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.

"...to 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







Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Honesty of Jonah

So Jonah goes to Nineveh.

The people of the great city believe God.

God relented of the disaster He said He would do to them.

That's called mercy.

I need some of that.

I feel like I need to apologize to Jonah.

Last week, I wrote about how he disobeyed and a fish made him look bad.

This week, he's showing me how to be honest...even when it's not pretty.

Here's what I love about Jonah. He's being authentic; not hiding his thoughts, feelings or emotions. He's not saying to the Lord what he thinks He wants to hear. He's not saying one thing and secretly meaning the exact opposite. There's no mixing words or manipulation.

He's just being Jonah. Real. Raw. Authentic. Jonah.

He was angry. "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry." (v. 1)

Angry. Check.

And then he prays. "And he prayed to the Lord and said..." (v. 2)

In his anger, he talked to the Lord. He didn't pretend to be happy or fake smile his way out of the city.

Angry and not hiding. That's a new one for me.

I hate to admit this but prayer is not always my first response. Just for realness sake, take a look at a handful of my first responses:

"No, I'm good."

"It's fine."

"No....really."

"It's all good."

"It ain't nothing but a thang."

But it is.

This is what I'm learning. God wants it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. What is the point of hiding stuff from an all-knowing, all-seeing, Creator?

He wants it all. Like all. Every bit. Not some pre-packaged pretty little "God, I'm good." 

He deserves realness. My authentic words. The real and raw words that I have crammed inside.

Jonah: "Lord, I'm so mad. Please just take my life from me." (v. 3)

Me: "Lord, I'm so mad. My life feels out of control. Finances are all jacked up. Lost a few hours at work.  Teaching math to my son is hard. I haven't been on a date with my husband in forever. I'm waking up in the middle of the night in fear from trying to fix everything. Trying to do it all, God, and doing nothing well." 

So Jonah, thank you and I'm sorry. Because of your example, I don't have to hide my thoughts, feelings and emotions from the Lord.

He created me and made me His own, not to make me look good, but for me to make Him look good.

We've got millions of souls on the line.

"And much cattle." (v. 11) :)


"Do we do well to be angry at that which is for the glory of God, and the advancement of His kingdom? Let the conversion of sinners, which is the joy of heaven, be our joy, and never our grief."
-Matthew Henry







Friday, March 21, 2014

The Voice of Thanksgiving

Jonah, Jonah, Jonah.

I mean really. The whale is making you look bad. He immediately obeyed by swallowing you up. 

Let me back up. 

I just want to talk with Jonah. He's at this critical point in his life. He has a choice; a decision to make; do I obey or do I do what I want. This choice is not exclusive to just Jonah. We all are faced with this opportunity moment by moment. 

And then I recall what Spurgeon wrote, "Remember that to do wrong will always be easy while our carnal nature is what it is. Man can always find ways of sinning against God." 

Oh Jonah. This is a heart matter. So I pretend he's standing before me and look him in the eye. I tell him what I say to my boys when they are contemplating disobeying: "Obey right away, all the way and in a happy way." Seems so simple... yet, the reality is, the temptation to consider disobedience is too great. We can't take time to ponder sin. 

In sin, a split second changes everything. Trust me. 

Jonah knows that now. He's found himself in the belly of a whale stewing in a slimy, stinky, sour state of sin.

"Our impulses are not to be depended on-our thoughts run wild. You must never obey an impulse to do wrong," writes Spurgeon. 

Sin will help us do and say more that we had originally planned. 
Life is a series of choices. Decisions. We choose. We decide. Do we realize what we are doing? Our responsibility is great. 

Matthew Henry says, "Sin is stupefying, and we are to take heed lest at anytime our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of it."

This explains our homeboy Jonah, with his hard heart, no compassion for the lost, thinking of only himself; his "what have you done for me lately?" attitude. He wasn't about to go to Ninevah to a people lost and dying. Too bad, so sad. This is the deceitfulness of sin. Yuck.

See, we can't follow Jesus and drag our sin behind us. 

He's looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. We love the one and hate the other. And that is where our choice comes in. He's given us a free will. 

We have to cut off our sin in order to go forward with Jesus. 

All of us were created on purpose for a purpose. We were put on this earth to fulfill His will. This whole thing is for Him. 

And because God is Sovereign and He is God, He will bring us to the exact place He wants us to be....come heck or high water. (No pun intended).  :)

After the sin is committed, Jonah comes to his senses in Chapter 2 when he realizes it was the Lord that brought him up from the pit.

He remembers the Lord. 

Oh, that we would remember the Lord. How would things change for us if we remembered the Lord rather than cherishing sin and relying on our impulses? Or if we remember the Lord before paying regard to vain idols? 

