Come Close to Me

Reconciliation is the reason Jesus stooped way down from heaven to suffer human brokenness in physical death, provide atonement for our sins, and provide the ultimate victory for believers – reconciliation with God from Whom we had been estranged since Adam. But, living out reconciliation as believers is still hard. Almost everyday I ask myself “why can’t we all get along?” And then I answer my own question with “I know why, I just wish it could be different…”

What we long for is what only Jesus can provide. Genesis 45:3-5 says, “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.’ “

One key to reconciliation is “coming close.” God did this “coming close” when He sent His only Son to us to provide a way for our salvation through His death and resurrection. We in turn need to do this “coming close” in our primary vertical relationship with God and then our horizontal relationships with people.

We live with the possibility that we can offer one-way forgiveness to others when they have hurt us, but the reality that we may not be able to experience two-way reconciliation. Isn’t this the model Jesus gave us? He came to provide forgiveness for sin, but seemingly many do not accept the invitation into Christ’s reconciliation and choose to remain lost.

In my educational career, I found that all kinds of hostility and evil could be perpetuated by trying to communicate with colleagues, parents, and students indirectly through social media, email, texts, and letters. Misunderstanding abounded. The absence of body language and facial expressions made imaginations run wild. Missing tone of voice was a setup for confusion.

As walls of misunderstanding were being built up, it always seemed that they came magically tumbling down in face-to-face meetings. Of course, the magic is in the power of the Holy Spirit to break down barriers and move in with love and grace. Physical presence always seemed to light the path. Empathy was made possible. Forgiveness was easier to embrace.

Joseph had already forgiven his brothers for selling him into slavery and not knowing if he was alive or dead many years later. He had been freed from the slavery of unforgiveness. Yet, he longed for reconciliation with his brothers and God made a way for this. It involved “coming close.” Joseph initiated the process of reconciliation as a picture of the way God would initiate reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

If we live out faith in Christ by modeling Him, we need to be initiators of reconciliation. When we are sinned against, we need to make the first move. The first move deals with our own hearts. We need to repent of any part we have played in causing hurt and then forgive others for the hurts they have caused. But then, like Joseph, we need to keep doing the work that is our part – to move in close to those who have caused the hurt, to seek restoration, repair, and rebuilding if it can possibly be re-had.

What we find is that proximity and presence, being in person, being face-to-face, and “coming close” are all barrier-droppers. If you read the story of Joseph, you will see that, even though the process of reconciliation took years, that Joseph was constantly moving toward it. It was his hope, his dream, and his longing to be reunited with his family. It was the work to be done to which he was dedicated. It was the work to be done that depended on God’s grace and mercy to be completed. It was the work to be done that God used for the salvation of many lives, not just Joseph’s family. The picture is usually bigger than what we see, because God is working behind the scenes to continue His offer of salvation to many others.

“Come close to me” is the watchword for moving from forgiveness to reconciliation.

What is Unsaid

Remember God Who created the sun, moon, and stars? Deuteronomy 4:19 says, “And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars – all the heavenly array – do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.” Job 11:7 says, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?”

Remember God Who made the sun stand still? Joshua 10:12-14 says, “On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel.”

Don’t you sometimes wish that these truths would be audibly spoken on the nightly news and throughout all media outlets? I recently caught a mention on cable news that Bill Gates wants to run an experiment to dim the sun as a way to stem global warming and save the planet… his scheme pictures airplanes releasing some kind of coolant into the atmosphere to form a dimming layer to reflect back the sun’s rays.

A voice inside my head was saying – the “unspoken” in this news segment was what was most important for the world to know – “What about God?” I found myself asking – Why isn’t anyone affirming that God created the sun and He’ll handle it according to His purposes? No one will be dimming the sun apart from God’s will. Why isn’t anyone attesting that Joshua’s prayers and humility before the sun-stilling God of the Universe resulted in God’s powerful and supernatural intervention to bring about salvation for His people Israel?

Remember God Whose power shattered the chokehold of sin and death on the first Easter? I Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” His mercy and power brought this salvation miracle to us. Easter’s celebration is truly the focal point of all human history. We don’t speak it enough.

