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

Keeper of My Moments

Thank You for seeing all of me,
Yet calling me Your own, nonetheless.
For knowing the very worst of me,
While awakening the best,
And loving me still and forever.

I am amazed at Your mercy,
Astonished by this scope of grace extended
Again and again.
Your faith in me far exceeds my own.

Though I am untrustworthy,
You stay close beside.
Compelling me to notice You,
Inviting me to follow
Your way instead of mine.

Stepping toward belief,
I strain to catch hold of You
Only to find Your grip on me has never loosened.
Your hand firmly grasps my feeble faith,
Holding and keeping me
Even when I am blind to Your presence.

Because You are here,
Each moment is filled with miracle potential.
Help me to recognize You where You are,
And as You come,
And as You long to be.
Even if those ways seem startling.

Surprise me with Your presence, Lord.
Open my eyes to the wonder surrounding,
Embracing each second of life.
Stir my awareness,
And grant me vision to see You when others don’t.
Cause my feet to pause and follow You,
No matter that You lead in sometimes
Bewildering and strange places.

Help me press through the hard and difficult,
Beyond the sad and confusing,
To reach Your haven of rest
Designed for soul’s respite.
May I find reasons to celebrate always,
Forever thankful for Your endless mercy
Which rescues me time and again.

Strengthen me to remain steadfast,
Especially when my heart is faint
And worn from the battle.
Embolden me to trust You
Through the nonsensical and the illogical.
To rely on Your truth,
Unreasonable though it may seem.

May I extend grace and forgiveness,
A brimming handful of each,
To those who cause my heart to ache.
May I always turn to You instead of
Turning in anger
Or turning my back.

For You are here in this moment,
And that changes everything.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.
(Romans 12:1, The Message)

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

Our Bad Banished for Good

“Mommy, why do they call it Good Friday when it’s the day Jesus died?”

I’m sure I’m not the only little girl who’s ever asked her mommy that question. I still remember her response in telling me that the “good” was meant for us. That without Jesus dying on the Cross for our sins, there would be no way to save us from them.

While I accepted the simplicity of my mom’s statement those many years ago, the question continued to roll through my mind for many more years’ worth of Good Fridays to come.

Sometimes the simplest answers give birth to the deepest of life’s truths.

Sometimes the deepest of life’s truths take a lifetime to prove their legitimacy.

And sometimes those same questions continue to be asked.

Today I lean toward Calvary’s whispers and once again ponder that long ago question as I wonder why it had to be this way. Why does God demand the outpouring of life and love partnered alongside suffering and blood?

And still I find myself resolving to believe my mom’s simplistic answer. I admit I’ve yet to come to grips with understanding Father’s ways, Oh, I could study the theology behind the meaning of the “blood” or the “fulfillment of the Law” and determine to throw my hat in with any number of theories of religious academia. But I think I’ll just stand by my wise mother’s words and trust that “Good” Friday happened because of me.

And you.

And every person on the face of the planet who will accept this amazing gift of grace extended through nail-pierced hands.

Instead of getting caught up in the “whys” of Calvary’s cross, I will content myself to accept its mystery alongside Resurrection’s triumphant shout. The two blend so completely there is no separating them in my heart’s declaration of love anyway.

One cannot stand without the other.

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.

Both are saturated with a goodness all their own.

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 for the One who embraces the intricacies of a love so great as Calvary’s suffering and so powerful as to rip temple veil and conquer earth’s tomb. A love that stretches heavenly hands to sear us upon Father’s heart through the scars of His only son.

Our bad banished for good.

Perhaps that is the real treasure of Good Friday.

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.

He is good, beloved.

And His goodness is for all who will believe.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

Lead Me to the Cross

The road to life must first lead to the Cross before it leads to the empty tomb.

I would so prefer to avoid that part of the journey. I’d much rather skirt the mount of blood and pain and dying, and skip unawares straight to a garden of light and freedom. But there are no detours past the gateway of death. All must enter through its shadow.

Lord, remind me that You are there with each footfall. You never ask me to take even one step that You have not already traversed. Nor do You abandon me to walk this journey alone.

Faithful Companion, You are constant in Your presence and Your care as You prod me toward Golgotha. You willingly bear each agonizing moment upon Your torn and bleeding back. With ever-watchful eyes, You beg me to stay as You bleed out this love-life on my behalf.

As much as I want to turn aside and close my eyes and heart against the horror of Your suffering, I cannot. Like Simon of Cyrene, I am compelled to stoop near Your broken and bloodied body to carry this beam of death and life. In thinking I am helping You, I realize You are the One sustaining us both. It is Your love and strength which steadies the load and enables the task of bearing so great a burden.

Thorn-pieced brow wipes against my hand, bringing comfort even here. Here on the Via Dolorosa  — this way of suffering — You look deep into my darkness and see the light of resurrection ripping temple veil. Dismantling my soul, tearing apart the lies, and searing sin with a glory that is all Your own. Destroying death’s grip with a love strong enough to shake the gates of hell itself and release humanity’s soul for good.

Sweet Savior, stay my feet from wandering to a way that seems safe and free of struggles. Keep me here beside You as You surrender Yourself to cross beams’ hold for a moment so You can embrace me in Your love forever.

May I be one who lingers long at the scene of dying until the work here is finished. Then may I be the first to hear You call my name beyond tomb’s cocoon as I rise to step into resurrection’s glow.

Lead on, conquering Savior.

As You will.

Where You will.

Keep me close beside You along the way . . .  through death and into life.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

Acting Cozy with the Riffraff

Later Jesus and His disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers.

Such read the sentences from The Message’s paraphrase of Mark 2:15. Here is Jesus — surrounded by disreputable characters. Seemingly having a good time. And even more importantly, having divine relationship with the local riffraff. Over and over, we find the Holy One hanging with the undesirables of His day — prostitutes, tax collectors, common laborers, swindlers — notable sinners and outcasts all. And unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them became His followers.

Funny how often the very ones we think are furthest from knowing God are the ones who end up becoming His friends, as evidenced by His companionship with Levi, and Mary Magdalene, and Saul, and . . .  yours truly. Yes, thankfully the Lord chooses to keep company with the likes of me, too.

Though I recognize my desperate need for a Savior as I flounder in my own sin-sickness, I can’t help but wonder where I would have stood in this scene set in Mark. For while there was a collection of His disciples alongside Levi the tax collector and the folks still hung up in their nasty habits, there was also another crowd on the fringes. When the upstanding religious elite saw the company Jesus was keeping, they couldn’t help but offer their two cents’ worth (which might just be an over-evaluation of their comment’s value to Jesus). I can’t help but smile at Eugene Peterson’s choice of words for the encounter between Jesus’ disciples and the smug traditionalists: The religious scholars and Pharisees saw Him keeping this kind of company and lit into the disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?”

What kind of example, indeed. Who does Jesus think He is?!? Oh, that’s right. He’s pretty confident He is the Son of God who came to save men from their sins. The kind of Savior who chooses to place Himself among the kind of people who need to be saved. Who will welcome Him for dinner . . . and for a lifetime of relationship beyond that.

While there are many things to be learned from God’s Holy Writ, the one take-away I’m pulled toward today is in wondering what my response might be to this same scenario. It’s easy to want to reduce Christianity to merely a topic of conversation, a worldview, a religion, or a tradition passed down through generations. But true Christianity is much more than flaunting a talisman for others to admire, or for self to possess. Rather, it is a faith that transforms souls and delivers lives from death. It is a message come in the Person of Jesus Christ with the power to change Levi the tax collector into Matthew the disciple, Simon the fisherman into Peter the Rock, and Saul the persecutor of Christians into Paul the apostle of God. Just to name a few.

Woe to the one who places confines upon Jesus. As Mark 6:3 warns: They tripped over what little they knew about Him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.

Limited knowledge of God confined the religious leaders of the day to place finite limits upon Him, thereby blockading themselves from the entrance of faith. Because they could not envision Jesus operating beyond the boundaries of their own religious venue, they failed to truly see Him at all.

