More

At the edge of my self I find myself reading more, praying more, and not just for myself.  And because these are means of grace, I am experiencing more of God, receiving more help and strength in my time of need. Fresh perspective. Hope. So while I am being challenged more than ever before, I cannot complain too much because I am gaining something far more valueable than anything I feel I am losing. More of Him. My center. My everything. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God.

The 5am Experiment: When Love Feels Absent

Beautiful morning.

Beautiful morning. Tried my best to capture it on my way to my cubicle at work.

Day #14 -I experienced something amazing within the first couple minutes of waking up that I’ve never experienced before. Rationality. Common Sense. A clear head.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit. I am sure that I thought clearly some other morning that I no longer remember, but this was truly amazing. I had a rough night last night, barely getting any sleep. I woke up groggy and grumpy and groping for another 30 minutes of sleep. Adam and I both agreed that we would sleep for another 30 minutes. I even sent a text to my friend so that she would not call and wake me up before 5:30. But then it occurred to me, “You are not going to feel any less tired in 30 minutes. What you desire is another hour to two, and that’s not possible, so you might as well get up now so that you do not oversleep.” And get this. I listened to my rational, grace-dipped self-talk and got out of bed. Say what?!

This never happens! I usually justify why staying a bed is the most genius idea of the century and nestle under the blankets with no conception of the possibility of my being wrong (or selfish at times). Staying in bed always sounds like a good idea. Laying on the couch for too long after a long day of work always sounds superb and necessary. Being tired justifies all kinds of inactivity in my life.

So this is a big deal!

Understand, my friend, that it did not stop there. And this is how I know the Lord was at work. I then had the thought, “It would be much better to get 30 minutes reading the Bible and in prayer than to oversleep.” I could already tell that I was going to be in a crummy mood and would need the help of the Lord to fight the battle of my mind. I needed truth. I didn’t need more slumber dreams.

I woke up on time again. Praise God. And I did jumping jacks, and drank a cup of water, and had a cup of coffee. Whatever it takes!

I read Psalm 22 this morning and I wonder if you, my friend, have ever noticed this. Take a look at Psalm 22:7-8 and note the language:

All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22:7-8 ESV)

In this psalm, David does not fee the presence of God. He feels forsaken, abandoned, and his enemies mock him and his faith. Compare to Psalm 18:16-19:

He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16-19 ESV)

In this psalm, David is very aware of the presence of God and his rescuing power, and he affirms that God rescued him because he delighted in him. This has always stuck out to me. I even wrote a song about it. The Lord already delighted in him. And when in need of saving, the Lord rescued him. It’s not like the Lord saved him, and then delighted in him. So in this Psalm we see similar language but it’s coming from David.

When David is struggling, his enemies use the same language to mock him. David could be tempted to believe that because he does not feel the presence of God, because he has not been delivered yet from his enemies, the Lord does not love him.

But this is not true. It’s easy to recognize the love of God after we have been delivered. But in order to be delivered, we have to be in trouble first. We all go through hard times. But the hard times do not determine the faithfulness of our God. Nor do they determine his love for you.

At the end of  Psalm 22, David fights to praise God and even declares that all believers should do the same. The Lord is worthy of praise even when our days are not going the way we want them to. The Lord is still great and powerful, even if he chooses to tarry. And the awesome piece of this particular account is that it points to our Savior Jesus Christ who experienced the same darkness temporarily in order to reconcile us to God the Father.

Indeed, we cannot trust our feelings. Love may feel absent, but feelings do not determine truth. Trust God. He will not put you to shame.

***

I said yesterday that I would share the benefits of rising at 5 am. I didn’t anticipate having encouragement from the word to share with you, but I will share the benefits later this week. For sure.

The 5am Experiment – Learning to Serve, Learning to Love

First things first–I am learning to serve the Lord, and I am learning to love my husband.

Today is day #8 of my 30 day challenge to rise early. On weekdays I rise at 5am with the help of a dear friend who calls each morning. On weekends, scheduled day offs, and snow days I rise at 7am. If you haven’t read how this all started, please read my first entry for this series before moving on.

Rising early is not getting any easier but I would trade them for nothing. I am thankful for the reminder from a brother in the Lord who commented on my first entry on Facebook and posted the following prayer, ” I pray you would cherish seeing God’s grace penetrate these thoughtful acts and that you would be driven not by a need to perform but in the joy of what the Lord can do with a series of small acts of faithfulness. I pray your household be blessed.”

His words remind that this is not about performance. If so, my heart will not truly change. This is about being faithful to the Lord and to my man. I want to know the joy that comes with persevering faithfulness. I want to press on to know the Lord more through walking in his ways.

