Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Love Like None Other

Where has the time gone? We are on the third to the last chapter of An Untroubled Heart. Chapter 10 is "Love of a Father".

What greater display of human love than the disciplinary moment Micca described between her three year old son and her husband Pat. Mitch was angry, hurt, scared and yelled "you're not my dad." I can imagine Pat's hurt as he did not biologically parent Mitch. Yet, Pat responded with such love and grace. "You can hate me if you want, but I will always love you. You're my son. I will never leave you." He mimicked the words of our Heavenly Father. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. Hebrews 13:5b "A true dad also cares enough to discipline his son." That is exactly what Pat was doing with Mitch. That is exactly what God does with us. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son." Hebrews 12:5-6

Micca reaffirms that we should "be confident that nothing can snatch us away from Him [God]." For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 Not death. Not life. Not angels. Not demons. Not present. Not future. Not powers. Not height. Not depth. Not anything.

I don't struggle so much with this but rather fighting to not base His love on what He does. My heart and flesh try to measure His love by how He answers my godly desires. I know He loves me despite my sins and mistakes; however, I can still feel shameful that those actions disappointed Him at one time.

"We let our affection for God grow dim when we experience unexpected troubles or sorrows." Guilty. g.u.i.l.t.y. Write it across my forehead. Put a letter G on my chest. That is me. I am. Hand raised. Head nodding.

I have adamantly expressed that I believe whole heartedly the Christian life is characterized by trials. We are never "free" of them. None of us are exempt. Christ Himself suffered trials and temptations and burdens. There is scripture after scripture after scripture to substantiate this.

John 16:33
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
1 Thessalonians 3:3
So that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
James 1:2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.
1 Peter 1:6
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
2 Thessalonians 1:4
Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Despite this, we can still surmise that during those times God has taken His hand off us and we question His love. We doubt His concern for us. We doubt His involvement in the details. We doubt His presence in our lives. Yet..."God, and what He allows into our lives, is motivated by one thing: love." Grasp that. I must. I must stop and believe that He's allowed the worst pain in the depths of my heart and soul because of His love. Love for me. That is His only motivation. That does bring me comfort in the oddest of ways because I know He would only allow this if He could and will make good from it.

Through each hurdle, each stride, each triumph, God is shaping my character. He is strengthening my faith. His goal is a transformed heart. A transformed life. A transformed character. I believe in that. I trust in that when I continue to ask: Why God? When God? How long God? I know each moment, each day, each trial, each hurdle, He is transforming me into His likeness. He is using my brokenness and transforming it into His beauty.

"But broken is always the right place to be when we're reaching out for Christ's love and forgiveness." Let me be broken if it means enveloping His love, like none other.

Soaking up the Father's Love,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fear: Good vs Bad, Right vs Wrong

I do believe this is the shortest post I've written about our study on An Untroubled Heart. I'm not quit sure why I have the least to say about this topic. Well, I guess technically, the shortest post was for chapter five as I mentioned here why I didn't write the first word on it. So, chapter five is the winner. Yay! You better drink fast because it won't take you a whole cup of coffee as you read this one.
Healthy fear can motivate us to respecting, obeying and doing right. "To have godly fear means to revere and hold God in awe, not offending Him with sin. Reverential fear is a noble and healthy fear of God's greatness and holiness. It's a type of fear that respects the Lord and His ways much like the fear that alerts us to respect danger." Offending Him...that word strikes me differently today. Sinning is something we do wrong. Something that we should not do. But to think of sinning as an offense to God. Wow. To know that something I do would offend God. It puts sin in a new perspective. To know it's not just something we shouldn't do and something that is wrong, but rather even deeper, it is something that offends the Almighty One. Nope. I sure don't want to offend the Father. I'm not sure why I'm seeing this word in a new light...sin in a new light....a new perspective of the gravity of sin.
Healthy fear works for us and leads to freedom. Unhealthy fear works against us and leads to bondage and confinement. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me. Genesis 22:12 Abraham...the father of faith...the father of trust...the father of obedience. What an awesome example. As mentioned previously here, he is one of my faves. I'd put him in my fave fives.
God didn't want to take Isaac. He wanted to give Abraham the freedom of a fully surrendered heart and life. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:19 Just as Abraham respected and revered God the Father, so did Isaac revere his father, Abraham. It's so apparent that not only was Abraham an obedient child of God but he also instilled that into his own child. There's no better desire than to exemplify the same godly fear that Abraham and Isaac showed.
When we fear God, we respect God.
When we fear God, we honor God.
When we fear God, we obey God.
"We show honor to God by displaying reverential esteem for others." I admit I've too many a time acted the exact opposite. Unfortunately I did not realize, as I was disrespecting my beloved, greater than that, I was hugely disrespecting my God. A much bigger offense!!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. Psalm 111:10 I now see during that time I had lost my reverential fear of God. I had blinded myself to His love. I couldn't see how the sin of my tongue and actions was an affront against God.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Revelations 3:19
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. Proverbs 3:7 "When we depart from evil, He is always willing to receive us no matter how far we have roamed."
Thank God for that!!
Fearing and Revering God,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Living in the Great Unknown

