mysaviorspeaks

“The Unknown…”

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?  The Eternal, the Everlasting God, The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.  His wisdom is beyond understanding.”

Isaiah 40:28

It is easy to praise our Lord and Savior when things are going well isn’t it friends? It is easy to speak of His grace and mercy when we feel we understand His plan and can see what He is doing. But today our deep work begins.

We cannot speak of our faith unless we have examined all aspects of it. Oh, how I wish that things always worked out the way I prayed. And I wish that I could see God’s plan clearly for every circumstance I encounter. But that is not the way life is.

So let’s think about this and stretch ourselves a little over the weekend. What are those issues that you don’t understand, or can’t reconcile with your understanding of the Almighty? They can be personal, or global in nature. Maybe, you have never had those conversations with God and don’t know where to start. Try beginning here:

“How could a loving God _______________________________________________________?”

Spend some time in deep prayer over these issues and ask God to reveal himself to you. Maybe He will. But the primary goal of this exercise is not to hear from God, but instead to build our own comfort level with the “not knowing.”

For our faith to grow and get strong, we have to be able to have peace in our hearts with the unknown. We have to be able to trust God, even if we don’t understand what He is doing. Peace isn’t real peace if we only have it when we are in control and everything is working the way we want.  And the longer I walk with the Lord, the more I realize that I almost never see the whole picture.

Most of the important parts of life are unknown aren’t they? Let us spend a few days wrestling with our expectations and may we find ourselves in a deeper, more intimate conversation with our Creator. And may His grace fill you with the peace that surpasses all understanding about the questions that take up residence in your soul.

Peace be to you friends.

Song of the day: What Do I Know of Holy? – Addison Road

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6J5TzSE_18

Lectio Divina Passage for Today:

 Then Job replied to the Lord:

 “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.

 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’

    It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.

 You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!  I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’

 I had only heard about you before,  but now I have seen you with my own eyes.

 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

 Job 42:1-6

“Very Funny, Lord…”

So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

An excerpt from my prayer journal – dated yesterday:

“What am I to do, Lord? Please give me an answer. Would it even matter? “ ………

“Very funny Lord. You are just sitting up there chuckling at me aren’t You? Thank You for that text. You are a good and faithful God.”

Here is what happened. I have been seeking God’s answer for over 6 months on that question. And I have really taken it to heart, and prayed for direction. It has been a very serious daily endeavor for me. And to be honest, I have felt the presence of God through it, but I haven’t received the ANSWER. You know, the big, flashing neon sign saying “DO THIS!” But I keep asking because I really want to know what He wants me to do. It is so important to me that I know I am in His will, that I won’t make a move until I am sure of what He wants.

So, I am sitting in my prayer chair, once again fervently praying for Him to give me an answer. This is serious stuff. But, dang it, my phone keeps beeping at me! I try to ignore it, but it continues. No, it can wait. This is my time with the Lord, and it is precious. Nothing is going to interrupt us.

Ding, Ding, – “answer me” it taunts me.

“NO! I am listening for an answer from God”

Ding, Ding…

“Aargh… I only have 10 more minutes until my kids get home. I am staying right here.”

Ding, Ding… It might be your kids needing you…

“OK!! I guess I can pray later (angrily stomping over to the phone)…”

Can you imagine my shock, friends, when I saw a text from an old friend, completely out of the blue, with very much part of the answer I was seeking in my prayer? It was amazing. It wasn’t the whole answer I am looking for. But it was definitely an affirmation that God is listening and that He is fully engaged with me. In a one-line text, He didn’t tell me where to go, but He told me to keep walking in this direction. He affirmed that He is with me, and assured me that I will get my answer at the right time.

What an awesome God! And I am so thankful to that sweet friend for following her instincts and sending me that much needed message.

What did I learn from this?

Don’t put God in a box!

  1. Don’t pre-determine how He will speak with you. Don’t close your eyes to the possibility that He might just interrupt your carefully constructed plans to give you what you need.
  2. If you are asking for something, have faith that He will answer. It might not be when you want, or even what you want – But He has promised to answer. And we need to hold on to that.
  3. And above all else, never underestimate His sense of humor. He delights in us, and I believe has much joy in helping us to find our way. Whereas I might be overly burdened with my approach to finding Him, His ways can be light and carefree.

