Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just As I Am

"It wasn't long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. The son was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

"That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, "Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand."'

"He got right up and went home to his father. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, the father ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you' I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.'

"But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to his servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time!'" ~ Luke 15:13-23, The Message

The story of the Prodigal Son. Did you know "prodigal" means "wasted"? Me either. When I hear the term prodigal, I know what or who it is referring to. My goodness, we have a prodigal son that is prayed for every day. But.

But I didn't realize that the word prodigal meant wasted.

Wasted life. Wasted talents. Wasted God-given dreams...the list could go on.

Sort of changes the perspective, doesn't it?

How easily we place this label of...what - Pity? Condemnation? Frustration? on those we know and love who have walked away from the Lord. But perhaps, the word prodigal applies to us, as well. Perhaps, at times, we allow the world to consume a part of our heart in a way that pushes God aside - not totally, but just enough. Perhaps we waste the gift God has given us because it takes us too far out of our comfort zones. Perhaps we just don't want to count the cost of discipleship any longer and we become complacent with studying the Word and prayer. Perhaps.

What does verse twenty say? "When the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, the father ran out, embraced him and kissed him." The father was so excited that his child had returned, he RAN to embrace him and covered him with kisses and hugs. I love what the next couple of verses say, "The son started his speech....But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to his servants..." The father was so excited that his child had returned home, he didn't want the son to explain everything. The father just wanted to restore him to the family and celebrate.

God is like that, you know. He knows our hearts long before we return to Him. He knows our struggles when we wrestle with the demons of fear and complacency. He knows...He knows.

And yet He loves us.

Whatever is keeping you from God, it could never be enough to keep Him from you.

Father, Our only hope is Your love for us; our comfort is Your grace poured out so abundantly. Thank You, Lord. Thank You that You respond to us even before we recognize our need for You. We reach out our hand to You as You run to embrace us. Father, Your love is amazing. Restore Your children today. Open our eyes to see the wasted places in our lives. Awaken our hearts to love You more. Praise you, Lord.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

She Did All That She Could

"Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While He was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over His head.

"Some of those at the table were indignant. 'Why waste such expensive perfume?' they asked. 'It could have been sold for a year's wages and the money given to the poor!' So they scolded her harshly.

"But Jesus replied, 'Leave her alone. Why criticize her for doing such a good thing to Me? You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have Me. She has done what she could and has anointed My body for burial ahead of time.'" ~ Mark 14:3-8, NLT

The woman hastened down the narrow alley. Her gold and turquoise jewelry flashed in the sunlight, crying out its condemnation to the observers who glanced her way with furrowed brow. Her veil's ornate red beading framed her face and cast hues of crimson onto the alabaster jar she held close to her breast.

Looking over her shoulder, the outcast rapped on Simon's door. "I want to see the Rabbi," she said. Before Simon could respond she slipped past him, clutching the precious perfume, her gift for her Redeemer. Her eyes met the stunningly dark eyes of the Rabbi. She held her gaze intently, knowing that she beheld the face of God.

Without a word, the woman broke open her alabaster jar. Trembling, she tenderly poured out its contents upon the head of her Lord. Sweet aroma filled the room, wafting up towards heaven as tears escaped her mahogany eyes. The woman, once broken herself, gave all that she could. She poured out her pain, her shame, her years of separation from Elohim. Her tears mixed with the perfume, anointing her Redeemer with adoration, with honor - immersing Him in glory. Scowls covered the faces of the religious leaders, but love cast its reward from her Savior's eyes.

In sweet abandon, the scorned woman poured out her heart of gratitude. She did all that she could. She gave her best because she loved Jesus.

Father, I feel so emotional at the moment. I sense Your Presence, I feel your enormous pain. May I never take You for granted. May I always be willing to do all that is within my power to do for You, not out of obligation, but out of gratitude. Thank You Lord. Thank You for setting me free, for taking my brokenness and using it for Your glory. I love You, Lord.
If you received Morning Glory via email, please go to the Morning Glory page to be blessed beyond measure with a music video by Steve Green.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Daddy's Arms Are Just Fine

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." ~ 1 Peter 1:22, NIV

My seven year old grandson sat on the sidelines, nestled in his father's arms. The soccer game had been in play for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. But there Jamison sat.

Competition can be tough for a seven year old, especially when you've only begun to play this new game and you want to do your best, but you have no idea what it is you are supposed to be doing. Adults are screaming, kids are running, whistles are screeching and...there you sit because it is all a little too much.

Daddy's arms are just fine, thank you very much.

But, daddy continued to encourage Jamison, reminding him how precious he is and how much his team needs him. Daddy reminded him that the others would help him learn and that no job on the field was too small. Every position was important. Every position played a part in the whole of the team.

