July 4, 2010

If This Doesn’t Give You Chills….

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , at 4:18 pm by Tamara

My Aunt Lois posted a link to a video of the Dubai Fountain, and I was absolutely entranced.  Who knew waters could dance?  I found myself thinking, I bet things like this will happen in heaven.  After all, the Bible says that creation is longing and groaning for the day it will be set free (Romans 8:19-22).  What would a “set free” universe with no sin and no bounds look like?  Will it spontaneously erupt in beauty just to praise the Lord?  Why not?  I can’t see much purpose for a sunrise other than to shout “God is glorious!”—and that’s just what it can do NOW; think about what it will look like when God sets it free!

I went and did a little digging and found this passage:

Psalm 98:4-9  “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth!  Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises…let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the LORD, for He is coming….”

So, thinking about that, I went to see if there were more videos and found this one.  Now, imagine if the water was spontaneously leaping like this to praise God, and if the music in the background was the MOUNTAINS SINGING!  Oh my heart!

Oh, and, by the way…the words to this song just happen to be the Lord’s Prayer. Chills!  God is glorious!

(A link to the video if this doesn’t work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_GQYI9brGs)

The Dubai Fountain

February 4, 2010

Sunlight

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 11:30 pm by Tamara

One of the perks of South Carolina I’m enjoying is the mid-winter sunshine.  Sunshine really does make everything seem just a little brighter, both literally and emotionally.  I’ve figured out that at about eleven every morning at work there’s a patch of sunshine that falls a couple feet from my register.  I deliberately plan my mornings so I’ll have some task I can do over there that will make standing in those rays of sunshine look mostly necessary.  <smile>

I was pondering the sunshine and how it somehow seems to send a message of “everything is okay—there’s a reason to be joyful!”  It lights the way for us so we can see clearly and understand more fully.  It gives us nourishing vitamins (that still blows my mind—how does it do that??), it purifies, it warms.  At the same time, if you get too close or don’t respect its power, it can hurt you.

Then I thought, in heaven there will be no sun, because God’s very essence will do all those things.  Think about God’s presence permeating the air so He affects us the same way as sunlight, only unimaginably more intensely and perfectly.  Think of His presence affecting you the way you feel when you step out your front door on a day off and feel a glorious rush of bright, exuberant energy.  Think of being with Him, and how that will flood through any cold, broken emotions and dissolve them forever.  Think of being nourished mentally, emotionally, and spiritually just by being with Him.  The thoughts give me tingles.  If God’s presence is like sunlight (and we know that God is light)…ah!  I can’t wait!

July 20, 2009

Three Chances to Murder

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 4:51 pm by Tamara

He didn’t kill him. I wonder how long he crouched in the cool, damp air, watching the man who was pursuing him with irrational hatred sleep soundly in the center of his camp. He’d had countless other opportunities to kill him, like that day in the dark depths of the cave when he was no more than a hand’s breath away from him—and hadn’t. Instead of accepting the allegiance of the people who adored him and would no doubt fight to see this insane enemy of his displaced, he’d chosen to leave his home and live in desolate mountain places with a band of miserable thugs. Now here he stood watching him sleep while the warrior beside him begged him to let him go and take vengeance at last. Did he think of how unjust it all was? Did he resent that he’d done nothing to deserve this life of running and fighting and nearly starving? But he said no.

“God has chosen him,” he whispered, “And God-forbid that I’d do anything to hurt God’s anointed. God will deal with him, but we couldn’t hurt him and be guiltless.”

And so once again he showed breathtaking nobility and walked away, his faith utterly in God to justify him. He knew that he was blameless before God, knew he hadn’t done any of the things he was being accused of. He resisted the temptation to murder, not once, but twice. And could it even be considered murder? God had chosen him to be king and delivered the evil king who pursued him right into his hands, twice. But he put his beliefs to action and left it up to God. He was not a murderer. He was the farthest thing from it.

I wonder if he rested securely in that, knowing that murder was a temptation he knew how to resist. Did he revel in the joy of facing a great temptation and passing the test? Did he praise God for helping him to do what was right? Did he think that, whatever happened, at least he knew he would never be a murderer?

And then, suddenly, it is years later, and he has been given everything he’s dreamed. God has lavishly rewarded him for the way he has followed Him and striven after His heart. He’s walked intimately with God, heard countless people tell him what an example he’s been to them, how much he’s encouraged them to walk rightly and resist temptation. But now Nathan the prophet is standing in front of him in his rough robes, his eyes full of disappointment and anger and disbelief, and in four words everything shatters to pieces: “Thou art the man.”

He is a murderer.

http://restorationupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/david-and-nathan.jpg

One of our elders spoke on Sunday about David and Bathsheba, and this struck me like it never had before. Up to this point, David was not a murderer. He was the farthest thing from it. He could have written a book on it: The Idiot’s Guide to Not Murdering Anyone, Even Your Worst Enemy. It would have been a best-seller; his blog would have been the top viewed site of the year; he would have received endless fan mail from it. He KNEW how to resist this temptation and had proven himself many times. And then, out of seemingly nowhere comes this hideous chain of events: his adultery with the wife of a man who is not only one of his loyal mighty men but also the son of one of his closest advisors, followed by ordering his murder. It’s a sick, jarring slash across the life of an incredible man of God. Every time I read it, his adultery reminds me that no one is ever above sin, even the best person. But this time Jim’s message made me think just a little deeper. I knew David had never committed adultery before, but I’d never thought about how he’d refused to murder his worst enemy, King Saul, TWICE, and then he murders Uriah, his friend and loyal warrior. What changed?

