Saturday, October 29, 2011

Psalm 86:15-19

The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.


We are in a cold snap. It frosted hard for a couple of nights, and it's supposed to continue doing so. Flurries of snow have spit at me from the sky.

Our pool was not closed.

This was causing me much concern. I was so concerned, I asked some friends to pray with me about it.

Yesterday (Friday) was dryer and sunnier than expected (it was not sunny, but a few rays broke the gloom on a couple of occasions, miraculously). There was not much wind, either! Shawn stayed home from work and closed our pool. David arrived home in time to help him put on the new winter cover at the end.

The pool is closed.

The new green cover is less depressing than the black covers we've had in the past.

God heard my prayers and took care of me. My husband worked hard.

I am thankful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up."

I think it is important to notice that this follows King Nebuchadnezzar's statement, "..if you do not worship [the golden image I erected and am commanding you to worship], you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" (Daniel 3:15b)

Did you get that? He said, "Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?"

Who indeed?

That would be MY GOD!

It is a very foolish thing when a human challenges God head-on, very foolish indeed. I recall that someone once said, "Even God couldn't sink this ship." Well, guess what? The Titanic went down.

God is so sovereign, it makes me want to jump up and down and cheer. This is my God, world, and He's got my back.

(P.S. in case you don't know the end of the story, read Daniel 3 to find out what happened, and if you can sit still while you read verses 23-27, then you are a lot more stoic than I am.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Seven Scriptures

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Job 19:25-26
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see Him.

Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Isaiah 55:8
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Revelation 4:11
Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.

(all quotes from the ESV)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Psalm 117

I have gotten terrible about gardening, but this rosebush is thriving anyway.

I can hardly believe that this plant has come from where it started to here. I look out the window from my computer and it brightens my day, even this late into fall.

Praise the LORD, all nations!

Extol Him, all peoples!

For great is His steadfast love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.

Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 117, ESV)


Monday, October 24, 2011

Ephesians 5:8-10

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
(NIV, 1978)

The modern American church conveniently misses these verses most of the time.

The principle is not difficult to understand. "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." In other words, a change has taken place. You are no longer the same as you used to be. What used to be dark has been illuminated by the Spirit of Christ. I know I am using passive voice, but I think it is necessary because we are starting with a self perspective, considering what has happened within our selves. And what has happened has happened by the power of God working in us; we are basically passive, powerless, dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) as the new life from God starts to flow into us. God has arrived, and He has forged a change, a real, honest-to-goodness observable change. Darkness is now light.

And then Paul says, "Live as children of light." If you go back to the previous paragraph (Ephesians 5:3-7), you see the list of things that belong to darkness: sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking. These are the lifestyles of the disobedient, and Paul tells us that those who live in such a way are idolaters and will not have any inheritance in the Kingdom of God; God's wrath comes on those who live disobediently like this. These are the characteristics of those who live in darkness and not in the light of the Lord. They are things that the children of light should not do.

Many people recoil from reading such a statement. They decide that Paul was a legalist, at least in this chapter he was. They decide that this does not fit with their idea of a gracious and loving God who should allow them to pursue their earthy desires and not get in the way of their pleasure, else how could He possibly be loving?

But God's word is quite clear that those who experience the life changing power of the Holy Spirit will demonstrate through their changed lives that He has been at work. This has nothing to do with legalism, and everything to do with a real God who uses His real power to effect real changes in real people. And because all this is real (i.e. true), it is also something that other people can see and observe.

Paul tells us to live as children of light, and then he says my favorite part of the whole thing: "and find out what pleases the Lord."

We have a tendency to think we can decide what pleases the Lord based on our idea of what we think He ought to like, if He is kind and loving and forgiving. We have a tendency to rationalize blatant sin simply because we want to participate in it, saying, "God is nice. He would want me to enjoy this. Even if He doesn't like it very much, He will forgive me because He loves me so much and so unconditionally that He really doesn't care what I do or how I live." (Which is really stupid, the fact of the matter being that God loves us so much that He very deeply cares what we do and how we live, but I will save that rant for a different day.)

We are supposed to find out what pleases the Lord, and I'll tell you what: nobody is going to find out what pleases the Lord by looking deep into his or her own sinful human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). We find out what pleases God by looking into God's revelation to us of Himself: The word of God, scripture.

