Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Guest Post - Sovereign Love

I have a special blessing for you today - a blog post from my mom! I always appreciate her wisdom, insight, and faith. I hope the truth she shares encourages you today. 


Sovereign Love

I have occasionally been accused of reckless driving. Like the time I missed my turn off, and I drove a large, U-Haul moving van backwards down the four-lane highway to gain a second chance at it. Of course, since it was 1:00 a.m. and the highway was deserted, I didn’t consider that reckless. But, I’m willing to concede that my children might think so.

There’s a popular worship song now that includes this line: “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God…”

Reckless: Marked by lack of proper caution; careless of consequences; irresponsible (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

God’s love certainly is overwhelming. It’s never-ending. But, reckless? Careless of consequences? Irresponsible?

I’ve been thinking a lot these days about the sovereignty of God. His sovereignty means He is never careless of consequences. He planned out actions and foresaw consequences before He created the world!

Just consider, God made the butterfly to come from a caterpillar and then a cocoon, because He knew that one day He would tell Paul to write, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) What better example of this “new creation” than the butterfly!

When God created the sheep, He knew that some day David would write, “The Lord is my shepherd…” (Ps. 23:1), and one day Jesus would say, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…. ” (John 10:11a) God knew that a lamb would be considered the purest and most innocent of animals, and that He would choose it for the Passover sacrifice and as a symbol for Jesus’ death.

When God planned to give man free will, was He aware of the consequences of that gift? Did He know that Adam and Eve would sin? Was the plan for salvation already in place? (See Gen. 3:15.) Is He sovereign?

I realize I’m never going to totally understand God’s sovereignty. But I need to remember that it is part of His character—an essential part of Who He is, an attribute to study in Scripture and to ponder in my daily life.

Have you heard of the book “Your God Is Too Small” by J. B. Phillips? Let’s put the idea of “reckless” for God in the “too small” column. Let’s celebrate God’s overwhelming, never-ending, pursuing, sovereign love.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

At His Feet

One day I was reading the story about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet. Suddenly God opened my eyes to see something I hadn’t noticed before.

There are three times when Mary of Bethany is mentioned (once in Luke and twice in John). In each story, of three very different situations, she had the same posture before Jesus.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.-Luke 10:38-39

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” -John 11:32

“Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” -John 12:2-3

Jesus commended Mary as a woman who had chosen the best part. And she found it at Jesus' feet. 

Perhaps Mary's posture helped her have a humble, listening heart. Or perhaps her heart prompted her humble, seeking posture. Either way, I think her life is a beautiful picture for us.

Whatever our circumstances, may we draw near to Jesus, kneel down, and look up - to His eyes, His face, His love and grace. 


At Your Feet

At your feet I sit,
Listening to your voice,
Receiving your truth, words of life.
No better place to be,
So amazed that you’re here with me.

At your feet I fall
When pain and sorrows overwhelm,
When tears flow unchecked,
Pouring out my heart to you,
And knowing you weep too.

At your feet I kneel
In humble adoration, extravagant worship,
Expressing my love for you.
Gazing upon your face,
Wrapped in your sweet fragrance.

At your feet help me stay,
In every season,
Sweet or sorrowful, divine or mundane,
Remembering who I am and who you are -
Jesus, my ever-present, gracious Savior.

(by Joanna K. Harris) 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Basics

The last few months have been an interesting and difficult season. I've experienced good things, hardships, unexpected blessings, sorrow, needs, victories, painful lessons, grace....

Through all of it, there's been something my mom has kept reminding me over and over -

"God is sovereign, and He is good."

This is the simple declaration of truth that we stand on, and truth that carries us through every season.

It's basic. It's theology 101.

God is sovereign - He is in control of everything.

God is good - He always has our best in mind, and He doesn't make mistakes.

To some perhaps these concepts are difficult to understand or to explain. For others, it may be hard to believe these truths. But for most of us, I think the problem is more basic. Our challenge is to apply our belief of these truths to each day of our lives.

When I get lost for the third time in one day, do I remember God is still in control of my journey and even my mistakes?
When I pray and pray for a friend in need but don't see the answer, do I trust God is still good?
When I don't know what my life will look like one week from now, do I rest in knowing God is still in control?
When something unexpectedly nice happens, do I thank God because I know it's an expression of His goodness to me?
When I fight battles no one else sees, do I find comfort in knowing God is still in control?
When I pray for provision and it hasn't come yet, do I remember God is still good?

Whether life is great, awful, crazy or some mixture of all three, I believe these two basic truths are ones we can apply every day, in every situation.

These two truths will...
 - humble us
 - comfort us
 - strengthen us
 - protect us
 - refresh us

God is sovereign. God is good.

If you ever struggle with applying these truths to everyday life, here's a helpful quote I heard last week:

"Interpret everything that happens in your life in light of the cross."

The cross is God's definitive declaration of His love, His grace, His power, His goodness, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty (and much more).

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,  hich stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
–Colossians 2:13-15

Jesus didn’t simply die on the cross. His sacrificial death accomplished more than we will ever fathom on this earth. Because Jesus died on the cross,
 - God forgave us all our sins.
 - God resurrected us from dead to alive!
 - God cancelled the charges of sin against us.
 - Jesus took the condemnation we deserved, so we will never again be condemned.
 - Jesus disarmed the enemy and triumphed over him!

Wow!

In light of these truths, just a short list from one portion of the Bible, I’m in awe of who God is. And I’m reminded that God is sovereign, and He is good – forever.

Whatever we go through each day, may Jesus help us remember and apply these basic yet powerful truths.


P.S. Great Resource –
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the basics of what we believe as Christians, my friend Dr. Adam McClendon recently co-authored a book called “Square One: Back to the Basics.” It’s available on Amazon now. I’ve known Adam since our Bible college days. He has a humble and passionate heart for God. He served as a pastor for many years and is now a professor at Liberty University.

