Friday, December 26, 2014

Little, Bitsie Trinkets

I've been thinking a bit about Mary this past week and I've been thanking the Lord for her example.

This is a gal like any of us. Most likely, living days filled with ordinary routine. Of course, a wedding was in the near future and the anticipation of that must have brought lightness to her feet and pitter-patters to her heart. But her feet still walked down the humble streets of a small town, and her heart was the same as ours...in need of a Savior to wash it white as snow.

There is no question that Mary's plans did not include giving birth to the Son of God. I can't help but wonder if, in the days following Gabriel's announcement, she found herself looking at Proverbs 16:9 with new eyes, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps".

The news she was given sounded impossible and the question she asked was not asked in disbelief as much as it was wonder. I love how Russ Ramsey describes it in "Behold the Lamb of God":

"The angel explained that all the laws of nature are amendable by the One who wrote them. Mary lived in a world that was made, and the Maker of this world was the sole author of what could and would happen here. The Holy Spirit would overshadow her, and when he pulled that shadow back, this virgin would become a mother to a son. How this would happen was less important than the fact that it would. And God would be the one to do it....The angel's message was as much about the character of the God who favored Mary as it was about what he meant to do for his people through her."

Mary received this news, that would rock her whole world to the core, with words that testify to the grace of God in her life, with words that reflected her deep trust in and dependence on God and His character,  with words that should make our hearts yearn to have a "Mary's heart". She simply said, "I am your servant. Be it unto me according to Your word". She said yes. She humbly surrendered her own plans and desires for what God willed, because (as seen in her prayer of praise later on) her greatest desire was to please the Lord....to see Him exalted and glorified!

Hundreds of years later, Betty Stam, a missionary to China, was a wonderful testimony of one who had a "Mary's heart". She wrote:

"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Your will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all utterly to You to be Yours forever.  Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit.  Use me as You want, send me where You want, work out Your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever."

God's "whole will" for Betty's life was her early death when communists dragged Betty and her husband out of their home and away from their baby daughter, killing first her husband and then Betty herself.

And what did Betty think of her own plans and purposes anyway? She says:

"When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him, when really we are only letting go some little, bitsie trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasures." 

Her plans and purposes were like "some little, bitsie trinkets that (she had) been grabbing". MY plans and purposes are little, bitsie trinkets I try so hard to hold onto and yet...when my hands are truly empty of all I think I desire, then I am filled to the full with HIS treasures.

Mary knew this, Betty knew this...O Lord, help my heart to walk in their footsteps as they have followed Yours!



Saturday, December 13, 2014

God, I want another king.

As we draw nearer and nearer to the birthday of our Saviour...I am reminded that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our King, ruling in our hearts because of His life, death, resurrection and indwelling Spirit.

Yet, I can't help but wonder how much like the Israelites we can be when they cried out, "We must have a king over us. Then we'll be like all the other nations..." (I Samuel 8:20). God says, in that moment, they were rejecting HIM as their King...something they had been doing since they left Egypt.

My initial thoughts on reading I Samuel 8 were to be saddened by the Israelites foolishness and to think about how that would not have been my heart if I had been "beamed back" to that day. How could they think those thoughts, let alone, act on them?!

I'm thankful God didn't leave me in my self-righteousness for too long! The more I pondered...the more I realized how often I live in the likeness of Israel.

The Israelites had GOD as their King, yet they wanted more...they wanted to be like the other nations. God is my King...my Saviour...and yet, how often I live and act as if I need more. How often I look around me and want what others have.

God, you are enough....but I need to have more money in the bank. God, you are enough....but I need to go on a getaway for a few days like everyone else seems to be doing. God, you are enough....but I need an afternoon of quiet. God, you are enough....but I don't want to go through this trial anymore. God, you are enough....but why can't my life be more like _______. God, you are enough...but I'm tired of waiting. I could keep filling in the blanks of discontent that often well up in my heart...how about you?

What I am really saying each and every time discontentment wells up in my own heart is, "God, you are not enough...and if things were different, my life would be a lot better." What I'm really saying is, "God, I want another king." What I am really doing each and every time I desire more than what He has seen as best to give me is rejecting my King. I am guilty of the same foolish sin that Israel was guilty of.

I am thankful for the Israelites example, though it is often an example of what not to do, because there is more of "me" in them than I would care to admit...and I want to learn and grow from their mistakes. I am "prone to wander" but, by God's grace, it doesn't have to be for 40 years!

Come Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel's strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart
Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Actual Reality

Any of you weepy out there? I'm going to blame it on not seeing the sun for the last two weeks and needing a bit more vitamin D. But this (hopefully) short season of "melancholy" has also caused me to be more reflective...to stop and think beyond the next hour or the hour gone by. I don't do that enough. I have a great tutor in thinking long, deep, and hard. Bryan is a constant source of encouragement and an example of the discernment and wisdom that comes out of being still, pondering, and filtering all of those thoughts in and through the Word of God. I am thankful beyond words for his leadership in my life in this way and many others!

With that said, I know that in my more weepy days, it's so easy to focus on me and on my sadness over this, that, and the other thing. This time, in God's great mercy, He has been so gracious to pull me up from the muck and mire of my own perceived reality and into the beauty of the actual reality that I live in. A reality that is so breathtakingly beautiful that I wonder how I can, so quickly, pull my eyes off of it and onto things that, in comparison, are nothing less than admiring a garbage dump.

My perceived reality is that life should go a certain way. That "way" looks different for each area of my life....husband, home, children, friends, money, time, etc...but all are within the framework of Phil 4:8 (whatever is true, noble, right, etc...). I mean, come on, if I can quote Bible verses to go with my desires...they have got to be good ones and worthy of being heard and answered, right?! :) But THAT is where the problem is. No matter how "good" my desires might be, the second I believe they should be answered in the way I see fit is the moment I place myself has sovereign and my precious Lord as my servant to do my bidding. It sounds so heinous when I put it like this....how could I ever live this way? Yet, I do it all the time. My perceived reality is horribly skewed...like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars!

Actual reality, Godward reality, truth living and speaking reality says something entirely different. It frees us from ourselves in a mighty way. Here it is:

"...everyone called by My name and created for My glory." Isaiah 43:7a

I was created for God's glory...PERIOD. Say that a few times to yourself. And then a couple more times. I was not created for comfort, ease, financial freedom, pain-free days, stressless living, or deep sleep. I was not created to be seen as wonderful, have my thoughts heard, win the mother-of-the-year award, or be loved by all.

I was created for God's glory....created to live the life that He planned out for me so that He might be glorified. I don't determine how He is best glorified, God does. He is the planner, sustainer, and perfector. He see's what reality really is, because He IS reality.

"God's wisdom means that He knows all things, first to last. He never discovers or learns. Every possible outcome has its conclusion in Him. He knows what is best and most beautiful in every situation, and causes all things to work infallibly for His glory (Job. 12:13)." 
                                                                    -"True Beauty" by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre


Hebrews 11 is an amazing chapter. In it, we find out who the "cloud of witnesses" are that surround us in chapter 12. We read of people who's examples encourage us and remind us to not grow weary and lose heart. I've been thinking about their lives...their realities...

Abraham: promised land and descendants more numerous than the stars, yet spent most of his life a fatherless wander.

Joseph: blessed greatly by his father, hated deeply by his brothers. Sold as a slave, falsely imprisoned, and long imprisoned because the good he had done to the cupbearer was forgotten about.

Moses: Went from the world's wealthiest kid to an outcast hiding and tending sheep in the wilderness for 40 years. Then he spend another 40 years dealing with a whining, complaining nation that did not grow up and move out of the house, if you know what I mean!

And I could keep writing....Daniel, Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah, David, Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, and countless others.

Their realities were hard. Their realities were what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 4:8 "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed".

But their realities, just like yours and mine, serves a magnificent purpose:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."    2 Corinthians 4:7

John MacArthur's commentary on this verse says: "By using frail and expendable people, God makes it clear that salvation is the result of his power and not any power his messengers could generate. The great power of God overcomes and transcends the clay pot. The messenger's weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential." 

WOW! "The messenger's weakness is not fatal to what he does; it is essential." That pierces through my perceived reality and drives home my actual reality. My life is for the glory of God, to be lived out in whatever way HE chooses, so that HIS saving power is magnified, amplified,  and glorified in all those hard things I would chose, in my flesh,  to see removed from my life.

My actual reality, the glory of God, is a reality of sweet rest and peace in the arms of a loving God. A God who sent His only Son down to earth...from the manger to the cross...."He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things"(Romans 8:32).

All that we need is found in all that He is.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
Romans 11:36

That's reality!





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Christ IN me!

Do you ever read a book or a chapter and feel like all you do is underline because it's THAT good! Well, chapter 10 of "Practical Theology for Women" by Wendy Alsup has been given much underlining. So has much of her book for that matter! Anyway, she shared a beautiful thought that I wanted to piggy back off of...here is what she says:

"If you belong to God, then you and Christ are supernaturally connected. (Col 1:17) However, instead of seeing ourselves as connected to Christ at all times, we tend to view our... relationship with God in the terms of intersecting moments during the day. We think that the more times our lives intersect with God, the more "spiritual" we are. In this paradigm, God goes on his way, and I go on my way until we intersect at another corner later that day, week, month, or year. Instead, we need to think of ourselves as walking with Jesus continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are a believer, Christ is with you, in you, holding you together at all times. The goal is for us to be aware of that reality and live in the light of it, for Christ warns us that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15)."


 I couldn't help but think that this truth of "Christ in us" is very similar to being pregnant. When I was pregnant, I was very much aware that there was a baby growing inside of me. Sure, there were times that I didn't "think about it", caught up in the busyness of the moment. But, on the whole, my thoughts often went to the precious life growing inside. All of my life was filtered through the reality that there was someone inside of me. Should I eat this? Should I rest right now? Would this be good for the baby? What kind of mom would I have been if I didn't live in the light of the reality that there was another little person growing inside my womb?!

Jesus is IN me! My days of pregnancy are but a dim illustration of the magnificent truth that Christ is "with me, in me, holding me together at all times"!! Yet, what kind of Christ follower am I really? How often do I truly walk in that reality? How often are my thoughts, affections, and actions filtered through God's Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit? How often do I abide in His presence and remain in His presence?

I am so thankful that it is CHRIST who is holding on to me! My grasp is often so weak, and my hold easily releases. But I am kept by His power and amazing grace! Truly, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Greatness was beheaded

I don't know about you, but if you listen to much Christian music on Pandora, or visit your local Christian bookstore, or hang around social media much...it won't take long for you to believe that you were "made for more than ordinary", you "can fly", you "were made for so much more", etc.....

You hear stuff like that for long and you start believing it. You start believing it and you quickly lose your joy when those things don't happen. Then, instead of trust, you start to question. Instead of rest, you grow worried and anxious. Instead of peace, frustration creeps in. All because you listened to others instead of listening to God through His Word.

Oh...and by the way....the "you" tense I keep using should really be "I". How often I believe the lies. How desperately I need to be washed, daily, in the truths of God's Word!

Here is some of the truth that I need to "wash over" me. Jesus said in Luke 7:28 that "among those born of women there was no one greater than John". What happened to John? He was imprisoned and had his head cut off. Forget "made for so much more" , what happened to John is the stuff our nightmares are made up of!!And Jesus said He was the greatest of all born to women?! Of course, John the Baptist stands in a long line of those who lost their lives and endured massive hardships for loving and following Jesus.

All those were following in Jesus' own footsteps, footsteps that walked a life of sacrifice and died as the final Sacrifice so that we could walk in newness of life. Newness of life, though, does not mean prosperity and ease all the rest of our earthly days. It means we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of Christ. It means we have been adopted into God's family and we are a co-heirs with Christ. It means that all that God does for us, both the joyful and the painful,  is for our good and for His glory. It means that we are indwelt by God Himself through the Holy Spirit and, therefore have ability to live out His fruits, day in and day out, as we deny self, take up our cross, and follow our Savior wherever He leads us....through dirty dishes, arguing kids, and mounds of laundry. Through seasons of joy, laughter, and refreshment. Through sickness, singleness, job loss, chronic pain, and rejection. Through the ordinary and mundane of each and every day. Newness of life means Jesus is enough. Period.

"The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him." Lamentations 3:24

You and I may never be beheaded...but may we live in such a way that we recognize that true "greatness" is having a heart like John the Baptist: "He must increase and I must decrease."

"But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me - that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things declares the Lord."     Jeremiah 9:24

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If God works all things together for good...then what's wrong with my life?

Romans 8:28...it is a verse I have been chewing on for the past week. I love this verse and will often preach it to my own heart. The problem is, I am defining "good" by my own standard. Good, to me, means it will all "work out" in a Disney movie sort of way. Good, to me, often means life will smooth out and relaxation will come. Good, to me, ...leaves me waiting for the pretty bow on the package...for children to make wise choices, for a husband to understand my every emotional wave and tide, for money issues to disappear. For me, the word "good" is a word I often see in the "prosperity" sense....though I would tell you over and over that I hate the false "prosperity gospel".

I when I preach that type of truth to myself....I am DEAD WRONG.
The "good" of Romans 2:28 is defined in the very next verse! Oh why did we not grow up memorizing them TOGETHER?!

The good that God is working together in my life and in yours (if you are a child of the King), is that He is conforming us to the likeness of Jesus Christ! And He will use whatever it takes to accomplish that purpose and see it to completion. It's a total shift of focus and perspective, isn't it?

I think we are often robbed of so much joy in our Christian walk because we keep looking for physical, tangible, "good" to come out of our trials and pain...and when we don't see it, we lose hope and despair. We may even start to question whether Jesus keeps His promises. Our perspective is skewed so our conclusions will be faulty, as well.

BUT, if we gain a proper perspective....seeing life through the lens of Romans 8:28 AND 29...we have much to rejoice in and can trust fully in the promises of God. We can rest in the fact that there is not one trial, pain, or tear that is wasted. He will finish the good work that He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6) and the good work has nothing to do with material blessings or gifts (though, many times, those are ours in abundance, too!)....the good work is becoming like Jesus...for God's glory and for our ultimate good!

I read a blog post yesterday that took all the thoughts I have been thinking and drove the nail home, so to speak. I couldn't end this blog post better than with the words of Matt Papa:

I have spent too much of my life, and my prayer life, asking for God to lead me into His “perfect will”.  “God lead me”.  “Guide me”.  “Use me”.  “Bless me”.  While I know that God is a gracious, condescending God who meets us wherever we are, I something wonder if God has been up there saying….
“Um…yeah.  I’m Your Shepherd.  That’s what I do.”
So there’s a problem revealed here.  If I really believed that God was good….that He was my dad who was all powerful and all knowing and all loving….then I wouldn’t be repeatedly begging him to lead me with this certain twinge of anxiety.  I would relax.  Dad’s got me.  Chill.
But I don’t believe it, obviously.  And yet the problem goes deeper still.  If the pulse of my prayer life is set on my future (“God lead me guide me help me”), and not on God Himself (“Our Father who art in heaven”) then this has revealed that there is really a rival god in the mix.  An idol.  “Success” or perhaps “Comfort” or “Control”.  I want my best life now, not Jesus.  Really what I have been asking is….”God make my life go perfectly”.  “Make it exceptional.”  “Make my life epic.”
Now….there’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking God’s guidance.  But ask yourself this….”If the world could read my prayer journal….all in all…..would God look more like a genie or a treasure?”
Why are we so obsessed with “it” (God’s will) unless knowing “it” is more desirable to us than knowing “Him”?
Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be epic.  Maybe He wants it to be normal.  Maybe He wants your heart to be epic.  And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation.  God, for His children, will patiently and lovingly deny them of their desires until what they desire is Him.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
What are you seeking?  God or something He can give you.  Your happiness is at stake.  Your soul is at stake.

"Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge."      Psalm 62:5-7


   

Saturday, April 19, 2014

If sin lives anywhere, it will crawl everywhere!

Yesterday was Good Friday...and, Lord willing, you had the blessing and opportunity to fellowship with your local church body. To remember, reflect, and rejoice in the great sacrifice Jesus made in giving up His life. It was a privilege for me to sit under my husband's preaching last night. I wish I could do justice to the things God laid on his heart to share by properly writing them down here...but I'll just have to bullet point it for you...I'm still mulling over much of what was said!

-Good Friday is not a funeral...it's a celebration. When an individual dies, fellowship/relationship with them is broken. There is much heartache involved.  When Jesus died, fellowship was restored and made possible for all who believe. We were given access to God Himself! There is much jubilation that should fill our hearts as we ponder that truth!

- The fellowship and relationship with the Father that was made possible through the death of Christ was seen in the tearing of the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. No more blood sacrifices and no more yearly visits by the high priest. Jesus was the final blood sacrifice and our forever High Priest. Through Christ, we may now "boldly approach the throne" of God!

-And talk about the mercy and grace of God on display. The very first person to have access to that throne was not a Jew, but a Gentile. And not just any Gentile, but a Roman centurion. And not just any Roman centurion, but one of the very ones who crucified the Son of God (Mark 15:39)

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!"  Romans 11:33

As I ponder those truths and more, my heart wells with adoration and stands in awe of God's amazing plan and the work of Christ. But my heart also aches. The reason there was broken fellowship, the reason God's wrath was upon me, the reason Christ had to die is because of MY SIN.

Do I realize the weight of that? Do I take my sin seriously?

John MacArthur puts it this way in "Saved Without A Doubt", "Don't make allowances for any sins in your life. Take each one seriously as it comes to light, and deal with it biblically....The seasoned Christian knows that if sin lives anywhere, it will crawl everywhere."

As we bask in the reality of our salvation....of being "called out of darkness into His marvelous light"...may we not forget how dark the darkness is, how real our sin is, and the price our precious Savior paid.

 "He erased the certificate of debt, with it's obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).