What Christi Taught Us

“Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:18 RSV)

Christi Nordman died last Friday. She was 60, active and engaged, seemingly healthy, and too young for a massive heart attack, at least to our natural way of thinking. She was my brother’s wife, and we will miss her the rest of our days here. Death has a way of clarifying the life it takes: somehow in an instant we see more vividly the magnum opus—the lifework—of the one now gone from us. Yet Christi’s imprint was always uncomplicated and refreshingly easy to see.

She was a doer, and no task was too big for this determined, undaunted woman. First things first, one step at a time—it’ll get done. But her work that inspired me most was her willingness to do anything for the Kingdom of God. Whether telling others about Jesus or helping people in His name, she was not only willing to serve, but eager to serve. Whenever I asked for volunteers to take a half-hour slot on our three-day, round-the-clock Kairos prison ministry prayer vigil, she would always say, “Give me an hour or two in the middle of the night. I will set an alarm and get up for it.” I doubt she ever missed one of these appointments with God; more likely, she came early and stayed late. To Christi, prayer was no forced obligation; it was opportunity for time with a Friend.

Which brings me to this: Christi’s faith was unwavering, as was her focus. She genuinely looked forward to the day when she would be in the presence of Jesus. This was her focal point, the end toward which she lived her days and served people well. To Christi, deeds were not the means to a close relationship with God, but the expressions of a heart that knows His love. And in the clarity of Christi’s life, I understand much more fully these words from James: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” May our faith be so mature, our vision so clear, and our life as fruitful.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 RSV).

Father, thank you for Christi and for those like her who show us the beauty and power of faith that acts. Lead us through a life of purpose, one that knows your love, hears your call and follows your lead. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

A Daily Dose of Eternal Truth

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89 NSAB)

Bad news, delivered badly. Can we agree on this assessment of our daily newsfeed? A global pandemic, unchecked lawlessness, and ineffective leadership—taken together, they consume us with concern. Compounding the problem is the constant barrage of information—all of it slanted, much of it untrue, and now some of it censored. This is not healthy; this is not good. People need truth; what we do with it is up to us in our freedoms, but we need the firm foundation of truth. Is there a place where we can find our footing again?

Fortunately, there is; it is the immoveable bedrock that has always been there: God’s Word. The psalmist proclaims it to be “Forever, O Lord.” It is “settled in heaven,” and it always will be. It’s not going anywhere; it cannot be moved. The Bible will not keep us current on world events of the day, of course, but it strengthens us in God’s power to face them, it inspires us in His love to serve amid them, and it rests us in the sovereignty of Him who has authority over all things. His Word “sustains the weary,” said Isaiah, for “the Sovereign Lord … wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”

Might today be different if we prioritized and protected a few minutes to pray, to absorb a Bible passage, and to incline our ear “to listen like one being instructed”? Might God’s Spirit shine through us as hope to someone who has lost hope? Couldn’t we all use a little good-newsfeed these days?

“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” (Isaiah 50:4)

Father, your Word is truth, and your truth never changes. How refreshing the thought! Send your Spirit to breathe life through your Word, that we would draw near to you in confidence, resting in your sovereignty, shining in your joy, and serving with compassion. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Plans and Purposes That Prevail

“Many are the purposes in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21).

“I didn’t accomplish a single thing I set out to do today!” How many times has our day ended in the agitation of futility? Whether self-discipline brought us up short or outside factors stretched us too far, reality failed to honor our plans again, and we fret in frustration. Sleep comes hard these nights. What if we were to discover execution to be the least of our problems, that it was actually misalignment that rendered today’s to-do list a non-starter from its conception?

Plans follow purpose. This is one reason organizations articulate mission statements—their reason for being: they proclaim a shared sense of purpose to which to subordinate all strategies, objectives and goals toward its fulfillment. Any number of leadership books extol the value of such clarity, but most overlook this indispensable truism: “It is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We may dutifully conceive our plans and precisely align them with our purposes, but if our rigid list of things to do allows no room for real life, we will needlessly resign ourselves at the end of the day to failure.

Early in my career an organization coach offered this piece of practicality: “When you plan your work day, allow four hours for unanticipated priorities.” Hers proved to be a wonderful, sanity-saving suggestion, for we live and work among others who have needs just as we do, and God’s plans prevail above all. Then doesn’t it make sense to recognize God as our ultimate purpose in life, and to pray for His will as we plan our day? How different would our sense of satisfaction be if were actually to look for Him working all around us and to heed His call to join Him? Might we find an apparent “imposition” to be an “invitation” in disguise? Might we find our purpose in His purpose, and our satisfaction in Him? I think we can plan on it, actually.

Father, every day unfolds under your command. Fill me with your Spirit of wisdom today, that I would submit my plans to your purposes, knowing your purposes are good and they will prevail again today. In Christ I pray. Amen.