Monday, August 24, 2009

Looking UP!

I've heard it said that if you're not in a trial you're probably just coming out of one, or you're heading into one. It used to bother me. I never really thought that was a very "Christian" perspective... You know the whole "joy of the Lord is my strength" thing. What I'm coming to realize is that it's true: all of it.

I'm reading "To Live is Christ" by Beth Moore. It's all about the life of the apostle Paul. Boy, talk about suffering and trials! I don't know if I could stand up under half the life he lived through. But Beth addresses the idea of Christianity as a life of prosperity only, and why as Christians we will suffer. It seems like such a morbid topic, I guess. But in reality it makes sense. Basically she comes to the conclusion that as Christians we aren't exempt from the trials of life, and we're probably prime targets for attacks of the enemy. But God is able to take the things that the enemy plans to harm us with and turn them into something good!

Although we have trials, and sometimes life just plain stinks, God can always turn our situation around for good. Not only that, but He will always use whatever happens to us for His glory if we allow Him to!

I also believe that sometimes God leads us into times that seem so hard, painful, void, desert places, so that He can work in us. Have you noticed that the hardest times are the times you're closest to God? Maybe not. Maybe you're always spiritually in tune, but I know that up until recently for me this has proved to be true. Lately God has really been teaching me about daily discipline and living in His presence. But I know that in my life it has always been out of the "desert times" that I have come away the strongest in my relationship with Him.

I heard a speech recently where the speaker talked about Joseph. She mentioned all the crazy things he'd been through, and how eventually he ended up in the palace. She came to the conclusion that the pit, the prison, the dungeon was only preparation for the palace. All that time, years of his life, he spent just being himself, then getting thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, thrown into prison, was only in preparation for who God was making him to be. You ever notice how going into the pit was a product of his big-mouthed-boldness and pride in the dreams God had given him? But coming out of the prison was a result of humility and sharing only what God gave him to share. I think maybe Joseph learned something through all the trouble he went through. In the end he was even able to see that though some intended to harm, God only intended good.

You see it truly is only through the joy of the Lord that we have strength to endure the pit, the prison, and the desert. We can't do it on our own. Joseph could have felt sorry for himself and thrown a fit, refused to be a "slave" because he was a "free man". He could have refused to serve Potiphar well, but instead he served as unto the Lord. That sometimes is the hardest part: serving God by serving those who treat you like you don't matter, or you're just there to serve them... But isn't that truly why we are here? To serve? Isn't that what Jesus did?

No matter what you may be going through, determine in your heart that you will live your life as unto the Lord. Because you are. Your life is so precious to him. He sees you in the pit. He sees you in the prison. He sees you in the desert. And He alone is your portion, your joy, your strength. He alone can raise you out of the "depths of despair" (thank you Anne Shirley) and put you into the palace. It is, after all, where you belong, you know. You are a child of the King of kings!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To Know His Love

Ephesians 3:19: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

I love this verse. It truly is my prayer for everyone I know and for myself! There is nothing more beautiful or amazing than to realize how much God loves you. And not just to know it but to experience it. The word "know" in this verse suggests intimate knowledge. It's actually the same word used in the Bible when it talks about a husband "knowing" his wife. This, to me, speaks of an experience. Knowing God's love isn't just something we can know in our minds. It must penetrate our hearts, and that only comes through intimate relationship. We must experience God to know His deep love for us.

Let me give you an example of this. My whole life I've been to church at least once if not twice a week, with the exception of vacations here and there. I was raised singing "Jesus loves me this I know" and being told how much Jesus loves me in Sunday school and sermons. I have parents who love me dearly and have always told me how much they love me. Here's the thing: I knew it in my head but I didn't know it in my heart. I got to the age where I needed to "feel" loved and began looking for it and taking advantage of it wherever I could find it. Of course that didn't work because what I really needed was to "know" God's love. I had parents who loved me, I knew Jesus loved me, but I didn't feel loved. Why? I hadn't experienced God's love.

It may be something as simple as learning to "speak" a different love language. I am a touchy-feely person. I like to be told a million-and-a-half times a day that I am loved. And it's even better if that "I love you" comes with a big hug or a kiss! My parents aren't touchy-feely, so while I knew in my head they loved me, in my heart I questioned it at times because they hadn't told me today, this minute, or 10 seconds ago! When I was able to realize that my parents provision for and protection of me, as well as the gifts they gave me and the way they were willing to supply my wants in addition to my needs was the way they expressed their love, I finally accepted and knew in my heart they loved me. Don't get me wrong they've always told me they love me, but really someone as needy as I can be is just insatiable when it comes to being told and shown love! Sorry!

This head vs. heart knowledge translated into my relationship with God. I knew He'd always taken care of me. And though I had a relationship with Him, it wasn't until I began seeking Him, was able to fully surrender, pour out my heart and let go of the ways I thought He should tell me of His love, that I was able to hear, see, and feel the way that He constantly and lavishly expresses His love! He rocked my world and changed my life!

My prayer for you is that you will experience the love of God. If you’ve never asked to be shown it, or maybe even thought you knew it, ask Him to reveal it in a new way. He just might blow your socks off! I believe God’s in the “sweep you off your feet” business. I think He’s the true romantic of all time. His love is wider, higher, longer, and deeper than any of us has ever imagined. Let Him take you to a new place with Him – where He can show you His love.

Look it up!