The Lampstand

This_Little_Light_of_Mine

“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it to be put on a lampstand? For nothing is concealed except to be revealed, and nothing hidden except to come to light. Mark 4:21-22

My sister-in-law had a pastor who used to say, if you’re not doing anything for the cause, then take down your Christian flag. I understand what he means here. He’s saying that if the way you live your life doesn’t align with Christ, then don’t fly your flag. Don’t proclaim that you’re His if what you do brings dishonor to His name. Because your testimony will leave an impression on someone. Good or bad. How we decide to conduct ourselves will touch another’s life in some form or fashion. Each action we take through the course of our lives makes up our testimony. Our lives are our witness.

And there have been several times that I’ve questioned what I’m doing here. See, I am a woman. And I am overly sensitive (my husband can attest to that). I will take what someone says to me, and analyze it, and stew on it… and if it doesn’t jibe right – then I let it get me down. If I take a remark as criticism, I begin to doubt what I’m doing. And so, today, I wonder… Am I doing the right thing here? Because if you were to read through all the posts I’ve written, quite a few pertain to struggle. And I wonder – does that honor my Lord? Or, am I bringing dishonor to His name. Am I His credible witness? Or should I take down my Christian flag because my life just doesn’t align with His. I wonder…

I’ve titled this spot “The truth about God & me.” And I think in the very beginning, there may have been some “fluff.” I’d have to go back and read to be certain, but you know, there are some places you just don’t want to go. Some things may be better left alone… skimmed over or ignored. Because as a Christian, shouldn’t your life reflect nothing but light and glory and victory and peace and goodness and love? As a Christian, shouldn’t your light be shining bright to point out all the good there is in following Christ? As a Christian, shouldn’t your life be chock full of the fruits of the Spirit? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22

The truth is, there should be. As a child of God, I should be loving and joyful and peaceful and patient and kind and all that other stuff. But you know what… I’m not there yet! I emphasize yet. I believe this is the whole point of my blogging. See, I’ve heard some phenomenal testimonies in my time. I have heard stories of those who found Jesus, and they did a complete 180, and they haven’t been the same since. And that’s wonderful. But sadly, this is not so with me. I am a Christian woman, I have no doubt. But the truth is, I hold to my old stuff. For the flesh is hard to overcome. My testimony is one of struggle, for I battle idols and hatred and strife and jealousy and selfish ambitions and factions among many other things. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:19.

There’s a line from a movie that I like… there sits a man in the witness stand and an attorney hammers him, demanding the truth. Jack Nicholson’s voice rings out, “You can’t handle the truth!” Truth. It’s what we all want, right? Truth. It’s what can set one free. Truth. It’s what God demands of His people, for He desires truth in inward parts. Psalm 51:6. The 100% truth about God & me is that I struggle. And there are places that I cannot go yet in writing about Him. For I haven’t made it there yet.

A brother in Christ exhorts me to get the Bride mentality. But I can’t yet. Because the head knowledge has not made it to my heart yet. At least with regard to my being loved and cherished as a precious bride. I know He loves me, for His word tells me so. But for now… today… I have experienced God in other ways. He is my Heavenly Father, and He provides for me. I’ve experienced this. He is my wonderful Counselor and He guides me. I have experienced this. He is the still voice and speaks, for I have experienced this. He has a plan for my life. I know. I’ve experienced His hand maneuvering the seconds and minutes of my day. But cherished… by God? My head says yes, but my heart registers it not.

Another truth? I fancy myself a prophet. Because I love to proclaim God’s word and I want to encourage others. And for the longest time, I thought my mission was to proclaim freedom. But through the course of blogging, I had the shocking realization that I cannot do this! For how can one enslaved proclaim freedom? How can I help free captives when I am not free myself. Imprisoned by bars of my own making. Thus, I don’t feel free! And no doubt, I am not the only one. I am not the only one. I am not the only one. There are others… Christians… who have not experienced the freedom that is available to us through Christ. Why is that?

