Saturday, June 28, 2014

On Beauty

There are moments when I look up and I'm astounded by beauty... a nameless something that stops my heart. Maybe for you beauty is found when you find yourself standing at the top of that mountain overlooking the valley and you just feel so small. Maybe for you beauty is found in the sound of the rain falling as a someone is strumming their guitar on the porch. Maybe for you beauty is found when you hear your child's heart beat for the first time. And perhaps, more than the aestetically pleasing moments, beauty is found when you see a wholly broken person, crushed of the heart, yet still strong in the spirit... maybe that's beauty for you.

I took this picture a while ago- and something about it got my mind going. I determined much of life is like this picture... well, the bottom half of this picture. Much of life, if not all of it is a reflection, it's glassy and unclear, it's a dirty marred likeness of reality. It's an imperfect portrayal of what's actually there. It is, however, somewhat of a beauty in and of itself. You see it and you know, there's something special about it... it is beautiful. But it's not a complete beauty.

Whatever it is that you see and you think, "this... this is beauty..." that thing is  just like this muddy water. It's dirty, it's foggy, it's stained, it is... imperfect, but it's still beautiful. I see the people in my life and I think, "These people are kind; there are no other people I would rather live my life being around." And it's true. They are exceptionally beautiful. Their hearts are genuine and alltogether wonderful. I see nature and I think, "This is incredible. This is unreal. This is truly beautiful." And it's true. It is exceptionally beautiful. But all of it, though beautiful to me now, and beautiful indeed, is not beauty in it's purest form.

But the point of this post isn't to make you feel like everything in the world sucks and really nothing is beautiful. The point of this post is to point out that there are things in this world that are small glimpses into Heaven. What I'm getting at is this:

Sometimes I may think, "Dang God, you did a really good job." And it's true, He definitely did a really good job, but I'm only seeing the half of it. Right now I only see through the reflection of what it was intended it to be. I see everything with a gloss over my eyes. I see everything as it is a result of the fall. I see everything as death has corrupted it. I see everything as it has been marred. It still has a beauty to it, but it is only a fraction of the beauty I will see it with once He restored all things to Himself.

If Earth and the life we live here is the bottom half of this picture in some repects, the top half is Heaven and what is to come. It's the real deal. It's the real sky, full in color and clarity, it's the person, crisp, unclouded. It's not the resemblance of something... it is that thing- wholly, completely, and physically. It is beauty in its entirity.

We live in the mirror... and though sometimes we fall in love with the reflection or parts of it, we need the real thing, not merely its likeness. We long for the real thing, not just something that bears semblance to it.

As C.S. Lewis once penned, "I need Christ, not something that resembles Him." And that's what this post is about. We get to look upon beauty, but one day we will behold beauty in it's whole form. We see Christ in His Church, but one day we will behold Him face to face. What we have now is wonderful, but one day we will have wonder upon wonder. I long for that day.

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
- 1 Corinthians 13:12

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Something about being filled

You can be filled with a lot of things. 87.2 percent of the time I'm filled with, coffee, too many Dairy Queen cheeseburgers, and too little sleep. (My statistics may be a little bit off on that though)

This is speaking literally of course. Figuratively though, we are filled with something all the time. It could be joy or grief, selfishness or humility, anxiety or peace, cynicism and bitterness, or optimism and patience.

About a week ago I had a friend text me and inquire as to my thoughts on us being "filled with the fullness of God" as referenced to in Ephesians 3:19. 

That sort of text would typically catch me off guard, but just the week before I had written down my thoughts on that passage, just by chance. I wasn't studying Ephesians, nobody pointed the verse out to me, I just happened upon it as I was praying. I've been thinking about what I wrote that initial night, and again when I responded to the text. Here are my thoughts:

Ephesians 3:15-21 
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Our God is able and mighty. The fullness of His grace and the fullness of His mercy are incomprehensible. They are so very far beyond us, yet even still, if we were to ask all that we could possibly think to ask of him, the most audacious, the most outrageous, the most unbelievable- HE could still do EVEN MORE than that. His ability does not ever run dry. It is unending. There is always more. Just when I might think no more of his goodness could possible come, when I think it's been capped, He is still in a position to show me more. Just when I think something of His character comes to an end, He keeps going. Just when I think I could not possibly experience any more of him, he continues to reveal himself. He is ever-glorious; He is ever-faithful, He is just EVER EVERYTHING.

