What I Deserve: Entitled to Death

Grave of Mary Elizabeth  173

Even as I wrote it, this title seemed a little harsh.  But as I linger in the gospels during this Lenten season, I can’t help considering what a harsh reality life without a Savior would be.

For the wages of sin is death…that’s what I deserve.  Each has gone astray and turned their own way- the Lord laid on Jesus Christ the iniquity of us all.

My sin necessitated action on God’s part.  He is just, and my sin was against Him.  It makes me think of David in Psalm 51- against you and you alone have I sinned.

It is so easy to forget or ignore how much our sin hurts God.

How often do we think only of the consequences of our bad choices and how if affects us and forget to grieve over the pain that we have caused our Creator and Redeemer?

Our gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice increases as we meditate on and ponder all that we have done to deserve death.  We are sinful and selfish, stubborn and prideful.

We hurt other people in pursuit of our own pleasure or desire to escape.

This is an age of distraction, where many times we look for anything to take us away from focusing on the now.

We are called to be watchful, to be on our guard- to actively fight against this sinful nature within us- that beckoning of so many things that vie for our attention and seek to distract us from God, or make us forget Him altogether.

Six times.

Six times the Lord has brought this passage to mind over the past week.  And as I have pondered it and prayed over it, the Lord has been gently calling me to let some things go- to knock down walls of distraction that keep me from focusing on God and his call for me in this life.

Mark 12:29-30 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear oh Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

How do we live it?

So that anyone who looks at our life, whether they know us or not, sees Him in us?

I want that so desperately- a life lived in submission to my Savior where it is evident that He is my first love.

We love because He first loved us.

It is so easy to forget.

Why?

I see the Israelites and how forgetful they were, and I recognize my own forgetfulness too.  It is so easy to become focused on myself, my current circumstances, and forget what God has just done for me only days and weeks before.

We are a forgetful people.

That’s why we need to be in God’s Word daily, meditating on His promises- because we forget- and when we forget we lose sight of Him and that leads to sin.

He keeps our feet from slipping.

He holds us secure.

Love with our heart- all our passion and fervor concentrated upon Him because of our gratitude for His love for us. Love for His law and commandments- trusting that He knows best.

Love with our soul- the center of who we are- with our identity, the deepest parts of us- connected with him, in submission to Him.

Love with our mind- taking our thoughts captive, meditating on His promises, memorizing Scripture, focusing on things that are…

Phil. 4:8 …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

There is conscious effort in these disciplines, and my daily choices of how I spend my time should show that I care deeply about whether God approves of those things I see with my eyes and hear with my ears.

Love God with my strength- to use my body to honor him and work for Him.  To work hard and use my time and talents to serve my neighbor, loving them as I love myself.

BBC CrossSo I ask you dear friends as I have asked myself this week- what do I love more than God?

What am I going to do about it?

We can continue to rationalize and make excuses for the sin that we let linger, or we can ask God to cleanse us from all that distracts us from serving Him completely, and once again say- “All to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give.  I will ever love and trust Him, in his presence daily live.  I surrender all, I surrender all.  All to thee my precious Savior, I surrender all.”

 

O Lord, as I ponder Christ’s death- not only his physical pain but that He endured separation from you, His precious Father- for me- I am overwhelmed.  And I see my sin that held him there.  He chose to rescue me from the death I deserved and give me the glorious gift of salvation through the shedding of His blood, through His death.  You planned this from the beginning.  You made a way for us to be reconciled.  I am so overwhelmed by your love and care.

Not only that Christ died, but that he also lived and suffered and was tempted as a human man- so that we have a Savior that can empathize with our weaknesses. We know that He was tempted in every way and yet he did not sin- and he did it all for us.

Jesus, you thought of me, as you died upon that tree on Calvary.  You bled and died so that I might be free.  O Lord, my King, help me to live in gratitude today.  To honor you with remembrance of all you’ve done.  To share and rejoice in this truth with my family and friends- and with those who have yet to encounter your glorious love and grace.  Deepen my love for you.  May I cry out like David in Psalm 119 and glory in your love and law- in the glorious truth that changes me- your Word.  Free us from all that entangles us so that we may joyfully praise your Name.  Through Jesus my Savior I pray, Amen.

