Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Holy

And they do not rest day or night saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, God Almighty, who was and is and is to come." Rev. 4:8
When you read that, do you believe it? Do you believe that God is indeed holy? I know, that is probably a stupid question. If you believe in God, it is easy to believe He is holy. But what about believing that He was and is. That is pretty easy too, right? Yeah, He was...He created all things. Yeah, He is...He IS God after all. But that He is to come? Really, I want you to think about that for a moment. Do you really believe that God is to come. That He is coming to collect His bride, the church. He is coming! The day is near (perhaps not in our definition of 'nearness'...but near nonetheless).
That is not what this hymn is necessarily about, but since this verse accompanies that hymn, I do believe it is one we should consider. Do we believe the words we sing?
Reginald Heber wrote this hymn, along with 56 others. Having a degree in poetry from Oxford, his interest grew continually in his life for hymnody. "He sought to lift the literary quality of hymns, and he also dreamed of publishing a collection of high-caliber hymns corresponding to the church year for use by liturgical churches" (Morgan, Robert). While the Bishop would not go along with this idea, after Heber's death, His wife discovered 57 hymns in his trunk and succeeded in publishing his Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Service of the Church Year.
Here is his hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God, Almighty. As you read these words, please, take them to heart. Think about them. Don't let them be empty words on your tongue, but let them be praise submitted to the throne of the Living God, who was and is and is to come!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God, Almighty. Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty. God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.
Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee. Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea.
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee. Which wert, and art, and evermore shall be.
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee. Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see.
Only Thou art Holy. There is none beside Thee. Perfect in power, in love and purity.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God, Almighty. All Thy works shall praise Thy Name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and might! God in three Persons. Blessed Trinity.

Psalm 85:10

Reading in the book of Psalm the other day, I came across this verse. Friends, what a beautiful verse to read when celebrating the Christmas season...the birth of Christ. I do believe it perfectly captures our Heavenly Father, His Son, His Holy Spirit...and what we believe that the baby boy born to save our souls defines...who Jesus IS. He is the great I AM. I have been overwhelmed this season in reflection of my faith, what being a Christian means...and what being a Christian is not. In America, and perhaps throughout the world, God's Word is watered down in our understanding of it, and we prove our lack of faith in the way we live our lives--we do not let Scripture penetrate our hearts, minds, words...us. I have shared with you my convictions lately of reading through Scripture, becoming a prayer warrior, and the latest--reading through the prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. If promises of God made thousands and thousands of years before the birth of Christ and then being fulfilled...in one man...cannot affirm your faith--and strengthen it--I don't know what will. But I do encourage you to make the time yourself to read through some prophecies of Jesus. As much as I know God is great, marvelous, HOLY...I still am (and hope I always am!) in utter awe when I am reminded, once again, that God fulfills all His promises.
This is the verse I read that...just encompassed my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, great Redeemer, deliverer, friend. "Steadfast love and faithfulness meet. Righteousness and peace kiss each other."
Amen. Amen, amen, amen. I hope you see Jesus as unchangeable love, fulfiller of all promises, Holy, abounding in joy unspeakable, and the steady Rock in a world of crashing waves. I love Him dearly, and long to love Him more. As we wrap up this year, let's each find the time to look back through 2010 and see that God is undeniably good...Great. The Author and Finisher. Who was, and is, and is yet to come!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I am a Gentile

Friends, I was reading a new prophecy today--well, not new, because it is indeed Old Testament! But, new to me as I am reading through prophecies, this Christmas season, that Jesus fulfilled here on the earth. We know that Christ came to fulfill the law, and my oh my did He have some fulfilling to do while here!
Today I read the prophecy that Gentiles would one day be drawn into God's plan. I was overwhelmed while reading it. Before Jesus, Jews were God's chosen people. Sure, Rahab and Ruth were not Jews and were still brought into God's people, but primarily, Israel, His nation, was His chosen. Friends, today, I am who I am because Christ came into the world. I believe what I believe because Christ came into this world. I am free to 'attempt' to live as Christ, and to come before God's throne confidently because Jesus died for all peoples, tongues, nations. Hallelujah! Really, Hallelujahs are repeating over and over and over again in my mind. As soon as I'm done posting this, I'm going to go read some more beautiful words from our King, our deliverer, our Redeemer. I praise God...that I can praise God! Do you know what I mean? If not for Jesus, and His Spirit, would I even know that the Most High had a chosen people. Would I be like the armies we see in 1 Samuel, Joshua, 1 Chronicles, etc. being conquered while clinging to their idols made by human hands, refusing to believe that God is the great I AM, or would I be like Rahab, hiding God's people while putting my own life at risk, because I know wherever Yahweh is, victory is had? Oh to think I could go a lifetime without ever knowing Truth! Thank you God, for sending your beloved Son...thank You God for loving me, and the gentiles, all peoples, enough to become a man, to leave Your throne to live on this earth, that You may show us how much You care, love, cherish. Hallelujah.
Isaiah 11:10: In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples--of Him shall the nations inquire, and His resting place shall be glorious.
Fulfilled in Jesus, John 10:16: And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. (Those who were not Jews.) I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Amen. What a glorious day we are about to celebrate--Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth. And that birth afforded me, and all peoples, lost sheep without a Shepherd, the underserved blessing to have a relationship with the great I AM.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good News!

Good morning, friends!
This is out of character for me, but this will be a short post:) I just wanted to post a Scripture verse that has been on my heart lately--as in, since yesterday, and I immediately memorized it. I follow Beth Moore's blog and she is encouraging her 'siestas' to memorize Scripture with her in 2011--2 verses a month. Well, I couldn't wait, and when I received an email yesterday with this verse I knew that this was the verse I needed to start with. It is where we, as Christians, start our faith. Where we begin if you will, and absolutely perfect for this wonderful Christmas season, as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour--as we celebrate the Most High becoming one of us so that we can know Him and spend eternity with Him.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good (GREAT!!! emphasis mine) news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
Have a wonderful day, and be filled with the good news that leads to great joy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Prophecies

Good morning, friends! I hope you have survived the cold front that moved through the South East earlier this week....perhaps where you live it is still sweeping your city. In Athens, we received no snow and very little rain. On the night when Atlanta and the greater ATL area iced over, I was driving pretty in no danger. Two nights ago Atlanta had 1,000+ wrecks. The tow truck companies had to shut down at 9 pm due to their trucks not being able to get enough traction to pull themselves and another car. On my way to work yesterday, cars lined 316 in ditches from Bethlehem to Lawrenceville....but from Athens to Bethlehem, all was clear. Praise God that Athens didn't freeze! And that the majority of wrecks were minor bumper to bumper hits. Whew...it could have been so much worse with all the ice ATL had.
So, I am shocked at the amount of prophecies that are in the Bible. And I'm ashamed that, as a Christian, I have never looked them up before and reflected on how faithful God is...how much He loves us...and how He has had a plan from the very beginning of time. He has a plan for me, one for you, and He knew when He made Adam and Eve that 2,000 years ago a Saviour would be born in Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, and that His Son would live to die for our wretched souls...souls that He sees as beautiful!
I have started reading the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled and posting on facebook a different one each day of December until Christmas. (I know which one I am ending with....oh I cannot wait until Christmas!) Here is the one that started it all and got me on my prophecy search throughout Scripture. Perhaps it will inspire you to do the same...
Prophecy: "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days." Micah 5:2
Prophecy fulfilled: "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:4-7)
I hope you have a wonderful day filled with joy, Scripture, and God's love!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Here

Good evening! I am really excited about this song. One, because it is Christmas and I do love Christmas music. Two, because this song has a beautiful piano part to it that I just adore playing....you already know that music moves me, and my soul is greatly moved when my hands and voice are making melody together to God. And three, because this song is so beautiful and captures the mysteries that may sneak into our hearts and minds as we think about the night that Emmanuel came into the world as a baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes.
One of the great things about Christmas carols (well, the Christian ones) is that you don't have to go searching for what inspired them...you already know. Christ's birth. We often lose what a special holiday this is with the busy-ness of parties, gift buying, gift receiving, dinners, church concerts, etc. We also lose so many of God's blessings in the busy-ness of our every day lives. Here in America we don't take the time to just sit and think about how blessed we are...we don't take the time, or worse, don't have the time, to pray and thank God for all He has given us. Don't let Christmas pass you by without thanking God for His gift to us, His Son. And I don't mean this flippantly--Jesus is the best Christmas gift. I am so thankful that God sent Him, fulfilling over a hundred prophecies--proving faithful again that God is Truth. And by sending His Son, God came here, to be with us. He is here with us.
So here is Joy Williams' song, Here with us.
Its still a mystery to me that the hands of God could be so small
How tiny fingers reaching in the night were the very hands that measured the sky
Hallelujah! hallelujah! Heavens love reaching down to save the world.
Hallelujah! hallelujah! Son of God, servant King, here with us. You're here with us.
It's still a mystery to me how His infant eyes had seen the dawn of time
How His ears have heard an angel's symphony, but still Mary had to rock her Saviour to sleep
Hallelujah! hallelujah! Heavens love reaching down to save the world.
Hallelujah! hallelujah! Son of God, servant King, here with us. You're here with us.
Jesus the Christ, born in Bethlehem.
A baby born to save, to save the souls of man!
Oh Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Heavens love reaching down to save the world.
Hallelujah! Oh hallelujah! Son of God, servant King, here with us.

