Precious in the Sight of the LORD is the Homegoing of His Saints…

bastrop tree bridge water

Precious in the Sight of the LORD is the Homegoing of His Saints…

We attended the memorial service for the 23-year-old son and grandson of dear friends. Four years ago, Josh was in a terrible accident at age 19 and has been challenged in every way imaginable since that day.

His parents, grandparents, siblings, medical staff and friends have done a beautiful job of enhancing his life in every conceivable way. Between Josh and those around him…God has been glorified through this painful process. Here is an earlier post from his grandmother:

Our 23 year old grandson, Joshua, went to his home in heaven and has been made whole. He can now talk (which he loved to do) and walk and worship at the feet of Jesus. He was a warrior these past 4 years following a terrible car accident that caused severe injury to his brain stem. He had to breath through a trach and be fed through a peg in his stomach. He couldn’t talk so he learned to communicate with his eyes on a special computer screen. Early in his recovery, he would play Tic Tac Toe with his siblings and often win. He always loved people and would show off when a new nursing student would come for the day by asking their name using the computer. There are so many things I could share about the last four years but the greatest thing is the lessons we all learned: how to love like Josh, how to be generous like Josh, how to be thankful even in the difficult times. Our Joshie will be missed but never forgotten. Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers and emotional support the past 4 years.

Josh’s dad, John, spoke at the memorial service. It was a powerful word to all of us. He talked about how none of this journey was in vain, not the love and care invested in Josh, not the pain, not the prayers, not the hopes. John reminded us that through Josh’s journey (and our own) our God sustains and strengthens. He is using every part of Josh’s journey to touch each life involved. Josh’s strength, perseverance, joy and love touched lives. This four-year experience and his short twenty-three years on this earth will continue to touch lives.

Years ago, God gave me this verse after the loss of my precious aunt. To know that the heart of God sees Josh’s homegoing in this way is one of His tender mercies/gifts to those who love Josh so. It is a gift to you, as well:

Psalm 116:15 (ESV)
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

As I pray for this sweet family, I know that this is still a long journey…no doubt very different for each person.

I would love it if you would pray for them along with me.

Thank you…

 

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh and…TRUTH!

blue crane jpg flying

Judge Brett Kavanaugh and…TRUTH!

Regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we have been praying for the truth. While we tend to believe him because of his adult life of respect for women and a seemingly exemplary life…there is the drinking that seems to be excessive during his high school college years. So there are…some niggling questions that will likely never be answered.

Of course, there is…media and politics.  One side is going to believe him no matter what and the other wants him crushed no matter what. Supreme Court decisions hang in the balance.

So…in our house, we have prayed for the truth.

Yes…the truth will set you free, but you must truly want to see and know the truth! We have to be capable of setting our own bias and self-interests aside. In our nation, that appears to be almost nonexistent. Yet…we only see what the media shows us. We all know there has to be more sanity out there…more truth…more character.

This morning I was reading about pilot giving Jesus over to the crowd to be tortured and killed.   The account reminded me of the political climate of today. Those who hated Jesus could see nothing else.  They didn’t like what he stood for and they didn’t like what He was doing to their dishonest/self-serving way of approaching life.

Pilot could see that Jesus was not the terrible man being described to him, but there is a key phrase that highlights what was happening in that day and in ours: “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”

Don’t twist this…I am not saying Kavanaugh should be compared to Jesus. I am saying that human nature and the political insanity of our day are similar to the time of Jesus.

Just as in Jesus’ day, truth gets buried because our politicians and media are, “wishing to satisfy the crowd”.  Why? Because men and women are wishing to satisfy their own self-interests. There are political careers and wallets to be considered. There is the pride…always pride…that can easily fuel the fire of dishonesty in order to keep a high-ranking position or be the first reporter to tell the biggest story. There are special interest groups who refuse to see the forest for the trees and every-day people who are too biased to pray for truth.

THE TRUTH…is what sets us free. Not any truth…THE TRUTH. Not what is “your truth”…or “my truth”…but THE TRUTH…is what truly sets us free.

TRUTH established the foundation of our country in unprecedented freedom. But TRUTH is being drowned out by the loudest voices and those who want to please the crowds.

The answer is…and always has been:

John 8:31-38 (ESV)
31  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
35  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
36  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
37  I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.
38  I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

We must…pray for Truth!

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A Christmas Coat…Marriage…And Other Important Things…

ash britt under tree

Psalm 32:8 (HCSB)8  I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel.

