Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wooed and Won

It all began when I was a small child. God’s wooing. I heard the salvation message, I tried to respond. Something wasn’t clicking. Then, at church camp the director said you’ll know when you’re saved because you’ll be overcome by joy. Sitting on the bus on the way home, I prayed and accepted Jesus’s gift of salvation. Saved. And joy flooded me.

Fast-forward a few years. A youth group from an Assemblies of God church visited my grandmother’s church, bringing the Holy Spirit and an example of teens living for God with them. “Annette, I’d like you to ‘meet’ the Holy Spirit.” “Holy Spirit, have your way with Annette.” I fell in love with God after that as I spent hours in my room communing with Jesus.

I fell in love with Him again (also during a season of prayer) many years later.

Picking up my journals, I scanned them this year, pulling nuggets, reliving trials. Recognizing how God had moved in my life, changing me, wooing me closer.

I’m His. No matter what. There’s nowhere else to go.

I’ve been wooed and won by Jesus.

Monday, November 29, 2010

God's Passionate Love

"Oh! Ephraim is my dear, dear son,
my child in whom I take pleasure!
Every time I mention his name,
my heart bursts with longing for him!
Everything in me cries out for him.
Softly and tenderly I wait for him." God's Decree.
(Jeremiah 31:20, MSG)

What a verse! Found this one Sunday morning some time while we were at church.

Isn’t it fun to sometimes insert your own name into a verse and believe the good news you’re reading is for you? I changed out the name Ephraim to Annette and then reworked a few pronouns to fit better.

“Oh! … my dear, dear one.” God calls us dear—we’re so precious to Him.

We’re God’s children. He takes pleasure in us. (This theme is all over the Bible—God delights in us.)

He speaks our names and then He longs for us with a deep passion. He wants to spend time with us, to hear us pray, to commune with us. (see Song of Songs 2:14 and Rev. 3:20)

He desires us. Wow. This theme is so strong in this verse. Have you ever missed someone so badly you “cried out” for them? What if God has an insatiable need to be near you, to experience you, your heart?

Softly and tenderly He waits for us. Hmm… like a kind Father, or like a patient Lover. This is our God, our passionate, loving God.

Homework: write this verse down in your journal with your name (and appropriate pronouns) and meditate on it often. Get even more personal with God. Ask Him to open this verse up to you—its themes, its truths about His heart toward you. Delight in His delighting in you. This is how we get free, healed, blessed. When God shows us the truth about His heart toward us, voices of condemnation are silenced. Timidity gives way to confidence. Mistrust gives way to abandonment. God’s heart changes ours.

This verse is an invitation to enjoy Him. Let's go!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God's Love Arrested Me

God’s love overtook me today.

I was out running errands today when bam! the lyrics of the song “Where I Belong” by Cory Asbury connected my spirit with God’s desire, and His love arrested me.

Here are the lines that got to me:

I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine.
So, come into your garden and take delight in me.
Take delight in me.

Delight in me.
Delight in me.
Delight in me.

And it hit me. God delights in me whether I feel delight-able or not. He doesn’t condemn me for not having my devotional time on a crazy-busy day (like today). He doesn’t disown me for my mistakes. In fact, He invented this process whereby we are fashioned into His image. (So, He isn’t at all offended by it.)

God delights in me.

Same’s true of you.

Good news, isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Expect More of God's Love

God told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!"
(Jer. 31:3, MSG)

Isn’t that a fantastic verse? When I read it this morning, I was prompted to pray for three things:

1) the ability to recognize God’s love in my life
2) the ability to receive God’s love in a greater measure
3) that He’d enlarge my heart with a greater capacity to receive

(Those last two are closely related.)

Isn’t God’s love what we all long for? A greater experience of it.

God’s love is so astonishing, so mind bending, a fresh revelation has the power to revamp our lives, to heal our hurts and to free us from lies.

So, how do we pursue a greater understanding of God’s love?

Ask Him (like that list above).

Trust Him (sometimes His love won’t look how we expect).

Seek Him (spend time chasing after Him in prayer and while reading the Word—you can’t get to know someone if you never spend time with them).

Love Him (reach toward Him in love).

And now may God’s love arise in your heart as He shows you a deeper revelation of His awesome affection for you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Amazing Heart

“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37, NKJV)

This is Jesus speaking of Himself. He’s calling His own to be alert to His arrival. Makes my spirit perk up once again.

Then, He’s promising something else, from his oh so amazingly humble heart—He will serve us.

That undoes me.

Imagine it—Jesus, the King of kings, the One who holds the universe together by the power of His Word, will serve us. You and me, His beloved.

