Wednesday, October 29, 2014

PSALM 143 - Throne Room Etiquette

Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In Your faithfulness answer me, in Your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for no one living is righteous before You.   (Verses 1-2)

Why should God listen to me when I pray? What could compel Him to do such a thing? In order to get into the White House to see a sitting president, I'd have to be somebody. I don't have access to Queen Elizabeth or the Pope. There are protocols to be observed in order to be led into the presence of people the world considers important. Only family has access to the public and private quarters of celebrities and princes. So how is it that I get to go into the throne room of God and have a private conversation? If it has anything to do with my being such an amazing person, a virtual paragon of righteousness, I'm doomed from the start. There would be no foxhole confessions that God honors. No last minute forgiveness. If God's protocol was that we had to be perfect in order to come into His presence...well, we'd all be lost.

I believe one of the most astonishing things about my God is that He has always wanted to live with those whom He has created in His image. To dwell with mankind in fellowship. It was the design in the garden and is the design in heaven. Always the same goal. He isn't eaten up with His own glory as earthly dignitaries are. God is holy because that is what He is. He isn't set apart like we are because we are all about how much more special we are than those who grovel at our feet. God's clout is the natural state of Who He is--absolutely set apart and pure. In order to bridge the gap between our behavior and His rightness, God set foot on the Earth He created. Came as the God-man, Jesus. Actually lived not only in Spirit here with us, but in flesh, also. Tempted as we are, but without sin. Knowing what it's like to live in a body destined for death. Jesus not only took on flesh, but He also took on the penalty for all the wrong things we've done in our own flesh. Why? A holy God demanded justice for our wrongs. So He took the punishment on Himself. On the altar of sacrifice to which Jesus was nailed. There we were brought to justice. There our sins were atoned. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every way has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4.  (italics, mine)

Our access to God was costly. Our protocol is our reliance on the death penalty Jesus took to cover our sins. If I careen into the throne room on my own recognizance, I don't have God's ear. If I gloat over how God should love me because I tithe and don't swear (all the time), how I served in the soup kitchen three times in one month and I've never stolen so much as a grape at the grocery store, I fear God might yawn and have me dragged out of His courts. None of those are bad things, but they are not the basis upon which I gain entrance into God's arena. My ability to come boldly into the presence of God is based solely upon my relationship with Jesus. I have nothing to commend myself personally to the Father. No one on earth does. We are fall short of God's holiness. I don't want justice when I pray. I want mercy. The mercy offered me by the death penalty Jesus paid so I would go free. The fact that I rely on the sacrifice Jesus made to give me life also makes me a child of God. Jesus brought me to His Father and said, "She is one of Ours." What loving Father wouldn't want to talk with his daughter? This daughter never wants to refuse the invitation.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PSALM 142 - Do Guess Jeans Make Life Complete?

Lord, I cry out to You. I say, "You are my protection! You are all I want in this life." Listen to my cry because I am helpless. Save me from those who are chasing me. Free me from my prison and then I will praise Your name. Then good people will surround me because You have taken care of me.   (Verses 5-7)

I guess one good thing about being deep in a cave was that David could holler and not be heard. Cry out to God his torment and scream his need without worrying about who might hear it, other than God. I think what David is yelling is important. It's not self-talk. "God is my protection. He's all I need." No! It's an in-your-face declaration of absolute love and affirmation that his God is all he wants. When life is pared down to only the essentials, is that the cry of my heart? "God, You are all I want!"?

"I really want a pair of Guess jeans for Christmas," Vanessa begged when she was twelve. "If I get a pair of Guess jeans, my life will be complete." Yeah. She actually said that. Which is why Bill and I did without for a month or so to buy them for Christmas. We didn't have much money at the time. Our family had recently been through hell, though, with the arrest of my father and the death of my mother, so to be able to make Vanessa's life complete sounded like a great idea. I never understood the hype about Guess jeans. They are pretty much ordinary jeans with a triangle on the pocket. But Vanessa was ebullient when she opened them Christmas and her life was complete...for about a week. Longer than I expected, really. Our capacity to want seems insatiable.

I wanted not to hurt anymore. Not to feel the aching pain of the things that happened to our family. That want is a pit so deep there is no bottom. The potential to throw things into the depths of that darkness is without end. It's soul-burning, mind bending, body tormenting need. Too busy with life to acknowledge it properly and too angry at my heavenly Father to run there, you can imagine the torment my wanter put me through. The irony of what I discovered, though, is this: God is all I want...and need. Struggling to my cave after my crazy, in the darkness of solitude and in the retreat from the enemy of my soul, I found Him there. Waiting to deliver me from the original pain and from the consequent pain I'd dragged myself into. Nothing else mattered in that cave dwelling experience. I didn't want a new car, diamond rings, new relationships, a glass of wine, a trip to the appetite for anything but the Presence of my Beloved.

When my father-in-law lay dying a couple of years ago, I was holding his hand and rubbing his forehead. He was getting farther and farther away. It was obvious. His breathing became shallow, the breath from his body trickling out in tiny puffs. Jesus close on the other side. Dad's family close on this side. And that was all there was. I have his watch. A jar of change he kept with a two dollar bill inside. The stuff of his life in his room. His hearing aids and false teeth. His bed and dresser. All his earthly possessions still here when he was there. And that was all that mattered. That he was there. With the One Who is all we should really ever want. Because what else is there that's eternal? That doesn't fill only a temporary need?

Maybe it takes a cave experience for us to examine the very core of ourselves to see if we really do love God. If, when it all comes down to our barest needs, our most precious desires, we find them wrapped up in the heart of God toward us. That in communion with Him, even if its origin is our fiercest desperation, we find the sweetest spot in our earthly lives. A preview of heaven and home. When we are stripped of all the former joys and sick of wanting what doesn't really satisfy, we are sated with the Presence of the One Who loved us first.

One thing have I asked of the Lord. That I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.
Psalm 27:4

Monday, October 27, 2014

PSALM 142 - Waiting Out Crazy

When I am afraid, You, Lord, know the way out. In the path where I walk, a trap is hidden for me. Look around me and see. No one cares about me. I have no place of safety. No one cares if I live.  (Verses 3-4)

David writes this psalm from the cave at Adullam, a desert place halfway between the cities of Gath and Bethlehem. He was there in an effort to escape King Saul whose jealousy toward David was epic. In his getaway, David stopped by the dwelling in Nob of Ahimelech, the priest, where David was given holy bread from the altar and the sword of Goliath. With these, David ran to Gath to Achish, its king. In the palace of that great king, David heard the servants making fun of him. "Isn't this the mighty David, anointed king of Israel. The one everyone sang and danced around saying, 'Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten thousands'?" Ashamed and embarrassed, David's fear of the king made him further humiliate himself by pretending to be a crazy man, drooling down his beard and writing incomprehensible things on the city gates. Achish was angry with his men for even allowing a madman into the courts. David escaped and ran. To the cave. Alone.

We don't have to wonder what he was thinking there as he lodged like a trapped animal in the dank darkness of his isolation. It had to be confusing to be anointed to be king while a king still ruled over Israel. To know God's will for his life was to take Saul's place, yet Saul is still on the throne. David's life seemed to be going nowhere fast. Claustrophobic in the caverns, agoraphobic about leaving it, David sat and prayed. Not a flowery assertion of his great faith in his God, but a sincere What the heck am I doing here and how will I ever get out kind of conversation with the Lord. And in the moment, David was right. Add to that no one knew where he was. It was dark, dark, dark.

David didn't just need a way out of the cave, he needed a way out of his situation. The call of God on his life looked diametrically opposed to the situation in which he found himself. He was out of energy and hopelessly alone. No vision for what was next for him. Only the certain hope that God knows the way out of not only the cave but the circumstances. We don't know how long David hid there. But God was busy working things out. First, somehow his father and brothers found out where he was. And his mother. If there was ever a time when he needed his mom, it was then. They came to him. I'm sure mom had a basket of her best biscuits, though the Bible doesn't say that. But another interesting thing happened that changed David's path forever. All the other down-and-outers in the area went to be with David in his cave. Those who had debts they couldn't pay, men whose lives had turned them bitter, men in great distress. Four hundred of them! In short, an army of misfits who needed a leader. Who better to take on the job than the would-be king without a throne? They respected David's situation. Related to his humiliation. It's not until David had his mom and dad safely in the hands of the king of Moab that a priest from Gad told David to leave the cave and go to Judah. While David sat and waited on God, God put together an army of unlikely men whose loyalty to and love for David changed the course of his life. They weren't the cream of the Judah crop. But God hand-picked each one of them to be honored alongside their future king.

I don't think I go too far today to say some of us have drooled down our chins and acted like crazies because we had no idea what God was doing and we were afraid. We'd lost our way and did things we never thought we'd catch ourselves doing. If we are blessed, our Father puts us in a cave for a little while. Some quiet time. Introspection and prayer is a good way to wait out the confusion life becomes for us sometimes. Stop acting out. Stop trying to fix it all. Stop trying to figure out what God is doing in our lives. Sit in the darkness, let it surround us, and wait for the light. David's path came right up to the door of the cave. Fetched him. Gave him new direction with new friends who would become David's Mighty Men. I'm absolutely positive it didn't look anything like David thought it would! We can pretty much expect God to work in unexpected ways. But, God already knew what He was going to do. Hadn't He been the One to tell Samuel to anoint the ruddy teenager as Saul's replacement? What God ordains, He sustains. Sometimes He must wait out our crazy, though.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

PSALM 142 - This is War!!

I cry out to the Lord. I pray to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my problems to Him. I tell Him my troubles. When I am afraid, You, Lord, know the way out.  (Verses 1-2)

I met Dorothy Sawer this morning when I read the Los Angeles Times. I kinda fell in love with her. Gap-toothed and lovely, wearing a floral print dress splashed with orange flowers with blue splotches that look like water flowing around the fabric, Dorothy sits in a picture of herself holding her large, worn Bible.  She is beautiful. She's Liberian. A mother of six children. A wife abandoned several years ago by her husband. When she was a child, though, she had an encounter that changed her life forever. Dorothy saw a flash of light in which a white man with long hair stood with his back to her. A second flash of light took the vision away. She's always believed it to be an angel of God. From that time on, Dorothy has had a gift. She has premonitions. She has a dogged faith in the power of Christ to heal. Dorothy has been a prayer warrior at her local church for the past four years--Conqueror's Tabernacle. Her battle now? Ebola. It has taken the lives of her pastor and his wife, whose generosity of spirit put them in direct contact with neighbors dying from the virulent disease. When the pastor's wife became ill, Dorothy cared for her, holding her hand and praying for her morning and night. The prayer warrior's prayers couldn't save her pastor's wife. Nor her pastor.

When Dorothy thought her stomach was on fire, when the fever hit, she fasted and prayed for three days. When the symptoms didn't ease up, she left her kids in the care of her eldest son and went to a treatment center for Ebola. Diagnosed with the disease, Dorothy asked for only one thing. A Bible. Unafraid. No doubt. She was going to live. Lying in her sweat and pain, Dorothy prayed and read her Bible for many days. Then one night she felt a light tap on her shoulder. "I think it was the Spirit of God," she explains. Because? The next morning she was fine. Ebola exited her body as quickly as it had entered, and Dorothy went home.

Next to succumb to the symptoms of the disease was her son who'd kept the family together for her. He left the family as she did to go to the treatment facility. Dorothy  heard nothing for the days her son was gone. But with her Bible opened and with much loud praying (a thing she says: "I pray loud and louder."), she fought a spiritual battle over her son's physical one. And...he came home well.

I know it's not the outcome for so many who love Jesus. Dorothy's explanation of why others have died when she lived: "I believe it must be God's will. Or maybe some people don't have faith that they can make it...or give up hope." But for me, today when I read of her trust I was struck by the fact that Ebola isn't too difficult for our God. In the midst of Dorothy's excruciating pain and burning fever, she looked at Jesus, not at the disease. I was also struck by the fact that for Dorothy, it was going to be okay either way out. Here or there. Accustomed to crying out her troubles and the troubles of others to the Lord, she handled scourge the same way she handled everything else in her life--with prayer. Loud prayer!

She continues to pray for those in her neighborhood and in her church, but she doesn't touch them anymore. Life goes forward with problems and troubles. Just like it does for us. Dorothy's habit was spiritual warfare. Perhaps the enemies of her friends and neighbors in the small Liberian village where she lives are more obvious to her than our enemies are to us. But if we don't know how to war on our knees in times of personal peace, we will find ourselves weak and vulnerable in the trenches. What a privilege it is that we have the ear of the Commander in Chief of everything! Pray loudly into it today your every trouble, your every need. The battle is His! And we, God's warrior princesses and princes. Gear up! Fully armed. This battle isn't for the weak of heart and mind.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PSALM 141 - Don't Take the Bait!!

God, I look to You for help. I trust in You, Lord. Don't let me die. Protect me from the traps they set for me and from the net that evil people have spread. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, but let me pass by safely.   (Verses 8-10)

The world baits us. Ever notice that? Trying to trip us up in our faith or trying to make us become hypocrites. As a rule, the world doesn't need much. Because we are weak in our resolve and lax in nurturing our relationship with our Father, we are often quickly felled by those who would trap us into compromise. And I'm not just talking about things like the Houston mayor ordering the sermons of local pastors to be presented to her for her review and permission. That's constitutional violation as well. The traps set for us are often much more subtle and appeal to our wants and needs.

In the Bible study I taught last night, we came to the story in John 7 when the brothers of Jesus baited Him. They didn't believe in His divinity. Thought Jesus was trying to make a name for Himself. The men, including James and Jude, had heard about the things Jesus said He was doing in Capernaum and Galilee. The brothers weren't there. Some of the disciples other than the twelve probably hadn't seen the crippled man walk, the water turned to wine or the two fish and five loaves of bread multiplied to feed over five thousand people. With the Feast of Tabernacles fast approaching, His brothers said to Jesus, "This is the perfect time for you to show off in Judea! If you really are doing these fantastic things, go show yourself at the feast. No one who wants to promote himself does his stuff in private. If you really do all these things you and the people talk about, go show the world!" John footnotes, His brothers didn't believe in Him. What the brothers didn't know and Jesus didn't tell them was that the Jews in Judea already wanted to kill Him...and it wasn't time for that...yet. "You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come."

They left and Jesus went later, quietly, by Himself. He waited a few days then went to the temple to teach. Brilliantly. Stunning the teachers and the congregants. They marveled at Him and wondered where He obtained such knowledge since he hadn't been to seminary. "From Him Who sent Me..." Jesus began. Then He spoke to the baiting of his brothers: "Those who teach their own ideas are trying to get honor for themselves. But those who try to bring honor to the one who sent Him, speak the truth and there is nothing false in them."

It didn't work. The brothers of Jesus weren't able to make Him do tricks for the world to see...and for them to ogle at. Jesus could have done that. Just like He could have performed for Satan by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple and being saved by angels, turning stones into bread (He had, after all, created manna for years in the wilderness), or ruling not just Jerusalem, but the entire world. But all those lures were counter to His purpose. And Jesus was smart enough to know it. Single minded in His desire to do the will of the Father while He was the God-Man from heaven. That purpose was to purchase our salvation and to show us the heart of the Father. So going with his brothers to the feast in order to be the side-show for all to watch wasn't the way Jesus was to become famous.

It must have burned a little to have the younger brothers make fun of Him. Jesus had grown up in the same household with them. How much of His greater destiny they knew isn't spoken much of in the Bible. When Jesus was twelve, He stunned the teachers at synagogue in Jerusalem where He was "about His Father's business." His family, though, lost Jesus on their way home and had to travel back to town to find Him. Irksome, maybe. The brothers thinking their big brother a bit odd. But not the Messiah. Mary and Joseph had to have made clear the story of the birth of Jesus, the angels, the blessings of Anna and the prophecies of Simeon on the day of His circumcision. The brothers and sisters of Messiah had, no doubt, heard the stories. But it wasn't until Jesus was thirty that things started happening. So why now? Let's see what you've got.

