Christ's Glory, Not Mine

Devotions, advice, and book reviews from science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Courage


courageAn evil, gnarled hand clawed at the throat of the woman in white. She sat up in bed and declared to the darkness boldly, “Spirit of Fear, how dare you trouble a child of God, be gone!”

Only her own pounding heart and racing pulse responded, every fiber of her body still on alert for the danger that wasn’t there. What was wrong with her? Why wouldn’t Fear stop tormenting her and leave? She caught the gnarled hand and dragged the creature before the throne of God. The light was blinding, coming in out of the dark. “Lord, please deliver me of this spirit of fear.”

“I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”

“Yes, amen, I claim that promise, deliver me from this spirit of fear, Lord.”

The Son’s face appeared as he touched her shoulder. “I have set you free, and you are free indeed. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Look.” He pointed, and her eyes cleared.

The pitiful hand was gnarled from being burned and belonged to a battered, bruised little girl in filthy rags. The little brat wrapped herself around the woman’s legs. “Mommy, I’m scared!”

“Lord, I don’t understand.”

“She is your emotions, especially fears born of the flesh and buried in the heart.”

“Why do you portray such a terrible thing as a child?”

“Children are gifts, and your emotions are gifts.”

“But fear is bad. Its False Evidence Appearing Real.”

“I prefer, ‘The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.’ It is also written, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ You’d be cursed with a seared conscience and be still lost if you had no capacity to fear. You’d also have no fear of the consequences of sin and thus not know to flee from sin. Without this gift, you’d have never seen your slavery to sin and asked to be set free.”

The woman sighed. “Okay, so how do I get free from the chains of fear so I can get on about the Father’s business?”

“You’ve been given three tools. Power, love, and a sound mind. Like a child, this one responds, slowly, to loving, firm, patient, gentle guidance from your sound mind.” The Son knelt by the trembling little one and smiled, inviting her with his nail-pierced hands to cling to him instead.

If you liked “Courage” you may also like “Enough.”


Easter Blog Round-Up

Road to Emmaeus  8In honor of Holy Week, here’s a collection of interesting posts relevant to the spiritual meaning of Easter from my friends and from others who show up in my social media news feeds.

Donna Fletcher Crow has posted at her blog an excerpt from A Darkly Hidden Truth, The Monastery Murders 2, providing us a glimpse of the holy week her heroine, Felicity, is having.

If you are also a curious low-churcher, here is: Five things to know about Maundy Thursday: What does ‘Maundy’ mean? If you’re in a hurry, the article’s short answer to that is, “Maundy is derived from the Latin word for ‘command,’ and refers to Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’” Holy Thursday remembers the night Jesus was betrayed, the events that took place during the Last Supper.

For those of us who often find ourselves grieving at the holidays, Loving Christ ministries offers 6 Examples of God’s Grace in Grief. The author, Julie Pfeifer, assures us up front she has learned, “the difference between being sad when someone dies and the gut-wrenching, heart-hurting, curl up in a ball unable to move kind of grief.”

Tricia Goyer asks, “What’s So Good About Good Friday?” That one has long plagued my heart, honestly. Similar to Goyer, when I was younger, I liked to say, “there was nothing good about good Friday on Good Friday.” I meant everyone on Christ’s side had a horrible day at the time, and Jesus didn’t receive that day the rewards that made it worth it for him in the end. Of course, as Goyer says in her post, “The ‘good’ part of Good Friday is what I received out of the deal!”

Tish at Hope for the Best shares a memory about a “Missed Easter Surprise” with a poignant lesson about patiently waiting for what God’s prepared for us.

Kerry of A Lamp, a Light, and a Writer reflects on how her son Cole acquired a scar on his right foot to illustrate her post about scars, the meaning behind them, and reminds us the only scars that will stay for all eternity are Christ’s scars.

Angela at Together With Family has suggestions on “How to Keep Jesus in Easter.” Some of these ideas are appropriate for all ages, but this one will be especially helpful to parents.

Though, anyone can put up a manger scene, so perhaps it ought to be fine for adults to create and put up an empty tomb scene, too, whether there are little ones in the nest or not. If you’re not crafty and love this idea, there’s some on Etsy that you could buy for next year, but it is much cheaper to make it yourself. I’ve added some crafts and edibles pins to my Easter Pinterest board.

Two weeks ago, I posted a flash story, “Enough” that may be especially meaningful at Easter as we commemorate what Christ did that answers the broken heart’s question, “how can I be enough?” I’ve also posted commentary on “Enough” that explores in more depth the answer to the broken heart’s question, “Christ’s paid enough and has enough to give you enough.”

