Master of My Own Destiny?

OK, I warned you this week might get deep.  forgot to mention controversial! I’m going to be sharing what Father is teaching me as I study His word. You may exercise your free will to skip this post, but I’d love to hear your opinions!

FREE WILL!

It’s probably one of the most hotly contested issues among Christians and non-believers alike. Protesting a lack of free will is often sited as a reason not to believe in Jesus. No one wants to be told what to do, given a list of 10 commandments or told that disobedience spells eternal doom.

Christians argue about who chose who. Did God elect those whom He would save, or does each one have free will do chose or deny God.

Does God’s choosing eliminate free will?

Is God unfair by choosing some and not others?

Does God’s presumed unfairness make Him less loving and less good?

Sticky stuff. Until recently, I hummed quietly in the background when these conversa

Well, I can’t hang out on the sidelines anymore. It’s time to defend the sovereignty of the God I love and know and worship. Honestly, if He is not the sovereign God I believe Him to be, if He really handed fate’s reigns over to his own creatures, then I can’t devote myself to Him heart and soul. I might as well make my own way and be my own god.

HUMANS HAVE FREE WILL. The problem is that our will is only against God and against righteousness. Always, no exception.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Romans 3:10-12

That’s the long and the short of it. Sure, not everyone is as evil as he can possibly be. That’s not what total depravity means. Total depravity means that all of us, from our very core to our smallest appendage is bent toward evil. And if you don’t want to qualify yourself as evil, you can certainly understand that you are less that perfect. And perfect is what God requires. Short of absolute equivalency to God’s righteous standard, we are evil.

Consider: the Fahrenheit temperature required to freeze water is an indisputable 32 degrees. It doesn’t matter if your nose is frostbitten and you can’t move your lips. It doesn’t matter if schools are closed and everyone tells you, “It’s freezing outside.” Anything short of 32 degrees is not freezing. There is an absolute standard and anything, no matter how legitimately, unreasonably cold, just won’t cut it.

So, even if you choose a pro-life stance, you give generously to charities, you are kind to every stranger and never speed, and never raise your voice – you still fall short of the absolute standard of perfection set by an uncompromising God. You cannot will yourself to achieve that righteous standard. Given his own free will, every single man without exception will spend eternity in hell.

So here’s where I land. God created man in His image. He gave us free will and we proved that our free will would chose our own appetites over God’s commands. God’s justice demanded death for our insolence. God’s mercy sent Jesus to pay that debt. God did chose who would chose Him.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

It’s a tough pill to swallow. God knowingly, willingly allows people to chose their own appetites even though He could change the rules? change their choices? change their behavior? It’s not unfair. God is fully merciful and fully just. Some receive His mercy for their sins, some receive His justice for their disobedience. Neither receives injustice.

Yes, God is Sovereign. One definition of Sovereignty is: Indisputable. We cannot argue with His truth anymore than we can argue with 32 degrees.

A very helpful resource for understanding this doctrine, an element of Reformed Theology, is R.C. Sproul’s teaching series, “What is Reformed Theology?”

Do You Want to Go to Heaven?

Doubting one! thou hast often said, “I fear I shall never enter heaven.” Fear not! all the people of God shall enter there. I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who exclaimed, “I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me; God’s finger is on the latch of my door, and I am ready for him to enter.” “But,” said one, “are you not afraid lest you should miss your inheritance?” “Nay,” said he, “nay; there is one crown in heaven which the angel Gabriel could not wear, it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven which Paul the apostle could not fill; it was made for me, and I shall have it.” O Christian, what a joyous thought! thy portion is secure; “there remaineth a rest.” “But cannot I forfeit it?” No, it is entailed. If I be a child of God I shall not lose it. It is mine as securely as if I were there. Come with me, believer, and let us sit upon the top of Nebo, and view the goodly land, even Canaan. Seest thou that little river of death glistening in the sunlight, and across it dost thou see the pinnacles of the eternal city? Dost thou mark the pleasant country, and all its joyous inhabitants? Know, then, that if thou couldst fly across thou wouldst see written upon one of its many mansions, “This remaineth for such a one; preserved for him only. He shall be caught up to dwell forever with God.” Poor doubting one, see the fair inheritance; it is thine. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus, if thou hast repented of sin, if thou hast been renewed in heart, thou art one of the Lord’s people, and there is a place reserved for thee, a crown laid up for thee, a harp specially provided for thee. No one else shall have thy portion, it is reserved in heaven for thee, and thou shalt have it ere long, for there shall be no vacant thrones in glory when all the chosen are gathered in.

taken from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, Day 10, morning

A Gift of Links

As promised, today I’m going to share awesome links that you will find especially helpful for the holidays. Enjoy!

Chantel Hobbs – manage your holiday weight

Bodyrock.tv – keep moving!

Crown financial – Christmas Credit Cards- don’t panic

Dave Ramsey  – Financial Peace, need I say more?

