Sunday, September 30, 2007
I'm not sure I remember even questioning directly, yet the thoughts still lingered around the corners of my mind: Why am I here, in the South, in this city? I, who yearned and prepared for 20+ years to go to the mission field, why am I not allowed to go? What could God's purpose be in this?
When God said stay, I said yes. And I would NOT want to move or to stay outside of His will. (Remember when the Israelites tried to take Canaan after God said they couldn't for forty more years? Disastrous!) But I think on some (and various) levels, I just wondered why. Had I done/not done something that would disqualify me? Was there sin in my life, or bad habits, that God needed eradicated? Had I so misunderstood His call as to have been misdirected for so many years? (To this, I can pretty quickly say no. I don't understand the contrast between go and don't go, but neither did Abraham when God said to offer up the son of the promise.)
I cannot fully answer this question, and perhaps I may never be able to. God doesn't promise answers. He gave us the only answer we needed in Jesus Christ. However, one thing I have seen clearly--if only in bits and pieces--is that there is purpose to God's words, and when He says something like, "Stay," there is a reason, and usually many.
Here's one. The greatest joy in my life right now is working with youth in a variety of teaching and discipleship settings. I cannot believe how wide this door has swung open to me and how effective God has made me. I am truly humbled week by week to see His Spirit speak through me ('...as if speaking the very words of God.'). Yet here is what I realized recently: To the students I teach and to their parents, I can say, as Paul did, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance..." (2 Timothy 3:10) This is a privilege that having time in/roots here has earned me. If I hadn't lived here, been proven in ministry, having simply spent the time in fellowship with and in service to this local body, I could not say, "You know all about my way of life."
If God had no other purpose for planting me in the South for nine years--and I know for a fact that He did have other purposes--this one purpose would be worth it. For it is my life, lived before this community over time, that has opened up these opportunities to minister. Because of God requiring me to stay, I am allowed to serve at levels I could never have otherwise achieved.
His plan always brings an overflow of blessings, and this is one: That I may be a known and proven quantity so that I may serve my King. I really couldn't ask for a better explanation of His direction.
As if He was required to give one.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
You know, if God never did one more kind or good thing for us, if He never answered, "Yes," to one more plea, He has already given us more than we can ask or imagine. We (believers in Jesus), rescued from His wrath, have NOTHING to complain about and EVERYTHING for which to praise Him. This is how Paul can write in I Thessalonians, "Give thanks in all circumstances." This is how he can write to the Philippians, "Do everything without complaining or arguing." This otherwise insumountable task can be accomplished only when we understand what God has already done for us.
If the only thing God ever did for mankind was to send Jesus to be our atoning sacrifice, eternity would ring forever with His praises. Can you imagine what celebrations await us since He has given us so much more?!
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" -Matthew 7:9-11
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I wish it didn't take those things to keep me ever mindful, but I think that is just part of the reality of living now on planet earth. Just think how marvelous eternity will be, when we are fully and constantly infused with His presence and undistracted by sin and those things that so easily entangle! I really cannot wait, except that I have to! LOL! :-)
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I am spending much time working on lessons for various discipleship activities that I am involved in, and I am enjoying both the preparation and the presentation, and I am LOVING seeing people engage God and His Word more and more.
I teach a middle school discipleship class on Sunday mornings. Some would call this Sunday School, but I like to be very specific about my intent: discipleship--Intentional training in righteousness through relationship. I find this very cool.
For years I thought I had not been discipled, but you know, that is exactly what my parents were doing all along. And while many others, mostly relatives, input into my life, I never really had someone come along and say, "I want to mentor you and help to train you in the Scriptures. I will commit myself to this." And I was so hungry for and open to this. So now I am very intentional about trying to do this for others.
I must admit, however, that this is a recent development. It took me many years to translate what I received from my parents into something I could give. I'm pretty sure that I would have no trouble discipling my own children, because this is what I saw modeled, but since I don't have children, that isn't very useful just now. But how do you do something like that when you've never seen it modeled? Jesus' primary command was to MAKE DISCIPLES, but I just never really saw people doing this. I learn best by watching others and then diving in and trying it myself. I'm very hesitant to try something I've never seen done before, so it took God's intervention to start me moving...
