Monday, January 26, 2015

The Season of Just Living It Out

When I pick up my pen to write it doesn't always transfer to the keyboard, which then doesn't always transfer to this blog, as the date of my last posting suggests!  But that is okay.  Although I love to encourage others (the main reason I have this account), public view is not the entire point of writing my thoughts down.  "You" reading what God has taught me should really just be the postscriptyou know, that which comes only after my act of applying what I am being taught!

I treasure the time I can have in the morning after Kevan leaves for work and before the kids wake up (the latter being especially important)the sun just rising, coffee in my mug, a warm fuzzy blanket, and me on the couch with the word of God on my lap. I have a little journal that fits in the pocket of my Bible cover that I can pull out and jot down those precious promises or words of exhortation that God speaks directly to my heart.  I write to make His word part of my thoughts.  It helps me ponder it in my heart. It is a discipline that teaches me to treasure the truth!  And I love being able to go back and reference what I have learned.  

But honestly...those kind of cozy mornings are not always a reality.  "Alone time" is a luxury when you have little ones in the house!  I have to be intentional if it's going to happen (earlier bed time for me, breakfast for the littles already thought out, house tidied up the night before, etc), but even when I work hard to plan a quiet hour with the Savior, it only takes a mili-second for it all to fall to pieces. 

My children wake up earlier than normal and just like that, 4 hours later, my coffee (warmed up for the 4th time) is cold and I'm still in my pj's!  And my incredible devotional experience is chalked up to a verse or two!  

These days of parenting, making a happy and orderly home for my darling husband, engaging in the ministry outside of the abortion mill, playing secretary for our ministry, and keeping up with correspondence fills the minutes I used to use filling up the pages of my journal with my pen!  It is the season of actually (and often, only) living out what the Lord is teaching me, not having the pleasure of teaching it to others or writing it down in a cohesive thought.

It is a season that must be embraced with complete acceptance as to its limitations and boundaries.  It is a season the Lord desires for me to live joyfully and with content before my children.

That last paragraph sounds vaguely familiar to my heartlike what I heard back in the lonely hours of my single years.  Yes, those years I felt were plagued with limitations and boundaries. Those days I had to fully accept my situation and joyfully live it out in contentment.  Those years.  Wow, life really just continues to teach me the same things over and over...as if the Lord desires I learn what it means to follow after Him alone.  How thankful I am for His patience and love as I fail to trust Him in my day to day living (the day to day small and sometimes wretched details).  C. H. Spurgeon's wife wisely writes, "Comparatively few Christians put God's keeping power fully to the test.  If we would trust Him for the keeping, as we do for the saving, our lives would be far holier and happier than they are."  

I love having the time to writeI greatly miss all the time I was able to give to preparation and teaching others.  And I look forward to my life re-entering a season that will include these realities once again, if the Lord so wills it.  But that is not what encourages spiritual growth, nor a happier and holier life.  It is the application of those things I learn while sitting at the feet of Jesusnot the expounding upon them.  Whether I have had the richness of leisure before the Throne of Grace or just a few minutes to spend in His word, may God find me living out what I am learningtaking the truth I glean and diligently applying it to my life.  Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minutefrom crying baby to getting lunch on the table.  Warming up my cuppa one more time, and displaying what joy and complete surrender looks like to my watching children.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Heart of Abortion

If we want abortion to end we must strike at the heart of abortion—rebellion of women against God.  

Most pro-lifers focus their compassionate lens on rescuing women—wooing them, giving them "reason" to "choose" life for their baby, providing a loving place where they can feel safe—viewing the abortion bound female as a victim.  They do everything in their power to keep the conversation positive and non-judgmental. But in reality they fail to tell them the truth—sadly this approach will most likely always deny them the gospel as well! This type of thinking will lead the pro-lifer to completely lose sight of the true victim in every abortion—the precious little baby being ripped to pieces!  

While there are women (mostly teens or those enslaved in prostitution) who are pressured to abort through a situation out of their control, most women boldly walk through the doors of Planned Parenthood and other abortuaries with full knowledge of what they are doing.  They want an "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!" because they love their sin more then they love their child! It may at times be fed by fear or regret, but it is sin all the same!  And the only answer for sin is repentance from it!

As Christians we must focus on the violation of God's Law: “Do no murder” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).   But we cannot hold the light of the law and gospel truth up to our society in the context of abortion only to neglect God's Word when it comes to the biblical mandated role of a mother (Titus 2:5).  For it is here, at this very point, we find the foundation cracked.  To turn even slightly from God's established order will cause breakdown—if not immediately, it will come eventually.  

America no longer holds to any moral standard in marriage, in the home, in school, and now (I type with horror) even in some churches.  Abortion on demand.  This "success" for women was not gained overnight.  It was a gradual process of elimination:  eliminating God's authority!

God treasures babies; He calls them “His reward”. No pregnancy is an accident, whether it was planned or not! God opens and closes the womb, and He declares that “children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3)! 

Abortion is the greatest violator, not only of the womb, but to the entire body, mind, and spirit of a woman! It brings destruction to mother and child. In utter rebellion, abortion demands control of one’s own life and offers innocent blood to the god of self to retrieve it!

This is best articulated from the mouth of the nation's most notorious late-term abortionist Curtis Boyd: "What drove me [to become an abortion doctor] was the knowledge that an unplanned pregnancy could ruin a woman's life. I realized that when it came to pregnancy, women were at a significant disadvantage." (1)

This statement wraps up the “true heart” of women who abort their children, and sadly, one that many Christians have embraced as well! 

Mothers have been given a very high calling indeed; they are entrusted with the lives of future generations. God gives great worth to a mother’s role. Why would a woman ever seek for ways to free herself from such a tremendous part to play? Because she has swallowed a lie!  The lie that she knows best!  It is only through the subtle deceit of our enemy that such a lie is believed in the church. 

Believing that we “know better” than the Almighty is a sin. Sin is rebelling against God’s law and that will always produce failure. Failure just happens to be the synonym of abort. 

A mother who chooses to put the value of her life over the value of her child’s life will easily walk into an abortion mill and choose to “terminate her pregnancy.” It is also true for women who choose to carry to term but allow self to produce a neglect of born children—choosing the pleasure of money and/or position and/or career over their God-given duty of nurturing their children in the home. Oh, but the craftiness of Satan to deceive the church in the area of reproduction—choosing not to get pregnant at all. 

Demanding that we know the “right time” or “right number” or “right financial status” more than our Creator is taking too much into our hands. It is robbing God of His right. It is arrogant. Not only are we slapping the Eternal Giver in the face, but if we use such means as chemical birth control we are not just preventing conception—we are at times preventing implantation. We are aborting our children.  Christians who claim to love the unborn and desire to live a life pleasing the Lord, are aborting their children!

Let us pray that mothers everywhere will embrace their God-created role and not demand the right to dodge their responsibility. Let us pray that mothers will receive their high calling with joy and thanksgiving—rejoicing in the Lord “alway” (Philippians 4:4). Alway! If we would but conform our will to God’s revealed word we would do great damage to the abortion industry! Let it start in the household of Faith—and then let us “go to a world that is dying” spiritually, mentally, physically, morally, nationally “His perfect salvation to bring!”

(1) http://truth-out.org/news/item/14248-abortion-providers-quiet-heroism

Friday, April 26, 2013

Who Holds the Gavel?

Judging Righteously


My husband and I get a lot of genuine questions sent to us regarding our Front Line ministry to the unborn but it is the amount of rude comments and/or judgmental accusations that we are being too judgmental thrown our way by fellow Christians that really get us scratching our heads. 

Abortion is an explosive topic in our society and the subject is impregnated with politics.  I understand that.  But the problem doesn't lie there…it lies in the  fact that too many believers have chosen to travel the easy road called “not getting involved” in order to not risk offending someone. Although they believe abortion is wrong they would never want to impose their moral opinions on somebody else—they say, "The people you are talking to don't believe in God anyway, so you shouldn't use His word in your debate." First off, this is not a debate. We are told in scripture that the Law of God is written on the heart of man, it is man that has suppressed the truth through his rebellion—it is our job to declare God's standard of righteousness to a vile generation.  But most Christians in today's world would rather live out their faith without creating conversations that might involve conflict. 

My husband and I do not seek offense with any person but desire to always answer in a respectful and Christ-like manner—we are fully aware that many people:

¬ are disturbed by protesters associated with the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church and want nothing to do with such haters (and rightly so),
¬ have sadly experienced hypocrisy in the church and are wounded by condescension  (or taking up an offense of someone else that has been wounded), or
¬ are simply ignorant of what Scripture actually teaches. 

The latter is all too commonly the case!  In fact, it is knowing what the Scripture teaches that will make nil and void the first two reasons for not engaging in public square evangelism—calling sinners to repentance!  "Because others have done it/are doing it wrong!" is never an excuse to not boldly do that which Scripture commands!

The truth is, God has already passed judgment and He has commissioned the church to let people know what that judgment is.  How else would mothers turn from abortion, how else would souls be saved from Hell? We do not stand outside of abortion mills to personally judge according to our own opinion; we go to warn those going in that God has already spoken plenty on the subject.  Plenty! 

It is extremely easy to quote scripture out of context and form a belief that is erroneous to the whole of the Book.  I’m sure you’ve heard them, or maybe you have used them.  Like this famous line, “it is not our job to judge!”   And how about this one, “a sinner judging another sinner is #*^@$%” (actual quote)!   That heated statement (made by a professed Christian) is based on Scripture misapplied.  The passage (from which all this rhetoric stems) is as follows: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2). 

The Lord addressed “the hypocrite” in his earthly ministry many times—but before we start name calling and drawing nasty conclusions, let’s make sure we define hypocrisy in the same manner our Lord did.  Jesus did not characterize a “hypocrite” as being a sinner pointing out the sin in another, but a sinner who did not allow the Holy Spirit’s work in his own life pointing out the sin in another.   Jesus is teaching us how to point out sin—He is not telling us to stop!  Jesus is teaching us how to judge according to His judgment and reminding us of our own tendency to sin along the way.  It keeps us humble.  It gives us proper passion and the desire to see others come to the Savior.

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thin own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:3-5).

When we stand and proclaim truth at an Abortion Mill we are judging that life is precious and worth protecting—that the life of every person, no matter how small, is of great value.  And those women, men, doctors, nurses, and people driving by who yell out obscenities, or just act put out that we are “all up in their business” and accuse us of judging…well, ya, they are also judging.  By their words and actions they judge life to be cheap and something to casually throw away—casually murder away.  They judge that life has no value. 

According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, those who declare life will receive life—“for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”  And those who demand death will receive death—for “with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” 

God commands His people to speak up.  In the book of Romans, Paul asks a series of questions which lead up to the most amazing conclusion—God intends to use man to warn man!  Yes, that is right…fallen, imperfect, sinful man to preach His gospel to fallen, imperfect, sinful man!

"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed" and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher" And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14-15).

Sadly, Christians give love an unprecedented part to play in declaring what is right.  God’s love is bound to the truth—it is not bound to a feeling!  My husband says “always speak the truth in love—but always speak the truth!” 

Just because you witnessed a fellow believer speak harshly to an individual, or arrogantly raise himself above the consequence of the law when putting someone in their place, does not negate your own duty to speak!  Regarding the topic of abortion, God clearly demands your voice—“Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy"(Proverbs 31:8-9). God commands us to let others know what He already declares concerning  the murder of innocent blood!  

The point is, we will judge, there is no getting around that fact.  Let’s just make sure we are passing the right judgment!  

Another common problem Christians have with our stand is founded on an improper use of the word compassion—with the idea that women seeking abortions have been victimized, are running from the hypocrites of the church, have had no moral training, are scared of being disowned with no one to turn to, etc…  And then, “there you are telling them that what they are doing is wrong—pushing them farther away from God.”  No compassion.  No understanding of where they are coming from.  “You really should get to them before you meet them at the door of the abortion clinic”—somehow minister to them before they find themselves pregnant?  “Your message comes across too pharisaical!" “Abortion is murder—is too hard a statement!”  It might get their attention...might hurt their feelings…might tell them the truth…might rescue them from a lifetime of guilt...might save a life from being slaughtered in cold blood?

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul exhorts the church to “put on the new man” and therefore, (performing that action) man will be putting away all sin. The new man is made after God and is characterized by “righteousness and true holiness”—two attributes we would never gain through our own efforts, no matter how hard we tried. But they are what is required to satisfy a righteous and holy God! When it comes to the thoughts and intents of my heart (for out of this reservoir flows all my behavior) I must not rely upon my own understanding. I must take myself and set it aside! And then I must pick up the “new man” and clothe my mind and my will and my emotions with the garment of God’s absolute truth.

Our feelings, “compassions”, or preferences must never dictate our responses. Therefore, we might need to hold out on them—we might need to sit on them for a bit…and take time to consider if God would agree with what we think and feel is appropriate.

“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” This plea comes after a rather disturbing discourse on God’s disgust over Israel’s actions. He wanted nothing to do with Israel’s appearance anymore. With strong language, God tells them that their sacrifices and feasts were a trouble to Him—“My soul hateth [them]…I am weary to bear them” (1:14). “Come now,” He says, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:18). Our Lord wants nothing to do with “obedience” if our hearts are tainted and rebellious. No matter how holy our words and actions appear they are a stench in His nostrils. He longs for those who seek Him with a whole heart. He desires humility! With humility we are promised “the good of the Land,” but a stubborn refusal to submit to God’s standard will guarantee “the sword” (1:19-20).

We must ask Christ to be an intricate part of every thought and every action—“Lord is this what I should think, say, do…is this glorifying to your Name…is this what your Word teaches?” We must allow Scripture the influence over our feelings, compassions, and preferences FIRST…and then allow those God-given emotions to be used for His glory!  They were given to us in order to motivate our response not to decide it. Without consideration we would never see a need. Without passion we would never speak out. Without sensitivity we would never work with those who required help.

But misplaced emotions—and the actions that can come from them—may actually hinder the work of the Lord. 

There are women (a few, I might add) who seek abortion out of shame, or fear of getting caught in their sin and are walking toward the clinic wishing for someone to show them a way out.  Their hearts are tender and receptive right away to the truth.  We rejoice when this happens and are so grateful that we were there to reap the harvest.  Oh, that there were counselors on sidewalks at every clinic every single day that one is open for business. 

But mostly we find women seeking abortion because they are skirting responsibility, being pressured by a boyfriend (misplacing the loyalty they should have for their own baby onto a fragile romance), or sadly, too often (married and unmarried), they just do not want to be burdened with a child.  This pregnancy was not planned and allowing it to continue will mess up their comfortable reality or future dreams.  Granted, they have buried their feelings—their natural affection—but buried they have, so deep and for so long, that the truth is now suppressed. "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Ephesians 4:18-18).  I have been literally amazed with what comes out of the mouths of women.

Our hearts go out in tenderness to even the most hardened of hearts—we desire for them to know God’s incredible mercy.  That mercy comes only through realizing their sin and repenting of it.  Let us never forget that God is the One who brings change and redemption to a heart—even a heart that was closed.  We live in a pagan society, surrounded by people who worship the god of self.  I have yet to have a woman look shocked when I show her a picture of a baby in utero, or not believe me when I tell her that her child’s heart was beating even before she was aware she were pregnant—quite the opposite.  They know!  They call it exactly what it is.  Murder.  They have been indoctrinated through a pagan culture, wicked media, godless schools, lack of parenting, negative peer pressure, and a million other wicked venues!  Our society, on a whole, is believing a lie—and God is giving them over to their own lusts. They are hardened to the point of their own destruction. It is only the true message of the Gospel that will change them.  This religion of self has also crept into our churches as well.  Oh, shame on the church who will not confront sexual sin in its congregation—doing everything it can to keep personal conviction far from those who sit in the pews.  Much of the American church has embraced the throw-away society—it has quit desiring children as God’s reward and loves pleasure over sacrifice. 

Believers are never given licence to be rude, proud, arrogant, condescending, hurtful, or disrespectful no matter how gross the sin they are addressing in another—but even when spoken with ardent love and blessed kindness on the lips, truth will most likely offend.  That is why this ministry is bathed in prayer.  That is why spiritual introspection and personal confession is so vital"I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5). We "open our mouths" because we are commanded to—we leave the conviction and correction to the Holy Spirit and plead with God in prayer for souls to be saved and babies rescued from death!

My husband and I will go stand at abortion mills and we will plead for the sake of the children who will be murdered that day.  Our hearts will continue to break over the atrocity happening in our own city!  And we will continue declaring the truth of “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3)—no matter the cost!    

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Sorrow Satisfied

Are you ever hit hard with the word why?  

Whether I am just entering a "time of trouble" or have long processed the effect one has had on me the resounding why fills my head at times with all sorts of questions that desire most earnestly to be answered.  
Although my heart may be fully surrendered to God's plans, purposes, and timing the grief, heartache, or just plain confusion that accompanies my difficulty wants to know!  

It wants to know why?  

This last week I was rather undone by extreme sadness and felt my heart would break all over again with the loss of my tiny, little baby.  The pain welled up inside of me and slowly escaped through tears and quiet sobs...that nagging, ever-to-be-answered word why would not stop pounding around in my head?  

Why is it I can't hold, raise, get to know my sweet son? Why is it I can't still be filled with anticipation of his arrival, why did I have to put away all the things we would need to care for him
—things I had joyfully placed by a basinet?  Why can't he be tucked away safely inside of me...36 weeks inside my womb?  Why?  Why did you take him from me, Lord?

They poured forth without any hindrance!     

   
Asking why has the potential of two very opposite realities: it can rob us of peace or give us opportunity to hear God's specific word.  It is not wrong to ask why. God welcomes our honest questions. But it is wrong not to take the time to listen to His answer and accept it!  A sincerity on our part is vital if we are to not give way to bitterness.  It is not that we are resisting His sovereign purpose or the truth that "all things work together for good"it is that, quite naturally, our grief has a need to be satisfied! The need for balance, for a logical explanation, gnaws away at our core.  And believing that Christ is the only One Who can satisfy our sorrow will drive us to our knees and beg for Him to speak!

I wanted comfort, an ease to the painand the desire to get away with the Lord and find succor
 in Him alone.  I knew I would find it in His word.  He offers Himself freely to all who long to settle into His resta promised rest, even in the midst of a turbulent sea.  I needed that rest!

I was in the book of Job for my daily scheduled reading and I wished it wasn't so.  The thought of delving into a dry, careless dialogue from men who thought they knew everything did not bring me any relief and I foolishly thought I would find no consolation from that sad story.  But God directed me to start reading right where I had left off.

As only the Lord canthe ONE intimately acquainted with all of my waysHe spoke to me in a most powerful voice!  I asked my questions...and He righteously and faithfully spoke!  He reminded me over and over of who He is and that He is closely acquainted with all the things in my life that are hardand then gave me wonderful composition to form both prayer and praise back to Him.  

"Whence cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?  Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.  Destruction and death say, we have heard the fame thereof with our ears..." (Job 29:20-22).  


Yes, Lord, how can I know!?  Will the knowledge of my loss always be hidden from my eyes?  Will you ever see fit to tell me why?  Or 
is it even your purpose to let me know?  I asked as if my only source of contentment was found in knowing—thankfully true contentment is found in something quite deeper and much better!  Job's own need for consolation came in the next verse—it was my answer as well!

"God understandeth the way thereof, and He knoweth the place thereof.  For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole of heaven...He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: then did He see it, and declare it; He prepared it, yea, and searched it out..." These were precious verses to me.  I was quietly sitting still in front of my Lord.  Bowed low.  He was allowing my tears to fall on His feet. And He was choosing to bow Himself, down to where my misery dwelt, and speak directly to my hurt.

Thank you, Lord, for putting the prayer into my mouth...the words onto my very lips...especially when praise did not know what to say!  When I am naturally mute before the Lord, if I am willing to learn, He will graciously teach me how to speak righteously.  


"You do understand, Lord, You know every little detail of my heart...and that is enough to bring me comfort."  

"Oh, Lord!  You made a decree! ...my child's life, my own, was your idea. You made a way for my son.  You saw William (You knew William); You declared his conception; You prepared my womb for his shelter and development; and You searched out his dayshow many he would have, the purpose for which he would live them, and his eternity!"  


"And unto [his grieving mama] He said, BEHOLD the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom!" (Job 29:23-28).  And God gently whispered, "that is the answer to your why!


Wisdom is knowledge, right?  Knowing!  God is worthy to be feared.  That is all the explanation I need.  That is my answer!  That alone was given to me to bring fulfillment, relief to my sadness.  And that was enough.  It is always enough.


God never promises to remove our pain, but He does promise to bring ease and safe passage through the entire storm, reasons to hope it will one day pass, and motivation to thank Him for even this.


