For the beauty of the earth, For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise This our grateful hymn of praise.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Abounding Hope

This last term of Hello Mornings we used a study on Job & Joseph created by Lara  G. Williams, called Abounding Hope. The study is simple enough: A collection of different verses to read each day with questions to prompt specific Scriptural thoughts about God, His Promises, Hope, etc. There is no running commentary, but the user is guided to glean truths from God's Word, not the author's mind.

I can't tell you how I felt about studying Job...again...when I saw the topic. I may have rolled my eyes and thought  something negative. I don't really remember, but that sounds like something I would have done way back in January. I hope the thought of studying Job...again...does not deter anyone, though. I found this particular study to be valuable. Lara doesn't get into the debate I grew up with about how Job was probably actually being punished by God for future sins (seriously, I've heard that one so many times it's rote memory now), she doesn't get sidetracked trying to figure out if the Laviathon is a whale or a dinosaur. The entire study seems stayed on one ever important, but, I've learned as I've grown & as I've watched others, difficult topic...You *can* trust God. He *is* faithful, always. He will *never* leave you, even if your outward circumstances look as if He has. He *always* loves you. He isn't a God out to punish you for some secret sin you might not even know about, He is a God out to serve His Great Eternal Purpose in your life for His Glory, which often requires difficulties that incur growth.

Looking back through my notes on this study I can see that it became apparent by the end of week one what God was trying to say: I can trust Him. This may seem like a no-brainer to some people. A lot of Christians sometimes think this sort of thing just comes natural. It doesn't. I won't get into the specifics of why I have spent a lifetime in the church without being able to trust God. It makes most people uncomfortable to hear about my childhood of growing up in the church but having an entirely un-biblical upbringing at home. Suffice to say that I was taught from an early age that God hated His people, that He was "out to get them," to use the vernacular & that the better Christian you were the more he was. That He was just waiting for you to mess up one bit, then He'd jump on the occasion to attack you with some sort of cruel punishment.

Two December's ago, when Christ lifted me out of the darkness of sin and unbelief, I began to see things differently. I made my first few timid steps in trusting God, but, honestly, I believe that in the back of my mind, those thoughts were still there. This study dragged them all out into the open where God & I could deal with them once and for all.

It was a long session this round of the Hello Mornings Challenge. One thing after another came to the members of our group. As most people around the country know, it was a winter filled with illness after illness, on top of that there were so many other things going on that I couldn't enumerate them all in this entry. In my own life things were pretty bad. So many things going on personally that threatened to drag me down into a deep depression. In fact, in the old days they would have. I won't say that I didn't get depressed, some of the stuff was so overwhelming that it was bound to make me sad. But through these terrible times, as I wrestled with God in my study, I was finally able to see that these things as they were, temporal problems (OK, most of them are very long, temporal problems) that God will use for His Glory...and I can be a part of bringing that Glory to Him IF I trust Him. Of course, it's all gonna bring Him Glory whether I do or not, but do I want it to bring Him Glory *in spite of* my faith, or as a result of it?

As I look back over the past few months, I don't really see that a single one of the problems has changed. Some of them have actually become worse. What *has* changed is my perspective. I no longer look up and wonder "why?" the moment something bad happens. I look ahead, to the end, whenever that end may be...even if it won't be until I'm long gone from this the Glory that God will bring Himself as a result of this trial.

Here is a thought from my notes way back in Week 5 of the study: Trust God. He is all powerful and all knowing. He is in control of your circumstances.

And, of course, if you know me at all, you know that this makes me think of a song. Unfortunately Blogger cannot communicate with YouTube while using Chrome (yes, that is an indictment of Google who owns all three) so here's the link: While I'm Waiting by John Waller.

And with that phobia overcome, I will now attempt to work on my other biggie...fear of all pastors and other Christian leaders. Anybody have a good study on that one? :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Is a Gift?

James 1:2-4 The Message Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

I was raised to think of hardship as a bad thing, or even more, as a punishment from a god who had it in for us, who was just waiting for us to cross that line, then he would strike us down. I use that as an example sometimes when talking to my kids on the importance of knowledge of Scripture. Pure Scripture, not just someone's interpretation of Scripture.

As we enter into possibly another trial, this one centered around Babycakes and whatever it is that is causing his delays and possibly even seizures, I have been comforted by these verses. I was led to them yesterday in my study on Joseph in Abounding Hope. I've been trying to read them in different translations. They all come out saying what it basically says here in The Message. God does not give us these things because he is out to knock us around for our sins. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. As a recent convert to true & living faith (I attended church my whole life) I find all these truths of Scripture to be a beacon to lead me to trust in God. Between His Word and His Spirit I have been able to realize that God really does love His children. That just because this is happening again (and I can say again coz all my kids have had something) it is not because of some vendetta God has against me. He doesn't hate me and have a terrible plan for my life. Unless that's what He had for Joseph.

These verses are major "stop whining" verses. It's hard to complain when you read that these trials are to help show your "true colors." I've been thinking about that a lot. What are my true colors? How strong is my faith, really? I know it's been getting stronger, but I still seem to trip over the simplest things.

And, of course, I want out of this. I don't want this. In fact, when we go to the specialist I think I will tell him or her, "I don't want you to find anything wrong with my "baby." I want you to tell me he's perfectly normal and I am over-reacting." :) But we are not to try to get out of anything prematurely. We are to allow these trials to work in us so we become mature and well-developed. As I read through Scripture this certainly seems to be a big theme: You can't gain maturity without trials. The bigger the trials, the more mature you become.

These things cause us to change. I know, my life has been one trial after another. Becoming a Christian hasn't changed that at all. But since coming to Christ I can see that the trials really do what these verses say. It's really been amazing. I can't see why it just isn't more popular. ;) Seriously, though, when you face trials with Christ, you don't have to be a complainer or a hater. You also don't have to be a stoic or a, well, whatever that type of person is that says, "que sera' sera'." With Christ you know that each of these trials holds a purpose and though you don't really want them, especially when they affect your children (come on, God, can't it just be something with me? why my little kids? please?), you can know that through it all something beautiful will come from it.

I don't know what's going on with BC. I don't know what the medical outcome will be. I don't know what any of this will mean for the long term, but I know that God has given it to me because He loves me enough to want me to grow in Him and closer to Him. And because He wants me to be His witness in this world. Who knows how many people I will meet as a result of this trial? How many of them might never have heard the Gospel? How many of them might be as miserable as I was before God saved me?

There is a reason for everything. God is working to bring all things together for the good of those who love Him. And I pray that through all this I will be faithful, like Joseph, and that I will bring Him glory and honor.