Thursday, October 27, 2011

Devotions Over Dishes

Several months ago, I printed out 1 Corinthians 13 and put it on the window over the sink, with the intent of committing it to memory. I'm at the sink (nearly) every day, sometimes for hours--with "nothing" to do (um, besides washing dishes)... so, I figured, this should work splendidly.

Well, I still haven't memorized it. However, I did discover something: when one stares at the same chapter of the Bible, even if it's one you've heard approximately 15,237 times, you will learn new things from it, and things that used to confuse you will start unraveling themselves in your brain and begin to transform into something that makes beautiful sense.

Thus was the case with myself and the said chapter in Corinthians. The part about "Love is" and "Love is not" seemed to make sense, for the most part. But then there's the part where it starts talking about prophecies and stuff, and about face to face... and... huh? I thought we were talking about... love?

It has always confused me.

But in the hours I spent at the sink (and at other times, I'm sure) it started making sense.
Love never fails. . . .
See, God is love. (Rebeka tells me I don't have to say "obviously" because everyone already knows I state the obvious... anyways, in this case, we needed to start with that bit of obviousness.) And God is eternal--so, since God IS love, love is eternal. To put that another way, love is of God... hence "love never fails." It isn't that our human love will never fail: just that love itself will never fail, since God won't. (and can't.)
. . .But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; . . .
Prophecies aren't always right (unless of course they were real prophecies from God)... sometimes they fail. Or sometimes they are misunderstood. They are just a prediction... they aren't anything in and of themselves. And there will come a time when there is no need for prophecies. Hence... "they will fail."
. . .whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”. .
Our human knowledge is imperfect... we don't really know. We can learn... and we can think we know things about God... but we really don't know.
. . .For we know in part and we prophesy in part. . . .
At this point, here on earth, it's all in part.
10 But [again, "but" is such an awesome word sometimes] when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. . . .
Someday... oh, someday! We will KNOW! And all this partial knowledge here... will be gone. It will be of no worth to anyone... it will be completely eclipsed by "that which is perfect."
. . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. . . .
Face to face! *shakes head* I can't really fathom that... It's too wonderful.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. . . .
Wow... Think about that. We'll get to know Him like He knows us!
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The first two are human virtues, in a way. God doesn't have faith: He already knows what's going to happen. He doesn't have to "wait and see" or "trust" for anything. And it's very similar with "hope" as well.

But love... love starts with and is God.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We're All Going to Die!!

Wait. If you are a Christian, you didn't read that right. Go back and read it again. You're not supposed to read it like Chicken Little freaking out... you're supposed to read it like it's the best news ever. :D

I've been thinking about this rather a lot lately, and, oddly enough, it's a very encouraging thought. (Though my sisters keep telling me I really should say "we're going to go to heaven" instead of saying "we're going to DIE". Apparently "die" is too... melodramatic or something.) Anyways.

The point is: this world is not our home. We're just passing through. All the joys and heartaches that go along with this world will soon be gone--the fleeting, transient joys of this earth being replaced with the real, everlasting joys of heaven: and the pain and trials of this sin-cursed world will be entirely eclipsed by the "far greater weight of glory"... He will wipe away our tears... and bid us enter into His joys.
16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

17For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Somehow, when you look at it like this... you can bear so much more on earth. You can see how He is working it out for eternity. You can see of how little value earthly pleasures are... and you will be more willing to give them up.
44Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Matthew 13:44
I don't know about you... but I can't wait to see my Savior's face. To think--we shall see Him!! That... is incomprehensibly amazing.
But, oh, to see our Savior's face!

From sin and sorrow to be freed!

To dwell in His divine embrace--

This will be sweeter far indeed!

The fairest form of earthly bliss

Is less than naught, compared with this.
I don't want to barely scrape into heaven--I want to be welcomed heartily by many who would not be there if it wasn't for me. I want to hear that "well done, good and faithful servant".
19Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19-21
I want to have treasure in heaven... treasure that lasts. I used to wonder if it was wrong to want that treasure, wrong to seek after it... until our pastor preached on it and said that the whole reason we are told there is treasure to be gained in heaven is so that we will strive for it. It's a reward-- we're supposed to want it.
32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

33Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:32-34
Sell that you have... I think it means we need to be ready to give up anything here when God asks... we need to remember that earthly treasure isn't the real thing--and use it to gain heavenly treasure.
1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

2Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 1 Colossians 3:1-4
Nevermind, we're not going to die... we're already dead. :D And since we are "dead" and our lives are hidden with Christ... our focus is now on things above.

Just a ramble about some of the verses and thoughts that have been swirling around in my mind... not the most organized post ever, but I pray it gets you thinking.

P.S. Don't worry, I'm not in a hurry to die... :D Since I'm still here, I know God still has more for me to do... and I wouldn't want to miss it!!

