Tuesday, February 13, 2007

more than words...

This post was written by Deborah Sharpe, a dear friend of our family.  I greatly respect Deb's passion for the gospel and I am so very thankful for the godly influence she is to both me and my children.  Thanks for the post, Deb...

About a week or two ago, during my morning commute to my classes at Towson, I found myself randomly blurting out the lyrics to what I believe to be a Rod Stewart song.  Now, I can't tell you where exactly the urge to start singing this song came from or where I remember first hearing it.  To be honest, I really didn't even know the words past the first line of the chorus and from that moment on began to make up my own words that were not even close to the original lyrics.  The song goes, "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

As I was driving along on that brisk morning singing this completely random song, an interesting thought came to me.  "How often has my Savior told me that He loved me?"  As I began to contemplate this question, my mind immediately went to various verses in the Bible that convey Christ's love for us.  Verses like John 3:16...

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Or a verse like John 15:9...

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love."

"I guess God has told us many times in the Bible how much He loves us," was my thought.  I mean obviously, there are a lot of verses in the Bible assuring us that the God of heaven loves us dearly.  Why He loves us? - Have no clue about that one, but it is clear that He has chosen to love us.

As I continued to ponder this question about God's love, another thought came to me.  When the almighty, holy God turned His back on His only Son and poured out the entirety of His wrath, giving us Jesus' righteousness in the process, He demonstrated the greatest love ever known.  Since this is the case, there is so much more evidence of God's love than just the individual verses that plainly state it in the Bible.  The entire Bible is a love letter from God!  This wonderful book, from its beginning to end, tells us of the amazing love of God put into action.  How, before time even began, the all-knowing Lord devised a way to save the very people that would rebel against Him.  How, throughout the Old Testament, He made promises to His people that one day He would send a Savior to redeem them.  How we are told of the bleeding and bruised body of our Lord being nailed to a wooden cross.  How He rose again on the third day, ascending into heaven to intercede for us.  And how we are promised that one day He will return for us and take us to heaven with Him.  Is this not the greatest love story you have ever read?  Romans 5:8 says "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

This is His love letter to you.  It is a love story that never loses its luster, one that will be continuously told for years to come.  I exhort you not to let this incredible display of love in the gospel be swept to the side.  Remember this love.  Meditate on it.  Keep it on your mind.  Isn't it great?  Can't you just see the smiling face of the Creator looking down at you and saying, "Look at my word, my child... haven't I told you so much lately that I love you?"

Thursday, February 8, 2007

eyesy: (eye-zee)

I had an interesting little chat with my 8 year old son Stephen this evening. These past few months I have found that when I am reading a text message on my cell phone or when I receive a new email, Stephen is right there over my shoulder, reading along as if it's for him personally. He doesn't try to hide it or anything. It's not like he sneaks up behind me or looks out of the corner of his eye at the message for me. He actually leans right over me and reads on as if it's for him.

In response to this, I have been asking him to not be so nosy. Well he hasn't stopped being nosy. His nose is everywhere! I never questioned if he understood what I was asking him. I just assumed he knew what nosy meant. Well, I was wrong.


This evening, as I began chatting some friends online, Stephen appeared by my side ready to read along. I asked him why he was being nosy again and he finally explained that he didn't know what nosy meant. I was happy to be able to explain to him the definition and then he just stared at me, perplexed. His next statement was priceless:

"Mom, shouldn't it be called 'eyesy' instead of 'nosy' since I'm looking at things with my eyes?"

Friday, February 2, 2007

fridays are piper days...

I've made a decision. It's a real biggie. Are you ready? Fridays are now Piper days as far as this little blog goes. Piper, meaning Dr. John Piper.

Today I will share some of my favorite quotes on the subject of impatience from his book, "Future Grace."

page 171
Impatience is a form of unbelief. It's what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God's timing or the goodness of God's guidance. It springs up in our hearts when our plan is interrupted or shattered. It may be prompted by a long wait in a checkout line or a sudden blow that knocks out half our dreams. The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss. It's a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience - to wait in his place, and go at his pace. And the key is faith in future grace.

page 173
The apostle Paul prayed for the church at Colossae, that they would be "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience" (Colossians 1:11). Patience is the evidence of an inner strength. Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependent on external supports - like schedules that go just right and circumstances that support their fragile hearts. Their outbursts of oaths and threats and harsh criticisms of the culprits who crossed their plans do not sound weak. But that noise is all a camouflage of weakness. Patience demands tremendous inner strength.

page 174
If we believed that our hold-up at the long red light was God's keeping us back from an accident about to happen, then we would be patient and happy. If we believed that our broken leg was God's way of revealing early cancer in the x-ray so that we would survive, we would not murmur at the inconvenience. If we believed that the middle-of-the-night phone call was God's way of waking us to smell smoke in the basement, we would not grumble at the loss of sleep. The key to patience is faith in the future grace of God's "glorious might" to transform all of our interruptions into rewards.

In other words, the strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours. This requires great faith in future grace, because the evidence is seldom evident.


Please, buy this book!


