Saturday, March 2, 2013

Assembly Required

Recently I was reflecting on how fortunate nature is. I mean think about it. The wind, the waves, they obey the Lord always because they have no free will. The stars, the sun, the moon, they perform on cue. The rocks, the animals and insects, they worship the Lord in unison. How I wished I would obey ALWAYS, worship ALWAYS but then I realized what would I offer the Lord if I had no free will? What sacrifice would I lay at His feet. What gift would I have to offer? I realize, friend, that living out our faith can be a struggle sometimes but we have the wonderful gift of free will and with it we can bless the Lord. We can make Godly choices and give a sacrifice to the Lord that no other creation in heaven or on earth can offer Him. He longs for us to make choices that align with His perfect design. I was counseling a friend the other day that was struggling trusting the Lord in a certain area of her life and I shared with her that sometimes we don't have the whole picture. We don't see like the Lord sees, the beginning from the end. So, it can be difficult to blindly trust especially when trusting causes pain. It's like a huge jigsaw puzzle and you've only managed to assemble a few pieces. How could you possibly see the entire picture when so much is still missing. This is how the life of surrender is. We surrender when things are scary. We surrender when we are filled with uncertainty. We surrender when it doesn't make sense. We surrender when we think we have the best answers. We surrender when we're disappointed and confused. Why? Because, we trust the Master that designed our puzzle. We know that His plans for us are good. Just imagine how ridiculous it would be if we put together that jigsaw puzzle half way and decided to put it on display for others to see. What would they see? They'd see a half finished masterpiece. Not even close to how beautiful it had the potential to be. It's value would be nonexistent. It's beauty unappreciated. It's potential never realized. So after further reflection, I have decided that as beautiful and wonderful all of creation is and how magnificently you can appreciate its worship to the Great Creator, it pales in comparison to the wonderful opportunity He has afforded us to offer our lives through our free will as a reasonable, acceptable sacrifice of worship to His Majesty. Creation, if she had the ability would marvel at how fortunate WE ARE to have such a precious gift.

Dear brother, dear sister, don't give up halfway through the assembling of the beautiful puzzle your life is designed to be. Allow the Master free reign, surrender all for His glory and trust that when He has finished your life will be the masterpiece He so designed it to be.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship." Romans 12:1

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Who Doesn't Love New

With recent innovation of electronic devices such as "Nooks, E-Readers" etc. I was talking with a friend the other day and we were agreeing, as I'm sure many others would, that there's just something about reading a BOOK, the feel of the pages, picturing where a particular passage that "hit" you is positioned on the page, the durability, mobility and flexibility of an actual book. After all, when reading a book, one is not dependent on "signal" or "battery charge".

My Pastor's wife hit the nail on the head one time when she mentioned how much she loves her Bible. Yes, you can download the Bible on your I-Phone or Droid and look up passages in any version imaginable on electronic devices but it's just not the same. I agree with her 100%.  This line of thought got me to remembering how a new book has a certain smell that a reader loves and old books are treasures,works of art that have a mysterious beauty about them. As we embark on another year (and my, how they seem to fly by), I began pondering the idea of newness. The Bible is filled with verses reminding us that when we accept Jesus as Savior we are new. We have a "clean slate". It's a new life, waiting to be written.

I remember when I was a kid. I used to love to get new notebooks for school. I couldn't wait to make all my entries clean and neat. However, often mid-way through the first semester one could notice a distinct change in the accuracy and attention to detail in my notes. I became lazy or tired or just plain complacent. Isn't that often the way our walk with the Lord becomes? We allow it to become more like routine or mundane. We lose our first love and become lax in our zeal and study of the Word. 

Webster's dictionary defines "New" this way: New: "Having recently come into existence; Made or become fresh; awakened." When we come to the Lord, we "come into existence" the Bible says we are "born again". Unlike an old, comfortable pair of shoes or broken-in jeans, there comes a certain amount of uncertainty about this "new" life. Questions arise, "How can all the horrible things in my life be wiped out, just like that?", "What will this cost me and what will be required of me?", "Can I do this?" However, once we learn more about the glorious gift of salvation and draw close to the lover of our soul, we realize that everything we've been searching for can be found in Him. The big, fat hole in our heart can be filled with His amazing acceptance, comfort, hope, and love. As we grow in Him we have a stronger desire to become more like Him and to make decisions that will please His heart.

