Overflow: Because He has Blessed Us

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Because the Lord our God has blessed us.
Deuteronomy 12:7

I have always delighted in a weekend get-away that includes road trips, eating out, laughing with friends, singing with a bunch of saints, and bible study. I’ve been graced with many opportunities to engage in and enjoy wonderful times like this. I usually return home spiritually refreshed (though physically exhausted) and re-energized. There’s something about being together with others in an uninterrupted time of focus like a conference, that unifies us and also solidifies what we heard and learned. The most recent event like this came on the heels of a week spent with my newly born grand-daughter. So, after two amazing weeks, I was exceedingly pumped as I prepared for my re-entry into the world of routine, even as we arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a 15-hr drive home.
Worshiping with my church family at SCBC kept me alert and revived until I crashed for my afternoon nap. I made myself get up long enough to make it to our Life Group last night, and I’m always glad when I do.

But Monday. 🙂
The Monday after such an incredible few days can sometimes be a letdown. In reality, a weekend like I just had could never be sustained. Life just isn’t like that (well, mine isn’t). Getting away, eating at our favorite spots, staying in a really nice hotel, moment by moment being surrounded by thousands of women who desire to grow in the grace of Christ, and hours of singing & praying & studying God’s word … this isn’t what my norm is. Daily life is more like cooking and cleaning and laundry and planning and work (with some nice little coffee breaks sprinkled in).
And today it happens that it’s about 50° and raining … in JUNE!! While that’s great weather for napping all day, it’s not particularly great for feeling motivated and energized.

So when I awakened this morning, I had a choice. I could wallow in the dreary weather of a Monday, or I could bask in the beauty of the Lord. By God’s grace, I have chosen to remember and rehearse all the good things. I decided to fill my heart with the joy of knowing the goodness of God. Even though a weekend like I just had doesn’t represent all my days, I remain in the grip of a God who is good and faithful and true.

Every.Single.Day.

It is with that assurance that I have deliberately chosen joy.
I close my eyes and turn my thoughts to those recent sweet days of riding through God’s beautiful creation with my person. And those precious moments of holding my new grand-daughter, of reading to and playing with my grandsons, and of time spent with my daughter and son-in-love.
I smile, thinking about how my sister and I were able to steal a few minutes from our schedule to see our parents and eat lunch with a friend we met in Israel. I always cherish the time spent with my sis. She so enjoys life and even a moment with her always bring silliness and laughter.
I glance over at the stack of resources I gained at the conference, and I know that I haven’t come close to grasping all that I heard from the messages in Deuteronomy this weekend. I have plenty to keep me pondering for days. And what a joy it is to have experienced it all with great friends, which included my sis and one of my daughters!

So on this Monday morning, I’m not sitting here all blue.
I’m standing here, all amazed.

In reflecting on the theme of the conference, which was “Listen and Live”, I can’t help but remind myself to remember these impact words: Listen. Live.
We focused on the bible book of Deuteronomy, and as we did so we considered the promised grace for rebel hearts. I don’t say this flippantly: there was not a weak spot in the conference. Every speaker, panel and song spoke to my rebel heart. Since we have recently concluded a series in Romans at our church, the way that Deuteronomy was tied together with the gospel message found in that NT book, it was even more meaningful to dig into the passages.

It would be impossible to pick a favorite session, but there was a statement by DA Carson that seemed to sum up the conference for me. Actually, it kinda sums up my life. It’s found in Deuteronomy 12:7 and answers the question, ‘WHY has the Lord blessed me so?’ It’s the kind of answer that settles everything, yet leaves us bewildered. It’s the kind of answer that provides deep abiding peace when filtered through the unchanging truths of God, but that provokes angst when in my humanity I try to reconcile things too high and deep for me. It’s not the kind of answer we should always give our children (since we’re flawed), but it is the kind of answer that we must humbly receive from our good, good Father.

Why has the LORD blessed me so? Because He has blessed me! 🙂

The rest of the chapter in Deuteronomy, and really the whole book, contains a picture of a God who keeps His covenant because He’s a covenant-keeping God, and not because we are a covenant-keeping people. We worship God because He is worthy of our worship. We have received grace upon grace because God is a Giver of grace. Every good gift … every single one … has been bestowed on me by the Father simply because He decided to give them. Any other kind of thinking does not grasp the character of the God of the scriptures: Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By His own choice, He gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
I’m the recipient of God’s goodness and grace, because He’s chosen to be the giver of these gifts. Why? Because He has blessed me.

If tomorrow holds blessing, nothing about God has changed.
If tomorrow holds heartache, nothing about God has changed.
If tomorrow holds gain, nothing about God has changed.
If tomorrow holds loss, nothing about God has changed.

