Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God is our life-support

In Genesis 2:7, we find that God breathes life into us: "...and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." Literally, this refers to the Spirit of God being breathed into us. At creation, He formed from dust our fleshly bodies, but he breathed His Spirit into us to give us life.

And thanks to Jesus' redemptive work on the cross, we don't have to live by our flesh. Our life support can be His Spirit which empowers us:
"But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:11; see, too, Eph 2:1).

I almost didn't consider this as an attribute. Of the ones listed in Acts 17, this isn't as clearly stated as God is... Instead, it's alluded to twice: 
"He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Vs 25)
"For in Him we live and move and have our being" (Vs 28)

I loved that:  "have our being." I chose to say God is our life-support because if you've ever seen a life-support machine, you know it's doing all the work. It does the breathing--which is our life, right? I mean, without breath, we are dead. So, in essence, the life-support does for us what we cannot do on our own. 

There have certainly been moments in my life, seasons where I needed God to breathe for me because I didn't have the strength to breathe on my own. But other times, I think that God as our life-support is, instead, a picture of what our dependence on Him ought to look like.

I touched on this last week when I talked about the presence of the Holy Spirit being with us. Because of that truth, we have access to His power. We can instead operate out of the power of His grace by walking in the strength, the life, of His spirit. 

For me, I am still learning what this means - the daily, hourly choice to choose His Spirit in me over my flesh and my own strength. I don't always live it, and I certainly don't have a formula or steps for doing it. But, here is what I do know: When I choose Him, when I choose to sacrifice my time, when I choose quality relationship over quantity time, He strengthens me and allows me to accomplish abundantly, exceedingly more than I could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

God is Near

At the end of Deuteronomy (31:6, 8), Moses gives a word to the people of Israel and then to Joshua personally:

  • "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God He is one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." 
  • "Be strong and of good courage....And the Lord, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed." 
Then at the beginning of the book of Joshua, God again directly gives this word to Joshua as he steps into Moses' position: 
  • "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you." 
The phrase "I will never leave you nor forsake you" is referenced again in Hebrews 13:5, and it serves as a comfort and a reminder of another one of God's attributes: His nearness. He is always near. He is with us. His nearness is, to me, an endearing attribute. And yet, how often do I forget that He is with me? At times of major crises, this attribute is, of course, the one we cling to most. But for the every day, the mundane, the day in and day out? At the end of John, Jesus tells his disciples He is sending the Holy Spirit, who will be their helper. Literally, this means One who walks with or walks beside. 

This week has been a crazy week for me. Sometimes I let life pile higher and higher until I'm overwhelmed, and this week has been one of those weeks where I over-commit myself and promise too much to too many. By the end of the week, I'm running on empty, and I'm thinking, how did I get here? 

The Lord gave me a picture as if I were putting a piece of furniture together by myself, and I needed to hold the two ends "just so" while I drilled. I can't hold two pieces and drill at the same time. Imagine, though, that someone is sitting next to me as I squirm and wiggle trying to hold the pieces "just so" while I drill. It seems foolish, right? Why wouldn't I just say, "Hey, can you help me out here?" 

Now, that's just one project--maybe a once-in-a-while kinda thing. But imagine if I were putting furniture together for a living. Day in and out, I'm squirming and wiggling and frustrated trying to balance everything "just so" while my partner, my helper sits there next to me, twiddling his thumbs. 

It's a silly picture, but visually it really resonates within me--as someone who has put together a lot of furniture over the years and as someone who doesn't do very well letting others (a.k.a. Hal) help me as I do it. 

It's no less foolish to live like I have this week, trying to juggle it all. I've been forgetful (for three days in a row, I ran out of the house in such a hurry I forgot to set meat out to thaw for dinner), I've been late to every appointment or meeting I've had (which, if you know me, is very unlike me!) because I'm always on the rush, from here to there, trying to get one more thing in, and I've been exhausted. I got so run-down from staying up til 1 a.m. trying to "get it all done," that by Wednesday, I was sick. This always happens to me, too... I let myself get so worn down that I just end up sick. 

And at the end of the week, my Helper gently says, "You know, if you'd like, I can hold those two boards while you drill." 

The point is God is always near. It's not only an inherent attribute, it's His promise too: I will never leave you nor forsake you. And we have the Holy Spirit to help us, to walk alongside us. He's more than a fire fighter or a disaster relief aide. He is there for the every day to empower us. 

