Returning to a Proclamation and a Promise

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“Peace on earth; good will towards men.” A proclamation and a promise.

But so many things threaten to undo our peace.

Intermittently, circumstances and the pace of life chip it away. Sometimes it is sin committed against us; while at other times, our own sin unconfessed. Sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down. And sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm for neither addictions, denials, nor hidden places where we seek to bury our shame offer the peace for which we long.

Sometimes it’s obedience in a long direction. But, though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our soul cringes. The light of Truth dispels the shadows of the dark places and we find grace!

And sometimes it is loving unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or reaching out to believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference. Yet, we do not compromise our words or actions to appease in order to make another “feel” false comfort or misplaced confidence. Rather, unashamed, we speak what is true out of a great love for them and for our Savior so they will “know the hope!” Boldly, we approach the throne of grace on their behalf.

And a tremble can be felt.

We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work. The enemy of our souls can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, insert sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.

But He cannot destroy us.

We can have rest.

“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy!” We choose, in faith, to reject the lies (and sometimes even what is reality) that pierce our soul; all because of the our God penetrating the darkness and coming in flesh on that holy night! Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary.

Even sin does not have to separate any further.   No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, pursuers of His excellent way, and we have been given the power to overcome and to grow in that likeness.   When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right. We can admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ” that we have failed and so need the Redeemer. But we do not live in the expectation nor resignation of failure! We live as one redeemed and being continually changed by the transforming grace of God. For the difference is not in us; it’s in the Savior, born that silent night who would die and be raised by the same divine power that “…has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence!” (2 Peter 1:3)

We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying whatever entangles us at the cross, reminding those who watch that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year. And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.” We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)

And so, in the moments, there are times we will have a settledness in our souls and others when restlessness will haunt us. But, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe in that sleepy town, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!” The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”

And it all began on that not so silent night!

We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world.

“Peace on earth; good will towards men.” A proclamation and a promise. The now and the not yet! Gazing on the babe in the manger, we remember what was to come – His finished work on the cross and His resurrection to life! And we await our soon and coming King once more!

This is Christmas! The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!

Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of hope we find even in our weariness: “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

And Emmanuel has come. It is finished!

 

Of Colorado Mountain Passes & Marriage

IMG_4721.JPGWhen you set out on adventure, you never know exactly what will come! 

We set out on adventure over thirty years ago and we have watched two of our three children do the same this year.  We have hit some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in that time, but we have done it under the watchful eye of our heavenly Father and so will our children.  It is an adventure worth sharing and the love and commitment I have for this man is greater today than when we first began.

Marriage is not for the faint of heart nor the uncommitted; neither is it for the one who is content and even set upon life and circumstances always being about “me” and “my needs and wants.”  It is for the humble of heart, the tender in spirit, and the one with the tenacity to say, “We said ‘I do’ forever and that’s what I still intend…no matter what!” It is for those not just willing to “be” together but for those hungry to live and grow and change together in the power of Jesus Christ; to love more deeply, to increasingly trust and create trust, to “outdo” each other in serving, showing, and telling of that love, to reveal more of who we are and who we aren’t because we know we are “grace-fully” loved as well.  It’s not just about staying, but praying and fighting tenderly but fiercely for the other because, ultimately, the two have been made one and when one falters, the other one feels it; but can provide that secure place to land.

So, as we headed out on a motorcycle adventure this past week, I couldn’t help to, once again, enjoy the road ahead behind the man with whom I have walked alongside most of my life and to consider how so many parts of that adventure are a picture of marriage specifically and, often, life in general.

As the road and the mountains loomed ahead of us, I couldn’t help but take in the beauty and also consider it as a picture of the life we have lived together, remembering God’s faithfulness and His grace poured out all over us!  Sure, we knew when we started that there might be things up ahead to fear on the roads of Colorado (let alone the day we married looking ahead to the roads of life and marriage), but I chose to trust this man, my husband, knowing he would never put me or us in danger.  And, if he found himself or us in a precarious situation of his own making or otherwise, he would do whatever it takes to get us safely back on track, more secure than before.

We headed up to Last Dollar Road and over to Sawpit for the ride to Telluride.  The last time we drove Sawpit, it gave both of us not a little apprehension.  Street tires carried us over rock and gravel, steep climbs and equally precipitous descents.  It felt treacherous as the drops from the edges were sharp and deep.

But the views – magnificent, breathtaking, God’s fingerprint on it all!  And, in the confines of my helmet,   I sang as I did the last time, “This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas.  His hand the wonders wrought!”  And instead of fear I chose to see the glory – I couldn’t help but do so – it was so evident!  “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”  (Isaiah 55:12)

It was no less treacherous, perilous, steep, or breathtaking.  But we had traversed the obstacles once before, faced it together and, knowing the concerns, we took the steps to face it “more prepared.”  The scary parts felt less scary as we rode on tires more equipped for terrain such as this.  Still, one bad patch, one false turn, and what was glorious and fun could be turned upside down, literally and figuratively.  We made our way, he doing what he knew he had to do to get us safely to the other side still keeping our eyes open, but all the while with our gaze fixed on the One who ultimately has our lives in His hands.

Life is sometimes equally treacherous.  We often stand at the precipice of frightening situations externally but also internally as individuals and as a couple.  We “knew” the dangers ahead in marriage and now we have seen more clearly.  Even today, we aren’t sure what will follow at times and how we will always move forward.  We can choose to look over the edge at the “what could be’s” instead of straight ahead; “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, (we) press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)  We may tremble and wonder what’s next!

But God!

We can look at the difficult circumstances or we can look at the glory of God being worked out through them!  Secure in who we are in Him, we can look beyond the hard to His hand and we can lay ourselves bare first before Him and then before each other, knowing we are “grace-fully” loved.  We are not alone.  The One who is more than able to do exceedingly and abundantly more is in the midst doing just that. 

“For better or worse” can encompass so much, but when we choose to trust each other, look beyond the now to the not yet, and forgive offenses, we provide that “sure” footing, those “better tires” to get us over the rocky ground where we may get “stuck,” the unstable gravel where we may slip, and return to the more secure ground…together.

If we do something foolish on the motorcycle as in life, we will have consequences and we may have great pain often leading to the pain of the other.  We may gently lay down a bike and find we have few bruises and little scrapes or there can be a violent crash that may take months if not years from which to recover. 

The same can be said of life choices – an annoyance or an unintentional action that is little more than hurt feelings or a minor offense can bring quick apologies, forgiveness, and recovery.  A deeper wound from a succession of hurtful words or actions or betrayal needs to be quickly turned from, honest apologies given, and forgiveness must come even if trust may take some time to recover depending on how the circumstances are handled.   

We cannot expect that unwise and/or sinful words or actions will leave no scars; but, over time, if not mortally wounded, scars are reminders of God’s grace to us and our grace to one another. 

When on the back of the bike, my husband has specific instructions for me for our safety – move with him in the curves, come up close to the front and lean in while on gravel, and never ever put my foot down to the pavement (yes, that instruction came when, in fear one time, I did).  Likewise, he knows what he must do to keep the bike upright and riding safe regardless of terrain.  There are “rules” for safe riding and personal accountability as well as an accountability of both of us, one to the other.  And we do them…together.  If we get out of sync or if I choose to respond as I “feel” in the moment, the results will not be good.

In marriage, we are called to be “in sync” with one another in every way; when we aren’t, the clash is inevitable and, depending on the situation, can be light and momentary or devastating.  We are called to be answerable to each other as well, to keep our marriage “upright and safe” as it were.  There are to be NO areas of secrecy, no areas that the other is not allowed to “see into” – that being intimacy in every area. 

Is it comfortable to share our weaknesses, our failures, and our struggles?  Of course not.  We want the other to see as little of our “worst” as possible.  But, it is that which brings ultimate unity and defeats the schemes of the enemy of our souls that would weigh us down and keep us hidden from the one who has our heart. 

As Matthew Jacobson writes, “Your wife is the accountability partner God provided you.  And, wives, your husband is the accountability partner God provided for you.  According to Him, you are one entity (the two shall become one…in every aspect)…”   You share all while not clinging to “worthless idols” or justifying intimacy destroying habits that need to be eradicated from your life; you take them to the cross and leave them there…together!  That sets your relational feet on a more solid ground.

If we are to have a secure relationship built on mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual tenderness, there can be no hidden places.  The reality is that, if you are close in most areas, your spouse will sense when an area is not right, when a struggle is rearing its head, and where there needs to be a restart.  Don’t run from that; let the grace of God make you and your marriage stronger.

When we choose to hide our hurts, struggles, and temptations, we live with a guardedness that keeps us from total intimacy and the greatest joy that God intended.  When we are fully known yet completely loved, we experience the kind of completeness in marriage we were designed to have!

Don’t hide.  Don’t go deeper into the darkness.  That is the rocky ground where the enemy can heap shame and temptation again and again.  God’s word is so clear – true restoration and healing comes in the light.

Returning to our cabin over Last Dollar Road, we laughed as my hubby skillfully maneuvered his way over more gravel, rocks, and muddy puddles.  But, while my ultimate trust was in the God of these rocky places, I trusted my husband and the joy and laughter that followed is a memory I will not forget.  It took us to one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen and one I really didn’t want to leave!

Marriage is like that.  When we you traverse hard places together, deal with them rightly, and survive them by the grace of God and the firmness of commitment, you find an increasingly greater beauty in the covenant you vowed, a deeper love that is forged by fire.  Challenges have the power to destroy a relationship or strengthen it – it’s a choice.  Where will we fix our eyes?  On whom?

“…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance/perseverance, and endurance/perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us!”  (Romans 5:2-5)

When you turn your back on selfish desires and choices or join hands when physical, financial, or emotional difficulties come and together plow through the rocks and the mud and the cold rain, you find yourself on a marital vista that equips you to more easily say “no” to selfish desires and “me focus” responses the next time and “yes” to the Savior, ultimately yes to your bride or groom. 

Yes, I will cherish you.

Yes, I will protect you.

Yes, I will stand beside you.

Yes, I will go to the Savior with you.

Yes, we will go through the fire together and not be burned.

I would be the first to say we are not perfect, not even close.  We have failed each other more often than I would like to admit.  Selfishness has reared its ugly head too many times; at times a lack of “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” – the five most important words in a marriage – have led to deserts where the chasm between us has been wide.

But we have a Savior who lifts us up, shows us our shame not to defeat us but to point us back to the cross where we can be restored to Him and to each other.  And, time after time, He has taken what the enemy meant for evil, to make us stronger.  I wouldn’t choose or orchestrate any of those circumstances, but I have seen the Lord chipping away at the rocky places in our lives, making something beautiful in the valleys so we could come over the passes into the beauty of the mountaintops and stand amazed.

“This is my Father’s world!  Oh let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God IS the Ruler yet!” 

In His creation, in this world, in our lives, in our marriage…and in yours!

But God!

The last year and a half has been 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 his sights on moving away in just a week.

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

Relationships flourish, even be restored, and relationships end.

Health restored and health fail.

Plans come to pass and plans be turned upside down.

And 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.

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.

How many times have we watched things happen out of our control, have we or someone we love been hurt by another, or known what God was asking us to do and yet our response has been a whiney, “But, God….”  And, in that moment, we are that petulant child – quite sure we know better how we would “fix” situations or how we believe we should respond to hard people and life with its occasional (that sometimes feel more like routine) curveballs.

But it is in that moment that, if we will be still and listen and not harden our hearts, we will hear the Spirit of God speak to our hearts and remind us that He isn’t surprised and He actually is doing things we cannot see.  And because of that we can say in a different tone, “Yes, this…”

BUT GOD!

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

He may be chipping away at ours or someone else’s self-satisfaction or self-rule.

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

He may be teaching us to die to self.

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.

There are a myriad of ways that He uses the most difficult of circumstances for His glory and our good.

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)

We have the privilege, the responsibility, and the power as children of God to not grow weary as we pray, as we choose obedience to God even when our flesh cries out to do it our way or respond in like kind, as we re-format our thinking by changing what we put in and what we dwell on, as we speak words of life and truth as well as setting forth an attitude of joy that is not dependent on circumstances or trusting man but is rooted and grounded in trusting our Sovereign God.  Our lives can grow chaotic and we may feel out of control.

BUT GOD!

And now we watch our nation struggle as if it rocks on the edge of a precipice.  If all we watched were the sensationalized news/talk shows, we would think there was no hope, that all consideration of unity and peace is but a vapor, a dream that has died.

BUT GOD!

He is not wringing His hands over or bound by angry mobs, insidious plans, self-loving talking heads, rabble-rousing “inciters,” corrupt and conniving people in authority.

In little pockets all over the country, there is a quiet rumble of those who will not be manipulated into hate.  Instead, they are reaching across imaginary lines drawn by the enemy of our souls who seeks to divide and conquer; to steal, kill, and destroy not just here on earth but for eternity.  (John 10:10)  And, in those pockets, the love and grace of God is being poured out; for we, His image bearers, are able to love and forgive because HE first loved us.  And it is what He commands His people to do – over and above what we, in our flesh, want to do at times. Even those who do not acknowledge Him bear His image because He is Creator; though they mar that image as they exalt themselves.  The powers that desire division want to stamp out hope.

BUT GOD!

He is Hope!

He is Healer of the broken-hearted and sin scarred.  Those living in shame and regret need not anymore.

He is Restorer of the breaches. He is able to repair what the enemy of our souls has broken down.

He is the Mighty One, able to save and redeem, but also Mighty to judge and bring true justice.

His judgment may just be to lead us to repentance rather than judgment so we must hear His voice and let Him devastate our self-rule and, in humility, say, “Speak Lord, I am listening…create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me…search me and know me; see if there is any wicked way in me…(Psalm 51 and 139) and transform me God!”

Yes, let it begin with me!

An often heard and argued verse from God’s Word is just an echo of His grace:  “If God’s people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their (own) wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven…and heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14   Is He bound to show us mercy?  Of course not.  His judgment may be for destruction.  But, He commands His people who are called by His name, that’s me, that’s you – individual believers who so often look at the “bigger” sins of those around us with a shaking head yet coddle our own rebellion against God, justifying our own pet sins.  He has promised that if we cherish sin in our hearts (be it an attitude or action), He will not hear us (Psalm 66:18)  But, if we will humble ourselves and turn, He has promised to listen.  All we are responsible for is obedience to Him.

We’ve been a nation divided before.  Yes, there was a remnant of noble men and women, but there were also many who wanted to destroy; the spirit of lawlessness appeared to have taken over.

BUT GOD!

It was He who changed hearts and minds and brought reconciliation and healing where there was none and no one believed it would ever be so.

It was He who transformed souls by His grace and brought revival to a thirsty land.

It is in our arrogance that we would deem to exactly know the mind of God, to throw up our hands in resignation and say, “We might as well admit it – all is lost” when God says pray, repent, live before God and man righteously with His grace, His peace, and His love, speak truth in a way that draws men to Himself and restores lives!

What we do know is that He is merciful to us when we don’t deserve it so who are we to think He might not yet relent, soften hard hearts, take the scales from blind eyes, and redeem this rebellious generation!  He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we can think or ask.

And because He is…we can have HOPE, we can choose JOY!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And HOPE does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

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.

As they prepare, we pray diligently for them both knowing the great joys and the sorrows will come; it is both that shapes and solidifies 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.  For it is when the two are one in every way, even in humility  but trust, sharing their strengths and struggles, 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, 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!

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 to 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.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

   “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

 

“It is Finished” Began at Christmas, Remembered

“Peace on earth; good will towards men.”  A proclamation and a promise.

But so many things threaten to undo our peace.

Intermittently, circumstances and the pace of life chip it away.  Sometimes it is sin committed against us; while at other times, our own sin unconfessed.  Sometimes we grieve loss of various kinds in a world turned upside down.  And sometimes we watch or are the prodigal sprinting to a supposed “safe place,” a place of assumed comfort, only to find it is anything but calm. And sometimes it’s obedience in a long direction.  But, though that “delayed obedience” may take a winding path, when it ultimately returns to the Truth, the enemy of our souls cringes. And sometimes it is loving unbelievers bent on denying the reality of Christ or believers who confess the name of Jesus but think and live like it makes no difference; yet we do not compromise our words or actions to appease in order to make one “feel” better;  but, unashamed, we speak truth out of a great love for them and for our Savior so they will “know the hope!”

And a tremble can be felt.

We are setting holiness in motion; allowing God to reign and work.  The enemy of our souls can wound our spirit, make us uncomfortable, insert sadness, stoke discouragement, or prompt tears.

But He cannot destroy us.

We can have rest.

“The weary world rejoices” and so can we as we set our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”and not let the lies penetrate our soul; all because of the our God penetrating the darkness and coming in flesh on that holy night! Pain is real but so is the Savior who has promised peace for the brokenhearted, a way of return for the runner, rest for the weary.

And even sin does not have to separate any further.   No, we don’t always follow perfectly, but we are in this world to be Christ’s image bearers, light shining in this generation, and we have been given the power to overcome and to grow in that likeness.   When we fail (and we will), we can run to the Savior and humbly go to those we have wounded or sinned against and make it right.  We can admit to those who have witnessed our failure and cynically thought, “Well, there you go – I see there’s really no difference in a follower of Christ” that we have failed and so need the Redeemer but also that  we do live as one being changed by the transforming grace of God.  For the difference is not in us; it’s in our Savior.

We have not only the obligation but the privilege of laying it down and reminding the watching ones that our hope is in Jesus and our desire is to become more like Him daily, to increasingly want His will not ours, and to understand and live out the beauty of His holiness a little more with each passing day and year.  And by His grace, we have that One who forgives us, picks us up, embraces us, brushes us off, then sends us out to “go and sin no more.”  We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior! (paraphrased from John Newton)

And so, in the moments, there are times we will have a settledness in our souls and others when restlessness will haunt us; but, for the follower of Jesus Christ, we are at peace with God through the finished work of His Son, who came as babe on a silent night, crashing through the barrier between those who bear His image and our three times holy God, devastating death there on the cross with “Tetelestai” – “It Is Finished!”  The condemnation of our sin is paid for, defeat by discouragement has been decimated, and we, who long for the Savior’s return, keep “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” so that we are growing deeper in His truth and in His love, able to enter that respite and “shake off our fears.”

And it all began on that not so silent night!

We long for His return even when we feel too attached to this world.

“Peace on earth; good will towards men.”  A proclamation and a promise. The now and the not yet!  Gazing on the babe in the manger, we remember what was to come – His finished work on the cross and His resurrection to life!  And we await our soon and coming King once more!

This is Christmas!  The longing for Jesus to break through darkness and discouragement, hold us near to His heart, and equip us to rest even when circumstances cause our spirits to sometimes faint, even falter!

Christopher West says it well, reminding us of the reality of hope we find even in our weariness:  “This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

And Emmanuel has come.  It is finished!

They Mock Prayer and Yet…

They deride prayer because they think God isn’t listening.

But I will pray because I know He is.

They scoff at prayer because they think it is a waste of time.

But I will pray because I know it is my best use of time.

They mock prayer because they say it is just speaking words to an empty universe.

But I will pray because I know He is the One Who created the universe.

They ridicule prayer because they say that, if He exists, He is uninterested in the affairs of men.

But I will pray because I know He is so concerned that He sent His Son to a defiant humanity so He might redeem us from our self love and sin soaked lives.

They scorn prayer because they fear and their foolish hearts have been hardened.

But I will pray because I know that apart from His grace and mercy giving me eyes to see, I might very well respond out of fear and the evil intent of my heart too.

They mock me because I pray.

