Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cling to the Lord!

"Kerstin, you would not pass for a blind person in a million years!" This was my friend, Christopher, talking. In spite of his blindness, he was determined to live a normal life. He attended regular high-school, went swimming with us, in the lakes around Berlin, and was the drummer in a jazz-band. He adapted amazingly, but his steps were uncertain, always walking in complete darkness. The day I borrowed his cane and confidently walked down the sidewalk with my eyes tightly shut, he heard by the rapidity of my steps, that I knew where I was going. I had seen the path only seconds earlier.

As believers, we sometimes feel as if we were walking in darkness. We don't understand what God is doing and he feels far from us. I am not talking about a separation caused by sin, but a feeling of distance from God, sometimes accompanying a traumatic experience, exhaustion, or without explicable cause. God wants to use this time to mature us in our faith. We are given the choice to either grope around uncertainly in the darkness, believing the lie, that there is no hope, and that God does not care - or we can cling to God by standing on his truth. These are some verses, which are helpful to remember in this situation:

"The Lord is good!" (Nah. 1:7))
"I, the Lord do not change." (Mal.3:6)
"I will never leave you, nor forsake you." (Heb. 13:6)
"The Lord will guide you continually." (Is. 58:11a)
"For I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jer. 29:11)
"His plans cannot be thwarted." (Job 42:2)

This is where our walk can be different, because, in spite of the darkness, we have a clear picture of where we are headed. Let us not be mistaken for a blind person in a million years!

"Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God." (Is. 50:10b)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Now is Your Chance!

This morning on our trip to town, my eight-year-old daughter, Toria, sat beside me, happily drawing a picture. Her silence was interspersed with questions about heaven, the theme of her art-work. "Mom, are there castles in heaven?" "How about dogs?" "Will we share things?"
That last question caught me off guard. Of course we can share smiles, share songs and share stories of what God has done. But the kind of sacrificial love, demonstrated through acts of giving to the point of suffering loss, will be impossible in a place where there is no want. Only here on earth can we forgo sleep to take care of a sick child, can we forgo food, to see someone else filled, can we forgo warmth by giving our jacket to provide comfort for someone else.

Christ has demonstrated this love to us, by leaving the glory of heaven, to live a life of poverty and suffering. He demonstrated it even more so, by giving his life to save ours. We could not understand even a glimpse of this kind of love, had we been born in a perfect world. Only here do we have the privilege of following in his steps, giving sacrificially as an act of worship to him. In Extreme Devotion by Voice of the Martyrs, a Romanian captive is mentioned, who would stand in the place of his fellow prisoners, when any name in his cell was called to receive a beating. He gladly took their beatings, knowing that Christ had also taken his punishment. Through this prisoner's sacrifice, many understood the gospel, and God was glorified.

Of course, our daily sacrifices pale in light of these examples. None the less, this is what we are called to do. So, whether your daughter is crying at 2AM, your son needs help with a project while you had hoped to settle down with a book, or whether you give away that last slice of pizza you had been eyeing, thank God for his willing sacrifice and for your opportunity to glorify him in this practical way. Now is your chance! You won't be able to do this in heaven.

Romans 12:1 "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." (ESV)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

His Grace is Sufficient

"I hate it!" I yelled, flinging my New Testament at my fiancĂ©'s feet, all the while, cringing inside at the hideousness of my own behavior. At the time, I really didn't understand what had triggered this reaction, neither did my stunned fiancĂ©. All I knew was that I was tired and burned out. This Christian religion was not working for me. Truth is, I was believing that my worth was based on my ability to keep all of God's commandments. Most days I thought I was actually doing well. Pride is quite blind. This day was different. God, in his severe mercy, removed the blinders from my eyes. The Bible, acting like a mirror, revealed every blemish and wrinkle, making me see my own ugliness. Over the following weeks and months I became increasingly depressed, until I reached a point where my sins overwhealmed me and my strength completely failed me. Little did know that this was the exact place God wanted me to be. Realizing that I had nothing to give to God, but my weakness and ugliness, I was surprised to find out that God had known this all along, and still loved me! Grateful to a God, who created everything out of nothing, and who was willing to take my empty, dirty hands and fill them with forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ, I finally began to understand grace. He took my ashes and turned them into something beautiful!
Five years after our wedding, my husband actually became a professor of NT. He is very glad that I have stopped flinging Bibles. Instead, I daily come to my Lord empty-handed. His grace is sufficient!

2. Cor. 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

For His Own Glory

Little kids sure can ask a lot of questions! Mine definitely do! Sometimes my brain gets so exhausted from diligently trying to answer each one of them. When older children come to visit, I enjoy a reprieve. They take over my role and I am intrigued by their simple but concise answers. A while back, my oldest son, Daniel wanted to know, "Why does that boat have a door?" While I was still trying to formulate an explanation, our visitor piped in, "So you can open and close it." To my astonishment, Daniel was completely satisfied with that answer.
This morning at 6:30,  David, my five-year-old, was already thinking up a storm. While playfully moving his toy animal along his mug of hot chocolate, he threw me a tough one: "Why did God make dinosaurs that are so big and dangerous?" Trying to squeeze God's creativity, might, sovereignty and  wisdom into a child's vocabulary, I suddenly realized that David knew the answer already. Remembering last night's catechism practice, I asked him, "Why did God make you and all things?" A wide smile spread over David's face as he gave his reply: "For his own glory!"
Yes, often the simple answers are the most satisfactory. David's reply not only helped him understand the world around him, it is also having a great impact on my day. Everything I look at, God created for his own glory. That is exactly why he made each one of us. I am so thankful for a God who gives our lives meaning and purpose.

"Walk in a manner, worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." 1 Thess 2:12