Even When Trembling, Stand

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A friend is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. A family member lives day to day with a debilitating disease. A family we love is torn apart, a marriage marred. Across the nation and the world, news flows that brings a shadow on the soul.

Yet, through it all, I am reminded that this world is not our home and this generation is, as every generation before, in need of truth and hope.  That “truest true” – the one faithful, constant, factual hope that has stood and will stand is Jesus Christ and the power of His death and resurrection to free us from the penalty, power, and guilt of our sin but it is also is able to redeem our fear, our pain, and our limitations because He is more than able.  It is not always a physical freedom or a restoration of how we desire things to be, but it is life giving on earth and in eternity.

What causes the redeemed child of God to face sorrow without despair is the intimate knowledge of and our relationship to the One who tenderly and firmly holds all circumstances in His hands both now and forever and allows nothing that will not ultimately be for His greatest glory and our good.  Though it is not always “good” as we define the term and His “better ways” for us may not always be visible to us at first glance, it is so. For everything that touches us is sifted through His strong hands that hold us and His wise fingers that filter as only He can. He is the only one who well knows our frame (Psalm 103:14) and the number of our days (Psalm 90:12) and He is the Lover of our souls!

God’s Word upholds us because it is not just “nice little sayings” that can be framed and hung on a wall to make us lighthearted and at peace for the moment; it is not a crutch that allows us to hobble along.  It is rock solid truth on which we can “hang” our very lives and which causes us to walk steadfast, to stand and, when we have done all else, to continue standing firm, hidden in Christ…regardless.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

We take in and hide the Word of God in our hearts because it is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) just for us and we choose to not only believe it but to live it out even when our steps are trembling. Our God who is mighty makes us secure, our footsteps steady, as He reminds us of His very great and precious promises.  (2 Peter 1:4)

Even when we are “in the presence of our enemies,” “in the shadow of death,” or any situation where “weeping lasts for a night,” we can trust and hold steady.

So evident was this in Martin and Gracia Burnham’s lives as she recounts their ordeal and God’s tender mercy to bring to mind what was written on their hearts.

Read and be encouraged for the days when life is “just as it should be” but also when “live spins out of control!”

How do we manage when life spins out of control in a single day? What do we do when all our plans and goals are put on hold, when everything we had intended to do and see and accomplish gets swept aside, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get back to familiar ground? How do we keep our sanity? How do we avoid slipping into a personal canyon of despair?

‘I remember a particularly frightening Thursday morning in the jungle, the day of Gun Battle Number 13. We endured seventeen of these altogether, where our little group would be spotted by the Philippine military, who were trying to rescue us hostages but were ill-trained to do so. While their intentions were good, their technique was altogether dangerous, not only for the terrorists but for us as well.

On this day Martin and I had just built a small fire to heat water for a cup of tea. Our recently washed clothes were strewn out on bushes to dry in the sun. Suddenly, gunfire erupted. We had to get out of that place immediately. Normally, we tried to keep our belongings fairly well consolidated for such emergencies. But in this moment, our stuff was everywhere. We were totally unprepared. We instantly hit the ground, of course. As bullets continued to whiz past our heads, Martin gingerly reached up to pull the cord that tied one end of our hammock to a tree. He then scooted along the ground to do the same to the opposite cord. We squashed the hammock into our backpack and then dashed for cover, abandoning nearly everything else—extra clothes, cooking utensils, my hairbrush, and other necessities.

Soon we found ourselves wading through a swamp that came up to our waists. We emerged on the other side and flopped down to rest. I looked at my husband with total exhaustion. In that desperate hour, my wonderful husband said, ‘Gracia, let’s remind ourselves of what we know is true.’

We had no Bible to consult; we could lean only on what we had stored in our memories. From that reserve, we began to recite: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31). One of us said, ‘Where does it say in Scripture, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love?’ (It’s in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 31:3.) ‘And then what about that part at the beginning of Ephesians: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ?’ (Ephesians 1:3)

We went on sharing Scriptures such as these, trying to anchor ourselves in the truth we could trust, the truth that God is with us through the tunnel, through the valley, through the gun battle. He stands with us through the medical prognosis that terrorizes us, through every horrible thing that life throws our way. We don’t go through these things alone. We walk with our hands in the hand of the One who turns night into day.’

(***From “To Fly Again,” by Gracia Burnham who is also the author of “In the Presence of My Enemies,” the true story of Martin and Gracia Burnham who were kidnapped in the Philippians and held hostage in the jungle for over a year.  I would highly recommend both starting with the latter.)

“Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His word
Upholds my fainting spirit;
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support –

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience);

I wait for it with patience (Wait for it with patience).

(Lyrics from Psalm 130 (From Depths of Woe)

A Quick Update and Thank You to My Blog Followers!

First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to read and follow “Joy in My Journey.” I truly am humbled and encouraged that you would take a part of your day to engage with me here and, as some of you have shared, that God would be pleased to use these blogs to encourage and/or challenge you. We are on this journey together in Christ and I’m always thankful for feedback received!

You may have noticed that the web address has changed (or maybe it was seamless so you haven’t)!  Recently, I realized that, with the Word Press plan I had, random ads were sometimes seen when you visited my site. As I had no voice in what those were and did not want to be advocating for something I might not agree with or that might be a  distraction to my readers, I changed my plan and the address is now: joyinmyjourney.blog

If you click on or type in the old address, it will redirect; but I wanted to pass that along as explanation

Also, I know some email followers will simply read the blog in their email.  Again, thank you! But, from time to time, I will edit the blog after I have posted it. So, if you choose to read it a day or two (or longer) after you receive it in the email, you will get the most current content by clicking on the link to the website.

