Go Ahead and Brag!

I love talking about my David.  I didn’t realize he was so intelligent, proficient at almost everything, and incredibly capable before I married him.  I am so thankful for his depth of character and speak well of him every chance I get.

But there is some one I love bragging about even more than my beloved.  In fact, I talk about Him and the ways He has influenced and transformed my life whenever I have opportunity.

The other day I encountered a neighbour I hadn’t seen for some time.  She was surprised to see little Raphael, knowing I had been in a wheelchair, trying not to die.  I told her howJesus had taken the Lyme Disease away, and that Raphael was a miracle gift we never expected to receive.

There is no end to the things I can boast about Jesus for in my life:  His goodness and kindness in the midst of suffering.  His faithful provision to care for our needs.  His peace when the world is shifting in uncertainty.  His voice, speaking into our circumstances of His intentions and plans for us, when they were humanly impossible.

When I boast about myself, it is a vain attempt to establish a firmer identity.  When I boast about Jesus, it anchors my identity in the One who sustains and fulfills true identity.

I used to think sharing my faith was intimidating; that I had to know the right words to convince some one they should believe.

But as I get to know Jesus better, I realize, all I have to do is share what He is doing in my life in a genuine way as He gives me opportunity.  I am not responsible for “making some one believe.” that is the Holy Spirit’s job.  But out of my love and affection for Jesus, stories of His faithfulness in my life naturally come out, providing seeds for the God’s Spirit to breath on.  

But let the one who boastsboast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

Not only is this, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

Its hard to offend people with a story and if they are hungry, the conversation will go farther.  I love sharing the truth about who Jesus is for them too, but it often begins with sharing an experience of Jesus or a question about their life.

When we boast in the goodness of God, it puts a picture of Jesus in people’s minds they don’t get from secular media or society.  Few people know that God actually desires a relationship with them and that He is a good Father who delights to guide and bless His kids!  This is something worth knowing and worth boasting about.

What has God done in your life that is worth boasting about?  How are you getting to know Jesus better so His resurrection power is evident in your life?

The Green Monster

I have come across the topic of jealousy multiple times the last while and have been meditating on Bible passages that speak of it. The Old Testament talks often of the jealousy of God for His people’s devotion. On the other hand, in the New Testament Paul makes it clear that jealousy and discord have no place in the life of a believer or in the church.

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1 Cor 3:3)

So many times I hear believers say “I’m only human.”  While I understand the connotation, I am beginning to believe, like Paul, that it is wrong to live with this philosophy when we have the God of the universe, living inside us, wanting to empower and sanctify us to live differently.

Jealousy can rip apart a church or a family and separate the best of friends, making it one of the go to strategies of the enemy.

But jealousy doesn’t just hurt the person on the receiving end, it is often most destructive to the one who entertains it.

From what I understand from scripture, the only righteous jealousy is toward the relationship between Jesus and us, His bride.  He is jealous for us, and we are to be jealous of a pure relationship with Him.

Never toward another person.

Ever.

Funny how when I am praying about something with some one else, the Spirit of God often points that same thing out in my own life.

I confess, at times I allow insecurity to breed frustration and resentment when some one else succeeds in an area I have worked hard in and feel called to, but have seen little fruit.

Let’s call it like it is.  If I am not celebrating fully from my heart, the success of another, I allow jealousy to incubate.

Jesus sets an example of what it looks like to be so secure in His identity and affection in the Father, that He desires His followers to surpass Him, knowing it will bring glory to the Father.

The only righteous jealousy causes rejoicing when some one comes alive in Jesus, and their gifts and calling are realized, bringing glory to God for what He has given them.  Paul shows this in regards to the church he planted in Corinth:

For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. (2 Cor 11:12)

I think the opposite spirit of jealousy is unselfish loyalty and unity that empowers.  It is a beautiful thing when a group of people live this out.  It is an impossible thing without walking in the empowering love and grace of Jesus.

