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image of God
Imago Dei

Latin, meaning the image of God.  A tiny grouping of letters scattered inky over pristine white, 5 terse syllables, but what does it mean?

It means that engraved through your very core, you bear the signature of a God who cannot forget you.  Like any good Father, He can’t help but love you.  He can’t stop thinking about you.  He will go to any lengths to save you.

His were the first eyes to see you, microscopic in your mother’s womb.  Glinting back at Him, was you.  A fragment of His nature runs stitched through your soul.  A piece of Himself, sparkling and irresistible.  He made you.  And He loves, loves who He made.

Hear me in this: you are not a mistake.

You are beautiful and immutably priceless.  You are idiosyncratic, and that’s a good thing.  You are uniquely you, because you are like Him as no one else is or ever will be.  Eternity pulses through your veins because you are linked, irrevocably, to Him.

You are forever and hopelessly His favorite.

You are Imago Dei.

He likes your early morning inclination, your determination, your shy.  He likes your gentle.  He likes your eraser collection, your obsession with old books, your weird quirks, your silly habits.  He likes your night owl tendencies, your flair, your loud.  He likes unique.

Don’t, I beg you, scrub your personality in favor of some notion that your quirkiness isn’t Christian.  Jesus likes quirks.  He likes funny.  He likes YOU.

Align your will and actions with Christ.  Live out Scripture.  But do it in the unique way that’s all yours.  You, love deeply through your individual gift.  You, share Jesus in the way that He’s equipped you best.  You, dare to be Jesus to a world thirsty for Living Water.

image of GodWe need you to be you.  Desperately.  In a world of chain stores and too many imitations, we need original.  We need genuine.  We need people who are living out the Gospel, authentic and unafraid.  Strong and gentle and able to live outside the lines.

We are not called to be boring people.  Why do we automatically assume that we all have to fit the cookie cutter mold, when never once in Scripture are we told to all be the same?  Never once.  I think we might just assume that because the Pastor or Pastor’s wife or that amazing Christian speaker is (insert description here), that “Oh, that’s what good Christians look like.”  They do.  That’s who they are.  And it works for them.  But you are not them, and trying to be someone that you are not is a sure recipe for disaster.  Be unique.  Be yourself.

I have spent way too much of my life confusing self-transformation with progressive sanctification.  The first is something I do.  The second is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an obedient Jesus-lover.  He will change you, but only in the best way.  Only in the way that makes you more like yourself, more like Himself.  Like tarnished silver transforms as it is polished, He rubs the sin nature and ingrained selfishness off through the tumble and friction of life.  Until one day, His face shines back, clear and beautiful.

Imago Dei.

Doesn’t it awe you when you really think about this: He imprints a part of His very nature on your soul.   When you let it out and live who He made you to be…we see a flash of Him.  It’s beautiful.  When we all live it out …when the church unites…a picture emerges through the jagged and imperfect jigsaw pieces.  Jesus. 

“Now we see in a mirror dimly, but some day we will see face to face.”
(Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:12).

The Jesus I see in you, and in my family, and my church family, and believers I meet everywhere…it’s all a heavenly glimpse of the One we long for.  When I see Him in another person…it points me to Jesus.  The best parts of you make me hunger for heaven.

Because the best in you…is Him.

And oh, it’s beautiful.

Photo credit: Bridget Coila via Flickr, cc
trusting God
The Journey: Even When You Cannot See

And they said to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened up the scriptures to us?”
Luke 24:32

Sometimes life can be confusing. It’s like the road map is turned upside down, the GPS isn’t working, and all the road signs that are supposed to tell you where to go are in another language! They say that life is a beautiful journey. They say that it’s not about arriving at your destination, it’s all about the joy of getting there. But when you’ve been on the road for eighteen hours, you’ve run out of snacks, and you can’t find a place to take a bathroom break, it isn’t quite so fun anymore!

Do you ever wish that you could just hurry up and get there? Dash to the next mile marker in your life, and graduate High School? Fall in love, get married? Get that new job you’ve been hoping for? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could have a head-on, insta-collision with destiny, like…tomorrow? Just imagine how blissful it would be to wake in the morning and find yourself smack-dab in the middle of God’s perfect plan for your life! Maybe you’d be a successful business woman, serving as a missionary in a foreign country, or finally recording the album that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life!

Whatever it is that you’ve been waiting for, I’m sure you can relate. Maybe you’re longing for a new door of opportunity to open. Are you desperate to hear a fresh word of direction from God, about your life and your purpose? Maybe you’re wanting some clarity about confusing or hurtful things that are happening.

Wherever you’re at on this journey of life, I know that we’ve all reached the point where we’ve pulled off to the side of the road, shut off our engines, slammed our heads on the steering wheel and cried out, “God, where are you? I’m totally lost! I need direction! I need to hear your voice. What in the world are you doing? Are we just going around in circles? Just give me SOMETHING to work with here!”

How strange a season it is when we lift our voices to Heaven, and hear nothing in return.

The Bible says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you declares the Lord, and I will restore you…” Jeremiah 29:12-14

On those days when I’m seeking (and I’m pretty darn sure that I’m seeking with all of my heart!) and I don’t get any clues, encouragement, cute little love letters from God, or radical “burning bush” experiences, I can begin to wonder what’s wrong. In moments like that, when God feels so distant and far away, it’s easy to panic. I know the truth that He will never leave me or forsake me, and He hears every prayer. He is perfectly faithful…so what in the world is going on?!

The Lord is always speaking to us. His favorite thing to do is reveal who He is, how much He loves us, and the amazing plans that He has for our lives! He loves to reveal the reality of what’s happening in Heaven, which is His perspective, and make that manifest in our lives. The job of the Holy Spirit is to guide us into all truth, and take the things that belong to the Father, which belong to Jesus, and declare them to us! (John 16:13-14) So if God is always speaking, why can’t we hear Him?

The Book of Esther is one of my favorite examples of a time when God appeared to be silent. Esther’s story is so unique. The Bible is full of story after story of God revealing Himself to His people in dramatic, ground-shakingly epic ways! The Red Sea opened, manna came down from Heaven, lions’ mouths were shut, miracles were performed, miraculous wars were won, and God’s hand and voice were so clearly seen! To many characters in the Word, God revealed a new part of His nature and character. To Hagar, He was El Roi, “the God who Sees.” To Abraham, He was El Shaddi, “the All Sufficient One.” To David, He was El Sali, “the God of my Strength.” To the woman who had been bleeding her whole life, Jesus revealed Himself as “Healer.” To the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, Jesus reveled Himself as “Redeemer.” To Paul, Jesus revealed Himself as “Strength made perfect in my weakness.”

But in Esther’s story, God’s name is never mentioned. He doesn’t reveal a new part of His character by splitting open the heavens and performing a miracle. God’s name is nowhere to be found. Not even once, through the whole book! God never speaks through a prophet, “Thus saith the Lord!” or confirms his promises by wetting some fleece like he did for Gideon. As the Author of Esther’s story, God never signs His name in a big fat Sharpie marker. The flashing neon light of God’s presence and direction is nowhere to be seen. But when I read the book of Esther, my heart burns within me. I don’t see the Author’s name, but I know He has been there. Signs of the Author’s style, voice, and faithfulness are seen so clearly. His presence, His voice, and His direction within this book are so clear, if only you know what you’re looking for. I recognize the work of His providential hand, maneuvering every person, event, and word, according to His perfect plan. But do you think Esther was aware of this? Was she getting a play-by-play of God’s plan, or do you think she looked at the upside down road map in front of her, and asked God, “What in the world are You doing?!”

The Lord is revealing His name, nature, and character every single day. It may not be in an obvious, burning bush or sea-splitting way, but He is speaking, moving, and directing. Every line and scribble in my life that appears to be so messy, out of place, or just plain puzzling, is there for a purpose. The Author is weaving together a most beautiful story. I just don’t see it yet.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, sometimes I’m like the guys who were walking down the trail of life in Luke 24. In their story, Jesus had just risen from the dead. The miracle of all miracles had taken place! These guys had every reason to be excited, whooping and hollering for joy, because God was working in their life in such an amazing way! But they were so confused. They were afraid, and perplexed, and totally blinded to the most beautiful thing that was happening right before their eyes.

“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.

And He said to them, ‘What kind of conversation is this that you are having with one another as you walk and are sad?’ Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?”

They continued to explain to Jesus everything that had happened, the report of the resurrection, and how some friends from their group went to the tomb and didn’t see Jesus there. As these men walked on the road with Jesus, “He expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus revealed Himself in a way that these men had never heard before. It was so different from what they were used to, they didn’t even know that Jesus was talking to them!

Finally, when they got to their house and broke bread together, something that they were used to doing in the past, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him, and He vanished from their sight.”

Suddenly, everything made sense. When the Spirit of wisdom and revelation hit them, they could see clearly. They had the “a-ha!” moment they had been aching for, and everything was clear and sunny and bright again! Jesus was alive! And He had been WALKING with them that whole time!

“And they said to one another, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened up the Scriptures to us?’”

I love that verse. Even though they couldn’t see Jesus in the way they were used to seeing Him, and God wasn’t doing things the way He used to do, their hearts still burned within them. They knew Him by the Spirit, and they recognized that He had the Words of life. Something inside of them was drawn to what Jesus was saying. They didn’t know why, but a magnetic force pulled them in and tugged on their hearts.

God was doing a brand new thing in their lives, and even before their minds or human understanding could comprehend it, their spirits knew.

trusting GodTheir hearts burned with passion and fresh fire as He spoke. Sister, you are never traveling down the road of life all on your own. Just like the men in this story, Jesus is right there with you, guiding you, speaking to you, and opening up the Scriptures to you, whether you can recognize Him or not!

Maybe you don’t feel God holding your hand like He used to, as you would joyfully blaze forward on this trail, and you’re wondering why you can’t feel the warmth of His presence. Perhaps in the past, Jesus lifted you up on His shoulders every time a freaky snake would jump out to attack; but now you’re standing there, shaking in fear, because you’ve got a sword in your hand, and you need to kill the snake. Maybe He used to always sing the same song over your heart, a lullaby of sorts, and suddenly He changed the dial on the radio so you don’t recognize the tune! Any of these shifts and changes can cause us to freak out. But we must remember and hold fast to the truth: the Lord is doing a new thing. Just because I can’t recognize it, or make sense of it yet, doesn’t mean He’s not with me and guiding every step of this process.

What if Esther compared her story to the stories of what God had done in the past? What if she didn’t step forward in boldness to save her people, because she didn’t have a burning bush experience? Sometimes we can get so used to Heaven’s manna from the past, that we don’t step into what God is doing in our lives right now. The manna stopped so that God’s people would press forward and take the Promised Land!

If you’re feeling a little bit clueless, still not sure how to read your map or what to do next, I want you to take a deep breath. You’re not lost. Your tank might be out of gas, you may not be able to read the road signs, and your connection to Heaven might seem a little shaky, but I promise you this: God is with you. He will never leave you or forsake you! You know that you are chosen by God to be His royal Princess Daughter; He delights in you, He adores you, and He has amazing plans for you. Let that be enough.

If everything in your world seems out of whack and off kilter, remember that God is still penning your story. He’s in mid-stroke. You can’t see everything that He’s doing behind the scenes. Let that be okay.

Trust the Author.

renewal
Because God Is The Master Restorer

Do you ever get caught up in something and you just can’t seem to pull away? Just a couple of nights ago I was watching a GAC show, Texas Flip N Move, and my stopping to check it out turned into a marathon.

It’s really not just that show but almost all home restoration shows. They captivate me. When my eyes were almost crossed because I was so sleepy, I just didn’t want to turn off the TV. I hadn’t seen how the last house would look after it was complete.

What is it about these shows that pull me in? Within my heart, the answer came. Renewal.

Flippers see something in distressed homes that most of us don’t see – their potential.

Potential – that’s what God tells us He sees in us.

What would be a few things we could learn about how God refurbishes our broken and distressed souls by looking at those who renovate houses?

abundant-scripture2

  1. No matter the degree of damage, God knows our possibilities. They entered those dilapidated houses and saw beautiful homes. Dirty, ugly, broken, misused, abused and stained was their current state but oh, the opportunities that lay ahead.
  2. Every area of our lives might not need to be stripped to the bare studs but all of us need The Master’s touch. Some walls just needed a fresh coat of paint. Other rooms needed to be completely demolished and rebuilt.
  3. Our before and after brings glory to our Restorer. Those flippers beamed with pride as they opened their houses for others to view. Many times Jesus reminded us that the healing He offered was to bring glory to His Father.

I can testify to the power of restoration. God took my broken, shattered heart and lovingly placed every piece back together. My life is a testament to those placed in my path that God does heal and He does bring beauty out of the broken.

The list is long of those God put back together. Here are just a few…

  • The woman with the alabaster box (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 7)
  • Zacchaeus (Luke 19)
  • Peter (John 21)
  • Paul –Saul (Acts 9)
  • Me
  • Maybe you?

Or are you in the need of a restoration? Do you feel misused and abused? God is still into fixing our brokenness. When we open our hearts and welcome Him in to do what He does best – what only He can do – we then begin to be all that God has planned for us to be.

“I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10

Even The Rocks Will Cry Out

You hear a lot of rustling going on at the end of the service during the alter call. You will hear the gathering up of Bibles and jackets, the checking of time to see if service let out on time. I loved how at a women’s conference I attended the host said, “I don’t want you to be quiet. I want you to be silent!” Despite all this, my attention still couldn’t be pulled from those two friends at the altar. I noticed each had a tissue in hand and they were unsuccessfully trying to capture their every tear. I couldn’t help but feel it right along with them; those offerings. Not an Old Testament flowing of blood, but of tears.

During our homeschool devotion time that week we had read and discussed these verses:

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do His bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds…
Psalm 148:7-10

But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Luke 19:40

I explained to the children how the word YWHW isn’t really a word at all. No vowels are in His name, YWHW. These letters are the name of God in Hebrew. We have added vowels to make YWHW the word Yahweh, but really it isn’t a pronounceable word. It is the sound of our every breath. So, you can say you don’t believe in God, but your every breath is declaring His name.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Psalm 150:6

stonesThe only way to withhold His praise is to stop living. And even then the rocks will cry out. He IS worthy. He IS deserving, and He WILL be praised. Our only choice is if we will glorify God or let the rocks do it.

All of this breathing and all this shedding of tears looks like the giving of what is due, offerings and praise.

It has me thinking, why do I ever hold those tears back?

Jesus let His blood run as the ultimate sacrifice for me. Why would I ever hold back my offering of tears?

A few years ago I had thyroid cancer. The surgery left me with paralyzed vocal cords, which has narrowed my airway causing my breathing to be very loud. This is something I have been very self-conscious of. Everyone around me can hear my every breath. Now I am thinking, everyone around me can’t help but hear His name. YWHW!

Being ashamed of my breathing is being ashamed of His name.
Let us keep the altar stained and His name heard.

photo credit: J. Michael Raby via Flickr cc
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