P.P.S. This post was written from a Christian perspective, with sweet assurance that death is not something to be feared--for the simple reason that our God has conquered death and taken away the sting. I know I am going to heaven--not because I have done anything worthy of going, but because Jesus Christ has paid my penalty and covered me with His righteousness. And with this knowledge and trust, I can eagerly look forward to going home to finally meet my Savior face to face. If, however, you do not have this confidence, and you have not come to know His love and His forgiveness and salvation, please pray that God will show you Himself-- and ask me or someone you know to help you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Concerning Hearts (Not Hobbits)

(Caution: this post isn't "nice." [And, moreover, I was tired and thoughtful and in an odd mood when I first wrote it.] If you are faint of heart and/or do not like the Truth, do not read it. Thank you. Consider yourself warned. :D)

I started young, unfortunately.

I had my first so-called "crush" (I hate that word) at age ten. Yes... ten. Eventually that faded... and was replaced by another. And... another. And yet another. That's only if I count the ones that lasted at least a year...

And this without encouragement from friends talking about guys incessantly or parents making dumb jokes or the guys out and out making it plain they returned "the crush".

There isn't any need to go into all the details of those: the point is that this is an area in which I have had many a desperate struggle. There are many reasons for my troubles, I suppose... the primary one being this:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
I have read a great many books about purity.... Before you Meet Prince Charming... Authentic Beauty... And the Bride Wore White... Passion and Purity... Emotional Purity... Of Knights and Fair Maidens... When God Writes Your Love Story... I Kissed Dating Goodbye...

I never dated anyone. Never even got into a situation where hand holding would be an issue, much less anything more serious. I'm not super flirty. I dress modestly. I have good parents. I have good friends.

Yes sir, I can check off all the right boxes. I'd score pretty high on your average "purity level" test.

And with all that, my heart has not been kept pure. Still, even now, I have to fight wrong thoughts of all kinds: not just "crush" type thoughts; but selfish thoughts, prideful thoughts, evil thoughts, lustful thoughts, despairing thoughts, worrying thoughts, and the list goes on and on.

I'd like to blame someone or something else. But when it all comes down to it, what I allow to take root in my heart is my own fault.

But no problem, right? I mean seriously... look at the mess everyone else is in! Look at all the people I know who have babies before they have wedding rings!! And then look at all my check marks! Who could ask for more than what I've done (and not done)??

God, that's who.
3Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

4He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

5He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

Psalm 24:3-5
Pure in heart, folks. That is the standard.

Do you know what? I just realized something very obvious and super brilliant.

Why is a "crush" such a big deal?! Seriously, doesn't God have bigger things to worry about??

Good question! The reason, my dear readers, is because often times said "crush" is translated to "idolatry" under God's HOLY eyes. If you know anything about God and have read anything in the Bible, you've probably discovered by now that God... well... HATES idols.
6Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

7For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:

8And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

Ezekiel 14:6-8
He is number one. He doesn't want to be number one: He is. This is part of why He calls Himself "I AM".

And, from His divine perspective, He sees how incredibly dumb it is for us to exalt anything at all (heh, here is where anyone who has miraculously managed to read through the "crush" part without feeling guilty will get caught. :P Sorry, I didn't make up the rules.) above Him, or to rely on anything or anyone else to supply and do what only He can.
Are there any among the idols of the nations
that can cause rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are You not He, O LORD our God?
Therefore we will wait for You,
Since You have made all these.

Jeremiah 14:21-22
He is.... so unfathomably bigger and awesomer and holier and more powerful and more beautiful and... yeah.

Sorry, me and everything and everyone else, we are now extremely teeny, gray, sinful, ugly, and pathetic. (See, I told you this post wasn't nice.)

Hence, readers, hence "The Key" is not to simply read books about purity. It is not to just dress modestly. It is not to have the right checks on the purity test.

Oh, no. It's much, much harder than that. And much, much more awesome.

Are you ready?

No, really. Are you?

I don't think you are. I'm not. Too bad, I have to write it anyways.

You don't have to read it though. I'm giving you a chance. Be grateful.

Okay. This is IT. I have figured it out. *deep breath*

You seek God. With your WHOLE heart. You love God. With your WHOLE heart.

Well obviously, right? That's like... the answer to everything.

Yep. 'tis.

See... when our heart learns to be enamored with the beauty of the Lord... when our spirit grows into closer communion with His... as His thoughts gradually become our thoughts... when our mind is filled with His Truth... when our ways are shaped into His ways...

We will be too busy loving and serving the One True God to have any idols. Or crushes.

So, my fellow sojourners on this wild journey called life: don't focus on purity. Strive for it, yes. But not purity alone. That is rather a small goal, in a way. Hear me out! Don't leave!!!

Yes, purity is a high (and, humanly speaking, impossible... :P) goal. Yet, there is a higher goal. And in reaching for that higher goal, then and only then can we hope to be truly pure.

And that goal is to know God more. Always more, never enough.

