Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Love is waiting

This will just be a quick thought. But one that I hope you may be able to dwell on for a while.  I believe it is an integral part of the human condition, women more obvious so than men, that whenever someone is going to come over to your house, you clean that thing to a pulp.  Take my mom for instance.  When I was growing up, I remember some instances when one of her close friends was coming to visit.  The lawn had to be mowed, the bushes dusted, the wood oiled and waxed, the monster behind the toilet purified while wearing a hazmat suit.  That place couldn't have a carpet strand with a split end! And then when everything was just right, we would anxiously await our visitors.  ...Or what about a date with the guy/girl that you care about so much? Girls, you spend multiple hours in front of the sink getting all beautified.  And it's not to make him think you are beautiful, for I am sure he already thinks that you are a million times over, but rather you do it out of an act of love for him! 

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning,and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them." Luke 12:35-37

How often do we go through our days waiting like that? How often do we prepare our hearts and keep them ready?  Do we live out our days like the Master is coming home at any moment?  Not nearly enough!  May we be like the servant in this parable who was ready, who had his house cleaned, who had his fire burning, and was ready the instant the Master knocked.  And not to make him think we have it all together, that we are beautiful, that we are righteous, because He already thinks we are (2 Corinthians 5:21), but because we love Him, and we desire Him, and we need Him! We stay in communion with God, or rather Him with us, so that we might keep our lamp burning for when the Master comes home.  

But here is the thing.  Our Master isn't like other masters.   For our Master is most glorified when he can meet our needs and serve us.  There is nothing we can give to the Creator of everything except to find our utmost satisfaction in being in communion with Him.  So our Master becomes the servant, reclines us at the table, and serves us! I'm not making this stuff up guys. it is uncanny! That the God of the universe, created us, loved us, we turned away, he still loved us, he placed His righteousness on us, he serves us, he justifies us, he sanctifies us, ... and we just find our joy in the pure satisfaction that God is.  period.  That is the gospel.  

Blessed are those whom the Master finds awake when he knocks.  

Waiting! .....

Sunset boardwalk and marina, Bellingham, WA

Friday, September 6, 2013

Love is Emotional

Diablo Lake, Northern Cascades National Park
If you have never been to Mt Rainier National Park, I highly advise you correct that misfortune.  I went camping just a mile outside of the south end of the park last week and was met with such a magnificent beauty, I couldn't walk away.  At 730 am I had woke up and crept out of my tent, grabbed my "Desiring God" book by John Piper, and proceeded down the steep river canyon down to the mossy covered rock shores of the Ohanapekosh River (Or as I like to call it Osh Kosh Begosh).  This may be hard to imagine but I will do my best to describe the moment.  I found my way out to a rather large rock sitting smack dab in the middle of the mild rapids of pure cerulean blue water.  The sky was calm and blue with wispy clouds coming over the hills high above the canyon.  Tall, thick, numerous evergreen trees flooded the riverside and surrounding areas.  Hardly any morning light breached to the ground floor, only being seen at the tips of trees high above.  There are no sounds in places like that, only the calm constant roar of water as it splashes down through rocks and fallen trees. 

Utter peace. 

I was reading the worship chapter of the book and quote after quote struck me.  I will just spit ball a few of them here. 

"We do not eat the feast of worship as a means to anything else.  Happiness in God is the end of all our seeking.  Nothing beyond it can be sought as a higher goal...Genuine feelings of the heart cannot be manufactured as stepping stones to something else"

"Worship is authentic when affections for God arise in the heart as an end in themselves"

"You have capacities for joy that you can scarcely imagine.  They were made for the enjoyment of God.  He can awaken them no matter how long they have lain asleep.  Pray for His quickening power.  Open your eyes to His glory.  It is all around you: 'The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork'"

I had a friend ask me one day, "Do you ever have moments where you are just overwhelmed with peace and beauty?" That describes that moment there on the river in a nutshell.  You don't want to leave moments like that.  In the midst of everything going on in life:  betrayal, hurting, inequality, busyness, injustice, hatred, selfishness, you come to a place like that and everything disappears in the roar of the rapids.  Alone, you come, and spontaneously enter into a place of worship, and nothing else matters.  You are perfectly content to just sit....stare.....pray.....sing....be silent....lay down......write.......watch clouds.....sing some more........ever staring at the Glory of God.....never leaving.  Time dissipates.  Life is forgotten.  All peace floods over you as you worship God. 

I remember about a month ago, I had just biked to Vancouver, Canada.  I went on a solo exploration of the down town and ran into a new ride they were offering called fly over Canada.  Its one of those 4D movie rides that suspends you and tilts you different ways as a giant hemisphere screen envelops you.  It starts off on the east coast, flies over some boats and a coast guard ship.  Soon you are diving into Niagara Falls as mist sprays you in the face.  Then moments later you are chasing horses through wheat fields, climbing over the Rockies, seeing the Aurora Borealis.  I will be honest, the overwhelming sensation of such creation brought me to tears.  AND I WASN'T EVEN THERE.  But for 10 minutes, I was in peace, gazing into Gods beauty and remembering His faithfulness. 

Each of us probably have our own moments of peace where it is just you and God.  Meditate on that moment right now....

But what about the moments where life is all around us? Where peace is hard to find? where worship is hard to muster? Where friends let you down? When we long to worship but can't seem to get past everything going on? John Piper writes after describing the spontaneous, unencumbered joy felt in that type of worship above, "In a prior stage [of worship] that we often taste, we do not feel fullness but rather longing and desire.  Having tasted the feast before, we recall the goodness of the Lord - but it seems far off.  We preach to our souls not to be downcast, because we are sure we shall again praise the Lord.  Yet for now, our hearts are not very fervent"....."We honor the water from the mountain spring not only by the satisfied 'ahhh' after drinking our fill, but also by the unquenched longing to be satisfied while still climbing to it."

Life can get overwhelming.  My life has been pretty overwhelming lately.  It seems like I just can't get my head above the water.  One minute I'm sitting on a rock floating on top of the water, the next minute I'm home, overwhelmed by the waves and beginning to sink.  And amidst the rage and hurt of life all around me, all that appears is a dimly lit hand in the water that grabs me by the collar and puts me back on the rock.  Crying, broken, ashamed, feeling like a failure, coming to God, smothered in my pillow, I lay in solitude relying on His strength to get me through, to restore His joy to my heart.  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise"..."Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.....Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit" Psalm 51: 17, 10, 12

So whether you are on the top of a mountain, echoing your lungs off across the Swiss Alps... or editing a paper while staring at a computer screen for hours, wishing you could transport through your calendar to the beach in the picture, worship is found.  Whether you are peering off the edge of the Grand Canyon in all its unfathomable majesty, or sitting in a court room praying that the Lord would reveal His majesty in a world of injustice, worship is found.  Worship is emotional.  It is a longing of the heart.  It is found in joy, as well as grief; peace and contentment, and fear and anger; hope, and also sorrow.  

Wherever you are on that spectrum, long for God.  Worship him in your tears.  Worship him with a smile a mile wide.  Just pour out your emotion to Him.  He is there to care for you when you feel uncared for.  He is there to dance in the fields with you.  He is always there and is seeking for you to long for Him. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Love is a Choice

Each day, everyone of us wakes up and throughout the day makes thousands upon thousands of choices.  You have subconscious decisions: to breathe, to go to the bathroom appropriately, to open your eyes when you walk; and then you have conscious decisions, the ones you have to think a little about: what should you wear? what should you eat? or some days bigger decisions need to be made: is this the girl I should marry? Where should I go to school? Where should I live?  Now when you were younger, going to the bathroom appropriately seemed liked the hardest task ever! I am sure your parents attest to that.  You just went on feeling.  "I have to go now, change my diaper!" But as you grew older, you were slowly but surely trained to hold it until you could make it to the bathroom.  Soon that became so second nature your body just naturally held it, even while you were sleeping.  The Christian life is a lot like that!  There are areas where each of us struggle and its only through continuous self training and reliance on the Holy Spirit that handling those struggles appropriately becomes second nature.  That is the life of sanctification! It's when we turn to God and follow Him that he changes and molds our hearts.  each time.  each year.  a lifetime of training. 

"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;  and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

Tribulations are basically just really hard choices.  When you first start experiencing tribulations, they test you! Sometimes you fail and make the wrong choice. Other times you succeed. Either way you learn from your mistakes, you rely on God a little bit more, and with each tribulation perseverance grows.  Soon, you are going to God every time and relying on the Holy Spirit.  The choice becomes second nature.  It has now grown to be part of your character.  You have seen God come through countless times now in your tribulations.  After years you can confidently expect God to come through every time for you in your trial.  And that confident expectation is called hope.  

It's all about the choice.

You may have heard this verse before, its kinda popular! But look at Joshua 24 with me.  A little context: This is right before Joshua dies and the time of the Judges begin.  In the entire book of Joshua, we have seen a young man who needed encouragement to be strong and courageous and to not fear right after Moses dies.  He has to lead an entire nation across the Jordan river and into the promised land and evidently he doesn't think he can. We see both God and the Israelites repeatedly reaffirming Joshua to not fear.  That might ring a bell with you. Maybe you know the choice that God wants you to make, you are just afraid.  Afraid of yourself, afraid of how others will treat you, afraid of failing.  Whatever it is, through the entire book of Joshua, we see how he attacks his struggle head on by relying on God and being courageous.  Battle after battle, trial after trial, Joshua has produced perseverance, character and now listen to this in verse 14 and 15 

"Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, and in Egypt. serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell, But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" 

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.  You can almost hear him saying it.  Such resolve! we WILL serve the LORD.  I love that.  He just gives the Israelites a choice and an encouragement.  Through Joshua's life, he has learned what choice to make, whom to serve, and now we see him here exhorting the nation to serve the LORD, but that no matter which choice they make, he and his house are going to serve the Lord just as they've done.  

"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore CHOOSE life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey his voice, and that you may cling to him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (emphasis mine)

Here we see Moses saying the same thing after giving the second reading of the law.  I have given you a choice.  It seems like an easy choice.  And yet so often we thing God is keeping us from something, that the law is bad or too hard.  Choose life guys! why? so that you may love the Lord! Loving God is a choice.  Jesus Christ came down to give us life! He died in our place out of the greatest love there ever has been! All we have to do is choose to believe Him! We dwell on that love He has shown us and we choose to love him back, daily following and seeking after Him, daily calling on the Holy Spirit to guide us, daily coming to the Lord in prayer.  It is a choice we make to love Him.  Its not some feeling.  

For some it is hard to see this lived out and so to draw it back a little and give maybe a more prevalent example in our culture, look at relationships.  Today (and probably for the history of mankind) we have a poor example of love in relationships.  It's all about yourself.  What can this person do for me? If I do this for him/her, what will he/she give me back? We jump into relationships based on poor reasoning, and then when times get tough, the choice is all too often to give up.  A relationship is hard work, its a commitment, its a daily choice.  We choose to love that person when it's fun and easy, and we choose to love them when it's hard and there is bitterness and tension growing.  We choose to love them when they are pretty and healthy, and also when they are sick and disgusting.  We choose to be humble, we choose to be selfless, we choose to serve.  

Love is not a natural tendency.  Loving our enemies is completely against our nature.  Loving others above ourselves is against our nature.  loving God is against our nature.  It is not a feeling that comes naturally and gives us butterflies in our stomach.  it goes against all of our selfish tendencies. What if God takes away everything? What if everyone turns on me? Do we love God then?

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good." Romans 12:9

ABHOR! don't just dislike, don't just begrudgingly obey, don't just hate, UTTERLY LOATHE what is evil.  

No matter where our lives have taken us thus far.  Shame.  Defeat.  Anger.  Countless mistakes.  Pain.  Loneliness.  Broken relationships. We can choose right now to love the Lord.  "Therefore, having been justified (meaning just-if-I'd never sinned) BY FAITH, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace IN WHICH WE STAND and rejoice in hope of the Glory of God" Romans 5:1-2 (emphasis added).  Through the faith that God sent His son to die for us and that His death has paid for everything I have ever done and will do, we have peace with God.  We can STAND in the presence and rejoice through the grace we have been given. 

May we choose today, and everyday from now, to love God, to love our spouse, to love our brethren, our friends, our enemies.  The choice is hard. But we can make it easy through perseverance.  If you make the wrong choice, get back up, remember you're justified through grace, and get ready for the next choice.  Never give up.  Pray and rely on the Holy Spirit to be there to give you courage and strength for every trial and tribulation.  May it become our character and our hope! May we resolve to serve the LORD like Joshua! It's not going to come easy.  relationships aren't. but always remember.

Love is a choice!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Love is Daily

I get asked all the time, "what do the numbers mean on your pictures that you post to facebook or instagram?" The short answer is that they represent the number of days I have been 24.  I planned on taking a picture every day of the year during my 24th year.  I am on day 180 and so far I have failed at that goal but I still persevere to attempt it.  You see, 24 is my favorite number.  So it's kind of a big year for me and I wanted to make it memorable.  But besides the silly reason, there are a few serious reasons that I had decided to do this. 

1) I wanted to begin to live every day to the fullest and not just be content with getting through each day.  I wanted the picture to force me to get out, even when I didn't want to, and try something new and exciting: Climb mountains, travel, try new food, be spontaneous.  I don't believe life should be something we can just routinely scoot through.  I think life shouldn't be wasted.  Not the time at work, the time at home; the time with friends, the time alone.  One of my greatest fears is that I might look back and think I didn't do enough with my life.  I yearn to live life with the adventure it was meant to have. 

2) I wanted to search for God's glory every single day.  Seeking out moments where God would just blow my socks off.  Sunrises, sunsets, storms, friend's love, bible reading, etc.  Our ultimate goal in life should be to glorify God and I wanted a tangible way to encourage myself to that goal.  When you search for God, He will surely reveal Himself to you.  That's what I've learned a lot so far this year.  There have been so many times where I just needed wisdom, and He provided; where I just needed comfort in pain, and it was there; where I needed a friend, and one was placed into my life.  Through these pictures I aim at capturing that moment to remind me of God's love and show God's glory to those that see it. 

3) I wanted to encourage others to begin doing the same.  The internet can either be a colossal waste of time or a beautiful tool to share to the world.  A picture can speak a thousand words and I wanted to inspire my friends, or anyone else that might see the picture, to live their life to the fullest in God's plan for them.

4) I wanted to practice a skill that God has given me a passion for, to take pictures of His creation.  I love taking pictures and thought this would be a good way to exercise that skill.  I wanted to make sure through my pictures, that I was glorifying God with my life and the passions and skills he provided me with, that they might not go to waste.

Now, the first half of the year is almost up and I have ran into some serious problems thus far.  Some days I might not have a phone on me, or I might be so caught up in the moment, that I forget to take a picture.  Then on some occasions God's glory was revealed to me in a way a picture couldn't tell.  Not necessarily a bad thing but just hard to make things consistent.  I have also had many days where I just failed at doing something exciting or picture worthy, where I became content with just getting through that day.  That is a bad thing considering it doesn't help my goal at all. 

Starting on day 183 (Sunday) it will be my half birthday and I am going to aim at fixing some of these issues I have had thus far.  First off, I will write a little description under the photo of the way I accomplished my goal as well as a little blurb of what God taught me that day. I might even try to write a weekly blog. I figure this will help even if the day wasn't picture worthy.  It will also help me to seek out God's change and wisdom in my life every day. 

So there you have it, an explanation behind my "365 days of 24".  I ask that you help to encourage me every day to live up to my goal and keep me accountable for chasing God's glory.  It helps immensely.  And maybe you could start a similar goal: maybe a month of pictures, or daily writings, or whatever way the passions God has given you can urge you to chase after Him daily. 

I'll leave you with a few of my pictures so far this year.

Day 30: Beacon Rock Oregon
Day 63: 10 Mile Race Day - Columbia River Richland
Day 90: Sunshine Ski Village, Banff Canda
Day 179: Badger Mountain, Richland WA

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Love is Loving the Fatherless

Let me tell you all a story.  It's a very personal story. . . well yeah it's the story of me.  I don't know how many of you know my story but I am sure even those that do might take something away from this.  I never knew my father (Yes, many of you just went back to Bruce from Finding Nemo when I said that.)  It's true.  For reasons out of my control and realm of understanding, my dad was removed from my life before I could even walk or talk or celebrate my 1st birthday.  Never once have I heard from him, never once has he taught me anything, never once growing up did I ever even think something was missing. 

