“Thus, if we think we require some good thing that God has withheld from us, in reality we don’t absolutely need it. It also means that if we feel our life has been ruined by some bad thing, in reality it is playing some very important role in our lives. It is teaching us, molding us, enriching us, humbling us, and so on.” (Timothy Keller Romans 8-16)
I look back and see my past covered in darkness. The darkness of broken relationships, shattered dreams, unexpected losses, and unrelenting pain. I see only ashes.
But one day, I heard His voice telling me to look back again. Look back over your life, but this time don’t focus on the darkness. Peer into it, look above it, look below it, look around it. Look into the hardest moments of your life. Do you see it?
Look, LOOK, and you will see glimpses of Light. Glimpses of My Light in every dark situation you’ve ever fought. The darkness tried to consume you, tried to overtake you, but I was ALWAYS there. Glimpses of My Light surrounding you and protecting you. Glimpses of My Light showering you with Mercy and Grace. Molding you, healing you, strengthening you, and preparing you to walk out of the darkness to stand firm in Light of the Lord.
You were in the darkest dark, but now, looking back what do you see?
CHILD, MY DEAR CHILD, THERE IS MUCH MORE THAN DARKNESS IN YOUR PAST.
I am on trial. I stand in front of the Judge. I wear a prisoner’s uniform. My hands are in chains. I am ashamed and humiliated. I am without defense. I am guilty. I am condemned to die.
I proclaimed faith in Christ when I was a young child, but since that day there have been many times I have strayed from that proclamation. If I didn’t know the truth, if I had not pledged allegiance to Christ as my Savior and Lord, I could say I didn’t know any better. But, I know the truth. I know right from wrong. I can cry out with Paul and say, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”(Romans 7:15)
Every day, every hour, every minute, I must choose to die to myself and my desires and allow Christ to live through me. I want His desires to be my desires. This is such a challenge for me. I am the prodigal child. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I am like the Israelites in the desert, following and praising God when all is well, and then quickly forgetting God and returning to sin. “Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. My brother’s and sister’s this should not be.” (James 3:10)
I hate sin and the way I can feel its strong pull, tempting me to give into it’s desires. I hate sin and the way I’ve allowed it to slowly creep into my life. I hate that there have been times I have declared faith in Jesus with a sinful heart and dirty hands. I have been unfaithful to Christ so many times that I wonder how He could still love me. Why would He give me; a stained, filthy, ugly, guilt-ridden sinner, the privilege to share His story? I deserve to be punished. I deserve death.
And it’s here, standing in front of the Judge, in my deepest, darkest, sinful place, that Jesus approaches me. I feel His presence. I am so unworthy that I don’t want to look at His face. But, He lifts “up my head,” (Psalm 3:3) and in His eyes I see love and kindness, mercy and grace. It’s a love so strong that it brings me to my knees. A kindness so sweet it brings me to repentance. A mercy so rich in compassion it brings me to humility. And Grace, amazing grace, full of forgiveness, it brings me back into my Savior’s arms.
He releases my chains and puts on my prison clothes. He stands guilty in my place. Condemned. Ready to die, on my behalf, a sinner’s death to set me free. As He stands in my place, I realize He IS my defense. My ONLY defense. JESUS. My only way to freedom and eternal salvation. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But, if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.”(Zechariah 3:3-4) At that moment, I look down and see that I am no longer dressed as a prisoner, but I am, “arrayed in the finest of pure white linen, bright and clean.” (Rev 19:8) “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) I am dressed in His righteousness.
(This blog was written in response to a question that was posed to me: “After sinning, what hoops does a Christian have to jump through to reconcile with God?” In short, there are no hoops because “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”)
My Uncle Rolle Rexilius died February 25th, 2014. I had the extreme privilege to give the eulogy at his funeral. He made a huge impact on my life and on my Christian faith. He was a praying man and he lived His life, completely sold out, to his Savior. He was another Rexilus man who left a lasting legacy of faith.
I’m thinking about him today because I received an email from my mom that said, “Rolle played this Easter song for me about 15 years ago. I listened to it today and wanted to pass it on.”