I needed that comfort, that word to behold God's complete knowledge and fear Him for it.  I needed to know where to place my ever racing mind.  


Does your mind drive you wild with grief this morning?  Do you own a lonely longing to know why He has allowed your trouble?  Maybe you just long for peace, an end to the endless questions?  Do you want to know why He hasn't taken it away?  Find the stillness, that calm you desire, in Him!  I pray you will know that wordthat you would "behold" the knowledge of His wisdom and fear Him for it.  


It is a comfortable place!  It is a most sacred place!  


And remember that He will be there tomorrow; He will be there next month or next year or even the very next moment.  He will be there whenever you are overtaken with the need to have your sorrow satisfied!  He is always there!  

Friday, December 28, 2012

"be it unto me"—part two

a place to ponder

What do we do when our Lord speaks directly to us through His word?  How do we respond to the precious promises, the tender rebukes, the commands, the songs of love?  In the story of Christ’s birth, the Shepherds “made known abroad” (Luke 2:17) all that they had seen and heard—the angel’s message and God’s wonder displayed!  These men could not help but tell the world!  Their Savior was born—God had kept His word.  In utter excitement and joy they shouted the good news to anyone who would listen.  Their response was both needful and glorifying to God.  When God reveals His truth, and gives us the gifts of insight and blessing—when He opens our eyes to see His glory—it is most fitting to declare it to others!  It is meant to be shared. 

But…

The Scripture tells us Mary did quite the opposite!  She hid her special revelation, and the events that followed, in her very being—securely tucked away that she might consider fully what they meant— “…But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  The word but gives a direct contrast to the previous mention of the shepherd’s reaction!  Mary did not make known the saying, Mary pondered the saying! 

Mary was not keeping it a secret—selfishly or thoughtlessly—but was keeping it treasured. There is a difference.  Not constraining the good news but keeping record of how that it was affecting her personally! She placed a high value on what God was doing in and through and for her—the sense of amazement and wonder drove her to quiet worship.  She recognized every tiny detail—the Almighty in every element. 

Pondering is to intimately recount all that the Lord has said, all that He has promised, all that He has fulfilled, all that is to come!  The kind of conversation you can only have between two people! 

Before you seek to teach, write, declare—before you shout the good news, talk of the revealed truth, share the incredible manifestations with anyone who will listen—seek to do as Mary did.  Seek to find intimate fellowship with the One who showed you such wonder in the first place!  Quietly.  Seek to ponder all that He is doing in and through and for you! 

Mary’s life is a pattern of humility!  Don’t put away her example with your pretty holiday décor!  Allow it to effect each and every day of your life.  

There is a place to ponder. 

1.  We must hide it in our hearts first—make it personal!  We do this by meditating even on truth that was revealed to others in Scripture.  Teach it to yourself before you teach it to your children or anyone else for that matter.  Own every promise, every rebuke, and every command that the Lord reveals to you in His word.  Spend time praying back God’s word to Him in praise for what He is doing in your own heart before you use the same Scripture in intercession and supplication with others in mind! 

This is a discipline that I easily overlook!  In my desire to share what God has shown me (or done for me through a miracle) with others I can unintentionally miss its incredible impact on my own life by not taking the time to ponder what has taken place.  Yes, others do need to hear—and I am commanded to declare it (Psalm 64:9)—“but,” as Luke 2:19 starts, but first, and even last, I must “keep all these things” and consider them in my own heart!  

2.  Gaining a confidence in the truth comes from pondering what God has shown to you to be true (Psalm 1:2-3)—mulling over what you read in your daily quiet time throughout the day, rehearsing what was preached on a Sunday morning, meditating on a lesson you studied to teach to others.  "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the works of thy hands" (Psalm 143:5). Turning those revelations into prayers or into songs—journaling them on paper or just on the tablet of your heart—will secure them in your mind!  "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (1 Timothy 4:15).

3.  Pondering brings peace!  Psalm 119 states that “great peace” and a confidence that “nothing shall offend” is the reward given to those who “love [God’s] law.”  To love something is to spend time with it.  It is to become like it.  Isaiah gives a beautiful promise of peace to those who ponder—"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." Pondering provides the believer with an increase in trust!  A wonderful revolving reward—pondering produces peace, which produces truth, which produces pondering...you get the picture! 

Mary shows us such wisdom in choosing to ponder and not grow anxious. "[Wisdom's] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17). Just consider, even for a brief moment, all that Mary could have been doing with her heart and mind.  Being visited by an angel is, well, amazing… right?!  Who wouldn’t immediately bow in worship and ponder the glorious thing that had taken place?  If that is what you are thinking you obviously have forgotten the several key (and might I add disturbing) elements that were thrown in the mix?  A private revelation.  A virgin.  A fiancé.  A pregnancy.  A reputation.  What would her friends think?  What would her family think?  And then there are all the prophecies—“His visage was so marred, more than any man” (Isaiah 52:14); “He was woundedbruised for our iniquities…with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53 :5); “and they shall look upon [him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).  Even Simeon’s own prophetic word to Mary is full of deep sorrow no matter the declaration of joy it contained: “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). 

Mary would carry a heavy burden for her entire life (a private pain)—how easily she could have become preoccupied with her own situation and engage her heart and mind in serious worry and fear. 

