Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Remember Summer?????

This is Margaret, getting cleaned up after playing in a heap of sand. I meant to simply sluice her off with the water, but she jumped right in. What a photo op!!!!!
(Some cute, eh???)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Christmas Wish

I’ll spell out in a little rhyme
My wish for you this Christmas time.

This season, special though it be
Is not the only time, you see

To celebrate and praises give
For what God did so we might live.

We love to look with tender eyes
On Baby Jesus, where He lies

And wonder at Him, sweet and mild
This precious, tiny, Saviour Child.

But did you know that even now
He reigns above, and we should bow,

Give worship, honour, and adore;
He’s not a baby anymore!

He grew up like us, so He knew
All that we face; He faced it too!

He knows our greatest need is met
When He forgives our sins, and yet

We still resist, and He must move
To open hearts, and to us prove

That He is all we’ll ever need,
And in us place one tiny seed

Of faith that saves, and holds us fast
Until we see His face at last.

And so my wish, my prayer for you
Is that in grace, He would so do

If you have not Him yet received
Into your heart, then I would plead

That you might please consider then
Long past when Chrismas Season ends

This Jesus Christ, Who owns each day;
He is the Life, the Truth, the Way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Miss Christmas

Christmas holds many memories for me. As a child, I experienced the anticipation and excitement that is common to most children. Lying in bed on Christmas eve, unable to sleep, listening for the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof, imagining what kinds of wonderful presents there might be in the morning. Coming downstairs while it was still dark, to find stockings hung over backs of chairs (we had no mantle to hang them from), usually my dad’s work socks, filled with candy and nuts with an orange in the toe. Seeing my parents’ bedroom door closed in the days leading up to Christmas, knowing my mom was in there wrapping presents in red and green and white tissue paper. My mom up long before us Christmas morning, busy in the kitchen with stuffing and pies. The table set with Christmas themed serviettes and mom’s best dishes, and always a Jell-O salad. The living room linoleum, having been coated with paste wax by mom, brought to a gleam with the electric floor polisher. Decorations hung all around, and of course, the lovely aroma of the Christmas tree filling the air.

There are also memories that aren’t so pleasant. Realizing how hard my mom worked, and how tired she was throughout the whole day. She tried to make the best Christmas that she could for all of us. Memories of when my dad was laid off from his job, and my mom bringing home a bag of toys from the department store where she worked part time. Him telling her she had to take them back, as we couldn’t afford them.

At some point I began to feel guilty about my presents, as they represented her hard work and sacrifice, and I would have rather gone without than see her go through the anxiety and exhaustion every year. Memories, too, of that sad feeling when the day was over. You wanted it to last forever.

When I grew up and had my own family, I think I was more exited than my kids were. I was likely the last one to fall asleep, as I anticipated their joy and excitement in the morning. Hours spent shopping, and wrapping, and planning, and cooking and cleaning. I looked forward to Christmas, but also dreaded it. There was always the pressure to “make” a good Christmas, as though it was all up to me, and in many ways it was. Still, it was a good time with family, and always that indescribable Christmas spirit in the air.

After God saved me, Christmas became something else again. The first time I heard Christmas Carols as a believer, I wept. It was as though I was hearing them for the first time, the words so rich with meaning that I had never grasped before. Christmas became more about Jesus, and less about gifts, though I loved the giving, and the getting too. The best part was sending out cards with scripture, hoping that God would use them to draw friends and family to Himself. I carried on with all the traditions the same as before, only with a new joy in my heart.

Then about 6 years ago, I looked into the origins of Christmas. I discovered that it was originally a pagan feast day. As I investigated one after the other of the roots of most of the Christmas traditions that we observe, I became increasingly upset, and convinced that I should have no part in this pagan holiday. I even wrote a letter to the elders at my church, and an essay on the whole subject.

It was most upsetting to me to come to service one Sunday around that time to see a Christmas tree displayed in the baptismal tank, with curtains pulled back, making it the focal point at the front of the church, almost as an object of worship. Adding insult to injury was the fact that tiny gold crosses were used for ornaments on the tree. I came very close to turning around and leaving, and considered marching to the front and drawing the curtains across to hide the tree. I did stay for the service, but questioned one of the elders about it. I don’t think I was the only one that was upset; the tree was gone the next Sunday.

Those years ago I stopped having a tree, sending cards, or giving presents, save for my grandchildren, which I have been almost ashamed to admit to, given my strong opinions on the whole thing. I don’t put up lights, or any decorations. I have felt in many ways that I would love to take Christ out of Christmas, rather than put Him back in. What has He to do with all of these things? Trees, and presents, and eating and drinking to excess, office parties where His name is never mentioned unless it is a curse or used in a joke, where the women dress in the most revealing outfits they can get away with, and the booze is flowing. What has He to do with buying gifts that no one needs, and going into debt to do it? The churches are filled at Christmas, but these once a year “believers” aren’t there to worship Him, they don’t know Him. Church is just one more tradition that they use, part of the Christmas Spirit that has nothing to do with Jesus.

Every year we go through the same thing. We groan at the thought that Christmas is coming. We have to get ready for Christmas. In my mind I have a picture of Christmas: it is a huge tree with a Santa Head, dangling to do lists of shopping and cooking and cleaning and wrapping. It looms over us all, holding us hostage to its traditions and demands.

For me all of the joy went out of Christmas those years ago. Since then, I have dreaded it, knowing I would have to answer the age old question dozens of times “are you ready for Christmas?” I then explain that I don’t do much shopping, and that it is mostly about having my family around me and celebrating the birth of Christ.

But I miss it. I miss Christmas. The stirrings of Christmas spirit are trying to take over, it seems. I miss knitting and sewing and baking home made gifts. I miss buying and giving gifts to my family and friends. I am weakening, bit-by-bit, year-by-year. In the past two years, I sent out cards again, since it is one time of year that people will be more tolerant of the Christian message. I am now buying gifts for my husband, children and grandchildren. Christmas Carols have a certain power to soften my heart, and I have a growing desire to share Christ with people. Maybe because I see them rushing around in a frenzy of activity, and I know that the Christmas that they celebrate is not based on the “peace with God and good will toward men” that I now have in my own life.

I tend to be black and white in my thinking. I have been quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater in many areas of my life, and Christmas is a major one. So here I am, slowly making my way back to a balance of grace and truth. I don’t think I am giving in to pressure from without; I hope it is not a case of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I believe that it is simply my growing toward grace, and away from an attitude that has been unnecessarily and even detrimentally dogmatic.

I have been thinking about my attitude toward all things Christmas. I realize that it isn't so important what "I" think about it, as how I react to others at this time of year. Do I display the love and grace of Christ? That is what matters. Christmas seems to be here to stay, and I am coming to the conclusion, as I usually do with all struggles in my Christian walk, that it is not tradition, or situations, or other people, that God must change, but rather it is my own heart.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Still The Same?

I was going through some old notebooks last night, and came across this entry in one of them. At the time, I had been a Christian for three months. Thought I would share with you. (Keep in mind that I worked full time when I wrote this)

August 30/95


Organization of Time/Tasks
· Housework not getting done – laundry, cleaning, cooking
· Not enough quality prayer time/study time
· Not enough exercise time
· Not enough sleep (sometimes)
· Not enough time for people
· Not enough time for “would like to’s”
= Always feeling behind
= Frustration
= Anxiety

Sharing the Gospel

Being a Good Witness

Selfishness, Vanity, Pride, Laziness, Complacency, Doubts, Shyness
= Knowing I have a long way to go


Stop procrastination – do something! Make a list of things that I have to do.


Housework: laundry
Clean bathroom/floor
Bills etc.

Personal: Exercise
People – visit, phone, write
Time with kids/Dan

God: Prayer
Bible Study

One Time Only:

Sewing/knitting organized
Clothes organized
Closets/cupboards organized
Carpets cleaned
Walls etc cleaned
Decorating (?)

August 31/95
Today I really wanted to begin to be organized. If the 4 things on my “to do” list, I completed one, and half completed 2. I guess it is a step in the right direction just to make a list. I will try again tomorrow. Having the desk to read and write at really helps.

Work was unusually hectic………I wanted to be calm and efficient, but as usual I ended up feeling rushed and frazzled. No doubt the result of trying to do things on my own, as usual. Today I got into gossip again, and I should have stayed to help Donna with the faxing, but I wanted to get to the 4:45 class at the gym, which I didn’t enjoy a whole lot. But I need to exercise if I want to lose this extra weight.

I hope that this writing every day helps me. I just feel so rushed at work, that when I get home, I don’t even want to think. Tonight I didn’t do much. Katie is going camping, and I don’t want her to go, of course. But I have asked God to keep her safe. Worrying is a hard habit to break. I know I need to spend more time in prayer, and would like to do it in the morning, but can’t make myself get up. Something else to pray for.

Today, as usual, I tried too much on my own, and didn’t trust enough. Something else to pray for. Will try that idea of using index cards.

Dear God: how could any of us even begin to comprehend Your greatness. You know every thought of every person. You have our lives planned before we are born. You can do all things, made the universe, control everything. Yet you still love us so mercifully and patiently. There is nothing or no one to compare You to. You defy description. I am constantly amazed at what you have done for me. That you care so much, have so much patience, when I am continually failing. The harder I try, the more I fail. I am sorry for trying on my own so much, trying to understand and figure things out. Deep down I know you are in control and have a perfect plan. Why must I be so stubborn? My heart wants to bend, but my feeble human mind still clings to the ridiculous notion that all I have to do is try harder and I will have it conquered. Why can’t I just look back and see what you did, and realize that if You can do that for me, You will of course be faithful to follow through. I am so thankful. Thank you for showing me the way. Help me in all these areas. You know that they are. I want to know You more. I am so grateful to you, Jesus.

Reading this now, and typing it out, I could weep. Because of how pressured I felt back then to “perform”. Because I was my own worst enemy. Because, truth be told, I haven’t changed a whole lot. Because I could write all the same things today. In fact, I could add quite a few items to the list. I’m still not organized. I still beat myself up for it. I still am making lists that are impossibly long. I am still making new resolutions, on a regular basis, to “do better.” I am still aiming for a bar that I set myself. And it makes me sad (no wonder I’m depressed!)

No doubt you smiled at the picture of a new Christian trying to “get it all right.” I was quite naive back then. I don’t know what my excuse is now. Seems I am still trying to get it right. I am still apologizing to God, yet knowing that I should rest in His grace. Old habits die hard.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Together In Christ

I met with some friends today. There were only 4 of us. This was only the second time I have "gathered" with them on a Sunday.

In the morning, I found I was feeling reluctant to go. I was tired. I felt some of the same pressure I used to feel on a Sunday morning; that I had to go and be "up", be focused, be "spiritual." I really wanted to just "hole up" for the day, and not face anybody.

Not too surpisingly, I had a wonderful time of fellowship. We did not sing, and the only prayer was grace before our lunch. But we had time to relax, to little by little, allow ourselves to come out of ourselves. To laugh. To cry. To admit to struggles. To praise God for His goodness. To marvel, again, at this new "venue" for assembling together. To share. The good and the bad. To admit we hardly know a thing. To realize just how precious real fellowship is.

We don't know how future "meetings" will go. We don't know who may or may not show up. But the pressure is off. As I said today, "if anyone else wants to come, just tell them not to expect anything." I think that's the secret. It's an amazing thing, to let go of having to meet some standard or other. To simply take God at His word, and trust Him to meet with us there. It all becomes so real. I don't think I have words to explain it. I only know I am so thankful, and looking forward to many more times like today. Hard to believe, but it really is just that simple.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Our Great High Priest

"Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
and Your law is truth" (Psalm 119:142).

There are so many jewels of truth to consider concerning Jesus Christ. One of these is His role as our Great High Priest. I have been reading some chapters in Hebrews over and over again, because the truths there are so astonishing. One that I have come to understand is that Jesus is forever our Great High Priest. He will continue to intercede on our behalf throughout eternity. When I first realized that, I was stunned. To me, it makes an incredible statement about the great love He has for us, and about our need of His intercession and righteousness.

We know that we have no righteousness of our own, and that our only hope is to have His righteousness applied to us. Everything in this world gets old and wears out. Nothing lasts forever. We are continually replacing things: appliances, clothing, cars, buildings, etc. And try as we might, we simply cannot keep these earthly tents of ours around forever; they will most certainly grow old, or sick, and die one day. Yet God's righteousness will be around forever. And we have the righteousness of Christ. I cannot seem to dwell enough on these things. I want to think and ponder over them till they truly penetrate my heart.

What a merciful God we have!

"The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:23-25).

Monday, November 24, 2008


Have you ever been homesick? I’m sure most of us have. It is an awful feeling, especially for a child. Home represents so many things for children; security, comfort, love, acceptance. I can recall times of homesickness as a child. Even though my home life wasn’t ideal, it was still “home” to me, a place where I was safe, and warm, and loved.

I am in the “middle” age bracket now. It can be a time of looking back. Lately, I have been looking back a lot. I have been “homesick” for the early days of my marriage. When my children were little, and were rarely out of my sight. I look back on those days with nostalgia, and also some regrets. “If only I had known Christ then,” I have thought so often. I would do things so much differently now if I could only go back there. I look at the struggles my grown children have, and think that if only I had done a better job, they would make wiser choices as adults. It’s that “protective mother” thing happening, I know.

Perhaps I am romanticizing those days a bit; they did have their stressors. But life was a lot simpler when I was at home raising my kids. I have thought recently that I am homesick for my house. Running to work every day, and then dealing with all the other details of life leaves me exhausted. I want to be home more. To cook, and bake, and sew. To visit others, and invest time in relationships. All those things I used to do, and enjoy, but have no energy or motivation for now. Work seems to take everything I have.

There are plenty of days when I think of heaven. When everything just seems too much. I know I have a home waiting for me there, and I am homesick for it. I think we all have a built-in “homesickness.” We all long for that one place where everything will be “just right,” where we will experience total love and acceptance, and the happiness that seems to be always just out of reach, no matter how many ways we go after it.

Some verses in the Bible talk about our home in heaven. When I read them, I know exactly what the writer talks about. If you know Jesus, I bet you do too.

“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven…we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5: 1,2,8)

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia...” (1 Peter 1:1)

We have a longing, a homing device set for heaven. It is bittersweet, to be in this earthly tent, with all the struggles that go along with our life here, and to know that we have “an inheritance, which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1Peter1:4) for us. To be faced daily with the world, the flesh and the devil, all the while knowing that when we pass from this life to the next, we will be faced with Jesus, in all His beauty and glory. Bittersweet, yet the sweet overcomes the bitter, just as grace overcomes our sin.

Keep looking up.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

From C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MORNING: "Fellowship with Him."

-- 1 John 1:6

When we were united by faith to Christ, we were brought into such complete fellowship with him, that we were made one with him, and his interests and ours became mutual and identical. We have fellowship with Christ in his love. What he loves we love. He loves the saints-so do we. He loves sinners-so do we. He loves the poor perishing race of man, and pants to see earth's deserts transformed into the garden of the Lord-so do we.

We have fellowship with him in his desires. He desires the glory of God-we also labour for the same. He desires that the saints may be with him where he is-we desire to be with him there too. He desires to drive out sin-behold we fight under his banner. He desires that his Father's name may be loved and adored by all his creatures-we pray daily, "Let thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven."

We have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. We are not nailed to the cross, nor do we die a cruel death, but when he is reproached, we are reproached; and a very sweet thing it is to be blamed for his sake, to be despised for following the Master, to have the world against us. The disciple should not be above his Lord. In our measure we commune with him in his labours, ministering to men by the word of truth and by deeds of love. Our meat and our drink, like his, is to do the will of him who hath sent us and to finish his work.

We have also fellowship with Christ in his joys. We are happy in his happiness, we rejoice in his exaltation. Have you ever tasted that joy, believer? There is no purer or more thrilling delight to be known this side heaven than that of having Christ's joy fulfilled in us, that our joy may be full. His glory awaits us to complete our fellowship, for his Church shall sit with him upon his throne, as his well-beloved bride and queen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blanket of Love

It snowed here last night. Quite a bit. It's a beautiful, bright blanket for the barren landscape of November.
Whenever the seasons are changing, I am reminded of God's faithfulness. In a world where chaos seems to reign, and nothing is a sure thing, His steadfastness in bringing each new season is reassuring to me. It's as if He pays no attention to the constant rebellion amongst His creation, but carries on in his continual upholding of the universe.
In spite of the fact that little acknowledgement is given to Him as Creator and Sustainer of life, He continues to bless us all, with His tokens of kindness. I see them in the mural He has painted in blue sky, white clouds, and bare tree branches. I breathe in fresh, crisp air that wakes up my sleepy brain. I squint against the sun that warms my face on a cold day. All reminders of Him. His fingerprints are everywhere. His care and keeping says "I'm always here, I have all these things in hand." And I answer, "Thank you Father."
"Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all stars of light!
Praise Him, highest heavens,
And the waters that are above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created.
He has also established them forever and ever;
He has made a decree which will not pass away.
Praise the LORD from the earth,
Sea monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and clouds;
Stormy wind, fulfilling His word;
Mountans and all hills;
Fruit trees and all cedars;
Beasts and all catttle;
Creeping things and winged fowl;
Kings of the earth and all peoples;
Princes and all judges of the earth;
Both young men and virgins;
Old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above earth and heaven.
And He has lifted up a horn for His people,
Praise for all His godly ones;
Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him.
Praise the LORD!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Blog

Hey just a quick note to say I started a new blog today. It's pretty new, so not much there yet. Have to spruce it up a bit. Have a peek:

Hope to see you there!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Anxious Thoughts

If the LORD had not been my help,
My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
If I should say, 'My foot has slipped,'
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul."

Wow, can I relate to these verses. Don't we all have times when those anxious, worrying thoughts seem to overtake us? They tend to chase me all day, until I stop and remember Who is holding me.

I love the Psalms especially when the world is coming at me from all angles. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't "branch out" more in reading the Bible. But for me, sometimes it is simply medicine for my soul, and as we have varying types of physical ailments, our spirits can suffer in different ways as well. We can be bound up in bitterness, or beset with sin that wants to overtake us, or bowed down with grief. In the Psalms, I find comfort every time, and I thank God that He inspired those writers in the ways He did. No earthly philosphy or self help books can compare to the words that are written there.

Father thank you for your Word and for your Spirit. Thank you for the reality of Your love for me, for all Your children. Thank you that you know every thought that we have, and that your arms are always open to us, to bring comfort and reassurance of Your everlasting love.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Place of Worship

I like to keep things simple. The simpler the better, especially these days when for me just getting up and ready for work takes monumental effort.

My brain seems to be needing a vacation lately. I start to get ideas, and try to write them down so they make sense, but it doesn't always work out somehow. But I will give it a try......

Has anyone heard of "Red Mountain Music"? They take old hymns and set them to modern arrangements. Kind of a bit country/twangy/bluegrass, but the result is terrific, imho. I had two of their cd's, but I think they are out on loan right now. Thankfully, I made a tape so I could listen to them in my car (just a tape deck there). OK, here is the link if you want to have a listen:

One of the songs is called "Jesus Whispers". A line that really grabbed my attention is "When we live on Jesus' merit, then we worship God a'right." I really like that. It makes it simple. Living on Jesus' merit, in His righteousness and not our own. That gives the proper foundation for true worship.

There is so much written about "worship"; what it means, how to do it. Jesus said that the day was coming, and was now here, that we would not worship God in any particular place, but instead we would worship Him in spirit and in truth, "for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers." (John 4:23) That seems pretty simple to me. I think it means that we are not to worship in certain places, like temples and such, but that our worship should go beyond buildings and ceremonies and services.

I'm still trying to nail down the "spirit and truth" part. But my inclination is to translate that to mean our worship can now go beyond rituals and encompass our entire life. Being born again, we have a new, made-alive spirit. One that was once dead in trespasses and sins. Being in Christ, being in union with Him, brings us into a real, living relationship with the one true God.

Following Christ is not like any other "religion". We worship a true and living God. We don't just "go through the motions" of worship, the way worshippers of other "gods" do. Their worship is dead. Useless. Pointless. Our worship, our giving God His worth in our thoughts, words, and deeds, is living. It's real. It comes from changed hearts and changed lives.

Our "place of worship" is at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ. From there, we look to Him, and see the gospel of grace. We see ourselves as having no righteousness of our own, but see Him as having all righteousness. We acknowledge our need of Him, and realize God's love and grace as given through Him. Our worship is from a grateful heart, a humbled heart, a heart that loves because we are loved. How different from worshipping dead idols out of fear, and forever trying to appease them with works and sacrifices. How different from going to temples day after day, bowing down before graven images, and going through countless rituals born of ignorance and superstition. Man made rituals meant to somehow give a righteousness that we can never have.

I want my whole life to be one of worship. Yes, it is a true blessing to be with brothers and sisters, praying and singing and praising God together. But to be honest, I don't miss that part of "church" very much. I look back at it now, and see myself as taking part in what I believed to be real worship. And I know the potential was there for that to happen. Yet so many times I was simply going through the motions. I was so very much aware of how I looked, how I acted, how I sang. I was very much aware of how others looked, acted, and sang. I had expectations of those meetings, and of myself and others as we gathered for them. I think a lot of them were wrong expectations.

Because so much emphasis was placed on being there, I came to view those times as the pinnacle of my Christian experience. Being in that building, during those times, should have brought me closer to God. It was "God's house", after all. It was "the Lord's Day" as well. I was doing what every other obedient, sincere Christ follower was doing. I was in His house on His day, to "worship" Him. I owed Him at least that much. How selfish it would have been to stay in bed, and forgo that assembling together. How guilty I felt if I missed a meeting. How I admonished myself if my thoughts wandered, or I judged my heart to be "cold" during the meeting.

I learned a lot there. I loved the words of the hymns and choruses. I think I sometimes "felt" God's presence. But many times I felt the way I used to feel after going to Mass in the Catholic church. Like I had done my duty. I had done at least the bare minimum that a "good" Christian should do. I showed up for meeting. And by doing that, I reassured others that I was doing alright spiritually. Because if you started to miss meetings, then that must certainly mean you weren't doing well in your walk with the Lord. Never mind what you might be up to the rest of the week, even if you went to church on Sundays.

When I think about it all now, it seems to me that we are still clinging to old ways in our worship. We have kept the buildings, rituals, the traditions. We have narrowed it all down to a certain time slot. It is so unlike what the early Christians did. Their lives were connected to each other, and to Christ, in faith, in spirit and in truth. They didn't need all the fuss and muss. They didn't depend on pastors or programs, pianos or pews. They lived their life in Christ every day of the week, and saw Him in each other. It was pretty simple, I think. That's what I want.

(Hope this makes some sense)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Life in the Basement

Depression is chasing me again. I was ahead of it for a while, but it continues to rear its dreary head. I think back to not that long ago, and wonder what happened to "that" me. She seems a stranger to me now.

I call it basement dwelling. It's dark, and cluttered, and cold. There's nowhere to be that is comfortable. Well, maybe an old bed in the corner, where you would just love to hide under a blanket while the world above carries on. You can hear them, the rest of the world. It's amazing; they all seem so cheerful, full of energy and hope. I remember what that was like, and want to be there again.

God seems to have stepped away. Like He moved, and left no forwarding address. He has a new phone number, but it's unlisted. Of course, I know that how I feel doesn't indicate truth. And that IS my hope. That He doesn't change. He is still for me, and will never leave me nor forsake me. He gives me the grace to believe, so I wait till I get to go up the stairs to "life above ground".

This was this morning's devotional from Charles Spurgeon. I really appreciated it. I'm sure we can all relate.


"I will pour water upon him that is thirsty."
-- Isaiah 44:3

When a believer has fallen into a low, sad state of feeling, he often
tries to lift himself out of it by chastening himself with dark and
doleful fears. Such is not the way to rise from the dust, but to
continue in it. As well chain the eagle's wing to make it mount, as
doubt in order to increase our grace. It is not the law, but the gospel
which saves the seeking soul at first; and it is not a legal bondage,
but gospel liberty which can restore the fainting believer afterwards.
Slavish fear brings not back the backslider to God, but the sweet
wooings of love allure him to Jesus' bosom. Are you this morning
thirsting for the living God, and unhappy because you cannot find him
to the delight of your heart? Have you lost the joy of religion, and is
this your prayer, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation"? Are you
conscious also that you are barren, like the dry ground; that you are
not bringing forth the fruit unto God which he has a right to expect of
you; that you are not so useful in the Church, or in the world, as your
heart desires to be? Then here is exactly the promise which you need,
"I will pour water upon him that is thirsty." You shall receive the
grace you so much require, and you shall have it to the utmost reach of
your needs. Water refreshes the thirsty: you shall be refreshed; your
desires shall be gratified. Water quickens sleeping vegetable life:
your life shall be quickened by fresh grace. Water swells the buds and
makes the fruits ripen; you shall have fructifying grace: you shall be
made fruitful in the ways of God. Whatever good quality there is in
divine grace, you shall enjoy it to the full. All the riches of divine
grace you shall receive in plenty; you shall be as it were drenched
with it: and as sometimes the meadows become flooded by the bursting
rivers, and the fields are turned into pools, so shall you be-the
thirsty land shall be springs of water.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Praising God Together

I am home from our first "meeting" and thanking God for brothers and sisters in Christ. We were a diverse lot, that's for sure. But with one thing in common; a desire to let Jesus Christ be our focus as we shared His life in us with one another. And it really wasn't that hard to do. Once the mandatory "ice breaking" took place, folks were glad to share what was on their heart.

It wasn't about how "wrong" regular church was, but about how we are learning to be one in Him in the way that He intended. It was about hearts that have been searching for true fellowship and community, and are hopeful that it really can happen. It was about not caring what "denomination" you were from; some of us have a mixed "pedigree" when it comes to church background anyway. It was about realizing that we probably agree on all the essentials, and being willing to leave the rest to the side for now. It was about learning, and growing, and moving ahead together, one step at a time, with Jesus leading the way.

And last but not least, it was about sitting around a table, sharing His provision of a delicious meal, getting to know one another, being encouraged, and realizing that we all have a lot to learn, but not being afraid to admit it.

I think I learned that we don't have to meet certain expectations, or have any mandatory "experiences" or have everyone pray, or everyone sing. I think I learned that trusting Holy Spirit removes all the pressure to perform or cram in all the "things" that we used to think were necessary to qualify as "real church". I learned that I can just be me; we can just be us, together. And God will ALWAYS show up.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

New Beginning

Tomorrow I am meeting with 8 other folks. We plan to get together in mid-morning, spend time in getting to know one another (some have never met), praying, sharing, and end with a meal together. Two of these people are from my former church. We have been planning to begin meeting regularly, and tomorrow will be the first time.

I believe that the New Testament shows that we should meet regularly as believers. My two friends believe this as well. I know that many out there don't share this conviction. Many would say that if we try to have "church" the way it should be, we will just end up with a smaller version of the one we left. I surely hope that this isn't the case.

Even though I am exited about having these times on a regular basis, I do realize that many have gone this way before and failed. I can't help but think of a prisoner who has just been released from jail after serving a lengthy sentence. He has relied on that system for years. Being "inside" was the only life he knew, and now that he is out, he struggles. He can't just blend into society overnight. He has to unlearn and relearn so many things. He has to start fending for himself in the world, after having had little freedom or responsibility for a long time. Statistics for ex-cons returning to crime are pretty dismal. It is hard to make that adjustment, and many end up back behind bars, where it is at least familiar and predictable.

I am so hoping that as "leavers" we will be able to make the needed adjustments. I hope we will learn to rely wholly on the Holy Spirit to lead us. I hope we won't suddenly find ourselves sitting around in a living room in awkward silence, no one knowing what to do or say, because we are so accustomed to a man telling us what to do, say, sing and believe. I hope we will remember the reason we are all there. The reason is a Person, Jesus Christ. I hope we will each feel free to express what is in our hearts; to each other, and to Him. I know that He will be present with us, because He is present IN us. I hope we will trust Him enough to just be real, to just rejoice, to just give thanks. It shouldn't be that difficult, should it?

I'll let you know how it goes.................

Better Late Than Never

I wrote this some years ago, and came across it recently. It is a confession of sorts, I guess. When I wrote it back then, it was a private one; posting it here makes it public. Hopefully I am moving away from the attitudes that it describes. Perhaps you can relate to it somewhat. Bottom line is: thank God for His boundless grace and mercy as we journey along the way.

I am Beginning to See...

• That I am a Spiritual Snob. I have made the increase of my level of understanding of Truth to be the goal of my spiritual exercises, rather than a closer walk with God, or an opportunity to receive much needed grace, or even to ask for that grace that I need to enable me to be obedient in the simplest things. Those primary things that God has given me to be faithful in. Rather than add to my humility of spirit, I have allowed knowledge to puff me up. I have considered those with less understanding to be lacking in grace and ‘maturity’, while so many of these have displayed a far more godly walk, and so much more humble obedience and faith than I ever have. These ones shame me, and I can only imagine that the Lord takes so much more pleasure in their simple trusting of Him, even though they would seem to be content with much less understanding than I have, than He does with my proud hoarding of doctrine.

• That I aim to cultivate flattery from others. I try to be someone other than who I am, someone other than God has made me to be. I think I must do this to have approval, and be reassured regarding my value and my contribution. I think this is called being a hypocrite. I compare myself to others, and, according to my estimation of their wisdom, or maturity, assign to myself a grade to correspond. Either I let myself become mightily discouraged, or else I convince myself that I am somewhat above them in terms of growth and understanding. The latter would be fine, if it were simply a recognition, a discernment of where that person were, that was made in a spirit of compassion and a desire to encourage and edify. But that is seldom the case in MY case. And the former, thought it may at first appear to display humility of spirit, is only in reality a form of idol worship; that I would hinge my notion of being correct in my walk on the opinions of another fallible, fallen human, rather that on the written Word of God, which is to be my first and only measure in these things.

• That truly my heart must be the most deceitful, most wicked organ that ever beat in a human breast. Its displays of corruption seem endless; they bubble up from within, each one more vile than the last. If there were an end to them, a root to exhume, a final dark bottom to the pit of them, it would be somewhat easier to bear their sight. But I know that truly, they are endless. The ways in which my flesh seeks to be satisfied are diverse, and perverse, in ways and means that can never be exhausted. If I were to live forever in this body, my heart would never cease to manufacture its idols to be worshipped. My sin is as bad as God’s goodness is good. It has no limits, and is only restricted by grace. Thank God, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Where my sin abounds, His grace does much more abound.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Encouragement Times Two

“Jesus Christ is stronger!”

“Ready for some good news? . . .

Jesus Christ is stronger!

Stronger than my fears about the future or my shame over a past that cannot be altered though I wish so much I could do some things differently.

Stronger than my tired prayers with well-worn phrases and weary pleas.

Stronger than my need to know now, and have the trial terminated.

Stronger than the enemy of my soul who would discourage me with my own failings and disillusion me with the faults of others.

Such a simple truth—Jesus Christ is Stronger. ‘Stronger than what,’ you ask? Stronger than whatever would cause you doubt or discouragement today.”

—James McDonald, “Jesus Christ is Stronger”

The Two ‘Courts’

“There are two ‘courts’ we must deal with: the court of God in Heaven and the court of conscience in our souls. When we first trust in Christ for salvation, God’s court is forever satisfied. Never again will a charge of guilt be brought against us in Heaven. Our consciences, however, are continually pronouncing us guilty. That is the function of conscience. Therefore, we must by faith bring the verdict of conscience into line with the verdict of Heaven. We do this by agreeing with our conscience about our guilt, but then reminding it that our guilt has already been borne by Christ.”

- Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs, Co: NavPress, 1994), 54.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World Without Truth

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths, lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4)

I work in an office. As is common in this type of workplace, many desks are decorated with family photos, scenic pictures, quotes and inspirational sayings. One saying that I have taken notice of lately is, “There is no set path; just follow your heart.”

To most people, this would seem like fairly sound advice, especially in this day and age when absolutes are shunned, and individualistic self fulfillment is encouraged. Followers of Jesus Christ, however, realize that this type of philosophy is precisely what has brought humankind to the levels of chaos and sin that we see all around us today. God keep us from being directed by the human heart, which is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick (Jer. 17:9)

From the Beginning

Following our hearts began in the Garden, when Eve believed the lies of Satan and ignored what God had commanded. God has, from the beginning, given us standards and principles to live by. But since that first man and women were evicted from God’s presence, we have carried on in the same rebellious attitude of rejecting what He has provided and commanded, choosing instead to go our own way, paying homage to a never ending list of idols.

There is a set path, and it is lighted by the Word of God (Ps. 119:105.) Instructions on finding it and staying on it can be found inside the Bible, scattered throughout the ages and pages therein. Psalm 119 is filled with entreaties to be taught and led according to the Truth. Contrary to what the world would have us believe, there is absolute Truth. And how comforting and confidence building it is to know that there is a God in Heaven Who is the author of this Truth, a Sovereign God Who befriends all that bow the knee to Him, becoming for them their Savior and Protector in a world filled with uncertainties and potential for tragedy.

God’s Truth

God’s Word is the ultimate Truth. God cannot be separated from Truth or it from God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6.) He is the Word (John 1:1), and is full of grace and truth (John 1:14b.) He is its author. He reveals it, and so reveals Himself. There is nothing stronger than this Truth, whether shouted with the loudest, most commanding voice, or whispered faintly with one’s dying breath. Truth never shrinks back. Nothing else can match it, or threaten it, or overturn it. Even when it is silent, and unseen, it is at work, proving itself. It never loses power, or runs out; it supplies us with every confidence and a hope that cannot be shaken.

Not Just Words

We can’t have a living relationship with mere words on a page. We can, however, have a real relationship with the God Who is revealed on those pages. He is at work in our lives by His Spirit, revealing Himself to us in Scripture, and we can recognize Him being actively involved in our lives as we seek Him with all our heart, even with the new heart that He gives to us at salvation. He is a God Who draws near as we draw near to Him, a God Who knows us intimately and Who brings us into a love relationship with Himself. He adopts us into His Kingdom, and becomes for us a Heavenly Father Whose love is everlasting, and Whose grace knows no bounds in our lives.

Truth at Work

• Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17.)
• If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8: 31b-32.)
• Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17.)

Truth sorts out our thoughts. Like a great sieve, it sifts the contents of our mind and hearts, separating truth from lies. It is living, and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts an intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12.) It is our thermometer, compass, measuring stick and map. It always points to the right way.

The Christian is fed by Truth, and has learned that man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4.) It is growing inside us, transforming us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2.) As we walk through this world, there is much going on around us that would deny what God’s Word tells us. Thank God for His Word, and for His Spirit Who lives in us, teaching us all things (John 14:26), and directing our path (Prov. 3:6.)

Dear Lord: You light our way in a dark and foreign land. Your word is a beacon, leading us home. When it illumines the confusion around us, we see a clear and straight path carved out. Your Spirit unlocks the doors of our understanding, so that we can walk in freedom, confident of your purpose and working in our lives. Let us ever look to You, the author and finisher of our faith. Lead us in truth and triumph in Christ Jesus, Who is full of grace and truth. Like little children we look to You for all truth. Amen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It Is Finished

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

(Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-25)

"Father you made a way, a new and living way. No more sacrifices, nothing to add. One perfect life, and one perfect sacrifice. Precious blood of a Lamb, Your Lamb. What stands in our way now? Unbelief, or lack of understanding. Make these things clear to our hearts, that we may come boldly, with full confidence. No shadow of guilt or shame need follow us; the blood of Your Son cleanses once for all. You are faithful. In You we trust, to You we turn, in our doubt, confusion, fear, regret. You receive us always, for we come through the very Person of Jesus, our great High Priest. We can lay all at Your feet, and rest in Your perfect love. Help us to understand the place of safety we now inhabit. Nothing can separate us from Your love."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Everyday Gifts

I folded laundry today. This is a task that I usually enjoy; the fresh scent of towels and sheets just off the line, the orderly piles of linens and socks when I am done, signaling that another week’s worth has been dealt with. Today as I folded towels, I thought of how much I appreciated having clean ones. It struck me that there are thousands, perhaps millions, who do not have clean towels, or even dirty ones. It is such a small thing, really. Like countless other things in our daily lives that we reach for and use, and take for granted. In this society, we are rich indeed in material possessions, and in conveniences of travel, and every aspect of daily living.

I work with a girl who emigrated from Romania. She came to Canada as an adult. I love to hear her recount, in her lovely accent, her amazement, when she first arrived, over the bounty of benefits that this country provides. She wept the first time she saw a supermarket, overwhelmed at the abundance and variety of foods available there. So impressed was she that she took pictures to send to her family back home. Today she will most days walk down to the nearby grocery store on her lunch hour, carrying back her bags of treasures, still marveling at the many types of foods that she can purchase. Hearing her express her gratitude and joy at being fortunate enough to live in this country causes my conscience to stab me with sharp little reminders of how much I take for granted in my life.

If I were to send a “Thank You” card to God, I would never be finished writing it, as I have so many things to be thankful for. I am trying to cultivate a thankful heart, instead of my usual complaining one. Lately I am thanking Him for the beautiful Fall weather we are currently enjoying. Every day, I can thank Him for family, and health, and material things that I am blessed with. Mostly, though, I thank Him that He cares for me, and knows what is best for me every day. I thank Him that He provides me with all that I need, in this life and the next, out of the bounty of His mercy and grace.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17 NASB)

What can you thank Him for today?

(PS, I wrote this some time ago, but posting it now as Amy's recent post reminded me of it)

It Is Finished

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those wo eagerly await Him.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

(Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-25)

"Father you made a way, a new and living way. No more sacrifices, nothing to add. One perfect life, and one perfect sacrifice. Precious blood of a Lamb, Your Lamb. What stands in our way now? Unbelief, or lack of understanding. Make these things clear to our hearts, that we may come boldly, with full confidence. No shadow of guilt or shame need follow us; the blood of Your Son cleanses once for all. You are faithful. In You we trust, to You we turn, in our doubt, confusion, fear, regret. You receive us always, for we come through the very Person of Jesus, our great High Priest. We can lay all at Your feet, and rest in Your perfect love. Help us to understand the place of safety we now inhabit. Nothing can separate us from Your love."

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Grace is God’s blanket of mercy. He holds it out to us, when we see our own wretched hearts a little clearer than we had before. He holds it out to us, as a covering for the shame we feel, for having been so easily deceived by sin. Did He not also make garments of skin for Adam and his wife? Even then, when they had sinned against Him, He took pity upon them. And so that is His way with us.

Does He accuse or condemn us? No, rather, He is for us. He delivered His Son for us, and in that death, His own wrath is satisfied. We are justified, and He is the Justifier. Does He look with scorn upon us? Never. Instead He has so much compassion on us, who have learned to revere Him. Does He love us less when sin has found us out? How could He, when He has known us so perfectly, having knit us together in our mother’s womb, having laid out all of our days before us. He has chosen us in eternity, and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We are included in the Beloved, accepted in Him, and made co-heirs with Him. The Father loves us with the same love that He loves His Beloved Son with.

When His blade of pruning has done its careful work, His grace is there, binding up our wounds, and our broken hearts. His word to us is “what horrors of iniquity are concealed in your heart that I have not already known? Come, lay down your head upon my breast, while I enfold you with my Grace. For it is enough for you, and freely given. My mercies are new every morning, every moment.”

This, then, is how we can go on. This is how we get up again, and follow Him. We should not delay our running to Him, to let His grace have its way in us. It is meant to be our greatest comfort, this forgiving mercy. It does not take away the fact of our sin, but it tells us that it is forgotten, as far as the east is from the west. And if we go on condemning ourselves, we have missed the whole point. For grace frees us; His blood has cleansed the stain of our sin.

Under the canopy of grace, we can face our sin, bowing our hearts in the dust, yet knowing that only grace has brought us here, to see our own need. For until we see it, there is no growing, there is no going on. There can be no knowing grace itself, and the One who provides it so abundantly.

Is the path of grace that He has traced for us full of much pain in our discovery of ourselves, of what remains hidden in our hearts? So it must be. But here is hope, that even in that, He works all together for good. Best to turn our eyes upon Him, His goodness, His righteousness, for it is only in Him that we can have hope. Best to lay aside each weight, leave behind every carcass of each sin found out, and rejoice in knowing He is the Potter, and we are the clay. Be still, and know that He is God. It is Him working in us, according to His plan and purpose. Give thanks, for He Who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. And all the glory will be His.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Considering Creation

I have of late been marveling in the created world that I see around me, from the tiniest insect to the incomprehensible vastness of the universe. At the same time, I have been considering the creative bent that is in humankind, and the varied ways that it is expressed, in art, literature, music, dance, fashion design, architecture; the list is long and varied

We are not all artists in the strictest sense, but we can all be creative. Indeed, the desire to create is innate in us. As toddlers, we pick up crayons and play doh in our first efforts to replicate things familiar to us. These attempts continue as we grow older, as we try to imitate and reproduce the beauty of nature through various mediums. We do this instinctively, as we respond to what we see and experience in our daily lives.

In creating our world, God began with nothing. His designs are far beyond anything mankind can come up with, in spite of the advances that we make daily. God’s creation of man was judged by Him to be “very good” (Gen 1:31).We are still learning of the complexities that are involved in our physical, emotional and spiritual makeup.

Over the centuries, we see a vast array of evidences of the creative spark that is in us, left there by our Creator. These abilities can be used in helpful, benevolent ways, or for destructive purposes. We can create beauty, in the soul’s aspiration to somehow replicate what is all around us, in the wonder of God’s Creation. We can even glorify God, as a worshipful response to Him, acknowledging His incredible wisdom and creative power as we praise Him through the many means He has made available to us.

In the busyness of life, and amidst the continual technological advances of mankind, I find it wonderfully refreshing and humbling to pause and give thought to the awesome wonder of creation, and of God’s sustaining power in the universe. As I do, I re-align my priorities, realizing afresh the many blessings He has bestowed upon His creatures, and His goodness in doing so.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Rev.4:11, NIV)

Living Proof

I cast my eye about one day
In mainly careless gesture,
Not meaning in my glance to find
E’en one thing that would then remind
Me of this world’s Creator.

But lo, behold! Before my eyes
Too many things to count!
A vast array of species lay,
Some flora, fauna, birds of prey;
We must no longer doubt.

There is a force unseen by us
Upholding hour by hour.
Though we give little thought to this
That every moment we exist
We’re girded by this power.

All these, and that means us, you see,
With life and breath are nourished.
A grand design, before all time,
Made only with His will in mind.
We’ll by His power have flourished,

Until His purpose be fulfilled,
Though much is hidden now.
We will yet see what’s meant to be,
All one in Christ so perfectly;
Before Him all will bow.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nest of Grace

We can become so good at the game of hiding ourselves. From behind a wall of what we think we ought to be, we sit and observe. We weigh and measure each response, every lifted eyebrow, and adjust accordingly. Behind the scenes, we continually re-write our script, always searching for that one right way to be. Yet we are unable to calm our anxious hearts, for we know full well that we will never be truly “right”. We are made this way, and have grown this way, however bent and gnarled we may be.

But we are no surprise to You. You knew us from our mother's womb. Foreknown by you, we were saved. Even our struggles, our hearts' straining to know truth, You foreknew. “All things” can only mean all things. So even in our weakness, our groans, our stumbling, You work out Your purpose for Your glory. Even in our constant turnings, worries over what we've said and done, You stand guard over us.

We huddle within You, like newly hatched sparrows in their nest. We feebly lift our upturned faces to You, eyes still dim, our mouth opens, straining to be filled with understanding, with knowledge of You. For this is our food and drink, this knowing of You. We know that this Truth is the answer to all of our searching. We can take it and hold it up against every thought, every situation. It lines everything up in order. It casts away the dross, and makes more brightly shine the gold. It polishes and chips away, even at us.

Lord we are safe in You, in this nest of grace. Within it we can take new steps, even the wrong ones. Our searching after You is done with our whole heart, and You will guide our eventual end. You oversee every thought and action, and even in our wrongness, You gently lead us to Truth. Up ahead is so dark, like a gloomy forest at dusk. But Your light shines before us, one step at a time. God, if only You can see our hearts, if only You can know us through and through, it is enough, it is become even our great hope. For even though knowing us, You still love us with an everlasting love. This is our resting place.

"How priceless is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings!" (Psalm 36:7)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Encouragement from Hudson Taylor


If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In numerous ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word; if you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hands or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with.

However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

God's Will

In considering how I can know God’s will, Psalm 119 came at once to my mind. It is one of my favourites, and I think it conveys, not a method or a formula, but the importance of God’s Word, of studying it, knowing it, and obeying it, in relation to, as they say, “being in” the will of God. If we read it slowly, meditatively, we begin to understand that Truth has to be the beginning, and remain as the constant measuring stick, of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

In this Psalm, the Psalmist is saying that God’s will is revealed in His Word, through His

I. law
II. testimonies
III. precepts
IV. statutes
V. commandments
VI. judgments
VII. ordinances
VIII. ways
IX. promises

They are so precious to him. More precious than thousands of silver and gold, sweeter than honey to his lips. They are become his hope, strength, joy, peace. He seeks them with his whole heart. In the midst of trouble and persecution, he trusts in them, in God’s promises. They light his path, and he delights in them.

My Will Vs. His

But start with this. The thing is to have no will of your own. To have nothing lingering there to put up resistance to His. If my heart is “flat out” for Him, if I am so abiding in Him, that I have no will, no plans, no presumptions of my own, then His will becomes mine, is mine. I will be so receptive to it, that I will automatically be walking in it. I won’t be putting up a fight, trying to hold on to my own agenda or desires.

So much is already laid out for me in His Word. These few words say so much about His will for me. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) My sanctification. That is His will for me. My being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That will be my end result, in glory. What stands in the way of that, in the meantime? Me. Myself. I must be chipped away at, as a sculptor chisels a block of stone. In his mind’s eye, he sees the finished product. He sees his masterpiece. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.

Am I content in this? Oh yes, in my spirit, I rejoice. As for my flesh, it flinches every time the chisel comes near. When I am reading this beautiful Psalm, as I meditate on it, my heart cries “Yes Lord! May it ever be so for me!” And then I get up from that place, and immediately my mind is at work, dallying where it should never go, seeking after self being satisfied. Turning to idols once more, so easily putting aside the precious truths I so recently feasted upon.

God is Sovereign

God is sovereign. God is God. He decides where I will work, whom I will marry, how many children I will have. Ultimately. I go through the motions, the decision making process, but I see this: “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:15-17) And I know that everything in my life has a purpose, is part of His grand design. Even the pain, even the sin. He is working it all together for good.

Before I understood this, I thought that everything depended on me. On how good I was, on how obedient, on how “in tune” I was to His “voice”. But here is what He asks of me. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” He promises that if I seek Him first and His kingdom, that He will look after all the details.

This is framed over my desk at home, “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” (Dan.11:32) So I must make knowing Him my priority. Knowing, fearing (revering), loving, obeying. It happens in that order. Bit by bit, what He says matters more than what I want. Bit by bit, what He says becomes what I want. His will becomes mine. Even though the struggle is always there, and will always be. Increased obedience needs increased grace. Supply and demand. That’s how it works. There is never a shortage of His grace.

God Speaks

Does God still “speak” today? I believe He does. Through His Word, first and foremost. In it, He lays out the basic framework of His will. He shows me in it Who He is, and who I am. He tells me what His will is for me in all of my relationships and situations, including my relationship with Him. I am His, His child, His servant, His purchased possession.

So if things are getting complicated, if I seemingly “can’t see the forest for the trees,” then I must be looking in the wrong direction. I must be looking over the fence, for some greener grass. I have to come back to the beginning, back to Him, back to His Word. Begin at the bottom. Do I know my proper place in His scheme of things? Am I being faithful, am I being obedient, with what He has given me, where He has put me? In my situations, in my relationships? Am I content in these? If not, why not? What am I not content with? Do I want to change them, to run from them? I have to line everything up with Truth. I have to ask Him to search my heart, and show me my motives. I must ask Him to change my heart, to reveal Himself, and His love to me in a greater way. I must set my mind on things above, and learn to trust Him for the things below.

One Step at a Time

Are things not going according to plan, my plan? Should have known! My plans aren’t likely to line up often with His. Self wants the easy way, the short cut, the “no muss, no fuss” method of sanctification. But here is what He seems to do. He arranges things so that I must keep turning to Him. For strength. For guidance. For wisdom. For forgiveness. Over and over and over. That is His will for me. To rely on Him, for everything. To realize that it is Him leading the way. To help me to understand that I can’t make any long-range plans. He makes them all. And He only lets me see one step at a time. That is all He will trust me with. Good thing, too. If I knew more than that, I would start embellishing, and putting in my two cents worth. As if He needs my input! He doesn’t want me to try and figure everything out in advance. He wants me to trust Him with all my heart, not lean on my understanding, acknowledge Him in all my ways, and He will direct my path.

But must I pray specifically about every move, every decision that I make? No, I don’t believe that I do. For one thing, I have not yet reached the point where I am continually acknowledging Him in all of my ways. So much of the time, most of the time, I do lean on my own understanding, my own emotions, or the opinions of others. But still He does lead me. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” (Psalm 37:23,24). Whew! I can count on God’s wisdom, His strength, and most of all, His grace, to uphold me while I stumble along in this life.

Like the hymn says “He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.” When I seek Him, to know Him, to love and obey Him, with all of my heart, His grace is a net beneath me, and He sends angels to watch over me. If it were not so, how hopeless it all would be. Because I know that all of my own thoughts, plans, motives, and desires are tainted with sin, and always will be. But His purposes, His will, His grace overrides them, and somehow He will accomplish what He has set out to do, even in me. “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)

Heavenly To-Do Lists?

But how does He “lead” me in the day to day kinds of things? Do I hear a voice every morning, listing my instructions for the day? Is there some mysterious handwriting on the steamed up bathroom mirror? Hasn’t happened to me yet. But this has. On different occasions, I have been impressed so strongly to pray for a person, right then and there. And later, I have found out that at that exact time, they were going through a particularly difficult experience. And other times I have “been led” to give someone a particular book, or send them a note, or call them. At the time, it just seemed the thing to do, and I had no sense of expectation about it. But later, it would turn out that whatever I had done had a special significance for that person. And at other times, I have been “impressed” to talk to someone, to introduce myself to a person, to get to know them. It is like the Holy Spirit shines a spotlight on them, and says “that one. Talk to that one.” And usually it is someone that needed encouragement, or just needed a friend for a time.

Those are some of the ways that I think God “leads” us. He just drops ideas or thoughts into our minds, without any big fanfare. He does order our steps, kind of automatically. Not forcing, or ordering us to do things. But if we are abiding in Him, resting in Him, just going from moment to moment, being content in Him, and trusting Him, He makes straight paths for us. He steers us in the way we should go.

God is not limited in how He can operate, but that He won’t do anything that contradicts what He has said in His Word. I do believe I have “heard” God’s voice on occasion. If He chooses to speak that way, that is fine. But I would never seek it as a way to know His will. I must always begin and end with scripture. Begin with it as the foundation, the main channel through which I know and understand God’s will, and end with it as a plumb line against which I measure every other thought, emotion, and experience that I am tempted to use in addition to scripture.

When I consider the vast richness of God’s Word, the patient forbearance of the Holy Spirit in teaching us truth, and the grace that allows our continued perseverance in this race, I am incredibly grateful, and humbled, that this Most High God would allow us to understand even one iota of His Word, and to approach Him as our Heavenly Father, our Abba Daddy. He is captivating in His beauty and grace, and following Him one moment at a time can be our greatest joy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Then Shall We Say?

Daily I am “meeting” new folks in the blog world. It is, as I have said before, incredibly refreshing and encouraging to connect with others who are stepping out and forging a relationship with God that is unmediated by any human authority. (I am still a bit giddy myself as I continue to apprehend my freedom in this; indeed the freedom that has been there all along, hidden behind tradition and religion.)

In blogging, and reading, and commenting, I have observed a certain trend. It is almost as though there is an unwritten rule. If it were written, it would go something like this:

“Thou shalt not disagree with anything that a fellow blogger or forum poster states as their understanding of truth. Thou shalt leave them be, since they are on their own journey with the Father. If they are in error at all, Father will, at some point, show that to them. Thou shalt not quote scripture so as to in any way disagree, admonish, or warn them of the error they have fallen into. Thou shalt only find those things thou can agree with, and so state them so as to simply encourage the writer, and allow them to carry on in believing a lie.”

It seems to be that whenever there are objections raised in any online arenas, and scripture is used as supporting the argument against some idea or statement in the post, the objector may be labeled as legalistic, or religious. The blogger may gently imply that the commentator is simply at a different place in their journey, and that they were at that place themselves in the past. In many of these exchanges, the actual scriptures mentioned are seldom refuted in a way that could be termed polemic. Most often, they are simply ignored, as personal experience and opinion are re-iterated, making it impossible for any conclusion to be reached that is based on reasoning from the word of God.

I started blogging mainly as a way to express my thoughts as I journeyed away from church attendance and all that it encompassed. I am at a point now, however, where I am re-evaluating my purpose. I have so many questions.

What is my blogging a means to an end to?

Can it replace face to face fellowship?

Do I look to scripture for all the ways I am to relate to brothers and sisters, and try to make that happen online? Is it at all realistic to expect that I can do that?

How important is what I write on my blog, and in comments on others, in the advancement of God’s kingdom and His purposes?

Should I care at all when I see others sliding into what the word of God clearly proves is error?

Are my responsibilities to them the same as they would be with my “real life” brothers and sisters, i.e. that I would be expected to encourage, exhort, admonish, and warn them as I travel with them, love them, and always have their best interests at heart?

My belief is that I AM responsible for my brothers and sisters. It is an accountability FOR them, not so much TO them. I am accountable TO God for how I treat them. The New Testament is full of instructions on how we are to relate to one another. In real life “church” it was difficult to comply to those instructions. If our online relationships are to move beyond what happened “in the building” then it would be obvious to me that we must move beyond polite platitudes and simply being members of an online Mutual Admiration Society. We must be prepared to disagree and admonish in love, and be prepared to defend the truth, even if it may upset the other person. We must also be willing to discuss, be open to learn, and be humble enough to admit when we are wrong. If we simply allow each other to express personal thoughts and feelings, what gain will there be? Freedom of exspression, yes. But we are to be upholders of the truth, and we are to speak the truth to one another, in love.

Maybe you have had similar thoughts. If you have, and have answers, or even if you don’t, please leave your comments. I would appreciate it very much. I am still learning how to go about these things.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some Encouragement

(Thinking on things eternal reminded me of something I had written last year. So here it is.)

We Have This Hope

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Romans 8:19-22)

Sitting early one morning in our family room, I paused in my reading to take in the view through the patio door. It was the middle of April, yet the recent weather had been more suited to March. Days, seemingly weeks, had gone by, with few glimpses of the sun. Everyone was longing for the fair weather that the month ought to have ushered in. But on this day, there was a blue sky and fresh white clouds. I gazed out at this most welcomed sight and relished the happy chirping of birds in the still skeletal tree branches. It was a welcome retreat before I was launched into the busyness of the day.

A Frightening Forecast

Contemplating this delightful scene, my thoughts turned to the state of our planet. Recently, the threat that is called global warming was receiving much attention in the media, amongst scientists, politicians and celebrities alike. I thought of how disturbing the predictions of the experts could be. It truly would appear that we were doing too little too late, and that the fate of the earth was sealed. We were slowly eroding and poisoning our resources, and harming our atmosphere to the degree that catastrophic weather conditions were inevitable. Added to this was the threat from diseases such as AIDS, SARS, and flu pandemics. Truly a bleak picture was being forecast for all of mankind.

It would be easy to feel hopelessness and fear in the light of these doom and gloom predictions. But as I sat there enjoying the tiny scrap of nature presented in my backyard, God seemed to be leading me to a different viewpoint. I thought of how perfect His creation had been in the beginning, and of how sin had entered the world, bringing with it death. (Rom. 5:12) For truly, since Adam and Eve first rebelled in the Garden, our world has been slowly dying. Just as sin brought physical and spiritual death to all of mankind, the earth has also suffered its consequences. Because of that one sin committed, the whole of creation was then subjected “to futility” by God Himself. (Gen. 3:17)

God Made Us Stewards

God made mankind ruler over all of His earthly creation. We have had a wonderful privilege and responsibility for thousands of years. But being the fallen, sinful race that we are, we have made a mess of things. The state of the world today should be no surprise to us. As Christians we understand that sin has infected every aspect of humanity, and that it is only God’s restraining grace that keeps us from totally annihilating ourselves.

Science holds out answers to us; reasons why, and remedies for the peril that seems to loom ahead only a few decades. But Science has left out a critically important factor in its’ reasoning. It assumes a universe with no creator, and so can look no further than mankind for hope. It sees our earthly life, and the life of this planet, as the most important, valuable things in existence. This is the conclusion that worshipping the creature rather than the creator (Rom. 1:25) has brought us to. Mankind stands helpless, yet blind to his own inability to control the destiny of this planet. This worldly mind set, in rejecting the idea of a sovereign, creating God, has also rejected its only hope of life, even eternal life.

Where Is Our Hope?

It is sad that millions are desperate to find their ultimate happiness, contentment and safety in this dying world. They are deceived in thinking that this life is the most important thing and that this creation can be saved and corrected in their own strength and wisdom, that they have the power and authority to control the destiny of mankind. Indeed they must do if they are to justify their rebellion and be successful in living apart from our creator God. If His existence is not acknowledged, then He cannot be sought for help.

We can go to the moon and to Mars, and fertilize human eggs in petri dishes. We think we have accomplished great things. But in comparison to the Creator of the universe, we are as puny ants in an ant hill, busying ourselves with our little piece of the universe, totally unaware of our own smallness in the face of Almighty God and eternity.

Later, on the same day of my backyard musings, I read in a letter to the editor about the disastrous effects that global warming would have, and the need to be finding solutions before it is too late. The writer saw “human ingenuity” as an “amazing force” that “is required now for a better world for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.” Again, putting hope in the creature, and giving glory to the creature, rather than the Creator.

We Are But Dust

In our society today, there is a frantic desire to be “young”, a desperate seeking after looking younger, feeling younger. Looking “your age” means being unattractive, and must be avoided at all costs. I don’t believe that it is entirely about vanity, or competing with others to look better than they do. The root of it is a belief that this life is all there is, and that this body is the only one we will ever have. There is a desperate attempt to preserve it as long as possible. Not only outward appearance, but inwardly though exercise, diet, health foods, and more. This is further evidence of creature worship. Not that these things in and of themselves are wrong, but when we leave God out of the equation, it becomes all about us, and is idolatry.

What to Think?

It is easy to become caught up in this mind set, to let the threats of doomsday form cold hard lumps of fear in our gut. But we have a greater hope. We can look beyond this earthly life to an eternal one. We know the true reason for our dilemma, and the condition of the earth today. And we know its only cure - the grace and mercy of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. Creation is God’s handiwork, and mankind is His crowning achievement. We should seek to care for and preserve this earth as obedient stewards. We should seek to care for our bodies, knowing that our lives are not our own, and our bodies are to be presented to God for His use and glory. Seeing eternity, seeing the glory of God as our ultimate purpose, and this earthly life as simply a means to that end, go a long way in rooting out fear of the future, self absorption and discontent.

We can have peace in the face of all of these threats, knowing that nothing is by accident. We need to remind ourselves that these things are not dictated by the whims of an out of control “Mother Nature”, but that all events are directed and controlled by God. That all is unfolding according to His plan and purpose, and that no matter what goes on in the wold around us, our hope is in heaven, our treasure and inheritance of eternal life is reserved and kept safe for us there. We look forward to a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1), when “creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) This will take place when we realize our ultimate purpose and destiny, and are glorified, being made like Christ, to dwell with Him for eternity.

In the end He will be proven. “Every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Phil 2:10) Mankind will not succeed in restoring the earth, and in fact it will be destroyed (2Peter 3:19). But God will bring a new heaven and a new earth. Mankind will realize his smallness and God’s glory. All of God’s plans and purposes in redemption will be realized, both in saved souls and in the created order. “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” (Eph 1:9,10) Speaking again of Christ “whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Acts 3:21)

Should we care about global warming? Should we recycle, educate ourselves about toxins in our environment? Yes we should. We are accountable before God to do whatever is within our means to do, as the Holy Spirit leads. Not in a spirit of fear of the future, but in a spirit of worshipful obedience to our loving, sovereign God.

We should recognize the urgency and importance of living our life totally for and before God. Make His glory our highest goal, make our resources and ourselves available to the Holy Spirit so we may be the ones to bring lost souls to the safe haven of Jesus Christ.

He Is Our Hope

As God’s children, we have so much to hope for, so many promises in His word that can steady our souls in the midst of a world that is on a collision course with disaster. Even our earthly bodies will be made like His body, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality”. (I Cor 15:53) Even our great enemy, death, will be “swallowed up in victory”. (1Cor 15:54)

Let us ponder these wonderful truths as we live each day, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:13)

Dear Lord: The days are born as if without effort; they glide along, one following another, like ducks on a pond. Yet I know that only You are upholding all things: sun rising and setting, earth’s turning and revolving, every movement of wind and cloud. You are Author and Master of every moment in time. The whole earth is Yours, and everything in it. Like some vast stage it serves Your purposes as You work out Your will in countless ways and places. I think of Your faithfulness, not only to Your creation, but to Your own Word and Honour. This gives me so much peace, knowing You are always faithful to Yourself. I see Your plans laid out in Your Word. I see the beauty and perfection of them. I am encouraged, and certain in my mind and in my heart that all You have determined will come to pass. So much would appear to be in confusion around me, but I have You as my center, my point of reference. I can bring all things to You and You put them in their place. Everything becomes as incidental in the face of Your sovereign purposes. I walk amongst chaos, amongst those who have nowhere to turn for hope. But my hope is in the LORD Who made heaven and earth. This lets me look straight ahead, not to the left or the right. My soul is steadfast; it does not flinch. This is a gift beyond price, this gift of faith. I wait in joyful hope for the bringing together of all things in Christ. All glory and honour is Yours, dear Lord.

We’ll Know You Then

We’ll know You when we see you, Lord
When freed from this life’s hold,
And carried to our final home
To walk on streets of gold.

While in this earthly body now
Our eyes but dimly see.
The beauty that is fully Yours
We’ll view eternally.

For now as in a glass so dim
With feeble sight, in part,
But then full known You’ll be to us,
As us to You now art.

We’ll need no one to introduce us,
Standing at Your throne.
You’ll look at us with the same love
That let us be Your own.

We’ll know You by the wounds you bear,
Though given long ago.
These marks You will forever wear
That all may look and know

The price You paid to set us free,
When led so meek and mild,
You took our place at Calvary
So each would be Your child.

With faith we look to what will be
When we will be transformed.
Completely from all sin set free
Pure worship we’ll perform.

This truth to us an anchor sure;
We wait in hope enduring.
Se zealous to have hearts made pure
To show at Your appearing

All praise and thanks to You we give
For only by your grace
We have eternal life to live
And strength to run this race.

The here and now is but a taste
Of what You have in store
When not a second will we waste;
We’ll praise forevermore.

So till that time when faith is sight
O Lord be pleased to give
Your grace to make our hearts more right;
Our lives to you we’ll live.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but
then face to face; now I know in part,
but then I will know fully just as I also
have been fully known.” (1Cor 13:12)