Just One Word

16 April 2014

Savior

Have you ever had one word in Scripture transform your thinking? This week I was reading the familiar verses in Isaiah 50 that clearly prophecy the suffering of Christ. It describes, years before it ever took place, the beating and mocking that Christ would endure at the hands of the Roman soldiers. These verses are written in the first-person. Listen to Christ’s own words recorded by Isaiah about those events. “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”

He offered His back to the cruel whips used to torture prisoners. He offered His cheeks to the ones who ripped out chunks of His beard. He didn’t turn His face away as they mocked Him and spat on Him. In those awful moments, He was not at their mercy, but was offering Himself to grant us mercy.

At every point in the path that led to Calvary Jesus could have resisted, but He offered Himself for us. I don’t know about you, but that brings me to my knees with a very inadequate, but heartfelt, “thank you!” It’s no wonder that the hymn-writer wrote, “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”

 

 

 

An Endless Journey

13 February 2014

farmroadI love the vastness of God. He has no edges – no boundaries or borders. There is no limit to Him. We can know Him (how amazing!), but we can never know all of Him. What we know about God – His power, His holiness, His majesty – is enough to bring us to our knees in humble adoration and worship. But what brings us absolutely prostrate before Him is all that remains mysterious and unknown.

There are aspects of God that are incomprehensible – beyond our finite ability to grasp. And that’s part of the joy of the journey. There’s no end – no point at which we’ve arrived and can claim full understanding of God. It’s an endless and soul-satisfying quest. To know God is to love and worship Him. To love and worship Him is to long to know Him better. And so goes this glorious and ever-deepening journey – with no end in sight!

 

 

Worship Redefined

8 January 2014
Mother Lovejoy

Mother Lovejoy

Oh, what a lesson the Lord has taught me this morning. I have been so blind to a gift He’s been giving me because it wasn’t wrapped as I expected it to be. I haven’t recognized an answer to prayer because the answer was not as I imagined.

For some time I’ve been asking the Lord to give me the gift of worship – to allow me to know the joy of offering Him pure and selfless love and adoration which He so deserves. But I’ve had my own idea of how that gift would look.

At the same time, I’ve been struggling with the daily routine of my care for Peter’s mother. Mother Lovejoy  is 95 and has Alzheimer’s, and as her body slows down, and her mind becomes dimmer, she requires more of my love and care.

This morning I read a poem by Amy Carmichael, written at a time when she must have also been longing to offer God the gift of deep and heartfelt worship. She says, “Would that I…could invent some goodly instrument, passing all yet contrived to worship Thee, and send a love song singing over land and sea.” But for Amy also, the needs of others were immediate and demanding. She writes of a call that “clamors about my door, and bids me run to meet some human need.” And yet, hear God’s encouragement to her that became my own: “My child, be comforted, dear is the offering of melody, but dearer far – love’s lowliest ministry.”

God had been answering my plea for opportunities to offer Him pure worship, but they came, not in the moments of stillness, but of service. What I saw as interruptions to worship, were instead opportunities for worship.

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these…you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

A Gift for the Magi

18 December 2013

Our son Sam images (1)was asked to play the Christ child in the Christmas program years ago. Most scholars believe that the wise men came later, when Mary and Joseph were in a home and Jesus was a toddler, so the church decided to depict it that way. The scene was simple – rough wooden walls, a simple table with a bowl of fruit on it, and Mary and Joseph sitting quietly with real life toddler Sam as Jesus. Sam looked up wide-eyed as the wise men arrived, then grinned when he recognized one of them as his older brother. The first of the magi knelt in worship and presented Sam (the Christ child) with a gift. Sam took it, and then quietly reached up on the table and offered his guest a piece of fruit. This unrehearsed response on Sam’s part was repeated for each of the wise men. They came bearing gifts, but left with a gift given in return.

What a picture of true worship. Like the magi, we come to worship. Sometimes it’s a difficult and long journey from our own heartaches or problems, from difficult circumstances and disappointments, but we choose to come – to make the journey, to bow before our Savior, and to offer him the gift of our worship. And always, when genuine worship takes place, we come away with a gift that Christ gives in return. It may be peace that is needed for a hardship, joy that’s been lacking because of stress and busyness, but whatever the gift, it has been chosen by Christ just for us.

I trust that you’ll take time this season to “come and worship.” The journey is always worth it. And as you offer the gift of worship to the One who alone is worthy, He will bless you with a gift in return!

Have a wonderful and worshipful Christmas!

