Falling Together…

Ever have one of those almost asleep moments when suddenly you feel like your falling – then jerk – and you realize your safely in bed? Falling is one of those fear-full things. Hollywood still uses falling out of buildings, off cliffs, over the side of the boat to build suspense.

I have friends who are afraid of heights – my thing is edges. I don’t like walking along foot bridges or high platforms or mountainsides that don’t have railings. And it’s not just for me – I get those flutterflies in my stomach when my children or hubby get close to the edge – fear-full of the fall.

Adam and Eve fell – and look what that has wreaked. So much heartache – death – lostness.

Sometimes the falls we take aren’t physical – we fall out of popularity, out of favor with employers, out of love. Maybe more painful than the physical. There is a fall that is final – and it’s not out of a twenty story building: “Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:29&31 NLT)

But that kind of fall is not what a follower of Jesus ever has to dread. Ever do the dare of falling backward into someone’s arms? I was never able to completely do it until…Jesus found me. God replaces punishment with provision. Giving His Son for us so that we can fall into the arms of a loving Savior: “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.” (Isaiah 40:11a NIV)

So fear-full is falling that when things aren’t working out we say ‘everything is falling apart’. “Grace is what holds you when everything is breaking and falling apart, and whispers that everything is really falling together.” (Ann Voskamp) To trust in God is to say that all this falling is but a passing moment leading to the perfection of eternity that will be ours. Eternity is a Jesus follower’s now – not someday – and in the now, falling apart things work for our good and others. Our broken places help us touch another’s soul – it is not our perceived perfections that draw in a broken heart. It is our brokeness that makes us a safe place.

We’re really all just falling together, safely into arms that secure us forever.

Define Rich…

Ever dream of finding a bag of money or discovering you were left a vast inheritance by a long, lost relative? We live in a crazy world where, by all appearances, money solves all one’s woes. The quest for more doesn’t seem to have a limit.

I remember in my twenties thinking if we could just make x amount, then we would be set. Then we made x amount and it seemed like it wasn’t enough. Hard to admit but apparently not uncommon. Rockefeller was, at one point, the world’s richest man, first ever billionaire in America. When a reporter asked him ‘How much money is enough?’ he responded ‘Just a little bit more’.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.’ (Proverbs 24:4 NIV)

Hmm, rare and beautiful treasures. Wisdom and knowledge the keys to a treasure filled house. I have no idea if Rockefeller or any of the world’s billionaires are Christians. But I see many a ‘rich’ person commit suicide, lose their families, lose themselves in drugs. According to what the world would have us believe they have everything anyone could want, and if they don’t they can get it. Then why so much agony?

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven…Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

Desires of our heart – just a little bit more of worldly wealth, or a little bit more of heavenly wealth? I’m right there with everyone else – roof over my head, nice car, full frig — but I want my heart to be His. To not have a tight fist on mine, mine, mine but an open hand that says thank You for the blessings – and to live like I believe it.

So define rich: “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6 NIV) Not a key we have to hide for fear a thief will break in and steal, not a treasure that the market ups and downs can destroy – a rich treasure that the more we share it, the more we have. Very rich indeed.

Promises, Promises…

When I was little girl my friends and I would often say to each other: ‘Promise?’ An expectation that whatever we just told each other, we would follow through. Little girl years are a great learning ground for life – not all promises are kept.

Isn’t it what we’re all looking for – a sure thing, those who don’t let us down…a real promise keeper? Marriages dissolve, commitment broken. Friendships fizzle, faithfulness deserted. Employers disappoint, retirement plans dissolve. Even parents – abuse alcohol, abandon children, put ‘stuff’ before them. It’s hard in our world to trust anyone will keep their promise.

So what’s a girl (or a guy) to do? “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.” (Psalm 145:13b NIV)

It is true that God is faithful to His promises – but do we know it? Do we believe it? There’s only one way to be sure. Know HIs Word, know His heart, know your Jesus. “Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced.” because “He remembers His covenant forever.” (Psalm 105:5, 8a NIV)

This is why His Holy Spirit calls to our heart daily prompting us to open our Bible. Not because He will be faithful if we do, because He is faithful even if we don’t. But oh the promises we will know if we do. We will be sure, we will not come undone when the world does it’s best to undo us. Because we will have His promises as a sure foundation.

What are some of His promises? There are so many, where to begin? The promise to send a Savior – promise kept. The promise to never leave us or forsake us – promise kept. The promise of eternal life – already ours. All the promises of God are a done deal – we don’t have to wait expectantly, hoping that it might happen. Oh, and my favorite promise: someday no more tears, death, pain (Revelation 21:4)

Promises, promises – yes, Lord we want to know them. Saturate our hearts and minds with them. Help us recall them in our brokenness, to repeat them in the midst of another’s mess, to rest in them when the storms brew. Here’s our Promise Keeper: “He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV)

 

Heart View…

Recently I watched a time lapse clip of earth from space. Captivating – but not so much the familiar continents and seas or even the cloud covers. What was fascinating was that – day or night – there was a halo of light circling the earth. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus the Light encircling us with His constant protection.

Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12b NIV)

I’m pretty good at beating myself up – how about you? Could haves and should haves – hindsight chastising me for my shortcomings. That’s us looking back – Jesus calls us to ever look ahead. What is past, He has redeemed. It was always His to redeem. Too much time is wasted and worry spent on what was – when what will be is what mends the darkness.

“The Word [Jesus] gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:4-5 NLT)

When we find ourselves in the dark places of ‘what if’ and ‘oh no’ we must remember what we’ve learned in the Light. He came for us. He intercedes for us. His Holy Spirit indwells us. He is preparing a place for us. Where He is we will be also. What ifs fly and oh no disappears in the brilliant Light of the great I AM.

Just as marvelous as the window view of the space station is the window view of our little homes. We can see lightening crash and hear thunder roar – see bunnies scamper away and birds find breakfast – trees sway and flowers smile at the sun. All is wonder. A reminder that darkness is nothing on its own – for darkness is only the absence of light. And for all who seek after the Light, darkness fades until all that’s left is our everlasting heart view of our Savior.

“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness.’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Corinthians 4:6 NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is that all?

We pray – asking for healing, for finances, for brokenness, for relationships. Believing??

For God nothing is impossible – but don’t we pray like maybe He can’t/won’t? The truth is, for those who call on Jesus the Savior of the world: healing – if not now, then an eternally healthy body. Finances – may lose it here, but still rich beyond measure in the glory of all God has for us now and forever. Brokenness – being mended day by day, and some day the work will be so complete we’ll forget this. Relationships – restoration may not be in our timing, but the One who restores will make hearts and souls soar.

“For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NIV)

So is that all we’re asking for? The temporary-ness of earth? If only we knew what we have in the Holy Spirit. We are now, right now, filled with Christ through the Holy Spirit. And through Hiim every need is filled; the desires of our heart – a Christ filled heart – are ours. He’s waiting for us to ask Him to take us on His journey, not ours – ours is so ho-hum, His…we won’t know unless we ask and take His hand.

So what is the number one desire of every heart – Christ filled or not? It boils down to: L-O-V-E. We need faith, need hope, and want love. But someday: “In the end, when we are with the Lord in heaven, we will no longer need faith because faith will become sight. We will no longer need hope because all our hope will be fulfilled. But we will always have love, because God is love and we will be with Him.” (Stormie Omartian)

Jesus loved us enough to live among us, to surrender life for us, to rise again and intercede for us. Most of all to promise to always be with us – how? By giving us His Holy Spirit to be with us now and to never depart from us.And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1John 4:16 NIV read that whole passage 1John 4:13-21)

In all this I’m not saying don’t pray about the cares of your heart – I’m saying believe with all your heart He knows and it breaks His heart more than it breaks ours. His answers are perfect – and that is why we can count all this stuff joy. We don’t have to rely on happiness which is fleeting, because moment by moment He is doing the impossible. And that knowledge is all we need, for it is sure and trustworthy.

More…

Some things we want more of – some we don’t. Seems like everyone wants more money, more of what someone else has, more time. No one wants more heartache, more pain, or more wrinkles.

And yet more money is never enough. More of those we envy leaves us empty. And more time is out of our control. But much as we shy away from heartache, believe me I’m there with you, it is in this I call on God most. Pain gets our attention, often dropping us to our knees and seeking Him. Now the wrinkles – they show life was lived: smiles so many times the lines are permanent, love so deep the furrows of seeking another’s best are etched, and skin that’s no longer twenty-something is skin that a grandchild trusts.

“I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 HCSB)

Abundance of vacation time, bank accounts overflowing? No, “an abundance of whatever you need in order to live the life of purpose God has for you.” (Stormie Omartian) Everyone wants to know their life has purpose – how empty we come up when we decide the purpose. How sweet when we surrender to His leading.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

What if we ask for more of His heart for the lost, more of His eyes to see the lonely, more of His Spirit to show us the way? Can the change of more of Him living through us effect eternity? Ours and others? These are the questions I want to ponder more. These are the longings He wants to give us an abundance of.

Funny how He works things: the more we get to know God, the more peace. The more we live life for God, the more freedom. The more we praise Him, the more He transforms us. You and me – we look different when more of Him is what others see.

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.” (Psalm 71:14 NIV)

Free to Serve…

America’s independence – hard fought and won by men and women whose hearts saw beyond serving an earthly king – who saw the freedom that comes with serving the King of kings.

Its seems like a paradox to say we are freest when we serve, but it is the very heart of following Jesus. Hearts are freed from guilt. Souls are freed from death. Hands are freed to give – to those we love, to those He loves – all the love He pours into us.

What sweeter verse than “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”. (Romans 8:1 NIV) No condemning for past mistakes, lies, let downs, thoughtless acts, selfish endeavors. No condemning for things we don’t dare speak of. No condemning for things we will mess up and do. Only grace.

