Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Surrender All

Sweet surrender. What I long to do each day. A sweet surrendering of hopes, cares, worries, and dreams, a throwing off of the tendency to fear and become anxious about an unknown and somewhat scary future. For I know that in the midst of that surrender, God can and will lead and guide me into the hope of a future, one that is better than one I have even yet to imagine.

As I have mentioned earlier, I am currently reading a book entitled, "Lady in Waiting" by Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones. What an encouraging book! I encourage any single woman to read it. The entire book is mainly focused upon the story of Ruth and her journey to a God-ordained marriage to a Godly man named Boaz. One concept that stood out to me this week was that of being a "Lady of Conviction." In the ever-changing culture that we live in, Godly men and women of conviction are at times difficult to come by. Yet, how important it is to live by the truth's written in God's Word.....not letting our guard down no matter what we might face within this chaotic world. One of my favorite verses, Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Such a vital part of a believer's life: living set apart, refusing to back down on the standards God has set for His own.

I admire this quality in Ruth's life. Instead of returning to her homeland after the death of her husband, she chose to continue to care for her mother-in-law. More importantly, she chose to continue to serve the one true God, the Most High. She chose to live a Godly life, refusing to turn her back on a "set-apart" life. What was the result? As she lived in faithfulness to God, He blessed her not only with a Godly husband, but also with a child who would be a part of the lineage of Christ Jesus.

A quote in this book really hit home: "Do we lower our standards because we seem out of step with our peers?" How many can relate to this statement? Is it always easy living a life set apart from the world? Most definitely not. Do we sometimes become discouraged and lonely? least I can personally say that. Psalm 112:1: "Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in His commands."

PRAISE GOD! What may seem like a lonely place is actually something quite beautiful. The Lord Jesus has placed upon you a calling. A high calling, one that few choose to follow. But dear ones, we have the hope, the promise, the gift of serving Him. What we find in His Word is great joy and blessing for those who follow in His way. But should this be the reason we serve Him? Do we only serve Him in order to receive blessings? Of course not. Even if not one blessing resulted out of living a life set apart for Him, would you do it? Would you trust Him even if every plan fell through, even if each day you felt the pangs of suffering, even if you stood alone for the rest of your life? Trust Him. Aren't you thankful that He has promised the gift of peace...that even if every plan fell through and even if you felt the pain loneliness brings...He would provide the grace and peace to sustain you through every last minute of it? Man...a comfort wells up in my soul at that very thought. One of my favorite Scripture passages comes to mind:
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."
Psalm 1: 1-3
Beautiful passage. Powerful truth. The highest calling one can ever imagine: a life consumed with living for Christ.
I encourage you truly life a life set apart for Him. Refuse to let doubt creep in and cause you to wonder if it is really worth it. Continue to remember that God's faithfulness does not depend on the "good things" He allows to enter into your life. Choose to believe that no matter what may come in the future, He has a plan, and He will remain faithful. Living a life sold out to Him is what He desires for each of His own. I am encouraging myself, as well. Even when discouragement threatens to take that peace and even when you wonder if it's really worth all the struggle to live a Godly life......hold on, dear friend. He sees you. Even if the plans you may have made for yourself have evaporated...come undone....unravelled before you eyes, may your heart truly know tonight that He is a faithful God. He has given you a calling.......walk in obedience to Him. In His will and in His timing, the plans He has made for you will unfold. Yes, truly walk in obedience to Him.
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act."
Psalm 37:4-7a
Hannah Grace

Sunday, June 14, 2009

He's Not Finished With Me Yet

It is in times like these where I find myself captured and awestruck at the way Father God speaks truth into my life. It is in times like these where I am able to experience first-hand the faithfulness of God shining out of discouraging circumstances. What a humbling thought that the Lord desires to speak to my heart as I seek Him.

This past week God through various ways and over the course of many days has been teaching me a well-known but sometimes difficult to live truth. How is it that at one moment my heart can feel so encouraged as I wait for God's perfect will? Then, the next day anxiety seems to set in…threatening to steal that perfect peace and joy given so freely by the Father. Praise God that His faithfulness does not depend upon my emotions.

Just last Sunday after the evening service, I decided to take a jog/walk outside. Put on the tennis shoes, grabbed my ipod, and headed out behind our house. The sun would soon be setting, and I was soaking up God's beautiful creation around me. My heart was heavy…..mainly feelings of disappointment and guilt consumed me because of the unbelief in my heart. "Why is it so hard for me to just lay it all down and truly trust You, Father?" was the cry of my heart that evening. My ipod had been turned onto shuffle mode, and with each song that played a commonality was heard. Song after song spoke of God's majestic creation. "All Creation Worships You", "Wonderful Maker", "God of Wonders" all spoke of God's handiwork. That morning in church, part of the message was taken from Matthew 6 about how God cares for even the birds of the air. And as the sun was setting, the birds were flying in the air, I felt the presence of God speak a truth into my heart once again: "Hannah, look around you. Look at all I have made. Is there anything too difficult for Me?" Verses came into my head, and I just began to recite them one by one. "Be anxious for nothing but by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God" (Phil. 4:6) "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength..." (Isaiah 40:31) "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Tim. 1:7) Such a precious time with the Lord. I could look around at the common things like birds...and the sunset....and really feel God's love and presence radiating down upon me.

