An Awful Lot of Scandal: Part II

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via Google Image Search

I promised here that I would soon post some things that came to mind when I pondered on why God would use “scandalous people” to bring His Son into the world. A fellow blogger noted that it wasn’t possible for God to use anyone BUT scandalous people, given our sinful nature. And she’s right – we’re all scandalous because of the sin nature. But it still baffled me that God wouldn’t at least use “the best of the worst”, so to speak. There are people in the Bible who are mentioned specifically for their righteousness, like Enoch, who walked so closely with God that when he died, he was simply “taken by God”, with no physical remains!

In thinking about this over the last two weeks, lots of things have come to mind but two of them have stuck with me:

  • 1. In using people with scandalous pasts (as opposed to using the Enochs in the world), God paved the way for us to have faith that He can indeed use us, regardless of where — or what — we’ve come from.
  • 2. In declining to exclusively use moral and upright people in Christ’s lineage, God is showing us pretty clearly that our actions are irrelevant; He does not use us because we are “more worthy” than others! He uses us because is all-powerful and He simply CAN. Additionally, He uses us because He LOVES us and He WANTS TO BLESS US by allowing us to be instruments of His power! What love!

The second one was particularly freeing this week, as I realized that God doesn’t NEED me to do ANYTHING for Him — there is no burden on my shoulders to save the world, to bring people to Christ. Rather, these are all good works that God has prepared for me ahead of time and it’s up to me whether or not I will step up and reap the blessing of being used by Him. I am storing up treasure in Heaven by doing the good works God prepared for me; certainly there will be works I did not step up to and I’m sure I will learn of them at some point, whether in the hindsight of later years or in Heaven. While it makes me sad to think I’ve missed out on some awesome opportunities, at the same time it’s a relief to know that “the future of the world” does not depend on me or my “worth”.

All that is required of me is to believe in the Son of God and surrender my own agenda so that it can be replaced with His. Scandal or no, God loves me, and He doesn’t just love me, He LIKES me. He WANTS to include me in His masterful, intricate plan! It makes me giddy just thinking about it. :)

If you are like me and come from a scandalous past, or you just FEEL scandalous and worthless some days, I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case; you are very worthful to my Heavenly Father, even if you don’t believe in His existence yet. And I would encourage you, believer and non-believer alike, to get out there and discover Him. He’s everywhere. If you don’t know where to start, here are some suggestions:
1. I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek (book version or Kindle version)
2. YouTube videos like this one and this one that demonstrate the remarkable skill of God’s hands in the way He created human beings. He is amazing in His creation!
3. Testimonies like this one: text version or video version.
4. Take a walk in the woods and pay attention to things like leaves and trees and bugs and how intricate everything is. We have a Creator and He has not been subtle. ;)
5. Ask me about Jesus. I love to talk about Him and I have lots of real life experiences of Him that I would love to share with you.

May you grow to know Him and love Him even deeper than I have (and come back to tell me about it!).
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The Best News Ever!

I love it when I read a very familiar scripture and discover something new about it. Also, context is everything!!! Really. There are verses that are inspiring by themselves, but it’s amazing — and a little scary — how often a verse by itself gets misunderstood because the context around it is entirely ignored.

One of these verses, for me personally, has been Isaiah 55:8-9. It reads:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This verse is often used to respond to the hurt or confusion that can come from not understanding what God is doing in someone’s life. Something unpleasant or uncomfortable happens in a believer’s life and it’s said, “Well, God’s ways aren’t our ways, so we don’t always understand what He’s doing. His ways are higher than our ways, so what He’s doing must be better than what we wish would happen instead.” Sometimes it can come off as a kind of a shrug and “Oh well” in the face of someone’s pain.

It’s not that the above statement is false, because it isn’t. God’s wisdom and design IS beyond our capacity for understanding. But the above statement is not an accurate interpretation of Isaiah 55:8-9; it’s incomplete. There’s more to the story, and as is often the case, it’s the best part of the story!

Here is the whole chapter:

“Come, everyone who is thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you without money,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost!
Why do you spend money on what is not food,
and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
Pay attention and come to Me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the promises assured to David.
Since I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples,
so you will summon a nation you do not know,
and nations who do not know you will run to you.
For the Lord your God,
even the Holy One of Israel,
has glorified you.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call to Him while He is near.
Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”

You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;
the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will come up,
and instead of the brier, a myrtle will come up;
it will make a name for Yahweh
as an everlasting sign that will not be destroyed.

Did you see what I saw? Just before He explains that His ways are above our ways, what does He say?

Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so He may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for He will freely forgive.

He will freely forgive any ‘wicked one’ or ‘sinful one’ who abandons his way and returns to the Lord!

The reason He explains, in the very next paragraph, that His ways are higher than our ways is because we would not behave this way toward anyone who was wicked toward us! Would I? If someone murdered my son, would I ‘freely forgive’? Most definitely not. Even as followers of Christ, it takes a tremendous act of surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit before we can forgive something like that! And this is why God is telling us His ways are higher.

He’s not saying, “Now, now, I know better than you so just stop your complaining and deal with it.”

He’s not saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, so don’t even bother trying to figure them out.” *

He’s not saying, “Your pain is invalid because I know what I’m doing and if you knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t hurt.” **

This passage is not intended to be a slap in the face for questioning the works of God’s hand in our lives. This passage is comfort and reassurance. “You would not freely forgive the kind of atrocities that I forgive, but that is because My ways are higher than yours; my thoughts are kinder and more compassionate; long-suffering and peace-making.”

What I learn about God when I read this chapter, is that He is compassionate and tender toward our lack of understanding. Our pain is valid and it hurts Him too; His response to it is, “I know this hurts; I know this isn’t the way you would do things, but the way I’m doing it is even better — please trust Me because you will see…soon you will see…It is very good.” In short, we benefit from the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts!

God tells us that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things that God has prepared for those who love Him — they are more wonderful than the most wonderful thing I could imagine. (Eek! That makes me so giddy!!!)

And if you’re not one who loves Him yet, the whole of Isaiah 55 is for YOU. So read it again. The promises at the end are for anyone who puts their trust in God’s saving power and chooses to love Him. See, it really is good news. :) The best, actually.

 

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*There’s scripture that actually says the opposite! If we seek Him, we will find Him; He reveals great mysteries and hidden truths through His Spirit inside us! And more!

**People really think this! But don’t you know that Jesus knew FULL WELL what was happening on the cross, why it was necessary, and it STILL hurt like crazy??

I am broken. Always.

Broken Flame by Thien Bao

I remember attending a meeting at a church several years back and woman there making the comment, “We are all broken!” And in my heart, I rebelled against that statement. We are not broken, I thought. Jesus has healed us!  I was right in my thinking; but I found out this week that I was also wrong.

Jesus has healed us. But we are broken. Always. On this planet, in this flesh, we are broken.

It’s been a very long and difficult week. God, in His Sovereignty brought me face-to-face with the fact that being saved by His Son’s blood does not mean I can walk upright without falling. Yes, I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me, but do you know what I learned this week? There is always a little bit of something in me that is resistant to relying on Christ’s strength. Whether it’s a Rebellious Something, which wants to have its own way or a Proud Something, which wants to prove its ability or a Doubting Something, which thinks I’ve fallen on grace one too many times…

I am a broken gal this week. While I recognize (now) that I am forever in need of Christ’s rescuing from sin on this earth, the Proud Something in me is still kicking and screaming. But I WANT to be capable of pleasing You on my own! I can’t face You if I NEED You!!! It sounds silly to you, probably? It sounds silly to me. But so true, at the same time. I am not just painting a picture of a silly, rebellious child here; I am that child.

So why am I here today? What am I trying to say? This is definitely one of my lesser-prepared posts — okay, completely unprepared. A stream of consciousness, if you will.

I suppose I’m here today to let myself off the hook — and to let you off the hook too. I’m not perfect; I don’t have it all together; I love Jesus with all my heart but I still want to sin sometimes. A lot of the time. Several times a day, I want to sin. And I can not take ANY credit for the times I successfully resist sin, because even though I may be choosing to rely on Christ’s strength, I would FALL if He weren’t there. And I can claim no part whatsoever in ensuring that He is there for me; that is all Him.

