Archives For Encouragement

The Quiet Canvas

October 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

Image Credit Madison Wright

fairyjar1The simple act of being quiet before the Lord is a discipline that should be visited often. Quietness is a blank canvas before the Lord. In quietness, God makes faint undertones of color building to a masterpiece for His glory. He is the artist; you are the canvas.

My daughter Madison is an artist. She has work hanging all over her room. Each work tells a story-a story that was in her heart at the time. I’ve had the honor of seeing most of her work come to life over the days; weeks and months she would work on them.

Sometimes, I didn’t have a clue what the painting was until almost the very end. I would have to wait, and then once she put the finally brush strokes to the canvas the work would come alive and completely reveal itself. At other times, I could tell from the beginning what the work was and so in that case, the joy would come in watching her layer the colors making them burst off the canvas.

Quietness is where God works. Let Him paint. Let Him layer. Let Him choose the colors. Your part is to choose quietness. He waits for you. He has a grand idea for using you.

Quietness.

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Wounds can produce the most amazing and beautiful testimonies for God’s glory. The story of your wounds becomes His glories story when you put them in His hands. Wounds show that we as Christ followers are being healed toward a future where wounds will be no more.

Holding on becomes easier when you know He is holding you instead of you holding on to Him. Meaning for your wounds may come, meaning for your wounds may not come, but soon and very soon you will understand- when eternity breaks in to heal the earthbound wounds of this age.

In the now, we count the times we pray for complete healing, but then, prayer will not be needed. He may heal you now, but He will certainly heal you then. Keep moving; keep believe, and keep living because He, with wounds in His hands, side and feet- lives for you. In fact, His wounds were for your ultimate healing.

Wounds that remain don’t mean that He doesn’t hear you or care for you. In fact, wounds that continue testify to the fact that He is true and alive. Jesus said in this world you would have trouble. However, He went on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We walk through the shadows now only to eventually walk into the eternal day He promised.

You were not called to conceal your pain. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken.”

You are a wounded healer being healed.

 

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freedom

Isaiah 55:1 (ESV) “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

In Isaiah 54, God has offered forgiveness and now in chapter 55 the call to walk in forgiveness is given. It is not enough to be free; we must live free. We don’t have to order our lives around the axis of a world system that begs for us to dance as its puppets. We don’t have to order our lives around a fragmented social system that includes only those with more power.

In God’s order, everyone is included. We have a Christ centered alternative to be fully human and live fully human in Him and His redeemed order of justice. We have been given the choice of the one that choose us. In Christ, we are the tribe of Revelation 7:9-10

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (NKJV)

We are His redeemed community living a life of radical love in a sea of hatefulness. We render not evil for evil, but we love our way through this age until the age to come overtakes us, and death is swallowed up forever.

We need not use violence to fight for our rights, but instead as one writer has so eloquently put it, “Our violent ways find an end in the wounds of Christ, and in his forgiveness we are offered healing from our self-inflicted pain.”

For now, death remains but soon death will be swallowed up forever.

Isaiah 25:6-9 (ESV) 6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

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There are two things I’m sure of. One, God is always faithful, and second, it’s possible to make an idol out of timing.  In 2 Timothy 2:13 it teaches us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” In other words, God is going to accomplish all things necessary for His glory alone. It’s not ultimately about us; it’s about God.

As to the second truth I’m sure of, timing is in God’s hands alone, and if we focus on the timing rather than God, we make timing an idol. I’ve done this many times in my Christian walk with God. I’ve been hoping for something, waiting for something, and wondering more about God’s timing than about God. Needless to say, it wasn’t until I got my focus off timing that God moved.

God created your life and cares more deeply about it than you do. God birthed His church and cares for it more deeply than you do. I guess you could add two more things to my list that I’m sure of. When it comes to your life and to His church, you can believe His plan is perfect and better than your plan. If fact, Ephesians 3:20, speaking of God says that He is, “…able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”

The power at work in us is God the Holy Spirit. He prays and knows the perfect will of God in and through us for His glory alone. The more we focus on God and not the circumstances or the timing of something that needs to happen, the faster God seems to move and get the job done for His glory.

