A Heart of Love

This morning I was reading Psalm 103 with my girls. I was struck by the vastness of Gods love. According to David the Lord forgives, redeems, satisfies and renews; is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is so full of mercy that he does not give us what we deserve but instead removes our transgressions. Only a God with a heart of love can be capable of such abundance. And whom does he bestow this abundant love to?  According to Psalm 103:17-18 “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him’ and his righteousness with their children’s children-with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

Meditating on this Psalm I was reminded of a lesson God taught me years ago. My sweet Anna was probably around 4 years old. She had just committed a repeat offense (I can not remember the specific offense now) and once again I had to discipline her. Afterward I was outside sweeping the deck and my child came up to me. With tears in her eyes she told me that she was sorry. My heart was filled with compassion and I looked at her freckled face and blue eyes and I gently said, “Anna I know your sorry, but I don’t want anymore apologies. I want your obedience.” As soon as the word obedience slipped off my lips I was struck to the core. God used the situation with my sweet Anna to teach me an invaluable truth, one that has been engraved upon my heart since that day.

The truth is that God shows us his love by keeping his promises and we show God our love through our obedience. This obedience is not a legalistic response to an angry God, but an overflow of gratitude at the realization of His abundant love. God will always forgive when his children repent. It is in His nature and God’s nature is unchanging (see James 1:17). Our choice to obey or not will never change God’s nature but will demonstrate to him our willingness to love him enough to lay down our rights and follow him. God is full of gifts and searches the earth to give them to those who are fully committed. (See 2 Chron. 16:9)

Jesus even teaches us through his own example that “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”  (John 15:10)

Because Christ obediently and willingly went to the cross and died for our sins, God was able to fulfill His promise of forgiveness and eternal life. And when we obediently follow Christ’s example and root and establish ourselves in His love then we can experience the “power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Eph. 3:18)

So I ask…

Just how high is His love?  “As high as the heavens are above the earth” (psalm 103:11)

Just how wide is His love? “As far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12)

Just how long is His love? “From everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 103:17)

Just how deep is His love?  Deep enough to “redeem your life from the pit” and “satisfy your desires” (Psalm 103:4-5)

 Let’s grab hold of this love Y’all!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lent-From Self-denial to Celebration!

In case you were not aware, the past five weeks have been the season of Lent. For forty days christians, mostly from liturgical backgrounds, “fast as parallel to the fasting/temptation that Jesus endured in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2). ” (Richard Abanes).  This season of fasting prepares the heart for the contemplation of the cross on Good Friday and the celebration of the resurrection on Easter.

This year I chose to fast listening to talk radio. I know that sounds like an easy task, but in my case it was not as simple as it sounds. I love information. I love knowing what is happening not just in my area, but around the world. Because I rarely have opportunity to watch television before 8pm, I began listening to the radio. Since omitting this from my morning routine I have discovered a few things.

1. I rarely take the time for quiet thoughts. Always having background noise distracts my mind. While it is useful when I am working, it keeps my mind from being still. I have enjoyed the quiet times, even though it took a good 3 weeks to get used to it. And I have been blessed as it has opened up opportunities for me to meditate on and hear from God.

2. Negative and depressing information and news can affect my attitude toward the world. After a week or so I discovered that not focusing on the negative things that are going on around me gave me opportunity to worship God and pray for others.

I love what Richard Abanes says, ” A person’s self-denial shows a willingness to make a sacrifice to God, just as Christ was willing to sacrifice himself. Moreover, fasting during Lent is intended to draw one’s focus away from earthly desires. This way the entire heart, mind, and soul can reflect on God and thereby grow closer to Christ.”

I have been grateful for the quiet and peace this season has given me. It has been hard to give up a daily habit, but the  sacrifice was worth it, growing closer to Christ always is.

Alright, now I am going to brag on my kids. Each year Wesley and I give them the opportunity to fast as well. We do not mandate this but every year they choose to fast. This year they have all done exceptionally well. I think it has been the first year that all of them have truly understood that the goal is not just self-denial, but a change of focus from self to Christ. I am so proud of them and can not wait to watch them all enjoy Easter this year. Jacob can have a soda, Matthew can play games on his itouch, Anna can have every treat she desires and Catherine will get lots of chocolate. The celebration will be a dim reflection of the feast we will enjoy in eternity.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” ( 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) The Lord is risen indeed!

Happy Easter Y’all!

 

Posted in Lent, Word Up Wednesday | 2 Comments

While we were still helpless-Immanuel

“Time keeps on slipping, into the future…” Do those words sound familiar? There are not too many people that are unfamiliar with the famous words coined by The Steve Miller Band.  Last week I sat in a meeting at the high school my oldest son will be attending next year. It was almost surreal. The whole time I was thinking “How on earth can I be sitting here when I am only 18 myself?” The next day I was wondering around in the money pit most people call Target and I noticed there were quite a few young moms with new born babies in carriers or young ones in tow. I thought “How old can these moms be?” And that was when it hit me-how fast time has flown by the past 14 years. I felt the years slipping through my fingers and a sudden rush of fear that the next 14 years will go by as fast as the previous. Time is something we can not hold onto -it is constantly in motion, always progressing.

Remeber having to write a timeline for a project at school? I was always fascinated to see how the events in the past effected those in the future and even forshadow them. As I draw this study on the names of God to a close I want to focus on a name that has become so dear to me. It is the name that was given to God in a prophesy, used again by a disciple that followed His hallowed steps. This name is personal in the way He lived and breathed among men, and is personal to you and me in this time-our time. I draw on this name everyday for strength and grace to navigate the length of time I am given. Immanuel-God with us.

Houndreds of years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah was given this word, “Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Is 7:14). Fast forward into the future and as Matthew recounts his walk with Christ he quotes this verse (Matthew 1:22) in order to prove to an unbelieving world that Jesus Christ was Immanuel the fulfillment of the scripture. God’s timing is rarely understood, but always perfect. Isaiah never saw the fulfillment of his words, but Matthew did and chose to include Immanuel in his God-inspired manuscript. I am grateful he did because it connects the dots on God’s timeline and reminds us new testament believers that God chose to send his son to become a man and “dwell among us” (John 1). Immanuel gives gravity to the fact that He suffered under every temptation and still remained sinless. And “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6). Only not to be swallowed up by death, but resurrected on the third day. And Immanuel’s life, death and resurection assure us that at the time we receive him as Savior “we are therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” ( Ro. 6:4) And that new life is lived with Immanuel-God with us.

In our time in history Immanuel does not walk in flesh but in the hearts of all who choose Him. When your loved one recieves a discouraging word from a doctor-Immanuel. When your child hurts you-Immanuel. When there is no job or the economy seems to have no hope of recovering-Immanuel. When there is victory over addiction-Immanuel. When good triumphs over evil-Immanuel. When a loved one returns from war or doesn’t-Immanuel.

You see the beauty of it is that throughout all of history and in every time, even our time, there was Immanuel. God was always there. He is the Word that spoke the world into being. He is Adonai that led Abraham and the children of Israel. And He is Immanuel-God with us, who gave himself for our salvation. My Immanuel has led me through life the past 30+ years and will guide me home. I hope and pray that He lives in you too. Even though time keeps slipping away there was, there is and there will always be Immanuel.

Thanks for sharing life with me y’all.

Posted in The Names of God Study, Uncategorized, Word Up Wednesday | 2 Comments

The LORD is my Shepherd

Have you ever reflected on your life and noticed certain themes that reappear? Like threads in a tapestry, I believe God weaves our life experiences together to give us a picture of who he has called us to be. One of the threads that God has graced me with is the 23rd Psalm.

I don’t have many childhood memories, but I will never forget my Aunt Julie teaching a sunday school lesson on Psalm 23 when I was about 5 or 6. While my memory is weak I remembered thinking how beautiful the words were. Years later, after my mother led me in the sinners prayer she led me to Psalm 23. Again the words of David echoed in my heart and showed me who my Savior was.  At least a decade later I was in awe of two little boys dressed like sheep reciting the now familiar psalm. Their faithful Grandmagoochee had patiently worked a week with them and my sons were able to speak, and act out, the whole of Psalm 23.  And today I get to  bring it to you  as we discover Jehovah-Rohi, The Lord is My Shepherd.

I thought I might go a little out of the box. Instead of discussing the Psalm I thought I might present it to you in my own words. It won’t be as poetic and gracious as the one God ordained for his work, but I hope it blesses you and inspires you to do the same.

A Psalm of Elizabeth

The Lord is my Shepherd, in him I have everything I need. He gives me rest and  peace and leads me to the Living Water that renews my soul. He shows me the way of virtue and holiness because I bear his name on my heart. Even though life is uncertain and circumstances can become difficult, I will not be afraid because my Shepherd is with me; Your word and guidance comfort me.

You dignify me in front of those who would like to see me fail. You honor me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Surely goodness and love will be with me here on this earth until I come to be with you in eternity.

Now go write your own. I love y’all!

By the Way-Today is the beginning of Lent. I am giving up listening to talk radio-a weird obsession that I have. I am going to try to replace it with worship music. I am sure I will let you know how it goes:)

Posted in Lent, The Names of God Study, Uncategorized, Word Up Wednesday | Leave a comment

Blessings from Jehovah-Jireh and Jehovah-Rapha

Lately I have been struggling with the idea of blessings. Our society seems to throw the word blessed around a lot. We, including me, often say things like, “That person is so blessed to have a nice house” or “I have been blessed with good health.” In making these statements are we not implying that a person that has a financial struggles is not blessed or that someone diagnosed with a terrible illness is not blessed either? These thought have been the backdrop of this weeks meditation and what led me to include two names of our Great God this week.

The first is Jehovah-Jireh, “the LORD Will Provide.” We come across this name as Abraham has just been spared the duty of sacrificing his own son-the child of the promise-by God providing a ram in a thicket (Genesis 22). Abrahams act of obedience was not only an allusion of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, but an example for us to follow. When we are following God in obedience God will always provide, even if it comes at the last-minute.

The next name is Jehovah-Rapha, “The LORD who Heals.” We come across this name in Exodus chapter 15. Moses had just led the people of God through the red sea and into the desert. For three days there was no water and, as usual, the Israelites began to grumble. Moses cried out to God on their behalf and God provided sweet water for them to drink. God said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if yo pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).  Here is another place when God himself speaks his name to the people. God wanted the Israelites dependant on Him for healing in the desert.

So what does Jehovah-Jireh and Jehovah-Rahpa have to do with my thoughts on blessings? Well I began to read through Strong’s and looked up many(not all) of the verses that have the word blessed or a variation of blessed in it and I discovered something very interesting. Time after time those who were regarded as “blessed” are the exact opposite of whom I, and many like me, would assume to be “blessed” ones. As a matter of fact in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives a small list of those who are blessed. Here they are:the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted.

So again what does Jehovah-Jireh and Jehovah-Rapha have to do with blessings? Well, everything. I am sure that each of us, if it is not us personally, knows someone going through financial struggle right now. If not, look to Africa, Haiti, India. Poverty is an awful condition. Why does Jehovah-Jireh not provide? What about illness? Almost every week I add another name to my prayer list of those struggling through cancer and other illness. My own mother is about to start another round of Chemo in her 4+ year struggle with lymphoma. Why does Jehovah-Rapha not heal? Perhaps it is because my view of provision and healing are not God’s. Financial provision and physical healings are not blessings-they are good gifts, but (according to Webster’s) to be blessed is to be made “holy or sacred.” And God does not want a people who live in ease He wants a people who are holy. And He is good and will not leave us alone, but walks with us as Jehovah-Jireh and Jehovah-Rapha through our trials so that we learn to trust in Him. Just like Abraham on Mount Moriah and the Israelites in the Desert of Shur, God will come through and provide and heal, even if it is at the last-minute on our way to our eternal glory, never giving up on the process of making us holy.

Until then, in the midst of our trials and questions, we can rely on these promises:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” James 1:12

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

And most importantly

“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Romans 4:7-8

On my knees for y’all, praying for blessings from our Provider and Healer.

Posted in The Names of God Study, Uncategorized, Word Up Wednesday | 4 Comments

Windows to our Souls-El Roi

An old proverb tells us that the eyes are the window to the soul. Our humanity prevents us from knowing all that is in another person’s heart. Physical cues are a part of how we can non-verbally communicate, intentionally or not.

But not so with God. God is not bound by humanity. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent ( I just studied these divine attributes:). He can see straight into the heart and soul of every person ever created completely bypassing our eyes. He is El Roi.

El Roi-The God Who sees me. This name was given to God by Hagar in Genesis 16.I am sure you are all familiar with the story, but I will give a brief recap for the sake of context.   Sarai was convinced that God had kept her from having children, so Abram went along with her crazy plan ( I mean what man would resist?) to have a child through her servant Hagar. Sure enough, Hagar conceived but she began to despise Sarai, her mistress. Sarai went to Abram and blamed him for her troubles and Abram gave Sarai permission to treat Hagar however she wanted. Eventually Hagar could put up with the abuse no longer and hit the road .

Alone, abused and pregnant Hagar ended up near a spring in the desert. And that is where she encountered El Roi. An angel of the Lord asked her “Where have you come from and where are you going?” Hagar explained she was running away. The angel told her to return and submit to her mistress and then he spoke a promise over her and her son. Hagar returned to Sarai, no doubt encouraged and amazed that she was seen by the One who saw her.

There is one element I love to this story. God saw Hagar and knew her circumstances and met her at a point of desperation, but He did not change her situation, instead he gave her a promise for the future. That promise is what gave Hagar the courage to go home. Surely Hagar would have prefered to be Sarai’s mistress but that was not a part of God’s plan.  Looking past her circumstances, Hagar trusted in the God who saw past her eyes and into her heart, and believed the promise he gave her.

How different would my life be if in every desperate situation I was able to take my eyes off of the circumstances and focus them on the One who sees me. Instead of being blown and blinded by this life and all that it throws at me what if I steadied my gaze on the One who promises to give me a “future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11)? The truth is I often react like a frightened animal and run and hide hoping and praying for God to change my circumstances. In reality, God can and often does change our circumstances but He sees past our present situations and into our hearts. His plans will be accomplished even at the expense of our momentary comfort. But He desires for us to trust and believe and walk confidently with Him in all situations, depending only on Him and His promises. And when we do our eyes no longer become a window into our soul, but a reflection of His glory.

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me ( El Roi), ” for she said , “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13

Thanks y’all,  for meeting me at the Beer Lahai Roi – the well of the Living One who sees me.

Posted in The Names of God Study, Uncategorized, Word Up Wednesday | Leave a comment

Enough is Enough-El Shaddai

When I started this study last week I intended to gain some knowledge while I was getting back to the basics of God‘s character. What actually happened was much different. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

Using my head knowledge I allowed my emotions to rule me in a dear friendship and sure enough strong Elizabeth was head-butted by weak Elizabeth. Praise Adonai, my sovereign controller. I have had to rest secure in him and his promises in order to keep myself together. I did not even feel like blogging, believing I had nothing to offer because the past week my sin has been constantly before me. But “mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13) and God, in his goodness, has brought me in humility to y’all today.

Last night as I was taking my dog Cooper out I lifted my eyes and was blown away by the beauty of the night sky. The stars were not yet covered by the clouds that were rolling in and they shone bright and clear and as crisp as the air and God said to my heart, “I am enough for you Elizabeth but you have to choose me.” I had already started to meditate on the name for the week but was so engrossed in my emotional pain that I was not sure what to do. However in the presence of that sky and its Creator I knew that El Shaddai was speaking.

El Shaddai means “the All-Sufficient One” or “God Almighty.” It was the name primarily used by the Patriarchs  in reference to His blessings. ( By the way-some of my information comes from a website called Hebrew for Christians and from an ebook called the Names of God.) God gives himself this name in Genesis 17:1 when he says to Abram, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and you will greatly increase your numbers.” God also refers to himself as El Shaddai in Genesis 35:11 when speaking to Jacob and Joseph blesses his sons in the name of El Shaddai in Genesis 49:3.

Over and over again God is saying to the Fathers of Israel “I Am Sufficient.” Websters defines sufficient as “enough.” I kinda like that word-enough. It evokes a feeling of satisfaction, of completeness and wholeness. I, like the Fathers of Israel, need to hear that God is EL Shaddai. If I don’t then I will search for completness and wholeness in this world around me only to be dissatisfied and empty. Nothing will fill the void in my heart, no matter how hard I try or how far I run, but the love of El Shaddai.

And if He is loving enough to speak to an emotional wreck like me on a winter’s night then surely He is El Shaddai to all.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty (El Shaddai).” Psalm 91:1

Thanks for letting me share my heart y’all.

Posted in The Names of God Study, Word Up Wednesday | 2 Comments