Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life is a Roller Coaster

Roller coasters are a favorite of mine. The faster and more extreme, the better; and if it is new, it is for me. The anticipation of the rush, yet the nerves that kick in while waiting for the ride, is part of the exhilarating experience. Freedom, wind, furious turns and then solid ground once more is what makes the roller coaster worth almost any wait.

Life is much like a roller coaster, yet it is definitely not a favorite. It requires not knowing what is around the next bend of life and many times I panic as I anticipate the coming drop. Now I know that God knows what is around that next turn, and that I should trust Him, just as I trust the structural engineer of an actual roller coaster with my life. And yet, when life begins to get fast and furious, with dips and darkness, all I want is to get off the ride and have stable, solid ground. I don't look forward to, nor would I wait in line for the roller coaster of life.

One of the disappointments of a roller coaster is that many times, the wait is so long, that the one minute ride is much too short. But I am willing to bet, that again, the engineers know what is best for a human body when experiencing g-force speed and that less is in fact more in terms of minutes on the ride. God also knows what is best for my human body and just how much testing I can endure, while strengthening my faith in Him. He monitors my progress on the ride of life and is prepared to do what ever is necessary to bring me safely through making me mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The Bible tells me that I am to recognize this trial as pure joy because of what comes at the end it.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
My structural engineer knows exactly how much I am able to bear and with the trial, He will give me a way of escape. He straps me into the particular thrill ride, reminds me of the rules, "Thou shalt keep all hands and arms inside the vehicle, do not get out until the ride comes to a complete stop and most importantly, keep your focus on Me." Many times there seems to be no end in sight and this is when trust in His loving omniscience is crucial. But when the ride does come to a complete stop and I am able to walk away, I realize a critical part of growth and reliance on the One who created both the ride and the rider has occurred.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

I live at a roller coaster park. It has not been a walk in the park however, and when one ride ends, and slow meandering for thought and pause is allowed, it is only to realize that I am still in the theme park and that nothing has changed. But, the Architect of my life and this park never changes either. He also holds my hand on the spiraling out of control aspects of life. He never leaves me, or abandons me when I don't think I can handle one more drop or twist. He walks with me, while wandering to next "ride", encouraging me and reminding me of all the times He has never failed me.

I know that one day, I may leave this particular theme park and be led to another type of roller coaster adventure some place else, where all the "rides" are new and all the trials seem impossible, but God goes with me always and everywhere.

Walking with God is usually not an easy, breezy, spring day, but rather like stepping onto a loud, metal machine, buckling up and holding on to the One who holds my future in the palm of His hand. He sets the limits, keeps my coaster on the track and never lets me fall.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

And God Provided Wheezie

"Providence is the care God takes of all existing things." -John of Damascus

Wheezie, the old white gentleman with the sputter and cough came into our lives unexpectedly but right when he was needed. He wasn't much to look at and his idiosyncrasies took getting accustomed to, but he was reliable and available.

Recently, Wheezie seemed to be slipping, not quite his "raring to go" self. And then, at his annual smog check, he failed to pass with a clean bill of health. He gained the title "Gross Polluter" and we were uncertain as to what we should do for him. Only a few days later, he lost his transmission and we knew that a difficult decision must be made.

We decided that we must turn Wheezie over to the state in return for a $1000. This was going to effect our family greatly, as we would be down to one vehicle, but we could not afford the expense that old Wheezie was going to entail. As we pursued the avenue of turning our old gentleman over to the state under the label of "Gross Polluter", we sadly discovered that he didn't qualify. Disappointed, we were now stuck with a car that couldn't run and would take roughly $1000 to fix.

Wheezie came to us through God's gracious hand of provision. Our family had suffered unemployment and a severe injury and God had provided this car for free. Just at the right moment, Wheezie came into our lives. And on his last wheels, we were hanging onto the memory of God's provision and praying that somehow He would provide our family with another form of transportation.

God must love Wheezie too, as Sunday at church, our pastor pulled my husband aside and said that someone had come by the church earlier in the week, and gave the church $1000. My pastor asked the individual if it could be used for a needy family and the generous stranger answered yes. (Interestingly, we hadn't shared this Wheezie situation with our Pastor.)

Wheezie will be getting a new lease on life through the gracious gift of a stranger. Yet the story doesn't end with just our family being blessed in this unique way, the gentleman who will be working on Wheezie has been out of work for some time, picking up side work where ever he can, so Wheezie's demise has turned into a blessing for several families and an inspiration for the entire church.

God still provides manna. He is still the generous Father who cares for the needs of His children and He deserves honor and glory in this modern day provision story.

Philippians 4:19 (King James Version)

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Music, the Language of Men and Angels

"If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." I Corinthians 13:1

What tongue do both angels and men have in common? Music. The angles and elders worship around the throne.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being." Revelation 4:6-11

In heaven the shared tongue is perfect because it has perfect love as its object of worship.

