Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Worth It.

Faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God. This is the woman of Proverbs 31:25 who looks into the future with confidence in God and laughs at the coming troubles.

~John Piper

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. ~Proverbs 31:25

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. ~Psalm 34:19

Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. ~1 Peter 4:19

Even through the sins of his people, God plots for their glory...the worst of times is not wasted. When you think He is farthest from you, or has even turned against you, the truth is that as you cling to Him, He is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life...all things mysteriously serve God's good ends.

~John Piper

I may not fully understand trials, but I know that I can stand strong with the security that God has a purpose behind it all. It's not always about what I see, but more about the journey and the end result...and as long as I am still praising Him in the end, then all the trials are worth it.

If it draws me closer to You Lord, it was worth it.

If it causes me to lay down my life at Your feet, it was worth it.

If it causes me to abandon worldly pursuits, it was worth it.

If it pleases You, it was worth it.

If it causes me to love You all the more, it was worth it.

I'd rather experience the trials if it causes me to leave my comfort behind, pick up my cross, and follow You. My ultimate goal is to be found in You, to love and serve You. Your end result is the ultimate gain. And the funny thing is, the trials won't be so painful when I am looking into Your light. In fact, the pain may actually be pleasant and refreshing as I am refined for You.

Christian thanksgiving is the life of Christ in the heart - transforming the disposition and the whole character.

Thanksgiving must be wrought into the life as a habit - before it can become a fixed and permanent quality.

An occasional burst of praise, in the midst of years of complaining, is not what is required. Songs on rare, sunshiny days; and no songs when skies are cloudy - will not make a life of gratitude. The heart must learn to sing always.

The lesson is learned only when it becomes a habit which nothing can weaken. We must persist in being thankful.

When we can see no reason for praise - we must believe in the divine love and goodness, and sing in the darkness.

Thanksgiving has attained its rightful place in us, only when it is part of all our days and dominates all our experiences.

~J.R. Miller, 1912

Friday, October 21, 2011

Letter to Grandma

Dear Grandma Kay,

As I ponder life this past year, and losing you to cancer, I've thought of your influence in my life. Who knew that 10 years ago when you gifted me with the black leather journal, that my heart would find solace in the pages it held. That my mind would find the space to be calm. That my hand would record mistakes and lessons learned. Or that I would begin to find my identity in Christ. Your simple gift may not have seemed so profound then, but over the last 10 years it has propelled me on a journey closer towards my Savior.

And as I celebrate this first birthday without you, I can't help but ask "Did I show you Christ's love? Did you see Him in me?" And..."do you see me now...are you watching my life unfold as you sit near Him?"

I miss you and long to share my heart with you. But all I have to do is look around and I see the things your hands have crafted for me over the years. And I can look at who I am and see the legacy you've left behind in me. Parts of you are within me...my character, the way I love. I pray that that part of me never dies, that I can pass on those parts of you to my children one day. Thank you Grams for your influence upon my life. I love you and miss you today.

Love Your eldest grandchild,

P.S. A card just arrived when I got home. Grandpa lovingly sent me a card that you had made. Tears have come...I do miss you so very much! And I can still hear you say, just a few days before you passed "Your eyes are sparkling. You are so beautiful". Yes grams...what you hopefully saw was Christ in me...and now may you be seeing Him face-to-face.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Lesson Revisited

I was just teaching this to some kiddos just yesterday. If we are not responsible then we will keep making the same mistakes until we take responsibility of them. Ugh! If only I had listened to what I was teaching. I wrote a post on Car Sickness (really...it's not entirely about what you might think!) earlier this summer and as I was writing my thoughts out the other day, they seemed vaguely familiar.

Questions. Doubts. Thoughts. All tumble through my mind. Wondering when and where I lost sight of all that's important.

Struggling. Just like Peter, who had the faith to step out of the boat - because his eyes were on Jesus. And who sunk the moment he looked at the sights around him.

I've stopped looking at Jesus and have let others dictate my relationship with Him. Allowed them to measure if my faith was strong. Looked at the world for confirmation that I was doing alright. And as I did, my God-confidence faltered. I have been allowing others to determine my worth and have let their opinions of things to determine my security.

I know how wrong this is. And yet, instead of stopping it, I reverted to my old self and continued until I felt beaten down and broken.

