Saturday, May 30, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider Your Calling

Part 5 in a series

Part 1  Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

We’ve been following Richard Baxter’s line of thinking in “Directions for Hating Sin.”  Written centuries ago, these words will never lose their relevance. 

{{Potd/2007-09-01 (en)}}

Image via Wikipedia













Today we consider his fifth “direction.”

Think what the soul of man is made for, and should be used to, even to love, obey, and glorify our Maker; and then you will see what sin is, which disables and perverts it. How excellent, and high, and holy a work are we created for and called to! And should we defile the temple of God? And serve the devil in filthiness and folly, when we should receive, and serve, and magnify our Creator?

What is worth devoting your life to?  What is worth suffering for?  Dying for?

There’s more than one way to give your life for something.  You can do it all at once…like throwing yourself in front of a train to push a child off the tracks.  Or you can do it slowly…by the consistent giving of seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, a lifetime.

If you are a believer, you are called with the highest possible calling; that of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and glorifying Him with your life.  The nobility of your calling lies in the fact that it calls no attention to itself, but to the One being adored.

I like the image of “Knighting” in the picture above.  I like the humility of the kneeling man, the dignity of the ceremony, the honor bestowed.  But of course it pales in comparison to the bestowment of crowns which awaits the Humble Faithful in Heaven.  And of course the man on his knees in the picture probably earned his knighthood through brave and valiant deeds.

Yet you and I were saved through no merit of our own.  But we were purchased with the price of infinite worth, the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18), not in order to continue in our futile ways, but rather to walk in the Light just as Christ is in the Light (1 John 1:7).  We are called to be pure, and holy, and beloved children of the King of Kings (Col. 3:12).  We are called to live the kind of life of goodness which, by its shining, hushes the raving madness of sinful men (1 Pet. 2:15)  Like the knight, we are called to conquest…but not over other people.  We are called to a life of victory over sin and over the wicked world system that tries to woo us away from God (1 John 5:4).

Will we turn traitor?

Spurgeon says it better than I can:

Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity. Remember, O Christian, that thou art a son of the King of kings. Therefore, keep thyself unspotted from the world. Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in His beauty—let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets—let not those hearts be filled with pride and bitterness which are ere long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

Brothers and sisters, consider your calling, and hate the sin that would keep you from it!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, May 15, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider God’s Goodness

Part 4 in a series

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

sunburst over terrace houses by CragPJ

Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God, and think what he has done for you; and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it. It is an aggravation which makes sin odious even to common reason and ingenuity, that we should offend a God of infinite goodness, who has filled up our lives with mercy. It will grieve you if you have wronged an extraordinary friend: his love and kindness will come into your thoughts, and make you angry with your own unkindness. Here look over the catalogue of God’s mercies to you, for soul and body. And here observe that Satan, in hiding the love of God from you, and tempting you under the pretence of humility to deny his greatest, special mercy, seeks to destroy your repentance and humiliation, also, by hiding the greatest aggravation of your sin. ~From Richard Baxter (1615-1691), "Directions for Hating Sin."

I had to go look up the word “aggravation” to try to understand how it was used in the quote above. One of its meanings is, “Action that makes a problem or a disease (or its symptoms) worse.” So what Baxter is pointing out is something we all instinctively know…it’s bad for a dog to bite, but it’s worse for him to bite the hand that feeds him. It’s bad to sin no matter what, but it’s worse to sin against purity, innocence, and goodness. The goodness of God makes our sinfulness against Him even worse.

But what if we don’t understand the goodness of the one we’re sinning against?

As I’ve been trying to point out in previous posts, we have to re-think our ideas of purity, innocence, and goodness. In our modern culture, we associate innocence with naiveté. We think of sensitivity as weakness, and paint our heroes with the brush of callousness towards sin. We admire the “hard-bitten” fellows who’ve been around the block a few times. Innocence and purity are nice things for children, but in adults they’re an aberration, freakish and out-of-touch.

We don’t call moral filth “dirty” anymore. We just call it “adult entertainment.” By implication then, those of us who don’t consume filth are childish, inferior, and stunted in our development. In our culture, a call to innocence and purity is a call to regression. It insults the pride of those who think that sin is sophistication.

And so we have ceased to honor the purity and innocence of our Lord. He is viewed as obsolete, and his followers as childish, timid “do-gooders” who can’t cope with the realities that mature adults can handle with ease.

Why do we see it that way?