So. Those of you who keep your distance because I paint too pretty a picture of myself, come closer. I am dirtier than you think, and quite possibly dirtier than you. If I have, in any way, led you to believe that there are trophies to achieve on this walk or leveling up to be done or successes to strive for, I apologize from the deepest depths of my heart. There is only one Trophy and that is Jesus. There is only one level you have to “pass” and that is embracing Him. There is only one success to be had, and it belongs to God. He successfully reconciled us to Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you don’t believe that I am all that dirty, I will humbly muddy up a private message for you. But it’s not about me, so be prepared for a diligent mopping up with the gospel of Jesus Christ and how He has forgiven me.

*sigh* I’m still sad, inside, at just how…incapable I am of doing the right thing every time. However, I’m also thankful and filled with peace. My Deliverer is coming, and until then, He is standing by. My Jesus is mine and I am His.

The Cure for Anxiety – Part I

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:25-34 HCSB)

You don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to benefit from the last part of this passage:

“Don’t worry about tomorrow…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If you are a follower of Jesus, there is even more benefit in this passage: Jesus tells us that our Father God takes care of sparrows and GRASS — how much more will He take care of us, in spite of our “little faith”, because we are worth more than many sparrows?

It is an incredible encouragement — one I’ve held onto tenaciously these last ten months, and one that has even been proven by God’s provision in our lives these last ten months.

Nevertheless, I want to focus on verse 34 today. There is something for everyone, in this verse,  and perhaps even enough that one who is not yet familiar with the friendship of God might be spurred forward toward it.

“Don’t worry about tomorrow…Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

If one were to treat this as a pill, prescribed by a well-known and trusted physician, how might it change one’s life?

Rather than hypothesize, I will tell you how it has changed mine.

The other night, I was sitting in a home school meeting, listening to the mothers discuss — what seemed like at the time — HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of things that their children had to do in order to finish high school. I began to feel overwhelmed…and then I began to feel anxious.

“I will never get all of this done!”  I thought. “It’s impossible! It’s too much! I must quit home schooling now!  (I’d only been doing it for three days, mind you.) Oh, but I  can’t quit! I am positive that God has told me to school my children at home! Whatever shall I do?!”

It is a true wonder that I did not throw myself to the floor with wails of despair. God is merciful in His sovereign interventions, is He not?

It must have been in just the moment I might have considered throwing myself to the ground with wails of despair that God spoke in my spirit.

“Fae,” He said, gentle and deep — He almost sounded amused. “Is all of this happening today?”

The wailing and spazzing in my brain immediately paused. “Well…no…”

“Then you don’t need to be thinking about it, do you?”

I gave a little laugh (internally, mind you). He was right. (He’s always right.) But just in case I had inclinations to doubt or disregard Him, He brought to mind Verse Thirty-Four.

Truthfully, that is not the first time we’ve had that conversation — and it undoubtedly will not be the last.

But it works. It nips anxiety in the bum and anxiety scurries off yipping every time.

As I said in the beginning of this post, you don’t have to be friends with Jesus (also known as The Great Physician) to benefit from His prescription. I like to call it Verse Thirty-Four.

And perhaps, when you’ve experienced His remedy for this particular malady in your own life, perhaps you might just be curious enough to find out more about this Man and what He wants with you.

Curiosity inevitably breeds bravery, and bravery will serve you well — for, as C. S. Lewis taught us through the “person” of Aslan,

The Great Physician is not safe –
but He is good.

When I Feel Desperate Without Vision…You Wrap Around Me Like A Winter Coat

From a non-Christian’s perspective:

+ I have a diabolical plan to convert as many people to “my religion” as possible, so I can move up in the pyramid scheme of Christianity.
+ I’m manipulative and sneaky, and everyone around me is being slowly brainwashed as I subject them to my “religious drivel”. 
+ I’m a tryant-in-training, with a long-term goal of taking away everyone’s freedom and forcing them to obey rigid rules and regulations.
 
