I have no lack

I Have No Lack: A Joint Post

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.  I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. … And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:11-12, 19 HCS

From Susan:

I once heard a preacher say that no true believer in Jesus Christ would ever be hungry, and he quoted the last part of this verse to prove it.  “God will supply all your needs.”  His statement left me puzzled, because I’ve known true believers in West Africa who went through famine with the rest of their villages.

So, I looked into the context.  Check out the first part of it above.  Paul – that would be the apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament – had been hungry and in need. He wrote these words as part of a thank-you note to the Philippians who had sent him some money.

It wasn’t that Paul never had an unmet need.  It was that he had learned to be content in Christ’s strength when his physical needs were quite real and not immediately taken care of.  Contentment is a powerful choice.  “I don’t have this thing I need, this thing I’ve prayed for, and yet … I choose to be okay with that, because I do have Christ, and He alone is sufficient.”

And when we suffer the lack, we can then rejoice when God provides.

From Jen:

It’s interesting to see how often Philippians 4:12 is quoted. In all sorts of settings and situations, we hear and/or see this verse being quoted. Not necessarily wrong, but it does set a contrast to consider the context, as Susan pointed out.

Paul was not always strong—we know for sure he suffered some sort of ailment that would not go away. He was not always well fed, or even just fed at all. He did not always know comfort, either physically or emotionally as he was imprisoned and abandoned on more than one occasion. Yet, he penned these words—that through Christ he could do what he’d been commissioned to do; through Christ his needs were always met.

I read a book once that gently rebuked those who would say, ‘I can do this because, hey, it could be worse.’ Took me by surprise, but as I continued reading, I began to understand the point. It was this: what happens when it is worse? Comparative contentment is a slippery-slope. The Christian shouldn’t rejoice because comparatively, we’ve got it pretty good. Stripped down to the bones, that kind of thinking points to a love for God because of what He can do for us—not a pure love for Him because of who He is. That’s something akin to saying I love my husband because he brings me chocolate. He does, but that’s not why I love him. This is the grinding point: I am content because He loves me. That’s all.

If I have Christ, then I lack nothing. I have all that I need.

I am Made New

The Cover and the Title Page

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea existed no longer.  I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: “Look! God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Death will exist no longer; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.” Then the One seated on the throne said: “Look!  I am making everything new.” Revelation 21:1-5

A new heaven and a new earth.  I could never get my mind wrapped around that concept until I read C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle.  It is a parable of the book of Revelation, and it caps his Narnia series, which I relish.  In all the other Narnia books, children leave England for adventures in Narnia, but in the end, they must go back to England again.  Not in The Last Battle.  Finally, the children get to stay – in the new Narnia.

C.S. Lewis writes: “And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

The first time I read those words, I wept, because they put this broken world into perspective.  This life, with all its pain and disappointment, this 70-some-odd years a typical person spends on earth – it’s only the cover and the title page.  The real story will begin when God flips it to the left.  The new heaven and the new earth (and a new me) begin Chapter 1 of the true adventure we will live with God. 

I am unspeakably thankful that the new story will not contain death, grief, crying and pain.  For all of eternity.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

I am Made New

Live New

grassAs a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Ephesians 4:1, NIV

It’s one thing to say I’m new. It’s quite another to live it.

Kind of like love. I love you doesn’t mean much without proof to back it up. And the proof is in the life that says it.

So, living new—what does that mean?

Living new rejoices with those who celebrate—even if what they’re celebrating is exactly what you had wanted and didn’t get.

Living new goes into the score of grief with one caught in its trenches, even if it means your heart is going to break.

Living new returns grace for insult, even if a snappy comeback sits ready on the tip of your tongue.

Living new does not keep an account of debt against those who have behaved badly.

Living new means living like Jesus. It is his calling I have received. His standard has become my aim. Ultimately, my life is in His hands—because I gave it to Him. I pray this new life of my will point to His.

I am Made New

Getting Dressed in my New Self

But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. …Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love __ the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:8-9, 12-14

I had a choice to make when I woke up this morning. God gave me free reign to make it. I had to decide what to wear. Would I keep my PJs on all day? No, I decided, I would not. So then came the second choice: What would I change into? I chose jeans and a t-shirt with my kids’ school mascot on it. Having made the choice, I took action on it. I walked to the drawer and pulled out the clothes and put them on.

And as I read these verses this morning, I realized that God has also given me free reign to make a spiritual choice. Am I going to spend all day dressed in the “old man?” I could, you know, because that old man is quite comfy to me, as snuggly and familiar as my pajamas. And I’m ashamed to say that some days, I choose to stay in him. I choose anger and half-truths. I chose resentment and unforgiveness.

But that’s not the good choice. Instead, God is calling me to make the right choice, to put on His image as deliberately as I chose my jeans this morning. Acting like a new man requires my mental and physical work – it doesn’t just naturally flow out of me. I’ve got to decide to have compassion, be humble and patient. I must choose to forgive and accept.  And then, having made the choice – I’ve got to actually do it. And sometimes that is the hardest part.

