Monday, July 29, 2013

My "Anniversary" Blog

One year ago in San Diego, Jake and I became "The Wilhelm's" We had been engaged 8 months. 8 months of planning, preparing and waiting. Our days were filled with the normal engage-y things. Work, school church, time with family and with friends, and no small amount of attention to the details and dreams of the days to come.
Our wedding day was beautiful. It went off without a hitch (or at least not one that was noticed by our guests). I wish I could say I remember every detail, but what I do recall is wonderful bliss. The days before  the wedding are another story. Many, many things went wrong during that time. We had the rehearsal Friday the 27th and took Saturday as a "day off" to deal the with last minute details and visit family. Jake and I were more stressed on edge than ever. Actually, I was a turbulent nut case dragging Jake behind as he stumbled along trying desperately to pick up the pieces. I had a few moments when I thought to myself, "Why are we even doing this?! Eloping could have been so fun!" But, praise God, 24 hours before I would walk down the aisle, Jake and I had a conversation that broke my heart, and built me up and reminded me what all "this" is for.

It was Saturday evening Jake and I had spent the last 48 hours together. Running around paying some people, buying gift cards for others (buying replacement gift cards for the one that I lost. How do I do things like that?!). We had caught up with out of town family, finalized details, and then finalized them again. The rehearsal was done and we had driven the 30-45 min drive from Mission Valley to Ramona over and over and over. The tuxes were picked up, the schedules were passed out and the decorations were in place.
We climbed into the car to head to Kaleo Church's evening service. We were moving after the wedding so this would be our last service at our home church. What better way to spend the evening before our wedding than with our family and church family? But at this moment I felt so spent and all I could think about was that the night was not over yet. I heaved a sight of exhaustion and as I looked over at Jake, I felt a twinge of guilt. This man had covered that last few days with so much gentleness and grace, and that still hadn't stopped me from snapping lashing out at him multiple times.

"I'm sorry for how crazy I've been. Thank you for putting up with me." 
He squeezed my hand and smiled.
"You still want to go through with this?" I ventured (half-joking), "Now that you know what you're getting into..."
"Nope." He teased.
"No really, You still have time to get out." I was kidding, but was digging for some affirmation that I had not chased him off in the past 2 days. On the outside I smiled but my mind raced with thoughts of rejection and heartbreak wondering if we could really do this FOREVER... 
A few moments of tormenting quiet went by before Jake turned to me with words I hope to never forget.
"This is just the dark before the dawn Abigail. There is pain in the night but joy comes in the morning. Think about the joy we will have tomorrow, and it's nothing compared to the joy that waits after this life." 

The same tears prick my eyes then that do now. I am so blessed by this man. In that moment I remembered that Jake is not just more than I ever thought I wanted in a man. He is everything the Lord knows I need.

We spent the next few minutes talking excitedly back and forth about our engagement and the wedding that would be tomorrow. And reminding each other of what a beautiful picture we get to be of the gospel. Of the Lord who loves us and binds us to Himself with an eternal covenant. That He will be our God and we will be His people and He will cleanse us from our sin. And our love for one another, my submission, Jake's leadership, and our faithfulness get to be a picture of our Savior and His bride. And in that moment, our betrothal meant more to me than a 8 months to "get through".

I never thought of my life as an engagement picture before that day. I never thought of it like a waiting period. Like a time when I plan and prepare and work towards a wedding feast. But isn't that true for those of us in the church, the bride of Christ waiting to be united with her bridegroom forever? I hope that as I go through my days, the Lord reminds me of this conversation with Jake.  There is pain in this life. There are busy days, and fun stuff, and craziness. But joy comes in the morning. And when it is all over, what joy there is to behold! Eternity with my most beloved. My God. FOREVER! 

"For His anger is but for a moment and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, 
but joy comes in the morning." 
Psalm 30:5

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Freedom to Become a Slave

1 Corinthians 9:1-23

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?  If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? .... (vs19) For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

In my last post on 1 Corinthians 8 (you can read it here), I discussed the freedom that believers have in Christ and how not to exercise that freedom. Paul continues his theme on freedom in chapter 9. And it is here I believe he gives an example of how we can best use our freedoms to the glory of God. 

Before I get into the part of the passage I would like to highlight today, there is an entire 19 verses I chose to skip. In this part of the passage Paul discusses the rights of life and apostleship that he sets aside to better serve the Corinthian church. Remember this is a church that is divided specifically over their "favorite" teachers. Paul here is reminding them that he does not come to them in order to gain anything, but even to the point of laying aside his own rights, he serves them for the sake of the gospel. It is on this note of service, that we pick up in verse 19. 

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible" As counter intuitive as it may sound, the correct way to use our freedom in Christ is to make ourselves slaves. "To those under the law I became like one under the those not having the laws I became like one not having the law..." Paul was no longer held to the Mosiac laws. He could eat what he wanted, work on the Sabbath, wear what he chose. But when around those bound to the law Paul walked according to the law. Likewise, Paul still held to the moral standard of God. But when he was around those who lived according to the world's standards he did not snatch every opportunity to point out their sin but rather lived alongside them as in the world but not of it. He did this not to be fickle or "liked" by everyone but rather he says, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." 

This concept is much easier to picture in some sort of foreign mission field. Do not live in a way that offends the very people you are trying to reach with the gospel. For example when going down to lead a worship service in Mexico, all the girls on the team wore skirts. Even though it is completely except able to wear jean in our church, to the people in that church culture it would have been offensive. And in Thailand when offered a pipe by the head of the household as a show of hospitality my leader would not turn it away because he does not smoke. It would be a massive affront. You and I may not face situations like this every day in the U.S., but how do we walk among our friends? 

"I do all this for the sake of gospel, that I may share in its blessings." In 1 Peter 3:18 it says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" Christ laid down His life to bring His people back to God. To draw us to Himself. The goal of the gospel should change how we handle our freedoms. May we live not for ourselves but for the sake of  all men that they would come to know the same freedom we do in Christ. May we use our freedom serve His kingdom for our good and His glory.