You've been missed....  

Posted by Bethany

It's been ages since I've posted here. In fact, I thought....maybe I never would again. My life has gone through the greatest upheaval so far in my short 30 years. I've been through a divorce and I had to leave the best job I've ever had. I've lost more friends than I can count and I've felt more broken than I ever thought possible. Worst, I've let God down and wandered miles away from Him, too.

But He is beyond amazing. Maybe that sounds syrupy, but I've been stunned over and over again by just HOW wonderful He is. Through everything, he's loved me and sent me blessings and pieces of joy when I didn't deserve or expect it.

In fact, I don't know if I could feel more grateful or happier than I am now. I now have a truly beautiful husband by my side, friends that I can count on...and I know that I've learned so much and grown so much through everything. A day doesn't go by without my heart feeling full to bursting with gratitude.

But...I didn't feel inspired to come online and post just to summarize my little story. I was surprised by this familiar verse:

"Don't worry. You trust God? well, trust me, too. My Father's house has plenty of room - if that wasn't true, you know I'd tell you! I'm going there now to get ready for you. And if I'm going to get it ready for you, don't you think I'll surely be back to bring you there? Then we'll be together again - forever." John 14:1-3 (my paraphrase)

Here's the picture I got... those men were so used to having Jesus right there with them – talking to them, laughing with them, reassuring them, teaching them...that they were heartbroken he was leaving. And he promised them a reunion and a happily ever after. But he wasn't just thinking of them. He has been preparing for me.  

Have you ever missed someone so badly, the ache was nearly unbearable? Well, here's a thought - Jesus had to have missed his besties. With such a great capacity for love and emotion as he has, he has missed them over the years more than I have ever missed anyone - even my baby when he died. But instead of hurrying to take them home, he's waited for me. Because he really wants me there, too. When he said, “then we'll be together” he meant me, too. 

I never thought about God missing someone before. It's a new and beautiful thought. And it's incredible to think that he'd put up that with, that he has kept on waiting because he couldn't bear not to have me (or you) there with him, too. 

What a reunion that's going to be! :-)

Life goals and so far beyond...  

Posted by Bethany

I decided on some life goals today. I want my life to includes a thorough exercise regime, plenty of sleep, consistent, relaxed time with God, a tidy house (but, of course), organized, efficient study, healthy, home-cooked meals...

You could say that what I want is a life of perfect harmony.  I'll take that!

I guess Paul might have liked such a life, too. But from my reading of 2 Corinthians 4, it doesn't sound like he often got to experience it. At times, ministry left him feeling confused, harassed and hurt badly.  Yet, he is optimistic about life. He explains, "While on the outside, we're wasting away, on the inside, we are being renewed more with each new day."  And later, "We are looking, not on the visible things around us, but on the things we can't see - they are eternal."

I can feel the silky magic of the satin on my bedquilt. I can see the pure blue sky through my window and I can still almost taste the yumminess of today's lunch (home made sushi). I can also feel the panic from overdue study crowding in on me. The chaos in my garage and other home messes jar my inner ear.

But all of this is transient. None of it will last - not the joys of a good dinner or the stresses of uni.

My life might never be perfect now. But eternity beckons my eye to look beyond my surroundings. A voice whispers, "Don't get so bogged down with life's hassles. Look into my eyes. Perfect harmony awaits in the land you can't see and the heart that holds you - now and then."

A gentle "tongue"  

Posted by Bethany

I read 1 Corinthians 14 today. I had spent several days in chapter 13, so I was just a bit afraid of the transition from the love chapter to the "tongues" chapter!

But God always surprises me.

I was fascinated by the way Paul handles the issue of tongues here. It is obvious that he has some serious concerns and as the image of the garbled worship services at Corinth appears,  you can't blame him! Yet Paul carefully and painstakingly takes his hearers through a journey of thought. He explains why their use of this spiritual gift is a problem and how. He doesn't lay down the law, or criticize them harshly. He even finds ways to praise them!

Paul certainly doesn't ignore the issues or sweep them under the rug. But he writes respectfully with words calculated to win hearts and confidence, not just to "make his point."

I was reminded of the gentleness of my Father, who says, "Come now and let us reason together..." (Is 1:16). As I read this chapter, I could sense his voice calling me to encourage and to 'rebuke' gently.

Better than life  

Posted by Bethany

I’ve struggled this past week. I’ve been stressed, I’ve gotten my priorities mucked and I’ve hurried through time with God.  Yesterday and today, I finally came back. I finally got back into the space where time doesn’t matter and all I can see is Him.

In these past two days, the message of the famous “love chapter” have spoken to me in a new and deep way. I have been awed, I have cried... and written pages upon pages in my journal!

Here are just a few excerpts:

"The most beautiful speeches, richest lyrics and most charismatic people in the world leave me empty and listless. The most moving sermons, most mind-bending truths and wisest theologians are hollow and painfully disappointing. Even desperate faith and grand charity - the charity that gives everywhere it turns and gives everything it has – all these leave me empty and angry, too.

