All Things New – Part I

Earlier this month I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, IA. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend away was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

session one, October 5

And He who was seated on the throne said “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

From the first creation account in Genesis 1 to the final redemption account in the book of Revelation, the Bible consistently and shamelessly speaks of the glory and majesty of Christ; of His beauty and holiness in all of creation; His limitless nature, and His perfect wisdom and love.

We know this, but often I find myself (and I can imagine that you might too) reading the Bible as if it were a book about me – designed to tell me what to do, how to do it, and when to do it (be sure to stay tuned for part three of this series for more on that particular topic 🙂 ). However, if everything in all of Scripture points to the glory of Christ; speaks of the glory of Christ; and testifies to the glory of Christ, then we might just want to start reading it that way.

All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…(2 Timothy 3:16).

This doesn’t just mean the New Testament or the Gospels or the Psalms. This verse literally means that every word of Scripture is the voice of God and should be treated as such.

While I have always believed 2 Timothy 3:16 to be true, the manner in which I’ve approached certain portions of the Bible has not always submitted to such belief. For example, I have always read the creation account in Genesis 1 as strictly historical and nothing else.

However, as we rediscover the creation account through the lens of 2 Timothy 3:16, we  realize that the pattern and shape in which this account was written very intentionally speaks of the greater glory of Christ; foretelling the divine purposes of God Almighty for His church.

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Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…(Genesis 1:2).

We were formless and empty; void of any righteousness or light. Apart from Christ, we were consumed with darkness; with sin and wretchedness from birth. Yet just as God did not leave the world void and formless; taking chaos a bringing order with His Word, He does not leave us as we are. He takes our chaotic brokenness and makes us whole once again. Indeed, in Him all things are being made new…

Light (Gen. 1:3) – God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Just as God shed light into a dark world, He revealed His light into our dark souls through His Son Jesus Christ. As John 8:12 says, “I am [Jesus] the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Separation (Gen. 1:4, 6, 9, 14) – God separated the light from the dark; the earth from the sky; the sea from the land; and the day from the night. And so He separates us, His children of light from the darkness of sin and death. He sets us apart from the world, inviting us to “be holy, because He is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Fruitfulness (Gen. 1:22) – Just as God instructed the animals of the earth to “be fruitful and increase in number…” so too does He instruct us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us” (Matthew 28:19-20). We are called, first and foremost, to be fruitful in our faith; increasing in number as we share the good news of the Gospel; making disciples of every nation, tribe, and tongue.

Image Bearing (Gen. 1:26-27) – “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” As image-bearing works of creation, we have the inherent responsibility and great pleasure of bearing forth the image of Christ. And as we are reminded in Revelation 21:5, He is making all things new, giving us the hope of future restoration into the fullest, clearest, image of Christ Jesus for all of eternity. Until then, God’s will for our lives is to bear forth His image for all the world to see.

Dominion (Gen. 1:28) – God gave mankind dominion over the earth; to rule over it and take care of it. In the same way, Christ has established for us dominion over sin. “For sin shall no longer be our master, because we are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). We have been saved from the penalty of sin by the cross; we are being saved from the power of sin through sanctification; and we will one day be delivered from the presence of sin once and for all in final glorification.

Rest (Gen. 2:2-3) – A day of rest concludes the creation account, which foretells of a greater rest for our souls in Christ Jesus. When all of creation was complete, rest was ushered in. Similarly, when the entirety of Jesus’ work on the cross was finished, ultimate rest for the souls of mankind was made known (John 19:30).

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This may be an entirely new ‘creation account’ for some of you. I know it certainly was for me, as I had never considered how the creation of the world foretold of life and renewal and eternal hope in Christ Jesus.

From beginning to end, God is showing us Himself through His Word. Even from the first accounts of the Bible, the greater work of Christ Jesus is being glorified; pointing us to His ultimate act of creation on the cross, that through His sacrifice he was reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19) and making all things new.

 

All Things New – Part II – We all have an old name; something that identifies us with our sin-filled past. However, He who is sitting on the throne has said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And therefore, we have been given a new name in Christ and are called to bear forth that image to the rest of the world.

The Dawning of Heaven – Our Great Privilege as Believers

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

This is my favorite time of year.