What I'm saying is He does not come to an end. His goodness goes on even more. His compassion extends on even more. His faithfulness continues on even more.

The things which we have already asked of Him, He can do more. When we intercede on behalf of others, He can do more. He is mighty to do more, abundantly more, exceedingly more- because He is God. Because He is God-eternal, the God-everlasting.

My prayer is that he would make his people, his church, his children, this nation, this generation, and myself to see more of his glory. To make us to know even more of Him. To mold us into his likeness, work us to more fully bear his image. To sanctify us today into who we will be when we enter into eternity. He has worked salvation- may he work even still more sanctification. May he have us to know him more fully, see him more fully, experience him more fully, commune with him more fully, glorify him more fully, share him more fully, trust him more fully, see him provision more fully, rejoice in him more fully, walk with him more fully, be led by him more fully, obey him more fully, encounter him more fully, be strengthened by him more fully, be able to press on because of him more fully, pursue him more fully, and he would have us to relentlessly and passionately love and know his love more fully.

He is the God who has given to us himself, all of himself. By His Spirit, may he fill us that we may experience his fullness, walk in it, and display it to the world around us.

So to be "filled with the the fullness of God" I think goes something along the lines of how He is continually opening up more and more of himself to us; something along the lines of how He as already saved us and made us righteous and filled us with his spirit. In terms of eternally- we have the fullness of him in that we who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).  However, in terms of now, we have sanctification in that even though we have him fully, we are still coming to know Him more and more daily. 

Each day, live in the knowledge that He is filling you. If you feel like you've run dry, call upon Him. He is able to do more than you could ask. He can fill you according to all you ask, but even better than that, he can fill you even more than you ask... or think to ask.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Child Labor and my obligation to pull weeds taller than 12 year old me.

My parents recently bought some land here in Montana. I love this. However, they still live in El Paso, so I don't see them as frequently as I should. When they bought the land my dad told me something along the lines of, "We bought the land, but you have to take care of it... you know, pull the weeds and make sure it's presentable..." To which I replied, "Why don't you come visit and pull your own weeds." I think we both got a good laugh out of that... because once the snow thaws out I'm sure I'll end up pulling some weeds. So he get's the lawn taken care of and I get to be sassy. It's a win-win situation... except I kind of lose. But you get the point.

Growing up I think we had genetically modified weeds growing in our back yard. Like... weeds on hormones... like weeds that have been juicing... like weeds that could beat you at an arm wrestling match. When the weeds got to be taller than me that's usually when it became a chore to go pull them. Now, I'm not saying I'm the only one that ever pulled weeds, and I'm not saying that I ever did it with a smile on my face, but I am saying those were some gnarly ridiculous weeds that I rightfully was not pleased to be uprooting. Anyway, some weeds were easy to pull... the smaller ones, the weaklings of weed land. I'd tackle those first. I was the Godzilla of weed land. All weeds feared my mighty hand. All the weeds in weed land feared my wrath! There was victory to be had at my hand in the small weeds. I was the embodiment of strength when it came to the small weeds. A little twist of the wrist and I was taking down those small weeds with the mindset that I was rooting up oaks... but they weren't oaks. They were only little weeds. Those bigger ones though... they weren't from weed land. They set their roots in the depths of Hades. Those bigger one's were my kryptonite... my darkest foes... they were unconquerable... and they usually had thorns... and my hand are sensitive... so I did not like the big weeds.

Nevertheless, when I couldn't uproot a weed, I'd usually settle for hacking it down (probably with a butter knife from the kitchen) then I'd cover the little stem up with dirt (and probably the knife too). Even though there may have been a whole root system that looked like an ant farm underneath our back yard, at least the surface of the land earned me my allowance.

