Plot Twists, Dashed Dreams, and Peace

Our lives have had more plot twists lately than would seem possible. But after all, don’t they say that “Truth is stranger than fiction”? Sigh. So it seems.

Some of the lyrics in the song When Will I Be Loved, written by Phil Everly, and sung by Linda Ronstadt, ring oh-so-familiar right now:

I’ve been cheated, been mistreated…I’ve been put down, I’ve been pushed ’round…I’ve been made blue, I’ve been lied to, when will I be loved… 

Can’t we all identify in some way to those sentiments at times? People hurt us, family and friends fail us, life can just be so very blecky. When will I be truly loved?

No matter what nastiness or hurt you may be experiencing right now, there is good news: you are loved, perfectly and completely, right this very minute. 

It’s true. God loves you, perfectly and completely, right now, as you are. Don’t take my word for it. Take His.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:6-8

” ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.’ ” ~ John 3:16-17

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 3:23; 6:23

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~ 1 John 1:9

That’s the truth, straight from the mouth of God. He loves you so very much that His Son died a nasty death (but didn’t stay dead, hallelujah!) to pay the price for your sin–and for mine. And because the price has been paid for us, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9

Jesus promises us abundant life (John 10:10), eternal life and eternal safety in His hand (John 10:28-29), His peace (John 14:27), fullness of joy (John 15:11; 16:24; 1 John 1:4), and a home with Him forever (John 14:1-4). 

He also warns us of troubles but reassures us that He has overcome the world (John 16:33). God doesn’t take us OUT of the storms. He instead rides the waves with us

“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ ” ~ Hebrews 13:5b-6

And so, as I type these words, I remind myself of these truths yet again. And I’ll take the advice of John Piper:

Friend, we can embrace the life we have IN CHRIST, no matter what unexpected plot twist comes our way today.

 Have you confessed with your mouth and believed in your heart that Jesus Christ is your risen Lord and Saviour? Accept His freely offered grace: unearned, undeserved mercy and love and kindness and forgiveness.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7


Posted in 1 John, April 2017, Faith, Faithfulness, Family, Fear, Forgiveness, Friends, God, Grace, Heart, Hebrews, Hope, Jesus, John, Joy, Lies, Life, Love, Lovingkindness, Men, Mercy, Mind, Others, Peace, Persecution, Philippians, Praises, Prayer, Sacrifice, Salvation, Thanksgiving, The Father, The Gospel, The Son, The Truth, Worry | 2 Comments

Oh, the Depth of the Riches of God’s Word!

I have always been a quantity over quality kind of person when it came to studying the Bible. I didn’t realize this until I hit emotional rock bottom back in December. In my anguish, I began really poring over passages of Scripture, delving deeper into the meaning of words in their original language, and writing them out to apply as balm to my shattered soul. But God, in His infinite grace and providence, didn’t leave me on my own. He rocked my OCD world using two perfectly timed incidents: my dear friend gave me a Beautiful Word Bible for a belated Christmas gift, and I stumbled across an in-depth Bible study focused on the last chapters in the book of John–which is precisely where I was in my efficient, read-the-Bible-from-cover-to-cover-and-begin-again, daily study. 

And so, in the middle of January, I began a new and strange-to-me way of spending time in God’s Word each morning. This new Bible is filled not only with artsy passages of key Scriptures in the margins, but also with room to write in the margins–huge, LINED (this is very important for my OCDedness) space to fill with thoughts and truths and treasures from the verses I’ve read and studied. The new Bible study was a workbook of sorts, guiding me to a deeper understanding of Who Jesus Is and what He taught in His last hours, and days, on earth. I’m now happily (slowly) working through the book of Acts, using a fabulous book from Warren Wiersbe, as well as another workbook study I found, and learning so much about the Holy Spirit, prayer, and what unity in the early church looked like!

In addition to the new-to-me, in depth studying, I’ve become one of those people. You know, the ones who have rainbow-colored markings throughout their Bible? The friend who blessed me with this Bible has been doing this for years, but I wasn’t really interested. Oh, I have always marked in my Bible–with neat, orderly black ink. I’ve made notes in the margins, underlined and starred key verses, and paid special attention to the names of God. But this is a whole new, colorful world! 

Note to all my fellow OCDers out there: I underline with the appropriate colored pens and color in the verses with erasable (hooray!) colored pencils. Oh happiness!

Below is a rough key for the colors I use. I based it loosely on a chart I found on the internet and changed it up to match a bit more of what my friend does. I am adapting and learning–and thankful for erasable colored pencils!

There is no “wrong” way to study the Bible. Any time spent in God’s Word is an excellent investment.

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” ~ Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)

God spoke to me clearly and beautifully in my quantity-over-quality years. And who knows, I may go back to my old study habits. 

But in this current season of my life, God is speaking volumes to my heart in new and colorful ways. And I am SO grateful. 

Bonus: my artistic and creative self is being refreshed and encouraged, also! 🙂

Here are the studies I talked about. The first two are available from Moody Publishers. We have been collecting Warren Wiersbe studies over the years from Paperback Swap. I can’t say enough great things about Wiersbe AND Paperback Swap! 

This is a link to the Bible I have. There are many variations, and my friend insists she found it on clearance…so keep your eyes open if you’re interested. 🙂

Whatever Bible you have, READ IT!

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word…
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes…
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” ~ Psalm 119:9, 11-12, 14-16

Posted in Acts, Apostles, Blessings, Church, Friends, Grace, Healing, Holy Spirit, Isaiah, Jesus, John, Life, March 2017, Mercy, Psalms, The Father, The Son, The Spirit, Wisdom | 1 Comment

Abounding in JOY!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are you spiritually exhausted, worn, and weary like I am? Guess what, the enemy is laughing at us…

“The devil is at church as often as you are. And he stands outside your closet door and listens to what you say to God in secret, all the while studying how he may accuse you…
“When you have done your best, then this persuasive critic goes to work, ‘There,’ he will say, ‘you played the hypocrite–appearing noble, but really serving self. Here you wandered; there, you were lazy; farther along, puffed up with pride. What reward can you hope for at God’s hands, now that you have spoiled His work?’ Such constant nitpicking makes many poor souls lead a weary life. Are you one of these–spiritually exhausted? Does he snipe at everything you do until you know not whether to pray or not, to listen or not?…Thus your soul hangs in doubt, and your days pass in sorrow, while your enemy stands in a corner and laughs at the trick he has played upon you. It is his master plan that if he cannot rob you of your righteousness, he will deprive you of your joy.
“He comes to fetch you away from the green pastures of covenant comfort and drag you into the depths of despair…” – William Gurnall

If he cannot rob you of your righteousness, he will deprive you of your joy.

He comes to fetch you away from the green pastures of covenant comfort and drag you into the depths of despair. (This reminds me of the “Pit of Despair” in the movie The Princess Bride, yikes!)

It looks like it’s time for me to go back to the bedrock truths of God’s Word and rest in His promises!

JOY! Jesus promised us His joy. So why allow Satan to rob us of it?

” ‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’ “~ John 15:11

” ‘Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.’ ” ~ John 16:22-24

” ‘But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.’ ” ~ John 17:13 (Jesus even prayed to God the Father on our behalf, that we might have His joy fulfilled in us! The Greek word used here for “fulfilled” is plēroo, meaning “make complete, fill to the top, abound”. We should be abounding with Jesus’ JOY!)

“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” ~ Acts 13:52

Hmmm, filled with joy AND the Holy Spirit, a package deal–which brings us the fruit of the Spirit!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23

PEACE! What is more peaceful than the green pastures of covenant comfort?

“A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” ~ Psalm 23 (Oh, how I need to remember to rest with God like this! What a gift!)

Jesus promised us His peace.

” ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ ” ~ John 14:27

” ‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ ” ~ John 16:33

Jesus has overcome the world! AND the ruler of this world, Satan. We have no reason to fear, or doubt, or be weary and sorrowful.

Take heart, brothers and sisters: we have joy, peace, and the power of the Holy Spirit! Let’s replace the lies of Satan in our world with the TRUTH of Jesus and God’s Word.

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” ~ John 14:6

May we rest in Your promises today, Lord God. Refresh our spirits with your JOY and PEACE!  🙂

Posted in Acts, Apostles, David, Disciples, Fear, February 2017, Fruit, Galatians, God, Heart, Holy Spirit, Hope, Jesus, John, Joy, Lies, Life, Love, Peace, Psalms, Refreshment, Rest, Satan, Shepherd, The Father, The Son, The Spirit, The Truth, The Way, William Gurnall, Worry | 1 Comment

Time With Jesus

This morning I am relishing the thought of spending this entire day AT HOME. Not since Thanksgiving have I spent a whole day in the comfort and safety of home. I’ve been anticipating this day with great joy, and I may or may not get out of my jammies. I even added “veg in purple chair” and “write!” to my Any.do app for today… I do believe life has been a bit out-of-control-ridiculously-overscheduled lately.

But you see, my husband and I both serve in ministry. Two different ministries. And we contribute our time, talent, and treasure substantially to them both. Which is wonderful, but extremely taxing. And so when days like this come along, they are meant to be savored and treasured and celebrated! (Donuts anyone?)

Currently I’m studying through the book of Luke. Ironically, I read chapter 10 today…the story of Martha and Mary. Hmmm.

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’ ” ~ Luke 10:38-42

Now as a doer, and a busy servant, I think Martha gets a bad rap oftentimes. Her role is vital. After all, if Martha isn’t fixing dinner and getting things ready for the Master, no one is going to eat! (And we all need to eat.) I suspect her love language was “acts of service”.  😉 I can so relate!

And then you have Mary, simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and soaking in every word. I suspect her love language may have been “quality time”.

But there were things needing to be done! Oh my goodness, as Christians we must be careful not to compare or critique one another’s spiritual gifts and “membership” in the body of Christ.

I did a bit of digging for the meanings of some of the Greek words in this passage. “Martha was distracted”…perispao–over-occupied, too busy (oh, how that often describes me)…”with much serving”…diakonia–service, ministering, preparing food (all good, important, and necessary).

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things”…merimnao–caring for, anxious, providing–thorybazo–troubled, disquieted–polys–many, much, large things. Again, nothing wrong with that…however…

“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part”…chreia–necessity, need, duty, business–agathos–good, excellent, honorouble, joyful–meris–assigned part, portion, share…

When I get so wrapped up in serving–over-occupied and too busy–I miss out on my portion of that good and joyful necessity: to sit at Jesus’ feet and soak in every word. Oh, I still pray and read the Bible, but there is just something about taking time to be still and let Jesus soak in and restore your soul.

So today (okay, this morning…because this Martha has so many Christmasy things to do later!), I am choosing to be a Mary. And as this year draws to a close, and a fresh new year looms, I’m hoping to be more intentional with my schedule and choose to spend time at Jesus’ feet regularly. I long for His words to permeate my soul. How about you?

May you have a blessed, joyous, and Christ-filled holiday season. I think I’m going to rest here a bit longer…

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Posted in Blessings, Christmas, December 2016, Healing, Jesus, Life, Luke, Martha, Mary, Rest, Self, Waiting on the Lord, Worry | 2 Comments

Sweetly Broken

Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. 

Have you ever prayed that prayer? If you dare, God will open your eyes and change your perspective. But be prepared for your world to be rocked. He will reveal calluses on your heart you weren’t even aware existed, pockets of prejudice in the recesses of your mind that you had never before noticed, and a log in your eye that blinds you to the truth. The truth that you are desperately in need of a Saviour. The truth that there is none righteous, no, not one. The truth that you are no better than anyone else. The truth that this life is not about you, it’s about God. About who He is, what He’s done, how He loves, and why you need Him. It’s about forgiveness found only by grace through faith in Christ, the hope He gives, and the freedom found only in Him. It’s about laying aside your own life, taking up your cross, and following hard after Jesus. It’s about loving God and loving your enemies. It’s about going and telling the world the good news that you’ve experienced: the forgiveness and freedom and goodness and grace and love. It’s about weeping and praying and sacrificially giving. It’s about so much more than your own self. It’s about having a heart that breaks over the things that really matter: lost souls and wounded spirits, abused bodies and abandoned families. 

Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. 

 

Posted in Enemies, Faith, Family, Fear, Forgiveness, Freedom, Friends, Giving, God, Grace, Hatred, Healing, Heart, Hope, Jesus, Life, Love, Love one another, Men, Mercy, Mind, Mourning, Nature, Obedience, October 2016, Others, Prayer, Repentance, Sacrifice, Salvation, Self, Submission, The Gospel, The Nature of God, The Truth | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Kings

Two kings. One was a conqueror and mighty man. The other his grandson. Both ruled the most powerful nation on earth at the time.

Two chapters in the book of Daniel. One filled with the personal testimony of the first king and how God had caused him to become a madman–a beast in the field–until he recognized Him as the one true God. The second details an evening of debauchery and idolatry–with no thought of God–until terror struck and suddenly God was very real and powerful.

Every  single time I read through Daniel, I am amazed by the contrast between King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar.

” ‘Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.
I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation…

“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.’ ” ~ Daniel 4:1-3, 34-36

This prideful king had the power to execute anyone who did not worship him, who did not strike his fancy, or who was just plain annoying. He was the Alexander the Great of his time. As he recounted his testimony, he admittedly declared, in Daniel 4:30, ” ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ ” And then he shared, in between the “bookends” of praise (above) how God immediately struck him mad, and he lived as an animal for seven years! This powerful and honored king did not have to tell us of his humiliation. Why did he do it? So that we would know that he had been wrong, that he was lost but now was found. He had been blind but now could see that the Most High God was “the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice”.

Turn the page to chapter 5, and you find a very different ruler, Belshazzar. Scholars believe he actually ruled as vice-regent in his father Nabonidus’ absence, and he likely was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.

“Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand…
Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.” ~ Daniel 5:1, 3-4

Quite suddenly, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote a very disturbing message on the wall, ruining the festive party mood and causing Belshazzar to be absolutely terrified. His mother calmed him and reminded him of Daniel, ” ‘a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God.’ ” ~ Daniel 5:11a

Daniel obediently appeared before the king, and, with God’s wisdom, he told him what the writing on the wall meant. But first, he gave him a history lesson, recounting the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar from chapter 4.

“…’Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven…and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified…
This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.’…
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.” ~ Daniel 5:21-23a, 23c, 26-28, 30

Two kings. One proud man, brought low until “he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men”, and then restored to glorify, praise, and testify of the King of heaven. Another proud man, who knew the truth that his grandfather had learned and passed on to him, yet willingly chose to reject that truth and the Most High God, and instead worshipped false gods, and who was found wanting and lost his kingdom and his life.

Two choices. Recognize and believe in the Most High God and His Son Jesus, who came to die for our sins so we are redeemed, and who also conquered death and rose again so we have life eternally and abundantly. Or reject the truth and the Most High God, be weighed in the balances on your own merit alone and found wanting, and lose your life eternally. 

What will you choose?

Posted in August 2016, Babylon, Blessings, Consequences, Daniel, Faith, Family, Fear, Heaven, History, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Knowledge, Life, Men, Mind, Nebuchadnezzar, Obedience, Praises, Pride, Repentance, Salvation, The Father, The Son, The Spirit, The Truth, Wisdom | Leave a comment

Storm Debris and Fresh Beginnings

A terrible storm raged through our area yesterday, bringing with it damaging wind and hail, torrential rain, and even a couple of tornadoes. The accumulation of hail was so great that it looked as though it had snowed in July. A neighbor even shoveled some of it, and sixteen hours later, there are still traces of the icy pellets in a flowerpot.

The storm may be over, but the effects of it linger. Area crops were damaged. Branches and leaves are scattered throughout streets. Muck and grit came down off of our roof, and there are no more petals on my roses. 

As I spent the morning in the yard, and raised our flag from the half staff position once again, I was struck by the thought that the aftermath of storms in our lives lingers, also. We may safely weather the storm, but often we are never the same. Wounds heal eventually, but scars remain. We will bloom again, but that piece of our heart is forever missing, like a branch torn from a tree. The trauma becomes a part of our souls, and we have to learn a new way to grow, to be.

In the tumult of this life, my soul yearns for rest. For the peace that passes all understanding. For calm amid the chaotic new norm of this warped and ruined world. My soul longs for Jesus.

Do you feel that way? It is too easy to become weary, even in doing good, when the storm rages, the hate is palpable, and the darkness is overwhelming.

Dear God, the storms have been dreadful. We are a lost people in desperate need of a Savior.

What is that? You, the great I AM, have called me to reach these lost people? But what good am I, when my own life is filled with flaws and failures, wounds and scars? If You look closely (oh, please don’t!), You will find little flecks of hate, prejudice, self-loathing, doubt, worry, fear, despair, selfishness, pride, envy, strife, and other muck and debris in my heart. I’m fighting the urge to curl up in the corner and hide from Your presence, dearest LORD.

Come to the Fountain of Life, and begin again, You say? Oh, sweet Jesus, thank You for extending yet another chance to start afresh. Thank You for taking my shame, my guilt, my stain, upon Your righteous and holy and perfect Self. Thank You for paying it all on the cross. Thank You for forgiving it all, by Your grace, through my faith in You. And thank You for bending down to lovingly wash my feet, tenderly wiping those flecks of filth off my heart once again.

And so, with You, my Lord and Savior, walking with me, leading me beside still waters and restoring my soul (Psalm 23), I will begin again. I will eagerly partake of Your mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), Your grace that is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), and Your love that never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).

I will shine this little light of mine (Matthew 5:16), and shake my salt (Matthew 5:13), until the whole world has seen and tasted of the goodness and glory of Jesus, Who loves them all so very, very much… and Who is in control of every storm.

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” – Psalm 107:23-31

Posted in Faith, Faithfulness, Fear, Forgiveness, God, Grace, Hatred, Healing, Heart, Hope, Jesus, July 2016, Lamentations, Life, Light, Living Water, Love, Matthew, Men, Mercy, Mind, Mourning, Obedience, Others, Peace, Prayer, Pride, Psalms, Redeemer, Repentance, Rest, Salt, Salvation, Self, Submission, Thanksgiving, The Gospel, The Past | 4 Comments