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.