I love the ushering in of sweater season; of boots and scarves and pumpkins to carve. I love the changing of the leaves, the crisp air, and the fact that the earth is tilted at juuuust the right angle for me to watch the rising sun each morning from my usual table at the coffee shop.

This morning’s sunrise was particularly beautiful. Light bounced off the countertops and wooden floors, gracing the area around me with reminders of new morning mercies that are even more faithful than the rising of the sun.

The window panes framed the dawning sun perfectly, as if to capture each moment of its rising glory and committing it to memory.

As I watched the sun go from one pane to the other, I was captivated by its splendor. Even as I returned to my writing, I could hardly focus because the intensity of the sun left impressions of its bright glory on the pages in front of me.

My gaze returned, surprised and somewhat saddened at how fast the sun had moved in such a short amount of time. I wished it could stay framed in the window forever, but by this point it was already playing with the edges of the frame, bidding its final farewell but promising to return.

I can’t help but think about how the Gospel is a lot like the rising sun; how Christ’s descent into mortality was our first glimpse at divinity; the dawning of heaven.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV)

It is in the face of Jesus Christ that we are able to behold the glory of God; to dwell in the light of the knowledge of God’s glory.

Let that sink in for just a moment.

Just as the different window panes captured each moment of the sun’s ascent, we have the very words of God; the first hand accounts of the Bible that capture each glorious moment of Christ’s life, work, and mission here on earth; all of which display the beauty and glory and goodness of our Heavenly Father.

Do we see or understand this like we should?

Probably not, if we’re to be truly honest with ourselves.

With the rising popularity of the ‘Instagram Bible’ and a growing propensity toward second hand knowledge of God rather than deep, personal Biblical understanding, our desire to behold Christ’s glory has diminished severely.

We forget our great privilege as believers to behold that which ‘angels long to look into’ (1 Peter 1:12, NIV); something that Isaiah and the minor prophets only got a glimpse of through the Old Testament writings, and something that Abraham went to his grave clinging to but never actually being able to lay eyes upon.

We forget our great privilege as believers to behold Jesus Christ incarnate; the Son of the Living God personified.

We forget that we can actually look into the face of Jesus Christ through the Holy Word and see the glory of God and the grace of our Savior.

With veiled faces, we read the Bible, failing to understand the grandeur of what is being said; of the stories being told and the great eternal implications that they possess.

How could something so marvelous be so easily dismissed?

Prior to the display of absolute grace and mercy in the coming of Christ, the minds of believers were dull; shielded from the glory of God, because only in Christ is the veil removed from our eyes (2 Corinthians 3:14-15, NIV). To be quite honest, we wouldn’t want to behold the glory of God without the lens of Christ’s mercy and grace. Without grace, God’s glory would be utterly terrifying.

But because we know and reside in the grace of Christ’s sacrifice through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we have the great privilege to behold the glory of God. ‘Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:16-18, NIV).

There is a beautiful, breathtaking mystery in the person and lordship of Jesus Christ. ‘In him there are two distinct natures, the one, eternal, infinite, immense, almighty, the form and essence of God; the other having a beginning in time, finite, limited, confined to a certain place, which is our nature.’ (The Glory of Christ, 1994)

‘This is the glory of our religion, the glory of the church, the only rock on which it was built, the only source of present grace and future glory.’ (The Glory of Christ, 1994)

Think about it…the angels have no need for grace; the prophets only foretold of such grace; and Abraham could only imagine this kind of grace. We have the privilege of knowing it!

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV)

Oh the staggering magnificence and glory of knowing such grace of the One who’s face shines bright with the radiance of God’s glory; the dawning of heaven, and knowing that with the emergence of divinity comes a day when we will all be able to fully bask in the glory of God for ourselves.

We see little murmurs of this glory in creation; in the work of His hands, but we have been granted even more than that. We have been granted the privilege of beholding God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ! And it is this glory that stimulates in our hearts a yearning to see His beauty and majesty firsthand; a deep longing for eternity.

It is the glory of Christ that draws our attention; that captivates our gaze and helps us to be eternally focused on Him rather than presently preoccupied by the things of this world, good and bad.

So as I continue returning to the coffee shop every morning, I anticipate many more gorgeous sunrises, just as I anticipate even more beautiful mercies, grace, and loving kindness from my Lord.

