Thursday, January 28, 2016

Prisoners of Hope

There is a verse in Zechariah which has previously not caught my attention but last week Kris Camealy used the verse in her post, Prisoners of Hope.

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope.” - Zechariah 9:12

I have planted myself on this verse. I meditate on the three words: Prisoners of Hope. I have weaved this verse in to many conversations lately and most times I weave it in as I hold back tears. I'm not sure how to explain why. It may be a new favorite verse or even an appropriate life verse.

It could be the story behind when I first read the verse which has me meditating on those three words.

Twelve marines lost at sea. Here one day, gone the next. Twelve families are grieving. In Kris' post she grieves for these families. She grieves for one family member she knows personally, a writer with a book scheduled to release soon.

In Christie Purifoy’s new book she writes, "God walks with them always ready in the darkest places. He is especially present in the very places we imagine he cannot be” (Roots and Sky). How could she have known how much she would need the truth embedded in her words?

But God knew, right? The mysteries of our God… I have no words.

I am studying the Book of Revelation with Bible Study Fellowship. While a hard book to study, I find embedded in this book the fullness of who God is, or the fullness of His character which He makes known. He is a God of love, grace and mercy but also a holy, just, and righteous God. In Revelation we read of the great day of wrath and vengeance and retribution. “Who is able to [face God and] stand [before the wrath of the Lamb]?” - Revelation 6:17

We could think these attributes contradict themselves. Yet we know God does not contradict himself.

Last Sunday my pastor delivered a sermon on how we are to fear God. I know this. I have read the many verses in the Bible which tell us so. I did not grasp what it meant to fear God though. Respect God? Worship Him in awe?

No, (well,those too) fear God means fear God.

My time in Revelation has made this clearer: we will tremble with fear on the day we are finally in His presence.

“The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’” - Hebrews 12:21

There is more. (As my dear friend Michele says often, there is always more.) Right after we are told to fear Him, we are told, "Fear not."

Our God of indescribable, unmatchable, power lives in us and is actively working on our behalf, so we do not need to fear Him.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” - Romans 8:31

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” - Romans 8:37

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” - Philippians 4:13

So I return back to the words from Zechariah 9:12.

Like Kris, the words captivate me. "What is a prisoner, but someone confined or kept in the custody of another. God keeps us in His custody; we are confined by the Holy." - Kris Camealy

I am captivated only because I know God’s character more fully. I know the refuge and protection we find in Him because His Word makes this truth clear. We see it over and over again in Revelation. We won't find anything or anyone able to match what God is able to give and do.

Our God, our Almighty God, is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

When we find ourselves in a place of fear, doubt, brokenness or heartbreaking sorrow, we return to Him. He is our stronghold, our hope. We are held forever and ever by Him. Nothing will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of Hope.” – Zechariah 9:12

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Want God More

Right after I began to write again two events occurred:

1) A reorganization at my place of employment shifted a whole new set of responsibilities to fall under my role as Executive Assistant to the President and CEO,

2) and I discovered Adult Coloring Books.

Truth be told, I have sneaked in a blog post or two (or more) when I should be working. God has convicted me on this each time. I have prayed for more responsibilities and new challenges to fuel a new love for my job. While I am delighted to have less down time to be distracted by non-work related stuff, it comes with sadness for two people who lost their jobs. So now I pray for God’s provision over my former co-workers.

As for Adult coloring books... Oh my, such goodness. Give it a try. I suggest opting for the reflection and worship coloring books. Like this one.

To sum up, other things occupy my attention before writing.

What occupies my attention most is to want God more. I don't say this to boast. It is just the truth: I really want Him more than anything else. I need Him more than anything else. As Lisa Whittle writes in her book I Want God, “until the want matches the need, nothing will ever change. Needing without wanting is just a really good idea that never seas light.”

Lisa's book ignited a revival in my soul. I want Him more.