There is a river of God’s Truth that runs underneath all the things that we are constantly hearing, sun-dimming theories or not. Truth that is suppressed. Too often not spoken. Amos 4:13 says, “He who forms the mountains, Who creates the wind, and Who reveals His thoughts to mankind, Who turns dawn into darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – The Lord God Almighty is His name.” Truth declared, but not repeated enough.

No matter how many human plot twists we experience in our culture, no matter how many scientific breakthroughs, no matter how many words and images come into human heads, the river of God’s Truth that runs underneath all Creation needs to be the continuous whisper of God Almighty into our hearts, where the unsaid becomes the said. Where the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth to us.

Surely God will dim the sun when and if He wants, according to His plans and purposes, and for His glory. He has given us His comprehensive Word. I am reminded of a wonderful line from the hymn “In Christ Alone.” It goes like this: “No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand, ‘Til He returns or calls me home, Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.”

While waiting for Christ’s return, may we turn the unsaid into the said, boldly and often. God’s Truth, become spoken! God’s powerful and supernatural intervention to bring about salvation is still at work in the world through His Son Jesus Christ. Let’s not leave this unsaid anymore.

Photo Credit: Kim Clayton Lance

Mahanaim Moments

In my quest to carve out a life in this world I have been driven, if not western-enculturated, to love achievement. First borns are notorious for that orientation to achievement. I always wanted the straight A’s. I wanted the degrees. I wanted the awards. And I wanted the satisfaction that comes from hard work. I wanted a noble career. I wanted the white picket fence. I also wanted independence…

I grew up plainly seeing God in His Word, in church, and in Christian high school. In the gentler ways, I knew heaven was a reality just like the Bethel experience in the Jacob’s Ladder story (Genesis 28). I believed. I saw Jesus Christ as the bridge to salvation. I understood the realities of heaven and earth. I accepted the gifts of faith and new birth.

But more frequently, I was assaulted by the countless hard places that were strewn in my path by God to invite greater dependence on Him. One great reckoning came in Canaan Valley, West Virginia, where my earth-shattering culture shock took place. “City girl” met a cocktail of remote (and I mean remote) geography, 200 inches of snow, new marriage, new job, and new baby. I asked myself, “WHAT have I done?” But Faithful God whispered to me, “Now it’s just you and Me. Depend on Me.” What else could I do? All my props had been yanked away. And independence sure wasn’t working…

My literal prayer for those two years was, “Get me out of here!” Life in Canaan Valley was a wakeup call, definitely one of my Mahanaim moments! (I like the name. Mahanaim is the place where Jacob wrestled with God, nothing gentle about it). For me, West Virginia was both an ardent struggle with God and a forced settling into my God-given roles as a wife and a mother in a beautiful, mountainous, but depressed economic location. No malls. No movie theaters. No grocery stores except one. No hospital (the nearest was 45 minutes away).

Since West Virginia, a chunk of my lifetime has passed by with many Mahanaim moments, the spiritual wrestling matches I have had with God along the way, although not as severe as Jacob’s experience in a place called Mahanaim. Mahanaim was a location given in the Bible (Genesis 32:2), likely about 10 miles east of the Jordan River. Here’s the story. Genesis 32:24-30 says, “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’ “

Looking back, God provided me with a lifeboat of solid Christian girlfriends who helped start me on a journey of regular women’s Bible studies wherever I lived from then on. But, in the moment, prospects looked bleak. Like Jacob, God had to stop me in my tracks and realign my priorities. Only by His grace! I know He earnestly started a sanctifying work in stubborn me after my years of dodging Him while chasing my so-called dreams. No matter how intentionally I have tried to poke out of His providential bubble, in my college years especially, I seemed to be tethered to a divine plan that led to that one of several Mahanaim experiences. God certainly showed up and my life would definitely be “Canaan Valley different” from then on.

There is a lot of mystery in Jacob’s wrestling story, yet Jacob knows He has experienced God personally. There is mystery in my own story. But, I can say with certainty that there have been profound Mahanaim battles in my life between heaven and earth, God’s strength and my strength, God’s will and my will. These are two realities that often pull me apart. Thankfully, I don’t have a battle scar like a permanent limp. On the other hand, there are limp-like reminders of God’s painful sanctifying work in my life. Reminders left behind by a loving God.