Since He is worthy of my praise simply because He’s God, joy in Him is not limited to certain days. My lifesong is rooted in the truth of these words: “by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home”. God has given me the pleasure of pleasing Him with my worship through obedience, driven by His grace. He would never command anything He doesn’t care about. Surrendering our lives to Him in obedience should not be because we desire to make ourselves look good, but because we desire to make Him look good.
Why has He blessed me with such grace – the grace that will lead me home?
Because He has blessed me.

Behold the bright and risen Son, more beauty than this world has known.
I’m face to face with love Himself – His perfect spotless righteousness.
A thousand years, a thousand tongues, are not enough to sing His praise!!

I’ve Always Loved You the Best

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One of the best compliments a parent can receive is when all of their children think they are “the favorite.” When we raised our kids, it was definitely no easy task to send that signal to each of them. In fact, I’m pretty sure we didn’t always do it well. And let’s face it, most kids go through seasons where they make liking them nearly impossible!

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I have been thinking about the difficult task parents of multiple children have when attempting to instill in them that they are all equally loved and valued. Our kids remember that when they whined about our unfair treatment related to a sibling, we’d often say it was because “we like them better.” Most all parents understand that delicate balance of communicating the reality that fairness doesn’t always mean equal.

For several years (pre-Josh), I kept the following newspaper column on my fridge. This year I remembered it again and wanted to share the goodness. Because whether we have 3 kids or 13, a mama’s love is big enough to love them all the best

To the First-born: I’ve always loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage, the fulfillment of young love, the promise of our infinity.
You sustained us through the hamburger years. The first apartment furnished in Early Poverty … our first mode of transportation (1955 feet) … the 7-inch television set we paid on for 36 months.
You wore new, had unused grandparents and more clothes than a Barbie doll. You were the “original model” for unsure parents trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb and three-hour naps.
You were the beginning.

To the Middle Child: I’ve always loved you the best because you drew a dumb spot in the family and it made you stronger.
You cried less, had more patience, wore faded, and never in your life did anything “first,” but it only made you more special. You are the one we relaxed with and realized a dog could kiss you and you wouldn’t get sick. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married, and the world wouldn’t come to an end if you went to bed with dirty feet.
You were the continuance.

To the Baby: I’ve always loved you the best because endings generally are sad and you are such a joy. You readily accepted the mild-stained bibs. The lower bunk. The cracked baseball bat. The baby book, barren but for a recipe for graham cracker pie crust that someone jammed between the pages.
You are the one we held onto so tightly. For you see, you are the link with the past that gives a reason for tomorrow. You darken our hair, quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision, and give us humor that security and maturity can’t give us.
When your hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your children tower over you, you will still be “the Baby.”
You were the culmination.

Erma Bombeck

To my seven “kids” (even the ones grafted in through marriage): I truly love you all THE BEST. Each one of you makes our family better in different ways.
It’s a wonderful joy to be a mama.

His Mercy is More and Ours Should be Too

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2

I have been the one!

The one who interrupted the scene with judgmental thoughts. When I have encountered someone who goes against the flow of what I’ve always thought, I have been the one who abruptly thought or said: that’s just dumb. My initial reaction has been to dismiss the person and to disregard their history that may have influenced their way of thinking/acting. That attitude was a reflection of my own heart. It became a stubborn way of living that is not based on the totality of God’s love. I thought I was living lovingly since I knew that biblical love “finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth”. But this kind of love is lacking the characteristics of what completes it. I was not bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. (I Cor 13)

I have been the one who judges the validity of someone based on what I see/perceive. I have been in circumstances way too often in which I assessed people and situations quickly and harshly, with very little consideration of what had occurred before that moment. I have given opinions that I considered righteous (and maybe they were), but my heart was filled with attitudes of moral superiority. I have assumed that the more I knew, the more it would only confirm my suspicions about a lack of credibility or innocence. So I have refused to look beyond the encounter, to understand the why.

I have been the one to object to the misdemeanors of life. As a rule keeper (generally), I tend to criticize the law breakers – or benders.
I have gloated when the one who sped past me on the highway is now sitting on the side of the road in front of a car with blue lights.
I have cheered when a cheating team loses.
I have assumed that the one trying to break in the line of a long string of traffic (that has all moved over and waited in the correct lane) is a spoiled entitled brat.
I have defended the gate-keepers who make the rules, define the rules, adjust the rules, and maintain the rules.

Yes, I am the one who has dismissed and excused my own feelings of disdain toward others because I have qualified the feelings as “justified or righteous indignation.”

