Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Light vs. Darkness


You don't fight darkness with a sword.  Instead it is dispelled by light.  Light overcomes darkness - ALWAYS!  If you bring light into darkness, the darkness cannot overcome the light.  Darkness is not a thing, it is the absence of the thing.  Light is the true entity, darkness is just the absence of the presence of light.  Therefore Light is stronger - Light displaces darkness.  Jesus is the Light of the world.   

He shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome Him. 

So, too, fear is displaced by love.  "Perfect Love casts out fear".
And Love is a person, Jesus Christ.  Knowing him doesn't mean we're never afraid but the more present and fully we experience Him, the more our earthly fears recede. 

When a child puts his hand in the trusted hand of another it's the protection and the care represented by that hand, not the hand itself that dispels fear.  It is the love of the adult represented, their presence that brings comfort and subdues fear.  

In the words of a favorite childhood book character, Piglet, when they're lost in the mist trying to "unbounce" Tigger -

 And so, we reach our hand out to our mighty Creator, and we find that He, who is perfect love, replaces our fear with trust, that He who is light drives away the darkness in our lives.  And His light kindles in us a light that shines out to others in their darkness. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

TRANSFORMATION Beginning with Repentance

It has long been the prayer of both my husband and me that ALL of our children would walk with Him serving Him in the Kingdom wholeheartedly, working in the King's vineyard!

 The following promise jumped off the page during my devotions yesterday and I feel that it is a promise for our family for the coming year.... 
Zechariah 8:6-9a, "This is what the LORD Almighty says:  All this may seem impossible to you now, a small and discouraged remnant of God's people.  But do you think this is impossible for me, the LORD Almighty?  This is what the LORD Almighty says: You can be sure that I will rescue my people from the east and from the west.  I will bring them home again to live safely in Jerusalem.  They will be my people, and I will be faithful and just toward them as their God.  This is what the LORD Almighty says: Take heart and finish the task!" 

I haven't been given a word for the year before like my daughter and some of my friends have the past few years, but this year I feel I've been given a word for the year - TRANSFORMATION and that it will begin with Repentance. 

So, I'm excited, filled with expectation over what God is doing in me, and what he will do in our wayward children as we "take heart and finish the task", which, for me at this time, means a spiritual battle - my own repentance (learning to love unconditionally with God's love, bringing healing in our marriage) followed by faithful and faith filled prayer for our children with God giving a 100% increase. The task won't be finished until not just 8, but all 11 are faithfully walking with their God and I feel the promise of this is for this year!  A miracle only God could do!!


What is repentance?  I have generally thought of repentance more as getting on the right path, a change of mind and heart, a seeing the truth and pursuing it, than as a grief over past sin.  Perhaps these are two sides of the same coin.  
I recently read a blog post by Misty at Simply Convivial.  Here are two excerpts from her post on Repentance:   “True education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that we’ve not read all that we need to read, we don’t know all that we need to know, and we’ve not yet become all that we are called to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies.” – George Grant, and Misty's words, "Repentance is bravely and faithfully changing our attitudes, changing our perspective, changing our actions, whenever we are made aware that they are not aligned with God’s Word, His revealed will. It is hard, but it is life-giving." and this:
"These children and their problems are given to sanctify us. Let us embrace this life of repentance.  Let us bravely face our inadequacies, faithfully following the path before us, trusting God and not our efforts for the increase. God can feed 5,000 with 5 loaves, and He can take our dismal efforts to obey and transform us, others, and the world through them."  

I finally had some quiet time to pursue the Biblical meaning of the word Repentance this morning.  I started with Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. (excerpts follow).
 As a verb it is the word METANOEO which means literally to perceive afterwards (meta, after, implying change, noeo, to perceive; nous, the mind, the seat of moral reflection, in contrast to pronoeo, to perceive beforehand, hence signifies to change one's mind or purpose, always, in the N.T., involving change for the better, an amendment, and always, except in Luke 17:3,4, of repentance from sin. 
The second verb is METALOMAI, meta, as in the first word means change, and melo, to care for signifying to regret, to repent oneself.  
The noun METANOIA, means after-thought, change of mind, repentance.  It corresponds to the first verb above.  It is used of repentance from sin or evil, except in Heb. 12:17, where the word "repentance" seems to mean, not simply a change of Isaac's mind, but such a change as would reverse the effects of his own previous state of mind.  Esau's birthright-bargain could not be recalled, it involved an irretrievable loss.  
"As regards repentance from sin,(a) the requirement by God on man's part is set forth, e.g., in Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8, Acts 20:21; 26:20; (b) The mercy of God in giving repentance or leading men to it is set forth, e.g., in Acts 5:31; 11:18; Rom. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25.
In the N.T. the subject chiefly has reference to repentance from sin, and this change of mind involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God.  The parable of the prodigal son is an outstanding illustration of this.  Christ began His ministry with a call to repentance, Matt. 4:17, but the call is addressed, not as in the O.T. to the nation, but to the individual.  In the Gospel of John, as distinct from the Synoptic Gospels, referred to above, repentance is not mentioned, even in connection with John the Baptist's preaching; in John's Gospel and 1st Epistle the effects are stressed, e3.g., in the new birth, and generally in the active turning from sin to God by the exercise of faith...."