In the same way, we keep coming back; we continue returning to the Word of God because we know what an invaluable privilege it is to behold such priceless glory right here, right now.

We keep looking into the face of Jesus through His Word to learn more and more of God’s glory, realizing that one day we will be able to behold this glory for all of eternity when this dawning of heaven ushers in the day of ‘consuming fire’ that is our God. (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV)

The Fear of the Lord in the Shadow of the Cross

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you…(1 Peter 4:12, NIV)

Fiery ordeals are a regular part of life. We struggle against trials and temptations such as lust, idolatry, fear, anxiety, and depression on a daily basis while some of us may encounter the horrors of sickness, tragedy, loss, heartbreak, and injustice. Regardless of the degree or nature of our fiery ordeals, our tendency is to fear those things. We avoid them, we lose sleep over them, and more often than not, we allow them to consume our every thought.

It is from this place of fear that we often turn to the Bible. With a heart that feared man and the world, I so often reached for the Bible not as the holy and infallible Word of God, but as a remedy for my fear. One of the biggest oversights that I have seen in my own Christian walk is the omission and misinterpretation of what it means to fear the Lord and how that kind of fear forms a vital piece of our foundation as Bible-believing Christians.

who do we fear?

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV)

Let’s consider the story in Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm. When we read about this miracle and the many like it throughout the Bible, we tend to insert our own personal ‘storm’ into that particular scenario. The violent waves that threatened to vanquish the disciples are often interpreted to be the fiery ordeals that threaten our lives – the tragedy of cancer, the heartbreak of a lost relationship, the loss of a job, or the injustice of abuse and neglect. We are encouraged through this Biblical account to not make the same mistakes as the disciples did but to instead trust that Jesus will calm the storm; that he will cure the cancer, restore the relationship, provide an even better job, or impose His rightful justice on those who inflict harm on the innocent and helpless.

Rather than a right and reverent fear of the Lord, it is our daily circumstances that we use as an elusive reference point for our Biblical interpretation, understanding, and wisdom, which is then easily corruptible by emotion and sentiment. We therefore tailor God’s promises and miracles according to our present circumstances, inadvertently missing the grander purpose of the story. This interpretation that God will ‘calm our storms’ may be applicable, but it is not exactly foundational. Rather, this interpretation places a subtle emphasis on our fear of man and circumstances, subsequently identifying God as a simple remedy for such fear rather than the ultimate object of our fear. This then makes Him out to be only slightly larger and more powerful than the fear that we face. It places God’s power to save in relation to our fear rather than submitting our fear to the one and only powerful and holy God, thus shrinking God down to be nothing more than a modern day Hercules.

How do we break this pattern of thinking?

We must first come to realize that the entirety of the Bible and the mission, person, and office of Jesus Christ here on earth points to a greater, more eternal reality than the harsh realities that we face on a daily basis. While it is easier and certainly more manageable to associate our daily battles with the storm in Mark chapter four, it is important that we pull back and realize that the storm in this story and the many stories like it points to a greater, far worse ‘Storm’ that we all inevitably face as a fallen and broken people.

the wrath of god

If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. (Psalm 90:11, NIV)

Throughout the Bible, the sea often serves as a representation of God’s wrath. This is evident in both the Old and New Testament. We see this representation very clearly in the story of Jonah (Jonah 1:15-17, NIV) as he plunges himself into the raging sea to calm the storm. He is swallowed and remains in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights until being spit back up onto dry land. The entirety of this story points to the greater sacrifice and coming glory of Jesus Christ. Just as Jonah plunged himself into the depths of the sea to calm the storm so too did Jesus plunge himself into the depths of sin to satisfy God’s wrath. Just as Jonah was spit back up onto dry land three days later, so too was Jesus resurrected from the grave three days after being buried.

Even in the book of Revelation, there are a number of references made to the wrath of God being like the sea (Rev. 18:21; 21:1, NIV). Babylon, which represents the seat of all idolatry and the enemy of Christianity, will be cast into God’s wrath as a boulder would be cast into the sea, never to be seen again and with the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, the wrath of God will be no more as His justice will have been satisfied in and through Jesus Christ, thus bringing to completion the original covenant made with God’s chosen people (Gen. 17:7-8; Rev. 21:3, NIV).

