And then the Rains Came

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Sep 082012
 

Well, I found something I don’t like about Nicaragua. Actually, I guess technically this would be the second thing.  Rain storms. Ironic that my first day there was an earthquake, second day we ran out of water, third day there was a dead gecko on top of my mosquito net on my bed, fourth day approximately 3,000 people are evacuated due to a volcano “spewing gas and ash high into the atmosphere”, all of which didn’t faze me much (I admittedly was not the one that removed the dead gecko, but, if I absolutely had to, I probably could have). But then it rained. Rain as in the worst downpour I have ever seen, times ten. Multiplied by the tin roof, that made the rain so loud it was impossible to hear anyone else speak, and the wind that would almost be considered a hurricane back home.

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Psalm 46:1-3

“He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” Psalm 135:7

As the rains slowed, I held a little girl as she sang along to the song Forever Reign. The very same song that she sang during the earthquake. I love when Christ provides sweet reminders that He reigns, He is sovereign, He is in control, and He is protecting me.

Rainbow of Promises

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Sep 052012
 

First blog post from the mission field. Yesterday was my travel day, which went better than I expected.  Goodbyes were emotional., along with the first leg of the trip. It was pretty symbolic that as we took off from my home airport, I could see a family member’s workplace and as we banked right it became directly behind us. I was at peace, but leaving family and familiar surroundings for six weeks is a lot to take in once it is officially time to go. Somehow once hitting the halfway mark most of that disappeared. Once reaching our altitude on the second leg of the trip, there was a beautiful rainbow. I wished I could have gotten a picture, but as I reached for my camera we banked right and it could no longer be seen. It was a personal reminder of God’s promises as I was stepping out of familiar territory into the unknown. A promise to be with me always. Promises of His goodness and His plan for both my earthly life and eternal one.

I wanted to ask every American around me why they were going to Nicaragua, but didn’t. I did, however, talk to one. It was a lady sitting next to me, who was not assigned to sitting next to me but I had a row to myself so she asked if she could sit with me. She is moving to Nicaragua for the third time, her son is interested in adopting and between those topics and why I was traveling to Nicaragua we had covered a lot of ground in our twenty minute decent.

We arrived and Karen and Fruto were waiting for me. Fruto waved at me through the window quite animatedly and I later found out that he was not pleased with my less than stellar, timid wave. We had a laugh over that.

The kids were still awake when we got home, which made me happy. But shortly thereafter it was time for bed. Robin and Karen had my room all set up, complete with a light pink mosquito net canopy. I remember always wanting a pink canopy bed as a little girl, which was a reminder that God is a personal God and takes care of me. If you had told me even five years ago, nevermind fifteen years ago, that I would have a canopy bed in Nicaragua I never would have believed it. But God knows better than I do, and knows what will make me happy better than I do.

Sleep was not easy, probably from the excitement of the day, but this morning it was sweet to get up and talk with Karen, cuddle with the kids a little, and make a couple phone calls.

The first couple days will be low key until I get the chance to talk to a couple ministry leaders that had opportunities for me to serve. One opportunity in particular I have not been able to get out of my head since hearing about it so I am really praying over and seeking God’s will in that.

 

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Follow Him

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Jun 142012
 

I have been in awe with the amount of “follow me” connotations there are through social media. Even implementing this website, the default title for the social media section is “follow me”. I really don’t want anyone following me, if they did then, inevitably, when I trip and fall, so would everyone else. I don’t want followers; I just want to be following alongside others, pointing to Christ. He is the only one who should have followers. Not celebrities, not athletes, and not bloggers. This is why I changed the default “follow me” to what you see now, subscription options. Sure, subscribe to others’ blogs and social media outlets, but follow Him.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Matthew 16:24-27

“After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”  And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25

Reading others’ blogs or books definitely spur me on in my spiritual walk and encourage me, but reading the Bible and spending time with Jesus is what grows me in my faith. I hope that what Christ lays on my heart to write about encourages you, but even more so, I hope it points to Him and His command to take up our crosses and follow Him. I hope to see you walking beside me.

