Truth

Draw Near

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8 NKJV)

God is for all men in all places for all time. He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (ever-present, everywhere) and omnipotent (all-powerful). He told us He would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6,8) and He is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19). So if we find ourselves feeling alienated from Him and alone. Who moved?  I’ll give you a hint… It was not God.

He tells us in His word to “draw near.” If we do that, He promises to draw near to us. You will notice that it is not God who moves sovereignly on our behalf. We move first. We have to make a conscious decision to get up off of our “blessed assurance” and draw closer.

In Exodus 3, Moses was tending sheep and as he walked he noticed a bush that was on fire but not being consumed. He could have kept walking but he made a decision to turn aside from the path he was on. You will notice in verse 4 it says, “So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush.” Once Moses approached, God was able to lay out His plan for the deliverance of the children of Israel. But take note—God didn’t speak until Moses drew near.

Paul and Silas made a similar decision in Acts 16:16-34. They were beaten…with rods and then thrown in prison. The purpose of beating someone with a rod is to cause the most pain possible. Not only to bruise the flesh but the bone. Flesh heals much quicker than bone so a bone bruise is a more excruciating pain by far. As they sat in jail in horrendous pain they had a choice to make. Verses 25-26 tell us, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were open and everyone’s chains were loosed.”

You will notice in the stories of Moses, and Paul and Silas that not only did they get the benefit of being close to God but those around them benefited as well. Moses drew near and an entire nation was delivered from bondage. Paul and Silas drew near and every last prisoner in that jail was loosed from their chains and even the jailer and his whole family were saved.

So how do we draw near? It really is quite simple. You choose to. You meditate on His words, you talk to Him. And the beautiful thing is that when we do make that decision to draw near to Him the God of the universe draws near to us and makes Himself known to us. For me it is not a difficult decision. Live everyday as an ordinary person or live as one who walks with the God who breathes out the stars (Psalm 33:6.) Make the choice, my friends. Draw near.

Thoughts, Truth

Reason to Rejoice

All of my life, in every season—I have a reason to sing, I have a reason to worship. (Excerpt from Desert Song ©2008 Hillsong Music Publishing)

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. It’s always darkest before the dawn. A rolling stone gathers no moss. Cliches—all of them. They all serve their purpose and for the most part I have found them to be true and applicable in certain cases. But you can’t fit life into a cliche. You can’t walk through adversity clinging only to a flippant statement.  When you are walking through a trial; however big or small—you are going to need to find a reason to rejoice. A reason to look your foe in the face—whether it be a person, circumstance, illness, etc—and say, “this looks bad BUT GOD…”

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Daniel chapter 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stand up for God and find themselves in the fiery furnace. The key part of this story comes in verse 17 and 18, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” BUT IF NOT. That is a powerful statement. We need to understand that God may not always remove us from our circumstances. In fact the Bible tells us in John 16:33 that “in this world we will have tribulation.” That being the case, we need to be the “but if not” kind of Christians. We need to be able to stand in the midst of the trial and have the “no matter what” kind of trust. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had that kind of trust and faith in their God and in the middle of their fiery furnace He was in the midst of them. We need to have that same conviction that God IS ABLE to deliver us from any circumstance, BUT IF NOT we will not bow our knee to the enemy. Ever.

The last part of John 16:33 says, “but be of good cheer [rejoice]; I have overcome the world.” I have found in reading the Word of God that He doesn’t ever make suggestions. He’s not saying “if you get a chance, you might” or “if you feel like it.” He just says, “rejoice!” And there are so many reasons to do so. We can rejoice that our healing has been provided for—body, soul, and spirit. We can rejoice for His provision. We can rejoice for his deliverance. And so many more promises that He has given us. But Jesus tells that the only reason to rejoice is found in Luke 10:19-20.

Jesus said, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” All those other things are good—that we have authority over ALL the power of the enemy. But we are to rejoice that our names are written in heaven. We need to come to the realization that we are created to be eternal beings—this life truly is but a vapor. When our time here is done, when our earthly pilgrimage is over—we will be with him.  And that, my friends, is a reason to rejoice!

Thoughts

He Did it Anyway

He saw me on that long ago day, when His hands and feet were nailed to that splintered tree. He knew everything there was to know about me. He knew things He wanted me to do for Him. He knew I would fail Him.