We can therefore delineate that Mark 4:35-41 is not necessarily a display of Jesus’ power or will to save us from our daily fiery ordeals, but rather that this story and the many stories like it is pointing to a much greater salvation that Jesus provides – salvation from the wrath of God.

The disciples rightly expressed a deep, unnerving fear of the sea. They were afraid of the unstoppable power that this storm possessed and were even more afraid of being consumed by its waves. In similar fashion, humanity throughout the Old Testament expressed the same kind of trembling before the presence of God Almighty. One such example of this can be found in 2 Samuel 6:1-7. After being commanded by God to not touch the holy things secured in the Ark of the Covenant, we read about a moment where the Ark of the Covenant begins to topple over the edge of an unstable cart and in what we would consider an act of valor, the Israelite named Uzzah reaches out to steady this precious relic. In response, the Lord’s anger burned against [him] because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:7, NIV)

Even our best intentions are infested with sin and insolence towards God. As Isaiah 64:6 says – all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. Jerry Bridges explains this concept beautifully as he considers how ‘even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.’ Even on our best days, we are helpless against the vast and just wrath of God. In front of the Holy of holies, the Great I Am, and the Creator of heaven and earth, sin cannot stand. In its entirety, sin must be destroyed. David understood the necessity for this kind of fear of the Lord as he penned Psalm 90. He knew how essential a right fear of the Lord was to the foundation of his faith. He knew that the entirety of who he was – good and bad – could not bear under the holiness of who God is, and therefore he knew this fear; this appropriate and right fear of the Lord and His holiness and righteousness. It is only when we have a knowledge of the magnificence of God’s holiness and perfection that we recognize the depth of our own depravity, causing us to tremble at His Word. And it is in that moment as we stand trembling before the transcendent God that our hearts are humbled and prepared to behold the glory of Jesus Christ.

the shadow of the cross

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)

Imagine that you are on some country road all by yourself. There are no other cars around and no indication of civilization anywhere to be seen across the acres of one corn field after the other. The only thing that disrupts your endless view of the horizon is this ominous, terrifying F-5 tornado. Your car radio blares with emergency warnings, instructing all who are in this tornado’s path to find shelter immediately. You realize that you are in the direct path of this tornado, but even more alarming is the realization that you have nowhere to go. You are in fact helpless.

That’s when, out of the corner of your eye, you notice someone waving their arms, trying to get your attention. They seemed to have shown up out of nowhere but are now motioning for you to follow them into what appears to be a bunker; an underground refuge. So you follow in faith that this bunker will protect you and suddenly find yourself out of harm’s way. From the refuge of this bunker you are now able to see this F-5 tornado for what it really is – a magnificent, overwhelming, unnerving natural phenomenon that possesses unspeakable power. Without fearing your own demise, you are able to take in the full magnitude; the awe-inspiring massiveness and greatness of this F-5 tornado. And not only do you observe with fear and trembling as the tornado passes by, but you also experience a reverence and an awe-inspired gratitude for the bunker that protected you from such inescapable annihilation.

The disciples had an experience similar to this as the storm raged around them. They experienced a fear for their own lives. They knew that they were helpless against the unstoppable power of the storm and therefore feared that they would be lost to the violence of the waves. What is interesting about this first-hand account of Jesus’ miraculous power is that Mark mentions the terror expressed by the disciples only after Jesus calms the storm. Of course, their cries – “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” – imply fear, but it is only in verse 41 after Jesus rebukes the storm and tells it to be still that Mark actually notes the terror of the disciples.

Likewise, there is a certain fear that we get to experience in the shadow of Jesus’ power to save unlike the fear expressed by Old Testament believers. Just as the disciples trembled at the power that Jesus demonstrated in calming the sea, so too do we tremble at the power displayed by Jesus on the cross as he satisfied the wrath of God against all sin. Our trembling at the cross however can never be fully known or truly expressed until we first recognize what exactly it is that the cross continuously saves us from.

the fear of the lord

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)

Pastor J.D. Greear describes the fear of the Lord as ‘a recognition of the size of God.’ Aside from a real trembling before the Lord in right, reverent fear of him, we will never, as Proverbs 9:10 assures, attain a true wisdom and understanding of God. When our view of God grows too small, we do not fear His sovereignty. When our faith and trust in Him becomes too manageable, we begin trusting in ourselves rather than His omnipotence. When He is diminished to a mere being that is only slightly greater and wiser than ourselves, we become arrogant and lofty in our thinking; becoming wise in our own eyes rather than dependent on His omniscience. How does this happen? Consider the words of Grace Thornton in her book, I Don’t Wait Anymore: “If we don’t realize how big the Kingdom on the horizon is, we risk seeing God as really small here. And if the Light on the horizon isn’t so bright that it’s nearly tangible, the small here can become really big.”

