Justified

The freedom Christ provides is more than just freedom from sin; it is freedom from guilt, from pain, from shame, and from the weight of sin that so easily ensnares us.

Remember this truth as you read the story below: he whom the Son sets free is free indeed. And no one could ever take this freedom from us. No one.


As the courtroom doors opened before me, I prepared myself for the inevitable confrontation with my enemy, my nemesis, my accuser–the one who would never let me forget all I had done.  I shuttered at the thought of what he would bring up.   The lies?  The shame? The doubts? The mistakes?

The anticipation weighed heavily upon me, for I was guilty of so much.

And oh how I longed to flee–flee from this place–flee from everyone–flee from everything. But I was bound–chained to my sins, chained to my pain, and chained to my shame. The physical chains holding me prisoner were nothing compared to the shackles surrounding my heart.

While I reluctantly shuffled into the court room, I purposefully fixed my eyes on the floor.  I didn’t dare look up.  I knew I’d see the eyes of my accuser glaring at me, diminishing what little of me still existed.

When I sat down in my chair (secretly thankful it could bear the weight of everything​ I carried inside), I could sense someone seated next to me. Yet I didn’t dare to look. What was the point? I couldn’t bear to face another accuser and certainly no one would dare to defend me. Who could ever defend what I’d done? Who would ever want to try?

My accuser, sensing my weakness at its peak, stood up and began to attack.  He accused me of my sins, of my mistakes.  He poured on the shame and the pain. He played out every detail of every dark deed I’d ever done or thought about​ doing.

Each accusation pierced my already shackled heart. And I couldn’t control the emotion; I wept.

Upon seeing the success of his attack, my accuser sat down. He had made his case before the judge. He was finished.

And I was broken.

Silence ensued.

What could I do?  What could I say?  My accuser had nailed every aspect of my life.  I was ashamed.

I was guilty.

And then I felt it: the hand on my shoulder.   The warmth of its touch conveyed strength without condemnation, compassion without judgment and sent shivers down my spine.   Who could possibly want to touch my filth, my ugliness, and my shame?

Compelled to see the person behind this living, loving touch, I ever so slowly lifted my eyes.  A man met my gaze.   The same compassion, strength, and love that were in his touch now emanated from his eyes.  He loved me.   This man who had just heard the accuser—who knew all the darkness within me–loved me. But how? How could it be?

With his hand still on my shoulder, the one who knew me and loved me turned to the judge and spoke. “My Father.”

My Father?!  He was the judge’s son?! Why would the judge’s son love me?! Why would the judge’s son try to help me?! This just didn’t make sense.

The man continued, “I present to you Katie:  righteous, holy, and worthy of acceptance.”  His words penetrated my heart.   Righteous?  Holy?  Worthy?  But how?  Didn’t he see me as I saw me?!

Apparently not.

He turned back to me, his intense love piercing the darkness in my heart, reached out his hand—his nail scarred hand—and invited me to take it, to join him in fellowship.

As I reached out to take his hand, I sensed the shackles surrounding  my broken heart fall away. And the sound of metal resonated within the courtroom as my physical chains also fell to the floor. This wasn’t just a man; He was my Healer–the One who was going to pick up the broken pieces of my heart and mend them into His image.

I was not only forgiven; I was free.

I heard the accuser groan.

With a new confidence, I turned to face the judge.  There was no condemnation.   No fear.   There was no death sentence.  Just love.

The judge began to speak: “My precious child, before the foundation of the world, I knew you,” He declared.  “I created you, Katie.  I formed you with value and with a purpose.  Marvelous are My works and you are one of them.  You are Mine.  I love you.”

Three words—I love you—again cut through the darkness.   I crumpled to the floor.  How could it be that the Holy One could love me?

Knowing my thoughts, He continued. “Because I love you, Katie, I sent my Son, my beloved Son, to save you.  He paid the penalty for your sins.  He died in your place then rose again in order to give you life—a new life.  You are justified and free, Katie.  You have been redeemed.  You are a new creation.  You are my precious child whom I adore. Come.  Have fellowship with us and be free.”

I bowed before my Lord and my Savior—grateful to be alive, grateful to be free, and grateful to be loved.   His Son again took my hand and lifted me up from the floor.

I stood up a new person.

And my accuser fled.

My Savior had won!

His love had filled the void and vanquished the lies.  I was whole.   I was free—free from condemnation, free from shame, free from pain, free from the chains.  I had been set free by the son, and I was free indeed….

And so are you…

If you believe.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:17‭-‬18

Free Indeed

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Romans 8:9‭-‬10 ESV

As I’ve been reading through Romans, God’s been reminding me of the freedom He brings.  Paul continually tells us we are free from the law of sin and death. We are free from condemnation. We are free of the flesh. We are free to believe in Jesus and to walk in newness of life.

We are free.

Our freedom, however, is not based on anything we have done ourselves. Christ alone has set us free;  salvation is a gift of love and grace, not something deserved or earned. Salvation is based solely on what Christ did when he died on the cross and rose again from the grave three days later. 

Below is a story I wrote many years ago but have edited in recent days. I believe I shared the other version last year but thought I’d share this one as well. I pray as you read it you will see the truth it conveys: the truth of God’s love and God’s salvation and the accompanying freedom for all who believe (Romans 1:16).  Yes.  All.  Including you.

