Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


2 Comments

Looking Forward to Forever

People are eternal.

Have you ever thought about this? About the implications? Or about whether that’s even true?

It seems self-evident that we all have an eternal yearning and that, therefore, something drives us to strive for an eternal existence.

I started thinking about this in the throes of infertility as I sought to grapple with why it was so important to me to have children. And I finally realized that we see children as a legacy, a way to continue, a way to exist beyond this life–at least in some form.

I would argue that all people make some attempt at eternity.

The powerful do this by building monuments or statues to themselves. It’s as if they believe–perhaps subconciously–a bronze statue set up in the middle of the square will forever remind people of who they were.

But statues come down.

And the inteligentsia preserve themselves through great discoveries and inventions, or great works of art and literature. And for a time these things remind us of their creators. So we recognize and remember the names of Marie Curie and Vincent Van Gogh and Harper Lee and even Galileo or Socrates.

A Lucille Ball look-alike poses at Universal Studios, FL, with my sister and me

Lucille Ball lives on in our memories and even in people who dress up like her at Universal Studios, FL–at least for now.

But there are many who have contributed to our understanding of the world and of beauty whose names are long forgotten: who wrote Beowulf? And who devised the alphabet? Or recognized addition?

The great achievers are so often forgotten, and perhaps all will be forgotten in the end.

And the regular folks among us–we strive to carry on through a name, through a child (and later a grandchild, a great grandchild, and so on). My father-in-law is an only son (he has two sisters), and my husband is his only son. When our son was born, DH’s grandmother remarked, joyfully, that the family name would continue one more generation. While this urge to bear children may not be a conscious attempt at extending our presence on earth, I believe at least subconciously, that is part of the motive.

But sometimes, family lines end. A family has only girls (a strange phenomenon in our culture that girls don’t carry on names and lines–but that’s another topic entirely). Or a person never meets “the right person.” Or a marriage does not result in children for whatever reason.

But either way, there’s this clear drive to go on in some form or fashion.

I believe this drive for eternity we see exhibited in so many ways is present in us because people are eternal. People are created to live forever.

But how?

If statues and inventions and even children don’t get us there–how do we live forever?

We know we’re going to die. People die.

But I believe we were made to live. To continue.

Beyond the earthly realm, we hear about many ways to a sort of everlasting existence. The quest for eternity appears in many of the world’s religions. A Buddhist seeks nirvana–a sort of eternal bliss state and reuniting with the universe from what I understand. Hinduism teaches reincarnation–a continuing on of the same spirit of a person ad infinitim. Judaism professes an eternal existence that takes different forms depending on which interpretation one follows. And Islam and Christianity both preach heaven–although the path to heaven differs for each.

I would argue that there is a certain impossibility built in to all of these faith traditons. Even those that don’t put their faith in some way in a perfect and holy God teach that the path to eternal existence is based on discipline, good works, perfection of some kind. Hinduism teaches that there are consequences for the life we live: A bad life leads to a less favorable next life–karma directs destiny. And Buddhism teaches that people need to rise above the world in some way, usually portrayed through some kind of self-discipline. And Buddhists I have had the opportunity to speak to acknowledge that the likelihood of ever reaching nirvana is very low. Only a handful of people are considered to have done it. Judaism focuses on living a righteous life. And Islam requires both belief (in Islam) and a balance of more good deeds than bad deeds.*

The problem is, no one is perfect. We all yearn for eternity, but none could earn it. We all fall short. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Sinning, and falling short, means we put ourselves in opposition of a perfect God. And, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Great. So for even one sin we earn death. We are made for eternity, but we earn death the first time we fall short of God’s standard. And we don’t really have a way, in ourselves, to go back and undo even one bad deed. We earn death, and we can’t unearn it.

It sounds pretty dire.

But, God loves us. And God wants us to be with him in our eternity. The Bible says, the Lord “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Since we can’t live up to God’s standard, we can’t get to God. But God knew that, so he came to us. His Son took on flesh and lived a sinless life–something only God could do. He died a gruesome death on a cross and paid for all sins for all people. He paid the wage we have all earned. And he rose from the dead. This resurrection shows that God accepted the sacrifice made on our behalf and that Jesus defeated death once and for all.

Jesus paid for all of the sins of all the world. But we have to choose if we want to accept that free gift. We have to be able to accept it, and recognize that we cannot earn it. Attempting to earn our way to God will fail every time. Statues fall down. Inventors get forgotten. Family lines die out. There is no way for us to make ourselves eternal on our own. But the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing this truth is what is meant by having faith. And the Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If we trust God, we have the everlasting life we are all wired to desire. And we can be assured of it, because it is based on something that God does for us and not something we are working toward or trying to do for ourselves. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me [God the Father] has eternal life and will not be judged but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). I urge you to notice the present tense here: believing in Jesus means you have eternal life. No need to work for it–which is good, because working for heaven would leave us falling short.

One who believes the good news of Jesus Christ can be assured an everlasting life–thus resolving the urge and fulfilling the yearning ingrained in us because of our eternal nature. This doesn’t mean we don’t still seek to make a noticeable difference in this life, or to have children–but perhaps it can meet the heart’s need for life that continues, making the accomplishments and desires of this life less pressing.

This truth is something I believe with all my heart and something I’d stake my earthly life on. It got me through the hardest parts of dealing with infertility and it will get me through this life with the ups and downs we are going to deal with. It’s the hope that I have. And it’s about time that I made that clear here.

If you’ve read this and chosen to believe in what Jesus has done to grant you a life that does not end, I encourage you to talk to someone about your decision. If you want to talk to me about it, please let me know in the comments or send me an email at dwellsinme (at) gmail (dot) com. I would love to talk to you!

By that same token, if you’ve read this and don’t know if you want to believe, or have some questions, or think I’m way off base here, and want to talk about it–well, shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you, too!

*I’m not an expert on Islam–or any world religions–but found this article helpful in understanding an Islamic view on salvation compared to the Christian perspective.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Lessons from Seminary

I am so blessed to be in seminary! I am more sure than ever that this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I was so nervous, and frankly I had a bad attitude about some of the classes I’m required to take for my degree. I’m interested in the academic study, and wasn’t looking forward at all to classes like “Spiritual Life” or “Evangelism.”

I had my first Spiritual Life class last night, and I’m happy to say I’m a convert. I LOVED it. It promises to offer so much spiritual growth. True, it’s not an academic class, but as my professor wisely pointed out, there is little merit in gaining academic knowledge if the heart and soul are getting left behind. Throughout the two-hour meeting I could just feel the Holy Spirit working in my heart, changing my perspective. What great joy! My evangelism class is tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it now. I just have a completely differnt attitude.

Coffee Love

My professor, Bruce Fong, is also a dean at the Houston campus of DTS. More importantly, he is a man with an obvious heart for the Lord. He imparted so much wisdom in two hours–and half of that time was spent going over the syllabus!–that I could probably write three different blog posts based on the insights gained through him in one class. I feel so blessed to be in this class, and before yesterday I was absolutely dreading it and expecting it to be a waste of time. Amazing how God can change a heart and attitude so quickly!

One of the things he talked about was the importance of asking for things in Jesus’ name. Jesus says,

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14).

But what does it mean to ask for something in Jesus name? There are plenty of things I’ve asked for that I haven’t gotten in the end. And I always add, “In Jesus’ name I pray” at the end of my prayers. I had never thought that I may be missing a key element.

What Dr. Fong said last night is that we are good at asking for things, but not as good as asking in Jesus’ name, in his character, in line with who he is and his goals for us, as one who walks closely with him. As my professor said, if we ask for something because we want it for ourselves, we aren’t asking in Jesus’ name. But if we can become like Jesus in our prayers, we will see our prayers answered out of his divine power (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Wow.

To ask in the name of Jessus, I need to grow more in my relationship with him. I need to seek to know what he wants and what his goals are for me and for my life. And then I can be confident that what I ask will be given to me.

I am glad to have this new insight to guide me and help me grow in my prayer life and in my relationship with my Lord. And I am feeling confident that he will answer my request that I might grow deeper roots in my faith this semester. Praise the Lord!


Leave a comment

Escaping the Sins of the Fathers

“The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.'” (Exodus 34:6-7, emphasis mine)

Have you heard this passage before? Or maybe just that last part–about the iniquity of the fathers?

Ouch.

How many times have we witnessed this truth, though? Children suffer, and we see the consequences of their parents’ sin, the consequences of their parents’ wrong actons playing out in the lives of the most vulnerable. A child chooses to follow his father’s footsteps toward a life of crime and ends up in prison. A child mimics the abusive behavior he sees between his father and mother and is expelled from school. A child whose father was more interested in beatings than bed-time stories chooses to abuse his own children. It’s easy to see how parents’ bad actions can influence their children. And that’s without mentioning the consequences these children may face at no fault of their own: being behind in school, failing to achieve career or relationship success, inescapable poverty, dependency issues. The list of serious negative sin-consequences is, sadly, inexhaustable.

And if we believe that all people are born with a sinful nature, that our very hearts bend us toward evil (Matthew 15:19), then how can we possibly escape the double whammy of our own sin and the sins passed down from our parents, even if we have been blessed with “good” homes and generally positive role models?

How can our children have any hope of peace beyond the consequences sure to be visited upon them for our sins, not to mention the sins of our parents, and even of our grandparents?

Is there any way to break this cycle?

I’ve been thinking about these questions, and I believe the answers lie in an understanding of adoption. Specifically, of adoption laws in Roman times.

John Wesley Valnes writes that “in [Roman] adoption, a person had to pass . . . out of the possession and control of one father into the equally absolute control and possession of another father.”

Adoption in Roman times was a serious matter, with four major consequences:

  1. An adoptee lost all rights in his original family, but gained all the rights of his new family. He received a new name and a new family.
  2. An adoptee became heir to his new father’s estate–even if that father previously or later had biological children.
  3. An adoptee’s old life was completely wiped out. He was regarded as a new person entering a new life, and the past had nothing to do with his present or future. This included the removal of any debts or obligations connected with the adoptee’s previous family. 
  4. In the eyes of the law, an adoptee was seen as the absolute child of the new father.

 

So why is Roman adoption so important?

Because this explains how Paul, a Roman citizen, would have understood the term “adoption” when he wrote his letter to the Romans:

Romans 8:16“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness that we are children of God.” (Romans 8: 14-16, emphasis mine)

If the sins of the fathers are visited on the children . . .

And if God is our Father by adoption . . .

Then I submit that there can be no sins of the father visited upon us.

What freedom. What joy. And what hope for us in this life.

Praise God, who made a way for us to find freedom from our debts, and freedom from the debts of our families. Praise God, who loved us enough to make a place for us in his family, to include us as his heirs.

Have you been adopted into God’s family? If so, how has your life been changed?


1 Comment

Looking Anew at the Psalms

I always used to wonder about the Psalms. I mean, there are some really pretty poems in that book, right? Who doesn’t love Psalm 23, for example? And I’ve always liked the ones that clearly prophesied things about Jesus, like in Psalm 22:

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and my  feet–
I can count all my bones–
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.” (v. 14-18)

But outside of the clear references to Jesus and the sweeter, most oft-quoted poetry, I never really cared for the Psalms.

And I sort of felt like they were poems old people liked. I mean, they don’t even rhyme in English. And I’m sure the rhthym is all off too. Not like Shakespeare. Or even Dickinson–with her half rhymes and rhythmic verses. Or e. e. cummings, whose creativity in poetry just makes you think. “anyone lived in a pretty how town/ (with up so floating many bells down).” Love that.

The rest of the Bible is a little easier for me. More concrete. You know when God is telling you to do something or live a certain way. There are stories and you can analyze them and think about their application in your own life. You can read and puzzle over Revelation and Daniel, wondering what everything really looked like to John and Daniel in these visions they’ve recorded. Trying to see what they see. But the Psalms require something different.

I’m not sure what that is. Empathy? Personal suffering? Doubts? A vision of a God who is Love? And maybe all of those things and more.

Infertility has been pain, my suffering. It has made me question God and caused me to examine him to see who he really is. It has brought me to my knees and  brought me to his throne. And it has taken me to the Psalms.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

 

“Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:8

 

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Psalm 3:3-4

 

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” Psalm 4:1

 

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread you rprotection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” Psalm 5:11

And there are 150 Psalms recorded in the Bible. Praise God for this source of wisdom and empathy. For this instruction in speaking to God and relating to and understanding who he is. For this emotional connection to him and to his word that we have in the Psalms like nowhere else. Praise God for opening my eyes to the beauty in these poems, to the meat in them, to the way they can speak powerfully in my life. Praise God.