Category Archives: Scripture

New Territory

HyWindyEvery once in a while someone writes something that resonates so loudly for me that it just takes my breath away. This week, that someone was my friend, Hyacynth, who posted this beautiful blog for her church’s The Monday After column.

We talk a lot about Standing Up around here. So much that it’s one of our most used tags. We draw courage from the story of Jesus healing a woman who is unable to stand, and as a tribe, we choose to stand tall in spite of the adversity, woundedness, and fear that can keep us seated.

And so as I read this story of Hyacynth’s family standing up, literally and figuratively, in response to God’s leading, I was overcome. I shiver beside her from the beauty of this moment. Here’s an excerpt:

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I didn’t know it then, but I see now how before I could move forward on His call on my life, I had to know those two things intimately and concretely, not simply in song and dance. Once I had that straight inside of my own heart, I found that our question of “should we try to grow our family?” was replaced by His question to my heart of “Do you trust me with where we need to go next?”

This morning as Pastor Joe spoke about Elisha’s life, I felt the proverbial cloak fall over my shoulders, an anointing to move forward into the terrifying unknown of where God was leading … which I felt included addressing what growing our family could look like after sustaining three losses.

My husband and I both stood at prodding of the Spirit when Pastor Joe asked if anyone felt the Lord leading them into new territory.

Though I didn’t know why John was standing, I shook in in my sandals at the thought of entering a territory I thought I’d desired for the past two years.

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Thanks, Hyacynth, for sharing your story so boldly. We stand alongside you.

 

Wonderful

Every March 16th I read Psalm 139. This psalm laser beams God’s intimate love for me straight into my heart. It tells how fond He is of me. How endearing.  That His eyes are always upon me. He knows everything about me. He fashioned me.

I read it every March 16th because that is my birthday.

I want to be reminded that God created me purposefully and intricately. He had a plan for all my days before I even existed. The number of sweet thoughts He has about me cannot even be counted!

“Gettin’ a little big-headed there, Emily?”

No. Which is why I come back to this Psalm so often. It re-centers me in the truth about myself. The very fact that I exist is proof that God finds me worthwhile.

I’m not sure when the last time was that you really meditated on the fact that God loves you all the time, and sees You all the time— not in a judging way, in an adoring way. He constantly cares about what happens in your life. He celebrates you! And not just on your birthday.

I am leaving the majority of the talking this week to God. His Word speaks louder than anything I could blog. Notice the number of times the word “wonderful” is used in Psalm 139:1-16— referring to you.

[content_box_light_blue width="75%"]O LORD, You have searched me and known me,
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I am awake, I am still with You.[/content_box_light_blue]

Crisis of Unbelief

Abraham and David faced the same crisis of unbelief. They didn’t believe they were who God said they were.

God is amazing the way He brings things to mind and positions me to answer a question like: Do I believe I am who God says I am? Am I Moses standing before God saying, “I can’t do that, I don’t speak well” Am I Jeremiah doubting God? Am I Abraham, taking things into my own hands for surely God can’t do what He said He could do and make me who He says I am.

Do I believe I can do what He called me to do? No. Only I can’t do anything without Him. I pray that I’m never so wrapped up in myself that I think, even for a moment, that anything I do is on my own.

Hebrews 11:8 says: By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT KNOW WHERE HE WAS GOING!

I have no clue where God is taking me. I know He has given me the first set of instructions. I have tried to obey. But I didn’t really believe He was asking me to go there. Then He raised His voice a bit and I walked a little bit further and stopped because it just really didn’t seem possible that He could have that kind of plan for me.

Crisis of unbelief.

Then he yelled at me. And I heard Him. And I’m starting to believe that He can do what He says He can do and that I am who He says I am. He is asking me to go to a place that I don’t know. I don’t know how to get there. I’ve never heard of it and can’t imagine what it is like there.

Wouldn’t it just be plain stupid to NOT go where God says you should? (this is where you nod your head up and down) Then why? Why do we not believe Him?

“For I know the plans I have for you” –this is the LORD’s declaration–”plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God knew me before there was a me. He has encircled me and placed His hand upon me and His right hand will hold on to me. And yet I still won’t follow that path He’s asking us to walk.

I cry aloud to the LORD;
I plead aloud to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I reveal my trouble to Him.
Although my spirit is weak within me,
You know my way.

Along this path I travel
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see
no one stands up for me;
there is no refuge for me;
no one cares about me.

