Category Archives: Refined by the Word

An encounter of the most precious kind <3

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And while we were still sinners…Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I am fresh off of a particularly sweet morning time with a close encounter of the most precious kind.

In a daily devotional collection I have been reading out of this year, I read my story.

Oh, it was penned by someone else…her name is Alia Joy and her testimony is recorded in a book I received for Christmas last year from my dear friend Lisa who has supplied my morning devotional for more years than I can even stop and recount. 

She prays every year before she purchases and every year…it’s just what I need. Right when I need it. 

This one is called “A Moment to Breathe” and is from the (in)Courage Community of writers. 

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Today’s spoke to my heart because it is my testimony. 

I highlighted and summarized her thoughts in my journal like this:

  • Going forward to receive Christ as a child….over and over and over again … “…and hope that this time it took.”
  • In human moments of failing, in rebellious moments of putting my hand up to God…picturing Him angrily watching and waiting to administer my punishment.
  • Somehow thinking my performance was tied to His willingness to go to the Cross on my behalf.
  • One day realizing all of the above was my distorted view of God and who He is and what GRACE is about.
  • How sometimes I still slip back into that old rut and think that I could ever earn it OR ever lose it.
  • That this abundant, amazing love of God was once and for all demonstrated on the Cross and never was initiated by me.
  • While I was STILL….YET…a sinner…Christ died for me. 

As I wrote all these things out in my journal, the song that bubbled up from my memory was the 2013 Hillsong offering…Christ is enough for me. 

Sometimes the title phrase has sounded wrong to me. 

It has a connotation that could be misconstrued in a culture (even a Christian culture) that focuses on me, myself and I. 

It can come across to the untrained ear if you just focus on that one phrase like and seem like a sort of self-focused statement…

Yeah. There is enough of what I need in Christ. 

But a deeper look at the lyrics clears all of that up.

Give it a fresh listen today <3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6MzgVsP2uE

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The lyrics point to a decision to set the face like flint…to turn my back on this world and all that it offers as peace, contentment, prosperity, success, happiness, motivation…and steadfastly walk toward the Cross of Jesus Christ. 

Not because I loved Him first. 

But because while I was …and when I forget even now…He loves me perfectly. 

And so my story has become…

I have decided to follow Jesus.

No turning back.

No turning back. 

Look! There He is…<3

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Good morning!

Here in the Midwest the forecasters are using the S word…S.N.O.W.

It’s the second week of October and on Monday I was wearing shorts to walk around the block. What in the world?

The weather patterns are crazy and as Christians, we are called to pray for those who are weathering horrific results of tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes…as well as the spiritual storms that are raging through homes and families and countries. 

We are told to heed the signs of the times and to speak boldly of what we know and believe. 

This morning I am on a portion of the opening of the New Testament accounts in the Chronological Bible and I stopped on this phrase with an Aha! moment. 

John 1: 35 & 36…The next day John (the Baptizer) was there again with two of his disciples.

When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

Wow. 

Two things jumped out at me. 

The first one is the impact John had on his followers. 

He had to have lived out his daily life, done his ministry, spoken, acted, reacted in ways that had built a high degree of trust in his followers. 

When he said…

Hey guys, there He is.

That right there is the Lamb of God…

Messiah..

the One we have been waiting for….

they didn’t hesitate.

They took him at his word because he had not led them astray before. 

What he said could be taken at face value. 

What a powerful word for us today.

If you are a follower of Christ, all that you do and say matters to people you influence. 

It is not your perfection or impression or worldly success that matters. 

It is …

Your integrity. 

Your honesty.

Your consistency. 

In your walk with the Lord.

It’s your transparency and acknowledgment of your own humanity. 

It’s knowing you are not anyone’s savior…but you know the One who is.

And when you bring that one who has been “following” you to the place where you can say….hey…look…there HE is….

that you gladly and joyously allow yourself to become less…

so He can become more. 

So I ask myself today..

Who is “following me?”

And…

How am I leading them to Jesus?

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Good question to ponder…if you are looking for a place to start…join one of the area churches involved in the Tell Me More series or check firstdecatur.org sermon series <3

Go out and be transformed more into His image today …be blessed and I will see you next week <3

And all the moms and dads said “Amen!”

This morning one of my devotional readings centered on John 14:15 where Jesus lays out this bit of information in how to follow Him well…

If you love Me…you will keep My commands.

And as any parent knows…yep…that’s what it’s all about.

It isn’t ….

If you keep my commands, I will love you.

Not in healthy parenting.

Not in godly parenting.

Unless things are highly dysfunctional and out of whack in a home, parents love their children even when they don’t particularly like them at a given moment or season.

Even when they are not enjoying them and they joke about putting a “free to a good home” sign around their neck at the next soccer game, most parents would walk through fire for their child.

And we are imperfect and selfish and flawed and broken.

And yet we know that even on their worst days, our children simply cannot run past the tough borders of our love.

How much more God?

Who says…

I love you no matter what.

But if you LOVE ME…you WILL keep my commands.

Because if we truly know Him as He wants us to know Him…

if we really know His heart and His character and His ways.

We will keep them.

We will follow them.

We will walk out our days obeying what He says.

Wanting to do what is right, wanting to not do what is wrong.

Not to show our love…not to earn His love…but because we just will do it since we love Him and truly know His commandments are all good for all of us and for all people.

 

In the eye of the storm <3

As you know if you visit here often, this blog is 96.2% off the cuff every morning. 

Oh sure, there are rare occasions when I actually plan and write ahead…but those blissful days are few and far between.

So if you missed yesterday’s post, you may want to hop back and read that or this one stands not a prayer of making sense. 

And speaking of prayer…I pray if you DID read yesterday’s, you can glean some thinking from this one to get your own mind and heart seeking God.

I am not coming to you with answers, just thoughts on fasting in America in the year 2018 where even Taco Bell can make a convincing argument that you need to hurry on down there and grab one of those weird combos of whatever they are peddling today. 

After I wrote my thoughts and posted on Wednesday, my mind was a rush of things and since I have to be out the door by 6:15 sharp and I still have plants to water outside…I am not prettying them up. 

Here they are in no particular order or grammatical finery…and I will check back later when I have time and attempt to correct typos so apologies up front to all the English teachers.

<3 It’s not just peaches. Fasting is about abstaining from food and possibly drink. It’s about not giving the body sustenance. and how foreign in many ways that concept is to an overindulgent culture like ours. Oh, we are used to the concept of fasting, but it is to lose weight or maintain weight. 

There are many who fast regularly to the point of famishing but it is to feed a self image of being thin. 

So the “fast” isn’t the thing.

Think of the people of this time. 

They were not inundated with choices of foods.

They didn’t seven day meal plan or prep lunches for the week.

They lived day by day on a pretty standard diet based on what was available around them.

I have visited such places in this world and I can tell you…the fast would not be about denying oneself a tasty morsel of sweet treats. 

The fast is about saying…this situation that we are facing is so much bigger than we can humanly handle, we need a big God. 

We need God to show up even more than we need the life-giving sustenance of our next meal. 

Esther and Mordecai and all the Jews fasted because the King had signed papers authorizing the annihilation of their entire people group in that country.

David fasted for the life of the child born out of the sin of his affair with Bathsheba. 

Jehoshophat called the nation to fast when they were surrounded on all sides by several great armies. 

Daniel fasted to hear from God to understand the visions he was having. 

On and on we have examples in history of people who fasted out of a response to some great need. 

We also have Scripture that sets us to believe that we probably need God more than just those moments of intense crisis. 

Jesus mentioned….to us…. “and when you fast….” setting the expectation that we would fast as part of our regular worship and spiritual journey. 

God also made clear that the heart of the fast matters when he said in Isaiah 58:6 that the fast isn’t just a rote event that we participate in, but rather there should be a heart bent toward the things God cherishes as we deny ourselves sustenance and seek only His Face. 

I had about twenty minutes near the end of the afternoon to jot down these thoughts before our Spanish class last night. 

After class, we came home and yes…ate some dinner….(no peaches, I promise) and then we turned on the Weather Channel to catch a bit of the news regarding the storm that is about to hit. 

As I watched the team of meteorologists forecasting all their theories of patterns in front of colorful swirling maps and the Governor giving warnings and some command center filled with important people in a room in Washington DC and interviews with people who have evacuated, it came to me the contrast. 

And I wonder. 

What if at the first sign of it gathering strength out there in the ocean, long before it hit a small island or was headed to the populated areas of the southeastern United States…what if the whole nation had, as one, fasted and prayed to God to save us?

We will never know, will we?

I do know many, many have been praying though. And I know that there are those who have most likely fasted and I see the progression of the downgrading of this storm from previous predictions. 

So there are some more thoughts for you to mull over…sorry they are scattered…but for me it is time to gather my things and head out. 

Will you come back tomorrow? I promise the concluding thoughts on this are going to encourage you <3

Real fast…here are my thoughts for today <3

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On Monday I didn’t write because I was simply exhausted from too many days in a row of being on the go. 

I spent the extra time that morning reading the entire book of Esther and I loved every single word of it. 

Today I knew I wanted to write something, so I just read a shorter passage as I move on through finishing the Old Testament and guess what. 

I loved every single word of that too. 

And I came away with something to share, even though I only read a page and a half this time. 

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I love the Chronological Bible because it is putting the books of Scripture in time order and helps me gain new understanding as I am able to place God’s Word into the time frame of the history of His people. 

My reading today covered the miraculous and gracious letter of commendation and the equally miraculous and gracious gifting of provisions given to Ezra by King Artaxerxes. All of that amazing information is outlined in Ezra 7. 

How a pagan King wrote a letter of passage and gave a ton of material goods to Ezra so he could take a group of people back to Jerusalem and rebuild. 

How this King mentions the God of heaven so many times, you start to think you lost your place and are reading the same sentence over and over. 

And all of Chapter 7 is good stuff. 

However, my thought for today comes from his passage:

There by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the King for soldiers and horseman to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the King, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but His great anger is against all who forsake Him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayers. 

Ezra 8:21-23

I have several thoughts about this as I read that familiar passage of Scripture. 

First of all, Ezra says that in order to humble themselves, they proclaimed a fast. 

Yesterday I used the passage from 2 Chronicles 7:14…If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves….

I will put myself in the examining seat here and say that I do not often make the connection between “humbling myself” and “fasting.”

I think I get humbled when I trip up socially or spiritually. 

I can feel humbled when I complain about some small first world problem and then realize some people exist every single day without even the most basic of necessities. 

But to intentionally humble myself usually ends up with me being hypersensitive to trying to play down anything that is looking like a blessing…piously bowing my head and chirping about how grateful I am to God for all He has done…trying to point to others and to Him so the spotlight is off of me…and while all of those things are definitely good things…they are not what Scripture is suggesting is the means to humbling myself before God. 

Ezra …. proclaimed a fast…..so that…the people might humble themselves before their God. 

Not sing praise songs to feel His presence more….

Not lay everything out and dedicate it to God and ask Him to bless it….

No. 

Do without food so that they would be humbled before God. 

Let me tell you. 

That is hard to do. 

Right now we have a box of peaches that I believe God Himself sent to us from Heaven straight to the fruit section of our local Sam’s Club. 

We bought them on Sunday and I have had at least one every single day. 

And right after I eat one, I stare longingly at the remaining orbs of deliciousness and plan when I will be able to eat another. 

I think about them when I am away from them. 

And while I thank God for every bite of them, who do you think I am exalting in all of this?

Me

My wants. My appetites. My happiness. 

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So do you see that by denying myself the fulfillment of my need to eat one of those today, I would be intentionally humbling MYSELF before my God?

Powerful.

The peaches are not evil. 

My enjoyment of them is not wrong. 

But to be intentional about denying myself one by fasting today, would be to … by faith…obey a spiritual law. 

In fasting we ARE humbling ourselves before God. 

The example is clear in Scripture. 

There are so many other things I want to share about this so come on back tomorrow…that is enough for us to … wait for it…chew on today <3