What’s better than life?

I began my morning reading the Mission Network News report.  As I scanned the stories, this one from Africa caught my eye.  The study of Acts has tenderized my heart once again to the truth that the spread of the good news of Christ comes at great cost.  Therefore, it is news of great worth!

Two Christians killed in Northern Nigeria

Nigeria (MNN) — Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports the deaths of two young Christian men in Nigeria. According to a Compass Direct report, the pair died at the hands of Muslims militants in Kaduna state. Local Christians believe these two murders are an effort to wipe out Christianity from northern Nigeria and stop ministry growth. Although the government is trying to initiate dialogue between the two faith groups, their efforts have been undermined by the wave of violent attacks on Christians.

Full story: http://www.MNNonline.org/article/10522

My mind considered the stories of Stephen who was the first Christian martyr and James who was beheaded for his faith in Christ.  These saints and others seemed to understand what the Psalmist meant when he penned the words, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” (Ps. 63:3)

The martyrs all believed Christ was worth more than life, more than falling in love, more than marrying and having children, more than seeing their children grow up, more than making a name for themselves, more than having the dream spouse, the dream house, and the dream cruise.  Christ to them was worth more than all their plans and dreams.  They all said, “It is better to be cut off in the midst of my dreams, if I might gain Christ.” ((John Piper, “Life’s Blood,” Tabletalk December 2001, p. 53))

Christ is the treasure that is better than life!  He is real life.

Trick or Treat?

DSC03451 (Small)Yesterday Casey and I went costume shopping.  I am not a crafty Mom so I throw money at holidays where costumes are required!  We scanned the wall of pictured costumes and Casey kept saying, “I can’t wear that, it is not school appropriate.” 

I was amazed at how many costumes seemed like male fantasy outfits rather than festive cover-ups.  Lace, garters, leather, mini skirts and plunging necklines were in plentiful supply!  If some of these get ups were worn for Halloween, I am sure the message would be clear, “I’m more interested in turning a trick than seeking a treat!”

Thankfully, the outfit that looked the best on her was the outfit she loved the most!  I did not have to censor or guide her choice. This morning she went out to school reliving her childhood wish…to be the fairest one of all!

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9)

Do you take supplements?

supplements (Small) When I hear that question, it sends my mind whirling!  If I am taking supplements it must mean that I believe I am lacking something.  It suggests that I have perceived a deficiency of some kind.  To supplement means I am seeking to make complete that which is incomplete.

I also think about “sin” when I hear the word “supplement.”  As odd as that might sound, when I remember that sin is not something I do so much as something I believe about God, then I think about sin. Sin is an attitude that insists on accusing God and questions His goodness. 

Sin is our effort to supplement what we believe are limits in God’s goodness.  If I think He is not good enough in any area–I will seek to supplement where I believe He is falling short. What an insult to the One who is the definition of goodness–the source of all goodness!

At the heart of all sin is a lie. The lie says to all of us in our sin, “The act you are now doing, the desire or attitude you are now feeling is not very bad because there are much worse things, not very bad because everyone else experiences the same things, not very bad because you can’t help it, not very bad because there is no God, or, if that won’t work, God knows you are but frail and weak and he will tolerate and pity your sin.” There are a thousand distortions of the truth which sin brings with it into the human heart, so that Jeremiah cries out, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (17:9).  John Piper

When we listen to the lies of our hearts we will find ourselves “taking supplements.”  We will find ourselves believing God is withholding the very thing that would make us complete.  We will find ourselves feeling justified in taking the initiative to fill what is lacking by supplementing with self effort. 

goldencalf.jpgRather than believing a lie, that I can supplement what is dangerously lacking within me, I cling to the truth that my real deficiency has been swallowed up by Christ’s sufficiency.  I want to live in that truth with grateful faith rather than tarnishing the gift with counterfeit, useless supplements.

If self- effort supplements “worked”– wouldn’t we all be well satisfied by now?  Isn’t it true that spiritual supplementing is just a nice word for idolatry?  Remember the story of the golden calf?

Today, I would say, “No, I don’t take supplements because too often they end up taking me!”

Are you a being or a doing?

For in him we live and move and have our being.”  (Acts 17:28)

  imageThis verse in Acts 17 caught my eye again.  I linger over its implications and marvel at its truth.  It certainly makes the point that we live–whether we acknowledge it or not–before the face of God!  That “reality” is Him–not an idea but a personality.

Ravi Zacharias’ way of saying this is:

In every other religion the teachers point to their teaching to show a person the way.  It is instruction and a way of living that is commended.  It is not Buddha who delivers but his “Noble Truths” that instruct you.  It is not Mohammed who transforms you, it is the beauty of the Koran that woos you.

By contrast, Jesus is identical with His message.  “In Him” dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 1:19)  He did not just proclaim the truth.  He said, “I am the Truth.”  He did not just show a way.  He said, “I am the Way.”  He did not just open up passageways.  He said, “I am the Door.”

We are not called “human livings” or “human doings”— we are called “human beings.”  Teaching at best beckons us to morality,  Jesus held up a mirror to show us our dirty face but by His person He transforms our will to seek Him.  It is our being that Jesus wants to feed.

Joy in being Exposed!

joy (Small) “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him whom we must give account.”  Hebrews 4:12-13

I am studying the Book of Acts with a group of women this Fall.  When I read this verse this morning I immediately thought of how I am getting to see it realized and lived out before my eyes in that group. I can sense it being realized in my own life but am doubly blessed as I witness this word being made flesh in the lives of others.

As we journey with Peter and Paul and learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts are being exposed!  Being exposed normally carries a major negative connotation — something to be avoided at all costs.  With this group of committed women we have grown in trust and feel safe enough to unmask ourselves– to unveil our thoughts and intentions in pursuit of seeing Christ more revealed!  That is the two-edged sword of the Word at work!  It is the Holy Spirit who is animating the written Word in our hearts.

The main character in Acts is the Holy Spirit–the third person of the Godhead.  We are becoming more familiar with how He works as an agent accomplishing God’s will on earth.  When I ran across this quote from A.W. Tozer this morning, I knew it was to help me marvel at His work in our lives.

An attribute to appreciate about the Holy Spirit is His penetrability.  He can penetrate hearts, minds–achieve complete penetration of and actual intermingling with the human spirit.  He invades the human heart and makes room for Himself without expelling anything essentially human.  The integrity of the human personality remains unimpaired–only moral evil is forced to withdraw when He penetrates.

Promise Driven Life

“Christ lived the purpose-driven life so that we would inherit his righteousness through faith and be promise-driven people in a purpose-driven world.”

2005-6-smallI confess my cynicism.  Christian books that have mega sales always make me suspicious.  Anything that is widely popular within and without the church, is more likely scratching a “natural” itch or poking a “flesh” button rather than pressing us on in the pursuit of holiness.

I ran across this quote from Michael Horton and thought, “Of course… we would love to be purpose driven people rather than promise trusting people.”   

The first way gives us the flesh satisfying illusion of being in charge–we can continue to be self – driven with a deflecting Jesus spin added to the mix!

Click here to read the Horton article in its entirety

Dead to the World

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat.

But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.

But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” 

(John 12:24, The Message) 

Q: How are we to become “dead to the world?”

  • by dying to the desire for a trouble free life.
  • by dying to our desire to express our freedom in an offensive and unbecoming manner.
  • by dying to the demanding need to have our own way.
  • by dying to the desire to have our preferences dominate.
  • by dying to the need to have no frustration in our lives.
  • by dying to the desire to be happy apart from God.

Q: What will sprout up out of this dying?

  • A winsome, becoming person who is not easily provoked, who is not ruled by her preferences, who wears deep contentment as a garment.  Who has learned that dying is the pathway to a recklessly wonderful life!