What We Really Want

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ve probably seen me write about the power of God to transform a life—any life. No matter how far we’ve fallen. Or how far we haven’t fallen (or don’t think we’ve fallen).

The grace and mercy of God, His power to redeem, are limitless. (If you’re looking for proof, check out the lives of Peter and Paul.)

The thing is God doesn’t force His redemption on anyone. We have to choose it. Because if there’s no option to choose, there cannot be love, and God is the essence of true, powerful, life-altering love.

But when we choose God’s redemption, it’s not a one-time thing.

We choose first to be redeemed from sin and its eternal consequences.

Then we have to choose over and over (and over) to be delivered from the power of sin in our lives on this earth.

So no, I don’t doubt God’s power to transform a life. But I also have great faith in a human’s ability to wreck His work.

Because sometimes we don’t really want to be delivered.

Oh, sure, we say we want freedom from this sin that’s causing havoc in our lives. We say we want all the blessings God has to offer.

But maybe we don’t really, truly mean that.

Because sin has its attractive side. That’s why we fall into it in the first place.

  • We say we want deliverance from an explosive temper that hurts our family and friends. But the rush of power that anger affords—well, we like that feeling.
  • We say we want contentment in our season of life. But we don’t want to forgo our fantasies about “someday, when something we want will make our lives perfect.”
  • We say we want freedom from lust in our daily lives. But a little bit of pornography is so thrilling. And the sexy stuff in R-rated movies doesn’t even count as real pornography, right?
  • We say we want peace that passes understanding. But worrying and fretting about something offers a feeling of control, and how could we cope without that security?
  • We say we want good physical health (and why doesn’t God give it?). But we don’t want to deny ourselves the pleasure of eating whatever we want whenever we want it.

We say we want complete freedom in Christ. But we don’t really want to sacrifice any pleasures at all.

We’d rather lament our unwinnable battles and shame ourselves for our failures.

Believe me, I’ve been there. Still am there, to an extent. (You know I’m always preaching to myself on my weblog.)

We sin, we regret it, we castigate ourselves for being such wretched followers of Christ, and then when we’ve properly chastised ourselves, we allow ourselves to believe He forgives us.

And then we do the same thing again.

Because self-loathing is cheap.

Oh, sure it’s painful.

But not as painful as changing our behavior.

Changing will cost us.

Changing requires us to see our sin, even the pleasant parts, for what they are.

Changing requires us to deny what our flesh wants in favor of what Christ wants.

Changing requires us to stop justifying ourselves and start believing what God says.

Changing requires us to “put off the old man and put on the new” (Colossians 3:9-10). And that’s hard. Really hard

Of course we’ll never accomplish that without God’s Holy Spirit working in us. But the Holy Spirit won’t accomplish it without our participation, either.

So what do we really want? The abundant life Christ offers? Or the temporary enjoyments of our folly and sin?

Maybe we need to do some soul-searching. (Frankly, I hate self-analysis, but it’s a very necessary thing.) Maybe we need to find out what we really want. And whether what we really want needs to change.

-Miss Darcy

Unprofitable Servants

I read the book of Luke back in December. And I’m still clinging to one verse. I say it to myself almost every day. I think it’s going to be my verse for the year.

Jesus’ disciples have just said to him, “Increase our faith.” And He starts by telling them that faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea.

Then He goes on with a little story about a servant who works all day in the fields, comes in, and still has to prepare and serve supper to his master before he can eat himself. And does the servant receive any thanks? No. He’s just doing his job, and why should he get thanked for doing what was his to do? 

Then Jesus says:

“So likewise you, when you  have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'”

-Luke 17:10 NKJV

I find enormous comfort in those words.

I don’t have to do anything grand and wonderful. I don’t need a spotlight. I don’t have to be the smartest, or best, or most magnificent anything.

Every day, I just get up and do the things that I am commanded.

  • Servanthood takes the pressure off. I don’t have to call the shots or plot great strategies. I just have to listen to what part I play in the plans.
  • I’m not responsible for how things turn out. If I do what I’m told, the outcome’s not my fault. The result of my dutiful performance is His business.
  • If I do the things I’m commanded, I don’t have to worry if I’m doing enough or not doing enough–just follow the instructions. There’s a sweet accomplishment and rest when I can simply do my duty.
  • If my Master commands me to do something, He will also equip me to do it. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m “able” to do something. I have His resources at my disposal.
  • And of course I’m unprofitable. Jesus spent His own blood to redeem me. No amount of service could ever in a million billion years repay what He spent, let alone more. So I don’t have to try.

Yes, I believe God sometimes gives us “large” things as part of our duty. But what’s big for me might not even look big to you. And that’s fine. It’s not about us.

It’s about getting the King’s work done.

When I love my family and friends (or strangers), when I wash the dishes, when I write another scene for a story, when I volunteer as a “gopher” at church, when I take vitamins to keep my body in good order, when I give my best effort at choir practice, when I read my Bible, when I pray for a friend’s prayer request on Facebook, do I get thanked? Of course not. Why should I?

But even so, these little things matter.

The English Standard Version, which I’m reading this year for the first time, calls us “unworthy servants” in Luke 17:10.

Which is another beautifully accurate descriptor. How in the world could we be worthy to serve the King of Kings?

We’re not.

But He is worthy. Of our service, our praise, our adoration. Of our love.

And this Master of ours, who is worthy of all glory, became a servant Himself.

The night before Jesus was crucified, He washed His disciples’ feet. Then He said,

“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.

-John 13:13-16 NKJV

Our Lord both lived and died on behalf of His servants. Why should not we be willing to go as far?

Is there not joy in following the footsteps of our glorious, humble Master?

And what does all this talk about unprofitable servitude have to do with faith anyway?

Well, if you’re a servant with a good master, you can trust him to take care of you, to give good orders, to provide what’s necessary for carrying out your tasks successfully.

In other words, if we’ll quit looking at ourselves and look at our Master, our faith cannot help but grow.

Because He is worthy.

-Miss Darcy

Proud Waves

I had the privilege of spending a week in St. Augustine, Florida, this month. We went to visit friends for the daughter’s high school graduation, and naturally we spent some hours on the beach.

This is the first time I’ve been to a beach in warm weather (well, since I was four years old, and I barely remember that). I loved waking early to watch the sun rise like a ball of glowing lava over the quiet ocean. Walking the shore at night with the water pulling the sand from beneath my feet and the stars pin-pricking the sky. Mixing water with dry sand to reach the perfect consistency for castle-building. Meandering up and down the beach to find shells for my sister to turn into jewelry.

But for me, the seaside, be it sandy or rocky, is really about the ocean.

The waves relentlessly rushing, curling, crashing, retreating.

The sight of endless water, here to the horizon.

The feel of cool water washing over my skin, tugging at my feet.

The constant movement, as if the ocean is alive.

The taste of salt when the water splashes my lips.

The sounds. The scents.

It’s so big. So powerful.

The ocean has majesty. It’s a force to be reckoned with.

Dad told me of a line he remembered from a book he read years ago, Endurance.

You can never win against the ocean. The best you can hope for is a draw.

The waves and water are relentless, untamable. Beautiful, yet a little frightening.

All week, I kept thinking of where the LORD points to the ocean He created as evidence of His power. God asks Job,

“Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb; …

When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;

When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’

-Job 38: 8, 10-11 NKJV

Truly, with all our dikes and jetties and super-sophisticated technology, the best we can do is sort of hold our own against an undaunted foe that fights effortlessly.

We can never control the ocean.

But God can.

He set the limits. He said, “Your waves may come up to here, and not a step farther without My permission.”

Indeed, the ocean’s waves are proud. And not without reason.

It is good to remember that I serve the God who can bid the proud waves to halt. And even walk upon them if He pleases.

-Miss Darcy

The Moabite Curse

It’s funny that as many times as I’ve read the book of Ruth over the years, it was only recently that I realized it held the answer to another question I had about the Scripture.

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever,

because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.

Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you.

You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.

-Deuteronomy 23:3-6 NKJV (emphasis mine)

So, at first glance, that seems pretty harsh. Just because the Moabites at one time opposed the people of the Lord, now none of their descendants can come to God?

But then you have the exception of Ruth. She was a Moabitess who married an Israelite refugee named Mahlon. But Mahlon died, and Ruth chose to return with her mother-in-law to Israel. There she met and married an Israelite named Boaz, and became the great-grandmother of King David.

That makes David one-eighth a son of Moab, and David went into the assembly of the Lord (along with his father and grandfather, I daresay). We have an exception to that no-Moabites-allowed rule.

But God doesn’t just make random exceptions, does He? I mean, what made Ruth such a good person that God could overlook the lineage she passed on to her sons?

(I suppose some could say that the curse couldn’t pass through a Moabite woman, only through a man. But, taking the whole Old Testament into consideration, that reasoning didn’t hold up well enough to satisfy me.) 🙂

So I kept pondering over it, trying to reconcile it in my mind. Until the answer hit me between the eyes, as is often the case.

Ruth rejected her lineage.

When her Israelite mother-in-law tried to convince her to stay in Moab, Ruth would have none of it.

But Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.

-Ruth 1:16 NKJV

Ruth rejected the gods of her homeland and chose to follow the Hebrews’ God. She refused to identify with the people she’d been born to and instead chose to identify with the people who worshiped God.

Ruth never lost her Moabite DNA. But she chose in her heart to follow God, she gave voice to that resolution, and she changed her life to live as a Hebrew.

Her choice gave her a whole new heritage.

Doesn’t this sound exactly like Jesus’ offer in the New Testament?

We humans are born into Adam’s sin, bent toward corruption from the moment we have the mental power to choose.

Jesus offers us life free from sin and its wages. All we have to do is reject the world and choose Him, with our hearts, with our words, and with our lifestyles.

Ultimately, God is not concerned with what we call bloodlines. He’s concerned with our hearts. Anyone from any heritage on this planet can accept Jesus’ gift and join the family He calls the Church—a vast family that stretches around the globe and across the ages.

It starts with a simple choice.

The more I look, the more I am persuaded that the God of the Old Testament is no different from the God of New Testament. The interface may look different, but His operating system has always been the same.

-Miss Darcy

P.S. In Jeremiah, God spends all of Chapter 48 describing how He will judge and destroy Moab because of their idolatry. But in the final verse, He says, “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab in the latter days.” Something He also promises to Elam and Ammon. Interesting, is it not?

There Remains Much Land

Sometimes I crave a really good story, but I can’t find a book I want to settle down with. It’s dreadfully provoking.

When that happened a few weeks ago, I picked up the Bible and started reading Joshua, just for the story. I wanted adventure. Spies, battles, miracles, noble hero—adventure doesn’t get much better than that, yes?

And I ran across a verse I’m sure you’ve heard preached on or written about sometime or other:

Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.

-Joshua 13:1 NKJV

The Lord goes on to name the places the children of Israel still need to take possession of. Having just read about all the cities and kings Joshua had conquered, I thought, “Wow. So much done. Yet so much left to do.”

If you go on to read Judges, you discover just how much land Israel left unconquered after Joshua died—and all the trouble that caused them.

I think we still do that kind of thing.

Joshua gave the Israelites a great start during his lifetime. He hit the big cities, the important fortresses. He took out the most powerful kings. But still much land remained.

When we give our lives to Jesus (“get saved” in Christianese), we almost instantly surrender the important fortresses. We depart from some of our most glaring sins. We attend church faithfully. We pause to pray three times a day. We get a Bible, start reading it, learn the order of the books. We wear Christian T-shirts, listen to Christian music.

You know. We hit the highlights. Big things change, little things change. And that’s wonderful! That’s the power of God to transform a person immediately.

But then it’s easy to stagnate.

I mean, we’re saved. We’re different. We’re getting on top of this livin’-for-Jesus thing.

Yet there remains much land yet to be possessed.

Does Jesus have all our love? Is there nothing competing with Him for our affections and energy?

Do we yet comprehend the width and length and depth and height—do we know the love of Christ?

Do we walk in step with God’s Spirit every day?

Does God’s peace rule in our hearts?

Has Jesus so thoroughly overtaken us that He is not merely our faith of choice, but also our source of identity?

Do we rely on the Lord instead of on ourselves during tribulation?

Do we gladly obey God’s commandments because we know only our Creator and Redeemer has the wisdom and the right to control us?

Does thankfulness to God permeate our lives?

Do we love others like He loves them?

Does His Word shape everything about the way we view life?

Is He really, truly, wholly the One we worship?

That’s what I want. But I am so far from being there yet. I know there remains very much land in my heart to be fully surrendered to Christ. To be fully possessed by Him.

The war to win full surrender of our hearts is the fight of a lifetime. I don’t want to be satisfied with being a good Christian. I want Jesus to truly be my everything.

So let us fight on, warriors. Let us set ourselves against the Lord’s enemy and our own selfish desires. Let us be faithful.

Not that our own strength is sufficient. But God’s grace will make good what we lack.

-Miss Darcy

Christmas Peace

In my church’s Christmas concert this year, we sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

‘Tis a common theme of songs and stories and Scripture quotations at Christmas. After all, the angels sang to the shepherds: “…on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (see Luke 2:14)

Yet Jesus said something very interesting, almost startling, to His disciples.

“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.

“For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two and two against three.

-Luke 12:51-52 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Matthew 10:34 says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

At first glance, it doesn’t seem to fit with the Jesus who died to save lives and is not willing that any should perish. But seem is the operative word here.

Jesus didn’t come to set the world at war. Division is an unavoidable side effect of His mission.

He came to redeem people. To free them from sin, Satan, and death. If everyone accepted that redemption, then peace would reign on earth.

But someone has far too much to lose if everyone chooses redemption. Satan would completely lose his power over humans. Oh, sure, he’d still be able to tempt them. But they would be equipped to resist his lures. They’d be armed to withstand him as never before. They would no longer be his slaves.

And he will stop at nothing to prevent his captives from slipping away.

So Satan convinces people that Jesus is the problem. That all who follow Jesus are a threat. To freedom, to pleasure, to life. Anything to get souls frightened and furious at the very thing which could save them.

Clever distraction tactic, is it not?

Unfortunately, this distraction tactic tends to ensnare Jesus’ followers, too. We see all these people attacking us, and we think we have to attack back. (Best defense and all that.) We fall into bickering and bitterness, cruel words and worse. But we miss the real enemy. We think it’s the people charging against us. It’s really the devil who has deceived these people.

It’s such a brilliant plan. It keeps the slaves safely bound, and keeps the redeemed ones wasting their energy on the wrong enemy.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

-Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

That’s why God commands us:

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

-Romans 12:18 NKJV

Christians are not supposed to be quarrelsome, contentious, argumentative, rude, disrespectful, unkind, or violent. We may be hated and despised because we follow Jesus, but we shouldn’t retaliate. In fact, we don’t need to retaliate; it doesn’t do any good. Our job is to live peaceably as much as possible.

But guess what? Sometimes it’s not possible. We may do everything in our power to have amicable relationships with others. We may bend over backwards until our heads touch our heels (figuratively), and still be unable to appease those in our lives who just cannot stand us.

That’s okay. That’s when we step back and pray because the enemy is not the person in front of us. The enemy is the “spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Until Satan’s defeat, begun on the cross, reaches its culmination, there will always be conflict on earth.

See, Jesus didn’t come to give peace. He came to be peace.

The angels’ message was true in the most literal sense possible. Peace had come to earth—because Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace and He had come to physically dwell on earth. Peace was truly on the earth for the first time.

Now those who believe in Him have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within them. We have peace. Mind-blowing peace, if we choose to embrace it. (see Philippians 4:6-7)

So as we sing this Christmas of peace on earth beginning with us, it is a worthy goal. We should strive to let the peace of God dwell in us and spill over into our relationships with every person who crosses our paths.

And when people dislike you, despise you, or hate you for no apparent reason, take heart. Division is just part of life in this world.

One day, Jesus will come to this earth again. And at His second coming, He will finally establish peace on this earth.

-Miss Darcy

I Am Thankful, 2018

I am thankful for…

  • All my needs met. I have a middle-class American lifestyle; literally every one of my physical and material needs is met.
  • Books. An endless source of new knowledge, and also entertainment.
  • Church. Sometimes I think the Church in America is so broken. But even in its brokenness, God somehow still uses it to draw me closer to Him. After all, it’s His Church, not mine, and we Christians need one another.
  • Dierk. He’s the main character in my novel, Prince of Sunland, and by saying I’m thankful for him, I mean his whole story. I’m just so grateful that God lets me write stories. They’re not perfect, but they are mine, and I love writing them.
  • Everlasting life. Much as I enjoy this life, it’s good to know there’s something far-and-away better after I die.
  • Family. We weren’t created to do life alone. Hence, family. Far too often, humans twist the gift of family into a curse. But it was meant to be a blessing. And mine is.
  • Good friends. Friends that give encouragement and laughter and even a gentle rebuke or a pointed question when I need it.
  • Home. We associate “home” with a certain place, and I daresay that plays into it. But there are four people who make a place home for me, and we can make home anywhere.
  • Ice cream. Because I believe in being thankful for, and delighting in, little things.
  • Justice. Isn’t it good to know there is such a thing as just and unjust? I mean, can you imagine how the world would function without it? Disaster.
  • Kids. I’m so grateful for the children God brings into my life so I can love on them.
  • Love. From God. From family. From friends. I’m so rich in this blessing.
  • Music. (And the sense of hearing so I can enjoy music.) I think God created music to speak to our souls in ways that words can’t. And when you match powerful music with powerful words… Perfection.
  • New places. Wherever God brings me, He always brings good things and good people into my life. I enjoy it!
  • Order. I’m thankful the sun rises every morning and I can count on it. Can you imagine a world without order?
  • Peace. God’s peace is like a bedrock. You can plant your feet and not be moved.
  • Quiet. We weren’t made for constant noise and busyness. Sometimes we do our best growing in quietness.
  • Righteousness. Through Jesus Christ, I am clothed with spotless righteousness. Is that not an awesome, breath-taking truth?
  • Scripture. We’re lost without it.
  • Truth. In a world where people can’t tell good and bad apart anymore, I’m thankful Truth is something beyond mere human wisdom.
  • United States of America. Despite her flaws, I love this country dearly, and I’m grateful I was born here.
  • Variety. Sameness in people and things would actually be easier. But variety is more fun.
  • Written words. The beauty and power and creativity in written language never cease to fascinate me. Besides, it’s a gift God gave to only one of His creations—mankind.
  • Xmas. That is, CHRISTMAS! My absolute favorite time of the year. I’m so thankful Jesus came to redeem us, and I love celebrating it with music and lights and food and gifts. The season officially begins in our house tonight!
  • Yahweh. The Lord GOD, Creator of the heavens and the earth, who is yet mindful of me. I could never thank Him enough for all His goodness.
  • Zo-ay. (Sorry, had to borrow from Greek here.) Zo-ay is life. I am so grateful for this life God has given me. It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s good.

In view of this extensive list of my blessings, feel free to remind me of it if I get to whining anytime soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Miss Darcy