The Incarnation—the promise kept—and a young woman who was chosen to carry, birth, raise, and love the Son of God!  The Son who would die a cruel death for the sins of the whole world!  How important it would be for Mary to ponder and not give in to a hopeless feeling of doubt or reckless emotion.   

The point: pondering doesn’t always come as a natural response—it is a choice that must be made!  That is why Mary’s attitude of acceptance is such a vital part of this lesson! 

Mary not only carried the “Prince of Peace” in her very womb, she allowed him admittance into her own heart, mind, will, and emotions!

4.  Fresh excitement is given to those who ponder.  "For thou, Lord, has made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands...O Lord, how great are thy works!  And thy thoughts are very deep...I shall be annointed with fresh oil" (Psalm 92:4,510). The word of God is quick and powerful—it is sharp—it is lively.  And when we take the time to meditate on its power and promise we are happy, content, and full of life!  We are not easily dismayed—when troubles arise or sorrow takes us from behind, the Holy Spirit can cheer, comfort, and guide us with the truth we have set before our eyes.  "Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness" (Psalm 119:159).  

It is not an easy life we are promised, but a Shepherd to show us the way through the difficult journey! And we will be able to encourage others better if we allow the word of God to daily encourage our own heart! 

Let us, like Mary, choose to tuck every little truth inside our heart—every experience, every joy, every painand treasure what God is doing, even the hard things He is allowing.  

Enjoy the rewards that such an act of worship will bring!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"be it unto me"—part one

an attitude of acceptance

I am taking time this season to revisit the story of Christ’s birth, and the glory which surrounds it, in order that I might please Him better—that I might learn afresh and practice anew that which would honor our Redeemer most!  There are a couple of wonderful phrases that are used in the gospels to describe Mary, the mother of Jesus.  They captured my attention years ago and the Lord is using them to teach me once again the importance of my attitude and the power of meditation on His word!

Mary was human, no matter how divine you, or any other religion, try to make her.  She was born in sin and she would have died in sin, if it had not been for the Savior.  She was not “better” than any other woman although she is recorded to have been “highly favored” by God.  She was an ordinary girl given an extra-ordinary task.  But, she accepted it.  Fully.  Humbly.  In Holy reverence to her Lord.  This truth is so important if we are to gain any lessons from her life.  

Mary has been given a place of honor in the Scriptures and we do wrong to make her sinless or dismiss her all together.   We must speak well of this godly woman and glean from her most godly example!  She has a lot to teach.

Mary was a chosen vessel.  Chosen.  She did not apply for the position after figuring that her specific spiritual gifts would lend her capable for the job.  And we have no record that she desired to fulfill this role of prophecy personally.  All we know is that this young lady was taken completely unaware by an angel named Gabriel—bearing an incredible message—and that his decree would change the course of Mary’s life in the most dramatic ways—forever.  Effective immediately! 

As I consider yet again what my reaction would have been to such a message I come up lacking.  My humanness pushes forward all the time!  The flesh is ever seeking to be satisfied and coddled in every way.  Manipulation can have a bad habit of needling its way into any action I might take—making it fit according to my own likes and dislikes. 

Mary didn’t seem bogged down with her fleshiness!  She obviously had already been allowing the Lord to teach her what it means to say no to self.  Mary did not respond in a submissive way because she herself had been conceived immaculate, but because she chose to respond in a submissive way!  That is such a huge lesson!  She, on purpose, possessed an attitude of acceptance—I can choose to do the same. 

Mary was not naïve, nor was she too young to understand the statement that she would bear a child.  This was proven by her one (and only) question: “How can this be?”  But neither was she in rebellion to the answer.  Yikes!  I might have pushed for more details—“exactly what does overshadow mean?”  She submitted herself to what God decreed and accepted fully the possibility of a miracle.  What about all the other “natural” questions one might have continued asking, like, “Are you going to let anyone else in on this news?”, “Can I think about it and get back to you?”, “Could I get married first?”

Without any knowledge of what her fiancé might do, her family might say, or she might feel, Mary quickly uttered those incredible words, “Be it unto me, according to thy word” (Luke 1:38)—complete and full acceptance, no matter the cost. 

The angel might have been a complete surprise and his message unfathomable…but the idea that God would speak—to her—was not!  Indeed, Mary was expecting it, as would any servant whose soul duty was to her master!  Mary’s quick and beautiful response gives us a clue as to where her eyes were fixed and where her faith was buried.  “Behold…as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God” (Psalm 123:2).  The secret to an attitude of acceptance lies in where we place our eyes. 

Do we gaze at our Savior as if He might have something to say to us—something that has not yet crossed our minds?  Once He speaks, do we focus our eyes on our own ability to “work it out” and how we might stay in the safety of our own comfort zone?  For Mary, her gaze was definitely set on God—alone.  Yes, I do believe Mary very likely shed the tears of many emotions and had intense times of prayer alone with her Maker—but they were not the product of unbelief.  Any pain or fear that might have been present did not dictate her attitude in any way!  That is the point the Holy Spirit seems to be driving home to my own heart.  The fact that she was at His beck and call was already established in her mind!  As her Lord, He would provide all that was needed.  What was there to question or resist?

Her faith is astounding.  She rests in full confidence of God’s word.  “Be it unto me”—not according to any probability or possibility—but according to whatever God says, even if it does not make sense.  God’s word was that powerful and that precious to her. 
 
