Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The real miracle of Christmas...

People love stories of Christmas miracles.  But to me, the miracle of Christmas is that the all-powerful One chose to lay down all his power and glory... for me.


So once more, I want to share the words of the song God gave me two years ago.   The story behind it is here if you want to read it, but it's the words... the story that I didn't write... that I want to share again because they still awe and amaze me.  May you be blessed as well.

All He Was
© 2011 Kathleen Peters (since US copyright law doesn't recognize God's right to it)

Once outside of time began a story    (John 1:1)
It’s been told a thousand times and ways, or more
A virgin birthed and angels sang    (Is. 7:14; Luke 1:34; 2:13-14)
The wise men saw and shepherds came  (Matt. 2; Luke 2:15-16)
But the hero who lay within her arms
Had already made a sacrifice of love:    

He was the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16, John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Before foundations of the world were laid      (Rev. 13:8)
Beyond the veil of time     (Ps. 90:2)
He knew the world would need a Savior’s touch      (Is. 9:2)
So He surrendered all He was.      (Phil 2:7)

He said that He revealed the face of God    (John 14:9)
That’s why the crowds responded to His power and love    (Matt. 4:25)
The sick were healed and blind could see   (Matt. 4:23; Matt. 15:31)
The lame made whole, possessed set free (Matt. 21:14; Mark 1:32)
Yet they took Him and nailed Him to a cross   (Matt. 27:22-31)
But He prevailed over death and conquered all!    (2 Tim. 1:10)

'Cause He's the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16, John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Since the foundations of the world were laid
Beyond the bounds of time
He rules as everlasting Lord of all      (Phil. 2:9-10)
Yet He surrendered all He was…  (Luke 4:17-21)

         To bring good news to the afflicted     (Is. 61:1)
         And peace for the broken    (Is. 61:1)
         There’s freedom for captives     (Is. 61:1)
         The favor of God    (Is. 61:2)
         There’s joy now for mourning      (Is. 61:3)
         And strength for the weary      (Is. 61:3, 40:31)
         He’s made us the righteousness of God   (2 Cor. 5:21)

He's still the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16, John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
When the foundations of the world were laid     (Rev. 13:8)
The Father looked through time     (Is. 9:2-7)
He saw that you would need a Savior’s love...     (Rom. 7:24-25; Gal. 2:20)

         So Jesus came to be the Perfect One      (2 Cor. 5:21)
         What He did for you will always be enough…  (Rom. 8:1-4)
         Because He gave you all He was.     (1 Cor. 1:30)

Friday, December 06, 2013

Giving gifts to Jesus...

I found this post from years and years ago, and I think it's a timely reminder. 

Whenever the Christmas season comes around, I seem to be surrounded by two main schools of thought.

1) The secular view of Christmas with Santa Claus and commercialism is, of course, very prevalent today.

2) Then there are the Christians who rant and rave (or simply preach, more mildly) that Christmas is not about buying gifts for people and making wish lists... so while plenty of them go ahead and give and receive gifts anyway, they almost seem to talk about it in a regretful, apologetic sort of way, as if they really shouldn't be succumbing to the world's version of Christmas. After all, they know that Christmas is really about celebrating Jesus' birth... even if He wasn't really born on December 25th.

But I have another point of view… one that I never notice anyone talking about, or enjoying the way I do. I'd like to explain it the way I did to my kids.

They once asked me, "Mommy why, if it's Jesus' birthday, do we get presents?" So I told them about Matthew 25, where Jesus said this: 
"For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me."

Then I asked them if they could wrap up a present and hand it to Jesus to unwrap on His birthday. They answered 'no,' of course. And truthfully, even if we could, there isn't any thing that we could give to the Creator and King of the universe anyway!  

But... He said that when we give to others... He feels like we are giving that gift to Him. And He's not talking about obligatory gift-giving with no thought and caring behind it. He's talking about giving to the needy, of course... but I also think this applies to gifts for those who might not be financially needy, but who, perhaps, need someone to show God's love to them. Maybe your parents could use some appreciation... maybe your siblings could use something that says you love them despite everything... maybe your co-workers need to know that someone cares.

This puts a whole new spin on Christmas gift-giving doesn't it? When we're looking for a gift for someone on our list, and we're getting frustrated because we can't find anything... what attitude do we take? What are the thoughts that are going through our heads? Would they be any different if it was Jesus' name on our list?

What if we were Mary or Lazarus, and Jesus was coming over for His birthday dinner? Would we just buy the first thing we saw that was half way suitable? Would we be thinking about return policies and gift receipts? I don't think so... not if we really loved Him. Some of us would do what the woman with the alabaster perfume did and spend our life's savings to buy a perfect gift. Others of us might take some precious time out of our days to weave the fabric and to sew a new cloak. Maybe others of us would make His favorite meal for Him. We would all want to give Him a gift that showed Him our love in some way.

And that's what I like to do at Christmas. I like each gift that I give to show that person that I love him or her... and hopefully also remind them that God loves them as well. If they need encouragement, then I want my gift to give them encouragement. If they need to know that they're forgiven, then I want my gift to show them that I, at least, forgive them, and if I do, then God certainly does. If they need to feel appreciated... to know that they're important… then I want my gift to show that I spent either time or money or thought on them because they are worth it to me. Sometimes my gifts only cost a few dollars, and other times, when God has financially blessed us, they are more expensive. But I always hope that my gift recipients can see the love that went into it, because that's what is important to me.

So if you're one of those people who hate the commercialism and pressure of the holidays... if you're stuck thinking that you have to give gifts at Christmas... if you want to get back to the real meaning of Christmas, but aren't sure exactly how to do that... then try this. Make your list of people to give to. (Notice I said 'give to' not 'buy for.') Then pray for each person and ask God to give you a gift idea, within your budget, that will minister to that person in some small way. I guarantee that you'll rediscover the joy in gift-giving.

And then you can join me in saying, "I give gifts, because it's Jesus' birthday! And giving gifts to those He died for is one small way to show that I have given myself to Him."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why we dare...

Guilt.  Failure.  Weariness.

All these are reasons why we sometimes don't go to God.  Or maybe we do go to God but we do so without expecting much.  Or we start our prayers with lists of what we need forgiveness for.

We feel unworthy. Or rather, we know we are unworthy...and we're just not sure how to get past that.  Even when we know Jesus died for our sins... even when we know that His sacrifice is why we can go to God... sometimes it seems that Jesus' sacrifice bridged the gap for God, but for us, it's still there and we just don't know how to get around it.

Perhaps this is why certain phrases keep jumping out at me when I read in the Psalms.

Psalms is my “go to” place when I'm overwhelmed, fearful, happy, unsure, confident, confused, blissful... You name it, and Psalms is a great place to keep (or get) your heart centered on the Awesome One.

And lately, I keep noticing how the psalmists make their requests to God.
Psalm 69:16
Answer me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; According to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me.

Psalm 143:1
Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!

Psalm 25:7
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.

Psalm 106:45
And He remembered His covenant for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.

Psalm 119:149
Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.

Psalm 119:170
Let my supplication come before You; Deliver me according to Your word.

Do you see it?

All of these psalmists know that, in themselves, they have no right to even approach God.  Yet they dare anyway, and they ask God to heed their prayers, not because of anything they've done or according to their own own sacrifices or goodness. They dare to ask things of this great and perfect God of the universe because they know the greatness and perfectness of Him. 

But even beyond that... they ask that He hear them and answer them according to His lovingkindness. They ask God to provide His answers to prayer according to the measure of His lovingkindness...which is is endless!

This is David, right after Nathan, the prophet, has come to him and his sin of adultery and murder and betrayal is revealed:
Psalm 51:1
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
He is saying, "Lord, here I am, and I'm daring to ask that You will be gracious to me... not because of anything good I've done. I'm asking You to measure your grace to me according to the standard of Your lovingkindness and compassion, instead of measuring it according to what I deserve."  He's saying, "Give me the amount of grace and forgiveness and restoration that matches the greatness of You, instead of giving me some smaller amount that could be measured any other way."

How about you?

Do you dare? 

Psalm 103:10-18
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To those who keep His covenant
And remember His precepts to do them.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Hope for America...

Tonight, Billy Graham gives his last message. He has been working on it for months, from what I hear... having it filmed in small segments as his strength allows him to share what he says is his last message from God. Unsurprisingly, it is the same message that my heart yearns to give Americans... hope... in something more than the American dream.

I encourage you not to miss this. It will be worth watching, for many reasons.  His site has this video, as well as local listings.


Saturday, November 02, 2013

Before I formed you...

 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you; - Jer. 1:5
These familiar words were spoken to Jeremiah when God was calling young Jeremiah to be a prophet. And Jeremiah responded like a lot of us do when we think of doing anything great.

My pastor read those verses a few Sundays back, and the instant he did, the Lord asked me a question.

What is the significance of that statement? Why is it important for you to know that I knew you before you were conceived?

I acknowledged that I had never thought about it much beyond the fact that this was only possible because He exists outside of time. And in that moment, God opened my mind to understand something amazing.

He reminded me of another verse we know very well.
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” - Ps. 51:5

David said this when he was confronted with his sin. He knew this to be a reality – that every aspect of his life was touched by sin in some way or other.

We're no different. When we think about ourselves, we usually think primarily of our faults and failures. We look in the mirror and we see our wrinkles and zits and scars... the physical effects of age and time and mistakes. We look deeper and we see our weariness and weaknesses. We see the things that others have done to us that have wounded us. The devil reminds us of a host of sins that are part of our history.

These things are our reality, for this is all we have known since our earliest memory. Why? Because of sin – our own sin, sins committed against us, and the side effects of sin that began during the generations before us.

This is who we have been since the day we were born. Not only were we born into a world of sin, but even when we were conceived, we were still “in” sin. Surrounded by it so much that we can't get out of it.

But God knew us before that moment of conception when we entered this world of sin.

He knows the you without sin!

He knows exactly who you are without all those failures of yours. He created you before you were conceived, when you were perfect in His thoughts and intentions, and that is the you He knows.

Yes, He's aware of this sin-filled and sin-scarred version of you. That's why He sent a Savior! Because this version of you that you knows is not the same one that He knows. Yes, I say “knows” and not “knew,” because to Him, that version of you exists again!

This is the whole story of redemption. It is not about merely saving us from hell. It's about restoration!  And not restoration to some unknown quantity that doesn't yet exist. God is restoring you to the you that He created and knows, though it is entirely a new creation to us, since we're locked into Time in a world where we have always been in sin.

Romans says we are dead to sin now... not that sin is dead in us, but that we are dead to it. Paul talks about the self we have known all our lives before we accepted Jesus's sacrifice. He says, “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” When we accept what Jesus did, His death becomes our death... the death of the sin-ravaged version of us that we've worn since we were conceived.

But here is the glory and the promise...
“But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” - Rom. 6:8

Did Jesus live in sin? No! He is the only One ever born into this world of sin who was not in sin. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Yet we now live with Him.

This is the miracle of Christ's death and resurrection!

The you without sin that God knows, exists again. In Christ.

Yes, we still see in a mirror dimly (1 Cor. 13:12), so this isn't something that we can see in ourselves the moment we accept salvation. Yet we are being changed from glory to glory. This is what Galatians 2 talks about when it says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”

This is who God has called.

He hasn't called the you that you know. He's called the you that He knows! The one that He sanctified and glorified. The one that exists in Christ.

Isn't that an amazing thought?

Can I encourage you to thank Him for what He's done, even if you can't see the reality of it? Seek Him until you do begin to see Christ in you, the hope of glory!  (Gal. 2:20)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another morning's grace...

God is so good. ///

I woke up to an automated phone call that Col. Crawford schools (and their busses) were on a 2-hour delay. 

It added to the already-overwhelmed feeling I've been fighting this week. For those that don't know... my kids ride the Col. Crawford bus to the local school, then board Col. Crawford's Pioneer bus to get to Pioneer. ///

Pioneer, of course, is NOT on a two hour delay... which means that my kids are excused from their first two classes if they can't make it to school, but Kayla had a lab and was worried that it would be harder for her to understand the unit if she missed it. I could take them all the way up to Pioneer... but that means an hour lost at work.
As I was in the shower, I thought of seeing if they could ride the Crestline Pioneer bus, though, since that would mean only a 6-7 minute drive for me. So.... I looked up where the Crestline high school was, we jumped in the car, and after a wrong turn or two, we found a school. I wasn't sure if it was the elementary school or the high school, but there were two busses in front. So Kayla got out to ask the driver of the nearest one where the Pioneer bus was. 

She came back a moment later. "That's their Pioneer bus, and he says we can ride it to Pioneer."

As I drove away, I marveled that God had once again worked things out. This is His grace. In a practical way. In my life. He led us directly to the right bus at the perfect time. 

How can I keep from singing His praises?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Faithful every morning...

I just have a little bit of God's goodness to share this morning.

My oldest two kids are going to a technology school, and today is an eagerly awaited field trip to a robotics competition for my son.  He's been talking about it for days, but at 6:15 this morning, he came upstairs, presented himself to me still in his pajamas, and said, "I can't go today."


"I can't find that permission slip you have to sign."

"Well," I said, "Ask God to show you where it is, and work on getting ready for school anyway."

"But I did do that already, and I still can't find it!"

I looked at him, glanced at the clock, saw that I had only 15 minutes to finish my husband's lunch, saw that my son had only 30 minutes to find it, get dressed, eat breakfast, and be ready for the bus, and I found myself saying words that I hadn't really contemplated.

"Take a deep breath, quit looking for it, assume that God is going to show you where it is, and get ready for school like He's going to."

He hesitated, then nodded and disappeared downstairs to get dressed.

Over the next 15 minutes, I prayed as I usually do while I was getting my husband's lunch pulled together, but I also had contingencies going through my head. They were supposed to leave the moment they all got to school, so there wouldn't be time for the teacher to email me a copy that I could print, sign, scan, and email back. I could drive him up to school and get a second one, but that would be an hour out of my morning... an hour I couldn't really stand to lose. Nevertheless, I knew I was willing to do that for him, even though it was his own fault for losing the permission slip... just because I love him, and I didn't want him to miss out on this.

But still... I just asked God to prove Himself to my son, and I finished up my own duties.

My son came back up all ready, and I told him to eat breakfast.

"But...." he said, "Isn't finding my permission slip more important than eating breakfast?"

"Just eat," I told him. "I don't want you to skip breakfast, and we're going to assume that God will grant your request and show us where the paper is."

6:30 came, and my husband left. I went downstairs with my son to search through his backpack, and to mentally retrace anything having to do with that slip and his backpack.


I checked the school website to see if they had a generic form that we could print out... nope.

"The only thing I can figure," my son said, "Would be if you take me to school. Then I can get another one from my class and you can fill it out."  I know he was hoping I'd be willing to do it, but at the same time feeling bad for asking... only daring to even mention it because he wanted to go so badly.

6:42 - Two minutes left before it was time to go out for the bus. I knew I wouldn't send him out to the bus without it, but I hadn't given up yet.

I decided to search through my phone to see if I still had his teacher's cell phone number, just in case I could hand-write out a version of it that would work.

But just as I found it, my son glanced toward his dresser and said, "There it is!"  Sitting on the top of the dresser. Perhaps it had been there all along and we hadn't seen it, though we'd been standing right next to it. Or perhaps God put it there. I don't know.

I looked at the clock. 6:43 - One minute to spare.

We went upstairs, and I called my daughter... she grabbed her school stuff and asked, "Did you find Ryan's slip?"  and I knew she'd been worried that he'd miss out as well.  I joyfully said, "Yep! With one minute to spare!"

I prayed over my kids and thanked Him with them as they went out to the bus, but as they drove away, God reminded me of a scripture verse.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! - Matt 11:7
I feel like God gave me a demonstration and comparison this morning of His love for my son and for me, and my love for my son.  I was willing to give up an hour of my morning to drive my son to school so he wouldn't miss out on his field trip. How much more was God willing and able to prove His sufficiency in place of my son's failure!

I pray that this has also been a powerful demonstration to my kids as well... that they will come to know that relying on God does not mean asking Him to do something and then expending every bit of effort available to do it in your own power.  It means trusting that God is there, that His faithfulness is real, and that He does not disappoint those who truly wait on Him.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.    - Lam. 2:22-23

Friday, October 18, 2013

The land we will possess...

I was up this morning wanting to hear a bit from God, and not sure where to turn in my Bible.  So I decided to open my "Bible Verses" app and see what verse they had picked today.

For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. - Deut. 30:16

 That's what I read, and the promise of it struck me.  I felt the Spirit whisper, What is the land that you are entering to possess?

I knew the answer, but I spent a few moments to actually quantify it.

The land I am entering to possess is:
-- My ministry
-- This winter and the projects that lie before us
-- The nursing homes I play and sing in
-- The prospect of having three teenage kids in a few months
-- The farther-off future when my children begin leaving home and going off to college

...but most of all, it is:

-- My calling. The areas of ministry that God is going to lead me into, regardless of how big or small they may be.

He whispered then, And what am I promising will happen in that land?

I will live and increase, and the Lord my God will bless me! 

To me, the word "live" in the Bible really means to thrive. Jesus came that we can live life more abundantly.  So any time God gives a promise about living, it's not a promise that we will merely exist. It's a promise that we will live abundantly.

Finally, He whispered once more and had me move backward through the verse a little more, back to the beginning. What leads to these promises and blessings?

To love the Lord and keep His commandments.  They go hand and hand, of course.  Jesus said that, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."

But God didn't give commandments just to keep us under His thumb. His commandments were the guidelines that matched the laws of existence in this world He created and placed us in.

This is a funny example, but Chemistry is a good example.  A chemist cannot succeed in his field, his job, and his experiments unless he knows and abides by the laws of Chemistry. If he doesn't, he might very well blow up his lab, ruin his instruments... and ruin his chances of success in the process.

God's laws are no different, and He gave them to us for the same reason... so we'd know how to avoid blowing up parts of our lives and ruining things.

And that brought me back to the simplicity of this verse... and the promise.

The beginning command is only a protective one... a reminder and a loving warning.  But the end is a promise that those of us who do love our God and who do have a heart to follow His commands can rest in.

I don't need to worry about where God might lead me in the future. All I need to do is continue loving and following Him.  He'll lead me to the land that He is going to have me possess, and He's promising that I will live abundantly and increase there!

His ways are marvelous!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tribulation to hope...

[Bible study on Romans - post 8]

 Romans is calling me again. The truths it contains are just so profound!  And so important to understand!

So this morning I opened up to where I left off in my Romans Bible study way back when... and I'm not sure I understand all of what comes next. 

I last shared these verses:
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God."

But those verses are followed by these, which are Romans 5:3-5:
"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

How often do you exult in tribulations?

I can't help smiling as I ask that question, because I'm thinking your response to that question probably isn't all that different than mine.  Exult? I think that's something a little more than "trust God" or "endure with patience."  It probably doesn't mean "hang tight to God and want to hide until the tribulation is over." 

Yes? No?

You see... I know what the word "exult" means. As some other translations put it, it's "to glory" or "to rejoice."  Yeah. It is not a natural thing to do in tribulation.

There are two ways of translating that "in tribulation" though. This verse is not saying that we exult "about the tribulation." It's saying we exult "in the midst of" or "through" our tribulation.

Many of us still are not a part of the "we who exult" group, though, are we?

I wonder if maybe this is because we don't truly understand the rest of the verse?

The end result of it... is hope. A hope that does not disappoint. A hope that is not empty and worthless.

How is that possible?  That's what I am asking the Lord this morning, for I don't quite think I've received the full understanding of it. I see how tribulation brings about perseverance, and I totally understand how perseverance brings about proven character.  But how does all this result in hope?

It says it does this "because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

Can it be that, in walking through tribulations and developing perseverance, we we somehow come to know the fullness of the love that God has? That somehow it helps us come to see how it is even poured out toward those who persecute us? That it is poured out... poured out... even on us?

Lord, show us what the links are between tribulation and hope. Show us where we've missed it so that we are not excluded from the "we" who are free to exult and rejoice even in tribulation, and show that we fully understand and see and know the hope that exists because of it. 

(If you like, you can go to the index of posts on Romans.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I will rise...

I've had this song on my heart for days now.  I'm wondering how many of my blog readers understand the significance of the scripture that this song is based on? //
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. - Romans 6:8-11
When you read that scripture, does your heart sigh with relief and the spirit of a song rise in your heart?

If not, then there is yet more revelation in these words for you!  Make this song your confession and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of it to you.

Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise)
(from the Cornerstone (Live) CD)

This is my revelation
Christ Jesus crucified
Salvation through repentance
At the cross on which He died

Now hear my absolution
Forgiveness for my sin
And I sink beneath the waters
That Christ was buried in

I will rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live

I stand a new creation
Baptized in blood and fire
No fear of condemnation
By faith I'm justified

I will rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live

I rise as You are risen
Declare Your rule and reign
My life confess Your Lordship
And glorify Your Name
Your Word it stands eternal
Your Kingdom knows no end
Your praise goes on forever
An on and on again

No power can stand against You
No curse assault Your throne
No one can steal Your glory
For it is Yours alone
I stand to sing Your praises
I stand to testify
For I was dead in my sin

But now I rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live

I will rise, I will rise
As Christ was raised to life
Now in Him, now in Him
I live

Saturday, August 31, 2013


The Lord has been teaching me more about walking with Him lately. I shared earlier this month what He showed me about my striving, and on two recent Sundays in a row, He challenged me one step farther.
One Sunday, we were singing a song-- one we and thousands of other churches around the world have sung hundreds of times. He challenged me over the last words:
“Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.” ... 
He asked me if I really believe that. Even when I'm facing things that are difficult and painful.
Paul said, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8) ... 

What about me?

When I'm in a time of trial, or when I'm hurting over something someone has done to me and I find myself crying bitter tears or inwardly screaming in anger because I'm not being treated “right”... do I believe, in those moments, that what God has for me is still worth more than having that person treat me right? Do I believe that it outweighs the difficult things?

If there was a balance scale in front of me, with God's promises and grace and strength and “the fulness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23) on one side of it, could I ever pile enough mess and trouble and pain and frustration on the other side to outweigh the greatness of all He has given me?

You see, I've found myself falling into thinking lately, “I can't handle much more of this. If this doesn't quit...” And there the Lord catches me. If this doesn't quit... what? He reminds me that there's nothing strange about the fact that I can't handle it. That's the whole reason He sent a Savior.

He asks me whether I think His grace and strength has limits that circumstances are about to hit.

That's when I realize how foolish I'm being and how very little I'm trusting in Him. I realize that circumstances only seem overwhelming because I'm not relying on Him and resting in Him.

Of course life is going to throw more at me than I can handle. But there never will be more than He can handle. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble. But fear not, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) I'm never, ever going to get to see just how much He can handle for me and how much He has overcome unless He lets circumstances pass my own abilities and unless He teaches me to “cease striving.” He says we will, “Know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)

Just this weekend while we were on vacation, I had the opportunity to listen to a wonderful message at the church we were visiting. I loved the passage in Jeremiah 17 that the message was based on, because it was further confirmation of what the Lord was impressing on me.
7 “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

The one who trust in the Lord will have deep roots in Him. And when those difficult times come... when the heat comes and nothing else in life is nourishing and encouraging us... when others say, “I don't know how much more of this I can handle,” ...we will not fear for our welfare.

But not only will we not fear, do you see what this passage dares to say we will do? We won't hunker down and hold tight to what we have and who we are so we'll make it through. We won't have to conserve resources.

We will never fail to bear fruit! Even in the heat and drought!

I am challenged to stand in circumstances that overwhelm me, and to remind myself of these promises. I am challenged to believe them in difficult times. To believe that He is more than enough to sustain me. To believe that He is so sufficient that I can bear fruit even then. To cease striving and to know that He is more than enough.

He showed me the reality of this, too, for when He spoke these things to me, and I realized the truth of them, His peace overwhelmed me instead of circumstances overwhelming me. Nothing changed (immediately, at least) in the circumstances... the change was inside me, as He strength overcame my weakness, and His peace overwhelmed my frustration.

We need to quit listening to those lies that “I can't handle much more,” and instead rest in His promises. Then we will experience the marvelous miracles of provision and sufficiency that these verses promise. We'll have all that He is surround us, and we'll watch His promised faithfulness overwhelm the circumstances that are overwhelming us.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)

If you're reading this, and these promises seem sooo far out of reach, know that all you've got to do is reach for Him. And keep reaching. And surrender. Sometimes surrender is so hard... but when we finally know that nothing is working without Him taking control, then it becomes easy. Just reach for Him, and keep reaching, and keep waiting as He works on your heart in His own beautiful timing until He can start revealing Himself in glorious ways beyond your comprehension.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Cease striving...

Monday this week was one of those very Mondayest of Mondays.  Normally Monday has a slightly higher-than-normal workload, so I generally avoid scheduling any appointments or doing any errands, or leaving anything that has to be done that day.

Well... I didn't manage it this time.  And not only did I have a higher-than-the-normal-higher workload, I also had wound up having to leave the house four times. (I work out of my home.)

All day long, I was either staring at the ever-increasing volume of reports that needed to be checked on, or I was out but knowing what was waiting for me at home.  Repeatedly, I doubled my efforts to get that number down to zero just once.  But nope. By 10pm at night, I was exhausted, 300 emails had come in from my team and the other managers I work with, 300 reports had been dealt with, and there was still 30+ waiting.  And I never wanted to leave the house again.

So Tuesday morning, I opened my Bible at 6:30 am, praying that I wouldn't have two such days in a row. I landed on Psalm 46, which is one of my favorites. I almost didn't read it because, as one of my favorites, didn't that mean I'd already discovered all there was to find in it?


46 God is our refuge and strength,
[b]A very present help in [c]trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the [d]sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. [e]Selah.
That part just made me smile.  My world wasn't exactly changing and quaking, but if God can help me in trouble like that, then of course He could help me with one measly little Tuesday. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
I found myself asking God what this really means.  It's pretty-sound poetry, of course... but isn't there a meaning in every word?

I didn't get the full answer... but I did realize this: What are the dwelling places of the Most High?

Answer: Us. Those who are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Those who are filled with "the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

And this river makes us glad. 

God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her [f]when morning dawns.
So it's us He's helping when morning dawns!

The [g]nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He [h]raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
[i]Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
I read all of that, and I realized that I had some things that needed to be made desolate... specifically some technical issues with the August reports that were making everything more difficult.  The prospect of facing an entire month's worth of issues was making me feel tired, just thinking about it. 

But my God is capable of obliterating those issues, isn't He? He could make the whole realm of "technical issues" desolate. I asked him to do exactly that.

10 [j]Cease striving and know that I am God;
I've read those words many, many times.  But all of a sudden, I realized that I had been striving to bring down that mountain of emails all day long. It was still the same size at 10pm as it had been at 6:30am. And my striving had exhausted me.

So I asked God to show me how to do my job without striving.

And then I closed my Bible and went to work.

And He... the God of the universe... the One melts the earth with His voice... the One who makes wars to cease... the One who is my refuge and very-present Help... led me.  He did take care of the technical issue. And midway through the day, my inbox reached that marvelous zero-waiting status.

I was not worn out.

But I was glad. For I had seen His strength and His works in my little corner of Tuesday.
I will be exalted among the [k]nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Friday, August 02, 2013

To wait or not to wait...

I found a little snippet in Psalms this morning, and I'd like to share it.

There's an old saying which goes, "The Lord helps those who help themselves."

I have the feeling that lots of people have lots of different interpretations of what it means. Personally, I agree with the idea that it's speaking against laziness... if it can be taken to mean that.

But I was reading Psalm 147 this morning, and look at what I found:
The Lord favors those who fear Him
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.

What does it mean to "wait for His lovingkindness"?

To me, it means the same thing as when my daughter says, "Mommy, can I have some cookies?"  And I say, "Yes, I'll get them for you."  Or maybe I say, "I'm not sure. Let me think about it."

Sometimes she waits patiently. Sometimes I test her patience and willingness to wait (not always for good reasons, either) and she ends up having to wait an hour or more.

She is waiting on my lovingkindness.

But then, if I don't get up and get them as quickly as she thinks I could or should, sometimes she will get up and go get them herself.

I'm afraid that we do this with God a lot.  We reach a point where we're no longer willing to wait on His lovingkindness.  We want the thing we're praying for more than we want to see Him provide it.  So we "help ourselves" and do what Sarah and Abraham did when they decided to have a son through Hagar, the servant girl.

I think we'll see all sorts of glories we can only dream of if we learn this willingness to wait on His lovingkindness.  After all... this verse says that the Lord favors those who learn this!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Following His leading...

Time is flying by. Wow.

It's been another interesting month. I am unable to share lots of details, and yet I want to share a little bit.

The family member who had the heart attack... God worked a miracle. Many miracles, in fact, culminating in the doctor's disbelief that his heart is now so healthy and in the changes that God makes in lives in the process.

But that word "process" is, for me, vital. What the physical heart went through is only a small part of the overall picture. And God's view, I'm sure, shows far more than what I'm looking at!

I've felt for a very, very long time now that every time a prayer is unanswered... every time we "stand in faith" and nothing happens (or the "wrong" thing happens)... every time we see something other than the grace of God at work in our lives... all of that very well might happen because we are not in sync with His will.  We have not humbled ourselves and acknowledged that our knowledge is limited in regards to His will, His ways, His Word, and reality.  We have not simply asked what He would have us do or pray... and waited until He showed us.

So since I've felt this way, I have endeavored to humble myself and ask more.  Sometimes that's meant not praying what others might say was "obviously" God's will. Often it means praying in my prayer language only.

This process that was happening over the last two months and that's still happening... I actually don't think I can adequately explain how amazing it was. I have tried five times here, and the words just won't come. The Spirit would give them if He desired me to explain it, so I'll let it go.

Instead I will share that, the whole two months, I had one conviction deep in my soul.  Only one thing I was "standing on." I recognized it as faith... and not the fake kind we try to summon up. The Bible says faith is a gift. That means it is only something we can receive.

God did not give me faith for perfect healing or anything along those lines. Instead, He gave me what I'll call a vision, for lack of a better term. I saw - and still see in my spirit - something in the future that is vague and shadowy, but glorious. Something that this physical healing is only a very small part of.  Something that only God can do, but something that He gave my soul conviction - faith if you want to call it that - in the reality of.

You see... faith is the evidence of things not yet seen. It is not what creates the unseen thing.  Faith does not change the future. True faith is the proof that the future is going to be different than what it otherwise appears.

Think of a crime scene... the evidence is used to construct what already happened.

Faith is a gift of God, because only God lives outside of time. Only God can supply the evidence of something that hasn't yet happened.

The vision He gave my spirit is exactly that... evidence of something that is in a future orchestrated by this God outside of time.  This God who can soften and harden hearts. This God who knows all things.  This God who can open doors that no one can shut and shut doors that know one can open.

I knew precious little outside of that vision. I didn't even know for sure that his heart would be healed. And so I prayed precious little with my mind. I didn't ask God for his healing... I asked God to show me how He would have me pray.  Most of the time, I simply prayed in my prayer language and praised Him for what I saw in that vision.  When I sought Him on what else to pray, I heard nothing... and so I prayed nothing else, trusting even this to my Heavenly Father.

Please know that I am not saying that those who prayed differently from me prayed wrongly. Not at all. Why would God have to want everyone to pray the same things all the time? If he led them to pray for healing sooner then me, then they'd better do it!  I am merely talking about how I endeavored to pray only what I knew He was leading me to pray, and nothing more than that.

And then came the morning when I discovered I had a new conviction deep in my soul.  It is time for his heart to start working properly.  Then... and only then... did I begin praying and commanding that.

If I had prayed differently, circumstances probably wouldn't have been any different. God had plenty of people praying, after all, and I'm sure many of them were following His leading as well. 

What was different was all inside of me.  I'm convinced that if I had not waited to begin praying for healing, that I would not have noticed that new conviction. Thus I would not have been able to hold fast to that conviction when he ended up back in ICU two weeks later.  Instead, I discovered that it is possible for my mind to have no clue what is going on, yet my spirit to rest securely in two convictions that God had given me.

Now, with the doctor's confessed inability to explain why his heart is now so healthy, I know God used the prayers of dozens, if not hundreds of people.  But this post isn't about why or how God healed that heart.

This is all about how He allowed me to learn a little more about following His leading... limiting myself to His shadow... and the indescribable differences it made throughout these two months.

I will close with Psalm 21:7 which the Lord gave me this morning:

For the king trusts in the Lord
And through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Our very present help...

It's been quite a month. The school year ended, one family member survived a very bad heart attack, other family came to visit, babies were born, I made a huge mistake at work, my daughter took Driver's Ed, etc. and so forth.

But I do have a little something I want to share... one specific tidbit out of the many ways that God displayed His faithfulness to me in the craziness of May and June.

As long-time readers of this blog know, finances are where I fear the most.  Except I will say "feared" because God set me free from the fear that had me so bound up.

I still have to face and stare down that fear, though.  Every time an unexpected bill comes. Every time a paycheck is low.  Every time I sit down to do the bills, knowing that I haven't kept track of things as I should have been and that we might have spent too much.

Sometimes I'm able to stare down the fear rather easily, and other times I have to dig in and camp on my Rock before it lets up.

But it's that last one that comes closest to getting me... the facing my failures in tracking and budgeting as I should. I've actually 'gotten quite good' this year at avoiding them up until the last minute. Every month I've told myself I'll do better next month, and every month I fail. Twenty-plus days each month I'd wake up and spend some time with the Lord, and set the goal to do the bills and get caught up that day. And the first 19 of those days, I wouldn't do it. Then I'd have to. And I'd rest in it for a week. And then the cycle would start again. And lately I started telling myself that if I didn't get it together soon, then things would start snowballing.

I share all that because this is the scene and the setting for what God showed me.

It was early in the morning. My husband had left for work extra early, the kids were still in bed, and I opened my Bible. I turned to the Psalms and read something in Psalm 35 or 36. I don't remember what it was... I only remember that it was worship and blessing and it fed my heart.

But then I glanced over to Psalm 37 and what is underlined there:
The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
That's verse 23, and I've always loved it. I like knowing that God has a plan for me that is established.

But I kept reading... and the following words really jumped out at me:
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.

 God delights in my way.  That's rather an amazing thought... that not only does God establish a plan for me... that plan is so good that He finds delight in it!  This God who created the universe and galaxies and mountains and things that are so much more beautiful and amazing and delightful... still delights in the plan He has established for me!

I kept reading...
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

I read those words, and this is what I heard in my spirit:
"You make mistakes and fall, because your steps are not yet steady and sure in this way I have planned for you.  But don't worry. Do not fear. I will not allow your mistakes and falls to destroy you. For I am holding your hand, and when you fall, I will always pick you up, steady you, and continue to lead you down My path."

My jaw figuratively dropped. I have read that verse many times, but never before had I understood the significance.  Read it again.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Peace settled over my spirit, and I realized... I had somehow worked my way into forgetting that I serve a God who is in the business of redeeming my mistakes. Of saving me. Of making up for my failures. Of turning them into praises. This is who He is, and He never said He'll redeem every mistake except financial ones.

And then I read some more:
25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends, And his descendants are a blessing.

It was like God was saying...
See? Not only does this verse not exclude financial mistakes, this verse specifically includes finances. Even when your financial steps on this path of Mine falter and you fall... even then, I am there, I will not forsake you, I will not allow it to destroy you, and I will still make you a blessing who can be gracious and lend on this earth.

That's the end of that little section of verse, but that's not the end of what He told me. Because at that point, I took a deep breath, I smiled, I thanked Him, and I realized that I still had an hour to spend with God. Should I open my blog and see what He gave me? Should I read somewhere else in my Bible? But He stopped my tide of thoughts.

Do the bills now.

I thought, "Huh? But I want to spend more time with You, God. I haven't had much lately, and I need more. I'll do the bills later... can't I spend more time with You? Won't You speak to me some more?"

I have the feeling God sort of shook his head at that point, because what He said next flipped my thinking on end.

What makes you think we can't do the bills together? You can do them in My presence, you know.

I gulped, took a deep breath, and realized that even though I always prayed as I did them... often begging for help and rebuking fear... I had never quite sought His presence before or while I did them. I somehow had decided that time with God and time with bills were two completely different things.  Separation of God and money, I suppose... and it was revolutionary to realize that He wanted to actually be there in a tangible way.  To hold my hand as I did them!

And so I opened my computer, my spreadsheets, and the banking websites, and He and I tackled them together. And fear didn't even attempt to show its ugly face. Not in His presence. It didn't dare.

I don't think I'll ever be quite the same again...

Psalm 46  
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. .
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Peace and war...

God loves peace. War is ugly - full of death and destruction and things that are not of God. God says to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Then there's this phrase that people use - a "man of peace."  Many people think that Christians ought to be those men and women of peace.

I'm not going to say they're wrong. Jesus Himself said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."  How much more plain can you get?

However... there are other verses that cannot be ignored, for they confirm a dual reality. The truth is this:

We are born into a war zone.

I'm talking spiritual warfare here. 1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil roams around, seeking who he may devour. We're in a spiritual Colosseum and the lion was let loose years ago.

We only have three options:

A) Learn to stand and fight with other Christians (for there is no standing alone that lasts for long)
B) Get devoured, or
C) Huddle in the center of Christians who are fighting, hope that they'll protect you, and cross your fingers that you won't somehow get pulled outside the circle where you'll end up enjoying option B. (Except you won't be enjoying your huddling. Just ask that world full of people with no peace and joy who wonder if life's worth living.)

There is no "I'll find a safe place."

There is no "don't tick the devil off and he'll leave me alone."

Denying his existence or his goal doesn't work too long for a sickly zebra hiding in the middle of the herd, and it won't work for for us, either.

Ephesians 6 says to take up the armor of God. It also says this lion has flaming arrows... so even if you are hiding amongst other Christians who are fighting, those arrows can still reach you and wound and burn you. When that happens, those arrows frequently appear to come from the Christians that surround you, for what better trick can the lion pull to get you to leave the only thing that's protecting you?  Those who are actively fighting usually know where those arrows came from... but not those huddled down with their eyes and ears covered.

The truth is this. No matter who hurt you in "real life," you may rest assured that, in the life that is more real, the instigator and planner behind what hurt you is the same one who is out to destroy you as no human on earth ever will be. Again, see Ephesians 6:12. The devil's desire for your destruction is nothing compared to what Hilter planned for the Jews, and if he's successful, your torture will be an eternity longer.

Why am I sharing all this?

My pastor is preaching a series he calls "Spiritual Warfare - the Art of Survival." He was a marine, so many parallels are drawn between the warfare we see in the natural here on earth and the warfare that happens in the spirit.

And it struck me last Sunday how many people would listen to only one part of those messages and think, "I can't believe these Christians talk about war so much. I can't believe some of the things they're saying. Christians are supposed to be men of peace."

I think that mindset is one of the devil's tactics he uses to lull those sleepy zebras outside the part of the herd that's on the alert. Someone who thinks Christians are not supposed to have anything to do with war certainly isn't going to be much of a threat in spiritual warfare!

Those who think about peace and war only in the context of earthly battles and politics are missing most of it.  For there are things that are even more real than what we can see and touch in this tissue paper world. Everything here passes away. And many things here are not what they seem.

We are called the peacemakers... and quite often, the best way to make peace will be to quietly stand in that situation God has placed you in and offer quiet words of peace in the natural... all the while waging all-out warfare against that devious one who is using every trick in a book you've never read to create chaos and destruction both in the natural and spiritual.

But do not make the mistake of thinking that spiritual warfare is like natural warfare. That's backwards. Natural warfare is a twisted version of spiritual warfare, for what came second is instigated by and a reflection of what came first. What came second is twisted and distorted because of what is happening in the spirit realms.

Those three options I listed above -- have you found yourself in B or C so far?  Maybe your heart cries out, "No longer!"

There is only one way to move from the ranks of the victims and huddled civilians and into the ranks of the enlisted who become warriors.  Only one way.

Seek out the One who said, "I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." Let your heart join Job in saying, "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives!"

For He is the One who is the head of this army. He is the only One who knows all things, including everything in that book of tricks that are being used against you.

This is not a war that can be won by reading a how-to book or by trial and error. It can't even be won by studying your Bible. It is a war that is waged successfully only by those who fight from the fortress of the Most High and who are willing and able to hear and follow the smallest or the most far-out instruction from the Captain of the Lord's Hosts.

But when you come to know Him--truly know Him--you will find yourself in a place where your heart will also sing the glorious words of Psalm 91:

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that [a]stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
[b]For you have made the Lordmy refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your [c]tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the [d]serpent you will trample down.
14 Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
15 “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in [e]trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 “With [f]long life I will satisfy him
And [g]let him see My salvation.”

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