Error: Cannot discern

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Jun 082012
 

A parse error when working in computer science and code programming is basically when  code, that is imported, does not translate to the receiving program. Just like when we, as Christians, try to witness to someone about the Gospel, about a mission trip, about a path God is leading us down and it is ill-received or not received at all.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” 1 Corinthians 2:14

We share and want our family and friends to be just as excited as we are and to jump on board this faith-filled journey. Instead, at times, we encounter lukewarmness or negativity.  The last thing I want to hear, when I am excited about where Christ is leading me, is how it doesn’t make sense or how impossible it is. He makes the impossible possible, but when those we care about do not personally know Him, they do not personally know His miracles. How He shows up and makes things come together according to His will. It is not truth in their lives.

I have to remind myself that I was that person, and it is only because of His grace and His removal of my blinders that I can see truths He has revealed to me. I never wanted to go on a mission trip and yet, after following His lead in obedience, now wish everyone else would sign on to going on one. But I can’t fault those that when I elatedly tell them about it, they are less than interested in engaging in conversation, nevermind going on a trip. Instead, I have to be thankful that He changed my heart and gave me the gift to experience going on mission trips. If He is not removing their blinders in that area, and instead working on them in other areas, they cannot understand what He has allowed me to spiritually discern.

In response, I tend to not share what God is doing in my life with those who I feel like will be negative, but that robs them of the experience of watching God make the impossible possible, even if it is from the sidelines. Christ doesn’t want me to hide where He is leading me, or what He has shown me, from others because of what their reaction may be. He wants me to be confident in my identity in Him, share when prompted by Him and for others’ negativism to be powerless against my confidence in Him.

Instead the response has to be one of grace and prayer.

Jun 052012
 

Thick fog. Driving this morning in the fog made me realize that is where I am at in many areas of my life. In some areas God has shown me what He wants the outcome to be but the path He is going to use to bring me to that place is foggy. Other instances I do not know the outcome and instead He wants me to be obedient one step at a time, only revealing my next step. In either instance it is all about His leading and my following.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

This is not by any means easy. At times I don’t want to wait to be guided and instead try to go ahead according to my timing. He is always faithful to put up a wall in that instance and remind me that it is according to His perfect timing, not my far from perfect and selfish timing. Or in the instance of not knowing the outcome, therefore not having the option of trying to go ahead or push forward, it is maybe even harder not to know anything and just take one step at a time in obedience. I tend to believe, knowing myself, that when He is only revealing one step at a time it is because if He revealed the outcome I would run in the opposite direction in fear. Or, at the very least, waste precious time dragging my feet in fear. He knows me better than I know myself so even if I don’t know the exact reasoning why He doesn’t reveal it to me, I know there is in fact a reason.

“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Walking in faith, in obedience, amongst the fog also requires steadfast prayer, another possible reason for having me in the fog. If I am not praying and seeking Him then it becomes very easy to go off His path. The enemy will try to lure me off the path whether through fear or through deception.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” Proverbs 27:6-7

Chances are the enemy will try to deceive me that I am staying on God’s path but really have been lured off of it. Remaining steadfast in prayer, seeking God and being satisfied in Christ is the only way to try to thwart the enemy’s attempts. He will try, but if my heart is centered on Christ, my satisfaction is in Him, and through prayer I am listening to His direction then the enemy will be easier to identify and through God’s strength can be resisted.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23

So I will continue to obediently follow through the fog as I view through faith and not my eye,s all the while remaining steadfast in prayer. He is always faithful, always good, always in control. I just need to set my eyes on Him and follow. I am the sheep, He is the shepherd.

Jun 052012
 

Does true repentance lead to Lordship salvation, or making Jesus lord of your life? In other words, is it possible to come to a place of true repentance of your sins and a saving faith in Jesus without making Him Lord of your life? For clarification I do not mean simply acknowledging that He is the sovereign Lord but also a surrendering of your life to Him.
Or, is an “easy-believism”, intellectual belief and a repentance enough to be considered a saving faith?

