Uncomfortable Christianity

When Jesus walked this earth, most of the folks surrounding Him didn’t truly understand His mission. They came to Him for healing, they came to Him for comfort, they came to Him because they thought He was the one who would save them from the Romans. One man even came to Him to have Him settle a dispute between himself and his brother (see Luke 12: 13, 14). Few came to Him determined to obey Him and follow Him as Lord. What was true then is still true today.

Turn on a television set on any Sunday morning and you will see scores of so-called preachers teaching us that Christianity is meant to make us comfortable, healthy, wealthy and wise. Don’t you believe them. God the Father didn’t send His precious Son down to earth to be crushed by Himself as penalty for mankind’s sins just so that He could make us comfortable. Matthew 16: 24 states, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” These are not easy, comfortable words. These words would have shocked and frightened the hearers. Who ever heard such a thing? Command your followers to take up an instrument of execution and then follow You? Living in the time and place that they did, Jesus’ listeners knew all too well what crosses were for and that’s why this was such shocking teaching. They realized that He was commanding an all-out complete devotion irrespective of the survival of the follower.

Today, we see crosses as pretty little things to wear around our necks or as adornments for our churches. Even rock and rap stars wear them (although devoid of any real spiritual meaning). We put them on plaques on our walls and set them on our desks. They dangle from key-chains and decorate our tee-shirts. Seeing them all the time as we do, it’s easy to forget the real history behind them. It was bloody. It was destructive. It meant death. A cross, properly understood, still means death.

Comfortable Christianity? No, there is no such thing. Jesus died to offer salvation to His followers. His disciples died to preach the Word. Countless martyrs throughout the years have died to proclaim, protect and defend the Gospel. They are dying still. Last century saw a major upswing in the volume of martyrs. According to The New Persecuted: Inquiries Into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs by Antonio Socci over 70,000,000 people have died as martyrs for claiming faith in Christ since the first century. That’s shocking enough. What’s even more shocking is that, according to his research, over 45,000,000 of those died in the last century. Comfortable?  Hardly.

Jesus meant it when He said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him. It isn’t comfortable. It was never meant to be comfortable. In Matthew 10: 34-36, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.” Jesus then goes on to say that if we love anyone more than Him, we are not worthy of Him. He then adds, in verses 38-39, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Following Jesus was never meant to be comfortable. It was never meant to provide you with a life of ease and luxury. It isn’t about finding a place to park in a crowded lot (via Joel Osteen), being financially secure (via many) or having great sex (as far too many preachers now are teaching). Following Jesus was and is about dying to yourself, to sin and to this world and living only unto Him. Comfortable? No. Magnificent and worth any cost? Absolutely!

 

Where Are All Of The Good Women?

Several times through the years I’ve heard the question, “Where are all of the good men?” More than once, I’ve heard women and young ladies say, “I’m looking but I can’t find them.” To  you, I pose my own question, “Where are all of the good women?”

I have one of the good men right here in my home (and others coming along behind him). My oldest son is a good and godly young man who has never given himself over to modern culture, who isn’t swayed by peer pressure, who has never dated. One who, by the age of 13, strongly felt the need to prepare to be a godly leader, a good husband, a great dad. Though a man by all standards, he is a good son. He comes home at night (yes, he still lives at home) and lives a quite life. He’s a man who loves God and is preparing to preach His Word with boldness and grace; a man who has been thought strange because he prepares for the young lady who will be his wife…and waits. More than one person has tried to set him up on a date, almost everybody is shocked by the fact that he has never dated (never even came close) but still he waits for the one God has for him.

His desire is for a woman who loves God more than she loves him. He’s got his heart set on a woman of the Word who is also a woman of prayer. He is waiting for a young lady whose life is counter-cultural because it is based on Truth. And, as a great big bonus, he’d really love a young lady who can cook (and do it well)! As a bonus for her–when he finds her–he can cook, too! (This guy likes good food!)

You young ladies who ask, “Where are all of the good men?”…I’ve got several of them right here, in training, waiting for you. There are other Mamas just like me, raising up our boys, teaching them to live for God, to value purity and goodness and to wait for a woman who does likewise. All around us is a sea of immodestly dressed, sold-out-to-the-culture, live-for-the-moment, life-is-for-fun, girls. Many of these girls claim to be Christian but they aren’t living it. A lot of them are asking where the good guys are, wondering why one hasn’t snatched them up. If this is the kind of girl you are, please understand: this kind of girl isn’t the kind a truly godly young man wants. If you remain on this pathway, you aren’t going to get one of the treasures.

If you want one of the good men, one who is preparing to be a godly man, a good husband for you, then prepare yourself to be a good and godly woman and wife for him. Don’t go looking for them and don’t panic (let them find you). Wait, prepare, trust God. They’re there. I’ve got several of them right here (of course, some are pretty young yet…five and nine are way too young to be husband material…but one day). Some of mine are ready, some are getting ready and some are still playing with trucks and trains but one day…one day…each and every one of them is going to make some young lady a really, really good husband. Because my sons are good, godly men (or good-and-godly-men-in-training) they are, or will be, worthy of good and godly wives. They aren’t perfect but they are forgiven and they are grateful for grace. They are God’s men, God’s boys. And they are preparing…for you…to serve you, love you, to lead you. They are preparing to be a husband to the glory of God.

Are you likewise preparing? Are you willing to separate yourself from the culture and wait for the one God is preparing for you? Are you preparing, through a life given to God, to study, to prayer, to be a good and godly wife when the time comes? Are you preparing to be a wife to the glory of God?

Will you be prepared to be one of the good women these good men will be looking for?

Meanwhile my oldest son continues to prepare and to wait…as do his younger brothers, as do other godly young men…for the one who, by God’s grace, is preparing and waiting for him.

Into The Solitary Place With God

Mark 1: 35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”

Sometimes the world is too much with us or, perhaps, we are too much with ourselves. Concentrating on me, after all, isn’t going to make things all better for me; in fact, the more I think about me, the more I am tempted to sin by magnifying my wants and wishes or my troubles and trials. Either is sin. It is not we ourselves that we are to concentrate on but God Himself.

God is enough even when we don’t know it. He is where we find eternal life and forgiveness; He is where we find strength for the temporal and immediate in our daily lives. Of all the gifts that God bestows upon us, the greatest gift is that of Himself. When we don’t understand that, we don’t understand Christianity. He is God thus we must obey Him; He is also our Father: we can trust Him.

We are here so that we may know Him; we know Him through the Word and through prayer. Right now, it is the prayer that we will concentrate on. Too many of us no longer know how to pray in a way that honors God. It isn’t taught in many Sunday schools and is rarely preached upon from the pulpit. There are few books written on the subject today and many of those that are distort the necessary message, leaving us with the blasphemous idea that prayer is about us. “God bless me, bless her, bless them. Thank You, God, for this and for that. Now, God, give me this, give me that, and while You are at it, take care of me.”

What have we come to that we think that this is prayer? Real prayer isn’t about finding out how much God is willing to do for us. It is about seeking God and knowing Him, it’s about aligning our will to His and asking that His will to be done–in us, in our family, in the church, in the world. Since true prayer is always about glorifying God, it is also about Him even when we are praying about our own needs.

Luke 5: 16, “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”

Jesus often went out into a  place of solitude to be with His Father. He being our example in all things ought to be seen as our example in this, too.We can do much good in corporate prayer but our deepest and most intense prayers are usually offered in private. Abandoning all, we are to seek Him. Going to Him alone, we are to lay our lives out before the throne in praise and adoration.

Make time to do that today: sneak away to a solitary place and be alone with your Lord and magnify Him.

 

Reasons For Praise

This past week has been one of “those weeks”; the kind of week that probably led to the invention of Murphy’s Law (all that can go wrong, will go wrong). Seen from the outside, all is pretty much lost. We’re broke. We’re dealing with physical issues…again. The car is acting up…again…but then when is it not? We need this…and that…and only God can provide it or make it happen. From a human perspective, we have many, many reasons to sit down and cry.

For instance…

  • My 18-year old son works at a well known department/discount store pushing carts. Sunday night around 10: 20, we received a call from the store. Seems they were calling the paramedics to come check him out because he was “shaking and couldn’t feel anything”. The diagnosis? Heat exhaustion.
  • On Saturday my two youngest daughters got to go with their Daddy and their oldest brother to Grandmas and have a dip in her pool. The next day the youngest one was in agony with her ears.
  • My husband woke me up at 4:00 this morning to let me know that his unemployment check hadn’t come through this week. When talking to the office about the checks just now, he was told there would be no more unemployment checks…at all (we had been told that they would last through August). He has to contact our Congressman to see if he can get them started back. If not, this spells complete and utter financial disaster for our family (as a very difficult situation becomes perilous).
  • The churches that I wrote to in the new area and practically begged to help us look for a room for my husband have been, for the most part, singularly unhelpful. Those that haven’t outright ignored me (even though I sent along a Pastor’s phone number and other contact information as a reference) have basically dismissed me without trying (“Don’t know of anything. Sorry.”). I can’t help but wonder if, instead of a rather poor family seeking to make a new start, we had been a well-known rich family if we would have been dismissed in the same fashion. Somehow, I doubt it.
  • Our car needs repairs…again. This time, it’s the fuel injector. Wonder what it will be next week?
  • My 14-year old son was bitten by a mouse last night as he attempted to save it from a cat (he was outside when this happened). Yes, a mouse. Yes, it hurts…a lot.
  • My husband has to be on the job next Thursday. That gives us one week to come up with a room for him (that we can afford) and sufficient money to send him. This is going to be fun.
  • The fridge is giving us fits.
  • Two kittens died.
  • And…so on….

Okay…please excuse my sarcasm, it’s a family trait (on both sides) and our rather strange sense of humor. Sarcasm aside, the thing is, I feel so blessed. Yes, everything that can go wrong, is, to human eyes, going wrong. Yes, we are being ignored/dismissed again (but, having been poor for several years now, we are so very used to that). Yes, money is a major, major issue and without it, Charles won’t have a room and thus won’t have a job and without lots more of it, we won’t be able to move (we aren’t just sitting around hoping for money to somehow come, we are actively trying very, very hard to sell stuff to raise it…it just keeps being needed elsewhere…like paying the bills we’re somewhat behind on (comes from living on unemployment) and fixing the car (again and again)). And, yes, to lots of other, rather stressful, things happening…like no more income (which is what the unemployment was to us).

But, so what? 

God has given my family a great gift these last few years: the gift of poverty. He’s let us see life in a way far too few American Christians get to experience it: from the point of being utterly, completely dependent upon Him for everything. When most folks pray “Give us this day our daily bread”, it’s just a rather pretty part of a rote prayer; for us, it’s fact. There have been so many, many times over this past six years (and even more over the last two years of his being unemployed) that, without God providing for us, we would not have eaten. I know what an empty cupboard (and fridge and freezer) looks like. We know what it feels like to be grateful for food that we don’t much care for. But, then again, we’ve seen God provide for us time and time again and, often, we’ve seen Him provide food that we have thoroughly enjoyed (and wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise).

God is good even when things go wrong. See, His greatest blessings aren’t things, it isn’t money, it isn’t position or power or being thought well of by others in the church. God’s greatest blessing is simply more of Himself. He is our greatest blessing: not just through salvation but through the act of knowing Him as a Father, as a Provider, as a Guide and as a Friend. My family knows that very, very well. God is good even when absolutely everything is going wrong…sometimes He is good simply because He allows every single thing to go wrong. He demonstrates His goodness by making us more and more dependent upon Him.

That’s where my family is now: completely dependent in a Red Sea moment, waiting for God to act.

A few weeks ago, when it looked like things were never going to move at all, when it looked like a job would never come for my husband and our unemployment would run out, I told the Lord, “If we are to be saved, it is You Who must save us.” He acted then and I believe He is going to act now…even though our unemployment has, in fact, run out.

I believe God delights in bringing us into Red Sea moments so that, when we are delivered, we know it was by His hand. I love watching Him act and doing the impossible: changing the night to day, providing where there is no way, bringing peace out of chaos…comfort out of pain…making right, and perfect, what is wrong. I love seeing Him get the glory by doing what few believe can be done.

Right now, by God’s grace, we are in such a position that, if we are to be saved, it is He Who must do the saving, if we are to be delivered, it is He Who must deliver us. I believe He brought us to this moment so that His glory might be revealed.

And I believe that He is very gracious and very good for having done so. May He ever be praised!

Soli Deo gloria!

Packing Days

May 17th  (yesterday)

Today is packing day Number Two. Yesterday was packing day Number One. Somewhere out there is packing day Number Thirty (or Forty or Fifty). {{sigh}}

We’re moving. Two little words filled with such busyness. I regularly dejunk twice a year and I’m not a packrat by anyone’s definition yet it always seems that when a move comes along there’s just way too much stuff to go through before we can pack.

Yesterday we cleaned off the back porch which is used as a play/storage area and I started going through clothes and books. Today we have more to go through on the porch, many more clothes to sort through and many books to make decisions about:hhmmm, does this book go with us, go to the thrift store, get thrown away or can I sell it on Amazon? For a large homeschooling family books are the hardest part about moving. There’s just so many of them accumulated over so many, many years. Sometimes its hard to let them go. This time I must as they are one means of raising the money needed to accomplish this move. After all of the clothes and books and stuff on the porch, then we get to go through everything else God has granted unto us.

God has granted us so much. There’s stuff, yes, but that’s not what I mean. Not all of God’s gifts are things. Sometimes His greatest gifts come in the form of difficulties, impossibilities and trials. At times, unless you really know Him, it can be difficult to realize that you’ve been given a gift because the gift is demands so much of you: so much prayer, so much study, so much faith, so much trust, so much willingness to follow Him wherever He goes even when you cannot see the way yourself. Even when the way is terrifying.

We’ve been the recipients of these kinds of gifts for the last six years. Years that go way beyond the two years my husband spent unemployed. Back then, back about six-and-a-half years ago, I asked the Lord to give us a problem so big that only He could handle it. He did. Today we’re still dealing with it. It wasn’t just one thing but an endless series of things that just go on and on and on, like waves crashing endlessly upon the shore: during this time we’ve dealt with job losses (more than one), miscarriages (ditto), two wayward teens, betrayal by beloved friends, betrayal by close and trusted family members, character attacks in the form of lies and baseless accusations, various health problems in various family members, a cancer scare, endless moves following after jobs (this will be the fifth move) and biting poverty…among others. In light of these things, packing days are easy.

Right now packing isn’t all we’re doing: we’ve got two weeks to find my husband a room that we can afford and get him settled in. Then we’ve got to figure out how to get us all moved to where he is so that we can be a family again. We’re not quite sure how all of this is going to work out. But we do know one thing: God can be trusted. The way is dark, yes, and we still can’t see but after more than 2,000 days of not seeing and following Him anyway, I know Him; I know His character and I know Him to be both agreat God and a good God. No matter how dark the pathway, He deserves our trust: He knows the way even though we ourselves do not. So we’ll follow Him no matter where He leads because, somehow, someway, He will make a way to get my husband down there…and to have us follow Him.

Meanwhile, if you have a great idea for raising a bit of money in a hurry, I’d love to hear it!

For now, I’ve got to get packing. 

Zealous For Whose Glory?

It’s so easy to be zealous of our own glory when we think we are being zealous for the glory of God. Brushing aside compliments received for the work we are doing for God, it’s a natural reaction to point out that God alone deserves and gets all of the glory for anything that we might do.

And, yet, somewhere, somehow, deep down inside we realize that this particular compliment felt just a little bit too good to us for our own good.

We can easily be man-centered and even self-centered without realizing it. All it takes is taking our eyes off of the Cross of Christ and putting them on ourselves for one single second.

One second….

One second spent looking at me and what I did for Him;

One second spend thinking about how someone, somewhere benefitted from what I said, what I did, how I served;

One second centered on my own glory rather than on His.

One second to sin.

It’s so easy to do. It’s so hard to realize that we are doing it.

Paul Washer has it right in this: he doesn’t follow his own publicity. Whether someone praises him or puts him down, he doesn’t know because he doesn’t care to know. God’s glory is all-consuming to him.

That’s as it should be with us all.

So, I beg you, anyone who works for God in any way at all (that ought to be all of us), public or private, it matters not, please listen:

Let’s keep our eyes on the Cross;

Keep our heart centered on God;

Keep our focus on His glory;

Keep ourselves in the Word;

Stay on our knees in prayer;

God’s Word is all-important.

God alone is everything.

The glory of the triune God must be all-encompassing to us.

Anything else is sin.