Faith

Why Try?

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

When I was a little girl I played soccer, not because I loved it but because my father loved it and I wanted to please him.  However,  one time an opposing player fell when we were competing for possession of the ball and I stopped to help them up.  (As you can imagine, my father was not pleased.)  Although I wouldn’t recommend this as a winning strategy, I would argue that this is a great picture of how to live in the world but not of it.  As believers we are to live in peace with everyone and be holy (set apart) at the same time.  This takes effort, awareness and humility.

Having said that, living in this world as a Christian is not easy.  Rejection and ridicule await us at every turn.  Many people view us as enemies, considering our faith evidence that we are delusional, have an imaginary “friend,” and are a danger to society.  Or, at best, they view Christianity as a boring way to live.  So, why try?  Is there something more that we are living for than to rise above the fray or to be helpful?  Peter tells us to “…make every effort to confirm your calling and election.  For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:10-11).  This is the reason why – You will NEVER stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into Jesus’ eternal Kingdom.

For certain, understanding this verse will motivate you to “run the race with endurance”  without a second thought about other’s perceptions.  But, to understand it you need to know what “these things” are and how to “do” them.  First, in 2 Peter 1:3, Peter reveals a great promise saying, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a Godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”  Second, since Jesus has rescued us from death (eternal separation from Him) and has given us everything we need for life and Godliness, we are compelled by His love to make every effort to add to our faith goodness, or virtue (2 Peter 1:5).  The practical way to walk this out is to avoid things that corrupt the soul, turning our hearts and minds away from God.  For example, pornography, sexually explicit novels, movies burgeoning with murder, sex or profanity, gossip, drunkenness, or even negative self-talk is like junk food that spoils our appetite for life giving food that encourages spiritual growth.  2 Corinthians 7:1 says it this way:

 “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Only when we have virtue can we grow in the knowledge of God, have self-control, persevere, be Godly, love fellow believers and love our enemies, which is the progression of growth Peter is referring to in the first chapter of 2 Peter.  This is also what is meant in Romans 12:2 when it says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Fortunately, the list of don’ts is not a legalistic standard, rather a matter of being sensitive to the Holy Spirit abiding in us, while at the same time, convincing us of what is good and what is not.  Also, there are practical ways to set ourselves apart (consecration) for the Lord through a “good” spiritual diet.  Things like memorizing scripture, meditating on the Word, being still before the Lord, prayer, fellowship, confession and repentance, serving others, and sharing the Gospel infuse us with life giving bread that more than satisfies.  If we do these things because we desire to know God and not because we are trying to earn His acceptance, we will not only be rewarded in this life with intimacy with God, but we will also be rewarded for eternity!  What a promise!

In other words, if you pursue God you will never fall.  Press on, run hard, persevere because there is a crown.  More than that, there is a Savior who desires intimacy with you.  Others may not understand what propels us in the faith but we know that God is faithful and He will fulfill His promises.  We need to be reminded of these things often.  This is another reason to be in the word.  Shout from the sidelines, encourage others to press on, pick those up who have fallen, grabbing them by the hand, and run fast into eternity.  A rich welcome awaits!

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”

2 Peter 1:5-9

Anxiety, Faith, grace, Hope, Love, Overwhelmed, Rest

Crazy Grace

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  James 1:19-20

Christmas is a time to reflect on what’s important and express gratitude for the precious gift of God’s Son.  “Peace on Earth, goodwill to men…”  If this is true, why are we so angry and impatient?  Between traffic and long lines to “prickly” relatives, Christmas seems to bring out the worst in people.  Why is it that we all seem to be somewhere on the spectrum of insanity during the “most wonderful time of the year?”  Could there be a dark spiritual campaign that ramps up every Black Friday to blur the vision of the grace God bestowed on humanity by becoming a man for the sake of our eternal salvation?

Personally, I have to admit that my focus is not on the coming Messiah during Christmas, rather, the coming company or Christmas meal that needs preparing or the gifts that need buying and wrapping and sending.  Insanity is the only word for it.  We all go a little crazy during the Christmas season.  It is fitting, then, in our culture of out-of-control “doing,”  that Christmas is followed so closely by the New Year.  Around the corner it comes with optimistic newness, forgiveness, if you will, for our December sins.

Because of this, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is my favorite week of the year.  Everything stops (except for basketball which is one more reason empty nesting is awesome).  There is time to rest, reflect and look ahead to a brand new year, God willing.  Instead of angry and impatient we feel optimistic and hopeful.  This is crazy grace.  The fact is, God not only sees us through our imbalanced, imperfect celebration of His Son’s birth, but also showers us with forgiveness and hope.  His love keeps us from being consumed by our fears, insecurities, failures and, yes, insanity.

In short, Lamentations 3:23 says, “His compassions never fail.”  His compassions (plural) never (that means never, ever) fail.  The word “compassions” reflects God’s heart for us in a powerful way.  It means God has the same affection for you and me that a pregnant mother has for the baby in her womb, “as cherishing the fetus.”  Regardless of our insanity level His grace is crazier still.  We can’t out-give God and we certainly can’t out “crazy” Him.  But for the grace of God we would all perish.

“Yet this I call to mind, therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail. 

They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:21-23

 

Control, Faith, Holiness, Hope, Humility, Obedience, Perseverance, Pride, Righteousness, Self Righteousness, Submission, Surrender

Finish Well

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the LordHe also has rejected you from being king.”  1 Samuel 15:23

Crossing the finish line after a grueling marathon must incite a feeling of overwhelming relief and accomplishment.  I say “must” because I am not a runner.  However, I can imagine the feeling, having “finished” other things that seemed impossible and required perseverance to endure (like raising teenagers).   Unfortunately, King Saul did not finish well.  In fact, I would say he is one of the most prominent cautionary tales in the Old Testament.  Anointed the first king of Israel, as a young man King Saul was humble in his own sight.  However, as he grew in power he also grew in self-reliance and pride.  Therefore, by the time Samuel admonishes Saul in 1 Samuel 15, he is rebellious, prideful and distant from the Lord.

Personally, finishing well gives me great satisfaction and joy; especially since completing a project or achieving a goal is not my strongest attribute.  So, when it does happen I feel great, especially if God was glorified.  Even greater will the joy be when, at the end of my life, I finish the race, running across the finish line straight into the arms of Abba who says, “Well done!”  Still, the question remains, why didn’t King Saul finish well?  How did this tall, handsome, humble man become a king  with a hard heart?  Most importantly, how did this anointed King fall out of favor with God?  1 Samuel 15:10-11 tells us: “Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.’ And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the Lord all night.”

Most assuredly, the answer is pride.  Saul had decided in his heart that he was just as capable of making “good” decisions as God.  Little by little Saul recessed into the bowels of self-absorption until he no longer honored God or His prophet, Samuel.  Self-absorption and hard-heartedness are stones that build a path to spiritual calamity.  We are all prone to the idea that we know better.  Romans 9:20a says, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?”  The word translated “talk back to” is the Greek verb antapokrinomai.  It means “to contradict in reply, to answer by contradiction, reply against” (Strong’s G470).  Which prompts the question; am I talking back to God in any area of my life?  It can be a subtle slide into spiritual fatigue as we log the miles this side of Heaven.  I want to encourage you to finish well, as many have spurred me on in the race of life.  If you don’t already, surround yourself with Christian encouragers who are running with perseverance.  More importantly, be that encourager to someone else, thinking little of yourself as you “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) so we may all finish well as we break the ribbon between heaven and Earth.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  Acts 20:24

Control, Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Life, Submission, Surrender

Boxing Out

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Boxing God out has been a common occurrence throughout my Christian walk.  Viewing Him as an opponent, with elbows out and my backside pushing against Him, I try desperately to keep him from getting the ball.  This is what happened on a Southwest flight in the summer of 2017 when my husband and I were sitting together in the aisle and middle seats.  Knowing the flight was not full I laid my jacket on the window seat next to me hoping no one would sit there.  (Yes, I did that.)  “Why is your jacket on the seat?” My husband asked, noticing the subliminal “Do not sit here” message I was sending.

