Take With You Words

 

Pain

Pain….I’ve been living with that most unwelcome visitor lately.  Having moved in and made itself at home, it is a very demanding visitor!

The problem with pain is that it wants all of your attention!.  It hurts!   It is hard to ignore it. What is causing it? How can you get rid of it?  If it leaves for a while, is it going to come back?.  How many pills are left in that bottle? Will there be enough to get through ’til the insurance kicks in again?  Doctor appointments; Google; WebMD; Symptom Checker, vitamins & herbs; icepacks; hot packs; OTC everything … On and on it goes.  Just how can you make it stop?  Make. It. Stop. The reality is that it changes your life and your focus.  It begins to become the center of your reality; it can become your identity.

More than a little discouraging, it is depressing.  Life is not what it used to be. The drugs mess with your mind and you emotions, so you begin to question your thoughts and feelings.  Like little foxes, pain spoils the fruit on your vine.

This little fox has run off with my words!  It’s hard to write; it’s hard to pray; it’s hard to praise!  My heart feels like a rock. My tongue seems frozen to the roof of my mouth. Where are my words??

I’m sure that some of you have felt that way at times when you’ve experienced wrenching loss and grief, or health problems. Maybe your son or daughter is in trouble.  Perhaps someone you’ve loved with all of your heart has betrayed you. We suffer on this earth.  And we know that Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, but, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 KJV   Sometimes it just seems too hard to be cheerful. It’s not that you don’t believe it, it’s just that pain has come for a visit, and is clamoring for all of our attention, and our words have left us…words of prayer; words of praise; words of warfare and victory.

It is hard to go to the Lord without words.  Hosea tells us to take with us words and turn to the Lord!

Hosea 14:2 Take with you words and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so we will render the calves of our lips. 

Calves?  The calves of our lips, you say?   Yes, just like they took offerings of cattle to sacrifice to the Lord, we now offer Him our words.

Hebrews 13:15  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Sometimes it IS a sacrifice to offer our words.  Sometimes we must dig deep, cast the stones out of the well, to get the river of praise and prayer to flow again.  We may be tempted to just sit down and not make the effort…because it IS effort.  We must be intentional about bringing our words to the Lord.

Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” that he asked repeatedly for God to remove.  Was it physical pain?  A discouraging, besetting trait?  Was it an emotional hurt that beleagured him?  The Bible never tells us for sure what Paul’s thorn was, but this is what Paul wrote about the answer to his prayer:

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”    2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10

The Apostle Paul surely experienced pain in his  life, his body, his fellowship, his ministry…but he never seems to have been at a loss for words!   He wrote most of the New Testament!  Plus, he mentions other letters that we have not seen.  He prayed; he exhorted; he corrected, chastised, and encouraged. But most importantly he praised!  Beautiful heartwarming, inspiring praises and prayers.

So, when I am stuck with no words of my own, I am going to start with Paul’s words!  Or ANY of the WORD words.  And I am going to speak the Word aloud, not just read them in my head. I am going to loosen my tongue with the Word of God.  I am going to break up my fallow ground with my praise plow, until the rain of heaven falls again and His strength is made perfect in my affliction.

Let’s pray:  Lord Jesus, Word of God made flesh, Let Your Word be made flesh in our stoney hearts.  Help us to come to you with the calves of our lips that we may be whole again.  In Jesus’ name,

AMEN! 

Remind Yourself!

So…I am back at the keyboard again after a short “Martha” break.  Being busy about a multitude of things; cumbered  by so many details and provisions.  Honestly, I had been feeling that perhaps the Lord had set me on a shelf to watch as He completed His work on earth.  But, no! He isn’t finished with me yet, but He has taught me a few lessons about myself and my journey in recent weeks.  I need to remind myself!

So, I am reminding myself of something He spoke to me earlier this year.

Rain righteousness

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord till He come and rain righteousness upon you.”  Hosea 10:12 KJV

                                                               Never forget to seek the Lord!

