Archive for January, 2012

Remember well…

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Another truth from our Deuteronomy study in Sunday School. Don’t be afraid! Remember well what the Lord has already done. We don’t realize that the hard times that we’re going through are the very things in our past that will be on our “remember well” list.

Our reaction to unexpected heartache or pain or trials or diversions is fear. Automatic. By default. Fear is as natural as the air we breathe. But it doesn’t have to stick around. If we will quickly remember well the times that God brought us through over the years, the fears will subside. We’ve already been there, remember? We survived, remember? We didn’t go hungry, remember? We didn’t lose our home when finances were tight, remember? Death didn’t win, remember? Our misfortunes didn’t overtake us, remember? God is faithful and gracious, remember? God doesn’t wipe away the memory of our hard times. Not because He wants to beat us up with them, but because He wants us to remember well how He brought us through.

“But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did…” (Deut. 7:18).

Remember well.

Hope

Little by little…

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Why does God only answer our prayers or give us direction or provide for us or take out our enemies little by little? We talked about this in Sunday School yesterday.

Perhaps His reasoning is that if He gives “it” to us all at one time we won’t appreciate “it.”

Or maybe it’s because if He allows us to jump right to the blessings rather than slowly get there little by little, He knows we’ll miss other blessings along the way.

Or is it because He was the first to come up with No Pain No Gain. If there’s no pain in the journey, then our faith hasn’t gained any ground.

Or does God, being God and all, know that if He drives away our enemies all at one time, our character and our perseverance and our resolve will be weak. Little by little He grows us as we face adversaries and adversities.

Or could it be that God knows we can’t handle the answers all at one time. We have finite understanding, so little by little is all we can absorb. 

Little by little God reveals His purpose for our lives. Little by little God provides for our needs (though often He showers us with HUGE blessings all at one time.) Little by little God cares for His children. And it’s always enough. And it’s always on time.

“No, do not be afraid of those nations, for the LORD your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once, otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you” (Deut. 7:21 & 22).

Hope

A story worth telling…

Friday, January 27th, 2012

This morning Ken Carpenter, the director and producer for the movie posted the quote I used from Jesus Calling yesterday on the Hannah Sobeski Movie Facebook page. It looked something like this…

From yesterday’s Jesus Calling: My Light shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark.

That’s a story worth telling…

Hannah – what a beautiful example of trusting Jesus in the dark. Good grief, could the circumstances in her life have been any darker those last six months? I can’t think of anything worse for a teenager to face than for an ugly aggressive cancer to take over your body and rob you of your physical appearance, your summer agenda, your senior year, your dreams, your plans. But what was amazing about Hannah’s journey is that because of her faith and hope in Christ, the cancer could not rob her of her joy, her testimony, her light. The light of Christ shines most brightly through believers who trust Him in the dark. What a bright light!

I’m sure I’ve shared this with you some time in the past. After Hannah returned from M. D. Anderson she was very quiet. She was not herself – and she had every right not to be! She was in the hospital at Gibbs Cancer Center and her nurses were concerned because she wasn’t talking. I was sitting with Hannah one afternoon and she had not said much to me at all. She was texting her friends but she wasn’t talking. She only nodded or shook her head in response to questions. Her nurse came in and tried to carry on a conversation, then told Hannah she may want to consider an anti-depressant. After the nurse left the room Hannah looked at me through with her big brown eyes blaring. I asked her if she was depressed. She shook her head no. I remember saying to her, “Then you better start talking. Especially when a nurse is in the room!” She chuckled but did not say a word. I could tell she was processing that advice. I helped her to the restroom and as she washed her hands she spoke a complete sentence for the first time all afternoon. She said, “Carla stopped by today. That was very nice of her.” Carla is my RN sister. I winked at her and helped her back to the bed. She didn’t say anything else. When Mickey got there to relieve me I told him about the nurse’s concerns. He walked to Hannah’s bed, leaned down and talked to her in a way that only her daddy could do. He asked her a few questions, talked to her about how far the Lord had brought her, about the influence she had on the M. D. Anderson caregivers, the importance of allowing the Gibbs caregivers to get to know that same Hannah. And then he said in a sweet but coach-like voice, “Don’t let your light go out, baby.” And that was all it took. It was as if she flipped a switch! By the next day she was out of the bed, riding up and down the hall being pushed by her silly friends, giggling and chatting. Hannah allowed the light of Jesus to shine because she trusted Him in the dark.

That’s a story worth telling…

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man…He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:4 & 7)

Hope

Trust Me in the dark…

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Oh how I love today’s Jesus Calling! Here’s the one phrase that brought me to tears…

My Light shines most brightly through believers who trust Me in the dark.

The reason that hit me like it did is because of how hard it is to trust anything or anyone in the dark. How many people do you know who are afraid of the dark? Pretty much everyone. No one wants to hang out in the dark because your mind runs away with you and you don’t even trust yourself much less anyone else. The only time someone longs for darkness is when they are so low emotionally they don’t want to face the world. I remember early in my first marriage my husband was fighting depression. He worked third shift so he covered the windows during the day so he could sleep. But as he got deeper in depression, I’d come home and find him closed in that room in total darkness all the time. It was so sad. I told him many times that there was no way he could get through this if he didn’t turn the light on.

I learned a lot about depression during those very hard years. When someone is at a low, dark place in their lives, they can’t turn the light on in their own strength. It is then that they must trust Jesus in the dark. That applies not just to depression but all of our dark times. Whether the darkness that surrounds us is the death of a loved one, a serious illness, a broken relationship, loss of a job, the list goes on. When we find ourselves in dark places and we trust Jesus any way, His light shines for all the world to see! As Christians we can’t afford to give in to the darkness. We must trust that the Lord will bring us through it. That is our testimony, our witness for Christ. If we trust Him only in the good times, that’s really not trust at all. We shine His light best when we trust Him in the dark, knowing it won’t last forever.

So I got to the office this morning and was still soaking in the truth of this phrase. I decided to take down my 2011 Purpose Drive Life calendar that was still on November and thought I’d just see what Rick Warren had to say in December, though it’s January. Usually the message is right on time. Are you ready?

There is joy ahead if we know the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no dark days in heaven.

Isn’t it amazing how the Lord works?! Hallelujah that there are no dark days in heaven for those who trust Jesus!

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man…He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:4 & 7)

Hope

 

Sell out and be obedient…

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Our pastor, Danny Garrett sets such a sweet example for his flock. If he challenges us to do something, he does it himself. One thing in particular is when he goes to a restaurant he tells the server that he’s going to bless the food and is there anything he can pray about for them. He challenged us to do the same, and recently Clay has started doing that. Over the weekend we were out to eat and our server’s name was Fred. Clay said, “Fred, we’re about to bless our food. Is there anything we can pray about for you?” He hesitated at first and I thought, “Oh no. He’s offended.” But when he looked up he grinned, turned to Clay and answered, “Yes, sir. That I’ll sell out and be obedient.” Typical answers are prayer for a family member or more hours on the job or financial issues or a sick loved one. But this was a first. And the look on his face told us he meant it!

I thought about that after he walked away. I’m not sure the two of those can be separated in our Christian walk. If we sell out to the Lord, we’re gonna be obedient. If we’re obedient to His Word, we will sell out. They’re hand in hand. Fred is clearly a Christian, and I have to wonder how much the Lord has been dealing with him about his need to step up to the plate, to kick it up a notch. Because the look on Fred’s face after he thought about it for a few seconds said that he already knew what he needed to do. His grin was almost sheepish, almost a chuckle. As if we had caught him red handed.

Has God caught you red handed? Do you know what needs to be done but you just haven’t stepped up to the plate? I encourage you to sell out and be obedient. Do as Fred has done, ask someone to pray for you as you take the plunge. There’s great peace and security in doing “the right thing.” Go ahead, go for it.

“I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him…stand the test and be obedient in everything” (2 Corinthians 2:8 & 9).

Hope

All these toys…

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

On our trip to the beach last weekend, Clay and I were riding down the road in a new Honda Accord with an iPhone and Blackberry charging, a Blackberry Playbook, a Dell laptop, a MacBook Pro, two iPods and a Nook in the back seat - and we were only going away for two days! Many nights as we sit around in the comforts of our home we look at each other and ask why in the world God would bless us so much.

I saw this quote from CS Lewis on Twitter this morning (not directly from him, of course)…

All these toys were never intended to possess my heart. My true good is in another world & my only real treasure is Christ.

Has God not RICHLY blessed our lives? Good grief, all these toys. And they were never intended to possess our hearts. They’re given to us for our enjoyment, but our true good is in heaven. Whatever we do for others lays up treasures in heaven. That’s the true good. But too often we allow our toys to possess our hearts. Our only real treasure is Christ. With Christ possessing our hearts, we are joyful regardless of our possessions – and in spite of our possessions. In Him and through Him is the only real peace and contentment. “Stuff” will never satisfy us. As a matter of fact it only makes us want more. If only I had…this or this or this then I’d be fine. Nope, we won’t. We have Christ, therefore we’re fine. Period.

All these toys, not meant to possess our hearts.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matt. 6:19-21).

Hope

The swap shop…

Friday, January 20th, 2012

After yesterday’s devotional on God’s trading post, I was blown away by a tweet from Max Lucado this morning. You’ll love it too…

Jesus swaps sin rags for righteous robes.

Well there you go! Not only does God have a trading post, He’s got a swap shop set up too! Swapping sin rags for righteous robes – wow!  In case you are at all curious, on Twitter when you want to summarize or categorize your tweet, you put a # and then your remarks, no spaces. My retweet to Max was #allidoiswin!

As we did yesterday, let’s click back into imagination mode and approach the throne of grace. I fall on my face, me – clothed in dirty sin rags. I see myself as ragged, with clothes unfit for the homeless, torn, ratty and covered with filth. But when I stand to leave I am spotless, radiant in the most beautifully adorned robe of righteousness! My head is held high and my walk is confident and secure. Not because of anything I’ve done. The only thing I did was show up at the swap shop. Jesus did the rest! All I do is win.

You may be at your lowest point right now. Your mistakes have piled so high you’re smothering in them. Or the pain that others have inflicted on you is so deep you fear you’ll never heal. Maybe your poor decisions have harvested consequences that are threatening to bury you in despair. All you need to do is show up at the swap shop of Jesus. You don’t have to clean up, you don’t have to get it all together first. Your only role is to show up. He will swap your sin rags for a robe of righteousness and you, too will walk away a new you! Please don’t spend another day in those unnecessary rags. Swap them in and see what God will do in your life! You’ll find that #alludoiswin.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10) [Notice this is the same chapter of the verse I used yesterday for trading post. Coincidence? #thinknot]

“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).

I pray each of you have a wonderful weekend. Ours is on target to be a busy one but with all good stuff. Echoes of Hope, our quartet is singing at LifeSpring in Duncan Sunday morning. If you are not in church anywhere, come be with us!

Hope

 

God’s Trading Post…

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

A trading post is a place you exchange one thing for another. God owns the ultimate trading post. While praying for a friend this morning whose past is threatening to discredit her, I was drawn to the following verse…

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).

Imagine with me showing up at the feet of your Heavenly Father and trading in ashes of poor decisions, bad relationships, jealousy, envy, selfishness and walking away with a life of beauty? How about trading in mourning, grief, a broken heart for the oil of joy? And while you’re there go ahead and trade out your despair for a garment of praise. Wow! What a day of trading! That is exactly what God does for us when we give our life to Him. He compels us to bring our worst and trade it for His best. And He does this to display His splendor – all for His Glory. An oak of righteousness, I’ll take it. That tops any day trading on ANY marketplace!

Stop carrying the heavy load. Make a visit to God’s Trading Post.

Hope

Don’t lose your passion…

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

The Apostle Paul wrote many letters to churches – letters of encouragement – while in prison. His best writing, passionate and full of conviction were written while he was in chains. Paul’s unfortunate circumstances did not deter him from his ministry. Quite the contrary. He saw this time in prison as the perfect opportunity to write letters. Not “woe is me” or pity party letters, but letters of encouragement. Letters that exhorted the Christians in Colossae and Corinth and Ephesus and Thesalonica and Galatia and Philippi to keep on keeping on, to not give up, to not forget what they had seen the Lord do. Locked up in chains, Apostle Paul pleaded with his spiritual children, “Don’t give up!” “Take your eyes off your circumstances!” “Stand strong!” “Be faithful!” Paul never lost his passion.

The first person I knew personally to get cancer was a good friend, Debbie Wiseman. Debbie was 26 years old, I was 23 when she was diagnosed with leukemia. On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving 1986 Debbie was diagnosed and told that without treatment she wouldn’t live three days. She opted for treatment and it began immediately and aggressively. I remember receiving the news. Oh how my heart broke! It scared me to death. I went to Mission Hospital in Asheville to visit Debbie, not knowing what to expect. I had never seen anyone with cancer before. What do you say to cheer her up? Debbie was an incredible young lady with a deep faith in God and a beautiful personal relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t sure what this news would do to such a gorgeous young lady with her whole life ahead of her. When I walked in the room on Saturday, 3 days after her diagnosis, Debbie was sitting up in bed, clothed in a beautiful pink gown, tubes and IV lines running to her body, and she was writing cards. She had asked the nurses how many cancer patients were on the oncology floor, sent her husband to buy Get Well cards, and while the chemotherapy was pumping into her veins, Debbie was writing cards of encouragement to the other patients. I vividly remember her smile as she turned her head to the side like she always did and said, “It’s Thanksgiving weekend! I can’t stand the thoughts of anyone being up here and maybe not knowing someone cares and is praying for them.” Debbie was an incredible lady. She ultimately had to undergo a bone marrow transplant and a few months later the leukemia returned. She passed away on August 6, 1988. Debbie lost her hair (several times actually), she lost her appetite, she lost her figure due to steroids, she lost her job as Day Care coordinator because she couldn’t be around the germs, but Debbie never lost her hope in Christ – thus she never lost her passion for Christ. One of the last conversations I had with her she smiled as she said, “God holds all the cards. Ultimately He gets to make the last play. He had the first word and He gets the last word. I’m ready whatever He chooses.” Debbie was in a prison of disease and treatments and quarantine, but Debbie did not lose her passion.

What prison are you in? It may be a prison of a bad relationship or a marriage falling apart or a prodigal child or a dying parent or sickness or death of a loved one or a miserable job. How are you handling your imprisonment? Are you encouraging others from your prison or are you too focused on your own circumstances to care about others? I encourage you to not lose your passion when thrown into tough times. Use your unfortunate situation to reach out to someone else. You’ll be surprised how healing it will be for you. God wants to use you right where you are. Be more than willing, be passionately willing.

This is Paul’s passionate letter from prison…

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:9-14).

Hope

 

Don’t forget what Jesus said…

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

One of my favorite songs recorded by the Gaither Vocal Band is When Jesus Says It’s Enough taken straight from the scriptures. Here is the first verse…

The disciples met a storm on the boat that night. ”We’re going down!” they cried.

But they had forgotten that Jesus said, “We’re going to the other side.”

The story goes like this. Jesus had been speaking to crowds of people all day. He was tired (because He was as much man as He was God), and the disciples were tired. Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat because they were going to the other side. Not far into their journey a violent storm came up, the waves so large the water was filling the boat. The disciples panicked! Really? They LITERALLY had Jesus in the boat and they panicked? They forgot that Jesus told them “We’re going to the other side.” All they could focus on was the storm at hand, not the promise Jesus had made. Jesus didn’t say, “Let’s get in the boat and try to make it to the other side” or “Okay guys, we may go down but our goal is to cross over.” Jesus said, “Let’s get in the boat. We ARE going to the other side.”

How often do we commit to something that we feel passionate about, something we believe in our heart the Lord called us to do, and half way through we panic? Things get rough, the going gets tough, the storm waves start pounding, and we panic. We forget that if Jesus tells us to do something He will give us what it takes to get to that “something.” The comfort here for me is that even the disciples – the very ones who physically walked with Jesus day in and day out for over 3 years, had a tendency to forget the power of the One who called them. If God calls us to it, He will get us through it. A cliche but true. Don’t forget what Jesus said.

“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” (Mark 4:35-41).

And the ultimate “other side”? Heaven! We are going to the other side, so hang on!

Hope