i’m an alien

kingdom_6959cnMy daughter asked me what an ‘alien’ is recently. I told her it was a pretend creature that people made up to be in stories and books and such.

What I failed to tell her was that I am an alien; that she is; that daddy is. But after I had spoken to her I thought it. I didn’t quite think she’d get the whole “there are two kinds of aliens” discussion quite yet, so I let it be for now.

But it made me remember how I was with a friend the other day, and she reminded me that I was an alien here on earth, a stranger, and how I just won’t fit in a lot of the time. I’ll be uncomfortable. I’ll feel like I’m weird. I’ll seem to be different. I’ll often feel left out.

It was an intimidating thought, though I’ve known the truth of it all before. I’m an alien on this earth, a sojourner, my home is heaven, and I belong there. I know that. But sometimes I like to push things aside when I feel uncomfortable, you know? Just smile and nod and keep my feelings under wraps. And, this is often one of those things that makes me just a wee bit squeamish on the inside.

The irony of it is…I never want to be “just like” everybody else. Not that I’m this huge rebel or anything; I like to “fit in” somewhat. But it’s like, if everybody else is getting cats, I want to get a dog. If everybody else is eating jelly beans, I’d rather have a chocolate. If everybody else likes to wear preppy things, I’d rather be in my “skater” outfit (i.e. see my high school pics). If everybody else is proclaiming healthy food, I’m going to proclaim McDonald’s. If everybody is proclaiming McDonald’s, you betcha I’m going to be proclaiming healthy food. If everybody else wants to read this book, I’d really rather be reading something else, please.

And I don’t like clones. Cloning is so boring. I like a variety. I like to mix things up. I like to be around all ages, not just my own. I like traditions, and commonalities and such. But there’s just something about being around people who talk different, and dress different, and who just are different, that makes me smile on the inside. It’s probably why I like 1 Corinthians so much: the body of Christ is a mix of all types and sorts and gifts and talents…and I absolutely adore that.

And yet, despite all that, I still get in those modes of uncomfortableness if I’m looking or feeling just a little too different. A little too left out.

If someday you ever partner up with me for study, you will quickly learn that I love Greek words. I don’t actually know Greek, I can’t speak it, I don’t always remember it, and sometimes I am sure I get things a little mixed up. However, when I’ve got my Strong’s concordance by my side and my Bible in my hand…you can be sure that I am one happy girlie. Enter a sweet, teensy tiny lesson from 2 Peter 1:3-4.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us, to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

There are several truths to gather from this passage – beautiful, astounding truths, in fact!  But today, I have just one thing to point out. Look at the Greek word and definition of “nature”:

Nature (vs. 4): phusis

The sum of innate properties and powers by which one person differs from others, distinctive native peculiarities, natural characteristics. A mode of feeling and acting by which by long habit has become nature.

Whoa! Read it again. Because do you know what this is telling me, to us, who have obtained a righteousness by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ? It tells me that He is making me look like a native of heaven.

A native! Well of all things! Not only am I an alien and stranger in this world, and not only to I belong to heaven…I’m a native of heaven. Because He is changing me, transforming me, making me distinctively different. The sin and corruption in this world has been my natural tendency, my place of feeling comfortable. But now, God is growing me in the knowledge of Himself, and as He is, I am changing. My natural tendencies, my natural inclinations, my habits and thoughts, the places I feel most comfortable, are maturing and becoming more like Christ through God’s divine power.

I just won’t fit in here. No, I just will not. fit. in. And if I do start fitting in, a little too much…perhaps I’ve neglected to find the astonishing promises of God for each of my days, that keep me from falling and cause my knowledge of Christ to be fruitful. Perhaps, if I start feeling a little too comfortable around here, I’ve forgotten the abundance of His mercy that has – astoundingly – miraculously – divinely – given me all things I need to experience more of His very own divine nature, in my very own self, in my very own life.

I am not of this world (duh, Jane!). I’m in the process of escaping it, for goodness sake! He is making me distinctively different. He is making me divine, just like Him. Piece by piece, stitch by stitch, thought by thought, habit by habit, He is transforming me into the likeness of His beautiful, glorious, joy-focused and joy-filled Son.

Aliens here – natives of heaven.

Perhaps this is part of the reason we were told last Sunday to meet together and worship together? Because the places we “natives of heaven” feel most comfortable, the places we feel like we most belong, simply don’t look the same as they once did. Do you ever need that reminder? I know I do.

A native. I have a home. There is a place where I fit in. Maybe that’s why it can sometimes be so uncomfortable to be so very “distinctly different” in this world? Because those who do not follow Christ are comfortable here. This is their home, they ‘like’ it here. But for me…my home…it’s not here. I’m uncomfortable here; I stick out, I stand out and I look and talk and think like an alien. But it’s ok. Because I am a native of somewhere. That somewhere is just somewhere else. And I’m ok with that.

I don’t want to be like everybody else, anyways, remember?

 

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Learning to Love God’s Rules

bible_6796cnpI’ll have to admit that when I first hear the word “rules” I have a somewhat adverse reaction. Yes, I appreciate walking through the halls of an elementary school and seeing their poster of the school rules. It gives me confidence that someone is in charge and there are expectations of the students. And yes, I certainly want our teen drivers, and anyone else for that matter, to follow the rules of the road. And no doubt society functions best when its members follow the rules to hopefully guarantee that everything is done with order and civility. But I admit that “rules” in the context of God’s kingdom evokes thoughts of limits and restrictions, and leaves me wondering what happened to grace and freedom and those others words that sound better than “rules.”