Shadow of Turning by Me

A soft tapping could be heard outside my window as a cool breeze rustled the trees. I always loved the days when no one else was home. I’d always do what I was doing just then: rest on the bed, listen to the quietness, and pet my cat Teddy. I loved the feeling of his warm, soft, long-haired body leaning against mine. Even now my fingers mindlessly stroked the silky smooth black hair that overwhelmed his little body. A low rumbling could be heard deep within him, voicing his approval of the affection.

I also loved the peacefulness that would accompany these moments of feeling alone in the universe—no one to perform for—no one to be responsible for—no one to please—no one to hurt–no one…but me.

I closed my eyes to take in the peacefulness of this solitude. Yet no sooner did I close my eyes then I sensed a sudden heat on my face. I opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of a beam of sunlight protruding through the trees, shining through the window, and shedding its light on the opposite wall. My once dull crayon yellow walls became a bright yellow like that of a newly blossomed daffodil. Intrigued by this streak of light’s ability to dispel darkness, I sat up and took notice of what I saw.

Interestingly, although the light had removed much of the darkness occupying my room, it also revealed a shadow. A very unusual shadow. A very compelling shadow.

And as I stood up to face the shadow, it too appeared to reluctantly rise from its position of concealment behind my dresser. Was that my shadow? It was a person with whom I had never openly conversed or met, yet it was one of my height, size, stature—nevertheless different.

I slowly, cautiously, drew closer to the shadow. The closer I got to the blemish on the otherwise spotless wall, the more its enormity revealed itself.

When I got a few feet from the shadow, I stopped. It had no eyes, yet I sensed I was peering deep into the invisible—yet so real—soul of this shadow—this person.

I gasped as I recognized this shadow’s soul. She was fierce. Angry. Melancholy. Hurt. Alone. Her eyes looked similar to those of an unloved basset hound. Yet I only saw the eyes for a moment, for her insecurity forced them toward the floor. She was hurting.

She was I.

My inner self, with all its hurts, anger, sadness, pain, was staring back at me. She was exposed in the light, no longer hidden within. I stared helplessly back in awe. Was that really all within me? What would I do now that I was facing my inner—the real—me?

My shadow left me no chance to answer, for she moved. I stared for a moment in shock as my shadow moved toward the door of my room without me. She slid along the wall behind the bureau, around the corner toward the entryway, and, right when she reached the doorway, she stopped. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she seemed to turn. I saw the silhouette of a finger beckon me to follow.

With much trepidation I followed my shadow. We traveled down the hallway that led to the living room. The pictures of my family were still scattered along the walls. I smiled as I saw my favorite of my mom sleeping on the couch as George, our first family cat, a main coon, slept stretched out beside her. I loved that picture because it showed how gargantuan George was; he was almost as long as my mother as she lay on her side.

I took notice of the changes evident in the hallway, however. Instead of the two doors that opened to my sisters’ rooms and the door that led to the bathroom, the hallway was all wall; it had ceased to have doors. The end—that end that I would expect to lead to the living room—was only a speck of light that seemed interminably distant from my room.

Nevertheless, my shadow and I proceeded, drawing nearer to the light. The light actually forced me to squint, for its very presence pierced the darkness, leaving my eyes fighting to adjust.

When we reached the doorway, my shadow disappeared. All that was between me and the light on the other side was the threshold. Unsure of whether I should continue, I looked behind me.

All that was behind me was darkness.

So after contemplating whether to enter back into the darkness or proceed forward into the light, I shielded my eyes and entered the light.

Once my eyes adjusted, I found myself standing in a meadow. I was alone, yet loneliness did not envelop me. My feet, bare, were hidden in a lush, green field of grass. The cool, tickling feeling of freshly cut grass on my skin sent a childlike joy throughout my body. The music of spring birds also began to take note. I closed my eyes for a moment and opened my ears to drink in the beautiful songs of spring. When I opened my eyes, a monarch butterfly, with magnificent colors fluttered just in front of me and gracefully set itself down on a honeysuckle. I breathed in deeply the scent of wildflowers and honey.

As I looked around to take in more of these Eden-like surroundings, I noticed a figure walking toward me. He drew closer, and I could see the figure was a man. There was nothing especially unusual about  him. He walked confidently but did not appear cocky; I could tell he was in shape, but he was not overly muscular. His hair and other features did not appear out of the ordinary, yet something about the sight of him forced me to desire a closer look. So I began to draw near to him.

And he drew near to me.

When I was close enough to see his eyes I stopped. I was mesmerized. They were like none I’d ever seen. When I peered into his eyes, I saw this peace, this love, this inexplicable well-being. Compassion seemed to emanate from his eyes. I felt transparent, like there was nothing hidden from the man—from his eyes. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t.

Then the man reached out his hand.  I took his hand and allowed him to lead me.

As we walked I noticed the strength of his hands. They looked soothing and felt like satin, yet his grip was firm, controlled, sturdy. It was like he was bold, yet gentle; a contradiction, yet one.

We stopped at the base of a small hill. While one hand was still holding mine, the man lifted his other hand and pointed to the top of a hill. On the hill stood a solitary cross. At first I didn’t see the significance of the cross, but then I caught the sight of slight, almost imperceptible, movement.

My shadow.

My shadow was hanging—dying—on the cross. Watching my shadow gasp for breath, I myself began to gasp for breath. Yet, as I attempted to take in, I felt myself becoming more and more empty. I was pouring myself out. My body began to tremble and I collapsed, landing on my knees in the grass.

The smell of the grass refreshed my senses, and I realized that I had lost touch with the man’s hand. I lifted my head to seek an answer for what was happening, but he was gone. I immediately looked up to the cross, horrified at what my eyes were now witnessing.

My shadow was gone. Yet the cross was not empty. The man, the man with the strong yet soft hands—the man with the piercing eyes of love—the man who saw right through me—was on the cross. He was dying.

I couldn’t move. I just kneeled there on the ground unable to change position, yet unable to take my eyes off the man on the cross. I watched him as he struggled to push up with his legs in order to gain a pinch of air. I watched as blood trickled down his face. I watched as his chest heaved in exhaustion, starved of precious life-giving oxygen. I watched when he looked at me with those eyes—those compassionate, piercing eyes—and gasped, “I love you.”

I watched him, as he died.

I continued to stare in disbelief at what I was witnessing, but then I noticed a group of men approaching the cross. They proceeded to take the man from the cross and carry him away. I was horrified at the thought of what the men were possibly going to do with the stranger who having never met me seemed to love me, so I ran after them.

“Stop!” I tried to yell as loud as I could, yet my cry seemed to go no further than my lips. The men continued to take the unknown man and place him in a tomb, rolling a stone in front of it.

I hid behind a tree until they left, then attempted to roll the stone away. I just wanted to get another glimpse of the man—of his hands—of his eyes. If only I could have what he had. It was to no avail, though. The stone would not move.

Exhaustion finally overwhelmed my body and I collapsed at the foot of the stone. I had been poured out, emptied of so much, yet I knew I still needed something. And I knew that man had it. Yet he was dead in the tomb, and I was out here. The thought of being so close to an answer yet so far devastated me, and I wept. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was like someone had released the dam that held back the tears of my entire life—and a flood was coming.

I don’t know how long I was there on the ground, my face buried in my hands. Yet, in the midst of my weeping, I felt something touch my shoulder. A hand. This hand, however, seemed familiar. The hand conveyed strength, but the hand poured out tender loving kindness as well. The realization of the only hand this could be sent chills throughout my body. I whipped around in joy to see the man I had been mourning and longing for. I gazed into his eyes—and they were still eyes of love, of peace, of care, of strength.

Just as he had done before, he held his hand for me to grasp. I immediately gripped his hand, and he pulled me up from the ground and began leading me to the tomb. The tomb no longer had the stone covering it, and I wondered how I never heard the stone being rolled away. It didn’t matter now, though, for the man I thought was dead was indeed alive.

When we reached the opening of the tomb, I peered inside expecting to see nothing but an empty space, for the man was now with me outside. My eyes widened, however, as I lay hold of a figure in the tomb. My shadow. My shadow was in the tomb, lifeless, dead. The man had risen, but my shadow remained dead.

I was beginning to piece things together in my mind that something in me had died today, but I was still unsure, and I still felt like something—a piece of me—was still missing. The man, most likely understanding my confusion, pointed to the far corner of the tomb. There, standing behind and to the right of my dead shadow, was another form. This form, however, was different. It did not shade the tomb; it brightened it. This new “shadow” illuminated light instead of hiding it. I peered into the soul of this new shadow as I had done my old, yet I didn’t see anger or hurt or pain; I saw love, peace, compassion, joy, freedom.

“Is that my new shadow?” I asked the man beside me, hoping it was indeed.

“It is My Spirit,” the man, whose voice was a spiritual elixir, replied. “All you have to do is invite Him in.”

Shocked yet ecstatic at the simplicity of it, I beckoned His Spirit to come, and as I began walking toward Him, He drew closer to me. When I reached out and embraced Him, the Spirit disappeared. Immediately I sensed a warm feeling within me, a newness, a refreshing. I sensed His Spirit. I sensed completion. What had been poured out on the cross with the death of my shadow and that man had been filled back up with the risen man and my new shadow—the new spirit within me.

I was whole. I was forgiven. I was free. The old had gone; the new had come.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Jesus is Still Alive

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He].
Matthew 28:16-17 AMP

Jesus was alive! He was there with the disciples, speaking with the disciples, being worshiped by the disciples–yet some doubted it was really Him. They questioned what their eyes were seeing. Was this really the One they had just seen crucified? Was He really alive? Were they really seeing Jesus in the flesh once again? Did their Lord really defeat death?!

Yes! Yes He did!

Death could not hold Him. Nothing could.  Not doubt. Not fear. And definitely not feelings.

We must remember this today: Jesus is still alive whether or not we feel it and whether or not we choose to believe it. Our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions–nothing will ever change who God is. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We may fall asleep in prayer, but God never slumbers nor sleeps. We may allow the busyness of life to distract us from the restorative fellowship of time with God, but God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God is God, not man. God is not hormonal. He is not fickle. He always acts in righteousness. His anger is always just. And He is holy.

So on this Monday, when once again we face the realities of life–when bills are due, when work resumes, when the excitement of Easter clothes, sunrise services,  family dinners, and candy-filled eggs are but memories–let us also be thankful Jesus’ victory was not dependent upon us. We would have fallen asleep in the garden. We would have fought those guards trying to arrest Him.  We would have denied Him to save ourselves. We would have vehemently defended His innocence. We would have cursed those who put Him on the cross. We would have lost all hope at the sight of His lifeless body being placed in the tomb. We would have doubted what our eyes were seeing when our Savior returned from the grave. Yes, if salvation were in our hands and based on our choices, we’d still be lost.

