The earliest emotion I remember feeling about God is fear. As a child, I pictured God as distant, thundering, fiery. I assumed that the Father would blast me with consequences when I sinned, unless Jesus chose to plead with the Father to let me off with a warning. To be honest, I thought of Jesus as the nicest member of the Trinity—the Father was angry and the Holy Spirit was just peculiar. I obeyed God for a long time, not out of love, but from a deep sense of fear. I did all I was supposed to do, but I kept my distance from God, and (secretly) hoped he’d keep his distance from me. As I entered adulthood, my skewed “fear of the Lord” began to destroy me. If God was not for me, then everything was against me. Who could I trust? I was insecure, unstable, anxious, blown about by circumstances. Deep down, I wanted a different relationship with God, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. How do you learn to trust when you’ve spent a lifetime protecting yourself? I turned to a passage of Scripture that had been tugging on my heart for years—the first chapter of John’s Gospel: “For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:16–18).
What does it mean to be an image [...]
Comfort—we all crave it, and too often we live for it. I wake up each morning to a fresh brewed pot of Starbucks, preferably Sumatra, but any dark roast will do. Sipping that first strong cup eases me into focus. Nice, right? But this pleasurable morning routine doesn’t hold up away from home, where such an aromatic wakeup is rare. Coffeemakers in hotel rooms are typically in the bathroom (just gross!), and don’t even get me started on powered creamer. So I resort to Diet Coke or to covering my sleep-wrecked self with a coat and a pair of sun glasses to embark on a search for a nearby barista. Over time, my morning pleasure, my comfortable way of easing into the day, has come to own me. What’s your thing? Maybe it’s that mid-afternoon chocolate bar or nightly cocktail. Maybe it’s something completely unrelated to food and drink. Whatever it is, we can so easily worship the comfort god rather than the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). We worship this idol of comfort by orienting our lives on whatever promises to provide it in the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable way, and the more we indulge, the harder it is to cope without our comfort-providing substances. Our comforts become a prison of our own making.
PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST Most Mondays and Wednesdays find me at daughter Mary’s house. As 1pm draws nigh, I start herding 7-year-old Joshua and 2-year-old Emma toward the car so we can pick almost-5-year-old Lyla up from pre-school. Depending on the number of distraction-produced detours they take, the process can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Likewise, the drive to school and back may be filled with enthusiastic commentary on the scenes passing by or with shrieks of “Grammie, tell (insert sibling’s name) not to look at/touch/talk to me!!!” Yes, the trek to retrieve Lyla from school and return home safely is often the most stressful part of my day. But a couple of Mondays ago, the events surrounding our mid-day trip were decidedly pleasant. As soon as Lyla and her teacher exited the building, Joshua, exclaimed, “Lyla’s got the bucket! She’s kid of the day!!” And so she was. As Lyla climbed aboard and buckled up for the ride home, we all started talking excitedly. Congratulatory remarks blended with curious queries regarding the contents of her bucket. Several pieces of candy, a stencil, a super-cool, light-up pen, a certificate declaring her kid-of-the-day, and two books resided inside. Joshua read the books to us after lunch. They were all about how we fill or empty each other’s imaginary buckets by being kind or being mean. Furthermore, the books pointed out we’re doing one or the other all the time.
Are you a leader? Today, Leslie Bennett joins [...]
The other day I spent a few hours painting. If I had said that years ago you could be sure I was referring to something productive like painting a room in the house. I would have been redoing ill-conceived decorating choices or cleaning up scuff marks from our family of small children. It would have been purposeful. Needed. Practical. There is simply no way I would have been able to sit, surrounded by craft-store acrylics and a mason jar of brushes, to simply to create something. Not when there were so many other, more important things that needed my attention. But that is exactly what I did, and I loved every moment. Made to Create Spending any appreciable amount of time just creating says a lot about how I’ve changed over the years, to be sure, but it says more about how my theology has changed. You see for a long time, I’ve viewed the Christian life as a sort of to-do list. A relationship with the Lord, absolutely, but defined by acts. I viewed my status as a Christian woman, a wife, a mom, a sister, a friend, all as being determined by what I did and by what I brought to the table. There is an aspect of obedience to the Christian life, what we do does matter, but for a long time that was all there was for me. Do more. Try harder. Hope it’s enough and probably do a little more just to be sure. It took me years to finally understand that we were created for more than just doing—we were created to create.
Sometimes the most unusual phrases capture my attention. Reading through the Old Testament the other day, I ran across the command, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” I was immediately struck by those words. I have been unable to shake them from my mind. In particular, I’ve been contemplating how this phrase relates to the recent passage of a law in the State of New York legalizing—and indeed, actually celebrating—third trimester abortion. Wondering if I understood the passage rightly, I went to multiple sources and, of course, received multiple interpretations as to the meaning. Learning that this phrase appears not one, but three times, in the Old Testament, I also found that it appears in different contexts. While some consider it to be a mistake in the translation of the text, others suggest that it is written in reaction to a pagan ritual, while still others see it as comparable in usage to “how much more” statements which are made in both the Old and New Testaments. (I will be working off of the premise of the “how much more” perspective.) “How Much More” Applied One example of Jesus’ “how much more” statements occurs in Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus tells his hearers to consider the lilies of the field—and how God cares for them. “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith?” In other words, “If God cares for his creation as a whole, how much more does he care for every one of his image bearers?”
Do you like what you see in the [...]
RENEE MATHIS|CONTRIBUTOR This is not a dieting success story. I’m not a weight-loss wiz-kid. I do have a “before” picture, but as of this writing I’m still 6.9 lbs. from a significant goal – and that one is probably far from “final.” No, when it comes to weight loss, this is not the blog post I thought I’d write: I’m slow. At age 55, I’ve been at this seriously for four and a half years. I get the Turtle Award. I’m not here to promote a philosophy, method, author, or product. What worked for me may not work for you. No magic tricks here. I’m not privy to The Bible’s Key to Your Weight Loss Secrets. Those were never revealed to me nor did the Lord lead me to write devotions on the beauty of Brussels sprouts. In my version of my story I would be creating 4 star meals that are simple, healthy, and delicious. I would be the model of consistency and self-control. I would show up to the trendy exercise classes in neon-colored leggings with coordinated tank top and have defined upper arms that are the envy of, well, every woman who knows exactly what “flap” means. Since my version never happened, I guess God must have had something different in mind. When God writes our story, it’s always far better than anything we could imagine.
In 1995 God used an unassuming, unflashy woman as an instrument to spark a revival of humility and surrender in the hearts of thousands of Christian leaders. Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth) had been asked to speak to the staff of CRU and taught about the kind of heart that God revives for his glory, and the necessity of a lifestyle of surrender and humility. Christian leaders serving with CRU were deeply impacted and their leadership radically transformed as God’s Spirit convicted them about sin and selfishness. Hundreds of women will gather in Atlanta in two weeks to learn and growth together as women who offer life-giving leadership, rather than life-taking or selfish leadership. Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt share, “Our leadership is life-giving when it reflects Jesus’ person and purpose which is only possible because of his prayer and provision.” Here are three specific characteristics of life-giving leaders: