The Jesus’ Wife Fragment is Authentic? Yawn.


Photo credit: trentstudios from morguefile.com

It never fails that right around Easter some sort of archaeological discovery gets all kinds of buzz in the media. This year was no exception.  The Harvard Theological Review announced last week that the controversial “Jesus Wife Fragment” is authentic.

In this case “authentic” means “old.” How old?  The papyrus fragment dates from sometime between the 6th and 9th centuries.  Tests on the papyrus itself as well as analysis of the handwriting and grammar all support a date from that time period.  While there is some debate, the evidence suggests that this fragment was not a fake or a forgery.  What we have is a small fragment of papyrus written in Coptic, including the phrase “Jesus said, ‘My wife. . .’”

So what impact does the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” have on historic Christianity? None.  Here’s why:

1. The fragment is incomplete.  The size of the fragment is only about one and half by three inches wide.  The sentence that has garnered the most attention, “Jesus said ‘My wife . . .’” is incomplete.  We don’t have the end of the sentence.  And, as Jon Stewart points out, there are multiple ways that sentence could have ended.

 

Jesus said “My wife? .  . No, I don’t have one.” Well  played Jon, well played.

2. The Jesus’ wife fragment was written long after the New Testament was already completed.  Again, this fragment dates from between the 6th and 9th centuries.  The last of the four Gospels to be written was the Gospel of John.  John was completed by the end of the first century.  In fact, all of the New Testament books were written before the close of the first century. Our oldest complete or almost complete manuscripts of the New Testament date from between 300-450 A.D., and historic evidence indicates that the New Testament canon was largely set by the close of the second century A.D. (For more information on the development of the canon see How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot or The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible by F.F. Bruce). The Jesus’ wife fragment was written too late to have any relevance to the New Testament Canon.

3. The Jesus’ Wife fragment fits in with Gnostic tradition.  The Gnostics were a late heretical sect who borrowed from Jewish as well as Christian tradition.  According to Gnosticism, Jesus was the last of a long line of Wisdom figures who descended to enlighten humanity.  Some of the the Gnostic gospels describe Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ consort.  Other features of the Gnostic gospels include a talking cross and Jesus’ statement that Mary could become a disciple because he would make her male.  Though some people like to talk about the Gnostic gospels as having been suppressed by  the church (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown), nothing could be further from the truth.  Again, these works were all written long after the completion of the New Testament.  Much like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies tells us nothing new about what Jane Austen actually wrote, the Gnostic gospels don’t tell us anything new about the historic Jesus.  The Gnostic gospels tell us what Gnostics believed about Jesus–not what Jesus actually said or did.  The Jesus’ Wife fragment fits in much better with Gnostic teachings than with historic Christianity.

Basically what we have is a tiny scrap of papyrus with an incomplete sentence on it that dates from between the 6th and 9th centuries and is likely from the Gnostic tradition.  Does it mean that Jesus was married?  Nope.  Does it mean early Christians thought Jesus was married?  Nope.  Does it shed any light on the New Testament as we know it?  Nope.  Is  it worthy of further study?  Sure.  But it has nothing to do with the Jesus of the gospels who was incarnate son of God, born of a virgin, lived to show us God, and died to set us free.  This Easter, that’s who I worship.

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Extraordinary Simplicity

extraordinary simplicityIt was one of those mornings only parents of preschoolers can understand.  No, you can’t have chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.  No, you can’t hit your sister with your stick horse—or your book, or the fire truck, or the remote control.  No hitting your sister with anything!  Crayons are for paper, not the wall.  You can jump on the trampoline, not the couch.  And stop hitting your sister!

We made it through to naptime by sheer force of will.  The oldest settled in with a book.  The middle child retreated to his room still mumbling his discontent.  The youngest went through her routine of screaming “No nap!” for ten minutes before sliding into exhausted slumber.  I finally dropped into my favorite rocker, Bible in hand.

“Lord,” I whispered, “I need to hear from you now.”  The quiet fell like a slow rain on parched soil. Soothed, I listened for God’s voice in the silence.   And then the Lord spoke.

