Monday, November 25, 2013

A Resting Place

“And the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them.”—Numbers 10:33b

With Thanksgiving drawing near, and along with that, menus to create, shopping lists to make, and chores to do, this season’s busyness may eclipse something very important God wants us to know or, rather, something He wants us to remember: His glorious work in our lives.

My husband and I are participating in a small group at the church we are attending. Over the last couple months, we have met every other week. We have prayed for one another, gotten to know one another, and discussed the Sunday sermons and its themes and how they apply to our lives.

Last night, we broke off into two smaller groups, and a beautiful thing happened in our midst. We each shared our testimonies. We shared salient points in our spiritual journey that led us to Jesus, and the moment we came to faith in Him, each of us coming to Him through different circumstances. 

Some came to faith quietly, others with great drama, and still others somewhere in between.

In that beautiful time of sharing, though, I remembered something so very precious I had forgotten in my own testimony. It was not the story of my faith in Christ but the beginning of my story in how I came to give my life to Him, when I became His disciple.

It began when I had sought counseling from my family’s pastor in my early twenties because I had “blown” it with that same family. I had crossed the line in my anger and disrespect toward them, and I knew I needed help. As I was sitting in this pastor’s living room, he began sharing a story from Scripture. I thought he might as well have been speaking Greek as I was so unused to Biblical names and the formal style of Biblical writing. That did not matter though, because the Holy Spirit removed a dark veil from my understanding and deposited truth into my heart that broke me. In less than an hour, I knew my sin. I knew I had a problem with authority and that was the “root” error in my life and the source of many of my poor decisions. I knew it was a result of my parents’ divorce and the broken boundaries that resulted. I knew it was not my fault, which gave me a tremendous amount of consolation and comfort. What was my fault and would continue to be my fault, though, was how I would choose to live my life in light of my problem with authority.

When I left this wonderful pastor’s home (he did become my pastor, by the way, and he was a man God used to grow me and mold me into the Christian I am today), I remember walking to my car and having this sense of vulnerability I had not experienced for a long time. It was as if my heart that had been hardened over the years had finally softened and became open to the love of God for me. At the same time, God healed me in that He gave me the ability to forgive my father, who I was the most hurt by, as he was the one who left our family and started this cascade of unfortunate events in my life that were out of my control.

It was the most beautiful thing, and sadly, I had forgotten it. I did not forget Him giving me the gift of His forgiveness toward my dad, but I forgot being broken through His Word sitting in my soon-to-be pastor’s living room. I forgot that beautiful feeling of vulnerability after so many years of being hard.

Well, this Thanksgiving, I want to remember how God brought me to my “resting place.” I want to remember how much He loves me and how much He sought me out and cleaned up my life in order to experience His love with a pure conscience. My sins had become such a heavy load, and I was nearing the moment I would repent of those sins and lay my life down at His feet to do with it what He will. But before the moment I gave my life to Him, Jesus had allowed me to truly feel His life in me for which I am thankful.

I encourage you to reflect on your journey with the Lord and remember a time you clearly felt His work in your life. Ask Him to show you a detail you may have forgotten and thank Him for what He has done for you.

And have a marvelous Thanksgiving!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”—James 2:17

Park Bench in Onesti, Romania
(May 2005)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

His Way is Perfect

 (Originally Written March 6, 2007)

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”—Deuteronomy 32:4
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.”—2 Samuel 22:31
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.”—Psalm 18:30
How much more of an end to complaining about what is happening and what is not happening in my life do I need in these verses? I think, I’m 33, and single, and childless. But, “His way is perfect.” I am living at home with mom, making reasonably good money, resettling into American life at a nice pace after coming back from two years in Romania … but, I’m NOT so many things. Again, “His way is perfect.” I am only an assistant at a TV station … “His way is perfect.” I’m not serving Him on the mission field in any capacity like I had envisioned myself doing when I believe God called me to the field … nor do I really have the burden to do that again right now.
“His way is perfect.”
Oh my soul, can you not make these verses the meditation of your heart should you go through another low moment? Remind yourself of His perfection in your life when you dream the big plans, but God’s door does not seem to open on the future you had originally envisioned for yourself.
Oh, my soul, beg God for wisdom and discernment and the capacity to remain spiritual and weed out those things that are stunting your growth.
Lord, help me and mold me into the image You have for me, and help me be contented and pleased to find that Your way is ever right ….ever beautiful … and ever perfect.
I love You so very much and am so glad You are a part of my life. And that I am a part of Yours. Help the meditations of my heart as I lay my head on the pillow be filled with these thoughts tonight … and warmed by the brightness of Your love for me.
Fast forward to November 20, 2013, and I can truly say all my waiting and my trusting God have led me to the “desires of my heart.” Today, at 40, I have been married for just over three years to a wonderful man, and we are raising a beautiful little girl. I do not know where we are going from here, but I do know, yes, “His way is perfect.”
Morro Bay, CA

Monday, November 11, 2013

Made Perfect by the Flesh?