“Jesus, please give me such a burning love for you that I passionately work to see others succeed in their calling, and celebrate when you are glorified in the lives of others! May I live a life that empowers and points steadfastly to your majesty and goodness.”

Mind the Gap

On our trips to Central Asia, we spent a fair bit of time in China.  For the 2008 Olympics, the airport was completely revamped, and a more sophisticated train system put in.  As the car doors opened, I heard a kind, but heavily accented voice say; “Mine the gap.”

I wondered why you would want to “mine the gap” and thought perhaps it was something you had to be Chinese to understand.

I laughed when later I found out it was fashioned after England’s train system and the kind voice was really saying “Mind the gap” to let you know to watch your step as you departed the train.

As I was reading this morning, I began thinking of the in between times of life when you are on your way from here to there, but not yet here nor there. The in between.

It can be easier to stay the course when in the thick of things than when in transition and not fully engaged.  Sometimes I am good at donning the armour of God and standing firm while in the throes of battle, but am tripped up when I relax my guard in the meantime.   

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can endure it.  (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

When I find myself in the in-between places of life both translations are helpful.  I do well to remind myself to “mind the gap”, being vigilant to keep my armour on and my relationship with the Holy Spirit strong.  I also do well to “mine the gap” as it is times when the natural propensity is to “go easy on ourselves” that God often wants to prepare me for what is coming next.  If I take a spiritual nap, I miss the important preparation and strategic rest God invites me into,  opening myself up to the subtle attacks of the enemy.

Busyness is not synonymous with productivity.

Inactivity is not synonymous with resting.

Like the one day you decide to lounge around in your grubby old pyjamas that your mayor comes to call, the enemy knows the right doors and moments to knock when your guard is down.

Stay alert! Watch out for your enemy the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The in-between times are some of the most valuable times, but also some of the most difficult times to do well.  My prayer is that we would hear the Holy Spirit whisper “Mind the gap, dear one, and mine the gap!”

What season are you in right now?  Is your armour firmly in place? How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit right now?

Bread or Stones

Good friends stopped by to visit the other day.  You know, the kind of visit you wish would go on a bit longer.  The kind that lifts and stimulates your soul and cause you to linger over some of the deeper thoughts and beliefs that shape the day to day.

We shared some of the experiences of ministry and life, not glossing over the struggle, nor failing to dwell on the goodness of God in their midst.

I shared our vision to support those on the front lines of missions and ministry through intercession, teaching believers to walk in victory against spiritual opposition.  We shared the grief of seeing friends come home physically and spiritually broken and overcome from the mission field.  The question arose; “but what if God, in His sovereignty, isn’t as concerned with what we see as failure and defeat by the enemy, and desires to use these crushing experiences for His purposes?”

I pondered for a moment the years of learning through Lyme Disease, and pushed back a little.

What if there is a difference between being physically strong and learning to walk day by day in spiritual victory?

r  Perhaps He may allow physical suffering to be prolonged to teach us spiritual strength to overcome and walk in victory despite the circumstances.

Having been initiated into parenthood, I begin to understand the desire to see our children be well, but even more, the deep yearning to know they are growing in character, wisdom and strength of the soul.   As the perfect Father, I believe God desires His children to flourish and learn to overcome as they grow in the authority of Christ even more than I.

You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone?…So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him. (Matthew 7:9)

Paul too, seems to expect trials and suffering in the flesh, focusing rather on the growth of the spiritual man so that the enemy could not triumph in his life.

Laying on my back for weeks after Raphael’s birth, healing, I thought of this a great deal.  Pain and incapacity were once constant companions and their return was not so welcome.

After our friends left, I had an epiphany: the more times I overcome through Christ in my circumstances, the easier victory becomes, the faster peace prevails, and the less I struggle in my soul. But it is on the battlefield strength grows. And so, rather than fearing the struggle, I will diligently search for His grace and good gifts as I grow in strength to overcome greater and greater opposition.

Why do you believe God allows His children to suffer?  Have you seen His gifts on the battlefields of your life?  What does overcoming look like for you?