Thursday, October 28, 2010

Can You Help Me?

This summer at family camp, my 2 1/2 year old again climbed to the top bunk.  Kristin and I were nervous every time she was up there.  Several times during the week she had climbed to that same bunk bed, and we had to help her down every time.  

This particular time I asked, "Sweetie, do you want me to help you back down?"

With confidence she replied, "I wanna get down ALL BY MYSELF!"   Without a moment's pause, she followed with a much more humble, "Can you help me?"

Kristin and I laughed at the contrast, and of course, helped her down.

We tend to live our lives in fierce independence.  After all, our society most often values people who are self-sufficient, capable, and successful.  At the same time, our society tends to ignore or look down upon those who cannot do for themselves and always have to ask for help.  Think of your own friendships: to whom are you most often drawn...the strong and successful, or the weak and needy?

Independence is not a bad thing in and of itself.  We should seek to live lives that contribute to the world around us, not drain its resources for ourselves.  

But independence is deadly when we bring it into our relationship with the Lord.  In our relationship with the Lord, we must strive for dependence.  Not "I wanna do it by myself," but "I need You."

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talks about this kind of dependence.  Verse 33 tells us, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [the daily needs of life] will be added to you."  We spend so much of our lives chasing after things in the world...even good things that we legitimately need.  But Jesus up-ends our priorities and tells us that dependence on the Lord is the most important priority above any of these other needs.  

Psalm 37:3-7 remind us also of dependence.  Verses 4 and 5 say, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act."  

Proverbs 3:5-6 say this: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."

The theme of these verses, and really of the whole of scripture, is that we are to depend fully on the Lord.  It goes against our natural instincts AND against the world around us, and I am finding it to be a lifelong battle to keep a heart of true dependence on Him.  It's not that I don't want to be fully devoted to the Lord, but my independent spirit gets in the way so often.  Yet true joy, true peace, true fruitfulness...these only come when I am fully dependent on the Lord, seeking Him first and foremost above every other thing in life.  

How about you?  How are you doing in expressing your utter dependence on the Lord every moment of every day?  Are you asking Him, "Can You help me?"

May God give us grace to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23) and depend on Him completely!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breaking Free

This morning I (again) read the account of Isaac in Genesis 26.  Isaac was afraid that ungodly people in Gerar would see Rebekah's beauty, take her for a wife, and kill him.  So he lied and told everyone she was his sister.  As with most lies, he was found out, but in this case he was found out before there was much collateral damage from the lie (see Genesis 26:6-11).

We shouldn't be surprised by this crazy idea Isaac had.  Although he was not yet born when it happened, we have two recorded times when his father Abraham did the same thing (see Genesis 12:10-20 and Genesis 20:1-18).  In Abraham's situations, the lies brought greater harm, though still God protected Sarah from being violated or harmed in any way.  Abraham's lie was at least half true (see Genesis 20:12)--Sarah was his half-sister.  But what he told was still a lie, bringing difficult consequences for him as well as for those who tried (in innocence) to take Sarah for their own.  

When I ponder these three accounts, I remember again the danger of a lie.  But that is not what hits me most today.  The questions now on my mind are these: Why didn't Abraham teach Isaac about the lesson he learned so Isaac wouldn't make the same mistake?  Or what was it in Isaac that caused him to want to follow in Abraham's footsteps in unrighteous decisions rather than righteous decisions (at least, in that instance)?  We don't know, maybe Abraham did tell Isaac about the mistakes he made and warned him not to repeat them, and Isaac still stumbled into the same sin.  Personally, I wish we knew more about these situations so we could learn from them, but the Lord didn't include every detail in His Word, though He gave us exactly what we need to know.  

Today as a father, I think often about the things I have brought into my life from my parents, as well as the things my children will take from me.  I have great parents, who raised me to love and serve the Lord, but I still made some enormous and painful mistakes of my own through the years.  And now I pray daily for my own kids, but realize they, too, will sometimes perpetuate my mistakes rather than the things I most want them to gain from me.  I wish for them to follow only my good examples, but inevitably they will make their share of mistakes in life.

Each of us has a challenge to break free from the mistakes of our parents (mine weren't perfect either (sorry Mom and Dad!)), and pursue the righteous life that our loving Lord has called us to.  And although we will not be perfect parents, we want to let our kids see our God-honoring lives in hopes they will learn more good than bad from us.  Sin is a horrible master, and we are all slaves to sin until we find the grace of God, then we continue to struggle with sin the rest of our lives.  Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to "throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Yes, the sin hinders and entangles us, but we--with the strength that Jesus gives us--work to cast it aside and pursue the things that most please the Lord.  

In this we will find great freedom and joy. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today it has been amazing to watch as miners in Chile, trapped underground for 69 days, have been rescued one by one.  I don't know any of them personally, but I still respond with joyful tears to see them emerge.  

The CNN website has a running tally of "Underground" and "Rescued."  One by one the numbers are decreasing on the left and increasing on the right.

Beyond the amazing details of this particular entrapment and rescue, I think of the rescue of a person coming to Jesus Christ in faith and trust.  One by one, people all over the world are coming to faith in Jesus, and there is great joy in heaven over each one (see Luke 15:3-7).  It is truly a blessing to be a small part of rescuing someone: sharing with them the life-giving gospel message and seeing them come to Christ.  

The Lord is the one doing the most heroic rescue; we're just a small part of the process as we obediently share the Good News.  Colossians 1:13-14 says, "For he [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

As we celebrate the rescue of each person from their entrapment in the mine, let  us also celebrate our own rescue, and look for opportunities to help free others who are captive to sin, rescuing them with the truth of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Zeal in the Wrong Direction

Like a football player heading for the wrong end zone, I sometimes run in the wrong direction in an area of my life.  I might even go zealously, passionately, but it's useless because it's still in the wrong direction.

I might get distracted by a time-drainer that's really not a priority.  The thing itself might even be good, but it's not the most important thing that needs my time.

I might get sidelined by a sin issue that gets my attention and holds me for a while.  For these there is always forgiveness--1 John 1:9.  And God continually gives me strength to keep resisting.

I might get pulled away from my top priorities--God, family, work, church, and friendships--by any of a number of things I can focus my attention on.  But if these other things--whether leisure, various causes, fads, or whatever--take so much time that I no longer have adequate time for my priorities, then I need to make changes.

I know my tendency to have zeal in the wrong direction, and I pray often that the Lord will help me keep my zeal for the things He wants me to pursue.

How about you?