Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Water and Stone

We thirst for righteousness. We thirst for what is holy. And yet, we walk around without quenching this thirst. We are made of the earth, and like that earth, we thirst. (Proverbs 30:15,16)

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

God formed us of the clay. Then he breathed life itself into us. When we are born, we begin breathing constantly and automatically. But even though water is so crucial for us that we die in only days without it, we drink only as an infrequent choice; people typically acknowledge that they don’t drink the 48-64 daily ounces advised for our health. We become accustomed to getting by on less than what our bodies need to be fully satisfied.

And so we spend our days in thirst, soon not even noticing our dehydration. Water is what we need, but it’s also what we must seek.

Breathing in and out, we have life, received from our Creator. But do we know our God? We need relationship with Him like we need water. And it is that relationship that we must seek.

O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.

Isaiah 64:8, NIV

When God creates us, He then gives us the choice: Will we continue to be crafted by Him? We are clay, but stone we can become. Clay on a potter’s wheel receives a steady hand and a touch of water that renews. This water keeps the clay from hardening before it is developed into useful form. Just so, our hearts need the touch of what Jesus called Living Water. Jesus introduced a way of living, which is delighting in God and living to delight God. This living water sustains even to eternal life. This living water refreshes spirits. This living water saturates hearts, making them malleable for reshaping.

People living to delight in God were in shortage even in the time of Noah. When men’s hearts hardened and evil was prevalent, God overwhelmed the world with water. He then resumed His craft with a man and his family that were still willing, still pliable enough, to obey Him.

When Moses and the Israelites were trapped by the Egyptians at the Red Sea, one group – the Israelites – received God’s saving grace. These were the descendants of Abraham, a man who chose God over everything else he knew. God had chosen him and his family to become His people, to show His glory among all the nations. When they called out to God for deliverance, God answered. God displayed his faithfulness, carrying out his plan for His chosen people and rewarding Moses’ obedient faith. He saved them in a way they could not anticipate – the parting of the Red Sea – and made them an example they did not comprehend: of deliverance from bondage that is not only physical and political, but spiritual as well.

Another group, the Egyptians, followed a man whose heart was unrelentingly hardened. Their pharoah’s hardness became part of the record of God’s plan. The Egyptians, who did not seek God and who would not hear from Him, were destroyed.

Later, it was the same Israelites who witnessed these miracles who eventually chose fear and pride over faith. Instead of trusting God, they despaired and defied Him. They too became brittle and unyielding, and those who would not be led were not led into the Promised Land. Instead, their children received the land, as evidence of God’s faithfulness.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
Psalm 46:4

O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
Jeremiah 17:13

When the next generation of Israelites crossed the Jordan River, also parted by their God, He prompted them to build a stack of stones there to recall God’s care. The memorial of rocks stood in the midst of the Jordan just as they had, recalling their physical journey and their spiritual journey. These rocks testified to the survival of these Israelites. They likely also resembled a familiar stubbornness that lingered in their own hearts. Just as the Jordan river current washed over the memorial rocks, God’s presence remained with the Israelites over the ages, continuing to care for them faithfully, in spite of many more generations of rebellion. With time, water shapes and polishes rock. And generations of Israelites came to slowly learn just how faithful their Lord God was.

Awash in His ways, even our stony hearts can be smoothed, polished, reshaped. Overwhelmed at the fountain of grace, we can allow our wills to be broken like rocks into sand. Once broken, we are finally usable. Broken into dust, we are drenched and renewed by God’s purpose, and made once again like clay pliable to God’s will – found in His Word and revealed in relationship with Him.

Whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:35b

In Jesus’ first miracle, He changed water into wedding wine. First, he directed the servants to fill jars with water; then, He directed them to draw out from those jars. The wine that was drawn out and served was declared as the finest.

Over the years, I’ve brought myself and those I care about before God, seeking not only resolution to problems but also restoration of the people facing the problems. And I’ve come to realize that we who worship God are being shaped, like clay, into jars.

Whenever I've taken time to focus on Him – praying to Him, listening to His word in Scripture, and speaking or singing praises to Him, I have been filling up like a jar with living water, and filling the jars of anyone who took the time to pray with me, read with me, and praise with me.

Whenever I've acted in faith, I've drawn out from that water, which is Jesus’ brand of wine. It comes from Communion with Him, relationship with Him.

