Far Be It From God

“Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and wicked alike.  Far be it from you!  Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”- Gen. 18:25

Abraham boldly protests the destruction of Sodom.  He asks God if the city would be spared if there were 10 people who were found to be righteous.  Abraham was quite bold.  From what I read in this verse and the subsequent verses, I know Abraham reveres God.  However, unlike mainstream Christianity today, Abraham doesn’t approach the throne timidly.  He asks questions.  Abraham basically asks God how a good deity could destroy an entire city if there were people that still loved God in the city.

We ask the same questions today.  We ask God how evil can prevail; why he lets certain things happen to the “good” people.  Wouldn’t a just God spare the righteous?

Now from the story we know that even 10 people couldn’t be found in the city and it is destroyed.  However, Lot does escape the destruction.  Even in the face of evil are the followers of Christ protected?  What is our notion of deliverance versus God’s?  Is he preserving the righteous and we just don’t know it because his plans are always bigger than ours?

He has delayed his return out of his mercy.  God hears the pleas of his people.  We are to trust him in adversity.  We often look for solutions to our problematic circumstances, but would the resolution bring about the peace that we are looking for?  His peace surpasses all understanding, perhaps even our understanding of his love and justice towards those who choose to follow Him.

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Life on the Run

I was reading a recent blog post on bemytravelmuse.com.

Kristin shares information about being a solo traveler.  This post discussed her thoughts on whether happiness was truly happiness when shared.  Essentially, she said that she wonders if traveling the world has decreased happiness because she hasn’t forged community.  She leaves.

I thought of my own desire to travel.  Would I be lost if I pursued a life of wandering?  Do I make nomadic life fantasy because I haven’t experienced it?  I moved around a lot as a kid.  However, I was never vulnerable.  I could morph into somebody else when I moved and dissolve the friendships I thought too imposing.

I’ve been in NJ for years now.  I married a man who hasn’t resided beyond a 20 mile radius of his boyhood home.  I’ve had friendships that last longer than 3 years now.  I’m in community.  I frustrate people.  I encourage people.  Community is nice, however I always get the sense that I don’t truly belong.  Am I supposed to though? Would traveling or residing elsewhere change that?  I’m a Christian so I’m never truly home until the gates open and I’m ushered into heaven, right?

Individuals tell me that kids need stability, they need familiarity.  Is this why Army “brats” are so rebellious?  Would I compromise my kid’s emotional growth if Frank and I decided to be nomadic?

Reading that post caused me to question my desire to leave NJ.  When do we find contentment?  I think it is in knowing God’s will for us, but then again how do I know what his will is exactly?

Lately, I have more questions about what lies ahead and maybe there is a beauty in that mystery.  Perhaps I’m not supposed to know whether I’d be wrought with angst if I traveled the world rather than settled here in my husband’s domain.  I’m just supposed to live in the present, being a gift to those around me by spreading the fragrance of Christ where he has me rather than what could be.

The grass is greener on the other side?  Maybe it is more along the lines of what I’ve heard recently—the grass is greener where you fertilize the soil.

It’s time to stop pondering and start planting and trusting God in the uncertain curves that lie ahead.

Kids Will Be Kids

This past weekend Frank and I made a 3 hour trek north to visit my best female friend.

She has two children, ages 3 and 5 months.

I used to fault parents for a misbehaved child, typically contributing it to a lack of discipline.  This weekend’s observations obliterated any notion of parental blame I could ever place on an individual.

My friend should be sainted.  She exerted supreme justice in her home, disciplining when disciplining needed to occur and exercising compassion when it needed to be exercised.  Although clearly fatigued, she did not let exhaustion hamper her ability to be Christ-like.  I on the other hand, didn’t fare so well.

Sure I can blame pregnancy hormones and sleep deprivation for my bickering with a toddler, but it doesn’t change the fact that me, an adult grown woman, fought with a three year old.  Talk about a futile conflict!

My friend’s daughter, Alice, is a brilliant child.  Alice speaks like a little adult.  She knew words most kids her age don’t know.  Also, I didn’t nod my head in understanding while being completely baffled at to what the child just said as is my norm with most three year old children.  Alice is also assertive and independent.  Those are admirable traits for a confident, goal-getter adult.  Assertiveness and independence in a three year old can make for many tears and being overwhelmed.

