I’m Playing Chess With Life

I’ll form a plan and see it through,
Make my move on timely cue,
Take stock of assets, route my path,
Prepare to challenge my rival’s craft–
For I’m playing chess with life.

Marble statues, checkered floor,
I know I’ve seen these patterns before–
Black and white like day and night;
I won’t go down without a fight
When I’m playing chess with life.

Checkmate or a draw,
It’s not my opponent’s call,
Not when answers I can find,
Diving in the labyrinth of the mind
While I’m playing chess with life.

Inside out and upside down,
I scan it all from top to ground.
The answer’s here I have no doubt,
I’ll find it quick before I’m out–
‘Cause I’m playing chess with life.

The smart and clever can pull the lever,
Outwit opponent’s sly endeavor.
Just give me data–it’s all I need;
I’ll take control with facile speed–
For I’m playing chess with life.

It all makes sense, it all connects;
Facts and gen esoterically intersect.
Life’s an equation–just work out the figures;
With numbers and logic compute, configure–
I’m playing chess with life.

Clock is ticking, time is twirling,
This blitz has got my mind a’whirling.
Queen takes bishop, pawn, then knight,
All I need is shrewd insight–
While I’m playing chess with life.

Wait! What happened? I didn’t see
The move that swiftly cornered me.
Was sure I’d think my way through this;
“Mind over matter” can never miss–
Not when I’m playing chess with life.

I move my pawn, my desperado;
I can’t fail here in victory’s shadow!
With reasoned logic I’m on the beam;
The match is close now it would seem–
As I’m playing chess with life.

But facts and logic, plans and schemes
Can fall apart like shattered dreams.
I’ve learned a lesson here today:
I’m not the master of my way–
I thought I could play chess with life.

But I’m not the sovereign One who rules it,
Planned it, made it, orders, keeps it.
I must trust the wisdom of this Lord;
So on bended knee I yield my sword…
To the Good King of my life.

*****

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

“Art of Homeschooling” Part 1

I stumbled across some notes I had made from Mystie Winckler’s “Art of Homeschooling” course last year while searching for something else the other day. I read them again, and was again reminded of areas of personal growth that I need to persevere in.

Mystie’s course helped me pinpoint and troubleshoot “problem” areas in my life and our school/family life. Her questions were penetrating and her insights illuminating. I would definitely recommend her course! (She conducts the online 5-week course periodically.)

Presented here as abbreviated, edited, reorganized, and otherwise condensed notes, I made these for myself during my brainstorm sessions while working through Mystie’s assignments/reading material. The goals I identified are still that—worthy goals I want to work on, but am far from having consistently attained. 🙂

* * *

Fostering a Love of Learning

I love to learn. I am curious about many things. I spend hours reading, researching, and trying new skills and projects. While teaching school I will sometimes get curious and interested in something and pursue rabbit trails trying to learn more about it. After hours I work on new skills and gaining new knowledge.

My problem is not that I do not model a love of learning. My problem is that I become impatient and ignore the kids when I’m wanting to get my work done precisely so I may pursue my many interests. In such times I selfishly fail to foster their curiosity, questioning, and interest because it’s not convenient for me.

GOALS:

When I notice that they are taking a delight and interest in something, I need to encourage it. To get excited with them. To ask questions together.
When they ask me all their “why?” questions, I will try not to shut them down, but instead listen, engage, and encourage further independent research. I don’t need to have all the answers to their questions. I do need to encourage them to keep looking for answers, and not throw water on their fire of curiosity with hasty, blank dismissals.

If I am truly busy and truly cannot help, I can either suggest we talk about it at a more opportune time, or give them some materials they can use to start researching independently. If I am busy but simply not wanting to be helpful because I’m in a hurry, I need to repent, give a thoughtful reply and/or encourage them to research.

I need to take the time to teach them skills. When Marcus wants to crack an egg. When Bri wants to tie her shoe. When Marcus wants to know how to spell a word. When Bri wants to help cook dinner.