Jesus was beaten physically, abused emotionally, and punished spiritually for our sake. He felt it all–whatever physical struggle we may face, whatever emotional turmoil we may battle, even the excruciating pain of spiritual darkness and separation. Yet even though as a human He didn’t feel like going through with it; even though as a human He prayed for God to save Him if there were any other way, He followed through with it. Jesus endured all of it–even death–yet did not succumb to any of it. And with His surrender came His victory: Jesus is alive!

Yes, whether or not we feel it, whether or not we understand it, and whether or not we see Him in our circumstances–Jesus is still alive.

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive!

This means today–yes, even this Monday morning, when the coffee isn’t strong enough, the kids are up way too early, and your boss is taking things out on you–Jesus is still alive. And no matter how you feel or what you see, you are forgiven, you are free, and God is with you.

Jesus is alive!

Know, believe, trust in, and walk out this truth today. He defeated death, He wiped away sin, and He is preparing a place for us even now. Our bodies are mortal, our emotions up and down, and our circumstances uncertain, but God is eternal. And Jesus is alive!

This indeed is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The Silence of Saturday

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
(Matthew 28:6)

He has risen! He has risen! Oh the joy those women and in turn the other disciples must have felt as they laid eyes on their risen Savior.  The One they thought dead was indeed alive! The stone had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. Hopes were no longer shattered.  Dreams were coming true. All things had become new. Death had been swallowed up in victory.

Oh what a glorious day!

And as New testament believers we get to celebrate this victory every day, especially as we approach Easter. We actually have the privilege of celebrating Easter from the viewpoint of victory. We are able to reflect on the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection with joy and with hope.  Since we live on this side of the cross,  we know the victory of each moment shared and each word spoken during those last days of Jesus’ life on earth.

On Palm Sunday we can celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Although those shouting “Hosanna!” were crying out for an earthly reign, we know their shouts went beyond that; they were giving glory to the King of heaven and of earth.

Thursday we remember the Last Supper–the breaking of bread, the drinking of the wine, the washing of the disciples’ feet, and even Judas’ choice to leave the fellowship of friends in pursuit of selfish gain. And as we remember that Last Supper, we see the significance of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. We understand the symbolism of the broken bread and the fruit of the vine. And we even commemorate this moment each time we take communion.

We also look back at the Garden of Gethsemane–Jesus’ agonizing prayer, Judas’ kiss of betrayal, and the arrest–knowing the intense love our Savior must  have had to restrain Himself and to walk a path He did not deserve. We know what the disciples did not as they fought sleep in the Garden; we know what Jesus was about to do. Such knowledge affords us the ability to almost sense the agony in each word whispered by our suffering servant.

And then there is Friday–a day we label Good Friday because of what God accomplished that day. Yet the day God spread out His arms and paid our debts left anything but good feelings in those present to see Him die. Imagine the confusion, the heartache, the anger, and the fear those disciples must have experienced as they witnessed the one they had forsaken all for now quietly accepting a punishment He didn’t deserve–a punishment they knew He could have saved Himself from. They had walked with Him, fellowshipped with Him, hung on His every word. They had learned to trust Him with their lives. Some had actually vowed to give their lives for His. Yet they didn’t expect Him to give His own for theirs. They could not understand. They could not see.

And so they scattered. And they were probably scared. Who wouldn’t be, right? Their King was crucified. Despite Jesus’ promises of salvation and eternity, His death rocked the world of those who loved Him. During that first Easter weekend, the disciples didn’t bury their Lord with Sunday in their sights.  No. Within that span of time between Friday and Sunday loomed the silence of Saturday.

The silence of Saturday.

Let’s think about that Saturday–that day between the death and the resurrection. Take a moment and return with me to the stillness that day….A day of waiting…of wondering…of weeping…that span of time between the shock of shattered dreams and the realization of new beginnings.

Imagine what the disciples might have been thinking. Were they wondering what happened to the One they thought was King? Were they mourning those final moments they had squandered fighting over who would sit where when Jesus was king? Was Peter lamenting his inability to stand up for Jesus those three times he was given the opportunity? And that look. I’m sure that look of love Jesus had given Peter at the sound of the rooster’s crow must have remained etched on his heart long after His Lord had looked away. Were James and John realizing any part in God’s kingdom was better than none? Were they thinking they’d gladly give up their desire to be on the right and left of Jesus if they could just see Him again? Was Nathanael mourning the loss of the one good thing to come out of Nazareth?

I’m sure Martha would have let those dishes wait for a little while just to sit with her sister at Jesus’ feet and hear her Savior’s voice one more time. I’m sure as Mary prepared the spices for burial she would have gladly given another bottle of precious perfume just to wash her Lord’s feet with her tears and dry them with her hair again.

And Mary the mother of Jesus. As she mourned in the home of John–the man her son had provided for her at his death–was she replaying those dreams and visits from angels declaring her son would save the world? Was she wondering how it could be that she was on one side of the tomb and the One she expected to save her was on the other? What had happened to her Immanuel? What had happened to God with us?

I’m sure all those who had followed Jesus were asking themselves what had happened, what if they’d acted differently, and what would they do now.  Why did the one who healed so many not save Himself? What did they miss? Could it be they were wrong? Would He really return? Could it be Jesus was not who He said He was–that he was not who they believed Him to be?

