This post is not going to be about picking sides or criticizing the different political parties. I think that we as Christians have missed the point during this election year…
In reading through the Bible in a year, I just finished reading Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the minor prophets declaring God’s judgment and restoration of Israel. Something that has really stuck out to me, is how God continually used pagan nations to exact His judgment and fulfill His plan for His people.
Take the book of Daniel, for instance. God is UNQUESTIONABLY active in the political affairs of the nations. He is active in the United States politics and He is active in the world’s politics. What He wills and allows no amount of voting, campaigning, or manipulation will change. He is in absolute sovereign control over who gets elected as the president of the United States and what they do with that authority.
“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and He does what He wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” Daniel 4:34
“Look, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
Do we have such a small view of God that we don’t believe He can actually use any situation and any person for His purposes? Have we forgotten His use of the corrupt, pagan nation of Babylon as both an instrument of discipline for His people, but also for restoring them back to Jerusalem? Why are we acting like God cannot control the politics in the United States?
Is it impossible for us to recognize that God is capable of using WHOMEVER is in office in the United States for good? Or, if it is His will, to allow them to destroy and oppress, simply because it is within His plan? Romans 13:1 says “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.” Whoever ends up in office come January first will be put there specifically by our sovereign Lord.
Yet here we Christians stand, arguing and criticizing, to the point that we’ve allowed politics to divide the church! We are called to a higher standard! We are called to be united as one in Christ Jesus. “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me,” prayed Jesus in John 17:20. We are not doing a very good job of representing Christ in the United States. Furthermore, the enemy is using politics to tear the church apart and we are letting him do it!
So instead of spending today bad-mouthing other parties and candidates, why don’t we as the church set the example in love and represent Christ well. This is a call to take up our cross as Christians and instead of just be readers of the Word, to actually DO.
Turning every corner and seeing some gigantic, historical, beautiful work of architecture could basically sum up the city tour of Rome. It was INCREDIBLE! Getting to actually see in real life the things I have only read about or seen in movies was indescribable.
We would be walking down one cobble-stoned, close-quartered street, turn the corner, and BAM! There was the Pantheon or the Trevi Fountain! It was one astonishing and mind-boggling building or monument after another. By the end of the tour, my mind could barely comprehend the magnitude or age of the architectural works. Rome is an extraordinary city. Crazy busy and bustling, but beautiful and rich in history.
Two highlights from the walking tour: fantastic gelato in the city and throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain. According to tradition, throwing one coin over the shoulder into the fountain means you’ll be back in Rome in a year and a day!
By far though, my favorite part of seeing Rome was the Colosseum. The vast enormity of what the Romans were able to do in their time is difficult to grasp! Actually standing where people during the time of Jesus stood… It is simply a staggering reality.
Rome is a city I definitely want to go back to someday!
To be completely honest, I had a difficult time fully enjoying the Vatican City, especially St. Peter’s Basilica. Everything was extremely extravagant and opulent to the point of gaudiness… But let me start at the beginning.
The museums were incredible, with all the ancient sculptures, paintings, and tapestries. Sistine Chapel was the highlight for me. To see it in person was a dream come true! Did you know that the number one most known picture in the world is of Michelangelo’s depiction of God giving life to Adam that is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? It was extraordinary!
Saint Peter’s Basilica: think excessive and profuse to the point of overstatement and the onlooker being overwhelmed by everything going on.
Yes, it was beautiful, but it filled my heart with sorrow. To see people worshiping this physical, created beauty, yet missing the One true beauty, was disheartening.
To see so many people missing the point of church and what that means… It just broke my heart to realize how many people are trying so desperately to be closer to God that they miss the easy truth that He simply wants them.
His temple does not need to be extravagant! His temple is in us! WE are the church. However, I will say that it was a good reminder of the magnificence of God’s purpose for the church as His people drawn together in community to worship Him. Thank You, God, for such a thing as a community of believers called the church.
The city on sinking land, with leaning bell towers and water canals for streets. It was beautiful. Walking into San Marco Square was like stepping onto the set of the movie The Tourist with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. I learned that San Marco’s Square has the oldest analog clock in the world. And the square is named so because church tradition says that the apostle Mark’s bones were stolen from Alexandria and brought to the church which now bears his name.
The Bridge of Sighs was incredible to see, but I think my favorite little story from Venice was of the walkway connecting a church to an old hotel next door to it. The hotel used to be Antonio Vivaldi’s residence, and as any composer needs to be ready any time, day or night, to play on a piano/organ in order to compose a piece with all its parts, he had a walkway installed to the church so he could use their organ whenever he needed to!
Venice was rich in history and beauty. The gondola ride at the end of the afternoon topped off the whole experience. Gliding along the canals, with an accordion creating truly Italian background music, and laughing with newly made friends, was a once in a lifetime experience that I will forever be grateful for.
But it only got better after Venice!…
About a year ago, I moved to Germany.
