It Is Written

It was a summer day, 4 years ago this past June, when the Lord gently reminded me His Word is always enough. My mind had been racing around the track of “what if.” With every turn, I felt the enemy trying to bump me into a head-on collision with despair. Nevertheless, I said to myself, “what time I am afraid, I will trust in You Lord.” I did what I could, I slowed down and asked my Father to take control.

I am thankful He is a divinely articulate conversationalist, because often I don’t know what to say.

His voice was gentle as He began to speak. Matthew 4 held sweet power and consolation for me that June morning – still does today. As I envisioned Christ being led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, I couldn’t help but feel an odd sense of relief. Friends, the Son of God understands what it is like to have the enemy racing beside you. He knows how it is when the onslaught of attacks are relentless. On this lone wilderness trail, Satan attempted to cause Christ to abandon the will of God – three different times. Yet, “It is written,” preceded each thing Christ had to say. By temptation number three, Jesus was over it! He claimed all authority saying, “Get thee hence satan, it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve,” and just like that, the enemy abandoned his lane of offense, and the angels came to minister to Jesus.

The beautiful truth is there is great power in the Voice of God. Anything the devil can throw our way is always subject to the authority of God.

Years ago when the Lord bled His resurrection power into my heart, I began to recall portions of His truth. Today, I recount them again.

I know that all things will work together for my good because I love Him, and I am called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28)
I know that He is faithful to establish me and will guard me from the enemy of my soul. (2 Thes.3:3)
I know that there is no place I can go that He will not be there. (Ps.139)
I know that when I lean unto Him, acknowledging Him in all my ways, He will direct my paths. (Ps. 3:5-6)
I know He will keep my foot from slipping; He never sleeps on the job. (Ps. 121:3)
I know my name is written in the palms of His nail-scarred hands. (Is. 49:16)
I know that the trying of my faith is a good thing – it molds within me perseverance and hope, and His hope is all I need. (James 1:3)
I know that I am to behave justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him – this is what is required of me. (Micah 6:8)

I know how precious His thoughts are, they are so vast, we could never count them. And even when I come to the end, I will still be with Him. (Ps. 139)

This morning, as I fix my eyes on His Word, I can taste the powerful promises of God on my lips. I pick up my sword and exclaim, “Go away Satan, it is written – we will finish the race, and fight the good fight, for He who has begun a good work is faithful and just to complete it.” And, just like that, the presence of God ministers peace to my heart once again.

Let it Go

It appears to me I can take a long time in learning – even the simplest things. I am thankful my Father is a patient teacher. Lately (and by lately, I mean the past 8 years) there has been a common theme to these lessons – stop being a hoarder. Cease being an hoarder of negativity and fears and a packrat of past successes and defeats. Stop being a keeper of hurts and wrongs.There is beautiful consolation in knowing He loves us and is unwilling to let us stagnate in the muck of the past. God longs to make life a glorious adventure for us, if only we would “stop clinging to old ways.”

I am terribly guilty of hanging on to all kinds of junk. So believe me, I know how hard it is to let go. Nevertheless, with each peek into God’s word, I pray to get a little better at releasing all to the Father, so He may clean the dirtiest closet in my heart and unclutter the attic of my mind.

What a promise of sweet comfort it is to know the Holy Spirit is a fabulous collector and housekeeper. It amazes me how God takes all our brokenness – all our junk- and makes our testimony a treasure, if only we would let it go.

A Choice to Remember

If you have heard me speak, or known me for any length of time, you know I talk alot about perspective – probably because mine is constantly in need of re-adjustment. If I am to be honest with you now, my focus was in need of help today. These truths are what I found when the Lord shifted my gaze:

Marriage. It is a mix of ups and downs, wins and losses, tears and laughs, fights and kisses, conversations and silence, and it is most certainly full of surprises – good and bad.

Although we know better than to do so, it is easy to get caught in the “comparison trap” when it comes to certain areas of life. Many of us, sometimes, try to line our marriages up side by side with social media posts and the images of couples presenting their best selves to the public. I, too, have been guilty of only wanting others to see the good, because really, who wants to see my ugly anyway, right? Yet, admitting how we struggle, get upset, and still love each other at the same time is a beautiful thing.