We on earth also have been given the gift of music as an instrument of worship, but so many times we don’t use it as a voice of love for God and it becomes noise.

The voice of love for God and man can have gilded edges of heavenly perfection when our hearts are in perfect communion with God and man. But so many times we bang our gongs and cymbals because we are part of the worship team or some other form of "service" and our hearts are far from the Lord of heaven and earth.

We are to do all to the glory of God. He doesn’t require a perfect performance, a specific type of music or the approval of man, but rather a broken and contrite heart deeply in love with Him.

As in communion, we are commanded to let the plate pass if our hearts are not right, or to leave our gift at the alter and be reconciled to the one with whom we have a broken relationship; so too, it is our responsibility as worshipers and servants of God to do this before we come into worship. We must come pre-prepared to worship God on Sunday mornings and our mid-week services. We are labourers together with God (I Corinthians 3:9) and we must abide with God, if our congregations and our world are going to see God’s face and be led to the throne of grace. We are called to a work that God has ordained in advance for us to do and we are to do it to the Glory of God alone. (Ephesians 2:10)

Oswald Chambers, “ We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notion as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything; wherever He puts us, our one great aim is to pour out a whole hearted devotion to Him in that particular work. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.”

What does this look like for a church worship team, an elder board, Sunday school teachers, or those sitting in the pews? For me it means that I do all to the glory of God, not as a man pleaser but as a God pleaser. It means I diligently seek His face in worship at home and not just corporately. It means I let Him lead in the areas in which He has called me to serve and I prepare myself to do this service to the best of my ability. However, when all this is done, I must come before God's throne only concerned that my heart is lined up with His heart and whether I am worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

This is a high calling: the worship of the King of kings, and not one that should be taken for granted or as an entitlement because one has a voice, or a musical talent, or the ability to teach. It is about one's heart and not about the technical skill one possesses, but about the love one must pour out for God. If this is why we serve God, to be a poured out drink offering to the Almighty, then our service is a sweet smelling fragrance.

Sacrifice costs. Worship team requires sacrifice. Preaching requires sacrifice. Serving in the nursery requires sacrifice. It should be a joy to sacrifice for Jesus. If the cost is not one we are willing to pay with a hilarious and extravagant heart, in light of all He has sacrificed for us, then we must evaluate our love relationship with the Lord. We must truthfully ask God, as the Psalmist did,

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

Christians should only be concerned with God looking over our shoulders and into our hearts and seek His approval alone, not the worlds. When one worries about what other's think, one loses the "heart of worship", and the focus becomes self centered and not God centered. We should as a church desperately desire to be face down, poured out in the worship of our Savior and Lord. He should be our audience of One.

Angels worship around the throne and we too should be worshiping at His feet, moment by moment offering a sacrifice of praise. It is our shared language, the praise of our King. Brother Lawrence said, "We should dedicate ourselves to becoming in this life the most perfect worshipers of God we can possibly be." The time we spend loving our Lord extravagantly, worshiping as He alone deserves, will ultimately catch the attention of men, but it will be because they see God holiness radiating through us and not our feeble attempts to do good works for the sake of service.

Sing praise to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever! Sing praise!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weight, This Is Too Heavy To Bear

Proverbs 16:-4 says, "To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue. All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and yor plans will succeed. The Lord works out everything for His own ends event he wicked for a day of disaster."

Glory for God alone is the key thought I see in the previous verses. The Lord works out everything for His own ends and all things work out to the glory of God. Whatever I do, it should be done to the glory of God.

II Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds me,
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glroy that far out weighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal."

Everything that we are experience is for God's glory and ultimately for our eternal weight of glory as well. In C. S. Lewis' sermon, The Eternal Weight of Glory, he stated, "The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbors glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken."

What we experience in this life is for God and not about us ultimately. Everything is designed to draw us deeper into our relationship with God so that we may reflect His glory in all circumstances and through this reflection, those around us will see His glory and need to know the source.

The idea that life isn't all about us, is a life long concept to grasp. We exist for God, He doesn't exist for us. So when the pressures of life cause us to fall on our knees crying out to God in need, He is there to hear us, but ultimately, through the process of prayer, He reveals His glory in our lives through our neediness.

"Answer my O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God." I Kings 18:36-37
Elijah prayed this asking the true God of heaven to set ablaze the true alter on earth. In his prayer, Elijah surely hoped for his own vindication. But even more, he hoped God's validation of His own worth. He prayed that God would answer in a way that would cause people to praise Him. Even in your deepest needs, you should be aware that your prayers of desperation contain elements not just of deliverance but also of glory. In your despair, in your lack, and in your ambitions you will see an opportunity for non-believers to see God's glory. You have a higher purpose than your own small circle of influence" (Tiegreen, Worship the King).
What does all this have to do with me? I quote Brian Johnson, "You see us as you want to see us-in simplest terms, in the most convenient definition. You see us a s a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal...."

Each of us has an "ism" that we are continually dealing with or a new trial we are facing. Each of us can find ourselves as a brain, a basket case or a criminal, but God will use that to bring His name to the fore-front and bring His glory down to earth. God is allowing a tough marriage for His glory, to show Himself to the non-believer as the Lord, the God of Creation. He is showing His glory in a brain tumor, in an estranged husband or wife, in the loss of job, in living with other people who aren't a pair of comfortable jeans. But as I write this, it is not about these momentary troubles but for the Glory of God to be revealed to the world through us. We a can fight it, but He will get the Glory with or without us. Or we can submit to His plans, swallow our pride and begin to see His glory in our live to ultimately bring all me to Himself. We need to embrace the rocky marriage, the lack of finances, the hurting and broken body parts, the people in our lives who drive us nuts and to our knees, for these are earning for us an eternal weight of glory.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Angst in the New Year

I have been nothing but irate, inside and out, this new year! It hasn't even been a week and I just feel that blowing the whole malt shop would be a grand idea! Forget new years resolutions, I am ready to run to the border and flee anything that looks remotely like real life and adult responsibility. It is sad when the grass looks greener even in Tijuana!

I have been reading my journal entries of past New Year's days and the prayers that I have penned for the up and coming years. My readings have only exasperated my crummy mood as I found nothing positive to write in regard to twenty-ten. I suppose my reflections on the previous prayers and the lack of any movement toward an answer has me desperately down and living in the depth of a glass I am choosing to view as half empty. Now there is an attitude of hope for the New Year!

In my head, I know that this is an incredibly non-Christian way of looking at life and that I can and should count my many blessings. Looking to the Cross of Christ, eternity....etc., etc., etc., should put things in a better perspective, an other worldly perspective, yet I erroneously want to wallow in my mire of angst and lick my wounds loudly so all will know that I am frustrated.

This is my New Year journal entry....inspiring I am sure, for those who would like to find a way to tear down Christianity as myth and hopeless. I am not hopeless, for my hope is not in the realities of this world, but this world is draining me to the dregs and I just want out. My hope is in the fact that this world is not all that there is and that someday, I will be in eternity with the Perfection, looking Hope straight in the face and basking in His perfect love forever.

Here's to another year.....come Lord Jesus come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On my Knees in the Shadow

In the shadow of the cross, I kneel in thanks. There is nothing in life that should ever cloud this view of grace. These light and momentary afflictions should even be a cause of thanks, for they are storing up for us an eternal weight of glory.

Though our knees may be worn and achy from constant prayerful kneeling, is this not the position that God desires? Are not the cares of the world the very things He uses to show us our great need for Him and allows Him to show us His great love for us?

Forgive me Lord for whining and complaining. Forgive me for not counting it all joy when I encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance. Endurance produces Hope and God You are my only Hope!

I remain on my knees in the shadow of your gracious cross, eternally thankful. I love you, Lord!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Throw Down the Worry Crutch and Clutch God's Hand

Have you ever had a crisis when you could honestly say that God's peace was radically evident in the midst, and that you could hear God say, "Well done"?

A few weeks back I heard that voice and floated on God's surpassing peace as my car chugged and came to a stop in the middle of the freeway. No panic ensued, just a matter of fact, step by step, decision to call Russ and then call God and wait. Worry would have only made the situation tense. I wanted so badly to be home, so I could take off my "teaching" costume and put on jammies, but God decided to let my faith be strengthened and to show me His peace on the median of the 215 freeway.

$16.50 an hour on paper can't sustain a family of 6. It can't pay for the inflated gas prices and tuition and insuranse payments and school items. Our bank account goes in the red every pay check and yet God tells me not to worry and live for Him now. So running out of gas with only a dollar of change in my pocket and a negative bank account could have freaked me out, yet I realized that I was right where God wanted me and He was in control.

Don't worry about tomorrow or worry about something even an hour from now: It is a sin. Don't use the crutch: "I'm a worrier by nature". No you are a sinner by nature who chooses to hang onto the crutch instead of God's hand.

Don't be discontent, but count on God to provide the needs as they arise, not the wants. You don't have a right to your wants, you don't even have a right to your needs being met, yet God so loved the world He sent Jesus to meet my greatest need and He promises "all these things will be added to you" when we seek His kingdom and righteousness.

What person adds a day to his life by worrying? No one! Medically speaking worry causes health problems and a shorter life span. But it also causes a lack of peace with God because it breaks the fellowship with Him due to the fact it is sin. Nothing good comes from worry.

I was given a choice on that Tuesday: trust in the Lord or worry. I got a pat on that moment, and peace that passed all understanding. I will worry again but today, I choose to "Throw down the crutch and clutch God's hand."