Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Child of the King

"Dearest Jesus, draw Thou near me, let Thy Spirit dwell with mine; open now my ear to hear Thee, take my heart and seal it Thine."

Thomas H. Kingo, 1699

"She sings that song all the time." To my remembrance, those were the words she said. My young mother continued, her proud voice echoing, conversing, "Andrea always goes around singing 'I'm a Child of the King.'" To whom she spoke, I do not know. My weak memory of early childhood does not serve me so well. But my four year old mind somehow absorbed my mother's words, and my heart had soaked in a song that has stayed with me decades. A song, a hymn of truth, words filled with the love of God, lyrics that yet cleave to my heart with lasting joy, their essence permeating sorrow, their melody piercing through the darkest of nights.

Each time I hear "A Child of the King," I am swept away by the love of God and deeply humbled by His care, His compassion, and His seeds of truth, planted in the depths of the soil of a simple four year old girl, who was not rich, not greatly talented, not from royal stock, not highly intelligent, not privileged in any particular way. Yet, through God's grace, the Holy Spirit created a love for Jesus in the heart of that small girl, who was amazed by a mighty King that claimed her as His own

I remember singing. But I much more recall the radiance that filled my soul when I sang. It was a child's voice of victory. I knew such hope. I felt so loved. I did not understand. But I felt the impact of God's presence each time the pure little hymn raised from my throat and passed through my lips.

That affection poured out early in my life took me through dark valleys and lifted me as I skimmed the rocks of high hills and walked heated desert plains. My parents were Christians. They took me to church each Sunday. They taught me truth. Reared me well. But the most loving, godly parents cannot protect their children from all the evil and heartbreak of the world.

I was shy, vulnerable, easily intimidated, very thin, and had a terrible overbite. Such qualities often invite persecution and abuse from other children. My case was no different. Teased, maligned, tortured, and sometimes physically attacked, I dealt with these torrents. I somehow felt no self-pity. My esteem suffered, but deep in my heart a seed had been planted. The love of the Savior reached my soul early and gave me strength to survive each tear.

The further pain of the loss of my father to cancer when I was twelve continued to challenge my life. Satan whispered words of darkness to a struggling adolescent, who had no idea who she was and didn't understand why she knew such sorrow. But still the song survived. It held me up through confusion and disillusion. Its cry raised hope and kept faith alive. Its truth rang higher in the rafters of my heart than the music of the world and the despair of loneliness.

And now, years, decades later, the song encourages me, for its words are a simple token of my eternal heritage. To be a child of the king is incomparable to the summation of the riches and kingdoms of this world. To be God's child, His daughter, is worth more than material matters, vast lands, or jeweled treasures. I would not exchange His song for all the gold records of this age. Nor would I trade His loving care for a famous title or an immense crown.

And, oh, that my love for Christ would grow! That my life would shadow that of Job, who proclaimed in much affliction, "I know my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth, and after my skin is destroyed, this I know; that in my flesh I shall see God" (19:25-26); and, yes, that my heart be one with Anne Graham Lotz who so passionately exclaims in every situation, "Just give me Jesus."

To be a child of the King. Is it enough for us? Is Jesus truly all we need? Is Christ's presence the cry of our hearts? Do we thirst for Him? Hunger for His word? Joy in His calling our name? If the Heavenly Father were to introduce you to someone today, He would say, "This is my daughter," and "Here is my son; they are precious in My sight, and each one is the apple of My eye."

Yes, you, dear friend, are a child of the King. A diamond in His heavenly treasure. You are rich. Bought with a priceless sacrifice. Redeemed by divine grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Chosen as an heir of God's kingdom.

And His eye has been on you from the beginning of time. Before you were formed in your mother's womb, God knew you. Before you were born, He sanctified you (Jeremiah 1:5). Delight in the depths of this knowledge. That you were ordained, planned, loved before time, watched, carried, delivered, and kept.

Father I pray for each precious one who reads here today. May your loving presence fill their hearts with peace in the reality of your faithful care for them. May we all grasp the fullness of this truth. May each one whisper or exclaim thanksgiving to you for your watchful eye. May all know your healing touch in their lives today. May each one sing, "Praise God, praise God; I'm a child of the King."

"A Child of the King" (Verse One and Chorus)

My Father is rich in houses and lands,
He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands!
Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,
His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

I'm a child of the King,
A child of the King;
With Jesus my Savior,
I'm a child of the King.

"A Child of the King," Words and Music by Hattie E. Buell and Rev. John R. Sumner

Sisterhood Award From Lidj of Crown of Beauty

I want to sincerely thank Lidj from Crown of Beauty for passing along a sisterhood award to me. I am deeply humbled by her thoughtfulness. Lidj has a beautiful blog. It is so full of God's love, and within minutes of visiting her place, you are raptured by her joy and dedication to her Lord. Lidj has a true servant's heart, one that is full of passion for Christ and compassion for others. Please visit her blogspot, http://mla-crownofglory.blogspot.com/. You will be enriched and blessed.