A few weeks ago I was reading Psalm 119 and the psalmist’s use of the word “rules” in the ESV jumped out at me. Three times in the first 20 verses the psalmist mentions God’s rules. Listen to his attitude:

I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. (v.7)

With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (v.13)

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (v. 20)

Verse 20 put me over the top. The writer is consumed with longing for God’s rules at all times. Really? It would seem that my attitude toward God’s rules needed an overhaul. “Rules” can also be translated “just decrees.” Don Carson in “For the Love of God” defines God’s decrees as “the decisions of the supreme and all-wise Judge.” These rules of God are not just an arbitrary list to follow because God decided we should, but these are rules to be followed because our gracious God has given them to us because they are His wise choice for us – for our good and for His glory.

Seventeen times the word “rules” is used in Psalm 119. When you have a minute, take a look at this psalm and instead of feeling limited and constrained by God’s rules, take comfort that God’s rules are for our good – to help us and comfort us – to make us into the women God has planned for us to be.

The last use of “rules” is in the next to last verse, verse 175:

Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.

I’m beginning to understand. God’s rules truly are rules to live by!

Engaging Sunday Sermons

I came across this quote the other day from the late and great preacher Charles Spurgeon:

Satan will be glad if you begin to blame the preacher when you ought to have blamed yourself.

Eek. Those are strong words. I don’t think they need much elaboration, do you?

It reminded me of a post on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s website, regarding Sunday morning sermons. In it she writes:

If we’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word as it is publicly proclaimed in our local churches, the fault may not lie in the one proclaiming the Word. It may lie in our readiness to hear, receive, and respond to the Word.

Finding yourself daydreaming about sandy beaches, cute pets and the feel good movie from last night on Sunday mornings? dogs_7413cnIn Nancy’s article, she lists several ideas to prepare for and engage in Sunday sermons before, during and after the service. If you find yourself from time to time engaging in unrelated thoughts or motives, check out her article here. There are also some great personal application questions at the end, to keep our hearts humble and receptive towards the Word and as well as towards the ones who teach us.

Many thanks to those who minister the Word of God to us each week! I pray that the Spirit of God moves powerfully among us each Sunday morning, to make us women who are teachable, humble, and eager for transforming truth.

PS – Aren’t those doggies cute?? Love ’em.

Traditions Tea: Reflections

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

                 Philippians 1:3-11

Joy-filled prayers…for others. Affections of Christ…for others. Partnering in the gospel for all of one’s days…with others. Partakers of grace…with others. To the glory and praise of God. This is what was made known to me as I sat and saw the women of the Lord before me at the Traditions Tea on November 9.

The Traditions Tea is an annual gathering that the Women’s Ministry has held for several years now. It is a time to gather together, honoring senior women in the body of Christ and giving thanks to the Lord for the abundant blessing they have been in many lives. Five or so women are highlighted each year. They are interviewed beforehand, and their life stories are shared aloud by younger generations at the Tea. We will be posting online some of the highlighted women through the next few months, so stay tuned for their stories, if you were not able to attend.

This year was the first time I had been a sitting participant and able to enjoy listening to the stories and testimonies of these women. It was a blessing beyond what I anticipated, and still resonates strongly upon my mind today. I do not believe a story went by that afternoon without causing tears in my eyes and praises to rise up in my soul.

As these women have grown and lived and increasingly become the “older generation,” they have learned to live up to the “Titus 2 Woman”: women who teach younger generations the ways of the Lord. And this is how: by their faithful participation in the gospel and their abounding affections for others.

We who are younger often become very zealous. We are zealous for opinions, for decisions, for doing the right thing, for bearing fruit, and for countless other good things. But, very often – as I see so clearly in myself –  this zeal is left wanting, when life is lived zealously without love.

These women, however, these women think much more as Paul did: they set aside their zealous, passionate opinions, and hold fast to the One who gives them the grace to selflessly think and act and live…for us, the younger generations. We are in their hearts.

These women, they have the years of wisdom that only experience can bring. And these women, they love us. Even in our “youthful”, passionate, zealous, whipper-snapper styles and often loveless states, they love us.

Even as our great zeal and extraordinary passions make our eyes bug out and must cause us at times to look like chickens running around with our heads off, they are tender with us.

They are patient with us. They pray for us. They find joy in us. They yearn for us. They rejoice over us. They remember us. They hold us in their hearts.

They have Christ’s affections for us.

The good work that God started in them the day of their salvation is so much further along than it is in most of us. They know this, and yet, as I heard of these women’s lives and have seen in many among them lately, they remain selfless before us. They give their whole hearts to the ministries of grace that God has lavished upon each of them, and they love us “youngins” selflessly.

Many, many thanks to you, sisters in Christ who have gone before us young people; many thanks for your patience, your love, your affections, your prayers, and your steadfast eyes upon the Lord. By your prayers and selfless love we are helped, as we learn to hold you in our hearts, as well.

And so, again, we thank you! O most blessed sisters! Many lavish thanks to you, who share in God’s grace with us! Your crown of glory from your Redeemer awaits you! And, even now, as you live a life of righteousness we see that you are crowned with the most beautiful of crowns. May you continue to wear it brilliantly, to His glory and praise:

Gray hair is a crown of glory;

it is gained in a righteous life.

Proverbs 16:31

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Might we, too, grow in this grace of selfless love, O Lord? Might we, too, who are “young” today, one day abound more and more in love for those who come behind us? Who view the younger generations with patience, and demonstrate glorious grace to them as we hold them in our hearts? May our lives, too, O Abba Father, be lives lived to the glory and praise of You, just like our sisters who have come before us.