But God!
His mercy has chased me all the days of my life. The gospel has been as effective in growing me daily as it was in saving me initially. Thankfully, in the more recent years of my life, I’ve prayed for God’s grace to permeate my heart with the kind of love that sees beyond what is right in front of me. The kind that reminds me that there’s much more to the story than I possibly know. The kind that seeks to understand, not just to be understood. In this process, I’ve wrestled with thoughts about how scripture speaks to my sinful Pharisaical attitude toward those who are not like me. Some of those have other opinions. Some have grown up in a very difficult environment. And some are a different color than I am, and have experienced life from a perspective quite unlike mine.
I finally begin to choose to wait. And listen. And learn.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life thinking that my truth-telling, rule-keeping kind of Christianity is essential for society to function well. And though these aren’t evil characteristics, apart from love they can hinder the witness of the person who desires to walk the Jesus Way. Leaving little or no room for mercy can lead to frustration and cynicism, which is actually a detriment to society. It’s simply another form of entitlement. Some feel entitled because of their economic status. Or age. Or race. Or nationality. Or position of authority. OR … their law-abiding, hard-working, self-motivated, minding-your-own-business philosophy. Yep , I can feel entitled to be the judge of people that appear entitled! 🙂
It’s interesting that the book of the Bible that would speak so much about joyful living contains the following thoughts: “But in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2)
The joy that I’ve discovered as I consider others before myself has far outweighed the satisfaction I may have felt when the lawbreaker “got their’s”. I have found that peace has come from seeking to enter another’s injury and really hear their pain.
There is definitely a place and time for judgment, but that’s not to be my initial or personal heart response. And there has been so much freedom that comes in releasing myself from the mission to always speak up in defense of my version of fairness! Because it’s just possible that what a person has experienced explains a great deal about their actions. And I want to extend a merciful disposition and listening ear to their stories.

How shall we know when to do justice and how to show mercy?
By getting as close to Jesus as you possibly can. I know of no hard and fast rules in Scripture to dictate for every situation. And I don’t think this is an accident. The aim of Scripture is to produce a certain kind of person, not provide and exhaustive list of rules for every situation.
The beatitude says, “Blessed are the merciful,” not, “Blessed are those who know exactly when and how to show mercy in all circumstances.” We must be merciful people even when we act with severity in the service of justice. That is, we must be:
poor in spirit,
sorrowful for our own sin,
meekly free from defensiveness and self-exaltation,
hungering and thirsting for all that is right to be done,
perceptive of a person’s distress and misery,
feeling pity for his pain,
and making every effort to see the greatest good done for the greatest number.
You will often support the claims of justice and recompense a person the way he deserves, in order to bear witness to the truth of God’s justice and to accomplish a greater good for greater numbers of people.
But if you are a merciful person, then even the way you spank a child or prosecute a criminal or dismiss an employee will be different. The mercy will show. The parent may cry. The attorney may visit the criminal and his family. The employer may pay for remedial training.
The heart of mercy will show.
(John Piper)

More and more I have come to realize that Jesus’ scales of measuring are so different than mine. In my human nature (void of the Spirit), I measure circumstances and people by the standards of justice that I’ve personally created. I want “those bad people” to be punished immediately, and I want the punishment to be administered my way. It should happen quickly and must also meet my standard of fairness. That standard includes known scripture as well as the laws of the land. Mostly, the standard has been determined through years of personal experiences and how those experiences relate to the known commandments or laws.

I am still in the process of uncovering these subtle and hidden sins of assumption and pride. I continue to pray for and pursue a heart that listens out of sincere love for others – believing the best about them and hoping the best for them. So, these days when I turn on the news or read the most recent social media debate (some would say debacle) it’s best to turn to prayerful consideration of how Jesus lived and taught. His was a life of perfect paradox: He personally submitted to authority because He possessed a high view of righteousness and justice, but He publicly spoke against accusation and retaliation because He possessed a high view of mercy. (Luke 23)
The law-abiding religious leaders needed lessons in humility. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God would include mercy for the Samaritans, for women, for children, for the poor, for the leper, for the prostitute, for the thief (on the cross) …
and for ME!

What love could remember no wrongs we have done?
Omniscient, all knowing, He counts not their sum.
Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore,
our sins they are many,
His mercy is more!

What patience would wait as we constantly roam?
What Father, so tender, is calling us home?
He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor!
Our sins they are many,
His mercy is more.

What riches of kindness he lavished on us.
His blood was the payment, His life was the cost.
We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford.
Our sins they are many,
His mercy is more!

Praise the Lord!
His mercy is more!
Stronger than darkness, new every morn!
Our sins they are many, His mercy is more!!