I wonder how He could know everything about me and yet still choose to lay His life down for me. It’s funny how you can know the answer to a question you’ve thought of dozens of times before but it never really grips you until… Bam! You get it. He loved me more than His life. He did what the Father sent Him to do. He did what He asks us to do daily. To lay our lives down for others. To pick up our cross and follow Him.

I wish there was some way to show Him that what He did means more to me than my actions show. I will live with the guilt for the hundreds of times I have ignored His leading and grieved Him. I can still remember times, places, circumstances where I should have acted and didn’t. I thought there was no way He could actually use me. I’m not good enough. But thinking and feeling that way misses the point entirely. In and of ourselves that is true. But He makes us His righteousness And gives us His strength.

Thoughts, Truth

A Father’s Love

I went to Walmart today (I know, big mistake) to fill a prescription that was supposed to be ready by 11:15am (It wasn’t, but that’s a story for another time.) I walked around and browsed to kill some time. As I crisscrossed through the store I passed a certain woman several times. She had the cutest baby girl in purple footie pajamas with ruffles on her backside. My heart literally ached for my baby girl, Isabel, who we lost to miscarriage at 17 weeks. I looked and each time my heart constricted with a particularly acute feeling. Not a feeling of grief, loss, or even anger. The best I can describe it as is—lonely… longing… yearning. To see her face, to smell her hair, to comfort her, and guide her in this life. That is the job of a parent; to protect, teach, correct. To love above all else—no matter what.

As I drove home I pondered on that feeling. That longing feeling for this relationship that should have been mine but was so cruelly and suddenly taken from me.

In a much larger scale I would imagine that was how God felt when he found Himself on the outside, looking in on His creation. When Adam fell, God was separated from the people He had created to have an intimate relationship with Him. Adam walked with God in the cool of the day. They talked, had fellowship. Then suddenly, without warning and through no fault of His own. The awful tearing of separation.

Whether we know it or not, we were created to be sons and daughters of the Most High God. We were created to partake in a relationship no other creature in heaven or on earth will experience. I can imagine God looking over the banister of heaven—always waiting, always loving. Watching those who have chosen to run as far from Him as possible. People who may even curse Him. Yet there He waits with a Father’s heart, longing to be reconciled with His children.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Truth

Endurance

Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and you will leave me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33)

The verdict is in. The end of the story is written. We win. Even in the midst of persecution we can have joyful peace in the certainty of Christ’s victory. We just have to make it to the end. And how do we do that? We endure.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:36 that, “[We] have need of endurance, so that after [we] have done the will of God, [we] may receive the promise.” There are a couple different viewpoints when it comes to endurance. There’s the “if we can just hold on ’til the end” people. These are the people who let life happen to them. Who hold onto their salvation by the skin of their teeth and do nothing to further the kingdom of God. Then there’s the people who charge into their future. The people who run for the finish line. Endurance is not just about surviving. It’s about how we get there.

“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of The Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by The Lord—that The Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10-11) The Greek word for endure in this passage of scripture is hupomeno. Hupomeno means to hold one’s ground in conflict, bear up against adversity, hold out under stress, stand firm, persevere under pressure, wait calmly and courageously. It is not passive resignation to fate or mere patience, but the active, energetic resistance to defeat that allows calm and brave endurance. Endurance isn’t just making it to the end. It includes our attitude as we go.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) My friends, there are generations of saints that have gone before that are cheering us on. But we can’t run with the cares of this world weighing us down. Cast them over on The Lord and run your race! Keep your eyes on God’s eternal purpose and endure.

Thoughts, Truth

Why sit we here until we die?

In view of what God has brought my family through recently most of my postings have been what God has shown us as we walk this path were are on. The fortunate thing is—God’s Word applies to every aspect of our lives. What God has revealed to help us through our loss can be reapplied to help someone else through financial crisis, the betrayal of a spouse or friend, illness, etc. The very things in our lives that the enemy uses to completely immobilize us can be the very thing that God redeems to bring us into the most fruitful time of our lives. As we place our trust in Him, God will bring the truth of His Word that we have hidden in our hearts to our remembrance.

The loss of a child is a particular pain that is not easy to overcome. It’s a pain that I have heard spoken of many times but couldn’t even come close to grasping until I found myself face to face with it. I found myself desperate to reclaim my life, to achieve a sense of normalcy. But all my body—my flesh—wanted to do was sit. Wallow. Oh, how I wanted to wallow—to clothe myself in despondency. As I sat in my favorite chair, feet propped up, remote in hand, prepared for day two of whatever I could find to avoid what I was facing; I heard these words… “Why sit we here until we die?” I had read those words before. Why sit we here until we die? I knew they were in the Bible, somewhere in the Old Testament. So I consulted my know-it-all friend, Google.

The story is found in 2 Kings 7 starting in verse 3. “Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die?”

These men were faced with a choice—not a very enticing choice—but a choice nonetheless. In those days lepers were kept outside the city, away from everyone. Isolated. Option One: They could stay where they were and starve. Option Two: They could attempt to enter the famine-starved city where they were not allowed and were not welcome. Option Three: They could surrender to the Syrian army where they would either be fed or killed. Really. Not a choice I would like to make. But what did they have to lose?

They rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians; and when they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise no one was there. For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses—the noise of a great army (2 Kings 7:5-7a) The Syrians assumed that the Israelites had hired some extra muscle to help them out, so they ran. They ran and left everything intact. Their camp, their tents, their horses, donkeys. Everything.

The four lepers fell on their spoils and ate and drank their fill. They began to squirrel away treasures when they remembered their countrymen who were trapped in a besieged city. Starving. They went to the gatekeeper of their city and shared the good news. He relayed the message to the king and—after a bit of drama due to unbelief on the king’s part—the people plundered the tents of the Syrians.

If those four men hadn’t made that simple choice to “get up and go.” This bit of history would have ended quite differently. We have the same choice to make. Do we sit here in the middle of our problems and quit? Do we go back to the place we started—to our past where there is no help for us? Or do we get up, dust ourselves off, and move forward! I chose the latter and I hope you do too. Because as we go, God will make a way for us.

Thoughts, Truth

Unstoppable

We had a special speaker in church last Sunday. He spoke on being unstoppable. The things that stop us and the things that urge us to press forward. After the events of the last month I feel pretty unstoppable. But I have been stopped before. By tiny, seemingly insignificant things.

The children of Israel. God rescued them from Egypt in an unmistakable and spectacular fashion. They experienced what I would think was the biggest mass healing ever as they partook of the atonement. And then they plundered their captors as they left. He provided an escape through the Red Sea. Through it! Not around it. One thing the speaker at church said stuck with me. He said, “The Spirit of God wants to lead us through, not around our trials.”

Through it, not around. There is growth in adversity, if its handled right. Once the Israelites were through the brunt of their trial…that’s when the whining and complaining began. They had experienced God’s deliverance. They had experienced God’s miraculous provision through the water from the rock, the manna, and the quail. They had experienced God’s guidance through the pillars of smoke and fire. He was with them through it all. What more did they want? As the whining reached its crescendo. They camped in the middle of the wilderness. Stopped by their own selfishness and disobedience. Stopped where God never intended them to be. God intended to guide them straight through to the other side. Instead they chose to wander, around the mountain they went.

We need to trust Him. He promised in His word that “He would never leave us or forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). “All His promises are Yes and Amen unto the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Louie Giglio preached a message that I love, “How Great is Our God.” If you’ve never watched it, do yourself a favor and do so. In it he talks about the bigness of our God and how small we are by comparison. And if we are small. Our problems must be teensy! Towards the end he talks about how people assume that we will always wake up to rosy circumstances. Does that happen…always? No. Can God do it? Yes. Absolutely. But if God wouldn’t deliver Jesus from carrying His cross, what makes us think He will do that for us. In the Word he tells us to “pick up our cross and follow Him.” (Matthew 16:24) Paul said that, “He died daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). What God did promise us is that as we walk though the trials and tribulations of life He will be there right in the middle of it with us. And as we walk our weakness will be transformed into His strength. Our doubt will be transformed to faith. Our defeat will be transformed into victory. Keep walking, be unstoppable!

But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Feelings, Thoughts, Truth

A day I won’t soon forget

On July 8th, 2013 I was changed forever. I have experienced plenty of loss and pain in my 35 years but this was different. This pain was utterly and completely personal.

Numbness with a dash of Revelation

It was a day that started with excitement and joy. My husband was making the two hour trek into work. But I was going to the doctor for my 16 week check up to see how our little girl, Isabel Hope was incubating. Instead, after the normal pleasantries, I was notified after a Doppler and two ultrasounds that our little girl was gone. Fetal demise. Two words I never thought I would hear describing any of my children. The doctor was speaking but my ears were ringing. Gone. Gone. She’s gone. My Pa and Grandma Debbie met me at the doctor’s office. As I walked out of the office the wall of strength I had held up against the doctor’s words broke and so did I. The tears came. Grandma Debbie reached her arms around me. My parents arrived and their arms joined hers. Trying to siphon off the grief that had wound its way around my heart. My husband called and in between gasps I relayed to him what I knew. She had died two weeks before. Before we had even picked her name she was gone.

For two days I wavered between numbness and unrelenting grief. God I know this wasn’t your plan. How could this have happened? How? Why? Both questions I knew wouldn’t be answered sufficiently on this side of eternity. My husband stayed home the first day. We lay in bed just trying to muster the strength to get up and do something, anything. As I sobbed into my pillow I found a picture on my phone of our seven year old daughter, Grace, taken two days before during our Sunday morning church service. She was at the altar, her eyes were closed, her hands were raised. Experiencing the presence of God as only a child can. Beautiful. Immediately my thoughts shifted to Isabel. My little girl I will never see this side of glory. Glory. GLORY. The only thing she will ever know. “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) No pain. No sickness. No disappointment. Straight from the comfort of my womb into the presence of God. And a part of my heart began to heal.

Thursday, I readied myself for another doctor appointment. Time for a game plan. I couldn’t bear to be stuck in this twisted, grief-filled holding pattern any longer. I prayed, “God, if this is going to happen. If there is no way of escaping this path. Please, I know it will be hard for my husband and me but I want to see her. I want at least one memory I can hold onto.” As I stood there. God spoke. Strong and clear. Straight down deep into my spirit. “The enemy didn’t do this for her. Isabel is safe with me. He cannot touch her here. He did this for you. To destroy your calling as a worship leader. To destroy your husband’s calling as a minister. To destroy your family. To crush your faith and the faith of your children. To make you doubt even my very existence. Make no mistake. He did this for you.”

My husband says that you can preach the whole Bible out of John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John10:10 NKJV) As I have heard my Grandma Debbie preach many times. Good God. Bad devil.

As I pondered those words from God my spirit rose up strong within me and I shouted to the enemy of my soul, “YOU ARE A FOOL! God didn’t do this. You did this! You did it and you will regret this day. I will not give up. I will not turn away!” I meant it with every fiber of my being. From that moment forward I have had sadness and even tears but that all-encompassing, paralyzing, hopeless grief is gone.

That night my prayer was answered. After being in labor all evening, I rushed into my bathroom where she was born. Palm sized and perfect. Everything visibly where it should be. Eyes, ears, lips, button nose, arms, legs, fingers and toes. I held her and we gazed at her. Taking a picture with our minds. Our one memory this side of heaven.

Where things got interesting

Apparently the enemy wasn’t content with stealing the earthly existence of my baby girl. He had fixed his gaze on me. After she was delivered I breathed a sigh of relief. That wasn’t so bad. As I lay in bed ready for some healing sleep, the hemorrhaging began. So much so I just sat in the bathroom going in and out of consciousness leaning against my husband who was my pillar of strength through the night. Why wasn’t the bleeding slowing? We called 911.

As they rushed…um…rushed may be the wrong word. It felt as if some senior citizens were out for a Sunday morning cruise along the waterfront. Anyway. As we reached the hospital the doctors looked me over. Apparently the placenta was stuck. It made it halfway out which kept the flood gates open. I felt as if I was fading away. I was desperately trying to hold on. They lowered my head and got my feet up in the air to get what blood I had left where it could do the most good. After what seemed like an eternity the Obstetrician on call arrived and was finally able to get the placenta free. After they slammed a unit of blood into me (that was the exact word they used since they had to get it in so fast) things started looking up. After a second unit it was looking even better. 36 hours later they released me to complete my recovery at home.

Two weeks later I met with the doctor who saved my life in the Emergency Room. He informed me how glad he was that I didn’t try and make the 40 minute trip to Olympia. In his words… I wouldn’t have lasted that long. Thank God for the urgency in the Holy Spirit we felt to get help when we did. I had no idea how close I came to eternity.

It has been four weeks and two days since that night and I can say with absolute certainty that God has kept me. “And we know that ALL things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV) We know He did not cause this, but we know the He will use it for His glory and purpose.