ready…set…go…part deux

Sometimes, for the Christian, we want so desperately to be the best Christian we can be…and who wouldn’t? I mean, I want to glorify God as best I can! The kicker…I can’t. I will never be able to glorify God. I am inadequate to the task. I am a sinner. I was born into sin. I naturally want to sin. I naturally choose to sin. How can I ever glorify God? How can I truly be free from the bondage of the sin I naturally choose? Because of the Gospel.

We will never measure up. No matter how hard we will try to be the best Christian we can be, we will never measure up. We can search scriptures, immerse ourselves in ministry, and do as much “good” as possible all in the name of being the best Christian we can be…but if that is where our source of fulfillment comes from we have suddenly made being a Christian an idol. What?!

What is an idol? Anything we elevate higher than Christ.

“The temptation to secure for ourselves something we think we need in order to be happy…” – this is sin: Tullian Tchividjian

I had to look at my heart this week. I had to deeply examine what I was holding most dear…it wasn’t pretty. If we all deeply examined our hearts…what would we find? If we did an honest examination of what we run to for fulfillment, would we be proud to share it with a friend?

I have allowed the many hurts of my life shape my response to situations in life. I made fear an idol. I made pride an idol. I made all the “good” things I had done an idol. I made marriage an idol. I made my need for the one who hurt me to “get there’s” in the end my idol. I made food an idol. I made music an idol. I made….everything an idol. I made participating in corporate worship through guitar playing or piano playing or mandolin playing or singing an idol. All of these things I sought after because I convinced myself the temporary relief I would find in my pride, in my fear, in my revenge, in a marriage, in music, in food, or in worship would fulfill me somehow in a way Christ never could. I bought into the lie that Christ wasn’t enough…so I needed to take up where He was obviously falling short.

Lori, how is this all coming together? Where are you going with all of this?

For the first time in my life I realized I don’t have to do anything to be better…I already am better because of the saving grace Christ displayed on the cross. Sanctification isn’t something I can achieve…it’s something I have already achieved.

“Day by day, what God wants us to experience practically only happens as we come to a deeper understanding of what we are positionally – a deeper understanding of what’s already ours.” What’s already ours? “Our Savior has already sweepingly secured all that we crave and need.” Tullian Tchividjian

“You’ve already been: qualified, delivered, transferred, redeemed, and forgiven.” Tullian Tchividjian

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11-14 ESV)

Look at the grammar used here by Paul…it’s all past tense! “who has QUALIFIED you” – past tense; “He has delivered us” – past tense; “transferred us” – past tense…all this so we can presently have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

It’s has already happened. When God sees us now, He doesn’t see “us”, but rather sees Christ covering us. So instead of seeing imperfect sinners He sees His perfect Son.

Perfect. Could there be any better news?

So, what does this mean? That’s for part three…

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ready…set…go…part 1…

This week found me reeling and blindsided by unexpected news that drastically altered my life in a major way. As in any time of “crisis,” we often struggle to understand “what went wrong?” Introspection can be dangerous because if we honestly look at those deep recesses of our hearts it’s not such a joyful thing. Ugliness can be found even when beauty was the intent. Ugliness in the form of idols…idols that we didn’t even know became idols…idols which came to be from good things…Godly things…they became idols nonetheless. How could this happen, you ask? With great ease…How can Godly things be idols, you ask? Things like scripture or church?? NO! Yes. I had never heard of the term “bibliolatry” until I began to dig deep in preparation for writing this post.

What is bibliolatry?

Merriam-Webster defines bibliolatry as:

  1. one having excessive reverence for the letter of the Bible
  2. one overly devoted to books

I know what you’re thinking…WHAT?!?!

Let me backtrack a bit…

I recently began to read a book entitled: “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” by Tullian Tchividjian. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

For so long I have beat my head against the proverbial wall in frustration at the constant struggle of the same things over and over and over again. My prayers would be something like this: “Lord, please help sanctify me so I will not do ….insert whatever sin I didn’t want to do anymore…” “Lord, please help me to change…” “Lord, please help me to choose to not do….insert whatever sin I didn’t want to do anymore…”

Surprisingly I have never been successful at “change” occurring. Shocker, right? That’s because I have fundamentally deceived myself of what it meant to be free in Christ. What it meant to progress to spiritual maturity. What it meant to be secured through salvation.

Colossians is rich with these principles, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read Colossians…and I never got it. I’m not saying I fully “get it” now…but the Lord is definitely revealing truth to me in a time when I need it more than ever. Truth of how damaging pride can be; even pride in knowing scriptures. Truth in how the Gospel did set me free from those things I fight so hard against: anger, fear, and uncertainty (trusting God to care for me). Truth of what it really means to change. Truth of what it really means to be sanctified. Truth in the very real danger of bibliolatry.

But it has nothing to do with how hard we work. Stayed tuned for part 2 to understand why “do more; work harder” will get us all NOWHERE real quick with God.

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still forming my thoughts…

‎”The only thing you contribute to your salvation and your sanctification is the sin that makes them necessary.” Tullian Tchividjian

 

God is certainly teaching me something great…stayed tuned…I’m eager to share because of the vastness of His grace and mercy!! Eeks!

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idols and the deep recesses of our hearts…

next on “A Journey of Joy”.

Stay tuned…you won’t want to miss it!

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trying to decipher god’s will and other unwise moves…

“When you let go and let God…”

“When one door closes He opens another…”

“Trying out the bark collar to see what it feels like for your dog…”

No, really…my bro tried out the bark collar once just to see what it felt like for the dog. Thankfully he hesitated about placing the collar around his neck and opted for the arm, instead. Regardless, the outcome was the same: pain.

Isn’t that true when we fight so hard to decipher God’s will for our lives? We end up in pain? I must come to the same realization a hundred times in a week: I don’t understand God and His will, and yet I can’t seem to ever stop trying just the same.

David Platt once gave a sermon on God’s will, and it really has stuck with me for a while now…not that I seem to always apply it to my life…

He taught on the idea of God not having a specific will for each of us, but rather He gives us the opportunity to be a part of His will for humanity. This shifts the focus away from “us” and back to God. God…what is Your will for ME….what do you want ME to do…please help ME to know how to serve You….blah blah blah…

I do this all the time. Well, I did this all the time. I’m improving. Many thanks to the Lord for this and every other thing about my life!

Ok, so where am I going with all of this? Well, Platt also said something else that really flipped a switch for me…

He said, and I paraphrase, that so many times we look for signs and closed/opened doors as confirmation of God’s will when some times God is saying, “Are you going to be faithful? Are you going to persevere? Are you going to give up? OR are you going to trust where I first led you and be persistent despite the roadblocks?”

This thought definitely ran through my mind not too long ago, and resonated with my heart in a very tangible way. I thought there was no hope. I thought there were closed doors. I thought…I thought…and then I stopped thinking and started to remember all that God had done. Started to speak truth to myself of how God has changed me in the last several months, and what He has used as the primary tool of sanctification: my relationship with E. And I knew I had to persevere.

No relationship is perfect, especially when dealing with imperfect people, and I have heard it said over and over again that you can’t choose who you love. Well, I think that is total hogwash. We choose who/what we love and how we show that love. For instance, look at our relationship with God. We don’t have fuzzy feelings drawing us to Him…He first chooses us and then we are able to come to Him. BUT our flesh fights against any love we might have for Him. He gives us the ability to consciously choose to die to ourselves and love Him every moment of every day. Are we always successful at loving God? You better answer no…cause you and I both sin every day in some way. Our sin is a direct reflection of our flesh not wanting to love God. Again, we are to pursue holiness, we don’t have to obtain it. We never will obtain it until we are with Him in eternity. That’s for another post…

My point: I found myself choosing to love me more than E. My mistake. I thank God for giving me a second opportunity at loving E as Christ loves E. I can only be successful if God gives me the grace to love E, and, for God to give me the grace to love E, I must ask for it every day. It’s the same with loving God. The only way we can be successful at loving God is if He gives us the grace to do so, but we must first ask for said grace.

The restorative power of His love and grace is absolutely incredible. I’m so very thankful for it. I’m so very thankful for E. I’m also excited to see how God continues to mold both E and I as we draw nearer to Him and to each other. I’m also thankful for David Platt helping me to understand that I will never understand God’s will for my life until I surrender my desire for a specific will and participate in His will for humanity…and for realizing sometimes you have to overcome the obstacles that seem like closed doors by being persistent and trusting what you know to be true instead of assuming because it is hard.

Does God give us marriage so we can understand more what it means to be His bride? Hmmm….perhaps the topic of a possible series? We’ll see….I should probably ask E before venturing out into what could be the most transparent things I could ever write.

To correct my previous post: I am definitely not single, but happily pursing and being pursed by a most precious gift from God: my sweet E.

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a return to familiar places…

It has been so long since I last sat down to write I think I might have forgotten how to go about it. I’ll just go with a stream of consciousness….

Where to start…how about nursing school. Yep, that’s right, folks…I’m applying for nursing school this semester. I was thinking of waiting until the Fall semester to apply (for admittance for Spring 2013), but I think I’ll just go for it now and see what happens. The program for which I am applying is not an easy program to weasel into these days, but I am confident I will eventually be accepted.

What about Kenya, you ask?!

For now it’s on hold. It could be on hold forever; I just don’t know. I know God is going to use me no matter where I reside, and He has already shown me many reasons why being back in the States right now is where I need to be. I had some adventures when I left Kenya, and they definitely changed my life for the good.

God is funny and definitely not easy to understand. Really…why would He be easy to understand?! I can’t wrap my mind around saran wrap let alone the creator of the Universe.

