Flash Mobs, Bodies, and Romans 12, Oh My!

The setting of the first “flash mob” video I remember watching was in a train station.  What musical nerd wouldn’t be intrigued to watch something with the title that had something to do with Sound of Music and flash mob?  I watched with curiosity, unsure of what was going to happen.  The music began over the PA system and yet, for a few seconds, people still ambled by, practically un-phased by the change from the usual music and announcements.  Suddenly, out of the crowd, one man steps into the center of the room and begins to dance.  A little girl joins him, in perfect sync, a few seconds later.  More and more people join into a beautifully choreographed routine.  The bystander’s smiles grow wider and some even try to dance along.  The beauty of the routine is that each of the hundreds of dancers who ultimately end up in finale has an exact purpose.  If one dancer did not play their part, or slacked on learning the routine, the end result would not have been as spectacular as it was.  Teamwork is a beautiful, glorious thing.  Remembering that flash mob made me think about how it could actually be compared to an even more beautiful thing: the body of Christ.  Before I try to pen some of my thoughts on this, check out God’s Words about this!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.  There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;  to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.  All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?  All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?  But earnestly desire the greater gifts.  And I show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:4-31

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:4-7, 11-16

The most excellent comparison of the ideal body of Christ, and the easiest to grasp, is the human body.  One ultimate unit, but it is made up of many, many smaller parts that work together for final benefit.  When it all works properly, everything works smoothly and easily.  However, when one part is not working, that is where things go wrong.  Think of a stubbed toe.  It’s just a small part of the body, but, oh boy, does the whole body know when it’s hurt!

Go back to the flash mob for a minute.  Think about all the parts that made it work.  You’re first thought was all the dancers, wasn’t it?  Mine was too.  But, the more I thought about it, I realized that the dancers were only a part.  If you watch the video, close your eyes.  What do you notice?  If you’re eyes are really closed, you are not seeing the dancers.  Instead you are hearing the music.  As a musician, I could go on and on for days about Julie Andrew’s perfect voice or the music genius of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but I won’t bore you to death.  However, they all in some way played a part in how the flash mob turned out.  Next, think about the mastermind who coordinated the flash mob.  With hundreds of dancers, someone had to not only be the coordinator of the event itself, but also recruiting and practicing.  Now think about the choreography.  Someone had to use their creativity to choreography a dance that worked in a busy station with hundreds of dancers in perfect unison.  So many parts willing to work together, one final outcome that is most pleasing to the senses.  Some many different roles, talents, minds, gifts.

Back to the body of Christ.  The first thing we need to always remember is to focus on the mastermind of this body.  Christ is the head of the church.  He binds us together and makes known our paths.  He desires and is pleased when each of us plays our part as He intended.  Like the brain sending signals to each part of the body, God guides each of us in our gifts and role to play in the earthly body of Christ, His church.

God has called each one of us to serve Him.  He created us for His pleasure, not our own.  When we do our part in service to Him, we bring Him pleasure, glory, and honor.  He did not create us to be exact molds of each other, but complimentary pieces of one body.  He gave each of us gifts so that we can work together, building each other up, helping each other, and encouraging each other in our growth to become more like Christ.  If we all had the same gift or function in the body, how boring would that be!  Imagine a body of all noses.  While we would enjoy (or not enjoy) the smells of the world, we would not be able to enjoy a colorful work of arts or a finely played melody.  For a body to work, differences are vital.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that we will always like or appreciate the differences.  With God’s help, however, we can strive to become a well-oiled machine, each of us using the gifts God gave us to work together for His glory and to help each other become more like Him.  We should be thankful that the function of the church is not resting on our shoulders alone.  We could never do this thing called life on our own!  We can also be thankful that God gave us the gifts He knows are perfect for us.  He has given us the role that we need to glorify Him and become more Christ-like, in word, deed, heart, and action.  His plans are perfect.  He understands far more than we do that we need each other.  He understands that our differences may be hard for us to overcome due to our sinful nature.  But He also knows that His body is perfect when everyone plays their role.