 

Tossed by Feelings

Wave-1

(written Sunday morning)

As I read the last chapter of Elizabeth Elliot’s book Discipline: The Glad Surrender this morning, I found myself so thankful for this precious word that the Lord has brought to me today.

The Scripture in James came to mind about the waves tossing me around, no self-control, no mooring, just going which ever way emotion seems to send me.

James 1:5-8

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind;for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Our feelings, which can be so strong and powerful at times, must be brought under the discipline and care of the Lord. 

That doesn’t mean that I stop feeling.  I will continue to pour out my heart to God as the Psalmist encourages me to do.

But I don’t want to let my feelings steer the ship of my soul.  I know whom I have believed.  And when my heart trembles and emotions weigh me down and oppress me, I want to acknowledge this before the Lord and ask him for the strength to obey, even when it is hard.

We are moving in a few weeks.  My emotions are in constant turmoil about this.  I will miss our house and our neighbors; I will miss our church.  I will miss my Bible Study friends, and fellowship over God’s Word together.

All these sacrifices are nothing, if this is where God is leading us.  And praise His Name, I know that it is.  He has blessed us with that confidence and peace.  Every time that my emotions rear up, I have to speak the truth of this situation to myself and hold fast to God.

I can’t let my emotions turn me and toss me this way and that.  It is so hard sometimes!

This chapter was so timely this morning.  It has strengthened my resolve to trust God, even when my circumstances are hard.  Especially when I am thrown out of my comfort zone and confronted with many trying circumstances.

This morning, as we prepare for church, I don’t know if our car will start (it just started acting up last night); my husband is out of state and unable to help. I find myself once again in a position where I must seek help from others, another blow to my illusion of self-sufficiency.

I need the Lord so desperately to give peace to my soul despite my circumstances.  I don’t want to be tossed about, but to rest in the confidence that my Savior knows what I need, even before I ask him.

He will provide.

And though this road may not be easy, if I am walking the way He has called me to, there will always be grace sufficient for all my needs and strength to perform all the tasks he has called me to do.

Taking a deep breath this morning and leaning into Him.  I need Him every hour, and in this hour I pray and hope to hold Him, keep my eyes heavenward, and pray for the strength to surrender my emotions to his Lordship.

Lord, you are sufficient for all my needs.  Help me remind myself that you keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.  That precious promise.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the rock eternal.  You are my rock.  Strong. Secure.  Able to hold me steady through any storm.  Thank you for being so steady and unwavering.  I know that I can believe and hold fast to your Word and stand firm in Your promises to me.  Praise be to your precious Name.  Through Jesus Christ your son I pray, Amen.

Never Leave Hungry

Empty Plate

When I come to the Lord’s table each morning, I have found a feast that satisfies like no other.

He gives us food for our souls that sustains far beyond a meager earthly meal.

Anticipating what will satisfy the needs of each hour, the Lord always seems to know the words I need to hear- whether they be reproof or encouragement, discipline or exhortation- they are always delivered with love that knows me completely.

And as I sat down to the feast of 1 Peter this morning, and lingered in the gospel of Matthew, I was reminded once again of how tenderly the Lord cares for us.

This amazing mystery of how he speaks to us in so many ways- through circumstances, people, his Word, prayer…and sometimes those repeated messages come one after another- one verse, one theme- and we know that this word is for us.

Our amazing Creator God takes the time to lovingly speak into our present situation- with all its joys and challenges- he reminds us that he is sovereign and always working.  Like in Esther- he uses all things.  Even when his Name is not mentioned, his fingerprint is all over it.  We see how he works through even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant circumstances to bring about his perfect will.

I feel as though I only catch a small glimpse of the depth of what this means, and yet it makes my heart leap for joy in my chest.  Knowing that He will lead and guide- that He has a plan and purpose and doesn’t want to shroud it in mystery but eagerly wants to reveal things to me.

But I must seek Him.  Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied.  Those who know they are poor in spirit- in need of a Savior.

So many things in our lives have not worked out the way that I would have planned.  I am so thankful!  The unexpected tapestry of events that the Lord has weaved surpasses any mundane plan that would have crossed my mind.  I love how He works in our lives!

It is not easy my friends, and still I am challenged and stretched in so many ways.  There are areas I still need to surrender to the Lord, habits that need to change- and yet even in the midst of my brokenness I see Him working in me, and I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

There is nothing more critical than seeking God daily- inviting him into this life and not only “consulting” with Him but truly taking his yoke upon us.  It requires a surrender and yielding of our rights and expectations for this life.  This has been hard for me to let go of- I am still struggling- but I see those little glimpses of how God blesses when we let go of what we want and instead reach eagerly for His will for us.  I want more of that!!

Taped up to my computer, I have a small note card.  It says, “I am yielded to God.  All my rights and expectations are his.”

It also has the verse Romans 6:13:

 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

Each day is an opportunity to actively submit to the will of God, moment by moment, and shun evil and sin- to recognize it for what it is- and choose instead to trust in our Savior.

Presenting every part of our body before him, let us surrender today to his yoke and his will-to his perfect plan- determined to actively pursue him- pursue righteousness.

Romans 12:1-2 comes to mind as I write. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In response to all that God has done for us, I pray and hope that today I might surrender more fully to his perfect will.  As we come to his table in worship, may we hunger for more of Him, eat, and be satisfied.

Precious Lord, you know how these words pierce me and come out as a battle cry with tears of sorrow and joy intermingled.  Memories filter through my mind of times when I have fought and times when I have failed and your mercy and grace covers all.  You have always been faithful.  You have always loved me, and you always will.  Your Word is essential.  It breathes life in us, gives us strength for the tasks you have called us to, helps us avoid being deceived.  Give us a burning hunger for you; may we only find rest  in what you tell to our longing hearts.  Show us where we are being deceived, so that we may more fervently love and obey you.  Blessed be your Name in all the earth.  You are our King, our Creator, our friend.  You have sought us out to rescue and redeem us- even when we were lost in sin.  O Lord, how great is your love for us!  Thank you, all praise and honor to your holy Name.  Amen.

 

 

A Child Again

To see the world through the eyes of a child

I remember thinking, when I was young and still living at home, “Someday I will be grown-up and I will make my own decisions and no one will be able to tell me what to do.”

These kinds of thoughts and aspirations came to mind this past week when I was talking with my daughter.  She asked me a question, and I said I didn’t know the answer.  Her reply was, “Let’s ask dad, he will know.  He knows everything.”

But instead of drawing me into thoughts of her dad and what a great father he is, I found myself thinking of the Scripture passage about becoming like little children.

Do I have faith like that in my heavenly Father? 

Do I truly live like I believe he has all the answers and I can trust him?

 Matthew 18:1-5

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

We are called to become like little children again.

To yield to the will of our Father and place our lives in His hands.

To follow His leading in simple trust and faith.

To seek to please Him alone and never hold any word in higher esteem than his.

My simple prayer as we enter this next season is that God will be the steering the ship, and that we will not attempt to take that from him.

That we will wait upon him and only move when he moves us.

That we will accomplish the work that He has sent us here to do- all to the praise of His glory.

I see very little of the picture right now.  I know where we are moving, we know where my hubby will be working (PRAISE GOD!), but there are many unanswered questions.

And I feel as though we are on the cusp of a great change.  We can follow through the narrow gate and take a hard road that will call us to sacrifice, or we can continue on in mediocrity- giving God a little but not living in day to day dependence upon him.

I don’t want my way anymore!  I see where my impetuous and foolish schemes lead us.  I can view the gallery of my past mistakes and see the grace of God at work, redeeming and restoring.

But this time, I want to step gingerly, regularly checking in with Him- is this what you want?  Show us your way, lead us in your truth!  Guide us and teach us Lord, we wait to hear from you.

Whatever you may be facing, whatever storm is raging, in the face of all the unanswered questions…will you say in faith with me- “Have thine own way Lord.  Have your way in me.”

Lord- to submit, to bend, to bow- to admit we don’t have all the answers can make us feel helpless.  You know how hard it is for us to release control.  Please help us to yield and submit to your righteous hand.  To trust you and take shelter in the shadow of your wing.  To take your yoke and learn from you, our gentle and humble guide.  Those who trust in you will never be ashamed.  Strengthen us for the work you have called us to do.  May our obedience glorify you and testify to the truth that you are the living God, alive and working and changing hearts today.  Make us little children, full of faith, eagerly waiting on you, simply sitting at your feet.  Through your precious Son our Savior I hope and pray, Amen.

When Stretched Beyond What You Could Bear Seemed to End a Long Time Ago…

Stretching

Do you ever feel it?

The answer seems SO LONG in coming…

God seems silent…you need so desperately to hear a word, to feel his nearness…

Because you are barely holding on, just living day to day- the hardness of life and not having any answers chafes.

We put up a FOR SALE sign in front of our house yesterday.  We don’t know where we are moving.  My husband still doesn’t have a job.

This past week was bad for me.  I didn’t sleep much, my mind was filled with stormy thoughts. I cried a lot, trembled a lot- questioned God A LOT.

I felt abandoned and cast out- afraid.  What is going to happen to our family?  We don’t have any money!  How can we be obedient to God and yet things be this bad?

Our circumstances cause me to tremble.  This is so beyond uncomfortable.

And yet despite all of this, in spite of all of this- I knew I had to get up this morning and seek out my Savior.

No one understands my heart like he does.  He knows what my trembling spirit needs to hear.  His words penetrate my fears and doubts and strengthen me.

He cuts right through all the outer layers straight to the center of all that troubles me and addresses me at my greatest point of need.

This morning, I read about the disciples in Matthew 16.  They were preoccupied with eating (v. 1-12).  That happens to me these days, I can become so fixated on our financial difficulties that it paralyzes me.  I forget-just like the disciples did-lessons that Jesus just taught me.

Matthew 6- do not worry about what you will eat or drink, what you will wear.  Do I doubt God’s love for me?  I know He is aware of all our needs, but when called to walk out my faith- to live day to day not knowing how God will provide- that has stretched me.

I don’t get to see the plan, the long-term, how this is all going to end.  It still remains a mystery.

And like the disciples, I can get so fixated on where the next meal is coming from that I lose sight of my spiritual health.

What I need most right now is time in God’s Word.  Time in prayer.  Time to be silent.  Time to pour out my worries to Him.  Time to linger on who He is- and how He has provided in the past.

Disciplining myself to these things right now is SO HARD!  Our troubles are staring me in the face.  I can’t run from them.  I can’t deny how very real and raw they are.  How present and immediate.

Yet, in spite of it, I can say- at times when I am afraid I will put my trust in thee.

I can speak Isaiah 41:10 to myself-

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold onto you with my righteous right hand.”

Our enemy is always looking to trip us up, play to our fears, keep us distracted by minutia over here so that we miss out on the blessings God longs for us to see right in front of us.

He can’t encourage us if we don’t seek Him.  He can’t give strength to our spirit if we don’t talk with Him, if we don’t listen to the words He longs to lovingly speak.

When Jesus said to the disciples, “beware the yeast of the Pharisees,” I began to think about all those false beliefs I have held about what the life of a Christian looks like.

I didn’t realize it would be this hard.  That God would lead us into storms, or that trials would possibly lead us into a desperate financial situation.  Sometimes I still doubt whether we have been obedient…did I miss a sign along the way?  Did we take a wrong turn?  How could this happen?

And God gently and firmly keeps stretching me in faith- taking me just a little further…and then further in…and then a little further.

To close, I am going to share a quote from Susannah Spurgeon, written after the death of her husband.  This is from a series of writings called “A Basket of Summer Fruit,” available at Grace Gems.

 My heart, until you have learned the lesson of perfect trust- doubts and misgivings are sure to arise, and cloud your fairest prospects. The darkness looks impenetrable when you try to peer into it- the rough places seem impassable when your weary feet stumble over the big stones in the pathway- the mountains of difficulty appear inaccessible when the mists of unbelief veil their true proportions. Truly, the Lord is a God who hides Himself; and, oftentimes, His purposes are carried out on our behalf under the cover of the thick clouds, in which He enwraps Himself.