For me wanting Him more than anything else begins with intentionality. I told you that I am a girl who thrives on routines. On the other hand, I realize wanting God more than anything else includes wanting Him more than comfort. Routines create a sense of comfort for me. Routines are good but there needs to be a balance. There needs to be a willingness to forgo a routine if God calls me to something less comfortable.

Then again, the routines I aim to establish all include more of Him. Through the routines my intimacy with Him grows. Then it seems natural to notice my trust in him grows, and then following Him into the uncomfortable comes with more ease. Not easy; still hard. A little less hard, maybe (not always).

At this point I considered providing you with an outline of routines I've established. I decided otherwise though because what works for me might not work for you. And it isn’t about the routine itself.

Wanting God more than anything else will require sacrifice. I believe one of the primary sacrifices we make is our time. It comes down to this: what matters most? If God matters most (as He should) we need to make time for Him.

Friends, we are saved by faith alone. However, life change happens when we are devoted to knowing Him and His Word and doing what it says. My promise to you... the sacrifices we make to know Him, know His Word and do what it says, are absolutely worth it.

I write this post with profound awe for how God continues to transform me. I experience His transforming power as I devote my life to wanting Him more than anything else. I mess this want up often, but with intention I set myself back on the path of choosing Him first. I remember what I did at first, repent and repeat.

“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:5a

I then move forward into the unknown with Him. Although not completely unknown for I know how it ends: eternity with Him.

"Wanting God is not risk. Living without wanting Him is.” ~ Lisa Whittle

Oh how I want God, more than anything else!

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Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Not About Me but the State of Me

We are on day 4 of a New Year. I must admit I am happy to return to work and a somewhat normal daily routine. The time off to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with those I love was needed but when my routine is changed for too long it throws me off balance.

I am a girl who thrives on a routine.

Now that we've entered a New Year, for many it's a time for reflection and setting new goals.

I'm not a girl who thrives on goal setting.

Sure, I'd love to read through the Bible this year and I would love to improve my prayer life. I would love to read more books too. These are worthwhile goals but I dislike the whole goal setting thing for the potential let down when I fall short, as I likely would.

As I wrote in my last post, the only want I have for 2016, and the years to come, is to want God more than anything else. For if my eyes and heart are truly focused on this one want, and it's not just an empty commitment, than any other want will be what God wants for me. And won't I be more in tune with His desires for me?

I have thought more about the want to be good at just one thing. If I do something based on whether or not I am good at it (I could paraphrase this as doing something for praise), I have made it all about me. If God asks me to write or to shepherd a group of ladies through His Word, or any other activity for that matter, it should never be about whether or not I am good at those things. It should be about showing up and serving where God has called me to serve.

Now grant it, I already knew this truth. Isn’t it funny how we often need reminders?

"God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called."

So, yes, I have reminded myself again that in whatever way I serve Him, it is not about me. To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

Nevertheless, would you allow me to give you somewhat of a “state of me” address? For the most part it can be summed up this way: "it is well with my soul." Despite certain circumstances, all is well.

A reflection of 2015 reveals growth, the "only God" kind of growth. I am notorious for falling to the lies of the enemy, especially when it comes to the kind of person he says I am. I fall less though. I believe the enemy less and God more. Our enemy has less of a foothold on my thoughts. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

My heart is mending from a loss.

I walk in freedom from an eating disorder, minus one slip. Thank you, God, for your forgiveness and for helping me to stand again to continue in this walk.

Relationships with extended family are stronger. Maybe one day I will expand on this or I will just focus on extending gratitude to God for opening my eyes to see the error in my way of thinking. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8

A second deployment does not steal my joy. Trust me, the second time around is not easier. It takes more intentionality to not let my joy be taken.

Even though separated by a large number of miles from my husband, I witness God use the time we are apart to grow our marriage in new ways.

This growth happens only because my trust is in Him; it happens only because of Him. God alone is the source of my abiding joy. “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” Psalm 43:4

I think I shall stick with my one want of wanting Him more than anything else.

Will you join me?

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