Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!

I am currently enjoying Lisa Harper’s latest Bible study, Malachi: A Love that Never Lets Go.  Each week she includes out-of-the-box exercises to help us implement what we are learning.  This week’s assignment was to learn the origin of the old spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and then to rewrite it in our own “dialect” and from our own heart.  What a great exercise this was!

First, the origin: The spiritual was written by a man commonly known as Uncle Wallace, Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman.  He wrote it around 1840 and was inspired to do so by his home close to Oklahoma City and by the Red River, which reminded him of the Jordan River.  The prophet Elijah is closely associated with the Jordan River, the location where a chariot and horses of fire appeared between him and his successor Elisha, and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind.  (Numerous non-scholarly sources believe the song contained hidden lyrics that pertain to the Underground Railroad that served as an escape route to freedom for slaves.)

Tradition has it that a Choctaw boarding school minister, Alexander Reid, overheard Willis singing the song and had him transcribe the words and music.  He then sent the song to the Fisk Jubilee Singers in Nashville, who popularized the song as they toured throughout the U.S. and Europe in the early 1900’s.  The rest, as they say, is history.  The Recording Industry Association of America added Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to its list of “Songs of the [20th]Century.”

Second, my rewrite:  It’s hard to rewrite the words to a song that is so beloved and so historic.  But it’s words bring a picture to my mind’s eye of a man struggling in this oft difficult world, longing for his Savior to bring down a chariot and whisk him away to the paradise of heaven.  I, too, sometimes get weary with the daily struggles of this life and even get a little impatient at times while waiting on the Lord’s return.

But, my friend, He is coming!  And He, Jesus Christ, is the only ticket for that sweet chariot ride to heaven!  No one else or no-thing else in this world will get you there.  Jesus came the first time to bring salvation; He’ll come the next time to bring judgment.  But before His judgment falls, He’ll take His children for the ride of their lives!

Do you have your Ticket?  If not, let’s talk.

 

 

Praise You Sweet Jesus Lord

Tornadoes of Eternal Change

I’m watching the news tonight as yet another night of tornadoes rips across the southern plains.  With devastation two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, AL, two days ago in Joplin, MO, this afternoon in Oklahoma City, and tonight in Dallas, TX — and possibly Joplin again! — homes are destroyed, family members lost or dead, lives changed — forever. 

We all watch and cry with the victims.  It makes no sense.  I just can’t imagine it: one moment you’re sitting at the lying in bed or driving home from work and the next you’re being pulled out of a pile of rubble.  Then the questions erupt: What happened?  How did it happen?  Why did it happen?  God, what’s going on?

It just so happens (of course, nothing really “just happens”) that I am reading — for the 3rd time — Chuck Swindoll’s book Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance.  Job has lost all of his possessions, all his means of income, all his hired help, all the comforts of living well, and then “…another messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead…'” (Job 1:18-19).  Many theologians believe the “mighty wind” was a twister.  Yes, Job had travelled down the same road where these victims are traveling tonight.  And Job responded with worship, without blaming God for any wrongdoing.  Amazing.

I’ve read the first chapter of the book of Job a hundred times and it never ceases to amaze me.  He lost everything, yet he never blamed God or aske, “Why me?”  I might have gotten to the worship — eventually — but I would have probably passed through all the stages of grief first, taking each one very slowly.

Swindoll notes four principles that emerge in this first chapter of Job — four principles that are difficult to understand but nonetheless true.  The victims of the tornadoes will probably not want to read these right now.  They will eventually, after they grieve.  But each one of us could stand being reminded of these — now, before a “tornado of eternal change”  strikes our lives.

Principle One:  There is an enemy we encounter we cannot see…but he is real.   Just because Satan is invisible to the human eye does not mean he is not real.  And he is a formidable, relentless foe.  He deceives; he accuses; he torments; he tempts; he destroys.  Whatever it takes to bring you down, he’ll try it.  But remember, dear believers, that greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.  You have power over him.

Principle Two: There are trials we endure we do not deserve, but they are permitted God is, indeed, sovereign over all the universe and over everything that happens within it.  He either causes, prevents, or allows.  Which one He chooses is totally His call.  Therefore, nothing comes into your life that has not passed through His will.   “In the mystery of God’s unfathomable will, we can never explain or fully understand.  Do not try to grasp each thread of His profound plan.  if you resist my counsel here, you’ll become increasingly more confused, ultimately resentful, and finally bitter.  At that point, Satan will have won the day.”  Accept what comes; endure it; win the day.

Principle Three:  There is a plan we explore we will not understand, but it is best.  Though each piece of God’s plan may not seem fair or pleasant, it works toward God’s ultimate purpose and is, therefore, good.  Corrie ten Boom once compared God’s plan to a tapestry.  We see only the small section that is our life and we view it from the underside.  All we see is threads running in all different directions, with knots, tangles, and frayed strings.  But God sees the whole tapestry — and from the top where all the threads make a beautiful design.  Trust the Designer.

Principle Four: There are consequences we experience we could not anticipate, but they are necessary.  Chances are you’re going through something right now that is unfair, something you don’t deserve.  Perhaps you’ve complained — or whined — to God, tossing up all kinds of questions to Him.  “Trust me here.  What has happened is a necessary part of your spiritual growth.  Yes, necessary.”  For it will shape you and hone you to be who and what God wants you to be — and for a purpose.  Be soft clay in the Potter’s hands and let Him have His way. 

Tornadoes of eternal change come in many forms and they come to each and every one of us.  Though they spring up out of nowhere, they should not surprise us for they are a part of life.  Though we may not deserve them, we must endure them.  Though we may not understand them, we must realize they have purpose.  Though we may want to run as fast and as far away from them as we can, we should embrace them as opportunities to see God work, to grow in His image, and to bring Him glory. 

“There is no pit so deep but that He is not deeper still.”

Corrie ten Boom

“Lord, I’m done!”

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” But, O how physical and emotional are the effects of this spiritual battle!  How many times have I run to my mentor, “Mrs. Wisdom,” pouring out my weak and weary heart to her?   

 “You’re on the front lines, Donna,” my mentor would often say.  “You must expect enemy attack when you openly serve the Lord.”  And so I trudged on.  But how much longer can I fight?

 ~ ~ ~

How long, O Lord?  How long?  I’m so tired.  I’m battle-weary.  The enemy is too strong and too crafty.  I’ve got nothing left.  I could handle him when he came at me personally.  I could handle him when he attacked my marriage.  I could handle him when he began to go after my children, but all three? My “pride of life” has taken such a fall that I hardly know him anymore.  My “joy of life” has dimmed and continues to struggle on.  And my “spice of life” is being poured out, searching and seeking everywhere but not for You.  My heart is shattered.  It’s more than I can bear.

 The desire to study your Word is waning.  And how can I go on teaching and writing when I’m so empty and fatigued?  Let me hide on the pew Sunday mornings like most do and forget the rest. Let me get an outside job and use the well-worn “I can’t because I work” excuse – at least for a little while.  I’m done, Lord.  I can’t fight anymore.

 Job?  Yes, Lord, I remember my friend Job – the suffering, righteous man to whom I’ve turned so many times before.  Yes, Father, I will look at him once again…

 ~ ~ ~

 Yes, Father, I see.  Like Job, I have lost financially, lost what few luxuries I had and, in a way, lost my children.  But there is still hope, isn’t there?  As long as there is breath in their lungs and in mine, there is still hope!  I cannot – I will not – let Satan win.  Because also like Job…

 

I know that my Redeemer lives,
   and that in the end he will stand upon my grave.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
   yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
   with my own eyes—I, and not another.
   How my heart yearns within me![1]

 

I will see you, God!  I will stand before my Redeemer! My heart years within me…

…yearns to be confident before You and not shrink away.[2]

…yearns to receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom.[3]

…yearns to endure in You that I might reign with You.[4]

…yearns to hear You say, “Well done…Come and share your Master’s happiness!”[5]

Praise You, my Father, the Rock on which I stand and the Arms into which I fall!  Blessed be Your name!  You and You alone are my strength!  So…

 

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
   Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
   the LORD will be my light.[6] 

 

(You hear me, Satan?  I’m not giving up – I’m getting up!  And God is with me!)

