Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't Forget Our Liberty

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1

We, who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, are a chosen generation that is blessed above all other people on earth. Blessed, not in temporal possessions, but in spiritual life, which is imparted to every aspect of life. We have been given the gift of God, Jesus Christ, who has given us salvation. Through salvation we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not lead us again to the bondage of the letter that kills, but the Spirit gives life. For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. How is it, then, that many believers, who have the Spirit, have forgotten this liberty we have in Christ?

"Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
2 Corinthians 3:17

How easily we, as followers of Christ, condemn the Pharisees for their harsh and unforgiving treatment towards God's children. There was no liberty for the disciples of the Pharisees, but only heavy burdens, hard to bear, laid upon their shoulders, so that any joy or love for God was drained out of them. No wonder, then, why it was such a salvation when Jesus came to "proclaim liberty to the captives" Isa 61:1. Jesus not only liberates the souls of His disciples from eternal death, but He also gives liberty to each of His disciples to live life in Him! When you strip a believer of his liberty in Christ, you strip the very life he was granted to partake of in Christ from him. It was not given to us to bind heavy burdens upon our fellow believers, but it was given to us to only turn people to Christ so they could become His disciple, where He, as their Master, invites them to partake of the liberty and joy of His light burden:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

There is no greater joy on earth to me than my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that, I should make it clear that I am not a disciple of any man or woman, nor will I ever be, because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is something more than just a title given to me the moment I forsook all, took up my cross, and followed Him; it is a way of life; a training that will not end until the moment I am face to face with Christ my Savior.

The liberty I enjoy in Christ is indescribable. I fellowship with Him all day long. Decisions I am faced with multiple times a day, I bring to Him and ask what He would desire me to do. When I read Scripture that I don't understand, I bring it to Him and ask Him to explain it to me. When I am faced with a situation where I don't know what to do, I run to Him to find out what to do. I receive spiritual food and drink from Him daily. He is my Friend. He is my Father. He is my Master. I run to do what He asks me to do. I seek His advice. I do things that I think will please Him because I love Him. I don't do things that I think will not please Him because I love Him. I can't wait to be alone with Him and fellowship with Him. I get excited to know more about Him. I love taking any opportunity to simply know Him better. He comforts me when I am sad or hurt. When I am confused, He brings me to a verse that gives clarity. When I am scared, He settles a peace over me that I can't explain. When I am happy, His joy surrounds me. When I cry, He is there and listens to me. When I make a mistake, He rebukes me, but His love during the rebuke so vividly encompasses me, that I don't mind being rebuked. When I am ashamed, He lifts me up. When I feel worthless, He shows me His purpose in me. He treats me like a princess of God. When I am impatient, He asks me to just trust Him. He only reveals to me what is for my good. I trust Him with my life and don't live in fear. When I lose my temper, He reminds me of His own loving behavior on earth. He guides me where to go and what to say when I ask Him to. He provides my temporal needs. He only gives me what I can handle. When my heart is overwhelmed, He opens His arms and says "come to Me, Heather." He surrounds me all day and night long. Jesus Christ is my Lord and my absolute everything. 

This is what I have known in my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, though I know I have so much more to grow in Him, I do hope to know Him more and more sweetly as time goes on. I know it's not complicated; life in Christ is simple, and I am merely one of millions who have faithfully gone before us and have had the privilege of living in this extraordinary way under the gentle hand of our Master, Jesus Christ. With this in mind, I ask the question, what need have I for another person to "disciple" me when Jesus is discipling me every moment of every day?

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..."
Matthew 28:19-20

Besides the joy of my relationship with Jesus, I have no greater joy than bringing other people to the feet of Jesus so they too can have the liberty of what I have of being a blessed disciple of Jesus! When I read Matthew 28:19-20, my heart is filled with a desire to go out, bring people to Jesus and show them the way to Him, so they could, on their own, forsake all, take up their cross, and then follow Jesus and also be discipled by Him. To me, this is what "making a disciple" is; to share the Gospel with someone, so when they accept Jesus as their Savior and follow Him, they literally become a disciple of Jesus. And after that person becomes a Christian, then together, as co-disciples of Jesus, we can go to the feet of Jesus and learn all the wondrous things there is to learn about Him! No matter how weak or strong, how poor or rich, how different from me, how different from what society accepts, how young, how old, how impatient, or how difficult, by the grace of God I will go together with them over and over again to the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. How I love learning from Jesus with my dear brothers and sisters in Christ through the Holy Spirit. I would never try to take away a believers liberty he has in Christ, when I know how vitally important and central it has been for my spiritual growth and happiness in Him!

