Commitment, Covenant, Love, Righteousness, Uncategorized

His Banner Over Me is Love

 

“He has brought me to his banquet hall,  And his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

When I married my husband twenty-four years ago I had no idea what a covenant was nor did I understand love as defined by God.  My motive for marriage was completely selfish.  I wanted someone to love me and take care of me.  I wanted to have children.  I desired a “savior” who would love me unconditionally and fill the void in my life.  The sad truth is that I never considered my husband, nor did it cross my mind that he would have insecurities and needs.  The reality was that he was coming into the marriage just as empty as me.  We had nothing to offer one another.  It wasn’t too many years before we felt completely discouraged and even betrayed by one another.  Fortunately, God used this very desperate circumstance to introduce me to Himself.  Jesus found me wallowing in the shame puddle of loneliness and imminent divorce and said,

“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.”  

Hosea 2:19-20

Yes, He has brought me to His banquet hall,  And His banner over me is love.  In the Song of Solomon the “banner of love” can refer to a man’s limited, romantic love for a woman, but the deeper meaning points to God’s intimate, extreme love for Jesus’ bride, the Church.  To understand where I got this idea let’s break down Song of Solomon 2:4 using the Hebrew definitions:

  1. “He has brought” =  bow’: to enter, come in

  2. “me to His banquet” = yayinwine (A symbol of the Holy Spirit)
  3. “hall” = bayith’: house; temple; home (We are the Temple of God)
  4. “and His banner” = degel: banner; standard  (Covering)
  5. “over” = al: over (in excess)
  6. “me is love” =  ‘ahabah: God’s love to His people

https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/sng/2/4/t_conc_673004

Do you see it?  A personal application would be that God has made me a new creation by entering my spirit with His life giving Holy Spirit just like sperm enters an egg, creating new life.  I am the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 3:16).  He dwells in me and I in Him (John 6:56), and He covers me with His excessive love (Psalm 36:7).  We are one.

 

There is now a shadow of this tender affection in my own marriage; it is something holy and set apart.   God not only forgave me but taught me to forgive.  He also restored our marriage and eventually brought my husband into the banquet hall as well.  He is so gracious!  So, after meditating on Song of Solomon 2:4, it is easy to understand why God takes marriage and sexual intimacy so seriously.  It is meant to be a picture of His glorious, single-minded love for His church.  Mark 10:7-9 gives us an understanding of the forever-covenant God intended for marriage, serving as a reflection of His forever-love for you and me,  “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”    It’s God’s love that enables Marty and me to remain in love, unseparated.

As we reflect on our position of security based on God’s faithfulness, remember that Jesus is our rock.  He is the faithful husband that gave Himself up for us.  We are covered by His blood and have entered into a forever-covenant with Him.  God loves us with a lavish love demonstrated by the death and resurrection of His Son.  We are adopted into His family and, as Jesus’ forever Bride, can boldly enter the banquet hall wrapped in Heaven’s wedding gown.  Amen and Amen!

 

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,  As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  Isaiah 61:10

 

Control, Hope, Humility, Obedience, Pride, Rest, Reverence, Sanctification, Self Righteousness, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

From Tantrum to Trust

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Galatians 5:24

“I want it! I want it! I want it!” echoed through the Target checkout area as a little boy sat screaming in the child seat of a shopping cart, his hands out stretched, tears streaming down his face.  Fascinated by the audacity of the child; I stared, curious to know what he wanted so desperately.  Alas, the moment he’d been waiting for arrived.  The item was placed in his chubby arms as he greedily clasped the large, round toy with his little fingers.  Then I realized, as I watched mom trying to keep her little guy from chucking the toy out of the cart onto the floor, that what he wanted wasn’t the toy at all.  What he wanted was his own way.  What he wanted was to be in charge. What he wanted is what we all want…control.

Now, I don’t have physical temper tantrums (too often) but I do communicate, “I want my way!” all the time.  In her book Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean writes, “Flesh is proud, possessive, demanding, grabby, angry, envious, wants to own and manage and manipulate and get its way.” [Altar’d, Day 1, Page 16]   Ouch!  My sights can be locked on something as small as a chocolate chip cookie and as big as wanting the Universe to revolve around my every whim.  And, like the toddler, if I get what I want then the target of my desire immediately changes.  Never satisfied, flesh destroys contentment, peace, love and relationship.  So what’s the remedy?  It is to live in denial.

