To Every Season…

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It’s 78 degrees here today while in Colorado the snow is falling.

The leaves are floating to the ground, slower here in the south than in the more northern regions, but they are scattered across our yard, reminding me of the new season to come.

Those that fall from the oak trees here are more brown than orange, while in the northwest, the Aspens are arrayed in golden splendor!

Many grumble and complain when they “take over” their yards, but I smile.  They are reminders to me of our creative God, how He uses the seasons He created as part of His design.  Yet they are not the same in every part of the world just as the seasons of our lives are different for each of us.

In the spring, these trees will sprout new and everything will turn green, a beauty of their own.  But for now, the colors have changed, the air has a crispness, the winds are lifting just a bit, and the yard is littered with reminders that everything changes and God is in control of it all, even the smallest leaf that falls to the ground.

Our lives reflect that change as well.  Sometimes it is welcomed and refreshing; while other times, it brings heartache and many a tear.  Sometimes the change is a gentle transition and other times it feels like a violent wrenching, a massive demolition.

Yet, in the midst of it all, the steadfast love of the Lord never changes.  He is sovereign.  He is not surprised.  And He is control, walking with us through those changing times and, when we can’t walk another step, carrying us along the way.

He sends rain and sunshine to replenish the earth and He sends us to be His hands and feet into the lives of people all around us, refreshment to weary souls.

He brings the warm sunshine and the cold wind, reminders that He is the God who uses both delight and sorrow in our lives for His glory and to draw us to Himself, the One who redeems even the hardest places. It reflects the truth that He is in control and nothing happens that He does not ordain.

And that is good…because He is good!

The seasons of our lives never remain the same.  And that is the road on which we walk.

He opens doors and closes them.

He brings joy and allows sadness.

He sees our laughter and our tears.

He reveals and He redeems.

He lifts us up and brings us low…but always, He carries His own and makes Himself known to those with eyes to see.

Little glimpses of grace litter our paths every day, God’s touches in the impossible.

Lord, give us eyes to see, hearts to understand, minds that discern, and a willing spirit to sustain us to walk in Your Truth, regardless of the season.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.

The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise…

He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.

He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior.

The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.

He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes…”

     Psalm 147:3-7a, 8-11, 16

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe….Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised and adored!” Job 1:20-21

Speaking to God…and Listening: He is Personal!

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I love knowing that the God of the Bible is personal; that He hears me every time I speak and delights for me to come to Him again and again.  I can pray big and I can pray bold because He is the God who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”  (Ephesians 3:20)

As I grew up, praying to and thanking my heavenly Father was something both taught and modeled as active and relational. It was part of life, but it wasn’t “just a tradition.”

As the years went by, I submitted my life to Christ and began learning to live in a more personal relationship with Him, as all must choose one way or the other (…salvation is not a family “gene” to be granted – it is a one-on-one, chosen response to God’s gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus!*). I was encouraged by others, who discipled me and led into a deeper walk with my Savior, to have honest conversations throughout the day as well as intentional time alone with Him; to come to Him in prayer with praise, thanks, and repentance!

Prayer is not a formula; it is coming as we are into the very presence of the living God! And we can do that because of Jesus!

I love to drive down the road, listening to great music, singing out loud! It’s a delight to my Savior to hear me sing songs that praise Him and/or set my eyes on Him, regardless of whether or not it is simply a joyful “noise” to others.  It is, in essence, a musical prayer of praise!

I love to be busy around the house, ride my bike or walk, get in the car and head to work or anywhere else and just talk to my Savior, sometimes through laughter and sometimes through tears. And I know He hears.  I know He rejoices with me when my joy is in Him and in what pleases Him. I know He delights when, in humility, I come to Him in repentance and say, “Forgive me. Change me.” I know He weeps with me when my heart is hurting.

I love to join with other believers laying out our joys and sorrows before the throne of grace and with my husband bringing our children and those we love before this One who knows before we speak yet wants to hear from our lips.

