5/16/15


Oh, that those who know the Lord might  
cry out to Him for mercy on our nation. 

I don't really think we realize our present danger 
both from without and within. 

It starts with the churches. 

It starts with individual Christ-followers. 

It starts with me.

"I say to the Lord, You are my God;
give ear to the voice 
of my pleas for mercy, O Lord!" 
(Psalm 140:6)



5/14/15

Are you Feeling Weak Today?

Tonight I am struggling with my tenth week of bronchitis and asthma. I was frustrated, but the Lord gave me the scripture in this picture.

But also . . . . I am remembering two people who are Warrior Women for God in spite of their struggles. They always inspire me.

One is Joni Eareckson Tada. Here is her story.

The other is Lisa Copen. Here is a short version of her story, and here's a longer one (where she mentions Joni!)

I cannot tell you how many times I've thought of them in moments of weakness and praised God for their example. If they can bring glory to God in their severe trials, I know I can honor and praise Him in my physical weakness too.

The Secret to Stop Trying to Impress God

Long before I committed my life to the Lord, I kept trying to "impress" God.


When I was four, I sat at my grandma's side and she told me about hell. I didn't want to go there, so she prayed for me. But I went home not really understanding the words. Sinner. Salvation. Eternal. 

But I did get the picture she painted of hell. I set out to make God happy with me, because I didn't want to "roast like a marshmallow," as I told a friend.

In Junior High, I walked the aisle at an evangelistic event. By that time, I'd come to understand I am a sinner, and I felt guilty about one sin in particular. It was easy to go forward with others, and I'm sure many people made sincere decisions that night. I said all the right words, but my heart was all wrong. 

I wasn’t about to change. I was still looking for that quick fire-escape from hell. I figured I'd just have to try harder.

Then, before my 21st birthday, I joined a revival team* for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be on stage and sing. I couldn't afford Bible college any longer and figured I'd just travel a while. I even thought I might find a Christian husband.

Within two weeks, I was repentant, broken and desperately seeking God.

In a message, the revivalist made it clear: even my good works - my very best works - were dirty in comparison to His absolute holiness (Isaiah 64:4). I needed God's mercy, and I needed His righteousness (Titus 3:3-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11). I heard the message of salvation as never before. 

I didn't need a pat on the back; I needed rescuing. I needed mercy!

God changed my heart that day and I've never doubted my eternal destiny since that day. 

End of story, right? No.

Somehow, I still didn't grasp the daily freedom of God's grace in Christ. I got caught up in comparisons, judgmentalism, insecurity, and fear as my old habit of trying to impress God and others rose to the surface.

          Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize 
          the shackles of our slavery have fallen away.

I was God's child, but miserable.

  • I memorized scripture and studied the Bible, trying to impress Him with my “spiritual commitment.” 
  • I offered “sacrifices” of compassion and stewardship. 
  • I walked the walk—stumbling over myself at every turn—and talked the talk. I had Christianese down pat.  
  • I served God, but, just like before I became a Christ-follower, it was for all the wrong reasons.  
  • I even counseled people about giving their lives over to Christ, but didn’t find my own spiritual life “satisfying.”
Do you notice one word in all those sentences? "I ... I ... I ... I ...." During those years, I made checklist after checklist, trying to figure out how to "get life right" so I'd win God's favor. I never learned how to live out the process of being "dead to sin and alive in Christ," described in Romans 6

But God continued to work.

      I remember the day I said, “I’m tired of trying to impress You, God.”

I was studying for a message I'd planned to share with a group of women. It included a long list of scriptures about who we are “in Christ.” As I unpacked each scripture, light crept in to push out the devil's lies. 
I didn’t have to figure out how to make God accept me. I was already accepted in The Beloved. God was satisfied, and all I had to do was rest in Jesus' powerful work on my behalf.
Accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6) - accepted in Jesus.

I didn’t have to be “good enough, perfect enough, obedient enough” for God. Only Jesus is good enough, perfect enough, obedient enough. I didn’t have to earn God’s love; I already had it in Christ. I didn’t have to earn God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness was the cornerstone of my relationship with Him.