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'”  Luke 9:23

Deny myself?  How often does that happen?  Honestly, I rarely deny myself; but the choice is alway available.  The “if” in Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:23 implies choice and sacrifice.  To put shoe leather on this statement I’ll share what it would look like for me to personally deny myself and take up my cross daily:
  • If I would come after Jesus I would deny myself large food portions, exercise daily, and surrender to the Spirit’s leading to take care of the body God gave me in order to glorify Him like Jesus did.  
  • If I would come after Jesus, I would deny myself of sleeping in or browsing Facebook and take up my cross of laboring in prayer for family, friends, my church and our nation daily like Jesus did.  
  • If I were to come after Jesus I would deny myself taking offense to something someone said or did.  Instead I would forgive daily, nailing all offenses to the cross like Jesus did for me.
Why is this so difficult?  Because we want to be elevated. Like Adam and Eve we want to be like God.  However, we know that there can only be one master.  Mom needs to be in charge for things to go well for her toddler’s future.  God needs to be in charge for things to go well with your future and mine.  The good news is that God is always in charge and never gives in to our whining!   But, for me to be at peace with God (Not have a rift in our relationship) I need to acquiesce to God’s authority over my life.   Foundational to walking in freedom is the understanding that God is God.  Once that’s established then everything else falls into place.   Whether you struggle with same sex attraction, a critical spirit, smoking or overeating the solution is the same.  Jesus knows best and I will follow Him.  There may be times we don’t like what that means.  There may be times when we are tempted to yell. “I want it!”  But thanks be to God He will never give in.  We have to literally deny Him (instead of ourselves) to get something we want when God says, “No.”  Jesus is not a weak, sleep-deprived mom who just wants us to be quiet.  Jesus is the mighty King, holy and righteous who sovereignly dictates His loving boundaries because He loves us.  He has given us Himself.  We have everything we need for life and Godliness in Christ.  We are the children of the King, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1, and the Bride of Christ, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22.  The way up is to kneel down in a heart posture of humility.
Through this filter, picture the child in the shopping cart, eyes fixed on his momma.  He’s watching her every move.  He knows she loves him and will give him what is best for him.  He knows by experience that she is good, loving and generous.  He also knows that she is just and disciplines him when he needs it.  He is secure and at peace.  Anticipating good things, he smiles when she says, “I bought a gift for you.  When we get home we can play with it together.”  Then, he laughs and claps his hands in joyful expectation and says, “I love you, mommy.”
This is a picture of resting in Jesus and the work He has accomplished for us.   “I want it!” transitions to, “nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done.”  I encourage you to write out your own snapshot of hope as the Lord “is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13   What would your reality look like if you set your eyes like flint on Jesus, believing He is who He says He is?  What would your moments look like if you were living in the reality that you are healed?
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5
Covenant, Idolatry, Life, Reverence, Uncategorized

Due Reverence

“A son honors his father and a servant his master.  Then if I am a father, where is My honor?  And if I am a master, where is My respect?  says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise my name.  But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?'”  Malachi 1:6

Reverence is akin to “The fear of the Lord ” which Tim Keller likens to the feeling you get in the company of someone you greatly admire, perhaps even someone famous.  In their presence you are respectful, careful about what you say, give deference to them and want to please them as you’re able.  There is, in fact, a sense of awe.  Reverence means honor or respect that is felt or shown to someone or something. If anyone deserves to be honored or respected it’s God.  But, in Malachi’s day God was dishonored and disrespected by the very priests who were to exemplify reverence for the LORD.  They defiled His name by offering blemished animals, divorced their wives and married foreign women who worshipped other gods, robbed the Lord by not tithing and believed God was unloving and unjust.

The priest’s apathetic hearts were in stark contrast to Levi’s, their reverent ancestor. Malachi 2 tells us that God made a covenant with Levi “of life and peace as an object of reverence.”

