Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sweetly Broken

Are we bold enough to speak up for what we believe to be true? What we believe to be right? What we believe to be holy? Do we have it in us to live unashamedly in all that we do, say, and think? Can we say "no" to the things that can so easily suck us into conforming like the world? What makes us set apart from unbelievers? I challenge you to ask yourself this: Are you prepared to embrace the cross and participate in Christ's sufferings? Are we?

In one of Peter's letter to the church he penned these words, "Dear Friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad-for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people's affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! For the time has come for judgement, and it must begin with God's household. And if judgement begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News?" 1 Peter 4:12-17

Recently, I was in a situation that I wish I could have reversed. I'm ashamed. My heart weeps. I watched a movie and I wasn't bold enough to speak up. I was worried what others would think of me. And, to be totally honest, the movie could have been worse. But, the question that rings through my mind is this, "If Jesus had been physically siting right next to me...could he have watched it?" My answer is "no."

Some may think I'm legalistic. But when I read the verse, "Be holy for I am holy," legalism doesn't come to mind. A picture that is painted on the canvas of my mind is a life sweetly broken overflowing from a heart that desires to die to flesh and cling to Christ. But how do I live my life without coming across as "holier than thou?" Where's the balance? Well, that's a question that you need to commit to prayer. Ask the Lord, "Father, does this please you? Could you listen to this? Could you watch this? Would you say this? Now, of course we will make mistakes. We do mess up at times. But, we have a choice.

I'm ready to suffer for the cause of becoming more and more like Christ. If I'm not being persecuted for being a follower of Him then something is seriously wrong. God is calling his people up to the next level, to experience Him at a deeper degree, to soar with Him to greater heights and to dive with Him into unfathomable depths. Are we ready to be sweetly broken? Are we willing to live a life of obedience tot he voice of the Lord? I'm touched as I am reminded of the scene in, The Passion of the Christ, when Jesus submissively embraces His cross.

John Bevere, in his sermon, "Trembling at His Word," he parallels obedience to a BROKEN horse preparing to go to battle. The horse will walk straight into a battlefield through all the gunfire with just the nudge of his master. The master doesn't have to talk his horse into going: "Horse, we have to go into battle it save your grass, to save your fields, and to save your food." No! The horse just goes! Let it be the same with us! May we allow ourselves to be sweetly broken before the Lord! Are you ready to count the cost? To take up your cross and follow Him? Are you ready?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Having a Quiet Heart

There was the frantic clanking of pots and pans, the harsh sound of broom bristles against dirt floors and the sweet aroma of hot vegetable stew. The roughness of dirt residing on skin and beads of sweat collecting on one’s brow was visibly apparent. Jesus was here to visit! There was so much to do, in so little time!

In all the chaos of the preparations, there was but one heart that yearned to catch every word that slipped from the Master’s tongue. Determinedly, she fixed her eyes on His gentle face. His countenance was soft, but yet strong. Were these eyes truly able to see inside the windows of her soul? His heart, was it able to know every motive behind every action? His hands, were they the same hands that knit and formed her in her mother’s womb? His voice, was it the same voice that spoke worlds into existence and spun stars into the expanse? How could her mind wrap itself around such a revelation of undeniable truth and unfathomable depth? She was left in awe...

Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

As we can see from this passage, Mary was captivated by her Savior. She was enraptured by His love for her and she yearned to prove her affection in a tangible way. In scripture, it states, “He who has been forgiven much, loves much.” Mary, in an earlier chapter, came to Christ with her alabaster jar. She anointed his feet with her tears of repentance and wiped them with her hair. Since she had been forgiven by her Savior for so many things, she was then able in turn to love more than others who were not forgiven as much.

It has been assumed, by many others, that Mary’s alabaster jar was her dowry. A dowry being something she would give her husband if she were ever to be married. In addition, Jewish women, back in those days, never let their hair down in public. Only on their wedding nights did they show themselves in that manner. Truly, Mary unashamedly exposed herself in the presence of her Lord. She desired Him to understand the genuineness of her adoration. In Mary’s eyes, Christ was the only thing on earth that mattered most to her.

Psalms 73:25-26
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forevermore.

