Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Fiery Message of Truth.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. -John 15:4 (NLT)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Those were the days.

I can't tell you why, but there's just something refreshing about closing the internet browser, turning on a High School Musical CD, and opening a blank Word document. I think I love it so much because it reminds of a simpler life I lived in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea. As much as I love the internet, and believe me, it's a great resource, there are times where I get burned out from looking at too many pretty pictures on Pinterest and clicking on blog post after blog post. It just never stops.

I used to hate it when we would have network outages on our centre because that meant no internet or email for an entire Saturday afternoon, but now I realize how refreshing they were. We couldn't sit at a computer all afternoon, but there was a whole ton of other amazing things we could do. We would drive around centre in our beat up, stick shift cars and dirt bikes or we would walk up and down the dusty roads, stopping to smell the beautiful pale purple flowers growing in clumps at the edge of the road.

Some of my friends owned their own horses and they would take them on rides off centre, through the beautiful fields in the surrounding valley. Sometimes we would go down to the river to swim and float on gummies (rubber inner tubes) downstream with the current. After going for a ways, we'd climb out onto the bank and stand there, cold and dripping, letting the warm Southern Hemisphere afternoon sunshine warm us up.

I often found myself grabbing the keys to my guinea pig cage and running outside to the cage. I would fling the door open wide, block the entrance to the outer part, and try to carefully pick up one of my darling piggies. If the attempt was successful, I'd set the guinea pig on my lap, stroke it for a minute or two, and then let it down into the cool grass. That's something I loved about my piggies - I could trust them to run around the yard and not run away. I just had to watch out for the many stray dogs, cats, and hawks who might happen to trot or run or fly by. And if I didn't catch a piggie on the first try, I would have to close the door, wait a few minutes until they want back inside the dark, dry area, and try again. :)

Those were the days. 

Light of the World.

"I am a Redeemer. I redeem all things. I make all things new. Whatever you've lost I will restore. It doesn't matter what you've done. It doesn't matter what's happened to you. I can take all the hurt, the pain, and the scars. Not only can I heal them, but I can make them count for something."
-God to Stormie Omartian

I shared this quote last May in my post about challenges, and the words make so much more sense now than they ever did before. God can and he wants to take all of the hurt, pain and scars. He wants to heal me and make those scars count for something. 

A past littered with failures and struggles can become an overcoming tide of pain and suffering. As the salt water stings your eyes, you gasp for breath, knowing that every second is a fight to hold on. Waves seem daunting when they're rushing towards us and yet, waves have another purpose, too. They wash us clean. As each of us plays along the beach, our legs kick up the sticky sand and it gets stuck in our wet swimming suits. When we're done building sand castles and burying ourselves in the sand, we scamper to the water's edge and keep moving until it's deep enough to swim, and then we take the plunge, letting our whole bodies be submerged under the salty surf.

Does this remind you of living the Christian life? It does in my mind. The sand reminds me of sin. We enjoy playing in sin for a while, thinking it will offer satisfaction, while all the while it is becoming a great burden. Just as sand gets 'stuck' in all the little pockets and tiny enclosed corners of a bathing suit, sin gets stuck in the most hidden parts of our heart, and so we think that no one will notice that it's there. Even though it's out of sight, others know it exists because we are all sinful, each of us from the time our mothers conceived us in their wombs (Psalm 51:5). And just as sand is composed of a great multitude of infinitesimal grains, so our lives are full of too many sins to count.

But the beauty of the waves washing over us signifies God's forgiveness, mercy and grace, as he removes the sand (sin) from our lives. If we will confess our sins, he'll forgive us and purify us in the waves of his mercy. What an amazing promise that is!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. -1 John 1:9 (NIV)

Waves can be daunting and scary and sometimes they can even kill a person if they become too strong. Although we may be at first terrified of the waves, they are the only way to be cleansed, so we must face them. Whether we are fearful or fearless, the waves will be there. It is better to trust and obey, because fear can cause us to take a step back onto the safety of the shore, where we will once again be made to face pains from the past. While death in and of itself is a horrible, no good thing, the death of one killed for spreading the Gospel brings about many new lives, and so God can bring good from even the most despairing times, even after a death.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels--a plentiful harvest of new lives. -John 12:24 (NLT)

Going back to what I first wrote...we all have hurt, pain and scars in our lives and God not only sets us free from them, but also brings good from them. Our past experiences with sin provide us with opportunities to share God's amazing love and forgiveness with others who may be suffering in the same way we have, and who may be desperately longing for encouragement. We can let our light stream through the curtains, dispelling the darkness with the powerful rays of light that God has given us.

Just as there is always another wave waiting to wash us clean of sand in our suits, there is in the same way, waves of God's forgiveness always available for us to swim out to and come clean. Sin entangles us and slows us down, but God's forgiveness sets us free and gives us endurance as we run the race, keeping our eyes on the prize (Hebrews 12:1).

The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected--even children in the third and fourth generations.' -Numbers 14:18 (NLT)

Let's not forget that as Christians, we are light in this dark, sin-filled world. Don't hide your light. Instead, shine it brightly for all to see, so that they will praise God.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” -Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

Stop and listen to this song, which has been on my heart and mind lately and also fits incredibly well with what I've just said.

Now go and be light to the world!