Saturday, June 28, 2008
Ephesians 1:4-6: Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.
Ephesians 1:11-12: It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.
Ephesians 1:17-19: But I do more than thank. I ask – ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him – endless energy, boundless strength!
Ephesians 1:1-6: It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
Ephesians 1:19-22; That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Long before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan for His children. It’s in Christ that we discover these plans. It’s in Him that we find out who we are and what we are living for. We have to be discerning and seek to know God so that we can see exactly what it is He is calling us to do. If we follow and trust Him, He gives us endless energy and boundless strength to do what He has purposed for us.
I let the world, “which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell [me] how to live. [I] filled my longs with polluted unbelief and then exhaled disobedience”. Any time I’ve chosen to sin, it’s because the way of the world seemed easier or more enticing than God’s way. But God, through Christ has mercy on me. I am no longer a stranger or an outsider, but I am at home in Christ. It is in Him that I find a place where I belong. I am being used as a brick in the building of His church that will stand forever, the place He calls home.
I need to know Christ in order to know God’s plan for me. I need to be seeking Him daily…continually. I am a child of God and I have been bought with a price. I ought to live like it. Once I have been given eyes to see His purpose for me, I must believe that He will carry me through it. I must lean on His grace to get me through. I need to remember that this world has nothing for me and nothing it can offer is worth putting distance between me and God.
Father, help me to be more like Jesus. Open my eyes to the purpose You have for my life and give me the strength and courage to fulfill that purpose. Thank You for being the place where I belong. Thank You that I did not have to earn my place in Your family and I don’t have to work for my salvation. Teach me to not take Your blessings for granted and give me the strength to continue running this race until I am truly at home with You.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Martyrs and Theives
By: Jennifer Knapp
There's a place in the darkness that I used to cling to
It presses harsh hope against time
In the absence of martyrs there's a presence of thieves
Who only want to rob you blind
They steal away any sense of peace
Though I'm a king I'm a king on my knees
And I know they are wrong when they say I am strong
As the darkness covers me
There are ghosts from my past who've owned more of my soul
Than I thought I had given away
They linger in closets and under my bed
And in pictures less proudly displayed
A great fool in my life I have been
Have squandered till pallid and thin
Hung my head in shame and refused to take blame
For the darkness I know I've let win
Can you hear me?
Well I've never been much for the baring of soul
In the presence of any man
I'd rather keep to myself all safe and secure
In the arms of a sinner I am
Could it be that my worth should depend
By the crimson stained grace on a hand
And like a lamp on a hill Lord I pray in Your will
To reveal all of You that I can
So turn on the light and reveal all the glory
I am not afraid
To bare all my weakness, knowing in meekness
I have a kingdom to gain
Where there is peace and love in the light, in the light
Oh I am not afraid
To let Your light shine bright in my life, in my life
Oh I am not afraid
There's a place in the darkness that I used to cling to
It presses harsh hope against time...
This has been much of my journey. I’m not ok with being a sinner. I don’t like to admit that I am. But, I AM a sinner…we all are. None of us is perfect. None of us deserves grace…no, not one. But, somehow, be it my personality, my conditioning, something I learned, whatever it is, I have believed that it wasn’t ok to be imperfect. So, I pretended I wasn’t. I would hide away my faults and failings and not speak of them as if they didn’t exist. In the third verse of this song Jennifer Knapp says, “Well, I’ve never been much for the baring of soul in the presence of any man. I’d rather keep to myself all safe and secure in the arms of a sinner I am”. I was that way, and I still act that way at times. I’d rather let someone’s impression of me as a “good girl” stand than bare my soul and truthfully say that I struggle, I fail, and I fall.
“In the absence of martyrs there’s a presence of thieves who only want to rob you blind. They steal away any sense of peace though I’m a king, I’m a king on my knees. And I know they are wrong when they say I am strong as the darkness covers me”.
I’ve allowed my arrogance and pride to steal time from me. I’ve allowed it to keep me from asking questions for fear that someone would think I didn’t have all the answers. “A great fool in my life I have been, have squandared ‘til palid and thin. Hung my head in shame and refused to take blame for the darkness I know I’ve let win”. I’ve wandered in the wilderness for years because I was unwilling to say, “Lord, I have sinned. I’ve been disobedient and I’ve wandered from Your path. Please, forgive me and draw me back into the plan You have for me”. I’ve foolishly let the world in and let it steal my innocence and my joy in the Lord. I still do that…we all do…we’re human, it’s what we do.
But, we can’t stay there. We can’t accept it as if it’s enough. We must let the light in to expose the darkness in our lives. We must continually pull the weeds of the world from the garden of our hearts. In the glaring light of scripture and God’s presence, darkness is revealed. It’s our job to allow that light to shine into the darkest corners of our hearts. It’s our job to bare our weakness before the Lord and those who would hold us accountable and work towards being a better reflection of Him.
“So turn on the light and reveal all the glory. I am not afraid to bare all my weakness, knowing in meeknessI have a kingdom to gain. Where there is peace and love in the light, in the light. Oh I am not afraid to let Your light shine bright in my life, in my life. Oh I am not afraid.”
Lord, let that be my prayer today. Let me not be afraid to let Your light into the darkest parts of me. May I not be afraid to face those weaknesses in my life and pull the sin out by its root. May I learn to be humble and unafraid to share my weaknesses and be held accountable by those who love me.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
“You were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth?” – Galatians 5:7
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.”- Galatians 5:9
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” – Galatians 5:16
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkennes, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:19 – 25
“Do not be deceieved, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” – Galatians 6:7-10
Christ set us free from the slavery of sin. Why is it that we continually pick our sins and our burdens back up and forsake the freedom we’ve been given? I know I’m guilty of it! I know that I fail to trust God to take care of things and I feel like I have to take care of them myself (as if I could!). In taking those things back upon myself or choosing not to walk in the Spirit, I hand over the freedom Christ has given me and put myself back in chains. It seems so crazy, yet I do it all the time!
“You were running so well…”. How many times have I suffered set backs in my walk because I got tired of being “good” and choosing what is right. How many times have I felt like God has let me down and that what I’m doing for Him isn’t paying off like I think it should? How many times have I let the words or teachings of other people distract me from what I know to be true. Too many. We are to hold fast and stand firm and not grow weary or lose heart in doing good. “In due time we will reap if we do not grow weary”. My timing is so often not the Lord’s, but His is always right. I’ve learned that lesson over and over again, but I still get tired sometimes. I think that’s our nature as humans, but I shouldn’t be living in my flesh but walking in the Spirit.
If I am walking in the Spirit, I “will not carry out the desire of the flesh”. It is by walking in the Spirit that I am able to subdue and control my sin nature. It is also by the Spirit that I am given the gifts of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. I like how Paul compares the things of wickedness to the fruit of the Spirit:
Deeds of the Flesh
- Outbursts of Anger
- (And things like these)
Fruit of the Spirit
Which list of words would you rather have describe you? I know that too often, the list on the left characterizes my actions more than the one on the right. “Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked; for watever a man sows, this he will also reap”. Am I sowing the fruits of the Spirit into my life? Am I daily meeting with the Lord and falling in love with Him? Am I pursuing holiness and the things of heaven or do I envy the things of this world? Am I choosing the desires of the flesh and wondering why I have outbursts of anger or fits of jealousy? I shouldn’t wonder. What a man reaps, that will he sow. What we put into our hearts and minds and allow into our lives WILL BEAR FRUIT! What seeds am I sowing? Am I taking time to pull the weeds out of the garden of my heart and make room for the fruit of the Spirit or am I letting them grow and strangle the things of the Lord?
I need to pay attention to what I am sowing in my life and into the lives of others. I need to pursue holiness and choose to surround myself with others who will sow good things into my life and keep me accountable for what I am choosing. I need to walk in the Spirit and spend more time in the Word and in prayer so that those seeds bear fruit in my life. I need to be a careful gardener in my heart. I need to plant only what is good and remove what is of the flesh before it has time to take root and bear fruit.
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough”. “You were running so well, who hindered you from obeying the truth”. I need to remember that my associations matter. It’s important to surround myself with people who love God and who are willing to call me out when I am being disobedient. It is also important to connect with those who do not believe, but I need to be careful in those associations to not let them pull me down. My close friends should be those who love God and are seeking holiness. I need to be around those who will sharpen me and allow me to sharpen them so that we may be better servants of our Lord.
Practice Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. Be aware of when these things are missing from my life and uproot the weed that is choking them out.
I pray that You will help me walk in the Spirit. I want to be more like You and have the fruit of the Spirit present in my life. Lord, help me not grow weary but to choose what is right. Give me eyes to see the things in my life that need to be uprooted and that are producing fruit of the flesh. Help me trust You and lean into You and live in the freedom You’ve given me in Christ.
(These chapters are also great to read in The Message Version: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%205-6;&version=65; )
Monday, June 16, 2008
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THIS?
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down
his life for his friend.
Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him. Peter said - "I will lay down my life for Thy sake" and he meant it; his sense of the heroic was magnificent. It would be a bad thing to be incapable of making such a declaration as Peter made; the sense of our duty is only realized by our sense of the heroic. Has the Lord ever asked you - "Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake?" It is far easier to die than to lay down the life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling. We are not made for brilliant moments, but we have to walk in the light of them in ordinary ways. There was only one brilliant moment in the life of Jesus, and that was on the Mount of Transfiguration; then He emptied Himself the second time of His glory, and came down into the demon-possessed valley. For thirty-three years Jesus laid out His life to do the will of His Father, and, John says, "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." It is contrary to human nature to do it.
If I am a friend of Jesus, I have deliberately and carefully to lay down my life for Him. It is difficult, and thank God it is difficult.
Salvation is easy because it cost God so much, but the manifestation of it in my life is difficult. God saves a man and endues him with
the Holy Spirit, and then says in effect - "Now work it out, be loyal to Me, whilst the nature of things round about you would make you disloyal." "I have called you friends." Stand loyal to your Friend, and remember that His honour is at stake in your bodily life.
"It is far easier to die tan to lay down the life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling". I struggle with laying down my life daily. I desperately want to be closer to my Lord and to be a reflection of Him. But, too many times, I let my own desires and goals get in the way. I let them block my ears and blind my eyes to the direction the Lord has for me. I am made for so much more than what I often choose to accept. I let my fears get in the way of chasing after the dreams God placed within me. The silly thing is, I KNOW that there is life beyond my comprehension if I lay down my own life for the one God has planned for me. My stubborn nature keeps me from experiencing life abundant because I keep choosing my own way and my own pleasures.
Dear Lord, I pray that You will continually remind me to lay down my life before You. I pray that You would make me more and more like You so that I can be a genuine representation of Your heart to those around me. Make me more like You and less like me.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
This morning started out with Ladies Bible Study at the church. Jen’s been doing a great job of getting us together each Saturday morning for a journey through Paul’s letters. Each week, we read 2 chapters and then use the acronymn S.O.A.P. to work our way through them. (Scripture – write down the scriptures that stand out to you; Observation – what do you observe about these verses; Application – how can you apply them to your life; Prayer – write a prayer to the Lord as you reflect on what you’ve learned).
I forget so often that I am a child of the King. I walk around as if this world is all there is and that there isn’t an inheritance waiting for me. Sometimes I get lost in the problems of today and of this world and forget that I am not at home here. I am a traveler in a strange land and one day I will enter the land of promise and enjoy unbroken communion with my Father, the King. This morning was a good reminder to walk in relationship with the Lord and remember that I am a daughter of the King. I pray that my life will begin to reflect those truths.
I arrived at Providence Canyon just before 3pm today. I packed up my camera and some water and headed to the trail that lead down to the canyon floor. There are 3 miles of trail that circle the canyons and allow access for exploring. I headed down the trail, by myself, into quiet and unexpected lessons.
I briefly checked the map and started towards the canyon floor. I was alone and there were few others on the trail so I was able to spend some quiet time among God’s creation as I enjoyed the shade of the trees and the time outside. I crossed a couple of creek beds and soon found myself at a public area at the end of the wooded trail. But, I had somehow missed the canyons! And, here was my first lesson…CAREFULLY check the map. I had been relying on trail markings and signs to point the way, but, those creek beds I carefully crossed were actually my entrance to the canyon floor! I had picked my way through the mud and over the trail I was supposed to be taking. If I had taken time to read the information on the map, I would have known to turn left once I hit the creek. So, I turned around and headed back the way I had come in order to explore the canyons a little farther.
During my walk back down to the canyon floor, the Lord spoke to my heart. My excursion today bore resemblance to many times in my walk with the Lord. There have been times when I’ve had a vague idea of where the Lord was telling me to go, or where the journey was supposed to lead, but I failed to really listen to the One who was leading me or to carefully study His Word (map). Many times I’ve gotten to what should have been my destination only to be disappointed at the result. When I saw the picnic area today, I was confused and sad that I hadn’t gotten a closer look at the canyons. Somehow, I had been so close, but I missed them all together. Just as I had to stop, read the map, and then back track at the cost of time and daylight, I have done the same in my walk with the Lord. I’ve gotten somewhere only to realize that the Lord had let me wander in my stubborness and was waiting for me to turn around and take the trail He designed for me. I pray that I will be more careful in my walk to have ears to hear and eyes to see the direction the Lord would have me go. I don’t want to waste the time He’s given me hear because I’m too stubborn and independent to listen and follow.
You may or may not know this, but I can be a very fearful person. I’ve, at times, been paralyzed by fear and overcome by panic. On more than one occasion, I’ve panicked in the middle of a trail. I don’t typically like to set off on a journey when I don’t know the terrain or what’s around the bend. For some reason, I didn’t take those known fears into account today as I started down the trail. Only a few minutes into the hike, the old fears started to raise their ugly heads and panic started to take over. But, I’m tired of being controlled by fear. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest thing for me to come out here by myself today, but it has been one of the best things I’ve done lately. I pressed through the fear. I kept walking. I kept breathing (even though I had to work hard to control the tightness and shallow breathing that comes with panic). And, I accomplished what I set out to do today. I wish I’d had more time, but the victory is enough. I’ll be back and I won’t be afraid next time. I’ll walk with confidence and explore the beauties of this place. I pray that this is only the beginning of me taking on my fears and facing them head on. I am a daughter of the King! I have no business being afraid and missing out on all He’s given me because I don’t know what’s up ahead or how I’ll handle it. I pray that the lesson of today will stick with me and prod me on towards bolder acts…things that matter for His kingdom. Today was just a little taste of what God can do when I rest in Him and press through the fear. When I woke up this morning, this is not what I had in mind. I’m glad that God’s the one directing my steps and that He’s shaping my heart so that I better reflect who He is.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Come to Jesus
Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head for Love is passin' by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live
Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precous blood has washed away the stain.
So sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live
Like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk, sometimes we fall
So fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain
The cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cru to Jesus and live
O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside
Then dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live
And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goobye
Then go in peace and laugh on Glory's side
And fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live
No matter my circumstance. No matter the emotion. No matter the burden. No matter who does or does not walk with me. I can ALWAYS come to Jesus. I can always fall in His arms and rest in His grace. What a wonderful and amazing God! He is beyond my comprehension and I become more and more thankful for His provision, but more so His presence, with every passing day.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
If I could speak to my generation and the ones that follow, this is what I would say:
God is doing something new. He is raising up among you leaders to take His name to the nations and to those around you. There is revival ahead if we choose Him. It’s not always the easy choice, but it is always the best and right choice. In choosing Christ, at times you will also be choosing loneliness or pain. That’s ok. We are here but for a moment. The things of this world are passing like the blade of grass that is here today and gone tomorrow. What’s important…what lasts forever…is what we do for the Kingdom of God.
If I could teach a loved one anything, it would be that there is nothing, nothing at all, that is worth putting distance between them and the Lord. The pleasures of this world are only temporary and usually are sweet in the mouth and bitter in the stomach. So many things we choose because of their worldly value only leave us in greater pain and disappointment. They never fulfill us as we believe they will. It is always better to choose obedience to Christ than to choose anything else. This world has nothing for us. Obedience to Christ is everything and in the end is all that matters.
There is another portion of that song that makes my heart race in agreement. I pray that these words become the heartbeat of my generation and the next:
“Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like You have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause as I walk from earth into eternity”.
Break our hearts, Lord, for what is breaking Yours. Let us step outside of ourselves and our selfish ambition and be part of what You are stirring up around the world. Raise up within this generation leaders who will choose to chase after You with selfless faith. I pray that I would choose to give all I have and all I am for Your kingdom’s cause. Nothing else matters. No earthly pleasure is worth choosing over the things of the Lord.
I pray for those of you who are chasing after the things of the Lord that you would not grow weary in the race. Sometimes it seems as though that living for the Lord is bringing only pain. To you I would say, keep running. “There’s a light that is coming for the heart that holds on”. I know it’s hard to keep choosing Christ when it seems to bring only loneliness and pain. But, we are only here for a moment. This life is but a blink of the eye in comparison to eternity. Keep running the race that was set before you. The lives of those around you, our nation, and the world will be different because you’ve chosen to live by faith and reflect the love of Jesus. I can’t wait to see what God does with those of us who are surrendered to His call and willing to carry His name to those who do not know Him.
Friday, June 06, 2008
I am a passionate person. When I get excited about something or someone, everyone around me knows it. I wear my heart on my sleeve and my face is pretty much a billboard constantly advertising each passing emotion and thought. When something is on my heart, it's usually all I can do to keep from bursting. I love deeply and I feel things intensely. I often get emotionally involved in things that I shouldn't and carry the weight of other people's problems. I would do anything for a loved one and have often done so even when it costs me more than they know. This part of me has gotten me in trouble more than once, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
A couple of years ago, I read the book "Captivating" by Stasi Eldredge. This idea of being "too much" and "not enough" at the same time was raised. Women are often afraid that they are not enough for the people in their life, or that they are too much in their true form. I must admit, I struggle with both ideas. They seem conflicting, but I'm not sure that's true. Maybe we feel like we're not enough because we're not being all we are for fear of being too much, thereby perpetuating a cycle that keeps us insecure and unsure of ourselves.
It's taken me a long time to be ok that there's "no half-Solly". I am much less of a people pleaser than I have been in years past. I still struggle with it. I still bite my tongue when I want to speak or water myself down when I don't think someone will be able to handle all that I am. But, I'm learning to rest comfortably in my wholeness. I'm learning to be ok in the moments where I must hold my tongue in order to keep the peace, but I'm also learning to speak when it's truly important. I'm learning to be more patient and less impetuous. It's been a long journey, but I'm happy in the walking of it. Maybe one day I'll find some middle ground, but I'm beginning to think that's just not how God made me. And, that's ok. I just have to choose carefully who gets all of me and trust that they will love me for who I am.