A Blessing that Pierces the Soul

I tend to think in black and white, good and bad, pretty and ugly, exciting and depressing. I especially find myself placing such stark values on experiences, and I think our Christian culture easily leads to this trap. An experience is either a wonderful gift of the grace of God, or a terrible burden to bear. Somehow we forget that often God’s gifts come disguised. His blessings come wrapped in struggles. His grace whips in on the winds of a tornado.

As I have pondered the Christmas story more deeply this year, I think that is exactly the kind of gift Mary received in being the mother of the Savior. When Gabriel appeared to her and announced the conception of Jesus, the Son of God, Mary immediately knew what everyone would think. Never mind that she knew the babe inside her was a special baby. Never mind that she knew her life had not been marred even once by sexual impurity. Never mind that she was a virgin. Who would believe that? I have to admit, if I had lived back then, I wouldn’t have. Would you? But Mary said to the angel, “I am God’s servant. Let it happen to me just as you’ve said.” She knew she faced possible stoning, and at the very least a quiet divorce–rejection by the man she had hoped to marry. She knew she faced a the ostracism of her community and the toil of raising a child possibly alone. But none of this stopped her from receiving God’s gift. Couldn’t He have announced to the whole town that she was carrying God-incarnate? Mary did not question.

Even more precious is Mary’s choice to rejoice in God’s gift.  In response to Elizabeth’s welcome and acknowledgement of the Messiah en-utero, Mary cried out, “My soul magnifies the Lord. I rejoice in God my Savior.” Mary delighted in the gift God gave her, even though it carried with it so many struggles.

How could she have known or counted the cost? She could not. From a stable birth, to the prophecy of Old Simeon, to the odd and wonderful visit by foreign sages that led to a midnight escape to Egypt, Mary could not have fathomed what her life would become. Most of all, she could not have anticipated the sword that pierced her soul at Calvary, even though it had been predicted so long ago. But alas, neither could she  have expected the delight and joy of resurrection day, or the glory of Pentecost. Indeed Mary’s gift was one wrapped in many layers of grace and glory, disguised by agonizing pain. Her blessing pierced the soul on so many levels.  As I meditate on her example, my black and white expectations are called to account.

New Site

I am working on switching websites, and wanted to let you know about this change. My new address is tabithaprice.com.

Please take a moment and check it out and if you subscribe to this site, please “unsubscribe” and “resubscribe” over there.  I am very sorry for the hassle. I do plan to have this site forwarded so that people who mistakenly use this old address, will still find me.
My new site offers me greater flexibility, so I think the upheaval will prove profitable in the end.
Thank you for being such faithful friends, and prayer warriors for our family.

Weakness

“I hate being weak! And Temptation reminds me that I’m weak” Joel confessed in frustration. Don’t we all hate being weak? We want to develop super-power spiritual muscles. We long to “rise above” the temptations, and frustrations of this world and live on a higher plane of peace. I think it’s ingrained in the human heart at some level to aspire for what the Buddhists have dubbed Nirvana–that state in which the evils of this world no longer beckon us, the pains of this world no longer harm us, and the common emotions of humanity no longer plague us. And in our hearts we writhe against human weakness. We writhe against our own frailties.

Recently I read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. What stood out to me this time as I read this passage, was how the episode ended: “And the devil left him until an opportune time.” Jesus was tempted severely by Satan during His time in the wilderness. And we tend to look at that occasion and see it as a once for all deal. Jesus was tempted; He overcame; He didn’t face the devil’s temptation again. WRONG! Jesus was tempted; He overcame; The devil retreated to plan his next assault. That’s in essence what the  little phrase, “opportune time” implies.

Oh, how we long to overcome temptation in one grand, powerful stand. And then be free of it forever. But alas…that is not the way of sin or Satan. The plague of sin will forever taunt us in this life. And no matter how many times we overcome, Satan will continue to search out weaknesses.

