I belong

Privileges and Responsibilities

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:37-40, NIV

I was working with my daughter on an English assignment today when this passage poured into my mind. Her reading was called “Ali and The Magic Stew,” and it is what I would call a Muslim parable. The story is about a rich young boy, spoiled and unkind, who must live the life of a beggar for a day in order to save his father. It was a good one, and when we finished with the assignment, I extended the lesson, taking my daughter to the book of Matthew.

We’ve thought about belonging this week, really soaking in that comforting truth. But perhaps it would be wise to look past what that means for my comfort. Swishing that around in my mind this afternoon, I mentally traveled back to the first time I’d seen The Blind Side. Sitting in that theater, I was actually in tears ten minutes into the movie. Moved deeply, not because of pity, although I felt that too, but because of conviction. Leanna saw what most people refused to look at and acted on it. I prayed as I wept, ‘God open my eyes.’

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these…”

Belonging to Christ is an enormous comfort. But as is true with privilege almost universally, it demands responsibility. Today I was again prodded by the Spirit—convicted because I have become comfortable, content to live my suburban, middle class life with blinders on to the rest of the world. Sadly, as a church, we have largely neglected the command of Christ, and the responsibility of our calling, to care for the widows and orphans, to lovingly uplift the downtrodden and those in prison. It, by and large, has become standard for us to refer those cases to the hands of a government agency, an action that renders the Church impotent in a culture that grows more proud of its darkness by the day.

Whose fault is that?

Mine. I crave the comfort of privilege while ignoring its calling.

God, open my eyes. You have made me yours, and have assured me that I belong. Show me, Lord, how to be useful.

I Am Hidden In Christ

Adopted Because of the Lamb

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. Psalm 103:10-13

Funny how some things stay with you. My daughter recently asked me what my favorite Bible verse is. It’s Psalm 103:10, and it’s due to content as well as personal context.

I heard a man preach on Psalm 103 several years ago. I don’t remember his name, but I can still hear his voice. He hooked me from the beginning because, in a very humble and servant-like manner, he stood before the congregation of well over five hundred people and quoted that Psalm from memory. In its entirety. Without stumbling.

Impressive.

But his sermon sank in deep as he pulled that lovely song apart, and my heart latched on to verse ten–He has not dealt with us as our sin deserve, or punished us according to our iniquities (I know–it’s a different version from above. I’ve switched Bibles since memorizing it). Powerful words of mercy. And this preacher painted an image I have not forgotten.

A Shepherd will intercede for an orphaned lamb. It’s best if the orphan can be matched with a ewe whose baby did not make it. But there’s a problem; ewes know which baby is theirs by smell, and they’ll reject a lamb who is not their own. The solution is rather gruesome. The shepherd will skin the dead lamb and cover the orphaned baby with the hide, allowing the hungry, motherless baby life by way of adoption.

Wow. I am hidden in Christ, adopted because of His sacrifice. When God looks at me, when He does not punish me as my sins deserve, it’s because I am wearing Christ–covered by the Lamb of God.

An image, I pray, that I’ll never forget.

I am Made New

I Am Made New: A Joint Post

bluebonnets“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:25-26, NASB

From Jen:

Ahh, April. Who doesn’t like April? Daffodils, tulips, pansies, and green grass. New life.

I just seeded a patch of mud with rye grass—fodder from my chicks who will soon be released to their new home. I like rye seeds. They’re big, plump droplets of hidden life. Their pale color stands out against the mud, so I can spot them readily. And yes, I check them. Daily. Because, here’s a confession about me—I am obsessed with growing things. I’m the type that talks to a tender plant when I set its roots in new soil. I know their names—common and scientific. Yep—I’m that weird plant lady. It’s okay, we all need quirks.

Seeding plants holds so many lessons, and here’s one I thought of today when I went out to check my rye grass. The seeds, when I spread them on the dirt, were hard. Very hard. I know from experience, if they don’t receive enough moisture after their initial contact with the dirt, they won’t germinate. The potential for life stays bound up in that hard barrier. They need the softening effect of water before life can break through. So, I’d watered the area, and the seeds softened. Life sprouted.

Made me think of this verse in Ezekiel. “I will remove your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Like those hard seeds, useless without life springing forth, God has sprinkled me clean, poured His spirit upon me, and given me a new heart. New life.

From Susan:

I scattered seeds for Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes a while ago. When I go check on them now, I’m not looking for seeds anymore. I’m looking for flowers. A seed that is nestled in moist soil ceases to be a seed. It changes into something entirely new.

That is the kind of rebirth God offers use—total transformation into something much more beautiful than we were before. The trouble is, some days, when I focus on myself and my petty desires more than I focus on God, I start to shrivel into seediness again. That’s not God’s plan for me. Can you imagine a bluebonnet doing the same—returning to its seed-like state? It can’t. It isn’t supposed to. And neither am I.

Praise God whose mercies are new every morning. Today, I give him the hard places in my heart. Today, I give him my selfish ambitions and I ask—please God—cleanse me, and give me a new spirit. Turn my heart of stone into flesh.

Praise God for his patience with all his new creations.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

A Heavenly Home

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
And truly if they had called to mind that [country] from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly [country]. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
–Hebrews 11:14-16, NKJV

I love Steven Curtis Chapman’s music. As I read through these verse, his song ‘burn the ships’ came to my mind. It’s been years since I’ve listened to it, but the chorus still echoes strong.

Burn the ships, we’re here to stay
There’s no way we could go back
Now that we’ve come this far by faith
Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return
Our life is here
So let the ships burn

The fleet had landed. They’d committed to this new adventure, to a new home. That home hadn’t been realized yet, and the journey to it was harder than anyone had imagined, but they couldn’t go back. Cortez wouldn’t let them.

Faith is a sure confidence in things yet unseen. Home is a hope of a life fulfilled, a joy sustained and a wholeness unsurpassed.

None of these things are realized here on earth–not completely. There’s always a little longing in our hearts, always something waiting to be filled. Because this isn’t home.

CS Lewis wrote “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I have a heavenly home, I was made for it, and I long for it. This world cannot offer enough pleasure to fill the void of yearning. So, I press on. My heart is there, how could I turn back?

I am loved

I Am Loved: Gently Drawn

“The Lord appeared to him from afar saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

Everlasting love — the universal desire for all men and women. To be loved beyond time and space and reason. Who can forget the steadfast proclamation in the movie The Last of the Mohicans? . . . “No matter what occurs. I will find you…”

Or in the Princess-Bride, Wesley’s explanation to Buttercup as to why she should have believed he would always come for her . . . “Death cannot stop true love.”

Oh, to be loved like that . . .

I am. And because He loves me, He draws me to Him, ever again, with His lovingkindness.

My computer doesn’t like that word. It wants to make it two, or to at least add a hyphen in it. But it’s one word in our Bible, because its taken from a very unique Hebrew word.

Hesed:  Loyal, steadfast, faithful love. God’s love lavished on unfaithful people.

I love this word. He draws me with steadfast, faithful, unconditional love. Makes me sing that wonderful praise chorus…

“How can I keep from singing Your praise? ….I am loved by the King, and it makes my heart want to sing.”

Jesus, this morning I sing. Because you love me with this hesed love.