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Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Job

I’ve been reading Job.  One of the Bible’s most complex poetry books, about suffering, usually attracts people when they feel afflicted.  That’s not really why I started in on it this time.  Job is one of my favorite books, mostly for the last few chapters at the end.  (The discourses in the middle typically confuse me.)  This month some friends have been talking about sermons they heard about Job at their church.  On a quiet night a few weeks ago I turned on an online audio Bible.  As I listened, Job 13 resonated with me.  In one verse, I felt like Job summed up his plea.  He said that he wanted to ask and have God answer – either that or for God to speak and Job to get to listen.  This righteous man had lost almost everything, and what he wanted most was not to get everything back, but to know God better than he ever had.

 

So I’m excited to read Job each night, delighted that it makes more sense to me than it ever has.  Here is this man I feel I can really respect.  You may have encountered in your life the scarcity of godly older men to be examples of faith.  And here he is.  This man isn’t all about doing – though he makes it clear he knows right from wrong, and has spent much of his life pursuing goodness.  Job was interested in knowing God more.  The more I read, the more I see it.  Even if by coming to him, God was going to humble Job and reveal his sin and judge him, Job was willing to take that risk for the chance of knowing God.  I know the end of the story.

 

As I read of Job pleading for God to visit him, I get excited about the moment when God does all that Job asks.  YHWH Almighty comes and reveals His glorious wisdom to Job.  He asks questions and Job answers.  Then at last Job is content.  Then Job lays his hand over his mouth and says “How can I reply?”  All along Job has wanted to know who he was, especially relating to God.  He knows now.  He responds with more humble worship.

 

The end of it all is that God is pleased with Job’s faith.  The man who met with God (perhaps more a theme of the Old Testament than I ever noticed before) is restored.  Blessings of prosperity, family, and usefulness to others’ spiritual lives return upon Job.  I assume the devil was astounded by this incredible mercy, that mere man may speak with God and live.  Take away the hedge God had placed around Job, and God surrounds the righteous man with His own presence.  This is not only Job’s heart; it is God’s as well.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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When I was in junior high, I remember telling a Bible study leader that if a Christian was walking with God, she wouldn’t have to “pray about it” before she knew whether God wanted her to do something or not; she would already know.  Back then I was pretty biblically ignorant, and didn’t have much experience as a Christian trying to walk with God.  I don’t agree with what I said then.  Sometimes, no matter how closely you are walking with God, He wants you to wait on Him, to seek Him.  So He is quiet on what you should do, for a while.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m not perfect, you know.  But my YHWH is merciful.  One of the ways that He demonstrates His mercy is by revealing my sin to me.  He treats me like He did David.  Sin is seeded in my heart when I don’t trust God, when my delight is in something besides Him.  And I don’t notice.  (When I’m slipping down the sin track, I don’t often take time for self-evaluation.)  So God allows me to be tempted.  There’s the way of escape, of course.  I have access the whole time to the power to resist the temptation.  But I don’t.  I give in.  I speak an unkind, impatient word.  I spend recklessly.  I think lustfully.  Thus God shows me myself.  Repentance isn’t real when it holds back.  When my sin causes me to sorrow, God invites me to kneel before Him and be cleansed.  The cleansing often goes much deeper.  Making-up is precious because it heals up the breach that had been between us before I acted on it.

 

The sermon I heard this last Sunday pointed out that in Psalm 51, David acknowledges the hidden sin of his heart which led to his ghastly outward trespass of adultery and murder.  The story in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 about David taking a census of the fighting men in Israel suggests a similar thing, that there was sin in Israel that made God angry, but it was not obvious sin.  He wanted to bring it out, so He could deal with it.  So God allowed Satan to provoke David to do this thing that offended YHWH.

 

I believe that God has the power to prevent us from being tempted.  This is what Jesus taught His disciples to pray for.  However, I think that prayer is not sincerely being prayed or desired when I am keeping doubt and distance in my heart toward God.  I am not trusting Him for my daily bread; if I think of mentioning it to Him, it is a demand.  I am not begging Him for His will to be done on earth; I think my will is better.  And I am not zealous for His glory, His kingdom, and His power.  These things go together with being preserved against temptation and evil.

