Can You See Me?

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Scripture has so many mandates for us to live by. For example, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” I Peter 1:16; “…overcome evil with good,” Romans 12:21; “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,” Romans 12:10a. We have MANY more, not the least of which is the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. An example in the Beatitudes is found in Luke 6:27, “…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Scripture is full of expectations for the Christian life. We are not to touch certain things, look at certain things, or even dwell upon certain things. AAAGH!! Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed? I mean seriously, “do good to those who hate you”?

We also have MANY Scriptures that assure us that the Lord’s yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew11:30). That everything He calls us to do, He is faithful to complete in us (I Thessalonians 5:24). So, what’s the deal? Are we required to fulfill all the regulations and rules that overwhelm us, or is His burden light? The two seem to be polar opposites. After all, being devoted to one another and not our own desires is not easy. Overcoming evil with good is a full time job as well. What is easy and light about those things?

When I was feeling overwhelmed about all the seemingly impossible expectations that God had place on me several years back, God led me to remember some Scripture that I would have rather not remembered. Isaiah 64:6 says that my righteousness is as filthy rags. Romans 7 reminded me that I constantly have this war within me between God’s Spirit and my flesh and must come to the conclusion that, “…nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;”.

So, if God is faithful to accomplish what He asks, how does all of this rectify? How am I to be holy when nothing good dwells in me? How is He completing His good work in me when I am so full of struggle?

Isaiah 61:10, says, “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with jewels.”

This verse tells me that God clothes me with His robe of righteousness. Only His righteousness is clean, mine is filthy. Only His righteousness is holy, not mine. My works are nothing, His are pure and perfect.

Think of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Yes, Harry Potter. If you have seen any of the movies, you will recall that when Harry placed the cloak around himself, no one could see him. He roamed around the school and no one knew that it was him. They didn’t see Harry as long as he was wearing the cloak. Harry chose to wear the cloak, or robe if you will, and it changed how others viewed him.  

So it is with the robe of righteousness that is given to us. It is our choice whether we wear it, or not. Just as the verse in Isaiah describes a bride adorning her own self with jewels, it is the bride’s choice whether she places them around her neck, or hair, or leaves them off entirely. She made the choice to wear the jewels and we make the choice whether to wear the robe of righteousness that is freely given.

Isaiah 45:24 says, “…Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.” Jeremiah assures us in chapter 33 that the LORD is our righteousness. II Corinthians 5 reminds us that just as Harry disappeared under that cloak of invisibility and he was completely changed, so our old man dies and our new creature in Christ now reigns in us. Verse 18 of this chapter says, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled Himself to us through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Even our “new man” and the things that our “new man” accomplishes are given to us by God. Nothing in us is good. It is ALL Him.

Now, when I see a Scripture that seems to have a commandment that is overwhelming, I use it as a checkpoint. I ask myself, “Do I remember that nothing good is in me except the Holy Spirit?”

“Have I been taking credit for anything that only God can do through me?”

“Have I submitted myself and bowed before Him in order that He can place His robe of righteousness over me today?”

“Am I feeling overwhelmed, or do I know that God has got this?”

When I am out from under His robe, I think it is all about me. When I am under His cloak, His influence, I remember that it is all about Him. When I am covered in His righteousness, His burden is light because it is all up to Him. Whatever He wants accomplished through me that day, it happens. Other things being on hold are okay because I am under HIS cloak, HIS righteousness. When I poke my foot out, there are problems, but when I am totally under His robe, I am exactly where He wants me to be.

A beautiful picture of this is found in Revelation 19:7-8, “ ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (holy ones).”

Here, we see another bride (us) making ready for her (our) wedding day. She chooses to clothe herself in garments that were GIVEN to her. She didn’t have to work for them. She just had to accept them. The garments are fine linen, but the Scripture goes on to tell us that the fine linen is the righteous acts of the holy ones. Yet again, we see that acts that we think we have accomplished on our own were given to us. We see yet again that there is nothing good in us. It is ALL God. If we have ever accomplished the smallest task for His kingdom, He gave us the idea, the strength to do it, the time and desire to accomplish it. Everything good, pure and clean is from our God. He will give us fine linen, bright and clean just as He has given us His robe of righteousness for today.

Let’s allow Him to cover us fully so that others will only see Him. Let’s choose to disappear into His cloak of righteousness. Let’s willingly submit to what He wants to accomplish through us and see the pleasure on His face when he says to us, “Well done. That’s just what I envisioned you wearing today.”

*image by CNN.com

Seeking Hearts Ministries

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God’s Perfect Preservation

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Psalm 32:7 says, “Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.”

The Lord will preserve us from trouble. He is our hiding place. He surrounds us with songs of deliverance. You might be thinking, “Really? All I see is trouble. All I know is abandonment and all I hear is madness.”

Look closely, my friend. He is here. He is your hiding place. He was in your past. He will be in your future and He is here now, in your today. Even if your trouble surrounds you, you are winning your battle because He is on your side. In the midst of it, know that He is preserving you.

Remember what it’s like when you are canning vegetables from your garden? Things get hot. This is all in the process of preserving, isn’t it? Through that process, things get hot and uncomfortable (for us and the vegetables). Just like those garden goodies, we would like to stay on the vine, being watered gently daily and basking in the pleasant sunshine. We don’t like the boiling water bath, but that’s the only way true preservation can take place. God’s preserving methods sometimes feel just as uncomfortable as canning must feel to a vegetable (if it had feelings), but rest assured you are being protected, preserved and sheltered for the winter ahead. I Peter 5:10 says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm,  strengthen and establish you.” What better preserving could we ask for?

To take our example a little farther, nothing tastes sweeter than fresh vegetables from your own garden. You can buy things from a local Farmer’s Market, but the absolute best is knowing that through God’s provision and your own hard work, the food you are eating came from your own plot. So it is with God’s spiritual provision for us, we can hear other’s testimonies (and they are encouraging), but there is nothing like experiencing our own tests and coming out victorious. We are then experiencing our own fresh fruit from our own God-given garden. Spiritual preservation can then provide fresh faith for us in the middle of our spiritual winters. We “open up” our jar of faith and remember God has already provided in times past and He can and will provide for our now. We just have to open up what’s already on the shelf. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing.

It is so  frustrating to buy tomato juice at the grocery store only to discover another stack of homemade, well-preserved juice ready to use. Somehow, I always manage to shove a few jars behind some green beans, or jelly of some sort. They are forgotten for a time. When I finally find those jars, they can still be used, but oh, how great it would have been in that homemade soup last week!?

Just like those forgotten jars of juice, we need to remember that God has provided for us. He has preserved us and established us with exactly what is needed. Sometimes though, His provision gets relegated to the back. Let’s ask Him to help us remember what has already been preserved in us. Let’s open up what He has already established in us! Let’s feast on what He has already provided.

Psalm 32:7 also talks about God surrounding us with songs of deliverance. I really enjoy singing when I’m in the kitchen, don’t you? There’s nothing like humming (or belting out) a little tune while going about our tasks. So, just imagine that while God is in “our kitchens” preserving us for the coming winter’s trials, He is actually singing over us as He works. I love that! He is molding us and preserving us into the men and women that He designed for us to be. God is excited throughout the preserving process knowing that what He is making us into now is exactly what we need to be in our future. The process may be hot at times, but He is lovingly watching the clock, knowing exactly how many minutes we need in the boiling water to produce the desired results, all the while singing precious songs over us. When we allow Him to guide the process, He never allows a jar to crack; He never ruins a batch. He is the Perfect Preserver.

No matter if we are in the middle of needing to hide in Him, being preserved by Him for the coming winter, or hearing clearly His songs of deliverance, let’s rest in Him today. Let’s rest in Him knowing that He will never leave us, or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He will not ever stop loving us (I John 3:1) and He will always perfectly preserve us for the coming days (Psalm 41:2).

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story

 

** Photo by simplyeclectic.com

 

Pickin’ and Choosin’

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Several months ago I saw a Facebook post come across my feed that said, “Half the world is starving while the other half is trying to lose weight.

It definitely made me think about the physical starvation of people, but it was like a punch in the gut when I thought about the spiritual side of things.

Most of us pick and choose our Christianity like we pick and choose items off of a buffet.

Millions have never even heard the name of Jesus, yet I decide which teacher I like best, which ministry I’ll support and which translation of the Bible I deem as appropriate to study from. I gorge myself and then look around in condescension on those who aren’t choosing the same things off the menu as I am.

Meanwhile, in the real world, others are starving to hear the Word. They are hungry and trying to fill their empty plates with anything that even seems like it might fit.

What am I doing? I’m standing in the line at the buffet.

Desperate people are simply trying to find the door to the restaurant while my back is turned refilling my plate over and over.

Can you tell I’m a little mad at myself? I’m actually sickened. I’m sickened by my excuses and lack of love.

Oswald J. Smith said, “No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.”

Hudson Taylor said, “Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.”

I find myself getting into lulls with praying for the lost. Sometimes, it’s an intense burden to pray for individuals by name, literally begging God to break through a particular heart so they will receive Him. At other times though, it’s as if I’ve never met a lost person in my life. I’m clueless, and heartless, and a day becomes a week before I mention a lost soul in my prayers once again. Am I not doing Bible study during this lull? Am I not going to church? Am I not memorizing Scripture with my youngest? Am I not writing the blog? The crazy thing is that I AM! Don’t worry… I’m still at the buffet filling my own plate. Apparently, I’m just not willing to share.

I’m finding that Hudson Taylor must be right. It’s my own hardness of heart that stops the growth of Christianity in my generation. Where’s the distress over souls?!What is wrong with me?! Have I become narcissistic in my Christianity? Is there such a thing? How can I be a Christian and obsessed with myself? Isn’t that impossible? If I’m a “little Christ”, aren’t I obsessed with others and dying to self daily?“O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

The very next verse of Romans 7 says that only Jesus Christ can deliver me and oh, I know that’s true. He’s delivered me over and over again. He’s replaced this hard heart so many times I’ve lost count. I’m so thankful He never gives up on me. I am so thankful that He has convicted me once again and is reminding me of the millions who have yet to know Him. I thank Him that He does not want one soul to perish without Him (2 Peter 3:9). I thank Him that He is the Good Shepherd that continues to find the one little lost lamb (Matthew 18:11-14).

I am thankful for this buffet that He has for me, but I need to remember that I have been given this buffet to lure others in. The tantalizing aromas of grace and love must be all over me so that others want to come and partake as well. I have been able to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) so that I can point others to the choicest meat. I’m supposed to share with others who are starving and not simply sit around looking at another person in line at the buffet talking about how good everything is. Yes, I am supposed to feed myself, but only so I can have the strength to feed others. That’s what this buffet is really for…to sustain us all, not just one, or two.

I’m reminded of the time when Jesus fed the massive multitude of over 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread (Matthew 14). He commanded His disciples to share and not hoard it. Can you imagine the rebuke they would have gotten had they just hoarded it away and kept it all for themselves? Such a thing is laughable to us because we know the hungry crowd was right in front of them, but isn’t the hungry crowd in front of us as well?

We have been given so much more than two fish and five loaves. He has commanded us to go and share, but we have become hoarders of God’s provision. I know in my own life… I’m sick of smelling the fish. When I am tight-fisted with God’s buffet, no one benefits, including myself. Blessings are meant to be shared.

When did we get so scared of losing what God has given us to begin with? 

As I stare at my buffet of Bibles, talents, study guides and so much more, I have to ask my Lord what the next step is. Would you be willing to do the same? We all have our own buffet of provision. How does God want you to share yours?

“Half the world is starving while the other half is trying to lose weight.”

