Inside Out

We’re reading through I Corinthians in Bible Study on Sunday nights. Way back in the college days I studied it verse-by-verse. Now, with this whole group of brothers and sister in the faith, we are looking at it thought-by-thought and I’m loving it. There is a time and season for everything, and this is my time and season for these words again.

This morning I reread the passage we studied Sunday night. The end of chapter 10. At face value it’s talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols, something I, personally, do not come in contact with, well, ever. But there is so much more depth in this passage than just meat and idols.

Paul says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”

I find it interesting that whenever we’re reminded of our freedom as Believers, we are also reminded of the need for restraint. It’s true that we are not under the written law any longer, but it is also true that the Holy Spirit is now writing his law on our hearts. In other words, true freedom means that we are no longer bound by outward commands, but are instead controlled by inward restraint. 

There is one principle we are given– the guiding boundary to bounce everything else off.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

If we stop and ask ourselves (honestly), “Am I doing this for God’s glory?” We have found the answer to any, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” question.

Another truth that keeps cropping up through the book of Corinthians, is that there may be different answers to that question. What one person does to God’s glory does not necessarily have to be duplicated in the next person.

Devin, one of the guys at Bible Study, put it perfectly.

“I should not try to conform others into what I think a Christian should look like. I should desire to have them share my faithnot necessarily my convictions. After all, if we make a rule that you can never break some external thing– we will never truly know what is going on internally in a brother’s heart, and that’s the stuff that matters.”

For when we are freed from the outward restraints, we can see clearly what lies inward. And there, where truth abounds, we can all be real and be changed and allow God to transform us from the inside out.

a WordSnack from 1 Corinthians 10

the key to surviving hardship

I think I learned to love Job the most when I was battling depression. I struggled with the conversation between Job and his friends, but then I would sit and read God’s answers over and over. His glory hushed the scream of my pain. His power quieted the spinning thoughts in my head.

I read them again today. All those words God spoke from the whirlwind.

Oh, glory. 

There are three main things the book of Job teaches us.

  1.  It reminds us there are things happening in the heavenly realms. The first couple chapters give us a glimpse into a conversation between God and Satan that flings the doors open to the mystery of the spiritual world. Right now we only see as through a mirror dimly, but the day will come when our vision is cleared and we will fully understand the greater war taking place for our souls.
  2. It points out that being “good” doesn’t exempt you from suffering. Nor does being righteous. For Job was a righteous man, and he lost everything. Just as we can’t “work” our way into heaven, it is also impossible to “work” our way into an easy carefree life. In this world we will have trouble- but take heart. Christ has overcome the world. 
  3. The key to surviving hardship is found in maintaining the conversation with God. Human tendency is to pick one of three responses when facing sorrow:
  • “God must not exist.” and then shut down communication because He’s not there.
  • “God isn’t really good.” and then shut down communication because who wants to talk to a God who isn’t good?
  • “God exists, is probably good, but He doesn’t really care about me personally.” and shut down communication because we’re not important enough.

But the book of Job gives us another option. We see what happens when mere man continues his dialogue with the holy God, right past the place where he doesn’t understand. Right into the questions and the anger and the tears and the desperation. Right through depression and so much loss it aches to even think of it.

And it shows us that this God, the Creator of the universe, honors the man who keeps the lines of communication open. He honors him by responding, by teaching, by rebuking, by building up and pouring into.

Don’t let the enemy steal your conversation with God. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is so much better to bring honest questions before God than to claim belief and trust, yet have neither. 

God is big enough for your questions. And He is love enough to show up.

So keep the doors open. Keep your ears tuned to His voice. Keep your heart humble before Him. Ask, seek, and knock.  He is there.

a WordSnack from Job

Why I loved my tiny house

Almost seven years were spent in the little house on the hill. People made comments sometimes, wondering that we could ever live in such a tiny place. Usually their comments only lasted as long as they were driving-by and talking. Once they came inside, they shushed up right quick.

My husband had taken a little run-down pigeon barn and fashioned a cozy, warm homestead.

Between the towering recycled dance-floor ceiling, the wall-sized windows, the golden-cherry cupboards, and the hand-crafted staircase– most people just turned around with eyes wide open when they stepped inside.

It was beautiful. And I loved every single minute we lived there.

Yes, sometimes the space was crowded. But, unlike what most people seem to think, we did not move into a larger house last month because we wanted more space. We moved because God opened the doors for us to work at a job that would hopefully benefit our family in the long-run and would bless dear friends of ours in the meantime.

This subject has been on my mind for awhile because people keep mentioning how we must be “so happy” to have moved. We are! But not because we felt discontent with our house.

In fact, as I read my Scripture verses this morning, I felt the truth settle again.

In 1 Timothy 6 Paul says,

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

To be honest, I’m not always good at this. I was discontent for years with our lack of children. I’ve been discontent with my body, my money, my possessions. But for some reason, I was always content with our home. Perhaps because it was warm and soft and the place my husband built for me with his own hands– but I think, also, because I knew, deep-down, that nothing in a home would bring me contentment if my heart was bent on discontentment.

American society says we need bigger houses, more space, better furniture, faster computers, nicer iphones.

But God says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It’s normal, society will say, to work towards nicer things and prettier clothes and better vehicles.

But God says, “It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Whenever I think of our tiny house, I realize the thing I loved most about it is this: it was there, in that 18×24 space, with the washer and dryer in the corner of my bedroom because that’s the only place it fit, and the living room that only had space for one love seat, and the kitchen that I was loathe to share because I would step on whoever wanted to help me, that I learned one of life’s most important lessons. Contentment is a decision. 

  • Contentment with my house (and the ability to see all the beautiful things about it!).
  • Contentment with my husband (and the chance to fall in love with him, day after day after day!).
  • Contentment with my family (even if it was only-ever just the two of us!).
  • Contentment with whatever God had for me– for He is always working out good for those who are called according to His purpose.

It was all a choice. One I had the chance to make every single day.

But as for you, O man of God, flee [discontentment and the love of money]. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6

 

Hold Up My Hands

This morning I slept in past my usual Bible Study time. But thankfully, I didn’t miss breakfast and during breakfast we always read Scripture together as a family.

We’re in Exodus right now, working our way slowly through the story of Moses and the Israelites being miraculously delivered from Egypt. And today? We read about the Amaleks. Remember them? They were a nation that attacked the weakest of the Israelites as they were fleeing Egypt. At a certain point, once the people were somewhat settled into their nomad-ish new life, Moses told Joshua to take an army and meet the Amaleks in battle.

Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood and watched from a hill overlooking the battle. Whenever Moses raised his hands, with the staff of God in them, the Israelites prevailed. Whenever he lowered them, the Amaleks prevailed.

The solution seemed simple, just have Moses keep his arms up. Except, of course, any of us who have ever had to keep our arms raised for any length of time know that it is harder than it sounds.

So they found a stone for Moses to sit on and Aaron stood on one side of him and Hur stood on the other and they held Moses arms for him.

The battle was won. God’s miraculous provision was again given to His people.

It’s funny, but it makes me think about marriage. Yep, marriage.

My husband and I have often laughed over the way we work through a crisis. I will be worn out and exhausted and exasperated and completely dependent on him to “hold up my hands” and offer the stability and strength I need to win whatever battle I’m facing.

And then a few weeks later the positions will be switched, and I’ll be holding his hands up– being the stabilizing force for him.

Of course, there are days when we’re both worn thin and he’ll need me to hold him up and I’ll think, “I can’t do this! I’m too tired, too weak.” And then God will speak, as He always does, and remind me that it’s not really me to begin with. 

Just like it wasn’t really Moses or Aaron or Hur.

It’s Him.

He is the stabilizing force behind all of His people. The rock we sit on, the mountain we stand on, the power that pours strength into us when we have nothing left in ourselves.

No matter what you’re facing today, know this truth: He is.

He is God enough. He is strength enough. He is life enough. He is truth enough. He is hope enough. And He is the one who will hold you up when everything else is crumbling. 

A WordSnack from Exodus 17

Comfort and Strength

I’ve been sick the past few days, fighting off a nasty cold that has settled in my throat. I keep drinking gallons of hot tea with honey, and sipping cups of chicken broth, and wishing I could just sleep all day, every day.

When I’m sick, all I want are comforting things. Warm blankets, soft pillows, hot tea.

Sometimes I feel like the Psalms are God’s version of wrapping us tight in warmth and gentleness, right when we need it most.

This morning I read in Psalm 84, where the popular song, “Better is One Day” is taken from. And as I read through the familiar words of the song, I came to my very favorite part.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you…”

It begins. Blessing to those who are depending on Christ for their strength. Oh, yes, that’s me!

