Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sometimes by Step

I'm currently on a long drive back home and put in an old Rich Mullins CD. I had forgotten what a treasure this man's music was. I wanted to share this song's lyrics and declare that I will follow Him all of my days. (And when I get home I'll make sure this post makes sense.)

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You'd already done

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

And I will follow You all of my days
And I will follow You all of my days
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
And I will follow You all of my days
(Sometimes the night was beautiful)
And I will follow You all of my days

Rich Mullins
Sometimes By Step

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Jesus Leaves His Sheepfold to Find the One

As I mentioned in my last post,  I have been challenged to consider that God does love me. Besides the fact that He loves everyone, the whole world full of people, past, present and future, and He has loved Israel with a love of a father, a Heavenly Father - still He loves me just for me. I really have a difficult time phathoming that. But in Breaking Free, a study by Beth Moore, she says that if we don't believe that God loves us individually, we are not believing His word, not believing what He said many times through many different people in the Bible. And that is actually the sin of unbelief. ~gulp~

I have been working on getting that deep into my being and have begun keeping a list of Bible verses that tell me that very thing.

But in this journey I have come to realize that I have lived most of my adult life operating under the [silent] assumption that if I do enough for the Lord, then He will love me. And, of course, I've never done enough. Yes, yes, I know, God's love, along with His salvation, is not earned. I've taught that many times and know the verses that say that. My head knew it.

But somewhere deeper than my head I have been working to try and earn His love and favor. And as long as I was in the same church (for over 28 years), I didn't have to confront that misconception that motivated so much of what I did. I mean, there was always someting that needed doing. Always. And afterall, faith without works is dead. Right?

And then there came a time of leaving that which was comfortable, a splitting, tearing away from the old church family and going to a new church. It was a decision lead by God. No question.

This new church has a solid core of people who have been together for many years. Trying to break in to circles and trying to find an avenue to serve has been frustrating. During the adventure of "Breaking Free" I have finally figured out that my frustration is not over any people or any social situation. The frustration is because of ME! I have lost the familiar avenue of service, lost the familiar with which to earn God's love. There, I said it. (and not without embarrassment)

As a result of losing familiar areas of service, I've been feeling useless and unloved. Unloved by the only One whose love ultimately matters.

So, here I am, at a place where I have nothing to DO, nothing to BE for Him, except just to be what I am, broken, lonely, unloveable, and knowing deep down that He has me in this place for a purpose.

That purpose, I believe is to cause me to begin to be confident in His love for me and to let HIM fill those empty places in my life. I was too busy before to notice the empty places. I had relied too long on my efforts to please Him. My efforts. My puny, frail efforts.

No more, I am climbing up on my Father's lap, throwing my arms around His neck and burying my head on his chest. Resting in the knowledge that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more. Or any less.

I am believing that Jesus left the 99 sheep in His care and went for the lost one - that one was also from His sheepfold. And I am the lost one. I'm of His sheepfold and He will come for me in my confusion.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

God is Not a Man

I have long known that I struggle with believing, really believing that God love ME. Oh, I know,  ♪Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.♫  And I can easily tell others that God love them. And I can corporately include myself when I say He loves everybody. My head gets all that. And my mind can repeat all of that by rote.

But my spirit has a harder time grasping the reality of God looking down on my tiny little piece of the world and that He, the awesomely wonderful creator of the entire universe, can pick out just me and love just me. Perhaps you struggle with that concept, too. We can look to our childhoods and blame our fathers or mothers for not doing this or that - or for doing this thing or that. But there comes a time in every person’s life when we have to look to ourselves and figure how to see things in light of Scripture.

My struggle with believing that I am loved individually by God is not even about all my innumerable flaws and sins. I believe with all my being that Christ died for all sins of all mankind and that every single individual human being can come under the blood of Jesus by simply trusting Him to wash them clean and by letting that choice affect the everyday choices of life. And from the depths of my soul, I am so grateful for God’s plan of eternal salvation. And grateful for how that plan works out in living here on earth. He is the only great and merciful God.

But it seems like I am a face in the crowd of those who trust in Jesus. The Bible tells me that all things work together for good to those who love God. (Romans 8:28) I believe that to my core. But He does that for everyone who loves Him, right?

As I've mentioned before, I’m nearing the end of Breaking Free by Beth Moore, and in the homework, she has helped me see the possible cause for my struggle with this concept. Numbers 23:19 clearly tells us, that “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill.” NIV

I think even though I have tried hard not to “put God in a box” and have warned others not to do the same, I have mostly seen God through my human eyes and somehow think that just as in human love, especially by that of friends, God's love ebbs and flows. Human love can be affected by distance as people move, time between visits, misunderstandings, severe disagreements in beliefs, PMS, so many variables in human love. But God is NOT human. And, I guess that as a human, I don’t even know how that would look. But I have to believe that His love for me is not the same as friends that have come and gone. Or my indifference to those ebbs and flows. God is not man and He fulfills His promises.

He promises that His love is unfailing. In fact, in John 17:23 Jesus said that God the Father loves us as much as He loves The Son. And He surely includes all of believers in that because just 3 verses before that, and in the same line of thought, Jesus said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one..."  And in John 10:16, He talks about having other folds of sheep that will be brought in – that is the Gentiles. So I guess it’s true – God loves His people as much as He loves Jesus. Wow! Let that sink in.

Beth Moore encourages her students to do a word search for “unfailing love" in the Bible. If you do that, it is clear that God’s love is unfailing – unlike human love. I have been trying to repeat daily, God has unfailing love for ME. I believe it, Lord, help my unbelief.”

“…The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."  

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Whom Do I Serve?

Source Unknown
I have been doing a Beth Moore study called Breaking Free with some of the ladies from church. In week 8 she gets to a key concept for freedom - and that is obedience to God's commands. Hmmm, we struggle with obedience when we are children as our parents try to teach us to respect their authority over us; we struggle with it a lot as we try to teach our children the same thing, or our students or other little ones in our care; and we absolutely struggle with it the most as adults who want to be grown-up and FREE. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. That drive becomes very strong in most of us as we get into our teen years. It is a way that our hearts are preparing for adulthood. But wise parents direct that desire into useful, healthy directions of decision-making. (And I was not the wisest at that instruction to my children. My late husband used to say "the teen years make it easier to say goodbye to them.")

But that attitude of doing what I good-n-well please is a path to anger and despair. The God of the universe has given us guidelines for our safety and to prevent us from becoming slaves to sin, slaves to destruction and slaves to death.

"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness..." Romans 6:16 NIV

Or put another way, Bob Dylan, in the few years he was writing music for Jesus, wrote this "You Gotta Serve Somebody."  I'm going to serve God or me or somebody/something else. And so are you.

We can look to those who are addicted to drugs, sexual predators, robbers, murders, or any other obvious slaves. But what about me? What about you? I have to fight slavery to my own desires and my own plans And I don't always choose the best. How do I spend my free time? What do I do when I have to make an important decision? How do I speak when I'm with my friends? Do I act like a servant of the Living God and Redeemer or do I act like a servant to my own fancies?

"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from SIN and have become SLAVES TO RIGHTEOUSNESS." Romans 6:17-18 NIV

I John 3:1 tells me that the Father has lavished a great love on me (us) by allowing me (us) to be called children of God! "And that is what we are." So I really ought to act like I am a child of God. How do I do that on my own? I don't, at least not very well or very often. I try to do it in my own ability but it is not in me to change my behavior by myself. Believe me. But "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The one thing I must choose to do is to remember to listen for the Lord. He will remind me of His desires for me and will strengthen me to choose right. I only wish that He didn't sometimes have to hit me over the head with a hammer to get my attention.

"Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Romans 6:19-22 NIV

So, I guess we all serve someone or something. I want to be a whole-hearted slave of God which leads to freedom. It is a slavery of freedom. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened AGAIN by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 NIV

Oh my goodness, what a wonder!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No Where Else to Run

We went to a memorial service a couple of Saturdays ago for a 37 year old man. He had a heart attack. All you can do is shake your head. I suppose you could shake your fist at God, too, especially if you were his parents, burying their firstborn. Many people have done that.

But not this man's parents. They are sad. Very sad. They will miss him so much. They have stood with him as he has made difficult job choices, needed to move back home, struggled with life, as we all do. They have invested so much into their son. And in the last year, he was moving forward, largely because of their encouragement and help. And now he is gone. Vanished. He will not be coming back home to visit or to live. Just gone.

That's how death is. You love them and then they are gone. To our minds that seems so unfair. Like "what is God thinkin'?" But death is a part of living here on earth as human beings. Or even as animals, our pets. Death has, or will, touch each one of us.

And it is a truth, not trivial truth, but real truth, that we do not have to grieve as those who have not hope (I Thessalonians 4:13), if we choose not to. When someone dies, if we know they had their hope in Jesus Christ, we know they are with Him. Even if we aren't better off without them. And we know we will see them again, if we have our hope in Jesus, too.

Life is good. Life is sometimes hard. Loss of a loved one is one of the hardest things. It's strange. It's unbearable sometimes. But that's when a person just has to cling to Jesus and all that He said about trusting Him. Where else would ya go? Grief can be easier where there is hope in Jesus.

Our 37 year old friend probably wasn't expecting his pending death. But if he had been, I think he would have had a sense of fear of the unknown, but also excitement at being in the arms of Jesus.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Worship - In Spirit and In Truth

I had a Face Book "conversation" yesterday with a few friends from high school. The conversation was centered around a couple of posted links of people who are very disillusioned with contemporary praise & worship styles in modern-day churches. They fear that it is all contrived and manipulative. I chimed in on the discussion because I have always greatly revered that time in our services.

I love the sermon section because it is a time of instruction, warning, or encouragement from the Bible and from the heart of a man that I greatly esteem. I love the greeting time, albeit very brief. I love it when we have communion - at least I love it on those occasions that I am really "doing it in remembrance of" Him and what His sacrifice provides for us. I even love the tithes and offerings time. I have always seen the money I give being used efficiently and with much care and prayer, even using it for outreach to millions across the globe. So I believe that I am giving to God when I give to my church. I love that.

But I have to say that I probably "get into" the praise & worship time the most. It seems like the most interactive. But with what or with whom am I interacting? Are any of us interacting? The right answer is "with God." You get an A if that is the answer you gave. But is it true? Is it true just some of the time?

I would have to say that there have been times that I have interacted with those around me during that time. That is probably especially true when I was an adult staff person with the youth group. I was intensely aware that I wanted to be a role model to them. That I wanted them to be "interacting with God." So that made me very self aware. So was I interacting with God? Probably not so much - not all the time.

I've interacted with those around me when I had been down to Brownsville A/G church in Pensacola, Florida to the famous revival going on down there in the 90's. I really did have an encounter with God and it was a good experience. And I experienced a new freedom in worship. When I returned home from there and returned to church, and really wanted to continue worshiping the Lord freely (in my case, with a simple dance), I was keenly aware of those around me. A few entered in. More criticized and likely watched with disdain. So you can bet that all affected my interaction with God.

And then there's the usual distractions - headache, children crying, someone poking you to tell you something, watching something cool a band member is doing with, oh, say, the Irish whistle. So, absolutely yes, I have sometimes, maybe more times than I want to believe, made worship more about me or other people than about the One for whom it's intended.

But I do love to sing praises to the Lord and really try to focus on Him while I'm singing. When I know the words and they are inspired words about how wonderful our God is, I sometimes can really close myself in with just Him. "Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant." Psalm 135:3 NIV I am not a musician and cannot sing very well. But I really take to heart, "Sing a joyful NOISE unto the Lord."

One of my friends in that Face Book discussion is heavily involved in the music of her church, which is one that does not use any instruments. Another 2 of the friends go to churches much like mine, with lots of instruments, including electric guitars and drums. But I think the heart of the whole thing is this: we can sing praises to the Lord with pipe organs, with grand pianos, with orchestras, with modern day cymbals and harps, with little tiny key-boards, OR with our only instrument being our voices. Worship is from the heart being directed to the heart of the Creator of the universe. Anything else is not worship. And only I can determine if what I say and do is from my heart directed toward my Lord. Only you can determine that about yourself.

We have made worship time at our churches many things. The leaders have made it certain things, the worship team makes it whatever they make it, the participants make it other things. But what is it meant to be but "PRAISING THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD?" Anything else is not so good. Entertainment is fun for a time; rock concerts are, too. But those are not worship.

I love Matt Redman's song, Heart of Worship. Listen to it and follow the words on the video. Or just read the words here (pasted from

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart
I'll bring you more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart
I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about you
It's all about you, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the things I've made it
When it's all about you
It's all about you, Jesus
King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I'm weak and poor
All I have is yours
Every single breath
I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about you
It's all about you, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the things I've made it
When it's all about you
It's all about you, Jesus

So I guess the question is, "do I long to bring the Lord something that's of worth?" Do you long to bring Him something that's of worth? What is He worth? 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Be WITH His People

I have long struggled with the notion that God loves ME. I know He does - in my head. But in my heart it seems like a distant concept. And that goes along with the interpersonal struggles I've had of feeling unlove-able and unlove-ing. And the way that translates into my relationship with my God and Savior, is a problem.

That's why the obvious theme throughout the Bible is so comforting - so loving. God says over and over - and over that He wants to be the God of His people. And to be WITH them. That theme is woven into the very heart of the Bible. He often spoke about the day when "He would be their God and they would be His people." I think that is all He has ever wanted.

It must be something like this: when I talk about my relatives in the hills of eastern Tennessee, I often refer to them as "my people." I feel a bit of pride when I say that and think of the manners of speech, the old ways that I remember from my childhood - of  the faces that make up my family. My people were resourceful, independent, strong.

That must be akin to how God feels about "His people." In the Old Testament alone I have a list of at least eleven times when he told Moses to tell the people or Jeremiah, Ezekiel or Zechariah to tell the people those very words. (And I've probably missed some.) Often times it was in a warning because they had turned their backs on Him. Still, He longed to dwell among His people, walk among them - to be their God and for them to be His people in their hearts (Levititcus 26:11-12). In Jeremiah 3:19-20, He said it this way as He grieved their rebellious hearts:
     "How gladly would I treat you like sons [and daughters]
     and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful
     inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me
     'Father' and not turn away from following me. But like
     a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been
     unfaithful to me O house of Israel." NIV

You can hear the pain in His tender words. In Ezekiel 34:31 He says,

     "'And you, my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are MY people, and
     I am your God,' declares the sovereign Lord." NET

But, as we know, Israel would fall into idolatry and rebellion over and over again. Still He longed to be their God. So He sent Jesus the Christ to atone for their sins and to make a way for them to be, at last, His people in their heart. And, as is so clear in the Bible, this plan for redeeming His people to Himself was extended to all people of every nation and ethnicity - any who would come to God by faith in Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus made that clear in John 10, where He says many times in that chapter that He is the Good Shepherd and that He knows his sheep and his sheep knows Him. In verse 16, He says,  

     "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
     They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

And don't we take comfort in John 14 where Jesus says that He is going to His Father's house to prepare a place for us and that He will come back to get us so that "you also may be where I am." He prayed in John 17:24 that He wants those who God has given Him to be where He is and to see His glory."  It is and always has been the heart of God and of His Son, to be the God of His people and to dwell among them.

And finally it will happen, just as He wants. In Revelation 21, John was seeing the vision of the new heaven and the new earth and he says, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." That is all God has ever wanted!

God loves His people, so much that He sent Jesus to buy them back. And I am included in His people by faith in my Redeemer. I am loved. He desires to be with me. And with you.

Oh, happy day! Happy forever!

(For reference, if you want to look up verses, the list I mentioned is:
Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:11-12, Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 24:7, 30:22, 32:33, 32:38, Ezekiel 34:30-31, 36:28, 37:26-27, Zechariah 13:9, John 14:2-3, 17:24, II Corinthians 6:16 and finally Revelation 21:3-4)