Worry tends to be a lot like weeds in my experience. And the solution to your anxiety isn't to cut it down or try to cover it up. That weed with always grow back. You so desperately need to get to the root of your problem if you're ever going to be liberated from it. This is to say, your circumstance ultimately isn't what your problem is. Your problem is what you're choosing to focus on. When you choose to be anxious, when you choose to dwell on how everything can go wrong, that's the root of your problem. I think more often than not, the real problem isn't just my refusal to trust God... but rather, my refusal to rejoice in Him in it. I get so caught up in worrying about anxieties or fears or worries or whatever that I forget I'm supposed to be rejoicing in Him. And that's a really big distinction. It's the difference between looking at your situation in a negative light and being filled with turmoil, and looking at your situation in the light of God and being filled with peace.

Like bigger weeds, bigger worries take more digging to root up. The bigger issues take examining your heart, examining the Word and having the Spirit enlighten in you what the real problem is. More often than not, I don't think the solution is going to be, "just forget about it, just push it aside, just pretend it never happened." but rather, "I surrender this and will wait to see how you work things out for good, in patience, with joy."

For you (and so much for me)- I hope and pray all endurance and patience with joy. Not just endurance. Not just patience. But joy. Never has endurance and patience been so good as when done with joy.

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,"
-Colossians 1:11

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What's In A Name

I don't know if you know what your name means. Most people find out pretty young when comparing meanings with their friends. Little boys love the names that make them out to be heroic warriors who slay dragons. Little girls like names that make them out to be beautiful princesses of elegance and grace. (I'm generalizing of course. Some little boys like being made out as cunning and wise and some little girls like being made out as courageous and strong... but this is beside the point.)

When I was born my parents wanted to give me a Biblical name- because, ya know, why not? They played a little game I like to call "Baby Name Roulette: Bible Edition" or other wise known as, "Pray Before Putting Your Finger Down, Because It Could Go Either Way Here Roulette". It could have turned out pretty bad, but I'm wildly grateful for the hand I was dealt. (Look at me! I'm on a roll with these gambling puns!)

Here's how the game is played:
Find a Bible.
Open to random page in Bible.
Place finger down on random page in Bible.

"Elisha? Yeah, that sounds like a good name... never mind that it's a name for a little boy."

Actually, that last sentence didn't happen quite like that. My parents didn't know they were giving me a boy's name. But I don't mind- for a few reasons.

First- "Elisha" is a lot better than other potential names. This is strictly a personal opinion- but I'm good not being a Gomer(No offense to all you Gomer's out there... also- "Holla!" to all you Gomer's out there!)

Second- Elisha was a pretty freaking rad prophet and worked some pretty incredible miracles. He left a pretty simple and peaceful life for a higher calling from God. He did wild things, like you know, parting the Jordan and raising the dead, like healing lepers and opening eyes to the spiritual realm (read 2 Kings 6:8-23 about how ridiculous that was... and then think to yourself, "hey, I want to see like that," then think to yourself, "but I'd probably soil my skinny jeans, so I better not." ), he cursed some boys and they were mauled by she bears, and even in his death, a dead man thrown on top of him was brought back to life when falling upon his bones... so... like I said, pretty rad... and that's not even the half of it. Elisha got a double portion of God's Spirit that was given to Elijah- and that dude did outrageously wild things for the Lord.

So, yeah, Elisha is a pretty big name to try to fill the shoes of. Surely no greater Elisha ever lived than  this man.

But the real reason I don't mind being Elisha is because of what's in the name. The name means to me everything that I am. If what my name meant were not true of who I am, I would have nothing, I would be nothing, and ultimately, I would not be who I am... I would be Elisha, but I wouldn't really be an Elisha. I would be Elisha in name, but not Elisha in spirit.

So what do I even mean? (pun!)

Elisha, with Hebrew origin, means,
"God is my salvation," or "My God is Salvation."

If I had to pick only one word to describe myself- well, I'd have to say "Elisha," because to me that's the only thing that matters. My name speaks of the grace of God which is my identity. And to me, that is so cool... my identity is quite literally, who I am. And who I am is only by the grace of God. He not only is salvation but He is my salvation. I like claiming that for myself. And I like that my name lays claim to that for myself.

If I can live out my entire life remembering who I am, remembering that I am saved by God, that He is my salvation, I think I'll do well living up to my name.

What's the application for this blog? Well, there is none really. I mostly just wrote this blog because I wanted to post the picture at the top that I made which is currently my desktop wallpaper, but I figured I'd attach some words to it as well.

