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Is there anyone reading this who is not faced with a perplexity of some sort? Some of you face serious dilemmas. We want to pray, “Lord, please remove the dilemma.” Usually the answer is “No, not right away.” We must face it, pray over it, think about it, wait on the Lord, make a choice. Sometimes it is an excruciating choice…

Paul said he had been “very thoroughly initiated into the human lot with all its ups and downs” (Philippians 4:12, NEB). He was hard-pressed, bewildered, persecuted, and struck down.

God in His mercy did not choose to remove the dilemmas with which he was faced (some of His greatest mercies are His refusals), but chose instead to make Himself known to Paul because of them, in ways which would strengthen his faith and make him a strengthener and an instrument of peace to the rest of us

Paul goes on to say:

“It is for your sake that all things are ordered, so that, as the abounding grace of God is shared by more and more, the greater may be the chorus of thanksgiving that ascends to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15, NEB).

Maybe Paul’s testimony, which has cheered countless millions, will cheer somebody who still faces a dilemma he has begged the Lord to remove. All of Paul’s were solved, but not all of them in Paul’s way or Paul’s time, Selah.

~Elisabeth Elliot in “Lord, Please Remove the Dilemma,” September 27 Daily Devotional

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When women—sometimes well-meaning, earnest, truth seeking ones say “Get out of the house and do something creative, find something meaningful, something with more direct access to reality,” it is a dead giveaway that they have missed the deepest definition of creation, of meaning, of reality. And when you start seeing the world as opaque, that is, as an end in itself instead of as transparent, when you ignore the Other World where this one ultimately finds its meaning, of course housekeeping (and any other kind of work if you do it long enough) becomes tedious and empty…

The routines of housework and of mothering may be seen as a kind of death, and it is appropriate that they should be, for they offer the chance, day after day, to lay down one’s life for others. Then they are no longer routines. By being done with love and offered up to God with praise, they are thereby hallowed as the vessels of the tabernacle were hallowed—not because they were different from other vessels in quality or function, but because they were offered to God.

A mother’s part in sustaining the life of her children and making it pleasant and comfortable is no triviality. It calls for self-sacrifice and humility, but it is the route, as was the humiliation of Jesus, to glory.

~Elisabeth Elliot in “On Motherhood and Profanity

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Over and over in the Bible we are told that there is a correlation between suffering and glory. The reason lies deep in the mystery of evil, for of course there could be no suffering for creation, for beasts or men, or for the Son of Man, had not evil entered the world. But the story does not end with suffering.

“In Jesus we see one…crowned now with glory and honor because He suffered death” (Heb 2:9 NEB).

If we concentrate on that marvelous sequence, we will find in the midst of our own pain a great shaft of light. There is glory above us, shining down into our darkness, reminding us that “if we suffer with Him” (we need never suffer without Him, for He has entered into all our weakness, into death itself for us) “we shall also reign with him”(2 Tm 2:12 AV).

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour,
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

(William Cowper)

~Elisabeth Elliot in “Crowned Because He Suffered,” Elisabeth Elliot’s Daily Devotional, March 11, 2012

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The current popular notion that judging others is in itself a sin leads to such inappropriate maxims as ”I’m O.K. and you’re O.K.”…”Judge not that ye be not judged” has come to mean that if you never call anything sin nobody can ever call you a sinner. You do your thing and let me do mine and let’s accept everybody and never mind what they’re up to.

There is a serious misunderstanding here. The Bible is plain that we have no business trying to straighten out those who are not yet Christians. That’s God’s business…

”But surely it is your business to judge those who are inside the church,” [Paul] wrote to the Christians at Corinth, and commanded them to expel a certain immoral individual from the church:

Clear out every bit of the old yeast….But in this letter I tell you not to associate with any professing Christian who is known to be an impure man or a swindler, an idolater, a man with a foul tongue, a drunkard, or a thief. My instruction is: Don’t even eat with such a man…

The key to the matter of judgment is meekness…Meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. No one who does not humble himself and become like a little child is going to get into the Kingdom.

We can never set ourselves up as judges, for we ourselves are sinners and inclined to be tempted exactly as those we judge are tempted. But if we are truly meek (caring not at all for self-image or reputation) we shall speak the truth as we see it (how else can a human being speak it?). We shall speak it in love, recognizing our own sinful capabilities and never-ending need for grace, as well as the limitations of our understanding…

I said we cannot set ourselves up as judges. It is God who sets us this task, who commands us Christians to judge other Christians. It is not pride that causes us to judge. It is pride that causes us to judge as though we ourselves are not bound by the same standards or tempted by the same sins. 

~Elisabeth Elliot in “To Judge or Not to Judge” February 19 Daily Devotional

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I don’t mind getting old. Before the day began this morning I was looking out at starlight on a still, wintry sea. A little song we used to sing at camp came to mind—”Just one day nearer Home.” That idea thrills me. I can understand why people who have nothing much to look forward to try frantically and futilely to hang on to the past—to youth and all that. Get a face-lift, plaster the makeup on ever more thickly…dye your hair—anything to create the illusion you’re young. (The illusion is yours, of course, nobody else’s.)

Let’s be honest. Old age entails suffering… 

It would be terrifying if it weren’t for something that ought to make the Christian’s attitude toward aging utterly distinct from all the rest. We know it is not for nothing. “God has allowed us to know the secret of his plan: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him” (Ephesians 1:9, 10 PHILLIPS).

In the meantime, we look at what’s happening—limitations of hearing, seeing, moving, digesting, remembering; distortions of countenance, figure, and perspective. If that’s all we could see, we’d certainly want a face-lift or something.

But we’re on a pilgrim road. It’s rough and steep, and it winds uphill to the very end. We can lift up our eyes and see the unseen: a Celestial City, a light, a welcome, and an ineffable Face. We shall behold him. We shall be like him. And that makes a difference in how we go about aging.

~Elisabeth Elliot in “I Won’t Bother With a Face-Lift”

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The great Call of God comes to us most inescapably in our darkest night. It is then that our implicit faith in the light we thought we had received must reassert itself. We treasure His call and we then look humbly for his comfort (which will surely come, in God’s time and way).

Without darkness and pain we will not be transformed into the image of Christ. His was the way of pain. Our obedience in following Him even there is the stamp and seal of truthfulness, genuineness, the reality of what we profess.

~Elisabeth Elliot in “Joy in Exchange for Pain

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If men and women were surer of their God there would be more genuine manliness, womanliness, and godliness in the world, and a whole lot less fear of each other.

Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill only the body, but rather to fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell—in other words, fear God and fear nothing else

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to words like courage and endurance. What reason is there in our feel-comfortable society ever to be brave? Very little, and, when you think about it, we miss it, don’t we? To be really brave is to lay oneself open to charges of hypocrisy, of being “in denial” or out of touch with one’s feelings. Moses charged Joshua to be strong and very courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to do the thing we fear. Go straight into the furnace or the lion’s den. Were those men out of touch with their feelings or with reality? No. Nor was the psalmist who said, “When I am afraid, I will trust.” There’s a big difference between feeling and willing…

Do you feel, in spite of all the promises of God, as helpless as a worm today? There’s a special word for you too: “Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you” (Is. 41:14).

~Elisabeth Elliot in “The Fear of Man—or Woman

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Telling Kids the Truth about Santa

Ho-ho-ho!

It’s that time of year again—time to stir things up a little bit with a post about Santa Claus!

Of course, I’m only kidding. I’m not really trying to be controversial, but I do want to pass on another interesting article by Elisabeth Elliot, this one on the topic of Old Saint Nick. And seriously, how can there be any controversy once we hear her take on the matter? I mean, it’s Elisabeth Elliot. What further evidence need we? Case closed, if you ask me. ;) 

And now, from Elisabeth…

My parents never allowed us to believe that Santa Claus really came in a sleigh with reindeer. The nonsense about dropping down people’s chimneys would have meant nothing to us anyway since we had no fireplace. We hung our stockings on the bedposts and easily guessed that our parents were the ones who filled them, though we never managed to stay awake long enough to verify it.

My mother had always believed the tale of Santa Claus until she was eight years old, when a friend shattered her world by telling her it was all rubbish. She wept inconsolably, feeling she had lost a cherished friend. Her own children, she decided, would not have to suffer such disillusionment. She and my father determined to have no part in the deception parents cheerfully inculcate on children at Christmastime. They told us the simple truth—Santa Claus died more than a thousand years ago. He does not drive a sleigh full of presents form the North Pole and land on people’s roofs. “The Night Before Christmas” was a poem we loved and memorized, though we knew it was “just pretend.”

