Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How His love and mercy follows me all the days of my life…

I wrote this blog last spring in the O’Hare airport while waiting for my connecting flight. I found a great seat that allowed me to people-watch for hours, all the while I was reflecting on the ways God had led me through that past year with such goodness and grace.  What amazes me through is as I reflect on this past year, which was filled with more challenging circumstances, the truth of the Lord’s faithful and loving guidance still holds true. So I pray this will encourage you, whether you are in a good season or a season filled with many tears and questions. His love and mercy really does follow us all the days of our life as we put our hope in Him.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. (Psalm 23 HCSB)

Oh how thankful I am that God continues to show me my great need for Him. It is completely His mercy that has opened my eyes to my desperate state. On my own I am trapped in my pride, selfishness and sin. I sink into deeper bondage to bitterness and discontentment. Life can start to feel meaningless. In my brokenness, I do things that hurt me and those around me. Worst of all, I am cut off from the only God who can heal my heart and save me from sin and death.

But Jesus steps into the middle of my mess and He, as only He can, restores my relationship with God by grace through faith. He took the punishment and wrath I fully deserve for my sin against a holy and infinite God; and when I place my faith in Him, Jesus gives me everything I don’t deserve- His righteousness and right standing with God. I experience a different kind of love and joy. My sins are forgiven and I am freed from the enemy’s condemnation and accusations. I don’t have to hide in shame anymore. He has begun a good work in my heart. God begins to heal my heart of its deepest hurts and regrets. As my heavenly Father, God walks with me every step of the way- I don’t have to do this life on my own anymore.  Life isn’t necessarily easier, it is just better as His faithful love surrounds me each day.  There are still many things that break my heart and cause me frustration.  When I am weary though, He offers me His perfect rest. There are many things I don’t understand, but I can trust in the One who understands it all. There are uncertainties ahead but I know the One who is in control of every moment of my life.

I am still a long way from what I should be. Every day a battle rages all around me and in my own heart. I am so prone to leave the God I love. Even though I have been freed from the consequences of my sin, sin still threatens the intimacy of my relationship with my Saviour each day. Even though I’ve had glimpses of the glorious beauty of Jesus, my foolish heart is still enticed by the things of this world and it still fights for control.   Because my heart is so deceptive, His Spirit gently guides me in the way I should go as He fills my heart with His love. He disciplines me when He needs to. It is His kindness that leads me to repentance. He destroys my pride for God opposes the proud but gives mercy to the humble.   When I am most broken and needy, He rushes to fill me with His love and grace once again. Through the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, I can see how God is able to bring the greatest good from the worse. Because God didn’t even spare His own Son to save me, I know He is for me and that enables me to rest in His sure promises.

I can pursue deeper relationships with God and with others because of the abundant grace I am shown each and every day.  I am free to admit when I am wrong and to seek forgiveness. I am given a new power to love others, even when it is challenging to love.  When situations feel hopeless, I can have confidence in God who has the power to change anyone and anything. In the midst of my fears and doubts I can run with boldness to God because He has experienced `every pain and temptation I do and He promises to meet me with grace. When my emotions and feelings don’t match what I know in my head to be true, I can cling to His unchanging word. His word is living and active, and it leads to abundant life. His love isn’t based on my behavior but His love and word changes it. He delights in me simply because through the work of Jesus on the cross, I have been made His child.

Someday our King is coming back and He will defeat Satan and sin once and for all. Everything will be made new and right.  Until that that day, may I live for Him and not for myself, with a passion to make the saving power of Jesus known. This salvation is too great to keep to myself and I want others to experience the love of Jesus as well.   I long to be a living example of how Jesus came to save, and not to condemn. God’s Spirit alone empowers me to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world; and to point people to the truth that sets us free. 