I have found no restrictions, no oppression, no heavy burdens, no guilt, no rules, or no regulations in the Bible, that were given to Christians to place upon other Christians. There is liberty in Christ for every single disciple of Jesus for the ultimate goal of serving God through serving one another in love (Gal 5:13), and I never want to lose sight of that. If we truly want to further His Kingdom, shouldn't we stir up that liberty in each other and not suppress it!? I am convinced that nothing could bind a church in love, unity, and spiritual strength more than by stirring up our liberty in Christ in one another. Jesus' loving and good purpose in training us is to not only form us to be like Himself, but to ultimately draw us in closer to God every day until that day we will finally be face to face with Him in eternity. Oh, be set free and don't be cast down, for there is only life and liberty in Christ!

"you are complete in Him..."
Colossians 2:10

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Glorious Fall

Ah...Fall. My favorite season of the year. I literally cannot get enough of it! My sisters and I have been wandering about on the weekends trying to find the best colors displayed in our little part of the world. Whether it was the wild Sierra Nevada's graced with the presence of the gentle glowing aspen trees, Napa Valley sparkling with yellow harvest vines, majestic snow-dusted mountains towering over a hazy emerald lake, or Half Dome seeming mellow against the quiet golden meadows, they have each, in their own unique way, reminded me of a glorious character of our Lord. 

To me, absolutely nothing compares to being drawn close to the very heart of God than through His astoundingly beautiful creation. I have entirely cherished every moment. I praise and thank the Lord for the opportunities to be able to fully enjoy His wondrous creation that He has given us for our happiness. I am the happiest when I am outdoors, and as happy as that is, it doesn't even compare to the internal joy I have of being in Him! What greater joy could there be than knowing one day we'll actually be gloriously faced with our awesome Creator, where we'll be able to eternally soak in all of His glory!? Yes, earth may just be a small preview of that, but while I'm here, I'll gladly soak in as much of it as I can :) To Him be glory forever!

"Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You." 
Psalm 63:3

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lord, let me love Your will

Lord, let me love Your will when life is good. Let me love it in the times of happiness, in the times of carefree days, in the times of peace, in the times where everything is perfect, in the times of uncontrollable glee, and in the times of celebrating with family and friends! Let me always acknowledge You in the best of times, recognizing it is a gift from You to me to enjoy all the fullness of this life You've given me. Let it be when I am on those thrilling mountaintop experiences or in those lovely tranquil valleys that I am drawn closest to You, reveling in the pure elated bliss of simply knowing I am Yours.

Lord, let me love Your will when it brings me to a desert of life. Let me love it in the refining, in the testing, and in the reproving. Let me love it when You give me a way of escape to be able to bear it. While I bear it, Lord, quench my thirst, feed my hunger, fill my needs, and help me set my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. Let me never forget that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. And when I have gotten through, Lord, let me love it when I can look back and see the wonderful ways You were working in me, knowing it was meant to only draw me closer to You. Lord, let me love these chances where I can present myself, a worker, humbly surrendered to You.

Lord, let me love Your will when it causes me to wait. Help me love it no matter how much time may pass.

Lord, let me love Your will when it closes the doors on my dreams. Let me love it when life comes to a standstill and I'm left bowed on my knees, in speechlessness, before You in prayer. Let me love Your will when it obliterates my plans, knocks me off the platform I've created for myself, exposes my foolish notion that I thought I was actually the master of my own future, reminds me of my fragile humanity, and refines my once-muddled vision to see You were right in front of me the whole time just asking me to simply follow You. Master, let me keep placing my dreams in Your hands where I know, fully well, You have the power to crush them or mold them to love Your will. Oh, Lord, let me always choose You, so I will always embrace Your will.

Lord, let me love Your will if You give me rags instead of riches. Let me love it when my temporal needs are great and I'm left with no where else to turn but You. Let me love it in my helpless state of incompetency that let's me see Your gracious omnipotent abilities. Let me always be thankful for what You've given me, even the old, the used, the worn out, always reminding me to keep building my treasures in heaven. Oh, Lord, let me love it when my lack of worldly goods shows me the riches I have in You! Let me love this will of Yours, because You've lovingly given it to me to test my faith like nothing else has. Let me love it when my faith in You triumphs, my trust in You is sure, and my overwhelming love for You is uncontainable.