For example, the church I now pastor was in need of a permanent church building. We had been  looking for over a year and a half. Nothing seemed to open for us. We were renting and doing okay, but still, we had no home of our own. Money in the bank was great and if we found something we could surely move on it with confidence.

However, God had a better plan. His plan was to get us to the place where it was impossible to point to our timing or money as the answer. Through a course of events,  the bulk of our money had dried up. We had money in the bank to meet the bills but nothing, and I mean NOTHING to go toward a property of our own.

Little did we know, God was dealing with a group of people who had a church, and was praying to God for His perfect will. The church was founded in 1917 and after many wonderful years God now had a next step plan. They were  feeling called to look for another church to continue moving forward with God’s plan.

One of the ladies in the other church was praying, and God showed her the face of a lady in our congregation. That prayer led to about two weeks of talk and prayer between our two church families.

To make a beautiful story short, (I will give a full account in our church history book) with no money to offer them to buy the building and much prayer from both our churches, they heard God speak and tell them to give us the building free and clear. What a magnificent miracle! Our timing was replaced with God’s timing and with no money hardly in the bank; God did what man couldn’t do.

I’m not sure what is going on in your life today, but you can know one thing for sure…God is able to move in your life for His glory without you having anything to give to Him at all. All you must do is keep your eyes on the one that has His eyes constantly on you.

Only God

July 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

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You Lord give longing for the eternal. Only you can satisfy. Forgive me for looking anywhere else for completeness and joy. Soul-satisfaction can only be found in you-the creator of all things.

You walk with me moment by moment. There is never an instant you are not near. Your endless road of Grace amazes me continually. Every hunger of my life leads to you for sustenance.  My soul and heart is restless without you.

I hold fast to your promise spoken long ago,  “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” You are all-sufficient. My soul smiles and I campaign forward.

Let There Be

July 19, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I find it perfectly beautiful that God didn’t curse the darkness and chaos of creation to call it forth. He simply spoke in perfect love, “Let there be…”

There is a “let there be” moment in every life of chaos we encounter.

It takes time. God didn’t speak to the creation in just one day.

Let us never forget there is eternal life waiting to be called forth in every dark corner of the world and yes, even your community.

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I have a scar on the palm side of my left hand, near the base of my thumb. I once had an accident while hunting and cut it open. The only thing I had on hand in the woods was some crazy clue I had in my bag. I poured that into the cut and pinched my skin together to stop the bleeding and to close up the injury.

I finished my hunt, returned to my truck for the drive home. Everything seemed fine until I grab hold of the steering wheel. I felt a shock go through my whole body followed by pain I can’t even begin to describe. I looked at my cut and couldn’t see anything, but I knew something was not right.

Over the next couple of days,  I kept hitting my injury on random objects and every time the pain would just grow worse. A shock of pain would course through my body and almost bring me to my knees.  I would look at my wound and to the naked eye it seemed to be healing just fine. However, it wasn’t fine. There was a major problem.

I went to the doctor, and he informed me that I did a excellent job with my homemade superglue stitching, but with a pause in his speech and funny smile on his face, He informed me I had made one big mistake.  I had left a never exposed and that was the reason I was feeling so much pain. He would have to open  my injury and take care of it.

He did a great job. He took care of the exposed nerve, and the pain went away. However, for some strange reason, whenever I rub my finger across the scar it tingles and has a numb feeling. It feels weird. It shoots a numb feeling down the length of my thumb.

So, what’s the lesson? What’s the devotion? Scar will be imposed upon us in this life that you can be sure of. Some scars are self-inflicted while other scars are inflicted upon us by friends and strangers. Either way, the scars remain and although the hurt often fades away, numbness and tingling seem to remain.  Some scars in this life simply have odd, yet funny memories attached to them, much like the one I just shared with you.

However, other scars are painful in a very intrusive and controlling way. There are scars attached to injustices and evil that was conveyed upon you. You are not alone. Jesus experienced that kind of scaring also. He was beating and placed upon a cross. Nails were driven  in his hands and feet. He was stabbed in the side, and blood and water flowed. He took the scars for you and I.