As I close, I’m asking the Lord to give each of you HIS joy, a renewed desire to seek and follow Him, and a fresh view of His grace to do just that!  I appreciate you being a part of my blog “family” and hearing from you!  I would also count it a privilege to pray for you as you have need and share it with me.

If you’ve never read the “About Me” section of my blog, this is the heart of why I began and continue to write “Joy In My Journey!”

I am thankful for the road on which God continues to lead me as wife to one and mom to three grown “children” and two more added “in-loves” (aka in laws) who delight my heart (as well as a first grandchild on the way)! I’m still growing in grace, finding joy in my family and friends as well as those God puts in my path, whether it be a small child I have been entrusted to teach, a young mom to whom I have the privilege of listening, a fellow believer walking the road alongside me, or a “random” stranger that enters my world for just a moment and either challenges and encourages me or I have the honor of doing the same. And I rejoice in seeking to find how He wants to use me in what He is up to in my little part of the world! My truest joy comes from my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His Word is my source of comfort but also that which confronts me and chips away at whatever is not in line with Truth, and I pray that everything I say and do reflects His love and grace well!

My prayer is that the name of our Mighty God will be praised through my simple journey and through the words that flow from my heart and are expressed in print. Equally, my prayer is also that, as I write and as each person reads this, they will be drawn to the heart of God through Jesus Christ and be able to find His joy in their journey through a relationship with Him regardless of life circumstances.

Walk this road with me and be encouraged even if also challenged!

Just As He Said

Celebrations abound.  We exalt and lift high the sacrifice of our Redeemer and sometimes blend it while enjoying the newness of Spring.  Delight in family, friends, and the life we have been given is a joy and our God created us to receive all with thanks for all He has given.

But, don’t miss the greater reality!

The King of Kings came in history, in real time. He chose the nails to give us new life!

Don’t miss the whisper that is actually a roar!

The truth remains. The fact is still…

The tomb is empty!

He has risen, just as He said!

And we delight in that risen Savior!

“It is finished” began in a manger and was complete at Calvary!

Tetelastai! Our debt has been paid!

BUT, though complete, it didn’t end there!

Jesus submitted to the Father, died on the cross, but, in His power, He burst forth from the tomb!

As the angel of the Lord sat on the rock that covered the tomb that, after the crucifixion, held Jesus Christ, he did so in triumph as a witness and a proclamation to the women who came to the place of burial…and to us today!  Death could not hold the Son of God; He went willingly to the cross to redeem His own but He didn’t stay there and no “power of hell, no scheme of man could” hold Him!

And that same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that raises us to new life in Him.

New life that does not hold on to the old.

New life that decimates our shame.

New life that is redeemed by the works of our Savior not our own.

New life that is able to see with new eyes and trust even when we can’t.

New life that exalts in His glory and is amazed by His mercy and grace.

And yet…

New life that is wrecked by freedom from our old; so desiring more that is different, transformed!

New life that humbly allows the Spirit of God to faithfully calm our fears.

New life that humbly allows the Spirit of God to break through our hard hearts and convict us of sins we hold too close; that humbly submits and fiercely battles the sins that so easily entangle.

New life that humbly allows the Spirit of God to then empower us to say “no” to those and “yes” to the increasing righteousness of Christ!  Yes, it is how we are seen by the Father from the moment of surrender and more and more how we live out our lives in obedience to His commands.

New life that humbly lays down our idols and all we cling to for satisfaction, security, self-worth, and identity to find them in the only capable place – the heart of God.

New life to give the forgiveness and grace to others that we have been given in Christ.

New life to love in a way that makes no sense to the world – loving and serving those who may hate us, even harm us. Love that serves and yet never compromises the truth of God even if it rocks self-defined worlds and shatters man-made perceptions of God.

New life that seeks to give new life!

Because He has risen just as He said!

And no “power of hell, no scheme of man could ever pluck me from His hand; for I am His and He is mine, this is the power of Christ in me!”

The earth has quaked, the veil has been torn in two, the stone is rolled away and true freedom comes for those who lay down their lives, accept the free gift of salvation and the lordship of Jesus Christ, and so, live in the power of the resurrection!

And that roar is heard across the ages!

“…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

“God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend.” Job 37:5

Even When We Cannot See

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“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

There are days when to be “Be still and know that HE is God!” (Psalm 46:10) is so easy.

In those times, my heart and my head agree with each other, and I almost dance with joy in experiencing both what I know and what I feel in tandem.

Certainly, I experience it when there is much to be celebrated. To lift my hands to the One from Whom all blessings flow is easy and immediate.

There are other times when what I “know” about our very good God, what I “feel,” and how I respond clash loudly! In those times, I, for all intents and purposes, choose not to be still. I don’t always ask “why” well and, I have to admit, my “why” is more like the rant of a petulant child.

But, to be in the midst of turmoil of my own or another that I love or to watch the world turn upside down in a variety of ways and yet to “be still” is not a reflection of my own strength. Rather, it is a supernatural gift of a gracious God who, in the middle of my pleading, of laying my heart bare before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, lifts my eyes and my heart to “see” Him instead of the moment. He holds and steadies this child, tenderly, even when He chooses not to calm the storm. And, in those times, He is also in the process of refining my heart.

We often have a desired outcome, an expectation for our circumstances; a way we believe is best and right.  At times, it may deal with the externals and the “haves or have nots” to which God says, “There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12).  Yet, when it comes to physical illnesses, most would not argue that our requests are reasonable.  But, God’s ways, that sometimes “seem” difficult or mistaken to us, always lead to “life that is truly life” (I Timothy 6:19) because they are grounded in the firm foundation of His loving sovereignty that knows the end from the beginning and sees what we cannot. And, even when it doesn’t “feel” good, we can “know” it is.

All too often, I (and I think it is safe to say, “we”) “feel” – regardless of what we “know” – that for God to show His love, He must answer our requests exactly as we ask, fulfill our every desire, especially if they are “good” desires. Or, if He doesn’t, that He will immediately provide an explanation for us to see what He’s doing, not just with eyes of faith but with our physical eyes!

But it is not always the way of our Father. He says, “Trust me” even if it hurts. He says, “Trust me” even if it makes no sense. He says, “Trust me” and let me do “exceedingly and abundantly more” – not only more than we can think or ask but also more than what we can perceive with our eyes.

What the Israelites could “see” was a vast army heading in their direction to bring destruction. And yet, Moses told them to “be still” and watch God fight for them!  What? They had a clear view of the immediate danger, but they could not “see” what God had in store, how He would protect and defend them. Even so, indeed, as He did time and again, He delivered them.

The same is true for His children today; He calls us to “be still” and watch Him fight for us; even if His deliverance is, at times, hard. He calls us, often a forgetful people, to remember His faithfulness in the past so we will stand on that same promise of faithfulness in the present.

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them…Not only may you see a tiny fraction of what God is doing in your life; the part you do see may make no sense to you.” (John Piper)

The other day, as my husband and I talked about and prayed for a situation that someone we love is facing, he reminded me of Joseph, sold as a slave by his brothers yet, in time, raised to a place of prominence to be an avenue of provision and protection. Could he “see” the faithfulness of God in that moment when he was taken away? Did he “feel” the love of God in that instant? Or did he cry out with an honest groan, “Why Lord?” And, yet, as we are given a view into his life, we are able to observe his faithful obedience to God. We watch his trust in the One he knew to be the sovereign Lover of his soul. We witness God honor that one who learned to “be still” and watch the Lord fight for him. And, through His Word across generations, we now get to see many of the “whys” to God’s ways; that He allowed Joseph’s hardships so he might be a place “for such a time.” God was doing “good” long before the “good” could be seen!

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12

Knowing that the Lord Himself is going before us and behind us is not a small thing nor is it a fanciful hope; it is the reality for those who are redeemed children of God, loved deeply by the One who doesn’t always give His demanding children just what we want but always gives just what we need and what will ultimately be for our good and a glory to Himself! And when what He gives is painful, He walks through the fire with us, He holds us close, and He says, “Be still and know (hold onto and experience) that I AM God.”

This side of heaven, we will not always do that well. But, by His grace, may we be found faithful, trusting, and “still” more with each day!

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Excerpt from “Even If” by Mercy Me   (Music and lyrics so often draw my heart in…as do these.  So thankful my son shared this song with me some weeks ago)!

 It’s easy to sing

When there’s nothing to bring me down

But what will I say

When I’m held to the flame

Like I am right now

 I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand.

But even if You don’t.

My hope is You alone.

 …God, when You choose

To leave mountains unmovable

Give me the strength to be able to sing

It is well with my soul. 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.

 You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good

All my days.

Jesus, I will cling to You

Come what may.

‘Cause I know You’re able

I know You can.

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul.

 

 

At the End of the Day

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He gets in my lap and I give him a hug;

Safe in my arms, quite secure and loved.

The day has been busy as has the child

I will remember well the laughter and smiles.

I tuck him in bed and I kiss him goodnight

I trip over toys as I turn off the light.

Reminders that childhood will escape  all too fast

Wanting most to impart the things that will last.

So, I say a prayer that he’ll know what is true;

I talk to our God and say, “Make him steadfast for You!”

I’ve got to admit I’ve got so far to go

The good work He began, He will finish I know.

But I fail oh so often in the way that I teach

Not numbers and letters but with my life, do I reach?

With thankful heart, I lay him down

At the foot of the cross where grace abounds.

Grace to redeem him and grace to transform

Grace to give wisdom, his choices inform.

Grace to repent and grace to forgive

Grace to take hold of the LIFE You do give.

So, sleep now my child, Your Savior is near

Tomorrow is new, full of mercies, my dear.

Each day is a gift, give it back to Him.

Embrace His heart, run your race and then

Know that one day, when you leave our home

You will leave my arms, but you’re never alone.

While cleaning out papers recently, I came across this poem I wrote many years ago.  As I read and thought through what was on my heart at that time, obviously for one of my sons, it is equally so for my daughter and time has, indeed, been swift.

Now, as each one of them are adults – walking out their own relationships with Christ in different  places, it is no less true.  They are never alone.  Whether they walk on mountain tops or in the midst of valleys.  They are never alone.  When they can “see” what is ahead and when they simply must “walk by faith and not by sight.”  (2 Corinthians 5:7)  They are never alone.  As they walk unhindered and when they have to lay down their self-rule at the foot of the cross.  It is the presence of their Savior that holds them fast.  It is the grace of God by which they are saved and in which they now live.

“Therefore…as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13

As with every adult son or daughter, their dad and I no longer train and transfer the truth of God day in and day out; but we are there to boldly take them to the throne of grace every day, throughout each.  And we are there, now as brothers and sisters in Christ, to encourage, cheer them on in that walk, just in a different role.

That time passes quickly and our time, as parents, to instill the truths of God from His Word is in each minute of laughter or tears and each moment of discipline; reminding that it is our God who gives us true joy and who loves our laughter.  And it is our God who first gave His grace to us so that we can display to and lead them to that grace of God by ourselves extending that grace that forgives to them and to each other but also the grace-filled discipline to turn their hearts to what is true and not just what they feel or what they desire in that instant.