Instead of lining our expectations up with what God says we are to be for one another, we are so easily distracted by what we think we are supposed to be. Envy and unrealistic expectations lead to error in judgement – and disgruntled spouses.

The Lord wants more goodness for our union than we could ever imagine. But friend, marriage is work. Love is arduous at times. I am finding marriage takes a creative kinda grit, the pursuit of remembering, and a surrendered soul of prayer. Micah gave wise instruction I am finding works in marriage as well – do what’s right, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

My yesterday began with “fights” but, thankfully, ended with goodnight “kisses” of forgiveness. And so, today as my sweetheart was away with our Senior, at her college orientation, I made a choice to remember how I love him and how he loves me – and, most importantly, how God loves us both.

Copy. Paste. Gone.

For a few weeks, I hadn’t written much, simply because I had been flailing and whining my way through a crazy tempest. My irrational mind and deceiving heart often cause me to drown in the deep sea of forgetfulness. I grow fixated on my own plan, my vision of what life is supposed to look like. It then becomes easy to lose sight of the many ways the Father has blessed me. And, in His perfect (and often challenging) way, He reminds me to slow down, and start all over at the beginning. So, it was no surprise when, after thirty minutes of struggling to type my thoughts out, all my writing disappeared.

Copy. Paste. Done. Easy concept, right?

Well, however easy it may be, one should be careful when attempting to perform the edits. Otherwise, she may lose all her work. And yes, the she is me. Those thirty minutes worth of labored thoughts vanished.

However, maybe, just maybe, losing it all is what it takes to gain a little perspective – at least this has been the case with me on my journey.

Learning how to navigate through a storm is often more about taking shelter than standing in the rain dancing like no one’s watching.

So, I put my typing gadets away, and sat with my Bible open. I was drawn over and over to verses and passages He had been giving me for over a year and a half. And, with each stroke of my pen to the paper, His promises etched deeper into my soul.

I love how He uses His Word to protect me, lead me, move me, calm me and, my oh my, how He uses it to remind I am His and He is mine.

He redirected my scattered mind and war-torn spirit back to the basics – behave justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

Remain steadfast in service to Christ.

Stay obedient to His ways.

I believe it was Pastor Paul Sheppard who said that we are only responsible for our obedience, not the result – that’s God’s job. I am thankful His mercy and grace are endless and that His plans for us are good. And, I’m thankful those plans sometimes include ‘copy, paste, gone.’ Those moments illuminate our desperate need for a Savior who is always a refuge of grace, and quite honestly, a fantastic editor.

The Watcher

Hello! My name is Ira. I am the youngest son of Simon ben Judah. My mother Miriam says I came out of the womb observant and quiet. Actually, all the other ladies present the day of my birth say they weren’t even sure I was alive – until, I whimpered my way into my Mother’s arms. I’ll admit, the meaning in my name fits me fairly well – ‘watcher of the city.’ I have been observing the people around me all my life. So, one day, when a man named Jesus had come to town, I had been incredibly curious to see what had the religious leaders so up in arms – and why so many other folks were saying He was the Messiah.

Staying true to my nature, I frequently had noticed the worried frowns which burdened my Father’s face. When it concerned this man called Christ, my father had seemed to always side with the leaders of our community. Their resentment against Jesus ran deep, and Father’s loyalty to the leaders ran even deeper. Until.

It had been like any other dry and dusty walk I had made into town many times before. However, as I had drawn nigh unto the city’s gates, I heard the commotion. The angry faces induced panic within me. Hateful insults had hurled like daggers at the woman being violently drug through the town’s streets. The leaders had been on a mission, not one of mercy like their counterpart Christ, no, they were on a mission of madness. The half-dressed woman, worn and broken, had been thrown down at the feet of Jesus. Little did the men know, their cruel and self-serving pursuit had been about to backfire. At first, I had wanted to turn away from the craziness, until I saw Him – Jesus. He had a blanket of grace and divine authority over Him, it was magnetic. He had stooped down to the ground, and I had wanted to hear what He might say to the men whose words had dripped with sadistic subtlety. They asked him, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now, Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned: but what do you say we should do?”

Jesus oozed with silent power as He began to take his carpenter’s fingers and construct words of conviction in the dirt. His silence incensed these men. Nevertheless, without pausing too long, they had continued repeating questions, not realizing they were attempting to bait the Creator of the World – with an empty hook.

Confidently, Christ stooped down once more, transcribing on the dusty canvas with worn knuckles. I wasn’t close enough to see, so I have no idea what was written on the ground, but as He rose, He uttered these words, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.”The men, including my father, turned away, defeated. I watched the religious leaders walk away, carrying not only their wolf-like scowls, but their proud, cruel hands still clutched the stones of judgment.This day influenced me the most because, when Jesus turned to the broken woman on the ground, He had stooped once more, but this time His bending wasn’t too condemn anyone. His merciful bow was to lift her up, offering her hope and forgiveness with these words, “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.” There was such a gentle authority in His voice; I knew the same thing she did that day – surely He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world.From that day forward, she and I followed Jesus wherever He traveled. We learned, laughed, cried, fellowshipped with Him. And, oh how we marveled at His ministry. I found this man to be gentle, yet, revolutionary with His bold love, teaching and compassion. I witnessed the physically doomed healed of illness, beggars find their sight, lame men walk again, and, the outcasts without a place, find complete acceptance.

We followed Him all the way – even as this precious the Lamb of God willingly went to be crucified. As I gazed upon the jeering crowd, it broke my heart to see Him so abused and broken. They mocked, beat and eventually murdered the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, at Golgotha. The hands they drove nails into at Calvary were the same ones that healed, broke bread to feed the thousands, calmed the winds and seas, and brought hope to so many.I was truly who He made me to be, in the end – Ira, the watcher. Yet, I no longer held interest in watching the world. I would now, and forever be, a man with an eternal perspective – looking to the Author and Finisher of my faith. He will always be the gentle Savior who stooped down to make things right for the broken and lost, my Redeemer, the One who called me friend.

Symphony of Praise

Often I am much like Elijah and David, subject to moodiness when life seems to overwhelm. Nevertheless, my Father has such compassionate ways, remembering I am but dust. He knows how prone I am to scatter all about when the wind blows even a little. I believe this is why He makes His mercies new each and every day – He knows our infinite need of them! Certainly, the past few weeks have been no exception to this truth. So, this morning as I watched a Louis Giglio video clip for devotions, I was both amazed and convicted. I witnessed the stars’ percussion and string sections perform a praise concert with the whales, and instantly, my droopy heart was encouraged – and challenged.

Unlike man, the universe does not possess the indwelling presence of God’s breath within it, yet, all of its substance bellows a bold chorus of praise declaring His glory. God’s children have even more reason than the cosmos to be full of reverent, bold praise. Yet, we often come up short of where we truly should be.

The psalmist had no way of actually hearing these magnificent symphonies of praise as we do, yet, by faith, he believed all creation could sing praise, and insisted they do so! And should we truly rejoice in our Maker, believing He delights in us with unfailing love and enduring mercy, we would find ourselves filled with faith too. To fix our gaze on Christ and not our circumstance, being more prone to worship than wander, and much more fixed on praise than pouting, would bring about laudatory attitudes toward our Savior. And honestly, we were made to worship Him. We thrive when we do.

Jesus Loves Us, This I Know

Calvary’s mercy and resurrection grace are concepts a person often struggles with – they seem too good to be true. We question, “Is it really possible for someone to love me beyond my failures, beyond my weaknesses, beyond all my faults? Why would God leave all of Heaven, and forsake His throne to die for me – especially knowing who I truly am?”

We sometimes view His divine love from humanity’s viewpoint – and, perspective changes things.

We have all felt the disappointment of another’s failure to love us unconditionally, and, the heaviness of unmet expectations. But, Jesus was the friend who laid down His life for a friend, He sticks closer than a brother. He understands us in ways we may never comprehend, and loves us all the more. That kind of love penetrates the shallowness of humanity’s version of love and spurs us to love Him, others and ourselves in a deeper, more eternity-driven way. Truly, He is the way, the truth and the Life, and so much more than we can know. Sweet soul, from Good Friday to Resurrection morning and beyond eternity, trust you can rest in His love. No matter what. Jesus loves us, this I know!

