Saturday, August 12, 2017

Mere Mortals and Maniacs

Psalm 56:4  “I praise God for what He has promised.  I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?”  

Mere mortals.  Really?  What can mere mortals do to me?  Mere mortals can actually do quite a bit of damage.  Us “mere mortals” can be selfish, shameful, and sometimes senselessly cruel.  

Just today I read of two incidents in two entirely different places, one not so very far away, one on the other side of the world.  There are no words to describe the barbaric, atrocious behavior.  To think that human-beings can behave the way they do is unsettling, especially to other human-beings.  It is sickening and appalling to read of burnings and beheadings and then, of hatred and anger-ridden violence at the cost of human life and injury.  

Don’t let the thought of what mere mortals can do be the focus here in this passage, as it was for me at first glance.  Neither misunderstand the Scripture to teach that no harm can ever come to the believer.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  Evil exists.  Atrocities and tragedies occur.  But please understand.  This is not a question of the greatness and goodness of God as some might believe.  Rather, because of maniacal humanity, depraved human existence that has forgotten and forsaken the One that created them, our eyes must be turned to God, not man.  The key to managing in this madness is to NOT FEAR BUT TRUST, and to praise Him for the promises He has given us to claim and cling to.  

We should not and cannot live in fear.   Be wise, yes.  Exercise caution, yes.  But putting our trust in God, the Only One that can truly make a difference, is the key.  Holding onto the promises of His faithful and trustworthy Word gives us the ammunition we need to combat the fear battle that Satan would wage in our lives.  

If you’re like me, these type of reports also give rise to anger.  The promises of God quiet my heart and turn my thoughts back to prayer and praise.  I will certainly not be able to eradicate this kind of evil this side of heaven. I cannot always eliminate pain or avoid tragedy.  But I can pray and praise and trust.  I can spread love, not hate.  I can be kind, considerate, respectful, compassionate, not arrogant, crude and uncaring.  I can be peaceable, not contentious.  I can stand firm in the Truth of the Bible without bashing it over other people’s heads, allowing the Spirit of God to work in hearts.  

We live in a fearful world.  A crazy, fickle, violent world with very real and pressing fears to contend with from health concerns to financial stability, from safety to sanity, from loneliness to job security to national security.  But don’t feed that fear.  What you feed will grow.  Feed your faith.  Let faith guard you and guide you, faith in a loving and good God that can calm our fears,  and manage the madness all around us.  

I’m just a mere mortal that chooses to trust God.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Keeping Hope Alive

“In everything [even the storms, italics mine] you are enriched by Him.”  I Corinthians 1:5

Are you weary tender heart?
Be glad of pain.
In sorrow sweetest virtues grow, as flowers in rain.
God watches, and you will have sun,
When clouds their perfect work have done.  
___Lucy Larcom, Streams in the Desert

Nearly a year ago now the clouds began to descend.  There had been a few squalls, but nothing like this.  The dark, destructive storm cloud spread over us and relentlessly rained down the unexpected and undesired.  For the past ten months or so now there has been one hardship, one difficulty, one blow after another.  It has tried its best to beat us down in its destructive wake.  But even the rumblings and thunderings have been a comfort; even the fierce winds are soothing; even the sharp lightnings have spoken peace to our hearts...because we are sheltered.  We are safe in the care of our God.  That assurance has not lessened the impact of the sudden and unexpected set of circumstances we found ourselves in, and not due to any choice of our own.  But then things often happen that are beyond our control, especially as it relates to the choices of others that directly affect us, and that sting is an especially nasty one.

I remember talking on occasion with my Dad (I call him Diddy) when something would engine would blow in a car, someone lost a job, someone has cancer and he would calmly say, “Sug (pronounced shug, short for sugar!), it’s just one of those things.”  He wasn’t being nonchalant or unfeeling.  He was just saying in few words that life happens.  There are some things that just come with living this life and we’re better off to embrace it for what it is and trust God through it rather than resist it or resent it or try to control it in someway.  

