Saturday, March 31, 2012

God’s Replenishing Peace

The Lord gave them peace on every side,                                                                    
    just as He had promised...
               ~ Joshua 21:44a NLV

As I awoke this morning, I turned my first thoughts to God and began to pray. I gave praise for His great mercies and thanks for His faithfulness. I spoke to Him about many of my troubling thoughts that had plagued me the last few days and my desire for some relief. I sought forgiveness for where I erred and new strength and His wisdom for this new day. I soon felt ready to get up and start a new day...
Yet, it seemed before I even had my feet touching the floor, I allowed several unsettling thoughts to gather strength and overrule my search for God’s peace. It’s been this way with me for several day now...

As I sat with my devotional before me and my Bible verses ready to be read...I sipped my first taste of morning coffee and read this devotional thought; 
“In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. Our ever growing soul and its capacities can be satisfied only in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has no peace until it rest in God.”  ~ Sadhd Sundar Singh

As I sipped my coffee I paused and agreed with the words I just read. I then too quickly exchanged these God centered words for my earlier troubling thoughts. Feeling a bit overwhelmed so early in the day...I took another sip of coffee and did a quick prayer asking God to please just “zap me” with His peace over my thoughts...please...”   

Taking an even bigger swallow from my cup of coffee...I sighed and continued reading from a different devotional writer;

“Peace is a margin of power around our daily need. Peace is a consciousness of springs too deep for earthly droughts to dry up.” ~ Harry Emerson Forsdick  

      I sat my coffee cup down...

God had my attention! I had just read two separate messages... but they both have the same message about God's peace! So,instead of just pausing on what I had read, I pondered it...and then after a time, I took my journal and wrote down what I feel God wanted me to know. 

I’d like to share these journal thoughts with you. I wrote;

“This morning I have been given several reminders of God’s peace. It is perhaps my greatest need in every day. His peace is what removes my feelings of insecurity and doubts. It calms my fears and relieves my frustrations. It renews my hope and gives full life to my joy...

How do I find God’s peace? Where does it fall so that I may stand under it and let it anoint my spirit when disappointments come at me like rain? Where can I go to swim in it when so many “sudden” undesired disruptions to the good plans I have made for the day having me drowning in distress? 
I need God’s peace for these things...and...Oh, I so need His peace to cover my own procrastinations that cause me great turmoil inside my spirit. 

There are plenty of problems in each day... each problem seeking to steal away the peace God promises me. 

Lord I plead for Your peace! 
As I sit here, pen in hand quietly tired from my thoughts and questions...I’m finally quiet and still. And in the stillness of an early morning with God...I receive a loving answer.

God has not failed me or hidden His peace from me. No, when peace seems to have dried up inside of me... it is I who has chosen to reject the replenishing drink of God’s peace. 
When I set my thoughts on the life’s great battles, instead of placing them on the mightiness of God’s ability to overcome them...

I leave myself open to the storms of life’s raging waves that knock me into deep waters of despair. Once I get my thoughts fixed on the troubles of the day...I may cry out for God to save me...but my eyes are not on God...instead they become fixed on a piece of worldly driftwood floating nearby. I grab for my peace and contentment from it bobbing form... feeling a momentary security. 

In grabbing a temporary solution...I have placed my trust in something my eyes can see but is weak and unable to sustain peace. I have rejected reaching out with eyes of faith and taking hold of God’s Hand trusting that God’s mighty arm is never too short to reach me wherever I am."

Feeling newly washed over in God's replenishing peace, I finished my journal entry with this...

“Lord...forgive me. I have strayed from your peace these past few days. I have wandering away from your streams of peace into the dry endless desert of discontent. 

My eyes have been searching for a quick and refreshing pool of relief but instead of listening to Your voice...I allowed my eyes to be distracted by the mirage of earthy solutions I see in front of me. As I pursued the mirages...they draw me further off Your path for my life. Oh Lord, how they tempted me with this world’s ideas of satisfying peace... 

I have been thirsty for peace. Sooo thirsty Lord...but drinking sand.         

 This morning when I chose to dwell in the desert of defeat I heard your strong yet loving voice shake me from my distressful thoughts; 
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God!”         
Psalms 44:10 NLV

And I turned my eyes up and saw You! You met me with outstretched arms full of compassion...full of peace...reaching out for me!

Praise God...Your love and faithfulness is greater than my faithlessness! Your voice I hear still calling me...You have come to where I strayed away and lifted the burdens of my heart and peace flowed over my soul like a beautiful waterfall. 

Oh, nothing is too difficult for You Lord...such sweet tasting water Your peace is Lord...