Detours

I adore the precious way the Lord teaches my heart to be still and simply enjoy life. Today, while traveling with family, He stirred my soul with one such lesson. We had made one wrong turn which took us about 10 minutes out of our way. At this point, we had a choice – to be irritated at the inconvience, or, accept the invitation to grace.

Detour. Such a tiny word with immense potential to bring either good or bad. When given over to the Father, a detour can be used to grow us and bless us.

As we drove through the tiny town of Carlise, Pennsylvania, a bit of peace crept into my morning. This quaint city’s historical buildings and fun storefront displays make a person want to leisurely stroll through the town. Main street’s foliage bloomed with hues of purple, red, white, and green. It was a beautiful 10 minutes full of goodness. Life is much like this morning’s adventure. Our paths wind and roll us through detour after detour. But, if we could learn to see God in all of our moments, we would surely find, detours can hold the sweetest blessings.

I Surrender

It never fails when I sit still before the Holy Spirit, truly seeking a word from my Father, He always delivers. But often, those exacting conversations challenge me to be a doer of His Word, and not simply hear them. He calls for my obedience to do as He has asked. He beckons me to trust Him, even when I’m hurting, scared and unsure of His direction. He has promised a humble and surrendered heart is guaranteed His ample grace. Yet, in my flesh, I forget.

Obedience. Trust. Surrender.
When facing the winds of change, walking the tightrope of the unknown, these words become a challenge to implement into our lives. However, when blended together, they create a way of life sure to yield spiritual fruit, and the Father’s favor.

Author-speaker, Stormie Omartian challenges her readers with an exhortation echoing the Gospel’s truth, “[The] attitude of surrender means putting God first and submitting to His rulership. It makes all the difference in our lives…Jesus is Lord whether we declare it or not.” Paul admonishes in Romans 14, should we live, let us live for Christ, and should we die, let us die for Christ. Either way, we are His. To know we are His can bring the struggling soul great comfort. To focus on Christ, and His steadfast love, ushers in calmness beyond human comprehension. The right focus has great power to help us succumb to His will with more ease.

Oh that we would remain in His ways, obediently surrendered to His will – whatever it may look like. If only we could make obedient trust and humble surrender our goal, and not a last resort, His promise is to plant and not pluck us, to build and not tear down, to give us power over the enemy, and bring us into His good for our lives.

Expectant Hope

Upon hearing Mary’s news the tomb was empty, Peter and John hurried to see if it was true. Nevertheless, after finding Christ was indeed no longer in the grave, they returned home. But not Mary Magdalene, she stayed behind. Why? Could it have been because of her own personal experience with Jesus’ tender grace? Or, perhaps it was the way His heart had oozed forgiveness, prevaling over the enemy of her soul. Her hope and faith trumped her grief in those silent moments at the Savior’s tomb. Mary Magdalene’s story was one of freedom, one of victory. A believer can see why, against all odds, she remained – optimistic she may still see (and serve) her Lord. Through tears, she stooped down, once more to peek inside the abandoned tomb. Everyone else had deemed it a dark place of defeat, yet Mary must have believed differently. And, even though she may not have recognized Him at first, when He called her by name, she knew His mercy had found her again. How sweet His voice must have sounded to her broken heart.

Jesus could have chosen to appear to anyone else first. Yet lovingly, He found Mary – broken, humble, saguine Mary. There are a plethora of opinions as to the why He chose her; nevertheless, His Word vows when we seek Him early He will be found. Mary was there early, seeking Him with her whole heart. And, well, He always keeps His promises.

Mary Magdalene’s story reveals the glory of His grace and redeepmtion – from demons to deliverance, from tomb to triumph, and from brokeness to beauty – hope filled all the spaces in between.

In all truth, there have been more than a few times which required more patience, humilty, and faith than I could muster up. In the dark moments of life, it is easy to walk away like Peter and John did that day. But, what if we will would look for Christ amidst the grief? Should we, like Mary, bend down with expectant hope of Christ to show up and call out our name, we too will find living hope – expect it!