This living water, which restores, refreshes and sustains unto eternal life itself, is the finest served.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Still the Storm

We cannot predict exactly what a day will bring – whether it’s weather, or other things we face. But God told Noah that the cycles and seasons of the natural world will continue. These patterns allow us even after that overwhelming flood to begin to comprehend some things.
Water has a cycle. From the clouds comes rain – or sleet, hail or snow – with varying impact. The earth is transformed, receiving and storing it for its needs, and then the water returns where it came.
And so even water has a testimony, tracing a path that parallels God’s interaction with us: He sent Jesus as living water from the heavens. Believers were transformed, receiving Him and learning His message to teach others. With the Holy Spirit on reservoir within us, Jesus returned to heaven, from where He came.
Before He left, he gave us more than a prediction, explaining that in this life we will have trouble. He was advising us as His believers to remember that storms are to be expected.
In rebuking the storm that He and His disciples were sailing through (Mark 4:39), Jesus had already demonstrated that disaster, though not part of God’s design, presents an opportunity for us to see God’s redemptive power. And he continued to demonstrate that in every miraculous act, including His own crucifixion and resurrection.
God makes from every circumstance an opportunity to communicate with us. To introduce us to Him, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God of Abraham
After Abraham came to know God, his countless descendants were introduced to God through the recited history of Abraham’s faith and relationship with God. The events that lead us individually to God need to be shared. Others need to hear the experiences that have informed our faith.
The history of my hometown includes the 1900 Storm, which was recorded as the worst disaster in U.S. history because of the level of destruction and the many lives lost. For my family, it is a story of survival. My 12-year-old grandmother and all her relatives were spared. Learning the details of that crisis, recorded in a great-great-aunt’s voice as she gave a firsthand account, drives home the wonder of God’s mercy.
My mother shared the story of another storm, when she also was 12. In the high wind, their home swayed on its foundation. The ceiling wallpaper swelled in spots as rain seeped through, eventually bursting, and they hurried to move the furniture away from the leaks. Her father, a building contractor, drilled holes in the floor to drain the water and limit the damage, and my mother mopped the water to help it drain. All the while, her elderly grandfather sat quietly in his rocking chair, even as the winds and rains raged. “Papa, aren’t you scared?” she asked.
Her grandfather responded, “Well… I lived through the 1900 Storm… I lived through the 1915 Storm… and if God so wills, I’ll live through this one.” His was the image of a faith shaped by blessings that were not only received but reviewed and recounted; a faith matured by a lifelong, personal experience with God. It was an example that served my mother well in her own elderly years, when she had to face the damage left behind by Hurricane Ike, which flooded the evacuated city in 2008. Family members and crisis volunteers cleared the debris, and months later a contractor helped her find a way to reconstruct the home she'd lived in for over 45 years.

God of Isaac

Local history records many storms, including Hurricane Alicia in 1983. I was a teenager, and I knew God then in the way that Isaac did. Son of Abraham, Isaac was heir to his family’s abundant blessings and to the legacy of their faith. And just as Isaac was surrounded by riches and celebrated in his family, I had a comfortable home and was doted on as the youngest – nine to 18 years younger than my siblings and cousins. As Hurricane Alicia approached, my brother stationed himself in my room, staying alert and ready to reassure me. But he’d have to wake me up first. “I can’t believe you’re sleeping through all of this!” he said, laughing, during the few times that I did wake up. I told him that I knew God would take care of us. My mother called it the faith of a child.