Yet Jesus was who He said He was. And Jesus still is.

The disciples were not wrong; they had just misunderstood the message. For even though Jesus had warned them several times He’d be put to death and be buried before rising again, their eyes had not been focused on eternity.  They had never fully grasped that it was actually through Jesus’ death that He would bring life. Our Immanuel had to be with us in death so we could be with Him in life.

And so all they could see on that first Saturday was a tomb holding captive the one they had thought would set them free. All they could hear was the stillness of an uncertain future. The stone that had been  rolled across the entrance to the tomb had rolled across their hearts as well.

What the disciples could not see was that in the silence of that Saturday, God was moving.  And He wasn’t just moving; He was battling. For we must remember that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). There are battles going on in the spiritual realm that we will never see. In the Old Testament, Daniel’s prayer was heard and answered on day one, but it took 21 days of spiritual battle before the angel was able to deliver the vision (see Daniel 10).

In the same way, when Jesus died, He did more than die for our sins; he defeated death. (After all, “the sting of death is sin…”–1 Corinthians 15:56‭-‬57). For Adam’s sin did more than separate us from God; his sin brought death to all mankind.  So while Jesus’ physical death cleansed us from sin, His resurrection from the dead gave us victory over death.   Without Jesus’ physical sacrifice, our sins would still remain; and without His resurrection, this life would be in vain. As Paul reminds us all, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).

This means the apparent silence between the death and the resurrection was actually the time it took to win the war–to see Satan fall–to see the enemy defeated.

In the stillness of that Saturday, God was moving!

In the stillness of that Saturday, God won! 

And so we must also remember to celebrate that Saturday. We must realize the journey from death to life often occurs within the stillness of a Saturday. We must remember God was still God while Jesus was in the grave and God is still God when we don’t understand.

Therefore I ask you today, is your life in the silence of that Saturday?  Are you wondering if those desires in your heart will actually come to pass?  Are you questioning if you really heard from God about the direction you are going?  Are your circumstances screaming, “Forget it!  It’s over!”?  Has a stone been rolled over your heart, your hopes, and your future as you thought it should be? Do you feel like everything you trusted has vanished before you?

Well, let me encourage you,  it’s not overHe is coming!  God has not abandoned you.  God has not abandoned your dreams.  God will never leave you nor forsake you.

Do not grieve the wait, my friend. Do not rush through the Sabbath. Rather, anticipate it!  Be still today knowing He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  The silence of today is merely the time needed for heaven’s will to become tomorrow’s reality.  The silence of this moment is not the end; it is the beginning.  So keep on keeping on, my friend!  He is coming! He is here! He has risen! He is alive!

.

Seek God

“…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Romans 3:10

I am not perfect. It is amazing how difficult it is to actually write and to say these words even though I know they are the truth. Yet day after day I find myself condemning myself for falling short of an unspoken standard–for falling short of perfection.

That attitude I shouldn’t have had. Those words I shouldn’t have spoken. That show I shouldn’t have watched. That perspective I hadn’t considered before passing judgment. Whether society considers my sins large, small–or in some cases, acceptable–anything short of God’s standard is indeed sin.

God is perfect; and His standard is perfect. Yet I am not–and I never will be. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Even being a believer doesn’t make me perfect in the here and now. Yes, Jesus has clothed me with His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Yes, He makes my sins as white as snow (Psalm 51:7). Yes, he removes my sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). But my sinful nature still strives for control. Every moment of every day I must choose life or death, love or hate, good or evil; I must set my mind on things that are pure and lovely and take every thought captive (Philippians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And although I know what is right, I don’t always choose wisely. In fact, I often, like Paul, do the exact opposite of what I will to do (Romans 7:15). I want to speak truth, but a lie or exaggeration pours forth from my mouth instead. I want to encourage, yet I tear down. I want to help, but my will refuses to make the effort. Day after day my actions prove contrary to what my heart knows to be true. Why? Because underneath that robe of righteousness is a sinner saved by grace. I have been wiped clean spiritually, but I am not perfect. And although I must always identify and confess my sins, I must also be like Paul and rejoice that through Jesus I am free from condemnation and death. No, I am not to celebrate my imperfection. No, I am not to use my sinful nature as an excuse to keep sinning. God’s Word is clear that those who remain in sin do not truly know Him (1 John 3:6). I am, however, to celebrate that perfection put on imperfection for me. God became flesh in order to pay the penalty I could never pay myself.

Jesus died so I can live.

But I’m still not perfect.

And neither are you.

Seriously. I know this may not sound like encouragement, but it is. No one is perfect. So it’s time we stop seeking perfection, stop condemning ourselves and others every time we or they miss that elusive mark of perfection. Rather, it’s time we begin seeking the Perfect One. It’s time we extend the grace God’s shown us to those around us and to ourselves.  Instead of striving each day to meet an unattainable standard–and expecting others to do the same–we should strive to know our Savior more. Yes, doing so may expose more of our insecurities and impurities–after all, the more light we shine in the darkness, the more dirt we’ll see–but doing so will also allow the Righteousness One to skim that dross off the top, to wipe away the dirt from our lives.

No one is perfect. We all need Jesus.  And the more we seek Him, the more we’ll see Him;  and the more we see Him, the more we’ll recognize our desperate need for Him and for His righteousness.