Reader, if you have a spiritually meaningful blog post related to Easter, feel free to use the comments to add your link. If you do add yourself to this round-up, I’d appreciate a link back to this or one of my recent posts, if you don’t mind, thanks.

Happy Easter

 

 

 

 

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People Aren’t Enough, Objects Are

ENOUGH

While preparing to write “Enough” last week, I did a word study at biblegateway.com For the uninitiated, I mean I looked up Bible verses containing the word “enough.” Something struck me about the use of the word “enough” in the Bible. Things were enough. “It” was enough. People had enough, but nowhere was “enough” applied to a person, either positively or negatively.

So why do some of us apply “enough” to ourselves?

I also looked up “enough” at: m-w.com The short definition of the adjective, the part of speech that modifies nouns, is “equal to what is needed.” The long definition is, “occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.” Looking at all of the examples, the general gist of it is, this is a word applied to objects—and to people being objectified.

Why do we on any level objectify ourselves by asking whether we are enough? (Instead of asking whether we have enough and asking God to meet our need if we don’t.) Especially women raised in healthy families who are generally well-adjusted. It baffles me, unless the tendency is a throwback to the days when women were chattel. I understand too well when survivors of child abuse (of either gender) struggle with feeling like we’re not enough. Abusers do objectify their victims, treat us like things they own and deserve to have full control over. Abusers seek to be their victims’ gods, though they’re more likely to accuse you of trying to be God than to admit to their self-idolatry and their attempts to get others to idolize them, too,

potterBefore the actual God of Heaven, we are objects but only in metaphor. He is our potter, and we are jars of clay. Let’s be humble about that with God, but let’s also remember we’ve been found worthy to hold a great treasure inside us, the Holy Spirit. We’re created in the image of God, and God established our value on the cross. We were bought with a price, Paul says, and Peter chimes in with what the price of our redemption was: the precious blood of Christ.

Precious. Too valuable and important to be used or wasted carelessly. What was given as payment for us is priceless. When some of us look at our broken lives, it can be hard to imagine us being worth what God paid for “fixer-upers.” Let’s remember Christ can and will fix us up as good as new, has began that good work, and will complete it. God has every right to treat humanity like broken pots to cast into his flaming garbage dump. Instead God offers to make us a beloved bride worth our bridegroom dying to restore us. God also adopts all Christians as sons, makes us all co-heirs with Christ.

Before people, since they aren’t our potter, we are not objects in any way to them, so it’s a red flag when we feel we’re not enough for them. We need to be careful in how we evaluate what is wrong, though. It is possible for us to have a tape in our head playing that says we’re not enough for people without anyone in our life today actually treating us as objects. Due to that, I’d suggest we respond to the red flag by prayerfully asking God to show us if someone is treating us like an object today and ask him how to deal with it if so.

For those of us dealing with a “not enough” message not from a live human, whether it’s from past child abuse, or from living in a culture that often places unrealistic demands on us, let’s close in prayer: (Adapted from Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJV)

Lord, we bow our knees before you, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. According to the riches of your glory, please grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. May we be rooted and grounded in love. May we have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to you, Father, who are able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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Enough


Christian Cross 21
The poised, young professional woman in white came boldly before the throne of God, dragging alongside her a battered, bruised little girl in filthy rags. “Lord, I’m surrendering this to you, my broken, wounded heart. I caught her running away from you and thinking wrong things again, so I’ve taken her captive, brought her back, and am presenting her to you again. I know she’s not much, but she’s all I have to offer, and I trust by faith she is enough. I have so much to do for you, and so little time, so I won’t keep you long. Amen.”

With that, the professional adult scurried away to get about the Father’s business.

The wounded child curled up on the floor in the fetal position, trembling, and sobbed. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The Son knelt before the terrified little thing and caught her tears in a bottle.

The girl shirked back. “Why are you collecting those? Aren’t my tears bad? Don’t you already have plenty of evidence of how bad I am? Who is she kidding? I’m not enough. I’m a worthless thing trampled on, not a valuable treasure worthy of belonging to the king. I can never live up to her expectations, or the expectations of others. She dumps me here with you so she doesn’t have to deal with my brokenness. All I do is get in the way and make trouble. If I’m not enough for flawed humans, how can I ever be enough for a holy God?”

“This is how.” Compassion in his eyes, the Son showed the wounded child his nail-pierced hands, spread open wide. “This is enough. Your value is not based on works or on the approval of men. What I paid for you is what you’re worth. How much is my blood worth?”

“It’s priceless.”

The Son hugged her. “You are my priceless treasure. You shall be a royal diadem in the hand of the Lord. You are accepted, and you are loved, simply because you are my child.”