I cry to You, LORD;
I say, “You are my shelter,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry,
for I am very weak.
Rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
Free me from prison
so that I can praise Your name.
The righteous will gather around me
because You deal generously with me.
–Psalm 142

I pray that God would rescue us from this prison of unbelief. “You are my shelter”

Why do I choose to live in prison when God is my shelter?

Your Valentine

candyheartpinkValentine’s Week is upon us. Flowers. Cards. Candy with sappy sayings written across them. Do you love it as much as I do?

Every February 14th you can expect these playful traditions. They are a small part of our culture today. I’ve been wondering though, how did these traditions start? Or rather, how did Valentine’s Day start?

I knew it had something to do with a man centuries ago who was an actual saint. But there’s always more to glean from Wikipedia and other colleges of online education.

A Little History

Valentinus was indeed a saint. In third century Rome, marriage for young single men was outlawed. This was so they would be “better” soldiers who did not have to worry about wives and children. Valentinus continued to perform weddings for young soldiers, as well as minister to persecuted Christians. He was eventually imprisoned and executed. While in prison Valentinus himself coined the phrase “from your Valentine” in a letter.

Over the years other men (at least three) have been given the title “Valentine” as they too were martyred for standing by their faith and values.

In a way, “Valentine” became synonymous with “martyr.” Not exactly what you think of when your sweetheart hands you a glittery greeting card, huh? Same here. I usually don’t smile down at those written sentiments and take in “from your martyr.” But, maybe I should…

 A Little Understanding

If you were to ask any person in the United States what Valentine’s Day is about, undoubtedly the answer would be love. Having learned what I did about Valentine history, I belive that’s not saying enough. I would say passion. People die for things they are passionate over.

[content_box_light_blue width="75%"]Place me like a seal over your heart,  like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death,  its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire,  like a mighty flame.
Song of Songs 8:6[/content_box_light_blue]

Sound like passion? Here is where Valentine’s Day is changing for me:  Jesus has been a martyr for me. His fierce love led Him to die for me, in my place. How casually I forget this every day! Yet it’s incredible. If He were to write me a love letter it would be signed:
Love,
your Martyr

How can I take this lightly!? How can I take the idea of God’s love calmly? He has placed me like a seal over His Heart. His love is as powerful as death, literally displayed at the Cross. And yet that same power conquered the grave, literally displayed three days later. Valentine’s Day and Easter were made for each other!

Interestingly, Lent this year begins the day before Valentine’s Day. It will go through March 30th as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Perhaps you will join me this year in mentally replacing the Valentine’s symbol of the heart with the symbol of the Cross. It is so much more accurate.

May this February 14th for you be a celebration of God’s passion over you. May each day hold the awe of His extraordinary love.

Be His.

Miraculous Healing (or not)

I’m not an expert in the area of healing. Have I experienced healing? Yes. Have I experienced someone who was not healed? Yes. And that is the topic de jour.

In John 5, we are at the pool of Bethesda and there were many sick (blind, lame, paralyzed) waiting for the moving of the water. John says that an angel would go down to the pool from time to time and stir up the water. The first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had. One man who was there had been sick for 38 years.

Stop there and take note. The man was sick for 38 years. Now listen…Jesus saw him and knew he had been there a long time. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

The man answered that he didn’t have anyone to put him in the water after it was stirred and by the time he got going towards the water, someone beats him to it. Jesus told him to get up, pick up his bedroll and walk.

Please notice that there were a “mulitude” of sick people around this pool waiting to be healed. Jesus healed one. And if we back up from here, we can see how this one plays into the big picture. The Jews that were there told the healed man that the day was a Sabbath and it was illegal for him to pick up his bedroll. He told them that the man who healed him told him to pick it up. They asked him who the man was and he didn’t know because Jesus had slipped into the crowd–which must only mean there were quite a few people there.

Jesus later finds this healed man in the temple complex and talks to him. Just as he tells the woman who the Jews brought to Him for adultry, Jesus tells the healed man to sin no more. The man went to the Jews to tell them it was Jesus who had made him well.

I want to pause here for a moment to wonder why the man went to the Jews to tell them it was Jesus? We don’t know for sure, but the next few passages indicate that this situation played a part in Jesus’ death. John 5:16 says, “Therefore [because the healed man told them Jesus was the healer], the Jews began persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.” Jesus told them , “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” Verse 18 says, “This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

Did Jesus heal this man based on his faith? When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, the man did not say yes. He only answered with the excuse that he had no one to take him to the water. For 38 years he was sick and he had been at the pool a long time. Did it take faith for the man to pick up his bedroll as Jesus instructed him? I don’t have the answer to that but it seems that the man was just doing what he was told. He didn’t even know who Jesus was.