Was it easier to resist temptation when he knew he was blameless—easier to trust God to solve the mess when he hadn’t done anything to deserve the mess? He knew God was capable of saving his life and making him king of an entire nation, so he resisted murder. But did he think God wouldn’t help rescue him once he’d committed a horrible sin? What did he think would happen if he just admitted his sin with Bathsheba? Did he think God couldn’t, or wouldn’t, save him? Did he feel so guilty that he decided, rather than throwing himself on God’s mercy, that he had no choice but to try to solve this problem himself?

I see this cowering weakness in myself. It’s easy for me to run to God for help when I’m doing well. “My enemies pursue me without cause!” I cry to God, and fearlessly and gladly ask for His help against sin. But what about when the mess is my fault? What about when I go to God, not as a blameless shepherd, but as a horrible failure and adulterer? Is THAT when I start to take matters into my own hands?

Yes, it is. Maybe not to the extent of murdering anyone (unless we’re talking about murdering them in my heart, which is a whole different topic.) But I’m no different than David, and it could definitely go there. What if David had boldly approached the throne for mercy and help in his time of need before he tried to cover it up by murdering Uriah? Maybe he would have gone down in history—yes, as an adulterer, but not a murderer. And I know God would have helped him. He helped David even after he was both, when he cried out simply, “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to your unfailing love!”

Sin is a snare, not just because of its consequences, but because of how powerfully it tempts me to run from God and try to hide my shame. But He urges me over and over again to claim my life in Christ and accept that through faith in His son, I have boldness and confident access to Him no matter what (Eph. 3:12). And I need to use that access. He promises that when I timidly crack open the doors and enter His throne room He’ll welcome me with open arms, no matter how I’ve failed—whether it’s as small as a grumpy attitude or as gigantic as murder and adultery. He promises to come running to meet me and embrace me, even if I’m the prodigal daughter covered in reeking mud from the pigsty. I need to remember that. I need to burn that truth onto my heart and radiate that same grace to others. Like David, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” But what a wonderful, powerful grace it is.

Jude 1:24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

July 14, 2009

The Breakdown–Part 2

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 5:17 pm by Tamara

I don’t know why I’ve had such a hard time writing this post.  Maybe (probably) because I don’t fully get it yet.  There’s no “Ba-da-bing!  God fixed it!” ending yet.  But since I don’t feel like I can blog about anything else until I finish this, and since I’m afraid I’ve made some of you wonder if I’m on the brink of losing it completely (ha), I’d better finish it!

So, that said, “Good morning, class; today I’m giving you a pop quiz!  <deep, evil laugh of evilness>”  Question One:  Find the common denominator:  “What if I’m doing something wrong?  What if I’m sinning?  What if I’m not listening to Him?  What if this is my fault?  What if I’m being lazy?  What if I can’t do it?”

I spend a LOT of time trying to dissect those questions, or similar ones.  It was my brilliantly astute husband who once pointed out (during my tirade of similar fears), “There are a lot of ‘I’s’ in those questions.”  That hit me like a ton of bricks—I’d never thought about that before.  His point was that I’d been worrying so much about myself and my actions that I’d lost my focus on Christ.

I tend to be terrified of my own weaknesses and sin nature.  That kind of sounds like a spiritual thing, but it isn’t; not when I get so fixated on my own weaknesses that I stop being fixated on the Lord.  If the definition of an idol is anything I put before God, then I’m actually idolizing my sin nature by acting as if it’s more powerful than God’s ability to convict me, guide me, even rescue me.  If He wants me to walk rightly even more than I do—and I know He does—why would I worry that He’d give me the cold shoulder when I ask Him if I’m doing anything wrong?

That also comes back to a misunderstanding of sin and fellowship.  I thought for a long time that my sin broke my fellowship with God—that He wouldn’t help or listen to me if I was in sin.  But that didn’t make sense to me, mainly because that would create an impossible cycle.  I can never get out of sin without His help, but if He won’t help me or fellowship with me until I’m not sinning, how can I stop?

Years ago one of my favorite teachers at the Bible school, Rick Barth, pointed out to me that what breaks our fellowship isn’t just sin, but our refusal to agree with God that we’re sinning (confess).  He convicts me and shines His light on my sin, and I either agree with Him and stay in the light, or I refuse to listen to Him and then, when the light becomes too uncomfortable, I, MYSELF step out of His light and fellowship.  It’s not that God will only tolerate me so far before He’ll shun me in order to punish me.  He’s always there to gently show me my sin and urge me to walk in the new life He’s given me—it’s ME who either listend or turns away.

This also touches on how deeply I feel like God’s acceptance of me and willingness to work with me is based on my performance.  I know in my head that it isn’t, that He views me in His son and has told me to boldly come to His throne of grace for help.  But I still want desperately to be “doing good,” and I’m afraid sometimes my view of Him is warped enough to think He’ll abandon me if I don’t keep doing well.  I forget He loved me while I was still an unsaved sinner, and worry that now that I’m a saved child who sins, He just might decide to stop loving me—at least until I get my act together.  Which also shows a warped view of myself.  As if Jesus’ death and life wasn’t QUITE enough, and I can somehow work hard enough to make Him love me more.

So what’s the bottom line on all this?  I need to stop pacing outside His throne room, examining every little thing I’ve done, terrified that I might have done something wrong and He’s behind those doors fuming, just waiting for me to come in so He can punish me.  Or ignore me.  Or any of the many things He could do, other what He’s promised TO do: give me grace, mercy, and help in my need.  I need to stop freaking out and get my eyes back on Him.  If I’m doing something wrong, He’ll show me, and He’ll help me.  And if I’m not, it’s okay to just wait and keep moving forward.  More scared analyzing of MYSELF and MY fears and MY failures isn’t going to get me nearly so far as just sitting at His feet and asking Him for HIS assessment and guidance.  And if He chooses not to say anything about me right now, then that’s fine—I can still look at HIM.  That’s plenty to fill my mind and heart.