Sustaining: Thankful for the Story

We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.

Psalm 78:4

I don’t think it’s a secret that there is some contentious stuff going on in the Christian community, especially here in America.  To be fair, a lot of my resources come from Twitter and social media in general, which tends to be pretty divisive on a normal day.  But I also hear the heartbreak and frustration coming out of the mouths of friends and family, longing for a redemption for the brokenhearted and oppressed.  Feeling betrayed that the Church is silent or speaks out in half-truths.  Longing for truth, justice, and peace to prevail.

And I wonder how the next generation will view the church when they grow up, view Christianity as a whole, as they watch us from the sidelines today.  Will they see a place of rage or redemption?  Will they see peacemakers or persecutors?  Will it be a place that includes the lost, broken, and hurting, or will it be a place that excludes those who don’t understand the codes, rules, and expectations?

It’s important for me to remember that though the Church is made up of a flawed humanity, it was created by a flawless God.  We won’t get it perfect, but we can trust in the perfection of God’s plan.  When I was in my darkest moments, I looked with desperation to find God’s presence.  And He revealed himself in small and big ways.  That is what I want to pass on to my son, to the next generation.  

You will see a lot of heartbreak if you live for any length of time on this earth.  You will get frustrated, lonely, broken, hurt, and sad.  But there is a God that is willing to walk you through it.  And as heavy as the bad feelings are, there will be moments of joy, wisdom, laughter, healing, and happiness coming.  I have hope in the next generation because God will work through their lives, revealing himself in special ways to them, just as he has done in my own generation.  And that’s a story I can pass on.

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Sustaining: Thankful for the Spirit

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

I Corinthians 3:16

There is something about the word “dwell” that I love in this verse.  In the dictionary, it says it comes from an Old Norse word that means to tarry.  It makes me think of the old hymn,

And he walks with me

And he talks with me

And he tells me I am his own

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

I Come to the Garden Alone

To tarry, to dwell.  It’s not just living within us, it’s staying for a while.  It’s cozy and comfortable.  It’s wrapped up in blankets on a cold winter’s night.  It’s eating a good meal around the table with laughter.  It’s knowing the inhabitants so well that you can communicate with a look or a sigh.  That’s God dwelling within us.  That’s the Spirit tarrying in our midst.  It’s warm and inviting and completely amazing.  And I’m so thankful that we can live in such a way with the Creator of the Universe.

Sustaining: Thankful for God

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. Psalms 36:5-6
Six years ago, Michael and I went to Paris, France for our wedding anniversary.  I remember the first full day, we got on the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.  We entered a tunnel during the trip into the heart of the city.  As we left the tunnel, the Tower came into view.  We were in a train car with other Americans, and there was an audible gasp as we all looked at it. We left the metro and walked to the tower.  We stood under it and looked up.  The sheer size of it left me speechless and overwhelmed.  I’ve had similar experiences underneath the Arizona sky at night, how the entire sky seems massive, stretching from one end of the earth to the other.  Also, looking out over the ocean on a cruise ship, how tiny the boat feels (which isn’t tiny in the least) compared to the unending water around us. This verse reminds me just how small I am compared to the love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice of God.  It is the tall tower, the evening sky, the expansive ocean.  It’s overwhelming and awe-inspiring.  I am so thankful we serve a God like our God.  

Sustaining: Thankful for Hope

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus has entered on our behalf.

Hebrews 6: 19-20

I like the idea of hope being an anchor, something that remains steadfast in the winds and waves of life and its cruelties.  But the next part of it is pretty amazing too.

The inner sanctuary was one that not a whole lot of people could get to in Jewish times.  You were going into the presence of God and had to follow a number of rules and requirements in order to be there.

But our hope is that Jesus took care of that.  He is our forerunner.  According to dictionary.com, a forerunner can be a sign or warning of something to come.  It is an advance messenger.

The glorious wonder is that one day we will enter into the inner sanctuary into the presence of God.  Jesus has prepared that way for us.  And we can have a close and intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.  All the rules and regulations have been taken care of by Jesus.  The invitation is there.

And that’s pretty cool.

Sustaining: Enduring Love

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.  – Psalm 100:5

I was reading this passage this week, and the word “endure” stuck out to me.  There are two definitions for the word.  The first is “to remain in existence; last” which I’m sure is the meaning that most people derive from this text.  But the other definition was to “suffer patiently”.

It makes me think about the verse in 2 Peter 3:9 that says:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God wants a relationship with humankind, with you, with your children, with your children’s children’s children.  He wanted a relationship with your grandparents and your great-grandparents.  And he’s suffering patiently, enduring with great love to have that relationship.

My God is amazing in this way.  This love is too great for me to fully understand.  But what I do understand is pretty cool, so I hope you find it as encouraging as it was to me.

Comforting: Finding Purpose

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  – John 9:1-5

When bad things happen, a very common question is “why”.  Whether it’s in search of a scientific answer or a spiritual one, we want an answer.  An answer that can hopefully avoid any further suffering or horrible outcome.  And something that can make us feel better in the meantime.

In Jesus’s time, a lot of people thought suffering was a direct consequence of sin.  In John 9, his disciples reveal this line of thinking when they approached a man who had been born blind.  Who sinned?  His parents or would it be something the man did in his lifetime?

But Jesus flips that script.  Instead, he responds, this happened that the “works of God might be displayed in him.”  And then he heals the man.  It turns out the wrong question was being asked.

Instead of why it should be “what must I do?”  Not what must I do so I don’t suffer, but what must I do in the midst of suffering.  Just like when a job is handed to you or a new life stage, any major event good or bad, I believe as a Christian that it is my responsibility to respond with “What would you have me do with this?”  It’s when I ask that question and seek out the answer with open eyes and heart that I get to see God work through the suffering to reach others.

That man woke up that day not knowing the miracle that he would get to experience.  We don’t know what is in store for us in this life.  But good or bad, I know that God can give purpose to it all.

Comforting: Seeing the Bigger Picture

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”  – Job 42:3

Job had lost everything.  His money, children, reputation, even his marriage was rocky.  And his friends that came to encourage him ended up heaping more coals on the fire by blaming him for all of his misfortune.  Job continuously cries out to God, but only hears the accusations of his friends.

Until the end of the book.  God shows up and speaks to Job.  He reminds Job just who He is and what he has done and can do.  Job realizes that he can’t see the bigger picture, but God can.  And God is working continuously for good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  All He asks is that we trust.

It’s comforting to know that the Creator of the universe loves me and wants the best for me.  That He is at the helm, in the ultimate control, and He can see the horizons much better than I can.  He is painting with each stroke, knowing that it will end up His greatest masterpiece.