Looking back through my blog posts, I saw how I was going to try to write about all my travels… and to be honest, I’m kind of disappointed in myself for not keeping up with that. But I won’t dwell on that for long, because it has been a crazy year. With that said though, I want to document my last travels before moving back to the states next month.
So many things have happened and changed over the last year and I think that later on in life, I will appreciate having the beginning and the end of my time in Europe saved in writing. And I think it will do me good to dwell on the goodness of God in all that He has allowed me to see and do in the last year. I truly believe He orchestrates everything in my life for a specific purpose. This year of travel and exploration and adventure and seeing new things and experiencing different cultures has opened my eyes to the world. It has been a truly incredible journey.
But it is not over yet. In the next couple of weeks, I will be doing some day trips in Germany and France, a trip to Italy, Poland, and Spain.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of Kara’s adventures in Europe…
Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.
“…so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10)
It is difficult to love or please someone if you do not know them. “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know” (Women of the Word, pg. 31).
In cross-referencing this verse, I found many things we can gain from “growing in the knowledge of God.”
- “God is able to make every grace overflow to you” so that “you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
- We are told that eternal life is knowing the “only true God, and the One [He] sent – Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).
- Knowledge of God causes “grace and peace [to] be multiplied to you” (2 Peter 1:2).
- We cannot know love if we do not know God, as John says, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Growing in the knowledge of God is important because it is how we become more LIKE God. God grants us more and more of Himself, His grace, His peace, His life, and His love, as we get to know Him more and more.
We are to boast in our knowledge of God, as Jeremiah 9:24 states: “But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me – that I am Yahweh, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things.”
But not only do we know ABOUT God. We are not limited to “mere knowledge of facts about God” (Systematic Theology, 152). We have the privilege of a personal relationship with the Lord God, our Savior and Redeemer.
Praise God for His kindness in showing Himself to us!
‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ saith the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6)
This verse and the context around it pierced my heart. The Israelites are in the midst of their enemies, trying to rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel’s leadership after returning from Babylonian exile. They are faced with discouragement, lack of supplies, bad leadership, and fear of the surrounding peoples who do not want them to continue in the Lord’s work.
And the Lord shows up in a vision to Zechariah and says, “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit.”
Not by any human resource. Not by an individual power. Not by anything BUT My Spirit, says the Lord.
I think we often dismiss the power of the Holy Spirit. We see Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who entered history to die and then be raised up as a Savior for those whom the Father loves. We see God the Father, as the Judge and as the merciful one who sent His own Son to save us. But who is the Holy Spirit to us?
In Zechariah’s vision he sees a lampstand with a bowl connected to the lampstand and two olive trees on either side. Oil is needed for the lampstand to shed any light whatsoever. Without oil, the lampstand can never shine light, and without a continuous flow of oil, the lamp’s light will sputter and die out. The Holy Spirit is our oil. He is our connection to the eternal light. Without Him, our flame will die out. He is the oil that keeps our flames shining!
“By My Spirit,” saith the Lord.
In the midst of the worries and fears surrounding the future, we must remember that our Lord supplies every spiritual blessing under the heavens to us. It is by His Spirit that we will continue in faith.
By Your Spirit, Lord, we will walk in Your ways.
In Judges chapter 6, God calls Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord greets Gideon, calling him a “mighty warrior,” and declaring that the Lord is with him. However, Gideon responds with several reasons he believes he is incapable of doing what God asks (Judges 6:11-16). We see this same response from Moses when the Lord calls him in Genesis.
Gideon is concerned that he will not be able to do what the Lord has called him to do. He does not have the skills, the position, or the qualifications for doing what God has asked. He realizes how inadequate he is. The beauty of this exchange is seen in God’s answer to Gideon’s list of shortcomings…
“But I will be with you,” the Lord said to him.
God’s answer to our weaknesses, failings, and faults is a redirection. “BUT. It’s not about you. ON THE CONTRARY. It’s about Me, Yahweh. It’s about how I am capable when you are not, how I am strong in your weakness, and how I am the success in your failures.”
I am a sinner. I am selfish. I am a lacking prayer warrior. I am unkind. I am impatient. I am unqualified. I am a failure. I am incapable. I cannot be good enough.
BUT. I am God.
YET. You are not alone.
ON THE CONTRARY. I am with you.
Nothing we say, nothing we are or are not, no excuse we have, matters when held to the fact that God is with us. “I will be with you.”
What gain is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your truth? – Psalm 30:9
What might come across as an arrogant plea for God’s mercy on the psalmist’s behalf, is actually a call for God to act, that there would be no loss in praise and testimony, as would be the case if the psalmist died.
One of the Israelites purposes as God’s chosen people was to be a testimony for Yahweh to the nations by proclaiming Yahweh’s truth. The psalmist is beseeching God and declaring his life to be within God’s purposes, rather than his death, saying, “Who will proclaim Your truth?”
If Israel’s purpose was to be a testimony for Jehovah as His chosen people, how much more should that be our purpose, as redeemed children of Christ?
“The answer to personal suffering is the God who suffers with us.” – John Stonestreet
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
-Jesus of the Scars; Edward Shillito