An Internal Fountain of Youth

Since I’ve reached a certain median age, it seems as if every mail order company in the Continental U.S. has my address or email.  Ten years ago I got trendy, youthful apparel catalogs…now I’m getting life insurance applications, ads for miracle wrinkle and fat erasing creams, booklets full of ugly shoes (which I’ll NEVER be old enough to wear, thank you!), mailers for high-fiber supplements, and yes, brochures for motor scooters.  I haven’t even broken fifty yet and already my demographic has changed.  Even what little television I watch these days seems to be have its audience pegged for the declining years of life, because all the commercials are for prescription medications and accessibility aids.

So, it is true that each year brings changes to our lives…some subtle and others not so much.  The metabolism goes south, our teeth yellow and wear down, we suddenly need either reading glasses or longer arms (smile), and we have to decide to either go gray or fight it to the death.  Our society is oh-so-focused on how youthful we can remain, and suddenly we feel that same peer pressure we thought we’d kicked in high school…the struggle to project an acceptable version of ourselves.

We may or may not choose to try to slow the wheels of time for our outer man.  For some of us, the changes are too painful to bear, and we exhaust our energy and our pocketbooks just to buy one more year, ten more years, of youth and beauty.  Others of us are passively embracing the gradual changes in our appearance, trying to find the humor hidden in the irony of time and gravity.  However the transition might personally affect you, be encouraged…for there’s a part of you that is exempt from the ravages of time:  your spirit man!

The Apostle Paul revealed a priceless nugget when he penned these words:  “Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 AMP)  I love this Scripture in every translation I’ve read, and the Amplified version includes the word “progressively” in both parts of the passage.  I daily witness the outer “progressively” when I have to stand in front of that full-length mirror…but I often fail to acknowledge the INNER “progressively”…the one that says I’m brand-new every morning!  Regenerated.  Reborn.  A fresh layer of spiritual skin as blemish-free as a baby’s.  My spirit man will not get arthritis, age spots, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or just flat-out old.  EVER.

If sickness and age-related conditions have taken their toll on your outer man, I want to encourage you to begin praising the Lord for the one part of your being that cannot be touched by the enemy.  Thank God for His Holy Spirit which dwells in your spirit, and begin declaring Scriptures of renewal even on your outer man as you speak in faith.  True, unless we go out in the Rapture, eventually all of us will have to taste of death…but we do not have to accept just anything and everything that the enemy tries to heap onto our backs.  If you’re even having to face a potentially terminal illness, all the more reason to praise the Lord for that part of you which sickness can never touch—that inner man or woman which lives on even when the outer one starts faltering.  As I write this, I’m praying for you to find the strength to bravely face each day, in sickness or in perfect health…always thankful, always determined, always looking to an eternity beyond this one short life.

When I was meditating on all these things a couple of days ago, I believe the Lord allowed me to get a little revelation about 2 Corinthians 4:16.  When our spirit is daily renewed here, it is as whole and healthy on this side of Heaven as it will be the day we enter eternity! If you’re daily walking with God, feasting on His Word, talking with your Father, allowing His Holy Spirit to dwell within you and guide your words and choices, you are taking on a renewal of spirit every single day.  When we get to eternity, we’ll have that glorified body to match it…but there’s a part of you right now that has absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with it!  So stop obsessing over the outside and see that beautiful, created-in-His-image inside!

Confess and receive your daily renewal.  Allow the Lord to renew your strength like the eagle’s…and when the outside man starts showing his or her age, allow your vision to re-focus on a deeper, more substantial part of who you were created to be.  Rest assured that you have a spirit which, like the mercies of God, is renewed every morning!  How’s THAT for an anti-aging formula?

“He who believes in Me [who cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Me] as the Scripture has said, From his innermost being shall flow [continuously] springs and rivers of living water.” (John 7:38 AMP)

©2012 Lisa Crum

Wash and Wear

I don’t buy many dry clean only garments these days, since I’m no longer working in a corporate workplace where suits are the dress code.  To be honest, on top of the fact that it gets expensive to maintain something you wear really often, I sweat a lot!  No offense to those who prefer or who must wear formal clothing on a regular basis…but I just flat-out like the concept of stuff that can handle going into the soapy water and taking a good scrubbing as often as it needs it.  And while I don’t doubt that all those chemicals do the trick too, I’m just a wash-and-wear kind of gal.  My needs are pretty simple, so goes my choice of apparel (smile).