Looking at only my journey through life it seems to be a head versus heart issue. I attended Sunday school for a few years as a child and so believed in a distant, intellectual way that Jesus came to die on the cross for my sins and was raised from the dead three days later according to scripture. It was head knowledge. I always assumed that I had a saving faith because I believed in Him. But is that enough? I have to say that a few years ago when something in my faith changed, I believed that all of those years I was not a Christian or therefore have a saving faith. At first I couldn’t pinpoint what was different. I still believed the same things. What had changed? Using a Bible study I was doing at the time, God showed me through a verse.

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!” James 2:19

I realized, through the Spirit, that I had believed and that’s where it ended. “Even the demons believe” so at that point in my life I did not have a saving faith. If demons believe, what don’t they do? In the moment when this verse spoke to me, the first thing that came to mind was worship. They don’t worship Him. And at that point I realized it was a heart issue. I had grown up with head knowledge of Him, I did not have heart knowledge. Which brings me back to the question, is it possible to have true repentance without making Him Lord of your life? Or first, can you have true repentance without some sort of heart knowledge? Meaning, is it really possible to be truly repentant without being broken and heart sick over your sins? And is it possible to be broken and heart sick over your sins without a true, worshiping realization of who He is and subsequently who you are in relation to Him?

“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

So wouldn’t it suffice to say that in order to come to repentance you have to truly see and accept that you are a sinner? And isn’t the only way to see that as heart knowledge, as opposed to just head knowledge that you have been taught, to have a glimpse of who He is and therefore your identity in relation to Him? I am not talking about your identity in Him as right now I am speaking of before an initial repentance. At the very least an acceptance of His character as the creator, the Sovereign and the Savior of the world, which shows, in the very least, in relation that we are His creation and sinners in need of a savior.

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:4-5

By having a strictly intellectual belief or “easy-believism” aren’t we presuming on His kindness? That the knowledge only reaching our head would indicate an impenitent or remorseless heart?

Paul wrote, “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

In order to feel a godly grief over your sin would require heart knowledge instead of just head knowledge, as grief is an emotion and requires our heart, as in our emotional center.

Jesus told the parable of the sheep, “So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:3-7

In respect to the subject at hand, something hit me from this passage. Would someone arriving at an intellectual belief of Jesus, or “easy-believism”, which does not penetrate the heart leading to true repentance and eventual Lordship salvation, spur joy and rejoicing in heaven? Could the hosts of heaven look on and be joyful over someone accepting an intellectual belief?

Now I am in no way saying that making Jesus Lord of your life is an instant surrender when coming to Him in true repentance. I know I didn’t. But, that if you are coming to Him out of heart knowledge, or revelation of Him, and truly repenting, that from there progression and growth would lead to seeing Him even clearer, as you seek Him, and therefore a realization that He already is Sovereign over your life but a need to make Him lord of your life by surrendering it to Him and His will. One of my favorite passages when I need reminding that He is in control is Job 38, I won’t include the whole chapter here, but how is it possible to see God, with your heart, as the omnipotent Ruler and also the Savior of the world, as read in Matthew chapters 27 and 28 and not make Him lord over your life? So, if saving faith requires true repentance, and true repentance requires a heart knowledge of Him, does saving faith and true repentance lead to surrendering lordship over your life?

 

Do over. Since my last blog post I have been continuing to research the debate between lordship salvation and decisional salvation, or “easy-believism”. I believe through my further research that I was on the right path but somehow ended up just left of it and missed the mark. The problem was, in viewing in black and white, I agreed that one was not enough and therefore the opposite option must be correct. I never took into consideration that both options missed the mark. I was so against that decisional salvation was enough that I added works to His grace without realizing it.