 

Pleasing God is much more than outward things.  It is the direction of my spirit.  When I “walk in the Spirit” and “abide in Christ” and “delight myself in YHWH,” then I will successfully serve God and bear fruit.  These will be to His credit, and that will bring me joy.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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People of Hope

We are a people of hope, we Christ-followers.  Love is to be what defines us, and Paul wrote that love hopes all things.  In the past few months I have been overwhelmed with the number of things we are hoping for.

 

First we are hoping for the return of our Bridegroom, Jesus, the establishment of His kingdom, and the fulfillment of our salvation.  This future is promised and sure, but not realized – often not even observable on its way.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.  So much of what we do until His return is based on what we can’t see.  We love the brethren, whom we can see.  We hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him.  Our feasts remember Him and anticipate the wedding feast we will share with Him.  He has left us gifts and we use them.  Purity is important in a Bride, so we try to be always ready to meet Him adorned with good works and holy.  These are the acts of hope.

 

Many of us are hoping for the salvation of friends and family.  We labor for it.  We petition for it.  And we recognize that it is God who brings it about.  This isn’t a detached hope; we are eager, invested, agonizing as we plead for those who are lost in spiritual darkness and death.  The answer to our hope is glorious: redemption and reunion and our Lord’s increased joy.

 

In singleness we wait for a spouse and children, in hope.  God has led me to not just bide my time, but to really desire these good gifts.  I can’t acquire the kind of husband I would need to glorify God, by myself.  God is abundantly able.  So I wait, dreaming of the day when God brings completion to my hopes and I begin a new life, picturing the new life we Christians will share with Christ when He returns for us.

 

God has entrusted orphans to His people, charging us to care for them.  These needy children wait for homes and families, and we walk in hope that they will be adopted soon.  Some of my friends are eager to receive the blessing of an adopted son or daughter into their family.  While they know that God must move the mountains it takes to bring these children home, they seek Him for the next step they should take in this process.  They begin loving these little ones to prepare for the day that they might be their own.

 

Others are hoping for God to grow their families by blessing them with conception and healthy births.  They ask God for babies, get excited about names and interactions and discipleship and teaching and growing.  Months too early they begin collecting children’s books and decorating nurseries.

 

Having kids is an abundant source for more hopes.  Parents hope for their children to grow into men and women who zealously pursue God.  They pray for long, strong lives.  When their children stray from the truth, they fervently intercede for their repentance.

 

We gently and lovingly confront sin, hoping for the offending Christian to be restored to submission to God and fellowship with those of us who walk in the light of His grace and power and leading.

 

In all sorts of things we pray for what we don’t have, our hope in the good-gift-giving Father who hears all of our requests with love and wisdom.  Sometimes He has told us what to pray for, and our hope should be enthusiastically confident that we have whatever we ask (as it is asked in faith according to His revealed will).  And sometimes we lay our hearts before Him, begging that He will grant our desires or turn them to what pleases Him.

 

And hope maketh not ashamed;

because the love of God

is shed abroad in our hearts

by the Holy Ghost

which is given unto us.”

~ Romans 5:5

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Death, Grief, and Hope

It’s a month and a half to Easter.  Ash Wednesday is tomorrow.  I’ve never celebrated it.  The holy-day marks the beginning of Lent.  I never participated in Lent either.  I think it is something about dying.  Dying is something I’m not good at.  I’m not good at grieving death.  Maybe if I died, I would be.

 

A friend related a conversation with her cousin this week, where he said that it is harder to surrender things after you’ve lost them than before.  You recognize that all is gift.  Gifts don’t by right belong to us.  And that God has the right to take them back.  That maybe He gave them to us to be material for sacrifice.  You die to what you thought were your rights, your expectations.  And then, when loss comes, you are already dead to the clinging, dead to the owing.  The loss is still real.  And you can grieve it.

