SNOW

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By Brian Waple

Snow, snow, beautiful snow … we got close to a foot of snow at the house Sunday night … makes up for the past couple of years! As I was looking at the snow Monday morning, it made me think of Martin’s message this past Sunday regarding shame. Everyone deals with it — believer and unbeliever alike. It’s one of the unfortunate byproducts of our fallen nature. Early on in Genesis, we first hear about shame: “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves” (Genesis 3:7 NLT). Can you imagine what that must have felt like? Everything is going so perfectly well, and suddenly you think, “I am bad.”

So, what does this talk about shame have to do with the snow? Well, think about it: the beautiful white stuff covers the frozen ground beneath. Just like the fig leaves covered the shame of Adam and Eve. Just like we do when we present our “front stage” selves to others, hiding what’s going on in the back stage. But the back stage is still there, and in the midst of the back stage, among other things, lies our shame.

As Martin said, it’s not easy dealing with shame. It takes a brave person to face the fact that they are living with shame in one form or another. Shame permeates pretty much everything we do. It can even affect the good things we do. But it is when we are brave that we allow people into our backstage … into our shame (and make no mistake, it’s probably one of the bravest things we’ll ever do). It doesn’t make it any less messy, however. But, when we become vulnerable and allow people in, it’s kind of like melting snow through which we start to see the slushy, dirty ground underneath. The ugliness is still there, but if we are willing to confront the ugliness, surrender it to God, and seek encouraging and loving community to help us deal with the ugliness, through God’s grace, mercy, and love, the ugliness will be replaced with what lies at our core — God’s beautifully created image bearer.

But, taking that first step, being brave enough to admit your shame and ask someone to walk with you as you address your shame — that is how we face and overcome our shame, being willing to accept that we are not perfect people, but in our imperfection we are accepted by God and we are worthy of love and belonging. It is only then that our shame, like the snow, begins to melt away, revealing God’s beautiful creation underneath.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

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Time Out

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By Brian Waple

At times, we come to a place where everything around us seems busy, hurried, and urgent, and it’s hard to be mindful of God’s presence and the peace His presence brings.  Admittedly, I have been in that place many times, as I’m sure we all have. When that happens, it’s important to remember to take time out from whatever we’re doing and just simply reflect on God’s Word, taking from His Word the reassurance that comes from knowing He loves us and will never leave us.

Recently, I was reflecting on Psalm 23, the psalm which Charles Spurgeon once called “David’s Heavenly Pastoral.” It is a psalm that to me is uplifting, encouraging, and reassuring. It brings hope.

I don’t know what you’re going through, but I would ask that you take a moment right now and just read through the psalm. Savor each phrase. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you through the reading.

“The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

    He leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,

    for You are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

    My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,

and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (NLT)

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14, NLT)

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Pride

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By Brian Waple

In Matthew 23:25-26, Jesus declares, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (NLT).

That’s a pretty strong indictment! How often have you read Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees and thought, “Man, I’m sure glad I’m not like them.” But how often do we read this and take an honest look at what motivates us? I’m certainly not saying that we are “filthy,” or “full of greed and indulgence.” However, I’m sure there are times when it’s our own human nature (rather than prayerful consideration and discernment) that drives a decision or particular course of action. I think part of what Jesus is saying is that before we allow ourselves to take a step that may have serious consequences, we need to take a moment and discern what is driving our decision. It might be good to ask the question, “How much of my human nature am I allowing to make the decision?”

In his book The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, Tim Keller uses Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to illustrate what Keller calls the transformed view of self, or “simply thinking of myself less.” He shows that it’s often our pride that drives what we do and how we react, and it is our pride that makes us believe we need to perform to some standard to be validated in the eyes of men. Pride will drive greed and self-indulgence; pride will drive intolerance; pride will drive us to be critical; pride will make us selfish; pride will drive our desire to be accepted. But by putting our pride aside (that is, thinking of ourselves less), we can discover what it means to be open to where the Spirit is leading and be willing to see what God may be showing us.

Keller says, “In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family. In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” As believers, God is already well pleased with us, and doesn’t require any pride-motivated performance to gain His approval.

It is by thinking of ourselves less that we can truly be open to the needs of others. It is by laying aside our pride that we can be open and present to God’s leading. And, in turn, it is by trusting in God’s faithfulness that we can be assured that the inside of our cup is just as clean as the outside.

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Father’s Day

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By Brian Waple

This coming Sunday is Father’s Day. It is a day on which we honor our fathers and show them how much they mean to us. How should we celebrate our fathers on this special day? In my family, we get together and share a meal, or we’ll go do something we haven’t done before (one year, Cindy pirated me away to Seattle, where we met our sons and went on an Argosy cruise). In whatever we do, it’s the time together that makes it special and memorable for me, time spent in familial fellowship.

We are told that Jesus often spent time in familial fellowship with his Father. In Luke 6:12, we read, “In these days He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God.” Because He gave so much to those around Him, Jesus needed these times alone with His Father to recharge Himself, to draw strength for the road that lay ahead. In John 17 (the High Priestly Prayer), we read,

“I do not ask for these only [referring to His disciples] but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved me.”

In this prayer we see the intimate relationship Jesus shared with His Father, and how He was passing on that very same relationship to His believers, both then and now.

So this Father’s Day remember to celebrate our Heavenly Father, for it is through Him that we draw strength for our own unique journeys. And it is through Him that we enter into the loving relationship we were always meant for—being one with the Father.

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Ebenezer

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By Brian Waple

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us.'”(1 Sam 7:12, ESV)

The Israeli people had just gained a major victory over the advancing Philistines. Samuelwisely and gratefully acknowledges that it is the LORD who has given them the victory, for it is only through His help and provision that Israel is able to succeed in spite of overwhelming odds.

In 1758, drawing on inspiration from this 1 Samuel passage, Christian scholar Robert Robinson wrote the song “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The second verse of Robinson’s version of the song starts “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” followed by “Here by Thy great help I’ve come.” The idea here is that Robinson, and all who have sung this song, are acknowledging God’s help in every aspect of their lives.

What about us? Do we acknowledge all the ways in which God has helped us and continues to help us and provide for us? As you look at your life, take a few moments to reflect on those times that God’s providence has intervened. And then, like Samuel, raise your Ebenezer and give thanks to Jehovah Jireh — the Lord who provides.

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Ponder

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By Brian Waple

“Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure” (Proverbs 4:26, ESV). Cindy mentioned this verse to me the other day, and as I think about it, I believe God is showing me that I need to spend some time reflecting on what it means. For the longest time, I’ve been trying to determine what God’s will is for my life. Let me be clear: I’ve been trying to determine what God’s will is for my life. Notice the emphasis on what I’ve been trying to do. What I haven’t been doing is humbly coming before Him in prayer and seeking His will.

I think that’s what Solomon is saying when he uses the word “ponder.” To ponder means “to consider something deeply and thoroughly.” As believers, we are called to give ourselves and our lives over to God, both deeply and thoroughly. In doing so, we bring Him glory and honor, which is what true worship is all about. And, it is only in seeking God, and purposefully living our lives in alignment with His will, that “our ways will be sure.”

I was reading something the other day that said “our deepest belonging is to God; all other belongings in life flow from that.” In pondering the path of our feet and the journey we all take, we must begin with God and seeking where God would have us to go. Where we flow from that will be bathed within His will. And that will make all the difference.

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