A Word for the Weekend: Playing “Cards”

Evelyn Underhill writes:

Osuna says that God plays a game with the soul called “the loser wins”; a game in which the one who holds the poorest cards does best.  The Pharisee’s consciousness that he had such an excellent hand really prevented him from taking a single trick. 

Francis of Assisi understood this when he said that it is “in giving that we receive,” “in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”

May each of us take satisfaction in the hand dealt to us and, greater yet, more readily see that our Heavenly Father transforms that hand as only He can do into something wonderful.

Heroes of the Faith

Recently, in our Sunday School class, I taught on the tail end of Hebrews 11. This passage talks about those heroes of the faith that the author didn’t have time to go through. People like Jephthah, Gideon, Samson, and myriad unnamed saints who were tortured and torn in two for their profession of Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I gain confidence in this passage every time I read it because, as you and I recall the stories of those saints mentioned, it’s a reminder that these folks were normal, ordinary people like you and me. People with warts. People with defects. People who did amazing things because of their incredible God and also because of their submission to His work.

Gideon doubted God’s call on His life and so in a double test of whether the call was from God or not, God made a fleece wet and the ground dry and then again the fleece dry and the ground wet. We do this all the time, don’t we? Perhaps not with a fleece, but I can recall countless times of asking the Lord to show me that a perceived call is really from Him.

Jephthah, one of Israel’s judges, was so overjoyed to have won the battle that he told the Lord that he would sacrifice whatever came out of his house upon his return home. Whoops. Not a good thing to promise, particularly when his daughter was the first thing to come out. Another person I can sympathize with. Getting ahead of myself and promising something to the Lord that I can’t necessarily give Him, or shouldn’t.

Samson, far beyond a good children’s story of ripping a lion in two, was a womanizer and liked to live on the wild side, disobeying the Lord’s commands and marrying a woman from the Philistine camp. Yet, here he is showing these same Philistine’s the power of Jehovah God in a way they would never have seen if he had not followed God’s call.

Years ago when I was in a missionary’s home in Romania, there was a small magnet on her refrigerator that said that God doesn’t call the equipped. Rather, He equips the called. What I glean from these stories in Hebrews is that God has done just that. And when I look at my life, I see the same. God is not in the business of bringing people who are already holy to a place of greater perfection. Not at all. Rather, He brings bumpkins and ragamuffins like you and me in our brokenness to a place of redemption and transformation and then, like an antique piece of silver, begins to polish out our blemishes and flaws, making us into something beautiful. Praise the Lord for His redeeming work as we remember that we, too, are heroes of the faith as we submit ourselves to the transforming power of the living God!

A Word for the Weekend

As we prepare for the weekend, I wanted to share with you the following excerpt from Hannah Whitall Smith’s wonderful book “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life”.  May each of us live our lives more and more in the “consecration” mentioned below.

“A great many Christians actually seem to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable, and to take away all their blessings, and they imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write the words, and yet we must face a fact which is making wretched hundreds of lives.

A Christian lady who had this feeling, was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done,” and how afraid she should be to do it. She was the mother of one only little boy, who was the heir to a great fortune, and the idol of her heart. After she had stated her difficulties fully, her friend said, “Suppose your little Charley should come running to you tomorrow and say, `Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your own way with me from this time forward. I am always going to obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I know you love me, and I am going to trust myself to your love.’ How would you feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, `Ah, now I shall have a chance to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his life with every hard and disagreeable thing I can find. I will compel him to do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give him all sorts of impossible commands.” “Oh, no, no, no!” exclaimed the indignant mother. “You know I would not. You know I would hug him to my heart and cover him with kisses, and would hasten to fill his life with all that was sweetest and best.” “And are you more tender and more loving than God?” asked her friend. “Ah, no,” was the reply, “I see my mistake, and I will not be afraid of saying `Thy will be done,’ to my Heavenly Father, any more than I would want my Charley to be afraid of saying it to me.”

Better and sweeter than health, or friends, or money, or fame, or ease, or prosperity, is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. He always reigns who has made it his kingdom; and nothing can go amiss to him. Surely, then, it is nothing but a glorious privilege that is opening before you when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I cannot have you look at it as a hard and stern demand. You must do it gladly, thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege side of consecration; and I can assure you, from a blessed experience, that you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.”

Lessons from the Garden

Recently, I’ve participated in two events that I wanted to share with all of you ETS readers–this past week’s The Journey retreat with The Leadership Institute and a wonderful Garden Tour at our home to help raise scholarship funds for our church’s women’s ministry.

Both are relatively different, yet there was a common thread through them both of God’s goodness. We’d known of both events for quite some time. The past couple months have involved slowly getting the yard ready for visitors–pruning this plant here, sweeping that corner there–and an internal excitement about sharing our passion of gardening with yet-to-be friends.

Early last week, I left for The Journey with a bit of apprehension. Still, while the yard was generally ready to go, part of me was ready to stay home to ensure every detail was covered. And yet it was during The Journey that one of my colleagues taught a lesson that made a big impact. He reminded us of Jesus’ teaching of the parable of the vine in John 15, a passage I tend to be in at least weekly. My colleague said that early in his Christian walk, this passage freaked him out–specifically “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (v. 2). Why would a good Gardener prune branches that were healthy? I instantly thought of my garden and all the work we’d been doing these past few weeks. My colleague continued on to talk about how God the Father, before we were ever born, with a great and passionate love for each one of us, prepared a place for us in His garden, knowing where He wanted to place us so we could be the most fruitful. I’ve done that with each of my plants in the yard when they were just little seedlings, figuring out which side should face out, repositioning them in the ground just so so they could flourish. God the Father does this with us as well, and it brings me joy to know this great truth!

As each of us lives out our day today and the rest of this week, may we be mindful of this great fact: we are where we are because God is aiming to teach us something, something about ourselves, about one another, about Him, that we may have His life abound in us all the more. Amen.

Woodshop 101

Some of you may remember the Introduction to Woodworking class I took last spring at the local junior college. Awesome class. It showed me a thing or two on what not to do with wood, which is a very unforgiving medium. That is, wood likes to show your dings and scratches!

Given the amount of time I’ve had recently to get some honey-do projects done around the house, I’ve taken one of the funnest—and longest I’ve had around for awhile—first. I’m finally getting the used mantel I bought online last November sanded and resized to fit our fireplace area of the house. Nearly one year later, we’ll have a pretty awesome oak mantel to hang stockings on this Christmas (believe me, pictures will come later!). Woohoo!

But, let’s remember that wood is an unforgiving medium. There is many a ding and scratch on this puppy, but I’m doing it, so there’s that sweat—and blood—equity thing going on. There’s ownership in this mantel because I’m the creator (or recreator in this case) of it. And it will be around for everyone to look at and marvel and tell me how great it looks.

It’s amazing how much I’ve been wired to be like my Heavenly Father. Can’t you just see Him with us? Some of us take longer than others, have a few more splinters in our wood than the next person, but can’t you just see our Lord loving the work that He is doing in our own lives and hearts? He, too, has sweat over us as He poured out His energies into our lives, helping us when we needed it, loving the kudos people give us and Him about our latest accomplishment.

And like the splinters that went into my hand today as I—simply—picked a portion of the mantel up, the Lord has put His own sweat and blood equity into our lives as we rely on Him for our salvation and growth in the Christian life. May each of us not be afraid to live our lives in a way that relies on this fact, even with a few dings and scratches. The Apostle Paul said it best: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Let us remember that we are masterpieces made by the Master!