Thursday, August 28, 2014

This Hope

I just finished my She Reads Truth journal page, took a picture of it for Instagram, and told the Lord that it was all for Him.

And then I walked to the bathroom and changed out of my pajamas into my junky house cleaning clothes...that I wore yesterday. Anyway. It was at that moment the Lord told me to write.

"Write what, Lord?  You know that I am the best infrequent blogger out there." I say.

"Elaborate." He tells my heart.

So here I am. The blogger who only blogs when she has something to share. And I recently have come to terms with that. I want God more than I want this blog. But when I receive a prompting from Him to write, I write.

Because, disobeying God?

I want no part of that.

When I started to study this morning, I read Hosea 2.

And nothing jumped off the page to me. I wasn't sure what I was going to share. So I read the text again.

And this time I notice "For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more." (v.17)

I am a forever-student so I begin searching what this verse means. And I find this gem: "But usually the LORD drives us to despair of earthly joy, and help from ourselves that, being shut from every other door, we may knock at Mercy's gate." MacLaren

I quickly grabbed my personal study notebook and wrote down, "In my unfaithfulness (idolatry) You spoke tenderly to me and provided for me a door of hope. When I cried out to You when I had no mercy and was a foreigner to you, You answered my cry for help. And when You responded, I attached myself to You, forsaking all others; clinging only to You. When I walk in unfaithfulness I dishonor You; the One who declares that I will call You My Husband and no longer 'My Baal'." 

It was in the my wilderness of self, and discontent, envy, excess and sloth that He spoke to my barrenness. Because we all know that when The Lord is last on your list, life is...well...empty. I lived an empty life for a while. Hello, my roaring 20's. I made statements that proved I was living out of my own strength. I wasn't sure of my identity as one who had a saving faith of The Lord Jesus Christ. I wasn't fun to be with. I was living in a rut of my own idolatry. Yuck.

Alexander MacLaren writes "Sorrow helps us to see God."

I drank that right in. Sorrow helps us to see God. He goes on to say, "Swift, sharp, unrelenting justice must be done on the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, if our trials are ever to become doors of hope." 

Hope. It's the finished product of tribulation.


"Tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character; hope; and this hope will not lead to disappointment for we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love." Romans 5:3-5

This is where I stop trying to fill my heart with stuff; things that can't and won't be able to satisfy my relentless need. And this process started two years ago when He proved to me that He was to be my all in all. He wanted to fill my heart with His love so that I could stop stuffing myself with junk.

What is this hope? "Hope is but the brightness that goes before God's face, and if we would see it we must look at Him." writes MacLaren.

It's what I like to call saving knowledge. And by that I mean, I know that my Redeemer lives and I will spend eternity with Him. And I'm inspired to love God more and want God more than anything else.

It was two years ago that I experienced His goodness. And since that time He has opened my eyes wide to the revelation that He is all I need or want. He has sparked within me a love for Him like I've never experienced before.

And the best part of this whole thing?

"I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as The Lord." (v. 20)

I just turned 36 last month but I asked Jesus into my heart at the precious age of eight. It wasn't until I turned 30 that I truly started pursuing The Lord in new ways. And I've heard that old ways won't open new doors.  So there's that. Then on the second to last day of July I turned 34 and He walked with me while I began the {daily} process of laying down my idols. And as I began living it out,  He made me His own

"When the people were weaned from idols, and loved the Lord, no creature should do them any harm." Matthew Henry

This hope? It's my Jesus.

PS: Four books that have helped along this road (other than the Bible): One Thousand Gifts{W}hole, Love Idol , and this baby isn't available until October 1, 2014 but go and pre-order it now I Want God (blog post forthcoming when God gives me the words to share-that is, after I'm done processing it.) Thank you to Lisa for the Advance Reader Copy. xo

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Naomi Moments

I have Naomi moments.

Like how Naomi could not see past her circumstances. Sign me up.

When all hope seemed lost. Right here.

I feel that way.

When the budget works on paper but doesn't in real life. When I see the error of living financially un-responsible. I call myself undisciplined. What I once thought I needed has become complete rubbish to me.

Earlier today I called myself shameful. I was having a moment when our only car wouldn't start and I was thinking the absolute worst case scenario. It's a gift.

Like Naomi, I believe with my head that God is Sovereign. For others.

I believe that He will provide famously and work amazing, jaw dropping miracles. For others.

So I call myself discontented. Wasteful. Lazy. Broken. Lonely. Lost. In debt.

I too, like Naomi am soul-weary. I'm weary. Like for real... so weary. Weary from the struggle.

The head to heart struggle.

That kind of soul-weary.

