To Bend Toward Spirit Breath

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Life seldom remains easy forever.

Okay, so maybe that is not a divine revelation to any of you. Unfortunately, we all have firsthand experience of that reality and, most likely, more times than we would prefer.

The question is, what do we do when things get tough? How do we respond in the hards of life? What character traits go on full display when our insides feel so out of sorts?

Do we grumble and pout, resisting grace and growth, or do we bend toward Spirit breath seeking our revival?

When pain hits us full force or circumstances take a tragic turn for the worse, we sometimes think we have no choice but to be buffeted aimlessly in its throes. But we do have a choice. We do. We can either give in to the tossing, or we can choose to plant our feet firmly upon Hope, anchoring ourselves to the truth of Who God is. Who He has promised He will be to us, no matter the surrounding storms.

He will be our peace if we choose to yield to His presence in the hurt.

Contrary to what we may first think, peace is an active word not just a placid calm. It is strength to quell the fiercest of storms, grace to still the most rapid of fearful heartbeats. Peace is a powerful gift given in the midst of the tumult, settling upheaval with the weight of its steadying assurance that God is near.

In a bit of an oxymoron, peace is also a warring word. It rushes into the thick of the battle, rescuing weary warriors and bringing life to initiate and sustain soul breath. Like an all-encompassing verb, peace comes through action to bring about a particular state of being with its presence. A state of being settled deep into something much greater than our understanding can wrap about with finite mind.

Though peace comes to take up residence within us, that doesn’t necessarily mean our circumstances will miraculously change, bringing sweet and immediate relief. It simply means we will be held. Kept by sacred hand in the shelter of the Most High’s shadow.

When life becomes overwhelming, we can seek refuge in the presence of our Savior. Instead of being submerged by our circumstances, we can submerge ourselves in His grace and peace, even here in the hurt and heartbreak.

Because He is with us.

Never to leave us on our own.

Never to forget us, nor forsake us — not to others, not to ourselves.

God’s love never gives up.

It never yields in the face of too much pain.

It is constant.

Faithful always.

It’s human to struggle. To wonder and to wrestle with the many questions hurtling themselves toward us at breakneck speed. It’s natural to mourn over the ruins left behind. But it is spiritual eyes that look past this present moment and into the future with hope, longing to see beauty from the ash heap. Trusting it will come in Father’s time and in His ways which show themselves so very differently than we would often choose.

If today finds you staring daunting challenges in the face, I encourage you to look beyond your struggles. To reach beyond yourself and your own fleeting strength as you bend toward Spirit breath and trust for its revival to come.

God is with you, dear one.

Count on it.

And thank Him for it.

water-824418_960_720Thoughts to Ponder:
Where do you look when regrets loom large and redemption and rescue seem so very far away? Do you look to your own strengths and try to muscle through the devastation, or do you lift your eyes to seek help from the only One who sees all things?
Do you wait for Him to notice your struggles, too blinded by the pain to realize that He already has, and that He is doing something beautiful in this very moment?
Do you listen for His whisper through the wreckage, or do you stop your ears to the call of mercy tugging your soul to believe?
Truly, the choice is yours.

May you choose wisely and respond to the ferocity of peace poured out for you.
May you bend toward Spirit breath and inhale the hope that anchors the weakest of hearts.

Especially when that heart is your own.

© 2018 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

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When Working Doesn’t Work

“If a religious system dominates or powers over you and tries to manage your behaviors or beliefs, it’s a human-made system.”
from Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison

The above statement caught my eye as I read, and I couldn’t help but give at least a slight nod of agreement. Indeed, it seems our human tendency is one of keeping up appearances while keeping others in their place. I can’t help but think this notion impacted Paul’s penning of Galatians’ reminder that the heart of Christianity is not a list of rule-keeping, but rather faith, expressing itself in love. (See Galatians 5:5)

The Message’s introduction to Galatians shares: When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others.

It’s hard to break tradition. It’s hard to step outside a pattern of doing things the way we have always done them. Galatians is a warning to those who had chosen a new course of following Jesus in place of the rules that had long governed their entire religious system. It holds a message of caution to avoid imposing personal beliefs upon others, leading them back into bondage to a method instead of toward God’s gift of grace. It’s also a reminder to resist allowing our own freedoms to be turned back to captivity.

Paul addresses the Galatians with the questions: How did your new life in Christ begin? Was it by working to please God or was it by responding to His message of love to you? Clearly, the way of Jesus was an invitation to accept His love and sacrifice poured out on behalf of all mankind at Calvary’s knoll. So how is it that you continue to play the fool with this load of “works-oriented” faith? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human exertions?