I have always walked away from my Mahanaim moments not the same. I have walked away with a changed heart. There’s a lot of name changing in the Bible – have you noticed? And after Canaan Valley, I walked away with a different name. “Patient” is one of those new names. “Encouraged” is another. “Hopeful” another. “Content” another. Coincidentally, just about the time I was resigned to living in the mountains forever, God moved my family to Virginia.

And not because I earned a free pass. But because I went into the ring, engaged in all the punching and flailing, and wouldn’t let go until God was finished with His sanctifying outcome for me. His plan and His glory are all that is important. Sometimes holy outcomes in my life are temporary, but just the same, the Mahanaim repeats are worthwhile.

Photo credit: Twisty Road – US33 through the Virginias – Andrew Lavigne’s Website

Making Peace with Dust

God chose dust as one of the important particles He used in Creation. You will remember your school days studying particles in science class maybe? Dust may have varying smaller components, but it can be seen almost anywhere, except for the few seconds following a thorough dusting and vacuuming event in your house. Wait 15 minutes and you will see all the dust return!

Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Definitely a cause to respect dust. And then there was that terrible problem of sin in the Garden that brought an even greater reality to dust. Genesis 3:19 says, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” I sometimes wonder what role dust would have had in the event that Adam and Eve didn’t disobey God and roll us headlong into the Fall and its consequences – to dust we will return…

I have lived with allergies all my life. Manageable allergies, but always there. I have seen allergists. My most recent allergist performed the traditional skin tests probably a decade ago. Nothing had changed from my childhood. I tested positive for dust among other allergens like mold, mildew, grasses, pollen, etc. Go figure. I am allergic to the very thing of which I a made. The proof is in the half a box of tissues that I go through on particularly dust-filled days, sneezing and blowing my nose. It is kind of poetic considering the dimensions of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Another fallen thing…

The remedies are impossible to secure. A vacuum cleaner that doesn’t throw out any exhaust dust. Not happening. Industrial strength Hepa filter air purifiers. Not happening. No carpet in the house. Not happening. No forced air heating and air conditioning. Not happening. No stirring up sources of dust. Not happening… I love to quilt and therefore fiber dust flies all over the place when I am cutting and sewing fabric and batting. When the sun shines on the surfaces in my sewing room, the utter storm of dust is revealed. My allergic reaction is, in my imagination, tantamount to breathing secondhand smoke. I will suffer. But granted, it is manageable and I will continue to quilt in the future.

One day this week, I wrestled with a decision to clean up the sewing room dust or not. Resisting my OCD passions, I just whispered to myself “Why don’t you just make peace with dust and move on?” There is comfort in not getting bogged down by the underside of things. Just like the back side of a tapestry, the raw side of a quilt top looks pretty chaotic and ugly. But, the final product is beautiful. There is a pattern in all these metaphors that reveals a pattern that God frequently uses. He purposes to use the ordinary to reveal the extraordinary. God uses the perishable dust of man to release the imperishable new creation that believers will experience in eternity with Him as the result of genuine faith. The new creation. From old to new. From dead to living. From earthly to heavenly. From dust to life after dust. The extraordinary.

Don’t let “dust life” steal your heavenly vision. The Israelites actually longed for the dust and rust of Egypt when they lost their focus on God. Paul Zach has written a song called “Restore Us Again” and one of the verses goes like this: “We longed for Egypt in the wilderness, A kingdom made of dust, Built an idol out of happiness, A paradise of rust.”

I am thanking God today. He is the Only One Who breathes life into our dusty souls. He is the Only One Who chooses to put His spiritual treasures into these jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7) called humans. He is the Only One Who could save us from the kingdom of dust and make all things new in Christ Jesus. He is the Only One Who could breathe eternal life into our otherwise deadly destination without Him. I’m making peace with dust, because for me, it is only temporary.

Ram in the Thickets

What we love the most, we hate most to lose. This is universal I am sure. Not up for debate or personal preference. It is just plain true.

