Friday, May 23, 2008

counseling opportunity

I got to counsel a student who used to be a CCC leader until midway through last semester (Fall 07). She's had issues with her self-view and has hated her body and it's affected her entire life. Now, I'm not one to go for self-esteem as being key, but a believer needs to view him/herself in the light of God's holiness as well as His grace. We need to see the sinner part, but we also need to see the beauty. The phrase I was given (thank you LORD) during our conversation that brought the first true smile to her face that I've seen in months was: "you're the most beautiful thing He's ever seen." Let me explain. When the LORD looks at us, He sees His Son covering us, and, therefore, He sees the most beautiful thing He's ever seen. True, we have our issues, but we're covered by the blood of the Lamb, people. how incredible is that? Yes, we have our responsibility to live rightly in the LORD's sight, but we have His grace, as well. "Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? May it never be!" But, on the same token, we are not to beat ourselves up and hold on to guilt for something He's already paid for and taken care of completely! How beautiful the blood! And it's all for His glory. Hey, don't forget...

You're the most beautiful thing He's ever seen!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

to live is Christ

i’ve been having trouble sleeping as of late. the causes vary, but the effect remains consistent. after jumping onto facebook at 1:00 in the morning, i chose to continue going through philippians.

as i read last night (this morning?), i came across that famous line of paul’s in philippians 1:21: “for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” paul is in prison, uncertain of his fate, whether he will live or die. but in his eyes, God will be glorified in either case. for as long as he lives, he will be dedicated to Christ. as long as he is breathing, all he does will be for the glory of God, not for himself. it reminded me of something said in donald miller’s Blue Like Jazz – a point his friend made, saying that living for something is harder than dying for something, because any sort of martyrdom is associated with personal glory, while indebting yourself to a cause or a person requires sacrifice and hard work, a surrender of self. paul is more than willing to do this for Jesus Christ, because paul believes He is worthy of all glory. however, his greater desire is to “depart and be with Christ” (v23). to him, death is the greater thing, because he would get to be with his Savior; it would be gain (v21).

my mindset is one that is often set in the present. i’m not a dreamer or a visionary who’s naturally inclined to set goals and look at the big picture. the future is so uncertain to me, so i try not to think about it a whole lot (overall, not all the time, mind you; i do have my dreams). what i neglect is that there is one thing i can be certain of; when i die, i will go to heaven to be with Jesus. i know i don’t live that way though. i’m quite attached to things on this earth, if i have to be completely honest. i would rather live than die. the fact that entering heaven to meet his Savior face to face was such a driving force in paul’s life makes me think. do i live in light of eternity, as paul did? in many (more like most) cases, i’m sure i don’t. and i pray that’s something that will change in me.

this brings me to the question melissa and i discussed yesterday at starbucks: why doesn’t God just take us right away? why aren’t we swept up into heaven as soon as we’re saved, if being with Him is so much better than being on this earth? why does he leave us here? interestingly enough, philippians 1:25 answers this question for me: “and being confident of this, i know that i shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” there are two reasons why God requires the process of sanctification here on earth: 1) to allow our faith to progress, and 2) so we can encourage others as their faith progresses as well. we face uncertainty, endure trials, experience pain, all with the purpose of increasing our faith in God. and we need to surround ourselves with people, so that as our faith grows stronger, we can encourage and rejoice with them as theirs does the same. i like the idea of that; God wants us to choose to trust Him in the face of adversity. because if we trust Him, He will most certainly be faithful. making the choice to turn to Him instead of relying on our own strength or investing our hope in other things will inevitably cause our faith to grow, because God will never fail.

i know that my faith has certainly been increasing in the past couple of months. so really, despite the difficulties and the pain, the only reasonable option is to rejoice, because through it all, i have seen the Lord so clearly, and i know His plans for me are perfect. it is my prayer that He will subsequently be glorified through me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

He who has begun a good work

today i began my personal study of the book of philippians – a very thought-provoking sort of book. so far, two chunks of the scripture have particularly stood out to me.