With the noonday sun beating down, daddy wiped Jamison's tears and kissed his sweaty forehead. Jamison looked in his daddy's eyes and found his confidence there. He stood up and walked to the sideline and tugged on his coach's jersey. "I'm ready to go in," he said.

Daddy hustled up to the bleachers where we sat as a family. Jamison stood on the sidelines waiting for the whistle to announce his substitution. And there, just like a kiss from heaven, appeared a little Hispanic boy, a teammate of Jamison. He stood proudly by my grandson and wrapped his cinnamon colored arm around my grandson's waist. Jamison responded in like manner.

There they stood arm in arm, teammates trying to learn the ropes of a new journey in their young lives. There they stood supporting each other, leaning on each other, understanding each others insecurities. There they stood, unashamedly expressing pure love and friendship for one another.

I couldn't help but think of the Body of Christ. God calls us to step out of our comfort zones. We much prefer to remain nestled in Daddy's arms, thank you very much. In our Father's arms we are safe, we are secure, and we are very comfortable. But our Father has called us to a work. He has called us to share His love with a lost and hurting world. We want to please our Father, but, let's face it, it's a little bit scary outside the security of those strong arms. My goodness, chaos abounds, adults scream, kids run, whistles screech and we don't have a clue how to play this new game.

But we trust our Father.

With all the courage we can muster we look deep into His eyes. We stand up, thrusting our shoulders back, with head held high and step to the sidelines. Surely no one will notice how fast our hearts are beating. The conflict of fear and faith battles in our minds and, just when we think we might have to back out, we feel the embrace of a comrade, a brother or sister who knows our fears, who understands our insecurities and loves us anyway.

The Body of Christ. Unashamedly expressing pure love and friendship for one another.

Now that's what I'm talkin' about.
I believe that's what Jesus had in mind, too.

Father, Thank You for fitting us together as a Body, a Body that needs one another, that completes one another...loves one another. Open our eyes that we might see. We love You, Lord.

If you received this Morning Glory via email, please go to the Morning Glory page to watch a beautiful music video by Casting Crowns. And while you're there, leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you. Just click on the word comment at the bottom of the post. Bless you, sweet friend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Goosebumps, Anyone?

"So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the Lord continually." ~Exodus 28:29, NKJV

"Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His Name. 'They shall be Mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.'" ~ Malachi 3:16,17, NKJV

I had the most beautiful image in my mind this morning as I studied these verses. Please know that I am taking some liberty with this - it's a thought, an insight - so please, treat it as such.

My imagery had to do with the jewels. Now, technically, the original meaning for jewels in this verse from Malachi means, "special possession or peculiar treasure". That in itself, is a beautiful image. The Lord was saying, "On the day I make them My special possession or treasure, I will spare them." But let's consider how this imagery of the jewels could relate to the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the place of dwelling for the Lord.

God gave very specific instructions for the Tabernacle. Aaron was chosen by God to minister to Him in the Holy of Holies, that inner court of the Tabernacle that housed God's Presence behind the veil (yes, THAT veil). Aaron was the High Priest, a type of Christ in the Old Testament. His priestly garments were amazing. On the outside of his robe he wore an ephod. This was constructed of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and made of fine woven linen. It was coupled together with shoulder straps. On top of the ephod, Aaron wore a breastplate. Ask the Lord to help you see this picture in your mind as you read the following description found in Exodus 39:8,10-14:

"And he made the breastplate, artistically woven like the workmanship of the ephod, of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and made of fine woven linen. And they set in it four rows of stones: a row with a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald was the first row; the second row, a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They were enclosed in settings of gold in their mountings. There were twelve stones according to the names of the sons of Israel: according to their names, engraved like a signet, each one with its own name according to the twelve tribes."

Can you see it? These stones were like jewels. Each jewel had the name of one of the tribes of Israel engraved upon it so that as Aaron went before God, he carried Israel over his heart before El Shaddai, Almighty God. Think about it: Judah, Rueben, Simeon, Issachar, Ephraim, Benjamin, Zebulun, Joseph, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, and Gad. These engraved jewels were a reminder to the Lord God of His covenant with His children: "I will be your God and you will be My people."

Now fast-forward to the end of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi. We learn that God made up a book of remembrance where those who think of Him often are listed and will be spared on the Day of judgment. The commentary in my Spirit Filled Life Study Bible says, "Those listed in the book of remembrance will someday be like the jewels over Aaron's heart."

I pictured Jesus, our High Priest, going before the Father, carrying our names upon his heart engraved on jewels mounted to His breastplate of righteousness. They were names like, Nan, David, Jamie, Jake, Gladys, Tee-Tee, Mid, Jewel, Barbara, Luke, Judy, Teena, Brenda, Angie, Karl, Robin, Poonam...