The Father  saved me, declared me righteous, loved me, healed me, forgave me and so much more … all in Christ. I don’t have to prepare a daily progress report to get the Father's approval. Jesus’ completed "report" is all-sufficient. He got an A+ on my behalf.

Though I don't need to live by legalistic lists, I do want to cultivate a holy lifestyle (1 Peter 1:14-16), and the Holy Spirit continues to teach me how to be more like Jesus. **

When thoughts that I must "impress God" nip at my spiritual heels, I kick them away and walk back to the cross. I come back to the truth.

And I imagine the Father's smile.


What has God taught you about trusting in what Christ has done rather than your own works?

* The revival team was Life Action Ministries, which is still thriving in Niles, Michigan!

** (For more understanding of this, read "Is being holy even possible, since only God is holy?")

4/17/15

Come Out of Hiding

Years ago, sitting at a lovely dinner with my husband Bob, my sister-in-law and her husband, I went into hiding. Jan's husband Tom and I lifted our glasses of Martinelli's to make a dinner toast, but we clinked the glasses too hard. The sound of breaking glass broke my heart. I'd shattered one of Jan's gorgeous gold-rimmed goblets. With tears in my eyes, I fled from the dining room and hid in Jan's big bedroom closet.

Laughing, and more than a bit surprised, my husband came after me. "Honey, what are you doing?" he said, as he slowly opened the door. I honestly didn't know. I just didn't know how to handle the broken glass. I felt I'd committed a horrible, thoughtless act.

Years later, I can join with Bob, Tom and Jan in laughing about my silly response.

But there are bits of this foolishness still lingering in my heart. 

Just the other day, I hurt someone with a thoughtless comment. As her face reflected the impact of my words and she looked down in pain, I heard something shattering. I knew I'd broken something precious in our relationship.

I wanted to run and hide, but the Lord gave me grace to ask for forgiveness. All is well. She is a gracious, forgiving friend.

But that "run and hide" thing. It's something that goes back to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8-10). And it rises up in my own spirit more than I like to admit.

When I sin against the Lordand really, isn't all sin against Him?I try to hide. How?
  • I hide when I keep so busy I don't have to think about or acknowledge my faults.
  • I hide when I neglect a time alone with God, knowing I'll need to "fess up."
  • I hide when I pretend everything is OK and keep on serving God. A good little Pharisee!

In her book, Everyday Grace, Jessica Thompson writes:



She's so right. One of the greatest hope-filled scriptures is 1 John 3:20:
"For when our heart condemns us, 
God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything."

God knows EVERYTHING! Jesus knows I'm not perfect and won't be until I join Him in heaven. The Holy Spirit is ever-present to remind me when I don't live in truth.

When I continue to hide out, I'm really caught up in self-focused condemnation.  It's a faulty focus!

God wants me to remember what Jesus did for me. My Savior is my Advocate. He intercedes for me; He doesn't condemn me (1 John 2:1-2; Romans 8:34). I don't have to justify myself because the Father has already declared me justified . . . righteous in Christ (Romans 3:24; 5:1Titus 3:4-6).

Without the resurrection of Christ, I would still be in my sinmy faith would be worthless and ineffective (1 Corinthians 15:17)but, praise the Lord, death had no power over Jesus (Romans 6:9). I will live with Him in glory (Ephesians 2:6)!

Paul calls true Christians to live this Resurrection life as spelled out in Colossians 3:1-5a:
  1. Seek heavenly, eternal things; set your mind on them.
  2. Remember that you died with Christ and you were also raised with Him.
  3. Therefore, your life is "hidden" with Him in glory.
  4. So "put to death" those earthly things that do not reflect your new life in Christ!

I especially love that part of verse three that says, "your life is hidden with Christ in God."

Because I am "hidden" in Him, there's no more need for hiding when I sin!

What a wondrous truth!

"Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow." 
(Hymn by Elvina Hall)

Do you need to come out of hiding today?





3/21/15

War Weary

Early in 2014, Bill Kristol wrote in The Weekly Standard, "Are Americans today war-weary? Sure
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been frustrating and tiring. Are Americans today unusually war-weary? No. They were wearier after the much larger and even more frustrating conflicts in Korea
and Vietnam." (1)

And that was before the escalation of terrorism by ISIS and others who are plaguing the world with The Washington Post that, despite a decade of weariness, "Americans appear ready to go to war againin fact, they are even more ready than their lawmakers in Washington." (2)
a stepped-up vision of jihad. Aaron Blake recently noted in

Washington is, perhaps, afraid to "own the results" (Blake's words) of declaring another war, even though it is clear the world is inching closer as Islamic terrorists claim more and more innocent victims.

All of this talk about becoming "war weary" hit me in the spiritual gut this week. Maybe you, like me, are struggling with the enemy's attacks. I felt the battle on at least two key fronts: gluttony and prayerlessness.

Frustrated by recent "failures" in skirmishes with my flesh, I sat, depressed, in a rocker on the back patio. I'd allowed busyness to supplant time with the Lord. I'd chosen way too many sweets over healthy food, even though God's Spirit nudged me to do otherwise.

Spiritual inertia set in as I thought, "It's just too hard. The battles are too heavy." I was somewhat unwilling to enter the battle again.
 
And then the Lord brought the Apostle Paul's words to mind:

"Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart" (Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13).

The Lord unpacked this verse for me as I meditated on Paul's words.

First, I needed to remember God's grace, and this powerful truth: When God sees me, He sees His perfect, righteous Son. I am righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

But there was more. On the one hand (the growth side of well-doing), I'm not to grow weary of growing to be more like Jesus. I am to manifest my salvation by sowing to the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; 6:8) and cooperating with God in the process of sanctification (becoming set apart and holy to the Lord in every area of life).

On the other hand (the battle side of well-doing), I'm to stand up and resist the devil (James 4:7b) and not let sin reign in my life (Romans 6:6-18).

According to 2 Timothy 4:7, one of the Christian's goals is to "finish the course" God has laid out for each of us. God wants us to finish well in His strengthconfident in Him.

Yes, we all get tired, but we must not let our weariness lead to laziness or running from the battle. We must not lose heart, but rather, learn to rest in the Lord in the midst of our battles. He promises rest for the weary (Jeremiah 31:25; Matthew 11:28), and we can learn to encourage (instill courage in) each other for the battle too (see Isaiah 50:4).

The truth is, the Lordour Commander—will catch our enemy, Satan, in his own evil strategies; and the rule of our flesh is already defeated in Christ. But we must count that as true and stand in God's strength (John 16:33). The battle is indeed the Lord's, and He will be victorious Colossians 2:15).

We may think we have engaged in the battle for character and holiness, but most in America have not yet begun to stand against the sin within. The writer of Hebrews said, "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (12:4).

We'll likely see many more Christian martyrs in the Middle East in the days to come. Lately, I've asked myself this question: If terrorists came to our shore, would I be willing to stand for Christ, even if it meant my death? I believe I would.

But if I'm honest, why, then, do I not struggle more against Satan and the sins that seek to take me captive and destroy my testimony? It's one thing to die for Christ, another to faithfully live for Him.
When I'm the most war weary in my spiritual battles, that's exactly when I need to renew my resolve. 
That's when I need to focus on Christ, the "author and finisher" of my faith who "endured the cross" for me (Hebrews 12:2). And that's when I need to stop trusting in the arm of flesh (Jeremiah 17:5).

My commitment to the battle must be moment-by-moment, because the pull of the culture and the tug of my flesh are real and persistent; and the devil isn't backing down. I can't afford to become war weary. The cost is too high.

Are YOU war weary? 

If you are, confess it as laziness, fearor whatever your reason is for standing downand join me in the battle. Re-enlist. 

"Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might" (Ephesians 6:10). Rely on His grace. And take up the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17) "that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."

(1) William Kristol, "War-Weariness As an Excuse," 3-24-14, The Weekly Standard, http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/war-weariness-excuse_784895.html 
(2) Aaron Blake, "Americans Aren't Very 'War-Weary' Anymore. But Washington Still Is," 2-19-15, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/02/19/the-american-people-arent-very-war-weary-anymore-but-washington-still-is/