Jesus is Christianity — a living, consuming Savior who invites the riffraff of the world into intimate relationship with the divine.

As I close my Bible upon this portion of Scripture, I can’t help but wonder who would show up to join Jesus for dinner today.

I also wonder who might show up to express their disapproval.

Most of all, I wonder if I would be seated at the table with Him, or find myself standing among the scoffers.

What about you?

©MereWhispers.wordpress.com

 

Prayers as Big as You

Grant me the faith to pray for miracles.

Stretch my heart to believe for healing,

For restoration of relationships that others would write off,

For Your perfect will to prevail sooner rather than later.

Open my eyes to see

The visions You have promised to reveal,

No matter how dark the path

Stretching before me.

Calm my heart to bend toward Your own,

As I rest in the assurance that all will be well,

Even when tumult surrounds

And chaos swirls with deafening force.

Grant me a heart that chooses to believe

You will deliver and keep my children,

To trust for prodigals to find their way back home,

And for grace to have the final say over sin.

Increase my faith,

And teach me to wield it with wisdom

As I plant my feet steadfastly in Your strength,

Determined to outlast the enemy of my soul.

Give me the courage to offer prayers
As big as Your love and Your power.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com

Grace to the Hesitant

The book of Jude warns of many things but wraps up with one of my all-time favorite scripture verses reassuring me that Jesus is able to keep me through this fleeting, albeit sometimes challenging life and present me to God without sin. When all is said and done, Christ utterly and eternally triumphs, inviting me to do the same alongside Him. Now that is reason for rejoicing, indeed!

However, another couple of verses from this same author have been pricking my conscience lately. It is a call to show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. To be gracious toward those who hesitate in believing the reality of this God-story that, in many ways, does seem too good to be true. Even though it is.

Verses 22 and 23 encourage believers in Christ with the following directive:
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (NLT)

The Message by Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way:
Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.

There are many folks who “hesitate in the faith,” and I have joined them far more times than I care to admit. Each of us must journey the path to God for himself, and each of us has struggles uniquely his own. Some obstacles seem glaringly obvious, while others are much more cunning in their masquerade to pull us from the truth that is found in God’s  Word.

A plethora of lies tempt us to leave the path of salvation and walk in ways that dishonor our Savior, and many of us still struggle with sins, neglecting the power given us to overcome our former way of living. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know this new nature in Jesus is free for the taking, yet sometimes difficult to grasp. And even harder to hold onto.

What do we do when we encounter fellow-Christians whose spiritual fruit appears less than appealing? The world would tell us not to judge, that tolerance is the only thing demanded of us. Others would say to judge the person only by their seeming less-than-ripe or rotting spiritual fruit, never mind if their heart is wavering back and forth seeking firm footing on which to stand. But Jude points us to a better way as he encourages us to show mercy while exerting effort to stop the person from sinning any longer.

We are encouraged to be patient with folks who are faltering as they hesitantly test the waters of faith. I daresay we’ve all had our own shortcomings of belief ourselves, which is a good reminder to be gentle and kind in our dealings with others. We are not to ignore or overlook the sin that is obviously a part of their lives, but rather, we are to pursue those who are wandering, tenderly seeking them out instead of writing them off. Welcoming them with open arms and an open heart of acceptance and love, the same as we have received from Jesus.

Hate the evil acts of sin, yes. But always, always love the people who are trapped in them. They are making these unwise choices because they have been tricked, deceived by the enemy of their souls. We would never punish a blind man for stumbling over a rock he did not see, so in the same way, we are called to be gentle in our dealings with those who are still struggling to find light in the darkness. Indeed, may we be ones who introduce them to it.

I pray we follow Jude’s directives and live a life of love as recipients of such undeserved grace at the hand of our Lord. Let kindness rule our hearts as we partner with Christ to lead the way to salvation in His name. May our light shine to illuminate the darkness as we patiently allow the eyes of others to adjust to this gift of God-life for all.

May we tread carefully, navigating the path between the weak and the willful with caution and with great love.

After all, sin is the only thing God hates.

May we follow His lead.

© MereWhispers.wordpress.com