Thursday, April 23, 2009

His mercy is everlasting

the one thing i hope to never have is regret. yet here as i am soon turning 30, i am reflecting on my life and the choices i have made, words i have said, and actions... and i find regret. as i look back, i mourn the lack of righteousness in key moments in my life. there are certain memories that i wish i could go back and have a "redo" to fix the messes i caused.

one such situation is my relationship with my sister when we were kids. i am not even sure the details of ages and situations because of my blurry memory, but at some point when we were kids i switched from being childhood friends with her to trying to push her out of my life. now having kids and watching the sibling dynamics between the younger looking up to the older and trying so hard to copy their every move to win the affections of the older, my heart mourns my lack of kindness towards my own sister. what i saw as annoying and her surely copying me to get under my skin, i now realize was the love and adoration of the little sister to the older sister. and i was so cruel. i pushed her away. i mean, yes, all siblings bicker and struggle, but i feel like in my immaturity and selfish attitude i pushed away her love towards me and wounded her when she was just trying to be like me because she loved me.
foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him. proverbs 22:17

through this difficult stage in our relationship, made difficult mainly by me, our mom would tell us to love each other because when we grew up we would be good friends. just recently, my sister found an old journal entry of hers and read it to me. she had written something about how my mom had told her that we would someday be good friends, but that she didn't believe her because she didn't think i would ever like her. to hear her perspective of how i hurt her in her writing as a kid broke my heart! i now look back on the rocky parts of our relationship and i can see how i have reaped what i have sown. i also look back and i am amazed at the mercy and kindness of God that my sister is now my closest friend even though i do not deserve it. in realizing my own brokenness as a human on a deeper level over the past few days, i am brought to tears. even my best efforts are filthy rags. yet He is faithful beyond what i could ever deserve.
blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil about you because of Me,
rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. matthew 5
right now i feel like i am keenly aware that i am poor in spirit and i am in the midst mourning of my own brokenness. the good news is, not only will i receive the kingdom of heaven when i can recognize my own poverty of spirit, but He is my comforter when i mourn. i cannot go back and change my decisions, but i can choose to live a life more filled with the fragrance and fruit of Jesus now in my life, as well as thank the Lord for His mercy and goodness in my relationship with my sister in spite of my mistakes and failures.
for the Lord is good, and His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations. psalm 100

i love you nichole! you are my sister and my friend. thank you for loving me.


Friday, April 17, 2009

the sweetness of mercy

the familiar picture of God as often torn between His justice and His mercy is altogether false to the facts. to think of God as inclining first toward one and then toward another of His attributes is to imagine a God who is unsure of Himself, frustrated and emotionally unstable, which of course is to say that the one of whom we are thinking is not the true God at all but a weak, mental reflection of Him badly out of focus
                                          a w tozer the knowledge of the holy

the beauty of the mercy of God is that i do not deserve it. i cannot earn it. i do not have to downgrade His holiness to receive it. He does not have to put His judgement on hold in order to move in mercy. His justice and mercy are in perfect unity.

i have been thinking about the lyrics to a song by luke wood, a friend of our out in kansas city, missouri serving as an intercessory missionary at the ihop base:

You have known our souls in adversity
when we strive against You
You extend Your hand time and time again
from the heights of glory to the depths of my heart

for You have bound Yourself to man
despite his unfaithfulness

You pour out mercy
You open Your heart
You pour out mercy
to reveal Your heart

all man's empty promises
lie broken at Your feet
but You have never broken one
You open up Your heart
time and time again

my favorite part of that song is in that last section, all man's empty promise lie broken at Your feet but You have never broken one. even though i have failed, continue to fail, and will fail again, He never fails. reminds me of numbers 23:19:

God is not a man, that He should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent.

as much as i may desire to be righteous, apart from the righteousness of Jesus all the good things i do are filthy rags. i have heard descriptions on what the words filthy rags may be implying, and from what i understand it is not just like a dirty towel, but much more filthy if you understand without getting too descript. we have to repent of our good deeds just as much as from our bad ones.

it is a common temptation in the church in our generation to need to separate the God of israel of the old testament and the God of church in the new testament as two separate Gods. however, Jesus assured us when asked what was the greatest commandment that God is forever the same when He referred to the schema in deuteronomy 6: hear oh israel, the Lord our God is one God. i recently learned that the old testament speaks of the mercy of God more than 4 times as much as the new! He is the same God and to understand His mercy we need to keep the reality of His judgement and righteousness intact, not remove it. if God had to change in anyway in order to give me mercy i cannot rely on it for that would imply He could change at whim again away from mercy. i must believe that He is Himself the same always. tozer said it this way:

if we could remember that the divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an attribute of God's eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be.