I left Kenya and traveled to Israel for a few weeks. It was an amazing time in my life! What a joy it was to explore such a controversial and historical land; to be able to connect to scripture in a new and deeper way was a treasure. I wandered the streets of Jerusalem (I might have gotten lost..but I’ll never admit to it), and experienced the Dead Sea. I explored several of King Herod’s palaces, and saw the sun set over the Sea of Galilee. I went hiking in the desert, and ate a lot of hummus and pita bread. I also had the pleasure of meeting the sweetest man I have ever had the privilege to know. I think we both had hoped for a long-term commitment to be the result of our knowing each other, but God has other plans for us. I never rule out what God can do in the future, but I know I can’t dwell on the unknown.

So where do I stand in the grand scheme of things called life?

  1. I am officially a college student…again.
  2. I am single…again.
  3. I am gainfully employed through more than one job…again.
  4. I am covered by God’s mercy and grace…again…although I never was not covered, and isn’t that something in which we can all rejoice?!

Life is hard at times, and at other times it doesn’t appear to be so hard. Right now, I can’t turn around without seeing suffering. My sweet friends, my family, are suffering, but the truly incredible reality is God is moving in each of their lives. He is moving in glorious ways! Long time prayers are being answered despite the chaos that seems to have taken over. God is working in the lives of those dearest to my heart! It is such a joy to see each one of them draw near to the Lord in ways they never have before, although it breaks my heart to see them suffer. Yet, what about me? Am I drawing near to the Lord? For a long while I have felt my prayer life had been stagnate. I pray. I pray all the time. I pray even when I don’t necessary set out to pray, yet I find myself talking to Him while I’m washing the dishes…or driving down the road…or when I should be studying. But it hasn’t been thoughtful prayer.

I like to write my prayers out; I find when I write them out they tend to be more focused AND I am able to look back at what God has done. I haven’t been doing that for a long while. I scrounged up a notebook not long ago and started back to keeping a prayer journal. So while my prayers seem to be more focused, and I know I’m realigning myself to be where I should be with God, I can’t say I understand any better what exactly He is up to right now.

I don’t want to look forward to this part of my life to be over. I want to savor it. I want to savor this time I’m back in school, and this time I have had to minister to those around me who have been suffering. I think all too often I dismiss the present and look forward to the next season God has in store for me. However, when I do that I miss out on the season He has me. He has me here for a specific reason: to bring glory to Himself. Whom am I to look forward to its end?

So, I shall leave you with the words of Job. From the midst of his suffering Job says, “For I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.” 19:25

Our Redeemer lives. No matter the circumstance…our Redeemer lives, and at the last he WILL stand upon the earth! So, please pray with me and for me. I covet your prayers, and please let me know how I can be praying for you!

 

 

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brush of thorns…

Suffering. It’s universal. We all suffer. Even Christ suffered; I would say more than any human could ever imagine. How do we deal with suffering? How do we rationalize the very idea of suffering? What do you say to someone in pain? Someone so hurt by circumstances they would hurl themselves into brush full of thorns. Someone so hurt by loss they would wail to the point of nearly fainting. What do you do? How do you help? Where is the hope?

A family in our Masai community lost a loved one: a brother…a son. I am not a mother, and I can’t even begin to understand what it must feel like to lose your son. I am a sister, but I have been fortunate to have never experienced the loss of a brother. I’ve lost loved ones: my grandfathers…my grandmothers…cousins…other extended relatives. There has been intense grief, but I’ve never felt so compelled by grief to inflict physical pain upon myself. Is this just a cultural difference? Is this a result of knowing my loved one’s were eternally secure?  Is America so detached from truth we no longer feel real grief?

I’ve never seen friends and family rally together as I have seen this family and community come together. No sympathy cards. No covered dishes. No, “I’m sorry” and then just walk away. Here…they cook…they clean…they stay…they care. It may not all make sense. I’m boggled by it in many ways. Some of the things they say such as: “Stop crying.  No more tears.” I don’t understand…but then again…friends are washing the families clothes…friends are gathering massive amounts of firewood…friends are spending the night to care for the family…friends are donating to pay for services…

It’s community. It’s caring. It’s grieving in their own way. No detached cards to keep you from having to feel something…no casserole to send which will freeze beautifully…genuine caring for one another.

As followers of Christ, we have a hope. A hope for all eternity. This family…they have hope. Not many here do, but this family does. While they grieve, they know God is sovereign in all things…even in death. They hurt for the loss, but rejoice in the knowledge their loved one is no longer suffering from physical deterioration…no…their loved one is praising God…in His very presence praising our Heavenly King!

Suffering…

We can endure because we have a hope. No matter the suffering…we can endure because He endured. It is through our suffering and endurance that we become more and more like Him.

I grieve with my friends here, but I celebrate with them as well; for their son/brother is with our Lord and Savior! Won’t you grieve and rejoice with us?

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