Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land?

"So the area was 875 feet on each side with a wall around it to separate the holy place from the common." ~Ezekiel 42:20

This verse is referring to Ezekiel's vision about the new temple area, but it got me thinking (as scary as that may seem)...

I am holy. I am a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). What separates me from the "common?" God's grace obviously does (and without it, I am nothing), but what in my life visibly shows that I am set apart? Is there a barrier or wall of character or love or humility that makes me different?

Interestingly enough, in my Bible reading plan I also came across the book of 1 Peter, where it opens with the words, "This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God's people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father chose you long ago, and the Spirit has made you holy. As a result you have obeyed Jesus Christ and are cleansed by his blood." (1 Peter 1:1-2, emphasis added.)

1 Peter uses alot of terminology in referring to believers as foreigners, so does Hebrews chapter 11.

"All those people [those in the "Hall of Faith"] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had oppurtunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

This is a pretty popular theme, then. To help me get a better handle on this subject, I tried to put together a list of what makes a foreigner...well, foreign! Here are some of the things I came up with:

~Foreigners are visibly different from "commoners." Their appearance itself isn't the same. They often have different skin tones, facial features, or wardrobes. As Christians, we as foreigners won't always have different colored skin or prominent characteristics. However, our clothing can be remarkably changed. Christian women can dress modestly, and believers as a whole can clothe themselves with dignity and promote images that reflect Christ.

~Foreigners speak differently, whether they have an accent or an entirely different language. Christians should speak their own language too. Our speech should be "gracious" and "seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6). The Bible says that "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." If our hearts are different and truly changed, we should sound like it.

~Thirdly, foreigners live differently because they dwell in a separate culture. So should Christians. We are not to live by the culture of this world. Instead we are to lead upright and godly lives, like those described prior to the Hebrews 11 reference above.

The world's culture speaks of self. We are not to conform to this earth...there are better things in store for us! We need to "long for a better country--a heavenly one" and admit that we are aliens and strangers on this earth. Our personal culture should speak of sacrificial love, compassion, mercy, selflessness, and peace.

Different cultures demand different mindsets. A Christian's cultural mindset should be focused outward and upward. It should zoom in on the unseen and the eternal. What is seen is temporary. We are called to invest our time in what will really last...the work of the Kingdom.

I'm sad to confess that I spend more time worrying about how to fit in, rather than how to stand out. Romans 12:2--a rather popular verse--offers some hope for me, however. It says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." More and more I'm witnessing the power God's Word has to transform. I'm confident that as I continually read it and become more holy, he will build that wall of separation. His son Jesus laid the foundation, and now through His faithfulness, it will only become stronger.

I don't want to miss out on the blessings Hebrews 11 speaks of! I don't want God to be ashamed to be called my God.

The Clay (Jeremiah 18:1-6),
Ellie V.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pride is Like Coffee...

It stunts your growth. Now, that old myth may not be altogether true. If you Google it, you'll find that there is very little evidence to support it. However, for the sake of this post, we'll pretend that it's Scientific Law.

I was reading in one of my favorite New Testament books this morning, and a couple verses really stuck out to me. Here they are in the New Living Translation:

"...As Scriptures say:

'God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.'

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor."
(James 4:6-10)

In addition to this passage I checked out Obadiah 1:3, which uses the phrase "the pride of your heart has deceived you." I got to does pride deceive us? I believe it trips us up in a number of ways.

1.) It quietly takes the focus off God. This is rather obvious point because pride is selfish. However, I rarely find myself in the middle of an arrogant moment thinking, "Man, I'm totally focusing on myself right now." Pride is so tricky in that way.

It is my prayer that I can be like the apostle Paul in his resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. (See 1 Corinthians 2:2.) The word 'know' used in this sense refers to Paul making Christ his only boast. Pride ever so sneakily takes our eyes off Christ and puts them on ourselves, making Christ less than our only boast.

2.) It convinces us that we really do have reason to boast. I was confronted with a rather simple question while thinking on this. "What do I have to be proud about?" I started trying to list all the bullet points in my head, but failed to come up with anything worth bragging about in the eyes of God. However, isn't it strange how easily we can be trapped into thinking that we do?