Now lest I sound as if the battle is hopeless, let me assert that I am beginning to see weakness as a positive. In our culture we long to be strong and independent. But Jesus called His followers to be weak and needy. He said, “I have come not for the healthy but for the sick.” And “Whoever wants to be first in the kingdom must become like this child.” Who is weaker than the sick? And who is needier than a child?

The truth is, we are all weak, and we are all needy. The difference is in whether we acknowledge it or not. And in whether we allow that weakness to throw us upon the mercy of our all-powerful Savior. Weakness seems to hold us back. But God says, “My strength is perfect in weakness.” This is another one of God’s amazing paradoxes. Our weakness is designed to be a tool that drives us to Him. And His strength in us is the only antidote to the crippling kryptonite of sin.

Leading to Wisdom

Have you ever thought about how sin makes us stupid? The deception of sin grows with each step we take. And before long we actually are believing stupid things, and doing stupid things. I have been participating in a class called “The Truth Project” at my church. The definition given for insanity is, “A momentary break with reality.” In other words, delusion. Refusing to see the reality that is right in front of us. That is insanity. And that is what sin does to us. It makes us delusional. I see small examples of this regularly in my children’s lives. Each one can get so caught up in what he wants, what he thinks is right, that he becomes blind to reality. His perception is the only thing that matters. Thus the sins of selfishness and pride are given fertile ground in which to thrive producing additional sins such as anger, bitterness, malice, and back biting. Yep, I see it in myself too. But it takes the Holy Spirit’s light to illuminate and reveal the insanity to which I’ve fallen prey. The selfish notions I have wrapped in the virtue of generosity. The prideful intent I have skillfully disguised as helpfulness. Ouch! The heart is indeed deceitful above all things and wicked beyond our understanding.

The good news is, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!” There is an antidote to the insanity of sin. And that antidote is recognizing Jesus as Lord. Reverencing Him puts us on the path of wisdom. If sin makes us stupid, then obedience makes us wise! The intentions of our hearts are laid bare before Him as we acknowledge His Lordship. And as we follow and obey Christ, our understanding deepens, our desire for Him grows, and our awareness of the deception of sin intensifies. Each obedient choice we make leads us farther away from the delusional path of sin.  Insanity no longer maintains its grip on us. Instead the compelling grip of Christ’s love constrains us, and the path of obedience makes us wise.

Make no mistake, this is not a simple antidote. This is not some quick fix for the insanity of sin, because even once we are free from the delusional path of sin, the consequences dog us and temptations nip at our heels.  But a tiny drop of wisdom is better than a thousands lakes of the foolishness we once were saturated in.  And God is working in us to give us both the desire and the power to do His will (Phil 2:13).  Jesus, who called us, is faithful. And He will do this in us. Reverencing Him leads to obedience, and obedience leads to wisdom. The path is rugged and long, but the end result cannot be measured in value by our human standards.

Stored up Goodness

As I was reading through the Psalms the other day I was moved to ponder these words from Psalm 31:19-20: “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men, on those who take refuge in you. In teh shelter of your presence you hide them, from teh intrigues of men; in your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues.”

This verse is both a comfort and a challenge to my thinking. During our church’s week of Mission’s festival we had an evening service to honor our brothers and sisters around the world who suffer for their faith. They are free in Christ but not free to worship him. We heard various testimonies around the world of those who are serving Christ in the middle of the most painful circumstances. What stood out to me though was not their incomprehensible suffering, but rather their uncompromising joy. Each face shown with compassion for the lost around them, and delight in their Savior.

When I read these verses, I am tempted to think God dropped the ball where these believers are concerned. His goodness doesn’t seem be rescuing them? But I am forced to ponder what they think when they read these verses. Do they feel like God has left them out of the equation? Do they find comfort in the promise of an eventual rescue? Do they find strength for their suffering through hope? Or does this verse merely state what they are living every day? I can imagine their saying, “Yes God’s goodness is so great in my life right now, that all who see it are forced to reckon with God. He is my refuge and I find great shelter in His presence.” Their faces shining with God’s glory tell the story.