When I see Him face to face the only claim I will make is “Your grace on which I stand.”   Those who love Jesus cannot imagine what is in store for us.  He will wipe away all our tears, all of our pain and all our mourning. We will see Him face to face, and we will be made like Him. His glory will be our light. The hope of heaven changes the way I live this life. God’s good gifts on this earth are meant to remind me that there is something much greater coming. In the end, my time on this earth will seem so short and I will know that Jesus was worth it all. I’ll bow my knee before Him and sing with the angels “holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!”  As I lay my crowns at His feet, I’ll worship my Saviour with great delight because Jesus has dressed me in His righteousness and He is not ashamed to present me before His Father with great joy!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

He Could Have Walked Away

He could have walked away! That thought kept running through my mind. I was in high school and was at the movie theatre with some friends watching “The Passion of the Christ”. It was a time in my life when I was going through a season of being angry at God. Life wasn’t going as I wanted it to and God felt very distant.  As I saw the different scenes in the movie of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus being betrayed by Judas, Jesus being whipped and ultimately being nailed to the cross; I was reminded that this was the same Jesus who had the power to control the wind and the waves. He could call down more than 12 legions of angels anytime He wanted. (Matthew 26:53) As John 10:18 tells us, no one forced Jesus on to the cross, He freely chose to lay down His life.  The simple yet profound truth that if Jesus loved me enough to die on the cross for my sin, I could trust Him with my life renewed and changed my heart that night.

The “Passion of the Christ” clearly depicts the pain Jesus went through on the cross to save us. It was horrendous, words can barely describe it.  Therefore, I am ashamed to admit the number of times I have just skimmed through the narratives in the Bible describing everything that led up to and happened at the cross.  The story has become so familiar that I am afraid it has lost its significance on me. Can anyone else relate?

Jesus talked about the importance of having a child-like faith and the more I watch my two young nephews, I am becoming convinced that their wonder in life is the wonder we should have for Jesus.  It doesn’t matter what it is, if it is something new and/or exciting, they are instantly captivated
Have you ever heard someone talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus with such passion and emotion that it deeply moved you?  This week while attending classes, I was blessed to be able to again.

Here is some of what I wrote in my journal in response:

Lord please give me fresh eyes and a fresh heart to understand more of the magnitude of Your unending love and grace. Familiarity breeds boredom. God, I don’t ever want to bored of hearing about Your great love and the great sacrifice of Jesus. Help me to understand more deeply the depths of my need for You- how I was a slave to sin and had nothing to offer you but my filthy, disgusting rags of sin and pride. I was dead in my sin and I couldn’t see or hear You. But just as You took Jarius’ young daughter who had died and took her by the hand and raised her up to life, you did the same for me. You brought me out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Your glorious light. Now I can see all the times I grieved you when I chose to go my own way but much more amazing, I can see how Your grace is so much stronger than all my sin and shame. You’ve given me everything I don’t deserve. Instead of experiencing your just wrath, I know what it feels like to be forgiven. Instead of experiencing separation from You, I can personally know and experience you.  Lord I want to be amazed by you and in awe of you. I want my heart and mind to be so impacted by what You accomplished on the cross that it colors what I say, do and think each and every day. Help me never lose the wonder of Your amazing love.

This is my prayer for myself, and each one of us this Easter…

Happy Easter Friends!

Image result for cross

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Oh, Come to The Light!

Well, I guess we no longer have to go to Florida for Christmas! We are having a tropical Christmas right at home this year J  It’s hard to believe Christmas day is just a couple of days away! I love all the traditions of this time of year…the parties and events, the music, catching up with old friends, driving around looking at the lights, and many other things.

 As much as Christmas can be a joyful time of year, it can also be a very painful time of year. More than ever we can see the world isn’t as it should be and Christmas can evoke a whole range of emotions.

We were never meant to have to experience the pain of conflict and loss. The world is supposed to be like the world Adam and Eve experienced before they sinned. They had complete communion and harmony with God and the world around them.

When sin entered the world, everything was ruined.  All the sadness, pain, discouragement, insecurity, regret, loss and darkness we experience is because of sin.  From the very beginning we see sin brought darkness.

The older I get, the more darkness and brokenness I see in the world around me and especially in my own heart and soul.

This doesn’t sound very Christmassy I know but the Christmas cheer is coming….

Some of the pain I experience is because of wrong decisions I’ve made and other areas of pain simply come from living in a world broken by sin.   In John 9 the disciples asked Jesus why a man was blind. They wondered if it was from his or his parent’s sin. Jesus said it was neither and then explained God’s purposes through that.

Recently God has shown me the reason I keep falling into certain patterns of sin is because I’m trying to go to other things besides Jesus to find healing and comfort.  There are many, many things in this world that can mask our pain and brokenness but only Jesus can truly heal our hearts.

The times we feel the depth of the brokenness of the world and in ourselves are exactly why Jesus came as a helpless baby in a manger.  He knew we would be helpless in the darkness and would need a merciful High priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, because he was tempted in every way we are, and yet he was without sin. Because of that we can draw near to God and find mercy and grace to help in our times of need.(Hebrews 4:15-16) I love the way Isaiah says it, “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus is the light because He is Emmanuel, God with us. He has come to show us the way out of darkness and into a restored relationship with God so that we can have hope that one day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes when He ushers in a new creation.

Being close to the Light reveals all of my impurities but it also gives warmth and life. I am in desperate need of the light of Jesus each and every day. I don’t deserve it but I am deeply thankful for it because…
When I go to Him in my brokenness, He heals me.
When I come to Him hungry and empty, He fills and feeds me with His presence and word.
When I go to Him with my sadness and weariness, He gives me His perfect comfort and rest.
When I go to Him with my guilt and shame, He floods my life with His grace and forgiveness.
When I am at my weakest, He is at His strongest.
When I go to Him with nothing but my heart, He gives me everything.

The Light shines brightest in the darkness; let’s praise God this Christmas for that incredible truth!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

My List of 30

The weeks leading up to me turning 30 years old were filled with some good times, but also some challenging times. Things haven’t gone as anticipated for this fall but that I have seen God at work through it all.  I have done a lot of self-reflection and it has led to moments of regret and discouragement. But, those moments have been beautiful for they have let me experience God and His amazing grace in deeper ways. Lately I’ve had many moments I feel so thankful: thankful for the life and the many blessings God has given me, and so thankful that we don’t have to do this life alone.  The following is a list of 30 things I’ve learned through other people and the circumstances of life over the last 30 years that have most impacted my life.

1. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if you’re with the right group of people- things tend to be easier and more enjoyable.
2. Cats are better than dogs…no need to explain further :) (I’m totally just kidding on this one)
3. Sleep is a precious gift, too bad we don’t learn this until we can’t take naps whenever we wish!
4. The ability to work hard and accomplish things is also a great gift.
5. I need to ask God constantly for a teachable and humble heart.
6. When I feel the most broken, God most floods my life with His steadfast love. He is truly close to the broken-hearted.
7. There is great freedom in confession of sin and repentance.
8. It is much more productive to look at my own sin and weaknesses rather than looking at other’s 
9. Whoever invented coffee is absolutely wonderful!
10. Mentors are important. Have people in your life to learn from.
11. Good friends are one of God’s most precious blessings to us.
12. Every family has their ups and downs but those relationships are worth fighting for and pursuing
13. Find a good, Bible-teaching church and get involved in it- it makes all of the difference in the world for it helps to make faith come alive in deeper ways.
14. Invest your time and money in things that will last forever
15. God’s plans are so much different than mine. Most of the time I don’t understand them, and some I will never understand this side of eternity; but in the end, they always end up to be better because God is a God of love.
16. Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus.
17. Playing pranks on people add to the spice of life!
18. God’s word is alive and active, and it changes people’s lives.
19. God isn’t disappointed in my progress as a Christian. He is the one who it started and He is the one who will complete it. God won’t ever be disappointed in His own work.
20. It is better to listen more than talking. This is a really hard thing to learn how to do.
21. Quiet, rest time is essential to my sanity. 
22. Music is powerful. Listen to what will encourage you and spur you on in the most important things of life 
23. There is a beautiful paradox in Christianity:  We can completely rest in what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us but it is hard to live for God. No one falls into godliness. We pursue God not to be saved but because we can grow to know and experience Jesus more. Ultimately the desires to pursue Jesus are from God, so all glory goes to Him. 
24. Everything flows from my heart. When I pay attention to what is going on in my heart and allow God to work in it, life goes better.
25. Work to assume the best about people. 
26. Every season is beautiful in its own way. Having only one season would be boring.
27. Contentment is a hard place to get to and to stay at.
28. Children are a great gift from the Lord.
29. I can’t let my emotions drive my life. It is necessary to talk to myself often and remind myself of what I know to be true.  Sometimes the things that are hardest to do in the moment will bring the most joy later.
30. Most of these lessons I’m going to have to learn over and over again for the rest of my life! :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Deeper Joy!

My heart is being filled with a new kind of joy these days. Oh, I still have lots of rough and discouraging days but sometimes, even on those days, a deeper joy remains. This joy doesn't come from suddenly improved circumstances. The sources of this joy are from things that aren't easy to talk about and  especially to live out.   This is what I’m learning: confession, repentance and obedience bring joy.  There is nothing better than having a clean heart before God; but God is the only One who can create a clean and new heart.

