Sister to Sister: The Dissonance of Orlando for Christians

Pretty young girl with martini looking at camera in the bar

What happened in Orlando at a gay bar earlier this summer seems unthinkable, yet it wasn’t. I mean, all of us had thought about it. We knew the possibility of an attack by a Muslim terrorist (and that’s what he was) or a group of them—on our soil—again—was likely. To me, this is the worst case scenario, though, because, after the fact, reflection brings such a cold hard truth to mind. This truth keeps haunting me: Every single person killed—every.single.one– so far as can reasonably be determined —was involved, at the time, in overt rebellion against the plainly stated will of God. Certainly the perpetrator was committing murder in the first degree multiplied times over. He left this life without hope. Those fifty people who were brutally killed in an establishment where homosexuality is celebrated and liquor was flowing at two o’clock in the morning on that Lord’s day also left this earth without hope. Christians who went to worship Him later that morning know, whether we have verbalized it or not, that the murderer and the murdered left this life to share an eternity in hell together. 

Certainly we can take nothing but sorrow from that realization. I’m pretty certain there are parents left behind—parents of some of those millennials who died—who are believers in Christ and the Bible. How their hearts must grieve at the realization that their children left this earth while participating in a hedonistic lifestyle that scoffs at the Word of God. We grieve with them. Perhaps some of them were unaware of that lifestyle in which their children were involved until the news and circumstances of their deaths were announced. The pain of even thinking about that, for me as a parent, is hard to fathom. 

It’s true that we are all sinners…condemned…without the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Praise God for that Lamb! But for those of us to whom that Lamb’s blood has been applied, the Orlando incident represents a greater tragedy than even the loss of fifty lives and the fact that Islamic terrorism is a constant threat to our American way of life. The added dimension, for Christians, is the knowledge that both terrorist and terrorized, in Orlando, are in the same list in God’s word. We’ve come to the point in America, at least in this instance, in which calling the victims “innocent” is, although appropriate in some sense, technically inaccurate. The list is here:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8).

Here it is again from Romans 1:28-32

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 

I’m sad for people who left this world from a gay bar. At the same time, I am stricken with the reality that I could leave this world at any time and there’s a list of sins in these passages that’s far broader than just murder and homosexuality.  May I do my very best to honor his laws; to be found in places and with people who will help me to do that. May I constantly praise him for the blood that cleanses me as I walk in His light, doing my best to honor Him (I John 1:7). And, finally, may I realize that there are two great enemies of this great American culture we’ve known for 250 years. One is the threat of the Muslims who are practicing what the Quran teaches (in multiple Quran passages) about slaughtering followers of the Lamb. The other is Americans  who have forsaken the teachings of the slaughtered Lamb.  

I pray for America regularly. But in those same prayers, I thank my Father that I am part of a kingdom that will still be standing when America falls. May His children here be faithful to Him. May He be merciful to His children here. 

Sister to Sister: I AM BECAUSE I AM

nature-scenery-at-the-flambeau-riverIn Exodus 3:14, God gave Moses the name by which He wished to be identified to His people, Israel, when he presented to them the prospect of deliverance from slavery to Pharaoh, their hard-hearted taskmaster. 

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

I AM THAT I AM.  Frankly, as a child, when I heard the story of Moses and the burning bush, the name sounded awkward and left me wondering exactly what God was trying to convey by the nomenclature. But as I read the name today in the American Standard Version, I’m amazed at its significance. The ASV renders it I AM BECAUSE I AM.

Just think of that! Every one of us can wear the first part of this name: I AM. You are. I am. We exist. But we do not exist because of ourselves. We exist because of a mother and father who existed because of another set of parents, who existed ultimately, through the line of generations back through time because of an original cause: Jehovah. God. The Creator. We are because He is. I am because of His eternal being and power. I cannot wear the second half of God’s Exodus three name. I am not existent because of my own existence. In other words, I am, but not because I am. I am because He was, is and continues to be. My name is I AM BECAUSE HE IS.

