Monday, February 28, 2011

Know Thyself!

"Know thyself!" declared the ancient Greeks. I truly believe they had it right. In our American culture, we often interpret this to mean  focusing on ourselves and what makes us happy. That is called self-centeredness. Let's not confuse the two. The ancient Greeks interpreted this saying in several ways:

1) "the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are."
2)Plato interpreted it as an admonition to those entering a sacred temple to remember and know their place, aka recognize they are frail and human compared to the Greek gods
3) Socrates said, "people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves"

Bottom line? You are not all you are cracked up to be. Sound depressing? Not at all. It is a call to humility.

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

According to this verse, we have a specific job to do. But how can we know what that is without knowing ourselves? It is as Socrates said, we appear ridiculous when we attempt to do things before we fully understand how God hardwired us.

We must acknowledge we are God's handiwork! We are uniquely crafted. In Genesis, the Lord created the whole earth in 6 days. He spoke everything into being except one thing: Man. The Bible says God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and then eventually put him to sleep and used one of his ribs to create Eve. We are physically crafted by the Master Artists and made in His image. And He created us for a purpose, a purpose He already knows!

Know thyself! Learn how God wired you - the strengths, personality, and gifts He gave you. Look at your passions and interests, and then get going. When we know who God is and who we are in Christ we are much more effective and "we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:12).

What did God uniquely create you to do? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Blessing in a "No"

"This" by Darius Rucker

Ever feel like you just can't catch a break? Nothing seems to be going your way? Have you ever heard no so many times it starts to lose its meaning?

I have. In the last two years, I have heard "no" so many times, I have learned to laugh and look for the next open door. When I first started hearing "no" it was a foreign concept to me. All my life I worked hard for what I had - job, grades, academic standing - and then I put one foot into the real world, and for some reason none of my achievements carried much weight. Crazy how that works, isn't it? But over the last two years, I have learned the blessing in "no."
  • Applied to grad school at Texas Tech.     No 
  • Applied to 11 other grad schools (About the eighth letter, I started laughing instead of crying.)   11 No's 
  • Moved back home and applied for A LOT of jobs     A LOT of No's 
  • Wanted to move out of state                     No 
  • Applied for more jobs and internships        More No's
Starting to get the picture? No started to lose its meaning. I don't hold any resentment or anger towards those who told me no. They were just sending me another direction and, in a weird way, helping me find my way. Know what happened when I stopped trying to make things happen and allowed the Lord to direct my steps? A lot of those "No's" became "Yes's" in directions I never would have explored.
  • Got a acceptance letter to Focus on the Family Institute in the same month I was rejected from Tech. The Lord changed my life.     Yes 
  • Found a freelance writing position two days after my most recent job rejection.             Yes 
  • Attended a writer's conference and was accepted into a writing course with a mentor doing the exact same thing a graduate degree in writing would have given me for an eighth of the cost.            Yes 
  • Attended another conference and found agents and editors who are interested in my book. At least I am on the right track.        Yes
The Lord began to open doors to all the things I had been pursuing, except He determined the direction! I feel like I am in pretty good company. In the Bible:              
The Lord told Abraham to leave everything He knew and travel to a land He would show him.    

Abraham prayed for a child, and the Lord said "no" until Abraham was so old it seemed impossible, and then the Lord gave Abraham, Isaac, the promised child.       

Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh to preach. He ran away but the Lord said "no" to Jonah's direction. He sent a whale to swallow him and then spit him up on the beach near Nineveh. It changed that city.

Mary probably expected to go into her marriage a pristine virgin with no children. The Lord said "no" to that plan. She was still a virgin, but she was shamed by her people with a child, who turned out to be the Christ child - the One who changed the world.

My "No's" seem pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The Lord used all those "No's" in the Bible for His glory and redirected all these people to a better path. There is blessing in "no."

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9. I follow my own way so much. But the Lord wants to tell me YES. He just wants to do it in His own time and in His own way. Just as He has been faithful in all His covenants and promises in the Bible until now, I know that He will be faithful to answer my "No's" as "Yes's" in far better ways than I could. They never look like what I thought or planned. They are always, always better.

