Give Me Your Eyes…And Help Me to See

august 8 2019 give me your eyes

“I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:24

Many times we ask God for the wisdom that He promises in His Word to give us, but we miss it because it is not what we want to hear. It does not fit our intentions or our preconceived notions of what we think is best and we allow so many other voices to rise above His own.

Many times we ask God to use us, but we miss that He is doing just that because it’s not the way we assume “being used” would look or because it’s not comfortable and we don’t like the way it “feels.”  We miss opportunities to give reason for the sure hope we have in Christ and to allow that hope and truth to reach into every decision we make and every person we encounter.

Many times we ask God to give us encouragement for our day, but we miss it because our eyes are so filled with the very present and disheartening things in our lives and around us that we miss the multitude of little glimpses of His grace throughout the day, little slivers of joy intended to permeate our hearts and shatter our sadness and/or discouragement – glimpses that are intended to draw us to Himself.

But we can talk to the Lord at any time and in any place and know He hears.  We can ask Him today to decimate our unbelief, to cause us and those we love to hear His voice and know His wisdom – evident first in His Word, to be used as He wants to use us, and to have eyes to see what He wants us to see including those evidences of His love and mercy that can transform even the most difficult of days and give clarity to the most overwhelming decisions!

“…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” James 1:4-6

“Commit yourself to the Lord (he trusts in the LORD); let him deliver him; let HIM rescue him, for HE delights in him!” Psalm 22:8

But God!

 

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Several years ago, we had a particularly full year and a half or so – a whirlwind of highs and lows.

We saw our daughter marry, our youngest son graduate college, and our oldest son completely change career paths, setting in motion significant change.

Then and even now…

In and outside our family, we’ve seen beauty and brokenness.

Relationships flourish, even restored, and relationships end.

Health return and health fail.

Plans come to pass and plans be turned upside down.

Sometimes the roller coaster of happiness and weariness has felt overwhelming.

BUT GOD!

Oh, how I love those two words that hold such truth! For in them is abiding joy…regardless of circumstances.

His call is to lay down our burdens. He may not always give the answers we want, but HE will BE our peace and HE will give us rest in the midst.

How many times have we watched things happen seemingly out of control?

How many times have we or someone we love been hurt by another?

How many times have we known what God was asking us to do, and, yet, our response has been a whiney, “But, God…”? And, in that instant, we are the petulant child – quite sure we know better how we would “fix” situations, what will make us “happy,” or how we believe we should respond to hard people. In general, we plow ahead, confident of how we think we should react to life with its occasional (sometimes feeling more like routine) curveballs regardless of God’s direction.

Yet, it is also in that moment that, if we will be still and listen. If we will run to His Word and not harden our heart to His voice, we will hear the Spirit of God speak as He reminds us that He isn’t surprised by any unexpected turn, any unmet expectation, any physical pain, or any hope deferred, even if unforeseen or unanticipated by us. Our Lord and King, our Adonai – God, whose tender love for His children never ceases, is actually doing so many more things than we can see.

Because of that we can say in a different tone and with a humble, submitted heart, even if through tears, “Yes this…BUT GOD!”

And it is good!

He may be disciplining us, His beloved children, who often need a reset, yet sometimes fail to see it.

He may be chipping away at ours or someone else’s self-satisfaction or self-rule that directly or indirectly affects us or others.

He may be preparing something far greater for us than we can know or begin to imagine.

He may be using circumstances and even wounds from others to make us more like Himself and able to empathize with another, help another heal, or show the same grace and mercy we have been given.

He may be teaching us to forgive even if the hurt is never acknowledged and we are never asked for forgiveness.

He may be teaching us to die to self.

He may be working through our response to our circumstances to point a watching world to Himself.

There are myriads of ways that He uses the most difficult times for His glory and our good. But always He intends that we set our gaze on Him instead of what we see with our eyes or feel with our hearts.

Always, He is seeking to draw us near and set our feet on the firm foundation of Truth.

So, He calls us to “not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

As redeemed children of God, we have the privilege to not grow weary as we pray, as we set our hope on the faithfulness of our El Shaddai – our all sufficient One, the unchanging truth of God’s Word, and the “LIVING hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” so that we are “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (I Peter 1:3, 8) even when, at times, our hearts are breaking and the very breath of life seems to be sucked from our lungs.

We have the responsibility and the power to not grow weary as we choose obedience to God even when our flesh cries out to the contrary, to do it our own way or respond to hurtful people in like kind.

We have the God-given charge to not grow weary as we re-format our thinking, not allowing the temptation to think outside God’s Word to set up camp in our hearts and minds but rather, to “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and (to) take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It may be that we are to ask the Lord to show us our faulty thinking in the moment and intentionally remind ourselves of what is true and/or it may be a proactive choice to change what we allow and choose to put in our minds and dwell on which then permeates our thoughts and how we respond to our emotions and temptations.

We have the opportunity to not grow weary as we speak words of life and truth as well as setting forth an attitude of joy that is not dependent on circumstances, trusting man, or gaining our identity from another’s opinion or treatment of us, but is rooted and grounded in trusting our Sovereign God.

Our lives can grow chaotic and we may feel out of control.

BUT GOD!

We do not rest on what we see. We do not rest on what we feel. We rest on truth…

He is faithful.

He is merciful.

He is Redeemer.

He is the Mender of the brokenhearted.

He is Healer – sometimes of our broken bodies but always of our broken souls as we call on and submit to Him.

He is the Father who disciplines and sometimes lets us have our own way to show us the deceitfulness of sin and our need of Him.

He is our Abba Daddy who is ready to restore us to Himself and draw us near as we repent and return.

He is unchanging.

He is our peace.

He is good.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”  (C.S. Lewis, Aslan being a character picture of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses (sin), made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”  Ephesians 2:4-7

 

Forget Not…Remember!

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We are a forgetful people!

I am!

We are blessed in the moment; the moment passes, and we forget.

We are rescued from a circumstance; the circumstance is resolved, and we forget.

We are given direction; the way gets a little cloudy even uncomfortable, and we forget.

We are provided a solution; the solution begins to dwindle or becomes a distant memory, and we forget.

We are healed from a physical or emotional hard place; the temptation to see it as a coincidence or “just as expected” rises up, and we forget.

We are forgiven; the road to complacency and rationalization looks easy, and we forget.

But God says…forget not!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits!” (Psalm 103:1) Forget not His “gamal” – His good dealings with us! His kindness to us!

“Remember the wonders He has done…” (I Chronicles 16:12)

Each of our circumstances are different; some valleys more deep than others, some roads far more difficult.  But our God is the same; He never changes!  And I know God has proven faithful over and over again in my darkest moments of deep hurt, in my wanderings, in my struggle to see a place of rest, in my greatest needs – materially, relationally, and spiritually.

He has disciplined me out of His great love for me; He has provided and not provided according to His knowledge of what He knows I need – far more than my short-sighted requests.

When I’m on the mountain top, the answers are fresh, and I practically sing aloud with the joy that comes from seeing and experiencing the very precious presence of Almighty God in my moment – whether it be a time of gladness or sorrow, it is easy not to forget; it is easy to rest and be still.

But when the “feelings” fade and the new revelation of His faithfulness becomes part of my ordinary and every day, how easy is it to become lazy and even discontent about the way His care is working out, His provision is being manifested, His direction has led.

I might even be tempted to be one of those Israelites who wanted to “go back to Egypt” as the Keith Green song says, “where it’s safe and secure…” Except Egypt never was and our “Egypts” from which God has rescued us (and truth be told, there are many) are not either because they either never were or are no longer where He wants us to dwell either physically or in the wanderings of our mind.

And so, God also says…be careful not to forget! “Be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” (Deuteronomy 6:12)

It takes intentionality, a concerted choice to remember because we are so easily prone to wander, so quickly apt to deviate from the intended path He has set for us.

It also takes obedience to remember because disobedience to God clouds our recollections of His faithfulness, His goodness, His provision. Defiance, because that really is what disobedience is, blinds us to the remembrance of reality and gives us a distorted memory of what was before His rescue.

Self-reliance is also a form of disobedience that so quickly causes us to forget our need for dependence on Him in all circumstances.

Be careful not to forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His commandments…” (Deuteronomy 8:11)

We often see His commands as restrictive when, in truth, they are freedom; they keep us from becoming settled in self-reliance and entangled in things that are contrary to the character of God and will ultimately break our hearts and crush our spirits.  Self-reliance causes us to forget our true need for dependence on Him in all circumstances.

His commands give life and they give us eyes to see Him at work; disobedience leads us to discontentment with the people and circumstances He has purposely placed in our lives and an arrogance towards God…just like the Israelites in the desert.

“But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold. In the desert, they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness, they put God to the test.” (Psalm 116:13-14)

When His answers aren’t comfortable and they rock my world, “remembering” helps me stay the course and wait to “see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

I don’t know what your wilderness is, where your desert place might be – but I have been there and, at times, still find myself in those places. I have cried out to God in humility and I have called out to Him in arrogance demanding that He “fix” what was hurting my heart – whether it be personally or for one I love.

But it is in those desert places we are the most vulnerable to forget. It is in those wilderness times that we are apt to listen to the false whispers of the enemy of our souls that ask, “Did God really say?” “Why did He take you here?” “Why does He not do good to you when you have been faithful (as if our ‘faithfulness’ was even close enough to be tacked on as a reason)?” “What will it hurt if you walk just off the road He has for you rather than directly on it?”

(Again forgetting that God said, “’Ah, stubborn children,’ declares the Lord, ‘who carry out a plan, but not mine…that they may add sin to sin…your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:1, 21)

And it is in those moments of question, those moments of potential compromise that we must cry out…I WILL REMEMBER; that we will proclaim truth from the depths of our souls regardless of whether or not we “feel” the truth!

In this journey of remembering, of this call to not forget, we can “encourage one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of (us) may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13) that so often comes from a heart that forgets!

“I WILL remember the deeds of the LORD…” (Psalm 77:11)

“I WILL bless the LORD at all times; His praise WILL continually be in my mouth…I sought the LORD and He ANSWERED me and He DELIVERED me from all my fears! Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be covered in shame!” (Psalm 34:1,4-5)

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For you, LORD, have delivered…my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:7-9)

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I love this song by Steven Curtis Chapman…be encouraged to remember!

Remember to Remember

Well, I’ve been looking back over my shoulder
Retracing every step trying to unforget
And I see the mountaintops I’ve journeyed over
And I see the valleys deep where I crawled on my hands and knees
Pages and memories filled with joy and stained with tears
They call my name and if I listen, I can hear them saying

[Chorus 1]
Remember the way He led you up to the top of the highest mountain
Remember the way He carried you through the deepest dark
Remember His promises for every step on the road ahead
Look where you’ve been and where you’re going
And remember to remember
Remember, remember

And now I’m looking out at the road that’s waiting
But my eyes can only see so far out ahead of me
As sure as the sun will shine there’ll be more mountains I will climb
And more deep dark shadowlands where desperate faith is all I have
Until I’m home, I’m resting all my hope and trust
In the only One whose name is: God with us

[Chorus 2]
Remember the way He led us up to the top of the highest mountain
Remember the way He carried us through the deepest dark
Remember His promises for every step on the road ahead
Look where we’ve been and where we’re going
And remember to remember

[Bridge]
Remember the day is coming when He’s going to wipe the tears away
He’ll look in our eyes and say:
Remember the way I led you off the mountain
Remember the way I carried you, ohh

[Chorus 3]
Remember the way I led you up to the top of the highest mountain
Remember the way I carried you through the deepest dark
Remember my promises for every step on the road ahead
Look where you’ve been and where you’re going
Look where we’ve been and where we’re going
And remember to remember…

 

When God Shouts, There Can Be Laughter and Joy! Revisited

Sometimes I listen well.

Sometimes God needs to get my attention.

Sometimes God shouts!

Today He shouted!

It wasn’t in anger.  It wasn’t in chastisement.  It was from the tender heart of my God Who sees, Who knows my weaknesses, Who knows my sometimes fearful heart but Who loves to pull me close, steady my heart, and remind me of Who He is and what is true.

In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Fear.

The things that were waging war on my mind are real, but they are not outside the hand of God; they are insurmountable only as I try to, in my mind and often actions, fix them or worry them into submission.

But in the hands of my Redeemer, they are just instruments to chip away at my control and self-sufficiency and point me back to the true King, the true Salvation, the true Peace!  He is doing HIS good work, not my own, in each circumstance and person.

After what seemed like hours (and may have been), I asked  the Lord to help me stop “thinking,” to be my rest so I could sleep; I eventually drifted off.

The morning light came and with it evidence upon evidence that God heard my cries in the night. He listened to them, and He has been shouting all morning long, “I love you!  I am not caught unaware!  I am still on my throne and I am still making all things new!  You may not see, but ‘Be still and know that I AM God!’”

Circumstances may not have changed in the world around me or in my world as I rose out of bed, but they are known and being sifted through the hands of our very good God.

And, even as I write this, I laugh and also cry tears of joy that my God is faithful in all things and loves to point His children to that truth again and again as a reminder…if we will just get still and ask Him for eyes to see and ears to listen.

So may I share just how He did it on this one particular day, while recognizing that He does it so often?

Sometimes I am listening but other times I miss His still small voice as well as His shouts!

In preparation for getting everyone off to their day, I headed to the kitchen.  Before I had my first cup of coffee, God was already putting things in front of my eyes to strengthen my heart!

First, came a morning Twitter notification over my phone from Kevin DeYoung (While I don’t get notifications for all, I did have specific people who I know write truth and I want to see it when they do so I set it for such)!

“To start the day without prayer is to suggest the devil is feeble, God is irrelevant, and we can handle things on our own.”

After which God brought Psalm 5:3 to my mind, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

And again, the Word hidden in my heart came to my head.

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

That first cup in hand and waiting for my son to come down for work, another friend’s reminder…

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come … He will come to save you.’” Isaiah 35:4

I hurriedly grabbed my Bible and opened it to Isaiah 35 and read more.  That was prefaced with verse 3:

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” and THEN, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come!”

Feeling a little more refreshed and with a knowing smile on my face, I saw an opened devotional.  No surprise…I was beginning to expect God was having “fun” with me that morning!

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”  Exodus 14:13. 

I read on and couldn’t help the tears of joy that fell as I realized the Lord was holding me in His arms and saying, “Keep listening child; I’m speaking to you and always will! You just need be still!”

“These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is… brought into difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, ‘Stand still.’… Despair whispers, ‘Lie down and die; give it all up.’ But God would have us put on…courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness… Precipitancy cries, ‘Do something. Stir yourself.  To stand still and wait, is sheer idleness.’  (It says) we must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything….But Faith (in the One true God)…hears God say, ‘Stand still,’ and immovable as a rock, it stands. ‘Stand still’;—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God will say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, ‘Go forward.’” (Charles Spurgeon)

And, as if that were not enough, as I was pulling up that devotion to share in this blog, He continued to pour on the encouragement and challenge,

“So don’t lose heart. Have the same kind of confidence as the widow (in Luke 18). Pray with the confidence, not that precisely what you’re asking will be given, but that God will give what He knows is right. Perseverance is less about getting what we want, and more about believing that God hears us and will provide what we need — which is oftentimes something we have to grow into, especially when we ask, full of good intentions…God is never bothered when we pray by faith. Never. And perseverance is trusting this truth, as we keep asking for what’s right as far as we know, until God does what is right — either by giving us our desire or correcting it.” (Keep Praying that Prayer by Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God)

Coincidence?  No, you see God has said that His Word “will not return to (Him) empty, but will accomplish what (HE) desires and achieve the purpose for which (HE) sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  

He has also said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you wonderful things that you did not know!”

And He has promised that when we call out to Him, He hears and responds.  “I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”  (Psalm 120:1)

So He sent a variety of people who had no idea how what they shared was going to be used but who were faithful to do so.

Equally true, He has used the Word stored up in my heart that He alone can bring to my mind as I need it;  His words repeated back to me, to encourage, strengthen, equip, and calm His child!

I honestly laid it out to Him I wasn’t battling those fears well but that I needed to hear His voice and have my heart and mind redirected.

And as I stand in awe that the God of the universe who loved me enough to redeem me through the work of His Son, Jesus, on the cross would also choose to speak to my heart and steady my “feeble arms and weak knees,” He reminds me yet again, “Be still and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10) 

And He takes me back to another time long ago when concerns weighed on my husband and I as we talked while driving around town with our then just two small children at the time.

