I Have a Confession…

I Have a Confession…

 An “I saw that” story in the making.

So, here I am.  Six months after my last post.  In some ways it feels so much longer.  These past few months, there has been one giant “I saw that” story in the making, peppered and sprinkled… no, bejeweled…with smaller stories which beg their own telling.  It will likely take several blog posts to get through all of them.

Or maybe I’ll just write another book.

I have a confession: At times, the circumstances have taken my breath away, in both good and bad ways.  To say parts of it have even angered and shaken me would be an understatement. In fact, it has more often than not brought me to my knees.  But…

“That’s where I do my best fighting,” she says quietly, resolutely, a spark of fire in her eyes.

After the health scare we had where only the mercy of God sustained our son, it went from one thing to another, including the loss of my job.  In the months which have followed, I have been lied to, lied about, maligned, falsely accused, and even threatened to be arrested.

I have a confession: Yes, I have been threatened with arrest.  No, that was not a typo.  Based on lies and a false witness and a hatred I can neither understand nor explain.

All from a small handful of fellow believers, or what is left of the shriveled remains of what once was likely true believers.  And with our faithful Father, they may be again.  What happened to rot the fruit on their spiritual trees, I cannot know, and quite honestly, I do not sit in judgement over them.  God is their judge.

That said,  Jesus tells us we can know a tree by its fruit.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.”

I know of many people who want nothing to do with Christianity because of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who have misrepresented God to them.  Dear ones, I have another confession: I have been at the receiving end of some of these same kinds of people.  They are out there, yes.  They claim to know God and be children of God, yet they do the work of the devil, most of them pitifully unaware that the devil is using them in such a vile way.

But you know what?

Please hear this: even Jesus called out those kinds of people.  Keep in mind, though, it was not unbelievers or new believers He called out.  It was the religious leaders, the prophets, those who spoke on behalf of God to His people, and those who claimed brotherhood with the faithful.

And do you know what Jesus called those who misused their sacred positions?

He called them hypocrites, blind guides, a brood of vipers, false prophets, children of hell.  He even told some of them that their father was the devil!  We must not allow wolves in sheep’s clothing to help us define our perfect God simply because they claim to represent Him.  Jesus gave His disciples, and therefore us, many warnings and signs on how to “know them by their fruit.”

These kinds of people have fruit which, from a distance, seems to be within keeping with the Holy Spirit.  But a personal encounter with their kind of tree reveals that their fruit is poisoned and rotting, covered in the venom of wasps and vipers.

A brood of vipers.

I’m not just talking about a bad day that needs some extra grace.  I’m talking about being characterized by threats, lies, false accusations, and so much pride they would rather trample me with more threats and false accusations than dare to hear they might have made a mistake, and as a consequence, they mentally and emotionally flogged me in error.  God forbid they actually knew what they were doing and still persisted with their treatment of me and my family.  Either way, they lack basic evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let me back up a little…

It was February 12th, nearly midnight, when we made the decision to take our son to the hospital.

Having just gotten over the stomach bug running through our youngest and then myself, it went on to our middle child, Gideon.  This thing was unlike anything I had experienced before.  We don’t tend to catch these things in our family, but we had been under some external stress from the environment in which we lived and worked, especially over the previous three or four weeks.  False accusations, exaggerations, lies, and then not allowing the other adults–who had witnessed the scene for which my son was being accused– to speak up, and we were all sufficiently stressed and drained.

Weakened immune systems, exhaustion, and just the fact that this thing was a violent illness, and we were down for the count.  Gideon got hit Wednesday, and then seemed to be recovering.  But then, strangely, he started going downhill Thursday afternoon.  By Friday, I was getting concerned.  His cheeks were gaunt, the circles under his eyes deep and dark, his breaths were rapid and shallow, and he was sleeping all day.  His appearance was beginning to frighten me (the photo below doesn’t capture nearly the sunken darkness around his eyes).

Gideon before the hospital
His appearance was beginning to frighten me…

That night, Robert and I were greatly concerned.  We wavered back and forth.

If we take him, they’ll tell us he has the bug and needs to stay hydrated, and we’ll have paid an emergency room visit for nothing.

If we don’t take him, and it’s something serious, we could risk hurting him and regret it for the rest of our lives.