 

O precious Savior and Lord, unchanging God and lover of our souls, even when we can’t see- we know you are faithful.  You are always working for our good, desiring that we may know you more intimately and treasure the eternal riches that you pour upon our lives above the temporal ones that entice.  Sometimes you strip away these things to loosen their hold on us, so that we may see the blessed security in holding You alone.  Our dependence on these other things is false- open our eyes to see how truly sufficient you are for all our needs.  Being in the storm is hard.  Grow our faith Lord, in whatever storm we are facing, may our eyes return to you and draw strength from the Rock that cannot be shaken.  May your Word be an anchor that holds us steady when it feels like the whole world has pitched sideways.  Our hope and trust is in You.  You can be depended on.  In all things, through all our days, you are God.  Strengthen our grip.  In Jesus Name and through His power at work in us, Amen.

Into the Storm

Can you spot the guy with his sun glasses on?

As I have studied Matthew 14 over this past week, one point resonated with me above all others.  Sometimes, God puts us in the boat and sends us into the storm. 

Matthew 14:22-24 

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

This event takes place right after the feeding of the 5,000.  It has been a long day for Jesus and the disciples.  According to several different gospels, it appears that the disciples have just returned from their travels around the area, ministering to the people, healing the sick, and sharing the message that the kingdom of God is near.

I am sure the disciples were probably tired and ready to get to the other side of the sea and rest.  And instead they find themselves facing a storm that leaves them helpless- no rowing that they do makes any progress toward shore.

The hope that jumped off the page to me was this: God placed us in this storm.   I believe that with all my heart.  We prayed for a week about my husband’s job situation.  He was supposed to get a promotion on the day he lost his job.  We got a clear answer from the Lord.  He closed that door, and I am so thankful that he did.

The amount of money my husband was making, the security of the position (good company, good benefits) would have made it hard for him to leave, even if he was restless and uncertain if this was where the Lord wanted him.

But neither of us imagined that we would find ourselves here, eleven months later, with no income and living only on the provision that the Lord graciously provides through his church.

We arrived at this place step by obedient step; yet there are so many times when I have doubted simply because things just keep getting “worse.”

By “worse” I mean things that I never imagined would happen if we were walking in obedience to God like being broke (literally having NO money!), and having to ask others for help (My hubby and I have prided ourselves on self-sufficiency and not needing help from others financially).

I was wrong- my assumptions about how God would provide for us were wrong.

The Lord has not provided a job yet.  He has closed doors that we thought were the answer we were waiting for.

And with each passing month, we struggled with worry and doubt.  But instead of trying to “fix it” ourselves, we sought the Lord.  We prayed, we sought him in his Word, and He reassured us in our obedience.  He brought peace that helped us hold on for one more day.

There has been strong temptation to just go out and get a job.  ANY job.  I know there are people who know our situation and don’t understand why my husband hasn’t worked anywhere he could.

How do we explain that we have never felt the freedom to do so?

God has led us down a different path?

Would we have had the courage to make the choices we did if we had known that now he would still be without work?

I don’t know.  All I know is, as we have walked through this with the Lord, we have done our best to be obedient.  My hubby has pursued jobs fervently, we have prayed that God would lead him to the right job in his timing.

If I was not confident in the lavish love of our Savior and God, I would never have lasted this long.  I believe that those who trust in Him will not be ashamed.  He promised, and praise be to God, He keeps his promises!

We are being refined.  And just like Peter, we have stepped out of the boat.

We have left behind any other security or safety net- and our hope is only in God.

He is the only one who keeps us walking forward, step by step.

We have our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

All that is happening in our lives, it is the work of God.  We can claim no credit; for we are doing very little- yet what we are doing is the most vital thing- our hope and trust is in God.

We are looking to him and him alone for deliverance.

We know that He began this storm, and our God, with a word, can calm the storm.

His provision is coming.

His timing is perfect.