What if Jesus had caved to the pressure of his half-siblings and gone with them to Judea to rock the city with His miracles? To reach out His hands to heal the sick, free the demon-possessed, feed the multitudes and accept the accolades. The whole fireworks show they wanted. What if He'd moved ahead of God and put on the spectacle of which He was certainly capable? Because His brothers made fun of Jesus. "I'll show them I'm really the Messiah! I'll blow them away! I made this planet and I can take it out!" We wouldn't be saved today. That's what. For Messiah did miracles only to point to the cross. To show us our deeper need. Multiplying bread to show us our hunger is not for bread alone. Healing our uncleanness to show us He can wash us new. Defeating demons so we would know we can be eternally free. Tossing out money changers at the temple because we were going to need fresh earthly tabernacles as the new temple in which God desires to dwell. All that would have been lost if Jesus had listened to the bait and wowed Judea with His powers. The brothers would have the notoriety they sought. Hey, look at our big brother, man! But all else would have been lost. Including their own salvation.

James probably didn't believe until Jesus rose again. I Corinthians 15 records that the risen Jesus appeared to James alone. Can you imagine what that looked like? No more doubt. Big brother now big Savior and a lifetime of living with Jesus was understood in the moment James looked at His feet and touched His hands. This is why I couldn't take the bait. And James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Devoted to the wholehearted knowledge that his earthly half-brother was indeed Messiah! Wrote the book of James in the New Testament. James died for that truth, hurled, according to Josephus and Hegesippus, by order of the high priest and the Sanhedrin after the death of Festus, into the Kidron Valley from the top of the temple area wall. James didn't die immediately from the fall and was mercifully clubbed to death by a passerby from Siloam in order to put him out of his misery. Fifteen years after Jesus died. No compromised faith. James was sure enough of what he believed to live and die for it. Not taking the bait of the religious elite himself, James believed in Jesus to the end.

I don't want to take the bait either. Never again. Money is more important than character. Power is better than integrity. Cheating will get me further than always telling the truth. Rushing into my own decisions is more effective than waiting on God. Just this once won't hurt. Gossip. Hate. Coveting. Looking the other way. Looking the wrong way. Always going for the shiny object. When greater destiny is at stake. No thanks. Oh, Jesus, let me pass by safely without biting.

"But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."  Jesus, Luke 21   Italics, mine



Monday, October 20, 2014

PSALM 141 - Shame On You?

Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against evil deeds. When their judges are thrown over the cliff, then they shall hear my words, for they are pleasant. As when one plows and breaks up the earth, so shall our bones be scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
(Verses 5-7)

Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you. Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser. Teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.           Proverbs 9

They sit outside and look through the window at our family dining together. It's intimate and sweet, our time with our Father. Served up for us is joy, peace, wisdom and understanding. The aroma of it floats outside, wafting into the nostrils of those who would break the glass and intrude on our serenity. My brothers and sisters are there. Because we have the same Abba, are born of the same Spirit, we tend to think alike about the things that matter to God. However, we are not all alike by any means. I have a sister whose gift of leading worship draws us all into the Presence of our Father when we are far away. A brother whose generosity has saved many of us from defeat. We need each other. And when a sister comes to me to tell me where I fall short, I listen. Knowing she loves me and hears from our Father. Also usually knowing I have missed the mark and Abba has sent her to me to draw me back in reverence to Him. It's how our family works. But our table has been prepared in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23). Let's not forget they watch in scorn as we dine with the Creator and Lover of our souls.

I had a long night of prayer last night. I really needed to be with my Father. There comes to me sometimes an overwhelming desire to crash into His presence and lie at His feet. Last night He seemed to want me near His chest. To hear His heart. And it was, in part, this: The judgment of the world creates shame. It is the tool of the enemy from the Garden of Eden until now. I think it is why Jesus said, in John 3, that He didn't come into the world to condemn it, but to save it. In their hiding from God after they disobeyed, Adam and Eve were ashamed. Covered their naked bodies with leaves and hid from their Creator. Shame told them they were vulnerable. Disobedience stole their freedom. Jesus got that freedom back for us. Slapped shame across the face. Crushed it with His heel. So that the enemy can no longer define us. The Spirit does. And the Word. It is for our benefit that we are corrected and convicted of the things we do that offend God. But there is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).