It’s a real shame that this statement has become so true when all along the food has been for us all. Thank God for His provision today, but let’s stop pickin’ and choosin’ and get to sharin’ instead.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

My Story with Christ

** Picture from Noka’s Lavish Buffet Spread

 

 

When I take Things into my own Hands

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    Exodus 32:1-5 says, “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’”

Familiarity with this passage can sometimes lead us to pass over nuggets that the Lord has left for us. Over the last few hours, I have literally seen five or six new things in this Scripture that I have never noticed before. I love that about the Word of God. God’s Word never changes, but it is alive and active. It is like a diamond in that when the Holy Spirit shines His light upon it, a new facet is discovered. How can we tire of something so amazing?

In Bertha Smith’s book “How the Spirit Filled My Life”, she says this regarding the passage above, “Not only had the calf been made, but sacrifices had been offered to it. The Israelites, who were daily eating the bread from heaven, gave God’s glory to that calf.”

I confess I had never thought about the fact that the Israelites were STILL receiving manna during this extreme act of idolatry. Was this true? Was God still providing sustenance to the Israelites while sin was running rampant through the camp?

In Exodus 16, we read where God began to provide manna for His people. He states clearly that manna would fall from heaven each morning as dew. The people would gather enough for the day every morning, except on the sixth day. On this day, they would gather twice as much in order to observe the Sabbath. At times, God provided meat, but overall, manna was the constant provision of the LORD God.

In Joshua 5:12, we see where God stops the manna. Was He tired of providing? No, the Israelites had started eating the fruit of The Promised Land so manna was no longer necessary. He was still providing, but in a totally different way. Their time in the desert was over.

Obviously, Exodus 32 is between these Scriptures. So, manna is still on the ground. The people of God are still being provided for during Moses’ absence. I have always thought that there must not have been a word from the Lord during this time, but there clearly was. Every time the manna fell each morning, God was assuring His people that He was faithful. He was assuring them that He was still in control and had their needs met before they woke up each day.  He was assuring them that even without Moses, they still had a relationship with Him. They were His people.

As they came up with their plan to create a new god we have to wonder, “Where did they think the manna had come from that very morning?”

Exodus 32, verse 6 tells us that the people sat down to eat and drink in celebration of their new found god. What did they eat and drink? They were literally drinking and eating what their true God had provided. Mind boggling, isn’t it? They were plainly holding in their hands the provision of God Himself yet, they were worshipping an idol. Not any idol, but an idol they had created themselves. They literally saw it formed before their very eyes, but they still served it.

It’s astounding, truly, until I stop and think about my own life. I confess that I have often done the same. I have prayed for ministry opportunities and when given those opportunities I have, like Aaron, taken God’s provision into my hands and “fashioned it with a graven tool into a molten calf” (verse 4). I have crafted things into my image instead of the image of Christ. I have wanted things to look a certain way, be a certain way, and feel a certain way (and by certain, I mean my way). I have molded and crafted and shaped things into gods in one hand while eating from His provision in the other.

I have created other gods as well. False gods like fear, when all around me the one true God has provided perfect safety.

I have also created the false god of self. Even while acknowledging any talent or skill has been provided by my Father, I obsess over things so much, I realize it’s no longer about worship, but about me.

I have created the god of pride, while quoting Scriptures about how there is nothing good in me.

The list goes on and on… fashioning a golden calf in one hand while gathering manna in the other.

God is ever faithful. He is ever Provider. Even when I choose to use that provision as a god, He is still Sustainer. He still provides sustenance when I am clearly following my own god. He is still the ever present Helper when I get in trouble. He is still the Great I Am. He is still the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is still God alone. Our God is truly amazing. He is faithful to provide even when we use that provision in a way it was never meant to be used.

As we go about our day, may we be ever mindful of what we are worshiping. As we start to fashion anything that is not of God, may we remember to stop, surrender it all back to Him, and leave our ministries, our families, our talents, our everything in HIS hands alone.

 *Photo by Allen Wallace

Seeking Hearts Ministries

When Things Aren’t as they Seem

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Last week, our oldest celebrated his 22nd birthday. He decided that instead of cake, he wanted fruit. He’s always wanted strawberries, but this was new. The morning of the big day I set the fruit on a large, white platter, but it just wasn’t nearly celebratory enough. So, I went back downstairs to gather my crystal. I set fruit in several crystal bowls, stuck a candle in a massive strawberry, and this momma was finally satisfied that the display was birthday worthy.

After the festivities, my husband and I were washing up all the pretty little dishes. We hit one of them with a fork, and ‘DING’, that perfect sound rang all over the kitchen. Mark said, “That’s a good piece of crystal.” I looked at it and said, “Really? I thought this one was.” We took the other piece and hit it (gently) and it kind of sounded like a ‘Dung’ more than a pretty little ‘Ding’.

It was so interesting. The good quality crystal didn’t look as fancy as the poor quality. It was just sitting there, unassuming, knowing what it had going for it. It didn’t have as fancy as a pattern. It didn’t have the decorative features of the other piece. It just sat there, knowing that what it was made of was right for the occasion.

The not so quality piece of crystal was ornate, decorative, and very showy. It screamed, “I’m here.” When it made a sound though, the truth came out. I realized that all the ornamentation was to distract me from knowing the truth.

These pieces of crystal reminded me that I need to make sure the sounds that I make are in keeping with who I am in Christ. They also reminded me that even when I’m impressed with how someone looks, or sings, or even preaches, the sound they make when they get “hit” proves what’s on the inside. Is it praise, or complaint? Is it a temper, or grace? Is it Christ, or self?

So, what sound should come out?

A good verse to go to is Ephesians 4:29. It  says, “Let no filthy talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for building up as the need may be. This way you will give grace to those who hear you.”

I confess, I often get caught up in the first part of this verse. I say to myself, “Well, I didn’t actually cuss, so I’m good.” I lose the next part, the part where I am ONLY to say things that build people up.

Sound impossible? If I am just using my best effort to look like a great quality Christian instead of actually being one, it is. Just like the crystal at Wes’ birthday. The sound I make tells on me every time. Just because I’m not cursing doesn’t mean I’m building people up. In fact, if all I’m doing is biting my tongue, the sound I am supposed to make (building people up) never happens.

Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand – The Process of Christian Maturitysays this: “Too many are caught acting as Christians. The life of too many Christians today is largely a pretense. They live a “spiritual” life, talk a “spiritual” language, adopt “spiritual” attitudes, but they are doing the whole thing themselves. It is the effort involved that should reveal to them that something is wrong. They force themselves from doing this, from saying that – and how hard they find it all! It is just the same as when we Chinese try to talk a language that is not our own. No matter how hard we try, it does not come spontaneously; we have to force ourselves to talk that way. But when it comes to speaking our own language, nothing could be easier. Even when we forget all about what we are doing, we still speak it. It flows. It comes to us perfectly naturally, and its very spontaneity reveals to everyone what we are.”

When I depend on Christ, through the Holy Spirit He has already placed inside of me, the sound I make is Him, not me. Instead of a pretender, He makes me the real thing. Instead of just apperaing to be Christ-like, He makes me like Him through and through. Still sound impossible? It would be without assurances like these:

Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us.”

Philippians 2:13 – “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” He gives us the “want to” and the power to actually accomplish it.

Let’s stop pretending and let Him do His perfect work in us. Let’s rest in the fact that when we are resting in Him, He cleans us up, cleans us out, and replaces us with Him. Then, when a hit comes our way, the sound we make is something that would bring Him glory, and will come as naturally as speaking our native langauge. Only God can do that in me, and in you. Let’s let Him do it.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

 

 

 

*Photo by iStock

Good Friday

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John 19:1-42 (HCSB)
1  Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged.
2  The soldiers also twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and threw a purple robe around Him.
3  And they repeatedly came up to Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and were slapping His face.
4  Pilate went outside again and said to them, “Look, I’m bringing Him outside to you to let you know I find no grounds for charging Him.”
5  Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
6  When the chief priests and the temple police saw Him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate responded, “Take Him and crucify Him yourselves, for I find no grounds for charging Him.”
7  “We have a law,” the Jews replied to him, “and according to that law He must die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
8  When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever.
9  He went back into the headquarters and asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus did not give him an answer.
10  So Pilate said to Him, “You’re not talking to me? Don’t You know that I have the authority to release You and the authority to crucify You?”
11  “You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.”
12  From that moment Pilate made every effort to release Him. But the Jews shouted, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!”
13  When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside. He sat down on the judge’s bench in a place called the Stone Pavement (but in Hebrew Gabbatha).
14  It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about six in the morning. Then he told the Jews, “Here is your king!”
15  But they shouted, “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Should I crucify your king?” “We have no king but Caesar!” the chief priests answered.
16  So then, because of them, he handed Him over to be crucified. Therefore they took Jesus away.
17  Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.
18  There they crucified Him and two others with Him, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.
19  Pilate also had a sign lettered and put on the cross. The inscription was: JESUS THE NAZARENE THE KING OF THE JEWS.
20  Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
21  So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’”
22  Pilate replied, “What I have written, I have written.”
23  When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part for each soldier. They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.
24  So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it, to see who gets it.” They did this to fulfill the Scripture that says: They divided My clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for My clothing. And this is what the soldiers did.
25  Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26  When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
27  Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
28  After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”
29  A jar full of sour wine was sitting there; so they fixed a sponge full of sour wine on hyssop and held it up to His mouth.
30  When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
31  Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away.
32  So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other one who had been crucified with Him.
33  When they came to Jesus, they did not break His legs since they saw that He was already dead.
34  But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.
35  He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows he is telling the truth.
36  For these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: Not one of His bones will be broken.
37  Also, another Scripture says: They will look at the One they pierced.
38  After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews—asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took His body away.
39  Nicodemus (who had previously come to Him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes.
40  Then they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it in linen cloths with the aromatic spices, according to the burial custom of the Jews.
41  There was a garden in the place where He was crucified. A new tomb was in the garden; no one had yet been placed in it.
42  They placed Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation and since the tomb was nearby.

*image by Urdu Bible

 

Seeking Freedom…Still!

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On Sunday, I had the privilege of singing No Longer a Slave to Fear with my congregation. It is such a beautiful proclamation, one that makes me lift my hands in praise every time. As I was singing though, I had to ask if what I was singing was true. Fear is such an issue with me. There are seasons in my life when I have allowed God to truly break me from it, and other seasons when it is a struggle. It is so frustrating to know that victory is possible, but to somehow have ended back in defeat. It reminded me of a blog I had written several years back, so I thought I’d share it once again. Enjoy!

So, there I was Sunday morning singing, “My chains are gone. I’ve been set free. My God my Savior has ransomed me…” You all know the song and chances are you are singing along by now. I must confess though, I’m a little tired of it. It’s been around for years now and at one convention when it was the new and upcoming worship song, I bet my husband and I sat through five renditions of it…no joke. Sometimes you can only take so much of a good thing.

On this particular Sunday though, I was sitting by my oldest who usual attends college in another part of the state. He was harmonizing so beautifully, and it really made me hear it again in a fresh way. Tears came to my eyes as I realized that my chains really were gone. I knew without a doubt that I was free in Christ! I knew that He paid the price for my chains to be gone completely, and I felt as light as a bird. I was free!

 But, did you see me Sunday night? Did you see me skulking in the corner putting my chains back on? Throughout the day I must have decided that I liked the heaviness of them. Somehow, I must have come to the conclusion that my fetters had not chafed my skin enough.

Between the two Sunday services, I re-shackled myself! I snuck away and decided to put the chains of unforgiveness back on. They were as heavy and as cumbersome as ever. I guess I decided I liked the weight.

I also fastened back the grip of arrogance. You know, sitting and deciding what others should be doing.

Oh, and did you see that I took that old habit of complaining and decided to wear it like a cloak once again? The heaviness of it almost broke me, but it was familiar. I must really like the familiar.

What in the world?! Am I free, or not? Are my chains really gone, or was it a delusion? Where is the sustaining power of freedom? Where are these shackles coming from? The apostle Paul proclaims in I Corinthians 10:1, “Am I not free?!” and I find myself asking the same.