It is such a joy to part of the blogging world, as I have met many Christian women who give their time and talent to others. So, in choosing to whom I should pass along the award has been very strenuous for me. Everyone I have had the pleasure to meet is truly deserving. You are all dedicated to God, love Him with all your hearts, and serve Him with all your strength. You often give of yourselves through encouraging words and comments. And your kindness and thoughtfulness are known to many. I deeply appreciate your friendship and kinship during the short time I've been blogging. Thank you all for being dear sisters-in-Christ! And a special thank you to the following bloggers:

Deanna at http://homehavenministry.blogspot.com/
Katherine at http://countryromantic.blogspot.com/

Friday, April 24, 2009

God's Waiting Room

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape, the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it--the whole story doesn't show."

Andrew Wyeth

Sitting. Fidgeting. Pacing. Twiddling. Occupying. Watching. Lingering. Doubting. Anticipating. Expecting. Counting. Wondering. It is a personal way. Different for different times and different people. Dreaded, even despised, by most, however, regardless of the joy or pain of the appointed purpose.

When my son called from Missouri and told me he and his precious family were coming for a visit the week after Easter, what joy and anticipation swiftly flew into my heart! I counted the weeks, reviewed the days, and impatiently suffered til that moment when at last, I saw their faces, held them all in my arms, and grasped and kissed my little grandchildren once again, almost four months having passed since last seeing them. My nest was full again. For one week.

I later dreaded the moment of their coming departure, the approaching quietness of our home, grieving, for our moments together had been rich, but few. Upon their leaving, I comforted myself with the future anticipation of seeing them again. And so began a new time of waiting. A new place of occupying. A new season of expectation.

It is not in our human frame to pleasure abiding. Most of us abhor standing in line, waiting for our doctor, spending time in a drive-through, having to build a savings for a want or need, sitting at a red light, occupying ourselves before the server brings our dinner, watching our watches while we watch for loved ones, wondering when the surgeon will appear, worrying about the happenings behind a closed door, hoping for the miracle for which we've long prayed. It's unpleasant. Uncomfortable. Undesirable. Even. . . miserable.

Yet, God designed the waiting time. He who spoke the world into existence did so in six days, choosing to craft His creation over time, when in one fell swoop, God could have done all in a single breath. Later, God chose that Abraham and Sarah wait for His promise. And again, hundreds of years ahead, the Israelites had to wait for their deliverance, while God hardened Pharaoh's heart and demonstratively proved His own mighty power, that He alone was God. The people of God were tested, too, as they had their waiting time, anticipating the Passover, standing at the Red Sea, and wandering about in the wilderness.

And in due time, when Israel had a perverse king, David was anointed by Samuel, chosen by God as the new one to lead His people. Providence reigned. Yet, rather than becoming immediate ruler, David found himself running from a mad, jealous Saul, hiding in caves and dodging spears. God ordained David's waiting time. Just as He ordained His own Son's. Just as He ordained the disciple's, telling them to wait til they received power from on high. Just as He ordained the Apostle Paul's time of waiting, of imprisonment, of persecution, of the unknown.

Throughout the scriptures, time and again, God's people were ordained waiters. Called to abide. Chosen to linger. Commanded to obey. Without natural hope. Without seeing God with natural eyes. Without assurance from a natural world. Without hearing with natural ears. But, . . . with the promise of God's word. With the vision of His glory. With faith in a covenant-keeping God of love. With the knowledge of the One who is faithful, true, holy. With spiritual ears that propelled them to believe. With understanding that eternity is real. God's people waited. Because He asked them to wait. Simply because God asked.

And He still asks. Us. You. Me. All Christians everywhere are called to wait. To have faith, vision, obedience, trust, and hope, when we don't understand. When God's word seems scarce, but stress is abundant; when we feel alone and helpless, and there is no earthly comfort. When we wander around in our personal desert, with no apparent clue to direction, no map to provide escape, no one to phone for deliverance, God asks us to abide.

Isaiah 30:18 speaks of God's waiting room. "Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are those who wait for Him." We are chosen for God's waiting room that we may be blessed. And that He may be glorified.

For waiting involves faith, hope, and trust. It proves our love and dedication to God and our walk with Him. Through our patience and obedience, God is proven worthy, faithful, omnipotent, glorious, for His ultimate deliverance shows Him gracious. Then, God is exalted! Our faith in Him brings Him glory and honor! And because we have honored God and brought Him glory, He blesses us.

