Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hebrews 12:5-6 "...My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastised every son whom he receives."

Will I ever arrive? I will never be good enough. Weariness, shame and discouragement are too often my reaction when my faults are laid bare, when sin is revealed in my life. I tend to look at all of these things that are wrong, many of them  ( all of them ) far out of my control  to change, and dispair. I dispair because I can't do it. I despair because I don't want to do it. I despair because I now feel inadequate.

However, this verse reveals the beautiful character of our Father, who does not discipline us to punish me, nor to discourage me. His discipline confirms his love for me. He does it because he looks at me and says, "You are worth it to me." And he has demonstrated that I am worth it by paying the price of Christ's blood for me. The blood of forgiveness and cleansing. He takes delight in making me beautiful. "...he disciplines us for our good, that we might share his holiness." (Hebrews 12:10) That holiness that allow us to see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), and opens our eyes to the goodness of who he really is. He does not desire to leave me where I am in the mud and the mire but to lift me up to higher places. That is his nature.

Very often the discipline brings us to that broken place before the Lord, where he longs that we be, where we dispair of ourselves and give up our pride and self righteousness, where we take our hands off, come before his throne of grace, and invite him to work.

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed."

Let us not become weary but instead come before the throne of the one who is good and loving and desires to break chains, heal, and restore.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Galatians 6:9 "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

It is crazy to think that right now, I am closer to the day when I am to leave this country than I am from the day I arrived. Has it been hard? Yes it has. But is it worth it? Absolutly. Yet, I'm not finished. As easy as it might be to slack off, to check out a little early, I must stay rooted in the fact that it will be worth it for those who do not give up.

Planting seeds requires persistance. The thing about planting seeds is that it is investing in the unseen and the future. It's not about the moments comfort and glory at all. It's not all about the visible and the tangible. I need this faith in the unseen, this hope for the future.

And it's easy to become weary. After constantly giving and pouring out, we need to be refreshed ourselves, we need new vision. We need a constant filling of the Spirit. "God I'm weary," I say. But his gentle reminder, "Do not become weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up."

While rest is needed, it is easy for me to idolize free time. I get a little protective when it is in short supply. Sometimes I live for it. But people are what really matter, people are what count, they are what last. And God is able to provide his rest for those who are empty and tired.

"...whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." (2 Corinthians 9:6)

"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness." (2 Corinthians 9:10)

The harvest is promised to the diligent, to those who decide there is more to invest in than the here and now, more to invest in than the seen. There will be a harvest for those who do not give up. I do not want to give up.

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Not for your sacrafices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forrest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrafice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

The sacrafice of bulls and goats was not what God was looking for. I think alot of the things we bring before God today look alot like those sacrafices. Yes, they are continually being brought before God, but are they more than mere rituals? Outward motions with no service from the heart? Giving to God as if we could help him out?

But I see a shift in the things that God asks for instead of the sacrafices. "Offer to God a sacrafice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble..." Instead of the focus being on what I can do for God, it shifts onto what God has done for me. Bring the sacrafice of thanksgiving for what he has done and for who he is. Fulfill vows because of how he has acted on your behalf. Call out to Him in dependance for what he will do.

Why does God desire so much that a thanksgiving sacrafice be brought before him? I beleive that thanksgiving is surrender. It is a heart attitude of acceptance to the will of God. Thanksgiving is acknowledging God's Sovereinty and goodness in every circumstance and putting myself in submission under his plan. Thanksgiving gives the credit to God for his work that he has done.

Giving thanks shifts the focus off of me and onto God. It's not about what I can do, but about what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do. My life ought to be poured out as an offering of thanksgiving to God.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Genesis 29:31-30:24 "When God saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren... Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb..."

Two sisters married to one man. An imperfect man, who loved imperfectly. One sister was loved, the other hated. The other sister had many children, the one sister had none. Jealousy dominated their relationship between each other, each one envied the blessing of the other. Leah felt unloved because Rachel was loved and she wasnt. Rachel felt reproach because Leah had children and she didnt.

They acted from envy. Constantly they compared themselves with each other and despaired when they were found wanting. Leah thought that she could earn the love of her husband after she bore him several children. When Rachel saw that Leah was way ahead in bearing children and she couldnt, she settled for substitutes, she sent her handmaid to her husband to have children in her place. They kept score with each other, wouldn't allow the other grace.

Look at Leah, who as she bore sons to him, strived for and hoped that her husband would finally notice her and love her. Reuben, her first child, literally means, "see a son." Even after her sixth son was born, she still desparatly said, "Now my husband will honor me because I have born him six sons." She tried over and over again to earn his love.

Jealousy, envy, keeping score. For sure, these are not just sins of the past. I am as guilty as anyone. Trying to earn love is a desperate battle.

But as the Bride of Christ, we have been loved perfectly and with an everlasting love. I want to know the depths of that perfect love. Because the truth is, we don't have to compete for love like these sister did. We don't have to work to be loved because we already unconditionally are loved, we don't have to stoop to comparison, envy, and bitter jealousy because we are already accepted.

Why does it feel so uncomfortable to accept the love of Christ? Why are we so hesitant to put away the measuring stick?  I am convinced that when I accept God's acceptance of me, I will be ready to do the same to others.

I see God in his grace, looking at these sisters who cried out to him for children, and giving to them both. For Leah it meant acceptance and for Rachel it meant healing her reproach. And God desires to give again, to fill the void of love in us too. Not with material possesions, but with a greater knowledge of His character and sacrafice.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Psalms 37:7 "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him..."

I wish I could say I have this mastered. I wish I could tell you that this is an easy thing to live in. But no its not. When trusting and waiting before God only includes being still, sometimes I get antsy and give up on God and try to do it by myself. But over and over in the Bible, I see that waiting for the Lord to act is the only way.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." (Psalms 40:1-2)

"but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31).

Many times we feel like it is up to us to give results, so we pursue and work relentlessly. We push and shove to make things happen even though it is obviously not working. We are tired. We settle for substitutes. We compare. We carry guilt that we are not doing enough. We try formulas to get what we need and do our best to do better. If only our best were good enough.
"For not in my how do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes..." (Psalms 44:6-7)

Like I said, I really wish I had this mastered. But I too have been a victim of this "try harder, do better" methodology. I want to make it perfect. I want to pride myself in a job well done. Maybe I'm afraid to take that jump, because it means for a little, that i have to free fall and wait for God to catch me.

Waiting on God is trusting that he will fight your battles. It is resting before him because you know that he will come through on your behalf. It's not wearisome. It's not guilt inflicting. It doesn't leave us tired, discouraged, insecure people. Waiting is trusting. Like really, if I don't trust that the bus is going to come, I'm not going to stand their waiting for it.

What Psalms 37 tells us two verses later is that "those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land." Those are the ones who will go far places, soar on the heights, run hard without weariness, walk long without fainting. Those are the ones standing on a rock instead of sinking further into a miry bog. Teach me to wait on you Lord.