Friday

Grace from Gibeah

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

We assume that we know what we are doing. We are an enlightened society. Science is our guide. Philosophy our liturgy. Comfort our god. We have proven there is no god and now, freed from the constraints of the tyranny of religion, we can forego the masses' opiate and forge our own path, create Utopia. We are the captains of our souls.

To anyone who thinks the Bible is a book of children's stories, please avoid Judges. The last 3 chapters contain a story so graphic the writers of Game of Thrones could whip it into a screenplay with but little editing. The book ends with gang rape, a dismembered corpse mailed to 12 tribes, an ensuing civil war, the death of nearly 70,000 men, the wholesale slaughter of an entire city, and 600 girls taken captive and forced into marriages. Ancient historical text or modern headlines?

While there is much to be gleaned from these chapters, my initial gut reaction is merely one of sadness at the state of mankind when we make our own rules. The Cycle of Judges has the repeated phrase, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

And this is, I believe, the core value in our world. It is the basis of materialism, sexism, racism, and all the other 'ism's which pervade our world as fungus rots a fallen log. We see it, we want it. We feel it, we do it. Frank Sinatra did it his way. We are the champions. When people look to themselves to find the solution the inevitable result is always death and brokenness and sadness and horror. Religion even looks to man as the solution: Earn your way. Pay your penance. Become nothing.  All religions but one.

Jesus changed everything. He came into this world so desperately broken, not to condemn it, but that it might be saved through Him. Jesus didn't need to condemn us: we do that perfectly well on our own. He came to save us. The gospel comes to ruined people. Ruined by sin. Condemned, helpless, dead. The gospel is not a flannel board fairy tale. It is God seeing people ruined by doing what is right in their own eyes and sending Himself to show them what is truly right.

The 2nd greatest lie in all of history is that we have within ourselves the capacity to know what is right. It's what Satan told Eve. It is built upon the subtle, but Greatest Lie: God does not love you. Because to believe the 2nd, we must concede the first. The reality is that God does love you. Yes, even you. Even me. He loves us so very much that He did what we could never do on our own: Be selfless. Love. Forgive. Grace.

Grace is looking at the man in Judges 19 who threw his wife to rapists to save his own skin. A man who sacrificed a woman on the alter of his own nefarious pride by allowing men to kill her with their depravity. A man who took the weaker and used her to protect his own comfort.  It is looking at that evil man and loving him enough to take the enormity of his sin and bear it for him so that he could be forgiven. Jesus took the people who hurt children and societies who abuse women and He loved them by dying for their "doing what was right in their own eyes." It is impossibly wonderful. Achingly true.

I see in my own heart the capacity for such evil. Nauseated by Judges, I look within and see the man I could have been had not Jesus redeemed my broken soul by His love. And I look to Him to show me what is right. Not myself. Because when I do as I see fit instead of what the Lord says is good, I am the man in Judges. Ah, but He is my Good Shepherd who freed me by his love. He transforms my very heart, my very mind, into a man who looks like Him. Who loves like Him. Who can now do what is right in God's eyes, and not his own.

Glory!

Grace, grace, God's grace.
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Wednesday

Praise

"Let my soul live that I may praise You, and let your ordinances help me"
Psalm 119:175

Science is wonderful at answering the What and the How. As I was getting out of the shower this morning, our 4 year old son decided to come in and have a little convo. He left the door open. We live in a concrete block house. At 8,000 feet. With no heat. He asked me how our bodies make heat. Mine was currently not making enough. But I knew how to find out the answer. Science is an amazing tool that we can use! It's called Cellular Respiration (remember that Biology class you hated?) Feel free to geek out with me because it's awesome. But we can find out how that works. That too points to our Creator, but that's another post.

The same 4 year old has a favorite question: "Why?" Deep theology pours forth from that tiny mind. Sometimes I have an answer. Like when he asks why there are bad guys. Or why God is good. Sometimes I don't. Like when he asks why grandpa has cancer. Sure, I have an answer, but sometimes they answers don't seem to help. Sometimes I tell him, "I don't know. But I know that God is good and that's enough for me today." And sometimes it's time for bed and the answer is, "We'll talk about it tomorrow, sweet boy."

Why do we even have a soul? That marvelous question has a marvelous answer:

"That I may praise You."

God made us to praise Him. In what is truly a masterpiece of poetic discipline, the Psalmist gives us our purpose: Praise.

Sometimes studying the Bible really messes things up. See, here I am, comfy in my grumpiness and then I read this before I give teeth chattering answers to a wee bitty blonde boy in my bathroom. And I am forced to confront reality. Because what I want to do is yell for him to shut the door. But before my blood pressure can spike, this verse whispers into my mind and I have a choice to make.

Will I praise Him right now? Will I worship He who made my soul, then saved that soul so I could, as Tozer says,  "...perform what the constitution of our natures indicates we are capable of." What will I do? Who will I be? Because reality cannot be avoided forever. God made me to praise Him. Today. Right now. The Bible could not be clearer. And I cannot yell at my child and praise the Lord at the same time.

I cannot ___________ and praise the Lord at the same time.

With what else could will fill that blank?

I bet my list is longer than yours.

Wonderfully, the verse continues, "and let Your ordinances help me."  That word means a judicial decision, a verdict, a judgement, that sets precedent. The Lord didn't give us rules to limit our freedom. He gave us His word so we could have true freedom, because sin and lies bind us. Did Satan make good on his promise to Eve? Do we become like God when we sin, or when we praise Him?

Its no secret that we humans need help. And help we have. Right there in the Bible. Help to answer questions whispered from mouths full of not-too-well-brushed teeth. Little mouths that pull out a thumb and are unafraid to whisper, "Why, daddy?"

Let us be unafraid to wonder. Unafraid to whisper, "Why?" Unafraid to praise Him and receive the help He has given us. It's why we're here.

Unseen



"Your way went through the sea and Your path through the great waters,
but your footprints were unseen"
Psalm 77:19

Oh, how great and marvelous is this mysterious God we serve. In this journey with adopting our son, the Lord has gone before us. His way was through the sea and we could not see His footprints. But seeing does not manifest reality. Much of what I cannot see is real. If the Bible is true, there is an entire other world which we cannot see. That which is invisible, unseen by our eyes. A whole realm that is all around me that I cannot measure or manipulate or manage. A realm to which I have access through prayer. A realm where battles are fought. Where we can be transformed.

I want so much to see. To run my hands over the petrified imprints. But petrified means dead and I serve the Living God. The God who passes through the great waters unseen and asks me to follow. The God who brings nations to the edge of the sea then has them walk through on dry land. The God who takes the Great Problem of our sin and solves it unimaginably. The God who entered, as C.S. Lewis called it, "enemy-occupied territory" as, among all options, a baby boy born to a teenage girl. Our ransom wrapped in swaddling cloth. 

Yet even more, I want to follow Him through the darkness. I want to be carried by my Good Shepherd through the deep waters. I want to forget about seeing proof and rest in His everlasting arms. I want to be so enraptured by His love that I never look back to see where we have been but am content to merely be with my Lord, my Savior, who loves me enough to invite me to join Him in His wonder. 

I want to know Him, not just about what He has done. And as we have gone through this process, He has shown us who He is. Faithful. Just. Good. 

He is Father, Creator, Redeemer, Friend. And I love Him. And He loves me. And you. 

And though He is a mystery, what glimmer I get as He hides me in the cleft of the rock is more than I could ever need. 



Tuesday

I shall not want to go through this

I don't want to go through this.

I realize that sounds un-spiritual. Perhaps it is.

We want our son. Yet the hits roll in like breakers under an ever darkening sky. It is so hard to trust the Lord. So easy to put our hope in the fickle fancies of Secretaries and Presidents and Prime People. So easy to get hopeful when the chief representative of the State Department travels to the DRC. I get excited because finally someone with authority, power and influence is there.

I don't think David thought it all that fun as he crested the pass and walked down into the valley of the shadow of death. He didn't say that it would be fun, but that the Shepherd would be there with him and that His rod and staff would correct and comfort him. Comfort him with the comfort that fears nothing. That fears no evil. Not even the evil that keeps our son from us. That keeps him from getting the surgery he needs. That keeps my wife's heart in raw unending brokenness. That keeps our eyes wet and our hearts aching. Comfort us with Himself. With The Presence.

The Presence that restores a soul. That lifts up with wings like eagles. The Presence that knelt in an olive grove and saw the soldiers's torches and asked if this cup could pass. The Presence that submitted and took that cup and drank down every brutal lash, every mocking word, every hammer blow that atoned for the very sin which keeps us from our son.

The Presence that listened as Paul begged his thorn removed and answered with Himself. That the unmerited favor of His goodness was enough. Sufficient to lead him beside quiet waters. To prepare a table in the presence of his enemies. To anoint his head and overflow his cup and follow him with goodness and lovingkindness all the days of his life.

That same Presence, that same Person dwells within me. This is know is true. And He does not take the thorn or brighten the valley. He does not make the pain stop or the ache abate. He too has a hammer. And between it and the Anvil we dwell. Yet He who rains down the hammer also reigns on High. And it is between the hammer and the anvil that we are made into the likeness of His Son.

Because reality is that a Person of authority, power and influence is already there in the DRC. He has always been there and He will not leave. And though I yearn to slake my thirst for understanding, I must be content to drink instead from the cup which overflows. The cup not of wrath, but of grace. Grace that dries our tears and fills us with good and perfect things - even while we walk through the valley.

We do not want to go through this. The Lord wants us to go through it. Only one way is right. Only one way is good. Not my will, O Lord, but Yours be done. For Your name's sake - shepherd me.

Monday

Seasons

Seasons are what they are. I used to love the change from winter's bite to the blooms of spring. Guatemala is called "The Land of Eternal Spring" and it is nice. Temperate. But at times I miss the change.

Life has seasons too. We are in the little kid season. The Adoption season. The learning how to parent season. The struggle with calling and purpose and adequacy season. The my dad has cancer season. The our moms live too far away season. The I don't know what to do here season.

I feel the Lord pursuing me. Calling me to live the crucified life. The life where Jesus does the living through me. The life where I die and He lives. Where I trust Him completely. And not only trust Him, but ask Him to ordain circumstances that will require absolute surrender.

And here I find fear. Of all things, fear. Scared of what could happen I allow my trust to curl back into myself where it has no business but much power. I fear what could happen to my family if I ask the Lord to help me live the crucified life. And in that fear I have not love, for perfect love casts out fear.

So I end back where I always end: Needing to accept the overwhelming grace of Jesus which is manifest in my weakness. I find I need more and more grace because the deeper the Lord calls me to Him, the more I realize the profundity of my weakness. And in weakness there is fear. But I am not called to fear. I am called to be loved and to love Him in return.

Sounds so easy when I type it.