Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Turning Shame into Radiance

This post was originally published on the blog I write for Deeper Still Ministries, at www.deeperstilldevotions.blogspot.com.  I wanted to share it with you today.  

"I sought the Lord, and He heard me, 
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant, 
And their faces were not ashamed...
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him 
And delivers them.
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"  Psalms 34: 4-5, 7

During the summer, I took one of my children to a local amusement park.  I promised this child I would not share the details surrounding this event with anyone, so I will be vague on purpose.  This child did something...well... embarrassing.  So much so that we left a line of a much anticipated ride so we could deal with the incident.

We sat on a bench while I contemplated what the consequence should be for this action.  I prayed, "Lord, what should I do?"  I looked at my child's face.  Tears ran down sweet cheeks that were filled with smiles moments before.  My child was looking down and I knew if I reacted wrongly that shame would set in and it might set in deep.  Suddenly, my child looked up at me with tear filled eyes and said wholeheartedly, "I am so sorry. I will never do that again. Please forgive me."  Immediately, my heart melted.  I knew my child was truly sorry.  The answer to my prayer--Grace.  

I embraced my child and smiled.  I replied, "I know you are truly sorry. I can tell. Thank you for telling me you are sorry. Let's pray and you can ask God to forgive you too.  And then, it will be like it never happened.  Do you know that when we ask the Lord to forgive our sins and we are truly sorry, He forgets them and removes them as far as the east is from the west?"  So we prayed and I told my child we would forget this happened and enjoy the rest of our day.  

Do you know what happened after my child sought the Lord and prayed for forgiveness?  The shame that was setting in on my child's face disappeared and instead beamed with radiance.  "They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed."  Oh, how the Lord wants our faces to be radiant with His glory!  He doesn't want His glory hidden under a mask of shame.  Grace, truth and forgiveness unleash us to be the person He created us to be.  He created us for His glory!  

He wants to say, "Dear child, I remove your sins as far as the east is from the west.  I want to replace shame with the glowing radiance of My glory.  And I want you to enjoy the rest of your life bringing glory and honor to Me." 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Take a Load Off

"Blessed be the Lord, Who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation! Selah [pause and calmly think of that]!  

God is to us a God of deliverances and salvation; and to God the Lord belongs escape from death [setting us free]. "  Psalms 68:19-20

Are you carrying a heavy load today?  Is there a weight pulling you down?  You were never meant to carry the encumbrance.

Our Lord bears our burdens.  He not only carries our cares, He also carries us day by day.

There are many applications to these verses.

Is your burden a worry?

Are you weary?

Are you weighed down with the heaviness of guilt from a past sin (or present)? 

Has someone wronged you and cumbersome unforgiveness is holding you in bondage? 

Do you feel that the weight of the trials of life are just too much to bear? 

When life seems too heavy and you are barely pulling through, He picks you up and takes you to a place of rest.  When you feel stuck in the mud and muck of the mundane, He reaches out and carries you to the security of solid rock.

God is a God a deliverances.  Let Him deliver you.  Whatever describes your load, give it to Him today.

If it is a bondage  that is wearing you down,  He will give you the escape route. There might be some hills and valleys in the route.  It may involve some climbing to get out of the pit, but God will lead you every step of the way.  He knows the way of escape and He will carry you if need be to get you to the place of freedom. Just ask Him.

He will set you free.

Power Verses:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

"Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Heart At Rest - #ISaidYes

My husband and I are in a transitional period in our lives.  God has brought many changes into our lives over the past several months.  Some we had no control over.  However, there was one in which we had to decide if we would say, "Yes Lord" with total abandon and step out into the unknown.  We knew the Lord was leading us and even though we knew it would be hard, we said:  Yes.

Over the past couple of months I have looked back at that decision to say yes.  It has been harder than I could have possibly imagined.  My emotions have fluctuated in response to the reactions around me.

