Supernatural

God is so cool. Just SO cool.

I’ve been reading through Acts, and it’s been opening up my eyes to so much of His glory.

Acts chapter 8 talks about Simon the sorcerer. He had bewitched the people of Samaria (pardon the pun), amazing them with his magic, and ALL followed him. Not just some people; the chapter says ALL the people, no matter their status or rank, were amazed by his power and would go to great lengths to see his sorcery, and gave him honor and praise. They called him the “Great power of  God”. In the original greek, this literally refers to the same power that created the World. They basically called him God. I think we could safely say this is idolatry, or just really missing the boat while looking for the messiah.

But in comes Phillip to Samaria, who shares the gospel. All the people abandon their witchcraft and turn to Jesus. Even Simon! Praise God!

And THEN, in come Peter and John who start laying hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit. Now this is beautiful in itself, receiving the gift of the helper and comforter, the guide and indwelling Spirit. How wonderful for those believers! I always imagined this event to be peaceful and fulfilling, nothing flashy.

But next comes Simon’s reaction to seeing people receive the gift of the Holy Spirit:

“When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” (v. 18-19)

Let’s think about that for a minute: A man who people ascribed to have the very POWER of GOD, that same power that created the world, would be willing to PAY for the ability to minister the gift of the Holy Spirit to others?

This tells me that this gift must be way more supernatural than I ever imagined it to be in this portion of scripture, that a sorcerer who lived to amaze people with his magic and miraculous sights would PAY Peter and John for the ability to give the Holy Spirit. It must have been quite a wondrous thing to behold. (More Acts 2, fire, tongues, miracles, you get the picture. Even though it’s not directly noted, SOMETHING must have happened for Simon to react this way.)

Consider this: we are living in the same gifting, and serving the same Savior! He has given us that same gift of His Spirit, and we can be waking in that same miraculous anointing. Have you asked for Him to show His Spirit to you just as He showed it to Simon?

Today, I would challenge you to ask. He is an amazingly miraculous God, and He wants to act in your life in a supernaturally real way.

How cool is that!?

Provision

Each December, my family gathers around the sparkly evergreen tree, sits down, and cracks open Luke 2: the Christmas Story. We read about the birth of Christ, how he was laid in a manger, and didn’t make a peep of complaint. We smile, we listen reverently.

Then come the presents.

And every year, I watch my young cousins rip greedily through their perfectly wrapped gifts, appreciate them for about three seconds each, and then when nothing is left to open, they are immediately disappointed. “That’s it? There’s no more?”, as if they’ve completely forgotten about the pile of new games and gadgets at their feet, exactly the things they’d been hoping for all year.

And every year, I watch with a sad heart. I think, why aren’t you grateful for all of the things that were just put in front of you? Why aren’t you excited that you got so much more than you asked for, from family that loves you? How are you possibly thinking about what you don’t have, what you want next, when you have so much right in front of you?

And this made me realize; I do the exact same thing.

Almost daily, I find myself wishing for the future. Seeing a marriage, seeing a family, seeing a ministry, seeing opportunities that aren’t mine and thinking, why can’t I have those? Why not now? Why do I have to wait? Will I ever even get the chance?

I imagine God’s heart must feel so broken when I think those things, just like I feel when I watch my cousins at Christmas, except much more deeply.

Psalm 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” This tells me something beautiful about God’s character: every day, He gives me exactly what I need, plus more. Even in the presence of opposition, He provides. He gives me not only enough to meet my needs, but enough to overflow with blessing, joy, and supply. All I could possibly want or need, plus more.

And this is beautiful. He is teaching me to be content where I am, realizing He has set for me perfect gifts each day, things He wants me to open up and be joyful over, to be glad in, and to be content with. To revel in the present, with joy in how I get to serve Him at that moment, not worrying about the future, or wanting things that aren’t yet in His plan for me. We can celebrate together for the day’s moments that will take place, and laugh at the days to come.

When you live like that, every day is like Christmas.

Be Thou My Vision

“Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, put first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

Oh, God, be my everything, be my delight
Be, Jesus, my glory My soul’s satisfied

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”

May this bless you today, wherever you are.

The Magnitude of Truth

It’s no secret, I love psalms. I love to revel in the greatness of God, to read songs of His praise, to be comforted by the sweet words of assurance that the book of Psalms holds.