Some examples of Alice’s assertive and independent behavior included instructing Frank how to hold a baby doll properly, telling him that standing under a chandelier is not a good hiding spot, dictating what pictures she wanted us to color in, and insisting on her personal soundtracks, not other songs.  One day she will make a great leader, because while assertive, she also gives hugs and is genuinely concerned when someone is hurt.  (I went to put a band-aid on and she asked if I had an injury.  I said yes and her face looked aghast and she then told me to feel better.)  She might be demanding, but she cares about the welfare of those around her.

I learned a lot about parenting this weekend.  Frank learned a lot about parenting (that it is work and not just cuddling with a newborn).  I also want to reward my friend with the outstanding mother of the year award.  She remained surprisingly calm throughout the many tantrums that occurred.  If I can learn anything about justice this year, I’ll learn how to exhibit it in my daily life by watching my best female friend’s ability to parent an animated, assertive, and compassionate toddler.

Un Tir

The runner pleads parley

but the gunman refuses such peace.

Lead splinters in the sweat streaked flesh

while sneakers soak up the flow of velvet veins.

So there, in the pool of claret, lays the terrorist’s target.

We can not begin to understand the motives for such hostility.  We can blame religion for a slaughter as in the Crusades.  However, we are still left with a vegetarian, atheist Hitler that, through gaseous snares, gnawed at a Jewish race.  The fact still remains that an extremist, be it a religious folk or not, will reign in terror, thinking that fear ushers submission and asserts his/her authority.

May we pray for the peace of Christ to comfort those in France.  May our language not be a hindrance.  Americans, lay down any frustrations you’ve fostered due to an imagination of French arrogance.  This is not a time for criticizing.  It is a time for binding together in unified prayer to fight the dark forces inhabiting certain individuals.  We need prayer.  We need community.  Let us make this place, no matter where we are, a house of worship so that the persecuted will be protected and/or delivered.

Parisians you are in our thoughts and prayers.  May God strengthen you during this difficult time.  If you haven’t, turn to him and find a peace that sustains the soul.

Today I think about justice for the French and that justice is in the Hope. Peace, Joy, and Love of Christ amidst an uncertain time.

Handy Work

“…you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands”- Micah 5: 13

Life isn’t what I thought it’d be at this stage.  I figured I’d either be globe trotting or have a house.  I didn’t think I’d still be stuck in NJ having to pay rent with two incomes.  I hate that I resent a blue collar job.  I want to be a stay at home mom.  I can’t yet.

Then again what I consider what is fair and just for my life isn’t what God feels is fair and just.

I went into Chemistry because my father told me that business or science was the only way I could pay my bills.  I have been able to do so and support a husband and our what will be our future baby.  I have found security in my job, in being able to financially assist myself and others.  That’s exactly the problem though, isn’t it?

Without even knowing it my work and sequentially my income has ignited my pride.  I always criticize my mother’s obsession with work.  Last night at Bible study we discussed how God sometimes reveals the unchecked desires in others, which we more often than not will criticize routinely, so that we will come to face our sin.

Micah 5 speaks about the redemption of God’s people through Christ, but not without pruning.  He will destroy witchcraft so that people can no longer cast spells, he will destroy carved images, he will uproot the Asherah poles.  He breaks strongholds.

Somewhere along the way, work became an idol.  I always thought I prioritized my life such that work wasn’t an idol.  I would speak out about the shattered lives of “workaholics”.  I never realized I was one.  I like to sip wine, read literature, and vacation.  I didn’t think work was an idol for me.  However the fear of having less money, to not afford the creature comforts I’ve grown accustomed to, has morphed work into a stronger idol than I ever realized.

The comfort in something other than God has made a vile critic.  What I saw in my mother and in American society has infected me and I have, for so long, been denying it.  I blame Frank for not finding another job in a more cost-effective area.  I am jealous that he enjoys what he does and hasn’t felt the need to “gain” more.  He’s content.  I want that.

Yet I can’t be content when I haven’t repented.  This verse cut me today because I realized that I lacked justice and judged others because they struggle with something I didn’t want to face in myself.

God is showing me that perhaps I’m working in a job I don’t feel cut out for, that I’m not entirely satisfied in because maybe, just maybe I’ll stop bowing to the fruit of my labor and start seeking to bring fruit from the seeds he’s planted in and through me, here and now—not in some other place and in who I want to be.  He has work that needs to be done here and it is when we start doing his work, not ours, that we learn to kneel to a call of service rather than begrudgingly scale a frail corporate ladder, trying, in vain, to get wealth.

Where our treasure is there our heart will be.  My treasure, has for too long, been the fruit of my labor, not his word or his call.  To that I am grieved.

Maybe now, in admitting and submitting this stronghold, I will be able to exercise God’s peaceful justice to others because I’ll stop trying to combat my sin in them.  It’s time I start letting God prune me rather than me refine others.  It’s time to let go of the expectations of others.  It’s time to confess that I am, regrettably, a product of a time/work driven American society.

It’s time to be just unto others by being satisfied with God’s just will in my life and living fully for him, not the work of my hands…

Justice: Empowering Women

The following can be found in a recent Arise e-newsletter, Christians for Biblical Equality.  My friend Jamie Youngs Watkins wrote it.  I think this clearly demonstrates how to act and fight for God’s justice here on earth, especially how it pertains to motivating women to take part in Christ’s justice.  The exercising of God’s justice through humanity will not be executed unless we awaken younger generations to fulfill the callings God has for them now.  Enjoy and thank you Jamie for always being an encouragement to me and others.

*Frank and I have decided that justice for women was going to be our focus in March.  This month, January, we are praying for justice for the nations—to include praying for converts, the persecuted church, and a blanket of peace to envelope the world.  However, this article was just published and I wanted to honor a friend’s writing and role in activism here, today.  May you enjoy this article as much as I did.*

This October, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of seventeen. Since the age of twelve, Malala has spoken out about the importance of education for girls around the world. She is an activist and an inspiration, despite coming from a country and a religion not known for their celebration of women. At seventeen, she has already accomplished more than many of us ever will. The world awaits the change she will bring for girls around the world who seek education.

Just as the world awaits all our girls who have visions of change.

I have worked with teenage girls for several years, both within the church and in secular settings, in youth groups and leadership programs. I’ve seen girls with passion and direction solve problems in their communities and serve the people around them in astounding ways. Unfortunately, more often than not, I see these girls rise up from secular realms rather than from church congregations.
Empowering girls as ministry leaders cultivates women who are empowered to do just that–to lead, serve, and minister to those around them. All too often, we are focused on raising “good Christian girls”–girls who are friendly and cheerful, modest and humble, neither pushy nor outspoken. And of course, we do want our girls to be humble and friendly. And yet, when I think about what the world needs from the next generation of women, I think the world truly needs women who will speak out, who will take a stand, have an opinion, and tell the truth. The world needs girls to be passionate, to break the mold, to fight for others, to fight against injustice.

So here are a few lessons I’ve learned about empowering our young girls to inspired action:

Inspire while instructing. Good instruction is important. We do need to teach our young girls about the Bible, about developing healthy habits and relationships, about dating and sex, about telling their friends about the gospel, and about following Jesus’ example. But, we need to do so in a way that connects and resonates, and even more importantly, we need to inspire young girls to act and stand up for the “least of these.”

Why wait? Often we assure teenagers, and even young (unmarried) adults, that their time will come. We encourage them to think about their future spouses, future vocation, and future calling from God. It took me a long time to realize that I couldn’t wait for the future to happen. I couldn’t wait to be a leader. I couldn’t wait to make a difference until I had all the experiences and authority I thought I needed. If I had waited for those things, well, I’d still be waiting. If Malala had waited, her powerful voice and perspective would be missing from the world. There’s no reason to wait. If you have a good idea, if you want to make a difference, if you feel God leading you now to do something, do it! And support young girls doing the same. Our young girls need adults to stand behind them and say, you can do it.

It’s okay to fail. I’ve known a lot of young girls whose fear of failure had kept them from acting, speaking up, or taking the lead. We put a lot of expectations on our girls in the church: Be pure. Be modest. Be humble. Be good. Be polite. Be a good example. Be a light. How often do we remind them to be who they are and to be generous with themselves? How often do we remind them that nothing can separate them from the love of God? No matter how badly or how often they fail, that does not change who they are in God’s eyes. That should give our girls freedom to try and fail. We need to give girls the space to make mistakes without judgment and the support to get through them without it devastating their confidence or keeping them from trying again.

Turn their passion into action. Our teenage girls are trying to find their place in the world. They’re trying to figure out how to follow Christ and be who they are. Help them identify what they are most passionate about. Help them connect that to the gospel message, and then help them act and advocate. I worked with a small, but passionate youth group a couple years ago that much preferred going out into the community as allies and servants than listening to the Sunday sermon. So, help them figure out the ways they want to act and be the hands and feet of Christ, and then support them in that.