So often I must remind myself that I a deserve nothing. Actually, that is not altogether true...I deserve something, and that something is hell. By the grace of God I am who I am. Even if I were capable of living my life perfectly from now on, I would still have nothing to boast about.

3.) It is easily disguised. Have you ever heard of the phrase "self-esteem?" Or what about "positive self-image?" Pride so readily hides behind these things. By using certain terms just so, we can justify our sinful behavior.

[And on a complete side note, we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27.) With that truth in mind, low self-image should not have a foothold in our lives. The world is loud and full of lies about our appearance and worth. It has never been more important to distinguish what is false from what is true, and to realize who the author of lies is, and how he pales in comparision to the mighty Truth we serve. (John 8:44, "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.")]

4.) It ties us to this world. Pride is not of God, and it never will be.

1 John 2:16, "For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world."

Satan is the prince of this world, so in a way, one could say that pride comes from him. It makes sense then, why the James passage would read, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."

And that brings me to my final question. How can I extinguish pride in my life so my relationship with God is not hindered? If I refer back to the James passage once more, humility is clearly emphasized. With humility comes God's blessing, (as seen in the Beattitudes in Matthew 5: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit...'). Another verse I just recently discovered is Psalm 138:6, 'Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar." This verse also paints a clear picture of how pride affects our relationship with God and stunts our spiritual growth.

Secondly, resisting the devil (and his lies about pride) is very key. One way to resist the devil is simply to draw nearer to God, whether that be through prayer, Bible reading, fellowship with other believers, or simply quiet time with Him.

And finally, an attitude of mourning over pride will magnify its sinfulness and decrease its attractiveness. Note the words in verse 9: sorrow, deep grief, sadness, and gloom. Those who mourn are also listed as blessed in Matthew 5, "for they shall be comforted." God honors brokeness and humility. When we mourn over our sins and the sins of others, we are truly showing our desire to live set apart.

To God Be the Glory,
Ellie V.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Key

The darkness had come and gone, and now morning slowly crept up over the horizon. It crawled across plains and valleys; villages and farms...past shutters and into homes, joyously announcing that the night had gone. A new day had dawned.
The light filtered in through a lone girl's bedroom where she lay stricken upon the floor. Her blonde ringlets cascaded across her white lace nightgown, falling delicately over her shoulder as if to catch the sun's rays. Faint traces of teardrops could be seen on her pale cheeks. Her once brilliant, dazzling blue eyes had faded to a lifeless gray. In her hands she cradled a porcelain heart. It was broken in pieces, and shards of it lay scattered across the floor. The girl's shoulders heaved a sob as her eyes filled with tears.
"How long?" she choked, "How long, Oh Lord, must this ache fill my heart? I wish to be free of it and yet here I am."
Wind rustled through the trees outside her window and a chill settled over the desolate room. With it came a calming voice, "Why did you give away what was not yours to keep?"
The question was a quiet challenge, yet it was filled with only good intention.
"What do you mean?" the girl asked, raising her ashen face to the light, where the question had seemingly come.
There was a brief pause, and then two words: "Your heart," was the reply.
The girl's eyes traveled from the heart in her hands to the shattered ruin on the floor. Realization struck her with shame, "Oh Jesus," she cried in agony, "Forgive me!"
As she fell to her knees, the pieces of her porcelain heart slipped out of her hands and crashed to the floor. The tears came flowing freely as she sobbed with her face to the ground. Her entire frame shook under the weight of what she'd done.
How could I? she asked herself, After all he's done...the love he's lavished on me? How could I turn and give my heart away to someone else?
When she finally lifted her face minutes later, it was pallid and somnolent. Raising her gaze back to the sun, she gasped as she saw where the light had fallen. Her porcelain heart lay fixed in front of her, basking in a pool of bright warmth with all its pieces set back in place. A few cracks graced the otherwise smooth surface, and as she leaned closer she noticed something else. At the top of the heart was a tiny keyhole...a sort of golden lock. Next to it a small gold key lay upon the floor, gleaming brightly.
"What is this Lord?" she stammered, incapable of saying anything else.
"Your heart, dear one. I have mended it."
She picked it up ever so gently and held it to the light to examine his work.
"The cracks," she wondered silently, fingering their jagged paths across the heart's glassy facade.
"To remind you of your past, so that you may choose wiser in the future," the voice replied.
"And...the key?" she asked.
"That is the key to your heart, daughter. You are free to do with it as you please."
"Can I give it away?"
"To anyone you so wish," the warm voice spoke again.
"To anyone I so wish..." the girl repeated, and then her face grew somber when she remembered his earlier words, "But it is not mine to keep!"
"You're right, my love," her father replied, "That is why I can keep it for you; and then only I can give it away to the right man when the time comes."
The girl reached for the key and her hand trembled as she picked it up. She turned it over in her palm for a brief moment and then slowly got to her feet. She gathered her skirts as she rose, raking a deep breath.
"I have made my choice, Father," she said, her tone quivering slightly, "I shall give the key to my heart to you." With that, she lifted it, cradled in both hands, up to the ceiling.
"Do with it as you wish, Lord," she added, her voice gaining courage with each syllable, "I trust you to give it to the right person when you will it."
She could hear the smile in his voice as he replied, "Well done, my bride. I am very well pleased."