“I really don’t want anyone sitting next to me so I put my jacket there hoping they wouldn’t ask.”

He replied, gently, “Uh, you should take that off the seat.”

So, while grudgingly removing my coat and sliding it under the seat in front of me, a young lady stopped and asked, “Is that seat taken?”

“No.” I whispered, letting her slide by.

Plopping in the seat next to me she promptly put her earphones in so she could listen to her music.  As she did my husband noticed the album cover on her phone.  “I love that band,” he said smiling.

Looking over at her phone I saw she was playing Christian music.  From that moment on Avie and I were flight friends.  In fact, we didn’t stop talking until we got off the plane.  As it turns out she was going into her Senior year of high school and in a dilemma regarding College.  She didn’t know if she should go to college or, if she did, where to attend or how she would pay for it.  Her parents were divorced and focused on their new families and spouses with little to offer for advice or money for education.   Avie had a heart for missions so I told her about Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and other options she hadn’t thought about.  At the end of our time together she said, “Thank you so much for talking with me.  I really needed to hear from someone other than my parents or my guidance counselor.”

Wow!  I almost missed it.  My comfort was the only thing I considered at the time and, in my narrow mindedness, forgot that God is so BIG that He could orchestrate a conversation to give a high school girl hope for her future.  He loves that much.  All I can think about at this moment is the waterfall of grace He has for His children.  Instead of calling “foul” He rolled around me and stole the ball.  I realize we are on the same team and all is forgiven, however, this encounter gives me pause for the future.  I resolve not to knowingly box Him out again and asked God to make Avie an Ebenezer stone for me; a reminder that God works in subtle, loving ways, running the plays of life through His children.

Lord, please give me a heart for those you wish to lavish with your love through this earthen vessel of mine.  Help me to remember.  I long to be compelled by your love and to live for Christ and not myself, keeping the Passion at the forefront of my mind.

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

Faith, grace, Hope

Grace, the Final Frontier

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”  Acts 20:24

One of the most difficult things to comprehend as a Christian is that Christ is in me.  In my frail jar of clay dwells the holy God who created the universe.   And, not only does He dwell in me but He assigns me work (“…telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God”) for His glory.  He has given me a lot to tell!

Most recently,  on September 9th, 2017, my husband and I celebrated our 25h wedding anniversary by renewing our vows.  The theme, “God is Gracious,” permeated every aspect of the day.   From the sun piercing through the majestic clouds at the very moment we renewed our covenant to the abundant joy experienced throughout dinner as we celebrated God’s goodness, His grace was evident.  But, honestly, without God’s grace we would have been divorced twenty years ago because the first part of Ephesians 2 described us perfectly.  But God, being rich in mercy…

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

True, we were “indulging in the desires of the flesh and the mind,” destroying our marriage in the process.  But, worse still, we were dead to God and His great love for us.  It was here, twenty-years ago, steeped in rebellion, pride and self-righteousness, that God broke into my house built on the grainy sand of perfectionism and shame and set my feet upon the Rock of Righteousness.  During this transformation I was overwhelmed by my own sin, confessing all to Him, and, simultaneously, freed from all guilt as the blood of the Lamb washed me clean.  The grace, like a shield, enveloped my heart and I knew I was forgiven.  In his song, Lord I Need You, Matt Maher confesses his need for God in the same way:

“Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You”

This profound grace is both a verb and a noun.  The verb:  “do honor or credit to someone or something by one’s presence,”  means God graces us with His presence (Christ in me).   In addition, the noun:  “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings,”  is the gift of grace.   In the opening scene of the movie The Prince of Persia, both the presence and the gift were depicted beautifully.  The King of Persia ventures into a village near his palace, gracing the peasants with His presence.  He then notices a poor orphan and takes pity on him. The king reaches down from atop his horse, takes hold of the orphan, hoisting him upon the royal stallion, and upon returning to the castle, adopts him as his own son and co-heir to the throne, demonstrating unmerited, unearned favor.  That orphan was me. That orphan was you too if you have accepted the gift, allowing yourself to be carried off by the King and adopted into His family (1 John 3:1).  This is here and now grace, both His presence and His gift.

