Monday, February 17, 2020

Eternity Ahead

Titus 3:7
" that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

God has struck me lately with the idea of eternity. Eternity with Christ is something I look forward to. I cannot even fathom a life without sin in a regenerated body! God fills me with awe and thankfulness at the amazing grace of this generous act of salvation. Yet, what exactly does eternity mean for us now, in each of life's moments? 

When you think about it, I don't know that there's any good thing here we won't be able to do in heaven... consider that a moment. Whatever gifts you want to cultivate, whatever projects you want to complete... we have an eternity to enjoy God and His gifts. But what about the people? 

I think eternity focuses our perspective on what really does matter. What are we here for? We are here because God is longsuffering: 

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." 
- 2 Peter 3:9

There is one thing we won't be able to do in heaven: save the lost. By then, all of God's children will be accounted for. Please understand, I'm not claiming WE can save the lost - only God can bring a person to that point - but God does call us to witness. Our lives here are the only testimony some have of our loving Father. I quickly lose track of my witness in the day-to-day necessities of life... and I start to think more about what would make things easier here, rather than what's important in the face of eternity. Yet the reason (so far as my human eyes can see) Jesus hasn't yet returned to claim His rightful place is that He is "...patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."

I don't know about you, but I'm not "gifted" in evangelism. I can't strike up a conversation with a random person I just met and bring them to Christ on the spot, then continue on my merry way (at least, it hasn't happened yet - God can do anything). This doesn't mean I'm not called to evangelism. Let me explain. 

Many of us have put evangelism in a box: you meet a person, take them along the "Romans Road" or show them the "Bridge Illustration" and thereby share the gospel with them. There is ABSOLUTELY a place for that - but this is not the extent of evangelism. Our every moment lived out in front of people is our testimony - our evangelism to others. God placed you where you are in life to show Himself to those only you know; to minister through you as only you are positioned to. As a mother, a wife, an understanding friend, God has placed you where you are to minister His love, thereby glorifying Him. How we deal with trials, how we enjoy God's gifts, how we live... these are our testimonies of God. 

This does not absolve us of broaching the subject of salvation; it gives our words weight when we share. Don't expect the opportunity to always come to you; be as intentional about sharing Christ as you are about seeking Christ.

Who is the Lord putting on your heart to share His love with? Don't be afraid! 

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." 
- Matthew 28:19-20

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Moments of Clarity

James 1:14-17
"But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

You know those moments when it’s like God just opens your eyes and you can see something for what it is? If you’ve known God for any length of time, you know what I mean. Otherwise, you can just think back to when God opened your eyes for the first time to follow Him. When you realized He is all you’ll ever need or have needed. 

I recently realized I've lost my peace in the Lord, and have been pondering why. I simply have so much to do, so much I want to accomplish, so much desire to be more; it’s insatiable. Our culture encourages this. Yet God is not my God if I cannot simply enjoy Him. If I want something more than I want God and His plan for me, then I have let an idol take hold in my heart; of course I've lost my peace!

God did not create me to enjoy life later, or when I have achieved my ideal. God created me to enjoy His good gifts now. I don't need to be perfect to have joy. I don't need to treat myself to escape this life; I can enjoy the treats God has provided in this life if I intentionally look for them. Looking ahead isn't bad, so long as I don't lose sight of His good gifts around me.

The Lord Himself is my portion (Lamentations 3:24) and He's right here. Dwell on that a moment. Nothing has entered my world that hasn't already passed through His loving hands. He has joy for me here. I don't want to miss it!

How prideful am I if I require more than what He’s already given me to be happy, to be content - to be at peace. I am thankful for moments of clarity, that in this one, God showed me my focus and hope was in the wrong place. Now, I choose this moment to enjoy the circumstances He’s given me. To marvel at the life He’s given. To enjoy Him and His perfect gifts from above.

What good gift of His can you enjoy right now?

