By Linda Rex
A late night, early morning and little sleep is par for the course lately. Anxious questions and urgent concerns that have already been addressed and readdressed try my patience. A prayer wafts from my heart that I will have the grace to cherish the moments rather than ruin them with self-pity or frustration.
Another concern is raised. What can I answer other than the truth—we don’t know the day or the hour. We just know that the end is near. You will be going home to Jesus and I will be staying.
Out of my mouth, the Spirit speaks the words of comfort: “Mom, this is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” She nods with a smile and says, “Yes, we will.”
After a while it is time to take the dog out back, so I wander out, my bare feet in the cold, wet grass. I feel for a moment as though I’m walking in the Garden of Eden, with the presence of God near me, offering me his comfort and peace. I hear the echo in my mind and heart of the Spirit’s word, “This is the day the Lord has made…” and I feel a sense of gratitude for God’s comfort and encouragement.
Sitting again at her side, we talk about life and death, family and the things that really matter. We make sure there’s no unfinished business between us. These are precious moments—sacred moments, really. I choose to drink them in rather than just let them pass me by.
After an hour or so I go to my room to take care of something and pause to read today’s devotion out of a book on my desk. I smile as I read the familiar words: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I think I know what God’s word is for me today.
Thank you, Lord, for another moment and another day with the people who mean the most to us. Thank you for the relationships you have given us in which we know others and they know us. We are especially grateful that you know us down to the core of our beings and have brought us to this place of knowing you. There is an indescribable joy in this knowing and being known. We anticipate the time our time in eternity with you through Jesus our Lord. Amen.
“This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NASB
by Linda Rex
I was sitting around the table at a restaurant a while back when a loved one reminded me that it’s important not to assume that I know everything there is to know about something, but to be open to the possibility that I might be wrong. Indeed, this is a difficult thing to accept for someone who grew up in a family where knowing the most about everything was held dear.
Over the years I have learned that how much a person knows about someone is not near as meaningful and important as how well a person knows them in a face-to-face relationship. This applies equally to our conception of God and our Christian faith. I learned at an early age the value of learning everything about God and about the Bible. But it really did not do me much good—indeed it proved to be damaging and restrictive—until I came to know God in a face-to-face, personal relationship.
A relationship with God is not something that is just a button you can turn off or on. In a real way, it is a growing in knowing. Just like any other relationship, it ebbs and flows, has its ups and downs, and grows over time as we open ourselves up to knowing God more intimately and deeply.
What I know and believe about God has changed over the years, and it has impacted my relational knowing of God. In other words, my learning about God has gone through a maturing process, and because I have grown in the way that I see, know and understand God, it has transformed and deepened my personal relationship with him.
When we read the works of Christian authors, we may assume that what they teach at the beginning of their Christian walk will be the same as what they write at the end of their life. But the truth is that we are all on a journey with God throughout our lives. And what we may write at the beginning of our lives will not be the same as what we write at the end because we change, our character and circumstances change, our relationship with God changes, and our point of view changes. In every relationship of significance, how deeply one person knows another will change over time.
Because what we know about God impacts the possibility of our knowing God relationally, it is imperative that we be open to the idea that what we know about God may be wrong. Since each of us was created in the image of God, we were designed to reflect the nature of God to one another. The problem arises when the image of God reflected by significant people in our lives is something other than who God really is. In other words, we place the face of these significant people over the face of God. How well we know God relationally, unfortunately, has a lot to do with how well we relate to people who impact our lives as we mature.
Another factor that impacts the possibility of knowing God relationally is how we interpret and understand family, culture, church and the written Word of God. Speaking for myself, I have experienced some major paradigm shifts in my understanding of all these things, but God has done this so that I could really know and understand him as the loving, caring God he really is. God has slowly, but surely, removed the idols from my life so I could see and know him in his true nature. I still have a long way to go, and I know the mystery of who God is will keep me fascinated for all eternity, but I’m extremely grateful that he is opening himself up to me more and more each day.
The story we find in the Holy Bible is God’s story. When we read it through the lens of Jesus Christ, then we are reading the Scripture through the correct lens. The Word in Jesus Christ came to reveal the true character and nature of God as Father, Son and Spirit, a God who would lay it all down so that his creatures would share life with him for all eternity. Even though we has humans have rejected this God who seeks a relationship with us individually and collectively, he has still done everything necessary and possible to ensure that we are included in his divine relationship of love.
God never ceases to draw us to himself. He works throughout each of our lives and circumstances to bring us to a deeper understanding of who he really is and how much he loves us and wants to include us in his life and love. He allows us to reject him and live in a way that is in opposition to the truth of our being (made in the image of God), and we experience the pain and suffering that go with that choice. But he never stops pursuing us.
Because he is bound to us at the core of our being through his humanity, Christ is present in a real way in every moment and in every situation. By the Spirit, God is involved in every part of our lives. We are held in God’s life and love—rest in that truth and embrace it. Awaken to the reality that you are truly and thoroughly loved and God seeks to know you and relate to you intimately. Let him be the one Friend that will never leave or forsake you, because that is Who he really is. Christ is your life.