I think that’s why. We’re His beloved. He would do anything for His beloved. He has. He died for us. I have a feeling, too, that it’s His pleasure to serve us. Wow. Stunning, this example of cherishing. We are His bride and even as He cherishes us now, He will continue when we are with Him in heaven. (where I believe we’ll have an even greater capacity to experience it with Him)

His is an amazing heart.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How God Loves You GOD, your God, loves you! (from Deut. 23:3, MSG)

Those words minister to me. God is so personal. He’s been reminding me of His love and grace a lot lately. I am so thankful for this new season we’re in together.

The assurance of His love gets me through the long days, the tough days, the busy days.

The reminder of His love melts my heart.

The promise of His love ministers hope to me.

His faithful love carries me and assures me.

Take time to bask in His love today. Oh how God, your God, loves you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Knowing You're Enjoyed

For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. (Psalm 149:4, MKJV)

My birthday girl twirled round and round, a big smile on her princess face. She knew this day was all about her, and that she was loved. That glow on her little face said she liked the attention and the affection that came with it.

When I study the love of God lately, I feel enjoyed. Joy rises in my heart because I know I’m loved. And more than that, I begin to believe (at a deeper level) that I am enjoyed.

God delights in you. Do you believe it? How does believing that truth affect the way you live?

When you know you’re enjoyed by God, you . . .

~ stop vying for His attention
~ doubting His true affection for you
~ stop trying to earn his unmerited favor
~ get free from rejection issues

If you’d like to see how God enjoys you, pray. Ask Him to reveal afresh to you that He enjoys you. Then, read His Word and wait on him to reveal His goodness to you. He wants you to see and understand His heart.

And if knowing God enjoys you is a familiar truth to you, why not ask God for more? There's always more of Him to experience.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tell Him You Love Him

[Jesus] then asked a second time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
(John 21:16)

If you will, this verse reads like an invitation for us to tell Him we love Him. That’s how it struck me this week anyway. Like any two people in relationship, one could ask “Do you love me?”

I think this speaks to Jesus’ passionate heart for His people as individuals. God can keep it all straight, all at once. He can have an intensely personal relationship with every single person on the planet at the same time without overload. He is God. And like the consummate Lover, He wants to hear us tell Him we love Him.

When was the last time you told Him you love Him? Not only for what He’s done, though that’s certainly where it starts. But for who He is.

Here Him whisper the question to you. What’s your answer?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Through the Lens of Love

Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we'll skip and dance all the day long.

(from Psalm 90:12, MSG)

Isn’t that beautiful? I spotted that verse after my daily reading the other morning and immediately felt that God was speaking to me of His love. He likes to comfort us and minister to us.

In a recent DVD teaching series, we heard about God’s Word (the Bible) being God’s love letter to us. Do you read His Word as if it’s His love letter?

I once heard a teacher say he used a highlighter in his Bible to underline any passage that expressed God’s love. He went on a specific search for verses having to do with God’s love and read the Scriptures through that lens of love. Whenever he’d find a verse which demonstrated God’s love, he’d highlight it in yellow. He said Ephesians in his Bible was pretty much spray painted in yellow and just when he thinks he’s underlined everything, another verse would surprise him with God’s love at its core.

Why not read the Scriptures as if they were written as a love letter to you?

This may be a new perspective for you. If so, seeing the Scriptures this way may not come easily. There’s a secret to it. Here’s what you do: ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and tenderize your heart as you read. Don’t read too quickly, you might miss something.

Give it a try.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Nourishing and Cherishing

I’m in the midst of a prayer experiment. You can join me.

I’ve been taking Ephesians 5:29 to heart.

For no man ever yet hated his own flesh,
but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord loves the church.

The Lord nourishes and cherishes His church.

The Lord nourishes and cherishes believers.

Jesus nourishes and cherishes me.

So I’ve been asking Him to reveal those times to me. And, when I have a specific problem or heartache, I ask Him to meet me in the midst of that situation with His nourishing and cherishing, too.

Then, I carry on with everyday life and watch expectantly. Sure enough, because He's faithful, God shows up.

Let me give you an example. The other day I had asked God for a fresh Scripture about His love. Then, I flipped open my Bible and discovered words that specifically spoke of God’s passionate love for His people. (see Psalm 33 in The Message)

Wanna try this, too?

Here’s a journal starter: How has God shown you His nourishing and cherishing activities in your life lately? If you haven’t seen this side of His involvement in your life, perhaps it’s time to ask Him to reveal His Bridegroom’s heart once again.

I’m excited to watch Him work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

God's Pleasure in the Garden

There is a lot of symbolism in the Song of Songs in regards to the believer’s heart as the garden of God.

A locked garden is My sister, My spouse;
a rock heap locked up, a fountain sealed.
(Song of Solomon 4:12)

Jesus explained it this way:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;
and every branch that bears fruit He prunes,
that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2)

God is at work inside us to prune away the stuff that shouldn’t be there.

Today, I worked at trimming away little dead shoots on my petunias and pansy plants. And while I worked, a gust of wind stirred the fragrance of the flowers, blessing me.

Did you know, your heart pleasures God?

For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. (Psalm 149:4) (note: the word "salvation" here is Yeshua--Jesus' name!)

As He’s at work inside you, shaping you and changing you, let your worship rise up. Let trust and faith rise in your heart, minister to Him, and let the fragrance lift to the Master Gardener.

Gardens are a place of romance, and God is tending the place where that romance with Him happens. When you worship, when you interact with Him, you stir the fragrances that rise like incense. And the garden sprouts another rose.

See Net’s Notes where I share more thoughts on this.

Monday, August 9, 2010

God's Kind Words

Distractions got the best of me this morning during my daily devotions. I had snuck away to my writing office. No one else was awake. Time to meet with God. Ahhh . . . . Open the Bible, turn on the music, light a candle and . . . in walks my preschooler.

Do distractions frustrate you during your quiet times, too?

I set boundaries, telling her I was going to have my “Bible time” and tried to focus on the Scripture passage before me. But nothing clicked. I read a few chapters here and there, following my semi-plan. *grin*

Then, desperate for a real connection with God, I turned to the Song of Songs and tried to find meaningful sustenance. Something that spoke to me where I was. Something to commune with God around.

Scripture after Scripture, but I couldn’t sense His presence. Then, My eyes landed on the wonderful words of Song 1:8a, MSG ---

If you can't find me,
loveliest of all women,
it's all right...

How beautiful is that? He knew how frustrated I was with not feeling connected, with the distractions of my early-riser and my hope to experience His tangible presence this morning. And He spoke directly to me. “Don’t worry. I’m right here. And I’ll still affirm you, even if you can’t feel My presence.”

But then, later today, as I sat working at my computer, His presence poured out thick over me as I listened to worship music. So beautiful. So real. So delicious.

He understands better than we think. Hang onto that. He sees. He knows. He loves. He affirms.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Resting In His Love

My pup watches me for opportunities to jump up in my lap and rest. His favorite place to take a nap? My lap. Well, one of his favorites. (Just ask the rest of my family members, who all have laps *grin*.)

So, as I worked at my computer today and Jack rested on my lap, the lyrics of the song I had playing behind the scenes repeated a phrase:

resting in His love

Reminds me, I can rest in God’s love.

Every time I see something in my life that needs changing, I can relax and rest in God’s love. My job is to cooperate with Him. Leave the rest to Him. This keeps me from condemning myself.

Every time I mess up. (see above *grin*)

Every time I wonder what’s next. He’s got good plans. (Jeremiah 29:11)

His love helps me trust Him.

Knowing Him in His love helps me find rest. If you’re looking for rest or peace, turn to God and consider His love. Meditate on His love by finding Scriptures which speak directly to this element. Interact with Him based on His love. Let His love reassure you. And find rest.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Won't Be Long Now

Do you get the feeling time is short? Believers understand Jesus is just about to fulfill His promise of John 14:1-3.

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Last year, our church’s women’s cell groups (small groups) began a study by Shannon Ethridge called Completely His. This weekend will be the culmination of that study—a wedding ceremony.

I’m getting married.

To Jesus.

We’ll physically walk the aisle at our church and receive a ring and celebrate with a reception following.

Really looking forward to this “dress rehearsal,” if you will.

But one day, we will stand with Jesus in the ultimate wedding—the ceremony of the ages.

"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." (Rev. 19:7)

Are you ready?

Are you ready to see Him? Are you ready for His return to catch us away? (see 1 Thess 4:17)

Are you ready to wed the King of kings?

Perhaps considering this idea of divine romance is a little odd for you, a little foreign. I assure you, it’s biblical. Bridal themes run throughout the Bible.

He specifically led me to consider a romance with Him in new light about twelve years ago. In wonder, I discovered He wanted intimacy with me. Then, as I pondered this new adventure, this new tenderizing in my heart, I asked Him for confirmation that my new prayer experiences were of Him.

As I searched my Bible for a passage related to something entirely different (just studying my Bible as I often do), I found the following verse:

"And it shall be, in that day," Says the LORD, "That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ ” (Hosea 2:16)


"I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:18-19)

That’s when I knew. This idea of a divine romance is real.

It’s powerful.

Knowing Jesus in this way has removed walls in my heart, healed painful places, helped me minister to others and helped set me free.

How wonderful to know Him as Bridegroom. Both here while on earth, but also soon when we see Him face to face.