 


[1] Job 19:25-27

[2] 1 John 2:28

[3] 2 Peter 1:11

[4] 2 Timothy 2:11

[5] Matthew 25:21

[6] Micah 7:8

I’m in the Resurrection Business!

Well, maybe not exactly.  Let me explain.

Early in July, I was looking at my calendar and realized that after I returned on August 2 from a business trip, I had absolutely no work left on my 2010 calendar.  I began to worry because, with all the battles we’re fighting at this point in our lives, my husband and I really need my extra income.  (Not to mention the fact that I’ve grown quite fond of eating!)  I immediately took my worry to God; He immediately reminded me of a prayer I prayed back in April. 

In my April 15 post entitled “Has Anyone Seen God Lately?” I wrote about a list of 5 Impossible Things that God wanted me to do.  I mentioned that I faltered on the 5th one so God did it for me.  Well, that didn’t exactly pan out like I thought.  You see, the 5th item was, “Quit URS” (my current job), but I just could not give up that paycheck.  Then my manager — the only person who uses my contract services — left the company.  I thought God had worked it all out because “no manager” meant “no work” for me — or so I thought. 

Rather than BUST, my job went BOOM!  May, June, and July were filled with more work than I’d had in a long while.  I thought, “Oh, no.  God is not going to do this for me.  Apparently He wants me to take the step — no the leap! — of faith, quit my job, and then He’ll do the impossible and provide for me.”  I thought about quitting; I prayed about quitting; I talked about quitting; but I couldn’t quit.

After a couple of weeks, I fell to my knees and confessed, “See, God? I just can’t do it. My flesh is too strong and my faith is too weak.  I know that You can do all things, but I can’t.  I just can’t quit this job that pays me so well at this time when we need it so badly.  Father, I don’t mean to be disobedient but if you want me to quit this job, then I need You to do it.  For me, it’s impossible.” 

As I sat there that hot July day, looking at my empty calendar and remembering the prayer I had prayed, I marveled at how completely God had done it for me.  The BOOM had finally turned to BUST.  When I say I had no work, I mean I had NO work:  no business trip to take, no training to present, no projects to complete, and, thus, not even emails to answer.  I looked up to heaven and said, “Okay, Lord, now what?  I’m trusting you to come through as You always have.  Show me how we are going to make it without this job.” 

My friends, within 1 hour after I prayed that prayer, the phone rang.  It was my nephew.  “Aunt Donna, how would you like to go to work with me?”

Well, to make a long story short, I am now fitting heart patients with the LifeVest (a wearable defibrilllator) while they await heart surgery.  Over 400 patients have been resuscitated by the vest this year alone!  I’ll be working with people at a very critical time in their lives and helping to calm their fears.  And, I won’t be traveling  so that I can spend more time working on my writing ministry.

When I hung up the phone, I thought, “Hey, I’m in the resurrection business!  I’m helping revive tired, physical hearts back into life-giving action and helping revive tired, spiritual hearts back into wholehearted devotion!” 

Yes, I know: Only God is truly in the resurrection business.   But I’m so grateful to my awesome Father for hearing the honest heart cry from his scared little child.  He heard my confession and moved on my behalf.  From my heart to Yours, Father, I love you!

For God is greater than our hearts,
and he knows everything. 

1 John 3:20b

(PS: Please forgive my lack of writing.  I have been snowed under trying to make the transition from one job to another.  Right now, I have 2 jobs vying for my time along with my personal life that’s pretty active right now, too.  Hopefully, things will calm down soon!  After a month of silence, thank you for returning!)

If the devil can’t make you bad…

When I returned from Israel almost 2 months ago, my summer calendar was relatively clear.  I was so excited.  I was going to take my time, go through all my notes, all my pictures, all my memories, and put together a wonderful scrapbook of one of the greatest times in my life.  SCRATCH!  Within one week of my return, my calendar showed very few unmarked squares for the next 11 weeks!  I’m  just coming up now for a few brief moments of air before going back under. 

There’s an old saying bouncing around in my head right now, leaving behind a dent of conviction with every hit:

If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy!

Bad or busy:  One is as deadly as the other.  Both  keep us out of in-depth, intimate communion with God; both keep us from being filled with His Presence; both keep us from walking in His transcendent peace; both keep us from being fountains of living water refreshing other sojourners. 

