Friday, June 26, 2009

I find it uncanny that often the world can articulate truths about our depravity and sin, without even knowing it, much better than we who call ourselves Christians. It is so in a song by Billy Joel called "The Stranger". Here are the first lines, "Well we all have a face that we hide away forever and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone is gone..." This is a truth that we seldom hear discussed yet we all experience it. Personally, I like to put on faces during the rare moments that I am home alone that I am a great dancer. I can pretend that I can dance although the reality of that still eludes me. You get the picture. Unfortunately, these faces that we try on are often of a sinister vein as we play with the infernos of sin. I can remember another song from my early Christian days by Steve Camp that said, "Could I be called a Christian, if everybody knew, my secret thoughts and feelings and everything I do?" Let those words sink in... Could I? Could you? What are we thinking about and doing when we are alone? There are days that I must confess that this hard heart would rather choose its own way, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love" but by His grace I can ask the Lord to, "take and seal (my heart) and seal it, seal it for thy courts above".
It is for this very reason and our many other struggles, that the Bible uses the term as shepherd in reference to God. There are many references, too many to list here, but here are a few: Psalm 23, EZ 34:12, John 10:11, 14. Ezekial 34:12 says, "For thus says the Lord God, Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out....I will seek the lost, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak..."
If we are honest, we realize that there is a battle raging in our souls. A battle that takes daily effort to just hold ground without losing all we have gained. Sin is ever present and ready, often we are not. And I do not just mean the big sins, I mean the thoughts of anger toward our spouses or children, the words that we would never say, but will think, the lack of contentment in what the Lord has given, the self pity and the envy of others just to name a few. Our hearts are a war torn region that has been devestated by the effect of sin within us. Yet, that is why we have a Savior! That is why Jesus came... to save sinners! He knew we were sick and He brings healing. He knew we were defiled and He brings righteousness. He knew our understandings were darkened, and He brings His Word to enlighten us. That is why we have a shepherd. Halelujah! What a Savior!
Today if you are tempted to play with sin, to try on a face that is of a stranger, I ask that you remember what your sin cost and turn from it. Let each of us not linger in the false ideas of being unseen, and realize that all is open before the God of all ,who sees all. Let us come to Him, our shepherd and lean upon Him. He is able!

"O thou who the shepherd of Israel art, give ear to our pray'r and thy favor impart.... No more shall we wander, delighting in shame, revive us O Lord, we will call on thy name. O Lord God of hosts, us restore to thy grace, and then we shall live in the light of thy face." ARP Psalter 80:1-3

Thursday, June 18, 2009


What is about about traveling to a loved place? As I travel back to Mississippi, I always get nostalgic. Memories flood my mind as gentle waves rushing to the shore. The landscape is first to hold my thoughts as I consider how beautiful are the trees or the crops as they grow in the fields or the swampy, moss-covered sloughs. I love the features of God's creation and could spend hours contemplating how creation groans for His return and how it always praises the Creator sinlessly doing as He wills. The waves do not stop. One by one they roll into my thoughts. We ate there, the kids played there, a friend lives over "yonder" and on they cross the beaches of my mind. Sadness often threatens to enclose me within its arms as I go back. The embrace is not resented, only deeply painful.

But it is not only the places that draw me into a reverie. The many dear ones that I love rise up before me, the thoughts crest and then roll into memory. There are many dear friends that have been close to me over the years and many shared good times. so much laughter, a few tears, and much for which I am deeply thankful. The church and its extended family that I have witnessed the birth and baptism of children, taught these children, wept with the families at loss, and loved them as my own. People, that is what life is about right? Loving people, growing in grace together, and pleasing the Lord in our relationships?

Even yet, another set of waves is nearing the shore as I think about family. Some may know, others may not, that family is a very bittersweet thing for me. I have some family that has stood by me most unexpectedly...they know who they are and that I am ever so grateful for their rooting me in love. Then, I have family that has adopted me into their fold. What a great blessing of which I have written about before. This is the family that I visit in MS. My heart cannot stay melancholy for long when I think of going "home" to them. It is the house that has been a place of much comfort and blessing. It is the house that received me upon my return from Haiti... a broken widow with children. It is the house that has recorded the growth of my children for years. The home that still has furniture and stored belongings of mine. It is a place of much comfort, love, fellowship, and delicious food. I consider it "home".

I wish that I could say that as I travel the sojourn here on earth that my thoughts were as attentive to the greater reality that this "world is not my home" and that I am going "to a place prepared" for me. HOME is still far away and although familiar, it is yet strangely unfamiliar. What makes it precious is not the landscape, (which I am sure is breathtakingly beautiful), it is not the many memories, it is not the actual house (of which I am told is a mansion). No, none of these are what make my HOME desirable. It is because there dwells the lover of my soul, my beloved, my redeemer, the truest friend to ever have, the perfect King of all, the lamb of God, the altogether lovely One. I say with the psalmist that I want to be with Him, where He is, dwelling in His presence. Then I will be HOME.

Until then I will ramble through the barren wastelands, rocky crags, and valleys of shadow. I know that my Savior is faithful and He will bring it to pass. I will be with Jesus! Oh Lord, come quickly my heart cries. To look upon Him in all His splendor and to be able to sit at His feet, to see the one who lived and died for me, to be near my bridegroom. Yes, it is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than anywhere else because there we are near to Him.

Would you not think on Jesus these days before Sunday? Let the reality press down upon you that you are on a sojourn. Our path goes either one way or the other. There are only two options. We are daily striving toward heaven or proving ourselves to be in need of repentance. Little choices are not so little in light of eternity and little sins have an eternal price. Let us take heed to ourselves this day and as long as the Lord gives us breath. May we bring Him glory and honor!