Friday, July 10, 2015

Not A Fire, But A Light

A couple of days ago, the kids and I were talking about our speech. We talked about how, in Scripture, our words can be a fire...destroying everything in it's path. Our words can also be like that of the Pharisees...leavening the whole batch of conversation. In the context of the gospels...that leaven was a bad they were teaching the traditions of man as though they were the commands of God (Matt. 15:9).

But, as I read Psalm 34, I couldn't help but see the beauty of words spoken in a way that honors the Lord and the aroma they can be to those around us!

"I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim with me the Lord's greatness; let us exalt His name together."
Psalm 34:1-3

I love the progression of these first 3 verses. It starts with our own hearts being full of praise to the Lord....not sometimes, not in pockets throughout the day, but at ALL times. As we live this life of praise, it results in OTHERS hearing and their hearts becoming happy in Christ, which leads to them giving praise to the Lord, as well. This type of life does not result in forest fires...but results in lights shining in the midst of darkness as we proclaim the one who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!

"I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; see, I do not keep my mouth closed - as you know, Lord. I did not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I spoke about Your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal Your constant love and truth from the great assembly." Psalm 40:9-10

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Hebrews 11 is a beautiful chapter full of examples, full of a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before and women who have walked by faith in the midst of trials, uncertainties, riches, foreign lands, walled cities, persecution and even death .

I have found myself reading over and meditating on this passage as I reflect on our move to Canada. Now, I by no means believe that our family should be listed in the "Heroes of Faith" passage...but, as believers, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight...and there are many things in this chapter that my heart resonates with. Of course, as the chapter draws to a close, there are many things that I can't even imagine going through...torture, mocking, scourging, imprisonment, death...and my heart quickly cries out for God's mercy and grace to cover our dear brothers and sisters around the world who are walking in the "valley of the shadow of death".

Right now, the Lord has seen fit to take our family, not into a valley, but up onto the heights...quiet literally! The Lord has given us a home in what is called "Promontory", translated: a point of high land.

"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, co-heirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." Hebrews 11:8-10

Our "tent" is absolutely lovely! We only saw pictures of it on-line...but what a joy it was to walk into our new home and see it in person. Of course, arriving to over a dozen men and women ready to help us move in, balloons and posters of encouragement draped throughout the house, food in the fridge, freezer and pantry, and a host of other sweet blessings throughout the house made our home feel like a haven before one box had even been unpacked. We may not have known fully where we were going or all that awaited us...and we truly felt like foreigners entering the land as we waited at the border for almost four hours to get approval and the necessary documents for settling in Canada, but we so beautifully felt the pleasure of God that day and rejoiced in His steadfast love!

"A man's steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way." Psalm 37:23

Each of us has a visitor's record with our name on it. A reminder to us, and to the Canadian government, that we are foreigners and temporary residents. With those titles comes a list of what we can and cannot do in this land we now call home. It is a living illustration of a spiritual reality that I am thankful to be reminded of, yet again. You see, all of us who have been saved by grace, no matter where we live, hold a "visitor record". Our citizenship is in Heaven.

"These (that great cloud of witnesses!) all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been remembering that land they came from, they would have had opportunity to return. But they now aspire to a better land - a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:13-16

While we all may be foreigners on earth like the saints who have gone before us, we do not greet God's promises from afar...we now proclaim Christ, in Whom all the promises of God find their fulfillment (2 Cor. 1:20). We are so excited to join the ministry here at Valley Heights Community Church and link arms with them as they proclaim the "excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9), and we are so very thankful for the prayers that you have lifted up on our behalf! We know they are as incense to the Lord and they have been sweetness to our hearts.

So, as the pages start filling up in this new chapter of our life....may our praise and prayer be the same:

"I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim with me the Lord's greatness; let us exalt His name together."
Psalm 34:1-3

Friday, May 8, 2015

A New Page for the Pichuras

When I read the stories in the Bible,  I am amazed at how God worked. Amazed at His clear hand of providence on each and every page. Amazed at His sovereignty over great and small and how He works to accomplish His purposes. But I can be quick to forget that the God of the Bible, our glorious King, is the same God who works and moves and orchestrates and sovereignly controls all things today, as well. Including my life. Including my family. He is writing His story on the "Pichura Pages" and I stand in amazement...the same amazement I feel when I read His works of old!

And He has begun a new chapter in the Pichura Clan. A chapter that involves a new church family, Valley Heights Community Church,  a new city, Chilliwack, in a province and country we began to know much better several years ago and will call home once again, British Columbia, Canada!

When we left Canada, we thought we would never be back. The Lord's wisdom is incomprehensible and His plans are, most often, so different than ours ! As we look back over the 17 years of ministry and life together, we would have written the story differently at times...and yet, we are so very thankful for the growing, the stretching, the testing, the trials, the loving, the people, the we have grown to know and love the Lord more and more and love the Body of Christ, far and wide. We look back with hearts full of gratitude and praise to the Lord and we look forward with joy and excitement at what is to come! 

There will be many tears as we leave our sweet family at Faith Bible Church, our community, and my parents. They are dear to our hearts in so many ways. Their testimony of God's grace will linger long in our minds and souls....and their partnership in the Gospel has blessed our hearts many times over! They will be tears of thanksgiving. And those tears of thanksgiving and praise have also welled in our eyes as we reflect on our time at Valley Heights and anticipate serving there,  alongside our new brothers and sisters in Christ.  I find myself lingering over Romans 11: 33-36 once again: 

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen"

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ordered and Secured

King David.

He was a guy who knew all about trials, suffering, pain, uncertainty, and fear. He had many different roles throughout his life: shepherd, warrior, aid to the king, fugitive, madman, rebel, faithful friend, protector, defender, sinner, murderer, king, to name a few.  There is much we can learn from David's life...both what to do and what not to do. His life is well worth studying because anyone who is known as a "man after God's own heart" is worth learning from!

At the end of 2 Samuel you'll find David's "Song of Thanksgiving" and his last words. It's beautiful and there is much to learn about our great God and how to praise Him. Near the end of his final words, David says something that had me pausing to ponder which led my heart to praising the Lord.

"Is it not true that my house is with God? For He has established an everlasting covenant with me, ordered and secured in every detail. Will He not bring about my whole salvation and my every desire?"      2 Samuel 23:5

David reminded me that this world is not my home, merely a layover on the way to Glory. Yes, there may be trials, uncertainty, and suffering in this layover...but my "ticket" has been bought with the blood of Christ and my final destination, my whole salvation, is secure.

"Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up to glory. Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."   Psalm 73:23-26

Not only is my final destination secure but every moment, every detail of my life, has been ordered and secured. Yes, there may be trials, uncertainty, and suffering but there is no room for fear, manipulation, impatience, ungodly anger, or worry. I am "encircled" by the Lord and His hand is upon me (Psalm 139). Not only is His hand upon me, He is holding ON to me!

"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 on to you with My righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10

What hope, what joy, what peace there is when we not only KNOW these truths, but WALK in these truths...when they impact they way we think, talk, and act!

Oh, that the pathway from my head to my heart would be clear of any doubting and sin that so easily entangles....that it would be a pathway that brings a steady stream of God's truth to the soil of my heart...and that it would bear the sweet fruit of obedience and righteousness!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This is the day that the Lord has made!

"Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus - the great Shepherd of the sheep - with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."          Hebrews 13:20-21

What God calls us to, He equips us for. His strength is made perfect in weakness and His grace is sufficient for each moment.

I was reminded of this very truth on Sunday seconds after causing an accident (my first) that totaled our mini-van and, most likely, the other car involved. After the initial moments of shock wore off, and it was clear everyone involved was okay....the words "This is the day" flooded my mind, bringing peace to my soul, giving me sweet courage for the moments to come, and a thankful heart for the mercies and grace of our Lord!

God had equipped my heart with words that I had just shared with our dear church ladies the morning before. The words came from a verse and a blog post:

"This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118:24

Michael Kelley shared his thoughts on this verse in his post entitled "This. Is. The. Day.":

"Regardless of what this day holds, it is the day that the Lord has made. He is not some cosmic clockmaker who set the universe in motion and then stood apart, watching it tick away. He’s still in the business of making days, and He’s made this one for me. Although I know very little of the potential ups or downs or highs or lows that this day holds, it is nevertheless the one made by the Lord. Because it is made by the Lord, I know that along with making it He has also given me the resources I need for it. I have the grace I need. The patience I require. The perseverance necessary. The discipline to do and work. Along with this day He’s made He has also given me His limitless supply which I take hold of by faith."

There is much more to his post...and it's worth reading! 

I am so thankful for God's provision, protection, purposes, and the precious truth that each day is given to us by the Lord to accomplish the desires of His heart and to transform me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, I can rejoice...even when it is not the day I had planned for or hoped for!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Uncomfortable Grace

In our small group, we are reading "What Did You Expect?" by Paul Tripp. In Chapter 13 he shared something that is worth repeating...and worth thinking about long after I put down the book. He is applying this specifically to marriage...but the applications are far reaching, in my opinion. Paul says:

"I really do think that there are moments in our marriages when we are crying out for grace, not recognizing that we are getting it. We are not getting the grace of relief or the grace of release, because that is not the grace that we really need. No, what we are getting is something we desperately need, the uncomfortable grace of personal growth and change. With the love of a Father, your Lord is prying open your hands so that you will let go of things that have come to rule your heart but will never satisfy you. With the insight of a seasoned teacher, He is driving you to question your own wisdom so that you will find your understanding and rest in His. With the skill of the world's best counselor, God is showing you the delusions of your control so that you will take comfort in His rule. With the gentleness of a faithful friend He is facing you toward your inadequacies of your own righteousness so that you find your hope in His."

Uncomfortable grace.

Oh Lord, help me to see through Your eyes. Help me to behold and worship You in each situation that You bring my way! Forgive me for desiring comfort and ease more than I desire to be holy, to be like You! Help me to rejoice in Your grace...even Your uncomfortable grace!

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."  Romans 5:1-5

Monday, April 6, 2015

Let Down Your Nets

"When (Jesus) had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch." "Master," Simon replied, "we've worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I'll let down the nets."  Luke 5:4-5

Do you ever feel like Peter? I do. Feeling as though I have tried everything or have looked at all the angles or just plain feel tired and want to give up...and, through God's Word, Jesus calls me to "let down your nets". He says "my grace is sufficient and my power is perfected in weakness". He says to "store up treasures in Heaven and not worry about tomorrow". He calls me to "fix my eyes on what is unseen" and "walk by faith and not by sight".

And what a joy it is when I answer as Peter did that day on the shore: "But at Your Word, I'll let down the nets". For Peter, the results were pretty immediate. "When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." vss. 6-7

God's answers in my life might not always be so immediate but they are always right on time...not my time, but God's time! "Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about. I have planned it; I will also do it." (Isaiah 46:11b) Philippians 2:13 reminds me that "it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose." I don't have to worry, fret, manipulate, strategize, or come up with a better plan. I can rest in God's perfect plan knowing that He will accomplish it for my good and for His glory. And I know, first-hand, what it looks like to be quiet in my spirit and watch the Lord work! AMAZINGLY GLORIOUS!

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements and untraceable His ways! ...For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:33,36

When Peter beheld Jesus at work, there was only one thing he could do. Luke 5:8 says that "he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, because I'm a sinful man, Lord!" He saw Jesus for who He was and Peter saw the sinfulness of his own heart and in that moment, he was humbled. 

I love what Kimberly Wagner has to say about humility in her book Fierce Women: "In reality, humility has little to do with how I see myself but has everything to do with how I see God. Humility is the true response to a proper view of God. Humility opens the door for God's presence to be at home in our hearts (Isaiah 57:15) and His grace to move in to the situation at hand (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5). Jesus compared this condition to that of a little child. It's the recognition that we are helpless; completely dependent on Him. Humility doesn't grasp for, or demand control, but it gladly surrenders to the Master's control. When we maintain a steady gaze on God, childlike humility permeates our thoughts, attitudes, and actions."

So, here is what I am learning (and relearning!) in a nutshell: WALK obediently, even when you can't see more than the next step in front of you. WAIT on the Lord, confident in the reality that He will accomplish all His purposes for your life. WATCH Him work and WONDER at His majesty in such a way that you are humbled by His awesomeness and find your thoughts, attitudes, and actions changed more and more into His likeness! 

Wanna let down your nets with me?