Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All Things

All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. John 1:3

I wonder how often we recognize that God made all things. This verse is specifically talking about Jesus being the author of all things because John is making the point that Jesus is God and was not a created being. He is part of the Trinity that has always been and always will be. He was as deeply involved in the creation process as one could get.

Does this affect the way we see Jesus? This was John's intent. Jesus is God. He has been here from the beginning (v.1) and is Lord, Light, and Life. John wanted to make it clear up front who Jesus is.

Does knowing that all things were made by God change the way we see the world around us? Lets look at a short list of created things:

koala bears
radio waves

I'm guessing in looking at that short list, my point is at least introduced. There are many things we think of as bad or harmful and wonder why God created them. What's the purpose of a hurricane? Are wasps really necessary? We often even complain about things that we think are good in some circumstances and not in others - such as the sun. In our arguing and complaining, however, there is an underlying current that runs deep. That current is the idea that we would have done things differently, better. And this is a very dangerous undercurrent.

God did not and does not do anything arbitrarily. He has a purpose in everything. His ultimate purpose is to bring glory to His name and draw people into a relationship with Him. That may sound like two purposes, but really it's not. He draws us to Him through His holy name because He is love and loves us perfectly.

So why all the icky stuff? Some of it we can figure out. Wasps and bees pollinate. Lightning creates and changes chemicals in the ground that benefits growth.

Others we may never figure out. And that's okay. Despite our thurst for knowledge and living in the information age, we will never have all knowledge nor understand everything. But if we truly believe God is who He says He is - that he is trustworthy, faithful, holy, righteous, & almighty - then we will trust that He purposed every last detail of His creation for a reason.

That's not to say that everything has gone according to His perfect will since creation. No! We'd better know better than that. But He has created all things and allowed things we don't understand according to His permissive will. And if we trust, we won't complain. At least not for too long.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Because of Enemies

Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friend - those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." Psalm 31:11-14

When I come across scriptures like these I wonder how it relates to me and how I can relate to it. What does God want me to do with it? I don't have enemies. I mean, I've had people over the years I didn't like and who didn't like me, and there are probably some people even now who couldn't care less about me. But enemies? People who hold contempt for me? Conspire against me and plot to take my life? No. I don't experience those things.

So, what is it Lord? What am I to get from these words? You included them for a reason.

And He answers.

We have Christian brothers and sisters who live these verses each and every day. While the exact numbers are unknown, you can only imagine with more than 50 nations that restrict the sharing of the gospel. Our brothers and sisters, bought into the Lord's family the same way we were - by the blood of Jesus - are facing true enemies, contempt of their neighbors, people who flee from them simply because they are Christians, and terror on every side of them. Yet they hold fast to their faith.

What can I do?

I can read the words of God, remember my brothers and sisters in Christ (who will be as precious to me in heaven as my own parents, sister, husband, and children are to me here on earth) and lift them up to the Lord.

We, in Christ, "form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." {Romans 12:5} We are one. We are not to live our convenient, comfortable lives and simply thank God for the blessings He pours out on us. We are to be broken-hearted for those in our family who suffer on a daily basis. And we are to pray.

Pray that they will hold fast to their faith and trust in God completely. Pray they will be delivered from their enemies, but if not, that God's name will be glorified. Pray that they will be bold in their proclamations of the truth of God's love, grace, and mercy through His Son Jesus. Pray that their love will abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that they are able to discern what is best in every situation they face. Pray for workers to come alongside them to help them learn the Word, be able to teach it to others, and be encouraged. Pray that we will never forget, never ignore, never disregard our brothers and sisters persecuted around the world.

Every word in scripture is God-breathed, alive and active, and does not return to Him without completing it's mission. This is true for even the hard words. Ignoring them doesn't change them. Looking into them and opening ourselves to what God wants to say to us through them will change us and bless us beyond comprehension - just not in the ways we always expect.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A New View of Heaven

Water … as clear as crystal.

These words entice me. You see, I live in a neighborhood on the Chickahominy River. It’s a little known river where some very famous events took place. Anyone familiar with the story of John Smith, John Rolfe, & Pocahontas?

I’m not sure what the river looked like 400 years ago, but now the Chickahominy can be described as anything but crystal clear. It’s one of those bodies of water where your feet disappear when you dangle your legs off the dock. So when I hear about crystal clear water, I perk up.

Some of you may be thinking, pool. Ever opened your eyes in a pool that appears to be crystal clear? I bet your eyes paid for it.

No, these words are found in a verse in Revelation and are used to describe the river of life in heaven.

My perspective on heaven used to go something like this: Heaven sounds great with its streets of gold, flowing rivers, and chorus of angels, but for now I’m enjoying life here on earth. I relish the good food, making memories, and learning new things. There are also many things I look forward to. Growing old gracefully, traveling outside the south quarter of the U.S., and becoming a grandmother. Heaven sounds nice, I thought, but if it’s all right with you God, I’d rather keep having fun here.

Then, when I was 32 years old, I was diagnosed with type-1 Diabetes. I was angry and didn’t understand. Didn’t God love me? Hadn’t I grown closer to Him over the years and learned to be obedient to Him?

Since then God has used my diagnosis to help open my eyes to a Biblical view of heaven and a heart’s aching to be there. A diagnosis of a chronic illness is often seen as a curse. While it is part of living in a cursed world, it can also be something God can work for my good and His glory. And He has.

I no longer think of heaven as a nice place to go after I’ve worked as hard as I can to avoid going there as long as I can.

Now, to me, heaven means no more daily insulin shots, being mindful of every single bite I eat, exhaustion from sugar highs and weakness from sugar lows.

A perfect heaven free from all death, mourning, crying, and pain sounds marvelous. Living in God’s holy presence and not having to battle with sin sounds divine. A city that shines like a precious jewel, gates made of pearl and streets of gold. Now that’s something a girl can get excited about!

And the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. I bet my feet won’t disappear in that.

We often want things to be perfect and easy here on earth. But I now know that He’s called me not just to enjoy this life and its earthly pleasures. No, He desires that I look with longing towards the home He has prepared for me, to show others His glory through faith in His Son, and to let Him work through me while I’m here. Part of that is allowing me to experience a tiny portion of the suffering that millions experience from hunger, disease, persecution, chronic pain, and heartache.

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Head Knowledge to Heart Freedom

Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, but I have legitimate excuses! I spend the month of July traveling for a week with my babies visiting friends, trying to meet a book deadline, preparing for a conference, then attending that conference, which I knew would be a fantastic. And it was. If you read both my blogs, I’ll go ahead and apologize, I’ve used the same entry. But this had to be shared. I can no longer contain the overflow of God’s work in me.

Long before the time for the conference arrived, I got to know many (almost 300 were members) of the to-be attendees through the conference Facebook page. We shared anticipations, fears, prayer requests and an overall excitement about descending on Concord, NC all at the same time (with a total of 650 registered ladies and almost 100 staff and volunteers to run the conference!) There was no doubt in my mind that I would be blessed by my time there.
I was in no way, however, prepared for all that God would do. Throughout the weekend God blessed me with little gifts. A surprise roommate who was as warm, welcoming, and encouraging as I could ever ask for. Friends made, contacts received, networking going on, positive feedback from my publisher appointments (even if no closer to getting my nonfiction book published) and a fantastic speaker evaluation group experience. I was confident, prepared, and all around having a great time.

Then the Saturday worship session came along. We were blessed to have Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts, as the speaker. Her stories touched hearts, moved people, and made you think. Then something totally unexpected happened, something I was completely unprepared for. God used the words of Ann, along with my own words and scriptures I’d used in my speaker evaluation talks, to reach down deeper into my soul than I knew existed. He grabbed hold of hurts and false beliefs I thought I’d gotten rid of a long time ago, pulled them up to the surface, let me feel them, and then healed them. Yes, I was one of those snot-slinging, tear-wracked women in the prayer room. Sometimes that’s what happens when God reaches down deep and changes you.

One thing that I came out of that prayer room with was a sense that instead of knowing God’s truths (that I had myself quoted and talked about) only in my head, I now have them firmly planted in my heart. I also came away with knowing that while I’m a fairly transparent person, it’s only of those things on the surface, those things that don’t truly make me vulnerable.
But do I really want to show the real me, God? Isn’t it too ugly, too dark, too odd? No, He whispers. You are real and you who I made you and are becoming the person I desire you to be.
So as I take a deep breath, I vow to give up everything to God. Even my short-comings. My pride. My belief that I have to do everything perfectly. My belief that I have to earn love. My belief that without working at it, I deserve nothing, not even God’s love. My willingness to only allow the surface stuff to show.

I am grateful for all the little gifts God gave me, but am blown away by the biggest gift of all: freedom. Freedom from the bondage of my own false beliefs and the idea that I at least have to attempt to do everything perfectly. Freedom to truly trust in and rely on God. That He’s in control and I simply have to submit. Freedom to let these truths travel from my head to my heart and let God do the work in me that I know is yet to be done. Freedom to live – in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Today I’m grateful for: the sound of sealing jars, healing from yesterday’s migraine, today’s journey to my first mission trip, God’s word at my fingertips – and everything listed above!