Because it’s true that, among sinful creatures like ourselves, innocence only accompanies infancy. The longer we live, the more our “eyes are opened” to sin. The kind of innocence we’re familiar with is the kind which cannot survive “hard knocks” in the “real world.”

That’s why, as far as many people are concerned, if God is still innocent, then He is a naive inferior; one whom our culture is tired of humoring. Let Him go entertain Himself with His baby toys if that’s what makes Him happy, but He’d better leave the rest of us alone to enjoy the perks of our adulthood.

And if that’s how we view “innocence” and “purity” in our culture, then how do we view “goodness?” Quite simply, we view it by how it affects us or reflects on us. And we attach the word “goodness” to actions more than to people. Therefore we conclude that it does not matter if our politicians exhibit a degraded moral character, as long as we approve of the laws they pass. We reject moral absolutes, excusing even the grossest perversion by saying, “Whom does it hurt?” Goodness matters only if we, or someone we care about, are the ones adversely affected by its absence. “Too much” goodness is viewed with the same condescension that is aimed toward innocence.

As a culture, we’re proud of our sin. And yet to us, a voice 300 years dead says, “Know and consider the wonderful love and mercy of God, and think what he has done for you; and you will hate sin, and be ashamed of it.”

I hope to God that we have not come so far in our degradation that we’re past feeling such an appeal. Perhaps we could feel the force of those words more strongly if we had clearer thoughts of what God’s attributes really are.

His innocence and purity are not naiveté. He sees the horror of sin far more clearly than you and I can. His innocence exists because, despite all of history’s insults towards Him, all of the evil which has infected and perverted His creation, even all of the temptations which He faced when He wore human flesh, he still remains powerfully uncompromising. There is no darkness in Him. He remains, and always will remain, unutterably Holy.

Humanity’s “eyes were opened” in Eden when we believed the lie and ate of the forbidden fruit. But our eyes were opened only to see how life appears when viewed by warped, depraved souls. Sin is like a psychedelic drug. It enables people to see distortions we could not see before, but it also blinds us to truth, renders us useless, and at the same time convinces us that we’ve entered a higher plane.

When humans “lose our innocence,” it is not because we have seen sin, but because when we are exposed to sin, we feel the dormant sin in our own hearts stirring to life. We are drawn, even by that which horrifies us. We are deceived and lured toward our own destruction. We’ve discovered the part of ourselves that falls for the lie every time. And we tend to congratulate ourselves for making this discovery. We’re not children anymore!

God is undeceived. His goodness, purity, and innocence are not things which shrink away from evil with a horrified shudder, crying “I can’t handle it!” He is not somehow our inferior. Instead, because of His goodness and innocence, he destroys evil with unquenchable fire.

Yes, mercy is part of God’s goodness, and it’s flowing right now with unfathomable generosity. But justice is also a vital part of goodness, and the day is coming when justice will decisively act against sin. Justice and mercy are but two sides of the same “coin” of God’s goodness, and to reject one side is to reject both.

God’s goodness offers merciful forgiveness to sinners now, and God’s goodness will one day withdraw that offer from those who reject it, and will render the goodness of retributive justice in its place. Will you be one who received His mercy by repenting of sin and turning to Him as your life, your joy, your all? Or will you be one who treasured your sinful “sophistication” and despised His goodness?

It will depend on your view of sin, and your view of His goodness. I pray that, in considering His goodness, you will find yourself hating the sin that would separate you from His kindness and mercy.

Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Rom 2:4 (HCSB)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider the Holy Spirit

Part 3 in a series

Part 1   Part 2  

Flying by Liesie  

Think well both how holy the office and work of the Holy Ghost is, and how great a mercy it is to us. Shall God himself, the heavenly light, come down into a sinful heart, to illuminate and purify it? And yet shall I keep my darkness and defilement, in opposition to such wonderful mercy? Though all sin against the Holy Ghost be not the unpardonable blasphemy, yet all is aggravated hereby.  (From “Directions for Hating Sin” by Richard Baxter, 1615-1691)

The dead cannot see beauty.  They can’t hear anyone calling to them.  They can’t give themselves life, raise themselves up, or in any way rescue themselves from their decaying condition.

But for some, light dawns.  It is a gift, precious beyond words, beyond measure.  Completely undeserved.  The rotting heart revives; coldness becomes vibrantly warm; life draws breath, steps out of the tomb, and beholds creation with awe.

What is this death from which we are delivered?  It is the condition of lost sinfulness.  How is anyone raised back to life?  God revives us by placing His Holy Spirit within us, purely by His grace which we did not and could not earn.

And yet, sometimes each and every revived person walks back into the tomb to play in putrefaction.  To luxuriate in the very sin we’ve been saved from.  It’s familiar, it’s comfortable (if we dull our senses enough to ignore the stench), and it offers some short-term pleasure for those times when God doesn’t seem to be coming through for us.

You know what I’m talking about.  But I’m not going to give you the usual argument here.  You know, the one that says, “Hey, look around you!  You deserve better than this tomb!  Wake up and get back out of there!  You’re too good for this place!” 

There may be a time and place for such a plea, but not here.  Not now.  For one thing, we don’t deserve better than the tomb.  It’s exactly where we were when God found us, and we fit right in there.  It’s pure grace, not our “deserving,” which has brought us out.  Secondly, “you deserve better” is a man-centered plea, and this is a God-centered blog.

What does God deserve?  What about His Holy Spirit within us, the One we are insulting when we ignore Him for the siren-song of evil?  Are we going to roll like dogs in the smelly stuff with Him in our hearts?

Don’t misunderstand me here.  I’m not inviting you to think of the Holy Spirit as a hyper-sensitive weakling who can’t handle the stench as well as you can.  Having the Holy Spirit in you isn’t like having a 6-year-old who needs to be sheltered from the scary movie you’re watching.  The Spirit can handle it, all right.  He found you there, remember?  He is working in the tombs even as we speak, seeing the horrors of corrupted souls far more clearly than you or I ever could, and working miracles of regenerating love.

So if I can’t appeal to anyone on the basis of man-centered interests, and I can’t appeal to a perceived need to somehow shelter the Spirit from the reality of sin, then how can I appeal to anyone to hate sin by considering the Holy Spirit?

The answer revolves around who the Spirit is.  He is called both the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ,” which makes perfect sense, since God and Christ are One.  Of course Father and Son have the same Spirit.  Everything you find to be true of the Father’s character, and true of the Son’s character, is also true of the Spirit.  All of the holiness.  All of the power.  All of the love.  All of the hatred for sin.  All of it.

If you and I think we would act differently “if Jesus were right here in the same room,” then we don’t get it.  He’s sees everything, everywhere.  And if we are believers, He is within us.

Why should that make us hate sin?  Because sin opposes God, exalts itself against God, spits in God’s face, and hates Him. 

Can we love such an enemy?

Sin also works against every good thing that the Spirit tries to do in our lives.  It blinds us to His blessings, deafens us to His voice, deadens us to the sense of His presence.

Will we love the one who does that to us? 

Sadly, sometimes we will.  Our remaining sinfulness is dark beyond words.  But I have one more appeal here.  One more call to hate sin because of the Spirit in us.

When we sin willfully, we don’t simply break fellowship with God.  We join in open revolt against Him.  We declare our allegiance, however temporarily, with the enemy.  We become weapons in the enemy’s hands, discrediting God in both the visible and invisible realms. 

People can only see what is visible about us.  They draw inferences about the rest.  And what inferences will they draw when an avowed Christian lies, or steals, or commits adultery, or does any of a thousand other deliberate, evil things?

Won’t they infer that the Spirit makes no difference in us?  Won’t they infer that He matters less to us than whatever pleasure or reward lured us away from Him?  Won’t they laugh at the very idea of a Holy Spirit who lives in us?  Won’t they blaspheme because of us?  Does the Spirit within us deserve this?

And what of the unseen realms?  Holy angels and fallen ones see our choices as well.  Will we mock God before such awesome witnesses?

The fact is that our fallenness makes us deceivable.  Sin has the power to trick us, allure us, trap us into doing things we never wanted to do in finer moments.  It persuades us to spurn our Lover even as He faithfully shines light into our once-blind hearts, and breathes life into our once-dead souls.

If we can hate the sins of those who are disloyal to us, or to what we value, how much more should we hate anything that can make us commit treason against our Lord?

Father, help us to honor and treasure your Holy Spirit within us, and to do nothing to grieve or quench Him!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Hate Sin, Consider Christ!

Part 2 of a Series

(Part 1)

Ecce homo cropped

From “Directions for Hating Sin” by Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

“Consider well of the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ. His office is to expiate sin, and to destroy it. His blood was shed for it: his life condemned it. Love Christ, and you will hate that which caused his death. Love him, and you will love to be made like him, and hate that which is so contrary to Christ. These two great lights will show the odiousness of darkness.”

How should we think of Christ, if such thoughts are to encourage us to hate sin?

Let me tell you how I DON’T think we should think of Him. Years ago, at a church I used to attend, I occasionally heard a song which made me inwardly shudder. It seemed to portray Christ as a pitiful, emotionally needy sap who would be just cwushed if we wejected him. I’m sorry to write it that way, but that’s how it felt to me. The song seemed to want to make the listeners feel guilty in the same way that they ought to feel guilty if they left a helpless old lady stranded in the middle of a highway. Coming to Christ seemed to mean sidling up to an emotional cripple, patting him on the back, and saying, “It’s okay, I believe in you,” just to prop him up so he could stand on his own while you went back about the business of your day. The song told us to look at His teary eyes and asked us, in essence, if there was any way we could bring ourselves to hurt His feelings any more.

Now, to give the songwriter credit (I have no idea who that was), that “wimpy Christ” may not be at all what they had in mind when they wrote it. But I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who heard it that way. And if not that song, then surely there are other ways in which this kind of appeal has rung out. I suppose it may just be a quirk in how I hear things. But in case anyone else has ever thought of Christ that way, let’s set the record straight…

Jesus was the strongest man who ever lived on this earth. He is still the owner of omnipotence today, and will be forever. And as strong as He had to be to earn the label “omnipotent,” how much stronger did He have to be to rein in his power in humble tenderness, refusing to exercise it for selfish reasons, even to escape Calvary? How strong did He have to be to face the ultimate agony…separation from the Father with whom He had been one for all of eternity…and to do it willingly for undeserving sinners like us?

This is no emotionally needy wimp. Forget the effeminate paintings you’ve seen of Him.

He may be Love (1 John 4:8), but He is not Need. Make no mistake, He does not need us…we need Him (Ps. 50:12-15).

He is the ultimate war hero, the champion before whom all others must bow, the victor whose decisive win silences his enemies eternally. Far from sobbing in heartbreak over their fate, He will be presiding over it (Matt. 7:21-23, Matt. 25:41).

Does this make Him heartless? Not at all. There is no injustice in Him (Deut. 32:4). The greatest injustice ever perpetrated is puny humanity’s rejection of Perfection in favor of the horror and filth of sin. Someday that will all be set straight by the Mighty One. And the amazing thing is, He will have saved many! Every one of them completely undeserving!

Consider Jesus, this Mighty One; undefeated, unconquerable, omnipotent, self-sacrificing, powerful in love for all that is holy, and equally powerful in His hatred for sin. His worth is unmatched, His compassion is unfathomable, His judgment is righteous, His love is inexhaustible, His holiness is absolute, His victory is complete, His wisdom is unsearchable. He can do whatever He wants to do, independently of any obligation to anyone higher (for there is no one higher). And what He chose to do was to conquer the sin that He hated so much.

There are people whose opinions you respect. Movie critics, perhaps, who help you decide what to see. Politicians who sway you to their point of view. Maybe family members or spiritual leaders who guide your thinking.

Who guides your thinking about sin? Who is qualified to tell you just how bad it is? Who influences your feelings about it?

Have you ever thought about the fact that God could have destroyed sin and Satan with a single word, and yet He chose the way of Calvary instead? Why would He do that? What did He want to display to us when He took on sin in this manner?

If the matchless Jesus hated sin enough to go to such extremes as becoming human, suffering physical and emotional torment, and dying to defeat it, how much should we also hate it? After all, we are the ones who were enslaved by it, and were condemned because of it!

Father, help us to consider Jesus and learn from Him how we should think and feel about sin. Please forgive us for all the times we have made light of it, celebrated it, laughed about it, invited it into our homes, wallowed in it. Wake us up, O Lord, from our complacency, and give us a holy fire that burns within!

Loading image

Click anywhere to cancel

Image unavailable

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Hate Sin, Strive to Know God!

Richard Baxter

Image via Wikipedia

(Part 1 of a series)

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) was an English Puritan church leader and theologian who has some very powerful counsel for us today, more than 300 years after his death.  I recently began reading his “Directions for Hating Sin,” and decided that this needed to become a blog series.


  1. Because the fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov 8:13), and those who love the Lord are to hate it as well (Ps. 97:10).  (See how fearing the Lord and loving Him go hand-in-glove?  They are anything but opposites!  But that’s another topic.)
  2. Because we live in a culture that hates righteousness and celebrates evil to the hilt.  And, unlike Baxter, we have countless high-tech ways in which evil can come into our homes in the guise of entertainment.  If we’re not careful and deliberate about hating sin, we’ll end up loving it.  (As I once read, in the upstream battle of the Christian life, you don’t have to turn your boat around and row away from God in order to distance yourself from Him.  You only have to quit rowing, or even settle for half-hearted rowing, and the current will do the distancing for you.)

Of course Baxter wrote in 17th-Century English, but if you dislike his style, please just read on anyway.  I’ll have plenty to say in my 21st -Century way afterwards.  But please DO make the effort to read his words even if they don’t appeal to you right away.  They’re worth it.  (Wherever you see words emphasized, that was added by me.)

Directions for Hating Sin 

Direct. I. Labour to know God, and to be affected with his attributes, and always to live as in his sight.  No man can know sin perfectly, because no man can know God perfectly. You can no further know what sin is than you know what God is, whom you sin against; for the formal malignity of sin is relative, as it is against the will and attributes of God. The godly have some knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have some knowledge of God that is wronged by it. The wicked have no practical, prevalent knowledge of the malignity of sin, because they have no such knowledge of God. They that fear God will fear sinning; they that in their hearts are bold irreverently with God, will, in heart and life, be bold with sin: the atheist, who thinks there is no God thinks there is no sin against him. Nothing in world will tell us so plainly and powerfully of the evil of sin, as the knowledge of the greatness, wisdom goodness, holiness, authority, justice, truth, &c. of God. The sense of his presence, therefore, will revive our sense of sin’s malignity.

So, in order to hate sin, we must first and foremost be striving to know (and love) God.  This is such an important point!  It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, and it’s true of our souls as well.  We will not give up something we love unless we have something better to put in its place.  Those of us who focus on fighting our own sins too much, at the cost of neglecting the love of God, will fail every time.  Yes, we must struggle against sin at times, but as long as it remains our highest love, we’re doomed. 

Those who are unsaved, who do not have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling inside of them, are incapable of loving the one true God.  They can easily love a god of their own choosing, but not the Holy One they need to know for eternal life. 

Salvation is a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit which, among other things, awakens our souls to desire God, to hunger and thirst for Him, to value Him as never before.  If you have never known this kind of work of the Spirit, if your “salvation experience” has been merely an external act, or a mental decision, with no Spiritual life given, then all this talk of “hating sin” will hit you in one of two very different ways that I can think of:

  1. You’ll think it sounds ridiculous.  You love sin, and you love loving sin.  Salvation, as far as you’re concerned, is just a “Get out of jail free” card.  Why would you want to give up the good stuff to settle for Christ?  You are lost, you are an enemy of Christ, you are on the broad path that leads to destruction if this is your view.  You cannot love sin and be devoted to it and value it above Christ, and still be anything but His enemy (Col. 1:21 a).  To value sin above Christ is to insult Him in the worst possible way.  Repent and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, worthy of your devotion, and ask Him to enable you to do so.  Your eternal soul depends on it.  (Note: The true Christian will also struggle with a residual love for certain sins, but will hate that fact, and will know deep in his heart that Christ is far more worthy of his love than sin is.  He will repent and keep growing in love for the Lord.  Such a person is not lost, and he’s not the person I’m referring to here in point 1.)   
  2. You’ll feel a hunger, a yearning to understand.  You’ll sense the emptiness in yourself and in what has passed for religion so far in your life.  You may love sin, but you are beginning to see the foolishness of your ways.  You’re beginning to want to hate it.  Or, you may hate sin already, but may feel trapped in it.  If so, then the Holy Spirit is clearly working on your heart.  Praise God, and keep seeking Him in His Word, by His Spirit!

I love Baxter’s words, “You can no further know what sin is than you know what God is, whom you sin against; for the formal malignity of sin is relative, as it is against the will and attributes of God.”  He is saying that, just as you can’t know what darkness is if you’ve never seen light, so you can’t know what sin is if you’ve never seen God’s holiness.  God has put a certain amount of knowledge of Himself in every heart, which is why we have a conscience and why we’re without excuse when we sin (Romans 1:18 and following).  But the more we know of God, the more we’ll see just how evil and ugly sin really is.

Are you pursuing the knowledge and love of God?  Do you read the Bible as a man-centered book, or as a God-centered one?  Do you merely look to the text for instruction and guidance for your behavior?  Of course you must do that, but is that all it’s for?  Or is the text there to show us who God is? 