God is holy.

We are not.

So I encourage you today–I encourage myself today– to stop trying to be something you’re not. Stop trying to be perfect. Rather than allowing your imperfection to keep you from drawing near to God, let it propel you into the arms of our Father.

Seek the One who will never fail. Seek the One who saved you before you ever realized your need for a savior. Seek Him and you will find Him, when you search for Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Let Us Rejoice

Open to me the [temple] gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them,
I shall give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I will give thanks to You,
for You have heard and answered me;
And You have become my salvation [my Rescuer, my Savior].
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
This is from the Lord and is His doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This [day in which God has saved me] is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
PSALM 118:19‭-‬24 AMP

Salvation isn’t man’s choice; it’s God’s. Look at the above passage from Psalm 118. The gates are to God’s temple. The gates of righteousness are God’s gates. God is the One who opens them. God is the One who foreknew and answered our need of a Savior. God is our Rescuer. God is our Healer. God is the Cornerstone.

Salvation is from the Lord and is His doing.

We must remember this today. Salvation is God’s idea, God’s plan, God’s doing. The gospel is “the power of God” (Romans 1:16). Man could never save himself. All our righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). This is what makes salvation marvelous: God loved us first (1 John 4:19). And because God loved us first, God sent a Savior before we realized we needed one; God redeemed us knowing we could never redeem ourselves.

The reason we can celebrate this day is because this day is one of salvation–salvation brought about by God through God.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

Bear the Seed

He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalms 126:6 ESV

Suffering. Grief. Despair. We despise them. We run from them. Yet inevitably, they settle in at the seemingly most inconvenient and often unsuspecting times.  Our loved one succumbs to cancer; our friend suddenly dies in a freak accident; we find ourselves burying the child who should have lived long enough to bury us; or instead of growing old together with the one who vowed “till death do we part,” we find ourselves alone, hurt, and wounded. During these times of grief, we often ask ourselves such questions as: “Why him?” “Why now?” “Will my heart ever mend?” “Will the mourning ever cease?” or “Will I forever be enveloped by this suffocating fog of darkness?”

Grief is excruciatingly real; it is profoundly painful. And no one on earth could ever fully comprehend the chasm it creates in the soul forced to confront it. True despair is as unique as the people walking through it; no two people walk through the valley of the shadow of death along the same path.

For those of us on the outskirts of suffering, we tend to encourage those within its grip by speaking the words of Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And this is true; our weeping won’t last forever. It may last a long time; it may last most of our lives, but it will not last forever. After all, eternity awaits, and eternity with Jesus ushers in with it hope, joy, and healing.

Nevertheless, there is indeed more than just the promise of an an eternity without tears. As my friend, a friend who has walked that dark and lonely road more than once, shared with me the other day, there can also be joy within the mourning. No, I’m not saying we will be able to rejoice at every moment during a trial or a tragedy that comes our way. Nor am I saying we should stifle our grief and hide our tears. Even Jesus wept at the sight of Lazarus’ tomb. When we find ourselves standing by the graveside of the one we loved, we will mourn. We will weep. We should. Grief is a process; it is a path we must walk. Attempting to avoid it will only lead us astray and make the journey through longer and more difficult.

Nevertheless, what I am saying is while we mourn, we can mourn with hope. We can mourn with purpose. Instead of allowing our tears to fall onto fallow ground, we can sow them. We can sow those tears in the fields of our heavenly Father. And when we sow in God’s field, the harvest will come.

As I’ve said before, God does not promise a life free of weeping–there will be death, there will be pain, there will be sickness, there will be sorrow. Yet He does promise a harvest; he does say we will reap–if we do not lose heart and if we are willing to bear the seeds, even the seeds of affliction and despair.

As I’ve journeyed through life, I’ve seen two kinds of weeping: worthless and purposeful. The former weeps in despair at what’s lost, at what will never be; it sees only darkness.  The latter weeps at what’s lost while also knowing that new life often requires death. Even an earthly seed must die before it blooms.

Worthless weeping views despair as a deep, endless cavern–an abyss that draws us farther and farther from the light. Purposeful weeping views despair as a tunnel, a tunnel that, although dark and dysmal for a time, will eventually end. Whether that tunnel is long or short, it will definitely end and we will definitely see the light.

When we weep with a purpose, we weep with an attitude of worship.  In doing so we are in actuality “bearing the seed for sowing.” The King James version calls this “precious seed.” And it is indeed precious. It’s the seed of despair, the seed of turmoil, the seed of tribulation and trial. None comes easy, yet each seed carries within it something precious. The seeds of affliction bring with them God’s amazing grace, God’s sovereignty, and God’s harvest.

In 2015 I embarked on a journey to healing. This journey was filled with heartache, with pain, and with many tears.  Yet all this despair was not in vain. For each tear that fell, fell into the hands of my Father. He gathered every tear I cried before Him; not one fell on fallow ground. I didn’t understand at the time the purpose of the pain or the purpose of the weeping, but I did know God had a plan. As my mentor often encouraged me, it was important I trusted God to be God and know there was a purpose in the pain.  Even in despair I had hope–hope that the seeds I planted in the ashes would indeed grow into something beautiful.