The Word tells us in Galatians 5:1, “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This verse tells me that I’m not the only one who has put their chains back on after finding freedom. The people of Galatia apparently had the same issue.

Once again though, I must ask myself the question, “How do I stop?” Scripture tells me that Christ wants me to be free, so there must be a way. In John 8:32, I am reminded that the “truth will make you free.” So, what is the truth about freedom?

Leviticus 26:13 says, “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in freedom.” I love where it says that God “enabled us to live in freedom.” The truth is that living in freedom is possible through the enabling of Christ. After all, “all things are possible through Him”, right? So, we discover God enables us to live in freedom. It’s so encouraging to know He understands we cannot do this without Him!

Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners;” This Scripture is talking about Jesus. It says clearly that Jesus came to “proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.” The truth is that Christ did not come to shackle us with expectations and burdens. He came to set us free from those expectations and burdens. Why do we keep forgetting what Jesus says in Matthew, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”? Jesus came for freedom, not burdens!

Jeremiah 34:17 says, “Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed Me by proclaiming freedom, each man for his brother and for his neighbor. I hereby proclaim freedom for you”—⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration—“to the sword, to plague, and to famine…”

Wow! This Scripture tells us that the Lord Himself proclaims freedom over us because we wouldn’t do it for ourselves. He has given us freedom over the sword, plague and the famine. I don’t know about you, but I need freedom from a famine right now. I have been in a desert for some time simply going from “strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7). I need the chains of my famine to be gone, and I see that in the book of Jeremiah the truth is the Lord has already proclaimed it!

I now know that God has given me freedom and declared liberty over every part of my life, but how do I enjoy that freedom? What must happen?

II Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

So, the truth is we must be where His Spirit is to enjoy freedom. When we have trusted Christ as Savior, His Spirit is inside of us already, so we must be ever-listening, ever-conscious and ever-submitting to His presence. That’s true freedom. No worries about others; He has it handled. No concerns over daily strife; He has that as well. No frustrations, because He is not surprised. That’s peace. That’s freedom. Life in general often causes us to forget this, but we can rest assured that when we are where we are supposed to be, (in God’s presence), there is freedom. The truth is, if we are not free, we are not in the right place.

We also need to be aware that Galatians 2:4 gives us a clear warning. It says,This issue arose because of false brothers smuggled in, who came in secretly to spy on the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us.” The truth is I have an enemy who wants my freedom. He hates that I am free. He will use whatever means necessary (including other people) to steal my freedom. So, I must remember that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). The truth is I need to be so focused on Christ that others around me do not have the ability to steal my freedom.

II Peter 2:19 is another great reminder. It says, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”

I must remember the truth that I am only enslaved to whatever defeats me. Nothing is worth that. Nothing is worth re-shackling myself in those chains, no matter how familiar it may feel. If I am being defeated, I am not free.

Now it’s our choice. We know that our freedom depends on allowing God to enable us to live in the liberty that He has given to us. We know that we are indeed free in Christ because God Himself has proclaimed it and we also know that “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” May we truly live in that freedom. May we also remember that our enemy is after our freedom, and when we are defeated by anything, we are chained to it, just like a prisoner.

Prayerfully, the next time we sing “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free…” may it be a reminder of what God has already done in our lives. May it remind us of what used to be, and not what still needs to happen. May the freedom of Christ encompass our lives in such a way that the weight and scars of old chains are long forgotten.

The truth is God has proclaimed our freedom. Let’s live it!

Seeking Hearts Ministries

*photo from Clipart collection

Is My Gym Easier to Find Than My Church?

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A few months ago, my husband and I were trying to find a church in our new area. We went to the directory on the city’s website, we scoured the internet, and we wracked our brains trying to think of churches to visit. Do you know what? It was harder than we realized. My husband and I both had family churches growing up, so we never had to search for a church when we were younger. We had even moved to two different states, and found churches fairly easily, but back in our home state, back in our hometown, it was hard.