“My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 2:5-8

As New Testament believers we are also God’s messengers and priests (1 Peter 2:5-9).   Nevertheless, like the priests of old, we have a tendency toward irreverence if we don’t take time to know God in a way that provokes esteem.    A good illustration of this is and encounter my husband, Marty, and I had with a famous football player while on vacation at Disney World.  Marty recognized the former Dallas Cowboy in the waiting area of Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

“That’s Daryl Johnston,” he whispered, referring to a tall man across the room.

“Who?” I asked, looking up only to see a dad with his family.

“The ‘Moose’, Daryl Johnston.  The football player.”

“Oh. nice.” I said, unimpressed.

To me the man was just another dad in the crowd.  Were we seeing the same person?  Yes!  However, the difference was Marty’s familiarity with Johnston.  My husband was impressed with the athlete in our midst because he knew who Daryl Johnston was and what he had accomplished. He was impressive.  I, on the other hand, knew nothing about the “Moose” therefore, seeing him did not provoke admiration.  Similarly, to know God inspires reverence.  When we read God’s word and spend time meditating on His attributes we begin to know God.  Then, we are compelled to say, “That is the LORD!”

Unfortunately, the Israelites in Malachi’s time suffered from a case of severe apathy toward God.  They judged God based on their limited knowledge instead of by His “stats” revealed in His Word.  In other words, He was “just another dad.”  But, Malachi’s wake up call to Israel is haunting.  It indicts my own heart when God asks, “Where is My honor?”  Am I apathetic and irreverent too?   Does my behavior reflect unbelief?   I may not be divorcing my spouse and worshiping idols but I certainly have not been bringing my first fruits to my LORD in regards to time.  Oh, my LORD and my Redeemer!  Thank you for your mercy and everlasting covenant of life and peace.  May I never forsake the reading of your Word lest I defile Your Holy name!

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.”  Malachi 3:16

Uncategorized

Change is Strange

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.   He makes me lie down in green pastures,  He leads me beside quiet waters,  He refreshes my soul.   He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”  Psalm 23:1-3

Like an unexpected bend in the river that redirects your path, the experience of letting go of our family home has inspired an odd mix of excitement and disorientation.   Recently, while sitting on the back deck watching the trees wave goodbye in the wind, I remembered.  Along with the dee, dee, dee, of the chickadee  I could hear the laughter after a belly flop off the diving board, the repeated thud of a basketball and the clinging of baseballs flying off a metal bat.  I also remembered how God kept me afloat over the years.  His grace has been sufficient for me to forgive, love, raise a family,  let go and even embrace change because I know this is not my real home.

Like water, change can easily overwhelm us unless we relax (The first step in learning how to swim).  Knowing that God is sovereign and holds me in His hand is enough to buoy me through any difficulty.  His mighty hand is under me now. Like a loving parent teaching a child to swim, He does not intend to let me drown.  He is faithful even when I am not.   Of course, relaxing in the water with your arms out and head back is not instinctive, especially if the water is choppy.  It takes faith to lean back and trust that you won’t sink!  Praise God we are not asked to splash around and strive in our own strength but to rest instead.  However, when we do choose to flail we will tire and drown in a sea of have-to’s and what-ifs.   Some may call it fear or lack of faith but I know it’s rebellion.

To this Jesus says,

“Take My yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30.  

But my heart responds,

“I don’t like the way it fits and I cannot steer with Your yolk upon me.  Can’t I just stand next to you without a yolk?”

Then, He lovingly reminds me of His faithfulness,

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Unfortunately, there have been times I’ve flailed through the current of change, resisting the bend in the river.  Over time I forced many things into place, drowning myself in expectation.    The truth is I was in rebellion, trying to do things my way and simply not trusting God with all the changes that were happening.  Fortunately, I am learning that only while I am at rest can I be buoyed by the very thing that threatens to drown me.  Now I want to encourage you to trust Him.  He is taking us someplace wonderful.   Our role is to float by faith into heaven on the current of His love.