Theres some interesting statistics that I'm not too fond of.  I found a lot of them at The Fatherless Generation  blog and also at this page.  63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes...90% of runaways and homeless...80% of rapists...71% of high school dropouts...less likely to get 'A's, to enjoy school, to participate in extracurricular activities, to not repeat a grade, to go to college...more likely to use drugs, participate in sex before marriage, be aggressive, be expelled, be in poverty,  to have psychiatric problems and struggle with emotional distress. 

Those are heart wrenching statistics.  It's hard to read the entirety of them without just breaking down, especially considering 43% live without their father.  26% of fathers live in a different state.  I couldn't find a statistic, but I would be interested in knowing how many, like me, grew up the entirety of their lives with no biological father, and whose mother never got remarried.  Or what percentage of those living with a father never really experienced a true father.  Maybe he was gone all the time, or immature, or didn't represent manhood very well. 

Like I just mentioned, I have never met my father.  Never grew up with a replacement father.  But let me tell you how I did grow up.  My siblings are very spaced out.  My sister is nearly 19 years older and my brother is a little over 9 years older.  My mom worked her hiny off to support us by herself.  Up to the age of 7, we moved a lot as my mom finished her college degree and struggled financially.  I was too little to understand that though.  I was just living life.  We went to Bellingham, and Medford, and most of the time Kennewick, where my grandma helped my mom get on her feet. 

I loved having my brother around.  We would go swimming, and he would try to kill me sledding, and he would teach me how to ride a bike, and teach me about the Bible, and how to dress.  He would also take my matchbox cars and loved picking on me.  But that didnt matter, I loved having him around.  He taught me how to mow the lawn, how to take care of my mom, how to be courageous.  I loved my mom too.  She would drive me to pre school at St Josephs, and set up birthday parties for me, and always go above what she was able to get me presents.  She would take me bowling, and to watch NASCAR races in the diner, and to play racing games in the arcade.  I lived the dream!  Eventually my brother moved away and went to college and I lived alone with my mom until I graduated.  She wrung her neck trying to survive off what most would call a impoverished income.  But you would never know that looking in from the outside.  We lived in a nice neighborhood and went to a nice school.  Yeah, maybe I never got new clothes all the time, or was able to travel very much, or never got to experience a lot of things I'm coming to find out a regular home had, but it never affected me growing up. 

Those statistics never even came close to denting the way I lived.  To pass time with the excess of loneliness i encountered (which I never realized was loneliness until later in middle school) I would read encyclopedias, work on ginormous puzzles with my grandma, pain stakingly move my NASCAR matchbox cars one car length at a time as they raced around the house, create mansion forts in the basement.  I would adventure into the wilderness to make bike jumps, to race around the neighborhood, to climb trees.  I loved being active.  My mom raised me as hard as she could free of societal evils.  Alcoholism, drugs, sex, etc., other than from family members who were dealing with those problems, never entered my scope of reality.  I excelled in school from the onset.  By 7th grade, I was already taking high school math classes.  I graduated with 30 college credits, crushed my SAT, and continued on to college.  I loved track and field and excelled in that too.  I did orchestra playing the violin for 8 years and even did symphonic orchestra in high school.  And I dont say all of that to brag.  I say it to show that just because I was raised fatherless, does not mean I am a statistic!

I had an extraordinarily loving mother who although wasn't able to teach me about cars, or how to work in the yard, was able to place me in a home where I could grow and learn.  I had a biblical teacher in my brother who gave me incredible opportunities to travel and experience life.  I saw other kids dads and learned from them. I even learned from countless mistakes and errors and I grew from each one of them. But most of all, I look back, and I see the biggest contributor to being my father was God himself.  Psalm 68 says that He is "a father to the fatherless"...He "sets the solitary in families".  All along the way, God placed male mentors in my life to show me how to be a man.  From my brother, to camp counselors, to middle school and high school youth directors, to friend's dads. 