As we drive down the highway of life, lots of things are stuffed into our “cars”: a spouse, children, parents, job, church, hobbies, quiet time, community clubs, service projects, exercise, Bible study, sleep, appointments — the list goes on and on!  And when time gets crunched, as it often does, what gets flung out the window?  Usually the important things; they always seem to get trumped by the urgent things.  Charles Hummel labeled this “the tyranny of the urgent.”  What’s amazing is that the important things are rarely urgent, and the urgent things are rarely important.  Yet the urgent things not only sit in the front seat of our “cars,” they oftentimes grab the wheel, while the important things sit patiently in the back seat. 

So how do you differentiate between the two?  How do you know if something is important or just urgent?  You must learn to look at each activity with an eternal eye.  Do so by asking a few questions: 

  • Will this activity have lasting results? 
  • What will be the effect of not doing it?  
  • Would God prefer I spend my time on this or something else?
  • Will this activity affect others and, if so, how? 
  • Will this action convert into a heavenly treasure or an earthly pile of rust?

I think you get the picture. 

FixThe activities that fill our lists fit into 1 of the 4 categories on the chart at left.  So take a piece of paper and divide it into 4 quadrants and label them like the chart.  Look at each item on your list , determine its importance-to-urgency ratio, and write the activity in the corresponding box.  Then start at the top right, using the following guide as much as possible:
  • Important and urgent — Do it first!
  • Important but not urgent — Delay it — but not for long!
  • Not important but urgent — Delegate it, if you can!
  • Not important and not urgent — Dump it when possible!

Yes, it takes time to analyze the eternal significance of your activities, but it’s well worth the effort and you’ll get faster as it becomes a habit.  In the end, some urgent things will still have to be done — or so your boss says!   And quality time with your spouse and children? Almost 100% important and urgent!

If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy?  Well, the truth is the devil can’t really make a believer do anything he/she does not want to do.  We have total power over him. ** We can try to blame him for our badness or our busyness but they’re really the result of our own choices.  So begin today training yourself to focus on the important things in life.  The results are out of this world!

Command them to do go, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age,

so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19

**1 John 4:4

VBS & Me: Then and Now

vbsFor 20 years, I worked at Vacation Bible School in various capacities: kindergarten helper, 1st grade teacher, VBS director, food committee, but mostly as the 6th grade director/teacher.  I loved that age group!  They were old enough to read, write, and work by themselves.  They were old enough to do fun craft projects.  They were old enough to understand salvation — and many did make professions of faith during VBS week.  Nothing is more exciting than that!

But then we moved away and I no longer got to teach 6th grade VBS.  They were already “taken”; they were already someone else’s kids.  So I had to settle for being the mission story lady.  Not too bad, though; you’d be surprised at what you can teach and craft in 15 minutes.

After 10 years, we returned home and I got my 6th graders back!  And 5th graders came in the deal, too!  Each day, 27 energetic 5th and 6th graders descended upon our room.  Hmmm…

Vacation Bible School seemed a bit different than I remembered.  Vacation it was not!  (I wonder what nut came up with that part of the title?)  Bibles were in short supply.  (Parents, hello?)  And “school“?  Yes, I got schooled!  I learned a lot.  For example:

 

  • The kids are the same as they’ve always been: precious little stinkers.  They’re curious seekers of fun.  They love to laugh and make others laugh, too. The latter, however, can get them in some trouble.  “Johnny, give me the rubber band.”  “Susie, put up the brush.”  “Bottom in chair, Johnny!”  “Kate, where are you going?”  “Johnny, it’s my turn to talk.”  “Stop whispering, Sus– Johnny!”  Every morning for a whole week, you long for Saturday.  Then right in the middle of your lesson, their little eyes light up — they get it!  And all the stress and frustration slowly melts away.  Suddenly, it’s Saturday morning and it’s depressingly quiet.

 

  • The parents, churches, and culture, however, have all changed.  Work-at-home moms are becoming more rare and fewer teachers are willing to help (can you blame them?). Churches seem to have a need for quick and easy; the emphasis is more on fun than on learning.  I guess you could say the “V” has come to outweigh the “S” — and knowledge of the “B” suffers.  And our culture?  The lesson topics included in the teaching materials are a whole lot different than they used to be!

