Monday, July 27, 2009

The Ruined Waistband

Thus the Lord said to me, "Go and buy yourself a linen waistband and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water."
So I bought the waistband in accordance with the word of the Lord and put it around my waist.
Then the word of the lord came to me a second time, saying,
"Take the waistband that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a crevice of the rock."
So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord had commanded me.
After many days the Lord said to me, "Arise, go to the Euphrates and take from there the waistband which I commanded you to hide there."
Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the waistband from the place where I had hidden it; and lo, the waistband was ruined, it was totally worthless.
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
"Thus says the Lord, 'Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
'This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless.
'For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,' declares the Lord, 'that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.'"
-Jeremiah 13:1-11

Tonight as I was doing my devotion, I came across this story in Jeremiah. It was one I don't ever remember reading or hearing before and I just loved the message God was teaching Jeremiah through it.
In the book of Jeremiah leading up to this point, God has been revealing to Jeremiah the future of the Israelites, warning him that because of they have repeatedly turned away from Him they will be facing destruction like they had never before experienced. The first twelve chapters have been a conversation between God and Jeremiah involving God's decision and Jeremiah's questioning and pleading. This chapter interrupts the conversation as God intends to show Jeremiah exactly what He means. Since he can't seem to comprehend the God's reasoning, He walks him through a real life example.
Like the waistband is made to cling to the waist of its wearer, we are God's prized creation, designed to fit perfectly into His arms. When cling to Him as we were made to do and we walk with Him and never leave his ways. But like the waistband, when we separate ourselves from Him we become ruined. Hiding far away from our original intent, we become worthless.
I love this example God gives Jeremiah. We are so perfect and complete when we are with our Savior, but without Him we can never accomplish what he has so perfectly designed us to do.

For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made [my people] cling to me... that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory...

Friday, June 26, 2009

IDK, my BFF Lord.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him;
Worship the Lord in holy array.
-1 Chronicles 16:29

Have you ever sat and wondered at the amazement that God thought you worthy to die for? I don’t think I do often enough. This amazing sacrifice allows us to have such an intimate relationship that we can talk to Him, walk with Him, and spend every minute in His presence. He is my best friend and I love the fact that we can have that kind of relationship with Him. But then it hits me: My best friend is the Creator and Lord of the entire universe! I speak with Him, sing with Him, read with the King of Kings on a daily basis! Talk about wondrous love! This verse reminds me, however, that He is just that: Lord of Lords. Flipping through my prayer journal, I realized just how often I write “Lord” as a comfortable name for my savior. And while I am so grateful for the intimate relationship He made the way for, I don’t want “Lord” to become just another name. I want to remember that He is Lord and give Him the worship and honor and glory worth to Him just for being who He is. Before I even consider the fact that He is my savior and creator of everything, He is God and deserves more praise than I could ever possibly give Him. I don’t want to ever forget to “ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” alone.

This Far

Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?
-1 Chronicles 17:16b

Tonight as I was reading, I came across this passage in 1 Chronicles. David is King over Israel and has just brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He erects a tent to house the ark and realizes that while he resides in a grand house built of wood, the house of the Lord is merely a tent, a collection of curtains. David declares that he will build a temple for the Lord. That night, however, the prophet Nathan hears a message from God that he is to deliver to King David: God does not want David to build the temple, but rather intends for David’s son, the next king, to do so. The following morning, Nathan delivers the news and the first thing David responds with is verse 16.
Although this story is also found a few chapters earlier in 2 Samuel 7 and I had read it a few months ago, it struck me in a very different way. Being the nostalgic that I am, I was thinking back on where I was a year ago. Getting ready to move away from home and go to college, I was excited to begin the next chapter of my life and start what I assumed was God’s perfect plan for my life. The summer before my junior year of high school I had felt called to ministry as a worship leader, so I declared myself a music major and was preparing myself for college life. I could not have even begun to image all the amazing things I was going to encounter over the next year, however.
If I could sum up my walk with God over the last year, it would simply be that He has showed me over and over again that His plan is infinitely better than my own. Like David, I was so excited to do the work I thought God intended for me. And like David, I was surprised to find that He had something different in mind. Although my plan was filled with the best intentions of serving Him, it had never even crossed my mind that God might have something entirely different. Although I still feel that full-time ministry is something God is calling me into after college, I really can’t say where he is going to lead me. I am only beginning to see Him shaping me and my life into what He intends me to be. I only hope I can be humbled like David when He does show me His plans and responds to them with the praise and worship he deserves. Like David, I sometimes can’t even believe that He would chose me to be his servant.