Now why did I write that? Why did you need to know my story?  To me, my story has never been anything to me.  I didn't feel disadvantaged growing up.  I definitely didn't feel like I was incapable of anything at life! But lately I'm realizing a subtle fact that has been there all along and has recently come to a head.  There is a growing sentiment in church that because of those statistics, that because having two parents is the biblical model, and because fatherless kids "don't learn about manhood", that kids like me, without fathers, are somehow not good.  I've come to realize multiples times growing up that people judge me or my mom based on our family dynamic.  And while I am not going to tell you my mom's story, or why we ended up this way, there is also nothing I did, or could do to change the way I grew up any better than how God directed it. 

Isaiah 1:17 says "Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."  Isaiah later goes on to prophecy against a civilization that judged the fatherless, and abused the widow.  I feel like people that judge the fatherless as incapable of certain tasks have a lack of faith in God who promises to be a father to the fatherless.  It's not right and it needs to be addressed. 

I found a catchy little blog post about The art of manliness.  He writes about what he's learned from observation about what it means to be a man despite being fatherless, and I couldn't agree more.  I especially like #3.  "Becoming a man doesn't come with age.  Through experience, a boy becomes a man by: Taking ownerships of failure, letting go of stubbornness and accepting lessons, knowing how to handle challenging situations and fixing their incorrect reactions and attitudes, learning more about themselves."  I love it because it changes the whole notion of what being a man is.  A man isn't someone who is a father.  I've met countless dads who's idea of manhood is ruling over the household, pride, stubbornness, yelling, football, etc etc.  Under this notion of manhood, A man becomes a man separate from his upbringing.  He becomes a man solely out of humility, and following God. 

It's about time we stop judging the fatherless as "broken homes" and start looking compassionately at those statistics I laid out previously.  That is a statistic you can't let slip away and have no feeling over.  There are some hurting people out there without dads, with bad dads, with bad mothers, who made bad decisions, whose parents made bad decisions and they need someone to step in and walk along side of them, not outcast them.  And even for those who aren't that statistic, who grew up with fathers.  Don't judge them, or alienate them.  Step in along side them and teach them.  I know countless times where I have just wanted to learn something and there was no teacher available.  I still don't know hardly anything about cars, or building.  There are people out there that are struggling and I feel a lot of the time most of us just don't care. 

I hope this long post made any sense. It's kind of a jumbled mess the way it came out. I wanted to share my story to those of you who may not know and to show proof that God is not a statistic.  And I also wanted to confront an issue in my life currently where I have been unjustly judged for not having a dad (which I didn't even know was possible).  I hope those statistics and my story stir your heart toward love and compassion and not judgement.  And if anything I have said in this post or during my lifetime is out of line with the Bible, I would love to have you teach me the right way.  Maturity isn't a destination, it's an adventure.  I still have a lot to learn.  Thanks for reading  :)

Love the fatherless!!!!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Love is Redemptive

Redemptive: Acting to save someone from error or evil.

Revelation states in chapter 2, during the letters to the churches, "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent." (verse 2-5)

Thousands of years before this letter was penned lived Abraham, the patriarch of Israel.  We see his story start in the 12th chapter of Genesis when God says to Abraham, leave your family and then promises to make his descendents as many as the stars of the sky and the dust of the earth.  So Abraham (Abram at this point) leaves his family with his wife Sarah and Lot.  He starts out on a journey of his own away from his family.  On a new journey with a God who gave him a promise.  We see him travel across ancient Mesopotamia and down into the land of the Canaanites (present day Israel).  And in verse 8, he camps his tent perched on the hill lands between Bethel (literally meaning "house of God") and Ai ("City of Ruin).

Sidenote: Isn't that so often where Jesus meets us.  He provides the bridge from our ruin to the house of God.  I find that interesting in regards to where Abraham builds his alter and calls on the Lord.

Anyway, back to the main point at hand.  Abraham calls on the Lord for the first time.  He, by faith, starts a two sided relationship with God.  I imagine this as a very intimate moment in Abraham's life, here camped on the hills, looking over the land that God has promised him, and communicating with God.  It's where we see the first love of Abraham.

Eventually, due to a immense famine in the land, Abraham goes to Egypt to survive.  And in coming in to their land, he devises a lie to protect himself by telling them that Sarah is his sister.  A big ordeal happens when Pharaoh finds out and he sends him away.  Abraham has sinned.  The man who has so far in the record, lived a faithful, righteous life, has fallen short of the promise that God had for him.  By lying he has shown that he didn't believe God would make a great nation out of him because he feared more that the Egyptians would kill him.  Now he's in a rut.  The Egyptians have sent him away from their rich agricultural lands, back to a place of famine.