My Hope: An Answer, not an Argument

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My heart is leaning on the Word, the written Word of God.
Salvation by my Savior’s name, salvation through His blood.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.

My faith looks up … and in … and beyond. Faith provides the lens through which I see everything.

The leadership development company I work for teaches principles that encourage people to assess their own potential for leadership – in their jobs, their families, their communities and even within themselves. The philosophy of the company is rooted in the foundational belief that everyone possesses a worldview in which they see everything. That worldview shapes how we live, why we live, what we appreciate, what we reject, what we love and what we hate.
My worldview has at its foundation a faith in Jesus Christ – the One in whom I’ve placed my trust.

I’ve been thinking lately about where my faith rests. Although a quick word study will most often produce information about “faith” in religious terms, it’s interesting to note that one definition of faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” At first glance, that bothered me a little. No proof?!? Then I realized that the bible says basically the same thing!
In a particular verse of scripture that I’d probably cite to define what kind of faith I have, the different versions include these words: assurance, conviction, certainty, evidence, confidence and proof. Good, solid words. What’s a little unusual is that all these words are linked with the phrase “what is not seen/what is unseen“. So, in essence, my faith does indeed rest in a firm (certain and confident) belief in something (Someone) for which there is no present proof (unseen).  And this kind of faith has led me to a specific Faith.  A Christian Faith. [For clarity purposes, I’m going to distinguish my specific Faith – that is, Christ-based- by making it a proper noun.] In other words, this hopeful certainty in what I can’t yet see has produced in me a “firm belief in God and in the doctrines of the Christian (Jesus Christ-based) religion, based on intellectual assent and spiritual trust, which result in commitment and obedience to the One who provided my salvation.” (James 2)

One of my favorite things in life is listening to people share inspiring testimonies about how they came to Faith. I have heard testimonies of people who had been so destroyed by their personal choices that it sent them into a dark and downward spiral. Others have shared their stories of growing up with very little knowledge of God or the Bible, but hoping deep within their souls that surely there was more to life. I have been especially intrigued by the testimonies of a couple of friends who, after much research and great academic achievement, began to conclude that it was very unlikely there was a God at all.  As I listen to these, I am fascinated at the way God uses all kinds of means to bring unlikely people to Himself.
There are also those like me, who grew up with sincere Christian influences that taught them what the Bible says about Christ. These influences possessed a strong belief in the authority and reliability of scripture that had led them to a conclusion that Jesus was/is the only Way to eternal life.
Although the people in these stories have had different starting places, they all ended up at the same resting place. Eventually, each one was brought to a gospel understanding that led to belief that led to trust and faith in the Person of Jesus Christ for their salvation. Rooted in soulful consideration (mind and spirit), they all made a faith decision to enter into a personal relationship with the Creator God. A relationship made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son.

Calling the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. Rom 10:17

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. Heb 11:6

Listening to people tell their faith stories brings me deep peace and joy.
But, in an attempt to understand others, I also like to observe and engage people who do not consider themselves people of Faith. It’s not always simple to converse with people who have strong opposing beliefs. The main thing I have noticed is that this Faith (grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone) can often stir up angst, anger and frustration within those who believe it to be ignorant or arrogant. The reality is that all too often the kind of faith that has convinced us of an unseen surety is not the kind that can be communicated by argument alone. Peter encourages us to never shy away from sharing the reason we have this hope within us (1 Peter 3), but he does so with a warning that we should maintain respect and gentleness. I think this implies that our faith may be met with skeptical questions and doubt. Even so, we share and live out our faith consistently and continually with graceful dispositions.

The natural man is no less certainly a man of faith than the spiritual, but his faith is in the ultimacy of something other than the Word of God. The spiritual man is no less certainly a man of reason than the natural, but his reason, like that of every man, functions within the perspective of his faith.
Edward T Ramsdell

Sharing our faith shouldn’t be rooted in a desire to convince someone of their wrong lifestyle or their wrong beliefs. If our kind of faith is rooted in the specific Faith I have mentioned, then we will understand that apart from the Spirit’s work, it will be impossible to convince someone that they need Jesus to save them. But if we are of The Faith, we will also never stop building relationships with people who are far from God, because we believe that coming near to Him is the only way to live forever. This belief should produce in us a deep longing for people to know the Jesus we know – the One who claimed to be The Way, the Truth and The Life (Jn 14). So even though people may push against our beliefs that to them seem foolish, if we are convinced the convictions are true, we can do nothing less than continue to make known our desire for them to build their life on this Faith.
If this Faith is indeed foundational to me, I simply can’t NOT talk about my faith. Because with my commitment to this Faith comes a mission to share it. Based on Christ’s teaching, they are inseparable. (Mt 5:16, Mt 28:19-20)