Now that my granddaughters are older, we shop for their Christmas gifts together. The four of us peruse the stores… my daughter, two granddaughters and me…always such fun! This time, Ashley had already found her stylish, cozy-lined leather jackets.  Brittany was looking for a coat to wear with her dresses.

Today’s styles can be pretty “average” if you aren’t willing to do the search.  As she got tired, she was tempted to settle for one that wasn’t quite right. It didn’t quite fit. I knew she didn’t really like it so I said, “If you don’t love it in the store, you are going to hate it in your closet.” Though we were all getting weary,  I was tickled that she decided to keep searching.  It was exciting when only a store or two later she found “the perfect coat”.  It was adorable…it was custom made for her style and personality.  It just screamed “Brittany”. On sale…every puzzle piece in place…perfect.

Later I was looking for a purse and found one that wasn’t quite right.  Funny enough,  I was tempted to settle.  Brittany said, “Manna, if you aren’t sure…you should keep looking…I did and I found my coat.”  I smiled at the thought of her gently using my words against me (for me). I took that precious brown-eyed blessing’s advice.  I will shop for a purse another day.

In what area of life are you tempted to settle? Are you making the choice to believe God has something particular in mind for you?  We say we believe He has our best in mind.  We say we believe the delays, and yes…the pain, are His and for a purpose.  And yet…how many times do we settle for something less and then struggle to make it work for a very long time…even the rest of our lives.

For a minute let’s think of one of the most important decisions of our lives…marriage.  Why in the world settle for a partner that isn’t really a fit in the store, when it is a certainty that he or she will be less of a fit in our real and daily life. Struggles are eminent even when we choose the perfect fit.  When we settle,   the laughter, adventure and oneness that should have been there simply are not.  We miss out on so much because we choose out of the fear that someone better might not come along or because we are tired of being alone or tired of the emptiness…the search.

We miss out on so much when we simply settle regarding other life choices which have nothing to do with a marriage partner.

What a lack of faith and patience and God-given hope we are prone to live out.  We have important choices to make based on the words we say we believe:  He has my best in mind…He has yours.  His timing is perfect in your life and mine. 

 No matter what your tiring search is or how long it has been going on…as the loneliness and exhaustion set in…trust Him…make the choice to believe what you say you believe and step back into His loving arms.

Don’t settle…wait….rest in Him…

Choose!

(Originally Posted November, 2015)

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PRAYER…UNFORGIVENESS AND MOVING MOUNTAINS…

Duck landing

PRAYER, UNFORGIVENESS AND MOVING MOUNTAINS…

Mark 11:22-25 (NIV)
22  “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.
23  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
24  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
25  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Do you ever wonder why we pray for God to “move mountains” and we don’t see them moved? Have you heard someone quote this as though if we just believe hard enough or believe it and speak it…whatever “it” is…it is absolutely going to happen? I have always been confused by this, especially since no matter how many mountains are prayed for that do not move in the way it has been claimed they will…the view of prayer appears to stay the same.

I think the following is so very insightful because we really must cultivate a balance in our outlook on God’s word. We cannot water down His miraculous work nor can we isolate one verse here and there and create a belief system that is out of balance. In doing so, we spend a lifetime being disappointed or staying stuck on spiritual principles that can be somewhat lopsided:

“We should not interpret Mark 11:24 to mean, “If you pray hard enough and really believe, God is obligated to answer your prayers, no matter what you ask.” That kind of faith is not faith in God; rather, it is nothing but faith in faith, or faith in feelings. True faith in God is based on His Word (John 15:7; Rom. 10:17), and His Word reveals His will to us. It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.”

Additionally, we live in a culture that harbors (and justifies) almost constant unforgiveness.  Sadly, even as believers, we often (sometimes continuously) show grace to one…but withhold it from others. Oh…how wrong we are!

“True prayer involves forgiveness as well as faith. I must be in fellowship with both my Father in heaven and my brethren on earth if God is to answer my prayers (see Matt. 5:21-26; 6:14-15; 18:15-35). The first word in “The Lord’s Prayer” is our—”Our Father which art in heaven” and not “My Father which art in heaven.” Though Christians may pray in private, no Christian ever prays alone; for all of God’s people are part of a worldwide family that unites to seek God’s blessing (Eph. 3:14-15). Prayer draws us together.”

