Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Signs of Growth, Gifts of Grace

Before Bible study this morning, I vacuumed floors. Not because I'm a Neat Nelly but because of necessity. In one room a full-length mirror lay broken on the floor. In another a potted plant had fallen off the shelf.

It occurred to me that, in the days of young children, this would have been a disaster. A catastrophe. Broken glass and small feet. Black dirt and carpet.

But not today. Today I was alone. Thankful I didn't have clambering, half-dressed, hungry children. Thankful I had a full-size trash bag to scoop up the mirror, frame and (almost) all. Thankful no one had watered the plant before it fell.

And in that moment I realized that past trials have given me grace and patience in today's trials. The first time you find a cat in the clothes dryer, it creates a bit of panic. The next time you know what to do and it's not as concerning.

Isn't God good to teach us, stay with us, remind us of His constant presence and work in and through our lives?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:2-18)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Quick Fix

As I sit this morning, with broken water pipes, company, children, harvest--life--I can't help but ask God to fix things. There are dishes, hands, and clothes to be washed. People to feed and care for. God says, "No" or "Wait" (which means "no" for now).

And I am reminded that life here will always be broken and limping. God comes to my aid. I am thankful. And something else goes wrong. And I pray. And He answers.

But what I need, more than a repaired water main, more than settled laundry, dishes, and children, is a settled heart; a heart that is content with or without pleasing circumstances; with or without fixes and affirmative answers to prayer. This morning what I need, all I need, is Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
(Philippians 3:8-13)

As I read this passage today, it turned inside out. Why did Jesus lay hold of me? What is the prize of the upward call of God on my life?

The upward call is that I, by faith, would be conformed to His death, living not in my own strength but in the power of His resurrection through the fellowship of His sufferings. Jesus laid hold of me that I would glorify and live for Him instead of myself. God's will is to use the life of Christ in my body, at this time of history, in this geographical place, with these people so that, as believers live out the life and purpose of Christ, He manifests Himself across the world.

It's not about fixing things, enjoying life, or making it easier. It's about living daily His death, suffering, and resurrection in trust and faith. I can rejoice when things go well and I see the hand of God in each and every blessing. I can also rest in difficulty, praying continually, trusting that God is working something even greater in the difficulties.Paul continues to write:

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

As You Go

Jesus said to make disciples "as you go..." The other day I distributed flyers for our local after-school Bible club (Good News Club) as I ran errands... at the grocery store, local Mexican restaurant, Dollar store, post office, bank. It wasn't a burden. It wasn't tiresome. It was a joy and I knocked things off my to-do list as I went.

The gospel is like that. Jesus wears my body, personality, abilities, interests, relationships, resources, limitations. Where I go, He goes. He speaks. He helps. He loves. He cares. He listens.

Seek opportunities, you'll be amazed where He will lead you to be His hands, feet, eyes, ears, and mouth.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)