As I’ve said before, and as Del Tackett so clearly points out in The Truth Project, God didn’t flip a coin to decide whether stealing, murder, or adultery should be considered right or wrong. Things are right or wrong based on their conformity with God’s own nature, with His character. Lying, stealing, etc are wrong because they are opposed to the very character of God. That’s why Jesus could say, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If you love Me, you’ll want to be like Me. You’ll take your cues from Me. You’ll want to do what I do.

Do you want to hate sin more?  Do I?  If so, we must focus first and foremost on knowing and loving God.  If we miss that, then all the following points in future entries will lead us into legalism and bondage.  But knowing Christ, who is the Truth, will set us free (John 14:6, John 8:32)!

Dear Lord, please touch every heart that reads this.  Please soften the hardened hearts which scoff at the thought of hating sin.  Please woo the softening hearts which are beginning to hear Your call.  Please establish the saved-but-weak hearts which still cling to some unworthy things.  Grant us a wholehearted love for you which will reveal sin’s true ugliness.  We will thank You and praise You for it eternally!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, May 11, 2009

More Thoughts on “Enough.”

Mountain by Meags

Maybe it’s a good thing to remember that  hindsight is 20/20.

When I wrote about “enough,” I said:

If I had taken my eyes off of myself more, and had loved my family more by His Spirit, I might still have exhausted myself physically, but my soul would have been refreshed by the giving.

What’s more, my family might have seen less of me and more of Christ.  As it was, I’m sure they saw me…my fatigue, my overwhelmedness, my frustration at my own inadequacy.  But what if I had been less interested in what I had, and more in what I had to give?

But of course it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you misunderstand the phrase “had to” in that last sentence.

“Had to give” can mean “was obligated to give.”  It can be a demanding, oppressive, harsh phrase, especially if you’re already feeling burdened.

Or “Had to give” can mean “had at my disposal, had available for my use, had in store for giving.”  What a refreshing difference!

Unfortunately, my heart feels the former meaning, the obligation, much more strongly than it feels the availability

I guess that’s where faith comes in.  Because God has promised that we will have an abundance (2 Co 9:8)…not for our own selfish gain, but for good works in His Name, on behalf of others.

I tend to misunderstand the idea of “faith” in situations like these.  It’s easy to think that “faith” means giving yourself a pep talk and convincing yourself that you see something you don’t really see, or feel something you don’t really feel.  But of course that’s not faith at all.  Faith doesn’t rely on sight (2 Co 5:7), but believes God’s promises even when they are unseen (Heb. 11:1).

How do I do that, practically speaking?

I think perhaps it’s time for me to remember that proverbial 20/20 hindsight.  Because I’m beginning to suspect that “enough” can’t be seen through life’s windshield.  It can only be seen in the rear-view mirror.

What if faith keeps doing, keeps giving, keeps plodding, keeps hoping, keeps dreaming, keeps loving, not because of what it feels it can do, but because it believes that, at the end of the day, it will look back and see that God had supplied enough?

When God commanded the priests to step into the Red Sea and part the waters, did they set up a committee to determine how it would be done?  Did they take stock of their abilities to determine if they “had what it took” to make millions of gallons of water get out of their way?  Or did they just step out in faithful obedience?

At the end of that day, what did they see in the rear-view mirror?  Would they have ever seen it, if they had waited for feelings, or for their own adequacy to arise to the occasion?

How much of God’s provision have I missed seeing because I never had enough faith to put my feet in the water?

We are not to look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (2 Co 4:18).  And if our faith does not rise high enough to “see” how God is going to enable us to get through the day, then that’s okay.  But we can and must let our faith rise high enough to see Christ Himself, the One who gives us strength to match our days (Deut 33:25) and enables us to do all things (Php. 4:13), even if we cannot see His provision.  We don’t need to see the “how.”  We just need to see the “Who.”  Let the “Who” take care of the “How.”

Don’t take stock of your resources at the beginning of the day, but rather at the end.  And if that sounds to you like a contradiction to Luke 14:28-30, then let me remind you of what we learned before about counting the cost.  In that parable, Jesus does not call us to take stock of our own resources, but to abandon our faith in ourselves, and to make sure we’re drawing from His resources.  Then we will always have enough.  (If you don’t know what I mean by that, please click on the previous “counting the cost” link.)

So I say it again:  Don’t take stock of your resources at the beginning of the day, but rather at the end.  The thing to do at the beginning of the day, and during every weary moment of today’s allotted tasks, is to take stock of where your resources come from.  If you’re walking by your own light and drawing from your own well, look out (Isa. 50:11, Jer. 2:13)!  But if you are drawing from His treasury, then you can go on in the confidence of His riches and His faithful supply, whether you can feel His help or not. 

When you look back at the end of the day, you will not see that you were perfect, or that everything worked out exactly as you hoped.  But if you were leaning on Him instead of yourself, you will see that He provided enough for you to give to the need of the moment.  Enough for you to fulfill His plans, even if they differed from yours.

His enough

is enough!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Hand’s Breadth of Time

As I’ve mentioned before, my precious grandmother died at the same exact time that her first great-great grandchild was being born.  I was at my grandmother’s bedside as she took her final breaths, and then I made the mad rush to another hospital for my great-nephew’s arrival, only to learn that we couldn’t see him yet.  They had had trouble getting him to breathe at first, and now they didn’t want a lot of visitors.  (Don’t worry, he’s just fine.)

This all happened in 1997, and yet it’s still fresh in my mind.  You can imagine that such a day would be hard to forget!  (The blown-out tire that we experienced on the interstate on the way home from the hospital didn’t help, either!)

Anyway, that day didn’t come directly to mind for me when I saw the topic for a recent FaithWriter’s Weekly Challenge.  But after I sat back and read what I wrote for that challenge, I knew that I had written about the day Nana went Home and Sheldon was born.  The topic was “Beginning and End,” and here’s what I wrote for it.  (No, it didn’t win or get honorable mention or anything like that in the contest.  Oh well.)


A Hand’s Breadth of Time

baby hand 5 by demordian

So tiny
Curled into themselves,
Washed clean of all the mortal gore of birth.
Ripe with potential unknown.
Miracles, really
Knit together in secret
Muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, skin
Perfectly engineered for a lifetime of service.

You don't know how to use them yet.
When they move before your eyes,
You don't even know they're yours.

When you figure it out, and find out what those hands can do, you'll be amazed!

Use them well, Little One. Use them well.


So tiny
Shrunken, melted with age,
Washed clean of the grime of your dying days.
Innocent? No. But good. Very good.
Potential? Gone...but not wasted. Well spent.
Miracles, really.
Ordinary, everyday miracles of love with skin on it.
God touched me with your hands,
And yet you probably didn't even know it.

When you step into glory, and realize all that those hands of yours have done, you'll be amazed!

You used them well, Dear One. Let them rest.

Grandmom Hand by Aapiej

Saturday, May 9, 2009


I hate feeling inadequate.  Empty by Alifarid

Unfortunately, I get to  feel that way pretty often.  Life is hard, you know.  Some of us regularly find that we’re not up to its challenges.

I can’t be enough!

I read verses like 2 Co. 9:8, and I find myself wondering when those superlatives are going to show up at my door. 

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Where is that sufficiency when I need it?

Tonight I read a wonderful devotional by Karen Hossink at the Internet Cafe.   The words that touched me most were these (based on the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand in Mark 6:30-44):

Jesus takes me into His hands, breaks me, and makes me enough.
Enough of a mother.
Enough of a wife.
Enough of a friend.
Enough of a sister.
Enough of a daughter.

I didn’t feel even close to “enough” today.  I felt pretty overwhelmed, to be honest.  Soul-fatigue drained me, robbed me of my smile, made my heart feel like lead.

I had been able to feel Jesus “knocking” sometimes, but my responses had been lackluster at best.  And yet, now that the kids are in bed, and all is finally quiet, and the laundry is done at last, and I’ve worked so hard to accomplish so little, and I’ve stopped beating my head against the wall because I’ve decided that 10pm is too late to try to tackle any more of the items on my largely undone “To-do” list…

Now that I’ve got a few moments when I can actually focus, I’m so glad to feel my heart turning more towards my Lord again. 

Better late than never.

Oh Father, help me!  Where is that promised “enough?”

And His answer comes back quietly, “Enough for whom?”

I feel the meaning behind the words, and it stops me in my tracks.

Who do you want to be enough for?

Suddenly I’m in one of those moments when the Lord puts a mirror in front of my soul, and I’m allowed to see something I never saw before.

I want to be enough for myself!  I want to feel adequate, and strong, and competent.  I admire such traits, and I want to see them in the mirror.

But that’s not what my Father wants for me.

He doesn’t want me to be enough, He wants me to have enough!

Enough of what?  And for whom?

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
2Co 9:8

He does not give me “enough” in myself so that I can admire myself and be admired by others.  He gives me enough of Himself so that I can give to others.

