Warm Wednesday Words: I am Learning

I Surrender AllI’m learning God wants my devotion to Him and not what I want from Him.  Slowly  learning.  A few years ago someone  said to me, “Whatever you think you must have in order to experience peace with God is an idol.”  [Insert eye opening head thump here.]  Putting it into practice doesn’t come quite as quickly as the revelation, though.  Life goes on with some improvement in that regard.  Yet, old fretting habits and figuring things out logically, well, they die hard.

Fast forward to the new year, 2014.  I listen to “I Surrender All”, this time in yet one more arrangement and style on Pandora.  And it hits me.  One more thing I have not surrendered since I am nearly sweating bullets if ____ happens.  Yikes.  I thought I surrendered “all” the last time God laid it out plain for me in a different trial.  Guess I put back on a few more layers of “my way” again in my thinking.  Not that “my way” is anything bad. In fact, it’s peaceful, lovely, not offensive and usually socially desirable.   It might be “your way” too, if you knew.  It’s just…well…MY way, and not necessarily the way God will choose.

So I resolve to lay it down.  Yet, how quickly and subtly I entwine another layer or two of my own logic into my prayers.  A few weeks later, I read in my “Utmost for His Highest” devotional, ‘were you devoted to your desire or to God?’.  Okay, God.  Trying.  Thanks for your patience and reminders.  I’m learning to embrace the occasional darkness of dismay and getting better at seeing His light shining into it.  I’m learning to marvel at His continual grace.  I am reminded that Jesus works in the supernatural, not in common sense ways.  If He finds it best for my soul (or that of another) to grant what I ask of Him, He will do the impossible above all I ask or think.

Then I read in the March 25 “Utmost” devotional, “A beautiful saint may be a hindrance if he does not present Jesus Christ but only what Christ has done for him.”  Yes, my testimony is important and it is often about what God has done for me, but ultimately it is about who He is to me!  It’s about me making Him my master ambition.  No circumstance can ever mess with that.  I am learning this is a place of peace and unspeakable joy.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Slowly.  I am learning.

Trust without borders

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

Warm Wednesday Words: Grace Inspires

amazing grace how sweet the sound

When I think about the grace that has been given me at the cross, I am humbled and deeply inspired to respond in devotion.  I know that I share with human kind the desperately wicked heart malady that birthed sin back in the Garden of Eden, and I am forever grateful for a Savior who chose excruciating affliction in my place.  He vacated His throne to be humbly born and live among us, suffered every kind of trial known to man, was tortured leading up to the cross, carried the tribulation to completion, paying every debt while hanging for all to see on a cross.  There, pride was nailed in place by the King of Kings, who knew its insidious evil.  He refused to indulge in it.

He is Risen

I am amazed that during those hours of extreme pain, He spurned relief because of His great love for the likes of you and me.   He could’ve called ten thousand angels.  But He didn’t.  He had us on His mind.  And that’s a claim no one can make undergoing that kind of suffering.  Not one of us would languish in agony until death for our enemies, when we had a choice to end it with one word.   Amazing grace.

love not nails held Him

I wholeheartedly concur with Carl Boberg,  “And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

my God how great thou art

That grace that saved me inspires a response.  It calls me to devotion, obedience and action.  If I were to go on about my life like nothing ever happened and change is not vital, I  would need to take another look at whether I had ever truly repented.  At the very “least” (really not so “least” at all), pride would be replaced with humility and gratefulness.  If I continuously and knowingly take advantage of the grace I received as a result of Christ’s suffering and victory over sin, something is very wrong.   In regard to this very subject God uses Paul to say in Romans 6, “By no means!

kneeling at cross

To quote another hymn writer, George Bennard,  “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.”  Do you cherish the salvation that is offered you because of the cross?  How does it inspire you to respond?

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

Warm Wednesday Words: Get social

community doing life together

How do you socially connect with those around you?   Beginning with the Trinity, and thereafter with Adam, then Eve, and on down through time, God designed and modeled social connections.  From invading Adam’s personal space when He breathed life into his nostrils to sharing friendship in the first garden with Adam and Eve, God showed Himself to be social and still does in your life, too.