Friday, November 15, 2019

My Insignificance

Job 38:25-33
"Who has cleft a channel for the flood,
Or a way for the thunderbolt 
To bring rain on a land without people,
On a desert without a man in it,
To satisfy the waste and desolate land
And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?
Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
Water becomes hard like stone, 
nd the surface of the deep is imprisoned.
Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?
Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her satellites?
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?"

Have you ever stopped to consider the immensity of our Almighty God? When I really take the time to dwell on it, I stand in awe. God is SO big and SO great! Creation is the easiest way I find to meditate on His immensity, artistry, creativity, and even love. It's the most tangible and evident of His works.

Take one tiny piece of His creation: a tree. Every leaf it buds, every flower it blooms, every branch it grows, every ring in its trunk is fashioned by His hand, designed specifically for that tree. Even its parts have pieces and parts - like a leaf. You start to hone in toward DNA, molecules and atoms, and then even quarks and quasars... at least millions of atoms are required to create ONE tree. Double that complexity when you introduce a new species of tree... and keep going for each of the over 6,000 species of tree in the world! We haven't even gotten to the other nearly 400,000 species of plants, yet. Not to mention animals (don't get me started on the ability to THINK and everything that affects!). 

How much more is God doing moment-by-moment? Well, a tree isn't just a painting or a sculpture; it's a living thing with a job that both requires and affects its environment. Its dark green leaves contain chlorophyll so it can absorb the sun's energy to then take in carbon dioxide from the air and water (funneled up from its roots), which it then converts into carbohydrates and oxygen. God created every single piece of this process to work in harmony. He created every plant and animal for a purpose - even if it's sometimes just to be pretty (so far as we know). Each part affects another, creating an ecosystem... of which we also have many different kinds in the world.

Every aspect of our earth is so intricate! There are so many different types of elements, minerals, and rock. The way our earth's crust and core and tectonic plates work together is a larger-scale illustration of His work - not to mention the atmosphere and what keeps our world together. Then there's keeping it on the right path for all our seasons, etc. in our solar system - not to mention the universe! God created and MAINTAINS every atom in the entire universe! The magnitude just blows my mind!

In that grand scheme, I consider myself. I am nothing! And yet... God still created me for His purpose: to make me more like Him and to bring Him glory. God loves me in my insignificance (not despite it!). He made me to glorify Him! THAT is an amazing thing! I am so thankful for the fact He made me insignificant, for a multitude of reasons.

I am not all-wise, all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-present. I wouldn't be even if I were perfect. If I had to control everything (and we didn't even go into thoughts and feelings and human interaction!), the universe would implode in a heartbeat. I don't even have true control over MY next heartbeat. To be able to put all that control into the hands of the Almighty God, the I AM, who is all-wise, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and who loves me so much He bore the ultimate suffering to make a way I could be with Him - despite all the evil I commit against Him... yes... I am thankful for my insignificance, because it means I don't have to worry. Instead, it simply reveals God's amazing power, grace, and love.

How is God revealing His power, grace, and love to you today?

Friday, November 8, 2019

God's Plan

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..."
Romans 8:28-29a

"'Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that You may be justified?'"
Job 40:8

Thank you, Lord, that my every circumstance has passed through Your hands. Not just the big circumstances, but the moments when the traffic light changes (or doesn't); when I slip and fall; when my children are being wonderful or whiney. In every moment, small or large, You work all things to make us more like You. 

I don't always appreciate it; I'm not always in line with You. Help me to recognize Your purpose in those moments. Help me contemplate rather than criticize Your plan. Turn my heart toward You in humble trust; don't let me elevate myself to pride thinking I can judge You. Thank You for Your grace that suffers my prideful thinking until You turn me back to You. Thank You that You have made a way for me to even approach You in Your holiness. Thank You, Lord, for Your plan.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Drawing Near

Psalm 119:25-29, 31-32
"My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to Your word. I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders. My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word. Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law... I cling to Your testimonies; O LORD, do not put me to shame! I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart."

