About Humility…

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Gently refining. The Holy Spirit works in me, gently refining me into being more like Christ. I keep forgetting that sometimes this means “being burned by fire”… I like to focus on the gentle part more than the refining part. The Lord has been teaching me, though. I am thankful for this, but there are times when I want to scream, “Lord! What else can You teach me?! What do I not already know?! Why this constant renewing?! Why not just make me perfect in one sweep?!”

Wow. I am embarrassed to write the above, what pride. I am utterly full of myself, thinking that I know so much, but even in this the Lord can reach into my heart and teach me. Though He could take the pride away from me… He could make me perfect in one sweep… He could humiliate me with His wisdom, showing me how lowly I am… He could renew me completely, taking me from this world and calling me home… He could, He could, He could. He has bigger, better plans, though. And I keep thinking that MY plans are better and that He does not know what He is doing. What great pride.

My knowing better is a ridiculous thought, yet I still think it and dwell on it and fight my Lord because He did not do what I wanted. Sometimes I push my plans so much that I cannot even see Him standing by, watching me praise myself, waiting for the time to refine me anew, but waiting for the time that will bring Him the glory. I glorify myself, count myself as worthy, and hardly give Him a second thought… thankfully, He does not let me sit in self-worship for very long. Something goes wrong, always rooted in the fact that I am no longer living for the Greater Glory, and it draws me back to Him, in full submission. Oh how GENTLE He is.

He is in the whispering Spring breeze… allowing me to see my faults and failures, and drawing me closer to Himself because of them. I have learned a lot about humility recently, but there is still part of me that is fearful for “the next time I learn”. Recently, the Lord has shown me that I am very, very prideful in my knowledge… in my textbook learning… in my Bible learning. I am full of “look at what I know” or “I know better”. I get angry when someone challenges what I “know”… I feel threatened, and in response I want to choke someone into agreement. I want to scream, “LISTEN TO ME!” and it has nothing to do with them not listening, it has to do with them not agreeing. I feel an overwhelming desire to be right. Oh, such pride. I did not know what this was until fairly recently. I won’t go into specifics, because I see this as having the ability to be applied in many different areas of life, but I KNEW something. And someone challenged my knowledge, making me rethink it, to the disheartening of my spirit. Instead of coming to a quick understanding that I DO NOT KNOW and probably WILL NEVER KNOW, I fought down anger and reacted quickly, allowed words to flow out of my mouth that I regret, and sought excuse after excuse for the pain that suddenly blinded my eyes.

I was wrong. I was sinning. I was prideful.

It was through this experience that I came to a deeper understanding of humility. It is not just putting others first, it is not just considering yourself “nothing”, and it cannot be false. It is an understanding that I may not be right, an appreciation for different perspectives,  a desire to love past miscommunications and disagreements. Humility is a willingness to put aside what I “know” in favor of fellowship… a love for Truth mixed with a knowledge that Truth may be Beyond. Humility does not only say  someone else is better, but actually lives, acts, thinks, feels and knows that others are more important. Humility is being willing to admit that I was wrong… being willing to explain without making excuses… being willing to listen when I don’t want to. Humility is being more like Christ, coming to Him in submission, and praying that He fill me with His strength, taking what is left of mine. Humility is lowering myself, not because I must, not because it is expected, not because I want to receive honor or glory, but because I know it is what Christ wants for me. Humility is being a servant… being merciful… being forgiving… giving up rights and privileges and even necessities. Humility is more than what I have ever thought it to be, and it is not something that I should look at with shame… Humility may be shaming myself, but for the glory of others and for the the Greater Glory. Humility is the opposite  of pride and selfishness.

Lord, give me more humility, even if it means burning me with Your refining fires. Making me more like Jesus, filling me with His words, allowing me to rejoice all the more in who You are.