Remind them of your love when they feel unlovely or when the world feels like it is crashing down around them.  But remind them, even more, that though you will not always be there in person as the years go by, our God will never leave them and will walk through every joy and every sorrow, even redeem each of those sorrows for “those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!” (Romans 8:28)

The time to stop in those crazy moments, to savor them and ponder them in your heart, is now.

 

Loving Well…A Continuous Call

Last weekend I attended the wedding of a friend. As each marriage between two followers of Christ should purposefully pursue, she and her husband have the desire to have a union that honors both God and each other. It is our call to continuously and increasingly desire the same, to intentionally seek after that pursuit, and to love well in the face of life as we expect it as well as life with its unexpected twists and turns.

It takes being deliberate about our choices personally and with our spouse, tenaciously choosing to submit to the Lord which includes loving and respecting our spouse more than we love ourselves and our own desires.

It’s one of the things I enjoy about going to weddings where I know the vows taken and the challenges given to the bride and groom are based on God’s Word; that I might continuously be encouraged and challenged in my own marriage. One thing Paul David Tripp has written in his book, “What Did You Expect?” is that many marriages that have lasted for years often forget the need to be intentional about nurturing – not just time spent with each other, which is vitally important as able; but also about heart issues – honest conversations, growing in grace, truthfully but kindly speaking to one another, among other things.

Tripp also reminds that every marriage needs “radical commitments” and the “regular rescue of grace” for the minor grievances and the major wounds. That doesn’t allow us to act badly or sinfully so grace will abound, but grace is needed to choose well and to rescue our stubborn but (hopefully) repentant hearts when we don’t.

Whether you are not yet married, have been married a short time or a lengthy one, we are all to be “mutually encouraging one another” to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” And our marriages, even more, are to be a reflection of the grace of God, the power of God, and the love of God.

As I listened from the balcony where I was taking some photographs for her, I was compelled to pick up my phone and write down some of the encouragements and challenges given by one of the pastors performing the ceremony. In light of Tripp’s book and my last blog, “The Dance,” I decided to share them here on my blog.

We never expect to “disrupt our dance” and, hopefully, neither do most brides and grooms so it is good to come back to the heart of the marriage vows again and again, good to come back to the heart of God for a man and woman making covenant vows and becoming one.

May these words of great joy be used by the Lord for you! (Where he used their names, I have replaced them with husband/wife, bride/groom)

It is evident you stand here in love with and in the joy of one another! Continue in that love and joy in the days ahead – the easy and the hard, the strong and the weak, and in those moments of temptation…

Guard and protect each other fiercely. Don’t trust yourself; keep your eyes on the Lord and His ways for your marriage. When you hit a conflict or wound each other, run to the Savior and work and walk through it in prayer…together. Don’t attempt to handle temptations, fears, and wounds alone; God did not intend for that – He gave you each other.

Be willing to dream and live for the desire to see your marriage be all God designed for marriage in general, your marriage specifically, and watch it grow (sometimes even through the hardest of circumstances).   Dare to believe He will do it in the two of you as you stand firm and are two who speak truth to each other and are quick to say “I’m sorry” (and mean it) and “I forgive you.”

Be intentional not to let hope and great expectations lessen. Honor God through your marriage in every way when you are together and apart, in public and in secret.

I now charge you both as husband and wife – but know that each charge can and should be applied to the other.

I charge you, as the husband:

-“Praise the Lord for all who fear God are blessed beyond expression, they find great delight in His commands!” (Psalm 112:1)

The beauty of your bride should call you to see the beauty of God and to listen to Him. Do not miss that beauty nor cover her beauty with your own sinful passions and so cover the glory of God.

Listen well to the Savior out of love for God and gain praise for His glory especially in the eyes of your bride.  Listen to God; don’t close your heart and mind to Him and to His truth. The increase of His glory and your delight will happen as you listen, act, and grow.

 -Darkness will fight to gain control of your heart that you might sin against her. Fight it in the power of the Holy Spirit; He is already yours in Christ and we have everything we need to fight and flee if necessary, but we have to do it; He won’t pluck us out. It’s our responsibility to put a guard on our mouths, our hands, our eyes, and our mind.

When you fail each other, sin against the other – learn to say “I’m sorry” out of true sorrow not a desire to get out of “trouble.” Learn to resolve conflict without dismissing the other. Give and receive grace freely.

You are each less than perfect so you need to FIGHT to keep light in your marriage – the light of truth, the light of grace, the light that keeps us from going down a dark path of sin and then secrecy, some of which will continue to damage as it is kept in the dark.

Your marriage is to be a reflection of the light of grace; she deserves to feel safe and secure with you!

 -“Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” (Psalm 112:8)

Fight foes, of all kinds, together. Don’t try to fight your temptations, your fears, your concerns on your own. The Lord has given you a bride, a helpmate, an accountability partner. Let her be that and you be that for her as well; be her warrior and give her the freedom to be vulnerable and to share her concerns without critical pushback taking care not to build walls of prideful secrecy.

Instead, see how God wants to speak to you through your bride. Her differences are an expression of the mystery of God, the wonder. Learn to appreciate who she is; don’t let the differences become a stumbling block or an area of contention or frustration.

 -“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

Every day is an invitation to worry; don’t give in to that invitation. Take yourself and your bride to the cross, minute by minute and day by day!

The opposite of love is not hate but fear. Fear will wound love at best, kill it at worst. Be courageous in giving her a safe place. At various times, each will need to be the anchor of faith, stability, and confidence for the other – as the leader and as the helpmate. 

