We are precious…

The Lord sees the deepest parts of our hearts, and he hears our unspoken whispers. This is so vital for me to remember – me: a rather open and vulnerable person, who despite all of that still has unspoken hurts and insecurities. This morning, the Lord spoke directly into my heart. And I’d like to share His words of truth with you all, since I know that some of you are feeling the same way – that some of you struggle to believe the Lord’s immense love for you. I’ve been there too – and have found myself there again recently. But let these prophetic words of old speak fresh life over you today, restoring this “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3).

1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.

4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.

5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.

Isaiah 43:1-5

The Lord of all creation who created us in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139) thinks we are precious and honored. He loves us and will give other men in exchange for our lives (Isaiah 43:4). He will fight for His beloved people (Exodus 14:14).

I am in awe that words that were written down for us long before Jesus Christ walked the earth, over 2000 years ago, are still able to bring life and peace to us today. Once again I see that God’s Word is accomplishing its purposes and will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Because of His Word, we can rejoice in the Lord always and give thanks in all circumstances.

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We will overcome (part 2)

Jesus has changed my life. Period. I used to be driven by fear and doubt and bitterness and frustration and depression and moods. I used to be driven by performance and tasks and agendas and approval seeking. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m learning how to choose to be driven by the Word of God instead.

I want everyone – believer and unbeliever alike – to hear this: transformation into a more Christ-like way of thinking isn’t some mystical power that washes over me as I sit around and wait to think differently. It’s proactive. It’s a choice. It’s praying the truth to get rid of the lies that are more prominently playing in my mind at that time. It’s asking for the Lord to make known to me the lies that are directly in opposition to his Word in my mind at that time so that I can confess them and claim the truth over them. And when I choose to do this rather than focusing on the what’s wrong – the temptations and sorrows and evil around me – I begin to have peace and see Jesus.

I used to take a barre class on a regular basis here in Grimes. The instructor would frequently remind us as we attempted to hold our balance in a difficult pose that we would only be able to stand firm if we fixed our eyes on one point on the wall. Isn’t this the perfect picture of the Christian life? As we fix our eyes on Christ, all else comes into focus. But when we waiver, we lose balance. We stumble.

Thankfully, the Scriptures have something to say about stumbling that should encourage us as well. Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT) states that

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

And THIS is where we can find true freedom in Christ. Terrible things are going to happen in this life. Things that devastate me and you – I’ve cried many tears over the sorrows of this world that have affected me, my family, my friends, and complete strangers – like those who lost their lives in Orlando recently. And because I’m human too, it takes time for me to overcome the sorrows that I face – so it will likely take time for all those affected in these recent horrors. But the difference in following Christ is that we stumble, but we do not fall as we choose to fix our gaze on Jesus rather than our sorrow. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

It’s great for us to truly heart and mind know these truths, but that is not where it is allowed to stop. Remember that Acts 1 states that we must be witnesses to Christ. We know the truth. Death is not the end. These sorrows of this world devastate the Lord absolutely, and he sent his very son so that we don’t have to let death be the end of all. There will be a time when “he will wipe away every tear from their [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We have hope for the future beyond the hardships of this world. In John 8:31-32, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

Christ-followers, we must learn to claim the truth of God’s inerrant Word in our lives on a daily basis. It doesn’t mean that all days will be happy – in fact, many of them may carry deep sadness, but it does mean that our days can be hopeful. It means that we can walk around joyfully. It means that we recognize that hardship is imminent, so we can train ourselves to fight for this joy in Christ daily, hourly, by minute, even by seconds at times. And when we do, we can have unexplainable joy. So why, why in the WORLD would we NOT want to share this gift with others?

This is where I find myself right now. This is the place that I think we need to be, Christian – fixing our gaze on Christ and sharing with others the miraculous work He has brought about in our lives. In Revelation 12, we see a description of Satan thrown out of heaven and onto the earth. In his fury, and knowing his defeat, Scripture says that he “[came] down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12: 12). But the prior verse states the prophetic words that the offspring of Adam and Eve who obey the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus have “conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.” This is how we overcome.

But we can’t share what we haven’t experienced. We can’t share the joy of daily freedom or the bliss of watching the Lord overcome evil in our lives if we don’t choose to walk in the Word, share our testimonies, and daily claim the blood of Christ. This is what we need to show the world right now in this time of compounded tragedy. The truth is that we don’t have it all together; God does. We struggle too – with many sins and temptations that are against ourselves and the glory of God. We too daily must surrender so we can be filled with the fruit of the Spirit and look more like Christ than the icky stuff that we battle. I believe this surrender and constant battle against our own wills, when seen by others, will manifest itself in love for others and love for God as we find ourselves eager to pass on the glory of God in our lives to those who have not yet heard or understood. This is our calling.

I remember an old song I used to sing in church on Sundays by Frances J. Crosby entitled “Blessed Assurance.” I think the words are an appropriate way to close out this entry.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

“We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19

We will overcome (part 1)

I began writing a blog post earlier this week entitled “Jesus.” That wouldn’t be such a bad title for this series piece either. But I just couldn’t make progress in that entry. I had started to write about the Christian response to the shootings in Orlando. I had started to express my desire to see us extend love during this time – to extend helping hands in whatever way we’re able. However, as the Lord would have it, during one of my writing breaks, I found myself reading an article in which leaders of the homosexual community mentioned essentially that they’re not interested in Christian sympathy when we’re not there for their community at any other time. My heart was broken, my train of thought derailed.

I landed many times between Tuesday and today in various places reading the comments that people had been exchanging back and forth – primarily via social media – to argue anything and everything regarding the issue of Christians extending love and support (or the lack thereof) to the homosexual community. I was floored by the arguments – the details – the obsession over past events and seemingly insignificant moments around which people have centered their minds, making small things unforgivable – unalterable. It was then that I truly felt like there was nothing that I could say in my blog post.

If I extended love and sorrow to the homosexual community during this awful time for so many Americans (not just the homosexual community I might add), then it was labeled as not genuine. And if I added to that post what I wanted to add – that I don’t believe there is an accurate understanding of who Jesus is or the life and struggles of the Christ – following community of believers, then it would be seen as unloving too. And so I found myself metaphorically scratching my head. How do we, as believers, have any influence in this situation? How can we say something that will be received as genuine without being slandered by the very community to which we’re attempting to show love?

It didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to recall to my mind some wise words that my dad recently shared with me when I was feeling a similar way about a different situation. In Acts 1:8, Christ is getting ready to ascend into heaven following his resurrection, but before leaving, he tells his disciples the following: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They would be his witnesses. My dad had used this passage to remind me that the weight of changing hearts was NOT upon the disciples of Christ at the time of his ascension, nor is it upon us now. But you know what is? The absolute requirement of being a witness to the things that Jesus has done from days of old, right up through time and into our very lives right now.

It wasn’t long after beginning my “Jesus” post that I then read about the toddler boy in Orlando who had been drug under the water and killed by an alligator at the Walt Disney World Resort – the highest of juxtapositions for many Americans – a child dying at the “happiest place on earth.”

Again, finding myself devastated by yet another tragic situation, I remembered the Lord’s words to his own that apply to me today: “Meghann – you are my witness.” And I realized that suffering is compounded and added to suffering. First the shooting this weekend, now the death of a precious little boy, and who knows what else was going on in local news or unpublicized events of people’s homes and lives. Suffering is rampant.

And so finally it came to me: rather than write some articulate ideas as to how we should be extending love to the homosexual community right now (which I believe is absolutely correct) or try to extend to a family the deep sorrow I felt at hearing of their horrific loss, I think it’s time we refocus on Jesus. Therefore, this is a post for believers – Christ – followers who believe in the entirety of the inerrant Word of God – who fix their gaze on Christ, the author and perfecter of their faith (notice, NOT author and perfecter of their understanding). This is a cry for us to show the world the amazing power of freedom in Christ. THIS is why Christians have and should continue to sweep in during tragedy; it’s not out of a lack of concern; it’s out of the greatest of concerns. We have found in Christ a way to handle the sorrows and bitterness of this world that isn’t self-destructive in some way. We don’t have to turn to anger, bitterness, rage, revenge, alcohol, sex, drugs, harming ourselves, harming others, depression, etc. We are freed from sin to be slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). And in this righteousness, our lives become full and joyful and meaningful – even after great hardship.

If you’ll continue with me next time. This is what I want to focus on in part two as I share with you how Jesus has transformed my heart and encourage all of us to daily fight for joy that we might be able to extend that hope to others.

Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.