Friday, June 29, 2012

Face, Unveiled

         Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
     Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.   Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
      Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:4-18
     When I look in the mirror these days, I am sometimes amazed, sometimes dismayed at the face peering back at me. It is not an old face just yet, though the lines that once vanished along with my smile or frown now linger. It is not a young face, either, as those lingering lines are accompanied by age spots and the whites of my eyes are not quite white anymore. It is a face in transition.

     For a moment, I focus on the eyes. They are not as bright as they once were. They have seen many things both of stunning beauty and gut-wrenching horror. Their vision is less crisp than it once was, and creases are forming at their corners and on the brow where I frequently squint to keep the world in focus, forgetting time and again to wear my glasses. However, as the outer eyes fade, my spiritual eyes are becoming sharper than ever.

     In my youth and early adulthood, when my physical eyes were at their peak in performance and in attractiveness, I was inwardly blind. Spiritually, I was a stone-cold blind girl following blind guides down a road that seemed innocuous but became more bitter and more clearly bent to destruction as I staggered along the way. My world was destruction, I felt, and so I cared not where the road took me. I was chained, it seemed, by guilt, by abhorrent things I had done or seen, but a conscience seared nearly to the point of numbness -- but not quite. The further I walked, the more my blindness became wilful, a desperate attempt to not see what was glaringly obvious before me. I felt myself doomed to walk this road and walked without hope and with dwindling remorse.

     I did, however, come to a point where I was beyond myself. My strength was gone and I could travel under the burden of the chains I carried. I cried out hopelessly to a God I did not believe in and challenged Him to show Himself if He was, indeed, real. In His mercy, He not only disclosed Himself to me, He healed my blindness and freed me from those hateful chains, one by one. Those eyes, once so utterly -- and even purposefully -- blind, now see clearer with each new day even as the eyes peeking back from the mirror are beginning the relentless decline of age. In them I see pain, sorrow, and suffering, but also something new--hope.

Stripped of the scales, my eyes see the world in a new way, more unmistakable each day. My eyes see people struggling under burdens similar to the ones I once needlessly carried. They see the pain etched behind the smiles, the helpless grief behind the sobs. My eyes see with a new compassion and a longing to share the hope that is within me--the hope of a Lord who is mightier than the most overwhelming grief, who has shared in suffering and overcome--the hope of a King who reclaims and redeems, who offers a hope imperishable and a peace inconquerable quite despite circumstances that would otherwise leave only desolation. My eyes are seeing more and more like His, as He becomes greater and I become less.

     My gaze travels down to the mouth. This, too, is faintly showing signs of succumbing to the passing of time; past its prime but not yet aged. This mouth once spouted arrogance and even blasphemous things. It had moments of cruelty, cutting down people with vicious jabs and thrusts of words. It was a weapon used to carve out a wide swath of space to separate myself from others and to recklessly defend that berth. It was haughty, proud, disdainful, and cold, but it was also a mouth weaving words intended to mask a lonely and miserable soul. It was a mouth frightened to admit failure, mistake, or defeat.

     Now those lips are unafraid to confess crimes. When they are again used as a weapon, repentance follows, for the intent for this mouth now is to speak words of encouragement, healing, life, and truth. Sometimes words of rebuke must come, but gently now and without the venom that once tainted every word. Sorrow, too, and longing are spoken. Honesty and transparency has become the new goal, no longer shielding a broken soul but one mended and exposed and yet oddly invulnerable to this world, for now faith is no longer in survival of self but in dying to myself and clinging to the One who has overcome the world. This mouth now struggles against its old ways, and is often found vocalizing words of contrition and renewal, striving to reject unwholesome and destructive speech. It is a mouth in transition, being sanctified and purified, but not yet having achieved this end. As it ages, it mellows and is putting aside brutality and taking up nourishing and nurturing.

     The whole face, indeed, is losing its youth and becoming more mature in appearence. There is no question that I am no longer a young woman, but middle-aged. However, despite isolated moments of regret, overall I welcome age and I hope to have a face with character; a face whose smile lines far outnumber the creases of frowns. I hope to have a face that shines with an inner radiance--the radiance of the love of God and of a creature abiding in Him. I hope that, should I be allowed a long span of years, my face will be that of a woman full of patience and the peace that surpasses all understanding, mouth speaking words of truth and of wisdom, eyes shining with the light of love.

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:15-16

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways. As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'"
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:7-19
     As I have thought back through the sins of my lifetime, it seems to me that they are, without fail, rooted in unbelief. Even my pride, which I have found to be the sneakiest and meanest of sins, seems to be grounded in unbelief as well. I find that all my anxieties stem from a failure to truly, honestly believe in God's goodness and ability to provide. Pride rears up because I have put my own strength ahead of trust in God--once again, not believing in Him so much as in myself. As a side note, what a silly thing that is--to believe in the capacity of a cracked vessel rather than in the purpose of the One who formed that vessel. In that light, it seems a strange thing to believe in oneself.