And he gently keeps calling me, as the storm rages and my eyes are tempted to watch the swell of a passing wave, or look back to the safety of the boat…

Keep your eyes on me.

Trust me.

I’ve got you.

 

And the Blessings Pour Down

Water being poured
(I wrote this on December 22nd- decided to post it today)

Sometimes we have felt like we are hanging by a thread.  A few weeks ago, it felt like that thread started to fray.

There was temptation to panic- to run- to hide…and I clung to those treasured verses…

Every word of God proves true, he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Pr. 30:5)

Those who trust in the Lord will not be ashamed. (Romans 10:11)

I trembled and cried.  We prayed.  For a while, it was hard to admit how desperate we were.

For a while we were silent; we sought God and poured our heart out to him.

Then, God opened doors at a Christmas party that I didn’t want to go to.  I didn’t want to go celebrate when my heart felt heavy with the cares of this season and our families struggles.

But my daughter was excited about the party…so I was determined to go and be joyful, to remember all we have to celebrate- to give thanks for those blessings God has given.

When we arrived, a sweet Christian lady approached me and asked how we were doing.  And I cracked open…and cried.  All that was within came spilling out.

And as I talked and shared, something amazing happened.  Women began approaching me and sharing their stories.  They asked what we needed; I made a list.

And for almost 2 weeks, several times a day, we had visits from the family of God- and through them God ministered to us.  He provided the encouragement that we have desperately been needing.

Affirmation of our obedience, and more learning- as we have been cared for by the family of Christ.  The generosity of our brothers and sisters has been overwhelming.

Other churches in the community gave to us.  They brought toys and food and gift cards- but most of all they brought love, compassion, and prayers.  They brought verses that God has given them in tough seasons- those truths that helped hold them when they felt like they couldn’t hold on.

And my hubby and I held each other and cried.  Overwhelmed and humbled by how God miraculously provided above and beyond what we could imagine.

He lavishly poured into our lives all manner of riches.

One of the cards had this verse in it:

1 Peter 5:6-10

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

This season has been uncomfortable.

Hard.

We have experienced the ups and downs of living and never knowing what the next day will bring- and we continue to live in this tension- knowing that our security lies only in Christ.

So many things in our lives continue to be uncertain…where we will live, what job my hubby will get, when he will get it…how we will pay our bills…

And yet, even in the midst of all of this, God has proved to us that he is not unaware.  He is not sleeping.  He is faithfully walking with us.  He is teaching us and stretching us and showing us what’s truly important.  So many layers of the unnecessary are stripped away, and we find the gold underneath- those things that remain.

We know what it means to have peace in the storm.

We understand and believe that trusting God is better than worrying about what we will eat and drink and what we will wear (Matthew 6).  We have seen God provide all those needs.  God has done this, and it is marvelous to see.

We are transformed.

And our children watch and see that we serve a God who gives himself.

We trust him and are not ashamed.

He brings peace and joy that the world can never take away.

Merry Christmas.  May the peace of Christ rest upon you.  May you and your family experience the amazing, life-transforming power of Emmanuel- God with us!

 

When You Are Waiting to be Rescued…

Waiting to be Rescue

Waiting to be rescued.

Waiting for a rescue.

Like these shoes on a wire…

That’s what we have been doing.  Waiting for God to swoop in and save us from our circumstances.  To do something miraculous in just the nick of time.

Like a superhero…or a knight in shining armor.  To save us from our difficulties, to lift us out of our troubles…

And today, it came softly and strongly, this whisper in my ear…

What if the rescue has already begun?

What if your husband losing his job and the subsequent months of trials, difficulties, and hardships, were exactly what I had in mind?

What if rescue means dragging you out of the comfortable?

Drawing you nearer to God in the face of your ever-present need?

Learning the blessedness of possessing nothing… (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

The reality is, there has never been a time in my life where I have felt such a desperate need for the LORD.

When this is coupled with what he has already taught me over these past several years  (submitting to his Sovereignty and trusting even when I can’t see), it results in doing things a different way- actually trying to find God’s way.

I have never so fully sought to be obedient to Him as I have hoped and prayed about a job for my hubby and direction for our family.