I’m so glad that God’s grace provides for us a good washing when we need cleansed from being out in that dirty world.  We can’t wrap ourselves in plastic and walk around to keep our clothes clean, and we can’t be out there without being exposed to some things that need scrubbed off of us when we come back into His presence.   We can live a holy life among a lost world, and we can persevere not to allow the influence of darkness stain our garments; but in truth, each day we stand before the Lord in need of new mercies.  We hear and see things that can bend our thinking and tarnish our purity.  Even in times when we’ve not sinned, our spirit can still pick up the stale odor of the world from just having passed through it—kind of like walking through a shroud of cigarette smoke outside the grocery store (a personal pet peeve of mine!).

God has made provisions for our continual cleaning and re-cleaning.  He knows that we’ll encounter constant challenges to our faith, constant pressures to compromise, subtle foxes spoiling our vines from beneath where we don’t always see them.  Jesus prayed that to the Father about this very thing ON OUR BEHALF!  He said, “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”  (John 17:15 NLT) He knew that we need to remain here to be His influence in the earth, and that special provisions would need to be made in order to keep us holy in spite of our surroundings.

Our Lord is the master of cleaning our dirty laundry.  He can lift any stain, press out any wrinkle, and remove any lingering odor of unrighteousness.  He paid an awful price to make possible this holiness we can so freely wear, and He did it not just for our benefit…He intends to present Himself with a perfect, flawless Bride, and she’s not going to have one speck of soil on her wedding garment!  When we allow Him to use the soap of grace, applied against the washboard of loving discipline, and rinsed in the water of the Word, we come out as pure, forgiven, and sanctified as if we’d never been dirty in the first place.  New mercies every single morning!

Don’t dodge the washtub today, and don’t wear those stinky clothes another moment.  You’re not doing anyone a favor by trying to get one more day’s wear out of them!  Step into His presence, receive His forgiveness, and experience the clean of the one true High-Efficiency Washer—Jesus!

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word.  He did this to present himself with a splendid church, one without any sort of stain or wrinkle on her clothes, but rather one that is holy and blameless.  (Ephesians 5:25-27 CEB)

©2012 Lisa Crum

Vine-Ripe Perfection

One thing I look forward to every summer, which I place right up there among the great simple pleasures of life, is a good garden-ripe tomato…you know, one that runs all over the counter top when you cut into it.  Oh, I tolerate the store-bought rubber balls in January when I have to have something to round out a sandwich; but honestly, folks, is there anything as tasteless as a tomato speed-grown in some greenhouse, minus real sun and rain, picked green, and shipped off to market?

Just as any fruit or vegetable is at its best when it’s allowed to draw nutrients from rich soil right up to the ripening time, then harvested at its peak of flavor, so it is with the blessings God has prepared for those who love and trust Him.  We often get ahead of Him, and interrupt the ripening process by our lack of patience.  We wind up then, with a little, puny, less-than-perfect version of what He willed to give us in glorious fullness.  Sometimes we even pass His slowly-maturing blessings completely up for a quick fix from some other source, and the ripened blessings fall to the ground uneaten.

Our instant-gratification culture has diluted the purity of quality in pursuit of quick quantity.  We seemingly have a lot more (and I say “seemingly”), but more of what, exactly?  The result of excess is evident in our bloated egos, our fat bellies, our maxed-out credit cards, and our empty bank accounts. Our spirit man is often as unhealthy as our physical man, for all that overindulgence of substandard things leads to a life lived just short of ever having real completion.  It’s like that tasteless tomato…a bite will never cause your eyes to close in satisfaction; it will never drip off your chin the way a blessing delivered in God’s timing would.  At best, it will always be just a means to a second-rate end.

If you’re seeking God for a particular desire of your heart, and you can see that He’s already at work cultivating the answer, leave well enough alone and don’t pick that blessing from the vine before its time.

True patience says that we are willing to surrender even the timing of a blessing to God’s wisdom.  A mature believer has learned that, given a choice of mediocre and the miraculous, he or she will reap a bountiful, blue ribbon-worthy blessing for having waited.  Does it require discipline?  Most definitely.  Is the reward worth the perseverance?  Take the salt shaker, roll up your sleeves and taste the difference for yourself.  Ripe is right!

“So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”  James 1:4 (NLT)

©2012 Lisa Crum

Hold Out for Your Eternity

A cloud of sadness has hung heavy the past couple of weeks over our close-knit, rural area.  We’ve seen the death of a teenager, a child, and an infant within days of one another, and it’s painful to hear the stories of families and friends coping with unexpected losses.  I can’t imagine what agony they’re navigating through right now; it’s one of those times when there seems to be so much we should be able to say, and yet the words won’t come.  It’s like that when there are no easy answers.