Sometime the body doesn’t quite work.  One day the eyes may get blurry, a limb gets broken, or an infection sets in.  How does the biological body respond in those situations?  We can get corrective lenses for the vision issues, crutches and/or a cast for the broken limb, and medications for the infection.  The body then fights to heal itself.  Likewise, the spiritual body can get blurry vision, a broken limb, or an infection.  What do we do then?  For blurry vision, we can work to correct that through prayer and looking at God’s Word as our corrective lens.  For a broken limb, we can lean on other children of Christ for support and help during the healing process.  For an infection, we can purify ourselves through prayer, confession, and meditation on God’s guidance for His will and plan for us.  And these are just some examples of many.  God’s design for us is not to fail, but to be perfect when we all look to Him as the head of the body and work together by sharing our gifts to please the One who gave us each unique gifts.  God truly is the creator of the most amazing creations.  And He has chosen us!  Because of that fact alone, how can we not want to serve Him, glorify Him, and honor Him?

In a perfect world, every part of the body of Christ would always get alone.  No one would ever disagree.  No one would fall away.  Everyone would always play their role, while also trying to go above and beyond serving one another.  Unfortunately, we live in a sinful world.  We fight, we argue, and we nit-pick everything.   Just because one person takes a break from “working” the way God intended them to does not mean that we all should.  What if our entire body decided to give up just because of a stubbed toe?  (Sometimes it feels like it though!)  That’s rather preposterous!  The body doesn’t work that way.  Things do change when one part isn’t working up to par, but it doesn’t stop.  Using the stubbed to example, the leg and foot on the opposite side typically has to work a bit harder to compensate for balancing or walking differently to help with the pain or discomfort on the injured side.  But it doesn’t always stay like that.  Once the toe is no longer hurting, both legs and feet can go back to working equally.  Similarly, in the body or Christ, when a brother or sister falls or is hurting, the other members of the body can work overtime to help, encourage, admonish, strengthen, and draw back into the body a member of the body that desires to serve God with their counterparts.  The body working together in general, but also in a healing sense, is a thing of magnificence.  This is what God intended: His children working together in service to Him.

When we play our part in pleasing God, the result is two-fold.  First, when we acknowledge and use the gifts God gave to us, our service brings pleasure to God.  This was His perfect plan, design, and intention for us, His creation.  This should be our ultimate goal even though we as human tend to be quite selfish and only think about how we think and feel.  The second part does have to do with us.  When we bring pleasure to God, we actual benefit in that we feel pleasure in knowing that we are serving and pleasing Him.  Just like a child delights in showing his or her parents something they did that they know the parents will find pleasing, we should feel that same pride in a job well done when we use our God-given gifts to glorify God.  We should proudly be able to go to God and say “look at how I was able to use the gift you gave me to serve you; thank you, God, for that gift.”  In return, at the end of our lives, we can anticipate the words any child of God yearns to hear: “well done, good and faithful servant.”

It’s time to play our part in God’s perfect choreography in earnest!

Advertisements

Mary Versus Martha: Finding a Balance

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”  But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;  but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

I remember first hearing the story of Mary and Martha.  As the oldest in my family, I immediately understood where Martha’s complaint was coming from.  She wanted to serve Jesus, but felt frustrated possibly that her service was slow because she was the only one doing the work and that she was unable to just sit and listen due to desiring fulfilling her duty of service.  That was me.  I knew from a young age that theoretically when you have a guest, the house should be clean, they should feel welcomed and at home, and fresh cookies should not be far away.  I remember being frustrated not only that Mary just sat and listened to Jesus, but also that Jesus commended that action (or seemingly lack thereof).  I felt bad for Martha, because I could relate with what a huge blow to her ego that would have been.  However, as I grew older, and (hopefully) wiser, I began to see the importance of both service and spiritual growth through immersion into God’s Word.  Mary did have it somewhat right.  She was extraordinarily lucky that, unlike me, Mary got to hear Jesus’ words in person.  Also, growing older made me realize that as much as I related to Martha’s concerns, the part that I could not see was her heart in that moment.

So, how does one live a life pleasing to God?  Where is the balance between service and spiritual growth?  Are they separate or do they work symbiotically?  I could ponder this all day, but I have something that can help to give a pretty clear path to take when desiring to live a life pleasing to the Lord in all ways: His Word, the Bible.  Sometimes it’s best to let Him do the talking.

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.  So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. 

Romans 8:5-6

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

Philippians 4:4-9

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

Romans 12:1-2

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. 

