Monday, October 19, 2009

Sweet triumph

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him."
2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

Tucked safely in my mother's womb, alongside my twin sister, I sat in a church pew months before I was ever born. I come from a long line of Christian heritage with ancestors who immigrated to America for religious freedom more than 170 years ago. Hhmm. Maybe my nomadic tendencies are genetic.

Growing up in a rural, Christian farming community, I loved playing Sunday School as child. A collection of fuzzy, button-eyed bears and sweet, vinyl-faced dolls sat attentively on an assortment of child-sized benches and chairs. In beautiful chorus, we sang Praise Him, Praise Him All Ye Little Children and I Am Jesus' Little Lamb. All eyes were fixed on me as I told action-packed accounts of a young boy who killed a giant, three men thrown into a fiery furnace, and a baby king born in a stable.

Sadly, somewhere between a child's delight singing Jesus Loves Me and a young adult's craving for independence, I lost my joy for Jesus.

Oh, I attended church sporadically. But I began focusing more on starting a professional career and fitting in amongst new friends. Soon the busyness of a new lifestyle created distractions from my fellowship with Jesus. Quite frankly, I bought into the idea I could live with one foot in the secular world while keeping the other in a Christian walk. A subtle compromise here. A change in behavior there. Gradually, my childhood affection for Jesus grew dull.

Thankfully, where I wandered away from God, in His mercy, He remained faithful to me.

Pastor Henry Blackaby writes in Experiencing God, "God takes the initiative to pursue a love relationship with you. This love relationship, however, is not a one-sided affair. He wants you to know Him and worship Him. Most of all He wants you to love Him."

Slowly but surely, I was drawn back to my faith. A girlfriend invited me to a mom's home Bible study group. A new acquaintance extended an invitation to a church women's retreat. I began a simple, daily devotional time. Like a patient waking from a long coma, I began to experience a hunger for God like I'd never known before. Nineteen years later, I am absolutely head over heels in love with Jesus!

Blackaby states, "God has been working in the world all along. He has been working out His purpose for our lives since before we were born. He is building our character in an orderly fashion with a divine purpose in mind."

In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that God has a specific role in our quest to follow Him. He guides us, shows us the way to go. But, how can we recognize God's leading?

When Israel crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, God told Joshua to take twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from where the priests stood and put them at the place where they stayed that night. These stones served as a memorial of the mighty act of God in behalf of His people (Joshua 4:2-7).

To understand how God is leading me, I find it helpful to identify my memorial stones or "spiritual makers." A spiritual marker identifies a time of transition, decision, or direction when I clearly know that God has guided me.

Ask God to reveal to you where He has been working in your life. Think about your heritage, your salvation experience, times you made significant decisions regarding your future. Start making a spiritual inventory list today. It doesn't have to be comprehensive. Add to it as you reflect and pray about God's activity in your life.

God is faithful. He leads us in triumphal procession. And, as we follow Him in faith, we become a sweet-smelling reminder, a fragrance of His grace, in the lives of those we touch.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

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