Sunday, June 24, 2012

Joining Voices

I turned 30 today. I was eager to see what music my church would play on my birthday. Our worship leader picked one of my all-time favorite songs—Revelation Song, one that I feel beautifully describes God’s awesome power and glory, and praises Him for them. When I hear that song on the radio, on my computer, or at church, I want to sing it with all that I am.

Today I tried. I had to keep it toned down a little, because we were in close quarters in the assembly room. But I sang it from the heart. When the chorus started, my voice matched the pitch and sound of the worship leader’s—something she couldn’t hear but I could. The sound was clear and solid. It got me thinking. When we share what we know of Jesus with other people, we are joining voices with other believers to proclaim the love and good news of Christ. God doesn’t build lone stars. He builds teams. As believers, we are a part of a team that stretches all the way around the world, and we share the same truth and worship the same God. We can use our voices to worship our Lord and to be His spokesmen on earth. We can use our voices to reach out to the lost and to strengthen the saved.
Are you using your voice? Whoever you are, you have a voice that can make a difference. In your sphere of influence, look for ways to have a strong voice for God. The world needs to hear our song.

“You who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9 NKJV).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lessons from Quest for Celestia: You're Beautiful

Last week I painted a scene for you from Steven James’ book Quest for Celestia, the story of two travelers headed to the city of the noble king. I could “paint” for you a whole art gallery of scenes from the book, and give you the principles I learned from them. But I encourage you to discover these lessons for yourself and enjoy the adventure that Kadin and Leira took to Celestia, experiencing their fears and joys and sharing their victories.

The last scene I want to paint for you centers on Leira, Kadin’s companion on the journey. But let me give you a little background on her first. The first time Kadin met Leira, he was in danger. They both were. A servant of the evil baron had convinced Kadin to leave the path to Celestia and seek refuge in the baron’s castle. Just when Kadin was ready to follow him, Leira called to him from some underbrush, warning him not to go. When he saw her, he thought she was lovely, except for the bruises that covered her face. Later he learned that the evil baron had captured her, locked her up in his dungeon, and allowed his guards to abuse her. She had managed to escape, and fate, it would seem, brought Kadin and Leira together. They needed each other, not just to survive the danger, but to be each other’s friend at a time when few were leaving everything to find Celestia.   

The dream Leira had on the journey taught me something beautiful. She dreamt she was invited by the prince himself to come to a grand dance at his castle. One of his servants took her to a room filled with beautiful dresses, fit for a princess, and told her to choose one. She selected a gorgeous silk dress and tried it on—the perfect fit. However, when she looked in the mirror, she only saw the bruises on her face. The dress didn’t matter. Shortly after she met Kadin, healing water had erased the bruises, but now they were back.

Leira wouldn’t leave the room. The servant called for her to come—the prince was waiting. But she didn’t want him to see her like this. Finally, someone came to the door. It was the prince. When he entered, Leira hid her face and fell to the floor. She told him she couldn’t come, not looking like she did. He helped her up and looked into her face, brushing the tears from her eyes. He said, “I see only beauty.” Leira turned to look in the mirror, and the bruises weren’t there anymore! She could see herself as the prince did, beautiful and transformed.*

Different things affect the way we see ourselves—people’s opinions, our own struggles and trials, our past regrets, and what other people have done to us. If we could look in a mirror and see our hearts, we may see damage that's been caused by ourselves and others. But when the Prince takes us in His arms and holds us close, we can be healed of past wounds. When we believe in Jesus as our Savior, He takes our sins and exchanges them for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). When the heavenly Father looks at us, He doesn’t see a face covered in bruises, but a heart that’s been rescued by the Savior. God sees us “in Christ,” redeemed from our sin, no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1).

Jesus also works in our lives so that we experience His healing on a practical level—in our perspectives, our attitudes, our words, and our actions. When God looks at us, He may see the hurts, but He also sees the beauty that’s blooming in our souls.

Have you experienced God’s healing? How do you see yourself? Do you see only “bruises”? Or do you see the beauty that you have because Christ lives in you, and because He is working in your heart to make you whole and sound on the inside? You’re beautiful, Beloved. Your Prince says so.

Check out Quest for Celestia! Available through amazon.com


 

*Steven James, Quest for Celestia (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2012), page 189.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lessons from Quest for Celestia: Take My Hand

Last week I made my way through a death-infested swamp, a dragon-inhabited cave, a mob-filled city, and a danger-filled forest. I traveled with two companions—Kadin, a teenage boy determined to find the city of Celestia, and Leira, a spunky but tender teenage girl. It took me just a few days to read Quest for Celestia, written by Steven James, an award-winning author and someone I’ve been privileged to meet a couple of times. I am normally a movie person, but this book captured me.

