Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Spirit Of Adoption

Today is December 28, 2013. We're only three days past Christmas, but while we're still officially in the season, I want to offer you a little food for thought. Last week, our pastor (Pastor Steven Furtick) brought us an amazing message with a focus on embracing change. He presented aspects of the Christmas story, from the initial act of obedience to the birthing of a new thing or season, and how this same pattern applies to situations in our lives. He mentioned Joseph (of course), and the bravery internally required for him to be obedient in the taking of Mary as his wife. He discussed certain ramifications that were on the forefront, should Mary's secret be discovered. He painted a vivid picture of what life had the very real possibility of looking like, without this event truly being an overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. I was intently listening, and a number of thoughts hit me like a lightning bolt. Again, this is one of my "things" - when thoughts plague me, I must respond accordingly by letting them out in print. So here goes...We know that "Jesus is the reason for the season", but the spirit of the Christmas season is the spirit of adoption. Seriously, think about it. Joseph was not just a step-father to Jesus. He took him as his son, and gave him his name. He covered Mary with love, and covered a child that shared no part of him. Joseph chose to rear this child. He passed down his mannerisms, ideals, morals, character traits, and even his trade. A father does this, not merely a man who tolerates a step-child. He adopted Jesus as his own. Jesus had the imprint of his natural father on him throughout his entire life. At this juncture, another thought struck me; the blueprint for salvation was actually embedded into the story of Jesus' birth. Crazy, right? Not so much. Romans 8:14-15 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father." Jesus had to be adopted in the natural, so that we could be adopted spiritually. Jesus willingly separated himself from His deity, for an earthly experience as a man. There was no overtly evident sign of His godhood until the Holy Spirit descended upon him. (Please don't call me a heretic, He performed no miracles that set Him apart from any other man until He was anointed and given authority to pick His heavenly mantle back up.) Jesus gave us the perfect example for living, and this includes the aspect of adoption. To become a child of God, we must be adopted into His family. We are not natural Jews, it is not our birthright. The act of being engrafted into the vine, and accepting the free gift of salvation is our only hope. It allows us access to God the Father, and because God is our loving Father, He saw the need for His son to be adopted too. I never saw the correlation before last week, and it made the Christmas message take on an entirely new life for me. Of course, you can take it or leave it, but I thought I would share. :-)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Winter Is Not Forever

Wow, It's been a shamefully LONG time since I've posted anything here. As I'm a habitual abuser of the confines of Facebook with my lengthy status updates, maybe I should remember that I actually have a blog page! Moving on... There are times when particular themes or thoughts literally plague me until I exercise them via written expression, and I've arrived in that familiar place again. This time, the topic would be loss. Aside from personal loss, there have been a number of visible people who have crossed over in the past 7 days. It leads me to evaluate the clustered timing of such events for 2 of them specifically. I'm going to take the mask off and tell you why these things are floating around in my mind. Bear with me though, and allow me to seat you on my train of thought. It will be a relatively short journey. All aboard!! (insert obnoxious whistle) When I was in Bible College, I was afforded amazing opportunities to "see behind the curtain". Yet in that same time, great wounds were inflicted - by others, by situations, and even by my own hand. Shocker, right? Suffice it to say, I left with a limp in my walk.(I say this in the spirit of transparency - not judgment or regret. Quite the opposite in fact, I actually treasure the time, lessons learned, and the people I have been eternally knitted to.) Fast forward another 10 years, and feelings that were obviously suppressed, came to the surface with the help of an OUT-OF-CONTROL group for alumni. I say this laughingly, because it was not all bad, and most of the stories shared were hilarious. But then the teeth came out...stories of pain, bitterness, rejection, wrongs endured, etc. One constant though, was a handful of instructors who cared enough to see through situations and care for people. No agendas, just care. Well, when one of those instructors died in a sudden and tragic motorcycle accident, it sent shock waves through the said community. No one could believe that this man who had been a mentor to hundreds, and walked every day out in love, was actually gone. His funeral was aired online, and many of us viewed it together. One screen was the funeral, and the other was our page where we consoled each other. But then the most amazing thing transpired, it was like someone flipped a switch and my life was changed in an instant - again. A man was being placed into the ground like a seed. That seed was going to grow, and a harvest of closure and healing was his final gift. A gift he was going to reap an eternal reward for, even though his earthly walk had ended. There was such a reverenced thanksgiving for his life, and the things he had done. The spirit of thanksgiving gave way to a beautiful worship experience, and waves of love washed over everyone. Myself included. And like magic, every negative feeling, thought, or emotion from my time in Ohio was gone. Still gone. They won't come back. Now consider the passing of Dr. Paul Crouch, and then Nelson Mandela. While they were leagues apart in their lives' work and experiences, the lasting effects of what they accomplished will echo throughout the ages. Both of them will be returned to the ground as seeds, and then a window for harvest opens. One for mass evangelism, and the other for freedom and equality. I cannot think of a better combination. So as I'm letting you all off the train now, I challenge you to be aware of the season we're standing in. Yes, it's winter. But winter will not last forever. Have some of us been cut down along the way? Yes. Have we found ourselves in dry places? Yes. Are there others in need of solace and restoration? Yes. Well, I have come to tell you that spring is on the way. Will it arrive overnight? It's possible. We will reap where we have not sown, and when the mere scent of water brings new life, that says anything is possible. Dreams don't have to die. Lost things can be returned. Hope does not have to be abandoned!! So dream, friends. Dream big. Job. 14:7-9 “At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. 8 Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, 9 yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant."