Kingdom Roots

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

 

We all want roots. Someplace we can turn to in times of both joy and crisis. The world strives for identity and belonging. Already, over seven million people worldwide have taken the Ancestry DNA test. This is just one of the many DNA tests helping users discover their ethnic history. Ancestry (the company) interviewed a portion of the seven million people who took their test, asking them how they felt when they received their test results. Their answers looked something like this: “When I received my results I felt like I was meeting myself for the first time,” or, “Thank you for helping me fill in the blanks in my life.” The company advertised using phrases like, “Many people are getting to know themselves better through Ancestry’s DNA test, and it’s making them feel good.”

The world wants identity. It wants roots. It thinks, if I just knew where I came from I’d know myself. As Christians, we know where we’ve come from, and we know what we’re here to do. We know our roots – We come from God and we serve the world as His children. We are here to further His kingdom. To do this we are asked to let go of ourselves and fully devote our lives to His mission. Knowing these things prepares us to step out away from the “norm” of searching for identity and realize we have already found it.

The people we try so hard to please, the groups we strive to belong to, and even the families we feel secure in – They will all pass. Our biological and social roots can’t compare to the roots we have in Christ.

In Philippians 3:20, the apostle Paul paints an image of who we are as followers of God living in the world.  He says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are citizens of heaven – Not of a club, a small group, a school, a church, or a country, but of God’s Kingdom! We are waiting for Jesus to return and complete what He started when He came to this earth to die for us and welcome us into His family.

Our job as followers of the Lord is not to simply find the kingdom of God but to forward it. We are the Lord’s Kingdom. That is our Identity! Although we need faith to see it, it is never changing – Forever constant. Our Identity is found in our Kingdom purpose – To love God and make Him known.

 

 

About the author:

Maya is a 14-year old trying her best to remember that her roots are planted in God alone as she moves from middle school to high-school and continues to grow in her faith. She loves adventure, trying new things, deep conversation, living in the moment, dreaming big, and working hard.

Resting in the Shadow

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

I’m not sure how it started, but I remember how it ended – In complete exhaustion with a tear-filled cry for help.

My quest to live a holy, God-centered, productive life left me self-righteous, self-centered, and striving for recognition and appreciation.  It wasn’t pretty, and neither was I. I was short-tempered, frazzled, and longing for less – Chasing shadows I could never catch.

Our 120 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback is very much the same.  Every Spring the swallows invade our front yard to roost in the trees and bird boxes.  They dive-bomb anything that comes within a 10 foot radius of their nest and hatchlings.  It’s our dog’s favorite time of year. He stands under a bird box in mid-afternoon when the sun towers above the driveway and casts a perfect swallow shadow. It doesn’t take long before one or more swallows emerge to scare him away, and he chases their shadow until he simply can’t anymore.  He tires, gives up, and crashes to an abrupt halt on the grass only to start the feat again the next day.

It’s a valiant effort for a lost cause.  

While the swallow flies overhead, the dog’s eyes are focused on the ground.  He never looks up. Ever. He has no idea what he’s chasing and will never find rest catching it.  

The same is true for us, isn’t it? We scramble, tire, and fall to the ground exhausted trying to catch what we can’t see. We suffer from fear, anxiety, and lack of self-worth without knowing and submitting to what’s overhead.

Eyes focused on the earth instead of the heavens will see the shadow, but not the One who casts it.  

Unlike the swallows, the shadow God casts is constant. Almighty. Sovereign. Unwavering. Unshifting (James 1:17). We can rest under it because we are assured of it.  The author of Psalm 91 found this to be true, and by His grace, I did too.

So how do we find rest in the shadow of the Almighty?

  • Dwell in the shelter.  Spend time – REAL time in the presence of our Savior.  Praise Him in the morning before reaching for the phone.  Tell Him of His goodness. Confess transgression. Cry out to Him in need, then wait patiently for His response.  Resting in the shadow begins in relationship. The word dwell reads as abide or live in some translations, and shelter is referred to as the secret place in the ASV (American Standard Version).  To paraphrase, the psalmist is telling us to live with God in the secret places. Close the door and spend time with Him. Know Him alone before you know Him with others.
  • Understand His Word.  My life changed when I began studying and understanding the Bible.  It takes effort and commitment, but is worth every last bit of it. When we seek to understand the Truth in His infallible Word, we understand His power, control, and sovereignty.  We see His great faithfulness and trust it.
  • Spend time with others who find their rest in Him.  Being around a woman who truly knows God and understands His Word brings peace.  Her restfulness resonates. I found some of these restful women in the middle of my shadow-chasing.  They breathed the lovingkindness of Jesus and modeled how to dwell in His shelter. They were calm. They challenged me to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance before committing to things and helped me trust His timing and sovereignty. They prayed for me, worshiped alongside me, read scripture with me.  They showed me what it looked like to walk with Him and make Him my refuge. They became my shadow-sisters, and I’m forever grateful for them.

