Thursday, July 21, 2011
"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."2 Corinthians 5:1
I sat in my bed, this morning, sipping my coffee as I was reading my devotional. My study is anything but common and today, I hastily ran to my laptop to share what God has given me, so that you can carry on from here, hopefully filled with a greater hope than when you first came.
Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman is my volume of choice. This is the gem I encountered:
"The owner of the house I have lived in for many years has notified me that he will do little or nothing to keep it in repair. He also advised me to be ready to move.
At first, this was not very welcome news. In many respects the surrounding area is quite pleasant, and if not for the evidence of a somewhat declining condition, the house seems rather nice. Yet a closer look reveals that even a light wind causes it to shake and sway, and its foundation is not sufficient to make it secure. Therefore I am getting ready to move.
As I consider the move, it is strange how quickly my interest is transferred to my prospective new home in another country. I have been consulting maps and studying accounts of its inhabitants. And someone who has come from there to visit has told me that it is beautiful beyond description and that language is inadequate to fully describe what he heard while there. He said that in order to make an investment there, he has suffered the loss of everything he owned here, yet rejoices in what others call a sacrifice. Another person, whose love for me has been proved by the greatest possible test, now lives there. He has sent me several clusters of the most delicious grapes I have ever eaten, and after tasting them everything here tastes very bland.
Several times I have gone to the edge of the river that forms the boundary between here and there and have longed to be with those singing praises to the King on the other side. Many of my friends have moved across that river, but before leaving here they spoke of my following them later. I have seen the smile on their faces as they passed from my sight. So each time I am asked to make some new investment here, I now respond, "I am getting ready to move." selected, October 21
As I finished reading this, I sipped the last of my second cup of coffee and wondered to the LORD, "Do you have coffee there?" Immediately, I imagined my dad sitting at a big round table, with his right leg thrown across the knee of his left, slurpping his coffee loudly. (That was his style.) Seated next to him was dear Linda, Rod's mom. She had a glass and not a cup and it was filled with Coke with ice. My sweet Corrie ten Boom sat next to her, grinning broadly over her white mug. Ruth Graham was laughing a musical laugh, her head thrown back in joy. Her cup was raised with a bent arm and then she sipped. My wonderful Catherine Marshall was there, with her automatically brewed cup, too. My old friend William Mayhew and his beautiful wife Brenda were there at the table. William cackled loudly as Brenda's dimpled cheeks grew into dainty half moons.
Do they have coffee there? I don't know if they do or not. I wasn't really expecting to have this tear-inducing imagining, but my precious Jesus was right there in the middle of the conversation. And what a blessing that will be, coffee or not. Moving day is coming. The King has not told me when. He just told me to be ready.
Each of these people I imagined at that table have helped me to pack.
My dad gave me some bubble wrap in which was tucked everything in the world that money could buy. And then he handed me another piece, which had a film about the end of his life. Here he found the true riches he was looking for in a Savior who tapped him on the shoulder in the middle of the night and told him it was time to make a decision.
My mother-in-law recommended the Mover to me. Although she had already moved by the time I met her son, her faith and persevering prayer-life resonated loudly through him. Her short life so filled with love for the LORD, is still reaching converts today. In my family, Linda's fruit trees are always producing a harvest.
Corrie ten Boom gave me the strapping tape sticky enough to handle any situation. She taught me more about trusting God through her book Tramp For The Lord, than anyone else ever could. She read her Bible and took God at His word. She stepped forward and moved out when every circumstance and situation warned she should stay. That will STICK with me forever.
Ruth Graham gave me boxes. Inside one of these was a note addressed to me that read, "Being a mom is hard. It's okay to mess up. God still loves you and He's got great plans for His kids. You just keep praying." I love the story she tells about how she locked Franklin in the trunk of her car one day. He was in the backseat on their way into Asheville from Montreat. Young Franklin was mercilessly picking on his sisters. Ruth pulled over, opened the trunk and demanded he get in. He did and Ruth drove all the way to the burger joint they were headed to, ordered for him, gave him his lunch and drove him home still riding in the trunk of her car! Of course, she'd go to jail for that these days. But, look what God turned that rebellious kid into! And her gravestone really does read, "Construction is now complete. Thank you for your patience." What a great reminder of what we really are: God's building projects. He's not finished with me, yet.
Catherine Marshall gave me a marker and encouraged me to write. "Write it down," she said to me in my heart, "and share it with others. Tell your testimonies as they come along. When you share your trials with others, you light the way for them to follow along in your footsteps of faith. God will never leave us nor forsake us and God can never fail!" In one of her non-fiction books she tells of how the making of the coffee every morning was eating into her Bible study time. So she searched out and found an automatic coffee maker and situated it in her bedroom. She inspired Rod and me to get one of these, too. So, we don't waste any time in the morning fiddling around with coffee making. We get right to the sipping and the reading! And my reading leads to writing, which leads to more reading.
My old biker pal, William, gave me a pair of really comfortable jeans to wear while packing. Embroidered down each leg in large red capital letters is the big question: DO YOU KNOW JESUS? He showed me how to be bold and feel at ease while witnessing to others. William was not the most gentle-spoken guy around. In fact, he was what some would call crass. But, his favorite question of salvation to anyone standing near was uttered from a heart of love, I'm certain.