Most gracious Father,

Thank You for Your continued presence with me. I know You are here, even if You are not giving me what I want in this moment. I trust that You are giving me what I need. You surprise me, Lord, and never do what I expect. You delight me in the ways You reveal yourself to me. You are my King, in whom I place my trust.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

Lectio Divina Passage for today:

 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him  and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.”  And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.”  The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” – Matthew 8:5-10

 Today’s song: (An oldie but goodie!) Come Thou Font of Every Blessing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax_NMWLEb6U

 

“My Iniquities…”

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:5-6

There are so many different ways to connect with God. Finding the one way that works for us is sometimes a bit difficult. We have mentioned many different ways over the past few days, however, one channel of communication that seems to work powerfully for many is music.

As I have watched over the years, for some, music is their worship and a very tangible experience. The variance is so great that I could never touch all the different sources, however, over this Lenten season I will endeavor to share a song of the day from many different styles and time periods. Maybe one will speak to your spirit.

Spend some time today either listening or watching the attached video, and let it sink down into your soul. How do you respond to the message? What kinds of emotions do you notice as you contemplate the words?

May God’s presence surround you this day, friends.

Lectio Divina Passage for today:

“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.  They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” – Acts 4:32-35

“A Sacred Encounter…”

“In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.  Be a rock of refuge for me,a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”

 Psalm 31:1-5

I had the most incredible, tangible encounter with God yesterday. I just had to share it with all of you. I am a part of a new Sunday morning group that has begun for Lent, Praying with the Psalms.

Yesterday, we took the above scripture and used it for a lectio divina exercise. I urge you to try it today. You might find it fruitful.

Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) is a centuries old practice of reading and meditating on scripture. Created by St. Benedict, it helps us to let God’s word sink into our hearts, and therefore, become part of our prayer experience. Here is how it works:

 

  1. Find a place free of distractions and set aside at least 15-20 minutes of time that you can remain uninterrupted.
  2. Read the scripture slowly. Or better yet, listen to it. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/ This particular audio version covers much more than the verses we are studying today. The final line of our passage is “ you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”
  3. Pay attention to any words or phrases that particularly stick out to you
  4. Read or listen to the passage again.
  5. Meditate on it; turn it over in your mind. Reflect on why these particular words catch your attention.
  6. Read the passage this time. Let it sink into your soul. Consider what God might be saying to you through this passage.
  7. Read or listen to the passage for a fourth time. Relax into the presence of God and contemplate what the scripture means for you and how you will respond. Will you respond with thanksgiving or a song? Will you draw a picture? Are you being called to do something specific? Or do you need more time to pray and seek its meaning?
  8. Consider making the relevant passage part of your ongoing conversation with God today. Seek His presence continually.

Lectio Divina can be a powerful form of prayer for many of us. For the remainder of Lent, I will always add a “Lectio Passage” to the end of our devotion for the day. If this form of prayer works for you, please enjoy using them.

May God’s presence reside tangibly among you friends.

Amen

“Building the kingdom…”

“We are convinced that you are made for better things, the things of salvation, because God is not unjust or unfair. He won’t overlook the work you have done or the love you have carried to each other in His name while doing His work…” – Hebrews 6:9-10

How do you experience the presence of God? There is no right answer. For many of us, we don’t know how to answer that question, however, it is critical that we understand our relationship with Christ. We all connect in different ways, and that is the way He wired us.

For some of us, music is the channel. For others, the Word. Nature has a way of speaking; as does art. Oh, and don’t forget the counsel of faithful friends. The truth is, God speaks in more ways we can count. The key to our relationship with Him is figuring out how we are individually tuned to hear. We all work on different frequencies.

My good friend, Michael, goes faithfully to Nicaragua each year to build homes for people that have none. He blessed me once by sharing his motivation for spending his vacations in a hot, bug-infested jungle while eating only beans and tortillas 3 times a day.