We find Mary a woman of action, not resignation!  (Heavy sigh! “Okay, if I must!” Followed by another heavy sigh!)  God never calls us to resignation but determined motion!  Even the word rest is active—if it is commanded by the Almighty.  Mary was not ashamed of her growing belly.  Trust and obedience gives confidence to every step we are called to take.  Leaving to visit her cousin Elizabeth, marrying Joseph, travelling to Bethlehem—these were all events that were open to spectators!  She was eager to do that which she must—and in doing so, fulfill the prophecies!  How tempting it is to “blend in,” or look inconspicuous, when we are called to do just the opposite!  

Mary’s first act of obedience (submitted will) required continually walking in that obedience throughout her entire life.  

Our attitude is vital as we walk out our own Christian experience.  God comes to us daily with command, duty to perform, action for us to accept...and desires to find us in the same frame of reference as He found Mary—"behold the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38).   We must, on purpose, possess such humility.  Remember that Mary did not have previous knowledge she was "highly favored."  God observes and takes note of those servants who are willing to be used of Him. It will require saying no to self—hard anytime of year—but especially during the holiday season.  It will require submission.  It will require complete obedience.  But those requirements are easier to fulfill when we see ourselves as who we really are.  Placing our eyes squarely on the Master each and every morning, "as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress" and expecting the Lord to speak—even the unfathomable!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hope

In the early morning hours of September 28th, I woke up to an upset tummy, so I thought.  I prayed myself back to sleep and woke again at 6 am to help get my husband off to work. I was still feeling quite crampy, but told Kevan not to worry as it was probably just something I ate the night before.  I kissed him goodbye and went to lay back down.  My much desired sleep came only in little, tiny increments and I started to wonder if I could possibly be having contractions.  I had never experienced Braxton Hicks with my first child.  I remember looking at the clock in my room at 7:30 and watching the minute hand move slowly back up.  These pains were consistent, in fact, they were coming every 5 minutes.  I am not an alarmist in nature and did not let my mind go negative too soon. I got up to take a hot shower hoping everything would settle down.  Then there was Tirzah to attend to.  These morning rituals took time.  I wanted the elapse to take away any threat.  But as the morning diminished my pains increased...and I slowly realized they were not going to go away. Fear began to wrap itself around my very heart as I became limited in what I could do.  I was scared to even let myself think of what might be happening. I was in labor, there was by now no doubt about it.  But, I was only 21 weeks along and that was too early!  That was too early!

I quickly called Kevan to come right home.  We packed my bag, made sure Tirzah was in good hands, and arrived at the hospital as soon as possible.  What then transpired is blurry...I just remember how kind those nurses were and how very quickly they worked to try and get my uterus to stop contracting.  When you are in labor, everything is timed by your pains...one, and then another, and then another.  They pumped me full of medicine and ordered a sonogram technician to come as soon as possible.  I was dilated to a three at admittance and my water was bulging.  It is hard enough to get through a contraction in a normal position but when you are tipped down, head first, it is very difficult indeed.  Although the nurses continued to reassure me that everything was just fine with our baby I was overcome with a sense of knowing...knowing that things were not fine with our baby. This feeling was confirmed as soon as the technician turned on her screen.  My heart lept to see my sweet baby, my sweet baby who I had never seen before. His little head, his little spine, his little legs.  There he was, over and over flashing before my eyes. Everything you would expect was present...everything except his beating heart.  There was no heartbeat.  None.  I was aware of that immediately.  The technician never said a word, but her silence said everything.  That moment was immediately made sacred, holy.  It was so very quiet in our room.  I didn't press her with questions, I didn't even tell my husband my thoughts, I just began to silently grieve the loss of our little love. The contractions would not stop, oh how I wished they would, how I wished that everything would just stop long enough for me to be able to process what was happening.  But they were relentless...and they were powerful...and the tears started to well up in my eyes and slowly course down my cheeks.

After the technician left our room the nurse came back in and leaned down to whisper that "she could not find a heart beat" and that "your baby is not alive."  Verbalizing this horrid reality allowed both my husband and I to cry together and in that moment choose whether or not we would accept this sorrow as from the hand of a good God and learn to bury our grief in Him.  As only the Lord can orchestrate that which we need at just the right moment, our pastor stepped into our room. He was the first person we told of our loss. The first time I mouthed the words outloud, "Our baby is with the Lord."  My water broke at the end of his precious prayer and he quickly ushered himself out into the hall.  I labored another while before our sweet William was in my arms.  There in my hands, fitting so perfectly in my hands.  The most amazing and sad thing in all the world, to hold your child at that stage of development.

We are so grateful that I was privileged to carry him long enough to know that he was a boy. To see with our own eyes, his very eyes. To be amazed with every perfect little finger and toe.  And to be in awe of "how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child" (Ecc 11:5).  We named him William Livingstone Samuel.  He was exactly what we had wanted, what we had prayed for. But the Lord was not giving us the joyful task of raising him here on earth, ours was that of giving him back.  Of letting go.  Of offering.

We do not know why the Lord decided to take him to heaven so early but we rejoice that he is there!  We put him to rest in a special little garden right outside our bedroom window and are comforted in knowing exactly where his body lies.