God shows us mercy because of our obedience while in His waiting room. The Hebrew word for mercy means favour, to stoop down with kindness, to bestow, and to implore, or to move to favour by petition, the petition of our faithfulness during our waiting. And do not forget His word to us in I Corinthians 10:13, which tells us that God will not allow us to go through more than we can bear but in all circumstances always makes an eventual path of escape. And again, by Isaiah 40:31, we know that all who wait on God will be renewed, strengthened, like a mighty eagle that soars, our faithfulness to our Lord brings to us new life, edification, maturity, and power to face future issues in life.

I pray for each of you today. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that you will be edified and strengthened. That you will rise on eagle's wings to a place in God that will give you strength, wisdom, peace, wholeness, and new life. May God bless you this weekend, meet your every need, and give you the desires of your heart. Remember, He loves you with everlasting love.
Scripture is from NKJV

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Artist's Masterpiece

A thing of beauty is a joy forever; Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness.

John Keats, 1795-1821

It was the scent of honey, mingled with a roselike, citrus essence. It greeted me each time I stepped from my front door to my little, painted, green porch. It welcomed me home when I stepped from my car, as I walked the narrow path to enter my home. It was there when I walked through my yard and viewed my gardens. And the sweet scent even often made its way into my home's tiny foyer. Every spring, without fail, the air around my house was filled with the mysterious fragrance that brought calm, cheer, even a healing peace that lingered, causing anticipation toward each winter's end.

I belatedly discovered the source of the balmy aroma. Beside the little concrete path that winged its way from the side yard to the gated entrance of my back garden were nestled honeysuckles, mock orange bushes, and English ivy. The profuse greenery and white blossoms were a glorious abundance, a symphony, showering the walk with romance and expectancy as one approached the garden gate.

Such a symphony is God's creation. And it is tireless, trustworthy, always testifying of His faithfulness (Psalm 19:1-4). The witness of God's majestic creations, the sounds of rushing waters and cheerful larks, thunderous storms and crackling fires, the velvet texture of rose petals and the smooth skin of newborn babes, tell of His glory. Even the scent of fragrant flowers and the air of fresh rain give us sweet pause, reminding all of our Creator and the Giver of life.

And what is in the wonders of nature, which sing of God's majesty, is also found in every person who is His own special expression of love and glory. For we are His workmanship, created in Jesus Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10). You, dear friend, sister or brother-in-Christ, are God's particular design, a masterpiece of your Master. A wondrous work of The Artist. No other of His designs is like you. Even the prints of your fingers tell of your specific frame. And being fashioned so skillfully, so meticulously, your Artist created you with such detail, so that your life could be one of purpose, of meaning, of value, having worth now in the temporal, and later in the eternal.

Part of God's lovely design for you includes a beautiful fragrance, one that diffuses "His knowledge in every place" (II Corinthians 2:14). Like the sweet scent of my mock orange and honeysuckle, your perfume permeates the air around you. It testifies of God's love and grace, working its way into the lives of others, drawing them to the beauty of Christ.

Because of the scent of Christ's grace in your life, you carry the knowledge of Him in every "place." And the Greek word for place in this instance is topos. It refers not simply to location, but to opportunity, occasions, circumstances. So, in all opportunities in your life, be it ones of joy, diligence, sorrow, patience, suffering, trials, tests, persecutions, health, illness, prosperity, want, or doors of ministry, you are the fragrance of Jesus Christ, spreading the essence of all He is, being the testimony of the All in All. You are a wonder of His workmanship, showing the world around you the wisdom and skill of His design. When the world sees you, they are viewing God's masterpiece, and others around you are always experiencing the precious fragrance of Jesus Christ.

I thank God for you today. You, His eternal work of grace and love, used as a vessel to infuse the world with Christ's beauty and the glory of all He is. May we all be that little piece of clay in His mighty hands, pliable, allowing our Artist to shape us into His work of beauty, making us a testimony of His glory. We are not worthy. But are we not grateful for God's mercy? Such mercy does not consume us but gives us salvation and allows us to be part of His eternal plan. He is Elohim, our Master Designer, and Adonai, our personal Master. Praise His name!

I moved to my present home in 2007. The place I wrote of in this piece was my home prior to the one in which I now live. I love my present home, a small English cottage, but I do so very much miss the gardens of my former ranch-style house. God willing, my dear husband and I will soon begin to create gardens for our present place. Thank you for reading. God bless you bountifully. You are special in His eyes. He loves you with everlasting love.

Scripture is from NKJV

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hope Visible

"I must tell you, that in former times men have met with Angels here, have found Pearls here, and have in this place found the words of Life."