This week is over - and I'm so thankful. Because of this week, I got to be reminded of God's most endearing attribute, that He is near. But next week, I want to live by that truth and walk, instead, with the empowerment of the One who walks alongside me. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love the One You're With: A Valentine's Day Post

Sometimes movies really get me thinking, movies like The Vow that display the uncertainty of life and show a testimony to the power of love. I know, it's silly, and I know, for some movies, it's "just a movie," but it's true.I once wrote a similar post about a Nicholas Sparks book....

But the thing is sometimes I forget about the uncertainty of life, and I think we take for granted those little moments we get to experience with the ones we love. Maybe Valentine's Day is just a silly holiday created by greeting card companies and the restaurant industry to make women feel secure about their love relationships. But even still, why not take advantage of a designated day to show your love for someone? Why not take advantage of every day?

My theme this year has been about living life fully. On my mirror, I have two things I read every day. The first says that "Today is a gift." The second says, "Live by faith. Live by grace. Live life fully. You get to choose." Every day is a gift, and I realized last night every day is also another blessing that I get to walk out with the greatest gift God gave me - my husband.

I know I am so blessed to be married to my best friend. And I know our marriage is rare. It's rare that we enjoy spending so much time together, that we enjoy doing the same things. I never knew I would find someone I would never tire of being with. And I know I have a rare husband in Hal, too. Someone who helps with the cleaning, loads the dishwashers, folds clothes, drives me to school any chance he can, comes home for lunch or for a break, just to see me. He really is amazing, and our love really is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of loves.

We left the movie last night (we saw The Vow), and we joked about whether we would find each other again if something like that happened to us. I don't want to think about something that tragic, but it did make me mindful of every moment we get together. Every second we have in this lifetime. I don't want to waste time with petty arguments or even unimportant and misplaced priorities. Instead, I want to be grateful, to take notice, and to make memories. I want to remember the days we have together. I prayed last night, as I often do, that we would have a lifetime to share, that God would extend our days together, a long-lasting marriage, an extraordinary marriage.

So what if today is a silly holiday? Love the one you're with. Remember your time together. Be grateful for the moments you share.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Faith in His Attributes

I am departing from my attribute list because I wanted to share two different attributes of God that I found while reading Romans 4. The passage from verses 13 to 25 describes the faith of Abraham to believe God for His promise - for which, God accounted it to him as righteousness; we have the same righteousness accounted to us when we believe. But, in the midst of these verses, in a chapter I once memorized for a Beth Moore Bible Study, two attributes of God stood out:

  1. God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did (verse 17)
  2. God, who is able to perform what he has promised (verse 21)

Abraham believed "contrary to hope" what was spoken to him (verse 18). He did not look at the circumstances around him or at his own physical limitations (verse 19). Instead, it says, "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to perform" (verses 20-21).

The reason Abraham could stand firm in his faith, believing on the promises of God, is because he knew God, and, moreover, he knew the attributes of God. He knew God to be the creator of life, the only one who could plant the seed of his offspring; he knew God to be able to perform that which he had promised. When we stand on who God is, what we know of Him, our faith is strengthened, and we can believe him for His promises.

I will believe contrary to hope. I will not get discouraged by circumstances. I will not waver in unbelief. I will be fully convinced my God is able! Will you?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Sovereignty of God

I had a blog post all ready on attribute #5: the sovereignty of God. To be honest, this is an attribute I'm sometimes uncomfortable with, so I had this whole thing written out, balancing our free will and choice with God's omniscience and sovereignty - that He is in sovereign control, that His plan cannot be thwarted, but that he allows us to choose the narrow or the wide, obedience or disobedience.

But I really felt like none of that was what God wanted me to share. This isn't a blog post about theology - it's about His attribute of sovereignty. So, instead, I'd like to share one of the most powerful moments in my life when I have seen God's sovereignty.

The verse in Acts says, "And [He] has determined their preappointed times and the boundary of their dwellings. As one theologian puts it, "Divine sovereignty means God is God in fact, and in name, that He is on the throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things 'after the counsel of His will.'"