I want to dwell where I can rest.  In His shelter and under His shadow.

 

Psalm 91

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

   my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you

   from the fowler’s snare

   and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,

   and under his wings you will find refuge;

   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,

   nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

   nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,

   ten thousand at your right hand,

   but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes

   and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

   and you make the Most High your dwelling,

10 no harm will overtake you,

   no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you

   to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,

   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;

   I will be with him in trouble,

   I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life I will satisfy him

and show him my salvation.”

 

About the Author: Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word.  She writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen.

Lisa is a teacher by trade and passion, voice for the marginalized, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity, authenticity, and all things pretty. She enjoys thrift store shopping and often has to convince people she’s an introvert.  Just a loud one.

Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.  

 

 

Podcast 003 – “Friendship”

What qualities and characteristics make a good friend?  What do you look for when choosing friends? How can we maintain healthy, gospel-centered friendships in an age where digital relationships seem the norm and our lives appear busier than ever?  We hope you’ll grab a giant mug of your favorite hot bevy, tune in on the road, or fold some laundry (we love multi-tasking, too) as we tackle some of these questions and chat about friendship.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/arise-ministries-collective/id1361410191?mt=2

Consider reading and praying through these scriptures in response to the conversation:

  • Proverbs 17:17
  • Proverbs 18:24
  • Proverbs 27:5-6
  • Proverbs 27:9
  • Proverbs 27:17
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
  • Colossians 3:12-14
  • John 15:12-15
  • James 4:4

What do these passages tell you about friendship?  Make a list of everything a Biblical friendship is or does.  According to John 15:12-15, what do those of us who follow Christ become?  What does James 4:4 tell us is the alternative?

Oh that we might be women who live out a gospel-call of friendship to each other and our Lord – That we, like Job, would be able to boldly proclaim “God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4-6).

In Him and through Him,

Rachel & Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longing for Significance

“My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.” I Samuel 2:1b

A Longing for Significance

Don’t we all long for a life of significance? Wander through any bookstore (my happy place), and you will find an endless supply of books that will help you “leave a legacy,” “become extraordinary,” “be significant,” “make a mark,” or “achieve greatness.” There are a lot of promises sitting on those bookshelves. Even the cookbooks promise you a path to cooking nirvana – a place where all your baking and cooking hopes and dreams come true.

And isn’t that what significance is? A weight tied to our hopes and dreams? When whatever you hope in arrives then you will be significant.

The dictionary defines significance as “the quality of being worthy of attention; importance.” Significance has weight. Importance. It means something.

As women, we often find a lot of different paths to significance (I am sure guys do too, but I am not a guy, so I won’t speak for them). Depending on what circles we run in the messages we receive about significance can come from a lot of different things – children, husbands, our job, a clean house, awesome brownies (sorry, I am having a craving), money, community, romance. Pick your path, and I guarantee you there is a book, blog, Facebook group, Instagram or webinar on it. Our hope is wrapped up in our significance. Don’t we feel the pull of despair and depression when we realize that the thing we had pinned so much hope on isn’t delivering? Our significance is shattered.

When Our Perfect Life Fails

The Bible isn’t blind to our longing for significance. In fact, it starts the book of I Samuel with a woman longing for significance. I Samuel is a key book of the Old Testament. It is the bridge between a theocracy and a monarchy. God has foreseen Israel’s wish for a king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) and here in I Samuel the moment arrives. But it doesn’t arrive with a party bus. It arrives in the story of a woman.

We meet Hannah the moment we enter I Samuel, an ordinary woman, deep in grief and sorrow. Her family home life is a mess – a second wife who taunts her, barrenness that haunts her, and a husband who is trying to romance her with double portions of food.

The moment we start this story we see the effects of sin. Dysfunctional families, barrenness, grief, harsh realities. In I Samuel 1, we see Hannah, our mirror in longing for significance, grieving her lack of importance. The cultural message to women of her day – Have children! Have a family! You are nothing if you can’t have children!

But Hannah was barren. And why was she barren? “Because the Lord had closed her womb” (vs. 5). Even God’s sovereign hand seems against her. While this passage is often used to discuss the pain of barrenness and the fulfillment of a child this story really isn’t about Hannah’s lack of a child. This is about filling the emptiness. Hiding the shame. Curing the brokenness. We all have a pain that clings to us no matter how hard we to work to hide it.

We don’t know exactly what is happening in this family, but the scripture here indicates that Hannah was possibly a first wife who, because of her barrenness, had to endure her husband’s second wife. A second wife who proceeded to produce a quiver full of children. Every meal must have been torture. Faced with the happy faces of children not her own and the constant taunting from her rival and the (probably not so helpful) romantic gestures from her husband would be emotionally exhausting. She lived with the constant reminder that she had no significance, no hope. She was living on the outside of her cultural ideal. She is longing to break in and have meaning. Her grief weighs on her until she “wept and would not eat” (vs. 7).