But sometimes, I find myself less comforted… reading phrases like “as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God” or “Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins” right around these famous words; “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely into families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”  (Psalm 63)

I find myself so often tempted to graze over the more graphic or wrathful sections and focus on the comforting, sweet sections. But I realized something; diminishing God’s justice also diminishes His love. 

When we downplay God’s justness, holiness, righteousness, and wrath, we cannot fully appreciate the magnitude and depth of His love, kindness, and comfort. Yet we do it all the time: in worship, we sing of God’s love, and not how He trampled His enemies. In sermons, we hear so frequently of His amazing love, yet not often are we faced with the despairing reality and darkness of sin. 

Yet, this is the magnitude of Truth: His LOVE becomes greater when we fully appreciate His justice. We can only truly know Him when we are open to ALL of Him, not only the comfortable parts. 

Let’s let Him step on our toes, and make us uncomfortable, so that we might better understand His fullness. Who’s with me?

Inside

Things you don’t know the true condition of until you look on the inside:

1. A car. (Nice and shiny does not always mean a well-maintained engine.)

2. A home. (Even if the outside is beautiful, you don’t know if the inside is spotless or a complete mess until you go in.)

3. A friendship. (Often, people put their best foot forward for the world, but you wouldn’t know the truth unless you could see when no one is looking.)

4. A family. (Same story; you never know the true joys or hardships unless you are in that family.)

5. A person.

How often do we look at a person and think we know where they are at, what they are like, who they are? Just from outward appearance? How often do we ask to see someone through Christ’s eyes?

Our world idolizes appearance. It has brought both men and women into the depths of insecurity about how our bodies look, how good-looking we feel we must be, and how we cannot compare with impossible standards. How often have we looked at, obsessed about, and slaved over appearances?

Too often.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

The Lord looks at the heart. I can’t get this phrase out of my head this morning. Our HEART is His priority. He cares more about the condition of what is on the INSIDE than anything we can do with our appearance.

Let’s dwell on this fact today. Let’s focus on the inside, let’s ask to see people through Christ’s eyes, and let’s and take comfort in His love of our heart’s condition, not our outward appearance.

“I desire your full, complete, and loving devotion. Take the difficult things, the negative thoughts, and the worries to me. Love Me, be with Me, abide in Me.”

Humility

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

This is a familiar verse to most, but sometimes I wonder. Is familiarity with these words really a good thing? Do we truly understand their magnitude?

“Oppose”, or resist, from the root “antitassō”, also means “to range in battle against.” I’m not sure about anyone else, but imagining the God who spoke the entire universe into existence battling against me and my pride wracks my soul with guilt. It saddens my heart just to think about it, and deepens my appreciation for how small and vain my desires for attention and recognition are compared to His greater purpose, and greater glory.  

On the other hand, “grace”, from the root “charis” (sound familiar?), means loving-kindness, favor, God mercifully increasing our faith, knowledge, affection, and virtue. His unmerited outpouring of joy, pleasure, delight and sweetness. 

Sheds an entirely new light on that verse, doesn’t it? God opposes the proud; battles and rages against the selfishness of our pride. But, He gives grace to the humble; he pours out on us more unmerited favor, love towards Him, and faith in His goodness as we humbly surrender. 

Which would you rather?

 

Constant

Reflecting this week after some of the most stressful days of my life has brought me back over and over to the same truth; God is constant.

Driving home last night, and looking at the stars, I was speechless. Every single evening, the stars are in the exact same place. They are the same size, they have not moved an inch, they are precisely, perfectly aligned in their constellations, sparkling up in the sky like christmas lights. God put each of them in their place, and they do not move. Each night when the sun goes down, there they are again, no star any closer or farther from its neighbors than the night before. Few things are so permanent.

So many things change; the weather changes, our homes change, our friends change, our jobs change, our feelings change. But not the stars. And not the Lord.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe this truth, hard to see how God is ever-faithful, never-changing. Just like there are nights where we can’t see the stars, their eternal places in the heavens covered by clouds. But in our walks with God, we are what clouds our view of his constance. Our doubts, insecurities, feelings, and situations are the only things that get in the way of seeing Him in all of his glorious permanence and faithfulness.

You control your weather, you control your clouds.