 

The Resurrection teaches us that before the hope of life-again comes death.  Maybe if I learned to die, so I could learn to grieve, I would learn to hope.  Maybe hope means nothing if it doesn’t embrace death to self.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Before Surrender

from Tuesday: before  ~
I am not surrendered, and I feel it, all this tightness that won’t relax.  I don’t know what I should do, is my excuse to not surrender.  Do I surrender to something that God allowed but didn’t want?  Or did He want it?  How can I know?  And while I don’t know, can’t I surrender to this gift-life that God has made for me?  I jerk back again, familiar tightening as my heart pulls back from the pain.  Take this pain as a gift?  Surrender to this God who hurts me? 
Love is certainly not all about getting.  I think this as I ponder the way I love others, and the ways I feel alone.  And when I chose to love these friends, I knew there would be pain, and I decided to give love, to sacrifice.  Love doesn’t demand a return.  God loved me this way, this self-giving whether I love Him well or not.  And it hasn’t occurred to me that I must choose to love God, to give love, to sacrifice, to be wounded by Him because I love.  I felt that loving a lack-less God would not cost.  If love is not all about getting, and all I do is get from God, then I am not loving. 
The invitation is there, and I’m wrestling on the edge.  I don’t know what loving God looks like.  I don’t know what it will cost, to show love to a God who has anything He wants.  It is, the Scriptures say, a fearful thing to fall into these hands.  And I am afraid.  Who says love ever has to know before it gives, how much?  I grieve that I don’t love Him.  I plead that He will give me a passion for His glory.  I ask for His mercy, though I don’t know what that means. 
My mercy-pleas hope that He will remember that I am but dust.  Maybe then He will expect no more of me than dust, go easy on me, be gentle and shallow.  Such is not the salvation I want, the redemption that inspires my faith.  It is to God’s credit that He has chosen to transform dust.  I hope I will remember I am dust, so I will trust Him who is the treasure in this earthen vessel.  The treasure transforms the vessel.  I am born of the Spirit, set with the Son of God in heavenly places, heir of the lack-less God.  Would I want to be left as dust?  Do I despise His mercy so much as to deny its work?  Would I deprive the God I love of the joy of seeing His sacrifice accomplish its intent?  Though I doubt, He is faithful, unable to deny Himself His well-purified Bride. 
Surrender isn’t what I expected.  Maybe I thought it would mean being sent, and employed – maybe I thought surrender was more getting of what I want: the satisfaction of a meaningful adventure-life.  And maybe surrender is letting go of the things that I actually care about.  Maybe I thought I would choose what to lose, that it would be this me-exalting expression of my love: that I choose to leave behind chocolate or bookshelves or the world I have known, all to prove I love God.  God doesn’t need me to prove my love; I won’t impress Him.  He knows if I actually love.  Getting credit for my love is not what love’s about. 
And maybe I’ve been there before, surrendered, loving, content, sincerely yielded to His whatever will.  Maybe that was before I knew Him this well and saw how little I really know Him.  What do I need to know about God to love Him?  What do I do with this back-of-my-mind taunt that it is foolish to love a God who isn’t good, who isn’t just, who isn’t faithful?  I argue loudly that the only begotten Son dying an excruciating death was not a ruse.  I remind my back-of-the-mind-me that I know I am not wise or all knowing.  I’m doing what is right, to fight the lies and doubts.  But all of it is reaching to understand first, before I surrender. 
after ~
More than one friend this week has quoted to me Jim Elliot’s famous admonition: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot earn.”  I decided that it would be wicked to wait to surrender.  I cannot keep my control or my pride anyway, praise YHWH!  And in giving these things, I have received release and joy.  Thanks is the exercise of continual surrender, and over the past few days I have taken refuge in thanking God for the painful things.  His mercy endures forever.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Still Remembering

I forget sometimes that it is ok to be quiet, to sit in quiet.  There is a baby softly crying right now, upstairs, and I’m waiting to see whether she’ll fall back asleep on her own.  But I have to listen for the next noise she will make, and she may not make any.  Meanwhile, it is mostly quiet.  I let the music end.  There is white noise coming from the baby monitor.  A clock ticks.  A train whistle sounds in the distance.  Cars go by, but a few streets over.  My fingernails click against the keyboard.  And I am quiet.  How much you can hear when you are willing to be still.

