The Vow of Good

Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.
–Psalm 122:9

 

What is justice? It’s a subject that humans have wrestled with since….ever. Here in America, we anthropomorphize justice as a woman blindfolded, giving her the ideal of impartiality. We each hold our own opinions on what justice is and how it should be executed, but most people will tell you that justice in general is a good thing.

It’s also something we tend to care more about in our own lives than in others.
“I deserve,” “I’ve earned,” “It’s my right,” “That’s not fair.”

As creatures of survival, we are constantly seeking our own good, sometimes at the expense of others, even those we love and who love us. We justify our actions by stating the benefits to our own persons. “I got the promotion,” “I won the competition,” “I got what I wanted,” “I’ve been waiting long enough; I finally got my reward.”

So this morning when I read this verse just after my Bite of Bread with Andy Lee, it stood out to me as a powerful vow.

What does this look like in discipleship? It’s a promise to teach, correct, listen to and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ for the sake of the Kingdom. In relationship? It’s a promise to put the needs of friends and family members before your own for the sake of the Body. On the earth, it’s a promise to give your best effort in school, at work and in your community, to have a positive attitude around total strangers and those who watch our example, for the sake of the Gospel.

This chapter was written for Jerusalem, praying for her peace and security so that the Temple would be safe and prosperous, to show the glory and splendor of God to His people and the world. Today, WE are the house of the Lord our God. WE are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Which means, for the sake of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom which He is using us to build, we ought to seek the good of those around us.

When we are born into the family of God, we are no longer creatures of survival. We are new creations, creatures of abundant, eternal, full life (John 10:10). We are filled to overflowing so that we can benefit others (Psalm 23:5).

We are in covenant with God through the blood of Christ, the blood that connects every one of us. Let us then seek the good of our brothers and sisters and of those who have yet to enter the family. Because….

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
–John 13:35

Posted in Christianity, Religion | 1 Comment

You Heard Right…We’re Moving

EllipsisWeaver:

Looking to buy a home in Iowa?

Originally posted on Wayfarer:

Wendy Sold on Bos Lot

So, the word is out. Wendy and I have been regularly getting asked if it’s true that we are building a house. Yes, we are! Here’s the scoop:

Be careful of saying “never.” When Wendy and I bought 607 Columbus in 2005, we vowed we were never moving again. We absolutely love our cozy little brick Tudor and had planned on living here until death or old age forced us out. I even wrote a post about it a few years ago as we began ambitious plans to renovate.

Wendy and I both work from home offices and Wendy’s office has been located in a corner of the living room for years. There were a number of things we wanted and needed to make the house work for us in the years to come. We wanted to add a larger master suite, an office for Wendy and a laundry room…

View original 299 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking Back My Time

EllipsisWeaver:

A common weakness of mine too. Time to get ACTIVE!

Originally posted on thetakeback:

“I believe that the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.”

- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

I find myself sitting. A lot. Sitting and thinking. And when I sit and think, it’s mostly about what I should be doing at that moment.  Then, I start to over-think. This leads me to focus on the negative or what could be tragic one day and how I will react when those bad things happen, and I begin to become afraid. When the fear comes, GAME OVER. I’m stuck…paralyzed. The scary part is that’s exactly where Satan wants me because I am no longer a threat to him if I do NOTHING.

Lately…

View original 145 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seed, to Sapling, to Shade

EllipsisWeaver:

“Existing omnisciently outside of time, present in all moments at once, the Creator affords a perspective we can’t quite grasp in the moment.”

Originally posted on Wayfarer:

source: Ikonotekton via Flickr

source: Ikonotekton via Flickr

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”Luke 13:18-19 (NIV)

I am notoriously bad at growing things. I often feel ashamed of this. When you are born and live in Iowa nearly your entire life you tend to think that a green thumb should naturally be bred into your DNA. My paltry attempts at gardening and growing houseplants over the years have been an endless string of dismal failures (not unlike the Cubs attempts to win a World Series).

I am, nevertheless, increasingly appreciative of the time and patience it takes for things to take root, grow, and develop over time. I have observed over my lifetime how our culture…

View original 313 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

KYLO: Day 12

I have absolutely nothing to add to this one. Bask in it.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
Jeremiah 31:3
 

God’s perfect love is absolutely fearless. He is not afraid of you, and He never will be. His gospel message is, “I love you no matter what. I am not afraid of your mistakes, and you don’t have to be afraid of them either.” You too don’t have to be afraid of other people’s mistakes. They may be painful. Many things in life are painful. But pain and the fear of pain no longer have power to control you.

 

  • When others make mistakes in relationships, do you decide to create distance? Does your focus turn into protecting yourself rather than pursuing the other in love?
  • What is God’s position towards you when you fail?
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hasar: Humility, Harvest, Headway

Picture of Strong's Concordance definition of the Hebrew word "hasar"

Picture of Strong’s Concordance definition of the Hebrew word “hasar” 

Jeremiah 33:3

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (NIV)

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ (NKJV)

The bold words are translated differently, and no wonder. The original Hebrew word pictured above has quite a few meanings. “To harvest, to humble, to be thwarted, to be strengthened; fenced in, cut off, restrained; grape-gatherers.” It’s words like these which make me thankful I wasn’t in charge of translating God’s Word for all the English-speaking world.

I puzzled over this for a while and finally emailed my friend Andy Lee who elaborates on Greek and Hebrew words every week at her blog. She did some research and went down the path of strength:

My conclusion was that if you read the rest of the chapter, God speaks wonderful, strengthening, fortified promises to His people.

But the more I mull it over, the less I want to divide the meanings of this word (much the way Andy spoke of relishing the richness of the word peace). God’s Kingdom is so backwards. The Beatitudes make that abundantly clear. So much of the beauty of Christ is how spiritual paradoxes end up becoming real and true, despite their seeming lack of sense.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

Any strength God has ever given me has been AFTER a time of thwarting. Every harvest has come after a time of humbling, every abundance after restraint. I think the NIV said it best when it chose “unsearchable” for this word, because it’s true.

Call to me and I will tell you fantastic things that make no sense! Stop trying to figure them out, because you can’t. You don’t know them; I do. I am the Lord and it’s my job to handle the details. Your job is trust.

The rest of the chapter goes on to detail the waste that Jerusalem is about to become…. AND the wonder that the LORD will recreate it as. In the spring of 2013, I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted to become. I knew where the Lord was taking me and I was so excited! By the end of that summer, I had lost it and entered a very long season of confusion and heartbreak, ending in something I don’t even know how to describe. I found myself asking, “How do I get back to where I was?”

That was the wrong question. The right question is:

“How do I move forward?”

The Israelites could never regain Solomon’s temple. They cold never regain all that they lost in the Babylonian siege. But they could start fresh with what God’s blessings now and move forward.

Have you lost something? Something tangible like your home, something personal like a family member, something private like your hope? You can’t go back. But you can go forward. Think on the word “hasar” today. Think of the things that have thwarted you, then think of the harvest God is preparing for you. Think of the situations which have humbled you, then think of the strength that He is offering you in the aftermath.

Think on the paradox, then rise up and praise the One who brings beauty from ashes, gives joy for mourning, and makes all things new, even when they don’t make sense.

Posted in Christianity, Religion | 2 Comments

KYLO: Day 3

If you’re a parent, you’ve seen how children react to your behavior with their own. It’s been stated in psychology that if you use negative reinforcement, the subject is more likely to learn how to avoid getting caught rather to actually produce the desired results. I’m not against discipline, by any means; however, in my own experience with my sister, I’ve recognized my own tendency to be strict and controlling rather than leave room for the potentially unpredictable.

That is not love.

Good rules are boundaries between the safe and the dangerous, not tools of subjugation. Love is the freedom that comes from the safety of these boundaries and the joy that comes from mutual trust and respect.

Love is what I need to learn more of. With my sister, with everyone.

In today’s devotional, Danny Silk describes love as an invitation to others “to bring their best forward in a relationship.” He goes on to say…

Scared people show you their worst, but people who feel loved will show you their best.

This is certainly true of my sister. When she feels rejected–her greatest fear–she shows her worst: her worst attitude, her worst crying, her worst anger. In times when my discipline turned into punishment, her fear ended up scaring me. Is this who I am? A source of terror in a child’s eyes? A source of emotional damage?

She should never have to earn my love.

No one should ever have to earn my love. My trust, yes; my respect, yes. Never my love.

So, on to today’s questions:

Why do you think fear brings out the worst in people?

When has someone loved you well and, as a result, calmed your fear?

For the first, I think that it’s because fear places the focus on ourselves. How will I endure or escape this? What did I do wrong? How is this affecting me?