I’m reminded of several stories in the Bible where parents had to cope with the unthinkable.  A mother, Rizpah, who spent months standing off the wild birds and beasts after her sons were executed to exact vengeance for a broken covenant; a grieving King David, who had fasted and prayed for days that his young son might live…but still had to bury him; Job, who said that the thing he feared most had come upon him when he lost all of his children in a single tragic accident; and finally a mother, Mary, who had to stare up helplessly at her dying Son Who’d been born for the very purpose of giving His life a ransom for many.  To these parents, hope would find its way in time, but as some of you may well know, there’s nothing a mother and father can do but just swim against the riptide of immeasurable sadness when a child is lost.  There’s no detour around the grieving process; and whether your child is 3 months old or 70 years old—when it’s your child—the only thing that comes to mind is “too soon.”

I wish I had the perfect soothing answer to fill the gaping wound left in these families’ lives, but since I’m of only finite wisdom, I’ll keep my answer to this:  sometimes the worst things happen, even to the best of people.  Even to God’s elect.  Does it mean that our Father doesn’t care about us…that He is absent, indifferent, or caught by surprise at our misfortune?

No; on the contrary, God loves us very much.  He isn’t sitting up there playing a cosmic shell game with us.  He does, however, have a timetable that operates quite opposite of our comprehension of time.  We can only see the joys and sorrows that are right in front of us.  He sees eternity past and future.  Before time was, He is.  Somewhere on that timetable, there is a set date which only He knows; and on that date, sin’s lease upon this earth will expire.  Sin set the opportunity in motion for perfect lives to go perfectly wrong.  Bad things happen to even good people, because Adam’s fall forfeited man’s lease of our world.  A serpent’s conniving deceit—and that first couple’s desire to venture outside God’s safe boundaries—set the stage for many tears to follow.  The devil had no dominion over the human race until man chose to take his word over God’s, and it’s been a mess ever since.

Prayer will divert many bad things from our path, but not all.  And just because you or a loved one has just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen, doesn’t mean you did something to cause it.  The disciples in John 9 asked Jesus who had sinned, the blind man or his parents, to cause his illness.  Jesus replied that neither had…but that this was an opportunity for God’s works to be displayed in him.  God didn’t strike this man blind, as some might have supposed;  He would, however, bring glory to Himself through the restoration of what was broken. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus came to bring life—filled to the brim and overflowing.

Right now you may be going through something for which there is no answer, no consolation.  As you feel your way through the fog of grief and confusion, I encourage you to talk to God.  Cry to Him, even argue at Him, but don’t walk away from Him.  Even if you feel He has allowed something grossly unfair to happen, talk to Him anyway.  Don’t allow the enemy to drive a wedge between you and the Source of hope, because as badly as you hurt, God is still the only one who can heal the hurt.  The “accuser of the brethren” can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes, but he will often try the angle of isolation to separate us from our Father.  If he can get us to harbor unforgiveness toward God, others, or even toward ourselves, he can cause our healing to be delayed indefinitely.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.

When you can’t find rhyme or reason behind any of it—-and yes, life is not always fair, as I’ve well come to know-—remember one word:  eternity.  That same timetable on which the end of sin’s lease is situated has no finish point itself…because there is no end to eternity.  Whatever has failed or gone wrong in this one fallible, short life, He will perfect in the eternity that follows.  He will take the injustices, the tragedies, the losses you’ve encountered, and will work them toward your eventual good, as Romans 8:28 assures us. Some of it He’ll make up to you in this life.  Some of it, He’ll finish in eternity.  Just know that to the believer, we have His assurance that we won’t have to hurt forever. Clutch onto the reality of eternity, and hold on for dear life…it will comfort you when you feel out of your mind with grief.  Right now, my words may offer little solace; they may even anger you. In time, you will be ready to move out of the most painful place of grief and will seek answers.  There will come a day when your soul will be open to reaching for an eternity better than the present circumstance…and when you are ready, you’ll find God’s constant grace right there.  You’ll even look back and see where He had never left your side.

At the end of Job’s nightmare season, God blessed him with twice as much as the enemy had robbed: double the lost material goods, greater measure of health, more sons and daughters.  But the best part is, when at last he got to eternity, and after he got to behold the God Whom he’d refused to deny, he found that those original sons and daughters (remember, those kids on whose behalf he prayed and gave sacrifices to God just in case they committed any wrong) were also waiting on him.  He didn’t lose a thing, because prayers to our Heavenly Father are never wasted.

Revelation 21:4 says everything I couldn’t possibly sum up about the end to sorrow as we know it:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (NLT) There will come a day, friends, when for those of us who place our hope in Jesus, all the terrible things we’ve suffered in this life will be faint memories overshadowed by the glory of His resurrection power.  Isn’t it mind-boggling to think that sadness, sorrow, mourning will be obsolete emotions in our eternity, upgraded to peace, fullness of joy, and never-ending pleasure?  Hold out for your healing.  Hold out for your eternity.  A better day awaits you, because God IS good.  All the time.

©May 2012 Lisa Crum