But I will pray and, when I do, I pray the Savior reveals Himself to them, to see Him as He is – merciful and loving even as He is also mighty and just; a God who forgives, redeems, and transforms – so that then instead….

They will pray because the scales will have fallen from their eyes and they will have seen the one true God in all His majesty and fall to their knees in joy-filled awe and worship!

 

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation…praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  Daniel 4:34-35, 37

To Know and Be Known…Yet Still Loved

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  I Cor 13:7

If we are honest, we all long to be known.

We were made for intimacy; to know and be known…yet still loved.

It was in the garden that God formed man and woman and they had intimate fellowship with Him and with each other.  Yes, and for the man and woman, that included physical intimacy, given to them for one another as God intended for them to “know” each other.  It was the two becoming one in every way; body, soul, and spirit.  There was no shame, no hidden agendas, no secrets; they were known by each other and by God and they knew – it was delight!

But, as we know, the “lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (I John 2:16) snuck into even the most perfect of situations. Lest we step back and say, “Ah yes, if only I had been there, I would never…” we need to stop and remember.

For there we are right in the middle of it…”the pride of life.”  We assume we would have wisdom and discernment and would stand against that old serpent when the reality is, too often we don’t do it today.  He came to them as he comes to us, beautiful and crafty and tempting with “Did God really say?” and then later he took them as he does us on the “rationalization and/or blame game” track.  Yes, we are called to a resolve to stand against sin; God tells us to do so!  But He never says stand alone. Rather, we have power over it in the Spirit of God Himself and with His armor intentionally placed and strategically used in our battle against it; and He has given us each other to be accountable one to another for our protection and joy!

In the area of sexual temptation, however, He doesn’t say stand in it at all…He says flee!   He knows its power and tells us we aren’t even to toy with it. No, we aren’t even to “mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:12)  nor is there to be  “even a hint of sexual immorality” or “coarse joking (Ephesians 3:5).”  That’s not prude; that’s protective and delightfully freeing!  It’s one of the most strategic places the enemy strikes to “steal and kill and destroy” knowing that our God has created this beautiful gift for marriage to bring us deep intimacy and oneness with our spouse.  God knows that sexual intimacy in marriage is intended to be a delight, precious and to be guarded at all costs – before and during marriage; the results in failing to do so have far reaching results.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God blessed them with shame!  What? Shame was a blessing?  Yes, and when we sin and feel shame, it is a good thing because it tells us we are still tender to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.  It is evidence that we are hearing that still small voice that calls sin out for what it is and calls us to return to the heart of God and, if we have sinned against another, make reconciliation with them. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (and away from sin) and leaves no regret.”  (2 Corinthians 7:10)   The fearful place is when we feel no shame or, if we do, yet choose to push it down; either way, justifying our “pet sins” robs us of intimacy with God and with each other.

They hid in the garden.  Then, when God came “looking,” they blamed the serpent and each other but refused to name the real problem – themselves.  Not that God really didn’t know where they were; once again, He wanted them to come out, come clean.  He wanted them to be honest, to own up to their guilt so they could be freed from its power.  He wanted to restore intimacy with Himself and with each other and they had to name their sin so they could confess it and turn.

How many times do we hide behind our facades contriving half truths (let’s be honest, lies) and full blown dishonesty with those we love, especially the one with whom we are to be the most transparent, our spouse.  We justify our actions in our head; but, for the believer, the Holy Spirit doesn’t allow us to be settled with hiding from God so, if  we choose to rationalize our sin, we become restless and either outwardly or inwardly we blame everyone else but ourselves.  God wants to re-establish that confident closeness with Himself and with the one to whom we have pledged our lives, but it has to begin with owning our own failures first before Him and then with our spouse.

And notice, though Eve sinned first and they both ultimately did so, God called on Adam as the head of the home, “Adam, where are you?”  (Genesis 3:9)   Of course, women are accountable to God for their own sin and must have their own personal relationships with God through Christ; but, in the home, men are to be leading their wives to the throne of grace; setting the example of repentance and restoration rather than hiding their sin and justifying its existence.

We assume that if we are fully known, we will not be fully loved.  In so doing, we love our reputation and our self righteousness more than we love the one we promised to “love, honor, and cherish.”  The unhindered bond of trust and love can only be enjoyed when we lay ourselves bare before the Lord and then before our spouse; but we do them and ourselves a disservice when we assume they won’t give grace and will love us less.  We show no trust in them and, thus, brick upon brick is layered on the wall of our hearts keeping us from the true intimacy for which we were made. But transparency frees us to forgive!

We are sinners in need of grace and so, we will fail each other; but God never intended for us to use that grace as a license for sin or for minimizing it.  He never intended us to use the too oft spoken, “That’s just who I am; I can’t help It; it’s not that bad” rationale or use our male/female propensities as an excuse for our choices and  offenses. God’s desires for His people is a growing obedience not an intentional defiance.  When we choose to pursue that which is after the heart of God, the hearts of two are emboldened to love better and trust more deeply.  But when we make the foolish choice to remain in or return to entangling indulgences, we create a chasm that lies between.