Jehovah, then, is the only one who can claim the name I AM BECAUSE I AM.  Everyone else has an original cause. He is the Original Cause. So that makes Him God. He had no beginning, no designer, planner, maker or authority. That makes him the ultimate of all of those things. The fact that He is the Original Cause renders Him the superlative in every relationship: the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. The Original Cause does not have to explain Himself. Just as the Exodus three name implies, He not only is because He is, He does because He does. In our modern vernacular, we might say He gets to decide. Everything. The buck stops with God. 

This is why Moses had to take off his shoes in front of that bush that day. Moses, the one who was caused, who was saved from destruction, who was nurtured in the palace and commissioned to deliver was standing, at that moment, before the Great Cause, the Savior, the Nurturer, the Deliverer.  

That’s why every one of us has to deal with God. He is the One with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). There’s a sense in which we all have our burning bushes….The ultimate One is the only One who can truly present the ultimatum of this lifetime. Because He has this kind of superlative power over us, it makes it all the more amazing that he gave us His Son. Jesus, the One who was every bit God, who shared the quintessential power that’s inherent in the Exodus three name, gave up, for a time, the ultimate authority and learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8). Obedience. I AM THAT I AM obeyed. And He did this for me. The One who could wear the name I AM BECAUSE I AM humbled himself to dwell among those who are the caused rather than the Cause and even to die for the caused. 

When I think about this, I know that I’m not worthy to contemplate this humbling of Jesus. I am not capable of fully grasping the great gap between Cause and caused that was bridged at Calvary. But I want to take off my shoes before the  great I AM. Whatever I’m called upon to do as I go forth from my burning bush, I want to do it. I want to bow before the great I AM THAT I AM. 

May all who suffered sword or flame

For truth or Jesus’ lovely name

Shout victory now and hail the Lamb

And bow before the great I AM.

From the Archives: A Bird in a Basket

images-1This past Saturday I spoke at a ladies seminar in the state of California. It was a great day–rewarding in lots of ways for me. It was a stormy weekend in my home state of Alabama, while sunny and calm in California. Sometimes it’s just a little serendipity when I get to slip away from the storms (in my mind and in the sky) and enjoy a space of calmness. I actually got to sit on a tiny sunny townhouse patio and visit with a sister I’d never met before. Two small birds live in a basket on that patio and I stood about two feet from Mr. or Mrs. Bird (not sure which) and clicked his/her photo. (I really wish I had brought along my Canon rather than just my cell phone.) I’m told that those birds come back each year and have begun to feel so comfortable in that basket that sits among some artificial flowers on a plant stand, that they don’t even bother to stir when people walk all around them. Before the evening was over, we had five people within a very few feet of the nest and no panic in the nest whatsoever. My host told me that one of that family of birds plucked one of those artificial flowers one year, took it around to her front yard and used it in the building of it’s own nest in a front yard tree.My host, Mrs. Maggie, knows a lot about the birds that feather that nest each year. But she cannot be sure it is the same birds year after year. She pays close attention to their patterns of nest-sitting. She knows that it is both a male and female that exchange places sitting, for she looks through her kitchen window (only a few inches away) and sees them swapping places. She knows that baby birds are born there each spring because there are a few fleeting days between the hatching and the flying when she enjoys watching them grow. All she has to do is keep putting the basket out for them year after year and they check-in as if they know their upscale room is reserved.

But did you ever think about how that God, from somewhere as far away as heaven and yet closer than that kitchen window does know whether it’s the same birds year after year? He knows whether or not the original nest sitters have survived the winter. In fact, he will know the exact moment that the bird in my photograph falls never to fly again.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).

The passage goes on to ask the rhetorical question: “Aren’t you more valuable than many sparrows?” God knows and cares about the nest home of those birds and its inhabitants. He knows about my home and its inhabitants, too. He knows that one day, like the sparrow I too, will fall. But I am of more value than many sparrows and I, who have never before taken wing will, on that “glad morning when this life is o’er, fly away.” Praise the God Who cares for the tiny bird in the basket, but cares infinitely more for me.