philippians 1:3-11 is easily one of my favorite passages in the bible. paul takes the time to express his love for the believers in philippi. i see such an interesting contrast between how paul addresses the philippians and the galatians; “i thank my God upon every remembrance of you … making request for you all with joy” as opposed to “i marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him … o foolish galatians!” praise as opposed to rebuke. paul loves both groups of believers, but he has a special place in his heart for the philippians (“it is right for me to think this of you all, because i have you in my heart”). their fellowship in the gospel (v. 5) and love for God and for others bring him joy and encourage him, even though he can’t be with them, as he is imprisioned. he misses them greatly (v. 8), yet he is excited to see how God is going to work in their lives (v. 6). in verses 9-11, he prays for particular characteristics to grow and mature in them. i love how he wraps it up in verse 11: “to the glory and praise of God.” he spends a lot of time praising the philippians, but in the end, he reminds them that it is all for the glory of God.

i have people like this in my life – friends who i am so amazingly thankful for because of their faithfulness to the Lord. when i think about them, i grow excited as i imagine all the amazing things that God is going to do in their lives, all the ways that He is going to bless them. and i believe so completely what paul says in verse 6, that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” God has perfect and glorious plans for those who love Him, and i’m so blessed to know that i can witness some of those plans in the lives of some of my most beloved friends.

the second passage of philippians that stood out to me was verses 12-18 of the same chapter, mainly verse 12. paul starts off by encouraging the philippians, as they are likely concerned for him as he’s imprisoned. the words he offers are so amazing, and hard to believe that they come from the heart of a man who is chained up in jail. “the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” instead of complaining or asking them to pray that he will be delivered from jail, he chooses to view his trial as a blessing. he goes on to explain that everyone in the palace guard can see how God is working, and that other believers are becoming more bold about preaching and living the gospel when they see how paul is handling everything.

i was struck by verse 12, how paul responds to the difficulties he finds himself in. there’s not much that’s worse than being in jail. and yet paul only speaks of how glad he is that his trying circumstances are furthering the gospel, glorifying God. and my thought is this: if paul can praise God while he has chains around his wrists and ankles, then certainly i can praise Him in my circumstances.

i pray that i will always be thankful for both my friends and for the trials that my Lord puts me though. in both, He can be greatly glorified.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


i have nothing original to say. i just want to thank johnna for making me listen to this song on her ipod today at church; i went out this afternoon and bought phil wickham's album cannons because of it. the lyrics are incredibly inspiring, and i think the first two verses especially encapsulate how i personally feel when i look at God's creation. i pray that God will touch your heart in some way as you read these words.
what or who can be more beautiful than our God?

phil wickham :: beautiful

i see Your face in every sunrise
the colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
the world awakens in the light of the day
i look up to the sky and say
You’re beautiful

i see Your power in the moonlit night
where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
we are amazed in the light of the stars
it’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful

i see You there hanging on a tree
You bled and then You died and then You rose again for me
now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne
soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful

when we arrive at eternity’s shore
where death is just a memory and tears are no more
we’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

i see Your face, i see Your face, i see Your face
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

Sunday, December 9, 2007

do not set aside the grace of God

the book of galatians is steadily becoming engraved into my heart and mind. it’s the book of the bible that the pseudo college and career group at my church has been delving into for the past several months, and i would venture to say that it has been reshaping my thinking more than any other study i’ve ever been involved in.

the premise of galatians is as follows: the apostle paul writes a letter to the church in galatea, reprimanding them for believing in a twisted version of the gospel that is being promoted by the more “religious” judaizers. he reminds them of the grace God showed them by sending His Son to die for their sins; because of that grace, they are now heirs with Christ, and they are no longer bound to the law.

it’s obvious that paul is frustrated. my observation of that tells me that paul feels pretty strongly about this whole twisting-the-gospel thing. the purity of the true gospel is important to him, and he won’t allow for its perversion (as seen in chapter 2, when paul blatantly calls out peter for being a hypocrite).

the verse that keeps grinding itself into my heart is galatians 2:21: “i do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

i can’t get over the power behind that statement. essentially, the galatians were buying into the notion that they had to tack on “good works” and other religious things to their faith in order to obtain salvation. initially, this appears to be noble, but upon further scrutiny, it’s wickedly selfish. when i convince myself that i must observe certain religious practices or avoid the unholy to make myself worthy of God’s favor, i am basically communicating that Jesus’s death on the cross wasn’t enough. in essence, it was completely worthless.

i could argue forever that that’s not what i believe. if i truly believed in the gospel, then i would not care so much about standards and religion and appearances. if i genuinely understood the significance of Jesus’s tremendous sacrifice, then i would also come to terms with the wickedness of my sin – this sin that cannot be in the presence of a perfectly holy God, that nothing i could ever do or not do could erase. and sin is sin, no matter how innocent we may convince ourselves it is.

