Sunday, July 31, 2011

I passed.

I've been strongly convicted by the sermons from Paul Washer. Strongly convicted.
So I listened to a sermon called "Examine yourselves" slightly nervously as he told me right from the beginning of the message that he was going to go through 1st John and give us a "Are you saved" test based on 1st John.

And even though I know I'm saved, I couldn't stop myself from thinking, man.. I hope I pass.

Is this man of God going to point out something from the scriptures that condemns me? Is the Word of God itself going to tell me something I thought I was doing and wasn't? Is it going to shine a bright light on some nasty sin in my heart I didn't realize was there?

So we went verse by verse through 1st John.

And, while he mentioned some things that challenged me to dig deeper and grow stronger in my own knowledge of the Word of God and in my willingness to look foolish for the Gospel message, I reached the end of the message with great joy.

I passed the test.

It seems silly to say it, or possibly arrogant even (and I certainly don't mean it to sound that way) but it did give strength, confidence that while I'm not perfect, and have loads of growing to do - I'm saved. The scriptures, the words of God Himself confirm this in my heart and I'm....almost surprised.

I suffer from a severe case of "not good enough". If you hand me a measuring bar I'll break my neck trying to measure up. If I reach it easily, I assume you didn't make the stick right. And yet here I was taking a test of the heart. My stick wasn't going to be man-made necessarily (though Paul Washer is human and could fail if he'd misapplied the scriptures) but it was going to be a bar of which it is said: "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.(Hebrews 4:12)

I. Fail. So. Much.

I'm so ... profoundly inadequate. I see it. I know it.

Yet when I listened to 1st John describe the heart of one saved, I was not discouraged.
When I heard Paul Washer speak about the heart of one saved, I was not frustrated.
When I read 1st John for myself tonight to make sure Paul Washer was right, I was amazed.

I began the sermon expecting to find condemnation, and didn't find it. And the first thing I read when I read the book for myself tonight was that this book was not written to condemn the sinner.

He begins the book "These things we write to you that your joy may be full."
He ends the book " These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
I've listened to him (Paul Washer) preach so much about how my mind will lie to me, and my heart is deceitful above all things. Those words created a wonder in me about my salvation, it made me ... I suppose as his sermon was titled "Examine Myself". My heart tells me I'm saved, my mind tells me I'm saved - but those things lie. But the Word of God will not lie.
I passed.

I hope you pass too.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Post 1. - Gods Love.

I honestly don't know if I can pull 50 out of my hat. I said I could do 50 because Gods love seems like something you should be able to write 50 posts about, but when I said to myself "What would the first one look like" It looked like this:

I felt a challenge to see if I could actually do it so if it flops it flops. But the 1st post finally came to me the other morning and so I'm writing 1 post.

I came home from a long day of work, that was immediately followed by a CPR/First Aid class that is a requirement to maintain my foster license. I trudged into my home where my sister-in-law would be waiting with my Precious, and discovered their whole family there having a devotional time together. I laid on the floor to listen in and consider drowsing.

In the time, I discovered that they'd gone downstairs to one of our neighbors (my brothers family lives right next door to me on the 2nd floor of a quad plex- a bldg with 2 houses upstairs, 2 houses downstairs). The downstairs neighbor direction below them, "J", is a single mom with 2 toddlers. She seems completely stressed out and while I've offered to help many times, she's never taken me up on it.

But on this particular day, my brother and his wife went downstairs and told her that God had laid her on their hearts and they wanted to help. What can they do? She didn't know but she began crying just because it touched her that God cared enough to send someone to her like this. (As a piece of back story, her children are named after two prophets, and she is a regular church-goer and active worker in her church.)

After some conversation my brother and his wife left her and wandered back to their home. And I wondered... What came of this? My fear is that nothing came of it. J will sit in her home with her two children and never say "I could use some help Tuesday night". But she will, temporarily, enjoy a bright, pretty moment where she feels Gods love. And her situation will not change.

