Oh, To Be An Encourager…

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For those of you follow me on Instagram or on my Facebook ministry page, Reflections On The Word, you’ll recall I’ve spoken a bit about my heart for building fellowship in the Body of Christ.

Over the years as society has changed I don’t think fellowship is something we easily maintain. In these days of busyness and distractedness it now has to be intentional. I also believe we have to want it bad enough to go after it.

I’ve heard recently from several women that they long for fellowship with like-minded women. They long for deep connection. They just don’t know how to go after it.

Women feel disconnected from one another in their busyness. Some feel lonely. Misunderstood. Even rejected which really breaks my heart.

Earlier this week a younger woman sat in my kitchen with tears in her eyes because she doesn’t feel like she has any friends. Life has been rough for her. I cried with her. I held her hand. I prayed with her. I’d like to think I encouraged her.

Because I know what that feels like. When you don’t feel like you’re part of an inner circle. We need to remember that even Jesus had an inner circle. He had many followers but only 12 apostles and of those 12 He had 3 that He kept very close to Him and poured a little bit more of Himself into them.

This inner circle of men Jesus chose were not found in the temple courts or on the palace steps. They were ordinary men that we might not have given a second glance, but Jesus looked deeper. Past the rough exteriors and rugged demeanors. Past the dirt and grime. Past the sun-kissed faces and leathery skin. Past their present life course and past lifestyles.

Jesus saw who these men would become after He poured His life into them. 

We have this idea in our heads that there are certain kinds of people we want in our inner circle. We don’t always look deeper. Sometimes we don’t even take a second glance and heaven forbid when we let first impressions be our only impression!

Thank You, Jesus, that first impressions don’t impress You.

I get it, though.

In the past, I watched from afar the way certain women would talk and act and laugh together and I’d think, They’re having so much fun together! I would love to be friends with them. What’s wrong with me?

How vain is that.

Sometimes I think we become so comfortable with our little “in” groups that we become protective. We like things the way they are. It’s hard to open our arms and hearts to let in anyone new. Because of the trust issue.

It takes time to build the kind of trust needed to develop true fellowship with one another. 

It takes time. 

I’ve been involved in women’s ministry in some way for a while. I’ve led prayer groups, taught Bible studies, mentored, shared fellowship meals in my home, participated in weekend retreats with other women and hosted weekend retreats of my own so I’ve heard often enough that women truly are longing for genuine connections.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that we all need someone we can trust in our lives who will listen to our hearts’ cries, who will be vulnerable enough to share personal experiences, who will strengthen us in our walk with the Lord, who will pray over us, and who will help us keep our eyes on Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve battled some serious discouragement in my own life and it’s just an awful place to be all alone.

Discouragement means, “a loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.” 

I’ve been discouraged about family situations, about finances, and about ministry. To name a few. There’ve been times I just plain wanted to give up on my passions and forfeit my joy.

We are so easily discouraged. That’s why we need encouragement.

encouragement>discouragement 

I’ve been reading through Paul’s letters in the New Testament and highlighting passages that refer to this fellowship and encouragement of which he so fondly wrote. I’ve been amazed how often the two are united. 

There are several different words used for encourage in the original Greek language which the NT is translated from.

Some of the various meanings are: To call to one’s side, to summon, to call near; to come together, to exhort; to cause one to excel, to superabound (don’t you love that!); to speak to, to console, to calm.

When I think of the encouragement I’ve received over the years I can honestly say I’ve received all of that goodness in some way at some time and in just the right measure.

-I’ve sent out SOS’s for prayer knowing my prayer partners will pretty much stop what they’re doing and pray for me right then and there. I trust them completely.

-I’ve had these same women come together and spur me on, telling me not to give up on the promises God has given me.

-I’ve met with women in coffee shops, cafe’s and parks to talk, cry and pray together.

-I’ve had women in my home to share a meal and Bible study.

-I’ve even had pity-parties, y’all, and I’m so grateful God has given me a few girlfriends who will come to my parties. They let me get it all out, but they don’t let me stay there. They speak comfort over me. They speak calm over me. They speak the Word of God over me.

They make me feel all superabounded! This word means to prevail in greater measure or to excess.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but this kind of encouragement has a way of making me feel all Wonder-Woman-like.

Just sayin’.

Because encouragement renews my courage and gives me the holy boldness to keep on keepin’ on!

We’re not all wired the same, but I love that Paul tells us all to be humble, be gentle, be patient with each other and always keep ourselves united in the Holy Spirit so that we bind ourselves together in peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

I love how he tells us to let everything we say be good and helpful, so that our words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29)

Paul reminds us we’re in this fight together (Philippians 1:30) and he tells us not to be selfish and don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than ourselves. Don’t think only about our own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Paul tells us his goal for the Colossians and his friends who never knew him personally was that they would be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. (Colossians 2:2)

He mentions more than once in his letters that he received encouragement and that he gave encouragement. He was also gracious to thank those who encouraged him. I can’t help but think so many of us are being short-changed.