However, the phrase, “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:7) reveals the existence of a great frontier of grace that we have yet to experience… a joy-filled eternity with the King of Grace.

“And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”  Romans 8:10-11

Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher

 

Faith

Mama Bear

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.”

Jeremiah 17:7

During a recent hike through the mountains of North Carolina I saw a mama bear and her cub, two deer, a family of turkeys, a chipmunk and several butterflies dressed in vibrant cornflower blue with black trim.  I felt like Snow White walking through the forest in a Disney movie!  The animals were not afraid of me, seemingly at home with humans, although the mama bear did “bark” while protecting her cub, charging a few feet as I passed them on the trail.

The whole journey was a trust test.  God brought me to an unknown place with strange creatures where I was all alone and VULNERABLE; a place where I literally walked by faith.  Joshua 1:3 says, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses.”  This is what God said to me through His Spirit,  “Take a hike, Marlene.  Up to the highest heights I want you to follow Me.  Trust that I am good and faithful and will bring you into the land I promised you.”  To be honest, trust is difficult for me, even though God is perfectly trustworthy.  Of course, God wanted me to come face to face with my sin of distrust so He brought me up a mountain.  An out-of shape body,  and a three mile rocky trail with a twenty-percent incline separated me from the outlook.  (Can you feel the sweat pouring down your back?)  But God brought me to a broken place where I had to press into Him for strength, guidance and forgiveness.  Three times I doubted and asked for a sign. Each time He gave me butterflies.  Not the kind in your stomach but real, vibrant, blue and black butterflies that swept in from the forest and flitted up the trail saying, “Yes, you heard right, Marlene.  Keep going.  God is with you.”  Amazing.

Just now, the realization that God is my mama bear occurred to me.  He stands guard, protecting me, especially when I am vulnerable!  The truth is, God HAS secured our victory.  Our part is to “set our foot.”  Joshua still had to engage in battle but with a huge advantage; Joshua already knew the outcome because he believed God, therefore he had courage and strength, and was not afraid or overwhelmed.  Because He had faith he fought from a position of victory.

Unfortunately, this is a struggle.  The territory God has proclaimed victory over in my life are things like fear of rejection and using my gifts (like writing) in a public setting.  I hesitate to set my foot here because the transparent way He calls me to write makes me feel vulnerable.  However, I know in my heart the biggest barrier is actually unbelief.  Unlike Joshua, I march out in obedience but not fully trusting God will secure the victory.  This, I have recently learned, is saying that God is neither good nor sovereign.  Like Judah in Joshua 15:63  I have been unable to drive out the enemy, taking the territory God has secured, because of fear and unbelief.  Mark 6:5-6 describes it perfectly, And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief…”

No doubt, in the area of creativity and writing God has given me marching orders.  For too long I have not been secure in the reality that, though I am just like that bear cub, vulnerable and helpless, I have a “Mama Bear” who will ensure my victory wherever He leads.  I know that doesn’t mean I will not be rejected but it does mean that whatever He tells me to do will be for His glory and will have an eternal impact, resulting in a deeper intimacy than before.  That in itself is worth the risk.  And yet, it is not a risk to trust God, is it?  His promise is to equip the called, just like He did for Joseph and Moses and Gideon and Joshua and Esther and David…just like He does for you and for me.

Like dumping water on a campfire, unbelief not only squelches the beauty and warmth God intends to extend to others but it chokes out God’s power with the smoke of faithlessness.  God told Joshua, “Wherever you set your foot, I will give you victory.”  My foot-setting is not writing a book.  My foot-setting is allowing God to conquer and expel my fear of rejection by believing Him through the action of taking a risk in an area where I will most likely be rejected! And, He desires for me to be okay with that because Christ is my all in all.  The (unseen) reality is that the dreaded defeat is all in my head. The enemy has planted spies in the form of lies to subvert God’s best.  Will I choose to listen to these enemies of God or expose them as traitors, rejecting them by setting my foot on their neck?  What is it in your life that is causing you to doubt God’s goodness and sovereignty?  We all have our marching orders; We have been equipped.  The victory is the Lord’s!