Jesus had been to the wedding and turned the water into wine. He went to the temple in Jerusalem and drove out the money-changers. He told Nicodemus about being born-again. He, for the first time reveals Himself as Messiah to the woman at the well. He went back to where he turned the water into wine and a royal official pleaded for his son to be healed. Jesus healed the son. And this is where Jesus heals this man by the pool. Word was just beginning to spread about Jesus. And this man was the tool God used to let the Jews know that Jesus was the One who healed–on the Sabbath! Jesus broke their rules.

Another pause, if you will. These Jews were the experts. They were raised to be experts. They were respected and not questioned. Then here comes this guy from Galilee storming into their temple, telling them things they didn’t want to hear. Then he’s got nerve enough to come back and break the rules. They are angry. More than angry. Indignant. Not only was this guy breaking the rules of the Sabbath, but then–get this–he is calling God his father, making himself equal to God. Wow. Now they are way beyond just anger. They want him dead.

Understand in that day access to God was limited.  Only the high priest had access to God and only once a year to offer sacrifices for the entire nation of Israel. The only others that had access to God were those few chosen men, prophets, who were in direct contact with Him. So here’s this guy stepping on the toes of the elite saying that he was the son of God.

If we skip ahead to chapter seven in John, we find Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles. He went to the temple to teach. The Jews were amazed and couldn’t figure out how He knew Scripture when He wasnt’ trained. Jesus tells them that the teaching isn’t His but from the One who sent Him. The crowd tells Jesus He has a demon. And some of them wondered if this was the man they wanted to kill why was he in public teaching!? Soon, the temple police were questioned by the chief priests as to why they didn’t bring Jesus to them. The police had never heard anyone speak as Jesus did and Nicodemus is with there and stands up for Jesus.

At dawn, Jesus goes back to the temple complex and teaches. The Pharisees bring the adultress woman to Jesus to trap him, so they might have evidence to accuse him. He teaches and again they think He has a demon. They picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple complex.

Now, Jesus passes by a man blind from birth. (chapter 9) His disciples questioned the blindness. They wanted to know who sinned–the parents or the child.

Jesus say, “Niether this man nor his parents sinned. This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.”

And Jesus healed him.

And guess what? This man was brought to the Pharisees because he was healed on the Sabbath!! He testifies before the Pharisees that Jesus did indeed heal him. They threw him out of the temple. Jesus met up with him and some of the other Phaisees overheard the conversation. Jesus was teaching them again and some said (again) that Jesus had a demon. Jesus tells them (again) that God is His Father and they picked up rocks to stone Him. They tried to seize Him, but He eluded their grasp.

(Do you see the pattern?)

He departed across the Jordan. This is the part where Lazarus dies and Jesus raises him from the dead. His disciples didn’t want Him to go to Lazarus because he had just left there with the Pharisees trying to seize and stone Him. Jesus went.

Some went to the Pharisees after Lazarus was brought back to life. The Pharisees decided they couldn’t let Him continue because “everybody will believe in Him!” (John 11:48) “Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation.” Passover was near and they sent word to arrest Jesus. Notice also that the Pharisees decide to kill Lazarus because “he was the reason many of the Jews were deserting them and believing in Jesus.”

And from here, we move to the Passover and the crucifixion.

Now, I’ve basically taken you from Jesus’ first miracle to His last and skipped over a lot stuff. But what I want you to see is that in looking at things this way, we see that Jesus did not heal every single person He happened upon. He chose two particular men and I think, looking at the story from this distance, we can see that those two particlar men played a direct roll in the crucifixion.

Did they know that? I don’t think so. I don’t even think many people who read the Bible today have made that connection. It seems to me that people are so focused on the miracle of the healing that they lose sight of the real meaning. It is not that the people were healed.

It is that they were healed for the purpose of God’s will.

Healed for God’s glory.

Not so that God could just get credit for healing, but so that God’s ultimate plan is executed.

I can’t say why some are healed and aren’t. But I can say that from this view, I can see that when Jesus was at the pool of Bethseda and chose the man who had been sick for 38 years, He chose someone who was a key player in God’s ultimate plan. Just as the blind man was another key player. We were even told that the blind man was blind simply so that God’s works might be displayed in him.