Father, thank you that in Christ and by your Spirit, you have included each of us in your life and love. Thank you for making us your very own. Awaken us to the truth that we are deeply and thoroughly loved. Free us from the impulse to run and hide. Remove the fear of being truly known and enable us to trust you to love us without condemnation or rejection. Enable us by your grace to live in the true reality of who we are in you. Through Jesus and by your Spirit. Amen.
“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:25–26 NASB
by Linda Rex
One of the blessings of being camp chaplain is the opportunity I have to share life with people and children of all ages. Camp ministry is an intense experience to say the least. And even though my body complains about all the unaccustomed activity, I love being able to help out in this way.
Last week at The Rock summer camp, I was able to participate with Stephen Webb, the camp director, and my co-chaplain (and next year’s camp director) Dennis Elliott in presenting a series of chapel messages based on the theme “Truth Is!” This curriculum was designed to address the post-Christian culture’s view of truth being relative—something we create and adjust according to our situation and circumstance.
Our first chapel “What is Truth?” was presented by Pastor Webb and emphasized that in our search for truth and meaning in this life, we need to go to the right source. When Jesus stood before Pilate the governor and was asked by him, “What is truth?” Pilate had no idea that he was standing before the one who was the personification of truth. For truth is not just a concept or idea. Truth is a Person.
Dennis took this concept farther in Monday’s chapel message as he began to talk about “Truth is God”. Truth is not just a philosophical concept or idea. When we define truth, the basis for all that we know and believe as truth finds its source in God. This gives us a solid foundation on which to build our lives and make our decisions.
On Tuesday the topic for chapel was “Truth is a Man.” In this message I sought to show that truth is not something we create, though we have attempted to do so since the beginning of time. Truth is the Word of God in human flesh, the Person Jesus Christ, who is the exact representation of the One who is truth. Jesus lived, died and rose again as a human being, having experienced everything in life that we do. When he ascended, he sent the Holy Spirit to live in human hearts. Through the Spirit in us, we have truth in our inner beings, a truth that is understanding of and able to adjust to every situation. We don’t have to figure out what is truth and what is not truth because we have God living in us and through us as Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Wednesday Pastor Dennis encouraged everyone with his message “Truth is Unchanging.” We can live with assurance in relationship with God moment by moment because God isn’t transient or fickle. God is trustworthy and faithful and loves us completely and fully.
Thursday’s chapel began with worship, which was interrupted by the lights going out. A spotlight came on, and the campers saw three presentations of tragedies that people face in life: a doctor announcing the death of a loved one, a single mom who can’t take it any more, and an abusive husband and father. Then Pastor Steve asked the question “Where is Truth When the Lights Go Out?” He explained how Christians throughout the centuries often had to worship God and serve him without the luxury of bibles and music and all the normal trappings of church. The campers broke up into separate groups and participated in a group worship like the early Christians.
Friday I had the opportunity of introducing the chapel time “Truth is Worth Sharing.” Using the story of the Samaritan woman who Jesus met at Jacob’s well, I talked about the importance of sharing the truth. We encounter truth in Jesus Christ, for he is where God’s story and our story meet. When we are fully known by God and fully loved, we naturally want to share this story with others. After my chapel message, many campers came forward and told their stories. It was wonderful to see all the ways in which God had been working in their lives.
What was really inspiring about our camp experience was all the ways in which the theme of truth ended up being woven into many of our fireside chats and LifeTalk lunches. Each day after chapel, the campers participated in several activities including an open activity time during which they could visit the camp store and spend time with campers they would not otherwise see. Activities during the week included arts and crafts, paintball, archery, zipline, low ropes, field activities, swimming, and dancing, and a talent show.
One of the highlights of the evening activities was the “Night of the Spear.” The men and boys made their way through muddy trenches under barbed wire, climbed a wall together, swam across the lake and made their way to a forge. There they worked together to create a spearhead. The women and girls gathered together and had snacks and talked. The older women and I shared our stories, telling how God met us in the truth of who and what we were, and what it means to be a woman and the shaft that balances the spearhead. Earlier in the week the girls had drawn designs on quilt squares and these were all tied together into a banner. At our last chapel on Saturday, we saw the completed spear with its banner hanging over the stage where the worship band was performing.
Our final banquet and dance was another highlight of the evening activities. The boy dorms escorted the girl dorms to the gym where the tables were set beautifully and dinner was waiting. The staff served the campers, who had an opportunity to practice the etiquette skills they had been taught earlier in the day. After dinner, the floor was cleared and the campers and staff enjoyed dancing to music emceed by Bill Winn.
I am very grateful that I could participate with God in his ministry to the children and staff at The Rock. It seems that I come away having learned more and grown more than I ever expected. Sharing life and truth with others is a privilege and I am grateful to all of those who shared with me last week. You each were such a blessing to me!