In essence, Paul is issuing the reminder that we can never complete by our own best efforts what was begun in us by grace alone.

It is only by trusting in Jesus’ righteousness that we are made right with God. To think or act otherwise flies in the face of Christ’s suffering on the Cross.

Knowing all that, I still fall into the trap of scrambling to please God with my own version of “goodness.” The thought of grace really does seem too good to be true, so I attempt to support my salvation with a host of erroneous addendums. Sadly, by thinking to somehow add to my own saving, I am actually taking away from grace’s full effect over my life as I mask the complete work of Christ with false representations of human efforts.

Another portion of The Message’s introduction reads:  Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal Savior who set us free to live a free life. God did not coerce us from without, but set us free from within. (emphasis mine)

It is not a burdensome system of rules to which we have been invited to partake, but more akin to a lavish banquet provided by the King of the Universe. Yet we approach it like a neighborhood potluck. Scrambling to throw together a casserole to add to the mix, we scrounge through our meager supplies, desperate to come up with our own version of heavenly hash to offer.

Let me reiterate Paul’s sentiment to this mindset: There is absolutely NOTHING we can bring to the table on our own.

Everything is already there, from the most succulent of entrees to the last piece of silverware. All has been provided by the nail-pierced hands of a flawless Savior. It is beyond time to cease striving, attempting to perform our way into God’s good graces. We can never sustain a relationship with Him on our own merit; it is only through faith in Jesus that we stand secure and holy.

At the root of the gospel is not a list of standards to uphold, but rather, it is a love affair with Jesus.

It is this love that should govern our lives and our faith. We don’t need human-made rules to keep us looking perfect. In actuality, rule keeping merely perpetuates itself into more rule keeping. Where will the vicious cycle ever end? What we really need is His love — received deep into our souls and applied to every facet of living.

It is the love of Jesus that both sets us free and holds us steady.

For eternity.

And for our good.

And for His glory.

Let’s toss in the towel of “works-oriented” faith so we can freely grasp the unmerited grace and favor of Jesus as the sheer gift that it is. Then let’s run like wild toward the goal set before us – arms outstretched to fling ourselves into His own. Knowing we will be caught and held and loved there forever.

The deal has been closed.

Your salvation is secure.

And your future is alive with purpose.

Let’s live like we believe it is so.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery.” — Galatians 5:1

© 2018MereWhispers.wordpress.com

Banished by Grace

To have the knowledge of good and evil without the perfect judgment of a wise and all-knowing God is a dangerous thing.

To attempt to understand the truth of sin and of righteousness without the flawless mind of the Creator can lead to irrational and insufficient declarations of good and bad.

It’s no wonder God banished Adam and Eve from the garden once they had sampled the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To live in this muddled state of confusion forever would have been a disastrous story, indeed.

This is why a Savior was necessary — to repeal and to revoke the license of evil and to free us from an eternity of its presence hovering near.

Only a perfect God can sort through this delicate balance of good and evil perfectly.

Only a perfect Savior can ransom the souls of imperfect men perfectly.

This is why I now view Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden as an act of grace instead of an angry response from a frustrated Creator.

As I ponder the mercy extended alongside this exile, I can’t help but wonder how many other acts of grace have been granted me in this life. Acts of grace which I have mistakenly viewed as Father’s disappointment, or as disapproval, or as let downs seen as unanswered prayers.

Like Adam and Eve, my understanding is skewed from Father’s complete wisdom. That is why His grace poured out sometimes appears as neglect toward my desires when, in truth, that is never the case.

No matter how often I am tempted to believe otherwise, I am not left on my own. My Father notices every detail of the whole of creation, including each nuance of my seemingly insignificant life.

Not one breath is taken without His awareness.

Not one thought skips across my mind without capturing His attention.

And whether I believe it or not, not one prayer goes unanswered.

It’s just that sometimes the answer is simply grace.

A grace all too often misinterpreted by my faltering faith grasping for miracles of a different form.

While I still may wonder at the perfectness of a paradise with so many opportunities for human error, today I choose to see banishment as a blessing.

Some of my dreams banished . . .  for a better way.

Some longings displaced . . . for a higher purpose.

Some prayers left hanging . . .

Because grace has come.

Sometimes in disguise, but always present.

And always, always framed with Father’s perfect love.

To Set the World Aright

Jesus’ disciples went out and “turned the world upside down” in order to set the world aright. But all the orthodox folks of the day stared at them with consternation and frustration, and perhaps a healthy dose of fear, as they faced off with men whose faith proved to be unstoppable.

Some things never change.

Today, we still face off with the ways of God, scratching our heads in bewilderment as we try to make sense of a kingdom so backward to our way of life.