In all honestly, that sounds perfectly wretched to me. (I never said I was the model Christian.) But for Michael, it is so much more than a mission experience. He explained how this was the place where he most powerfully connected with God. If I recall correctly, his words were, “I never feel the presence of God more powerfully than when I have a hammer in my hand.” – BEAUTIFUL! What a testimony. I am so thankful that he shared that experience with me, because I most likely, would never have thought of that as a way to drawn near to my Savior.  But he would never miss it.

As we invest each day of this Lenten season seeking to connect and know Jesus more fully, maybe we can try some new experiences. Maybe we can take in the full realm of God’s glory by stepping out of our comfort zones and seeing Him at work in a different place. Perhaps, in addition to focusing inward, we should try focusing outward in the service of others. And just maybe, we will find a brand new means of grace for our journey.  Where is it that He might call  us if we are willing to go?

Grace to you friends.

Heavenly Father,

Blessed is He who comes in the name of our Lord. He is the Christ. The One who binds up the broken-hearted, heals the sick, cares for the orphans, and sets the captives free. Give me a heart for those You care about my king. Create in me a longing to love those in need of Your healing touch. Lead me to be a servant for Your kingdom and Your glory. And through Your grace, may my heart and mind be transformed.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

If you are looking for an opportunity to serve others during this season, there are several opportunities being made available through our church, Liberty Crossings. Most notably, we will be hosting another Habitat for Humanity Build Day. On March 12th, we will gather (no experience necessary,) to help build a home for a family in need. For more information, please contact Mark Harmon: mharmon@renasant.com

“For God So Loved…”

“For this is how God loved ______________: He gave his one and only Son, so that when ________________ believes in him _________________ will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Last week I had the wonderful privilege of assisting with the imposition of ashes at our Ash Wednesday service. It is my most favorite service of the year and I was so overjoyed to be a part of it with my church family.

This morning, a kind church member shared with me how much she enjoyed the service as well. I was delighted to hear how much she appreciated my using her name while sharing the ashes with her. She said it made her experience much more personal.

Well, that is the whole point – of everything we do. Our relationship with our Savior is a personal thing. It is the most personal, intimate and fulfilling relationship we should have.

Our Lord is not some cosmic force out in the nether regions that we have no contact with. He is real and as close as a whisper. He dwells with us and in us, and knows everything about us. Much more so than any human being ever could.

But because He isn’t here “in the flesh,” this is a hard concept to grasp sometimes. It doesn’t make sense on its surface that the King of the universe knows, cares, and walks close beside me on a daily basis. That is an idea too big for me.

However, just because I don’t fully understand it, doesn’t make it any less true. God’s word is full of His promises to remain with us at all times. But even more so, we are assured that He knows each one of us in detail. And laying claim to that reality is a wonderful place to begin our Lenten journey.

So we are going to try 2 exercises today. One is short in nature, the other longer and more complex. But both can be incredibly meaningful in our efforts to draw closer to Him.

First, take the above scripture from the Book of John. A very famous verse, you may even know it by heart. Spend the next 24 hours repeating it to yourself, but take the faceless mass out of the picture. Instead, insert your own name in the blanks. Try it. And really focus on what it says to you in that time.

Second, you might try this prayer. I pray often that God will let me see people as He sees them. It makes it easier for me to understand and, sometimes, love them. God sees us for who we really are, and He loves us, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Our flaws and shortcomings do nothing to diminish His love for us. In addition, He deals only in truth. So He can see the not-so-lovely parts of us, but He also sees our great potential to be who He created us to be. He rejoices over us and sees the best in us. He is our loving Father.

So, if you really want to know how much God knows and loves you personally, you might try this.

Heavenly Father,

You are my Creator and Sustainer. I cannot hide from You. You know and see everything about me. And You love me anyway. Lord, in Your grace and mercy, help me to see myself through Your eyes. Reveal to me, what You see when You look at me. I want to believe that You truly know me. Help me to hold on to that promise.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

“Unforced Rhythms of Grace…”

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

 Matthew 11:28-30

I love this translation of Matthew. It is from the Message, and resonates with me deeply at this time of year. Many times, as we begin to prepare our hearts and minds for Lent, we focus on the sacrifice. What will we give up? How difficult will it be? Will I be able to do it? And maybe, the Holy Spirit is leading us to such an experience much like He did with Jesus.

But sometimes, I think we might impose “hardships” on ourselves just because. That is what we are supposed to do, right? Aren’t we called to share in the sacrifice of our Savior?

Sometimes we may not even ask the Lord what He would have us do during this time. I believe that Lent is a time of soul searching and seeking after His presence. And yes, sometimes it requires dramatic means to get there.

But there are other times that Jesus just wants us to rest in His presence. Maybe you have had a stressful year. Maybe you have been carrying a burden for a long time, and His choice for you would be to lay that burden down and be at peace.

For some of us, “picking up our cross” is exactly what we need today. For others, laying it aside and learning to trust our Savior is the journey to which we are being called.

Maybe, for some of us, the choice to rest and allow Jesus to minister to us is a great sacrifice. Letting go of worry, guilt, or frustration can be just as difficult as forgoing the good things in life. It requires a daily decision. It requires a commitment of heart and mind to the sovereignty of Christ. It requires continual prayer.

It is worth the contemplation isn’t it? To spend some time asking Him where He would like to take us during this season? May your prayers be deep today friends. And may your hearts be open to the path He has specifically for you.

Shalom brothers and sisters.

Heavenly Lord,

Where will You take me on this journey? My soul is in need of resurrection. What am I to do, or be, in order to get closer to You? My heart is open to Your leading Holy Spirit. Introduce me to Your unforced rhythms of grace.

 In my Savior’s name I pray,

Amen

“The Interior Life…”

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him.  

“Acts 17:26-27”

 

During this Lenten season we will be focusing on our interior lives, that part of ourselves where our spirit lives. Normal daily activity doesn’t do much in the way of nurturing this part of us.

Unless you have a very deep and ingrained prayer life, most of our daily activities drain us instead of filling us. School, work, kids activities, family needs – we run from sun up to sun down just trying to make it through the day. Maybe, on a good day, we try to exercise or eat right in an attempt to take care of our physical selves. Maybe, on a good day, we make a call or drop a text to sustain a relationship. But on a normal day, when there is more to do than I have hours or energy, I struggle to just keep my head above water. Maybe you find yourself in this situation too.

So, in this season of reflection on the life Christ died to provide for us, I invite you to journey with me as I lay claim to the above scripture from the Book of Acts. In this passage, God promised to give me “plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after Him.”

We will be reflecting on how we are currently spending the time we are given. We will seek God in a myriad of different ways. And, hopefully, we will become better acquainted with our spiritual sides that we so often neglect.

For today, let’s start simply. If you live in a place that allows you to do so, go outside for 10 minutes. If you can’t go outside, pick a quiet place if you can. It may be after your kids are in bed. It may be in your car or the shower. God will meet you wherever you are.

Spend just a few minutes with our scripture for today and ask God the following questions:

Dear Lord,

Where is the space? Where is the time? You say you are providing me with all I need to seek You. Reveal to me anything that I have created that stands in the way of our relationship. And, if necessary, help me to change my life to fit Your well-ordered plan for me.

In Christ’s holy name I pray,

Amen

“God Is With Us…”

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

“Surely Lord you haven’t brought me to this horrible place just to leave me here alone,” I prayed. I remember well sitting in that candle-lit sanctuary on Christmas Eve, all alone. At that time, I belonged to a church that had a tradition of leaving all the doors unlocked on Christmas Eve, an invitation for anyone to walk in and rest in the presence of God. And I certainly needed Him that night. As I sat there, crying and praying in that empty church, the only thing I could think of was that I was alone on Christmas for the first time in my life. And my heart was broken.

It had been such a hard few months. My marriage had ended. My job had been eliminated. My home was sold to someone else. Everywhere I turned, things that I held dear were being stripped away from me. And there was nothing I could do about it. So I did the only thing I knew that might bring me some peace. I found my way to church and just sat there in the stillness, hoping that God would do something to make me feel better.

That was a big leap of faith because I had only been a believer for a very short while. I didn’t know much about doctrine or theology. I hadn’t had a long and enduring lifetime with God as many had. All I had was a broken heart, and hope that this Savior I barely knew would be there for me.

So I just sat there in the quiet, looking at the stained glass windows and contemplating what I was going to do all by my lonely self on that holiday weekend. It was a dismal thought. But then, almost as if He were sitting right beside me, I heard His voice.

“I AM here.” He said.

I will never forget it. Three simple words that changed my whole life. Notice he didn’t say , “I will fix it,” or “Everything will be alright.” My Savior came to me in my despair and spoke three powerful words,

“I AM here.”

And that was enough. I realized that was all I needed. As long as Jesus was beside me, I knew I wasn’t alone. I trusted that everything would get better because He was in this pit with me. I believed His words that He had a plan for me, and that it was a good one. I believed him when He said that He came so I would have an abundant life. I believed that He was the author of my salvation and my Prince of Peace. And regardless of my temporary circumstances that evening, everything would get better. Just because Jesus was there, like He promised.

Friends, Jesus didn’t come into this world for the fanfare and celebration of Christmas. He didn’t come for the parties and the presents. He came into this world to save it. He came to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, and to heal the sick. He came to get down into the muck and mire of our bad places, and to walk with us through them.

So, whatever circumstance you find yourself in this Christmas Eve, remember – Your Savior is right there with you and may be the One holding your head above water.

May His peace reign on Earth and in our hearts brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus,

You came so that I would never be alone.  And You have been faithful to that promise.  Through all the good days and the bad, You have never left me nor foresaken me.  Help me to feel Your presence on this Holy night, and in all the days to come.  Thank You, my King.  And I praise Your name, for You are my Alpha, my Omega, my beginning and my End.

Amen

“Praise God, It Isn’t All Up To Me…”

“But 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

I was given a wonderful insight yesterday by our Father in heaven.  I was working in my kitchen, hurriedly trying to finish my task.  But for some reason, I stopped to listen to a conversation between my children.

One was complimenting the other on a project they were working on.  And the conversation was so kind and affirming between them.  They were encouraging to each other and respectful.  The first word that came to my mind was “kind.”

And it wasn’t the first time I have witnessed such an interaction. They aren’t perfect.  And sometimes they fight.  But not often.  The large majority of the time they are incredibly loving toward each other.

Now, before you start to roll your eyes, this is not a statement I am making about my wonderful parenting.  In fact, it is just the opposite.

Perhaps you are a fantastic parent and have taught your children well.  That is wonderful.  But I am many times left wondering of myself if I am doing the right things and paying attention to the most important ones.  I figure, in-between emphasizing school, extracurriculars, and every-day life, I am probably sometimes missing out on opportunities to teach them how to just be good people.

That is why I am so grateful that it isn’t all up to me.  In fact, I believe it is mostly up to God.  I do pray with and for them each night that the Holy Spirit would dwell within each of them richly.  I ask the Spirit to control their hearts and minds and to grow them into the people He wants them to be.  And, even if they don’t quite understand these prayers, He does.  And I see His work in their lives.  He is actively developing the fruit of patience, kindness and gentleness within them.  I see joy and love and peace working its way into their daily lives and interactions with others.  And it is amazing to watch.

As I said before, they aren’t perfect.  But the movement of the Spirit within them is tangible.  And I am so thankful.  Maybe I will miss a teaching opportunity every now and then.  But I don’t miss the opportunity to pray for them. To me, that is the most important thing I can do for them.   Because my security for their well-being is not wrapped in me, but in the One that loves them more than I do.  What a huge relief to realize that it isn’t all up to me to be perfect and do the right thing every time.  Thank You my Lord.

Precious Holy Spirit,

How I praise Your Holy name!  How I thank You for the work You are doing in the hearts and minds of my children.  You are a God of love, compassion, and mercy.  Please lead my children to be gracious ambassadors for You in this world.  Please use them as vessels for Your grace.  Lead them to be kind and generous to all they encounter.  And above all, teach them to hear Your voice and to recognize it in all circumstances.  May they grow to be beautiful soldiers in Your army and to be dispensers of grace at every opportunity.

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen