May 11, 2015
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21 (NASB)
Let’s face it, life can get complicated. Priorities get mixed up. Feelings get hurt. Financial difficulties abound. Health falters. Before we know it, we lose our way, and life seems to spiral out of control. What can we do to bring order to this chaos? Go to the back of the Book!
I remember on Christmas Eve, in an unheated garage, I was assembling a little toy car for my 3-year-old daughter to ride on Christmas morning. How hard could it be, right? But when I opened the box and dumped all the parts on the ground, there was a clear bag that had 500 parts (okay, a little exaggeration here) inside of it. What I was hoping would be a 15 minute job, quickly became a task that took well over an hour and assured me of hypothermia! How in the world was I going to get this completed? I picked up the assembly manual and went straight to the back of the book, where I saw the schematic drawing of the assembled car. With the help of this simple diagram, the time it took me to assemble the car was considerably shortened. Going to the back of the book helped to bring order to my assembly crisis of chaos!
Looking at life’s operational manual, the Bible, we find simple yet profound instructions about how to live life. Let’s go to the back of the book and read the last two verses of the Bible. Here is what it tells us to do:
First, remember the Imminent Return of Christ…we can live as if Jesus is returning today! All throughout the New Testament, this is a reality – Jesus could return at any moment. He is going to return to this earth quicker than we think! He tells us this and gives us notice. Jesus says this THREE times in the last chapter of the Bible, “I am coming quickly” (verses 7, 12, 20). I think it is safe to say that He is trying to tell us something. He is coming back quicker than we may expect!
Let me ask you a question: If you knew that Jesus was returning today and that in less than 24 hours our time on this earth would be over, how would you live? I can tell you what I would do. I would forgive anyone who wronged me. I would tell those who mean the most to me that I loved them. I would share the Gospel with my neighbors and acquaintances.
I have another question for you: Should we not live this way anyway? My friends, this is how we SHOULD live our lives…forgiving, loving, and sharing with those in need.
There is a second truth that we find in the last verse of Scripture and it is this – we should live in the Infinite Grace of Christ… we can live free and forgiven! Isn’t it amazing that the last verse in the entire Bible talks about GRACE? Grace can be described as God’s unmerited favor. This saving grace is offered to all who have turned from their sin and accepted Jesus as Savior (John 3:16-17; Romans 2:23; 6:23; 10:8-10). Having this assurance that Christ will never leave us and will always be with us (Romans 8), we can be free to enjoy life to the fullest extent!
When the Golden Gate Bridge was being constructed in San Francisco, ten workers fell to their death. In order to save lives, the construction firm decided to place a giant safety net under the areas of the bridge where the men were working. After they did this, something amazing happened. Not only did no other construction workers lose their lives, but productivity increased by 25%! Why the increase in production? Because workers knew that if they did fall, it would not be fatal so they worked with more freedom and confidence.
My friend, for the Believer in Christ, our safety net is spelled G-R-A-C-E!
So, if life is spinning out of control for you, go to the back of the Book!
- Imminent Return of Christ…we can live as if Jesus is returning today.
- Infinite Grace of Christ…we can live free and forgiven.
May 04, 2015
As a Christian, it is so easy to look up to God when we face terrible situations and circumstances and ask, “Why, God?” or “Where are you, God?” or, my personal favorite, “If you are such a powerful and loving God, why did you let this happen?” Yet, we often forget that Christ never promised us that being His followers would be easy. We aren’t even promised that tomorrow will come with breath still in our lungs. Even Christ himself was not protected from pain and suffering.
Though the world looks at me and identifies me as “a man,” I often feel like the last two years have sent me back to childhood, or worse, to failure. I saw my marriage crumble into destruction. I was oppressed with loneliness and confusion as I sought a new identity in being truly “on my own” for the first time ever. And in the midst of that storm, I saw my father struggle, battle and eventually pass away after a 22 months with cancer. My father’s passing left me with a mother that I could depend on for strength only in small doses (she was fighting her own grief) and a brother that barely had strength to see his father in a casket. I had allowed the struggles from my divorce to drive me further from God, and I’d begun to do things my way rather than what God had planned for me. I sought my own indulgences for comfort, security and guidance. Worse than all of that, my relationship with God became distant and bleak because of my own selfishness and stubbornness.
So, where was God in the midst of all this, you ask? The truth is, God did not go anywhere in the midst of the chaos that hit my life. I was the one who moved. I allowed my emotions and anxieties to envelop me. Instead of hanging on to Him and seeking Him for comfort, security and guidance, I ran. I ran fast, and I ran far. Do not misunderstand me, though. It is not that I was intentionally running away from God. When all the turmoil began, my emotions took over my state of mind. I reeled into a panic, and in that — like I know so many others do — it was like I forgot I was a follower of Christ. It’s comparable to a small child who walks away from his mother in a grocery because something out of the ordinary catches his attention – a balloon, a cookie, whatever. It’s not until he realizes he can no longer see or hear her that he begins to panic and cry in fear: “Where are you, Mom?!”