John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress, 1678

Hope Visible

Atop the pinnacle of a vast, golden precipice
You gaze upon my image,
As I wander, walking, wading
Along sugar-white shores,
And reaching, I strive, to grasp,
To gain, to clasp a star
From heavens far above.

Beneath many voices, heralds of my soul,
Sounds of ocean waters, waiver,
Each tossing endlessly against another.
The soft, velvet sand shifts, moves
Beneath my feet, bare, plain,
Searching for a path near,
To find, to know, to trust, to see.

Moonlight glimmers, reflects from
An object below;
I stop, bend, reach, touch
A mysterious treasure that
Dances at my feet.
Taking possession, I grasp it,
Tossing all fear aside.

The shell of the meager sea creature
had washed helplessly on the shore
From the rushing, foaming tide.
Gently, I open the precious pelf,
Waiting, prospecting, expecting,
I find, caressed deeply in its bosom
Is the Pearl of Great Price.

Many years ago I penned this simple piece, a reminder of the human search for truth and hope, which is often filled with confusion and useless gain. So many search for hope, for meaning, for love, but sadly fail to find the truth of Jesus Christ, the real and only answer to all our needs.

Our Heavenly Father longingly watches these dear ones, ever waiting on their discovery of the Truth. What they do with that Truth and the only real resource of Hope changes their lives forever. Some embrace it, some admire it, some believe it useless, some study its unique qualities. Others deny its value and scorn its humble story. But all must do something. All must answer. All must respond to the gift of hope and life. And what is done is etched in the divine documents of God. Written in His eternal sands of time.

Thank you for bearing with me while I took a little vacation. My son and his lovely little family blessed us with a post-Easter visit. We all traveled together to Georgia to visit mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was a beautiful time together. Many blessings to all as you prepare for the Lord's Day and as you worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Perfect Fit

Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops... at all.

Emily Dickinson

Her bright, smiling face greeted us as she descended from the Greyhound's steps. Her right hand gripped her guitar case, in which was hidden the instrument that was dear to her heart and ours, as it had provided many moments of peace in a little country church, in the steady, green pines, of the south Georgia plains. Annie's hair was the same. Combed back, with tight curls pulled away from her long, slender face. Her gray wavy strands flowing neatly past her broad shoulders, her simple floral dress buttoning to her nape and flowing to her shins, and her shiny black oxfords made Annie the same gentle companion we had known twelve years before in our small, rustic pastorate.

Her visit to us in the north Georgia hills was a sweet surprise. A phone call a few days previously had announced her intended 300 mile venture to visit old friends. With joy, with heartfelt thanks for her kindness and motherly concern, we received Annie into our little ranch-style home, which was distanced from the road but in direct view of a Blue Ridge mountain range. Her face glowed with the delight of one much loved who always loved back with grace beyond what she received. The joy she brought us, the hugs with which she warmed us, and the tender words of blessing and truth Annie spoke to us brought present peace and hopeful hearts.

Annie's visit with us that weekend was God's good gift. A timely solution for a specific season of doubt and discouragement in the lives of a young couple, struggling with an arduous church, failing finances, and two flourishing sons, both troubled by our troubles. The times were lean, . . . heavy, . . . hazy,
. . . even wistful. My dear husband was tired from a weedy, thorny garden he did not plant, and I, . . . I was ill, despondent, discouraged, far from the wife and mother I wanted to be. I had allowed the unsavory weeds and sticky thorns to embitter my soul and prick my heart. I had allowed poor health to turn my bright heart into a misty harbor of doubt.

I had drunk from the well of Marah. And the Lord, in His divine providence, sent from Heaven, ordered a word to set me free. He wanted to reclaim a wayward daughter, who had fallen to the weight of despair and confusion. My sin? Failure to believe when I did not understand. A lack of hope in hopeless times. The choice of a stone heart. The willingness to be an empty vessel that had no courage, no warmth, no joy to offer my family or my church. No faithful prayers to pray to the faithful One.

Annie's sweet prayers and wise words lifted our spirits. We had a weekend of blessing, prayer, singing, rejoicing. My children even sang, praised, believed. As we took Annie to the bus station on Monday afternoon, my heart was so sad to see her leave, but I was much more distressed by my own cool spirit. I still struggled with such pain and arrogance. We pulled into the bus station and all got out of the car. My husband took care of her luggage. As she turned to bid me farewell, Annie spoke two words. Two short words that seemed so simple, yet they pierced my heart, struck my soul like a sword, and wrapped around me like a sweet vine. She grabbed my hands. "Hold on." "You, hold on."

