For Who He Is

A question that has come to my mind often in the last several weeks is, "Why do we praise God?"  I've been pondering how I would answer that question, wondering how the people that we are ministering to here in Mexico would answer that question.  I think a common response would be that we praise Him because of all He does for us.  That's a good, solid answer...after all, He does some incredible things for us.  Besides the love He showed us by saving us, He still shows us mercy and grace on a daily basis.  He helps us through problems, protects us from danger, and performs miracles that amaze us.  Praising God for what He does is a way of showing Him that we are grateful, that we love Him in return.

However, even though we serve a God that is bigger than life, we all know that we don't always feel that He is near to us.  Sometimes we just have to believe by faith, but we don't necessarily feel His presence with us.  After all, the Bible says that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Life happens to all of us.  We face problems and difficulties, heartache and heartbreak, danger and trauma, sickness and loss.  Often, it seems very accurate to say that, "When it rains, it pours."  Problems tend to come at us several at once, not one at a time.  If we have only learned to praise God for the beautiful things He gives us, I'm afraid we might be at a loss when we feel like we are drowning in trials and tribulation.  Which is exactly why I have been pondering this question and examining my own heart when it comes to worship: "Why do I praise God?"

I want to learn to praise Him, not only for what He does, but simply for who He is.  Our circumstances change from good to bad, from bad to worse, but He never changes.  He remains constant, true to His Word, faithful to His promises.  I want to KNOW, in the very core of who I am, that even when I can't see Him, He is there- with me, every step of the way.  I want to be convinced that even when I don't understand the "why's" and "wherefore's" of the situation, that He has it all in His hands.  He is never taken by surprise or taken off guard.  Everything that happens is in His control.  When I hurt and ache, He never leaves me.  He is Beginning and End, King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, my fortress and strong tower.  He is my Savior, the lover of my soul- the one who pursues me and loves me so faithfully and tenderly.  He is worthy of all my praise, even in the midst of the worst storms of life.

This is a link to a video of one of my favorite songs.  It's not new, but I only heard it for the first time a few months ago, and I've adopted it.  I want to words of this song to be my heart attitude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji2rLXr3cEU


True Humility

I am learning humility.  I find it's easy to preach, but it's a hard thing to actually live.  When it comes down to it, we are all quite selfish beings.  It is hard to admit when we are at fault...and often instead of an apology, we make an excuse or some justification for our behavior.  When we know that we had no fault whatsoever in the situation, it can be even harder to mend relationships.  After all, why should we fix it when we did nothing wrong in the first place?

The biblical definition of humility is so different from our own human definition...and it's a lot harder to comply with in my estimation.  In Matthew it says (and this is my paraphrase), "If someone was mean or rude to you, or did you wrong or offended you in some way, then go to that person.  Leave church, leave your own private devotional time, leave work or whatever else is important to you, and fix things with that person FIRST."  Every time I read that passage, it hits me in the gut.  "What????  Why should I have to fix something that I didn't do?  I'd rather just leave things alone.  I won't even be upset or hold a grudge against the person that offended me.  But, confront the problem?  That's the last thing I want to do!"  That's my reaction...but I am so glad that the Holy Spirit doesn't let me rest at that.  It's not easy, and it's not always fun, but the Lord has been teaching me to "leave my offering at the altar" and go talk with the people that are unhappy with something I've done or said.  Sometimes, I know I did nothing wrong.  Sometimes it's all about a misunderstanding.  Sometimes talking with the person doesn't even fix it.  All I know is, I need to leave my pride at the door.  It doesn't matter if I was right all along.  I need to obey the Spirit within me.  I need to obey the Word, even when I want to kick and scream and say, "It wasn't my fault!"  I can't always make things right, but at least I can know that I tried.

The ultimate example of humility?  Jesus Christ.  His example blows me away every time I think about it.  In the Scriptures that talk about the life of Jesus and the crucifixion, we see so many examples of people that were so angry with Him...so many that were so offended because He challenged their religion and their traditions.  How did he respond?  He healed them.  He cried for them.  He prayed for them.  He taught them.  He never defended himself, not even when they spit on Him and mocked Him.  He, who had every reason to shout from the cross, "But I'm right!!!!  I never did anything wrong!!!" remained silent, living out the Truth He knew, his heart breaking for those who couldn't see or understand.  Even in his last moments on the cross, His only thought was for them, for us.  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  He who had every right to be offended, continued to love beyond our understanding.  And he left the ultimate sacrifice at the altar to "fix" everything.  For you.  For me.

