Monday, January 28, 2013

And It's All Free!

I could see my patient struggling for air.  His breathing was fast, and his face was preoccupied, etched with anxiety.  The alarming of the oxygen saturation monitor didn’t help.  Yet a few minutes after being put on oxygen, he was relaxing, leaning back in the bed, talking to me about how sick he had been, and about how terrible it is not to be able to breathe, and about how much the oxygen helped.

“Funny how much we need that stuff,” I said with a laugh.
 “Yes,” he said, thoughtfully, “And it’s all free.”

He didn’t look much like a philosopher, with long, greasy grey hair, an unkempt beard, and nondescript clothing.  But His statement was the most profound thing I heard all day.

We all know that costs are going up.  Some people think about it in Wall Street sized terms.  Most of us around here think of it in terms of the cost of a gallon of gas and a loaf of bread.  I suppose that soon enough we’ll fall over the fiscal cliff and inflation is going to skyrocket and all that.  But did you ever think how much of life is free, and can never be under the greedy control of mankind?

Yes, the air we breathe is free, all of it.  The sunshine that warms us is free.  The colors in the sunsets are free, and so is the singing of the birds.  The rain that refreshes our land is free, and so is the wind that fills us with vigor and clears away the smog. 

And just think, God gives us all this without requiring us to earn a bit of it! “He causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45

Of course, I suppose we might observe that it doesn’t cost God a thing to create the sunshine, and paint the sunset, and send the rain, and tune the song of the birds.  Would He be so generous if it cost Him something?  What if it cost Him the highest price He could pay, the only thing that really mattered to Him?

Because that did happen, you know. He paid that highest price, the death of His only Son, so that you and I could come to live with Him in heaven, cleansed from all our sins.  There was nothing more that He could have given for your life—your eternal life.  There was no higher ransom that He could pay to save you from hell.  So what does He charge for this eternal life, for which He paid so dearly?

Nothing.  The only requirement is faith.  Trust.  Belief that He actually did it for you.  Simple agreement with the facts of the case—you are the sinner that Christ died to save.

Yet so many people choose to reject this offer.  They would rather have a salvation that they have to earn.  The idea of taking something so magnificent without being able to do anything to deserve it, is offensive to them.  Every day they breathe in God’s free air, and enjoy His free light, and listen to His free concerts, and tour His free outdoor art galleries, and live the physical life that He gave them so freely, and yet they reject the eternal life that He desires them to have above anything else.  Just because it’s free.   

Tell me, does that make sense?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Single--and Happy?!?!

 I’m living the life I always dreaded.  I’m in my late twenties—and single.  No major adventures on the horizon—and single.  I’ve even discovered the beginnings of my first wrinkle—and I’m still single.  But by the wonder-full grace of God, I’m happier and more fulfilled and content than I ever have been before! 

That’s not to say that I don’t eagerly hope to be married and have a family and home of my own someday.  If Mr. Right showed up tomorrow, I would be thrilled. =) But it does mean that God has proven to me that He is enough, and that He can fill my life with richness and purpose and usefulness even outside of my “dream life.” 

This is the message I eagerly want to share with other single people, because I’ve spent most of my life under the illusion that yes, the Lord can keep my head above water as a single person, but that’s about it.  I pictured myself trying to survive with a brave smile, trusting that when I get to heaven I’d finally be happy, rather than thriving in God and exulting with His joy right here, right now.

But I believed a lie!  Psalm 84:11 says of God, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  Psalm 34:10b puts it slightly differently, “They who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”  I take these verses to mean that if I’m walking in obedience and fellowship with the Lord, having laid my desires before Him, and He has chosen not to give me a husband thus far, that means that thus far, a husband would not have been the best thing for me, regardless of how I felt about it!  God is the perfect Father, and is “kind in all His deeds (Psalm 145:17).  Sometimes His goodness is demonstrated in giving, and sometimes in withholding—and I’m glad that it’s His job to decide what is best!  My job is just to trust, obey, and give thanks.

Yet how God has given, even when it seemed like He was withholding! He knows the womanly desires that He implanted in me, and He has met so many of those desires in unexpected ways, ways that hold benefits for many other people besides me.  No, I don’t have a husband to love, to help, to make a home for.  But I’m surrounded by lonely people of all ages, for whom I can cook, or mend, or clean, and for whom I can help to make a welcoming home where they can visit and be encouraged.  No, I don’t have children of my own to hold and rock to sleep and explore the world with.  But there are scores of children around me who come from broken homes, who perhaps were never wanted in the first place and are only considered a bother.  When I visit with them and teach the Bible to them, and shoot BB guns with them, we grin into each others’ faces and I hold them close and feel their arms around my neck and their hair against my check, and pretend for that moment that they are mine.  If their heart is warmed and comforted half as much as mine is, it’s worth it.

We single people have a mission in life just as much as the married ones.  We get to “fill in the cracks,” for needs in our churches and in society.  We can spread ourselves in multiple places and mobilize on the spur of the moment, to meet needs that married people aren’t able to meet.  We get to show the world the love and joy of God, to have a part in filling His heavenly home, and to help our fellow travelers in the family of God on their way.
One of Christ’s last commands was, “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  And that is, in words borrowed from The Sound of Music, a mission “that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life, for as long as you live.”  It’s also a mission that can only be accomplished by the power and love of God, when He reaches down in sheer grace, clasps our hands like those of a little child, and teaches us to transmit His love to the people around us.  

If you’re a single person who has been in Christian circles, you probably have heard, like I did, that God CAN meet all our needs and satisfy us in Himself.  But you may not have heard that He actually DOES!  That’s why I have kept persisting in my attempts to write this blog post, because God is worthy that someone should testify of how perfectly He works and how bountifully, too.  

There’s no magic formula besides the one we find hardest: trust and obey.  He asks us to trust Him, not by agreeing mentally that God knows best, but by putting ourselves at the mercy of His grace, without a backup plan in the event that God should fail us.  He asks us to be willing to love through whatever door He opens, whether it’s the one we were hoping for or not. To rejoice in all circumstances, whether we would have chosen them or not. And in everything, to give thanks, to make thankfulness our daily occupation—in fact, to pursue thankfulness as one thing we must not neglect to include in every day.  

Trust and obey. Is it a risky thing to trust the God Who sent His Son to die for you, who keeps the galaxies whirling in perfect synchrony, who has established mechanisms to keep your blood pH in an unbelievably narrow critical range? And is it too much to obey a God Who has only good plans for you, who withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly?

“Of course not!” we say.  And yet most of my life I’ve had the impression that trust and obedience meant a doleful struggle. So here I am to say that’s not so!  God’s blessings are all out of proportion with our deserving.  Here I am, having learned just a little bit about trust and obedience, such a little bit that I still fall into fear and worry on a regular basis.  But how God has blessed me and shown me His glory during these past few months—and He desires to do the same for you!

There is something even better than love, and marriage, and the baby carriage.  One man who made this discovery recorded it in Psalm 63:3, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You….My soul is satisfied.”  Nothing that life can offer—indeed, not even life itself—can offer more joy and fulfillment than the lovingkindness of God, something that is available for you to enjoy today, this very moment.

I simply pray that this glimpse into what God has been teaching me about Himself will encourage you to exult in the God that is yours, if you have trusted the Lord Jesus to be your Savior from sin.  And if you have not—well, have you found anything better than Jesus Christ and the life that He offers?  Jesus said, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)