Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lasting Encouragement

Hebrews 10:24-25
“24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 
Romans 12:15
“15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
Philippians 2:4
“4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
This morning I was cleaning out that drawer we have where we stuff things when we don’t know what else to do with them or are too lazy to take the time to find a better home for them. I know I am not the only person who has a drawer (several) like that, am I? Anyway, most of what I found in there went straight to the trash bin, having stayed in the drawer long enough to outlive its urgency or even my remembrance of why it went in the drawer as opposed to the trash bin in the first place. 
Near the bottom of the drawer, however, I came across a stack of cards that caused me to pause, take them up, sit down, and read and remember, with a few (just a few) tears as well. These were cards that had been sent after the last miscarriage, that fourth and final one. Upstairs in the very bottom of my night stand, there are three bound stacks of cards that I’ve kept, but somehow, with this last one, because we were in the midst of getting ready to move and I was so tired, so very tired, this little stack didn’t make it to my little safe place and had ended up here in the junk drawer, waiting the time I’d find them again and remember.
And what that made me think today is this: How thankful I am for the caring friends who took the time to send a card or a note, even when they really didn’t know what to say. How thankful I am for the Body of Christ, who encourage each other, who weep with each other when we weep and rejoice with each other when we rejoice. How thankful I am that our gracious God puts the lonely in families - and isn’t that what the Body of Christ is for those who believe and trust in Jesus - a family? How thankful I am for each card and the scripture included, which encouraged me at a difficult time and stirred me up to the good work of trusting my Savior, even when I was hurting so. Because what each of those cards and the messages written in them had in common was that each of those friends encouraged me in the Lord - pointing always to Jesus, the Savior of my soul.
Even our realtor here, who is also a sister in Christ, sent a note of encouragement after Drew had to call and tell her that we no longer needed that extra bedroom in the house, was there anyway to go back to the drawing board? So, what I’m thinking about today as I remember my caring friends is how good it is to send a card, say a prayer, make a phone call or even a visit when someone comes to mind. Those friends, sisters in Christ, who sent cards, or called on the phone even when they had no words but just called to let me know they cared, helped in that way to encourage and helped me (and Drew) to bear a heavy burden. So, I’m hoping that my providential stumbling across those examples of sweet encouragement will help me to remember next time I think about sending a card or offering encouragement to not merely think about it, but to do it. Because the encouragement offered goes beyond just that moment, but lasts for years, as my little tucked away bundles of cards can attest. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Radically Reading