How should we seek the Lord? you may ask.  Maybe we should check the instruction manuel!  🙂  Let’s take a look at Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who displeased the Lord by doing evil in the days of his reign. His mother was an Ammorite woman who worshipped Molech, the fire God. (whose sacrifices included babies and children.)   His maternal heritage did not have to be the recipe for disaster that it turned out to be.  Rehoboham had a choice!   2Chronicles 12:14 says: “And he did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.”

We must think of our hearts as a field to be prepared for the seed of God’s Word.  It needs to be plowed fieldplowed, broken up, all the stumps and rocks removed.  How do we do this?   Hosea 10:11 says, in part, Judah shall plow.   The translation for the name Judah is “praise.”  Praising and worshipping the Lord will help to break up the fallow, dried-up ground of your heart. Put on some good praise music.   Read in the  Psalms about  God’s works, and attributes. Tell Him what He means to you!  Sing to Him; speak to Him; shout to Him!  You are plowing!  Find a friend who loves Jesus and talk to them about Him. You are plowing!  Read a book about the names of the Lord. You are plowing!  Think about His goodness, His passion, His love. You are plowing! Preparing your heart!

Is that all there is to seeking?  No! That is just the preparation of the heart!  The  Apostle Paul, in the book of Acts tells us this:

“…They should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us. For in Him we live, and move , and have our being….”             Acts 17: 27 & 28

Some translations say “grope for Him.”  I must admit that sometimes I have felt like a blind person groping my way back to God.  But, thank God, Paul goes on to say that He is “not far from every one of us.”  He is even “in us, and we are in Him,” if we have opened our hearts to Him.  But, “feeling or groping for him” suggest a purpose. An intensity. Even a desperation! Not a casual inquiry, but a diligent seeking.  A determination to find Him.

I am asking myself today:  Am I desperate?  Am I diligent?  Am I determined?

Remind yourself with the Psalmist:  Psalm 73: 25 – 26 “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.  My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”   KJV

Let’s pray:  Oh Father in heaven, We are so grateful for your longsuffering and compassion; that you are there to lift us when we fall; to draw us back to you when we wander away; to breathe on us when we are discouraged.  Our hearts and flesh fail us often, but You strengthen us again.  You restore our souls, and make us to know that we truly belong to You.  Be our portion forever.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen!

 

What a Waste!!

I have written before about our family’s journey with our grandchild, Aaron James. (AJ)  He flew  home to Jesus just a few days after his 2nd birthday.  He was a most precious gift for those brief years. He had turned our lives upside down even before he was born, but that is a story for another day.  He was severely afflicted in a most mysterious way, with seizures, paralysis, a ventilator, feeding tube, monitors. His continuous, frequent emergencies requiring our intervention to save him, became commonplace to us.   We know that it is a far better thing for him to be with the Lord than to be in our arms, but, still…grief is never far below the surface. We do not grieve like the world, without hope, because we know we will see him again one day…but, still…it creeps up on you when you least expect it.

Tears in Your Bottle

And so it was on Sunday night in church.  It seemed to me that God reached out and put His finger right on that tender spot in my heart. Right on the spot that is rubbed raw with the guilt of not seeing that sweet boy healed. That spot that cries out, “Oh, ye of little faith.” and “You didn’t pray hard enough!” “You should have done this or that.”  All that believing and hoping and loving!  All those nights walking the floor, crying out to God, rebuking the devil!  What a waste!