As I was reading in the Psalms yesterday morning I was struck again with the simply stated reality of that verse which says: "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146:5).  This last month has been anything but happy and that short statement of cheerful bliss fell heavy on my heart.  It is the direct opposite of all that I have been "feeling".  The word happy is the antonym of all that has been dwelling inside of me.  How does one experience happiness when one is sad?  It is only experienced by those "that hath the God of Jacob for [their] help"!  And what a help He is.  How utterly grateful both Kevan and I are to know this good and gracious God.  This God who comes down to grieve alongside those who are in great sorrow.  Who offers a peace that passeth all understanding to those who are confused.  A God who guards one's heart and mind from the enemy who would seek to fill it with lies and bitterness.

I am grateful for all of Scripture and the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within my ache...living there in order to comfort and teach me all things!  What I have experienced makes me feel empty inside.  It makes me feel broken.  It makes me hurt in ways I have never felt pain.  It leaves me all alone!  But it makes the HOPE more glorious and opens my eyes to the spiritual realm and to the God who never makes mistakes!

The Psalm continues to use the most precious verbs in relation to His most righteous actions.  I want to close by praising my Saviour for all that He has done, continues to do, and will never stop doing for those who are His own.

He "keepeth" truth forever. He "executeth" judgment for those who are oppressed. He "giveth" food to those who are hungry. He "looseth" those who are in chains. He "openeth" the eyes that we may see. He "raiseth" those who are bowed down. He "loveth" the righteous. He "preserveth" those who are strangers. He "relieveth" those in great need (the fatherless and the widow).

"While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being...Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Psalm 146: 1, 5).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Giver of Every Good Gift

I am the wife of an incredible man!  He brings me the greatest happiness!  I am the blessed mother of a darling little delight!  She brings me the greatest joy.  A gift, beyond words!  An answer to prayer, long coming for sure, but arriving just on time!  The very well-known words of Hannah's, "For this child I prayed," is echoed loudly in my own heart of hearts and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I am overwhelmed at the Giver.

I remember the night God came to me.  I remember which side of the bed I was lying on. I remember the way He captured my attention.  I remember my thoughts as if it was yesterday. I remember the request.   I remember the tears.  He had me, yes, but He wanted more of me!  And oh, I wrestled with the Lord, it would seem, for so many years! I had to learn the balance of offering up my earnest desire (for a husband and children) as a sacrifice to be burnt up completely, if He so pleased, and that of grabbing hold with firm grasp and loudly saying "I will not let go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26).  One side sounds so resigned...the other so forceful!  One action can be racked with discouragement, the other with arrogance.  Does God really want to bless me?  Will I really receive greater gifts if I choose to give it all up?  If you have wrestled the Lord like that over any issue, you know exactly what I am talking about!  I had to learn to let go of my desire and cling to the One who gave me that desire in the first place!   He taught me, so beautifully, through the miraculous story of Sarah's barren womb bringing forth fruit in it's old age (through which would come Messiah) that when He places a desire deep in a heartit is planted even deeper in His own!  He desires it more!  

And so I prayed and sacrificed and clung firmly to the "Giver of all good gifts" when the answer was delayed.  And I wondered how long I would wait.  God doesn't send angelic messengers like he did in the Scriptures...they don't show up for lunch and say "it's gonna happen in...let's see...exactly 12 months from today!"  But He does send us messengers of hope...through His people and through His Word!  They may not have the answer we are looking for (the exact one we are dying for), but they do have the ability to encourage and remind us that God will speak, one day!  He will answer!  The morning will come.  

It came for me, I was sure of it, early one January...right to my doorstep.  The "breaking of the day" and the one God had planned all along to be my man!  It wasn't realized, though, for another 2 years (2 hard years)as if God himself touched "the hollow of [my] thigh" putting it out of place in order to remind me that He does everything with purpose.  He allows hard things that are out of our control to teach us to depend on Him in even greater ways.  Marks of ownership, you might call them.  I had learned to trust my God in big ways while singlemy journey of trust had started 20 years beforeand yes, I did remind Him of that fact ("Lord, why now...after all these years...why can't you just give it to me in a sweet and neat package...why does it have to hurt?")and the Lord's response..."will you trust Me again?"  He wanted me to be content (as He worked), to accept the road I must take to receive this good giftthis gift that was coming directly from His hand.  He chose me for this exact gift!  

As I look up from this computer desk I see a picture of two people very much in love (one of them is my husbandsmile) and to the left of my desk I hear sweet lullabies quietly coming through a baby monitor!  I am married!  And our little delight is fast asleep!  And joy, we have another one on the way!  

God loves to give His own children good gifts.  In fact, Scripture tells us that THAT is all He gives!  "How much more shall your Father" (Matthew 7:11)!  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" (James 1:17).  I love the phrase "how much more" and the word "every"!  There is no getting away from the truth.  God loves to shower us with the desires of our hearts!  Every desire, according to His will.  He really does.  Don't demand your gift too early.  Ask for it, yes...but trust His timing.  It is perfect (just like His gift!). He does all things amazing!  

God has only ever shown Himself strong and consoling on my behalf!  Through hard and thorny ways (when the path is actually pitch black), and through times of uncertainty, He has proven to be Protector, Provider, Comforter, Healer, Friend, Miracle Worker...Giver!  

Giver of every good gift!