Tuesday, September 27, 2016

what do I know of holy?

I've written a few times about songs that have meant a lot to me in some way, from childhood songs that God's used to remind me of truths I'd lost sight of to songs that helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life. Recently, I heard a new song that really got to me. It's by Addison Road, and it's called “What do I Know of Holy?”

If you haven't ever heard this song, here's a video. I highly recommend listening to it. I can't get blogger to work with me right now, so you'll have to watch at youtube. I'll try to fix that soon...


I have to admit, the first time I heard this song it was as if somebody had stepped into my thoughts: “I tried to hear from Heaven, but I talked the whole time.” Wait a minute—so that's not just me? Other people tend to carry on entirely one-sided “conversations” with God, too? I can't tell you how many times I've begged and pleaded for God to tell me something—anything—but never stopped long enough to actually listen.

“Be still and know that I am God.”
~Psalm 46:10a

“I think I made You too small...” I wrote an entire devotional about the power and magnificence of God, yet I'm still guilty of this on a regular basis. Every time I let fear overwhelm me, letting the stress and anxiety pile up until I feel like I can't breathe, I'm making God small. When I let the fears take over, I'm telling God that I don't trust Him to take care of me through all of it. I'm telling Him that my fears are bigger than Him.

“So do not fear,
for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
~Isaiah 41:10

“I guess I thought that I had figured You out...
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save--
but those were only empty words on a page.
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be;
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees.”

I've grown up knowing what we always called the “Sunday School answers.” I can tell you all the stories about all the heroes, all the times God worked on behalf of His people. I asked Jesus into my heart at a revival when I was 9 years old, and I have no doubt that I will spend eternity with Him. I can sing the hymns and quote the verses and name the books. But even with all of that, there are times when all of those things kind of blur together into a single, shapeless mass.

Don't get me wrong—I know I'm blessed. Sometimes, though (and too often than I want to admit), I forget just how amazed I should be at the very idea of being blessed by the Creator of the universe.

I've written about how studying physics and biology has given me a different view on how faith and science intertwine. Sometimes, I get a tiny glimpse into the absolute enormity of God's power, and I'm left in awe. I see brilliant minds who are humbled by the unbelievable simplicity that can be found buried underneath even the most complex of physical systems, and the complexity that lies within seemingly simple things. In those moments, I realize that I really don't know much of anything about God.

“For the LORD gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
~Proverbs 2:6

“Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of holy?”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

what about when your faith is broken?

Sometimes, life breaks you. It gets to be too much, pressing you flat to the ground with your face in the dirt. You know what you're supposed to do—pray--but you just can't seem to find the words. Everything has crashed down around you, overwhelming you, and you feel like you can't breathe. People tell you, “Everything will work out. Just have faith.”

But what if your faith is broken?

What if you simply don't have it in you to “just have faith”?

I've been there. I've found myself down in the depths while the people around me are saying all I need is the faith that everything happens for a reason (please believe me when I say that those words are seldom comforting) and that it's all part of God's plan. I've had my faith shattered into so many pieces that I didn't think it could ever be repaired.

“if we are faithless, He will remain faithful...”
~2 Timothy 2:13a

God knows that we will face things that shatter our faith into a million tiny pieces. He knows that we will feel abandoned, lost, and alone. He knows that sometimes it's hard to even remember to breathe in and out, and that everything else is simply too much.

Through all of it, though, He isfaithful. It doesn't matter when my faith is shattered, because His faithfulness can't be broken. And eventually, He gathers the shattered pieces back together. Piece by piece, He slowly mends our faith. He reminds me that I don't have to remember how to breathe, because He breathed into my lungs and they automatically strain for more of His breath. He quietly reminds me that He holds all of creation in place, keeping it from spinning out of control, so what makes me think that I can spin out of His control?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

sunrise rainbow

I saw something this morning that I've never seen before--a rainbow in the middle of the sunrise.

Believe it or not, I've seen a lot of sunrises. When Pop and I would milk in the mornings, we got to watch quite a few of them. There were even a couple of times when I was in the milk barn when Pop came in and had me stop to walk outside and watch the sun come up.

Every sunrise I've seen was beautiful; if you haven't seen one in a while, it wouldn't hurt to take the time to get up early one day and watch. It's a whole different world at that time of the day--it's quiet and calm and gorgeous.