Don’t look all over Amazon- here’s exactly what you need for Christmas

Christmas marriage meltdown? 

I hope you enjoy some of these links. I love all of them, personally.

Merry Christmas!

 

I’m So Glad You Love Me

Unveil my eyes.

Bury your world deep inside me.

Waft your sweet Spirit’s fragrance past my nose.

Let me taste the refreshment of your fruit,

And offer its bounty to a hungry world.

Sing over me a chorus of your glory and affection.

Be more real than me, myself.

Excise and destroy my unbelief.

Press me deeply into you

Until we are more one than two.

Jesus – Unwrapped

I am absolutely terrible at gift-wrapping, but I do enjoy it – for the first 50 packages.

The corners on my square packages always look wrinkled, the tissue protruding from the top of my bag-wrapped gifts always has a perfectly peek-able gap. Usually, I cut the paper just a little too small and end up having to cull the scraps for a strip just long enough to cover my naked box. The scrap that fits rarely matches.

However, whenever Patrick and I are lucky enough to go home for Christmas, I am inevitably conned into wrapping all the last minute gifts from everyone to everyone that everyone thought would wrap themselves and then everyone realized on Christmas Eve that their presents were still uncloaked. “Abby, do you mind wrapping my gifts for… Dad, Mom, Jennifer, Pete, Kelsey, Patrick, Rachelle….? I ran out of time!” So I break out the Christmas carols, lock myself in a hidden room and snip, clip, curl and tape away.

Why do we wrap our gifts for family and friends? I was pondering this for some reason as I finished my quiet time with Jesus this morning. I was reading Matthew, a few chapters after the Christmas story. “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes…”. Ummm… why?

Why did God wrap Jesus in humanity? Why did he send him disguised in the form of a tiny, Jewish nobody?

The most obvious answer is: because He wanted to. God had foretold the coming of Christ for centuries and it was His good pleasure to do it in an nondescript way in the fullness of His own timing. God does what God does. Period.

But I think there’s a more intriguing answer.  We wrap our Christmas gifts for friends and family because we love the thrill of anticipation. Patrick loves to make me guess what he’s picked out for me. He loves to watch my eyes light up at the sight of green bows and glittery paper and the little sticker with my name on it. He loves to watch me unwrap my special gift. He loves to see the realization of his personal creative investment as the reality of his generosity washes over me.

I think God is like that. He loves to watch us discover the true treasure that Jesus is and the amazing truth that He wants to walk with us, to relate to us, to love us. When the disciples first began to follow Jesus, he was just a good man. Many men of Biblical times followed a particular rabbi and ascribed to his teaching. It was over the days, weeks, months, years that they discovered, unwrapped who Jesus is.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Matt. 16:16

“And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. The said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?'” Luke 24:31,32

If God had simply appeared in history, with all His splendor and glory, we would only have known His power, might and righteousness. If Jesus had appeared as the worthy King that He is, all creation would have instantly bowed the knee. But we would never have known the full character of God, we would never have experienced the breadth of all that He is. By coming in the form of a man, a tangible human being, God allowed us to experience His love, His touch, His mercy, His affection. As evidenced in the garden of Eden, before the fall, God enjoyed walking with man in the garden. God created man in His own image for His own glory and for relationship with Him.

Jesus came to explain to us the Father – to show us all that God is for us. By coming wrapped in flesh, hidden from our expectations and sensibilities, we are able to unwrap and discover Jesus, going ever farther and farther into the deepest aspects of our loving God. He loves to watch our eyes light up as we progressively seek Him and He reveals Himself to us.

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping…

Not having ever believed in Santa Clause, I never really considered how creepy it might seem to a kid that some short, fat, elderly elf is watching them ’round the clock. In fact, I snickered behind those kids’ backs, wondering how they could buy into such an obvious lie. Seriously, flying reindeer? little elf minions? How did they explain the fact that even the meanest, rotten kids usually got gifts from someone?

I’m probably stoking a fire here that I am not prepared to put out, but please join the discussion understanding that I don’t have kids myself and I’m not telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. But, as a Christian – what do you tell your children about Santa Clause? I’ve heard some argue that to endorse Santa is to tell your children a bold-faced lie. I’ve heard others declare that you’re robbing your children of fun and fantasy to reveal the truth about the jolly old elf. Can you combine Jesus and Santa?

The undeniable truth is that Jesus does watch you – 24/7, while you’re sleeping and awake, sitting and standing, running or hiding.

Ps. 139 says, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in the depths you are there! If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell in the midst of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

But there’s a very good reason that God watches you! Your life depends on it!