Just the other day I was having a heart to heart conversation with my sister-in-love. She was telling me of an awesome financial miracle she and her husband received. I was then and continue to be so happy for them and how God provided in their time of great need. So she asked me point blank, "Do you think God can provide for you like He did for us?"

I said no.

Not the best time to just blurt out what comes to mind because truly that is not how I feel. I have seen and experienced God providing for us and taking care of us with out of the blue, jaw dropping miracles.

This is the time that I need to refocus my wild and run-away thoughts. This is the time to stand on His promises for me and my family. This is the time to call to mind those treasures hidden in darkness so that I know He is The Lord!

And then I come back to life and remind myself that He has names for me, too. Names that I find my identity in. Names that I read about in His Word that apply to me. He knows my name, calls me by name and made me His very own.

He calls me friend. Beautiful Daughter. Beloved. Chosen. Accepted. Redeemed. Whole.

I call Him Altogether Lovely.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On Every Occasion

The Lord, in His beautiful way demonstrated His relentless love through His servant Nehemiah.

I believe that The Lord saw something in Nehemiah because his heart was for the people from the first day. A people that needed "a great work" in their own hearts and lives.

I love how Jesus makes things lovely even in the midst of hurt and brokenness. In order for us to see this in action, our focus needs to shift from self to Savior. Like Nehemiah, it is time to respond in full obedience to whatever He has for us.

So with that said, I would like to share a brief quote from David Guzik.

"But the real test of revival-the real test of God's work in our lives-is the long term. It is seeing where we are with the Lord ten years after a season of great work."

If that doesn't sum up the story of Nehemiah then I don't know what does.

We saw right out of the gate (no pun intended) that things were a big ol' mess. He immediately went to God in prayer with weeping, mourning and fasting. Not Facebook. Not Twitter. That. will. preach. Y'all.

And awkward silence.

You know I'm preaching to myself up in here.

See, Nehemiah was a mission to reform. By definition, the word 'reform' means 'the improvement of what is wrong; to form again.' And that's exactly what he did.

When we have Jesus, we can do anything because He enables us for His glory. I believe Nehemiah knew that to his core.

In the book of Nehemiah we saw several different types of reform: building reform, financial reform, priority reform (amen) and relationship reform (amen and amen).

Rather than trying to orchestrate everything just so, he just believed in his heart that prayer would change everything and so he left the outcome in the Lord's capable hands.

How could he do this? The Bible says in Proverbs 8:34, "Blessed is the one who listens to Me watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors."  Nehemiah had peace.  Even in chaos. Here's what I love about him:

"Nehemiah on every occasion looked up to God, and committed himself and his affairs to Him." (Matthew Henry)

He looked up to God on every occasion. Not just when things were going great but also when times were less than ideal.

I sometimes hide. I think I've said that before. Call it fear of failure, call it shame. Call it pride. Eew.

If we as the church, could just come to terms with Jesus, The One and Only, The Creator who sees everything. I mean, why do we continue to complicate things and pretend He doesn't see us?

News Flash! He does see. He does care. He will gladly do for me what I can't do for myself.

So Melissa, put your big girl pants on and let Him work.

He's just waiting for me to say, "Lord, I commit myself and all my affairs to You. Have your way." 

One last thing about Nehemiah that is worth noting: how beautiful his heart was for the Lord.

His heart wasn't for himself. It was fixed on The Lord.

"Remember me, O my God, for good." Nehemiah 13:31

Matthew Henry says it best, "He prays, remember me; not reward me. Wipe not out my good deeds, not publish them, or record them. Yet he was rewarded, and his good deeds recorded. God does more than we are able to ask." 

"Lord, my heart is fixed on You...remember me."

Friday, May 2, 2014

This Way of Life

Today's question from She Reads Truth is this: "Why do we live in the tension of worship and doubt that disables us to share the truth of God's love?"

Ever had the words to say but not know how to put the words into grown up sentences that make sense?

Story of my life. And here I am blogging for Jesus. 

Each time I sit down to write my blog post, I get out my notebook and put pen to paper. (Old school, I know.) And then my mind goes blank. I have to physically sit down at the computer with my notes, pray and begin typing. Otherwise, I am not writing authentically because everything seems so rehearsed...So this goes here; then say this. I want to share from a heart that is transparent. Which, by the way, is hard. 

I think I've been avoiding this question all week. I considered not posting and pretending like the question wasn't asked. Why?

Because I know what my answer is. 

I was worshipping me.

"The moment they saw Him they worshipped Him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally." (v. 17 MSG)

I have, in times past, hung back from things. For example, when we used to go door-to-door selling things for school, I'd send my friend to go ahead of me. Probably because I feared being rejected. I've held back from people, for quite possibly, the same reason. *This is all changing now that I know He already approves of me. Thanks for sharing the message, Jennifer.*

But holding back from worship?  Afraid to risk themselves totally? 