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

“For the just shall live by faith.”Galatians 3:11b

I have been thinking about how Christians down through the ages have slipped into the thinking that somehow, even though we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, we need to continue in the flesh to be justified before Him.

I believe some born-again Christians slip into it with the idea that they can “lose” their salvation if they forsake their faith or sin a sin that can remove their salvation in Christ. (I may be oversimplifying here for the sake of brevity. Forgive me. I mean no disrespect to my brothers and sisters in Christ that hold this view. I only mean to illustrate how I believe this is one way, in my opinion based on what I read from Scripture, we can slip into a justified-by-the-flesh mentality.)

I also believe Biblical fundamentalists of all kinds can get caught up in the trap of believing that separation from the world proves they are justified before God. What I mean is someone can have the conviction that the ladies in their family should wear skirts. In so doing, the flesh has a tendency to view others who do not share in that conviction as somehow less justified in God’s eyes. And vice versa. Those who do not hold that conviction can look down on those who do. Both are wrong, in my view, and I believe an application of Romans 14 fits here. (Again, I am oversimplifying for the sake of brevity. I believe there are those who have that particular conviction but do not have the belief that they are better than another, as well I believe there are those who do not have that conviction but who are kind and respectful to those that do.)

For me, I have a tendency (which is just a bad habit) of looking on the outward choices of an individual and then making harsh and critical judgments about his or her walk with God. One such example is the way I look down on those who do not have a commitment to attending the Lord’s house regularly. I believe they are backslidden and not walking with the Lord, which may be the case, but unfortunately, I don't stop there. I condemn them for their “deficiency” in their walk with God, which is not spiritual at all, and judge them harshly, even sometimes getting angry toward them. This is so wrong, and I can see that it is wrong when I read 2 Timothy 2:24-26, the passage on being a gentle servant.

When I step back and look at the whole person, whom I condemned, I feel so ashamed because I can see they are more advanced (for lack of a better word) in other areas of the Christian life, areas that I am continuing to work on, such as my temper, for the sake of honest disclosure.

There are so many examples I can go into. Suffice it to say, I think what I am learning is that none of us is perfect and none of us can be made perfect by following “law” or rules for our flesh. While some of these self-prescribed rules are beneficial and rest on Scriptural principles and personal convictions God has directed us to, we are not made perfect in them and we are not justified by them. I think the Lord is trying to tell me that I need to understand that to walk with Him is to Walk in the Spirit, not the flesh, period. Principles of separation and principles toward holiness are the result, but they should never be the goal for my own justification.

God has justified me already. I do not have to do one thing to keep it, to earn it, and to prove it.

Dear Lord, help me to learn more about what it means to Walk in the Spirit and to be justified by faith, and let the fruits of my walk be as they should be, from the heart in obedience to what You show me on my journey.

Luang Prahbang, Laos. (2000)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Yet I Will Trust Him

 “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him...”2 Kings 18:5-7a
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: 
but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”
Job 13:15

Several Thanksgiving's ago, when I was in Romania, there was a terrible accident that happened to my pastor's family there. They were cutting wood with a planer, and the daughter's mitten had gotten stuck in the planer. As a result, her hand wound up going through it, too. The mother had called me to explain the accident, and I remember being stunned at the turn of events. Soon after, the family went to the states to get the physical care needed to restore as much of the daughter's hand as possible. There was much good that happened as a result of this tragic event in this family, and for me personally, it was a moment in my Christian life where I experienced Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.” I remember God giving me this verse at the time, as my heart, as well as the heart of the church family there, was heavy with sorrow for them. Yet, God spoke to me this verse to comfort me, but also as a request to still trust Him, despite circumstances. The family certainly displayed this characteristic of Job during this trial.

Yet, there is another element to trusting God, persevering in doing right despite the difficulties that may come. Our difficulties may not even be the result of doing right, but simply a turn in the road God has foreordained. While such a turning can lead one to give up on God and His ways, Hezekiah and Job showed us in these Scriptures how we should continue to trust in God and to continue to maintain our walks before Him.

He is pure, where we are not. He knows the end from the beginning, when we don't. We often fail, and He never fails. We are to trust Him, no matter what.

I think of my own walk. How that little things can easily persuade me to slacken in my walk with God. I view others and what I see God doing or not doing in their lives, and wonder, is it worth the effort? This godly living. This passion for purity before the Lord.

Then I think of His sweet fellowship and times of refreshing communion. I know that if I resist Him and His leading in my life, the sweetness of my relationship with Him is less. I know He loves me the same yesterday, today and forever, but because I am but flesh, I feel the ups and downs of my closeness with Him because of the way I react to the events of my day. The way I trust Him or don't trust Him.

Lord, You are so gracious to us, and we don't even know just how much so. You are patient with our frailties, when we are not patient with our own. You love us, despite ourselves. For that I am so grateful. Thank You for this lesson in trust, and please, my Savior, help me to persevere despite the turns in the road, so that our communion will be sweet in the good times and the bad times.

“I will trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.”—Psalm 52:8b

Damaged Gypsy Home in Conti, Romania
Taken after the Flood of 2005

(August 2005)

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