God’s work: healing a blind man?
God’s work: sending His son as the sacrifice for sin?
Both?

Each of us has a different purpose. Those others at the pool, don’t you think they’d have liked to be healed? I suppose they would have. I think, though, that the question should be: Would they want to have their own desires or would they want to have what God desires for them?

Ultimately, I must decide whether I trust Him when He doesn’t give me exactly what I want, but instead gives me what He wants.

I know, in my life…trusting Him for that is a much bigger chunk of faith than anything else I can think of.

Upon reflection…

I do not want to write much today. I am more in a place of needing to hear than say. Needing to absorb truth, not because I am “dry” or despairing, but because my heart is thirsty for it.

I often will write a Bible verse or other quote on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker. This way I am sure to see it everyday before I get going. It can provide encouragement, wisdom, or comfort among other things. Usually it’s meant to be some sort of a reminder for myself. Recently I was inspired by a close friend who is doing something similar, except using Scripture on the mirror that focuses solely on identity.

What a perfect idea. Looking at yourself, surrounded by the truth of who you really are. Which is who we are to God.

Emma

Yes, this is me standing in front of my bathroom mirror. And these are all thing things I am because of Jesus Christ. This is how I should view myself. It is how He views me. The top one, by the way, reads “You are altogether beautiful, my darling. And there is no blemish in you.” (Song of Songs 4:7)  That wasn’t an easy one to write… but it’s still true.

Consciously choosing to see ourselves– and our lives– through God’s perspective is of the utmost importance. I think of it as a form of soul care, and it reminds me of visual prayer- a really neat method of prayer we learned this year from BeBeloved’s very own Michelle.

Fact is, we are all created in His image. Wonderfully made. He adores us through loving eyes.

If you belong to Jesus (and you would know if you do) then all these things are accurate of you too:
You’re more than a conqueror. A new creation. Washed. Sanctified. Justified.

It may seem countercultural to consider yourself as wonderful. Afterall, isn’t our culture always telling us what we lack? Why we aren’t good enough? Why we need that new car, new mascara, new diet plan, new suit.

Yet there is a way to see yourself accurately without doing so arrogantly. Reflecting on the truth.

I encourage you to open a Bible and grab a dry erase marker. Let truth sink in. Believe in your value. Reflect on it. It’s more than refreshing.

The Garden

Garden 1It is only January, but my Grandfather and I have already planted 14 rows in his almost 1 acre garden. We have planted: potatoes, onions, spinach, English peas, garlic, carrots, and beets. Soon we will be planting tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale.

That’s only the beginning too.  There is the whole rest of the spring to plant and summer to harvest.

I don’t know if you have planted a LARGE garden before, but I can tell you this: IT IS HARD WORK.

The digging of deep rows to plant potatoes is killer on the thighs. If you notice the metal apparatus in the picture, that is the handplow that we use to do that. The hand-planting of the onions and garlic is tough on the knees. The general bending over all the time is hard on the back. Overall, it is difficult. There is a discipline to it. Along with pain too.

So there it is, that word DISCIPLINE again. The awesome continuity of God’s working in my life. The garden is demonstrating to me in a tangible way how God uses those painful and difficult parts of life to reap a harvest of goodness.

The verse of my year continues to ring out: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but PAINFUL. Later on, however, it produces a HARVEST of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

I am so excited to see the plants start to come up and begin to produce–in this sure-to-be amazing garden, and in my life, too.

Let go & let GOD!

letgoandletgodIt has been a busy, hectic, eventful couple of weeks for me – super late nights, a good amount of driving around, starting and launching new business/programs, etc. In the midst of all the chaos, I have been learning daily to “Let go & let GOD” take full control of my life. I have always been a victim of perfectionism and control freak-ness, and the past few weeks have been extremely difficult for me to stay grounded with a number of executive type decisions to make. The upcoming several weeks is guaranteed to be even more crazy with visitors flying in from Korea, special events, new work projects, more late nights. At least my calendar says so. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could crawl into bed for days and stay in bed. Oh, what a sweet dream that would be!

As I get older, my desire to lose the “control freak” label grows stronger because quite frankly, it shouldn’t be me trying to call all the shots. It feels as if the more I try to be and remain in control, everything starts spiraling out of sorts. Funny, though, how as soon as I start to pray asking God to take the reins, things almost instantly seem to come together again! It’s a much needed slap in my face as a reminder to know who truly is in control of my life.

