Yet You are Sovereign

Yet…
You, God, are sovereign still,
always and ever sovereign.
Psalm 102:12

I’ve read and heard some comments lately of the age old thought that: if God is real or if he’s actually all-loving, why do bad things happen to [good] people?

I have no claim to know the entire and complete answer to be able to take the words out of God’s mouth, but I do have understanding.

I understand the nature of God and the nature of man… Because I have relationships with both.

I understand that God created man for relationships… He created man to have relationship with him and with each other. He saw that Adam was lonely, had compassion, and sent him his help-mate.
God not only created Eve to keep Adam from being lonely, but so that God could tangibly, physically teach man how to have a relationship with Him. God wants to walk with us, talk with us-hear us and speak to us. He gave specific direction to (us) Adam and Eve about how to protect themselves.
Enter our adversary: Satan.
Satan, in the form of a serpent, came and gave an enticing offer to Adam and Eve…
They could know good and evil.
They took him up on that offer and changed the entire course of history for mankind. Forever.

You may be wondering what any of that has to do with the original question.

Let’s get back to the first concept– God created man for relationship with each other and with Him.

Have you ever, at any given time, not paid or received a consequence for an action?

Have you ever been revoked the ability, truly, to make a right or a wrong choice?

Obviously not.

The thing is, no one from the beginning of time has ever lived their life without consequence, good or bad, nor have they ever been kept from the ability to make right or wrong choices.

We were created, from the beginning of time, from the very first man and woman on this earth, to choose.

The very first man and woman were also taught what was good and were guided about what to leave alone or avoid, but the choice was never revoked…

As it is today.

It seems today, we have quite the tendency to put the blame on God for allowing evil, but truly, it is man’s choice to do good or do evil.

I realize that I would never have the ability to answer your questions about the ways of God and how the universe was orchestrated, but maybe, just maybe, my writing brings context to your understanding as it does mine.

So, when the world seems to be falling on every side, despite all disbelief in the world, I will still say:

Yet you, God, are sovereign still,
always and ever sovereign.

A Wretch Who Owed Much Less of a Debt

This morning I’ve been reading about Jesus’ explanation of how we, his disciples, should be dealing out forgiveness. Let’s look at the time when Peter asked how many times we should forgive a friend who offends us:

Matthew 18:21-35 MSG

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.
“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. “The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.
“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’
“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.
“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Wow. I’ve read and heard this how many times?

Do we understand who we are in this story? The central character is the one who was given abundant mercy, but who gave none, not even the tiniest amount to the wretch who owed much less.

But the king’s (Jesus) expectation was for the wretch to carry that mercy on and give it to the next person.

Do we understand our job here?

Do we understand as a disciple of Christ what his expectation is of us?

One, I see where the main character represents me, the follower/disciple of Christ. I see where my sin or offense carries a ‘greater value or weight’ to be forgiven.

Two, I see where Jesus’ expectation is to continue giving this mercy and forgiveness when we come across folks who offend us and need forgiveness.

No feels here, today. Sorry ’boutcha. But you got the truth. Maybe next time.🙂

Sold Out or Sliding By

“‘Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way of life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention.'”

-Jesus (Matt. 7:13-14 MSG)

Folks, here we see Jesus speaking very plainly… (As he most usually does.)

I, frankly, don’t have time to warm you up to this thought this morning, but I’d rather put it to you straight than not write about it at all.

It’s been on my heart for a few days that following Christ requires sacrifice.

I believe there are seasons in our lives where we find it’s a little easier to follow The Call, but then, we have to mature and realize that God may be calling us to be more. To give more. To do more. To pray more. To love more. To intercede more. To read more. To say more.

We rationalize that we can’t or shouldn’t because we don’t have the time or the means, but here’s my real point: sacrifice.

Sacrifice sleep.
Sacrifice time.
Sacrifice money.
Sacrifice pride.
Sacrifice downtime.
Sacrifice mindlessness.

I am not calling any of these comforting and pleasurable things bad or sinful, but I am saying that to truly follow Christ, there must be sacrifice. And it’s always a choice.