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
-Psalm 34:18

"Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."
-Psalm 27:4

Click to listen to the song "Porcelain Heart" by BarlowGirl.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Do You Want to Do Next?

That's the question I was confronted with while surfing the web today. Maybe your internet browser is like mine in that whenever you open an additional tab, a new page pops up with three different surfing options. At the top of this page, in faded blue text, is the question "What Do You Want to Do Next?" I've seen those words as many times as I've opened a new tab on the internet. Usually my answer would be something like, "I want to check my Facebook page" but today was different. Maybe it was brought on by the Focus on the Family Rebelutionary broadcast I was listening to, and maybe it was simply God. Whatever the case, my answer seemed entirely more crucial than before.
With all the "hard things" I claim to do, it's easy to get complacent and think that I've already done enough. But God would beg to differ! He has so much more in store for me...things that I could probably never even dream of doing; things that will stretch me and bring Him great glory! Complacency can't be a part of the picture if I strive to be obedient and follow as Christ leads. I should constanly be asking myself, "What do you want to do next?" Actually, to be more correct, I should be asking God, "What do you want to do next?"
What is His will for my life in the next minute, the next hour, the next day? What does He want me to do next? Apart from Him I can do nothing.

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,
Ellie V.

Monday, August 24, 2009

When It's All Said and Done-by Robin Mark

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it's all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love's rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
That you found purest gold in miry clay
Turn sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and in heaven after
For you've joined me at my true home
When it's all been said and done
You're my life when life is done.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Say...

In Matthew 16:13-28, Jesus asks Simon Peter a very important question. "What about you?" he says, "Who do you say I am?" That prompted me to wonder...who do I say Jesus is?

He is my Savior, my one and only way to the Father through his sovereign grace and blood shed on the cross. (John 14:6) Who do I say he is? He is compassion. (Psalm 103:8) He is mercy. He is peace. (Isaiah 26:3) I declare Him to be love. True love. (1 John 4:10) "For greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
He is all I'll ever need (2nd Peter 1:3) and all I ever want. He is the author and perfector of my faith. (Herews 12:2) He is my great High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14) He is my Lord. (Psalm 118:6) He is my life (Deuteronomy 30:20)...the air I breathe and the water I thirst for. (Psalm 63:1) He is my strength (Isaiah 40:29-31) and my portion. (Lamentations 3:24) He is the vine to which I cline to. (John 15:5) He is the hope to which I take hold of. (Hebrews 6:19-20) He is my shield (Psalm 18:30) and my joy. (Romans 15:13) He is my hiding place. (Psalm 32:7) He is my song (Psalm 118:14) and my shepherd. (Psalm 23:1) He is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. (Psalm 18:2)

...Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure because He will not abadnon me to the grave nor will He let His Holy One see decay. He has made known to me the path of life and He will fill me with joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand. (Psalm 16:9-11)

What about you, who do you say He is?
Ellie V.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Team Building

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." -1 Timothy 4:8

Last night I attended a "Team Building" event with my volleyball team. For 3 hours, everyone participated in group activities and listened to a speaker talk about the mental aspects of the game. It was an encouraging night as the speaker was a Christian, and although he didn't speak from a "Spiritual" point of view, his statements were very applicable to not just volleyball, but life in general.