Can you feel the goosebumps? Isn't that beautiful?

Revelation 3:5 reads, "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life: but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."

That was Jesus talking. Jesus, our High Priest, the One with our names engraved upon the jewels mounted on His breastplate over His heart as a reminder to our God that we belong to Him.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Father, I love it when You do this! What an awesome picture You have given me. You know how much it thrills me when I can pinpoint very specific threads that weave in and out of Your Word. I love that! Thank You for stitching this together for us. You are so incredible. We love You, Lord. Bless Your Holy Name!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Life is Good and God is Great

"I'm about to burst with song; I can't keep quiet about you. God, my God, I can't thank you enough." ~ Psalm 30:12, The Message

I propped myself up with a pillow and stretched out on the porch swing. The gentle swaying moved in sweet rhythm to the creaking lullaby of the chain, settling me into a heavenly rest. Oh, how good it is to rest - to be still and know that He, and He alone, is God.

Stillness. That's a hard one, isn't it? Ceasing from our busyness, from our productivity, from our service - ceasing and resting in His Presence. But, oh the joy that is born of rest.

I turned my eyes heavenward and visually traced the thunderhead forming on the horizon. Its tower stretched like a pillar, billowing as power surged within, morphing the cloud into greater and greater strength. God whispered to me, "My power is like that: billowing, surging, morphing into what you need at any given moment. My power is within you, because My Spirit is within you. My strength is within you because My Spirit is within you. Open your eyes to see My beauty, My holiness. Awaken your heart to love Me more. Burst into song for you have been redeemed. Be glad in Me; rejoice in My love, for My love is from everlasting to everlasting. You are the apple of My eye, My sweet, sweet child. I love you."

King David was overcome with joy at the knowledge of God's love. He said, "I can't keep quiet about You (Lord). God, my God, I can't thank You enough."

His Presence does that to us doesn't it? It's hard to explain, but it's something we know in our knower. Something deep and eternal, something sure and sweet. His Presence is something that turns our sorrow into laughter, our weariness into strength and our sighs into song.

I closed my eyes and rocked in my Father's arms.
Life is good and God is great.

Father, You are beautiful beyond description, Your mercy floods my soul. Thank You for revealing Yourself to Your children. Thank You for Your Spirit that dwells within, comforting, guiding, and strengthening us. Thank You for Your Presence that brings us rest. We love You, Lord.

If you have received Morning Glory via email, please go to the Morning Glory page to view a powerful music video: Be Still and Know by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

They've Pulled the Plug

"Nineveh is a tub from which they've pulled the plug. Cries go up, 'Do something! Do something!' but its too late. Nineveh's soon empty - nothing." ~ Nahum 2:8, The Message

Warning! This is going to be a sobering message, but try as I might, I could not get away from it. So here goes...

Nineveh was once a beautiful, prosperous city. The scriptures refer to her as being like a pool of water - brimming with people as a pool would brim with fish. Intricate waterways fed the pool, keeping it bountiful with life and blessing. But Nineveh gave way to idolatry, lies, treachery and injustice.

And Nineveh came face to face with a Holy God.
So has America.

Nahum 1:2,3(NLT) reads, "The Lord is a jealous God, filled with vengeance and rage. He takes revenge on all who oppose Him and continues to rage against His enemies! The Lord is slow to get angry, but His power is great, and He never lets the guilty go unpunished. He displays His power in the whirlwind and the storm. The billowing clouds are the dust beneath His feet."

This verse makes me cringe. My heart feels sorrow, my mind feels disgust as I think of what is happening to our beloved America, one nation, under God. You remember... America, in God we trust.

Where has she gone? How could the enemy blind our eyes with his veil of deceit so easily? So completely? I want to shake my fists in frustration and anger at those who would sweep Christ from our land. There is a part of me that fears the coming wrath of God - because it is coming - but, that part is the empty place where I haven't given Him Lordship, where I haven't trusted fully. Do you know what I mean? I am a child of the Most High God. He holds me in the palm of His hand, He shelters me from the storm and hides me in the day of trouble.

But how easily I forget.

The commentary for Nahum in my New Living Translation makes this statement, "God rules over all the earth, even over those who do not acknowledge Him. He sets the boundaries of the nations, and those nations that transgress His laws are doomed to destruction." That, I think, is a bit frightening. But listen to the good news. "For all of this, however, a message of hope shines through. God is good. He is slow to get angry, and He offers good tidings of blessings to those who obey Him."

"The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him." ~ Nahum 1:7, NLT

Praise Him! He is close to His children. His Presence is with us guarding, sustaining and comforting us. When all the world around us is crumbling, we can hold fast to the One True God, maker of heaven and earth.

