Monday, January 30, 2012

Surely The Presence

This time last year I was sitting in the parking lot of P.F. Chang’s about to go in for another job interview. Having lost a bunch of weight none of my clothes fit, so Chad’s mom who is about six inches shorter than me loaned me some pants.

Something about feeling the cold air on my ankles has always blown a hole in my confidence; still I walked in with my head up, sat down for the interview and tried to convince the twenty-year-old that I was capable of serving food to people in a cheerful and timely manner.

They didn’t give me the job. The last thing I wanted to do was drive back to Jones having failed in yet another job interview. It was so frustrating! I went back to the car and just sat there and cried. I needed to feel God’s presence but could not see Him, could not hear His voice and we so desperately needed His direction.

My senior year of high school my mom and dad moved to Oklahoma City. Dad had been put on the waiting list for a liver at Baptist Hospital and they needed to be closer since they could receive a call at anytime.

My two older brothers and I took part time jobs and were going to school. We would pool our meager income to take care of the household needs, but nobody had money in their pockets. Every weekend we’d drive from Amarillo to Oklahoma City to spend time with mom and dad.

One night I was working a double shift at the fabric store. It was during the holidays and it felt like everybody was buying beautiful things to decorate their homes and celebrate. I had almost forgotten what time of year it was, because we were so focused on what Dad was going through.

It came time for my dinner break. Without a car to leave the store and without any money I just sat in the break room. I was hungry and thirsty and wanted my momma. There was nothing to be done about any of my “wants” so I just put my head down on the table and started to cry.

About that time I heard a “clunk” in the coke machine behind me. I turned around and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper had fallen out. Just happened to be my favorite!

Of all the times God has made His presence known to me this is the one I recall the most often. I felt like the most insignificant person on earth, still He provided and comforted me in the middle of my pain.

This was my “Jacob moment”. God made His presence known to my soul and like Jacob I realized “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Genesis 28:16

As I sat in the parking lot last January, after failing in the interview, I recalled this moment when as a young woman and all the other times in my life that I became aware of the presence of my Heavenly Father. Even through this difficult time He was at work. Not long after this day we moved into our apartment and started Truth Baptist. Having been guided by God’s hand through a series of disappointments, trials and victories we are making progress today.

Recently I ran across the sermons of G. Campbell Morgan, a British Evangelist and Bible Scholar in the early 1900’s, who wrote

“To be conscious of God is immediately to have a new interpretation of life, to discover that the earth itself is more than dust, that all flowers are more than the operation of blind force; to believe with Jesus that God clothes the grass, and robes the lily as Solomon was never arrayed, that He is with the birds, and remains their comrade in their dying. All creation utters forth this great evangel when a man is conscious of God. "This is the age-abiding life, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ."

What a beautiful awareness! I pray to never lose sight of the presence of God and His plan to transform the lives of those around us. Relying on this promise “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our Shield and Portion

Last Sunday night some of the TBC youth came back up to the church to hang out while Chad and I were cleaning. They began to kick-fight and get rowdy. David and Sean were wide eyed watching wondering how long these big boys would get away with this behavior before Chad called them out. Their “Play fighting” escalated into wrestling and name-calling. Chad quickly stepped in and asked the boys to go on home so we could lock up.

The next morning on our way to school, Sean spoke up from the back of the car. He was complaining that the boys at church last night were acting like a bunch of “DJ Dancers”. Then he asked, “Why is everyone who lives around us a bunch of DJ’s and dancers except for us?” What I wanted to say was, “I wish that were true!” Truth Baptist could put our selves on the map with a great praise team! I could tell by the tone in his voice that he wasn’t being complimentary.

I quickly reminded him of one of our neighbors, Miss Ursula, who prays for our family and loves the Lord. I reminded him about the boys from two doors down who came to his birthday party and have become good friends. Then I felt like I had to level with him.

“Sean, I know we live in a hard place in the world.” I admitted “But what's awesome is why we live here. God wants all our neighbors to know He loves them so He sent us to tell them about Jesus. You are a big part of His plan too. We couldn’t do it without you!”

I watched his countenance lighten from the rear view mirror. Really, I think my little explanation was for my own good. How can I expect a five year old to understand this life long lesson of finding fulfillment through the discovery of who God is, How He created us, and the life He has for us to live.

Days later, I don’t remember how it came to my heart, but I started singing the old praise chorus, “He brought me to His banqueting table, and His banner over me is LOVE” It is a song taken from Song of Solomon 2:4 and I was taught many versions throughout my life beginning in pre school Sunday School.

As I studied the passage God brought it to life in my heart. This beautiful picture of a banquet being prepared for an unworthy bride. The Banquet we have been invited to is not a more elaborately decorated version of Golden Coral where we fight over who gets the biggest turkey leg. We are brought into the presence of God where we can know His promises, His truth, healing and provision. One day we will be brought into the presence of our victorious King to celebrate in all His glory.

We won’t just be shuffled in the side door either. His bride will be brought to this banquet with a royal procession under the banner of His Great Love.

Right now, though, we’re still in the heat of battle. It feels like everywhere we go we’re surrounded by the influence of evil. The world is closing in to make a mockery of all the truths Christians hold to. Every day we must lift our eyes to the “rallying standard” of the Gospel. To remember why we even bother confronting a lost and dying world.

The Love of God that gives us life and hope is the reason we move forward into the darkness. It is our protection and provision. "For God so loved the world that HE gave His only son. . ." is our battle cry.

When I was four years old my two older brothers were in school, so I spent every day with my mom. It was the best time of my life. We lived in East Texas and mom was working for a short time at the department of human services. She would go into the homes of families whose children had been taken into foster care and help them clean up.

One day she took me with her. I remember playing on the porch with a little boy who was barely walking. I watched through the front door as my mom washed dishes, gathered up infested clothes and linens. The whole time she would gracefully offer advice to this young mother about how often these things needed to be done and how she had learned to clean growing up. The most important thing she shared with the family that day was how they could know Jesus.

Being just a child, I probably shouldn't have been anywhere near this home; however, I'm glad she took me along to witness the love of Jesus overflowing from one life and into another. I pray our children will understand and grow in faith as they witness the transforming power of the Gospel. I pray they will lift up the banner of the Gospel in their own lives and continue to live for Him!

“May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose. Let us shout for joy at your victory and lift the banner in the name of our God.” Psalm 20:4-5