But the odds are, from past experience, it’s going to be nothing and we are going to be left with a hospital bill just to be told, “Keep him hydrated.”

And those were just my own thoughts.

But we had been praying for wisdom, and I began to feel within me that this was different than all the other health crises we had faced in the past.  God was so faithful to put a sense of an ominous storm over my spirit, and Robert and I could feel this was too big for us to handle on our own.  Whatever was going on with our son was far outside of my limited knowledge, and we needed help.  And fast.

As we made the decision to take him to the Children’s Hospital near us, he began to scream of pain in his back.  Once there, he was weak and could barely walk.  I went to the counter to check him in, and he went to go lay down on the chairs.  He was already asleep when I sat beside him just a couple of minutes later.  Within moments, a nurse came out to call us back.  I tried to wake Gideon up, but it was difficult, and he could hardly stand, he was so weakened.  The nurse got him to the wheel chair, and we were taken back to get started with initial vitals.

“Does diabetes run in the family?” he seemed to ask routinely.

“No,” I answered, exhausted from my own illness the days before then nursing two sick children in the midst of it. I hadn’t slept for a day at this point.

Robert looked at me.  “I had type 2 diabetes,” he said.  I could hear the surprise in his tone that I had forgotten.  Indeed.  But he had been free of it for almost fifteen years.  I guess I have another confession: Yes, I had forgotten.

The two nurses in those brief moments had only started taking his blood pressure and heart rate, and upon the utterance of this information, exchanged a glance of concern which I did not miss.  In fact, I read something serious in their look that down right frightened me.

“We’re going to take Gideon in to our big room,” one of them began to explain to us gently and quickly, “and a whole team of doctors and specialists are gonna swoop in.  There’s gonna be like twenty-six people in there all at once.  It’s gonna feel overwhelming and maybe kinda chaotic, but instead of us having them come in one at a time, they will all be working together, all at once, to figure out what’s going on.  And then we can find out what’s going on more quickly.”

Yeah, this was big.

Within minutes, we had the diagnosis.  His blood sugar was too high to be read and they were re-running it on another device.  780.  His blood glucose was 780 (normal is 80-120), he had diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening, medical emergency), and he had a slightly altered mental state.

Diabetes.

I fell to my knees.  How was he going to handle this news?  Tears.  Life would forever be different.  He would be so crushed!  How would we tell him?

I have yet another confession: I am one of the least disciplined people in the world.  The only thing I do the same every day is breathe, and that’s not even my responsibility!  And I was just handed a disease which requires discipline or I could accidentally end up killing my child.  I was completely overwhelmed.

They hooked him up to IV’s and readied him to transport over to the main campus at Cincinnati Children’s.  Robert went ahead of me to meet us there, and I stayed with Gideon to ride in the ambulance.

After having been by my baby’s side briefly, not wanting to be in the way, I sat in the hallway and had a moment.  You know, that moment where you are exhausted and worn out and overwhelmed, and you are just handed a new normal and can’t imagine being able to ever adjust.  The social worker sat there with me on the floor handing me tissues, being the voice of God’s comfort.  I wish I could remember her name.

I felt foolish for crying over diabetes. It was a manageable disease we were just handed.  Not a death sentence.  And I said as much.  But the arms of God were in her arms as she hugged me, and while I felt I was receiving my new orders in life with all the dignity of a puddle, she gave me grace and made me feel brave.

I have one more confession: In the midst of this new storm, I was exhausted, frightened, overwhelmed, and lost at sea.  I felt these waves were crashing over me more than I was walking on them.  But one step at a time, I was already able to see God’s hand in this.

To be continued…

 

Stay tuned!  In my next blog post, I will share about the many “I saw that” moments just in this small part of the story.

And for some light entertainment and some even lighter education, watch this Studio C episode about diabetes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Silent God

SilentDo you ever wonder…

Adam and Eve must have passed on stories to their children of walking with God in the garden.  Personal conversations.  The kind you have with intimate relationships.  Beautiful.  Meanginful.  Deep.

God actually walked and talked with His creation.  That is, before everything went wrong because of sin.

But that’s also the moment the Rescue Plan was set into motion.  The moment the spark hit the powder trail.  Not the moment it was conceived, mind you.  It’s not like our need for a Savior was an afterthought to a desperate situation that came as a surprise.

No.  God– all Three parts of the fullness of Himself– already knew and planned the Rescue before they ever spoke into existence the foundation of the earth.  Before God’s Eternal voice broke the silence of nothingness.  Before the first explosion of “Let there be light.”  Before the first affirmation “And God saw that it was good.”  Before the temporal and the eternal collided on the same timeline… they had a Rescue Plan already in place (see here).

Jesus knew it all.  He helped plan it all.

But first…

While the Rescue Plan was being put into motion, there would be evidence of what making ourselves our own gods would do to us.  The pain.  The brokenness.  The despair.  The darkness.  The futileness.  The destruction.  The evil.

And in the midst of it all, God chose a people through whom He would do His greatest work.  He would reveal Himself to them, lead them, guide them.  He would speak to them through signs and wonders and prophets and clouds and fires and burning bushes and manna from the sky and water in the dessert and dead brought back to life and…

Yeah, there’s a big, HUGE list.

For hundreds of years, God’s presence was known by His people.  The only time they were without it was as a consequence of their sin.  God would remove His presence from among them to give them what their rebellion wanted: life as their own gods.  Their own choices.  Playing by their own rules.  And every time they hit rock bottom, where our sin always takes us, they would call out to Him and He would restore them into a right relationship with Him.

Rescued again.

In the midst of all the harshness and reality of the consequences of sin recorded in the Old Testament, those stories are also full of God’s mercy and love, wooing His people and running after them.  A love that never gives up.  A faithful God to an unfaithful people.

And then…

Four hundreds years of silence.  Four hundred years!  Not just a single generation or two, where parents or grandparents could say, “I remember when God still spoke…”  There came a time when no one living had ever heard God speak.  Not through His prophets. Or out of a bush.  Or through an angel.

Nothing.

Just silence.

The God who had spoken the Universe into existence, and gathered a people to Himself, and taught them to follow Him, and wooed them and fought for them and rescued them time and time again, was silent.

Hundreds of years of relationship and evidence of God’s presence working intimately and personally in their lives, and they were suddenly in deafening silence.  Why?

I don’t know.  Maybe He was working on something that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).  Maybe in the silence He was laying the most important pieces of their plan.

Maybe His silence was the the very thing that would make His people desperate to hear from Him.  Maybe it had a purpose…

If you are in a silent season with God, know this: He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  As a redeemed and adopted child of the Most High God, we have a seal of ownership set over us, the Holy Spirit of God, and He is a deposit of God Himself guaranteeing what is to come (see here).  So, if He is silent right now, or has been for what seems four hundred years, we have His Word, we have His Spirit, we have His promises.

Hold on, your Rescuer is coming for you!

And remember: God’s longest time of silence brought at the end of it His greatest gift to the world.

Come, thou long expected Jesus…

 

 

Where Was God?

Where is God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Bernardino.  Paris.   Colorado Springs.  Baghdad.  Jerusalem.  Kenya.  Cameroon.

Children.  Parents.  Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters.  Hundreds of other places, thousands of other lives.

And that’s just a fraction of the terrorist related attacks this past year.  That’s not including the every 20 seconds that a child dies from a water related illness.  Or the every 30 seconds a child is trafficked.  Or the every 10 seconds a child is abused.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the pain and heartache that gets displayed every few seconds around the world, across our towns and cities, in our own backyards, and even in our own homes.  Cancer, accidents, illnesses, death, broken homes, broken families.

People.  With families and lives and heartbeats and dreams.

And the world asks: Where was God?  Where is God?

As Christians, we can know and believe “there is a God in heaven” (Daniel 2:28), but the truth of His existence makes the front page declaration of New York Daily News that much harder to explain.  They say, “God isn’t fixing this.”

This is why so many people can’t wrap their minds around the reality of God.  “If God is real,” they say, “why isn’t He fixing this?”  One day a close friend on the edge of their faith asked me this, “If God is real, why didn’t He just create us as we would be, and we could go right to heaven and skip all this pain in the middle?”

I don’t have a good answer for you, I just have an honest one: I don’t know.  The mind of God is beyond my understanding.

Here’s what I do know:  Right now, we only know in part, but someday, we shall know Him fully even as we are fully known.  I have seen enough of God to know He is real.  So, if He is real, He is the only One who can tell me who He is.  And who does He tell me He is?

He says He is good.
He says He is love.
He says He is just.
He says He is merciful.
He says He is forgiving.

If I believe that, then I have to filter my pain and this broken world and these hopeless situations through the truth of God’s Word, and ask for the eyes of eternity to give me the courage and hope to hang on.

First, allow me to fix a couple of myths about Christianity:

Myth: If God is real, there would be no pain.
Truth: Jesus Himself told us, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
And God isthe Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…”

The existence of pain is not proof of the absence of a loving God.

The existence of pain is a reminder that we are not in heaven yet and we still have time to bring people to Christ.

Christianity offers the only hope in the midst of a tattered world: Jesus, God’s answer to our darkness and pain.  Some suffer way more than others, and I cannot fathom the extent of their pain.  But God promises that the fiery trials and suffering walked through with Jesus “are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”   Something miraculous happens in eternity in the midst of pain and suffering when we lay it at His feet.  And once in a while, we get a glimpse of that piece of eternity.  Oh, may we look for it and not miss it!

Myth: If God loved me, I would not be suffering.
Truth: One of the Bible’s many teachings on suffering says this: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”  (Italics mine, added for emphasis.)

As difficult as pain is when it hits us hard and close to home, we are told not to be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon us.  God has not forgotten us, He has not lost His goodness toward us, and He is not withholding His love from us.  On the contrary, check this out:

“And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. ”

Bear with me for a minute while I tell you only one small part about this verse that I find exciting.  The Greek word used for “all” is the word pas which means “each, every; each “part(s) of a totality”… (“each, every”) means “all” in the sense of “each (every) part that applies.” The emphasis of the total picture then is on “one piece at a time.”

One piece at a time.

So, where is God?

The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort is co-working alongside us in our circumstances to cause each and every piece, one piece at a time, to work together for… what?

Our good!

I’ve heard over the years people explain this verse to mean that our painful or difficult or impossible circumstances work out only for the good of the Kingdom, the good of God’s glory, the good of the lost… etc.  But not our own good.  As if we are selfish to want to believe otherwise and need to bear up under our pain and trials solely for the good of others.  And that’s a self-sacrificing, seemingly Christian sentiment to carry.

But it’s not what this verse says.  At all.

The Greek word used for “good” is agathos: “intrinsically good, good in nature, good whether it be seen to be so or not… inherently (intrinsically) good; as to the believer, (agathós) describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in their life, through faith.”

This is a good that permanently and inseparably belongs to the believer!

Dear ones.  This permanent and inseparable good is empowered by God for us– for you– the believer, through faith.  And yes, God is glorified.  And yes, the Kingdom is strengthened.  And yes, hopefully the lost see and believe because of our testimony.  But do not miss the fact that this verse is speaking personally and intimately to the believer in the trial, that our God has neither forgotten nor forsaken us, and there is a personal, eternal, permanent good which God is working into a plan.  For our good.  Even when it doesn’t seem it can ever be so.

As for why even allow pain and the enemy to wreak havoc in the first place and why not just create us for heaven and skip the pain of earth… I don’t have all the answers.  I only know and believe what God tells me is true: Something miraculous happens in our fiery trials… they are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

An eternal glory, dear ones.

As I close this post, I leave you with something written by Jeff Hostetter, a life-long missionary in Africa and a dear friend of my family since childhood:

“Why this life, here, now, on earth?  Why haven’t we been ‘raptured’ up?  I’ll tell you why.  There are no Christians created in heaven.  Jesus was the first.  Firstborn of many brethren (Rom.8:29).  The protokos (Col.1:15f).  The Last Adam.  He came to found a new race of men, new creatures in Him.  Born again people.  He had a physical body, from the line of David.  He overcame on this earth.  This world is now an INCUBATOR for new creatures in Christ (2 Cor.5:17).  Whilst we are still in the flesh, the Spirit comes into us to transform us into something new.  The world is a testing ground, a grand stage where we perform acts of faith and thus prepare for our eternity with God.  We are practicing for our eternal state of existence.  Practicing being royalty.  Losing bad attitudes, habits, values, ways of seeing and doing things.  Our fleshly existence is a trial period, a time of probation for living forever in heaven.  ‘His bride has made herself ready. It was given her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints’ (Rev.19:7-8).  As Esther prepared to meet her king for one year with spices, so we are preparing to meet our King. How’s your preparation going?”

