Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eden...the garden of the LORD.

Isaiah 51:3 .....Eden, .....the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

I read this last night on my journey through Isaiah. I've taken it out of context a bit, here Isaiah is actually talking about how he will comfort and restore the Jewish people (Zion). The full verse actually reads; 
            "3For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody."

I've never read this verse before last night and we've had Eden picked as a name for our second daughter for a long while now. I have often, this last year, felt like captured Israel, waiting on the Lord to restore me and revive me; to come charging in to save the day and make all things in my world right again. So many times I've said, "But Lord, my son is still dead. Are you JUST going to stand there and watch? You know, YOU CAN change all of this if you want to." Because God, of course, needs reminded by me of what He can and cannot do??? Um, no. But still, why then? Why am I fighting this battle if all he has to do is speak and all my trouble will be put to rest? The best answer I have is "I-dun-no?" I do know that out of the ashes (ha! no pun intended) of the last year I have grown closer to Christ. My walk is more beside Him, instead of running ahead or struggling to catch up from behind. I know that I trust his promises more fully now and have witnessed His faithfulness in my darkness and unbelief.

So if He promises to comfort and restore Zion, which is also a promise he gives to me, then I will believe Him. And it is no coincidence that this verse holds so much meaning to me AFTER we picked out Eden's name. Beauty, joy, gladness, thanksgiving and a voice of melody (which I take to mean a heart full of praise, rather than a beautiful voice); what more could I ask for in a daughter or in my own healing??

The book of Isaiah has been such a comfort to me during my pregnancy, it's taking a long time to read it all, but that is mostly because it takes so much time to process all the gems I've found there. The whole first half of the book is about how God will lay waste to the people of Israel because of sin, but then you come to a turning point when God decides that it is time for His children to be reclaimed and ransomed. God so perfectly balances wrath and mercy, righteous hate and love, justice and grace. I almost stopped reading Isaiah in the first half because I was so confused by how my good, loving God could choose and cause the desolation of the ones he calls His children. It's because justice, wrath, and righteous hate are each 100% of God's person just as mercy, love and grace are. And, frankly, if God isn't going to exact wrath on Satan and sin, I want nothing to do with Christianity. But He is/has/will, so I do want in.

Since it is so close to Christmas, I though I'd pick a Christmas song. O Come Emmanuel is one of my favorites and it fits this theme of God rescuing and restoring so nicely.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Will and Grace

For a long time I've thinking about Will and Grace. It's not what you think. What I mean to say is Free Will and Divine Grace, not the T.V. show. That is - the freedom we have to choose and the grace God provides when our hearts become rebellious toward Him and we do something stupid, i.e. sin. Lately I have been concentrating mostly on grace, how I express it to others, and the amazing lengths God has gone to show it to me.
   Now I want to tell you a story. There was once a young girl, beautiful, smart and full of passion for the things of God. She was a leader in her church among the youth and everyone had high expectations of her. This young woman did all the right things and said all the right things to all the right people. But somewhere in the mix of the world she allowed her mind to go astray. She began thinking wrong thoughts. And soon after, during her last year of high school she met a handsome man. This man fell in love with this girl and she fell in love with him too. But because the young lady's mind was already compromised and her heart was full of rebellion, she soon began to give in to temptation. Her lust for the young man turned into fornication. She was a genius at hiding it...... lying had always been an easy specialty for her so no one need be the wiser. But the Bible is always right and it promises in Numbers 32:23 "..... be sure your sin will find you out." And so it did, the young woman became pregnant just weeks before she gradated high school. So ended a respected reputation and many other things. It is now 4 1/2 years later, and God has been so good. She married her handsome man and has a new and better relationship with Christ built on truth and trust and much grace.
     Recently the young woman heard of a leader in a nearby church who's sin has found him out also. He and his wife are going through a divorce and their are rumors of an affair. Several affairs actually on the part of this man. As far as the young woman knew this was rock solid marriage between two Godly, Christian people. But like her own past life, it has been a facade for many years.

Now I get to the juicy parts..... the young woman is me (many of you already know this) and I do actually know a man in this position but he needs not to be named. We can all think of someone with a similar story. So insert whatever name that immediately comes to mind for you.

When I heard this story I was instantly 1)Shocked, 2)Angry, 3)Judgmental. That's right, I pointed the finger with the rest. And I'm ashamed for having done so. Out of all people I should have been the first to pray for repentance and healing for this family, I should have been understanding and full of grace. How quickly I had forgotten just what God brought me back from and where he has carried me to. What this man and his family need and will continue to need is not harassment or whispers or wagging of tongues, but compassion, grace, and prayer. They need kindness and forgiveness and to be able to come to their fellow Christians, even in their brokenness and find love. My daughter has a book with a poem in it that goes like this;

Little words can mean so much
When out hearts and lives they touch
Once little word none can replace
This little word is Grace.

It means no matter what you do
God's love is reaching out for you.
So if you've been bad today
God's grace is just a prayer away.

That is the best definition of grace I have ever heard. It is not making excuses for sin. It is not ignoring it. It's not condoning sin. It is not even allowing someone to continually hurt you with their sin. It is loving the person in the midst of their sin. No matter what you do, God's love is reaching out for you.

I saw Mr. Insert Name out shopping just the other day. He didn't have a cart, so he wasn't there to grocery shop. And he was walking around sort of aimlessly it seemed. If I were going to guess.... I'd say he was lonely and bored and just needed to get out of the house. And then I thought about the likely hood of his having spent Thanksgiving alone and how he will also likely be spending Christmas alone. There is always consequence for sin. This man would hardly look me in the eye and would barely speak to me, trying as best he could to avoid me. This is the brokenness and death of sin. I told him I was praying for him, but I wonder does he understand that my prayers are for healing? For those around him to show compassion, kindness, and grace? That someone will come along side him and reassure him that God still wants him, wants a new, better, deeper relationship with him? And even wants to one day use him again? I know that when people used to tell me they were praying for me I always thought they were patronizing me. Or were asking God to make me stop sinning, to be a "good girl" again. But maybe some of them were asking God to heal my heart and bring me back into a passionate relationship with Christ. Maybe some of them were asking God to show me how captivated He is by me and how much He loves me.

I am so thankful for my Free Will to choose Grace instead of condemnation. I am thankful that God allows me to choose to show others the love He has faithfully shown me. For what is love if it is a forced love?