Friday, December 26, 2014

Little, Bitsie Trinkets

I've been thinking a bit about Mary this past week and I've been thanking the Lord for her example.

This is a gal like any of us. Most likely, living days filled with ordinary routine. Of course, a wedding was in the near future and the anticipation of that must have brought lightness to her feet and pitter-patters to her heart. But her feet still walked down the humble streets of a small town, and her heart was the same as need of a Savior to wash it white as snow.

There is no question that Mary's plans did not include giving birth to the Son of God. I can't help but wonder if, in the days following Gabriel's announcement, she found herself looking at Proverbs 16:9 with new eyes, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps".

The news she was given sounded impossible and the question she asked was not asked in disbelief as much as it was wonder. I love how Russ Ramsey describes it in "Behold the Lamb of God":

"The angel explained that all the laws of nature are amendable by the One who wrote them. Mary lived in a world that was made, and the Maker of this world was the sole author of what could and would happen here. The Holy Spirit would overshadow her, and when he pulled that shadow back, this virgin would become a mother to a son. How this would happen was less important than the fact that it would. And God would be the one to do it....The angel's message was as much about the character of the God who favored Mary as it was about what he meant to do for his people through her."

Mary received this news, that would rock her whole world to the core, with words that testify to the grace of God in her life, with words that reflected her deep trust in and dependence on God and His character,  with words that should make our hearts yearn to have a "Mary's heart". She simply said, "I am your servant. Be it unto me according to Your word". She said yes. She humbly surrendered her own plans and desires for what God willed, because (as seen in her prayer of praise later on) her greatest desire was to please the see Him exalted and glorified!

Hundreds of years later, Betty Stam, a missionary to China, was a wonderful testimony of one who had a "Mary's heart". She wrote:

"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Your will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all utterly to You to be Yours forever.  Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit.  Use me as You want, send me where You want, work out Your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever."

God's "whole will" for Betty's life was her early death when communists dragged Betty and her husband out of their home and away from their baby daughter, killing first her husband and then Betty herself.

And what did Betty think of her own plans and purposes anyway? She says:

"When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him, when really we are only letting go some little, bitsie trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasures." 

Her plans and purposes were like "some little, bitsie trinkets that (she had) been grabbing". MY plans and purposes are little, bitsie trinkets I try so hard to hold onto and yet...when my hands are truly empty of all I think I desire, then I am filled to the full with HIS treasures.

Mary knew this, Betty knew this...O Lord, help my heart to walk in their footsteps as they have followed Yours!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

God, I want another king.

As we draw nearer and nearer to the birthday of our Saviour...I am reminded that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our King, ruling in our hearts because of His life, death, resurrection and indwelling Spirit.

Yet, I can't help but wonder how much like the Israelites we can be when they cried out, "We must have a king over us. Then we'll be like all the other nations..." (I Samuel 8:20). God says, in that moment, they were rejecting HIM as their King...something they had been doing since they left Egypt.

My initial thoughts on reading I Samuel 8 were to be saddened by the Israelites foolishness and to think about how that would not have been my heart if I had been "beamed back" to that day. How could they think those thoughts, let alone, act on them?!

I'm thankful God didn't leave me in my self-righteousness for too long! The more I pondered...the more I realized how often I live in the likeness of Israel.

The Israelites had GOD as their King, yet they wanted more...they wanted to be like the other nations. God is my Saviour...and yet, how often I live and act as if I need more. How often I look around me and want what others have.

God, you are enough....but I need to have more money in the bank. God, you are enough....but I need to go on a getaway for a few days like everyone else seems to be doing. God, you are enough....but I need an afternoon of quiet. God, you are enough....but I don't want to go through this trial anymore. God, you are enough....but why can't my life be more like _______. God, you are enough...but I'm tired of waiting. I could keep filling in the blanks of discontent that often well up in my about you?

What I am really saying each and every time discontentment wells up in my own heart is, "God, you are not enough...and if things were different, my life would be a lot better." What I'm really saying is, "God, I want another king." What I am really doing each and every time I desire more than what He has seen as best to give me is rejecting my King. I am guilty of the same foolish sin that Israel was guilty of.

I am thankful for the Israelites example, though it is often an example of what not to do, because there is more of "me" in them than I would care to admit...and I want to learn and grow from their mistakes. I am "prone to wander" but, by God's grace, it doesn't have to be for 40 years!