“We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”

2 Corinthians 10:5

Covenant, Faith, Gospel, Hope, Life, Love, Uncategorized

True Love, True Life

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  John 14:6

All physical life is completely dependent on the sun.  That may seem intuitive but when I heard this statement recently I was struck by the physical parallel of a profound spiritual truth.  All spiritual life is completely dependent on the SON!  Even with its exclusivity, I have never heard anyone complain about the way life is sustained.  It is narrow, no doubt, but everyone seems to agree that without the sun we are all doomed.   However, many argue against the reality of Jesus, the Son of God, being the only Way to eternal life with the Father.  Colossians 1:15-17 says, He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  So, it is the Son of God who holds all things together physically, even the sun we so desperately need.  However, everything and everyone eventually dies.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  

But, how do we know that it’s true?  The answer is simple. When you accept by faith that Jesus died for you personally to pay the penalty for your sins that keep you apart from God because He is holy, and enter into a relationship with Him, then you are cleansed from all unrighteousness (literally in Christ or covered by Christ’s righteousness) so God no longer counts your sin against you because the debt has been paid by God Himself in the flesh (Jesus).  Because He loved the world so much He made a way for us to be reconciled with Him (John 3:16).  When we believe this by faith (accept the gift) we enter into spiritual life (born again) and are a new creation, completely forgiven and sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.  This conversion from death to life is palpable and you will experience God in the same way a lifeless seed, when planted in fertile soil, watered, and exposed to the sun bursts forth into new life.  You will know by experience!

How I pray everyone who does not know God personally would realize that they are spiritually dead, like a seed, and would accept the gift of life from Jesus, the Light of the world, the living Water, the Son of God!

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13 

If you would like to know more please check out the links below.

https://billygraham.org/answer/you-can-know-god-personally-as-he-comes-to-live-within-you-by-his-spirit/

https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

Gospel, Grief, Hope, Life, Overwhelmed, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

O Death!

“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

My friend is hurting.  The sudden loss of her beloved husband of twenty-five years on May 5th, 2017 to complication from brain cancer has left a void that can only be filled by God’s grace. She and her five children are grieving his absence but know He is in the arms of Jesus.

I cannot stop the tears as I grieve with my friend and sister in Christ. We were roommates before we both got married. She made my wedding veil but now the veil of physical death separates her and her husband, David. Yet, she is not alone. She too is in the arms of Jesus.

There are no words of this world that bring comfort to those who are separated from people they love. The covenant words “till death do us part” ring in our minds because it happens…to other people. Standing at the altar we don’t believe we will be separated by death, at least not at fifty and not while raising children. But our gracious God knows the number of our days and the days of those we love.

Praise our victorious God that He has conquered sin and death!  Before it is too late, share Christ’s eternal love and plan of redemption with those God has placed in your life.

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I love you Julie.

Faith, Humility, Overwhelmed, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Look Up

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5

Imagine a well-lit stadium full of enthusiastic believers before a Casting Crown’s concert. Now imagine a “no sense of direction” me trying to find my seat in a sea of people when finally, an usher brings me to “my” seat but in the wrong section.  I was overwhelmed and confused because my husband was not there and was texting, “Where are you?” when I thought I was in the right place.

“I’m lost,” I explained to a different usher, handing him my ticket.

“You’ll need to go all the way up the stairs and around to the next section,” he said, while handing the stub back to me.  I must have looked pretty pathetic because he immediately said, “I’ll take you,” and bounded up the steep stairway.

Just then the stadium went dark and, trying to follow him with two water bottles, my purse and my phone in my hands, I tripped on the concrete steps and fell, dropping the bottles and my pride somewhere in section N.  Disoriented and embarrassed, I looked up and saw the light.  The usher was holding his iPhone with the flashlight shining down the stairs so I could find my way up to him.  Just follow the light.  Walk in the light.  Thankfully, I arrived at my seat without further incident.