God of Jacob

In March 2000, my husband heard the weather news and called from work to tell me about a tornado watch. The sky was sunny and blue as I picked my son up from preschool, but turned gray by the time we passed downtown.
When I looked to the left, the tornado was headed for us. It followed high winds that slowed the van in a sudden sheet of dirt and leaves across the street. And there was nowhere to go. Outrunning it was as unlikely as in every tornado tragedy story I had ever read, knowing its speed and that we’d have to cross a bridge to do it.
My son sat strapped in behind me. His seat belt seemed to be the best way I could protect him. Being thrown or flipped was what I thought of, as we sat vulnerable without shelter. I put the car in park, turned the motor off, and reached back to put my hand on his leg. And in it came. “We’re going to be OK,” I yelled over the wind.
As debris crashed against the van, I looked back at him, and saw the back windshield peeling away from a hole in its center. I told him to keep his head down and not to move it, as he sat strapped upright, the headrest behind him. I bent down at the waist, away from the windows and over the baby inside me. I was almost 6 months pregnant. And I called out to God as the wind roared: “Dear God, please help us! Lord, I know you are with us! It’s OK,” I told my son, “it’s OK! God is here!
“God, please save us!”
Rock and pieces of roofing were flung through the car, the glass pieces whipping in. In the wind, I continued to yell to my child that we were OK. I continued to pray. “Please spread yourself over us, Lord. I know that you will and are. Please do! Help us, please. Please spare us. I know that you will!”
I squeezed his knee as he held his hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. I can’t say how long it took the tornado to pass. From the reported time it touched down until I arrived home (about a five-minute drive from that point) was about 30 minutes. I only know it was long enough for prayer without ceasing. I only know it was swift enough to leave us without shelter, but still not powerful enough to remove the refuge of our faith.
When the winds first began to slow, I began to cry and to say thank you, still bent over. “Why are you crying?” my son asked. I tried to form an answer.
“Because God saved us,” I said, “and I’m glad.”
I straightened up, and checked him out. A car drove up behind us and blared its horn. I started the car and drove forward a block, slowly reasoning how to drive around a wire stretched across the road, navigating our way home.
In our driveway, feeling worn, I unstrapped him and eased him past the glass. I scooped up my old Bible from the wet seat next to him. As we got out, my husband came to the front porch, unaware of what we’d been through until he saw the van. He’d left work early so we wouldn’t have to drive our child to and from his evening baby sitter, just in case. But as he realized what we’d come through, his face crumpled. And our child, seeing him, began to cry too.
I handed my son to him, as we walked into the house. My husband reached for me, and it was then all three of us sobbing. Until our son heard us over his tears, and told us what I’d told him in the van. “It’s OK,” he said, patting my arm. “It’s OK. It’s OK.” When I could, I told him he was right.
Hours later, after we’d combed the glass and debris from our hair, I looked out at the van to confirm what I knew. The only windows that remained were the front windshield and the window only inches from my son’s head. Both were intact.
Days later, the man who replaced the other windows and cleaned out the debris pointed to a gouge left in the van’s ceiling by embedded pieces of roofing that he’d removed. There was a foot-long gash directly behind where my son’s head had been.
In the days that followed I went over my decision that my son’s safety belt would offer more protection than my arms. But in God’s plan, my role was narrow, limited. It was one thing only: to trust. It was the same part he had for me afterward as I questioned what I had done, finally realizing that quite frankly my actions were irrelevant to this plan, because God’s power, glory and faithfulness had to be fully on display.
My mother told me that my sister had said she could imagine an angel in the van, its arms spread to brace the two windows. A co-worker told my husband he also imagined an angel, its wings spread over the window so close to my son’s head.
I didn’t see God’s methods.
I did recognize his faithfulness. Power greater than the force of a tornado. I also recognized the maturity of faith that God calls us all to. As a child, I trusted in how he always placed me far from danger. As an adult, I acknowleged the myriad times he had led me from trouble. That day, I had to accept that I and my child would not be led away, that we would be in its midst. But that God would be with us.
I came to know something that Jacob came to know. Jacob needed to wrestle a bit, needed to exercise his faith by calling on God to bless him. God’s response, renaming Jacob, led him to see himself in a new way, shaped by God’s purpose. God also literally touched him deeply, and gave him a new way to walk.
Shaped by God’s purpose, I shared my testimony. I passed out written copies of our story to my newspaper coworkers, about a week after the tornado, overruling my shyness.
Touched deeply by God’s grace, I was also amazed by His favor. A coworker shared the story with her pastor, who asked to read it to his congregation as part of his sermon one Sunday. Another coworker asked if she could run it in the newspaper, on the Saturday religion page. And several readers emailed their responses, sharing how the testimony had touched them personally.
I had trusted God in the van, and in hard times before that. And in the years after the tornado, I began to see more things to surrender to Him. Like shyness when a chance comes to minister, or be ministered to. Like trying to lean harder on my own efforts, when I need to be getting closer to Him.
Like evaluating myself or letting others judge me. Not only does only God have that right, I prefer for God to do it. He’s so much more loving and effective than anyone else. My time is also better spent praising Him, and rejoicing at how God encourages and rebukes me.
Like clutching my to-do list. I prefer when the Holy Spirit supervises my time. God teaches me how to steward every blessing, and I receive His power and His grace.
I also prefer life with a view, taking time to see God everywhere. I marvel at his omnipresence, glimpsed in the people and situations around me.