When we go places and as we go about our work for the day, I try to notice more and help them notice more and tie it into whatever we are learning. We wonder. We ask questions.

When possible/appropriate I should include them in my interests and let them help/watch me.

Modeling (and Requiring) Diligence

My biggest temptation toward laziness during the day is to “cop out” for awhile and browse social media. The kids’ biggest temptation during our mornings is to grumble and complain about their schoolwork and chores.

GOALS:

Limit my time on social media and the internet in general. Do not look at my phone when the children are up/around except for necessary uses or quick checks (responding to certain texts, phone calls, calculator/bills, library orders, other orders, etc.). Spend more of my time in the afternoon on profitable things like reading and writing rather than internet browsing.

Guide the children into paths of faithfulness:

• Scriptural admonition (obedience/diligence/doing all we do for the glory of God)

• Common sense reasoning/big picture perspective (sound mind)

• Teach them to learn to enjoy work

• Fun has its place, but cannot usurp more important things

• Helping them recognize there are rewards to work (reaping and sowing)

• Delayed gratification

• Community/Family/Household dynamics (everyone is needed; we must all work together)

• Projects to encourage them to see and believe truth. Eventually they can keep Heart Journals, do word/Bible studies, etc.

• Discipline/Correction for whining, complaining, and laziness when appropriate

• Modeling faithfulness myself by not grumbling about my own responsibilities, and seeking repentance before God and them when I do.

• Being a present and loving mom. I need to give them my full attention when they are speaking to me or we are doing something together, to communicate that I love each one, to show no favoritism or partiality, and to spend time with them beyond school and chores.

Dealing with Irritations and Bad Attitudes

I am most likely to get irritable or shut down when I feel like my responsibilities just keep piling on me and I can’t complete them in my goal time. This is even more pronounced when the kids are whiny, rowdy, or needy simultaneously. Sometimes I complain when I’m tired.

GOALS:

When tempted to be irritable or complain I need to step back and assess things:

• Am I doing what I need to be doing RIGHT now?

• Can some things wait?

• Do other things need priority?

• Is everything on my agenda for the day even necessary?

• Is it possible to multi-task on some hings, get the kids’ help, etc.? (Work smarter and not harder?)

• Am I practicing good stewardship of my body? (Getting enough sleep and eating well so I don’t become moody/emotional?)

If everything absolutely must be done and I am still overwhelmed at the moment, I can back off, go into the bedroom for a few moments, pray, realign my focus, ask for grace, and consider the big picture.

When I feel the conviction of the Spirit, I can turn my heart to obedience rather than stubborness by taking a moment away. Acknowledge the struggle. Seek repentance before the Lord if I have complained or become irritable/angry (and before my children if needed). Go outside. Take a few moments for giving thanks.

If the kids’ attitudes and behaviors need tending to, I can first readjust mine, then help them with theirs. If I am unable to do that immediately I can send them off to do something for a little bit so I can regain composure and good attitude before trying to deal with theirs. It would be better to deal with their issues “late” than to deal with them in the heat of the moment while angry. Send them to complete a responsibility or to room but do not try to address the issues while I am angry.

I can help my children when they feel stubborn and want their own way by helping them to stop and see the big picture. By reminding them of truth. By helping them see that the good is desirable and right, and evil comes with consequences. I can give them time and space to think. To freely make a choice of obedience. When they fail to I can administer discipline if it is truly required.

Remember to determine if there may be underlying causes to the complaining that may need addressed first: Are they tired? Hungry? Not feeling well? Truly overwhelmed? Deal with each of these issues first.

Continued here

No, Death is Not Beautiful

It was 4:00 in the morning. The phone call and recorded message jerked me awake. I shook Cliff.

“Your mom says your dad fell out of his chair and needs help getting back up.”

