Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

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When God Gives You Darkness

August 27, 2015

Oh, oh, here we go
Welcome to the show
Lights shining, so blinding
From our head to our toes
When this room blacks out
You know we will stand out
So come on, oh
We’re gonna glow!

– “Glow” by Britt Nicole

Children love glow sticks.  Actually, adults love glow sticks too.  (At least I do…I still count as an adult, right?)

And what’s the first thing kids do with a glow stick?

They run into the darkest room in the house and shut the door so they can see how bright it is.

In broad daylight, the glow is faint – if visible at all.  But in the dark, you can fully see the glorious illumination.  It’s a beacon, a reading lamp, a thing of beauty.

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this.

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Fellow Christian, you’re a glow stick.  You have the light of Christ inside of you.  You are His temple and His workmanship.  But how could the world see your glow, if you always shone in the noonday of perfect peace and ease?  How could your faith grow stronger, if it was never held against the night?

Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” – Job 1:7-11

Sometimes for reasons we can’t comprehend, God sends us into the deep, dark closet and shuts the door.  Sometimes he lets Satan take us there.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus said.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

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How many stories of martyrs have you heard, where the darkness was great but their faith only grew and the gospel spread like wildfire?  Where they sang hymns while the flames licked their feet or prayed in power as the waves rolled over their heads?

God never lets the darkness or the devil steal His glory.  They can’t snuff His light out.  They can only provide contrast.

Sometimes God brings us darkness so that we might learn His light…but sometimes He sends us into the dark so we might shine His light in a way we could not do in the sunshine.

Put it under a bushel?  NO!

That song is supposed to be about children proclaiming their witness, but it might just as well be God singing about his own little lights that he has sent as ambassadors into the world – because we don’t light ourselves, He lights us.  And God never puts His light under a bushel.  Rather, He displays it high.

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” – Luke 8:16

Maybe this is why sin is on the increase, persecution is rising, and stocks are falling.  Perhaps this is why the world looks so dark to many believers today.  Contrast.

This world is a dark place, and God is filling it with lampposts.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16

If He’s brought you into a dark place, perhaps He is holding you aloft against the night, a tool to shine His glory more brightly against the black.  Maybe He’s proving your faithfulness to the devil.  Maybe He’s proving His faithfulness to you.
Hold fast.  There will come a time for a new world with no darkness at all.  And for now, the light shines in the darkness even brighter than in the day – and the darkness will not overcome it.
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Original Poem / Song: Scared to Search My Heart

June 9, 2015

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I’m scared to search my heart,
Afraid of what I will find;
I’m scared of moving forward,
So I’m falling behind;
Don’t want to face my enemy,
So I’ll remain a slave;
I’m not sure I want to know
What it means to be brave.

I know You’ll give me courage,
But I’m happy to remain
Trapped in a life of cowardice
As long as it means no pain.
O Savior, Father, help me!
Remind me what You’ve done.
You chose a life of pain and grief
When You sent us Your Son.

I know that I’m a coward
And I don’t deserve to see
That this comfy life’s a prison
And you’ve handed me the key.
You’re showing me to freedom –
But now I count the cost.
Help me see my comfort
From the vantage of the cross.

You didn’t die
So I could live
With cold hands fisted,
Nothing to give.
You didn’t suffer agony
So I could waste away
Comfortably.
You said, “Take up your mat and walk,”
So why am I on the floor?
I know I have the strength to go;
I need to trust You more.

I’m scared to search my heart,
So show me gently within;
Afraid of moving forward;
Help me break the web of sin.
Don’t want to face my enemy,
But now by grace I see
That the pain and death are in the cell –
To fight means victory.

— Original song by Bethany A. Jennings, June 7, 2015

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Simmer Starters – Mar. 6, 2015

March 6, 2015

First, I have to share these three Simmer Starter links that directly correlate to the series on love that I have going right now.  If you don’t check out any of the other links, read these!

The Three Sieves (Tim Challies) – Amen and amen!  This is on my mind too, all the time.  I love the 3 sieves notion.  “I know it is not the perfect standard by which to judge, but I often find myself thinking it: If others speak of me the way I speak of them, I would be devastated.”

10 Ways to Hate People (HeadHeartHand) – A very brief post with a self-explanatory title.

Seven Ways We Can Guard and Repair Relationships (Ray Ortlund at The Gospel Coalition) – Beautiful thoughts about love and grace in relationships with others.