A bit shaken, It took me awhile to start enjoying the concert but the genuine love, patience and grace shown by the usher moved me.  This is God’s heart.  His light is always there for us to follow.  He waits patiently for us to get up when we fall.  He doesn’t make fun of us or even chastise us for looking stupid or being late or making a mistake. When we are confused He meets us in our confusion and orders our “steps.”

In many ways this experience had a profound effect, changing my way of thinking about walking in the light as well as living in a state of humility.  In the dark we cannot see and WILL have an accident, be disoriented and lose our way.  However, if there is light, any light, and we focus on it, it serves as a calibrating force in our hearts and minds, pulling us to safety.  Humility, though, is really a sense of selflessness where you find it easy to “look up” and follow God because you are consumed with neither pride nor shame, only Jesus, the Light of the World.

So, although I was embarrassed at first, when I looked up and saw the literal light I chose to follow it instead of hide in utter humiliation.  Now, to be honest, thoughts did swirl through my head like, “Everyone must think I’m drunk, or stupid or clumsy or…” but that kind of thinking is self-focused and not even based in reality.  The fact that everyone was actually watching the concert and NOT me was evident but I felt like they were judging me! Capturing my thoughts was no less awkward then retrieving the rolling water bottles but, like living water, so worth it!  Because God’s light is there for me (both physically and spiritually) I was able to walk out of the darkness by faith one step at a time.

Compare these two Psalms:

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” Psalm 40:12

“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

The first Psalm reveals a self-focused heart heavy with guilt and shame.  The second a God-focused heart full of love and faith.  Although my tripping may seem like a “silly” example, there are all kinds of ways we trip and fall; some more severe and painful then others.  The circumstance doesn’t really matter because the principle is the same.  God is there for you.  He is patient, kind, loving and gracious and waiting for You to… look up.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12

Faith, Holiness, Love, Righteousness, Surrender, Uncategorized

What to Wear

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

Outfit snafu’s have been common occurrences in my life and usually happen at weddings.  I’ve accidentally worn the same color as the bridesmaids, overdressed and underdressed and once almost fainted from the heat because my dress was too hot for an outdoor, summer wedding. (It was almost one-hundred degrees outside!)   I struggle with what to wear on a daily basis too.  (It doesn’t help that most of my clothes don’t fit but that’s another topic.)  What colors should I wear?  What style looks best with by shape?  What is my shape?  Does curvy mean short and 25 pounds overweight?   Not only does it not come naturally to me to put an outfit together but I don’t even know what is appropriate for certain occasions.  (Google is my friend.) Sometimes I feel that way relationally too.  I ask myself what I should say or do in certain situations.  It can be confusing, especially during conflict.  However, Paul makes it very clear what we are to “wear” as God’s children on every occasion.

In Colossians 3:12-15 Paul starts by telling us our body type.  We are, “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” We have inherited God’s characteristics as His children. Therefore, we ARE holy because God is holy! Now, put on the “clothes” that suit your body type, reflecting who you are in Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, love  and peace.  I want to dress like that!  But, it seems unattainable. It’s like someone telling you to look like an airbrushed picture of a supermodel on the front of a magazine who has a personal trainer, plastic surgeon and stylist working with her on a daily basis.  Well, no matter how much I exercise I will never look like Gisele.  (I didn’t have her parents!)  But, the attributes Paul asks us to put on are spiritually genetic, passed down form my Heavenly Father.  I am a beloved child of God and I do have His Holy Spirit who is all of those beautiful things in me.   You see, we too have a personal trainer; someone to help us get dressed and walk out onto the runway of life showing off His magnificent design.  So, with pleasure I take off my old self and put on the new at His request, surrendering to my Designer.  This outfit always fits perfectly!  So, as we walk down the red carpet of life and people ask, “What are you wearing?”  Say, “Jesus.”

“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:22-24