Often, that is our story as Christians. We aren’t looking for God until we need him. Then, we dare look up at Him and ask: “Where are you, God? If you are such a powerful and loving God, why did you let this happen?” The truth is, God righteously can look down at us as if to say: “You mean, where have YOU been, my child? Please come home.” It is in that moment, God gently shows us that we cannot outrun his grace. Like the mother frantically looking for her lost toddler, God “leaves the 99 to come look for the one.” It is at that point that we have a choice to make. We can either fall into His embrace and ask Him to rescue us, or we can walk away angry that our circumstance brought us to this place of suffering.
Wherever you are, whatever your situation, God has been waiting all along for you to ask Him to rescue you from this fallen, evil world. It’s not that He allowed something bad to happen to you. It’s that He is making perfection within you from the chaos that stirs within your heart and mind. Could He prevent something bad from happening to you? Of course. But if He always did that, think of how much you’d miss His displays of love and provision as He walks you through your trials? He uses the bad situations the world gives us so that we can run to Him and allow Him to SHOW us how much He loves us.
So, come home child.
So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
-excerpt from David Crowder’s “Come as You Are”
College of Adult and Professional Studies
April 13, 2015
“I will put in the wilderness the cedar….”
When will people see more than just a little girl? More than someone who stands shorter than they? Someone who doesn’t look her age? I sat in my quiet office today asking the Lord these questions — my heart aching at the reality that is my life. Most often when I meet new people I pretend that they don’t notice my stature. That maybe they are thinking: I want to be her best friend, or I like her fashion sense. However, today I was hit with the harsh truth that sometimes people do see my height first and wonder “why?” Just writing that question sends a jolt of pain to a bruised spot in my heart. I sat in my office, my emotions feeling the same color as the blue walls that seemed to be closing in on me, and I asked the Lord those questions. His response, as always, is never what I predict. He brought these questions to mind: “When will you see more than just the earthly, the circumstances, and the lack? When will you see through my eyes, Betsy? When will you see the real question?”
“Lord, no offense but that’s not my question. This is about other people…not me. This is about what they see!” His sweet, persistent voice filled my heart, speaking the words I didn’t want to hear: “No, this is about you; this is about what you see. I want you to see through my eyes, not yours. Don’t worry about them; focus on your own vision, on what you see.” As I sat pondering these words, my mind went back to a lunch conversation I had with a kind and wise friend. She said to me: “If the offending question points back to Jesus, isn’t it for a greater purpose, the very purpose of life? That they may see and know that the hand of the Lord has done this?”
“I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia the myrtle and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” ~Isaiah 41:19-20
This world is broken, and the desert is real. Sin rules this world and with that comes sickness, death, brokenness, and sorrow. Yet, in the midst of the desert, the Lord says He will provide shade and a sweet smelling aroma. Only the Creator God, if He wills, can grow a tree in the desert; a tree that points a finger back to the Holy One of Israel. A tree that stands tall, sends out an aroma of sweetness, and provides shade. If I saw a tree standing in the midst of the desert I think I would ask why. Not out of offense to its Creator but out of curiosity. A tree shouldn’t live in the parched dry land but if God plants it, the tree will live. God makes dead things come alive and takes the stench of sin and cleanses it with the aroma of His son’s blood. He takes the deserts of life and plants His people in the midst of it. “He makes the barren places fruitful” (Guzik). Our pain, our brokenness, and our lack when placed in the Gardener’s hands can be the very shade a weary broken traveler needs. It can be the very aroma that draws someone sick of the stench of sin. It can be the very life-giving fruit that fills the empty.
Through the world’s eyes you and I shouldn’t have joy or sweetness in our desert, but we do. Why? Because of the Holy One of Israel. It’s as odd to a bitter hurting soul as seeing a tree flourish in the desert. May they ask. May they always ask…because I finally SEE that they will never know the fruit born out of the barren land if they never ask. He has filled me with the fruit of His word, given me shade, spread His sweet aroma over the stench of pain, and brought color to the blandest of days. Sweet friends, the Holy One has a purpose in the painful questions and the barren places. “They will SEE and know that the hand of the Lord has done this.” His sweet aroma, His shade, and the height of His love provided fruit in the most barren of places and that, my friends, is not of this world…The HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL DOES THAT!
Director of Women’s Ministry and Creative Arts