There must be something more, something that can meet the hunger I find inside, something that can fill me, satisfy me, fulfill me. There must be something I can cling to, something that will answer my questions, nurture my soul and inspire my life.
Well, I’ve found it! 

It is all present in your love, dearest Father.

Like a richly perfumed flower, the tight bud opens to dazzle my eyes, warm my heart and enchant my senses… This love meets every hunger I have ever had, it answer every question my soul has ever whispered, it speaks deep into my soul and fulfills my hunger.  With Your love, Father, I am filled. Nothing can take it from me, nothing in life can compare with it and I would rather die than lose it.

I see it in your smiling eyes… depths of quiet pain, but brimful of wonder, of joy, of passionate love… depths that speak of a heart that cares for me in a way that no human soul ever truly can… those eyes see into the depths of my soul and they hold me.

Father... your love is everything I need.  Beside it, everything in life amounts to less than nothing.

My God, a servant  

Posted by Bethany

I was reminded of what I’m really like today... and how different God is from me.

I journeyed through 1 Corinthians 11 and found myself asking the question, “Hierarchy?”  when Paul spoke about headship. I felt protective and uncomfortable when Paul said, “the woman is the glory of the man” and vindicated when I read “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman...”  

As I strolled by the chaotic Corinthian church lunches, I had to cringe. I could see myself too clearly in the impatient-to-eat believers who grabbed their food “without waiting for anybody else”. I am impatient.

Then, there was Jesus.  Paul takes me back to "the night he was betrayed…" and I see my God taking the role of a slave and washing dirty feet, passing around the bread that symbolizes his own body broken for me.

While I’m shuffling along, puzzling, “Who is most important?” (the unspoken question hanging heavy: “What about me?”) it is then that I see God, the greatest of all, taking a bowl to wash my feet. It seems that I can read his eyes today. They whisper gently, “Status means nothing to me.  I am a servant. Will you follow me?”

My heart - and God's  

Posted by Bethany

Good morning!  I can hardly believe it is already Friday – the week is almost over and Sabbath is so close…

My reading for today was 1 Corinthians 10 – such an awesome, thought-provoking chapter!

Here are the things I learned about God:
  • God is not arbitrary – He is happy to answer the question “why?”
  • God is selfless and his kingdom is all about selfless love – each person caring for and nurturing the other.  This is just so beautiful!   
  • God is with me no matter what happens, especially for trials and temptations. Nothing takes him by surprise – there is always a way open to get out of the sticky situation untarnished.
  • God is not unreasonable!  He allows for variety and exceptions… in many areas, he gives us principles, rather than rules. They adapt to fit situations and meet human need.  But salvation is always the primary concern – others and our own.
  • There is a cosmic battle going on and I can’t dabble with evil and still be God’s.  Just can’t.
This verse challenged my heart: "So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.” (1 Cor 10:12)

I am reminded to invite God to search my heart. He calls me to plan to take time out on a regular basis for evaluation - he and I together. It is not safe to just coast along, letting life suck me in… while I rest on the assurance I knew yesterday.

I need to know today where I stand with God: to know for sure that He has all of my heart.  :-)

The tears of God  

Posted by Bethany

I can hardly write today.  I’m crying while I struggle to think and to put words together.

Let me try to explain:

I read 1 Corinthians 9 today. Paul writes about the “rights” he has willingly forfeited in his desperate bid to bring people to Jesus.  Finally he says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”  The emphasis is on all, and the final word, some appears as a discordant and jarring note.  Paul is doing everything he can in every situation he is in and with every person he meets, so that by every means within his power, only some will be saved!?

I felt sorry for Paul. 

But then I thought of God.

God longs to save each one of us so much that He does everything possible in order to reach our hearts.  He isn’t a God of half-measures. He is all in!  Paul speaks of being compelled to preach the gospel – it was no halfhearted choice, no toss-up between plan A or B!  He preaches because he can’t keep it in! The fire of passion and love burns in his bones and drives him.

Just so, God didn’t waver between the decision to save us or let us go. Even though the choice was difficult and painful - even though he knew it would cost him everything - it wasn’t really a choice.  His intense, deep love compelled him to reach out and to give his all so that he could rescue us.

But there is that haunting statement: “I have become all things to all men so that by all means I might save some!”

In the face of sin, even all of the heart-felt attempts of the all-powerful God of the Universe can only save some.  Sin has restricted God and robbed him of what his heart desires. God dearly longs to rescue each person this world has ever birthed. Every single heart that beats on this planet tugs desperately at his great heart. But God is not able to save all. Sin has robbed God and sin has cost God so much - not only the suffering of the cross, but also the loss of each individual that he couldn't save and that he must live without for eternity.

Revelation says that God will wipe away our tears. But who can wipe away His tears

How then can I love sin at all? How can I shrug my shoulders and keep a few of its souvenirs in my heart when it has hurt my dear Father so much?!

Oh Father, no! I hate it!  I’m so sorry for the “little sins” that I have let into my heart.  Father, I just hate what sin is doing to You and I want nothing to do with it.  Sin in all of its forms will be my enemy just as it is your enemy. I abhor it and I feel so angry and heart-broken for the pain it has caused to You… oh my precious Father…     

Growing in and with Jesus...  

Posted by Bethany

Good morning!!! This morning I planned an early start (4AM) because I NEED to get some serious research done, but I woke up instead at 3:30 from a nightmare.  It was one of those supernatural ones where something that seems demonic is attacking you and when you try to call the name of Jesus your voice doesn’t make a sound.  Has anyone else experienced that?  I’m  wondering this morning if such dreams really are demonic or imaginary?  Before last night, I haven’t had one for as long as I can remember… 

Anyway, I studied 1 Corinthians 8 today. The verse I’d like to share is the last part of verse 1: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

The way I used to think of these terms was:  “puffs up”  = makes one proud & “builds up” = encourages and nourishes the church community.

Bubbles are like truth without relationship:
beauty, but no substance.
I still think those concepts are there. But today, as I reflected on them, I saw something more.  I saw the two phrases as both referring to spiritual growth.  As I thought of “puffs up” versus “builds up”, I found myself picturing on the one hand a building erected brick by brick and an inflatable castle.  The castle “grows” a lot faster, but a little bit of pressure (a tiny puncture) and there is nothing to it. The house grows slowly, brick by brick, but it is strong, safe and dependable.  It won’t fall with slight pricks and annoyances – or heavy pressure.  It is solid.

It made me reflect that knowledge alone isn't a good Christian foundation and it won't lead to spiritual growth.  It is only in a relationship with Jesus that growth happens.  “We are His workmanship.” (Eph. 2:10)

Very practically, this reminds me of the emphasis that I used to put on knowing the truth (signs of the end, details of secret masonic orders and conspiracies, the right theory of righteousness by faith…) and feeling somehow that there was power in this knowledge and that “getting it right” would hugely impact my salvation.  But now I realize that apart from a real daily walk with God – where I meet with Him in the secret place of prayer and Bible study and then walk with him through the day, letting him lead and resting in Him – apart from that, all the truth in the world is worse than useless.  It will make me a proud, empty Christian who has no substance and no real heart change.

Oh Father, please always keep my eyes on You and my hand in Yours! 

Just what I needed...  

Posted by Bethany

I slept in today, and then I found myself getting caught up in the day instead of stopping to find myself in God first.  I ate breakfast, checked facebook, cuddled with Ben and edited my sister’s engagement pics.  Before too long, I noticed that I was feeling out of sorts and getting grouchy with my husband.  Then when I saw the time and remembered everything that is facing me today, I started getting stressed and panicky.  Plus I felt guilty and foolish for putting off my time with God.

I knew I didn’t have time for my study in Corinthians, so I kind of whispered a quick prayer, asking God where I should meditate.  The thought came just as quickly: Psalm 46.  I love Psalm 46, so I wasted no time in getting there and started reading it aloud.  For a second, it almost seemed too familiar and I thought, “I’ve already meditated on this Psalm really recently. Maybe I should pick another one…”  when I came to verse five and I remembered why it was so familiar.

Just a few days ago I wandered off and felt really disconnected from God after a time-wasting spree (mentioned in my “Understanding surrender” post).  After it, I prayed and cried and begged God for forgiveness and for a sense of closeness with Him again.  Then I read through Psalm 46.

I know this verse is speaking about Zion in its original context, but God spoke the words into my heart:

“God is within her, she will not fall:
God will help her at the break of day” 

When I got to that passage today I got goosebumps.  In today’s situation, so much like the last one, where I felt empty and alone, God reminded me that He is with me and that His Spirit is within me. I won’t fall.
The stress and fears of the day just rolled away.  God is with me, He is my strength and my safe place. I am at peace and confident now – IN HIM!


Posted by Bethany

Just sneaking in a few more profound thoughts from 1 Cor 7 - too fascinating to keep to myself! 

v 22: He who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave.

  • God is the ultimate master. He has bought us, so we do belong to him, yet he has bought us for freedom!  What a beautiful paradox! And truly, it is only in living for him and serving him that we can truly life free.  The chains of sin automatically attach themselves to us like powerful magnetic forces.  Only being united to Christ – being attached to him – can break that magnetic force and keep us free from oppressive slavery.  

And... last, you can't rightly blog 1 Cor 7 without talking about sex, so here it is!

v 4-5: "The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you..."
  • As a married woman, God calls me to pursue sexual intimacy! God created me to enjoy sexuality and it is a sacred union that God planned for us to discover and explore together in marriage.  Maintaining and protecting our sexual relationship will protect and guard our marriage - help keep it affair-proof!  (v 5) Wow…  some new thoughts for me there!  :-)