In the Hand of God
In the Hand of God
For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. 1 Peter 2:21-23 KJV
They hurt me again, God. I thought if I left then maybe I could start to heal.
God, this isn’t fair. It already hurts so much, why does it have to keep getting worse? And why does it have to be over something that meant so much to me?
And He answers me….,They hurt Me. They defiled My name. They rejected Me and I never did anything wrong. I was brought as a spotless lamb to the slaughter with no sin. If I was crucified, do you not think it is fitting for you to experience
suffering? You are merely a sinner, saved by grace.
I heard a speaker on the radio a few days ago, and he made a statement that has not left me for days. He said that God asks if we would rather have an easier road and bear less fruit, or a harder road and bear more fruit. What a thought. I found myself in the middle of my pain telling God that I would rather bear more fruit. There in the middle of the hurt, the rejection, and the pain, I found myself asking Him to let me bear more fruit even if the pruning process hurts.
In order for a fruit tree to bear better quality fruit and in greater quantities, it must be pruned. The limbs of the tree are severed in order to prepare them for growth. It is necessary to wound the tree in order to enable it to bear better
Sometimes God prunes us. It isn’t an enjoyable experience while it is happening. Sometimes we are wounded and it hurts, but God can use those wounds to grow our faith. He can use it to encourage our growth in Him just as pruning a tree can encourage its growth.
But what about the people who hurt us? And isn’t the hurt worse, when it comes from those who claim to be your brothers and sisters in Christ? A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi states a very sad truth for today’s church. Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Sadly sometimes that is so true. We Christians can be so unlike our Christ.
But still, it hurts. It is hard to let go of the pain, but when we choose to hold onto it, it leads us to bitterness. According to Anne Graham Lotz, when we hold onto bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, it is the same thing as drinking poison thinking the other person will die. God commands us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. This is our motivation to forgive.
David had every reason to want to seek revenge on Saul for trying to kill him, yet he did not. Stephen forgave the ones stoning him and asked God to do the same. Jesus prayed from the cross for God’s forgiveness on those who crucified
Him. Who are we to do anything less than that, especially since the God who has forgiven us asks us to do so.
So do we just shut our mouths and let it go? Do we just let them get by with it? That’s hard. I find myself in a place where I have walked away from something dear to my heart and in the middle of that being painful enough, I find myself enduring ridicule and being lied about. I walked away from the situation trying to start to heal and am still being wounded even in my absence. Can I just let that go?
I have to. My big Brother has left me an example to follow. I Peter 2:21-23 tells me that I am to follow in His footsteps. He committed himself to the One who judges righteously, God. He stood before His accusers and remained silent, knowing that His Father who loved Him would set it all straight. He knew that it wasn’t His battle to fight for the battle belonged to His Father and He would make it right in time.
And so I surrender to the pruning. I am willing to suffer the pain of the cutting so that I can see growth and eventually the bearing of better fruit. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Sometimes it hurts so bad that you can barely breathe, but is it worth it? There is no greater joy than growing closer to God. There is no reward
like having a close and personal relationship with the One created the stars. And so I choose to forgive and to move forward. I refuse to drink the poison of my bitterness and be cheated out of whatever it is that my Father has planned for me to do. I can’t move forward by looking backward and it is time to move forward.
When You Have to Lay it Down
nor give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:27 NKJV
It's hard to even post the picture for his entry. It is the one thing I allow Satan to have a place. It is the one thing that I allow him to prod me with over and over. It is the one thing that no one understands completely, except for him and God. It is the one thing that he can hurt with me with the most...and he knows it.
Christmas....my absolute favorite time of the year. As a young girl, I fell in love with Christmas. I learned early how to hold Christmas in my heart and live it throughout the year. I spend hours thinking about that first Christmas night....about what it was like. About that young girl who had been chosen by God to carry His only Son. We don't always think about it, but how alone and afraid she must have felt. And Joseph, a man taking a wife who was pregnant knowing it wasn't his, just because God told him to go ahead. Those shepherds, the poorest of the poor, being the ones God chose to announce the birth of the Messiah. Wise Men traveling for months to worship a promised king....a baby in Bethlehem.
The miracle of Christmas...the story of God pausing for all of humankind. The story of God taking the time to wrap the most precious gift the world has ever been given and send it in the form of a baby.
The night when Love was born. That was the title for the drive through nativity last year. It came from one of the most beautiful Christmas songs I have ever heard. It was perfect heading for the telling of the story. The hours I spent trying to develop scenes that would show the world the story of that beautiful night. My personal offering to God. I would walk around just before it started and pray at each scene that God would use it, that He would let those people in those cars see the miracle of the first Christmas night. It wasn't just a Christmas program, it was my Christmas offering to a God who had shown me what it means to hold Christmas in your heart and I wanted to share it with everyone else.
This year brought changes and I am no longer directing a drive through nativity. Of all the changes in my life this year, it is the one that Satan helps me hold onto...the one thing I manage to let him use most. I know that God has other things in mind for me, for my family. I know that He is leading us. But there is this empty space...this part of my heart that craves the chance to share that story in a visual form. There is a part of me that aches to see a little boy so excited because he saw the Baby Jesus on the other side of the church and his parents are taking him around for the third time. There is a part of me that wants to see a church come together and do its very best to tell the greatest story ever told.
It came from somewhere this weekend...I can't find anywhere I would have read it, so maybe He told me. Sometimes you have to put something down so you can pick up something greater. God, I am trying to put it down, but it's almost November and these arms feel so empty. God, even as I sit here typing, the tears won't stop flowing. It is so hard to put something down that meant so much to so many. I know that if You gave me the ministry to start with, You can always give it to me again or maybe something different. God, help me to be grateful for the opportunity to witness the beauty of it while I held it. To be thankful that it was, even if it is no longer. And God, please never let me lose this childlike wonder of Christmas....the manger, the shepherds, the teenage girl and her husband, the singing of angels, and the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Let those pictures of that first Christmas forever remain in my mind and my heart. May I always close my eyes and see the night when Love was born.
Leaving a Legacy
When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5 NJKV
Four generations of hands..my grandmother, my mom, my daughter, and me.. A friend had encouraged me to take the picture before it was too late, so one Sunday morning after church I opened my Bible and asked my husband to take a picture of our hands. Two of those hands held me as a baby, picked me up as a toddler, comforted me when I was sick, and prepared an unknown number of meals for my nourishment. My own hand, bearing my wedding band, had held my two precious babies and comforted many other children along the way. And then the hand of my baby girl, a hand that I know is blessed by God and will do many great things for others as it already has.
Leaving a legacy. Paul reminded Timothy that he had seen the faith that he possessed, a faith that Timothy had witnessed from his mother and grandmother. They had left Timothy a legacy...a legacy of faith. What kind of legacy are you leaving for those who will follow? Is it a legacy of faith?
As I pause to think about the legacy that has been left for me by my two grandfathers who have gone to be with the Lord, I smile through the tears because they left a legacy for me that is more valuable than any amount of money. I was blessed to be the granddaughter of two precious, loving, God-fearing Christian men. They were both saved to the uttermost and I have no doubt where they reside today. As I write this post, I look up at my bulletin board above my writing desk and see their smiling faces. I am so thankful that God blessed me to have these men in my life. I am thankful that they taught me to stand up for what I believe in and not to be ashamed. I am blessed to have loved by both of them.
And so as I pause to think about this legacy that has been left for me, I start to think of the legacy that I will leave one day. And then I realize that although leaving a legacy is important, perhaps there is something even more important than that, and maybe that's what Paul was getting at all along. Perhaps he wasn't encouraging Timothy to leave a legacy as his mother and grandmother had done, but rather to live a legacy.
And so I ask myself this question, how can I live their legacy? How can I take this wonderful legacy they left, and live it for others to learn from each day? Did they leave this legacy for me to protect and remember, or did they leave a legacy for me to live it? Yes, one day I too will leave a legacy, but in the meantime my prayer is that I can live the legacy that they left me, so that each person I meet can benefit from the lives of these two precious men who I was blessed to have as my grandfathers.
To Be Chosen By God
Psalm 139..... I used to read it when I was a little girl and just be in awe. I still am. The God Who created the Universe knew me before I was born, knew what I would do, who I would marry, what I would name my kids. God chooses us all. He knows us all before we are born. He knows everything about us.
I was born into a family that not only loved me, but adored me. I never doubted my parents' love for each other. I never wondered who I would live with or where I would go next. I wasn't abused or neglected. I made good grades. I ate supper every night with my family at the kitchen table. My parents tucked me into bed every night when I was little. Some people say I am a strong person. Maybe, but it's nothing I did. I was smothered with love. I was surrounded by people who would do anything in the world for me. I didn't have any real obstacles to overcome. I didn't struggle in school. I didn't have a bad childhood. I shouldn't be anything else but strong.
What amazes me is the strength I find in others who did have obstacles. The ones that have an inner strength that by all rights should not be there. Those who you know were chosen by God for a very special work. I know two people in particular that amaze me. They didn't have a childhood like mine. They didn't go to church every Sunday morning
and Sunday night with their parents, sister, grandparents, uncle, and aunt. They didn't grow up walking into a room and seeing people's eyes light up just because they were there. Sometimes no one noticed they were there at all. No one noticed they were hurting...or so it seemed.
God was there. He saw the pain and even though I can't comprehend why He had to let it happen, He saw it all. They had to wonder where He was. I know where He was. He was holding them, even if they couldn't feel Him. He was holding them and taking their circumstances in His hands and turning them and molding them into what they would someday become. And what they have become leaves me in absolute awe.
A man who shows a strength that could only come from God. A man who God
somehow has molded and changed into someone he never thought he would be.
Not because of his childhood, but in spite of it. A man I have watched God
grow and nurture and be able to use.
I know a woman who didn't grow up like I did. A woman who didn't have the
examples that I had and yet she is such an incredible mom. A woman who God
had to have His hand on because He had bigger plans for her later.
We are all chosen by God, but there are some that He just handpicks for
special things. There are some who must be broken so that one day He can
make them beautiful. I hope they know that He is using them in such big
ways. I don't know if they notice it, but I've watched them both. All you have to do is look and there you see it....the hand of God. I'm glad He let me be there in their lives. It is amazing for me to watch.....chosen. molded, and grown by the God who created the stars.
(previously published as a note on my Facebook page)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I Peter 5:8NJKV
If there is one thing that I have come to know all too well in my Christian walk, it is this: Satan is real, and he wants to destroy you. I know some people question whether or not Satan is real. Trust me, not only is he real, but he knows you and he makes it his business to know what makes you tick.
The fastest way to get Satan's attention is to make a commitment to God. It has been my experience that Satan is content with leaving me alone as long as I am indifferent and not in the will of God. The minute I choose to engage in a new ministry or to commit myself to a Bible study, he appears. Just yesterday I posted a prayer to God. With an open heart, I expressed my desire to serve Him more. I even made the statement that I wanted to feel Jesus under my fingernails and to get my hands dirty in His service. Well, guess who that woke up?
The day that you step out in faith and declare yourself committed to the will of God is the day that you become a target. The enemy, who is constantly walking as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, sets his sights on you, sometimes with great fervor and intensity. Making a stand for Christ is an open invitation for Satan to attack.
So why set yourself up for that? Why would anyone want to consciously invite Satan to attack? Wouldn't it be easier to just read your Bible, say your prayers, and go to church on Sunday and stay out of his way?
God calls Christians to make a stand. God calls us to reach a lost and dying world. God calls us to live a bold and courageous life. He wants us to be His hands and feet. He calls us to take a risk and show His love in tremendous and outrageous ways. But how can we do that when the father of lies is lying in wait for us, to devour us? How can we withstand the wounding and destructive snares that he sets in our path?
There is another side to making a commitment to God. If you step out in faith for Him, rest assured that He will never leave you or forsake you. The Bible promises us this. In 2 Chronicles 20: 15, 17 NKJV, we find a promise. "Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours,
but God’s. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
So as I find myself in a period of attack, I draw strength in this promise. Even though there is a roaring lion seeking to devour me. Even though he knows exactly what will hurt the most. I press on in my journey to follow Christ. I step out in faith knowing that the God of all comfort, the God who promises that He will repay, the God who promises that I will see the salvation of the Lord, is there. And even though the winds may blow, and the rains may fall, I hold on to the truth that my God is bigger and that He will fight the battle if it comes because I am following Him.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. Isaiah 6:8 KJV
This year has been a year of dramatic change in my life. I don't pretend to know what it is You are trying to teach me or where it is that You are leading me. I had no idea where 2013 would take me or what it would have in store for me, but You did. I think you tried to prepare me. I know that there were messages, little whispers from You, but I didn't fully understand. I think back to that dream in early March when You told me to let go and not be afraid to fall. So many changes since then....God, I'm trying, but the truth is, I am still struggling with being able to let go.
I look in the mirror and I don't recognize the girl I see. I am not who I was in January. I am not even who I was in March. I am different. I have been broken and in the Hands of the Potter, I am being renewed and transformed. What is it that You are making me to be? I am just a cracked pot. I am not a perfectly smooth vessel, but a jar of clay that contains breaks and cracks. At face value I appear to be nothing, but when Your light shines through the cracks, I feel beautiful.
God, I am not a 'sit in the pew" kind of Christian. I know that my family and I are in a period of transition. Perhaps it is a time for us to learn. Perhaps it is a time of rest like my husband seems to hope. But God, I don't think I can rest. I don't think I know how. I am not even sure that that is what You have in mind for me, the way I feel must be from You.
I have these two beautiful children that You allowed me to carry and watch grow in You. They both want to serve You. They are both mission bound. My husband feels a calling of his own. I thought maybe that my job was to support them. I thought maybe You were calling me to be their partners, but God, I'm starting to think that maybe just maybe, You have something for me too.
God, this life is too short to waste. I want to be brave. I want to be dedicated. I want to be Your hands and feet. I want to feel You under my fingernails. Maybe I did birth a Daniel and an Esther, but maybe I am part of that too. God, I want to be part of the Esther generation. I don't want to be content with sitting on a pew and just blending in with my surroundings. I want to be a woman who says yes to God and I want to do it now.
God, please tell me that You aren't finished with me yet. I know in my heart that You are up to something. I have no idea what it is, but I must admit that I am getting excited. Take me out of my comfort zone. Teach me to free fall and enjoy it, knowing that I will always land in Your hand. Make me get my hands dirty and feel what it feels like to live a life of service for You.
God, here I am....send me.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 KNV
"My husband and I try to teach our daughters to love sinners," she said. In all fairness she was talking about a particular group of people who she referred to as sinners, but that isn't what she said. She said she teaches her daughters to love sinners. Sinners. Of course I wanted her to tell me who the sinners were. More than that I was curious who she thought she was. But I was happy that she teaches her daughters to love sinners....especially since I am one.
So who are the sinners? The Bible says that all have sinned. That means everyone. How quick we are to follow that up with statements like, "Well, I have never....." Maybe you haven't murdered someone. Maybe you haven't cheated on your spouse. Maybe you never robbed a bank. But maybe you have lied. Maybe you have coveted the possessions of another. Maybe you knew you should have done something for someone and you didn't do it. Guess what? That makes you a sinner.
According to James 2:10 KJV, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." That means if you break one law, you are as guilty as anyone else. That isn't very comfortable is it? We don't like that. We live in a world of degrees. You don't just commit murder, it's either first, second, or third degree. Someone who steals a lawnmower doesn't get the same punishment as someone who steals a famous painting from a museum. We make excuses for telling "little white lies" or envying our neighbor's new car. But God's ways aren't our ways.
So maybe you are like the rich young ruler or a devout Pharisee, who has managed to keep all the law. Are you a sinner? Have you ever failed to call someone when you knew you should? Have you ever been too stubborn to apologize? Have you ever spread gossip? James 4:17 KJV is the mirror that always reflects our sinfulness, even when we don't realize it. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." So who are the sinners? All of us, each and every one.
For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3 NKJV
Why is it so hard for us to be real? Why are we so afraid to take off the mask and show our authentic selves? What is it that we are so afraid of? Why is it that we put so much value in the opinions of others that we are willing to sacrifice who we really are?
I remember being disappointed to find out that some buildings I saw on television, in theme parks, or in some towns had false fronts. I was always intrigued by multi-story buildings. To find that some of these buildings were mere false fronts was devastating to me. I didn't understand why anyone would want to create a façade that a second story existed when really it did not.
The only thing more disappointing was that as I grew older, I came to find that many people have created the same façade. They make it appear that that is another level to them that doesn't really exist. They are so consumed with pleasing people that they forget who they are, they forget who God made them to be. They usually appear to be happy and easy to get along with, but inside they are miserable. Yes, people adore them. People want to be with them, maybe even to be like them. Bosses love them. They are people pleasers. The only problem is that they seldom are pleased with themselves.
I am guilty of being many things, but not so much a people pleaser. I kind of like Isaiah 2:22. "Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?" In other words, why do you value the opinion of man? He is only promised the breath that resides in his nostrils. He has no control over your life. But there is One who does. Why be so consumed with the opinion of other people? Is it not better and of more eternal value to concern yourself with the opinion that God has of you? I was raised in a family that valued work ethic and a held a sincere reverence for God. I was raised to be a Colossians 3:23 girl. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men."
This world we live in is hungry. They are hungry for someone to not be afraid to be real. They want to see the authentic you, the unmasked version. A few weeks ago my emotional stability was questioned. At first I will admit that I was hurt. And then I found my way to the book of Psalms. Ever read the book of Psalms? Notice how many times David was real with God. Notice the rawness of his cry to the Almighty. Notice the realness, the authenticity, the removing of the façade. This man was real. He wasn't perfect, but he knew the One who knew his heart. He wasn't afraid to be broken. He wasn't afraid to express his fears and weaknesses. He was real. And guess what? Guess who God chose to be the King of Israel? This broken, non-perfect, weak, real man.
Sometimes maybe I seem emotionally unstable. I definitely don't fit the mold of living a façade. I was raised to believe that God made me to be who I am for a purpose. I am not perfect, but I am His creation. Yes, I have faults, but I was taught that the ones who matter don't mind, and the ones who mind, don't matter, My job is to reach out to a lost and dying world. I am called to be real. I am called to live an authentic life. I am called to lay my mask at the door and be who I was created to be and nothing more. People want to know that you are just like them. They want to know that you cry when you hurt. They want to know that sometimes you get angry. They want to see you love and laugh. They want to see you are broken just like them, for it is in your brokenness that HIs light shines through.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power
may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not
crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NKJV. So I encourage you to be brave. Be authentic. Be real. Don't be afraid to be a cracked pot that His light can shine through. You will make your Daddy proud!