Kim Jaggers

Kim Jaggers
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loving and Dieing

We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
1 John 3:14

My sweet former father-in-law is close to death. Family and Hospice workers tend to his needs as we prepare to say goodbye. I met him when I was just eighteen. Four years later I would marry his son and within six years we would stand together at my husband and his son’s funeral. Last Friday, he held my hand and told me he would be dieing soon, he also told me how he has always loved me and that he hoped he had always been good to me. Thinking back, I cannot remember him ever saying an unkind word to me in the twenty four years I have enjoyed a close relationship with him.

Unless Jesus comes back first we will all die; but the Bible says those who “do not love remain in death”. Like a cancer, unkindness, bitterness and hatred seem to keep so many in a state of sick turmoil. Yet, the Bible says those who love their brothers pass from death to life. The funny thing about love is how freeing it can be. It not only frees us from apology at our death bed but also frees us to live our days in true “life”. I have had to stop and ponder my life this week… has it been characterized by love? Do I see the best in people? Do I offer them mercy and grace? Am I kind to random strangers and (sometimes even more difficult) those who I call family? Do I love my enemies and experience the freedom this brings or do I give them power to keep me in turmoil by staying bitter towards them? It isn’t always easy to love but it is always worth it.

This time of year – this Christmas time of year – what will you choose? Will you choose a life of love or remain miserably living in death? The gift of love you choose (yes decide) to give others may be the greatest gift you can give yourself second only to choosing the greatest gift of all – a personal relationship with the One who loved the unlovely (us) first. Choose love… Jesus did and you can too with His help.

Father, thank you for your Word which is life. Thank you for your Holy Spirit which is power to love even the unlovely. Thank you Lord for loving me first and thank you for the freedom which comes from loving you and and loving others. May my life be one lived without regret and may I love others deeply and without reservation so I can walk in freedom and give glory to your Name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big Hair, Journey and the Apostle Paul

You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.
2 Cor 6:12

Big Hair and the band Journey marked my high school days…. But who knew Journey and the Apostle Paul had something in common? Those of you as “young”(ha! Ha!) as I am can probably belt the lyrics to “Who’s Crying Now” including the verse “How can something “good” hurt so bad?” As this song depicts, we often call things “good” which are really causing us pain and Apostle Paul says we are often restricted by our own affections. A friend of mine recently noted that it is human nature to return to things which comfort us…even if that “comfort” is really something not good for us. Don’t you know it is true? Just think about it… how often have you felt down and reached for a big bowl of ice cream? Once during a pity party I decided I should forego the ice cream and just eat an entire jar of hot fudge sauce…talk about something good hurting so bad! Yuck!

But as believers we have access to the God of ALL COMFORT (2 Cor 1:3) and He is real comfort! He will not hurt us later or cause us to have regrets. Another song (not by Journey) says “Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer” Believers have a full-time -24 hour counselor called the Holy Spirit you run to Him? He stands with open arms and calls you “His beloved” and says, you can “rest secure in Him” (Deut 33:12). The One who suffered for us all tells us real comfort in the midst of suffering is this—that His promises will preserve our lives (Ps 119:50). God (not ice cream, not shopping, not romance, not drugs, not the-perfect-fixed-life) and His promises are enough to keep us going and comfort us.

But one more thing from this former big-hair, Journey girl – Can I just mention… it is hard to be comforted and stand on promises that you don’t know. The Most High God has promised you some things which will comfort you. Do you know what they are? Do you know Who He is? He calls Himself “faithful and true” (Rev 19:11)…and His promises and His comfort can absolutely be counted on. Go ahead… open His living Word and see what He has for you today. It will not return void. Don’t take my word for it. He says so Himself in Isaiah 55:11.

Father, You know me. You know my nature to run to everything else before I run to you. Oh Lord, forgive me. Draw me close. You say that those who seek you find you. I need to find you before I run to more things that cause me pain. I need to know more of your promises. I want your comfort, strength, peace, hope and joy. Oh Lord, release me from those things which have caused me pain for so long and help me to know and walk in the truth of your promises. I know you love me. Help me to know you and love you more and more. Amen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Too tired to pray?... it is okay

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Rom 8:26

I’ve been sick. I woke up aching and my to-do list is a mile long. I felt overwhelmed, stressed and really in need of a good cry. I sat down with my Bible with a desire to crawl up in my Father’s lap. My Scripture reading for the day and an email I just received included Romans 8:26 (wait, did you get that?… already the same verse twice by 5:30 am!) : In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. When I am weak, confused, conflicted, overwhelmed, when I don’t know what to pray, when I am too tired to pray…Jesus is praying for me and I can rest assured that He knows exactly what I need. Yes, He wants me to seek Him and His ways with all my heart (Deut 4:29)… but He also tells me to cast ALL my anxiety on Him because He cares for me (I Pet 5:7). Jesus is constantly interceding for us with God because He loves us so much and nothing (including our feelings, worries or exhaustion) can separate us from this love and this constant prayer (Rom 8:34-35).

