Give Way for Redemption

The past few weeks have found me praying for several friends for a variety of reasons. From prodigal children to medical needs to financial worries to any number of burdens being borne, situations have hit at random, yet with targeted effect. In the midst of it all, I have been reminded of the hope of redemption, and this hope has fueled my prayers for those I dearly love.

No matter the situation you may find yourself going through, the hope of God’s redemption is always present. Cleverly cloaked, at times, but present nonetheless. But because we cannot see His hand at work, we press and pull and tug and heave to struggle through each trial as if we can somehow fix it on our own.

Guess what?

You. Can’t.

You cannot force your adult child to make wise decisions. You cannot repair the physical heart of an aging parent. You cannot make money magically appear or somehow obtain job security for life. You cannot bring peace on earth or stop the division of racial tension or calm the present political upheaval. You cannot even count on breathing your next breath. So stop living as if you can.

Stop taking responsibility for things well outside the realm of your finite control. Instead, take your worries to your Savior.

Take your weary heart and your exhausted mind and your rapid-heartbeat fears and pour them out at Jesus’ feet. All of it. Let the mess puddle on the ground, bathed in your tears and frustration, as you empty yourself of every last ounce of hurt. He will help you bear it all as you rise again to release it fully into Father’s hands.

Then stand back and watch the miracle of redemption work its magic — breathing life, restoring ruins, cutting loose bonds of captivity, raising beauty from the ash heap.

Bringing glory from chaos is Father’s specialty, so give Him room to show off. Here. Here in the mess and the hurts and the hards of life. Let Hope have the final say as grace sweeps in to save the day and the souls of His own.

What God has spoken, He will do. His plans will be accomplished, beloved. No matter how unfinished they may yet appear. No matter how many days or months or even years you may find yourself waiting for His rescue to come. He will not be deterred in accomplishing all He has purposed.

As much as we try to figure things out, we really have no idea what Father is up to. The very situation which drains your strength and tugs at your peace is the very thing that can draw you closer to His side, if you let it. This trial that seems set to destroy you will, instead, be turned toward your ultimate good.

God is never caught off-guard, never bowled over in surprise by this circumstance that has left you spinning. Nothing can thwart His purposes. No heart lies beyond the reach of His mercy. No work of principality beyond His power to overcome. No sin greater than the grace found in just one drop of Jesus’ blood.

Not even this.

God is on the move, and the death grip of winter must yield to spring’s blossoms of life. So let the melting begin, and make room for the shoots of new to break free through the pressing.

Beauty will rise from the dust.

All that’s lost will be regained.

Miracles will happen.

Healing will come.

The plans of our enemy ruined, undone.

Give way for redemption, beloved, and let revival awaken . . .

© merewhispers.wordpress.com

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Struggling to Unfold the Dratted Chair

charlie-brown-cruise-shipI recently stumbled upon this comic strip from beloved cartoonist Charles Schulz and can only conclude that Charlie Brown and I are kindred spirits. On the cruise ship of life, sometimes I’m still struggling to open my dratted chair. Forget the lovely view or the leisurely pace of life at sea. While everyone else seems peacefully resting, I’m tugging and gripping and fighting to unfold a place to plop.

It is in this struggle that I am oft reminded of the verse from Psalm 32:8:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go,
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

God does not throw out counsel haphazardly, nor does He give direction without knowing my position at all times. Not only does He know the final destination, but He knows my starting point and all of the obstacles, roadblocks, and detours along the way. He also knows how stubborn my heart can be in following His directives. Why? Because He sees me in every step of the journey.

Never are we beyond the sight of our heavenly Father. No matter how our circumstances may tempt us to believe otherwise.

Like a loving and patient parent, God is there, remaining vigilant in His watch. Never slumbering, never ceasing in His continual care over us. Stooping to draw us close with compassion when we stumble over our own feet. Rising to lift us up, again and again. Gently staying flailing hands struggling so hard to do things our own way when His way remains open and clear.

Too often I can be like Charlie Brown when I’m faced with any number of life’s scenarios — I can’t even get the dratted chair unfolded! I twist and tug and squirm and pull in every direction except the right one. Exerting all my energy and determination to conquer a task that has grown in mammoth proportion by my insistence on doing things “my way,” I fail to notice the one way to easily accomplish the goal before me. Too impatient to listen to wise counsel, I grit my teeth and fight against the instruction from above until I finally persuade myself I will never be able to open the chair and enjoy the view. No matter how many times I try.

I choose to live as one deceived, convinced I have somehow been overlooked. Unnoticed. Unseen. Uninvited. Everyone else can sit and soak up sun’s rays on the cruise ship of life, but I may as well confine myself below decks and curl up on the hard floor. It’s obvious I don’t belong with the rest of the folks who have things all together.

Whether succumbing to a pity party or continuing to fight and wrestle to unfold my chair, I’m basically just giving in to spiritual amnesia. Forgetting the One who sees me wherever I am. Neglecting to turn and ask for counsel from the One who knows all things and is willing to patiently instruct me, even though I’m so unwilling to listen.

All it really takes to unfold the deck chair of life is learning the secret of pulling in a particular direction. A direction always leaning toward the Father-heart of God.

If you find yourself in a position somewhat like Charlie Brown’s, I encourage you to join me in remembering the truth that you are really not the only one struggling to find your place. You’re not the only one who feels alone and on the fringes of a life that is passing you by. You’re not alone in this mess of humanity futilely grasping for a respite.

You’re. Not. Alone.

You are watched over by a God who sees you where you are. A loving Father who offers His counsel with clear vision for every step before you. A wise Daddy who knows all you really need to do is follow His instructions to unfold your chair and rest in His presence.

Will you heed His voice and trust His counsel for you today?

ferry-1524267_960_720FOR REFLECTION
Can you ever relate to Charlie Brown, struggling to even begin something that others seem to have already accomplished? Are you tempted to overexert yourself in trying to keep up, or are you more likely to give up altogether? Contrary to how it may seem at times, you are not overlooked. You are noticed and you are loved by a Creator who knows you well. God has the wisdom you need for any given situation, and He is willing to share that counsel while keeping an ever-vigilant eye upon you and your surroundings. What will it take for you to begin to trust Him with your circumstances? What areas may you need to address and be willing to change in order for Father to help you unfold your chair and enjoy the view of His presence more fully today?

© merewhispers.wordpress.com

The Slate Forever Wiped Clean

This time I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I’ll be their God, they’ll be My people . . . They’ll get to know Me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean.

Such are the words from The Message’s version of Hebrews 8:10-12. This paraphrase of God’s heart toward me makes my own heart fill with sweet relief. In answer to this dispatch of grace unlimited, I find myself responding with thankfulness in a myriad of ways.

What about you? How do you respond to the notion of being “kindly forgiven” and given a fresh start? Do you marvel at the lavishness of Father’s love, bestowed without hesitation? Without reservation? Do you hold onto gratefulness with a firm grip, knowing God never holds a grudge against you?

It is both intimidating and freeing to realize the extravagance of God’s goodness poured out so generously upon the likes of me. I continue to marvel that Father never throws my past sins in my face, no matter how many times I’m prone to repeat them. That He always, always, always offers me grace to begin anew.

Oh, the wonder of having God’s handprint of love sealed upon my heart, assured that I, in turn, am sealed upon His own. Grafted in by grace. Gifted with this new and lasting Covenant of Christ in me. Kindly forgiven and brought near to His throne of mercy. My desperation replaced with a living hope.

This is both the wonder and the joy of my salvation — to be found running for my very life, only to be caught. Captured by grace, held safe and sound in Father’s arms. Forever.

With a start of this New Year before us, I can think of no greater resolution than to recognize and to receive this gift of being kindly forgiven. No greater honor offered back to our Lord than to open this precious promise and simply rest in our God-breathed worth.

Jesus is the One who gives your life value, my friend.

May this be the year you realize it in full.

May this be the year you live within the wonder of grace amazing.

May this be the year you get to know your Savior by being kindly forgiven.

May this be the year you humbly accept the gift of a slate wiped clean.

Forever.

. . . And this grace is yours.

chalkboard-1337809__340© merewhispers.wordpress.com

A Hope That Does Not Disappoint

The last few months I’ve been bumping up against the word Hope. I’ve also been bumping up against people who are either walking this life’s path filled with it, or seemingly strangely empty of it.

It’s comforting to meet folks filled with hope. You can’t help but smile and walk away from their presence a bit lighter than when you entered it.