John 12:26

But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:43-45

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

After reading all of these verses (and many more), service and spiritual growth seem to need to be balanced out.  As children of God, our desire and goal should be to strive (as much as is humanly possible) to live like Christ.  Christ loved us, sinners that we were (are), so much that He gave His life for us.  Time and time again, Jesus made an example of serving others to show His disciples a God pleasing lifestyle.  It should be our joy to serve others because it was His plan for us.

  • Sometimes serving means actual physical labor.
  • Sometimes it means just being there for someone.
  • Sometimes it means letting someone else do something that we would like to do (the Martha versus Mary) and feeling joy that they can enjoy that time.
  • Sometimes it means loving someone even when they are hard to love and showing that love that only God can give.

Likewise, we should never become so focused on serving that we forget why we are serving (to honor God), serve for the wrong reasons (selfish gain or earthly praise), or neglect our own spiritual growth closer to God.  God desires for us to want to pursue Him and to become more like Him.  That quality of life is pleasing to Him and should be what we always strive for.  While living in God’s will is where we should be, it was never promised that it would be easy.

Life is hard.  Balance is hard.  But, just like most athletes aren’t gold metal quality on the first try, living a godly lifestyle takes hard work, practice, encouragement, and perseverance.  God loves us even when we are not perfect and delights when we work towards becoming more like Him.  And the best part is that we do not have to do this alone.  God perfect plan allows us to fellowship with other children of God, learning from them, giving and receiving encouragement or help, and drawing closer to Him together.  He also gives us His perfect Word, which, while not audible words from Him, are His Words, perfect and exactly what we need in each moment.  He gives us access to Him through the Holy Spirit and prayer.  He is never far away.  He gives us strength to go through this life and work towards finding that balance to become more like Him while serving those around us.

I feel like in my search for finding a balance, Philippians 2:3-4 sums it up well: think of other first.  This could be by working towards spiritual growth to help support a fellow child of God or it could mean physically going out of your way to meet someone’s needs.  Either way, living a life that focuses on pleasing God will yield a life that chooses others over oneself, just as Jesus Christ chose us over His own life.  I once heard the way to live a God pleasing life summed up in one word: JOY.  It was stated that this little word had a bigger hidden message.

  • Jesus first.
  • Others second.
  • You last.

Go out and live a live that is pleasing to God with Balance and JOY!

Overwhelmed versus Underwhelmed

Overwhelmed: to overpower in thought or feeling (Merriam-Webster)

Underwhelmed: to fail to impress or stimulate (Merriam-Webster)

Sometimes in this life it becomes far too easy to be underwhelmed rather than overwhelmed.  God works in an amazing way and the first thought is “oh, cool.”  And then we move on, complacent once again, forgetting that the only thing that we deserve is punishment for our sinful nature!  We shrug off the amazingness of grace and mercy without a second thought!  We scoff at the fact that God has given us power through the blood of His Son!  We ignore the fact that we are heirs of eternity with Christ Jesus!

Why?

Look at the world around us.  How often does society work to underwhelm us by overwhelming us?  Take advertising for example.  On TV, in magazines, on billboards, it is advertised that we need or deserve “this or that.”  As one of the hair product ads stated it, we deserve and need it “because we’re worth it.”  Soon everyone has the coveted new product, making it not as special anymore.  How can it be special if anyone can have it?  And how does having this product make us any different?

As Christians, have we started to view our salvation that way?  Has it become the proverbial “get out of jail free card” that anyone can have?  The new, fancy product that eventually gets set on the back shelf and forgotten?  In the words of the apostle Paul, “may it never be!”

Our salvation, while being something that we never could deserve, was bought for us with a price that we can never re-pay.  God created us in His image and offered us perfection, but we rebelled.  Sin then came into the world and death along with it.  Sin caused a separation from God that we as sinful humans could never bridge on our own.  But God is just and merciful!  Jesus came to earth, both God and man, and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice to cover our sins.  We can never do enough to make up for this offering.  But God is loving and awesome!  He is perfect and just!  He allows us to accept this gift of salvation through the blood of Jesus and welcomes us back into fellowship with Him!  This gift is beyond words!!!

How do we become so underwhelmed by such an overwhelming gift?  The simple answer is that we take it for granted and think that we deserve it.  This is not the case.  We deserve nothing except separation from God.  In His love for us, He made a way to bring us back into fellowship with Himself!  The thought that the creator of the universal chooses us should overwhelm us every single time!  The God who made us in His image wants us to be in communion with Him.  The maker of all things wants us to spend eternity with Him.  God the Son gave His own life for us, taking on our sins, all of our sins, to pay the ultimate price.  God the Spirit intercedes for us to allow us communication with God.  Our God calls us and knows each one of His children by name and He loves us!  How can you not be overwhelmed by this?

Look at the heavens.  The creator of the stars, moons, planets, and galaxies made loves you!  Look in the mirror.  The God of all things made you in His image and loves you!  Look at the cross.  The God who is perfect and sinless offered up His life in exchange for yours so you could spend eternity with Him!  Look at God’s Word to you in His gift of the Scriptures.  The King of kings and Lord of lords made, loves, and chose YOU!!

Because of this truth, we should always strive to live like we are different, sanctified through the blood of Christ Jesus, heirs of Heaven!  God has considered us “worth it.”  Since we are so far from just deserving this love, we should live every day with gratitude, praise, awe, and worship for our God.  He alone is worthy of all that!  We should never become complacent in our thankfulness for our salvation.  Anyone who sees us should notice that we are different, God’s chosen ones.  Our lives should reflect His love for us onto those around us!  With the help of God, we should look so appealing that people want to know what our secret is and we should desire that everyone is in on this “secret!”

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “for your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” BUT IN ALL THESE THINGS WE OVERWHELMINGLY CONQUER THROUGH HIM WHO LOVED US. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~Romans 8:31-39 (NASB)

Be OVERWHELMED, not underwhelmed!

Joy, Pleasure, and Psalm 16

Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.”
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

~Psalm 16 (NASB)

I have read all the Psalms before, some many times over, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I found my favorite: Psalm 16.  I am not quite sure why it hadn’t stood out to me up to that point, but after reading it again, this Psalm took on meaning and life of its own.  When I found it again, I was at a point in my life where I had been forgetting the joy of following Christ, the pleasure of being in His care at His right hand.  This Psalm caused the memories of those times that I have experienced that gladness to come flooding back along with a strong desire to experience that once again.

Over the years, whether I have realized or sought it or not, God has “preserved” me.  He has been my refuge in the good times and the bad times.  I think back to when I thought I had my life all planned out.  I was all set to take one path, but then things unexpectedly (to me) fell out of place.  It was devastating in the moment; a very tough pill to swallow.  Looking back on the doors that opened wide after that, it is clear to see that God was guiding me all along to the place I am now.  And now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  The saying “hindsight is 20/20” is so true, but, likewise, when we trust that God’s ways are higher than ours and trust in His preservation of us in His perfect will, we could be trusting His 20/20 plan through the “corrective lenses” of His Word and prayer in the moment.  Reflecting on my path up to this point has made me realize that there is truly “no good thing” besides the One that I call my Saviour.

God has had His plan for me mapped out for me before I was even a thought on this earth.  He is the One who sustains me and gives me the strength I need to word (very hard) to become more like Him.  His plans for me are perfect.  Even when in my view things seem to not be going how I had “planned” or hoped, His will for me has always been for my good.

The good times point me to Him for rejoicing and gratitude.  The bad times point me to Him for humility and comfort.  The hungry or desert times point me to Him for sustenance or refreshing.  The mountain tops point me in awe to the One who created the universe, but also calls me His.

My heritage is beautiful!  I am a daughter of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Great I AM, the Saviour, the Creator, the Provider, and the list goes on and on.  He calls me His own!  For this reason, I can rejoice and praise the Lord every moment of every day.  With God on our side, who do we have to fear?  When He is at our right hand, we will not be shaken!  Through God, we have power!  It is the power to move mountains when we have faith!  God doesn’t want us to cower in fear, but to stand boldly for Him.  Because He has predestined our path, we can stand courageously knowing that when we move according to His will, He is right beside us, keeping us on the path that He designed to be perfect for us.  We do not have to be shaken because He has promised never to leave us or forsake us when we walk in His way.  He will make His will and path known to us when we look to Him and trust Him.