I have found in my faith journey that God has sometimes called me to let go of someone I love or something I love. This has run the gamut. Letting go of people in my family in a seasonal and/or figurative sense. Letting go of a semi-lucrative career in education in order to work in educational ministry. Letting go of achievement and possible accolades in order to serve others. Letting go of a reputation in some cases. Letting go of comfort in order to do some uncomfortable, but right things. Letting go of my right to be right. Letting go of my need to be noticed. Letting go of foods and beverages that don’t do me any favors. Hands down, it is hardest to let go of people, especially family. Not ready to blog about that yet…

Genesis 22:1-2 says, “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac- and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’ ” Abraham may have asked questions, but it is not recorded. In scripture, Abraham simply obeyed. I can only imagine that his relationship with God had grown to the point where he didn’t question…

When God tests our faith, He brings us to a crossroads that absolutely contradicts our normal instincts. The story of Abraham and Isaac defies human reasoning and makes us wonder if God is good. We find in this story redemption, a timely ram in the thickets, and a foreshadowing of Jesus Who would come and be the slain Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world, Who would die in our place, conquer death and bring about our salvation. We see a merciful and compassionate God Who authenticates faith.

Genesis 22:9-14 says, “…He (Abraham) bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’ “

I enjoy quilting and just recently started a Jesse Tree quilt. It consists of blocks that tell the story of the Bible in pictures. The block posted above symbolizes the ram in the thickets. Coincidentally or not, the construction of this quilt block occurred about the same time we were studying Genesis 22 in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). I do love it when God brings several things together like this to make His point in my life…

Anything that hijacks my heart and replaces God as the chief object of my affections needs to be sacrificed. I sincerely don’t want my faith to be weakened by idols, especially people or their expectations of me. If God is not number one, I remain confident that He loves me enough to free me from clinging to the things that I love, especially when I love them more than Him. He provided the ultimate ram in the thickets – Jesus Christ. I won’t soon forget that. Although it has taken me nearly a lifetime of tests of faith – some failed, some passed – I question what hijacks my heart right now, and then I must bind it and let it go.

Piano Whispers

Much like faith, great gifts need to be passed on and passed down. Hebrews 11:1,6,20-21 says, “Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see… And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him… By faith Isaac blessed (his sons) Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Faith was passed on and passed down as the gift of God…

It all started with a six-foot (actually 6′ 1”) baby grand piano that my husband gave to me for our 3rd wedding anniversary. Purchased at an affordable price at a local auction, my husband was only bidding against the auctioneer. So, it became ours. Amazing still after 40 years of marriage! A rosewood cabinet with three intricately carved cabriole legs. An instrument manufactured in 1893, restored in 1907.

The next challenge was to get this great gift not only to our house, but inside our house! A couple guys near the auction site were willing to make some quick cash to help with the moving detail. I will omit many excruciating details, but eventually this beautiful piano made it into our first house of ownership. Great gifts involve sacrifice and cost, of course.

Next, my husband embarked upon refinishing the piano. Again a challenging and tiresome process, but successful. And then I embarked upon teaching piano lessons in my home, even in the midst of having a second baby. A move to another town and a 3rd baby apparently did not dampen my interest in teaching piano lessons. A neighbor teenager provided some babysitting assistance to make this possible. The gift of music continued on.

Since we contracted to build our 2nd house, we added support to the living room floor expressly to undergird the grand piano (pictured in this post). As the years rolled by, we transferred the piano to another room for a few years, setting the wood floor planks on edge. Then we decided to try to sell the piano or donate it. There was a local church that was excited about the possible donation, but just in the realm of God’s perfect timing, my oldest daughter decided to have it. Because of the piano’s size, it now takes up considerable space in her house. But, my granddaughters encouraged the transfer, so it’s now in a 3rd house and it is being enjoyed.