Hope is meant to be contagious, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it can be downright irritating to those whose perspective is jaded toward goodness. Unfortunately, I’ve met a few people in this condition recently. Worse yet, I’ve sometimes joined them in their cynicism toward hope.  And that thought saddens me.

How often have you found yourself living with a jaded perspective toward goodness and truth? How often have you allowed tiredness or boredom to drain your enthusiasm toward the joy that is ours in Christ? It’s unsettling how easily apathy and cynicism creep in, turning our thoughts from the pathway of peace.

The other day I saw a facebook post which stated: Expecting is my favorite crime, and disappointment is always my punishment. I couldn’t help but cringe when I realized the heaviness of that phrase. And the utter lie that it is. Or how easily we buy into it.

Expecting is not a crime. As Christians, we are asked to live expecting always. Expecting God’s goodness and faithfulness to overcome the worst in this world. The worst in us. Yet we are duped into placing our expectations in temporary things instead of in eternal truths. No wonder we reap disappointment.

When our focus shifts to the shaking of a fallen world instead of the timeless sureness of a faithful Father God, a jaded hope is our reward.

When our thoughts are consumed by rapid-fire agendas in place of the natural rhythm of the journey, we become weary and worn out. When our vision is near-sighted instead of far-reaching, we are bound to become discouraged. When we cling to people instead of to God, we are certain to be disappointed. When we fail to embrace grace, our hearts become hardened. Embittered. Jaded. Disenfranchised with hope. Distraught by change or by the continuing sameness of a trial appearing to stretch before us for miles on end.

Instead of living at peace in the known of God, who remains stable despite our floundering, we allow our hearts to become disenfranchised. Unable to rest easy. Tempted to go on a rampage against the very hope that has been given to hold us steady.

I found it of great interest to note the actual meaning of the word disenfranchised comes from the French root enfranchir – to make free. When the negative prefix is added, we end up in bondage – made unfree.

Made unfree.

This is where a jaded outlook leads – straight into the bonds of captivity. Made unfree.

I can’t help but wonder how many folks are wandering this earth disenfranchised with faith. Disenfranchised with what they thought they were entitled to in a relationship, or in a career, or in a ministry, or in a religion. Disenfranchised with life in general.

The good news is, if you are in Christ, you will never have to experience this. You will never be cut off from hope nor separated from grace.

But you can choose to walk away from it.

Today I challenge you to fight against the temptation toward jaded disenfranchisement. If you’ve found yourself teetering toward the cynical or reaching out toward disappointment, just stop.

Stop.

Stop and think upon the One who has plans of hope and a future for you. Ponder His promises. Remember His past faithfulness to you. Look again upon the cross of Christ and know the greatness of a love that has no limits. A hope that overcomes the very gates of hell. A peace that shakes the dust from empty graves in overcoming victory. For good.

Things are not always what they seem in this tilt-a whirl world. This life is so very fleeting. Even the longest of human breath is a mere gasp in eternity’s lifespan.

This trial. This painful relationship. This sickness. This hurt. Whatever your this is. It will not last, my friend.

In the span of a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will be changed. Changed into eternity’s form and granted eyes to see the One who will cause every knee to bow in absolute and final declaration of His glory and dominion.

But we don’t have to wait for the end of this life to experience His hope. You can break free from the delusion of disappointment today.

Liberate your heart to remember.

Open eyes to see the eternal and the true as you revive a grateful spirit.

Cling to goodness and to Jesus.

Expect to find hope… and you will.

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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 5:5 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

Loved as One… and All

We are not simply a group of people known as Christians. We are thousands upon thousands of unique individuals spilling across the centuries. One by one, present and accounted for fully beneath the shadow of Calvary’s mercy.

Each.

All.

One by one by one… Called specifically. Forgiven personally. Loved uniquely. Each fully freed into the role as Father’s favorite. Ransomed heart after ransomed heart. Each called to take our rightful position in this Kingdom of divine heritage.

Each fitting perfectly into the distinct place predestined for us within the global and timeless, beautiful body of Christ.

One. Each. All.

A feat much more miraculous than any worldly display of power.

A treasure more precious than the most exquisite of earthly gems.

A love that is once and done, yet continually growing and drawing me more fully into the fullness of its depths. Uniting me with its Creator and Sustainer, the One who is, who was, and who will always be the complete and only rendition of perfect love.

