Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Still "Merry Christmas!"

It's still, "Merry Christmas," even though not everything in  my life is "merry."  So, how can it still be "merry?"  It can still be "merry" because of Christ.  Period.  As John Piper says so well, Jesus came to not so much bring me bread, but as to BE BREAD!  A line from a familiar Christmas Carol comes to mind..."...the hopes and fears of all the years, are  met in Thee, tonight."  Yes, all of my hopes can be met and fulfilled, ultimately in Christ.  So, even though my brother Michael is fighting cancer something fierce, Christmas is still "merry."  
Jesus came to bring us life!  Not a better life on this earth, but eternal life which begins in our hearts here.  Throw out all the "health and wealth" gospel bringers, they can't offer me any scripture which can support that.  Jesus came to bring the real, abiding life which springs hope eternal, even in the midst of great suffering!  The promise of sins forgiven, and Christ alive within.   Christ came to give so much more than a present under the tree, He came to take care of my GREATEST need, the need for salvation and forgiveness.  So, yes, Christmas is still "merry," no matter what!

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope..."(I Pet. 1:3, NIV)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

This Is Just What Heaven Means to Me [Live]

I don't have any great words of wisdom today.  As I write, my dear brother, Michael Wright, is facing the final leg of his journey through this world, barring a miracle from God.  I remember nearly four years ago, the day this all began, where I was, and the sweater I was wearing.  Little did I really know all the twists and turns this journey would take him and his family on.  It has truly been a roller coaster ride.  I'm so thankful he has the sure hope of a home in heaven with Jesus!  He has lived a life of great testimony for sure, and so many have been blessed by his life.  Sunday evening, and into Monday, I would break into tears at various times, as it really hit me where we might be in this journey.  Michael was born only one year and eleven days after me, so we grew up together, literally.  My mother said that when Michael was learning to walk, and would fall, I would fall down, too, just to get attention!  (LOL)  He has been a great brother, so kind, cheerful and giving.  I have been so blessed to have him as my brother.  Yesterday, I thought about this song, and I love the way Vestal Goodman sings it!  What a hope! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Kind of Life do I expect?

Jesus said in John 16:33, "In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I've conquered the world!" (The Message).

What Kind of Life do I expect?  Well, I'll tell you what I expected in the past, anyway.  I expected to have all of my dreams fulfilled...great marriage, nice home, wonderful children, enough money to pay my bills, etc.  But, what did I get?  A life of singleness, living in rental properties, no children and presently struggle to pay my bills.  What else did I get?  A brother fighting with all his might to beat cancer for a little while longer.  I have struggled with not getting what I expected.  Did I do something wrong?  Was I unattractive?  Was I too this, that, or the other?  

I believe the real answer lies in Jesus' words...we WILL have difficulties.  It's not whether we will or won't have them, but just a matter of when.  I should EXPECT difficulties.  The fiery trials should not surprise me at all.  I should not be surprised that all my dreams did not come true.  I should not be surprised that my brother has cancer.  I should not be surprised that suffering abounds in many places. 

 We live in a sin cursed world which waits for its' deliverance.  We were not made for a sinful, messed up world.  We groan for the perfection for which we were created.  I should expect troubles.  I should also remember that Jesus has already conquered them all on the cross!   In all of these things, Jesus has promised to be with the one who has trusted in Him.  I should take heart! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When the Lord rejoices over us...

In Zephaniah 3:17, we read,  

     " The Lord your God in your midst,
      The Mighty One, will save;
      He will rejoice over you with gladness,
      He will quiet you with His love,
      He will rejoice over you with singing."

We have all experienced times in our lives when our hearts are broken, hurting, fearful or lonely.  It seems that all have forsaken us and there is no hope for tomorrow.  It seems that everyone is arrayed against us, and life is not worth living.  It is in that moment when we MUST run to our Father in heaven, Jesus Christ.  For these difficult times, He shed His precious blood on Calvary.  In Isaiah we read, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."   
If we come to Him, we can leave all of our sorrows, burdens, cares and sins at the foot of the cross.  There, Christ bore all of this for us.  We can be assured that as we empty ourselves, His love, His joy and peace will flow over and through us.  His presence will quiet us with His love, and He will rejoice over another human being who brings everything to Him!  How foolish we are when we try and bear all of our burdens ourselves!  We were never meant to bear them; we physically cannot.  HE, alone, can bear our trials and tribulations.  Then, and only then, can we experience His loving presence which results in security, stability and sanity.  
Rest in Him!  Enjoy His rejoicing, His love and His singing...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Where Am I drinking from?

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Jehovah, even Jehovah, is my strength and song; and he is become my salvation. 3Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.   Isaiah 12:2-3

We are ALL drinking from something...what am I drinking from?  Am I drinking from the well of salvation?  The clean and pure water that Jesus spoke of in John 4:14 "...but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life."  Am I drinking from His Word, of the promises and truth that are all throughout, finding strength for each day and hope for tomorrow?  Am I reading and finding the knowledge of how He wants me to live?  

Or, am I drinking from the shallow wells of this world, the wells of worldly entertainment?  The Hollywood ideas of love and fulfillment?  Am I drinking of the wells of this world's empty pleasure?  Is the emptiness inside drawing me to seek temporal, earthly thrills?  And, when I have drank from those shallow, empty wells, do I go back for more?  Or, do I run back to Jesus where the life giving water flows, freely, to satisfy my every longing, no matter how deep?  Do I come back with brokenness and repentance?  I was not made for the shallow, temporal wells of this world.  I was made to draw deeply from the wells of salvation.

Lord Jesus, give me a thirst and a longing for You that will drive me onward to You each and every day!

But You Would Not...

For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel:
      “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
      In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
           But you would not.... (Isaiah 30:15)

How often this is true of me...faced with difficulties, discouraging things, and disappointments, I, too often, turn to the temporal, shallow and vain things of this world to try and find some peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  Then, I find myself sad, and lonely.  I like to bury myself in books, movies, etc.  I don't want to "think" about the things of the day that are worrisome or sad.  Am I alone?  
Jesus offers me rest, a quiet spirit, peace, confidence and strength.  But, too often, I find myself in the last portion of this verse..."But you would not."

What does one do when their life is a disappointment, sad and lonely?  Where do you turn?  I KNOW where to's all in Christ...He has promised to take me safely through this world and into perfect rest in the next.  So, why is He the last resort?  
I think it's because He, Jesus, is not the easy path...His path to peace requires me to lay down sad, sorry excuse for a self.  The self that wants glory NOW!  The self that wants fulfillment NOW!  The self that screams out for its way NOW!  Anyone relate?  Following Jesus means the ultimate delayed gratification...all through this life we must constantly choose...there is a constant "y" in the road.  We choose self and temporal things which are passing away, but which provide momentary pleasure, OR, we deny ourselves and choose eternal treasures for LATER which will never pass away...each day, the choice is basically the same...just different details...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

To Know the Love of Christ

Ephesians 3:16-19 says "I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."  

Everyone is looking for love...we all, naturally, want to be loved!  It is a God given desire that each of us have.   Sadly, we generally look in the wrong places to find that love.  Born with a sinful nature, it is only natural for humans to look everywhere but in Christ for love.  Some examples of that search include, seeking after money, sexual sin, controlling ones spouse in order to find satisfaction, insisting that children "fulfill" them, being a workaholic, and many other vices.  

For myself, I, too, have looked in the wrong place many times for love.  To be honest, I thought I HAD to have a husband to be happy.  I thought a job that paid better would make me happy, etc.  I'm grateful that while I would still like to have a husband, it is no longer the MUST item it once was.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach in a Christian school and be a part of God's work even though the pay is small.  God supplies all of my needs!  

It is a blessed day when an individual comes to the realization that there is NO HUMAN alive who can give them the unconditional love that fulfills and satisfies!  What a blessed day when Christ is all and in all!

"Jesus, from your amazing resources, empower me with inner strength through your Holy Spirit.  As You make Yourself more and more at home in my heart, teach me to trust You alone for love.  May my roots go down deep into Your love and keep me strong.  Give me power to understand how wide, how long, and how high and how deep Your love is!  Even though I can't understand it fully in this life, make me complete with Your life and power!!!"

Saturday, February 23, 2013

High Places...

In Habakkak 3:17-19 we read these words...."Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: 18Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments."  
I think of my dear brother, Michael, who for nearly three years has "labored" in the lonely place of cancer.  I truly cannot imagine all that he goes through as he continues to receive chemo treatments, etc.  Sometimes, he is so discouraged, and probably wonders if there is a reason to press on.  I believe there are several reasons to press on...
All through history, ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, people have walked in darkness.  They have started life's journey with many expectations, hopes, and dreams.  But, all, will eventually find those dreams dashed in big and small ways.  No different for Michael.  It seems that the fig trees refuse to bear fruit, the olive trees have no crop, there is nothing to eat.  It seems that life is useless, difficult and sad.  But, the writer of this scripture had the right idea which I need to remember.  Even though, life is not going according to my plan, I can still CHOOSE to rejoice in God.  I will not feel like it much of the time, but it's a choice that I must make.  
I can remember that God has not placed me here so I can be "happy."  My happiness is not dependent on the hand life deals me.  My "happiness" can come ONLY from a relationship with God.  When that relationship is right, I will have strength to press on and rejoice in Him.  
I believe that Michael has chosen, time after time, to rejoice in God and continue to press on, even in great difficulty.  He has wanted so much that God would be glorified in His life whether by living or dying.  When he does this, God helps him to walk upon the high places of God.  I believe that God has a special plan for Michael and for those of His own who suffer.  In the suffering, God can truly be glorified.  It's easy to praise God when there is no pain, but much more difficult when things are not going well.  
Oh, to have a faith in Christ so strong, that even in the darkest of times, I can praise Him!  My brother is a great example...God bless him and give him strength!  God give me a faith in YOU, so encompassing, that even in darkness there will be praise.  Oh, to walk on the high places with You, above the world and the strife in it...resting safely in You! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing...

Happy New Year!  It is another year, a mostly clean slate, and a chance to start over...Pastor John Piper recently preached a powerful sermon with the thought of "Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing."  What does this mean?  From 2 Corinthians 5 we have these words...
"We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything."

What does this mean?  To me, it means that life can be awful, everything going south, and yet, within the soul abiding in Christ, there is peace, and yes, even joy.  Not a joy brought about by ideal circumstances, but the joy of sins forgiven, the joy of eternity with Christ...the joy of knowing that HE is in control, and someday it will all make perfect sense!

How do we find that joy?  By abiding in Christ, by spending time with Him, in His Word, meditating on the scripture, singing hymns, trusting Him.  So easy to say and yet so hard to do.

Pastor Piper also says that this joy is what the church needs to do for the world most of all.  If they see a Christian, in the midst of his tears and trials, sorrowing, YET rejoicing in God, they will see and glorify our Father which is in heaven!

Lord, give me that joy!