Valid questions all, but should our focus be on ourselves when we’re living for the King and His Kingdom?

How about the second question? Who has calmed your fears?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

KYLO: Day 2

Currently, we’re walking through the Keep Your Love On: Connection devotional by Danny Silk, available at YouVersion.com or on the Bible App. Sentences in quotes or italics are direct quotes from the devotional

“The first thing that reveals a powerless mindset is powerless language.”

“The defining force of the powerless person is anxiety.”

In today’s devotional, Danny Silk describes the trail of devastation that appears in the life of the powerless person.

Feeling out of control leads to fear, which leads to irresponsibility, which in turn leads to less and less control in one’s life.

Do you feel responsible for other people’s joy, happiness, or peace?

If you’re a spouse or parent, you probably do. We’ve been conditioned to think that we should “complete” others, and that they should do the same for us. If you’re a mother or father, the world should rest on your shoulders. You should make sure your kids are educated…and entertained…and exercised…and so on and so on. Their whole existence and happiness depends on you. What are YOU doing wrong, huh?

It’s time to stop. In love, we should always give our best for our families and friends. We should do our part to maintain healthy relationships. But we are NOT the only ones responsible for this. There must be balance.

You can never control another person. You can give your all or give nothing and still never be able to control the way another person reacts to you. What you can control are your attitude and your boundaries.

Don’t say “I can’t.” If it’s something you shouldn’t do, say “I won’t,” because that makes it a choice, and you are free from powerlessness. If it’s something you should do, say “I can and I will,” because that makes you more courageous and stronger than you were before you made the choice.

We’ve already walked through Danny’s first question. The second is yours to answer on your own.

Do you feel that certain people are responsible for your joy, happiness, or peace?

Posted in Borrowed Not Stolen, Christianity, Religion | Leave a comment

Happy Anniversary!

WordPress informs me that three years ago, today, I began blogging. In honor of the occasion, I’d like to use today as a kick-start to share my journey through the KYLO devotional plan on YouVersion. You can download the YouVersion app and join me on this plan.

Day 1 is about choices. Danny Silk states that choosing others is the healthy foundation for relationship with others, not simply responding to them choosing you. The latter leaves the relationship susceptible to wavering and even collapse. Love is choice.

He asks:

Does someone need to choose you first for you to feel connected to him/her?

What motivation will you have to choose others when they may not return liking for liking?

Something that’s so obvious in my baby sister is her inability to process rejection in a healthy manner. She interprets all sorts of things as personal rejection, many of which are not. Being the sensitive person she is, this often results in a pool of tears on her end and several minutes of calming and explaining on my or my mother’s end. Like many members of our family, she will put out a lot of effort for others because she loves to give. But when she doesn’t feel that her efforts and affections are reciprocated, she starts to break down.

She may only be six (going on seven!) but many adults have the same reactions. I’ve never been too sensitive, but I do have a strong inner desire to be wanted, to have my company enjoyed and my efforts appreciated. I tend to crave attention if I don’t check my attitudes and motivations on a regular basis, so I often react to others “choosing” me by attaching myself to them and chasing more and more of their attention, finding ways to make them “choose” me over and over again.

On the flip side, even though I am friendly. I sometimes have a hard time “choosing” others, taking real interest in what makes them who they are. I love to learn and analyze and dissect, but that’s studying, not socializing. I have to remind myself that people aren’t merely calculations: they are creations, living and breathing images of God, unique and worth my respect and empathy.

Connection is always easier when someone else initiates it. But as Christians, we are not called to “easy”. We are called to “holy” and “upright”. We are called to love, to be the initiators the way Christ was with us. What’s my motivation for choosing those who may not immediately want to choose me? Am I trying to manipulate them for my own purposes? Or am I trying to show them the love that has been shown to me repeatedly and consistently by the Great Lover?

What’s yours?

Posted in Borrowed Not Stolen, Christianity, Religion | Leave a comment

Grace = Purity

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
Titus 2:11-14

These verses plainly reveal the idea of “freedom to sin” or “freedom to live how want” to be a lie. We are not given grace to live in an apathetic “covered by the blood” mindset.

We are given grace to enable us to live worthily before the Lord, to be holy as He is holy so that we may have relationship with Him.

What relationship can light have with darkness? None! Don’t let the light within you become darkness. Walk in grace, which is to walk in purity.

Posted in Christianity, Religion | Leave a comment