Friday, September 30, 2011

Principal, or Prince?

I'm sensing a theme again. I've often found over my years with Jesus that there are times that He gets my attention about a particular subject through repetition. It's in a book I'm reading. It appears again as I'm reading the Bible. I will hear a sermon preached on it. Friends will mention it. The repetition will become so obvious I finally smack my forehead and say, “Oh, I get it!!!” One year it was unity. During another season, God “schooled” me on submission. Still another, living right without becoming a Pharisee.

I'm sensing another theme....

I'm not even certain I can verbalize it clearly yet, but the reality that one day everyone will stand before the Creator has been popping up an awful lot lately. It was in a lesson I taught to a group of 10th grade girls one week. Shortly after that, I was at a dinner gathering and the speaker mentioned it. Here we go.

It's really not a new topic. I have thought about it often before: ME standing before the One who shed blood so that I would be free of condemnation on that day. ME realizing that my whole life on earth should have been about living out that freedom. Was it? How will I feel about the life I lived? Martin Luther said that only two days matter. This day and THAT DAY. Scripture speaks on it in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, declaring that all of my actions will be laid before Christ and tested by Holy fire. Any that were not motivated by love for Christ will burn up. Only those that came from a heart of love will remain.

I was tempted to use the term “give an account” in that last paragraph. I often teach that as believers we will one day have to give an account for what we have done with the life Christ purchased for us. That's true, but I have been sensing God doing a bit of refining in my understanding of that moment. I think there certainly should be a sense of reverence when thinking about standing before the Savior, but it should be a sense of reverent excitement and anticipation, not an anxious, fearful reverence that produces guilt-induced acts of righteousness.

That smacks an awful lot of “earning” God's approval, and the HUGE problem with that mindset is that it negates the work of the Cross. Can you say, "burn pile"?

How do I survive that encounter? Nothing I can do is worthy, which is the whole point of Christ's death, so how can I manage to live in a way that I can give a “good account” on that day? The way I have been considering that day, although reverent, is far too ME centered. What am I doing? What will Jesus say to ME? How can I please Him? Consequently, my unspoken feeling about that day, because I fail so often, resembles the dread of a kid who has been called to the principal's office. (I wonder if I'm in trouble? I wonder what I did wrong?)

About a week ago, I heard a song by Kari Jobe. It is one on my iPod, but it was as if I were hearing the words for the first time...

You're My beloved, you're My bride;

To sing over you is My delight;

Come away with Me My love.

I am His bride. The Church is the Bride of Christ and I am the Church. Hmmmmmm.

Then, a woman I admire talked about THAT DAY, and it opened my eyes! This is a woman I have known for six years. I know her well enough to know that she lives what she speaks. Yet, she does not live as one who is working hard to earn approval, feverishly straining to store up that treasure in heaven. No! When she spoke, her words pulsed with the enthusiasm and excitement of a woman preparing to meet a loved one. It's not that she's a woman without works. Her life is FILLED with action and intention. However, her actions seem almost effortless. As I watch her, I don't see a woman striving. I see a woman joining her life with Christ. She's not working to earn his approval, she's helping Him love the world because she loves Him. THAT is what a bride looks like.

So, here's my new perception of what THAT DAY will be like:

No longer will I think envision myself as a child walking a long hall to “give an account” to the principal in hopes that He won't be angry.

Instead, I picture a bride about to walk down the aisle to a groom who has proven that she is worth everything to Him. As that bride, my “giving an account” will be me telling the story of His love for me and how it made me beautiful.

Like a bride, I will present my life as a wedding gift to Him. My Savior is loving—so loving He purchased my place in Heaven with His blood. He will NOT be counting my sins at that time. He already covered them.

When He applies His fire to test my gifts, it is not with the intent to punish, but rather to reward those that were truly His—those that were made possible by Him in an expression of love for Him.

After having this redirection in thinking about THAT DAY, God confirmed it for me in Scripture:

“The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted to her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure---for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Revelation 19:7-8

THAT is a day to look forward to.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Pile of Poop

Throughout last year, I had this feeling that I was like a flower bud which was just about to burst into bloom. I wasn't sure what that “bloom” would look like, but I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation at what the coming year would bring.

Then came the year. 

 It brought loss of nearly every kind to my family. Loss of financial security, loss of a home, loss of innocence, loss of a loved one, loss of ministry and loss of my physical strength. The only thing that seemed still strong was my marriage. 

 So much for blooming. 

 I felt instead as if someone had taken a bat and smashed my bloom to smithereens before it had the chance to blossom.

However, today God gave me a picture that is quite different. I have not been smashed beyond repair. I think instead that life has simply dumped a load of dung onto me. That doesn't sound good, but it really is!

My mother is an excellent gardner. Growing up, she had flowerbeds, house plants, and vegetable gardens. Everything green flourished under her care. Part of her skill was knowing when and how much to fertilize her plants. The fertilizer nourished the plants so they produced beautifully, whether it was berries, vegetables or blooms. 

 We didn't know the methods behind her fertilization schedules, but there was never any question to when the fertilizing had occurred. It seemed there was a direct but inverse correlation between the fertilizer's effectiveness and its smell. 

 The better it worked, the worse it smelled.

The indoor plants received a noxious-smelling substance called “fish emulsion.” I'm not sure what the emulsion part was, but the fish part was pungently obvious. It smelled like it was a syrup concocted from decayed fish parts. Phew! Once every few months our house reeked of it--and our African violets were gorgeous.

The outdoor plants received a heartier, less exotic treatment: cow manure. You can imagine how things smelled outside our place when it was fertilizing day! Eau de barnyard. The thing is, we had some gorgeous flowerbeds! Something about dousing plants in poop brought out their beauty.

With this lovely visual in mind, I've re-worked that picture of myself as a smashed flower. This year, life has dumped a lot of manure on my bloom. However, I still can wait patiently in expectation because I know:

 I haven't been destroyed; I've been fertilized. 

 Out of what many days seems like just a nasty, stinking mess, God is mysteriously and faithfully providing nutrients that will strengthen and beautify my life until it produces the most beautiful, abundant blossoms. Bring on the poop!


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