Thursday, February 1, 2007

simon says

I must say that I enjoy watching the American Idol auditions. Every now and then you hear someone with a fantastic voice that blows you away, but let's be honest, most of what we see is not so hot. In between lots of laughter and confusion, one thing does stand out to me as I watch:

People are deceived.

You know how it goes. We see someone interviewed before their audition and they express with confidence to all of America that they have what it takes to win the competition. They boast of their years of voice training, they share how their friends think they have a great voice, and often there is a parent standing beside them smiling and agreeing with this assessment.

Then they sing.

Although Simon can lack graciousness in his criticism, he often says what most of us are thinking. I know he says what I'm thinking and despite the way in which he expresses himself, I think he is usually right. The other judges often agree but express their critique in a kind manner. So you have this person trying out that is really a dreadful singer, there are four judges all expressing the same thing to them, yet they vehemently disagree. They look utterly confused that these professionals sitting before them do not agree with their own assessment and the assessment of their friends and family.

Could it be that the people in their lives are just not being truthful with them?

I know from personal experience that without the loving, truthful insight from others, I would miss all sorts of things. Like those dreadful singers who think they are great, I too am deceived. Although I may not be making a fool of myself on national television for all to see, my deception is much more serious than that. In my own little world and before a Sovereign God, I am often foolish and deceived by my own assessment of myself.

For instance, I often fail to hear my impatient tone when I speak to my husband about something. That is until my son or daughter says, "Mom - your voice wasn't very kind towards Daddy." Suddenly, I am busted by an 8 year old or better yet, a 5 year old. How did I, a mature adult, a parent, miss something that was so obvious to my children? Thankfully, the Bible answers that question and I just need to remind myself of the truth:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Agreeing with what God says about my heart is the first step in recognizing my need for the input of others. Asking for input does not come naturally though. It's one thing to ask a friend if your hair looks better this way or that way, but it's another thing to ask someone for their input about your speech toward others or how you responded in a particular situation or how your thought life has been in light of meeting that new guy or girl. Now we're getting personal...we're getting to the nitty-gritty...and this is where real change can begin to take place. If we can take the first step by agreeing with what God's word says about our deceitful hearts, then by faith we can take the next step by humbling ourselves before another and asking them specific questions about what they may see in our lives. Remember that the input of others is not always conclusive, meaning, it's possible that their observations are not entirely correct or accurate. The path of humility would call us to thankfully receive what they share and then we can go before the Lord and offer it up to Him, praying:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
Psalm 139:23-24

So many things that we pray about often seem to go unanswered, at least for a time. Although God is at work in that particular situation that we're praying about, we just can't see with our eyes of flesh what He is doing so we need to simply wait and trust in His goodnesss. Most things I pray about seem to fall into this "wait and trust" category, so I find it curious that when I've prayed Psalm 139:23-24, God has faithfully shown me, rather quickly, areas of sin. This is nothing short of a demonstration of His mercy and love towards us. Our Savior is committed to our sanctification like none other and promises to complete the work that He has begun in us.

Asking for input may be difficult but giving input can be just as, if not more challenging. Will she be angry if I bring this to her attention? Will she get defensive? Will this just turn into a conflict? How can I bring this up in a gracious way? What will she think of me? Can't God just show them this without me? These are just some of the questions that plague my deceitful heart that is often ruled by what others think above and beyond what God thinks. Sharing input with others has been an especially difficult area for me but by the grace of God, my toes are pointed in the right direction and if you look close enough, there may even be slight trails of a shuffle. There is no magical formula to make this easy, but this is what I have sought to do and it's been very helpful:

1- Agree with what God's word says about my own heart. Agree with Paul's description of himself and apply it to myself: I am the chief of sinners. If I don't start here, I will be tempted to see their weakness or sin as worse than my own.

2- Thank God for that individual in specific ways, remembering and reminding myself afresh that He is at work in their lives.

3- Ask God for help in sharing my input in a humble and gracious manner. I specifically ask that He would help me to not draw conclusions in my statements but to have a heart to serve them by asking questions, trusting that only God can truly show a person his/her own heart.

4- Make a commitment to God to be a faithful friend to that individual by stepping out and sharing input. If I don't make that commitment to God, I can easily weasel out of it.

5- Remind myself that this is not about me. This is about God's glory and seeking to care for another individual in a way that would bring honor to His Name.

Receiving input from others and sharing input with others is not an easy thing to do. By the grace of God we can seek to grow in both areas by believing that we truly need one another and then making the choice to be a faithful friend to one another, for God's glory.

Just like those dreadful singers on AI that are deceived in thinking that they have a great voice, we are deceived.

Unlike those dreadful singers, we don't stand before a panel of human judges in hopes of hearing "You're going to Hollywood!" We stand before the One and Only perfect and righteous judge: Jesus Christ, who through His death on the cross has made payment for our every sin - past, present, and future. As R.C. Sproul puts it:

What every human being needs to be saved from is God. The last thing in the world the impenitent sinner ever wants to meet on the other side of the grave is God. But the glory of the gospel is that the One from whom we need to be saved is the very One who saves us. God, in saving us, saves us from Himself.

A must read for everyone:

"The Cross and Criticism" https://bookstore.peacemaker.net/html/artic10.htm