Sister to Sister: Dear Sweet Baby G2…

Dear Sweet Baby G2, 

You are a girl! My first grand-daughter! If I have another grand-daughter someday, I will not love you more, but I will always love you first. As we stood there for what seemed like about a forever in front of that tarp waiting for your brother to come out from behind with pink or blue cotton candy, I thought a bit about the historic moments in our family. Wasn’t it just yesterday that your Uncle Caleb danced around that hospital hallway looking through that nursery glass at your mother. That was a historic moment. 1391807_10151633143906384_1011208804_nThat little seven o’clock  pause in the party while we waited for the news about your gender was surely one of those moments, too. The color of cotton candy would tell us much about, not just the colors of clothes or the kinds of games we would play, but whether we would teach you to submit or to lead and whether you would be a provider or a gentle nurturer. That moment held the key to whether your dad would take you on your first hunt or your first date. It was a big moment.13002601_900378543529_1447357954307643429_o

I’m glad that in this year of your birth, when so much about gender is so mixed up by our liberal culture, that you have parents who draw sharp distinctions between the genders. You will be blessed to learn to cook and sew and take care of babies. You will be encouraged to be a keeper at home by your mom, who is one of the best keepers I know. You will grow up beside your brother, Ezra, who will learn first to protect you and later, to transfer his guardianship to his own family. He will learn to defend your honor and to show tender affection to his mother, while preparing to lead his own bride and, ultimately, the bride of Christ. He will get the sharpest picture of all of this from your dad.13002506_900365614439_5034103055690569568_o You’re blessed to get to be Ezra’s sister. He patted his mother’s tummy and said “baby” earlier this week, but he doesn’t have a clue about what you are about to do to his little world. That dynamic will be fun to watch!

I can’t wait to braid your hair, tie your ribbons, sew your dresses and read Cinderella and Goldilocks to you. I’m already getting out the tiny, now vintage, dresses your mother wore and washing the pink blankets. I’ve bought you a couple of things to wear, including a girly Alabama Crimson Tide  outfit and a pair of pantaloons with a “G” on the bottom. You are making for fun times on ebay and in the consignment stores. Your papa said “Oh dear. This girl thing means you are going to double your shopping addiction.”  He is one smart mathematician, your papa (and he was a very good sport playing “chubby baby” with pink marshmallows at your gender party!)13064624_900366308049_8267571567100253079_o But I will try to be good. After all, I have to show you how to be a smart and frugal shopper! 

As I’m thinking about you now, cocooned in that safe, dark place, I praise the One who is forming you there. He told Jeremiah that  he knew the plans He had for him before He even formed Jeremiah in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Is it not possible that he already has a plan for you…just like he did prior to birth for Jacob, for Moses, for Samuel, for Samson, David, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist? He’s already given you a soul that will live on and on…and on. You will always be younger than I, but you will never outlive me. Our continuum has a starting point, but no ending point.   We are both on a journey that has no end. Your life has begun inside a temple of the Holy Spirit. May your life grow to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to our holy God. 

I do not know how many of your years I will get to see. I hope I can watch you learn to walk and talk and read and write. I hope I can go to my mailbox one day and read a letter from you. I hope I can take you fishing and shopping and kite-flying. I want to skip rope and play house and watch Pollyanna and Bedknobs and Broomsticks with you. (Oh, and I Love Lucy, too.) I want to laugh and dance and make teacakes and living room tents with you. I want to push you in my big antique carriage and pull you in that little red wagon. I want to play games and run relays with you. (We like games in our family!)I want to watch you find wonderful trinkets in your Christmas stocking and in your Easter basket. I want to pick flowers and sing with you and Ezra while papa plays the guitar. I hope we get to do all these things and lots more. 12990953_900409955579_6704588746815333140_n

But there is just one thing I really, really HAVE to do with you. See, if I had to choose between doing all these things I’ve dreamed about and sitting around the throne with you, I wouldn’t even have to think about it. I’d choose heaven.You are a princess already and what I want most for you, little girl, is that seat around your Father’s throne. I pray every day that you make it safely into this world. But my most fervent prayer for you is about making it safely to that other world. It will, in this century in which you will live out your days, not always be easy to be a princess in His kingdom. Your world is pretty hostile to princesses in your Father’s kingdom. But it will be worth it. The “way” may be straiter and more narrow as you travel than it is for those who went on ahead of you. The devil is currently busy adding obstacles and constricting that way. But you stay the course. Your papa and I will be waiting.