His sweet Brenda gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye. She told me to give my hugs and kisses away to others every day. When she left I realized that she was the first one to love me like Jesus does. She broke through my hard, hard shell and loved the me inside that had never been reached before. And she did it with Jesus' love. In the beginning of my walk, I tried to avoid her welcoming embrace upon entering church. The more she watched me avoid her, the more she tracked me down to do it. Frankly, I thought it was maddening that this complete stranger insisted on hugging me every time I came to church. One morning while embracing me tightly she said, "I know you don't like this, but you really need it." She was right, I did. Now, I have to do that same thing on a regular basis to one beautiful blonde girl I know. She doesn't like it, but I know she needs it.
Of course, these people aren't the only ones who've provided me with moving supplies and I don't know when it's going to happen. My Mover just said to be ready. So, for now, I'll be busy packing because "I am getting ready to move."
Sunday, July 17, 2011
You know that old saying, "You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!"?
I think this is great advice to all of us who call ourselves by the King's great name. My sinless Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, willingly died a vicious, agonizing death on a cross to pay the penalty of the crimes of His people. He did not rot in His grave, but rose victoriously on the third day. As Christians, we should be trusting for our salvation in "nothing but the blood of Jesus". But it seems that there are times that we try to trust in THAT plus..........our own self-righteousness. Eeeew. Not good.
Do you ever watch other brothers and/or sisters in the LORD struggling with some visible sin-issue and you sort of sidle up to the LORD, shoulder to shoulder and cluck your tongue, shake your head sadly and say to Him, "Just look at that. Pitiful, isn't it? They just can't seem to get it together, can they?" Of course, this is a total fantasy and not reality at all. You are still a sloppy sinner and so am I. Gulp. I hate it, but it's true.
I ran into an old friend of mine recently. She and I used to go to church together. I fondly remember many conversations we had when I was a new believer where she encouraged me with scripture to keep seeking the Lord and not get bogged down in my failures. I thought of her as a great joyful encouragement. But, this day, she was so different. Her eyes were dark and sad. Her beautiful hair now hidden with a cloth. She smiled but it was joyless. She and her family no longer attend our fellowship. They prefer to "worship in a different way".
Months before, I ran into a mutual friend of ours. I considered this woman to more than likely be her best friend. She told me that she and this friend of mine no longer saw each other or talked anymore. I wondered why. When I saw my friend that afternoon, I realized there was some kind of icky wall there. She looked at me as though I was "missing the mark". I saw her as though she were in a cult. When we parted my heart was heavy with a great sadness. And it's been plaguing me ever since. What happened? Why is she and her whole family trying to keep the Law, all of the sudden, when Jesus died to free us from the law of sin and death? She knows the scripture but she's choosing to believe new and strange doctrines that ultimately promote: Jesus death plus your good or acceptable behavior/lifestyle = Salvation. My friend won't even speak the Lord's name anymore, other than the Hebrew pronunciation. Our once sweet fellowship seemed only a fond memory. It was a heartbreaking encounter that afternoon and I was sick about it.
But, honestly, I went home and I asked my Lord to forgive me if it offends Him that I refer to Him as Jesus, Lord, God, Father or any of the other terms of endearment that I use to speak with Him. Did I need to do that? No, but you know, I do love Him and I never want to offend Him. And He offers grace to those who ask for it honestly.
I know of other women (and men) who seem (to me...let's get that straight) to be trusting in not just the blood of Jesus but in their own self-righteousness, also. We should not be obedient to God and His word because we want to "earn" brownie points with Him towards our salvation. But, we should be obedient to the lifestyle that He calls us to (according to the Holy Bible) because we LOVE Him and we want to show Him that we love Him by our desire to be obedient (according to His word) and not according to the teachings of men that do not line up with Scripture.
Every time I read the book of Galatians I remember that God has not called me to become a Jew to please Him. He called me His daughter knowing I was a Gentile. He is reconciling the whole world to Himself. If it were only Jews that He was interested in, then that would be a pretty small party in Heaven. God does not want anyone to perish but that all might receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The next time you are tempted to think that you are "in" with God because of your self-righteousness plus God's work on the cross, just remember:
"God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT
That "special favor" the word speaks of is GRACE. You know, God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Let's not forget that our righteousnesses (even after we are trusting in the blood of Christ) are still as filthy rags to God. See Isaiah 64:6
When you are standing next to something that stinks, all you want to do is: GET AWAY FROM IT, right? Our self-righteousness is actually pride and God resists the proud!
So, the next time I sidle up to God (in my mind) and cluck my tongue and shake my head about my stumbling brother or sister, I will remember that that attitude is like filthy, nasty, stinking rags to Him. I will imagine God running away from me in disgust. I will remind myself of all of my weaknesses and how God is not finished with me yet, either. I will pray for my siblings. I will continue to humble myself to my God Who is able to do exceeding above all that I can imagine. And I will cast down as sin that high thing that exalts itself above the knowledge of God. In other words, I will check myself before I wreck myself and continue to rely on "nothing but the blood of Jesus".