See Him for all that He is, and let nothing get in the way.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

Compassion

“Because of the lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

I’ve been meditating on this verse all day. How humbling and amazing- our God’s love for us is unfailing. We can never out-sin or out-run His compassion. What’s even more amazing is the true meanings of these words in the original Hebrew:

The word for “compassion” in verse 22 actually comes from the Hebrew term “racham”. It is an intensive noun, meaning it is emphatic- intentionally added to forcibly and clearly show its importance. (Kind of like adding “myself” to the end of a sentence. It would have been sufficient to say “I did it”, but when you say “I did it myself“, it adds an extra punch.)
“Racham” also comes from a root word which is translated into both a woman’s womb and compassion within the old testament. This small connection sheds a whole new light on the term; God’s compassions over us are even more intense, fierce, and loving than a mother’s compassion for the child she bore from her own womb. Imagine the depth of the love a mother has… profound and powerful, right?

It doesn’t even begin to skim the surface of the Lord’s compassion for us.

His compassions never fail. Absolute. Without faltering. Never changing. No question. Never.

Be encouraged today that no matter what, God’s compassions are constant. Every morning, they are completely new. His faithfulness is abounding, strong, sufficient, overwhelming, constant, exceeding all we could ever dream or deserve. And it’s all for you.

Questions Pt. 2

Another verse I’ve been pondering is this one:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. ” Psalm 119:11

I understand it at surface level, but why would you want God’s word hidden, per se? Wouldn’t you rather it be written on your heart, or obvious to those around you? Didn’t God intend for His word to be shared?

The answer, in short, is YES! God intends for His word to be shared. He wants you to love it SO much that you want to keep all of it stored away in your heart so whenever you are questioned, tried, or just overly joyful, it all comes pouring out. The word used for “hidden” here is tsaphan,  a hebrew word for “to treasure” or “to store up”. Compare it to finding something that is extremely sentimentally valuable to you. You KEEP it! You keep it somewhere close to you, where you can show someone when asked, or just look at it from time to time. Somewhere where no harm can come to it, right?

I pray that God would show us how to LOVE His word like that! That we’d desire to carry it with us and know it well because we want it with us ALL the time. That it would permeate our very way of thinking, bringing us joy and wisdom. His word is life, and His law is freedom.

We serve an amazing God.

Questions Pt. 1

Tonight is a night of quiet reflection. Sometimes, it’s easy to decompress and understand exactly the lessons He is teaching me. Other days, It’s more difficult to completely understand what His word says, what recent events mean, or what He’s trying to show me.

And tonight is a night of questions. Do you ever read a passage of the Bible and say, “what the heck? Why does it say that?” – Maybe you haven’t, but I sure have! Today, there have been two. I’d like to share them here.

1: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Ok. Love this verse – And I completely understand wanting to be set apart for God and not conforming to the standards of this world. But for the life of me, I’ve never understood exactly what renewing your mind meant. So let’s do some digging.

Definition of Renewing:

1. To make new or as if new again; restore: renewed the antique chair.
          So, making your mind new. Restoring with care like an old piece of furniture, taking time and effort and attention to detail.
2. To take up again; resume: renew an old friendship; renewed the argument.
          This would take investing time and effort into purifying your mind. To not be discouraged by whatever reason something stopped, but to resume it with diligence.
3. To repeat so as to reaffirm: renew a promise.
          To reaffirm your commitment to a set apart, new, and pure mind as often as necessary.
4. To regain or restore the physical or mental vigor of; revive: I renewed my spirits in the country air.
          To restore your resolve fo maintain this new mind. To be fresh in your motivation as though having just taken a nice shower, or something else refreshing.
5. To arrange for the extension of: renew a contract; renew a magazine subscription.
          To continue in commitment. To not stop.
6. To replenish: renewed the water in the humidifier.
          To continually give necessary encouragement and sustenance to maintain a pure mind.
8. To start over.
        To, when necessary, recognize your need for a clean slate, and ask the One who can grant it to you.

The greek form of “renewing” is anakainōsis (say that ten times fast…). It directly translates to a renovation; a complete change for the better.

Not only is God calling us to be transformed through a renewed mind; He wants that renewal to be done with care, attention, and effort. He wants commitment and motivation. He wants us to trust Him for the necessary sustenance to keep our commitment. And when we fail, He wants us to turn to Him for a fresh start.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s be transformed.