God still speaks to us, His own.  It may not be audibly, but His Word, the Bible, is alive and full of His truths for us.  He speaks to us through creation, pointing out His power, but also His care for us.  Consider the stars.  There are more than most of us can even comprehend proving that the Lord is the most powerful creator.  And yet, even with the vastness of the universe, God made those stars visible to us to be a thing of beauty, something to marvel over.  His creation is not only powerful, but also delicate and beautiful.  And He shares it with us, lowly human kind!  His craftsmanship and artistry is beyond all compare.  And it is good!

My favorite part of Psalm 16 are the last few lines.  In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” 

Fullness of joy. 

Pleasures forever. 

Sound appealing.  Think outside of these words for a minute.  Do you have a person you enjoy being around or a place that you like to go where when you are with them or in that place, you just feel contentment, peace, joy, pleasure, calm, etc.?  Think of how amazing that experience is every time.  Now imagine that, but even better.  Imagine the overwhelming perfection of true, undefiled joy and pleasure.

Sound too good to be true, especially with everything going on in the world around us?  It’s not!  Being in God’s will, at His right hand, in His presence, will bring complete joy and pleasures!  Sure, not every moment of our lives are going to be all sunshine and flowers.  Even if this life may lead to suffering, the hope and promise of eternity in the presence of the Lord our God will outweigh any earthly trial or tribulation.  In every situation, contentment and a forward, heaven-looking mind, a mind and heart that seeks to always remain in God’s will, should be our goal.  When we are on the path God has set for us, we will experience fullness of joy and pleasures forever in His presence on earth or in eternity by His side forevermore.

Strive always towards that joy and pleasure that can only be found in walking in God’s perfect plan!!

Taking the Leap

Trust.

Faith.

Only 5 letters, 1 syllable, each small word, but oh, such a huge meaning!

Christians often throw around the words trust and faith liberally… maybe even too freely.  From early childhood in the church, everyone has heard, and most likely quoted, the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 in many contexts.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

The most common context is one of reassurance or calming.  While we have no problems preaching these words almost as a reflex, how many of us truly take the time to realize what powerfully and almost sometimes scary words these two words are.

Trust: “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something; acceptance of the truth of a statement without evidence or investigation; the state of being responsible for someone or something.”

Faith: “complete trust or confidence in someone or something; strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

Consider some examples of heroes of the Bible who showed extreme faith and trust.  Hebrews 11, the Biblical “Hall of Fame” is a great place to start; however, it is not an all-inclusive list by any means.  Here are some of my favorites.

  • Abraham: God asked Abraham to demonstrate his faith and trust in God by giving his son, Isaac, as an offering to God.  Abraham, rather than doubting or openly questioning God’s plan, went up the mountain with his son Isaac in tow, fully prepared to sacrifice him to God.  He went up without any contingency plan, taking only what he needed as God had told him.  In those final, heart-pounding seconds, God saw Abraham’s trust and faith and provided an alternate sacrifice.  Abraham named that place YHWY Yireh or Jehovah Jireh after the Lord’s provision.  Read the full story in Genesis 22.
  • Moses: while Moses had some concerns about how he could return to Egypt and become a leader to the chosen people of God, the Israelites, he followed God’s lead by returning to Egypt to boldly stand before Pharaoh, a powerful world leader.  Eventually, after many messages from God and plagues, Moses eventually led the people of Israel out of Egypt, through a sea that miraculously parts when their feet touch the water, and onto the first leg of the journey to the Promise Land.  Read all about Moses’s story all throughout the book of Exodus.
  • Naaman: Naaman was an army captain who had leprosy.  Through the suggestions of an Israelite servant girl, he asked one of the Lord’s prophets for help.  Although he balked at the simple act of washing himself in the Jordan River, he was finally cured when he did.  Read the full story in 2 Kings 5:1-14.
  • Esther: this young Jewess won the favor of a great king and became his queen.  While being elevated to such a position that she could have turned her back on her heritage and people, when they were threatened, she risked her own life, defying the wrath of her husband to come before him and plead for the life of the Jews in Persia.  In her own words, “And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”  She stepped boldly through the doors into the king’s presence.  Her bravery changed the course that could have led to the destruction of many lives.  Read Esther’s amazing story in the book of Esther!
  •  Peter: this apostle and disciple of Jesus’ is known for his “foot in mouth” style of communication, action, and boldness.  During one fishing trip, Peter sees Jesus out on the water and begs to have it proven to his that it is Jesus.  When he first steps out of the boat it says he began to walk on the water toward Jesus, but then he focused on the storm, and begins to sink.  In the end, Jesus held out a hand and saved him.  Read the full story in Matthew 14:22-33.