One activity we did involved four hula hoops set up one in each corner of the gym. At the center of the room, the speaker dumped out a large bin of wiffle balls. First we split into equal teams and gathered around our designated hoops. Then we were told to pick up one wiffle ball at a time and carry them from the center of the gym to one of the hula hoops. On "go," everybody raced to the center and began frantically transferring wiffle balls to their team's hoop. Once the supply in the middle of the gym was depleted, we were told that we could rob balls from all the other hoops, and create alliances with other teams as well. The result? Pure chaos...competition at it's best.

At the end of the game, while we were all bent over panting for breath, the speaker looked us over rather thoughtfully.
"Girls!" he cried,"I told you at the beginning of the game to get all the wiffle balls into one hoop. One hoop."
Slowly, understanding registered on each of our faces. We had wasted all that energy and time stealing balls from each other, when we should have been working to get them all in one hoop collectively as a team. The speaker had made us play the game for one specific reason. "You spend so much time competing against your teammates," he said sadly, "Instead of simply accepting your role and playing as a team."

I think that out of all his statements, that one hit home the most. When the night was over and done, I couldn't help but reflect upon another team I'm on...the church. Alot of people fail to acknowledge the competition within ministry, but you don't have to look hard to find it. How many people (including myself) get so wrapped up in trying to excell at the "best gifts," that they neglect their true Spiritual Gift/s? How many times have individuals competed against one another for the most recognition? How could things change if we "accepted our roles" and "played as a team?"

Some verses to consider:
"But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."-1 Corinthians 12:18
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." -Ephesians 4:11-12

In Christ's Grace,
Ellie V.

Your Red Sea-My Take on the Life of Moses (Part 2)

The Red Sea. What a pivotal moment in Moses' life. Can you picture him standing there at the edge of that great big watery expanse? What might have been running through his mind? As I read through the latter half of Exodus 13 and on through 14, a few defined principles came to mind. I like them because they not only serve as good reminders about God's character, but they are also wonderful points to recall when it comes to Doing Hard Things.

-God's way isn't necessarily easier. After the Exodus, He lead the Israelites the long way around instead of through the Philistine country, which was shorter. (Exodus 13:17-18)

As rebelutionaries, it's evident that doing hard things isn't easy. God's way isn't always the smoothest, but it is always better.

-God is always there. He guided the Israelites with a pillar of cloud during the day, and a pillar of fire by night. Isaiah 30:21 reads "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

Even when we feel like we're taking on a task alone, God is right beside us every step of the way. We can trust in God's faithfulness!

-God's will is right. Nothing happens that is beyond His control. He may allow or even orchestrate certain set-backs (i.e. the hardening of Pharoah's heart in 14:4) but His plan is always perfect. Furthermore, he desires himself to be glorified despite roadblocks. ("But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." in 14:4.)

Sometimes our hard things may not work out. We need to understand that what "He opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." (Revelation 3:7) His will is the best for us, even if we don't see that until later.

-God calls us to rely on His strength and not panic. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that Moses could never part the Red Sea on his own. There, at that moment, when his role as leader was put to the test, God commanded him to lift his staff and stretch out his hand...He would do the rest.

Hard Things are kind of like the Red Sea. They can be menacing, intimidating, name it. It's easy for us to sometimes look at the big picture and give in to fear when we see Pharoah's chariots racing after us. In those moments, we need to step back and give all our fears and abilities to God, trusting Him to move in the ways He sees fit.

So what about you? What's the Red Sea in your life? Maybe it's little in comparison to a huge body of water, but that doesn't necessarily mean it requires less trust in the Lord. Maybe your sea will require little steps...small leaps of faith, instead of one huge jump. Whatever the case, you can be sure to expect a hard journey, but one that will be full of God's strength, will, and presence.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Self-Pity...Sin in Disguise

Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

I've read those verses a countless number of times in my life. Like most things, however, obeying those commands is easier said than done. After my last post I got to thinking about excuses, and what's really at the heart of them. In my case--and in most cases--it's usually self.
One of the worst forms of selfishness, I believe, is self-pity. This is an aspect that I really struggle with because it is so deceptive at times. Have you ever noticed how sneaky it is?