“This was a small thing in Your eyes, O God; but You have spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the standard of man of high degree, O Lord God.
What more can David still say to you concerning the honor bestowed on Your servant? For You know your servant”
-verse 17-18

I Once Was Blind

John 9 tells the story of Jesus returning the sight of a man who had been blind from birth. After briefly speaking with the man, Jesus covers his eyes with mud and instructs him to go wash it off in a nearby river. The man follows His instruction and soon realizes the wonder of what has happened to him. News travels fast in the village he calls home and it isn’t long before the Pharisees hear of the miracle and they are certain that Jesus is responsible for the miracle. They immediately, however become concerned with the fact that this healing has occurred on the Sabbath, when no work should be done. Thinking they can defame Jesus because He has broken the Law of Moses, they immediately find the man and bring him into the temple, pressing him with questions about his healer. Nonetheless, the man admits that he doesn’t know the identity of the man who healed them. Frustrated, the Pharisees discuss this, searching for answers from the man, sending him out of their presence, and even questioning his parents before calling him back into the temple a second time.

So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.”
He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, how I see.”
-John 9:24-25

Wow! What an amazing picture of faith! This man knew nothing about Jesus before his remarkable encounter with Him. The saving power and grace was all he needed to know. He had been healed and Jesus was the one who had healed him. That Jesus was capable of bringing him the healing he so desperately desired was all he needed to know.

The man answered and said to them, “Well here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.
We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, He hears him.
Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
-verses 30-33

For this man, it seems simple enough logic that Jesus must be the Son of God because of the miraculous work He has performed in him that day. But the Pharisees are so caught up in the little rules they are letting it get in the way of the amazing picture standing right before them. God is in their presence, and performing miracles no less! Despite their direct encounters with the Almighty Lord of Lords, they are not capable of seeing over their law books.
God, don’t let me get so caught up in the little details that don’t really matter and miss seeing the amazing work you are performing right before my eyes!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Charm Bracelet

