Honestly, Maybe


In Matthew 12:36, we are told that one day we will give an account for every word, and I’m getting a tiny glimpse of that these days as my own personal word auditor (my nearly four year old daughter) seems to remember just about everything I say. Often she’s watching to see if I follow through on an instruction or direction I’m giving (like “I will take you outside when your toys are picked up”).  And certainly every casual promise I make to “play in a minute” or take her somewhere “sometime” is recounted before long as she asks me to make good on my word.

My daughter’s sharp memory prompts me to only say what I really mean and intend to do so I don’t end up with a list of things to fulfill. But there’s a far greater reason than my convenience that I want her to have confidence in what I say to her: both now and especially as she grows, I hope to share many things with her about the reality of God, the gospel, and having her own relationship with Him. I don’t want the important things that I discuss with her – things that could affect aspects of her eternity – to seem like another thing that I may or may not really mean.

God’s attributes of faithfulness and truthfulness (Numbers 23:19) allow me to trust Him with complete assurance. Do I mirror these aspects of God? Am I a parent, family member, teacher, and friend who keeps my promises, no matter how small? I know that there will be times I let my daughter and others down when my actions don’t match my words.  But the more they do, the greater the potential impact of the most significant truths to the people in my life.


Imperfect Situations and God’s Perfect Will


Do you ever doubt that you are in God’s will because things aren’t going smoothly? When I hit bumps in life, one of my first reactions is often to think I must have made a wrong decision somewhere along the way. I start to fear that I’ve “missed” the best somewhere for my life and I can’t ever get it back. After all, wouldn’t God be continually blessing me with a smooth path if I were in His will?

Recently, however, individuals in the Bible who were clearly in God’s plan, but experiencing rough times have been apparent to me. Daniel, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist are a few that come to mind. And now, just after the Christmas season, Mary really stands out to me. Luke 1:42 says she was blessed among women and yet at the time she was carrying Jesus inside her, the challenges she was facing would have to make her feel anything but blessed. The realities of her life (mourning the possible loss of the marriage she had planned on, wondering about the stigma of being an unwed mother, almost every relationship in her life being in jeopardy) had to contrast sharply with the message of “highly favored one” (Luke1:28) that the angel gave to her. Only Mary’s amazing faith caused her to respond to God’s plan for her, not just with compliance – but instead, JOY at her situation. She even wrote a poem expressing her gratefulness to God that He would choose her for that path (Luke 1:46-55)!

Clearly, when we are facing opposition and challenges, we do have to examine our lives to make sure it is not our own sin that is causing or contributing to these problems. But these witnesses in Scripture remind me that being in God’s perfect will doesn’t mean that things are necessarily going to be perfect and imperfect situations don’t always mean that I went down a wrong path. Consider Jesus, who followed His Father in every respect and yet still encountered suffering and opposition. I shouldn’t let my less than ideal circumstances burden me with doubt, but look in expectant faith to God.

A Practical Sign of Faith

130823 PrayerYears ago, I read a poem about a person who was very burdened with stress and a full schedule and put off praying that day saying, “I’m so busy that I can’t take time to pray”. Things don’t go well for this person as they bumble through the day in their own strength. The poem ends with the person waking up the next day – to another full schedule – and saying, “I’m so busy today that I HAVE to take time to pray.”

This is where I often find myself  – easily putting off prayer. Sometimes it’s because I feel my schedule is too full and other “urgent” things have priority – like my three year old daughter who clearly got the “very early morning person” gene. 🙂 Sometimes it’s because there is much weighing on my mind and I feel that I need to think it through before I know how to present it to God (who knows all about it anyway – doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?). Whatever the reason I find to neglect praying, it’s not nearly as urgent or important as all the reasons I should be praying.

When I really think about it, consistent prayer is probably one of the clearest and most practical signs that I truly believe that God is real. I can think of a few people that I know who clearly have well developed prayer lives –it’s just part of their thought process! When talking to these people even briefly, they’ll often say “let me pray for you” or “let’s talk to God about this” and it’s not awkward or showy – it’s as normal as if they stopped to include another person in the conversation. God is real to them! They often have stories to share of what God is doing around them and they inspire me (and others) to follow harder after Him.