There have been months we have felt that God has been silent.  We have felt like our fervent prayers have fallen on deaf ears.  We called out like David, “God, are you asleep?  Please come quickly, we need you!”

And to hear his tender, sweet, loving voice gently speak this to me this morning reminds me why I continually choose to trust Him while the storm rages.

He never fails to bring hope and peace when I come to Him, acknowledging my need, and seeking Him- thirsty and hungry and helpless.

But his coming does not always mean an end to difficulties, hardships, or disappointments.  Over these past several months I have learned the joy and blessedness of being fully present in the messiness of hard and being able to endure simply because He comes and makes himself known through His Word.

He knows exactly what I need to hear, and never fails to encourage and strengthen me as I seek Him.

So I don’t know what tomorrow brings.

But I do know one thing- God’s rescue has already begun for us. 

We have a deeper love for Him and for each other than we ever have.  He has increased our joy and thankfulness by revealing to us our many blessings and reminded us of the glorious riches we have in Him that can never be taken away.

Do I still have hard days?

Yes.  I spent portions of this week crying out to God and shedding tears of mourning and grief, as we face the strong possibility of moving…again.  It is hard to be refined and pruned and to be brought low and humbled by life circumstances.

Feeling raw and vulnerable makes me want to stay home and hide away from the world, to curl into myself and withdraw.

Only by the grace of God can I overcome these emotions and continue to press on.  When I worship Him and remember who He is, I find the strength and endurance I need to put one foot in front of the other for one more day.

I have to lay the future at God’s feet moment by moment, acknowledging that I don’t know what’s going to happen, and yet I trust Him.  I know he can handle it, and I know that I can handle whatever may come if I am walking with Him.

And so I pray…

Lord, you know the fears that beset our minds, and the expectations that we sometimes have about how you come and work in our lives.  Sometimes I limit you, I forget that you work in amazing and mighty and unexpected ways.  Thank you for how you are working in the hard things as well as the blessings.  Thank you for using it all to bring you glory and draw us closer to you- to open our eyes to what really matters, that all else may fall away.  No matter what may come, as long as you are here with us, I know that all will be well.  It is well with my soul.  Remind me Lord, when fears assail my mind and doubts roll in like a storm- hold me steady in your Word. Help us continue to submit to your will even when it hurts.  We love you and believe you are working all things for good.  In Jesus Name and in faith we hope, even when we cannot see, Amen.

 

 

Filled Full

Fountain cup overflows

…filled with all the fullness of God.

Those who feed on the LORD Jesus Christ will never hunger or thirst again…

What does this mean for my life?

That when I truly surrender myself to the LORD I will no longer need to eat or drink to sustain my physical body?

No, I have come to believe there is something much deeper here, connected with the call of Christ when he said, those who wish to follow me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.

I am speaking of something else- this emptiness inside me that longs for fulfillment, that my life might have meaning, that I would be part of something greater than myself.  This need for meaningful connection with others- that can’t be found in myself alone.

I know that I do not have, nor can I find in the temporal world, something that adequately fills this longing.  Most of the things I tried to fit in there never truly satisfy…in the moment that feeling might be numbed, or I might be distracted for a time by this or that, but once that time has passed, this reality remains.

Milton Vincent says it well in A Gospel Primer:

“On my most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands….What happens to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ?…Indeed, as I perpetually feast on Christ and all of His blessings found in the gospel, I find that my hunger for sin diminishes and the lies of lust simply lose their appeal. Hence, to the degree that I am full, I am free. Eyes do not rove, nor do fleshly lusts rule, when the heart is fat with the love of Jesus!”

I want to be full.

I have found that only God satisfies this longing.  Feeding on his Word, fellowship with other believers- most of all- earnest, heart-felt prayer with others seeking after the LORD.  I have literally left those times of fellowship feeling “spiritually fat and filled.”

This Scripture came to mind on one of those occasions, and now it continues to come to me:

Psalm 63:5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast…

And my heart and soul says, YES!  David understood.  There is a way fellowship with God truly slows me, calms me, fills me, and gives me rest that stops this churning inside of me.  This restless seeking that has ebbed and flowed in my life for so many years.

And now, I see more clearly than I ever have, there is blessedness in simply being filled in Him.  Needing nothing else, and by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me- longing for nothing more than simply Him.

Every time this old restlessness rears its head, I find that those things that used to captivate or distract me leave me feeling hollow and disappointed.  And even at times, angry- for time wasted chasing after shadows and illusions.

There is no replacement for this “God-shaped hole” except simply, God himself.  That was his beautiful design, and I have found that only in surrender to this do I begin to find fullness and lasting peace.  All other things fade in their beauty, the longer I linger in God’s presence.

And so I linger…simply admitting my need- daily- moment by moment… to abide in the presence of my precious Savior and God.

And this song suddenly becomes sweeter still…

He satisfies my longings, like nothing else can do.  I love to tell the story, twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love…”

Missing Out

Poppy love

They bloom for such a short time, and are so fragile.

So am I.

My time here is short; I am fragile and frail…I am dust.

During this life I make choices, I live out my values and beliefs, whether I fully understand what they are- the evidence of them lies in my choices.

What I do when times get tough?  How I respond when the pressure mounts, when questions go unanswered…when I am called to wait…

And a question has been on my mind during these months of major pruning- where the cuts have been deep and the call to let go of things so hard to obey…

Am I living out my trust in God today?

God has stretched me painfully with this question over the past several months.

Pr. 19:21

The human mind may devise many plans,but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.

I have felt so challenged during this season to yield, to wait, and to not move until God moves.

Can anything deride the LORD’s plans?

Proverbs 16:1-3

The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the LordAll one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes,but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord,and your plans will be established.  The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.

If he wants my hubby to have a certain job- he (God) can give him favor- change people’s hearts- make my hubby’s application look better than others… I know God’s ways are not my ways, his thoughts are not my thoughts- so I feel uncomfortable even suggesting that I might know or understand how he works in the world.

He gives us brief glimpses in Scripture of how he intervenes, but he never seems to work the same way twice.  Just as Jesus healed people in different ways, through different means, with different tools, so also- God uses different signs, circumstances, people, to work his perfect will.

This release of control gets harder as the pressure increases.  People share advice, talk about things they did to push to get a job they wanted- and I feel tempted to step in, to intervene, to say, “God, I think we should try this…”  It is so hard to continue to wait on trembling knees for his provision in obedience and faith.

I have to keep my eyes fixed on him and hold on to his promises.  Repeat them like a battle cry.  Speak truth to my fainting heart, to call upon God to strengthen us and uphold us with his truth.

Others may, you cannot.

The path that God calls us to walk is unique.  It is so hard to not let the advice of others sway us. But the way he works in others may not be the way forged for us.  I want God’s perfect timing, and I don’t want to steal his glory by being able to take credit for any part of this journey.

And I know in my heart that if I give into scheming and manipulating and pressing our advantage…that pride may indeed creep in and corrupt the beauty of this work that he is doing.

It has been marvelous to watch the LORD work in our lives and recognize his hand- to know that all we are contributing is our obedience and trust- and letting him do the rest.

Psalm 131

Song of Quiet Trust

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.

Lord, my precious Savior and God- Jehovah Jireh- how I love you.  Through all the ups and downs of this season- the days of barely hanging on and the days when you pour such love and hope and joy upon us my heart sings- you are God.  And I thank you for your grace poured, for mercy and forgiveness that walks with me every moment.  That I never have to wait to be forgiven or reconciled to you.  You are always near, to the heart that humbly seeks and longs to yield and draw ever nearer.  This mystery of walking with you, of letting go of all that hinders and corrupts, of seeing your sweet mercies- it is a beauty that I have never dreamed of.  Your peace and love- the way you speak to us- how you grow our love for each other even as we struggle with so many questions.  They don’t rule my mind- worrying, wondering about the answers.  I find joy in simple things, I continue to work- only because of you.  You will and enable me to work for your good purposes.  I will ascribe the glory due your Name, and praise you as long as I live.  In Jesus Christ who strengthens me, Amen.