Taken from the April 2008 Brio and Beyond Magazine:
The Charm Bracelet
By: Sarah Kistler
Sweet 16 had finally come! I never thought I'd make it. But I did. And it was amazing. My parents threw the birthday part of the century, and I had more people than I could count. The whole day had been awesome. But as I watched the sun begin to set, I knew the best part was soon to come.
It was late in the evening. Confetti had been swept up, helium balloons had started to sag and gift wrap had been folded neatly and tucked away for my mom's later use. As I sad at my window studying the dusky sky, Dad peeked into the room with a smile.
"Ready to go, Sweetie?" he asked.
Was that a trick question? I wondered as I scrambled to my feet. I'd been waiting for this night for five long years, and it was finally here! I was now officially allowed to date!
The plan was for my parents and me to go to my favorite restaurant on the night of my 16th birthday and officiate the agreement, go over standards and discuss rules and such. And now we were finally on our way.
I sat across from my parents in a quiet corner booth. Having just placed our orders, I figured it was time to get on with it. "So. I can go out with any guy I want to, right?" I squealed, hardly able to contain my excitement.
Mom and Dad chucked. Dad answered, "Well, we agreed to that, didn't we?"
"Sweet!" I exclaimed, doing a little victory dance in my seat. My parents had held me off for years, but now that the time had come, they would let me date any guy I wanted! Of course they knew I had a good relationship with God and wasn't too short on common sense, either.
"Now wait just a second," Mom interrupted with a smile. "You have to agree to a little something yourself."
I was expecting a lecture of some sort, so I was already prepared. "So what do I have to do now?" I asked, leaning forward on my elbows.
"Just open this," Dad answered, producing a small white box. He gave a mysterious smile.
I hesitated a moment before removing the curly pink ribbon. I slowly opened the lid and saw a beautiful silver bracelet. But not just any bracelet. It was a charm bracelet. And they weren't just any charms. They were gemstones, small but gorgeous. A dozen dainty charms dangled gently.
"Wow." I didn't know what else to say. I wasn't expecting this at all.
"Now you have to understand this isn't just any bracelet," Mom informed me.
"I know," I said. "It's so beautiful!" I studied it closer. There were six small charms alternating with tinier ones. The smaller ones were deep blue. Sapphires, I guessed. And the other six were each different. One appeared to be just a rock, one was pink, a white one, a red one, green... and was that a diamond?
"This charm bracelet is symbolic," Dad explained, leaning in closer to study it with me. "It represents you and your purity. This is what will guide you through your dating relationships. Your mother and I can only tell you what's right. We can't make you believe it yourself. Hopefully, this will."
I looked up solemnly. "I'm listening."
"This represents the first time you hold a guy's hand," Mom said, pointing to the gray one. "It's just a piece of polished granite. Seemingly cheap, yes, but it's still a part of your bracelet. This is pink quartz." She gently rubbed the next one between her fingers. "It represents your first kiss."
"This green one is an emerald," Dad continued. "This is your first boyfriend. The pearl is the first time you say 'I love you' to a man other than me."
I giggled. This was so amazing.
"The ruby stands for your first engagement. And the diamond represents the first time you say 'I do,'" Mom finished.
After letting it all sink in, I cleared my emotion-clogged throat. "What do the six tiny sapphires stand for?" I asked.
"Those are to remind you how beautiful and valuable you are to us and to God," Dad replied. "Now here's the hitch in all this, the only and only rule you'll ever have to follow when it comes to dating."
Only one rule. Sounded good. But little did I know...
"Whenever you give one of these actions of love- a kiss, an 'I love you', a hand to hold- you also have to give the recipient the gem to match."
I must've misunderstood. "I have to give him the gem?"
"You have to give it to him," Mom restated.
I was silent for a moment. I thought they must be joking. But they weren't even thinking of cracking a smile.
"But Daddy!" I suddenly shrieked. "These are insanely expensive! I can't just give them away!"
He gave a soft, loving chuckle, "Did you hear what you just said?"
I thought about it.
"Baby, your purity, your heart, they're far more valuable than a few little rocks. If you can't find it in your heart to give away your little charms, I don't think you should be giving away the things they represent."
I could feel my insides melting, ready to gush out of my tear ducts. One the one hands, it made me feel valuable and precious. But on the other, it made me furious. It made no sense. But it would.
A few weeks after that night, I was hanging out with my friends at the beach. Chad wouldn't swim because I wouldn't swim. I was more interested in reading than getting caked with sand, and he was more interested in sitting with me than swimming with his buddies. He was sweet. He was cute. And he tried to hold my hand.
I was thrilled for a nanosecond when a certain piece of ugly granite flashed through my mind and made me move out of his reach. I was severely annoyed- annoyed at my parents, annoyed at my bracelet-turned-handcuffs, but most of all, annoyed at myself. I was letting a little rock dominate my romantic life.
I furiously glared at it during the whole embarrassing walk to the bathhouse. But then God hit me upside the head with shocking epiphany. I couldn't give up my little chunk of granite. It was part of my bracelet, which in a sense made it a part of me. I wouldn't be whole without it. It wasn't a priceless gem, yet it was still valuable. It made sense after that.
Kevin came along eventually. We had fun. we hung out a lot. I thought I might love him. I thought I might tell him so. I thought of my pearl. It turned out that I didn't love him as much as I thought I did.
So my parents had been right. They couldn't make me believe the thins they wanted me to believe. So they let God and my bracelet do the work instead. Among the four of them, I figured out how valuable I was. How valuable my purity was. How not valuable guys were who just wanted my time and emotions. If they weren't in it for the whole bracelet, why should they get one part of it?
Nate. He thought my bracelet was awesome. So he never tried to hold my hand. He never tried to kiss me. But he asked me to marry him.
I never knew that so many years of torture could amount to so much happiness. I'd thought it was silly. I'd thought it was overrated. But now, I've never been more glad of anything in my life. As I gave my husband the charm bracelet in its entirety, I wondered why I had found it so hard to hang on to those little rocks when it was amazing to give them all to the man I truly loved.
But it didn't end there. Now our daughter wears it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

February 9, 2009

Then the Lord spoke to Moses...
-Exodus 19:21a (NASB)

At the beginning of this year, I embarked on a mission to read through the Bible in a year. The last month since starting I've been absolutely blessed by how much I've learned and grown through this study (which is a wonderful devotion that I would definitely recommend to anyone). The last few days, however, I found myself drudging through Exodus chapters 25-30 in my Old Testament portion of the daily assignment. These are some of the chapters where God gives Moses instructions on how to perform sacrifices, how the temple should be constructed, the exact measurements of the alters, curtains, etc. Needless to say, its not exactly the most exhilarating read.
Today as I was reading, however, I realized how often a passage begins "then the Lord spoke to Moses" or "then God said to him", etc. I've read those words thousands of times and they're not exactly anything particularly special, but today I couldn't help but be captivated by them. How cool would it have been to be Moses, and actually have face to face conversations with God? The Old Testament talks about how the glory of God was so amazing that the Israelites had to keep their distance, but moses was invited to come and speak with God directly.
Wow. Simply, wow.
But as amazing as that is, I am even more amazed by the incredible grace of God. Jesus' death on the cross allows us to have that personal relationship with our Lord and give us the opportunity for conversations with God. I am so grateful for all the word God is doing in my life, especially in these last few weeks and the way he has already been speaking to my through my devotion. Today was just another reminder of His faithfulness and how gracious He is, through the simplest of verses in the simplest of ways.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 4, 2009

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him.
And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by cried out, "Lord have mercy on us, Son of David!"
The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"
And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for ou?"
They said to Him, "Lord we want our eyes to be opened."
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.
-Matthew 20:29-34

You know, I'm one of those people who has been raised and church and heard all the Bible stories since I was a little kiddo in the nursery. So I'm more than sure that I've probably heard this particular story hundreds of times before. But tonight it struck me in a far different way than ever before. The two blind men heard Jesus was coming and instantly longed for Him to come and change their lives. They couldn't see Him but had faith that the could heal them and restore their lives. They couldn't see Him but had faith that he could heal them and restore their lives. And their faith was rewarded. Jesus felt such a compassion for them and their desire to know and see Him that he restored their sing. And that's the end of the story... right? The thing that struck me the most was those last three words: and followed Him. They left everything behind to follow the man who had so dramatically altered their sight and given them back their lives. I wish I had their faith. But God has essentially done the same for me. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see" is arguably the most famous hymn ever written, but somehow those words get lost between my head and my heart. Despite all that God has done for me, I am so reluctant to give Him my everything and devote my entire being to Him.

So while God is working all this in my heart, I continue reading and, lo and behold, just a page or two later:

[Jesus said to them], "A man had two songs, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' 
And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went.
Then man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go.
Which of the two did the will of his father?" [The priests and elders] said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you."
-Matthew 21:28-31

Being a follower of Christ means so much more than the words you say or how often you go to church. Being a follower of Christ means making Him the absolute center of your being and striving to make every aspect of your life worship to Him. After all, he cured me from "blindness" and never ceases to love me. He deserves my everything! I know He has called me into a life of full-time ministry and I am so excited to see where He leads me. But I can't continue to just talk about what I'm going to do for Him. Even though I feel my ministry is going to be my career, I don't have to and shouldn't wait until I have a degree to begin. I don't want to be that second son.

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26, 2009

My God, my God, why have You forsaken men?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
-Psalm 22:1-3

You know, God never ceases to amaze me, and I find that the more I delve into His word, the more I fall in love with Him and discover the incredible promises He has for me.
But this passage left me with a different feeling. Rather than rejoicing in the outpouring of love God shows me, this song of David forced me to step back and evaluate the outpouring of love I show God. The past few weeks have been incredible as my faith and relationship with Christ has reached a very different place, but this passage reminded me that God deserves my praise and adoration even in the darkest times, when I cannot see Him. How beautiful are David's words: Yet You are holy!! Talk about faith!
The chapter goes on to talk about how even when David is in the worst moments of his life, "You, O Lord, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance. Deliver my soul from the sword, My only life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen answer me" (vv. 19-21). There is that wonderful promise from God that I've come to love so much. But it comes sixteen verses after David's praise of the Lord! What a wonderful reminder that God deserves our praise even when we do not understand the situation we find ourselves in. We cannot always see God's plan, and it may not be come in our own timing, but He is always right beside us, ready to pull us out of the lion's mouth or save us from the wild oxen of this world.

"We are not alone. He makes himself known in time, His own time"
-Brandon Heath, Beauty Divine

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 25, 2009

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours speech,
And night to night reveals.
There is no speech, no are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their sound has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing from its heart.
-Psalm 19:1-6 (NASB)

It was two nights ago on January 23rd that I read this psalm in my daily devotion time. And I found myself completely blown away. The heaves and all of God's creation continually speak praises to their creator, day and night. Even though their praises aren't heard by men they rise from one of the heavens to the other, an never-ending, all-encompassing PRAISE lifted to our King.
How amazing is that?? The thought of God's creation always worshipping Him... it really just blows me away. The glory of God and his creation speaking constant praise, oh that we should do the same and worship Him with everything we do!
That has become the theme of my heart these last two weeks. At the beginning of the new year I made a commitment to God, devoting time to diving into His Word every day (and hopefully reading through the Bible in a year with the study I chose). In the few weeks that I have begun this, God has already begun a dramatic work in my life, and the first challenge laid before me is to worship my Savior with everything I do.
Often times I find myself caught up in the music portion of chapel or a church service. There is certainly not surprising since I am a musician, but I want to find that same passion for God that I feel in those musical moments in everything I do. We tend to think of worship as the praise music portion of a church service, but worship is defined as "the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration of a deity" with synonyms such as adoration, glorification, devotion, homage, and honor. My heart desires to bring glory to God and lift up praise to my King with every aspect and act of my life.
After just a few short weeks of really getting face to face with God on a daily basis and seeing what He is already doing for me, I am so excited to see where he takes me the rest of this year! God is good!