This instrument has many more stories to tell in our family tree. What a great blessing to know that my oldest granddaughter is now continuing piano lessons and playing the keyboard as part of her church worship team. Just when you think an era is possibly over, a grandchild gives you hope that the heritage of music may continue. My mother was a fine arts major and church musician; I was a school chorus and church accompanist; my children followed and took piano lessons that branched into other kinds of instruments (voice included); and two of my granddaughters have proficiency in guitar, violin, and/or piano. The passing on and down has continued…

How like faith this piano was in the passing on and passing down. The interest in it ebbed and flowed over the years. The value of it was sometimes ignored. It sat idle for some years and seasons. But, the story of the piano has reminded me that it was an invaluable gift, never to be taken lightly. Like John 4:10 says, “Jesus answered her (the woman at the well), ‘If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ “

Sometimes we didn’t know the greatness of the piano gift. But, having been lately reminded, I encourage us all to have eyes to see the gifts in our lives. And, not to ignore the greatest gift of all – faith in Jesus Christ.

Second Chances

Christmas is the celebration of the Gift of abundant and eternal life through Christ Jesus and the escape of believers from God’s righteous judgment. In the most amazing manner, the baby Jesus entered the world so that redemption would be offered and that we would enjoy many second chances in our lifetimes to believe the Christmas miracle – to believe in the Son of God, our Redeemer.

But, we are very good at ignoring second chances. We let ourselves forget the true Christmas story. We endure so many narratives these days that we often drown in an ocean of falsehoods. It is difficult to swim against the powerful tide of our irreverent culture. If I’ve learned anything from God’s enduring Word, it is that there is still unlimited mercy offered by God. He is faithful to give us so many opportunities to turn away from darkness and believe in Him. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must block out the noise of the godless and give ear to God’s truth this Christmas and always.

The secondary tidal wave that pulls down on Truth-believers is a kind of minimalism – the temptation to simply succumb to the crushing wall of culture that rebels against the Holy God of the universe, even while still believing in Him. It is the temptation to have minimal or no redemptive influence in the world. Genesis 18 and 19 records the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you know the story, then you might identify with Lot. (Please don’t bristle at such a parallel). There is truly “a lot of Lot” in all of us.

In the surrounding Genesis story, God gives multiple opportunities for Lot’s community to repent before the pronouncement of final judgment. The same is true today. The true Christmas narrative is surely a story of second chances. We stand at the same crossroads, belief or unbelief, redeeming influence or wasted legacy. Lot is a sad example of a believer characterized by the “everlasting reality of a wasted life.” Minimal influence. So distracted by the world, so distracted by the culture, so absorbed by the eternally insignificant that Lot exercised no redeeming influence among his family or friends.

Although God preserved Lot (sigh of relief), Christmas reminds me that my days as a believer can either be fruitful or unimaginably fruitless. I am reminded that my expression of love for God involves the valuable act of obedience. The valuable act of being prepared for eternity with Him. The valuable act of being a recipient of His preparation of me for glory. I should not waste another second on earth by not studying and not taking to heart His Word, or not taking on His attitude toward others, or not taking on His heart to spread His gospel, or not taking on His heart to save.

Christmas is the story of our Redeemer. As I ponder the second chance I’ve been given today, I pray that Jesus Christ removes the legacy of Lot from my life so that I really can be a believer who exercises a redeeming influence around me. I pray that I don’t get comfortable with marginal belief and no interest in heart transformation. I pray that I don’t let culture win and thereby become a reflection of culture – self-centered, rude, all about comfort, all about self-preservation, all about recognition, all about hating and judging…

Christmas is a heart check. It is a call to make use of another second chance to move away from minimalism in faith and toward joining God in His redemptive work.

Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”

Sign Posts

Christmas is our great sign post that God Himself took upon Himself a great personal cost by placing the consequences of sin on His Son Who was purposefully sent into our world to provide redemption to us through His death and resurrection. The price got paid. What an amazing gift! We were given a second chance at true life. Not just physical life, but more importantly eternal life. What a great cause for celebration!

True life! True life is found in Jesus Christ and the truth that comes from the Word of God. Yet, since Adam and Eve, we have struggled with the Word of God. We simply do not like limits. We don’t like boundaries, even if they are meant to protect us. We are more comfortable with the denial of truth and the priority of personal independence. Genesis 3:2-3 says, “The woman [Eve] said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” And then, we know what happened… Sign post ignored.