As Pure Gold

25 November 2013

refiner's fireIt’s a story I’ve used over and over again – especially when speaking on holiness. It’s a familiar story told by Amy Carmichael about her visit to a goldsmith as he was refining gold. The story gives such a clear picture of God’s work of refining in our own lives, but I especially love the end when Amy asks the goldsmith how he knows when the gold is pure. His answer is such a powerful reminder of God’s goal for us. “When I can see my face in it then it is pure.”

And yet, as often as I’ve shared this story – as often as I’ve let it speak to my own heart – I found a wonderful new truth in it as I was re-reading it recently. It was actually a side comment in parentheses, but still such a wonderful reminder. Amy Carmichael shared that the goldsmith never leaves the crucible once it’s in the fire. When he begins the refining process, the gold is never left unattended.

I love that reminder.  When we are “in the fire” (never a comfortable place to be), our Refiner will never leave us.  He has a purpose for the flames and will stay right there to see that they work for our good. Gold in an unattended crucible can be ruined.

This isn’t just a nice thought from Amy Carmichael’s story. This truth is solidly backed by Scripture. Psalm 34:18 assures us that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted…” He never leaves the crucible once it’s in the fire. Both the flames and the gold are under His loving and watchful eye.  I find such encouragement in these words. God will never leave us unattended in the flame, but will lovingly accomplish His purposes. And as Job declared, “when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” And so will we!

 

(This one’s for you, April.)

Boxes Again!

20 September 2013

View from our house

View from our house

We’re in the middle of boxes – again. It wasn’t too long ago (actually less than a year), that I wrote a blog about being done with boxes. Last October we made the move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and I was ready to be done with boxes. But God had other plans, and we have just made the move back to Pennsylvania, and are, once again, surrounded by boxes.

Our new home is a wonderful old farmhouse located among the hills and cornfields of central PA. The location is wonderful, but the house has its challenges – small bedrooms with no closets, for example. However, we are slowly finding just the right place for pieces of furniture (sometimes after my patient husband has moved them a couple of times), and are beginning to add touches that transform it from a house into our home.

As is often the case, God has used my present circumstances (boxes included) to teach me a spiritual lesson. I recently read these words from Hebrews in my quiet time: “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are His house.” (Hebrews 3:6) I am God’s house, and it’s God’s plan for His Son to move in and make it His home. It may mean moving some things (like my priorities) around until they’re in just the right place. It will definitely include His decorating touch – filling it with the things that bring Him pleasure like humility, peace, love, and patience. He may need to get rid of some of my things to make room for His things. And He definitely still has boxes to unpack – things that still need to be added to make it a place where He can be completely at home.

I’d like to be done with boxes, but I’m so thankful that God isn’t – that He continues to unpack the things that I need to make my heart His home.

A New Name

3 August 2013

I never really liked my name. Esther certainly wasn’t one of the popular names when I was younger – it still isn’t now that I’m older. It didn’t have a neat nickname, or a catchy shortened version. But it’s a name that my father loved, and so I’m Esther by his choice

I don’t know what name I would have chosen if I had been in on the decision-making, but I found a name in Scripture that I would love to have. It’s not a name that I would actually want to be called, but it is a name that I would love to be my Heavenly Father’s choice for me.

In Isaiah 62 God promises that the day will come when His people will have a new name. They will no longer be known by some of the negative names that have been associated with them, but will now be called “Hephzibah.” As with most Biblical names, Hephzibah was chosen because of its meaning -“My delight is in her.” God was conveying a wonderful message to Israel through His choice of this name. It was to be more than just a change of name, but a new identity – an acknowledgement that God’s favor was again on His people, and that He truly delighted in them.

Zephaniah 3:17 also gives Israel this same hope: “He (the Lord) will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Imagine that! God’s delight in Israel will be so great that it will cause Him to burst into singing.

I want to delight the Lord. I want to live in a way that brings Him joy; that pleases Him. I want to make Him so happy that He bursts into song. I want to be Hephzibah.

For now, I’m still called Esther, and I’ve gotten used to that name. But I can’t imagine any greater joy in life (or eternity) than to have my Heavenly Father look at me and say, “I’m giving you a new name. Hephzibah!”

View from My Sparrow’s Nest

18 June 2013
The view from our "Sparrow's Nest"

The view from our “Sparrow’s Nest”

I’m at the Sparrow’s Nest. Not the one mentioned in Psalm 84 tucked among the poles that supported the tabernacle, but the one located at Delta Lake Bible Conference Center in Rome, NY. Not the sparrow’s nest that is the basis for this blog and my radio blog, but the Sparrow’s Nest that is now our summer home. One is made of twig and straw, the other of boards, but they have one thing in common. They both offer a wonderful view of the things of God.