Sunday night’s lesson was on 1Corinthians 13.  You know, the “Love Chapter.”  I’ve heard a lot of teaching on this passage of scripture over the years, so I wasn’t expecting to be undone by the truth here. But, still…  I was.  This is what the scripture says here, in part: Charity (love) does this —

      7 “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

     8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 

and further on…

     12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”  KJV

  And suddenly I was thunderstruck with the clarity of it!!   All of the other gifts shall cease; even knowledge shall vanish…but, all of your faith, all of your hope, all of your love…abides forever.  These are eternal graces that abide with you in eternity.  Never a waste!  Even when you do not receive the desired result.  Even when your loved one dies, or is not healed!  Even when your prayer doesn’t seem to be answered, or you feel all alone, and abandoned.  Faith, hope, and love remain! They are treasure! They are gold! You are laying them up in heaven!  They are working an “eternal weight of glory!”

Treasure

You see, Hebrews 11, “The Faith Chapter,”  tells us that some of God’s people “through faith subdued kingdoms…obtained promises… receive their dead raised to life again.”  But, others “received not the promise!”  But still were counted to have had faith!  They will still receive the answer to their prayers..in another time and another place.  Their treasure is laid up for them.

One of the ladies in our church testified that her granddaughter would have died without a kidney transplant.  They prayed with all of their hearts. Praise God, her father was able to give her a kidney. She is a beautiful young woman now, living a full and happy life.  They received the promise! We rejoice with them!  Our boy left us for heaven.  We didn’t receive our promise…yet.  But our faith, hope, and love was NOT wasted!  We will find it waiting there in eternity with Aaron James. God’s Kingdom is not subject to the constraints of time. Friends, He isn’t finished yet!

2 Corinthians 4:17 explains it like this:

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; KJV

Nothing is wasted in the Kingdom of God!  Sorrows, afflictions, prayers, tears, faith, hope, and especially, love.

Never again will I let my enemy accuse me of wasting my faith, my hope, my prayer, my tears and my love.  All will be waiting for me when I see Jesus one day.

Let’s pray:  We look to You, Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, to lead us into all truth; to touch the sorrows that we carry; to heal our hearts of  guilt and regret.  Though  we see through  shadows now, when the daybreak comes we will see clearly. We look for You!  In Your name we pray,

Amen 

What’s for supper?

“What’s for supper?”  Like a lot of wives and mothers, those words are VERY familiar to me.  Go past a certain time on the clock and I am bound to hear those  words from someone in my house. Every day!  Well, like a certain fast food ad goes:  “Ya’ gotta’ eat!”  Of course you do!  So it is in the spirit, too.  “Ya’ gotta’ eat!”

Some people wait a whole week between meals of spiritual food!  These are busy people with jam-packed lives who are trying to get stuff done; making sure everyone is taken care of.  I get that!  In fact, I’ve been so busy in certain phases of my life, that I didn’t take time to eat my natural food, let alone take time for my spiritual food.   My Bread from Heaven!   So, yeah, I’ve been there and done that!    You wont’ tell on  me, right?

Here is the verse that got me to thinking this week: Revelation 3: 20   Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. KJV

heavenly cottage

Think of that for a few minutes!  He is going to sup with YOU!  You are going to be the host/hostess! He is coming to supper at your house!   And THEN, you are going to sup with HIM…His treat!!  I bet you didn’t picture Jesus standing at the door with a picnic basket over His arm, did you?

The most important point here is that He wants to sup with YOU!!  I know you have eagerly opened your door to Him!  Soooo, what’s for supper??  What will be on your menu for King Jesus?  Will you be serving up thanksgiving with a side of hallelujahs?  Worship, with a bowl of gratitude?   Or, will there be a burnt offering of bitterness along with big dollop of doubt for dessert?

This is an exchange, my friends.  He is dining with US and WE are dining with HIM.  What can we possibly offer to Him, since that Great Exchange that took place on Calvary?  The one in which He took our sin and gave us His righteousness.  Our death for His life.  Now, what can we give to Him?  There is one thing left to give.  One sacrifice left for us to make….the sacrifice of praise.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Hebrews 13: 15 KJV

So spread your banquet table for the King of Kings.  Make it a bounty fit for the King of the Universe!  Pile the table high with the fruit of your lips!  Fill Him up with your love and gratitude!  Entertain Him with words of adoration & praise!  Offer Him your heart on a platter!  “Make mention that His name is exalted!”  (Isaiah 12:4)

And then….He will open that basket of His and share with you out of His abundance: Bread of Heaven, Water of Life, New Wine, Milk and Honey, “every good and perfect gift,” fruit of the Spirit.  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”

The fruit of our lips

Lay the table with an abundance of your fruit!  He is looking foward to an exchange!  A feast for two! An intimate dinner party to be shared between just you and the Prince of Peace.

Your good fruit…that’s what’s for supper!

Let’s pray:  Father teach us to realize that You have come dine with us.  Help us to prepare a hearty helping of praise and worship for you every single day.  May we practice our skills until we become good  “cooks”  and servers!!  May our words be a sweet savor to you. In Jesus’ name,

Amen!

Here are a few reasons to praise Him to get you started!

Fight the Good Fight!

You either love it or hate it…BUZZZZZ!!! BUR-ING!!!   The sound of the alarm going off in the morning! Do you hit the snooze button and roll back over, hating to leave your cozy bed?  Yawn; stretch; snuggle back in?

wake up!

Well, there is another alarm being sounded! It is the sound of the trumpet of God to get up to the battle! Now is not the time to take our leisure! We must wake up, and fight the good fight of faith!

We know from the signs we see that we are living in the end times; that God is working His plan; that Jesus is coming soon. This does not mean that we should just sit down and wait for whatever is going to happen. NO! We must gear up! Pick up the weapons of our warfare, and fight!

God works through the prayers and faith of His people! He has given us the gifts of the Spirit for a purpose. Darkness must be withstood!  Souls must be won!  Redeem the time, for the days are evil! (Eph. 5: 16)

Sound the alarm!! It is not time to give up the fight!  Recently, I read a blog post by Monica Boyer, http://monicaboyer.com/when-religion-surrenders-to-tyranny/ a Christian Warrior, who has been standing against the onslaught that is attacking religious liberty, especially in her home state of Indiana. Here is what she has to say about being passive and taking the path of least resistance in these times:

Nowhere in scripture do I see passivity. I simply don’t. When I read about the heroes of the faith, I’ve not seen any moment where they sat together singing Kumbaya in a rocking chair waiting for Jesus to come back. Today the pews and stadiums are packed full of passive people who are doing just that. Biding the time “waiting for Jesus to come back.”  Passive.” 

And:

“In order to fight in a battle, a warrior must have something he is willing to give his life for. For the 20th century Christian, this battlefield looks much different than the heroes of the past. Instead of fighting the enemy, we negotiate. We’ve trade things like religious freedom, holiness, liberty, even our spiritual armor (which isn’t politically correct anymore) for better cars, smart phones, jam packed calendars, pride, bigger churches and bigger houses.

We’ve been tricked.

We’ve become weaponless.

Warriors without armor.”        Her picture of a defeated knight struck a chord in my soul:

Knight defeated

My friends, there is a battle to fight!  And we must be fearless and faith-full. Sharpen your sword by reading and memorizing the Word. Polish your shield of faith in prayer. Strap on truth and never let it be compromised.  Maintain your righteousness, and be not led astray.  The world, the flesh and the devil are all conspiring to draw you away from Jesus, and thus from the battle!

I heard James MacDonald on the radio this week exhorting us to understand that this is not a life of ease.  He referred to the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:34: Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”  MacDonald’s take is that He isn’t calling you to take up a sword to do violence, but He is calling you to be able to withstand the sword that will come against you!   To stand fast in the evil day!  Are you able?    If persecution comes to your church, your Christian school, or your business.  Are you ready to fall on your knees and fight?  Or stand in the public square and speak up? Ask Christians in the Middle East if you think this could never happen. Would you be ready??

There is good news here!!!  The battle is NOT yours, but the Lord’s!  We are in agreement with Him!   “Thus saith the Lord unto you: ‘Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  2 Chron.20:15 KJV  Believe it or not, the army in this chapter did not have to fight at all…they had to fix their hearts on the Lord and sing praises!!  The enemy turned their weapons on each other!  All Israel had to do was collect the booty left on the battlefield!

Here is another way we will fight without “fighting:”Psalm 149: 6-9  “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword  (that’s the Word of God!)  in their hand: to execute vengence upon the heathen and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgement written: this honour have all His saints. Praise ye the Lord!” KJV

Not only is spiritual warfare your job, it is your honor!  AND you are executing the judgement written by God against those that oppose Him!  You see, they are coming against Christ…and  in the Christ that is in you.

So, Wake UP!!  Get UP!  Look UP!!  We are not finished yet!! Yes, Jesus is coming!  But,we are not to be lounging in the waiting room, playing with our smart phones until we hear the trumpet call.  We are to be about His business…winning souls, exhorting one another, and doing warfare  on our knees, girded in our armor.   So:  “Finally, my brothers, (and sisters!)  be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power!” Ephesians 6:10 NIV

 

Let’s pray!  Lord of Hosts of Angel Armies, teach us to fight!  Teach us to stand on the Rock and not be shaken by the wiles of the devil and the ways of the world.  Blow the trumpet of alarm loudly in our hearts, and awaken us to the battle…YOUR battle.  You have shown us in Your Word what is to be our part.  May we be found faithful to do it!  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Out of Darkness

The tomb is empty!  We called to one another all day, “He Is risen!”  “He is risen, indeed!!”  I love Resurrection Day because of the reminder that Jesus lives.  He is alive! Yes, in heaven; but more than that… in my heart! “Christ in you (me,) the hope of glory.”  Col. 1:27

The Tomb is Empty

Today, I am thinking about that tomb: so dark; dank; carved into solid rock. Jesus’ body sealed in a blackness so complete that no light could penetrate once that monolith stone was rolled into place.  A giant mouth that swallowed the Christ Corpse.  Death hole.

As I ponder that grave, I can’t help but think about my own life…swallowed in a death hole. Sealed in by my sin.  Alive, but living in darkness. Groping for a way into the light. If it had not been for the Lord, I would be groping yet.

Miracle of miracles, the stone rolled away!  Light flooded the death hole, that dark grave, and death was conquered. Jesus stepped out of the darkness, a conquering Hero, bringing with Him the keys of death, hell, and the grave!   And because He did, I was freed from my death hole, my tomb of sin.  Like Lazarus, Jesus called me “out of darkness into His marvelous light!” 1 Peter 2:9  His death on that fateful Good Friday paid the price that I owed for my sin, and His resurrection led me out of the prison of condemnation to follow Him in my freedom.

Jesus is the Lamb that was slain for my sin, but, if that weren’t enough, He is the Resurrected Lord of All. That is why it is important for every Christian to embrace His resurrection with a full heart.  Because by His resurrection He proved He is Lord.

Romans 10:9-10 tells us:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. KJV

If you want to be truly His, you must believe in His resurrection from the dead, and in doing so, embrace Him as Lord of your life.

Jesus is a Lord Who is worthy of your devotion; a Shepherd to follow; a King to serve; and a Bridegroom to love.  Not just an idea to “accept.”

Perhaps you have “accepted” Jesus, but have you believed in your heart?  (not just in your mind) Do you see Him as your Lord, with resurrection power for your life? Are you still sitting in your tomb, though the stone’s been rolled away?  Have you let Him lead you out?

I urge you to invite Him to become your own Lord.  To yield to His Word and to His leading.

He will lead you “out of darkness and into His marvelous Light!”

Let’s pray:  Father of Lights, Darkness surrounds us in this earthly realm, but teach us of Your glorious light.  Speak to us out of your Word and lead us into the realization that we dwell in a heavenly place, hidden with You in eternity.  Help us to hear Your voice as you call us into Your marvelous Light. In Jesus’Name,

Amen

Something a little different:

 

 

 

 

 

Agree with God

Recently my pastor did a powerful sermon series on “Agreeing With God.”  As I was copying my sermon notes I began to realize that this  is what the Christian life is really all about: walking in continuous agreement   (and fellowship) with God. Being willing to say with Jesus, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

As we begin the last week of  Lent, Holy Week, perhaps it would benefit us to consider whether or not our lives, our wills, and our habits are in agreement with His ways, and His will.  If I  am completely honest, I must admit that I fall woefully short in this department…and perhaps that’s the problem…I think of my walk with God as a department, rather than a saturation of my whole life.   “How am I doing in the “God department?”  Or the “Devotions Department?”As though these were separate from the rest of my life.  Now, I know better than that!  I’ve been a Christian for a long time. But, I still fall into the habit of spending some time with Him, and then going my own way and doing my own thing.

hands of a friend

See, it’s kind of like this:  My husband retired two years ago.  Any of you who find yourselves living together as retirees will know that, in retirement, life is a whole new ball game!  You are together 24/7!  Day in, day out. Right under each others’ noses, with hardly a break!  Now this takes quite a bit of adjustment if either (or both) of you have a routine that hasn’t included the other all day, every day.

Your time isn’t strictly your  own anymore.  There is someone else’s plans, needs, and desires to consider.  This week we celebrate 48 years of wedded bliss!  In fact, we’ve known each other for over 56 years…since junior high school.  We love each other dearly and have weathered a lot of storms together. But, there is nothing like 24/7  togetherness to put a whole new perspective on a relationship!  You find out pretty quickly all of the places where you don’t really agree on things.  You can choose to go your own way and do your own thing, or you can choose to agree.   To take each other’s hand and walk together.  It is the same in our relationship with Abba Father!

What I am trying to say is: Do we have a 24/7 relationship with God?  Are we allowing Him to have His way in all of the areas of our lives? Or do we keep some things just for ourselves?  Habits; attitudes; resentments; biases?  Are we agreeing with Him? Are we saying, “Have Thine own way, Lord.”  “Thy will be done in my earth, as it would be done in heaven.”

Here is a scripture to meditate on during this Holy Week.  Job 22: 21-25 ESVStream in the Garden

21“Agree with God, and be at peace;
    thereby good will come to you.
22 Receive instruction from his mouth,
    and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty you will be built up;
    if you remove injustice far from your tents,
24 if you lay gold in the dust,  and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed,
25 then the Almighty will be your gold and your  precious silver.

Let’s Pray: Lord Jesus, help us to say as You did in that long ago Garden Prayer, “Not my will, but thine be done.” As we spend more time in Your Word, and as we lay up your words in our hearts, may we walk in agreement with your words, your ways, and your will. Be to us our true gold and silver.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 

 

 

 

Show Me Your Ways

I am definitely NOT a theologian!  I will  never pretend to know the mind of God.  But, I have lived a long time, and have travelled the road with Him for a good many of those  years.  He has surprised me time and again with the way  He does things.  So, I started this blog place to share some of the things I have learned.

Show me Your ways

For one thing, if I had been the designer of this life, I would have made more mountaintops and fewer valleys  And the valleys I would have designed would have been filled with bubbling brooks and flowery meadows.  No rocky places, no desert wildernesses, no scary swamps. And no wild beasts, like wolves and vultures.  And certainly no enemies to fight along the way. Diseases, cancer, seizures, flesh eating bacteria. Not sure I would have designed storms, either.  But God….He is Lord of ALL creation.  Even this fallen, cursed earth, and all the weeds and woes that possess it.

I have learned more lessons in the dark, hard days of my life than I have on the lees and eases of my days.  Not that I don’t praise Him for the “joy unspeakable & full of glory” that I have experienced.  (“Happy are the people that know the joyful sound…”   Ps.89:15) I do with all my heart.  But, it seems that the watershed events of my life were the times when I thought I might be going down for the last time. When despair and revulsion at what was in my deceitful heart was about to overwhelm me…then He reached down His hand and lifted me up…again.  He rescued me, again.  Those have been the times when I really learned Who He is!  How He loves…and forgives.

Have you ever felt that you were almost as good as dead?  In a deep, dark, lonely place?  Don’t despair!   He is able to bring life again

Jesus said:

Verily, verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  John 12:24 KJV

 

wheat field

 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…” Matthew 16:24-26

The ways of the Kingdom of God are not our natural inclination.  Jesus asked us to follow Him, and His road took Him to a cross; to reviling and humiliation. Right up to the last days, the disciples were arguing about who would sit next to Him on thrones…they still didn’t get it! (Though eventually they would.)  and He asked them: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  Matthew 10:38

If someone has told you to come to Jesus and everything will be fine…they are not lying to you.. Everything will surely be well with your soul! Praise God! You will have eternal security and joy on earth.  But, everything may not be “fine” with your circumstances, because He uses everything in our lives to make us more like Him.

Don’t be surprised if you have trials and difficulties…God is working virtue in you.  James 1:3 says, “The trying of your faith worketh patience…”  He wants to make you perfect and complete; full of faith and wisdom. He wants to use you.

I was recently reminded of the beloved Christian classic, “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hannah Hurnard.  Poor ‘Much Afraid’ was asked by the Shepherd to travel to the High Places. He gave her two companions named Sorrow and Suffering to show her the way.  The journey was fraught with dangers and trials, as you might imagine.  But once they reached their destination those companions received new names. No longer Sorrow and Suffering, but now Grace and Glory.

So look for Jesus in the hard places; deserts, trials, storms, sorrows, sufferings, and crosses. He will meet you there. That is His way.  And He will bring you out, leaning on His arm; adorned in beautiful garments; a song upon your lips; joy in your heart; arms full of fruit.  That, too, is His way.

Let’s pray:  Faithful Shepherd, how we want to follow You!  Make your path plain to us. Show us Your ways, and help us to submit to Your rod and staff, as you nudge us along and protect us from true harm.  Help us to see every circumstance as a stepping stone on the way to becoming more like You. In Jesus’ name.

Amen

 

The Great Exchange

It was such a magnificent gift. Beautifully wrapped in foiled paper with a dazzling bow. I carefully untied the ribbon, loosened the tape, and peeled back the paper. When I opened the box there lay the most exquisite cashmere sweater!  A veritable cloud of cream and pink. I nearly swooned over its delicate softness. But, as I lifted it up, I wanted to cry. It was at least two sizes too small! “If it’s not the right size, you can take it back and exchange it.” he said. “I’ve got the receipt right here.”
Yes! I would definitely run to The Beautiful Gift the department store to exchange this beauty for the right size! And it would have to be this exact one.  No other one would do.

After all, isn’t that what an exchange is?  One thing for another of the same thing, or at least the same value, I mean, you wouldn’t exchange it for something lesser, would you?  That is just not how it’s done.

Not unless you are Jesus.  He is the “Ultimate Exchanger.”  He has given us His own Righteousness in exchange for the filthy rags of our sin. His own goodness for our iniquity. He was wounded for our transgressions that we might be free from the penalty for them.  He laid down His perfect, sinless life, that we might be free from the chains of guilt and shame.  Not exactly an even exchange is it?  But, thank God, He was willing to pay that price.  I couldn’t have.

In Isaiah 61:3  he announced the great exhange.  He said that He was anointed:

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”

In Bible times it was the custom to show grief by tearing their garments or putting on rough sackcloth clothing, and throwing ashes upon their heads.  But, when Jesus read this verse in the synagogue,  (Luke 4: 17) they knew that He was talking about the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom.  That word for  “beauty” in Hebrew signifies a bridal headdress!  He was saying I will give you a betrothal in the place of your sorrow for sin.  I will give you the my oil of joy, to replace your mourning!  (The Bible says that He is anointed with the oil of joy above all of His fellows, and He is giving it to YOU!)  He is taking away your sadness, your heaviness, and clothing you from on high with the garment of a Bride.  A garment of praise.  And now you are a tree of righteousness.  No more sin, guilt, shame.  What an exchange!

And now….we give it all back to Him….our love; our joy; our praise.  And then He lavishes more of Himself upon us …and we continue in a grand, unending exchange…

Lets pray:  Dearest Lord of the Great Exchange,  Of course we are not worthy to receive Your great gift, but we are oh, so thankful that You chose to make this unbelievably unequal trade. Your Righteousness for our sinful selves. Your Purity for our filth. Your Blood for our peace. Make us truly, truly grateful, Lord, for this great gift.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 

Come to Jesus

Where do you go? Is there someone you turn to when you have a need? Do you have a friend or relative that you rely on? Someone who is there with the answers you seek?  It is good to have a friend.  A special someone who will stick by you through thick & thin. Someone who understands you and knows how to pray for you.  A good friend is a gift from God.   I have a few friends like that.  I don’t know what I’d do without them!

hands of a friend

But…the best kind of friend will always point you to Jesus.  They will not try to be your answer.  They will take you by the hand and head straight for the Throne of Grace, the Mercy Seat.  They will cry out to Jesus on your behalf until you can cry out for yourself.

Jesus said, “Come unto me, …learn of me…”  (Matthew 11: 28-29 KJV)    and, “Come…drink of the water of Life freely.”  (Rev. 22:17)

Jesus is calling His people to come.  This is the day. This is the hour.  He wants to speak to YOU.  Are you near enough to hear the “still, small voice?”  He waits.  He is patient. But He is yearning for you and for me to come aside.

“Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.”  Song of Solomon 7: 12

These are the yearnings of the Bridegroom for His Bride.  Yes!  To the Vineyard!  For he is the Vine and we are the branches.  Are we fruitful & flourishing?  You can’t find that out from a friend. You can only find that out from the Keeper of the Vineyard. The Lord Jesus, Himself!

If we look for our help or our sustaining from anyone or anything other than Jesus, we are not just making a mistake in judgement, but we are putting someone else or something else in the place He wants to occupy in our lives.

Look at Jeremiah 2:13.  He says that when we do that we are really commiting evil in His sight.

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

Think about it. Have you dug a place,  a well or a cistern, that has replaced Jesus as a place to get your drink?  Is it music? Is it a ministry or fellowship?  Is it work? Is it an author?  Or perhaps it is a food or a drink.  I get that, believe me. I have fallen into thinking that if I listen to worship music, it counts towards my devotional time. Don’t get me wrong, as a former worship leader, I know how powerfully musical worship can usher you into the Presence of God. That is why I use music at the end of each post here.   But, I have been guilty of using the music as a substitute for really meeting with Jesus.

Draw with joy

 

As I seek the Lord concerning the particular word I believe He gave me this year… “Devotion”…I am learning that it means simply…devotion to HIM.  Not just to my Bible reading time, or my journaling, or church attendence.  But spending “face time” with Him, and drinking deeply of the “fountain of living waters.”  I don’t want to substitute these worthwhile activites for time in His Presence, for, as Jesus told Martha, “One thing is needful and Mary has chosen that good part.”  (Luke 10:42 KJV)  She was sitting at His feet!

 

 

Let’s Pray:   Heavenly Father, help us to hear Your voice as you call us to come away with You. May we arise immediately in obedience. May we have ears to hear and hearts of devotion. May our greatest joy be drawing from Your well the living waters that You yearn to pour into us.  In Jesus’ name,

Amen