Speechless_by_AsraelTV

God Rendered Speechless

A few years ago I had a colleague who introduced me to the writings of David Roper. David’s list of accomplishments is long and his reputation excellent. He is also a very generous man, and gave permission to the education ministry I served with at the time to use his materials in our discipleship courses. The colleague, who was (and is) a dear friend, also assured me that David would be most pleased about having his blog entires shared.

I first saw this post in late 2008, when I was in an early season of learning to be loved by God … just straight up loved, no earning, no merit, no striving. It was early days for me of wrestling with a call to Christian obedience and service, and a longing to have a heart at rest that could trust that it was loved by the Father, no matter how well my ministry projects went or how many times it seemed I had to learn the same lesson over and over and over.

It’s a sweet gift to visit David’s thoughts again as I now serve with a ministry whose focus is to help move people’s hearts into the confidence that they are fully cherished by God right where they are, and that our obedience and following after Christ is completely generated and motivated by his incredible love and our response to it. It’s never about my owing what I could not possibly pay, and never about his exhaustion or disgust that I have not come far enough.

His love is enough. 

So, from David Roper, something wonderful to ponder.

Lovesick and Dumbfounded

Carolyn and I often spend our quiet times reading from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, an Upper Room publication (If you’ve visited Shepherd’s Rest you’ve seen the copies in each bedroom.) The Old Testament passage for this morning was Zephaniah 3:17.

With apologies to Zephaniah and Bruce Waltke, my old Hebrew professor, here is my translation…

The LORD, your God is with you—
your hero, mighty to save!

He takes great delight in you.
He is speechless with love for you.
Every time he thinks of you he breaks into joyful song!

Zephaniah 3:17

I’m awed by the notion that God takes great delight in me and breaks into song each time he thinks of my name. But it’s the phrase I render, “He is speechless with love for you” that captivated me.

The verse is usually translated, “He will be quiet in his love,” or in some translations, “He will quiet you.” But the verb doesn’t suggest tranquility or rest. It actually means, “to strike dumb.”[1] And since the verb is in parallel with other verbs that suggest God’s strong emotions (“takes great delight,” and “breaks into joyful song”) it must point to what He himself feels.

I wonder then: Could the analogy be that of a lovesick swain who is bowled-over, flabbergasted and dumb-founded by his love for the beloved-so overcome with fondness that he is tongue-tied? Is God, in some inexplicable, anthropomorphic way, “struck dumb” with love each time he thinks of us? If so, to be loved like this is, in turn, to be rendered speechless. As Isaiah would say, “I am undone.”

And who is it that God so loves? One who is strong and able, brilliant, and breathtakingly beautiful? No, it is one who is “weak and the weary… who takes refuge in the name of the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:12).

DHR

[1] Jenni-Westerman, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

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What’s In Your Backpack?

Paula asks her young son a question. She’s noticed some interesting behavior from him and wonders what’s up. Her son’s answer is precious and humorous … but it leads Paula to ask the question again … of herself.

And we ask you: “What’s in your backpack?”

Enjoy this special guest post from Paula Pust, Aphesis staff member Debbie Bochman’s honest and encouraging sister!

WHAT’S IN YOUR BACKPACK?

So … I have this adorable little seven-year-old son. He’s growing in his ability to get himself ready for the day, including getting his backpack filled with water bottle, lunch, swimming goggles, and all the important stuff of being a kid who spends time at the YMCA. Since he’s learning responsibility, of course I’ve tried to back off in my need to hover over him as he does this daily task.

Except when …

This morning, for instance. When I asked if he had his backpack ready, he had an unusual look on his face . Hmmmm … mom’s antenna goes up! He then offered to run to the fridge downstairs and get my pop for the day—sweet, yes. But my antenna is still up because he insisted on taking his backpack WITH him to do this task. Interesting choice. Of course, when he returned with my Diet Coke in hand, I had to ask, “So, Kyler, look at my eyes. I need you to answer this question honestly” (not that I ever don’t want him to answer me honestly, but you get it). “Is there anything in your backpack that you wouldn’t want me to see?”

LONG pause … then “Well, Mommy … there WASN’T before, but now there is …”

He proceeded to pull out of one pocket a Coke, then he unzipped a second pocket and extracted a Dr. Pepper and a Diet Coke. Seriously?

It made me smile, though. As I reflected on this beginning to my day, I got to wondering: what’s in MY backpack that I don’t want others to see? And do I sometimes act under the guise of helping someone else (getting their “pop” for them) when actually I have a hidden agenda of my own?

Thank God for mercy.

“The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” (NLT)

Psalm 145:8-9

Mercy and compassion, slow anger and fullness of unfailing love, even though I don’t deserve it. Hallelujah, what a savior!

SlusserFamily2066

God’s Giggles About My Wrinkles

I am surrounded by more voices than I can count. They pour forth from television shows and commercials, Internet articles and ads, magazine covers and top ten lists, movies, billboards, and glances from strangers.

They’re the same voices my grandmother, mom, and sister-in-law have heard, and I know my young niece will hear over and again as she grows up. My girlfriends hear the voices, and more and more men hear the voices. The voices around us try to tell us what’s important and valuable and crucial to our happiness.

And it’s certainly not our hearts.

Even the voice reflecting back at me from my own mirror gets loud. And there is a very consistent message that gets shouted in some way every day:

“Have you seen how you look? You look old. You are wrinkled and sun-spotted and sagging and dark-circled and gray-haired and far from up-to-date with the cool and new and praised. Old is ugly. You’re ugly. Ugly and old are worthless. Old has nothing to offer. Old and ugly are nothing to love. Do something to fit in, dump the ugly, and do it fast.”

And sometimes I buy the voices’ sob story of discontentment. And I buy their fixes: make-ups, makeovers, creams, treatments, practices, preventatives. I buy, try, and it still doesn’t satisfy. Making my face the world’s version of beautiful is a losing battle.

But if I slow down for a moment to ask the One True Voice what he says about me, God tells me a tender story of what he values. His version of beautiful. He even gives me a new picture of myself that leads to worship of him.

I had a passport photo taken in 2001 when I was preparing for a vacation to Italy. I love that passport photo. I’m 40 pounds lighter, I have long brown hair, and, well, it’s over ten years ago. My renewal passport photo and recent family photos … let’s just say I’m not 40 pounds lighter, do not have nearly as much brown in my locks, and it finds me pastier, flabbier, and laden with wrinkles above and below and side to side. It could be an opportune moment for those voices to kick in and for me to start flailing about for a fix.

But if I listen to my Good Father as I look at the pictures, to his words about value and goodness and life, it makes me giggle. And giggling transitions to gratitude. My face reflects over ten years of answering God’s call to live a life I never imagined. It tells the story of leaving a teaching job and students I loved, changing careers a couple more times, moving to a new state, and learning new things. There’s a groove in my forehead that I am sure I can attribute to a “focus furrow” that appeared as I learned, and still learn, how to listen well, ask for help, be vulnerable, receive love, and truly seek God to comfort me in the pain of life.

My face tells the story of new friendships, deepening old ones, and people to love and miss from places like Russia, Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda, Romania, Spain, Senegal, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and East Asia. It experienced an international courtship, a house sale, a house purchase and a refinance, a zillion plane flights to California and back to see family. This face had invaluable talks with its mom and dad, and met new nephews and a niece who forced it to make ridiculous maneuvers to entertain them.

It walked through the birth of friends’ children and the loss of friends’ children; it spoke at a funeral for a 17-month-old. It said goodbye to a beloved grandfather and witnessed its niece arriving into the world, live and in person. It uttered encouraging words and it uttered hurtful words it wanted to suck back in moments later. It smiles more broadly than ever as it expresses love and is willing to look ridiculous to bring a laugh that lightens a heart.

Most gratefully, this face is learning to look to its Maker more, to bask in his radiance, and to trust his viewpoint and provision and goodness. And I hear him whisper when I glance in a mirror that my wrinkles make him giggle, too.

God’s warm laughter of delight and love and real beauty. The One True Voice.

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Compelled by Love

“For Christ’s love compels us.”  2 Corinthians 5:14

Can you imagine being compelled by love?

It has been a difficult thing for me to come to the realization recently that for the majority of my life, what mostly compelled me in my day-to-day living was fear and anxiety. For 45 years of my life, fear and anxiety were the primary drivers of most everything I did. It’s what got me out of bed; got me to work on time; made me clean up the house; maintain my car; mow my lawn. “What would people think of me if I did not do those things?” is what I would subconsciously think. The sad thing is I was totally unaware I was living in this state of being … I simply called it life.

I became a believer in Christ at age 18. Unfortunately, this had little or no impact on me living out of fear and anxiety. If anything, it added to it. As a matter of fact, I thought as a Christian I should always have a low level of fear and anxiety about something (myself, my kids falling away from God, going into a life of sin, etc.). My thinking was, it’s unspiritual to not be living in some type of fear. Contentment may lead me to complacency. What other type of EFFECTIVE motivation is there but fear?

However, this constant, low-level fear and anxiety have taken a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

But I missed it! For over 40 years of my walk with God … I missed it!!

  • “An anxious heart weighs a man down.” Proverbs 12:25
  • “Do not be anxious about anything.” Philippians 4:6
  • “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” Matthew 6:25
  • “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”Matthew 6:27
  • “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.” Matthew 6:34
  • “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Luke 12:25

Living life primarily motivated by constant low-level fear and anxiety is not God’s intended plan. I have come to realize that LOVE is to be the primary motivator for the follower of Christ. Could you imagine? What gets us out of bed is LOVE? What gets us to work is LOVE? What gets me to mow my lawn is LOVE? What would have to happen in my heart for LOVE to replace fear as my primary motivator?

Something would have stir incredibly deeply in me, something that was more powerful than my fear. Can LOVE become more powerful than fear? When I actually look at how God interacted with many in the Bible, the answer is yes! LOVE in combination with a good measure of TRUST can overcome the greatest of fears. I can be motivated by love to trust, serve, follow, give, change—but I have to receive love from God, truly trust in his love, or it will never work.

Living life from a foundation of God’s unconditional love becomes a consistent, predictable motivator. His love is the only predictable aspect of my day.