Cliff stumbled out of bed and sleepily put some clothes on. A few moments later he headed across the yard to his parents’ house with flashlight in hand.

Too awake now to fall asleep again immediately, I got up and sat on the couch waiting for him to come home.

Then I heard the sirens.

Hurrying to the window, I saw the lights flashing in my in-laws’ driveway. The first vehicle was joined by two more.

It seemed an eternity before I finally saw Cliff coming toward the house again. I met him at the back door…and knew the news was not good.

He was stooped as though having a difficult time breathing, heaving in deeply with tears pouring down his cheeks as raw, visceral emotion was released.

“I think he’s gone.”

We held one another and cried.

* * * * *

Our kids were blessed to live so near Papa they got to see him almost every day. They have some wonderful memories to treasure. Papa would bring Brianna home from work (Daddy sometimes takes her with him in the mornings) and he would always stop at Braums first to get her an ice cream cone. He taught her to play checkers. He sat with the kids this last 4th of July as they squeeled at the sight and sound of the fireworks. If they were involved in a play or presentation with the homeschool group, he was there.  Many times I would look out the window to be greeted by the sight of my son or daughter working alongside their papa in the yard or garden—hauling brush or sticks, cleaning up this or that, carrying firewood to the house.

Despite his failing health, Dad stayed active and industrious. I’ve never seen such a work ethic.  Rain or shine, good health or poor, Dad never let any excuse keep him from working hard and beiproductive. He instilled this strong work ethic and a sense of integrity in all four of his children. As his health failed he never complained about anything. But he had never been a complainer, simply
taking life as it came.

He was a man of few words, believing actions spoke louder. Accordingly, he was well-reputed for his generous support of Christian ministries and missions around the world. He usually had his Bible laid open on his desk where he had been reading it. He loved sitting in his chair, listening to great hymns of the faith, or preaching and teaching.

He had been listening to the preaching of J. Vernon McGee when he passed away.

* * * * *

At 6:30 that morning, our kids (aged 7 and 6) awoke. I wasn’t sure exactly how they would take the news. We sat down with them on the couch and broke it to them as gently as possible. I was surprised that they both took it without any show of emotion. I think they were in some shock and did not grasp the reality of it at the time. But later in the day Bri walked off by herself and cried. The next morning my sister-in-law saw Marcus sitting in a chair, staring at a picture of him and his grandpa together. When she asked him if he was okay he burst into tears, buried his face in the picture, and sobbed his heart out.

The funeral was delayed for a week because one of Cliff’s sisters and her husband were already scheduled to adopt a girl from an orphanage in Bulgaria. Just two days after they all arrived back in the States, we laid Dad’s body to rest. What made it poignantly painful and beautiful at once was to
observe the cycle of life: just as a family member left this world, another was added to the family, and yet another will soon enter (child #3 is due in just a few weeks!).

Death is not a beautiful thing. It’s wrong. Horribly wrong. In trying to come to terms with it the modern consciousness has tried to accept and embrace it as a “normal” and “beautiful” part of life.

But there is nothing inherently normal or good or beautiful about growing old and dying. In view of all life declared “good” in the Garden, it should not be. It is part of the curse that sinful man brought on himself. Death entered through the first Adam.

But the believer finds hope and reason to rejoice—even in death—because Life has come through the Second Adam.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…(…For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Romans 6:12, 17-19

As believers, we sorrow when our loved ones pass on. But we don’t sorrow in the same way as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Christ has triumphed over death—it is described
as an enemy He will destroy at the last (1 Corinthians 15:26). Those who believe in Christ and trust Him for their righteousness have everlasting life. And when believers die they are simply shedding the shell of death which is under the curse and exchanging it for life.

In our morning devotions together the kids and I had just started into The Attributes of God for Kids about a week and a half before Dad passed away. The first one we read in the book is that God is unchanging, therefore we are secure. I had sent the kids out to bring back a piece of an evergreen tree and a leaf from a deciduous tree. We compared them and talked about how God is like the evergreen tree which never fades. We, however, are like the leaves that change and fade with the seasons.