Hmmm. More than a decade ago, probably two decades ago, I got two speeding tickets in the span of one month. The month was April. Both were local traffic zones that had recently reduced their posted speed limits from 45 mph to 35 mph. I was stuck in a 45 mph habit and was on autopilot both times. Guilty, I simply paid off the first ticket, and then I went to traffic court for the second ticket, hoping for some mercy. What a hassle! But what a lesson about the consequences of ignoring sign posts!

Since that time, I am much more aware of speed limits and have realized there is no need to rush anywhere, especially at such a cost. It is more than that actually. Freedom to operate a car and travel at will comes with responsibility. I have always loved to drive, especially because of the freedom to just “go.” My car is my freedom. My freedom to go places. My place to be alone. My way to escape. My insurance policy against isolation. The car has always been my ticket out. It’s like sitting in the back row of a meeting room – easy to slip out.

Nothing has highlighted the value of personal freedom more than the 2020 pandemic. Yes, I can go places and still drive anywhere I want, but I have to be so mindful of protective limits – where I can go, how long I can stay, what time I go, what safety protocols must be prepared for, what are the risks, and will I be mindful of others in the process? There are plenty of sign posts. Risks are now more apparent than ever as are the elements of freedom that I have generally taken for granted.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve defied the limits that God gave them and tumbled mankind into a world of sin sickness. The first man and woman exercised their God-given freedom, while not taking responsibility for observing God’s loving limits. Life is so like this, isn’t it? We enjoy that same God-given freedom, but drift easily into the 45-55-65-75-85 mph avoidance of limitations, at terrible costs. We hurt ourselves and others constantly by refusing to regard sign posts placed there for our safety, especially our eternal safety.

Just as speed limit signs were posted for all to see, God has given us His Word for all to see. But, do we embrace God’s truth and honor His loving limits? I guess you first need to be convinced that His limits are loving… A story for another day, another blogpost.

Don’t get stuck in a habit of disregarding God’s truth. God’s loving limits. God’s fence of protection around those who have faith in Him. Remember the reason for the celebration of Christmas – the birth of God’s Son and subsequent provision of salvation for those who do not drift into deception on the autopilot of sin. Real wisdom is possessing faith in God and His promises – the culmination of which greatest promise was the baby in the manger who went on to the Cross on our eternal behalf. Therein lies true freedom.

2 Timothy 1:10 says, “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Christmas is the great Sign Post we must not take for granted! The great freedom that salvation gives us – freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom to exalt our Righteous Savior – leads us to the responsibility to treasure Christ by following Him faithfully.


A familiar and beloved hymn in my life has been BE THOU MY VISION. It plays in my head and in my heart often. The second verse goes like this –

Be Thou my Wisdom and Thou my true Word

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

“Father” is one of the great attributes of God. As the Creator, our Eternal Father is the sustainer and provider of all that He has made. However, He is only Father to believers in His Son Jesus Christ, whereby they become His legitimate children. Fatherhood implies a loving and close relationship with children, which is not often the case with earthly fathers flawed by sin (to various degrees of intensity). Still, despite the far-reaching consequences of sin, God remains a good, wise, righteous and loving Father.

One of my favorite fathers is pictured in this blogpost (one of my sons-in-law). The picture reminds me of the joy that a new father experiences when holding his child close to his heart. When hope has been fulfilled. When the future is in front. When the good imprint of the father is on the child. When a godly father begins to lay down truth about God so that his child can come to know and love their Father God and experience the reality of “Be Thou My Vision.”

Psalm 78:4,6-8 says, “We will not hide them [God’s Word] from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done…So the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. They would not be like their ancestors– a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.” He is a Perfect Father for His imperfect children – those who trust in Him. Passing on the heritage of faith is the most important thing an earthly father can do.

If you’ve ever been in counseling, you have heard the phrase “family of origin.” Family-of-origin issues plague families just as they did in Adam’s family, in Noah’s family, and Abraham’s family. Generational sin is passed down in a cycle that cannot be broken apart from God’s grace. God, through the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ, is the only One who can break the cycle of legacy sin. Despite the consequences of sin, God remains a good, wise, and loving Father. He is a Perfect Father, patient and compassionate, loving and trustworthy.

