Beautiful Things

Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” is one of my favorite songs now. It’s such an incredible expression of God’s overwhelming grace and of salvation and sanctification.

Love these lyrics:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Wow. A God who promises to find what is lost and make beautiful things out of dust is One who should receive all our adoration and all our lives.

Character Close Up: Abraham, a man of great faith

You should check out Romans Chapter 4 – it’s amazing. Paul discusses salvation and uses Abraham as an example of justification by faith, not works. After a long, hard day on Capitol Hill yesterday, the verses in Rom. 4 were like oxygen to my lungs. Reading Scripture is the best way to do what Hebrews 12:12-13 says – “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (referenced also in this post). It changes and renews me. Totally amazing.

Abram (it’s later that he becomes “Abraham” and/or “Father Abraham,” as you may know him), is first referenced in Genesis 11:26. He’s at the tail end of a long genealogy of the descendants of Shem (one of Noah’s three sons – read Genesis, it’s fascinating!)… I love how with Abram, the genealogy continues, but the story becomes much more important. Scripture begins by detailing his life and his circumstances. He’s married to Sarai (Gen. 11:29), who is barren (11:30), and he lived in Ur but moved to Haran with his family (11:31). His story can be found in Genesis 11-25. To give you a bit of perspective – there are only three chapters in the Bible to describe and detail creation and the fall, while fourteen chapters are given to discussing Abraham and his life!

There is no indication that Abram knew God until chapter 12, which is titled in my Bible, “The Call of Abram.”

But God gives him a huge directive with a tremendous promise (12:1-3):

“‘Now,’ the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'”

And Abram BELIEVES AND OBEYS! Verse 4 says “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.

It’s this kind of faith that sets Abram apart as a hero of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 says that “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

And this kind of faith isn’t seen just once in his life, but many times. God promises him a son and descendants that would be as numerous as the stars (15:5), and Abram believes! This faith was “counted to him as righteousness” (15:6) even before Christ came! There’s too much to Abraham’s story to tell it all here – but he believes God time and time again – even when the command of the Lord will hurt him or those that he loves (submitting to circumcision in Gen. 17 at the age of 99, offering Issac as a sacrifice in Gen. 22, etc.). He’s not always perfect – he definitely fails to trust God at times and gives away his wife twice when he’s scared of kings killing him so they can have her (Gen. 12, 20).

Despite his failings, God gave him a huge amount of faith. I want to have faith like Abraham – enough to simply hear God and obey, with no hesitation or delay, no weighing of pros and cons. Hebrews 11:8-10 highlights the incredible faith that he had, saying, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country […] for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Thus continues the themes of waiting, faith, and patience. Abraham’s life shows that God never fails us. His promises are true. Hebrews 12 clearly shows that we’re to run our races as Abraham and other men and women of faith ran – always trusting and obeying the voice of God. It’s this kind of faith that God blesses – not our works. Abraham was blessed because of his faith, not his circumcision. Look at this:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:18-25, emphasis added).

and all I could say and can say to that is WOW.

Guidance Needed?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone in your life (including those you trust absolutely, those with whom you have very little true relationship, and all the people who fall in the middle) thinks they alone have the answer and that they know, without a doubt, the path you should take? What serves to make life even MORE complicated (as if it needed any help at all) is that each of these dear advice-givers, who usually do have your best interests in mind, tends to offer a wide variety of different advice and admonitions. Such guidance many times falls to extremes, or you get a few suggestions for all the different options involved, which leaves you once again, where you began.

Not all of this is unsolicited advice, either. I generally seek it out and ask for it… I tend to desperately need to bounce ideas and thoughts off of people and process circumstances out loud.  The results though, of such a practice, can be one of the most frustrating things ever, especially if you’re honestly seeking guidance and wisdom. I’m definitely pretty hard-headed and stubborn… but I like to think that I at least try to be teachable and try to seek out opportunities to be taught. I’m constantly praying that if I’m moving in a direction that isn’t God’s will that He’ll stop me, and that if I’m seeking anything that isn’t in His plan, that He’ll change my heart. In fact, I don’t ask, I beg.

The problem comes when  no one seems to quite understand… I guess I’m learning that each person brings their own biases into a conversation and such lenses provide the filter through which each individual sees the world. No one can truly understand my heart or my life or my situation in the same way I can, which thankfully forces me to turn to the only One who really can. I’m finding more and more that the best perspective is the heavenly one, one that focuses on others, the kingdom, and eternity… and not on me or what’s best for me.

I’m learning that even though I truly crave to communicate and to be known and to be taught, the best teacher is the Holy Spirit Himself. Now, please don’t misunderstand – I am not at all negating the value of the wisdom of those around us… I feel that mentorship by godly men and women is definitely one of the most amazing experiences ever and is so vital to our maturity in the faith. I’m merely saying that at some points in life it is necessary to trust your heart and the promises of God and move and live in faith, according to Scripture, rather than in what people tell you based on the way they perceive a situation. The advice that the world has to offer is false, has no merit, and exists in a sphere that has no idea of the true meanings of faith, hope, and love.

So, when seeking wisdom and guidance, I’m learning I have to be selective with where I turn. And I’ve found the best place to run is to God. Scripture is so full of promises regarding wisdom and understanding… and of God’s promise to let us hear from Him. Here are a few I’m holding on to:

1 Kings 4:29-31: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.”

Job 12:13: “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.”

and Job 28:12-28:

But where shall wisdom be found?

And where is the place of understanding?

13 Man does not know its worth,

and it is not found in the land of the living.

14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’

and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’

15 It cannot be bought for gold,

and silver cannot be weighed as its price.

16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,

in precious onyx or sapphire.

17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,

nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.

18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;

the price of wisdom is above, pearls.

19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,

nor can it be valued in pure gold.

20 “From where, then, does wisdom come?

And where is the place of understanding?

21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living

and concealed from the birds of the air.

22 Abaddon and Death say,

‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

23 “God understands the way to it,

and he knows its place.

24 For he looks to the ends of the earth

and sees everything under the heavens.

25 When he gave to the wind its weight

and apportioned the waters by measure,

26 when he made a decree for the rain

and a way for the lightning of the thunder,

27 then he saw it and declared it;

he established it, and searched it out.

28 And he said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is so important that Proverbs tells us many times to seek it above all other things. I find myself praying Colossians 1:9-11 over myself daily (and changing it up a bit to make it personal):

“Lord, I ask that you will fill me with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that I can walk in a manner worthy of You, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in my knowledge of You. Strengthen me with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.”

These verses all point in the right direction – to the true source of all wisdom and seem to encapsulate all that I need – knowledge of His will, wisdom and understanding, fruit, strength, endurance, and patience.