Thursday, October 15, 2009

You Blow Me Away!

Oh Lord! My heart cries out in gratitude, in humility, in praise!
Who am I that you would even notice me?
Yet You extend your hand of salvation, in desire for relationship with me!
How have I even caught your eye?
Why do you look on me as lovely and beloved?

Oh precious blood of Jesus Christ!
Only by your mercy have I been redeemed.
Only because of your sacrifice do I even have a place at the Father's table...
Yet not just any place, but the place of honor:
The bride of my beloved.

And so I come in all humility, in all my unworthiness,
Only to be clothed with your strength and to be made clean and worthy
Of your love, of your life...object of your desire.
Holy, righteous, acceptable, desired, loved, beautiful,
Without spot or blemish -- because of your blood.

Oh how I love You!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joshua 2

Well, I'm working on a message for my Bible study next week. I'm really excited to be a part of the teaching team, and next week is my turn. I'd like to share just a little of what I've learned along the way as I'm preparing for it. We are studying the book of Joshua. Just started our study this week, so next week I'll be speaking on chapter 2: the story of Rahab. I'm so glad I get to teach this lesson. God has really spoken to me through it. I'm sure He'd do that no matter what chapter it is!

Ok, so Joshua 2:1 says that Joshua sent spies who "...entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab..." Now, I'm not even going to address the matter of why they chose Rahab's house. I'll leave that to the theologians. Suffice it to say there would be lots of info there. What I'd like to focus on is the fact that almost every time we encounter Rahab in the Bible she is called Rahab the prostitute. As I read through the chapters in Joshua that include Rahab it kind of frustrated me. I thought, "Wow! this woman is clearly turning her life around. I mean geez she's in the genealogy of Jesus after all! The least they could do is remove the title."

Rahab is also mentioned in the New Testament. Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 both commend Rahab the prostitute for her faith and "righteousness". And I thought, "OK, for sure here we could do without the title!" I've been mulling this chapter over and over in my mind. My initial direction was to talk about the fear of God: Rahab chose to fear God over man, she chose faith, and God chose to save her. But on Tuesday at Bible study I was thinking about it again and I got the word "label", and then, "What's your label?"

You see some theologians suggest that at the time the spies visited Rahab, she was possibly no longer a prostitute but an innkeeper, or maybe both. Eventually she was adopted into the Israelite community and even married into what would be the "royal" family. You can be sure she was no longer a prostitute once she joined the Israelites and gave her life to Yahweh. Yet she continued to bear a title her whole life for something that she used to be.

How many times do we label people for who they used to be? How often do we resent that nickname or title that we've been given? How often are we held back simply because no one believes that we can change? Or how often do we hold others back?

So what's your label? Are you the liar, the sinner, the adulterer, the thief, the pain-in-the-rear, the hot temper, the jerk? Are you living or acting a certain way because it's just who you've always been? Or are you allowing God to change you into who He made you to be? Are you giving others the freedom to change?

As I looked up verses about Rahab I was astounded to find one in which she was not called "the prostitute". Matthew 1:5 "...Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab..." just Rahab. There it is. Some might say that Matthew was just trying to clean up the genealogy of Jesus. But here's what I see: when you give your life to God, when you choose to fear Him, when you are adopted into the blood line of Jesus Christ the Son of God, who you used to be doesn't matter anymore. There are no titles to be held, no sins to hide, just pure, blessed acceptance and love. The blood of Jesus washes away the sin and the past.

Acts 10:34-35 from the Message: "It's God's own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you're from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open."

So here's the deal: let it go. Whoever you are or used to be. Whatever label or title you've hidden behind or loathed for years. Allow the Blood to cover the past and walk in the freedom you've been given as a co-heir with Christ. You are just you -- and that's enough!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Looking UP!

I've heard it said that if you're not in a trial you're probably just coming out of one, or you're heading into one. It used to bother me. I never really thought that was a very "Christian" perspective... You know the whole "joy of the Lord is my strength" thing. What I'm coming to realize is that it's true: all of it.

I'm reading "To Live is Christ" by Beth Moore. It's all about the life of the apostle Paul. Boy, talk about suffering and trials! I don't know if I could stand up under half the life he lived through. But Beth addresses the idea of Christianity as a life of prosperity only, and why as Christians we will suffer. It seems like such a morbid topic, I guess. But in reality it makes sense. Basically she comes to the conclusion that as Christians we aren't exempt from the trials of life, and we're probably prime targets for attacks of the enemy. But God is able to take the things that the enemy plans to harm us with and turn them into something good!

Although we have trials, and sometimes life just plain stinks, God can always turn our situation around for good. Not only that, but He will always use whatever happens to us for His glory if we allow Him to!

I also believe that sometimes God leads us into times that seem so hard, painful, void, desert places, so that He can work in us. Have you noticed that the hardest times are the times you're closest to God? Maybe not. Maybe you're always spiritually in tune, but I know that up until recently for me this has proved to be true. Lately God has really been teaching me about daily discipline and living in His presence. But I know that in my life it has always been out of the "desert times" that I have come away the strongest in my relationship with Him.

I heard a speech recently where the speaker talked about Joseph. She mentioned all the crazy things he'd been through, and how eventually he ended up in the palace. She came to the conclusion that the pit, the prison, the dungeon was only preparation for the palace. All that time, years of his life, he spent just being himself, then getting thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, thrown into prison, was only in preparation for who God was making him to be. You ever notice how going into the pit was a product of his big-mouthed-boldness and pride in the dreams God had given him? But coming out of the prison was a result of humility and sharing only what God gave him to share. I think maybe Joseph learned something through all the trouble he went through. In the end he was even able to see that though some intended to harm, God only intended good.

You see it truly is only through the joy of the Lord that we have strength to endure the pit, the prison, and the desert. We can't do it on our own. Joseph could have felt sorry for himself and thrown a fit, refused to be a "slave" because he was a "free man". He could have refused to serve Potiphar well, but instead he served as unto the Lord. That sometimes is the hardest part: serving God by serving those who treat you like you don't matter, or you're just there to serve them... But isn't that truly why we are here? To serve? Isn't that what Jesus did?

No matter what you may be going through, determine in your heart that you will live your life as unto the Lord. Because you are. Your life is so precious to him. He sees you in the pit. He sees you in the prison. He sees you in the desert. And He alone is your portion, your joy, your strength. He alone can raise you out of the "depths of despair" (thank you Anne Shirley) and put you into the palace. It is, after all, where you belong, you know. You are a child of the King of kings!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To Know His Love

Ephesians 3:19: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

I love this verse. It truly is my prayer for everyone I know and for myself! There is nothing more beautiful or amazing than to realize how much God loves you. And not just to know it but to experience it. The word "know" in this verse suggests intimate knowledge. It's actually the same word used in the Bible when it talks about a husband "knowing" his wife. This, to me, speaks of an experience. Knowing God's love isn't just something we can know in our minds. It must penetrate our hearts, and that only comes through intimate relationship. We must experience God to know His deep love for us.

Let me give you an example of this. My whole life I've been to church at least once if not twice a week, with the exception of vacations here and there. I was raised singing "Jesus loves me this I know" and being told how much Jesus loves me in Sunday school and sermons. I have parents who love me dearly and have always told me how much they love me. Here's the thing: I knew it in my head but I didn't know it in my heart. I got to the age where I needed to "feel" loved and began looking for it and taking advantage of it wherever I could find it. Of course that didn't work because what I really needed was to "know" God's love. I had parents who loved me, I knew Jesus loved me, but I didn't feel loved. Why? I hadn't experienced God's love.

It may be something as simple as learning to "speak" a different love language. I am a touchy-feely person. I like to be told a million-and-a-half times a day that I am loved. And it's even better if that "I love you" comes with a big hug or a kiss! My parents aren't touchy-feely, so while I knew in my head they loved me, in my heart I questioned it at times because they hadn't told me today, this minute, or 10 seconds ago! When I was able to realize that my parents provision for and protection of me, as well as the gifts they gave me and the way they were willing to supply my wants in addition to my needs was the way they expressed their love, I finally accepted and knew in my heart they loved me. Don't get me wrong they've always told me they love me, but really someone as needy as I can be is just insatiable when it comes to being told and shown love! Sorry!

This head vs. heart knowledge translated into my relationship with God. I knew He'd always taken care of me. And though I had a relationship with Him, it wasn't until I began seeking Him, was able to fully surrender, pour out my heart and let go of the ways I thought He should tell me of His love, that I was able to hear, see, and feel the way that He constantly and lavishly expresses His love! He rocked my world and changed my life!

My prayer for you is that you will experience the love of God. If you’ve never asked to be shown it, or maybe even thought you knew it, ask Him to reveal it in a new way. He just might blow your socks off! I believe God’s in the “sweep you off your feet” business. I think He’s the true romantic of all time. His love is wider, higher, longer, and deeper than any of us has ever imagined. Let Him take you to a new place with Him – where He can show you His love.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Like the Birds

I read an article yesterday that really made me think about what I've been thinking about... Do you ever have those moments? You're sitting at church, listening to the radio, watching TV, and all of sudden something jumps out at you and brings to light the thoughts that have been lingering in the back of your mind, everything suddenly coming together at once. Well, that's what happened. Although I had been aware of my thoughts (I always try to be!), I hadn't really put them all together.

So here it is...I've been thinking about how short life is. How important it is to do something (as in your life's work) you love with the few breaths that you have rather than something you have to do. If you talk to people who've been in the same job for twenty years or sometimes even just five years, you may get a lecture about how it's more important to make sure there's food on the table and clothes on your back than to be happy. "When we were growing up that's all there was. No one was worried about being happy. Happy is having food in your stomach!" Or something to that affect.

Then I think of my grandfather, who lived his life to the fullest, pastoring a small, poor congregation. He and my grandma visited the sick, the elderly, the downcast. They gave all they could give, even sometimes giving their food to people who had less than they did. My dad and his siblings tell stories of how they would get "treats" every once in a while like a McDonald's cheeseburger or a gallon of ice cream. How it would disappear so fast and you better get your share. Of all the sacrifices my dad and his siblings made because of my grandfather's "poverty" they never went hungy and they never slept on the streets...unless, of course, by choice! But my grandfather, I think, was one of the richest men I've ever known. He did what he loved and he didn't care about the "riches" of the world. He cared about people and he cared about honoring God with his life. At his funeral there were countless testimonies of lives changed because of that wonderful, bald man!a

Sometimes the stuff of life overshadows the truly important. We get caught up from day to day, worried about what we'll have for dinner because the cabinets and refrigerator are overflowing and we just can't decide...We worry about what to wear, not because we have not, but because what people will think when they see us. I'm reminded of the passage in Matthew... (6:25-34 The Message) "If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

Isn't it amazing that we have a God who wants to take care of us like that?! All we have to do is ask, seek, knock, knowing that He'll be there to answer. So why do we toil and worry and spend lifeless days doing things we hate just to have that next greatest toy or outfit or meal? Won't our Father take care of it all?

Hear my heart here: It is important for us to work and to provide for our families and to take care of the things that we have, but not at the expense of fulfilling God's call on our lives or even of our ultimate fulfillment. I truly believe that when we seek God for our situation, and follow in the path that He lays out for us riches may or may not come, but wherever we are we will be happy, fed, clothed, and fulfilled. Our short breath of a life will be a sigh of contentment and joy rather than a choked puff of smoke.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sometimes you wonder why...

Do you ever feel like life has no meaning? no flavor? no point? why am I here? what is my purpose? Just writing the questions makes me feel a little melancholy. But I think that's the point: the more we dwell on "purposelessness" the more pointless life feels, the less good we feel, less happy, less able to fulfill our God-given purpose.

I heard a story once that discouragement is Satan's most prized tool -- no smell, no taste, virtually undetectable, and we eat it up. It's so easy to fall for this age-old trick.

Well, I've decided that I will no longer allow that to be the case for me. My thought life belongs to me and I will choose which thoughts will stay and which must leave! One way I've learned to overcome discouraging thoughts is to dwell on and pray through the Scripture. Several books have been written on praying the scriptures, but one of my favorites is the one written by Beth Moore. It helps you personalize and take hold of the Scripture and what it means for your situation.
There are a couple scriptures that really mean a lot to me when I'm feeling down and out, and today I'd like to share them with anyone who will read on...

Eph 1:11-12 (The Message) "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."

Romans 8:28-29 (CEV) "We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose, and he has always known who his chosen ones would be."

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) "...for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light."

Psalm 138:8 (NIV) "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands."

Isaiah 43:7 (NIV) "...everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."

I am so glad to be called by His name! To be His chosen possession! To know that He is working in me, through me, and for me! So take heart! You too are called by Him and for His purpose. YOU are His special, prized, chosen possession. He loves you and He WILL accomplish His purpose for you if you will only let Him.

Turn off the discouragement channel and tune into the promises of God...they are YES and AMEN!

Look it up!