Friday, November 30, 2012

Before the Mediator

You have probably heard the story of Job.  He was a righteous man blessed greatly by God until Satan asked for permission to afflict him.  He took away Job's family, his servants, his wealth, and finally even his health.  Job 2:7-10 says, "So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.  His wife said to him, "Are you still maintaining your integrity?  Curse God and die!"  He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman.  Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?""

Eventually, a few of Job's best friends came to visit him.  They wept at the sight of their dear friend in a near-death state, grieving over his losses and in terrible pain, but their pity soon turned to accusations, and they harshly told Job that his sufferings were punishments from God because of his wickedness.  Job was clearly in a state of terrible emotional and physical pain.  He didn't understand why he suffered so greatly after trying so hard to live a righteous life.  He questioned God in frustration and sorrow, asking Him to give reason for what happened, but until the end of the book, Job encountered only silence.

Job yearned for something that reached beyond the covenant of his time, beyond the sacrifices and legalism and religion that he had followed so devoutly his entire life.  In Job 9:32-35, he said about God, "He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer Him, that we might not confront each other in court.  If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more.  Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot."

This was before the coming of Jesus, before God extended His grace upon us so that we only need to place faith in His Son in order to receive right standing before Him.  Job was a man of the Lord.  He loved God in such a pure and righteous way that he could clearly identify His glory and might... and he also identified what he was missing in his relationship with the Lord.  A mediator. 

As humans, we have broken God's law and fallen from right standing with Him.  If we were taken to court, there is no way we could stand on our own.  God is a just judge and we deserve to be punished.  This is why Jesus died for us and took our place, taking our sins upon Himself.  Three days later, He came back to life, and now if we put our faith in Him, we will be saved.  This is the Gospel. 

Job, through his pain and grief, could see the value and necessity of a mediator.  He knew the old covenant needed to change.  He sought a relationship with God, not as only a servant, but as a son.

Eventually, as the story goes, God answered Job, reminding him that His plans are so much bigger than what we can ever grasp.  Although He was angry with Job's judgmental friends, He had mercy on them and forgave them.  He replenished Job's blessings and allowed him to have more wealth than he ever had before and many more precious children.  Clearly, even before Jesus came to earth, God was a compassionate, loving God.  He is unchanging through the old testament and the new.

Although Job was able to talk to God and was extended compassion, he longed for what was to come: a Mediator who would stand for us in love and strength and bring us to a place of purity and righteousness before the Lord.  What a beautiful gift the Gospel is.  We serve a mighty, compassionate God of love who delights in having a strong relationship with His children.

And even when we face troubles that are difficult to bear, the Lord is holding us close.  He is still compassionate.  And still He loves us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Biggest Attack Against Christians

I once read that Satan's greatest tool against Christians is isolation.

We were never meant to bear burdens on our own. Isolation, suffering in silence, and feeling as if no one understands are all lies from the enemy.

Before I gave my life to Christ, I felt entirely and completely alone, like there was no one on this earth who could understand what I was going through. In reality, there were several people around me who would have eagerly embraced me and been there for me while I struggled, but as I stood falteringly and stubbornly on my pedestal of isolation, I blinded myself to the fact that I was not alone.

As a senior in high school, I confessed to my best friend for the first time that I struggled with self-injury for all of junior high. She had no idea. I expected her to take the news in stride, since it had been so many years. However, my friend was angry with me and began to cry real tears at the depth of my hidden struggles. "You should have opened up to me," she said. "I would have been there for you."

Hebrews 10:23-25 says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another."

One way to isolate yourself is to become too busy. Beth Moore wisely said, "Insisting on being ten places at once for twenty hours a day for weeks on end will ultimately make aloneness almost intolerable." When you fill up your schedule in order to keep from facing the reality of your problems when you are alone or the vulnerability of one-on-one conversations with friends and during quiet times with the Lord, you will lose track of the meaning and value of rest. Your burdens will become unbearable; you will ache to feel the Lord's nearness and feel confused when you cannot find it because you continue to push Him out of your schedule.

