Glory

His Glory Revealed

I don’t cry very often, thanks to some well-dosed antidepressants, but every now and then I still have my moments. What landed me in that place the other night might surprise you. I had been waiting for some medical test results, and I received them earlier in the day. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” is what the nurse said. This might be a relief to many patients, but to me it represented one more failed attempt at an answer—and with no answers looming on the horizon that I could see.

Chronic pain and illness—some treatable, some not; some diagnosable, some not—has been my plight for years, and it’s one I try to endure with some semblance of grace. But sometimes one more symptom to add to the bray just feels like more than I can handle. You know?

Well, I’ve allowed the Spirit to comfort me in the past through verses like these.

James 1:2-4:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10:

“…I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Romans 8:18:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

But the other night, the passage that came and kept coming to my mind was John 9:1-3:

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

I guess the reason I’ve never connected this story with my own is that Jesus chose to heal this blind man. And if we look at God’s glory as healing, strictly speaking, then I guess it might never apply to me. But even when our paths and journeys differ, God’s glory can still be seen, can it not? Regardless of what we face, God can use our circumstances to reveal His heart.

  • It may look like renewed compassion and empathy for others who suffer.
  • It may look like the encouragement you share with and receive from others.
  • It may look like a strengthened faith in God’s sufficient grace.
  • It may look like God walking alongside you—carrying you when the road becomes too long.
  • It may look like you walking alongside a fellow sojourner—helping them to bear a burden that is too heavy for them to carry on their own.
  • It may look like peace that passes understanding, in spite of swirling turmoil.

I could go on, I’m sure, but I hope you get my point. Chronic pain and illness are my cross to bear (and that of many others), but your struggles (or your friend’s, or your neighbor’s, or your colleague’s, or your sister’s) may be very different. They may include losses, addictions, hurts, sins, you name it. But they are no less usable by God, for the display of His glory—if we will allow Him to use them.

Look for God in your circumstances—chances are, you’ll find Him.

Lenten Blossoms
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Step Out in Faith

It’s not easy being a girl.

I know what you men are thinking…that this post isn’t for you. But don’t let my opening statement scare you away. This message is especially and specifically for you. But it bears sharing a bit of background, as in, it’s not easy being a girl. You’ve heard and even perpetuated the stereotypes, you’ve encountered the Bridezillas and the other crazies. To be honest, there aren’t that many areas on which I personally identify or connect with the traditional “female” experience. But there are a few—and there is one that especially stands out to me.

FAITH.

I know what you guys are thinking—women don’t have the corner on faith. And you’re right. As with any generalization, there are exceptions. But those exceptions belie the rule. Case in point: the cross. Think back, where were the disciples? Nowhere to be found. They were off hiding in the bushes somewhere. Who remained? The women. Now, I don’t know if they were 50 feet from the cross, but I can tell you how I picture the scene at Calvary. I see the Marys, all three of them, kneeling beneath the cross, worshiping Jesus in spite of what seemed a hopeless defeat. They’d been at His feet before, hanging on every word of His teaching…anointing His feet with the finest of perfumes and even their own precious tears. But this time, it was different. This time, it was He who was anointing THEM, with His own precious blood. And they believed Him and His promises. Still.

Need more proof? How about the tomb? Where were the disciples then? Running around like chickens with their heads cut off, that’s where. Why? Because they had finally met with a set of circumstances that defied their sense of reason, circumstances that they couldn’t understand or explain, or FIX. You can relate, can’t you? In a society where you’re expected to be self-sufficient, strong, successful. In a world where you’re expected to perform and provide, and to be right. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. You’re tired—exhausted. You’re weighed down with burdens that God never meant for you to carry. What He wants from you is FAITH. And I feel God telling me to tell you today, Step out in faith. Step out in faith. Don’t step out in the calculated risk that YOU can accept and manage. Don’t step out in your own resources—your wealth, your intellect, your spatial reasoning skills. Don’t step out only in what makes perfect logical sense. When you rely on these worldly “wisdoms” and competencies, you are stifling your God. You’re making Him small, weak, impotent—not in reality, but in your MIND, and your HEART.

