Friday, September 19, 2014

Building a Testimony

One of my very best friends is a woman of 98 years.  Still sharp as a tack, we have engaging conversations.  She often asks me, "Why on earth would you want to visit an old person like me?"  This is why.  Because she challenges me in my relationship with God.  I look at her life and wonder at her strength of character. 

However, I also spend much time with young people who are still trying to find their way and establish what they believe.  And I come away with this thought:  a testimony is not gained by 'flowery beds of ease', but rather experience in life on rough terrain. 

I often counsel young people, "Accept the trial you are going through and rather than impulsively react, respond correctly.  Do the right thing, because God is giving you opportunity to build a testimony.  Twenty years from now, this difficult situation will have shaped who you are." 

Yesterday, some friends and I made an attempt at climbing a mountain.  There are two trails and not liking the one, which went straight up the hill, we sought to try the 'slightly easier' one.  Assuming we were on the right path, we took off with gusto.  But we had missed the trail head completely. 

Our 'trail' peetered out.  Yet, we were sure it must go this way, and so we stubbornly continued up without a trail.  The further we went the more precarious it became until at last we had gotten ourselves into a position of no return.  We could not go down and we could not get up.  We were a hairsbreath from calling 911 and asking for a helicopter to come rescue us.  (Instead, I texted my husband to first of all pray, and then be ready to come help us with shovel and rope.)

I was reminded of the predicaments we get ourselves into, especially when we go off the path God has for us.  We seek the goal, the same as everyone else, but we think we can arrive there our own way and stubbornly push ahead.  At last we come to a place where we have to face our mistake.

We should never have kept going up that hill.  It was terrifying and insane, complete with a scorpion crawling out of the bank at our faces.  But at the point of exasperation, we had to trust.  The only way out was to lean full force onto our arm reaching for the rock, while at the same time, straddling the crevice in a sideways motion.  It took great courage, and needless to say, bonding occurred among friends. 

The mighty right hand of the Lord lifts us up out of our predicaments.  Oh, it still is not easy, and we have to live with the consequences.  My friends and I were too emotionally fried and shaky to make it up the rest of the hill.  Instead we came down the easy trail which we found after arriving at the meadow, the trail we were supposed to have taken.  

God is so very merciful and is filled with compassion.  As we embrace difficulties and work through them our character gains depth and insight.  No one builds a great building overnight.  To build takes time, sweat, and tears.  Instead of mulling over the should haves, courage moves forward and seeks to get back on the correct path. 

Now that we are safe at home, we have a story to tell, a testimony.  And we are wiser for it. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

When the World Suffers

I've been sobered by the brutal persecution on the other side of the globe.  My first thought was of the martyrs in heaven crying out to be avenged of their blood.  Surely, a time is coming when our enemies will receive their just payment. (Rev. 6:9-11)

When we read in the Psalms where David cries out for his enemies to be destroyed we sometimes think it harsh, and wonder, is he right to pray that way?  But maybe we would not ask that question if we personally experienced these atrocities up close. (Psa.17:13-14)

Looking back at the very first murder, we see that Abel's blood cried out from the ground demanding justice. (Gen. 4:10) The Scriptures show that it is no small thing for innocent blood to be shed. (Prov. 6:16-17)  God takes notice.  Even the ground itself becomes witness of crimes committed and is tainted by them. (Psa. 106:38)  All of creation groans as it waits for justice and renewal. (Rom. 8:19-22)

And yet, except for the grace of God, I too am capable of the worst of crimes, because evil is embedded in my own heart.  It is kept at bay only by God's Holy Spirit who dwells within me. 

I'm amazed at how easily our lives shut out these unpleasantries.  Yesterday, as I wrote out my weekly calendar, I thought about all the things that concern me, such as volleyball games, music lessons, ministry meetings, parent/teacher conferences, and lesson preparation.  Not to mention friend outings, exercise, a food plan, and leisure.

But when the world suffers it places my life in perspective.  My difficulties seem small and frivolous.  Why does it matter if my kids win their volleyball game, or make the honor roll?  What does it matter how I decorate my house, that my clothes be stylish, or that my garden is weeded?  When the world suffers, it causes me to be more diligent about things of eternal significance.

The ease of our culture makes it hard to follow Christ.  Sometimes I wish for a little persecution, for a more difficult life, because I've learned that in those times my faith and prayers become more intense. Furthermore, communion with my Heavenly Father is deep and close.  But with ease and luxury comes a dangerous apathy.  It is so easy to be distracted and pulled into the wrong fights.

With the world in turmoil, one thing is certain.  Prayer has moved to a higher priority in my life.  In the secret place, I look to God who sees, who cares, and who is in control.  It is an easy thing for Him to destroy his enemies.  To Him, they are a mere drop in a bucket and the clouds are the dust of His feet.  (Nahum 1:3)

The world conflict places in my heart an urgent longing for our Righteous Judge to rule the earth.  My hope is not in man, but in the LORD who made heaven and earth.  I lift up my eyes, looking for His return. 

"...I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"  Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of the fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed."  Rev. 6:9-11