"But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you;" v. 9

Sweet Sisters, let us remember the Lord with thankfulness. We thank Him because we love Him. We don't say thanks to manipulate Him so we can get what we want. We truly thank Him because our hearts are grateful. 

It's no secret that I love Albert Barnes. He wrote, "But Jonah's was that special character of thankfulness, which thanks God in the midst of calamities from which there is no human exit; (hello, belly of the whale) and God set His seal on this sort of thankfulness, by annexing this deliverance..." (parenthesis mine).

"And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." v. 10

Ann Voskamp said it best when she said, "Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle."

Let's raise our voices in thankfulness to the Lord, even in the midst of calamities. We serve a great God and nothing is too hard for Him.

"I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD." Psalm 116:17



Friday, March 14, 2014

When Nothing Is Hidden

“He reads the longings of our hearts; nothing can be hidden from Him; what we cannot tell to Him He perfectly understands.”-The Treasury of David


Secret keeper.
Heart knower.
Mind reader.
Heart searcher.
Word hearer.
Desire giver.
El Roi.
This is my God. 

When I read Psalm 38 on Monday, I asked the Lord to open my eyes to see what He wanted me to share. I’m extremely visual, a total right-brainer and so when verse 9 was the only one highlighted in a group of Scriptures, I took that as my cue. 

Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You.” Psalm 38:9

Have you ever kept something inside for so long knowing that if you didn’t release the words in the next second, your heart might explode? So you blurt out words, longings, desires, groans and suddenly waves of emotions surround you. That is confession. 

Don’t you feel better when you make a confession? I think of those feelings I had when I confessed Jesus to be The LORD of my life. Freedom. I confessed my sin to Him. Peace. I confessed that I couldn’t be, do or say anything without His hand upon me. Strength. 

I love that I don’t have to hide from God. Even if I wanted to. Even when I pretend He’s not watching me “right now.” He is. His eyes roam the earth looking for a heart that’s fully committed to him. 

The Lord is not unfamiliar with our ways. We can’t keep anything from you nor does He want us to. We are asked by our Holy Father to lay it all out: our secrets, fears, anxieties, sins. Yes, those are the things I’m aware of. So what happens to those things I am not prone to share because of fear?

What do I do with my longings and the desires of my heart?

Naturally, I hide them. I can’t seem to find the words to utter. I’m all, “O Lord, You know.” 

Yes, yes He does but I keep those words inside because I feel unworthy; almost like, ‘Did You give me this desire or am I making it up?’ And saying the desires of my heart out loud almost feels like when you say something you shouldn’t have and then can’t take back those words.

And then it hits me. It’s so obvious and simple that I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. 

It’s funny how my one word for 2014 is delight and it’s taken me almost three months to realize a Scripture that was placed in my heart last November. I recall now that in January I was going to write about why that word is so significant but I let fear keep those words locked up tight inside.

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

The desires I have come from God; so when I remind myself of that, I’m not sure why I try to hide them. When all is before Him and nothing is hidden from Him, why do I still hide?

 I remind myself that my Heavenly Father wants me. He wants to hear the words that are in my heart, the ones that I am so afraid to share. Those are the words He wants to come out of my mouth.

Even though God already knows everything; He still wants me to use my words and tell Him. He knows my heartaches, shortcomings, wants, fears, and yes, my desires. We have to give Him the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help us God.  

We can speak openly and freely, sharing the whole story with Him. He won’t expose us but will wrap us up in His arms of love and He will listen. John Gill writes, “It is His delight to hear.”  

So I confess to Him:

Lord, I want to be a writer. 

The thought of writing about Jesus and for Jesus makes my blissfully giddy. God wants to see our faces light up, our souls renewed and refreshed. He takes joy when we delight in Him. I remember that He created me. 

He created you.

What are the desires and longings of your heart? Will you let Him fulfill them? 

Don’t rob Jesus of the joy of giving you your hearts desire by keeping silent. I let fear rob me of writing on my blog for months. Remind yourself that nothing is hidden from Him. 

Say what you need to say.

“If God delights to fulfill our desires, let us not be slack in desiring.”-Spurgeon



Friday, March 7, 2014

There is Forgiveness

I like to fix things. When I’m thirsty I pour myself a glass of ice cold water. If one of my boys has a paper cut, I go to the medicine cabinet and get a bandaid. Simple. 

Those are easy fixes for the little things that arise in life. But what about the big things? Why is it that when I sin, my first reaction is to hide? When I first read today’s text, I wrote down in my journal, “is Jesus enough for you?” Is He? I have a problem; Jesus has the answer. Is that good enough?

Psalm 130:4 says, “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” 

Sweet Sisters, don’t try to cover sin up. Confess it. Pour out your heart before the One who already knows everything and loves your fiercely. Come boldly to the throne of grace and receive mercy. Our God is gracious, loving and kind. He has what we need.