I like what Beth Moore says, "Misplaced worship is at the heart of all bondage."

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave His charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism, in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (v.18-19 MSG)

This is a way of life. Living for Jesus. Serving Jesus. Telling others about Jesus. Displaying Jesus.

The reason why I live in the tension of worship and doubt that disables is because I've tried to win souls and make disciples in my own strength. I've gone in my name and not His. 

I've worshipped self and not the Savior. And landed myself in a huge heap of religious bondage. The truth of God's love is that He rescued me and opened my blinded eyes. 

He didn't ask me to carry His name by promoting my name. 

He asked me to display and demonstrate His amazing love and His Good News by declaring what He's done for me and to make it my way of life. 

"Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age." (v. 20 MSG)

Before I would go and do in my strength and in my name. Now I go in Jesus name. I represent Him. I work for Him. And He's with me every single step along the way. 

He opens our hearts so we can respond to His message. (Acts 16:14)

First Jesus.
Then Jesus.
Respond to His message.

I love living like this. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A New Name

This morning, a friend wrote on Facebook that she read a quote somewhere that said, "Satan knows our name, but calls us by our sin. God knows our sin, but He calls us by our name."

When I finished reading that quote, this beautiful Scripture was in my heart and I responded to her with, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." Isaiah 43:1 ESV

I am His.

He knows my name.

I have struggled from time to time with knowing who I am in Christ. But, I love the faithfulness of God and how He never gives up on me. And He never allows me to just get by with things in life. 

Here's an example of His relentless love. He wants us to know that we are His and He is ours.  And He will do whatever it takes.

I pulled the book "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge off my shelf last week and decided to work through the workbook since I only read the book last time. *If you haven't ever read this book, I highly recommend you buy it immediately.* 

Anyway, it's been a few years since I read it. By nature, I'm a note taker and I highlight and journal in my books all. the. time. I opened to the introduction page and I see a passage of Scripture and nothing was highlighted. Weird for me. I quickly opened my Bible to Isaiah 62:1-5 to see if maybe I highlighted it there. Nope. 

This is what I mean when God doesn't give up on us when He's trying to send a message. I read the passage a few times and I see this phrase: 

"you will be called by a new name"

Funny, it took me two years to see that. 

I quickly made a note card with Isaiah 62:2, 4 and posted it to my Instagram account with the caption: "When God speaks loudly: listen." 

I never even noticed those Scriptures before but its the message He's been wanting me to understand for some time now. He has given me a new name.  He's been telling me this over and over and yet I didn't hear Him. I was too busy trying to perform and produce and calling myself names like:

-not good enough
-world's okayest mom :)

We don't have to answer to those names. Because we are His, we respond to:

-my darling
-my delight 

All we have to do is come to Him and surrender.

And listen. 

He's been trying to get me to hear His voice and His Words of life to me. This is why it is so important to spend time with the Lord daily and wait for His still small voice. Read the Word out loud. Confess who He is to you and then listen as He shares His heart. And then journal what you hear Him respond to you. Cling to those promises. 

We serve a relational God who wants to be in fellowship with us. We can get so caught up in the temporal everyday nonsense but what He desires is to share with us all that He has. Take the time to get to know Him more.

You belong to the King of Kings.

His delight is in you.

You are beautiful to Him. 

One Word

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Deliberate Purpose

I've been known to over complicate things a time or two...or ten. But one thing is for sure, I don't want to complicate The Gospel. I like the way The Message Bible unpacks verse two. Here it is:

"I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who He is, then Jesus and what He did-Jesus crucified." 

First Jesus: Who He Is.
Then Jesus: What He Did.
Jesus Crucified.

The crucifixion, the most humiliating way to die, was not in vain. Everything The LORD does has a purpose, and when we realize that the power of the cross transforms lives, we can't help live a different way. 

This is the plan of redemption. The crucifixion is His testimony of love; the greatest love story in all of His-story. This testimony changes hearts; restores lives; brings prodigals back; provides hope.

I like to call that God's power.

I'm a huge fan of song lyrics and I especially love singer/songwriters because I feel more connected to the song knowing the person singing it, wrote it and lived it out. Here are a few examples:

"That's the power of the cross, see the chains fall off..." (Power Of The Cross by Natalie Grant)

"There is freedom in the power of the cross, let the world see..." (In The Mystery by Hillsong)

"Mighty is the power of the cross..." (Mighty Is The Power Of The Cross by Chris Tomlin)

"There is hope in the promise of the cross, You gave everything to save the world You love..." (Anchor by Hillsong)

The power of the cross. It changes lives. The Message Bible says, "God's Spirit and God's power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God's power..." (v.4)

I'm fairly confident that I sound like a broken record, but I want to express that it is God's power that changes lives, redeems us and makes us whole.

