Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reason #18 - He Asks Us to Die

Perhaps this reason would strike others as odd. For me personally, I think it is going to be one of the most life changing ones God has shown me. This post was taken straight from my journal, so it is a glimpse of me for who I am - just a mess really! :) and yet excited for what God is showing me, and excited to grow.

This past summer held some of the best weeks of my life. Who would have ever guessed it?

I love going places.
I stayed home almost the whole time.

I love being being with people.
I interacted with very few others, besides my dear family.

I love accomplishing goals and getting things done.
Outside of the spiritual realm, I got almost nothing done.

So why was it such an amazing time for me? Simply put, my life was God this summer. My whole family took a month to do nothing but seek God. We aren't some super spiritual saints - we hardly even planned to do it, and certainly not for that long! God dropped the idea in our laps, and all of a sudden, we were in the middle of one of the most spiritually beautiful times of our lives.

During those weeks, I had glimpses of what it meant to abide in Christ. I had glimpses of what it meant to love the Lord with all my heart. I had glimpses of what it meant to actually hear the Lord's voice (not audibly, but in my spirit) and to know that He was speaking to me. And I had glimpses of what it meant to die.

Jesus said:
"If any man will come after me, let him...

...pray for long hours?
...give a lot of money to charities?
...go every week to church?
...even become a missionary?

No! "...let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." And then His next words are:

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. " (Luke 9:23-24)

I lived 18 years of my life with a will that was strong and alive and well, and I regret that. Just a few months before I turned 19, God finally brought me to a point that I could choose to die. I died to my pride, my stubbornness, my selfishness; and also to my dreams, my desires, my goals.

And I found that dying is the only way to live.

"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24)

This summer, God brought me into a deeper understanding of what that looked like. He impressed on me a very simple fact:

"The only things that matter at all are the things that count for eternity."

In eternity, will it matter if people liked me? If I had friends out the wazoo, and impressed those in my life with my talents? When I stand before the judgement seat of Christ, will it matter if I could sing beautifully? If I was busy? If I had a successful career?

On the day that I step into eternity, the only thing that will matter is if I served the Lord with every atom inside me. Simply put, did I love the Lord with ALL of my heart?

And these are all very nice thoughts, right?

Until I have to put them into practice.

Because if I believed them, then they would shaped every activity I chose to participate in. In every choice I made, the deciding factor would be, "does it count for eternity?" And if not, then what in the world am I doing messing around with it??

That is dying. And that is hard.

But I understood that so clearly this summer. It was my heart. And there was joy in that.

Somewhere along the way, my focus shifted. I remember feeling vague uneasiness over it...realizing that I didn't have quite the same passion and single-hearted focus as before. But hey, life is busy right? And in the flurry of getting ready for a new semester, I forgot.

I forgot that greatness isn't about how many people serve us. It's about how many people we choose to serve. I forgot that success isn't busy-ness, and popularity, and favor with men. Success is favor with God.

I heard from the Lord today. And He told me, "you think life is all about you."

I was in awe. Of course it's true. I had planned my whole semester around the activities that I would enjoy, and would sound impressive to others. I stepped into the new semester for me. The painful, honest truth is that I resurrected my "will" and my "self" once again.

And once again, God asked me to die.

And once again, I died.

I am crucified (dead) with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me..." (Galatians 2:20)

This whole dying business isn't too popular with Christians nowadays.

We want just enough of Jesus to make us happy, just enough to give us a peace, and just enough to make things go our way to fulfill our dreams and our agenda. Meanwhile, (Christ) wants to take us to the cross, where our own selfish dreams, egos, and plans for "great accomplishments" have to die. The cross brings you to a place of total and absolute surrender of all you have and all you are. You submit everything in obedience to (Christ).
~ Chip Ingram, "Good to Great in God's Eyes

No we Christians don't understand the dying part of Christianity, nor do we care to. But the disciples did. What did they say?

"Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee (Jesus)..." (Matthew 19:27)

Imagine that. Everything. Thrown aside and forgotten. Why? In Paul's words,

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." (Philippians 3:8)

Is Christ enough for us? Do we crave Him so intensely that we would give Him every fiber of our lives, every vibrating pulse of our passions, every heart throb of our dreams?

This is what He asks for. I am convinced that this is what it takes to "win Christ." And He is enough.

I love Him, because He has asked me to die.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reason #17 - He is a God of Grace

How many times have we sung the beautiful song:

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me..."

And never even once thought about the words we were singing? I am so very thankful today that I serve a God of grace!

A few days ago, I heard a preacher speak on the book of 1 Corinthians. The first verse in this book says:

"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother."

I had always skimmed right over those type of introductions. Not much there right? Let's get right to the good stuff! :) I wonder how much we miss of God's Word in the "not important extras" that we always skip over?...

We all know who Paul was. Formally named Saul, I know of few other men described in the Bible who were more passionate in their zeal AGAINST Christianity. Paul was responsible for the death of hundreds, maybe thousands of Godly, innocent Christian men and women. Can it get much worse than that?

Yes, we know about Paul. But who was Sosthenes?

This was a man who also passionately persecuted the Christian church. You see, Sosthenes was the ruler of the Jewish synagogue. He hated Christians and wanted them wiped out. One day, he took his case against the Roman courts, only to be thrown out because the Romans didn't want anything to do with religious cases. The angry mob that Sosthenes had stirred up against the Christians, now turned against him and beat him.

Somehow, through all of this chaos, God gripped his heart. Sosthenes became a vibrant, passionate Christian.

Two men...both dead set against the only One Who could save their souls. Two men...filled with hatred and anger. Two men...responsible for the deaths of innocent men and women.

And two men...transformed into two of God's most passionate, faithful servants.

We serve a God Who declares "There is no sin so great, that I cannot forgive. There is no past so dark that I cannot transform. There is no life so broken that I cannot repair. There is no man so sinful that I cannot use."

We serve a God of grace.

I love my Lord, because He is a God of grace.