Wednesday, March 28, 2012
My youngest daughter, Sofie, is a fast and fearless little girl who loves sports. All sports. And like most young athletes, Sofie likes to win. Recently, she and I saw a t-shirt that made us giggle. It said, "I play to have fun, but I win anyway". "That is totally me, Mom!" Sofie said laughing. I smiled at my little athlete and agreed, "You do play to win, sweet girl."
She was still talking about the shirt as we drove home from our errands and it led us to an interesting conversation about Christ. As she was talking about how much fun it is when her team wins a game, I glanced at Sofie in my rear view mirror and took a moment to plant seeds of truth in my daughter's young heart.
"Sofie, isn't it amazing that we have a Savior that also plays to win?" I asked. "What do you mean, Mom?" she wondered aloud. Now that I had her attention, I stated my case carefully and quickly. She is, after all, only eight years old, and her attention span is short. My window of opportunity was small and fleeting. So, I took my moment and continued, "Christ took our sins to the Cross and conquered death. Through Him, we have victory. Jesus wins!" A big smile came over my little girl's face as she listened to my words. "Yep! Jesus wins alright!" She said brightly.
Jesus wins! We are told "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV) Unfortunately, many of us forget that simple truth when the game of life appears lost. Still, we must remember that things are not as they might seem. As Christ followers, we must not lose heart.
The Cross is our Savior's reminder that victory lies in Jesus Christ. When all was lost, and we were bound by sin, Christ declared victory by His sacrifice alone.
That doesn't mean that things will always turn out the way we want. We live in a sinful world and life's journey can be treacherous. Truly, there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. We simply are not calling the plays! Still, as believers, we have hope and victory because our Savior plays to win.
Regardless of the fight in which you find yourself.
Despite how messy your circumstances.
No matter how defeated you may feel.
All is not lost.
For Christ has declared victory in your life.
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.' (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)
Indeed, we have victory in Jesus Christ. So, let us lift our hearts and our heads towards our Savior. The game is not over and we are not defeated. Together, with Christ, let's play to win...and don't forget to have fun!
Monday, March 26, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I think sometimes I forget that when Jesus died on the cross, He saw it all--He saw those of us who are alive now; He saw those in the past and those yet to come; He saw those who live in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia....He knew about each one of us, and, though He would've died for just one of us, He indeed died for all of us. It's overwhelming, really. God loves us enough that He sent His Son, Jesus--and Jesus loves us enough that He died a cruel death on a cross so that we might live forever with Him. Simply amazing.
There is much to be said about the second half of the above verse, but I want to focus on the first part: He died for all. I was recently in Africa on a mission trip, and I went to both Zambia (among the poor) and South Africa (where I happened to be among the wealthier class). Going into the trip, I knew that I was ready to serve in Zambia. God has given me a heart for the poor, and I couldn't wait to love on them. And sure enough, it was all I imagined. I had a great time giving hugs and simply sitting with children. I enjoyed the people I met, the little ways I could serve....it was easy for me to imagine Christ dying for them, which in turn made it easy for me to want to love and serve them. It is easy for me to see their need for Him as they pray each day to have food to eat and a family that loves them. I get that part of "all."
But then I went to Durban, South Africa--and there I was confronted with a life very much like here. I was surrounded by people with beautiful houses, great schools, and plenty of food. I was surrounded by people like the ones I live near every day. And honestly, going into that part of the trip, I wasn't overly excited. I have never considered myself good at ministering to the upper/middle class. I know that they need Jesus just like everyone else, but I don't ever feel like I can relate or have the right words to say. However, God used this trip to open my eyes more fully to their needs as well.
We met women whose adult children had strayed from the faith. We met those whose children and parents were struggling with medical issues. We met those who were struggling with how to be kind to their coworkers. And as we prayed with them and for them, I feel like God reminded me, "I died for all--not just the ones who seem to need me because of their financial circumstance. I died for those who don't even know they need me, too. I died for the wealthy and the poor. I did it for every one of you...."
Though I knew in my mind that what I heard is true, I had to feel it in my heart as well. And I did--it took a lot of airplane time to get there, but God used a far away land to remind me that not only does "all" mean different races and cultures, not only does it mean the poor and needy, but it means those who are just like me, too.