You choose.
You choose to give or keep.
You choose to sleep or rise.
You choose to play games or get serious.
You choose to only take care of your own prayers or intercede for others.
You choose to seek God’s face or to only seek his blessings.

There comes a time where God will draw a line in the sand of our lives that will illuminate where we stand.

Do we choose to continue to follow in his footsteps of sacrifice?

Or

Do we choose to stay on the safe harbor and just slide into heaven?

Either way you make it, I suppose.

My prayer is that God finds me to be a woman after his very own heart.

I Am You

I will never be able to completely and adequately explain her…

I will never be able to tell you of the depth of love she has for me…

I will never be able to tell you of the battles she has fought–seen and unseen– for me…

She is my mom…Maybe Mom, Mama, or Mommy, but she has always said to NEVER call her mother… She made that clear to us very early on. She said when she heard someone call their mom “Mother,” that made it sound like they didn’t like her… And I like my MOM very much. 

Whether she realizes it or not, she has been the ultimate example of Christ in my life. While I have many, many mentors and leaders that have directed me and helped me stay the course, when I think about who my Mom is and all that she has done, I can truly preach Christ when I talk about her…

My Mom has walked a lonely road for most of the life she’s lived in front of me, yet she has remained steady and strong. She taught me when I was in middle school to follow God no matter where the crowd was going. I remember a conversation we had in the car one night before we walked into the house… I told her I wanted to try a different youth group because I didn’t feel like I had any friends where I was and she told me that we don’t just go where our friends go…So, I stayed… Lo and behold, God began to work in my life…He put a hunger and thirst in my life to put Him first in every area of my life, always and forever. God knew I needed something more… Something deeper.

My Mom made me stick it out… The first few times I brought my french horn home to practice in the sixth grade, I got mad and frustrated and instantly wanted to quit because I couldn’t make anything sound any good. When I cried and whined about it and told I wanted to quit, she quickly yelled back that I wouldn’t be good at it on the first try!!! As time went on and with lots of practice, I did well and would do just fine.

My Mom taught me how to fight for truth and settle for nothing less and to make God’s discernment a quality to desire above most others… To be able to see past what is in front of you to truly understand each situation and difficulty that arises. I was in a couple of relationships in high school that I was quite naive about. I thought I was smart enough and wise enough to pick out good relationships at the time… Through one of those relationships, Mom and I went round and round… She couldn’t tell me how blind I was. Then the second one seemed right for quite awhile…Then it didn’t… I didn’t have any concrete reasoning (partially because of my lack of wisdom and discernment), except when my Mom finally came to me, this would be the first time in my life I felt like she spoke to me like an adult who would understand what she’d felt in her spirit and had been praying about. She knew there was a large possibility that I would reject her wisdom, but she’d spent the time praying about it first and was given the perfect opportunity late one night to speak the truth into my life… It was then, Mom, that your words were the words that God had given you to help the scales come off my eyelids. YOU were USED BY GOD to SAVE ME from what could have been a TERRIBLE and DESTRUCTIVE road to travel down. You helped me wait for a true blessing in marriage.

My mom made sure I was provided for and had a roof over our head and our own beds to sleep in. In the midst of divorce and the nastiness that can come with it, you made sure that Lindsey and I would have our own beds to sleep in. You knew we would need the peace and security of having our own place to sleep at night that, by law, could not be revoked.

Mom, you disciplined us without skipping a beat. I used to wish that you’d have more patience when getting onto us about simple things, but as I began to think about people I’ve seen who will count to three before they rebuke or spank, you’ve taught us to truly do the right thing as soon as we’re asked, on the first try. You didn’t allow us to push your limits before rebuking us. You made sure we understood that there are lines we shouldn’t even think about crossing. You taught us to listen the first time and to carefully understand that there’s not always and second and third try. Many people probably believe that is too harsh, but I understand now that we have one life and it is but a vapor that can pass away at any moment, so I need to make decisions that count. 

Mom, you taught me that sometimes we just need to suck it up. I’ve been passed down the headaches and migraines in our family and that you still have to go to work anyway. That has taken me a long time to grasp because I’m such a weenie about pain, but I’ve begun to arrive on this one.🙂 You’ve taught me that there are many things in life that just aren’t fair… Suck it up… You’ll get through it… This too shall pass.

Mom, while I know that you’re not perfect, I know that God has used you immensely to shape who I am today. God knew that I would need you to be MY MOM and my prime example of Christ.

Mom, I AM YOU. I have your impatience, your fight, and your strength…And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I love you, Mama, and I hope that you are blessed beyond measure every single day of your life.

 

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What If?

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you might be already aware that I’m reading All In by Mark Batterson.

I cannot adequately explain how much this book speaks to my heart… It’s rocking my world!

It truly begs the question, “Am I ALL IN?”… Literally.

What am I willing to be for God?
Where am I willing to go for God?
How much time am I willing to give for God?
What am I willing to sacrifice for Christ?…

Then, I find myself asking God, “How can I help? What can I do? Where do you want me to go? What time do you want me to give? What are you wanting me to sacrifice?”

The first answer I’ve gotten so far is to just simply pray. More consistently. Everyday. Be steady. Unwavering.

I have it in my heart that God wants to use me to help change the course of history for someone.

God has it in his heart to help you do the same… Change the course of history for someone.

You might be thinking, “that’s impossible.” But…

Have you heard of the butterfly effect?

In this book, All In, Batterson explains that Edward Lorenz explained his hypothesis of the butterfly effect to the New York Academy of Science. He said that something so tiny as the flapping of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil could possibly alter wind currents in and cause a tornado in Texas.
(You can either read this book or do your own research to find out how he came across this conclusion… It’s quite amazing!)

Holy bananas! One small flap of a butterfly wing in another hemisphere could possibly change our forecast!!

One ‘little’ prayer…
One ‘little’ kindness…
One ‘little’ word…
One ‘little’ invite…

Do you know that people give the excuse that they don’t come to church because they weren’t invited?

I don’t want to be the reason for that excuse…

I know that there are MANY reasons people don’t come to church…

But are we living our lives where we abandoned the borders of our trust for God? (We love that song “Oceans,” don’t we?)

Are we willing to be and do whatever it takes to follow the lead of our Savior?

Are we willing to not only invite people to church, but invite our friends to the Living Water?

Where do our lives differentiate from the everyday hum-drum of making it by to finding our holy adrenaline being lit on fire to really being and doing ALL that Christ has called us to?

God, open our eyes to see the people around us to see them like you see them! Help us to be broken before you, so you can build, make and mold us to be the vessels you want us to be! You never created us to just get by and arrive at the end of life… You created us to bring glory to YOU- by means of GOING and MAKING DISCIPLES, first to those around us!! Help me, God! Break my heart for what breaks yours!!!!!

Amen.

Fired Up: Pushin’ Through & Movin’ On!

I’ve made the decision to stop and pay attention to the blessings that God has put in my life.

It seems like we’ve got the speed to do everything else BUT take notice of what God has given us and truly appreciate it.

This is how we find true joy.

This is how we see God’s hand in our lives.

If you’re in my generation, you wake up and the first thing you reach for is your phone… Check the facebook, twitter, instagram… And that ends up takin’ a whoppin’ 30 minutes… Before all these fabulous apps, I didn’t think I could get up in time to spend any time with God, but somehow, now I always have time to reach for these things. And, Lord knows, I’m not sayin’ these apps are the devil… Good lord, NO! But, our connections can be used for good or for a distraction. We make that choice each day. Then, it’s a habit and we didn’t even realize it. So, I’ve made a choice, a commitment to only turn the alarm off on my phone and then get up. Not lay there and check stuff. I’m gonna get up and make my coffee (so I can get out of the fog) and then read the Word. And let me tell you, I’m already fired up about what I’m reading. It’s amazing what you come across that God wants to speak to you!

So, let me refer back to a previous post. I told you my heart was broken and it was very difficult to trust God after PJ didn’t find a job locally and had to hit the road again. Well, guess what? He has a job locally now! In the moment we found out, I don’t think either of us believed it. Seriously! But, everyday, I find myself blessed by him being home. I still can’t believe it! It’s such a sweet feeling.

Even so, I’ve found myself having a hard time leaning into the Lord and trusting his voice again. But, I know, in the deepest part of myself, that I can trust in him and that his plan is best. I keep being reminded of that, so I press on.

So, here we are at my latest, small commitment… To get up. Go. Read. Dive in! Let me tell you what I’ve found today…

Zechariah.

Who knew?!

I’ve read a lot of the Bible and I’ve been exposed to many, many sermons and teachings, but I knew nothing about Zechariah… Just thought it was some random, Bible-name.

But this verse set my mind to wonder: “Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling.” -Zechariah 2: 13 NLT. The Message translation: “Quiet, everyone! Shh! Silence before God. Something’s afoot in his holy house. He’s on the move!”….

I feel the Lord is about to put his peace, his presence, his fullness into action! We’re going to know Him in all his fullness soon!

I read some context to see where this verse was coming from… And some other movements of His Voice ignite me:

Zech. 1:13 NLT: And the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.

Zech. 1: 14 NLT: ….’This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for (you) Jerusalem and Mount Zion is passionate and strong…”

Zech. 2:5 NLT: Then I, myself, will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the Lord. And I will be the glory inside the city!

Zech. 3:1b-2 NLT: The Accuser, Satan, was there at the angel’s right hand, making accusations against Jeshua. And the Lord said to Satan, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from the fire.”

Man! Let that stuff get in your bones! The Lord speaks comforting and kind words to us… His love for us is passionate and strong… He, HIMSELF, will be a protective wall of fire around us and the glory will be INSIDE!… When Satan, himself, is accusing us, the Lord will reject his accusations and snatch us from the fire! Come on, now! That’ll preach!

Not Practicers of Religion, Practicers of Faith

So, I’m reading Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling: Enjoy Peace in His Presence” daily devotional and each day’s reading is very short, but a chord doesn’t have to be longer than a beat to be struck. (OK, I know that was only the cheesiest thing you’ll probably read today. Just smile about it.)

So, here’s December 6:

“Stay ever so close to Me, and you will not deviate from the path I have prepared for you. This is the most efficient way to stay on track; it is also the most enjoyable way. Men tend to multiply duties in their observation of religion. This practice enables them to give Me money, time, and work without yielding up to Me what I desire most–their hearts. Rules can be observed mechanically. Once they become habitual, they can be followed with minimal effort and almost no thought. These habit-forming rules provide a false sense of security, lulling the soul into a comatose condition.

“What I search for in My children is an awakened soul that thrills to the Joy of My Presence! I created mankind to glorify Me and enjoy Me forever. I provide the Joy; your part is to glorify Me by living close to Me.”

Reference verses Deuteronomy 6:5, Psalm 16:11, and Colossians 3:23 too.

As I read that, I have to ask myself, do I just “do the right thing” because my relationship with Jesus inspires me to do those things? Or is it because of the habits I’ve made over the years and the expectations of my family and friends? Don’t get me wrong, I believe in making good habits, but a thoughtless, mindless, soulless, habit is not TRUE worship of my Creator and Counselor.

When I was younger, I’d hear stories of the zeal of the young people that had went before me and how their hearts were on fire for God and that inspired them to live out His purposes. But then, I’d see them as adults and they’d be not-so-exciting people. It hurt my heart and I prayed that I’d never lose the zeal of my youth and that I’d grow in wisdom at the same time. I never wanted to be the adult who couldn’t get lost in God’s presence anymore. And, now, I constantly find myself fighting off reasons, future planning, and any other kind of worldly mindfulness during worship and prayer.

God, HELP ME! Help me to get back to the basics with you in prayer, study of your Word, and worship. No, I don’t want everything to be based on feeling, but God, I feel like it’s been a really long time since my spirit has been so engaged in your presence that I just let go and trust you with the things I can’t see nor understand. Help me to find that place once again where I just hunger and thirst to always be in your presence, rather than finding myself alone and needing your presence. Help me to find those times. Help me to be sensitive to your Spirit throughout the day and at home alone. God, I praise you for these words you send to remind me of the past that sends me forward to a more intimate relationship with you. Thank you, Jesus. I praise you. Amen.