Posted by: princesswarna | September 15, 2014

Regenerate or Replace

Isn’t it funny? As that toddler ran through the rec center, he was talking big stuff, making demands of the adults, fussing at the soda machine for not dropping him a Coke, jabbering about the motor scooters on the colorful flyer he had crunched in his little fist. In his mind he was older and bigger than in his body.

I watched and laughed at his cocky assurance as I chatted with the pastor’s wife about her recent illness. For the last three months she had been in and out of the hospital, and the whole recovery process was proving to be quite long and tedious. Yet she still was thinking that she should be able to take her long beach walks and all-day shopping trips. Her eighty-plus years had not diminished her ambitions at all. In her mind she was younger and stronger than in her body.

Age doesn’t seem to reach into our souls, only our bodies. Because of Adam, our souls are born into depravity but not decay. Creation is born into beauty and wholeness but is subject to decay. That’s why even though our bodies are wasting away, our minds can be renewed day by day and our souls can be regenerated into new life through Christ’s redemption. So our souls, the very essence of who we are, will live eternally, either in a corrupt or a regenerate state, but our bodies must be replaced altogether.

All this to say that what we do with our souls here will matter in eternity, but what we do with our bodies only matters here. (The one exception would be sexual sin, which actually affects the soul.)  Herein lies the basis of one of Satan’s strategies, to focus our attention on our body instead of our soul. Then the body, which ceases to exist, becomes more important than the soul which does not. Perhaps that is why the Lord does not always heal our bodies immediately when they suffer. If Satan’s strategy is to magnify the flesh, God’s counter-strategy must at times be to diminish it, with the goal of increasing our attention to the soul.

This little guy is big enough to conquer all he encounters – until he falls and scrapes a knee. Pain brings caution, which in the wise leads to reflection. The flesh, at times our greatest enemy, may in God’s hands become our greatest liberator. At that moment we become More Than Conquerors.

Posted by: princesswarna | September 7, 2014

What is grateful?

My prayers divide themselves into gratitude for happy things and petitions for unhappy ones. I see them as good things and bad things, respectively. But what if the unhappy things are also good? What if some of the happy things are not good at all? My perspective from inside the flesh is flawed. Only in the spirit can I see it accurately.

Good things draw me nearer to my God.

Bad things draw me farther away.

Job’s hardships opened his spiritual eyes, as he said at the end, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Because of his hardships he stands as an example to us all.

So my prayers must change.

In all things give thanks.

In hard things draw near so even those things are brought under his lordship and nothing is wasted.

Be suspect and prayerful about easy things. They could be a trap to lure me from grace and trap me in comfort or self sufficiency or self righteousness or complaint.

Posted by: princesswarna | August 29, 2014

Counterfeit Covenant

It’s hard to spot a forgery, especially a good one. For artwork or money, it takes either setting it side by side with the original, or the eye of a master who knows the original well enough to discern the flaws in the fake.  But for something more dynamic, something with function and movement, it might require separating it from the original to see how it operates.  Take a person for instance. How hard is it to spot the phoney?  Jesus spent a lot of time teaching us to spot phoneys, and he had no qualms about pointing out the counterfeit righteousness of the Pharisees.  However, it wasn’t to teach us how to become expert finger-pointers. Rather, He wanted us to be able to discern and remove the log from our own eye first, then help someone else remove

Abraham and Lot are an excellent example of seeing the counterfeit by separating it from the original.  At a glance, Abraham and Lot seem to look quite similar.  Both were traveling in a foreign land, both were phenomenally wealthy, both were monogamous in a polygamous culture.  Only one had any children, though. Advantage Lot. They traveled everywhere together, so it might have been hard to tell who was leading.  Even the day they separated, Lot seemed to be the one in charge.  Lot looked around, considered the required resources to maintain his household, and chose accordingly. Another point to Lot for pragmatism and providing for his family.  It is not immediately evident that Abraham was actually leading from a position of humility, and it is certainly not apparent that Yahweh had chosen Abraham to carry the holy covenant into countless generations to come.

Consequently, Lot left Abraham feeling very self-confident.  All things considered, he had good reason to be, what with children, flocks, and phenomenal possessions. Isn’t prosperity proof of God’s blessing? And Lot was loaded.  Abraham claimed to have spoken with God, but frankly it sounded a little like delusional boasting. Lot just wasn’t impressed by his uncle’s claims of some special communication with the Creator, because from where he sat there just wasn’t any difference between them, at least not in Abraham’s favor! The problem with counterfeits is they are often the last to realize it.