I remember the first time I bought a new car. What a difference from the old, very used cars I had been used to. I treated my new car completely different than the old ones. I wanted to preserve the newness as long as possible. I valued the new more because it cost more and was worth more. This is how our lives are when we come to Christ. Our salvation was paid for at a great price by our Savior. He is trusting us to care for our lives in a more responsible way and to be mindful that we now carry His Name. We are Christians (followers of Christ). 

So, in this new year, I am very conscious of the amazing gift God has given me to be brand new. I want to preserve that newness and continually examine my heart to make sure I am striving with all that is in me to live the life I'm called to live. After walking with the Lord for 31+ years, He's taught me how to deal with the old so I can walk in the new. I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, take advantage of the new slate the Lord has given you. Work through all the old and see how the Lord can use that as you walk in the new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Prayer is the Fixer

I was listening to K-Love on my way to work the other day and the DJ was talking to a dad about his best Christmas gift this year. The dad was sharing that his 5 year old little girl, Chloe, was undergoing her final Chemo treatment that morning. He shared how she had been diagnosed with Leukemia when she was only 2 years old. As soon as they learned the diagnosis, they followed the Bible's instructions and brought little Chloe to the elders of the church who in turn anointed and prayed for her. Within weeks the doctors declared that Chloe's tests had shown her cancer-free. However, the parents followed the instructions of the doctors to follow through with treatment to prevent any possible advancement of the underlying disease. 

This dad went on to say how the advancement of modern medicine is amazing. The things they can do to combat disease are incredible. However, he said, prayer is still the fixer. This comment stuck in my heart all day long. Prayer is still the fixer. He didn't say prayer is the healer or prayer is the provider or prayer is the liberator. Prayer is the fixer. I looked up the definition of the word fix. It means "To place securely. To make stable or firm. To secure to another".  Wow, when we submit our life to prayer, we are securing ourselves to the Lord and allowing HIM to make us stable and firm. See, we are fixed whether the healing manifests or not, whether the financial need is met or not, whether the miracle is seen or not. We are fixed because we are securely affixed to the One that walks with us through every trial, storm and tragedy. 

While I wholeheartedly believe that prayer changes things and circumstances, I believe more than anything prayer changes US. It draws us closer to the heart of God and puts us in a position to allow our will to line up with His will. Jesus Himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass before me. Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done." Sometimes in our zealousness of prayer, we have this idea that God is somehow obligated to answer our prayers in the manner we deem best. However, if we enter into prayer asking God to give us His Heart and His Eyes to see our situation and pray for His will to be done and our desires to line up with His desires, we are not disappointed or questioning God's care for us when the outcome isn't what we initially requested. God knows best. Even the Bible reveals that we don't know how to pray as we ought. We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to help us pray. 

I encourage you today sister, brother, whatever you are taking to the Lord in prayer, trust Him. Ask Him to give you His Heart in your situation, His Eyes to see the way He sees. Let prayer be your fixer. May your prayer provide a place for you to be securely stable and firmly planted in Him regardless of the outcome. I have committed in the coming year to allow my prayer time to be a place where my heart is acutely listening to His voice and an unassuming place of surrender to His will.

Romans 8:26 "In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Emmanuel, God with Us

Those of you that know me know that I have a real passion for sunrises and sunsets. I find often that the Lord speaks to my heart through nature. As I was driving to work Thursday morning, the sky was overcast and cloudy. However, the clouds were bright. Even though you couldn't see the sun behind nor between the clouds, you could tell it was there. I could imagine its silent presence cheering the clouds on. An unseen encourager rooting for the underdog. He was there, even though the clouds didn't realize it, he was there. They didn't even notice that he shone through them in spite of their darkness.

I felt the Lord take me on a short journey through moments of my own life. All the times I felt I couldn't go on, or the moments I felt betrayed, abandoned, forgotten, damaged or alone, He was there, perhaps hidden behind the dark clouds of abuse or pain but there nonetheless. How could I go through my day to day life with so much pain in my heart that it took my breath away and not know the only reason I didn't fall apart was because He was there holding me together? I can remember years after my divorce many women coming to me and telling me how much they respected me for all I had gone through and how strong I remained in the Lord through it all.  I would think to myself, "Are you crazy? I was a basket case." I feel that in spite of all my fears, all my doubts and all my shortcomings, Christ was able to shine through the darkness. It wasn't in anything I had to offer but all because of His amazing mercy and grace. He is not a fair weather friend. He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother. And even though we falsely accuse Him of being unconcerned, uncaring, unsympathetic, uninterested or just plain too busy, He still chooses to be our Constant Companion offering peace, hope faith and unconditional love.

Ironically at Christmastime more than at any other time during the year, Christ can be unseen, hidden behind the clouds. How can we leave Christ out of Christmas? It's such a hectic time and we prepare months in advance. We spend time with family, in church, even discussing His birth and preparing for Christmas day but often forget to ponder His Presence with us moment by moment. He is with us, not because we feel Him nor because we're talking to Him but because He has chosen to make His abode in our hearts. In the darkest moments we have this assurance that He is there, an unseen Encourager rooting for the underdog. He is there even when we don't realize His Presence. So, dear brother, dear sister, I encourage you even when you can't see Him, God is at work. When dark clouds loom, He is near. He has not forgotten you. He has not abandoned you. He is not uncaring nor unsympathetic to your plight. You can trust Him to lead you through the darkness, through the pain and in spite of where you may be, He can give you a song of praise upon your lips. I leave you with these amazing words from Mercy Me's, "Jesus Bring the Rain": 

♫♫ I can count a million times, people asking me how I can praise You with all that I've gone through. This question just amazes me, could circumstances possibly change who I forever am in You? So I pray, bring me joy, bring me peace, bring the chance to be free. Bring me anything that brings You glory. And I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain but if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain. ♫♫

Thursday, November 29, 2012

No Pain No Gain

So recently I heard a report about a young girl with a rare genetic disorder known as anhidrosis. This disorder prevents its victims from being able to experience pain. Now, our first response may be, "wow, that would be awesome, a life with no pain." However, the effects are tragic. God made us with the ability to experience pain for a reason. Pain tells our bodies that something is wrong. Whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual, pain is actually a gift from God. Without it, we continue in a path of destruction without even realizing the outcome.

The process of being refined or being moulded are prime examples of beauty coming from intense discomfort. When being refined by fire, we feel we will burn before the process is completed, but clearly the Refiner knows how hot the temperature must be to produce the best and most beautiful results. When the Potter is spinning and kneading, and moulding, we feel as though we will never recover, but the Potter knows the perfect design and the beauty He is creating.

Surely none of us enjoy pain, discomfort or prodding, but if the end result is a life that reflects the beauty of the Lord, then surely we will look back and say it was worth it. Similar to the woman in childbirth that forgets her pain once she lays eyes on her precious little one.

As I pondered this idea of being thankful for pain, I realized that many of the greatest lessons I've learned and the most character defining moments in my life have come on the heels of immense pain in my life. I'm reminded of the weight-lifter's mantra, "No pain, no gain." God is able to use our pain to minister to others, which is a beautiful thing. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." I find it so amazing that God can take the most shameful, embarrassing, humbling and painful experiences of our lives and bring hope, comfort and peace to the lives of others. Only God can do something beautiful like that!!!  I have been through a lot in my life and I find comfort in knowing the things I've suffered can be used for good, to bring hope and peace in the life of another.

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bravo Maestro

I recently shared with friends  that I had been going through a rough time for a several days. I couldn't seem to "pull" myself out of it. I read the Word, I prayed, I tried to focus on encouraging others, I tried to meditate on all I had to be thankful for, I attended church and it helped somewhat just as it had in times past. However, it didn't leave me completely. I had a heaviness that just didn't seem to fully lift. Then I remembered Isaiah 61:3 "Provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." So I put on worship music and began to sing praises to the Lord. My burden lifted completely. I remembered the beautiful picture in my mind of David worshiping the Lord and bringing temporary relief to Saul's torment and this experience set me on a path of meditating on the beautiful gift of music God has given us. God knows us so well. After all, He created us. He knew music would soften our souls and relieve our heaviness so that we could use our mouths to sing His praises. Only our God could create such a win win situation. We are comforted, He is glorified. Thank You Lord!!! It was on the tails of this experience that God inspired me with this story:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Surrender and be Free

Unlike a slave, a bondservant chooses to serve another. The word bondservant is defined as devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests. My surrender to the Lord used to come in the form of kicking and screaming sort of like an enemy reluctantly raising a white flag to give up rather than die. But the more I learn of the Lord and the more of His Character I am privileged to behold the more I find this surrender is more than a willing yieldedness.  I desire to surrender all the days of my life as an offering to the Lord, emptied of all selfish motives and to become an empty vessel longing to be filled by Him. 

I realize that years of betrayal, abuse and emotional injury could cause one to be reluctant in giving up control of their own life. At times I can remember feeling that control over my own life was all I had left.  But I realized that I had become a prisoner to my own defenses and built impenetrable walls to keep all the hurt out while enslaving myself to my own fears and insecurities. We think we can implement these defenses and keep everyone out except the Lord but that's not the way it works. The safehouse we build for ourselves keeps everyone INCLUDING the Lord out. Unlike man, God will never betray us, He will never harm us. His plans for us are good. When we surrender our lives completely to Him and become bondservants, we experience a freedom like no other. How ironic that in surrendering and becoming a bondservant to Christ we actually become free, free to be all He desires us to be, free to be loved unconditionally, free from fear, free from bondage, free from hurt and pain and most importantly free to belong to Him unreservedly. I encourage you my brothers and sisters today to surrender. Surrender all of it. Hold nothing back. Nothing you've been through, nothing you "hide" in your heart can shock Him or cause Him to turn away. He will receive you with Arms wide open. He will heal all the broken places and show you how to walk in freedom. Today surrender and be free.

This illustrations fits perfectly with what I'm sharing here today: 
Story: There’s a bear caught in a trap. A kind hunter wants to help set it free. But the bear, racked with pain, cannot understand this. The only hope is to shoot it with a tranquilizer gun. The bear, seeing the raised shotgun, panics. The approaching hunter must temporarily push down harder on the injured paw in order to spring the trap. Again there is more pain, more misunderstanding. The bear cannot comprehend the hunter’s vision: a beautiful future where man and bear enjoy the gentle hills together.

Romans 12:1-2 (Amplified):  I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Love New Seasons

As Autumn rushes in like an unexpected guest, I find myself reflecting on the different seasons of life. The older I get the less I despise change. I've learned that a lot of growth can come through change. So, I'm really excited about the new season in my life and am believing God for awesome things for His glory. Even though I've walked with the Lord some 30 plus years I feel as though I've fallen in love with Him all over again for the first time. 

When I'm disappointed, He encourages. When I'm hurting, He comforts. When I'm crying, He holds me and wipes away my tears. When I feel like giving up, He's the silent fan in the sidelines cheering me on. When I'm overwhelmed, He strengthens me. When I feel useless, He reminds me the price He paid for me and how valuable He thinks I am. When I feel like a failure, He lifts me up and encourages me to try again better. When I feel unloved, He kisses me with the Presence of His Holy Spirit, When I've been hurt, He helps me forgive since I've been forgiven much. When I'm lonely, He visits me. All this to say, I've learned not to regret all the difficult/hurtful times but rather allow God to make beauty out of all those ashes. He is in the business of restoring broken, hurting hearts. I am living proof. 

~"It is true that you planned to do something bad to me. But really, God was planning good things. God’s plan was to use me....." Genesis 50:20