But there was a real Santa Claus. It is doubtful that He had a droll little mouth, or a belly that shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. Nothing is known of his physical appearance, but of his godliness there is little doubt. Why not tell children the true story?

The name “Santa Claus” is derived from the way the Dutch settlers of New York pronounced Sant Niklass (St. Nicholas) a hundred and fifty years ago. He was born in the late third or early fourth century in Asia Minor of wealthy parents who had long prayed for a child. Early in his life they discerned in him great promise, and felt he should be a priest. Soon after his ordination his parents died, leaving him a great fortune. He began at once to give it all away, always contriving to remain anonymous.

He sometimes spent all night studying the Bible. He prayed and fasted and many believed that his prayers had brought them miracles. Twin brothers were said to have been raised form the dead. A nobleman who had sunk into poverty was in great distress, fearing that if he could not provide dowries for his three daughters, they could never marry. Nicholas learned of their plight and one night tossed a bag of gold through the window of their house. It fell at the feet of the eldest girl. Next night, another bag of gold—at the feet of the second sister, and on the third night, one for the youngest. On the first two nights he had slipped away without being discovered, but their father was waiting for him on the third night. He seized Nicholas’ robe and, astonished to discover who it was, fell to his knees and asked, “Why do you seek to hide yourself?”

From this incident came the St. Nicholas symbol, three bags or balls of gold which pawnshops now display to show their readiness to help the poor.

Nicholas became the bishop of Myra, a seaport city. He died somewhere around A.D. 342-345 and several hundred years later was canonized (declared a saint) by the Eastern Orthodox Church. By the Middle Ages more than four hundred churches in England were named for him. He became the patron saint of Russia, Greece, the kingdom of Naples, and of mariners, merchants, and children.

In Germany it was customary for families to exchange small presents on the Eve of St. Nicholas’ Day. Coal or switches were put in the shoes of naughty children as they slept, and trinkets such as we might put in Christmas stockings were given to good little boys and girls. Red Santa Claus suits with white ermine trim derive from the bishop’s robe. The traditional cap is similar to the bishop’s mitre.

Which character is the more worthy of a child’s emulation—the jolly man who supposedly fills stockings, or the holy man who loved God and gave away his fortune?

["Do You Believe in Santa Claus?"]

Her question is a good one, but I have one that’s even better—What do we have to do to bring back that coal tradition? I’m thinking parents could save themselves some serious cash this Christmas if we revived that idea.
Photo: EMIN OZKAN

Decorating for the Party of the Year

During a recent M.O.M.S. group meeting at my church, a good friend of mine inspired me with her presentation on how to prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas. Cindy is a queen of hospitality and the only person I’ve ever known who is so organized that she has a “Plan A” Christmas (for holidays spent at home) and a “Plan B” Christmas (for holidays spent visiting family).

Based on Cindy’s suggestion to complete all Christmas decorating by the weekend after Thanksgiving, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the decorating process over the past few days. As I set up the Advent wreath and nativity scenes, arranged candles and poinsettias, hung garland on my front porch, and then decorated the tree with my husband, I thought about how some Christians avoid these activities because of concern over possible pagan origins. Of course, lights and trees aren’t what Christmas is all about, but is there really any good reason for Christians to avoid them in their celebration of the season?

I like how Elisabeth Elliot answers the question

My father-in-law, Dad Elliot, was one of those mentioned in Romans 14:5 who consider every day alike. He was pretty consistent about this when it came to Christmas and Easter, but he did consider Sunday (the Lord’s Day to him), different from the other six days in the week. Since he believed that Christmas trees had a pagan origin he could see no sense in having one in a Christian home. I don’t think he actually forbade it, but certainly didn’t help decorate it.

I’ve had a few letters asking me if I “believed in” Christmas trees. Never thought about believing in them, but I do enjoy having one. Celebration and ceremony have characterized the life of the people of God since Old Testament times—even in very little ways. I always put flowers and candles on the dinner table if possible. Though there are usually just two of us, I try to make it an occasion. It’s worth observing. Less frequent occasions are marked more specially. The virgin’s veil, a measured pace, a ring—these are visible signs of the deeply solemn reality celebrated in a wedding. Pink ribbons, showers, silver cups mark a baby’s birth. My Norwegian husband’s birthday calls for a bløtkake, a layered cake soaked with all sorts of good stuff that I wouldn’t fuss with except on
September 9.

I don’t think we need to rule out everything pagans do or did just because they did them. Christians have the only real reason for celebrating Christmas (or Easter). Why shouldn’t we invest an ancient custom with a Christian meaning? It’s the birthday of the King! What would you not do to make your house festive if He were coming?

Ought we not to signal the good tidings with great joy?

Preparing my home for the birthday of the King. I think I’ve found a whole new reason to enjoy Christmas decorating! :)

Photo: Uros Kotnik

Thanksgiving–It’s More Than a Holiday

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thoughts from Elisabeth Elliot on true thanksgiving…

Some people are substituting “Turkey Day” for Thanksgiving. I guess it must be because they are not aware that there’s anybody to thank, and they think that the most important thing about the holiday is food. Christians know there is Somebody to thank, but often when we make a list of things to thank Him for we include only things we like. A bride and groom can’t get away with that. They write a note to everybody, not only the rich uncle who gave the couple matching BMWs, but the poor aunt who gave them a crocheted toilet-paper cover. In other words, they have to express thanks for whatever they’ve received.

Wouldn’t that be a good thing for us to do with God? We are meant to give thanks “in everything” even if we’re like the little girl who said she could think of a lot of things she’d rather have than eternal life. The mature Christian offers not just polite thanks but heartfelt thanks that springs from a far deeper source than his own pleasure. Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul…

Thankless children we all are, more or less, comprehending but dimly the truth of God’s fathomless love for us. We do not know Him as a gracious Giver, we do not understand His most precious gifts, or the depth of His love, the wisdom with which He has planned our lives, the price He pays to bring us to glory and fulfillment. When some petty private concern or perhaps some bad news depresses or confuses me, I am in no position to be thankful. Far from it. That is the time, precisely then, that I must begin by deliberately putting my mind on some great Realities…

What do I most unshakably believe in? God the Father Almighty. Jesus Christ His only Son. The Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting. Not a long list, but all we need…We didn’t ask for any of them. (Imagine having nothing more than we’ve asked for!) They are given.

Take the list of whatever we’re not thankful for and measure it against the mighty foundation stones of our faith. The truth of our private lives can be understood only in relation to those Realities. Some of us know very little of suffering, but we know disappointments and betrayals and losses and bitterness. Are we really meant to thank God for such things? Let’s be clear about one thing: God does not cause all the things we don’t like. But He does permit them to happen because it is in this fallen world that we humans must learn to walk by faith.

He doesn’t leave us to ourselves, however. He shares every step. He walked this lonesome road first, He gave Himself for us, He died for us. “Can we not trust such a God to give us, with Him, everything else that we can need?” (Romans 8:32, Phillips). Those disappointments give us the chance to learn to know Him and the meaning of His gifts, and, in the midst of darkness, to receive His light. Doesn’t that transform the not-thankful list into a thankful one?

["Thanksgiving for What Is Given," Keep a Quiet Heart, pp. 122-123]

Photo: George Bosela

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Thanksgiving brings contentment.

Many people seem to be looking ceaselessly for amusement, for some alleviation from boredom. Dissatisfied and restless, they fritter away their lives, wishing to move from what or where they are to what or where they aren’t.

“My people have committed two sins,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 2:13. “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, cisterns that cannot hold water.

Discontentment dries up the soul

To love God is to love His will. It is to wait quietly for life to be measured out by One who knows us through and through. It is to be content with His timing and His wise apportionment.

~Elisabeth Elliot in “To Offer Thanks is to Learn Contentment

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A spirit of calm contentment always accompanies true godliness. The deep peace that comes from deep trust in God’s lovingkindness is not destroyed even by the worst of circumstances, for those Everlasting Arms are still cradling us, we are always “under the Mercy.” Corrie ten Boom was “born to trouble” like the rest of us, but in a German concentration camp she jumped to her feet every morning and exuberantly sang “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!” She thanked the Lord for the little parade of ants that marched through her cell, bringing her company. When Paul and Silas were in prison, they prayed and sang. It isn’t troubles that make saints, but their response to troubles

Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son–a headache, an insult, a long line at the check-out, someone’s rudeness or failure to say thank you, misunderstanding, disappointment, interruption. As Amy Carmichael said, “See in it a chance to die,” meaning a chance to leave self behind and say YES to the will of God, to be “conformable unto His death.” Not a morbid martyr-complex but a peaceful and happy contentment in the assurance that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. 

~Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart

Photo: OBMonkey