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

When God Shouts, There Can Be Laughter and Joy!

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 the Redeemer, they are just instruments to chip away at my control, my 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 the each of them.

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

The morning light came and with it was evidence upon evidence that God heard my cries in the night. He listened to my cries, 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 I cry tears of joy that my God is faithful in all things and loves to point His children to the truth again and again as a reminder!

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 “tweet” over my phone from Kevin DeYoung, “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 He had me recall, “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 “tweeted.” “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.  And before that, 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 opened a devotion.  No surprise…I was beginning to expect God was having “fun” with me that morning!  Another grin.  “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!”

“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 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 that I knew I wasn’t battling those fears well but that I needed to hear His voice.

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

It’s A New Day

It 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 still to pray and where I can, put forth action; but, ultimately, true healing will be found for all who need it 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!

***   ***   ***

“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.