So, where is God?  Right here alongside us, within us, working good in the midst of pain, preparing us for heaven.

How’s your preparation going?

 

 

The Supreme Court Decision: How do I respond as a follower of Jesus?

The Supreme Court Decision: How do I respond as a follower of Jesus?
Love

The weight of the Supreme Court decision is a heavy one.  While some are celebrating equality in rights, others are standing slack-jawed at the overreach of the federal government to rule on individual States’ rights… and in doing so silencing the First Amendment rights of religious freedom.

I say this gently: Amending civil unions could have been the answer which would have granted the freedom for both sides of this issue to continue to live life according to their sincerely held beliefs.

Instead, we have sides.  Again.

And it’s not just limited to religious vs. non-religious, Christian vs. non-Christian, heterosexual vs. homosexual.

There are those who hold that marriage isn’t just for Christians to determine its definition vs. those who point to Scripture to show that God instituted marriage.  Even within the Christian community, there is division: Those who think God’s ordination of marriage is old fashioned and needs to be modernized vs. the ones who believe that God does not change (see here) and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (see here).

There are people from different walks, different faiths, different sexual identifications on both sides of this debate.

However you look at this situation, whichever hill you’ve stood on and picked up your fight, consider these truths as we move forward…

1.  Things don’t need to go our way in order to love others.

They don’t.

Just ask Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran for his faith in Christ.  His wife Naghmeh writes this:

UPDATE on SAEED:
“Today Saeed’s father was able to visit Saeed in person. It was a very short visit, but Saeed was able to send a message. He wanted us to know that for 1000 days he has experienced utter darkness and has died, yet for 1001, he has been resurrected with Christ. That for 1001 days he has learned to forgive over and over and over again. That for 1001 days he has chosen Christ over what they have tried to force on him and he has stood on His faith in Jesus Christ despite the pressures, tortures and threats. He wants you all to know that through the Grace of God and your prayers he has been able to stand strong and see lives redeemed inside of the prison. He has felt your prayers in prison as no prison walls can hinder them.”

saeed-abedini

No, things don’t need to go our way in order to love others, not even those who hate us.

2. Things don’t need to be fair in order to treat others with respect, kindness, compassion, dignity, grace, truth, or even forgiveness.

It wasn’t fair that Jesus paid our price for sin.  It wasn’t fair that God loved us enough to die for us while our souls were still enemies of His.  But no one has loved as deeply, as completely, as eternally as our Savior.

No one has forgiven as much as He has
No one has pursued us for as long as He has.
No one has given up as much as He has.
No one has paid so high a ransom as He has.

And yet… He loves us.  Oh, how He loves us!  Undeserving, unworthy, indebted as we are, even as unwilling as we may be… the Creator of the Universe loves us.

Sit on that for a minute.

Ever Interceding by Nathan Greene

This painting is “Ever Interceding” by Nathan Greene.

I have already seen today some heated, angry, defensive words being thrown around; hateful speech directed at assumptions; and raw feelings directing the flow.

After the mention of God as a “he/she” not caring who loves whom; and Christians having “a problem acting like their Christ sometimes because he hung out with lepers and sinners”; and with professing Christians warring on both sides of the issue quarreling about whether or not Jesus ever addressed homosexuality, I knew our focus needed refocusing.

Listen, dear ones: Jesus DOES love everybody.  No questions about that.  No disputes about that.  He LOVES everybody.  He died to save the WHOLE world.  No sin (which is anything we do that falls short of His holiness) was excluded.  That said, He absolutely did draw the line on how God made us.

“Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  (See here)

Marriage, as defined in the Bible, as well as throughout history and tradition, is a God-made union.  So He is the One we look to if we want to know how it should look.  Or if it should end.  Yes, in all fairness and honesty, we need to go there, dear ones.

One thing I have often heard, from those who are for same sex marriage, is how can they ruin the sanctity of marriage and the establishment of family when so many heterosexual marriages end in divorce?  God allows for very rare instances for divorce and remarriage, but it has become an epidemic of pain and broken families in our culture.

If we are going to stand for “one man, one woman” we might need to also take a look at our own hearts individually and fight together for the healing of “what God joined together” in our homes, our families, our churches, our communities.

So where do we go from here?  How do I respond as a Christian?