We need His forgiveness. I remember one time as a child I made a poor decision. Instead of telling my mother about it first hand, I hid in the sunroom reading my newest Scholastic book, trying to occupy my mind and “look busy”.  Then the phone rang and I knew instantly who it was. My mother knew the whole situation at that moment. I confessed. I made restitution and I received the forgiveness that was offered.*

We need forgiveness. He has forgiveness. It’s a beautiful thing. 

The forgiveness He offers isn’t just some random door prize. We have to repent and turn away from sin. He gives us His forgiveness so that we will fear Him. No, not a slavish fear. A holy fear. 

Pulpit Commentary says, “The true fear of God, which Scripture requires in us-a reverential fear-could not exist, unless we heed a confident hope in God’s mercy and willingness to forgive us our trespasses, if we turn to Him.” 

There is forgiveness for you. Yes, you. There is forgiveness for me. He delights to show you His mercy; not what you’ve done wrong. Cry to Him from the depths of your heart. He longs to hear from us because He loves us. 

We’ve all fallen short. We’ve all sinned. Instead of hiding and believing lies that He could never forgive you for (fill in the blank). Let’s run to Him and receive what He is offering.

The fear of The Lord makes us clean. It keeps our way pure. It keeps our motives in line with His Word. Spurgeon writes, “He could not be merciful until sin had marred His perfect handiwork.” 

I fear Him because I love Him and want to give Him my very best. He gave His very best to me.

Accept His pardon. Receive His forgiveness. “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24

*I went to Smiling Hill Farm and fed the animals. I ran out of quarters and I could no longer feed them. Shortly after that, I went on a tour of the farm and I saw a pile of animal feed right in the middle of the barn.  Long story short, I filled up my pockets and continued feeding the animals. Yes, that would be stealing. It was my first and last time stealing. To God be the glory! LOL xo 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Offering

I just finished reading Emily P. Freeman's latest book, "A Million Little Ways". It was a word in due season for me. In the last chapter she talked a lot about fear. I've been fearful for a while now and for a lot of different reasons. I have been using fear to keep me from doing things that I love (like writing on my blog) for fear of what others might say, think and feel.

On page 194 she writes, "Fear will be a threat whenever you set out to pursue a desire that means something to you." I have been pondering that statement for the better part of a week now. I know God has placed within me a desire to write and teach what He reveals to me in His Word. I say that not because I think I know it all (because I don't) but I believe that I have the heart of a teacher who always wants to share what I am learning. I hope that makes sense.

She shares in her book this quote from Michael Card that comes from his book "Scribbling in the Sand": "Artists in medieval times did not sign their work. It never occurred to them to do so... Their art was a gift meant to point away from themselves and toward the God who gave it. They were safely hidden in Christ, free from the tyranny of the self. They knew the great truth that they were nothing more and nothing less than children of a great King who has been entrusted with a sacred task: to win praise for their Lord. Knowing who we are in the hiddenness of humility. It is believing that the giftedness we may indeed possess is not of our own making, that the purpose of its being is not that we might gain attention or praise for ourselves, but that we might respond ingratitude with our best creative effort to win the praise for the One who first gave the gift." (pg. 202)

I wanted to use that quote on my blog because it reveals a picture of my heart. I don't want this blog to be about me. I want to use it as a platform to share my love for Jesus and why loving and serving Him wholeheartedly has given me a glimpse into what wholeness looks like. I will be completely whole when I see Him one day in Heaven. Amen. I want to write here and share the greatness of my God. I just stopped writing last fall out of fear and I'm wrong. Fear doesn't bring honor and glory to Jesus.

Emily writes, "Reject your fear of scarcity, of sharing and competition. Instead, delight us with what you have to offer. Offer yourself as you are, not as you wish you were. The more we see you, the more we'll see ourselves." (pg. 203)

So this. This blog is my offering to my tens of readers. It's not about the number of people that read or comment or just blog-stalk. This blog is about what Jesus means to me and I'm sorry that I let fear get in the way of that; fear of what I share being laughed at or taken out of context or for plain old competition (which destroys many things). Lord, help. This blog isn't a fancy designed blog that cost me lots of money because I just can't swing that right now. This is a free blog and I'm ok with that. I need to stop hiding.

When I read that SheReadsTruth www.shereadstruth.com is looking for guest writers each Friday through the Lent season, I knew this was the push I needed to just.do.it. I told the Lord that I would write for Him and about Him. I am looking forward to Friday when I publish my devotional on Psalm 130. I hope you will come back and see a picture of my heart for the Lord and His Word.

Offering myself as I am,
Melissa