-“They give generously to those in need…” (Psalm 112:9)

Yes, be a marriage that sees the needs of others and, together, provides for them as able. Serve well together as opportunities arise where God has place you.

But also, be generous in your love for your wife! Be quick to protect her in every way – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Speak well of her in public and to yourself. Guard her dignity in public and private. Guard yourself when alone and, in such a way, cherish her.

 A Charge to the Wife

-You will not be the perfect Proverbs 31 wife, but in every way, determine to pursue it deliberately. “If you find a truly good wife, she is worth more than all the jewels” (and everything that “sparkles”). (v 10)

Help your husband to be all God desires Him to be. He needs your nurture and your care, your prayers and your encouragement. Helping your husband will cost you your life but will help your husband to be the leader God desires and intends.

Let him have full confidence in you and bring him good not harm all the days of your life. Let him have no reason to lack confidence in your faithful, respectful love. (v. 11)

Be clothed with strength and dignity, able to see the best in him and in the days ahead even when he struggles to see either. (v. 25)

Be a listener, a forgiver but also act and speak wisely; be compassionate. (v. 26)

Above all fear God and trust Him to work in your marriage and to change you and your husband. (v.30)

 -Trust God for your marriage.

Trusting God will be the measure of God’s work in your life. Trust God to fulfill and complete the good work He began in each of you and in your marriage. Trust God to fulfill the dreams you have for your marriage on this your wedding day (don’t forget those dreams, those desires, those vows).

 -Express your thoughts and desires, your fears and concerns!

Your husband will learn much from you (and vice versa) when each listens in humility and has an increasing desire to grow. But speak with humility as well and, as you express concerns and fears, do so in a way that reveals the heart of love. Caustic criticism will destroy the heart so be assertive in sharing what you need to but do so with gentleness and respect. Some things may be hard to share and hard to receive but Proverbs 31:26 says that when she speaks, her words are wise. Choose your words carefully.

-Be wise in establishing your home. Be used by God to bring direction to your husband your family.

Let your gifts be used with wisdom as you give your heart to your husband. Time with God alone in His Word and prayer will enhance your love for the Lord and so for your groom (and time with God alone in His Word and prayer, husband, will enhance your love for the Lord and so for your bride).

– Love your husband in a way that enhances his strength and courage. Love in a way that encourages him to love Jesus well.

There will be times he will feel weak; take him to the Lord daily, even more so in his hardest times.  Let him know you are beside him and love him well even when your own eyes can’t “see” and your strength is “small.”  Let him draw strength and  courage from you as you receive strength and courage from our Savior.

Again, let both hear the charges and apply them to yourselves as well as your spouse. Commit to love and protect each other. Commit to growing in grace. Commit to Jesus being the only firm foundation for marriage – everything else is shifting sand. Keep that foundation firm by keeping your eyes and your hearts on Him.

 

The Dance

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If you are married, you were born to dance. Not the “every man for himself” bobbing up and down with no purpose, running into whoever is in close proximity, roaming through the room with multiple dance partners in your view, but the steady, seamless cadence of being in step and moving as one.

You were born to dance in time with the one you love. When you dance in such a way, it is exhilarating; far better than the exhaustion that comes from dancing out of step.

Yes, we were born to dance but also to run the race. Not to win as in competing against our spouse; rather, as a team, coming together, side by side, cheering each other on.

In the past, dance marathons were a common occurrence. Two would begin and dance both fast and slow until the end…together. They didn’t change partners or walk away no matter how weary one of the two may have gotten, even if the other had to virtually carry that one.

We are called to lift our spouses. “Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Just, as at some points in a dance marathon, one or the other may be able to move with more energy or strength, in marriage we will have times where one or the other is stronger and can “carry” the other more easily. There is no shame in that nor is it to be a contention; it is a gift.

Spiritually, there are times we each need the other to spur us on to look at the cross, to be challenged but oh to be encouraged! Yes, mutual love, mutual respect, mutual encouragement but, at varying times, each will bear the other’s burden more intensely. God specifically gives us our husbands and wives to do just that, not in a condescending way or with a sigh but in a joy infused way that is faithfully and tenderly restorative.

“Your wife is the accountability partner God provided for you. And, wives, your husband is the accountability partner God provided for you. According to Him, the two of you are one single entity (the two shall become one)…” (Matthew L Jacobson, “Who is Your Real Accountability Partner?”)  Again, it’s a gift, not a burden.

Part of keeping the rhythm is keeping all things that can cause us to stumble or create a gap between us cleared out from under our feet; secrets, hurts, weaknesses, fears, distractions from the outside pressing in. If we keep the ground clear, we can maneuver through them together; if we don’t, they will cause us to trip and sometimes fall and we can’t hide that from our dance partners no matter how much we try; we weren’t meant to.

Have you ever seen “extreme” dancing where the man spins the woman out, lifts her high, pulls her around? That takes trust. At times, we may feel like our dancing is “extreme” and, in those times, we have to know we can trust the one gripping our hand. Trust is built when we know we are holding each other up and when we begin to fall or do fall, we have a spouse that is there to lift us up, hold us close, show us grace, and restore the music.

The more we each seek to serve the one we love, even in the hardest moments – be it physical distance for an extended time, illness, the busyness of life, the temptations that bombard, or conflict– the more our desire to love and serve them will increase and the more God will chip away at our selfishness and cause us to love them rather than ourselves more deeply.

