Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shelter-Living


C.A.N.C.E.R.

This six letter word has the power to strike terror into the heart of the most indomitable of spirits.  This fear (real or imagined) stalks us in the middle of the night and sends our neat little worlds into a tailspin.

It seems like everyone around me is getting cancer. My heart is overwhelmed with sadness.  Why Lord?  Why this disease?  Why good people?  Why the people I love? And I feel my heart skip a beat when I wonder . . . who will be next?

Then I read these words . . . Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  He will cover you with His feathers.  He will shelter you with His wings.  His faithful promises are your armor and protection.  Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night nor the arrow that flies in the day.  Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.  Psalm 91.1,4-5
We won’t find rest if we’re living somewhere else.  We won’t find safety or security in anything this world claims.  We won’t know peace if we’re trusting in ourselves, in our circumstances or in our feelings.
We must camp out, set down roots, remain, reside, and persist in the presence of our Savior.  We can’t expect to find rest unless we do.  Our lives will be plagued by fear and worry.  Our situation, whatever it is, will overwhelm us and we will hand over power to our circumstances to dictate, how we feel and the way we live.
So how do we do this?  How do we do this in the midst of life here on earth?  How do we take shelter in a God we can’t see or touch?  How do we find our refuge in Him?
Granted this is where it gets tough.  It’s where the “fan” falls away and only the true follower persists.  This choice of life, this shelter-living doesn’t happen accidentally.  It takes intentionality.  Spending time with our Savior, pouring over His words, quietly sitting in His presence, quieting our hearts long enough to hear His gentle whispers and seeking His way not ours.  Falling on our knees in repentance.  Mourning our sin and refusing to make excuses for it. Surrendering our hearts, our choices, and our will to Him. All of this is so contrary to the world around us. 
But this is how we live in the shelter.  This is where we find rest.  This is where protection is found.  Having our hearts fixed on nothing else but Him.  This is where we will find peace in the storm.
When we live in the shelter of our Abba Father . . . we no longer need to be afraid.  Worry will become a thing of the past.  Trust will be our daily companion. He alone will be our place of refuge and we will KNOW a peace the world will never comprehend.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Astonishing Love


Recently, I stood out under the beautiful African night sky.  No light pollution.  Nothing to hinder the brilliance of the stars.  It took my breath away!  Could I stand on tiptoe and touch a star?  So close.  So brilliant.  So vast.  I saw the Southern Cross, Orion’s Belt, and the Milky Way.
I thought of the verse in Psalm 147.4, He counts the stars and calls them all by name! (Exclamation mark added by me.) 

It’s at moments like this when I’m overwhelmed by the cosmic greatness of my God and His love for me . . . If He cares about a star, how much more does He care about me, His very own child?  If He sees each star individually, uniquely, does He not see me individually and uniquely too?
God’s love for His children is more than we can comprehend.  It’s shocking.  Awe-inspiring.  All-consuming. God doesn’t dole out a measly trickle of love instead it’s a waterfall gushing over us; overwhelming, overpowering, and irresistible.  

 
Sheridan Voysey, in her book Resilient writes this:
Picture a grain of sand placed next to a skyscraper.
Compare a single microbe to our largest planet, Jupiter.
Picture the tiniest trickle alongside the mightiest of rivers.
Imagine the faintest scent against the strongest perfume.
The quietest bird call against the loudest thunder clap.
Compare a tiny water drop to the Pacific Ocean.
The flicker of a candle to the blaze of the sun.
A single leaf to a forest of trees . . .
That’s how tiny human love is compared to the great love God has for you!



I love this!
My prayer for you is the same prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians.  “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  (Ephesians 3.18-19) 
 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Out of Africa


There is so much brokenness in the world.  Broken homes, broken lives and broken hearts.  I'm becoming more and more aware of this as I travel around the world.  Brokenness is real. It's so evident in other countries but it’s also here at home as well.

It just feels more broken outside the boundaries of my familiarity.   

I recently journeyed, for the first time, to Africa with a team of people from our church to help at the CURE Hospital in Zambia.  Brokenness was all around us.  Handicapped children, hurting mothers, extreme poverty and desperate fathers.  CURE hospital is a beacon of hope and light in this broken place. 

 
It is hard to see the desperation, desolation and dire circumstances of so many people. Hard to know the place I come from, the luxuries I enjoy, the hospital care I can receive and see the lack here.  Hard to listen to stories of mothers carrying their crippled child on their back for miles to reach a bus and of the long journey on the bus to finally reach the hospital.  Hard to see a baby with a head the size of its body, the horrible effects of no prenatal care for the mother.  Hard to watch crippled children struggling to walk on the sides of their feet.  Hard to see the fear and hurt in a mother's eyes. 

 
Brokenness is everywhere in this place and yet brokenness is where I live as well.  Where I come from brokenness looks different but its brokenness just the same.  It's hard to see families torn apart by divorce and children devastated by the fracture. Hard to see entitlement residing in a heart and hard to witness adult children refusing to care for their aging parents. Hard to see a lack of gratitude for all we enjoy.  Hard to hear a friend's story of sexual abuse. 

It's evident we live on a broken planet. 

But in the midst of the brokenness, I see hope.  I see beauty. I see joy. 

 
I see God's healing hand and the love of Jesus in the hearts of His people.  I hear stories of light overcoming the darkness and beauty breaking through the brokenness.  I see God at work bringing severed families back together.  Healing children who have been devastated by a disability.  I see hope in a parent's eyes.  I see God's redeeming love in the heart of someone who forgives an enemy.  I see a children’s hospital (CURE) with a passion to heal the broken, body and soul.   

 
I see a God who understands brokenness because He became that for us! 

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.  He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed.  Isaiah 53.5 

He was broken so we could be healed.  

Yes we live on a broken planet but we have a God who is in the business of turning brokenness into beauty and that is worth celebrating!
 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Paradise Lost . . . Eternity Gained!


It was a beautiful day in paradise, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and all was right in the world.  The man and woman had no imperfections, no regrets, nothing to feel ashamed of, and nothing to be afraid of.  They were perfect.  Their world was perfect. 
They knew nothing of fear, self-protection or insecurity.  Nothing of brokenness, sorrow, or disappointment.  What must it have been like, this fairy-tale existence?  Knowing complete joy, peace, security and companionship with the One who had created them.

But very soon it would all change.  Their fairy-tale world would turn into a nightmare and the garden they were placed in to enjoy and cherish would vanish like a vapor in the wind.
While they were walking in this paradise land, gazing at the intricate design of the leaves on the trees, watching the animals frolicking in the meadow, listening to the birds chatter back and forth, a serpent spoke to the woman.  
He sensed her vulnerability, so it was no accident that he directed his question to her.  You see, he had been watching.   Waiting for the perfect time to begin the plan, he had so carefully been constructing, to defeat his Maker.  What better way was there than to attack His children?  He had thought through every detail, every word said, every possible response.  Now was the time to drive a stake through the very heart of God.
With one question, he placed a seed of doubt in the heart of the woman, called Eve, regarding her Creator.
“Did God really tell you, you couldn’t eat from any of the trees in this beautiful garden?”  The question drips with sarcasm and shame.  Questions left unsaid, march unbidden through her mind. Aren’t you better than this?  Don’t you deserve more? Is your Creator really holding out on you?
She quickly clears up the serpent’s mistake but the seed of doubt has been planted and it is in fertile soil.  The missile has hit its mark.
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied.  “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.  God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”  (Genesis 3.2-3 NLT)
Then Satan begins his full on assault . . . while the man listens but never speaks.
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”  (Genesis 3.5-6 NLT)

It doesn’t take but a little watering for this seed of doubt to grow and flourish.  She is easily convinced her Maker is holding out on her. 
She walks with the serpent and her man to the forbidden tree.  The fruit glistens in the morning sun, her mouth begins to water as she contemplates what a bite into this fruit will be like. The juice runs down her chin and she quickly offers one to her husband.  
He once again says nothing, and takes a bite of his own fruit.
In that moment fear and shame are born.
The woman was convinced.  She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.  So she took some of the fruit and ate it.  Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and het ate it too.  At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.  (Genesis 3.6-7 NLT)
The whole human race would pay the price for their rash decision. From then on sin would be passed down from one generation to another.  Satan was the victor, or so he thought.
But God . . would have the last word.  He would be the final victor.  But it would cost Him dearly.  This one act set in motion God's beautiful redemption plan.  This impulsive decision did not catch God by surprise.  It was not unforeseen.  Satan's "grand plan" was only a little cog in the wheel of God's great rescue mission and at the heart of this beautiful restoration plan was love. 

Selfless. Unconditional.  Sacrificial.  LOVE.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  (Romans 5.8 NLT) 
 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Great Divide

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/grand-canyon-arizona-1193562
 
 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?     (Matthew 9:5)
Jesus asked this question of the religious leaders who were outraged that He would say to the paralyzed man his sins were forgiven.

These “spiritual” gurus had watched Jesus grow from a little boy into a man.  To them he was a snot-nosed, skinned-up-knees boy, born from a mother who had cheated on her husband and now was as an adult claiming to be God!  How dare this kid from Nazareth say, “Your sins are forgiven!”  In the words of Vizzini from Princess Bride, “Inconceivable!
It was a simple question, with a simple answer but one they refused to acknowledge.  The religious leaders rejection of Jesus’ authority, created a chasm in their hearts between who Jesus was and who they wanted Him to be.
And we are not much different than they, if we’re willing to admit it.  Often, the divide is long and wide between who Jesus really is and who we want Him to be. 
We want the love of Jesus, not His justice.  We want a comfortable Jesus, not one who pushes us into the unknown.  We want to trust God with our eternal destination, but refuse to allow His “interference” in our everyday living.
The simple fact remains, Jesus is God; able to heal the sick and forgive sins.  True followers of Jesus refuse to let their own desires define Him and allow Him to be the Jesus He is!
Lord, I confess my propensity to create You in my own image, rather than allowing You to be the God You are.  Open my eyes to Your truth, teach me Your ways and help me to follow You with a pure heart.  Amen.