Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Road to Your Heart

Over the past 10 years the land behind us has been vacant.  We have thoroughly enjoyed the extra space and every Labor Day weekend we can sit on our deck and enjoy the fireworks display put on by our town.  Over the past year, our view of those fireworks is in jeopardy.  Buildings are going up with several already done.   We can still see the fireworks, but each time a new building goes up, the view decreases.  It is very likely that by the end of this year, we will no longer be able to sit on the deck and enjoy these fireworks.

John the Baptist talking to the religious people of the time says, "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, clear the way for the Lord's coming!"

Just like those buildings blocking our view, there are so many things in our lives that compete with knowing the Lord.  Things that so easily block our view of Him.  He gives us the open invitation to come as we are and assures us that He will meet us there.  So what is in the way?  In John chapter one the religious leader are critical of John and question him.  We know God loves the religious stubborn leaders as much as everyone else, yet there was something in the way in their hearts.  As we read through the gospels, we see that something kept the religious people of the time from receiving the gift that Jesus offered to them.  John asked them to clear the way. Clear the way for Jesus. Clear the way to their heart - to put aside their expectations, pride, traditions, idols and clear their hearts for the real gift that God had to offer.  This is the gift that will satisfy completely now and through eternity no matter what this life holds.

Isaiah 40:3-5
Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting, "Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!
Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together.

During this Lent season, many of us will choose things to give up.  Maybe it is red meat, or chocolate, or TV.  Whatever we choose or don't choose, let's make it a point to clear the path to receive all that Jesus brings to us. Lets make the way to see His glory!  He came to bring us hope. We simply say, "Yes Lord Jesus, I believe that you did all of this for me.  I know that I myself am not enough, but what you did for me makes me enough.  You covered me with your sacrifice on the cross, so that I may be your child.  Help me to follow you with all my heart and clear away those things that are holding me back."

As we prepare to celebrate Easter, clear the way, the clutter, the busyness, the fear, the expectations and let us simply come with an open heart.  He is always more than enough.  As Ephesians 3:19 says - "May we experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then we will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God".  This is the promise and hope we have in Christ!  Fullness of life.

Dear Lord Jesus help us to receive everything you offer to us.  Help us to clear the way and follow you.  Thank you for being the greatest gift!


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Word of God Made Man

One of my favorite passages is John 1.  The picture of who Jesus is and what He is for me is so real in these verses.  As I was pondering these verses, I wrote the following and my daughter drew the picture.  May you be encouraged to
day with the hope, light, and peace that comes for our precious Savior...

Imagine yourself walking through the darkest place you have ever been.  Are you afraid?  You cannot see what is in front of you or what is behind you.  Will you trip and hurt yourself if you take a step forward?  Is someone there waiting to hurt you?  You are afraid to move because you do not know what is coming and there is no one to guide you or show you the way.   You remember the closet light or the night light that would give you a little hope as a child, a little direction, a little peace to show you the way.  There were those darkest nights that were so scary, that even getting out of bed was is too scary.  Instead just laying there paralyzed in fear, you grasp for hope, hoping that something or someone will take away the fear and give you the strength to take the next step.

In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word gave life to everything that was created and his life brought light to everyone.

Light to everyone.  Oh how we long for that light.  We were made to want that light.  Because light brings life! (John 8:12)

You lay in bed paralyzed by fear and darkness, unable to take a step, but then the Word brings you light, takes your hand, and shines in the darkness.  You lay grasping for hope, and then hope meets you right in the midst of that darkness.  A hand takes yours and you feel yourself filling with strength, with hope, with peace. (Psalm 18:1-3).  The light begins to shine and it is so bright that it’s hard to worry about all that is around you, because you know that the light will be with you and take care of the circumstances around you.  The light fills you with life, with peace, with hope.  This is the light of the Word that existed in the beginning and never changes. (Hebrews 13:8)  This is the light of the one who loves you and says to you, “Come and be my child and I will guide you, You have no need for fear, for my love for you conquers all your fears” (1 John 4:18).  This is Jesus, the light in the darkness, the hope and peace we have.

But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, he gave the right to become children of God.

As a good father lovingly protects, guides, and shows the way, so even more Jesus loves you better then the best father in the world.  He came and made his home among us to be with us.  He is Emmanuel which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).  He has come so that you may have abundant life, extraordinary, adventurous, satisfying life even in the midst of the hardest circumstances (John 10:10).  He wants to give you every good blessing and provide you with everything you need (Philippians 4:19).

Finding your way out of darkness, simply means, saying yes to the God who loves you more than the birds of the sky; saying yes to the one who moved heaven and earth to come and be with you and make you His child; saying yes to the one who holds in His hands an inheritance beyond our greatest imagination.  Let the light shine in the darkness.  Let Him wrap you in His love and light and let it bring you life today in the midst of your circumstances.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Commit Your Way to the Lord

About five years ago, my children were getting ready to enter school.  While I had worked a couple days a week since they were born, I spent most of my days with them.  These treasured yet exhausting days were somehow coming to an end.  It seemed in the moments that those exhausting days of early childhood will never end, and how will I make it through.  Yet somehow that was exactly what was happening.

Since the birth of my first child, my hearts utmost desire was that my children would love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  As little babies I would rock them and sing songs of Jesus.  Reading Bible stories of all kinds and all versions, praying constantly over them, these were actions from my heart to teach them of Jesus.

As the days of school were approaching, I was struggling with sending them to our public school. All kinds of fears and concerns filled my heart.  Things like how can they know Jesus in the midst of a school wear He is not taught?  Or how will the influences of all those around them affect their understanding of who God is?  Will they be able to see the world through a Jesus point of view?

For me the answer was homeschool.  Homeschooling is and was all around me.  From my small group Bible study leader to many families in my church, homeschooling was a very good and valid option for my family.  Even I had been homeschooled in third and fourth grade. The problem was that my husband and I had talked about this before we were married.  Our plan was that our kids would attend the public schools, and have the opportunities and education provided through those schools.  While my heart was changing and leaning toward keeping my kids home, my husband's heart was not.  He felt and feels very strongly that for us, we are meant to be out in the community. We are to share the love of Jesus with those around us through school and sports and everywhere that our family goes.

There were weeks and nights that I begged my husband to agree with me in homeschooling our kids. I showed him all the research on how good it was for our kids, and how they could become confident, athletic women who love the Lord through homeschool.  My gracious husband was gentle and compassionate yet firm on his belief that our kids would do best in the public school system.  He respected the decision and calling of those who homeschool, but his belief was that it was not for us.

Being the planning, driven woman that I am, I pursued him with more articles and more conversations.  All of this was beginning to take a toll on our marriage.  It became more than a conversation. A conflict and seeds of resentment were sneaking into our marriage.  A wall and distance between us was beginning to grow.  I would beg the Lord to change his heart and show him that this was what we needed to do.  Yet that never happened.

Yet in those moments of seeking the Lord, the Lord would not give me the assurance of homeschool.  Instead He would constantly ask me "Dawn, do you trust me"?  I would reply, "Lord, of course I trust you, that is why I need to homeschool".  I would show the Lord verses such as those in Deuteronomy 6 telling us to teach His ways to our children and talk about them when we eat and when we rise.  I would say Isn't this what I need to do?"  He would say to my heart, "Yes, but you don't need to homeschool to do this".  His reply over the next several months was something along these lines, "Dawn, do you trust me to guide your steps and the steps of your family?  Do you think I can only guide your children if they are homeschooled?  I am a big God and I am faithful to my promises.  I tell you to trust me with all your heart even when you don't understand why things are the way they are.  So will you trust me?  Will you let this go and just follow me?

It is so hard to let go.  Yet He was faithful to meet me daily right where I was at.  He reassured me that I could trust Him.  He gave me Psalm 37: 3-7 which became my word of peace.
Trust, Delight, Commit, Be Still.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart's desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust Him and He will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him to act.

Trust, Delight, Commit, and Be Still became my motto.  I struggled over the next few years giving it all to the Lord.  I still had my moments of fear and worry, yet He was helping me see His faithfulness to my children.  He was reminding me to trust Him and delight in Him and He will take care of the rest.  He was teaching me to lean on Him and not on me!

Our school system has been a huge blessing to my kids.  I have seen them excel in so many ways.  We have our hard moments, yet I see the Lord speaking to the kids hearts and carrying them through.  I see my children's trust in Him growing, and I am now more confidently trusting Him, knowing He has this.  Whatever we do, commit it to the Lord and He promises to help you and make you shine!

Last year, my oldest daughter sang "Count Your Rainbows" from One Girl Nation in a talent show at school.  She was admittedly a little nervous singing a "God Song" at school, but she wanted to sing a song of encouragement.  She did great and received a huge round of applause from all of her classmates.  I was so proud of her and so blessed by what God is doing through my kids and how He is guiding them.  We still have a long way to go, but I know and am confident in all His promises!   There will be good moments and hard moments, but He is worthy of all my trust and continues to prove it to me over and over again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Create In Me a Clean Heart

Psalm 51:7
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Can you feel it in your heart.  Those areas that are black.  Those corners that are so hard to let go off. No matter how hard we try, we cannot get rid of them.  I find myself praying Lord, help me forgive this person and guess what comes into my heart - a sense of pride.  A puffing up of my heart because I am praying to forgive.  You see, I am praying to forgive, but in that act itself I am sinning because my heart wants to forgive to make myself look better, to be proud that I am doing the right thing. Such a wretched heart I have.  Can you picture those black areas that are so hidden from even our own sight at times.  We are utterly helpless against sin.  It spreads and takes over like an uncontrollable virus.  Even in our good deeds and apparent righteous acts, sin leaks in and seeks to destroy the good.

Search your heart.  Can you find the offenses?  Can you find the areas we need grace?  The deepest parts of our beings that we think are okay because most of the rest of it is good (or maybe none of it is good)!  The Psalmist writes "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life" Psalm 139: 23-24.

Psalm 51:7-12
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me-
now let me rejoice.
Don't keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
And don't take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.

The "joy of your salvation"!  How can we find that joy with hearts that are so black and dirty.  I think of this past Wednesday when we put ashes on our head - a sign of that dirtiness inside of us.  A picture of the blackness that lives and dwells in our hearts.

And then......

I picture Jesus wiping it off!  Jesus taking a cloth and blotting out the stains!  Jesus taking a vacuum and vacuuming out the soot and dirt in the corners of my heart!  He knows my heart.  He knows the sins that I don't even know are there.  He knows how to lead me in the way of everlasting life.  He alone can clean my heart and make it white as snow!  He can give me joy only because of His salvation.  He can fill me with His Spirit to lead me in ways that are righteous and help me obey Him. None of this I can do on my own.  I am helpless and weak yet in my weakness He is strong!  2 Corinthians 12:8 ..."My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness".

Lord, clean our hearts today!  Renew our Spirit.  Work your power in our weakness.  Thank you for the cross.  Thank you for dying for us that we may find the joy of your salvation.  Help us live under the cross and all that it means for us today.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trust and Obey

"Trust and Obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, then to trust and obey".  I have had these lyrics from the old hymn on my mind over the last couple of months.  Those two words encompass so much of who we are and what we are about. We are children of God, justified through Christ and heir to his many precious promises.  We have in us the Holy Spirit who gives strength and grace to obey all we are called to do. Yet, it is so difficult to surrender everything and trust and obey.

Matthew Henry in His commentary on Matthew 5 talks about what it means to be poor in spirit. "This poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to our being filled with Jesus Christ." The closer I get to the Lord, the more I realize I have yet to empty and surrender to Him. I cling to so much still in this world - my reputation, safety, family, security, material things.

George Mueller says, "I was converted in November, 1825, but I only came into the full surrender of the heart four years later in July, 1829.  The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone.  God, God alone became my portion.  I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else."

That is the emptying of self that I want my life to be - totally surrendered to our Lord and Saviour. That those things in the world will grow dim as I delight in Him.  That I would be able to Trust and Obey in all circumstances no matter the cost.  