“for whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (james 2:10). if this is the case, then what hope do i have? “who will deliver me from this body of death? i thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (romans 7:24-25). what a beautiful truth; Jesus Christ has taken the punishment upon Himself, “having become a curse for us” (galatians 3:13). the most humble thing i can possibly do is accept His grace, embrace the incredible and overwhelmingly undeserved gift He has offered to me. rejecting it out of some conjectured “humility” is bitterly selfish at the core.

my redemption from sin should penetrate every aspect of my life, for without Christ, i would have no life. no purpose, no hope. it is easy to set the gospel aside and turn to things that are “less basic” and “more mature.” it is becoming increasingly apparent to me how silly that is; the gospel of Jesus Christ is everything. how could i ever set it aside? sadly, i do this every day – forget about His death and resurrection, about why i can even have a relationship with God in the first place. and that is frightening to me, and so completely human of me. what i desire is less of me and more of Him in my life. “He must increase, but i must decrease” (john 3:30).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

character is proven

"therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have acccess by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. and not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."-romans 5:1-5

this passage came to mind last night, and reading it again was a huge encouragement to me. my faith in Christ leads to peace. "for He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation" (ephesians 2:14). the curtain between me and God has been torn down by the shedding of Christ's blood, and now there is open communication between us, direct encouragement and guidance. i can always turn to God. i talked on the phone with kayla last night, and she said that our faith in God is directly connected to peace, and i think that's so true.

james 1:3-4 says that "the testing of your faith produces patience. but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." here, the word 'perfect' is actually closer in definition to the word 'mature.' in order to grow and mature in wisdom and love and anything else Christlike, we have to go through difficult times. and in all honesty, we should be expecting it: "do not think it strange concerning the firey trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing is happening to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings" (1 peter 4:12-13).

trials are rough, like passing through fire. it burns, and it's not fun. but at the end of it all, we are more like Christ if we focus on Him and draw on His wisdom and strength. our character is proven through trials. if we focus on Christ and draw from His strength and wisdom, then we will prove our character to be that of someone after God's own heart. if we focus on our circumstances, then no maturing will occur, and sometimes we become even further away from Christ, proving that our character is immature and fearful. "for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 timothy 1:7). this is what our character will be hopefully proven to be, and God will be glorified because of it.

and the best part: in the end, there is hope. hope in Christ's abounding and redeeming love. hope in His plans. hope in His authority. hope in His promises. hope in His peace.

"do not be afraid, for behold, i bring you good tidings of great joy" (luke 2:10). the message that God brings to us is one to be excited about. because His message is the Gospel, that Jesus has become a curse in place of all of our sins, and that we are redeemed by His blood to eternal life. "and this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (john 17:3). and that gospel truth, that eternal life, affects every aspect of my life. it can't be avoided.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


"do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth" (proverbs 27:1).

i started thinking about this last night, and how often this idea is repeated throughout the bible. the main idea is that i am not in control; i can't truly plan ahead, because my plans are always apt to change. for example, my dad didn't plan on being forced into unemployment; my mom didn't plan on having to spend hours every week caring for her handicapped sister. but business downfalls and physical ailments are out of our control, and even though they often aren't expected, they need to be dealt with.

the more i think about it, very little of my life has actually been planned out by me. i've never been one to think ahead or have a set idea about my life and what it will look like. even my plans for college are held loosely; "well, at this point i'm going for a bachelor's degree in communication studies, but we'll see what God has in store." i don't know what might happen tomorrow. and i try not to worry about it. "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (matthew 6:34).