I suppose if you really wanted application it would be this: Find out what your name means if you don't already know. Also- maybe change up your signature, 'cause that's fun sometimes. But, if your name doesn't live up to all you hoped for it to be, well, take that name on- be the greatest Gomer there ever was for goodness sake! Bring back the name Gilbert! And know- your name doesn't have to be who you are- if your name means "harlot," girl, don't take that on as your identity... or boy... same goes for you! No harlots need be had in these parts. By the grace of God you are a chosen person, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own possession. I'm simply voicing my overwhelming gratefulness for having lucked out in that my name really did end up being who I am.

*On a semi-related note- anyone know if we'll have the same name in Heaven?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Something about prayer

*Probably a 7 minute read*

Recently I became far more disciplined in a practice of which I'm currently gaining more knowledge and comfort from the character of God than any other practice. The practice I'm talking about is prayer.

It's not that I've never prayed before, and it's not even that I didn't pray in the correct way before, but over the last month or so I've sought to intentionally pray in a way I've never consistently prayed before. I'm talking about intercession - which is basically just a fancy way of saying that I've been praying in favor of other people. I've never experienced understanding the power and goodness of the Father's character than when I prayed for him to work on behalf of others- completely detached from my own preference.

I don't know if you've ever prayed for a friend, or if you've ever prayed for a family member, or if you've ever prayed for anyone on the face of the planet ever, but if you haven't, please oblige me in sharing some thoughts and consider participating with me.

Pray for the person it's hardest for you to pray for.
Anyone can pray good things for someone whom they love or whom they care about, it's a completely different story to pray for someone who has hurt you. Maybe there's a friend who let you down, maybe a sibling whom you can't seem to forgive, maybe a parent who hurt you, maybe a spouse who betrayed you, maybe a child who left and hasn't looked back. It may be someone who hung you up to dry, or someone who abused you, or insert any other reason. It could be that even the thought of praying for this person makes your stomach drop, it makes your heart ache, it seems to go against everything in you, and maybe you can't even think about this person without tears welling up in your eyes. Maybe it seems impossible to even consider praying for them, but that's probably a good place for you to be. And I'm not saying you have to pray for this person- I'm merely suggesting it could serve to grow you in ways you never would have otherwise. I know for me, it was a learning place. I'm learning not to despise the learning place, regardless of how painful it is.

Sometimes, the place of inability and incomprehension is the breeding ground for breakthrough, maturity, and healing. It's the place where you say, "God, I can't do this." and He says, "My grace is sufficient for you."

At first you may have absolutely no idea how to pray for that person. And I think that's a good place for the Spirit to come in and lead you. Luckily enough for us, we have something that gives us a perfect starting place for praying- scripture.

I start with scripture. I pick a verse. It could be a psalm, or a proverb, or something that I read earlier in the day in my own study. It might be a verse someone told me about or I saw written somewhere, but the point is I start with scripture. I start with the word of God, because if I'm going to pray for something, I want to know who I am praying to and I want to understand His power. Additionally, if I'm going to be praying for someone whom I really don't have the heart to pray for, I'm at least going to gain knowledge of the character of God; I'm going to start with the mindset that His Word is living, and active, and transformative (Hebrews 4:12); and when I'm praying for someone whom I find it terribly hard to pray for, I'm going to be pretty dang sure that the one I'm praying to is powerful enough to do something about it.

So, like I said, I start with scripture. I write it down; I ponder it; I think about how it speaks of the character of God, and I praise Him for that attribute He displays for us. I thank him for His grace, for His goodness, and ultimately for His holiness and how He is perfect in all He does. I'd say a significant amount of my prayer goes to showing adoration and thanksgiving to the Father. Usually, this is a humbling practice because it reminds me of how unlike him I am. It's a good practice. I get a good sense of who I'm praying to and that pretty much catapults me into how to pray for that person.

I pray the attributes of God would be revealed more fully to that person, in that person and through that person. I also thank God, when I can, for how that person has displayed those attributes or currently does. I pray that they would see God as His word shows Him to be, that they would be overcome by those attributes and, by His grace, they would become more like Jesus. If I'm praising God for His mercy, I thank Him for His mercy, I thank Him for the times in which the person I'm praying for has been merciful, I pray that they would better understand the Lord's mercy and that they would be transformed into a more merciful person displaying the rich mercy of God to those around them.