Here's the link to the book on Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Square-One-Basics-Adam-McClendon/dp/1632134780/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1521066203&sr=1-2&keywords=square+one

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Compassionate God


I've been thinking about God's compassion this week. He loves us, this we know. But included in that love is the very special quality of compassion.

Webster’s dictionary defines compassion like this:
“sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

For a simple definition, that’s quite profound and beautiful.

God is aware of our distress. He is sympathetic toward our pain. He has a desire to meet our needs and bring us through the trials.

God doesn’t always take away the pain or immediately stop the trial. But that’s only because He has a greater plan in mind for us than our temporary ease.

I think it was Joni Eareckson Tada who said that sometimes God allows what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves.

I’ve seen this to be true in so many people’s lives, including my own. God sometimes allows pain, suffering, heartache, and trials in our lives…so that He can accomplish good things in us, like developing deeper intimacy with Him, delivering us from fears, self-centeredness, pride, etc., and transforming us from who we are to who He destined us to be.  

It’s not always easy to keep sight of the bigger picture in the midst of our pain. I think that’s why the truth that God is compassionate toward me comforts me so much.

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
-Psalm 86:15

“Praise the LORD, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—...
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
...As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”
-Psalm 103:2, 4, 13

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:21-23

“Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”
-Isaiah 49:13

“I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.”
-Isaiah 63:7

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd....”
-Mark 6:34

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Heavenly Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - thank you for your compassion, continually expressed to us in so many ways! We are needy, and we are grateful. You are faithful, and you are worthy. Amen. 


P.S. Thank you for praying for my friend Martha! She's been doing a little better and is stable enough to be transported now, praise God! I’m so thankful for God’s compassion that has been expressed to her through many people. It’s going to be a long recovery from the stroke however. Thank you so much for your continued prayers for her. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

This Is Love...


On Valentine's Day there's a lot of talking about love.

What is love? Is it romance, flowers, and chocolate? Is it happiness when you're with someone or something that makes you feel good?

Today God reminded me of something that was written almost two thousand years ago. Perhaps people asked similar questions then. Here is the answer that John, one of Jesus' disciples, wrote:

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us..." (1 John 4:10).

Love didn't originate with man.

"...love comes from God (1 John 4:7b).

As human beings, we didn't invent love, develop it, or define it. 

"God is love... (1 John 4:16b).

God is the one who defines love, and God is the one who initiates love.

Love is an eternal reality. Love is who God is. And love is what God demonstrated to human beings.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

God the Father sent His Son Jesus, who died for us, as the ultimate expression of God's love.

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." -1 John 4:10

This is love - God loving us.

Any love that we have for God, is but an echo of His love for us.
Any love we demonstrate to others, is but an outflow of the love God has poured into us.
Any love we receive from others, is but an expression of God's love to us through them.

These truths about God fill me with awe! And they give me a different perspective on love.

Love isn't something I "fall into" or "fall out of."
Love isn't something I have to somehow muster up from within myself for others.
Love isn't something that comes and goes based on various factors.

Love is real and it is powerful, because love comes from God who is eternal, all-powerful, and good.

God's love is infinite - it has no limit. How do we fathom that? I can't. But I rejoice that God's love for me and for you will never end! Not only that, but God can express His love through me and through you, to me and to you, in infinite ways. Hallelujah!

Yes, love is certainly worth talking about, not just on Valentine's Day but every day.

Our awesome God, thank you that you first loved us! Please help us to consider and talk about your love more and more. Jesus, please fill us with your love, and empower us to give and receive your love by faith.  

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16a).


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

See, Hear, Speak

   A Wounded Soul

Today I met a wounded soul,
His eyes with pain were full.
He told a story of life that’s hard,
Of choices badly made.
His shoulders slumped, his voice was low,
Despair was in his thoughts.
Where could he turn?
What could he do?
He looked at me,
And I knew I must speak.
“I know a man who changes lives,”
I shared the hope I have.
God’s precious Word I passed along
To give new strength and life.
Today I met a wounded soul.
I gave him healing truth.
I pray by grace next time we meet,
This man will be made whole.

I wrote this poem many years ago, but I still remember looking into the man's eyes and seeing the pain that was there. In spite of the happy front he tried to put up, he was hurting deeply. I had a few brief moments to share about Jesus with him. Then life moved on, and I didn't see him again. I prayed for him many times, and oh, how I hope I'll see him in heaven one day! How I hope that one brief moment of seeing, listening, and sharing truth was used by God to change his life.

For most people today, life is so busy, so stressful, and so fast-paced. Yet there are wounded souls all around us.

Sometimes I'm too preoccupied to see them.
Sometimes I see them, but I don't take the time to ask a question and listen to their story.
Sometimes I listen to their story, but I don't know how to share the truth they need.
Other times, by God's grace - I see, I hear, and I speak.

I want to be the kind of person who looks past the outward facade and sees the reality inside.
I want to be someone who will stop, ask a thoughtful question and then listen.
And I want to be a person who kindly, yet boldly, shares truth and grace - the hope I have for eternal life and for today's trials.

Life is hard. This we know.

But Jesus is good! This truth we can share.

Would you pray for me to be someone who sees wounded souls, hears their stories, and speaks the truth they need? And I'll pray the same for you. May Jesus fill us, may He live through us, and may He use us to help others find hope in Him. Amen.


Note - My dear friend Martha, who has graciously translated these blog posts into Spanish for years, recently had a stroke and has been in the hospital. Please pray for her - that she would feel God's presence with her, for healing and recovery as God wills, and for comfort and peace for her friends and family. Thank you so much!