That dark cloud?  We lost over half our income in a very unexpected, cutthroat manner.  Just like that, ten years callously thrown in our face. But oh we have seen the hand of God at work in it all, protecting, providing, guiding, sustaining, directing.  Just like Joseph of old in the Scripture we can say, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).  And there has been a lot of good, glimmers of His light in the dark cloud, reassuring us of His presence.  One of those is the fact that my mother-in-law is still with us.  Since December we have been to doctor’s, specialists visits, tests, hospital ER’s, only to have an ulcer finally perforate leaving her septic.  A four-week hospital stay, another four-week nursing home stay followed.  She’s 82.  I could not leave her alone in a hospital, traumatized over an hour away.  Roger came practically every day.  She is home now, but still having therapy 2-3 times a week.  Daily care for her and oversight of her medications, continued doctor’s visits is ongoing.  

We’ve also been able to see a family business come to fruition during this time.  My son has been praying for some time and sensed the time was right to take the plunge and take oversight of Top Knot Coffee and Artisan Shop.  It’s alpaca themed, an expansion of the farm (that some might think we would have lost by now, and we’re very aware of that very real possibility as the storm continues; but so far God has chosen otherwise and we are grateful and humbled).  But even in all the excitement and the demands of getting the shop up and going, Dan and Steph lost their 7th child.  Yet another completely unexpected heartbreak.  Asher Lee was birthed stillborn April 24th.  We have grieved and cried, and seen God give great grace and comfort to keep us moving forward even in the heartbreak.  

Ever tried to wait out a storm only to feel like it’s never going to end?  Well, not done yet!  On the farm there has been one equipment failure after another with limited to no funds for repairs, leaving my husband heavy with the weight of seeing our beautiful farm somewhat a mess.  But even in this, the raw beauty shines through.  Yes, there are parts that are not neatly landscaped.  The flower beds are a bit overgrown, but the animals are healthy, the pastures are green, and a garden is growing.  

Financially our resources have dwindled, especially with the start up of the Coffee shop...but it IS started, and with no debt.  Dan left a stable income to be the proprietor, and why not?  Three incomes down?  All the more opportunity for God to show Himself very real, and very involved in our lives.  If we fail, it won’t be because we didn’t try or because God is not faithful.  It will be because His plans for us involve something different that He has not chosen to show us...just yet!  One of the key thoughts for us in all of this that has helped us keep our eyes on Christ and off of ourselves (pity parties are such a waste!) is, that this is not about us.  It really isn’t.  We’re involved, yes.  We’re staying in His Word, praying, attempting to honor Christ in our situation and we know He will care for us.  This is about what He chooses for us at any given time, and believe me, I am constantly throwing myself at His feet and leaning hard on His promises, allowing His great grace to wash over me.  If not , the flesh takes over way too often and the emotions get all out of control….and God is limited.  

We’re not sure where it’s all going, where we will end up, how it will all turn out.  What we do know is that the storm will end.  We belong to Christ and we can trust Him.  That’s not a flippant acceptance of something I can’t change, or a “Christian cliche or platitude” (I hate those).  That is a reality that changes me and keeps me tender, and allows God to continue to work.  It releases the power of Christ to accomplish His plan and purpose in my storm.  And let me say this….this is “my storm”.  I do not get involved in the business of comparing storms.  Oh there are so many hurting people out there.  I can see people reeling from the devastation a dark storm cloud has left.  People I love, and even people I don’t know, dealing with death and loss, crushed relationships, poverty, sickness, and the babies...the babies I have prayed for lately that are suffering from complications at birth; the parents making heart-wrenching decisions.  But I trust them to Christ also.  I offer compassion, not judgment.  Help, not those useless platitudes, which means sometimes, nothing is the best thing to say. Just pray and be available.  They don’t even have to know you are doing it!  

When the storms come, and they will, lean hard on Jesus.  He is faithful.  He is strong.  He is sweet and ever so tender as a loving forever friend is.  He’s not necessarily keeping all the bad from happening--no, a friend can’t do that.  But He is close, breathing His precious promises into my soul, keeping hope alive.  

God watches, and you will see the sun!  