As I lean toward grace, turning my ears once more to Calvary’s suffering whispers and Resurrection’s triumphant shout, the two blend so completely there is no separating them in my heart’s declaration of love. There would be no victory over the grave without the sacrifice of death. Nor would there be hope for death to be conquered without the shattering of sealed tomb.

One cannot stand without the other.

As I ponder the magnitude of both the suffering and the joy, my heart is overwhelmed that the One would choose to love this one.

Me. You.

Each. All.

Good Friday was for us.
Easter Sunday was for us.
And every moment in between our understanding of the two extremes continues to be for us, too.

May our hearts burn with longing to know the One who knows the intricacies of so great a Love, and may we come to understand more fully and completely how fully and completely we are loved. Not just as one among many, but as one who was seared upon the heart of Father through the scars of His Son. Engraved forever upon His hand. Embraced individually in our sins and hatred, and covered completely by forgiveness and acceptance. Our bad banished for good.

So come as you are, dear one. Come again into the shadow of the Cross and allow yourself to be emptied and consumed by its suffering on your behalf, then walk with uplifted head in the light of a deserted tomb declaring your freedom.

For now.

And for forever.

And for all those in-between moments when doubts seem to be speaking louder than faith.

Your position is waiting, and so is your King.

One for all… and One for one.

OldRuggedCross_Sept06cropBWsmall.sized_                                      Come let your heart be ransomed.

All of My “Everys”

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:16)

In reading verses so familiar, it becomes easy to skim the surface, bypassing the heaviness of grace found resting within their lines. While the familiar is comforting, it can also be taken for granted far too easily. Or worse, overlooked completely.

Slowing down to ponder the words penned within a particular psalm or phrase, provides opportunity to soak in the truth that was purposefully placed within the pages of Scripture for my benefit. And for my Father’s glory as He makes Himself known to me in ever-increasing ways. Securing me in His love a little more each time I recall His faithfulness.

Today I have been reminded of the constant and continual presence of my Creator’s care and watchfulness. Before I ever drew one earthly breath, God was there. And He continues to be there in every moment of my living. Not a sigh of joy, nor one of sorrow, escapes His notice. Nothing catches Him off-guard or takes Him by surprise. All is known to Him.

All of me is known to Him.

All of you is known to Him.

Every thought.

Every scar.

Every word.

Every reaction.

Every stretch and growing pain experienced in this life is held within His providence. All is examined and cared for by His hand.

All of my “everys.”

No matter how challenging or how peaceful the day, He encompasses us with love at all times, resting His hand of favor upon our heads. Speaking words of blessing – expressions of His presence and encouragement to strengthen the most faint of hearts.

Protecting. Leading. Guiding. Reminding us of our value… and of His own.

Every day of our lives is recorded in His book. Though to us, the story unfolds page by page, chapter after chapter, He knows it all from beginning to end. No hidden secrets. No surprise plot twists. Just a known adventure made specifically for us.

Every moment of our lives has been laid out with me and you in mind, designed to overlap each other’s stories. Line upon line of grace and redemption, intersecting and joining the scenes to meet and complete a larger tale. Weaving friendships, and heroes, and heroines, and yes, sometimes even villains to be triumphed in the end.

As limitless as the number of grains of sand upon the seashores, so are our Father’s thoughts toward us. Even when ours toward Him are all-too-often lacking. He does not operate by fair rules of play, but gives, and gives, and gives again. Never growing weary in His care. Never becoming exhausted by our neediness or weakness. Never slackening His hold upon our lives.

Always and forever, perfect in His love.

Right in all He does on our behalf, even when we struggle to view the good and true hidden beneath the ugly and marred.

May we be granted eyes to see our Savior’s hand of beauty resting upon us in all things. May we have grateful hearts filled with thanks and able to express it when life feels so very broken. When we are overwhelmed, may we be overcome by the Spirit’s presence, trusting the traces of nail-scarred hand reaching out to save the day. To save us, as we lean into His touch and know that He’s got this.

From beginning to end.

And every moment in between.

All of our everys, for all of our days.

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The Strengthening

Encouragement: The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.

Encouragement is an action word. It requires giving. And if I am to give to another, I first must possess something of value to give.

How can I offer support to another if I have no strength myself? As selfish as it may seem, sometimes the first person I need to encourage is me.

Perhaps my favorite Bible story of encouragement is found in 1 Samuel 30. David, the anointed king of Israel, was living as a fugitive because King Saul refused to honor God and abdicate his throne. Instead of ruling comfortably from a palace as one might expect a king to do, David was living in Philistine territory, covertly attacking enemy cities while maintaining the front of allegiance to the Philistines. For many years he walked this precarious life on the edge, leading a ragtag group of warriors as they picked off the enemy bit by bit. Never having a place to settle comfortably without the threat from their own countrymen or fear of discovery of their “double life.”

Having been granted the country town of Ziklag by the Philisine king Achish, David and his men settled there, along with their families. Things were relatively uneventful until the day David and his men returned from a three-day absence only to find Ziklag burned to the ground and all its inhabitants taken captive by the Amalekites. This act of violence not only reduced David and his warriors to weeping, but the hopelessness of the situation caused irrational thinking as the people considered taking out their frustration and grief by stoning David.

In the midst of this disheartening and terrifying situation, we find these words: But David strengthened himself in the Lord (v.6).

Though grieving to the point of exhaustion and fearing for his life, David grasped the opportunity to seek the Lord and gain his strength from God. In this time of despair, David asked God for direction, and he received an answer. The answer was to pursue and overtake the enemy, with the assurance that all would be recovered.

Starting out in a state of physical and mental exhaustion, David and his six hundred men made it to the brook Besor, but two hundred of the warriors were too exhausted to cross over, so David continued on with only four hundred. Along the way, they came upon an Egyptian slave who, having been overcome with illness, had been deserted by the fleeing Amalekites. Having been without food or water for three days, the man was weakened, so David gave him food and drink before inquiring as to the whereabouts of the Amalekites, With promises of refuge and freedom, the Egyptian led David and his men to the Amalekites’ encampment where they found the enemy dancing and celebrating the plunder of Ziklag.

Then David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day… so David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away… And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all.

David recovered all.

That is what happens when God is invited to come and strengthen us in our discouragement.

Recovery.

When David and the four hundred returned  to the brook Besor with all the spoils, they were greeted by the two hundred men who had been too tired to fight alongside them. Some of the four hundred said, Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart.

But David answered, ‘No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the Lord has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike – those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment.’ 

So it was from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.

Not only was it in David’s heart to give to those who were weary, whom some considered unworthy to receive the spoils, but he took it a step further and even sent gifts of plunder to the elders scattered throughout Judah. He shared the bounty God had given him. Not grudgingly. Not sparingly, but freely and lavishly. And I can’t help but think all were encouraged by experiencing a share in the wonders God had done on behalf of his own.

Over and over the Bible encourages us to encourage others. To consider others. To stand in faith together through prayer and presence. But generally that only follows a time of first encouraging ourselves and framing our own mindset to be supported by truth. If David would have toppled with despair instead of strengthening himself and seeking God’s intervention, I’m sure this story would have had a much different ending.

But because David conquered the flesh of himself with the power of the living God, life was experienced by all.

Walking in the spirit of encouragement can be a hard task. There are days I would much rather sit and pout than strengthen myself in the truth of God’s Word. There are times when I’m hesitant to share the gift of hope with someone who frustrates me with their negative reactions to times of distress. There are moments when I am weary and would prefer to plant my feet on this side of my own brook of Besor when God is calling me to continue to fight for recovery. And there are times when I am afraid to seek God because He might be calling me to a battle I would prefer to avoid completely.

That’s when I would be wise to remember the truth of His Word, the encouragement I have in knowing I will never face a battle without the Lord’s presence surrounding me on every side. No matter how alone I may feel.

I daresay, most of us have never experienced a situation that required God’s hand more than the one David experienced at Ziklag. And if my God is strong enough to help David recover all, then I can place my hope in the fact that He will do the same for me and you.

Take heart this day, dear friend, and strengthen yourself in the Lord. He is mighty to save. Seek His will. Listen to His voice. Then walk the path before you – pursuing His will; trusting the Lord to overtake your enemy, and without fail, recover all.

Strengthen yourself in the Lord.012

I encourage you to read the full story in 1 Samuel 30. There is so much truth to be gleaned from this encounter. May your hearts be encouraged and your faith strengthened to believe that God is for you.