But here's the key.  Pay attention to this part right here if nothing else.  What does Abraham do.  Chapter 13:1-4 reads, "Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord"

Abraham returns to the very same spot where he called on the Lord, where he had his intimate moment of seeking the Lord.  He returns to his first love.

God's love is redemptive.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works.  Go to where you met God the first time, when you were excited to meet with Him, to study his word, to pray, to worship.  Maybe it's a physical location, or a location of mind, or a location of the word.  Whatever it is, go there, repent of where you have fallen from, and God's redemptive love will ignite your lampstand again.  It is such a beautiful illustration that so often gets read over in the haste of reading through Genesis.  But in it we find what Abraham found out on his journey of faith.

Love is redemptive! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Love is Stealthy

I have this eccentric love of aerodynamics and jets.  How can you not see a jet fly over you and just be incredibly in awe! Isn't that why we have air shows? People are just drawn to see these planes exhibit gravity-defying tricks at speeds that probably make the pilots lips numb.  When I went to school in Arizona we lived directly in line with the landing runway of the Air Force base down the road.  Every 30 minutes we would have A-10's in rows hover over campus.  Conversations would stop and almost every time I would look up, just in fear and awe (and annoyance).  I remember the first time it happened to me (because, well, we don't have an Air Force base where I live) I was so in shock, the sound, the precision, the aesthetics, the team work, the speed.  I told you it was an eccentric love.  And don't even get me started on the Tomahawks.  But if I ever had the ability to see any jet, it would have to be the stealth bombers and jet fighters (if I was even able to see one).  Take a look at these things brought to you by Google.

To me, those planes look like they shouldn't be able to fly and yet they do, very quickly. They are made in such a way to reduce their emission of heat, sound, sight and anything else used to detect it, and are capable of being almost invisible to radar preventing it from the likelihood of being seen, tracked, or attacked. They blow my mind.

Sometimes, I think Jesus works a lot like these planes.  He comes in under the radar when you least expect it, leaving no trace of detection until He drops a love bomb in your life, and your left in awe at the incredible power and presence of Him.  I might have stretched that analogy but I think you can understand the point. There are times in our life when we just sit there and wonder why God has pulled the rug out from underneath our feet.  Pain, death, relationships, jobs, bankruptcy, moving away, having your favorite sports team lose.  Whatever it might be for you right now, big or small, the world just won't stop spinning.  Maybe you can feel the depth of such lyrics as "I know I need to lift my eyes up, but I'm too weak, life just won't let up" from worn by Tenth Avenue North.  Listen to what the lead singer, Mike Donehey, has to say about that song!!

"When I look back on the photo album of my life and I'm flipping through the pages, it's rarely the easy and comfortable times that God's doing good. Every time God's really doing something amazing in my heart, it's when everything was falling part around me." Isn't that so true? For me personally, it is so easy to see that in my own life. You can probably tell too. I write so much more during the hard times in my life, then I do during the easy times. Why is that? Why is it so hard for me to feel inspired to write something when life is moving along so well? God is still teaching me during that time, I am still reading and listening. Is it that I just don't need, or feel like I need, that teaching at that moment? Maybe it's only when I am in the thick of pain, loss, mistreatment, solitude, change, fear, etc. that I cling to those teachings and see everything in a desperate light. And possibly, you can agree with me on that in your own life. I know, looking back, the times that I've felt most like God was holding me close, were in those hard times.

Psalm 34:18
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

Psalm 73:26
"My flesh and my heart may fall, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever"

God has a way of stealthily coming in and changing everything. He did it with his son Jesus even when those looking for him didn't expect it, and believe me, He is doing it with you right now. He's not in the business of flashy lights and signs. Most frequently he will talk to you in a still, small voice, during desperate times when pain and loss are blanketing you. So if you're going through one of those times right now, like I am, take heart and listen for God because a year, 5 years, 20 years down the road you'll look back and remember THAT as the time that God changed your life!