We will most certainly be met with skepticism and criticism. We will be challenged and condemned. We will be considered as fools and as foes. Even so, this should not shake our faith in our Faith. We won’t have an answer for every person with an argument against our beliefs. We may feel unprepared for those who wish to discredit what we cannot prove. Even so, do not lose our hope. We are ready again and again to share the reasons we have such hope. After all, God IS knowable (1 Cor. 2:11), even though we must stay mindful that He is simultaneously incomprehensible (Rom. 11:33–36). God CAN BE known, but He cannot be known completely (Deut. 29:29).

Thankfully, in the midst of the frenzy of disbelief and disrespect, I’ve found a hopeful resting place:
“Everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our Faith.” 1 Jn 5

Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God—the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Christian faith is incarnational. God became man; God with us.
But without the clarity of a well-informed, robust, scripturally-based Christian worldview, our engagement with the culture will be flawed. In Scripture, we are given the stable truths that must undergird our work in the world. The “imago dei” is the grounding for all of our interactions with others, including those on the other side of critical issues. The fall and its consequences for both individuals and communities clarify what is at the root of all of the world’s brokenness. And, the obedient work of Christ stands at the center of history, promising the restoration of all things and compelling us to make the invisible kingdom visible.
John Stonestreet

THE One Thing: Gaze on the Lord

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While I was conversing with friends recently, I mentioned to them some of the thoughts that had been rolling around in my head/heart. One of them laughed at the intensity and layers of the subject, and then acknowledged that it gave her something to ponder since most days she merely had marbles rolling around inside her mind. 🙂
That gave me a chuckle, but I confessed to her – again – that my overthinking is not pretty.
I overthink by pondering more than praying … I overthink by considering opinions of all the people more than the Word/words of God … I overthink by leaving too much space for doubt in my mind instead of submitting to a God who has declared that His “thoughts are not [my] thoughts, and ways are not [my] ways” … I overthink by being distracted by what’s in front of me, rather than dwelling on the One Who resides with/in me … I overthink by adopting the microwave mindset about deep things that can only be processed in the crockpot of eternity. Oh my goodness. “What a wretched woman I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Thankfully, the conversation with them made me face the reality that my overthinking has been in overdrive lately. (That’s a double negative in mindset language!) My mind is a whirlwind of thoughts as I take in lots of information at once. Yep, just like a plate of spaghetti noodles. The thoughts tend to be twisted around one another, stuck together but separate. They are thoughts with loose ends that can’t be tied up neatly. They appear in one place – that is, my mind – but they aren’t connected enough to bring me resolution or satisfaction.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a shelf within my reach that contains tidy boxes providing all the answers to life’s questions. We may live in the Information Age, but still I do not have the indisputable evidence I sometimes crave. You know, that one final answer that will settle it for all inquiring and doubtful minds. It truly pains me to read one of those agonizing conversations on social media. The ones in which no one can produce even one plausible explanation that would deflect the suspicions and cynicism of the critics. And there are so many layers to all.the.thoughts. New discoveries are being made in science, medicine, archaeology and more. With these discoveries, viewpoints take shape in brilliant minds. For some, previous impressions and beliefs are modified, adapted to make room for a new way of thinking based on the discovery.
Again, all.the.thoughts.

Typically, western culture regards an open-minded person to be more humble, generous and kind. It is a characteristic that is equated with positivity and growth. And even though most people will acknowledge that having a completely open mind isn’t beneficial, I have found that the majority of people who consider themselves intellectuals/thinkers regard people as ignorant who maintain concrete beliefs.

“If you have never changed your mind about some fundamental tenet of your belief, if you have never questioned the basics, and if you have no wish to do so, then you are likely ignorant. Before it is too late, go out there and find someone who, in your opinion, believes, assumes, or considers certain things very strongly and very differently from you, and just have a basic honest conversation. It will do both of you good.” Vera Nazarian

Hmmm. Wow!
Though I completely disagree, maybe it was essential for me to acknowledge my “need to know” for what it really is. It is insecurity, steeped in fear and pride. I am way too concerned that someone else may have considered and discovered something I haven’t. And if they have, maybe that will prove that I am ignorant. At the very least, I will look ignorant. So I read and I wonder and I fret.
But is all this thinking and pondering and doubting and questioning good for my soul? Should it consume me, night and day? My answer to myself is a resounding no. There is no amount of contemplating that will fully satiate my craving for complete understanding of everything. I am beginning to relate more and more with the feelings Solomon had when he wrote about the vanity of life in Ecclesiastes. After all my musing, I’m often left with even more uncertainty. That is, until …