We just don’t encourage one another enough and I wonder how many times we take it for granted when we do receive it.

Encouragement is a priceless gift when given from the heart. 

Even though Paul didn’t write the book of Hebrews I sill love this passage:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” Hebrews 10:23-25  

The word consider is a very intentional word that means to consider attentively, to fix one’s eyes or mind upon, to observe or to understand.

We are to intentionally fix our eyes or minds upon others so we can spur them on–or persuade them–to love and do good to others.

Encouragement is like a chain reaction…we encourage so that others will be inspired to encourage. Yet, how can we be an encourager if we don’t spend time with one another in fellowship?

…let us not give up meeting together…be intentional…

Be. The. Encourager.

Follow hard after fellowship.

Draw someone into your little circle.

Look deeper.

Take a second glance.

Consider attentively.

Go make someone superabound. Like Wonder Woman.

Just sayin’.

encouragement, Christian fellowship, build one another up, lift one another up, spur one another on, unity, love one another, be intentional, be the change, encouragement is greater than discouragement

Reflections On Psalm 16

IMG_6864I had a pretty good childhood.

From the time my parents brought me home from the hospital shortly after my birth to the moment I married my husband, I called “Parson’s Patch” home. My father was a Baptist minister so we lived in the church parsonage on a one-acre plot of land deeded to the church by the family who owned the farm that surrounded us.

Acres and acres of land. Fields and woods hemmed in on one side by a main thoroughfare heavily traveled and on the other by a small country road that didn’t get enough traffic to justify painted lines.

Ponds. Streams. Wildlife. Trees and rolling fields fenced in with hundreds of wooden posts and miles and miles of rolled steel wire to mark the boundary lines.

When the farm changed hands we were elated to have neighbors with children the same age as my sister and I. We became fast friends and the fields and woods were like a second home to us. We had at our disposal enough “scope for the imagination,” (to use a phrase from one of my favorite fictional characters, Anne of Green Gables), to keep us entertained for hours. 

I’m almost positive we explored every inch of those woods and fields by the time we were teenagers.

We built forts in densely grown thicket and brush, occasionally suffering the pricks of thorns that couldn’t be seen until after we started building. We walked barefoot on moss-covered carpet in the shade of a variety of trees that soared so high and grew so thick we could barely see the sun. We poked at fish eggs in ponds green with algae and heavily coated with yellow pollen. We walked across ravines on fallen trees that had become natural bridges for small bodies with tiny feet. We slid down red-clay cliffs on our backsides using the earth as a sliding board. We rolled our bodies like barrels down straw covered hills until we were so dizzy we made ourselves sick.

Most days, when we got home from school, we couldn’t wait to grab a snack and head outside. We didn’t even change our clothes. We played in our plaid dresses and knee socks not caring one bit about the scrapes and scratches our shins and knees endured. We only returned home at the sound of my mother’s shrill whistle that carried over vine and vale announcing it was time for dinner.

We were brave.

And fearless.

And hopelessly addicted to the outdoors.

I felt as if I had no boundaries. If not for the highway and the country road it seemed as if the woods just stretched on forever. The wire fence surrounding the fields couldn’t stop us. We crawled under the wire and went our merry way.

I knew those fields and woods didn’t belong to me or my family, but somehow…in my childish mind…they felt like they were mine, because I wasn’t just associated with the family who owned them. I was actually their friend and real friends share. They share stories and secrets, belongings and blessings, homes and happiness.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have known the Michie family.  I barely have a childhood memory that doesn’t have them in it. They didn’t just share their land with me. They shared their lives.

What was precious to the Michie children became precious to me because they opened their home and their hearts and their little piece of heaven on earth.

There are just some things money can’t buy. 

I think this is what Psalm 16 is all about.

The great psalmist, David, was so good about sharing his heart with God. I think that’s why we love the Psalms. Sometimes we just don’t know how to put into words the deep things of the heart.

“Lord, You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land You have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” verses 5-6

Whether you are fortunate enough or not to own a lot of property, there’s something very profound about these verses. A secret every child of God wants to claim and grasp hold of.

I can’t say I felt any less rich living on one acre of land in the midst of hundreds that didn’t belong to me. I didn’t feel cheated because we lived in a house that belonged to the church. I didn’t feel like I was missing out because I never felt like a visitor.