So when Lot got to Sodom, he didn’t live in the suburbs. He moved right into the heart of wickedness, probably thinking he could keep the evil out of his home, that his family’s convictions were strong enough to withstand whatever the city could throw their way. He had done a good job as a husband and father, after all.

Next he placed himself at the city gates (Gen 19:1), because that’s where wise and seasoned judges gathered each day to resolve minor disputes and dispense justice.  Lot fancied himself an authority on all things just and he was going to make a difference in this place, he was sure of it. In fact, he recognized the travelers who came to the city that day as being unique. He was very discerning, after all, and he didn’t walk in the sins of Sodom. He and Abraham set a different standard in their conduct, and it was his responsibility to enlighten the heathens.

He invited these two men to his home, saving them from the dangers of sleeping out in the open.  He assumed the noble role of protector over them, completely missing the fact that they were there to save him.  Abraham had secured their help through his intercession with the Lord.  Lot didn’t think he needed saving, though, and neither did his family.  However, his delusions of influence began to crumble when he tried to convince his son-in-law to flee Sodom with him.  He was scoffed out of the house.  That must have been confusing, to say the least, and he evidently wasn’t thoroughly convinced destruction was coming, because the angels had to physically drag the four of them out of Sodom. 

The story doesn’t get better.  The entire plain and everything on it was destroyed, and that must have included Lot’s flocks and herds.  He lost everything, even his wife who just couldn’t let go of their home.  It left him not just shaken, but fear-stricken.  He couldn’t stay in Zoar where the angels had left them because he was terrified of the people.  His self-confidence melted with Sodom and revealed a huge abyss in his soul where faith should have been.  So he took his daughters, all he had left in the world, and hid in the mountains.  Apparently, he had also failed to pass along his standards of righteousness to his daughters, too, because they each got him drunk and seduced him into incest.  And that is the last we hear of Lot until 2 Peter 2 where we read that he was actually tormented in his righteous soul by the evil deeds around him.  He really had a sense and a desire for righteousness, but he did not have a covenant or relationship with the God who defines righteousness. 

I have seen this dynamic at work over and over, both in the church and in the world.  People usually think they are far better than they really are, whether it’s a hotel security guard who thinks he’s as skilled as a special ops soldier, or a lukewarm Christian who fancies himself the very standard of holiness. 

So what do we gain from this?  Not a thing if we merely observe the dynamic at work in others.  Ask someone else these questions about you.  Do I talk to people like I know what their problem is and I know how to fix it? Do I have an “us and them” mentality, like there are different levels of good and I am the one to make the comparisons?  Do I never question my salvation because I know I haven’t really done anything that bad? Most importantly, do I love others enough to give them the freedom to choose the best of the best, while I trust God for what’s left?

Posted by: princesswarna | August 19, 2014

Waiting to See

Sometimes God’s most precious gifts are slow to come, developing desire, building anticipation, creating a longing we might not otherwise have. Adam had to wade through every pair of animals to realize he himself did not have a mate. When God finally created Eve, Adam was thrilled with a satisfaction he probably would not have had if she had just been part of the whole garden package. God wanted her to stand out.

Also Abram had to wait a long, long time for Isaac, during which God kept talking about Abram’s descendents, kept refreshing his promise, building a deep, aching anticipation in him. You can hear the ache in Genesis 15 as Abram asks God what He could give him of any worth since Abram had no one to hand it down to. Finally, along came Isaac, and Abram’s joy far surpassed what it would have been if Isaac had come decades sooner.

God made the Israelites wait for the Promised Land because they were ungrateful and faithless.  They talked about going back to Egypt and enslaving themselves again, because they couldn’t see past their little momentary comforts.  So severe was their impairment that God had to prune off an entire generation in order to develop one that could share His more eternal plan.  This wait built a holy, reverent expectation, an awareness of God’s bigger plan and greater glory.

Indeed,  the greatest grace God develops through our anticipation is longer vision.  We begin to look beyond ourselves, more and more aware of how short our span is in time. We start to want something that will outlast us,  to leave behind a piece of ourselves that will validate our existence.  The object of our desire becomes more than an end, but it serves as a curtain on the stage of eternity, opening on new vistas and bigger opportunities.

This kind of waiting is a gift in and of itself.  God is eternal and it pleases Him for us to think eternally.  Sin has made us small and shortsighted, but waiting on God renews us to our original genetics, which is the image of God. That’s why we run without growing weary and rise on wings of eagles. Our vision lengthens like the morning shadow, promising a future far beyond this little world.

