Sunday, November 3, 2013

Worried about me?

I am excited that I finally long for Heaven - even on my best of days (which are by far happier now than they ever have been)! For my whole Christian life I have always struggled with loving earth so much that the idea of praying "thy Kingdom come" or "Come, Lord Jesus" have never made since to me.  The only time the subject of Heaven brought any comfort was when a believing loved one passed away or when I was incredibly depressed.  I don't think I'm the only one who has felt that way, as a matter of fact I stumbled across this quote by Randy Alcorn (who was quoting a pastor) this morning...

"Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die. I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp … it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than Hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.”

I've never even felt quite that strongly :).  Of course, that is not how I picture heaven.  I know it is going to be amazingly wonderful! Joy, Health, Vitality, Laughter, Strength, Rest, Peace, Fellowship, Creativity, Knowledge, Wisdom, an unhindered friendship with God.  These are just a few things that come to mind...and I bet they are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, for those of you who are worried about me because I mentioned a longing for heaven after an argument with my husband - please, don't be worried.  I wasn't longing for heaven because I was sad.  I am thrilled to be longing for heaven - and it started months before that argument :).  I am so thankful that my relationship with God has finally gotten to a place where I can't wait to be with Him.  I am also thankful that right now I am here on earth.  I absolutely love my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, my home and the beauty of creation all around me.  Thankfully, as far as I know, I am healthy. If I was to find out that I didn't have much time on earth, it would definitely be a struggle.  There would be many tears.  So, no worries, I promise I am in not even close to being suicidal (nor have I ever been) - as a matter of fact you would probably crack up if you could see the goofy grin I have on my face right now as I think about the way words can so easily be misunderstood.

Words are so powerful.  And just so you know, so I've told you with my words - if you are reading this, I am incredibly thankful for you.  What an incredibly opportunity it is to be able to share my heart with you!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Flesh, Mistakes, Forgiveness, & Heaven

In case I gave the impression in my last post that I regularly submit to the voice of the Spirit and not my flesh - my husband can attest to the fact that that is definitely not the case.  Actually, on the very day that I chose to listen to the Spirit and stop writing for a time - I also chose to listen to the flesh and say one of the most cruel things I have ever said to my husband.  It hurt.  It hurt him and it hurt me.  And in a way I think it proves the point of my last post profoundly.  If I had listened to the Spirit and not gotten angrily defensive, how much lighter the burden would have been - for both of us.  The incredibly challenging part of "being crucified in Christ" and "dying to ourselves" is the choice in itself.  The giving up of what we want in a particular moment.  The results, however, of listening to the Spirit instead of the flesh are so much easier and lighter.  So much better.  He knows what we need more than we do.  Just as I know that letting my children eat all of their Halloween candy in one night, as much as they would like that, would bring much more harm than good,  so He knows that screaming what I am feeling in a particular moment will have devastating results.  I will never be able to take back what I said to my husband last night.

Now, for the good news.  Here is when I get to "proclaim His name" and "tell of His wonderful acts" (Psalm 105:2).

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[a]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning!!!!!! (emphasis mine).

As much as my words hurt my husband, as sorry as I am that I said them and for how incredibly sinful I was in that moment last night - I am forgiven.  I am loved.  And I know it.

This is what Christianity is about.  It has nothing to do with me being better than anyone else.  It has everything to do with the incredible love and forgiveness I am able to experience (though I don't always take Him up on it) on a daily basis.

Praise God, He is going to continue to work on those of us who let Him.  

Phillippians 1:6 says "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus"

And hopefully as I mature in my walk with Him I will learn how to hear his voice, listen to His Spirit instead of my flesh, and bask in His incredible, grace-full love.  And perhaps, I will make less incredibly hurtful (to others and myself) sinful, prideful, defensive mistakes. 

On this side of heaven, it will always be a battle, though I do believe it gets easier as we live more for Him and less for ourselves.  But, Oh how wonderful it will be when there is no longer a battle and He fulfills his promise to us -

"He who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.  Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:16-17

Not only will he wipe away our tears, but he'll wipe away the tears we are responsible for.  We will experience peace, delight, and rest.  What a wonderful day that will be.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dying daily & an easy Yoke?

"Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful acts." Psalm 105:2

New born babies can't talk.  And even if they could, they are pretty much concerned with their own needs.  They literally can't see more than a foot in front of them.  They are treasured.  Loved.  Delighted in.  But, they don't even realize it.  Most of the time, their mommies care for them so much that they would give their own life to protect them.  But, as babies, they haven't grown up enough to tell the world how amazing their mommy is.

I am tired of being a baby believer.  For years I believed.  But, I couldn't see past my own needs and wants.  And sadly, whenever I grew just the tinyist bit (or thought I did), it quickly became easy to see other peoples' rough edges.  Often I was much more aware of their rough edges than I was of my own.  Although I've spent years beating myself up and not feeling good enough, I probably spent just as much time - if not more - pointing the finger.  As if somehow, that would make me feel better about myself.

I'm afraid so many of us are stuck in this spot that we've given believers a pretty really bad name.  So, not only have I been afraid to "proclaim His name" because I was too wrapped up in my own world to see Him, I have also been afraid to make him known "among the nations" (or even among my co-workers) because I was ashamed to associate myself with finger pointing papooses.

I've come to realize lately that although Christians are often seen as big-headed, critical, disapproving, bigots (and lets admit it, we can be some times), these things are exactly the opposite of what a Christ follower should be.  As we grow in Christ we become more and more aware of our sin.  And, as we learn to come before the Lord to be washed clean daily, we are more and more - humbled, thankful, amazed & awe-struck that he gave his life for sinners such as us. 

But, it gets even better than that!  He didn't just die to forgive us for our sins, his Spirit actually resides in us.  And, if we let Him, he will change us in extraordinary ways - on a daily, hourly, moment by moment, second by second basis.   Our temptation, and the enemies biggest ploy, is to keep us focused on our needs and wants - instead of on the Spirit's still small voice.

As I have been asking God to help me differentiate between my flesh and His spirit working in me, I'm continually blown away.  For example, stress.  It is a normal, natural, human, unchangeable fact of life, right?  You know what I'm talking about - you feel it at work in your body before you even recognize that something is wrong.  Perhaps your shoulders tense, your throat swells, your stomach churns, your head spins.  It is of the flesh - yup, downright sinful.  The flesh (body) is rebelling against the Spirit.  Instead of trusting the all-knowing, all powerful, most loving, perfect and sovereign God, the flesh is trying to control the moment.

Consider the following verses...

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Galatians 2:20

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."
Romans 12:1

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:30

 How does being "crucified with Christ", "deny themselves", "take up their cross", "present your bodies as a living sacrifice" relate to His "yoke is easy and my burden is light"?

Well, here is the incredibly exciting thing, dying to ourselves is SO MUCH EASIER AND LIGHTER than continually fighting for what we want.

What does this look like in real life?  Lets talk about this exact moment.  It is 7:08.  My kids get up at 7:30.  I really would LOVE to get this blog post done before they wake up but I have SOOOO much more to say.  I feel my shoulders tensing even now because I WANT TO FINISH THIS.  The physical sensation of my shoulders tensing is a red flag.  It opens my eyes to the fact that my body, and mind wants something.  And there is a good chance it isn't going to happen.  So I have a choice.  I can rush like a mad woman to say all that I want to say,  and more than likely end up angry and frustrated when my kids get up.  Or I can say, 

"Not my will, but yours be done"
Luke 22:42

And leave it at that - at least for now :)