“The good news is that Christ has done something about sin and that He lives today to offer His forgiveness to me. The direction is from Christ to me. It is never from me to Him. I do not offer Him anything. How could I? What could I possibly offer that would help meet my need? To offer the years of my life is to offer something very imperfect and something which can do nothing to forgive my sin. To vow my willingness to change is to affirm something I will not consistently keep; and even if I could, it would not remove the guilt of my sin. Of course, when I receive eternal life from His hand, I bow before an infinitely superior Person. But I bow as one totally unable to do anything about my sin. I bow as a recipient of His grace and never as one who donates anything to Him. In salvation I am always the recipient, the donee, never the donor. If I try to donate anything with respect to becoming a Christian, then I have added a work, and salvation is no longer solely and purely of grace. Keep the direction straight, and keep His grace unmixed with any work.”~Charles C Ryrie

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I still believe it is a head versus heart issue. Decisional salvation, or accepting a head knowledge of Christ is far from believing in Him with both your heart and your mind. Heart knowledge is infinitely different than head knowledge.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Romans 10:9-10

Charles C. Ryrie posed a series of questions in response to lordship salvation that included the following:
“1. Can I accept Jesus as my Savior without acknowledging Him as the Lord God?
2. Can I accept Jesus as my Savior without acknowledging Him as Lord/Master of my life?
3. Can I accept Jesus as my Savior without being willing to place my life under His control?
4. Can a dedicated Christian take back part or all of his commitment?
5. If so, does he (or she) lose his salvation?”

Just in answering these questions in respect to my acceptance of Christ, I know that I did not acknowledge Him as lord or master of my life at the time of accepting Him as my Savior. And I was definitely not willing to relinquish control of my life to Him, that was actually a struggle that came a few years after my acceptance. And of course because I am a sinner I take back, in some form, my commitment to His will being supreme and obeying Him as lord of my life. Since the Bible teaches we are sealed at the time of our acceptance then I believe the Bible teaches we cannot lose our salvation.

“What makes the difference between those who believe and are not saved and those who believe and are saved? Apparently those who believe and are not saved know the facts of the Gospel and may even give assent to it’s truthfulness, but they are unwilling to trust the Savior for their personal salvation. Knowledge and assent without being willing to trust cannot in themselves save.” ~Charles C Ryrie

So in reference to my accepting lordship salvation, I believe it is because what I was saying was that there would be proof, or fruit, of someone genuinely accepting Christ. Where I missed the mark in this is that lordship salvation requires this proof, or fruit, before salvation, when really after our genuine acceptance we are given the Holy Spirit, which is truly what leads to fruit. We cannot produce fruit apart from God, therefore the fruit would be after the genuine acceptance of Christ versus being a prerequisite.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

“Today the Lord Jesus, the God-man, offers His feast of salvation freely, and He can do so because He is God who became man. The same Lord Jesus through many New Testament writers asks those who have believed to submit to His mastery over their lives. Some do to a great extent. No one does it fully and always. Some do to a lesser extent. But He was, is, and always will be Lord whether He is acknowledged as the God-man Savior or whether He is acknowledged as Master of the believer’s life. He is Lord.” ~Charles C Ryrie

All of this brings me back to the original start of this question and research, which was differentiating saved from unsaved. Granted, I have accepted that only God can truly know and it is not for us to judge, but to instead be a testimony for Him when He places someone before us and prompts. But, why is it possible for unsaved to believe they are saved, whether that is through decisional salvation or following religious legalism? Meaning, why isn’t there a noticeable difference between those who truly have salvation in Christ and belong to Him and those who do not? Why does the Spirit-led church not stand out more in contrast to a church of religious works and legalism, one that does not point to Christ as the way? Has Christ’s church become so internalized that it hinders the unsaved from recognizing the difference and causing a delusional belief they are saved?

Courageous through Faith

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Jun 052012
 

I recently saw the Sherwood Pictures movie Courageous. I have to say it was powerful and awe-inspiring. I was actually more blown away than I expected as I knew the movie was directed at the message of a father’s role in his family. But, while it had a powerful message to men and fathers and subsequently to wives and mothers, it left me examining why I felt so inspired and exhilarated, as being a wife or mother is not a role I am currently fulfilling.