Here's the catch though:

When it comes to intercession, I never pray for my own gain. Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever pray for anything on your own behalf. The Bible clearly states that we should let our requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). What I am saying is, when I specifically pray for other people, I've made an effort not to include my own desires in that prayer. I try to remain pretty impartial. Take mercy for example. I may be praying for God to show His mercy richly to someone and that they would in turn become a more merciful person, but I never pray that they would be more merciful toward me. And, you know, sometimes you want that person to be more merciful to you. So it's hard. But like I said, I leave my praying in favor of another person as strictly that... favor of the other person. Aside from if I see the benefits of the Lord working in their life in that way and regardless of if I ever see the fruit or am blessed by it, I pray favorably for that person.

Praying in this way for other people has caused me to really recognize my motives in it. If I'm genuinely praying for someone else I have to recognize that I want God's best for them even if it's apart from myself. If I'm going to pray that The Lord would make someone more gracious, and I genuinely want them to be a more gracious person, then, if they are gracious to me isn't the point. The point is, are they more gracious? Is this making any sense at all? If the goal in intercession is the most favor and the best blessing for someone, then it doesn't matter if the most favor and the best blessing is seen to me. Because the goal isn't "make that person more gracious to me." The goal is "make that person more gracious for their sake and the sake of God's glory, so they look more like Jesus."
Plus, if you're praying for them to be a more like Christ, in time, everything else should flow out of that.

The goal is for them to be made more like Jesus for His glory, not for my benefit.

When you're praying for other people, I think the best thing you can pray is, "make them more like Jesus." That's a winning prayer. That's a prayer that runs in line with the will of God. That's a prayer, I bet, pleases Him to answer favorably. There's no selfishness in praying that for someone else, it's just genuine, pure love for that person and authentically desiring to see the Lord work in their lives.

So I challenge you, in addition, to the times that you commune with God already, take some time to intercede for others. Take some time to pray scriptural truths over them. Take some time to pray the most for them, the best for them, more grace for them, and more of Jesus for them.

Over time, I've seen God soften my heart in many ways for the people I've hardened it to. I think I've seen a more genuine love in my heart for people. I don't think any of those prayers are wasted time, or wasted breath, because if even God doesn't choose to work those prayers out, He did a work in me as I sought to prayerfully humble myself before Him and pray in favor of others.

And more than anything, I've been able to sense more of the heart of God in intercession. If the Holy Spirit, intercedes on our behalf, and if Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for me (Rom. 8:26; 8:34), how much more certain can I be of His love for me? If He can do it for me, then my heart is to imitate that for others.

My flesh wants all for itself (and it's a long and rough fought battle), but my soul longs for the things of the Lord. More than my desire to seek my own, my desire is to be more like Christ. So, with confidence, I say I want to lay myself down (even when it hurts) that I might see others become all that Christ died for them to be.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Friday, October 11, 2013

On the ashes of cats and why we are like mason jars

I have two mason jars. I painted them both because that's the super trendy thing to do these days. Inside one jar I keep a stash of cash and in the other I keep the ashes from my first pet, Whiskers, because he looks way cuter on my night stand in a mason jar than boxed up on a shelf in my closet.

Okay, I don't really have those jars, but go along with the story anyway... you know, for the sake of this post.

You can't see into either of these jars, because they are super pinterest-y and painted, but like I said, one has a ton of cash and the other has a dead cat. If I offered you the two jars, which would you take? If you are logical, you'll pick the jar with cash in it. If you are illogical, you're probably not going to follow this blog very well.

The jars themselves are the exact same. They really have no value. They are just mason jars. The only thing that makes one different from the other is what contents are held within. Take out the contents and they are just jars. They are worth about twenty five cents at the thrift store, a dollar if you grabbed them out of the "vintage section." Put a wad of cash in one, and obviously that jar has a little bit more value. The jar with the cash in it worth more than the figurate cat that nobody cared about but me. I'd be willing to bet all the cash in the first jar, that if I died, that jar with good, ole' Whiskers, would get tossed out pretty quickly. Nobody really cares about Whiskers but me- and I don't even really care about him, I just didn't have the heart to do something with him after he choked on his figurative hair ball.

