Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do as I Say

Am I a hypocrite?

I expect the second graders to not fidget and listen with focus to lessons and read all the directions all the time.

I talk to them about their disrespectful, prideful acceptance of rewards, and remind them that it's an issue of the heart. I speak to the ones who seemed to receive their awards respectfully and humbly and suggested they spend some time talking with God and making sure they were not hiding pride in their hearts or thinking they received that award out of their own strength.

I talk about prayer, and how wonderful and important and potent it is and realize as I'm getting ready for bed that I hadn't kept God at the forefront of my day, and I hadn't asked him how I should serve or act, and I hadn't maintained a conversation with him.

I don't sit still when I listen.

I skip the directions.

I don't examine the pride in my own heart.

But, just like the second graders, I'm learning.

Let's not judge works in progress.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Every day.
Every day, he waits.
When the other second graders pack up their backpacks and put on their coats and wait impatiently to be picked up at the end of the day, he does, too.

Except most days, he doesn't get picked up right when school is out. Since his parents both work, he goes to the After Care program-- three or four of my students do. Maybe once a week this boy gets picked up right at the end of the day.

But every day, he puts his coat on and waits expectantly.

"Miss DeVries-- have you seen my dad yet?" He exclaims, a grin plastered on his face.
"No, but you'll be the first one I tell when I see him coming," I confide.

"Are you sure you haven't seen him yet?" He presses, after a few minutes.
"I'm sure."
"Okay," he says, some days he turns away saddened, but most days he bounces exuberantly back to his seat.

Every day he waits expectantly, prepared.

If it were me, I'd probably not put the coat on. We have heat in the building, after all, and it's got to get hot and stuffy sitting there wearing a winter coat for fifteen minutes or more.

And that's the problem. I tend to have that approach to my spiritual life, too.

Don't get tired of waiting on the Lord, brothers and sisters. Wait upon the Lord, even when it seems like he's not going to show up.

Because, I've got to tell you, the days I shake my head at him sadly and wonder when he'll give up-- those are the days his dad picks him up right at the end of the day, and that little boy's face lights up as he rushes out, calling 'Daddy! You came! I knew you'd come!".

Have confidence in our God, wait upon the Lord, and let yourself be delighted when he shows up.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

And God Knew.

"And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel -- and God knew." Exodus 2:24-25

In the midst of Israel's slavery in Egypt, God heard their groaning. God saw them, and he knew what was going on.

And he already had a plan.

This verse is put in the story after Moses was born, after he was prince of Egypt, after he had murdered a man and fled, after he had married Zippora, and, even, after he had had a son.

No one IN the plan knew yet, including Moses himself, but God had positioned Moses.

He had a rescue plan in motion.

God hears your groaning. He sees you, whatever you're going through. And God knows.

Friend, do not despair. God knows.
And he's got a plan.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Neighbors and Vines

Romans 12 says to let brotherly love be genuine.
Well, that's easy enough with my friends, isn't it? When I love the people that are easy to love and who love me back...
But God didn't leave it at 'let love be genuine'.
God said to love our neighbors. Not the person living next door, but the person-- whoever they are-- who needs forgiveness, or who needs mercy or help.

Well, that narrows it down, doesn't it?

We're supposed to love everyone, then. And we're supposed to love them genuinely.
And that means sacrificial love.
Sacrificial love for people who, in our flesh, we might not really like.
But they are God's children, whether they acknowledge it or not, and God loves them.
And we're supposed to be the extension of that love.

Which is a good thing. A really, really good thing.
Because I can't sacrificially, genuinely love my friends all the time, much less people I find hard to love.
"Good news?" you say. Yes, good news.

Because if I'm the extension, I'm not the source.

He is the vine, I am the branches.
God is the source of that love, and in order for me to sacrificially, genuinely love My Neighbor I need to be tapped into him. Sacrificial, genuine love isn't easy. It takes energy and effort. And an act of God, literally.

God showed us how much he loved us. He did not decide to play it safe and enjoy heaven but to come to earth and live life with us. And let us kill him. He died for us, and in so doing saved us from ourselves and our inadequacies.

God died for you.

God loves you.

And now God wants you to share that love with Your Neighbor.
To share it with anyone who needs forgiveness, mercy or help.

And the only way you can do that is by staying connected to the source of all forgiveness, mercy, help and love-- God himself.

Let love be genuine.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Once, God had a Problem

Imagine a courtroom, it is huge and has dark beams showing in the walls, intricate vent covers and the judge sits behind a high, mahogany desk. Now add all the people (you may need to imagine a bigger room)- add people of all ages from all walks of life, all times in history and every country under the sun. Now add the stench of all those people, nervously waiting together.

You're in this courtroom, too. You are the defendant.

There's a bad taste in your mouth and your head seems to spin and your eyes can't focus. The judge has just given the verdict: guilty.

Penalty? Death.

You stumble out of your seat to take your place in line with all the others who have been found guilty. Your insides feel splintered, and you see the same brokenness in the faces around you. 

Imagine the Judge, God, looking around the massive room at all the people condemned to die, imagine the distraught look on his face, the pain, as he realizes the problem. He deeply loved everyone in that room, having breathed life into them himself. Not only that, he had a covenant with them. But they had each broken the law, at varying degrees, and must be condemned to death. And God's judgment was Just.

But God isn't only Just.
He fixes things. He overflows with loving-mercy.

So God created a plan where he himself would take the penalty for all those people, including you, a plan where he would die in their place, return to life, and invite them to live life with him, forever.

Once, God solved the problem.