Self-pity crops up in vulnerable moments...times when I'm more apt to complain and feel discontent. It's also easy to justify. ("I'm just having a bad day.") Worst of all, it clouds my vision. I slip into a totally different mindset that focuses inward instead of outward. While God commands me to set my heart and mind on things above, I choose to set my sights on earthly things.

The thing that often keeps me from calling self-pity "sin" is that it isn't super obvious. It's easy for me to judge a friend of mine because her selfishness is so exposed. Really, though, I'm no different than her. The Bible commands me to humble myself and put others first. When I don't, I disobey. Disobedience is sin, no matter how obvious it is.

So what's the solution to self-pity? I don't know if I'll ever be rid of it for good, but I believe a combination of things can really help. It's important for me to remember that self-pity is first and foremost a heart issue, and therefore must be bathed in prayer. Another thing to consider is the contentment factor. When I am content with who and where I am, I'm less likely to complain and slip into self-pity. (The latter half of Philippians 4 has some great verses that talk about contentment.) Lastly, if I'm going to battle self-pity I need to battle "self." As a believer I'm called to crucify my sinful nature and live like Jesus did. This involves always looking out for other people's interests (the verse above) instead of my own.

Like I mentioned earlier, it's easier said than done, but with God anything is possible.

Just Some Food for Thought,
Ellie V.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Excuses, Excuses....My Take on the Life of Moses (Part 1)

In moments of frustration, my first response is oftentimes to question God. Then again, maybe it's not "questioning" so much as it is "whining."

"God, why me? Why now?"
"I already have so much on my plate. Why would you add yet another thing?"
"Lord, look at me! I obeyed and yet I still failed! What's going on?!"

I had one of those pity-party sessions recently as I was trying to fall asleep one night. Fear lead to frustration, which then led to complaining. I was particularly stressed about a certain situation, and that--coupled with several days of missed quiet times--was enough to get me started.
"Lord, this thing you've asked of me isn't even a passion of mine! I'm not even very good at it, and every time I try, I fail or do it with the fear of failing. The church already has so many people better suited for this task. Why do you insist on using me?"

I'm so glad I'm not God. It amazes me how He can be so gentle in rebuking me in times like these. I could hear his response to my string of complaints almost as clear as day, "What about Moses?"
Moses. What about him? Instantly I thought about the chapter in the Bible that deals with the burning bush. Moses had so many excuses and complaints against God. Yet the Lord correctly Him both gently and forcefully at the same time. As if that wasn't enough, He raised him up to become one of the greatest leaders in Israel's history.
Returning to my story, I woke up the next day in a different mindset. Instead of working through my usual Bible Study in 2 Samuel, I turned to Exodus. Immediately, a couple of things jumped out at me in a way they hadn't before.

Starting with Chapter 2, I was reminded about how God's hand was evident in Moses' life early on. His life was carefully preserved...first at home, then on the river, and again with his adoption as Pharoah's grandson. The Lord was clearly protecting him in a time where little Hebrew boys were most at risk!

I began to wonder how this concept translated into my life. The way I now see it, God has been involved in my existence from the start. (Psalm 139 is good proof of this.) He was working to draw me to Himself from the beginning, and He has arranged the circumstances to bring me to where I am now. I don't need to doubt His plan or timing.

I wrote down a second observation after reading verses 11 through 15 where it talks about the Egyptian beating the Hebrew slave. The Lord had given Moses a heart that was stirred by injustice. Not only that, but his heart was prompted to act against that injustice. Now, don't get me wrong, murder was not the appropriate response to the situation Moses was in. I think murder is very rarely, if ever, an appropriate response to anything. I simply mean to point out that God gave Moses a specific quality that would be necessary for leading his people to freedom.

Moving on, then, in Chapter 3 the burning bush enters. This is one of my favorite scenes from the life of Moses, simply because it reminds me of myself. His excuses are so closely tied to mine...
#1) "Who am I that I should do this great thing?" (Verse my own words)
#2) "What if they don't believe me?" (Verse 4:1)
#3) "God, I'm not good in front of people! I am slow of speech and tongue!" (Verse 10)
#4) And finally, in verse 13, I can almost hear the fear and desperation in Moses' voice, "O Lord, send someone else!"