In Psalm 84, that sparrow looked down on the holy things of God. From her vantage point, she could watch the comings and goings of the priests as they went about their activities in preparation for worship. All about her were reminders of the holiness of Yahweh – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

From my “Sparrow’s Nest,” I also have a wonderful view of the things of God. We sit tucked among trees with a beautiful view of the lake from our windows. I also watch the comings and goings of “priests” – people who have dedicated themselves to the ministry of this place. They don’t light candles, or butcher sacrifices, but they do mow the grass, paint the buildings, and clean up our “tabernacle” in preparation for the many activities of the summer.

The sparrow in Psalm 84 had found her home – a nest tucked among the things of God in a place set apart for God’s honor and glory. I too have found my home (at least for the summer months), and it too is tucked in among the things of God in a place set apart for God’s honor and glory.

I don’t know if a real sparrow is capable of having a thankful heart, but this “sparrow” has a heart overflowing with thankfulness to God for blessing her with her “nest” at Delta Lake Camp.

One of our first days in the cottage we had a baby sparrow come and visit.

One of our first days in the cottage we had a baby sparrow come and visit.

 

And the Winner Is…

17 May 2013

DSC01769I saw an amazing display of creativity recently.  My granddaughter Catherine entered a cake contest at a local school. Since we were visiting, we got to be in on the event. There were all kinds of cakes. There were pool cakes and mountain cakes, cakes with snow scenes and volcanoes. But it wasn’t in the display of cakes where we saw the real creativity. This was a “everybody-wins and no-one-loses” kind of contest – equality at its finest.  So each of the over 100 cakes there won a ribbon – and each of the over 100 cakes there won a ribbon for a different category! I was in awe of the creative ability of the judges to come up with that many different award categories. It did make for a very lengthy award ceremony, however, as each person’s category was announced and they were presented with a ribbon. Everyone was a winner!

What a convenient plan, but it does raise some questions. Why bother to do your best? Why enter in the first place? And how meaningful is a ribbon that is given to everyone – regardless of their cake? There were some cakes there that were not ribbon-worthy! Others were an impressive display of skill and creativity. (Catie’s was the best, of course, but who’s going to believe a grandmother.)

Some people believe our lives are like that cake contest?  Everyone’s a winner – you just have to “enter” to get a blue ribbon at the end. However, Scripture makes it clear that there will be a day of judgment – a day when we will be accountable for our lives. The wonderful news is that God has given us the perfect recipe to receive an eternal blue ribbon.  It won’t say, “Purest Life,” or “Most Good Deeds.” There won’t be a ribbon for the “Most Righteous,” or “Perfect Attendance at Church.” Your ribbon will be dipped in blood and declare you to be “A Child of God.”  What an amazing award ceremony that will be. Even though none of us has lived a ribbon-worthy life, we will be declared an eternal winner and invited to share in the glorious reward planned for us by our Creator.

 

DSC01774

Catie’s little sister thought the cake was a winner too.

Not My Own!

30 April 2013

Sometimes simple, familiar phrases become new and profound. That happened to me today in my Bible reading as I read Paul’s reminder, “You are not your own.” (I Corinthians 6:19) I understand the theology of this – the atonement that purchased my salvation; that bought me back – but it was the practical reality of those words that struck me. I am not my own. So many things are impacted by that truth.

If I am not my own, then I must agree with the words of Jeremiah when he declares, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) The One who holds ownership of me has every right to choose my steps. What a blessing to know that He chooses with wisdom and is motivated by love.

If I am not my own, then it makes perfect sense that to offer my body as a living sacrifice really is a “spiritual act of worship.” It is giving over the rights to the rightful owner.  It also means that conformity to the “pattern of this world” can’t be for me. I must instead conform to the principles and standards of an eternal kingdom. (Romans 12:1,2)

If I am not my own, there is only one answer to the question God asks: “Can I not do with you as this potter does?” (Jeremiah 18:5) God has every right to shape me into the vessel of His choosing for His use and glory.

And, if I am not my own, then my heart needs to echo the words of John as he declared, “He must become greater; I must become less.” I must strive to allow everyone around to see the wonder and glory of the One who rightfully owns me.

I must never forget that the hands that reach out to claim me have scars – scars that are evidence of His right to ownership and are proof of the love that makes me so richly blessed to be able to say, “I am not my own!”

Next Page »