Throughout the week, I clung to that promise of God. He will take care of me. What a blessing! On the way to work one morning, a song came across the radio. "There is hope for me yet/ because God won't forget/All the plans He's made for me/I'll have to wait and see /He's not finished with me yet.." (Brandon Heath) It was God-ordained morning to hear this song. As I have mentioned before, the hospital I work at has a morning devotional at 8:00 each day. As I listened to the pastor over the loudspeaker, his words sounded very familiar. He spoke of trusting God even in difficult circumstances/situations. His exact words were: "He's not finished with you yet." His words reminded of this verse: "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6)

This morning at church, a man in our congregation led a devotional about trusting in God's perfect will for our lives....even when our own plans do not always work out. He referenced Isaiah 40, and I wanted to leave you with this passage tonight. It was in this passage that I noticed some encouraging thoughts on God's sovereignty over His creation. Just as He formed each star in the heavens, just as He causes the sun to rise and set, and just as He has fashioned each mountain and valley....He forms each moment of our days. How wonderful is that? May you be encouraged tonight from the words taken from Isaiah 40. May God's peace dwell in your very being, giving you the strength to wait for His perfect will. It is is is worth the wait.

“To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard? Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40: 25-31

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Two Hallways but One Hope

Life. It is a beautiful concept. Working on a Mother/Baby unit at a local hospital allows me to experience this blessing often. As I sit within the nurse's station on the unit, I have a clear view straight through a large glass window into the well-baby nursery. It is such a joy to see throughout the day newborn after newborn be carried into the nursery right after their birth. I watch as these precious little ones take their first breaths of life....adjusting to this new place called the world. I watch as families stand outside the glass window, anxiously awaiting to meet their precious gift from the Lord. My heart is blessed as I watch this beautiful scene. Life from the Father.

On this Mother/Baby unit we have two hallways. One hallway is filled with new mothers who have just birthed a little one into the world. Life fills the hallway. An abundance of excitement, laughter, and tears of joy can be found in almost every room. Hearts are filled with hope, as a long-awaited gift has finally arrived.

The other hallway is altogether different. This hallway is not filled with new mothers, nor is it filled with the birthing of new life. For many on this hallway, joy can be difficult to even find. Whether it be the result of surgical procedures or complications during pregnancy, many on this hallway have been forced to relinquish the dream of bringing a new life into the world. Disappointment lingers, hearts ache, and for some it would seem as if it they are experiencing the death of a dream.

Two hallways.....two totally different perspectives. Beginnings of life--> death of dreams. But what common theme occurs in both life and death? Hope. Yes, hope is found down each hallway. Circumstances do not determine whether or not hope exists. Isn't it the same in the life of a believer? We have hope in life, and we have hope in death. Not only do we have hope in the physical death, but also in the death of plans and the midst of hurt. We have hope in the birth of plans and desires.....and we have hope in disappointments, heartaches, and the death of dreams. Praise God that our circumstances do not define the lives by which we live.

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since He is Lord of heaven and earth, He doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve His needs—for He has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist."
Acts 17: 24-25, 27-28a

What a blessing. He gives "life and breath to everything, and He satisfies every need." Even in the midst of pain, He gives life. He takes care of His children. He provides a hope and comfort, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Wow.....that blesses me. Does it you? While we may experience hurt and disappointment, we are not left without the promise of hope. "He is not far from any one of us."
What hallway do you feel as if you are living on right now? Perhaps some of you even feel as if God has forgotten you way down at the end of the hallway. You long for that feeling of life, and you long for direction. To you, sweet brother and sister in Christ, I would say: "Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise." (Hebrews 10:25) Regardless of what you may endure, we serve a loving God. He is faithful to provide every step of the way. He gives life. My dad reminded of this scripture a couple weeks ago by writing these words on sticky note and placing it in my car: "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 1 Thess. 5:16-18 Are you living in that thankfulness? Are you thankful that your joy and hope is not dependent upon those not-so-great circumstances in life? I say "Amen" to that!

By no coincidence have my devotions for the past two weeks been speaking of "Life" one week, and "Death" the next week. As I begin a new week in the devotional book, it focuses upon the love of God. The love of God exists in life and in death.
Day after day, I am reminded of the many people in this world who are hurting. Deep pain that accompanies heartache, disappointment, loneliness, and rejection threatens to steal the abundant joy that God has so freely offered.

Precious one of God, I desire that you know today the life that God has offered. Whether you feel that joy in heart or not.....He is faithful. He has His hand over your life, and He is forever in control. The Author of your life story, the Overcomer of death in this world, the Protector of your heart, the Keeper of each one of your desires, the Giver of life, the divine Lover of your soul.....He is near to you. He loves you, and He will never leave you. Do you believe that?

Praise Him for that hope that exists in the midst of life and death. This is my prayer for you today:
"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, Who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen."

Ephesians 3:17-21

Amen. Thank you, Jesus. May we be be encouraged in Your love.

Hannah Grace