God is Gracious

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I think we have lost so much in not knowing what our names mean… in not naming our children because of what names mean but because of how they sound. I’ve always loved what names mean, and have always found it interesting to look up friends’ and family members’ names, sometimes discovering that the name fits perfectly. We have lost the art of naming, and that makes me mildly sad; however, thankfully, I know a lot of people who are trying to bring that art back… not only those who name after people of admiration and good character, but sometimes giving names with beautiful meanings. My parents, bless them, looked into the meanings of the names they gave their children… and my grandfather is always interested in what names mean and where they come from, often upon meeting someone commenting on their name, and sometimes already knowing the meaning. So perhaps this isn’t something that is new to me, but more inspired by family, which is perfectly acceptable to me.

Last week (or two weeks ago?) I was inspired to look up what Evon means. I’ve always known what Meredith means – guardian of the sea – and I have always thought it was appropriate. Besides the mermaid aspect, which I like to point out whenever possible, I typically think of “the sea” as the people that the Lord has put on my heart… as I typically feel rather overwhelmed by the love that He has grown in me for people, and I think of them as a sea of people, much more than I, in myself, can help or handle. With His generous love, I am able to do more than I ask or imagine. He works through me, giving grace and mercy when I think I’m dry. Anyway, like I’ve said, I’ve always known what Meredith meant, but I finally looked up the name Evon, which I have not looked up in the past because I am named after my grandmother, and that was enough for me… until now.

Evon, God is gracious.

I find this to be very appropriate as well… probably more appropriate than the meaning of Meredith, as it is true always. I am not always a guardian, and I do not have a sea of people waiting to be guarded… but He is gracious at all times. His grace is overwhelming and powerful, often surprising me because I like to put human limitations on my expectations of God. But I think it’s also appropriate that I find this out now, and not earlier when it would not have meant as much to me, or I would not have appreciated what my name means.

Recently, I have been baptized (YAY!) and joined my church (YAY!), and God has shown His grace through both of these circumstances. He has also renewed my spirit, restored my soul, and delivered me into a better relationship with Him. He has increased my desire to know Him, to serve Him, and to live through Him. All of these are grace. He has increased my understanding, which is grace. He has increased my heart for the lost, which is grace. He has given me opportunities to share about Him, which is grace. I can’t write down all the ways the He has shown His grace to me individually, but I can praise Him because He is good… and gracious.

Baptism: A Picture of Dying and Raising with Christ

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I used to be passionless.

At the age of 4 I understood that without asking Christ into my heart, I would go to hell. I also knew that hell was a scary place, and I did not want to go there. At the age of 9, I knew that I needed to make sure others knew I was saved, and I needed to have something to hang onto so that I could stop asking Him into my heart again. Guilt was still a big problem, and Peace did not live in my life. I went to church, talked about God, prayed, and even read the Bible. I had little desire to do these things, but I knew that a “good Christian” did them, and I also knew that good Christians desired that. Christianity was not working for me, though, and there was no more denying it. Obviously, the God of the Bible did want a relationship with me… obviously, He did not love me… obviously, I was not one of the people for whom Jesus died.

I remember the first time I put words to my doubt, “I don’t want to know Him.” I was talking to my cousin, who has been my older sister all my life. She sat across the small table with a Starbucks cup in her hand. “Why don’t you pray that you want Him?” Everything inside of me frowned at that…”Why don’t you pray that you want to want Him?”. Want to want Him? I can’t thank her enough for the wisdom that she gave me in that one sentence, but at the time I did not know where that prayer was going to lead. I did not want to believe in Him – I did not want to be responsible – I did not want to accept His love. There was so much wrong with the picture of a Holy God dying for a sinful people, and I could not come to terms with that. Being a writer, I often write in a journal, one day I wrote, “I’m a misfit – I don’t belong – because everyone else had this God who is their whole entire world – and I don’t. And I never will. He’s too big – too grand – too beautiful for me – and it hurts to know that I will always miss out. I can pretend all I want. I can be a hypocrite and a liar, but it all boils down to the one truth I will never get over: I am worthless.” This was how I understood the world, but thankfully the Lord did not leave me there.

