20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Pastor Ray spoke on this passage today, and I was driven to tears again.
Tears of gratitude.
For weakness. For difficulty. For discomfort.
As he was speaking on how the point of this passage is not to condemn those who have and uplift those who have not, he reminded me that, rather, those closest to the heart of God are those who recognize their dependency on Him, and that often, with comfort comes self-reliance.
I was thinking on how my antennae has been so much sharper since moving out here. Tuning in to God has been a much more frequent thing for me simply because I feel so unstable and uncertain much of the time (working for a start-up, and raising support in order to live out here).
I noticed it more so when I thought about how I’ve changed subtly when moving from my previous house to the one I live in now. In my other house, there was some discomfort – I didn’t feel exactly “home” whenever I’d come back from work for the evening, and for that reason, there was a constant seeking after God, for peace, for guidance and strength. Since I’ve moved to my more spacious and comfortable home, I’ve felt happier and grateful, but at the same time, a seed of apathy grew in me, where I saw myself less prone to spend time with God or long for Him.
When I realized that subtle difference, it convicted me that my discomforts and weaknesses are truly gifts from God in disguise. I am so thankful for this faith-building experience in being out here because it forces me to depend on Him in a way I never did when, though I wasn’t rich or living in luxury, I lived comfortably, and could purchase all things I needed knowing I could depend on my income and benefits to sustain me.
Whether I go back to a stable job with an income, or continue support raising for my living, I pray for a heart that gives generously of my resources, knowing that as I may lack, He fills my every need, and draws me closer to Him as I remain in desperate need of Him.
I’d rather have Jesus…
Tim Keller quoted a pastor who used to be a shepherd before going into ministry. I love this.:
A sheep is a stupid animal. It loses its directions continually in a way that a cat or dog never does. And, even when you find a lost sheep, the lost sheep brushes to and fro and will not follow you home. So when you find it, you must seize it, throw it to the ground, tie its fore legs and its hind legs together, put it over your shoulders, and carry it home. That’s the only way to save a lost sheep.
He unpacks this metaphor beautifully here: http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/he-welcomes-sinners
As Keller says,
“A sheep can contribute nothing to its salvation…
We need a savior.”
Loved today’s comic from Adam. 🙂
This past Sunday,Pastor Ray spoke on Mary from the book of Luke, and of her simple, but powerful faith in God. Young Mary chose to believe that she would be impregnated without a man, she chose to face possible ridicule and condemnation for her pregnancy out of wedlock, and she believed that the holy son of God would be formed in her own womb. Some incredibly weighty decisions she made, but all it took was a basic trust that God would do what He said He would do.
This has been my continual reflection. Do I really trust in His guidance and leading, or am I too caught up in the “..but what if I..”’s, “How could that be if..”’s, “That will never happen because…”’s, etc. There’s no promises that God will do what I want Him to do, but do I believe that He can do infinitely more than I could ever imagine? I think I limit Him because when He doesn’t do what I want Him to do, or what I imagine is the best way, He often becomes less powerful or less loving to me. Once I do that, I’ve become my own god, and I leave no room for God who is oceans ahead of me. I become discouraged, and stop believing before giving Him room to show me any different.
I wanted to include a private blog entry I wrote 2 years ago while out in Hawaii for a wedding. On this particular morning, it did not look like the picture below. It was overcast and rainy, which made it darker and colder. The guides told us that section 1 was where most people swam, but that section 2 was also perfectly safe, and we would need to swim there if we wanted to see sea turtles.
Early this morning, I started my last day in Hawaii with a morning snorkel at Hanauma Bay. The frigid temperatures only kept me in the water for an hour, but on the walk back up to our pick-up spot, I realized something.. yet again. Things I already know, and yet the idea finally hits home when God uses nature to show it to me.
I was getting flustered, and a bit scared, when swimming around, trying to get to section 2. I kept coming across bigger and bigger rocks and waves that I was fearful of hitting. I did want to get to section 2, but what was directly in front of me scared me too much and made me feel it was impossible. I was cold and miserable. I just gave up.
As I walked up (back to our shuttle bus) and saw the bay in its entirety, though, I could at that point see where the rocks and coral were, and were there was just sand. It couldn’t have been more clear. And, the waves that had scared me so much below actually fizzled out into nothing within a few feet of where I’d been.
It reminded me of my lack of trust in God’s guidance and goodness. He sees it all. I don’t. I wish I could just trust Him and relax, instead of freaking out. I wish I could just trust that there is a way, even when a way isn’t visible to me.
He is my only way I need to choose. God, help me to trust you…to see you… nothing else.
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” -Luke 1:37
I like looking through this guy’s comics sometimes – found out he’s a Michigander, woohoo! Anyway, when this one popped up, I had to post it because it’s pretty much the theme of my blog heh heh. So cute!
Bright sunlight day after day. Buildings.. of residence, business, entertainment as far as the eye can see. The steady stream of cars. People… concrete… sounds and chatter…. everywhere.