You're just a jar. By yourself, you don't really have all that much value.

You can live a whole lifetime doing absolutely nothing... and you'll die, and you won't be able to do anything anymore... because you're just a jar. You can live a whole lifetime doing a million different things... and you'll die, and you won't be able to do anything anymore... because you're just a jar.

You and I are like jars. We really don't hold much value in and of ourselves. You can argue that, I don't mind. But at least consider what I'm going to put out there. You're a body. You're flesh and bone. Your time here on Earth is pretty ridiculously short in comparison to all of eternity. Sure, you'll do stuff, you'll make things, you'll have a family, you may even change the world, but by all means, you're just a jar that one day is going to go into the ground or will be scattered across it. And once you're gone, well, you're not going to be doing much work here anymore. You'll breathe your last and that's that.

You're just a jar. By yourself, you don't really have all that much value... especially in the scope of time. On your own, without the assistance of or your mom, how many generations back can you identify? Your kids will probably be able to identify less... and one day, chances are you'll be that last generation someone in your lineage will remember. After that... forgotten.

This is sounding pretty depressing.

But, here's some good news! You're a jar! Shouts of elation! Wait, why are we excited about being a vessel that has little value? Because you're a jar! You can hold stuff in you! And really, what you let in is what gives you your value.

You're just a jar. Your value though, that comes from something else all together. Your value is not of you.

We're all defined by something. We all find our identity and value in something. You can find your identity in how much people recognize you, or your job, or your family, or how money you have, or how many likes you get on instagram, how quickly someone texts you back, or how often people think of you, and even in how you stack up next to other people. You find your identity in something. What makes you lose your cool and lash out? What makes you happy? What frustrates you? What offends you? Ultimately, what controls you? What is that "one thing" you need to be whole, to be complete, to be content? There's where you find your identity. That's where you find your value. That "one thing" is what you're filling your jar with. It's what gives you your value.

Initially, this was at the end of my blog, but I've since moved it up for the sake of being honest about myself before losing readers before they got to the end.
{Since you've made it this far, here is my post on a more personal level: I have a tendency to allow myself to define who I am, instead of allowing Christ to. I look at myself in comparison to a million other people and say, "if only you were more like her," or "if only you did things like them," and maybe more than anything, "if only you could please this person" and it's so exhausting. I'm just a jar, and whether I'm beat up by people in the world, or scuffed up by the circumstances of my life, or I look at the blemishes on my jar and say, "how unimpressive and unsatisfactory you are," I have to come to terms with the fact that none of that matters. It's easy to look at other jars and say, "that's a good looking jar," or "that jar is so much better than my jar." But I have to remind myself the only thing that matters is what I keep inside of me. If I walk in the knowledge and grace of Christ I have to let go of my pride or my ridiculous attempts to make myself more than I am. I've been learning over the last year that I don't want to please others, and I don't want to please myself, I only want to please God. I only want to be a delight to him. And that's so hard for me... for a number of reasons... because I feel like I'm failing all the time, or I feel like I'm never doing as well as I should be, or I feel like I'm just letting him down. When in reality, all of that is just me looking at myself. Pleasing my Father is more of walking with him and looking at him as I walk, rather than walking and looking at myself and how I should be better the whole time. I've been learning that no matter what happens to me, if I can hold on to Christ, if I can commune with the Father and rest in him, if I can walk by the Spirit, I'm going to be alright. I may look at my jar and think little of it, and other people may look at my jar and think little of it, but I should hope that I can remember my value based on Christ in me and that others too could look on me and know that value. Praise be to Christ; He lives inside of me.}

Now, here's some bad news. Most often, that "one thing" isn't going to matter once you die. Your job, once you're gone, it's not going to bring you any security. Your money, once you're gone, it's not going to bring you comfort. Even your family, once you're gone, you're not going to gain much satisfaction from them.

But there's good news. You are valuable- because an incredibly high price was paid to place value in your life. If you choose to find your identity in the truth that Jesus died for your sake that you would have life forever and have life to the fullest, you'll find value that this world cannot take away.

Think about it. If you allow yourself to be wholly defined by the unmerited gift of eternity with the God of the Universe, everything changes. The loss of your job is just the loss of a job, it's not the loss of who you are. The unexpected totaling of your car is just the loss of a piece of metal, it's not the end of your world. They lack of attention from others is just the lack of attention from others, it's not the lack of attention from a God who loves and cares for you. The things that go wrong in your family become things that you can have the faith to believe God can restore and work through, it's not a waste of everything you've worked so hard for. It's a chance for you to see God work more. And when you die, that life in Christ you allowed to give you your identity and value will usher you into the Kingdom of Heaven where crowns will have been laid up for you as you walked in this life working to build that treasure in you.

You and I aren't much to look at. Especially in comparison to Jesus. But it is a gracious thing that our lives may be looked upon and all the righteousness, and goodness, and pureness, of Him would be seen. Instead of a dusty old jar, we become so much more. We become heirs to a great kingdom, the sons and daughters to the King. If we choose to live believing that Christ died for us and for us to spend an eternity with him, then we can live looking forward to the life he's given us in eternity with him. And though this may not make much sense, I think that's what's so great about it. How can we, who are nothing, gain everything? Because it's been offered to us. We just have to decide to receive it, to take up the gift, to walk in the light and truth of it.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—  always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."
-2 Corinthians 4:7-10

But it's hard to trust something when you can't see it. When you're a jar and you can't see within, it's hard to know for sure what's inside and live your whole life believing it. But that's what faith is all about. If you could see, you wouldn't need the faith to believe or trust. So even though it's hard, and yeah, life is hard, for everyone, everything you endure as a jar is just momentary. As you endure, and continue on in the faith your inner person is becoming more and more beautiful and your character starts to look more and more like Christ, for it is Him in you, working to make you like Him.

"...Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceedingand eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18

If the gospel is what you hold within, you have more value than a million jars with all the treasure in the world.

The value is not in the vessel, but what the vessel holds. Your value is not in yourself, but in what you allow to be what defines you.

Text me if you finish this and I'll bake you cookies or something... and send them in a jar... but not the same jar as Whiskers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On Bed Sheets and Other Gifts

Have you ever thought about what it would be like sleeping in bed sheets made out of cardboard? Have you imagined the rough texture of your least favorite cereal box against your soft little face as your heavy eye lids weighed themselves closed? Perhaps you've considered the crinkling of packaging paper between your toes as you tucked yourself in to sleep? Well friends, I haven't just pondered these thoughts, but I've lived them out. I wasn't in third world country and it wasn't at a bizarre type of sleepover in elementary school. It was under my own roof, in my own home, sleeping in my own bed.

This year I didn't really want or need anything for my birthday, but as per usual, my mom inquired. She's good at that, and she's good at giving gifts that I enjoy- especially when she does said inquiring. I couldn't think of anything except for maybe a new set of bed sheets- which really seems like a lame thing to ask for, but ya know- some times all you really can think of is bed sheets. So, when my birthday package arrived (with far more than I expected) I wasn't all that surprised to find new sheets gift wrapped with a bow.

For at least a month those bed sheets sat in the package in the corner of my room. They just sat there, doing nothing, not even looking particularly pretty- just packaged up, sitting in the corner, doing nothing. Then one day, I'm not sure what happened, but I opened them up.

Perhaps it was because I had some spare time, or maybe it was because I finally got tired of looking at them just sitting around doing nothing, but at some point I figured I might as well put them to use. They did me no good in the corner, and they certainly weren't adding any visual appeal to my apartment. So I opened the package and threw them on the bed. I didn't know what I was getting into... I assumed I was just getting into new bed sheets. After all, that's all they were... new bed sheets.

Imagine sleeping in cardboard sheets your entire life. Or maybe, imagine sleeping in butcher paper for the last five years of your life. Pretend for a moment that your pillow case is made out of empty toilet paper rolls and your blankets are hard and stiff newspaper. Now picture yourself being sent off to a bed made completely out of down comforters of angels wings and bed sheets threaded out of cloud nine. That's a pretty wildly stark difference.

And that was my life...

