Friday, July 24, 2009

Living and Dying

Have you ever thought about some of the many contradictions in life? For example: the medication we take to make our pain go away, causes liver failure. The surgery to cure us could very well kill us. To eat a healthy diet balanced with all the food groups, you have to eat too much food. We spend our time trying to save life all the while it slips through our finger as sand.

To be sure life is precious and it is a gift. We should be good stewards of it. We should do all within our power to protect and preserve it. But, we should also be ready and willing to lay it down for the call of the Cross.

I have been reading through Romans this week and have been chewing on the meat contained therein. I am reminded that we all fell in Adam's first transgression. As our covenant head, he chose sin and plunged mankind into an "estate of sin and misery", we would "surely die" as a result. Our state, from the fall in the garden was a hopeless one. All the while, planned from eternities past, God was working out redemption for His children. And in the "fullness of time", God sent His son, who by his active and passive obedience fulfilled the law and became sin for His people. To redeem us from the death we merited in Adam, another death was required. Death of the very Son of God, was the only satisfaction that could pay the penalty. And now, we as God's children are told that we "have become united with Him in the likeness of His death... that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." Romans 6:5-6

As we go about this life trying so hard to stay young and live longer, we should realize that as Christians we are dead to this life and "alive to God in Christ". We should be spending our time in thankful obedient service. The irony that while in Christ we are more alive than ever before, while to this world we are as dead men, is overwhelming. I need to be weaned from this world. I need to have my vision refocused. I need to have feet which are swift to run after the will of my heavenly Father and hands busy about His work. I desire to have a mind and heart seeking to live uprightly and putting off sin. I want to pour out my life as a thank offering for the One who has died that I might die to sin, and the One who has been raised that I might too be raised to "newness of life". I so love my dear Jesus, He is more to me than thousands upon thousands. He truly is the Messiah, the "altogether lovely One", the Prince of Peace, the friend of sinners, the spotless lamb of God.

As each week, I try to prepare myself for worship, this week has been one that has brought me low as I see my great need of grace and repentance. I am a weak sinner. I struggle with silly sins that should have been mortified years ago. I desire my own way over God's perfect will. I am still a proud, arrogant worm. I need to be reminded that all my sin has been crucified with my flesh in Christ and that I have been raised in Christ so that I will, "...not let sin reign in (my)mortal body...but present (myself) to God as those alive from the dead, and (my) members as instruments of righteousness to God." Romans 6:13

Oh that my life would be a song that praises the Lord. May I be an "instrument" that sings a song of redemption, honor, and glory!

Take my life and let it be
consecrated Lord to thee.
Take my moments and my days,
May they flow in ceaseless praise.

From Take My Life

Friday, July 17, 2009

No Crutches Here

There are areas of parenthood that I did not expect. One of these is loneliness in my children. It breaks my heart as I see them struggle to "fit in" and make friends. Sometimes it is easy, others it is not. I have children who make friends fast, and other children who cannot seem to find a "bosom friend" as Anne of Green Gables would put it.

As I have thought about it over the last few weeks, I have had to confront my own struggles with loneliness as I seek to apply God's Word and to comfort my children. We adults are not that different than our children. We are only better at the charade. We mask our hurts, hide our emotions, and close them off from view.

What about you? Have you ever been in a room full of people and felt hopelessly lonely? Have you ever found yourself with fellow believers who completely do not understand you, or simply leave you out? Have you ever been let down by a friend who should have been there for you? Have you ever laid in bed at night, lonely for the comfort of a spouse who is physically or emotionally absent? If you can answer yes, than to one degree or another, you can say that you have tasted loneliness.

In the year after Matt's death, I wrestled with being lonely. My bed was empty, my home quieted from the loss of his voice, and my heart was broken. I closed off my sadness from many and put on a mask. In truth, I have not reached the point where I have removed the mask completely even now. As I think about my loneliness now, I must confess that it is due mostly to my own failure to "open up".

I would be remiss if I did not mention that self indulgent sorrow and pity is a sin. We should not wallow in it, but should seek to "put it off" and to "put on" (Eph. 4:22)thankfulness and contentment. It is hard to draw the line as to where one wanders from being lonely to being self consumed, but each of us who struggles, must ask the question and be willing to "take every thought captive unto obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ".

Yet, I digress. I write to encourage with the encouragement that I have been given and to "comfort" with the comfort that I have received. As we think of our loneliness, when our friends do not understand us, when we are ostracized for a conviction, and when earthly relationship fail to comfort we should think of our Savior. We have a great high priest, (as Hebrews 3:15 says, "...for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has in every respect been tempted as we are yet without sin.")who has walked the footsteps that we trod. Can you think of anyone who ever lived who was more misunderstood, mocked, and sorrowful knowing all the time that His end was to die the terrible death of the cross and pay the penalty for the sins of His chosen people. He was a lamb led to the slaughter willingly(Is. 53:7). Isaiah 53 continues to tell us that Jesus had, "no beauty that we should desire him" and that He was, "despised". Stop and think of the emotional pain and loneliness that our Savior as a man withstood. In Is. 53:4 it says, "Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows...he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities....the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all." How did Jesus not falter or quail? By the same power that He has purchased for us on His cross. You see the power that raised Christ from the dead is given to us by the Holy Spirit so that we can walk the lonely paths, put off sin, and find comfort for our souls. Dear reader, Come to Jesus. Find rest from your weariness in Him. Pray to Him asking Him to help you know the riches of His mercy and to be able to say with David, "Whom have I heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:25

Jesus has purchased for us so much on the cross. Not only our salvation, but also a relationship with Him that rises above all earthly relations. His love for us in His sacrifice has secured assurance, peace, contentment, joy, and grace. We have to seek after it, we must be diligent, but he does reward. Let us not be lonely, let us be filled with the love of Christ and find our all in Him. Pray, and ask the Lord to be near. Attend the means of grace. Continue to, "seek the Lord while He may be found..."(Is. 55:6). We need not lean on any earthly crutch, let us cling to Jesus.

Nothin in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.
Naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee for grace,
Foul I to the fountain fly, wash me Savior or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shut close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown, see Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.

Rock of Ages