The title of chapter eight in An Untroubled Heart, says it all: "Overcoming Fear of the Unknown". Do we not all dislike not knowing and the natural fear that comes which we must overcome?

No uncertainties will be guaranteed. But, certainty of God's provision will be guaranteed.

Many a time--too many a time--my only company while waiting has been worry. To express worry with another makes it seem less valid--less worthy of my time. So, that should drive me to share my worries so as to see how futile they are...but I don't.

Micca shares her worry over death since losing her first husband at a young age of 21. She shared in details of her 21 year old son's recent car accident. The words of the attending officer really exemplified how fortunate Mitch was to be alive, let alone not injured. The only guardrail in miles had saved his life and his car from veering over the cliff. (The guardrail and of course God too.) For all of Mitch's life, Micca was terrified of the mere possibility of her son dying. Here's the kicker: the date of Mitch's accident is the date his biological father (Micca's first husband) died in his tragic burn accident. It was exactly as if God was saying "don't fear my child. I have saved your son." On the date a 21 year old father died, that same date, a 21 year old son was miraculously saved from death. Holy bumps!!

"The only power you and I have over any fear is to place it in God's care."

"We must trust God's plan. Regardless of our spooks, God's plan alone stands firm and true." But what if we see the free will of another person directly change His plans? I've never struggled more with God's plan, God's will, than I have since I've seen Him allow another's free will to take full course.

I love what Pastor and Bible teacher David Jeremiah says about worry. "It comes from the Greek word which means to have a divided mind. So, to be a worrier is to have your mind divided between legitimate thoughts and thoughts that are not legitimate--thoughts which you shouldn't be thinking. Worry is future-focused. The person who worries has two problems: the future is not here, and the future is not his." Enough said, huh?

God will guide the way. God will make a way...where there seems to be no way.

God-focused not event-focused.

"Like the Israelites, we are sometimes called to move forward without detailed instructions." You mean I was to get instructions, even with details? I feel lucky if I get instructions. Mostly I feel l'm flying by the seat of my pants in regards to this blind journey of faith in restoration.

"If we will fall on our face before His throne in total weakness and cry out, He will strengthen and lead us." [my emphasis] Total weakness = supernatural strength.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Much of God's Word is so deep. It may seem like riddles to the passer bys, to the one who skims it quickly. Maybe He does talk in riddles but they are so beautiful, rich, and ever so deep. Ponder these three (paraphrases):
♥to die is to live (Philippians 1:20)
♥those who are last will be first (Matthew 19:30)
♥whoever loose his life finds it (Matthew 10:39)

"Yielding to God's will means that when we come face-to-face with a problem we've never encountered before, we can maintain our peace and actually look forward to the next step God has for us." Look forward? I can honestly say I do because I just want to be out of this phase, this season. Aren't trials only suppose to last for a season? How long is a season? I do look forward to more learning and growing in this time solely alone with God. And, I can look forward to post restoration. Unfortunately, I cannot speak with such excitement as the professional football player did. "When asked why he wasn't saddened by the accident, he explained that since God allowed his football career to come to an end, a new adventure must be awaiting him." I never thought about it but God did allow my marriage to be dissolved. He did/does not condone, desire, or will it but He allowed it. Honestly, I struggle with that. I can see the reasons for temporary separation. I can see the gains.'s still hard to swallow that He allowed a Christian man to divorce a Christian woman with the covenant still in tact. It's like a right brain-left brain war. There are things that excite me on this new adventure. Things that sadden me. Things that should be shared. Things deeply longed to be shared (both specifically with him.)