New Unger's Bible Dictionary includes the following:
 " In the theological and ethical sense a fundamental and thorough change in the hearts of men from sin and toward God.  Although faith alone is the condition for salvation, repentance is bound up with faith and inseparable from it, since without some measure of faith no one can truly repent, and repentance never attains to its deepest character till the sinner realizes through saving faith how great is the grace of God against whom he has sinned.  On the other hand, there can be no saving faith withhout true repentance.  Repentance contains as essential elements (1) a genuine sorrow toward God on account of sin; (2) an inward repugnance to sin necessarily followed by the actual forsaking iof it; and (3) humble self- surrender to the will and service of God....

"Repentance, it is thus to be seen, is the gift of God.  It is so because God has given His word with its revelations concerning sin and salvation; also the Holy Spirit to impress the truth and awaken the consciences of men and lead them to repentance.  But as with faith so with repentance--it is left with men to make for themselves the great decision.  

So it appears that indeed both sides of the coin are implied in the Biblical meaning of the word repentance.  

The current application in my life is coming through reading Larry Crabb's, Men and Women Enjoying the Difference, which spends the first half of the book explaining how our self-centered natures are sinful and we need to repent and ask God to change us.  I first saw this flaw in myself almost 30 years ago when I realized that even the good I did was because it made me feel good and was saddened by it, but felt that it was only God who could rise above such motivation.  This is in part true, my nature is fallen and by myself, I am unable to rise about my selfish nature and self-centered focus.  But, I now see that if I ask God to change me, and yield to His Spirit's work in me, change is not only desirable but possible! So as I asked God to give me love for our prodigal daughter, I am now asking God to love my husband and others through me. Looking to Him for the removal of my natural self-serving goals and His supernatural love flowing through me.  

So again to repeat Misty's words from above: "Repentance is bravely and faithfully changing our attitudes, changing our perspective, changing our actions, whenever we are made aware that they are not aligned with God’s Word, His revealed will. It is hard, but it is life-giving."  
and from the New Unger's Bible Dictionary: "But as with faith so with repentance--it is left with men to make for themselves the great decision." 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Motivation - Outcome or Relationship

Oh my!  I read this post from Simply Convivial's--Simply Contemplate: Wisdom is Fearing God & Keeping His Commandments.  I have read and reread it and want to weep - it touches something deep in my heart.

Since a few years ago when several of our children started to  rebel, walking away from the faith, I have wondered how to keep on with parenting and especially homeschooling with such an unsure outcome?! I had given 20+ years to the all out pursuit of godly fruit - including homeschooling. Now the fruit of our homeschooling efforts was all over the map - we have children who live the kingdom life with radiant countenances and lives fully alive, in love with Jesus, growing and serving others and we have those who are pursuing the world fast and furious - with immorality, alcohol, and a divorce.  When you pour your life out moment by moment day after day, you want to know that it is a valuable pursuit that there will be a desired outcome. Hope has been deferred and I have become heartsick.

But in this article hope sneaks back in - mine isn't the outcome to look for, but the faithful obedience to my loving master - with complete trust in Him that He holds the outcome in His hand.  I can do this - I can look into his loving eyes and navigate the wave-troughs walking on water.  My inner motivation can't be pragmatic but rather relational (my relationship with God). It might look the same from the outside but my expected reward is the LORD's smile and "well-done" rather than the immediate harvest of children who all walk with the LORD. 

More coming soon on Repentance....

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Repentance and Brokenness

I've been reading a book by Larry Crabb, Men & Women Enjoying the Difference.  I'm halfway through chapter four and he hasn't talked about the difference between men and women yet at all.  Instead he is talking about the way we deal with the hurts that inevitably come into relationships.  He suggests two general ways Christians address these hurts and broken places, either through psychological counseling where we identify the hurts and sympathize with them or the traditional Biblical approach that says "just read the Scripture and DO what it says".  He spends these first chapters explaining these approaches and showing how neither one really deals with our root sin of self-centeredness. Here in chapter four he discusses two ways of dealing with sin.  "When we realize we've done something wrong, we typically do one of two things: either we quickly apologize or we wonder why we did it.   The first response looks biblical but often reflects a shallow repentance that leads to no enduring change.  The second keeps counselors in business but like the first one, it rarely leads to joyful other-centeredness." And then a few paragraphs later,  "A moralistic approach that defines sin as merely wrong behavior fails to get at the root problem of justified self-centeredness any better than a more psychological approach that stresses damage as central.  Whenever people proudly acknowledge that their problem is sin, you can be certain they have no idea what they are talking about.   And when confession is easily made, followed by confident resolve to bear the fruit of repentance, you can conclude the same thing.  Unless Christian teachers bear the marks of brokenness, their teaching will not highlight grace.  More often, their study of Scripture will feed a harsh judgmentalism that enforces rules and delights to reprimand.  Such teaching will entice few to follow Christ.  
      "There is no such thing as 'easy' confession.  True confession is always an agonizing process.  Brokenness over personal sin is a necessary step in learning to love graciously.  Routine confession of easily admitted sin does not deal adequately with our faults.  Neither a surface look at sin nor a deep look at damage will disrupt self-centeredness."