The summer after graduating from high school I fell completely from my faith in God. I decided that something was out there, but that it was not what I was raised to believe, and I thought that perhaps I was not accountable anymore. I hated talking about God. I hated anything that had to do with Jesus, and when conversations turned to Him, I was just uncomfortable and filled with anger. I avoided church as though it were the plague, but somehow one Sunday a friend convinced me to go, and of course, the Lord orchestrated it perfectly.

The pastor spoke on the Prodigal Son (one of my favorite parables now), and right from the beginning of the service, the Lord started speaking to me. For the first time in my life, and for the last time at that matter, the Lord spoke audibly to me. I knew it was Him, and I knew that I did not want to hear. The only way that I can explain this, though it takes away from the beauty of the whole picture, is that He spoke the same sentence over and over until I was compelled to write it down. I thought that writing it down would solve the “problem” of Him speaking to me, but the only thing that happened was that He spoke another sentence until I wrote it down as well. I was so angry with the writing that I did not even know what I wrote until much later when I was reviewing it, contemplating whether or not to throw it away. That’s another story. I won’t share all of what the Lord said, but I’ll write a little here:

“Stop running!”

“Stop trying to control every outcome and every situation.”

“I love you with eternal love.”

“I am everything that you need – now, forever and always.”

“You are not perfect – you must repent.”

“I welcome sinners into My home and eat with them.”

Anyway, that is a just a little picture of just how much care He was taking with me. When the pastor finished his sermon, I wanted to leave. I could hear a little voice in the back of my mind saying that if I could just get out of the building, I would never have to hear that I could get things I didn’t deserve again. I realize this sounds a little weird, but I have always had a great sense of justice, and getting something I do not deserve is still hard to accept at times. At the close of the service we sang “Softly Yet Tenderly Jesus Is Calling”, which for those of you who do not know, has a chorus that reads, “come home, come home, ye who are weary come home…” I did not want to sing it. I did not want to hear it. I kept repeating to myself that it was only one verse.

It was not only one verse.

We sang all the verses, and by the third, I was walking to the alter, tears streaming down my face. When I was resting on my knees in a position of submission, I was no longer fighting, but I did not know where to go from there. I was so angry, so bitter, so blind, and I just needed a big hug. I am grateful for the woman that prayed with me that day, but that was not the day that I was saved. The following Wednesday, June 29th, 2009, I went to church again, and this time I heard the Gospel message for what seemed like the first time. At the end, I was free, and it was beautiful. Jesus came to this earth to die for our sins, all of them, including mine. He came and died and rose again on the third day so that I did not have to die and could be alive spiritually. I accepted Him as my sacrifice, told Him that I could not gain heaven, recognized His resurrection as the victory over death, and decided to live my life for Him and Him alone.

But that is not the end of the story. Why am I just now getting baptized when I have been saved for 4 years? I did not want people to think that I had not been saved… I did not want to be looked down on… so I hid it all behind a rededication. I neglected the fact that I had been blind, but now I can see. I had been deaf, but now I can hear. I had been mute, but now I speak. Two weeks ago, my family and I met with our new pastor in order to join our church, and we all shared our testimonies. When I shared mine, the pastor asked me, “So, what was your motivation for doing good things between the ages of 4 and 18?” I thought about it… and realized that it was me, selfish me, always me.

Now, God has given me courage beyond measure to follow His calling to be baptized, to say to the world that I am a child of the Most High. I am going to be a picture of His death and resurrection, and not because I assume that that is what people expect of me, but because I want to follow Him.

I was saved at 18, and now I am going to follow in the waters of baptism.