Until I am still.
And remember the one thing.
“When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless … until I entered God’s sanctuary.” (Pm 73)

We all deal with a certain amount of busyness. For some (like me) it’s a busy mind. For some, it’s busy days. Some are always busy with work. And some are plain ol’ busybodies.
Being still before the Lord doesn’t mean laziness. It doesn’t mean we are spiritual or physical or mental sloths. It means that we pursue and maintain a peaceful heart and mind and soul in the midst of our questions. Like Mary, we are to choose the best thing. Like the Psalmist, we choose the one thing. They both knew the importance of gazing on the Lord. There was a confidence in His presence. They wouldn’t suddenly receive answers to everything. No, it was much better. They would receive the presence of God Himself. At the end of all his fretting, Solomon even agreed with their conclusion.

In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and write words of truth accurately.
But beyond these, be warned: There is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12

So, I think I’ll stick with Solomon’s conclusion rather than Nazarian’s. I resolutely refuse to open my mind for the purpose of changing the fundamental tenets of my belief just because someone will think I’m ignorant. I realize I can’t answer every critical thinker who wishes to unravel the threads of faith woven through scripture (and Christian history). Nor will I be able to reconcile every perceived contradiction that the skeptics argue. And I am most certainly incapable of producing undeniable evidence for all the doubters who ask for a sign.

What I am able to do is to rest my soul in Christ. Because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me UNTIL THAT DAY.

Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, and yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord’s mind, that  he may instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2

The Myth of Wisdom and Aging

 

“With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.”

 

I agree with Oscar Wilde. I don’t think experience always gives us more wisdom. It just give us more experience. 🙂 In defending himself to his friends, Job said “Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life.”
At first reading (aka, skimming), it may seem that Job is making a statement. But in its context, this verse may be a continuation of his frustration toward his friends. He’s possibly questioning their wisdom with sarcasm: You guys are old, so shouldn’t you be wiser by now?

Yikes. This gives me great pause when I consider passing on advice . Because I think it’s easy to convince ourselves that if we’ve come through certain seasons of life, we are automatically in the category of “older and wiser.” Since Job goes on to say that “wisdom and strength belong to God; counsel and understanding are His [God’s],” I think it’s crucial to understand that wisdom isn’t some sort of inevitable rite of passage occurring as we age. While experience may help us relate to someone else, we don’t attain wisdom just by living. We attain wisdom by asking for it. And though there is insight that comes through years of observation, unless we allow that insight to be filtered through God’s word, our strategies for good money management, parenting success or marriage health is limited. It’s possibly even distorted and damaging.

From our reading of God’s answer to Solomon, we can conclude that the young leader had the right heart when he first asked God for wisdom (when he could have asked for riches or power). He humbly recognized his need for help as a young man in such a powerful position. (i Kings 3:10, 2 Chronicles 1:11-12). What is sad is that as he aged, it seems he grew cynical. He began to view life from a skewed perspective by trying to find meaning in temporary, human things (Ecclesiastes).
At the end of it all, his conclusions steer us to believe that he realized that faith in God was the only way to find personal meaning. Riches, power, and even knowledge through experiences only led to temporary happiness and eventually to emptiness. It’s fairly easy for us to recognize from Solomon’s life that wisdom comes from God, not aging.

As I age, I understand more than ever how tempting it is to trust in my own perceptions about life. In my experience as a mom, I have formed all kinds of opinions and ideas about parenting/motherhood. As a long-time ministry partner, I have had plenty of opportunities that provide me with subject matter to fill a book with direction to those just starting out. Truthfully, I usually have advice on the tip of my tongue at all times. But this isn’t always helpful. In fact, it can be hurtful. Although my experiences can give me an opportunity to empathize with a young mom, sometimes sharing my conclusions from those experiences brings despair rather than hope. Even though I’ve been in some extremely difficult seasons of ministry, I don’t know the perfect solution for every wife struggling with the circumstances that surround their husband’s calling.

James reminds us that wisdom is first of all pure. That means that my advice should be filtered through a humble mindset and righteous motives. I know this because of the rest of the description given by James regarding heavenly wisdom. He uses words like peaceful, considerate, merciful, impartial and sincere. If my experience through the years doesn’t come with a growing desire for God’s insight and for Christlike maturity, then I don’t gain wisdom. I only have observations. And observations alone eventually lead to skepticism and negativity, as we detect they did in Solomon’s life.
While Julius Ceasar’s proverb may have merit, experience is the teacher of all things only if we are pursuing God’s perspective (through His Word) through the learning process. Getting older doesn’t ensure that we are attaining wisdom. Too many older adults voice their opinions from a place of pride and assumption. It is not acting in wisdom to approach this season of life with a belief that I know it all just because I’ve “been there, done that.”