A few years ago, okay more like five or six, a friend of mine from church asked me to disciple her. That was pretty weird to me for a couple of reasons:
- I had never done it. (And I wasn't anxious to try something I'd never seen done before.)
- She was the same age I was. (I always pictured this older to younger.)
- She was married. (How could I help her? I've never been there.)
- It didn't matter that I hadn't done it or seen it done. He could handle it; I just needed to jump in.
- It didn't matter that I was the same age. In this case at least, I had quite a few years on her--in the Lord.
- It didn't matter that she was married. Almost all of the basic issues of life are the same for married and single, and those that weren't, well, His Word was sufficient for that. I just needed to share His Word.
And so , choosing between obedience and disobedience, I jumped in. We typically met for two hours a week, and it was wonderful. At first, I was really nervous, thinking that I needed a curriculum (not bad a bad idea in some circumstances), but really, once we opened the floodgates, it just became a Bible Q&A session. My friend was inquisitive and (mostly) willing to apply God's Truth to her life. The few instances she wasn't interested, she would still hear me out. It was a wonderful first step. We met for two years, and I learned that:
- God could handle whatever was thrown my way. My only need was obedience.
- God had already supplied me with most of the knowledge and education I needed to handle this situation, and where I was insufficient, He was plenty so.
- His Word answers all the questions and needs in each person's life, no matter how different we are.
"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." --Matthew 28:18-20
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
But I hate what it takes, how much it takes. I hate that there is still so much in me that isn't 'Jesus'; how much pride and self-service still surfaces in me. I hate that ferreting it out almost certainly requires pain, and that pain almost certainly means that there is something else to be ferreted out. If it weren't God's hand and God's process, it would be cruel indeed. If Jesus' glory weren't so beautiful and worthy to be reflected, this process would not be worth it. Indeed, if I hadn't seen His glory, the Father's glory in the Son, I do think I would quit.
But I have seen it; I know it to be true and lovely. I know that whatever bit of pain I suffer here and now will be incomparable to the joy and glory yet to be revealed. And so I land at hope...biblical hope--a confidence in what is unseen. Perhaps this is why and how the psalmists almost always seem to end on a note of praise: the price measured against the prize.
Perhaps this is why there is so much discussion in the Scriptures on what is to come, for how can we hope without having a place to focus it? Perhaps this is part of the reason for the pain: it magnifies the prize. The sacrifice shows the value. This is what glorify means. And if this is so, then I land where I started...
Whatever it takes, Lord. No price is too high, though my heart lay trampled on the floor, though all I love is removed, if it brings glory to You, bring it on. Make it so. Though all I ever longed for goes unfulfilled, oh please, glorify Yourself in some small way through me.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. -Romans 8:18
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ... 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 glory that far outweighs 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. -II Corinthians 4:6, 16-18
We have a dinner theater this week at work (I'm not in it, just assisting), and tonight was dress rehearsal, so I just got home about 40 minutes ago, and will do so for the next three nights. Busy, but not bad. And the play is hysterical! The Importance of Being Earnest. I liked the Reece Witherspoon version a couple of years ago, but the play really is better. Intelligent humor--So much fun!
Okay, we have a cricket who has taken residence *in* the house. Every few minutes he sounds off. This is especially weird because just two nights ago I was thinking about how that hadn't happened in this new residence (in the 2-1/2 years we've lived here). Go figure. We've got a mind-reading, trouble-making cricket in the neighborhood.
I just bought tickets to go to Texas in October (to visit family), and whenever I buy tickets I always wonder if I have done the right thing. I kinda get freaked out to spend so much money on something so far away. I think I am a gen-x-er in this regard: very uncomfortable with commitment. LOL!
The cricket story continues...as I was typing the last paragraph, a small cricket emerged in the living room. Assuming him to be the singer, I, uh, (Jiminie Cricket lovers cover your ears), 'disposed' of him. As soon as I finished cleaning up, up pipes the real singer. Not nice at all, not at all!
Long day, so I'd better run. I want to add an entry from my journal too, so I'd better make it quick.
Blessings to all,-J