Go color with your son.

It wasn’t the word from the Lord I wanted to hear.  I had a few precious moments to spend in Bible study and prayer, and the Lord wanted me to go color?  I wanted to hear something else from the Lord.  Something profound.  Important.  Impressive.  I was looking for earthquakes and lightning bolts.  Instead I got crayons.  Terrific.

Grudgingly, I slipped into my son’s room.  He looked up from his coloring book and eyed me warily.

“Why are you in here, Mom?”

“I just wanted to color with you for a little bit.  Is that okay?”

“Sure.  You can color the dinosaur orange.”

As we sat together coloring an orange dinosaur against a purple sky, I realized the moment was what we had needed to repair the relationship after the morning’s battle.  God’s word for me that afternoon was simple, but it was also right.

That experience made me realize how often I had been missing God’s word to me.  We listen for blaring trumpets, but God often speaks to us in a gentle whisper.  In the book of Zechariah God warns us not to “despise the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10).  After the exile the Israelites returned to their homeland and began to rebuild the temple.  It seemed so small compared to the former glory of Solomon’s temple, but God would use their small beginning to spread his glory throughout the earth.  When we dream of significance, God’s quiet promptings can seem irrelevant.  But God specializes in doing miracles with acts of simple faith.

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We serve a God who transforms simple obedience into supernatural encounters.He takes a few loaves of bread and feeds 5000 people.  God takes a shepherd boy and makes him a king; a fisherman and makes him a fisher of men.  God looks not for extraordinary courage but for simple faithfulness that becomes extraordinary in his hands.  So often those promptings to write the note, take the soup, or make the phone call come from him.  If we wait to hear God’s command to do something spectacular someday, we risk missing the power he wants to imbue our lives with today.

My goal in this season of life is to listen for God’s quiet promptings.  What does God want me to do now, in this moment?  Who does he want me to encourage?  How does he want me to show love?  I’m learning not to wait for the stories I want to tell my grandchildren about.  My job is simply to be obedient as God writes the story.  What can God do with simple faith?

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Five Minute Friday: Mighty

5minutefridayI don’t always feel mighty.

I  look at the world and I see that it’s a scary, heartbreaking place.  Children who will go to bed hungry tonight and the mothers who weep because they can’t feed them.  Women and children sold into slavery and at the mercy of pimps who profit from their bodies.  Injustice and hate and a world that rejects God and rejects those who love him and pats themselves on the back for doing it. I look at it and I think how impossible it is that I could do anything to change it, anything to make a difference.

I am so weak.

But I serve a mighty God.

I serve a God who made the world with the force of his word.  A God who chose a nation of slaves as his own people and rescued them with the power of his mighty right hand.  A God who kept his promises through the ages of time and won his mightiest victory with the weightiest sacrifice.  He is mighty to save.  He is mighty to redeem.  He is mighty to rescue and make whole.  In his might he steps into the storms of our brokenness and speaks peace.  He is mighty enough to take our greatest weakness and make us strong.  His mighty arm finds us in our moments of defeat and clothes us with victory.

In those moments of despair when I just want to give up, when I hear the voices whisper that tell me I’m just not good enough, I can stand on the assurance that it’s not my strength that matters.  It’s His.

My God is mighty to save. And He has saved me.

This post is a part of Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday link-up.  Five minutes of writing on a prompt she provides just for the pure joy of the unedited, messy word.  And wonderful things happen in those five minutes.  Join us at the link-up to read other posts or to play along.

And Lisa-Jo Baker has a new book coming out next week: Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom.  It looks awesome, so be sure to pre-order your copy.  (I’ve ordered mine already.)

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World Vision: When Compassion, Conviction, and Charity Collide

I was left shaking my head this week as I watched the internet explode over World Vision.  In a nutshell, World Vision announced in Christianity Today that in an attempt at unity, they would be changing their employment policy and would now allow people involved in same-sex marriages to work for the organization.  Unsurprisingly (unless you were a member of the World Vision board, apparently) many evangelicals spoke out against the move.  Those on the  Christian left cheered the decision and condemned the bigotry of those who were choosing to end their support of World Vision.  Then World Vision reversed their decision.  Those who had cheered the decision complained that World Vision had caved to evangelical hate.  Some evangelicals applauded the reversal; others questioned World Vision’s true commitment to biblical values.