what this verse doesn't mean is that you should never make plans or think about the future. what it does mean is that you shouldn't worry about things that aren't even an issue right now. sometimes i worry about finances, about how i'm ever going to manage living outside of my parents' financial umbrella, how i'm ever going to afford a house, how i'm ever going to make the money i need to be "on my own," etc. but the truth is, i am still under my parents' financial umbrella. the thought of moving out is still relatively far off for me at this point in time. so i shouldn't worry about it. that doesn't mean that i should forget about it until the day i start packing; i'm currently working to save money and spend what i do have wisely. there is an element of planning, but not to a point where i stress out about obstacles i have yet to encounter.

this whole idea of not planning also doesn't mean you can't believe things will or could happen. i believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. i believe that i'll get married someday. i believe in a lot of future things, some of them specific. but i have to know that God might have something different in store. if the sun doesn't rise tomorrow, i can't curse God for it. "God, i believed that You would cause the sun to rise this morning, and now it hasn't. You have failed me!" what is that? it's not like God owes me anything. He doesn't exist to fulfill all our wishes. we exist to bring Him glory! and that means dealing with our circumstances with grace, hope, and love, even if they're not what we necessarily planned.

also, if God's plans end up not being what i believed they would be, that doesn't necessarily mean it was wrong for me to have hope in those things. is it wrong for me to believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow? or that i'll get to spend Christmas with my family this year? no. and if for some reason those things don't happen, it doesn't necessarly mean it was wrong of me to believe in them. but i can't be so set in those things that i get angry when God decides to do something different. i have to be open to His plans.

james 4:13-15 says this well: "come now, you who say, 'today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. for what is your life? it is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. instead you ought to say, 'if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'"

so the bottom line of all that extraeneous text is this: i don't know what the future holds for me. God is in control of that, i'm not. i have hope for certain things, some of them relatively specific; but i have to be okay if what i believe will come to pass is ultimately not God's plan. i have to be open to His plans.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the bride of Christ

[God is teaching me a lot. hence the abundance of posts here.]

when i get married someday, i am going to need to be a good steward of my husband's resources, including his money, his household, and his time. i need to be able to forgive, and to demonstrate the type of love described in 1 corinthians, which "suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." i need to be willing to submit to a man in anything, excepting any commands to sin against God. this is what the faithfulness of cleaving looks like, which is one of the many qualities of being a good wife. people who can offer an objective opinion and who care about me should confirm my readiness for marriage, including my parents and others who know me well. the Holy Spirit bestows confidence and peace in my heart and through His Word when i am in His will. so when i am ready for marriage, i imagine that i will feel that peace, and that i will demonstrate the tangible qualities of being a good wife that are confirmed by other people.

i don't believe that i'm ready for marriage yet. i was considering last night what things are required of a wife. i knew that i should probably have good time management and good money management, as well as being able to manage household things. i asked myself why those qualities are important, and that is when it occured to me that it is because all of those things will be my husband's, and i will be called to manage my involvement in his time, his money, and his household in ways that will benefit him.

it further occured to me this morning that, though i am not ready to be married to a man, i am part of the church, and therefore already the bride of Christ. His time and His money and His resources have been placed into my hands, and it is up to me to manage those things well. i find that concept to be intriguing, to say the least.

kent said in church yesterday that the bible, in its reference to marriage, is really talking about Christ and the church. marriage is intended to glorify God by creating a beautiful metaphor of His love for the church. it's not about a man and a woman who are in love; it's about a Holy God who is in love with His bride.

"wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. ... husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

hope for a tree

"You will never understand God completely. Now one of our problems is that we are always seeking to understand God. We are always asking God, 'Why, Lord, did You allow this? Why, God, has this happened to me? Why, Lord, am I in this condition?' We're trying to understand God. ... The answer is, we don't know the why's of God. God does many things that I do not understand. I don't understand why a child is born blind. I don't understand why someone is crippled for life. I don't understand why children starve to death. There are a lot of things that I don't understand. I don't understand why we have to suffer. I don't understand why we experience sorrow. ...

... That is why it is important that you have certain foundational truths upon which you stand. You see, there are certain things that I know. They are foundational truths, they are underneath, I rest upon these, I stand upon these. I know this: that God loves me. In spite of what happens, I know God loves me. In spite of what I might experience, I know God loves me. What tragedy might befall me in my path of life, I know that God loves me. And it's important that you know this. ... Because when you don't understand what's happening, you've gotta fall back on what you do understand, and I do understand God loves me. I do understand that God is far wiser than I am and He can see much more than I can see. I do know that my vision is very limited. I know that the spectrum that I can see is very small. I know that God has a much broader vision than I have. He can see the end from the beginning. Not only is His vision much broader than mine, but His wisdom is much expanded from mine.