Scripture is the light that helps us live as children of light. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105, NIV, 1978)

All of scripture is God breathed and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). And when Paul spoke of "scripture" he was talking about the Old Testament, because the New Testament had not yet been formed; I don't think Paul was arrogant enough to assume that his own letters would one day be in the cannon of God's Holy Word. The Apostle Paul loved the Old Testament, and we should, too. The Old Testament is full of truth about the character of God and truth about what God loves and what He finds detestable. We would do well to read it to find out what pleases the Lord, and to put into practice what we discover there.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Psalm 92:12-15

(Another tree passage... I think I am trying to collect tree passages.)

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the LORD,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, "The LORD is upright;
He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him."

(NIV, 1978)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Psalm 91:9-16

If you make the Most High your dwelling --
even the LORD who is my refuge --
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."

(NIV 1978)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Psalm 90:1-2

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting
you are God.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Scripture on scripture

I've been trying to take my scripture slowly lately. There was a time when I raced through the Bible, reading long portions, looking for the big picture, finding patterns and themes. It was good for me to do that, because I am a big picture kind of person. I become impatient when I just get a small piece or a single step in a process. In order for me to understand the relevance of something, I have to get a grasp of the big picture first. After that, I can go back and spend time studying the details, because I understand why.

Now I am in a stage where I am taking small pieces. Sometimes I feel like I am slacking. Other times, I am richly blessed by looking at scripture as though I am looking through a microscope, pondering how the details beautifully support the big picture.

But today I am going to take two different passages I have been working with lately, and I am going to lay them alongside one another. Because sometimes when we see how scripture sheds light on itself, we learn more than we could learn from even the most technical and exhaustive commentaries. The passages I am going to compare are Matthew 5:3-12 (The Beatitudes) and Psalm 86 (which I think exemplifies them). All quotes are from the ESV.

Matthew 5:3 -- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Psalm 86:1-4 -- Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you — you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

Matthew 5:4 -- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Psalm 86:3-4, 17 -- Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul... Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Matthew 5:5 -- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Psalm 86:5-8 -- For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
[We are meek when we humbly recognize our place beneath the Almighty Creator of the universe.]

Matthew 5:6 -- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Psalm 86:11-12 -- Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O LORD my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

Matthew 5:7 -- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Psalm 86:9-10, 14-15 -- All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God... O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Matthew 5:8 -- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Psalm 86:11-12 -- Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O LORD my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

Matthew 5:9 -- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Psalm 86:14-15 -- O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Matthew 5:10-12 -- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Psalm 86:13, 16-17 -- For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol... Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Psalm 86:1

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Well, I am poor and needy.

We've been studying the beatitudes in Sunday school. Psalm 86:1 reminds me of being poor in spirit, mournful and meek.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

(Matthew 5:3-5, ESV)

I think it is amazing and even a little bit outrageous (dare I say that?) the way the Lord offers rewards to His children.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Psalm 84:11-12

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in You.


These verses hold some huge promises.

But let's begin at the the beginning. What does it mean that the Lord is a sun and shield?

Let's start by considering how the Lord is like a sun. We've had a nice stretch of weather, but today the sun did not come out. Gray clouds as thick as freshly mixed grout seal off our view of the heavens. I was at the hair salon earlier today, and all the women were yawning and commenting, "I just can't wake up today." I told them, "That's because the sun never came out."

The sun sets our body clocks and helps us to wake up. Who doesn't feel more positive and hopeful on a beautiful, sunny day? God also shines His face on us and awakens us to our purpose in Him, strengthening us and urging us on to our potential.

The sun shines on the plants and causes them to photosynthesize and grow, even to store energy that can be passed on to other organisms that consume them. God's power at work in us makes us grow, too, and through our growth we are ultimately able to minister His grace to others.

The sun lights our way so we can see where we are going and what we are doing. It brightens the colors of spring flowers and fall foliage. It ripens crops during the summer months and sparkles on freshly fallen snow in the winter. In a similar way, God grants us vision, direction and purpose, and then He fills us with joy as we walk with Him along the way He has prepared for us.

As the sun is the ultimate energy source for the earth, God is our ultimate energy source. God is a sun for us.

He is also a shield. He covers and protects us. He is strong and trustworthy. But, as a shield is useless in battle if left behind in the castle keep, so the protective nature of God diminishes when we stray from His will. You really need to think of this concept in context of the entire psalm (84), which is all about being close to God. He is our shield, but if we ignore Him, stray from Him and immerse ourselves in sin and rebellion, we ought not assume that He will prevent calamity from overtaking us. He might even cause a calamity, in order to jog our memories and prompt us to turn back to Him.