I've seen amazing rainbows in the past. In our little corner of the Ozarks last spring, we got to see a double rainbow that stretched from one side of the sky to the other, touching bright green rolling hills on each end. The bright colors were spectacular against the bright blue sky. 

This morning, though, there was something amazing about seeing the sky on fire with the rising sun--all filled with pinks, reds, and golds--with a rainbow shining in the middle of it. It was just one end, hardly anything that filled up the whole sky, but it made my breath catch.

It didn't last very long, and the rest of the morning has been gray and dreary. There hasn't been a storm, just a constant drizzle that is enough to get everything wet but not enough for me to carry an umbrella.

Rainbows are reminders of God's promise, and this morning His promise to be with and to take care of His people struck me when I saw the rainbow in the sunrise. When the rain came, the rainbow wasn't visible anymore. The colors of the sunrise were replaced with clouds that hid the splendor of just a few minutes before.

Isn't life like that sometimes? You are given glimpses of God's awesome power, of His beauty and magnificence, and your breath catches. In that moment, everything seems right. You know that God has you, and that you can face whatever lies ahead. After all, He's right there.

But then, the gloom comes. The beauty of God is hidden by the dreariness of life, and you start forgetting about His promises.

Do you know what's amazing about a rainbow? The light is always there, even when you can't see the colors. The only reason you can see the rainbow is because the conditions are just right, with the light splitting because it travels through the rain. All those colors are still there; it's just that you can't see them all the time.

The same is true of our relationship with God. He is always there, and His promises are always true. We can't always see Him, but that's just because the conditions aren't always exactly perfect.

And just like it's the rain that lets us see the beauty hidden in the light, sometimes it's the hard times in life that let us see God's beauty. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I can never be enough.

People are living in darkness--some because they've chosen to scamper back into the darkness after they've seen the light, others because they've never seen the light and don't know there's something other than the darkness they've always been in. Our job is to walk fully in the Light so that other people will see our deeds as being from God. We are called to love because He loves; we are called to speak the truth.

Judgement will come to the earth and to everyone who has ever walked on it. We are promised that over and over again, and reminded that it's a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31). All of us will face judgement for what we've done, and by our actions we are all condemned to death. On our own, we are far from worthy. In fact, we're closer to being worthless.

God's judgment--His wrath--is a terrifying thing. It is unrelenting and absolute, and no one can stand under the scrutiny of the Perfect Judge. As it says in Micah 7:9a, "I must bear His anger because I have sinned against Him." Isaiah 8:13 says, "After all, only the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, should terrify you. Only God is holy, only God should leave you trembling."

On my own, I have no chance. I could never do enough to earn my way into heaven--I can't be good enough or help enough people or give away enough of my own possessions.

I can never be enough.

If my story ended there, it would be a pretty dismal story. It would be hopeless, leading to an empty, worthless life that might as well be spent in the dark.

But amazingly, that emptiness is where the story--His story--starts. God looks at us and sees us in the midst of our failures, in the midst of our sins, and He offers us grace.

We could never be perfect, so God gave us an "out," so to speak. In the middle of the Darkness, He sent the ultimate Light. Jesus lived a perfect life, the only One in all of history who could do that. His grace was offered in the form of the perfect, blameless sacrifice--in the form of the One who could look down over the people who hung Him on a cross and pray that they be forgiven, even as the blood ran down his face to make Him see through a veil of blood.

The rest of that verse from Micah says, "until He argues on my behalf and rights all my wrongs. He will bring me out into the light, and then I will see His saving justice."

When we step out of the Darkness into the Light, it's a scary thing. Every fault and flaw is exposed; we can't hide anything. His Light shows us for everything we are. But then, just as Jesus saw people through a veil of His blood while He hung on the cross, God sees us through a veil of the blood of the Perfect Sacrifice. The blood of Jesus covers all our flaws, sins, and faults.

God sees us through His grace.

It doesn't matter that I can't ever be enough, that I can't do enough to earn God's favor, because the Perfect Sacrifice will always be more than enough. Jesus forgave
the ones who called for Him to be crucified,
the ones who drove the nails through His hands and feet,
the ones who shoved a crown of thorns onto His head,
the ones who spit on Him and mocked Him.
What makes us think that we're so different, so special, that our sins are too much for Him to handle?

Micah 7:7 says, "But as for me, I will look to the Eternal One, and my hope is in the True God who will save me. My God will hear me."

Despite all I do that drives a wedge between me and God, my God hears me. His grace covers all my sins, no matter how horrible they are.