 

This week at the prayer meeting I attend we were talking about what it means to hear God’s voice.  When Philip heard the angel of the Lord, and the Spirit, speaking to him in Acts 8, what had he been doing?  Was he busy doing something else God had told him to do?  Or was he doing something he thought was not wicked, but not really directed by God?  Was he eager to be used by God and so praying for God to give him a direction?  And if you do something like that, how long should you wait?  What if you decided to be still until God spoke, and He took longer than you expected?  What if you gave up waiting on Him, went on to some good task, and missed Him telling you to randomly take the desert road?

 

Another thing we were talking about was how we can make our own noise, or dive into distractions, keeping us from hearing God.  If we never take the time to pray or sing praise songs, if we fill ourselves with TV and news and work and hobbies, we aren’t giving God much of a chance.  And He deserves more than a chance (even though He can break through without chances).

 

Waiting is hard, especially when God is quiet.  I, at least, start to doubt that He will ever speak, or that He has ever spoken.  Reminders come that there are things that I want God to do, and I start thinking that I could do them – if only He would give me orders.  Or maybe all I need is permission.  Or maybe I’ll just do them myself anyway.  And suddenly instead of God’s servant waiting, God’s servant is taking over.  And I realize that I had been waiting for God to be my servant, not for Him to be my Master.

 

There’s another side to patient waiting, though.  Rest.  Peace.  Presence.  When we are still, we are not busy.  (And I don’t think you can argue that God has called us to constant busyness.)  If we trust that He will work when His good time has arrived, we can have peace: confidence and hope and the absence of that tight anxiety that makes you feel as though you are straining even when you are not moving.  His presence is filling the silence when we draw near to Him.  Maybe He wants us to enjoy Him, instead of just running around trying to earn His love.  His love is a gift, His work in us is grace, and when He is not employing us, that is also grace.

 

Lately I’ve been learning to remember in the waiting.  Remember God’s prior faithfulness.  Remember that He has truly led me here.  Remember that He promises to hear me.  This remembering builds faith.  It brings thanks.  It intentionally focuses me so that I can have peace.  It directs my faith to true things, to God’s real ways.  And it lets me be aware of His nearness.

 

Most times it is hard to thank God for waiting.  Maybe it’s because I need to do it better.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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God’s Department

I happen to think that a great many things are God’s department.  I believe that nothing happens without Him ordaining it.  This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in personal responsibility, especially in obeying God.  It’s an interesting thing about obedience, though: you can’t obey an order that isn’t given, even if you feel urgently like the Master needs to get you moving.  A servant is still (or busy at the last assigned tasks) until another order comes.  This shows trust that the Master can make better decisions than the servant regarding how he should be serving.  It is a submissive dependence on the Master.  The Bible talks again and again about waiting on God.  I believe it is essential to faith and humility.

So many people encourage Christians to see a good direction and go for it.  One that I encounter a lot is marriage.  People think that a servant of God, if he or she desires marriage and a family, should not be sitting around waiting for God to bring them a spouse.  These people may be right, but only if God has told the Christian to be doing something – directly or indirectly acquiring a spouse.  If He has not moved in that direction in their lives yet, then they are not going to be obeying God – or finding the spouse He desires them to be united with – if they make efforts on their own.

Over the years waiting on God to direct me (and sometimes taking steps that He tells me to take – sometimes taking steps He doesn’t tell me to, and repenting), there have been several verses that have encouraged me to be patient, that God is in control and that His plan for marriages is good.

Proverbs 19:14, “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 18:22, “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.”