I’ve been watching all this trying to decide what to do.  I don’t sponsor a child through World Vision, but for the last couple years I have given monthly through their microlending program.  Microlending gives small loans or grants for entrepreneurs to start small businesses in impoverished areas.  Things like buying a cart to sell vegetables, starting a small sewing company, or buying a cow so they can sell the milk.  It’s a model I like because it gives people the dignity of work while helping them escape poverty and reducing the risk of exploitation. I chose World Vision to channel this giving through because I felt it was an organization that shares my values and that I could trust to use my contributions wisely.

And yes, when I saw World Vision’s original announcement I was planning to call them to cancel my support.  I hadn’t done it yet because I figured their phone lines would be slammed, and I felt it could wait.  My Micro gifts go to a different person every month, so there’s not a relational bond there. My plan was to redirect those funds to a different organization.  If I had sponsored a child through them, I would have kept on with that sponsorship until the child graduated from the program but chosen a different organization for any new sponsorships.

Now–I’m not sure.  I’m glad they reversed the decision, but the whole process has certainly made me question their commitment to biblical values.  And honestly, did the board not see this coming?  Did they not see that evangelicals would feel betrayed by this sudden decision and that many would channel support to another organization?  I applaud the reversal–which will still prove to be a costly decision–but I have concerns about their foresight and leadership.

Here’s the thing:  I don’t think I have to choose between conviction and compassion.  Does God call us to care for the poor?  Absolutely.  Are we called to have compassion on the least of these, to practice justice and mercy, and speak for those who have no voice?  Without a doubt.  But Jesus also calls us to holiness and repentance.  Jesus meets us where we are, but he calls us to be like him.  We need the good news of the gospel because of the bad news that we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Sexual ethics matter as a part of our Christian faith.  God doesn’t redeem us from our slavery to sin so we can keep swimming around in the muck.  Jesus calls us to be holy as he is holy (Matthew 5:48; Leviticus 19:2).  God calls us to renew our minds and be transformed into the likeness of his son.  Repentance implies change, and that affects every area of our lives.  He who steals should learn to work with his hands so he can share with those in need.  Those who lie must learn to speak truth.  Those governed by addiction must learnt to be controlled by the Spirit. Those who worship money must learn generosity. Those who walk in pride must learn to humble themselves before the Lord.  And those who have sinned sexually must learn to live in purity.

I know some denominations have taken the position that same-sex sexual activity is permissible in marriage.  I disagree.  I’m not going to get into all of the hermenutics of that here.  Suffice it to say that you will be hard pressed to find a positive example of sexual activity in the Bible outside the bonds of one man and one woman in marriage.  (And before anyone throws polygamy in my face, note that I said a positive example.  Every time we see polygamy in the biblical narrative it produces strife and dissent in the family.) So yes I think that same-sex sexual activity is sin.  Living with your boyfriend or girlfriend is sin.  Pornography is sin. Adultery is sin.  And continuing in those activities is unrepentant sin regardless of whether or not the government has given you a license to do it.

So why does it matter to me if a Christian charity I support hires gay people or not?  No, it’s not because I don’t want gay people to have jobs. (Thank you to all the rational people on Twitter who argued this).  When I choose a Christian organization to support financially, it’s because there is more at stake for me than just hungry children.  Feeding the hungry, fighting human trafficking, and providing clean water are expressions for me of what the kingdom of God is like.  Kingdom outreach is not just about physical needs but also spiritual ones.  I want children to be fed, but I also want them to be set free from the bondage of sin.  I want them to know the hope and freedom they have in Christ.  I want them to be made whole in Christ, and I want my money to go to organizations that will care for them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Who Christian organizations hire affects how well they accomplish that mission.  Jesus said that we can do nothing on our own unless we are connected to him (John 15:4-5).  Unrepentant sin breaks our bond of fellowship with Christ.  That’s why there are biblical standards for people in positions of Christian leadership.  Now, not every employee of a huge organization like World Vision is in a position of leadership. I get that.  But people make culture.  If an organization routinely hires people who are living in unrepentant sin, they are hiring people whose connection to Christ is impeded by that sin.  And as the spiritual fruitfulness of individuals is impeded, so is the kingdom effectiveness of that organization.

