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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Have you ever known a young child with an imaginary friend? My daughter, Hannah, had an imaginary country. Dinka-Dinka, whose residents lived in lime green trees above hot pink grass, was referenced at her convenience:

Me:  “Here. Try this yummy broccoli.”

Hannah:  “I already tried it in Dinka-Dinka. I didn’t like it.”

*                *               *                *

Me (Smiling):  “Time to sleep!”

Hannah:  “No. It’s not bedtime in Dinka-Dinka.”

Me (Not smiling):  *Sigh.*

When she was in trouble, Hannah would threaten to run away to Dinka-Dinka, even packing her Pooh suitcase on one occasion. A scapegoat country. Good idea…for a three year old.

During difficult circumstances or when we’re in trouble, many of us would enjoy running away to an invented country where life is easy and operates on our terms. But competent doctors have a scary name for adults who habitually live in make-believe locations…schizophrenic. Many hurting people prefer more socially acceptable platforms for fleeing to imaginary worlds–including video games, the internet, movies, and fictional novels.

Although everyone relishes opportunities to “get away from it all,” the truth is, Christians do not need a fantasy location for escaping life’s harsh realities. We have an authentic one. Because Jesus became the scapegoat¹ (escape goat) who bore our sins and failures, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”² Through Christ’s blood “we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into the Holy Place.”³

We can boldy go to the Holy Place:

A safe, sane haven.

Immediate openings.

Direct access to the grace and place of God’s presence where there is mercy, help, “fullness of joy,⁴” and rest for the weary.⁵

Can you think of a better place to get away?

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¹See Leviticus 16

² Hebrews 4:16, NIV

³Hebrews 10:19, The Message

⁴Psalm 16:11, NKJV

⁵Matthew 11:28

Picture Source: Dreamstime

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Whether mental or written, I always have a To Do List for the day. Regrettably, the success of any given day is measured by what I accomplished. To Do List completed? It was a good day. Oodles left undone? The inner voice of Perfection enumerates precisely where I failed and suggests schedule modifications for the following day. Lately, Perfection’s been preaching.

My husband’s rotator cuff surgery has slashed our children’s taxiing fleet in half and shredded my To Do Lists. The six week loss of Terry’s dominant arm and his ability to legally drive has me logging additional hours as caregiver and chauffer. (No sardonic comments about backseat drivers will be inserted in this space.) I am enjoying our extra time together and do not mind being supplementary hands for slicing chicken, buttoning shirts, or tying bows. Yet at the end of the day, Perfection’s expectations make no allowance for added responsibilities or people inhibiting production.

Most women are accustomed to putting their family’s needs before their own. Under Section II of both wife and mother job descriptions, “Tolerates frequent task interruptions” is highlighted. We stop what we are doing to tutor algebra, counsel social dilemmas, or move the family van from its station beneath the basketball hoop. (Acknowledgments to my son, Jesse, for supplying the final example as I attempted to complete previous sentence. Sigh.) Even most of the objectives on our To Do Lists–such as cleaning the house, grocery shopping, or working to provide financial support–aren’t singular ambitions. They’re set for the well-being of our families. Helping others is rooted in woman’s genesis–God’s “I can’t find a suitable helper for Adam, so I’ll design one.”¹ So why do I still get frustrated by unfinished things, when I know unfinished people are my created purpose?

Jesus’ primary To Do List could have read like this: Do my Father’s will. Love people. Teach people. Heal people. Die for people. The disciples didn’t think little children belonged on his list, but Jesus scolded them and called for the kids.² After his cousin John the Baptist was murdered, Jesus’ To Do List included finding a quiet place and resting. Jesus and the disciples had been so busy helping people, that even the essential task of eating could not be checked off their To Do Lists.³ However, when they got to their relaxation destination, an anxious crowd of “sheep without a shepherd” was already waiting. Compassion consumed, Jesus delayed his individual hopes in order to heal the sick, teach “many things,” and feed 5,000 hungry men, plus women and children.⁴

Goals provide purpose and focus. God’s Word sets spiritual goals such as loving God with your whole being, loving your neighbor as yourself, going into all the world to preach the gospel, or doing everything you do the name of the Lord Jesus.⁵ The problem isn’t goal setting. The problem is defining success based on personal or cultural values, instead of the Lord’s requirements: 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

God’s To Do List could be simplified to six words. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

How idiotic would I sound if I rationalized my misplaced priorities with words? “Uhh…Lord, I didn’t do justly by my injured husband…but I’m caught up on laundry.” Or how about, “I didn’t offer my child mercy…but I completed a great post on kindness.” Wee bit feeble.

Last night, while Perfection was pointing out clutter and listing unmet writing objectives, I went through my revised To Do List. Did I…

Do justly?

Love mercy?

Walk humbly with my God?

It was a good day.

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¹Paraphrased from Genesis 2:18-22

²Mark 10:13-16

³Mark 6:31

⁴Matthew 14:9-21; Mark 6:26-44

⁵Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 16:15; Colossians 3:17

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Since I educate children to see life through “biblical worldview lenses,” I like to think I recognize when our materialistic culture is clouding my perspective. After reading an unremembered story in the thirty-fifth chapter of Jeremiah, however, I decided my worldview glasses need an updated prescription.