Matthew 19:4-6, “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Psalms 37:3-5, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

It is popular among conservative Christians to assert that the headship of a man and the exclusion of women from authority over men applies to initiating romantic relationships.  This seems consistent with the patriarchal values taught in the Bible, though it is not specifically prescribed.  One verse that encourage me, as a woman, to let men take the lead, especially in this area, is Proverbs 30:18-19, “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.”

For a while I was strongly influenced by movements which taught that guarding one’s emotional heart from attachment, interest, or affection should be a single woman’s main goal.  I no longer believe this.  There are verses that speak of guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23), but I believe that those verses refer to temptation, not to caring for others.  We should all be careful that our loves are guided by the description in 1 Corinthians 13, that our love for one another is not selfish or lustful, but patient and kind and humble and selfless and hopeful.  Another verse I have been known to use to argue for “guarding my heart” is from Song of Solomon, the refrain, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake [my] love, till he please.”  That is the KJV; in other versions it is translated in a way that sounds more like a warning against falling in love before it is time.  I am not convinced of that translation, or of its application.

Generally, I am opposed to flirting.  If it is sexually enticing (and not between a husband and wife), I think that it is wrong.  Other reasons why I don’t like flirting are that it makes one the aggressive center of attention.  It is not modest for a woman to demand that a man pay attention to her silliness.  Finally, I think that flirting often replaces more direct forms of communication and commitment that are too much neglected – leading to misunderstanding and discord.  However, I don’t think it is always wrong.  I believe that if a woman is so scared to show her interest in a man whom she favors that she doesn’t respond to him when he teases or jokes or compliments or questions or even just sits down next to her, she is being dishonest, and setting herself up to be passed over.  A man may deem that she would reject him if he pursued her.  Women ought to affirm our brothers in Christ, whether we are going to marry them or not.  This deceptive reserve cheats them of this natural edification.  If a woman really loves a man, she will want what is best for him, even at the risk that she will grow fonder of him.  She should trust God to guide her heart and hopes.  This trust is, of course, not done apart from investing heavily in her relationship with God.

Examples in the Bible are diverse: Eve was formed directly from Adam’s side while he slept.  Isaac received his wife because his father sent a faith-full servant to his relatives to find one, and she agreed.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel and acquired her sister also because of his deceptive brother-in-law.  Widow Ruth’s mother-in-law noted Boaz’s kindness, and his position to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth, and sent Ruth after Boaz in a very discreet yet appealing way.  Then Ruth had to sit and wait for the man to accomplish all the particulars.  David and Michal fell in love, but that didn’t turn out so well; she rescued David and lied for him and then her dad the king gave her to be someone else’s wife.  He also married Abigail after her first, wicked husband died.  And we know he married Bathsheba because the death penalty for his adultery with her was not enforced against them.  Not the recommended way of entering into marriage.  Esther became Ahasuerus’ wife because he made a decree to bring beautiful women into his harem.  God told Hosea to choose a wife of harlotry, thus his marriage to Gomer.

Then we have Paul’s confusing instructions in 1 Corinthians 7.  And we can look at the love stories between YHWH andIsrael, and between Jesus and the Church.  This last is no small thing and has encouraged me to wait well, and to take this time of deferred hope as a time to learn more about the Church that is awaiting her Bridegroom’s return from his Father’s house.

My point is that there are a multitude of very different stories, wound about with love and sacrifice betwixt sin and sorrow.  Fathers act, men act, women act, mothers-in-law act.  The moral of the story is to desire good things, wait on God to direct you, and walk confidently by faith.

Romans 14:23, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Once upon a time, right before I started this blog, I was noticing a lack of male leadership in my church.  Women who notice such things are usually pro-patriarchy; we’re complementarians, ok with pastors being only men and husbands being the head of the households (even of the wives!).  Those kinds of people are supposed to believe in submission, in not taking over authority not given to them; some of them don’t even believe in speaking during Church meetings.  So I talked to God about the situation, and asked Him, if I’m not allowed to teach men or take charge myself to get this right – and I’m not – then how shall I fix it?  Because God is not a crying female, He doesn’t entirely mind His children asking if they may be part of fixing problems.  Because He is a good authority, He assigned me the job of fixing myself and my own role in the problem.  What He said was to study biblical womanhood, and to study it together with other women, so that when we behave as we ought, our husbands and brothers and pastors and deacons and teachers and friends can be encouraged (by abiding need and by affirmation) to take up the leadership God has delegated to them.