"We don't have to struggle to live for God. We simply have to let go and allow God to live His life through us." Wow. Though we as Christians do struggle and live a life full of trials, we need not struggle to live for Him. It shouldn't be a struggle. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

"Either our thoughts can take us captive, or we can take them captive." If we are God-focused, we can take our thoughts captive. If we are circumstance-focused, our thoughts can take us captive. Let's not live in captivity unless it's being held captive by Christ. Live in in freedom.

Do I trust in what I see or in Whom I know? David didn't trust in the huge Goliath before him. His faith went much deeper, allowing him to recall God's past provisions and total worthiness of David's trust. Trusting in God "always leads to a greater confidence in God." Have you ever pondered that David gathered five stones (still seemingly not enough in my mind) yet he only used one. This further shows God's provision.

"In order to take captive the lies of the enemy, you and I must know our God." [my emphasis] Amen! Satan is sly and will even twist God's Word, His Truth, to seem true.

Micca quotes Anne Graham Lotz saying: "God has used pressures and pain and problems in my life as the nails that have penned me to the cross. By submitting to Him in those things, I have entered into an experience of death to myself." Each death should bring us closer to God. So if that is the case, then let me ask for more deaths because I want to be as close as possible to the Almighty One and His Son.

Wanting to Live Free-er,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
I know the grammatically correct term is more free but it just didn't flow right as my closing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When the Worst Happens

This chapter seven, "What's the Worst that Could Happen?", stirred a variety of emotions. Of course, I always love to talk me some Noah and Abraham, and Micca starts us off with Noah. Love me some Noah, for sure. [Side note: if you've not seen Adam Almighty, you must. I have never left a theater feeling the presence of the Lord and feeling worship in my soul like I did that movie.]

"He [Noah] was a man of faith and it showed in his works...his lifestyle of faith gave credibility to his message." I want to be sure my message is credible because of a lifestyle of faith too. What could my faith do in the lives of others? What could your faith do in the lives of others? The possibilities of impact are unending.

I'll say it again...I love the story of Noah. He ranks up there with my admiration of Abraham. They both had blind faith. They both had unwavering faith. They had faith without any doubt even though their flesh and the world would've said: This is crazy. You are crazy. This is impossible. (I feel in the depths of the hearts of others--close to me even--they too say this about me and my belief/hope for restoration.) Whether speaking of Abraham's only son Isaac and his willingness to sacrifice him or of Noah building an ark for rain that had never been seen, they exemplify unwavering, undoubting faith...pure and genuine faith in the rawest form.

Something Abraham didn't really experience but Noah did was mockery, judgment, and ridicule. "Nothings says 'weird' like a man on a huge boat shouting 'flood!' on a bright, sunny day, hundreds of miles from any large body of water." ☺ Yet, yet, Noah still believed. Above his fears, above his flesh, he stood strong in his faith in God. He trusted this command from God that He would be his provision and boy was He. I cannot imagine being Noah and seeing the entire world destroyed--no longer as he knew it. Even with all the destruction, He is still God. God is God. Through it all, He reigns. Still on His throne. Unchanged. Unshaken. Unsurprised. "His goodness and mercy have gone ahead of us to secure our future." He definitely went ahead of Noah, huh? We must have faith He's gone ahead of us also.

Remember, how we discussed Goodness and Mercy as God's bodyguards for us? Click here to refresh your mind. "Whatever the outcome determined by humans or nature, God's plan alone will stand." His plan alone. Alone. Nothing else. I have to admit that I struggle with that right now. I guess without knowing and seeing His full purpose and plan, it seems like the choices of others have prevailed. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 It can be a back and forth struggle within my mind. (Thank God right now that you are spared from entering the doors of my mind. ☺) I know He's sovereign and in control. Yet, He allows free will. Yet, He can sway and woo His children to heed His call. Yet, sin happens. Yet, choices not of God are made. Yet, God can and will make good out of those poor decisions (ours and others) for our good. Yet, yet, yet. See the pendulum? See the back and forth? See the frazzled brain in my head? However, I could easily counsel, encourage, and show God's hand and reasoning in someone else's life circumstance. I can summize all the good God is doing in another's tragedy. I can encourage the plan and purpose outside my box but within it, it's so hard to judge so close to home. Make sense? I do see His good from my pain but I can't see the full picture, the full plan, the full purpose. Thus the confusion and battle of my mind.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair. 2 Corithians 4:8 Perplexed but not crushed. Perplexed? Me? You think?