Again I am amazed at our God's response to each of these protests. After the first excuse, He told Moses who He was. He exposed him to the essence of I AM. Then, later on after the second protest, He showed Moses how He would empower him.

God's response to the third is my favorite. He replies, "Who gave you your mouth?" How many times has He said the same thing to me? "Ellie, who gave you your hands? Who gave you your talents? I know what I'm doing! Just trust me, dear one."

Moses' fourth excuse is probably the boldest of them all. The Bible says that because of it the Lord's anger burned against him. Yet, while He could have very well smited the man then and there, He simply told him not to worry. He would provide.

With all this in mind, one prominent thing I took away from my quiet time was the reminder that the Lord is Jehovah Jireh. He will provide for my every need (Phillipians 4: 19.) Too many times, I think this phrase only means material needs, but Jesus is not limited to just that! He has and will continue to give me the resources and abilities I need to complete the tasks He has called me to do. I'm not guaranteed an easy or problem-free ride. God himself told Moses to expect difficulties (Exodus 4:19.) However, I can embrace those problems in God's strength. He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. Who am I to complain?

In Christ,
Ellie V.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Every Life is Worthy of Life

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a Christian Music Festival about 45 minutes from where I live. Four days of my favorite music and thousands of other Christians really encouraged me. But nothing impacted me as much as the words of a speaker there.

A prominent theme throughout the festival was the ministry of Compassion International--an organization that helps people sponsor children with material (and spiritual) needs around the world. While talking about this ministry, the speaker--Bob Lenz--got on the topic of the poor and how many people consider them a burden or inferior to society. He went on to include those with mental disabilities in his examples of how cruel some can be to humanity. Then he told a story that really caught my attention. I bought a T-shirt afterwards that summed up what it was about. The front says "T4-Hitler was wrong" and on the back it reads "Every Life is Worthy of Life-Bob Lenz."

T4 was the abbreviation for an address in Tiergarten (a borough of Berlin) and the name of a program instituted by Adolf Hitler from 1939-1941. During that span of time, Action T4 oversaw the murders of 275,000 people...lives that Hitler deemed "unworthy of life." These lives included adults and children of various nationalities. Many of them were pulled from mental asylums. Many of them were pulled from their families.
For a short while, those in charge of the program got away with the killings, leaving their loved ones with no word of the victims' whereabouts. The adminstrators justified their actions with euthanasia. They claimed mercy killings were the patriotic thing to do; they freed up space, money, and energy for soldiers fighting in the war. Society would no longer be "burdened" with taking care of the now-victims.
The truth was that Hitler wanted to rid the world of those he saw as "unfit for life." His policy of racial hygiene did more than affect countless Jews and Gypsies, it exterminated those with deformities and both mental and physical disabilities.

WWII was over and done a long time ago, but the issues behind T4 still live. In America, 4,000 babies will be murdered today. How long before our nation's elderly and those with special needs are treated the same? How long before people use mercy killings as an excuse to rid society of those they call a burden?
God calls us in Proverbs 31:8-9 to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Individuals with mental and physical disabilities are not disabled in every way. They are enabled to do the incredible things that God prepared for them in advance to do. They need us as their advocates, as do the poor and needy.

*It took just one messed up person to murder 275,000 lives. It can take just one humbled person to save that many and more.

"If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." ~2 Chronicles 7:14

Never forget...Every Life is Worthy of Life.

In His Hands,
Ellie V.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Are You Looking at the Beam, or Along It?

Recently I've been struggling with a topic that other Christians can possibly relate to. As followers of Christ, we are instructed to boast only in Him, but I sometimes feel guilty taking pleasure in certain things of this world. I'm a girl, so I'm into clothing and hair, and I love to watch movies and use technology like cell phones and computers. I try to keep myself in check in all these areas--i.e. focusing on inner beauty and being cautious about what movies I see--and I know that it isn't necessarily sinful to enjoy these things, but I wasn't sure why. Then I read chapter 3 of Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper and got a better understanding of material things in relation to keeping Christ first. The main verse that was quoted in this particular chapter was Galatians 6:14: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

This Bible here makes it pretty clear that as new creations set apart from this world, Christ should be our single boast. Does that make it wrong for us to have fun dressing up or texting a friend? Can Christ still be our only boast then? Piper lays out a beautiful explaination that addresses this whole concept. He elaborates about how God can be glorified through all the blessings and aspects of our lives. To refrain from quoting everything he said, I'll just repeat an illustration he used from C.S. Lewis that I found particularily eye-opening.

These are Lewis' words: "I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, nintey-odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences. ~From "Meditation in a Toolshed"

Jesus has blessed us with many wonderful things for our enjoyment, but the clincher is where we're looking. If we're looking "at the beam" in Lewis' case, we fail to acknowelge our Creator--the one who has, in fact, bestowed us with our great gifts. If we're looking "along the beam," that's quite a different story. In the latter example, our focus goes past the object of enjoyment and straight to God. In other words, we're worshipping the Creator instead of the Created.

I could go on, but I think I'll stop here. I just wanted to share this particularily insightful piece with you.

Matthew 6:21
Ellie V.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What is a "Rebelutionary?"

Reb-el-u-tion-ar-y n. An individual committed to rebelling against a culture's low expectations by doing harder, more "difficult" tasks for God's glory. (First introduced in the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.)

When I was a little girl, I said a prayer. I prayed a lot of prayers when I was younger, but for some reason this specific one has always stuck in my mind. I still picture myself standing exactly where I was--in my room, looking into my closet--blurting out these words, "God, I want to be a good teenager."

I'm not sure how old I was, but on that particular day I was thinking about a teen in our church that had recently landed herself in a lot of trouble. I didn't know any details of the story at the time, but I did know that what this girl had done was wrong and that it fit right into the "rebellious teenager" stereotype. I didn't want to follow in her footsteps and hurt my family like she had.

The day I turned 13 wasn't magical by any means. I don't even recall what all I did to celebrate. To me, the years ahead appeared very mysterious and unpredictable. (They still do, but Proverbs 3:5-6 continues to strengthen me.) It took awhile before I got used to the idea of growing up. My primary goal for this section of my life had changed from wanting to be a good teenager to merely surviving it. God used a wonderful book to change that whole mindset.

My parents gave me Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris for my 15th birthday. I read it in a few hours. With each page, my understanding and excitement grew. Christ hadn't called me to merely "survive" the teenage years; He wanted me to use them as a tool that would glorify Him. Instead of simply being a good Christian girl that didn't do all the indecent things associated with most teenagers, He wanted me to be known for what I did do...hard things that went over and above the expected.

With that in mind, I was prompted to think. what kinds of things did He want me to do? I already read my Bible, went to church, participated in Youth Group, and sang on the Worship Team. Wasn't that enough? Very gradually, Christ opened my eyes to the other beautiful things he had in store for me during this chapter of my existence. Through His Word I have continue to grow and mature in my relationship with Him. I've begun to look at the world and Christianity through different eyes, and He's filled me with qualities I know I could never achieve on my own.

I have by no means "arrived" and I am convinced that I won't until He returns (1 Corinthians 13:10,) but this brings me back to my blog title.

I wanted to be sure to include the word "imperfect" because I have this terrible obsession. Other firstborns will know what I am talking about when I call myself a perfectionist. My parents could see it in me early on when I would throw tantrums if things weren't just so. Today is no different, although I've graduated from tantrums to a bad attitute instead. My perfectionism is a blessing in many ways, but in others it is a curse. Oftentimes throughout the years I would fall into the trap of "being righteous" for God instead of relying on his grace. Over and over again I would get frustrated and discouraged because I could never measure up and earn my salvation. Recently I've come to closer grips with the grace of God and his boundless unconditional love. I'm not perfect, but I am saved, and what a joyous relief that is!

I don't want this blog to be about myself. I desire it to be a tool used to convey the depth of God's glory and grace. I hope my stories will serve as both an encouragment to you and a testimony of what Christ is doing in my life.

Stand Firm (Ephesians 6:13)

Ellie V.