While these are very brief descriptions of these accounts, what did all of these have in common?  Did you notice the cause and effect?

Because each of these amazing men and women had trust in God and faith that he would follow through, they took action.  However, it wasn’t until they actually took that step, the colloquial “leap of faith,” that they were rewarded or saved.  Faith without works is dead (James 2:18-26).  We can say that we trust and have faith all day long, but until we prove it by taking action, who’s to say we actually do or don’t.  That is why I think the words faith and trust are such scary words.  God’s putting it back in our court, saying “Show Me that you truly do trust Me!”  And, after all, is that really too much to ask from us?

Back to Proverbs 3:5-6.

It’s easy to sit back and quote Proverbs, but think about it.  What is a proverb?  It’s a verse to remind us of the lesson.  Here’s how I’m starting to think about it.

Trust in the Lord: we know we can- after all He’s the make of Heaven and Earth and our Saviour from our own sinful nature.

With all your heart: if you believe something truly, it’s never just half-hearted.  Commitment takes all of your heart (gumption) and strength.

Lean not on your own understanding: sometimes our thoughts, plans, dreams, and ways are not God’s.  Even when it doesn’t make perfect sense at the time, we can, when we have faith with all of our hearts, trust that God’s plans are higher and better than our minds can imagine.  Sometimes what we think we want or need is actually so far away from what we do need that when we finally follow God’s plan we realize how foolish our big plans seemed.

In all your ways acknowledge Him: Give it up to Him!  Let go of what we want.  Acknowledge that trust.  Acknowledge the understanding that His way is best.  Look only to Him for that guidance.  He wants us to come to Him.  Nothing, no problems or concern, is too big, ever.  Likewise, nothing is too small.

And He will direct your path: notice it doesn’t say that He’ll pull, push, or drag you down His path, but that He’ll guide.  We have to make that step.  We have to move forward into the unknown, with the trust and faith (coming back to that, of course) that He’s going to show us where to turn at each intersection when we put our trust and faith in Him alone.

Like a trust fall, our following of God, our trust and faith in Him, is demonstrated when we take that fall, that first step, that plunge.  Once we do, we can confidently rest assured that He’s ready to guide (and catch) us according to His divine, and yet mysterious, plan for our lives.

 “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21

 It’s time to step out and get moving!!  Take that leap!!

Two Words

  • Act Mercifully (Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:7)
  • Be Humble (Micah 6:8; Matthew 18:4; James 4:10; 1 Peter 3:8, 5:6)
  • Fear Not (Psalm 27:3, 46:2, 56:3, 11, 118:6; Isaiah 41:10)
  • Fight Courageously (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7)
  • Focus Eternally (Matthew 5:9; Colossians 3:2; 1 Timothy 6:12; 1 John 5:13, 5:20; Jude 1:21)
  • Forgive Wholeheartedly (Matthew 6:14-15, 18: 21-22)
  • Give Thanks (Psalm 7:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Live Peacefully (1 Thessalonians 5:13)
  • Love Unequivocally (John 13:34-35, 15:12; 1 John 4:7, 11-12)
  • Pray Continuously (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Rejoice Always (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16)
  • Share Generously (Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Timothy 6:18)
  • Sing Praise (Psalm 7:17, 9:2, 33:1, 47:6)
  • Speak Unashamedly (Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:12)
  • Stand Strong (Matthew 5:10; 1 Corinthians 16:13)
  • Study Hard (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Surrender Daily (1 Corinthians 13:3)
  • Think Positively (Philippians 4:8)
  • Work Diligently (Matthew 5:16; John 6:27; Colossians 3:23)

Worry versus Trust

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?   Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!  Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  ~Matthew 6:25-34

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m the person who, when reading a book, takes a peek at the last chapter to see what is going to happen.  Curiosity gets the better of me.  Once I’ve looked, however, the storyline does seem to lose some of its excitement.  Even though I know this, I still do it… every time.

Recently, some big changes have been happening in my life, really good changes, but ones that I didn’t think about ever happening changes.  The control-freak side of me really, really wants to peek ahead to the end and see where all of this is going.  I find myself wishing there was a way to read the end chapter of my story.  Are things going to play out the way I’m hoping?  What bumps along the way are going to pop up?  What’s going to happen when they do?  Is this my happily ever after?