Day to day I find myself striving. I want to be more; I want to be better. I want to watch myself ascend a ladder of continual progression, and when I see that imaginary tick mark drop, I struggle. Perhaps you can relate.

The verses above really struck me with a point God has been repeating to me of late. I can't do it. Nothing I do will make me worth more, and none of my progress on that ladder is a result of my efforts. I've been focused on the wrong thing: myself. The way to become "better" is not to focus on myself and how I can be better, but to draw near to God and to meditate on Him and His living Word.

The verses above (and throughout Psalm 119) ask God to be the source behind everything the author asks. "Revive me," has been a plea of my own heart lately. How can I be revived? "...[A]ccording to Your Word." (Psalm 119:25) "I have told You of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes." (Psalm 119:26, emphasis added.) I'm no Bible scholar, but I see "You have answered me" and I think of Job 38-42, when God answered Job, pointing him to the greatness of God and His power. In view of that greatness, God, teach me Your statutes! Each verse in Psalm 119 is such a great picture of the value of God's Word and what we should do with it. For all this worth, I cling to His Word and will follow it because God will enlarge my heart. Anything I do is because of Him!

It's not about being better, or more, or enough; it's about drawing near to God. He knows everything about me - all my failures, all my problems, my every thought - and still, He loves me. (Not because He sees something special in me; anything special in me is a direct result of His creation.) If I can't be comfortable with a God who knows everything about me and still loves me, it's because I'm prideful; I want to be able to do it in my own strength, which would bring glory to me instead of Him. Christ died to purify me so I can be in God's presence continually - so I can draw near to Him!

God, thank You for Your grace to grant me the power and means to cling to Your Word, thus renewing my mind and drawing near to You. Enlarge my heart as I dwell on Your Word, that I might draw near to You and glorify You as a result. Thank You that becoming better is all about drawing near to You, which results in You changing my delights and desires to follow, obey, and ultimately glorify You.

Philippians 1:6
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Thursday, October 24, 2019

First Love

Revelation 2:3-5a
"...and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first..."

In an attempt to improve myself and get everything done, I've boiled much of life down to a task list. I've been quite thankful for my helpful task lists; I miss less. Yet, while completing the nighttime prayers task on my list, God gently chided me on my plan of attack. He made me realize I've lost my "first love," as mentioned in the verse above, and thus, my reason to do tasks in the first place. 

"First love" in this verse, refers to Christ. My desire to complete a task has more or less replaced my desire to love (and thus serve) Christ. Life easily becomes about doing, rather than serving. Achieving, rather than loving. Myself, rather than Christ.

How did I lose that first love? Achieving isn't inherently against Christ, so where did I go wrong? I lost my original motivation behind achieving. God always looks at the heart, and we are so quick to think about ourselves instead of Him. I wanted the glory of finishing a task, rather than serving Him through my achievement.

This is why I find thankfulness so important. When I thank God for His good gifts, it helps shift me toward thinking about Him. Even in this, I can still make it about myself, as though God exists for me. Yet a good gift glorifies the giver, granting enjoyment to the recipient (and the giver), not the other way around.

Adding to my task list is not how I become a better [wife], nor does accomplishing tasks inherently make me better. Intentionally dwelling on being thankful for God's gift of [my husband and his good qualities] naturally leads me toward love, which leads to my betterment and joy. I must pray for the not-so-good things, and then leave them at His feet. In choosing to dwell on what I'm thankful for in a situation, I glorify God and become more like Christ (which also glorifies God!).

You may have noticed the brackets. Put your own goal in the first bracket and your own applicable thankful thing in the second. When you're tempted to dwell on what's going wrong, pray. Give it to God, and then practice intentionally dwelling on any applicable thankful things within your situation. God may surprise you.

I'm thankful for God's reminder of my first love. Life is so much sweeter when it's about Him instead of me!

What have you thanked God for today?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Twice a Mother

Isaiah 26:3
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You; because He trusts in You.” (American Standard Version with thee's replaced.)