For some, the way life happens is just by chance, by karma (or, by the way, the biblical principle of sowing and reaping??), or by fate, as if fate were something God-like, the work of the universe, the stars aligning, etc. But, as Christians, we believe in God's sovereignty. Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted, but I love that it says He knows the plans He has for me. Regardless of my circumstances or what is before me - whether good or bad - I can trust that it's within God's sovereign plan for my life. Not to be cliché, but I can truly have a hope for my life because I know that He works all things to the good of those who love Him. That doesn't mean life will always be good; it means regardless of what I face, it will strengthen me, sanctify me, conform me, and refine me. Anything He allows to happen, anything the enemy tries to do, or anything I choose in my flesh - He knows, and He works according to His plan for my life.

So, my story. I never blogged this story because I think, at the time, it was too real to process. In the summer of 2010, Hal and I took a mission trip to Guatemala. I am not exaggerating when I say within two days of our trip (Day 8 and 9), there was a volcanic eruption in Guatemala City, an earthquake, landslides, and a tropical storm. Because "news" in a third-world country isn't delivered quite as quickly or (I can't believe I'm about to say this...) accurately as it does in the U.S., we had no idea what was going on. We knew about the volcano; we knew nothing else. And so, our team takes off in a fifteen-passenger van to drive back to Guatemala City because we think it's okay to do so. The eruption is over and (supposedly) where we are going in the city, the volcanic ash is not too bad.

Unfortunately, we were heading into the middle of a tropical storm (what had been a hurricane and was now "on land") that was causing landslides on the highway. This highway was the major highway in Guatemala, so it was our only route to the city. However, because it was cut out of the side of the mountain, the falling boulders from the wind and rain of the storm could literally send your vehicle over the other side of the mountain. With only two lanes of "road," there was little wiggle room even to swerve. As we drove, there were moments when huge boulders would fall literally a few feet in front of our van, but we would brake just in time, or these rocks would fall just seconds after we passed. We crossed two bridges that - not long after we passed by - completely fell because of the force of the flooding waters. Did I mention the highway is laid out next to a river, as well?

When we arrived in Antigua (because we could not actually get to Guatemala City), we learned that the officials had closed the highway only half an hour to an hour after we completed our trip because so many had died or were injured. At that point, the number we heard for the death toll was less than a hundred; by the morning and the next few days, we would learn that it was over two hundred. Just on that road - not from the volcano, not from the earthquake; just from landslides and flooding on the same road we took, on the same day we took it, at the same time we were traveling.

For 11 hours, we were on this road. What was only about 280 miles took 11 hours because we could only drive 10 or 20 miles an hour, in case we needed to brake; not to mention, we could barely see because of the sheets of rain. I seriously prepared myself to be in an accident or die. At the time, I don't even think we knew the severity of the storm. But we prayed that God would protect us.

I truly see that day as miraculous. I've never experienced the full wrath of a natural disaster. But I see God's sovereign hand, acting in that situation. When the possibility - even the likelihood - of death was so near, He saved us.

God's sovereignty is real. However, we have to submit to Him, to bring our hearts into alignment with His plan. Will He let us get off path? Absolutely. We get to choose. Choose today to rest in the sovereignty of His will, to find peace in the comfort of His plan, and to submit yourself to His path and His boundaries.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

God is Sufficiency

I have been thinking about the truth that God is in need of nothing, that he is sufficiency. As a dependent creature, this is both humbling and difficult to grasp intellectually. Even if I weren't a Believer, and thus, weren't thinking in terms of my dependent need for a Savior, I still have other dependent needs that make me human: the physical need for water, food, and air; the emotional need for affection, community, and acceptance. And, as one who recognizes my spiritual needs as well, add to those lists the need for forgiveness (mercy), grace, and unconditioned love. I need those things for my own spirit, and then I need His Holy Spirit to live and to walk out each day. So, my spiritual needs are two-fold: for salvation and for sanctification.

And yet, God is in need of nothing. In fact, no comparison can be made. As Arthur Pink puts it, "He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency, peerless in His perfection. He sustains all, but is himself independent of all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none" (The Attributes of God, p. 12). When I say He is sufficiency, that literally means He is the quality of being sufficient.

On the one hand, there is a certain confidence gained, a certain assurance found in the knowledge that He is sufficient. It means He is stable. It means He is immutable. And it means I can trust Him completely. He is secure because He is sufficient.

On the other hand, this is quite humbling. It means God is not now nor was He ever in need of anything from me. The verse that inspired me to add this to my list was Acts 17:25: "Nor is He worshiped by men's hands, as if He needed anything." If ever I thought this relationship was equal or reciprocal, I am wrong. He is all sufficient; I am all need.