Today, around 5:30am, I sat down to read Exodus 10 and was struck by two things:

  1. The Lord commanded that Pharaoh let his people go so that they can serve him over and over again. In hardening Pharaoh’s heart over and over and doing more powerful things with each refusal, the Lord was bringing about his plan to proclaim his name throughout all the earth and to demonstrate his power before the surrounding nations. He was basically saying, “I am the one, true God and don’t you mess with my children.”
  2. In repeating that He wanted Israel to be freed so that they may serve him, he made it clear to Moses that their deliverance was about HIM and their ultimate purpose and blessing was wrapped up in their serving him. He also made it clear that there was no other God but Him.

Social justice is a good thing. Deliverance from oppression is necessary. But deliverance is not simply for our sake. If the Lord had only said, “Let my people go” and they were able to leave Egypt and no longer be slaves, Moses could have turned back to God and simply said, “Thanks!” before going on his own way. Freedom isn’t license to do whatever I want. I have been freed from the bondage of sin to serve God as I am designed to do. To worship him. To love him with nothing holding me back!

It also stood out that the Hebrew people would need to learn how to serve their God. I need to learn that too! How gracious of God to fortify Moses’ heart as leader by having him say to Pharaoh, “…that they may serve Me.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 10:1-2 ESV)

Do you see that? “That you may know that I am Lord.”

The Lord was demonstrating his power to both his enemies and his children. And this morning he reminded me that He is Lord and my aim in life is to serve him. My aim each morning is to serve Him. In my loving and serving Him, I will also learn to love and serve my husband. But the goal, my friend, is that I will gain more of Him.

Exodus 10 covers the 8th and 9th plague (locusts and darkness).

Exodus 10 covers the 8th and 9th plague (locusts and darkness).

Women Are Not Second-rate Human Beings!

There is a lie that many Christian women believe, and it goes something like this: “I am an afterthought.”

“I am less significant/important because I was made after Adam, from Adam, and for Adam.”

This lie needs to be exposed, stumped on, and dispelled into the very pit of gnashing teeth and burning sulfur. While I cannot look into your heart and expel this lie once for all, I pray the Lord will use me to at least expose and trample on it a bit. The lie belongs to the Father of all lies, the Accuser, Satan himself who deserves to be crushed and sent to the fires of hell. To be clear, I loathe this great deception that has troubled me and many of my friends.

I am not going to pretend to have all the answers. I haven’t done an elaborate study on gender in the Old Testament or throughout the Bible. But I have a passion for his word, and I know the promise of God that states if I seek him, I will find him. While praying over and against this lie, I believe the Lord gave me some food for thought.

To the person who is wrestling with God regarding her identity as a woman, who believes she is an afterthought, I believe the Lord would ask you, “An afterthought to whom?”

I believe he would ask, “Who is evaluating you here? Whose thoughts are you considering?”

Do you believe that you are an afterthought because Eve was made after Adam and from Adam?

Let’s take a look at this logic. Adam was made after light, darkness, the sky, the earth, plants, birds, and creatures. Does that make him lesser than or inferior to creation? The Maker of everything created Adam out of the dirt. Does that make Adam subordinate to creation? The answer is no, for God gave Adam (and Eve) dominion over everything. We see here that God gives authority, value, and, let’s just say it now, truth.

So we can’t say that women are an afterthought simply because they were not made first. It’s like saying my mom doesn’t care about me because my sister was born first, or my boss is partial he hired my colleague before he hired me. Life is not all about me. And it’s not all about my sister, my colleague, or Adam either, but we’ll get to that.

Let’s explore some possibilities. Let’s speculate a little. Could it be that God made Eve last on purpose? Do we not have this notion of saving the best for last? Now, I’m not saying women are better than men. I am saying there all kinds of reasons for the order of things. God is all wise. We have to trust his wisdom.

Have you ever completed a puzzle? Do you remember what it’s like to snap in the last piece of the puzzle and see the whole, beautiful picture?

Could it be that women glorify God in a way that men cannot, and that men glorify God in a way that women cannot? Perhaps, creating woman last (after creation and after man) is like adding the missing link or the last piece of the puzzle.

Keep in mind, she is the only one who gets a song. And that song gives glory to God her Maker.

She is prized by Adam and by God. She is prized much like Jesus prizes the church and dies for her, his bride.

You may bristle at women having a distinct role in glorifying God, but it does not make sense that God would make two people exactly the same, with exactly the same purpose, and function. I believe God created men and women to be gloriously different. I believe his purposes for mankind were designed before the foundations of the world, and the true last piece of the puzzle is the redeemed Bride, in a gown white like snow. It’s the union of Christ and his Bride in the age to come.

God created male and female in his likeness. To have both operating in their distinctive roles reflects more of the fullness of who God is and how he relates with the world. In other words, the purpose of mankind is to worship God by displaying to the world what God has done, is doing, and is going to do through the relationship between Christ and the Church. Everything points to this union that was made possible through Jesus dying for the object of his love, his rebellious bride, the Church. Everything points to His glory here. Everything is for the praise of His glorious grace.