Some Bible passages that I have held onto lately:  
“Let us your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful.  Yes, make our efforts successful!”  Psalm 90: 16-17

“And now Lord, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family.  May it be a promise that will last forever. And may your name be established and honored forever.”  I Chronicles 17: 23-24

“We put our hope in the Lord.  He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.  Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.”  Psalm 33: 20-22

Friday, January 27, 2017

Dare to Hope

I listened as Roger spoke from the Bible book of Lamentations about the man Jeremiah’s heartbreak. What a sad commentary on the collapse of a culture.  It also intrigued me that the Hebrew name for this book was simply “How”. It made sense. Yes, Jeremiah walked the streets of Jerusalem, the city he loved, and “lamented”, grieved terribly and at times wept uncontrollably over its condition.  At every turn, all he could see was destruction, devastation, and despair.  And it didn’t have to be this way.  It could have been strong, beautiful, thriving...if only.

How lonely the city that was full of people, she that was great among the nations...begins the first chapter; how the pristine palaces are now in ruins, the women now crying out in the streets for their children faint with hunger as prosperity fades to poverty; how the gold has dimmed, continues chapter 4, as the glory of the great center of abundance and ease is now a disgrace.    “Is this the city that was called the perfection of beauty, the joy of all the earth?”  

I couldn’t help but consider the plight of many nations today, the horror that many are living on a daily basis-- inhumane cruelties, poverty and sickness, raids and bombings, child labor, sex trafficking, the economic collapse of whole countries. And I can’t help but consider the evils of my own society that seem to be growing more commonplace by the day.  In my own community, drug-ridden streets and drug infested schools, children disgustingly abused and abandoned, people jobless, homeless, and almost daily reports of stabbings, beatings, shootings, and murder, as violence competes with sanity as the only option for solving conflict.  So much anger, hatred, hopelessness.  The moral decay is despairing at times as cheating and stealing, deception and dishonesty take a back seat to integrity.  There is no shame as the sexual appetite seeks to be satisfied in every kind of relationship imaginable.  It’s reflected in the statistics of those millions searching the internet daily for porn, the abortion of unknown millions, the ravaging of sexually transmitted diseases.  If my grandmother were alive she would say, “The whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket!”

How did we get here?  How did this happen?  To offer Truth to those seeking answers nearly cost Jeremiah his life.  To shut him up, he was thrown in a deep, wet pit and left to die.  Even in their despicable condition, an over-riding sense of pride and self-will kept most from hearing his message or accepting any responsibility for their situation.  It was too easy to cast blame.  It was too easy to feel entitled, undeserving.  But God made it clear with His Word through Jeremiah, “Jerusalem has grievously sinned...the Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions.”  Can it really be that simple?  

Yes, they were being held accountable for their sin and their relationship with the God that created them.  And so are we.  

If there is one thing I want my children and grandchildren to have is hope.  I want my extended family, my friends to have hope.  I want that child that I see flash across my facebook feed that needs a loving family to have hope.  I want that teen that has fled a wretched, confused homelife to have hope.  I want that elderly gentleman on the bench in the park, alone, to have hope.  I want that family I attend church with that’s struggling to keep it together to have hope.  I want the single mom, the exploited dehumanized woman, to have hope.  I want the man that just wants a job to take care of his family, to have hope!  Yes things are bad.  Yes times are turbulent.  Yes people are hurting, and there are hateful and hurtful people in this world, downright evil.  And if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself focusing on the division and the hate and the wrong, and the despairing...instead of the love of Christ and the hope He provides.  

It was almost too much for Jeremiah.  Almost.  

“My soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is, so I say, ‘my endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord’….But, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.”  

Keep looking around and it all may be too much.  It’s dark, it’s negative, it’s depressing. And a hope in humanity is a fleeting and false hope. Choose instead to look to God and dare to hope.  Christ offers real and lasting hope; it can be yours.  Choose to see the goodness of God as it evidences itself in the kindnesses, the courage and sacrifice of many. Cheer and promote honesty and truth, goodwill and good works! Champion love and right!  Be light in darkness!  Choose to be a messenger of hope.  Remind yourself often, God’s love never fails. Every day is a new chance to start over fresh as His mercies wash over you.  His faithfulness is great, so His Words are binding and true! With Him there is hope.  

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!  Let us lift up our hearts and
Hands to God in heaven.  Lamentations 3:41

Does someone you know need a message of hope?  

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Dark Side

Christmas 2016 is now a thing of the past, and we face a new year.  Over and over this Christmas season I was reminded of the Truth that the Light of Christ dispels darkness.

There is a constant battle, the darkness attempting to invade my heart, attempting to overshadow any good in this present world, often attaining the focus of attention as if "the dark side" always wins.  But God's Word is the Truth that brings Light to the surface. Christ in me can shine brightly wherever I am.  I am the one that chooses to hide it under a basket (Matthew 5:14-16).  The Spirit of God makes sure the Light of Christ's presence is made known in this world until Christ returns (John 16).

          "Their words (the prophets of Scripture ) are like a lamp shining in a dark place." 2 Peter 1:19

That lamp, the light of God's Word the Bible, illumines the dark recesses of my heart. The Light exposes the fears and doubts, the hidden resistance to His plan for me, the anger and impatience, whatever sin is lurking in the dark places.  When I respond in faith, resting in His love for me and grace extended to me, the Light brings me back to that simple utter trust in a great Savior and I abandon myself to His loving care.

And I bask in that Light.

Looking forward to a new year can bring a bit of angst. So much can change so quickly. My husband and I are facing uncertainties that were not at all expected this time last year. But with the Lord lighting the way the future is bright. There is excitement as we wait to see all that He brings our way.

No need to fear "the dark side"!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016, In the Past

Thanksgiving 2016, over and done.  But not really.  

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday.  I love Christmas, and my birthday (hehe), but there’s just something about having a season set aside to devote to gratitude.  It’s not natural you know, to just be thankful all the time.  In fact, it most often has to be cultivated because it’s much easier to be critical, to complain, to be discontented.  Why do you think toddlers will throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way? Or why is it that “mine”, or “more” are often their first words.  They have to be taught to say “thank you”.  The Scripture reminds us often to be thankful, perhaps for this very reason...we’re naturally not.  Gratitude becomes a reality when, and only when, we understand and appreciate the value of all of life’s gifts.  And every gift has value because it comes from God.  

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights.” (James 1: 17)  

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Who decides what “good” is?  Well, it can’t be us. Because our idea of good and someone else’s idea of good would not be the same, or what we might see as bad, God may view otherwise.  No, God, the authority on “good”, gets to decide.  That means it may not always appear to be good, or feel very good.  But God can be trusted.  If it comes from Him, it’s good, or, He can bring good from it or make it good.  

As Thanksgiving approached this year, my husband and I found ourselves in a different situation than we have been in for a while. Through a series of circumstances we could never have seen coming, by the end of September we were both unemployed for the first time in twenty years.  He still pastors a small church, but this other job together with mine made up over half our income.  And just three short years ago we purchased a 25-acre farm and began raising alpacas and rabbits.  Our son and his wife and 6 children live with us and are a huge part of the operation.  We also took on the responsibility of my mother-in-law that lives in her own home on the property. And we still had not sold our other home.  None of this was without the confidence that God was directing in all of this.  We stood on this very property surrounded by our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and close friends on our 35th wedding anniversary and recommitted ourselves to each other and the God that had brought us to this point, knowing in our innermost being that more change was in our future.  Coming to the farm had just been the first step.  It had all seemed so crazy, how it all had happened.  But there was no doubt it was a “God-thing”, and we wanted nothing more than to see Him continue to do great things...the kind of things that leave you somewhat dazed at His grace and goodness and power and involvement in our lives!  

Losing our jobs was not part of that plan!  Being three years at the farm without being able to sell the other house was not part of the plan!  Our plan that is.  But God’s plan, yes!  There was the initial shock when the change came so unexpectedly, a great deal of hurt and betrayal over how things played out (this was not just a job to us, it was a ministry we loved dearly), anger and then questions about what next?  But in a matter of days praying and looking to the great God we serve and staying in His Word for wisdom to make decisions, strength to keep trusting, comfort to experience healing, direction to know what to do next, encouragement to praise Him in the loss, and power to forgive and move on, well, God was working.  