God is and forever will be the same. His judgement doesn't stop in order to move in mercy, but He is fully every attribute of Himself at the same time without ever being in contradiction or compromise. tozer put it:
wherever and whenever God appears to men, He acts like Himself.
i have also found it common among those in our generation to downplay our sinful nature as humans in order to make God's goodness and mercy seem more attractive to the lost. do we realize how we cheapen the gospel or the love of God? to be able to to know the reality that i deserve the severity of His judgement because of the splendor of His holiness and righteousness that cannot be near a sinful creature such as myself, then i understand the humility it takes to receive the sweetness of His mercy towards me. if i cannot admit that i deserve judgement, then there is no hope in His mercy. to take a real look at the fact that because i am a man my promises lie broken at His feet, and to still know that He cannot ever lie or break His promise is the most sure hope that exists. even after the redemption of the cross of Jesus, i still need to reflect on my need for mercy, lest i take His sacrifice for granted or downgrade the enormity of my need for mercy. this is the journey towards humility.

and true humility, i believe, lies in the greatest commandment:

hear oh israel, the Lord your God is one God. and you shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

to embrace His oneness, to love with all and to cease to be fragmented in my affections toward Him... this is the journey i long to take.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

eyes of a child

whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. matthew 18:4

today reminds me of the wonder of the gospel. it is such a simple message, so simple that Jesus often referred to the faith of a child when He spoke of what it took to receive salvation and enter into His kingdom. when i think about the hope that this weekend offers to those who believe, i am reminded at how it can seem like such foolishness to those who still have not chosen to follow Jesus and yet such a simple truth to a child.

we both celebrated passover last night with the feast of unleavened bread, roasted lamb and all, and then celebrated His resurrection today. i have felt a new level of revelation of the wonder of this gift of life and reconciliation to God that Jesus offered in His humility - truly the greatest of all becoming the least for my sake. as we broke the matzo bread last night, i remembered His words, "this is My Body, broken for you." as we poured the cup, "this is My Blood of the new covenant..." to think that God put the passover sedar in place for all that time before He sent Jesus as a prophecy of what He would do for us, what He would become for us. such simplicity and yet so hidden without childlike eyes.

and so, during this season of remembrance of His death and resurrection, let us all become more childlike and grow in the wonder of the gospel. the good news.

He has risen. He has risen indeed.

side note: i just watched this short commentary on this weekend by glenn beck and found it very appropriate to what i am writing about- enjoy.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

why do we pray?


it is interesting how many different things come to mind to so many different people with one word. because there are so many different opinions on this one enormous topic, i wanted to share some thoughts i wrote down a couple months ago when posed with a question about the effectiveness of prayer. it made me start thinking a lot about what is the real reason we pray. here are my thoughts.
december 1, 2008

the question was recently posed to me, what if you spend months, even years, in prayer for something only to find out later that you already had the answer or the breakthrough you were asking for and did not realize it? would that time in prayer have been wasted time which could have been used to pray for something else that there is not yet breakthrough in? i believe the answer is no.

i guess it all comes down to the question, why do we pray? do we pray to get answers? or, do we pray to encounter God?

of course i would like to hear that answers to my prayers. of course i want to see breakthrough in areas i struggle in, such as fasting and taming my tongue, or that the larger body of Christ needs breakthrough in such as healing of diseases like cancer or AIDS. but, if i later find i have contended for breakthrough for something i already possessed and did not realize it, or even if i contend for years and never see the breakthrough i seek, i did encounter God along the way? prayer is not a means to an end. prayer is the end.

God restrained Himself to partner with man in releasing His kingdom here on earth because He longed for the relationship that partnership would bring. God is a God of relationship. we can see this all the way back in the beginning in genesis:
let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over... all the earth... (gen. 1:26)
God both has relationship with Himself in the Trinity and longs for relationship with man - to walk with us in the cool of the evening. could He have ruled over the creatures and the earth Himself? of course He could, but He chose to partner with us in relationship.

in prayer my agenda may be to get something, but His agenda is to get all of me. however that looks, however long it takes, He will take full possession of my heart and have all of me. if i approach my prayer life simply as a "to do list," i will be continually disappointed. i will look to my "accomplishments" in prayer, and not to the One who is waiting there to encounter me in a way i can never be encountered by anyone else. He longs to know me fully, an have me know Him fully.

do not worry about what you will pray for - just pray. come to the table and commune with Him. share the burdens of your heart. share the thoughts on your mind. pour out your alabaster bottle at His feet and as the aroma pours over Him, it cannot help but pour over you as well. others may see it as a waste - something that could have been used to further the Kingdom of God or kingdoms of men if used the right way (time, petition, money, influence...) but He sees it as a worthy sacrifice that He will not turn away.

the path of God will always look foolish to the outside observer - even those who are following Him themselves. why? so we will choose Him above all others and above the esteem of man.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

that's bed-dar

disclaimer: as a mom i may from time to time share a funny story about one of my children... read on at your own risk.

this morning i used a tissue on my 14 month old david's nose and told him, "that's better." he took me by total surprise and answered back completely clearly, "that's bed-dar." both my husband bill and i cracked up laughing and i keep thinking about it all morning and start laughing all over again. every time david toddles back into the room, i ask him to say it for me again: "that's better david?"

"that's bed-dar."

being a mommy has given me so many opportunities like this to reflect on God's delight in us as His children. matt 7:11 describes this comparison of our earthly relationship with our children and God's relationship with us:
if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

how much more amazing it is to me, having 3 beloved sons of my own and my youngest being named "beloved" in hebrew, that this perfect Father in heaven gave His only beloved begotten Son so that i could be adopted into His family if i would just believe in Him? this perfect love is such a mystery to me.

the beautiful picture above of my little beloved is courtesy of my dear friend and excellent photographer heather armstrong.

"that's bed-dar."


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

life of faith

in his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. proverbs 16:9

i have confirmed yet again a truth about myself - i am not a fan of change. i like the idea of change, but when change actually occurs, i find myself fighting it, resisting it, suddenly quite content with the prior circumstances i am changing from. the unknown. the mystery. the walking by faith and not by sight.

we have had much change in our lives in the past two weeks. God has shown Himself clearly to be the One to close the doors that no man can open, and i await Him opening the doors that no man can shut. smack in the middle of huge transition, so obviously orchestrated by God that anyone who hears the story in its entirety always are left excited for the possibilities that lay just around that upcoming corner for us, i find myself unsure of anything and everything around me. it is as if in my own personal life and surroundings He is shaking everything than can be shaken that i would learn to cling to the only One who remains unshakable: Jesus, our rock and our foundation.

at the start of 2009 i took a little time to ask the Lord what lay in store for us this year. i was relieved to say goodbye to 2008 and all that went with it - what i would say may have been the hardest year, or possibly tied by only one other, i have ever gone through. 2009 looked to be a year of new possibilities and as i asked the Lord for His perspective on what we were entering into, i felt Him encourage me that this was to be a year that i learned what it was to live by faith. i joked with my husband as i told Him of this that my response was, "but God! that means i will surely die, for i have so little faith!" it is always so interesting to me how we never know how much faith we really have gained in our lives until we are asked to live on it. what an encouragement that He said He could work with such small faith, as small as the smallest seed from the mustard plant, and use it to do seemingly impossible things.

how i needed this little "preview" to our year for what has transpired over the past couple weeks. because God spoke His word to me, when the shaking came i felt a real peace in the midst of the storm. i still have tears, uncertainties, questions, my own human doubts, but i know beyond any explanation that God is not only allowing my circumstances, but causing them for my good. the obvious involvement of God has grabbed my attention because i know He is good, and because of my commitment to love His Son Jesus He has promised to work all things together for my ultimate good and gain. His goodness far transcends my goodness or understanding and definitions of what is good; all He does is not only good but is the sum and source, the beginning and ending of goodness.

in reading the small, yet profound book, the knowledge of the Holy, by a. w. tozer, i find this wisdom:
to believe actively that our Heavenly Father constantly spreads around us providential circumstances that work for our present good and our everlasting well-being brings to the soul a veritable benediction. most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. this is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart.

what rest i can find when i realize that He leads the way. He has promised that when i put myself under the leadership of Jesus, He will lead me to Himself. i cannot adequately express the burden i feel lift from my shoulders when i realize that it is not left up to me.

12 years ago, on a choir trip in great britain, i picked up a small greeting card in an old cathedral in wales that has brought me encouragement and perspective in the times when the path ahead of me feels dark and uncertain. the short verse written by an unknown author comes to mind:
God would not give the darkness,
if He thought we could handle the light.
but we would not cling to His guiding hand
if the way were always bright,
and we would not choose to walk by faith
could we always walk by sight.

and so, my journey of learning to live by faith begins. i suppose it really began back when i chose to start this life of following Jesus; however, this season i believe will mark a time in my life when i really learn the power, peace, and rest of walking by faith. as i cling to His hand i can rest in the fact that He knows my paths, as unfamiliar as they are to me, and will make what seems intimidating and rough ahead of me easy and smooth as i follow His lead.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them,
and make the rough places smooth.
these are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16

He will not forsake me.

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