Wednesday, November 30, 2011

His Grace

"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me." (Psalm 51:1-3)

This morning, the Lord convicted me of the selfishness pervading certain areas of my life. I was overwhelmed to be reminded yet again of how selfish I am. I am so sinful, so unworthy to be called His child! Yet, He loves me?! What grace, what unceasing love!

I will be explaining more about this in my next post, but for now I want to post a song that has been playing in my heart.

Grace - Laura Story

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Covered with Frost

On Sunday, I woke up feeling extremely tired and achy. Oh, I wish I could just go back to bed, I complained inwardly. But, I got up anyway and went to spend time with the Lord. It was different than usual.

Why did I feel so dry and distant?

An hour later, I was still feeling tired and had a headache as well. Great. Now I feel even worse.

Where was the usual joy of the Lord?

My sister, Ariana, raced down the stairs and bumped into me. "I'm sure that wasn't an accident," I mumbled to myself, as she made a quick apology and scampered off.

Why was I so bitter?

A little while later, my dog rang the bell to go outside. I threw my coat and some shoes on and plodded out into the frigid air. As I stepped onto the grass, I heard the familiar "crunch" of frosted leaves being trampled on. I looked out onto our yard and noticed for the first time that it was covered with frost. Everything looks so cold, so lifeless, I thought.

Then the Lord convicted me with the same, exact picture. I had been cold and my attitude had not been displaying the life-giving nature of Christ. Instead of looking to Him for strength, I had been focused on my feelings, emotions, and desires.

"Heavenly Father," I confessed, "my heart is so hard! How can I be made soft again?"

Isn't the Lord so good?! At that moment, I looked again out onto the backyard and realized that not all of the leaves were hardened by frost. A bright streak of color revealed that some of the leaves had been the sun's warm rays.

I then understood the Lord's point. My heart, too, was cold and hard like those frost-covered leaves. But if I allowed the Son to shine His love, His desires, His emotions onto my heart, it could again be used to bring glory to Him. Oh, I have so much to learn! I have so much selfishness still buried deep within my heart. Cleanse me, Lord, cleanse me!

Many times, I wonder how He still loves me after all I do, how He is still patient with His disobedient daughter. But praise the Lord! His love is not like mine and He will never let me go!

How deep the Father's love for us,
how vast beyond all measure,
that He should give His only Son
to make a wretch His treasure!

"If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted."

“If you would live in victory.…you must refuse to be dominated by the seen and the felt.”
~Amy Carmichael

Friday, November 18, 2011

Following our Shepherd

Don't you love when the Lord reveals new truths to you from His Word, especially when it comes from somewhere you've read numerous times before?

This morning I was reading in John 10, where Jesus is proclaiming Himself as the Shepherd of His flock. I love the imagery of this metaphor; us as His precious, yet dumb sheep, Him as our compassionate and all-knowing Shepherd. Isn't that such an accurate picture?! :)

"To him [referring to the Shepherd] the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." (verses 3-5)

First, He calls us all by name. What a precious Savior we have, that He knows each of us-our joys, our struggles, our dreams, our desires-individually.

Jesus continues by saying that His sheep follow Him, because they know His voice.

Yet, how well do I know my Savior's voice? How well do I follow it?

And then, He adds still more. "A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."

How many times do I listen to the stranger's voice, the enemy's lulling entreaties to follow him instead of my Shepherd? How many times have I ignored the loving warnings of my Maker, only to find myself lost and confused in the end. And then, oh how good He is! My beloved Shepherd finds me in my sin, shows me where I was wrong and then picks me up with His gentle, yet mighty hands, the hands that shaped the universe and set each star in its place. He carries me back to the fold, reminding me of His immeasurable mercy, but at the same time of my need for obedience.

Oh, may we keep our eyes fixed on our Savior! In His great mercy, He has saved us, redeemed us, and adopted us into His family! Why would I ever stray from His loving arms? Why does sin ever look pleasurable?

This song sums up so beautifully what I am trying to say. :)

Full Attention by Jeremy Riddle

Monday, November 14, 2011

He is Worthy!

The glory of God. The exaltation of His Name.

As Christians, these phrases are well-known as part of our jargon, continually added into our songs, prayers, and speech to one another.

And yet, do we truly realize how important the glory of God and the exaltation of His name are? Are our lives shaped by the truth of these phrases or are they merely something we sing about on Sundays?

About a month ago, my family started reading through the book of Ezekiel. Every morning, we would read through a couple chapters individually and then discuss it that night. To be honest with you, as I began working through Ezekiel, I would often get discouraged reading about judgment after judgment. I know it sounds wrong of me, and it was, but I was struggling with perseverance to continue.

Finally, I asked the Lord to open my eyes to what He wanted to teach me through this part of His Word. Over the next several days, I continued reading Ezekiel just as before, but slowly the Lord began revealing something I had completely missed; something that was found in a small, perpetuating phrase: "So that you will know that I am the Lord."

I know, this phrase seems rather unimpressive. But, it is not just used once or twice. Or even 20 times. This phrase is repeated 53 times throughout Ezekiel! But why is this little phrase so important?

Every time it is mentioned throughout Ezekiel, the Lord had just mentioned something He was about to do in history. Exile of the Israelites. Judgment of the surrounding nations. Restoration of His people. The sins of Israel punished. Grace displayed by the Lord. At the end of the description of what He was about to do, He explained why He was about to do it: "That they will know that I am the Lord."

Let me give you an example of how this phrase is used in just one chapter. Ezekiel 36:21-23 says, "But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went...It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of my great name...Then the nations will know that I am the Lord...when I prove myself holy among you in their sight.'"

Do you see it? If not, let me explain. Throughout the book of Ezekiel, the Lord continually shows us that everything He does is first and foremost for His glory! That is why He says over and over again, "I will do such and such, so that they will know that I am the Lord."

Around the same time that I was reading through Ezekiel, I started a book called Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper. It is a fabulous book on missions, but the first point that grabbed me was not about missions, per say, but the glory of God.

To sum up the first chapter, Mr. Piper explains that God's greatest desire is the furtherance of His glory and the exaltation of His name. And if it is that important to God, it should be that important to us, His children.

As Mr. Piper explains, Isaiah 48:9-11 are probably the clearest verses on God's utmost desire for His glory.
"For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another."

Isn't this so true?! God alone is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the Author and Perfecter of our salvation. He alone is worthy! He alone should be exalted!

As we see throughout Scripture and history itself, many godly men and women gave their lives for the sake of His name; that was their highest priority! Yet, how much do we care about exalting His name among the nations? Or even within our families? Or our own lives?

1 Corinthians 10:31 sums it up for us, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

Basically, we must be jealous for God, jealous for His glory. In Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary, one definition for the term 'jealous' is this: "Solicitous to defend the honor of; concerned for the character of".

Do we love the Lord so much that we are ready to defend His honor with our lives? Do we cringe when we hear His name being blasphemed or have we become so used to it that we can sit through a movie and not even notice that the holy Name of God was used in vain five times? Are we protective of the time we spend alone with our Beloved or do we just try to get in some Bible reading whenever we have time to fit it in?

O my friends, He deserves so much more! He deserves the unadulterated praise of every being on this planet, yet there are still so many who do not even know His name! This should stir us to action! This should cause us to lose sleep at night, knowing that there is a place on this earth where He is not worshiped!

Does He mean that much to you?

O Father, I know what the response of my heart should be towards You! I know that I should continuously render up praise and glory to Your precious name, for You are worthy! You deserve my everything, Lord. And yet, how many times do I seek to control my schedule, my time, my attitude during the day? My Jesus, I am so in need of Your grace! Make me jealous for the glory of Your name, O Lord! And may You open my eyes to see Your glory shine ever brighter than the day before!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Join Us in Prayer!

Tomorrow, November 13, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Please consider joining fellow believers all around the world in prayer, as we lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being harassed, beaten, and killed for the name of Christ.

Here is a short video from Gospel for Asia, explaining some of their prayer requests and hearing from a brother who has experienced persecution firsthand.

In Romans 15:30, Paul entreats the Roman believers to pray for him in his struggle. "I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."

If one of our siblings or close family members had been beaten for his faith or lived in an area of the world that was hostile to Christianity, how many minutes or hours would we spend in prayer for them? Would we have to be reminded to bring them before the Lord? Yet, how much time do we spend praying for our family members in Christ, who are suffering everyday? May we not just spend tomorrow praying and lifting up the Persecuted Church, but everyday hereafter!

O Lord, give us hearts to love our brothers and sisters around the world with Your love and may our eyes see them, not as strangers, but as our beloved siblings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Random Thoughts

Yes, I had to begin this post by showing off some pictures of my beautiful little sister! Ariana took these pictures at our new house and I thought she did a fabulous job.

Oh, how I love that little girl! She has brought such joy to our lives; more than we could ever imagine! It's little things she does, like randomly walking over and plopping herself in my lap or belly-laughing while I spin her around the room, that steal my heart away.

I am just starting to be reminded of this truth again: how precious she is to me. There are times when I allow my schedule or the busyness of life to push away my desire to play with her, dance with her, and laugh with her. Father, forgive me for losing sight of the more important things of life!

As I sit here typing away in the new bedroom Ariana and I share, I can't help but be amazed at the Lord's goodness!

Yes, he provided a perfect rental for my family, in His perfect timing...just like He always does. :) The house sits on the edge of gorgeous woods, complete with several trails and a rope swing! Oh, He is good! And oh, how I love Him! :)

How I love fall!!! The brightly-colored leaves gliding to the ground. The pumpkin pie. The hot cider. The sound of leaves crunching under my feet, as I walk the trails in our backyard. Wearing scarves again. The crisp, refreshing air that just smells like fall. I am so blessed to live in an area where I can enjoy this special season!

Well, this has definitely turned out to be one random blog post!

Ah yes, one more thing. I've been reading some good books lately, challenging and thought-provoking. I'm learning a lot! :) But that will have to wait for my next post....