It’s only a month into 2013, and the new year is already kicking my behind. Regardless, I have Faith in our Mighty Savior and His ability to teach me something from everything He puts me through. I will continue praying for a humble heart so that God’s will may be done in my days to come. I am always taken by surprise on how refreshing it is to just sit back and trust in His all knowing, powerful ways.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

- Philippians 4: 6

What are some things you are doing your very best to stay in control of? Are any of you having difficulty letting go & letting God take the reins?

It is my prayer for you that God will show you His will throughout the year as 2013 unfolds. As January comes to a close, I am super excited to see what February will have in store for us all! :)

 

 

Another Word For This Year

Last week I we each blogged about a word for this year. Mine was CREATE, which had surprised me, but ended up inspiring me quite bit.

Recently, I spent a weekend with the Forge Chicago crew for a missional training intensive. Over the course of the weekend, I was really taken with the idea of joy. You know those moments when something resonates in your spirit and it’s clear the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something? I had those repeatedly, always around conversation about joy. The more we talked about joy, the more I realized I wasn’t experiencing it, despite clearly joyful, and even exciting developments.

What the heck was stealing my joy?

You gotta love those questions. Questions where soul work is the only answer. So while we learned and experimented and discoursed around missional spirituality, I had a conversation running with God on the back burner about my own heart. And the truth is that I have some wounds and bitterness that are not completely healed up. They’re not completely unhealed. They’re in process.

Here’s something I’ve learned about God though: What He begins, He completes (Philippians 1:6).

joy-on-stoneAs the Forge tribe closed the weekend on Sunday, we spent some time in John 15, reading and reflecting and sitting in silence with it. One of the verses that stood out to me was John 15:11–I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. A couple years ago, God whispered to me, “I will restore your joy,” and while this may be a life-long restoration, I look forward to this year with prayerful anticipation.

In my minds eye, I could see a prayer sketch around the word joy, and started wondering, had I picked the wrong word? But no, I still feel the resonance in the word create as well. And I know these TWO words for 2013 are connected in myriad ways–that creating leads to joy which leads to creating. God is whispering these words this year–these two exhilarating words. I confess I am already a little giddy typing. And so the joy begins.

Welcome to 2013, Surprise!

SurpriseHappy New Year! I can’t believe it has been a year already since I started my journey here on BeBeloved. Wow! Thinking back on the past year, my life has taken some amazing twists and turns. God never ceases to amaze me with His creativity and unforeseen, unpredictable nature.

So when Kimberly told me about Michelle’s idea to focus on One Word for 2013, I was excited but a little freaked out too.  The pressure to “hear” from God first of all seemed a bit intimidating. Then, I was concerned about what that word might be. How would it apply to my life? How would it look next to everyone else’s word? How would I know that I had found “THE ONE?” You get the picture. Since moving to Oklahoma almost 7 weeks ago, my life has been pretty topsy turvy. Nothing seems to be routine or familiar yet. Especially lacking is a quiet, contemplative minute with my creator. Never-the-less, I resolved to seek God on this challenge.

When I received the first impression from the Holy Spirit on what the word would be, I thought for sure I had heard wrong. My word wasn’t too motivating or inspiring. In fact, it seemed downright depressing. In light of Michelle’s word RESTORE, Kimberly’s word CREATE, Emily’s word DIGNITY, and Jenni’s words FAITH and PRAYER, my word felt quite out of step. So I kept pressing further. Kept asking God. Kept praying. Basically kept looking for a different word. But it didn’t come. As a matter of fact, it became more clear that this word was it, THE ONE.

So, I am going to have to go with it. The word is DISCIPLINE. Or another term sometimes used for it is: chastise. That term seems like a quite churchy word though. So forget it. But you know what I’m talking about now. Doesn’t that sound like a fun year? Full of God’s discipline. Nice. But this passage from Hebrews chapter 12 jumped right off the page at me. [content_box_light_blue width="75%"]11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.[/content_box_light_blue]

This is what discipline means to me: to be disciplined  by God means He points out a fault in me. Then He asks me to own up to it. Then He commences to heal me from it. Just like a fault line in the earth is a broken place, a fault in me is a broken place. Praise God He is in the business of healing. He shows us right there in Hebrews 12:13. Heb. 12 also tells us that the harvest or outcome of God’s discipline is peace and righteousness. I don’t know about you, but I need more of that in my life.

The part of that chapter that really jumps out at me is verse 12 though. Stay tuned next week to hear more about that. Until then, I’m praying for God’s discipline so that I can experience His healing in my broken places.

Want to join me?