And I held on. I clung. I wrapped my arms around the truth of God's word, and I did not let go. I cleaved to the Rock of my salvation, to my Redeemer, to my Best Friend. To El Shaddai, God Almighty. I clung to Him. I could not let go. Not ever again. Were there further times of discouragement? Yes. Did I ever again suffer an ounce of fear? Yes. Did I ever again feel like quitting, want to resign to an easier life? Oh, yes.

But, . . . .I clung. I hoped. I believed. I trusted. For I knew what was true. And what was true and what is true is that God sees, understands, cares, and He will not have His children lost in a pit of despair and disgrace, for He is mighty deliverer. The Psalmist said that He would have lost hope unless He had believed He would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).

The sin of unbelief is quite sly. It creeps around like a serpent, waiting to strike its intended. It patiently waits on the scent of hopelessness, and follows any bitter trail. But thanks be to our God, our Lord, our Savior, who lovingly guides us home, who through His tender mercy, leads us back to His safe haven.

Dear friends in Christ, He loves you today. Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. Bow before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Believe. Trust. Pray. Seek. Allow Christ to bring His sweet healing waters to you and give you a hope that will never fade.

May His everlasting love go with you. May the Lord's strength give your weakness perfection. May His peace be your beginning of hope. Hope that is new. Hope that is pure. A hope that is a perfect fit for your present need.

My family is taking a brief trip to see relatives, so I will be scarce for a few days. I look forward to catching up when I return. I hope and pray each one of you will be filled with hope and encouragement as you travel toward the weekend. Your faith and courage are a great strength to me, and I so cherish your comments. Truly, I have learned so much from your testimonies of love and belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. Many blessings to all.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Marys to Follow

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

The first Easter morning dawned brightly. The sun skipped lightly to its place in a pink sky, bringing radiance and early warmth to a dewy earth. Birds flew lightly and sang happily. Nature rang praises for this new beginning of days. The gap between God and man was healed, restored. A new path paved, a fresh well opened. The miracle was done. Salvation completed. The gift was now the world's to open.

Two Marys went to Jesus' tomb. Their deep, devoted love for their Master led them there on this first Lord's Day. What astonishing joy awaited them! Never would they have dreamed their unyielding love for the One who so loved them would lead them to such a place of holy experience.

At the tumultuous, eventful sight they beheld, fear grasped their hearts. The rumbling of a moving earth, the luminous glow of an angelic presence, and the Roman soldiers, fallen in a state of awe, must have made the hearts of the Marys weak with dread.

They were, however, destined for the occasion. Ordered, by heavenly choice, to partake in the most holy, historical event in human history. They listened to the divine voice that announced the risen Savior and heeded the words to go and tell. "So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy; and ran to bring the disciples word."

And their obedience, their faith, their fear, their love, their joy, their devotion is ours to also employ. To follow. To do. To imitate. These lovely women of God, who were elected to carry the news of the most monumental, the most climatical, most supernatural event ever to grace human ears were chosen not for their acquaintance with Christ (many knew Him), not for their industrious qualities (many had proven very eager), not for their love alone (His disciples and His mother certainly loved Jesus). No, they were chosen because God saw the steadfast, loyal, faithful, obedient hearts the Marys had.

Mary and Mary Magdalene sought the Lord at first morning light. Their devotion to Jesus led them to the tomb to anoint His body. They were not hiding away in fear of the opinions or threats of others. Jesus came first. They did not run in fear, but stayed and heard the words of the angel. The two Marys were not intimidated by God's word. They responded in faith to what was told them. "So they went quickly from the tomb. . . . " Mary and Mary Magdalene accepted God's word with joy, even though their hearts were filled with awe, and they swiftly ran to carry the word of Christ's resurrection to the disciples.

The two Marys. . .

Sought the Lord early,
Were not afraid of others' opinions,
Were not intimidated by fear,
Put Jesus first in their lives,
Listened to God's word,
Responded in faith,
Obeyed God's word,
Rejoiced greatly for the gift of Christ, and
Carried the gospel to others.

On this post resurrection celebration morning, I am left in wonder at the faith and devotion of these two godly women, who gave their all to Jesus. What inspiration they are for us today in the 21st century! Their lives and responses to God are ours to imitate. And their hearts are ones we must admire, asking God to make us such people of faith, such vessels of surrender, such faith-gatherers, such chosen ones.

Dear friends, may we study the devotion of these two women of grace, who hallowed the sacred call on their lives and the very presence of Jesus. May we pray for like hearts that will, in faith, receive God's word, and likewise, follow wherever it leads us. And may we always, as the holy occasion of Easter winds down, keep the awe of that divine day churning in our hearts, ever being inspired with the resurrection power that is the Fathers and the Son's gift of life to us. And, may we with our inspiration, go, . . . and share the news of His salvation and peace with others.

