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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's a...

Just a few short days ago, a humble child was born into the world.  The light shone brightly in those beautiful eyes, as they darted back and forth in observation-- a smile ever appeared to tug at those tiny lips.  The small hands, each finger so perfectly formed in it's miniature fashion, opened and closed-- testing their inherent powers.  The feet, pink and wrinkly they be, yet so soft and tender, kicked at the air, as if to declare, "I'm alive!"  New life in all purity, tenderness, and hope.  My newest little brother was born.

To my parents was gifted their tenth child on March 23, 2013.
It's a boy!
You may be wondering what his name is, for such was the question buzzing around our house for the past couple of days.  It has been made official, but before I just blurt it out, I'd like to set the stage a bit.

For each one of their children, my parents have specially and prayerfully chosen names that would reflect back on the lessons that the Lord was teaching them at that season of their lives.  A name that we could carry with us to eternity, that would hopefully one day be written in the Lamb's Book of Life, a name that would carry a meaning that we could hold to and forever embrace the attributes in our lives.

We wanted a name that this baby would carry throughout his life; from babyhood to boyhood ultimately to manhood.  A name that would inspire him, encourage him, and ever remind him of his family's faith in the Lord Jesus, and the lessons that He has taught us.

The theme that the Lord has been impressing on the heart of my family has been the theme of humility.  

Humility comes before honor; surrender before victory.

 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him."
~John 13:14-17

If you read over the posts from this past year on this little blog, you will see the resounding theme of God's glory through my humility, His victory in my weakness.  

 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
~2 Corinthians 12:9

I wrote a blog post for about an experience and an insight that I received at the Lamplighter Guild back in July.  For some reason I was looking at it the other day, right after we decided on the name for the baby...

Here is a portion that I believe truly seems to capture the essence and spirit behind our choice of this baby boy's precious name:

"...Mary gave Jesus her all. She trusted Him that He was the Son of God and that she could sacrifice that whole year’s worth of wages while pouring out all of that fragrance oil- and she wouldn’t have to worry about being taken care of. She knelt down at his feet- in all humility. She used her greatest womanly asset, her crown of glory- to wipe them. The Bible says that the fragrance of the nard 'filled the house'.

'But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.' ~2 Corinthians 2:14 (emphasis added)

God manifests His sweet aroma through us-when we give Him our all and we are willing to be His servants. Mr. Hamby had some pure nard that he brought with him from Israel. He had it poured into a little dish that we might all be able to experience the 'aroma' that filled the house. He told us to wash our hands quickly after we did this because if we did not we wouldn’t be able to sleep that night- why? Because the aroma just gets stronger and stronger.

I was so encouraged that when we are willing to put everything on the line for God-when we are ready to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus, that He WILL lead us in triumph in Him and give us that sweet aroma that will “fill the house”- drawing others to us yearning to partake in it! The beauty of it is that when that sweet aroma is manifested in us the fragrance just gets stronger and stronger as our relationship with Him grows and matures…"

...and so, my dear readers, my precious little brother's name?
The name that I pray with all of my heart will one day be written in the Lamb's Book of Life?

Paul Michael Victor

 The names Paul and Michael indicate humility.  Paul means "small or humble man", and Michael means "Who is like God?" and also is a derivative of Micah, the minor prophet in which this beautiful and freeing verse is found:

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?"
~Micah 6:8 (emphasis added)

Victor means victory-- which is only found under humility and total surrender in Christ Jesus.

My sweet baby brother,
I love you-- every single one of your nine other siblings love you dearly.  We cannot wait to watch you grow; to hear your first laugh, to see your first smile, to help you take your first step-- to hear you learn to read, to watch you graduate, to be there on that wedding day when you sweep the girl of your dreams off her feet...  and at last, when we will all bow at the foot of the throne of God for all eternity crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy..."  My life has changed.  I can't think of living one more day without you-- I'm so grateful that the Lord has gifted you to our family.

Welcome to our world, Paul Michael Victor.  May your name ever remind you of the victory that is found in a life surrendered to the Lord Jesus, in all humility serving Him.

I love you, sweet boy.

Your big sister,

(Enjoy the photos!)

Peter (2) loves his little brother!

My beautiful momma... she's so awesome.  Such an inspiration to me...