How thankful am I that Jesus died for me--and that He died for people just like me as well. You see, poor or rich, weak or strong, old or young, we're all basically the same. We all need a Savior, and there is only One who can meet that need. He is enough--for every one of us.
Thank You, Jesus, that you died for all. Thank You for reminding me and for showing me another look at who You are and the depth of Your love for us. May we be found faithful in showing Your love to a lost and dying world....
Monday, March 19, 2012
This location for the Bureau prints about 60% of all of the money printed in the United States. We were able to take a tour of the plant - millions of dollars had to be in that building! In addition to the tour, this was one of 3 weeks during the year that the craftsmen are set up and you can see some of the old ways and current ways that currency is printed. They are also able to point out some of the security features on our paper dollars that are not noticable unless you know they are there.
One of the things that kept coming back to me again and again, was the amount of detail and the attention to detail that is given to each bill that is printed. The material our paper is printed on is a special blend. It goes through several printing processes. It is allowed to sit and cure for days at a time. And at each turn, it is inspected. If just one note on the entire page has a defect, the whole sheet is thrown out.
We are also put through a "process" in our Christian lives. God prints us on very special "paper" - He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). We are put through different trials and tribulations - all for the purpose of glorifying Him , so "that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15:6). All of our experiences are to make us more into the image of Jesus Christ -"we all...are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2Cor 3:18). Each of these things prints onto the fabric of our lives. We are intricately detailed - each one of us is unique and has details that only God can see. God is constantly inspecting us and making corrections so that we become more and more like him every day. One thing that is different, though, is that when God finds a defect in us, He does not consider us a lost cause and throw us out. He takes the time and effort to correct that defect. He considers us of such great worth that He spends time with us.
As we finished our tour, there was also a section that emphasized all the precautions that were in place to prevent counterfeiting. What was evident was that in order to recognize a counterfeit, the inspector had to be completely familiar with the "real thing." How true that is for us as well. Not only are we being transformed and inspected by God, we must also know Him and His Word. This is the ONLY thing that allows defense against all of the false teachings in our world today. We too must know the "real thing" if we are to recognize the counterfeit.
What about you this week? As God works on transforming you - are you taking the time to get to know Him? Are you letting Him find your "defects" and correct them to make you more into His image? Are you so familiar with His Word and with Him that you recognize when things are contrary to His teachings?
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Know what I don’t love or even like? The daily/weekly cleaning tasks necessary to keep my house presentable. Dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, etc. Just yuck. The tedium of these tasks often causes me to procrastinate or ignore them longer than I should. Yes, I do enjoy the beautiful, clean home when they are done. Yes, there is a feeling of satisfaction when all the laundry is done (which only lasts until bedtime when there is once again a pile of dirty clothes). But, for me, there is no great excitement in the daily chores of housekeeping. I have to choose daily to do the chores, to get the work done.
This is not unlike our walk with God. The mountain top experiences, like camp or a retreat, a revival, a mission trip or an amazing Sunday worship service, are so exciting. Preparing for them, anticipating what God will do, keeping our ears and heart open to hear what he wants to share with us. Pure Awesomeness.
Consider Moses as he experienced the original mountain top experience. He had just led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, and God called him up to the mountain (Ex 19:20). Moses was speaking with God, one-on-one, on that mountain top. He was so changed he had to wear a veil over his face because he glowed (Ex 34:29-33).
You would think after that experience, Moses would have lived an incredible God-filled life … every day … for the rest of his life. But no. Somewhere in the journey, in the day-to-day, as the people got more grumbly and were whining for water, when God said, “tell the rock to yield its water,” Moses instead struck the rock with his staff (Num 20:2-12). Maybe he was angry at the people for their grumbling and hit the rock in frustration. Maybe he wasn’t really listening to God and just did what he’d done before – used the staff to perform the miracle. Maybe he was having a pride moment, and thought, “I got this. Watch what I can do,” and hit the rock because it was more impressive than just talking to it. Whatever the reason, Moses disobeyed God, and there was a big consequence of the disobedience. Moses didn’t get to lead the people into the Promised Land.