Posted by: princesswarna | August 13, 2014

Reflections

I have in my hand a little broken shard of a mirror, only a few square inches.  When I look in it, I see a small piece of me – one eye and part of my nose, or a section of my left cheek and part of my ear.  But it really wasn’t meant for that.  That’s not the reason it was given to me.  What I’m supposed to do is take it out in the full sun and use it as a signal, a beacon that reflects the light and shows the way home for the lost and weary traveler.  As I point this little piece of glass at just the right angle, it comes alive with the brilliance of the sun, and those in its beam, even across a deep valley or a fierce battlefield, can follow the light to a safe place. 

That’s what our little gifts are – pieces of a mirror.  God only knows how they all fit together, but if they are aimed to reflect His glory and not ours, they serve the purpose of the Giver.  As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and polish away all the sinful habits that smudge and darken its surface, it will reflect the Son’s brilliance just that much more. 

What is your mirror?  Is it pointing away from you, or do you sit staring at it, admiring the sheen?  Probably a little of both, if you’re like me.  Imagine the brilliance and effectiveness when we all point our little gifts toward the One who gave them to us!  How many wandering and weary saints will find their way home to their Father!

Posted by: princesswarna | June 5, 2012

Faith and Fear

I was considering Ps. 27, and I noticed a couple of things. First, David expresses both a phenomenal faith and a some fearful lamentation. So often I can feel both at the same time, and it is a real battle to end on the side of faith as David does here.

But there is something else. When David expresses his faith, he is speaking about God. He is speaking to others (or himself) about how great and faithful is God, and He makes it personal – “I may dwell in the house of the Lord… He will hide me … He will lift me high.” Yet when he laments his situation and expresses his anxiety, he is speaking to God alone. He doesn’t rattle anyone else’s faith with his doubts and pleas, but he does feel free to be completely honest with God.

In light of this, I will endeavor to follow this pattern – express the faith to others, build them up in their most holy faith, even as I continue to honestly pour out my fears, anxieties, and pleas to God Himself. I don’t have to remind God how faithful He is, and I certainly cannot hide from Him how afraid I am!

Posted by: princesswarna | May 31, 2012

Spread Your Garment

Spread your garment over me -

Wrap me in the ancient folds,

Your cloak of Lordship smoothed

And wrinkle-free,

Soft and aromatic, full of Spring.

And I crawl

In warm security

Breathing deep as those who slumber well

And sigh

Beneath the sovereignty

of my King.

Posted by: princesswarna | May 11, 2012

What Do I Know of Holy?

There is an aspect of holiness that I am beginning to see in the Word, but I have not heard expounded elsewhere.  Maybe I just haven’t been listening closely, but now that I am becoming aware of it, I am taking a fresh look at sanctification.  “Be holy as I am holy.”[1] I have heard this my whole life, and I have made a pretty good stab at living it as I understood, though not always successfully.  My understanding of holiness was two-fold.  First, there is the imputed holiness, that righteousness we receive in Christ at salvation as He takes our sin and clothes us in His holiness.  It is this holiness that allows us to enter the very presence of God with confidence.  Then there is the holiness that we walk out day to day, making choices to go this way instead of that, to NOT be conformed to the world but be transformed in the renewal of our minds.  It is this holiness that has taken on new meaning for me.

I guess I saw holiness like the Ten Commandments – a flat, two-dimensional rock engraved with a bunch of do’s and even more don’ts.  But it was a wonderful list in that it taught me how to be pleasing to God.  So, recently this rock that I thought was flat and broad has begun to turn a bit, and I am seeing a depth I couldn’t see from the front.  It started in the Holy of Holies, where I am to enter boldly.[2]  This most sacred place holds the key to God’s definition of holiness.  If He is going to create a room and call it the Most Holy Place, it stands to reason that its nature and contents would have holy significance.

Behind the veil

This room in the Old Testament temple represented the most sacred place on earth, the only place God’s glory dwelt, and it could be entered but once a year, only by the High Priest, and not without a blood sacrifice for both his sins and those of the people.  There was a Holy Place that could be entered daily by the priest, but the Most Holy Place was strictly limited.[3]   First, by God’s design this place could only be entered by invitation, by a man chosen by lot.  Second, even though he was invited to come, he had to make preparations before entering.  He had to offer a sacrifice, taking a life and sprinkling the blood in the room and on the objects there to cover even the unintentional sins of the people and himself.  If he did not first offer a sacrifice, he himself would lose his life.   