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." (1 Cor. 13:12)

Friday, July 23, 2010

He is Jealous For Me

You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. (Exodus 34:14, NLT)

He is jealous for me . . .

Recognize that phrase? It’s the first line from a Kim Walker Smith worship song called “How He Loves.”

That lyric’s been running through my mind today.

Like a lover, God is jealous for us.

He’s jealous of the lesser lovers we're tempted to occupy my thoughts with, or idols which want to occupy our hearts.

Where do you turn when your heart aches?

I’ve discovered there are two achiness levels:

The first is an obvious, once-in-a-while, somebody-just-died or I-got-bad-news kind of heartache. This kind of ache is universal in tough situations. Those are times our appetites dim, our vision narrows to survival, our plans shift. It’s about mourning or grieving and it can happen in any number of situations. When I have that kind of deep heart ache, it's more first nature for me to turn to God, even when I don’t understand what He’s doing.

Then, there’s the second kind of achiness. This one is much more subtle. This kind of heart achiness happens daily for me. It’s a general sense that all is not as good as it could be. It’s a nagging temptation toward discontent. It’s called Melancholy on the Oneishy temperament charts. It’s what I do during those times that’s trickier.

Anyone can spot an obvious ache and address it. It’s the subtle aches which can tempt believers to turn to lesser gods.

But God is calling us from behind the aches to run to Him and learn how to draw what our hearts need from Him. It’s not easy. You have to press in. You have to patiently wait. If the first time you attempt to have your heart satisfied through prayer and worship/communion with God doesn’t satisfy you, just keep coming back for more of His presence. He will reward those who diligently seek Him. That’s faith’s requirement.

He is jealous for me.

What will you do with that truth?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

God's Wooing Me

God’s wooing me lately. I can feel it. That nudge in the middle of the day to stop and just worship Him. That overwhelming sense of His presence and love during corporate worship as He pours out His Spirit. The ways He speaks to me and ministers to Me through His Word.

He’s answering my prayer to draw me closer to Him.

He’s at work to open my heart through tenderness. Did you know that’s one of God’s secret weapons against cynicism and cold-heartedness? He closes the distance via tenderness. He speaks tenderly to me, reminding me of His love and that we have a bridal relationship.

Last night, I pulled out my guitar (it’s been a while) and just ran through some tunes. A few of them were from years ago. Didn’t matter how old, though, if they were bridal—related to knowing Jesus as the Bridegroom God and recognizing my position as His bride—I was drawn to them. For over an hour I pressed through the zinging pain of tender fingertips and experienced Him in those lyrics.

Before that, I’d spent some time worshiping to tunes on my iPod while reading the Word. Over and over again I was drawn to Scriptures which speak of knowing God and His love. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s definitely a welcome occurrence.

There’s a new tenderness in my heart and a new awareness of God’s nearness and His pursuit of me.

I’m glad He never stops, and I’m very thankful He has sensitized my heart once again to experience Him this way.

He honors prayers for more of Him. If you’re hungry, ask for more. If you’re not hungry, ask Him to make you hungry—to enlarge your heart, and then fill it up with Him.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

God's Personal Words

Aren’t you glad God speaks to us today?

The other morning, I sat with my Bible and journal, hoping to read of God's love, but instead going from passage to passage of God’s judgment against His adulterous people. Eeek! What have I done? Is God trying to tell me something here?

Uh . . . no. He was very clear that those pages weren’t His personal heart toward me in that moment. So, I voiced my desire to hear kind words from Him. And here’s what He said: “If you want to hear from me directly to you, second person (and in kindness), you know where to look.”

I immediately flipped to the Song of Solomon where King Solomon represents Jesus and His heart for His bride. Here’s where my gaze landed:

Song of Songs 2:10-14

Get up, my dear friend,
fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
The whole world's a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend,
my fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove—
leave your seclusion, come out in the open.
Let me see your face,
let me hear your voice.
For your voice is soothing
and your face is ravishing.

His phrases wooed me and my heart melted.

Then, a couple days later, I sat down and opened directly to this delicious passage:

5-6 God's love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.

7-9 How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You're a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.

10-12 Keep on loving your friends;
do your work in welcoming hearts.

(Psalm 36, MSG)

Oh, I’m glad God uses His Word to encourage us. And for His personal words in my life. What a gift!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hearing God's Voice

As promised, here are some steps you can take if you'd like to learn to hear God's voice.

1) Ask Him to speak to you. Believe He wants to. Ask Him to lead you. As a born-again believer, the Holy Spirit already dwells inside you. He longs to dialogue with you.

2) Grab a journal and get ready to write. This is an act of faith, but you’ll be glad you recorded what He said. When I was first learning to prayer journal, I used different pen (ink) colors for my own words and for God’s. Now, I use a symbol to delineate. I can easily go back to an old journal and discover His answers to my questions, or His prophetic direction/insight. It’s phenomenal when it hits me: “This could never have been me. I don’t even think like this!” Or all the things He tells me ahead of time.

3) Trust Him to speak. He wants to talk to you. Wait on Him. Listen.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me." ~ Jesus (John 10:27)

4) Read a passage of the Bible first. Worship. Get into His presence.

5) Don’t be in a hurry and don’t give up.

6) Ask God for discernment and keep reading His Word so you don’t get off course. Stay connected to a Bible believing body of believers (church) and be accountable. Remain teachable.

7) Be aware God’s voice will sound like your own, because He’ll use your mind and that’s the voice of your mind. (This is a new concept to people, but it’s true. Think about your own thoughts and how you hear them. They’re probably “spoken” in your own “voice.”) God is not condemning, though, so if the “voice” is condemning, it may be your own (raise your hand if you're sometimes hard on yourself), or it may be the enemy. Be careful. And always seek confirmation until you’re sure. God doesn’t mind confirming His words to His kids. He’s looking for humble followers. It’s a learning process, so keep with it.

Rejoice! God wants to speak to you!

"Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." ~ Jesus (John 18:37d)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Voice of My Beloved

This summer, my husband and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage. When I’m having a bad day or worried about something, just hearing his voice calms me—helps me know I’m not alone. I can relax and know we’ll shoulder the burden together, pray about it, trust God. The voice of my earthly beloved—my husband—soothes my heart.

In July, I will have been a Christian 30 years. What an anniversary!

I remember, as a child, I had two “wishes” in my relationship with God:

One, I wanted to “feel” love for Him when I said, “I love you, Jesus.” I remember saying the words often (out of duty, I guess), but I couldn’t access any feeling when I said them for many years. God has answered that prayer.

And two, I wanted to hear Him speak to me.

When my husband and I were first married, we attended a Christian retreat where the leadership taught us how to listen for God’s voice. The teachers began by building our faith—telling us God wanted to speak to us. What a concept! Thinking back on it now, I wonder how we went so long as Christians without believing that. I knew God spoke through the Bible, but a personal, intimate dialogue with Him seemed impossible. A wish.

But as we broke from the group, having heard the teaching, we toted journals and pens to quiet places of solitude and just listened. And God spoke. What an amazing experience! I’ve never been the same. The God of the universe wants a personal relationship with me, and He will speak to me directly. (Of course, learning discernment has been a life-long process.)

How often do you take advantage of the awesome privilege it is to be able to speak to God and hear from Him directly? As I write this, I’m challenged. My schedule is hectic and though I try to keep God on my mind, in my thoughts, in my decisions, I’m so imperfect at this.

Still, the voice of my Beloved changed everything all those years ago. And He’s still changing my life today.

Next time, here on Net's Bridal Notes, I’ll share some keys to learning to hear His voice.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eyes Only For God

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, "Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God's side!"

I’ve been reading the book of Acts in my new Message Bible. Yum! This morning a specific line stuck out to me. “[Stephen] only had eyes for God”

That’s the way I want to live. Locking eyes on Jesus. Undistracted. Undeterred. In love.

There are a million things, pain among them, that can distract us from keeping our eyes on Jesus. But if we lock eyes with Him, and stay intentionally focused, things of this world will fade away.

Stephen knew he’d give his life as a martyr in this moment. He’d told the people their history, ending with the news “and you’re just like your ancestors who disobeyed God and missed His chosen ones, the prophets. You missed Jesus and you condemn His followers.” For that they stoned him, but in the midst of it all, he kept his eyes fixed on his Savior. And had a glorious vision, not to mention amazing courage in the midst of the stoning.

Sounds like a good example to follow.

I want to only have eyes for God.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

God's Nearness Every Moment

Today I’m inspired by Gregory Boyd’s fantastic book Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now.

I’ve posted a review over at Net’s Book Notes.

The concept is to remain constantly aware of God’s presence, His nearness, His goodness in the moment.

Over ten years ago I read Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence. This book challenged me to remain aware of God’s nearness in the moment. There is a delicious intimacy to be had in recalling to mind that God is near and engaging with Him in the moment.

It’s the secret place of the mind. We can be about our work or driving or doing whatever activity, but then we keep our hearts focused on Jesus; He is near. He delights in us.

And part of this practice is surrendering our lives to God in the moment, talking through our plans or whatever is on our minds—worries, battles, whatever.