Even though these things aren't easy or popular to talk about, they are worth talking about because of where they can lead.

Where does this all start? No one naturally has the desire to confess and repent of their sin, and be obedient to God’s leading. A few months ago I was listening to a sermon when the pastor said something that grabbed my attention. He claimed that the thing that sets apart thriving Christians from struggling Christians is the amount of time they spend drawing near to God for He promises when we do so, He will draw near to us. When He draws near to us in His perfect timing, we begin to see there is nothing more beautiful in the world than Jesus. As that happens, we begin to hate the things that get in the way of us drawing near to God.

My own heart is what draws me away from God the most. It is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). I like to think that I know what will bring me happiness and a good life. Yet so often, when I make life all about me, I’m miserable.  There are a thousand things I could name that draw my heart away from God but here are a few specific ones I struggle with every day.  I can’t be too busy. I have to make sure I schedule out specific times during my week to spend seeking God and allowing Him to reveal what’s really going on in my heart. I can’t watch much TV. If I do, I start to care too much and it overtakes the things I should be doing. Lastly, I go to food rather than God to help me deal with life. It has taken me a long time to be able to admit that, but my dependence on food has been a major thing that has kept me from drawing near to God.

This is where confession and repentance comes in. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance. I can honestly say that as I confess my sins to God and to the people in my life, God is healing my heart just as He promised He would.  Ezekiel 36:26I says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” Everything I’m talking about is only possible when I become a new creation in Christ by God’s grace through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross. There is a way that seems right but its end is death and destruction; but Jesus came to give us life and an abundance of it.  Repentance is simply turning from our natural desires to chasing the abundant life Jesus longs for each one of us to experience. Repentance at the most basic level is choosing to love Jesus above all else.

Repentance then leads to a desire to obey Jesus because we have tasted and seen that He is good. We become more and more convinced that His way is so much better than the selfishness, bitterness, envy and self-promotion of comfort and attention we have tried to find joy in. Jesus frees us from all of that! There is freedom in not having to pretend we are something we’re not or that we have it altogether. There is freedom in not having to depend on people, on ourselves and events for our joy. There is freedom being able to say “I’m a mess but look how amazing Jesus is!” Because we have experienced so much love and forgiveness in Jesus, we are freed up to offer the same to others.

I’ll be honest though, many times obedience to God is very hard. Even though I know I am deeply loved in Christ and that He is trying to lead me into the deepest level of joy, I want to do what feels right in the moment. His way is totally different than ours.  He calls us to love our enemies, to forgive those who hurt us, to lay down our rights and wants for others, to give everything to follow Jesus.  Obedience can be very costly. Even in the times I manage to obey God through His grace, I usually fight Him in the process.  Even though I often don’t understand His ways, I can say with all my heart, He is worth it all!  I can never out give God. My emotions often follow after my obedience but nothing compares to the joy that is possible in following Jesus and allowing Him to give me a new heart. Despite my sinful heart that is so slow to trust and obey Him, I know God still loves me with an unfailing love and grace. The same is true for anyone who will run to Jesus. How amazing is that?!

He is worth it all!!

Here is a song that has been a large inspiration to this blog:

Monday, October 13, 2014

This Grace

I had a really incredible summer and it is still impacting my life. I had the opportunity to work at the summer day camp at my church as the LIT (Leaders In Training) director. I got to work with a group of Jr. high students who want to be future counsellors and through different ways, we provided them with some training.

A week before camp started a friend, who meant a lot to me, suddenly died. I was going to go visit him the day before but it just didn’t work out. Going into the last week of planning for camp- I was numb; filled with hurt, frustration and regret.  I had to plan the Bible studies and I felt like I was the last one who should be doing so. I had missed my opportunity to tell someone I really cared about Jesus so I felt like such a hypocrite.  Even though it was a really hard week, God just kept carrying me through, guiding me and bringing everything together. I soon began to see the same way he carried me through that week, was the same way he carried me through the whole summer.

There were many, many times I felt I was in over my head as the LIT director. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing! Still, I loved the LIT’S and my favourite time of the day quickly became our Bible study time. They had so many questions and we had some amazing conversations.  That is what really changed things for me!

For the first time in a long time, I couldn’t be lazy spiritually. I was forced into daily Bible reading, prayer and dependence on God.  God renewed in my heart a deep desire to know His word so much better and to pursue Him more and more. Through all of this, God also showed me areas of my life and heart I was just glossing over that really needed attention. The closer the light, the more dirt it reveals. All conviction is painful but I realized there’s no way around it if I want a deep relationship with God.  Why does God force the issue? Because, sin drains the life out of us (Psalm 32) and there is truly nothing better than having a clean heart before God.  Why keep pursuing God in the midst of conviction? Because, the more I understand how sinful my heart is, the more I can understand just how amazing the grace of God really is!

When I deserve condemnation and punishment, I find in Jesus full forgiveness and unending mercy.

When I deserve harshness and God’s anger, I find a gentle and kind saviour who was tempted in every way I am so that He can show me mercy and grace.

When my sin separated me from God, Jesus showed me unconditional and steadfast love through the cross.

When I deserve no good thing, God continues to fill my life with his goodness and so many amazing blessings.

Solomon tells us to remember our Creator when we are young (Ecclesiastes 12) so that we don’t have to go through our whole lives stuck in the same destructive ways and be filled with regret.  I know I will always struggle with sin and will continue to fail in many ways, but I would rather let God take my hand and lead me to better things. I want to be free of the sin that entangles me. I want to pursue godliness not so He will love me more, but rather out of deeper desire to experience the beauty of Jesus.

So, this thanksgiving I’m particularly thankful for the grace of God! These lyrics perfectly sum all of this up:
Oh, this grace on which I stand
It will hold me to the end, never failing
Oh, praise the One who rescued me
Jesus, You will ever be my salvation

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Just Like A Child

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of GodSee what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

A couple of weeks ago I got to go to Florida with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew.  It was one of the best vacations I’ve had! One of my favorite parts of the week was waking up to my 3 month year old nephew Lucas each morning.  Most mornings I tried to get up with Lucas so that my sister could sleep in more.  She has to do it every other morning but for me it is still a novelty!  After Lucas was fed and changed in the morning, he was so happy.  We played for a while, he giggled and squealed, and those mornings were so precious! I love him so much!

Sometimes the longing to be a wife and mother is so strong, but God has been so good to bring so many babies into my life now that I can love.

As much as I love Lucas, I can’t even imagine the love that comes from a parent-child bond. I loved watching Janette and Mike interact with Lucas. I love how attentive and gentle they are with him, and how much they just delight in and enjoy him.

One morning I read Matthew 18:1-14 and it completely came alive to me in a new way as I had Lucas in mind .  It goes like this:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What quality best describes Lucas right now? He is desperate. He is totally dependent for everything. If nobody dressed, fed, and changed him he would die. At this point Lucas can’t even sit up by himself. Lucas hasn’t done anything to make Janette and Mike love him so much because he can’t do anything to earn their love. It is the same with us and God. We are dead in our sin with no power or desire to come to God. We can’t do anything to earn the love of a majestic, holy and perfect, Lord of all God.  We just need to come to God with a simple yet implicit faith. We just need to need him!

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin. For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

I know these verses seem very harsh! But, what does sin bring? Death! If anyone ever tried to do anything to Lucas, I know Janette and Mike would do anything and everything to try to protect him!  In the same way, God sees the full picture of how sin brings so much destruction and death to the people He created, and any strategy to get rid of sin and the causes of it is not too much.

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Have you ever thought about the sheer number of people in the past, the present and the future that have or will put their faith in Jesus? Despite that though when one of His Children goes astray, He still pursues them. There are also angels in heaven who minister to us when we are weak.  That should bring such a comfort to our souls!

It has been a beautiful realization to come to understand more and more how desperate I am for God. It is painful to admit that how often I want to go my own way and go astray. How often I need God to convict me of sin and to remind me of His truth. It’s life-giving too though! The more I know how much I really do need Him, the more I can see how much my Father loves me, fights for me, chases after me, and simply delights in me.

A child never outgrows his dependence on his parent, even as he grows and becomes stronger. When he is no longer dependent, he ceases to be a child. As those who have put our faith in Christ, may we always come before him with the dependence and humility of a child. Love and enjoy the children God places in your life, and while you do, bask in the glory that it is only a fraction of how the Father loves and delights in you as His child!

“It is not necessarily the one who knows the most theology, the one who wins the most souls, or the bravest martyr who is the greatest in the kingdom. It is the one who is most like a child.” –R.C. Sproul