God with Adam & Eve

While there are times when a silent retreat is needed and good, as in Jesus example of getting away to pray alone or with a few followers, most of His adult life was spent in connecting and engaging with individuals and crowds.  He had a mission both with the lost and with His followers.  Social pretense was and is a waste of time with Him since He can see right into heart motives.

prayer and solitudeAs Brandon Cox said in his book, “Rewired”,  ‘boundaries, in their proper place can be a good thing…What I am saying, however, is that keeping people away usually makes us feel safe, and not in a good way.  We live in the most connected yet disconnected age since the Garden of Eden..we are lonelier than ever, and our isolationist ways have left millions struggling through life…honesty and intimacy are far more difficult than silence…’

cold loneliness

While appropriate boundaries are occasionally needed, in our society walls are too conveniently erected and fortified, and silence magnified in our relationships.

walls instead of bridges

In our day and age, it is not the lack of connections that breeds loneliness and worse maladies.  It is the silence we allow in those connections.  Overcoming silence with friendly and encouraging words may very well be that “cup of cold water” that is needed today, both inside and outside the church.  “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matt. 10:42) And what better way to display to the world the love God has given, then to start within the church and go out.

speak life & truthTypical modern day lifestyles are often missing healthy margins and can be the death knell for maintaining social relationships, therefore it is becoming a trend to seek out receptive places to listen, speak and connect.   Socializing is sprawling into constantly changing networks; i.e.  facebook, twitter, blogging, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, google, tumblr and more.  Some are surface skimming social avenues, but many have the means to go deeper.  Churches who encourage and support small groups and small group atmospheres are onto the modern day needs of all ages within their membership.  The kinds of relationships that result are an attraction to a lonely world.  Online social groups, such as (in)courage  offer places where friendships can be made and enjoyed to whatever depth and extent you desire and even encourage real life meetups by sponsoring annual  simulcasts and other supports for such gatherings.   The example of those engaging in social networking and small group fellowships may just be the winning ticket to stamp out the societal ill of problem-breeding relational silence and loneliness.

social networkingPerhaps it is the modern day come back to front porch chats among neighbors back when the word “neighbors” meant something more personal.  What ways do you think socializing has changed, for better or worse,  in recent years?  What ways can you socially give “a cup of cold water” to someone?  What ways might you be denying one by your silence?

cup of cold water

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150

 

Warm Wednesday Words: It’s the Small Thing

IMAG0501

A small thing that makes a big difference is…to sing.  Edmund Clarence Stedman, a late nineteenth century poet, said, “Faith and joy are the ascensive forces of song.”  It doesn’t matter what kind of voice you have as long as you can make a noise.  Heartfelt singing lifts depression, reduces stress and anger, instills gratefulness and joy, unscrambles jumbled thoughts and and desires into prayers, exercises your lungs, improves circulation, decreases muscle tension, tones your facial muscles, releases pain relieving endorphins, improves your immune system and, best of all, when worshipful, invites God into your circumstances.

worship is a lifestyle

Singing with a group adds even more benefits.  It is a powerful experience to abandon “self” for the immersion into a corporate body of believers for unifying worship in which God’s very presence is felt.

corporate worship

Ps. 147:1 says, “Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and a song of praise is fitting.”  Ps. 104:12 says, “Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches.”  Prisoners in deplorable conditions have found joy from hearing a bird sing outside their cell each morning.  Others have gained peace from the recollection of a song.  As Paul and Silas prayed and sang while in prison, God sent an earthquake to break the bonds of all the prisoners and then used Paul and Silas to bring them and the jailer to heart freedom.  When you choose joy in your trials and sing praises, you might just witness the unexpected and miraculous.IMG_6169

As Jesus was making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his disciples broke out in joyful praises of God.  When the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke them, He replied, “I tell you, if they were to keep quiet, the stones would cry out!”  Like some today, the Pharisees were impervious both to the contagiousness of joy, and, of far worse consequence, to the humble insight that would recognize Jesus as Savior and Lord.

triumphal entry

During many of the early years of raising our family, we attended a home church which employed an hour of  A Capella worship each Sunday before communion.  The men and boys called out the songs of choice for their families, and my kids nearly always chose “The Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands”.  Breathtaking imagery is harnessed in the visualization of merging with nature in majestic praises.

go out in joy

For me, singing propels faith, joy, thankfulness, love, hope, and peace into prominence as I go about my daily chores, and it articulates heart prayers.  What small thing makes a big difference in your life?

Coffee-for-Your-Heart-150