What's the worst thing that can happen? In a weird sense I totally understood Micca's feelings at the loss of her husband, Porter. Mine was not by death but still a massive loss indeed. "I thought nothing else could be worse than the pain and fear that surrounded me during those dark days. I ached inside. I felt so lost, empty, and alone." Like Micca, I too, played the "what if", "only if", "if only" games. Early in the beginning days of my pain, I too had visions like Micca. I heard my name whispered in the middle of the night with a vision of my beloved standing by the bed. On another occasion, I woke in the middle of the night believing him to be next to me only to find it was a "mean" dream. Ugg.

"His love promises to sustain us, restore us, and make us new." I do believe that. He HAS sustained me. He IS restoring me continually. He HAS made me new in a wonderful way. (I only wish a certain someone could see this, would see this.) Amen to all that despite the continual pain. "It doesn't matter what we face in this life when we know that God in His timing, will change the outcome, either in this world or the next." I believe that yet the last three words do not bring me comfort. Changing the outcome of what's caused such pain in the next life seems to be pointless, especially since there is no marriage or marital relationships in Heaven.

"The worst thing that can happen to a person is never to know the love of God and His saving grace." Amen and amen!! That is the worst thing that could EVER happen. Second worse would be to know but not really know His love. To bear no fruit. To have no peace without skating on the edge of redundancy, let me quote it out of the mouth of a babe (Micca's young son, Parker). He answered his own question that he posed to Micca by saying: "Oh, yeah! If you don't know God's love, you can't be forgiven of your sins and go to Heaven. Nothing is worse than that!" Why is nothing worse? Because not only will one suffer misery on this earth but also in the next: hell without Jesus.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 38-39

I know that I have what prevents the worst from happening to me. So, I will never suffer the worst that could happen. Furthermore, I know there are worse things than what I've suffered in my life. There are worse things than being abandoned with despair by one's true love, soul mate, puzzle piece, other pea. I do not diminish the devastation and intense level of total heartbreak. Yet, I've not been beaten. I've not been sexually abused. I've not been homeless. I've not been through hunger. I've not been devastatingly ill. I've not been tortured. I've not been held hostage. I've not been enslaved. I've not been crucified on a cross. I've not been. That's right. So even though the worst thing possible ever to happen to me did happen, it really isn't. It's the worst thing possible to me but not the worst thing possible.

You know I like visuals and formulas so here you go...

Fearless living = partnership with God
Fearful living* = partnership with the world
*phobias, plagues, anxiety, fears

But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Refocus from self-centered to God-centered. "In truth, worry and stress are really symptoms of self sufficiency and lack of trust in God."

Micca shared the testimony she heard of a man who survived the 2004 tsunami. He saw the gigantic wave coming. He saw everyone frantically running. Then, he saw a native man running solo in the opposite direction, opposite of the crowd, oppositve of the natural. Instinct told him to get his family and follow the lone native. "With only a moment to decide, he chose to follow the road less traveled." The road less traveled.

"Whether we are conscious of it or not, each of us chooses the road we will travel in life. We follow either the broad way or the narrow way." For lack of a better word, isn't it ironic that the wider road provides less rewards than the narrow one. One would think a broad path would offer a wide range of opportunities, blessings, and rewards. But isn't that just like our Lord? He rewards and desires in us the opposite of what comes natural to us, to our nature. He rewards the less appealing, the less desiring, the less popular. He rewards the weak who depend on Him. He rewards the poor who give generously. He rewards the meek who are bold for Him. He rewards the lowly who rise to His character. The broad way leads to one result, destruction; but the narrow way leads to bountiful results.

I apologize for the length yet again. I tried with all my might to cut corners and cut words but my spirit spoke what it spoke. Praying the benefit outweighs the length. ☺

When the worst happens....He remains faithful, so remain faithful to Him.

Remaining Faithful to Christ,

© Copyright 2009