Still daring

After a hard week, at the beginning of another when I am trying to gain strength and determination to take on the next days that look equally challenging, I read this:

I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him!”
The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.
Lamentations 3:21-26

I am reminded of who and whose I am. My identity changed when God rescued me and moved me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.

And now the Lord is my inheritance. I think of the first words of the verse that asks, What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world… What have I gained? Certainly not much of this world.

But I have gained all of who God is.

And I have gained His words and thoughts, written to me. As I start reading, I am reminded:

He carries me through every moment of each day. Psalm 68:19
He showers His children with kindness and mercy. Ephesians 2:7
Even in the hard times, He is shaping us to be those great oaks He has planted for His glory. Isaiah 61:3
He called me, and He is faithful to do everything He says. 1 Corinthians 1:9
He will keep me strong to the end. 1 Corinthians 1:8
He has dressed me to be—and live!—as His child. Isaiah 61:10
I can expect new mercies today! Lamentations 3:23

I page through His written words to me, and the promises and assurances leap off the page. These few are only a small sample. A deluge of compassion and love has saturated my morning.

This is the God who is my inheritance as His daughter. This is what I have gained.

After a hard week, at the beginning of another that looks equally difficult, I sit down to search for God and wait quietly and depend on Him. And I read this: “The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. They are new every morning. The LORD is my inheritance.”

And so I still dare to hope.

Once… But now…

May is bursting with celebrations of life. My calendar has marked three birthdays, two anniversaries, several graduations, Mother’s Day, even celebrations of lives well-lived. Father’s Day will soon be here. As will Memorial Day. Nature is bursting with life, too. In only a few days over the weekend, irises unfolded, the peonies began to show pink and red cracks in their buds, rhododendron bushes drooped heavy with blossom, and many flower beds suddenly sprouted joyful colors of all types of annuals.

I’ve been thinking, though, that I am guilty of taking many of these things for granted. Why wait for someone’s birthday to ponder how much we love and appreciate them? Why have only one day a year when we celebrate mothers and fathers and those who have paid a heavy price for our country’s freedom? Why do I so often run past the glories of nature and the balm they offer my soul when it is weary?

Likewise, in this new life I now live, the Spirit has gently nudged me to celebrate every day. Because Jesus’ salvation changes everything.

For many years, I thought salvation was only about being spared from eternal punishment after I die. Once I settled that question, though, I went plodding along through life—and not much changed. Phrases like those in 1 Peter 2—that tell us since we’ve tasted God’s kindness to cry out for the full experience of salvation—well, phrases like that puzzled me and I’d just skip over them.

But salvation, the full experience, changes everything. God’s plan for rescue goes so much further than just a different verdict on judgment day! His plan is meant to affect every aspect and every moment, from right now on to judgment day and far beyond.

That’s what Peter was talking about when he wrote about crying out for the full experience. And I want it!

It all started with the wonderful rescue:

For he [the Father] has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness
and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,
who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Colossians 1:13, 14

That is cause for celebration! We understand the forgiveness of sins and the ransom Jesus paid for us. We are so grateful for that.

But this week, let’s celebrate the first part of those verses. We have been moved from one kingdom to another. We have been given a new life and a new identity. And we want to grow into and experience our new reality—to the fullest!

The Scriptures are full of statements of truth about our new identity and this new place we live. These are the results of our salvation*:

Once you were God’s enemies, but now you are His children.

Once you were separated from God because of your evil thoughts and actions, but now you are holy and blameless and stand before Him without a single fault.

Once you were dead, but now God has given you a new life—with heavenly dimensions!

Once you deserved God’s anger, but now His mercy has forgiven you.

Once you were a lost sheep who wandered away, but now you are safe in the care of the Shepherd, the Guardian of your soul.

Once you had no identity, but now you are God’s people.

Once you were slaves to sin, but now you are free from that slavery and are slaves to righteous living.

Once you were full of darkness, bit now you have light from the Lord that produces what is good and true.

And one that sums up everything: Once you lived without God and without hope, but now you live in the presence of the God of all hope.

What a change has been wrought in our lives because Jesus rescued us! No wonder Peter wrote, “Now we live with great expectation…”

Celebrate that life. Every day. Don’t take it for granted. Live in your new reality, the new truths of your life.

And let’s cry out to the Father for the nourishment that will grow us into the full experience of what His salvation means.