So yes, I think it’s a bad idea for a Christian organization to hire an unrepentant homosexual.  If their background checks turn up a person who is a habitual liar, I don’t think they should hire her either.  I don’t think they should hire the guy who’s living with his girlfriend and says they’re “married in spirit” or the one who thinks Jesus is cool and likes to dabble in Tarot on the side.  The Christian life should be characterized by love, mercy, and justice.  It should also be characterized by holiness and repentance. If we love God, we obey his word (John 14:15).  All of it–not just the parts we like.  We can’t say we walk in the light and walk in darkness at the same time (1 John 1:5-6).  Christian organizations should be concerned about hiring people who both affirm their statement of faith and live like it makes a difference.

Where does that leave my relationship with World Vision?  I don’t know.  I don’t want to be the older brother of the parable. Reversing their decision was the right move to make, but I’m concerned that the reversal was needed.  Are they following conviction or culture?  The whiplash decisions this week make it hard to tell.  I can tell you that from now on I’ll be checking out the employment policies of Christian organizations I contribute to.  Because if your organization is made up of people who don’t live out kingdom values, eventually the organization won’t either.

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Koinonia Killer #1: Control

#koinonia image courtesy of vartian via www.sxc.hu

image courtesy of vartian via www.sxc.hu

We were almost at the end of a three hour drive one day when a ruckus erupted from the backseat.

It’s my plane!

No, it’s my plane!

Mine!

Mine!

Where was the plane in question, you might ask?  In the sky.  That’s right.  The plane was flying miles over our heads, pilots and passengers blissfully oblivious to the two squabbling children in my backseat fighting over something that didn’t belong to either one of them.

Sometimes we’re like that with church.  I wrote last week about the importance of koinonia and the power of unity in the body of Christ.  In Ephesians Paul warns us to be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).  Unity is part of our birthright as children of God, but it is also something we must be diligent to preserve.  We can kill koinonia with our attitudes and actions.  Control is at the top of the list of koinonia killers.

When we’re involved in church it requires a deep emotional investment from us.  Our time and friendships are interwoven with the life of the church.  We give financially to support the work of the church.  Our spiritual sense of well-being is tied to the congregation.  Sometimes because of that investment and those tight ties we start feeling like the church belongs to us.

It doesn’t.  Christ is Lord and head of his church, and we all belong to him.  As the church we create a dwelling place for the Spirit of God.  We are united around our worship, celebration, and proclamation of Christ and his redeeming work.  But the end of the day the church doesn’t belong to us. It is Christ’s church, and we are his servants to command.

We know this, but sometimes we still wind up like two children fighting over something that neither one of them can ever possess. We carry our consumer culture with us when we walk through the church doors and insist that it be about us.  We want the music we like and pews that cushion us comfortably.  We want teaching that we can applaud but doesn’t make us uncomfortable.  We want things done our way in our timing.  Like children, when we don’t get what we want we squabble, fight, and complain.  That spirit of control kills koinonia.

It’s not what God wants from us.  God calls us to be like Jesus, who laid aside his glory and made himself the servant of all.  He calls us to submit to one another and honor one another in brotherly love.  He calls us to remember that the church is not for us, but for his glory.  Our driving question should not be “what pleases me?” but “what pleases Christ?”  The answers to those questions will look different in different cultures and different contexts, but we must remember that ultimately Christ is in control of the church. We must all yield to him.  Yielding to Christ’s control forms the foundation for koinonia.

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Five Minute Friday: Crowd

Five Minute Friday So every Friday this wonderful crazy group of women gets together over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog to finger-paint with words.  Five minutes of writing–just for the sheer joy of the unedited word.  And wonderful things happen.  Join the Five Minute Friday Link-up to play along.  

Prompt: CROWD

 

Where Jesus went, crowds followed.

They flocked to hear him teach and pushed against him in the city streets.

They wondered at his miracles and shook their heads when his teachings got to hard.

The same crowd that cheered his arrival into Jerusalem shouted “Crucify” only a few days later.

And still Jesus had compassion on them.  He preached hard things to them because he was less concerned with popularity than preaching truth.  He let them push up against him in the street, but refused to let them push him to become king–at least the king they wanted him to be.  Because Jesus knew what the crowd didn’t–that the path to victory would go through the cross and the only earthly crown he would pierce his brow.

In a world of Twitter followers and Facebook friends it’s easy to play to the crowd.  We know what’s going to get us retweeted and liked.  We ponder what’s going to make posts go viral.  And it gets easy to soften our message.  Tone it down.  Soft-pedal it.

But we should be less concerned with pleasing the crowd than pleasing the Father.  The crowds that surround us are still as lost without a shepherd as the ones that surrounded him.  Sometimes compassion requires truth–even when it’s costly.

Jesus loved the crowd too much to give them any less.  So should we.

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Koinonia Power

Image courtesy of Lightstock

Image courtesy of Lightstock

Last week the Pew Research Center released a new survey showing that Millenials tend to be more politically independent, less religious, and less likely to marry than previous generations.

That fewer young adults today consider themselves religious than in previous generations shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  We see it in our pews, in the number of faithful adults whose adult children have only a passing acquaintance with church–or none at all.  We’ve heard about the growing numbers of nones–those who claim no religious affiliation–and the increasing number of people who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”  Most of us can put names to the faces of those who have taken spiritual journeys that have led them away from the church.  Barna labels them as exiles, nomads, and prodigals.  Not all of them have abandoned their faith.  Many still consider themselves Christians, but see church as optional.  

That temptation to view church as optional strikes more than just millenials. We people are messy, complicated things.  When we bring that complicated mess together in one place called church, sometimes the mud really starts to fly.  We look around us at the raised voices and wounded hearts and hear the quiet chord of the refrain:  it was never meant to be this way.  As that poignant note tolls in our hearts, sometimes it seems easier just to walk away.  Shake the dust off your feet.  Don’t look back.  ”Loving God doesn’t mean loving the church.”  Except that it does.

You see, this Christian life was ever meant to be lived in isolation.  As church, we host the presence of God in our midst.  Under the Old Covenant God’s presence dwelt in the tabernacle and temple.  The cross changed that, rending the veil between God and his people.  At Pentecost, the Spirit of God came to dwell in the hearts of his people.  The temple of God is now the church–not the building but the community of God’s people.  We experience the indwelling of the Spirit as individuals, but we also experience it corporately.  When we come together as church it’s not just to sing songs we like or catch up with old friends.  We come together to host the presence of the Lord and experience his power in our midst.  When we cut ourselves off from church, we cut ourselves off from that presence and power.  We miss out on koinonia.

Koinonia  is the Greek word we most often translate as fellowship.  Koinonia can mean to impart something, to share in, or to participate in together.  When we gather as God’s people we impart spiritual blessings and gifts to one another.  We share in one another’s joys and sufferings.  We participate in a common life and mission as the people of God, the body of Christ on earth. That living bond of koinonia also has a cosmic dimension.  The church is a fulfillment of the eternal purposes of God.  From the beginning of time God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:9).  When we as the church are the church, when we function as God’s people are meant to be, God’s wisdom is declared to Satan and all his forces of evil.  They see God’s wisdom displayed in the church and they tremble.  There is a spiritual power released in our fellowship that Satan and all his demons cannot stand against.  No wonder they try so hard to destroy it.