 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Commitment, Insecurity, Love, Obedience, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

Be Intentional

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

Jeremiah 29:11

Intentional: done in a way that is planned or intended  (merriam-webster.com)

This word has been haunting me for the past several weeks and last night I woke up with the phrase “Be intentional” impressed on my heart.  Since I am an accomplished procrastinator and life floater I know this wasn’t from me.  Prior to its haunting, the word first came to me in May while attending Sean’s college graduation.  I was talking to another mom who shared how she purposed to have a conversation with her son.  In essence, she gave him permission to move on, letting go of the parent-child relationship and freeing him emotionally to leave and cleave.  I said, “You are so intentional in your parenting.”  to which she replied, “I try to be.”

The next morning at breakfast while talking about books, our son, Sean, said , “I like to finish stuff.”  He shared that whatever he starts, even if it’s not extremely enjoyable, he likes to see it to completion.  Between the two conversations I was convicted.  If I were to write a parenting book it could be titled Wing It or Raised by Grace.  (Maybe I will write the second one because it does sum up how my kids were raised!)  The opposite of intentional, my conversations with Sean and Ryan were usually spontaneous and even compulsive.  If you were to ask them (embarrassing) they would probably say I preached or lectured more than listened with intentionality.  And, as far as finishing stuff, let’s just say Sean didn’t get that trait from me.  It dawned on me that God is intentional. He planned everything from the beginning and is very intentional about following it all through to completion!  Thank God that He is not like me or many of us would be sitting on a shelf only half completed!

Unfortunately, not finishing projects is an old pattern in my life.  Usually, I feel like whatever I’m working on isn’t good enough to complete, and there is some merit to knowing when to cut your losses.  However, because I have allowed distraction to steal my minutes, most of the time my inability to complete something has more to do with not being intentional.  In reality, not planning and not being disciplined enough to eliminate distractions and set goals has been a safety net to avoid failure.  However, it also allows for the enemy to steal blessing and steal the joy that comes from doing things well for God’s glory.

For example,  while cleaning out some drawers recently I found photos and a blank photo album intended for Sean’s high school graduation memories.  The 2012 ribbon was still there, neatly rolled up with the extra pages I knew I would need to finish the project.  I had good intentions but I was not intentional.  Things happened, time went on and I put everything away in a drawer (probably because company was coming) and forgot to “finish stuff.”  I missed the blessing of being creative and Sean missed out on the joy of knowing I cared enough to intentionally create something meaningful for him.  And, of course, most importantly, it was a way to reflect God’s intentional love for His child.  I want to relinquish this pattern.  Perhaps it’s time to allow God to change me into something more Christlike; something less chaotic and more…finished.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence.  In love.  He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will…”  Ephesians 1:3-5

Commitment, Covenant, Faith, Hope, Idolatry, Submission, Surrender, Uncategorized

In Christ Alone

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

Arriving at the car rental queue at the Baltimore airport we frowned at the long line but patiently waited the forty-five minutes it took to get to the counter. (I should rightly say my husband, Marty, waited patiently while I sat in a comfy seat watching the luggage.) Understandably tired and prickly, the agent checked us in and ten minutes later we were on the freeway driving to our hotel, excited for the fun few days ahead. However, after just a few miles, the rental car rumbled and lost power.  Surprised by the strange noise and loss of acceleration Marty heeded the warning on the dashboard imploring us to “See Owner’s Manual” and pulled the car over into the breakdown lane. Unfortunately, there was no owner’s manual in the glove compartment.

“The transmission slipped,” Marty said, puzzled as he turned off the motor.  After a few minutes he started the car again and took off. This time it seemed to drive okay and we made it to our hotel. Sadly, the next day the same thing happened on our way to breakfast. Because of this, we arranged to have the vehicle exchanged, which we knew would be time-consuming, inconvenient but necessary.  The wonderful thing is neither of us let it steal our joy. There was peace “like a river” because we had our eyes set on the prize. We were there to enjoy watching our son play baseball.  And, because the hotel was next to the ball field, there was no disappointment when the car didn’t work properly because it had no bearing on our ability to enjoy the games. Also, we didn’t care that the car was a hassle because we weren’t focused on the car!  We ended up having a wonderful trip and made it back to the airport without a hitch or rumble.

In the same way, God tells us to focus on the prize (Christ Himself forevermore) and not on our circumstances. We will all eventually arrive at our final destination with joy if we keep our eyes on Jesus. Unless, of course, He isn’t your prize. What are you living for? What do you hope for your future?  Are you trusting God, hoping in Christ alone, or are your eyes stuck on what is lacking? If your hope is in a changed spouse, good health, a new house, perfectly behaved children or a larger paycheck instead of Christ Himself then you are not placing your Hope in Christ alone. You are metaphorically focused on the rental car that doesn’t work and the hassle you are forced to go through because of it, never mind that it’s the very vehicle that God chose to use to get you to the final destination.

The song In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty begins with a bold statement describing our firm foundation and the peace we have in Christ when He is our rock.

“In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; this Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace,  when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!  My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.”  

Looking up we see our eternal future and nothing this side of heaven can steal our joy.   In contrast, if my focus is, for example, on my child’s success or failure and how it may reflect on me then my hope is on unstable ground. In this case my song would be more like this;

“In my child alone my hope is found,  He is my light, my strength, my song;  this little me, gives identity, changing with every up and down.  What heights of pride, what depths of shame, when fear and striving never cease! My tormentors, my all in all, here in insecurity I stand.”

This is not the kind of theme song I want to define the majority of my life. I pray for God’s holy hand to take hold of my chin and lift it to heaven when I am tempted to linger on anything other than Christ alone. Thank God for graciously giving us warning lights on the dashboard of our hearts and for His perfect Owner’s Manual!

“Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:6-8

Idolatry, Insecurity, Pride, Sanctification, Self Righteousness, Submission, Surrender, Uncategorized, Works

Nothing but the Blood

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

No matter how many times I skim the surface of the water or how much debris is retrieved from the bottom, the pool is never perfectly clean.  It’s not the leaves or the bugs that elude the net but millions of microscopic particles that scatter throughout the water only to gather in mocking, dirt piles on the bottom of the pool.  This job clearly requires something outside my abilities.  In the same way, you and I can NEVER clean ourselves up to the point of purity.  It is a futile task to try to be “good enough” for God to accept us.

This was a lesson I learned the hard way many years ago when I was “doing” well in meeting my standards of the Christian life.  1. Read the bible everyday.  “Check!” 2. Pray for my family and for the lost.  “Check!”  3. Serve in ministry.  “Double check!”  I graded myself an A+ and anything in me that seemed subpar was, of course, someone else’s fault. In other words, after Jesus reached down into the murky waters of my sinful heart and cleansed me from all unrighteousness  I insisted on keeping my own heart pure by using the Christian to-do list.  It didn’t work.  Instead, microscopic particles of sin scattered into mocking piles of pride and self absorption.  Unnoticed because of the stealthiness of self-righteousness I survived for years without much conviction.

Lovingly, God led me to a discipleship class He knew I needed. During the second class there was a lesson on Performance.  It shed light on the error of using the patterns of this world (i.e. A good performance = a good person/reward; What I have and do defines me) and applying them to Christian living.  Being that it was my first time hearing this truth I had questions like:  Trying to earn the approval of God and others by doing the right thing is sin?   The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”    Jesus finished the work, He paid the price, and we are to live accordingly. Our identity comes from Jesus alone, not from anything we have done (good or bad) or will do in the future (good or bad) or from our family (good or bad) or from our past (good or bad).  Furthermore, trying to earn or deserve the “goodness” label is the opposite of  Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  and Romans 15:16 b: “I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.”    The difference is not in the outward appearance but in the motivation of the heart.  What I was doing was for self glorification, not for God’s glory and definitely not compelled by His love for me but by my love/hate relationship with myself.

Boy, did I have a revelation!  I would love to tell you that I fell to my knees in repentance when God revealed the idolatry of works within my heart.  In actuality, I was angry with God.  After all, I was an A+ christian, right?   Sadly, instead of running to God my pride kept me away from Him.  I stopped reading the bible, stopped praying and, in essence, gave God the silent treatment.   My heart was isolated and cold and Jesus’ warm, sacrificial love was unable to flow through the icy vessel of self. But God… Thank God for the precious blood of Christ!  David knew that only God could create in him a clean heart, purifying him from sin (Psalm 51).  The same is true today.  Only the Holy Spirit can make us holy as He is holy.

When I finally confessed what I believed in my heart – that His grace was not enough – the cross was not enough – the blood was not enough – that I was trying to add to what Jesus did – then the power of pride that dominated my life was broken.  Instead of unseen particles, the piles of dark sin were revealed and obliterated by adding the blood to the pool of my heart.  I still struggle with performing for the wrong reasons, finding myself wondering if it’s good enough, if I’m good enough.  That’s where God’s Word brings freedom when the enemy desires condemnation.  “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10 and Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Now I see that anything He calls me to do is for His glory.  It’s not about me! His burden is light because He does all the work!  He equips those He calls.  He gives rest when needed.  He is the power source.  I am already accepted to the fullest degree so there is nothing to earn even if I blow it.  His love is deeper and more complete than I could ever imagine and, in the Spirit, it compels me forward to good works because I get to, not because I have to! He is a living Savior and His blood covers all sin. No debris in my flesh is missed!  He will complete what He started.  So, the question now is, “What can wash away my sin?”

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing this I see—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Nothing can my sin erase
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Naught of works, ’tis all of grace—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

This is all my hope and peace—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
This is all my righteousness—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

 

 

Faith, Love, Obedience, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized

Obedience Equals Love

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you”  Psalm 37:4-5

These verses were lived out before my eyes this weekend and I really want to grab someone right here in the airport and share God’s faithfulness!  

“The Lord is gracious.” Psalm 145:8 is written above the slider in our prayer/sunroom. Everyday I am reminded of where I was when God found me and how He has shown me grace over these past nineteen years.  In the same way, when our oldest son, Sean, graduated from Wheaton College on Mother’s Day I was overwhelmed with God’s grace once again. 

Now, while contiplating the “what ifs,” I know my reality is so altered from the path I was on before God saved me.  Back then I was headed for divorce, single parenting, possible poverty and definitely depression and hopelessness.  Fortunately, I was attending a local Mother’s of Pre-Schoolers group where I heard the Gospel many times. Then, one rainy night, alone with my babies, I was made new. The Lord graciously gave me what author Jennifer Kennedy Dean calls a Blood transfusion; new life in Jesus Christ!  It was that fast – a blink of an eye and I was forever changed.  The best part was the cleanness I experienced that filled me with unexplainable joy. I was forgiven! 

Yes, it was painful being born again. The Lord brought to mind so many sins, things I had done that hurt others and offended God and my utter helplessness to change because I was dead inside. I was heartbroken and mourned the ugliness of it all. But God did not reveal this to me to condemn me but to forgive me. He literally gave me a New Spirit, life in Christ! Because He lives I live also!

Since then, over the past nineteen years, I have traveled some bumpy roads, made many mistakes and shown weakness and a lack of faith when it came to my children. Yet, God is faithful!  In spite of my weakness He has carried us through to a fruitful end.   

Still, obedience has never come easy for me. (Fortunately, God is constantly changing that too!) But, the love God has for me and the love I have for him manifests itself in obedience. In other words, obedience is the way I express my love for the Lord. The more I understand how deeply He loves me the more I want to obey Him. “The Love of Christ controls me!” 2 Corinthians 5:14.In retrospect, the celebration of our son’s graduation is like an Ebeneazer stone. It is a reminder of how very faithful, sovereign and good God is and how He blesses even clutzy obedience.  I know God’s ways are best even if I do not understand. I know God loves my children WAY more than I do because His motives are always pure.  My prayer is that, knowing who God is, you and I will continue to bend our knees in obedience, surrendering to the One Who loves and knows best, forever and always, Amen!

“For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19

Uncategorized

Trash Talk

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from me,” says the Lord.   Isaiah 54:17

Whether in basketball, baseball or boxing, trash talk is a strategy used to get into the head of the opposition.  The battle, then, is not only fought on the court, field or ring but also in the mind.   Why do athletes trash talk? Because it’s very effective.  Like arrows in battle, if the words penetrate they will weaken the opponent.  Therefore, if an athlete is unprepared for the barrage of negative speech they will be easier to defeat, having been weakened by the words.  We too have an enemy who likes to use trash talk to injure or weaken us.  In my experience it is also very effective unless I listen to my coach yelling, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes!”  Ephesians 6:11.

Lately, I have played the game of life unprepared and have been getting creamed. Why did the enemy start up again with the message that I am not safe?  Because it worked!  It has been years since the setting of the sun coupled with my husband’s absence has triggered delusions of thieves in the night.  There was freedom in the name of Jesus!  I claimed His promises, won the victory and then took off my armor.  It has also been years since I have prayed those promises, reminding myself of the glorious victory we have in Jesus.  promises like Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” So, after yelling, “Foul!” a few times in the middle of the night I realized that I was unarmed and it was time to get dressed.

However, it usually takes me at least an hour of quiet time every morning with my bible and Jesus to be clothed (in armor) and in my right mind.   That may seem like a long time to you but the alternative for me is defeat. There is no protection against the onslaught of arrows aimed at our hearts, tempting us to act on our feelings and not on what we know is true, if we do not purpose to get dressed!  Naked, we become emotional victims.  In other words, the result of not purposing to sit at the Lord’s feet was death by trash talk.   Similar to the enemy spies hidden within the Trojan Horse, lies are hidden inside painful memories waiting for the perfect time to emerge and take control.  Those negative messages flood through the cracks of my heart that were left unguarded and the enemy’s trash talk begins.

“You are not safe.” he whispers,  “You need to protect yourself because God will not protect you.”

Before I know it I have been up for hours feeling anxious, fearful and defeated.  Convinced that it couldn’t be my own choices that led me to this point of confusion and defeat I shout in unison with Martha, “Lord, don’t You care?” Then the enemy’s whisper turns to shouting, “No! He doesn’t care about you. It is all up to you to protect yourself!”   With my eyes (and ears) off Jesus I begin to weaken.  Then, I hear Jesus saying, “Victory over the enemy is certain!” (2 Corinthians 15:57) and, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love!” (John 15:9)

This cycle is not only exhausting it also interferes with my intimate fellowship with God.  When I hear myself asking, “Jesus, don’t You care?”  I visualize Him standing beside me.  He grabs my hand and leads me next to Mary, who is already and always at His feet. (Luke 10:39) “Sit with Me,” HE offers, sweeping his right hand from His heart to the place next to Him.  I sit, looking up, unable to avoid His loving gaze that answers my question.  “Yes, I care.  I love you.  Look at My hands, My side.  Now do you believe?”  and I am safe.

Oh, to be clothed and in my right mind!  Thank You, LORD Jesus!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

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Pro-Creator

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Genesis 9:7

While laying in bed with a stomache ache because the too rich for my forty-seven-year-old digestive system dinner I ate last night won’t stop waking me up, I thought of procreation. (This is because I feel the same way I did when I was pregnant  and couldn’t sleep.)

 You know the definition: produce young; reproduce. This is the general command in Genesis 9:7, “Go procreate.” However, since there is always a connection between the physical truth in the Old Testament  and spiritual truth in the New Testament, there must be a spiritual application of Genesis 9:7 for us today as Christians.  May I suggest Matthew 28:19? “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...”  Here Jesus said basically the same thing, “Go procreate!”  So we are called to be spiritually fruitful and multiply. How? By sharing the good news of Jesus with those who don’t know Him.  When we share the gift with those who do not understood that Jesus’ invitation, the Gospel, is offered to them we are spreading seed.  We know from the parable that not all invitations will be accepted but some will fall on good soil and God will give them new life!

Furthermore, if they choose to accept the gift Jesus died on the cross to give them, we are to teach them or “make disciples.” This is the equivalent to spiritual parenting.  Because God allows us to join Him where He’s working (Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby) and calls us to enter into relationship with believers as adopted children who need care, I am challenged to love my brothers and sisters in Christ in this way.  

I’m grateful for the seed that landed on my soiled heart so many years ago.  It came from faithful Christians who loved me more than they feared rejection.  They also watered, weeded (lots of weeding) and fertilized as needed. So, this spring let’s scatter some seed in His name and be Pro-Creators for Christ and watch the fruit grow for His glory!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”  Romans 1:16