When we reach for the Word of God as a remedy against our fear of this world, God only becomes slightly larger than our fears or problems. He is diminished to be only wise enough, powerful enough, and sufficient enough to ease our fears, and that’s it.

Think about the massive F-5 tornado that you encountered on the desolate country road for a moment. What would the bunker have meant to you apart from the presence of that F-5 tornado? Nothing. It would have been a simple bunker with no real or necessary power to save. Without an acknowledgment of God’s wrath and an assent to our own helplessness in light of His justice, the cross of Jesus Christ would bear no real necessity or power to save.

The unstoppable and overwhelming, indisputable justice of God serves as an agent that prepares our hearts to deeply treasure the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This right understanding and fear of God’s wrath is necessary for us to recognize our deep-rooted depravity, which then elicits in our hearts a true and appropriate reverence and awe for the saving grace of Jesus Christ which stands between God’s wrath and our immorality. We tremble before the cross only when we recognize what the cross actually defends us from and then assent to the fact that we could not and cannot defend ourselves. When we recognize that the entirety of who we are as sinful human beings cannot bear under the weight of God’s holiness, we start down the path of wisdom; understanding the extent to which we need the cross. This prepares us to approach the cross of Jesus Christ with a humble and contrite spirit; trembling at the glory of His sacrifice and standing terrified at His power to save. A deficiency in understanding the magnitude and severity of the Storm that is God’s wrath and justice results in a minimized and diluted sense of Jesus’ love, grace, and power to save us from that Storm. When we lose sight of the greater problem that we inherently face as a fallen and broken people, we naturally become preoccupied with the ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Cor. 4:17, NIV) of this world rather than remaining eternally fixated on ‘God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6, NIV). A fear of man is derived when we forget to look beyond the cross into the ‘consuming fire’ that is the one and only sovereign and holy God Almighty. The beauty of the cross diminishes only when the reality of God’s wrath becomes inconsequential in our hearts and minds. When we rightly understand what it is that Jesus saves us from and firmly place our faith and confidence in the love and mercy of Christ, only then are we able to witness the magnificence and fullness of God’s righteous and holy power; bearing a right, reverent fear of the Lord from the security we have in the shadow of the cross.

Teach me your way Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. (Psalm 86:11-13, NIV)

When Jesus Gets Up to Greet You

Imagine yourself walking into a room filled with all those you hold dear.

Your friends, family, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and Jesus Himself are all there.

Now imagine you walk into that room and are immediately surrounded by all your loved ones. Everyone is so excited to see you. They want to be near you, talk to you, laugh with you, and simply enjoy your presence.

Pretty great, right?

But then you notice something.

Jesus didn’t get up to greet you like everyone else did.

Suddenly the euphoria of attention fades as you begin to wonder why He didn’t greet you. Nothing else seems to matter except for your growing desire to be greeted by Jesus; to simply feel His embrace.

No amount of attention could possibly hold any meaning because He didn’t get up to greet you.

I have often found it to be my strivings for social acceptance, approval, and praise that draws my attention away from Christ. This is not to say that these things are bad. I truly believe that God places the blessings of friendship and opportunity in our lives to help us grow and prosper. However, they must be approached and valued in moderation; never to be valued greater than the One who gave them.

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

All through college and even into the first several months of living on my own, I can see how much of what I did and set out to accomplish was for the sole purpose of social approval.

I went into college with a major that I didn’t particularly like, but it sounded good and looked nice on paper.

I involved myself with a group of people that didn’t necessarily bring out the best in me, but gave me the sense of acceptance that I so desired.

I pushed myself to the limit because it was socially frowned upon to not be as involved as possible; to not do everything I could to have that “college experience.”