I see our great Lord working in my life to help me surrender these things to Him.  I submit today to this work though it may be hard.  I ask that He would burn away those things in me that cannot be used for His glory. That I would be able to come before His and simply trust and obey.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wisdom

As I look at this picture it reminds me of how safe I am when I am holding onto the Lords hand through the trials of this life - just as my precious daughter can feel safe and enjoy the waves while she holds on to her daddy.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.   James 1:5-6

It is of great significance that this verse comes directly after instruction to consider it joy to endure perserverance. My interpretation of that wisdom had been God's direction - something like "okay Lord what should I do next".   This was followed by a sense of insisting that I be obedient to whatever it was that I felt the Lord leading me to do.

I have recently felt like that wave of the sea.  One minute I am doing alright and feel like I am standing on firm ground and following what the Lord is leading me to do.  Then the next minute I am in tears doubting who He made me to be and the steps that I am taking.  What James says in verse 7 is pretty harsh - "he (who doubts) is a double minded man, unstable in all he does".

As I was thinking about this, I realized it is in these times of trial that God's wisdom is of such great significance, not because it is necessarily telling us what to do, but instead it is reminding us of what to believe. 

When going through trials, I often try to figure out what I need to do next to make this trial end.  I again want to take the reigns and take control.  I want this trial to end and I think I know the best way to make it end.  Sometimes, I just don't want to believe because I don't like the way the Lord is leading us. How silly I am to think that I can fix anything on my own or that I know best.  When I start taking things into my own hands or fighting what God is doing, I become that unstable man - doubting my steps and riding the roller coaster of emotions.  

Instead, I believe that many times God is calling me to just endure, wait, and trust in his wisdom and His promises.  He is calling me to believe and not doubt His leading and all His promises.

Last night someone pointed out to me Matthew 7:24-27, which comes at the end of Jesus Sermon on the Mount.

v. 24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. v 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

What is very interesting to me today about the Sermon on the Mount are the many promises that Jesus gives us during the teaching.  He starts with the beatitudes promising blessing for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst  for righteousness, and so on.   He tells us in 6:28-34 not to worry but to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  In 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.

Is it really as simple as seeking Him and delighting in Him, and then believing what He says is true?  Is that the way to peace and joy through trial and pain?  Is that the wisdom God gives generously to all?  If it is then Lord help me to believe with all I am and not doubt.  Help me to stand on the rock of your promises as the wind blows around me.  Help me to seek you first and delight in you.  Help me to not do or take control, but to trust, obey, and wait patiently for your perfect timing in my circumstances.  Thank you for your many and precious promises.



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sometimes I think I have it all together.  Then everything seems to fall apart.  These past few days have been more along the lines of everything falling apart.  On Friday, I reached a point of laying on the ground crying and saying "Lord, I can't do this.  I am so incapable of being a good mom!"  This came after a complete meltdown by all three of my daughters lasting for over an hour.  A result of allowing my children to become overtired and overstimulated.  Not what I would consider good mom points!

So, here I am looking at my last post; remembering all I have been learning; continuing to seek the Lord daily; and this is what happens.  It is such a reminder of how much I need the Lord and how completely inadequate I am on my own. This is why we need grace and why Christ came to die for us.

2 Corinthians 12:9:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ's sake I delight all the more in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

My weaknesses are so abundant. I see them in all areas of my life and most vividly in my abilities as a mom.  I so often fail to be the mom I read about and strive to be.  Yet, here is the Lord telling me that his power is made perfect in all of those weaknesses - including my weaknesses as a mom!
Does this mean that we do not continue to strive for excellence and obedience?  By no means. But grace is ever abundant and sufficient for whatever situation we are going through.  Let Christ be strong when we blow it.  Thank Him that it is not by our might that we are saved or even that our children are saved, but it is by His strength and power that we and our children are saved!!  Praise be to our God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us!  It is through His power that our children come to know Him and this power is at work within us.  It is taking us, along with all of faults, weaknesses, and inadequacies and using all that we are for His good.

Lord, let your power be at work in us today.  In our areas of weakness, be strong.  Let our children know you and enable us to raise them pointing to you.  Use our weaknesses to show your strength. Then, do the work in bringing them to salvation and deep relationship with you.  Thank you Lord!  Amen.