 

This episode of my life is significant for a lot of reasons.

 

First, God spoke to me, clearly and directly answering a question I had been asking Him in prayer.  His speaking was inaudible, but it was not circumstantial.  I heard in my head clear sentences about what I was supposed to do and why.

 

Circumstances worked out to where the way I was to study with other women was made clear.  That very week before the sermon, an announcement was made that there would be a women’s ministry meeting, and anyone wanting to get involved should stay for the meeting.

 

I had become convinced that God had gifted me with teaching and I wasn’t using that spiritual gift.  At the meeting this possibility was specifically mentioned, and I volunteered to teach, subject and format already in mind (we spent 11 weeks on Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31).

 

Fourth, I learned a lot about godly womanhood and about studying the Bible with a community of women and about faith.  One lesson that stands out right now is related to God’s answer about how to get men to lead.  When we came to studying the Titus 2 characteristic of “discretion,” what we came around to was that a godly woman is a woman of influence.  She’s willing to do things behind the scenes, to not say or do overt things that could lead to conflict or disrespect or usurping a man’s role.  Instead she’s the good cousin to manipulative: she’s discreet.  The word carries with it also a sense of wisdom, of thoughtful intentionality, and of self control for the sake of others’ interests.

 

Finally, when our group of women finished studying Titus 2 and Proverbs 31, we moved into studying spiritual gifts – a breakthrough study for me and my beliefs about the Holy Spirit’s significant role in the Church and how the way we “do” church generally stifles that work.

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about these two subjects: about authority and submission, as a woman and in the Church.  I value authority, but I am not sure I go out of my way to build it up over me.  I want to receive a good ruler (father, pastor, husband) as a gift out of the thin blue sky, but maybe I ought to be more pro-actively submissive.  This seems like a paradox.  And maybe to experience more of God’s grace in my life, I need to seek out stillness and rest from trying to do everything on my own initiative.  Maybe I need to trust.  Maybe I need to be willing to be hurt.

 

Love is a common thread between spiritual gifts, biblical womanhood, and leadership.  A lot of people these days say to get out of a relationship that causes you too much pain.  Don’t love someone unless you can get something out of it.  Keep your heart safe.  Take things slowly and cautiously so that you can try not to get hurt.  Don’t get used.  Thank God He didn’t treat us that way when He sent His Son.  Tremble at the example given: deny yourself; take up your cross; lose your life for His sake.  Love suffers long and is kind.  Paul was ready to be spent for the congregations he loved – even though the more he gave, the less they responded with love (2 Corinthians 12:15).

 

Christian love is not prudent, is not safe, is not painless.  Submission is radical trust that God will be glorified even when the authorities we’re following make bad decisions.  Giving should be without expecting any repayment and without fear for what we will eat, drink, or wear tomorrow.  When we are weak, we can boast about it because it magnifies God’s strength.  Thanks should be unexpected when we serve.  Instead of pursuing justice to the bitter end, we should allow ourselves to be wronged by our brothers.  The needs, sorrows, and joys of others belong to us.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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All That Was Lost

By Michael Card

Why are you crying?

Who are you looking for?

This is a graveyard.

Were you expecting more?

 

You feel abandoned,

Like every hope has died,

The death of all your dreams –

This is the price of life:

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

There stands the Stranger

There on the flowering slope.

The Servant waits for you

In a garden of hope.

 

Do you perceive now?

And have your eyes been cleared?

Have they been opened?

Have they been washed by tears?

 

He will claim His lost possession,

Repossess you, pay the cost.

He will purchase you for freedom.

He will find all that was lost.

