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!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

He Sought Me – Guest Post


I asked my mom to share a post with us this week. I know you’ll be blessed by what she’s written.


God — The Great Initiator
By Jan Harris

Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad (1 Chron. 16:10b).

Note: The song quoted below, I Sought The Lord, And Afterward I Knew, was written in 1878, author unknown. It's been a blessing to me for over 36 years.
 
Verse 1:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true,
No I was found by Thee.

Have you ever thought of God as the Great Initiator?

Initiator: One who starts things—the contact, the conversation, the relationship; One who reaches out; One who calls you by name.

Remember Adam and Eve hiding in the garden? God called out to them. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). Of course, God already knew where they were. Yet He came seeking them—moving them to seek Him.

Jesus called the disciples: Come, follow me (Matt. 4:19a). They had seen Him. They had heard Him teach. But they went back to fishing. He was the One who sought them out. Come, follow me.

One of my favorite stories is about the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:3-30). Jesus went to a lot of trouble to find her. He took the road through Samaria—a road Jews normally avoided. He sat by the well while His disciples went into town to buy food. When she arrived at the well, as He knew she would, He initiated the conversation. There are many things to learn about Jesus from this story. But I love most to ponder: how far will Jesus go to seek out a single soul?

God calls to us, too. When I’m too busy, or so tired I just want to collapse, or when—like Adam and Eve—I’m reluctant to face God because I feel guilty…He moves my soul to seek Him, seeking me. He reminds me that He wants—He longs—to spend time with me. With me! So I lay my excuses, and my guilt, at His feet. I worship Him and marvel at His love.

Verse 2:
Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-tossed sea.
'Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
As thou, dear Lord, on me.

In 1994 when we were forced out of our home in Colombia by the guerrillas, the storm seemed wild and furious. Some days I felt like I couldn’t hold on any longer. But in every storm, Jesus comes. He takes my hand in His. We walk together. I don’t have to hold on to His hand, because He will never let go of mine (Josh. 1:5b).

Verse 3:
I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
Of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul,
Always thou lovest me!

Often, I tell God how much I love Him. But I know that the love in my heart is what He puts there. John wrote: We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Left on my own, I never would’ve chosen Jesus. He’s the one who initiated. He chose me—loved me, pursued me, and wooed me. The love I feel for Him is my “answer” to the love He has lavished on me (1 John 3:1).

Father God, You loved me always! I didn’t earn your love. I never could. I never will. I don’t have to! Instead, You have chosen to “freely bestow” your grace on me through Jesus (Eph. 1:6).

In this truth my heart rejoices!
  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Courageous New Year!


Welcome to January 2018! Can you believe it's a new year already?

For me 2017 was both ridiculously hard and full of amazing blessings at the same time. I'm learning not to expect life to be all awful or all wonderful. Most of the time life is a mix of good things and trials, heartache and beautiful moments.

While I really hope 2018 is mostly filled with good things and wonderful moments, I realize there will probably be challenges, difficulties, and struggle.

So how do we begin a new year recognizing both hope and reality?

God's word to me this week was from Joshua 1.

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
-Joshua 1:6-9

God gave Joshua amazing promises! God declared that the land was theirs (vv. 2-3). He said no one would be able to stand against them (v. 5). He promised to be with them (v. 5).

But Joshua and the Israelites still had to fight the battles. So God gave Joshua a repeated phrase - be strong and courageous.

There was no need to fear. But there was need to be courageous. Interesting thought.

That's what I've heard God speaking to me. Courage.

Courage comes from knowing the truth about who God is and who He says we are.
Courage operates by faith, not sight.
Courage is willingness to do the hard things in every step of obedience.
Courage knows there are battles to fight, but the victory is already assured.

It's only January 3, and I've already been fighting my share of battles. In the midst of one, I received this text message from a friend:

"There is no victory without a fight. The fiercer the battle, the sweeter the victory. Courage, dear one!"

As I read it, I began to cry. God knows the battles I'm fighting. And He sent me the words I needed in that moment, the words of en-couragement - to give me courage once again. Courage grows in the presence of Jesus.

Joshua did live with courage. He did see the faithfulness of God one battle at a time. He did see victory after victory. He did see God's promises fulfilled!

As we begin 2018, I pray that whatever happens this year, our lives would be filled with supernatural courage. Jesus has already won every victory for us! I believe my friend is right, that over the fiercest battles, God will give victories sweeter than we believed possible. Glory to His name!

So courageous new year to you, my friends!

And don't forget to share sometime about the victories God gives you. I'd love to rejoice and celebrate with you! =)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Normal? Not so much... (¿Normal? No mucho…)

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This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
-Matthew 1:18-25

How many times have you read this story? How many times has God shown you some new insight about it?

To me it's amazing how every year God opens my eyes to see some new truth or perspective in this beautiful Christmas story.

This year what stood out to me was how not "normal" this whole story is.

First, a virgin conception...only happened once in history.

A possible divorce...definitely not the "normal" thing in that culture, but it was Joseph's way of trying to save Mary from a worse fate, I believe.

An angelic visit...it had been 400 years since anyone in Israel had recorded a prophetic word from God or angelic vision. An angel in a dream certainly wasn't considered "normal" in those days.

A prophecy fulfilled..."God with us" was something the Jews had not experienced in a tangible way in hundreds of years.

A Savior who came as a baby...not as a conquering king or heavenly visitor. No, Jesus experienced all of life on earth from the very beginning, of a humble birth.

God's story, God's plan wasn't "normal."

This encourages me, because sometimes I feel like my life is so not "normal." Not that I necessarily want it to be...it's just hard at times, feeling like God's path for me is so different than what people expect or understand. Of course, it's nothing like what Joseph and Mary experienced.

But their story reminds me that God is the one who determines what is best. He is the one who says how things should be. What we perceive as "normal" doesn't compare to what God says.

Who are we to say that something is "normal" compared to "strange"?

In reality what God says and does is actually "normal" from an eternal perspective. Our earthly ways are the ones that are strange. =)

And what do we really want in our lives? Do we want to be "normal" or do we want to experience God?

God often works through what is considered "normal," but He often works through just the opposite.

What I admire about Joseph is his faith and his obedience in the midst of not "normal." I wonder if he was the only man in Nazareth who God knew would actually believe and obey. And because he did, Jesus arrived safely in a little stable, and He grew up to be the Savior of the world. 

From not "normal" to miraculous! Sometimes I think that step is a lot closer than we realize.

What might God be asking us to do, that looks not "normal"? Stepping out in simple faith and obedience could be the pathway to a miraculous work of God on this earth.

Christmas is a significant time for us to remember who our God is, to praise Him for what He has done, and to take that next step with Him in faith, wherever He leads us.

I hope this year you'll see something new and special about the miracle of Christmas.

And I pray you'll be filled with faith and obedience, so that Jesus can continue to do miracles on this earth - through you. 
  
Merry Christmas!


¿Normal? No mucho…

 El nacimiento de Jesucristo fue así: Estando desposada María su madre con José, antes que se juntasen, se halló que había concebido del Espíritu Santo.

José su marido, como era justo, y no quería infamarla, quiso dejarla secretamente.

Y pensando él en esto, he aquí un ángel del Señor le apareció en sueños y le dijo: José, hijo de David, no temas recibir a María tu mujer, porque lo que en ella es engendrado, del Espíritu Santo es.

Y dará a luz un hijo, y llamarás su nombre JESÚS, porque él salvará a su pueblo de sus pecados.

Todo esto aconteció para que se cumpliese lo dicho por el Señor por medio del profeta, cuando dijo:

He aquí, una virgen concebirá y dará a luz un hijo,  Y llamarás su nombre Emanuel, que traducido es: Dios con nosotros.

Y despertando José del sueño, hizo como el ángel del Señor le había mandado, y recibió a su mujer.

Pero no la conoció hasta que dio a luz a su hijo primogénito; y le puso por nombre JESÚS.
-Mt. 1:18-25

¿Cuántas veces has leído esta historia? ¿Cuántas veces Dios te ha mostrado una  nueva percepción de ella?

Para mí es asombroso cómo cada año Dios abre mis ojos para ver alguna verdad o perspectiva nueva en esta hermosa historia de Navidad.

Este año lo que me llamó la atención es como toda esta historia no es “normal.”

Primero, una concepción virginal… solamente ocurrió una vez en la historia.

Un posible divorcio… definitivamente no era una cosa “normal” en esa cultura, pero fue la manera de José de tratar de salvar a María de un destino peor, creo.

Una visita angelical… Habían pasado 400 años desde que alguien en Israel había registrado una palabra profética de Dios o una visión angelical. Un ángel en un sueño ciertamente no se consideraba “normal” en aquellos días.

Una profecía cumplida… “Dios con nosotros” fue algo que los judíos no habían experimentado en forma tangible en cientos de años.

Un Salvador que vino como bebé… no como un rey conquistador o un visitante celestial. No, Jesús experimentó todo de la vida sobre la tierra desde el mismo comienzo, desde un nacimiento humilde.

La historia de Dios, Su plan, no fue “normal.”

Esto me anima, porque a veces siento que mi vida no es “normal.” No necesariamente que yo quiera que lo sea… Simplemente a veces es difícil sentir que el camino de Dios para mí es tan diferente de lo que la gente espera o entiende. Claro, no es nada como lo que experimentaron José y María.

Pero su historia me recuerda que Dios es el único que determina lo que es mejor. Él es el único que dice cómo deben ser las cosas. Lo que nosotros percibimos como “normal” no se compara con lo que Dios dice.

¿Quiénes somos nosotros para decir que algo es “normal” comparado con lo “extraño”?

En realidad lo que Dios dice y hace es realmente “normal” desde una perspectiva eterna. Nuestras maneras terrenales son las que son extrañas. =)

¿Y qué queremos realmente en nuestras vidas? ¿Queremos ser “normales” o queremos experimentar a Dios?

A menudo Dios obra a través de lo que se considera “normal”, pero con frecuencia obra justo lo contrario.

Lo que admiro de José es su fe y su obediencia en medio de lo no “normal.” Me pregunto si era el único hombre en Nazaret quien Dios sabía que realmente creía y obedecía. Y porque lo hacía, Jesús llegó con seguridad a un pequeño establo y creció para ser el Salvador del mundo.

¡De no “normal” a milagroso! A veces pienso que ese paso está mucho más cerca de lo que nos damos cuenta.

¿Qué puede estar Dios pidiéndonos que hagamos, que parece no “normal”? Salir en fe y obediencia sencillas podría ser el camino a una obra milagrosa de Dios en esta tierra.

La Navidad es un tiempo significativo para que recordemos quien es nuestro Dios, alabarlo por lo que ha hecho y dar el siguiente paso con Él en fe, donde quiera que nos guíe.

Espero que este año verás algo nuevo y especial acerca del milagro de la Navidad.

Y oro que seas lleno con fe y obediencia, para que Jesús pueda continuar haciendo milagros en esta tierra – a través de ti.

¡Feliz Navidad!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gracious Beyond Measure (Desmesuradamente Lleno de Gracia)


I apologize that this post is a day late. Seems like the days are flying by and I often lose track.

Anyway, today I want to share a song the Lord gave me in a moment of great need. No matter the circumstances, He continually pours His grace over me. God's grace is greater than every need and far beyond measuring. May we continually respond to His outpouring of grace with hearts of praise. God bless you. 


                  Gracious King

O Lord, how much I need your mercy,
How much I need your grace.
Please cover me with your love,
Fix my eyes upon your face.

Don’t let me wander,
O Shepherd of my soul.
Carry me close to your heart,
Let my will be yours.

Chorus:
Lovely, gracious King,
You alone are my hope,
You’re my security.
Nothing I can boast in,
Except your cross,
And your unfailing love for me.
Jesus, full of grace and truth,
I’m safe in you.
You are faithful,
Forever my gracious King.

Lord, you know my every battle,
You’re my warrior in the fight.
Please keep me in your truth,
Rout the darkness with your light.

In every moment of this journey,
You surround me with your grace.
With a humble, grateful heart,
Help me ever sing your praise.

(by Joanna K. Harris)


Desmesuradamente Lleno de Gracia

Me disculpo porque esta publicación sale un día tarde. Parece que los días van volando y con frecuencia pierdo la pista.

En todo caso, hoy quiero compartir una canción que el Señor me regaló en un momento de gran necesidad. Sin importar las circunstancias, continuamente Él derrama Su gracia sobre mí. La gracia de Dios es más grande que toda necesidad y totalmente imposible de medir. Que siempre respondamos a Su derramamiento de gracia con corazones de alabanza. Dios te bendiga.



          Rey lleno de Gracia

Oh Señor, cuánto necesito tu misericordia,
Cuánto necesito tu gracia.
Por favor, cúbreme con tu amor,
Fija mis ojos en tu rostro.

No me permitas vagar,
Oh Pastor de mi alma.
Llévame junto a tu corazón,
Que mi voluntad sea tuya.

Coro
Amoroso, clemente Rey,
Sólo tú eres mi esperanza,
Eres mi seguridad.
De nada puedo jactarme,
Excepto en tu cruz,
Y tu infalible amor por mí.
Jesús, lleno de gracia y verdad,
Estoy segura en ti.
Tú eres fiel,
Para siempre mi clemente Rey.
 

Señor, tú conoces cada una de mis batallas,
Eres mi guerrero en la pelea.
Por favor consérvame en tu verdad,
Derrota la oscuridad con tu luz.

En cada momento de este viaje,
Me envuelves con tu gracia.
Con un corazón humilde, agradecido,
Ayúdame a cantar siempre tu alabanza.

(por Joanna K. Harris)