Lord, let me love Your will when it keeps me from the ones I love. Help me love those moments, days, months, or years. Lord, let me never hold back from utterly serving You for fear of losing the ones I love, or for fear of losing my own life. Help me not be afraid of those who can only kill the body, but let me always remember You are my helper, thus, what can man really do to me? Lord, let me love You more than the ones I love.

Lord, let me love Your will when it lowers me to my knees. Let me love it in my humiliation, in my unworthiness, and in my inability. Let me love it when I've been broken, knowing You're making me whole unto Yourself. Let me love it when I am weak and You are strong. Lord, let me love it when my helpless arms are lifted up to You. Let me never forget those sweet moments when You let me know how precious I am to You, and my tears are ones of loving awe that You could first love me.

Lord, let me love Your will no matter what may come to me. Let me always love it as I do now, because I know it is what You've specifically chosen for me, and, most of all, I know it is Your good pleasure that You're working out in me. How easy, then, it is to obey when I see Your will in light of eternity! Just help me always see it in light of eternity. Please, dear God, never allow me to wag my head nor point my finger at You, but let me always remember Your loving-kindness, faithfulness, grace, mercy, and goodness You've always shown toward me and toward those, whose faith I follow, that have gone before me. Lord, let me never forget that all things work together for good, and if for my good, then all things that You will to happen to me is good. Therefore, let me love everything You will to happen to me, even if at the time it seems bad, for it is good, as Father, You are good. Lord, my life is surrendered to You, therefore, I know the choices are not mine to make, so please help me always trust and obey what You choose for me, and not only that, but Lord, let me always love what You choose...that I may dearly know Christ Jesus my Lord more and more.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights"
James 1:17

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hope Valley, CA

"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being...Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God"
Psalm 146 

"You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word"
Psalm 119:114 

"I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more" 
Psalm 71:14

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" 
Jeremiah 29:11

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake"
Psalm 23

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork"
Psalm 19:1 

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead"
Romans 1:20 

"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him!' The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." 
Lamentations 3:22-26

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
-Frances R. Havergal

Monday, October 8, 2012

Seven Blessings

"Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near." 
Revelation 1:3

"Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'" 
Revelation 14:13

"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." 
Revelation 16:15

"Then he said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" And he said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God.'" 
Revelation 19:9

"Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." 
Revelation 20:6

"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book." 
Revelation 22:7

"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." 
Revelation 22:14

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Persevering in this spiritual warfare

Today, my soul was satisfied and my spirit was so lifted up in awe and adoration for my mighty Savior and King. How quickly time flees from us and how aware I am of the dire need to use my time wisely, while I am young, for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.  We cannot deny we are in an intense spiritual warfare today, but how encouraging to know there is a way we can persevere through it: to have daily fellowship with God, through the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by walking in our human spirit. How wonderful to be lifted up to the heavenly places in fellowship with God! So often I praise and utterly thank the Lord for gifted men who faithfully teach the truth of God's Word these days. For even in this sermon, my spirit testifies to the truth of it, but I would never have been able to put it into words as he has. The teacher today just happened to be my dad :) To God be the glory...

"The Human Spirit" (Part 4) Brent Harris 9/2/12

"But you are not in the flesh but in spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."
Romans 8:9

Monday, August 27, 2012

Trust in the living God alone

At one time or another, we have all been faced with a situation in which we feel helpless. Perhaps some more than others, but regardless of the level of difficulty, we know how it feels to be completely aware that you have absolutely no control over some situations in life. Life is a race where every turn brings about a fresh opportunity to trust in the living God alone. As hard as they may be, there is joy to be found in all of them, for in them is found the knowledge of the Truth.
"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" 
1 Timothy 2:3-6
George Muller was a man who walked by faith and not by sight. He lived in England in the 1800's, with his life work being dedicated to raising, feeding, schooling, and caring for thousands of orphans, all without receiving a salary or asking anyone for money. Instead, he set his heart on trusting in the living God to provide for all his temporal needs. When he was 25 years old he stopped receiving a salary from the church for doing God's work, and instead, put up a box where anyone could anonymously put money into it for the Lord's work he was doing. It is to this "box" that he often refers to in this excerpt, of which, I yearn to share with you:

"Jan. 10.   Today, when we had again but a few shillings, five pounds were given to us, which had been taken out of the box. I had, once for all, told the brethren who had the care of these temporal things, to have the kindness to let me have the money every week; but as these beloved brethren either forgot to take it out weekly, or were ashamed to bring it in such small sums, it was generally taken out every three, four, or five weeks. As I had desired to look neither to man nor the box, but to the living God, I thought it not right on my part to remind them of my request to have the money weekly, lest it should hinder the testimony which I wished to give, of trusting in the living God alone. It was on this account that on January 28, when we had again but little money, though I had seen the brethren on January 24 open the box and take out the money, I would not ask the brother, in whose hands it was, to let me have it; but standing in need of it, as our coals were almost gone, I asked the Lord to incline his heart to bring it; and but a little time afterwards it was given to us, even one pound eight shillings and sixpence.
I would here mention, that, since the time I began living in this way, I have been kept from speaking, either directly or indirectly, about my wants at the time I was in need. The only exception is that in a few instances, twenty years or more since, I have at such times spoken to very poor brethren, in the way of encouraging them to trust in the Lord, telling them that I had to do the same, being myself in similar straits; or, in a few instances where it was needful to speak about my own want, lest I should appear unfeeling, in that I did not help at all, in cases of distress, or not as much as might have been expected.
On February 14 we had again very little money, and, whilst praying, I was led to ask the Lord graciously to supply our wants; and the instant that I got up from my knees a brother gave me one pound, which had been taken out of the box.
On March 7, I was again tempted to disbelieve the faithfulness of the Lord, and though I was not miserable, still, I was not so fully resting upon the Lord that I could triumph with joy. It was but one hour after, when the Lord gave me another proof of his faithful love. A Christian lady brought five sovereigns for us, with these words written in the paper: 'I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink,' etc.
April 16.  This morning I found that our money was reduced to three shillings; and I said to myself, I must now go and ask the Lord earnestly for fresh supplies. But before I had prayed, there was sent from Exeter two pounds, as a proof that the Lord hears before we call." (pg. 70, The Life of Trust by George Muller).

Upon reading this, my spirit was so lifted up. I was both convicted and encouraged. It really made me take a closer look at all of the things I have been praying for in my life recently. You know what I noticed? 1) The Lord knew my petitions before I even asked Him, 2) There were times I was tempted to disbelieve the faithfulness of the Lord, 3) I was not fully resting upon the Lord so that I could triumph with joy. What, I asked myself, does it take to walk by faith and not by sight? Not much. In fact, just a mustard seed (Luke 17:5-6). Even though He didn't have to, the Lord has proven to me His faithfulness in extraordinary ways these past few weeks. There is a living God and I trust Him completely, because, even though I don't know what the outcome of my prayer requests will be, He does, and it will be His perfect will; that gives me unbelievable peace. This caused me to stop and simply thank Him, in deep appreciation, for all that He is doing. Two prayer requests specifically came to my mind: healing for David Hanson, and rain in Niger, West Africa; for they are both proof that our living God hears our prayers and has been answering our requests. No other explanation can be given, nor could these situations possibly be traced back to being done by a man, for they are miracles done only by the living God alone - to Him be glory alone. The God who answered George Muller's above requests in 1831, is the same God who has been answering our requests in 2012 (Heb 13:8).

We should have no reason to doubt our God will answer our believing petitions of faith. For in all things He accomplishes His will, delighting to answer our prayers of faith, for His glory, and for the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be magnified upon this earth (Phi 2:9-11). As a dear friend once told me when she was going through a difficult situation: "They say don't put all your eggs in one basket, but I'm putting all my eggs in God's basket!" (She asked, in faith, for something in her life in which she trusted in the living God alone; Praise the Lord, because God not only answered her prayer and gave her what she asked for, but He was also so openly glorified in it!). We have only more of Christ to gain by investing ALL that we have in Him, by laying out before Him all our fears and doubts, and by leaning absolutely, completely, and with full weight, on the Lord Jesus Christ, and then by trusting in Him alone.
"Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us" Psalm 62:8
As an encouragement, let me just say that David Hanson is doing better! I'm not medically inclined, in the least bit, but from what I understand, David is improving, physically and neurologically, in some very positive ways. He is breathing on his own and is responding positively to commands. It is the living God who has been working in David. The Lord is answering our prayers and working miracles in his life. It is a long road ahead, and there is still much earnest prayer to be had for him. Blessed be the Name of the Lord who is working in David's life! As for Niger, since last fall, many of us have been praying for rain, as 2012 was expected to be the worst famine in 38 years. The week of David's accident, we found out it had been raining non-stop in Niger. The crops were flourishing, which meant people would be saved from severe famine. We came to find out that this is the most it has rained in Niger in the past 90 years, (blessed be the Name of the Lord who answered our prayers), so much so that there has been awful flooding. We got on our knees and asked the Lord to stop the rain. For the past 3 days, there was dark thundering clouds that should have dropped hours and hours of rain, but it didn't; it only dropped about 20 minutes of rain altogether, (blessed be the Name of the Lord who answered our prayers). Again, there is still much earnest prayer to be had for the people of Niger, especially for their souls to come to the knowledge of the Truth, but blessed be the Name of the Lord who is working in Niger! Brothers and sisters, we need not trust in anything or anyone but in the living God alone.

"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." 
Job 1:21

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday, August 13, 2012

Please pray for David and Rachel Hanson

On Tuesday, August 7, our dear brother, David Hanson, got in a bad accident at work, falling approximately 30ft from a power line pole. He is in the hospital right now with many broken bones and a very serious injury to the head. We don't know the extent of his injuries yet, but we thank the Lord that He has preserved David's life. Our hearts are aching for David right now, but we have hope; Hope that the Lord will answer our petitions and restore David to full health. Our heart prayerfully goes out to his new sweet bride, Rachel, and all their family who is suffering through this difficult time. We have been on our knees in prayer and will continue meeting our loving Father on our knees in prayer on behalf of David, for Rachel, and for the family.

David first came to our church a little over a year ago. His work transferred him to CA, so when he came to our church, to him, he was just looking for a church, but to us, he was a direct answer to our prayers. For years, the elders and others in our church were praying for the Lord to send an evangelist to our assembly. In walks David Hanson :) Not only was he passionate to see the Gospel go forth to the lost, he was driven to make it happen. Within months, he was pulling aside young people on Saturday mornings to go door to door to share the Gospel in the neighborhood surrounding our chapel. By winter, together with his new girlfriend, Rachel, we started a Kids Club for the children in that neighborhood. Many seeds have been sown in the hearts of those surrounding our chapel. Please pray for them. The Lord used David to help bring about a revival in the youth in our little assembly this past year, where the youth became more devoted to Christ, more eager to pray, and more passionate to see the Gospel go forth. 

Both David and Rachel have always shown forth a yearning for those who don't know God to know Him by believing in Jesus Christ (John 3:16), because their joy has always been so overflowing in the Lord Jesus Christ that they have only wanted others to know the joyful freedom of salvation that they have always known in Christ Jesus. They have always radiated a desire to see God glorified in their life more than anything else. May we who love Christ, then, glorify God's loving Name through them in this situation.

"Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered." Psalm 40:5

We know the family, and especially Rachel, is hurting much more deeply right now, so it's hard to imagine exactly what they must be going through, but for us, we have been learning how to trust in God through all of this. God's way may not always be the way we would have chosen, but because we have known the goodness of Him and His ways, we trust Him and trust that His way will always work together for good, (Rom 8:28), especially for His children, David and Rachel, who love Him so dearly. It is through prayer, in faith, that we trust to see God continue to do His wonderful works in David. In a prayer meeting last week some of us were asking questions about the will of God, and one of the elderly men lovingly reminded us of this truth: Our responsibility is to ceaselessly ask, implore, and plead to God in prayer, believing the Lord can answer our petition (David to be healed); but whatever outcome God will deem as best for His servants, David and Rachel, we must lovingly accept, with our hearts echoing the very heart of our beloved Savior and Friend, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" Mt 6:10. 

I believe David and Rachel would want us all to do this more than anything else. For in praying, we are drawn close to the dear heart of God, and what better place to be brought during this difficult time than close to the heart of God, and what greater joy will David have than knowing his situation brought others near to the heart of God.

 "it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works." Psalm 73:28

Pray that God would do what He does best: make the impossible, possible.
Oh God, You are My God (Psalm 63), by Fernando Ortega

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why those fears? Behold, 'Tis Jesus

Why those fears? Behold, 'tis Jesus
Holds the helm and guides the ship;
Spread the sails, and catch the breezes
Sent to waft us through the deep
To the regions where the mourners cease to weep.

Though the shore we hope to land on
Only by report is known,
Yet we freely all abandon,
Led by that report alone,
And with Jesus through the trackless deep move on.

Led by faith, we brave the ocean;
Led by faith, the storm defy;
Calm amidst tumultuous motion,
Knowing that the Lord is nigh:
Waves obey Him, and the storms before Him fly.

Rendered safe by His protection,
We shall pass the watery waste,
Trusting to His wise direction,
We shall gain the port at last;
And with wonder think on toils and dangers past.

Oh what pleasures there await us!
There the tempests cease to roar:
There it is that those who hate us
Can molest our peace no more:
Trouble ceases on that tranquil, happy shore.

by Thomas Kelly

(Thanks for reminding us, Rachel)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Put off the Old, Put on the New

Camp Hope 2012
As my summer activities are winding down, I've had time to ponder back on the wonderful aspects I've learned about our precious Lord this summer. Amidst the camping trips, summer BBQ's, warm beach days, nephew's birthday parties, weddings, family vacations, Bible conferences, hiking, and other activities, I found the highlight of my summer at Camp Hope. Our theme was based on Eph 4:22-24 - "Put off the Old, Put on the New." I was able to pull all my thoughts about this theme together during our testimonial campfire on the last night. I sat there SO in love and in awe with our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ that I could seriously hardly contain myself! So, since I did contain myself then...I'm here now to shout out how seriously wonderful it is to love and be loved by the Lord Jesus Christ!!!
If there's one thing I love, it's hashing out a Biblical teaching until you see multiple glorious angles that'll create one complete and beautiful gem of Truth. This is what we did with the theme at Camp, which was really fun to do! We were able to clear up some misunderstandings and confusions some of the young people had about what it means to be a "New man." 

Perhaps the most misunderstood concept we heard is that the "New man" is something you can put on at your own pleasure, or the "Old man" is something you can revert back to when you sin or make a mistake. How wonderful it was to be reminded that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Cor 5:17)! I was sharing with my girls that to be a New man is to be born again, to be in Christ, which absolutely cannot be undone no matter what mistakes they may make in their lives; for we know that once we are in Christ, no one will be able to snatch us out of His hands, nor the Father's hands who is "greater than all" Jn 10:28-30. How wonderful to know we are lovingly secure in the everlasting arms of the Almighty!
So, then, once they understood that they were a New man in Christ, they wanted to know practical ways in which they could practice being that New man (a Christian) when they got home and got back to life. Even though we answered with some great examples and verses to think about, (Gal 5:22-23; Php 4:8; Rom 12:2, etc.), I found that question hard to honestly answer. There is no set of rules I could give them to follow, so how do you give them something that they want, but doesn't exist in Christ? There is no law in Christ. Not only that, every believer is so uniquely different that one restriction which might be helpful for one believer, could be detrimental to another believer. Only Christ could truly determine what His disciple needs.  If Christianity were a mere religion, the answer would be easy, but since being a Christian is not a religion, the answer is difficult, and, I believe, can only be found in God's Word through the leading of the Holy Spirit within that individual believer. Being a Christian is living a life - the very life of Christ - no man can tell you how Christ specifically wants you to uniquely serve Him, but Christ alone.
Can we edify, encourage, comfort, exhort, and build each each other up to faithfully serve Him better? Of course! But...even if you received all the help you could possibly receive from other believers, the walk you walk with Christ is still your own. It is personal, is intimate, and is an individual one that no one else can understand but you and Christ (1 Cor 12:27). There is no set of rules anyone can give you to tell you what Christ personally desires of YOU. You need to find that out on your own, in the quietness of your room (Mt 6:6), in stillness before God (Ps 46:10), with ears and heart open to hear the leading of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you and desires to speak to you all the wonderful things of God (Jn 14:26; 1 John 2:27) .
I don't believe the Holy Spirit speaks louder to "greater" Christians so they can then in turn go and speak to "weaker" Christians what Christ desires of them. Never! He dwells equally within every believer, no matter who they are or how long they have been in Christ; He speaks softly to the spirit of every man and woman who walks in Christ, because "He cares for you" 1 Pe 5:7. To hear Him personally speak to you is just the beginning of the journey you're on in living for Christ. If you're missing this, you're missing the fullness of this life we have been granted to live!
So, how do I tell you what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you? I can't, because I have no idea! No matter how "Godly" a person is, they will never be able to tell you what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. Go to a quiet place and hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. Go find time in your busy life and purposely set aside time just to spend with your Savior! Don't let others tell you how to live your life in Christ, go to Christ directly and ask Him how to live your life for Him! This is your personal liberty of being in Him!! I believe this is where true spiritual strength and spiritual growth comes from for the disciple of Christ.
This is what was running over within me at that campfire that night. That if I could say anything to the young people who asked for rules to  become a "better Christian," I'd say to throw that way of thinking out the window and go home and simply fall in love with Jesus! If that becomes the foundation of your personal relationship with Him, I believe, you'll find that the things you do as a Christian is done, not because you simply hold that title and feel an obligation to live by a set of outward rules, but because there is a yearning within you to want to do good, because you love Him and want to please Him alone. When I say "good" I mean good according to God's standards, thus the reason you will find yourself immersing yourself in the Bible just to find out what God desires of you. Living for Christ is a wondrous life to live! Don't live by a set of stifling "Christian" rules and regulations man has made up, instead, live a life that is driven by a love for your Savior that is surging through every ounce of your being! As cheesy as it may sound, go fall in love with Him! If you already love Him, go home and fall in even deeper love with Him! I don't think we could EVER get our fill of Christ while living on this earth.
Nothing has changed - we are still Jesus' disciples, He still directly teaches us, and we still follow after Him, but we have the added advantage of having God, the Holy Spirit, personally dwell in us. Honestly though...sometimes I wonder if we really believe this anymore? Are we willing, or even able, to walk by faith and not by sight in this? I believe that instead of relying so heavily on outside help from other Christians, young people today should learn how to cultivate and strengthen their own personal one-on-one relationship with Christ more than any other relationship they have. Even though I don't have a set of "rules" to give these young people, I will walk together with them, with the Word of God in both of our hands, walking towards the upward call of God. No matter how young they are, they are my equal in this Priesthood we serve God together in (1 Pe 2:9). Together, as equals, let's rejoice, encourage, edify, and build each other up, but personally, nothing should be as prominent as building a strong one-on-one relationship with your precious Lord. If you need to bow your knees, fold your hands, and close your eyes to do that, do it :) Or if you need to simply read the red words in your Bible over and over again, do it.  

Let your personal love for Jesus absolutely rule the life you live as a Christian; let it be the strong bond of perfection between you and Him, and let Him be the absolute joy of your life of Whom you can hardly contain yourself of telling others about! If you are a New man, GO live it up in Him! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

John Piper on the Trinity

To God be the glory...

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. 

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
John 17

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Walk as He walked

"He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 1 John 2:6

This post is for my sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, we live in an age where many women in evangelical circles feel they need to take sides of theological theories to identify who they are. Let me state that I identify myself as neither a Complementarian nor an Egalitarian. I am a simple believer who is a daughter of God and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, so it is in Him where my sole identity lies, and of Him that I yearn to show forth to this world. 

Submission. As an unmarried woman, this was something I gave little to no thought to before. As a teenager, I joyfully committed my life completely to the Lord, and told Him I would serve Him however He wanted me to. Should that be a life of singleness, I'd happily follow Him, or should He say I could serve Him better in marriage, I'd happily follow Him. It wasn't until I was studying the role of the Church last year that I finally took a closer look at Eph 5:22-24.

We live in a time where my generation (the Millennials) are marrying later, and I know it is for many reasons, but there is one that I've heard many single Christian women say that lessens their desire for marriage, "Life in Biblical marriage is a life of subjection and submission." Let me just say that even though I am not married, I will say that I believe this mindset is such a misconception of God's Word and a lie from Satan to destroy the Church, marriage, and the light of Christ we were re-created to show forth to this dying world (2 Cor 5:17). It wasn't until this past year, as a 26 year old, that my view on submission drastically changed from the once twisted (and degraded) understanding of what I thought it was. Believe it or not, it was through studying the Trinity that I saw it in a whole new light.

When I heard "fear the Lord your God" I always thought of our almighty, powerful, holy, thundering, awesome, almost-scary, Creator God. I thought of Him as God the Father, who sits in majesty high above Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and even though I knew that God is three in one, I still thought of the Father as unreachable. Jesus I could connect to. The Holy Spirit I could appreciate. So delving into a study on the Trinity threw me for a loop, because I went into it with this twisted mindset of who God is. What shook me up the most, what broke me, what utterly humbled me and brought me to my knees, was coming to the realization that Jesus IS God; being begotten of the Father, thus is of the same essence as the Father, thus is very God of very God. I was utterly speechless and utterly in awe of who God is. I'm still wondrously speechless, because we have such a wondrous God!

Here are some amazing things the Lord taught me about Himself: God the Son is the Creator, "In the beginning was the Word...the Word was God...all things were made through Him, and nothing was made that was made." Jn 1:1-3, He is in the Father, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." Jn 1:18, and He is from eternity, "...whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting" Mic 5:2. After learning these things, I heard one preacher say it best, "to understand how low Jesus came, you first need to understand from how high He came." This is what turned my heart to want to understand submission. If anyone had a right to claim His rights, it was Jesus. His equal was God the Father, yet Jesus, as mighty and powerful as He was, willingly submitted to the could that be???

When I was coming to the realization of the grandeur of what Jesus actually did, I came across Philippians 2:5-11. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was as if I read these verses for the first time ever, even though I've read them a million times before. I wept over them with a broken heart of shock and thankfulness for what the Son had actually done. If there is anything in this post that I think is important, it is these verses:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputationtaking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Our God willingly went out of His way to make Himself of no reputation. Our God willingly humiliated Himself to take the form of a bondservant. Our God, the Creator of the Universe and Creator of the humans nailing Him to a cross, willingly humbled Himself below their level to allow them to bring Him to the point of death...all the while with this in His mind: "Father...not My will, but Yours, be done." The Son of God was compelled by a love so deep that He willingly submitted Himself to the Father, because there was a greater need at stake other than Himself. The Son's submission to the Father is not degradation at all, but is love in the form of willing obedience. I see submission as love compelling you to completely humble yourself by utterly sacrificing self for the sake of another. 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, because He is asking you to walk as He walked.

I was sorely mistaken when I thought submission is a strange practice reserved only for women in marriage. Instead, this is the beauty I found in it: It is the glorious and privileged role of the Church (Eph 5:23), therefore, it is supposed to also be the privileged role of the wife (Eph 5:25-29; 5:22-24); It is at the very center of the surrendered life of every woman or man who is a disciple of Christ (Php 2:3, Eph 5:21; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 2:13); it is the feet of peace that carries us to serve one another (Mr 9:35), the arm that lifts up a brother or sister (1 Pet 5:5), and the heartbeat that keeps us loving one another (Rom 12:10). It's not a strange practice at all, but is meant to be a blessing to others. What really touched my heart is that the Lord Jesus has uniquely asked, not forced, women to take on the responsibility to especially imitate Him in this way. I believe the Lord desires all of His daughters, whether married or unmarried, to always keep Christ as our standard of imitation by always emulating Him in His beautiful submission, with a gentle and quiet spirit to the glory of God. Sisters, let's not entangle ourselves in the war on "women's rights" going on in the church today (2 Tim 2:4) - know who you are in Christ, and once you understand that, stand fast in the liberty and privilege of equality He has granted to all who are in Him! (John 17:21, Ga 5:1) ...because, there is a greater need at stake other than yourself: "that the world may believe."

As for the role of the wife, I (obviously) don't have much to say, only that I have come to believe that God specifically chose the wife to uniquely reflect the most prominent and beautiful character Christ showed in the relationship between the Father and the Son...willing submission. The Father did not submit to the Son; only the Son submitted to the Father, and between them was mutual honor and mutual love as One, being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So also, I realized for the first time, this is the true beauty in the husband and the wife being one (Gen 2:24)! I believe the wife has been given the responsibility to reflect the Son in His submission, with the added  privilege to relate to Him in a unique way the husband never will. I can't speak from experience, but from what I've witnessed (especially in my lovely mother), I think the role of a wife shows forth a beautiful and sweet love that the Son has with the Father, thus another reason why I believe her spirit is so very precious to Him (1 Pet 3:4). As the Son glorified the Father by submitting to Him, so too, I believe, the wife glorifies the Son by submitting to her husband, and the Son glorifies the Father through her...and of her the Father "will honor" Jn 12:26.

To my unmarried younger sisters: if you desire to be married, please don't be discouraged (Jn 15:11); if you desire to be single, keep giving your absolute all to serving Christ! I believe the Lord uses singleness in a unique way to bring others to Christ. Let Him use the uniqueness of what you have now to further His kingdom! Sisters, hear His voice daily and choose Him. Follow Him daily, serve Him daily, love Him daily, know you are loved by Him daily, and love others through Him daily. Rejoice if you've lived a life daily committed to our precious Lord Jesus Christ! Rejoice, too, if you've been called by God to live an honorable life, (sanctified to Him in your body and in your spirit, 1 Cor 7:34), committed to our beloved Lord Jesus and committed to furthering His kingdom (Mt 9:37)!

As for me, in a world where your identity as an independent woman is everything, I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. The worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord is so far surpassing than keeping my identity, that I now count it as rubbish, dung, and garbage, because I have only gained more of Christ by losing it.

Sisters, we have nothing to prove. We are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Christ. Our aim should be to please Him!

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us
2 Cor 5:20