     Those are merely a couple of examples, but I could go on. Fear, lust, hate, anger, gossip, slander, malice, and in every other way I may disobey I find that it originates in unbelief. I do not truly believe that God is God, that He is powerful, that He has overcome the world, that I will be accountable for every careless word I speak, and so on. I was convicted of this over and over, and I have been pondering it for weeks. If I truly believe the Bible is the true and inspired word of God, if I truly believe in His utter sovereignty, than I will live a different kind of life. I will live in awe and reverence, completely and irrevocably transformed by His great compassion and His might and power. And not just I, but all of us who claim His name.

     So my question is: Do we truly believe? I may have written this before, but it bears repeating. Do we believe in God the same way we believein George Washington? Yes, I believe that a man existed named George Washington, that he was a great leader, and that he did a lot of wonderful things. Believing this, however, does not change my life. I also believe in nursing infants and in training my children to walk with the Lord. Both of these believes have altered the way I live my daily life. Nursing a baby changed the products I bought, the structure of my days, and many other things. Teaching my own is also a lifestyle and not merely an intellectual acknowledgement, and it has completely turned my world upside down.
     My point is this: We, in confessing belief in the Lord Christ, must believe in such a way that it alters our lifestyle and changes our perspective. God is calling us to a belief much more practical than a verbal concession. He is calling us to a belief that transforms us, that brings our eyes off the transient and temporal things around us to the eternal things that we cannot see. He is calling us to love recklessly and without thought for recompense. He is calling us to believe that He is bigger and more powerful than our weakness and frailty. His calling is not to walk a path of safety, professing belief with our lips while walking in unbelief with our feet. He is calling us to abandon ourselves utterly to Him, trusting that even if He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, He will never leave us there. He is calling us to a belief that goes beyond hymnals, music, and Bible study and goes out into our every day experience.

      For as I have come to see, a true belief and acceptance of Jesus as Lord over every element of my life brings me to my knees in awe, in repentance, and in abject submission because He is truly powerful and He is my King, my life... my everything. There is nothing outside of His power and no person beyond His grasp. His way is perfect, and I do not have to understand "why" but I can trust Him even when circumstances are beyond my grasp. The fact is, I could never understand "why" because I am a creation--God is Creator, infinite in wisdom and understanding, and His thoughts and ways are as far from mine as my thoughts and actions are from the insects in my garden. It has taken years, but finally I believe with an undivided heart.... and that realization has left me weak in the knees for the greatness of a God who can do such amazing things as ours has done, and yet has given Himself to atone for the horrendous things that I have done.

     Friends, this belief is no trifle, and this King is not to be trifled with either! He is a great and compassionate God, but He is also a holy and jealous God. He longs for us all to love Him as He has loved us, and yet He will never force us. Make no mistake, we will bear the consequence of our choice: Life changing belief will lead us to eternal life, or unbelief that ends in death. I urge us all today, myself included, to give ourselves with sheer abandon to complete acceptance of what the Bible says--not to study it and to puff ourselves up with knowledge that goes nowhere but only clogs our minds and hearts, but to live it out daily in our homes, with our spouses, in our churches, behind the wheel, in the grocery store, even in scrubbing the toilets. Let our every day and every breath be swallowed up in belief and in rejoicing that the Lord is truly and unequivocally good. If He is our portion and if it is in Him we trust, no circumstance nor dread can change that. Put your hope in God, for He alone is unchanging. As James writes, do not let yourselves be blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:5-8), but trust Him without reserve and believe Him with all your heart. There is no greater joy, and there is no greater peace than the Rock of our salvation!

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
Psalms 37:1-9

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden." Ah, you who hide deep from the LORD your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, "Who sees us? Who knows us?" You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me"; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?
Isaiah 29:13-16
     It has been on my mind more often lately to wonder exactly whom or what it is that we tend to worship in our churches today? I hear so many voices saying, "I could never worship there--the music is terrible!" or "That church is so behind the times--just hymnals and preaching. How dull... we should find someplace more up-to-date," or even, "There just isn't enough to keep little Johnny interested in the children's program. He needs some more activities/choir/plays/etc.," and so on and so on, continuing with a seemingly infinite number of variations. Perhaps they are all summed up in this one idea, however: "I know I should be in church, but it just doesn't appeal to me."

     The fact is, though the folks muttering indistinctly about music, arts, or innumerable other imperfections within the church do not see it this way, in reality they, too, do not find that church appeals to them. Or to be more precise, that worshiping God appeals to them. I know this because I have done it. 

     Early in my walk with the Lord, I selected a church based on where my husband would go, because I figured that if my husband went, then God must be calling us there. A brief time later, I was seen abandoning reason and becoming quite the critic of churches. Suddenly, I was looking at how many kids were the same age as mine, if I "fit in" to the environment, whether or not the style of worship was one I found stimulating. This all came crashing down around me, however, at a reminder from God:

     It was Him I was going to worship and not myself.