And though I do not understand, thank God I no longer have to understand all of the things that have happened to me. As long as I understand that God loves me and my life is in His hand and that He is working in me according to love and His wisdom, doing what is best for me as He knows what is best. I, by faith, rest there. Lord, You know what's best for me. Lord, You love me. Lord, You're in control of my life. So, whatever. I don't understand why God allowed His own Son to suffer on the cross in order to redeem such as me. There are a lot of things about God that I don't understand. But it isn't necessary or important that I do understand them. It is only necessary that I commit my life completely to God, come what may."

-pastor chuck smith

"for there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease." -job 14:7

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jesus Christ, and Him crucified

it makes me angry, in a way, to read a book so thoroughly attacking the validity of Jesus. it is persecution that Jesus Christ does not deserve, and yet i understand why He receives it. in reading through the chapter of my honors textbook so controversially titled "the idea of Jesus," i was almost brought to tears on several occasions, and for many reasons.

the phrase "glaring inconsistencies" was used repeatedly throughout the chapter, pertaining to the bible. and it frustrates me because i believe there are no inconsistencies in the bible. i think the author and other scholars are interpreting it completely incorrectly. it's difficult, because i'm not much of a bible scholar, and i'm not much of a debator for that matter either. but it fills me with joy to realize that, instead of causing me to doubt what i believe, it only strengthens my faith.

this is what i know: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. i didn't have to be physically present at His crucifixion for me to believe it. i believe it because, to put it plainly, Jesus has changed my life. and i have a relationship with Him, and no one can convince me that that is not true. my personal experiences cannot be discounted. so i know that, if i have experienced Jesus so strongly in my life, and since He speaks to me through the bible (which, by the way, i believe can only be properly interpreted for us by the Holy Spirit), i have to believe that there can be no inconsistencies. Jesus is real, and He is involved in my life, and i have to believe that the things He says, the words He inspired, cannot contradict each other.

i'll be curious to see how today's discussion in class goes. last time we talked about God (which was when the other believer in my class stated that our purpose as humans is to glorify God and serve Him), it caused so much dissonance. and when i think about it to myself, i don't see any reason for me to feel uncomfortable about it. i know that Jesus Christ is real, that He saved me, that He loves me. it's not something to be ashamed of. so it is my prayer that, as i go to class today, i won't be afraid to speak up. i think it would be interesting to see everyone so unsettled over something i am so confident of.

the other thing i find interesting is this: if Jesus weren't real, then i don't think people would work so hard to prove Him wrong. ben and i talked about it once. his comment was, that if someone came up to him and said, "unicorns are real, i've seen them," he would just laugh at them and move on with his life. but when i say, "Jesus is real, i've seen Him working in my life," people flip out and try to argue with you. i think the fact of reality is that people don't want to be convicted, they don't want God to be real because it will, in their opinion, cause them to lose something, make them uncomfortable. and it makes me happy to see an entire textbook chapter devoted to pointing out "inconsistencies" in the bible and trying to tear apart the validity of Jesus. because from that, all i see is that Jesus must be real, if people are so worried about whether or not He is real.

it's like C.S. lewis says: "i am trying here to prervent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'i'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but i don't accept His claim to be God.' that is one thing we must not say. a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. he would either be a lunatic -- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the devil of hell. you must make your choice. either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. you can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. but let us not come with any patronising nonsense aobut His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

i know what i believe, and therefore i know i have nothing to worry about. and i thank God for that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

seasoned with salt

technically i'm supposed to be studying for my biology exam that i have in three hours, but i thought this was worth writing about before i get into all of that. it shouldn't be too hard anyway. and besides, there's something motivating about being a part of an online community such as this; something that makes me really want to share what God shows me day by day. maybe actually recording it will be encouraging to others, and additionally encourage me to be more aware of God's hand in my life.