Second, this room in the Old Testament temple held a few very specific things.[4]  There was the golden altar of incense where the High Priest would burn the holy incense once a year.  This represents the pleasing aroma of intercessory prayer, of one praying for the benefit of another.  Then there was the amazing mercy seat of pure gold that perfectly fit atop the Ark of the Covenant, as the redemptive mercy of Christ completely covers the requirements of the Law, and above all that were the cherubim who wait on God, serving His bidding and offering Him unending praise and worship.

The Ark of the Covenant is very revealing itself.  It contained three articles.  First was some of the manna from the Israelites’ desert years – evidence of God’s kind provision to sustain a wayward people.  Also this is where the tablets were kept on which were engraved the requirements of the first covenant, a revealing of who is the great I AM and what pleases Him.  The third article in the Ark was Aaron’s staff, a memorial of God choosing someone to represent the people before Him.  This family, the descendents of Levi, sacrificed an earthly inheritance among the people in that they did not receive a portion of land as their own.  The Lord was their inheritance.  They offered sacrifices and were responsible to instruct the people well in God’s Law, and from them was chosen that one man each year to risk his very life to stand in their place in the Holiest of Holies.

The common thread

In all these symbols there is one common thread – sacrifice.  From the animal sacrificed before entry to each item within the room, the Most Holy Place represented in every possible way, the sacrifice of God for man, of man for God, and the sacrifice of man for man.  This room echoed the two Greatest Commandments – love God above all, and love your neighbor as yourself.  It was a completely selfless room, which is why the earthly version could be entered so rarely, only by invitation, and at great peril. Selflessness is not natural for us.

Remember the Sabbath

The Fourth Commandment demands that we keep the Sabbath holy.  The Pharisees had one understanding of this, but during His life on earth Jesus repeatedly shattered the accepted definition and laws of His day pertaining to the Sabbath.  Jesus often did miracles on the Sabbath.  He healed or cast out demons, and it was a huge issue with the Pharisees.  Their understanding of the fourth Commandment was that to keep the Sabbath holy a person was to do no work at all.  If someone wanted to be healed, let them come some other day.  Holiness was vital, and Jesus could not be holy if he were going around healing and delivering people from demons on the Sabbath.   “Like everything else He touched, Jesus put this law into its true position and light. He rescued it from the hands of the Scribes and Pharisees and showed it as God would have us esteem it, a day of holy rest, holy service and merciful works.”[5]  I believe Jesus was not only showing us what the Sabbath was to look like, but in these acts of sacrifice (for it cost Jesus power and reputation to heal someone) He was also giving us a visual example of holiness.

So, what I see in all the above is this very interesting twist, that holiness is purity, and purity is selflessness.  Anything holy, anything sanctified, is a thing (or life or moment or place) that is not me-focused.  That includes my body, not my own but a temple of the Holy Spirit.[6]  It includes my finances, of which I am merely a steward.[7]  It includes my time, which I must guard for the days are evil.[8]  The reason God did not permit the people to work on the Sabbath is because working, while essential and blessed the other six days, is still a self-benefitting act.  We increase our income, grow our business, add to our barns, so to speak.  The Sabbath is not for any of that.  Beyond being a blessed rest we desperately need, it is holy and so must be selfless.

When I aspire to be holy as Christ is holy, I am committing to laying down my life, my success, my plans and aspirations, my self-pleasing ways in favor of a God-centered, others-focused life.  What an honor and privilege!

There is a song entitled “What Do I Know of Holy,” and the words have resonated with me for many months now.  As the song says so eloquently, “Where have I even stood but the shore along your ocean?”  I stand on this shore staring at a vast sea of love, salty with the holiness of sacrifice, and I long to explore its depths and breadth, to feel it all around me and float in its vastness.  The paradox is that the very hedonism of these desires will be satisfied only in the service and pleasure of others.  This is who our God is, for His delight is in the sacrifice of Christ for the benefit of mankind.  This is holiness.

[1] 1 Pet 1:16

[2] Heb 4:16, 10:19-22

[3] Heb 9:1-7

[4] Heb 9:3-5

[6] 1 Cor 6:19-20

[7] Matt 19:11-26  This parable is minimally about finances, but reaches into other realms as well.

