Monday, October 31, 2011

Behind the Mask (from Good to the Last Drop)

Halloween has taken on a different dimension for our family in recent years. My son is too old for trick-or-treating, and our finances preclude us from buying anything elaborate for our nine-year-old. This year she is wearing a hand-me-down dance costume—nothing scary, no mask.

For some people, wearing a mask is a daily affair. There is something scary about letting others see our flaws and weaknesses, our vulnerability to hurt and shame, and our lack of confidence. We hide our ugliness beneath the masks of success, materialism, and beauty, all the while crumbling inside because our hearts are diseased with sin and our souls long for perfect love and fulfillment. We don’t feel free to simply be ourselves, so we masquerade as someone we are not.

As children of God, we are free to take off our masks because Jesus, the one who sees us at our worst yet loves us unconditionally, does not condemn us for anything we have thought or done. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:1, 3-4, (NIV)

When we accept what Jesus did on the cross for us, dying in our place for our sins so that we might finally break free from a life of sin and shame, we have no reason to hide behind the masks we wear. Satan, the father of lies, would have us believe that if we take off our masks and let others truly see us for who we are, we run the risk of alienating certain people and rendering ourselves useless as God’s servants.

There is nothing about our past that God cannot use for his glory if we are willing to take off our masks, walk in the freedom he purchased for us on Calvary, and surrender ourselves to his will and purpose for our lives. The very sin and struggles that he delivered us from can actually become a source of encouragement to those who are themselves trying to break free.

Father, give us, your children, the courage to lay down our masks, to allow your grace and forgiveness to penetrate our wounded hearts and souls, and to be the chosen instruments of your love to all around us who don’t know you. Give us the courage to be the men and women you created us to be; to rest in the peace and assurance that your blood washes us whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18) and to walk about in freedom as we look for your truth and wisdom (Psalm 119:45). Because you took our sin and shame and nailed it to the cross when you became the living sacrifice for us, we are free to take off our masks and walk in perfect liberty. Thank you, Jesus, for making that possible and for loving us just the way we are.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

When is "Enough," Enough?

In a few weeks I will be the mother of an adult child, a boy who wants to be a man but isn't really prepared for the harsh reality of living as an adult in the twenty-first century.  We have poured all our love into him, taught him the truths of scripture, sat up many late nights letting him pour his heart out about one thing or another, but how can we know when enough is enough?

The road of a parent is not easy.  We are faced with the rebellion of youth, battle the demons of disrespect and disobedience, and at times feel like we are laid in the dust with tread marks upon our backs.  As hard as we try to parent our children with love and grace, doing the best we can and never compromising the truth no matter how many fiery darts the enemy hurls at our families, there is no guaranty that we will come out of the fire without being burned.  We find ourselves battle-scarred and weary, but we pray that all we've done and all the prayers we have prayed are enough for Truth to win out in the end.

The time comes to let go of that which we cannot control and to pray that God will be faithful to complete in our children, and in us, the good work which He began (Philippians 1:6) the day they were born.  We must pray and hope that our prayers and example will ring loudly enough in the ears of our children that they will learn for themselves how wide and deep and high is the love of God (Ephesians 3:18) and eventually surrender their hearts to His lordship.

Knowing that God loves our children more than we could ever possibly love them, and that he hears the fervent prayer of parents who have done their best, we trust in the One who said, "My grace is sufficient (enough) for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

If there is an area of your life that is out-of-control, some challenge you cannot seem to overcome, surrender it to God; pray for His good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2); and know that He is working all things together for your good because He loves you and has called You according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard -- give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) knowing that God Himself is your Peace (Ephesians 2:14). 

If your out-of-control challenge involves a loved one who is struggling to find his way, recall the day that God pulled you from the slimy pit of your own sin and set your feet upon the Rock (Psalm 40:2) and know that He loves your beloved enough to do the same when it is time.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you (and your loved one), not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Word of Comfort

Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why.  No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.  For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die. -- Isaiah 57:1-2, NLT
Hardly a day goes by that we don't hear of the tragic untimely death of someone too young or too good to die.  We are never prepared when death comes suddenly.  Even when we witness the devastating effects of cancer or Alzheimer's, we are ill-prepared for the moment when those we love lose their earthly battle against their illness and find complete healing in the arms of their Savior.