And that's all wonderful, and fun to talk about- "I got new bed sheets that feel like angels kisses..." and "I basically sleep in bed sheets that make a baby's behind feel like sand paper," except you've probably forgotten that I mentioned I left the bed sheets in the corner of my room for a month. A month of sleepless nights, a month of sweet dreams missed, a month of simple joys stolen from me and all of my own accord. I could have enjoyed them sooner, but I didn't really understand what I was missing out on. I could have benefitted from them the night they arrived, but I delayed- they were just another set of bed sheets.

Why am I telling you this? I'm telling you because I learned a lesson the day I opened my gift and finally used it.

Sometimes we're given gifts, and for one reason or another, be it laziness or pride or whatever, we relent of using them, we refrain from opening them. Maybe we're afraid, maybe we're uncertain as to if they actually are better than what we already have going for us, maybe it's just because we don't know how to use them, and maybe we just don't want to misuse them. And now I'm not talking about bed sheets (obviously). Recently I've learned a lot about the gifts that God gives us. First of all, he gives us more than we deserve. Second he gives us more than we imagine. Third he gives us more than we give him credit.

To my brothers and sisters-
You have a wildly gracious father who is determined to show you His goodness. He cares for you, He loves you, and He gives you good gifts. He didn't just save you then say, "nothing more for you," but instead saved you and just keeps on giving, and giving, and giving. His grace abounds more and more. It's not too late to dig up the talents that you buried so long ago. The ground may be harder now, but it's worth it to pull them out. He has given you gifts for you to invest in His kingdom (see Matthew 25:14-30). I'd challenge you today to consider the gifts that He's given you that you either a) have taken for granted or b) have refused to put to use. Don't get me wrong, I know the difficulty of putting to use gifts when you're afraid they're going to backfire on you. I know it's easy to try and cover them up and maybe, just maybe give them the mask of not being a gift at all. But I'd challenge you to seek out the gifts that you've been given, for the purpose of building the Body, of building the Kingdom, and of glorifying the Father and put them to use. I don't know what that would look like for you or by what means it will take, but I do know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (see James 1:7) and that your father is a good gift giver (see Luke 11:13). Leverage, with everything in you, every gift He has given you. Don't let them sit in the corner of your room watching you live a less than exceptional life. Don't allow them to watch you as you pass up days of missed opportunities, or months of missed experiences, or a lifetime of missed blessings.

To the non-believer-
First, thanks for taking the time to read this post. Genuinely, I'm grateful that you would take some time to read about my bed sheets and things I'm learning.

Second, there is a gift for you. It has your name on it. It's been waiting for you to receive it, or "open it up and put in on" so to speak. There's always the option of living your life and when you get to the end of it, that's when you'll receive that gift, that's when you'll accept it. There's that option, but you're not promised that opportunity at the end of your life. Maybe you've thought, "Jesus? Maybe later, like when I'm on my death bed, when I let it all sink in on that one day I'm going to die," I'd challenge you to consider what comes next... right now.

I could have left the bed sheets on the floor thinking, "one day I'll pick up those bed sheets." And I did, for a long time. But what if that one day never came? What if, bare with me, what if I died before I used the bed sheets, before I experienced them, before I could enjoy them? I know they're just bed sheets, seriously, I get that, but I'm trying to make the point of not deferring salvation to a moment which you may never get to see coming. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. To delay salvation will only make your heart grow sick, you will only go on, day by day, with no hope; you'll continue waking up morning by morning not knowing what the point is; you'll go to sleep night by night dissatisfied and filled with anxiety. But to receive salvation is life- it is to go on day by day with hope, to wake up each morning knowing that, though yesterday may have been rough, this is a new day filled with new opportunities and new purposes; it is to rest your head on your pillow with peace, knowing the God of the universe is working in you to make you more than you or anyone else could have ever imagined for yourself. It seems like a lot, because it is a lot.

Jesus on the cross is more than a story you grew up hearing. Jesus on the cross is the gift of salvation purchased for you by his own blood. I'd encourage you to take him up on his gift and watch him pour out blessings upon your life.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God," -Ephesians 2:8 (emphasis added)

If you'd like to know more about knowing God I'd encourage you to check out this quick video by clicking here.

And finally, just so you all know- even though my bed sheets are probably just Target brand- they feel like Egyptian cotton 5,000,000 thread count.