He is still working.  He is providing and opening doors and enabling us to manage.  By the end of October our home was under contract, and it was quite obvious to both parties that God had been saving this home for this couple at this time!  We couldn’t help but be excited for them.  They spent their first Thanksgiving together in their own “nest”  (from a verse of Scripture this couple shared with us that confirmed to them this was the home the Lord was providing...Psalm 84:3, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself.”). A company, with info from the local tax office, called and has surveyed our property for timber they wish to purchase.  And as of today, we are moving forward with plans to expand our own business with the opening of a shop, blown away by how the opportunity has presented itself and the steps that are quickly falling into place.  

I read yesterday morning from Psalm 126:    

    “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream.  Then
Our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.  Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord HAS done great things for us and we are glad.”  

Like a dream, I can imagine exactly how the children of Israel felt because that’s how I feel.  And I can’t help but be “glad”, and filled with laughter and yes, singing!  Because I have been there before and seen God do those exceedingly abundant things....Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”.  It is part of what has cultivated this humble heart of gratitude, seeing God do what only God can do, seeing Him as the faithful God that He is.  Seeing Him take something that can be so devastating and bring beauty from it.  Not all of those times were pleasant either.  They brought hardship and a time of doing without.  We didn’t always have the latest and greatest, or the newest or the most fashionable.  But our faith was made stronger.  Our relationships as a family were made stronger.  Our boys cultivated a personal faith in God of their own that has given them a solid foundation for their own families and futures now.  

So I look back, and I thank God.  I look forward, and I thank God.  It has not always come easy, but I know it is His will to be thankful*, so in obedience I verbalize it until it becomes a swelling, solid reality in my heart and life.  I have made it a habit over the lay hands on the washing machine and say “thank you Lord that our family has clothes to get dirty and that I can wash; thank you Lord for this jalopy of a car that gets us where we need to go; thank you Lord for my precious grandparents that I will miss dearly, but I know they are with you; thank you Lord for the chance to lead that child to Christ…” and the list goes on.  Any and every chance, throughout any given day God has taken that gratitude, and changed me.  

I don’t know where He will take us from here, but I know it will be His good.  Thanksgiving Day is over and done for another year, but the thanksgiving continues.  Some things take some time, and are harder to be thankful for.  But His grace is powerful and available when I fail to direct a thankful heart to Him.  I can only pray He will enable me to always do so and I will always let Him help me…

...simply be thankful.  

*I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  
Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Greater Deliverance

“...for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.”  Jeremiah 1:19

Deliverance, it’s a weighty word.  And biblically speaking, it packs a powerful punch.  It begins the moment we breath that prayer of a needy heart heavenward.  Christ steps in and delivers our soul from the grip of sin, changing our eternal destiny.  He then opens a whole new world to us through His Word and His Spirit that comes to live in and through us.  

But the deliverance promised the believer is more than that.  It’s a daily thing.  It’s the work of a moment, it’s the work of a lifetime. It’s an eternal work.  It’s about not crumbling in defeat, being crushed by despair, being desperate without hope, lost in uncertainty.  It’s food on the table, the bills being paid, not being overcome by sickness, not being swallowed up in hurt and anger and bitterness when you are betrayed, or left to wonder what went wrong in a relationship….and, it’s waves of grace while enduring these very things, waiting to see what God will do.  With Jesus there is hope for deliverance, and He is all about hope.  Deliverance is in Jesus, not just from Him.  

Confusion and disillusionment with God comes when we try to orchestrate just how and when God will deliver.  After all, we know what the situation demands, what the immediate need is, right?  We are the ones dealing with the magnitude of the moment, so it only stands to reason that if God would just listen to me and meet me where I am, changing my situation, removing my unmovable mountain, everything would be fine and I could get on with my life.  There stands the stark difference between our ways and God’s ways, our thoughts and His thoughts.  There, the reality of faith meets the mind of human reasoning and a battle is waged.  Why would God not do something to intervene and keep me from my struggle?  The short and simple answer?  I’m not God.  And God defines deliverance, not me.  Scripture addresses a number of reasons why God does what He does, and believe me, He is good at what He does.  And when I am  willing to step back and see things from His perspective, I gain a greater awareness of a world beyond my own that He is vastly interested in and intimately involved with.  

First, He has an eternal purpose in mind.  We hold so tightly to this life.  It’s what we know.  We operate in the realm of the tangible, the physical, the material.  But Christ calls us beyond that. We just have to reach past our own purposes and consider the greater work of a great God, and how our situation may be fitting into His plan and purpose, an eternal one.  That means something beyond what I may be experiencing at the moment.  Something weightier, something that impacts not just life as I may know it right now, but that projects into the eternal existence.  Our situation may change, it may not.  But if we see God clearer, know Him more intimately and trust Him more fully, deliverance is no less real, regardless.  

Scripture in John 11 says that Jesus is brought news that his dear friend Lazarus is sick.  But Jesus “when he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was”’ (vs. 6). What was Jesus doing?  The disciples didn’t understand why he would deliberately choose to stay where he was rather than scramble to get to Lazarus before he died, sparing the family the terrible ordeal that death is.  He then even said to the disciples, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe” (vs. 15).  Believe what?  They were so confused, but they followed Jesus to Bethany to Lazarus’ home.  Things were no different there. Mary and Martha didn’t understand either, and they both expressed their strong feelings to Jesus imploring Him to explain why he didn’t come sooner.  They both exclaimed, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died!”  But He did die, and Jesus had allowed it.  In their minds the only deliverance was Jesus keeping Lazarus alive.  They had their own thoughts about how Jesus was supposed to handle their desperate situation.  But He wanted them  to see and understand that HE was the resurrection and the life and that whoever believed in Him, even if he left this life, would still live!!  Jesus wept to see Mary and Martha grieving so, but bringing them to the realization of Who He was and what He was capable of was the greater deliverance.  Jesus then went on to explain that “if they would just believe, they would see the glory of God.”

The glory of God, that’s an eternal purpose.  We don’t see it because we don’t believe.  We don’t value believing in Jesus above how we might feel at the moment, or what we might have to endure in a lifetime.  But the eternal purpose is that we would “just believe”.  He is worthy of that, and it changes everything.  

Second, our great Savior, the Creator God, always acts with our best interest in mind and in a way that will show that He is a great God that deserves worship and adoration. But once again, we often try to prescribe just how that best should happen.   Sometimes, He doesn’t “come through for us” in the ways we expect.  What does that mean?  Where does that leave us?  Forsaken?  Abandoned?  Fools for believing in such nonsense?  How is He glorified in my life when wrong seems to win?  When I have to face situations, sometimes difficult, sometimes desperate, and He seems to be nowhere around!  Why should He be honored when I am hurting? How do I even reconcile being allowed to experience pain with His love for me?  

Hebrews 11 details some mighty acts of deliverance, different times throughout history that faith in a great and powerful and loving God brought divine intervention.  Men and women saw kingdoms conquered, justice enforced, promises obtained...the mouths of lions were stopped, the power of fire was quenched, death by sword was escaped and armies were put to flight.  Women received their dead raised back to life again….but then the chapter takes a turn.  “And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance (rescue), so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.  They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated----of whom the world was not worthy, ----wandering about in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.”  “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (NLT)  Did you catch that???  Regardless of the outcome, regardless of the magnanimous faith, whether they received their dead back to life, or they were tortured...whether they put armies to flight or wandered in caves.  It was not just about their dire circumstance in the moment.  And it doesn’t mean God doesn’t care.  It means He cares very much!  But He keeps the big picture in mind...ETERNITY...and how we fit into it.  “For God had something better in mind for us.”  He always does.  

Consider Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  In Daniel 3, they were faced with death by fiery furnace unless they were willing to bow in worship to a golden statue as dictated by their king.  Boldly and respectfully they declared, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”  They were confident that 1) God was able to deliver them;  2) God would be worshiped, and 3) deliverance was theirs either way.  They believed. They were delivered.  

A greater deliverance is realized in trusting God with His eternal purposes. A greater deliverance is realized when we understand that He always acts with our best interest in mind and in a way that glory will be ascribed to Him.  We are each a stone in a huge monument of glory being built down through the ages.  Mine will be etched with a different story than yours.  But in eternity it will all be magnificent and glorious and significant.  EVERY STONE WILL HAVE ITS PLACE.  His great work, His great plan, His great love will be so evident, and we will see He has included us in it and it is amazing!  For some, deliverance will be quick and immediate, for others it will come over time.  Still others, eternity brings the greater deliverance.  So don’t doubt His deliverance.  

Let faith help you find it.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

“The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you; to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

Yes, God requires something of His children.  

To do what is right.  To love mercy.  To walk humbly with Him, our personal God.  I cannot require or even expect this from others, even other believers.  But I can yield myself completely to One that will reward what He requires; who will equip for what He expects.  I can commit to living out this Biblical mandate, and be emboldened and empowered by His grace to actually be able to do it.  

To do what is right.  This is not “right” according to me.  This is “right” according to a holy God.  Scripture, in the book of Judges, records the chaos and darkness of a people that “did that which was right in his own eyes”.  When one is left to determine what is right for himself in any given situation, we are on a collision course to destruction.  In other words, somebody always gets hurt.  And it is often the believer that suffers, the one that has a whole-hearted desire to fully follow after God, the one that truth and integrity and honesty and kind consideration really matters to.  And that’s often enough to discourage some, making them question the God they serve.  Why??  That’s the question when wrong gets the upper hand. It’s a tough pill to swallow when wrong appears to win.  And it’s not a new question.  

    “You have said terrible things about me, says the Lord.
But you say, What do you mean? What have we said against you?  
You have said, What’s the use of serving God?  What have we gained by obeying His commands…?”  Malachi 3:13-14

But the child of God does not need to struggle with these questions.  The faithful servant that has embraced grace, has experienced the reality and unrelenting love of God, the one that loves and serves Him because He first loved them, that child can throw themselves into the open arms of a great Savior that confirms over and over again that He is enough and there is everything to gain in Christ.  Jesus, in all His tender compassion, His forgiveness, the acceptance and belonging that is found with Him, the sweet comfort of knowing He will never leave or abandon His own, the overwhelming peace that is often impossible to explain but is very, very real...He is enough.  And He has revealed himself through His Word, the promises are true and relevant.  So never back away from doing right.  

    “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  (Philippians 1: 21)
    “In His favor is life; weeping may endure for night, but joy comes in the morning.”
(Psalms 30:5)

To love mercy.  This is a tough one, but again, nothing He requires is beyond His enabling grace to accomplish.  Why is this so tough?  Because mercy defined means it is extended to the undeserving.  It demands that we relinquish the right, even the desire to retaliate, to wish that those who wrong us suffer accordingly.  When everything in you is screaming “you should pay!” it means giving that too, to Jesus.  And believe me, He can be trusted to do right by His children.  

“He [Jesus] did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered.  He left His case in the hands of God who always judges fairly.”  (I Peter 2: 23-24)

Jesus left us this example and the rest of I Peter is full of encouragement and reminders of God’s faithfulness in providing for, comforting, blessing, those that “suffer for right’s sake” and do not return evil for evil.  He will hold you until the hurt heals.  He will bring you to the place that you LOVE mercy, because you are reminded often that He extends it to you on a regular basis.  He is full of mercy...unfailing love...and we can abandon ourselves to that unfailing love because it is eternal.  And, to take it a step further, we can love others this way because of Him.  Love Mercy!

Walk humbly with your God.  There is no other way to walk with God.  We can know God.  We can know about God. We can talk the God-talk.  But to walk with Him?  To have a vibrant, intimate, personal relationship with Him that alters our egos? To live as Jesus lived?  “To cast down every imagination and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”?? (2 Corinthians 10:5) We are so often so full of ourselves.  What we want, how we feel, what we need...our future, our friends, our reputation, our...our...our..; me, me, me!!  Stop for one moment and say with John, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Jesus will never be who He can and should be in your life until you are not the most important person in it.  Stop living for yourself.  Start living for Him!  And remember, it’s not just about “walking humbly”, but walking humbly WITH YOUR GOD.    

      “Pride and arrogance, and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”  Proverbs 8:13

He has shown you what is good.   To live a life this way...doing right, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, this is the good life.  We don’t have to question or debate what “good” is.  He has graciously explained it, made it known.  It is no mystery, it’s simplicity is just not always appreciated.  And the fact that it is required?  We’re the better for it.  It’s the better way.  

By His grace, no regrets. None.