Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brutal Honesty

Just in case anyone out there has any lofty ideas about minister’s wives . . . or about Christians for that matter -- we’re still human, and we still sin.

Today I told a lie. To a complete stranger. For no good reason. I lied to a sales lady about why I wasn’t going to buy a particular item. There were a million other truthful things I could have said in response to her question. But instead I lied. Almost immediately I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Some people might think that a little lie like that is no big deal. Especially because I’ll probably never see that woman again. But God’s purpose for believers is to be holy. Obviously that will never truly happen while I’m still on this earth. I’m already tainted with sin. I was born into it. But I’m supposed to strive for holiness. Believers in Christ have been given a new nature, born again, with the counsel of the Holy Spirit constantly accessible. We are called to repent of our sin, to turn away from it and pursue righteousness. And I failed to do that this morning.

I confessed my sin to the Lord on the way home, agreeing with Him that what I did was wrong. I actually cried about it. (Maybe that was a little basketcase-like.) And as I sat there simmering in self-hatred and beating myself up over it, feeling like a total failure as a “missionary,” the Lord reminded me that I need to accept His forgiveness. And then move forward. And that means being more conscious of my responses to people in the future. More deliberate about always being honest. Not worrying about what other people think. Not being ashamed or uncomfortable when I’m approached with a question.

Isn’t the Lord good? He doesn’t want us to let guilt weigh us down. But at the same time, He does discipline us, convict us of our sins, and command us to be different from the world. The ultimate reason for His discipline is that we will be restored into fellowship with Him. It’s His kindness that leads to repentance . . . which leads to reconciliation with God.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.... When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18-19, 21, 24-25)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just Enough

Not long ago, the furnace in our house was giving us trouble . . . again. It hadn’t seemed to be running right since we moved in, but our landlord had sent a fix-it man who made it run like new again. Things were going well for several weeks when suddenly it just wouldn’t turn on. We knew we had to get it fixed ASAP because it was going to be below freezing that night. We needed heat! So at 11pm the fix-it man came back. But the problem was very different this time. We have a gas furnace, and it turned out that a bird had fallen into the exhaust chute on the roof, and it was keeping the fan from moving. I couldn’t believe it. How strange! I was sad (and a little weirded out) at first. But almost immediately this Scripture passage came to mind: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. . . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29, 31)

As if it weren’t enough that God knew about that bird dying . . . since that incident, the Lord has continually reminded me of the latter part of the above passage. I am worth more than many sparrows. And God cares about the sparrows!

This truth has been something for me to hang onto in recent days, especially when I began to sink into worry and fretting about finances. Money is tight for everyone these days. So I know I’m not the only one who frets over the numbers in the family checkbook. And the bills stacked up on the desk. Especially the unexpected ones.

But now I need to testify about the Lord. Testify to His goodness, unending love, and miraculous provision. God used several friends this Christmas to meet some of our needs. In His perfect timing, God placed it on certain people’s hearts to give us a gift. A generous gift. Even an anonymous gift. How did they know that we really needed a little something extra this month? How did they know how much to give? When to send it? I believe the answer to all of those questions is: the Lord.

The best part is, the gifts were just enough. Just enough to bless us, but not make us rich. Just enough to meet some needs, yet keep us continually depending on God. A huge thank you to those who gave. May the Lord bless you abundantly in return. For you are worth more than many sparrows!

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. (Prov. 15:16-17 NIV)

A simple life in the fear of God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches. Better a bread crust shared in love than a slab of prime rib served in hate. (Prov. 15:16-17 The Message)