 

  • And me?  Well, in some ways I’ve remained pretty constant: I love the old stories, the old structure, the old pledges — all of them — and I love working hard all week to prepare for Parents’ Night on Friday.  But in other ways, I’ve changed: My patience is much thinner; my heart, much heavier; my mind, not as quick; and my body, well, it aches all over by the end of the day.

 

Maybe it’s time for me to move OUT — I’m just too old!  I’ve passed the 50 mark and all my kids are grown.  I don’t know the language any more; my “hip” has turned into “hips.”  No longer cool, I’m flashing hot.  Instead of “got game,” I’ve got pain — and lots of ’em.  Rather than fast and fun, I’m slow and sleepy.  But then I wonder what Abraham, or Sarah, or Moses, or Noah, or other spiritual ancestors would say if they heard my excuse.  No, I can’t move out just yet.

Maybe it’s time for me to move UP — up to bed babies, that is!  Rocking, changing, singing, changing, loving, changing, playing, changing — now that I could do!  Babies don’t sass back; they just spit up.  They don’t roll their eyes at your stories; they simply roll over and go to sleep.  They’re really just the same as the 6th graders: precious little stinkers — it’s just a different kind of stink.  Bed babies: I could do that.

Yet even as tempting as that proposal sounds, there’s still something missing.  What is it?  Oh, yes, it’s my heart!  The 6th graders stole it years ago and have not returned it yet.  I guess I’d better give them another year.  And who knows?  One day I might look those 6th graders in the eyes and say something like Caleb said to Joshua:

…So, [boys and girls], here I am today, 85 years old!

I am still as strong today as the day [God] sent me out;

I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then…

the Lord helping me…

Joshua 14:10-12

Only 35 years to go!  But, first, I need a nap!

Cold Stone Sally

Last week I flew to Buffalo, New York, to do some training at our West Valley operation.  Thanks to some wonderful people who stayed after class to help us clean up, my coworker Michelle and I finished with lots of daylight left and, thus, decided to drive up to see Niagra Falls.  Before we left town, I had a marvelous suggestion: let’s stop by Cold Stone Creamery and get some ice cream to eat along the way.  That’s where we met “Cold Stone Sally” and the fun began…

“May I help you?” Sally asked, as she walked right on past us, never even looking at us or stopping to hear our answer.  For 3-4 minutes, we stared at the ice creams, engaged in some small talk, and grew increasingly hungry. 

Another woman walked around the corner from a connecting sandwich shoppe and stopped when she saw us. “Sally!  Get over here!  You have customers.”

“Aw, they’re just deciding what they want.  Do you know yet?”

I was the first to step up to the counter.  “Yes, I’d like chocolate ice cream in a small waffle cup and a small cup of coffee.”

“You want anything mixed in?”

“No.  The ice cream looks so good, I think I want it all by itself.”  Sally turned, put my ice cream in a waffle cup, and poured my coffee.  After ringing up the charges, she gave me my change and I dropped it into the tip jar. 

Next was Michelle’s order — and that’s where the fun began.  Looking up at the ice cream menu, Michelle said, “I think I’d like to try the Chocolate Peanut Butter Delight,” which was described on the board as “chocolate ice cream with peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and nougat.”

“What size?” Cold Stone Sally asked.

“What sizes do you have?”

“Like-it, love-it, gotta-have-it.”

“What sizes are those?”

With a “duh” sigh, Sally replied, “Small, medium, and large.”

“No, no,” Michelle said.  “I mean, how large are each of those servings?

“Oh.  Like-it is just a scoop; love-it is baseball size; gotta-have-it is softball size.”

“Okay, give me a love-it, a baseball size.”

“What flavor of ice cream do you want?” Cold Stone asked.

Michelle looked a little puzzled.  She pointed up to the sign and said, “I guess I want chocolate ice cream.”

“Do you want anything mixed in it?”

Michelle’s patience was wearing a little thin.  Again she pointed to the sign and said, “I guess I want peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and nougat.”

“Oh, you should have ordered a Chocolate Peanut Butter Delight.”

