How me, Lord?

We have a natural tendency toward self-pity.  Why me, Lord? Why do I have to go through this?  Often time, it’s borne of envy; more a ‘Why not me, Lord?’.  The struggle for the Christian is reconciling the self-interest with knowledge that we are sinners, God has blessed us more than we deserve by giving us anything more than death for our sin, and yet seeing so many that are blessed in spite of their sin.  Even reconciling these, there is a further complication of struggle and suffering: it might be part of the plan.  Sure, Jesus works miracles.  He is able.  So we ask ourselves, if He is able, why is He not willing?  He has healed others, so why not me?  Then reality sets in:  He allows suffering, even (especially?) to those whom he loves.  Many of the apostles and early believers were martyred in gruesome ways. Why?

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. ~ Hebrews 11:35b – 37 NLT

Why? Intellectually we may grasp that suffering reveals and glorifies God.  That is cold comfort.

I must confess that I ask “Why Me Lord? Why us?” a lot.  I’m coming to the realization that (a) I may not want to know the answer, and (b) even if I did know the answer, it might not be comforting.  The better question, then, is: How me, Lord?

Forget why. How do you expect me to handle this? How am I going to make it through? How am I supposed to make it through today? This month? This year? I try to find comfort in His word on this subject, but I just tend to find more suffering among seemingly indiscriminate (to my mortal mind) miracles and healing.  I keep coming back to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. He’s telling them to stop boasting and whining (2 sides of a self-centered coin):

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. …When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, 32-33 NLT
Even in the midst of all of this suffering while serving God, Paul was still in danger of becoming proud of his sacrifices, proud of his sufferings…
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT
I confess that would rather, for my own selfish reasons, that God shine through miracles of deliverance and healing and prosperity in my life; for His own reasons, he seems to want to shine through miracles of endurance and faith.  How shall I endure? Only through His strength.
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Jumanji and My Daughters: A father’s take on daughters dating

jumanji-beachFrom the moment my daughter was born, there was a drum beat somewhere in the background. When she was young, it was barely perceptible, but as she has gotten closer to dating age, the drums have grown louder.  The same, infernal beat: boys… boys… boys….  It was a source of stress and trouble I have tried in vain to forestall as long as possible.  Then, this year, along came The Boy.  As boys go, The Boy is a good’un.  He is polite, respectful, devout, comes from a good family, is smart, funny, athletic, and the ladies of the house tell me he is good-looking.  If I had to pick one, I’d pick The Boy.  That doesn’t mean I’d pick one.  If it were up to me, this story would sound a lot like Rapunzel.  But this story is not Rapunzel; it’s Jumanji.

Why Jumanji? Because once this game starts, there’s no way to stop it. It ain’t over until someone puts a ring on a finger and says the magic words… “I do.”  And now, the die has been cast and the game has begun. Except it’s not a game.  There are life-altering consequences for every step and misstep. As an attorney in the criminal justice system, I won’t let my mind delve into the true worst case scenarios, but let’s just say underage premarital sex and unwed pregnancy are up there.  The journey my daughter has begun with The Boy has started us down a long road full of pitfalls and unexpected turns.  I was not ready to begin this journey just yet, but here we are.  Can’t stop Jumanji until it’s over.

narrowpathMy biggest source of fear for my beautiful and intelligent daughter and The Boy comes from the knowledge of how long a path they’re on, and how tempting it is to race further down it.  My fears only increase when I consider the many well-intentioned young people I know who came from good families and had strong Christian upbringings and knew and professed the right things but who ultimately succumbed to temptation.  I will be gently and not so gently impressing upon them that their continued ability to stay on the path together depends on staying right where they are on this path, and NO FURTHER.  They will have oversight, guidance, chaperoning and we will help them to see each other and develop their friendship, but if I get the slightest whiff of an attempt to avoid oversight, to have private and clandestine interaction, that will be it for a while.  Lose a Turn.  We will protect you from yourselves whether you like it or not. We are the guardrails until you can develop your own.

And you must.  The idea is that, although you may be able to resist temptation, it is better to avoid it altogether. You know how not to fall off a cliff? Don’t go near the edge.  Don’t put yourself in situations where your only defense to temptation is your own self-control.  Set up guardrails.  (More below).

JumanjiiJungleGunIn the end, I wish nothing but happiness and good times for my daughter and The Boy. I just hope no one has to get shot.

P.S.  Newhope Church‘s Pastor Benji Kelley had a great series on establishing guardrails as a defense to sin. You might want to check it out. Guardrails: Flee!

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Do Dogs Go to Heaven?

I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he’ll be there.

Rev. Billy Graham

I often marvel at the wonder of God’s creation, from the crashing sea to snow-capped mountains and the beauty and artistry of everything in between. Today, I must reflect on my dog, Copper, whose long life on this earth came to a close today just shy of 16 years.  The dog is well-named as man’s best friend, as there is no greater example of the kind of friend we are each called to be.  What other creature is so loyal and selfless and joyful?  Like many others, I arrive at the question:  Do dogs go to heaven? Continue reading

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May the Fourth Be With You

It’s awesome how the truth of God reveals itself in the timeless stories of our culture. Intentionally in Narnia and Middle Earth by Christian authors, to be sure, but also unintentionally in the stories of Harry Potter and even long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

chappelltemple

It’s been thirty-seven years since it first came out but I remember it as though it were yesterday.  For the moment the movie began, like a tractor beam pulling in the Millenium Falcon, I was drawn into the imagery, the ideas, the heroes and villains, the soaring music, even the cheesy title slides of George Lucas’ space-opera trilogy, Star Wars.  What’s more, so was almost everybody else I knew.  Because something within that story hit a nerve for a lot of people and it still does.  Indeed, not only was the film franchise able to span decades, but there’s a new set of Star Wars movies being produced right now for release next year, and I have no doubt but that they will set box office records as well, adding to the haul of some 4.3 billion dollars made so far and counting.