Your Storms of Trouble

If you’ve already looked over your circumstances, checking them like a weather report, you may have forgotten that God actually knows them better than you. With the view dim or fogged, you might not see change on the horizon. You might spot broken branches, but not see the pruning and regrowth to come. If you ask Him, you might be amazed at what God shows you, and what He can bring out of your circumstances.
If you are chilled to the bone, and your face is stinging, standing with you in the storm is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is a refuge you can turn to, someone who can teach you to say as He does:

Peace, be still.

For prayers and praise: Verses to treasure

Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family that you have brought me this far?
2 Samuel 7:18b NIV

I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
Psalm 77:11 KJV

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Romans 11:33a KJV

If the Lord had not been on our side – let Israel say – if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.
Psalm 124:1-5 NIV

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
Mark 4: 39 NKJV

Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"
Matthew 8:24-27 NIV

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Making Room

I sit in the living room, looking out the window.
The birds sing as the sky lightens, over the sweet porches with their lightbulbs still glowing, and over the picket fences.

I thank God for this place where I live. Our once-unfurnished house now has belongings in every corner. I thank God for how He has filled us, the family inside the house, with hope, with joy, and cherished gifts of his Spirit. I thank God for how He has furnished our lives.

As we make plans to build a new home nearby, I thank God for the experience of living in this well-known, well-loved place. Our family remains thankful for all the comforts of the house we’ve shared for these many years. Yet even as we fondly live in this place, so familiar and very much home, we keep before us that we do have another place that we will go. We needfully acknowledge the limitations of where we are, to better appreciate where we are going.

I thank God also for the visualization, the expectation, of this place where we will live, one day when we move. As we’ve talked about it at length, it's a home that’s become a reality long before any piece of wood has been bought. Each time we revisit the topic, this place too becomes more and more familiar to us. And even though we’ve never walked there, it is a place already special to us.

We’ve made room for it in our minds.

We’ve had the opportunity to sit and talk with the architect, to examine it from every view that he provides. We’ve heard and shared his enthusiasm and excitement about what he has crafted for us.

We need to know that we’re going, and we need to know where we’ll be. But it’s a home that we will trust someone else to construct. We won’t place any portion of it, not a single timber or stone. All we will place is our trust, that someone else will put together what we need. We’ll also be trusting that someone to craft it well, to make it special.

I thank God for this hope, and I thank God for this life that we share.
I thank Him for how His presence has blessed our time here on this earth. My once uncharted life now has tasks and responsibilities that fill the moments. I thank God for how He has filled me with purpose. I thank God for how he has furnished our days.

We remain thankful for all the memories we cherish. Yet even as we recall that today is the day which the Lord has made, choosing to rejoice and be glad in it, we keep before us that we will have a life beyond this one. We needfully acknowledge the limitations of this world, to better appreciate the joys of the heaven that we will share.

As we make plans to spend eternity with God, I thank God for giving us this expectation. As we fellowship with each other and other Christians, paradise is a home that’s become part of our reality even now. Each time we revisit the topic, this place too becomes more and more familiar to us, and already more and more treasured.

We’ve made room for it in our hearts.

We’ve answered the invitation to prayer, taking the opportunity to sit and talk with the architect. Reading through the Word, we examine eternity from every view that God provides. In Scripture and in spirit, we’ve heard and shared his enthusiasm and excitement about what he has crafted for us.

Because this life ends, we know that we’re going. Because of His sacrifice, and the gracious revelation in His word, we know where we’re going. Acknowledging the quality of His work, it’s a place that we trust God to construct, and God alone. Our eternal welfare is not in our hands. We place our trust in God, for all our needs and our wants.

There’s light yet in this day. There’s day left to spend time with Him. Rest in Him. Abide in Him. And invite Him to abide in us.
Let us dwell on relationship with God.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah 55:1

Last Sunday, our pastor reminded us of this, God’s invitation to invest ourselves in His ways and His kingdom. Our Lord calls us forward, in our hunger, to a banquet table filled with peace, joy, and all other fruits of the spirit. He calls us to leave behind the things that the world values – acquiring material wealth, social status, etc. – to seek the things that will finally satisfy.
Our Sunday School lesson also told the story of Jesus’ friend Mary, who invested herself in her worship, anointing Him with costly perfume. The disciples chided her for wasting money. Jesus chided them, saying she had her priorities straight.