And I love to leave the distractions and find my quiet place alone to pour out my heart to my Father while opening His Word to hear His voice as well!

God is personal; He is ABBA, Daddy! And He knows me, my heart, and my thoughts better than I know myself.

So today, sometimes I pour out praise and sometimes pain. But, if I’m honest, sometimes I simply complain.

I want answers and, too often, I want them in my timing and the way I think best; and, if not, I want to know why. It’s in those complaining moments, I wonder if I am too casual with God Most High!

Yes, he wants to hear my hurts – but complaining can lead towards spewing it all out with little or no desire to hear His response in return. He is my tender Savior, but also my Mighty King!

The Lord doesn’t mind my “whys,” but He wants me to learn to submit them to Him when He doesn’t give an answer…or at least not the answer I want. But it isn’t the attitude of a dad who says, “Because I said so!” and walks away disgruntled or irritated by the question.

No, it’s very much – “I AM God and I said so!” But with the tender protective attitude of “I hear you, but I know what you don’t know. I see what you don’t see. I want more for you than you want for yourself – because I know what that looks like so much better than you. Yes, it is for Me, God Almighty, to get the glory because I am worthy of honor and praise! (That’s not arrogant – it’s fact!) But I answer according to My will because I love you that much. I love you enough to sometimes say ‘Yes,’ sometimes ‘No,’ and, at other times, ‘Better’ – you just may not recognize the difference…yet!” (To be clear, I know those words are not “quotes” of God from the Bible; rather, a conversation I imagine He might have with me – based on His Word).

As with any relationship, we know and love one another, and increasingly so, as we talk to each other, speak, and listen. If all we do is talk, then walk away or tune out as the other is sharing their heart, not really interested in their thoughts or assuming we know what they will say, do we really know someone? Can we truly love them well? Is it any different with God?

Often, I’m brought up short as I consider the words of a favorite song, “…I’ve tried to hear from Heaven. But I talked the whole time…” (“What Do I Know of Holy?” – Addison Road) when God just wants me to simply “Be still and know that I AM God…” (Psalm 46:10).  And so, as I am reminded of this truth, I’m still learning to pray and listen well…seeking to be still, asking Him to renew my heart and give me a steadfast spirit and open eyes and ears.

More and more, I recognize I DON’T “get it” a lot.  But I don’t have to always understand what God is doing. He is God; I am not. And that is good.

As I have been praying lately for family members, close friends, and some situations for which I have no answers and with outcomes I can’t control, I recognize how my expectations are too small in light of the power of the God of the universe! I see how I unintentionally attempt to limit God when I think my prayers are just the right answer. I miss the fact that, in His timing and ways, He is doing 10,000 things I can’t even begin to see!

I have watched Him turn certain situations around 180 degrees from how I thought they needed to be “accomplished” for a certain outcome and He provided that outcome or better…without doing things my way. How thankful I am when He adjusts my heart to His will, tunes my heart to see His answer in that moment, and doesn’t always give me what I ask for.  I have seen Him soften and transform hearts I had doubted would ever be changed!

But God!  Oh, to see with His eyes always.

We can come as a child, believing yet, at times, asking Him to help our belief; waiting in expectation!

From the outset, we are told to come into His presence with praise (Psalm 100:4) and thanks (Philippians 4:6)!  Don’t our hearts begin to hear His heart as we first choose to put our eyes and our focus on the goodness of our Savior before we lay out our requests, our pleas, our hurt?  We can walk on the churning waters and call out for His help with eyes fixed, not on the circumstances around and beneath us, but straight ahead at Jesus, as Peter did and was able to walk on water!

We are told to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) with our confidence fully placed on the One to whom we pray. It is not our words that change things; rather, it is the actions of the only One who hears! There are no “perfect words” or “professional pray-ers;” none so eloquent as to peak the interest of the Almighty. He hears the hearts of those who come to Him in humility and recognition that HE alone is able! He hears those who say, “I believe; help my unbelief.” He hears through our tears and our joy!