You are not alone. He stands with you. His scars point to the day pain and tears will be no more. When I look at my scars on my body I surely have memories. Some of the memories are not bad while others haunt me, especially the scars of my soul. However, I see the future. I embrace the future. How about you?

Jesus came and stood among the disciples. He spoke to them, Peace be with you as he showed them his hands and his side.

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The restoration of our true humanity began at the cross and resurrection and will be completed at the second coming of Christ. The first step of the journey of restoration is to give your self in complete dependence to God who is the shaper of the clay. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.”

The resurrection of Christ gives to us the gift of being valuable signpost pointing to the one true way. By surrendering to Christ working through us, we are helping to restore the world and point others to the only hope humanity has. We are called to be a part of building for God’s kingdom.

We are being shaped by Christ, and His Spirit has filled us to  shape the world around us. We are called to dependency on Him in order to show the world His glories power working through weakness. Our very lives announce redemption is possible through Christ alone.

Salvation is at work in us. We are rescued, and we are being rescued in order to open the eyes of the blind.  We are vessels God finds joy in working through. Yes, He works in us and even for us, but the work through us is of greater value to a lost and dying world.

As Christ followers, we are pictures to the world of God’s kingdom that is now and not fully yet. In the words of N.T. Wright, “Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.”

As you walk through you day, remind yourself again and again that God is walking through you for the sake of others. It will change the way you evaluate your day. I promise.

Neither Have You

July 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I’ve never been skipped over by God and neither have you. On the other hand, there have been many times I’ve felt like God doesn’t even know where I’m at, I’m sure you have felt the same. Facts and feelings often seem to be in conflict with one another.

The unwavering facts of God’s love grace and mercy are abundant. However, at the same time, conflicts of emotions try to erode it all away.  Feelings fight against faith, but faithful is He who has you engraved on the palms of His hands.

When the walls of Jerusalem were torn down, God assured His people He was still in control. It is no different today in your life, or in my life. When the walls of safety, protection, assurance and hope are torn down, He is still master.

It is in those moments we are reminded that He alone is our answer, protector and provider. He is enough. He is our contentment. Like the Apostle Paul, we know what is like to be in need, and we know what it is like to have plenty.

We embrace the same secret of being content that he embraced many times in his life. That secret was simply,  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You are not skipped over, and feelings can never win. God’s word boldly declares, “…greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

I’ve never been skipped over by God and neither have you.

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Have you ever felt numb emotionally and spiritually? I’m sure you have. Maybe even today you find yourself in just such a place. You don’t have any feelings because they seem to be gone. The effect of sadness and depression over the many closed doors in your life have slowly cut off your faith blood supply, and you feel only numbness.

Numbness! That place in your faith life where you want to completely give up, but you know you can’t, and you know you won’t. Numbness is the part of walking by faith that personally haunts me the most. Maybe you know the feeling I’m referring to?

You are doing everything right and still all the doors in your life seem to close with a dull rudeness. You break out your faith check list to make sure you are walking pleasing to the Lord and sure enough everything for the most part seems to be right on track. Why then is every door closing, and yet for everyone else around you, the doors seem to not even have a close option?

Numbness will take you to the place of Elijah. Elijah had just witnessed an incredible miracle in his life. He witnessed God move on Mount Carmel in such a way that human involvement couldn’t be credited with any part of it. Yet, not long after the open door miracle, we see him whining that he’s all alone as a follower of God. He is numb! He is in the perfect storm.

Numbness led him to isolation but even in the isolation God was there. Numbness can’t push God away from you. He is commanded to get up and eat and to his surprise food and water have been supplied for him. Numbness can’t cut you off from your needs being supplied.

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” We are informed that a hurricane type wind passed through the mountains and shattered the rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind. Then after the wind there came an earthquake, but God wasn’t found in it either. Next, fire came, and God was not found in the fire. Finally, a whisper! God was in the whisper.

Numbness can’t be blown away. Numbness can’t be shattered away. Numbness can’t be shaken away. Numbness can’t be burnt away. However, numbness can be whispered away.

The whisper always comes. The whisper always comes. I’m waiting on my whisper. It will come!  How about you?