The Seen from the Unseen/Laura

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  2For by it the people of old received their commendation.  3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:1-3

The first verse here is ingrained in my brain. I’ve heard it multiple times, read it, seen it in pretty prints and had it quoted to me in times of doubt. It is familiar and something that I know.

This summer, I have been studying the book of Hebrews with friends and using Jen Wilkin’s study book. (Which I highly recommend!) In her questions for the week she asks this simple question that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for weeks now:

“How does verse 3 relate to verse 1?”

A simple question but it is a connection that I 8c82247e402cbec6896a85512a45b9fahad not looked at any other time.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Seriously? Have you taken a minute to realize how miraculous and beautiful it is that God created this world? He brought the world into being from His word. He brought it to be from things that are not visi
ble. He made everythin
g from nothing. We, as humans, are completely incapable of creating things from nothing. But God…He created the most beautiful creation out of the unseen. He is the Creator. And He is the Sustainer. He is God!

So why did that bring new clarity to my understanding of verse 1? Not that God needs to prove Himself to us, but it gave me even more confidence in the character of God and His ability to create and provide. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen and that is trustworthy because from the beginning of time, God created from the unseen things.

Too often I find myself trying to figure out how God will work things out—as if I were God and could know all things.  I can become discouraged if I can’t see the solution. But now I remind myself, God created this whole universe out the things unseen. Surely, he can create a solution and a way for His will to be done from things that I am blind to now.

After all, He took my calloused, prideful heart and replaced it with a new one that beats for Him—all from things that were unseen and unknown to me.

So for the last few weeks, when things seem impossible or crazy, I repeat to myself, “God can make something from nothing.” God has eyes to see the unseen. He can make a way from what seems like nothing to me.

Sing & Seek//Nita

Happy Summer everyone!  I hope you are having great times with the Lord, with family and with friends.  Perhaps you are like me and began the New Year determined to read through the whole Bible!  It is a good thing to pursue.  However if you are like me, there are places in the Old Testament where I just get bogged down in genealogies, blue print details for huge boats, the Tabernacle mega tent, and the Temple in Jerusalem.  Never mind, all those details and names of people represent real men and women who followed hard after God generation after generation and because they did, you and I get to know Him too.

This year I took a break just after finishing 2 Kings.  I went to the New Testament letters of Paul.  I had a grand time reading and studying Ephesians and9562cc1e1d8fc14bb4f4e93814a7d1f9 Galatians.  I needed that t
ime in the New Testament.  Last week I decided to go back and work on another section of the Old Testament.

Oh no, 1 Chronicles begins with more genealogies! Actually the first 8 chapters are lists of names!  But I determined to carry on reading – there are interesting passages about King Saul and King David and then more lists of names – like David’s mighty men of Valor!  As I prayed and continued reading the Lord caused me to “see” phrases that touch my heart still; “helped David with an undivided heart”  “perfect heart”  “of one mind” “joy indeed in Israel”

As I continued to read and pray I came to chapter 16.  Stop for a moment and read this amazing chapter.  King David knew how to worship God.  He appointed singers, writers, musicians to help the people worship.  He led his people in worship!  As you read 1 Chronicles 16 you will feel like you are reading the Psalms – and you are!  The writers of the worship in chapter 16 are some of the same who wrote many of the Psalms.  I would love to have been there, wouldn’t you?

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples,

Sing to Him, sing praises to him; Speak of all His wonders.

Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.  (8-11)

Well, more chapters of details and names follow this wonderful worship chapter, but don’t give up.  This book ends with a prayer that will change your life – worth praying again and again.  Check it out!  And keep reading God’s Word this summer!

The Illusion of a “Polished” Life//Megan

Most of us have radiant, Christ-centered ladies in our lives we admire for their unfading faith.  These might be our personal disciplers, close friends, missionaries, authors or even our own mother or sisters.  We are encouraged and edified by their life example of faith as we watch them follow Christ.  Paul encouraged this kind of relationship when he said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, as well as in verse 16 of Chapter 4, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  It is helpful and even healthly to look to other’s examples of Christ-centered lives as we seek to follow Christ’s pattern of godliness in this world.  This is a beautiful picture of biblical discipleship, but it easily can switch into an unhealthy relationship when we lose sight of the cross.  As women, our minds love to compare and by God’s design, it is good.  Nevertheless, when sin taints our thinking, comparisons can be painfully harmful to our lives, even dangerous when they cross into our faith.  The “polished” lives of these ladies can leave us feeling discouraged instead of encouraged when we compare it with ourselves.  When our minds tend to focus on loveliness of the lives of Christ-centered ladies, it distracts us from pursuing Jesus and leaves us lost in discontentment.  I want to urge you towards healthy relationships with some things that have been of encouragement to me and others in my life.

Let’s compare ourselves to Jesus.  When we shift our ideals off others, we see Jesus is the perfect picture of righteousness and we all fall short.  Every believer is on the same journey we are, just at different points, yet none of us have arrived.  When we compare ourselves to those further up the path, we see their spot as the finish line.  Suddenly, we forget Jesus and strive in our own efforts to reach the life they have obtained.  Twisted thinking like “that person got there, why can’t I?” takes over and squashes the gospel freedom of grace.  When we seek Jesus’s position as the rightful finish line, we see we can never reach the perfection of His life.  His sacrifice is required for each of us to make it.  Instead of bashing ourselves in the hopeless cycle of self-righteousness for not reaching the position of others, we accept grace and join others in pursuing Jesus together.

Every one battles with sin.  Paul clearly states in Romans 3:10: “None is righteous, no, not one.”  We all know this, but when look at the “polished” faith walks of these woman, we tend to minimize or are altogether blind to where they fall short.  From the outside, they shine more brightly and clearly Jesus as their lives are being transformed to become more like Christ over time.   However, don’t be sorely mistaken; their lives are a mess too because of their sin.  You may only see the pleasant outside life of many believers, but their hearts show they are sinners too.  Think, why do they so strongly keep after Jesus?  Because they know they are still a sinner in need of a savior.

The battle is ever increasing internally.  The outside life we aspire to in these women is the outcome, not the full story.  To those around them, ladies who have surrendered to the work of the Spirit in their lives, may seem put together externally, but inside their hearts, sin is still present and causing havoc.  The Spirit may have conquered some of the strongholds of sinful behavior, they often are struggling with heart sin that may never come out in their conduct.  As they are drawing closer to His heart, God is working internally on attitudes before those thoughts become external actions.  All of this is hidden to us unless these ladies choose to share glimpses of God’s grace to them as they encourage us.

Sin is magnified as Christ is glorified.  It is true as we allow the Spirit to transform our lives, we begin to sin less and less; however, as we understand more of God’s holiness, we grow in our understanding of how deeply God is grieved over even our littlest heart sins.  I love to encourage women with a little chart I once was taught.  It shows two arrows growing apart: one is our understanding of God and the other is our understanding of our sin.  As we grow in our knowledge and love for the Lord, more and more of our own broken condition is revealed to us.  Our debt of sin is deepened as we see more of Christ glorified.  Additionally, our awareness of our need for Christ is magnified as we see the gap between the arrows increase.  This is how Paul can say he is the chief of sinners because he saw the great extent of the majesty of Christ while he also saw the great extent of evil in his heart.  These ladies often shock us when they eagerly and strongly disagree when their “polishedness” is admired.  As I mentioned earlier, they see the mess of their hearts clearer because they see more of the beauty of cross.  No matter where you are in your walk, inwardly we each battle with sin and knowing how far we are from the example of Christ.
Recently, I came across another version of this arrow chart created by Paul E. Miller called the Cross Chart.  It shows the growth in the life of the believer, but it also highlights the feelings we become entangled with when we don’t grow in our understanding of the cross.  Particularly, it focuses on revealing the brokenness that is created when we use other’s examples to fill the growing gap of the arrows instead of Christ’s examples.  Consider this chart.  While I have a tendency towards comparing myself to those ahead of me on the path, others struggle with comparing themselves to those lower on the path.  As the chart shows, roots of pride grow in that situation.  Either way, we all need more Jesus.cross-chart-with-border
Dear sisters, let me encourage you.  The “polished” life you seek is only perfectly fulfilled in Jesus.  Turn your eyes to the Lord instead of the believers around you for your measuring tape.  Know that as you are seeing more sin in your life it is a reflection of the increasing holiness you see in Christ.  Behold the cross of Christ that is never too small to bridge that gap.  Let us all exhibit lives of example as we walk steadily on towards Jesus’s example no matter where we are on the path.

For further study:  1 Timothy 1:15,16; Romans 7:15-20; Romans 3:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:14-16

 

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Hello ladies! My name is Megan[pictured second from the right] and I recently graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College & have been working part time with Cru here in Tidewater.  Cru has been an integral part of my walk with God since my freshman year.   It is an honor to be able to serve with this sweet ministry to our mighty King and be able to encourage each of you in your own walks through things like this blog post.  Some of favorite things are dates with Jesus, acoustic praise and worship songs, traveling, chilly morning walks, handwritten letters, discipleship, pumpkin dump cake, sunny Sundays, the laughter of children and fellowshipping with my dear sisters in Christ.  Thank you for being such faithful readers and making it to the end!