Sunday, January 29, 2012

Job's Friends and All Your Sin

Reading along in my  One Year Chronological Bible, I came upon these words spoken by Zophar to Job, “Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin" (Job 11:6).

That is a perfect example why the phrase “acting like Job’s friends” refers to someone who offers misguided and often hurtful advice to a suffering person. As my mother used to say, his friends added insult to injury.

“Forgotten…some of your sin.” Imagine the lack of consolation Zophar brought to Job. 

If God only forgot and forgave some of our sin, which ones would they be? The ones from ten years ago or today? Maybe only the little ones, but not the big ones. Or perhaps we could negotiate over a list of sins. 

Over a thousand years after Job lived, David, rebuked by Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba, pleads with God for mercy and forgiveness and then writes these words, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins…” (Psalm 103:1-3).

All, not some or a few. David knew after his repentence that God had dealt with the totality of his sin.

John, the son of Zebedee wrote in the first century, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (I John 1:7).

One of the biggest lies the enemy ever perpetrates is that God can deal with only SOME of our sin. But John writes that Jesus came to cleanse us of ALL sin.

For a time, before I surrendered my life to the Lord many years ago, the enemy tried to persuade me that my sin was too great, that God could not forgive me. These thoughts tormented me, but one night I told the Lord I didn’t know if he could forgive me or not (I knew so little of God at that time), but if he could, my life was his. And you know what?

He did. 

Later in Psalm 103, David says, “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

And Paul in his letter to the Hebrews refers to words also found in Jeremiah 31, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).

I'm so thankful that today I can say along with Job (19:25), “I know that my Redeemer lives…” He has forgiven and forgotten all my sin.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Friend, Dolly, and a LOT of Boxes

My friend Dolly, who encouraged me to work on increasing the number of Samaritan Purse Shoeboxes I donate every year, has dropped by for a guest post with some specifics on how she stretches her dollar to increase her number of boxes. Hopefully she’ll inspire you to do the same.

It's Christmas shoebox time again. Not at the Billy Graham center, but in my garage. I started collecting for Christmas 2012 last Black Friday with 25-cent boxes of crayons at Office Max. Then came the post-holiday sales--bells, kaleidoscopes, fancy pencils, ribbons at Dollar General--and a bonanza of 30-cent items at Michaels, Target, and Wal-Mart. 

Every post-holiday has something new to add to my stash of supplies. Plastic Easter eggs are good containers for marbles. Small stuffed animals may have Valentine hearts but that makes them cuter.

Back to school sales are a treasure trove. I've bought summer flip-flops at eight pairs for a dollar in September. After Halloween, I found bags of whistle pops for 50-cents, and the stick part really was a tiny whistle after the candy was eaten.

All year long, many Ingles grocery stores have a dollar aisle, which carries jump ropes, 5-count bouncy balls, and 8-count colorful frogs.

In the toy area, I recently discovered a delightful item--finger lights (3-count for $1). Some CVS stores have a dollar section where I've gotten 3-count packs of washcloths. Walgreens features a plastic travel pouch with toothbrush, cover, and toothpaste ($1

Dollar General offers a 50-count bag of marbles ($1) which I divide into smaller amounts and put in 8-count plastic containers ($1) I found at Family Dollar (over on the cereal aisle?). Dollar Tree carries bags of party favors--eight twirly tops or six kaleidoscopes or eight kazoos. These discount stores also have good prices on grooming items for hair and teeth. 

The thrift stores are dotted with random, interesting treasures.

Once I found a bag of 200 brand-new blue combs for $2 and a 100-count box of sparkly green pipe cleaners ($1). I'm always on the look-out for nearly new things to carry stuff in--satchels, backpacks, totes, waist packs.

Of course, all this takes time but it stretches my dollars so I can fill more boxes. The trickiest part is keeping everything organized by categories, but I'm getting better at it every time. 

I think it's going to be another good year--in my garage--for Operation Christmas Child.
"He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done"(Proverbs 19:17). 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Story and The Story

I’ve been somewhat off the grid weaving a new story, so the blog posts have been sparse.

When I sit down to write a new fictional story, I step out onto the water of not knowing what will happen on this 70,000-word journey. Fear sits at the edge of the desk and says, “No way can you finish this. You’re going to sink.” By faith, I ignore fear and type the next words. Somehow the next words, and the next. 

Fear says, “You’ll never figure out the plot.” By faith, I ignore fear, and somehow the plot seems to figure out itself. 

It’s a life of faith. Of listening. Of prayer. Of believing that, “I CAN do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

I chart the work, how many words, day after day. I labor hard, but ultimately the story unfolds incrementally in His time. 

So when the heart races and the thought nags, “There’s no way I can do this,” I know he will help me, because I’ve surrendered it all to Him.

If you’re looking for another way to immerse yourself in THE story, I’ve just found a helpful tool, The One Year Chronological Bible. The subtitle reads, “The entire text of the New International Version in 365 daily readings arranged in the order the events actually occurred.”

I love it, though I’m a little behind, because I didn’t discover it until mid-January. From the introduction: “…when you read Psalms 5 and 59 alongside 1 Samuel 18:1-20:42, you will see how David’s faith in the Lord sustained him as King Saul was threatening David’s life.” And, “When you read about King Hezekiah receiving the envoys from Babylon, you will also be able to read Isaiah’s prophecy concerning this event.” 

I’m intrigued by the concept, and look forward to the new ways in which God will use it to teach me about His word and increase my faith.

Monday, January 16, 2012

At the Table of Brotherhood

In our home schooling days, one year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we began committing to memory the King “I Have a Dream” speech. Here is a portion of what my children memorized:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.”

My great-great Grandfather owned a plantation in the Piedmont of South Carolina, so I am a descendent of a former slave owner. As I’ve gathered with our African American friends in worship through the years, in my head I’d often hear my children’s voices, “…sons of former slaves…sons of former slave owners…sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Though we have not realized all that Dr. King envisioned, much has changed because of his enduring work. For that, I give thanks.

And for what is still left undone, I pray the Apostle Paul’s words from Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When you don't know what to do next...

Sometimes the path seems a little fuzzy.

And we long for definite direction—a message in a dove’s beak or--a sign.

A few days ago in Streams in the Desert, I read an excerpt from F.B. Meyer, “Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask him to shut against you every door but the right one… In the meanwhile, continue along the path, which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else.”

Oswald Chambers says, “Do the next thing.”

So, we continue even if the road narrows to a barely discernable trail in a dense wood. We take the next step in the light we have.

It’s good to know that even if our way feels like a dead end road to nowhere, the shadow of a cross falls upon it.

Early in last century, Jessie Pounds wrote this hymn:

I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the Gates of Light,
If the way of the cross I miss. 

The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home;
It is sweet to know, as I onward go,
The way of the cross leads home.

Jesus goes before us, and his way leads home. 

Consoling words for confusing times. 

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him… “(Psalm 37:5).

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany and everything changes

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him… And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod; they returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:11-12

In the sixth century, Gregory the Great said, “The wise men teach us also a great lesson in that they went back another way into their country…. Our country is heaven, and when we have once known Jesus, we can never reach it by returning to the way, wherein we walked before knowing Him… Let us, then, depart into our own country by another way.”

An encounter with Jesus changes everything. It did for travel weary Kings. It does for us.

It changes where our journey will end. It changes the road we’ll take to reach it. It changes who we are.

When royal knees hit Judean dirt to worship a King greater than they could even imagine, wise ones experienced a defining moment. Things would be different from that day forward. These astronomers would never look up into the glittering night sky again without remembering the star that led them to the birthplace of a Savior.

As they poured out their priceless treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Him, perhaps God spoke into their hearts and they knew that these gifts were only symbols of a greater sacrifice. Maybe, even then as they gazed at the infant, they sensed that before them was a King who would give everything—his very life, but who would also ask of all who followed him full surrender. 

No, they would never be the same again.

And so it is for us just as it was for the Kings. When we meet Jesus, we can’t go back to the old road, our selfish ways. We’ll have to take a new path of submission to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of the meanings that Webster assigns to the word epiphany is “a sudden intuitive realization or perception of reality.”

On that star dazzled night so many years ago, those Kings experienced a reality check of cosmic proportions.

Thankfully, time has not eroded our opportunity to also come and kneel, to surrender to Jesus the King, to offer him the sacrifice of our lives--to experience an epiphany of our own.

May your new year be blessed with just such an epiphany.

Wise Men still seek him here.
Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols here.
Listen to Emmy Lou Harris sing "Star of Bethlehem" here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year and God's Beauty

I’ve been giving thought to a verse from Psalm 90:17, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

I’ve often prayed for the Lord to establish the work of my hands, and as we enter a new year, it’s an especially appropriate petition. 

But I also pray, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…” 

As I scanned the hundreds and hundreds of photographs on my cell phone from this year, I realize that God has continually surrounded me with beauty. That beauty helps anchor me in the present. When I stop to snap a picture, I’m honoring God for his artistry which he’s brought into my life. This has been an almost unprecedented year of heartache and struggle in our family, but it’s also been a year of joy. Much of the joy has come from pausing to clap for the wonder of all that God has created. 

Today I share a few photos from this year’s journey…just from my cell phone. Probably a thousand more taken with my other camera. I’m by no means trained as a photographer, but we don’t have to be to twirl in thanksgiving for the gifts with which he surrounds us.

May God's beauty be upon you, friends, in this new year, and may he truly establish the work of your hands. Blessings, Bev
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