From the back seat came a little voice.  I can still hear; our then three year old daughter singing “I cast all my cares upon You; I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.  And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon you.” 

It was His voice through hers then and now, a child singing faithfully with steadfast, solid truth from I Peter 5:7.

My confidence is in the fact that “He who began a good work in you (and me), will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6) 

He is isn’t weary of my wrestling.  He isn’t shaking His head saying, “Do I have to remind you of My faithfulness again?”  No, He is carrying me to completion, gathering me in His arms, and reminding me in a myriad of ways that He is faithful, that He hears when we call to Him, and that He answers even if our fainting hearts sometimes cannot or do not hear.

So I “go forward” even as I am praying that I will continue to learn to just “be still” and rest in Him rather than look at circumstances beyond my control.

The conclusions to the “details” of  life that can cause my heart to tremble and grow weary may not be my timing or my ways, but my God is indeed making all things new, beautiful in His time and according to the riches of His grace.

He is amazingly writing my story, with its twists and turns, within the greater story of His redemption from creation to His return.

Speak Lord! I’m listening!

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

Just As He Said…Revisited

Celebrations abound.

We exalt and lift high the sacrifice of our Redeemer.

Often mixed in with it are the traditions of spring, much to the delight of children and adults! Taking pleasure in family, friends, and the life we have been given is a joy, and our God created us to receive, with thanks, all He has given.

But, don’t miss the greater reality!IMG_0317 FOR BLOG.JPG

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 grave could not hold Him!

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, endured the scorn and separation as He 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 “it was impossible for Him to be held by it!” (Acts 2:24)

And that same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that raises us to new life in Him.  He tells us to come as we are, but He doesn’t intend to leave us as we are!  We are forgiven and redeemed for that new life!

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 that our desires are increasingly transformed!

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

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 yet never compromises the truth of God, even if it rocks self-defined worlds and shatters man-made perceptions of Him.

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 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 that which has long been our “go to” sins, instead saying “yes” to the increasing righteousness of Christ!  Yes, we stand before the Father in Christ’s righteousness from the moment of surrender; but it is how He intends for us to grow, living out our lives in joyful obedience to His commands that are meant for our greatest good and His glory!

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!

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

“The cross is the finished work of Christ, paying the penalty of our sins; the resurrection of Christ is the power and the proof! It’s not the extra point – it is the EXCLAMATION point!”  (Pastor Joseph Wheat)

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

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (Acts 2:29-32)

* “In Christ Alone” – Keith and Kristine Getty

Wonder

Having gone to sleep with a dusting of snow forecasted overnight, I woke up to the ring of a text from my daughter, “Snow Day! School is cancelled.” She lives about 20 minutes away, but they had been forecasted to have several inches. The reservoir between us was supposedly the “difference maker!”

So, I got up that morning hoping to see at least a few flurries. Instead, what met my eye was literally a winter wonderland and the snow was still falling hard. I’m not ashamed to say, I squealed softly, did somewhat of a little dance/jump while the corners of my mouth lifted in a big smile and my eyes must have twinkled as I stood there taking in the wonder. Yes, I’m a big kid when it comes to frozen precipitation!

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I know for those areas of the country where the presence of snow is common and the forecast of more is met with a deep sigh, this is an odd response. But for this native Florida girl now living north of the panhandle, but still in the Deep South where it is a rarity, it evokes not just a little excitement.

Though a couple of our kids were home for the holidays, as was my 4-month old granddaughter, they were still completely unaware and sound asleep under the covers. I resisted the urge to run upstairs and toss a few snowballs into everyone’s rooms to “share the joy!” (Yes, I have been known to do that in the past when we had a snow or two and my excitement to “play” in it exceeded everyone else’s. It did elicit the response I desired in that moment as I was followed outside for “revenge” and everyone ended up having fun in the process).

This time, however, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and the peaceful silence of watching it fall, anticipating everyone else’s “ooo’s” and “ahs” to come.

One by one, everyone woke to see the world outside their bedroom windows “raining” snow and covered in the “white stuff,” so we were joined by more who shared in the amazement of the unexpected and who were quick to build a small “Frosty,” to engage in a little target practice with one another as the snowballs were formed, and to attempt to catch my son’s Husky who may have been the most delighted of all!

And, as with all things during a baby’s first year, we watched with anticipation as my granddaughter experienced her first taste and touch of the “cold stuff” along with her first snow ride atop her comfortable and protected perch in the sled that her daddy pulled around.  And we all stopped to watch; smiles and laughter.

Funny how the “small things” of life can bring such joy…and wonder!

A baby’s smile.

A comforting hug.

Sunshine after days of rain.

A hand up after falling down.

A smile instead of a frown.

A bicycle ride or a walk through the woods.

A crackling fire on a cold winter’s night.

The deep quiet hues of a sunrise or sunset.

And then there are the larger “wonder” inducers of life as well…

A vast mountain range.

Waves upon the ocean shore.

A hike or a motorcycle ride along a mountain cliff.

A raft down a river, sometimes gentle and other times over tumultuous rapids.

Making one’s way through an open field, gentle breezes blowing as waves of grain or colorful flowers sway.

A ride down a majestic tree-lined road.

A sail across an open bay, wind moving it forward across the silent sea.

A still night, darkness all around and yet the stars and moon bursting out in bright array, declaring the glory of God.

Wonder.

“A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

Wonder.

Delight.

Taken for granted, “it is what is” and no more. Stopping in the moment, we recognize it for what it really is – the fingerprint of God! His gift within His creation, a moment to ponder in our hearts.

Wonder.

Refreshment.

Eyes to see.

