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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trusting God In The Dark

I was in a fabric store shopping for material for a special quilt. I found a print I especially liked, but when it was rolled out on the cutting counter, the clerk said there were tiny holes in it. I squinted my eyes and stared but the print camouflaged the holes. (At least that seemed like a good excuse to me. The truth is that once one passes the age of 50-something and wears bi-focals, detecting tiny flaws in fabric is best left to those with younger eyes. But I digress.)

The clerk--who was at least 30 years younger than me!--unfolded the material and held it up to the light. From that vantage point, I was able to see pinholes of light shining through, showing every flaw. Had she not shown the light on that material, I might not have noticed those holes and may well have used the fabric to make the quilt, unaware of the imperfections.

Last week I read a devotional that challenged me to ask God to reveal areas in my life that I haven't fully entrusted to Him. At first I thought, "No way. I trust God completely with every detail of my life." But did I really? So I took the challenge. I asked God to show me where I needed to trust Him more. His faithful demonstration of loving instruction was eye-opening, to say the least.

I found a verse in the fourth chapter of First Corinthians that described what I was asking God to do. "Therefore judge nothing before time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels (motives) of the heart." 1st Cor 4:5 I was asking God to unfold my life and hold it up to His light, thereby showing me the holes--my weaknesses, my failings, my shortcomings, and my vulnerability.

It's easy to trust God when everything is going my way. There's no pressure, no risk. But when the darkness of adversity closes in, those untended weaknesses that I've ignored can threaten to cripple me. The truth of God--His light--enables me to see how He fills those holes with His strength for my weakness, His forgiveness for my shortcomings, His glory for my failings, and His omnipotence for my vulnerability.

"For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2nd Cor 4:6

Through this exercise, I discovered it's not hard at all to trust God in the dark, because when I yield my weakness to Him, He give me His strength and I become stronger through Him than I ever could be alone. His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2nd Cor 12:9).

When I saw the flaws in the fabric, I chose a different piece of fabric. When God shows us our flaws, He doesn't discard us. He fills the flaws with Himself and uses us for His glory.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

He Knows Me By Name

Have you ever been confronted with a task or a mission of such enormity, all you could do was quake in your shoes and gasp, "What??" What if a situation fell into your lap that you had to deal with, and you had no clue what to do?

Moses had a close relationship with God. Exodus 33:11 states that the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. If you read the preceding verses, God had quite a lot to tell Moses, and while the Lord asked a great deal of His servant, He also promised Moses He would send His angel before him to drive out their enemies. But Moses didn't know the way. God was asking him to lead the children of Israel into a land where they'd never been. What do you suppose Moses's answer was?

Moses didn't exactly beat around the bush. He told God,"See, You're telling me to bring these people up to the promised land, but You haven't told me who You're sending with me. You've said You know me by name and I've found grace in Your sight. So, now I'm asking this of You: If I have found grace in Your sight, show me Your way that I might know You." Bold? Perhaps, but also very wise. The smartest thing Moses did was ask God to show him the way, because Moses wanted to know God better. Then Moses added, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here."

21st century translation? God, if You aren't going, I don't want to go either.

God promised His Presence because He knew Moses by name (Ex 33:17). I find that exceedingly comforting. When God asks something staggering of me, He doesn't expect me to do it alone. He promises His presence because He knows me by name. It doesn't matter if I don't have a clue about where to go or how to perform the task, or even the purpose of the mission. God is going with me, so it's safe for me to go. He knows me by name, He knows who I am, He knows my weaknesses. Therefore, He will equip me with whatever I need for the journey.

When our son was diagnosed with cancer and I became his caregiver, I didn't know anything about cancer treatment. Besides being stricken in my heart with fear for my son, I was bewildered by the arduous aspects of the cancer journey. Dealing with treatment options, drugs, insurance, prescriptions, special diets, side effects, sorting out the different doctors, conflicting information...it was enough to render me breathless. But God knew my name, and He promised to accompany us on this journey.

When God knows your name, you can rest in the promise of His Presence.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Making Praise My Legacy

For the past week or two, I’ve asked God by what earmark should my life be known in 2010. What is the one thing He wants me to do so that He might fill me and use me? The recurring one-word answer I kept hearing in my heart was PRAISE. If praise is to be the theme of my life in the coming months, I need to grasp an understanding of why I need to praise Him.

We are His workmanship, and He created us to praise Him, but that isn’t the only reason my life should revolve around praise in 2010. If I praise Him only out of obedience, I'm missing half the point. God is still God whether I praise Him or not, so His existence doesn’t depend on my praise.

God doesn't need our praise, but He knows we need to praise Him. Does that sound like a contradiction? Perhaps, so let me explain. Praise is for our benefit, not His. Humanly speaking, when we praise another person, we lift them up, encourage them, validate them, reassure them, make them happy, give them reason to keep on. But that’s not why we praise God. Of course, we praise Him because we love Him, but the purpose goes beyond that. The safest and most joyful place we can be as Christians is in His presence, and Psalm 22:3 states that God inhabits the praise of His people.

Being a writer, I like to pick words apart, to analyze their meaning. That word, inhabit means to dwell, to occupy, to take up residence. It doesn’t mean to drop by for a visit, it’s not a fleeting glimpse, it’s not temporary. In biblical times, to inhabit a place meant to drive your tent stakes in deep, dig a well, and raise up the next generation in that place. So if God inhabits my praise, He intends to stay. The more I praise Him, the closer He is. It’s like throwing the door open in excitement. My praise welcomes His presence.

When I find myself walking through circumstances that are disappointing or frightening, the power of praise is my most potent weapon. I’ve learned I cannot battle fear or discouragement in my own strength. I am humanly fallible, and I have not the strength or the faith to battle through life’s strangleholds on my own. The only way to defeat these oppressions is through praise, because God inhabits, He indwells, He occupies, He takes up residence within my praise. Praise is an invitation asking God to join me where I am. And where God is, oppression has to flee.

I noticed another thing about praise. God’s word instructs us to praise Him now. Psalm 146:1-2 is not only an admonition, it is a joyous shout. “Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord, I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” If we wait until we get to heaven to praise Him, we will miss an extraordinary blessing. In 2010, I want to fill my life with praise to God while I still walk on this earth.

My son had the opportunity to speak and give his testimony at a church about six weeks before God took him Home. He used Psalm 66 as his text and proclaimed, “Come and see the works of God. He is awesome in His doings…Come and hear…and I will declare what He has done for my soul.” Sweet praise fell from his lips, praise for the Savior he loved. His testimony is still remembered by many who heard him that night. His legacy was praise.

Throughout 2010, I’m certain God will show me new and exciting things about praise, and the anticipation of the journey fills me with a desire to know Jesus better in 2010 than I did in 2009. My prayer is that I, too, will leave a legacy of praise.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

**In loving memory of Sgt. Jonathan Stevens USMC 6-22-77 ~ 1-10-06**