Second, four links about writing and books:

Why Everyone Deserves to Tell a Story (ScribblePreach) – “ ‘I have a story idea,’ he said to the girl sitting across from him. ‘Do you want to hear it?’ ‘Looks like I don’t have a choice,’ I thought. What happened next was the last thing on planet earth I’d expected: I was riveted.”

99 Essential Character Creation Quotes (WritinGeekery) – This list is gold!  It takes a long time to read through, but is well worth it.

How Pursuing Your Gifts Impacts Your Kids (Jessica Turner, on Ann Voskamp’s blog) – Beautiful post about pursuing our artistic gifts even in the busyness of motherhood.  Your kids will see it, and enjoy it, and be blessed by it!  “My mom comes from a long-line of women who made time for their gifts. My grandmother loved to knit and read. My great-grandmother loved to embroider and sew.  This legacy of self-care and seeing it in practice made a huge impact on me. As I mother, I want to instill the same values in my children.”

No Boys Allowed: School Visits As a Woman Writer (Shannon Hale) – This is something that frustrates me about how we treat boys and girls and their reading habits…the concept that “boys don’t read books about girls,” or worse, that they should not.

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Love Is…More Than Sacrifice – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

March 4, 2015

love seriesWelcome to my series on 1 Corinthians 13!  For the introductory post, click here.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

I had a chance to put what I’ve learned about this passage into action yesterday.

(Really, it should always be in action!  It should be in every action!  But I mean God brought it to my mind and helped me escape temptation through my memory of this verse.)

It’s a long story, but in short – I committed to providing a cheese and cracker platter to a funeral reception at our church that evening, and due to some misunderstanding or miscommunication, I was under the impression that our neighbors were going to deliver it for me.  This did not turn out to be the case.  So I found myself rushing out the door with the three kids in tow, leaving our partly cooked dinner behind, so that I could get the platter to the church on time.

Let’s just say my mood wasn’t the greatest about this unexpected turn of events.

I felt like what God told Cain, that, “Sin is crouching at your door; its desire is for you and you must rule over it.”  Sin was right there with me, breathing down my neck.

And I could have let it own me, then.  But God in His graciousness helped me turn to Him instead, and brought this verse to mind, along with all the things I’ve learned from studying it over the past month.  He is faithful and good that way!

Lesson #1: You can sacrifice, yet have not love

In countering the “love is a feeling” lie the world often tells, Christians are known to respond with the sentiment that love is an action.  Love is what you do, we say.

This is only half true, I realized.

As we can see from this passage, we could even deliver up our bodies to be burned, and have not love.

I could speak with the eloquence of the greatest men or the languages of angels…but without love my words would be nothing but a disturbing clashing sound.  I could have the power to see the future, understand all mysteries, and accomplish anything with my great faith in God…but without love these amazing feats are worthless in God’s eyes.

I could sacrifice everything, right down to the shirt off my back – right down to my very life! – and yet be loveless.

So we cannot take impressive feats or self-sacrifice as proof of love.  There’s more to it than that.  (More on that thought in the rest of the series!)

Lesson #2: You can be a champion for Christ, yet have not love

One of the things I’ve loved about reading this passage is studying the commentary my digital Bible has to go along with it.  Here is one thought which the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary had which stuck out to me:

Men will fight for Christianity, and die for Christianity, but not live in its spirit, which is love.

Ouch!  I could fight untiringly for the cause of Christ, even die for Him, without truly becoming like Him.

Funny how that works.  Sometimes laying down your life in death is easier than laying down your life by serving others with the love of our Savior.

Why do we think we could make the ultimate sacrifice, but not even think of making smaller sacrifices?

People sometimes ask that question to imply that we wouldn’t actually make the ultimate sacrifice when it came down to the wire.  But I believe we could, and would!  We really could die for Christ in the extreme before dying to self in the mundane everyday.  But if that is how we spent our lives, if we only sacrificed at the end of the line and never before, what does that gain us?  Nothing.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

As a kid I remember being terrified of that verse, praying full of fear that God would make me a living sacrifice, picturing myself going up in flames. I didn’t notice that the key word in that phrase is LIVING.

Living, breathing, working, serving.  Presenting our bodies to Him, putting ourselves at His disposal.  This is acceptable to God.  This is our spiritual worship.

Taking up the cross of Christ means dying to self every day, not only when persecutors come for our heads.

So back to me in the car…

The love passage wound through my head and shame welled up inside me.  Here I was, quietly fueling a grudge, bristling at my inconvenience, and yet somehow I still managed to be quietly puffed up for being so “selfless” and serving my church when it wasn’t convenient for me.

But if I have not love, I am nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind.

Love bears all things.

The reminders piled up and blew that hot-breathed sin right off my shoulder.  By God’s grace I was able to turn around and say, “Please, help me do this for You.”  Sin did not rule the day!  God is great.

There are so many things we do in life with a self-congratulatory attitude behind it all.  We do things for the passion of it, for the emotion, for the rush of feeling like we “made a difference.”  We could even be very good at what we do, using gifts and talents God gave us to serve Him.  But if we do these things in a loveless way, they are no better than selfishness from the viewpoint of eternity.

It’s not the sacrifices we make.  It’s the way we respond to others, the way we carry out relationships, the way we interact with fellow image-bearers of God.  Love isn’t a feeling, and it isn’t a course of action, though those things are usually involved. Love is a purposeful attitude that rises from submission to God alone and manifests in treating our neighbors as ourselves.

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Next week, we’ll dig in to the loving way vs. the loveless way, continuing to the most famous part of the chapter, verses 4-7.

Please share your thoughts and additional musings in the comments!  I would love to hear your insights on this passage…there is always more for me to learn.  🙂

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Funny Things on the Internet – Would Jesus LOL?

February 9, 2015

The other day I saw a BuzzFeed list of “Things to Make You Want to Burn Down the Internet.” It was full of jaw-dropping spelling and grammar mistakes, and shocking ignorance – like a person asking if the rain fell up in Australia since it’s on the bottom side of the earth.

I got some giggles and horrified gasps out of it. I thought about sharing it.

Then I thought not.

On the one hand, these things are hilarious. It’s natural to laugh when a comma would have made all the difference in the meaning of a Facebook status. It’s chortle-worthy when a girl writes that she “got her hair cut and died today.” (When’s the funeral?)

But the further I scrolled down the list, the more uncomfortable I became with my own amusement.  Some of the screenshots were genuinely funny mistakes, but others were simply painful examples of ignorance and poor writing skills.

Maybe that internet user is very young, I considered.  Or maybe they are dyslexic, or English is their second language.  What if they have developmental disabilities or disorders, or suffered a brain injury in the past?  I don’t know their story.  There could be any number of good reasons why they look “stupid.”  Was it right for me to be snickering at them?

But sometimes people are just stupid!  Lighten up, Bethany!  It’s supposed to be funny!

Yeah, sometimes I do need to lighten up.  With my overanalyzing INFJ personality, I tend to take everything seriously. 😛 But if there’s anything we INFJs do well, it’s standing up for people, championing those who are considered “less than.”

So I ask you, when should mockery get a free pass in our hearts?

Is it right for us to mock those we perceive as less intelligent than ourselves?  Does ranking “lower” than us in knowledge or education make other human beings – fellow image-bearers of God! – free fodder for our amusement?  If they write poorly, or don’t think clearly, or lack crucial information, does that mean it’s okay for us to scoff, guffaw, and walk away feeling like a superior human being?

Scripture has some pretty strong words about looking down on others…

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? … If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” – James 2:1-5 & 8-10 (ESV)

Sending someone’s internet gaffe viral is really another way to gossip, even if their name is blacked out.  Unless they recognize their mistake and share your amusement, is that kind?

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” – Psalm 1:1

I left that list after a few hollow laughs, feeling depressed.  I wondered…do these people have anyone in their lives who would correct them gently, in love?  Is there anyone who would have the patience and take the time to educate them on their errors?  Or are all their “friends” taking screenshots of their mistakes and spreading them to the world for a good laugh?

Trolling people…har har har!!  *sigh*  I hope someone kind gave them actual correct information.

I’ve seen this kind of trolling happen in person.  Someone asked a question, and got a string of sarcastic misinformation instead of a straight answer.  A joke, sure, okay.  But then the sarcastic individual never bothered to step back and explain the truth…and neither did anyone else in the room, leaving the person who asked the question confused and in the dark.  Does doing this to people online make it any nicer?

Are we more prone to chortling with the bullies, or showing grace to the misinformed?

There but for the grace of God go I!

I’ve put my foot in my mouth before, made typos, and been totally clueless and ignorant at times.  There are many, many people smarter than me in the world, and the information I have filed away in my tiny mind is a drop in a bucket compared to some.  Would I appreciate their scorn?

When I show myself a fool, I know I’d want other people giving me the benefit of the doubt.  I know I’d want to be graciously educated or kindly tolerated, rather than mocked.  And I want to extend that compassionate ideal to others, even the “stupid” people on the internet.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 7:12

Yes, maybe sometimes I need to lighten up.  But I believe we should ask ourselves more often:

“Would Jesus LOL?”