Difficult journeys are often emotional ones. They are often painful and incomprehensible by those on the outside. Yet God knows. God sees. And God has a plan. Remember this today. Be encouraged knowing the weeping is not forever. Be encouraged knowing when you weep before God’s throne, you are sowing a heavenly seed. The seeds don’t fall by the wayside; they fall onto holy ground. And God takes those seeds. He gathers them into His garden and allows the hard, earthly shell of human frailty to fall away and die in order that new, eternal blooms may grow. Remember today, my friend, the flowers of God’s garden are forever fragrant and eternally beautiful to behold. So as you go through this journey of yours, don’t hide the despair.  Don’t stifle those sobs. But rather sow in the weeping. Keep seeking, keep searching, and keep chasing after the heart of God. For as you do, you are bearing those seeds as in Psalm 126. And in God’s hands, those seeds will produce an abundant harvest–a harvest of joy, a harvest of peace, and a harvest of hope.

Manna from Heaven: a Prayer

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9‭-‬13 ESV

As I prayed the above this morning, God brought to mind a prayer I wrote for a friend over a year ago. And as I read it, I felt like someone else needed to hear it as well.

So read the prayer below. And as you get to each blank, insert your name.  For this prayer isn’t just for me. It’s not just for my friend. It’s for all God’s children. It’s for you.

My Gracious Heavenly Father,

I lift up ____ to you this day.  As I place her before Your throne, I thank You for providing for her Your daily manna from heaven.   As You supplied sustenance from heaven for the Israelites, so You provide sustenance for ____–the spiritual sustenance necessary to walk through this life victoriously.  Thank You for giving ____ this day Your perfect portion of manna for her–the portion that is just right for what she’ll need.  And as she daily gathers this manna, no matter how large or small it may look as she gathers, may she know confidently that the manna You provide for her will always be more than enough to accomplish what it is You have set out for her to do.  May she not live by bread alone, but by every Word which proceeds from Your mouth.  May she continue to hide Your Word in her heart so she may not sin against You.  May You send her daily reminders of Your love for her. May You allow her to see things through Your eyes. Grant her wisdom beyond human understanding.  And as she rests her head each evening, may she lay down in peace and sleep knowing You are watching over her, You go before her, and Your mercies are new every morning.

Jesus, You are ____’s living bread.   You are ____,s living water.  As she trusts in You, You fill her to overflowing.  You satisfy her with Your goodness.  No, life is not always easy; in fact, it is often contrary to what we’d expect.  Yet it is often in the darkness Your light will shine. It is in chaos Your peace is known. It is in hardship Your grace gives strength. It is in doubt Your faith gives hope. It is in mourning Your joy is made full. You did not promise ____ a life of ease. Yet You did promise her life… eternal life. And You promise to never leave her nor forsake her. You promise to never let her go. Never. No matter what. So may ____ cling to the Rock. May she hide under the shadow of Your almighty wings.  May _____ continue to rest in the knowledge You are God, and she is Your child.  You love _____ with an everlasting love.  And You provide for her.  You give her the grace, the strength, and the wisdom to handle every moment of every day.   And as she faces each and every moment, may she know she doesn’t face it alone, for You are with her, leading her, guiding her, and protecting her.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for Your faithfulness to Your children.  Thank You for Your faithfulness to ____.  May she rest under the shadow of Your almighty wings this day and forevermore.  May she not hear nor listen to any other voice but Yours.  For You alone are the way, the truth, and the life, and no one else has ____ in heaven but You.

You, Lord. It’s all about You.
Amen.

God Always Answers

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalms 34:1

“God is answering our prayers!”

We often proclaim this joyfully when what we’ve asked for by faith is coming into sight. Our sick relative is getting better. Our once empty womb is now sustaining new life. The job we’ve always dreamed of is now our reality. It is amazing to see and to experience the blessings of God. Praising Him during moments like these is not only easy and appropriate but also necessary to give God the glory He deserves. For we must remember, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

Yet there is another side to answered prayer:  prayer that at first sight appears unanswered. The relative is getting worse instead of better. The job went to someone other than you. Your womb is still pining for new life. You’ve prayed, you’ve sought, you’ve searched, you’ve surrendered, but the answer you long for has yet to arrive. Or maybe the answer has come, and it is unexpected and undesirable. Your loved one is now gone. You are now unemployed and uncertain where the money will come from. Your momma’s heart is mourning the lack of life within as you watch your friends placing their hands on their bulging bellies.

Regardless of what our eyes may see and our hearts may feel, however, we must remember that God always answers our prayers. Always. He may not answer them the way we had hoped or in the way we had expected. His answer may be completely opposite of what we had requested. But He always answers.

And regardless the answer, He still deserves the glory.

Now before you stop reading believing I’m an insensitive Christian whose never struggled a day in her life, I want to remind you of two things. First, God does not cause evil; it’s against His nature. Nor does He make bad things happen; bad things happen because we live in a fallen world full of fallen people. God does not tempt us; nor does He lead us astray.  His intentions are always pure and always just. And second, I am in no way minimizing your pain. Your pain is real. Your grief is real. Your struggle is real. Even Jesus suffered physical and emotional agony as He walked out His Father’s plan.

Evil, heartache, and pain exist; and they will remain until Jesus returns.

Yet regardless how we feel, how we hurt, or how we struggle, God is sovereign. And we must bless Him for His sovereignty. He has the power to use that sick relative to lead a nurse to the Lord. He has the ability to use your testimony at that relative’s funeral to reignite the passion of those present. He has the foresight to know that seemingly perfect job may not have been what was best for you; and another, more perfect job is on its way. He understands that while your womb may be empty, there is a child born to another woman–a child who desperately needs a family of his own–who will soon enter your home and ultimately your heart.

Or you may never see the purpose of your pain on this earth. You may never understand why your child has that disease. You may never know why you didn’t get that job. You may never understand why you remained without a child of your own.

Yet God is still God. And God is still good. As the popular song by Tree63 goes, “He gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Now my dear fellow soldier, I do want to say it again: your pain is real. The heartache and uncertainty are not illusions. Nor can they be switched off in an instant. I am not asking you to ignore the hardships or bottle up your grief. What I am reminding you is that even when all seems lost, we must remember God always hears our prayers, and He always answers. God holds the entire world in His hands. He holds our past, our present, and our future. Although “now we see in a mirror dimly” and “know in part,” one day we will “know fully“(1 Corinthians 13:12). One day we will look back at our lives and see the hand of God moving through it all. Even the dark parts will be as light through the eyes of eternity.

So I encourage you today to thank God for answered prayers. Thank Him for the yeses. Thank Him for the nos. Thank Him for the not nows.  Thank Him even when it doesn’t make sense.  Thanking Him may not lessen your pain, and it in no way negates your grief, but it will magnify His name. And God calls us to praise Him. To praise Him continually. So whether you are walking through the valley, climbing the mountain, or standing victoriously on the mountaintop with arms open wide, God is always worthy of praise. God is worthy of praise even when His will is not our way. And I dare say God is worthy of our praise especially when His will is not our way.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

He is Here

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord ; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord !

Psalms 27:13‭-‬14 ESV

Believe. That’s the word God has been impressing upon me these last few weeks. I am to believe all things are possible. I am to believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

And I have. I have seen His goodness.

“But Katie?” someone who knows me might reply. “You’ve been fighting a virus since the beginning of February, your husband was sick for several days, and both your kids have been sick as well. You’ve had to miss work, lose sleep, and disinfect your house several times. And didn’t you just attend the funeral of an amazing, faithful woman of God?”

Why, yes. Yes, all of the above has happened. But I have still seen the goodness of God through it all. Those initial days I had a fever and began fighting the virus? My parents happened to be coming for a visit. Because of their presence I was able to rest more than usual, which in turn helped my ability to fight the virus. I was back on my feet faster than if I had still needed to entertain children, cook, clean and do all the other duties that accompany marriage and motherhood. I also saw His goodness when my parents made it to Florida without catching the virus I had. They spent three days in a house full of yucky germs and came away without even a sniffle. My mom certainly smelled like hand sanitizer, but she was still healthy.

Then last week when I had to stay home from work a couple of days because of a sick child, I finally took time to go through the mail. In doing so, I discovered an overlooked letter requiring immediate action. If I had not gone through the mail, the consequences could have been quite unpleasant. The second day  I was home, a couple of cows happened to escape through a hole in the fence. If I’d been at work, they might have wandered into the road, which could have been disastrous for them and for the unlucky driver who might have hit them. Then, when I couldn’t get the cows in on my own, my husband–who because of his own illness was unable to go out of town on a work trip– was able to come home and get them back in.  If he hadn’t been so sick the days prior, he would have been out of town and I’d have had two cows roaming our property. Oh, and that document that had been sitting in our living room for weeks in need of notary’s signature? Since my husband was around, I was home, and our sick child amazingly felt decent enough to go out, we were able to go to the bank and get the job done.

But what about the friend who passed away?  Well, seeing three generations of family all in love with Jesus and proclaiming the faithfulness of my friend was both humbling and inspiring.  God was with me during that funeral reminding me of why I am here.  Even in death, my friend had inspired me to keep the faith and to keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith.

Sure, at first sight, most of the above circumstances of my week might have appeared negative rather than positive. Sickness, overlooked mail, missed work, and death don’t necessarily scream “God is with you.” Yet with the right focus, with the eyes of faith looking intently at my Savior, I clearly saw God through it all. He was with me during our crazy weeks of sickness. He was with me as we quickly resolved the unexpected issue brought about by the letter.  He was with me as I drove to and from our old hometown to say “see ya in heaven” to a dear Christian lady. And He is with me now as I write of His faithfulness.

God is with me. I believe it. I see it. I see Him.

God is with you, too. Do you believe it? Do you see it? Do you see Him? Or have you found yourself asking such questions as “How is God in this?” or “Where are you God?” Maybe life has taken an unexpected turn. Maybe life has just gotten a bit crazy and you’re not sure how to reign it in. Maybe someone has done something to you that caught you by surprise and cut you to the core.  Or maybe God is shining His light on a place within you that you’ve kept in the dark for years. Well, whether things seem to be going every way except the way you wish they’d go, or whether you are actually in a season of peace and tranquility, God is with you.

God doesn’t promise a life free of heartache and trouble, but He does promise to never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus Himself reminds us in Matthew 28:20, “…and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually–regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age” (AMP). 

God is with you, my friend. He is with you right now.  If you can’t seem to see Him in the big things, then look for Him in the little.  Find Him in that green light when you’re running a bit late. Find Him in that unexpected email or text of encouragement from a friend. Find Him in the grocery store when the items you need are all on sale. Find Him as you lay down your head to rest at night knowing His mercies are new every morning. Believe that you will indeed see His goodness in the land of the living.

And you will.