Although I know and believe that Jesus was both Son of man and Son of God I’ve never thought of it in this way before…
“Just a young boy in the temple one day
Shared with the scholars, they were so amazed
Never had they seen, one so young, speak so swift,
They asked Him many questions,
The conversation went like this…
WHAT’S YOUR NAME SON?
On my mother’s side, My name is Jesus
But on my Father’s side, they call Me Immanuel
HOW OLD ARE YOU? On my Mother’s side, now I’m 12 years
But on my Father’s side, I’ve just always been
WHERE YOU FROM? On my mother’s side, I’m from Bethlehem
But on my Father’s side, it’s New Jerusalem
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN? On my mother’s side, I’ll be crucified
But on my Father’s side, in three days I will rise,
And I’ll sit at my Father’s side”
He was the Son of God, yet the Son of man.
And I can’t help but wonder,
What Joseph must have felt,
Through an open door that day,
He heard his son reply, He said,
You see, I ‘am the KING OF KINGS
That’s on My Father’s side.”
(The Barn Again Gang”)
We have an awesome God! Who but He could have made such a plan for our salvation. Happy Easter! HE IS RISEN!
When I was a little girl I have very vivid memories of my mom gathering us around before bedtime and reading us a book. All of these books usually had important life-lessons. I loved listening to my mom read and when I became a mother I started this tradition with my own kids. It’s still one of our favorite things to do as a family.
One of the books my mom read to us was, “Where the Red Fern Grows.” To this day it is still one of my favorite books. A book about a boy named Billy who dreamed of owning his own hound dogs. Unlike today, Billy didn’t have the option of entitlement or immediate gratification so he had to work hard and long days to buy the dogs he desired. After a couple of years, he finally had enough money to buy his dogs and he named them, Old Dan and Little Ann. He was ready to teach them how to become coon trapping hound dogs.
One thing from this book that has stuck with me my entire life is the way Billy’s grandpa told him how he could catch a raccoon. First, find a log and drill a hole just big enough for the raccoon’s paw to fit inside. After drilling the hole, pound two nails diagonally into the log and drop a shiny object into the hole. This can also be done using a simple tin can and placing a shiny object into the can. Raccoons are curious animals and they are drawn to bright, radiant objects. That dazzling item is all that is needed to tempt the raccoon to reach his paw into the log or the tin can and wrap his fist around the object.
And just like that, the raccoon is trapped! Can He escape? Of course he can! But he chooses to remain trapped, because he is not willing to let go of the captivating object that lured him there. All he needs to do is open his hand, drop the object, and he’s free. However, the raccoon is often to stubborn to drop the object. He is obsessed with it and becomes a slave to an object that he doesn’t need. An object that steals his freedom and will eventually cost him is life.
Just like the raccoon, we can gaze upon a bright, shiny object and all of a sudden find ourselves ensnared into a trap of slavery, a trap that steals our freedom and sometimes our lives. In Romans 1, Paul calls himself, “a slave to Christ,” not out of duty and fear but out of love and gratitude.
If we aren’t enslaved to Christ, we will find another luring, captivating object. It can be an eating disorder, pornography, bitterness, unforgiveness, greed. It can even be a good object, that eventually replaces Christ and becomes an idol in our lives, such as our kids, our marriage, a job, etc. Again, in Romans, Paul says that people, “Exchanged the glory of God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Our hands desire to be clenched around something, and if it’s not Christ, we will find ourselves in chains that trap us, control us, and steal our ultimate purpose of life; to love and serve our Creator.
If our hands are entwined around Christ and all that He encompasses we will live in absolute, perfect freedom. Beth Moore has said, “Christ is the only one who I can bind myself to and find freedom. He is the only one that frees while binding.”
Unlike the raccoon, who is bound to a life-threatening object, I want to be bound to Christ. I want my fist wrapped so tightly around Him that I don’t ever want to let go. I want to say I am a slave to Christ. I need nothing more. He is enough. And it is here, bound to Christ that we can live in the freedom He intended for us.
“The Million Dollar Foot” versus “The Million Dollar Arm.” In the movie, “The Million Dollar Arm,” 38,000 Indian hopefuls showed up for a shot at the American big leagues and a $100,000 prize. Rinku Singh won the contest and the runner-up was Dinesh Patel. Both were brought over to America to be developed and trained into MLB stars. This is in contrast to the million dollar foot. I feel as if I have actually given away a million dollars in time and money in order to heal my foot. In the last couple of years I have not developed into a better runner. I have not trained since 2014 and my last race was in April of 2014. The million dollar arm racked up money while the million dollar foot lost both time and money.
However, the good news is, that eleven months after surgery my achilles is ONE-HUNDRED percent healed. The scar from surgery is almost invisible. And although there is still a little swelling around the achilles, the recent MRI shows that there isn’t any build-up of scar tissue and all looks good. Boy, do I want to run!!
Unfortunately, I still can’t go out and pound the pavement. The reason I had to have another MRI is because I am still having pain along my foot. The MRI revealed that I have some other issues going on, the biggest one includes acute FHL tenosynovitis. The FHL tendon lies deep behind the achilles tendon and tendonitis in this tendon is usually seen quite frequently in ballet dancers. Thus, it has become known as dancer’s tendonitis.
For anyone who knows me, they would agree that I am quite clumsy. While I am pretty good at running in a straight line I also tend to trip and fall A LOT, and it’s usually on smooth pavement!? So obviously, I am not a person who emulates elegance, grace, or rhythm. So unless I’ve been BALLET DANCING in my sleep, both the doctor and I are a bit confused why there is such a collection of inflammation and fluid around this tendon.
I just received a cortisone injection and will start physical therapy tomorrow in hopes that this new issue of pain will resolve. I am also scheduled to see another foot and ankle specialist the first week of March. I want to have a second opinion to make sure everything on the MRI was interpreted correctly and that this is the best course of action.
Lastly, I was told once again to REST. It’s hard for me to rest. I like being active. I like feeling fit and strong. I don’t want to rest. However, it’s been in the resting that I have found a new and closer love and passion for my Savior. I love how Jesus meets us right where we need Him too. I just opened up a small devotional book only to read these words;
“Thank ME for the conditions that are requiring you to be STILL. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in MY Kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells. Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for MY way in the midst of these very circumstances. Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to ME. Although, you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in the spiritual realm. My Strength and Power show themselves most effective in weakness.” (Jesus Calling)
I know there are many people struggling with far worse ordeals than an injured foot, but God keeps reminding me that no matter what the struggle is, He is with us ALWAYS and if we are willing to submit to His ways, He will bring us through stronger and closer to Him.
This is one of my favorite poems and when I read it today it was the last line that really struck me. “The Treasure that Thou art in life, what will Thou be in death?” In my life I have been a recipient of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness and love over and over again. Try as we might, there are not any words that can fully describe the love that encompasses our Savior. A Love that took our place. A Love so pure and holy. A Love unblemished and spotless. A Love willing to become dirty and stained with the sins of the world. A Love willing to carry God’s wrath upon His shoulders. A Love willing to give His life to save our lives. A Love that we know on earth but how much sweeter will we know it in death!?
“I can only imagine when that day comes, and I find myself standing in the Son…Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus, Or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine…I can only imagine.” (Mercy Me)
A few months ago I wrote a blog about finding a beautiful caterpillar. My kids and I put the caterpillar into a jar and had the privilege of watching him spin itself into a Chrysalis. We set the jar on top of the refrigerator and started to wait, wondering when the caterpillar would emerge as a butterfly. We would check the jar every day only to find the same chrysalis staring back at us. We waited and waited and waited. We were beginning to get tired of waiting and started to question what was taken so long. Perhaps, the caterpillar had died and would never emerge as a new creature. But because we couldn’t see inside the chrysalis we weren’t willing to give up hope. We wanted to believe that something miraculous was taking place.
And unbeknownst to us, with our limited knowledge and insight, there was a change taking place. Earlier this week when we looked into the jar we found an empty chrysalis and a beautiful, intrinsic, delicate, butterfly. The words of Psalm 37:7 rang loud and clear as we stared at the new creature, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.”
The waiting may be a long and hard process. It may be an uncomfortable and ugly mess but, “God makes all things beautiful in HIS time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) In God’s strength we can get through the waiting and our ugly mess can result in an unexplainable and beautiful joy. It is through the waiting and the trusting that we become transformed into the likeness of Christ.
“And we all…are progressively being transformed into His image from glory to glory, which comes from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Last week our church, Community Fellowship, showed the movie “The War Room.” Before the movie played, I had the privilege to talk about hosting a Spanish teen through Young Life USA. I know I’ve recently posted about this opportunity but we are STILL IN NEED of host families so I want to share the words I spoke on Tuesday.
“The War Room,” has a lot to do with prayer and the spiritual battle that we are facing. So as I was reflecting over our experience, I realized our family was able to see first hand the power of prayer, and the spiritual warfare that may come, when we step out of our comfort zone and do something that we don’t necessarily want to do, but we know God wants us to do it.
Last year, with A LOT of hesitation, we decided to host a teen through Young Life. We have four children of our own and we have a revolving door of cousins, friends, and neighbors, coming through our house all the time. But, hosting a teen was something different. It’s one thing for cousins to come over, but an entirely different thing for a stranger to come from another country and live with us for a month. I wasn’t sure I was up to this task.
However, in January of 2015, when CF showed the promotion video for Young Life, I felt a nudging from the Holy Spirit. At that moment, it didn’t matter how I felt or what I thought, or what doubts or hesitations I had, I knew that God wanted our family to be a part of this program. So, in February of last year, without knowing our schedule in July, we filled out the forms to host a teen. I was excited and nervous at the same time. As I hit the send button on the forms I was filled with an unexplainable peace knowing that God was in control. But then I thought, what now? God simply nudged me again and said, PRAY. Pray for your teen, and for your family, for his family, for his country, for his Salvation, and for My message to be spread through Spain and Andorra. So that’s what we did. Colossians 1:9 become our verse for our teen and his country, and it still is. In fact it has become our verse for Young Life, for all the teens that will come this summer and in the years to come. It says, “from the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
It’s SO easy to under estimate God’s power through prayer and it’s SO easy to forget the spiritual battle that we are in. During the months from February to July there were many times I was tempted to listen to the phrases inside my mind that were telling me, “What were we thinking!?” “Why did we sign up to host a teen!?” “We have problems, big problems!?” (Who doesn’t?) “We argue!?” (Who doesn’t?) “Our kids fight!?” (Whose don’t?) “How can God use our family to reach this teen!?” These questions and doubts were from the enemy. He was trying to frustrate us and worry us – because of course he didn’t want us to sign up to host a teen. He didn’t and still doesn’t want families to make themselves available. He doesn’t want Spanish teens to come to our country and hear the message of salvation. He would rather have us stay in our comfort zones and believe the doubts he’s putting in our minds. Thinking, we can’t do it or we don’t want to do it. It will be an inconvenience. Someone else can pick up the slack. Don’t let the enemy win. If you are thinking about hosting a teen do it! As soon as you make the decision, realize it’s in God’s hands. You and your family just need to PRAY, pray for your teen, pray for his or her family, pray knowing and believing that God will place the perfect teen in your house. TRUST, that God has BIG plans. He always accomplishes more than we can ever ask or imagine. If we open up our homes and hearts, give God our doubts, and step into the unknown, I promise you that God will do an amazing work, not only in your family but in the life of your teen and possible in the life of their family and country.
When we signed up last year we were so concerned about the unknowns and worried that it was going to be hard. It’s not hard. In fact, it was pretty EASY and so much FUN. God is in the process. He is working and we are just allowing Him to use us as His vessels to spread His message.
These teens are so excited to come to the US and to live with an American family. They don’t need to be entertained every second of every day. In fact, if you have kids, it’s amazing how easily the kids connect and bond and entertain one another. It’s also a lot of fun to plan activities with your family and your teen, such as taking them to Chicago, or to a baseball game, or out to eat. However, what they really LOVE is just being involved with a Christ-loving Christian family.
Last July was one of the BEST months our family has ever had together. I am so excited to see what God has planned for us and for Young Life USA this July. I am praying that there will be an ABUNDANCE of teens that sign up for this program, and I am also praying that their will be an OVER-FLOWING, OVER-ABUNDANCE of host families.
If you are thinking about it, do it! Don’t doubt, SIGN UP! If you have any questions please check out Community Fellowship at http://www.commfell.org and there you can watch the testimonies of the host families and the teens. I promise you, if you do this it will definitely be worth it!