Remembering our little lesson in the week before the funeral, I realized just how timely and appropriate it was. The two pieces of greenery were still sitting in the kitchen so I retrieved them and
sat down with the kids. We compared the two again: the needles from the evergreen looked about the same, but the leaf was curling up and dying. We talked about Papa. And about Jesus. How we change, fade, grow old, and die, but He is unchanging and eternal, and we can put our hope in Him for eternal
life.

Later Cliff talked with them about putting off this old “tabernacle” to be clothed with new life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4, 2 Peter 1:13-14). What we would see in the casket would not be Papa. Papa was with Jesus. He had left the body of death behind. It was a “tent” he didn’t live in or need anymore.

Brianna understood. She excitedly exclaimed, “Just like a bug sheds its ‘skin’!”

From the adjoining room where I overheard her I had to smile to myself at her analogy.

Yet, crude though it may be, it’s not a bad one.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?…But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:53-55, 57

No, death is not beautiful.

But the Life Who conquered it is! And Papa is rejoicing in Christ our Life now…

Gospel Alphabet

Feeling frustrated? Lonely? Disappointed? Anxious? Angry? Discouraged?

There are some days we just need to be reminded of who we are in Christ and what He has done for us in the gospel. I say there are “some days.” Actually we need this everyday–even on our best days! One of the best little books I ever read was A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent. Vincent encourages the reader to recognize and savor the truths of the gospel as we see what they mean for us in a very real and practical sense in our day-to-day lives.

Once during a time of discouragement, my sister-in-law encouraged me to reflect on these truths again by making an alphabetical list of the many gifts God has bestowed on me through His gospel. The bolded words (at least most of them) are the ones I scratched onto a piece of paper and stuck in my Bible a long time ago:

A: I am Accepted in the Beloved, I’ve been Adopted, and I’ve been made Alive to God. When I sin, Christ is my Advocate before the Father.

B: I am Beloved in God. I have been Born again and am Blessed in Christ. He gives me Boldness to enter before God (Hebrews 10:19), and to do what is good (2 Timothy 1:7).

C: I am Chosen. I am also Chastened as a child for my good and God’s glory. I am being Conformed to the image of Christ!

D: I have been made Dead to sin!

E: The gift of Eternal life awaits me.

F: My God is always Faithful to me. He is my Father. I have been Forgiven.

G: Through the gospel, I have received Grace upon grace! I daily experience the Goodness of God. He gives me Guidance as I seek wisdom in His Word. Ultimately, the gospel offers not just the many Gifts, but the GiverGod Himself.

H: Christ is my spiritual Healing. God is my very present Help in trouble, and He has given me the gift of the Holy Spirit. He comforts me with eternal Hope.

I: I am promised an Inheritance with the saints! The Holy Spirit is my Intercessor, praying for me with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).

J: JESUS is the center of my gospel hope! Regardless of the evil and injustice of this world, I know that God will render Justice for all His saints.

K: My Father is a King! God shows me His Kindness every day in a multitude of ways.

L: I know true Love in God. He is my Light. His Word is a Lamp to my feet.

M: God’s wrath has been turned away in Christ, and His Mercy freely poured out on me!

N: I am raised to New life—the old things are passed away and new things have come!

O: I have Obtained an inheritance with the saints. My Old man has died in Christ and I am a new creation.

P: I have been Purchased and Pardoned. God is my Provider and Protector.

Q: I am Qualified in Christ to enter the presence of God through His imputed righteousness (Matthew 22:11-14, Jude 24).

R: I am Redeemed and Rescued from sin. I am being Rooted in Christ, and one day I will Reign with Him.

S: I have been Saved from sin, Sealed with the Holy Spirit, and I am daily being Sanctified.

T: The Truth has been revealed to me and the Truth has set me free! I have been Transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12-13).

U: When I am afraid, God promises me an Understanding-passing peace as I trust in Him and take Him all my troubles. In Christ we get to experience true Unity with other believers.

V: I have Victory in Jesus!

W: I am the Workmanship of Christ, and He is made Wisdom to me.

X: My life has been eXchanged for Χριστός!

Y: God has put within me a Yearning for His righteousness.

Z: There are ZERO charges laid against me—my account is clear in Christ!

Believer, what could you add to this list? 🙂

Dreams

We all have our own plans, dreams and desires.  Especially when we are young.  But we learn very quickly that life never goes exactly according to plan, and we are forced to grapple with realities that do not match our imagined idealisms.  This poem pictures the struggle of accepting disappointment, and learning to gain an eternal perspective as we learn to seek first Christ’s kingdom, rather than our own.

Weaving dreams and making plans,

The ethereal unfolds

In the mind where these stand—

Jewels of desire to behold.

Rich I deem myself to be,

I write my story page by page,

Charmed by lucid fantasy,

And passion of youthful age.

There are no words, and yet,

I know it all, I am so sure;

Dreams of light I’ll not forget,

As though encased in jasper.

On and on the music plays,

The siren song of passion;

Into my future I, smiling, gaze

In such a careless fashion.

Everything is bright and fair,

There is no dreary way,

A frown, a fret, a care—

These things will not play,

Not in my song of songs,

Nor in my visions sweet.

No dissonance or raucous gongs

Will bring desire to defeat.

But then one day—it happens;

From my pleasant dreams I wake.

I sit, awestruck, as passions

A restless roar within me make.

For there they are, my perfect dreams—

Stardust scattered o’er the ground.

The shattered bits flicker and gleam

But to an empty nothingness are bound.

Stepping round the ice cold shards

I survey the dismal scene.

It all came down, this house of cards—

A useless, empty fling.

Then looking up from this cruel turn

To the steel-gray heavens above,

I feel my heart within me burn

And wish for the wings of a dove;

That I might fly above all this—

Beyond the darkness into light

And find a true and steadfast solace,

A rescue from my night.

Pegasus and Scorpius

In their proud courses run;

The glory of great Sirius

Only pales by moon and sun.

Wind and water, waves and sea,

Salty breezes, frozen steppes,

Mighty mountains, ancient trees

And tiny robins in their nests—

All the glorious grandeur here

Of nature flashes through my vision,

As before my eyes appear

Scenes of serenity Elypsian.

Had I the wisdom of the ancients,

The knowledge of Archimedes,

The eloquence of Antony,

Precision of Thucydides…

I could not, with greatest effort

Express the magnitude and beauty

Of the great creation concert

In perfect harmony of key.

Then I ponder, “Who am I?

In all this vast expanse?

Just cells and atoms, nuclei?

Result of random chance?

A speck of nothing on a ball

Flung out in time and space?

Forgotten when I take a fall?

Obscure member of our race?”

No. No I know better.

I have met Him whose name is Truth;

His gift to me is no dead letter—

His Word a comfort from my youth.

This King who made the earth and heaven,

Who rules o’er land and sea,

He stoops so low to reckon

With man His creation…with me.

Not a sparrow falls before Him

But He sees and knows it all.

From His kindness does life stem;

Nothing for His interest is too small.

I am loved and known by Him,

And His promise is to me,

A cup with mercy filled to brim

For all eternity.

Center of the universe I’m not—

That place belongs to Christ.

For mankind’s freedom He has fought,

His sacrifice sufficed.

His kingdom interests are supreme,

They take priority o’er all

Man’s infinitesimal dreams

And plans so trivially small.

He’s working out His purposes

Planned from eternity;

He works all for our good, He says.

In Him we find identity.

Sometimes when all our hopes are dashed

And disappointment all we know,

When plans are swiftly crashed,

And for dreams we get a “No”…

A broken heart may be God’s gift

To raise our eyes to better sights;

The imaginations of our hearts to lift

To much fairer heights.

To break us free from minuscule visions,

To see His bigger scheme;

A greater good to envision,

As we embrace redemptive theme.

As I find comfort in this certainty,

The gray of sky is lifted.

The rays of sun break through to me

And warm my heart uplifted.

Then gather I the stardust bits

Of dreams and plans all broken;

To give an offering that fits,

A sacrifice of love—a token…

To the Lord who lived and died for me,

The God of my eternity.

The Fear of the Lord: To Please…or to Appease?

In my daily Bible reading this week, a story in 2 Kings 17 seemed to leap off the page at me. Some years ago I went through a time of being challenged by the concept of the fear of the Lord. How to understand, define, and embrace the biblical fear of the Lord in a culture that sees all fear as “bad”—this was the problem.

This story provides some very probing insights and raises thoughtful questions concerning our own understanding of the fear of God and what that looks like in our personal lives.

So here’s how it goes:

The king of Assyria captures Samaria and removes the Israelites (ten tribes) from their land, replacing them with men from other countries (Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim). This is now a very mixed lot of men as far as religious beliefs are concerned; we’re talking quite the hodge-podge collection of idols—and a visit to Samaria would provide quite the multi-cultural experience. Despite their differences, they apparently manage to get on together just fine.

Then disaster strikes.

“And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them” (vs. 25).

This calls for action. The first thing they do is hit up the king who coordinated this poorly-planned relocation project: “Hey, we’ve got problems. We don’t know anything about the God of the land you’ve just dumped us in and apparently He’s not happy with us.”

The king, being the handy problem-solver that he is, snaps his fingers and says, “Don’t sweat it, I’ve got you covered. I’m sending one of the priests of the people I removed. He should know something about appeasing that strange God.”

Cool. They’ll wait. But in the meantime life insurance premiums are rising…

Soon after the Israelite priest arrives he teaches them “how they should fear the Lord” (vs. 28). What a relief. Now they can continue to safely worship their own gods while offering a sacrifice to the Israelite God now and then.

Because that’s exactly what they do.

So they feared the Lord, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the Lord, and served their own gods… (vvs. 32-33).

Talk about syncretism. These people are literally offering sacrifices to God while burning their children in fire to Adrammalech and Anammalech (vvs. 29-31)!

So that’s the puzzling story of the settlers of Samaria. But what appears to be a contradiction arises in this passage. Verse 34 tells us “Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the Lord…” and verse 41 says “So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images…so do they unto this day.”

They “fear not” the Lord to this day. And they “feared” the Lord to this day.

Isn’t this a contradiction?

Not if we’re talking about two very different kinds of fear.

These people had a good case of the collywobbles: a knock-kneed, pee-your-pants paranoia of a powerful God of wrath. They had no desire to know Him or please Him, they simply wanted to appease Him. They knew He was big. They knew He was powerful. They had no intention of actually serving Him, but He was scary to them so they needed to find some way to appease this foreign Deity. Ordaining a paltry handful of low-life characters from the seedy side of town to go through the motions of offering a few meaningless sacrifices to this burdensome but nevertheless scary God—that would do the trick.

Like a charm…which was literally all they were looking for: a charm to “keep the spirits away.” And lions. Lions too.

And that was the extent of their “fear” of God.

Solomon tells us that the biblical fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil…” To hate sin and turn from it is the fear of the Lord. Those who fear the Lord are exhorted to trust in the Lord: these two things (fear and trust) are not considered mutually incompatible, but rather complimentary when taken in their biblical sense (Psalm 115:11). The biblical fear of God actually frees us from the fear of man and circumstance—destructive fears in our lives.

Many have a fear of God that is not biblical. Because they entertain a “fear” of Him that does not engender faith and trust in Him, they seek to reform some of their actions or to offer Him some vestiges of “service” in order to “appease” Him, so that they might continue on with their lives as they see fit. Or they may be genuinely “scared” of God, and feel that they cannot approach Him, but it’s the wrong kind of fear altogether and does not produce the fruit of holiness in their lives.

Those who fear the Lord with a biblical fear delight in Him, trust Him, and seek to please, not appease Him. They are not paranoid of the wrath of God: they know that’s been satisfied in Christ, having already been poured out on Him. They know God is big and not One to be trifled with, and they serve Him in reverence (see Hebrews 12:28-29, 1 Peter 1:13-21). But their fear of God draws them closer to Him, rather than pushing them away from Him into a corner where they cower in the shadows, afraid to approach Him. I’ve come to believe that this is the defining difference between a biblical fear of the Lord and its fraudulent counterpart.

In a world where people are awakening to the widespread reality of the fear and abuse that many individuals in destructive relationships experience everyday, the very concept of the “fear of the Lord” has gained a bad rap. God is a God of love. Why would He want us to fear Him? Isn’t that abusive and legalistic?

The problem is that our concept of fear is often viewed through broken, twisted, human experience—or knowledge of human experience. When a man seeks to abusively control his wife or children he employs fear to scare them into bowing to his will. He controls them with it. The fear they have for him is not a reverent one. They do not willingly submit to him because they respect and love him; they submit because (for the moment at least) he’s bigger and stronger—and meaner—than they are.

This is a fear from hell, not from God; it’s not the kind of fear He seeks from His people. He seeks a love that is characterized by deep reverence for Who He is: He’s not a teddy bear, a “pet,” or a grandfather figure handing out candy; He’s the holy God of the Universe. C. S. Lewis had it right:

lion-3040797_1920

“Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.”

—The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Do we love and reverence this great King, this Lion of the tribe of Judah? Does our fear of Him cause us to draw near Him or to shy away from Him? Does it cause us to walk in holiness or to begrudgingly go through the motions of religion? Do we seek to please Him or to feel we must appease Him? Do we trust Him and find our peace and joy in Him, or do we cower like a beggar in His presence? When we are in sin, does our fear of Him lead us to repentance or to sulk in perpetual guilt?

The nations inhabiting Samaria feared God with a disdainful, irreverent, cowardly fear. They did not fear Him with a biblical fear. Their fear was the same kind of fear enemies—not friends—of a king may have.

Does our fear of God more resemble that of the heathens, or of His own dear children for whom He sent His Son to suffer and die?

Truth is a Person

This is an edited article I originally wrote and posted July 15, 2015

“What is truth?”

This was Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus.

Don’t we all encounter this question in our lives? In a world where everyone alternately claims to have the truth or that there is no such thing as truth, does it exist and can we really know what it is?

That’s a question I’ve been asked before. With so many conflicting opinions and beliefs, is there any objective way to know and define truth?

Some believe that truth is everything. Everything is truth, everyone is “right.”

Although every religion claims to have the “truth,” each embraces teachings that contradict every other religion’s beliefs. When opinions clash, philosophies disagree, and beliefs part ways, everything and everyone cannot be completely “right.”

Others have decided that truth is nothing. Nothing is truth. Truth cannot be known. It is an exercise in futility to try to seek it out.

A Man entered this world 2,000 years ago Who claimed to BE Truth. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).

This was a watershed moment in the history of mankind.

But even as believers who are indwelt by THE TRUTH, we often find ourselves confused about truth. One look at the many different sects, denominations, and doctrines within the broad spectrum of Christianity itself would seem to contradict the assertion that
truth can be known. Many little groups, sects, or cults within the church claim they have all truth and all the others are wrong. We speak of truth as if it was a personal possession—something we have mastered and now own with exclusivism.

I am from a conservative background. Growing up, my family was heavily influenced by the teachings of one man and his ministry. Speaking from my side of the aisle, I am familiar with many of the movements within the conservative Christian community and the groups that spawned from them, and I’ve realized that many of us (myself included) have been lured by the mindset that one group, or one denomination, or one teacher, or even one movement for that matter, held all the truth.