Rest is a gift from the Lord. If our own Creator took a full day out of the week to rest, how can we expect to live a healthy and joyful life without doing the same? When we force ourselves to become too busy to spend quiet time with our Savior, to face our problems with strength and courage in the Lord, and to unite with a community that has been given to us, we are missing out on the fullness of life.

One of my very favorite verses is Matthew 11:28-30, which says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

We were not made for loneliness. We were not made to bear heavy burdens alone. Jesus is eager and willing to take our burdens from us and give us a new hope in Him. We have been given a beautiful community of brothers and sisters so that we can pray for each other and experience the joy of unity and fellowship.

Instead of packing your schedule to the point of exhaustion and no sleep, trust that the Lord will multiply your efforts and reward you for resting and putting faith in Him. Deliberately set aside time each morning to have one-on-one conversation with your Father. One of my favorite quotes is by Martin Luther, who says, "Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer."

Rejoice in the community around you. Be vulnerable. Be filled with truth. Soak in communion with the Lord, who longs to hold you and daily carry your burdens, as Psalm 68:19 says.

You are not alone. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Just love.

I read a blog post today that absolutely touched my heart.  It's called "Want to change the world in 3.2 seconds?"  I'll share part of this below.

Usain Bolt is a Jamaican Olympian who has won gold medals.  
How do you change the world in 3.2 seconds?

You do something kind that is unnecessary and unexpected.

Which is exactly what Usain Bolt did.

Before one of his races, he walked to the start line. He was on the verge of something he’d been preparing for his entire life. In a matter of seconds, a gun would sound that launched him and every one of his competitors around the track in a mad dash toward gold.

What did he do?

He turned around and fist bumped the lane official.

A guy most racers thought was invisible.

A guy most television cameras completely skipped over.

A guy that is so far into the background of the moment that he’s not even an “extra” in the scene.
Usain turned and did something unnecessary and unexpected. He didn’t need to do that. No one would have criticized him for ignoring the race official. That sort of gesture was not necessary or expected, but he made it anyway.

What was the result?


Pure, unabashed, unashamed joy.

This is precious.  Look at the reaction of the lane official.  He is about to explode with excitement because one of his heroes, one of the fastest men on the planet, took the time to simply acknowledge him.  The simplest gesture of kindness brought that fantastic smile.   

It is so easy to forget our calling of kindness.  When we wander about, focused on work and school and stress, it's really not difficult at all to completely zone out and forget to acknowledge the people struggling alongside us.  The purpose of our lives on this earth is not to make it through life on this earth.  It's to love God and to love people, even when it means sacrificing our own comfort.

Kindness is so very important.

Colossians 3:12 says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

We are called to consistently strive to love people, not ignore them, not brush them off, not snap at them when things don't go our way.  Will we mess this up?  Of course.  We're broken, so very broken, and thankfully God's grace is so much bigger than our imperfections.  However, we must try, asking the Lord to shine through us even on our worst of days.

We are called to love. 

Say thank you and mean it.  Tip your waitress, even if she messes up your order.  Smile at people walking by.  Sacrifice time, energy, money, comfort, if that's what needs to happen in order to spread kindness and make somebody else feel loved.

One of my favorite verses of all times (it's referenced in my header), is Matthew 5:14, which says, "You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden."  When people look at you, they should not only see you.  They should see Christ.  They should see light.  They should see love.

Matthew 5:14 is my life verse in a lot of ways, not because I fulfill it so strikingly, but rather because I am so far from what it describes.  It is what I daily plead with the Lord to grow me to be.  I yearn so much to be a light for Christ, a trail of stardust leading to the sun that He is, the sand that is a simple and lovely reminder that there is a beautiful ocean within reach.  And I am learning.

Whether it's a fist bump, a cup of coffee, or the friendliest smile you could possibly hope to muster on a rough day, take the time to make someone remember that Someone loves them.