Do I want to be enough for myself, or do I want to have enough for my family?  The focus is so incredibly different, isn’t it?

When each new demand came, did I seek to love the one who demanded, or did I focus on my own scanty resources?  When each new conflict arose, did I seek to draw the combatants to Christ out of love for them, or did I seek to shut them up so that I could feel like I’d “handled” one more thing and eliminated some more ugliness from my world?

If I had taken my eyes off of myself more, and had loved my family more by His Spirit, I might still have exhausted myself physically, but my soul would have been refreshed by the giving.

What’s more, my family might have seen less of me and more of Christ.  As it was, I’m sure they saw me…my fatigue, my overwhelmedness, my frustration at my own inadequacy.  But what if I had been less interested in what I had, and more in what I had to give?

Jesus would have given through me.  And perhaps, if Grace opened their eyes, my family would have seen Him in the giving.

I want that.  Because no one will benefit eternally by admiring me, or loving or trusting me.  People can perish forever while thinking very highly of me.

I want them to admire Jesus, to love Him, to trust Him.

Dear Father, take my eyes off of myself!  Remove my prideful desire to be enough, and grant me the humility to want to have enough from You so that I can serve others for Your glory.  Help me to love others unselfishly!

And dear Lord, please do not give me any sufficiency that I could call my own.  Instead, please be my sufficiency, and give me Yourself!

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

End Times Fatalism


Image by LuvataciousSkull via Flickr

I belong to a number of online Christian groups.  Someone recently posted an opinion on one of them, saying that people shouldn’t believe that the world is getting worse.  People should believe that the world is getting better, since the Bible ends optimistically.  He said that “end-times thinking” made people into fatalists who did not work for the kingdom.  I got the impression that he wanted Christians to stop looking at the foreboding “signs of the times” altogether.

Since I am quite tuned in to world events and how they fit with Bible prophecy, I had a few words to say on the subject, and I’ve expanded on them below.  I’d be interested to hear how others feel about this as well.  (Note:  I’m not asking for a debate about various eschatological views.  My point is whether or not we should be thinking about the end times and observing the signs at all.)


The world is getting worse, and will continue to do so, until God steps in decisively and ushers in His kingdom.

Once He does that, of course everything will be incredibly better!  But humanity will not bring in the kingdom.  Humanity is marching lockstep towards all of the horrors of the book of Revelation which occur BEFORE God brings His kingdom to earth.

The problem is NOT that Christians recognize end-times events.  The problem is what Christians do with the knowledge they have.  Those who know that the end is rapidly approaching should be busy trying to win souls and fulfill whatever work God has given them to do.  That's what Jesus did (John 17:4), even though He knew that Calvary was inevitably coming.  He didn't sit in a corner and say, "Oh well, the end is coming, so I'll just pack my bags and wait for it."  He went about doing good, preaching the kingdom, and saving souls (Acts 10:38).

The Bible pronounces a blessing on those who "keep the words" of the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:3), and rebukes those who do not recognize the signs of the times (Matt. 16:3).  So we do not dare bury our heads in the sand about what is happening around us.  But you are right that too many people have become fatalists.  They forget that Jesus was no fatalist about the approach of His own personal apocalypse (Calvary).  Instead, He said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work (John 9:4)."

If we are followers of Christ, we must walk as He walked.  We must work all the harder as we see the night approaching, knowing that Judgment Day follows, and people need to be ready (Heb. 10:25)!

One of the scariest things Jesus ever said is, “Out of your own mouth I will judge you” (Luke 19:22).  At least, it’s scary to me as a writer and generally wordy person.  It’s oh-so-much easier to say things than to do them!

How am I doing?  Is my end-times fascination influencing me to try to reach others more faithfully?  (That’s a rhetorical question.  I’m not asking for an answer.) 

It’s easy to hide behind my blog and say, “I’m really trying to reach people by what I write.”  That’s true, of course, and I’m not looking down on this ministry at all.  But I don’t think that God intended me to ignore the people around me…neighbors, store clerks, strangers on the street.  I’m not doing anything for their eternal souls, am I?

And yet, apart from having the Spirit move me toward a particular person (which He has done on rare occasions), how do I know who to talk to?  I’m not a street-corner evangelist.  Some (like Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort) are called to that sort of ministry, and I thank God for them.  But it’s not my calling.

Talk to me, readers.  Do you just “cold-call” people with the Gospel?  Hand out tracts?  Wait for the Spirit’s urging toward a particular person? 

How do you share Christ with people outside of the Internet?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin