Looking at Literature: Bilbo Baggins

I like to think we are all a bit like hobbits in the U.S.: comfortable, well-fed, well-housed, with a certain amount of manners, kindness, hospitality, and living in relative peace.

We live in comfort and are unaware of what is beyond our home. Like Bilbo finds himself at the beginning of the Hobbit, we can find ourselves annoyed by anything that interrupts our quiet comfortable life.

However, I believe, the moment any of us open our heart to God and begin to follow Jesus, our life has become a grand adventure, to which, remaining comfortable is impossible.

For Bilbo, opening up his door, inviting Gandalf in, changes his life. For us, accepting Jesus, surrendering ourselves, changes our life.

Like Bilbo, we may be hesitant to step out the door, out of our home, our safety, our comfort zone. We might sleep in or even sleep through God’s great plan for us. Except, God doesn’t let us miss out on His will and continues to challenge us, believe in us, and equip us.

Gandalf assumes Bilbo is accepting adventure and because he assumes, or, I think,believes in him, Bilbo finds himself swept up, running out of his comfortable home, not able to “remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed up…. running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the path.”

Similarly, God believes in each of us and is drawing us out of our comfort zones and onto paths unknown. If we won’t go freely, He may just sweep us out the door without a second thought, and like Bilbo, we will find ourselves on a great adventure.

The Promise and Power

Acts 1:4-8

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus has risen and has appeared to His disciples. He has commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations. Before Jesus ascends to heaven. He tells them to wait. He also tells them that it is not for them to know times or seasons the Father has fixed. If they wait, they will receive power from the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

This encourages me greatly in my waiting, especially in a season of preparation or transition. We may know God’s commands and want to take action, but God makes us wait. He places us in a time of rest, stillness, of what feels like a time of nothingness. You can’t see anything happening, you don’t know what to do, where to go, and God hasn’t spoken clearly to you.

I can’t help but wonder if He is making you wait for the same reason He made the disciples wait. That after a time, you will receive more power. Right when the Father chooses, He will shoot you like an arrow towards the bulls eye.

Only He knows the times and seasons, but, isn’t it worth it if the waiting means receiving power from the Spirit and witnessing to the ends of the earth? Hang in there. Stand firm. I believe this uncomfortable season you face, I face, is preparing you for the promise of the Father.

Raise a Hallelujah

Acts 16:25-34 Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns

Fortunately I have not experienced prison and I do not pretend to even begin to understand and relate to Paul and Silas’s situation in this passage of scripture.

Yet, as I prayed this morning, God brought this scripture to my mind, not the exact book, chapter, and verse reference, but He brought to my mind His followers singing while in prison and then the earth shaking. This lead me to Acts and the story of Paul and Silas.

You see, sometimes we can feel like we are in a prison: stuck, disconnected, confused, stifled, and well, uncomfortable. We can’t see a way out of this place or season. That is why this true story holds such a powerful message for us as believers. Paul and Silas do not try to figure out a way to escape. Instead, they “pray and sing hymns to God”.

They are not working in any way, they do not know what is happening outside the prison, and they can not go anywhere. In a sense, they are left with nothing to do, but sit there and wait. Yet, they use that space to do something that shakes the earth, opens the prison doors, and ultimately saves the jailer!

A very wise and wonderful woman of God told me recently, that our circumstances may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but our response within those circumstances can change the spiritual realms.

So, if you are like me, feeling stuck, disconnected, you are not sure how to move forward, or you simply can’t move at all- sing and pray. Sing and pray for however long it takes to shake the earth and open the prison doors!

God’s Best

It is so hard to let go of what I consider to be the best for me, what I perceive as perfect. Yet, God’s best is different than our best. God’s best encompasses so much more than our best. What we might want for ourselves because we see it as perfect or the best there could be typically is a selfish desire. The perfect job or perfect girlfriend or boyfriend, the perfect home- we can’t see past our own selfish desires without God’s help and even with His help our eyes fail to see beyond what is seen.

However, God’s perfect, God’s best, is not only for our good, but for the good of others, for the redemption of this world, and for His glory. Rather than accepting what may be good for me, but could be bad for others, I want to hold out for what is best for us all and for His glory.

Maybe you do not think that applies to your dating life or your job choice, but isn’t that decreasing the size of God? Why wouldn’t it apply to those things as well? If God’s word tells us to do all for Christ, that there is a season for everything, that He has prepared good works for us in advance, then why wouldn’t He also have the best for us in all other areas?

I, for one, do not want what I think is best for me if it is not God’s best for me. Sure, it might be good, but if I wait and choose God’s best, then perhaps, I will find life, joy, more of Him, battles might be won, lives might be saved, people encouraged. When I grow impatient and reach for my best, I am missing out and causing others to miss out on God’s perfect plan.

Great Expectations

I think, as we live on this broken earth, we can, at times, seeking too much blessing from it. That is, not to say, that seeking good is bad or desiring blessing is wrong. Both are natural and biblical.

Yet, where are we seeking the good and the blessings from? Too many times I find myself expecting a blessing from the brokenness of this world. I seek heaven on this cursed planet. I seek home in a foreign land, and I desire wholeness in a broken place. – That is when disappointment and discouragement seeps in, covering me with darkness, and I am weighed down by the heaviness of it all.

We can all face these times and they are valid, real, not easily escaped from, and should not be taken lightly. For each person these dark moments or seasons are different and unique, only God knows the why and how and the medicine for it.

For me, recently facing a short time of utter darkness, I came to a realization of my warped perspective. This darkness did not come from nowhere, it is a culmination of hurts I have experienced, lies I have believed, and the enemy’s constant attacks. And it all came rushing at me at once.

I have begun to see how much expectation I have put into this life. Though I know nothing on this earth will bring me fulfillment or wholeness, I still believe I am entitled to blessings, the “American dream”. I expect comfort, belonging, even romance, and happiness. Although the Bible clearly tells us the world brings trouble, deep down, I have believed that trouble won’t be that bad for me and won’t be the norm of my life. I believed that I still deserved good things, especially as I do good to others. My expectations are high.

But, those are all lies. Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed. God gives good fits. However, we aren’t meant to place any expectation of blessing on this world. Just like you wouldn’t expect a broken refrigerator to keep your food cold, we can not expect a broken world to give us our desires or fulfill our greatest joys. When we expect those things, we have made the world our God.

Only from God do we receive great joys and fulfillment of desires. From the world, we receive curses, pain, and tribulation. From God we receive blessings, peace, and joy. We are not home yet, but through Jesus we get to taste a bit of home. We do not belong here, but through Jesus we can find belonging. We will feel discomfort, but through Jesus, we can experience His comfort.

Let us not expect heaven from earth, but bring a taste of heaven to earth for others to experience. In doing so, more people can hand over their disappointment and darkness to the Only One who knows what to with them. Let our expectations not be placed in this world, but laid on the cross, Jesus, and in heaven, where they are being and will be fulfilled. That way, when the world inevitably does not fulfill our hopes, we find our self at peace because we know this is not the end.

I AM

As an adult, more than when I was a child, I find myself relating to Moses quite often. I do not often relate to the moments when he performed God’s miracles, but more to the moments where He doubts himself and questions God’s plan.

Circumstances, my own limitations, and others often cloud my vision of God and cause me to falter on the path He has called me to walk on.

As soon as Moses is called by the Lord from a burning bush, he questions his own ability to fulfill God’s calling. Are you sure you chose the right person? He thinks. He feels like no one will listen to him, not his own people, and definitely not the pharaoh. Yet God tells him, this isn’t about him, but about HIS power and HIS ability, it is about the Great I AM.

So, Moses, with help from Aaron, steps our in faith to call his people (the Israelites) out of Egypt and back to the Lord. Because of this, the Israelites are severely punished by he Pharaoh. They suffer more and blame Moses. Moses blames God. God gives him something to say to the people in response and we come to Exodus 6:9-12—-

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.”

But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me…?”

What a relateable story for those of us who are called to speak, preach, to share the gospel, to minister, to lead, or called in any way to glorify God with what we do!

I am in full time ministry. I have had my eyes opened to God’s heart for the world, the work that must be done. God has not only called me to the work to share the gospel, but to also encourage others to do the same.

However, I find myself so often, like Moses, saying, “If that person won’t listen to me, why would anyone else listen to me…?” Very rarely does it seem like people hear and I can’t help but be discouraged and question God’s calling.  That is why I am so convicted by Moses and the Israelite’s story and I pray it will help any fellow ministers, leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ.

God never promised Moses that the people would listen. When Moses doubted his capabilities, God tells him that He will do miracles through him, that He will give him speech, but God never promises him that he will be heard (in fact, he promises him the Pharaoh will not listen!).

God calls us to share because of His character. He desires to be known and to know His people. Yet, He gives everyone free will. Our sharing, our serving, our empowering and leading, must not depend on being heard, but must rely on our being faithful to the One who is always faithful.

Like Moses, let us continue to obey God’s calling, even if it goes unheard or unseen. Allow His power to work through you as you persevere, and people will begin to hear, fruit will come, and God is and will be glorified. If you need a response to your doubt, your fears, your discouragement, remind your heart that, “He is the Lord your God ,the Great I AM.”

Never Been Kissed

It is truly odd what our first thoughts are when we wake up in the morning. Luckily, the majority of the time, my thoughts are on Jesus (this has only come with practice and by God’s grace). However, this morning, I woke up and my thoughts were on the film Never Been Kissed, and specifically, on how old the character is in the film.

If you have never seen this Drew Barrymore movie, it is about a 25 year old journalist, who has never been kissed, going undercover as a high school student. It’s a quirky charming rom com, but today, I realized, I am older than 25, and I have never been kissed. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to write this and share it with the world, but as I have gotten older, my embarrassment has decreased and I prefer honesty to masked comments and posts.

I have always wanted to be married, to share my life with a partner, a best friend, yet here I am, without. But it doesn’t ache as much as it once did. After all, what is this life truly about? Who is the one who controls these things? The answer to both, being one and the same: Christ.

I could certainly spend my time attaching my full identity to this: 26, unmarried, unpursued by most men, unattached, unkissed (is that even a word?). But that is certainly not where my identity lies. It does not rely on my relationship status, nor does it truly even rely on how I feel about myself, for God is greater than our feelings (1 John 3:20).

Whether you have been a bride or not, or will be a bride or not on this earth, you are Christ’s bride. Whether you have been chosen by others or overlooked, Christ chose you as His special possession. Whether you feel and are alone or not, Christ died for you so He could always be near you. Whether you are praised or abused, you are sung over and loved by Jesus. He will never reject you. He makes you the apple of his eyes. He is equally and simultaneously your husband, beloved, Savior, best friend, coworker, teacher, and King.

Times may come when the fact that I am 26 and have never been kissed will cause me heart ache. I can easily wonder why I have been disregarded by so many people in this world, why my heart hasn’t been seen, but ignored and rejected. However, I would much rather focus and give into the One whose love for me never fails and whom I will spend eternity with.

So, really, I am 26 years old and my heart belongs wholeheartedly to the One whom my soul loves. I lack nothing good.