Christ has made me new. His work of forgiveness on the cross is what enables me to put on the new man. But some days, I just feel grumpy. And those are the days I’ve got a harder choice to make than on the days when my emotions are soaring. When my feelings are sour, I’ve got to choose to change what I’m dwelling on. My emotions will follow my thoughts. If I choose to think about my blessings, if I choose thankfulness, I soon begin to feel thankful. And that makes it ever so much easier to act it.

I am Made New, Uncategorized

A New that Lasts

mountain springJesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14, NASB

 

I have a friend who calls me the girl with many looks, because I’m always changing my hair. Different cuts, different shades of blondes and reds . . . my style is ever-changing. Partly because I get bored. But, here’s a secret I don’t often admit—I mix up the style largely because I love the feeling I have when I leave the salon with a new look. Love. It.

Here’s the problem, though. That feeling never lasts. I run on it for a week, maybe two, and then . . . back to the same old boring me. Tired and uninteresting.

It occurs to me that maybe I’m not the only one. The hair-coloring frenzy of my generation and beyond, not to mention Botox, elective surgeries, and our obsession with clothing trends, would seem to indicate that I’m not alone in the quest to feel fresh—to feel new and pretty.

So, I’m pausing right now. Thinking. There’s nothing wrong with a cute new cut. A fun new style. But what am I really after? I wondered today as I was driving through town, talking to Jesus about all the stuff inside me, what do people do when they don’t know the privilege of pouring themselves out to God? Now I’m wondering, what do people do when they haven’t been made new on the inside?

They’re trapped inside themselves. Oh, what an unhappy place to be! Stuck, unchanged, inside a heart that doesn’t know the spring of new life from Jesus. Caught in an unending quest for change, and finding that no matter what they do, the bliss of newness never lasts.

Destruction can have a pretty face. Miley Cyrus comes to mind. What a sad, sad little girl. Trapped inside a heart that is longing for spring.

This isn’t the life Jesus offers. His is an ever-flowing fountain. Always fresh, always clean. His is a new life that bubbles from within—from Him. A new life that lasts.

I am Made New

I Am Made New: A Joint Post

bluebonnets“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:25-26, NASB

From Jen:

Ahh, April. Who doesn’t like April? Daffodils, tulips, pansies, and green grass. New life.

I just seeded a patch of mud with rye grass—fodder from my chicks who will soon be released to their new home. I like rye seeds. They’re big, plump droplets of hidden life. Their pale color stands out against the mud, so I can spot them readily. And yes, I check them. Daily. Because, here’s a confession about me—I am obsessed with growing things. I’m the type that talks to a tender plant when I set its roots in new soil. I know their names—common and scientific. Yep—I’m that weird plant lady. It’s okay, we all need quirks.

Seeding plants holds so many lessons, and here’s one I thought of today when I went out to check my rye grass. The seeds, when I spread them on the dirt, were hard. Very hard. I know from experience, if they don’t receive enough moisture after their initial contact with the dirt, they won’t germinate. The potential for life stays bound up in that hard barrier. They need the softening effect of water before life can break through. So, I’d watered the area, and the seeds softened. Life sprouted.

Made me think of this verse in Ezekiel. “I will remove your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Like those hard seeds, useless without life springing forth, God has sprinkled me clean, poured His spirit upon me, and given me a new heart. New life.

From Susan:

I scattered seeds for Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes a while ago. When I go check on them now, I’m not looking for seeds anymore. I’m looking for flowers. A seed that is nestled in moist soil ceases to be a seed. It changes into something entirely new.

That is the kind of rebirth God offers use—total transformation into something much more beautiful than we were before. The trouble is, some days, when I focus on myself and my petty desires more than I focus on God, I start to shrivel into seediness again. That’s not God’s plan for me. Can you imagine a bluebonnet doing the same—returning to its seed-like state? It can’t. It isn’t supposed to. And neither am I.

Praise God whose mercies are new every morning. Today, I give him the hard places in my heart. Today, I give him my selfish ambitions and I ask—please God—cleanse me, and give me a new spirit. Turn my heart of stone into flesh.

Praise God for his patience with all his new creations.

I have direct access to God

Without Words

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27, NASB

Often the quarrels in our home begin with a misunderstanding. Someone says “I’m hungry,” and I hear “Get me something to eat,” which annoys me because I’m in the middle of something other than food prep. Take your mark . . . Argue. Please tell me I’m not the only one with this problem.

Surely not. How many times do we say something and it’s taken completely different than we meant for it? Worse, how many times have we said exactly what we meant, and wished it unsaid shortly thereafter?

Misunderstandings—of others, and of ourselves. This is the shortsighted failings of sinful people. A point of fact which makes me tremble when I think about the blessed fact that God has given me direct access to Himself. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I rant only to realize the next day that I was ugly? What if I ask for that which is not according to His perfect will?

Weakness, all. But even here, God has graciously provided. Because, though I don’t know what to pray, the Spirit is with me, interceding as I struggle. I’ll readily admit that I don’t understand this. But I do know that by the Spirit’s intervention I can lay my heart out honestly and God hears. I can petition the longings pulling at my will, and God does what is best. I can bring my meager praise, and it reaches Him with joy.

I can come to Him freely, because the Spirit attends me.