I have something I’ve been thinking about a great deal, and I’m not sure how to make sure I say this in a right manner. It is hard to know how not to come across pridefully, and I’ll confess to you that I struggle with that sometimes. But there really isn’t any room for pride when we’re talking about God’s incredible grace, is there? 
First of all, this is a post that is aimed at professing believers in Jesus Christ. Here it is, and please hear from me, not legalism that would have you check a box to do a duty, but a concerned and caring friend, okay? What I’ve been pondering is how much I wish my brothers and sisters in Christ could learn what a blessing it is to read and study God’s word. How much I wish that instead of crying and pleading and looking in Christian book after Christian book and from speaker after speaker and source after source for a ‘deeper’ sense of belonging to Christ or more, more, more in our experience of worship that instead we would feast on the word of God and find satisfaction in knowing Him and in the grace of a steady, daily growing in sanctification as we fill our minds with His word and begin to grow in discernment as the Holy Spirit uses His word to transform our hearts and minds and lives to the image of Christ, as we learn to obey His word. This is not wispy mystical stuff, and it doesn’t, poof, just happen to us after we really, really pray hard for it.  It does take effort and commitment, though, and it really is a work of God in our hearts. We can't obey His word if we don't know what it says. We can't recognize when error is being taught if we don't know the truth. I say this is a post for professing believers, because I don’t want to be misunderstood here. What I pray for you, my friends who may read this post, is that God in His mercy and grace would open your heart so that you may have ears to hear, eyes to see, faith to believe and obey His word and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. 
When I read the book Radical, I remember thinking that of all the things David Platt has at the end of the book as part of the radical experiment, I was surprised by ‘read the Bible all the way through.’ I was surprised that this has come to be considered ‘radical.’ That grieves me, I’m sad to say. Is it really so radical for a Christian to read God’s word all the way through once, not to mention that one could even do it, say, consistently? Don’t we want to know it and learn to obey it? Isn’t one evidence of a saved person that they have a growing hunger and thirst for God’s word and for His righteousness? Have you ever read Psalm 119 and pondered whether that kind of zeal resides in your heart? Have you ever wondered why a quick little devotional thought or verse for the day not read in context doesn’t seem to change your life? I am not saying I’ve arrived at some super spiritual height and I’m not saying there isn’t much room for growth in my life because that's not it.  I am just a wife and mom who desires to love and obey Jesus, but I want to worship and love the Jesus who is, not some Jesus from my, or anyone else's, imagination. What  I am saying is that there ought to be an ongoing and growing hunger for God’s word in a believer’s life, yes? That’s not radical, is it? 
It’s so tempting to make excuses about time and not being able to read the Bible all the way through prayerfully, and I have to tell you that one of the things that just hurts when I hear it is when a mom or dad laughs about not having time to read the Bible through, and others all say knowingly, “You have kids.”  I know that the challenges of parenting small children can change when and how we have time to read the Bible, but please don’t let that be an excuse. I say that, not as a judgmental legalist, but as someone who has seen the fruit of time spent in God’s word, reading it and thinking on it, and who truly desires the same for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can testify and really want to encourage you that if you ever start reading the Bible through, making it a daily habit to spend time with God through prayer and the reading of His word, you really will begin to see your thinking become more biblical. God is extremely kind in this. When reading and understanding the Bible becomes very important to you, it’s really amazing the gradual growth you’ll see when you look back. I don’t say this because I came to this because I’m so smart to have figured this out on my own. No, humbly, gratefully, I tell you that I know that it is only because God my Redeemer put a hunger in my heart for His word that I am so thankful for, and I can’t imagine not reading it often now. I am extremely thankful for the godly influences along the way in my life who have encouraged me the way I hope to be encouraging you in this post.
And, yes, I have kids, too, busy ones. And they were even younger when our pastor in Indiana first challenged us to read the Bible through and the fire was lit in my own heart.  And how I needed God’s word filling my mind and training my thinking then, during one of the hardest years of my life. How I need it today, too.
I remember how excited I was when I read the Bible all the way through and for the first time really read for myself all those Bible stories I thought I knew frontwards and backwards after years and years of Sunday School, and I read them in the context of the whole redemptive plan of God and how my heart began to rejoice as I saw those stories, not as isolated moral lessons, but as a great tapestry of God’s grace. 
And now I pass the encouragement on to you, my friends. Spend time reading the whole Bible with an eye to see what God has told us about Himself. We in this country are so blessed to have access to the Bible in abundance. What wealth we have! Let us not squander it by letting that Bible sit unread on the shelf while we replace actually reading the Bible ourselves with chasing after what other people say about the Bible. Let us not dishonor the God who created us and redeemed us to Himself by neglecting, or worse by lauging away our neglect of, the Word He has graciously given us. May I encourage you to spend more time reading the Bible itself before reading another book about the Bible? It is so very worth the time spent. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Saturday Morning Laughs

I love all of my children, and I’m so thankful I get to be their mom. They all are gifts from God, and I’m thankful. They all also have taught me much about how sinful my own heart is and how impatient and selfish I actually am, which does wonders for helping me learn to ponder the amazing grace of the gospel and our amazing and loving Savior. Having to share day in and day out with people in your home for whom you are responsible to teach the gospel in a real and daily way really can expose your heart as you take seriously the Word of God.  I’m thankful for this, too.
Something else my children have done, though, is to teach me to laugh more, even when they don’t mean to be teaching me anything.
There are days I’m convinced we just needed our third child. She’s six-years-old, intense, creative, and funny, and she just makes me see life differently, in a good way most of the time. All my kids are intense, by the way. We are an intense kind of people in this home. My husband’s favorite phrase is, “Lighten up, Beck.” That’s why I’m so glad for the laughter, too. 
Which brings me to this morning. I almost never sleep in. I am not a night owl, and am pretty much an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ kind of girl. Most weekdays I’m up at 5AM. That’s just how I am. I do my best work in the morning. And now that I'm 40+, I also seem to have developed an annoyingly persistent habit of waking up in the wee hours of the morning with my brain on full tilt, but that's another post.
Anyway, we slept in today, and it was nice. Sometime along the way this morning I heard my daughter wake up and begin playing in her room before I drifted back into that nice, sleeping in kind of doze. A little later we heard her whimpering just outside our door, and we asked her what was wrong. She came in, tears on her cheeks, and said, “I’m hungry for breakfast.” To which we said, “But why are you crying? You know we’ll get you breakfast, right?” And she said, “But I was hungry, and you were still sleeping, and I was hungry, and I thought now you were nocturnal.You were still sleeping.”
And I started laughing. And yes, I was laughing at her, not with her, because she wasn’t laughing. Forgive me, but I laughed and laughed while her little tears kept flowing until she finally grinned that sheepish little grin she has sometimes. That was just funny. Y’all, I looked at the clock and it was only 8AM.
Such sluggards we are. Sluggards who got up at 8AM and gave our little early bird some breakfast so she wouldn’t continue to think we’d somehow become nocturnal.
I’m still laughing......