Point One: In the strictest sense of the word purity, we are all impure. (Yes, yes, I know. In the sense of sexual purity, you can be physically pure. I'm talking about the broad, "heart" sense.) And we can never hope to be pure without the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It all starts with this. You can't know God without it, and you can't be pure without it, and you can't see God if you aren't pure (Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8), and yeah. You had better start here.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26:26

(And yes, remission means forgiveness... which basically means to "wipe out" all past offenses. We no longer owe our blood to pay the fine for our sins: Jesus' blood has paid that fine for us. Hence our account is clear. It is reconciled.)
Point Two: we can never be pure if we continue to allow impure thoughts and things (Of any kind!! I am not simply talking about sexual/romantic things: I mean everything that is displeasing to the Lord.) in our hearts and lives. We must repent of them and do our best to remove them from us utterly.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.

21If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 20:22
Point Three: Seek God!! Saturate yourself with songs, books, movies, people, thoughts, blogs, etc. etc. that will help you to fall more in love with Christ: things that will jerk your focus off of you, off of others (or rather "The One") and onto Christ.

Read books like: The Bible, Crazy Love, Dug Down Deep, Humility: True Greatness, Mere Christianity, Forgotten God, Rees Howells: Intercessor, Don't Waste Your Life, Living the Cross Centered Life, E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Wrestling Prayer and so on and so forth.

Pray, hard and often. Ask God to help you to want Him more. Ask God to help you pray. Ask God to show you more of Himself. He will. He loves those prayers.
So turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Be warned, however. You will find that as you draw closer to God, He will require more and more from you. He will raise the standard. Some things that are okay for others will not be okay for you. Things that were not wrong for you a few months ago may be wrong now.

Do not be disheartened or deterred from this path: with the higher requirements comes deeper communion with God. And it is glorious.

Each new level of purity that God brings you to comes with a new level of knowing God. It is a process. A long, hard, lonely one. I have only just begun it-- and already I feel the pain.

Being refined and purified is not pleasant. Have you ever watched a blacksmith work? have you seen the way the heat the iron? The way they pound it? And that's just iron.
"To remove the dross from silver ore, the ore must be crushed, roasted and then fired at temperatures of 550 C [1022 F]"
Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Proverbs 25:4
What is dross? "A mass of solid impurities".

It must go. It's of no use to anyone. And the process of getting rid of it is painful. Just ask silver.

{Remember: God brings us all along at different rates. There is no cause for either looking down on people who are "behind" you in one area or feeling hopelessly lacking as you look at someone who is much farther down the road. Just keep your eyes on Him. And if you want the process to go a little faster, do your part: draw nearer to Him. Ask Him to refine you and make you pure. Submit to His firing and pounding.}

But He will be with us each step: holding our hands, strengthening our hearts. And He will show us the blessings of the narrow path. He will become more valuable to us than any earthly treasure. And we will come out refined: pure at long, long last. A fit vessel for The King.

8O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:

9Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.

10For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

11Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.

12Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place. Psalm 66:8-12

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cute Christianity

The above is a representation of some of the stickers you can find out there... others say things like "Smile! Jesus loves you!" and "Jesus loves you, but I'm His favorite" and some other, more disturbing things.

What have I got against stickers? Nothing. I love them. What do I have against Jesus loving us? Nothing at all, it's what keeps me going.

Then what is this post about??

Good question. See... the more I've learned about who God is... the more I've come to realize (and the more I realize the more I learn how much more there is to realize) how very awesome He is, and how absolutely crazy it is that HE loves us... the more repugnant this sort of "Cute" Christianity has become.

God is not cute. He is awesome, holy, terrible, just--and yes, loving. His love for us is not cute: it's insane. Why He would chose to love us--at such a terrible cost to Himself (He died. God. He died. Yes... God died.) is beyond my--perhaps even beyond human--comprehension. Why doesn't it doesn't shock us more?? Why doesn't it bring us to our knees in tears of wonder and repentance and humility? For one thing, I suppose, we are sinful humans. That accounts for a lot.

Another problem is we've allowed it to be come common place, expected, cute.

Of course God loves me! All the stickers say it! All the cute Sunday school songs say it! That's what some smiling Sunday school teacher lady said when I was five!

And we think it's nice. Yep, up in heaven somewheres, there's a God, and He loves me. Isn't that sweet? Fuzzy feelings everywhere... here's a sticker for you, too!

This sort of "oh, God loves me, everything will be just dandy" thinking is rather like... spraying perfume on gangrene to try and make it smell better. It's cute, and it may help (superficially) for a few seconds... but your foot is still rotting and threatening to kill you.

God loves you, alright.

But not the gushy, sweet-talking, here-is-a-chocolate-to-make-you-feel-better kind of love.

We're talking the kind of love that would cut off that rotting foot in order to save your life. The kind of love that screams in your face that you're going the wrong way and death is imminent. The kind of love... that allows pain and heartache into your life to bring about a greater good: knowing Him more.

The kind of love that dies for you.

So yes, Jesus loves you. But please, please don't take it for granted. Don't just put it on a cute little sticker.

Let it sink in deep. Ponder how incredible it is that our awesome Creator God died for you--out of love. Let it move you and change you. No more of this chirping "God loves you!" in a syrupy, fake-happy voice.

No... whisper it in your heart.

He... loves... me.