Psalms 27:4
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

Psalms 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Now, on the other hand, Martha was not all wrong in her service to the Lord. Often, life calls us to be busy with responsibilities and to carry out specific duties, whether it is school or work. But scripture clearly states that Martha was, “distracted”. How many distractions are set up as pit falls this time of year, with it almost being Christmas? Repeatedly, we fill up our calendars with a considerable amount of “good things” but end up distracting ourselves from what really matters most to the Father, which is a heart ultimately after Him.

Guys and Girls, together, let’s learn to keep a quiet heart before the Lord, honoring Him and worshiping Him with reverence and joy in everything we do! What can we do in our own personal lives this Christmas season to pour our love on Jesus?

Alabaster Jar
~Zach Neese
This alabaster jar, is all I have of worth
I break it at you feet Lord, it’s less than you deserve
You’re far more beautiful, more precious than the oil
The sum of my desires, and the fullness of my joy
Like you spilled your blood, I spill my heart
As an offering to my King

Here I am, take me
As an offering
Here I am, giving
Every heartbeat
For your glory
Take me

This time that I have left, is all I have of worth
I lay it at your feet Lord, it’s less than you deserve
And though I’ve little strength, and though my days are few
You gave your life for me, so I will live my life for you
Like you spilled your blood, I spill my heart,
As an offering to my King

Worthy, worthy, you are worthy
Worthy is the Lord

Pour My Love on You
~Phillips, Craig And Dean
I don’t know how to say exactly how I feel
And I can’t begin to tell You what your love has meant
I’m lost for words
Is there a way to show the passion in my heart
Can I express how truly great I think You are
My dearest Friend
Lord this is my desire
To pour my love on You

Like oil upon Your feet
Like wine for You to drink
Like water from my heart
I pour my love on You
If praise is like perfume
I’ll lavish mine on You
Till every drop is gone
I’ll pour my love on You

Written by: Stephanie Carrillo and Melanie Smith

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Perfect Pearl

Hey Guys! I read this wonderful devotion this morning and was so very touched by it! I hope it blesses you too!"

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

"Knowing God and having Him reside within you is a treasure of infinite value to that of a perfect pearl. The collector would readily sell everything he had in order to possess this one matchless pearl. Your relationship with God places an immeasurable value on your life. The treasures of God's wisdom and knowledge are available to you through Christ. His love now fills you. His incomprehensible peace surrounds your heart and mind. When Jesus dwells in your life, everything available to Christ dwells within you.

Paul was comparing our lives with the clay pots commonly used in his day. The contents of earthen vessels, not the containers themselves, were of great value. The jars would become chipped and broken and would deteriorate over time, but nobody thought of the jar-they were interested in its contents. Paul noted that our great possession is that which God has placed within us. When people focus on us they see a frail, imperfect, and deteriorating vessel. Nothing that comes from our flesh is worthy of praise. Our bodies are aging and losing strength. Only as we allow God to fill us and renew our inner self will people see a treasure of immeasurable worth.

Don't focus on outward appearances and physical strength, for these deteriorate. Rather, allow the Holy Spirit to convince you of the infinite treasure that is within you because of God's presence."

--Devotion taken from, Experiencing God, written by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

Embracing Your Field of Singleness

I would like you to be free from concern. For an unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.
1 Corinthians 7:32a, 34

Personally, I am going through a season of struggle. During this time, I had a dream. A dream that in reality opened my eyes to what I had been denying myself of doing.

In my dream, I saw myself standing in front of a young man who was asking me to dance. Our surroundings seemed unfamiliar. The only thing that separated me from grasping his hand was that I was tightly holding onto a basket filled with many different unusual items, things that I can’t seem to remember. Consequently, I was not at the place to allow him to lead me. I had to make a decision. Let go of my basket...or hold onto it. Ultimately, I made the choice to let go and cling to my dance partner.

After I awoke, I wasn’t completely sure of its meaning. It was during one of my quiet times with the Lord that He revealed its meaning to me. I was flipping through the Psalms trying to find one to read when my eyes fell on this sentence: “Their hands were set free from the basket.” This is what I read that morning...I was so amazed at the significance of my dream!