Genesis 12:1-2 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” God was faithful to His covenant even when Abraham messed up. Yet, even in disobedience, Abraham never lost his God-vision.

Abraham has been called the “father of many nations.” But first, he was a legitimate child of Father God. God was Abraham’s Vision. The vision came in “the midst of common toil” when Abram received God’s call when he lived in Ur with his father Terah who served other gods and worshipped the sun and moon. Ur was a wealthy port city characterized by power and idolatry, not a great environment in which to grow up. Yet, even when Abraham strayed, he never lost his God-vision.

By God’s grace, I have an amazing 89-year-old father, so it’s never been hard for me to draw parallels between him and my Heavenly Father. But, I realize it is difficult for children who have had overbearing demanding, unloving, or abusive fathers to then trust in our Heavenly Father. “Chip off the old block” may be a cliche, but earthly fathers powerfully imprint their nature and nurture on their children. It may be uncanny, but it’s true. The cycle continues without God’s cycle-breaking intervention.

God called Abram out of his family background stigma, and He still does that today. The 2nd verse of “Be Thou My Vision” indicates a close family relationship that can be described by the word “oneness” – between believing child and Heavenly Father. As God speaks to us personally in His Word and we speak to Him in prayer, we become a close knit family – Father and child, the way it is meant to be. Spiritual oneness can be experienced through the sin-cycle-breaking power of God’s Holy Spirit.

John 5:19-21 says, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”

Father God, be Thou our vision always.

Famine of Truth

Photo Credit – Kim Clayton Lance

John 4:10 says, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ” John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Famines test our ability to trust God. Among other biblical examples, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt to evade a famine, but found that following natural plans apart from God’s plans ended in disaster (Genesis 12). A scarcity of knowing what God says leaves us vulnerable and depleted of truth. What “scripture has said” is dangerous to be forgotten. While physical hunger or thirst pains can make us desperate, spiritual hunger and thirst pose a bigger threat to our eternal survival.

Following a 2020 spring season of fear and isolation in the discovery mode of the Covid pandemic, a new and more regular way of doing things emerged. In the earliest days, negotiating toilet paper shortages, grocery deliveries, mask wearing, and a general sense of high caution without much knowledge was the new normal. Slow down from busyness was both a gift and a curse. It depended on how that time got spent…

Life felt a little prison-like. Lack of human contact has taken a heavy toll on families, friends, and church communities. As months have rolled by, we found new routes for getting things done – Amazon orders, senior hours at stores, Zoom meetings, outdoor activities, church online, etc. We’ve navigated different tolerance levels for pandemic protocols, CDC guidelines, and government rhetoric. We have gone to lengths to get our families together, trying to satisfy our sensibilities of what is safe.

But, what happened to our hearts and heads? Another new normal was the default of filling more time and space with whatever did not satisfy or quench. Absorbing America in an election year (2020), in the Post Christian/ Post Truth era, revealed a devastating moral bankruptcy. How did this occur? “We The People” have been simply starving to death. We are dangerously prone to total biblical illiteracy, rejection of the authority of God’s Word, rejection of God.

We are indeed desperate and may not even detect how our truth famine is slowly killing us. Deep down, our heads and hearts crave a feast of God’s Truth. What is it that really keeps us safe? Morally and spiritually? Pay attention to the warnings…

2 Timothy 4:3-5 says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Regain your sensibilities and keep your head by feeding on God’s Word. Don’t be easily deceived, easily lie-buying. Easily not searching out matters. Easily letting media rule the day. Easily censoring right things in exchange for wrong things. And easily letting errors and falsehoods creep into every thought of the human heart. Easily forgetting history. Forgetting God’s story, God’s Word.

A famine of truth is best satisfied with a feast of God’s Truth… Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” God’s Word is the only thing that holds spiritual food and water for us and keeps us from dying of spiritual hunger and thirst. If we neglect it, we will be digging a cistern full of cracks. We will be increasingly desperate, embracing every form of deception.

Here is the simple truth repeated. John 4:10 says, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ” John 7:38 says, “Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Amen.