Correction isn't meant to foster shame, but blessing. To correct our paths. To deepen our love for God. And in my time with God last night, praying for myself and others, I felt the eyes of the enemy who would encroach in judgment jealously watching the scene. Banging on the windows to scream an invective against me and those for whom I prayed. Abba silenced him. No judgment before the Father because I am His child. Bought at a very dear price. But I am aware that this table set before me, where I fellowship with my God, makes the enemy mad. Just as our relationship with God makes the world hate us, too. We are judged as phony, hypocritical, self-righteous...on and on. And we can listen to that and cave to the politically correct, or we can hold to the standards of our faith, accept correction and discipline from the Head of our family, and eschew shame.

In the end, when the fields are plowed and all of our bones are dug up from their graves, God will be the final judge of where we belong eternally. It is for us who know Him to live before our Father in holy reverence and communal joy, not taking on the judgments of a world that laughs at us, ridiculing our faith. It is not for us to judge them, either. Nor to be frustrated that trying to correct their thinking gets us nowhere. Scoffers hate us for trying to do that. Believe we are stupid. That we don't think correctly. What we are called to do is press into the Father's heart, seek Him, learn from Him. There will always be those looking on from the outside and misinterpreting our family time. May they see a thing for which they yearn instead of an elite dinner to which they weren't invited. For our Father will open the door to all who knock (Revelation 3).

Friday, October 17, 2014

PSALM 141 - Feeling Squeezed?

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!  (Verses 3-4)

Don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves toward the goal of true maturity.  Romans 12

Feeling squeezed today? A square peg trying to fit into a round hole? I think the question here is, "What are we willing to compromise to get what we want in this world?" It's more nefarious than it seems. This pressure to be successful, be loved, be beautiful, be powerful, be admired, be all the world claims makes us worthwhile. There is subtle and not-so-subtle pressure put on us from all sides. Magazines, billboards, movies, television and even social media define who we ought to be. Skinny, tall, smart, know the drill. Are you gluten-free? A gym rat? Politically correct? Are your jeans designer? Coffee snob? What's squeezing us today?

I just read the story of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. Her crime? She dirtied the vessels of the berry pickers with whom she worked by using the same cup as they were drinking from. As a Christian, she is "unclean" and her lips defiled their water. The women began to argue over the situation then went back to work. Later the Muslim women told a local cleric about the altercation and soon an angry mob stormed Asia's home and savagely beat her and some of her family. She was then arrested and charged with blasphemy. Sentenced to die by hanging. Two prominent political figures who tried to help Ms. Bibi were assassinated. In her book, Blasphemy, Ms. Bibi wrote that she was tired of being a second class citizen because of her religion and was weary of always being told she must convert to Islam. She stood up for her faith. That is her crime.The local cleric to whom she was then dragged told her the only way out for her was to convert to Islam and obey Sharia law. She could not. The Lahore High Court of Appeals upheld her death sentence yesterday.

It would have been the easy route. Denying her faith in Christ. Asia has a husband and three children. Since 2009, she has been away from them. Because of her unrepentant love for Jesus. I doubt she's worried about whether her coffee is designer or whether she got to her workout at L.A. Fitness today. Her goal isn't to be the most beautiful thing to hit the prison in Pakistan nor is she fretting over whether or not the meal shoved under her door is free of MSG. Because she didn't take the easy way out, her way is very hard. And those uncompromising men who tried to help her are now murdered. It matters that she preferred her faith over the delicacies of those who would make her recant.

The things we do aren't evil in and of themselves, of course. I work out. I have designer jeans. But when they begin to define me, I've sunk from the higher things that matter to God. He's not so concerned that my triceps don't flap as He is that my heart doesn't falter. God doesn't go out of His way to make sure I get my grande latte from Starbuck's, but He is wanting me to gulp living water by the cupsful. We will be challenged for our faith even more than we are now. Houston mayor Annise Parker just made that clear. Preachers must show her their sermons if they mention gender differences. Don't be squeezed. Suffocated because you love Christ. Speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4), let's grow up, mature into a body that is unwavering in our commitment to Him. Not nodding in agreement, joining in the conversations of the world, looking just like it, when we know we are only passing through.