Of course, when I try to do things on my own, God has a way of revealing one of His truths.  I realized that I was so worried about and focused on the future that I was getting way too far ahead of the present.  I was lying awake at night, playing through every possible scenario… the good, the bad, and the ugly.  “If this, then that…”   All of the “what ifs” were deafening.

Do not worry about tomorrow.”  That still, small voice echoed inside my head, coming in clear as a bell over my tumultuous thoughts.

But, God, I just want to know that I’m where I’m supposed to be,” I countered stubbornly.

Trust me,” God said again.

But…

And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks to the face and toes.  The more time I spend worrying, the less time I’m spending focusing on God’s plan.  The less time I have to enjoy this life, this timeline, this wonderful journey that He has had planned for me all along.  Worrying is just going to take away from the beauty and thrill of the ride.  It will only take me away from the moment.  There’s no play book for my life that say what I have to do each and every minute of every day.  There are no instructions or rules other than “Trust.”  Along with trust does come the leap of faith, but, when there is true trust, that leap of faith isn’t (too) hard.

A good friend of mine is the polar opposite of me which is probably why she and I are friends.  I expressed that I was having a hard time with worry and trust over these changes in my life.  She just laughed and reminded me that I’m human and it’s normal to have these fears, worries, and trust issues, but that I should take them up with God.  She gave that reassurance that God’s ways are better than mine no matter what.  She also reminded me that knowing the ending spoils the story.  I always find in marvelous how God speaks, not only in the still, small voice, but also through His children.  My friend lovingly called me out on my own control issues and pointed me right back to God’s perfect plan.

Admittedly, I still really have this insatiable desire to know what is going to happen next.  That’s probably never going to change.  But, even though I’m still going to have my “But, God,” moments, I know and believe that He has my happily ever after all planned out and that no matter what twist and turns my story takes, when I reach that final chapter, I’m going to be pretty happy with how it ends.  I want to experience and enjoy every second of God’s story for my life.

 

The “Not-so-Shiny”

“For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” 

~Psalm 66:10 

“And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” 

~Zechariah 13:9

Someone very important to me recently opening up about their past… expecting me to run in terror to learn about some of the things and events that had shaped their life up to this point.  They used the words “not-so-shiny” to describe it.

This made me think- there are many, many things in my own life that make me “not-so-shiny.”  There are ways and habits I’ve held onto that I shouldn’t have.  There are also things that I’ve drifted away from things I shouldn’t have.  My life under the microscope was pretty ugly.  There was a lot of dull and dirty… a lot.  But there were also parts that were starting to shine, very small parts, but they were there nonetheless.

Refining is a process.

Gold and silver don’t just magically appear in their shiny, pristine form.  Instead, they are dug, forcibly, from the earth, put through intense fire, and then finally shaped.  Even though it is not an easy process by any scope of the imagination, the end result is rewarding.

Things occur in our lives that we don’t seem to understand why, but, as Children of God, we can rest assured that He has a perfect, refining plan to perfect us and make us so shiny we reflect His image!  The process may hurt.  In fact, it may be overwhelmingly excruciating, but the eternal reward will infinitely exceed any earthly pain.  God smelts us and prunes us, not to hurt us, but because He truly loves us.  Indeed, as the praise song based off of Psalm 30:5 says, “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  After the fire, oh, what a glorious, shiny morning that will be!

Stand strong, have courage, and surrender your life into the perfect hands of the Creator of the Universe!!

Going Down to Go Up

“Your heart gets bruised along the way; sometimes you see no other way.

With every emotion flooding in, you feel like you will never win.

Your back’s pressed up against the wall; you just can’t see an out at all.

You sink down, you give up, it seem like it’s just your luck.

Sure you cry, asking why your mountains seem so high.

But all those tears that stain your face let you know you’re still in the race.

Deep breath in, today you win, a ray of sunlight hits your skin.

 

Then you look up and take it in.

 

It’s when you’ve fallen down again, that you remember where you’ve been.

Every scar tells its own tale of a fail then a prevail.

No two stories were the same, but with each trial came some gain.

That’s when the storm begins to clear; you know your victory is near.