Now I mention all of…

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Thought: Communication in Marriage

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This is Leah. Leah is in 3rd grade. Leah can communicate very effectively to her dad what she is thinking about him without even saying a word.

The conventional wisdom already makes clear that “communication is key” in a marriage, and it is.  But I think a lot of spouses overlook the fact that communication is more than talking. In fact, sometimes our actions can say the opposite of our words. 

You would probably never tell your spouse that you think they’re stupid, that they’re no fun to be around, that they’re not attractive, or that you don’t respect their interests or talents.  Your actions, inattention, body language, sarcasm, criticism and absence can say all these things and worse.  Give some thought today to what you’re saying to your spouse without words.  How can you express without words that they are respected, admired, fun to be with, desired, valued and LOVED?  

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I don’t respect the president or his office, and neither should you

Amen. If you don’t follow this blog, you need to.

The Matt Walsh Blog

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Of all the flaccid refrains constantly shrieked by the hordes of Statist sycophants, the worst is probably this:

“Even if you don’t respect Obama, you should still respect the office!”

Respect ‘the office,’ they say.

Definition of respect: to hold in esteem or honor.

Synonyms for respect: deference, awe, reverence.

As you might imagine, I was recently reacquainted with the rather sickening idea that I have a duty to show reverence for a political office, when I wrote a post last week where I merely called the president a liar. Indeed, anytime you criticize the president with an intent more serious than playfully teasing him for picking the wrong team in his March Madness bracket — anytime you attack authority, particularly presidential authority, particularly THIS president’s authority — the ‘respect the office’ propagators will come streaming in, fingers-a-wagging and heads-a-shaking.

‘Respect the office,’ they gush. Noticeably, the folks most concerned with respecting Obama’s office weren’t to…

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Who Am I?

From my pastor Benji Kelley’s blog:

Not sure who you really are? Read this list of Biblical truths that reveal who God made you to be. Be blessed this day and live into who God says you are already are in Christ! 

I am complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10)

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues.  I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).

I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9-10).

I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).

I have no lack for my God supplies all of my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one with my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).

I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am God’s child for I am born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I am a spirit being alive to God (Romans 6:11;1 Thessalonians 5:23).

I am a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind (2 Corinthians 4:4).

I am a doer of the Word and blessed in my actions (James 1:22,25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).

I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and longsuffering (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12).

I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).

I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).

I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).

I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).

I am healed by the stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).

I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

I am strengthened with all might according to His glorious power (Colossians 1:11).

I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

I love this song on who we are to God:

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Thank goodness…

My reaction when my husband asks

Too funny. I’m so glad Emily quickly figured out (1) how to get them free, and (2) how to make money sharing these great products with others.

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Practical Tips for Praying at Work

Practical Tips for Praying at Work.

Emily Page Thirty-One direct sales work from home wahm sahm income employment business jesus husband christian father prayer

Prayer at work… not like this. Tempting, though.

From the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and Urbanfaith.com:

 

What does it look like to “pray without ceasing?” How might a prayerful heart oriented towards God express itself at work? I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Mark Herringshaw, teaching pastor at North Heights Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Nicole Symmonds, managing editor at UrbanFaith.com, recently created a helpful list of “21 Ways to Pray at Work.” They write, “Many of us will spend the majority of our waking hours behind a desk, having only one prayer – the one that we prayed in the morning – to keep us throughout the day.” Here are some of their tips. View them as suggestions for what “pray without ceasing” might mean – not as a list of rules which you have to follow.

1. Pray on your way into work in the morning: Glance at the sign or logo of your organization. Thank God for his provision to you and your family. Ask God to bless all the individuals who are a part of this enterprise.

2. Pray while working on your office phone and contact list: Pray the ancient Hebrew blessing for your contacts: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance on you and grant you his peace.”

3. Pray while you’re in a meeting: Pray to focus on the message that is being delivered, that you will ask the necessary and appropriate questions and make sensible comments.

4. Pray when you hear of firings and layoffs: Pray to not be taken by the spirit of fear or anxiety, but of calmness and peace. If you hear of colleagues getting fired or laid off, pray for their peace and provision.

5. Pray when you have to work late or travel: Pray that God would protect your family in your absence and give them patience and understanding to adjust to your business and travel schedule. But also pray that he give you the courage to erect the proper boundaries so that you may not become more consumed with your work than you are with your family life.

…This list is also not meant to be a checklist, something we have to do out of obligation. It’s important that our prayer be Spirit-led. True prayer is “in the Spirit.” There is a difference between forced or rote prayer and spontaneous prayer led by the Spirit. Ephesians 6:18 says, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Our places of employment are the areas of responsibility God has called us to cultivate. We can walk and converse with God through our offices and construction sites and classrooms the way Adam walked with God through the Garden of Eden, in a spirit of total dependence on him to equip us with what we need to carry out our responsibilities.

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Don’t be afraid.

Jesus says the greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  I may have a pretty good idea what #3 is*:

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