Dear friends, while God’s love is not synonymous with acceptance of everything, hatefulness is never God’s answer for any disagreement on how He calls us to live.  “Let your speech always be gracious…” God’s Word tells us in Colossians 4:6.

Check this one out.  I love how the VOICE translates Ephesians 4:29:

“Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths.  Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most.  That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them.”

Grace, friends.  Don’t throw away the truth, just communicate it with grace to those who hear you.

And love.  Love people the way God loves them.

Every time Jesus met someone who was a sinner (like we all are), Jesus met them where they were, loved them, and called them into a relationship with Him.  But He never left a person how He found them.

When you know Jesus, you can’t help but be transformed!

But He doesn’t change us in order to make us lovable… Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”

While we were still in sin, God proved His already existing love for us!  Can you even imagine a love like that?  God’s love is a transforming, redeeming, world changing love.  He never leaves us as He finds us because His love makes us new creations. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

So, as the world longs for and cries out for “tolerance,” what it really needs is love. Truth and Grace, in perfect balance, which is true Love.

It’s how God loves.

Here’s the truth:

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.

Friends, that list covers all of us.  I’m in that list.  You’re in that list.  If for no other reason than idolatry.  Anything we give our best to, put first in our lives, or serve… it is an idol. If God is not first in our lives, our actions, our thoughts, what is?

THAT thing is our god. That thing/mindset/relationship/goal/status/self focus/fear (etc.) is our idol. Whatever we give our best to…

Ouch.

And God’s love doesn’t want anyone one of us to become comfortable with or defend any of those things.  Why?

Because He WANTS us to inherit His kingdom blessings!

Ready for the GOOD NEWS?  Do you know how that verse ends… that verse that says wrongdoers will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

New creations.

That’s grace… free and undeserved favor of God, not something we earned, but just because He loves us.

Hallelujah!

I Saw That, Too!

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

I saw the Lord…

Indeed.

What’s your story?  How have you seen the Lord in your life?  When have you seen His hand carry you, His provision sustain you, His love overwhelm you, His power heal you, His glory splash over you, His light surround you, His promises comfort you, His peace hold you?  When have you felt the stirring of His voice, His gentle whisper, even His loving correction?

It’s time for I Saw That, Too!

Your stories!  Your interaction with the Father who loves you, the Savior who pursues you, the One who fills you.  What are your “I saw that” moments?  Choose one or two that you think might fill a brother or sister with hope or strength or courage, and let’s testify together of God’s faithfulness!

If you are unfamiliar with my first book, I Saw That, you can order it from any online or retail bookstore, or click here for my publisher’s link.  Hard cover, paperback, and e-book are all available.

So… what are you waiting for?
Leave a comment.  Share your story.
Don’t be shy… Give Him glory!  :-)

Rules for story submissions:
1. Prayerfully consider what God would have you share.

2. Please make sure that whatever you choose to share fits our theme: Recognizing those moments when God intervenes in your life!

3. Negative or hurtful situations are often where the impossible meets the miraculous, so please feel free to share those parts of your story as they are often the stage upon which God’s glory is displayed.  However, if they include other people, please use the discretion and respect you would want if it was your own mistake someone else was writing about.  Those people may change… let us not make their path to healing any more difficult.  If you have doubts, we can discuss it further when needed.  May we make Psalm 19:14 our prayer every day, but especially when addressing those moments: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

4. I am new at this!  I still have much to learn, but I also know the leap of faith is often the place to start learning.  Please bear with me.  I will need your mercy and grace (and likely even advice!) as I set out on this new journey.

Blessings, dear ones!  And may God give you daily reason to say, “I saw that!”

The Train of His Robe 3

Ok, Here's the Thing…

quill and parchment1

There seems to be some doubt among the masses about the ability to do two things at once.  James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of these United States, could write in Latin with one hand and in Greek with the other hand… at the same time!

Apparently, I have one upped him, though.

I, Tracie Jack, can celebrate any holiday, any day of the year, any season… get this… while simultaneously listening to Christmas music!  No, for real.  I can!  I just wrote three (3!) things I was thankful for in recognition of the upcoming festivities of Thanksgiving and have spent time musing tomorrow’s expressions of thankfulness.  I plan to bake pumpkin muffins this week, too.

President Garfield, move aside for me in the history books!