In the biblical account, God sets up Jeremiah. He instructs Jeremiah to invite the Rekabite¹ clan to the temple and serve them wine. Problem is, they decline the wine since Rekabites have abstained for years…HUNDREDS of years. Why? Their forefather Jehonadab² had commanded his sons not to drink wine. Or plant vineyards. Or sow seeds. Or build houses. Rekabites were to be tent-dwelling nomads. File:Uvas.jpg

I imagine that some Rekabite wanderers would have preferred to raise a roof, plant a garden, grow grapes, drink wine, and claim personal pieces of the Promised Land–rather than follow the outdated counsel of a dead guy. But that was the point. God’s “Rekabite Wine Experiment” turned out to be an oversized object lesson for the people of Judah. The Rekabites faithfully honored a human forefather’s ancient commands, while Judah refused to obey God the Father–despite His speaking to them “again and again.” Consequently, God pronounced disaster upon Judah, but bestowed the following blessing upon the Rekabites:

“You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jehonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered. Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says:

‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.³’”

That was it? Pitching tents, packing tents, bundling belongings, toting babies, herding stubborn livestock, walking, hunting, gathering, obeying primitive orders…and that was their reward? I delved into chapter 36, hoping to discover where God promised the Rekabites prolific gardens, tasty grapes, and restful, secure homes. And that was where my worldview was out-of-whack. God was not miserly, mean, or forgetful. He was offering the Rekabites the greatest gift–the blessing of children who would serve a loving God; acreage in eternity. Among those of us who believe in the reality of heaven and hell, who would not sacrifice cultural comforts for the promise her children would serve Him? What does it profit us if we gain the whole world and lose our children’s souls?

I think I wanted immediate relief for the Rekabite nomads because as I wander through life’s trials–trying to obey God the Father–I hope to be rewarded (any day now) with an earthly, peaceful “land flowing with milk and honey.” I guess I keep forgetting that Israel’s “milk and honey” was served with walled cities, giant men, angry heathen kings, idolatrous temptations, and war.

The truth is, Christ “himself is our peace⁴” and rest for our souls.⁵ He is enough.

And that tranquil “land flowing with milk and honey?” My new glasses see it clearly. It comes with streets of gold and a mansion.

¹NIV, 2011. Other Versions: Recabite, Rechabite

²Also: Jonadab

³Jeremiah 35: 18b-19

⁴Ephesians 2:14, John 14:27, Philippians 4:7

⁵Matthew 11:28-29

⁶Photo Credit: Tomas Castelazo, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

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Ask my fifteen-year-old daughter Hannah to define junior high, and the Greek mythology buff will retort, “The Social Underworld.” By association, parenting during this era teetered at a similar depth. Although Romans 8:28 promises Christians “all things work together for good,” we don’t always get to see or understand heaven’s purposes for heartache. This mom is grateful that God has answered her daughter’s “Why?” with at least partial insight. She and I were recently listing some “good” outcomes when I asked,

“Do you see how God was directing you?”

“Mom, you’ve got to stop using that word.”

“What word?”

“Directing. That implies God gently guiding you. I was shoved in the back like, ‘I’m going to make you so miserable you have to change.’ Shoving, mother. Shoving.”

She’s right. Sometimes, God shoves. Or drags…like the time God’s angels protectively yanked Lot out of Sodom. Or flattens…as when spiritually-sightless Saul was leveled and blinded on the road to Damascus. Joseph’s involuntary relocation to Egypt began with shoving into a cistern, continued with pushing into prison, and ended with “the saving of many lives.”¹

In Amos 4:6, God tells Israel, “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town.” Gave empty stomachs? Gave? This sounds suspiciously like shoving. God goes on to list other “presents” He sent Israel such as: drought, blight, locusts, plagues, and war. But five times He reiterates why he shoved, “Yet you have not returned to me.” God longed for a relationship with his children and was propelling them to change, but they did not.

In my family, pain produced change. After nine years in a private school with 60 classmates, Hannah transferred to a mega public school with a freshman class of over 500. Consequently, I resigned my full-time teaching job–mostly to focus on being mom during her transition. Change has produced challenges, but also spiritual growth, new relationships, exciting opportunities, and contentment. However, the effect of shoving that has impacted me most deeply began several weeks ago when we picked up one of Hannah’s new unsaved friends for youth group. The next week, the girl returned on her own. The following week, she brought a friend. Shoving to a new environment has afforded two souls the opportunity to hear about Jesus. The New Testament church in Acts was shoved out of Jerusalem by persecution…and the gospel was spread.

Yes Hannah, sometimes God shoves. But the shoving may protect, develop perseverance,² grow faith,³ discipline,⁴ or push us and others…right into His waiting arms.

¹Genesis 50:20

²James 1:3

 ³I Peter 1:7

⁴Proverbs 3:12

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