?

Or do you see Jesus and His teachings as stupid and boring, even to the point of being non-sensical? 

The key, though, is to know and understand the REAL Jesus, as the Bible presents.  Be warned!  Many self-proclaimed Christians, as well as atheists, share a mythical, made-up idea of God.  They invent a Father God and a God-Man Jesus to their liking, for whatever reasons.  I suppose it follows that if you INVENT God, then you can CREATE the pathway to heaven.

John 8:31-32   He said to the Jews who believed, “If you keep and obey My Word, then you are My followers for sure. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

Stay within the boundaries of God’s Word; understand the text, given its style (poetry, narrative, history, parables, advice for living)  and context.  The Bible is written so that even uneducated people can be taught Truth.

And if what the text says and means doesn’t make sense to you, then pray to God and ask for His help.  He promises to give light and understanding to all who seek Him earnestly, sincerely. Pray also for those around you, that God would kindly open their eyes to His nature, what is at stake and His offer of forgiveness.

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Being more kind than we think necessary

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Kindness is more than they deserve

It wasn’t until I got married that I learned of my poor sense of  judgment.

What I mean, is that I invariably pull out a container far too small to hold dinner’s leftovers.  Mike chalks it up to a false sense of economy.  He has me nailed correctly.  For this is how my flawed thinking goes:  “If all this will fit into a smaller pot/bowl/storage unit, then there will be LESS to clean (I’m lazy!)

I have learned, over the years, NOT to trust my judgment, but to automatically select a receptacle LARGER than I think necessary.  I’m sure you can point to similar circumstances where you have learned not to trust your intuition, but to go with your training.  Pilots routinely navigate this way.

Picture an airplane that has to crab into the wind, in order to fly straight.  This means that the pilot POINTS the nose off-center (not in the direction she wants to go), so that the body of the plane will actually TRACK in the intended direction.

crabbing into the wind

So it was with a sense of recognition for this principle of purposeful über- sizing that I read the following quote:

In this world, you must be a bit too kind to be kind enough. -

Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux, dramatist and novelist (1688-1763)

I suppose we should not be surprised.  It’s like when you SMILE for a photo, and you think you have pasted on a cheesy monkeyish grin.  But in seeing the picture, you just look…well..happy!  I don’t think we are very good judges of what IS enough!  After all, ‘they’ say it takes 10 deposits into a student’s ‘LOVE BANK’ to balance out 1 correction.

Compliments are hard to come by

And the Bible affirms that what draws ANYONE to us is not how smart we are, how together we look, how neat our homes are, how successful we are in business, school or raising kids.  What attracts others to you is your kindness:

Prov 19:22  - What is desirable in a man is his kindness.

Wow!  God through Solomon,  the King who was known for his wisdom, is instructing us about the most desirable character trait.  This kindness or ‘chesed’ is also translated as MERCY.   Mercy is when you don’t give someone what they deserve; instead you give them something they don’t deserve, like grace.  And in order to do that, it’s going to cost YOU a lot. For God to give us mercy when we deserved punishment, He submitted His Son to our sentence.

The price you and I are going to have to pay to be kind enough and merciful enough is far more than we think we should or even for which we can SEE we have the resources. (But God is more than happy to supply us!) And just like in my silly but frequent misjudging of the large-enough storage container, we will have to be MORE kind than we think necessary.

What a thought: that the only thing someone will really remember about me, if they remember me at all, is that I was kind to them.  And for them to notice kindness, it’s going to have to be MORE than I think I should have to GIVE.

Kindess is wisdom

What were the circumstances of someone’s extravagant  kindness to you?

The power of wives and wrong decisions

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I almost pulled an ‘Eve’ on my husband. 

Eve and the apple

Standing in front of a cage at Sarge’s Animal Rescue, Mike held Jason, the kitten he had previewed earlier in the week.  This orange tabby had been brought in with his litter brother a few weeks earlier. We had made the rational decision to seek just one kitten to bring home to lonely Luther.  In the space of 3 months, Luther had lost Leia, our feline matriarch AND Calvin, his brother from whom he had not been apart in 8 1/2 years.

For the past 2 months, Luther has cried and cried and cried.  (Mike works from home, so he has been the one to witness this constant plaintive and ‘annoying’ expression of cat grief.)

We’ve had the pattern of adopting cats in pairs, but had arrived at the conclusion that we should bring home only one kitty this time.  Money considerations as well as a fear of overwhelming poor Luther were good reasons.

But when I stood in front of that cage and thought of the poor little gray kitten who would soon be left behind, I put Mike on the spot by asking, “Are you sure it’s the right decision to adopt only one? We’d be separating the brothers.”

And Mike reacted like Adam, “I’ll let you make the decision”  (aka:  whatever makes you happy)

Now maybe a husband who just wants to please his wife sounds ideal to some women.  But it’s wrong if it’s used as an across-the-board principle.  What SCARES me is that I came really close to letting an emotional reaction arbitrate and replace a rational decision we had made together.  What ALSO is frightening is the degree of power we wives have available to us, vis à vis our husbands.  Women know how to play on a husband’s antipathy to standing up to possible emotional pressure from us.  They call it, ‘pleasing their wives‘.  Of course men are to be considerate and love their wives, but that doesn’t mean ALWAYS giving in. Men are called to be wise but firm leaders.  And that can be painful as men have to weather female drama.

In the end, an ever so slight whisper from the Holy Spirit pushed me away from the brink and I came back to my senses and said, “No, we made the decision just to select one. And this little one seems the calmer of the two.  He’ll be a better fit for Luther.”  I then turned to the volunteer hovering to help us.  “Will Jason’s brother be adopted soon, do you think?”

“Without a doubt,” came the reply, “kittens go quickly.”   And with a sigh of relief, I felt affirmed in sticking to our original decision.

I pray that next time, if I am tempted to push Mike in a similar situation, I’ll flee before I even flirt with that apple, no matter how tasty it looks.

Jason on the sofa - 8 Mar

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