Saturday, February 28, 2015

{Abiding}: So We Can Abide

It's that time of year when I have to head down to the bank and get a medical release form for my teenage Bright Girl notarized. So she can go with her friends to the Mid-Winter youth camp.

Without mom and dad.

For this homeschool mom, time to be turning my worries for her wellbeing into prayers and trust in the Lord's care for her.

As I sat in the waiting area in the middle of the bank, I noticed all the other patrons. Leaned over their smart gadgets, pressing buttons. 

Having a "no frills" cell phone that only makes calls, I didn't know what to do with myself. No women's magazines to read. Only a few revolving bank commercials on the overhead T.V. 

Fishing through my purse, I tried to find something to do, to not feel so awkward waiting.

The bank worker came to the waiting area, but passed me by to speak to the next customer. She said something in Spanish and then they both went into an office.

Then at the bottom of my purse, I spotted it. My English/Spanish translator. I've had this electronic pocket translator since I was a teen. And I've never changed the batteries. 

I pressed the power button. It flickered on.

What better time to brush up on some Spanish. I started from the very beginning. The "A" words. And read English/Spanish definitions from A to Z while I waited.

When I got to ABIDE, I paused at the definition.

ABIDE in Spanish is soportor. Sounds like support.

But, in Spanish, soportor is only used in a negative sense, like 

can't abide people who slurp their soup.

Us siblings in Christ have trouble abiding with each other sometimes.

Loving each other with all our flaws.

Extending {GRACE}

Why is that?

We tend to mimic our culture and break off and away into cliques.

Don't we?

But, that leaves some people out.

And, if they know we are Christians by our love, that's gotta change. 

We have to, by the grace of God, abide with everyone who draws near to the throne of grace. 

Because Christ draws near to us, despite the ugly things we've done, we can do the same.

And, help make the church and the world a more beautiful place.

A place of love.

Because these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But, only one lasts when we meet our Savior face-to-face.

Where faith and hope are a reality, it's love that endures forever.

Let us be siblings who abide in Christ and abide with each other.

We may not be strong enough, but He is.

We can lean on Him.

And, when our turn comes, we can be that Grace-carrier who lends a hand.

May we all lean on Christ and be the Grace-carriers to each other and to the nations that do not know Him.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." John 15:4

Thursday, February 12, 2015

{Not Forgotten}: How Others Can Know Jesus is Real

Tolkien Inspired Riddle:

Middle-aged. Middle Earth. Middle child. 

Of these three,

What is the commonality?


The most obvious answer would be "middle," 

but, no.

It's me.

Those who really know me (and are good at analogies), would know the three intersected on my birthday (there's middle-aged), when I saw The Hobbit 3: The Battle of Five Armies (and Middle Earth).

And, growing up, I was the second oldest of my mother (the middle child).

Being raised as a middle child, where did that leave me?

An introvert with a tendency toward solitude.

Grandma's floral couch (the one behind my brothers and me) was my hiding place. Whenever we visited her, and I wanted to be alone, I'd crawl behind there and just imagine my own sort of Middle Earth.

At home, there wasn't a place that I could be alone, so I escaped barefooted to the woods that surrounded our house. Shaded from the sun by towering oak and pine trees, I explored the conservation area around Turkey Creek. In my place of solace, I had peace and quiet and room to breathe.

I loved to be alone. And still do.

If it wasn't for the little party of five that I now live with to celebrate my birthday and make me blackberry cobbler (thanks Bright Girl) in lieu of cake and give me roses (good going hubby), I might not have come out of my shell.

Because I like it in there.

It's safe.

But, it's lonely, too.

And, unless you put yourself out there, how will anyone know the things you're going through?

Or how will I know what others are going through?

We need each other.

Because I know that Jesus is always with me, I am never alone.

"For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” Hebrew 13:5

Sometimes, I take that too far and spend too much time alone, when I am called to go out and be a light for others.

Love needs hands and feet to feel true.

This thirty-something mama has work to do. It's not natural for me to reach out. But, when I do, it feels so right. And, I know it's what the Lord has planned for me, for all of us.