Remind me often Jesus...remind me each moment...print it on my heart...there is nothing on this earth that has power over You. Your peace is stronger than any troubles this world brings. have overcome this world...and that truth gives me a replenishing peace..." 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Permission To Grieve

A time to cry... 
      A time to grieve...Ecclesiastes 3:4

“How saddened I am over hearing about your recent loss...”

As I wrote these words in an email to a recent acquaintance who had just experienced the death of her beloved mother-in -law,  I couldn’t help but ask God to give me His words of comfort to write. I also asked the Lord to give me the courage to draw from the well of my own experience in losing someone I loved deeply so that I could express adequately, Jesus’ sorrow for her loss. Although I do not know well this grieving sister in Christ...I have experienced some of what she is feeling from the hard blow that death has struck upon her soul.
So I continued to write...
“My heartfelt prayers are with you and your husband and family as you experience the deepest sorrow and grief that has now taken up residence in your hearts. Although we often feel as Christians that we must keep our focus on the "pleasantries" of death...(by that I mean, to know the joy we have for our loved ones who are now enjoying the delights of Heaven with Jesus, and that one day we WILL see them again)...
In doing so...we inflict further pain upon ourselves by feeling that we have less faith than we should, as we experience this pain and longings in our heart which death has delivered to us.” 
Strange...that a Christian should ever think we will be spared from feeling the excruciating pain from the penetrating cuts death inflicts. 
The loss of a loved one for the Christian is felt as deeply and is of no less pain as it is felt by anyone else in this world. 

We are not exempt from feeling the deepest pain of separation that death delivers. God's Word even encourages us to allow these feelings to be expressed; "There is a time to cry.. There is a time to be sad..." Ecclesiastes 3:4. NLT
We are given even more encouragement to feel our sorrow deeply by how Jesus responded to Martha and Mary upon seeing them suffering tremendous grief over the death of their brother Lazarus four days earlier. Then Jesus cried. ...‘See how much he loved him!”~ John 11:35-36b NCV  

To be completely honest with you...before my husband's death, I minimized Jesus' tears as he comforted Mary and Martha. I attempted to spiritually analyzed them as being only the tears of great sympathy towards his dear friend's  grief. I had removed from them any thoughts that these may have fallen from His grief. I thought perhaps Jesus’ tears were His way of saying to Mary and Martha (and us too), that  “It's ok to cry”...but in the midst of our tears of sorrow, a gently spoken; "Stop crying... Come on, now...Ye of little faith...Where’s your hope?” After all, within a few more moments Jesus would exchange Mary and Martha's tears of sorrow for tears of joy! 
When I only thought of Jesus' tears falling out of sympathy and not out of His own deeply felt sorrow and grief...I removed from my Savior his sincere pain and anguish that He actually felt over the death of His good friend Lazarus. 

When I do that... I also remove from the Christian believer the acceptance to feel the deepest pain and anguish that grief and and sorrow bring and the abundant comfort we will receive when we understand that Christ's tears of sorrow... are mingling with our own.  
After Brad's the moments of my deepest despair, the Lord revealed to my heart that the pain I was feeling was felt completely by His heart as well. I found myself often imagining Jesus siting next to me...his arms surrounding me as He held me tightly to His chest...His tears anointing my head and mingling down, mixing with my own...and then falling safely into nail- scarred hands. My tears so precious to him that they would be collected and kept in a sacred place...treasured by God and recorded in his book.

  “You keep track of all my sorrows.
      You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
      You have recorded each one in your book.” ~
Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
I have learned in my own experience with sorrow and grief...that God does not look upon my grieving heart as one that is weak in faith or hope because I loved and grieved so greatly. 
The separation which death delivers is overwhelming to all of us and Jesus not only understands...He knows what it feels like...personally.  
Yes...Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead that day he cried with Mary and Martha ...Yet, no matter how fleeting the time of actual separation death had brought to Lazarus’ loved ones...the painful cut inflicted by death was felt. It was harsh and it cut deep ...and it was felt by Jesus as much as it was felt by Mary and Martha...and by us today when a loved one of ours dies.
Death may win battles but it can not claim victory. Glory to God! In the midst of our greatest sorrow and pain...God is faithful to deliver to all who call on the name of Jesus in faith...Hope. 
We are given a hope that gives us the strength and power of God to live for Christ one more day at a time... renewed with His joy...until we are once again reunited with all those in Christ whom we love. We will all be with Jesus!
Each day on earth we carry the longings of our heart to have another day with our loved one, but there along side these longings is a companion that also abide in us...hope. This hope is a secure anchor which Christ delivered inside of all believers through His defeat of death...(John 20). 
Perhaps you not so unlike me a few years ago when I misunderstood  Jesus’ tears. Believing they fell only from a sympathetic love for Mary and Martha’s grief, and not from the pain of his own grief over his friend Lazarus’ death.  
You may have recently found yourself while trying to comfort a grieving Christian friend, that you are a bit too "quick" to remind them only of the joy they should hold in knowing their loved one is "In a better place", without first seeking to understand their sorrow personally and just weep with them as Jesus did. If so, I pray this helps you to see a better way to comfort.