Trust Him with your "No's." They are blessings in disguise! He is so FAITHFUL!

Excited to see where He leads next,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hot Stuff

If I entered "Survivor," I wouldn't last 24 hours. Let's face it...that is not my thing. And camping? Also, not my thing. Don't get me wrong, I love being outside. It's where I find the most inspiration

Two years ago, I went on a camping trip in the Colorado mountains over the fourth of July weekend with 30 plus college students. We took tents, sleeping bags, clothes, and big expectations. The trip went from bad to worse. Two cars full of girls got stuck in the mud on a deserted trail, it rained the whole time, and we forgot the hot dogs. By the way, college boys without food are not pleasant, to put it mildly.

Despite the rain, lack of food, and cold temperatures, I never had more fun. It was the best/worst camping trip I have ever been on. The upside? We had a roaring bonfire that provided heat, light, and melted chocolate for smores. We gathered around the blaze and sang, laughed, told stories, and enjoyed fellowship. When we woke up in the morning, it was still burning. It withstood the rain, the cold, attempts to put it out. It still blazed. It was a focal point, a means of provision, sustenance, and survival.

Hebrews 12:29 calls the Lord "an all-consuming fire."  He is our Provider, Sustainer, and our source of fellowship. He is what we center around, and he is the only One who withstands the elements and storms of life. He turns a miserable, cold, wet weekend into a time of beauty and fond memories.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Solid Rock

"Our peace shall stand as firm as rocky mountains." 
William Shakespeare

Driving through Colorado Springs last week, I remembered the strength of the mountains. They are immovable, majestic, and strong. In the Bible, Jesus is called "the Rock." Can you think of a more accurate term to describe a God who is mighty, majestic, ever-present, and strong? William Shakespeare was correct...peace comes from resting in the Rock of Ages.

Enjoy the verses about my Rock and lean on His strength this week...

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation." 2 Samuel 22:2-3a

"The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!" 2 Samuel 22:47

"But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge." Psalm 94:22

"From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Psalm 61:2

"They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:3-4

Rocks provide refuge, support, strength, protection.

In mountains we see the power of my Almighty God. He is strong and above all, but this Rock is also the God who says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29) Jesus, our Rock, became Man to die for you! He won't let you down.

Leaning on the Rock,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are we good enough?

Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?

Most of us would probably say, "Absolutely." Then comes the follow up question:

"What makes you qualified?"

And many of us would answer, "I believe in God, I try to be a good person, I've never done anything really bad." Many people believe in God and they don't doubt that "being good" or striving for perfection is part of living forever with Him in eternity. It seems logical, right? God is perfect and good, and as long as we meet most of the standards then we will walk through those pearly gates free and clear.

Listen to this song by Stellar Kart and see if this rings true with you...

Sound familiar? Are you restless, looking for something bigger, trying to fill a hole with pleasure or good behavior? I have a confession: I am a perfectionist. I like things a certain way. I want to be a good person. I want people to look at me and see someone worth following. I want to be worth something. Sometimes in that desperate attempt, I stay busy doing a whole bunch of good things for wrong reasons. I love to work in underprivileged areas rebuilding and fixing things. I like to help people, find what they are good at, and encourage them to be the best they can be. I try to spend time with my family and friends, investing in them. I want to change the world, or at least make a difference. Many would say I am a good person, and that based on that, I will go to heaven when I die.

Unfortunately, if that is the litmus test, I fall short. Very short. No matter how much I strive to be good, I wrestle with selfishness, impatience, and self-glorification.

So why am I going to heaven?

It definitely isn't because I fit the bill of a perfect person in front of a holy God. But it is because I have surrendered to a holy God that I will spend eternity with Him. When the Lord looks at me as I am, He could see a flawed human being, struggling to meet a standard that I can never meet because I am human, aka sinful. But because I belong to Him, not just believe He is God, but believe His Son, Jesus, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose from the grave three days later, and went to heaven to prepare a place for me....Jesus looks at me and sees only His blood, His righteousness, and His mark on me. Isaiah 43:1 says, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

God is holy. He is the great I AM of holiness. In fact, His very name is Holy. He embodies the word.
Luke 1:49 says, " For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name."
Isaiah 57:15 says, "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is HOLY: I dwell in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite ones."

