Month: February 2015

Seasons of Lent

Lenten Blossoms
The word Lent actually means springtime—a time when all things are being reborn and made new. And yet, you’ve probably observed how many believers have traditionally equated this season with sacrifice, and sometimes even pious asceticism. If you know me well (or at all), you know that I don’t share this view. Of course, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). But the idea that those times and seasons must follow a liturgical calendar seems to put God in a box—and one that is frankly MUCH too small.

In all seasons, I try to embrace the freedom that I have in Christ, but God-ordained circumstances have at times interfered with that goal. Two seasons in particular come to mind. The first came when our son was about two months old. We discovered that he had a severe sensitivity to both dairy and soy products and learned that for me to continue feeding him, I had to eliminate both from my diet. Finding foods that met those requirements was extremely difficult. However, for me, making the commitment to do so was not difficult at all. And so, for the better part of a year—well, let’s just say I ate really healthfully.

That season of sacrifice ended just in time for another round of morning sickness to begin. And during pregnancy, you expect to spend a period of time eating nothing but SpaghettiOs and breakfast cereal, so I was okay with that. But when our daughter was born, she also suffered from digestive issues. This time, though, the identification process was less straightforward. There were long nights, eating experiments, and specialist visits, but no answers. At one point, we decided that her difficulties must be related to some allergy, the question was which one. So I spent about a month on an elimination diet—think “Whole 30” on steroids. I eliminated not just dairy and soy, but also eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, caffeine, and artificial colors and flavors. By now you’re asking, “What’s left?” And the answer is, “Not much.”

But you know what? God used those two seasons powerfully in my life. He showed me the depth of love that an imperfect parent can have for a child, and the depth of sacrifice that such a parent would willingly (and joyfully) endure for that beloved child. And that gave me a new lens to peer through as I read Matthew 7:11:

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

How much more, indeed.

During these seasons of sacrifice, something inside of me was reborn and made new—something I wouldn’t trade for the world. So I guess, technically, you could call them seasons of Lent. And whether yours comes now or at some unexpected moment in the future, I pray that you will embrace all of the good gifts that your Heavenly Father longs to give you during that time.

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Weddings and Wine

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John 2:1-11 recounts the events at the wedding in Cana, where Jesus performed His first of many miracles—turning the water into wine. What I have always loved about this story is the near insignificance of this miracle. If you think about it, in the grand scheme of things, running out of wine at a wedding is not all that “important.” But I imagine that it was of great importance to the bride and groom. And how special and significant they must have felt to be on the receiving end of Jesus’s first miracle.

I don’t think it’s any accident that God chose John to share this account. He was, after all, the “disciple that Jesus loved.” And while the Gospel of John is most known for highlighting Jesus’s deity, I also see a distinct focus on how relational Christ was and still is. We can approach Him with our concerns, no matter how big or small they may be. Our prayer requests may seem silly or petty to us, but they aren’t to God. He keeps track of every hair on our heads, every thought on our minds, and every desire in our hearts.

Therefore, let us boldly approach the throne. He hears, He cares, and He answers. Praise God.

A New Look at Lent

“What are you giving up for Lent?” This seems to be a common greeting among believers during this season. It’s assumed that we will be observing a sustained period of sacrifice, in observance and remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made so long ago on our behalf. But on the cross, as Jesus breathed His last, He declared with all of heaven’s authority, “It is finished!” As I rest in the completed work of Christ on the cross, a season of sacrifice seems out of place. Instead, this should be a season of joy and gratitude (“celebrated as a festival to the Lord” (Exodus 12:14)), and one in which we embrace our roles as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom of heaven.

In this spirit, it occurs to me that God may not necessarily be calling all of us to “give something up” for Lent. What if, instead, He’s calling us into a deeper fellowship with Him? What might that look like? A few ideas come to mind:

  • You could commit to beginning each day with a time of praise and worship—thanking God for His love and faithfulness.
  • You could make a point of interceding on behalf of someone whose need resonates strongly with you.
  • You could learn something about some of the foreign lands that may not have the freedom to worship as we do. Then you can pray for the specific struggles, challenges, and needs of the people living in those far-away places.
  • You could begin to mend a broken or strained relationship in your life, through either seeking or offering forgiveness.
  • You could send notes of encouragement to the people that God has divinely placed in your life and in your path.

In short, rather than giving something up, why not try something new? In so doing, you will surely allow God to begin a new work in and through you.

Favorite Promises of God

Thirty-six. That’s how old I am today. Although, the sweet young waitress at the restaurant last night announced to all the patrons that I was there celebrating my 21st birthday. A girl after my own heart, for sure. And, while my birthday celebrations over the last couple of days have been wonderful, I personally find birthdays to be somewhat bittersweet. I can say with the Apostle Paul that in many ways, I “would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). But of course, to live is also Christ (Philippians 1:21). So where do I turn for comfort in the waiting? To the many promises of God.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a women’s conference where the presenters posed this question for small-group discussion: “What is your favorite promise of God?” Promise. Singular! What?! One of the speakers commented that there are some 135 promises from God in the Bible—and I’m inclined to believe there MUST be more. So how in the world could I possibly narrow them down to one favorite? Instead, I started jotting down every promise that came to mind.