Be blessed and encouraged, my dear readers, as you remember the victory found in the life of humble servitude under Christ!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

...i must decrease

What drives you, what is your purpose, what is your reason for life?

What is your first thought when you wake up in the morning?  What motivates you to slide your finger across the alarm app on your phone, shutting it off, roll out of bed and stumble to the kitchen for a cup of coffee?  Why do you bother taking a shower, getting dressed, doing your hair?  Why clean the house, do your chores?

 What is your driving force?

I have always said that my goal and aim is to glorify God, advance His Kingdom, and share His good news with my life.  That sounds about right, it's the way that all Christians should be able to respond, right?  If Jesus Christ has saved us from our sin, and our future is to reign for eternity with Him in heaven, we should be overflowing with joy, wanting to spend every waking hour to tell others about Him, right?  Absolutely.  But when you dig down deep-- way deep, is that really what drives you-- personally?

Is your goal not only that He would increase, but also that you would decrease?

A couple of weeks ago, I heard this in the sermon at church.  The sermon was about examining yourself in the faith-- and one of the points was: is our heart's desire that He would increase, and we would decrease?

This hit me between the eyes.  I'd heard it a thousand times, but at that moment I felt like the wind was knocked out of me.  The concept of my blog is surrender to Jesus, all I've ever said was I want whatever I do to be done to bring glory to God and to make His name known.  But when I heard those words a couple of weeks ago, it cut me deeply-- I realized that I had a root of selfishness that had sprung up that I hadn't noticed long ago, and had failed to dig up when it started.  I realized that in my quest to glorify God, I didn't mind that in the course of doing "great things" that I would get some accolades too.  I thought that I was totally surrendered, and maybe I was in the beginning, but then satan crept in while I wasn't looking and sowed seeds of selfishness.  Instead of being totally sold out for Jesus, and willing to do anything for Him that He might increase and I might decrease, I, albeit unconsciously, was only interested in doing the stuff in which He would increase, and I could increase too.

I woke up in the morning thinking, "Let's do this thing!"  I was ready to tackle the world for Jesus, write inspiring blog posts, give talks, organize revivals, perform concerts and minister to soul-searching teens, proclaim His name from the housetops, climb the highest mountain for Him, swim the deepest ocean!  But singing at nursing homes and baking bread for the Farmer's Market, things that God was giving me to do-- seemed dull, boring, monotonous to me.  Worse, I was afraid that I would have to do those things for the rest of my life.  I didn't want to sing at nursing homes-- the people there can barely even hear me, how can they appreciate what I'm doing anyway?  Wouldn't my time be better spent ministering to people that can understand me?  I didn't want to make bread for the rest of my life-- is that all I'm good for, making bread?  It sounds like something anybody could do, don't I have better talents than that to glorify God?  I excused my selfishness with my "desire" to glorify God.  It grieves me now to think of it.

Sure, I was looking for Him to increase.  But I wasn't looking for me to decrease.  I wanted to be known, too.  This is an inherent weakness of humans, we want to feel worth something.  We want to feel needed, to have a purpose, and we like to hear it from as many people as possible.  I oftentimes find myself seeking the approval of man because I feel like I'll find the approval of God within it.  I had come to seek my parents' approval for what I did, thinking that by keeping them happy, I was pleasing God.  I had allowed it to become an end, instead of a byproduct of my desire to please God in my honor to my parents.  I wanted my parents to tell me what a great job I was doing, and how proud they were of me, instead of being content with the fact that God loves me, and He is pleased with me.

This is a lack of trust in God.  He has already told me that He loves me, that He wants me, but I'm too scared to let go and to be content in Him.  I want everybody to be happy with me, and to tell me that I'm worth something.

Jesus is the prime example.  God's beloved Son.  God proclaimed His love for Jesus publicly at Jesus' baptism.  Jesus knew that He was loved by His father-- He did not need the love of men.  "...although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8) Jesus, God in the flesh, the only man to have ever walked the face of the earth to have deserved glory, not only endured the undue punishment, the physical excruciating pain of the cross, but He was shamed in the process.  Naked, hanging upon a tree, cursed of His Father, shamed by men, Jesus sacrificed everything, His body, His dignity, His spirit-- for the love of His Father, that He might be increased, that His plan might come to fruition, that you might be saved.

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

"...So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 2:5)

What is one of the last things that Jesus did while here on the earth?  He lowered Himself to servanthood, literally, and washed the feet of His disciples.  He girded himself with a towel, lowered his head, and with holy hands, scrubbed the grime of sinners' feet.

"If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them." (John 13:14-17)

I read something recently from actor Peter Moreton in a Lamplighter Moment.  Mark Hamby was interviewing him, and asked him how young people might learn to become great actors like himself.  He replied, "First, you need to give up all desires of becoming a great actor. You need to devote yourself to your craft, not to desires to become great. Then, when opportunities present themselves, your primary goal is to lift up the actors around you. Your job as an actor is to accentuate the character of others. They are to increase while you decrease. If I play a servant, for example, and I'm in the presence of a king, my role is to communicate to the audience the character of the king by my humble attitudes and actions. The king will be known through me."

I leave you with this thought, my dear readers.  I have changed my focus, my quest, my drive.  

I must decrease, that through my servanthood my King might be known through me.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Perspective is Everything

It was Farmer's Market day.  We finished getting everything ready, packed it up, and half of our family left to go sell.  Meanwhile, the other half stayed home to finish schoolwork, chores, and whatnot.  I had a small grocery list of necessary items that I needed to get before dinner that night, so with my little brother in tow, we went to the grocery store.

As I pushed the cart through the store, glancing from my list to the aisle description signs, I managed to locate the items one by one-- but not without a bit of a distraction.  You see, as we walked in the store, it seemed that my brother was dead set on getting doughnuts.  There was just something about them, he wanted them-- bad.  I just laughed when he mentioned them when we first walked in the store.  "Sorry, no-- those things are terrible for you."  But he didn't give up.  He kept talking about them.  As I searched for capers, he said, "Look, you just passed right by the doughnuts!" I didn't see them, but I had been distracted. I gave him my signature sarcastic grin, "Uh huh... nice try."  

"No, Amy, seriously, we don't do this all the time-- let's just have a treat just this once...please?"  

I shook my head, "No, it's turning into that we do do this all the time-- it's no longer 'just this once', we gotta cut back.  No more extra sugar."  I went back to my search for capers.

He still didn't give up.  A couple minutes later, "You just passed by them again!"  I stopped, turned and looked at him, "Really?  I've been searching this entire store for the stuff on my list and I haven't seen any doughnuts!"  He giggled and pointed, "Look, right there."  I looked.  Sure enough, I had just passed by them.  I was too busy getting the other items on my list to notice.

I had a mission, my little brother had an agenda. Our perspectives, based on that which was most important to us, tinted the way that we looked at the store.  Mine was to get everything that we needed for dinner that night and the next couple of days, his was to convince me to get a treat for those of us that had to stay home from the Farmer's Market.

This reminds me of the Christian walk.  

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ Jesus, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth."  ~Colossians 3:1-2

As believers, we have been raised up with Christ-- we are no longer slaves to sin, groping about the earth to find purpose and meaning.  We are the children of God, we have been given a mission to carry out before He calls us home.  It is this mission that should tint the way that we look at the world-- not as a home that should bring us pleasure, meaning, and happiness, but as a mission field in which ours is to make known the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Home is eternity, we'll be there soon enough.

It's easy to get caught up in the world's crazed quest for pleasure and happiness.  There are Christians that do it all the time.  The mad dash for the most money, nicest clothes, biggest house, coolest music, most mind-blowing movies, most popular Facebook account is contagious.  But it is so important that we remember who we are in Christ.  In Christ, we have no need for the world's "treats".  Is it wrong to sometimes have them, every once in a while?  I don't think so.  However, we must make sure that they are the exception and not the rule.  The rule is that we would be sold out for Jesus, fixing our eyes upon Him-- the Author and Perfecter of our faith, that His mission would be our mission, that His marching orders ever foremost in our minds.  

This is something that I struggle with, even throughout my average day at home.  Sometimes I get so caught up in my own agenda, what want to get done today that I miss what God may have been requiring of me.  I may have been so focused on getting this job done, that I forget about the job that He may have wanted me to get done.  

If my eyes are fixed on Jesus and His mission for me, if the world falls apart around me, I will not be shaken.  But if my eyes are on the world, searching it for those pleasures or purpose, I will fall apart right along with it.

Be encouraged, my dear readers, keep your eyes on Jesus, set your minds on the things above-- keep your perspective in check, and you will not fall.