“As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”

The Valley of Baca was an actual place, located in desert country. A valley where there was little water and much hardship found for those passing through. The literal translation is, “Valley of Weeping” or “Valley of Tears”.

And God’s promise, this glorious comfort that rests on me this morning, is that those who depend on Him will travel through the valley of weeping and make the desert a place of springs. We will go from strength to strength, in Him. And we leave pools of water for those coming behind us.

Is that not the most glorious of warm blankets? Comfort of all comforts.

We are held tight in His hands. Always. Even in the desert, even through the weeping, even when we are weak within ourselves.

And through Him we go from strength to strength.

a WordSnack from Psalm 84

Though I May Never Bear a Child…

I didn’t really think of the ramifications of having a daughter who can read well. The other day I came into the room and she was snuggled up on the couch with Pain Redeemed in her hands. I raised my eyebrows but didn’t say anything.

Later she came to me and hugged me from behind. “Oh, Mommy,” she said into my back, “I didn’t know you lost a baby.”

She was snuffling and wiping tears before I could react and we both ended up sitting on the kitchen floor talking about how God gives and takes away and it’s okay. 

“You must be so sad all the time!” she said.

“No, no,” I scrambled to explain. “I’m not so sad all the time. God has been good to us.”

This morning I was reading in Habakkuk 3, where the prophet is talking about all the things that may go wrong.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vine, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food…”

And I thought of all the things I could add to the list. “Though I may never bear a child, nor cradle my own infant in my arms, should I fail to have the privilege of choosing a name for a son or daughter, or watching them learn to walk and talk and laugh…” 

I looked over at my beautiful girl, this precious, incredible gift that God has poured into our lives– the child I didn’t get to name, or carry, or watch grow from infancy, and I say with Habakkuk,

yet, I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. 

No, I am not so sad. I have been sad. I have mourned deeply. But I rejoice. I rejoice in God’s gracious goodness, His hand of mercy in the midst of my pain, and His brilliant promise of salvation.

And I know that even without the gift of our daughter, I could still rejoice in Him. In Jesus, who redeemed my soul from the pit of emptiness.

Should all else fade away, this would still remain.

Hallelujah. 

a WordSnack from Habakkuk 3

 

 

Take Up Your Cross

I was just done cooking dinner last night when my husband called me. “Can you come help me finish this section of the fencing project?” Always a man with a mission, I knew how much it would mean to him to have his goals met by evening.

The path through the woods was rough, with rocks and tree limbs marring the path. We placed some fence posts, pushing dirt into the augered holes. I thought we were finished then, and I was quite happy with the thought of being done tripping, but he said, “Okay, if you can just wait a couple minutes, I want to take this pile of posts back.” He hefted a 10-foot post onto his shoulder and went marching back into the woods.

Of course I couldn’t leave him to carry the entire pile of posts himself. So I gingerly picked one up, rested it on my shoulder, and followed him.

The posts weren’t too heavy. 50-60 pounds, I would guess. But when you’re carrying them a little ways, they get awfully awkward and clumsy.

“Mama,” my daughter said, walking behind me, “don’t you want to go home?”

Yes, I did. But the job had to be done, so I just had to keep doing it. Continue reading

Jealous Lover

I was at Bible college, surrounded by people and conversation and community, but I had never felt so alone.

What was wrong with me? After growing up on a Bible school campus, I had always dreamed of the day when I would be one of the students and here I was! But something was missing.

In front of the chapel building was a small yard that was rarely used. Towering trees left a smattering of leaves on the ground and I found my way to their shade on a warm fall day. My ever-present-Bible fell open and I began reading in Nehemiah. But for some reason a verse someone mentioned kept plaguing me and I felt the need to give up my reading and search for it.

I found it in Psalm 63.

Oh, God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you.

The words seemed to swirl around me. I missed Him. Continue reading

Listen and Follow

Yesterday afternoon my husband drove the skidsteer to get a round bale for the cattle. They’re all out to pasture now, but we’re still supplementing their grazing with balage. When he got near the gate, he jumped down and talked to our daughter. “I need you to open and shut the gate for me,” he told her. Step by step, he showed her how to lift the latch, pull it open and then shut it tight.

“But Daddy,” she said, “I’m too scared! What if the cows get me?”

He looked her right in the eye, “If you listen to me and follow my directions exactly, I will always be between you and the cattle. You will never be in danger.” Continue reading