The Thick Darkness Where God Was

Margaret Powers wrote a poem. It was about a man, but when I remembered it, I saw a woman. She was walking with God, so there were two sets of footprints. But sometimes there was just one, and she didn’t know why. She found out that they were when the Lord had carried her.

Why, I wondered, why didn’t she know the Lord had carried her? Why couldn’t she feel Him? Why couldn’t she see Him? Why couldn’t she hear His voice whispering to her?

But then . . .

. . . it happened to me. Continue reading “The Thick Darkness Where God Was”

The Prayer of Jabez, revisited

PrayerOfJabezWhen a theme is trendy, I tend to avoid it. For good or ill, my gut reaction is if everybody’s doing it, to back off. Shucks, I probably wouldn’t have even followed Jesus when He was on earth, because of all those crowds.

That’s why it took me about eight years to read The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. When it first came out and was all the buzz, I scorned it and turned up my nose. Then, in 2009, when I saw it on the rack at a dollar store, I shrugged and picked it up. It wasn’t trendy any more, and besides, it was my price. Continue reading “The Prayer of Jabez, revisited”

A New Year Filled with Hope

I hope things will be different. . . . I hope he’ll start being kinder. . . . I hope she’ll come back to her husband and children. . . . I hope the economy won’t collapse. . . . I hope Jesus will return this year. . . . I hope my abuser will be brought to justice. . . . I hope they’ll repent and acknowledge their sin. . . .

Have you ever noticed that the way we talk about hope in ordinary conversation is very different from the way the Bible describes “hope”? Continue reading “A New Year Filled with Hope”

What does real repentance look like?

Jesus cried out, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

A couple of years ago I posted on Facebook a question about the Greek word translated “repentance.” (It’s metanoia and its variants.) Yes, I admit, it took me a long time to get back to all the links and ideas people sent me, but here I am again, studying repentance.

It’s because three things happened at about the same time. First, I was praying for pastors and other Christian leaders (the ones who have treated and counseled sexual abuse survivors as if they were pariahs) to repent about their wrongdoing. Second, I’ve been praying for revival for a long time, and in the context of that, having a discussion with a Christian leader about whether or not repentance is necessary for salvation. Third, I’ve been studying II Corinthians, where Paul talks about repentance in chapter 7.

I always used to hear repentance being taught as a change of mind. That very sterile, academic definition vaguely dissatisfied me. It seemed to accompany the academic, intellectual acceptance of Christ embodied in the “sinner’s prayer.” Continue reading “What does real repentance look like?”

How can I give grace?

I can’t.

I don’t mean I’m incapable unless God helps me. I mean, giving grace is a prerogative of God alone. I have no part in it.

It’s popular now to talk about how we need to give grace to others, but the way people are using the word—meaning forgiveness and kindness and love—diminishes the meaning of the remarkable word “grace” until it loses the vital meaning it should have.

grace

Continue reading “How can I give grace?”

It’s HARD Living by the List

The book of Romans . . . I printed it out so that I could highlight sections and color code words and draw arrows and fill the margins with question marks and write cross references and draw pictures of stick figures . . . When I was studying through it, then—asking the Lord to make the book fresh to me, to strip away preconceived notions of what everything “had to mean,” and show me what it really meant-—it was then that many important Christian Life truths throughout the book began to crystallize. And I began to understand that Paul was refuting the concept of Living by the List. And he was describing three . . . no, it was four . . . reactions to it. This was immensely important to me, because I grew up Living by the List. Continue reading “It’s HARD Living by the List”

No more night of the living dead

“Mama, Grandma’s eyes are open, but she’s breathing like she’s asleep.”

“Thank you darling.” I dropped what I was doing and hastened to Grandma’s bedroom, where she lay, resting between death and life.

I waved my hand in front of the unresponsive eyes. I put my hand on the unresponsive hand.  I listened to the long, labored breathing . . . until it ceased. Continue reading “No more night of the living dead”

Expecting the joy when you can’t feel it (joy part 4)

A friend listened to the song “If You Want Me To” by the blind songwriter Ginny Owens. She said, “I can’t say this is where I am all the time, but it’s where I want to be. I know it’s all true.”

That’s it. That’s it. “It may not be where I am all the time, but it’s where I want to be. I know it’s all true.”

This friend was about to have surgery and didn’t know if she might come out a paraplegic. Continue reading “Expecting the joy when you can’t feel it (joy part 4)”

Joy comes as a response in the realm of the spirit (joy part 3)

Have you ever noticed those verses in the Bible that talk about God’s judgment on the wicked coming in the form of birds picking out their eyes? (One of them is in Proverbs 30.) I know that’s really a disgusting image, but it’s describing something completely realistic: when the ravening birds would start to eat a dead body, the first place they would go was the eye. If the eye didn’t respond at all, they knew that creature was completely dead.

Not a very likely opening to a post about joy, I know.

But the point I’m making is about response. The Bible links life to responsiveness and death to unresponsiveness.  There are many, many places where this understanding of death and life bring into full focus what God is saying. Continue reading “Joy comes as a response in the realm of the spirit (joy part 3)”

Joy is a response (joy part 2)

Last week I gave the first part of a definition of joy, asserting the controversial opinion that we have to admit that it’s a feeling, an emotion.

This week I want to say something that might also be considered controversial: Joy arises as a response to something outside of us. A sensory response. I’m talking about the five senses here: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell. As in . . . Continue reading “Joy is a response (joy part 2)”