This is what we're here for. To show others they are not forgotten.

Praying with that person who needs a miracle. Sending off those messy Valentines your children made. Writing that note to another mom who's hurting. These things Matter. 

Because you matter.

Whether you're a first-born go-getter, a middle like me, or a youngest adventurer, there is a place in this world, specifically tailored for you. To be a light for Christ.

One good thing about being a middle-child is that I have no problem having a quiet time. I love to search the Scriptures and find God in ways I've never seen Him before.

Quiet times of solitude with the Lord are good. But, we can't stay there forever. Love isn't meant to be bottled up in our own hearts, it's meant to be shared. We have to come out and be conduits of His love. Pouring our lives into others, so they, too can know Jesus is real.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." 
Matthew 5:16

Sunday, February 1, 2015

{Perspective}:How to Know God is Real

It was time to let my little boy, with the cowlick in the back that refuses to stand down, know the good news. 

He was watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix with his siblings. 

"Guess what?" I said loud it enough to rise above the volume of Phineas trying to make plans about what to do today... 

No response.

"Hey. Little Man? I've got something to tell you." Slightly louder.

He glanced at me. "What?" Then turned back to the computer screen.

It seemed like he was still listening, but it's hard to tell sometimes with autism

"I am going to be your teacher tomorrow." I paused. "In your third grade Sunday School class." No feedback. "How do you like that?"

He continued to stare at the cartoon. "Oh. Good," he said without flinching.

Helping teach a classroom full of rowdy, rambunctious nine-year-olds, was not really my idea of a day of rest, but I was surprised to find that I was blessed in doing so.

Toward the end of class, one of the questions the lead teacher asked struck me. 

"How do you know God is real?"

That's not just a question for kids. And, it's hard to answer.

For the first time that morning, the class went silent.

Then one bright girl spoke up. "In God's Word."

And, it got me thinking.

How do we know God is real?

Yes, in His Word, the Holy Bible, the best-selling book in all of time, preserved through millenia, translated into nearly every language in existence.

But, how do we know God is real from the Bible?

Well, that is where faith comes in...

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

But, how does one go about getting faith?

Can you try really hard to conjure up feelings of belief?
No. Although feelings are associated with it, faith in itself is not a feeling (Ephesians 2:8,9).

Can you study really hard and know everything about theology?
No. Unless you experience a spiritual rebirth, you cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)

Can you do every religious practice "religiously" to be considered a righteous person?
No. Every thing we try to do to be right with God is still done without Him and brings us no closer to knowing Him.

God must reach out to us.

Because faith is a gift from above (Ephesians 2:8,9).

And, here is the real good news...

God reached down from on high, broke through the womb of a lowly virgin, grew in wisdom and stature in grace and in truth. 
He allowed Himself to be broken, poured out and killed on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. 
And, He was raised back to life and now is in heaven until the appointed time of His return.

It takes a miraculous faith to believe in salvation through Christ Jesus.

And also, for us to acknowledge that Christ is not only our Savior, but our Lord, Whom all our feelings, thoughts, plans, words, and actions bow down to.

"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9,10)

When we believe He reached down to us, and we daily acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, we know He is real.  And, we will see Him in our lives.

Five Ways to See God:

In our feelings: when we worship the Lord through song, with lifted hands, bowed down, or clapping in exaltation, we allow our hearts to adore Him. And, we will fall in love with Him.

In our thoughts: when we pray and meditate on God's Word, His Works, and His Providence, our minds are renewed. We become God-focused. And, we will think like Him.

In our plans:  when we make a point to look to the Lord first in all things, our lives are set in tune with His will for us. We will trust Him to work all things out for our good (Matthew 6:33, Romans 8:28).

In our words: when our feelings, thoughts and plans are saturated with the Lord, our words will be full of love, thankfulness, and praise. We will confess His faithfulness to the world.

In our actions: when we depend on the Lord's strength to do the things that are hard, but good, we will be able to accomplish the impossible. We will take courage in Him.

We can only see God because He first reached out to us and gave us His grace. 

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8)