The Lord says,
“I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Marimba. Hear, O my people, and I will warn you-if you would but listen to me, O Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

I was bewildered! The Lord was telling me that He wanted to dance with me. But my problem was that I had an idol in my life--a basket I was tightly holding onto. It was at that moment that I chose to let go of my “foreign god” that I was able to allow the Lord to lead me and take me places where I never dreamed of going.

Thus, I’m now in the process of releasing myself from the tight grip of my basket and making the choice to cling solely to Christ. For me, marriage was my idol. Now I’m coming to realize the blessing of embracing my singleness. I’m learning what it means to marry contentment. Now I know that He has me in this “field” (season of my life) for a reason.

When I think of the “fields” God has each of us in, I think of David. Where did David go after he was anointed King of Israel by Samuel the Prophet? He went back into his field. He chose to remain where God wanted him until the time was right to receive the promise God had whispered to Him.

Girls, the same with us, our focus should not be on the promise of marriage, but ultimately on embracing the field, the mission, the call God has for each of us at present. We are being issued to go out and make a difference! We truly need to learn to find true satisfaction and fulfillment in Christ alone. Girls that is when God will be able to move us from a field to a throne, all in His perfect timing...

Dancing with Jesus

The lights slowly dim as the orchestra begins to compose its soft, peaceful melodies. The young couple stands facing each other. The man extends his welcoming hand, the woman graciously takes hold of it. Step by step, he leads. She follows. He leads. She follows.

In life it is the same way. Each of our relationships with Christ can be compared to a dance. The man leads, and the woman in response, follows. We, as the Bride of Christ, must in the same way surrender our impulse to take charge. Each of us must learn to submit, surrender, and die to the urge to control.

An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. 1 Corinthians 7:34b

For several weeks I have felt very distracted; so distracted that my aim and desires have been turned to other things instead of being solely placed on Christ alone. I have wanted to take charge of the situation.

I have to admit, that lately I have felt like I have been walking through a valley, partly because circumstances have not turned out the way I would have guessed. My mind is constantly wondering. My heart continuously asks questions. My soul yearning to know why I have to walk through this particular “valley of the shadow.” But I am realizing that it is during this time, more now than ever, that I have felt His rod and staff comforting me (Psalm 23). Even when I still see that there is only one set of footprints in the sand, I know that it is because He is still carrying me.

My dance with Jesus is taking place in a valley. He is teaching me what it means to truly trust Him--what it means to have hope.

Sons and Daughters of the True High King, He beckons you. Will you draw near? Will you take His hand and choose to let go of everything that is keeping you from true abandonment? Are you willing to sever every enslaving bond that is dragging you away from Him? Are you prepared to fight for intimate fellowship with your Maker? Are you ready to surrender every area of your life to His leading?

Close your eyes... and prepare yourself for a dance that will carry you across barren wastelands, through valleys, and over grueling mountaintops. This dance requires a trust that never lets goes, a faith that chooses to believe, and a heart that continually surrenders.

Dear Child, seize His hand. Follow the rhythm of His steps. Allow His voice to blur out all the other enticing distractions that constantly seem to scream out your name. Allow His face to cloud anything that may try to lure you. Fix your eyes on His.

A song that has blessed me immensely during this hard time has been Marc Schulz’s song, He Will Carry Me.

I call, You hear me
I've lost it all
And it's more then I can bear
I feel so empty

You're strong, I'm weary
I'm holding on
But I feel like giving in
But still You're with me

And even though I'm walking
Through the valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him

Who's love will comfort me
And when my hope is gone
And I've been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me

I know I'm broken
But You alone
Can mend this heart of mine
Your always with me

And even though I feel so lonely
Like I have never been before
You never said it would be easy
But You said You'd see me through the storm

Guys and girls, dance with Jesus. Give into utter abandonment. A place of complete surrender. A journey with Christ by your side. And know that He will get you through.

What about you? Where are you dancing with Jesus right now? Is the Lord leading you through a barren wasteland, a valley, or up a mountainside? Are you choosing to allow your circumstances to make you more like Christ? What life lessons is Jesus teaching you at present?