     I am very much looking forward to the next section which is titled, "A THIRD WAY".  
     I think the LORD is speaking to me about brokenness and repentance - I need it! When a topic comes up in more than one place  you can pretty much figure God is trying to tell you something.  Last night after a ladies tea where the Berge family sang, I had a chance to talk with Becky.  We haven't taken time to catch up for a very long time.  She is a precious sister in the Lord and wise and godly.  I asked her how she managed to pass on a certain value to her girls who have stood strong against culture in this area.  Her answer really struck me, especially as I'm already reading the above book - she said, "Ken and I repented of our own sin and the girls saw our brokenness and chose the truth without our having to formally teach it to them."  Wow!  How much sin and error is in my children because I have failed to recognize my own sin and to repent in deep brokenness? 
     I also read this blog post yesterday by Jennifer Neyhart about "the Un-dragoning of Eustace" from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (click on her name to read her post - she says it so much better than I can). Eustace's experience with Aslan seems to go along with the ideas from Men and Women.  The deep repentance that really brings transformation requires a touch of God on our hearts, a work that is deeper than we can conjure up on our own. 

     I hear you, Lord!  Show me the way and do the needed work in me!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Joy Comes in the Morning!

I was thinking back to an old post October 2012 and couldn't believe it is actually almost two years ago that I wrote that post.  I compared our spiritual waiting for the return of our prodigals to labor and delivery, well I just wanted you to rejoice with me because DELIVERANCE has come!!  Our sweet girl has returned to the Lord and I can't tell you the joy I have in the daily signs of healing and grace in her life!  She recently joined us a day late for a family camping trip because she had to work the day before but it meant enough for her to be with us that she drove the four hours herself to join us.  As we walked to the showers the following morning, sharing the joy of being together, I told her, "It's a tremendous joy and privilege to be given a child, but to be given that child back a second time is over the top!"  I can't explain the joy I feel at the return of our prodigal.  I thank God every day for the light in her eyes.  I see signs of healing and marvel at the perfection of His work in her heart.  If you are still laboring over a prodigal, don't loose heart, look up for your redemption draweth nigh and weeping may last for a night but joy DOES come in the morning!  And it is joy beyond anything the darkness took from you. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nothing is Wasted

I found this beautiful song this morning and it speaks beautifully what I have found to be true - Nothing is wasted - even the pain and devastation - we have a Redeemer who can weave the pain and evil done against us and even the past sin and failure that has beset us into a beautiful tapestry of grace and good when we turn to Him. 

Jason Gray - Nothing is Wasted

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher

I recently read The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher.  It was a very moving book and touched me deeply in several ways.  It is the story of Mr. Dreher's sister, a teacher who was much loved in her community who died of lung cancer.  Having lost my much loved Dad to lung cancer a couple years ago, I related deeply to this story and woke up with puffy eyes from crying while I read the night before on more than one occasion.  I am not normally a crying person, but this really touched me.  The wonderful thing about this book is that it isn't just a book about Ruthie but an intriguing book about family, community, roots and faith.  Beautifully written and moving, this book left me with lots to ponder and rethink.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

God Shouts to Us in Our Pain

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”

God has been holding my heart in amazing ways the past few weeks and I am extremely grateful for the tight bonds and spiritual foundations established with my children by a life of home education and for a God who gives beauty for our ashes.  One of Our daughters is in India to teach English as a second language to university students for six months.  Actually she feels called to a lot more there, but this is a stepping stone. The spiritual battle has been extremely intense and she wound up in the hospital for more than a week.  It culminated in her legs being paralyzed and finally a night of excruciating pain followed by erratic breathing, her heart going crazy, and the paralysis creeping up to her neck. None of the tests they did could reveal what was wrong and we were making plans to send a nurse friend with a current visa to help her fly home hoping she would be strong enough, with help, to travel by commercial flight.  Our doctor here (who is a godly man of faith and a dear friend) prayed a beautiful prayer for her healing and God's glory one night on the phone with me and the following morning someone from the church there came and laid hands on her and prayed over her and of course all of our church, friends and relatives here have been praying.  God has been faithful to answer those prayers and two days later she was able to walk and actually leave the hospital and go back to her apartment there.  Now less than a week later, she has been back in the classroom teaching, traveling to school alone by rickshaw....  God is amazing and powerful. 