In everyday life, it is harder to remember the mountain top moment. It is a challenge to keep our ears and hearts open to hear what God will say. Day-to-day focus on God takes perseverance and determination. There’s a reason the Bible says “Do not be discouraged,” again and again (God said it a lot to Joshua, Moses’ successor). We have to choose daily to follow God. We have to choose daily to pray and study God’s Word. We have to choose daily to serve God. We have to choose daily to take up our crosses and follow Christ. It’s not easy … but the reward is Pure Awesomeness.
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 ESV
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15 ESV
Choose you this day …
Monday, March 12, 2012
It was very unnerving during those few transitional hours while we made phone calls and froze accounts. I felt as if we were on the verge of complete ruin! I just didn't know what this person was going to do with my information and that felt awful.
Fortunately for me, it ended up alright. I was able to recover most of my important documents and ended up losing only the cash and credit cards. A decent ending scenario all things considered.
As I reflected on the terror of those short moments where someone else could have completely taken control of my life and turned it upside down, I was reminded how my life under God's control differed greatly from this fiasco of a situation.
There is no doubt that when you give up your identity and surrender complete control of your life to Christ that it too will be turned upside down...or, more like, upside right. And, it isn't always easy. But, we can have peace. We don't have to feel a sense of terror about what God might do to us. God's character is on the line. When we completely surrender ourselves to him, he will always come through. He will work things together for good in our lives for the sake of His glory.
I can find rest in that. I hope you can too.
I also remembered the words of this old hymn. Maybe you are familiar with it as well.
"I Know Whom I Have Believed"
I know not why God's wondrous grace
to me he hath made know,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
redeemed me for his own.
But I know whom I have believed
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day.
I know not how this saving faith
to me he did impart,
nor how believing in his word,
wrought peace within my heart.
But I know whom I have believed
and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed
unto him against that day.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
No, this is not an ad for a new website... although I can admit that there are some times that I wish that God's mind was categorized into a nice little search engine where I could just hop on my phone, type in my question, and get a list of little answers from which I could choose. And maybe even the answer I want could have a "Buy Now" button. And, of course, it would come with a coupon code, like GODROX or GODSAVS. Oh wow- free shipping?!?!?! Wow, isn't Jesus just so great!
But, seriously, as much as we often want the answers all lined up for us, there are so many reasons why we don't have this option, but one in particular stands out in my mind:
If we have all of the answers available, who's to say that we will choose the "right" one? I know that time and time again, I have thought... seriously, seriously thought... that I was making the "right" choice or praying the "right" prayer only to realize that it would have totally backfired on me later. You see, that's the rad thing about God... He can see the matrix. Like, He sees all of the years of the past that add up to the present and He sees all of the years of the future. And He knows which answer will lead "everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them". (Romans 8:28)
And what is extra awesome... so many times I ask God for things that I think are in alignment with what he wants... only to realize years down the road what a good thing it was that He didn't "answer" my prayer. But I think here is where I need to give some props to the Holy Spirit. You see, the Holy Spirit is a "translator" for us to God. And just like Romans says just a few verses earlier, "The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father, who knows all hearts, knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will." (Romans 8:26-27)
So, here's the thing... it's kind of like an answer to what Courtney asked the other day, "What are you doing to make sure that you have a personal, unrehearsed prayer life?"
I think that knowing that God can see the matrix... knowing that He is making sure that everything that happens is for our good (even if it's for our good yearrrrrrs down the road)... and knowing that the Holy Spirit will take those prayers that were quite possibly out of alignment with God's own will and that he will "translate" them into a request that does align with God's will... well, all of that just gives you another level of freedom in prayer. The freedom to ask.god for whatever you think is in God's will.
So, this week... talk to God in your own voice. Stop and talk to Him while you are walking down the hallway of your house. Stop and talk to Him while you are trying to find an unbruised apple in that bunch you got from Sam's. Stop and talk to Him while you wait for that little cut from shaving that part on your ankle to stop bleeding (that's at least a good five minutes!).
And be cool with God. Be you with God. Cause He's better than any search engine you could find... He's got your back. And He's got your future.