A Human Being

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I like to think that I know everything… that everyone else is just a little bit behind me and that somehow I’ll prove them wrong, even if they’re right. I like to say, “no” before explaining how what someone else said, though right, was not 100% correct. I like to scold people when they forget a little-known word to describe exactly what they are going through. I like to pick apart things to the point that they are no longer things, just strings of thought and feelings. 

I feel stupid now, and I am thankful for that. I seriously needed a little lowering, a little humbling (okay, a lot). Pride is something I struggle with, and as weird as it seems, sometimes I’ve even prideful of the fact that I am prideful. It doesn’t even make sense, but somehow, in this insignificant brain of mine, it seems right and beautiful. Oh, the sin that keeps me from seeing my need for a Savior. Thank GOD He is standing right there, shaking His head at my foolishness. Because foolishness is any time I think that I no longer need the Father. 

This past week I was studying Luke 15 with my church. It reads the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. If you do not know these parables or would like to get a review of them go read Luke 15 (look it up online if you’re lazy like me and don’t want to pull out your Bible). Anyway, when I was saved, I was the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son. I was a runaway, a vagabond, a rebellious child. I was relentlessly pursued (and thankfully still am) by the Father. He rejoiced when I came back to the fold, when I was found, when I returned home. Now, however, I find myself in a different position sometimes… I am the older brother.

A lot of the time when we read the parable of the prodigal son, we focus so much on the younger son that ran away that we stay away from trying to explain the older son who stayed with the father. In fact, all growing up I do not remember ever hearing about the older son, much less trying to understand who the older son was a comparison to. This past week, though, it was not new to me, which I am blessed to say. I had had it explained to me before, that the older son was representative of the pharisees, and perhaps that is why my ears were so open for the sermon on Sunday. I am self-righteous. I am prideful. I think that I have it all together, and I like to think that I should have some control over who Jesus calls. The idea that He would call anyone that I think should (to put it lightly) burn in hell hurts me. WHY? That’s the question that I’ve been asking, that I’ve been praying about… Why do I feel like I have the right to say who is allowed into heaven???? 

I am disgusted with my lack of love, faith and charity. But, over the past couple days (two) the Lord has been so gently reminding me that He can redeem this sin as well. I don’t have to live in a place where I am judging who is better than who else. I am so grateful for the beautiful ways that the Lord brings me back to Himself – reminding me that I was a sinner, now am a saint (who still sins), and will find full redemption when He returns or calls me home. I cannot say that anyone is more unworthy of this than myself. I am reminded of my own sin, but not to remind myself of being IN sin, rather to remind myself that  I was no different. I was deeper, darker, further from the Lord than I can imagine now… I could be those sinners that I like to think I am better than. Praise the Lord that He refines! I am not different because of me, I am different because of the Holy Spirit inside of me, and even now I am not perfect. I do not want to boast in myself anymore, rather in Christ… HE is the only reason that I am not deep in the murkiness of sin. He is the Redeemer. 

In Love, 
M.

Love Bringing Purity 2

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“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, have the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is your in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:1-5

“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

Recently I was a part of a conversation which dealt with what to do when you see your brother in Christ sinning, but more importantly, when you see him falling away from the Lord by doing things that we may or may not agree on as sin. These gray areas that aren’t completely obvious, that we like to say there is not right or wrong about, that it is a different conviction for each of us. It was brought up during this conversation (I was really just listening) that there is only one Holy Spirit, and it was asked why He would have different convictions for different people. If God’s Holiness is the same, why are different people held at different standards? I silently agreed that this was a bit confusing, and I can’t say that I have the complete answer. While I would like to say that everything is black and white, I can’t. I see people doing things that I would not do, simply because it would cause a temptation in me that would most likely lead to sin. So, doing that would be a bother to me, and probably a sin unto its own, but does that mean that it is a sin for the other person? I cannot say.

The conversation circled around R-rated movies, though I think this can apply to many other things as well. While I rarely watch an R-rated film, I can’t say that I stay away from all of them. In fact, I have had to watch R-rated movies for school, but I have also just watched a few for fun. I think there is a definite desecration that plays into a decision to watch or not, but I personally cannot say that watching R-rated films is a sin. That being said, let us take another direction, one which I had not thought about before this conversation.

If you see your brother stumbling, are you not supposed to grab his hand and help him up? This is where the conversation turned. How many times should you say that R-rated movies are not good? How many hands should you give out? Can you tell you brother that he is sinning simply because you know it would be a sin for you? What are these gray areas?

It is always a question of motive. It’s not the R-rated movie, it’s the not-pursing  of Christ. We can’t say watching an R-rated movie is a sin, but we can say that not pursuing Christ is. While it is “gray” area, we need to realize that our fight is against an idea, one that is very contagious; the idea that everything that isn’t evil is good… the idea that everything that isn’t black is white. As long as we focus on the R-rated movie, or the other things that we like to accuse as sinful, we’re also partaking in the lie. We are saying that we can label something as sinful, and everything else as “okay”… we are continuing to label gray-areas.

Fighting against the lie is recognizing that we can’t label gray areas as sin simply because we were convicted of them, but by understanding that anything we do that does not pursue Christ is sinful. Pursuing Christ is making the hard choices against the gray. While the world says to crowd against the live of evil, not crossing the boundary because that would be sin, we should crowd against the line of good, because that is being like Christ. The Holy Spirit is the same for those who have Christ, but we are a deaf people, choosing to hear only what we want, and even then, we may not understand.

So, perhaps we are not to call our brothers out for doing this gray-area or doing that gray-area, but for not pursuing Christ. We are not to take the lies of this world and accept them as though they are true, no matter how easy it is. And this is how we love one another, by recognizing that while we fight different battles, we are all to be pursuing Christ. And, sadly, we all fail in different areas, but thankfully, we are already forgiven with the blood of Christ.

And so, be pure, by loving one another. Love is gathering together, pursuing Christ together, and being willing to point out when you see you brother with his eyes on another goal. It is collective… by the Body of Christ Loving the individual members, doing these things that are recognizable as Love, we all grow and develop feet of faith that pursue one goal: Jesus.

Love Bringing Purity 1

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“Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” – 1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13

 

“Increase and about in love for one another…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness.”

I have never really thought about how Love is the essence of Purity. I mean, I have thought that God is Love. I have thought God is Pure. I have thought God is Blameless. I have thought that Jesus came through Love to give us Purity, and through His blood we are found Blameless. I know these things to be true, and I am fighting to live them out in my life so that I can show others who look at me that I believe these things. However, even in knowing these things, in believing these things, I have not seen Love and Purity as the same side of the coin. But they are… let me go on to explain.

When we increase in Love for one another, we decrease our sin. Because Love in its essence is Holiness (or Purity), it drives out HATRED, SELFISHNESS, GREED, LIES, ANGER and IMPURITY. It is the fire that refines; it is the blade and cut down weeds. And, in the same picture, it is the breeze that whispers encouragement and the wave that soothes the troubled sands. Love pushes you to do the best you can for someone else; it is sacrificial.

There are twisted versions of Love; images that are grotesque. Some people say that Love caresses money, steals with envy, talks only about self, prospers without generosity, and eats at the head of the table. These are images that we, the world, put on Love. False images, deceitful images, understandable images. We want Love to be those things so that it will be easy to obtain, easy to be. We accept the lie because the Truth is almost hidden from our eyes. We say things like, “love yourself, love your food, love your clothes, love your…” We are not talking about Love; we are talking about a watered-down version, which is so utterly different from Love that we should not even grace it with the same name. No, love and Love are very different.

Don’t misunderstand me. We do find ourselves falling over ourselves, striving to find the things that won’t satisfy. We are cautioned not to love money, not to love pride, not to love evil. So, if that kind of love exists, how can we separate it from the Love of God? How are they different when they are the same word?

love, as the world sees it, is weightless, fickle, and selfish. It screams things like, “me first! me only!” It also does not find time for other people, thinks that money is the pride of life, goes to church only to feel good, finds forgiveness easy to say, but forgetfulness easier to deal with. It can say the right things, do the right things, eat the right things and drink the right things. I can carry itself well, but doesn’t have to. It logically considers what would be best for its owner, without regard to others. It speaks quickly, angers easily, and professes wisdom without fruitful actions. It wonders away, only to come back in little time, finds joy impossible, and is afraid. It worries, but not enough to “sin”. This love can appear in many forms, some of which are so close to True that they confuse us. So, I will make this easy.

The worldly love says “me, my, mine, I, us, we, need, want, have to, but, see here, I know…”

The Godly Love says “Jesus”.

That is the difference, and that is why it is Purity and Holiness and Blamelessness. It is not about the owner anymore, and it is not about the other people either. It is about Jesus. All about Him. It is Full, Beautiful, and Lifelong. It cries “JESUS!” It makes time for other people because Jesus did. It believes money is useful, and sees that money can and should be given away. It goes to church to fellowship with believers, be encouraged and filled, serve, and to be challenged to go back out and share Love. Love forgives, recognizing that forgetting is not the same thing. Love thinks the right things, strives for the right things, and calls after the right things. Love logically considers what is best for Jesus, from Jesus and to Jesus. It is slow to speak, slow to anger, seeks after Wisdom and depends on Grace. Love never fails.

And that’s the difference.

Becoming a Beast: Week 3

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For the past two weeks (since today starts the third), I have been exercising… something I have never been good at. I keep having to pray that God will give me to strength to just keep going. He does, of course, and this leads me to relying on Him just a little bit more. What an absolute blessing it has been. Before (2 weeks ago) I mentioned that I could not do ANYTHING. Well, now I can do very little. I can still not do even one push up, but I can keep pace jogging for 1/2 a mile. This is a large improvement. I can do some sit ups and other things, and today I did about 5 (very assisted) pull ups. It’s kind of crazy. 

But besides these things, God has been blessing me in other ways. This past week He has shown Himself to be the God I came to know in Tanzania. This is something that for some reason I find hard to expect. Even though I KNOW He is the same, He doesn’t always come across the same way. This is probably mostly because I treat Him different here. I don’t wake up in the morning and put Him first. I don’t long after Him like I used to, and I don’t have constant instruction and encouragement from the Word because I find it hard to read every day. I do not like it, and He has been coaxing me out of my slump. This week He has done just that. He has proven Himself, and shown Himself to be beautiful, blameless, and never-forsaking. 

What has He done? Well, for starters, He has blessed me with someone to disciple. This is something that I prayed for from first coming home. Recently I have not been as adamant about it, thinking that maybe He had other pans for me. But no, He didn’t, He was just waiting for the right time. I am very grateful that He did, because I was most humbled by the experience. I can hardly express it any other way. I am excited about what He will teach me through it, and what He is able to teach through me. Pray with me that I am able to have the right words, thoughts, feelings, and that I do not (even in the least) make this about me. It NEEDS to be about Him and Him alone. 

What else has He done? Well, today He reminded me (AGAIN) that He is in my every-day-life. I met up with a friend that I have not seen since last semester. This in itself was a little bit of a surprise to me, since part of me wondered if we had really formed that kind of a friendship. But, anyway, towards the end of our time together, we started talking about faith and church. Long story short, we do not believe the same thing. I asked if perhaps she and I could meet up more regularly because I feel as though I need to challenge to my faith, but she also needs to challenge to hers. I do not know how the Lord will use this in my life, but something inside of me tells me that He will (and it will be beautiful). Suddenly all my complaining about this semester seems so childish. I have so much going for me, so much to look forward to, and it’s only the beginning. 

Proof that He works, no matter where you are. 

Love you all, 

M.