It's humbling because it forces me to not think more highly of myself than I ought, but it's also humbling to wrap my brain around the gravity, the magnitude of this truth. Our salvation was not for ourselves, nor was it because He needed to save us. It was, as Ephesian 2:7 puts it, "to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Or, as stated in Ephesians 1:5, it was "according to the good pleasure of His will." In short - it was His own demonstration of His own character (graciousness, kindness, goodness), for His own glorification.

In my pride, not only do I fool myself, acting as if I were the sufficient one, but I also irreverently approach God as if He were like me, as if He were in need of an exchange from me: the games and manipulations - "If I do this, then You do that." How foolish! Anything God ever does for me is because of His own goodness to demonstrate His own glory - not because He needs to and certainly not because I ever deserve or earn it.

What I have realized in seeking after this attribute of God is both a renewed humility and a reverence toward our God who is unlike any other being, toward a God "above all praise" (Nehemiah 9:5 - literally meaning He is sufficient even without our praise), and toward a God who chose, out of His own goodness, to call me His, to bless me greatly, and to be near me always. I pray that I would always be humbled with an accurate perception of reality: the reality of my condition and dependent need, and the reality of His perfection, his sufficiency - the total and complete picture of lacking nothing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God is boundless

When I see the attribute that God is boundless, the main thing that comes to mind is the fact that He is not bound by time. I have learned in the last six or seven months that God is not on my schedule--in fact, he is not bound by time at all. This morning, I was reading the end of Acts, in which Paul is accused by the Jews and taken before several judges to determine his fate.

What I had never thought about before is how much time passes in these last five or six chapters. Although Paul often faced resistance or persecution in his ministry (he had conflict in nearly every city he visited), he had not experienced as lengthy of a process as he does at the end of Acts. Even when he is arrested with Silas (See Acts 16), he is only imprisoned for one night. And he received his circumstance with joy. I believe that night was preparing him to persevere and endure an even greater challenge--three or four years in captivity.

We know from the time Paul was in captivity under Felix, the govenor, until Festus replaces Felix is two years. It's not clear how much time passes between Paul's appearance before Festus and later King Agrippa and later his appearance in Rome, but we know at least one winter passes on his journey to Rome. These chapters, while not always time-explicit, remind us that Paul spent a lot of time waiting:

At first, time seems to pass quickly:
  • "The next day..." (22:30)
  • "The following night..." (23:11)
  • "When he had arrived..." (23:33)
But then, time passes a little more slowly:
  • "After five days..." (24:7)
  • "After some days..." (24:24)
  • "But after two years..." (24:27)
  • "After three days..." (25:13)
  • "When they had been there many days..." (25:14)
From there, time becomes even less certain:
  • "And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy..." (27:1) 
  • "When we had sailed slowly many days.." (27:7)
  • "Now when much time had been spent..." (27:9)
  • "When the south wind blew..." (27:13)
  • "But not long after..." (27:14)
  • "Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days..." (27:20)
Then, time becomes more specific again:
  • "Now when the fourteenth night had come..." (27:27)
  • "After three months..." (28:11)
  • "We stayed three days..." (28:12)
  • "And after one day....and the next day..." (28:15)
  • "After three days..." (28:17)
  • "Then Paul dwelt two whole years..." (28:30)
 Obviously, these are a lot of examples, but I was really struck by the passage of time in these chapters. Sometimes, our seasons are clearly defined by time, but most times, they are not, and they feel more like "When many days had passed' or "After some time..." It's easy, in hindsight, to count time, but in the midst, we do not always know how long this circumstance will last. Paul, however, never lost heart. With joy and with confidence, he also never wavered in his position, and at the end of this trial, he was given favor, his life was spared, and his ministry continued in Rome.

Now, I began this post by stating Attribute #3 - God is boundless. He is not bound by time. He is everlasting. A pastor in Amarillo recently preached that God's time is kairos and ours is chronos (See "Acts 3 - God's Timing"). Our time is bound. It is fixed. It is defined and limited to 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. Our time is measured.

But God is eternal. That He is boundless means He stands outside our chronos time. This is why His timing is not on "our schedule." This is why some parts of our journey are clearly defined ("After three days..." or "The next day..."), but the "middle stuff" often feels so vague ("After some time.." ). But trust in this: because He is not limited by time (in fact, He is not limited by anything), His timing is perfect. Submit your time, your chronos to his perfect timing - kairos - and trust that He holds your today and your tomorrow in His hands.