My childhood was rich because I had parents who loved me and because I knew they loved the Lord. Maybe I didn’t understand it all as a child, but I believe in my heart…in the place where I didn’t know how to express myself…that God was preparing me early to have a certain amount of knowing that He alone is my inheritance, my cup of blessing. Even then.

There’s something so sacred about knowing and being known by the One who promises to go through life with me. Who shares it all with me…secrets, blessings, happiness…and who wants me to share my all with Him.

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.” verse 8

For the child of God there are just some riches that reach far beyond any main thoroughfare heavily traveled on this earth. No country road will ever lead me to the kind of blessings only heaven offers. No wooden fence posts or miles and miles of steel wire can keep me from entering my promised land…the inheritance that is mine in Christ Jesus.

My inheritance is far grander. Far greater. Far more glorious.

The kind of thing you can’t put a price on.

All because the Lord alone is my portion, my cup of blessing. When I let go and drink it all in, I am hopelessly addicted. I know “apart from Him I have no good thing.” verse 2 

Sometimes I wonder, if I didn’t have a home or a little tiny plot of land or a penny to my name, would He still be enough?

know it in my head, but would I know it in my heart?

I so want this to be so.

God has already shared so much with me. More than I’ve ever shared with Him because He gave me His Son. 

The Father gave me Jesus so I would have this hope…this inheritance…this forever home. There’s plenty of “scope for the imagination” in this truth to keep me entertained from now until my days on earth are over.

Sometimes there are no words…

In the end of the parable of the lost son as told in Luke 15, the older son was angry that his father chose to celebrate the return of his wayward brother. But, the father said to the older son,

“My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” 

I don’t know about you, but I get all teary eyed just thinking about it.

God is so good about giving me little pieces of heaven on earth and they really are wonderful things. He’s so good like that, but I know all the good He has given me here on earth just can’t compare with what’s to come.

Even when things aren’t perfect, even when there are struggles and frustrations and disappointments and heartache, I have this hope…in the depths of my soul.

Because I love His Son, the Father will share it all with me. What is precious to the Father has become precious to me and because He shares with me His heart, His home, and all that heaven holds I’ve determined to share mine with Him. 

All of it…the stories and secrets, the belongings and blessings, the eternal home and forever happiness.

Because true friends share it all.

“I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” John 15:15

And because there are just some things money can’t buy.

“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever.” verse 11

faith, faith journey, blessings of God, riches of God, Psalm 16, eternal pleasures forever, path of life, joy in God’s presence, the Lord is my portion, the Lord is always with me, the Lord is my refuge, God is good

Leaving Moab Behind, Part 3

IMG_3744Rarely does life ever turn out the way we plan.

Sometimes it turns out good.

Sometimes it turns out better.

And sometimes it turns out abundantly more than anything we could ever have imagined.

After losing all the things she held most dear to her heart, Naomi came to the end of herself in Moab. Without her husband and her sons to provide for her, Naomi’s future seemed hopeless. In the eyes of the society in which she lived, Naomi was destitute.

Moab hadn’t changed. It was still a lovely place. It was still beautiful. Still filled with an abundance of food and drink. Things in Moab hadn’t changed, but things for Naomi in Moab had. She was no longer thriving in the land of prosperity.

Naomi’s sons had married Moabite women in Moab, even though God had told His people over and over again, “Don’t intermarry with the nations around you” because He knew if they did they would also marry into their philosophies and ways of life. They would become more and more like those whom God had said, “Don’t be like them.”

How can we expect to make a difference in this world–a difference for Jesus–if we’re not willing to live with a different spirit?

To those who can’t understand it, it sounds harsh. To those who don’t want to understand it, it sounds intolerant. To those who don’t know the true character of God, it sounds unloving.

Yet, the truth is…if God’s children look like the rest of the world, act like the rest of the world, talk like the rest of the world, and agree with the rest of the world, then doesn’t it make sense that the world would look at us and think, “Well, Jesus hasn’t made that much difference in you so what do we need Him for?”

Long pause….

Big sigh….

Deep thought…

Because that’s how I react to that question. Not with condemnation.

But with conviction.

God had called His people to have a different spirit.

To be in the world…not of the world.

To be in The House of Bread and The Place of Praise–even in a famine–and not in Moab.

When Naomi heard that the “Lord had come to the aid of His people by providing food for them” back in Bethlehem-Judah she no longer wanted to be in the world of Moab. When she took those first steps out of Moab with her heart longing for home, her daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, wanted to follow.

But, on the banks of the Jordan River, with Bethlehem-Judah just over the hills, something happened that would change the course of their destinies.

One daughter-in-law would return to Moab. The other would stay close to Naomi all the rest of her days.

Orpah is symbolic of a woman who has to make the choice between the old way of life and the new, between the wide road and the narrow road, between the way back or the way forward.

Even though the choice was difficult, even heartbreaking, Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, weeping loudly. She exits the pages of Scripture and we never hear from her again.

We journey with certain people on this earth for a time, for a season, but one day we realize we need to let them go because they just might hold us back.

Some friends just don’t want to travel with us on difficult journeys. They don’t want to go where God is leading us. They can’t understand it. Don’t want to understand it. They don’t know the character of God the way we do.

As difficult and heartbreaking as it is, sometimes we have to say good-bye. We can’t hold onto them. We can’t change them. We can’t save them.

The parting between Orpah and Naomi was painful. Just because Orpah chose to stay in Moab didn’t mean she didn’t love Naomi and Ruth. It didn’t mean she wasn’t going to miss them. It didn’t mean she was heartless or selfish or reckless.

Orpah just wasn’t convicted.

When God brings us to the banks of our own personal Jordan, it’s easy to stay there by the river with our idols still within our grasp. It’s easy to compromise our convictions. To give in to fear. To let our emotions, our tears, and sadness hold us back.

Letting go is never easy because…

…there’s a longing within each of us to be loved. Adored. Treasured.

…there’s a yearning within each of us to be needed. Wanted. Accepted.

…there’s a wanting within each of us for companionship. Friendship. Fellowship.

Letting go of good things is never easy. Some friendships are good for us, but they’re not God’s best for us in seasons of change and transition.

Oprah couldn’t follow because her heart wasn’t willing to go and if her heart wasn’t willing then she would only have made it harder for Naomi and Ruth.

We need to travel life’s difficult journeys with those whose hearts travel with us.

The road out of Moab led through a mountainous terrain. It was a road that would take Naomi and Ruth uphill. They would make their way through the Judaean hills to get to Bethlehem on the other side. The climb would be treacherous for 2 women. Dangerous. Hazardous.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m traveling perilous terrain I don’t want a wimp beside me. I want someone with Strength. Courage. Conviction.

Ruth was so convicted that Naomi’s own discouragement did nothing to dissuade her.

Wow. I love that about her.

One of the most beautiful passages of undying love and affection in the Old Testament is found right here in the Book of Ruth as Ruth pledged her loyalty to Naomi:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 1:16-18

Strength. Courage. Conviction.

Ruth had it. Orpah did not.

Ruth had lived in Moab her entire life. She’d known many gods, but she’d heard Naomi talk of the One True God and something deep inside of her wanted to know more.

Ruth’s heart was more than willing to go. She left it all behind to reach for Namoi’s God and she would be richly rewarded. Ruth would marry a good man in Bethlehem-Judah, a godly man, a man who–along with Ruth–would be listed in the lineage of Christ. (Matthew 1)

Ruth dared to believe that her prosperity wasn’t in Moab with all it’s flowing streams and abundant grain, but in the land of God’s chosen people, even though it didn’t look promising for her and her widowed mother-in-law.

This is where Ruth reveals the moral integrity of her heart and this is where Ruth sets herself apart.

This is the moment Ruth confesses a different spirit. Denying all but declaring all.

And how God would lift her up! As she journeyed with Naomi through mountain pathways, He would not let her foot slip. He would not let her fall. He would make her stronger than ever.

God would make Ruth the friend Naomi needed. Together they would journey out of Moab and into Bethlehem-Judah. Together they would find their way back into a land of great spiritual promise and true prosperity. Together they never looked back.

Scripture tells us Naomi left Moab with a bitter heart. We gamble when we step outside of God’s will for us. There are no guarantees we won’t lose it all, but even when life doesn’t turn out the way we plan and the future doesn’t look good or promising…

…it doesn’t mean it won’t get better. God is in the restoration business, my friends!! The whole message of Ruth is all about His redeeming love.

The story of Ruth doesn’t end with a bitter heart. If you read the rest of the Book, you’ll discover that Naomi surrendered her bitterness and God restored her joy. He made her full again.

From bitter to better.

Not just better, but abundantly more than she could ever have imagined!

I love, love, love it about God that there is absolutely nothing He can’t redeem. Nothing He can’t restore. Revive. Refresh. Renew. There’s just so much promise in all those RE-words.

And I love it that there are still Ruths in this world with a different spirit. Friends with Strength. Courage. Conviction. Friends who come alongside us in seasons of famine and help us to persevere in our House of Bread and our Place of Praise so that we won’t want to venture into the land of Moab where the grass is NOT always greener on the other side.

Because “it’s always better to be hungry in the will of God than to be full outside the will of God.” –unknown

Leaving Moab Behind, Part 2

IMG_1104Sometimes I look at others and think, They sure do seem to be prospering so much better than me. You know what I mean?

But prosperity in God’s economy isn’t always having more material wealth. I don’t care what those preaching a prosperity gospel have to say about it. Yes, God entrusts more money, more possessions, and more success to some, but it isn’t really the way to God’s heart.

Most of us are no different than God’s people during the time of Ruth.

Too much prosperity in our lives will rob us of a heart for God. The more we have the more we want. A lot of us are just selfish like that.

We have an enemy who wants us to believe there will always be one more thing we just have to have. He used this lie in the Garden when he tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit. He made it look like something she couldn’t live without when God had already given her everything beautiful under the sun. The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the only thing God told her she couldn’t eat.

Can you imagine? Having everything at your fingertips BUT. That. One. Thing.

One.Thing.

When Elimelech took his family to Moab he took them to a prosperous land, but it’s physical beauty was marred by something deeper within. Behind all the flowing streams, abundant grain, healthy flocks, and lush terrain was a history of incest. They worshiped pagan gods and filled their lives with immoral living. They sacrificed their children on the altar. God refers to them twice in Scripture as “My wash pot.”

Moab was a place forbidden to God’s people because the Moabites had refused to help them when they were traveling through the wilderness after God delivered them from Egypt, yet Elimelech left behind The House of Bread and The Place of Praise (see Leaving Moab Behind, Part 1) to go live in the world’s wash pot.

One commentator I read said it was like calling Moab God’s “toilet bowl”. Not a pretty picture.

I had to think about that r-e-e-e-a-l good. It was as if God said Moab was a place to wash yourself in the dirt and sin of the world.

I don’t know about you, but that stinks.

I know how hard it is not to run ahead of God when life hands me some h-a-a-a-r-d stuff. I know how hard it is to keep from trying to fix my messes on my own. I know how hard it is to wait on God when He isn’t sending the rain or providing the answers or healing the land.

Elimelech only intended to stay in Moab for just a little while, but he ended up staying longer than he thought he would. He put down roots. He made friends. He embraced the culture. He sacrificed the spiritual health of his sons because he showed them how to love the world more than God. He filled himself with the music, entertainment, and wealth of the Moabite people. He satisfied himself with his possessions.

Elimelech enjoyed the prosperity.

God brought famine to Bethlehem-Judah because the people were spiritually poverished. I don’t care how physically prosperous one might be, if the heart isn’t right with God there will always be lack. There will always be thirst.

We may venture into Moab when times get tough because we’re prone to wander from the God we love, but we don’t leave famine behind. 

We take it with us.

God never said His children would be free from pain and heartache, persecution and hardship, but He does promise to strengthen us and deliver us during difficult times if we stay within the boundaries of His protection. 

God does NOT leave us during a famine!!! He doesn’t forget us. Famines don’t last forever. Physical nourishment isn’t really the cry of our heart, anyway. When we’re discontented and dissatisfied in Bethlehem-Judah, it’s not because God isn’t giving us what we need. It’s because we’re not letting God be enough for us right where we are.

I read the following quote somewhere a long time ago and made a mental note of it so I can’t really take credit for it, but it’s a powerful truth:

It’s always better to be hungry in the will of God than to be full outside the will of God. 

We can’t doubt God’s goodness in times of hardship and famine.

He’s still good. All the time.

That’s a saying that won’t ever get old. Or worn out.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness, but it’s still there. You can’t take goodness out of God. It’s Who He is.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

We’re the ones with shifting shadows. Pledging our lives and giving our hearts and vowing to surrender all when things are going good, but when life hits like a ton of bricks we want to run for the hills.

We want to run to Moab.

That phrase in James 1:17, coming down, is a present active participle. It means that God’s good gifts keep coming down, all the time, even when we don’t see them.

You know…I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if God had given me the miracle of a new eye. That’s what I wanted when I was a younger me. I used to cry myself to sleep at nights because I didn’t get it. There was a time when I thought the only way God could be glorified in my life would be to give me a supernatural, divine healing. I wanted a new eye.

When I didn’t get ‘the desire of my heart’, Moab looked pretty good to me. I went some places I never thought I’d go. I did some things I never thought I’d do. I said some things I never thought I’d say.

And I was absolutely miserable.

I can honestly tell you today that I would rather live life on this earth without my eye and know Jesus like I know Him than to have perfect sight and be far from Him.

I don’t understand all the ways of God, but I’ve learned that in His goodness He knows what I need and He knew the loss of my eye would help me understand His grace in a way I might not have with it.

Do you get that?

When we become dissatisfied with God’s best for us we experience famine in our lives. Instead of venturing into Moab, though, we need to stay in The House of Bread and The Place of Praise clinging to God with our whole hearts.