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Actual Reality

Any of you weepy out there? I'm going to blame it on not seeing the sun for the last two weeks and needing a bit more vitamin D. But this (hopefully) short season of "melancholy" has also caused me to be more stop and think beyond the next hour or the hour gone by. I don't do that enough. I have a great tutor in thinking long, deep, and hard. Bryan is a constant source of encouragement and an example of the discernment and wisdom that comes out of being still, pondering, and filtering all of those thoughts in and through the Word of God. I am thankful beyond words for his leadership in my life in this way and many others!

With that said, I know that in my more weepy days, it's so easy to focus on me and on my sadness over this, that, and the other thing. This time, in God's great mercy, He has been so gracious to pull me up from the muck and mire of my own perceived reality and into the beauty of the actual reality that I live in. A reality that is so breathtakingly beautiful that I wonder how I can, so quickly, pull my eyes off of it and onto things that, in comparison, are nothing less than admiring a garbage dump.

My perceived reality is that life should go a certain way. That "way" looks different for each area of my life....husband, home, children, friends, money, time, etc...but all are within the framework of Phil 4:8 (whatever is true, noble, right, etc...). I mean, come on, if I can quote Bible verses to go with my desires...they have got to be good ones and worthy of being heard and answered, right?! :) But THAT is where the problem is. No matter how "good" my desires might be, the second I believe they should be answered in the way I see fit is the moment I place myself has sovereign and my precious Lord as my servant to do my bidding. It sounds so heinous when I put it like could I ever live this way? Yet, I do it all the time. My perceived reality is horribly looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars!

Actual reality, Godward reality, truth living and speaking reality says something entirely different. It frees us from ourselves in a mighty way. Here it is:

"...everyone called by My name and created for My glory." Isaiah 43:7a

I was created for God's glory...PERIOD. Say that a few times to yourself. And then a couple more times. I was not created for comfort, ease, financial freedom, pain-free days, stressless living, or deep sleep. I was not created to be seen as wonderful, have my thoughts heard, win the mother-of-the-year award, or be loved by all.

I was created for God's glory....created to live the life that He planned out for me so that He might be glorified. I don't determine how He is best glorified, God does. He is the planner, sustainer, and perfector. He see's what reality really is, because He IS reality.

"God's wisdom means that He knows all things, first to last. He never discovers or learns. Every possible outcome has its conclusion in Him. He knows what is best and most beautiful in every situation, and causes all things to work infallibly for His glory (Job. 12:13)." 
                                                                    -"True Beauty" by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

Hebrews 11 is an amazing chapter. In it, we find out who the "cloud of witnesses" are that surround us in chapter 12. We read of people who's examples encourage us and remind us to not grow weary and lose heart. I've been thinking about their lives...their realities...

Abraham: promised land and descendants more numerous than the stars, yet spent most of his life a fatherless wander.

Joseph: blessed greatly by his father, hated deeply by his brothers. Sold as a slave, falsely imprisoned, and long imprisoned because the good he had done to the cupbearer was forgotten about.

Moses: Went from the world's wealthiest kid to an outcast hiding and tending sheep in the wilderness for 40 years. Then he spend another 40 years dealing with a whining, complaining nation that did not grow up and move out of the house, if you know what I mean!

And I could keep writing....Daniel, Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, and countless others.

Their realities were hard. Their realities were what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 4:8 "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed".

But their realities, just like yours and mine, serves a magnificent purpose:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."    2 Corinthians 4:7

John MacArthur's commentary on this verse says: "By using frail and expendable people, God makes it clear that salvation is the result of his power and not any power his messengers could generate. The great power of God overcomes and transcends the clay pot. The messenger's weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential." 

WOW! "The messenger's weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential." That pierces through my perceived reality and drives home my actual reality. My life is for the glory of God, to be lived out in whatever way HE chooses, so that HIS saving power is magnified, amplified,  and glorified in all those hard things I would chose, in my flesh,  to see removed from my life.

My actual reality, the glory of God, is a reality of sweet rest and peace in the arms of a loving God. A God who sent His only Son down to earth...from the manger to the cross...."He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things"(Romans 8:32).

All that we need is found in all that He is.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
Romans 11:36

That's reality!