It did, however, remind me that every Christian is called to be courageous in their faith. That even if I am not filling a role in raising a family, I do play a role in my extended family, my groups of friends and my church family. I can recall as a child always being in awe of my aunt’s boldness about her faith. I remember being a child that cared so much what others thought that I accepted being that bold was not possible for me. Obviously, now  I can look back and see it had planted a seed in me. Even now I can recall, in the years before giving my life to Christ, when I really only had an intellectual belief in Christ, I never talked about even that belief. I wasn’t courageous to say the least, but a distant belief generally doesn’t spur a passionate and courageous response. However a personal revelation of Him, His goodness, His mercy, His love and His sovereignty does.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2

The old is gone as Jesus prunes us and cuts away the dead within us, the parts of us that are detrimental to our life in Him. He loves us so much that He will accomplish this whether we are willing to lay our fears and strongholds at His feet or whether He needs to break us out of them.

The movie also reminded me of some of the courageous women of the Bible, and therefore my call to be just as courageous for Him. Deborah, who agreed to go into battle after Barak told her that he would lead his men against Sisera’s army only if she went with him. Jael, who then kills Sisera after he flees on foot to her tent. Ruth, who loyally stayed with Naomi even as she returned to her home and a nation that was Ruth’s people’s adversary, and was used by God in the genealogy of Jesus. Esther, who heroically broke a law, punishable by immediate death, to save her people. The woman with the issue of blood, who believed in Jesus so much she was healed through her faith-filled and bold move to touch even the fringe of Jesus’ garment. And the Samaritan woman who fearlessly went on mission for Jesus after a personal revelation that He was in fact the Messiah.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Jesus calls us to be courageous and trust He will be with us no matter what task He lays before us. It is our faith in action. The living out of our faith in a wordless testimony to those who do not know Him.

It can at times become all too easy to buy into the enemy’s lie, by looking at our, at times, seemingly mundane lives, and think ‘God can’t use me’ until you buy into His truth of who He is and how He sees you. When you accept who He is then you realize He makes the “impossible”, possible. That no matter what your role is right now, be it a youth, a single man or woman, a parent or spouse, a Sunday school teacher, a regular church attender or a church leader God can use you in His kingdom. You may not see how He is using you, but He is in fact using you.

Freedom versus Captivity

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Jun 052012
 

It’s amazing that a tangible, inanimate item can sometimes carry such a negative connotation, how it can become a symbol of a difficult or unhappy time in your life. In my case it is a building. A building that, to look at it, now brings about a sense of relief and freedom because it is like looking at a prison that I escaped from. For a long time I had difficulty even looking at it, due to the memories that the sight would bring forth, but as time passed and healing came it became easier and easier until it became this symbol of freedom instead of captivity.

What astounds me, even more so, is the fact that we sometimes do not even know we are in captivity. Like we never saw or felt the proverbial shackles slipped onto our ankles and from there it just felt normal to be chained. The fact that we can become so delusional about our unhappiness that we convince ourselves that we are in fact happy or that life is as good as it can be. How we don’t see how truly miserable we were until we have experienced real happiness.

While this building now carries a reminder of God rescuing and setting me free, in order to do so He really had to shake me out of my delusional fog. This reminds me of how I didn’t realize, before giving my life to Christ, how miserable and in a delusional fog I was without Him. The hopelessness and misery just felt normal. There was no purpose to life and instead was just living day to day going through the motions. Any happiness at all was fleeting and depended solely on the circumstances in the present moment. I couldn’t see while in this state how brokenhearted I was or how sad and hopeless I felt. This is normal and all there is, right? Wow, was I wrong. Somewhere along the way I had been beaten down enough that I stopped believing there was more out there. Ironically, I always had a head knowledge and intellectual belief of Christ. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in that scenario and to never have been told of Him. And yet, even having an intellectual belief wasn’t the same as making Him LORD of my life, of trusting Him and relying on Him. Therefore, I am so grateful that He broke through my delusional fog to call me to Himself. Twice actually, once to prompt me to begin a relationship with Him and then once more to completely break down my walls between us that still remained.

Isaiah 61:1-4 reads “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”

Jesus is the only one who can bind up a broken heart. I mean really bind it, not just temporarily patch it. Jesus is the only one who can proclaim liberty to the captives. We become a slave to our sin and our strongholds but that is precisely why Jesus came, as an ambassador of love, to carry the sin of the world to the cross and be sacrificed in our place to pay our debt. A debt too big and excessive for us to have the ability to make restitution. Jesus is the only one who can bring comfort to those who mourn, whether that looks like the loss of a loved one, the loss of a dream or the mourning brought on by a horrible event. He wants to wipe away the ashes on our foreheads, so to speak, as they used to smear ashes on their foreheads in biblical times as an outward sign that they were in a period of mourning, and exchange those ashes for a beautiful headdress or crown. A crown and anointing of the oil of gladness to show we are the King’s children and how He esteems us even despite our flaws. He wants to rid us of our faint spirit in order that we may be an oak of righteousness, a planting from Him in order to praise Him and give Him glory. The roots of an oak tree go down as far as the tree is tall. He wants us to be so grounded in Him that even the worst storm cannot uproot our faith. And only Jesus can build up ancient ruins and repair former devastations. He doesn’t want us to just walk away and try to forget them, leaving them as an open wound for the enemy to attack at a later time. No, He wants us to give them to Him, to allow Him to heal us so they no longer have any power or dominion over us. He doesn’t just want us to survive the devastation, He wants us to thrive through Him despite it and give Him the glory.

Sometimes I wish that I had always had a personal relationship with Jesus and other times I am happy that He ordained my life as He did. I don’t know that I would appreciate the freedom without having experienced the captivity, the hope without experiencing the devastation, the happiness without the misery or His love without my malice.

A Heart of Urgency

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Jun 052012
 

Holding pattern. This has been my life recently. Several areas of my life were all placed in wait mode by God. I now realize that I do not function well in wait mode, as my typical response is to throw myself into another area to avoid thinking about what I am waiting on. It has been during this recent holding pattern that I learned that waiting is an active verb. I am supposed to consciously and actively wait. Which is why, I believe, God made me wait in several areas simultaneously- so that I could not throw myself into another area to avoid my wait, but instead seek Him as I intentionally wait on Him.

Paul Tripp wrote, “Usually our view of waiting is the doctor’s office. We see it as a meaningless waste of time, like a man stuck in the reception area until he has nothing left to do but scan recipes in a two-year-old copy of Ladies’ Home Journal…Our waiting on God must not be understood this way. The sort of waiting to which we are called is not inactivity. It is very positive, purposeful, and spiritual. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of remembering: remembering who I am and who God is. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of worship: worshiping God for his presence, wisdom, power, love, and grace. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of serving: looking for ways to lovingly assist and encourage others who are also being called to wait. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of praying: confessing the struggles of my heart and seeking the grace of the God who has called me to wait. We must rethink waiting and remind ourselves that waiting is itself a call to action.”

I also think during this time of waiting I was called to be learning. It may not be learning as I would picture, but nonetheless researching and reading God’s word and other resources He guided me to in an effort to prepare my heart for what He has in store for me. While two of the areas I have been waiting on God  are the typical scenario of not knowing the outcome, uniquely one area was an area that I am not waiting on an answer from God, just waiting for His green light. I’m not sure which scenario is harder. Or maybe the scenarios only compete with one another because it involved waiting for God’s “go ahead” for a desire and interest that He gave me. One that I had given up being feasible at the present time but, alas, God can make anything possible. He can just effortlessly provide a secret door you didn’t know existed.

But there was another reason He made me pause. He wanted to teach me and show me something specific first. This interest, this desire that He placed in my heart, had become about me. Because I wanted it for my enjoyment, not what He intended for it. While I was perfectly content seeing only one step in front of me, and how I would enjoy that step, He wanted to show me that it is in fact a stepping stone in His plan, only the beginning of the journey He intends for me.