What I might think of as God’s goodness, challenges the truth of this verse. But what they know of God’s goodness establishes it as a reality in their lives, and forces me to reckon with my own faulty definitions. God’s goodness is surely stored up for those who take refuge in Him, but it is also being poured out in amazing ways every day and in the worst of circumstances.

The Cleansing Power of Christ

Recently I’ve been wading through Leviticus on my way through the Bible. Honestly I find it difficult to see the material as meaningful in a detailed sense. Overall, I understand and appreciate the concepts of the holiness of God, His desire to communicate with man and His requirement of one way. But each detailed passage can get a bit cumbersome. Still God inspired and preserved His Word for a purpose. Thus, I know that even the minute facts are intended to communicate essential truths about our Holy Creator.

Concurrently, I’ve been reading and studying various aspects of the life of Christ and His teachings. And I must admit again, some of His parables completely mystify me. Again, I can track with the over-all point, but often the details, the audience, the strange twist of events, leave me wondering, “Why would Jesus make that point, by telling this story?” I am no Bible scholar, but I love my Savior and am passionate about knowing Him better, so these questions drive me to a deeper pursuit of understanding.

It shouldn’t surprise me, (but in a way it does), that these two conundrums actually relate rather closely to one another. Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience who knew the Ancient Scriptures very well, especially the Pharisees, who loved to practice every aspect of the law down to the minutest details.

The other day as I was reading some of the standards for “clean” and “unclean” in Leviticus this powerful connection clicked in my brain shedding new light on a story from Christ’s life that I have read a myriad of times. Leviticus 15:25, 27 says, “If any woman has a flow of blood for many days…she will be unclean as long as she has the flow…whoever touches her will be unclean.” In Luke 8:43-46 we read the story of a woman who had suffered from an unstoppable flow of blood for over a decade. She came up to Jesus in the crowd, but instead of asking Him for healing, she secretively touched His robe, and immediately this touch healed her. When this happened Jesus turned and confronted the crowd asking who touched Him. No wonder she was fearful to come forward. Her uncleanness meant she should not have touched Him for her touch rendered anyone unclean. But when she fell at His feet and told Him why she had touched Him and that she had been healed instantly, Jesus said these precious words, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Instead of her dirtiness rubbing off on him, His cleanliness poured over her and purified her! For 12 years she had been rejected as unclean, unable to worship in the Temple, unable to experience the touch of others. In one instant, Jesus took her uncleanness away.

I am awed by the power of Christ and His precious, personal concern for each of us. What makes us unclean He takes on Himself. Instead of our filth dirtying Him, His purity cleanses us! What an absolute miracle!

My Heart Has Heard You Say…

I read this passage in Psalm 27 the other day and it really jumped off the page: “My heart has heard you say, ‘come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord I am coming.’ ” This brief but precious dialogue between the Psalmist and His Lord, reminds me how intensely personal God is. He is intentional and purposeful in His pursuit.

I have pondered the phrase, “My heart has heard you say…”  Often I have wished that God would just speak out loud to me in a voice my ears can hear. Instead God chooses to speak in a voice that goes much deeper than my physical ears. He speaks to the heart.  But all to often my heart becomes preoccupied with other voices, and I can miss His precious invitation. Sometimes my heart hears Him speak  through the pain and suffering I face in this life. It’s as if He uses that pain as a mega-phone. Other times He uses the blessings of life to magnify His voice to my heart. Either way, I don’t want to miss it!

Is that you, Lord, I can hear?
With my heart,
Not with my ears.
Is that you, Lord, calling me?
“Come and talk,
And you will see,
How great and deep and wild,
Is my love, for you,
my child.”

Is that you, Lord, can it be?
Are you calling,
And wanting me?
Is that you, Lord, calling me?
My heart says yes!
And I rise with glee.
Your voice so precious I can hear.
I know it well,
And count it dear.

I am coming, oh, my king.
To be with you,
Makes my heart sing.
In your presence is joy untold.
In you I find,
Treasure purer than gold.
Thousands of years on this earth won’t do.
I would trade them all.
For one day with you.

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