When we make a decision to say "Yes" to God, there will no doubt be opposition from those who don't understand.  And,  how can I expect them to understand when I don't completely understand it myself.

I was looking back and concerned about what others thought about me and about our decision.  I was looking forward wondering if I would ever know why or see the positive outcome of obedience.

My emotional reactions indicated only one thing:  A lack of trust.

A lack of trust that we indeed heard from God. A lack of trust that our ever-loving Creator, the one who forms the stars and commands the seas, was leading us safely to the new land He has for us.

I didn't fully realize my reactions were a lack of trust until the other day.  Tears barged through their ducts and it seemed no amount of effort could stop the flow.  Again, I cried in desperation, "Lord help me."  God brought comfort in an unconventional, but totally God-way.  He challenged me...

He reminded me of the Israelites and how they did not trust Him to lead them safely to the promise land.
They accused God of leading them into the wilderness to die.  They groaned and complained.  They could not physically see their destination out in front of them, so they walked blinded by unbelief and doubt.  It was because of their lack of trust in the Lord that they wandered around the wilderness for forty years when it should have only been an eleven day journey. (Deuteronomy 1)

Then He said,

 "Sue, I know you can't see where you are going.  But, I am asking you to trust me.  Trust in My goodness.  Trust in My provision.  Trust in My love.  I have told you I am doing a new thing.  Shall you not know it?  It will spring forth!  I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (Isaiah 43:19)

He told me back in April that He was doing a new thing.  Isaiah 43:18-19 has been a life-line of comfort and peace to me.  He gently reminded me of it once more.

"Road in the wilderness" - A road is a clearly marked path.  He will lead us safely and show us the way.
"Rivers in the desert" - A river is a stream of life, refreshing, and full of abundance.

After God spoke to me the other night, I realized I had a decision to make.  A decision that leaves no room for vacillation.  I had to decide if I would say yes to the questions God was asking.  I said "yes".

Yes God, I trust you.  Yes God, I trust in Your goodness.  Yes God, I trust in Your provision.  Yes God, I trust in Your love.  Yes.

I said Yes and because I did, my heart is at rest.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Leaving Tearing Down to Preschoolers

When I worked in the preschool class at church, the building blocks were a favorite among the kids.  Little tikes would strategically place block upon block until they had created a monument that towered over their small frames.

Inevitably, another child would come along and destroy what they had created leaving only a pile of rubble and tears in its place.  The temptation to tear down a sky scraping masterpiece was just too much to resist.  
The one who knocked down the tower did not consider the consequences of how his actions would affect others.

I would then explain to the tearing down tot that we don't knock down other people's towers.

We are like those preschool towers.  Our Heavenly Builder has been building us block by block strategically creating a beautiful masterpiece.  He builds and builds until someone comes along and tears down.

Sometimes people will intentionally set out to destroy and other times they just happen to bump into us and a piece falls off here or there.

Perhaps someone who was suppose to love and care for you as a child fell miserably short or caused you intentional harm.  Perhaps your childhood was pleasant but someone hurt you or mistreated you as an adult. There are thousands of scenarios that could lend to us being knocked down into a pile of rubble and tears.

At times we even have played the culprit and torn others down either intentionally or accidentally.

A powerful force that is used to tear down or build is our words.

Words will either be used to destroy or build up.  We have no right to go around knocking other people's towers over!  If we are Christians, we should be working with the Lord to build others up to help them become all God designed them to be.

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."  Ephesians 4:29  

Thankfully no matter what has torn our towers down, we have a Builder who builds up back up if we will let Him.  He is our Strong Tower and our Mighty Fortress.  He can rebuild us and shape us into a glorious masterpiece.

And if you have been the menacing preschooler that has bulldozed a tower or two, today is a perfect day to stop tearing down towers.  Let's leave the tearing down of towers to preschoolers.

