The world is so crazy right now I hardly know what to write. After all, who am I to offer up deep theological answers to everyone’s questions? I have my own questions.
Thankfully, I know where to go for answers, and I can point you in the right direction as well.
In Christ Alone is a song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend, written in 2002, rather recent in the music world to have gained such popularity and had such worldwide impact. Many folks mistakenly believe it to be an old-time hymn as it doesn’t fit with much of today’s contemporary Christian music.
For me, it is an anthem. A song not only of praise but of absolute devotion, deep, aching worship. I can not listen to this song without joyous tears filling my eyes.
I heard it three times yesterday.
The first was on a live-stream church service from Alabama. The second was the recorded service from my own local church, and the third time was a radio broadcast late last night that was probably at least ten years old.
I’m a firm believer that when something reveals itself multiple times, there’s a message I need to take to heart. I’m a firm believer that all I need to know is in the first line. I’m a firm believer that every question is answered throughout the verses. And if I still have questions after I’ve sung the last note, well, then they don’t need to be answered right now. That’s why it’s called faith.
Christ alone is my hope, my light, my strength, my cornerstone, my solid ground. He came for love and sacrifice and atonement.
He defeated death so I would never have to face it down. He freed me from the power of sin, and I am His. Always and forever.
No matter what I’m facing, no loss, no sickness, no financial devastation, nothing will ever separate me from His love. (Romans 8:35, 38-39, paraphrased)
If you’re struggling right now with uncertainty or doubt, especially about God’s sovereignty or love, let me assure you He’s listening. If you are a Christ-follower, He longs to wrap His mighty arms around you and give you peace and comfort. If you are not a follower of Christ, let me assure you that He longs to do the same thing for you. Turn to Him, ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and when He does, surrender yourself completely to Him as Lord and Savior. I promise it will be life-changing.
Please note that I did not say it will be circumstance-changing. It will, however, be perspective-changing. When you begin to see life through the lens of eternity, you can’t help but take on a more realistic view of this earthly existence. This is not our forever home. It’s a temporary residence with some nice amenities at times, some major issues even, but, thankfully, we’re not stuck here. And when we take our final breath, we’re not forever relegated to the dustbin.
In Christ Alone.
Take a few minutes to look up the lyrics, study them closely, and make this your anthem as well.
If I’m with someone, I can do all of those things. So, if God is with me, why do I often struggle to see Him. To hear Him. To even feel His presence?
The name Immanuel is mentioned only three times in Scripture, twice in Isaiah, once in Matthew. Two of those mentions refer to the coming Messiah, the baby who is the Savior. The other is issued as encouragement in the midst of battle. The words “God is with us” are also used a couple of verses later, emphasizing the previous declaration.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that God, like Elvis, has left the building. He has had enough of my nonsense, gathered His royal robes about Him, and taken His holy presence somewhere else, perhaps where He might be more appreciated and better understood.
I mean, that’s what I would do, right?
Well, thank God that I am not God.
A god who storms off in a huff is not very reliable. A god who gets his feelings hurt is not the least bit helpful. A god who leaves is not very comforting.
That’s why we have a God who is Immanuel. God with us. A God who never leaves. Ever.
When I can’t see Him, it doesn’t mean He’s not there. When I can’t hear Him, it doesn’t mean He’s not speaking. When I can’t feel Him near, it doesn’t mean He’s taken a vacation, a little time to recharge.
Immanuel. All day, every day, every minute, every second. No. Matter. What.
Remember when you were learning to ride a bike?
Dad ran alongside holding on to the back of it, yelling “I’m right here! I’ve got you!” You trusted him to not let go until you were ready.
Remember the nightmare that woke everyone, leaving you scared and crying? Mom was there in a heartbeat, holding you and assuring you, “It’s okay. I’m right here.” Staying by your bedside until you calmed down and fell asleep once again.
Immanuel. God with us. I’m right here!
And the best thing?
He never lets go, wondering if you can stay upright this time. He doesn’t glance at the clock, wondering when you’re going back to sleep.
Even when I can’t see, don’t hear, can’t feel, He is whispering, “I’m right here.”
I know this because I know Him. I know His character. I know His reputation. So, I don’t need to rely on my senses to know whether or not He is with me.
His very name tells me all I need to know.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel-which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NIV 1985)
May you be comforted this season and always by that assurance.
It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I’m a fairly simple person with simple needs.
Biscuits hold a relatively high position on my list of favorite things. That picture up there is making it difficult for me to concentrate at the moment because I am now having to ignore hunger pains that were not there five minutes ago.
Sometimes our desires cause us pain and discomfort. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Just like it did with Adam and Eve. The enemy brought forth a desire in Eve for the beautiful fruit on the tree that God specifically forbade.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 (Italics added)
When I saw the picture of the biscuit, I quickly developed a desire for it. I couldn’t touch it or even smell it, but I wanted it nonetheless. It wasn’t because I was hungry as I’d had a snack less than thirty minutes before. None of that mattered. I wanted that biscuit! I could imagine its light fluffiness, the buttery flakiness of the top, the warmth in my fingers.
Do you want a biscuit now, too?
I. Love. Biscuits.
When my husband asks me where I want to go for dinner, the availability of biscuits often plays a role in that decision. I am also picky about my biscuits. My mother made the best biscuits this side of Heaven. There is no restaurant, fast food or otherwise, that even comes close, so I’ve had to make peace with that and settle for second best while here on sinful, biscuit-challenged earth.
I’ve also had to accept that I can not have every biscuit I desire unless I want to break the scales and develop some scary disease. Biscuits do not rank high on the healthy foods list, so I have to decline more often than I would like. Sometimes, we have to say no even when the temptation might not be sinful; it just might not be the best thing for us, emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
Biscuits are nice to look at, even nicer to eat, and I can add more wonderful, unhealthy things to them, none of which are good for me physically.
Desires are not inherently harmful but how we handle them determines that outcome.
Did you forget I mentioned horses? Are you wondering what they have to do with biscuits?
Absolutely nothing. They just also happen to be way up on my list of favorite things.
To me, horses are one of God’s most magnificent creatures. They are an exquisite blend of power and gentleness, combining incredible strength with loving docility. Those chocolate eyes and velvety noses. I love the way they knicker and whinny.
Seeing a horse brings a flood of joy to my soul. I’m one of those people who yells “horses!” ever time I pass a farm. I also yell goats, cows, sheep, whatever, but that’s beside the point.
Almost every year I buy a horse calendar for my office wall, looking forward to the flipping of the page each month to see a beautiful new photo of these stunning equine marvels. Then I save them in a drawer because I cannot bear to throw away these gorgeous photos. I’m a closet horse hoarder.
But, no unhealthy carbs, no calories, no guilt whatsoever. Just a feast for my eyes and joy for my soul, and gratitude to my Savior that He would create such an animal for my pleasure.
I can’t ride any longer for various reasons. It would be harmful to me physically and foolish on my part to attempt it, so I enjoy horses visually. I was able to give my daughter riding lessons as a teenager, and that brought me great joy as well. Just as with my biscuit craving, though, I must manage the desire for a horse.
Along with a number of other things, which are not necessarily unhealthy but potentially damaging to me emotionally and spiritually if my focus on them lingers too long. So, I make the often difficult choice to turn my heart away from fleshly desires and instead, look to the Lord for my satisfaction.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
Does that mean He will supernaturally allow me to eat all the biscuits I want without weight gain or poor health? To ride again without injury? To have whatever I want as long as I’m a good Christian, reading the Bible regularly and attending church every time the doors are open?
It simply means that the more time I spend with the Lord, the more He will change the desires of my heart to align with His will. By now, you know this is about way more than biscuits and horses. It’s about not settling for better but waiting for the best which is always what our Lord has for us.
To eat all the biscuits I want would satisfy only for a short while before I started to feel sick and regret my overindulgence. To own a horse would be absolutely wonderful, but again, it would only satisfy for a short while compared to what awaits me in eternity. Our desires are sad and pitiful in the light of His promises, so hold on, dear one. The longing in our hearts cannot be satisfied here. We must have the far view to the unseen horizon. We must stop gazing out the small windows of this life.
Enjoy what God has created within the healthy boundaries He has established for your protection. Be grateful for the beauty that surrounds us, but do not let it distract you from what is to come.
“But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.'” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Recently at church, the closing hymn was Jesus Is Lord of All. I was singing without thinking, I’m sorry to say, but I glanced up at the screen just as the chorus rolled across, and these words seemed to leap at me: Lord of my thoughts and my service each day, Jesus is Lord of all.
The first thing that popped in my mind was Really?
And the next thing was Ouch.
I wish it were so, but honesty is the best policy, and that requires me to admit that Jesus is not always Lord of my thoughts or my service. He is Lord of my mouth, thankfully, most of the time, but I truly want Him to be more. I don’t want the ungodly thoughts to form in the first place, nor do I want to waste time with things that He has not called me to do.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV Study Bible 1984)
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)
Now, let’s add insult to injury. My pastor recently preached from Matthew 12:33-37, and I found myself faced with the question, “Am I good, or am I evil?” Verse 36 hammers in the last nail: “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”
That drew me to Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” In other words, open your mouth, and your true feelings will fall right out there for all to hear. And you’ll be judged.
Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little downtrodden.
Pastor Michael always ends on an encouraging note. Ezekiel 36:26 says this, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Folks, therein lies the Gospel. New heart. New spirit. I mess up. You mess up. Jesus covers it. Whatever you’re struggling with, run to Him, hand it over, get a new heart and a new spirit. No condemnation. Romans 8:1-2 guarantees it.
This world is full of so many distractions, and they attract my attention much easier than the still small voice of the Savior. But, I know He is with me, and I am attuned to His presence in a way that defies explanation even when I am rushing around to take care of this or that. I also know I will still mess up from time to time. So will you. But, there’s a set of strong, loving arms waiting to gather us in and wipe away the tears.
Today’s blog post is not only a lesson from the Word but a teaser for my new novel which I hope to have completed by summer’s end.
“Then he (Jesus) told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9 NIV 1984)
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means. When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in the heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the world, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
The lawyer’s office was dark and cluttered. Even though the day was sunny, no yellow rays penetrated the dusty blinds. Every flat surface held a haphazard array of books and files. Two cheap vinyl chairs crowded together in front of the desk, uncomfortably occupied by two women trying to avoid eye contact. A middle-aged man stood in the corner, glancing around the small room. One woman was quite young, a baby in her lap, while the other was pale, touches of grey showing in her stiff waves. The man, dark all over, eyes, hair, and skin, shifted his weight nervously.
Seated in the large leather office chair, John Lincoln, Esquire, studied the child. She was less than a year old, blissfully unaware what was happening and how it affected her. Content for the moment, she sucked her thumb noisily. Her name was Cindy.
“Mr. and Mrs. Ready, if you’ll sign here, please, full names and today’s date.” He pushed documents across his desk and offered a pen.
The couple did as requested, eyeing each other to confirm what they were doing was the right thing. A good thing. For them.
“And, Miss Roberts, if you will sign here, also full name and the date,” the lawyer repeated to the younger woman who shifted the child to her other knee before taking the pen. Holding it above the signature line, she hesitated briefly, a lone tear seeping from her eye. Glancing at Mr. Lincoln, she saw him nod imperceptibly and quickly scribbled the required information. Nearly knocking over the chair in her haste to escape, Janet Roberts handed the child to the older woman and fled the room, not bothering to close the door behind her. Startled by the commotion, Cindy began to cry.
Malcolm Ready reached into the bag left by the child’s mother, found a bottle of milk, and handed it to the baby. Martha bounced her knees too vigorously causing the bottle to slip from the baby’s hands which set off another round of tears. Malcolm picked it up, giving his wife a look of annoyance.
“Here you go, baby girl, here you go,” Martha tried again, keeping herself still this time. Cindy clutched the bottle hungrily.
“Well, that concludes just about everything…,” Lincoln’s voice trailed off as he gave Malcolm a questioning look.
“Oh, right,” Malcolm responded as he reached into his jacket and brought out an envelope. The lawyer handed him a copy of the documents in return.
“Thank you, Mr. Lincoln. We really appreciate all you’ve done to help us.” Martha smiled as she gathered her purse and stood holding tightly to Cindy.
“Yes, thank you,” echoed Malcolm, picking up the baby bag.
Lincoln eyed the couple. He’d known the Ready family for years, was close friends with Malcolm’s mother, Jean. She was a fine woman, honest to a fault, hard-working, and kind. He could not say the same about her son, and it was only because of their friendship that he agreed to handle the adoption.
“Y’all take good care of little Cindy now. I look forward to watching her grow up,” John said as he escorted them to the exit.
“Oh, she’s not Cindy anymore. Her name is Julia now,” admonished Martha.
“That’s right. I forgot. Julia, it is.”
He knew of the couple’s heartbreak after learning there would be no biological children. After seeing dozens of doctors,…, acceptance settled. Approaching forty, they’d all but given up when a friend of Martha’s heard about a young woman looking to give up her baby. Although surprised to learn the child was almost a year old, they took the plunge.
John Lincoln returned to his desk and sat, hands folded as if in prayer. He wasn’t a religious man, but at that moment, he was praying this would work out. He believed Martha would do her best, but he wasn’t sure how well she could stand up to Malcolm’s temper. He’d never been aware of him actually hitting Martha, so he told himself all would be well. Hopefully, having a child would settle Malcolm down, make him more responsible.