Even now, I have found myself striving so hard to be that person that I think will be better accepted and celebrated that I forget to rejoice in the woman God has made me to be.

Being presently preoccupied with our social status keeps us from being eternally focused on Jesus Christ and our heavenly status as Children of God.

In reading through the Psalms, I found a time when David struggled with this very issue of social acceptance. In Psalm 142, we find David crying out to the Lord, expressing his soul aching pain of being overlooked by the world.

Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. (Psalm 142:4)

You can practically feel the pain in his words. While this may not resonate with everyone in the here and now, I can guarantee that at some point in your life, there will be a time when it feels as if you’ve been entirely overlooked by the world.

I’ve felt this way many times in the past and fully anticipate feeling this way again in the future. However, my favorite part about this Psalm is that David doesn’t stop there.

He never ends his prayers with a complaint and he never leaves us feeling sorry for him. In every Psalm, David returns to the glory of God, reminding himself and his readers of God’s perfect and holy character.

I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)

As David expresses the pain of being forgotten, in the same breath he also expresses the joy of being remembered and known by the one true God.

In the land of thriving and amidst the exhausting strivings and pursuits of the American Dream, Jesus Christ is our portion. He alone is our refuge.

Every day we find ourselves in this fight to gain or maintain social acceptance. I’ll admit to that – I’m one of the worst. I like to think that I am confident in myself, but when put in a position to either stay true to myself or gain further acceptance and praise, I will naturally fault to the latter.

This is simply the human condition.

Our human tendencies kick in when life tosses us to the side. Our natural reaction to being overlooked is to create for ourselves our own platform and our own source of glory, because as Pastor Austin Edwards from CityLight Church puts it –

We love our own glory more than we love His glory.

We like to create for ourselves a platform on which we can shine when we feel forgotten by the world and hidden in the shadows of others. We love our glory more than we love His glory, so we speak out, vying for attention and glorification. We scramble to do this and be that to ensure that we won’t be forgotten when we should instead be focusing on the truth that He remembers us and that He loves us.

Consider Noah’s story (Genesis 8:1), or perhaps Abraham (Genesis 19:29). Think about Rachel (Genesis 30:22) and the life of Sarah (Genesis 21:1). God is gracious and does for His people what He promises.

He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:8)

David shows us in Psalm 142 that even when we do feel forgotten by the world, God sees us. He knows us, He loves us, and most of all, He is sufficient for us. The God who remembered His covenant to Abraham and all those ‘Hebrews 11’ heroes-of-faith also abides by His covenant with you – that He will never leave you nor forsake you.

So when we find ourselves in these moments where we feel discounted by the world; cast to the shadows and forgotten – instead of trying to manufacture some means of being noticed, we should seek to praise and glorify His name for reminding us through the solitude that He is enough.

We have this hope that we can find sufficiency in Christ alone; in knowing that none of it really matters because any worldly pursuit, no matter how good it may be, is only secondary to knowing Christ and praising His name.

David knew this and prayed in verse seven that God would set him free from his prison, that he may praise His name.

The prison of social acceptance and approval is a condemning one; one that leaves us feeling empty and broken inside. But God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt.11:30) and the praising of His name will bring with it freedom from our bondage and relief from the chains of worldly pursuits.

When the presently preoccupying things of this world are disregarded, we are freed to look farther and deeper into God, His love, and His Kingdom’s purpose.

So let’s go back to our story and flip the imagery this time – now you walk into that same room, filled with the same people, yet this time, only one person gets up to greet you.

Jesus gets up off the couch and gives you a big hug as everyone else continues on with their own conversations. No one is showing any interest in the fact that you have just arrived, but it doesn’t really matter does it?

No amount of attention could possibly hold any meaning because Jesus got up to greet you!

When God Turns Your Period Into a Semicolon

Like most people, I would assume, I often look back on my teenage years with a cringe.

So. Many. Phases.

And weird ones to say the least.

I had that rap phase that we all go through (don’t try to deny it, we’ve all been there), the ‘way too many Silly Bandz’ phase, the tomboy phase, the ‘too much makeup’ phase, etc.

One of my favorites though was my beanie phase. I wore beanies all the time and while anyone who knows me now wouldn’t actually believe that, I did.

That phase was brought up recently by a good friend who mentioned that this was his first memory of me – wearing a beanie. This made me laugh as I rolled my eyes and tried to hide my embarrassment. Even though it’s funny, don’t we all sometimes wish those embarrassing phases (and any memory of them for that matter) would just stay tucked away in the past?

We place periods at the end of all those teenage phases and hope to God that we’ve heard the last of them but somehow they always seem to get brought back up.

On a more serious note, do you ever feel like that happens with the hurtful, pain-ridden, cringe-worthy times in your past? Perhaps that big ‘why?’ that resurfaces in your memories every now and then –

Why didn’t this happen?

Why did that happen?

Why couldn’t it have gone the way I wanted it to?

Perhaps those mistakes of the past and the slipups that we wish we could forget but somehow seem to reappear in our lives.

Maybe it’s that big ‘what if?’ in your life –

the ‘what if’ relationship that got away;

the ‘what if’ opportunity that you let slip through your fingers; or

the ‘what if’ word that you didn’t realize at the time would be the last word you would ever speak to that loved one who passed away too soon.

Why does the hurt always resurface?

We ended that sentence in our lives with a firm period in hopes that we would never have to deal with it again but have discovered that God removed the period and replaced it with a semicolon.

Now, for those of you who struggle with semicolons (even English nerds like myself do at times, so no worries), a semicolon is what leads into a ‘second thought’ of an already complete sentence.

A semicolon joins two clauses that could, on their own, stand as complete sentences in order to demonstrate the relationship between the two.

After spending several hours contemplating where I wanted this blog to go and praying that God would direct my search, I decided on the story of Moses.

His cringe-worthy past of having lived a life of ease and plenty while his people were tortured and enslaved under the very hand of the man he called father was a memory I’m sure Moses wanted to forget; to place a firm period at the end of and never hear of it again.

Why else would he flee to Midian (Exodus 2:15)? He wanted to get as far away from his life in Egypt as possible and forget any and every memory of it.

Yet we find in later chapters of Exodus that God had a different plan in mind.

He removed Moses’ period at the end of that sentence in his life and replaced it with a semicolon to demonstrate the relationship between the hurt of Moses’ past and the glorious future of a renewed and redeemed people.

Sure, each could have stood independently on their own as complete sentences. Moses could have lived the rest of his days with a hurtful past and a mediocre future and God certainly could have freed His people another way.

But praise God that He does not leave us to wallow in our own self-pity.

God continues on with our story.

He continued the good work He started in Moses when he was first set adrift in the Nile and completed it in the freeing of His people.

God used that which Moses wished to forget for His ultimate glory.

So think back with me to that ‘why?’ or that ‘what if?’ in your life. What is that one thing, or maybe multiple things, that makes you cringe and want to run as far away from as possible?

For me it’s the hurt and embarrassment of a bad relationship.

When it ended, I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from it as I could and never hear of it again. But several years later, I found that God had taken the period that I had so firmly placed at the end of that time in my life and replaced it with a semicolon.

I’ve been able to use that unique and painful experience to meet others right where they are at. Where I thought my situation was unique to only me, God showed me that when we struggle with something, we are never alone in that struggle because someone else is probably dealing with the same thing.

On top of that, when God lays it on our hearts to share those painful experiences, regardless of how much it hurts to relive those raw memories, it often means that someone needs to know that they are not alone; that someone else understands what they are going through.

I’ve seen God create a relationship between the pain I experienced three years ago and the healing of others who have or who are dealing with that same hurt right now.

I don’t know the ‘second thought’ God has in mind for your sentence. I don’t know what He plans to do after the semicolon, but I do know that God is good.

God grants us the opportunity for a second chance; a chance to turn a sentence that we may not like into something beautiful. A chance to see our pain play a part in the glory of His Name.

His semicolon is our redemption story.

God does not waste pain. He will use the ugly and redeem the past to make the future bright with hope. “Redemption doesn’t mean we won’t feel the pain, but it does mean that the pain will eventually have a purpose.”

He places semicolons where we have periods so that the hurt of our past is redeemed in the hope of our future, for what was intended for our harm, God intends for good…(Genesis 50:20).

 

 

*I must give credit where credit is due – thank you Brogan for the support and encouragement in my journey as an aspiring writer and also for sharing this great blog idea with me! This is one of my favorites by far!