I don’t know what my day will hold but I know God goes before me and the Holy Spirit is constantly praying for me. Not only that, God says He will encourage my heart (2 Thess 2:17) and strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees (Heb 12:12). And unlike the remedies of the world, God’s help is constant. He tells me He is refuge and strength and an ever-present help in time of trouble (Ps 46:1). I have no reason to doubt this because His Word tells me in Num 23:19 God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? There is power and there is rest in our Savior and I am very sure He can more- than-handle all that troubles me in this day…and He can handle what troubles you.

Oh Father, I am tired and worries surround me. I don’t even know how to begin to pray… but You are already praying and You see all that lies ahead. Oh Lord you tell me to cast all my burdens on You. Your power is made perfect in my weakness. Thank you for loving me with a constant, patient love. Thank you for being my ever-present help in times of trouble. I love You Lord. May I rest in You in this day. Amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

When God can... but what if He doesn't?

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Daniel 3:17-18

Have you ever wished that God would just speak in an audible voice and tell you what to do, what choice to make? I have been so desperate to know His will that I have even fussed “If God told me to go to Ninevah (like He did Jonah of Whale fame) I would go!” But honestly, sometimes I have struggled more when I have clearly known what God wanted me to do, I obeyed and then He didn’t do what I thought He should do. Jonah did the same thing… he obeyed God and then expected Him to destroy the evil Ninevites… but God didn’t and Jonah sat pouting under a plant. (You can read the account in the short book of Jonah). I have been like that so often. Have you? What do you do when God doesn’t do what you think He should do? What do you do when you obey something hard and He does something you don’t like? Do you turn away and pout? Do you pull away from God because He doesn’t behave the way you expect Him to? I know I sure have at times.

But honestly, if God is all good, all knowing, and working things out for our best… does He really have to explain Himself? Is He really God if we can treat Him like a vending machine…”I do this and You do this God”? Isn’t true submission to His Lordship when we can come to the point of saying… “I can’t predict You. I can’t control You. I don’t have to have You explain Yourself. I know You can… but even if you don’t, You are God and I am not and I will trust and obey” That is some hard faith but the kind of faith that helps us walk through the fiery trials of this life. It is the kind of faith that prompted Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3) to tell the King, as they were being thrown into the fire, “Our God can deliver us but even if He doesn’t’ we will still serve Him (paraphrased)”. This kind of faith brings freedom and defeats fear. This kind of “He-is-God and I-am-not-faith” is real and life-changing.

Do you want this kind of boldness, this kind of peace despite your circumstances? You can have it… but you have to get out of the way and daily give God everything—including your expectations of what He will do when you obey. If you can count on Him for eternity… you can count on Him even when you don’t understand exactly what He is doing. Give it all to Him. Let Him be Lord of all your life… and get ready to see His goodness and His deliverance as never before!

Father, I love you. I know I have often given You a list of requests expecting certain answers. Help me to “take my hands of the wheel” and let You drive…even when You don’t tell me where we are going. I can’t predict You. I know I can’t control You and if I could… You wouldn’t be my Lord. So take it all Jesus… even my expectations of “how things should be”. I want more of You and all the peace, hope and joy that comes from a life submitted to You. I know You are all good and I trust You. Help me to trust you more. Amen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Forgetting to be Faithful

forgetting those things which are behind
Phil 3:13

Part of being faithful is forgetting. No, I didn’t say “forgiving”… I said “forgetting” and the “ing” part is very important here. The Apostle Paul, who lived an amazing, faith-filled-life, is wonderful at telling us how we can live this kind of life as well. In his famous passage about “the prize of Christ Jesus”, Paul tells us part of walking out our faith involves a daily, on-going effort of forgetting. Paul did not say “forget” what is behind – he said “forgetting”. God purposefully inspired Paul to use a present tense word because He knows we need Him present-tensely every day!

In order to walk in freedom and live out our faith in a way that blesses others and brings us joy, hope and peace, God calls us over and over to take an active part—in this case “actively forgetting”. He knows our tendencies to rest on our past successes or stay stuck in our past failures so much that we are little present good. He knows He could tell us to forget and move on… but He also knows our minds tend to go right back there given the next opportunity. Instead, God tells us to be in a state of “forgetting” so the past (good or bad) does not prevent us from living this day to see all the new things God will do and do through us.

So what does “actively forgetting” look like? It means I acknowledge the tendency I have to live in the past. I don’t rest on my successes no matter my age or how long I have walked with Christ. I keep moving forward expecting God to do new, great things. If I have nothing new to add to my testimony, I have a problem because we serve an amazing God who constantly wants to work in and through us. This also means I don’t wallow in my failures and allow the enemy to hold me down with things God has already forgiven. Yes, you may have messed up but what Satan intends for evil God uses for good all the time when we repent and give it to Him. The question is: Are you ready for the new things God will do? Are you daily forgetting those things which are behind and expecting God to do new things? He is ready… are you?

Father- Thank you for forgiving me for so many things. I know the enemy wants to hold me down by reminding me of when I have failed you. Help me to take those thoughts captive and walk forward in the grace you have offered. Thank you for all you have done in my life…the mountaintop experiences. I cherish those things and my faith has grown because of it. But Father, I know you have new things to do in my life and you aren’t done writing my testimony. Please help me to not “rest” in yesterday’s successes. I know you aren’t done with me yet. I love you Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Everything is permissable... but

“Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Cor 6:12

My family all sat together in our living room. I wish I could tell you the picture warmed my heart…but it didn’t. We were together but not “together”. A football game was on the television, two of us held laptops checking Fantasy Football scores, another played a game on Ipod touch and I held my Blackberry checking Facebook. The last bit of family conversation I could recall revolved around when to go play Xbox. I wish I could tell you this “family moment” was an unusual occurrence, but over the past few weekends it has been the norm at our house. I am not sure how we slipped into this kind of distracted, disengaged-kind-of-normal… but we have. Now mind you, none of us are doing anything immoral but it seems we have spent too much time lately on things that are permissible but not necessarily beneficial. I have to confess that I have even wondered if those permissible things (like Facebook) have started to “master” me. Yep, I do believe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something.

I am so thankful for the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit. He is so good to warn us when things start to get out of hand—not so we can fall into legalism but so we can experience the good things of God which are so much better than the worldly things which might consume and distract us. God gives His people freedom but He also gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us to walk freely in that freedom – not mastered by anything of this world. The enemy wants us to be so consumed, so distracted that we fail to hear the Holy Spirit and the enemy doesn’t just use sin in his arsenal. He also delights in tempting us to choose the permissible over the beneficial. As Christians and as parents, we need to slow down and listen to the Holy Spirit. We need to evaluate our lives, learn to balance our time, choose those things which are beneficial and eternal and teach our children to do so as well. When we do, we will be blessed in this life and the life to come.

Father: Thank you for your Holy Spirit. Thank you for giving us freedom, but thank you also for giving us guidance to choose your best in this life. Help me to hear your voice and walk in your ways. Help me to guide my family so they will learn to do follow you and not be mastered by those things which are not beneficial. I love you Lord. I need your guidance daily. May I live this day and spend my time loving others and bringing you glory. Amen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God and Casseroles

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Heb 10:24-25

We learned from my brother-in-law last night that my sweet father-in-law has prostate cancer. We immediately tried to call my in-laws but could not reach them for hours. We finally got them late last night to find out they had been at church rehearsing with the choir…but we know they weren’t just singing. They had been being loved on by church family. For forty years this group of believers has loved each other through hard times like job losses, deaths, broken marriages and cancer diagnosis. They have celebrated weddings and new babies with casseroles and church showers. They pray for each other and for each other’s families and when we visit they love us like family too. So in this hard time… this church did what churches do well, they encourage and love one another with the love of Jesus. Once again God used the church to be His hands and His feet…His arms to hold and His voice to encourage us. I am so glad God has His people to be there in the day to day with my in-laws. I have no doubt that they will feel the love of Jesus daily through these people. I know, too, they have done the same for many others over the years.

Being part of a body of believers is vital to our ability to walk strong in the Lord. He created the church and He uses it to bless, comfort, and teach His children and He loves us through other people there. So often, I talk to sad, lonely, discouraged people who are trying to make it on their own. These lone rangers are easy targets for the enemy who is like a prowling lion looking for those who stray outside the fold. But not only are these lone rangers missing the encouragement of the church… the church is missing them. God gifts all His children with spiritual gifts to be used for the body of believers. (Yes, He gifted you!)

Life is hard and if you study Bible prophecy, it seems that it may only get harder. We need each other. God tells us to keep meeting together, to keep encouraging each other and all the more as we see the Day (of his return) approaching. Are you a part of a church? Do you have a group of believers to turn to when hard times come? Do you have a history with them so they know how to love on you? Do they know your favorite casserole? Are you sharing yourself and your spiritual gift with others? Don’t be a lone ranger…life is hard and God never intended for us to walk it alone.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your church. Thank you for loving us through the body of believers. Help me to be an active part and use the spiritual gifts you have given me. Help my children to experience the blessing of a church family and help me to help them see the perfect love of Christ among a group of imperfect people. As the years go by, I know I won’t always be there for them… but I know you can and will love them through others in your body. I love you Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hard Stuff

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Gal 5:1

“Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? If you have not, I question whether you have heard Him say anything,” the great preacher-teacher Oswald Chambers once said. I have to agree. As much as we would like to pick and choose parts of the Bible which give us hope and makes us feel good, we have to consider there are some hard parts which we can’t ignore in the Word of God.

How often do we want the peace of God which transcends all understanding but then we refuse to follow the Prince of Peace in those things which are not easy or which we don’t like or understand. Jesus asks His followers to do some hard things. He tells us to “love our enemy and turn the other cheek”. He tells us to forgive those who have hurt us. He tells us not to repay evil for evil. Instead, He asks us to take up our cross and follow Him and give our possessions and our time to those less fortunate or even to those who won’t appreciate us. Jesus tells us to obey Him despite our feelings. Following Jesus is not a “feel good, tell you what-you-want-to hear” religion. On the contrary, Jesus tells us following Him may make us feel like the oddball – He even tells us we are aliens and strangers here. But “here” is not our home. Some who have been called to pay the costliest of price - to die for the cause of Christ – must have held dearly to that truth until they drew their final breath. But few of us will be called to give our lives, yet we are all called to obedience in some hard things.

I wonder what hard thing the Savior asking from you? Have you drawn a line and said “anything but that”? I don’t know what your “that” is but I wonder if your “that” is what is holding you back from really knowing the Prince of Peace? If you are trusting Jesus as Lord for your salvation He must also be Lord (boss) of your life and your choices. ..even the hard ones. Are you ready to go to a new place with God? Are you ready to get past some hurts and hang-ups that have been plaguing you for too long? Are you ready to shake free from the yoke of slavery that comes from disobedience? Do you want real freedom? If so, follow Him in the hard and watch Him do a mighty work in and through you. You will reap a mountain of blessing and He is worth it…

Prayer: Lord, am I holding back from following you? Oh, search my heart and show me the hard things which you have asked and I have refused. Please forgive me for disobeying you. Give me the strength to lay down “my way” for your better way. Take my life Lord… all of it. I want the freedom that comes from following You in all things… even the hard ones. Strengthen these shaky knees and help me walk in your way. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Get up off the ground!

David got up from the ground
2 Samuel 12:20

Have you ever just blown it? Have you ever made a stupid mistake or flat-out sinned and are now dealing with the consequences? Now, consequences by nature are most often not fun or else we would call them “blessings”. Yet, even in our consequences God is merciful and abounding in grace. When we repent, when we run to Him, when ask for forgiveness and give Him our failure… He can and often does bring blessing in the midst of the consequences. Just look at David and Bathsheba. David sinned big time. You can read about his failure and consequences in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. You will see David’s repentance but you will also read where “David got up from the ground (12:20).” David did what David was good at… he ran back to God. In the midst of his “consequences” he also found God’s blessing. Our merciful Father blessed David and Bathsheba with a wise son--Solomon, and generations later… through this imperfect man God brought His perfect Son.

I wonder what God could bring from your failure (even your sin) if you would give it to Him. Run to His arms in repentance and ask Him to bring beauty from ashes. We are good at messing up things but someone wise once said “God can take our “messes” and bring “messages” but only when we give it all to Him and follow Him with everything we’ve got. Are you ready to lay your burdens down? Are you ready to trust God to use even your failures for His glory? There is nothing He cannot use when you lay it at His feet…and at His feet is where you find peace and rest.

Father, help me to see the sin in my life that the enemy wants to use to keep me down.. Help me to get up off the ground and walk towards you. Please take my failure, my sin…take it all and bring glory to Your Name. I know you and you alone can take what Satan intends for evil and use it for good. Please forgive me for cooperating with the evil one and help me to instead walk in your truth, your light and in obedience to You. For you are good and what you do is good. Amen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ignoring God

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:15

I knew I shouldn’t have waited so long. The weeds in my garden were almost as tall as the vegetable plants. I tried to gingerly pull them out but the weed roots were often entangled around the good plant. As the weeds came up so did the soil holding the vegetables in place. The poor little veggies fell over to the side and I worked to prop them back up. What should have been an easy job, now took hours of tedious, sweaty work.

God has taught me so much as I work in my garden. He has shown me about the harvest but this day He taught me about sin and what happens when we let it grow. Just like weeds, sin takes over when we allow it to remain in our lives. When we ignore sin it will overtake the fruit in our lives; and when we leave it to grow deep roots, it will choke the life right out of us. The easiest way to get rid of sin is to remove it when we first notice it. If we remove it quickly it doesn’t hurt us (and let’s face it --those around us) as deeply.

Many times I have heard the whisper of my Savior warning me to get rid of something, to walk away, to shut my mouth, to turn that off, to take the thought captive and on and on. Jesus is our helper and He is constantly looking out for us. He isn’t silent but sometimes we choose to ignore Him. The Bible says His “sheep know His voice” (John 10:4) but sometimes His sheep take off running in the wrong direction –right toward the wolves. Jesus tells us to flee from sin and He is quick to call us back when we are heading toward sin which will always hurt us. I know it is true and so do you. He is always right. The sooner we listen to Him, the sooner we remove the sin, the easier it will be to do so…and the much better off we will be! You got any weeds that need pulling?

Prayer: Oh Father, please show me the weeds – the sin I may be allowing to creep into my life. I know you want what is best for me and that you are my help to remove sin that hurts me and others around me. Help me to guard my life and follow you. I know you love me and you want what is best for me. Help me to hear your voice every day, in every area and follow you. I love you Lord. Amen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eighty-year-old slides to third

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phil 1:20-21

Dressed in crisp white pants, a button down and polished dress shoes-- he was looking good. Forgetting his spiffy attire, the competitive side of my Dad took over as he joined the family wiffle ball game. Though arthritis has taken over, he easily smacked a good hit and ran with the graceful stride of a former college athlete. The throw was quick as Dad passed second and headed to third base. He had to beat that throw. I couldn’t believe my eyes as my eighty-year-old father slid into third! He slid! Kids and grandchildren surrounded him as he lay there a moment. He got up with a limp and a smile and no one dared suggest he was anything but safe.

I lay in bed that night pondering what my Dad had done. It is funny that some things are so a part of who we are that we don’t think twice before we act on those traits. For Dad, years of practice, focus, and love-of-the-game still dictate his behavior—despite his age. It just comes natural.

I want to have that kind of behavior-dictating passion about Jesus. I want it to come natural. I want passion that is so a part of who I am that I act like a Christian without even thinking. I want to have the kind of passion that throws caution to the wind and just lives to give glory to the Savior. I want to love the unlovely without thinking they are unlovely. I want to serve others without a thought of self. I want to boldly stand for the cause of Christ without considering the costs. I don’t want to hesitate. I don’t want to consider my safety, my happiness or my bank account. I want Jesus to be so a part of me that every word, every deed, every thought is of Him and for Him. I want Jesus to live so strongly in me that He dictates my behavior in such a natural way that others see Him and not me.

Prayer: Father, May your will be done in everything I do. May my words and my deeds point others to you. I owe you everything and I love you. May my love for you only grow stronger and may that love flow into the lives of others so that they may know you and give you glory. Amen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Even When He says "No"

Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.
Job 13:15

God has done so much for me but He often feels the closest and freedom the greatest when others might look at the situation and think He has forgotten me. In many hard times God has brought me to total surrender and asked me to be willing for the answer to be “no”. When I have been able to spit out the words: “even if my biggest fear happens, I will still follow you” when I finally lay down my need for God to explain Himself, when I give up trying to fix things, control things and stop expecting things to go the way I want… a strange, wonderful peace comes and worry, frustration, and fear subside. In the hardest of moments, I can only find hope when I throw up my hands to the Father and submit to Him. No one can define or predict God and life often calls us to follow Him in some very difficult times. Peace comes when in those moments we are able to say, “I don’t know what you are doing. I can’t explain you or predict you. I don’t want you to do this… but even if you do… I have no choice but to love and follow you. You are bigger than all I know. Your way is better than mine. You are God and I am not.”

For years I have heard Christians say, “You have to die to yourself” but God has had to rip those control reigns from my hand more than once. Really, who am I to question His way? Who are you? God is the Holy of Holies. He is powerful and mighty. He died for me and if that were all – if He never did one more, good thing for me – I would still owe Him everything. So would you. That is easy to say but hard to mean. And you can’t just mean it once. You have to mean it every day. You have to daily die to your way and live for Him…. But daily falling on your face before the Living God and following Him is the best, hardest thing you will ever do. Because try as we may, we cannot out-give, out-love the Most High. He may take you a way you didn’t want to go but He will strengthen you, love you, help you and always uphold you with His righteous right hand (Is 41:10).

Prayer: Father, help me to live this day for you. Help me to not worry about tomorrow. Help me to follow you with all I have even when I would have chosen another way. You are Lord – help me to live like I mean that and reap all the benefits that come from belonging to the King of the Universe. Thank you for loving me. Amen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Red Convertible

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Pet 1:6-9

The preacher said “We don’t own anything--we are all just stewards.” My next, deep, spiritual thought was “Lord, I would like to be the steward of a red convertible.” But the ever-patient voice in my spirit seemed to whisper “I gave you something better. I let you walk the hard road and it was there that you found My best.” I knew it was true. I would have never known God and His peace apart from the hard road He has allowed me to walk and I also know He only allowed me to walk it in order to bring a blessing that I couldn’t see or would have been too afraid to have chosen for myself.

The great preacher-teacher and author of “My Utmost for His Highest” Oswald Chambers says “As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and luxurious prospects will open up before you, and these things are yours by right; but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights and let God choose for you.” He goes on to explain that “This is the discipline by means of which the natural is transformed into the spiritual by obedience to the voice of God.” Simple, Southern girl translation ---When we turn over the control of our lives to God and obey Him, He will bring a bouquet of blessings that we will never find by controlling things ourselves. When we surrender control, the spirit conquers the flesh – fear becomes trust, worry becomes peace, desperation becomes hope.

Holding on to this truth has kept me going during the hard times of life….because I know I am holding on with hope. So many times I have said to myself: “I would have chosen this (easier road) but God must have something better that I can’t see yet. He can bring good from this hard.” I am so thankful to follow our good God who sees all, who knows all, who is working it all to good and who loves me with a perfect, unending, amazing, sustaining love….His blessings are exceedingly, abundantly better than anything I could have chosen for myself.

Prayer: Father, I am flesh and I am a chicken… but with you I can walk the hard roads with hope and to victory. I know I am precious to You and if You allow something hard to come into my life – You have a good reason. Sometimes, I may get to see the reason and sometimes I may never know… but I trust you, I cling to you for you are hope, peace and joy! Amen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Soul Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matt 11:28-29

It seems that I have been keenly aware of the weary and burdened lately. My (hero) cousin is dying of cancer. My brother and sister-in-law’s house flooded in Nashville (for the second time in a year). My Dad is facing major health issues. Many of you are suffering the pain of divorce. Gas prices are on the rise. Terrorists still want to hurt us… and on and on. This life can be gut-wrenchingly hard. Yet Jesus says… “come to me and I will give you rest.” He is rest. He is rest because I know (for certain) that I can do very little about most of the worries that come my way. Yet my gentle Savior tells me to give Him my burdens, He tells me to learn from Him and it is there that I will find rest for my soul. “Soul Rest” is not rest like the world gives. It is a deep inner rest (a peace) that is not dependent on my circumstances. “Soul Rest” comes when I focus on the truth Jesus is teaching me. “Soul Rest” comes when I remember God is good (Ps 119:68), this life is temporary (Job 7:7) and Jesus is working it all to good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28). “Soul Rest” comes when I remember the enemy will not win. “Soul Rest” comes when I remember Jesus loves those I hurt for even more than I do. “Soul Rest” comes when I take my hands off the wheel and give it all to Jesus – knowing He has the power to take what Satan intends for evil and bring good.

There is a funny thing about “Soul Rest” though. It can only be experienced when it is a daily thing. Really it is a moment thing. It is walking and talking with Jesus throughout-the-day. But oh… it is a GOOD thing. It is real and it is available to EVERYONE who will call on His Name. But just like any other real relationship in your life… you can’t just call His name once, forget Him and expect to enjoy the benefits of knowing Him.. He wants to walk with you daily. He loves you deeply. His arms are open and He cares for you. Do you need a little “Soul Rest”? Your Savior loves you and He is waiting…

Jesus, you know everything. You know this world is hard. You know every trouble I face and every worry on my mind. Help me Lord to rest… really rest in You. Help me to seek You every day and learn from You. I can’t walk this road alone. I need you every minute. Thank you for loving me perfectly and thank you for being the strength I need to live my life in the joy, peace and hope found only in You. Amen.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

he knows your "thing"

In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength
Isaiah 45:24

Can I just tell you “he knows your thing”? He knows my “thing” too. I may not even know my “thing”… but he knows it. He has been watching me all my life and he knows my weakness. He knows just where to hit me to hurt me. He knows where I might fall to temptation and “he” is our enemy. He is the evil one and we absolutely must be on guard. He does not fight fair. Nothing is off limits and his desire is to steal and kill and destroy. We have to be on guard. We have to prayerfully ask ourselves “Where am I weak? Where is there insecurity? Where is there a hurt to be exploited? Where is there pride? Where have I cracked the door to compromise…even just a little? What area of my life have I not fully surrendered to Jesus Christ?” Whatever this may be… rest assured, this area has a bull’s eye on it for the enemy.

Sometimes it is easy to see other’s “thing”. When they fall we are often tempted to say “I saw that coming” and take pride that we would “never do that”. Yet, just because their “thing” isn’t our “thing” doesn’t’ mean we don’t have a “thing”. Instead of pointing out others “things” we should consider asking other Christians what our “thing” might be. We need to remember “In the LORD alone are righteous and strength” (Isa 45:24). There is much to be gained when we ask God to show us our “thing” rather than focus on others “things”. When He does, we can trust it is for our good. God will help us guard our lives so the enemy will not have his way with us.

Prayer: Father, thank you for loving me. I can approach your throne because of your righteousness not my own. Please help me to be on guard against the enemy. Please show me any area of vulnerability in my life. Help me to confess and remove sin and help me to see areas ripe for attack. Thank you for never leading me into temptation but for delivering me from the evil one. Thank you for being tempted in every way but never sinning. Thank you for shedding your blood for me and not leaving me alone to face the evil one… you alone are righteousness and strength. Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strength in the Storm

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 107:28-29

“Life is hard. We have an enemy. May I daily cling to the Living God who has already won the victory.” I often say this to myself when the sadness of life seems to be overwhelming. When I say “Jesus is hope”… He really is. He is get-you through-the-day-hope. He keeps me going. His Word is truth and it is strength for the storm. Some days I can joyfully feel His presence and clearly see His victorious hand. But there are the other days… where the pain and sadness of life are overwhelming—almost choking. There are days when the bad news far outweighs the good and I cannot see God’s hand. It is on these days that I cling to God’s heart and all I know to be true about Him. I know God brings beauty from ashes over and over and I know one day our tears will be no more. I know God is working it all to good. I know He is healer and redeemer. There is comfort there and there is strength to go on.

I don’t know what road you are walking but I know with Whom you should be walking. Life is indeed hard. We have a very real enemy. Are you daily clinging to the Living God who has already won the victory? He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. His thoughts toward you are all good and He and He alone can take what Satan intended for evil and bring good.

Father – I love you. I need you. You are my comforter and healer. May I cling to you and stay under the shelter of your wing. Thank you for your Word which is truth and strength. Thank you for being the solid rock in a crazy world. Help me to walk with you all of my days and point others to you on this journey home. Amen.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

is there more than hollow, chocolate bunnies?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved
Acts 4:12

It is not politically correct to even bring it up. I might offend someone but this Easter week has to make you think. Why would a man claim to be the Son of God, and when given the chance to save his life by refuting this statement... instead walk to a cross and die a horrible death? Was He a lunatic or the Savior? Perhaps no other question is more relevant than Pilot’s “What will you do with this Jesus?” Was Jesus a liar? Was he just a good man or was He God’s only Son? Is He one of many ways to Heaven or, as He says, “the only way”. Is it even polite to ask you what you think? The more culturally acceptable way is to tell you why Christianity works for me and what I get out of it…. I should try to “sell” you on it. But the most loving thing to do might be to quit “beating around the bush”, as my Mom used to say, and just tell you the truth.

Friend, you are dying. We all are. One day you will take your last breath on this earth. Where will you spend eternity? Will you float away to nothingness? Is there an after-life? How do you get there? There are lots of theories out there. There are lots of religions but none more exclusive than Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) According to Jesus, there is no other way – all the other religions are false, empty and leading to Hell. Jesus called Himself the Son of God and said there is one way to Heaven and eternal life – not many ways. He says He is the only Savior. 1 John 5: 12 says, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Could He be more clear?

So what are you going to do with that? What are you going to do with this Jesus? History documents His birth, His death and His words. The Bible says if you believe Him you will have eternal life and if you do not know Him…you will spend eternity in Hell. To some that may sound harsh…but for those of us who know Him and know His words to be true, the most loving thing to do is to tell you is the truth….Easter isn’t about hollow, chocolate bunnies. This weekend the world will take note and some will celebrate the act of our Savior who gave His life so we could live. Those who follow Him believe His blood sacrifice is the only atonement for our sins and the only way we can be near a Holy God in Heaven. Jesus offers life and life more abundantly (John 10:10) but this life can be found in no other name than Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The question is…do you believe Him?

Oh God, I cannot know you or approach your throne in prayer except by the blood of your Son – Jesus Christ. Salvation comes from no other name. May I be keenly aware of all you have done for me when you conquered death on that cross. I trust you and you alone for my salvation. Thank you Jesus for loving me with a perfect, unending love. May I live my life to point others to You. There is no other way. You are the truth and the life – may I follow you all the days of my life. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

He has everything... but wants me

If we are faithless, 
He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
2 Tim 2:13

If we could fathom the smallest sliver of the truth of it… we would be blown away. Sometimes I feel it when I am caught up in a praise song at church. I read about it every day in my Bible. I look back on my life and I know it to be completely true. God loves me with a deep, wide, unending, perfect love. Words on a page are incredibly inadequate to describe His love. He knows my every wicked thought and every self-centered deed yet His love for me compelled Him to leave His throne in Heaven to bare my ugly sin on a horrible cross. He was mocked, bloodied and beaten yet His eyes remained steadfastly on me. His desire is to be with me, and not just for a time, but for all eternity.

Yet, I have often forsaken Him and forgotten Him – caught up in the cares of this world. I repeatedly fail Him but He has never failed me. Instead, He sings over me (Zeph 3:17). He calls me the apple of His eye (Deut 32:10). He tells me He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deut 31:8). He forgives me over and over and He gently leads me to what is best for me (Isa 40:11). He never stops thinking of me (Isa 49:15). His plans for me are all good—better than I could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). He is my powerful helper – the maker of Heaven and Earth (Ps 121:2). His actions towards me are completely good (Ps 119:68). He cradles me in His love and binds up my broken heart—giving me freedom instead of despair (Isa 61). Nothing…no one, no power, not even death can separate me from His love (Rom 8:38-39). He says even if I am faithless – He will remain faithful (2 Tim 2:13). How can I describe or understand this kind of love? It blows me away.

I cannot fathom that a God who has everything wants me. I am His desire and He knows I will never be truly His from “have to” or “supposed to”. He knows religion and empty rules of men will never cause me to love Him. He wants my heart. He desires my love and it is His love that causes me to love Him. I want to be with Him and follow Him because I am deeply in love with Him. His love fills me up. His love is my security. He is my comfort. He is strength in the storm. He alone completely satisfies me. And friend, He wants to satisfy you. His loving arms are open wide and His desire is for you. Does that blow you away?

Father, I know I can never fully understand the depths of your love. Thank you for loving me. Help me to love you with all my heart, all my mind and all my strength. Thank you for always pursuing me. Draw me closer to you and help me to follow you all the days of my life. I know you are leading me to your loving arms and one day my eyes will behold what my mind can only imagine. I love you Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Freedom not Confusion

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1

“Mom, they said if you get your puberty, you are supposed to tell the school nurse immediately”. My daughter had just seen the 5th grade, “boys-in-one-room-girls–in-another” movie and felt quite confident of her understanding of the material. I chuckled to myself at her confusion over just “what about puberty” might necessitate a trip to the school nurse. We all laugh at silly mistakes and confusion… but there are certain things about which we simply cannot remain confused if we want life and peace. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1). This freedom is for now …not just later in Heaven. When we understand we are free from the penalty of sin and exercise the authority given to us as our inheritance (Eph 1:18-22) we experience true freedom. This freedom is ours because of what Christ did for us… not what we have done. Since we didn’t earn it… we can’t lose it. We have been declared “righteous”… this isn’t who we are becoming… this is who we are now and we need to clearly understand all it means. God’s truth sets us free--not our emotions or our feelings. When we know who we are in Christ … we can walk in it, enjoy life, rest in peace and have hope.

Do you know who you are? Are you enjoying all it means? God is withholding nothing from you. Read this excerpt from His Passion Ministries:

Since I am in Christ, By the Grace of God…I am now acceptable to God (justified) and completely forgiven. I live in peace with Him (Romans 5:1). The sinful person I used to be died with Christ, and sin no longer rules my life (Romans 6:1-6). I am free from the punishment (condemnation) my sin deserves (Romans 8:1). I have been placed in Christ by God’s doing (I Cor 1:30). I have received God ‘s Spirit in my life. I can recognize the blessings He has given me (I Cor 2:12). I have been given the mind of Christ. He gives me His wisdom to make the right choices (I Cor 2:16). I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God (I Cor 6:19,20). I am God’s possession, chosen and secure in Him (sealed). I have been given the Holy Spirit as a promise of my inheritance to come (2 Cor 1:21,22; Eph 1:13,14). Since I have died, I no longer live for myself but for Christ (2 Cor 5:14,15). I have been made acceptable to God (righteous) (2 Cor 5:21).

In Christ, you are significant, accepted and secure. You are His bride and you are beautiful to Him (Rev 21:2). You are precious to God and whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8). This is truth. The enemy will try to confuse you and tell you just the opposite…take these thoughts captive and refute them (2 Cor 10:5). Read the Bible—God’s love letter to you, know who you are, walk in it and enjoy all it means.

Prayer: God, it blows my mind that you chose to die for me and that your blood makes me Holy. You require nothing but my acceptance of this free gift. Help me to understand who I am because of what you have done. Help me to enjoy this freedom that you have freely given to me. Give me spiritual wisdom and understanding to know truth and refute the lies of the enemy and enjoy all you have for me. I love you Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Mommy, You Grumpy"

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14

When Ben was little he used to remark “Mommy you grumpy. You not do your Bible Study today?” Funny but true, my entire mood was closely tied to the time I spent with my Savior in the morning. To this day, the same is still true…I need Jesus everyday! My daily level of satisfaction and joy is directly tied to my intentional desire to be surrendered in time and obedience to my Lord. When I meet with Him, He fills every empty place. His guidance is spot-on. His love is unfailing. He and He alone is my rock so when hard times come… I don’t fall apart. He is my confidence to say “no” to temptation. He is my merciful Savior who forgives me when I fail. He is my joy that makes every day better. He is everything to me.

As I have spent time with my Savior over the years, I am increasingly convinced of His desire is to satisfy us. He is living water and she who drinks from him will never grow thirsty again (John 4:13). Yet, I see many Christians who remain unsatisfied … though few would rarely admit it. In each case, I notice a lack of complete surrender of every area of their lives to Jesus and it is these areas that remain their source of dissatisfaction. For some, that lack of surrender is in an area of sin. For others it is simply a lack of surrender of time spent daily with the Savior being refreshed with His Living Water.

I wonder… are you satisfied? Only when you daily surrender every area of your life to Jesus will you find freedom, satisfaction and joy. Our Savior is all about real, run-to-Him, daily relationship. He is personal. He wants us to enjoy His goodness here in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13) but it requires that we “drink of Him” daily and allow His Living Water to permeate every facet of our lives….only then will we be truly satisfied, “sing for joy and be glad all our days”.

Prayer: Oh Jesus, I love You. I want You every day. Search me—even the deep things and show me any area that I am holding back from You. I know satisfaction is found in you alone and in a daily surrender of everything to You. Help me to follow You. Help me to enjoy Your presence. Real, lasting satisfaction can be found in nothing else but You. Oh Lord help me make time with you a priority. Amen.