Friday, May 28, 2010

An Audience of Angels

When I was a child someone told me about the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1). Somehow I got the idea that angels and people who had gone to heaven before me were watching over my shoulder and keeping track of all my mistakes. This was a fear-filled thought because no one knew better than I how often I failed to do things perfectly. I'm pretty sure I got that idea because it's not an uncommon thought...

The truth is so far more glorious and exciting. First Peter 1 tells us that our faith is on trial. It also tells us that "God is protecting you by his power" (v. 5), "that your faith is far more precious than mere gold" (v. 7) and that "it is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen." (v. 12) Words like "protecting", "precious", and "wonderful" are not words to inspire fear, but hope!

How is our faith being tested? In the opportunities to believe that God has good plans for us...even when things look like they're falling apart around us. (Jer. 29:11) In the opportunity to forgive, not because someone is sorry, but because we've been forgiven. (Matt. 6:12) In the opportunity to sing praise to God when we feel like we're surrounded by a challenge much bigger than we are. (2 Chron. 20) If you pause and consider your life for a minute, you'll know where this particular trial is for you right now.

In the moments when we're facing these struggles it's easy to feel weary, condemned or insignificant, but if angels are watching "eagerly" because "it is all so wonderful", we can be encouraged that something very huge, amazing and eternal is happening when we lift our hands in praise and confess God's truth in the face of difficulty. It's breathtaking to think that the angels who stand in the presence of God are eagerly watching the seemingly mundane events of our lives with excitement.

May God bless you with hope and encouragement and the knowledge that He is protecting you by His power!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Extravagant Love

Watch what God does, and then you do it,

like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.
Mostly what God does is love you.
Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.
Observe how Christ loved us.
His love was not cautious but extravagant.
He didn't love in order to get something from us
but to give everything of himself to us.
Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2
(The Message)

Ever have one of those days where you get a bit of a wake-up call on how much room you have to grow in the love department? Even with people that you really, truly, genuinely love. I recently had one of those and then just "happened" across this verse. God's really cool like that.

Our lack of perfect love can hurt those that we love most. On this particular day I was teetering on the thin edge of condemnation and despair. How can we grow in love? A perfect love is humanly impossible. It can't be achieved just on the strength of willpower alone--who hasn't discovered that?

God's spirit is never condemning--He gently offers conviction and the promise that He can make something beautiful out of our messes if we'll offer them to Him. This verse doesn't slam us with "smarten up and love like God" but rather gives keys to greater love: watch what God does, keep company with Him, observe how Christ loved...

Again, I am reminded that determination to get it right isn't enough. An intimate relationship with the source of perfect Love is the answer. When my heart is filled with the awareness of His great love for me, I'm safe to love "extravagantly" and without fear of not "getting something for myself".

My heart has heard you say,
"Come and talk with me."
And my heart responds,
"Lord, I am coming."
Psalm 27:8

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

He is With You

My son has recently asked to be read to from "the real Bible" instead of his story Bible. This works for me. He likes stories about mighty men of God and so I've been going through picking and choosing--starting, of course, with my personal favorites! After David, there's Joseph. His story never ceases to amaze me. To be mocked, betrayed and falsely accused and yet remain faithful to God qualifies him as a hero in my mind.

Joseph's story is quite familiar... He was the beloved son of his father which provoked jealousy in his older brothers who sold him into slavery. In Egypt he was elevated to head slave in the household where he served. His master's wife falsely accused him of trying to seduce her and his master threw him into prison. In prison he helped some men who promised to remember him to Pharaoh, but promptly forgot all about him. He eventually interpreted some dreams for Pharaoh, was raised to second-in-command and rescued Egypt and his family from starvation.

While reading this morning a phrase jumped off the page: "The Lord was with he served in the home of his Egyptian master." And again, "The Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love." (Genesis 39:2, 21) There were thirteen years of "setbacks" between the time that he was sold by his brothers and then raised to Pharaoh's right hand, yet "the Lord was with him" in slavery and in prison, all the while preparing him for a great task.

How easy it is to believe the lie that we've been abandoned by God when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or simply numbed by routine! Maybe we don't consciously believe we've been abandoned, but we live as though He is absent, our hearts unaware of His presence.

How did Joseph overcome bitterness and discouragement? I'm sure there were many lonely hours when he must have wrestled with these giants. We don't have Psalms recorded for Joseph like we do with David, but he must have been able to strengthen himself in the Lord. We know he was faithful in the daily tasks given to him and that this faithfulness raised him in favor with his masters and eventually led him to Pharaoh's court--this is not the legacy of one languishing in depression.

I'm inspired to be faithful in the humble tasks set before me today, to accomplish them with the awareness that "the Lord is with me" and that His favor will increase in my life through faithfulness in the little things. (Luke 19:17) I don't want bitterness and resentment to cripple me. I want to say with Joseph, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." (Genesis 50: 20a)

May you be blessed with an awareness of God's presence in your life today. He will never abandon you!

"For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?"
(Hebrews 13:5b-6)