Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Croucher

I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis recently. It’s really so different when you read it as an adult. When it’s not just the stories of creation, and Noah, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, there are all these wonderfully deep theological truths in there. I love this book! mean, I’ve read it before, but I always end up with all these questions - like,  who were the Sons of God? It says that they thought the daughters of mankind were beautiful and they bore children together. The Bible says their children were powerful and famous men, but it doesn’t say directly that they were godly men. Where are these “Sons of God” now? Were they angels? When did they stop having children with the daughters of mankind? 

Or like in Genesis 3 when the Bible says that the serpent was the most “cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God made.” That one gives me pause, too. Yeah, I get the whole thing about this particular serpent being Satan incarnate and all that, but don’t you find the description of “cunning” a little weird for something that God had made?

Did you ever wonder if the animals could talk? I mean, we know the serpent did. But, when Adam was naming all the animals was there this running dialogue with them like, “Nah, man. I don’t want to be called a Platypus. But yeah, a lion, that’s cool, Bro.”

Okay.....maybe not exactly like that, but you get the picture.

Why did God make Adam go through naming all the animals before he gave Eve to him? God knew no suitable helpmate would be found among the animals he had made.

You see, questions. Welcome to my “dizzying intellect” or lack thereof. 

Maybe when we get to heaven and we’re perfect we’ll understand perfectly. But, if we don’t get supernatural understanding of scripture in it’s entirety, I’ve got a long list of questions and you’d just better get in line. I call dibs on the front of the line.

However, today I want focus on sin and something I never really understood in its depth until the last few days. To begin with, let’s examine the first sin. That leads me to all kinds of questions and leads me to think maybe the animals did talk. I mean, Eve certainly didn’t seem to be too shocked to carry on a conversation with the serpent. 

It’s so strange to me that she was even tempted by that tree. The Bible tells us that God himself came and walked in the garden with them each evening. When you are physically walking with God everyday, how does sin have such a pull on you? How much greater then does it have a pull on me? How was Eve not immediately put off by the suggestion that she should do something that God had forbidden?

That lead’s me to my first conclusion about sin: It’s powerful. Way more powerful than me. In Jeremiah 17:9 the Bible calls the human heart “deceitful and desperately wicked.” Knowing myself the way I do and reading the story of the first sin, I’m inclined to believe that.

Just a few short verses down in chapter 3, the Bible says the “woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that is was desirable for obtaining wisdom.” That verse just kind of slapped me in the face. Isn’t that so like sin? It seems so necessary.......like it will enrich our lives or fill a need (food), it seems fun or like it will fill a void (delightful), and it seems like it will make us more well-rounded, or experienced (wisdom). The Holy Spirit within us sends out little warning bells, but we look anyway. We try to justify, to make whatever it is we want align with the Word of God. It’s like the Casting Crowns song, “Slow Fade” which says, “It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.” You see, once we try to justify, sin has become the master, and we are  but puppets. We think we are in control. We think we can stop or change anytime we want to. What we don’t see is the strings that bind us, that Satan uses to pull us deeper in to sin.

That’s my second conclusion about sin: Sin is attractive. We tend to think of sin in like the haggard, old wicked step mother offering us the apple. On the contrary, sin is like Prince Charming riding in on his white horse to save the day. That’s why we must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Sin is not the package with thistles and thorns. It’s the package tied up with a beautiful bow. It’s isn’t till we’re in far too deep that we realize we’re sinking. 

I also wonder about Adam and I think of his sin before he ever ate that fruit. Adam was with Eve when she was having this conversation with the serpent. He was entirely entranced, too. Not once did he, as Eve’s spiritual covering, try to pull her away or tell the serpent to leave. He saw what was happening and he was completely silent.

How many times have you seen a friend, a loved one, or just somebody you knew headed down the wrong path and you just remained silent because “it wasn’t your business?” Not only does silence allow someone’s decent into sin, it desensitizes our own hearts to the sin that “so easily entangles us.” We weren’t meant to be silent about sin. Jesus was forever compassionate to the sinner but always outspoken about sin as well. We must be compassionate, but unafraid to speak the truth in love. 

I’ve also been examining the first murder. I guess the first problem there was rebellion. Cain knew what God required, but his desire for what he enjoyed overruled his desire for God. Working the ground and loving to work the ground wasn’t wrong. The problem was that God required a certain type of offering and Cain was unwilling to do the work to present God with what he required. When the Lord did not accept Cain’s offering, instead of realizing his own problem, Cain became angry at his brother who had presented the right offering to God.

Before Cain ever attacked his brother, God said to him, “Sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7)” However, Cain did not heed God’s warning, again choosing rebellion. He took his brother out to the field and he killed Able. Instead of recognizing the war within himself (pride), Cain killed his brother and destroyed his relationship with his parents. For all of the rest of his days, he was cursed.

Sin is like that, you know. Before there is ever an action, there is rebellion and pride in our hearts. We think we know better, understand more or we just plain decide not to care. Martin Luther once said that we cannot break any of the ten commandments until we have first broken the one that says not to worship idols. You see, once we choose sin - whatever it is - we are making that thing, our rebellion, our pride, our desire the most important thing. And whatever ‘thing’ is the most important thing takes the place of Jesus, and that is idol worship.

That’s my third conclusion about sin: It frighteningly subtle. It’s so subtle that we often don’t even notice it.