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What is your “Once I was… but now…” declaration? Would you share it with us in the Comments section? Don’t agonize over trying to come with up a perfectly crafted sentence. Just let us know what one thing immediately comes to mind as you think about what it has meant to your life because Jesus rescued you.

I’ll start us off. Here’s the first one I thought of:  Once I was afraid of God, but now He is the fountain of all life for me.

Oh… and another close second: Once I was terrified of the future, but now I am secure in my Shepherd’s arms.

Let’s celebrate our salvation!

 

 

* From: Colossians 1:21, 22; Ephesians 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 2:10; Romans 6:17, 18; Ephesians 2:12,13; Ephesians 5:8; Ephesians 2:12; Acts 26:18

Evil, Birthdays, and FOMO

FOMO. The word is not in the old dictionary that’s still hanging out on my shelf after my college years. It has only appeared in our English language in the lifetime of my grandchildren. Yet this word has already found a place in respected online dictionaries like Merriam-Webster, although I think Mr. Webster would have absolutely no grasp of the culture that created this word.

I thought about this word as my life, speeding along this year of 2019, rounded the curve of a milestone birthday this past weekend.

And FOMO has infected me as I keep pondering three verses that the Spirit highlighted for me when I recently read again one of my favorite books—1 Peter. These verses have been on my mind every day for almost a month, so it’s high time to be sharing these thoughts with you.

So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
(1 Peter 2:1-3)

Did your mind shut off after reading Get rid of evil behavior? Or did something snap awake as you went on to the next sentence? That’s what happened to me. Evil behavior—yes, I’m done with that. At least, I want to be. But look again at the examples Peter then lists. Those things keep nudging their way into my life, often in the most subtle ways. As I write this, I’ve been awake less than an hour of this new day, and already I’ve battled one—no, two—of those things Peter links with the word evil.

How stealthy and cunning our enemy is, as he works to lure us off God’s path! So stay alert today, sisters and brothers.

The second thought about this passage is that Peter writes of having a “taste” of the Lord’s kindness. To understand this, go back to the preceding paragraphs. Peter has just written about God’s wonderful salvation—that long ago, the Creator already had a plan to rescue us from the evil that infected the world, save us from an empty life, cleanse us, and re-birth us into a new life that will last forever.

Oh! To my soul, that seems much more than a “taste.” That’s life-giving food and water to me.

Yet Peter calls this only a taste of all God has for us. There’s more, so much more. There’s a “full experience of salvation.”

Now, are you feeling tremors of FOMO rising in your heart and head?

FOMO is the new word—acronym, buzz word, or slang, whatever you want to call it—for the Fear Of Missing Out. In these days dominated by the internet and social media, we are bombarded by all kinds of information about the world and other people’s lives. And for some people, FOMO sets in: a fear that something exciting or wonderful is happening somewhere, and I am missing out.

What Peter wrote centuries ago has triggered a case of FOMO in me. Another birthday has come and gone. (For those of you who haven’t discovered it yet, here’s the law of earthly birthdays: The higher the number, the more quickly the year evaporates.)

Yes, I am living a life that will not end. But in this season of my life—in this earthly season—I don’t want to miss out on the full experience God has for me.

God’s “plan of salvation.” We hear those words and think of Jesus Christ dying for us, forgiving our sins, and promising us eternal life. Yet through Peter’s words here, God is telling us that’s only the beginning, only a taste of everything He has planned for those who come to Him. He says, There’s a whole lot more, my children!

Do you want the full experience of your salvation? I do.

Peter writes, “Cry out for this nourishment.” That’s what I’ll be doing in the following weeks. Come along with me. No matter where each of us is on the salvation journey, God has so much more planned.

This week, cry out for the Spirit to cleanse your life of evil behavior, and ask that He guides and nourishes us as we grow up into the full experience of our salvation. God’s Word reassures us that He rewards those who seek Him and draws near to those who draw near to Him. He’ll be here with us.

 

Growing up and being discipled

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How many times do you suppose you, as a child, were confronted with that question?

Surely sensible adults know that a child of five or six or even ten does not have a clear idea of what it means to be “grown up,” much less of “what” he or she wants to be as an adult. Yet the question keeps popping up, perhaps because it opens a window into a child’s mind. From the answers, we learn what lights the imagination, dreams, and excitement of that child.

Child of God, what do you want to be when you grow up? What image are you holding as your ideal? To what do you aspire? What attracts and excites and inspires you?

We know that for anyone to grow up and become the person of their childhood (or adult!) dreams, training is involved. To be a doctor, that five-year-old will need to persevere through rigorous years of study and hands-on training. To be a gardener, hands must meet dirt, and secrets of growing things must somehow be absorbed through work of one’s own and study of others’ work. To be an Olympian, utter devotion to coaching, hard work, and discipline must prevail. To be a mommy or a daddy, a person must grow up in practical nurturing and love. No matter what dream a child holds, there’s growing up to be done—through knowledge, guidance, and experience.

And most of us have discovered that no matter our age, there’s still a little more growing up to be done.

For us, brothers and sisters in God’s family, there’s also growing up to be done. Whether we’re two years in the family or fifty-two years in the family, we still have growing up to do.

And here is where the analogy breaks down.

Because as children of God, we can answer the question of “what” we want to be when we’re grown up with an answer you’ve probably never heard from a child:

“I want to be perfect. I want to be complete.”

The children of God can say this? Yes, the children of God can say this. We can hold this hope as our ambition and our ultimate goal.

It’s radical. But we base this on our Father’s promise: He is daily growing us toward that perfection. This dream of ours is in the works. We hold the hope that someday this process will be complete and perfect, but God has already started the process! He is carefully fashioning His masterpiece in whatever happens in your life today!

  • * * *

A question has been prowling around my days for some time now: Under whose tutelage have I been studying?

These thoughts were prompted by Keith Ferrin’s quote of Michayla White, Executive Director of International Network of Children’s Ministry. She said: “If you’re reading it regularly, looking at it regularly, and listening to it regularly, you’re being discipled by it.”

I am becoming every day, growing into, moving toward, being discipled. The question is, Who am I following?

What am I reading regularly?

What am I looking at regularly?

What am I listening to regularly?

Who is discipling me?

God lives with His children, here to help us grow up into the plan He’s had for His people from the very beginning. His Spirit is within us to teach us, guide us, and produce His wisdom and fruit.

(That’s amazing, isn’t it? God doesn’t stand off in heaven somewhere, issuing edicts and then observing, keeping record of how we’re doing, and judging… No, He is living right here with us, working on His new creation and masterpiece—the new you and the new me.)

But we know that the enemy of our souls always works against what the Spirit wants to do within us. We can expect that. And he works in some of the most sinister and cunning ways. None of us would claim to be disciples of Satan, but what things in our lives is Satan using to disciple us in ways opposing God’s plan—and we’re allowing it?

God has given us a choice in who we follow. And the one who disciples us is the one who is guiding our “growing up.”

I am still growing up as God’s child. But I know “what” I want to be:

Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.
Romans 8:6

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

 

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PROMISE: The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)

MORE: Romans 8:5-13; Galatians 5:16-26;

 

 

 

God’s love — always in our history

Need some good reading today? Read your story (and mine) in two psalms—106 and 107.

Both chapters start out with the well-known thanksgiving:

Praise the LORD!
Give thanks to the LORD for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 106 goes on, after that wonderful opening, to recount the history of the people God rescued from slavery in Egypt. It’s shocking and sad and downright wicked.

After all God had done for them, they still turned away—testing God’s patience with everything from grumbling and complaining, to outright worship of idols and demon worship that included sacrificing of their children.

Yet, as God’s anger disciplined them and they were finally crushed by the results of their sin, when they called out to Him for help, He rescued them, “because of His unfailing love.”

The second psalm, 107, starts with the same refrain of thanksgiving for God’s faithful love that endures forever. Then it recounts our history. Read it closely, and you’ll most likely find your story. My story is there, too. All of us, wandering, willful, in distress and gloom, foolish, suffering from our sin, battered by life. He gathered all of us who had been living in exile from His presence.

And those who call out to God are rescued! God hears, and in His constant love, He comes to help. He’s done miraculous, wonderful things to care for His children. In your life. In my life.

Those two chapters end with this:

Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
   they will see in our history the faithful love of the LORD.

Today, Thanksgiving, let us take heart. Let us each look back at our personal history and see how His love has cared for us. Even when we were (are??) foolish and rebellious and downright sinful.

His faithful love endures forever.

And for that, I will forever give thanks.

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