That’s what keeps me from walking away–that knowledge that I am part of something bigger than myself.  I know that as church, we are called to be God’s people.  We are called to host his presence, to show the world what it looks like to live freely as the redeemed people of God.  And I think when we get that right, people won’t walk away from it.  They’ll line up at the doors trying to get in.

The Spirit and the Bride say “Come!”  Will you respond to the invitation?

Q:  What does it mean to you to host God’s presence?  Let us know in the comments!

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Grace: The Antidote to Guilt

cc image courtesy of creationc via www.sxc.hu

cc image courtesy of creationc via www.sxc.hu

I caught the bug last week.

No, not the stomach bug.  Not the creeping sinus crud that strikes our home about this time every year, either. The mommy guilt bug crept up behind me and bit me hard.

You know the mommy guilt bug, don’t you?  It starts when you wake up feeling tired and cranky right along with your children.  Tempers are short.  Kids fuss.  Words snap.  The house is a mess, dinner is a disaster, and the whole goal of your existence becomes getting them in bed.  Then, once the house is quiet and you’re alone with your thoughts, it starts:

 

I should be more patient.

Why can’t I control my temper?

The kids would be in better moods if I fixed healthier foods for them.  

I’d be a better mom if I didn’t let them watch so much T.V.  We should read more books and play more games and make macaroni necklaces or something.

Cindy Lou Who always keeps her house so clean.  Why can’t I do that?

I feel like such a failure.

Your thoughts keep cycling, the weight piles up, and before you know it you’re curled up under the covers with a box of Kleenex.  Guilt paralyzes and entraps us.

And that’s just how Satan wants us to be.  The name “Satan” is actually a title:  ”The Satan.”  It means “the accuser.”  And that’s just what Satan does:  he accuses us.  Those words running through your head like “failure,” “disappointment,” “less-than,” “not good enough”–those are his tools.  He wants us feeling guilty because guilt keeps us from seeking God.  Conviction points us to God in repentance; guilt makes us feel that we aren’t worthy of God’s love.  Guilt convinces us we have to fix ourselves, that we first need to get ourselves together so we can make things right with God.  And that’s one thing Satan knows is impossible.  We listen to the sweet, seductive voice of shame and it whispers death to our souls.

Jesus came to give us life.  His death canceled guilt and shame.  It’s grace.  We can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but Jesus did it for us anyway because of his great, great love that surpasses all knowledge.  Satan condemns, but Jesus intercedes for us.  More than that, he has sent the Holy Spirit as our Advocate–the one who defends us when the world condemns.  He is for us.

So when you feel the slow pull of the circling waters of guilt, don’t let them pull you down.  You are covered by his grace.  Stand on that truth.

You are not a failure.  You are a new creation.

You are not worthless.  You are a child of God.

You are not a slave.  You are redeemed.

You are not less-than.  You are God’s masterpiece.

Grace is the antidote to guilt.  Walk in his grace this week.

Have you heard the voice of guilt?  What keeps you from falling into the cycle of guilt and self-condemnation?

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Love Your Dreams: Because You Matter

Hearts at Home Blog Hop:  Third Thursday ThoughtsFor several years I’ve wistfully eyed knitting patterns, wishing I could produce those colors and textures myself. I’ve crocheted since I was a little girl, but I longed for the new vistas of knitted sweaters, shawls, and socks. Last spring I finally took the plunge: I signed up for a knitting class. I fell instantly and irrevocably in love. Knitting gives me a whole new range of opportunities to feed my yarn addiction, and there’s something soothing about producing something that actually stays done. Unlike, say, dishes and laundry.

In the landscape of my dreams learning to knit was more molehill than mountain. Still, it felt so good to get out and do something I wanted to do that was for me.  It made me stop to think:  how did I get to this place where I subconsciously accepted that my dreams no longer mattered?  There’s something about the daily demands of parenting that tempts me to push my own deep desires aside.  Laundry has to be done, dishes have to be washed, and children have to be fed.  That other thing–that thing that’s been burning in my mind and heart–that can wait.  I can wait.

Somehow the subtext of waiting becomes I can wait . . . because these other things are more urgent.