God’s kingdom winds through a maze of oxymoron-ish twists as it calls us to lay down our life in order to live it to the full. With baffling truths, we are challenged to experience things in a manner that runs counter-culture to the world in which we live.

It is better to give than to get.
Humility is where true power lies.
Persecution brings favor and blessing.
The greatest fulfillment is found when you give up your own desires.
A willingness to surrender everything reaps the largest of rewards.
Our strength is greatest when Another bears the load.
And grace is found along a bloody trail leading through suffering and death.

No wonder we humans are confounded by Spirit rules.

In a show of sovereign strength, Jesus lays down His life for His enemies. God in flesh, overcoming flesh to declare the splendor of Spirit reign. The ultimate upset as mercy triumphs over judgment in the blackest of human souls, and Spirit descends to take up residence within the likes of you and me.

Spilled blood becomes the bedrock of heavenly kingdom as Majestic King rises with healing in His hands, embracing all who dare to believe in this love amazing and full.

With human mind, I cannot grasp the why’s and how’s of Savior’s ways, and yet I trust in them. After all,

If I could wrap my mind around you, then I know you would most certainly be too small to wrap new life around me. (excerpt from Steven James’s A Heart Exposed)

And so I continue to cling to what I cannot fathom and simply say “yes” to the wonder of it all. Come, Lord Jesus, and set my world aright . . . even if it means You must first turn some things upside down in me.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

An Unalterable Truth

Given the present turmoil of our society, truth seems ambiguous. A floundering concept too shifting to readily grasp, let alone hold onto, as it slips through groping fingers like grains of sand. Solid as granite one minute, then morphing to vapor once a person attempts to take a stand upon it. But the catchword of this falsity is found in those five little letters that spell out “seems.”

Like it or not, the reality of truth is set in just that . . . the reality of truth, regardless of how things “seem.”

No matter the temptation to believe otherwise, truth is certain. Unalterable. Unthreatened by the changing tides of political correctness which could mean one thing today and another tomorrow.

Truth stands even when things my eyes behold make me wonder if it hasn’t upped and packed its bags, moved on to greener pastures — pastures mysteriously devoid of the manure of the masses. At least that’s what I would do. Pack up and move to a place where all is sunshine and rainbows without the acid rain of a world replete with sin’s toxic fallout.

But, thankfully, truth chooses to stay. Standing secure, day after day. Unaffected by the changes occurring all around it. No matter that I am.

Truth continues through the messy and the undefinable. Boldly taking its stance when I’m filled with more questions than answers. Daring me to believe its rightness even when it must go to war with my emotions. Because, let’s face it, truth doesn’t always match up with one’s feelings. But thankfully, it is tenacious enough to withstand them. And to conquer them, albeit sometimes with what appears to be agonizing slowness, as it confronts and overcomes fallacy after fallacy with its relentlessness.

Though life is fleeting, I live with a truth that is timeless. Wrapped in the blood-drenched package of Calvary’s sacrifice, purchased with pierced hands and wounded back of a Savior determined to thrust me from harm’s reach at the expense of His own. A sprawling truth stretching across continents, reaching deep into the worst of cultures, into the blackest of human souls, and extinguishing darkness with the torch of grace. Illuminating the hearts of sinner after sinner and calling them into the light as saints.

Rescued.

Renamed.

Chosen.

Kept.

Perhaps most astounding of all is the keeping power truth exerts, despite our best efforts to discard it.

Truth holds steady when everything within and without trembles and quakes. In this place of too much and not enough. In the quiet and the clamor. Through the calm or the chaotic. When faced with too many options and not enough filling.

With every cry of “Who am I?” the world is hungering for one answer . . . Truth.

My own cries join with the masses as I continue to pen question after question. Tentatively wondering when the answers will come, and if I will recognize them when they do.

Yet still trusting enough to voice them.

Trusting Father hears when my heart is prone to doubt.

Resting in the calm assurance that He has not turned His back on a world that has seemingly turned its own on Him.

I wonder.

I pray.

I trust.

I choose.

Hanging my hopes beside a crown of thorns.

Waiting in the shadow of Cross beams for a glimpse of resurrection’s final dawn.

I side myself with truth and stand with lifted eyes.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

To Live as Ones Remembered

I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four corners of the wind. Not one is missing, not one forgotten . . .

Such begins the first letter written by a man on mission, a friend determined to turn the world upside down with his faith in the One who turned Peter’s own life upside down with amazing love. A man bent on sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus, God’s Son. A man unwavering in reminding his companions that they are not forgotten, no matter how desperate the circumstances in which they find themselves living.

Not one is overlooked.

Not one is missing in action.

