The Door

William-Holman-Hunt-The-Light-of-the-World

God’s sovereign love, extended grace

Bestowed upon my heart

My youth betrayed my disregard

We aeons were apart

 

Continued I on widened path

Away from God I fled

My steps were wrong as were my thoughts

Though I moved straight ahead

 

At bottom looking in I saw

A deep dark hole to fill

My empty heart begged for relief

God’s hand of grace out still

 

I searched in vain for other ways

Desired, wanted more

Yet once again I turned my back

While God stayed at the door

 

I gave up hope and never thought

Resisting God was pride

I surely never would be filled

From walking by His side

 

Your knocking crested in my ears

As sweet as lullabye

My hunger, thirst, they disappeared

I humbly could reply

 

With half a century behind

The door opened with ease

I finally reached to swing it wide

Surrender was the key

 

My anchor is in One who knocks

The One whose constancy

Did bring me back to Father’s grace

Whose love has set me free.

 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me. Revelation 3:20

Abiding in the Spirit

Psalm 139 Part 2

The Power of Grace

“The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach. Read Psalm 139. We should more frequently allow our minds to meditate on these great, massive truths of God.” Oswald Chambers

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

©superbwallpapers.com

©superbwallpapers.com

While some may see this as overbearing, I see it as beauty and light. It is the ultimate watchful protection of a Heavenly Father who seeks not to control, but to walk with me, comfort me and whisper in my ear when I need His guidance.

Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

I have been in some mighty dark places. Not as dark as some; darker than others. Without question, since I have given my life to Christ, I am transformed. Do I still have days when my health is crappy, or money is tight or circumstances get on my last nerve? Sure. But my mind and heart respond differently.

Rarely do I go off in a tailspin like I used to. I take things in stride. And if I do get upset, my recovery is usually within hours. I experience a peace within that I never had before; others tell me there is a peace about me that shines without. I know with a core confidence God holds me in his right hand, he has a plan for me, today and in the future. I am content, in need or want of nothing other than him. And he is with me every moment.

John 14:26-27 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

My trust in the goodness and the righteousness of God are unswerving. He has walked with me during difficult times (breast cancer) and has answered long-awaited prayers (an affordable apartment of my own). I know, even though it can be frustrating, that his timing is always best and most fruitful. I am finally comfortable following his lead to work and to rest.

Will I ever completely know him? Of course not. He is an ocean, and I am in him. I will never know his expanse or his depth. Yet I feel him all around me. He buoys me, he carries me and moves me along as I submit to his will.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

I used to be concerned about being noticed. Now, I prefer to be invisible, letting his light and love shine through me. If I am not producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) or passing along his grace, I am not walking with Jesus. I am only trying to get by on my own effort rather than using his glorious power.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Because the Holy Spirit abides in us, God knows our thoughts, our words and our actions. It’s silly to attempt to construct a façade of righteousness. People might be fooled by our mask, but God is never fooled.

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

latimes.com

latimes.com

As God envelopes us in his protective feathers (Psalm 91:4), he caresses us in love. As our hearts open to his love, we mature as Christians. Our desire to abide in him becomes our first priority, and we wish to love him more deeply every day.

John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Amazing Grace

Flood

Each wordsmith writes of sent and sound

describing comfort they have found.

For me it fills my whole heart space.

My heart floods with amazing grace.

 

Once gone astray, en route to drown

God yanked me up and held me bound

in love, his cross his soft embrace.

My heart floods with amazing grace.

 

His mercy flows each day propound.

Compassion, comfort, grace surround

and leave no fear; despair erase.

My heart floods with amazing grace.

 

This gift of grace is most profound.

Words all fall short, fail to expound.

This measure cannot be replaced.

My heart floods with amazing grace.

 

At end of life, soul’s song resounds.

When death draws near, I’m homeward bound.

In peace I yearn to see his face;

my heart floods with amazing grace.

I am Known

Psalm 139 Part 1

The Riches of Grace

©anna langova allfreedownload.com

©anna langova allfreedownload.com

Psalm 139 is one of the most intimate prayers of David. In it, he acknowledges God’s love for him and his hand in his life. He affirms God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. He prays for God’s deliverance from his enemies, but also reflects deeply on the times he departed from God’s will, finally asking for redemption for his own lack of righteousness.

In these next four weeks, I’m not going to discuss the literary elegance of David’s song, though there is much artistry in his psalm.

I want to explore with you the deeper harmony of the phrases, the heart song that rests within the words, the reflection of God’s love and grace that resonates within the verses. I want us to explore the relationship David reveals in this beautiful melody.

Let’s begin with verses 1-6:

1O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Those of us who have given our lives to Christ have only begun this journey. We have only begun to understand the power in this relationship, the vastness of the grace and the love that God has for us. There are many things that remain obviously unpredictable as we throw ourselves headlong into profound and glorious uncertainty. Yet, our faith remains steadfast because we know Whose we are; we are sons and daughters of the One who loves us.

Deuteronomy7:6-8  For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you.

Ephesians 1:4-5 Before the creation of the world, he chose us through Christ to be holy and perfect in his presence. Because of his love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ. He freely chose to do this.

Ephesians 1:7-8 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us in all wisdom and insight

John 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Does this overwhelm you? Does it awe you? Does it nearly drown you in God’s capacity to love you without condition? To know who you are at the core of your being? Are you ready to let go of the idea that you must achieve God’s love, and simply receive it?

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Here’s how The Message puts it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Keep company. Yeah. No pressure. Just open your hands and heart. Breathe in and receive.

New Year’s Gift

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

While much of the Western World writes New Year’s resolutions about losing weight or quitting smoking; sticking to budgets or saving more money; being more organized; spending more time with family or learning something new; I give you a different challenge.

It.Is.Finished

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John 19:30

Yes, we have been ensured eternal life in heaven face to face with God. Yet that is not the only reason Jesus came. He came to restore our day-to-day relationship with a God whose love for us is wholly unconditional. He fulfilled the Law so we can live and be loved without condition or condemnation. If you only accept the heaven part without the love part, you are missing out. Langston Hughes expressed it eloquently in his poem, Gifts:

To some people

Love is given.

To others-

Only heaven.

This kind of love is the one-way love of grace.

Tullian Tchividjian, in his book, One Way Love*, describes it this way: “Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. Grace is a gift, pure and simple; grace offends our sense of justice by being both implausible and unfair. It forces us to rely on the goodness of Another. Grace is the most dangerous, expectation-wrecking, smile-creating, counterintuitive reality there is.”

All the paying-for is done. It is finished.

This new year, I challenge you to open your heart and receive. Welcome God’s love and grace. It will change you. Because once you accept it for yourself, you will be able to accept His love and grace for others.

We will always be jars of clay. At the very same time, we have this amazing gift – because God so loved us – if we would only allow ourselves to become aware of it.

Take possession. Abide in the gift so you can begin to understand the height and depth and width of God’s love for you.

Happy New Year.

*© 2013 Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love pp. 33, 35, 37, David C Cook, Colorado Springs, CO

Hope is I AM

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” John 8:58

“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) John 18:5

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Often, we Christians celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but forget about his life. Yes, there are close to three decades we don’t know about him. As a child being raised by Mary and Joseph, playing with his brothers and sisters, apprenticing as a carpenter and even making a living as one.

Then there are those three years we read about in our Bibles. His mission work; the work he was sent here to do by our Father. The work he did when he walked side by side with the women and men who faithfully followed him, gave up everything for him, were confused by him, healed by him, forgiven by him, given grace by him, loved by him and eventually came to know and love him.

According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus began his ministry by teaching in the synagogues in Galilee, then went to his home town of Nazareth to teach in the synagogue there.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me

Because he has anointed me

To proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovering of the sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he said to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21

This public declaration of who he was did not sit well with the people in his home town.

Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Matthew 13:55-57

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Mark 6:3

Even though many witnessed his miracles and spent time in his presence, they still did not believe. The Gospel of John records many metaphors Jesus used in his ministry to help people understand who he is.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:7,9

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides n me and I in him will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1,5

We have a choice; to walk with him or not; to believe or not; to love or not. With belief and faith come unexplainable acceptance, grace, mercy, peace and love.

Jesus had a choice, too. He chose to endure incredible torture. He chose to take on our disconnectedness from God so that we – God’s children – could be reconciled to his Father.

Before his death, Jesus prayed for his disciples. But he also prayed for us. Those of us living today. Here is his prayer for you and for me. Let his love into your heart. Soak in it. Cry if you need to. And be blessed by it.

JesusPrays

“I’m not praying only for them. I’m also praying for those who will believe in me through their message. I pray that all of these people continue to have unity in the way that you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they may be united with us so that the world will believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me. I did this so that they are united in the same way we are. I am in them, and you are in me. So they are completely united. In this way the world knows that you have sent me and that you have loved them in the same way you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

Knocking

church-doors

Forgotten first love, our hunger is lacking

We’ve left Him adrift in a sea of disdain

He stands at the door, awaiting the asking.

 

We no longer see what with Him we obtain

The Vine feeds the branch, but we want our own root

We’ve left Him adrift in a sea of disdain.

 

Hold tight to the Vine, we’ll rejoice in ripe fruit

Yet faith is belief, expecting in unseen

The Vine feeds the branch, but we want our own root.

 

We say we want God, but there’s a door between

He longs to come and with us break bread

Yet faith is belief expecting in unseen.

 

If we’d just focus on seeking Him instead

The door only opens from inside to out

He longs to come in and with us break bread.

 

We’re filled with our “whys” and our own self-made doubt

Forgotten first love, our hunger is lacking

The door only opens from inside to out

He stands at the door, awaiting the asking.