I realize that not everyone is a fan of Christmas music before December, some not before Christmas Eve Eve (no that’s not a typo), but I just thought that I’d clear up some of the confusing, perhaps mysterious, behaviors of the Early-Christmas-Music-Listeners phenomenon.

I listen to it all year.

Yup. There it is.

All. Year.

Not every day, though.
Sometimes it’s on my birthday… in June.
Sometimes it’s in August… because I’m hot and want to remember cold.
Sometimes it’s in May… because I haven’t heard it in a while.
Sometimes it’s in February… because I woke up.

Often it’s not in recognition of the winter holidays at all.  But always– always– it’s because the single most miraculous moment in the history of our existence– in the Universe– happened one night.  An event so entirely world changing, life changing, that most of the world has recognized for centuries the terms B.C. and A.D.

Something happened that makes this the year 2014 and I love to listen to the music that celebrates this event.

Any day of the year.

And while I enjoy listening to Christmas music any time it strikes me to want to do so, I look forward to the middle of October when can I get a steady diet from STAR 93.3.  And yes, I get excited and filled with child-like anticipation looking forward to the first day they switch over from regular contemporary Christian music to Christmas music.

But I feel you, those of you who say, “It’s not the ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ music I can’t stand.  It’s all the holiday music played that has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with just a holiday of frozen people with frightful weather making snowmen who come to life and a reindeer who saves the day.”

Because, honestly, there are times I want to kick the radio if I hear “I Saw Mamma Kissing Santa Claus” or the never ending, melodically challenged “Same Old Lang Syne” one more time.  Of course, I choose a more mature way and choose simply to turn it off.  I’ve grown up.  A little.

Anyway, to set everyone’s hearts at ease: I have not forgotten about Thanksgiving.  I am not skipping Thanksgiving.  I am still thankful!  I simply take advantage of STAR 93.3’s steady diet of Christmas music and shamelessly feed my anticipation and excitement over the upcoming day we celebrate “something happened to change the entire course of history” music.

God came to earth.  And that’s something I want to celebrate every day of the year, not just for the month of December.  And if that means listening to songs that also cherish the warmth of family celebrations that go along with the December holidays, then… bring it on!

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all… and may the joy of Christmas live in your hearts every day, all year long!

Light of Life Series Pt. 18: Children of Light

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of Light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10

This is incredible, check it out!

The Greek word study on biblehub.com offers this insight for the word children.  It means “anyone living in full dependence on the heavenly Father, i.e. fully (willingly) relying upon the Lord in glad submission. This prompts God to transform them into His likeness.”

So the phrase children of Light means those who “depend upon it, possessed by a desire or affection for it, or addicted to it.”  Signifying “both those who are illumined by the Light and loving the Light.” (See here.)  Don’t you love it?

Illumined by God’s Light and loving the Light… if there’s anything in this life we can be addicted to, it’s God’s Light!

Then look at the word fruit.  It’s used in a beautiful way.  It means “the Lord living His life through ours – to yield what is eternal.”  (See here.)   

I love it!

So, although at one time we were darkness, we are now Light, having been rescued by our Father and transferred into the Kingdom of His beloved Son (if you missed yesterday’s post, see here.)  As we live fully and willingly surrendered to our Father, He is free to transform us into His likeness– living His life through ours– which brings about that which is eternal. 

Spiritual fruit.

And that spiritual produce is found in all that is good, right, and true.

Beloved, walk as children of Light!

Light of Light Series Pt. 18

Light of Life Series Pt. 17: Saints in Light (Pt.2)

Today we will focus on the second half of the verse.

Ready?

Let’s look at the word delivered in this part of the verse: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness…”

The word translated here as deliver means “I rescue, deliver (from danger or destruction).”  It comes from a Greek word that means to “draw to oneself” – properly, draw (pull) to oneself; to rescue (“snatch up”); to draw or rescue a person to and for the deliverer.”   It implies removing someone in the midst (presence) of danger or oppression, i.e. delivered “right out of” and to (for) the rescuer.]” (See here.)

Drawn to Oneself.  To and for the Deliverer.

Does that not take your breath away?  And what are we rescued from?

The crushing obscurity of being unknown, unnoticed, unimportant.  The oppressive authority of sin and its consequent misery.  The life-draining hopelessness of never knowing God’s Light.  The dangerous end for an unrescued soul.

