Wonderfully Made

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it (Ps 139:14).

 God made me special;

Like no one else, you see.

God made me a witness

To His diversity.

This little child’s verse has a lot to say about our Creator. God must absolutely love diversity. No two of anything are the same! But what do we humans do? Compare. Compare. Compare. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t.

It is said that comparison steals our joy. That may be true, but there is a much deeper spiritual principle at play. In His perfect plan, each of God’s children was designed with the exact qualities and attributes to do the work that (s)he was created to do.

When we compare ourselves to others we open the door for the enemy, the Father of Lies, who will gladly point out our insufficiencies, deficiencies, and areas where we just don’t measure up.

Our eyes no longer focus on our relationship with God and His purposes for us, but on our self and our inadequacies. Talk about an obstruction to God’s plan.

In the original language this verse translates to “set apart or distinct.” God doesn’t need any two of us to be alike, and we always function best by following the design of the Maker.

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Judge Not

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Matt7:1-2).

There are some scriptures that I don’t really like, not because they are not true or helpful, but because they are true and convict me of things that I don’t like to face or believe about myself.

Like verse 4 of the above passage asks, “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?”  I have that same speck in my own eye, only it’s exponentially worse. Every fault that I find in another can be found deep within my own heart (ugh).

I’m not trying to make excuses, because I know this is an area about which I need to address, but isn’t this part of everyone’s sinful nature? Aren’t we always judging others as a typical, routine, commonplace activity?

I think the key to complying with this verse is to define judgement as criticism as in “Don’t criticize or we too will be criticized.” Personally, when I find that someone is being critical of something that I have said or done, often (not always) the situation or details have been misinterpreted or that person only knows part of the story. We really need to offer this same consideration (grace) to others and be aware of anything that causes us to think of ourselves in any way as superior to another.

Verse 2 is especially uncomfortable, but definitely worth repeating…  For we will be treated as we treat others, that is, the standard we use in judging is the standard by which we will be judged.

I pray for the eyes of the Father, for help in being gracious with others so that I too, will be shown grace.

Training Up Children

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The topic I’d like to talk about today, deals with a major difference in today’s world from what it was like one generation (really only about 15 years) ago. A challenge for today’s parents, about which they have no former parent model, is how to deal with technology.

Fortunately, the principles in God’s word spans years, generations, and centuries. We can look to scripture as a guide, including this one: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8).

 My daughter and her husband set some technology guidelines for their children, but I’ll let her tell you about them:

This is a daily (sometimes hourly) battle as a parent. I no longer see the goal as “keep them away from technology at all costs – it will kill them/fry their brain/turn them into hermits who can’t talk to people!!!” I cannot change the world that they are growing up in, and I am learning to acknowledge that it is just a different world/childhood from mine. So my goal has been refined and it is now more like this: “Teach them to be RESPONSIBLE stewards of technology, with skills to use it for good.” 

A few examples: 

  1. Let them use my laptop for a school math program but only for X minutes, and then it’s outside time.
  2. Show them a fun picture of their cousin on Facebook, but explain how people can post bad things too. 
  3. Let them play a KindleFire game, but understand that the Chat feature is NOT allowed. (I’m extremely transparent and honest with them. We talk openly about false identities and how a chatter might seem like a friendly child, but could be someone who is trying to trick them into doing something very bad). And then it’s outside time.
  4. Show that pictures and videos are fun to look at from family! But if you see something that doesn’t feel right to you, tell mom and dad and we’ll talk about it – don’t be afraid! And then it’s outside time. 
  5. Show how technology can help us (GPS, weather, store hours, learning games, etc.).
  6. We always stress that the minute technology becomes more important than our family (or any other real human) you will see it in the trash.

Personally, I am proud of them for thinking this through and becoming proactive. It keeps them as parents  from doing what Colossians 3 warns  about–not provoking or discouraging the kids by giving them random “don’ts” with no explanation. It sets them on track for making disciples at home by giving a perspective of technology that may help to keep it from becoming an idol of the heart.

Scripture alerts us to be intentional in training up the child in the way he should go. This includes the inclinations he should lean toward, his behavior, and his character. And although we may not have an earthly parent who modeled how to deal with 21st century technology, we do have a Heavenly Father who promises — if any of you lacks wisdom; let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Implementing God’s Word

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

 I am presently working with a group of students who are frustrated with the standards (guidelines) with which they must comply. Often times it isn’t the guideline itself, but the way that it is implemented. Don’t we sometimes do the same things as believers? We take a verse, principle or even a commandment and interpret it to our liking. This is nothing new. Paul addressed the Colossians about this a few centuries ago.