He scooped her up and carried her toward an incomprehensibly vast, wide, deep pool full of liquid red love.

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Judging Righteous Judgment

purpleheart
“If you feel someone is judging you, feel free to judge them back and punish them until your wrath has been fully satisfied.” These words do not appear anywhere in the Bible. Yet how often do we, God’s people, behave like God said that? Who among us has never responded tit for perceived tat? We may do this based on assumptions founded on past experience or based on how we felt in response to something someone said.

To begin with, the past isn’t a reliable predictor of the present and future, and the hurt we feel in response to someone’s words isn’t an innately reliable indicator of whether the person intended any judgment. Our flesh’s pain and fear responses are ways of warning us of danger, but let’s remember our flesh’s warning system is broken. Galatians 5:17 (ESV) puts it, “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” So let’s practice resisting our flesh in how we respond.

Especially if we’ve been abused, there’s a risk our negative feelings reflect our own self-condemnation. If we stew, thinking how dare they judge us, we are vulnerable to the trap of transferring onto someone else our heart’s self-condemnation. When that happens, we commit the hypocritical kind of judgment that Christ forbid. What I mean by that is, we’re judging them as judging us, judging them for it, and we feel entitled to judge them because we’ve judged them as judging.

Such circular reasoning is illogical and dangerous for our soul. However, I’ve known people who quote Mathew 7:1 out of the biblical context. Sometimes I wonder if some folks consciously think Mathew 7:1-5 justifies them in going off on anyone who admits to trusting God’s judgment when the Bible says God has judged X behavior that they admit to doing to be a sin.

Why would God say “don’t judge” the way the world says “don’t judge”? God does reserve for God alone the right to judge what is right and what is wrong. However, in the dominant culture today, people “don’t judge” because people have assumed God’s right: “You judge what’s right for you, and I’ll judge what’s right for me, and we’d better leave each other alone ‘cuz it’s Mutually Assured Destruction if we don’t.” That is the world’s way, brothers and sisters, not Christ’s.

If we’re still not sure the Bible doesn’t sanction us for judging someone if you feel judged by them, such behavior also violates the law of love, turn the other cheek, forsake wrath, answer softly, forgive one another, be respectful to one another, etc, etc.

To make the irony of the world’s abuse of Mathew 7:1 complete, the Lord was not saying to ignore God’s judgment of behavior that someone admits to. 1 Cor. 5: 12 does say, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Let’s leave unbelievers alone unless they ask, a situation arises where we feel a need to explain why we can’t join them in sin, or we feel a strong urging to warn them that we are certain is from God.

However, most of 1 Cor:5 consists of Apostle Paul rebuking a “non-judgmental, loving” church for boasting about not disciplining a brother for unrepentantly engaging in sexual sin. The citizens of the Kingdom of God don’t get to follow God when we feel like it and do things the world’s way when we don’t feel like it. We need to choose. Are we going to follow Christ or not?

Don’t get me wrong. Making that decision doesn’t mean we won’t ever be weak, loose our footing, and stumble into the ways of our flesh. It doesn’t mean we won’t have blind spots or that we will always win our battles with sin. We are saved by grace, through faith in Christ’s full atonement on the cross, not by works, not by our obedience. God wants us to obey God out of sheer gratitude, trust, and love, not out of the fear of Hell. We all fail; We all give in to sin, we all fail to see the true nature of what we’re doing and how it breaks God’s heart. Thank God for grace.

All I’m saying it is dangerous to walk in sin because we’ve flat out ignored God’s judgement. That is self-idolatry. We set ourselves up as our own god when we judge what God’s word says is wrong as right for us. That robs us of a close relationship with God, it hinders us from operating in our spiritual gifts, and it stifles our spiritual fruits. It makes us vulnerable to the enemy influencing us by phone: getting us thinking down is up and that up is down, provoking us to hate Christians who haven’t also been taken captive by the enemy, and using us against the God we love and against God’s people.

I am not writing to this to condemn anyone. The goal is to open our blind eyes so we’ll seek deliverance from bondage. While I hope I never fall as far into self-idolatry as I’ve just described, I’ve struggled to some extent with such tendencies as we all do.

When we see others in the grip of what I’ve warned us about, let’s remember we too struggle with self-idolatry and deal with us first, then we may see clearly to offer our brother help.

Lord, help us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Give us supernatural power to react to verbal abuse not in the flesh’s wrath but to respond in a loving, kind respectful tone as we explain calmly how their words hurt and why they offended. When our hearts condemn us, help us to remember the words of 1 John 3:19-24

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.