And we aren’t rescued to be left alone without a place to belong.  We are rescued to belong to Someone!

Does this not play out like the greatest Hero movie ever known to mankind?  Can you imagine the battle in the heavenlies?  Heart-stopping.  Pulse racing.  Adrenaline surging rescue.  Only better because it’s real.  It’s real!  The Hero of our story is the Creator Himself, the Sovereign King of eternity, the Self-Existent Yahweh who lives in unapproachable light!  And He pulls us to Himself, snatching us from danger, for Himself to cherish forever.

What are we that He would even take the time to rescue us from danger, let alone come Himself to pay that price?

Once rescued, we are adopted as children of the Most High King, princes and princesses in the eternal Kingdom of Light. We have been set free from the power of sin and darkness, and our Father has brought us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Best.  Story.  Ever.

Oh, beloved, it’s real.  And it’s ours!

Light of Life Series Pt. 17

Light of Life Series Pt. 17: Saints in Light (Pt.1)

Ok, scholars.  Let’s dig on this one.  There are some great insights from the richness of the language here!  And yes, there is so much depth and beauty in this verse, this will be a two-parter… so you won’t want to miss the next one!

Let’s start with the word saints used in our verse for today.

It comes from the Greek word hágios which means set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred.  It means different, unlike, other.

And I just learned this, check it out–  hágios is the word that was used to describe first century temples.  They were considered hágios (holy) because they were different from regular buildings.

And this is the word chosen to represent believers.  But I love the reason!

Hágios or holy has the technical meaning of “different from the world because like the Lord.”  But here’s my favorite part: hágios implies something “set apart” and therefore “different (distinguished/distinct)” – i.e. “other,” because special to the Lord.  (See here.)

Do you see that?

Beloved, in Christ you are already saints!  You are holy, set apart, and special to the Lord!

So, if we unpacked each word and its meaning with today’s beautiful and encouraging verse, it would sound something like this:

Give thanks to the Father… wait let’s stop there for a minute.  This is beautiful…

The word used here is patḗr and means “one who imparts life and is committed to it; a progenitor (parent, ancestor), bringing into being to pass on the potential for likeness.”  (See here.)

The Sovereign, indescribable, eternal Yahweh wants to pass on His likeness to us.  And He not only imparts His life to us, but is also committed to seeing us grow up in Him!  Can you even wrap your mind around that?  I know I can’t… it’s too big for my small, finite mind to grasp the extent of our Eternal Father’s love.

Oh! Give thanks to the Father who has enabled us (who in Christ has made us sufficient, made us fit to obtain) a share (a portion assigned to us) in the eternal salvation of the holy– those who are set apart by and for Christ, those who are different from the world because they are like the Lord.  We are holy saints, “other” because we are special to the Father.  And we– yes you– get to inherit the Kingdom of Light.  We get to know and be in the presence of the manifestation (clear evidence, proof, presentation) of God’s self-existent life.

There’s more great stuff tomorrow… stay tuned!Light of Life Series Pt. 17

Light of Life Series Pt. 16: Brilliant Light

Do you want to be filled with delight over your King?

Let’s look at part of Ezekiel’s vision of God and His glory.  It is from Ezekiel 1:26-28 (HCSB).

“The shape of a throne with the appearance of sapphire stone was above the expanse.  There was a form with the appearance of a human on the throne high above.  From what seemed to be His waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be His waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around Him.  The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day.  This was the appearance of the form of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.” (Italics and bold are mine.)

Ezekiel did the best he could to describe to his readers what he was seeing, but the closest he could come to it was the likeness of what he saw and how things seemed.  

Your King and His glory are indescribable!

Words fail human ability to express the awe-inspiring image of God’s glory.  And our verses today?  They come at the end of an entire chapter spent telling us what it was like even approaching the throne of God!

And at the end of what Ezekiel tells us, we are left with these images: the form of God’s glory on His throne is like gleaming amber, fire, and brilliant light.

Daniel said, “There is a God in heaven (Daniel 2:28)!”  Isaiah said “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1).” And John said, “At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with One seated on the throne (Revelation 4:2).”

Dear ones, no matter what is going on in your life, rest today knowing that there is a God in Heaven and He is on His throne… in glory too fantastic to describe!

The song for today is by Aaron Shust.  Click here –> God of Brilliant Lights.
Light of Life Series Pt. 16