Take the verse “Husbands love your wives” as an example—part B of a very volatile principle in today’s world. Love is defined in Corinthians, and we hear it at 99% of the weddings we attend. But to put it in 21st century terms: Love is patient and kind, not arrogant or rude, or selfish, or demanding its own way, not easily angered, doesn’t keep score (I like that one), always protects, never gives up, is always hopeful and is trusting. God’s definition is sooo much better than Hollywood’s version.

Time to look at part A of this verse, “Wives submit to your husbands.” I addressed this before so I’ll just make a few comments that go along with this title. Like my education example, through the years and across many cultures and religions, this has been interpreted in ways that are in opposition to the intent. This verse does not suggest spiritual inferiority; in fact, the one submitting is actually in control of choosing the course of action. Valuing others above ourselves requires confidence in order to willingly yield to another, in order to lift that person up, with only one motive—love.

As the above verse states, scripture did not come from man, but it is the inspired word from the Holy Spirit. Although the most trusted theologians can give us insight, they are still men. God speaks directly to all believers, not just teaching by human wisdom, but teaching by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Paradise Lost …and Found

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

The world in which Adam and Eve lived would have been perfect in every way—weather, temperature, lush fruits, incredible surroundings, nothing to diminish their enjoyment of knowing God in a most intimate way. And God had companionship directly with them. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.

Of course, we know that didn’t end well. When sin entered the world, our holy God could not be in the presence of sin.

All our sins from merely embellishing the truth to inflicting horrific torture can be traced back to our inheritance of this sinful nature. Left to our own devises unconstrained, we fall back into greed, envy, selfishness, pride, gluttony… All the sins we commit are a manifestation of this sinful nature.

But God had a redeeming plan from the start to restore His cherished fellowship with mankind for those who so choose. When Jesus suffered as our substitute He was sinless, but He assumed our sinful nature long enough to defeat it. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  

This is so well explained in the words of this song:

                  “I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me. 

                   When [God] looks at me He sees not what I use to be, but He sees Jesus.”

We can have fellowship with God now in the spirit, and can look forward to someday walking with Him in the cool evening breezes.

Stumbling Blocks

Get thee behind me, Satan (Matt 16:23).

These are familiar words of Jesus, when Satan tried to tempt Him with a more comfortable path instead of the one that lay ahead at Calvary. But later in Matthew, Jesus was recorded as saying these same words to Peter, His close friend and follower.

Peter was genuinely concerned about Jesus. When Jesus foretold Peter about His upcoming suffering, Peter did not want to hear it—“Far be it from You, Lord.”

Satan uses every trick in the book to lure us away from God’s plan. Jesus called Peter (or Satan using Peter) a stumbling block. How often has a well-meaning friend tried to suggest an easier path for us? How often have we tried to steer a loved one in a less painful direction that in the long run would hinder their growth? Enabling maybe?

Jesus continued, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but merely human concerns.”

Because stumbling blocks aren’t intrinsically bad things, Satan can so easily trick us. Maybe Jesus’s words should be our first prayer when we are trying to discern and decide, “’Get out of the way, Satan’…in the name of Jesus”

Do You Love Me?

Do you love Me? ….Feed My sheep (John 21:16).

When our oldest son was little, he stood on a chair looking out the back door window, shouting in his best two-year-old televangelist voice to our dog, “Shane on the hill, do you know Jesus?”

My first thought was, “Where did that come from?” Our church didn’t preach like that, and we rarely watched TV.

Jesus asked this same question to Peter—three times. The third time really grieved Peter because, even though he screwed up a number of times with his hot temper and his multiple denials of even knowing Jesus, he felt that deep in his heart he did love Jesus. And Jesus “knowest all things.”

In English, we use the same word to describe everything from our pleasure with a great taco to the intense stirring in our heart for our newborn. As I read this passage, I feel the Lord is asking us to examine the depths of our heart.

Like Peter, I mess up… hourly. My choices are often the comfortable ones, rather than the risky ones that leave me vulnerable and require trust. In actions, I often choose the sheep I want to feed, and those I judge and dismiss. And my thoughts aren’t always overflowing with love either.

But the Lord does know all things. And He may have to remind us with this question over and over and over again of what we should be doing, and thinking, and being, so that we can honestly answer, “You know that I love You.”