Several weeks later, I was in my local gym and the guy working there was telling me about a promotion they had going where if I recommended someone, I would get a free t-shirt. He went on to say, “I think it’s kind of dumb. Everyone in this town knows where the gym is.” I realized he was right, and I realized that it is much easier to find the gym than a church.

It made me wonder if because we live in the “Bible Belt” maybe we as churches assume that everyone knows where to find us. We must think that if grandma knew about us, grandchild must know about us too. I don’t know what we’re thinking, but I do know that Mark and I remembered the names of several churches that were not in any directory, anywhere. We had to wonder if they were full.

While it was very frustrating to go through the process of trying to find a new church, I’m glad it happened. Knowing the difficulty it was for my family to discover the place where we “fit” when we were searching, it made me realize that those who aren’t searching will never find us if we don’t do a better job of reaching out. If I can find a gym faster than I can find Jesus in a community, there is something wrong.

So, as I move forward in my faith, I’m praying God shows me how to reach out more, how to compel without being annoying, how to be the light in this community that He’s called me to be, and above all for my church to be easier to find than my gym!

*image by ForestWander Nature Photography

Seeking Hearts Ministries

 

It’s All in a Voice

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I was listening to a local radio station yesterday and actually recognized a voice that I hadn’t heard in quite some time. Even though said person was not a usual radio personality, I knew instantly who it was.

My youngest and I were talking about this later…how you can instantly recognize voices. Every voice is unique, like a fingerprint. He went on to say that even really good impressionists don’t sound exactly like the original.

As I was thinking about all of this, I realized that some impressionists have fooled me… for a time. The more I listened though, the more I realized something was “off”, and I knew they were a fake. As Gabe and I were talking I said, “If you listen long enough, and you know the voice well enough, you can always tell.”

Hmmm.

If you listen long enough, and know the voice well enough, you can always tell.

That’s the key in knowing God’s voice, isn’t it? Listening long enough, and knowing His voice well enough.

It made me remember all the times where I have been so impatient. I wanted to hear God’s voice, but I wanted to hear it quickly. After all, I had a lot to do that day.

It made me remember all the times where I thought I heard His voice because it sounded just like I thought it would, and it said exactly what I wanted to hear, only to realize later it was a fake, only an impressionist.

It made me remember that nothing, and nobody, sounds like our God. His voice is unique. I just have to listen long enough, and know His voice well enough.

Psalm 119:72 says, “Instruction from Your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” When I truly believe this, it shows, because I am at the feet of Jesus until I hear His voice. Nothing I have to do that day is more important when I believe His voice is better than any earthly treasure.

When I long for God and put my hope in His word, as Psalm 119:81 says, I will always listen long enough because that’s where my hope is.

Psalm 1:1-2 says, “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.”

When this is me, when I am meditating on God’s instructions (the Bible) I will become intimately acquainted with what His voice sounds like. I will know what it’s like for the very God of the universe to speak directly to my heart. I’ll realize no impressionist can ever sound like my God.

When I am like the psalmist in Psalm 63:8, which says, “I follow close to You; Your right hand holds on to me,” there is no way I am going to miss when my God whispers, or speaks loudly. I am going to know His voice. Why? Well, have you ever missed what someone was saying when you were hanging on to each other for dear life? Who we are close to is who we hear.

This was such a great reminder for me. It reminded me that nothing needs to take priority over hearing God every second of every day. If I hear too many fakes, I’ll quickly forget the true sound of my Lord, and if I am not hearing clearly, I am simply not listening long enough, so that I can know His voice well enough.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to make sure I hear Him and not some “wanna be” impressionist. Let’s strive together to hear our God’s voice. Let’s listen long enough, and know His voice well enough to never be fooled again.

Seeking Hearts Ministries

  • photo by ABC Radio Australia

Meet a Friend Day

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This blog is from a friend of mine that I had the privilege of serving with at a conference in Ohio over a year ago. She recently started a blog and this particular one really touched my heart…so I had to share it with you all.  Click on the link below and enjoy! I know you will be blessed.

Leah’s blog 

** Photo by clipartpanda