The truth about God & me, is I have far to go. And I am not the only one. Why fly this Christian flag of mine? Because I want women like me to know… there’s hope. I know my God is real. He speaks to me. He leads me. He provides for me. And I have no doubt that He’s leading me to that elusive freedom. He’s taking me by the hand and trying to convey to me how much he loves me. He’s been trying to show me this whole time. He wants me to know the truth. I can handle the truth. And the truth is, I’ve been bound. I am held by traditions and by rules and by regulations that were set forth by man long ago. I have been trying to adhere to all the things I think I should be doing… but Galatians 5 is clear. Christ has liberated us into freedom. Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery, for you are called to freedom!

The truth about God & me is that I am bound to law. But according to Galatians 5:14, the law can be fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. And I’ve read that love covers a multitude of sin. Love and freedom. That’s what I want. I’m seeking it with all my heart, but for some reason, it eludes me. And from what I understand, it’s there for the taking. It’s free. This is part of my struggle. But you know what? I found something precious through God’s word not long ago… it gives me great hope.

The boy Samuel served the LORD in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the LORD was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. One day Eli, whose eyesight was failing, was lying in his room. Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle where the ark of God was located. Then the LORD called Samuel, and he answered, “Here I am.” 1 Samuel 3:1-3

Samuel served the LORD, but at first, he never had a personal word from God. See, his mother had prayed for that boy, and she promised that if she gave birth, she’d give that boy to God. And so, Samuel was committed to the LORD before he even really knew Him. He began to serve because that’s what he was brought up to do. And as he lie near the ark of God, he heard a voice. It was God, but Samuel didn’t even recognize who was calling. Here is a boy who had been in service of the LORD, but he didn’t even know God’s voice when it came. But God didn’t stop after one time…

To me, this is a picture of us today. I think we begin doing and serving before we even know why we’re doing what we do. I think we take on tasks that we perhaps are not even meant to do. Because we haven’t heard from the LORD yet. We haven’t heard His call. And because we can become so distracted by busyness, we further alienate ourselves from Him. We bypass relationship with our Creator because we just get too busy. And His voice is a still, small voice. In our noisy lives, can we hear Him when He calls? Will we even recognize His voice amidst the clamor we encounter every day…

Why do I fly my flag if I’m so flawed? Maybe it’s because of the passage of 1 Samuel. Because within those verses, I see light. I see hope. There’s power in those words… Before the lamp of God had gone out. See, the lamp was still lit when God called to Samuel. And if we’re His, we have God’s lamp inside. It’s lit. There are those who have encountered the fullness of God’s love and their blaze is burning bright. And there are those who have broken free of the prison of their own making, and their flame beckons others to follow. But for some… there may only be a pilot light. And the good news is, the lamp of God has not gone out. There’s still time. And in my walk with God, I think this is me. There may only be a pilot light burning right now, but the truth is… it’s still on.  No, I am nowhere near where I should be. But I am on my way. I am on my way. That’s why I fly my flag. Because… I am not the only one. No, I am not the only one. And that’s encouraging to me. I am not the only one…

We have his light in us. Some shine more brightly than others. But in a dark world, just a spark will do.

… and her lamp never goes out a night. Proverbs 31:18

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=light+of+mine+&qpvt=light+of+mine+&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=7AEE361A71CF83429B977AEE361A71CF83429B97

The Witness Stand

scales-justice

I think it’s no accident that I’m a legal assistant. I used to work in a law firm, but now, I work from home. My employer is an attorney, so needless to say, he knows the rules. My boss knows most of the laws, and the difference between right and wrong. He no longer practices law through a law firm, but rather, he serves as a mediator. Basically, he steps in as an arbitrary party and listens to the different sides of a case. He counsels the parties, and tries to facilitate a settlement before the matter reaches trial. It’s a good thing. A noble calling. My boss tries to help people resolve issues. And from what I hear, he does a good job.

And so, my being a legal assistant and working for an attorney seems natural. See, although I broke some rules growing up, I have always been a rule follower deep down. I was the one who followed the crowd, but always, there was a piece of me that feared the consequences of my actions. Although I tried to blur the lines a time or two, I could never completely cross over the line that separates right from wrong. And in contemplating my inflexibility, I get tickled when I think about my time in the Air Force. It was during our technical training (a little looser than basic training, but still many rules to follow), when my girlfriend had a good laugh at my expense. See, you were supposed to march everywhere you went. However, only if there were two or more people. Once, I had to go back to the dorms at lunchtime… all by myself. And do you know that because I was so scared of breaking the rules, I marched back to the school… all by myself. This in itself was against the rules, because you cannot be in formation when there is only one! At any rate, my friend had stayed behind during the lunch break, and she told me she could see me coming from afar. For she witnessed my rigidity, stiffly performing facing movements as I maneuvered across the air field. And although she couldn’t make out my face, she just knew it had to be me. Because she knew of my fear of breaking the rules, she could spot me a mile off.

Yes, I am a legal assistant, my employer is an attorney, and I like to follow the rules. So not surprisingly, I love the TV show Law & Order. In great anticipation, I listen… “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups… the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”  Actually, this comes from the criminal intent version of the show, and I prefer SVU. But I digress… Law & Order. I like law and order in my life, and I like law & order in the show. I am a woman who needs the law, and I can assure you, I crave order. I want to know the rules so I can follow them. I want to know black from white and right from wrong. And as much as I tried to be a free-spirit in my youth, this is my true nature.

Since I have been a legal assistant for at least ten years now, and since I have a love of the Law & Order series on TV, I find it absolutely astonishing that I am just now picking up on some of the legal terms I am seeing in Scripture. Oh, not the more obvious ones… There is the Law. God’s Law. It’s what His people followed through Old Testament times. And Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that law (Matthew 5:17). But here lately, I’ve been seeing some more subtle terms…

Isaiah 43:10: “You are my witnesses,” says the LORD. Today, witnesses are called to the witness stand… the place occupied by a person giving testimony in a court of law. It’s in Hebrews 12 that I find I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses… God’s people are His witnesses. It’s Psalm 50 that displays God as Judge, for from on high He issues His summons to heaven and earth so that he can judge His people. It is God Himself who will testify against the wicked. And what does that word wicked mean? It means criminal, guilty one, one guilty of crime. And who in the Bible is wicked? Esau and Cain, for one murdered outright, and the other held murder in his heart. In God’s eyes, hate is hate whether it’s acted upon or not. And if one harbors hate, she makes both God and herself a liar. The one who stores up hate is not a credible witness. And the one who unleashes her tongue for evil and deceit, this one is wicked. So God Himself will lay out the case before the wicked.

Yes, in my trial by the light of God’s fire, the case has been laid out against me. And I’m so surprised to find myself sitting here… in the witness stand of God’s court. Me. A rule-follower. The woman who needs law and order has broken God’s law. Thus, my life is disorderly. For it’s clear that I’ve neglected to adhere to God’s Law of Love and His perfect Law of Liberty (Romans 14). Restitution must be made for my sins. He is right when He passes sentence, and He is blameless when He judges (Psalm 51:4). So, He sits and He waits. For me. Dare I admit my guilt? My heart, which is pierced by conviction, is evidence of my guilt. So shall I speak up and confess? Or will I remain silent? What about the Miranda rights… do they apply here? Do I have the right to remain silent because anything I say or do may be used against me. Do I have the right to consult an attorney before speaking. Or can I plead the fifth? For I know that anything I say in my defense will only further implicate me. What can I do?

For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself-a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6

And then, I remember. I made a confession long ago. And it’s only through that confession that I am saved from God’s judgment today. For Romans 10:9 says that I must confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord! I don’t have to plead the fifth today, for I pled Jesus years ago! And the truth is, it’s only His testimony that stands in God’s court. Because for the life of me, I cannot get it right. Not all the time. I fall short, and by the grace of God, I have an advocate. I have One who sits at the right hand of God and intercedes on my behalf. And you know, I also have someone else, for I have a Counselor.

Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment… John 16:7-8

It is God’s Holy Spirit inside me that guides me in all truth (John 16:13). He is my attorney who comes alongside me… to guide and to help, to counsel and protect. In reality, it is God’s Spirit that leads me. He is the line and lets me know when I cross over from right into wrong. He is the reason I find myself on trial today, for He convicts my heart. But also, He is the One that reminds me of the truth… Jesus. Because Jesus already paid the price for my crime, I don’t have to. And so, I shall be released. I will walk away from this… a free woman. For my record has been expunged.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Trial by Fire

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But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

About a month ago, I was on fire… for God. I wanted to speak on His behalf. I wanted to be His witness. I wanted to glorify God through my words… and so, I typed out messages via blog format. This was my method of testimony. And I thought I was doing what I was supposed to. I was on a specific track headed in a certain direction. I was leaving darkness behind as I was entering His light. And then, I reached the destination of God’s Ten Commandments. His law set in stone. God’s words etched onto a tablet of rock by His very, own finger. And those tablets of stone were then placed inside the Tabernacle. God’s words were kept in the Holy of Holies, placed inside the ark of the covenant, which is also referred to as the ark of the testimony. There’s that word again… testimony.

I thought I knew where I was headed next. See, words swirled through my brain ready for blog format. I was ready to testify. I thought I was God’s girl… His witness. I wanted to magnify the difference between then and now. I wanted to proclaim that long ago, God’s words were etched in tablets of stone housed in God’s dwelling place – the tabernacle. But today, God’s words are housed in His new dwelling place… His chosen people. And His words are etched onto tablets of flesh… the heart. I wanted to show that God’s living word is lifted off the pages of Scripture, and nestled deep into our hearts. The words of the living God… living inside us… living inside of me. I thought I was ready. I believed I was a credible witness. My heart was right, and my motives were pure… or so I thought.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it? ” Jeremiah 17:9

It was just over a month ago that I was halted in my tracks. God’s words leapt off the pages and I cringed when I realized they were meant for me. “What right do you have to recite My statutes and to take My covenant to your lips? You hate instruction and turn your back on My words.” Psalm 50:16-17. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could this be? I was testifying for God. I was telling the truth. I was typing out messages about His words. What had I done wrong? But then, after I let His words simmer, they penetrated my heart. See, Hebrews 4:12 is true: “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” The heart. The very place I was ready to testify of… the innermost part of my being where God’s word is housed is what tripped me up. My heart. Deceitful above all things and wicked. My heart… chambers that I thought were pure were instead tainted… filled not with God’s word but something else entirely.

You know… there’s a small church down the road from me. I’ve passed it about a gazillion times. And on the sign out front, you can read, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” That sign has carried the same message for at least three months now. The first time I saw it, I thought it was pretty good. See, there are people out there who need to know that. Other people… not me. But now, after reading it one gazillion and one times, I know it must be just for me. And until I understand this truth, perhaps it will linger there – mocking me each time I pass. I have to get this right.

You see, it was sometime back that the word “liar” kept staring back at me from the pages of Scripture. I tried to address it. But mostly, I just skimmed over it. Because I don’t lie. I don’t tell lies! But you know what… God’s word tells me otherwise. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8, 10. Liar. I am a liar in that I don’t recognize my sin. And not only that, by not seeing me as I really am, I make Him a liar, too. And this cannot be.

Sounds desperate, doesn’t it. But there is good news… the fact is, I am God’s girl. And the truth is, I am on fire. And what’s occurring in my life is only natural. Because the closer I get to God’s fire, the more of me will be burned away. For through this journey called life, I find that my faith is being tried (1 Peter 1:7). It was Peter who wisely said to Jesus’ followers, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you…” 1 Peter 4:12. The dross is being burned away. And for today, while the ashes still smolder inside, I cannot help but think of “Liar, Liar, pants on fire.” But tomorrow… tomorrow will be another story. For I am being purified by the Refiner’s fire. And what’s left will be golden and true. When the bitter envy and resentment and hate go up in smoke, only God’s word will remain. And then, when only His words fill my heart, I can testify. I can be His witness. And my testimony will be credible. I shall recite His statutes, for…

…his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9

Can I get a Witness?

There’s a song that moves me… an oldie but a goodie by Grand Funk Railroad called Some Kind of Wonderful. I love the beat and I love the lyrics. The singer laid it all out there about that woman of his… he testified of her goodness, of her sweetness, and of her lovingness. Well… simply put, she was just clean out of sight. That woman was some kind of wonderful. And really, that singer couldn’t ask for anything more… because through that woman of his, he found everything a man could ask for. And he wanted to know… was there anyone else out there who had a woman like her? And then comes the best part of the song (at least in my opinion). The band cries out, “Now can I get a witness?” Yes, indeed. Was there a witness in the house? Could they find somebody else… anybody else… who could testify?

It was some time ago that I had great passion for singing. Not that I could or can… it’s just that it was my hobby. One of the greatest Christmas presents I ever received was a karaoke machine. And from that day on, for a period of about three or four years, that’s what you would find me doing on a Friday night. A fly on my wall would have witnessed me belting out songs for no less than two hours before my TV. And more often than not, my one woman show spilled over to three hours. I just loved to sing. And Some Kind of Wonderful usually made my song list.

Yes, I loved karaoke more than anything back then. And when the opportunity presented itself – a chance to sing in front of a live audience – my husband was bound and determined I would do so. He had heard me talk about it so often, he was going to force me to go up on stage. And if I wouldn’t pick the song, then he was going to do it for me. And so, I made a choice. Among others (it was a slow night), I selected Some Kind of Wonderful. That song, I could do, for I knew the words by heart. And so, as I took the stage and looked out on that small crowd, I let everyone know that this one was for my baby (referring to my husband). I changed all the “hers” and “she’s” to “his” and “he’s”, and laid it all out there about my husband. That man of mine was some kind of wonderful, and everyone who had ears knew it. Towards the end of the number, I sang out, “Now, can I get a witness?” And after it was all over, the DJ said even he was beginning to believe that guy was some kind of wonderful. And that’s a fact I can testify to. He’s my man, and he’s still some kind of wonderful today.

So… here’s my point. I love a particular song, and I can testify to that because it’s truth to me. It’s real, and you will believe me when I say I love it. It’s apparent. And karaoke… love it. Love to sing. Anyone who knows me well knows that I love karaoke, despite my being unable to sing. My husband can testify to that because he witnessed countless shows. And I love my husband… I can give testimony to that. I love him, and anyone who knows me knows that I love my husband. I can testify about the song, and I can testify about my love for music and karaoke, and I can testify about my love for my husband. And I’m a credible witness because all of that is real to me. BUT… what about God? What about Him?

Is my testimony about God as credible as the other things I testify of? Can I speak of the LORD with all sincerity, and my witness be as true? And if so, do I? Can I? Or perhaps the question is… will I? Is God looking down on His creation just waiting for someone… anyone… to testify. Can I be that witness? Can I tell of His goodness, and His sweetness, and His lovingness? Is He there waiting for me to tell someone about how clean out of sight He is? For God already knows He is some kind of wonderful, but do I? Really? Can I testify? See, the truth is, I am complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). I couldn’t ask for anything more, for I have everything a woman could ask for. I know this. He knows this. Is He looking down on me wondering what holds me back? Is He looking at all His creation wondering, why aren’t they? Is He shouting out to His people – to anyone who will hear Him – Can I get a witness???? Anyone?

Yes, God is great. God is good. He is majestic and holy. He is forgiving and kind. And He loves us. Oh, how He loves us. Will I be so bold as to testify to this? Am I believable? Am I a credible witness? Because that’s what He wants from us. He wants for us to testify of what we know, but first, He has to be a part of our lives. Before we can testify about Him, we need to know Him. Because we simply cannot testify of that which we do not know. So… do you know Him? Can you testify? Come on now… He’s waiting. He’s calling out…

Now, can I get a witness

And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6