The same God who made thunderstorms and nebulas and flowers and mountains made each person on this planet in His own image and desires to adopt us as His own children.  This is something people deserve to know. 

Just love.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More than a rose.

Once upon a time, there was a Gardener.  He owned a beautiful garden filled with the loveliest of flowers.  On a small plot in this garden, he planted a single rosebush seed.  The plant quickly sprang to life.  Each morning, the Gardener came to water and sing to the rosebush.  He loved her and she felt it with all of her being.

One day, a neighborhood boy climbed over the fence uninvited.  He stood in the garden and gazed around him at the splendor and beauty the Gardener had created and longed to take some of this beauty for himself.  The rosebush hoped he would sing to her just like the Gardener did, but instead of singing, he pulled a pocketknife from the depth of his overalls and clipped a flower right off the rosebush.

She recoiled in pain and shock, astonished that he would take from her so carelessly.  The boy did not seem to realize that the rosebush was more than just her flowers, that there was so much more of her beneath the ground.  The petals of the stolen flower would soon wither into husks, but the boy did not mind.  He quickly climbed back over the fence so the Gardener would not see what he had done.

But the Gardener did see.

A few weeks later, another neighborhood boy sneaked into the garden, clearing the white picket fence and taking in the beauty of the flowers around him.  He paused at the sight of the lovely rosebush.  He felt desire, so he reached down and began to tear her right out of the ground.  The boy saw the Gardener standing watch nearby and fled, leaving the rosebush torn almost to pieces.  Her petals were trampled into the dirt, her roots laid bare under the scorching sun.  

The Gardener stood over her, tears running down his weathered cheeks.  "I've hurt like this before," he said.  "You were beautiful when you were only a seed and you are beautiful now, as you are."  And he carefully planted the rosebush back into the ground, pruning her in ways that hurt and healed, singing in a voice that felt more loving than it ever had before.  The song that the Gardener whispered over her was one of beauty and grace.

It took more than a few days, but the rosebush began to grow again.  Timidly and falteringly, she allowed new flowers to open to the sun.  With each morning, with each new song sung over her, she began to smile at the Gardener as freely as she once had before.  And she was daily reminded that she was created beautiful.

One day, a new boy entered the garden, although this one entered through the gate.  He knelt next to the rosebush, but he simply admired the beauty that the Gardener had created in her.  After a while, he began to sing.  His voice was not as rich as the Gardener's, but it was kind.  The boy soon explained, "The Gardener has adopted me and made me his son.  He has been teaching me what it means to care for a garden, how to cherish without destroying, how to love what he has made beautiful.  He asked me to care for a small plot of land in his garden, and he told me I could place you there."

Gently and carefully, the boy used a spade to unearth the little rosebush.  The Gardener had shown him just how to raise a garden, how there was so much more to a rosebush than her pretty flowers.  The boy placed the rosebush into a plot right in the center of the Gardener's land, right beside his own cottage.  "I will sing to you every day," he told her.

The Gardener continued to visit the rosebush each morning.  After all, he had grown her from a seed, he had restored her when she had been tread into the dirt, when her flowers had been stripped away.  She was precious to him.  And his voice was precious to the rosebush; she knew it well.  She began to also recognize and love the voice of the Gardener's son.  He sang to her joyfully and saw the rosebush as truly beautiful, just as the Gardener had made her.

The boy saw more than a rose.  He saw her heart.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


I lie awake and wonder.
There is much I do not know:
How to love all people
And where my life will go.
People ask me questions
And answer them, I try.
Why were we created?
What happens when we die?
Sometimes bad things happen,
Things that break my heart.
How can I keep my mind
Around life when it's so hard?
And how can I explain it,
That God is bigger still?
He seeks and finds the broken.
The empty cup He fills.
Of many things, I wonder,
But I have seen His love.
He cherishes us endlessly.
His presence is enough.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Father, Come

I wrote a new song a few days ago.  It's called "Father, Come."  I went ahead and posted it on YouTube, so feel free to check it out, even though the sound quality isn't the best. 

Father, Come

I yearn for You, Your sweet touch,
The fire in those eyes that scream out love.
Radiance, God above, restore me to You.
Cleanse me in Your truth.

Father, Healer, You light up my world and bring me joy.
Daddy, Beloved, bring me from this place where I have run.
Let Your Spirit always be eough.
Father, Father, come.

I break to pieces under Your gaze.
You make me whole again. I'm unafraid.
Precious Lamb, You died for me.
So I'll dance under the stars,
Praising everything You are.


I cling to You, Daddy, like a child, like a child.
I run, heart abandoned. I'm Your bride. I'm Your bride.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Broken Words

I still miss him.

It's funny; okay, it isn't funny at all.  It's strange, I mean, that nearly five years have passed and I still think about him all the time.  I suppose I can't know if I was one of his best friends, but he was certainly one of mine, especially in seventh and eighth grade.  We were close friends as young teenagers, still a little lost and struggling to discover exactly who we were. 

And sometimes things were so very hard. 

I would talk to him in broken words, and cry with real tears and say, "I want to give up."  And he would stand stronger than me. 

Some days he would write me, hurting, and I would try my best to make things better.  He said it helped.  I hope it did.  

We were friends, he and I.  He was one of my best friends at the time; I didn't have many friends.  He had more than he realized.  That was made evident at his funeral, by the tears and the flowers and the hundreds of students that gathered to remember his life and grieve over his death.

It was his choice, his death.  That's what makes it still hard.  I couldn't understand why someone so loved and so talented and so special would take his own life like he did.  He was my friend; I was his friend.  How was that not enough?  In my darkest moments, even a single friend was enough to keep me strong.  He had friends even closer to him than I was.  His family was precious.  How did that not keep him from making his choice? 

I still dream about him.  I still regret not finding help for him.  I still regret not finding the strength to risk our friendship and talk to an adult.  Mistakes were made.  So many mistakes.  And he is gone.

I still miss him.

Today would have been his twentieth birthday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Using your voice this Election Day.

Everyone seems to be posting about the election on Facebook and Twitter.  Every single news outlet is exploding.  Politics has to be one of the easiest way to raise conflict.  Mention a few trigger subjects: abortion, gay marriage, racism, feminism, the economy, and everyone seems to feel an overwhelming compulsion to share their personal opinion.  The American people have been given a voice and we certainly like to use it.

Today I am asking you to use your voice beyond Facebook and beyond even your vote.  Before you turn to a word war on a social media site, before you call a friend and complain about the state of our nation, before you engage in one of the thousands of heated conversations about politics and who you're voting for (a conversation that most people will probably have today), I challenge you to spend time using your voice in prayer.

If you have not spent time on your face today pleading with God to place His hand on the election, then you are doing something terribly wrong.  Kneel with me in prayer right now and ask God to:
  1. Bring wisdom and discernment to the heart of every voter
  2. To allow the candidate who will best govern our nation be elected as president (and to bring the much-needed truth of the Gospel into the lives of both candidates)
  3. That the Lord will help His people reflect a love and respect so foreign to this election process that everyone will wonder what makes us different so that the Gospel will be spread to every corner of our nation.
Spend time in prayer today, not in useless arguments.  Titus 3:8-9 says, "I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  ...But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless."   

1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect."  

Remember that the focus of today should not be the election or being right in a debate or pledging allegiance to a nation.  The focus of today is to share the Gospel, to serve Christ, and to love others.  In the frenzy of election day, don't forget that. 

Regardless of the outcome of this election, we can rest in the assurance that our God is sovereign.  Our God is good.  Our God will provide for us.  Everything will be okay because we have been rescued and redeemed by the Creator of the world.  His plan is so much bigger than the next four years.

Trust Him.  He is good.