Monday, April 28, 2014

Who Am I?

I ask age old questions:

Who am I?
What makes me who I am?
What defines me?
It seems too complicated to put into words. 

I fill many roles.  From the beginning I was, and still am, daughter, granddaughter and sister.  I am now wife and mother and aunt.  I am teacher and sensei and employee.  I am friend many times over.  Do my family and friends define me?
I do many things: I parent, work, teach, cook and clean house occasionally, garden and plant some, read, study and learn, walk, drive, listen, herd chickens and a dog and some cats, train, watch Dr Who, crochet and knit.  Does what I do define me?

I go many places: home, church, work, dojo, store, errands, my kid’s classes and activities, Texas, Mississippi, Hungary, Romania.  Does where I go or where I’ve been define me?
I love many things: chocolate, coffee, tea candles, hiking, plants, foraging, reading, karate, family, Church, Bible.  Does what I love define me?

I want to be many things: strong, confident, invincible, smart, brilliant, well-read, well-travelled, happy, at peace, wealthy, perfect.  Does what I want to be define me?
Many things have happened to me in my life.  Good things and bad, sin I’ve done and sin done to me, good and bad works, hard and painful things, fun and happy things, successes and failures.  Do those things define me?

I don’t like any of those lists.  They change at the whim of other people and outside circumstances.  I myself change with each passing year, physically, hormonally and emotionally.  The world changes around me, culture, economy, government.  And still the question remains.  Who am I?  What defines me?  What one thing or person in all this stuff is capable of answering that question?  What one thing or person listed above is always true?  I change, how I feel changes, what I like changes.  In all the changes of my life, what one thing or person never changes? 
God.  His Word.  That’s all.  Literally.  That is the only thing that never ever changes.  And what’s really cool is that He talks about me in His Word.  Really.  Me.  And not only does He talk about me, He defines me.  Check this out.

I was dead in sin.
But God:
chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world
predestined me to be adopted me as His child, in Christ
blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
redeemed me through the blood of Christ
forgave my trespasses in the death of Christ
lavished His grace on me, in Christ
made known to me the mystery of His will
gave me a glorious inheritance in Christ
made me to the praise of His glory
sealed me with the Holy Spirit
revealed Himself to me
enlightened my heart
called me to hope
raised me from spiritual death
worked in me with the same mighty power that He used to raise Christ from the dead
seated me with Christ in heaven
gave me Christ as my head
made me part of a church body that is His body
filled me
will show me in the coming ages the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward me in Christ
saved me by grace through faith in Christ, not through anything I have to do
created me to walk in good works in the power of Christ in me

As a Believer, God defines me.  He created me, He bought me with the blood of Christ, He has a right to define me.  And that whole awesome list is what God says is true about me.  Not my past, not my activities, not other people, not the circumstances I live in.  The list of what God has done for me and in me and through me - that is what defines me.  That is what I hang on to.  God hanging on to me.  All that other stuff will pass away.  But the list that God makes about me in the book of Ephesians will always be true.

Thank you Jesus.  Thank you.

©Rebecca Givens, 04/28/14

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thoughts on Ephesians 1:11-23

This is part 2 of a series.  Click the link for Part 1
Part 1 of this series

Ephesians 1:11-23 In Him we have obtained an inheritance, again, the inheritance is already obtained, but it comes from Christ, it’s not something I pull out of myself, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, God planned ahead of time to give me an inheritance with Christ.  He planned it according to His own purpose and will, and He will work it all out.  He will work it out.  Not me; so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.  Paul was definitely to the praise of His glory.  Sometimes I wonder about myself.  But if it’s God who works it out, then will He not also work out my life so it is to the praise of His glory?  Won’t He bring Himself glory in my life?  Yes, God, may my life be to Your Glory.  In Him you also, when you heard the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.  I heard, I believed, and I was sealed with the Holy Spirit.  He is the deposit and seal that God placed on me when He saved me.  And that in itself is to the praise of His glory!  Saving a sinner could only be done by God’s amazing grace and Christ’s perfect life and precious blood.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, I love prayers in scripture.  Praying God’s words back to Him is the ultimate of praying according to His will.  This prayer I pray not only for myself, but for my children; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom Remember, Paul is talking to Believers who have the Holy Spirit… but we don’t always listen, and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, knowledge of Him comes from scripture and the Holy Spirit, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,  but we don’t always understand or believe and trust what we know, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what is the hope?  Is it heaven, or is it something here on earth?  It is more than salvation.  I think it is everything he’s been talking about so far, and more, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, I love Paul’s adjectives.  Riches, glorious inheritance, ah… maybe that’s part of the hope, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, immeasurable great power, toward me.  Think about that for a minute; according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead this mighty power raised Christ from the dead.  That is the power that God works in me.  In me;  and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, Christ, seated at the right hand of God, in a place of ultimate authority, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  Christ has authority over all powers and all dominions in all places and times, past present and future.  And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  This is not just about me as a Believer, but about the whole church, the body of believers.  Together, we form His body.  He is the head, and He fills us with the fullness of God.  That is a hard concept to envision.  Christ at the head, in ultimate authority, working in and through the church with ultimate power, giving us an ultimate inheritance, all to accomplish an ultimate purpose.  All to the praise of His glory.  I need the doxology again. 

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Monday, April 14, 2014


I have been thinking about weeds a lot these last couple of weeks.  That and myriad other seemingly random thoughts of the past few days - Ephesians 1-2, Genesis 3, Palm Sunday, The Lord’s Supper, The Well House, “Before the Throne of God Above”, “What Wondrous Love is This”, “What Not to Wear”, to name just a few.  Shake it all together, and out comes this blog post.

Weeds.  Unwanted plants.  Wild plants that spring up in our garden.  We work hard to pull them up, cut them down, poison them and get rid of them.  They grow faster and stronger and spread more quickly than the flowers, grass and vegetables that we deliberately try to grow. 

Emily has been working on a project for Biology class foraging wild plants for food, so we have been researching, gathering, drying, cooking, eating and drinking - weeds.  This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never taken time to learn. Fortunately for Emily, her project hit me at a moment when I actually had the time to help her.  Well, ok, not just help her, but continue it on into a bit of an obsession for myself.  We’ve picked violet flowers and leaves and eaten them in salads.  We dried them, along with dewberry leaves, and made tea.  We ate wilted dandelion greens, fried dandelion flower fritters, and boiled dandelion buds.  This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Free healthy food, hikes through yard, brush and field, and an excuse to not feel bad about not mowing.  My next project is a healing oil for your skin made of violets and plantain.  Along the way I’ve also planted some herbs, vegetables and ornamentals, planted a terrarium of pretty weeds, and cut vases of wild flowers to enjoy in my house.  Yes, this has been fun.

Yesterday as I picked violets and leaves to dry for tea, I thought about all those other things I’ve been thinking about that I listed in the first paragraph, and I remembered the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  A woman living in a world that looked down on women in general.  A Samaritan, whom the Jews looked down on.  An outcast living in sin, isolated and alone.  When Jesus looked at her, what do you think He saw?  A weed to be pulled up and discarded, or a beautiful and useful plant?  With a little love and nurturing by Him, she became something lovely, something good for healing, something nourishing.  God used this weed, this outcast on the fringe of society, to introduce an entire town to Jesus. 
I have to tell you that we were ALL weeds.  We were the wild shoots that have been grafted into the Vine.  We were the Gentiles the Pharisees looked down upon.  And I am afraid that now that we are “in”, we might have forgotten the field of weeds we left behind.  We might have become the Pharisees looking at those on the “outside” as being undesirable.  We might have forgotten who we were. 