The scripture says, "The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

That is pretty overwhelming. The NIV translation replaces the words, "those who walk uprightly" with the words, "those whose walk is blameless." This used to discourage me, because I know that I am certainly not blameless. I figured that, blameworthy as I know I am, I must not qualify for this promise. Then I realized that it is a promise to me anyway, because IN CHRIST, I actually am blameless, because of the blood He shed for my forgiveness. He will keep me blameless while He is making me blameless (1 Corinthians 1:4-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21). So it is not that we are perfectly upright all the time, but that we are learning to depend on Jesus to keep us upright more and more each day.

And if we are learning to depend on Jesus to keep us upright more and more each day, then He will bestow favor and honor, and not withhold anything that He knows is good for us. Of course, that doesn't mean we will always get what we want... the more we mature, the more we begin to understand that what we want is not always what is good for us. I may want a better job, or a different house, or to live closer to my extended family, or to have better health insurance coverage, or to be healed from fibromyalgia, or to move to a sunnier climate.

But ultimately I need to trust God with my desires, as well as everything else, and then I will understand that verse 12 is true: "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You."

It always seems to come back to our ability to trust God. Two things I need to pray for:

(1) Lord, please make my desires more in line with Your will.
(2) Lord, please help me to trust you more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Psalm 86:5-7

For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon You,
for You answer me.


This was my verse yesterday.

I'd had a bad go-around with my 16 year old. I was feeling like the Worst-Mother-In-The-World.

I am so thankful that we can go before the Lord and plead for grace. I have made so many parenting mistakes since the beginning. Sometimes I wonder how the Lord ever could have entrusted me with four children. What was He thinking? But I know His thoughts are not my thoughts, nor His ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8). And so I have four children, and I often need to throw myself down on my face before Him and beg for forgiveness and grace.

He is good and forgiving. He does answer me. My 16 year old is still speaking to me. Maybe we will do something nice together today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Psalm 84:10

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.


Two things strike me: humility and irony.

The psalmist would rather be a doorkeeper, a servant, in God's house than a bona fide resident in the tents of the wicked. He humbly understands that it is more blessed to be near God than to seek position and status for oneself, and ultimately more gratifying besides.

He would rather spend one day with God than a thousand days apart from God, which leads us to the

Ironically, those who are near to God are the ones who will inherit (what? yes!) eternal life. So you don't have to choose between one day of sunshine, joy and blessings in the presence of God or a thousand elsewhere. Rather, your options are a miserable-temporary-existence-that-is-headed-towards-death-and-destruction OR eternity in God's house, where you will be blessed beyond anything you can even hope for or imagine, forever and ever and always, amen.

If it were not so difficult for us mortals to comprehend the ratio of the days we live on earth in comparison with all eternity, there might be a much higher percentage of people willing to follow the Lord come what may.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Psalm 84:8-9

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob!
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of Your anointed.


These verses are about approaching God: "...hear my prayer, give ear..."

I think it is very interesting that the psalmist says to the Lord, "Behold our shield."

Usually the Psalms tell God that He is our shield; they don't ask Him to look at our shield. For instance:

Psalm 3:3
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

Psalm 18:2, 30
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold... This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 33:20
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 115:9
O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.

Psalm 119:114
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. get the idea. God is our shield. So in this Psalm it is slightly unusual and strange that the Psalmist should say, "Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of Your anointed."

If God is our shield, what is going on here?

I picture Jesus as our shield, and God looking into the shiny metal surface of this protective battle gear, seeing His own image, perfectly reflected in His Son who covers us with His grace. Jesus, God's anointed.

It is because of Jesus that we can pray to God and have audience with Him. It is only by the blood of Christ, spilled on our behalf, that we can have access to the Father.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16, ESV)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Psalm 84:5-7

Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.


Blessed are they whose strength is in You.
Our strength is not in ourselves, our flesh, our own accomplishments.
Everything we are is from God. He made us: our bodies, our minds, our talents, strengths and gifts. But beyond that, as we grow closer to Him we realize that everything we do depends on Him. We need His Spirit in our hearts to guide our decisions, strengthen our resolve, grace our courage and sustain our physical strength. Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5, ESV)

in whose heart are the highways to Zion
Zion is the mountain of God; the Kingdom of God; the Holy City; the new, redeemed Jerusalem. Those who have the highways to Zion in their hearts are those who look forward ("Thy Kingdom come," as the Lord's prayer says)... waiting and working for the day when the Lord returns. He will rule with justice and put an end to sin and suffering. As I have been studying Revelation recently, this is a wonderful encouragement. Revelation focuses much on the terrors of the tribulation that will occur before the end of time, before the new heaven and the new earth. Those whose strength is in the Lord are able to put their focus beyond all that, looking instead, with joy, to the coming kingdom.