As I threw my two cents into their devotional time about how we're like that with God - He says He loves us and we go OH HAPPY DAY and we think we're saved but we never take Him up on His offer to change our situation. He wants to effect our lives, carry our burdens, change our hearts; He wants to lead us into things our minds can't even imagine, but we stop at "He loves me" and then wander away.

I've been told twice, by very earnest people, that they were in love with me. I've had 3 separate people talk about how they wanted marriage with me. (The disparity in those numbers is not lost on me either.) But none of them said to me that they loved me and then went away. Quite the opposite actually. These people became the most profoundly difficult people to shake. Gifts, letters, e-mails, showing up on my doorstep, my workplace; once words like "I love you" had been spoken there immediately followed an active pursuit. Their lives, their day to day routines changed. My life changed as well because there was no simple "He loves me!" and I was able to walk away and carry on the way I was. They all wanted something from me. And they wanted to give me something in return. Probably the worst thing I could have done in those moments is walk away and go AWESOME! He loves me. See you later!

The morning after the devotional I was thinking about how God wanted to give me something beyond "I love you". And all I could think of was "Ask, and it shall be given you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and the door shall be opened."

My brother and his wife said Gods "I love you" to J, but for her to take advantage of it she needed to ask for something. They offered physical help, and she needed to say "here's where I need it". She had to ask. She likely won't.

But Gods promises are true and His love is profound. He'll say "I love you" but it's up to me then to begin asking, seeking, knocking. To take advantage of His love. To use it. To find Him in all the ways He's just waiting for me to find Him.

We say I love you quite often and nothing comes from it. God says I love you quote often and nothing comes from it. But He wants me to enter into that love and not just look at it and smile.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's that supposed to mean?

There's something about a number of followers that leave you suddenly talking to a crowd, rather than doing what I used to do - write for myself. And often, when you talk to a crowd, you're not quite as deep-gut, soul-wrenching honest as you would be normally.

I've tried before to close my eyes and pretend you guys don't exist, but every time I do that I see a story or video and think "Hey, my blog readers might really like to see/hear that!". But here I am trying again to pretend you're just a friend, sitting next to me at lunch listening to me talk --- and not a bunch of random strangers.

God's been dealing a lot lately with me about my heart. At some point I realized I was angry. And I'm not an angry person. I've acted angry to get a kids attention once or twice, but rarely do I actually get angry angry. Yet, I realized I've been angry for a little while.

So I was talking with God about it and He did something I hate. He made no sense at all.
Let me tell you, exactly what He said.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love."
Ok, sure, um... that's great God but I'm not angry at You I'm pretty sure, maybe I am, I don't know but... regardless, what's that supposed to mean?
"I have loved you with an everlasting love."

He said it over and over and over again. And then, when I thought He was done, He said it over, and over and over again.
He said it till something in me just ripped into shreds and there I was driving down busy, rush hour Loop 410 with no visibility whatsoever from these two tear ducts I call eyes.

I'm still learning and growing, though it's awfully slow sometimes it seems; but God is trying to tell me something and I want to hear it. If you asked me I could write 50 blog posts about how great His love is for me. I'd tell you I knew it, I grasped it, but there's something He's telling me that I'm just not getting.

But I think He just challenged me to do what I just said I could do and write 50 blog posts about how great His love is for me.
I figured He, of all people, would have been able to tell I was just evangelistically speaking. 50 is a lot....I don't even know where to begin. humnph, maybe that was His point all along.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Repentance and change...

I press towards the mark....

When's the last time you felt you were "pressing" towards the mark?

Honestly, doesn't it feel as though you just float along in life, doing what you've got to do; clean house, go to work, drive the car, change the oil, fix the meal, yell at the kids, go to bed. On Sundays, and maybe Wednesdays we add church into the mix and then go home and do the exact same thing over again and call ourselves Christians.

I've been deeply convicted by a sermon last week that pretty much was everything I want a sermon to be. A man, standing up and saying - GOD LOVES YOU too much to leave you just the way you are and the way you are isn't good enough. He said I was just like the world. He said that if I act just like the world then I'm not a Christian.

And I listened.

I hope you will too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What to be.

In Genesis, Hagar, Abram and Sarai's servant becomes pregnant with Abrams baby. Sarai becomes angry with her and bitter that Hagar was able to conceive when Sarai had not (despite the Lords promise that she would). Sarai begins treating Hagar very badly and so Hagar runs away. An angel of God comes to her and says "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where did you come from and where are you going?"

The part that intrigued me, is that for some reason the angel put a title on Sarai. He could have easily just said "Hagar, where did you come from and where are you going?" But instead he added "Sarai's maid".

Hagar was running away from being Sarais' maid.

I just found it interesting. And I wondered, what title would an angel put on me?
Would he say Jeanette, foster mom?
Or perhaps, Jeanette, San Antonian.
Jeanette, friend to insert name of person I'm having a very hard time being friendly to right now.

I wish it were so easy to see yourself how God sees you. Because I think sometimes, I see things in my life as optional, whereas God may see them as a part of my very identity before Him.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The silence between two breaths

I've always had a problem with the scripture that promises me that if I have faith as a grain of mustard seed that I can move mountains. The whole point of it being a mustard seed as an example is because those are some of the smallest seeds known to man. I've held them, looked at them and checked them out to see how big my faith needed to be and I always ended up going "HA, no way my faith is that small."

But something interesting happened when a baby came into my  home. Her nickname for the public is "Precious" and she is, currently, an almost 4 month old foster child. She was born under conditions that make her extra prone to things like SIDS, motor and muscle development delays, and a host of diseases. She, thankfully, is a picture of health right now with only a few small quirks that mark her rocky beginning of life. I have high hopes for her future, her health, her mind, her relationship with God. I have faith that God will take care of her, regardless of what decisions judges might make that I agree or disagree with.

I have faith as a grain of mustard seed for it.

And yet, every single morning, before I brush my teeth, eat my cereal, or feed the cat, I go directly from my bed to her doorway and I listen. I listen for the sound of the next breath. I listen with a heart that hates listening for it, and that races just because you are listening for it. I listen, the way perfectly healthy people wait for their TB test to be read. You know there's nothing wrong, you  know the entire act of listening is foolish, but you listen anyway. And on those few  mornings when her nose is less croupy than normal, it takes too long and I go to her bed to see what I can't hear.

For 2 months now, every morning she - by Gods infinite grace and power - breathes on. And as this trend has continued, I began to wonder about that mustard seed. And I began to wonder what happens if there is a boulder of doubt on top of that mustard seed. I know well enough how life can change on a dime. Tomorrow isn't guaranteed. I'm a foster parent, so I know that on any given day the phone could ring and long-lost Aunt So-n-so could be at CPS waiting for her Precious to be moved into her home. Things change.

But as I thought about faith vs my doubts, I thought about Hebrews 11:1.
Faith, is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen.
And I wondered if the same could be said of doubt.
Doubt is the substance of things dreaded. The evidence of things not seen.

I googled ideas on doubt and faith, and one of the first things I read was "Faith and doubt cannot co-exist!" And I thought back to the man that said "Lord, I believe! Help thou my unbelief". Immediately I shrugged off google (dear old friend of mine - I do still love you) and went back to thinking and praying about it. The question still plagued me - "Which one is stronger?"

Overall, I know faith is stronger than doubt. But my question wanted to know "which one is stronger in me". And then it hit me, it doesn't matter how big my doubt is, faith - regardless of the size of it's nemesis doubt - will always be the strongest. My mustard seed can move mountains. And in the quietness, listening to Precious as she sleeps right now, I knew that my weak faith, can move my strong doubt. 

And I was more than a little awed as I considered how strong my weak faith is. I liked the idea. To know that I didn't have to be tough, and always strong, but that in my weaknesses I can see the holes where His strength shines through in my life in places where I might not have been able to see it before.

It's not a free-for-all give up trying revelation though. My faith needs to grow, my doubts need to shrink. It's just nice for a control freak like me to know that my little mustard seed isn't overwhelmed by my boulders.

Now if only my faith were strong enough to find all the lost pacifiers...