Bacon

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I am currently reading Leviticus in my One Year Chronological Bible. Pretty hefty stuff. Leviticus is the book discussing laws set before the Israelites, as spoken through Moses. I am on the part where God was telling the Israelites, through Moses, what they could eat (like sheep), and what they could not eat (like pigs). It also discusses what kinds of skin diseases required separation from the camp. This was taking place after the Israelites were led from Egypt, and Moses had been given the 10 commandments.

Now I loooove bacon! And eat it often too. We no longer are commanded not to eat it either, because Jesus fulfilled the law, which we couldn’t do alone (Galatians 3 and Romans 7). But I imagine that God was telling the Israelites not to eat certain foods for their own health, not because He didn’t want them to enjoy bacon. I mean times were different back then, and perhaps they would have gotten an illness from eating pig. Along the same lines, I think God thought it best if people with diseases remained outside the camp walls so they couldn’t spread their illness to others. Again, God setting boundaries to protect His people, not to keep good things from them. Of course bacon being “good” is all relative.

But I just want to take today to say “thank you God.” Thank you for having rules for us, as any good parent would. I know you do not want to keep any good thing from me. What you really want is to give me the best. And you know that I am the safest and happiest when I follow your laws. Francis Chan explains this a bit in his Just Stop and Think video if you start watching at 3:40. (The whole video is amazing if you have the time to check it out though. You won’t be sorry you did! His book Crazy Love is amazing too!)

I mean you made me! You would know what’s best for me. You know every beat of my heart, everything that saddens me, everything I long for, and it is your desire to fulfill these longings. It wasn’t until I entered into this relationship with you, that I realized this can only be done through your son Jesus. I had stepped way outside of your boundaries. I looked every place but up to satisfy that deep longing for “something more.”  I get it now, and I know that deep longing for something more is part of your plan, because there is something more–Heaven. We get there through Jesus (John 14:6).

But back to the point though. What kind of parent would I be without setting boundaries for my children? Not a very good one. Without your boundaries, it would be hard to know you really cared for me. Chip Ingram paints a beautiful picture of this in his study Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. He talks about a Dad that lives in an apartment complex near a busy highway. The dad set boundaries for his son–where he could ride his bike and where he couldn’t– not to be mean, but to keep him safe. And yes that dad also had to discipline his child when he tried to go outside of those boundaries. Imagine if he didn’t do that. It wouldn’t be long before his child ended up seriously injured or even dead.

In the same way, God, you have set boundaries that keep me safe and happy. The bible is full of commands for us, and I have broken many! I will probably break many more! But I thank You that your son paid the price for my transgressions. And I know, with your help, I will get better at keeping your commands and be better off for it. For You that started a good work in me will complete it (Philippians 1:6).

::Lord, help me also to set God-honoring boundaries for my children. This is so tough to do, especially when the discipline that comes alongside can be painful for them. No mother wants their children to hurt, for any reason. But like that little boy on the bike had to feel the sting of discipline, and I have had to feel the sting of your discipline, and my children have felt the sting of mine, I know in the end, like you, I only want what is best for my children. And it is always done out of love.  Thank you for disciplining me out of love::

Safe In Your Arms

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Lord, I do not understand why you, in your infinite wisdom, allow us to continue holding on to baby Stephen, while baby Benjamin’s family can no longer do the same. But I know that I mustn’t rely on my own understanding, because you tell me not to in Proverbs 3.5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Though I can only dare to relate, I assume that losing a child has to be the most painful thing anyone can endure. I cry for their loss. But you understand exactly what they are going through, don’t you. You “did not spare [your] own son, but gave him up for us all.” -Romans 8:32. And Jesus’s death was gruesome. How you endured that for us, I will also never understand.

I do know your plans are good, and I pray you help baby Benjamin’s family to cling to you and praise you in spite of this tragedy. For you are “near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18), and you work all things out “for the good of those who love [You]” (Romans 8:28). I likely will never grasp this either until I am in heaven, along with baby Benjamin, and see your beautiful plan unfold. How could an untimely death such as this possibly be worked out for good? But in the meantime, it is comforting to know that at least he is safe in your arms. And I must admit, I think that is a better place than any this world has to offer.

{If you have stumbled upon this and you are a praying person, please lift Benjamin H’s family up in prayer as they grieve the loss of his precious life. Whether you have come across this today or years from now, I know they will need the prayers all the same.}

THANK YOU for a little more time

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Luke 13:6-8 says:

Then [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

I came across this while going through my Beth Moore study, Jesus the One and Only, and it was my understanding that the one asking for more time on behalf of the tree was Jesus. I believe that tree to be me!

I feel like the best way to begin is, well, at the very beginning. . .

When I was 15, I heard God calling to me. I was attending a non-denomenational Christian church in the small(ish) town where I grew up. At that time I professed (and believed) that I was indeed a sinner in need of saving. I was soon after baptized (with the permission of my parents, who did not attend this church), started to read my bible, and began my walk of faith, alone. Therein lied the problem. At such an impressionable stage in life, it did not take long until I put that bible on the shelf along with my uncultivated relationship with God. I was to be a tree not producing fruit for more than a decade!

God continued to pull at my heart strings through the years, but I claimed I was not ready. Someday I would go back to church, maybe when I had a family. Perhaps God wanted to test this theory, because he gave me Noah. Instant family. Still I refused a relationship. I didn’t have the time. I was a busy, single mother. Surely He understood–I would get to Him when I was ready. There were some things I needed to get situated, clean up if you will, in my life before committing. A wise friend even said, “You know Michelle, you should seek God first, and you will be amazed how He will help you put things in order.” I believe God was talking to me through her that day. I didn’t listen.

All the while, I was running from what I needed the most. The lover of my soul, Jesus Christ. The one saying to God, “Give her time, I know she will produce fruit.” Jesus, who would fill the void that had become so large in my life, I thought I would remain lost inside it forever. The void I had tried filling on my own, outside of God’s will, more than 101 unhealthy ways. One destructive decision after the next guided my life, and I had no joy.

Until one day, I listened. It started with a book; The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, which led to me reading the bible, which led to attending a church, which led to the beginning of the relationship that has brought joy and so much more into my life. A relationship that led this tree to producing fruit. I am glad that I was given a little more time.