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Noël, our 2-year-old, loves her princess flip-flops – as did her two older sisters. Most of the princesses’ faces have long since been worn off, but there are enough remnants of sparkles and dresses to make them her favorite shoes. The only problem is that they decrease here walking capabilities by about 50%. So as we were doing a bit of walking out and about this past Saturday, I made sure I was always holding her hand. She tripped what felt like every tenth step times, but nothing drastic happened because I was able to hold her up.

I thought of that immediately as I read Psalm 37:23-24 this morning:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.”

What a beautiful truth for us as we clumsily walk through life, tripping on roots, cracks, and our own feet: that no matter how often we fall, if we would delight in his way, then God holds our hands and keeps us from utter destruction. If earthly fathers hold the hands of their children, then surely our good and loving heavenly Father has a good grip on ours.

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In a last second moment of Christmas generosity, the girls and I decided to give away TWO copies of Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies! Elaine and Lena both chose one name from their Chicago Cubs hat this morning, and the winners are:

Kelli Sherry and Mel!

It sounds like you already have the CD, Mel, so have fun giving it away, and, Kelli, we hope you and your family enjoy the silliness and seriousness as much as we do. If you didn’t win, just follow the links in the original post to purchase any of the CDs mentioned.

And thanks to everyone for the music suggestions. I have heard good bit of Seeds Family Worship, and our girls enjoy their music a lot too. I’ll have to check out the other ones, though – I’m sure they’re great.

With another baby on the way, I’m on the lookout for names. I came across this one in Isaiah 8:3 – Maher-shalal-hash-baz. It means, “Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey,” and it’s a boys name. Here are the pluses: it is biblical, it has an awesome meaning, and the potential nicknames are countless. He could go by “Hash” or “Baz”… not “Booty” though. I haven’t run this name past Andrea yet, and I don’t think I’ll waste my time.  But, hey – I’ve heard worse!

In both the small group I lead and TBD, our church youth group, I have been leading a study through the book of James. In each group, before tackling James’ thoughts regarding the fact that “faith without works is dead” (2:14-26), we did a study of the life of Abraham. We did this because James uses Abraham as an example of faith showing itself in works, and while doing this preliminary study, I realized more fully why.

  • He uprooted his family from Haran to go to, what God described as, “the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12). As one of our group members put it, “Thanks for the details, God.”
  • Though he and Sarah were both old and beyond the age of having children, he trusted that God would provide an heir for him (Gen. 15). Of course, he didn’t trust God perfectly, as the Hagar/Ishmael incident shows, not to mention that fact that both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the idea. Yet their shortcomings give those of us with often weak faith hope. Comfort can be found in that fact that the promises of God to Abraham were not contingent upon Abraham, but solely upon God (Gen. 15:17-21; 22:16).
  • He bound himself to God through the covenant of circumcision at 100 years old, along with his entire household (Gen. 17). No comment necessary.
  • He was more than willing to sacrifice his son because of God’s command, believing that even if he killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead (Gen. 22; Heb. 11:19).

So much more could be said about this father of our faith, but his entire life was an example of faith shown through works. His actions clearly reveal that he not only said what he believed, but he believed what he said; his works were the visible evidence of his invisible faith. And Abraham’s faith says more about God than it does about Abraham, because Abraham’s faith was not wishful thinking or a blind leap. Rather it was grounded in a God that continually reaffirmed His covenant and held Himself fully responsible for fulfilling it. Our God is worthy of the kind of radical, life-altering faith that Abraham exemplifies, because He is the definition of “trustworthy.” Abraham could do what he did because he believed God was who He said he was. So my faith will increase as I see more of who God is, and thereby see that He is worthy of my complete trust. Knowing God is the key to seeing with eyes of faith.

I had the opportunity to preach yesterday from 1 John 3:11-24, the main point of which is “love one another.”  The bulk of what I said related to the two examples of love John gives – the negative example of Cain, who was a murderer because of guilt and jealousy, and the positive example of Jesus, who died for others.  I defined dying like Jesus as follows: to joyfully and sacrificially give to those in need regardless of the cost or the merit of the recipient.  When we love others, we die to ourselves and our selfish desires.

But does that mean we are doormats for other people?  Do we get taken advantage of?  I think the answer in part is “Yes.”  Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest companions, people exploited his divine powers for a free meal (John 6), he was completely innocent in a trial that resulted in a death sentence, and more.  So loving others in self-sacrificing ways may result in getting walked on.  We embrace that because our Master was walked on and because the only way a man can gain his life is to lose it for Christ’s sake (Mk. 8:34-35).

The other part of the answer is, not surprisingly, “No.”  The definition of love for others I gleaned from the passage leaves room for standing firm.  Jesus is the example given, and He was not always taken advantage of – given his divinity, he was never taken advantage of in the sense that he was in a situation He could not control.  He provided that free meal at the beginning of John 6, but he called out the people’s selfish motives in the latter part of the chapter, refused to offer them more food, and caused many people to walk away.  The other example everyone will appeal to is when he cleaned house at the temple.  It would be incorrect to say that those acts and others were not love.  In our minds, love has become only doing nice, sweet, things; so loving others is to be a “softie” in all situations.

But love can be seen in rebuke, calling out sin, or allowing people to suffer the consequences of their sin.  Love can be found in a righteous, god-honoring kick-in-the pants.  Such bold love often is self-sacrificing.  The cost may be a friendship.  You might get physically harmed for standing for truth or telling your friend they are acting contrary to the gospel, not to mention the fact that everyone would rather keep silent about another person’s faults than courageously call out their failure.  But to withhold such acts of tough-love is to be unloving.  Proverbs 27:6 says it well: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

So does loving others like Jesus, dying for others, mean that you have be a doormat?  Yes and No.  We trust God’s Spirit to guide us and remember that an act of love is not always easy to identify: you can turn the other cheek and you can wound others in love, both with God-honoring, joy-filled, self-sacrificing love.