Paul Tripp also wrote of another thing we are to do while we wait, “Celebrate the fact that God will not forsake that process of grace in your life and ministry in order to deliver to you the momentary comfort, pleasure, and ease that you would rather have in your time of exhaustion, discouragement, and weakness. He simply loves you too much to exchange temporary gratification for eternal glory!”

God wanted to open my eyes to see how temporary my mindset was and how eternal He wanted it to be. That my view of this desire was short term and therefore skewed. That He wanted me to be intentional in my living for Him and never wasting time going through the motions of daily life. Not going to be easy at first, if ever.

Unfortunately I never learn these lessons easily and had to be jolted to truly see. It took a life and death situation, an eternal and literal one in fact, to give me this sense of urgency to act. Not only in this situation, but to complete this step, that I would like to just enjoy, to go on to the next step in His journey for me as soon as possible. This sense that I can’t sit idly by any longer, not because of boredom and my own impatience but because He gave me this sense of urgency and reminded me how short life truly is. Sit back in comfort enjoying the present or looking to the future and seeing that we can’t count on tomorrow being there. Saying ‘I will actively be on mission down the road when things slow down’ or ‘I will do whatever I can to be on mission wherever I am’. That I will take the time to act now in ways that I allowed fear to hold me back in the past. Do things that are out of my comfort zone because I know they are the right things to do.

To intentionally live for Christ with a heart of urgency to reach others and be a light for Him all the time. Not some of the time. Not when I think the time is right. All the time.

True Joy

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Jun 052012
 

I’ve done a lot of reflecting since returning home from a mission trip to a third world country. Reentering my reality was nothing like I expected. I expected relief to be home, happiness to be back to the lifestyle to which I am accustomed and a feeling of comfort and security in returning to my familiar environment. I’m not really sure why I expected to feel these emotions upon returning as months before I left God had shaken me out of my comfortable reality. Being catapulted to a place of no longer feeling secure in my own environment, which also led to being depressed and desperate. In fact, there was very little peace in my life when I left on mission.

The emotions I witnessed while being on mission were also very different from what I expected. In my identity of a middle class American I expected to see these people, who have so little in comparison, in a state of desperation and unhappiness. Instead they taught me the meaning of joy. We tend to connect joy with favorable circumstances and being comfortable, but the only true joy is joy in Christ. God given joy.

Psalm 68:3 says “But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!”

I saw people in what we would describe as desolate circumstances joyfully praising and worshiping God more passionately than I think I have ever seen here in my home country. The emotion in their voices, their closed eyes, their outstretched arms and up turned hands transcended the language barrier. You could feel their joy, praise and gratitude to Jesus in every song, every message and every prayer. And their joy was transferrable. It completely resonated with me and I was joyful, humbled and felt the very presence of God during the entire trip.

So upon returning home I felt void and miserable, nothing like my preconceived notion of how I would feel. It took time to process why I felt this way and didn’t want to be here, all while I longed to be there. In conversations with others it became very apparent that returning home to routine daily life just felt mundane in comparison. To feel God’s presence so strongly for that length of time and be amongst such joy now felt like a huge piece of me was missing. I was also shown that when we are too comfortable and in need for nothing then it is easy to nonchalantly thank God for our abundant blessings and praise Him, but when you have so little then you desperately seek God and His presence in every aspect of your life while truly thanking Him for everything He has given you.

Jesus told us in Matthew 19:24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus illustrates to us how when we are in need for or want nothing physically that it is difficult to truly humble ourselves before Jesus and know that it is all worthless. To recognize that He is all we need. We become attached to material things and a certain lifestyle and don’t see our spiritual need for Him.

I haven’t sold all my possessions since getting back, but I do now see that all my life I had put too much emphasis on having things in an effort to be fulfilled. And that it is all worthless in comparison to Jesus and having a close, personal, intimate and dependant relationship with Him, as that is the only way to feel fulfilled. I also had to be shown that my being miserable while home was selfish as God had given me this incredible gift to have this experience and if I don’t come home and use everything He showed me while I was there then it is like not being appreciative of or redeeming His gift. That I need to live out the lessons that He taught me while I was there, wherever He has me at the present moment.