i'm taking a communications class at asu west, on account that i'm majoring in communication studies. already, i'm absolutely loving the major. everything discussed in that class is something i'm completely interested in, and what makes it so cool is that it's all directly applicable to life now. i don't have to wait to get into a career to apply new knowledge and insight. anything concerning communications can be implemented the next time i communicate with something, which could be that very second when i consider what my nonverbal communication is saying. a lot of times the things my professor says remind me of things i've read in scripture before. honestly, i think you have to have a relationship with Jesus to truly understand effective communication, at least to the capacity that we are capable of as human beings, fallen sinners. which is one reason i'm not hesitant to speculate that my communications professor is a believer, but that's beside the point.

we finished up a discussion about the importance of verbal communication today; why words are so important in our culture and in relationships. one thing language can accomplish is encouragement. language and words hold this power to build someone up or destroy someone. my mind went to the bible verse that says, "let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (ephesians 4:29). or, as the nasb says, "let no unwholesome word proceed your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." [the first reference was from the nkjv.]

the words we say should not be things that are doing to destroy or corrupt. what we say should build people up, even the people we aren't directly talking to. if someone was to overhear my conversation with someone else, would they find it encouraging and kind, or would they become annoyed? is there a supernatural quality to my speech, or do i just talk like everyone else? i would hope it's the former, but if i had to be completely honest, i would have to say i tend towards the latter far more often.

we are supposed to love others. relationships are pretty much the foundation to life; we need to be, first off, in a right relationship with God, and then build healthy relationships with the people around us. and since communication is so central to relationships, and language is a fundamental part of communication, the language we use, the things we say, should be intended to strengthen relationships. i'm reminded of something donald miller said in his book blue like jazz: "i realized, late that night, that other people had feelings and fears and that my interactions with them actually meant something, that i could make them happy or sad in the way that i associated with them. not only could i make them happy or sad, but i was responsible for the way i interacted with them." as much as we may try to convince ourselves that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," they can, and they do, more often than we like to admit. what do my interactions with others say about my relationship with God? do they testify to God's grace and love?

i'm reminded of another verse in scripture: "let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt" (colossians 4:6). as i think about it all now, i realize that there is a correlation between the words we choose and our status as peacemakers. last week at the bible study i'm a part of, we discussed this verse in matthew, this concept of being a peacemaker, and what it means. i find it difficult to pin down and define exactly what this means, but i would venture to say that our speech being seasoned with salt, our words being edifying, has a lot to do with it. additionally, i think our purity of heart (as discussed in the same passage in matthew) is reflected through our speech, or at least in part.

i'm sure this entire entry was just a rambling mess. but i at least wanted to organize my thoughts in some form, and this blog seems like it will be a good outlet to do so. i know it's made me think more about how it applies to me personally, and it convicts me of what needs to change in my own life. is my speech "seasoned with salt"? are the words i say encouraging? do they build others up? can other people see that in me?

it's what i pray for. something good to meditate on.

and now i should probably do some more studying for that biology exam.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

blessed are the pure in heart

Matt 5.8
"Blessed are the pure in heart..."

We talked about this verse last night at our Thursday night Bible study at the Blackfords'. There were some great ideas being tossed around and discussed. Nicole Blackford had even done a word study on what it meant to "see God" (the second part of the verse).

What are the key words? (observation)
What is the context? (observation)

  • Key words would include blessed, pure, heart, and see.
  • Context has been heart issues that are blessed by God both in the present as well as in the future (to an even fuller extent).

What does it mean to be pure in heart? (interpretation)
Is this a characteristic? (interpretation)
Is this simple external actions? (interpretation)
Does "heart" refer to the Jewish understanding of what the "heart" meant, or the Greek understanding? (interpretation)

  • Pure: undefiled, determined, dedicated, whole
  • Heart (to a Jew): the seat of reasoning (motivation), not emotion
  • Heart (to a Greek): the seat of emotion
  • Pure in heart: undefiled and determined motivation
  • That answers the question whether it is just external actions or a characteristic as we see the meaning of "pure in heart."

What does it take for me, personally, to be pure in heart? (application)

  • ?

"...for they shall see God."