Father, Have mercy on us. Forgive us for making a mockery of Your Holiness. Lord, it breaks my heart! How can it be that the land of the free is no longer free to worship You and acknowledge Your Presence in our land? It angers me Lord. It frustrates me and, at the same time, it frightens me. I know Your wrath is justified. Indeed, it is long overdue, but because of Your mercy, we have not been consumed. I know the day of reckoning is coming. Hide us under the shadow of Your wing. Remember Your children and keep us safe. Provide for us, Lord and give us peace. We pray for America. Open our eyes that we might see! Show us what to do, Lord. It seems to be too big. It seems impossible to turn this great ship around. Use us for Your glory. Let us be a Light in the darkness. Give us courage to stand for righteousness for Your Name's sake. We love You, Lord. Thank You for Your Presence.


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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Walk of Unwavering Faith

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom." ~Isaiah 40:26-28, NIV

The Lord is teaching me to trust Him, to rely upon and depend on Him. Totally. I'm not there in every moment of every day yet, but my steps are becoming more sure as I train myself to focus on eternal purposes. I am learning that if my life belongs to Him then I can be SURE that nothing comes my way without His knowledge. I can be SURE that any event in my life has eternal purpose. Any event. Big or small. I am learning the ability to walk in unwavering faith because I know the One who hung the stars and that One knows my name.

Phenomenal, isn't it?

Let me give you an example the Lord reminded me of: Years ago David and I were traveling from Charleston, SC to eastern NC to candidate for our first church. An eighteen-wheeler hauling lumber sped down the highway in front of us. We were giddy with anticipation as we traveled down the road that led to our dreams. We talked and laughed and...WE MISSED I26. How in the world do you miss a major interstate? There are signs everywhere! Oh my goodness. A few miles down the road we found a place to turn around and navigated our way back to I26. We had only been on the interstate a few miles when we realized people were braking and veering off the road just ahead of us. The lumber on the back of the eighteen wheeler had fallen off onto the highway! If we had not missed I26 we would have been crushed by the falling lumber.

Amazing, isn't it?

God is Sovereign. If I take Him at His Word - and I do - then I walk in the knowledge that He is in control of my life. He is in control of your life, also, and He holds our world in His mighty hands. I find comfort in this powerful thought. Every tiny detail of our lives is governed by a loving God. If only we could remember this.

The next time you get behind someone driving way too slow, consider this: Maybe the Lord is protecting you from a head-on collision around the next bend.

See what I mean? It's a new way of thinking.

Father, What an incredible Truth. Help us walk in this knowledge. Help us walk in the way of unwavering faith, trusting You fully, finding You in every moment of every day. Open our eyes that we might see and know that You, indeed, are Lord.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

He is Your Life

"We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." ~ Roman 6:4-6, NIV

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." ~ Colossians, 3:1-3, NIV

They walked arm in arm to the water's edge. Two generations. One, a man of the cloth, sporting a graying beard. The other man on the brink of his teen years, a young man. Both, disciples of Jesus Christ.

The cold mountain stream flowed gently beneath the shadow of the cross proclaiming its glory from the nearby steeple. Onlookers stood quietly as the two waded into the water. Several women wiped tears. Several men stood with arms crossed, giving that manly, stoic appearance while choking on the lump in their throats. Together, we witnessed the miracle of the gospel: New birth. New life. New purpose.

The scene took me back to the moment of my baptism...shivers from the cold water, shivers from the realization that I was telling the world that I loved Jesus and had decided to follow Him wherever He may lead. It was easy to relive the water surging over my body as the pastor plunged me into its depths. I remember the thrust of power I felt as I resurfaced from that watery grave. New birth. New life. New purpose.

That's what Tanner experienced this past Sunday. He was the young man walking arm in arm with my husband into the pristine waters of new life. As he resurfaced from beneath the water's burial, Tanner set his heart on Jesus. The Spirit of God embraced him and blanketed him with the Father's love. My husband placed Tanner's hand into the hand of God for all the world to see. Tanner will never walk alone. God will fulfill His purposes in Tanner as he sets His mind and heart on things above.

I love the way The Message explains it, "So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from His perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life - even though it is invisible to spectators - is with Christ in God. He is your life." ~ Colossians 3:1-3, MSG

He is your life...

He. Is. Your. Life.

Father, You are everything to me. I love You with all that I am. Thank You for Your resurrection power that resides in me and in all those who call You Lord. Help us to walk in newness of life. Burn the image of baptism into our spirits and make it come alive with Your Spirit. May it never take on the appearance of another ritual, another hoop to jump through. No, Lord, cause the meaning and purpose of Your command for water baptism to awaken us to live for You. We love You, Lord and we give You praise.