There are some days when words simply fail me. How do you express the goodness of God, His beauty, His lavish love that has totally overwhelmed you? This is today.
All I can do is bow in worship.
So I share this worship song with you, for reflection and praise. Simply click on the title of the song.
May you too be overwhelmed by God's goodness, His grace, and His lavish love for you.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
This week at my Women’s Bible study, we had a really good, convicting conversation about gossip. Our Ephesians study challenged us to define it, consider its effects, and discuss our struggle with it. I shared with my group about an incident that had just happened earlier that day and I had chosen not to stop the conversation or walk away. I wanted to know what this person was saying, even though I knew it could possibly not be true and/or change by the time events played out. Ugh!
Fast forward to the end of the week and a new scenario. (I promise they do all connect by the end) I faced a challenge at work important enough to cause some anxiety. But I purposed to practice what my counselor has been saying – instead of rehearsing everything that could happen or I could say, to choose to trust God to provide the words I would need at the time.
A few grace-given, well timed conversations prior to this meeting allowed me to conduct some last minute preparation which was exactly what I needed for the meeting. It went great and I learned a lot both about the area we discussed and the faithfulness of God. We truly can trust God to equip us for that which He calls us! I’m slowly learning to trust that truth.
But….(Don’t you love, or maybe hate, that word?)
Fast forward to later that afternoon. While conversing with a co-worker, I ended up repeating the information, that gossip that I’d heard earlier in the week. I debated back and forth about sharing, but then caved on the justification that I could trust this person and it did kinda impact our jobs. As the conversation continued, my coworker proceeded to share some other things as well along with the comment, “I hadn’t told you this yet because I didn’t want you to think I was lesser of a person, but since you just shared all of that…”
Talk about conviction!
One of the questions in our Ephesians study was why gossip is wrong. That day I saw two significant reasons:
1) I caused another person to sin. This broke my heart. Gossip breeds gossip. What kind of witness am I offering to my co-workers when I make choices that encourages them to make those same wrong choices? Gossip is wrong because it is connected to lying, telling things that we heard but don’t know for sure is true. How does this benefit anyone?
2) As I wrestled through my justifications and the Holy Spirit’s conviction that afternoon, God brought me back to my morning meeting and its resulting lesson. (Told you they would eventually connect J) God promises to equip us for that which we’re called. Gossip is a lack of trust. It’s a refusal to trust God’s timing for us to know something. I wanted to hear and share the information because I wanted insight into what might happen in the future. But it doesn’t really help me to know anything because a. the future isn’t now and b. things very likely might change between now and then! Instead, I need to trust God to continue to provide the information I need when I need it. He’s faithful like that! He has proven so again and again within this new job.
Thankfully my gossip was insignificant and caused no significant harm. But it was still wrong! I share all of this to challenge us to let God into every little nook and cranny of our lives. I struggled for hours trying to justify myself, not wanting to call this sin a sin. But that’s what it was. Plain. And. Simple.
Peace finally came when I bent my knee and asked for forgiveness, accepted God’s grace, and prayed for the strength to live a better witness.
Growing isn’t easy. But it’s good.
I don’t know where your struggle lies, my friend. Maybe it’s gossip, maybe it’s unforgiveness, maybe an addiction, maybe something else. But know at the heart of every sin is a choice to trust God. Will we trust His provision, His being enough, His control, His goodness? I pray God will whisper within and as He promised, the equipping He provides will be exactly what you need this day.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Lately God’s challenged me to step out and initiate. I’m not standing on the street corner evangelizing, but I’m weaving my faith into my daily conversation more - and at times, being intentional to ask a few questions to see if individuals will jump into a conversation and go a little deeper.
For one, I’ve developed a couple of mentoring relationships where newer or not-yet believers have found a safe place to ask questions and receive encouragement. One of them is starting to attend church. The other has started the process of rearranging her schedule so she can attend our women’s Bible study in the fall.
Another result happened this week when another co-worker joined a weekly prayer time in which I participate at work. I still don’t know if she’ll join us regularly, but it was awesome to have her come.
I’m also hosting a dinner soon with 5 other friends with the sole intention of talking about where we are in our faith and lives at the moment. Within this group there will be all levels of believers with the hope being that we can see our unity in Christ and encourage each other in whatever stage our walks are at the moment.
I share all of this simply to illustrate a change God is doing in me.
So often we think we have to push and pound and focus on “saving the lost.” But discipleship focuses on growth, not just giving people tickets into heaven. That growth has many stages and takes place both in the process of recognizing one’s need for Christ as well as after believing in Christ and learning to align your life to His.
The important part is being intentional to make room for a spiritual focus within your conversation. So many people fear saying anything at risk of offending. I know because that was me! There have been times in my life I’ve been pushy, judgmental and condescending. There’s been other times when I’ve refused to say anything. I’ve done it wrong from both extremes.
But I’ve come to realize my role is to provide opportunity. I speak truth in my comments about life that reflect my faith. I don’t hide it, but I also don’t flaunt it or try to force it on others. I let people simply realize it is a part of me.
But then, when the conversation and relationship allows, I ask a question that centers on spiritual matters. The depth depends on the person and the level of our relationship. It is intended to be light so that the other person can take us deeper if they choose.
If the person doesn’t and backs off, then I do too. It’s God’s job to draw them to Himself. I simply keep myself available.
But if someone presses into the conversation, I go as deep as they lead. That’s what happened with my two friends. They wanted to go deep, so I followed their lead. As I answer questions, I can share truth because they are seeking instead of me pushing.
How many times do we miss the opportunity to walk with others as they investigate faith because we are simply too scared, fearful to offend?
Once I realized my role, to simply offer opportunity, and let God do His role of drawing people, convicting people, and saving people, being willing to walk with my mouth, to step out with words, became much less scary… and easier!
So I would encourage you as well to look for opportunity. Be intentional to live your faith for you. There’s no need to force it on anyone. That’s contrary to God’s character and not how we saw Jesus live His life.
And then be willing to ask a question once in a while. You’ll see people decline your invitation in how they respond. But you might also see people accept the invitation and press in, interested to converse and explore their relationship with God.
It’s a new experience this year. But it’s fun. It’s exciting. And it’s important.
It’s what I want my life to be about.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
full of smiles
keeping me sane
helping to handle the chaos of life
a gentle nudge
what about Me?
I AM enough?
facing away instead of towards?
back and forth
my eyes go
just you and Me
in the now
a hardened edge
on distant hill
I see a tree
how can I turn?
how can I spurn?
back and forth
my eyes go
how can I say no to this?
a wisp of time
it calls again
my heart eyes glance
will the victory before
be enough for now?
lighting the darkness in me
Sunday, April 3, 2016
This past week, my husband and I explored the Appalachian areas of North and South Carolina. I could think of no better word to share with you than the masterful beauty and talent of our Creator as witnessed on our hikes. Truly, all of creation praises His name!
Saturday, March 26, 2016
As I was walking recently, the lyrics of a song made me pause. It talked about hiding from the shadows.
As I contemplated that phrase, I thought that to hide from shadows means you need light. Light makes shadows disappear.
But as I pictured in my mind, standing in the presence of bright light, the only place there would be shadows would be behind me, depending on the angle of the light.
“Behind me” made me think of the past…. could the shadows behind me represent my past, the baggage I still carry around: emotional wounds from my past, family behavioral patterns from past generations, consequences of previous choices?
So then I thought, well how would I dispel those shadows?
And I realized I’d need to have the light shine through me. If it not only shone upon me but actually shone through me, there would be no place for shadows to hide.
With Christ this is exactly possible.
Walking with God doesn’t just shine light on your future, the way ahead of you, or on circumstances around you in the present. John 1 declares Jesus is the light of the world. And when we surrender our hearts to Jesus, his light actually indwells us. It shines within us and through us.
When I let the light of Christ, the light of His Word, impact all of me, even my past, all shadows are exposed and eliminated.
Do you want to eliminate the shadows, the dark places, in your life?
Simply open up your heart, your life – your whole life, to Christ. Let in the Light of the World and experience the freedom of darkness, in your past, in your presence and in your eternal future.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Last week we started an indepth look at Psalm 107. The title challenges us to speak… Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So! If you missed it, you can read the beginning of this discussion here.
This week we move on to the last two sections of this pattern of need, cry out, response.
“Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.” Vs. 17-18 (emphasis mine)
For this group of people, the wording speaks of fools, those who despise wisdom. There’s reference to a perverseness, meaning a turning away and distorting of God’s ways. This results in being bowed down, a brow beating, a sense of self affliction. It came through their ritual dislike of eating which was leaving them stricken, defeated and ruined. Was this how they were trying to prove they were worthy to God?
I can relate to this group, not because of the eating – I like to eat way too much – but because of the foolish distortion of God’s ways. When I finally surrendered to God completely as I mentioned in the last section last week, I discovered I’d been following a lot of distorted, twisted doctrine that had caused me to stumble, trying to serve God incorrectly. I too was trying to earn my acceptance with God. I knew Jesus was my ticket to heaven, but I feared losing that ticket if I didn’t do as I was told. The result was my destruction, my self affliction, so contrary to the abundant lavish grace and tender love and good intentions God had for me.
I feel this speaks to those caught up in false doctrines and weighted by wrong perspective and emotional baggage because of how God responds:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” vs. 19-22 (emphasis mine)
God healed them. The wording speaks of mending. That meant there was brokenness. And He mended them through His Word. That means His truth. I know my way of thinking had to be healed. As I got to know the truth about God and His word showed me truthful doctrine, my wounds and broken places were healed and mended. I moved from discontented burdened places to a life overflowing with thankfulness and joy.
The last section starts in verse 23.
“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end.” Vs. 23-27 (emphasis mine)
These people simply conducted their daily occupation. The wording implies that in the midst of their daily life, they recognized the distinguishing actions and power of God. Their soul, the seat of their emotions, melted at the thought of facing this powerful God.
I can relate to fearing God. I’ve struggled so much, though less more recently, with trusting the goodness of God. How can I trust a God I can’t control?
The answer is found through God’s response:
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.” Vs. 28-32
When they turned to this powerful God, they found a good God. God wanted to use his power to comfort them, to help them navigate the chaotic waters of life. He brought peace and led them to their desired haven, their harbor.
We too can trust this good God. Even in this broken world, where God’s holiness demands justice and accountability, we can find refuge and rest within God’s power… the power that raised Jesus from the dead securing our grace through his substitutionary death. We can trust God to help us navigate through this life because of His steadfast love.
So who are the Redeemed?
Those who have accepted God's work through Jesus on their behalf.
And what are the Redeemed to proclaim?
In every one of these four situations we see the same verse:
"Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!"
God is our pursuer. He’s working on our behalf whether we are lost and unaware of Him, alienated from Him, incorrectly serving Him, or doubtful of Him. Through the work of Jesus, we have been redeemed! Jesus paid the price so that we can be restored to God. That redemption includes a dwelling and provision through Him, freedom in Him, truth and healing from Him, and peace and blessing because of Him.
Again, I hope you will pause to reflect over these sections. Where do they apply to your life?
Where might you have false doctrines or religious rituals that bring brokenness instead of spiritual health?
Where might you be struggling to trust the power and goodness of God as you daily navigate the seas of life?
And, as you work thought this, and move into the redeemed life through God’s steadfast love, may we join the people of the ages and stand and proclaim!
May we shout about God’s great work in our lives.
May we not be shamed by where we were, but let it be a platform to proclaim the immense power and tender, steadfast love of a God who meets us where we are but refuses to leave us there.
May we point the others that are lost, bound, wounded, and doubting to this powerful, tender, gracious God who longs to receive them as well!
May this be our mission this day!
Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so!