Monday, April 27, 2015

When It Rains, It Pours

I recently announced to my visiting relatives, "In one night we received nearly an inch of rain!"  They laughed.  Coming from the Pacific Northwest an inch seems like nothing.  But from the desert of Colorado it is everything.

I don't know why, but when the rain sets in to stay for the evening, I sleep really well.  Maybe its because of the nostalgia it emits from my childhood where rain was part of everyday life.  Or perhaps it is simply the comfort of its rhythm bathing the earth in green.  At any rate, I've taken great delight in our recent rains.  They seem to speak volumes of God's mercy on our parched land. 

But the cool moisture of outside has entered my heart as well, because "before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear". (Isa. 65:24) I've been treading some dry ground lately, but just in time, the rains have come.  God has poured out his mercy in my life and shown me that He is not silent, but rather, very much on the move.

In a week that seemed overwhelming, God surprised me with some answers.  I was at an orientation meeting at the high school, a rather mundane, ordinary, been there, done that, sort of meeting, when out of the blue a contact was made for my daughter.  A contact I've been seeking for almost a year. 

God surprised me with yet another answer.   Not ahead of time, but just in time, He opened the way for a crucial appointment I had struggled for weeks to obtain. 

Still more, I thought the door was closed on an opportunity, but last week it opened and not just one door, but hints of two.  I don't know why or how, but I believe God is cutting me off of ministry in one area so that I might be free for another.  Something scary, something new, but a place I want to go because I know it means a burst of growth.

Because of my crazy, non-stop, activity laden week, I was running out of time to write my last chapter of a Bible study I've been teaching.  But God opened up a time slot and enabled me to complete the writing in just a few hours.  Furthermore, as I taught said lesson, I sensed the power of His Spirit flowing through me.  Plus, God gave me an idea for an activity which cemented all the other lessons together. . . and the time to implement it.

And then there is last night, where a young man, a teenager of whom much has been invested, gave testimony of his faith through baptism.  I was blown away.  What a change has come over his life since we first met him.  He leads his family in this step of faith.  

Though I've felt spiritually barren these last months, God has given me His promise that He will bring me back to a season of fruitfulness.  The last two lessons I've taught for kid's club just "happened" to be on God's promise to Abraham, that he would give him as many descendants as the stars in the sky.  God was His shield and protector.  Likewise, when Jacob ran into deep conflict with his brother Esau and had to flee to a far away land, God met him in the night with a promise. He would bring Jacob back to this land.  It would not be gone to him forever, for God "knows the plans that He has for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future."  (Jer. 29:11)

When it rains it pours.  God, though at times silent, is not aloof.  Nor is He unaware.  He sees.  He knows.  He waits until just the right time and then opens the floodgates of heaven to pour out His blessing on our hearts.

I often pray, Lord, open my eyes to see You.  God is constantly moving in my life, but I do not always recognize it as from Him.  What a shame to miss Him!  Adjust the strings, Lord.  Align my will with Yours, Jesus.  Tune my heart into Your presence.  Be lifted high in my life!

"Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!"
Isaiah 30:18

Friday, April 24, 2015


When I got up this morning and thought about everything that had to be accomplished today and this weekend, I was tempted to go back to bed.  How long can I carry on at this pace?   

Weekends generally carry the connotation of rest and relaxation, but for my family, the tempo always increases a few beats.  Yet, my heart is full.  The presence of the Lord has been so tangible over the last month, His work in my life so visible to me, that I almost feel like an onlooker peering in. 

Just this morning I read that "no one can snatch anyone out of [God's] hand", and that "no one can undo what God has done."  (Isa.43:13)  What encouraging words in relationship to my latest storm!  Surely, "From eternity to eternity I am God", declares the Lord.  It doesn't seem to matter how frazzled I feel, if I know this one thing, that God is with me and that He is in control, then the winds can beat out their furry.  Surely, the Lord gives "a peace that passes all understanding!"  (Phil. 4:7)

As the morning rituals began, lunches made and breakfast on the table, I began to sense an attitude change.  Something I heard on the radio earlier in the week came back to me.  So often I revert back to a sinner saved by grace, which is, in fact, in one sense, what I am.  But in reality, it is what I once was.  Now I am a saint indwelt by the Holy Spirit who empowers me to live in obedience.  The very life of Christ lives in me!  What a concept!  I think if I really truly grasped this truth it would change my entire attitude.  This day is not something to get through nor to dread.  Rather, it is an opportunity to know His life lived through me. 

Don't get me wrong.  I often fail . . . miserably.  In fact, I'm still reeling from my last big mess up.  And that's not to mention the smaller, hidden yuck that I battle every day.  But I'm learning that if I enter my day with the attitude of who I am in Christ, then the chances for being an overcomer are much higher. 

