Friday, May 26, 2017

What's In Your Cup?

When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink.” Exodus 15:23.

I was reading a new book yesterday called She Reads Truth. It is a very powerful book with co-authors who alternately tell their stories of heartbreak and healing. Yesterday, she described an imaginary situation where a group of women come to her home for coffee. They are each given a coffee mug and begin with small talk. She then asks them to imagine that instead of a beverage in the cup, their circumstances are in that cup. She describes the possibilities of the different sets of circumstances in that room. I began thinking of my life and the different beverages I had to swallow. One of my earliest was understanding that the vow I had made before God in marriage ended in divorce. My cup was subsequently filled with a loving marriage, and children that followed. Then one day the cup’s contents began tasting bitter as I realized that my daughter had an addiction problem. Then 8 years later my cup overflowed with the delivery of her life through sobriety which led to her own marriage and my grandchildren, one of the sweetest beverages I have ever tasted. Beverages of cancer, loss of loved ones and broken dreams followed but one thing has been in each drink…the gracious lovingkindness of the Father. My cup is certainly faded and cracked but it holds precious memories of heartbreak and comfort…sin and forgiveness...hopes dashed and dreams realized. The follow-up verse to the one at the beginning has been my experience in every season. ‘And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.’ Exodus 15:25.

What’s in your cup today? Joy and celebration…heartache and bitterness? Are you drinking the bitter waters or are you in a season of the most wonderful drink you have ever known? Whatever is in your cup God is there right beside you. He poured the drink knowing He would bring you through it and experience His best on the other side. There are things of God that we can only learn as we drink the bitter waters that bring us into deep intimacy with Him. The cup might crack but it will not shatter – trust in Him with all of your heart and always remain thankful.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Crumbling Foundations

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me…I will not fear.” Psalm 4:6

A while back Bruce and I discovered that we have mold under our 33-year-old home.  We knew at some point we would have to remediate so we considered our best options.  We found a man who needed work and had recently done the same work under another home.  Bruce ensured that he had the necessary safety equipment, and the man began our work.  The next morning Bruce went to pick up the man but he didn’t answer the door.  Bruce sent a text and received one back from his wife that during the night he had stopped breathing and he was in ICU.  Instantly Bruce’s world seemed to dissolve into chaos.  His imagination took him to places of intense fear as he tried to understand the impact our job might have had on this man’s life.  He called me and asked me for immediate prayers which we both began lifting.  We weren’t sure if he was a Christian so we recited God’s word back to Him that God doesn’t want anyone to perish but everyone to repent and have eternal life.  We begged God to extend this man’s life.  It was certainly a scary day, a day where we ‘prayed without ceasing.’  We finally received word that the man was doing much better and was moved out of ICU.  It was discovered that he had both an undetected heart condition and pneumonia.  Bruce and his friend will be going up there this morning to share the love of Christ with him.  When I think about that first day and the fear, disbelief and chaos we felt I was reminded this morning that ‘God is not a God of disorder but of peace.’ 1 Co 14:33.  I also remembered that God has both the desire and ability to shoulder our circumstances and our fears. 

I know we are not the only ones who have received that text…that phone call…that news.  We all have had our very cores shaken by an event.  We have all wanted to ‘un-see, un-hear or un-discover’ something that is disparaging.  But we must remember that the very breath we take is from God who determines every detail of our life.  He works in us and through us to orchestrate His will which involves many people and many circumstances.  We must believe with wholeheartedness and confidence that our future up ahead is His history, complete and revealed.  With His total knowledge of our future He is not going to make any wrong decisions on our behalf.  They might be tough decisions for us to walk out but we are each equipped by Him with whatever we need to pilgrimage through our circumstances. 

If the foundation feels like it is crumbling beneath you take it God who is the Rock on which we can stand.  He is our firm footing and will not let us fall.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wherever We Go

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

It is so easy to read a passage or verse so many times that it loses its power in the message.  I fear that this is one of those verses that we must intentionally read and pause word by word.  God gives us His do’s and don’ts for our walk.  He knows we have the capability to be strong in Him and very courageous.  He is well aware that when we completely trust in Him, our fear and discouragement melt away.  He describes the places we can count on His strength and courage…wherever we go.