What are the rewards of being pure in heart? (observation)
What does the word "see" mean? (observation)
What does it mean to "see God"? (interpretation)
Does it refer to present life or future? (interpretation)

  • The reward is being able to "see God"
  • As per Nicole's word study, "see" refers to experiencing, viewing, understanding
  • 1 Corinthians 13.12 "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face..."
  • We see God through experience, deepening faith, and the understanding of His Word
  • We, therefore, do get part of the blessing now, as when we are motivated purely to glorify Him here on earth, we do get to experience His presence, provision, and protection, and, therefore, get to know Him more
  • But here on earth, I only catch a glimpse of His glory, as Abraham did as he hid in the cleft of the rock and God's glory passed by him
  • If I look into a mirror, but the image is dark, I can still kind of make out the image, maybe even some detail, but to truly realize the real thing, not just the image, it takes turning around and looking into the face of the subject of the image
  • We will realize the full impact of His glory only when we see Him face to face on His return or our death; anything we experience now, even with how incredible it is, is but a slight glimpse of His true majesty which we, believers, will get to experience one day

chances to shut up and listen

The LORD has given me many opportunities this week to just shut up and listen to others. The listening wasn't always fun as one student told me I'd offended him by something that I had said a few weeks ago, but at least he was willing to let me know so I could apologize. I had another student whine, complain, and argue with me. I'd have to say that I was terribly sinful in my reaction, and I was not glorifying God nor being a peacemaker during that exchange. I got the chance to apologize to her this week, too, but she argued with me that she didn't think she'd done anything wrong, just me. I took it and didn't say anything to defend myself. If you know me at all, you know how hard that would be for me being as arrogant as I tend to be. I asked the LORD to humble me, break me, give me opportunities to be a peacemaker and represent His name. It hurts, just sitting there and taking it; it flies against everything the flesh tells you to do; but how glorified is He when I defend myself in my flesh? How honoring am I to Him when I make it about me? We have a great God who listens and does incredible things. Are you expecting it? Am I? When I look into the mirror (Scripture), am I truly looking intently in order to see His reflection so I could be transformed into that image, the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God? Take a look at ii cor 3.18-4.4 to see where I got that terminology. He is a great God who wishes to reveal Himself to a world veiled to the truth of His Gospel because of the god of this world/age. He not only wants to reveal Himself to us, but to then transform us into that image and reflect Himself even further through us as vessels. What a great privilege and responsibility! Who am I reflecting: my fleshly self or my glory-radiating King on high?

Monday, July 16, 2007

galations study 01

Solution to Galatian problems is a rectified understanding of the Gospel.

In the middle of relational conflict, Paul talks of a greater understanding of the Gospel.

Apostle: I have authority!  The Spirit reveals it to me, and I share it with you.  Christ sent me out as a messenger, and if you accept me, you accept Him, and, therefore, accept the One who sent Him (matt 10.40).

Walking in line with the Gospel

vv3-5 setting the stage
Summary of the Gospel:
Give grace - thru X - for God's glory.
Son saves us from evil age to give me the joy of bringing Him glory.

blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Matt 5.6
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..."

Who want the Lord's righteousness
"righteousness" = justice
The end of evil, sin, rebellion

1. Do you ache when you hear and see evil around you?
2. Are you hurt and offended by the things that hurt and offend God?
3. Am I grieved when someone else is rebellious? My own sin?
4. Yearn for this world to end?

Hunger and thirsting is needing it like we need food.  It's when we have not eaten and have nothing else on our mind except filling that need.

Jesus met the physical needs of people so that they could listen to the truth.

Rev 6.9f
Justice for the martyrs
Longing for His righteousness

"...for they shall be satisfied."

Rev 19.1-3
God brought His justice, judged Babylon, and the martyrs cried "hallelujah."

We are going to be stuffed at God's victory banquet.  Not with food, but with God's righteousness and justice.

Rev 19.9
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

You'll be satisfied in witnessing God's justice prevail.  You will get justice: getting the joy of watching God hammer out judgment.

Rev 21.4-5
No more death, tears, mourning, pain.  He will make all things new.

When you hear of evil in the world, know that His justice is coming.
Be satisfied in Him doing it.  It's not my job; it's His.

The invitation is open and is standing to join the marriage supper.  You need to believe.  What a terrifying thing to be on the receiving end of God's justice.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Glory of the Gospel

Isn't it intense how our creation has one purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God. Simple, yet complex. What an opportunity, yet so challenging. Experiencing life, this way, is what i have been wanting, and He gave it to me.