The day before, I’d been selling food at a tournament held by the martial arts academy we attend. We volunteers chose to be accountable to each other, asking each other to witness when we took money to the cashbox to buy food for ourselves and our families. It was all bought cheaply -- a dollar here, a quarter there, at our half-price volunteer discount. Because of our teacher’s generosity and appreciation, we had all eaten for very little.
We also had fun with our friends from the school and with the families in attendance. I tried to hand out the food with care and consideration, and the folks on the other side of the concession table more than returned it. One martial arts teacher, who outranked most of the people in attendance, took time to joke with the kids standing nearby, and lavished compliments for the cheeseburgers grilled just outside the door. And later, I sent my son after another customer who forgot his change; but my son returned with the change, explaining that the customer decided to donate it to the cashbox.
It was an event well worth the investment of our time.

The next day, we visited the bookstore, and then tried to decide where to eat. I got voted down; the steakhouse was the husband’s option. But I really enjoyed all of us just sitting down at the restaurant talking together. There was time for jokes, for stories, for reminders on table etiquette.
During dinner, our waitress showed up with her hands outstretched, ready to personally take away the trash from our table – torn sugar wrappers and the paper napkins damp from the glasses – so we could better enjoy our meal. I didn’t really want to deal with any of that at that time; I wasn’t so eager to hand all that to her while I was still eating. But I was humbled by the fact that she was willing to put her hands on it right then and there.
The food was also very delicious, worth choosing to pack lunches for a while afterward to maintain balance in our budget. At the restaurant, we spent a great deal, but because of my husband’s generosity in taking us out and because of our family fellowship, as well as good food and service, we were glad for the meal. Just like the day before, it was worth our investment.

So it is with our God. Generosity, service and fellowship, part of both the tournament and the restaurant meal, are found in God’s invitation to us. He invites us to His well-stocked banquet table and calls the spiritually poor to fill themselves, to change a life that does not satisfy. But this is no redemption drive-through, or a blessings buffet. He invites us to sit and eat.
He’s tending needs beyond our stomach. Like the tournament host and customers, He teaches us by His example the importance of kindnesses extended to the least of us – being generous with time, with money, and with praise. Like a patient parent, He teaches us good table manners: how to be considerate of others in the things we do. Like the waitress at the restaurant, He refills our glasses with living water that refreshes and revives. He also sees the things that we’ve just shoved to one side, that really don’t belong there anymore, and clears the way, personally and hands-on. In all he does, He is showing us by His example how to serve.
The most important thing on the table is that He’s talking with us. He’s teaching us how to spend time with him. When we give Him our time, we give Him ourselves. When we anoint Him with that, there are stories to be told and joys to share.
Generosity, service, fellowship. These are priceless things that ultimately satisfy – the very meat of our lives.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reaping Righteousness

One night at church, as the Bible lesson neared an end, my smiling 12-year-old son hovered in the doorway. His Scout meeting down the hall was over, and he didn't realize he was a distraction. After I interrupted the lesson to shoo him away, he went into the next room and idly began ringing a bell.

I knew he was unaware that he'd become an ever greater distraction. Our teacher continued summing up her lesson, not letting frustration lessen her focus. And her focus lessened my frustration. When our meeting was over and my son returned, I was able to smile as I pointed out his mistake and told him to apologize.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22,23

In the car, I told him how I'd enjoyed the lesson, and benefited even more from the teacher’s example of patience, which bore witness to her maturity in Christianity.

A few days ago, I'd been shopping for groceries, and I passed up the bananas because they were as green as grass. The fruit was fully grown, but it was in no way ripe. I explained to my son that the fruit was like a lot of adults that I encounter: long grown, but still not spiritually mature.

I added that green fruit doesn't always ripen. “Sometimes it just starts to rot,” my son replied. I nodded, pointing out the danger for a spiritually immature adult – that without growing into faith, life can go to waste.