While out west, we were mesmerized by the open desert, the deep canyons, and the majestic mountains. And, yet, I spoke to someone who had been caught up in the wonder of the “greenness” that dominates our state when they visited, in contrast to the rocky barrenness of their own desert landscape.

And I’ve read of those who live where rainfall is virtually non-existent that are enthralled by the sound of raindrops on the rooftops and the feel of precipitation against their skin. Those who long for the warmth as they bundle up against the frigid cold and those who long for “seasons” and the arctic air in the midst of their tropical temps.

Perspective has a lot to do with wonder.

Do we miss the opportunity to marvel in our everyday?

The people. The places. The experiences.

Do we ignore the glory in the ordinary…because it is, well, expected and “usual?”

Do we lose sight of the amazement of what’s in front of us and yawn at the familiar because we have grown accustomed to it and have lost sight of its own wonder, its own delight?

There is a “wonder and wildness” to life, as Michael Card sings, and freedom for those who “obey, who “forget not the hope that’s before (them) and never stop counting the cost!” There is a joy in the journey as we intentionally take hold of the amazement that is “life.”

I’m not just talking about the “life” that pumps adrenaline through our veins, though there is a great excitement and definite delight in that. I love those big moments, preparing for them and squeezing every moment out of them. And I love seeing God use those times in our lives for refreshment but also as opportunities for us to be used by Him.

But I love the quiet moments of life as well; those “treasures in jars of clay.”

Can we take delight and rest in what makes up most of life – the ordinary days where God is at work in the sometimes mundane and longs for us to see and delight in even that?  Can we grab hold of the amazement of recognizing what is right before our eyes, not losing sight of the awe of the familiar? Can we prize the moment and the circumstances that are ours and see beyond the surface? Can we be intentional about not allowing discouragement or anger or bitterness or boredom or desire for the “extraordinary” to cause us to lose our joy in the “now,” to lose our wonder in the everyday?  Does that seem like an oxymoron?  Not with God!

Perspective. Wonder.

We may look and see the ordinary; another may look and see the treasure.

We may look and see the expected, the norm; another may look and see something worth grasping and cherishing.

We may look and see routine; another may look and see opportunity for delight in our commonplace.

We may look and see “what is”; another may look and see what it really is and what it could be.

We can look in front of us and see wonder.

We can look in front of us and see delight.

We can look in front of us and be refreshed.

Here. Now.

Because He is in the midst of these moments, “doing a thousand things we cannot see.” (John Piper)

And there is wonder in it all!

“The whole earth stands in awe of the great things You have done. You make the going out of the morning and the evening shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8

“In Wonder”   Newsboys

So much wonder

Carved in Your coral seas

So much wonder

Shaded by ancient trees

I consider all Your hands have made

Every newborn’s eyes, every new sunrise

No power can tame Your presence

No light can match Your radiance

Let all creation sing in wonder

Every sea, every creature, every star

You opened up my eyes to wonder –

What a vision, what a wonder You are!

Such a wonder

Ordering time and tide

Such a wonder

Bridging the great divide

I consider all that You had, all You gave

And all that You endured

From this rebel world

What a wondrous cross You chose to bear

What a wonder You would even care.

Let every rock cry out

Let every knee bow down

You opened up my heart to wonder

What love, what a wonder You are!

No power can tame Your presence

No light can match radiance

Such a wonder!

“Many, LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

Psalm 40:5

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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We Said “I Do” and Meant It – That’s the Beauty of Grace

32 years and a couple of months ago, my hubby and I said “I do.”

We had no idea what that would mean, but that’s beauty of saying “I do” in the power of Christ!  It’s just one aspect of the grace God pours out on relationships between two who love and fear Him.  The grace to grow up together, make mistakes together and apart from one another, the grace to love when it’s hard, the grace to forgive and be forgiven, the grace to laugh and the grace to cry – always together!  It’s the beauty of grace.

Very soon, we look forward to our only daughter making those same vows to a young man we have prayed for all her life, though we didn’t know his name.  God’s answer, with this particular young man, is a gift to both our daughter and to all of us.  And, one day, the Lord will bring those wives for whom we prayed, to our sons.

As they prepare, we pray diligently for them both knowing the great joys and the sorrows will come; it is both that shape and solidify a relationship that is grounded in Christ and that is committed to intentionally saying and “doing” “I do forever.”  It is the relationship where both choose to grow in their walk with the Lord and to being humble and transparent with each other, no matter how hard it is or what it exposes; never hiding parts of ourselves.  For it is when the two are one in every way, even in humility and trust, sharing their strengths and struggles, wrestling and battling with and for each other (Ephesians 6:10-18), that the enemy can have no room for deception and division.  It’s the beauty of grace.

Recently, I watched our own wedding; the video tape etched with the years but the words, from the heart of God, still bold and true.

32 years and a couple of months ago, my hubby and I said “I do.”  As I listened to these vows and the charge from our pastor while my hubby was away on business, I sat in the living room and prayerfully and thankfully said “I do” again. And, yes, through the good and hard times – and, as with all, there have been both – I would do it all over again with this man, “the one whom my soul loves.”  Song of Solomon 3:4

I share these words for encouragement and challenge, whether you are married now or not.  If so, commit to your spouse again; if not, prepare your heart and mind, make your choices wisely, and realize that every decision we make has an effect on the one to whom we have said or will say “I do.”

Choose to love intentionally, deeply, faithfully, fiercely!  It’s worth it!