I have found myself more and more asking the Holy Spirit to “intercede (before God’s throne) for us with groanings that are too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)  So often I don’t know the words to say as I pray, but He has them and they are perfectly tuned to the heart of God.

And, I take pleasure in being able to pray, “Jesus, take what I’m praying and adjust my words and my heart to be in unity with the heart of the Father” – asking Jesus to intercede for me and for those I love as well because He is at the right hand of God doing so for us! (Romans 8:34)

Equally, God has called us to pray for our enemies; for those who have hurt us or those we love deeply and for those who have sinned against us, spoken falsely about us, or attempted to harm us. It is by His grace we can do so and it is His mercy that changes us and enables us to long for their heart change (and, as needed, our own).

I am also humbly being reminded to pray, “Not my will but Yours, God” – all the while asking Him to adjust my heart to pray that faithfully and honestly. Jesus wrestled with the Father’s will in the garden so much so that he sweat drops of blood and, yet, He submitted and went to the cross for us. I pray God will give me a submissive heart to pray and live those words well.

Praying the very words of God back to Him, even inserting names and places, is powerful and effective but also extremely personal. We are entering the throne room of God, bringing His Word to bear on our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray. We know that His Word is living and active and doesn’t return void. We know His Word is His will, so we know we can pray humbly yet boldly and intimately, such as:

“Lord God, I ask you to “fill (insert “me” or another) with the knowledge of (Your) will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that (he/she) may live a life worthy of the Lord and please (You) in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of (You),God,  being strengthened with all power according to (Your) glorious might so that (he/she) may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:9-11)

I’m learning (again) that God wants me to have open hands, not hands that seek to fix anything (though there are times He wants us to be His hands and feet). Rather, He calls me to, before all things, lay people and situations at His feet, step back, and remind myself as I tell Him, “Yes, Lord, they are Yours; yes, Lord this is Your situation to do as You will. It may be easy or it may be hard, but it will be from Your hand!”

We can honestly pour out our desires and our questions then leave them in the strong Hands that are good, even when it doesn’t “look” or “feel” good! We can fully trust the One Who Himself is Faithful and True.

I will still crank up the music and sing out loud as I drive down the street because it resets me heart! It takes my mind off me and whatever weighs on my heart and exalts Him!

I will still choose to give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances when I “feel” like it and when I don’t! (I Thessalonians 5:18)

I will still pour out my tears before God, as David did in the Psalms. “My tears have been my food day and night…” (Psalm 42:3) and as Jesus encouraged us to “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

I will still pray without ceasing for broken bodies, wounded hearts, devastated relationships, self-pleasing lives and choices (recognized or not), and unredeemed souls. I will wrestle before the throne of God on their behalf out of great love and through tears, as Paul did for and wrote to believers in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “out of great distress and anguish of heart…(out of) the depth of my love for (them).”

But, in the end, I will cease my striving, open my hands, and with thanksgiving in advance of or in spite of the answer, say, “I will trust You, Father!  Speak for me, Jesus! Holy Spirit, intercede with groanings and longings I can’t express…pray as I don’t know how to pray.”

He will hear. He will do just that.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (my) heart and mind in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 4:7)

*You can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You can learn more about that relationship and chat live with someone at https://needhim.org/knowing-jesus/  or feel free to ask questions here.  I would love to have a conversation giving you reason for the hope I have in Christ!

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 8:23  But God has provided a way:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Believe It or Not: God is Good and That’s No Lie

Do you enjoy being lied to? And, when you know you have been lied to, do you want to follow that person?

I think we can generally agree that the answers to those questions is: no!

And yet…

We believe lies.

And, too often, we act on them and allow them to shape our view of God, ourselves, and others.

We listen to and believe the lies from the very enemy of our souls.

Take that in.

We believe our ENEMY.  We believe the father of lies, the disrupter of truth, the deceiver, the one who has come to “kill, steal, and destroy,” the evil one, the one who is as a roaring lion seeking to devour and destroy.

And, in so believing that his ways will satisfy our longings, in essence, we don’t believe that God’s will.