Scripture from Matthew 28:1-8, NKJV

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

There is not room for Death, Nor atom that his might could render void: Thou, Thou art Being and Breath, And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

Emily Bronte

Dear Friends,

Praise God for this glorious day that we celebrate, this time of rendering, with unspeakable joy, our worship and honor to Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord! May God bless you this Easter day with His marvelous grace and a touch of His resurrection power. May He bring you healing, strength, life, and peace. And may you hear His words to you today, His special words, those chosen just for you, His life-changing message that will make this Easter a memorable moment, one forever in mind's reach for many seasons to come.

In the Love and Hope of Our Overcoming Savior,

Easter Miracle

Ring out awesome Easter Bells,
Let all dark shadows flee away,
On Death's third day, Christ arose -
Christ the Lord is Risen today!

Hear Easter larks loudly singing,
Death's cold stone is rolled away;
Behold the Miracle of Easter-
Christ the Lord is Risen today!

Poem by Douglas R. Rose

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Father's Tender Plant

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked --- but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. . . . He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:1-10, 12, NKJV

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Humility of Holy Remembrance

"The desire of our soul is for Your name and for the remembrance of You."

Isaiah 26:8

Palm Sunday morning 1983. The service in our quaint little white church was drawing to a sweet close. My dear husband had ministered an appropriate sermon for the holy occasion. As he customarily did, he preached his heart to our small congregation of one hundred people, who gathered faithfully every Lord's Day to listen, to sing simple songs of praise, to serve, and to see.

In my usual spot on a white hardwood pew near the back of the old sanctuary, I sat, with my two wee ones, ready for the service to conclude. A tiring morning of teaching Sunday school, dealing with my restless little toddlers, and sorting through the usual stress and strain of my pastor's wife role prepared me for the relief of a quiet meal in our kitchen corner, a bit of afternoon tv, a few quiet moments, and a much-needed nap.

My husband was just preparing for dismissal prayer when the broken, trembly voice spoke out. The man, in his wheelchair, said he wanted just a moment to speak. A hush blew over the congregation. The elderly gentlemen, rolling his wheelchair from the center aisle, moved in front of the church and faced the people, who were now seated, anticipating his unusual request.

Pastor Thomaston was a sweet, humble man. His white hair, weak frame, poor vision, and limited mobility had not once affected his love for Jesus. His life had been one of sacrifice and want. He was a treasure of brokenness. A blessing to our church, but even more so to my husband and me, for his walk with God and friendship were often our comfort and wisdom.

In sincere frankness, he began to speak to the church of the difficulties of the ministry, of the moments of want, the hours of pain, the denial of self, and the hardships of loneliness. He spoke with such compassion, such empathy and will. Finally, he began to reveal the reason for his reflections. For astonishment, my heart seemed to skip. I felt its flutter in my chest, a lump in my throat, a tightening of my shy self, an overwhelming loss of pride.

Pastor Thomaston knew the sufferings of the ministry. He especially spoke of its financial challenges, and . . . he told of the burdens a pastor's wife must carry, the arduous load of care, the stress of many encumbrances. His concern that Palm Sunday morning was that I would not have a new dress for Easter. As he continued to speak, my heart continued to melt; my pride tended toward dissolve. I felt so humbled, so undeserving of such compassion.

I was called to the front of the church. An offering plate was placed nearby. The congregation stood. They fell into line and began to approach. With my husband by my side, we greeted each one as they passed. I received sweet whispers of love, meek looks of longing, tight hugs from mothers and grandmothers, handshakes and heartfelt smiles of sympathy, radiant reflections from youth and children.

It was a priceless moment of tears. An event to be ever engraved in my conscious. The season of our ministry there had been prosperous, yet filled with anxiety and pain. I had labored with the burden of fear and often felt inadequate. On that day, I realized God as El Roi, the One Who Sees. He, as the Great High Priest, had witnessed my sorrow, and was touched by my feelings of infirmity.

Hebrews 14:5 speaks of Jesus, His suffering, and understanding of us and our earthly trials. "For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. . . ." Christ Himself is moved by what He sees when we suffer. He is moved not only by His view of us, but also by the force of our pain. The emotional and physical affliction of our infirmities is witnessed by Him, understood by Him, and experienced by Him.

The Greek term for infirmities is astheneia, meaning feebleness of body or mind, frailty, disease, sickness, or weakness. Whatever we suffer, however we suffer, Christ knows the same. If we are in mental agony because of a broken heart, a lost loved one, the grief of death, or financial hardship, Jesus understands. If enduring weakness in body, separation from loved ones, or illness, Christ is provoked by our feelings. If the enemy of our soul is tormenting us with lies, fear, or temptation, Jesus knows our point of need. And, . . . He is able to deliver, . . . strengthen, . . . restore, . . . heal, . . . soothe, . . . bless, . . . mend, . . . give grace. For, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

Those few short moments Palm Sunday 1983 took me from a perilous cliff of pride and pain to the cleft of a rock, where I found peace, safety, healing, and hope. The love and compassion of a meek man of God, the warmth and generosity of God's people, and the fresh reality of a God Who sees and cares softened fallow ground in my heart, melted my pride, and sweetened the Marah-like water of my soul.

During this Holy Week, I am remembering the suffering of my Lord and Savior, and I am counting and recounting His many interventions in my life, knowing that he paid the dearest price that could ever be paid to rescue me from every imaginable threat to my salvation. What is now in our lives and what will be was purchased by His passion. He is El Roi, the God Who sees, and He is ever present. Where His love abides, no sin can hide, no bitter weed live, and no fear triumph. As you remember His suffering, also remember those blessed times of your life for which he suffered. Make this time be one of holy remembrance and passionate praise.

Easter Sunday, 1983
Text quoted is from the New King James Version and research is from e-Sword.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Wanting Worship

"It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men."

C.S. Lewis

Quietly, humbly, with the footsteps of a gentle servant, the woman drew near her objective. Several men, in repose, were gathered, honoring the Messiah, perchance conversing about His wondrous miracles and stunning parables that left so many in awe. Surely, vibrant discussion arose concerning one of the most recent wonders, the resurrection of Lazarus, in whose home they were all now gathered.

As Mary proceeded to the table, toward the men, who were immersed in much discourse, Christ must have been watching her, knowing that this divine moment had been determined before the foundation of the world. Holding her precious alabaster box, Mary meekly knelt at the feet of Jesus. Her long, beautiful hair, bound on top of her head, she now let down. All eyes must have turned to her.

Such a shocking move! A move of nerve! A move of dishonor! One so inappropriate, unthinkable for a respectable woman! Were there gasps? Whispers? Outright objections? Or, . . . was their silent disbelief? Expectancy being raised and discomfort being marked, eyes remained fixed on this lovely follower of Christ, whose very volition was only set on pleasing her Lord and worshiping Him.

The men noticed the alabaster box in her hand. In amazement and perplexity, they watched as she broke it open, pouring the precious oil over the feet of her Savior and wiping his feet with her hair. The aroma of the spikenard spread throughout the room, the costly oil infusing the home with a prophetic pause, a subtle, yet somber sign of the passion awaiting Christ.

Amidst the rich fragrance, the awe of the moment, and the quiet, broken, profuse worship of a humble woman, a voice projected in radical defiance, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages" (John 12:5). This disciple could not see the value, the purpose, the veracity of Mary's love. Judas had no concept of or desire to worship Jesus. As the "keeper of the money bag," thieving Judas found Mary's act unbearable.

"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. "It was intended, that she should save this perfume for my day of burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me" (John 12:7-8). The Lord's words were a sharp rebuke, a quickened reminder of His coming death and resurrection. And His words bear encouragement for us today, worshipers of Christ, who believe in faith that He is the Son of God, who bore our sins, sacrificing His life in a shameful, excruciating, ignoble death, and rising again after three days to be forever glorified with His Father.

Yes, Christ's rebuke speaks now to us, telling us worship is our gift to Him. It is an outward expression of an inward work of love and grace in our hearts and lives. It is a heavenly connection to our beloved Lord. It feeds our souls and empowers us to live godly, spirit-filled lives. Worship is sweet communion with the lover of our souls and a blessed time of intimate peace and reverent awe for the giver of all life. Worship is where faith meets feeling, where voice leans to victory, where questions die and rest abides.

When voices of cynics cry, when thoughts of doubt arise, when objectors accuse, and mockers curse your faith, remember Mary, the passion of her faith, the costly, selfless offering she gave to Jesus; and remember His unfailing love for her and for you, His abiding affection for us all, and His defense of a humble woman, whose primary goal was pouring herself out to her Master. Remember, and then reject all disparaging voices. Put ill opinion of those who are of this world behind you.

Mary's life, her testimony, her pure worship, are a picture of grace, the substance of a beautiful woman of God. Her adoration of the Lord flowed from depth of dedication and a heart helplessly surrendered, desperate to know Him, seek Him, and give everything she had to Him.

Will you join her legacy? Will you ask the Lord for a renewed focus on Him and a sweet dedication to communing with Him in spirit and in truth? Not for a moment only, not just for Sundays, not for a few short sacrifices of time, but for all of time and eternity, with everything you are, giving all you have? Will you worship Jesus?
Text quoted and reference material is from Archaeological Study Bible, NIV

Friday, April 03, 2009

Palm Sunday God's Way

It may well be that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Christ what we have and what we are. If, just as we are, we would lay ourselves on the altar of service of Jesus Christ, there is no saying what Christ could do with us and through us.

William Barclay

Palm Sunday begins our sobering journey with the Lord Jesus Christ as He swiftly moves toward His passion. What begins as triumph turns to turbulence. What comes from chaos is careful woe, inconceivable torture, and cruel death. What comes from death is victorious resurrection, power, life abundant, freedom, everlasting joy, unconditional love, hope, and peace. The eternal salvation of our souls.

Christ's passion was a divine plan. Conceived by the Father, wrought through the Holy Spirit, humbly received by the Son. And it is now our gift to receive. Christ's choice to suffer humility, agony, loneliness, grief, torture, and separation from His father as He died on the cross was all done for me. . . for you. . . for your family. . . for all humanity.

And now, as we have received Him, so we must return our lives to Him. We must accept Him as He is. Christ has been glorified. He is all authority. He will rule and reign eternally. And He is, this very moment, Lord of all and longs to reign supremely in our lives. Not as we perceive Him necessarily, through our own subjective interpretation, but as one who longs to rule in our hearts. In His own way. With His own power. Changing us from glory to glory and image to image.

May Jesus have His way in our hearts, lives, and minds today. May we now and forever see Him God's way. Enjoy this video. Many blessings to you this weekend.

Please mute the music on the Playlist at the bottom of the page before viewing.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Kindred Spirits

"Love me, please, I love you. . . So ask of me anything ... I am not a tentative person. Whatever I do, I give up my whole self to it."

Edna Saint Vincent Millay

Leaving the rolling hills of a fertile, high country, the three women embarked on the southward journey that would lead them home. All were grieving. One, embittered by the pain and emptiness only loss can bring, another, confused about her own will and future, and one, resolute with love, beholden to the embittered woman, who had been her peace and comfort, all moved forward to a new life.

Along the dusty road, Naomi turned to her daughters-in-law. "Go back. Go home and live with your mothers. And may God treat you as graciously as you treated your deceased husbands and me. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband" (Ruth 1:8-9). Naomi wept before them. Her suffering was unpalatable. And Naomi's heart still yearned for the young widows, who also suffered from the enemy of death.

Their eyes stinging from hot tears, their faces stained by streams of sorrow, Orpah and Ruth pled with Naomi, "No, we're going on with you to your people" (Ruth 1:10). The mother-in-law would not have it. Why should they follow her, an old, barren woman, who thought the Lord's hand against her, who had no more sons to offer them, no hope in providing a future for two young women, whose lives were open before them?

Orpah turned back. She reverted to her family and the gods of Moab. Ruth clung to Naomi. The words of the young Moabitess poured desperately from her lips like warm honey. "Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us" (Ruth 1:16-17).

And so, it was done. A covenant was made between the two women. And Ruth followed her mother-in-law to Bethlehem. Without reservation. Without fear. Without regret. Ruth denied the gods of Moab, and turned to the God of Israel. Ruth yielded her life to the counsel of the One true God. She committed to Naomi, and Naomi loved Ruth and mentored her. They were kindred spirits, who were both to partake in a greater plan than they ever dreamed possible.

We are all familiar with the wondrous story. Naomi's relative, Boaz, became Ruth's kinsman-redeemer. He purchased her freedom, and they were married. Together, Ruth and Boaz became part of the lineage of Christ. The love Ruth had for Naomi and her God, and the compassion Naomi showed her daughter-in-law, made them part of the greatest historical, Biblical, and spiritual event of the universe. We are all affected today by the kinship and loyalty these women had for their God.

Our loyalties today remain historic. When we are willing to give everything, our total self, in complete relinquishment to the Lord, we not only find our Kinsman-Redeemer, but also we find His perfect plan for our lives. A plan that affects the lives of many others. Could Ruth have known what was ahead for her in Bethlehem? I think not. She only knew that she was compelled to give her life to the God of a woman whose very life and worship was Ruth's peace and comfort. And Ruth knew such dedication meant leaving her old life and gods behind.

In committing ourselves to God so thoroughly, so purely, we may lose what is familiar to us. Some of us may even lose family and close friends. But Jesus said that the person who wants to keep his own life for himself will actually lose it, and that one who gives away his life to Him will find it (Matthew 16:25). He also promised that those who sacrifice houses, people, and lands for Him will receive, in this life, a hundredfold in return (Matthew 19:29). I am so thankful today we have a Kinsman-Redeemer, who paid the ultimate price for us. Christ purchased our salvation. He has made us part of His heritage. He is preparing a place for us in heaven. And He has a plan for our lives while we are here on earth. By serving Him, we have so much to gain, and so much to give, and so many lives to touch.

All quoted text is from The Message.