I want to learn from the Lord's example.  I'm sure I will never know what it's like to make such a complete, humble sacrifice for people who don't even like me, but I want to begin to experience it in the small things, in my everyday life.  I want to love the people who have hurt me, and I want to speak words of life to them.  I don't want my pride to get in the way of ministering to broken and wounded hearts.  My husband has used a definition of a clear conscience for years that I love, and I'll end this post with that.  "A clear conscience allows me to look directly into the eyes of everyone around me knowing that no one can say to me, "You hurt me and never tried to fix the damage."  God, let it be so in me.


God's Story

We are beginning to see the unfolding of a beautiful story.  God is writing it, and we certainly don't know how it will end, but are so excited about being a part of it.

Two years ago we were asked to step in and pastor a church in a small town.  The long-time pastor had stepped down due to a personal issue, and he was ready to close the church, when God led him to us.  When he asked us to help keep the church going, we were surprised and very uncertain.  We hadn't planned on pastoring, especially not pastoring a church that, according to all the other pastors in the area, was spiritually dead.  However, God's plans are not our plans, and through a series of events, we knew that He was leading us to that small town.  We didn't know why...but we knew we had to obey.

It's been two years, and the progress has been SLOW.  The church was spiritually dead when we arrived, and we were at a loss as how to wake people up.  We did everything we knew to do- we prayed, fasted, preached, taught, and prayed and fasted some more.  We held events, retreats, crusades.  People came, some people came to know Christ, but the spiritual atmosphere remained the same: apathetic.  We were seeking God more than ever, but seeing so few results.  Then last year, we had a breakthrough when several of the women went to a retreat and were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The change in them was huge, and there was no doubt that something supernatural had taken place within them when I suggested prayer meetings 4 mornings a week, and they said "YES!"

So, we began to pray.  My husband was to pray with the men at 6am and I was to pray with the women at 10am.  The women were excited and we began to intercede together.  Unfortunately, my husband was left to pray alone as none of the men wanted to pray before going to their jobs.  The women kept praying, for the nation, for the town, for the church, and especially for their husbands.  They prayed fervently, at times sowing in tears, that God would raise up their men to be true men after God's heart.  As trials and tribulations came and went, some of the women dwindled, but the women that remained were falling in love with the Lord more each day.  They began to share with their husbands...and we all kept praying.

Last weekend, we held our very first men's retreat.  It was hard to get the men to attend, and several backed out at the last moment, but for the ones who attended, it was an eye-opening experience.  They experienced aspects of God's character that they had never experienced before...and some of them were truly transformed.  They shared testimonies with the church on Sunday, and some of them have even approached us about getting more involved in ministry...very exciting, yet the real transformation was this: this morning, my husband wasn't praying alone.  Today, when my husband arrived at church at 6am, there were 2 men waiting for him!  They prayed and interceded together, and when the women heard the news in their prayer meeting, they rejoiced!

Some might say, "Two men at prayer meeting isn't a big deal.  It was only one day.  They might not even be there tomorrow."  It's true that we don't know if they will show up tomorrow.  Even if they don't, no one can take away what we are learning from this whole experience.  We are watching God write a story here, in this town and with these people.  It has been a long, slow process for us, but He hasn't given up on any of them.  He is still working and still moving...and prayer really works!  We are seeing prayers answered...things that seemed impossible to us are now happening because ALL things are possible with Him.  The church that everyone wrote off as "spiritually dead" has a flame that is burning brighter every day.  God is breathing new life into His people, and He is awaking within us a new hunger for Him.  The beginning may be small, but it is still a beginning...and He is not finished yet!  Greater things are yet to come...


Follow God's Lead

I have been dwelling on last night's post, especially some of the last lines.  "He sees.  What you can't.  Rest in Him."  I began to think of just how true that is...all the many times in my life when I was worried or felt inadequate, only to learn that He knew what He was doing all along.  In hindsight it seems so clear, so obvious, but when you are in the moment and you can't see what the outcome will be, it can be a little hard to swallow.  Sometimes, I wish life had a fast-forward button, so you could see the end result before you made the decision.  However, if it did, we would never have to learn to REST in Him or trust that He knows best.  In my experince, trusting Him to lead you to the right place makes for an incredibly exciting adventure!

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is the story of David, especially the beginning of the story.  I love the fact that he was a shepherd who seemed quite content to stay a shepherd.  He was not famous or noteworthy....just doing his job, day in and day out, and obviously using his time at work to worship God.  He trusted the Lord, and saw evidence of his power working when predators came near his sheep.  His confidence was in the Lord, and I think he was pretty happy with that.  I imagine that he didn't have lofty aspirations or thoughts of grandeur- he knew what his job was, and he did it.  What he didn't know was that God was using all his experiences to shape him into someone that he never imagined he could be.  God saw his heart and promoted him...and not just to head sheep herder either.  God had David in mind for a much bigger job.  Famous warrior, beloved king of Israel, a man after God's heart.  Reading about David's adventures and escapades, I am always drawn back to the beginning of his story.  The prophet Samuel, looking for the next king.  Meeting all of David's tall, handsome brothers, and God reminding Samuel that, "Hey, to me, what's on the outside doesn't matter at all.  I look for what's inside, what's in the heart."  When Samuel saw David, he probably thought, maybe for just a moment, that God was making a mistake.  If David was at all like the rest of us, he probably thought, "Who, me???  Old Samuel here is making a huge mistake!"  Yet God made David into all he could be because He saw what David couldn't...and David followed his lead and experienced all that God had for him!

Fast forward a few thousand years to my story.  I was the shy, quiet girl who was quite content to stay in Wisconsin for her entire life.  I didn't have lofty aspirations, and I certainly never thought that I would do anything "exciting."  God must have seen something in me that I didn't know was there.  I don't think He saw anything special in me...He saw the potential that He put in me to do His work here on earth, the same potential He has put in all of us.  I was apprehensive and scared, but I was willing.  I decided that I wanted to find out what it was that He was seeing for me...and am I ever glad that I did!  Now, I am not famous like David, and I am certainly not queen of anything, but my life has become an amazing adventure of finding out what God has for me around every bend and turn.  He has turned my life into something wild, crazy, and beautiful, and I am loving every moment!  All of our stories are different, but one thing is the same...the things God dreams for us, the things He sees, are always greater, bigger, and much more exciting than anything we could imagine for ourselves.  When we don't understand the circumstances or feel confused, we can choose to follow God's lead...and eventually see the amazing things that He already does!


Rest in Him

Rest in Him.

Rest in His love for you,
which is so great that you can't even imagine
the depths of it.

Rest in knowing that
there is nothing that can surprise Him.
He holds it all in His hands.

Rest in His mercy,
His tender care of you and all your desires,
all your needs.

Rest in His incredible grace,
which makes us worthy even though
we are not.

Rest in the fact that
He alone is God and there is no other.
Beginning and end.

When we have doubts,
unanswered questions and cloudy horizons,
He remains.

King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He knows
the unknown future and present heartache,
and He is not afraid.

His plan for you
is on the path He set out long before
you knew Him.

He is working,
all things according to His perfect,
unique purpose.

Only He knows
the end result, the final materpiece,
and it makes Him smile.

He sees.
What you can't.

Rest in Him.


Good Intentions...Wrong Perspective

I was watching Judge Judy the other day, and I have to admit, I love that show.  I love the way justice in her courtroom is so clear-cut, so black and white.  It doesn't matter to her if you were the right thing or were just trying to be nice- if you can't prove your position from a legal perspective, there's nothing she will do to help you.  Whether she's right about every single case or not is beside the point.  Judge Judy has legal integrity- she doesn't play favorites, and she looks at everything through her perspective, a legal perspective.  There are a lot of really eccentric, unwise people that are on her show.  There are also many others that tell a story that sounds totally truthful.  Many of them were taken advantage of and were even victims of betryal.  Judge Judy at times shows sympathy (ok, so not very often) before telling them exactly what they don't want to hear: if they have no legal proof they will not win the case.

I began to think how similar I am at times to all those people who wasted time and money on that show just because they were looking at it through the wrong perspective.  They maybe told the truth, but they had no legal proof- and from a legal persepctive that's all that matters.  How many times do we do things with great intentions, but coming from a totally wrong perspective...especially in our spiritual lives?  We pray for sick people to get well instead of worrying about their spiritual condition (don't get me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with praying for the sick.  It's a wonderful thing to do, especially because we know God heals!)- we are often more concerned with physical health instead of spiritual health.  Shouldn't we be more concerned with seeing a soul saved than a body healed?  How often do we pray for blessing and protection for ourselves, without even thinking about the plans that God has laid out for us?  Again, there is nothing wrong with asking for blessing or protection.  Nothing at all.  But so often our prayers revolve around our comfort.  We pray for things that make us feel good in the moment...and feelings can change in the blink of an eye.  I want to change in this area in my life.  I want the good intentions and the right perspective.  Instead of praying for my personal comfort, I want to pray for the things that will drive me to the Lord's presence.  I want to desire intimacy with the Father more than I want a happy, comfortable here and now.  I want what He wants for me, more than what I want for myself.  I want to receive the blessings with joy and the trials with joy...because those are the things that keep me running into His arms.