Hand over the reins. The most important part of helping a teen girl find her passion is letting her find her passion. We need to validate her passion and then ask, what’s next? And then let her come up with the answer. It’s tempting for adults to take over and make the plans, but allowing a girl to figure out the details empowers her and shows her how to lead from start to finish. It requires research and community involvement and great adult support, but there’s no reason a teenage girl can’t start now and take control. Let her find a way to make a difference for Christ.

The world needs more women leaders. If we want that to happen, we need to start with teen girls. It’s surprising how many young women leaders, like Malala, we already have, but have failed to recognize and encourage. So, let’s hear more words and support directed toward girls about how to advocate, how to serve, and how to lead. If you give a girl the chance, she’ll take her passion for Christ and turn it into something incredible.

Jamie blogs at https://jywatkins.wordpress.com/

(Seek.Follow.Love <–Jamie’s blog)

Peace of Mind = Justice?

Clunk…clunk…clunk

The engine kept turning but the truck wouldn’t start.

In the comfort of socked feet I traversed to the window.

Peering out, I saw him struggling to get the vehicle moving.

I’d intended to spend a few minutes calming my soul by reading a Jesus Calling devotional.

As I kept hearing the rise and fall of failed attempts to get the truck rolling

I wondered what was a greater priority.

I could take 5 minutes to rush through a devotional book

or I could gather my belongings and lend my vehicle to a deserted man trying to get to work.

There were bills to pay and without my assistance he’d be stranded.

In that moment I prayed and knew that I had to pack up and head to work myself, while the devotional book remained on the shelf.

Sometimes Christianity isn’t about pouring over the Word.

Now don’t get me wrong that is extremely important and we should make it a habit to seek his Word daily lest we conform Christ to our opinion, not what he says about himself.

Yet today it was about active faith for me.  Active in granting transportation to a fellow man while trusting in the benevolence of co-workers to drive me home since I’m not that far away.  It was grace granted and grace trusted.

God’s justice is about peace.  Last night Frank and I read Isaiah 9.  The beginning of verse seven states, “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end…”  God rules in peace.  The Jews of that time expected a Messiah who would eradicate Roman rule.  He would demolish the heathens.  Yet, God in his wonderful love and mercy, came riding on a donkey into Jerusalem so he could die a sinner’s death though he himself wasn’t stained by such blemishes.  God chooses to rule in peace when we would have our vengeance or selfish pursuits. 

Now maybe I’m stretching the application a bit, and forgive me if I am and it makes no sense, but this morning I chose to bestow peace of mind to another and in that I hope I’m letting God’s justice reign a little bit more in my life.  My plans were floundered, but altered so that I might care for the need of a brother in Christ.  Is the easing of troubles for another a form of ushering God’s peace on earth and in turn his justice?  From what I understand thus far, I’d reckon so.

(FYI, it was Frank’s truck.  So was I being selfish because I knew that his work would increase our income and ease financial distress or was I giving him peace that he could use my car and as such, letting God’s justice reign in our home?  Thoughts?)

Love In The Warning

“I will take vengeance in anger and wrath
    on the nations that have not obeyed me”-Micah 5:15

I’ve never fully understood God’s chastisement.  Too often I try to understand him by boxing him into this pretty, loving, and forgiving God.  He is.  However, he is also just.  He reigns in a manner that man can not truly comprehend.

When I read passages like this though I begin to, even if only for a moment, grasp the compassion of God even when he appears harsh.  Notice the word will.  This is a future tense.  God warns the people to turn to him, or return in cases like Judah and Israel, lest he become jealous and strike the people.

I think of my marriage.  I love my husband dearly.  I am also extremely jealous of our relationship.  There has been a woman lately whose motives I’ve questioned.  She has shown interest in my husband, or maybe I’m just misinterpreting the signs and being extremely paranoid.  Whatever the case, I want to guard this love with everything in me.  I know that he wouldn’t do anything with her, but I still want to make sure he isn’t put into a compromising situation like Potiphar’s wife and Joseph.

I guess God’s love is the same way.  He warns us before he sets off on a jealous rampage because he wants to guard us.  God cares for us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.  His jealousy doesn’t come without a warning.  Christ’s relationship with the church reveals the extent of the vow, God’s faithfulness.  If we are true to him, he will be true to us.  A relationship is a two way street.

If I want to understand what God’s justice looks like on earth than I must ask him.  Ask and you will find the answer.

This quest to focus on justice this year is going to be difficult, but I’ll get to understand God in ways I haven’t before, as I have in reading the verse quoted at the beginning of this post.  His reign will be desired and admired if I keep pursuing the lover of my soul, Jesus Christ, who is consistently pursuing me.