Additionally, the more we each set our intimate sights on our spouse rather than on others, the more attractive will the one we love be to us – not just the physical appeal but every aspect. He or she will captivate us and draw us in. Choose to remember what led you to them and intentionally be on the watch, even list out, those things about your spouse that are a joy to you and others! Don’t be distracted by “shiny things” but choose to be fascinated by your “one and only” once again. Guard and keep your eyes – literally and figuratively – only for them. Deliberately find ways to increase that wonder!

On the other hand, the more we look around and intentionally or unintentionally compare our spouses to unrealistic images and the deceptive pull of a situation or a person – be it in person on in media, the less content we will become and the more the enemy will whisper in our ear – “There is more that will satisfy if you just look for it, go for it; what will it hurt?.” Slam the door on that whisper! Don’t entertain the lie and don’t for an instant believe that it is true!

Most importantly, the more we take our spouses, our marriage, and our own hearts humbly but boldly to the throne of grace, the more our God does exceedingly and abundantly more than we could think or ask, first in us and then in the heart of the one we love! Whether it be as the dance is sweet and perfectly in time or at the first hint of the dance being interrupted, lean in and pull your bride or groom closer, even if they are far away physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Call out to the One who can battle for you and put a hedge around the dance floor!

Yes, some days and in some seasons, we will be out of sync; but we must never accept that as the norm or allow the enemy of our souls to make us think the music has ended and it is time to add lines to our dance cards or stop dancing altogether. That is not the melody of delight! In those times, we should be deliberately taking the hand of our one. Then, if we stumble over each other’s feet, it will be together.

Where there is a slow dance, there are two. But we should be dancing, walking as one; not stepping on each other’s toes or being afraid of the other’s next move but able to trust because grace has done and is doing a work in the lives of each of us.

Dancing with abandon because redemption has followed repentance and forgiveness in the small little irritations of life and the bigger, more hurtful situations.

Dancing with joy because we have “found the one whom my soul loves” (Song of Solomon 3:4) and we are growing in that love that is able to stand the test of time and the shifting winds that blow.

There is something beautiful about intentionally choosing each other again and again; there is something about keeping our affections for and on our one. There is wonder in rekindling desire with the one to whom we said “I do” when life has made us weary. There is delight in transparency made possible by grace. And there is great joy in picking up the beat of the music and the rhythm of their hearts, choosing once again to keep in step.

Hear the music and move as one. If the music has grown faint or even silent, be deliberate about making melody together again. You will be amazed at how your love, attraction, and desire for your husband or wife will rekindle and how refreshed your marriage can be.

But don’t stop there! Keep choosing! Keep pursuing! Keep fixing your gaze first on the Savior and, immediately thereafter, on the one with whom you walked the aisle and promised, yes even vowed, to love, honor, and cherish.

See the beauty! See the holiness, the sacred delight of dancing with the one you love… all the way to the end!

We Will Dance   Steven Curtis Chapman

I’ve watched the sunrise in your eyes And I’ve seen the tears fall like the rain You’ve seen me fight so brave and strong You’ve held my hand when I’m afraid

We’ve watched the seasons come and go We’ll see them come and go again But in winter’s chill, or summer’s breeze One thing will not be changin’

We will dance When the sun is shining In the pouring rain We’ll spin and we’ll sway And we will dance When the gentle breeze Becomes a hurricane The music will play And I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we will dance

Sometimes it’s hard to hold you tight Sometimes we feel so far apart Sometimes we dance as one And feel the beating of each others hearts

Some days the dance is slow and sweet Some days we’re bouncing off the walls No matter how this world may turn Our love will keep us from fallin’

And we will dance When the sun is shining In the pouring rain We’ll spin and we’ll sway And we will dance When the gentle breeze Becomes a hurricane The music will play And I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we will dance

The music will play And I’ll hold you close And I won’t let you go Even when our steps Grow weak and slow Still I’ll take your hand And hold you close to me And we, will dance

His Rescue is My Reward…and My Joy!

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Is our God not so gracious?

We are “half-hearted creatures,” as I quoted C.S. Lewis in my last blog post, “My Only Boast is You.”  But the God who has redeemed His children is a “wholehearted God,” a God who rescues and restores from beginning to end!  Even as His stubborn sheep often run from His protective care, He promises and we can be confident that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 1:6)

Is there any greater joy than to know that on our most faithful days and our most defiant, He is the God who pursues us!  No, He doesn’t allow us to stay in our rebelliousness and will permit whatever it takes for the blinders to come off our eyes, the scales to come off our hearts, and the humility before Him to restore our spirits. Yes, that is authentic love that dares to rock our world and to rescue us from ourselves and our propensity to rationalize our attitudes and our actions.

How sweet the peace when we surrender to His correction!

We can trust Him to do that because He has been doing just that throughout time.

We are sinners. BUT God in His mercy…sent His Son to die in our place giving us freedom from the penalty of sin but also the power of sin in our lives.

We are sinners. BUT God in His mercy…invades our self-satisfied souls and leads us to repentance. He is not calling us to perfection but to pursuing it as we grow in our knowledge of and love for Him and increasingly desire to follow more faithfully. That’s not legalism, that’s the grace of sanctification!

We are sinners. BUT God in His mercy…takes our messes and redeems them for His glory!

“Redemption happens once we leave our ‘stuff’ behind! God meets humility and repentance and does the work of transformation. Repentance doesn’t keep pressing under and forward with sin, it doesn’t continue in it and hide it but, rather, exposes it to the light of God’s saving and sanctifying grace.” (Joseph Wheat)

As we gaze into the Word of God, we come face to face with “messes” who also humbled themselves before the Lord. He used even those to complete His story of redemption in Christ. But He didn’t leave them as they were.

