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.


"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! 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 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 hundred fold!