Okay, so we have established that most people see the perfection of God and try to meet a standard. We try to be good. He calls for holiness. See a problem? Good and holy do not equal one another. Good falls very short of holiness. In fact in 1 Peter 1:16, He says, "Be holy, because I am holy." Does that make you want to quit trying? I mean perfection is one thing, trying your best to be good, but holy? The very word means "declared sacred or consecrated" in the dictionary. How in the world do we ever meet that standard?

Here's the great, relieving news: stop trying.

If you believe as I mentioned earlier that Jesus is who He says He is and you are not trying to simply be good, but be obedient and follow Him, Christ looks at you and sees His righteousness, His holiness. You are stamped and covered. You are holy! Perfect? No. Ever going to be good enough to meet the standards of a Holy God? Absolutely not! But when you follow Him, His blood covers you, and He sees His reflection. Look at this beautiful picture.

Isaiah 61:10, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." We are arrayed in His robe of righteousness so when He looks at us, He sees His spotless bride. Worthy and holy. What Jesus marks as His becomes holy. Will we ever by ourselves meet that standard? No. Does that mean we stop trying to do good things? No. But our motivation realigns and is no longer about "being good to get to heaven" but following and obeying a God who has called us to be good and do good things for His glory.

It sure takes the pressure off this perfectionist. His holiness is my holiness because I follow the one whose very name is I AM HOLY. I want to be holy and obedient because I am a child of this good God, and He looks at me and sees someone redeemed and trying, sometimes failing, to follow Him, and He sees holy. In that is my purpose.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I AM Creator

I feel closest to the Lord when I am in nature.

One night in Colorado, I took a drive before sunset. As much as I loved my friends and wanted to spend time with them, I needed to be alone this night. I chased the sunset to the top of a small peak and ended up in Garden of the Gods. I pulled into the parking lot, rolled my window down to let in the cool evening breeze and read my Bible. Over the course of an hour, I watched the sun change the bright red and orange walls of the valley into, deep crimsons and burnt oranges, then pinks and mauves, then browns and grays. A local reservation was holding council and allowing visitors to observe. Drums played and reverberated off the canyon walls and I sat listening, watching, and soaking it all in. It was a beautiful combination of creation: God's beautiful artwork and the masterpiece of man made in His own image.

Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This is such a basic passage, but in realizing God is Creator in a world that questions His existence, I want to point something out. The verse specifically said God created, not that He was created or that something exploded and here we are, God acted specifically and intentionally to form and fashion everything we see in nature.  By the way, it is safe to credit Him with our cityscapes and roadways and works of art. God created man's mind and where man's ingenuity meets God's creativity in creating that man, it is a beautiful collision.

Man is the pinnacle of God's creation. Genesis 1: 26-28 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" We were created in the very likeness of the God of the Universe. That should make you feel humbled, treasured, special. And just to clarify, in this culture that thinks we are in control, God made us overseers, like a coach of an NFL team. We are to care for and nurture but the Lord retains ownership, not man. You are stamped by the Creator's hands.

We live in a culture that continually desires to smother voices worshiping Jesus. As Jesus was going into Jerusalem for what would ultimately be His crucifixion, His disciples were praising and worshiping Him. The Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, told Him to tell His disciples to be quiet. And here is what YOUR CREATOR said in reply, "'I tell you,' He replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.'" (Luke 19:40) We were created to bring Him glory and praise Him, but if we fall down on our jobs, creation itself will declare Him. 

Meditate on these verses today. Your Creator wants a relationship with you, if you don't know Him. He didn't create you and then leave you to your own devices. He uniquely fashioned you and daily nature demonstrates His continued presence. Whether you believe in Him or not, you were created to worship this Almighty Creator. The Great I AM. I pray you see His love for you in what He has made.
                                                                                Psalm 19

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
   like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
   and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth.
 7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
   refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
   making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
   giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
   enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
   and all of them are righteous.
 10 They are more precious than gold,
   than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
   than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
   Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
   may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
   innocent of great transgression.
 14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
   be pleasing in your sight,
   LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Worshiping my Creator,
Passage taken from