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!


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 -

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.

" 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! =)