He dearly hoped so. At least Jean Ready would be close by.
My second novel is about a woman who is like the soil that receives the seed but then an abusive childhood, and teenage troubles, cause her to reject God in spite of a loving grandmother’s prayers. The story tells of her long tortured journey as she continues to reject God and harden her heart before finding her way back to faith. Even then, the past will not release her from its grip as she faces down hidden truths in order to finally free herself.
Perhaps you are like one of the soils mentioned in the Matthew passage. Ask yourself, “Who is Jesus to me?” And then, ask yourself, “Who am I to Jesus?”
God bless you, dear ones, and thank you for reading.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 NIV 1984
You know how sometimes we have to be smacked up side the head to get the message? I like to think I’m mature enough in my Christian walk that God no longer need resort to extreme measures to get my attention.
Apparently that is not the case.
Today marks the sixth time this week that Ephesians 6:12 has popped up before me. If you receive the same message from someone SIX times, do you think it might be important? Okay, it could be a scammer, but what if you know it’s from a trusted friend? Someone who knows and loves you and desires only the best for you. Would you pay attention? Would you heed the warning? Or would you go on about your business, chalking it up to alarmism on your friend’s part?
Jesus is my trusted friend. He knows me, He loves me, and He desires only the best for me. And God, the Father, is no alarmist.
All throughout Scripture, God gives us information to affirm, confirm, inform, encourage, and prepare. He never wants us to be confused or unsure, and when He tells us via Paul in the book of Ephesians that our battle is against unseen forces, we need to listen!
Paul wrote this particular letter to the church at Ephesus, not because the church was in error, but simply to encourage them in the faith. They were undergoing persecution, and Paul wanted to remind them to Whom they belonged and Who they served, to remind them of God’s grace and strength in times of trouble. Lastly, he emphasizes to them who is the real enemy and where he resides.
I’ve been fighting a battle for a long time now, and God reminded me of the nature of my loved one’s enemy. There’s a tendency to focus on what we can see and know about a situation, about those involved, a tendency to forget where the real battle is being fought. Yes, there are real flesh and blood people causing real flesh and blood problems, but they are used, lost and blinded by a spiritual enemy in a spiritual realm. A realm with rulers, with authorities, with powers.
We must remember that although we live in a physical realm, we have access to a spiritual one, with The Ruler, The Authority, and The Power.
“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. ” Romans 8:11
Remember who is the enemy. Remember where he lives. Remember how he fights.
Remember who is the Savior. Remember where He lives. Remember how He fights.
I am not an interior designer by any stretch, nor am I the least bit crafty. I cringe at the sight of yarn, scrapbooks, glue, and stamping kits. However, drop me in a room full of furniture, paintings, rugs, and knickknacks, and I’ll happily spend the day decorating and rearranging. There is a difference, but I also see a complementary relationship.
The crafter is creating something out of raw materials, giving substance to a vision in his or her head. The designer is using the crafter’s products to also give rise to a vision of how a room should look.
We are all designers, but we are not all craftsmen. If you live in a structure, you have designed the space in which you reside, albeit by default. Your space might have a contemporary feel, or perhaps you’re into the farmhouse look. A bachelor pad could pass for a New York penthouse or a pigsty; either way, it’s by design.
Which leads me to the point of today’s blog, the title for which I must credit my sweet sister-in-love, Laurie.
Do you understand that you were created by a master craftsman? Do you understand that you are who you are by design?
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 39:13 (NIV 1984)
God is a Creator and an Interior Designer.
He had a vision for mankind, and He created Adam from raw materials (which he also happened to create) and gave him breath. Then he made Eve from that creative product(Adam’s body) and gave her life as well. God created our bodies to house our spirits and personalities and designed them to work in the environment in which he placed us.
God created the human body and the process by which conception occurs and birth follows. He used the genetics of your parents and grandparents and all those before you in your family to design you…just so. Your hair color, your eyes, your personality…all by creation and design.
He created Earth out of nothing and designed it to support human life. He designed it in a way that is pleasing to our eyes and beneficial to our lives. He created your body and designed you to inhabit it.
When you enter a museum or art gallery, or observe a beautiful garden, do you not immediately wonder at the artist and marvel at their talent? We never even question whether or not there is a sculptor, painter, or gardener behind the creation.
How then can anyone look at the beauty of this planet and not see the hand of a Master Designer? How can anyone study the complexities of the human body and not see the Creator?
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1
Dear One, if you are feeling unloved, unnoticed, or unappreciated today, please remember this: You are loved with an everlasting love. The God Who created and designed the universe sees you, knows you, and above all, loves you.