My (Preferred) Alter-Ego (come find me here!)

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

here's to you

My apologies to all of you who regularly read my blog for the Scripture musings–this one is going to veer from my usual trend just a little. I saw a post by one of my mentors today that warmed my heart. She said:

…this saddens me…Men are commanded by God to “agape” their wives, (a complete and excellent love, as represented by the Father’s love for His Son). I hear very little of this and do not see it as a primary focus among Christian men. So many, satisfied with career success and academic achievement will see those pursuits burn up as wood, hay and stubble as they stand before the judgement seat of Christ.

Before you wonder why her statement brought me joy, let me explain that I smiled because God has truly blessed me with a man who daily shows me how much Jesus loves us through his maturity and wisdom when it comes to loving people. This week marks an anniversary of sorts–five months to the night when Jesus supernaturally placed love for him in my heart and set me free to embark on the most peaceful, joy-filled, sweetest year I can remember having. If you’re interested on a more theological study of God’s love, you might find this post from the archives a more interesting read. However, if you’re interested in spying on an open letter to an exceptional, God-fearing man (who may take weeks to find this…which is part of the fun!) read on. =)

Love is patient….like the way you wait for me to exhaust a seemingly limitless supply of adjectives to describe a situation about which you are already aware. Have I told you how much I appreciate the way you just sit there and listen until I am finished? It means so much that you never interrupt me, even when you are probably tired of hearing details about a situation that isn’t really that crucial to begin with. And how about those six months you kept coming back and offering me unconditional friendship when I kept trying to drive you away?

Love is kind….like how you look for little things to do that communicate support. Case in point, how I came home yesterday and found all the magnolia leaves raked up in my back yard, and that beautiful orchid waiting on my doorstep. Or the way you have made it your business to track down the absolute best bug-deterring chemical there is to save me from spiders. Even beyond your delightful eye for romance, you love through serving and it blesses me constantly.

Love doesn’t envy…like how you have become my number one cheerleader. I know that when you offer a suggestion, you truly have my best interests at heart. You are such an example of how Jesus is a foundation of support for us with your quiet strength in my life. You encourage (and sometimes push) me to write and to spend even more time in prayer, and rejoice at the small conquests.

Love doesn’t boast…like how you are constantly giving to people and leaving me to find out from someone else. It has almost become a game to find out what beautiful, generous thing you have done for someone each week.

Love isn’t proud…like how you constantly point to the Lord in all achievements and endeavors. You don’t try to laugh off what you do with false humility; you answer with a quiet “thank you” and then go on to enumerate how the Lord has blessed and helped you in the process. You find greater value in hand-made gifts with sentiment than in expensive gadgets. You work harder than most people I know, and sometimes go underappreciated for all that you do because you don’t demand recognition or credit for your acts of service.

Love isn’t rude…like how I never hear you yelling at other vehicles on the highway or blistering someone with scorn for perceived stupidity. Like how you always say I am beautiful, even on those “self-doubting” days (especially on those days, come to think of it). Like how you never chastise me for how I feel, even when we both know I am going to decide my thinking is wrong within twenty-four hours. Like how you challenge me with soft-spoken questions instead of harsh reprimands.

Love isn’t self-seeking…like how you are quick to pray for anyone, whether you know them or not, without demanding that they know your name. The other day, I mentioned to you about some friends of mine who had lost their jobs, and your immediate response was, “I’m praying for them.” You live to serve, and I respect you so much because of that.

Love isn’t easily angered…like how you listen and respond calmly when we disagree. You have never insulted me as a person, never indicated that I was an idiot for believing something, never called me selfish or insecure, even if and when I probably deserve it.

Love keeps no record of wrongs…like how I never worry that you are going to throw some mistake from the past back at me. Ever.

Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…like how you are quick to recognize an enemy attack and use your spiritual authority as head of our relationship to pray over me. You have zero tolerance for Satan’s efforts at deception, and are quick to counter his lies with the Word.

Love always protects…like how you have arranged to have the locks on all my doors changed. Like how you came over that night my outside light was mysteriously on (and the night I discovered I had left the front door unlocked all weekend) and walked through all rooms and closets. Like how you went to WalMart and bought new windshield wipers for my car and installed them without me even knowing you were there because I told you about how one fell off while I was driving down the road. Like how you make me walk on the inside of the sidewalk, how you filter things you have heard and don’t tell me things that could hurt me, how you apply yourself to think of ways to carry hurts for me. You have demonstrated this one over and over again.

Love always trusts…like how you never question my relationships with other people and you never demand to read my emails or text messages. And because of that, I delight in opening my life to you. When I can’t tell you something because it was shared to me in confidence, you respect my commitment to keeping my mouth shut and don’t pressure me to know. What freedom you give me.

Love always hopes…and our relationship is golden with hopes and dreams. Every day is a brand new adventure. Every morning I wake up and wonder what the first thing you will say will be.

Love always perseveres… Even when I told you (on numerous occasions) “we” would never be, that I didn’t “feel that way” about you, that I didn’t even want to “feel that way,” you never gave up hope. You didn’t pressure me and you gave me space, but you were always there supporting, cheering, dreaming, loving, waiting.