Father, please forgive us for ways we have torn others down either intentionally or accidentally in the past. Forgive us for using the gift of voice as a tool of destruction when you meant for it to be used for peace and edification.  I pray that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts would be acceptable to you.  I pray that we would use our mouths only for building up and not tearing down.  

I pray for those who have been victims of the wrong use of words or actions.  I pray for you to rebuild them in Your might and strength into the beautiful creations you designed them to be and that they would glorify and reflect Your light and presence.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.  

Power Verses:  

Romans 14:19 "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another."

Psalms 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Forgiven and Set Free

I also write a devotional for Deeper Still.  This is an extended version of a post I wrote for them a couple weeks ago.  I thought I would share this personal story with you today.

Darkness loomed all around me as I contemplated sharing my abortion story with my church family.  There was a heaviness on me.  Nausea overcame me at the thought of sharing my "secret".  The medium was harmless enough.  I wouldn't have to speak.  A flat piece of cardboard would be my voice. However,  that small brown rectangle would contain words that could forever alter my world.  The front read:

"Abortion at 19, locked in a prison of shame and guilt."  

How could a little paper box top be so heavy?

Trying to get this decision off my mind, that night we decided to watch the movie, Narnia, for family movie night.  As I watched the movie, I realized it was no coincidence we were watching this particular movie this particular night.  We came to the battle scene at the end and I saw clearly what was happening:  There was a fight going on in the heavenlies.  There was a battle raging.  Forces of darkness fighting to keep me silent while angelic forces were fighting for my freedom.

After the movie I knew I had to share my testimony.  I knew it might not be easy and honestly, that little piece of cardboard was too heavy for me to bear on my own.  I needed the One who is strong when we are weak--Jesus.

It was time for rehearsal.  My stomach began to feel queasy at the thought of my church family seeing my testimony.  The enemy began his deceitful whispers...

What will they think?  They will judge you.  Surely, they will cast you aside in shame.  They won't look at you the same again.   

I stood in line behind other ladies with cardboards bearing their stories of redemption and grace.  The lady in front of me noticed I wasn't feeling well.  I told her I thought I might throw up and that I didn't know if I could go through with it.  She gently encouraged me, "Let me see your cardboard."  Reluctantly, I showed her my cardboard. Then, she leaned over and gently whispered, "I could have put that on my cardboard."

Immediately, I knew God had put me in that place and knew exactly what I needed to encourage me.  She reminded me of why I was there.  She reminded me of all the ladies like her, like me, who needed to hear about God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.  She reminded me of my purpose in being there--FREEDOM for her and all the ladies who shared our story.

The front of the cardboard was only half of my story.  The back of the cardboard held the truth of redemption.

I walked across the stage knowing God had placed me there.  Knowing His purpose was far greater than my fears.

Jesus, carried the load for me, and lifted the heaviness of it.

I turned the cardboard over.  On the back read:

"Forgiven and set free by the blood of Jesus."

As I turned it over, the cardboard became light and a weight was forever lifted.

There was a battle--one side wanting to keep me bound in chains and the other side wanting me free.   The enemy doesn't want the truth about God's grace, forgiveness and mercy broadcasted.  Satan would like nothing better than for those with this past sin or other sins to believe they are forever condemned to live with shame and guilt.

Yes, abortion is a grotesque sin.  It leaves one with blood-stained hands.  However, the blood of Jesus was shed even for those guilty of blood shed themselves.  His blood washes our hands white as snow.  So thankful for Jesus.  So thankful for His grace, love and forgiveness.  No, I don't deserve His grace, none of us do.  But, He offers it freely none the less.

I want to encourage you today.  If you are still living under condemnation due to past sin, give it to Him today.  Receive the forgiveness and grace He died to give you.  You are truly "Forgiven and set free by the blood of Jesus."

Power Verses: 

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." Revelations 12:11 

"Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow" Isaiah 1:18

"I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.  Return to Me, for I have redeemed you."  Isaiah 44:22