[8] Eph 5:15-16

Posted by: princesswarna | February 2, 2012

Draining the swamp

I can so relate to David of the Bible.  I feel like I know him personally, like I’ll get to heaven and we’ll embrace like old friends and take a long walk to talk about this crazy life.  Really, the only reason I feel like I know him is because he allowed all of us to know him.  He understood that what God really wants is truth even in the inward being (Ps. 51:6), so he told the truth, good and bad.  In the process he became a man after God’s own heart.  I want to be known as that, but I don’t really want to be known.  Instead of being open about my failures and sins, I try to camouflage them.  I guess I figure if I deny or hide them, I’m lying, but if I just camouflage them it isn’t really lying.  Well, it isn’t really truth either.

 

I have met some amazing people, and the more I get to know them, the more I realize how very healthy David was.  These people have learned (and it was definitely a process) to be who they really are, all the time.  Not that they never put on masks like I wear most of the time, but when they look in the mirror and see someone else’s face they do something about it and take off the mask.  The result for me is that I feel more and more at ease around them, and – most amazing – I am more confident of God’s love for me.  My eyes are starting to open to just how much the Lord really loves and accepts me, and how that is really all that matters.

 

When I hide my sin, I am eaten up by it.  But when I simply acknowledge my sin, it hounds me and clings to me like a thick muck, turning hard and crusty.  I have to actually speak it as confession, and that to others, not just to God (James 5:16).  There’s the rub.  Add to the guilt a hefty fear of rejection, and you have the makings of a stagnant swamp – the kind of place where alligators love to hunt.  So, I either open up or get eaten up!  Ugh.  This walk is so stinking hard.

Posted by: princesswarna | February 1, 2012

Gator jaws

You know, I sit here thinking, “Great.  I blew it again.  What good am I to the Kingdom?  How can I ever be used by God?”  Because I did blow it again.  One of the scenarios in Psalm 107 fits me to a tee right now:

Psa 107:17-18  Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;  (18)  they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

OK, I’m not so desperate as to hate food, and I am not at death’s door, but I was (and too often am) a fool in my sinful ways.  What’s more, there have been times when I felt my sin mounted up to Heaven itself, a monument to my folly.  During those times I have lost my appetite for food, for pleasure, even for life.  Here is where spiritual maturity is so vital, and where we discover how mature (or not) we are.

Condemnation is an insidious enemy who lies stealthily in wait like an alligator in the tall marshy grasses.  He knows sin will come along, because we carry it within us, so he waits for us to mess up again.  As soon as we drift too far from our confidence in Christ’s completed work, he lunges, jaws wide.  Did you know gators do not always devour their prey when they catch it?  With larger prey, a gator will often entangle it in the grasses, having already inflicted serious wounds.  Then he simply waits for the bacteria he injected with his filthy teeth to finish the job.  He will go back to the dead prey days later and enjoy a meal that doesn’t fight back.  I read of a woman who escaped a gator only to die in the hospital from the bacteria that ravaged her body.  This is exactly Satan’s tactic when it comes to our sin.

Hebrews 5:12-14 rebukes the reader for not maturing in the faith, for being unskilled in the word of God.  The idea is continued in chapter six as he provokes the Hebrews to move on to maturity.  Then he introduces the alligator of condemnation.  Heb. 6:4 begins “For…” meaning because.  Here is the danger of not maturing and having a firm grasp of the word.  The immature enjoys all the goodness and delight of his new salvation, merely tasting the heavenly gift and the word, but not drinking deeply, searching it out, and obtaining a deep understanding.  Then he messes up.  He falls back into old sin habits and worldly patterns, but because he has not matured in his understanding of GRACE, he thinks it is impossible to be again restored.  To his untrained mind, it would be like crucifying Christ all over again – which in itself is impossible.  Christ died, once for all, the just for the unjust, and He completed (perfected) that work.  Knowing the shame and the pain Christ endured for him, he realizes he has shown Him contempt by sinning.

Do you hear the gator swishing through the rushes?   He sees easy prey, for the young are always easiest to catch.  Chomp!  Down come the jaws of condemnation, and if he is really successful he will be able to wrap this guy up in the rushes and let his own conscience do the rest.  As Heb. 6:6 says, it is to their own harm, because Christ is not harmed by our failures, nor is He the least shaken by them.  He defeated sin and death – past tense, perfect, complete.  But if we are not maturing in our faith, we don’t know that truth.  Our ignorance becomes our greatest enemy.

The longer I sit and think about how I blew it, the closer the predator can get and the greater the danger.

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