I know sometimes it seems our life is one big mess. We all have seasons where things seem uncertain. We wonder what in the world God is doing. Our dreams have been washed down the drain. Our plans have dried up like a fig tree. Our wealth has been stolen out from under our feet. Our health has been attacked with a raging cancer.

We wonder…we wonder…we wonder…

God, are you there?!?

But, you know…I’ve come to this place in my life where I’ve learned how to feed my hunger in The House of Bread. I’ve learned how to find my joy in The Place of Praise.

Sometimes, all I know to do is tell God how much I need Him. 

Sometimes, all I know to do is tell God He is worthy. 

Worthy of my worship. Worthy of my praise. Just plain worthy. 

That’s it. That’s the One.Thing.

That’s the one thing at your fingertips that will give you enough of what you need.

I remember when I came to the end of myself in Moab and, like Naomi, I was ready to go home.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God, my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.” Habbakuk 3:17-19

When you still have your praise even though the grapes have dried up and the olives have fallen from the tree…when you still worship even though the crops have failed and the fields are stripped of harvest…when you still lift your face to the heavens even though the sheep have wandered off and the cattle have been raided…you, my friend, will have the strength to stand.

Because God will lift you up. He will provide. He will meet your need.

He is good. He is faithful.

And He will do it.

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Reflections On Psalm 15

 

IMG_2517Have you ever had someone twist your words around and completely distort the meaning of what you wanted to convey?

Have you ever had someone come right out and boldly speak an untruth about you?

Have you ever had someone make perceptions about you that were so far from what you were truly feeling in your heart that it made you want to scream and shake your fist and defend yourself?

Don’t you hate it when the enemy comes against you with negativity and attacks you with falsehood?

“People are much deeper than stereotypes. That’s the first place our minds go. Then you get to know them and you hear their stories, and you say, ‘I’d have never guessed.’ -Carson Kressley

I love that.

I spent much of my early years trying to prove to others that I was somebody besides the girl with the fake eye. From the day those mean, cruel boys taunted me at the community swimming pool calling me ‘false-eyed’ in front of God and everybody, I’ve had to fight off feeling ‘less than’.

In this hearing-seeing world where I don’t hear and see like most people around me, I’ve had to fight off stereotypes.

I’ve been called a snob because I didn’t answer someone who tried to carry on a conversation with me while they were talking to my back. And what is that, anyway? How can you carry on a conversation with anyone’s backside? I ask you.

I’ve been called stuck up because I didn’t respond to someone who called my name when I wasn’t looking at them. And what is wrong with that picture? Are we so lazy that we can’t walk 10 feet to speak to someone without yelling at them across the room? I ask you.

I’ve been called ditzy…dumb blonde…flighty…because I don’t always understand everything that’s said to me or I completely misinterpret what’s been said.

It used to hurt like crazy.

But now…now I know that those who think such things really don’t have the whole picture. They don’t know my story.

And my story is one of those I’d-have-never-guessed-renditions. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that line…

I’d have never guessed you were hearing impaired. Your hair hides your hearing aids and you talk so well.

I’d have never guessed you had a fake eye. It looks so real.

I’d have never guessed you felt ‘less than’. You seem so happy and confident. 

Bwahahahahaha….

If people only knew.

In Psalm 15, David points out a few things about the man who may dwell in God’s sanctuary…

He whose walk is blameless…

He who does what is righteous…

He who speaks the truth from his heart…

He who has no slander on his tongue…

He who does his neighbor no wrong…

He who casts no slur on his fellowman…

He who despises a vile man…

He who honors those who fear the Lord…

He who keeps his oath even when it hurts…

He who lends his money without usury…

He who does not accept a bribe against the innocent…

First, the Wow.

Then, the Ouch.

Is he talking to me? (Yup. Me, too.)

Basically, David is saying we’re called to do good things to and for others and one of these things is to have a right understanding of the way we see or perceive others. To have moral integrity in how we relate to our fellow man such as this…

…he who does what is right (this would include taming our tongues)…

…speak the truth from your heart (this would include lining our attitudes with that of the Lord’s since most of our hurtful words come from attitudes like anger, resentment, bitterness, prejudice, etc, etc)…

…do not slander (this would include speaking only the truth about others and NOT twisting words or speaking words from false perceptions; one of the original definitions refers to slander as a crime, people!)…

…do your neighbor no wrong (this would include not speaking ill of them; I’m thinking gossip, too, friends!)…

…cast no slur on your fellow man (this would include purposely leaving out specific details about something to cast a different light on a situation; maybe in anger against someone with the intent of hurting their reputation or justifying your anger)…

…and all this goes back to lining our attitude up with the attitude of the Lord’s because David writes,

“…honor those who fear the Lord…”

It’s hard to honor those who fear the Lord if you don’t first honor and fear Him yourself.

Remaining loyal to God by knowing Him, growing in the knowledge of Him, and striving to walk in His ways, will give us a greater understanding of His heart for people. For the people of God in David’s biblical time this kind of knowing came by drawing near, by seeking God in His sanctuary because the sanctuary was where the Presence of God dwelt.

God doesn’t show favoritism. He doesn’t prefer one set of people over another. He’s all-inclusive. In our present time, all are welcome in His sanctuary…all are welcome on His holy hill. Not everyone accepts the invitation to come, but if they did, they’d all be welcome.

It isn’t our “job” to judge. It isn’t our “job” to cast blame. It isn’t our “job” to label or point fingers.

Sometimes I lack understanding in my heart about so many things. I lack passion to do so many things. Sometimes I lack the wisdom and discernment to know the will of God. And when I do, I know I’m the one who needs to check my own heart. I need to look within myself.

I need God to grace me and flood me with the compassion that can only come from Him so that I can grace others and flood them with the same comfort He gives me, but unless I spend time with people and get to know them, how am I ever going to know their stories?

This is at the heart of the Gospel and this is the Gospel in action…

…to love the Lord with all my heart so that His love flows through me and I can love my neighbor as myself.

Without twisted words and distorted meanings.

Without untruths and misguided perceptions.

Without negativity and falsehood.

With the right attitude–the kind that lines up with that of God’s–we can love others. We can do for others. We can speak truth to and about others.

We can. 

Because those in Christ Jesus are a sanctuary for the Holy Spirit and His Spirit will compel us. Enable us. Equip us. Empower us.

In these present times, when so many are struggling to stay afloat, striving to stand firm, straining to step wisely, it’s easy to label. It’s easy to misinterpret. It’s easy to relate to others through misguided perceptions.

You don’t have to be severely hearing impaired or blind in one eye to be stereo-typed, but sometimes I think we all have trouble seeing and hearing with a proper perspective. We don’t always see and hear with Kingdom eyes–with the eyes of our heavenly Father– but I believe we can. 

We can.

Because Scripture tells us we can:

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 

If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  2 Corinthians 5:11-17 (bold italics are mine)

I think it’s so cool that David ends Psalm 15 with these words,

He who does these things will never be shaken…

This is why I can fight off the words of those who don’t have the whole picture, who don’t know my story. I can fight off feeling ‘less than’.

When people make false assumptions about me I know they’re not really looking into my heart, but because I know the sufficiency of grace and the power of the Gospel, I can look into their hearts through the lens of this grace. I can give it because it’s been given to me by the One who is Grace.

So, whenever anyone says to me after they hear my story, “If you hadn’t told me, I’d have never guessed,” I can confidently say, “And that, my friend, is what Grace is all about.” 

#thepowerofgrace #gracesufficient #nomoremisperceptions #iamnotalabel #iaminchrist #toseewithkingdomeyes #loveyourneighborasyourself #positivewords #speaktruth

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Leaving Moab Behind, Part 1

IMG-6166Almost 10 years ago I spoke at a woman’s conference from the Book of Ruth. This little book tucked into the Old Testament between Judges and 1 Samuel has been a source of comfort and strength to many for thousands of years.

I realize the truths within these 4 short chapters have been studied and taught so many times by so many people–I’ve actually taken several Bible studies on Ruth myself over the years–I couldn’t help but be moved by some of the things I myself rediscovered and shared.

So…to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly, I thought I’d post a series from this message, Leaving Moab Behind.

The little book of Ruth takes place during the 350-plus years of the days of the Judges. There were no kings reigning in the land of Judah during this time.

These were very dark days. Scripture tells us in the Book of Judges that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. God’s people had become self-seeking and self-centered, falling into a lifestyle of idolatry and immorality.

It was hard to tell the children of God from the rest of the world, yet He had called them to be set apart. He had called them to be holy.

God called the Israelites to honor Him and love Him by living a life that was pleasing to Him, walking in His ways, and following His commands. Not because He’s some egotistical god that demanded their worship and devotion, but because He loved them and desired they would make Him known to others, drawing them to the One true God.

God has and always will be Sovereign. Before all things. Above all things. Behind and beside all things. He knows what’s best for us and He knew what was best for His children during the days of Ruth.

God wanted to protect His chosen people. He wanted to prosper them and bless them, love them and care for them.

But, how can you protect someone who leaves the safety of your protection?

How can you prosper someone who turns his or her back on your provision?

How can you bless someone who rejects your blessings?

