Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A World to be Lived In

There seems to be so much chaos in this world... so much meaningless violence, suffering, abuse, even death. People are killing cops. Copes are killing people. Christians are being brutalized, even beheaded. People are being chased from their homes simply because of their ethnic heritage. Children from loving families are going astray, becoming entangled in drugs, alcohol and human trafficking. Many are even committing suicide. Parents are aborting babies, organizations are harvesting and selling body parts. People are shooting up movie theaters and college campuses. There's more, but I can't go on.

But the Word of God give me hope. According to the prophet Isaiah, "He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos" Isiah 45:18 (NLT)

God created the world to be a place of life, not chaos.

He is the Lord and there is no other. He publicly proclaims bold promises. He would not have told us to seek Him if He could not be found.

Lord, gather your people who pray only to You... who seek You... who cry out to You...
Gather the cops
  The thugs
    The Christians
Gather those whose ethnicity makes them targets
Gather the parents
  and the children
Speak tenderly to the babies

Lord, we seek You, we stand on your bold promises, we trust you to bring life in the midst of chaos. And You have.

We've seen videos of cops going above and beyond when helping stranded motorists, speaking tenderly to children in the midst of tragedy. We see traffic violators honoring cops, owning their mistakes and taking their tickets with respect.

We see Samaritan's Purse and other organizations reaching out to those suffering from ethnic cleansing and religious persecution.

We see young Americans taking down a gunman on a train in France, and humbly receiving awards for just doing the right thing.

We see Mercy Ministries, WAR, Int'l, and Grace Haven rescuing girls and women from the dispicable practice of sex trafficking.

We see Hope over Heroin, Dream Centers and others offering hope and rehabilitation to homeless drug addicts.

We see soup kitchens, pregnancy centers, foster and adoptive parents stepping up and serving those who desperately what they have to offer.

There is life on planet earth
  There is hope on planet earth
    There is a God who created this earth with His power and preserves the world with His wisdom.
      And that same God will come again and bring us into eternal hope created by His understanding.
We'll see it all then, see it as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us. But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do that lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.  --1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Let There Be Light

Last night was the lunar eclipse. It was a beautiful night to sit outside and watch the amazing display. This morning I read the following scriptures: Genesis 1:1-2, John 1:1-5, and Psalm 148:1-6. So my mind is swirling around the greatness of our Creator God and His power.

Lord, you spoke the world into being. By the very words from your mouth, all nature came into existence. If just one thing was left out or miscalculated, it would not have worked.

If the earth's axis was tilted just a hair too far or not far enough...
If the moon was just a little too big or too small...
If the orbit of one of the planets was off just a tad...
It would have all come crashing down.

But you hung each planet, each star, each satellite in the perfect place. You set it all in motion, timed the orbits perfectly, and here we are. How? Why?

Because you wanted to. We may never know how, and that's okay. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you did, and here we are.

So, if you can do all that just by your word, you can speak life into a man's heart.

You hovered over that formless, empty, darkness of the not-yet-created. And you hover over that dark, empty heart.

A heart that yearns for you, but doesn't know it...
A heart desperate for light and life, which is in you...
A heart that is searching...
But has just about given up the search...
That thinks things will never change...
That thinks this is all there is...
A heart that used to feel so deeply...
But now is numbed by drugs and alcohol...
Hopeless and void.

God, you took a formless, empty darkness and created a magnificent universe! You can take a dark and empty heart--one that is void of any hope--You can shine your light, your life in that heart! And darkness will NOT overcome it.

Hallelujah, Praise the Lord. For you commanded, and the heavens were created. You set them in position for ever and ever; You gave an order that will never pass away.

You said, let there be light in the darkness and there was. Now let your light shine in that heart so that he can now the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Friday, September 25, 2015

Made Holy by Truth

15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.  John 17:15-19 (NLT)

Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice. He sacrificed himself so that we could be holy, set apart by the Word.

God doesn't remove us from the world. He doesn't negate the consequences of a fallen world in our lives. We deal with the same things that non-Christians deal with--sickness, death, financial loss, suffering, evil--while God doesn't completely shield us from those things, He walks with us through them. He empowers us to triumph in them... to thrive when we should not even be surviving by the world's standards... to have joy in the midst of our sorrow... to have hope when all looks hopeless.

We are truly in this world. We are all in. He has not removed us from suffering and pain because that's part of living in this world. But even as we must actively participate in what the world gives, it is not all in vain. We are immersed in all that this world has to offer. And yet we are not consumed by it. We are not set apart from the world. We are set apart in the world. We are right there with our fellow-sufferers... Christians and non-Christians alike.

And yet, unlike non-Christians, we have hope. We have something burning deep down inside that sets us apart--makes us special, different, holy. Because we know the truth. That's why we need a daily dose of the Word. We need to read it, study it, hear it, apply it. The Word is what sets us apart. The Word is what makes us different even as we face the same forces that unbelievers face.

How can we not share that?! How can we walk along beside someone who suffers as we have suffered, who faces the same difficulties that we have faced... and not offer the hope that has carried us through.

It's the Word... the truth that sets us apart--makes us different even when our circumstances are much the same. We can't neglect the Word--the Truth. I can't neglect it. It's what sets me apart, makes me holy, allows me to respond differently. Only the Word.

Privileged to Serve

I served in our local soup kitchen yesterday. It was my third time. It's all pretty practical mundane stuff. You put food on plates, greet people, then clean up.

That's what I thought the first time I served... kinda boring... not the flashy, creative kind of thing I normally like doing.

But the last two times I served, I was deeply moved. These people we serve... in a "previous life," I would have either severely judged or pitied them. But I would not have desired a relationship with them. (This is a confession, don't judge me. God has forgiven me.) Now though, they touch my soul, and I truly want to know them. (I thank my precious loved one for this gift.)

As I wipe down tables and chairs after they've gone, I pray. I worship. And it sometimes takes my breath away. Little sobs try to make their way from my heart to my lips.

I am unworthy. I am unworthy to serve these precious ones.

 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Hour Has Come

For weeks now, since John 2:4 I've been reading about how Jesus' time had not yet come. His time had not yet come in John 7:6, 7:8, 7:30 or 8:20.

But, in John 12:23, he said, "Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory." And again in John 17:1, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son so he can give glory back to you."

The hour has come... the moment Jesus has been preparing for since John 2. It has now come. It is here. But it looks very different than I would expect. And it looked very different than the disciples, ever his mother Mary, expected.

He was not glorified in changing water to wine.
He was not glorified by his amazing wisdom and supernatural teaching.
He was not glorified by walking on water or calming storms.
He was not glorified by casting out demons or raising the dead.
He was not glorified by healing the sick, blind, deaf or lame.

He was glorified in humility--riding on the back of a donkey.
He as glorified in his submission to his Father's will.
He was glorified in suffering and humiliation.
He was glorified in death.

This is not how I picture glorification! I picture glorification in miracles. I picture glorification in healings. I picture glorification in the RESURRECTION...

But how can you have resurrection without first experiencing DEATH? And not just physical death, but also spiritual death. What a savior we have who submitted to this glorification process that looks so opposite from what we would think. He did it for us.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Only Work God Wants from You

But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
John 6:27-29 NLT

I want so much to serve the Lord. I want so much to have an impact. 

When Jesus fed the 5,000, they were so impressed, they wanted to be able to do those kinds of miracles too. But why? What was their motivation? What is my motivation?

When I see my friends making an impact on the lives around them, I have to admit, I'm jealous. I'm not making the kinds of impacts that they are.

But Jesus says the same thing to me that he said to his followers, "This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One he has sent."

This hints at the fact that, at least part of the time, it's hard work to believe in Jesus. It's hard work to "be still and know that I am God." But if we put in the effort to keep believing...

Despite our feelings
Despite our negative self-talk
Despite what others think
Despite how our lives compare to others (we're not supposed to compare anyway because it happens one of two ways... Either we compare our worst with their best and feel like failures, or, when we feel the need to be justified, we compare our best with their worst. It's never a balanced comparison, so just quit it, Cindy!)

Quit the comparisons...
Quit listening to the naysayers and the flatterers...
Quit the negative self talk...
Quit being ruled by emotions...

...and just work at believing in the One he has sent!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Letting Go of Regrets

Two days ago, I wrote in my journal about some regrets I have... Most of the time I can put them on the back burner and continue to enjoy life, entrusting those regrets to the Lord. But lately I feel them weighing me down. I've been having dreams at night that make those regrets feel even more acute.

Then today, I read a devotional that I get a couple of times a week called "The Loop." It often strikes a nerve, and it certainly did today:

You want to know what it looks like to pray to Me? To be with Me? To listen to Me? You are full of questions . . .when you pause. . . when you ponder your heart. Questions about Me, about how to live this day, about how to have more joy and freedom  . . .

Don’t feel guilty about the hard days, the long days, the stumbles, even the falls. You could look back on them, analyzing them, thinking about how you could have done things differently and how tomorrow, no matter what (oh, you are resolute!) you will not repeat what you did before. .  . Except, you fear you will.

You fear time passing so quickly—so quickly—and not being able to hold on tightly enough to time. A moment isn’t holy in-and-of itself. It is Me, inhabiting the moment, which makes time holy. So how could you mess it up? How could you make a moment less holy?

Don’t regret, child.

The only purpose in looking back on time—in endeavoring to appreciate it—is looking forward, looking to where I was, in the moment, then. Look back, if you must, but only so you may see Me in the moment.

Wow, did I need to hear that! I need to know that He was there... in those moments I regret. I need to know that He can make those moments holy. I need to know that He can redeem them.

I need your touch, Lord. I so need your presence in my life. I need to hear from you. I need your direction, your joy, your peace. I find my strength in you.

Give me grace in place of judgment
Give me love in place of comparison
Give me generosity in place of envy
Give me joy in my position--my God-given position
Let me be who you want me to be
Let me do what you want me to do
Let me love whom you want me to love
Give me what you want me to give--not just materially, but gifts of empowerment, support, encouragement, beauty, creativity