Yes...we should encourage each other with the hope we have of Heaven and the abundant joy we will experience in seeing our loved ones again, but...everyone really does need to have a time just to mourn... and a time to be filled with sadness as well. When we attempt to skip over this part of the pain we are experiencing in the loss of a loved one...we delay the healing that comes from finding the comfort in our pain that only Jesus' compassionate love will provide. I sought God’s leading as to what I could say in closing and to bring my new acquaintance some comforting words... The Lord graciously gave to me in the words He spoke in my heart to share, a new and precious piece of comfort for my sorrow as well. 

Here is what the Lord had me share...
Thankfully, Jesus doesn't see our sorrow in a condemning light fact, His compassion and loves draws Him to sit with us..wrap His arms tightly around us...and anoint our heads with His healing tears as he weeps with us.  May you, your husband, and all who loved your mother-in-law so greatly...draw closer to Jesus under His cover of healing which He is providing just for you in your sorrow... it will be there you will find rest under God's blanket of mercy and grace and in His amazing love for you.~ In His Grace, Kathy 

So grieve fully my Christian friends without believing your faith is weak. But...please, do not grieve without knowing Jesus is faithfully at your side as well! He will not only listen to your cries of sorrow and grief...he will respond to them with the perfect understanding of One who also feels your pain.                                                                                                               

Even greater still...

Jesus is able to provide you with a blanket of tenderness to cover your sorrow with His healing mercy and grace, and the most amazing love that heals all wounds with the salve of Hope. 

Glory! How I love you Jesus!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pushing The Limit

“...Their sins are constantly pushing the limit....” 1 Thessalonians 2:16b (CEB)
I almost didn’t open the letter addressed to me from the Virginia Beach Police. I was thinking it was probably one of those Support Your Local Police fundraiser letters. Not that I don’t want to support my local police..but, I just wasn’t feeling “led” to support financially while I held the letter in my hand. 

Yet...something inside of me led me to open it anyway. Well...I think you can imagine my surprise when I saw what was inside was not a letter, but a citation!  

My thoughts went racing as I scanned the letter. At first, I believed this has to be some kind of horrible mistake. Why would I get a citation? What have I ever done that should warrant one? I just knew...someone must have stolen my identity and now the police think that I, a model citizen, has done something wrong. 

Unfortunately, my scanning soon led me to the realization that I had indeed been seen least my car had been have broken the law. The letter contained three photos of my car taken from a Red Light Photo Enforcement Program. The citation stated that I had “run a red light”. 


I know that I do not “run red lights” so this had to be a mistake! I was mentally reciting my defense for the traffic court judge as I went on- line as the citation suggested to watch a video of my “offense”.  

I must of watched that brief video twenty times or more. When I first watched it, I recalled the day I was at this intersection. I rarely travel to this particular intersection, so it wasn’t hard for me to recall where I was going and even what actually happened that day I had quickly “rolled up” to the light in question. I was running late for an appointment and when I had reached the “red light” I quickly paused to see if any cars were coming and saw that they too were stopped at the intersection. I knew instinctively that their light would soon turn green so after knowing I was “clear to go”...I quickly did just that. 

As I watched my violation video over and over, I kept thinking, it was not really “clear” that I didn’t actually stop. I mean...I did pause! The citation said I was found “running a red light”. Well, that’s not true. You can clearly see my red brake lights are on as my wheels ever so slowly come to an almost complete stop. I did not RUN the red light. 

I began to feel a surge of “injustice” has been done to me. I need to fight this charge since I do not deserve to be placed in the same category of “traffic offenders” know...those who REALLY DO run red lights. 

I decided I could reasonably defend myself as one who “felt” that I stopped long enough and therefore...I do not deserve the citation or the $50.00 fine that goes with it. 

Feeling assured of victory, I felt a moment of satisfaction...but only a moment. When in the next moment I felt the very clear tugging on my heart to confess the truth of what I was really doing in all of this. While losing myself in my pre-sentence posturing...I had forgotten one important fact – I'M GUILTY.