Because God knew what he was going to do before the foundations of the world, because God knew that he would send his Son to reconcile his people to himself, we can know that we are not an afterthought. God created man and woman with his plans for redemption in mind, with his glory in mind. He was setting off the workings of a divine masterpiece of unprecedented, inconceivable  beauty.

My dear female friends, we are infinitely valuable to the Lord. We are the object of his love and sacrifice, and we also represent the intense love God has for the Church as a whole. We are dearly loved and we represent his holy love. We are not second-rate human beings.

So again, when you find yourself believing that you are an afterthought or that the Bible presents women as an afterthought, ask yourself, “An afterthought to whom?”

Not God.

I understand that you may feel like an afterthought. And men may make you feel that way, because they often misinterpret what it means to be the man God is calling them to be, a leader modeled after the trustworthy, loving, servant-hearted leadership of Christ. Women may also make you feel that way, as they join the world in its agenda to present the Church as an institution that sees you as inferior.

Trust me. I have felt left out and unimportant on many occasions, but that is not God! So you may be telling yourself that you are an afterthought, men may make you feel that way, and the world may be trying to convince you otherwise, but those are all lies!

Lies, I tell you!

We may not understand it all. I, surely, do not. We may not understand how it all plays out in our singleness or, even, in our marriages.  But it is true, nonetheless, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Seek God and his answers for yourself!

As Laurence Koo shared in a recent workshop, “If we look for an answer outside of God, we will find an answer outside of God.” The point isn’t that we shouldn’t struggle and wrestle with doubts. The point is that we should struggle and doubt before God. Struggle with him, not without him. Look to him. He may not give you the answer you seek and he may not answer right away, but he will give you Himself. And isn’t life all about Him any way?

Memorize to Fight!

I don’t want to lie to you. I stink at being consistent in memorizing Scripture. For some people the very act of memorizing Scripture is difficult. For me, it is difficult to keep the Scripture memorized. So why do the work of memorizing and reviewing Bible verses?

The most common answer is to fight sin as the Psalmist states in Psalm 119:11. And that is true, but is there more to it than that? Why do we need the word in our hearts?

To fight the good fight of faith! To be ready to share the Gospel in season and out of season! To fight the spiritual battle that is behind all evil in the world as indicated in Ephesians 6.

By hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the word, you are training yourself for the WAR that must be fought against sin and against Satan.

Yesterday, one of my pastors pointed out that soldiers obsess over their training, because they must always be ready. To not be ready either means their own death or the death of their friends.

We must think in the same way. Memorizing scripture will make you fierce in battle, because the word will already be in your heart and ready be used.

So what you are you memorizing?

Right now I am memorizing Titus 3:1-6:

Remind them to be submissive to all rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

I highlighted the part I had to correct after typing it out. I plan to memorize verse 7 next.

This verse comes up a lot when I arrive to work. It informs the way I interact with my co-workers, my bosses, and anyone I interact with  in the building. It reminds me to not be partial. It helps me to not judge people who do not share my values, because, let’s be real, I don’t even live up to my own standards. And God did not save me because I was good. He saved me because He is merciful. This verse is a great reminder of the Gospel and all I have to be thankful for in Christ.

So, let me ask you again. What are you memorizing? I really want to know!

If nothing, what can you memorize? Did a verse stick out to you the last time that you were reading your Bible? Are you struggling with a particular issue that the Bible speaks to? If so, maybe you can memorize a verse that speaks to your struggle. Did your pastor recently teach on a verse that really spoke to you? Maybe that’s your weapon.
Let’s be fierce together! Let’s grow in the knowledge of God! Let’s advance the Gospel and fight all opposition together. Not with physical or human weapons, but with the powerful weaponry of the Spirit.

When Your Child Asks You…

When your child asks you one day, “What is the point of reading the Bible?” then you shall say to your child, “We were once slaves to our sin, enemies of God, blinded by the darkness of this fallen world and made to hate Him. Yet the Lord, out of great love for us, rescued us from sin and the death it ensues by sending his Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. Before the eyes of many witnesses, even his disciples, he died on a cross. And the same eyes witnessed him resurrected and ascending into heaven. By the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, God has promised to make new those who believe in Jesus, to change their lives forever. We believe in him. Therefore, he has brought us out in order to bring us into his heavenly kingdom, to reconcile us to God. The Lord has promised that if we believe in him, he will give us eternal life. he will fill our lives with good things and he will make us righteous through the righteousness of his Son.

So what is the point, my dear child?

We read the Bible, because God wants us to remember and continue to believe in Him and all that he has done. We read that we might know Him and learn how to walk in the newness of life that he has provided through Jesus Christ. We read to remember how to live as children of God.”

Inspired by Deuteronomy 6:20-25. If you have a moment, check it out at http://www.esvbible.org/Deuteronomy+6%3A20-25/