Here's proof via a personal paraphrase of an Albert Barnes quote: 

"He converts sinners. He grants peace, joy, and happiness. He transforms lives, by making us different people: 

-drunkard sober
-the thief honest
-the licentious pure
-the profane reverent
-the harsh and unkind- gentle and kind
-the wretched happy

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26 NLT

This is my response to God's power. He changed my heart and transformed my life when He took my place on my cross. We have to make the cross personal to us. Had it not been for Jesus... O Lord have mercy.

I respond to Him by living a transformed life. Because I love Him. He made me different from what I once was. I now "carry this precious message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives..." 2 Corinthians 4:7

Let's not rely on limited human knowledge. It's all about knowing Christ and making Him known.

" make Christ crucified the grand object of his attention, and seek always and everywhere to make Him known." Albert Barnes

The message of the cross is the power of God for those who are being saved. Remember to pray for those who think its message is foolishness because Jesus is not willing that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)

First Jesus.
Then Jesus.

"It was not a matter of accident, or chance, that I made Christ my great and constant theme, but it was my deliberate purpose." -Albert Barnes

Lord, let it be so.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What's In Your Heart?

The things on the inside of me come out through my mouth.

S C A R Y.

If I am being honest, I have not always been kind and loving. I've said ugly things. I've taken my anger out on people and have used less than stellar vernacular. And my Mom would always say...

"Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Luke 6:45 ESV 

Everyone knows that. If I've heard it once, Mom, I've heard it a million times....and I love it because it is true.

The New Living Translation is my favorite. "What you say flows from what is in your heart."

We have to get words on the inside of us in order for them to come out of our mouths. This is why it is extremely important to fill our souls with Truth, words of life, Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Otherwise, things can and will get ugly in a hurry.

If left to my own devices and neglecting what the Scriptures say, I might be found "meditating" on our bills or how I messed up with my boys or said something I shouldn't have....again.

Sometimes I don't know what to say. Sometimes I know what to say and I don't say it. But my prayer has always been that when I do say something, it would be from a heart that is full of truth, full of The Word, full of Jesus.

But we can't say something that's not in our hearts. For example, I tell Jesus, my husband and my boys that I love them because it is in my heart to love them. I spend time with them. I talk with them. I listen to them. I wouldn't go up to a complete stranger and say "I love you" because I don't know them. Does that make sense?

We have to think about what we are thinking about. In my world, that is meditation. I can get so caught up in thinking about me. Sad but true. But Jesus gives Joshua a new way. And that way is still relevant for us today.

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it." (1:8 ESV)

The Book of the Law gives life. And:

direction: 2 Thessalonians 3:5

hope: Romans 5:5

freedom: Galatians 5:1

 joy: Acts 2:28

strength: 1 Corinthians 15:57

If I don't know these things in my "knower" I am prone to mess up.

Why? Because, then.

"For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (8b-9 ESV)

Only then.

We can do a lot of different things with our mouths, spiritually speaking. We can bless. We can curse, we can build up or tear down. (James 3:8-11)

We have to first fill our hearts with the Truth of His Word so that what flows out of us will be helpful to the people within earshot of us. We are called as His Daughters to encourage one another and build each other up.

But it all starts with meditating and confessing the Word of God. We have to eat His words. We talk about what we know. Do we really know and confess the Word? Or do we just read it? I like to read the Word quietly and then I like to read it aloud, put my name in the text, make it personal. We have to get it in on the inside of us.

Did you notice it?

We are to meditate on the Word (first) day (Psalm 119:147) and night (Psalm 63:6), so that we may be careful to do according to all that is written, so we can prosper and have good success.

But wait, there's more. (I've always wanted to say that).  :)

The Lord is commanding us to be strong and courageous. Because He knows all of the ways the enemy works. And he works hard to steal our joy, take away our peace, and to torment us with all manner of lies.

But, the Lord says to us, "Don't be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for I am with you wherever you go." What a promise!

He knows that we will be scared. And we will be frightened. But He doesn't want us to be dismayed (or to lose heart) because He is with us and He has given us His Word to quote in times when we are scared, frightened, overwhelmed, questioning, wondering, worried.

So if the Word is in us, it will come out of our mouth in confession. This is why it is mega important to think about what we are thinking about and make sure it lines up with the Word of God.

"When I discovered Your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name, O LORD God of Heaven's Armies." Jeremiah 15:16 NLT