Though Rahab was a prostitute, she was obedient to protect the Israelites then turn from her false gods, as well as her way of life, lived in defiance to the one true God.  Ruth left her homeland and her Moabite gods as well and faithfully, obediently followed the one true God as she honored and followed Him through Naomi’s directions and she was redeemed. When David was confronted with his sin by Nathan, he didn’t lash out in anger at him, deny his sin, or make excuses for it; God softened His heart and he was humble before the Lord as he repented.

Against You and You only have I sinned, Lord, and done what is wicked in Your sight…

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.

…My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (from Psalm 51)

And that is why David is known as a man after God’s heart; not because he was perfect, not because he wasn’t a mess. But because, by God’s grace, He didn’t stay in his mess. David didn’t continue in his sin. He laid it at the feet of God, confessed it, turned from it, asked God to give him that willing spirit to sustain him in continuing that obedience, then opened himself up to be used by God to turn others away from sin and back to the Lord.

We have a tendency to want to hold onto certain sins in our lives while doing lots of “good things” for God, to make “atonement,” even barter with Him, for what we don’t want to let go. But David, whose chaos God used in the lineage of Jesus, laid it all down and knew it wasn’t any “good works” or “burnt offerings” God desired – it was repentance, a “broken and contrite heart.”

God knows our hearts and He knows our greatest temptations and our greatest propensities to give into them so He doesn’t call us to go into battle alone. When we humble ourselves before the Lord and come to a place of letting go, God promises His faithfulness in the battle, “…He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape…” (I Corinthians 10:13) and then He equips us to take that way out.

How awesome is that!

I appreciate the way Trevin Wax describes it, “God understands our temptations. He knows our hearts better than we do. He sympathizes with our ignorant attempts to find joy apart from him. But in his great love, he refuses to affirm us in our misdirected ways. To do so would be to abandon us to the leash and lamppost, where we would strangle ourselves.” (C.S. Lewis Talks to a Dog About Lust*)

God forgives and gives us the power to defeat sin in our life but never to excuse it. Some choices have greater consequences for us and for those we love and we need to ask God for the ability and the will to battle them more intensely and purposefully; yes, not just to set them aside for a time but to kill those areas of our lives for good. I have watched men and women be completely freed from devastating sins; not necessarily from the temptation at first but from the power those temptations have on them. And, over time as they battled in the power of the Holy Spirit, the intensity of the temptations lessened as their “self-control muscle” was strengthened with use.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

What “gods” of our own making (those pet sins we coddle or those good things we make the “ultimate things” that we pursue with our all heart, soul, and mind), do we need to leave behind so “times of refreshment might come?” What areas do we hold on to that are a hindrance to our walk with the Lord and our most intimate relationships as well as other interactions?

It’s so easy for our eyes to be blinded by and to our own “old man” desires that we too often allow to set up residence in our souls, that we justify them as “part of who we are.”  We rationalize that since we won’t be perfect this side of heaven, we can actually have sins we don’t address. But when we keep allowing the same sins over and over (God never gives us that latitude and there are some with greater consequences to our souls and the lives of others), we make light of that amazing grace; in essence, we mock God and make less of His mercy.

Repentance is a miraculous work of God because it is He who calls us to it and equips us for it and, when we are humble enough to submit areas of “sin entrenchment” to His surgical hands, we are given the freedom in Christ not just from the penalty but also the power of sin. Sadly, we often think that letting go of a pet sin will be a loss to us – that is a lie from the enemy of our souls! Rather, when we trust God, true belief and true repentance will bring us satisfaction from soul hunger.

Yes, we run hard into the arms of our Savior when we fail!  And God can and does use our failures, but He won’t leave us in them and He doesn’t intend for us to grow comfortable with them. Out of love for us, He will rip them from our hands by whatever means possible, as He allowed Nathan to “expose” David not to shame him but so that “godly sorrow would lead him to…repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10); even if it means revealing them to others who will love us enough to give grace but not to give us a “pass.”  Will we respond with the same humility?

God is the God of new beginnings; He is at work putting the “old man” to death. He is the God who makes us “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17) – first, in our position before Him because of Christ’s death and resurrection but, then, as we view Him and our sin in a completely different way; and, finally, as he softens our stony hearts so that truth reigns in our relationship with him and others.

As with David and so many more, repentance is an opportunity of great praise because it is in this that the power of God is made perfect in us and so evident! He can destroy the chains of choices that drag us down so we can increasingly live faithful to Him and with those in our lives…not perfectly but a little more intentionally and “seamlessly” with every day we walk in His Truth instead of according to our passions and desires (Galatians 5).

At times, the initial step is hard but oh the joy of letting go!

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

“Grace often grows strongest where conviction of sin has pierced deepest.” (Sinclair Ferguson)

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins…But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen!” (2 Peter 1:3-9 and 3:18)

My Only Boast is You!

“Hallelujah! All I have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!..

So Lord, I would be Yours alone and live so all might see,

The strength to follow Your commands could never come from me…”

(Sovereign Grace Music)

Indeed, that ability to follow the Lord’s commands could not come from me; it is the power of the Holy Spirit convicting the heart and enabling me to love the Lord my God more deeply so that I can increasingly hate what He hates and love what he loves; a great portion of that is the sin in me and those I love that veil our vision of the Savior and leads me to say, “My only boast is YOU!”

When God puts an exclamation point on all He has been emphasizing through various means over a period of a couple of weeks with a sermon that both challenges and encourages, it is like a child climbing onto his/her daddy’s lap while He gently exposes his/her heart all the while revealing His own.

God is the God who redeems sinners, those who decimate the “Plan A’s” of this world, the perfection. That would be me. That would be you.

Time and again I have thanked God that He takes our broken stories and uses them for His glory. I have thanked Him for redeeming not only my greatest failures but the greatest hurts that have come from others’ choices. And I continue, even in the midst, to say, “I know You are able, God! Do exceedingly and abundantly more! Show me my sin and cause me to hate it as much as you do! Then do the same for others that I love.”

Time and again God has been faithful to show me my “messes” so that I am not blind to them, so I can leave them at the cross! It is He alone that gives me the will to do just that for it is not His desire that His children remain enraptured with any “pet sin,” anything that sets itself up against the holiness of God; rather, that we get a greater view of His glory and a more abiding love for Him so our attraction to the empty baubles lessens with time. Then, tenderly He says…and now “about this…let me do a little chiseling…” It’s not always comfortable nor without pain and sometimes He has to pry our fingers away from that which we hold so tightly, that which we think satisfies, forgetting that sin never does. But that pruning is always accomplished through the fingers of the loving Father who never fails.

That’s what God did with the lives of men and women in the Bible; He took their messes and brought forth miracles! Just as He does for us.

As our pastor taught out of the book of Ruth, the people of the Bible were not perfect but, indeed, sinners just like us for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When God breaks through in our lives, I call it a HALLELUJAH moment! Literally, a time to stop and give praise to the God who is at work in this world and in His people! This HALLELUJAH moment is two-fold. Because it doesn’t end with the failures of God’s people then or now! HE did and continues to do the work of wooing men and women to Himself, redeeming them not because of how “perfect” or “lovable” they are, but because of His great mercy through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus! He provided the way and redeems us for His own, but He never intends that we stay where we are. He uses our messes as He has His people across generations and always does so hand in hand with repentance!

Somehow, along the way, we have, at times, chafed at that word. When someone is offending us, we long for them to repent. When we see someone we love running hard in a dangerous direction, defiant even to God, we pray for them to repent and be redeemed, restored. But, too often, when it is used in conjunction with a sin we love so well, we sometimes squirm and try to brush it off as unnecessary, even legalistic. We have forgotten that repentance is a command but it’s also a joy; that repentance is an integral part of salvation but also our continuing walk with Christ, and it is freedom! “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19) and “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…’“

That is something to celebrate! Who doesn’t want to be refreshed? Who doesn’t want rest and strength, quietness and trust? Who doesn’t want an unhindered relationship with the living God and those we love? The reality is if we are pushing back against God’s call for repentance, we are missing what He delights to give us. We are, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “…half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

If we are honest, don’t we sometimes tend to think His commands are “burdensome” when they collide with our desires and what we have already deemed “acceptable?” Don’t we sometimes continue to coddle certain sins, living as if we think God is trying to withhold something so amazing from us? But, if we would see with His eyes and respond in “quietness and trust,” we would find that our desires are far too small, they are cheap imitations of the beauty waiting in obedience. Because in repentance and obedience, we see Him as He is and we find that all we were trying to substitute with was actually less than delight and was making us restless, more dissatisfied, and more blind to what God has wanted to give us all along!

It is not about perfection in and of ourselves; it is about seeing our Savior more clearly, loving our Father more deeply, and pursuing the likeness of Jesus more intently, being re-fashioned by God’s spirit to be image bearers as we were designed. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” I John 5:3

We lay down our pride and He takes over our messes and empowers us to leave them behind, making them and us beautiful and useful for His glory, our good, and quite possibly the restoration of someone else who needs to taste and see that the Lord is good and completely possible God’s redemption and transformation actually is! And, in so doing, we find that even the good things we have experienced encumbered, with the blinders are off, can be enjoyed fully as God intended.

He calls us to “throw off those things that hinder and that sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1) not to rob us but to free us! He is not a capricious God who gives us commands that we cannot fulfill or just because He can! If He commands it, it is because it reflects His character well, it allows us to experience His gifts with joy, and He will equip us to do it. And often, in the most difficult areas, he will bring another to race alongside us, cheering us on and reminding us to keep our eyes on Jesus as we throw “it” off so that we are able not in our ability but His! If we are married, God intends that first cheerleader be our spouse, as the two are one. Repentance is a gift just like the gift of salvation; His work that enables our response.

We aren’t to make light of sin nor fear we cannot win against it. Sin is dangerous; we have to acknowledge that instead of giving it so much room to nest in our lives. BUT God…He is more than able! His strength IS made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“God’s grace IS overcoming! God’s best doesn’t come through perfect, plastic people but through ordinary sinners who trust God, repent, and believe!” (Joseph Wheat)

Won’t you join me in asking God to take the “messes” that we are and transform us as He delights to do?  And will you then, with me, joyfully boast only in Him?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts.  See if there be any grievous, offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”  Psalm 139:23, 24

 

Beneath a Silent Night

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In the cool of the evening,

The chill of the night,

The stars, they are brilliant

And Heaven’s Hope is my light.

 

The stillness is settling

The quiet so deep

The whisper of God,

“Sleep, my child, sleep.”

 

“No worry can harm you,

No scheme decimate,

No sorrow defeat you

When in Me, you do wait.”

 

“The joys of this earth

Are mere shadows before;

The blessings, a taste

Of what I have in store.”

 

He brings rest for the weary

And sight for the blind,

Hope for the hurting

Calm for the mind.

 

He transforms our delights

To reveal more of Him;

Leading us away

From self-satsified sin.

 

To once again savor

The wonder elusive –

The babe in the manger

God Himself infuses

 

The joy and delight

Of that first silent night

When the angels announced

“Peace with God now in sight.”

 

As He settles my soul

And wraps me around

My Savior reminds me,

I’m not lost, I am found!

 

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:1-2