If we share our sins, struggles, and temptations with no intention of giving them up but appearing to do so, we will go deeper into self centered darkness and secrecy and, not only will trust and intimacy not be restored, they will be seared on an even deeper level. When we choose to cling to those things that build walls in our marriages, we are deceived into choosing love of ourselves more than God and more than our spouse.

But, when we trust enough to confess these to each other and in humble reliance on God, leave them at the cross and tear down the strongholds that keep them active in our lives rather than deliberately continuing in them, we find a renewed intimacy, a deep confidence in each other.  We learn to “bear each other’s burdens” and, thus, create a safe place for each.  In fact, our confidence can be deeper and every aspect of marriage more satisfying and rich, as God intended it.  In James 5:16, God calls us to that transparency, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  There is “freedom in the things we leave behind” as together we run in our pursuit of God’s delight for us, stripping away the sin that so easily drags us down and away from Him and each other.  It refreshes the soul and builds trust in ways like nothing else as we die to ourselves and choose a vulnerability that is rooted in faithfulness to God and our spouse.

Intimacy in marriage breeds confident trust.  Trust begins with truth; it is both a catalyst for and a result of honest intimacy which cannot thrive without complete transparency; no secrets, no walls even if it means putting ourselves before the other, vulnerable.  There is a tenderness and a deep closeness that comes when we humbly lay bare our weaknesses with our spouses with the intent to battle them rather than give excuses for them.  Bringing darkness into the light diffuses its power over us and allows us to battle alongside rather than against each other.  As Francis and Lisa Chan have said in You and Me Forever, “Being in war together may be what keeps us from being at war with each other.”

With intimacy, we grow closer physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  With intimacy, we see our spouses in a more complete way and are able to put aside those hindrances that keep us from loving and trusting well.  We are able to put aside past wrongs, when they are left behind, and look forward to future joy and freedom together!  If, in a marriage, there are deep wounds for which repentance before God has occurred, the pattern broken, and accountability sought, when the enemy rises up to accuse, together we can shut the door on that indictment for it is neither true nor healthy!

In our marriages, we long for intimacy.  So why would we do things that erode it  when Christ has redeemed us not only from the penalty of sin but from the power of it!  Why hide from Him and each other when freedom is found in letting go of our brokenness and acknowledging that before God and before each other!  There is no intimacy in concealing a part of ourselves, just a restless wistfulness and deeper wounds!

Adam and Eve listened to the first lie, then assumed the second and hid; broken intimacy led to lack of confidence in God and each other..

Will we as couples ban those attitudes and actions from our marriages that destroy intimacy?  Will we do whatever it takes and in the power we have in Christ to to see they don’t rise up again?  Will we also choose to trust our spouses with transparency and, as the other, will we choose to respond with grace and love so that marriages that need healing can be healed and those that are already healthy can grow deeper. It is when we are intimate with God, unhindered by unrepentant sin; we are free to have intimacy with our spouse!

Will we know and be known…yet still love?

“Real love is lived in the reality of two sinners LEARNING to love and forgive as each transgresses the other and each forgives. The words ‘I love you’ are easy. The sacrifice of ‘I love you’ is hard because we battle our own selfishness and that is where life is often lived.” (Joseph Wheat)

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”            Proverbs 3:3

Intimacy

These hands you made to hold yours, my love  

These feet you shaped to walk with you in our garden

These eyes you placed to gaze upon your face

These lips you formed to kiss my beloved

I was made, I was made for intimacy

 These ears you made to hear your rhythm of love

This voice you placed to sing songs of grace

This hair you wove, you numbered every strand

 This gaze you love, it captures you with a glance

Intimacy is what I need, intimacy is calling me

Jonathan David Helser

Continue reading

Exposing to Heal – Tender Mercies

“Grace will expose things you want to deny but won’t leave you in despair, filling you with new found hope and courage.  When we hide and deny our sin, we’re not defending the gospel. No, we’re contradicting its central message. Our sin and weakness don’t mock the message of the gospel. No, they confirm the necessity of the gospel….Grace will require you to face your wrongs but won’t leave you condemned, granting you complete forgiveness; complete and eternal forgiveness… Grace will show you what a mess you are, then clean up your mess with divine, transforming power.”  Paul David Tripp

Not too long ago, my daughter and I stripped some furniture of its old tired paint, sanding it down and getting below the surface.  It was a slow process, scraping and peeling away layers built up over time.  But once done, the wood beneath was exposed and the process of transforming a worn-out piece of furniture into a fresh, new creation was underway.  The end result brought great delight!

Our hearts and lives are sometimes like that.  While there are various experiences, choices, and decisions that create beauty, richness, and strength that increases with time, there are also those that create layer upon layer of pain, weariness, and self focused striving and choices that wear upon our souls.  What is really needed is a tearing away, stripping down to the core to restore the loveliness of life and the strong beauty found in one grounded in Christ and living according to His will not our own.

When, in the course of making decisions in our lives, we base them on our deceitful hearts, choosing what “seems right” to us and what we allow ourselves to believe will enhance us and fulfill the longings we crave, we begin to form layers that detract from delight.  Rather than enrich and develop the God designed beauty for our lives, the consequences will start to bleed out and that which we found so attractive in the beginning will lead to lives faded, cracked, chipped, and in dire need of a restoration.

Our choices have also, at times, led to an infection of our souls leaving us drained and afraid.  Continuing in the same pattern with an occasional cessation is like putting a band aid on a injury that is highly infected and needs to be cut away.  At those times, there is much pain in opening those wounds and allowing the contamination to seep out so healing can begin; but to get to the root so that our souls and relationships can be restored, sometimes pain is a necessary part of the heart repair.

So, too, there are times the Lord must bring pain to our lives in order to open our eyes to the truth of what our choices are doing to us and to those around us.  Out of His great love for His children, He chips away at our layers and even, at times, must lance the destructive contagion warring on our hearts.  It is not comfortable and we can sometimes assume that it is an external force causing our pain rather than the loving hand of the Father disciplining and calling us to return.

It is His grace – so rich and so full, so much more than we often allow to penetrate our deepest sins and injuries. Yes, it is the gift undeserved freeing us from the penalty of sin, paid for by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and by His resurrection, defeating ultimate death!  But, if we stop there, we miss out on so much.  It is as if we open a gift bag, take out the first thing we see, and never look below the paper to the myriad of treasures beneath.

His grace “exposes us” and allows us to see the depth of need so we can truly understand the great gift we, who are in Christ, have received.  But it goes beyond a mere exchange of guilt to empowering us and freeing us, with the “same power that raised Jesus from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-20, Romans 8:11-14), to live new lives, to give “hope and courage,” to walk not according to our sin-layered desires but according to the will and heart of God where true joy and true freedom are found.

Hidden sin gains power over our soul in darkness, but it is not benign. It does far more damage than we dare to believe for we begin to think deeds done in secret have no consequences.

The enemy of our souls wants to keep our “layers” out of the light of truth and transparency; to make us fear that if we are “known” we will not be loved.  That same enemy, the “roaring lion (who is) ready to devour” (I Peter 5:8), tells us that we either can’t change or don’t need to, that we are able to “handle” our rebellion against God’s design; and he perverts grace by telling us that, because of it, we are free to choose and do as we please without consequences.  He seeks to convince us that we are free to step outside God’s protective boundaries also known as His wisdom and His commands.  It is the same lie spoken long ago in the garden; the lie that says we can “be like God” and lures us to question without seeking the true answer to: “Did God really say…?”

But, if we grab hold of His grace, we can know what God has spoken! And if we trust God, who knows us intimately and has called us by name, we realize that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and we have the Truth found by abiding in Him and in His Word alone!  Not long before His time on earth was done, Jesus asked the Father to “Sanctify them (that would include His redeemed children today) by the Truth; Your Word is truth.”  (John 17:17)  His Word is part of His grace to us –  His gift so that we can know!

For the follower of Christ to say we are unable to break free, to exercise self-control, to act apart from our sin nature is to call God a liar and deny the power that raised Jesus from the dead.  For if He has set commands before us for His praise, the good of those we love, and our own good, then He has also provided all we need to increasingly live them out faithfully including taking steps towards mutual accountability.

We may choose to ignore it or distort it to fit our purposes or desires, but if we are a child of God, His Spirit will not allow us to stay layered in darkness.  By His grace, He will confront us, making us restless and uncomfortable in order to bring light into the dark places, causing us to relinquish control and follow His design. If necessary, He may remove something that blocks our view of Him and of His truth. He delights to see His children, even if we come limping home; He runs to us and embraces us as we are, in humility setting our brokenness before Him.  

But, if we choose to ignore His promptings or seek to stay in the shadows of our choices, out of His great love for us, He may allow further pain or cause another to see our need for change and repentance, prompting them to  “speak the truth in love” for the purpose of restoration.  Whatever it takes to peel away the layers of sin that are hiding the magnificence of His design for us, He will do.  He loves us that much.  He desires an undivided heart and relationship with Him and He will accomplish it!

His pursuit is His tender mercy!   His intent is to re-establish our footsteps and again set us on the course He designed for us, that we might boldly and securely live out and reflect Him not only in our outward lives that people see but in the secret places of our hearts, in the hidden places where we have, at times, compromised truth.  It is for His glory and our greatest joy!

“God is working on something deep, necessary, and eternal.  If he was not working on this, He would not be faithful to His promises to you…Because He loves you, He will willingly interrupt or compromise your momentary happiness in order to accomplish one more step in the process of rescue and transformation, which He is unshakably committed to.”  (Paul David Tripp)

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.”  Job 5:17-18

And grace heals relationships as well; it teaches us and equips us to love and forgive and it allows us to receive that same love and forgiveness.  Grace enables us to know and be known so that in this journey we travel – one sinner among a world of sinners – we can give that healing and transforming grace.  We can forgive where others have wounded us, intentionally or unintentionally, because we know we have been forgiven much by the Savior.  We can speak into lives that are being crushed by the deceitfulness of sin and unwise choices because we know His grace is more than able to heal, bringing much needed transformation and the peace that is so deeply desired because we have been lifted up by that grace!

And, even more deeply, in marriage,  where two sinners have chosen to live as one both in body and soul, by grace we can each remove the protective veil over our hearts and lives and the layers that at times obscure transparency, allowing the very depth of who we are and what we do to be seen.  In God’s grace and in humble growing reliance on His control, we can be vulnerable with one another, knowing we will still be loved and, through Him, we will walk together and grow in the strength and unity of that grace that is still in the process of forgiving, healing, and transforming us as individuals and as a couple into the likeness of Himself.  We grow in our delight of each other as we grow in our delight of His grace!

We can bend our knee.  We can lay down our layers unafraid and unashamed because His grace is far more amazing than we realize and exceedingly more powerful than we can imagine!  His tender mercies expose us so that His love can transform us and the joy that comes from that transparent fresh start will be delightfully palpable!

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that becomes visible is light.  This is why it is said:“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:13,14

Secrets That Rob But Truth That Heals

Secrets.

Those intended to surprise and delight bring joy to life, to every journey. They invigorate the soul!

Those intended to mislead or to withhold truth do anything but refresh. Instead, they threaten to deplete the joy not only from the life of those they seek to delude but, ultimately, from the secret keeper’s life as well.

It might be an action or words undisclosed or keeping information that would reveal the truth or it might even be an outright lie.  Either way, it is an attempt to deceive for whatever reason.  And, in the process, they are deceived themselves, justifying every step until they have lost sight of what truth really is.

We see it all around us.  You can’t turn on the radio or the tv without seeing some form – either in the news, through various forms of entertainment, and even opinion pieces.  We see it in the people we encounter around us as well – acquaintances and close relationships. And, we watch, wanting to say, “Don’t you see?” as the people involved become more wounded with every progressive step deeper into the deception because, once it has started, it takes a life of its own and has to be fed.

What is behind each is both brokenness and pride.  It has been said that “reputation is what people think of you (what they see on the outside), but character is who you are when no one is looking.”  In an attempt to maintain a stellar reputation while still doing what pleases them, men and women often trade in their character.  The desire to have the applause of man or to do “what seems right” rather than to seek the blessing and smile of God and walk secure is sometimes overwhelming and the slip into a cover of darkness is the enemy’s way of keeping their eyes on themselves rather than on the One Who has formed them, Who knows them, and Who calls them by name.

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?”  You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”?  Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?  Isaiah 29:15-16

They forget, don’t realize, or simply don’t care that there is a God who sees and stands ready, not just to forgive but to lift them out of that darkness and set them on His secure and solid ground.  He shines light into the dark places not to shame but to restore; to woo those caught in the web of dishonesty back to the way of truthfulness, the only way that is right and good, the only means to relationships that are safe, strong, and trustworthy.

Who whispers to them, and often to each of us, that they need to hide but the same liar that told Adam and Eve in the garden that they could be like God.  Who tells them, and often us, that they can control their own lives by “following their heart” and by disclosing only that which will make them look good while doing things contrary to God’s commands?  The same swindler who laughed when Adam and Eve realized they were naked and ashamed.  It’s the age old issue of the deceiver deceiving those who themselves wish to deceive and their eyes that have turned inward being led away only to hide.

We watch and we long to bring light to the darkness. We grow weary of the constant barrage on the news or weep as we watch a friend on either end of the ruse.  Secrets begin to control the secret keeper as they submit to the false god of self rule; transparency and honesty cannot dwell with the hidden things.

Secrets divide.
Honesty creates unity.

Secrets are done in darkness.
Honesty dwells in light.

Secrets build walls of distrust.
Honesty provides a safe haven.

Secrets rob.
Honesty abides in truth and restores.

Secrets breed fear.
Honesty gives rise to peace.

Secrets rob.
Honesty abides in truth and restores.

Secrets grow from a self centered heart where “I” am on the throne.
Honesty develops from an other-centered perspective where God is on the throne.

Secrets result from a vision of “me.”
Honesty looks beyond self and circumstances to God who is in control.

Secrets take the secret keeper deeper down often unaware of his/her erratic course.
Honesty finds its journey straight and clear on the high ground.

Secrets say “I love me.”
Honesty says “I love you.”

Secrets deceive self.
Honesty brings freedom.

Secrets never stay secret and regret follows.
Honesty lays all bare so there is nothing to hide and there are no regrets.

The father of lies promises peace in the darkness where he knows there is none then mocks the one who is wounded in the battle. But Jesus, Who is Light* and who “dwells in unapproachable light,”** gives the true promise that is ever faithful, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest for your soul.”  Matthew 11:28

 “Be self controlled and alert; your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion ready to devour.  Resist him standing firm in the faith.”  I Peter 5:7,8

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”  John 17:17

*John 8:12

**I Timothy 6:16 Continue reading

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.”