So I say again to you what I said the first time you told me that you loved me (and I wasn’t ready to say it back yet)…
–“I know.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

abominable reputation

Near the end of last week, I was listening to a sermon that referenced Luke 16:15. Jesus is talking to the people about the dishonest manager, who, through his shrewdness, canceled debts owed to his master and made friends with many people before he lost his job so that he would have someone to take him when he had nothing. He admonishes us to use our resources to live generously and make friends instead of constantly pouring all of our money into the latest gadget for ourselves.

The Pharisees did not appreciate His words, because they loved money; they mocked Jesus for suggesting that giving away was shrewder than hoarding away treasures in expectation of an economic crisis. It is at this point that Jesus turned to them and said (verse 15):

And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

The word that arrested my attention in this verse was "abomination." Surely that was a little strong, wasn't it?

I went into the original Greek and discovered that this word was bdelygma, and is the same word to describe what Daniel called the "abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14). Furthermore, the word translates as "a foul and detestable thing," and more interestingly (to me, anyway), "of idols and things pertaining to idolatry."

Furthermore, the word that we translated "highly esteemed" is hypsēlos in the Greek; it means "exalted in honor" and refers to "to set the mind on, to seek, high things (as honours and riches), to be aspiring." So, Jesus said that that God sees the things we in our unregenerate state prize most highly on the same level as idolatry.

The Lord made this assertion in the context of man endeavoring to justify himself in the eyes of others. Although He specifically was referring to seeking financial honor, we often seek to justify ourselves in other ways. I've mentioned before that the hardest lesson for me is often keeping my mouth shut when someone has said something untrue or unkind about me. We also try to prove our "good person" status by seeking out opportunities to do works of charity for show, or even talking about a divine encounter with the Lord in a way that brings attention to ourselves. For example:

"Oh just let me tell you--God healed my foot this morning."

"Why, that's wonderful! Did I ever tell you He caused my leg to grow back three inches?"

"No, you didn't. But did you hear about the time He re-set the bones in my arm?"

...and so on. We seek to share in His glory, as if seeing the most miracles has anything to do with our own righteousness.

The devil tried to get Jesus to justify Himself in Matthew 4, saying again and again, "If you are the Son of God..." It's interesting that the last temptation he offered Jesus was on an exceedingly high mountain overlooking all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8). That word "high" is again hypsēlos to which we just referred as "highly esteemed." Satan took Jesus to a physical high place and offered to give Him a spiritual high place in exchange for His worship; Jesus, however, knew that to worship the devil in that place was bdelygma--abominable idolatry in the face of God.

The secret of being content in all circumstances (of which Paul speaks in Philippians 4:11) is two-fold; it involves being enthralled in the greatness of God on one hand, and losing all care for man's esteem on the other. The more I try to justify myself before other people (whether in arguing my position, gaining possessions, surrounding myself with "yes"-men rather than those who speak what I need to hear) the more offensive I smell to God; it shows that I care more about my reputation than I do about His glory.

Let's continue to make it all about Him.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Who You Are

They say You're bigger than we are--that to be able to shrink You down to our level with glib explanations would minimize the greatness of who You are. Does it sadden You, or anger You, or amuse You that we've made worship about us? Will we ever truly understand that it's always going to be about You? We jump up and down trying to grab Your eye, competing with our sisters for Your favor, naively thinking that will somehow give us greater standing in Your kingdom. Meanwhile, You look for the meek and lowly ones, just like Yourself.

Who are You, really? Who is the I AM who is so wrapped up with us that He would indulgently allow our self-absorbed lives to move about in uncaring oblivion of Your greatness? "i am....i am....i am" we insist, when, if we listen carefully, the hearbeat of creation is, "I AM....I AM.....I AM."

Recently You reminded me that we only know who we are when we see who You are. Too often, though, I spend my attention on myself in the vain effort to eclipse Your Son. You will not share Your glory (Stephen Venable's teaching blessed me so much this week--click here).

So let's make it about You moment at a time.

Great is Your Name above all of creation. Holy and righteous, faithful and true, unchallenged in all of Your decisions, unequaled in all of Your splendor, You alone reign. Justice marks Your throne. Mercy is Your scepter. Love is the center of all You are.

You are He who is and who was; You were at the beginning, and You are beyond the end. From everlasting to everlasting You are established, King over the earth, sovereign majesty enthroned in glory.

Lion of Judah, Lamb who was slain, Morning Star, Root of David, Word who became flesh, meek and lowly One, Firstborn of the dead, You radiate splendor. You are the singing, dancing, laughing, shouting God. You never change. You never lie. You never sleep. You never fail.
You stand alone.

In You is all wisdom. You have inherited the greatest Name. Yahweh. Prince of peace. Lord of all. You have all authority, dominion, honor. You are without blemish. You are victorious in all You do.

You make the clouds Your chariot and ride on the wings of the wind. You thunder from heaven. You are good, gracious, compassionate--slow to anger, abounding in love. You are all that is holy, all that is kind, all that is beautiful.
You alone are God.