“I did!” Michelle retorted.

“Oh, didn’t hear ‘ya.”  After backing everything out of the register and re-entering the correct order, she asked, “Anything else?”

“Yes, a Diet Coke.”

Sally walked over to the cooler, opened the door, then turned and asked, “Diet or regular?”

“A diet Diet Coke.”  Michelle was clearly getting frustrated.

After paying Sally, Michelle was given back some change.  She stared at it long and hard; finally she dropped it into the tip jar.

As Sally turned to make the delight, Michelle said, “Oh, and I need it in a cone, please.  I’m driving.”

A few minutes later, Cold Stone Sally said, “Here’s your order, ma’am.”  We turned to see her hoist over the counter the most gigantic ice cream cone we had ever seen — practically a megaphone filled with several softballs of ice cream!  Michelle took the ice cream from Sally — in 2 hands! — and turned to look at me.  I barely made it outside before I cracked up laughing. 

As I walked toward the car, I heard Michelle exclaim, “Oh, my word!  Oh, my word!”  I turned and asked what was wrong.  Her voice went shrill, “Look at this; just look at this!”  I walked back and looked at her Chocolate Peanut Butter Delight (which, remember, was chocolate ice cream with peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, and nougat) to see that Cold Stone Sally had mixed chocolate ice cream with broken up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, large blobs of smooth peanut butter, and lots of chocolate syrup!  It was NOTHING like what Michelle had ordered!  After just a few forced bites, Michelle threw the whole thing away!

Before I boarded my 6:00 a.m. flight the next morning, I took out some notes for a speaking engagement the next morning.  I sat down, buckled up, and leaned my head back, which I always do for take-off.  As I sat there with my eyes closed, the vision of Michelle holding that awful ice cream concoction came back to my mind and I got so tickled I could barely contain my laughter.  When the plane finally leveled off, I opened my eyes and looked down at my scribbled notes.  Across the top of the page, I had written, “SERVING GOD.”

“Oh, Father, forgive me!” I silently prayed.   “I’m a Cold Stone Sally!”

  • How often have I prayed, “Father, may I help You?” yet never stop to listen to what He says, never open my eyes to see where He’s working in order to join Him?
  • How often have I missed an opportunity to serve God, only to reply, “Oh, I didn’t hear ‘ya”?
  • How often do I handle the like-it-sized jobs God gives me?  Simple, easy, within my skill set — no problem.  Done.  Pat myself on the back.  However, how often has God given me a love-it or a gotta-have-it-sized work — a bigger mission with a lot of stuff involved in it — and I balked, or ignored it, or asked Him to send someone else?
  • And how often have I done what I wanted to do — mixed up my own recipe of service?  Then held it up to the Lord and said, “Here you go, Lord.  Hope you like it.  Please bless it for me.”

Can you relate?  What is God calling you to do?  How are you serving Him?  What is the quality of your service to God?   What’s keeping you from doing what God tells you to do and doing it exactly the way He says to do it?

Are there any Cold Stone Sally’s out there?

Out to Lunch

Friends,

I will be in Israel from April 27 until May 13 on Precept Ministries’ Study Tour — a dream come true for me!  Since I will not have access to a computer, I wanted to get a couple of articles posted and ready to post but, alas, I am running out of time.  I’ve been ill a couple of days this week and, thus, I’m having to cut some things from my to do list, this being one of them.  I’ll make up for it when I get back; I’m sure there’ll be LOTS to write about!

I rejoiced with those who said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.

That is where the tribes go up…to praise the name of the LORD…

There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May those who love you be secure.

May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”

For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say,

“Peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your prosperity.

(Psalm 122)

Living Up for Christ: A Personal Testimony

“…you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

(Psalm 61:5)

 What a blessing to grow up in a strong Christian household, where my father and my older sister modeled Christ for me.  At the ripe old age of 8, I knew who Jesus was and what He had done for me, and I loved Him.  I accepted His sacrifice for my sins and asked Him to save me.  And He did.question mark

 Because He died for me, I wanted to live for Him. I wanted to be like my sister and be a living testimony to others.  But I kept messing up, causing feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness to plague me.  Thus, at every revival or youth trip, I walked the aisle and rededicated myself to Christ with the promise of doing better.  But, alas, I couldn’t do it.  Mistake followed mistake followed mistake…

 Just after I turned 15, I attended a youth retreat to Mt. Nebo, Arkansas.  There God revealed to me the nexus of my problem: I was saved but not surrendered. I still thought of Christianity as a religion not a relationship, and I was trying to live by a set of do’s and don’ts instead of by the Spirit. 