“We do not earn God’s blessing by forgiving one another. Our forgiving spirit is one evidence that our hearts are right with God and that we want to obey His will, and this makes it possible for the Father to hear us and to answer prayer (Ps. 66:18). Faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). If I have faith in God, I will also have love for my brother.”

(An interesting side note is that I had to tell whatever dictionary is used to publish my blog to add the word, unforgiveness, to the dictionary! It was coming up as misspelled…did not recognize the word! Wow…)

We must be people of prayer! But we must be careful that it is God’s unabridged version…not our own…

Quotes from: Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.

 

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THE LAST SHALL BE…FIRST??

Grandpa Jaxon and Riley 2

THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST??

 Mark 9:33-34 (Phillips NT)
33  So they came to Capernaum. And when they were indoors he asked them, “What were you discussing as we came along?”
34  They were silent, for on the way they had been arguing about who should be the greatest. Jesus sat down and called the twelve, and said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
Mark 9:36 (Phillips NT)

36  Then he took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arms round him, said to them, “Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake is welcoming me. And the man who welcomes me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!”

THE LAST SHALL BE…FIRST??

The ones who were supposed to know Him best were arguing about who was the greatest. Wonder what that looked like.  Think of conversations (perhaps subtle) where you are trying to prove that you are better than, prettier than, smarter than…or equal with someone else.  When we are threatened by and criticize others unnecessarily, isn’t that what we are doing?

Jesus’ instructions were simple. You want to be great? Take on the heart of a servant. Have more concern about others, than you have about yourself. Think of what is best for them…first.

The commentary says that Jesus is speaking of little children in age…or in spirit. So, is there someone in your life who is spiritually immature and acting in ways that you cannot understand or that drive you crazy? What is your attitude supposed to be toward those in your sphere?

I talk a lot about having a quiet time. This is an essential reason to have one. You cannot have the right attitude toward people who are broken, clueless, irritating and need repeated encouragement to live life differently unless you are getting your view of them from God.  That view will slip away quickly unless you are constantly seeking His vision of them and for them.  It can be exhausting, upsetting and completely defeating to invest in broken or obstinate people.

But when we do, we become last and in becoming last, we become first. What does that mean to me? It means knowing that I am pleasing God. Not because I am a “great” Christian, either. Yes, I want to please God but, in a way, it is also self-preservation. I sense His comfort, guidance and protection. I sense my purpose.  One of the biggest needs of our time is for people to have a sense of purpose.

This definition of having a servant’s heart was given to me years ago and has resonated as truth to this day:  Having a servant’s heart is “… being excited about making someone else successful.”

Think that through. When you are excited about helping your spouse succeed, you feel less put upon when they need your help…again.  It is the same with your children, your coworkers, or fellow students.  It is the same when you are in ministry. Exhaustion and attrition will be waaay less prevalent when you maintain a servant’s heart.

Whether with your family, or others in your sphere, the only way to keep this view of your life (and theirs) is to pray constantly that God will allow you to see yourself as He sees you and others as He sees them!  He will open your eyes.  He will refuel you.  You will be crazy-excited about being “last”.

In the  world we live in…you think others will not be curious about the One who makes you tick? As my husband often says…”Bet me!”

 

 

 

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LIVIN’ THE DREAM….!

duck s in golden morning

LIVIN’ THE DREAM…!

I was talking to my husband about someone we both love, going over her spiritual growth and the long list of things that have come against her.  Believe me…the list is very, very long and the hits have kept coming.

It isn’t like suddenly relief has come and all is well and now she has the good sense to seek the life God wants for her because He has “straightened it all out”. Many of her dreams have been shattered, right along with her heart. The journey has been …long. New and scary things have recently forced their way into her already more-than-challenging place in space.

I described her spiritual growth…her responses to God and out of those responses, her life-giving investment in others. As I rehearsed it all, this heartfelt truth just came spilling out of my mouth…

“And you know…because she has been willing to seek God throughout all of this…she is livin’ the dream. I mean seriously…she is truly…livin’ the dream!”

I meant what I said with everything in me.  She is doing so many things to touch the lives of others in ways she absolutely, irrevocably would not have done, had the meant-for-devastation events not occurred.  Her life is exciting and full and painful and beautiful all at once.  She is more alive than she ever would have been without all that has happened.

This is what God continuously tries to get us to see and yet we so often believe the lie. Believing the lie turns us into self-protective, narcissistic, inward people who destroy our own purpose and then wonder why we are empty, lonely and hurting.  Who is the father of all lies? The one who roams about, looking  to devour you and me. How do our lives end up being devoured? By believing THE lie.

How do we find our purpose and the life that is beyond what we think or imagine or plan on our own? By believing this truth:

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” Psalm 62:1

Seek Him…ask Him for the strength you need…ask Him to allow you to see Him as He sees you and help you to correct your ways! Ask Him to let you see others as He sees them! Ask Him to show you where you have agendas you don’t realize you have!

Because of His strength in you…you will ultimately stop fighting inwardly for your own way…your rights…ever agonizing that you can’t control situation after situation.  You can stop trying to micromanage life…yours and everyone else’s. Because you faithfully pray and begin taking on the disciplines of seeing things as God spells them out in His word…you will know with certainty that He is in control. You will see the senselessness of wearing yourself out fighting continuous battles that aren’t yours and therefore, you cannot win! You are punching the air and wearing yourself out in the process!

Hear me: You will not necessarily have things turn out the way you wanted or dreamed! But they will turn out the way He knows is life-giving for your heart, your mind and your sense of purpose. Your life will glorify His name. Why? Because others will gravitate to that mysterious thing that you seem to have! Part of your purpose will be helping them to let go and find that rest and sense of purpose.

That…is how you too…can be livin’ the dream!  It is the only dream worth having…it is custom-made for you by the One who loves you most…and best!

1 Peter 5:6-10 (ESV)
6  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
7  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
9  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)
14  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
16  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
21  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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God is Pursuing Your Prodigal…and You!

Blue Crane Large maybe

You probably have someone you love who is living in a world all his own…a fantasy world of sorts because he believes the lie of the enemy. Maybe the lie affects one area of his life…maybe the lies have gotten so big that he can barely find any truth anymore.

It is tempting to feel that he can never find his way, because he is so steeped in his faulty thinking that he truly believes he is living out his best life.

When we think of our loved one that way, we are taking God out of the scenario.  We do that by saying, “Well…he/she has choice.”  True, but only a half truth.  Why do we remember and recite “choice” more than we remember and recite the story of the prodigal?  Why do we remember and recite “choice” more than we remember how Jesus pursued his first disciples?  They were just going about the daily!  They weren’t trying to “find God”. They weren’t looking to repent of their own selfish ways.  They were just bringing in the bacon, like other fishermen in their village.

Well, you say…they weren’t living in terrible sin…they hadn’t rejected family and God and everything else worthy and good.  True, but Jesus pursued them!

Let’s think of Paul. Is your loved one worse than Paul? He tortured and killed Christians…sought them out!  He was a Hitler in his time, wasn’t he?  Don’t you think he lied and manipulated in order to murder believers?  He lived in his own self-righteous world.  He wasn’t pursuing Jesus!  Jesus pursued him!

Don’t forget the prodigal.  Could anyone get any worse?  He rebelled and insisted that he deserved his father’s money…now!  You think that was one conversation?  I doubt it.  It only makes sense that he was wreaking havoc in order to get his own way.  When he finally wore his dad down…he left and lived in the worst kind of extravagant sin that one could live.  He was happy…doing all he had dreamed of doing. Had his dad been able to peek, I am certain he would have felt his son would have no reason or desire to come home.

He “had choice” and was busy making his own choices.

But…God.

God stood back and let him make those choices.  He let his choices bring about consequences.  He wanted to live the high life. He wanted to be out from under his family and any control (wisdom?) they might offer. He wanted to do life his own way.

He had choice. He chose. His choices destroyed his inheritance and his relationship with the father and mother who truly loved him. It all looked very permanent.

But…God.

All the while that His dad was praying, watching and waiting…God was working.  His dad didn’t see the work…but I believe he had faith and hope.  Otherwise…why would he have watched for his son and recognized him from far off.  He would have long since given up and stopped watching/hoping.

Our God is greater than the enemy who feeds the lies to us and to those we love. The  truth is, He is at work in them, as long as we are praying.  While praying, we must allow God to work out our own broken, destructive, faithless places. Why would God bring our loved one back to us only to have us destroy the work He has done in them through our own (possibly hidden) version of control and unforgiveness? Thankfully, his dad had a very different heart than his brother!

God is at work in those you love…and yes…in you. Remember, you too have choice. Are your choices helping to make the way for your prodigal to return?

His timing is perfect. His work is perfect.

Yes…your loved one does still…“have choice”!

1 John 4:4 (KJV)
4 …greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

James 1:2-8 (NIV)
2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
6  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

 

 

 

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