Last week in our Life Group, we heard an amazing testimony from the youngest person who attends. She spoke with wisdom and passion. It was from a heart that is seeking God and was uplifting to all of us who were there listening. I sometimes hear talk of “that generation” behind us. It’s usually spoken by a person who has concluded that their experiences have brought them much more insight and common sense than the younger crowd. This mindset is often accompanied by an attitude of superiority and arrogance. Neither of these characteristics are found associated with the wisdom of which James speaks. If my observations and advice aren’t good for building up others, then it’s possible that they aren’t coming from a heart of godly wisdom.

Gray hair is a glorious crown only when it is found in the ways of righteousness. (Proverbs 16:31) Wisdom is a treasure and a gift only when it’s gained through prayer and study of God’s word. I think that what the wisdom literature reveals is that it’s better to hear from a passionate young person speaking from a humble heart than it is an older person speaking from a heart filled with pride.
That’s a challenge!
In this my 55th year of life, I am praying that I’ll never stop mining for wisdom from above (Job 28).

Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world​—what is viewed as nothing-​to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. It is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us ​— ​our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1

Say When : WHEN!

Recently, my mind has been in a million directions (even more than usual) with thoughts about a woman’s place/role/voice in society and in the church. Those who have been around longer than I have may tell a different story, but I believe that we find ourselves in an unprecedented time in regard to women – young and old. In just the past few months, not only have I been faced with these matters, I have been bombarded! It’s hard to even process it all. As a mom of three daughters, I can’t help but agonize over the horrific stories of those who have been the target of a master manipulator … a predator … an abuser. Because our family has personally been way too close to this kind of evil, my heart is fragile and sensitive about the way society, and specifically people of faith, responds.

For months, I have been listening to, reading and considering the accounts of all kinds of women who have experienced some sort of mistreatment at the hands of someone who misused and abused their power. This power has been exhibited through sheer strength as well as through persuasive, well-calculated and intimidating words that result in some sort of self-gratification for the abuser. It has often occurred at the hands of men who have positions of influence and authority, while appearing to be quality leaders. Trusted coaches, teachers, doctors and politicians – and sadly, even fathers and brothers and uncles – have maneuvered their way into the lives of vulnerable or unsuspecting women and preyed upon them in unthinkable ways. I have been especially sickened when the perpetrator or protector of such wickedness is actively involved in a faith-based community. Because one of the tenets of faith (universally) is character/integrity, it is excruciating when this kind of hypocrisy is exposed.

As more and more testimonies of abuse arise, we are faced with the magnitude of the impact of our response! The people of faith have an important role in this process. I believe we must be the first responders. Not the last. But how are we to respond?

Certainly there have been false accusations brought against men in powerful positions. Especially those in the public eye. And I have no doubt that the enemy of Christ and of His church would enjoy nothing more than destroying the character of a godly man who is being mightily used in pushing back the darkness. I understand that this is a possibility … a frightful one.

But that should not be a deterrence to Jesus people being the most vocal advocates for legitimate victims. It should not lead us to justify our silence. It can not keep us from being a champion, a loud voice, for the many women who have been hushed and pushed aside just because of the embarrassment it may cause the church (leaders and members). There are too many scriptures about our responsibility to care for the marginalized – the oppressed, the weak, the vulnerable – that we would trivialize the stories of pain and shame which have been crippling a large part of our society. The wise King Solomon had much to say about how we should view and defend the vulnerable. The psalmists and the prophets also call us to protect, rescue and speak up for those who do not have a voice.

Consequently, as a woman of faith, my heart is broken. I’ve been grieving the lack of influential Christian male voices in this arena. Even worse, there appears to have been years of neglect and even cover-up in many instances where there was a legitimate complaint and substantial evidence of damaging behavior. Some have even gone to great lengths to keep their secrets from being exposed.
It.Is.Sickening.

Now, we find ourselves in this excruciating season of the unthinkable revelations of such horror. Maybe society isn’t more broken than we’ve ever been, but we certainly are more aware of just how broken we are. Though I don’t intend to delve into the complicated and controversial arena of gender identity, I do feel I must qualify my own views of womanhood as it relates to me personally. These views provide the filter in which I process all of it. My identity as a woman is linked to my roles as a wife, a mom, a grandma, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a ministry partner. As such, I have been especially affected by the stories of the women who have come forward in the last few years … and the stories behind the stories. As a woman, I consider myself to be an uncommon blend: I am an independent thinker; a theological conservative (i.e., inerrant and authoritative scriptures, firm belief in the deity of Christ, salvation comes through His death, there was a bodily resurrection); I’m more moderate in social issues; and I’m quite comfortable with women in most ministry roles, while I’m equally comfortable with my husband in a headship role in our family. I fully embrace my womanhood – meaning, I believe God created me distinctively Woman on purpose.
It is within this realm of womanhood that I speak. I believe my feminine voice is relevant and essential to the conversation.

This belief inevitably leads us to the difficult discussions surrounding a woman’s “place” in the church. How and where do we use our voice? How do we maintain a biblical perspective of womanhood (obviously this is subject to our own view of the authority and infallibility of the scriptures) while pursuing our calling as believers to speak up and speak out for the vulnerable.

“…. this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. I will even pour out My Spirit on My male and female slaves in those days, and they will prophesy.”

I have read this passage many times and still don’t have a grasp of all the implications of the text. We know that the scene(s) in Acts 2 & 4 demonstrate that God spoke through “common people”, not just the priests and scribes. This happened much to everyone’s amazement. But is Joel’s prophecy, referred to in Acts, meant for a time beyond what we see happening that day at Pentecost? If so, are we to disregard the teachings of Paul regarding the role of women in the church, believing him to be misguided or blinded by his culture? Do we forge ahead as women prophets – loud and proud and allowed? Or do we cover our heads and our mouths and our minds, sit silently by and keep our opinions to ourselves while misogynists abuse their power and treat us as property?

Although we do not find biblical guidance or answers to fully satisfy every single one of our concerns as seeking women, I choose to continually pursue the Truth and pray for wisdom. As I have sought answers and studied the scriptures, I have been unable to ignore the passages that give instruction to me as a woman of faith (within the church). And I am not comfortable with allowing culture to dictate my identity or roles simply because the verses seem outdated or unreasonable.
So I approach scripture as a student, recognizing that I am unable to fully comprehend or literally apply all the teachings found there. I also approach the scriptures as a woman, knowing that as I read and study I will be unable tocompletely detach my femininity from my humanity. Pleasantly, I have found that the opportunity to be distinctively Woman, learning from my Creator God, is an incredible gift. God created me as an indispensable part of His work and purpose.

It is in this discovery that I have found my place … in this world, in the church, in my community and my home. From the beginning, God strategically created women with unique potential for making a difference in this world, while at the same time magnifying Him. He gave us a voice. He gave us a perspective. He gave us a purpose. Male and female, He created us. He called it “good”. In fact, He called it “very good.”

Yes, in this season of sorrow, when we are made painfully aware of how far removed we are from the paradise of the Garden of Eden, I am thankful we have a God who sees. He sees and He cares. He repeats this message all throughout His Word to us. And He has equipped and empowered us, the women of faith, with all we need (2 Peter 1:3) to boldly speak against injustice and abuse. As a woman of faith, speaking on behalf of other women, I have the unique opportunity to bravely advocate for change. We can all use our voices, our writings, our platforms to share our perspective with everyone who will listen. We speak for our daughters and sisters and mothers and friends. We speak up for those who have been silenced and shamed. We call evil by its name and we plead our case before our Good Father who judges rightly and makes everything new.

While it is a difficult time to be alive, it’s also glorious. We were created and called for such a time as this. I desire to use my God-given voice for His glory.

“I cried for them, and with every tear that fell I wondered who is going to find these little girls, who is going to tell them how much they are worth, how valuable they are, how deserving of justice and protection?
Who is going to tell these little girls that what was done to them matters? That they are seen and valued, that they are not alone and they are not unprotected? And I could not do that ,but we are here now and today that message can be sent with the sentence you hand down you can communicate to all these little girls and to every predator to every little girl or young woman who is watching how much a little girl is worth. From a Christian worldview, she’s made in the image of God. She has eternal and immeasurable value.

That is why justice here on earth is always going to be incomplete: because there’s no way to bring full justice here on earth.
I trust in God’s justice and I release bitterness and anger and a desire for personal vengeance. It does not mean that I minimize or mitigate or excuse what he has done. It does not mean that I pursue justice on earth any less zealously. It simply means that I release personal vengeance against him, and I trust God’s justice, whether He chooses to mete that out purely, eternally, or both in heaven and on earth.

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not need our protection. It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.
Jesus Christ does not need our protection; He needs our obedience. Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual assault and the evil of covering it up.
Obedience costs. It means that you will have to speak out against your own community. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.”
Rachael Denhollander