Order or disorder

Anyone’s who’s been around me for more than 5 minutes knows I’m a very organized person. A couple years ago I posted a devotional written by retired CRC pastor Dale Vander Veen about the virtue and occasional vice of being organized. He accurately expressed how I feel in that piece and has now done so again in a recent devotional titled “Order or Disorder.” I reprint it here with Dale’s kind permission.

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Two verses in the same chapter speak of order: “God is not a God of disorder, but of order… Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” I love order – in my flowerbeds, in my study, in my car, in my finances, in my sock drawer, in my closet, on my bookshelves, in my planning for the future.

Recently our son’s family was at our home and I wanted to check on someone from a church we served some years ago. I left the room and returned fifteen seconds later with that church’s pictorial directory. My daughter-in-law exclaimed, “Who but Dad would know that he had that directory – and exactly where it was?” Why wouldn’t I know? What are filing cabinets and folders for anyway?

Graphic found via Google

I think deep down inside that I’m not searching for order as much as for peace. Some people find that too much order robs them of peace, confining them in the anxiety of organization. And I must apologize to those upon whom I have foisted order beyond what they could bear. To such dear friends and family members I say, “Let there be disorder in your life if that brings you peace.” For myself I say, “Let there be order in my life so I may have peace.”

Peace is of greater value than order. I must admit I changed the last word of 1 Corinthians 14:33 above from peace to order. Paul actually wrote, “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” God’s ultimate desire for us is not order, but peace. How much better to do what God wants me to do, and let him bring order as he sees best. Even suffering (a disordering experience for most) advances God’s sense of order and peace, for suffering brings perseverance which brings character which brings hope. And it is the God of hope who fills us with all joy and peace.

Let there be order, but above all, let there be peace – the peace of God!

Solvent

As an English major, I love seeing words come alive in a new light, especially when it’s in the light of faith. Dale Vander Veen is a retired pastor who emails daily devotions and he graciously welcomed me to share his theological discoveries in the word solvent

I love to find ways to open the gospel in one word. And when that one word has more than one meaning, all the better.

Solvent: able to pay all legal debts (as defined by Merriam-Webster). Solvent definition from GoogleThe opposite of solvent is bankrupt: reduced to a state of financial ruin; utter impoverishment. Maybe you know where I’m going with this one. I am spiritually bankrupt. I am unable to pay my debts to God; I am ruined, utterly impoverished. My dictionary goes further in defining bankrupt: exhausted of valuable qualities.

God says, “Dale, your dictionary goes too far. You may feel that you are ‘exhausted of valuable qualities.’ I disagree. You are of great worth to me. I have claimed you as my own, redeemed you, given you a new start. I have solved your insolvency once and for all.” Wow! Paul puts it this way: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Wow again!!

Solvent: a liquid substance capable of dissolving or dispersing one or more other unwanted substances (as also defined by Merriam-Webster). My sin is an “unwanted substance.” It is a deep stain, a seemingly irremovable stain. Only one liquid substance can make me better than OxiClean. “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” One more Wow!!!

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For nothing good have I whereby thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.
Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain; he washed it white as snow.
————————— – Elvina M. Hall, “Jesus Paid It All”


…Contact Dale directly if you’d like to receive his e-devotions, too:
dalevanderveen@sbcglobal.net
 

Confiding

From time to time I need someone to whom I can confide my deepest thoughts. It is a great blessing to have such a person (wife, family member, friend, co-worker) in my life. It is an equally great blessing when someone confides in me, sharing their secret joys, dreams, disappointments, hurts.

Confiding (com + fidere = with faith) at its heart is a matter of trust. Graphic from Google's definition of ConfideI open my heart only with those I trust. Misunderstanding, rejection, indiscretion are always the risks of confiding. David writes, “The Lord confides in those who fear him.” Solomon writes, “The Lord takes the upright into his confidence.”

Imagine that! When I fear the Lord and live uprightly, he is willing to tell me some (though certainly not all) of his secrets. He risks misunderstanding, rejection, indiscretion on my part.

What does the Lord want to confide to me? The parallel second half of the quote from David above is: “He makes his covenant known to them.” When God makes his covenant known to Abraham, he tells him two secrets: “I will … be your God” and “I will bless you … and you will be a blessing.” Two secrets that Abraham was not to keep to himself, but spread around to others!

Perhaps God’s greatest risk in confiding in me is not that I’ll spill the beans, but that I’ll hoard them!

I very much appreciated the devotional Dale Vander Veen wrote
last week from which this is an excerpt. You can subscribe
to his insightful daily e-devotions by contacting him directly:
dalevanderveen@sbcglobal.net.

Offering my body in worship

During the past few months of blogging, I’ve been looking at various elements of worship. Just as we don’t limit worship to a single day of the week but rather see it as a way of life, so we don’t limit worship to merely something that occupies our minds or our hearts. God invites us to offer every part of our bodies and every aspect of our beings in worship to Him.

I love how Dale Vander Veen expresses this in these reflections he recently wrote…

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“I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies
as living sacrifices.”
 
– Romans 12:1

How blessed I am that God would invite me to offer myself to him. How blessed I would be even if God grabbed hold of me and dragged me to his altar! But the God of grace prefers to invite, call, court, woo, wait, allure, and at times nudge me.

How do I offer myself to God? In a very earthy way. “offer the parts of your body to him.” Wouldn’t this be an appropriate prayer?

Lord, take my feet that I may walk in your ways.
Take my legs that I may stand firm in you.
Take my knees that I may bow in worship before you.
Take my arms that I may embrace your children.
Take my hands that I may do your work.
Take my fingers that I may write your thoughts.
Take my heart that I may pulse with your love.
Take my lungs that I may breathe the freshness of your Spirit.
Take my lips that I may speak your words.
Take my eyes that I may see your world.
Take my ears that I may hear the cries of your people.
Take my mind that I may think your truth.
Take my will that I may be wholeheartedly yours.

I am blessed, blessed indeed, from head to toe, inside and out.

Graphic found via Google

…Dale offers these reflections with the prayer that today you and I see God’s altar as the place of your life, not your death.

Love above order

If I have a gift of organization that can move mountains of stuff,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
– 1 Corinthians 13:2 (paraphrased)

Pile of papers graphic found via Google

Most people would call me organized. 1 Corinthians 14:40 (KJV) could be my life verse: “Let all things be done decently and in order.” It’s not uncommon for me to hear, “Thanks for keeping things organized for us.” But some have also said, “You’re driving me crazy with your organization.” I hate to admit it, but I’ve even heard the phrase obsessive-compulsive, which, of course, is actually a disorder.

As the saying goes, “Every virtue has its vice.” I’ve discovered that most virtues (if organization can be called virtuous) also have their exceptions. I’m looking at a pile of stuff that’s been on my filing cabinet for weeks. I notice that the pile has birthed a child recently. In fact, the child pile is threatening to outgrow the parent.

Dare I put the child on top of the parent and get back to one teetering pile? Is there a shelf in the closet on which I can hide both the parent and the child and thus protect my reputation for organization?

Does it really matter? Ah, there is the important question. Does my reputation for organization matter? No. Does it matter if I have a pile of stuff setting around? Probably not. Does it matter if I have two piles of stuff setting around? Maybe not. But surely there must be some number of piles that violates decency and order!

If order doesn’t matter, what does matter? Paul says, “The only thing that matters is faith working through love.” Does my penchant for organization help me express my love for others or does it hinder showing that love? It all depends. Sometimes it helps and sometimes it hinders.

Father, giver of the gift of organization, give me also the gift of sensitivity, that I might use all your gifts for the good of others.

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Believe it or not, I did not write this reflection! I post it here with the kind permission of its original author, Dale Vander Veen. Anyone who’s been around me for more than 5 minutes will recognize a lot of me in Dale’s description of his tendency to be very organized!

Undeserved and unreserved

Pastor Bobby and I are working through a series at Trinity CRC focusing on grace. This past week in his daily e-devotions, Dale Vander Veen wrote on the subject and captured what Bobby and I are trying to convey in our messages – especially his Quote for the Day. I’m posting it here with Dale’s kind permission.

Grace graphic found via Google

For forty-three years (1971-2014) McDonald’s periodically told the world, “You deserve a break today.” Those words were rated the top advertising jingle of the twentieth century. Last year McDonald’s dropped their exclusive rights to the iconic slogan. What McDonald’s really wanted was for me to give them a break by buying their merchandise. In fact, several times when their sales dropped, they brushed off the slogan and used it again.

I choked a bit on the deserve part of the message. I couldn’t escape the word, because I couldn’t escape the feeling. And I couldn’t escape the feeling, because I couldn’t escape the truth. I do not deserve a break. I am undeserving. That doesn’t make me unique. I’m not trying to impress anyone with my humility. No one is deserving. Feel free to say to yourself, “I’m undeserving, too.” Much better than “You deserve a break today” would be the prayer, “Lord, give me a break today.” And the emphasis is on give, for I could never earn a break from God.

Some Jewish elders told Jesus that a Gentile centurion “deserves to have you do this” (heal his servant). Why? “Because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” The centurion, however, had his theology and hence his self-understanding right. He sent word to Jesus, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.”

I, too, love God’s kingdom and I, too, occasionally help build his church, but that doesn’t make me deserving. I have found, however, that when I feel the most undeserving, I am probably the closest to grace, for what is grace but “God’s undeserved favor?”

Lord, thank you for giving me a break today – and every day.

Verse for the day:
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10)

Phrase for the day:
Grace – undeserved, yet unreserved

Quote for the day:
”Grace is dispensed sovereignly and freely by God. It is truly grace, with no mixture of human merit of any kind. This is the manifest work of the tender mercy of God, who stoops to rescue his children from sin and death and who, as he did in the initial work of creation, takes pieces of clay that are spiritually lifeless and breathes into them the breath that quickens them.”
R.C. Sproul, Grace Unknown

…With the prayer that today you will feel the quickening breath of God’s tender mercy and undeserved favor.

Contact Dale Vander Veen to receive his free, biblical, inspiring
daily devotional emails:
dalevanderveen@sbcglobal.net.

Saying “Here I am” to the One who says “Here am I”

I’ve loved Daniel L. Schutte’s song “Here I Am, Lord” ever since I first heard it years ago. It’s a beautiful expression of offering our lives to God. I love the song even more now having read Dale Vander Veen connect our dedication in saying, “Here I am” with God declaring to us, “Here am I.” The following reflections were written by Dale and appear here with this gracious permission.

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When God called to Abraham, Abraham respondedHere I am.” When the angel of the Lord called to Abraham, Abraham again responded, “Here I am.

When the angel of God called to Jacob in a dream, Jacob responded, “Here I am.” When God called to Jacob in a night vision, Jacob again responded, “Here I am.

When God called to Moses from a bush, Moses responded, “Here I am.

When the Lord called three times to Samuel, each time Samuel went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” When the Lord called a fourth time to Samuel, Samuel, following Eli’s advice, responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Isaiah “saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne.” When he then “heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me!”

Sobering words of call from God, stirring words of response from the called. When I hear God calling, like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah, I must say, “Here I am.” But surely, there must be fear in their words and in mine. I am willing, Lord, but am I ready? I am available, but am I able? Willing heart, but also queasy stomach, dry mouth, shaking hands, quivering lips.

To every person who has ever heard a call from God and responded “in weakness with great fear and trembling,” these words come from God to and through Isaiah: “You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say, ‘Here am I.’”

God calls. I respond, “Here I am.”
I call. God responds, “Here am I.”


Contact
Dale Vander Veen to receive his free, biblical, inspiring
daily devotional emails:
dalevanderveen@sbcglobal.net.