Try as I might to rationalize or minimize my behavior, one blaring truth remained... I got caught! There is a law and I broke it. I may have escaped notice by those around me or even by an actual police officer...but I know about the law of which I am not ignorant. It was not the camera’s fault, it is mine. 
Yet...when I was busy minimizing my degree of law breaking by pausing instead of stopping...when I rationalized my offense as being “less than what others do”...especially those drivers who actually RUN a red light...which is CLEAR to all they have broken the law in comparison...have I not just attempted to see my sin of ignoring the law as less than the sin of another? 

Am I not trying to "push the limit" of what the law says?

Strange...I never thought I would ever “relate” myself to the Pharisee in the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18:9-14.

The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” ~Luke 18:11 NASB 

Boy was I ever missing out on the understanding of my guilt! Like a “roll through traffic” disciple, I was looking around at the other “red light runners”, and not the offense I made...thinking that maybe I'm not really guilty – or at least not as guilty. 

You know...I don’t really want or expect God to allows me to “roll through” in regards to his commands.

When I minimize my guilt, I minimize His grace...and His grace changes everything! Knowing my guilt.... His grace frees me to obey Him. Like the camera at the intersection that caught me...the law is no longer a burden but an avenue through which I can express my gratitude for the protection it intends for me to live under.

The Pharisee in this parable loved little not because he had little guilt, but because he THOUGHT he had little guilt. I do not want to be found in such a condition! Thankfully the Holy Spirit guides me to heed His teaching and open my eyes to confess my guilt unafraid.

Our desire to remain aware of how very much we have been forgiven is not so we will feel condemned. Let us not be afraid to confess our guilt – that we might fully see the vastness of his grace. His grace changes everything.

“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect this good thing that has been placed in your trust through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”                 
~ 2 Timothy 1:13-14



Saturday, March 3, 2012

What Is Faith?

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” ~ Hebrews 11:1 NLT
God allows us to find ourselves in places where “we cannot see”.  
So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”           ~Exodus 14:22 ~ NLT

Can you just imagine with me what it must have been like to have been one of the Israelites? You are finally loose from the bondage of slavery. 

It began as a sweet relief as you trust God and your guide to take you and your family towards a better life. Your head is swimming with thoughts of finally being free to relax and actually enjoy your life and the fruits of your hard  labor. You even begin to dream again... as you walk away from your past trials, you begin to feel secure in the decision you’ve made to follow this godly man Moses. 
As long as you can see the route Moses has paved for you to follow, you are unafraid to follow it... even though you can not actually see him up ahead or know exactly where you will be when it ends. The promises that it will be a land of” milk and honey”  has you excited. 

Your confidence grows as you see the footsteps of others who have gone ahead of you and feel at least confident enough to follow along . 

But then before your new dreams can begin to provide you the peace you have been discover your past is trying to catch up with you and destroy the progress you have made. You quickly become filled with anxiety and fear. 

To make matters far discover you have followed a path that you know by sight was provided by God’s provisions..but this path has led you to the edge of the deep Red Sea! 

“Why would God do this?” you cry out.  Panic and anger begins to rise up inside of you have nowhere to turn!  If you turn around or will be killed by Egyptian soldiers, and well...swimming the Red Sea is not an option...

When the Israelites saw the king and his army coming after them, they were very frightened and cried to the Lord for help.They said to Moses, "What have you done to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? There were plenty of graves for us in Egypt. We told you in Egypt, 'Let us alone; we will stay and serve the Egyptians.' Now we will die in the desert."  
 But Moses answered, "Don't be afraid! Stand still and you will see the Lord save you today. You will never see these Egyptians again after today.You only need to remain calm; the Lord will fight for you." ~ Exodus 14:10-14

Perhaps you don’t have to imagine very hard what it feels likes to reach a place that looks like a  Dead End.  Like the Israelites’ve faced the edge of the Red Sea... 
“Dead End” could have gotten its name at the edge of the Red Sea... except it turns was  not a Dead End.. instead it was an opportunity for Faith to be an action of Trusting God to display His faithfulness and allow us to display our trust
Our Heavenly Father always has a purpose in the impossible places He leads us to where we can not see how He is going to work it out and keep us safe. It is in our impossible situations, that God calls us to have faith.  Hebrews 11:1 says that faith "gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” 
Can you just imagine the faith it took each man, woman, and child, to walk between the high and parted waters of the Red Sea and believe that they would get to the other side without the waters coming crashing down on them? 

What strength of faith it took to take not only that first step... but the faith it took to continue walking and feeling even more blinded about their journey when they no longer could see a shoreline behind or in front as they crossed the middle of the sea!
Like the Israelite who couldn't see a way out; only faith will see you through. 

What impossible solution has God instructed you to follow?  The purpose of places in which we lose our vision is to strengthen our faith. I pray that if this is where you are today, you will let God's promises give you assurance about the things you cannot see. 

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. ~ George Müller