Insomuch as we shape our view of ourselves and others by those lies, we fail to see each of us as God does, created in His image.

In so listening to and believing the deceiving whisper of the enemy, by our actions, our thoughts, and our words, we live as if we don’t believe God Himself!

In so responding to the crafty perverter of truth, for all intents and purposes…

We don’t believe our good, good Father, the Author of Truth, the One who Himself is faithful and true, our Rescuer, our Comforter, our Provider, our Redeemer, our Savior, the One who went to the cross, and endured the shame and pain for our redemption, the One who created all things and said, “It is good,” the One who has given “every good and perfect gift.”

We don’t believe God’s promises that are woven through and are the foundation of His commands nor His great love for us behind them; that His precepts are intended to do us good, not harm; give us life, not death. That His covenants with us and those covenants between ourselves and others that He also inhabits are intended to give true joy and true contentment while bringing Him glory.

We don’t believe that actual happiness and contentment come from, as John Piper puts it, “a superior pleasure in God.”

We don’t believe that God can change our minds and hearts to hate the sin that He hates, to love what is “true, noble, right, pure, excellent, and praiseworthy,” and to desire the greater gifts. And we don’t believe that God’s greatest gifts are found in obedience because, only then, are we living as we were created and enjoying His creation – people and things – as they were intended to be enjoyed.

We don’t believe that when we blow it, His grace is sufficient to forgive us while not giving us the latitude to cling to it and continue in it.

We don’t believe that God can change the heart of “certain” sinners just like us; that He can take a weary, wounded soul and breath life into them.  We don’t believe He can move the heart of those who have wounded us or those we love and bring restoration.  Or, if we believe it, do we storm the gates of heaven expectantly and literally without ceasing?

We don’t believe that everything God allows in our lives has to first be sifted through His hands and that, when we walk through the deepest valleys and the most stifling places, He goes before us and even carries us through; that He has a purpose for His children in the midst of suffering, regardless of the intensity or the type.

We don’t believe that He has given us all we need for life and godliness when we say, “I can’t help it; it’s who I am, it’s not big deal – it’s only…” But God says, “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.” (2 Peter 1:3)

We don’t believe that He does good to those who take hold of the promise and choose to “do good” out of a growing love for and allegiance to Him.  “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” (Psalm 37:3)

We don’t believe that we will not fully hear His voice if we are harboring, cherishing, hiding, keeping our sin close to us and coddling it as a beloved possession. (Psalm 66:18)

We don’t believe that we are called to obey as a result of our love for Him – in public and in private – and that, in pursuing this goal, we run in freedom. Too often we say we believe that, but our choices don’t reflect it.

Temptation may remain, but what we do with that temptation is evidence of whether or not we believe God when He tells us to “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1

Instead, too frequently, we choose to believe the enemy’s lies. They “seem” more enticing, they “seem” more satisfying, they “seem” more comfortable, they “seem” more exciting…in the moment.  But we miss the truth of what “seems right” – it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)  It may be a physical death when we choose practices that take a toll on the body, it may be spiritual as we grow cold to all or parts of God’s Word, or it may relational as it affects our relationships with others.

When we put more confidence in the lies of the enemy than in the truth and the promises of God, we settle into temptations and choices rather than battle them. Like a well-worn blanket, we believe they will comfort and satisfy our restlessness, not realizing how scratchy the blanket of sin, unwise decisions, or heart attitudes that arise towards those who have hurt us really is and what it is doing to our souls; not recognizing that the temporary balm turns bitter and blinds us to the goodness of God before our eyes.

We miss the treasure hidden in plain sight, the gifts He has given and longs for us to enjoy that are either ignored or embraced as “idols.” But we cling to that scratchy blanket, cover our heads, and miss the grace that equips us to recognize and shutdown the lies and has the power to transform us day by day, more and more into the likeness of His Son.

We try to run shackled, encumbered, weighted down by the sin that so easily entangles and wonder why we are spiritually, relationally, and physically exhausted; why His joy eludes us. It’s hard to run with perseverance, in freedom, and with joy when we, who are called by His Name, keep our eyes fixed on ourselves and the world that seductively beckons rather than on Jesus and the true goodness of God.