I want to be like that – to have prayer such a part of my daily life that Jesus is literally the friend always beside me ready for conversation. When prayer is built into my life, I will not only receive the benefits of exercising my faith and having good communication with God, but those who come into contact with me may very well see more of Him, too.

Christians and the Arts

2013_05_17 Arts Those who know me well may think it’s funny that I would choose to write about the arts. I apparently free-styled too much in ballet as a child. I never made it past a year or two of piano lessons (as a five year old, I told my mom that I wasn’t “ready”). And although now there are many arts that I really appreciate, until recently if you asked me where I thought it ranked on a spiritual scale, I probably would have said pretty low.

However, creativity is an essential part of God’s character, and so as His image bearers, we should have a high regard for all creativity and beauty. Unfortunately, some in the Christian world have deemed many artistic endeavors as unimportant because they didn’t seem as “useful” as other Christian activities. As a result, many Christians have either left the arts alone or let the arts that we produce or support slip to less than excellent.

In ignoring the arts or producing art that is mediocre, we can lessen our impact. Franky Schaeffer says, “Any group that willingly or unconsciously sidesteps creativity and human expression gives up their effective role in the society in which they live. In Christian terms, their ability to be salt and light of that society is diminished.” Although direct outreach and evangelism have places of serious spiritual significance, books, movies, music, etc. have a heavy influence on culture and we can likewise have a powerful spiritual impact through such endeavors – especially if we do them well.

So – as someone who is not specifically involved in the creative arena – how can I really reflect this aspect of God’s character? First, the “arts” doesn’t simply refer to the high arts. As Schaeffer said, it also refers to any form of human expression – written, verbal, musical, etc. With that in mind, I really don’t have to look far to see how I can reflect God. I can mirror His interest in detail and beauty in the way that I order and decorate my home, write and verbally communicate creatively and free from the profane, teach my daughter to create things with her mind and hands expose her to good art and literature, create through growing a garden, etc.

I can positively impact my culture not only by the things that I produce, but also those that I support. We all constantly encounter things (music, photos, shows, movies, books, and so on) that call for our “appreciation”. I should avoid artistic expression that doesn’t fit the criteria of true beauty. (We are told to worship God in “the beauty of holiness” (1 Chron 16:29, Psalm 29:2, Psalm 96:9). If something is not holy, it is not truly beautiful.) I can also support those Christians who are committed to using their talents in artistic excellence, and not view their work as non-essential to the Christian cause.

Whatever skills God has given us (or not given us) and where ever He has called us to be, let’s better communicate to the world around us by reflecting our creative, diverse, and beautiful God with excellence!

The Addiction of Being Liked

A few years ago, I probably would have felt that I had things all together (maybe that should have been my first hint that something wasn’t quite right!). I was busy and fulfilled with my teaching job, volunteering several nights a month, teaching missions classes, and being involved with programs of all kinds. 

After I got married and had my daughter, my priorities and my schedule changed. At first, the shift in focus was exciting – something I had looked forward to. Over time, though, I began to miss my old activities and how they made me feel needed and appreciated. Now I had to say “no” a lot. I couldn’t be involved in things like I used to. In some ways I felt like I had been forgotten. When I wasn’t busy doing these “good” things, I felt like a lesser Christian.

Then several months ago, I started reading a book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian. In this book, among a lot of other good things, the author stresses the sufficiency of Jesus – not just for our salvation, but to rescue us from self-reliance, fear, insecurity, and so on.  Tchividjian says, “. . .the gospel alone can free us from our addiction of being liked. . . Jesus measured up for us so we don’t have to live under the enslaving pressure of measuring up for others” (p. 23). (If you want a reminder of Christ’s sufficiency in all things, check out Colossians 1.)

Since I realized this, I have had such freedom from the slavery of making myself more “qualified.” It doesn’t mean that I live however I want – my love for Jesus should me to obey Him. But instead of being self-absorbed and preoccupied with my own efforts, focusing on what Christ has done transforms my life and fashions both the details and overall purpose. For me, living like God is real means daily reminding myself of all that I already have in Christ!