But placing a green banana with ripe ones can lead it to ripen as well.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15,16

Our lesson had exhorted us to feel an urgency to share saving faith with others who don't yet realize the love of God. And I was learning because of my time spent with the others at the church. The patience I’d seen had helped me to yield it too. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, once shared, helps other Christians mature and be fruitful. Sharing the fruit of the Holy Spirit with those not yet acquainted with Him, sows the Holy Spirit into the world.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Genesis 1:28

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Troubling Times

Do we exalt, or exult in, our troubles?
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. Romans 5:3,4 NAS
That’s the verse as it should be; I didn’t refer to it correctly in my first post. I typed in the word “exalt” instead of “exult”.

But both the verse and the error challenge us. How many people did I invite to my last pity party? Do I tell my troubles over and over, gaining sympathy but actually exalting those troubles and their power over me?

–verb (used with object)
1. to raise in rank, honor, power, character, quality, etc.; elevate: He was exalted to the position of president.
2. to praise; extol: to exalt someone to the skies.
3. to stimulate, as the imagination.
4. to intensify, as a color.
5. Obsolete. to elate, as with pride or joy.

Likewise, I don’t intend to praise the work of evil in my life – certainly not “to the skies”. Nor do I mean to stimulate evil imaginations to further trouble; nor to intensify trouble’s effect. And it would be all too ironic to elate my enemy, when it was God’s intention that I be an heir to true joy.

–verb (used without object)
1. to show or feel a lively or triumphant joy; rejoice exceedingly; be highly elated or jubilant: They exulted over their victory.
2. Obsolete. to leap, esp. for joy.
1. delight, glory, revel.

I don’t want to bypass the peace that follows releasing those troubles to God, and I don’t want to bypass the joy that comes from transformation by the Holy Spirit. Our troubles present opportunity, for God to lend His perseverance, His character, and hope in Him. It is an opportunity for victory.

When we could delight in the occasion to prove out God’s power in our lives, all to His glory; when we could choose to revel in the Word He has given us, instead of choosing to rebel by seeking false relief in complaining -- what a pity it is.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Children of God: Born Again and Growing Up

We choose to be born again when we first state faith in Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior.

We become children of God, and are embraced just as Jesus was when God publicly recognized Him as his Son.

Immediately after that, Jesus was led into the wilderness, where he faced hunger and the perils of temptation.

Trials also follow our statement of faith. Scripture tells us to expect and even exalt these tribulations.

The difficult times of our lives parallel times in the wilderness as described in the Bible.

For the believer, it is a wilderness like that the Israelites wandered in after deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Our deliverance from slavery to sin came when we first proclaimed faith. But our journey to intimate relationship with God can be swift -- or like the Israelites', it can be delayed years by rebellion and mistrust.

This is my body which is broken for you...This is my blood which is shed for you.

Meditation on their journey, and honest study of our own struggles, reveals that the times we spend in the wilderness are necessary to our spiritual development. Consider that time in the wilderness is the gestation period for spiritual rebirth. A child in the womb has a simplified menu, nourished through direct contact with its mother. He receives only what his mother supplies. He feeds from his mother's blood. And growth leads to an appointed time to emerge and exercise what has formed over time. Likewise, spending time in Communion with our heavenly Father and feeding on His word -- receiving it and letting it fuel our thoughts, words and actions -- makes growth inevitable.

Give us this day our daily bread.

The Israelites spent years feeding on manna, a sustenance they could not stockpile. Their water often came from a rock, a source they could not reroute and reservoir. When we are in the wilderness, facing our struggles and crises, we are ultimately forced to rely on God's daily providence rather than our failing prowess and wit.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

Just as the child in the womb feeds from the blood supplied by his mother, a nursing child draws nourishment from the very body of his mother, strengthened by its nutrients. He receives precisely what he most needs, exactly as he needs it. We who would grow in Christ continue to need Communion with him, to feed upon the living water he provides. We need to drink in his Word. Then it nourishes and becomes part of our newer expanded selves.

It is also at birth that a child, having outgrown the confines of the womb, is delivered into an expanded reality. So it was with the Israelites, who were sorely challenged by life outside the more predictable bounds of slavery. So it is with us, coming to understand life outside the bonds of sin.

As we grow, we take on our parents' form, so that those who see us know whose children we are. Once grown, our relationship with our parents deepens, as we remain their children still. Children of God mature and walk in His footsteps, speak His word and show His face to the world.