And when you blow it – big or small – don’t hide.  Take it to the cross together quickly.  Don’t let it linger.  Learn to say, “I blew it.  I’m sorry,” not “I’m sorry, but…”  And learn to say, “I forgive you.”  That’s the beauty of grace.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Hebrews 12:15

In 1983, these words were spoken to a young bride and groom:

“The vows you are about to take are not a statement of feelings.  You are not saying to each other: “This is how I feel about you.”  You are saying, “This is what I intend to do.”  You’re making a statement about commitment, not about your feelings.

And your vows are being made before God.

One day you will stand before Him and you will give account for how you lived up to the vows you’re about to make.

S, when you marry D, you’re not just marrying another girl.  You’re marrying a child of God.

Similarly, D, when you marry S you marry a child of God.

And one day, He is going to ask you, “How did you treat my child?  How did you love her/him?  Did you fulfill your vows to one another?

What gifts do you bring as a statement of the purity and permanence of this marriage relationship…the rings.

When you look at marriage, perhaps the surprising thing is not that one out of every two marriages is failing.  Perhaps the surprising thing is that one out of two manages to succeed.

That when you join two sons of Adam, two sinners who have their peculiar way of doing things and their own selfish ways and mix them up and put them in the same room, it’s not surprising that there are problems…

But you have a great advantage.  You are Christians, you are children of God, and you have a pattern set before you. 

And the pattern is this, that you S are to love your wife.  The main point is – you are no longer individuals; you no longer are separate.  There’s been the creation of one person.  You no longer have your separate ways and separate dreams and separate goals and separate identities.  The two have become one.  The creation of one new person. 

So from here on out you are to think in terms of the unity.  You no longer have say over your own body anymore.  That belongs to your spouse.  And the two of you belong to one another.  You are to love your wife as you love your own self.

You spend all your time, money, and effort on yourself if you’re the average person, even if you’re the average Christian.  You are to love your wife with the same kind of attention you love yourself and treat her with the same kindness and tenderness you want for yourself.

You’re to love her as Christ loved the church.  Christian love does not seek its own.  Learn to say “no” to me (and my selfish desires) and yes to us.

And, similarly D, you’re called to be subject to and respect your husband.  To “be subject to” is not merely taking orders.  You’re being called to a voluntary submission or subjecting of yourself to S.  It’s used in the military context.  You are to subordinate yourself to the direction of the team; to work as a team going in the same direction.  Willing, positive, willful giving of yourself for S.

The apostle Paul says a woman was made for man so you are called to be a helper, a comfort, an encouragement to him; to make his dreams your dreams.  Most men need a cheerleader and that is something to which you are being called.

What will hold you both in good stead is:

1 – Be tender to each other as you speak sweetly and gently and kindly and never indulge in harshness or cruelty or abruptness.  To never allow yourself to act in an angry or harsh treatment of one another.

2 – The most important words you’re going to need to know and say are “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me.”  That you should be quick to admit guilt because you’re going to be guilty.  You’re going to fail and you’re going to fall short and sin over and over again.  So, it’s incumbent upon you, if you’re going to have a happy life and a happy marriage to learn to say, “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong, please forgive me for what I have done.”  And then to be quick on the other hand to forgive. 

You have a great advantage.  God has given you a pattern.  But even better than that He’s giving you the power.  He’s giving you His Holy Spirit.  And, as you seek Him, in DEPENDENT prayer, you realize that apart from Him you can do nothing, apart from Him you will fail, you will fall short, your marriage will end up on the rocks.  But, with Him and the power and the patter He has given, you stand.  You succeed. 

You need to realize how much you need Him.  Then commit to praying together and studying the Scriptures together, seeking Him daily that He would enable and empower to lead godly lives.

And, charging the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, assembled to watch this union.

Your responsibility to this couple is this:

-Rejoice with them and celebrate on this day what God is doing in their lives! 

-Support them in their times of testing.

-Forgive them when they make mistakes.

-Remember them in your prayers.

-Seek God’s blessing on their lives and on their marriage.”

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   “Together”  by Steven Curtis Chapman

Here we stand, here we are
With all our wounds and battle scars
From all the storms and all the wars we’ve weathered together
We had no way of knowing when
We started way back there and then
How the road would twist and turn and bend
We just knew we belonged together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together

We’ve climbed up mountains higher than
Were ever in our hopes and plans
We’ve held onto each other’s hands
Watched miracles unfold together
And we’ve crawled on our hands and knees
Through valleys cold and dark and deep
Sometimes not even sure if we could make it out alive together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together, together

And if it wasn’t for God’s mercy and His grace
There’s no way we would be standing in this place
But because He has been faithful
Every step along the way
Here we are together, together

“In the marriage journey, (relational health and) healing follows where humility and true repentance have been.”   –     Matthew L. Jacobsen

Love Them Anyway

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Friends and enemies.

Encouragers and persecutors.

Jesus said “Love them, do good to them.”

Everyone, Lord?

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44)

Time and again Jesus posed a question following a question and finished with “Go and do likewise.”

And so He gave the perfect example of doing just what He calls us to do.

He submitted to the Father and endured hatred from His enemies and persecution from those who were blind to the Truth out of His love for us…and for them.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

Then He breathed His last, “Tetelestai!”  It is finished!  The debt we owe was paid in full. Ours is to receive that free gift, humbly seek to live out the same love evidenced by the truth that paid it, and return that gift – that agape love – to others.

They were kind to me…love them.

They wounded me…love them anyway.

They spoke words of encouragement to me…love them.

They tore me down and maligned my character…love them anyway.

They agreed with me…love them.

They disagreed and would not listen…love them anyway.

They found my words helpful and wanted to hear more…love them.

They ridiculed my beliefs and my love for You, Lord; they rejected You…love them anyway.

They made life easy for me…love them.

They made life miserable for me…love them anyway.