Jesus is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. (see Prov. 18:24) Taking it another step deeper: Jesus is a Lover who sticks closer than a brother. (see Modern KJV of Prov. 18:24)

Have you ever stood gazing on something beautiful in creation? Maybe you’ve hiked a mountain trail, reached the top and stared in awe and wonder at the view before you. Your heart was stirred by the beauty, drawn, opened. God created you to enjoy that moment with Him.

And not just the momentous moments, but every moment. That’s my goal: to spend ever moment with Him. To enjoy Him. To remember He accepts me every time I come. To delight in Him throughout my moments.

I believe that’s God desire for each of us. Will you engage with Him?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tend the Secret Place

Years ago, I heard a teaching by Allen Hood of International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO. He spoke about Adam tending the Garden of Eden and walking with God in the cool of the day. He talked about how Adam cared for the place of communion between himself and the Lord. I loved that picture.

Do you have a special place where you meet with God? A room, or a garden? If inside, perhaps you use candles or have specific elements which beautify the place where you pray. If outside, perhaps there are trees, a bench, flowers, wind chimes, etc. which enhance the space.

Or perhaps you have no specific place where you commune with God. We're supposed to pray without ceasing. And we certainly move about during the day, so we take the garden with us.

Your heart is a garden for God. Our affectionate Father is the One who tends the garden of your heart. Jesus is the source from which you grow. (see John's gospel) Whenever a new heart state flourishes (patience, love, kindness, gentleness . . .), yours is a fruitful garden. Sometimes God prunes back unproductive areas of your life, or areas where He'd rather you not focus in order to be more effective in other areas of his choosing. Sometimes there are dry seasons in the gardens of our hearts. Sometimes there are floods (of joy and provision). Sometimes there are stormy seasons (of pain and heartache). As you cooperate with God's work in your life, you are tending the garden of your heart. And we can always trust God is at work, changing us.

One more note about a specific, physical place where you meet with God. He created us with five physical senses. Don't be afraid to engage with Him in those senses when you commune with Him. Go ahead, add inspirational artwork, or candles or music. Grab your favorite journal and the Bible and enjoy. Sip grape juice, too, if you want. (smile) However you'd like to tend the secret place, do it. Enjoy your time with God. Tend the secret place both by contributing to its atmosphere, but also by being present there with God.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Utterly Committed

If you've accepted Jesus' gift of salvation, He is utterly committed to you. No matter what, God is committed to you as His child. And no matter what, Jesus is committed to you as His bride.

Do you ever have a horrible day? Even while serving the Lord, our days aren't always peachy. I recently had a difficult day, full of disappointments. Discouragement fell over me, and I wondered what God was up to in the midst of my circumstances. But where else is there to go? Finally, I just settled into His arms to find rest. He said, "I know you don't understand." And that was it. Just the comfort of knowing He was near, He wasn't offended at my confusion, and He wasn't going anywhere.

I'm so glad God is utterly committed to me. Aren't you? We need Him.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Always Accepted

Oh the love of God. This weekend God showered me with kisses at our church women's retreat. My birthday was right in the middle of our three days at a gorgeous setting up north.

During the first workshop Friday morning, our leader taught on worship. She said, people may reject you, but you can always go to God in worship because you are always accepted in His presence. For some reason that really clicked with me that morning. Always accepted. Sometimes I forget that.

I can believe God for His grace at times like my birthday, but those normal days, uh, not always. But now I have a new warmth when I think of God's accepting me.

Today at church we shared "cardboard testimonies." Have you seen this? Each person takes a piece of cardboard and writes the "old" them information on one side and the "new" them information on the other, like: lonely, addicted, hopeless would be side A. Then, flip the cardboard and the other side reads: fulfilled by the God of hope (or something to that effect).

These testimonials are personal and powerful as each person parades across the stage and shares their silent story of how God has impacted and changed their lives.

One of the words on Side B of my cardboard today was "acceptance." :-)

YOU are accepted in the Beloved (Jesus), dear reader. As soon as you received His free gift of salvation, you were welcomed into the family of God. The Affectionate Father chose YOU. Purposefully. Specifically. Rejoice! You are accepted. Always.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nothing Can Separate us from God's Love

Is it any surprise I have “dove” windchimes? This morning we have a balmy southerly wind where I live. It’s overcast, but 64 degrees. And my dove windchimes are raising a chorus of sound.

Reminds me. No matter our circumstances or disappointments, as Jesus’ bride, we can enjoy Him, find solace in Him, find strength and peace in Him and praise Him. (not necessarily in that order *grin*)

He is the Lover of my soul, and that does not change. No matter what’s happening, good or bad. He doesn’t pull back on hard days and draw near on tough days. In fact, God is near to the brokenhearted.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

Be encouraged to draw near to Jesus today, whatever you’re facing. He is near to you, His dove, His beloved one.

Let the song of the dove rise from your heart to His ear.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Our Time Together

I awake, remembering Jesus is near. “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (see Psalm 118:24) "My thoughts of Him shall be sweet." (see Psalm 104:34, MKJV) He is so faithful and good to me, to my family.

When I awaken my preschooler, she stretches her arms to me for a hug before her eyes are even open. So sweet that tender embrace. I feel completely loved.

Afternoons, my pup sleeps on my lap while I write. I look forward to these times of helping him get comfortable and snooze blissfully.

I think Jesus looks forward to my reaching out to Him, too. During specific times, sure—morning devotionals. Evening quiet times. But I think any moment during the day when I turn to Him in my spirit and listen and pray or sing. It’s a time of sweet sharing. Of loving exchange.

A time we both look forward to. How amazing that God longs to be with me, with you. That He longs for us and gives us a longing for Him. I pray for grace to never take that for granted. I want to "call upon the Lord when He is near" and "delight myself in His beauty." (see Isaiah 55:6 and Psalm 27:4)

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Song of the Dove

There it is again. The gentle call of a dove who has nested high in the trees outside my office window. I hear her song daily now. Co-coooo. Co-coooo. The peaceful sound of a contented bird.

A couple weeks ago, during a rainy, stormy March day, this dove and her mate created their family. Now she coos sweetly to God who is meeting her needs.

Jesus spoke of God meeting our needs. He first described how God meets the needs of sparrows. My pastor calls this Sparrow Faith. It’s a law of the kingdom. God will meet our needs. His faithful and cannot deny Himself. (see 2 Timothy 2:13)

Look at how Eugene Peterson put it in the Message Bible:

"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds." (Matthew 6:25, MSG)

We can be “careless in the care of God.” I take that to mean careful, but you get the meaning. Relaxed in your soul as God works in your life. Trusting. At ease. Peaceful.

Believers are considered His doves:

Behold, you are fair, my love! Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes.” (Song of Solomon 1:15)

So, when I sing, or speak, or pray, God hears my voice as His dove. He’s tuned to my call. Like when I perk up at the cooing sound outside my window, God perks up. “Oh, there she is. I love that sound. Let me hear more of it.” The same is true of all believers.

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the cliff,
Let me see your face,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your face is lovely.” (Song of Solomon 2:14)

And when I have a need, I know God hears. His heart is warmed with the sound. He will help.

That’s His promise to His dove.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Passionate God

Traditionally, the idea of the Christ’s passion is His suffering at Calvary. In modern terminology we don’t think of passion in terms of pain, generally speaking. But I like this phrase because I believe Jesus’ sacrifice truly showed His passionate heart.

He would do anything for His bride.

~ He is the vehicle God used to create all of the universe. He is the Word.

~ Jesus holds everything together by the Word of His power.

~ He came to redeem creation, to buy back people from the enemy.

~ He suffered in order to redeem us.

Honestly, I can’t camp on His agony very long. I’m extremely sensitive. But God tenderly reveals pieces of the crucifixion at a deeper level, and I’m awed. I’m undone. We share beautiful communion around His sacrifice.

As we continue through this Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday, consider Jesus’ sacrifice as the evidence of His passionate love for you as His bride.

He would do anything for you.

He has.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Bride Price

In 1998, I picked up a book that has changed the way I understand the crucifixion, Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s power. I like to reread it around Easter (Resurrection Sunday) because of the affect it has on me.

Though this is a little out there, I cannot deny the response my heart has as I read it. I’m drawn closer to Jesus. In fact, I remember excitedly reporting to my pastor twelve years ago the effects of reading this book and adding a disclaimer, “Whether it’s legit or not, I’m closer to Jesus and celebrating His power and His sacrifice, so nothing’s been lost.” The point wasn’t an argument about the authenticity of the book’s subject, but rather how God used it to draw me to Him. Curious?

You probably immediately recognized the picture in this post. It’s from the Shroud of Turin. And the book I’m referring to is Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud by Gilbert R. Lavoie (now out of print). First, this scientist shows the evidence that the shroud is legitimate and supernatural—there is no paint present on or in the fibers, but there is blood present. He breaks down the scientific and medical evidence from true scientists who’ve studied the shroud, some not even Christians (i.e. no stake in proving this is Jesus’ burial shroud).

The fact that the image is a negative (think photography) is phenomenal. When you photograph the shroud’s image and develop it, the “negative” will produce a positive image. But either way (the final negative image, or the negative’s positive image), the image is three dimensional.

What astonishes me is the image is created from light “flashing” from the inside of the body (my interpretation from reading the book). (Again, think photography.) Life. And, the feet are in the “dangling above the ground” position when this light hits and creates the image. Power.

Get this: This body was lifted up, suspended upright (hair is not splayed around the head as if lying down) above the ground, infused powerfully with life and light and healed before the shroud fell away and the body stood again. Before the eyes opened, this body experienced a powerful infusion of light bursting forth from the inside while denying gravity. Extraordinary.

The image also depicts the pain Jesus suffered for us. The 100 scourge marks along his entire body, front and back. The nail holes in ankles and wrists. The blood around the head from thorns. The side wound. (There were many males crucified by Roman soldiers. How many were 1) scourged first (probably many); 2) wore a crown of thorns (rarer); 3) had blood flow from their sides (without broken legs)?

So, okay, you caught me. I do believe this is the burial shroud of Jesus and that God gave us an amazing piece of evidence which has survived a fire, as well as water damage and two millennia. (linen can last this long)

It’s the power depicted that captures me every time I read this book.

It’s the love depicted that makes me worship Jesus anew.

It’s the sacrifice that brings me to thanksgiving and helps me celebrate Resurrection Sunday with a fresh perspective.

It’s Jesus’ bride price, what He paid for us to know God and be forgiven, that woos me.

What a Bridegroom! He paid for His bride with His life, then offered that life to her. To us. Hallelujah!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Called Away

Do you hear that? Your name on a whisper. (What a personal God--He calls us by name.)

Does your schedule permit personal time with God?

In the mornings, I sit down with my Bible, journal and a pencil box full of crayons, actually. I like to highlight and date Scriptures as they stand out to me. Every penciled-in date is a milestone, a memorial (as God has revealed to me) of a time spent with Him.

But I have an option during that devotional time. I can read, pray and get on with my day, or I can savor His Word, view the passage through the lens of bridal affection (me as the bride, Christ as the Groom) and lavish in His loving attention.

Some mornings limited time keeps me from pursuing His manifest presence. Sometimes it's doubt, or unbelief. Other times it's interruptions or distractions. (Things get kinda hectic around here.)

But what if there were no excuses?

What if I chased after God's manifest presence every single day, achieved that contact, and let Him minister to me while I worship, read, pray or journal? What if I abandoned myself to the truth that He delights in me every day? What if nothing stood in the way of fully encountering Him, not sickness, or interruptions or doubts? In the midst of a busy life, with multiple roles, is it even possible?

Sure. If I prioritize. If His grace pours out on me like rain. If I ask.

So I tell you to ask and you will receive,
search and you will find,

knock and the door will be opened for you.

~ Jesus (Luke 11:9, CEV)

One more verse as food for thought:

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret places of the cliff,

Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice;

For your voice is sweet, And your face is lovely.

~ the Bridegroom God (Song of Songs 2:14, NKJV)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lean into His Touch

This morning, I was studying “comfort” verses, where God comforts His people (Isaiah 40:1; 66:13). Later, God showed me I can lean into His touch and be comforted.

What does that mean?

I can let my guards down with God.

I can let Him see just how much I need Him.

I can fully indulge in God’s goodness as He interacts with me.

I don’t have to worry about making a good impression, holding myself together, or any other such “stuff.”

I can just be.

Lean into God’s touch today and know that as a born-again believer, you are accepted in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:6)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just His Name

This morning, while out for a walk in our lovely spring weather, I noticed an RV with tiny lettering under the RV's make. Those letters, meant to catch the eye of the discerning reader spelled out: Y E S H U A.

My heart stirred.

His name.

Do you know Jesus as Yeshua? That is His Hebrew name, and likely the name people called Him as He was growing up. It's very personal to me. So, even while out for a walk, the Name seemed whispered in the air as I read it, and my heart awakened.

Like a secret, the Name hid there on the parked RV (which I've passed at least thirty times in recent years) called to me, beckoned me to connect again with the One who is always with me. The Bridegroom.

My Bridegroom.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dancing With Jesus

The best dances begin with hugs. This morning, during worship at our church, our leader led us in a new song--a spontaneous melody with simple words. We quieted the volume and I pictured us each dancing with Jesus and whispering the song into His ear, as if we were hugging Him and sharing a secret.

Then we broke into "How He Loves"--a song in 3/4 time (or is it 6/8)? Either way, there we were, waltzing with God.

Dancing with God is a metaphor for life. He leads. We follow. He moves, we move. He stops, we stop.

A dance is intimate. Jesus wants an intimate relationship with us. He wants to be personal. He already knows all about our lives, but He wants us to discuss our lives with Him. To follow Him. To entrust our lives with Him.

We surrender our lives to Him, taking His hand, stepping out onto the dance floor of life and letting Him spin us around the floor.

That's what He's after.

Because your life, in God's hands, has all the potential the Creator placed in you.