 

So run and tell all

Those who have longed to hear:

The wait is over;

The risen Savior’s here.

 

Jesus asked the question a few times.  “Who are you looking for?”  Or “What do you want?”  Even though He already knew, He asked because He wanted us to know why we were seeking.  And isn’t that exciting, that God sent angels to people at the tomb who weren’t seeking YHWH for that which they wanted?  He doesn’t always wait for us to come to Him; praise His mercy!

 

Who am I looking for?  I take a moment to remember what has awakened this longing in me that drives me to my tired knees, crying again, playing this song on repeat in my car’s stereo.  I don’t think we’d really cry unless we had hope.  Hope knows pain doesn’t have to be, doesn’t have to endure; but it is here anyway, and how do we reconcile the goodness of God with that pain?  I know it: I am looking for Jesus because there is no one else who has the words of life; no one else worthy of putting my hope in.  And I’m looking for Him because I have tasted of Him, but I am so aware that I just don’t understand what He’s up to.  I wish I knew Him better.

 

As I meditate on the lyrics, I change my mind about “this is the price of life.”  Does it mean there will be sadness in all of life so much as it means this tomb is the price of making us spiritually alive?  Jesus had to die.  We shouldn’t despair when God is accomplishing His purposes.  Our Hope had to die (and rise again) to give us life.  Like the grain of wheat that falls into the ground, it isn’t until it dies that it brings forth abundant and multiplying life.  Redemption wasn’t free.

 

Jesus purchased me for freedom.  I’m swimming in what it means to be redeemed to be free, but still to be His even in my liberty.  In the very least, it feels good to be claimed, to be bought at a price.  It reminds me of Hosea, who bought his wife back from self-imposed slavery.  He set her free.  Andrew Peterson’s song, Hosea, describes the scene when Israel saw that her abandoned wilderness was turned into a valley, a garden of hope.

 

He will find all that was lost.  Even though our old hopes have died, they were not in vain.  Whatever is sown will be reaped.  YHWH is Redeemer, who restores the years the locusts have eaten.  He keeps my every tear in a bottle – not one is unnoticed by Him.  In Him even lesser hopes are resurrected, but in His hands, His ways, His glory.

 

Having lived life in hope, having built expectations of our own about who God is and what He will do, the God after the death, after the resurrection, can be a Stranger to us.  I don’t understand Him.  I am surprised, maybe even hurt, by His ways.  But the grief, the letting go of my own hopes, has emptied me to meet this Stranger on His ground.  And His ground is flowering and good.

 

I am flattened that Jesus waits for me.  He is the Servant, delighting to serve and to give and to lay down His own life for my sake.  He wants me to know Him and experience His love.  In fact, this is the best love story ever.

 

The tears over my lost agenda, my way, my understanding, have given way to humility.  My God draws near to the humble – really, really near.  My eyes are opened to see Him as He is, to receive from Him His own good gifts.  Hope is resurrected into something that is not about me at all.  It’s about Him.

 

The chorus makes me rejoice for my Savior.  Titus 2:14 says that He has “redeemed us from every lawless deed and purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  He is the widow who celebrates finding her lost coin.  The desire of His heart is realized when He redeems us for Himself.

 

In the Gospels the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection hurried to tell others.  They’d been waiting for atonement and freedom their whole lives. Israelhad been waiting for Immanuel.  When Jesus was born, Anna hurried to tell those she knew who were looking for Messiah’s coming.  After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had been waiting the duration of the Sabbath, unable to work themselves, a picture of their complete dependence on God’s ability to cleanse them and make them alive.

 

For someone who has hungered and hoped and longed and persevered, are there any more refreshing words than “The wait is over”?

 

Over” doesn’t mean that life is over.  Consummation only begins the marriage.  Christians are the living Bride of the Living Christ.  Our life is hopeful.  It has to do with bearing fruit.  I am called to walk under the assurance of the Resurrection.  Faith and hope are limited only by the revelation of the all-good, all-mighty, death-conquering God.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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