Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” - Romans 7:14-15
“I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” - Romans 7:21-25
I hesitate to share this post today, because inevitably I fear it may be misunderstood. Due to the nature of blog posts I can’t really say everything I’ve been pondering on this topic or give it a full treatment. Have you ever noticed that you can say something, it’s clear in your mind what you mean to be saying, but if you don’t list out everything you are not saying, some people misunderstand the main point? But I’ve been pondering and pondering and I need to write and ponder some more. And I fear the blog just may languish and die a death of disuse if I don’t write something. So here goes.
I find that the longer I walk the Christian life, the more I find I am much more sinful than I had ever realized. Actually, I think it’s that I become more sensitive to the true nature of sin. It’s kind of like an onion. You no sooner have a layer peeled away when your eyes are opened to something else in your life that is ugly and un-Christlike and needs to be repented of. Actually, it reminds me a lot of that scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia where Aslan is delivering Eustace from his dragon skin. Aslan tells Eustace to use his claws to scrape away the skin, and several times Eustace does so, and it’s painful, but no sooner does he do it but he realizes he hasn’t gotten all of it yet. Finally Aslan takes his own claws and digs deeply, very painfully, and scrapes away the rest of the vile and ugly dragon skin. I’ve always liked that metaphor. Though it may not be a perfect picture, it is helpful.
Having our eyes opened to the things in our hearts and lives that need to be purged can be painful. More and more I find that I am just sickened at what I find when God opens my eyes to more of my heart and yet another prideful attitude is revealed or I gain a deeper understanding of some sinful thought pattern or habit that needs agreeing with God about the fact that it is, indeed, sin....not a mistake, not an error in judgment, not a “I probably shouldn’t have said, thought, done this,” but sin. It’s agreeing with God and repenting when He graciously opens my eyes in some area. It’s allowing my heart to be broken over the offenses that I now see to be offenses which in the past I didn’t recognize or even realize were there at all.
I’m not talking here about perfectionism. What I’m trying to get at is sanctification. From what I understand at this point, this is the lifelong growing in grace that should characterize a submitted follower of Jesus Christ.
I find it humbling to realize God’s tender mercy that He does gently open my eyes, painful though it often is, and grants me the faith to agree with Him and repent and continue to grow toward holiness, to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus.
Another thing that kind of sickens me is when you see a fellow Christian honestly confessing that they are a wretch, you often see people coming back and, well-intentioned I’m sure, say, “Oh, you’re not that bad! You’re a good person!” I understand the intent, but really, I’m not sure that’s the right response. It is not a bad thing to recognize our poverty before a holy God. I know enough of my heart to know that, no, I’m really not a good person on my own. I am declared righteous in Christ, and in that declaration I have a future and a sure and solid hope, and I am becoming righteous by His grace. Because it is in His grace that we have hope, not in our pitiful ‘goodness.’ I once had someone I don’t know comment on a blog post I had written about something that I recognized in my own life and was dealing with, and the commenter asked if I was judging myself that harshly did I also judge others so harshly that I saw with the same fault?
This isn’t about judging other people or looking for their faults and holding them up to a microscope. This is about being honest before God and seeking to agree with Him as I grow in His grace. I think we need to be careful when we do find that we’ve wrestled through something big in our own lives that we extend grace to our brothers and sisters who may not have come to the point in their sanctification where they have the same conviction yet. Speak the truth, boldly, unashamedly, yes, plead with them to submit to the Scripture and to read it and know it, but speak it in love and humility, trusting God to work in our brothers and sisters in Christ just as He does in us. It’s a fine balance I’m still needing to practice, I admit. I struggle with the hypocrite in me who would be so quick to be harshly judgmental with others while overlooking or being soft on my own faults. And sometimes I can be quick to judge when I think I know the whole story about someone, but I don’t have all the facts. I recently had my eyes opened to how critical my spirit was toward someone who I should have had compassion for and it broke my heart that I had not even seen it for many years. Rather than looking down on a sinner for being a sinner, I should have had compassion for a soul who is lost and needs the gospel, needs the Savior.
The hope in all of this dragon-skin, onion-layer sickness over my wretchedness is to know that I can rest in knowing that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
The opening of my eyes to the things in my life which are weights that entangle me is not condemnation, but tender mercy and love and compassion and grace. Because it is only by His grace that my eyes can see and my ears hear and my heart repent and shed those things that hinder the race. And for this I thank God.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: COPY list. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!
1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Monday, November 08, 2010
Stream of consciousness writing to keep the blog alive:
It might be time to broaden my horizons. Someone asked me yesterday what I like to do besides blogging and I was hard-pressed to think of anything. You know you’ve succumbed to the blogging black hole at that point, yes?
It isn’t that I don’t like to do anything. It’s just that what came to mind all sounded so boring.
And looking at the sparsity of blogging recently, I’m not sure I like what that may say about me.
I have realized I am a boring person.
Either that, or I’m a tired person who doesn’t think well on my feet.
I have also realized I am terrible at small talk. See above. Once we get talking about the meaty stuff, though, there’s no stopping me.
I have some very important things I think heavily about. I wonder if I’m too serious sometimes.
Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth, too. I don’t always express what I mean the way I mean it. I am not exactly a sound-bite kind of person.
Went to the library today and spent some time trying to write. Thought maybe if I got out of the house and away from the temptation to blog (see above) and Facebook and clean house obsessively maybe I’d be able to get the writing flowing. Well, actually I spent most of the time I had there looking at some things I wrote in high school. Then spent time with the memories that joined me there in the quiet of the library, memories that had been shelved for a long time.
I didn’t remember my writing being so dark. Funny. Amazing what 21 years and lots of grace can do for your outlook on life.
Yes, I said 21 years. If I were being brutally honest, I’d have to say 21 and a half.
I know, I find that hard to believe, too.
I did make a valiant effort at starting my children’s story. I am afraid to write the word ‘book’ next to that. I think if I admit that’s a deep-seated dream and then go forward, I’m scared about what that might mean. As long as it’s a dream, I don’t have to face the fact that it might not be good enough for anyone else to get excited about seeing it in print.
But I’m writing it anyway.
I say that fearfully.
I read the first few paragraphs to my middle son, who requested I write him a story several years ago. He liked what I read. Wants me to continue. I think I have a germ of an idea.
Then maybe I can write that novel that’s been shelved since high school, too. The one that I pull out of the desk in my mind and mentally dust off every so often and hope to one day flesh out into something wonderful.
I’d settle for something somewhat okay at this point, I think. Maybe.
Did I mention it’s 21 years later?
Must go cook some dinner now. The children and the husband need to eat.
I told you I’m boring.....
I have also realized that maybe there isn’t really anything wrong with being boring as long as what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Right now, being a mom who blogs occasionally and cleans obsessively, but who is learning to grow in grace and in love for my Savior and hopes to grow in the boldness to share that with others isn’t really all that boring.
There are alternatives to being boring that are not worth the excitement, too. When I ponder that, I am happy to opt for boring.
I do think I’ll make the time to write in the midst of the boringness, though.
After all, as I was reminded when in my papers today I found a 22-year-old list of writing rules from my days with the high school creative writing magazine, “Remember: Variety is the ‘hot pepper’ of life!!!”
Friday, November 05, 2010
I’ve been doing some thinking lately. This post is a rewrite of something I tried to post recently but decided needed a little more work. I’m struggling through something that I think I have known for a long time but which is becoming ever more clear to me recently as I’ve had opportunity to hear some devotionals given in public settings. And that is that I am growing more and more concerned that a lot of people who think they know the gospel do not truly understand it or, in some cases, even know it. Recently I have heard several things which have left me pondering and weeping and concerned.
I have made several attempts at writing this post where I’ve tried to say what it is that I’ve been hearing that isn’t right, but it just becomes a long list of things, so I’ll sum it up this way: What I am hearing is a very man-centered, shallow, unbiblical version of the gospel. I hear a lot about faith, but not a lot about what exactly we must be putting faith in. I hear a lot of wishful thinking, a lot about hope, but not much about what true hope must be grounded in to be sure.
What I am not hearing in too many of these settings is the biblical gospel. What I am not hearing is the truth about sin and how very offensive it is to Holy God. What I am not hearing is Jesus being exalted and praised and glorified and worshiped. What I am not hearing is a deeper longing to know Him and love Him. What I am not hearing is a biblical explanation of the Cross. And it concerns me that so many people who think they know the gospel don't seem to understand it very well.
I have just finished reading a little book called, What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. I want to strongly encourage you to get your hands on this book and read it. Even if you think you know the gospel, be encouraged at reading it spelled out clearly and well. I was deeply encouraged while reading and thinking about this book.
I wish I could do a more thorough review but I'll just tell you that through the course of the book, we examine, in light of what the Bible teaches, what is the good news, and near the end Gilbert points out that any gospel presentation that either downplays, leaves out, or does not have the Cross as the center piece is not a faithful gospel presentation. This from page 96 is just true and vital to understand: “The way to be included in Christ’s kingdom is to come to the King, not just hailing him as a great example who shows us a better way to live, but humbly trusting him as the crucified and risen Lord who alone can release you from the sentence of death. At the end of the day, the only way into the kingdom is through the blood of the King.”
I am convinced that what we really, truly need is to be proclaiming Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and risen again. I am convinced that we need to be obsessed with Jesus, Himself. We are created by Him and for His glory.
I am convinced that when we begin to live in the light of the biblical, God-centered, Christ-centered, cross-centered gospel, that this is when we will begin to live lives that are gratefully surrendered to the King. Not responding to the guilt that a recent study kind of emoted up in us, but a real heart response to the work of the Holy Spirit in a life that is surrendered to the King.
I am convinced that we have got to get it deep into our understanding that yes, God loves us with an amazing and incomprehensible kind of love, but it is not because we are so wonderful, but it is because He is so wonderful. There is nothing I can bring but filthy rags. The fact that He loved me and saved me while I was yet His enemy, a sinner, this is incredible love. But it is because He is glorious and wonderful and full of mercy and grace. It is not because I am so lovable. What I am saying is that we desperately need a God-centered understanding of the gospel rather than the shallow imitation offered by a man-centered one. I am convinced that as long as it is about us and how we feel, and not yet about Jesus and the blood that He shed on our behalf and for His praise alone, we are not experiencing revival. And I am thirsty for revival. I want to decrease and see Him increase. I want to be all about talking about Him and proclaiming the true good news to people and not watering it down or downplaying the importance of the cross. I want to love Him more than life. I want to proclaim His praise and to learn to be more bold in this. I have not been bold. I want to learn to be.
I am seeking to lay aside the weights and the sin that entangle me from running the race as one who wants to run to win, running wholeheartedly for the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I want to learn to enjoy the good gifts God has given, but not to live in the stupor of worldliness that threatens to dull my senses to eternity. I don’t want to make temporal things so important that I forget and think little of the life to come. Jesus has reconciled me to God and I can boldly approach His throne, clothed in His righteousness, washed clean by His blood, freed to live for Him. I want this to be what consumes my thinking and my actions. And when I am tempted to forget, may I turn my eyes back to Jesus and fight against the worldliness that threatens to turn my attention and affection from what is most worth living for.
That book, again, was What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. Read it. I don’t recommend a lot of books here. This one I am recommending. Even better, read your Bible prayerfully and often. Fill your mind with God’s word and think on it and saturate your understanding with a biblical view of the gospel. If there is anything we must get right, it is this.