Thursday, March 29, 2012

From 4Runner to 4Runner

Yes, I'm about to be one of those silly people who writes a blog post about her new car. :) But this is a sentimental moment for me, and I'm not always a sentimental person!

Eight years ago TODAY, at the ripe 'ole age of 17, I bought my first car (and paid cash!): a '99 black 4Runner Limited. Even then, having the funding to buy the car was by the grace of God. I remember the end of my senior year approaching, and I had been saving since I was 15...and I did not think it was going to come together. But it did.

This picture is from my senior year. I won't say how long it took me to find the scrapbook it was in, but it was worth the "hunt."

Yesterday, God blessed me with a new-to-me 2011 4Runner. We've been praying and saving for a year, and God provided the best deal. He literally answered our prayer down to the penny! He is so good!

I love this picture. Saying bye to great memories  and seeing in my future new memories to come. Yes, this is just a car, but it's also a new beginning, a new season for us. ...And, yes, I might be one of those people who buys a black 4Runner for the rest of her life, but I am a happy, happy woman!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

God is Not Confined by Man-Made Artifacts

It's hard to believe I'm on my second to last attribute in my list from Acts 17:22-31: God is not man-made nor is He confined by man-made artifacts. Verse 30 tells us that we ought not to think that He is like "gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising." Paul's reference to gold and silver and stone here is a direct reference to man-made idols, gods worshiped by the Greeks (at this point, he is in Athens). Today our nation may not have golden statues that we worship (though other nations certainly do), but we have plenty of things we idolize. That's not what I want to say this morning though...

Similar to the third attribute (God is boundless), God is not contained by our man-made creations, and I would dare say our biggest failure as Christians is that we, in this nation, have reduced God to Sunday morning church.

Not only is God's presence everywhere, but His Holy Spirit lives inside of me. If we are the body of Christ, then we also are the Church. This struck me in particular Saturday night at church. Pastor Jackie was pretty fired up preaching about service, our mandate to serve one another. His last point was that we serve to right injustices. The point of our Christian walk is not to fill a pew and get comfy - it's to go out and serve! And to do that, we don't have to take a trip halfway around the world. Places like the Dream Center minister to the poor in our city - right here in Lubbock!

In fact, Jackie talked a lot about our mandate to serve the poor and widows. That's why he has such a heart for the Slaton-Bean area. The Church, Christians, should be the ones serving those in need, those in crises, those in abusive situations, those in poverty and with poverty mindsets.

I am so thankful to be a part of a church, and under a pastor, who serves our city and our world. This year, we will send 150 people out to places all over the world, like Kenya, India, Czech Republic, and Guatemala, to serve. We give some 30% of our budget to missions organizations where most churches are lucky if their staff gives 10% away. And we have people who serve at the Dream Center daily, ministering to those in need in our city.

And what I love about the Dream Center is its goal to train and raise up generations out of poverty. Sure, we give away food and clothes to hundreds of families each week, but we also offer after school programs, G.E.D. classes, and job-search skills, like resume-building and interview strategies.

But it's not just about what my church is doing; it's about what I'm doing. When we got home, I kept thinking about our mandate to serve the poor. Personally, I am sometimes skeptical of government welfare programs because, for one, I know that the programs get abused by those who would take advantage of free money. When I worked at United Supermarkets, it always irked me when I would sack groceries for a WIC family and then carry the groceries out to a brand new Escalade. Secondly, I was raised to always take a job, to always work, no matter how "beneath me" the task may be. But on Saturday, God said to me, if the Church would do its job, there'd be no need for the government to run welfare programs. The welfare of the poor and the job-less is and has always been the Church's responsibility. 

Instead, we are worrying about building 20 million dollar buildings and buying fancier stuff to fill our pews. If every church in every city served the poor, the job-less, the homeless, and those abused, we wouldn't have a welfare problem.

Jackie is right: we have a mandate to serve. And we have a mandate to serve those in unjust situations, to right injustices. And poverty is an injustice. We are the Church - you and me - and our purpose is no more about filling a pew than God's attribute is about being contained within the four walls of a church.

Jesus said that He didn't come to be served, but to serve. If you're waiting for "The Church" to do something in our nation, stop. You are the Church. I am the Church. Let's do one thing today, this week, this month, to serve others.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

God is Abba Father

It has been a hectic couple of weeks, but I have been thinking about this post for a while. If you've been following the attributes from Acts 17: 24-31, I'm on #8 - God is our Daddy. In Acts 17:29, it only briefly refers to us as the offspring of God. Another passage, in Romans 8: 15 - 17, provides a better description:
"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together." 

What I love about this is the reference to our Spirit, which cries out "Abba, Father" - literally, "Daddy, Father!" I can't exactly pinpoint in my life when it happened, but a few years ago, I started praying to God as Daddy and not as a stiff, disconnected Father. I mean, who calls their own father, "Father." It's stiff and formal, right? For me, this change in the way I saw my Heavenly Father was around the same time Paige Allen preached a sermon about being "daughters of inheritance" and not "daughters of reward." 

What this means is that I am already a daughter, I am already accepted in the Beloved. I am saved by grace through faith, which for some reason is easier for me to accept than the fact that as a daughter, I don't have to earn God's love through works. 

I have always been such a pleaser, and similarly, I think I approached God this way. I would think his love were conditioned, as if he were pleased by my good behavior and turned away by my bad behavior. Now, I am not saying God's heart isn't grieved when we sin, but His love is unchanging, unconditional. (I'm told I'll understand this better when I have kids of my own...)

The most radical thing God ever told me in my journey to calling Him and seeing Him as Abba is how much he loved me. I'll never forget it. I was at our ranch in Dickens on a Thursday afternoon, and I desperately needed God to speak to me. He said, 
"Laura, you are my daughter, and I love you so much. Do you know how much I love you? Nothing you do can ever add to or take away from my love for you. It is already infinite."

Wow. It is already infinite! When I got ahold of the truth that nothing I do adds to His love for me and nothing I do takes away from His love for me, it changed my heart. As someone who feels guilty a lot, who fears upsetting someone else a lot, or who worries what someone else might think if I do this or that - this message for me was so freeing. If I pray every day for an hour, God loves me. If I don't pray for a week, God still loves me. 

And for some reason, with this freedom, I was more inclined to serve Him, to obey Him, to please Him. Not because I felt guilty, not because I needed to earn His love or grace again. But because I was falling in love, too. I was free to fall in love in a relationship that's not conditioned; I was free to fall in love because of the powerful way He loved me first.