As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

On the way to Zion, there are tribulations, difficult paths, desert wastelands. This makes me think of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie's sister, Betsy, utterly exemplified the person this psalm is describing. Although she was weak and sick, her strength was in the Lord, and her heart was focused on His Kingdom. While Betsy and Corrie went together from one concentration camp to another, Betsy rejoiced in her opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with many fellow prisoners who had lost hope. With her sweet spirit--the Spirit of Christ in her--she united prisoners, helped people share their resources, soothed arguments, and most importantly, she led Bible studies.

Although they were in what you would call a Valley of Baca, Christ in Betsy made it a place of refreshment. Her love touched people, gave them hope for eternity, nurtured their spirits. Betsy taught Corrie to be thankful, even for the fleas in one of their dormitories, because the fleas kept the guards away so the women could study God's Word together. Like Paul and Silas who sang and praised God in the Philippian prison, Betsy and Corrie brought peace and joy to Nazi concentration camps. Betsy's heart even broke for the Nazi prison guards who were so crippled and blinded by hate. With Christ in us, when we face difficult or miserable times, we have the opportunity, like Betsy Ten Boom, to make our Valley of Baca a place of springs, because of the strength of the Lord that abides within us.

They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
This is our hope. The Lord's strength will sustain us. No matter how bad life on earth may get, the Lord will never leave or forsake those He calls His own. And after sustaining us and carrying us through, He eventually brings us to heaven, glorious heaven, where there are no more tears and no more pain. There, He comforts us and covers us and shows us His glory, which makes the Grand Canyon look like an ant hill. We have so much to look forward to.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Psalm 84:3-4

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house,
ever singing Your praise.


I've seen birds build nests in the letters on the Wegman's storefront. Sometimes birds fly around in Lowes or Home Depot, and they used to be all over the place in Sam's Club.

These verses just make the scene so real and accessible. I picture the psalmist going to the temple to worship, and there in the outer courts, near the altar, he sees a bird nesting.

And what is his response? Is he horrified that a bird's nest has been built there at the altar? Does he try to drive it away? No, he rejoices to see where the bird has its home. He imagines how wonderful it would be to live there in the courts of God, like the bird. He perceives blessing and his heart praises God. He hears the bird sing, and he sings to the Lord with her.

I think we may stay here in Psalms 84-86 for a few days. They are very fortifying, refreshing. In the midst of studying the judgment of God in Revelation, after reading about the judgment of God in Psalms 70-79, these scriptures are a blessed relief. God knows what we need.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Revelation 17:14

"They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called chosen and faithful."

In the middle of a daunting chapter about the end of the world, this verse.

You should probably be curious enough to go read the chapter, if you are unfamiliar with it. Revelation 17, a preacher's nightmare for the most part.

And then, this verse.

The Lamb will conquer them. Our Lamb, Jesus Christ, whose blood takes away the sins of the world.

No matter what happens, He has already won the epic struggle of good against evil. He won that at the cross when He died and rose again. Near the end of time, Satan will try to do what he can to cheat the Lamb out of His just reward (our eternal souls). He will make war on the Lamb. But the Lamb will conquer him, vanquish him, and bring us home to heaven... those of us who are chosen and faithful.

That's good news.

Keep on keeping on.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore be imitators of God,
as beloved children.
And walk in love,
as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


I've been going very slowly (very slowly) through Ephesians.

Sometimes you notice things you'd otherwise miss, when you go very slowly. Of the many verses from Ephesians that we memorize and teach to our children, this one rarely makes the cut.

But when you really think about it, isn't this the main point?

We are not naturally drawn to make sacrifices for others the way Christ did. When Paul says, "That I may gain Christ... that I may know Him... and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death..." (from Philippians 3), that is not our favorite verse.

We always just want to take the "good" and not the stuff that appears unpleasant. This is why my husband likes to eat the praline topping off my praline squash dish. This is why many who purport to be pastors preach only that "God loves you" (which is true), and never that Jesus is coming again to judge the world, or that God condemns certain behaviors and lifestyles.

But it is easy to point the finger at what other people miss. What am I missing? What am I ignoring? Do I believe in the goodness of God, trust in His grace and have enough confidence in His sovereign plan that I am willing to sacrifice myself temporarily, now, for the great eternal gain of His Kingdom?

Most days, I do not think I succeed at this. Lord, help me.