Friday, April 15, 2016

Describing the Indescribable

I've been contemplating Isaiah 55 and couldn't help but think it offers a great Gospel guideline as we seek to "proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light".  (1 Peter 2:9)

Here's my bullet-point thoughts: 

vs. 1: "Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters..." The call goes out to all...and the call is to embrace Christ ( Jesus said in John 14:4, "But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again--ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life."")

vs.1 cont'd: "and you without money; come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" Salvation from our sins, God's judgement, and wrath is a free gift for those who believe, though, it was incredibly cost Jesus His very life. 

vs. 2 "Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?" Ecclesiastes calls it "chasing after wind". You'll never have enough and your soul will never find rest until it finds rests in God alone (Augustine). Psalm 107:9 says,  "For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things." 

vs. 6 "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while He is near." Our lives are but a vapor, don't wait, don't presume there may be a tomorrow. 2 Corinthians 6:2b says, "Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation." Cry out for mercy and grace! 

vs. 7 "Let the wicked one abandon his way, and the sinful one his thoughts." Salvation involves not just being saved TO something (eternal life) but it also involves being saved FROM something, our sin. That means, genuine salvation begins with repentance. A broken spirit that sees her sin for what it is, treason against a holy God, and then, disgusted by it, turns away from her sinful ways, thoughts, and actions to Jesus who is "the way, the truth, and the life". 

vs.7 cont'd "let him return to the Lord so He may have compassion on him, and to our God for He will freely forgive."  1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 

vs. 8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways. This is the Lord's declaration. For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Now what? God saved you but you realize that your thoughts and ways of living have not been what God desires. His ways and thoughts are perfect...true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19:9) He's not left us alone. He's given us His Word to know His thoughts, and, when we are saved, He seals us (places inside of us) His very Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to help us better understand His thoughts and conform us to His ways.  

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." I Cor. 9:15

Friday, April 8, 2016

Do the Next Thing

We have the privilege of living in an area that has LOTS of walking/hiking paths through the woods behind and around our house. Some of these trails are relatively flat and I can keep talking to Bryan at my normal 250 words per minute. ;) Other trails lead you right up the side of the mountain and, while the view is beautiful, the climb has me focusing on my breathing as though I were in labor. It's the quietest part of the hike for Bryan, which may explain why he takes me on those routes so often! :)

It isn't long after we start climbing the steps, or walking up the switch backs, that my legs start to burn and I start looking up and ahead at how much farther I have to go. Invariably, it's much farther than I hoped for and I have found myself stopping several times on the way up to "rest" because I feel like I just can't make it. (Insert the "clearly she is out of shape" that I know you all are thinking!)

But I did something different the last couple of days and I made it to the top without stopping. I simply looked down at the ground and the very next step ahead of me and said to myself, "I can make the next step". And all those steps, taken one at a time, totalled 250 yards of uphill climb without a break. What changed? Certainly not the hill I was climbing, and it's not my out-of-shape was my thoughts. It was my direction and my focus. I just took the next step.

As I took one step after another, I couldn't help but be reminded how true this reality is, not just for my hike, but for so much of my life. I can start out the day rejoicing that the Lord has made it and excited to see what He has in store for our waking hours...and the smile can quickly fade from my face just by entering the kitchen. The stack of dishes reminds me that I forgot to turn on the dishwasher and now I have backed up dishes on my counter and in my sink that are turning whatever was eaten on them to glue as fast as possible. The fridge reminds me that I forgot the pull out the meat last night and now I need to come up with a new plan for dinner on top of the fact that it's almost empty and I still have not made up my grocery list. I look at my desk and see my computer, and the piles of papers that surround it, reminding me of the emails I have not returned and the list of to-do's that require attention before the papers consume my computer. And I haven't even made it to the homeschool room or peaked into the laundry room to see how the clothes hamper grew overnight. Just like that, my smile is replaced with a grimace, joy is replaced by frustration, and excitement is replaced with dread. I've tried to take my whole day and tackle it in my mind in the span of a minute...and, in the space of that one minute, I already feel like I can't make it through the day.

Elisabeth Elliot shared something once (based on an old saxon poem) that has been a source of encouragement to me when I feel overwhelmed by all that is in front of me. She said, "Just do the next thing".

Do it immediately; Do it with prayer; Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, Tracing His Hand, Who placed it before thee with
Earnest command. Stayed on Omnipotence, Safe 'neath His wing, 

Leave all resultings, DO THE NEXT THING.

I'm not on the other side of this battle...I'm in the midst of this battle to not be overwhelmed, to not grow weary, to laugh at the days to come, to rejoice in God's new mercies every morning, to give thanks instead of grumble and complain, to rest instead of worry, to see through the trial to the gracious hand of God, to trust and obey instead of control and force my way, to do the next thing. But, praise God, I am not defenseless in this battle, though, and neither are you! We have the full armor of God at our disposal as we wrestle our thoughts to the ground and take them captive to obey Christ, as we cling with all our might to God's Word and the precious promises that we find Ephesians 6:10-18. Our God has unlimited strength...and that strength is ours in Christ. We can stand armed for daily battle with the truth of God's Word in our hearts and minds, with the righteousness of Christ giving us access to the Father through prayer, with words that bring peace to our homes and relationships through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we lived faith-filled lives fixed, not on what is seen, but what is unseen. This is our hope, this is our confidence, this is true reality!

Ready to do the next thing?

"Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leading Like A King

We are reading through the Bible as a family this year using "The MacArthur Daily Bible" and today was one of those special days where the Old Testament tied into the New Testament in a way that made my heart go "WOW" and stand in awe of the Author the those very books!

Part of our Old Testament reading was Deuteronomy 17, where God is speaking through Moses and giving the Israelites commands to obey as they get ready to enter into the Promise Land. Verses 14-20 are specifically talking about a future king, and here is what God says:

"When he (the king) is seated on his royal throne, he is to write a copy of this instruction for himself on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes." (vs. 18-19)

Just think about that. The first "duty" of a new king was not to hold feasts in his own honor or parade around town showing off his new crown, robe, and chariot. His first responsibility was to painstakingly write out a large chunk of (at least based on the text) Deuteronomy, so that he might have his own copy of God's Word to read each and every day. In doing so, there would be no room for pride as he daily learned to fear the Lord and walk in His ways, and then lead the people to do the same.

God commanded this of each and every king.

We found ourselves in Luke 4 for our New Testament reading. Jesus was lead into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. And, with each temptation thrown at Jesus, He replied by quoting the Scriptures. All three Scriptures came from the same book....can you guess which one?!


Maybe there is no real connection...and maybe there is. I'm not going to write a book on it. :) But, either way, King Jesus is the "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16). He is the only one who has or will ever receive the praises given in 1 Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever." He is the ultimate King of Israel and the church. He also came to fulfill the law. Jesus said in Mathew 5:17-18 "Don't assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished." And, just maybe, that even included the commands in Deuteronomy 17!

We may not be called to be kings (or queens!), and there is only One who is King of kings...but may we be those who follow the command God gave to them thousands of years ago.  May we, daily, open the Bible and read it, meditate on it, and live it out in such a way that we might faithfully lead...faithfully lead others to the feet of Jesus!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Never Hidden by Clouds or Rain

"Then Jesus spoke to them again: "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life." John 8:12

Oh, how I have missed the sunlight. I'm not kidding. I forgot how much rain the Vancouver area gets. In recent weeks, you can see me physically chasing after pockets of sunshine when we are out taking a walk. Or, if you were a fly on our wall, you might see me do strange things like sit awkwardly on the floor or arm of a chair or randomly lay in the middle of a room with my face extended to the single beam of light poking through the clouds. Call me Timothy me crazy....but I miss the sun!

Guess what? We had sun today and we have more of it for the next two days!!! I'm one happy girl! Sunlight is a sweet gift from the Lord and I am thankful for a couple straight days of it. But guess what has come with that beautiful light? A realization of what a bad housekeeper I have been. As long as I am looking at the sun, I feel warm and free. The second I look around me, all I can see is dust the air, on my counter, and on the floor along with all the bread crumbs and who knows what else. The clouds kept my house a bit dim and kept me "in the dark" about just how dirty it actually was. The sunlight is a welcome friend, but it has also exposed my negligence.

I couldn't help but think of God's Word...of Jesus' words in John 3:19-21:

"This, then, is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and the people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God." 

Only God, through the Holy Spirit, can cause us to run to the light of His Word, the very light that exposes our sin and shows us our need for change, our need for Jesus. Only His children will actually run to that light....a light that yes, exposes our sin and shows us what needs to be repented of and cleaned out...but a light that also shines ever brighter in our hearts as we are changed more and more into the image of Jesus. It's a light that helps us know the character of our great God and His magnificent glory in the face of Jesus Christ!

"For God, who said, "Let shine shine out of darkness" - He has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6

The rain and clouds are supposed to come back all next week, which means that, though my house will look a little bit cleaner :), I'll be missing the sun. But will you join me in rejoicing that the true Light, the Son that gives eternal life, can never be hidden by clouds or rain. We have but to open our Bible and, through the pages of Scripture, we see the face of Jesus, the Light of the world!

"Better a day in Your courts than a thousand anywhere else...For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and glory; He does not withhold the good from those who live in integrity. Lord of Hosts, happy is the person who trusts in You."  Psalm 84:10a, 11-12

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beautiful Tassels!

"The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the Lord's commands and obey them and not become unfaithful by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all My commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God." Numbers 15:37-41

Whenever I think about tassels and robes in the Bible, it usually stirs up a negative connotation. I think of the many rebukes that Jesus gave the Pharisees in regards to the long robes they wore. They paraded around to be seen as holy and worthy of honor by men, while their hearts were far from the Lord.

Yet, the above passage speaks to the heart of what these robes and tassels were all about. God commanded them to attach these tassels to their clothes as a daily remembrance of God's commands. As a daily reminder of their need to walk in faithful dependence to their great God. And they were even a reminder of warning at how quick their hearts and eyes could be to run after other idols, to worship something other than God.

As I read, I found myself examining my own life. I found myself looking for tassels that I have attached to the fabric of my days that help me to REMEMBER the Lord, to OBEY His precious commands, and to FLEE from the desires of my flesh, the idols that I am so easily tempted to worship and run after each day. Tassles such as: daily time in the Word of God, dependent prayer, songs of praise, reading articles/books of Biblical encouragement, messages/podcasts of instruction, fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, Bible memorization, and then there are all the many nuances of how these things might play out each day...the tassle possibilities are endless! :)

May we be found as those who lives are full of tassles...of many kinds and many colors...all of them beautifying the fabric of our lives to the praise of God's glory!

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