Now, the ladies with me concurred that, obviously, the promise of eternal life was paramount. And of course, that’s true. But let’s for a moment take that one as a given and think about some other potential favorites. These aren’t in any particular order, and they aren’t fleshed out at all. That’s something I’ll likely do in the future. But for today, I just want to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of the good things that God has promised me (and you, by the way).

  1. God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)
  2. God orders our steps (Proverbs 16:9; 20:24; 37:23)
  3. He has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
  4. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
  5. God will remain faithful, He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13)
  6. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)
  7. He who goes before you will fight for you (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 3:22; 20:4)
  8. He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Hebrews 13:5)
  9. God is sovereign (Deuteronomy 10:14 and 65 other verses)
  10. God is relational (Matthew 1:23)
  11. God offers grace, forgiveness, mercy, and unconditional love (Ephesians 2:8; 1 John 1:9; Lamentations 3:22-23)
  12. He is good, loving, kind, and fair (Psalm 136:1; John 3:16; Luke 6:35; Deuteronomy 32:4)
  13. I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
  14. He throws open the floodgates of blessing for those who are faithful (Malachi 3:10)
  15. He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6)
  16. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)
  17. He is willing and able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)

As you can probably deduce, this list is BY NO MEANS exhaustive. And there are probably some that you think I’ve errantly left out. So I invite you to leave a comment sharing YOUR favorite promise—or promises—of God.

Bj Nov 2014 1

What’s Good for the Heart

Psalm 46:10a
“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Luke 12:34
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

The kids and I spend a lot of time walking near our house. It’s practically a year-round activity for us. Gotta love the Texas weather, right? And it’s really my primary mode of exercise. Honestly, I haven’t been to the gym since Tijge was born—almost four years ago! So, you can probably imagine that we walk at a pretty good clip and we try not to make too many stops. I need to keep my heart rate up if I’m going to get a good cardio workout.

But today, as we near Valentine’s Day, I’m reflecting on one walk in particular—one we took last spring. It was a beautiful day, so we set out on a 4-mile loop. But about halfway through, I stopped dead in my tracks. A particular scene caught my eye and I had to stop for a couple of photos.SSPX0047

I know this phone photo doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea. And I got the message: Stop. Take in the beauty that I’ve created for you to enjoy. Don’t be in such a hurry. Stop. R-E-L-A-X. (Go Pack Go. 🙂 )

Then, around the 3-mile mark, we passed Duke and Jake’s house. They are two dogs that the kids adore, but that are always fenced in. Well, at one point, I’d left a little note in their mailbox for their ‘mom,’ commenting on how the kids would love to meet the dogs someday. And she actually called me! She said that, sure, the kids could meet the dogs sometime and that we should text her the next time we passed by and saw her car in the driveway. Well, wouldn’t you know it? She was home. So we stopped again. We visited for a while and made some new friends. Tijge played with the dogs, but also on the playground, in the dirt, with the shovel….and he loved it.

As we left and headed home, I briefly considered how much of a ‘waste’ this walk had been, in terms of physical fitness. But then I realized that these moments, these memories, are what’s truly good for the heart.

Just As…

Joshua 1:16-18

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do,
and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things,
so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.
Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words
in all that you command him, shall be put to death;
only be strong and courageous.”

We’ve been studying Joshua lately, and I’ve been trying to focus on new angles that I may not have noticed before. In the passage above, that angle came as I read “Just as we obeyed Moses…” I quickly flipped back to the preceding verses to make sure that I was properly attributing the quote. And I was—it was the Israelites that made this claim, without batting an eye. I wanted to yell, “Blasphemy!” Seriously?! Just as you obeyed Moses?

And how was that, exactly? By building and worshipping a golden calf? By whining and moaning all through the desert? By questioning Moses and God at every turn? By threatening to have Moses replaced as your leader? By refusing to enter the Promised Land for fear of its inhabitants? By failing to put your trust in God, no matter how many times He proved himself faithful?

Just like that, huh? I can only imagine Joshua’s response to that.

I could sit in judgment of the Israelites all day long, but you know what? God chose them as an illustration of humanity. And that means that many times, the way that I obey God turns out to be just as the Israelites obeyed Moses, which is not very well. So, to me, this passage was a reminder of grace—the grace God had for the Israelites and the grace that He continues to show me. Grace is often described as unmerited favor. And it is just as unmerited for me, and for you, as it is for anyone else. When we forget that is when we begin to place ourselves in a judgment seat that belongs to God alone.

May we view ourselves rightly, that we may also rightly view those around us.