What’s really happening:
+ I believe Hell is real and I cry sometimes, thinking about the reality that not all of my friends and loved ones will be in Heaven with me. I can’t even walk into a Starbucks without being aware of the fact that every single one of those people will end up in Heaven or Hell. Everyone has an eternal destination.
+ I’m terrified of pushing someone even further from the life-saving truth, so I post Bible verses and inspirational quotes in the hopes that the Holy Spirit will move on their behalf and help them to see the reality of a Creator who loves us.
+ I’m learning to be like Jesus, with a long-term goal of freeing people from Satan’s deception so they can experience the joy that comes from “reading the manual” of life, as God wrote it. And I screw up royally sometimes.
 
I’m realizing that I’m a closet-evangelist. I don’t like Bible-thumpers and I don’t want to be a Bible-thumper, but in recent days, it’s becoming clear to me that no matter how honest, sincere, and loving I am in the sharing of my beliefs, 
+ there will be people who perceive me as a Bible-thumper, even a hateful, racist, bigoted one
+ there will be people who disagree with me
+ there will be people who (thankfully) love me in spite of disagreeing with me
+ there will be people who suddenly decide to hate me
+ there will be people who twist what I say to make it sound as hateful as possible
+ there will be people who try to use scripture against me, but use it incorrectly and then refuse to be enlightened on its contextual meaning. 
 
Jesus said the world will hate His followers, because the world hates HIM. And that helps. It prepares me for the sting of harsh words, for the sucker-punch of lies being told about me, for the pain of losing friends. 
 
But nothing soothes more than this: every hateful word, every rebuttal, every attack is a radar reading — it says I’m being heard. It means that someone else out there is quietly taking it all in and God is working in that person. And ultimately, all the hate that people think I’m spewing, that usually gets turned back on me? It gets turned into love: one more person who discovers the love that God has had for them all along. It turns into joy: angels rejoice every time someone decides to trust Jesus. It turns into freedom: one less person that Satan gets to destroy. 
 
I will not give up in sharing my faith, because in due time, I will reap a harvest. People will know the truth and the truth will set them free. The numbers I reach will be a pittance compared to people like Paul and Mother Theresa, but it will be more than none and that is enough to keep me going. Because Hell is real and I don’t want anyone I love to go there. I don’t even want my enemies to go there. ♥
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What can I do with my obsession?
With the things I cannot see
Is there madness in my being?
Is it wind that blows the trees?
Sometimes You’re further than the moon
Sometimes You’re closer than my skin
And You surround me like a winter fog
You’ve come and burned me with a kiss
And my heart burns for You
And my heart burns
And I’m so filthy with my sin
I carry pride like a disease
You know I’m stubborn God and I’m longing
to be close
You burn me deeper than I know
I feel lonely without hope
I feel desperate without vision
You wrap around me like a winter coat
You come and free me like a bird
And my heart burns for You
And my heart burns for You

Jealous of God’s Ears

Every Sunday is a heavenly experience, literally. Can you imagine what it will be like to sing praises to God with EVERY SINGLE FOLLOWER OF CHRIST THAT HAS EVER EXISTED? Can you imagine what that will sound like? God gets to hear it every Sunday, as people all over the world gather together and worship Him through song.

You would think it sounds chaotic and noisy, but I have a hunch it’s a multi-dimensional, harmonious sound, something we can’t even FATHOM on this side of Heaven; and certainly something our current ears would be incapable of processing correctly.

There are two things about Christian culture today that make me very sad: division and apathy toward Heaven. Randy Alcorn pegged it in his book when he said that Satan can’t rob us of our joy, so his method is to make us ignorant and apathetic. Are you looking forward to Heaven? If the answer is no, then you’re probably not fully grasping what Heaven is like. I vehemently recommend reading Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven. It literally changed my life.

Every Sunday whets my appetite for Heaven, the presence of God, fellowship with believers, and the new, sin-free Earth. It’s going to be indescribable. ^_^

How The Hunger Games Cause Starvation

Shannon says it way better than I ever could—and believe me, I’ve been trying to put words together about this for weeks. It seems apparent to me now, that God wants me to deliver Shannon’s message rather than my own. :) Please read her thoughts. I can promise they are encouraging, not condemning. They are thought-provoking, not judgmental. And she actually read/saw The Hunger Games, so she is far more equipped to speak rationally and knowledgeably on the subject than I am. So, without further ado—A Christian Mom’s Thoughts On The Hunger Games.