This is what God’s children did in the days of the Judges and if we’re completely honest with ourselves…so many of us still leave the “land of Judah” today and turn our backs on God’s will and plan for us when times get hard, when the going gets tough, when the path before us is uncertain. Without even realizing it we journey into Moab because we don’t trust our Sovereign God to keep us safe and care for us–even in times of famine.

Ouch.

I’ve been to “Moab.” If I’m honest, I’ve been there several times in my walk with the Lord.  As if once wasn’t enough…

(Some of us learn life’s lessons the h-a-a-a-r-d way.)

And if you still want honesty from me, let me just say I could very easily take another detour in the very near future considering what my husband and I are about to face in the next few months. We’re talking a real test of perseverance and faith right over the horizon! (I feel like throwing-up just thinking about it. The anxiety is real, y’all.)

I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about “Moab”, though, and here’s what I want to say…

I would rather stay in Bethlehem-Judah during a famine than venture back into Moab again. 

Moab is no place for a child of the King. Not to live, anyway. Maybe it’s a nice place to visit every now and then. After all, some of us are called to real mission work in the Moabs of this world, but to get back to the purpose of this message there’s nothing real pretty about Moab. There’s nothing we should desire there. It’s a very shallow place to be. Worldly. Sinful. Destructive.

Do you know why?

We lose what’s most precious to us in Moab. 

Naomi lost her husband, Elimelech.

Naomi lost her sons, Mahon and Kilion.

Naomi lost her means of provision.

Naomi lost her joy.

Ruth, chapter 1 and 2, tells us that Elimelech took his wife and their 2 sons to live in Moab for awhile because famine had come to Bethlehem-Judah.

Moab was about 40-60 miles from Bethlehem. It was a place of great physical beauty, a lovely land where there was ample rainfall and numerous streams. It produced plenty of grain, fruit, and flocks. Because of it’s geographic location it was also a place of safety. It offered protection from bandits and raiding armies because of the surrounding hills and the Dead Sea. It was a place that looked “good” to Elimelech.

We place a lot of emphasis on what looks good in this world, but sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most dangerous. To borrow a cliche’…the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of that boundary marker.

Bethlehem was a very significant place in the history of God’s people. Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died in Bethlehem, but their son Benjamin was born there. It was a place where hope came out of pain, life came out of death. It was also the hometown of Israel’s greatest king, David, and the most lovely thing of all is that it birthed our sweet Jesus.

Bethlehem means House of Bread and Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Bethlehem was in Judah: Judah was one of Jacob’s sons. From the tribe of Judah came the Messiah.

Scripture refers to Jesus as the Lion of Judah and Judah means Place of Praise.

Having shared all that, let me just say…famine can still come to you in the House of Bread and the Place of Praise.

But so does God. He still comes to us in the famines of life and thank heaven He does!

He still comes to us when we realize the poverty of our hearts without Him.

A famine will bring you a hunger and a thirst for God like you’ve never known before and I can’t even tell you how typing those words stir such a longing in me to draw near because I know this, too:

Our House of Bread is the place of God’s enoughness, where He provides our every need. Not wants, my friends. Needs. There’s a big difference.

Our House of Bread is the place where Jesus meets us in our poverty and we experience the gift of His Presence, where He comes to us in our praise.

This is the real gift.

The real blessing.

The real sacredness of trust. Where we set ourselves apart.

Because when you can say in the midst of life’s famines,

“You are still God and I will always love You. I will still trust You. I will still serve You. I will still worship You,”

you’re giving Him the real sacrifice and you’re making Him known to others, drawing them to the One true God. You’re saying you believe He will keep you safe and care for you. You’re saying He is enough for you and those who don’t know Him will want to know why.

In these days on the Kingdom calendar I can’t help but think how like the Israelites we  become, how easy it is to allow our hearts to go astray. We wonder how in the name of Jesus we’re going to survive the messes we’ve made, but God knew these days were coming.

That’s why He’s given us Jesus. Our Daily Bread. Our Manna.

That’s why He’s given us our number one Reason to Praise.

And that reason is NOT back in Moab. Sometimes it’s right smack in the middle of Bethlehem-Judah.

In the midst of a famine.

#jesusourdaileybread #jesusisenough #faith #faithjourney #sacrificeofpraise #thankfulness #gratefulheart #dailybread #godprovides #godprotects #godcares

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New Look/Under Construction

Hello Friends!

Stay tuned…I’m in the process of updating my blog site. In the meantime, if you’d like to read my devotions, I’m on Instagram under gracedtolive and on the Facebook ministry page I share with Sherry French, Reflections On The Word, http://www.facebook.com/reflectionontheword.

Just to let you know…I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and God-seeking in the last 14 months since I wrote my last blog post and I have to say…I’m kinda glad to be back.

Joy!