Ephesians 2 should be a wakeup call.  You were DEAD.  A wild dead thing, fit only to be thrown out.  But God.  BUT GOD.  That grips me and won’t let me go.  God raised me from the dead, IN CHRIST, and seated me WITH CHRIST in Heaven.  Because Christ died and lived, I also live.  I live IN CHRIST.  Chapter 1 tells me that I have EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, IN CHRIST.  Over and over and over, it says I am IN CHRIST.  I have been saved by grace, through faith, IN CHRIST.  Not for anything I have done, which is a really good thing since I can’t possibly do anything good enough, but for what Christ has done.  According to the plan He formed before time began, He created me and He saved me, so that I could walk in the good works He planned for me to do, IN CHRIST.
I may be a weed.  I may not look like much, I may even look like I don’t belong in the garden.  BUT GOD had a plan for something different.  And I pray that He would make me as lovely as that little unpretentious violet, and as nourishing and fierce and tenacious as that dandelion, and perhaps through me HE will invade this world.

©Rebecca A Givens, 04/14/14

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2nd Class Women

Dirty old men
Predatory college students
Manipulative teenagers
Broken women and children

The world seems full of this evil.  Men, young and old, who use and abuse women and children for their own selfish, cruel pleasure, with no thought or care about the carnage they leave behind.  I understand why some women don’t trust men and hate them. Or don’t trust God and hate Him.
I can’t get away from this, even my morning’s Bible reading was there, at the end of the book of Judges.  This story bothers me every time I read it.  The men of Benjamin seek out the stranger in town, a Levite, to rape him.  Sounds like a replay of Sodom, only the good guys, Israel, are now evil, which makes it infinitely worse.  The Levite’s host offers them his daughters, and the Levite pushes his concubine, a kind of a second class wife, out to them.  Really?!  This is where I start to get angry.  And then this man, who is not only an Israelite from God’s chosen nation, but a Levite, the tribe chosen by God to minister before Him, is surprised to find her dead on the door step the next morning.  This father and this Levite seem as guilty as the men of the town to me.  They let it happen.  The man knew what he was doing when he gave them the woman, he can’t have been that stupid.  Was he just blind?  Did he not want to believe the evil in Israel?

But when he finds his wife dead, he is angry, perhaps at himself too, and he calls out the entire nation.  The way he does this is particularly distasteful, but then the whole story is.  He cuts the woman into pieces and sends the pieces throughout Israel.  Israel responds, and war is declared on this city in the tribe of Benjamin.  Rather than hand over the evil men to be judged, the whole tribe of Benjamin rallies around the guilty city to defend it, and civil war ensues. 
The men of Benjamin are apparently stronger warriors, and they win massive victories in the first two battles.  Where is God in this?  I don’t understand.  Why is evil stronger than good?  Is it because violence is inherent in evil’s very being?  Why do the good guys always seem weaker?

Israel might have been wondering the same thing.  All Israel weeps before God.  40,000 warriors have died.  40,000!  I can’t even imagine that number.  God tells them to attack again, that they will win this time.  They do, and set up an ambush using the pattern of the earlier defeats to lure the Benjamites out of the city and into a trap.  Thirty more Israelites lose their lives in this, but it works and the town is destroyed, and the tribe Benjamin is destroyed.  20,000 soldiers of Benjamin are killed, and all the women and children; 600 soldiers escaped.  Not only the tribe of Benjamin, but the entire nation is devastated.  65,000 men have died, and an entire tribe has been all but wiped out.  How many who fought for the side of evil were not evil?  How many innocent lives were lost?  There is no way of knowing.  But the men who died in the service of God gave their lives for Him and for justice, for what was right.  Is that a bad death?  He used the deaths of the soldiers in Israel to lay an ambush that led to victory in the third battle.  Were those deaths senseless or useless?  God used the death of a second class wife to purge evil out of Israel and bring an entire country to its knees.  In a real sense, He woke up Israel and brought about revival through her death.  Was that a wasted death?
Was it worth it?
Was God wrong?

This story closes the book of Judges with these words, “In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Purging this evil cost many lives, but it set the stage for a coming king.  My anger at evil and injustice can turn into bitter mistrust and hatred, or it can set the stage for a coming King and Savior.  Will I fight for right, against evil, or will I be angry at God and men and life?

I can be angry at God and men and life now,
or I can long for a perfect life in Heaven,
and an end to all sin and tears,
including my own.

©Rebecca A Givens, 04/08/14