 So on August 21, 1974, I stopped living for Christ; instead, I started learning how to let Christ live through me. I stopped wanting to do good for God and started wanting to know God.  What a difference!  Since that time, I’ve been perfect!  No, not really.  I still mess up — quite a lot actually — but rather than pursuing perfection, I’m pursuing a Person and my perfection rests in Him.

 God is not only my Savior and my Lord, He’s also my friend – and what a friend He is! 

When I fall, He catches me. 

When I sin, He chastens me.

When I feel anxious, He calms me.

When I’m hurt, He comforts me. 

He never fails me,

never disappoints me,

never ignores me. 

He’s my protector and my provider,

my strength and my song,

my love and my joy. 

Oh, how I love Him!exclamation  mark

 And that’s what I try to pass on through Live Up! Ministries. I want help Christians know this mighty God of ours, to grow in their relationship with His precious Son, and to learn to walk in the power of His Spirit. I want to encourage “question mark Christians” to stop walking around with eyes downcast, heads hanging, and hearts burdened and to start looking up, living up, and being exclamation marks for God!

“Only let us LIVE UP to what we have already attained [in Christ].”

Philippians 3:16 (emphasis mine)

 

Only let us LIVE UP to what we have already attained [in Christ Jesus].

Philippians 3:16

Has anyone seen God lately?

It’s amazing to me how you can take a Bible study several times and it’s like a new study each time.  That’s the way Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby has been for me.  I first took the study about 15 years ago.  Since then, I’ve taught it twice and am now taking it again. 

One morning I was doing my homework and read something that really struck me.

What our world often witnesses today is a devoted, committed Christian or church serving God.  But they are not seeing God.  They don’t see anything happening that can be explained only in terms of God’s activity.  Why?  Because we are not attempting anything that only God can do. (page 143)

Ouch!  The truth of that paragraph cut me all the way down to the quick!  No one was seeing God through me because I wasn’t attempting anything God-sized.  I’d been doing a lot of little good things for God, but I wasn’t asking Him to do anything God-sized through me.  (I walked around for days with a spiritual black eye from that one-two-truth punch!)Note pad - small

After I apologized to God for hiding Him from others, I asked, “Lord, what would You like to do through me?”  Almost immediately, God gave me a list of 5 Impossible Things.  I hurriedly wrote each item down, looked at the list, and exclaimed, “You must be kidding!  There’s no way! Well, that’s what I get for asking!” 

After reflecting on the list for a while and realizing that these 5 Impossible Things could only be done by a powerful God through a willing soul, I made one more request, “Please, Lord, open my spiritual eyes. Far too often I have asked for something and then gone about my day, forgetting what I had asked, blind to Your movement upon the request.  So please, Lord, keep these 5 Impossible Things fresh on my heart so that when You begin to move, I’ll see it and move with You; so that when You begin to supply what is needed, I’ll see it and use it for Your purpose; so that when You open the door of opportunity, I’ll see it and step right on through.”

My friend, let me tell you something: God did those 5 Impossible Things — and He did them in less than one month!  I even faltered on the 5th item, the biggest challenge, but you know what?  He did it for me!  Amazing!

I’d love to tell you what those things were but other people are involved and I need to respect their privacy.  Did they see God?  I have no idea, but I sure did.  And seeing Him move so clearly has given me a renewed sense of strength, a refreshed taste of faith, a restored heart of devotion.  Now, whenever I approach a hill that seems too high to climb or a valley that seems too low to cross, I’ll just remember those 5 Impossible Things and the All-Things-Are-Possible God who did them.  At the top of my spiritual lungs, I’ll sing with the Psalmist:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remenmber your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works

and consider all your mighty deeds.

Your ways, O God, are holy.

What god is so great as our God?

Psalm 77:11-13

Has anyone seen God lately — through you?