Quest for Celestia, a novel based on John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, chronicles the journey of two “vagabonds,” or travelers, headed to the land of the ancient kings, to the city of the noble King Kiral. Evils and dangers attempt to keep Kadin and Leira from reaching the city. Just as The Pilgrim’s Progress was an allegory of a Christian’s journey through this world toward heaven, Quest for Celestia pictures some of the dangers we encounter in our journey here on earth, along with the victories we can win with our King’s help.
I want to paint for you a particular scene from the book, one that taught me how to handle fearful and tempting thoughts. Toward the beginning of their journey, Kadin and Leira had to follow the path to Celestia through a cave located deep within the heart of a mountain. In almost complete darkness, they inched their way along one side of the cave to avoid falling into a pit in the middle. They grew anxious when they saw two lights coming toward them. They hoped it wasn’t the evil baron’s men. As the lights drew closer, they saw it was a man and a woman running as fast as they could, each carrying a torch. The couple slowed down as they approached, and the women warned them, “Voices.” The couple had heard voices from the pit, and decided to turn back. Kadin and Leira tried to persuade the couple to travel with them, but they wouldn’t listen. They handed Kadin a torch. The voices and the dangers were too much for them, and they gave up on their journey.

Kadin and Leira continued walking, now with a torch to guide their steps. They traveled in silence for a long time, until they heard them—the voices. More like screams. They came from the pit, and with the light of the torch Kadin could see a curtain separating the real world from the next. Against the curtain were faces, wanting to be freed. Eerie shadows reached through the curtain, trying to grab Kadin and Leira as they passed. Then Kadin began to see things on the path that weren’t there. He wondered if he was walking in a nightmare. A single voice whispered to him fears and tormenting thoughts—thoughts of giving up and thoughts of doing terrible things. He asked the “Giver of Dreams” to take these nightmares away, and he asked Leira if he could hold her hand. She asked him why, and he replied, “I need to know what’s real.”*
When the voice of the enemy whispers fears and temptations to our minds, Jesus beckons us, “Take My hand.”  The enemy’s voice can grow so overwhelming in our minds, that we wonder what’s real and what’s not. His threats and lies can frighten us until we don’t want to take another step. His temptations can lure us off God’s path, and his discouragement can cause us to give up. We can feel like we’re caught in a nightmare. But when we take hold of Jesus’ hand, we will know what’s real. Holding onto Jesus—holding onto His word and what we know of Him—will keep us grounded in truth. Jesus is stronger than any fear or temptation that threatens to hinder our journey with God. In Jesus we find the strength to keep going and to say no to Satan’s allurements. In Jesus we find the courage to continue on the path, and journey straight into the Father’s arms, making our way Home.

If you would like to learn more about Quest for Celestia, visit Steven James’ blog stvjames.blogspot.com.

Next week I will paint for you one more scene.



*Steven James, Quest for Celestia (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2012), page 118.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Voice of Truth

Which do you think is louder in our world today—the voice of truth or the voice of darkness? Which is louder in your mind?

I wonder what “darkness” sounds like. You would think that it would boast loud screeches or frantic screams. But perhaps, the voice of darkness is more subtle. Perhaps it comes more often to our minds whispering doubts, fears, and lies:

“Does God really love you?”
“He doesn’t care about what you’re going through.”
“Even God can’t get you through this.”

The more we listen to the lies of darkness, the stronger the voice becomes, choking out truth and hope. The voice of darkness hisses poisonous words:

“You’re never going to make it through this trial.”
“God won’t ever forgive you for that sin.”
“God has abandoned you.”

The voice of truth silences the voice of darkness. Whether it comes to us as a still, small voice or as loudly as a trumpet blast, truth calls us to rally behind the assurances of the cross and to rise up capable in God’s power and secure in His love. The cross will forever be a symbol of God’s love for us, a reminder that if God gave His Son so we could have eternal life, He will give us everything we need for daily life (Romans 8:32). The voice of truth reminds us that God makes His power available to us, so we can walk in victory and not in defeat (Ephesians 6:10). The truth also comforts us that God’s love is personal, eternal, and unchanging (John 15:9, Jeremiah 31:3, Hebrews 13:8); and He is with us, never to leave us (Hebrews 13:5).


Whose voice will you listen to? When doubts and fears begin to haunt you, listen to the voice of truth. Heeding the truth of God’s Word opens the floodgate of light into your heart and life. Darkness has to flee. Hold onto the Light. Let Truth be the voice that directs you into God’s peace, joy, and victory. Join forces with God’s army of light so that the voice of truth has a stronger influence in our world than the voice of darkness.