Over the past year, or year and a half, God has shown me so much about Himself, and about myself. All of my inadequacies, where i fall short, and His glory in everything. I've seen how far into sin i can get, and yet He won't give up on me, in fact He tryies harder to get me back. He brought me to the realization that it in fact is not about me. It's about Him and worshipping Him. Worship is nothing more than a lifestyle. We all worship something, but what exactly are we worshipping. Are we putting ourselves, something, or even someone before our Creator? The fact that God puts all of these good things in our life is out of love for us. There is nothing wrong with these good things. There is only something wrong with these good things when we begin to put them before our God, who has given us these things. Then those simple, good things become an idol, and are our focus of worship. How despising that must be to God, that the tangible things in life that He gives us, we turn around and put before Him. We should constantly be praising God for what He has given us, when it all belongs to Him anyway.

Why do we worship? Worship is a state of mind, or even a state of being, where we place our identity in something. What we should be placing our identity in, is Christ. When we are constantly trying to worship our Creator then we are focused on Him, thus glorifying him. Bringing God glory is such an interesting idea. It's so expansive, and yet simple. That's all we were made for, that's all anything was made for, to glorify God and all that He is. And in fact, why would we not want to glorify Him, when we has created us, and this incredible world and universe that we live in. Someone that can simply speak such things into existence is phenomenal, and we should forever be praising Him for such.

Creation, that is only the beginning of God's glory. He created the universe, the world, and such small things like us humans. Why would God do that? Not because He was lonely or bored, but for the fact that He could be glorified out of that. Everything He does is for His own glory. No, that does not make Him a cocky or arrogant God. He is the only one worthy of such praise. Even when man sinned, that was all part of God's plan to bring Himself glory. This specific point is often where we find ourselves, falling short, and not able to glorify God because of our sin. God had a plan, and that plan was to give His Son as a sacrifice to atone for our sin. Christ living a perfect life was glorifying to God, and the perfect sacrifice for our sin. As humans God has given us the free will to accept His Son as the only resolution to our sin. This point in a person's life where they are able to identify their sin, and repent, and take Christ to be their Savior is the point of redemption. They are redeemed from their sin, and are able to be one with Christ again. They can now be glory filled, and worship, and praise, and live a life for God, not opposing His will. This again brings God glory. Because of the fact that we are able to seek God, in an attempt to praise Him, again gives God the glory that He deserves.

Often times you hear of 'the Gospel' being salvation on the cross from Jesus Christ. Yeah, this is the gospel, and is the only way for true salvation, but this is not the gospel in whole. The Gospel goes back to the fall of man, and then redemption brings us back to Him, where we can glorify Him. With our hearts being changed, our life is being lived out for God, and we naturally strive to glorify Him, sure we struggle but we have hope. It is our faith that gets us through. God's glory will one day be completed, when Christ returns. He will come and take all of His believers back to Heaven where we will spend eternity praising and glorifying Christ, our maker. What an opportunity.

We can glorfy God in every situation if we find a way. God presents every situation in our life as a trial, where we have the opportunity to be dependent on Him. This dependence on Him, once again brings God glory. Seeking God's will in our lives and striving to faithfully obey Him is what He desires.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

blessed are those who mourn

matthew 5.4
"blessed are those who mourn..."

mourn over sin: see his purity: see own filth
  • ii cor 7.9-11: sorrow leading to repentance: inspire and challenge, motivate to change
  • sorrow of the world: fear of being caught
  • sorrow of God: heart change
two pictures of sorrow
  1. peter: offended Christ by betrayal: wept bitterly, repented before Christ
  2. judas: offended Christ by betrayal: stricken by guilt, hanged himself
"...for they shall be comforted"
  • pain hollows out a place for God's comfort, a need for Him (isa 61.1-3)
isa 61
  • v2 - to comfort all those who mourn...
  • v3 - so that He may be glorified(!)
so what?!
  • repent: God's comfort is forgiveness of sin: you can't do it
  • mourn - comfort - comfort others (ii cor 1.3-5)
  • comfort is the real solution, not "consoling," but forgiving