There are days, even weeks, when I behave like my God is small.  The calendar marches on and I just try to keep up.  Yet, it seems peculiar that when I simply do the next thing, not knowing how everything else will be accomplished, God shows Himself capable to handle all that concerns me.  (A practical definition of faith.)  My most hectic days turn into the most rewarding because God delights in showing Himself strong on my behalf.  And in this place His presence glows warm.

Today I am truly grateful.  His Word has been like arms wrapping me close to His heart, enfolding me in grace.  Much of it is too personal to share here, but I will say this.  What seems to be ending in my life, cut off, is only a season of death and burial.  It lies dormant so that roots might grow deeper.  God has chosen me for fruitfulness and by faith I believe it to be true.  Because even though He has done great things in my past, "it is nothing compared to what [God] is going to do.  [He] is about to do something new."  (Isa. 43:18-19)  God doesn't need me, but he wants me, and my desire is to be about my Father's business.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cut Off

In one swift motion, the door closes on several areas of my life.  Like branches which fall to the ground, they are cut off from fruitfulness, and I grieve the loss.  Pruning appears so harsh.  It leaves the tree looking awkward, exposed, and stripped of all dignity.

In my recent musings on the death and resurrection of Christ, I've been brought near to the thought  that Jesus was cut off from descendants, cut down in His prime.  At the very moment when life was snowballing in success, when crowds followed and impact was immense, He is suddenly brought low.   The cross seemed a devastating defeat. 

We know we will share in His glory, but why so reluctant to share in His sufferings?

I've been waiting on the Lord, because I know that when there are so many "nos", surely He has a "yes" in mind that is far greater than anything I could ever imagine.  Yet, when it comes to the building of my character or to personal growth, God never seems in a hurry.  Surely, He has appointed me to bear fruit, but in that purpose there must first be a dying to myself, a tamping down of the earth, a burial.  And then comes the long wait when it seems nothing is happening.

Though I have not actively chosen it, God is taking away ministry opportunities, cutting me down in the very area of what I thought were my gifts.  It's like He is forcing me to rest, and I can do nothing but be still.  Lies whisper spiritual barrenness, a wasteland of prickles and sand.  But I know better.

Just this morning I read that "the wasteland will rejoice and blossom...yes, there will be an abundance of flowers, singing, and joy!  The deserts will become as green as Lebanon..."  It is "there that the LORD will display His glory".  (Isa. 35:1-2) 

Yesterday, I was walking in the desert, and now today there is snow, coveted moisture for our drought laden spring.  It has not stopped, but continues in big fluffy flakes.  Without a sound it falls.  So still, so silent, but so effective.

Over the last month, Thursdays come with tired hands and weak knees.  Fear springs up and threatens to choke the life right out of me, and yet integrity would have me finish my commitment.  But the Lord says to those with fearful hearts, "be strong" and "do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.  He is coming to save you."  (Isa. 35:4)  And though the context of Isaiah 35 is actually referring to the end of the age when Jesus will come to reign bodily on this earth, because it was my reading for this morning, I believe God's Spirit was speaking to my heart for this day as well. 

Waiting is required in every season, not just that of sowing seed.  Just when a tree seems well established and about to flower, there is this stripping of its branches, requiring even more waiting.  Yet, as we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will not be utterly destroyed, but we might be cut off.  However, Jesus, as our risen Lord, has adopted us into His family where now He reigns with so many descendants they can scarcely be counted!  Surely, what is cut off can be grafted back in to produce a beauty that is unique and even fuller than it had been before. 

Almost every day on the way to other places, I walk by this tree, a testimony to the power of God.

At first glance, this tree appears like any other tree in the park.  But a close look reveals something unusual at its trunk, a grafted branch. 

Any other time of the year it remains hidden, but in spring the truth becomes clear.  It has defied all odds.  What was cut off has been made new.   What was devoid of life, now lives triumphant.

Only by the blood of Jesus can life flourish in this manner, hence the tinge of pink, a soft reminder of the sufferings of Christ which makes me white as snow. 

"And a great road will go through that once deserted land.  It will be named the Highway of Holiness.  Evil minded people will never travel on it...only the redeemed will walk on it."  (Isa. 35:6-7)  

Like a bride who waits in eager expectation for her groom, so I long for the return of Christ, when righteousness will rule.  Even so come, Lord Jesus, come!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why Does It Matter?

Certainly, there was no need for the stone to be rolled away.  Like Jonah who was spewed from the mouth of a large fish, so the ground could not hold Jesus back.  The stone was removed, not to let Jesus out, but to let people in!  Jesus wanted us to look inside. 

He offers an invitation.  Come and see!  "He is risen, just as He said!"  (Matt. 28:6)

So often we explore the evidence, and it is, indeed, overwhelmingly outstanding!  But there is so much more to Jesus' resurrection than proof, for His risen life makes all the difference in ours.  Not only do those who place their faith in Christ receive a heavenly home, but we receive power for living . . . today, and for the rest of our lives.  We do not have to live in sin and defeat.