I have often considered those who have died young to have been spared from the evils of our modern-day world, but I never knew my thinking was supported in Scripture.  It comforts me to know that the verses above were written under God's inspiration.  I pray you are comforted, too.

My prayer for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one is that they will find comfort in God's promises and in the assurance that "when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1, NLT).  If your loved one knows Christ as Savior, then you can be assured that when the moment of death comes, he or she will immediately be in the presence of the Savior, for to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (v. 8).

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When All Else Fails...Order Pizza!

One of my greatest challenges as a woman is putting a hot meal on the table.  As cooks go I am competent but certainly no culinary genius.  Given the time to plan a meal and shop for ingredients, though, I can dish up a balanced, nutritious meal that not only smells enticing but is also delicious.  But even careful planning and preparation can go awry if the power goes out in the middle of baking a casserole or a loaf of homemade bread, or I get distracted and forget to turn off the oven leaving the family with a dinner that is overcooked and inedible.  Thank God for the local pizzeria!  When all else fails and dinner doesn't turn out the way we planned, we can at least order and enjoy a pizza!

Life doesn't always turn out the way we plan either, does it?  On days when life throws us a curve ball, what is the first thing we do?  Typically we complain or feel sorry for ourselves.  But the Bible tells us that we are to give God thanks in everything for that is his will concerning us (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  The Message translation says it this way:   "Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."

When your day or dinner doesn't turn out the way you like, order a pizza and praise the Lord anyway!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

At the End of the Broken Road

A young man walked a broken road
In search of something more.
In hopes of finding happiness
He turned his back on home.
Rejecting love from those who cared
He sought it other places.
Forsaking family and his God
He looked to other faces.
The truth he knew from early on
He traded in for lies,
Believing everyone was wrong
And he alone was right.
He walked in darkness day by day,
Contentment still a stranger,
Not realizing that every choice
He made put him in danger
Of forfeiting God’s very best –
His blessings, love and favor.
But still he chose to go his way
Turning his back on the Savior.
The faith he’d found as a little child
No longer he embraced.
Outside God’s loving will he stepped
And many troubles faced.
Still searching for himself and “truth”
He struggled everyday
When all he needed was to embrace
The Life, the Truth, the Way.
For many years he struggled on
To find his way in life.
He failed and faltered time and again
But never got it right.
When finally rock bottom he hit
With nowhere to look but the sky,
He finally saw the face of Christ –
The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The young man, badly broken
And sorry for all he’d done,
Asked forgiveness for his sins and pride
And gave his heart to the Son.
As love and grace washed over him
He finally could say –
“My life is full, in truth I walk
Because I found my Way.”
Are you like him, the prodigal
Of whom this story’s told?
If so, you too can find your Way
At the end of the broken road.

Copyright © 2011 by Dee Dee Wike.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Window Seat

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. -- Psalm 8:3-5

Many people go through life totally oblivious to what is going on around them.  Their shortsightedness may be physical or spiritual, or perhaps even emotional because of the sorrow and worry that pervade their lives.  They see trouble rather than triumph, obstacles rather than opportunity, and the whole of their existence consists of looking inward rather than watching the world from the window seat.

Although it has been years since I have flown, it has always been a thrill to occupy a window seat where I can view the world from a different perspective.  My favorite tables in restaurants, particularly coffee shops, are by the window where I can watch people come and go.  This morning as I lingered in the window seat of a local coffee shop while waiting for my car to be serviced, I gloried in the beauty of a cloudless fall day while I watched the patrons come in and out in a steady stream, all totally oblivious to the spectator seated in the corner by the window.

If we take the time and make the effort to be a little more observant of the world around us, we might find a million reasons to give thanks to the God who gave us eyes to see.  We need to turn our eyes away from computers and cell phones and ask God to give us eyes to see the world and those who occupy it as he does, with a heart for humanity and a desire to make a difference in the lives of those on the journey with us.

One of my favorite quotes from wise Rafiki of the "Lion King" movies is "look beyond what you can see."  Take time to marvel not at the beautiful tree before you, but at the wonderful insects that live on the tree.   Look not only at the faces of your fellow man, but look a little deeper into the hearts of those around you.  Perhaps we need to pray that God will not only broaden our horizons but give us a different perspective as we actively watch for opportunities to serve him and make him known.