Friday, January 27, 2012

Doing "hard" for the glory of God

Paul, in writing to the Philippians, comforts their hearts in a number of ways...he lets them know he thanks God for them, that he is confident that God will complete what he began in them all, that he sees them as partakers of grace alongside him, and that he longs for them all with the affection of Jesus Christ...he prays for them that their love may abound and that they may approve the things that are excellent and be filled with the fruits of righteousness for the glory of God.  Then, after all that and more, he assures them: But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. ~ Phil 1:12-14

What do we do when we long for one thing and God gives us another? For Paul it was being thrown into jail for his faith, but there are all kinds of hard and unexpected things we experience in the wisdom and goodness of God, aren't there?  Do we whine, chafe, gripe and complain OR do we submit ourselves to God's sovereign directing of our lives, look for the praiseworthy, and bear the fruits of righteousness for the glory of God?   Do we trust that in the big picture, God knows EXACTLY what He is doing in the midst of hard? 

This isn't a terribly uncommon thing...Proverbs 16:9 makes it plain that "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  If our response is to chafe and whine, it isn't very likely that we'd be able to assure anyone afterward that "the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel."  As God's representatives, His ambassadors, we shout out anything but gospel when we fail to trust the One who directs our steps.  We need to rest in Christ and praise Him in all He brings, like Paul did.

That doesn't mean there are not times when we are disappointed, but what we do with it matters.  Edith Lillian Young wrote a poem on this that I really like.  The first verse goes like this:
Disappointment - His appointment, change one letter, then I see
that the thwarting of my purpose is God's better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing, though it may come in disguise,
for the end from the beginning, open to His wisdom lies.
(You can read the rest of it HERE

Paul encouraged many in how he responded to the multitude of "hard" he faced throughout his Christian walk to put their hope in God.  Haven't we all be encouraged by people who "do hard" in a God-glorifying fashion?  I want to be THAT kind of person...someone who can count it all joy when facing various trials.  How about you?  Oh may God give us the grace for the glory of His name and for our joy to trust Him always, to bend to His ways, and to desire His gospel to be proclaimed and His kingdom manifested more and more.

At the very heart and foundation of all God's dealings with us,...we must dare to believe in and assert the infinite, unmerited, and unchanging love of God. ~ L.B. Cowman

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, 
but only what is helpful for building others up 
according to their needs, 
that it may benefit those who listen. 
~ Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Verse 25 of the same chapter instructs us to "speak truthfully."  How often do we get frustrated or upset and speak our minds "truthfully", but not helpfully?  Are we "speaking our mind" and justifying ourselves with the sentiment, "well, it's true."?  It seems like lately a number of the conversations I've had with people about relational problems they're having relate to this sort of thing.  It's got me asking myself if I too am only concerned about speaking the truth or if I'm committed to speaking the truth in love?  How am I doing at choosing my words in a way that is "helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen"?

Here's an example of what I mean.  Let's say your kids get sick on a family vacation three years in a row, and in a moment of frustration you say "I sure hope ya'll don't make a habit of this."  The sentiment may be "true", but it is NOT helpful.  Helpful would be to point yourself and your kids to the love of a sovereign God who is working even this out for good somehow, and to encourage all concerned to trust Him and to practice contentment with what He gives.

I love the book of Ephesians...God has rescued us and continues to work in us.  He's made us one body, Christ's body.  People do need to hear the truth, but not a "truth" couched in anger or ill will.  We're not brought into the body of Christ to stomp on each other, but to help build each other up, to encourage each other to put off the old man and put on the new for the glory of the One who redeems. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sprocket is home.

My family brought a puppy home yesterday, a little male fluff of energy we named Sprocket.  He's half Westhighland Terrier, half Toy Poodle, otherwise known as a WestiePoo.  My hubby grew up with a dog, but this is a first for me and the kiddos.

All three kids are playing with Sprocket and getting smothered with kisses.  Laughter has been filling the air for hours.  We're all amazed to see the difference between yesterday and today....moving from somewhat reserved to downright playfully aggressive.  The kids have been setting up obstacle courses for him and throwing a ball to see him figure out how to get to it...he seems to be a smart little guy. [Note: these pics were taken yesterday so the obstacles are not shown here.]

The Lord gave us some stretches of sunshine between rain showers yesterday that allowed us to take him outside for playtime...

For the inquiring minds, he is doing good in the potty department, learning where we want him to go outside.  He went to bed in his crate without a peep for a few hours, then whined for a 10 minute stretch after being taken out for a potty break, then zonked back out for 6 more hours, waking up happy and playful.  Not bad at all for a first night in our estimation.

My guess is that school (in terms of reading, writing, arithmetic) for us in the next few days is going to largely happen during puppy naps, but learning is always happening and I think this puppy is going to teach us some important lessons that can't be learned in the books. 

With thankfulness to God for this good gift, we're off to the next lesson...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Desire and Treasure and Life

"I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we can ever face." - J.I. Packer

"How we pray reveals the desires of our hearts.  And the desires of our hearts reveal what our treasure is.  And if our treasure is not Christ, we will perish." - John Piper

To desiring and treasuring Christ in 2012!