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The LORD himself watches over you!
The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The LORD keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever. ~ Ps. 121:3-8

Lovely Holidays

1 Corinthians 13-A Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend myriad holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

-Author Unknown

A little change, a little late

Hi Friends,

I realize it’s already the 8th (gasp!!) of December, nearly a third of the month has escaped my notice. Quite literally 11/12 of the year have skimmed past my eyes, and leaked through my fingers like so much sand through an hourglass. It has left an indelible mark on my memory, my perspective, my future, my dreams, my relationships, my hopes. You know just about everything I know about my life and about the goodness of God to me. I hope you are experiencing Him in as much of a tangible way as I am – in the middle of the pain.

For the closing of this year, I want to turn the tide of our conversations just slightly. Let’s end on a positive note, with a sneaky little twist on the Predatory Lies.

For December:

On Mondays we will talk about gifts. Decemeber is the quintessential month of giving.

Packages pile beneath evergreen trees.

Gifts of song on doorsteps please,

The neighbors who offer us cider.

Secrets for one month are good.

Below the mistletoe I stood.

Dying to tell you, longing to kiss you,

My little secret,

“I love you!”

~God’s gifts to us, unusual Christmas gifts, the best gifts, the worst gifts, promised gifts and disappointing gifts, our gifts to God.

Wednesdays we will talk about the lies surrounding Christmas. I’ve already thought of a few, but I’ll bet you can tell me more of your own. Was the idea of Christmas a lie in  your home? What did you believe about Christmas that turned out not to be true? What is true about this globally recognized holiday? Is there one true Christmas – or are Hanukah and Kwanza and fables of Santa just as valid as the truth of the Christ who came to live and to die and to rise again for the salvation of the world?

And Fridays are going to remain our play-date. I reserve the right to deliver delicious recipes and tips for navigating Holiday dinner parties, cookie exchanges and testy relationships. I’ll give you a couple of excellent links for great gifts and serene quiet times of prayer and the revival of the bank account. I might have a few poems up my holly-laced sleeves.

January will appear, unbidden. Much as I could use some extra time to resolve the crises of this year and a few longer moments to just be here; on January first, Lord willing, I will be prepared to be there. I’ve discovered some great new books by Moody Publishers that I will review and give away copies of. That’s the start of my New Year’s plan… more to come.

Merry Christmas, Friend!

A Pathetic Witness

I’ve had a lot of thoughts today about mentors and mentoring. None of them collections; they are scattered and hardly worth relaying. But perhaps they will stimulate your mind and prompt you to fill the comments with more meaty material than my post! (:

This morning I was journaling my disappointment with myself. The Bible commands Christians to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that it is  in us. I am confident that I have grown exponentially in my faith over the last 17 years and especially in the last 4-5 years. However, the courage and comprehensive thoughts that are required to present a persuasive “case for Christ” evade me. How is it that I can KNOW with all surety that Jesus is my life, that Jesus is the only reason that I am alive today, that Jesus is my hope and uncanny Joy, that Jesus is the solitary solution for every pain and question, and that everyone who does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is headed to hell – how can I know this – and still stutter when given the opportunity to share my faith?

A friend from work joined me at church a couple weeks ago. She loves the Lord, but is admittedly young in her faith. Two days later we were both approached at work by another friend and the conversation led this friend saying, “Oh, I never read the Bible. I think it is just too far-fetched, a story. I raised my children to be religious. I believe that god is in each of us and we need to aspire to be good.”

I love this friend. We’ve had such fun together at work, laughing and goofing off. Now, she asked me a few questions and as I told her who Jesus was and why the Bible is trustworthy – it sounded sci-fi, out there and little crazy even to me. I found  myself saying, “It’s hard to explain.” I can scarcely believe I’m admitting this. I write this blog as devotional, with a heart to serve Jesus with my talents and make Him winsome to others. And here I am telling you that I’m pathetic at sharing the gospel.

Journaling leads me down rabbit trails sometimes, but then often drops me back off where I started by the end of my ramblings. That happened today. I drew the connection between mentoring relationships and Jesus with His disciples. They chose to follow Him. They sought His advice and learned from his teachings both in word and in action. He poured His life into them. I am a disciple of Jesus, so I asked His advice.

“Jesus, Rabbi. Why can I not explain the intense value, perfection and necessity of believing in you? What if Peter had been asked why he was following you?”

“Abby,” Jesus answered me, as a faithful mentor always does. “My disciples were asked why they believed in me. I even asked them myself.

‘Who do people say that I am?’ I followed that question with, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered with words that the Father gave him, ‘ You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'” (Matt 16)

Suddenly, I saw a difference in Peter’s response and my own. Peter did not respond, “This is what I personally think…” He responded with undiluted certainty, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

When the final critical question is asked, a confident answer is required. Especially in financially troubling times, days of earthquakes, extreme weather, drunken fathers, abused children, AIDS epidemics and ravaging cancer – people do not care what I think. I cannot impart the truth with a timid suggestion of a possible truth.

So declaratively, without apology: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is more than my belief. It simply, HE SIMPLY IS.