What that love looks like may be different and, yet, always the same.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” I Corinthians 13:6

We won’t love our enemies like we love those who love us; instead, we love by choice.

Jesus knew that; it is why He said to do both – pray for them and love them, knowing we cannot pray for someone without it changing our hearts to initiate a God-enabled compassion for them even as we ask Him to transform their lives through a relationship with the living God!

Love can only be achieved by submitting our disdain, anger, hurt, and pride to Jesus who redeemed us, not just to pay our penalty for eternity, but to make us more like Him; to bear His image well and to break our hearts for what breaks His.

In obedience, as we pray for those we consider “enemies” or for friends who have wounded us, we will supernaturally begin to love like Jesus; we will begin to desire a heart change in them and in us.  If we do not have concern for the lost or reconciliation among brothers and sisters in Christ – regardless of their “reason” or their attitude towards us – we are blind to Calvary love.

Love speaks the truth and does not change it to suit the situation or the audience.  But love that extends out from a heart submitted to Christ is patient and kind; it does not pick and choose who is worthy of love.

It is hard, but it is good.

Loving someone may mean saying hard things, those that will not “feel” loving or kind; and yet, doing so in a way that reflects the heart of God rather than our prideful one – speaking to bring healing and change rather than to be “right” is love of the purest kind.

Love that is bold and responds out of obedience to Christ does not compromise nor does it excuse behavior.  We can be angry about the sin that ensnares their hearts and ours, but the love He calls us to is not haughty, arrogant, easily angered, or rude.  It extends the grace of God but does not cover the offense.  Instead, it offers the reality of what was done at the cross.  It remembers that, apart from the grace of God, we would be His enemies.  Apart from Him softening our hearts and opening our eyes, we would still be blind to the truth – that redemption and the ability to run in freedom from sin is made possible by the love of God through Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection!

Apart from His grace and our continual feeding on that grace, we can become entangled by sin that so easily weighs us down and causes us, in pride, to look and live with our own eyes and hearts instead of His.

We cannot will ourselves to “feel” love for someone; but we can, by an act of the will, be faithful to do what God has told us to do, even if we don’t “want” to.

If He calls us to something, we can do it!  But it takes the grace of God, the choice to submit our wills to Him and begin to pray for their heart change and their redemption.  And, when we have opportunity, it is the choice to do good to them and provide for them even if they don’t deserve it; provide the way out then walk alongside them in the process.

Love is bigger than the “rightness” of our cause; it is intended for the redemption and restoration of souls.  Its intention is that our “enemies” and our friends see and come to know the living God who has a made a way.

Love is an action.  Love is a choice; a decision to submit our hurt, our wills, and our desire for justice to the God who knows our hearts as well as those of our enemies and our friends.  We act out of that obedience not out of our emotions.  Sometimes it changes their hearts, but it always changes ours.

They are friendly…love them.

They are harsh…love them anyway.

They love truth…love them.

They hate truth…love them anyway.

They love me…love them.

They do not love me…love them anyway.

Then leave the results to the God who is exceedingly able to redeem and transform our enemies…and us!

It’s A New Day

img_9299It seems that in recent days, there have been a lot of difficult circumstances for those I love.  And there have certainly been tragedies in the weather and by way of other’s actions that we hear daily.

A tornado in Hattiesburg, MS, a snow storm in the eastern part of the United States, political turmoil, a life taken in anger, an unborn life taken out of fear, bodies wearing down from disease or age, discouragement from life circumstances, lost jobs, consequences of our own choices, a broken heart from betrayal – all are evidence of a fallen world and of fallen people.

My heart has grieved with each story that has been brought to me and I have taken every one of them to the Lord.  I have been tempted to say, “I wish I could do more; I wish I could fix ‘it.’”  Last night was no exception.

But He gently reminds me that when I lay them before the throne of the Almighty God, it is not the “least” I can do but the very best.   For as Zechariah 4:6 says, “it is not by my might or my power but by His Spirit” that healing begins, continues, and finds its fullness.

I woke this morning and God, in His goodness, put a new song in my heart (Psalm 40:3)!  He pointed me back to the hope that I have in Christ!  Sometimes He changes circumstances, and sometimes He chooses to allow the situations but changes us in the midst of them.

I am called to be still, to pray and, where I can, to put my hands and feet to action; but, ultimately, true healing will be found for all only in a relationship with the living God through the work of Jesus!

And, even in the midst of the “hard,” our God’s mercy is evident, His glory revealed!

The song, “It’s a New Day,” has been in my head, on my heart, and welling in my soul this morning reminding me that, regardless of the circumstances, I am alive in Him and no circumstance can change that.

It is not only a future hope but a joyful celebration of the present certainty!

It’s A New Day by Kristian Stanfill

It’s a new day!

Everything  changed when Your love came into the darkness and You sent the light of the Son.
You sent the light of the Son.
Wake up, open your eyes, no longer dead, we are alive!
Rise up children of light. Open the doors. Go let it shine!
There is freedom in Your kingdom.
For You Jesus, we will be dancing, forever Your joy is our song.
Song for the broken – let it shine!  Into the shadows – let it shine!
Hope for the whole world – let it shine!

One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill

Higher than the mountains that I face

Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains, one thing remains.

Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.
Because on and on and on and on it goes.
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul.
And I never, ever, have to be afraid.
One thing remains, one thing remains.

Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.
In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid; there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love.
Your love never fails.  It never gives up. It never runs out on me.

Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Cries of the Heart

There are times we weep!

Yes, we long for and delight in tears of joy, but what of the moaning of the heart?

Tears may be tender and quiet; at other times they come almost violently, physically draining – weeping of deep sorrow.