An Epiphany 2015

Today is the  worldwide celebration of the Theophany.

In Catholic and Protestant circles, it commemorates the Magi’s visit to infant Jesus.  Three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh are brought to Jesus.  These gifts were often given to royalty in the Middle East.  Gold was a gift far too expensive for most individuals to afford in Jesus’ time.  It would have been presented to an earthly king to show respect.  Thus, the gift of gold symbolizes Christ’s kingship here on earth.  Frankincense was typically used in temple worship to assist in prayers being lifted to God.  The frankincense oil would then symbolize Christ’s divinity and bringing one’s prayers before him.  Myrrh is an oil commonly used in embalming.  This last gift is prophetic and points to the salvation of all people who follow Christ through his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.  Like all that God does, the details behind these gifts reveal the interwoven complexities and beauty of God’s plans and love.

Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the Epiphany through the remembrance of Christ’s baptism by John.  Christ didn’t need to be baptized to prove that he was incarnate.  However, in submission and in painting a picture of renewal, Christ told John it was right for the Savior to be baptized.  Baptism is a symbol of cleansing oneself from sin through the proclamation of Christ as Lord and Savior.

So today I’ve been meditating on what needs renewal in my life?  What do I need to bring to God as a gift today?  What struggles do I need to confess and let the Holy Spirit transform this year?  What am I still holding onto that I haven’t surrendered to Christ?  What relationships do I need to focus on/let go of?  This especially impacts me with the impending arrival of mine and Frank’s little Peanut and remembering the loss of our Teddy Graham.

Peace in Judgment

“Many nations will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
    and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine
    and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
    for the Lord Almighty has spoken.
All the nations may walk
    in the name of their gods,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord
    our God for ever and ever.”- Micah 4:2-5

The above verses speak of a time of peace when wars will cease and there will be unity amongst all brethren.  These verses preface Micah 4:6-13 that prophesied the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.  Micah 4:12 “But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor.” shows us that we can’t know when God has timed peace or tribulation.  We must trust God’s plans.  God will judge the earth.  He rules it.  We can have the hope that he has orchestrated a time when peace will descend and there will be unity. 

As I read through Isaiah with Frank and Micah in my personal devotions I am drawn to the recurrent theme of God’s reign, God’s will, and God’s justice vs. humanity’s, especially my own.  In discussing these topics with my husband, we have decided to try and focus this year on God’s justice and how it fits into his will and reign.  I’ve been meditating on the theme of justice.

When I read Micah 4 this morning, my heart wept for the wars breaking out on the Gaza strip, Russia and Ukraine, and other conflicts between races.  I’ve often heard people say that we are progressive, we’ve reached a time without racism.  I disagree.  We silently judge individuals who don’t agree with us all the time.  Our ideals are comfortable with our worldview.  Anyone we see as threatening our beliefs we cast aside or mock rather than choosing to be challenged and grow.  I regret to say I’ve done this more often than I should.  Part of my desire for this year’s “resolution” (I’ll pray more for the lasting transformation) is to stop judging others and exerting my “justice” in situations and letting God’s judgment reign supreme.

It is much more difficult to act according to Christian love than it is to wish it exercised within a human will.   However, the more I walk in pursuit of Christ, the more I will learn what it means to walk in Christ’s ways, to be taught by him rather than flesh.  When I let God settle disputes, rather than futilely defending my positions, I’ll begin to experience peace in my own relationships.  I will no longer attempt to impose my will or expression of faith on my neighbor when I trade my judgement for God’s in a situation.

When we choose to reside under our fig tree, bearing fruit through unconditional love rather than decaying with the fertilizer of self-espoused manure, we will experience peace.  It is when we stop exerting our justice and allow room for God’s judgement that we will see nations united, not divided.  It is my prayer that we would see world peace.  Peace must begin with our individual resolve however.  We must choose to let God’s love rule in our sphere of influence and in doing so we will see significant ripples.  God’s people will begin to experience unification when we choose to let Christ judge us and others, when we stop using our tongues for slander and division and instead choose to worship God and live in a loving, even though challenging, community.

FYI:  I am not entirely certain what God’s judgment looks like or how it will play out in my relationships.  As I study the Scriptures more this year, with the emphasis being on God’s justice vs. man’s, I believe I’ll gain a greater understanding on his justice.  I am certain though that as we let him judge there will be a peace in relationships and in humanity.