He is here. He came to save the souls of man. He came that I may have a relationship with Him, and that you may have a relationship with Him. Don't let this Christmas season pass you by without you turning your hearts towards the One who is the greatest gift of all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Until Only Love Remains

Good morning, friends! I have stumbled upon a new artist, and her music moves me to tears as she pours out Truth from God and the yearnings of her heart. Let's talk about God's love for a moment. This last week of my Biblestudy online (via email) we were discussing Believing in God but not wanting to change, or believing that God cannot change you. A huge lie that swarms our world today is that if God loves us, why would we need to change. Well, Romans 12:2 teaches us to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds"...a transformation that is continual. The renewing of our minds should be a prayer on the forefront of our lips each day: God, please create in me a pure heart, renew a right spirit within, restore unto me the joy of Thy Salvation, and liken my mind, my thoughts, to Yours, that I may dwell on only things that are noble, lovely, pure.
That is a difficult prayer. A prayer not to be taken lightly, but to be laid before His throne in utmost dependence on our Saviour. So why, if God loves us where we are, should we change at all? Because of His great love for us, He does not want to leave us where we are but longs to draw us into abundant life with Him. And if we love Him, and have asked Jesus to save us, we recognize our great need to be healed--rescued, redeemed--from our depraved being. When we love God, we hunger for His power to be at work within us, changing us...drastically...for His Kingdom. A dear friend taking part in the biblestudy online said that this is the way our changing life as a Christian should be: "If we aren't dead, we aren't finished."
Can I hear an Amen?!!!
With that being said, and without further ado, this is JJ Heller's song, 'Only Love Remains.' What a painful, yet beautiful, process when Christ strips away our old self and cleanses us into His Bride!
Scenes of You come rushing through, You are breaking me down.
So break me into pieces that will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die for the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me, Jesus, as You tear me apart
Please kill the liar, kill the thief in me
You know that I'm tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit, breathe into my veins
Until only love remains.
You burn away the ropes that bind and hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality for the first time in my life
I know that I'm a shadow, but I'm dancing in Your light
Teach me to be humble, call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with You upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit, breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

I don't know about you, but if I'm asking God to breathe into my spirit and into my veins until only love remains, that changing taking place in me will be continuous until the glorious day that He calls me home.
I love you! Have a beautiful day, and let God humble you and burn the ropes that bind you to this earth until only His love remains.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Reconciled

"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afriad, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.'" Luke 2:10
Good tidings of great joy it is! When Charles Wesley became a Christian, he could not stop writing hymns. Each one he wrote, he packed with doctrine, with the words exhibiting strength and sensitivity, beauty and theological brawn. He didn't want any one tinkering with any of his 6,000 hymns. In a hymnal of his he wrote:
"I beg leave to mention a thought which has been long upon my mind, and which I
should long ago hae inserted in the public papers, had I not been unwilling to
stir up a nest of hornets...I must beg two favors: either to let them (my hymns)
stand just as they are, to take things for better or worse, or to add the
true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page, that we may no longer
be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men."

And this particular hymn is indeed beautiful, strong, and packed with doctrine. I'm thankful that although George Whitefield, in 1753, changed the first verse slightly, he left the Truth of our Saviour in the words. And now, this hymn is a Christmas favorite! Originally it read, "Hark, how all the welkin rings, 'Glory to the King of Kings.'" Welkin was an old English term for 'the vault of heaven....oh friends. How the vault of heaven must have rung so loudly when our Saviour was born!
Hark! The Herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations, rise! Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold He come, offspring of the virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus as Emmanuel.
Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace, hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Love as the Most High Loves

Good evening, friends! I'm finding that during the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas), it is more difficult to stay well-blogged! I feel so busy, all the time...and I don't even have kids! I can't begin to think how crazy life will be when I'm trying to stay up to date with my blogs on here and I have little boy Seals and little girl Seals fighting in the background over playing GI-Joes or My little Pony. (Then again, I could just blog about that, couldn't I?!)
I've spent the last several weeks going through a video study in Women's Biblestudy at my church--Loving Well, by Beth Moore. Tonight was the conclusion of it, and whew, do I want to learn how to love well! But to love well, we need to know what it is like to be well loved. And I am incredibly thankful that God loves me so well. Through His love pouring out on me, I pray that He teaches me how to overflow His love onto other people.
Romans 5 teaches us that if we are to love those who are easy to love, those who love us, we are just like the rest of the world. But if we want to love like the Most High, we must love our enemies. Friends, it is difficult to love our enemies. It is hard to even grace someone with a smile if/when they mock us, hate us, and/or hurt us. But...weren't we all enemies of Jesus. Yet He was born for one purpose. To die for us. To love us. To take on our sin, and be gracious towards us with more than a smile...with His blood. And in the midst of torture on the cross, of suffocation, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
I don't know about you, but for me, as a Christian, those words mean the world to me. They do. How deep the Father's love for us! How vast beyond all measure! That He, my God, my King, the Most High, should give His only Son, to make this wretch, this broken, sinful woman that I am, to make me His treasure!
In learning to love like Christ loves, we need to have hearts for the world. Not just hearts for those that make us happy to love them. Sometimes we need to get down into the dirt (not in a sinful way, but in an uncomfortable, hard-to-love way) and beyond our comfort zone so that God can teach us how to love better. Loving doesn't always come easy, but if we are saved, then God is transforming our lives. And He really does transform our lives! And as He is transforming us, it goes without saying that He is healing us. Beth Moore wraps up her Loving Well study by saying this: "If we do not pour our lives into other people, we will never be completely healed." Friends, that rings more true to me than I can ever describe. I never feel God's presence more, His love more, His compassion more--never more like the hands and feet of Christ, as His body--than when I am serving others for the sake of His Name. And while I'm serving Him, rather than myself, His healing power is at work, continually transforming my life. Amen!
"Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:6-11
Lord, make your waters flow over my bones, and into my garden, that I may learn to love others well, as you have loved me, perfectly.

--Inspired by Beth Moore's 'Loving Well' series.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Then Sings my Soul--My Advocate

Good morning! I hope you are having a wonderful day, despite the chilly temperature. This Hymn Wednesday is going to be a little different, in the sense that I have no story to go along with why this hymn was written, when it was written, or where it was written. There is little that can be found on Charitie Lees Smith, who was born in 1841, but this familiar hymn which is grounded in Scripture, I have concluded is perfect to kick off this Christmas Season. So while I cannot give you background on it, nor can I tell you anything about Charitie's life other than she was a daughter of a minister in Ireland, and later widowed in life--twice--I can tell you this hymn is one of my absolute favorites (get online if you have the opportunity and listen to Shane & Shane sing it with Bethany Dillon, live...it is breathtaking) and it's words come straight from Scripture.
What better way to celebrate this season than to celebrate the reason why God sent His Son. Here is 'Before the Throne of God Above:'
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea (Heb. 4:15-16)
A great High Priest whose name is love (Heb. 4:14)
who ever lives and pleads for me (Heb. 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands (Isa. 49:16)
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart (Rom. 8:34)

When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)
Who made an end to all my sin (Col. 2:13-14)
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me (Rom. 3:24-26)

Behold Him there the Risen Lamb (Rev. 5:6)
My perfect, spotless, righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
The great unchangeable I AM (Heb. 13:8; John 8:58)
The King of glory and of grace.
One in Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28)
My life is hid with Christ on High (Col. 3:3)
With Christ my Savior and my God (Titus 2:13)

And that is why I must echo Shane & Shane's chorus, Hallelujah, Hallelujah! Praise the One, Risen Son, of God! He lives, He lives! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One, Risen Son, of God!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tennessee

Good evening! I can hardly believe that it is so early...when it feels so late! I know so many people have been saying this, but really. The sun setting at 6 pm messes with how my body feels about bedtime. I can hardly keep my eyes open! Must. have. chocolate. cherry. kiss. coffee!
I am in Knoxville, TN right now. Zane and I headed up here yesterday afternoon when I finished working. The Vol vs. Vandy game is playing in the background, my dad is dressing the turkey, I'm obviously blogging, my little bro and his girlfriend are enjoying the game, my mom is telling my dad how to dress the turkey, and Zane is helping with the Turkey's inner parts. And my beautiful dogs are in the kitchen hoping some of that turkey falls on the floor:)
We will be having Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow instead of on Thursday due to me and Zane only being in K-town through Tuesday. We will head to Chattanooga after Knoxville to spend several days with his family. Friends, I am so blessed to have this much time to spend with mine and Zane's family. Living in Athens, we rarely have the opportunity to come to TN and be with our family, unless it is around the holidays. And having lived in TN my whole life, when hubby and I moved to GA, it was a hard lesson in leaving and cleaving! Nevertheless, we have adjusted, and are learning to love different things about Athens. But being here for the holidays is like the cream cheese in Cheesecake. You have to have it!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Remember to thank God for all the blessings He has given you, whether that is through handing you something new, or taking something away. I love you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Mighty

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." -Psalm 46:1

Good evening, friends! I cannot stop thinking about my brothers and sisters around the globe that are risking their lives for God's glory. I really feel convicted to pray more for the church. In Matthew 9, when Jesus is with His disciples, he sees the crowds and has compassion on them. But instead of saying 'Peter do this, Simon go there, Andrew bring me this person,' He tells them to pray that laborers would go, because the field is ripe for harvest. And that is what we have today--brothers and sisters going and risking their lives, and people coming to know Christ at rapid rates, yet in so many countries, persecution persists and members of His body, the church, are being killed.
Do you pray for them? Do you lift them up in prayer and ask God for their safety, for a place for them to worship together without fear of losing their families, for them not to lose their lives, for their captors to see Christ in them and be captivated...wanting what they have?
I am convinced that we, the church, do not lift each other up enough. And before we go and 'do' anything, we must pray.
When I was deciding on a song for this evening, this one popped off the pages. How mighty our God is! I want my Father to increase my faith to proclaim Him as my refuge, as my strength, as my present help in trouble.
We think of Martin Luther as a reformer, Bible translator, political leader, fiery preacher, and theologian. But he was a hymn writer as well, and one of his songs has become one of the most well-known hymns in the world! He understood music the way I do...as a gift, a treasure, one that can cause any emotion, stir any tear, and a blessing that must be given back to God by being lifted up as praise to our God while dropping us to our knees in worship. In the forward of a book, Luther once wrote:
"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the
world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits...a person
who...does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God...does not deserve to
be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying
of asses and the grunting of hogs."
Our brothers and sisters in persecuted countries understand that the greatest treasure in this world is the salvation given to us through Jesus Christ. That, dear friends, should and will cause any range of emotion, stir multiple tears, and drops us to our knees, leaving us weak enough to lift praise to God. Our God is a mighty fortress. He takes care of the hungry, the broken, the persecuted--His beloved.
A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe--His craft and power are great;
And armed with cruel hate; on earth is not His equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He-Lord Sabaoth His name
From age to age the same! And He must win the battle.
And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us.
We will not fear, for God hath willed, His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him-his rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure! One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also-the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still! His Kingdom is forever!

Please, let me say that again. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill. God's truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?! (1 Cor. 15:55)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Saving

"Although we need to be saved from eternal separation only once, Christ continues His saving work in us the rest of our lives" (Beth Moore).

What a reminder! I've told you about the Biblestudy that some girlfriends and I started doing via email (do to the great distance between us all). We are in our second week now and are really being open, honest, and vulnerable to each other. I'm blessed beyond words to see how God is teaching us with each other's stories, how He is opening up the door to flood each other with our deepest prayer requests, and how He will draw us closer to Him that we may better share His joy with the world.
That being said, during our first week (which also served as an introduction) a common theme was the young age we were each saved. But many of us, though asking Jesus into our lives early in life, 'rededicated' our lives, so to speak, to Christ at a later date, mainly in college. One of the girls explained her experience this way:
"One thing I have thought about recently especially as I
get older and more of my friends have been saved at a much later age (in college
or even later) and not in Sunday school at six like me, is that (at the risk of
sounding too compare-y) other people who may have been saved at a later age have this much more dramatic conversion experience and have a much more mature
understanding of God before being saved. They really recognize the horror of
their sin and their desperate need for a Savior. I think I knew those things at
six, but it was only at a six year old level."
Oh my, how much I agree with that statement! The last several months, I've really struggled with the date of when I was saved. Was it when I was six? Or was it when I was in Romania, July 15th, 2004, and during my testimony, realizing how desperate I am for Christ, and feeling His marvelous mercy and grace rain down on me. Knowing that He loves me so much! I spent so much time growing up doing the right things, behaving the right way, and was wondering if it were just for my parents? But I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I loved Jesus and believed in Him, and He was my Saviour then. He is my Saviour now. When I read those words this morning, that Christ is continuing His saving work every day of our lives, I felt this amazing peace. Maybe that is not something you see as important. But for me, I want to celebrate the day God called me to Himself. It is more important than the day of my birth. Salvation is the greatest gift one can ever receive, and I praise God that this 'wishy-washyness' in my mind was put to rest through the words He spoke to me this morning.
"Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them" Hosea 11:3-4. May God help me to acknowledge Him daily and never forget that He teaches me, every moment, how to walk.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" Ephesians 2:8. What a precious gift, and how marvelous, how wonderful, that after receiving that gift, if we mess up (which we will), our Saviour is right there with us guiding us back to the path of righteousness.
Praise God that He never leaves us or forsakes us!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Rejoice!

"...the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen." -Luke 19:37b
Can you testify to that? Do you praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works you have seen in your life? What an amazing day it is when we see God moving, answering prayers that we have been on our knees over, drawing people to Himself, seeing Christians acting as the church. Just knowing God and being able to have a relationship with Him compels me to rejoice with a loud voice. God is so good, so perfect, so loving. And you know what? He is not finished in this city, in this state, in this nation, or in this world yet. He is still drawing people to Himself, advancing His Kingdom....and how great and merciful that He allows us, His children, to be used as instruments for His glory.
When we accept Jesus into our lives, we are changed for eternity. Jesus begins transforming us and breaking the bondage of sin we once lived in. When Charles Wesley came to know Jesus as His Saviour, He couldn't help but spread the news. He preached God's saving grace to everyone within hearing distance. "He found a fruitful arena for ministry at the infamous Newgate Prison and allowed himself to be locked up with condemned men on nights before their executions, that he might comfort and witness to them during their final hours" (R. Morgan).
On his first anniversary of being a Christian, Charles wrote an eighteen-stanza hymn describing his praise to the Lord. He titled it, "For the Anniversary Day of One's Conversion." Verse seven began, "O for a thousand tongues to sing," inspired by a statement Charles had heard once before: "Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with them all."
Amen to that! If only I had a thousand tongues to lift praises to my Father! In 1780, John Wesley compiled his Collection of Hymns, choosing this hymn as the first in the book.
Read the words, sing them in your heart, and praise God with the one tongue you have, letting your soul sing as if you had one thousand tongues.
O for a thousand tongues to sing My Great Redeemer's praise
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!
Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease
'Tis music in the sinner's ears; 'Tis life, and health, and peace.
He breaks the pow'r of canceled sin; He sets the prisoner free (I just have to say Hallelujah!!!)
His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.
Hear Him, ye deaf, His praise ye dumb, Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold Your Saviour come, and leap ye lame for joy.
My gracious Master and my God assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad, the honors of Thy Name!

Have a wonderful night, and praise God for making this foul woman clean so that I can spread through all the earth abroad the honors of His Name!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Am Bound

Good afternoon! I hope you had a great weekend...and that the cold didn't numb your toes too badly:) I had a wonderful weekend in Chattanooga, TN attending the Global Mission's Conference for Mission to the World. What a wonderful time filled with encouragement, sermons, God's love, learning, and the promise that the best is yet to come! The Conference was a time to learn where God is working and how He is working. It was also a time to understand the great need for prayer, the urgency to go and tell, and a wake up call that if we are not going or sending, we are disobeying.
I just wanted to share a little about the Global Mission's Conference with you. It was absolutely wonderful and such a blessing to be a part of! We had a Palestinian Christian and a Israelite Christian share on the same stage...how amazing it is to see enemies become brothers in Christ, and love each other regardless of politics. We heard the testimony of a Korean whose parents suffered through the World War II genocide by the Japanese come to obey God's calling on His life to go to Japan and serve the country who did such evil to his people...all for the Kingdom of God. In a seminar we also heard of a meeting that took place 3 weeks ago in Capetown for Asian Pastors--a time set aside for several pastors to come together and share what God is doing in their area of the world, receive encouragement, spend time in prayer together, and feel 'safe' while worshipping openly. 29 pastors from China were invited to that meeting. Those 29 pastors were met by 1,000 police at the Chinese airport and never made it to that meeting.
Saturday afternoon someone asked me what my favorite part of the conference had been up to that point. I knew immediately. That morning, all 2200 of us (+/- a few) at the conference gathered to worship together, and when we sang Holy, Holy, Holy, tears came to my eyes...I knew the angels were worshipping along with us right there with Jesus. Just a few hours later, my new favorite moment happened. After learning about the Muslim growth in London combined with the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the 1060 window (the large, very large portion of this world considered 'unreached'), it became so much more clear of how urgent and desperate our Calling is. This world needs Jesus. So badly. For our evening service, we finished off our music singing "On Jordan's Stormy Banks." Within the 2200 people at the conference, many were missionaries and nationals serving in, what MTW calls, 'restricted access countries.' When we got to the chorus it was unbelievably powerful the words that were lifted to God. "I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the promised land." Those words have been resonating since. Those words are a reminder that this is not our home. Our home is with Jesus in heaven, and as God's children, we are bound for the Promised Land!
On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land where my possessions lie
All o'er those wide extended plains shines one eternal day
There God, the Son forever reigns and scatters night away
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
No chilling wind nor poisonous breath can reach that healthful shore
Where sickness, sorrow, pain and death are felt and feared no more
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
When shall I see that happy place and be forever blessed?
When shall I see my Father's face and in His bosom rest?
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.
I am bound, I am bound, I am bound for the Promised Land.

Praise God that we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as co-heirs to the throne, are bound for the promised land! Praise God for His grace to allow a sinner like me to be washed clean--and look ahead to the day when I see my Father's face and in His bosom rest!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Peace

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34:19
Anyone who has spent anytime in a church service is probably familiar with this hymn. It is one of my favorites, for many reasons, but more so than just a song, "It is Well with my Soul" is a hymn filled with the prayer of my heart--a prayer that God will give me the strength to say 'it is well' no matter what lot He gives me.
Earlier this afternoon, I heard a faint sound in one of our conference rooms as I was setting coffee out for a meeting. As I listened closer I was able to make out the words, the melody, and the beautiful message within. Several missionaries, who serve in countries where persecution and death is common to the follower of Jesus Christ, were singing, "whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say 'it is well, it is well with my soul'." Since I am a crier, I had to hold back the tears and focus intently on the coffee pots before me instead of the words the missionaries were offering up to our God. For months I have been asking God to give me more faith. The kind of faith that someone who risks their life possesses. Here in America, we often forget our need for Christ by replacing that void with material things, a tangible person, or the busy-ness of our Western lives. I want the faith that people in impoverished lands have. They have nothing, but to those who know Jesus, they know they have everything.
We are studying the book Radical, by David Platt, in our church. The very first week had a story that refuses to leave the forefront of my mind. It is true, it is desperate, and it is as real as can be. Here is that story from people seeking peace like a river:
"Imagine all the blinds closed on the windows of a dimly lit room. Twenty leaders from different churches in the area sat in a circle on the floor with their Bibles open. Some of them had sweat on their foreheads after walking for miles to get there. Others were dirty from the dust in the villages from which they had set out on bikes early that morning. They had gathered in secret. They had intentionally come to this place at different times throughout the morning so as not to draw attention to the meeting that was occurring. They lived in a country in Asia where it is illegal for them to gather like this. If caught, they could lose their land, their jobs, their families, or their lives.
"I listened as they began sharing stories of what God was doing in their churches. One man sat in the corner. He had a strong frame, and he served as the head of security, so to speak. Whenever a knock was heard at the door or a noise was made outside the window, everyone in the room would freeze in tension as this brother would go to make sure everything was okay. As he spoke, his tough appearance soon revealed a tender heart. 'Some of the people in my church have been pulled away by a cult,' he said. This particular cult is known for kidnapping believers, taking them to isolated locations, and torturing them. Brothers and sisters having their tongues cut out of their mouths is not uncommon. As he shared about the dangers his church members were facing, tears welled up in his eyes. 'I am hurting,' he said, 'and I need God's grace to lead my church through these attacks.'
"A woman on the other side of the room spoke up next. 'Some of the members in my church were recently confronted by government officials.' She continued, 'they threatened their families, saying that if they did not stop gathering to study the Bible, they were going to lose everything they had.'
"As I looked around the room, I saw that everyone was now in tears. The struggles expressed by this brother and sister were not isolated. They all looked at one another and said, 'we need to pray.' Immediately they went to their knees, and with their faces on the ground, they began to cry out to God. Their prayers were marked less by grandiose theological language and more by heartfelt praise and pleading. "O God, thank You for loving us...O God, we need You...Jesus, we give our lives to You and for You...Jesus, we trust You.
"They audibly wept before God as one leader after another prayed. After about an hour, the room drew to a silence, and they rose from the floor. Humbled by what I had just been a part of, I saw puddles of tears in a circle around the room."

I believe their soul, along with the missionaries I heard today, is in a constant state of needing peace like a river. But through the storm we are held. God has won, Christ prevailed. This hymn was written by a man, Horatio G. Spafford, who in the span of 3 years, lost his land and all he had invested in, his only son, and his four daughters. When he was at the part of the ocean where his daughters had been killed, he cried, "It is well. The will of God be done." Later, he wrote the hymn we know today. Let this be a prayer offered to God. Whatever we face in life, pain or joy, we need to thank God, knowing that His good and perfect will is never, ever, to harm us, but to give us hope and a future. Hope that is in Him. A Future that is with Him for eternity.
When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'
My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend. Even so, it is well with my soul!
It is well. It is well. It is well! It is well with my soul!
It is well. It is well. It. Is. Well! It is well with my soul!

Have a beautiful night.
--Inspired by missionaries risking it all for the sake of Christ, Horatio G. Spafford, and 'Radical' by David Platt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Do you know Him?

Good evening! I hope you have had a great Monday. I am exhausted, still, from a very busy weekend. Friday night was date night with my husband. We had some delicious authentic Mexican food...I guess I miss Mexico a wee bit. Saturday we cleaned the whole house and then went to a corn maze. It took us 1 1/2 hours to make it through! Needless to say, my legs were terribly sore the next day. I never thought I'd need to stretch before finding my way through corn...well, now I know. Then yesterday, my husband through a Murder Mystery party. I was Claudia Helsing and enjoyed playing a character I would never be...I mean, do you really think that if I saw a vampire I would slay him/her? haha...of course I wouldn't!
So tonight was the first night of a biblestudy I'm leading. My closest girlfriends live far away from me. I miss them and wish we were able to communicate more. Mostly, I wish we could draw closer to each other as we draw closer to Him. So, I'm starting a new chapter in this life I've been given. And it is somewhat, no, it is way modern. I am leading a biblestudy via email!
Every Monday I will email my girlfriends my thoughts and questions from the chapters that we read, and they will respond at their convenience. Since it is through email, they do not have to worry about meeting at a certain place to participate or risk missing the fellowship. We may disagree at times, we may cry together at times, but we are seeking the One who satisfies, the One who loves, the One who is King, the One who is preparing a place for those who love Him, and the One who is coming back for His children!
We are studying 'The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but living as if He doesn't exist' and I look forward to sharing this journey with you. Please be praying over it, that God will wash each of us of the 'atheism' in our lives so that we can live only for Him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Then Sings My Soul--Overwhelmed

"The chasm was far too wide; I never thought I'd reach the other side. But Your love never fails."
Good evening, friends. I am in tears right now as I sit and think of God's unfailing love. Yes, I know I just got back from a mission trip and people tend to be on 'Spiritual Highs' afterwards. But that is not what is going on here. God has been teaching me about His love for some time now. How perfect it is. That in His justice, in His righteousness, in His holiness, it is all a part of His love.
I was making some soup a little bit ago, thinking of which hymn to write about, while listening to the music we will be playing at church this Sunday. (I play keys so I was mainly listening for anywhere a piano part could be added...) But God wanted me to listen to something else. It wasn't about what to play. God wanted me to be reminded that His love never fails. I was stirring my soup when I heard, "You stay the same through the ages, Your love never changes. There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning." Thats all it took. Tears started crawling down my face as I continued listening, being assured that He makes all things work together for our good.
So, tonights 'hymn' is the contempory worship song, "Your Love Never Fails" by Chris McLarney. I have no idea what the background is, but I am going to share with you what was going on in me during that song. For those of you who know me personally, you know I tend to get argumentative. So, when I heard "You make all things work together for my good," I started arguing with the song (not out loud...just in my head). Doesn't God make all things work together for His glory, for His perfect plan, for Him? As soon as I started thinking that I heard God say, 'Emmie, think about your life. Haven't I made all things work together for your good?'
Friends, I'm overwhelmed by how much God has done for me. There have been times in my life where I have run so far as quick as I can, just to 'define' myself. To be different. At times, to 'understand' the world. I've had moments when I thought I'd never reach the other side. I considered whether I even wanted to reach the other side. I've made choices to take my life and desires away from God, only for God to gently, lovingly, and patiently draw me back to Himself. I've learned through trials and heartbreaks that I don't have to be afraid, ever, because He loves me and He has new mercies for me everyday.
Since I heard God so strongly ask if He has worked all things together for my good, I had no choice but to scroll through the pages of my mind and the life I've lived. Those dark times...God stood by me, carrying me back into the light. He's opened doors for me to share my experiences with other sisters in Christ having the same struggles. In college I gave my life to something that took up weekends, week nights, and who knows how many miles on my car. (Not that this something was in and of itself bad, but anything that takes your focus away from God is detrimental to your relationship with Him.) By my last semester, God had me saved from that tunnel, transforming my life day by day, proving that nothing can satisfy but His love, and His love never fails.
I keep thinking about the beautiful faces I had the opportunity to serve last week. One may ask, how can being in an orphanage work together for good? Being abandoned by your parents, your family. Friends, oh what joy those children have because of God working things together for their good. They have food. They have shelter. They are no longer abused. And best of all, they know Jesus! They have been redeemed, in every imaginable way, from the horrors of this world and brought into glorious light. When I think of Casa Hogar, what I think of is hope, joy, and love. When I think of Jesus, I think of hope, joy, and love. When I read through the chapters of my life, I see God's fingerprints on the pages--pouring into my soul His hope, joy, and love.
I hope this is a blessing to you. I hope that you can read this and look in your own life and see how God is working things together in your life for good. I promise you, and I will stand by this promise til the end of time, His love never fails, and if you give your life over to Him, your soul will not only sing--your soul will be overwhelmed.
Here is the song that captured this blog tonight. I hope it can be the song of your soul tonight, and forever.
Nothing can separate even if I ran away. Your love never fails.
I know I still make mistakes, but you have new mercies for me everyday.
Your love never fails.
You stay the same through the ages. Your love never changes.
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.
And when the oceans rage, I don't have to be afraid.
Because I know that You love me. Your love never fails.
The wind is strong and the water's deep. But I'm not alone in these open seas.
Cause Your love never fails.
The chasm was far too wide; I never thought I'd reach the other side.
But Your love never fails.
You stay the same through the ages. Your love never changes.
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.
And when the oceans rage, I don't have to be afraid.
Because I know that You love me. Your love never fails!
You make all things work together for my good.
You make all things work together for my good.
You make all things work together for my good.
(Praise Him for this!) You make all things work together for my good.
You stay the same through the ages. Your love never changes.
There maybe pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.
And when the oceans rage I don't have to be afraid.
Because I KNOW that You love me. YOUR LOVE NEVER FAILS.

Home

"For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in." Psalm 27:10

Good morning, friends! I've been away for quite a while. I arrived home from Acapulco, Mexico early am Monday morning and have simply been trying to recover since. I am excited to be able to catch you up on my trip!
That verse is something the orphans at Casa Hogar del Nino hear over and over and many understand what that means. When I signed up for this mission trip, I was thrilled to be working with orphans again. I love children. I love seeing their smiling faces. And I love loving kids who have been abandoned by their families. In Scripture we are told that Christians are to take care of orphans (James 1:27). Perhaps that is why I feel so at home with them...God made me to love them. It is part of His plan.
Many of the orphans at Casa Hogar have been abused--physically and mentally. It broke my heart learning some of their stories, what they have been through, and why they relate better with certain ages or why they don't relate well at all to older men. Knowing this orphanage is housing 50+ kids with similar backgrounds and pain beyond imagination, I expected to walk into the same type of atmosphere I've seen in Romanian orphanages. Fear. Fear of the staff, fear of other children, fear of visitors. What I saw in Romania was kids with one or two friends that refused to hang out with anyone else. They couldn't trust anyone else. They didn't know gentleness, kindness, or love. And they didn't know the redeeming love of Jesus Christ.
What I walked into at Casa Hogar in Acapulco, Mexico, was joy. Joy indescribable. These kids know who Jesus is, they know the Lord loves them, and they look forward to every new team that arrives. You bond with the kids quickly and your heart is just overwhelmed by the sense of compassion amongst everyone there. The staff is loved and respected. The kids are obedient, respectful, cooperative, and gracious. Casa Hogar is unlike anything I ever expected to see. We went to take the joy of Jesus Christ to the orphans at Casa Hogar. In doing so, God showed us His joy bursting out of the children there. Praise God for that opportunity. Praise God for the opportunities He has ahead of me!
Our prayer for the staff and the children there is from Ephesians 3. It is one we are committed to praying continually, and one I ask you to pray as well. God is doing great things at Casa Hogar. And it is all for His glory! Praise be to the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Giver of Life!
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant them to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith--that they being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we can every ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us and them, to Him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 5: 14-21

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Then Sings My Soul

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19
St. Patrick was a missionary to Ireland--the only missionary to ever be honored with a global holiday. Patrick was born in 373 A.D. in Scotland. When he was 16, he was kidnapped and taken into slavery after his town was raided and torched by pirates. While a slave, he gave his life to Jesus Christ. After eventually escaping and returning home to an overjoyed family, Patrick had a dream of an Irishman pleading for Patrick to come back to Ireland and evangelize the country. While the decision was a tough one to make, Patrick knew he had a calling and he needed to go.
Around the age of 30, Patric returned to his former captors with only one book, the Latin Bible. Multitudes listened as he taught about God and His Son, Jesus, while superstitious Druids opposed him and sought his death. But God spoke through Patrick powerfully, and because of Patrick being obedient to God and becoming a missionary to Ireland, he became one of the most fruitful evangelists of all time, planting about 200 churches and baptizing 100,000 converts.
His work has endured for centuries, and the Irish church is still producing hymns, prayers, sermons, and songs of worship. In the eighth century, an unknown poet wrote a prayer asking God to be his Vision, his Wisdom, and his Best Thought by day or night. The poem was later translated into English, and then into ryme and meter to form the song we know today: Be Thou my Vision.
This song was one that was engraved on my heart as I was making plans to live in Romania for the summer of 2005. I wanted nothing but what Jesus wanted me to have: His plans, His vision, His wisdom. Every time I sing this song I'm drawn back to a time of total abandonment to Christ. I hunger for that same type of abandonment...that same conviction that He is all I need! His presence is the very breath of my life. Read through this song. Cry it out to Jesus. Submit it to Him in prayer. As I type these words, I am offering this as the cry of my heart.
Be Thou my Vision o Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my Light.
Be Thou my Wisdom and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my Great Father, and I Thy true son, Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance now and always;
Thou and Thou only first in my heart; High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art!
High King of Heaven my victory won;
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision o Ruler of all.

God, whatever befall, still be my Vision, O Great Ruler of all!
I hope you have a wonderful evening! Let your soul sing to our Great and Wise God!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Comfortable Christianity

"Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe" (David Platt, Radical).
What is your take on that statement? For me, while being a tough pill to swallow, it was also so easy to believe and understand. I will carry with me always my experiences in Romania. One of the biggest privileges I had while serving there was learning about true faith...the faith of a people in a third world country. They have nothing but live as if they have everything. My dear friends there live day in and day out the truth that Jesus is all we need. Yet in America, we say, "Jesus is all we need!...to get into heaven, but while here on earth I will take a car, a home, nice restaurants, expensive clothing and jewelry...oh and that leather couch because the one I have is 2 years old."
Unfortunately in America, we as Christians live our lives in complete contradiction to the gospel. We are out for number one. We tithe, if we know we will have enough to fulfill our wants. We will serve others, if and when our football team doesn't have a game. We will love, if others love us. "Somewhere along the way (in our Christian walk) we have missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves" (Platt).
I am definitely not out to point my finger. I rarely sit down and consider the cost of following my Savior. I have felt so convicted over these last months about how I live my life and the ripple my actions can have on how my peers see Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship that the first call every Christian experiences is "the call to abandon the attachments of this world. When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." This world that we live in is dying without Christ. Dying. And without Jesus, this world will suffer for eternity. Instead of being mindful of that, and lovingly sharing the gospel to others, we go shopping instead. "While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark" (Platt).
It may seem like I'm saying shopping/cars/homes/football is wrong. Let me ask you this: if God asked you today to give your car away and to sell your home and give the entire amount earned to the church, would any of us say, "Yes, Lord."?? Just yesterday as I was watching the Tennessee Titans game, I knew I needed to read my Bible. Spending time in the Word daily is so important for us as believers. Instead, I said, "God, when the game is over." Which turned into after Lifegroup, once I was too tired to focus on His Word. Jesus wants us to commit to believe what He says. Shame on me for ever saying, "Lord, I will get to it when it is most convenient for me." We need to commit to saying "Yes, Lord" to the words of Jesus before we even hear them. And we need to commit to obey Him once we have heard Him.
I highly recommend going out and buying a copy of Radical for yourselves. While David Platt is only stating what Jesus has already told us to do, I believe we may have become immune to Jesus' words. Maybe we have heard them so often that we fail to read His Word with fresh eyes and let them soak into our lives. Platt does an incredible job talking straight to the heart of America, and demanding that the Christians who live here wake up! "We need to return with urgency to a biblical gospel, because the cost of not doing so is great for our lives, our families, our churches, and the world around us."

--Inspired by Radical, David Platt.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Unclean with a Pure God

Good morning! I hope you are having a great start to your weekend. My morning has been filled with Leviticus 11-15, learning all about cleanliness and what the Israelites could/could not eat, followed by a long run...okay, that is a bit of a stretch. It was run a minute, walk a minute, repeat...but it felt like a very long run to me because my husband was next to me saying "run," "walk," "run," "walk," and so forth. (This morning, I would have been satisfied with a walk!)
But, my run is not what this blog is about so I will get on with it. I've been reading through the Bible chronologically, and am now in Leviticus. Through Exodus to where I am now, each day I am in awe that God has chosen me to be His child, to be able to talk with Him each day, whenever I want to. Notice, it is whenever I want to. Each day of my reading I am baffled at how difficult it was to talk to the Living God back in the day of the Israelites and the wilderness. Moses, and later the priests, were their 'conduit' to God. But Moses did not get to elect when to talk to Jehovah as we, present day, elect to do. Yahweh opened up the lines of communication by telling Moses to come up the mountain at a certain time with a certain amount of elders, so that the Lord could give him a message for the people of Israel. Yet we, who have the cherished gift, blessing, of talking to the Lord whenever we feel the need, fail to do so sometimes on a daily basis. Sometimes, our only communication with God is before meals: "God, thank you for the food. Amen."
The Israelites had to make sacrifices to the Lord for their sins. The priests made the sacrifices for them and sprinkled blood on them. Not just anyone was allowed to enter the temple. I have only made it to Chapter 15 of Leviticus, and I'm sure there will be more 'disqualifications' ahead, but if you had leprosy, or touched the carcass of an unclean animal, or touched the garment of an unclean person, or were on your period, or had discharge at all, you were considered unclean from 1-14 days...or longer depending on if your leprosy, discharge, etc healed or not. If you gave birth, which is a blessing indeed, you were considered unclean for up to 66 days, depending on the gender of the child. 66 days! Can you imagine spending 66 days separated from the Lord. Not being able to make a sacrifice. Not able to become clean. Can you even begin to imagine how you would feel if today God said, "Child, do not come to me for 66 days."??? What if it were only 1 day that He forbid you...would you be distraught, or would it even be a change for you?
I am convicted that I take for granted my time with the Lord. I admit that I sometimes find myself, out of habit, saying the same thing I said the previous days. Oh that I would know Whose Throne I am before when I pray! Because God gave His only Son to suffer and die for our sins, we are encouraged, taught, commanded to pray continuously (1 Thess. 5:17). Nothing stands in our way of coming before the Father and seeking His forgiveness, His healing, His peace...His presence. If only we, as His children, could understand how much of a blessing He has given us! Lord, help me to serve You, to worship You, to love You, all the days of my life, and praise You for the gift You have given me in Your Son's death and resurrection.
We bow our hearts. We bend our knees. Oh Spirit, come make us humble.
We turn our eyes from evil things. Oh Lord, we cast out our idols.
Give us clean hands. Give us pure hearts.
Let us not lift our souls to another.
Give us clean hands. Give us pure hearts.
Let us not lift our souls to another.
Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob.
Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, seeks Your face, oh God of Jacob.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Then Sings My Soul

Good evening! I just got back from serving at Kidzlife at my church! The kids were so joyful this evening. Wednesday nights are a real delight for me. I help lead music by singing and dancing around...you know, putting motions to the words...and the kids just get a kick out of it. Worshiping our Father together is such a blessing. Jesus says that our faith should be like that of a child. And I see it in the faces...that faith...when they sing about how much He loves us and has done for us and will do for us, and how He longs for us to spend eternity with Him and tell everyone on earth about Him...their faces shine so bright!
I also started teaching one of the girls to play flute. She is so excited about playing this beautiful instrument! And no matter how frustrating it was, she never gave up trying to blow until she finally got a sound to come out. Now, I have been trying to keep my mind focused on things above and not on the things of earth that will pass. Keeping eternity and my life with Christ at the forefront of my mind makes the experience tonight with my new student remind me of how difficult our journey with Christ can be. Sometimes it can be so frustrating, and we keep huffing and puffing and trying to make a good sound come out but we see no result. How incredible it is when God brings us from the 'frustrating' part to the 'beautiful sound' part! It makes all the trials in between well worth it.
These blessings I've had over the last few hours are precious gifts from God that I want to give back to Him. I cannot stop thanking Him for all He has given me, including the opportunities to sing His praise and serve Him! So, tonight's song that makes my soul sing is another very familiar one: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing! "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
Robert Robinson was sent to London at a young age to learn the skill of barbering. Instead, he learned about gang-life and drinking. After getting drunk with several friends and seeing a fortune teller, Robert suggested that he and his friends go to an evangelistic meeting held by George Whitefield. Pastor Whitefield was preaching that evening on Matthew 3:7: "But when He saw many of the Pharisees and Sadduccees coming to His baptism, He said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" Those words haunted Robert for 3 years....the wrath to come! December 10, 1755, he gave his life to Christ.
Three years later he wrote a hymn for a sermon he was preaching on Pentecost Sunday. Designed to be a prayer, he asked the Holy Spirit to flood our hearts with His streams of mercy, enabling us to sing God's praises and remain faithful to Him. Since that Sunday in 1758, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" has been a favorite of the church.
Since this hymn was written to be a prayer, as you read it, meditate on the words. Make it a prayer from your heart to God. If you don't believe the words, if you don't hunger to sing His praises, ask God to create that desire for your heart. What a treasure it is to sing to our Father!
Come, Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above (can you imagine the angels singing this to our King?!)
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it! Mount of God's unchanging love (or redeeming love!)
Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger wand'ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood
Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee (Please Lord, bind it!)
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love!
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.

Have a wonderful evening, friends! I hope you found this song to be a blessing to you--one that you can turn around and make a blessing to God by pouring your heart out...Laying your heart at His feet to bind and seal for His courts above!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cleaning House

"Jesus looked at him and loved him." Mark 10:21
Good evening! I hope you have had a good Monday. I must say my Monday has sucked up all my energy. I am so ready to crawl into bed and get a good 10 hours of sleep! But, for the sake of not wasting precious hours, I will try and stay awake a little while longer.
Tuesday night's I have been studying with other women in the church and learning, and rehashing, how to throw out our idols. Tonight as I was going through the lessons, I was caught by something so beautiful, yet often overlooked. In Mark (and Matthew and Luke, depending on the perspective you want), Jesus teaches us about the rich young man seeking eternal life. We all know how it ends up. Jesus tells him to go, sell everything he has, give it all to the poor, and then the rich young man can come and follow Jesus. Whenever I read these verses, that is exactly what I get out of the passage.
However, something struck me with such beauty tonight! I read through Mark 10:17-31 with fresh eyes, and it was pointed out to me something I had always skipped over. Let's see if you catch it:
Starting at verse 17b, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" And he said to Him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth." And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Did you catch it? Jesus, right before telling him what he lacked, looked at him and LOVED him. "God's love is so rich and refreshingly different than our often-limited views of love" (Kelly Minter). And praise God for that! He doesn't look at us and let us stay where we are. He loves us enough, and perfectly outside human ability, that He tells us what we lack. If Zane looked at me and told me, "I love you, but let me tell you what you lack," I would be hurt, embarrased, and perhaps furious. As humans, we don't see someone pointing out the filth in our life, or the gaps in our life, as loving. We see it as threatening and rude. But Jesus, our Lord, our Redeemer, loves us ENOUGH to tell us what we lack. He doesn't do so to hurt us, or to take away from our life. He shows us so that we can live life fully, with joy unspeakable, and live it freely!
I know this entry is quite shorter than the novels I've put up most recently, but it may just be what you need to read tonight. I know it was a blessing to me to study that passage in my lesson, and I'm hoping it will be a blessing to you. Don't listen to the lies Satan feeds you in his attempt to make you cling to the things of life that falsely offer comfort and love. Listen to the promises of God, the ones He is ALWAYS faithful to fulfill. Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life." Mark 10:29-30
Clean out the filth that God is looking at and lovingly telling you to throw away. And be prepared to receive that outpouring of blessings that will flow down on you...one hundred fold!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Then Sings My Soul

Good evening! I am so very excited to be starting something new with you. I know, I have Women's Biblestudy to share with you, and lessons that I'm learning in contentment, and my LifeGroup Study, "Radical,"....when did life get so busy that I stopped being able to keep up?! Hopefully you will find a cozy chair and be able to relax a bit while you read all the new things I have to share with you. While we are waiting to roll back around to all those other studies, let your soul sing with me! Wednesdays are going to become my favorite! You know how I just love music? Many blogs of mine include songs to tie into the entry. Wednesdays are going to be dedicated strictly to songs! I'm starting Hymn Wednesdays. Maybe you are not traditional and are rather bored with hymns. Maybe you are very traditional and loathe contemporary music. Maybe you are somewhere in the middle and just want to sing songs that are about God and not about you. Well, no matter where you fall between the Traditional/Modern Spectrum, I hope that Hymn Wednesday's will be a blessing to you! We are going to find out where songs came from, who wrote them, and what they mean to me. Welcome, and let's let our souls sing!
We are going to begin with one of my favorite hymns. How Great Thou Art. (Perhaps you had already guessed that'd be the first hymn based on the title of this series.) This hymn actually began as a poem in 1885 when Carl Boberg, a 26 year-old Swedish minister, wrote about our Mighty God. Translated to English, his poem reads "When I the world consider which Thou has made by Thine almighty Word, and how the webb of life Thou wisdom guideth and all creation feedeth at Thy board. Then doth my soul burst forth in song of praise! Oh, great God, Oh, great God!"
This poem literally went around the world being transformed into the song we know today. Several years after releasing his poem, Carl was surprised to hear it being sung to an old Swedish Melody, but neither the poem or the hymn achieved widespread fame...until some time later.
An English Missionary, Stuart Hine, heard the hymn in Russia. He was so moved that he modified and expanded the words, making his own arrangement of the Swedish melody. His first three verses were inspired by Russia's rugged Carpathian Mountains. While caught in a thunderstorm in a Carpathian village he wrote the first verse. The second was written as he listened to birds singing near the Romanian border (and how easy it is to be inspired when Romania has anything to do with it...). The third verse was written as Stuart Hine witnessed many of the Carpathian Mountain dwellers coming to Christ. And the final verse came upon his return to Great Britain.
This beautiful hymn made its way to India, Toronto, and London before finally blessing the land of the free with it's beauty and truth. Oh how I would have loved to have been there in the beginning hearing the Naga Tribespeople in Assam singing of how great God is! In 1957, Bev Shea along with a choir sang the majestic refrain 99 times! Can you imagine the heavenly sound that was spreading through heaven as God's people repeated 99 times "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art! How great Thou art!" How moving!
I believe I've mentioned this before, but at the risk of sounding crazy once again I will remind you that music moves me and speaks to me in ways I cannot express. I literally can feel my soul within me when I sing praises to my King. I am and always have been a 1st Soprano. My voice is high and isn't afraid to sing higher. Something about this particular hymn though...when I sing it, no matter what key I'm in, if I am not paying attention to my vocal chords, I...no joke...choke through the whole refrain. Getting through each verse is hard enough. But when I get to the refrain, it is as if my soul is clawing its way out of me and trying to get into heaven to be with my Father. Do you have any idea what I am talking about, or is this all nonsense to you? All I'm saying is, when I sing of how great my Father is, I feel His presence all around me. This body He has given me is just a harness for my soul. And one day, what a glorious day it will be, Christ will come with shout of acclamation and take me home. What joy shall fill my heart! And I will bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, My God! How Great Thou Art! (Tears flood my eyes just thinking of that moment!)
I know it has been a long blog, but as always, I want you to soak up the lyrics. Dwell on them, and be breathless and speechless as you praise God for how great He is!
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When thru the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, "My God how great Thou art!"
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Calm my Anxious Heart

Good Saturday, to you! Zane and I just got home from taking the dogs to a creek on the outskirts of Athens...supposedly part of the Oconee River. Let's set something straight first: I am a Tennessee girl. Born and raised. The hills of TN are a distant memory in this flat city of Georgia, and after going to Cades Cove in the Smokey Mountains on an extremely regular basis, and playing in the clear water as it streams over the slippery rocks, dirt infested moldy part-of-the-Oconee just doesn't measure up. Period. (But Moxie [German Shepherd/Rottweiler] and Frisbee [Sheltie mix] had a wonderful time jumping rocks...making the dirty water well worth and disease we may capture...)
For my birthday a few months ago, the best mother-in-law in the whole world bought me a devotional. A much needed devotional. It is called 'Calm My Anxious Heart,' by Linda Dillow. I must admit, when I first opened my present I wondered, "Did Zane tell her I struggle with contentment!? I can't believe he talked about me behind my back!" Well, that was not the case. No drama erupted from that event. My mother-in-law has done the study many times herself and thought it would be a good one for me to have. Let's be honest: God knew it was THE devotional I needed to have, for such a time as this.
When we moved to Athens, GA, away from the state I've lived in my whole life, away from my friends, my family, to a new job after 2 months of marriage, going to a new church, my husband starting a grad program which meant him having class til 9:30 many nights...well, you get the picture. My world had changed drastically, and other then my incredible husband, discontentment in other areas of my life set up a room in my heart very quickly. I'm usually a very happy, joyful person no matter what the occasion. In fact, many people ask me how and why I'm so happy all the time. Don't be misled--I was not, and am not, depressed. But I definitely let the questions settle in: was this where God wanted us? was I ever going to go back to Romania? would my friends and family ever come visit? (I would not wish driving highway 316 on anyone!) Every friend I met here couldn't replace the deep friendships back home. The church we started going to did not do music the way I wanted (no hymns). We had an infant nephew and every time we saw him he had grown a few inches. We never saw Jack crawl...he went from rolling around on his back one visit to walking the next. Let's just say that from the time we arrived in Athens until a few months ago, my heart was focusing on the negative, rather than the incredible blessings God was giving us at every turn.
At first, I didn't want to blog about Calm my Anxious heart, simply because I'm hoping God allows me to start a young ladies Biblestudy where this would be our book of study. But then I realized that it is okay to blog about a devotional twice! If and when a Biblestudy gets off the ground, my perspective will have grown, God will still be teaching me contentment (He is always leading us to be more joyful in Him!), and I will have interesting stories from young ladies on their take of contentment. I'm excited to share this with you...and equally excited to be vulnerable as I tell you my struggles. I hope it blesses you and helps you in your road to contentment as well. God bless you and have a wonderful Saturday afternoon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Golden Calf

Good evening! I hope you are doing well. I just had some 'soul food' from Weaver D's in Athens, GA, and I do believe that the butter potatoes are now swimming in my arteries. Oh yes...I feel like a huge lump of butter right now.
Over the summer, the Women's Biblestudy group I am a part of took a break. We started back up last week with several laughs, and almost zero productivity--after all, we had to catch up with each other! My first study I did with the women at church was 'Esther' by Beth Moore, followed by 'So Long, Insecurity,' also by Beth Moore. (I blogged about 'So Long, Insecurity' on here, and HIGHLY recommend that book for all women! Do the Esther study first though. I cannot explain what a wonderful follow up studying about insecurities was, especially after digging down deep into the life of a woman who by legal mandate, had to share her husband with any and all women he so pleased.) Now, we are breaking in our study books from Beth Moore to study Kelly Minter's, 'No Other Gods.' Friends, I must admit, the first week...I was a little upset. It wasn't as deep and intense as I had hoped. But whew, did the second week slap me in the face with the deep realization that the golden calf of Exodus, made by the Israelites didn't just vanish in Old Testament times...it is here today. All around each of us. And guess what, not to be negative, but you have a golden calf yourself...and God wants it gone.
"The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6
Real quickly I want to touch on the first week's lesson where we learned about an idol being a 'functional god.' That can be anything in my life that takes the place of God...it could be something I try to find my identity in (being the prettiest/most athletic/most musical), or seek security in (getting that job promotion/hoarding my money/never taking risks). In truth, it could be my desire to be in Romania serving the orphans, or my passion for adoption. Now before you say that those things cannot be idols because they are good...great even, let's look at a definition by Richard Keyes:
"An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them. Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God's existence or character. It may well come in the form of an overattachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good. An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero--anything that can substitute for God."
When my love for orphans or Romania becomes an obsession and makes me want to run after something that is not God's will at this moment, that thing, whether good or bad, becomes an idol. Ouch!
Week two literally felt like my eyes, brain, and heart were being sanded down my some carpenter refining his creation. Interesting...I believe that is exactly what Jesus was doing!
I am chosen. I am treasured by God. I already have an identity, and that is in Christ. Until I realize that my identity is in Christ...I am His first...I will not be able to rid myself of false gods in my life. How often do I lose sight of what I have (Jesus!) and who I am (a child of God!)??!! I just have to quote Kelly Minter here...I believe every young women needs this engrained into her skin: "Fulfilling our sinful desires will snuff out this burning goodness. By indulging them we actually become the reverse of peculiar and strange. We become--hold your breath--normal. For those of us seeking individualism and distinctiveness, chasing our lusts will only make us like everyone else, with little identity at all." We are aliens in this world--sojourners. As a Christian, I know this is not my home. I have no business trying to set up camp here. My face should always be looking toward heaven, seeking to glorify God, and that 'difference' in me should be Jesus' light shining through...not me seeking attention from the world.
Why idols? Simple. We get tired. Tired of waiting on God to answer our prayers. Tired of His answers being different than what we wanted (though His answers are always what we need). We get tired of hearing people tell us what God wants/is doing/will do. If you have the time, go and read Genesis 16. Sarai grew tired of waiting for God to give her children (even though He had promised her a child that would bring many generations--and in her line would be born the Saviour of the world!). Instead of being patient and trusting in the Lord, she gave her servant to Abraham, which produced Ishmael. In Genesis 21 we see the fulfillment of God's plan. He always keeps His promises. But our actions always have consequences. Sometimes dire ones. And because of Sarai acting impatiently, we had the birth of a son (Ishmael) that would lead to the religion we know today as Islam.
But the thing that stuck out the most to me was learning where the famous Golden Calf (Exodus 24) came from. While Moses was on the mountain with God, the Israelites grew tired of waiting for him and so gathered their golden earrings from the men, women, and children, and created the golden calf. I had never, ever, had this pointed out to me before. If you trace back to Exodus 12, you will see that God gave the Israelites favor over the Egyptians, allowing the Israelites the gold. The Israelites turned God's gifts into gods.
So that is where I am dwelling now. Do I have gods in my life that were originally blessings from my Lord. Are they, in and of themselves, perfectly good, yet I have allowed myself to find identy in them? My identity is in Christ, and I refuse to let His blessings to me become anything but a gift to offer back to Him. With His help, that will be the case.
I am excited to share with you all that I learn through this! Thank you for joining me, and I hope that me sharing my learnings will be a blessing to you!
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dare 40

"Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." --Ruth 1:16
Love is a covenant. I must say, this blog is difficult to write. Not because I disagree with it. I wholeheartedly believe and know that love is a covenant. It is difficult because a dear friend is going through a divorce. We spoke yesterday and I told her, "You should know...I am praying for reconciliation between you two. That you both will grow closer to Christ and that God will heal your wounds." After telling me her husband was moving closer to Christ and definitely on the right track, her response devastated me and let me know that her mind had been made up. She thanked me for praying for her, but asked that I pray God will grant them both peace with their decision to go through with the divorce. She was seeking after God, enjoying being in His will and living her life the way God wanted her to...but she was no longer going to be married. There was to much pain and she was done being his wife.
"The experience and challenge of loving your mate is something that never comes to an end. Consider your marriage a covenant instead of a contract. Seeing marriage as a contract is like saying to your spouse, 'I take you for me and we'll see if this works out.' But realizing it as a covenant changes it to say, 'I give myself to you and commit to this marriage for life.'" (Kendrick)
There are many differences between a contract and a covenant. A contract is usually a written agreement based on distrust, outlining the conditions and consequences if broken. It is self-serving, and comes with limited liability. A covenant is a verbal commitment based on trust, assuring someone that your promise is unconditional and good for life. It is spoken before God out of love for another. A covenant is intended to be unbreakable.
Please grab your Bible and read through some of God's covenants with His people. Genesis 9:12-17; Genesis 17:1-8; Exodus 19:3-6; 2 Samuel 7:7-16; Hebrews 9:15. Dwell on those Covenants. Realize that God has kept every single one.
"There's good reason why God was the One who initiated covenants with His people. He alone is able to fulfill the demands of His own promises...but the Spirit of God is within you by virtue of your faith in His Son and the grace bestowed upon you in salvation. That means you now can exercise your role as covenant keeper, no matter what may arise to challenge your faithfulness to it...marriage is not a contract with escape clauses and exception wordings. Marriage is a covenant intended to cut off all avenues of retreat or withdrawal. There's nothing in all the world that should sever what God has joined together" (Kendrick).
For thousands of years people have wondered why at times God withholds His blessings from their homes and marriages. "You say, 'for what reason?' Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant...For I hate divorce, says the lord, the God of Israel, and him who covers his garment with wrong, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously" Malachi 2:14, 16.
Every marriage is called to be an earthly picture of God's heavenly covenant with His church. To show His unconditional love. John 15 tells us to remain in Jesus' love. Let His words inspire you to be a channel of God's love to your spouse.
Kendrick finished The Love Dare by declaring that love is too holy a treasure to trade in for another, and too powerful a bond to be broken without dire consequences. Amen to that! Take some time to thank God for the good in your marriage, and pray to Him for strengh and love, that you may show Christ to your spouse, even when it seems unbearable. Dare to take hold of your marriage and never let go.
Dare 40: Write out a renewal of your vows and place them in your home. Make it a living testament to the value of marriage in God's eyes and the high honor of being one with your mate.
Dare 39: Love never fails.
Dare 38: Be extravagant.
Dare 37: Pray together.
Dare 36: Read the Bible daily.
Dare 35: Seek guidance in a mentor.
Dare 34: Celebrate godliness.
Dare 33: Complete each other.
Dare 32: Satisfy your spouse's needs.
Dare 31: Spouse=Top Priority of Earthly Relationships.
Dare 30: Be unified.
Dare 29: Express your love.
Dare 28: Sacrifice.
Dare 27: Encourage.
Dare 26: Seek forgiveness.
Dare 25: Forgive freely.
Dare 24: Kill lust.
Dare 23: Love protects.
Dare 22: Love your spouse. Period.
Dare 21: Be satisfied in God.
Dare 20: Commit to love Jesus so you can love your spouse.
Dare 19: Pray for God to change your heart.
Dare 18: Study each other.
Dare 17: Promote intimacy.
Dare 16: Love intercedes.
Dare 15: Honor each other.
Dare 14: Delight in each other.
Dare 13: Fight fair.
Dare 12: Let the other win.
Dare 11: Cherish each other.
Dare 10: Love unconditionally.
Dare 9: Greet well.
Dare 8: Don't be jealous.
Dare 7: Believe the best.
Dare 6: Don't be irritable.
Dare 5: Don't be rude.
Dare 4: Be thoughtful.
Dare 3: Be selfless.
Dare 2: Be kind.
Dare 1: Be patient.
Thank you for going through these dares with me. If you're married, I hope they blessed your marriage as they did mine! If you aren't, I hope you start practicing these dares now so that your marriage will be blessed by a love unimaginable. Just because the dares are over--dare yourself everyday! Love conquers all. Praise Jesus!
--Inspired by Kendrick's, "The Love Dare"