Consider David, when he faced Goliath. Did he step out in his own strength, or experience, or prowess? No, in his own words, he stepped out “in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45). God never said to be strong and courageous in your own abilities. In Joshua 1:9, we see that God commands us to be strong and courageous, and to not be afraid or discouraged, “for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Don’t stifle the Holy Spirit inside you. Don’t put false limits on a God who is limitless. Have faith. Deepen your faith. And then STEP OUT IN FAITH!

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God, I pray that you would raise up not just one generation of faithful men, but an army. I pray that these godly men would allow themselves to trust you, and to not rely on their own strength and understanding. Instead, let them pursue you BOLDLY, recognizing that you are a BIG God, and that you have in store for them BIG, GOD-SIZED dreams and possibilities. Give them courage to rest in you, and to step out in faith for your glory and your kingdom. A thousand times, Amen. In your matchless and limitless power, let it be so today.

 

Even the Weeds

Psalm 19:1
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”

You’ve heard it said, and indeed it is written, that the heavens declare God’s glory. I think many of us can get behind this statement. Even the idea of space (outer or inner) is too much for me to wrap my mind around. It is SO vast, SO beautiful, SO far beyond my comprehension. All of that suggests to me that, yes, there is a God; and that, yes, He is great and mighty and creative and mind-blowing.

But I would actually like to suggest that it isn’t just the incomprehensible heavens that declare the glory of God, but rather much more mundane aspects of His creation as well. In particular, let me submit to you that even the weeds declare the glory of God. What?! Those nasty, pesky little things that we cut and pull and poison and kill? Those? Yes. Allow me to share three examples that I believe speak to this.

Exhibit A: So, I’m walking along with my daughter, taking her to swimming lessons and watching the grass beneath our feet. And I notice, for the first time, these intricate little weeds that look like giant green snowflakes—well, giant in relation to snowflakes, at least. There were so many of them, each a bit different from the others, but each one beautiful. The next day, I found this other little brown weed poking through a crack in the sidewalk, and thought it equally pretty, and photo-worthy. Weeds…hmm.
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Exhibit B:
“Flowers.” That’s what my kids call dandelions. The bane of summer existence to most, these flowers excite and fascinate my preschoolers. If we walk past them, we have to stop so that they can pick the pretty flowers. When they are on the playground, they collect them and give them to me as a treasured gift. We put them in makeshift vases and give them water, even though they never last more than a day alive. But they have a certain beauty about them, an endowment from God, I suppose.
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Exhibit C:
Last summer, my mom discovered the salsify. She watches for them to bloom all over the neighborhood and collects them whenever they’re in season. Then she spray paints them in vibrant colors and displays them in vases all over the house. She also gives them away as gifts. To most people, these ‘plants’ are probably a nuisance, but to my mom, they are beautiful.


So then, mundane or not, nuisance or not, I have to argue that we can find God’s glory in many commonly overlooked places. Even in the weeds.

Our Unreasonable King

Joshua 10:12-13

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel….
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down
about a full day.”

Have you ever read the book, The Little Prince? I first read it in graduate school, and I have finally decided that Tijge is old enough to read it as well. So I’ve been reading it out loud to him over last month or so. There is a point in the book where the little prince is travelling among planets near his own, very small planets, each inhabited by only one person. On the first planet, he meets a benevolent king…

“…the king insisted that his authority be universally respected. He would tolerate no disobedience, being an absolute monarch. But since he was a kindly man, all his commands were reasonable.” And then a bit later, the little prince “ventured to ask a favor of the king: ‘I’d like to see a sunset… Do me a favor, your majesty… Command the sun to set…’” The king replied, “…One must command from each what each can perform….Authority is based first of all upon reason….I am entitled to command obedience because my orders are reasonable….You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But I shall wait, according to my science of government, until conditions are favorable….around seven-forty!”

When I read this section of the book, I couldn’t help but think about how different this king is from ours. Of course, God is benevolent and kindly, but I realize with great joy and peace that He is far from ‘reasonable,’ at least by this king’s definition. You see, God needn’t wait for conditions to be favorable to make a command and have it obeyed. All throughout the Bible, we see accounts that assure us that God’s commands defy the laws of nature, the laws of science, the laws of man, the laws of the universe….and as unreasonable as they may be, they are OBEYED.

God parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22) and made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-13); Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25), walked on water (Matthew 14:25), calmed the storm (Mark 4:35-41), brought the dead to life (John 11:43), was crucified under the cover of darkness at midday (Luke 23:44-45), and rose again on the third day (Luke 24:6).

This is how I know that God is with my friend, Russell, who is fighting for his life after a heart attack at age 39. It’s how I know that if there is even one kidney on the face of this earth that is a match for Emily, God knows exactly where it is, whose it is, and how to get it to her. It’s how I know that if God wants us to adopt a child, He is perfectly capable of providing divine intervention, divine revelation, divine wisdom, or divine peace. And whatever you’re facing today, our God—our King—can be trusted to command the absolutely unreasonable on your behalf. And to Him be the glory!

The Heavens Declare

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May 25, 2014…

Psalm 19:1-3

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Last night—amid tornado watches, severe thunderstorm warnings, and flash flood alerts—we sat on the balcony of our vacation condo, watching as the lightning in the sky flashed ever closer to us. First, it quietly lit up the sky in the distance in all directions. But soon, the bolts seemed to be right next to us and the crashing thunder shook the sky and the ground alike. A number of times, we simply uttered the word, “Wow!” The beauty and majesty were breathtaking.

It reminded me of a storm I watched from the window of my Air Force barracks in Monterey one Thanksgiving weekend many years ago. Then, in my younger years, I could afford to pull an all-nighter, sitting on my mini-fridge, just gazing out over the bay through the windows that spanned an entire wall of that room.

Now, a decade and a half and two kids later, we were forced inside by the need to check on sleeping children. And I was forced to look away from the bedroom window and close my eyes for fear of losing too much precious sleep. Nonetheless, I drifted off with a smile on my face as I contemplated the awe and wonder and power that God graciously chooses to display through the declarations of the heavens—not just for His glory, but also for our enjoyment. Oh, how He longs to bless us at every turn and in every circumstance.

Why?

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

2 Corinthians 4:17

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

When something ‘bad’ happens, when we experience pain or suffering, we—as humans—often ask “Why?” We ask, “Why me?” We ask, “Why now?” But it’s usually a rhetorical question. We think we’ve been dealt a bad hand, and that our suffering is somehow unjust.

Sometimes Christians, myself included, suggest that we should instead ask, “Why not?” or “Why not me?” After all, the Bible never suggests that Christians will be shielded from suffering. And I think it’s fine to reframe those questions, but it occurs to me that asking “Why?” can actually be helpful. Not in the way that we often ask, but in a way that is seeking a loving answer from God.

God has a reason and a purpose behind everything we go through, whether our suffering is due to our own sin, someone else’s, or God’s greater glory. So if we ask, “Why? What is God trying to accomplish through this trial?” then I believe it changes our perspective. We can begin to imagine all of the good that may come from what seems bad at the moment. What we imagine may not come to pass, and the fact is that we may never know or see the answer on this side of heaven. But we can know and trust that God is good, and that the answer—when we finally receive it—will prove our trials justified.

To DO Great

Proverbs 11:2
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

 Proverbs 16:18
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

 I confess, I have some big dreams. I want to do great things for my family, the world, and the Kingdom. And I believe that it is God who has given me these dreams. You can probably relate. After all, we all want to be a part of something great. But it’s hard to do that without also wanting, on some level, to BE great. We seek credit for our work and good deeds; we want recognition for our accomplishments.

So for me, a fear that creeps in is that if I do all of the things I hope to do, I may begin to seek some of the glory for myself. I can’t help but realize that Satan delights in this insecurity. When we fail to act or to obey God because we are afraid of our potential to become prideful, we render ourselves useless. For him, it doesn’t get any better than that. So I’m constantly asking myself, “What are some ways to seek a great and meaningful mission and calling, without also becoming prideful? How do I remain humble?”

But as I write this post, I realize that I’ve already answered my own question. Did you see what I said at first? I want to do great things. But maybe it isn’t about me doing great things. Maybe it’s about GOD doing great things through me. After all, God’s M.O. is to use ordinary people and ordinary things to reveal His glory. HIS glory. Not ours. Not mine.

God, we ask that YOU will do great things in and through us. But as you invite us to join you in your work, please help us to always remember, in everything we do, to give you all the glory and all the honor. For you are worthy!

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