    With no subtlety and no room for doubt, He reminded me that I was His--bought with a price and no longer my own. I was not to indulge in self-worship by gratifying my senses and my appetites with just the right volume, number of activities, type of activities, and such. Nor was I to be a connoisseur of churches, sampling the worship styles and the various programmes available to feed myself and my brood. No, I was called to worship Him; to deny myself, take up my cross daily, and to follow Him. I was enlisted as a soldier in active duty (2 Timothy 2:4), and as such I would go where He gave orders to go and nowhere else. Worship? My life was to be lived out in worship, having nothing to do with rhythm and pitch but rather having everything to do with the attitude I cultivated in my heart and the hearts of my children. Romans 12:1 says that I should present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him, which is my spiritual worship. Worship is in everything I do, and when it is not, it is my heart attitude that needs to change and not the climate I find myself in.

     Taking this back to the church, to worship God in church I have found it most rewarding--and most necessary--to think of myself once again as one enlisted. Rather than worry about myself being fed, I worry about feeding others and let God tend to me as His sheep. He will provide what I need; indeed He has said, "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it," (Psalm 81:10). Once I had surrendered to this truth, attending church as an extension of my worship of God and doing whatever it is that He required of me there, He did indeed feed me beyond what I could have ever hoped and imagined. Now that I have seen behind the sham of "The Great Show," I can never go back. I do not know who it is others worship at church, but I reject the temptation to worship myself. I do not go there to please or refresh myself, but to serve and worship my King in adoration, fully trusting Him to fill my spiritual needs. And friends, the choice to die to myself in this area, too, has given me a fulfillment greater than any I could have believed possible by catering to my fickle, human whims.

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god. I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. "But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Oh, that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. Those who hate the LORD would cringe toward him, and their fate would last forever. But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."
Psalms 81:8-16
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.  1 John 2:15-17

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:1-7

     It is nearly impossible to drive in the South certain times of the year without seeing the carcass of some animal or another on the roadside. Often, when my eye is caught by roadkill as I drive by, I think about how quickly that animal's day changed. One moment, it was going about the business of living--finding food, water, and other necessaries--and the next it was nothing more than meat for the worms and vultures to devour. Our lives, too, can change in just such an instant. We can never be sure when we lie down to rest that the morning will dawn for us. Indeed, the only breath we are guaranteed is the one that fills our lungs at the present moment. In the minuscule space between heartbeats a life can change--or end--once for all.

     This may seem a morbid thought for so early in the morning, but I cannot help but think it. Suppose that this was our last day to walk the earth. What then? Would we live it out in the same way we live every other day? Would we continue to rush from activity to activity, frantically cramming in as much as we could to our final hour? Would we plod fruitlessly through the day, numb with monotony and blind to the world around us? Or would we treasure the small things--the laugh of a child, the way the leaves catch the breeze and turn, all the glorious scents and sights of creation? Knowing that our life was rushing toward its conclusion, would we then become serious about our faith and our commitment to God? Would we then strive to impress upon our children the imminent and inescapable depths of eternity?

     Often in the Bible, the breadth of our lives are likened to that of flowers (Psalm 103:13, Isaiah 40:6-8, James 1:10-11, et al). The blossoms of any plant burst into flower seemingly overnight and enjoy a brief season of resplendence. It is short-lived, for within days the blooms begin to droop, fade, and wither. So it is with us, for in our youth we are vibrant and vigorous but how quickly the day approaches when our flower begins to fade! What a small season we really spend on earth when viewed with the eyes of eternity!

     Knowing the brevity of our lives, why not live as if today was our last--or for that matter, as if each moment is the summation of our stay on earth? Why not treasure the things that matter? Rather than allowing ourselves squander our lives building from hay and straw, giving our strength to the uncaring world, should we not build upon the solid foundation of Christ a house that will withstand the fires of testing (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15)? For the things that we see around us, the tangible pursuits which gratify us now and give us a feeling of acceptance or of accomplishment, are often soon to be scorched and dried up by the sun. The investment we make into people, however, will endure.

     When we get our hands dirty in the hard work of relationships, diligently disciplining our children, humbling ourselves for the sake of our spouses, and letting go of our desires for the sake of others, we are planting seed that will flourish and not fade, flowers that will bloom and be fertilized to produce fruit. The investment of time and attention we give to our relationships, the sacrificial love that denies self and treats others as more important, the service we pour out in love without feedback or reward, these things are those building materials that will withstand the heat of testing. These are the pursuits that will last into eternity, for our Father sees all the work we do and the motive of our hearts, and He, Himself, is our reward. He will give us life in return for all the dying we do every day, forsaking the world out of love and adoration of Him.

     And so, let us commit to rejecting friendship with this world. Let us not be so caught up in transient and fruitless pursuits that our lives are futile and our eternity void and barren. Instead, let us live each day as if it is our last, for we do not know but that it may be. Any moment, we may be struck down; any moment, the Lord may return again. What is it we would like for Him to catch us doing? Do that now and every day, abandoning all else for love of Him.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:12-24
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.