It’s impossible to have a contented rest and delight in our blessings when we continually choose that which is contrary to His character, the parameters He has set for His children, and the guardrails He has put in place to warn us. When we run in our own strength and our own passions rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit and His intentions for us, the chains bind; they cut and they hurt. But we weren’t redeemed to stay in chains!

We hide from God, as Adam and Eve did in the garden, and from those who love us well, hoping we will never be fully known, believing (falsely) that if we were completely known, we would not be loved but that if we maintain a façade, we will be accepted.  We hide from each other lest someone love us enough to speak truth into our lives and give us that hard grace, desiring for us what God also desires, even as they hold out the healing grace of forgiveness.  Or we hide because we love our deeds and don’t want to part with them.

All the while, we fail to hear the voice of the Lord, “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?’” (Isaiah 29:15)

But God says that He is light and “in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” (I John 1:5b-7)

We choose a “freedom” that is no freedom at all because God’s Spirit does not reside in darkness, in hidden places; He calls us to “have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11), to “confess (our) sins to each other and pray for each other so that (we) may be healed,” (James 5:16), to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to one another.” (Ephesians 4:25) For where the truth dwells, so the Spirit of the Lord abides as well, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

But God!

He pursues! He calls out! He redeems us and He calls us by name!

He created us to hear His voice instead of the lies and, like the Shepherd with His stubborn, foolishness, forgetful sheep, He reorders our steps so we can and will hear. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

He disciplines us because He loves us and intends for us to return to Him, not to keep running the same tired, pain inducing, God defying patterns, but determined and confident that we can run a new race, leaving behind all that has ensnared us and been a hindrance to our relationship with Him and with others.

The enemy heaps on shame that cannot be healed; our “old man” self wants to “feel sorry” when it is evident our ways are “known.” Neither produce peace. But our Redeemer call us to “godly sorrow that leads to repentance and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). As Pastor Tim Armstrong says, He calls us to a change of mind that leads to a change of choices, actions, attitudes, words, and behaviors and gives us the Holy Spirit to make it so.

He enables us to recognize those who love us well and who are determined to walk the hard roads with us and to show us grace when we sin even as they desire His greatest good for us; to allow us to embrace those who love us with a love that “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:6-7) But that kind of love is not blind nor ignorant and it will humbly “speak the truth in love,” sometimes even in tears, to redirect us and, as needed, to restore us to our Savior and any with whom we have broken relationships.

It has been said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” When we listen to and choose the lies of the enemy over the voice of our Redeemer, the very Lover of our souls, we are the epitome of the Proverbs 26:11 “fool.” “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” And we are fools when we believe the enemy’s lies about any number of things and mistake the fleeting pleasures of sin as delicacies thereby missing the true treasures that God designed and has given to actually delight us.

Would we be willing to cry out in faith, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And humbly say, “Show me my where I have believed satan’s lies over Your Truth, O God. Create in me a clean heart. Give me a willing spirit to sustain me.”?

Would we recognize truth behind the lies and say with David, “Surely God is good…it is good to be near my God.” (Psalm 73:1, 28)

Would we be hungry for what actually pleases and fulfills us – God Himself – to then say, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)

“Walking by faith means defeating sin’s pleasures with the promise of a superior pleasure in God!”    John Piper

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You Are…

Today, I share from a guest blogger who I love and by whom I love to be challenged and encouraged – my husband, Steve!

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You are, not who I am, laid the foundations of this world.

You are, not who I am, was stretched out on a cross and hung for slaughter.

You are, not who I am, defeated death and rose from the grave.

You are, not who I am, sits at the right hand of God and is the ruler of all.

I am who You are when I love my neighbor as myself.

I am who You are when I love my wife as You love the church.

I am who You are when I reflect You well, my Lord.

I am who You are when I follow Your precepts.

I am who I am because You are “I AM.”