Maybe it’s food. Or, maybe it’s the desire to always have more material things. For some it’s the desire to be successful. It a thousand different things to a thousand different people.

Sin is not always so visible. It’s not always drugs, alcohol, and sex. It’s not always about stealing or lying. No, I think the more dangerous sins are the once crouching at the door, the ones, like jealousy and gossip that are so easy to miss and ignore.

I want to see those attitudes and those desires as what they really are. I want to get in my mind is that sin is out to destroy me!

It’s not a salvation thing. I am sure of my salvation. It’s a missed opportunity thing. When I choose to hold on to little attitudes or unforgiveness, when I choose my way instead of the God’s way, when I choose what I feel over what I know - what am I missing?  What was God offering when I selfishly chose my way? There is so much more freedom so much more joy when we choose His way. But His way won’t always bring immediate gratification to my flesh like my way will. His way is more tedious, to be sure. His way requires less of me. It requires that I think of myself less and I pick up my cross more.

His way is the hard way. But, I don’t want to look back with regrets any more than I already do. I don’t want that “What if...” question hanging over me at the end of my life. So, I beg of you. I beg myself. Please see sin for what it is. There are no ‘little’ sins. All sin starts with pride and all sin is out to destroy you.

As a child, when my parents would give us a new Bible, my mom would write this in the front cover, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

How heartbreakingly true.

That’s all. Satan has come for your soul - to kill, steal, and destroy. It is Jesus who came to give us abundant life (Jn. 10:10) Let’s say ‘no’ to ourselves more often and I think we’ll find that He will fill the ‘no’ void with so much more that we could have ever imagined.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Immeasurably More

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heartsthrough faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21

I am leaving the country in a little over 72 hours. Yay! Ugh.....

I really can't explain all of the emotions. On one hand, I am so, so excited. I love missions and I love Mozambique. I am excited about the new team I will be joining in Lichinga.

However, I would be lying if I didn't say I was apprehensive, too. I am sad for all the things that I will miss. I know that I will miss weddings, birthdays, holidays, births, and deaths. This time, I know what it's like to miss those things. It makes me sad. But, it also makes me happy that I have two worlds that I love that I wouldn't want to live without. There aren't many people who can say that. I am blessed beyond measure.

I am also blessed in real tangible ways that I can see and touch. Just last week I was offered a house to rent. The house has running hot water (what?) and electricity. The rent also includes a day time and night time guard. Now, before you get too worried, I believe every missionary I know has a guard. It's someone to watch your house when you're away and someone to watch out for you at night. I realize that may sound a little scary, but honestly to me it sounds wonderful. One of the things I really struggled with last year was living at the base. I had no where to "get away." I only had a bedroom. The living area and kitchen was shared by the entire base. So, even on weekends when I wasn't "on duty," I lived where I worked, and I just didn't have a place to have some privacy, to spend time alone with the Lord, a place to call my own. It was just hard.

So, the idea that I will have a place that will make my work and ministry separate sound like.....sanity :0) And, today, as if that wasn't gift enough from Jesus, First Baptist Church of Eden gave me almost $9,000.00 towards the purchase of a car. WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!! 

They took on a project called "Jenni's Wheels" and in two months they raised almost $9,000. 
I am totally speechless. I never imagined that. Not ever. And that is why I added those verses to the top of this blog. This Christ whose love is long, and deep, and wide - this Christ does immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine - and he has. I am so grateful to my Savior and to the people of FBC whose hearts and pockets were opened to His work in the world. They gave me a HUGE key and told me to remember that God's pockets are bigger than mine. That key won't fit in my pocket, but it will fit in the pocket of the ONE writing this story, and He's a better driver anyway!

Please continue to pray with me about the car. Once I get to Moz and get settled, I will have to do car shopping. Yikes! I have friends in Lichinga who will help me. Thank goodness. Car shopping is stressful. Car shopping in another language, in another countr, is a daunting proposition even for this girl!

I am hoping to be able to purchase a car for around $10,000. It could be as much as $12,000. Please pray with me about the following things: 1) I will be able to find a safe, reliable car for $10,000. 2) Please pray that hearts will be moved that will help me finish raising the $1,000 to $3,000 dollars still needed. 3) Please pray for me as I get settled in the house and begin work.

Today, after FBC presented me with my key, my mom sang a song. Yes, if you are wondering, that was a real tear jerker! I couldn't look at her because I was crying and I didn't want to get her started. Anyhow, she sang a song that I sang as a child in a church play. Here are the words:

Is there anything I can do for You?
Is there anything I can do?
For all the things you've done for me
Is there anything I can do?

I'm willing to be used, dear Lord,
Whatever the price may be.
So if there's anything I can do for you,
Just make it known to me.

Is there anywhere I can go for you?
Is there anywhere I can go?
For the places you have been for me,
Is there anywhere I can go?

That second verse gets me every time. For the places you have been for me. When I think about where He has been for me, I am just humbled. This gentle, humble Jesus became a man for me. He left the glory of heaven because I needed a Savior. He took on all the constraints of humanity for me. He decided to experience illness, and loss, and rejection and became like me in every way. He knew that was the only way to reach my human heart. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for me. He died on a cruel cross to save my soul. He became sin even though He knew no sin because I needed a way to heaven.

So....no electricity? No running water? A little malaria? Bring it. My Savior is worth SO. MUCH. MORE.