Not one is beyond the Savior’s eyes nor past the reach of His gracious goodness.

Not one is forgotten.

This letter is a timeless call to remembrance for Christians everywhere.

In remembering, our faith is strengthened and our resolve to continue on is renewed. It is here we are fortified to look toward the future with hope in our Lord’s coming, and to believe we will be held firmly until that day.

Jesus is the Keeper of our faith. The Constant Companion when our hearts seem as dust scattered to the four corners of the wind, with no way of being pieced back together. We may not have been displaced like the early disciples, fleeing from our homes for our very lives, but sometimes our souls can feel like refugees.

Exiles in a land not our own.

The aches and pains of living press upon us, crushing us from the inside out, pushing us beyond our limits of rest and comfort. Sometimes we feel pursued, anxiously looking over our shoulder for the enemy lurking in the shadows, determined to take us out when we least expect it. And sometimes we falter beneath an enemy of our own making, bending under the weight of burdens we were never meant to bear on our own.

No matter the source, thoughts gone astray can carry us far from truth’s dwelling, tempting us to feel alone and abandoned.

Overlooked.

Forgotten.

This is why we need the reminder of remembrance.

As Peter states: When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of His victory.

This victory does not hang on our own accomplishments or the riches we’ve attained in this life, nor is it contingent upon our own power to persevere. Jesus is both the Giver and the Keeper of our faith. This faith is His victory trophy to flaunt before Satan and all of hell’s demonic hordes. A total win of blowout proportions! A salvation that is complete and final in the grandest of all upsets!

So then, let us live as ones pulled into a way of life shaped by our Savior’s own. Given over daily to the One who gave it all to hold us steady through it all. Surrendered body, mind, and spirit to this God-life freely granted.

May we celebrate our salvation, even when we seem distanced from our final destination.

Even when hope hangs precariously in our grip, dangling by a thin thread of frail belief.

May we look to the One whose gaze has never wavered, whose hand has never loosened its hold on the assurance of our victory. And who even now is preparing for a celebration, the likes of which humanity has never known.

Here in this scattering, may we live as ones remembered. . . by the One who never forgets.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

A Perfect Blend

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O God, are loving.  — Psalm 62:11-12

God is a perfect blend of strength and love. He is powerful enough to overcome every trial and temptation in my life, and the tool He wields to thwart it all is love.

It is His love that holds me steady and gives me hope to rise above every circumstance before me.

It is His love that arms me with strength for the battle . . . one more time.

It is His love that draws me near, assuring me all is well when by appearances life is anything but.

Choosing to believe in the goodness of Father’s love is what changes me day by day. Trusting His love will always win out over me and my stubbornness. Even when I struggle and pull against His will. Even when I feel inadequate and depleted. Even when I fail utterly. It is the strength of Father’s love which tugs me back to His heart, bridging this gap of separation. Forgiving my sin and covering my flaws with the perfectness of His grace given again.

God’s love is strong, and God’s strength is love.

This is the freedom I walk in as His child. Not a list of dos and don’ts to which I cannot possibly adhere. Not a continual striving to be good enough or deserving enough, nor the constant fear of never being good enough. But an invitation to rest in a grace that convicts without condemnation. A beckoning to bend toward a love that is patient and long-suffering while it waits for me to come to my senses and turn my wayward heart toward righteousness. A bidding to yield to a perfect Father who welcomes me to change my ways and conform to His, while giving me the very strength to do so.

God is the epitome of 1 Corinthians 13 because God is love personified.

God is love that resides in the power of being patient with His children, wooing hearts with kindness instead of demanding in anger.

God remains unflinching in His gentleness, continually forgiving offenses incurred against Him.

He keeps no record of wrongs. (Are you awed by that fact as much as I am?!?)

My Father rejoices when I come to grips with truth, slow learner though I may be.

God’s powerful love never gives up on me. He never loses faith that I will become all He has created me to be.

God remains hopeful about everything concerning me. Period.

Nothing can dim His affection for me.

Nothing can separate me from the mercy of a God who died to lay claims to my life.

This is the freedom in which you and I are invited to live — abundantly and without end — this perfect blend of love and power poured out on our behalf.

Open your ears and hear His word, then grasp the truth of it with all your heart: You, O God, are strong, and You, O God, are loving.

May we rest in the strength of His fierce love today . . . and always.

I’m including a link to Jeremy Riddle’s song Furious. It’s one of my personal favorites, and a wonderful reminder of God’s powerful love. If you need a bit of spiritual CPR, be encouraged. His love is fierce, His love is strong — and it’s waking hearts to life.

May yours be the next in line, my friend. Go ahead, take a deep breath and enjoy the awakening.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com