Motherhood seems to be a journey of navigating changes. Just about the time you figure out one phase, you’re on to the next… at different times, with different personalities, that require different techniques. If you aren’t already comfortable with change — God is going to work on that. :)

As a christian wife and mother, our first ministry is to our family; I have found it so easy to get caught up in the doing: change her diaper, nurse her, feed him, clean poop (whether his or hers), nurse her, pick up at least some portion of the house, change his diaper - oh, drink your water! - nurse her - wait, when am I going to eat? - keep things civil between the siblings, sleep when the baby… wait, how do I get them to sleep at the same time? 

I get so focused on the urgency of the doing. Knowing it’s a fulfillment of my ministry to the Lord, my doing becomes the gauge on which I judge my walk with God… and I start to judge my worth by my walk, which puts my worth in constant flux based on my performance. Yet neither my worth, nor my relationship with God are based on my doing, but on the unchanging God, and what He has done, and is doing in my life. He always remains constant. He is the Rock to which we cling in the shifting circumstances of this crazy, beautiful, temporary life. He has poured out His grace on us through His only Son to credit us with His righteousness. And that never changes. My performance - or even how well I’m doing in my walk with God - has no bearing on my worth.

When I focus on Him - stay my mind on Him - I don’t see what I can or cannot do; I begin to see what He can do. I start to realize no matter what I do or don’t get done, His grace is greater. No matter how I mess up with my kids, His grace is greater. No matter what this world throws at us mothers - or throws at our kids - God’s grace is always greater.

When I stay my mind on Him, my perspective begins to change. My goals become less important - and I begin to compare my goals with His goals. My goals often have way more doing than His. But really, His main goal is defined in Romans 8:28-29: to make us more like Christ, which benefits us and brings Him glory.

The following passage is often split into many different sections, but I think it’s also important to consider it all together. 

Romans 8:28-39
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Concentrating on doing brings us joy or guilt based on our performance. Concentrating on Christ and the far-reaching effects of what He has done for us brings us joy in every circumstance. I don’t mean you’ll be happy when grieving; I mean you’ll have the peace of knowing God is using this for the good of His children and for His glory.

Trust Him and what He has promised. Lean not on your own understanding. Meditate on His ways in the watches of the night. Dwell on His goodness, His mercy, His love so great that He’s willing to do the hard things. Then make it real to yourself by purposefully being thankful for it. “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

Now I chose Isaiah 26:3, because I think it describes the idea most succinctly. But there's a similar verse in Psalm 1:2-3:

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

I love this passage as a reminder. God and His Word is the root which can grow us into beautiful trees. This doesn’t mean the tree won’t need pruning. And neither is the tree expected to produce fruit out of season, but in its own time, according to the Lord’s direction.

It’s important to note this passage is also a Psalm, and while it gives impeccable advice, it is not a promise. As a general rule, when we follow God’s Word, we do well. Yet God also teaches us through trials with the aim of perfecting us; it’s often how we learn best. This may look like failure to us… yet our inability to get everything done on our list is not the measure of our success. In fact, God uses that inability to teach us how to prioritize, to ask for help, to keep us humble and reliant on Him - and myriad other custom-tailored lessons His Holy Spirit teaches us. Each and every circumstance is not a measure of our worth, but of His grace. He always has the victory.

One other example of His victory and grace is when I mess up with my kids. When I let my temper flare and I snap at them… despite my failure, God turns it into a success. It gives me the opportunity to apologize to my kiddos, and to teach them how to deal with their own failures. To show them what I should have done, and where I should have turned. God’s grace is not shown in our supposed perfection, but in our weakness. God always has the victory.

Nothing has taught me this so well and clearly, as being a mother - especially twice a mother, with a little boy and girl! I thank and praise the Lord for this gracious gift, and pray for His help to stay my mind on Christ - and smile at the future. What trial has God used to teach you something you might not have learned any other way?