Only grace can take a broken soul and pour in love and make it whole. Only grace can stop the storm inside and replace the fears with peace. Only grace working in us can enable us to stretch beyond our selfish ways and touch a life in a life changing way.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield. The LORD gives grace and glory; He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity.” (Psalm 84:11 HCSB)

Maybe all our hurting world is longing for is knowing that no matter the crush of circumstances, freedom from pain and guilt really exists. The kind of heroes the world needs are those who forget about self and tell another about Jesus. Any freedom defender – for country or for serving Christ – would agree with this great quote from Ann Voskamp: “The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go.”

Noticeable marks of His love – only the Holy Spirit can work through us to live a life that marks others with His love. Oh let us be busy marking souls through the grace-full freedom that is ours.

 

 

Just Try…

Aren’t we all a little tired or tweets, likes, smileys, and thumbs up? The constant desire for more and the let down of not being ‘liked’ – by people we don’t even know. Maybe we need an ‘insincere love’ break.

Facebook posts get lost in the feed and thumbs up are forgotten – but what about an old fashioned handwritten note? A real phone call? Or how about a bear hug to show you appreciate someone? Maybe our technological advances that fill up our time are leaving our hearts a bit empty.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

No one walks this earth that doesn’t have the deep down longing to know they have value, that somebody cares. God knew we would need His love letter, the Bible, as our constant, but He also knows we all need a little encouragement with skin on. Throughout His Word He reminds us to build each other up. Even those that are difficult – He calls us to bless them. Even when we don’t feel like it – He tells us to try.

“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1Thessalonians 5:15 NIV)

What if we look the homeless man with the sign in the eye and share a smile instead of only a dollar? What if we hold the door for the elderly person, pick up the dropped car keys for the businessman, or tell the crying toddler’s mom she’s doing just fine? Or maybe we bring it all a bit closer home: kind words at the end of a busy day, patience for the rude neighbor, grace for remarks snapped at us?

God lavishes mercy, love, and grace on us – not to hold on to, but to flow out of us to the souls we pass by and the ones we dwell with. Oh how I need to remember to share the heart of Jesus our Encourager – or at least just try. How about you? Need a little encouragement?

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

 

 

 

About Being…

Today’s ‘junk’ mail caught my attention – in bold pink letters it read: The Perfect Life Is In Your Future.

At first I rolled my eyes because the flyer was for a Senior Living Workshop. One, I can’t get into the whole senior thing because technically I’m not there yet (close, but not yet). Two, because I’m a ‘Boomer’, old is not part of our vocabulary. But then it struck me: whoever put this flyer together was exactly right, the perfect life is in my future. Is it in yours?

Don’t know about you, but I would not describe life in this world as ‘perfect’. There are wonderful sweet memories, and dear ones I love, but there has been and will be hardship, tears, and struggles. As the flyer indicated a perfect life is in the future, it can’t be right now. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV)

We tend to measure life by a seven letter word: success. Ask seven different people to define success – get seven different answers. Ann Voskamp said “Success isn’t about being amazing, it’s about being obedient.”

Pause…call yourself a Christian and measure success this way: “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” (1John 5:3 NIV)

Like it or not, this life is temporary. A lot of good word pictures describe it’s briefness: ‘a dash between two dates’, a vapor or mist that disappears quickly. But most ignore that though life is short, eternity is forever. And we are all created with eternity in us – where we spend it is the question. Eternally with God? Or eternally separated from God?

Success? It’s about being obedient and trusting God’s got this.:  “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

 

 

Bigger…

Seems like bigger is better – paycheck, house, popularity. Children always want to be bigger. We pick the bigger apple or head of lettuce.

It goes back to Paul’s lesson: contentment. Ugh, that just doesn’t fit today’s world does it? The lesson is good, the premise is right on, the practice is…well, difficult.

We want more: more ‘likes’, more ‘friends’, more experiences. A constant quest to fill up to the top and overflow with – stuff, tangible things, proof we are okay. ” ‘Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’ “ (Luke 7:41-43 NIV)

The bigger debt. That’s not something anyone is proud of having bigger. The truth is we have a debt we can’t repay. Try as we might, we mess up everyday. We can live this life trying to make things right or we can choose to let Someone step in for us and forgive us all those debts.

Debts of hurting those we love, not noticing those in need, living for self. Oh such good, sweet news: God’s grace is bigger than all our shortcomings, all our sins, all our wayward ways. Right there picking up our brokenness, mending our torn souls, being bigger than all we think we need.

“But He gives us more grace. This is why it says: ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ “ (James 4:6 BSB) “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV) “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV) “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11 NLT)

So, seriously, who needs ‘likes’, worldly fame, the next big thrill? He gives us more of all that matters – more grace, more wisdom, more peace, more joy. Oh Father, lavish more of those on us. More of You – our God is bigger than everything.

Mandy Hughes

PURSUING GOD WITH PASSION

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