Whether we’re being offered the Christian life in a package, doctrine in a box, or theology in a catechism, it’s all the same thing. Someone, some group, some theological or lifestyle persuasion, or some church has ALL truth (or at least more of it than anyone else),
and if you want to get a piece of it, listen to him/it/them. Take it all. Join the club. Because the more you take the more “right” you are and the more truth you have.

But truth is not the private, patented property of any man or any creed.

Truth is a Person.

It is the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world, the Word, Who is full of grace and truth (see John 1:14-18). The “truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21).

Truth is absolute and immutable. It does not change, just as Jesus does not change, but is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). What we know about it has been manifested to us through Christ, Who is our wisdom, our righteousness, our
sanctification, and our redemption (see 1 Corinthians 1:30). And He has chosen to reveal Himself in His Word, which is truth (see John 17:17), all Scripture pointing to Christ, Who is Ultimate Truth.

In my daily Bible reading one morning, I was in the book of 1st Corinthians and noticed, in the first four chapters, that Paul was addressing similar issues and attitudes in the Corinthian church that we struggle with today as he rebuked them for their petty sectarianism: “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not
carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:4).

He repeatedly emphasized that spiritual things are spiritually discerned; that every believer has the mind of Christ. Truth, wisdom, righteousness—these things did not belong to any one man (or church). Paul instructed them, “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Christ is ours. Truth lives within us. Our desire should be to know Him intimately.  The more we learn of Him, the more we learn of Truth. His Word is a tool to that end. It can give us knowledge and direction (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and the Holy Spirit has been given to us to illuminate it for us (John 14:26). It is our responsibility to carefully study and rightly divide it (2 Timothy 2:15), to examine all things carefully, and hold fast that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21; see also Proverbs 23:23).

Is there such a thing as absolute Truth?

Absolutely.

Is it the sole, private property of any one man, group, or church?

Absolutely not.

Truth can be known and obeyed.  Pilate foolishly failed to wait for an answer to his own question.  He wasn’t truly seeking truth.  But it is there, and those who seek will find.

But even as we pursue truth, we need the wisdom and humility to see that none of us has perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, perfect doctrine (ouch! I so wish I did!), and certainly not perfect obedience. The Word is perfect. Our interpretation of it is never going to be completely perfect in everything. No one and no church among us has “got it all.” We have Christ, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. In that sense, as believers we share all there is to share. We will always have to grow, be challenged, be stretched, and therefore be open to correction.

There are two practical points to this: first, we must pursue knowledge and truth in the context of pursuing intimate fellowship and a rich relationship with Christ. Richard
Wurmbrand has said that Christ is the Truth, Scripture is the truth about the Truth, and theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. Unfortunately, it’s possible to pursue theology and the study of the Word without actively pursuing Christ Himself. The result—if it even leads to the discovery of truth—will be truth without love.

Second, we need a humble open-mindedness to accept correction and instruction from other believers. Christ has placed His children within the community of the church. We need
one another. If we foolishly believe we (or our church) have arrived at all truth, we will not be open to the perspective and insight of other fellow believers. We will lose opportunities to
grow and be stretched and challenged.

The search for truth and a following after it is a life-long pursuit. No doctrine-in-a-box stuff can replace a growing relationship with the One all biblical doctrine points to. Joining
the “perfect” group or church denomination will not cause us to “possess” more truth than
anyone else. Learning from Christian teachers cannot replace learning at the feet of Christ. And we should never use neatly-packaged Christian-life-in-a-box teachings to relieve us of the
responsibility we each have personally before God to study His Word, get to know His Son, and grow in what pleases Him.

Because Truth is not a creed, a catechism, a membership, or a lifestyle list of do’s and don’ts.

Truth is a Person.