You stand up, begin again, wipe life’s dirt and grime off of your hands.

You take one step, almost fall, grit your teeth, brace yourself against the wall,

One more step, keep pressing on, through the rain and through the pain.

It’s only when you’ve seen the ground that you can run.”

 

When I first wrote those words, I really didn’t consider what they truly were saying.  I’m no writer or poet, but when inspiration struck, I went with it.  (They probably flow better in my mind than however you’re reading it since I’m also envisioning a melody line of some sort…)

Going down to go up…

I recently heard someone speak on how God sometimes uses the lowest of low points as a starting point in the journey called life.  It was described how Joseph was thrown in a well and betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery, and then falsely accused and thrown into prison before God raised him up to be the second most powerful person in Egypt.  Moses also murdered someone and had to flee for his life to a strange land before God called him to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.  Daniel was taken captive and given up to the lions before God closed their mouths and elevated Daniel.  These examples only scratch the surface.

It all seems to come right back to one concept.  Trust.  When things seem like they can’t get any worse or better, God has a plan, but we need to trust.  We don’t have to fear the lows.  While they are not pleasant in the moment, they are part of the process.  And, oh, the lessons they teach.

Now when I think of the lowest of lows, I just remember the One who took on the ultimate lowest of lows for me.  When Jesus willingly gave His life for me, there was a time that the Bible says God turned away from His Son.  My lows seem like nothing in light of that!  I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, the agony of going from the most intimate of relationships to… nothing.  But Jesus did that willingly for me!!  Now that’s a debt that I can never repay… ever.  It makes me want to love and trust Him all the more!

In light of what He was willing to go through for me, I’m willing to go down to go up even when it’s hard because my highest of highs will be at His side forevermore!!

It’s Time

“It’s time.”

Just a small phrase can have such a huge impact.

“It’s time,” says the expectant mother as she tells her husband to get the car.

“It’s time,” says the parent sending their child off on a plane or bus trip.

“It’s time,” says the athlete as they get into their starting position at the even they’ve trained their whole lives for.

“It’s time,” says the bridesmaids to the nervous bride as the wedding ceremony is about to start.

“It’s time,” says the doctor as the family gathers around to say goodbye to a loved one.

Time is a strange thing.  Some days it flies by, typically when we don’t want it to.  Other days, it drags on, no matter how much we want it to pass.  The important thing through is what we do with our time.  Do we use it efficiently or do we squander it.

Since the beginning of time, God has always been the author of time. He appointed each second, minute, hour, day, and year of our lives even before we were born.  The incomprehensible gift He gave us, however, is our own will to choose.  While there is a course set for us, He has given us the ability to make our decision of whether we will make the most of our time or waste it.  He gives us the chance to see and be amazed by Him every day so that we may desire to live each moment for His glory.  But even when we stray, He is never far away, just waiting for us to choose Him.

The time granted to each of us in this live if precious.  We don’t know how long we get, so why would be waste it?  Sadly, it is far too easy to become distracted by the pleasures of the world to remember the creator of time itself.  I, for one, am often guilty of spending my time worrying about or participating in trivial matters.

It’s time for me to be more than just a complacent human, just getting by each day.  It’s time for me to become the woman God intended me to be.  I know this is not an overnight process, nor is it one that will ever be finished here on earth.  It is a life-long process that will be completed only when I go from a place with time to a place without time- my eternal home in Heaven with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Then will I be complete.  Until that time, I need to be more intentional about making the most of my time here on earth.

How will I feel if I get to the end of my life and really have nothing worthwhile to show for it?  Sure, everyone needs shelter, foods, clothes, etc., but what if I never took the time to help others around me?  What if I never showed God’s love to my friends, family, or even (gulp) strangers?  What if I never shared the blessings God has given me?  What if I never took the time to pray or meditate on God’s Word?

In a world full of chaos and distractions, we need to use the beautiful gift of time here on earth to fulfill our purpose of glorifying God and pointing others to do the same.

Until it’s not time, it’s time!!  No more being complacent or lazy.  No more being timid.  It’s time to truly start living.  Even though we know there will be a few bumps along the way, at the end of time will start a new time, perfect and beautiful, with no more pain or tears.  It will be a time of forever worshiping our God.

It’s time to start preparing for that glorious day!!