About the same time another daughter found out she is pregnant.  She is facing life as a single mother.  Our hearts are wrenched by the pain and challenges she and her precious little one will face, but we rejoice that she has chosen life for her baby.  Even in the face of pressure from friends and the baby's father to abort - she is outspokenly pro-life. It is this pregnancy that God is using to answer our prayers for her salvation - for she has returned to her God and His light is back in her eyes.

We look for relief from pain, instead God chooses pain to shape us and to make a platform to display His love and glory.  He doesn't leave us alone in our pain, instead he carries us.  I have felt His arms around me and the sweet breath of His peace comforting me. 

The familiar Footprints in the Sand poem is so true....

 During the week when the above things were taking place in our lives, my Mom (not knowing about the pregnant granddaughter) shared Laura Story's song Blessings with me and I played it over and over that week, weeping every time!  "What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?"

I rest in His mercies - His wisdom to bring days of joy and days of pain - sometimes running on parallel tracks!  He has good plans for us - His goodness supercedes any evil that can come our way - He uses it all for good. 

More on Scars and Pain as a Gift

My sweet sister wrote to me after my last post on scars pointing out that there is a big difference between the first two examples who were victims of the sin of others and Jacob who was wrestling with God.  I agree with her.  I won't say that God causes evil,  but He certainly uses it and even on several occasions takes credit for having plans in it.  Joseph is one clear example when he said, Genesis 50:20 NLT says, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." Of course the cross is another case in point where people meant evil but God had it all planned from the foundation of the world for the good of all.  So, though I admit that my example wasn't really fitting, I still feel that when pain or evil touches our lives, God has a hand in it and a plan for good. Where evil touches my life, leaving a scar - there, too, is the touch of God.  I also have a hunch that it is the very things that cause us the most pain that God will use the most to bring about good in others' lives providing we don't turn away from Him and become bitter.

I was thinking this morning about a couple of Biblical passages that relate to our scars and the gift of pain.

II Corinthians 1:3-5KJV says, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth in Christ."

The compassion born of suffering is deep.  Someone who has suffered can bear our burdens and share our sorrows with just a look or a touch.  One who has suffered doesn't give out simple platitudes and empty words in times of pain because they have already been on the other side.  The comfort they found in their dark hour is the word or action they know to share with another.  God means our sufferings to make us more compassionate and thus more useful in the body.

Our earthly suffering is just temporary, though it can feel like forever in the middle of a dark night.  They hold for us great benefit - 
 II Corinthians 4:17 KJV says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

New Living Translation says it this way, "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"

So if you are in pain - look up, take the hand of God and cooperate with His good plan for redeeming an ugly situation.The intensity of the pain is probably in direct proportion with the weight of glory He intends to bring about through it.  And of course that good lasts forever!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Scars - the Touch of God

"To be human is to be beautifully flawed"  October Baby

Some random thoughts rattling around in my brain and connections being made.  I don't know if I can get it into words, but I'll try.

It started with a conversation with a dear friend who adopted a precious little boy as a toddler from an orphanage in his country of birth where he had spent his babyhood.  He is grown now and trying to work through his feelings.  He's not even really ready to admit that there are scars in his life, that his early experiences would necessarily have shaped who he is and how he processes relationships.

One of our precious daughters has just recently returned to the LORD after being wildly wayward for the past four years.  Through those years bits and pieces  have come out revealing childhood scars brought on by sexual abuse.  I knew long before she was willing to tell us that something like this must have happened to her because of her responses to life.  Her experiences colored how she thought about herself and how she related to others. I am confident that God will bring into her life the necessary instruments of healing, I am equally sure that He intends to use the scars in turn to touch others for good. 

Scars, we all have them.  They are what make us unique.  The traumas they represent have been allowed by a good and loving God, a God who from the beginning plans to heal and redeem. 
If I've learned one thing in the past four years it is that God isn't looking for perfect vessels, he is looking to redeem us broken ones - and we are ALL BROKEN.  We all come with the sin nature and all have been touched by the sin of those around us.  "There is none righteous (whole) no not one...."  It seems that rather than draw back from these "flaws" in our lives, God weaves them into our story and uses them to bring glory to His name.  Man may mean it for evil, but God means it for good - our good and the good of others. 

When Jacob wrestled with God the story ends with God touching his hip and Jacob is never able to walk again without a limp - a constant reminder of God's touch. 

Our scars are the touch of God on our bodies and lives.  Painful perhaps but a reminder that we are not alone in this world - we have a God who is writing our story and wants to be the central theme.