And at the end of this brokenness, there He is. Arms open wide. Waiting with love.

As I settle into His loving embrace and turn my eyes back to THE Prize, peace envelops me. My faith rises and I desire only Him once again.

If I covet any place n earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
~Amy Carmichael

Friday, September 23, 2011

Foundational living

For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Hebrews 11:10

foundation = a basis upon which something stands or is supported; an underlying base or support; a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid; a woman's supporting undergarment, corset...BAHAHA...just had to add that last one since it was in there..

Hebrews 11 is called the faith chapter. The Hall of Fame of Faith. And for good reasons. People like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah (had to look that one up on Judges 11), David, Samuel, and the prophets are all mentioned in this particular chapter. Quite the list! And as I was reading I began to wonder...what was it about each of them that caused their name to be associated with faith?

And then I cam across Hebrews 11:10 and the answer seemed to leap off the page and to my heart.

The key is their foundation!

Now I've heard it said, and yes I've even sung the song...mind you this is my summary of it...and I'm singing it as I write it...

The wise man built his house upon the rock; the foolish man built his house upon the sand, and when the winds came his house went SPLAT! (Based on Matthew 7:24-27)

I'll admit it though, I've thought "Yea ok, I'll build my house upon Christ." Got it. Check...just like I was checking it off my grocery list. I don't think I've ever let the truth and weight of it sink into my heart.

In viewing this truth in such a flippant way, I've caused serious damage to myself. When the storms came, I've fallen apart under their weight. My foundation was built by my own human hands and they were not strong enough to withstand the pressures of this world. And here I was thinking I my faith was so strong!

As the truth of real faith cut open my heart, God in His love has been disciplining me and redirecting me to just Who the author of a foundation of faith really is. Him! When He is the architect and builder, the pressures of this world fade away. Yes they try to tear apart the foundation but God's Sovereign hands hold it together and nothing, NOTHING, of this world can tear apart His handiwork.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. ~Hebrews 11:13

These people of faith stood strong even in the face of unfulfilled promises! They still trusted, believed, hoped and chose to put their faith in God. Their foundation was solid. Their lives were built by and upon Christ! Can I say the same?

As God tears down the foundation I built and builds His foundation in me, my questions is, in the end when faced with the possiblity of unfulfilled promises...will I still choose to trust and believe Him? I hope I can say yes, but really, if I'm honest with myself...will I really be able to say that?

God has placed promises in my heart, written them upon His foundation in my soul. If I never see them fulfilled, will I still have faith and hope as I take my last breath?

As I've been pondering this, God brought the answer.

And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth...they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. ~Hebrews 11:13-16

Since the people of faith in Hebrews 11 built their foundation upon Christ and not this world, their focus was not on the world, but on eternity. Instead of dwelling on the unfulfilled promises, their eyes were on the promises that God had awaiting them in heaven.

My eyes, instead of looking at the unfulfilled promises, need to be on eternity. Faith and hope are built up by Christ so that I may worship Him, not only here on earth, but for eternity. God does not build my life upon His foundation just so that I may have a wonderful, happy life on earth but so that I may praise, worship and glorify Him...now and forever. My life should not be lived for just the worldly promises. Yes, experiencing them is wonderful...but not my goal. The people listed in Hebrews 11 were marked for their faith and trust in God...no matter what, no matter the cost. I wish and hope that in the end, my life will be marked by a desire and faith to do what God asked of me...no matter the cost, even if it means leaving this world with unfulfilled promises. Let my eyes be fixed upon Him and what He has awaiting me in eternity, and let my foundation be marked by a faith in Him.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Change is in the Air

What happens when God tells you to move? You move! But sometimes I wish He would do the packing, purging, and organizing for me! Besides that wish, God has been challenging me to pay off debt, and to serve others more. I have been living in my current apartment for the last 6 years. ALL. ALONE. (Well...besides my cat, Madison). And in those 6 years, I haven't exactly lived to serve others as well as I could. My time was, well, my time. And I was very possessive with it. But a few months ago, I felt God nudging me to give up my time and start serving others, start pouring out my time for others. So....Laura Beth had proposed this option at the beginning of the year, and with some trepidation and serious thinking time, I accepted and have thus moved into their (their being Laura Beth, her husband Jeremy, and their 3 children, plus a dog) basement (and will also save money...wahoo!).