In the natural world, gravity is always present, pulling us down, yet, with a power greater than gravity, such as a jet, we can defy it.  Likewise, as long as I dwell on this earth, my natural inclination is to live selfish and proud.  However, Jesus' resurrection life fuels me with power to live differently.  Because He overcame, I too, can overcome. 

Those of you who've read this blog for some time may be wondering, then, why all these struggles of which I speak?  If Christianity is such a journey into trials, why choose it?  And I would reply, "Why fly an airplane or climb a mountain?  Why watch a bird soar or send a kite on the wind?"  We were made for fellowship with God, and are most happy when we live in obedience to Him.   Yes, it is a struggle to fight against the gravity of sin, but nothing can compare to the presence of God in the midst of the fight.  God is never closer than when we are surrendered to Him.  And without Him, we are dead in our sins. 

Though the difficulties cause pain, yet, I would not have it different, for God has shown Himself to be my provider, my shepherd, my comfort, my refuge, my advocate, my strength, my peace, my joy, and so much more.  It is through these trials that He shows Himself strong on my behalf, because His Spirit dwells in me.  When the hurricane forces come, I know that my roots are established in His love, for nothing can separate me from the love of God.  (Rom. 8:38-39)

This love never fails because it depends on God, not me.  It is a continual flow of grace, which is made possible through the blood of Jesus, always ready to forgive and make new.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, I live.  This is not a mere existence, striving to get through the day, but a daily empowering by His Spirit.  I can be confident that wherever He takes me, I can thrive in His presence and know His joy.

Furthermore, I know that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Rom. 8:18)  My time on this earth is only a tiny dot compared to the line of my eternal home which goes on forever.  Though I cannot always see, I believe in God's control and trust Him to carry me through, no matter the trial, for He is faithful. 

This is one reason we proclaim with such enthusiasm, "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!"

Come and see for yourself.  If you will believe, this Easter will be like none other, for the very life of Christ will set you free from the power of sin and death.  Now, that's something worth singing about! 

"and on this rock, I will build my church, 
and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
(Matt. 16:18) 

"in all these things we are more than conquerors 
through him who loved us."  (Rom. 8:37)

Friday, April 3, 2015


I was in prison, awaiting my penalty, when I heard them coming.  Angry they shouted, "Crucify him!  Crucify him!"  Fear gripped my heart, tightening my throat.  Though I knew I deserved it, the thought of crucifixion terrified me.  My time had come.  Soldiers rattled the iron gate and called me out.

"You are free to go," they declared. 

What?  No crucifixion?  Then what of the crowd?  Why so angry and who did they mean to crucify?  The soldier said it again, "Go!"  Without looking back, I ran through the streets, strength filling lungs and legs, the words echoing through my mind, "Free to go, free to go..."

Life is unfair, we often think when we run up against struggles.  Unfair?  Surely, if life were fair, death is what we would receive, separation from God forever.  Jesus faced injustice at every turn, but the freedom of Barabbas is perhaps the most severe injustice of all.    

The events of these last weeks have placed my life on trial in a way I have never experienced before.  And though it is nothing compared to what Jesus went through, yet, to know a tiny taste of His suffering has sharpened my senses to its reality.

Last night, I watched the movie, Ben Hur.  It is a tradition I hold to every Easter, and yet the scene which touches me most deeply is when Judah walks through the leper's cave, searching for his diseased and dying sister.  Finding her, he wraps his arms around her frail body and buries his head against her chest, exposing him, a man in his prime, to leprosy.   How could it be, that holiness would touch filth? 

Jesus entered this world in a smelly stable.  But in His death on the cross, He embraced my filth.  He did not stand at a distance.  No, love drew Him close, near enough to touch the untouchable, and in doing so, He was cut down in His prime.  Scarcely recognizable, His body brutally beaten, He was cut off from any descendants. 

How can it then be, that heaven is filled with His children?  Only because when a seed is planted in the ground and dies, it later produce much fruit. (John 12:24) Jesus, this tender shoot, the holy seed from the stump of Israel, died, was buried, and then rose in triumph.

 "Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  Death is swallowed up in victory."  (1 Cor. 15:55 with Isa. 25:8) 

One day, I will stand before a holy God and justice will be paramount to my eternal destiny.  But herein lies the most severe injustice, for Jesus will say, "You are free."  What?  Like Barabbas, I experience the injustice of grace, life unfair in my favor because Jesus, an innocent man, took the punishment I deserved.  And yet, like a gift, it does not become mine until I receive it, for "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  (Rom. 10:9) 

This undeserved favor causes my heart to burst with gratefulness!  How deep the Father's love for me, that I should be called a child of God!  (1 John 3:1)   The following is the song of my heart, the song of a soul set free. 

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold, the man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers,
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life-
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from his reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart-
his wounds have paid my ransom.

by Stewart Townend