Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fighting to Believe Revelation 1:8

" I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."  Revelation 1:8

The title of this entry isn't too encouraging, is it?  The thought of a self-professed Christian fighting to believe something so incredibly fundamental might be considered troubling to some... at times, I consider it troubling myself.  I've said it countless times within the confidence of my inner circle... and I say it here for the entire world to read... It is EASY to say I believe in Jesus... four simple words that my preschooler can say forwards and backwards... but, to REALLY believe Jesus... well... that's completely different.  And I believe this conflict... this glaring truth that is so evident in our society... is the bedrock of Matthew 25:31-46. And while I could sit here forever and postulate on the issue of dividing sheep and goats, it does nothing to help my unbelief.  

I long to believe that the God that knows the number of hairs on my head, that has me in the palm of His hands, is the same God that parted the Red Sea for Moses, that brought Lazarus back from the dead... I guess, truth be told, I long for my statement of belief to be matched by the life I live.  Because, if I'm honest, that's not always the case. I was convicted of this over and over again the past few weeks.  I struggle with living in this world.  I struggle to see others with the eyes of Jesus.  I struggle with not having enough money to pay the bills... I struggle with trusting God to provide the money to pay those bills!   I also think of those fleeting moments when God's glory was revealed.  I think of a man named Charles that we met on the street.  He asked for money and we offered him lunch.  Ten minutes later, over a quarter pounder and fries (Charles, not me!!!!), we talked about Jesus. Then the girls and I prayed with Charles, right in the middle of downtown.  One moment where what I professed with my lips and what I lived with my life... they met at a beautiful place that exemplifies His glory.  I long for more moments like that.  

Like so many things of late, this inevitably leads to thoughts of Providence.  What is our place there?  Why are we going?  (Is He really going to allow us to go!!??!!) The closer we get... the more unworthy we feel.  The closer we get... the more we realize that this is His deal, not ours.  Believe me, we've tried to make it our deal.  But, it's not.  It's just one of the many ways He's continuing to show me that He is, in fact, the Alpha and the Omega... encouraging my faith.  I'm also acutely aware of the ever present tension that I need in my walk with Jesus.  Like the links of a bicycle chain that need just the right amount of tension in order to work properly, I also need to recognize the unyielding tension in me as I walk with Jesus though this fallen world.  Like a salmon swimming up stream, always working, battling the torrents of water.  If it chooses not to swim, it is simply washed away.  

This world does not want me to believe that my God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  That He is just as powerful now as He was when He parted the Red Sea.  This world does not want me to fight to believe.  It wants me to be washed away in the currents of self-indulgence and self-righteousness, cramped schedules and technology overload.  And for that reason... I must fight all the harder.  


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

God Shows His Hand... in the Hospital Waiting Room

This past weekend, I attended a local church here in North Carolina.  It's a huge church... at least, by my standards.  The entire sermon was thought provoking, challenging.  Honestly, I don't think I put my pen down once during the entire hour.  But of all the things I jotted down, it was this statements that struck a chord in my heart: Our prayers, so often, center around the absence of problems... but, instead, they should focus on the presence of God.  I immediately began to think about my countless prayers, wondering how many times I've actually prayed for the presence of God.  I know that I constantly ask Him to "show up" and solve my problems... but I was at a complete and total loss for the last time I simply asked for His presence to be revealed to me... not because I wanted anything from Him... but, because I simply wanted HIM. 

This has been my prayer ever since Sunday... praying for God's presence, encouragement that He is with me... and for that to be enough... for that to be MORE than enough.  I stopped praying for direction... stopped praying for "the fleece"... stopped praying for jobs or septic systems.  I've been "simply" praying for Him.  I say simple... but it really wasn't.  When you've constantly prayed... your entire life... for the gifts of God... it's anything but "simple" to pray for the presence of God (at least, for me)... because you're awash with the guilt and shame associated with your selfish motivations.   But, thankfully, God's grace and mercy covers all that... and, prasie God, He loves us enough to bless us despite our sinful ways.

So... back to the waiting room.  I was trying to catch up on email when I came across one from Becky at The Root Cellar.  They had received a negative determination letter for a grant I had written for the dental clinic.  It was one of those organizations that has a policy of not giving money to "religious programming" but, I applied anyway... because, last time I checked, dentistry didn't fall into the relm of religious programming.  Well... I guess the Trustees felt differently, because it was the fastest decline I have EVER seen in my 20 years of grant writing.  In my complete and utter frustration and (if I'm honest) disgust, I called Jamie to vent about the letter: my frustration that 20+ hours of work was tossed aside without any serious consideration for the need of our dental clinic and the people we help; the fact that the name of Jesus Christ is so offensive to some (not necessarily in this case... just a general thought that crosses my mind); that "Bridges to Nowhere" get millions of dollars in funding, but I can't get $19,000 for a digital x-ray machine! A little dramatic, but, I'm passionate about my work!

Well, I was unaware that an elderly lady, while fixing her coffee, was listening in to our conversation. As she was getting ready to leave, she slipped $20 under my coffee cup and said: "It's not $20,000, but it's a start.  Keep up the good fight."  As she walked away, I completely lost it.  All I could say was "Oh my God. I can't believe it" Over and over, through my sobs.  Poor Jamie thought I got bad news about my mom and was frantic for me to explain what was going on. Once I was able to compose myself, I was able to explain what had just happen... now constantly repeating "God is so good."  Now, obviously $20 is a far cry from $20,000... but this lady could have given me $1,000,000 and I wouldn't have been any more encouraged or excited at that exact moment.  God made His presence known... His encouragement tangible.  Without asking for a sign.  Without pleading for direction.  He gave me an incredible blessing... and I was able to understand and acknowledge that it came from Him. Again, He made me aware of the need to be obedient to the pricking of my heart in those wierd moments that involve reaching out to a complete stranger.  Realizing that He is much bigger that my insecurities, my inhibitions, my embarrassment.  That denying His prompting is, ultimately, refusing to acknowledge His presence and authority.  His presence in our lives is certain, our awareness... not so much.  I'm even more challenged by the thought of praying for His presence to be revealed... both TO me and THROUGH me!