It can wait . . . because my dreams aren’t really that important.

It can wait . . . because I’m not that important.

Here’s the truth:  my dreams matter because I matter.  I am a child of God, created for good works the Father had planned for me before the foundation of the world.  All my days were written in his book before one of them came to be.  My life is to be spent for his glory.  So what if–what if that dream in my heart is there because God dreamed it for me first?

That matters enormously.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).  Fullness of life doesn’t mean enduring our days like minutes on a treadmill.  It doesn’t mean living life in a series of afters:  After I get married. After we have a family.  After the baby sleeps through the night.  After the kids are all in school.  Life is not lived “after.”  It is lived today.  Fullness of life is a life lived with the fullness of love.  Fullness of joy.  Fullness of peace.  The fullness of Christ’s presence woven in and and around and through our moments, imbuing our days with purpose and meaning.

A part of that fullness is giving ourselves permission to dream.  Not just to dream, but to love our dreams.  When we love our dreams and pursue them, Christ’s love flows through us to the world.  That’s something that matters immensely.

And it shouldn’t wait any longer.

What are your God-given dreams?

This post is a part of the Third Thursday Thoughts link up from Hearts at Home.  Share your thoughts in the comments and check out some of the other posts to read more about loving your dreams and goals.  And if you like this post, subscribe to get emailed updates.

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Hope: Our Anchor for the Soul

HopeNew Year’s resolutions have never really been my thing.  To me September always feels more like the season of new beginnings.  The kids are going back to school, and we’re resuming our normal routine after the crazy and lazy days of summer.  January is the middle of the long hard slog toward spring. Fall feels like the natural time to pause, look at what’s working for me and what’s not, and make changes to carry through the school year cycle.

But this year, I felt prompted to do something different.  It’s become kind of a thing to choose a word as your theme for the year.  This year, choosing a word for the year seemed right.  So I prayed and  listened, thinking that eventually the right word would come to me.

And this is what percolated up to the surface:  hope.

Hope was not the word I would have chosen.  I wanted something more original.  More vibrant.  The kind of word that people read and go “ooh!  I want to choose that one!”  But I couldn’t get away from the sense that this was the theme Lord had chosen for me.  This will be my year to grow in hope.

We need hope because we live in the middle of the story.  We inhabit the tension between promise given and promise kept, living as citizens of a kingdom that is both now and is not yet.  Hope is what keeps us holding on, looking for the promised glory.  We cling to hope as an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19).

I think hope must have been that kind of anchor for Ruth.  When we read the story of Ruth, we read it already knowing the ending.  We know the journey from bereft widow to joyful wife and mother.  We know she finds her place in the story (Matthew 1:5).  But Ruth didn’t know the ending. When she stood at the crossroads and made that extraordinary vow of faithfulness to Naomi and Naomi’s God, Ruth didn’t know she’d one day sit next to her husband with a baby on her knee.  Through the long journey into an uncertain future, Ruth walked next to Naomi.  Day after day she worked in harvest fields, gleaning survival for herself and the mother-in-law she had vowed to cherish.  God’s hesed, covenant love, flowed through her, and God rewarded her for her faithfulness.

What kept her going?  What made her keep putting one foot in front of the other down the dusty road as she walked away from everything she knew? What held her up through the days and weeks of gleaning, during the nights she laid alone on her bed and dawn seemed so far away?  I believe it was this:  the belief that the God she clung to would not fail.  It was a hope that did not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

We need that hope.  Hope that God told us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done” for a reason.  Hope that a divine promise made is a divine promise kept.  Hope that we can live in all the power and victory the New Testament promises.  Hope that the God who loved us and chose us first will never let us down.  It’s that kind of hope that becomes our soul anchor, keeping us off the crushing rocks of despair and doubt.

My soul needs that anchor.  May this be my year to grow in hope.

What is your theme for the year?

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Tweet: We inhabit the tension between promise given and promise kept, living as citizens of a kingdom that is both now and is not yet @leigh_powers

Tweet: We need hope because we live in the middle of the story. @leigh_powers

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