Today will mark my very first night starting out in this adventure. Needless to say, the kids are thrilled, but I am a bit nervous. This will take a lot of laying down of myself, a lot of sharpening of my character. It will not all be fun. There will be challenges and periods of serious growth...but at the same time, I know it will be wonderful to have others around me as I've grown somewhat lonely lately. And I do hope and pray that I can be a blessing to the Rhodes family as they are to me.

Change is never easy, but it is good when God calls you to it. So...when you step out in faith, this is what it looks like....

The empty storage unit that God provided within a half-hour of me asking for confirmation about whether this move was of Him or of me...yea...be careful what you pray/ask for...you just might get it...

And this is what a 2 bedroom apartment looks like in a 10x12 storage unit...yes...Tetris was my game when I was younger!

And the room as I was moving into it...

And now the semi-finished room....notice the mess on my table. Yep. My kitchen table followed me since I throughly enjoy having quiet times at it.

So here's to the beginning of a new adventure!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Car Sickness

In all the setbacks of our lives as believers, God is plotting our joy. ~John Piper

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left turn your foot away from evil.

Proverbs 4:25-27

And you thought you'd be reading about my adventures in dealing with car sickness. Hehehe...just wait!

So I've been in Kansas City only one week and at times it seems like days and at other times, years. So much has happend...joy, pain, confusion...It's difficult to process it all. But I'm trying. I know that God is at work. I've seen His mighty hand working miracles in my own life and heart. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me continue to share some more insight from John Piper regarding the book of Ruth and the road each of us travel upon...

At one level, the message of the book of Ruth is that the life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward. But all along the hazardous, twisted road that doesn't let you see very far ahead, there are frequent signs that say, "The best is yet to come."

~John Piper

As I was reading this earlier this morning I thought back to my family's many trips to Big Bear Mountain and my difficulties with feeling the need to have them pull over ever few miles so I can stare at the lovely ground...you get the picture right...not pretty! Car sickness is a wonderful reminder of where my focus should be. You see, if I keep my eyes straight ahead on the road, I can generally get through it without feeling the need to...you know... But the moment I begin to watch the scenery and get lost in what's going on around me, I become ill. And you might find this odd that I'm correlating car sickness to my walk with God...but hang in there with me.

I've noticed that as my gaze begins to look to the right and left at what everyone else has, or has accomplished, I become jealous and my focus is no longer on Christ but on what the world says I need. And it's so easy to do. It's attractive to see all that the world offers, just like the scenery on the windy road to Big Bear. But as I gaze on worldly attractions, I stray further from the path that God has for me, and my life becomes spiritually sick with anger, jealousy, pride, ambition...

Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.

~John Piper

There isn't a straight path in front of me. There are many curves, hair-pin ones, switchbacks and the lovely ups and downs in the road. And just as I must keep my gaze upon the actual physical road when navigating that terrain, so must my gaze be upon Christ as I travel upon the road He has laid before me. He has not promised that it would be easy. There are times that it may seem like I'm traveling backwards in order to gain ground again. But they are a part of what He has planned.

For instance, we were in a car wreck this past Sunday (a truck rear ended us...and we're all okay) and since then I had been having a wonderful dull headache that would drain the energy out of me. It even progressed to the point yesterday where my jaw was hurting and made it difficult to chew anything. I was miserable but tried so hard not to let Alisha know that (yes...there's a bit of the pride there...and independence...God's working on that...). We went to the House of Hope and Healing last night, and I was reminded of something I wrote about a month ago. That post (Hello Mustard Seed) challenged my thoughts about healing...and God decided to bring that to my mind as we were sitting there and I was receiving prayer for my lovely headache. My faith may have been just as small as that mustard seed, but God knew that and had brought me back to that place in the road where I had believed in His healing, so that He could show His mighty works and heal me. I walked out of that prayer room, healed from the headache, the tension, and by the end of the evening..my jaw felt wonderful again. Even when I woke up this morning I was not racked with pain as I had been since the accident. In the midst of the pain it seemed like God had brought me ten steps backward, when in reality, He was trying to show His glory and His might so that I may move forward again.

My eyes needed to be upon Him, not upon what the circumstances were. My gaze had drifted to the side of the road once again and He used that pain to direct my eyes back to Him.

Everything we do in obedience to God, no matter how small, is significant. It is part of a cosmic mosaic that God is painting to display the greatness of his power and wisdom to the world and to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). A deep satisfaction of the Christian life is that we are not given over to trifles. Serving a widowed mother-in-law, gleaning in a field, falling in love, having a baby - for the Christian these things are all connected to eternity. They are part of something so much bigger than they seem.

~John Piper

What I experienced, the setbacks I may have had in life, the small steps of obedience that He is calling me to...it's not about me...it's about Him. It's about His glory. It's about living my life for Him. My gaze is upon Him once again and my life is laid before Him so that I can say...

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Galatians 2:20

And hey...as a bonus when my eyes are upon Him...I won't get car sick!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dry Bones

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me"Son of man, can these bones live?"

I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know."

Ezekiel 37:1-3

I don't know about you but my first reaction is..."Uh, no God, bones cannot live again." But do you see the response given..."O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." That's faith and that amazes me! You see, it's not just about dry bones but about the death of my own hopes and dreams. There are things throughout my life that I've watched die and I wondered if they would ever see life again. And here's my answer..."O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." But wait there's more to this....

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'"

Ezekiel 37:4-6

He will. God will bring dreams and hopes to life again. Will they look exactly as before...maybe, maybe not. Did these dry bones look exactly as before...I don't know. I would like to think that maybe they looked different because His breath of life was in them and they were a new creation.

So I prophesied as I was commanded [hello faith!]. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Ezekiel 37:7-8

I don't know about you but I've been in this place where I could see the dreams coming to life, but they were just an exoskeleton...there wasn't any life, any breath in them. And that's a hard place to be. Seeing what could be, but not having the life and breath of God in them. And that's when they need to die. Die to my selfishness so that God can rebuild according to His plan and His life for me.

Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army.

Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.'

Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord. '"

Ezekiel 37:11-14

The hopes and dreams that I've had throughout my life may have seemed dead, but God will breathe new life into them. They may look the same as what I saw, or they may be different. But it will all be for His glory. Their death will be for His glory...not just so that I may see His works, but that all around me may see Him. The new life that He will breathe into me will be a testimony of His love, grace, glory and resurrection. And in the end it will be worth all the pain because I will be able to say...

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seasonal Change

It was not by coincidence that my blog was titled "Through the Seasons". My life seems to eminate seasonal changes. There have been times that I have experienced the overwhelming joy of a mountain top and times when I've experienced valleys as empty and bitter as a fierce winter, questioning whether it would ever end. And there's also been the mundane, all too comfortable routines of a dry, hot summer. Each experience and season has hopefully brought me closer to my God, but I will admit that there were times when I questioned God and His love for me. Times when I doubted His blessings would ever come.

For some reason, these last couple of days I've been reminded of all the different seasons I've walked through. As I've pondered it all, I see God's hand in every single detail. From the times I lashed out at Him in anger to the times of sweet fellowship in His Presence. And I've been reminded that there is a season for everything...

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end...

...I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, 14

This past fall was a time of weeping. Weeping that would overwhelm me in an instant. Weeping that stemmed from my grandmother's losing battle with cancer, two tragic deaths at one of our schools, and the closure of a disturbing case for one of my kiddos. For a while there, it seemed like no matter what I did, how hard I tried, or how much I pressed into God...He was silent. And the weeping would not end. But even though I could not see all that God was doing, He was moving. He was not silent. He was faithful and the weeping finally ending. And with it came such a sweet communion with my Savior. He had held me close to His side all throughout the fall and winter and was showing me how to love. How to care deeply. How to love others as He loves.

And as the springtime approached so did the laughter. It was an interesting thing to go from weeping to laughter...but what joy I experienced with it! It was as though God was saying...it's time to build you back up, time to refresh you and allow you to bloom where I have planted you (cliche, I know!). There were times that laughter eminated from deep inside my belly and I couldn't contain it...nor did I want to.

Now I am in the middle of my physical summertime and it seems like a spiritual one as well. It's been a time where He is tearing down strongholds in my heart and mending them to suit His needs. He is lovingly teaching me what it means to be open and vulnerable, yet to hide behind His protective covering. He has also begun to show me even more His heart for people and has challenged me to actually act out that love rather than just go through the motions. This means the continual laying down of my own life for His sake. My eyes have to be upon Him. It is not easy...and it hurts. But there is such joy and peace as I do what He asks and as I bask in His Presence.

With each season is a lesson, and with each lesson a desire for more of Him (yes...even when I was angry at Him). I don't know what lies ahead...nor do I really desire to. My heart's desire is to obey Him, right now, in this moment, with the day He's given me. Seasons will come and go, but I can stand strong knowing that my God never changes. The seasons are for my benefit as they are meant to draw me closer to Him, to set eternity in my heart. May it be His glory that shines from my heart and my life all of my days.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Hello Mustard Seed!

"At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind...'The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor...'"

Luke 7:21-23

I find it amazing that these things were happening...and I also struggle with it like a Pharisee. Could all of this really have happened? I admit doubt has crept in, but if I doubt that, then I may as well be saying the whole Bible is a fictional story...and I know deep down that is not so.

And because of that deep conviction that the Bible is Truth, I step out in faith and believe that everything it says is true. That includes raising someone from the dead, as well as the sea parting and David defeating Goliath. I must, in faith, take it all as Truth. But if I do so, then shouldn't I also, in faith, believe that miracles still happen?

If "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), then I must have the faith to beleive that people can still be healed, sight can be restored and the dead can be brought back to life. God hasn't changed, nor will He. It is my mindset and lack of faith that has.

Our world is still full of Pharisees, we are still corrupt, and we still doubt. But God is asking His people to take a stand of faith, in His name...to begin to believe that the impossible is possible. That we, if we have the Holy Spirit living within us, have the power to give sight to the blind, "the lame walk, those who have leprosy (or any disease) are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor." (Luke 7:21-23).

We have the power to heal - body and soul. So why do we hide this power...afraid of what the world may say? We must keep our perspective in place. This is our temporary home, our real home is awaiting us in eternity. What we do here on earth, can impact someone else's eternity.

I know my faith may be weak and I struggle with this, but God says...

"Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

Matthew 17:20-21

My faith is small, but I am ready to move mountains for Jesus' sake. Are you?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

not a fan.

Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?'

Luke 9:23-25

I have been challenged lately by what it means to love Christ. To really love Him. Not just to say "Hey, God I love ya. Could you help me out with my patience?". But to really lay down all of my desires for His sake.

For His Kingdom.

For His purpose.

It seems I have just gone through life as a fan of Christ. Thankful for all He can do for me...his forgiveness, grace, love. But I haven't really stepped over the threshold into a follower. I've been sitting on the sidelines cheering Him on. A spectator. But I desire so much more. I want to be found in Him. I want people, when they look at me, to see Him...not me. I want His glory, His light, and His love to radiate from within me. I want to lose my life for Him.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-22

Did you notice those words? At once. Immediately. There wasn't any hesitation. They desired what Jesus was offering so much that they left all they had, immediately, and followed Him. They were not fans. They were followers. They laid down their lives to follow Him.

I keep looking back at James and John and the fact that they were IN the boat with their father and that they immediately left their boat. Now in my mind, I don't see them gently walking out of the boat onto a dock, because really...did they even have docks? No. I see them out a ways, getting ready to cast their nets into the water...and here's Jesus on the shore, shouting to them to follow Him. And what do James and John do? They immediately drop their net, leave their father without so much as a goodbye, leap out of the boat and into the water head first and swim to shore as fast as they can. They were devoted. Their enthusiasm could not be contained.

I want to be like that. When God says move, I want to move. No questions asked. Just move. Jump. Leap. Do whatever it takes to follow after Him with all that I am.

Another example is Elisabeth Elliot. Her husband and four other missionaries were killed by the Auca Indians. And what does she do? What God tells her...which is contrary to what the world says. She moves into the same village, with the same people who killed her husband. And it's not just her, she brought along their 3 year-old daughter. That takes faith. And trust. But she laid down her life for the sake of God, and God moved in the hearts of the Auca people. Read her story in "The Savage My Kinsman". Allow it to change you as it did me.

When God calls you. Be ready. Don't just be a fan. Be a follower. Be willing to lay down your life for Him. It may go against what the world says is "normal", but if it didn't then God couldn't shine through it. God doesn't want us to just blend in...He wants us to shine. It's hard to be a light when we look like everyone else.

I know that I am choosing Him. No matter the cost. No matter the call. I am not a fan. I am a follower. Are you?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

At the Altar

Again, another amazing piece from my devotional that touched the core of me. Hope you are able to glean something from it too.

"Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness." Malachi 3:3

Everyone has an altar. It can be visible or invisible, holy or profane, elaborate or ordinary, but it's always there. It can be based on ideologies, dreams, or simple pleasures, but we can always find a foundation. We have to; everyone's life needs to revolve around something.

Because everyone has an altar, everyone brings offerings. Some people offer their bodies to people and pleasure. Others offer their minds to areas of study. Still others offer their emotions to a trend of the day or a relationship of the month. We can offer finances to gods of materialism and exploitation, time to gods of entertainment and apathy, and talents to gods of fame and fortune. We have no shortage of gifts to bring to our altars, because the world has no shortage of altars. All human beings are drawn to a cause, even if the cause is themselves.

Part of the Refiner's purpose is to get to the bottom of those causes and burn all of them away except one. That's why people often come to Christ when they're in the midst of a crisis or when they've lost everything they once thought mattered to them. In a world of false altars, the only way God can establish true praise in His people is to break down His rivals. His Word calls that 'refining'. We call it pain.

Yes, it's painful to live in this crucible. But before you despair, try this exercise: Offer your pain on the true altar. Bring all of your trials, your temptations, and your disappointments to God; place them on the altar and worship. Ask God to use every hard thing in your life to display something of His glory - in your sin, mercy; in your impossibilities, miracles; in your sickness, healing; in your turmoil, peace. Realize that every situation in your life is a platform for God to show something of Himself. In the end, the beauty of the metal will demonstrate the beauty of the Refiner.

"All along the Christian course, there must be set up altars to God on which you sacrifice yourself" - Alexander Maclaren

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eyes for Glory

"As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more." -Psalm 71:14

"Hope can see heaven through the thickest clouds." -Thomas Benton Brooks

My devotional this morning was on Psalm 71 and it spoke of praising in the midst of trials. Some trials seem small...others overwhelming. Right now, I'm just struggling with insecurity and overcoming my need to please people. Work has been stressful (to say the least) and the demands have been high...more than I feel like I have the strength for. But thankfully it's not my strength I need to rely upon but His. And in the midst of all these demands and character trials...I WILL find ways to praise Him just as the devotional mentioned...

The psalmist is in the midst of a crisis. He needs rescuing. We don't know the exact trial he is going through, and it doesn't really matter. We know his response. Though he has enemies who conspire against him (v.10), he knows where to find help. His problem leads to praise.

God is looking for those who will worship Him not only in spirit and in truth - as Jesus says in John 4:23 - but also in crisis. He seeks those who can look beyond the clouds that threaten and hover over them to His radiance that thoroughly surrounds them. And when He finds them, He blesses them.

That's a difficult maturity for most Christians to learn. Our natural reaction in a trial is to flee, or to beg for relief. And we have plenty of biblical examples; asking God for deliverance is thoroughly recommended throughout the Word. But is there panic in the asking? Our weak souls are easily unnerved, but there's a better pose: We can praise God, knowing that when we call, He will answer. He may not answer exactly the way we expect - though often He does - but He will answer, and His answer will be good. We can count on that. Those who do will pray for deliverance not in a panic, but in a rock-solid trust. God will save. It's His nature.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, and He has commanded us to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6). The apostle who penned those instructions would know. He went through all sorts of trials and tribulations, and he always found God faithful. He and Silas were able to sing praises from the depths of a Philippian prison. We should be able to do the same.

God went to great lengths to redeem us and call us His children. He did not intend for us to live in anxiety, wondering where each new threat will drive us. He gave us eyes for His glory; we are to see Him in every circumstance. After all, seeing the resurrection beyond the shroud is what our faith is all about.

From the "Worship the King" Devotional
Chris Tiegreen
So...anyone want to praise God with me?