Pouring Out Our Sorrows Before God

What does Hannah do with her brokenness and grief? She gets up (vs. 9). And she takes her distress, her pain, her brokenness to God. She goes to the temple of the LORD in Shiloh and there she “prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly” (vs. 9-10). In that place before God she “vowed a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head” (vs. 11).

This vow. This strange, bizarre vow. What do we do with a vow like this?

I don’t know about you, but the vows I have made to God don’t look like this. I remember making all sorts of promises to God in my childhood -“hey, God, yeah, so if you can do this thing then I will eat all my vegetables” or “I promise I will do all my chores without complaining if you do this one little thing for me.” My vows are weak. My vows are self-serving. This vow that Hannah makes as she cries to God in her anguish and despair is astonishing. Instead of using God as a fulfiller of wishes, she plans to give the child she is asking for back to God.

Hannah is dedicating her child to be in service to the LORD for the rest of his life. Numbers 6 explains the requirements and details for taking a temporary Nazarite vow. But Hannah is making this a lifelong vow. Like Samson before him (Judges 13:4-5), who conveniently kept forgetting his vows, and John the Baptist in Luke 1:15, Hannah’s child will live under some restrictive rules. Hannah’s vow means she will give up all claims to her child and send him to live in the temple to serve God.

No strings. No trade agreements that she will be given more children.

Is God Enough?

Her future would still be bleak. Her arms would still be empty. Her rival would still have children and Hannah would still have none. Her home would not ring with her child’s laughter. Her husband would still be without an heir. She could still be alone in her old age, with no son to take care of her. She would still have no significance. This is the promise she made.

This pressing into God. This belief that the LORD of hosts cares for the broken, the small, the weak, the failed. Hannah’s search for significance has reached a turning point. She begins to understand that her real shame, the deepest source of her pain, is a broken relationship with God.

Hannah, after this crazy vow “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (vs. 18). Hannah’s significance has been transformed. Her significance and hope are no longer in a child, or a husband, or acceptance. Her significance and hope are now in the God who is her salvation (I Samuel 2: 1). She now places herself into the hand of the Rock of Ages.

Heath Thomas writes, “Faith means rejoicing in God when our dreams are still unfulfilled and resting on God when life is still falling apart all around us.” (Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Samuel).

The Ultimate Treasure

Hannah does get pregnant. She does have a son. But the author of this book does not want us to walk away with the idea that God is some kind of divine genie – that we rub the bottle and he fulfills our wishes. Hannah’s story reminds us that God is the gift. Significance and hope are not found in children, or jobs, or money, or whatever else we use to fill the emptiness. Our idols pale in comparison to the LORD who “lifts the needy from the ash heap” (I Samuel 2: 8). Our God is the one who will give “strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (vs. 10).

Hannah’s part at the beginning of I Samuel is not insignificant, even though it seems a strange way to begin a story about kings. Her story sets the pattern for the rest of I and 2 Samuel, announcing both the king Israel chooses, Saul, and the king that God chooses, David. Saul’s pride and arrogance, when confronted with his sin, and David’s lowliness and humility, when confronted with his, is patterned here.

The True King

Ultimately, her prayer in I Samuel 2:1-11 points to the King who seeks the poor, the lowly, the weak, the barren and the needy. Our God will not let our sin, hopelessness, and despair be our identity. I and 2 Samuel continues the story of how Israel’s leaders and kings, whom they rejected God for (I Samuel 8), failed. The idols Israel chased failed. Our idols fail. We are seeking false kings to fix our problems.

Hannah’s story is about being lost. Our relationship with our Creator is broken because of sin. But Hannah’s story is also the unfolding story of God. God provided a way out of our restless search for significance. We know the end. We get to see the full scope of God’s salvation plan. We know how God, in His profound mercy, provided a Savior, his own Son, whose death and resurrection reconciles and reunites us with God. This is our significance and our ultimate treasure. Our shame is gone, and we are free. The True King Reigns.

What are you seeking in your search for significance? What has more weight in your life than Jesus?

About Val Hooks:  I like to write, read, drink tea, and research stuff. I am a passionate follower of Jesus. I have teenagers (pray for me) and a fantastic husband. I call Summit View Church, Vancouver, Wa. my home.

Podcast 002 – “Time & Trust”

 

Join us today as we discuss how we are learning to juggle our time, and all of life’s expectations and demands. We are growing in trusting Him with our time, our hearts and our schedules.

We invite you to join in on our conversation! What kind of season are you in right now and how do you practically plan for peace? We would love to hear from you!

 

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