I have experienced this first hand in my own life.  When my sister and dad were both in Hospice, Jesus walked with me down the hallways.  When my knees rubbed against the carpet during my child’s drug use His knees were also bent.  As my tears streamed down my face behind closed doors heartbroken over an issue He was right there wiping them.  When I was driving to the hospital to meet my new grandchild, He was in the car.  He was at my wedding…He was at my loved one’s funeral …He was there and He is here.  This verse boasts that He is everywhere and anywhere all the time.

So, what is your ‘wherever you go?’ Wherever you go might be that interview in hopes of a job. Wherever you go could the bank where you must get a loan to continue to eat.  Wherever you go may be the chemo chair at the medical building, or the hospital to visit your friend or family.  Wherever you go might be to place flowers on your loved one’s earthly resting place.  God promises that there is not one place where He will not accompany you.  It is the only definite in a verse of choices.  Will we choose courage and strength or will we choose fear and discouragement?  Either choice He will not be apart from us.  Either choice He will still be in our midst. Let us affirm that because He is with us wherever we go, we choose His strength and encouraging character.  We chose to believe Him for His word.  We chose confidence that faith is believing that the unseen God goes before us, walks beside us and is our rear guard to protect us. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Gate of Beautiful

Now a man crippled from birth was being carried…to the temple gate called Beautiful where he was put every day to beg…When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money…Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ…walk.’ He jumped to his feet and began to walk.” Acts 3:1-8.

Here is a story of a man who had become accustomed to his disability. He had accepted the life of limitations and weakness. We can only imagine that at some point his prayers shifted from healing to providing. This passage paints the picture of a man who depended on others to satisfy his needs in his infirmity. No doubt that day after day people would give him a few pieces of money for his plight. But as we all know both money and kindness are extinguishable and unreliable. The cripple was begging for something that could not satisfy…would not last…did not heal. It was not until the interaction with those vessels of God, [Peter and John] that his life was forever changed. He went from dependency on man to dependency on God. He went from begging for something temporal to receiving something permanent. He went from being crippled in his circumstances to being liberated in his life. He begged for something small but God granted him something huge.

This man’s story was my story when my sister was sick with cancer. She was so young and was enjoying a beautiful marriage and sweet little daughter. She became terminally ill and so many people approached the gate of Beautiful…God’s throne room. Every day we all begged for more time…more health…more days. But God had a more beautiful plan for her, a plan where her days would never end…her pain would never return…cancer would be defeated for good. So many times, the things we pray for are less than what God is ready to give. We are invited and encouraged to pray for the desires of our heart, but we must frame our prayers with the wisdom and will of God. We must understand that sometimes we ask for desires that contradict the desires God has for our lives or the lives of others. God intensely loves us and relentlessly acts on our behalf to bring about His best for us. If our prayers are framed with knowing God, knowing His ways and understanding His will we will better understand when prayers are answered in a different way.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us..." Ephesians 3:20.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Heaven's Witness

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1.

Yesterday, the heavenly ‘cloud of witnesses’ gained another member. My friend who courageously and faithfully fought cancer for over a year stepped from the grassy knolls of earth to the beautiful streets of gold. The race that was put before her was no doubt the most grueling one of her life. She was a childhood friend of mine and we only reconnected 8 short weeks ago, but Divinity doesn’t consider the calendar the way we do. We talked back and forth many days and the middle school girl of grace and joy was the same middle aged woman who never changed. Her life of faith was one that testified not only from her mouth but also from her actions. One of the last times we communicated was just a week ago, when she was excited to consider that she would be able to start round 26 of chemo. Imagine being hopeful for that, but that was who she was. Forever thankful…forever hopeful…forever believing. Every time she ended her messages it was ‘I am hopeful and thankful for God in this journey, I have given it to Him.’

I will forever think of this beautiful witness when I am feeling overwhelmed. Her beautiful testimony will be in my arsenal when I need to draw a weapon against this world. I know that God placed her back in my life to show me an example of grace, endurance, love and gratitude. She knew Christ alright, along with His sufferings. No matter what, she pressed on believing God for what He claims. The thought of her finishing her race after participating in all that suffering makes me hopeful and thankful. It reminds me that some day after this journey is over I too can take hold of Christ since He took hold of me through the cross. I can be confident that no matter how painful life is, I’m just passing through. I am not a resident of this world but a guaranteed landowner of Heaven. I will miss her but I will see her again when my race is complete.

I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…But our citizenship is in heaven.” Philippians 3:10, 12b, 20.

Waiting on Wednesday

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True” Revelation 19:11.

A few weeks ago, Bruce and I attended a church in Charleston. They were giving an update on their capital campaign which was near the end. They reported that their necessary goal to break ground was $700,000. The previous Sunday was the day that people would contribute the amount that was on their hearts. The preacher said that at the end of the day when all the monies were counted they had only collected $180,000. Can you even imagine how defeating that must have felt for the leadership of this church? They had worked so hard and believed so big but the funds seemed to fall way short of the goal. Then something beautiful happened…God happened. He said that over the next 3 days, checks, texts, emails and online contributions began streaming in. By the end of Wednesday, they had collected in total $680,000! I have no doubt that the other $20,000 was collected shortly after.

On the way home Bruce was sharing how encouraging that story was in his own life. Bruce and I both have been waiting on God to come through big in different areas of our lives. We have tried to be patient and trusting…watchful but not demanding…prayerful but not willful. He turned to me and said, ‘You know, that story tells me that if God hasn’t moved or revealed His plan it’s only the beginning of the week.’ I was wildly blessed by that and assured him those words will preach in my blog! Our Wednesday is coming and God is preparing for that beautiful revelation. As we walk out Monday and Tuesday we will walk in faith, hope, and expectancy that God is who He says and He will do what He promises.

You might be walking out your Sunday…discouraged…lacking something…fearful. You might be sitting right on top of Monday or Tuesday where hope has returned and waiting is your offering. But let me assure you, your Wednesday is coming so hold on! Your Wednesday will catch you off guard because God loves to surprise His children. When we trust big, we will be astonished and amazed by the Wednesday He ushers in.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Ultimate Surprise Party

“‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’” but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 1:9-10.

One day in the summer of 2015, Bruce and I came home to find a surprise party being thrown for both our 25th wedding anniversary and my sister and brother-in-law. It was a great day and I couldn’t believe all of the beautiful details that our children prepared on our behalf. For me, a big part of the joy that comes from events is the processing of the day the next morning in my quiet time. I kept thinking about how as I was walking out my mundane days leading up to that event, they were secretly planning and orchestrating every detail of the surprise. As I was thinking of other things, they were thinking of me. As I slept they were wide awake creating…as I ran errands they were developing ideas…as I was cutting grass they were cutting ribbons and bows. I didn’t see it coming… (well, maybe a little idea) I didn’t hear any whisperings of it…my mind was on other things. When the party was revealed what a joyful day it was!

We live each day completely unaware of the things that God is preparing for each of us. He is orchestrating details that will string together a surprise like no other. He is connecting the dots of things already in place, and creating the next set of dots to hook together in time. We can neither hurry His plans nor alter them without His permissive will. We can make our plans and prepare for situations but it is the Lord who will direct our ultimate steps. We as believers are so confident in His handling of our eternal lives, but why aren’t we as trusting with our lives in the now? We must walk out our days with the confidence that His plans are awesome. We need some faith to know in our hearts that when we see nothing happening on our behalf, God is still working. We need to know that when we feel all alone and invisible, He sees us and is with us. We need to understand that just because we don’t hear the music doesn’t mean our party is not being planned.

I love the thought of God surprising me with unbelievable celebrations while living on this earth. I know that the most beautiful surprise party will be the one where I close my eyes to this earth and open them to heaven.

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9.