Friday, May 4, 2018 1:16:09 PM
IF THE LORD WILL
Life has a reputation for being unpredictable. And I, for one, crave predictability. I just forget, almost every second, that God is the One Who is in charge of this journey called life, and He is very predictable. In fact, He NEVER changes.
But I do. And my changes are unpredictable to a point, yet very predictable in the sense that I have strong overriding tendencies to do the same wrong thing over and over and over again.
I do not suffer that problem with the matter of doing the right things. I usually have to keep starting over – like I have no ‘muscle memory’ for doing right. And this unpredictability very predictably throws me into a tailspin on every front – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The Lord woke me up yesterday with this verse from James, chapter 4: For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. Earlier in my life I had determined to refrain from making plans without acknowledging that the Lord had veto power, so, I purposed to follow up any statements of intent with “Lord willing.” And it has become a part of my vocabulary. Yet it has ceased to transform my life and my thinking.
And when the Lord causes me to revisit this truth, it comes after dealing with over two years of a forced change in my life. I say ‘forced’ because my travail with Guillain-Barre was not on my bucket list of ‘most desired dreams’ that I have been keeping in my journal. In fact, I had never even heard of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) before October 4, 2015. GBS has become a very effective tool the Lord uses in my life. It has upended my lack of awareness concerning my dependencies on predictability and control, and, in turn, has altered basically every thinking process I have.
So, James 4:15 really factors in greatly regarding this place I find myself. I must let go of my expectations and habits and tendencies and accept that my DAY, not just my life in general, but my 24-hour day falls under the Lord’s domain. Forget what I used to be capable of accomplishing or doing. Forget my viewpoint of priorities. The real ‘first thought’ of my day must be: Lord, I acknowledge my day, however long or short, is Yours. And then I let go.
Sounds very simple.
I usually wake up now thinking today is the day that GBS is done. I won’t be fatigued making breakfast or switching out the laundry or unloading the dishwasher or preparing for Sunday or watching my grandbabies or playing a game or working on the computer or, and the list goes on. Before GBS, I only really got tired AFTER I put in a full day of activity, or if I had to labor long on a single project. That was an earned ‘tiredness’.
GBS doesn’t discriminate – EVERYTHING fatigues me, even doing nothing. Then my mind starts spiraling down into this morass of defeat and discouragement and, soon, I am grey and negative and sad and, sometimes, even sour. My mind matches up with my physical sense of fatigue.
God doesn’t want me there, EVER. I know He knows that I will be there. But He does not make provision for me to stay there, because He has provided victory. This ‘thorn’ of weakness is to serve as a reminder of His strength and power and promise and provision and joy and peace and all the other unimaginable glories the Lord has set in store for me.
As I communed with Him this morning, He gave me this thought, a well-known thought dressed in a new and fresh light: God does not grow weary of me with my continual shortcomings, because then that would imply that He doesn’t know me. And how can that be when He is omniscient?
See, I am the one who grows weary. I am the one who doesn’t remember that I am but dust. I am the one who forgets Who God is and that “if the Lord will, (I) shall live.”
This life of mine is His. He wants to live His life through mine.
That’s what I want too.
April 7, 2018
TURNING MY WORLD
When I think of Paul the apostle, I think of passion.
He never did anything half-way or half-heartedly. He went all out. I admire that about him.
Yet, I also remember that this passion invoked almost paralyzing fear from believers before his Damascus road experience. Lives, families, homes, fledgling churches all experienced the effects of his passion. Paul was not someone you ignored. To the enemies of Christ he was the ‘religious’ answer to all this nonsense about a risen Messiah. Paul embodied everything ‘religion’ invoked – fierce and tireless passion for a faith, but one that had long since lost its focus of worship. This religion or faith was now poisonous and deadly.
Passion seems to be like that – either wondrously admirable or fearfully terrifying.
I was reading Philippians 3, which is such a familiar passage to so many of us that we sometimes fail to slow down and allow the Holy Spirit to bring out some hidden jewel of understanding that moves us further down our spiritual sojourn. I was simply seeking to be reminded that the past is the past and I am to be forward-looking. I needed to be reminded to lay aside weights and sins and ‘press towards the mark’. And, as I felt prompted to better understand what that ‘press towards’ phrase meant (I wondered what effort it was referring to, as I constantly seek to understand what role I have in living out my faith), I discovered that Paul used the same word that he had heard that day on the Damascus road from that sight-blinding Voice, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
Press towards. Persecute.
That stopped me.
Paul’s passion was transformed from hate to love by that one challenge, that one sentence. Spoken by Love Itself.
Jesus met Paul. And Paul was never, ever the same.
With the same ferocity of passion, Paul became a love slave to his Saviour and Master. No longer was Paul the mouthpiece, the poster child for a faith, that not only had long ago died, but was engaged in a murderous killing streak against any spiritual life. Now Paul’s passion was in the employ of Love.
Nothing was too big to let go. Gone was his status and reputation as a religious leader of a faith that had social and political advantage. Gone was his dependence on his education, learning and intellectual capabilities.
Nothing was too small to surrender. Paul did not keep a ‘rainy day fund’ in case this new faith wasn’t sufficient for his well-being. He tossed it off, cast it off like refuse. He gloriously surrendered it to the trash-pile of the past and then he took off in pursuit of Jesus.
And we know that the Lord ‘touched’ him. With suffering. Suffering that did not go away, even after Paul asked three specific and definitive times. No – this thorn would help Paul remember Whose he was. Paul was never going to be able to take credit for anything.
Except pressing towards.
From persecute to pressing towards. All in. All out for the Lord. No wonder the Lord used him. No wonder he loved the Lord.
I am under no delusion that I will follow in Paul’s footsteps. But I am hungry for Paul’s passion. His eyes were so fixed on Christ – that absolutely nothing else mattered or counted. I read, in that same passage, that Paul counted all things but loss. What draws me is his consuming passion. And strangely enough, it doesn’t draw me to Paul – but to what Paul’s passion was – JESUS CHRIST.
Maybe if we all got passionate about Christ, like Paul, we could turn our world upside down.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018What Does God Want Me to Ask For?
What does God want me to ask for?
Have you ever asked yourself that question? I never thought about in my early years. It seemed quite obvious to me that I needed to let God know what I needed and wanted and thought was necessary for me to be a good Christian.
I am not so quick to assume that anymore. Thankfully, I do believe I have grown up a little.
But, seriously, WHAT does God want me to ask for?
So, I am a parent and I delight in trying to give my children what they want. Yet, most any parent, concerned with the well-being of their child, would not give in to giving that precious child something hurtful, harmful, damaging – no matter how hard the child pleads.
A human parent can unknowingly, unthinkingly though indulge a child with harm/hurt for several reasons:
I am sure there are more than these ten reasons, but I have found myself looking back at my life and finding these causes being the reason for ‘giving’ to my child, other than God’s good. I easily substituted MY good (reason) for God’s good (love, principles).
Our Heavenly Father never operates under any of those motivations. And for the child of His who asks for something that is amiss, He mercifully withholds (though often He does try us and prove us via our requests).
And He desires us, through His withholdings, to mature, to grow, to come to wisdom about our wrongful requests. So that we come to see God’s way, through His eyes, His Person and nature. Then our denied hearts see clearly His love in withholding. Our faith, our trust in our Father grows and matures, strengthens and settles. (I Peter 5:10)
In making this journey of prayer – communing with our Father – I begin, even ever so slightly to ask the Father what He wants. Trembling, I even dare to ask for mountains to be removed, and fig trees to be withered – for eternal things. And His glory becomes my desire. And it becomes about Jesus my Saviour.
Nothing more. No one more.
Nothing less. No one less.
Prayer becomes personal – so personal – that it appears that even if only I am asking this particular thing, this strange request, placed by the Spirit of God into my bosom – and I place no restraints on how the answer is to unfold because I really have no comprehension of HOW God will achieve this impossibility – I rest, knowing He will accomplish His will, and that He has brought me close to see it and to be aware of His working in the situation.
Prayer becomes, for me, a joining with my Father for what He wants.
March 3, 2018
Five Thoughts on Bible Reading
Christians know that Bible reading is the life-line of the Christian. And from my decades-long experience of Christian living, I have heard every imaginable exhortation regarding this spiritual discipline.
Men, women, preachers, friends, family, books, biographies, radio, blogs, etc. Everyone has a point and a persuasive experience to share. Insightful. Motivating in some regard or another.
But I have also heard some Bible-reading advice that makes me cringe, such as – just read until you get something; or, it’s not necessary to read through the whole Bible, just concentrate on…; or, don’t just surface read your Bible, you must study it thoroughly, not leaving it until you understand it completely; or, some parts of the Bible might seem tedious or irrelevant to you, everyone deals with that. I have heard preachers and teachers actually refer to sections of their Bible as boring, making light of the words and names found within.
I find this to be in contradiction to what Psalm 12 and Proverbs 30 say about God’s Word: “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” And “Every word of God is pure…” It seems to me that if the Lord of Heaven chose these words to be recorded, then we should, at the very least, give honor to them and understand that, though we may be dull of spirit and foolish in understanding, we must reverence and search these words out the more diligently. We proclaim our own spiritual immaturity when we casually toss aside the worth, weight and value of passages we deem tedious, irrelevant to our particular lot in life. Might it not be that hidden in plain sight will be sustenance for the lowliest saint?
Perhaps I am being somewhat of an alarmist, but these statements can become someone else’s rule of thumb, blocking them from full exposure to God’s Word. Kind of like a spiritual sunscreen – only in this case it is not blocking out harmful things, but it is blocking out beneficial life-giving sustenance.
So, I wish to add to the spectrum of Bible-reading advice, fully understanding I share only my experience and view, yet hoping I can liberate AND challenge my dear loved ones to delve into the riches of all of the Living Word.
Here are five thoughts on the matter:
1. Just read God’s Word. Prodigiously. From the moment of salvation until the day you are called home to Heaven, gorge yourself on the Bible. Imbibe it any way you can. Read it by holding the Book in your hands. Listen to it while folding laundry, cleaning your house, driving to the dentist or lying in bed instead of counting sheep.
Don’t fret if you hear something you don’t understand. If you need to, keep a notebook and jot down the reference or word or whatever your minds snags on, and then keep going.
The objective is to immerse yourself in God’s Word. This will familiarize you with God’s Divine narrative. We must be conversant with every word, punctuation mark, phrase, character, principle, event. Every believer who has a copy of God’s Word in their native tongue should aim to know how the Bible fits together. This is facilitated by profuse, unquenchable Bible reading.
2. Mine God’s Word. Start digging in and searching it out. I promise you, you will NEVER run out of treasure. Ever. And because of that inexhaustibility, you will rob yourself of immense spiritual wealth if you are lackadaisical or haphazard or procrastinating about this.
There are probably a gazillion ways to start digging for the treasures of Scripture, but the primary exhortation here is to create, develop and maintain a hunger for mining Scriptural wealth. Don’t allow dullness to leave you a spiritual pauper.
3. Enjoy God’s Word. Oft-times I fall into ruts and routines, allowing pressures and demands to squeeze and wither my pleasure in the Saviour’s love letter. And since the Bible is this amazing love letter from the Creator God to our finite, mortal beings, this is absolutely tragic and senseless and unnecessary.
We cannot afford to live off duty’s demands regarding Bible reading. Imagine receiving a letter from a loved one. Would you not soak up every word and wish for more?
I have found it helpful to glean nuggets from the spiritual hunger-inducing stores left behind by other believers. These motivating storehouses from voices of the past have a generational effect on me; connecting me to God’s family members who are already with Him in glory, and reminding me that I pilgrim not alone or in isolation. Missionary biographies. Writings of other passionate lovers of the Truth. Great preachers, Christians, martyrs, authors.
4. Reflect on God’s Word. I, very often, fall into wrongful thinking regarding meditation and reflection. I tend to think of it as a “heart” exercise. But perhaps, while it begins in my heart, soul, and mind – it must not end there.
Meditation needs an outlet. A purpose. What is this reflection going to do in my life? I might be struggling in a relationship, or facing physical challenges, or financial insecurities, or any number of real-life situations that want to wash over me like a tsunami wave, and I must have the mind of Christ AND the power of Christ living out its victory in me.
Therefore, I need to seize God’s divine communications and appropriate them in my life. What good will it do me to know the Bible inside out, study and store its treasures in my being, find pleasure in the intimacy of this Book, if I do not allow it to transform me? Change me? Meditation and reflection is like personalizing the narrative to my life, making it real and transforming.
5. Utterly depend on the Holy Spirit when approaching God’s Word. If it were not so absolutely dangerous and foolish, it would almost be comical that we often forget Him in this spiritual endeavor, this tryst with the Lover of our souls.
“…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…” (I Corinthians 2:14). I am overwhelmed with shame (with just the times I remember) over how often I approach God’s Word without humbling myself to its Author – depending on Him to guide me, protect me from falsely interpreting His Words, illuminate His truth and then draw me into His Presence by the force and power of His Word. And I walk away spiritually anemic and unchanged, and distracted and carrying burdens never intended for me to bear. My face does not shine from my encounter.
I do take comfort in this though - never is any time in God’s Word wasted. And I know THE Comforter understands my infirmities and bears long with me. Gently, with infinite long-suffering, He reminds me that I need Him to quicken His Word in my life. Because my flesh deadens.
Reading God’s Word is a spiritual endeavor and we must train ourselves to prepare our hearts for any encounter with the Scriptures by acknowledging our complete dependence on His ministrations within us.
Schedules, plans, resources, conscious applications meshed with prayerful humility on the Holy Spirit don’t look the same for any one Christian.
Don’t think there is a magical one-size-fits-all way to get into God’s Word.
It’s dynamic, ever-growing and maturing and developing.
Because the Bible is about a Person with Whom we are to share in an intimate relationship.
It will be YOUR experience and it should be glorious.
February 20, 2018
…While he lingered…
Have you ever been reading your Bible, especially in a familiar passage, and the Holy Spirit pops a word out, or a phrase, or a sentence, or a verse? That happened to me regarding this phrase. It comes from chapter 19 of Genesis – the story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah’s impending judgment.
While he lingered.
Why do I linger? I find myself doing it all the time. And even though, I have a tendency to align myself with faithful Abraham, probably I am much closer in reality to worldly Lot.
In Lot’s case, and many times in our lives, we linger, even knowing judgment is looming. Maybe because of our actions – well, almost always because of our action or inaction. Like Lot, whom the Bible tells us was a righteous man (II Peter 2:6-9) in an unrighteous situation, because of his own choices.
Yet we linger. We hold on. We tarry. We don’t want to leave. We are uncertain of the future. We may have to leave behind everything we ever worked for. We may even be asked to leave family behind. Because we must certainly leave the familiar for the unknown.
Why do we do that? Why do I keep doing that?
When I meditate and think and turn it over and over in my heart, my mind, my life, I find something out about myself. The Holy Spirit starts to deal with great specificity in my life. He is showing me something about myself. Something perhaps that I haven’t ever noticed before – or maybe something I even purposefully overlooked or excused.
In this case, I am too attached to the things of this world. Things and matters that are temporal, fleeting, contrary to the work of God in my life. So, I might try to say, “What’s wrong with having a home? Or financial security? Or family close by? Or any number of noble, abnegating reasonings.
And so we linger still.
Not in ignorance. Because we know – we have been warned. We have knowledge of the God of Heaven. We have His Word – in our hands – in our language – in our homes – in our churches.
Not even in fear. Because either we fear God, or we fear man and our personal perception of loss. That goes against everything God reveals about Himself. And ourselves. Why do we remain in bondage to the fear of losing this world? Exactly what am I gaining by hanging on? By lingering?
For me, I must take this phrase and chew on it. I must run my decisions and choices through this filter. Check out my motives. My shortcomings. And ultimately, my relationship and intimacy with the Lover of my soul. Only then will I realize the beauty of the Lord’s response to my lingering.
…the Lord being merciful unto him…brought him forth.
God is ever merciful because He IS mercy.
He knows us inside and out. He created us, and so His knowledge transcends our knowledge, our capabilities, our limitations. And He designed us to always need Him.
The beauty of this design is that He wove liberty and freedom into this need, this dependence. So that we, in love, can choose Him back. Back to the place in our existence where EVERYTHING has purpose and meaning and fulfillment and joy and peace and blessing.
I am resolved no longer to linger, charmed by the world’s delight; things that are higher, things that are nobler, these have allured my sight. -Palmer Hartsough
, February 18, 2018
Surrender: Ever, Only, All for Thee
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Years ago, when I was just a young girl, the Holy Spirit called me to surrender my life to the Lord. I didn’t know what that meant, and honestly, I have no memory of what prompted me or brought me to that place of surrender. But I do know I surrendered.
I was in my bedroom in the little house we had lived in for most of my memory at the time. I remember looking outside the window into the yard, kneeling by my bed after having read something from a shiny black book. It wasn’t the Bible, but some ‘religious’ book with Bible verses in it. I had been seeking.
It was my first real awareness that God had a claim on my life. I have never forgotten it. I believe that decision to say “Yes, Lord” to His claim on me served to place me under the Father’s watch-care, direction, and provision. I was all His.
I sure needed it, because I have traveled many miles out of His way – a sheep that is frequently distracted, lost, confused and just plain foolish. Yet every single step and misstep remains under the watchful eye of my Heavenly Father.
I have been traveling that path of surrender now for 46 years. I am in awe of how the Lord has honored that twelve-year old girl’s surrender. Forgiveness, unconditional love, provision, direction, safety, instruction, blessings – unbelievable blessings.
Never a moment out of His care. Not even a second. Even during the wrong paths, wrong choices, loneliness, watching others fall out or fall away.
God is faithful. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. Why do I forget that?
Perhaps you too have had such an experience. Maybe that moment was when you were saved, or maybe it came later, as it did for me, seven years beyond receiving so freely His salvation.
Perhaps you have never really let go of your life. You are just not quite sure you can abandon control. Can I gently encourage you to just let your life go into His Hands?
I love hymns – my chosen favorite is my favorite because it takes me back to that afternoon on Pucker Street in Niles, Michigan. I never want to stray from that surrender.
Take my life, and let it be – consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days – let them flow with ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move – at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet, and let them be – swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing – always, only for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be – filled with messages for Thee.
Take my silver and my gold – not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect and use – every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine – it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is Thy own – it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my God, I pour – at Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself, and I will be – ever, only, all for Thee.
Ever, only, all for Thee.