I remember complaining a lot as a child when my family would go on road trips. I remember complaining most when we would go to locations with a lot of people, noises, intense heat, etc. all of which I was extremely sensitive to. Amusement parks and tourist destinations were like my personal hell.
It’s almost comical that I ended up here. People that know me know Southern California is the last place I would ever move to. I came here on faith, believing that God wanted me here at this position at this point in time. If I could have orchestrated my path myself, I would have chosen somewhere with less people and noise, more scenery. Maybe Montana. Maybe central Canada. Maybe New Zealand.
I came to Panera today to do work and watched a man eating by himself, speaking, with animated words, smiles, and gestures, even smacking his lips in puckering sounds while blowing kisses, into his computer. I was so amused because he was probably the loudest one in my section, and yet he didn’t care how he might look to those around him. He was very obviously immersed in his (what appeared to be) wife and toddler daughter, who were on the other end of a video call.
I was thinking about how fast times have changed, that it’s the norm now to see people all alone talking to their digital gadgets. As I watched him, I realized that he was still finding his intimacy, his source of strength, despite the barricade of virtual connectedness, despite the questioning onlookers around him. He looked so peaceful talking to his computer.
Where are you looking to find peace? Are you looking to Me?
Once again, I heard God’s nudging on my heart. I’ve been feeling so frantic and unsettled lately because of my environment. I would think of Paul in prison, and how he managed to still have hope despite his circumstances, but I wouldn’t relate it to me because I kept thinking,
Well, I can CHANGE my circumstances! I don’t HAVE to live in this tiny room. I don’t HAVE to be here at this position. I’m FREE to move and change what I don’t like!
Then, I had a sudden flashback of a scene I saw in Man of Steel (Superman) last night. When Superman and those that were not of earth first encountered their powers in the world, the stimulation was too much. Everything was intensified. Even the gentle ticking of a clock would cause overdrive in their minds. They had to learn to block out what didn’t matter in order to hone in and use their powers properly.
There are many days where I feel like my circumstances are too much for me, that they have total power over me and I can’t find relief unless I leave that situation or eliminate whatever feeling or physical problem that is ailing me. But, He is teaching me another reason why I’m out here. To really focus on Him alone. To find peace despite all the lack of peace surrounding me and in me.
But how do I find peace with all that chatter and noise, and all those things I can’t stand??
And the verse I meditated on today spoke..
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)
I will forever remember this tree I saw in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s a place called Chapel Rock. The tree has been isolated from the rest of the forest by years of weathering and change. It stands alone on this rock, still very much alive. The top soil left on the rock is not enough to sustain it, but the reason it still stands is because of its roots which reach, as you can see, back into the mainland.
I want to rely on You alone, to be so connected to You that I long for nothing else. Train me so that I may know that in You, I can withstand whatever weathering and change that occur around me, in my mind, body, or emotions, so that I, like Paul, can have faith and hope amidst the struggles.
I’m sure you may laugh that I equate Southern California to a prison, but to each his own. Maybe your prison is your body, maybe an illness or disability that you never asked for. Maybe it’s your family or past experiences that have weighed you down in one way or another. Maybe it’s your problem-ridden marriage, or maybe your ever continuing singleness. Maybe it’s an oppressive boss or environment at your job. Or maybe, you’re in an actual prison, tormented for your crimes, or maybe for your faith. Whatever it may be, I know we can find everlasting peace in Him.
It’s my first morning in California, away from my home of 3 years in Michigan.
I gave up being with family and friends, my church community, the beauty of Michigan nature which is like my second second set of lungs, my lovely car, and the comforts of things that are predictable and familiar, to be out here where I have no promised home, income, good friends and community, where my car has been downsized and I will be without my beloved thunderstorms, fall colors, fluffy snowfall, rich humidity, and the many scenic variations that , although many can do without, bring me great sadness when I am in lack.
When I got off the plane, I was thinking, “This was a good idea.”, with a thick tone of sarcasm, and all these thoughts started rushing in…
What the heck am I doing?
Am I crazy? I must be crazy.
Why did I want to do this again?
I’m lying here on an inflatable mattress in the living room of my brother and sister in law’s place, wondering when I’ll be able to find a permanent place to lie my head, feeling out of place and a burden, wanting to be back in a place where things are mine, where I am in control and not dependent on others.
But, He speaks to me again.
Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. -Matthew 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice! -Philippians 4:4
Two vital truths that remind me that I have a reason to be grateful, in every moment, through every circumstance. …and that no worldly supports can give me life as much as the very promises and words of life He breathes into me. The misery comes only when I choose to believe I need them more than I need Him, when I feel the need to control and exert power out of fear, rather than living into each moment with trust and submission.
At least within all these doubts, this one thing still excites me – the challenge of walking by faith, not by sight. I pray that if I gain anything from this experience, it would be a looser grip on the things of this world, and a simpler childlike trust in every word and promise He gives.