The grieving may come from the physical pain of illness, loss of life, the betrayal of a friend or a loved one, the death of a dream, watching a loved one wrestle and drift, the waiting that does not fit our time table, or a myriad of other reasons.

Great joy does not always exclude sorrow.  There are times my greatest joy has come from my deepest sadness and loss when it meant that God had torn away something that was not for my ultimate best.

At other times, the profound sorrow led to a deeper understanding of and dependence on my tender Savior.  He has often turned my “mourning into dancing.”  (Psalm 30:11)

But sometimes I have had to wait for that dance.

Seasons of life have arisen when my own compromise with that which I know God had called me to or away from initially created a more comfortable place. But no lasting comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure comes from being the prodigal – either running to the far country or just outside the walls of His protection.

Tears that flow from leaving behind something that was not His best or was totally contrary to His heart are dried in the reality of the sure hope that my God knows what is the most excellent path for me and will bring it to completion. It becomes my call to simply surrender and trust.

His course may not always be easy, but it is, ultimately, the most pleasant.  It may not come with immediate relief, but He does promise the “still rest” as we remain steadfast, waiting for our faith to become sight.  And, oh that amazing view!

But even if it never becomes sight this side of heaven, it will be worth the surrender of my will.

The cries of the heart often stem from the longings with which we were created and which, when fulfilled, will be satisfied – but only partially here.

As glorious, pleasing, and satisfying as they are now and will be in this life, they are only dim reflections of things we cannot even imagine!  They are gifts that delight from the hand of our good and gracious God, intended to point us to a greater love, a grander gift, a deeper joy!

“Now we see through a glass dimly…but then we will see (clearly) face to face…now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)

Will I allow the cries of my heart, the tears that have fallen, to be dried by the hand of my Redeemer and King as I rest in the hope of a greater promise?

“And in Your hands the pain and hurt look less like scars and more like…character.”  – Sara Groves, “Scars”

Snow Day…All Things New

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I went to bed with little expectation of seeing much of the “white stuff” when I woke up the next morning, a dusting perhaps. But God gave me a stunning surprise – the view out my window in the pre-sunrise moments looked promising. But when the morning began to shed its light on my yard and neighborhood, what I saw was total beauty!

Now for those of you to whom snow is a chore or to whom a foot or more is a daily or even a seasonal occurrence, you would laugh at what ended up being an inch and a half to two; but for those of us who rarely see snow in a winter, I was giddy; for I am always in wonder of its beauty.

And yes, I love a good snowball fight, a little snow cream, and my feeble attempts at making a snowman. But so many other things also flooded my mind yesterday as I saw what had transformed my yard over night and then as more blew in, heavy yet softly, quietly spreading a comforting layer on our barren ground.

Winter had taken its toll on our land and the day before yesterday it was looking rather bleak, brown and muddy with a patch of bright green where we have a garden of lettuce. But as I stood and watched the transformation, I was struck by the newness, the fresh reality that filled my sight.

It was the same acre of land – nothing had been done except that with which our awesome God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, had chosen to delight us. He had gloriously crafted each snowflake and let them blow over the cold, grey day after ten days straight of frigid rain that threatened to tamp down the mood of many I came across…including my own.

It was His hand that created the freshness and led to a lifting of the heart! Though it was short lived, the moment was not lost and did much to renew our spirits. It was temporary joy that brought with it, eternal perspective.

At times, we can view our lives through the same lens. Either we get caught up in the daily-ness of it all and become tyrannized by the urgent so that we miss and/or forget the truly important. Or we grow weary because of circumstances – our own choices or that of others, any number of “hard things” that come with living in a fallen world.  Our fears can weigh us down as we focus on the “what ifs” instead of looking to and embracing the God who holds all the “what ifs” in His hands; He Who knows the final outcome and has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can begin to see life in the greys instead of the rich hues hidden beneath even the mundane, the sorrow, or the fear.

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that He has made and is in the process of making all things new! We can look on situations in our lives and in the world and culture around us and grow discouraged, even fearful of the dismal prospects at times.

As we look through a glass darkly, we often miss the wonder of Revelation 21:5-6: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” HE is faithful and true!

It is a fact; it is a promise! He who is able to “wash me (so that) I am whiter than snow!” (Psalm 51:7) is able to bring a fresh perspective, a richer view of circumstances, yes. But He is also in the process of actually making me more like Himself and of doing astounding things we cannot see.

Just as the snow fell quiet in the night and transformed my little piece of the world into a place of wonder that lasted for less than a day, our God is actively working to do the remarkable but with an eternal exclamation point!

Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Though this was written hundreds of years ago to a different people, God has not changed and He is still powerfully and lovingly at work in a world crawling with terrible situations! We don’t have to doubt that or wring our hands in fear.

We work, yes. We act, indeed. We do all that He calls us to do, and then we rest in Him and in the plan He is unfolding regardless of what is before our eyes.

Our winter yard is again brown and muddy for the sun returned and quickly melted away the snow. But my heart holds to the visual picture of truth that God gave me yesterday in the midst of our brief winter precipitation that will be indelibly marked upon my heart and that will be brought to mind as I view the pictures again and again.

That truth is more significant and far more eternal than a fleeting snowfall – that the everlasting God of the universe has, through the work of Jesus Christ, made me “whiter than snow” through the forgiveness of my sin and is continuing to change me for His glory; that this same God is the Lord over all aspects of my life as well as that of nations and rulers.

I am given opportunities every day for fresh beginnings and a greater awareness of His love and power to make all things new!  Praying for eyes to see those opportunities and a heart to seek what He is up to my corner of the world and beyond!

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