P.S. Here’s the pink cotton candy: https://www.facebook.com/hannah.giselbach/videos/900363004669/

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Digging Deep: Fearless Jeremiah

Jeremiah’s Persecution

Jeremiah_lamentingIn case you want to put this list with your Digging Deep notes for the month of March, here’s a list of Jeremiah’s persecutions and his reactions to the trials inflicted. This article by Wayne Jackson gave us the basic list: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/747-marvelous-book-of-jeremiah-the….Then we searched for Jeremiah’s responses.) May we be modern-day ‘Jeremiah’s in the, thus far, relatively benign situations of persecution. Stay tuned, though. Our faith is putting us in some pretty vulnerable places. Our God is still ‘with us to deliver us’ (Jeremiah 1:8). 

  1. People desired his life (11: 18-20)….He took his case to God in prayer (vs. 20)
  2. His countrymen turned against him (12:6)
  3. False prophets contradicted him…. (15:10)….He begged for personal exemption from the punishments (15:15-18).
  4. He was hit, put in stocks and denounced (chapter20)….He HAD to keep on speaking (vs. 9).
  5. His heart was broken (23:9)….He reflected on God’s sovereignty (vs. 13-20).
  6. He was seized and threatened with death (26:8-24)….He spoke more boldly (vs. 12-15).
  7. His teachings were strongly and visibly opposed (ch. 28)….Jeremiah spoke all the more boldly and pointedly (vs. 12-17)
  8. He was imprisoned (32:2,3)….He listened to the words of the Lord (32:6).
  9. The king burned the roll of prophecy (36:23)
  10. He was chased (36:26)….God hid him and he made a new roll in place of the one burned by the king (vs. 26, 27)
  11. He was beaten and imprisoned (37:15)….After many days in prison, when he was called out, he spoke as boldly as ever (vs. 17).
  12. He was thrown in the dungeon without food and he sunk in the mire (38:6)….He came out speaking truth (vs. 17,18).
  13. He was bound in chains (40:1)….He went straight to the governor with God’s truth (40:7-16).
  14. He was falsely accused and taken, with the captives, to Egypt (43:2)…He continued to speak truth to the captives in Judah and to the Egyptian captors, as well. Fearless. (ch.44, 46).

Sister to Sister: Convention Exhaustion

12719136_893926583309_1021361005546787560_oThis is how we all felt…a combination between delirium and utter exhaustion. I think Ezra was just the only one who was okay with expressing it in public. (It would probably be a better world if we were all without guile…completely honest… like Ezra is at eighteen months old.)

In fact, hundreds of children did incredible things over the weekend and in preparation for the Lads to Leaders convention. It’s pretty special to see teenagers getting extremely excited about studying the role of women in the New Testament church. It’s exhilarating to watch early elementary aged kids answering questions about the details of the book of Acts. To see a teen girl in her last year of Lads competition having difficulty finishing her speech about being the Proverbs 31 woman simply because it’s so emotional to sum up life goals as she steps away from childhood and into the “real world” where there will be such pressure from the devil to step away from those goals…well, that made me summarize my own goals and think about whether or not I’m being true to them.

The convention is over. I could not have physically survived another day of such intense  fellowship and overpacked scheduling. But the effects will linger. I think they will linger into eternity. We counted about 10,000 people in the Nashville convention, one of six conventions nationwide. We could count trophies, ribbons, events, rooms booked and fees paid. But we cannot count the seeds planted in hearts. We will just do our best to keep planting and watering them, though, and let our amazing God give the increase.